My Imperia Pasta Maker

I am embarrassed to say I have had my Imperia pasta maker for quite some time, years infact. I bought it wanting to try to make my own pasta from scratch and life events took over in a big way and it got put away.

Imperia Pasta Maker

Imperia Pasta Maker

It feels like a really retro piece of equipment, no batteries or electricity needed and it has 3 heads to make many types of pasta and it also came with this ravioli tray, I absolutely adore ravioli and all the fillings that come to mind, delicious!

I have come across the Pasta Maker a few times and always with good intentions to unbox it finally but as we were and still are going through house renovations, it got put away and the dried pasta used.

Fast forward to last week when watching a food programme I saw them making fresh pasta over several episodes and I thought I have to do this!!!

Could I find the Pasta Maker, of course not, I scoured the whole house and finally found it in what will be another bathroom (one day!) right at the bottom (isn’t always the way) of a pile of belongings!

So, what’s the difference between now and all the other times I promised myself I would make fresh pasta when I’ve stumbled across the box??  I have been taking things a little slower in the last couple of years, trying to savour, enjoy and appreciate life more after the passing of someone very close to me.  Taking things slower has meant I am taking time over things rather than rushing through life at speed, it means sometimes I get less done but it feels like I’ve done it well (most of the time).

Hopefully I’ll also be working my way through my long overdue list of foodie projects as I’ve spent the last few weeks organising my home office and I actually know where everything is now!

 

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Quinoa Lentil Burgers

I’ve been meaning to try out my Burger maker to make some Quinoa, Lentil Burgers for some time now, not enough hours in the day for everything I want to make! There are a few veggie burger combinations I have in mind so expect a few posts in the not too distant future!

quinoa burger

I really enjoy the whole burger experience, the patty, the soft bun, the onions, cheese, gherkins and French mustard, it has to be French mustard for me.

We haven’t eaten red meat burgers since Mr ND became a vegetarian many years ago but I remember when I was pregnant I was craving burgers, the baby needed a burger, she got a full on Quorn burger that day made by Mr ND, I remember it well, strange how we crave when pregnant, our bodies way of telling us what we need.

So, for my first foray into making my own veggie burgers I have chosen Quinoa and Green Lentils as my base.  I love Quinoa, been using it for years, protein-rich and gluten-free it is a versatile addition.

Quinoa Lentil Patties

I’ve kept the Burgers quite simple but I can see other ingredients that will make it into future burgers such as walnuts, chickpeas, kidney beans, black beans, flaxseeds, etc.

Quinoa and Lentil Burgers

Prep Time:  30 minutes  :   Cook TIme:  5 -20 minutes

Makes approximately 5 large burgers

Ingredients

1 red onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
150g Chestnut Mushrooms, chopped
400g Green Lentils (I used tinned)
60g Quinoa, cooked
1 tablespoon Tomato purée
1 medium egg, beaten
5 tablespoons oats
Paprika and Cayenne to taste
Parsley to taste
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
Salt and Black Pepper to taste

Method

Gently sauté the red onions and garlic for a few minutes then add the mushrooms and cook for a further 2 minutes or until soft.

Drain the Green Lentils and rinse, put into food processor along with cooked Quinoa, Tomato purée, beaten egg, salt and black pepper.  Pulse ingredients until you have the consistency you want.  For the next Quinoa burger I make I may just add the Quinoa to the bowl rather than the food processor for a little extra texture, remember this is my first one!

Pop the mixture into a large bowl and add the oats, use as many tablespoons as needed, 5 was about right for mine, Paprika, Cayenne, Parsley and sesame seeds, mix well.

Refrigerate for an hour or so or overnight to firm up a little.  I baked mine for 15 minutes so stop them from breaking up when I fried them off after but next time I will probably use either more oats and/or some wholewheat flour.  But with careful handling I got perfect, unbroken burgers!

