Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Pasta

Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Pasta, it tastes good, looks good, and is full of iron.

It was one of those Sundays where time passed as life between meals. It is my favourite kind of life.

My stomach was a bottomless pit, and I had little else to do but cook lots. And lots. I made a cake too, but that was not enough.

Sometimes I like a challenge, so I chose this, inspired by GHK food again. It looks visually like a lot of work! Truth is it isn’t that much work at all, just some serious stuffing skills.

Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Pasta

You will need:

  • 450g fresh spinach
  • 125g ricotta
  • 1 medium free range egg
  • A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • Zest of ½ lemon
  • 25g grated parmesan
  • 225g conchiglione shells or large enough pasta to stuff, I used this
  • 25g each grated parmesan
  • Your favourite tomato sauce recipe
  • 1 tbs cream cheese

1) Make the sauce (I fry off 2 cloves of crushed garlic, add 1 tsp oregano, one can tinned tomatoes, pinch of sugar and a splash of Worcestershire sauce). Then set the oven to 180 degrees celsius.

2) Wilt down the spinach in a large pan and squeeze out most of the moisture. Run the spinach under some cold water first if you are squeezing it with your palms!

3) Chop the spinach finely, then stir in the the ricotta, egg, nutmeg and parmesan.

4) Cook the pasta for 10 minutes, then use a teaspoon to fill each pasta shape with the spinach and ricotta filling.

5) Pour the sauce into an oven proof dish, stir in the cream cheese then arrange the shapes.

6) Grate over more parmesan or cheddar if you prefer, and bake for 20-25 mins until bubbling and slightly golden.

Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Pasta

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Squash, Cauliflower and Ricotta Spicy Tray Bake

A tangy, spicy all-in-one tray bake, with creamy ricotta, roasted squash, baked cauliflower and salty halloumi. 

Tray bakes are the best because they mean minimal washing up!

Squash, Cauliflower and Ricotta Spicy Tray Bake- The Vegaquarium

It sounds weird baking a cauliflower but I promise it tastes good; it goes crispy on the fluffy bits and soft on the inside.

Yet again this recipe features… you guessed it, halloumi, but my dad does the same recipe at home with chicken, and they love it. If you haven’t tried halloumi by now, please do, your quality of life will increase 10 fold. Fact.

Squash, Cauliflower and Ricotta Spicy Tray Bake- The Vegaquarium

  • 1 cauliflower, cut into florets
  • Half a butternut squash cut into long wedges
  • 1 tsp each of cumin seeds, chilli flakes and curry powder
  • 1tbs  turmeric
  • 1 tbs vegetable oil
  • 1 tbs fresh oregano leaves
  • 1 large red onion cut into wedges
  • 100 g ricotta
  • 1/2 block of halloumi
  • Kale to serve (optional)

1)Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Then boil your cauliflower and butternut squash until tender.

2) Put the boiled cauliflower, squash and onions in a large tray, and pour on the oil, all herbs and spices. Shake the tray around so everything is covered in flavour and put it in the oven for 30 mins.

3) Remove the tray and lay on halloumi and spooned blobs of ricotta, the grill for 10 mins. (Keep an eye on them incase your oven is anything like ours and burns things very quickly.

4) Serve with greens and couscous.

Squash, Cauliflower and Ricotta Spicy Tray Bake- The Vegaquarium

Polenta, Roast Veg and Halloumi Salad

This salad is a marriage of the italians and the greeks.

Polenta, Roast Veg and Halloumi Salad- The vegaquarium

Halloumi is a greek goats cheese, but it isn’t squishy and hairy like regular goats cheese. It has a salty taste and a rubbery texture and it is my favourite cheese ever.

Polenta is a cornmeal based carb, and it is loved by the italians. It has a squidgy texture that crisps off in the frying pan. I have never cooked with it before but it is so versitile! You can grill, fry, boil and best of all for us students, you can microwave it. It is the yellow rectangular stuff in the picture above!

