April 28, 2012

Spaghetti with Cherry Tomatoes

I mentioned in my last post how I'm trying to cut down on food expenses, and it's still happening.  I don't think it's intentional though.  When I look in my fridge there is next to nothing in it.  This isn't me 'not buying food', this is me being busy, and a bit lazy.  Its been too long since I last did a big shop.

Last Saturday (don't judge me), my mum came over and cleaned my house.  It was brilliant.  She moved furniture, and when she left it was like I was in a new place!  Now there's two things to this - 1 she's a perfectionist and hates dirt!  So coming for a visit and seeing dust made her demand a cleaning cloth.  2 - I haven't had an hour free for weeks to actually spend cleaning.  

After she left it was lunch time.  I opened my fridge and there was nothing.  Initially I wanted eggs on toast, but no eggs.  I did see a small container of cherry tomatoes and instantly thought "pasta!".

PS if you like looking at random food photos, and randomness in general, you can follow me on Instagram under the non-food related name @tasbev  I will be sure to entertain you with photos of the shiz I get up to.
This dish is actually a favourite that I've been making for years.  It's so simple and ridiculously tasty.  The balance of olive oil, salt, garlic and sweet tomatoes makes an a simple yet powerful sauce.  I recommend adding some fresh chilli and a few ripped basil leaves (of course, I didn't have any of these in my fridge).

Recipe my own
Serves 1
150g dried spaghetti
A good slug of virgin olive oil (2-3 tablespoons)
1 large garlic clove, finely diced
6 cherry tomatoes, small ones cut in half, larger ones in quarters
2 pinches sea salt
Grated parmesan, to serve

Bring a medium pot of water to the boil and add the pasta and a teaspoon of sea salt, cooking according to packet instructions.

In a small pot over a medium heat, add the oil, garlic. and salt  As soon as the garlic starts to sizzle, add the tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes until they start to breakdown.  Turn off the heat and set aside.

When the pasta is cooked, using tongs, add the pasta to the sauce.  Don't worry about pasta water getting in, it will help extend the sauce.  Give it a good toss, and serve with a good amount of grated parmesan.

Serves a greedy one.

April 17, 2012

Zucchini, Pea and Mint Frittata

Do you spend a ridiculous amount of money on food and ingredients?  I find myself doing it all the time, and I can totally justify it.  It’s food!  It’s one the greatest pleasures in life, and I for one am not going to settle from poor quality ingredients.  I like the best.  Plus, most of the time I cook really simple dishes so the best quality is necessary!

So because I’ve spent so much money in the last year or so on food, I must take a step back and re-examine my meal choices.  Once or twice a week is fine to splurge on fresh seafood and amazing cuts of meat, but in between I need to be smarter.  So far this is what I’ve come up with – a frittata, and 5 serves of soup using some chicken carcases!  I’m on the hunt for cheap chicken carcases now, it’s so strange.

This frittata I threw together using some leftovers in my fridge, and this is the whole point of cutting back – using what I’ve already got!  Frozen peas, check.  Mint, check.  Eggs, check.  Feta, check.  Open you’re fridge and you’ll be surprised at what you can throw into a frittata.

Zucchini, Pea and Mint Frittata
Original recipe
½ brown onion, chopped finely
1 medium zucchini, cubed
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
6 eggs, lightly beaten
50g feta
Handful grated parmesan
Handful chopped mint
Sea salt and pepper
Olive oil

Add a good splash of olive oil in a large hot frying pan, and start sautéing the onion.  When the onions becomes translucent, remove from the pan. Add the zucchini to the same pan and cook for 10 – 15 minutes.

Beat the eggs with a fork in a separate bowl, and season well with salt and pepper.

Turn the grill on to medium.

When the zucchini is soft and slightly golden, add the peas and cooked onion to the pan and stir until all ingredients are well combined and evenly spread.  Slowly pour the egg over the top, making sure all gaps are covered, then scatter over the feta, and allow the base of the frittata to cook, about 5 minutes.  At this point, turn the heat down as you don't want the eggs to cook too quickly and dry out.

When you find pockets of runny egg mixture, use a spatula to move the base of that section, which will allow the egg to run to the base of the pan.  When the base of the frittata is set, sprinkle over the parmesan (enough to lightly coat the top, not cover) and place the pan under a grill to finish cooking the top. 

When gold and set on top, remove from under the grill and scatter over the mint.

You can serve this hot, warm or room temperature.

Serves 4.

April 10, 2012

Pear and Chocolate Almond Tart

4 days off work never seems enough.  Two weeks never seems enough.  Although it’s a nice break, Easter never seems to be relaxing.  There are always people to see, lunches, dinner, family events.  If you’re anything like me, you’re usually cooking something, so there’s planning and work to do.

I won’t lie – I did sleep in every morning.  Yesterday morning I slept in til 10.30am.  I was so tired.  In fact, yesterday was my only really lazy day.  I ate a late breakfast (I guess that’s called brunch).  Went for a walk along the beach, watched an episode of my new favourite cooking show – Two Greedy Italians (seriously brilliant, hilarious, I don’t think I’ve ever cried from laughing during a cooking show before), then made a nice dinner of chili mussels before watching a movie.  Good day.

But then before you know it, it’s back to work.

For Sunday Easter Lunch, I made this Pear and Chocolate Almond Tart.  I wanted to make something light yet chocolaty (it’s Easter after all!), and fruit always works best.  I did a little research and came upon trusty Jamie Oliver.  He never fails, and he didn’t this time either.  You can either eat this warm or cold, as I learnt – when cold, it sets like a fudge, and it’s magical!

I even got my grandpa in on the cooking action!

Makes one tart
1 ½ sheets of frozen shortcrust pastry
125g ground almonds

2 large eggs

100g butter, softened

95g caster sugar

150g dark chocolate, melted

2 pears, peeled, cored and sliced half a
centimetre thick (you can also place them on as quarters)
double cream, to serve

Preheat the oven to 190°C.

In a 12 x 35 cm tart tin with removable base, place the sheets of puff pastry over the centre, making sure the corners and side are completely covered.  Use small overlapping pieces of puff pastry to cover any free areas.  Press the edges down with your fingers or the back of a teaspoon, then score the base of the pastry with a fork to allow air to come through while baking.

Blind bake the pastry for around 10 minutes in the oven, then remove, set aside, and reduce the oven temperature to 170°C.

In a large bowl, add the ground almonds, eggs, butter and sugar and stir till all ingredients are well combined.  Stir in the melted chocolate while still warm.   

Evenly spread the mixture in the pasty case, then place the pears on top. Bake the tart for 45 minutes, or until the pastry is golden and the cake is set.

Serve with double cream.

Serves 6 – 8.

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