Once you have the base burger mix done, you can separate it up and customise the burgers to everyone’s taste if need be.   Extra chilli flakes and maybe Pumpkin seeds for me!   This batch made 5 really decent sized burgers and 1 little one for a little one to try.   Easily freezable too,

Quinoa Lentil Burger

Serve in a bun of your choice or between Lettuce leaves garnished with homemade salsa for a gluten-free version.

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RHS Red Hot Chilli Grower

Many years ago I had this brilliant large greenhouse at the top of my garden, then a hurricane came and like a scene out of the Wizard of Oz it took my greenhouse.  I remember waking up hearing what I thought was my baby crying but it was the tinkling of glass as the hurricane huffed and puffed and blew my greenhouse down.

I’ve never had a greenhouse since, the space is still there, empty, these days I may grow a few beetroot and attempt courgettes, peas and maybe cucumbers mostly to show Miss ND the growing process and also lovely to pick fruit and vegetables off our trees and plants. Oh, and tomatoes of course, always tomatoes, can never have enough tomatoes!

But my real passion for the last couple of years has been growing Chilli Peppers.  Last years crop was prolific, just Cayenne Peppers, hot and fiery which found their way into our food and into the Chutney’s I make all year round.  I use them fresh but the best thing about Chilli’s is that you can dry them slowly and use for months to come.   The next best thing is that I grew them myself and knowing their provenance is comforting.  I’ve managed to raise 30 seedlings this year!

Chilli Plants

Some of my lovely seedlings

I have planted Cayennes again this year but also mixed seeds, hopefully I’ll get the odd Scotch Bonnets and Birds Eye chilli’s – the fun will be in seeing what they turn into!

second planting of mixed chilli seeds

second planting of mixed chilli seeds

I treated myself to this book by Kay Maguire, the RHS Red Hot Chilli Grower – the complete guide to planning, picking and preserving Chillies!

RHS Red Hot Chilli Grower

RHS Red Hot Chilli Grower

It’s a brilliant book that you can dip in and out of depending on what you need to learn.  It covers what Chillies are, their history and how they have spread across the world.  It also explains the all important Scoville Scale.  I recently bought this Chilli Pepper Paper Lantern plant, described as sweet, fruity and hot, hot, hot!  Scoville rating: 350,000-400,000 and now I know what this means: VERY HOT!!

RHS Red Hot Chilli Grower

The book goes into how to grow your own chillies, sourcing seeds and plants, pests, etc.  A chapter is dedicated to using your chillies with a few recipes – I shall definitely be making the Chilli Chocolate Brownies – and finishes with a very helpful glossary of resources and technical terms.  Fabulous little book, packed with interesting facts and info, really easy read.

I really enjoy starting plants from seeds and watching them grow, but to grow food, herbs and especially chilli’s to eat is really so very rewarding.

 

Mammasaurus How Does Your Garden Grow

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Sweet Potato, Quinoa, Lentil Lunch Plate

The weather this week has been a little up and down, the sun has been nowhere to be seen most of the week and the sky is a few shades of grey (not that many!) with plenty of rain.  We even saw some icy hailstones today which is making me crave a warm, healthy lunch each day.  I’m also exercising more now which is also making me hungry!

Red Quinoa

Red Quinoa and Lentils combined are a protein-rich favourite of mine, I cook a decent quantity together and keep in the fridge to add to other dishes, good also to hide and enrich Miss ND’s dishes too.  I just like it straight from the pan.

lentils

lentil quinoa

Sweet Potato fries (although not fried at all) are highly nutritious and have many health benefits.  This is a very detailed article from Live Science and an excellent read on all aspects of sweet potatoes.  Some interesting facts such as they have a low GI (glycemic index) which means they release sugar slowly into the bloodstream which helps balance blood sugar, unlike other starchy foods that elevate blood sugar rapidly after eating due to their metabolism into sugar.

sweet potato fries

These were blanched in hot water (for a faster roasting time), roasted drizzled in olive oil and today dusted with Turmeric, Cayenne and Black Pepper.  Miss ND loves these and has no idea how good they are for her yet, she’s not quite ready at 4 years old for the amount of cayenne I love on mine though!

simple lunch 1

simple lunch

Dish it all out on a plate and enjoy.  This was a really filling and satisfying yet light lunch, not something I would do every day but a little bulk cooking of some items can save time for lunch the next day.