You will need:

  • Polenta- looks like this and is fun to squish

Polenta, Roast Veg and Halloumi Salad- The Vegaquarium

  • Halloumi sliced
  • Lemon
  • Chilli flakes
  • Roasted vegetables
  • Courgette
  • Salad leaves
  • Greek yoghurt
  • Ready made polenta- sliced

1) First roast your veg. I roasted mine but also made my Lemon Salted Courgettes because I am slightly obsessed! Cooking the halloumi and polenta takes only about 10 mins so wait till your veg is roasted before you procede.

2) Glug about 2 tbs of oil into a frying pan and heat it till it sizzles. Then start to fry the halloumi and polenta slices. Add them neatly so they don’t over lap so that it is easy to flip over each slice so that they are crispy on both sides. Squeeze into the pan 1 half of a lemon and chilli flakes to taste while they fry off.

3) Meanwhile prep your salad leaves and anything else you may want- cucumber, olives, carrot, sweetcorn, avocardo, you get the idea. Then put your roast veg and courgettes on top.

4) Place the halloumi and polenta on the salad and drop on some greek yoghurt.

My verdict on polenta after this salad is that it is definitely one to try! It has a really different texture and compliments any flavours you put with it. I am soon to blog my dinner tonight which is a pizza with polenta base!

Polenta, Roast Veg and Halloumi Salad

Spicy Sweetcorn Fritters

I had never made a fritter before, but I liked the word! And I liked the taste, over all a win.

If you are like me and eat straight sweetcorn out the tin, restrain, and make these instead it’s worth it!

Spicy Sweetcorn Fritters- The Vegaquarium

I would have had them with halloumi cheese and avocado, but I was lacking in halloumi and my avocado wasn’t ripe, so I settled for garlic mayo and sweet chilli sauce.

Which brings me to this request: could someone please invent an instant fruit ripener? Thanks.

They only take about 4 mins to cook, are both crispy and squishy at the same time, and have a bit of a kick!

You will need:

  • 300g sweetcorn
  • 75g plain flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 pint milk (I used soya and it worked just as well)
  •  1/2 red onion chopped
  • 1 clove crushed garlic
  • 1 tbs fajita mix
  • 1 tsp paprika

1) Whisk together the flour, egg, milk and spices into a smooth batter in a bowl. Then add the sweetcorn, garlic and onion into the batter and mix it all together.

2) Heat up about 2 tbs of olive oil in a pan, then spoon in the mixture into the oil, you can usually fot about 3 good sized fritters in one pan.

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3) When they have crisped up on one side, flip them over and crisp up the other side. They are a bit like cooking pancakes.

4) Serve with a dip! If you eat meat apparently they go well with bacon. I reckon they would also be nice dipped into a fried egg with beans.

Spicy Sweetcorn Fritters- The Vegaquarium

Christmas Time

Merry Christmas everyone!! Hope you are having a great boxing day! I recommend you watch ‘how to train your dragon’ on BBC 1 at 5, it is a really good film.

The way I see it, Christmas is about eating drinking and spending time with family, so rinse that excuse for all it is worth!

Christmas dinner is one of the best things ever invented, and it is all about the trimmings for me. Clap-shot, red cabbage, sprouts, roast tats, stuffing (veggie) and lotttssssss of gravy. I have my own gravy jug, not kidding.

This year I made mushroom, spinach and stilton wellingtons! So scroll down for that recipe after I bombard you with photos.

I would have made more of an appearence in them, but on Christmas Eve my face decided to swell up, go red and genrally disfigure itself due to an allergic reaction to not sure what, so you can look at sprouts instead they’re probably prettier.

Christmas- The Vegaquarium

We kicked off the day with Champagne and scrambled eggs. Dad gave mum her present, a Mulberry purse, and I have never seen such an amazing reaction it’s priceless!

 

The anual Bagatelle tournament took place, it is basically old school pinball, and for the first time I ranked in the top 3!

Christmas- The Vegaquarium

Christmas- The Vegaquarium
Bagatelle and intense concentration
Papa carving the chicken
Papa carving the chicken
The odd squad at the christmas table
The odd squad at the christmas table

Now for my recipe. Mushroom, spinach and stilton wellington, and I really like the word ‘wellington.’

If you have a fear of stilton you can put in any other cheese you like! I think it would be nice with brie and cranberry.

