Category Archives: Uncategorized

Chickpea and tomato bake

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I’m having a good few days for finding ways to flavour ingredients I normally struggle with. My solution with today’s ingredient, chickpeas, was to make the sauce by roasting rather than frying and keeping the chickpeas in it the whole way through. Normally I add them towards the end to stop them from overcooking, but this time I just bunged everything in a roasting pan and I liked the result. The aubergine almost melts into the sauce, becoming buttery. The brown rice (and I think it’s pretty important to use brown rice, but it’s your call) provides chew, complementing the softness of the chickpeas and tomatoes. All in all, this dish is comforting and warm, good for when it has literally not stopped raining all day and you haven’t slept the night before.

chicksandrice

Ingredients:
400g tin of chickpeas
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
1 white onion
1 clove garlic
1 aubergine
200g cherry tomatoes
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp mild chilli powder
1 tbsp olive oil
300g brown rice

Serves 4
Calories: 450
Takes 50 minutes to make

Stage one: Preheat the oven to 190C/fan170C. Get out a roasting tin. Drain the chickpeas and tip them in. Add the chopped tomatoes. Thinly slice and onion and finely chop the garlic and bung them in too, along with the cherry tomatoes. Chop the aubergine into cubes of about an inch and add. Drizzle in the oil, chilli and oregano and season really well – chickpeas aren’t salty, so you’ll need to add some extra tang. Give everything a mix around, and then try not to look at it too hard. It won’t look promising. It looks like it will never come together. It looks bad. Don’t worry, it will be alright. Put it in the oven and cook for 40 minutes, giving it a mix around every 10-15 minutes so it doesn’t catch.

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Stage two: Cook the brown rice according to the instructions on the packet. Brown rice usually takes ages to cook – mine took about 35 minutes. If it takes longer than you’d expect, that’s ok because the vegetables won’t suffer for an extra 5 or 10 minutes in the oven.

roastchick

Stage three: Drain the rice (if necessary) and dish it out, and then serve the chickpea bake on top.

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Pizza bread

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Pizza, but with less effort and easier ingredients! Big, bold flavours that aren’t really traditional pizza ingredients but work anyway! No effort to make a tomato sauce! Rectangular so it’s easy to cut! And rosemary! I love rosemary! I’m using a lot of exclamation marks, but that’s because I’m happy and this pizza is delicious! You’re on board, right?

pizza bread

Ingredients:
300g bread flour
7g sachet instant yeast
200ml warm water
1 tsp salt
1 tsp olive oil
1 red onion
300g cherry tomatoes
100g cheddar
40g sun dried tomatoes
1 tbsp fresh rosemary

Serves 4
Calories: 430
60 minutes for the base, 15-20 minutes to bake

Stage one: Base first. If you’re doing this by hand, put the flour, yeast, water, salt and olive oil in a bowl and knead for about 5 minutes, then cover with a damp tea towel and leave in a warm place for an hour. If you’re doing this by bread maker, switch the bread maker to the dough setting and leave it to do its thing.

Stage two: An hour after you’ve left the dough to rise, preheat the oven to 220C/fan200C. Time to prep all the other ingredients. Cut the red onion into segments and then separate them out into slices. Halve the cherry tomatoes. Grate the cheddar. Roughly chop the sun dried tomatoes. Wash the rosemary and roughly chop. Get out a rectangular roasting tin to put the pizza in.

Stage three: Lightly flour a surface and your hands, then take out the dough and give it a quick knead. Roll it out into a rectangle the size of your roasting tin, then put it in the tin. Sprinkle the cheese over the base, then add the onion, rosemary and sun dried tomatoes.

pretompizzabread

Stage four: Lay the cherry tomatoes in the gaps between the onions face up and gently push them into the dough. It’s going to look very busy and like the tomatoes won’t stay on. That’s ok. It will come together. Pop it in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes until the base has gone golden and the cheese has baked to your satisfaction.

pizzabread

Jammy thumbprint cookies

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These cookies do many things. They are shortbread-like in texture. They have jam, which somehow makes them fancy. They melt ever so slightly around the edges to leave a crunchy rim. I like the things these cookies do.

jamcookie

Ingredients:
260g plain flour
180g butter (room temp)
150g golden caster sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
your favourite jam

Makes about 25 cookies
Calories: 120
Takes 45 minutes to make, 1 hour to cool and 12-15 minutes to bake

Stage one: Cream the butter and sugar. Then add in the egg and vanilla. Finally, add in the dry ingredients until they form a stiff mixture. Put the mixture in a bowl, cover it and put it in the fridge.

jamcookiedough

Stage two: Preheat the oven to 190C/fan 170C. Line a couple of baking trays with greaseproof paper. Break off chunks of dough and roll it into balls the size of a walnut. Put them on a baking tray and press your finger into each one to form a hole about 1cm deep. Using a teaspoon, scoop in a little bit of jam to fill each hole.

