Tortellini minestrone

Tortellini is the easiest last minute meal. I’m known for being so busy doing something I delay and delay cooking dinner, until suddenly it is 9pm and I’m totally ravenous. At that point, the thought of having a filling meal ready in essentially the time it takes to boil the kettle is highly appealing. However, on days when I remember to begin cooking before I reach that stage, this dish is the perfect way to sneak some extra veg into a simple pasta dinner.

tortellini minestrone

I’m not a huge fan of regular vegetable minestrone – something about it feels slightly too virtuous for me to enjoy without spoiling its effect with a heap of parmesan on top. The addition of tortellini therefore bulks it out to be a more filling meal and distract from all that veg. The recipe is highly flexible to whatever you have languishing in the fridge – red peppers, some butternut squash or even diced aubergine would all fit in nicely here.

Tortellini minestrone

  • 1 onion
  • 2 small carrots
  • 1 courgette
  • one clove of garlic
  • half tin of tomatoes
  • 300ml chicken stock
  • handful of green beans
  • large handful of spinach
  • half a packet of spinach and ricotta tortellini

Finely dice the onion, carrot and courgette. Sweat in a medium saucepan in a generous drizzle of olive oil until soft, about 10 minutes. Crush the garlic, add to the pan and cook out for 1-2 minutes.

Next, add the tomatoes and stock and simmer over a medium heat for 10 minutes, until reduced and thickened slightly. Add the green beans and simmer for a further five minutes. Add the spinach and tortellini and cook for 2 more minutes. Finally, ladle into bowls and top with a generous sprinkling of parmesan.

Spaghetti Carbonara

I’m approaching the revision period for my final exams. In doing so, I am discovering an intense ability to procrastinate. Turns out there are just questions in life that bother me more than  what was the cultural significance of Renaissance inventories. Like what the heck is going on with Brexit and Trump, sure, but also whether I’ll ever learn how to do perfect winged eye liner. Which shady character is the actual villain in series three of Broadchurch. The real life mystery of what exactly was going on with Hiddleswift last summer. How to make the perfect carbonara.

Spaghetti Carbonara

I love carbonara, but for years I have been making not-very-good ones and going along with it because it involved bacon, carbs and cheese and so could never be that bad. But then in New York last summer I had the ultimate fancy restaurant carbonara; one of those ones with an egg yolk on top to pierce and let flow down throughout the spaghetti. It showed me just how perfect a good carbonara could be and I knew I’d never be going to back to mildly scrambled versions. I would never claim this is a traditional version – I love the luxuriousness of the added cream too much – but it’s my favourite version and that is all I need. Maybe if I served it to Tom Hiddleston he’d explain everything?

Spaghetti Carbonara

Serves 1

  • 100g spaghetti
  • 3 rashers of streaky bacon
  • 2 egg yolks
  • splash of double cream
  • parmesan, to grate

Cook the spaghetti in a large saucepan of boiling water until al dente, about 8-10 minutes.

Meanwhile, fry the bacon until crisp. Drain on kitchen paper and snip into 2cm pieces.

Mix the egg yolks with the double cream in a mug. When the spaghetti is done, remove 2tbsp of the cooking water and mix in with the egg and cream.

Drain the spaghetti and return to the warm saucepan. Add the egg and bacon and stir to coat the pasta evenly and create a sauce. Pour into a bowl and top with plenty of grated parmesan.

Couscous-stuffed Red Peppers

Over the course of this term I have realised that cucumber, tomatoes and feta are approaching Holy Trinity ingredients for me. They pop up in my cooking together time and time again: in pastas, in couscous, accompanying salmon or chicken. They are my go to staples to flavour a salad and make a side dish more flavourful than just leaves. Lemon juice and olive oil are never far behind. They make me feel healthy without being too in my face and I always have them in my fridge, just in case. Today I wanted to try something slightly different then a regular salad – so I took my standard couscous and popped it in a pepper. Super simple, only takes five minutes longer than making the couscous itself and adds an extra portion of veg into my lunch (two if you serve it with green beans like I did). I’m not always a fan of red peppers (something about their squeaky texture) but cooking them like this keeps them super juicy and, well, plenty of feta can help just about anything. Enjoy!

Couscous stuffed red peppers

Couscous-stuffed peppers

  • 2 red peppers
  • 100g couscous
  • 3tbsps olive oil
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 100g feta
  • 10cm cucumber
  • ½ red onion
  • small handful of basil

Preheat the oven to 180’C. Half the peppers and deseed, keeping the stalks intact for presentation if you like. Place on a microwaveable plate and microwave for 5 minutes until beginning to soften.