Health Info:

Red Lentils are a source of Vitamin B Complex, E, K, Beta-Carotene, Biotin, Folic Acid, Calcium, Copper, Iodine, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorus, Potassium, Zinc, Selenium.  Rich in fibre, protein and complex carbohydrates.
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Visiting VegFest Brighton 2015

The 28th and 29th March 2015 sees the start of Vegfest‘s yearly trio of festivals with their 2 day Brighton event.   The other two UK vegan events are Bristol VegFest in May and VegFest at London Kensington Olympia in October.

With the Hove Centre being closed for refurbishment, this year the Brighton Centre will play host to a weekend long event celebrating all things vegan to be opened by local Brighton MP Caroline Lucas.

VegfestUK features an incredible range of health and food products from over 150 stalls and caterers serving 100% vegan food.  Both days will feature the UK Vegan Comedy festival, the Lifewell Hub, live music, a massage area, a kids activity area that Miss ND will be sampling, film screenings, cookery demos, displays, entertainment and information from a number of health experts and chefs with a full range of family-friendly activities which will inspire parents and children to eat healthily on a regular basis.

On Saturday there will also be a Party Political Conference in the lead up the the General Election and Sunday will feature The Global Food Sustainability Co.

Advance tickets can be purchased from the Brighton VegfestUK website or at the door on either day.

 

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Food Waste and Doggy Bags

Way back in the day before we had children and we were both commuting 5 days a week, every Friday and Saturday evening would find us in a restaurant for dinner, not wanting or having the inclination to cook.

Without fail back then I would always ask for a doggy bag and every restaurant would oblige happily and present me with my foil wrapped leftovers shaped like a swan or suchlike.  I haven’t asked for one for years, these days the restaurant visits are fewer but I do still take home half of my cake or sandwich, etc as I usually cannot eat a whole one at one sitting (portion sizes are often huge!) and it is lovely to enjoy the rest with a cuppa later.

Sarah Wilson has written this very interesting article called A Note to Restaurants Owners about Doggy Bags which highlights Food Waste, something I am very keen to lessen here.  I really love the Foodie Bag box below but simply providing paper bags for customers to DIY their own leftovers rather than having to wrap in a paper napkin or 2 and find it all unwrapped at the bottom of my handbag is a fantastic idea, take a look at the innovative couple who provided these at their wedding buffet in Sarah’s post, love it!

Foodiebag-2.0-small-424x396

 Image from verdraaidgoed.nl

Or take a look at the Doggy Box from Too Good To Waste where restaurants can purchase and supply to customers.  I would love to see these on show and not kept back in the kitchen, let the customer know it is ok to ask for a doggy box!

It’s not just the food waste, we’ve all also paid for our food.  Miss ND likes a glass of milk when we stop for tea and I now ask for it in a takeaway paper cup as they always give her what seems to be half a litre (even though I ask for less) and will only drink maybe a third at that time but will happily finish it later.

Not every foodstuff lends itself to a doggy bag but so many do and in a bid to cut the vast tonnes of food waste we generate each year, asking for a doggy bag could go a long way to seeing that reduce, every little helps!

Have you ever asked for a doggy bag or does the embarrassment factor stop you?  Love to hear your views on food waste and taking your leftovers home!