Mushroom, spinach and stilton wellington- The Vegaquarium

Mushroom, spinach and stilton wellington- The Vegaquarium

Makes 4 wellingtons. You will need:

  • 4 field mushrooms
  • 4 handfulls of spinach
  • 500g Puff pastry
  • Thyme
  • 1 shallot
  • 1 garlic clove
  • pine-nuts
  • Stilton to taste

1) Lightly dust a surface with flout and thyme, then roll out your pastry so that it squidges up the thyme. it needs to be about 7mm thick.

2) Then fry off your mushrooms, but dont chop them up they go in whole. Set them aside to cool, and meanwhile fry up all the shallot, garlic spinach and pine nuts. Then cut out 8 large circles, they need to be big enough to cover your shrooms top and bottom.

Mushroom, spinach and stilton wellington- The Vegaquarium

3) Make a sandwich on the pastry- stilton, mushroom, more stilton, then pop another circle of pastry on top as a lid. Make an egg wash by beating up an egg in a mug and brush it over the pastry, sealing the edges and making sure no juices and cheese escape!

4) Place on a baking tray and bake in an oven at 180 degrees for 30 mins. I decorated my wellingtons, and made one into rudolf because it was christmas. I know, it doesn’t look like rudolf but humor me.

5) Eat with gravy and trimmings!!

Mushroom, spinach and stilton wellington- The Vegaquarium Mushroom, spinach and stilton wellington- The Vegaquarium

Merry christmas and have a happy new year!

Christmas Pigley

Halloumi Mexican Wraps

I laaaaaaavvvv mexican. And Halloumi, and lemon salted courgettes, and avocado. So I combined them all in a wrap and fed them too my hungry housemates.

Bethany even said the words “this is the best thing you have ever cooked me.” plus she didn’t put ketchup on it, so it must have tasted OK.

It is a great meal for sharing, and it gets a bit messy so is fun to eat! Unless you don’t like mess in which case use a knife and fork, clever.

Halloumi Mexican Wraps- The Vegaquarium

This served 3. You will need:

  • pack of 6 wraps
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 block halloumi
  • 1 tin tomatos/passata
  • 2 chopped red onions
  • 3 garlic cloves crushed
  • 1 pack of fajita spice mix
  • 1 tin kidney beans
  • handfull chopped spinach

For the courgette:

  • 2 courgettes
  • 2 pinches of salt
  • half lemon squeezed
  • pinch pepper

1) Start with the courgettes as they need roasting which takes about 40 mins. Simply chop them into batons and shake them on the baking tray with the salt, a generous amount of oil, and some pepper.

2)Pop them in the oven at 200 degrees for 40 mins. While they are cooking you can get going on your wrap sauce!

Halloumi Mexican Wraps- The VegaquariumFor the sauce:

1) Fry off your onion and garlic with a pinch of sugar, then add your kidney beans and fajita spices to make a pastey looking mix!

2) After about 5 mins, add your tomatoes and leave to simmer for 30 mins.

3) 10 mins before you are ready to serve, chop up the avocado and prepare on a plate with a squeeze of the rest of the lemon you used earlier. Then slice up your halloumi into strips.

4) Fry the halloumi with a bit of oil and tsp of paprika in a frying pan, turning every few mins, after a while they will start to brown off and go crispy on the outside and gooey in the middle, this is why I love it!

5) Then put everything on the table, with the wraps and some sour cream/ greek yoghurt to serve, and let them get stuck in!

Halloumi Mexican Wraps- The Vegaquarium

Halloumi Mexican Wraps- The Vegaquarium

Halloumi Mexican Wraps- The Vegaquarium

If you want to follow suit, we then had Ben and Jerry’s for desert!

Creamy avocado pasta

One hungover day, when the time for porridge and cereal was long behind me, I decided to make this meal my breakfast (technically). But I would do it again! I know, another pasta dish, but this one is special and I’ve been meaning to try something like it for ages!

The thing I like about this pasta is that it is so creamy you feel like it should be a huge calorific bomb, but it is actually pretty green and healthy! If you don’t like avocado, don’t ditch me just yet, as this is avocado in a whole new light.

