Quick Weekday Dinner

I had had a really, REALLY bad day. Due to insanely high winds and general antisocial weather conditions, the trains had completely failed. There was a tree on the line a couple of stops before mine which I only discovered upon reaching the station in the morning. I could see people turning around and walking back the way I was coming, never a good sign…

To cut an extremely long and frustrating story short, all trains were delayed or cancelled and I had to walk back home and drive to work (45 minutes away) having already paid for my ticket which, due to the almost painful lack of decent customer support at South West Trains I knew I wouldn’t receive a refund on. The final straw was having to stay late at work, meaning I got home about 2 hours later than I would normally. Not at all ideal.

I was also absolutely starving and as any food lover knows, hungry + angry = hangry which is not the sort of position you want to find yourself in very often. If at all. I needed food and I needed it fast! There was a packet of Sainsburys Spinach and Ricotta Tortellini in the fridge which sounded absolutely stunning, confirmed by the realisation that it only took 2 minutes to cook. I put the kettle on and started the hunt for a pasta sauce. Hmm. A fruitless search. There was however a carton of chopped tomatoes in the cupboard so I set about making a quick and easy pasta sauce. I hate the taste of canned and chopped tomatoes and prefer to simmer them for a while with other flavours to remove the metallic/cardboard taste.

I started off by chopping some cherry tomatoes into halves and sauteing them with olive oil and lots of black pepper. They smelt absolutely amazing and I nearly abandoned the pasta idea in favour of good old tomatoes on toast! I saw sense though and continued my original plan. Once the tomatoes were quite broken up I added the chopped tomatoes and a minced clove of garlic. I let the sauce simmer for about 10 minutes to get rid of all the liquid, then added two teaspoons of red pesto at the end. This was the best thing ever! The pesto added so much flavour to the tomatoes, mmmmm.

While I simmered the sauce for the last few minutes I quickly cut and toasted a slice of tiger bread. Before mincing the aforementioned garlic clove, I sliced the end off and rubbed it all over the toasted bread before adding a generous layer of Lurpak. I then switched on the grill and put the toast under there for a couple of minutes. Once it was crisped up nicely I added some grated chedder cheese and set it aside to toast right at the end. It smelt amazing! Nothing quite like the smell of garlic, I absolutely love it.

Finally, I poured my boiling water into a medium saucepan and once it was bubbling, added the pack of tortellini. It literally needed a minute and a half, I often overcook it as I worry it won’t be done but I have learnt to err on the side of caution and take it out about 30/45 seconds before I think it looks done, as it will continue cooking and heat the middle, leaving the pasta perfectly al dente. I popped the pasta in the colandar to drain and placed the now cheese topped bread under the grill. There were a few frantic minutes of trying to simultaneously plate up, clean up the kitchen and keep an eye on the garlic bread but it all came together quite well and I was so proud of my quick dinner!

 

 

It was the first time I’ve really made a homemade pasta sauce and it tasted amazing. I added a sprinkle of cheddar on top as clearly there is not enough cheese in spinach and ricotta tortellini.

 

 

 

 

The garlic bread was amazing due to the award-winning combination of garlic, bread and cheese and I can assure you that not a crumb was left on that plate.

 

 

 

 

Quick, easy, perfect weekday dinner, just what I needed after a long and stressful day. Pasta is one of my top comfort foods and since discovering the wonders of tortellini I am finding it difficult to go back to plain, un-filled pasta shapes.

One of these days I would love to make my own tortellini or ravioli but that, I think, will be the subject of a much longer blog post!

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Tesco Tapas! Range

Me and Ben were recently in Tesco doing some shopping before Christmas and fancied a nice easy dinner that would also be a bit special. We noticed a new range in the chilled section and decided to give it a go!

It was the new Tapas! range, a collection of dishes available in a deal – 2 dishes for Β£4 or 6 for Β£10. We go to La Tasca quite often when they have their 50% off vouchers and love the food there. 6 dishes for Β£10 seemed really good value so we got stuck in! Ben is vegetarian so he chose a veggie paella and creamy mushrooms, I chose chorizo croquettes and chicken paella and we decided to share the (vegetarian) spanish omelette and patatas bravas. We also couldn’t resist getting some fresh olives from the deli counter so all in all we had quite a haul!

We eagerly set about cooking the dishes when we got home and found it was really easy. They all had similar cooking times and most just needed 20 minutes or so in the oven so there was no faffing about with timings (ideal when you fancy having a glass or two of wine!) I also quickly made some garlic mayonnaise as aioli is a constant accompaniment to the dishes at La Tasca and we love it! I just crushed a garlic clove into some Hellmans mayonnaise with some salt and pepper, really easy and it tasted lovely! Not quite aioli but good in a pinch!

In no time at all our feast was done and we plated it all up. Ben has just moved into a new house and we don’t have a coffee table yet so we had a little indoor picnic!