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Allinsons Dough Tree Campaign

It was lovely to receive this hamper packed with Allinson Baking Products from Baking Mad to promote Allinson’s Dough Tree Campaign.

bread hamper

The challenge was to bake one of their Dough Tree bread recipes from the ingredients.  There was so much to choose from, the Cranberry and Pumpkin Cob  is appealing because of the fruit content and Pumpkin seeds (Pumpkin seeds are rich in Manganese Phosphorus, Magnesium and Copper plus a source of Zinc and iron).  Slathered in butter, Miss ND wolfed a couple of slices down after school, I was very impressed.

Dough Collage cranberry pumpkin Collage

bread and butter

I’m not a huge bread eater myself, I have a mild allergy to yeast, but I couldn’t resist baking the Bacon and Cheddar Scrolls as well, I love cheeses in bread and the combination of bacon, cheese. wholegrain mustard and onion is delicious encased in the bread.

bacon scrolls Collage

Flour

Bread freshly baked from the oven is a delight and what better aroma wafting around the kitchen too.  I have 2 tips for baking bread, use a dough hook on your mixer, it saves time and aching wrists plus it kneads dough beautifully.   Make sure your yeast is within date, you may not get the best results with yeast you bought months ago that’s been lurking in the cupboard, ask me how I know!

 

Disclosure:  We were sent a hamper of products from Baking Mad to make some delicious breads.

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After School Seedy Fruity Cookies

like to bake and we love cookies, baking your own is not only quick and easy but also you know what’s in them, no additives or preservatives,  long words or strange numbers!

fruity seedy cookies 2

These seedy, fruity cookies are low in sugar but also have a natural sweetness from the dried fruits. Light and buttery they are a perfect blend of soft and chewy textures.  Miss ND loves them, they are perfect to add to her after school snack box (which she hoovers up at great speed, she is a child with a healthy appetite and high energy levels!).

cookies and milk

After School Seedy Fruity Cookies                                            Makes 12 large Cookies

Prep Time:  20 minutes
Baking Time:  12-15 minutes

Pre-heat your oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas 4

fruit seed mix

Ingredients
90g unsalted butter
50g soft light brown sugar or coconut sugar
70g porridge oats
25g wholemeal self-raising flour
25g plain flour
25g sunflower seeds
50g cranberry, dried apricot, raisin mix
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
¼ tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg, beaten

oat cookie mix

cookie mix

Method
Cream together the butter and sugar until it is light and fluffy.

Add all the dry ingredients and stir together into the butter and sugar.

Then finally add the beaten egg and vanilla extract and mix thoroughly until everything is completely combined.

Shape into walnut-sized balls (the batter will be sticky which is fine) and flatten them onto a lined baking tray.  I use my macaron tin which keeps them evenly shaped.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until golden brown.  Cool on a wire rack.  Eat!

fruity seedy cookie 1

 

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Roasted Parsnip Soup

I know, the title Roasted Parsnip Soup doesn’t sound all that interesting or appetising!  Parsnips have to be my least favourite vegetable, no matter how they are cooked, I’m just not all that keen.  But in a soup, there’s a different proposition.

parsnip

Once roasted with some onions, garlic, tomatoes and spices, drizzled in olive oil, then blended with vegetable stock (I make my own but use what you have available), the parsnips are transformed into a delicious, fragrant, creamy (but without using cream) soup.  Garnish with nuts, seeds, black pepper, cayenne (my favourite!) or “condiment” of your choice.

roasted parsnip soup 1

Roasted Parsnip Soup

Prep: 15 mins
Roasting Time: 35 mins
Serves:  4

Pre-heat your oven to 200C fan/gas 7

Ingredients

3-4 large Parsnips, peeled and diced
1 large red onion, quartered
2 large Plum Tomatoes, quartered
1 tsp ground turmeric
½ tsp mustard seeds
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1.5 litres vegetable stock*

Method

In a large bowl, mix together some Olive oil (use as much as needed to completely coat your vegetable/spice mix, use a spoon, the Turmeric will turn your hands yellow) and all the ingredients except the vegetable stock.

Once combined, place the mixture into a roasting tin and roast for around 35 minutes or until everything is softened and tender.