Meanwhile, place the couscous in a large bowl and just cover with boiling water. Place a lid or plate on top and leave to stand for 5-10 minutes until the couscous is fluffy and absorbed all the water. Fluff with a fork to separate the grains. Add the remaining ingredients, mix to combine and season generously.

Lightly oil a baking tray and place the peppers on it. Fill each half of the peppers generously with the couscous. Bake for 5-10 minutes until the peppers are fully soft and the couscous is just beginning to go golden. Serve warm.

Pea, crème fraiche and mint gnocchi bake  

We’re entering that complicated period of early spring where I spend the majority of my time dressed for the wrong weather. It will be sunny, you’ll think March is a warm month, you’ll go out in a jacket instead of a coat for the first time and discover those spring skies are deceptive and it is still only 7’C. The following day you’ll have learnt from your mistakes. You wrap in cashmere and a puffa coat… and slowly roast as the weather reaches unprecedented highs. Streets in March and April become a cheery mixture of people dressed for strongest summer or darkest winter – like the Mediterranean in December, when British tourists head south for festive sun and locals baulk at the idea of temperatures below 20’C. But enough weather chat – this is the dish to get you through this tricky time.

Pea, creme fraiche and mint gnocchi bake

The flavours are fresh and light – ready for spring – but baking it briefly provides that cosy warmth should it still be needed. Gnocchi is one of my favourite dishes due to being so speedy to prepare and I could cook it endlessly. Normally I drench it in pesto and bacon (which is entirely delicious) but this fresh way incorporates some extra vegetables into my diet and is just as tasty. Enjoy!

Pea, crème fraiche and mint gnocchi bake
Serves 2

  • 1 packet of gnocchi
  • 100g peas
  • 3 tbsps crème fraiche
  • handful of mint
  • cheddar, to grate

Preheat the grill to 200’C.

Boil the gnocchi and peas together for 3-4 minutes, until the gnocchi floats to the top. Drain and return to the saucepan. Add the crème fraiche, mint and generous grating of cheddar. Stir together and tip into a small baking dish.

Top with more grated cheddar and grill for 3-5 minutes, until the cheese is golden and bubbling. Enjoy!

Sausage, kale and tomato casserole

Before university, I used to cook or bake at home on average once a week. This gave me plenty of time all week to decide what I was going to cook and wait for inspiration to strike. It might be a recipe I read, an advert that made me crave something, watching an episode of Everyday Mary Berry. Now that I cook for myself every day, its pretty easy to run out of inspiration. My ideas tend to come from trawling through BBC Good Food or Delicious magazine until I spot something to work from. Or, in the case of this casserole, my friend kept mentioning she was having sausages for her tea. This made me crave sausages, which made me look in my fridge and see what needed using up that I could cook with them. And so a sausage, kale and tomato casserole (with a few peas thrown in for good measure) was born.

Sausage and tomato casserole

Sausage, kale and tomato casserole

Serves 3

I prefer to roast my sausages and add them to the casserole at the end, rather than fry them in the casserole dish at the beginning. Frying them probably adds extra depth of flavour, but I can’t be faffed with turning a spitting sausage for 15 minutes and hoping it cooks all the way through and doesn’t just char on the outside. If you are a more patient soul than me, try frying them first, removing whilst you cook the onion and then returning to the pan before the tomatoes and chicken stock.

  • 6 sausages
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tin of tomatoes
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • 100g peas
  • 200g baby kale
  • sprinkling of thyme

Preheat the oven to 220’C. Line a baking tray with foil, add the sausages and roast for 20-25minutes until cooked through.

Meanwhile, finely dice the onion. Cook in a large saucepan in a glug of oil over a gentle heat until soft and beginning to caramelise. Crush the garlic clove, add to the pan and cook out for 1-2 minutes.

Add the tinned tomatoes, chicken stock, thyme and plenty of seasoning. Simmer for 10-15minutes until thickened and reduced slightly.

Add the peas, baby kale and cooked sausages. Stir to heat everything through. Serve and enjoy!

Fried gnocchi with mozzarella and tomatoes

Occasionally a certain dish will come to dominate my cooking. Just like fashionistas going crazy for Spring trends (hi big sleeves and stripy shirts), every once in a while a recipe comes along that I will get temporarily obsessed with. There have been several instances of this over the years. When I discovered these addictive jam drops, they were temporarily all I wanted to bake. There have been my bagel and quesadilla phases at university, where they were all I ate for lunch every day for an entire term – perhaps a hangover from years of packed lunches? Every Christmas I rediscover Simon Hopkinson’s cheesy biscuits and wonder why I don’t make them all year round. Then, several years ago, I found this fried gnocchi recipe and a temporary gnocchi addiction was born. This recipe now tastes nostalgic to me for no other reason than I cooked it so many times that the processes and flavours are now inherently familiar.