My recipe serves 2, but you can double or tripple your ingredients, make up a huge batch of this stuff and feed it to your friends, family, pets, I reckon it would go down a treat.

I would have liked to have made this with spagetti, but penne was all my cupboard had to bare.

You will need:

  • 125g of your favourite pasta
  • 2 soft ripe avocados
  • 1 squeeze of lemon
  • 1 tbs mayonaise
  • 30g grated parmesan
  • 1 clove crushed garlic
  • pinch of black pepper and pinch of salt
  • Peas or spinach (optional)

To be honest, the recipe from here requires little explanation!

  1. Cook your pasta for 10 minutes in boiling water, and remember to add your peas about 3 mins before the end!
  2. Meanwhile mash or blend up the avocado, mayo, lemon, pepper, salt, and garlic into a big paste. Then stir in your pasta and parmesan.
  3. Finish with more seasoning to taste and serve with a garnish if you are feeling posh/pretentious like me. Told you it was pretty simple, so no excuses not to try.

While I am here, I feel I would also like to show the cake I made my friend Jessica yesterday. She is an avid fan on Strictly Come Dancing, has been to see it twice, and will end up on the show one day… we hope. Therefore the obviously the only appropriate cake was Strictly themed. I was going to do a whole post on it, but after the trauma of it nearly looking like shiny football, spraying shimmer in my eye , getting red food dye everywhere and spilling silver balls all over the floor, it became too much to re-live. It is a very nearly disco ball, but the sponge should taste good.

Happy birthday Jess!

Posh Mac and Cheese

I would like to dedicate this blog post to my house mate Bridget. Last night I returned from a night out where, by the way, I proudly performed a top rendition of Shakira’s Wherever Whenever. I think she embodied me. It was 2:30am and to my amazement she was cooking a cheese sauce from scratch and making a macaroni cheese! Fair play to her, I can barely manage to butter toast at that sort of time.

Anyway, since then I had been craving a mac and cheese, so I decided to make my own. However at a slightly more normal time…

You will need:

  • 40g of plain flour
  • 40g of butter
  • 1 pint milk
  • 250g grated cheese
  • 30g parmesan
  • 2 slices of that fake plasticky cheese (Ok this really isn’t posh…)
  • 250g pasta tubes
  • 2 balls of frozen spinach, you can get it in the frozen veg aisle and it’s genius
  • handfull of chopped tomatoes
  • 1tsp sugar
  • 2 chopped spring onions

1) Cook your pasta for 10 mins and leave until needed. Then set your oven to 200 degrees.

2) Make a roux by melting the butter in a saucepan, then stirring in the flour. Cook that for 2 mins before pouring in the milk bit by bit and whisking. Bring it all to the boil, then turn it down and keep whisking until it thickens into a gloopy sauce. This takes about 15 minites.

3) Stir in all of your cheese, including the plastic one which you may want to slice up. Leave a little bit of parmesan to go on top!

4) Pop in the spinach balls, and while it defrosts in the sauce fry off the tomatoes with oil and sugar. The sugar may sound strange but it works! Fry them till they’s squidgey and add them to the cheesy sauce.

4) Put your pasta tubes and the sauce in a bake-proof dish then top with the cheese and spring onion. Grill for 10 mins. Then serve. I had mine with avocado which worked really well. Oh I also put Quorn chicken in incase you are wondering what the chunks are! But that is definitely optional.

Vegan Week Concludes

All week we have turned down tea with biscuits, exploited all soya imitations of anything creamy, and become crazed chocolate deprived women.

Today everything changed. Cheese was allowed back in our lives and we welcome it with open arms and pasta.  In my mind the only thing to do was make the cheesiest yummiest thing I could think of; Lasagne! Below is my recipe sent to me by my lovely mother, but before I share that I want to share my full conclusion of veganism.

1) I have learned vegan food is still delicious. All week we cooked a different tasting and fantastic tasting meal. I have tried different flavour combinations and instead of automatically adding cheese or mayo to my food, I have thought about adding spices, citrus and fresh flavours. I will make sure I do this more often!

