Sunday 14 June 2015

crackers-on-top lazy pasta bake

I still hadn't quite got my menu-planning mojo working the next day, and also hadn't made it to the shops yet, so i decided to see what we could find locally to make into a meal.  We are very lucky that on the way home from school there is a really nice Greek shop with a deli counter, fresh meat, and fresh bread and pastries.

I asked Littl'Un if she had any suggestions of what she'd like to eat, mainly because she's been going through a phase of not being interested in meals, and taking forever to eat a tiny portion.  I hoped that getting her to suggest something would give her more encouragement to eat better.  She remembered that we had opened a pack of crackers at the weekend, only to find they were all crushed, and she had suggested we could use them as a crunchy topping for a pasta bake.  People who know me will be aware that for some reason, I have an aversion to boiling and draining pasta, so I wondered if I could again adapt Gill Holcombe's brilliant "chuck it all in" pasta bake recipe.

We bought a small pack of happy pork mince, a jar of passata, and a little pot of lovely thick Greek yoghurt at the Greek shop, and then I set to work.

I fried the mince in the much loved oven-proof dish.  Once browned, I then flavoured it with some fennel seeds.  Once the heady aniseed sweetness was apparent, I added some garlic too.  Once that was soft and mellow, I poured in the passata with some stock, and then stirred in the weighed out amount of dry pasta for the family.  This all then came back to the boil quite quickly, and I stirred in the pot of yoghurt.  Littl'Un was in charge of scrunching the broken crackers, in this case a rather battered pack of black pepper and cheddar Ryvita thins, and spreading them on top, and I sprinkled a scant handful of grated cheese on top for extra scrummyness.

I popped this in the oven at 200 degrees and left it for 40 minutes.  After this time, the pasta was cooked, and the top was brown and crisp, and the meat and sauce had made a gooey unctuous filling.

We served this up with some nice green veggies on the side, and everyone thoroughly enjoyed it! And Littl'Un was the first to finish her plateful, AND she asked for seconds too!!

Saturday 13 June 2015

emergency oven no-sotto

After the laid back approach to meals we had during half term, I got a bit caught out and forgot to go shopping or make a menu plan, and then suddenly it was Monday and the girls had Rainbows and Brownies, so no time to nip to the shops and I really didn't want sandwiches!
I had a half pack of bacon in the fridge, and a few cherry tomatoes, and plenty of cheese, so my first thought was the oven risotto which I make quite often. But oh no! No risotto rice! Now, I really don't think this would be right with basmati, (even though I always have loads, I'm not sure my head would cope) but I did have a few of the packs of quick cook mixed grains packs I have blogged about before.  Tesco and Waitrose definitely both have their own versions, which can be found in the whole foods sections.  They make a nice change from rice or couscous, and are very quick to cook, so I keep a few in the cupboard at all times.
So I got out a nice oven-proof, flame-proof pan, and fried the bacon (chopped up). I added some chopped onion and a little butter.  Once the onion was soft, I emptied the pack of the dry grains in, and stirred it well.  I then added a litre of stock and the halved cherry tomatoes.  Once this was boiling, I popped it in the oven for 18 minutes.  If I'd had a slightly narrower pan, I would have used the halogen, as it is cheaper to run than putting the full oven on. 
After the 18 minutes, the grains had absorbed the liquid and become plump and juicy, and I then stirred in some grated cheese.  
It was really delicious, and comforting and quick, and made a very interesting change from the usual oven risotto, and no one noticed the emergency even happened!