Fried gnocchi with mozzarella and tomatoes

I hadn’t made this recipe for a long time – being distracted by gnocchi bakes and bacon instead – but as soon as I saw it again when I was scrolling through my ‘Savoury’ recipe file, I knew it would be gracing my lunch table again very soon. It is super simple – three ingredients, fifteen minutes and you are done. Fried gnocchi is absolutely delicious, going gorgeously golden and crispy on the outside but retaining that comforting fluffiness within. My family were all converted to this dish when we first discovered it and I know my sister still cooks it regularly – try it and see for yourself!

Fried gnocchi with mozzarella and tomatoes

Serves 2, from this Liberty London Girl recipe

  • 1 bag of gnocchi
  • ½ ball of mozzarella
  • 2 handfuls of cherry tomatoes
  • olive oil and knob of butter

Boil the gnocchi in salted water for 2-3 minutes, until it floats to the top. Meanwhile, roughly chop the mozzarella and halve the tomatoes.

Heat a frying pan with a generous glug of olive oil and knob of butter. Drain the gnocchi and tip into the frying pan with the cherry tomatoes. Fry over a medium-high heat, until the tomatoes are releasing their juices and the gnocchi are forming a golden crust on the bottom – don’t stir too much. Add the mozzarella and heat until its melting and stretchy. Scrape into bowls and enjoy.

Green chicken noodle salad

Stir-fries are a staple student food that I’ve never quite got on board with. Baked beans – yes, basically every Saturday lunch all my life, keep going with that cheese on top please. Pasta – doesn’t matter if we are talking carbonara, pesto, mac and cheese, two minute tortellini, I’m in. Chicken nuggets on the way home from a night out – best part of the night. But stir fries are not a regular part of my repertoire. I’d never even made one until last summer and whilst it was surprisingly tasty, they’re still not part of my regular cooking patterns. Hence why I was slightly stumped when I got major cravings for noodles last week with no idea what to do with them.

Green chicken noodle salad

I feel like it would be quite a stretch to call this a stir fry, but it certainly satisfied my noodle cravings. I’ll hold my hands up and say this is extremely simple – acting both to solve my craving and to use up some bits and bobs in my fridge. At first I found it a little bland, but then found myself eating a vast bowl of it and requiring high levels of self-restraint not to tuck into the portion I’d saved for the next day. It’s essentially a dish I would usually make with couscous but the noodles made a welcome change and made it a heartier dish. Maybe now I’ll work my way up to a proper stir fry. Baby steps.

Green chicken noodle salad
Serves 2

  • 400g fresh egg noodles
  • 1 chicken breast, roasted
  • 2 spring onions
  • small bunch of mint
  • 1/3 cucumber
  • 3 tbsps olive oil
  • ½ lime, zest and juice

Heat a generous glug of olive oil in a frying pan. Tip in the noodles and stir until warmed through. Meanwhile, finely slice the spring onions and mint, and dice the cucumber. Mix the olive oil and lime zest and juice.

Add all the ingredients to the warm noodles. Season very generously with salt and pepper. Enjoy!

Parma ham wrapped chicken, spinach lentils, roasted tomatoes

My cooking at university tends to be largely one pot meals – casseroles, salads, pasta bakes. The sort of food you fill a bowl with and you are done. But as much as I enjoy the simplicity and minimal washing up of this style of cooking, every now and then a gal craves something fancier. Sometimes, the week just demands splurging on Parma ham in Waitrose and the posh vine tomatoes in Sainsbury’s and treating yourself (and no one else) to a proper dinner. The sort of food that looks like it came from one of those restaurant menus where all the dishes are just a list of ingredients. It’s still simple, but it is the sort of multi-element food that requires a proper plate and sitting at a table (or desk) instead of sofa (or bed). Who says cooking for one has to be boring?

Parma ham wrapped chicken, spinach lentils, roasted tomatoes

Parma ham wrapped chicken, spinach lentils, roasted tomatoes

This makes enough for two, but the second chicken breast and half of the lentils work just as well reheated a few days later for when you next need a proper meal. Recipe adapted from here.