The chorizo and cheese croquettes. I was really excited for these but they were actually really bland, I ended up dipping them into my garlic mayonnaise to make them a bit more exciting. A disappointment!

Ben’s paella de verdunas – really nice, lots of little veggies (onions, mushrooms, peas, red pepper) and good amount of flavour. You also got a lot more rice than in the meat paella which was a bonus!

My paella valenciana. Chicken, prawns and spicy chorizo. This was really lovely! Nice heat from the chorizo and a good amount of prawns. Only got two bits of chicken though!

Champinoes al ajillo – Creamy garlic mushrooms. Ben really enjoyed these but we realised some bread would have been nice to use up the last of the sauce. I didn’t try them as I am not fond of mushrooms.

Patatas Bravas. There was no question when we spotted these that we would be adding cheese, we ALWAYS order our patatas bravas con queso when at La Tasca and couldn’t really imagine having them without! These were really lovely, the sauce was quite spicy and there was lots of it so the potatoes weren’t dry at all. Really good sized portion as well, we didn’t finish them!

Tortilla! This was delicious, and huge! Really the best value item in the deal I think, we each had a couple of slices and were full! Lots of yummy leftovers. Spanish Omelettes are quite bland but we added the garlic mayo and ate it with the tomato sauce of the patatas bravas and it was lovely.

Nice shot of our mixed olives, we had a few different types of olives plus strips of red peppers, feta and mozzarella cheeses, marinated artichokes and sundried tomatoes. Nice cooling accompaniment to some of the hotter dishes.

My plate!

Overall we felt this deal was really good value for money and the food was of high quality. Much cheaper than a night at La Tasca as we always get carried away there and order far too much leading to an expensive night, even with a voucher. Much less risky and easier to eat at home and you can BYOB!

Tortilla Pizza

And now for some actual food! For my first post I’ve decided to talk about one of my favourite recipes.

I can’t remember where I first heard of this “recipe” (if you can call it that) but it immediately struck me as a genius idea. As someone who is trying to cut down on her intake of excessive carbs (white rice, pasta, bread, thick, toasted crusty bread spread with lashings of melting Lurpak….oh) the concept of replacing said excessive carbs with slightly less excessive carbs was a welcome one.

It also needs to be said that I absolutely LOVE pizza. Any pizza, I’m not fussy or picky, as long as it has a base and a topping, I’m game. I’d possibly go so far as to say I could eat pizza 7 days a week, a dream that does not go unnoticed by my boyfriend who when asking me what I fancy for dinner has to first put up with the inevitable suggestive singsong of “piiiiizzaaaaaaaa?”

A recent obsession of mine is the surely heavensent Padana from Pizza Express.

“rich goat’s cheese, spinach and red onion with tangy caramelised onion confit and a drizzle of garlic oil”

Now I know it doesn’t sound like much but this combination of ingredients is nothing short of fabulous. The onion confit is the absolute highlight, making each mouthful deliciously sweet and tangy in contrast with the softly comforting goats cheese.

Here is a picture of this stunning delicacy:

 

 

So one night when we fancied pizza, I remembered a recipe I used to make at University that used a tortilla as the base. Obviously this is a lot less calories than regular pizza dough and as an added bonus (unusual for diet food) it is also delicious, especially if you like thin crust pizzas as it is about the thinnest crust you can get!

A word of advice – make some marks in the tortilla with a knife before you put it in the oven; the first time we didn’t do this and the tortilla blew up in the middle, not unlike a pufferfish.

The tortilla cooks for about 5 minutes til it is firm and not soft in the middle. Then, you can put on any toppings you like! Obviously following my expensive Padana obsession I have most recently been using ingredients similar to these, but in the past I have successfully used plain old cheese and pepperoni, roasted vegetables and the weird but fiercely defended ham and pineapple.

But, for a Padana style tortilla pizza, I start by covering the base with a couple of teaspoons of tomato paste.

I then caramelise onions very slowly for about half an hour til they are so soft and so sweet that I could just eat them right out of the pan.

Then, the onion confit. Sadly, the closest I could get to a “caramelised onion confit” was Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference ‘caramelised onion chutney” which was just not the same. It’s nowhere near as sweet as the Pizza Express one which is quite upsetting but I use it anyway for lack of a better alternative.

I add the spinach to the onions until it has wilted and pile it all onto the base in a deliciously messy heap.

Finally, I top with a controlled (very difficult) amount of gorgeous fresh goats cheese and put the pizza into the oven to crisp up and melt the goats cheese.

 

The end result is a perfectly acceptable imitation of the Padana, but for a fraction of the calories and (depending on how controlled you are with your goats cheese!) fat. Whats more, this fact alone makes it deliciously tempting to eat the entire pizza and not even feel a tiny bit bad about it!