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Stage three: Bake for 12-15 minutes.

jamcookies

Gnocchi bake

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Gnocchi can be tricky. On the pro side, they take only minutes to boil. On the con side, they can be a little unsatisfying, both in quantity and in flavour. They can be just a few little chewy bites and then they’re gone and you’re wondering how they went so fast. Not in this meal! This recipe retains the easiness of gnocchi to make, but then adds in bags of flavour (from the tomatoes) and texture and bulk (from the baked cheese and spinach). I’m converted to team gnocchi. I was considering actually making them from scratch myself, but you need to take a relationship like that one step at a time. Maybe soon I will be ready to take that step.

Ingredients:
800g gnocchi
125g ball lot-fat mozzarella
40g sun dried tomatoes
100g fresh spinach
1 clove garlic

Serves 4
Calories: 370
Takes 25 minutes to make

Stage one: Preheat the oven to 190C/fan 170C. Roughly chop the sun dried tomatoes and chop or crush the clove of garlic.

Stage two: Boil the gnocchi in a big pan until they rise to the top – this will take only a couple of minutes. Meanwhile, put the spinach in a colander. When the gnocchi are cooked, pour the whole pan into the colander – this will wilt the spinach. I love how efficient that is.

Stage three: Tip the gnocchi and spinach into a roasting tin and give them a mix to evenly distribute the spinach. Stir in the tomatoes, garlic and seasoning.

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Stage four: Tear up the mozzarella and lay it over the top, and pop in the oven for 20 minutes until the cheese has melted and started to crisp. Serve immediately.

bakedgnoccchi

Cheesy filo parcels

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There exists for me a very rare and special category of food: food that is so much lower in calories than it ought to be that it almost feels unfair. Portions that look huge and are full of cheese, but somehow there’s no nutritional downside. It appears that filo pastry is the key to this category. It’s thin and fragile, but bakes into solid, crunchy goodness so that you don’t notice how little there is of it. Plus it makes me feel all fancy. Filo pastry is a great way of separating out the filling for what would otherwise have been a single large pie into lots of little filo parcels, which means you get so much more crunch for your filling. Brilliant. Fair warning: these parcels are a bit fiddly. But they don’t take long, and they’re worth it. Some of the cheese leaked out of mine in the oven, and at first I panicked and was sad and assumed it was a disaster. Turns out, it wasn’t. It makes no different to the cheesiness or crunchiness of the parcels, plus I got to eat the crispy cheese. I guess a fix for this would be to double up the filo pastry for each parcel, which you are welcome to do, but I’m happy with fewer calories and crispy cheese.

You can use these parcels as a fancy low-calorie starter, or eat three of them and still have a low calorie dinner but feel like you are eating a feast. Guess which I did?

Ingredients:
3 filo pastry sheets
250g spinach
800g plum tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
100g mature cheddar (I used low fat)
2 tbsp + 1 tsp olive oil

Makes 6 parcels
Calories per parcel: 160
Takes 60 minutes

Stage one: Preheat the oven to 190C/fan 170C. Quarter the tomatoes, mix in the garlic and 1 tsp of olive oil, season and pop in the oven for 30 minutes. I’d give them a mix around half way through to stop them burning. This should dehydrate the tomatoes and intensify their flavour. If they’re still plump at the end of the 30 minutes, roast them for a further 10 minutes. The drier they are, the easier they will be to work with.

Stage two: Meanwhile, put the spinach in a colander and pour a kettle full of boiling water over it to wilt. Leave to cool, then squeeze as much of the water out of it was possible. Grate the cheddar into a bowl.

Stage three: Lay out the first sheet of filo pastry, and halve it so that you have 2 filo squares. Take a sixth of the tomato mixture and put it on the centre of the bottom edge of one of the squares. Sprinkle a sixth of the cheddar and the spinach on top.

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Stage four: OK, here’s the fiddly bit. Gently start to roll up the parcel into a sausage. The tomato is going to want to seep through and rip the filo, so you’ll need to support it as you roll it up. Brush both sides of the pastry roll with olive oil, and then fold the ends of the sausage over the tomato side of the roll. This will help it hold together in the oven. Repeat for the other 5 parcels.

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filoroll

Stage five: Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper, and lay the parcels on it. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden.

bakedfiloroll