Cool slightly, then spoon into a food processor with half the vegetable stock and process until smooth.  Add the other half of the stock and carefully blend until combined.  I use a Vitamix which can accommodate this amount but you can process in 2 smaller amounts for the same effect.

I popped mine in the fridge and used the next day, but if eating on the day just heat up to the desired temperature and serve with a crusty loaf.  Garnish as above.

*Add more stock if you prefer a more liquid soup, soup make thicken up if left in the fridge, adding more liquid does not alter the flavour.

roasted parsnip soup

This was simply delicious and now I can enjoy Parsnips instead of avoiding them, making them into a soup really does make them very palatable.

Nutritional Info:

Parsnips – They have high levels of potassium, folic acid, manganese, magnesium, phosphorous, zinc, and iron, in addition to being a good source of vitamins B, C, E, and K.

 

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Quick Courgetti Chilli Pomodoro

Things change when you have little ones in the house, I find myself eating a kiddy portion of food at 5.30 pm to encourage her to eat at the table and of course to make sure she eats well.
Most evenings I will eat later in the evening with Mr ND, but last night I didn’t feel like it but by 9.00 pm I was ravenous!

courgetti 1

I made this very quick and rich Tomato sauce with Courgetti from ingredients to hand in around 25 minutes. it was surprisingly light but also filling.  I used 2 garlic cloves because I love garlic, it always enhances a tomato based sauce and has amazing medicinal qualities, anti-viral and antibiotic.  I like to use red onions which are more nutrient dense than the white version.

spiraliser

Courgetti is simply a Courgette (Zucchini) made into spaghetti to replace the pasta element in a dish using a Spiraliser.  I found mine here and have used it constantly since I bought it a few months ago, it’s great fun for children too to spiralise a carrot and such like to eat raw.

Quick Chilli Pomodoro Sauce

Prep Time: 3 minutes

Serves 1 generously for a main meal or 2 entrees

Can be frozen.

Ingredients

1 medium red onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
6 cherry tomatoes, quartered
or 3 large plum tomatoes more finely chopped
around 125ml Passata
1 tablespoon tomato puree
pinch or 2 of Chilli Flakes
dash of red wine (optional)
sprinkling of Oregano and Basil
Black Pepper

1 medium Courgette (Zucchini) spiralised or grated

Method

Fry the red onion for a 2-3 minutes, then add the garlic for another couple of minutes.

Add the tomatoes, Passata and tomato purée and cook on a fairly high heat (without letting it catch).  Splosh in a dash of red wine if using and Oregano, Basil and Black Pepper to your taste and continue to cook, simmering for around 10 minutes until the tomatoes are broken down (around 10 minutes).

No blending of the sauce required, I always leave the skins on the tomatoes and seeds in.  I found an interesting article here that said “Each part – skin, fruit wall, pith and that jelly-like stuff around the seeds – plays a different part in producing that tomato flavour.  By removing the skin and seed pulp you get a drier, more refined tomato sauce and you alter the sweet/acid balance of the flavour. Personally, I don’t mind a bit of skin in a sauce” I agree!

Courgetti – I prefer not to eat my mine completely raw, I boiled some water and laid the Courgetti in the boiled water for a couple of minutes or so whilst the Tomato sauce was cooking.  Drain the Courgetti and serve the tomato sauce on top, finish with a dusting of grated parmesan if you like.

This simple, easy to put together, chunky, rich tomato sauce has a high antioxidant content, including a rich concentration of lycopene found in tomatoes.  When tomatoes are eaten with healthier fats, like olive oil, it increases the absorption of phyto-nutrients.

courgetti Collage

No bells or whistles, just nutritious and delicious!

Health Info:

Courgettes – Good source of vitamin A, B1, B3, Phosphorus and Copper.  Very good source of Dietary Fibre, Vitamins B2, B6, C, K, Folic Acid, Magnesium, Potassium and Manganese.

 

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