2) I have learned that egg and milk are in so many products!!  Which sort of freaks me out… Crisps, biscuits, Quorn and nearly all processed foods contain them, but they are hiding from you, sniggering away as you eat them unknowingly. I am a big believer in organic and free range and am always willing to pay extra for organic milk and free range eggs, but what if the eggs in my crisps are not free range? This completely undermines me and makes my “green hippy warrior mission” a massive fraud, therefore in the future I will be looking into where ingredients come from! We depend on animals so much more than I thought.

3) Challenges are much better faced in a team. When I first made the suggestion of vegan week, I didn’t expect anyone else to jump on the band wagon but I am so glad they did! Having someone to moan with and share the cravings with made everything much more bearable! Go girl power. It has also been quite fun. Thank you girls for all the lovely meals!

Yesterday Bridget made her own falafel and they were possibly the best I have ever eaten! It made me want to make them myself from now on. They were so good I didn’t even feel the need to smother them in mayonaise, which is my usual trick. She also made potato wedges and a crunchy apple and cucumber salad, a proper vegan treat.

All in all, I will not be becoming a fully fledged vegan, however I will make a big effort to make sure everything I eat is from a happy animal. Let me know if you are vegan! I’d love to know why and how you commit to a vegan diet.

Now for something definitely not vegan: Roasted Vegetable Lasagne. cheeeeeeeeeese.

You will need:

  • 1 Aubergine
  • 1 Courgette
  • Button mushrooms
  • 1 red pepper
  • 150g baby tomatos
  • 2 red onions
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 pack of lasagne
  • 200g grated mozzarella
  • Spinach

For the cheese sauce:

  • 30g flour
  • 40g butter
  • 1 pint milk
  • 1 teaspoon mustard
  • 200g grated cheddar

1) Chop up all of your veg and pop them in a roasting pan with lots of oil. Pop them in the oven at 200 degrees for around 35 mins.

2) While the veg is roasting, cook the sauce. Make a roux by melting the butter into the flour until it makes a thick paste. Then add the milk and bring it to the boil while whisking. It will take some time, but it will thicken into a lovely gloopy sauce. Then turn down the heat and mix in the cheddar cheese and mustard. You can’t really taste the mustard, but it makes a richer sauce and brings out the cheesiness.

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3) pour on some of the cheese sauce into a dish, then layer up some roasted veg, spinach, mozzarella then pasta sheet. Repeat this and finish with a topping of more cheese sauce and mozzarella.

4) Bake in the oven at 180 degrees for 30-35 mins.

It was just what I needed for a slight hangover and a cheese deprived belly.

If you are wondering how I did the animated Instagram type stirry thing, it is this new cool app I have found! I will do a post on it soon and tell you all about it.

Thanks for watching and taking an interest in vegan week!

Vegan- Day 4

First, I am sorry, but day 3 got lost in the post…

Today is our 4th day of being vegan!! which means my 4th day without chocolate. I couldn’t hack it so I went out and bought a vegan chocolate bar, which was surprisingly nice.

If being vegan is doing anything to me it is making me think. The fact that so many every day items like chocolate and crisps contain milk and eggs makes me realise how huge the farming industry must be. Obscure products which you wouldn’t expect to contain animal bi-products, do! Did you know some wine is not vegan? Weird…

I am still missing mayonaise a lot. I hate ketchup so sauce is fairly limited!! Yesterday I made my sweet potato wedges, but they were incredibly lonely without their usual mate Garlic Mayonaise.  *Double sob* In an attempt to comfort them, I made a creamy avocado dip which went a little like this:

You will need:

  • Avocado
  • Handfull of spinach
  • 1 clove of garlic

1) Chop the spinach finely and wilt it. This can be done in the microwave with a bit of water.

2) Crush a garlic clove and mash it up with the avocado flesh. Then stir in the spinach. Done!

Dinner tonight was an amazing lentil thai curry made by Bethany. She proved that vegan food is definitely not tasteless! And we all cleared our bowls. Her lovely recipe is from one of my favourite blog sites- Pinchofyum. You can get it here!

She made it her own by adding lemon salted courgettes, which I will be posting separately in just a sec! Along with the Paella I promised you. Pinky promise.

Thank you Bethany dinner was amazing!!!