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 2 slices of parma ham
  • 1 packet of vine tomatoes
  • olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 250g sachet of ready-cooked lentils
  • handful of baby spinach

Preheat the oven to 190’C. Wrap each chicken breast in a slice of Parma ham, placing the join of ham on the base of the chicken. Place on a lined baking tray, alongside two branches of tomatoes. Roast for 15-20 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.

Meanwhile, finely dice the onion and cook in a saucepan on a gentle heat in a large glug of oil until soft and just beginning to caramelise. Crush the garlic, add to the saucepan and cook out for 1-2 minutes. Add the lentils and a further glug of olive oil to loosen the mixture. Stir for a few minutes to heat the lentils through. Tip in the handful of baby spinach and stir until just wilted.

To serve, spoon the spinach lentils on to a plate. Top with slices of the chicken breast, and add a vine of roasted tomatoes. Eat, enjoy, and bask in your classiness.

Ultimate Sausage Rolls

What is it about train stations and sausage rolls? I’ve been travelling between London and Cambridge a fair bit this week and every station I’ve passed through has been filled with the scent of freshly baked (or at least reheated) sausage rolls and pasties. Each time I was tempted, but I held out knowing that homemade would be far better.

Ultimate sausage rolls

When I pulled a tray of these out of my college oven, that familiar pastry aroma was back. This was swiftly followed by a girl who shares my kitchen commenting, ‘that’s a lot for one person’… clearly not understanding the joy of batch baking! One of these reheated in the oven, with a spoonful of baked beans and pile of steamed broccoli is going to my dinner for the next few days and I am more than okay with that.

Sausage rolls are so simple to make that a few easy touches can elevate them to the position of ‘ultimate’. Nigella seeds sprinkled on top add a touch of extra interest, using all-butter pastry ensures the best flakiness, interesting sausages will add more flavour than plain sausage meat with no extra effort from you. Trust me, these take 15 minutes to bake and will be far better than any station imitation.

Ultimate sausage rolls

Makes 4

  • 6 sausages (I used caramelised red onion ones)
  • 1 apple
  • 1 onion
  • 300g ready rolled puff pastry
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • sprinkling of nigella seeds

Preheat the oven to 200’C.

Use scissors to unpeel the sausages from their skins. Tip all the sausage meat into a bowl. Core and finely chop the apple – there is no need to peel it. Finely dice the onion. Add these to the sausage meat and mix everything together.

Unroll the puff pastry. Lay the sausage mixture down the centre of the pastry length ways. Lift the pastry around the meat and pinch together the join. Flip the long sausage roll over so this seam is on the base. Cut the roll into four and place on a lined baking sheet.

Brush each sausage roll with the beaten egg and top with a sprinkling of nigella seeds. Use a sharp knife to score three lines across the top of each one. Bake for 25 minutes until the pastry is risen, golden and crisp.

Roast cod, potato and tomato traybake

I’m bad at getting fish into my diet. A grilled fillet of salmon here and there or a few M&S melting middle fishcakes during exam term are about as much as I tend to get through. Even the cod I bought for this dish had to wait frozen for a few days before I was inspired enough to use it. Now I’ve made this though, I’m hoping cod might be a more regular feature of my shopping basket.

Roast cod, potato and tomato traybake

I think one of my fears of cooking fish at university comes out of sharing a kitchen with 10 other girls – I don’t want to be the college equivalent of the colleague who smokes out the office with a reheated fish lunch. However, the upside of this danger for me is the pure ease and speed of cooking fish – quicker than my meat staples of chicken and sausages. Plus, when you pair it with plenty of garlic and fresh lemon, any potential fish aromas are easily disguised. This one tray, two stage dish takes a while in the oven to ensure gorgeously caramelised roast potatoes, but requires very little actual prep for you. I love a whole meal coming together as one, saving me having to think about getting different elements ready. Whip this tray out the oven and voila – dinner is served.

Roast cod, potato and tomato traybake

Serves 2 – adapted from here

  • 1 large potato
  • 1 onion
  • olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 lemon
  • 3 large tomatoes
  • 2 fillets of cod
  • sprinkling of dried oregano

Preheat the oven to 180’C.

Peel the potato and slice into wedges – halving any super thick ones to ensure they will all cook through. Peel the onion and chop into quarters. Tip the potato and onion into a large lipped baking tray. Drizzle generously with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toss everything together. Smash the garlic cloves and add to the tray. Roast for 25 minutes.

Quarter the tomatoes and the lemon. After 25 minutes, add these to the tray with the potatoes. Lay the cod fillets on top of the potatoes and sprinkle with the dried oregano and more seasoning. Roast for a further 10-12 minutes until the fish is cooked through. Serve and enjoy – squeezing the roasted lemon over the fish.