Mexican Pasta Bake

I love being creative in the kitchen. And if you can be creative and use leftovers at the same time, then even better. I wanted to make a pasta bake for dinner last time and, when faced with the prospective of baking the traditional British tuna and sweetcorn pasta bake, I decided to give it a twist using some ingredients I had leftover in my fridge and cupboards. Mexican-inspired was the choice of preference after I found a tin of baked beans, the abovementioned sweetcorn and some pinto beans in my cupboard, but the addition of a half a jar of red roasted peppers and some chipotle paste helped the dish to come together. Very easy, delicious and can be made with a little effort.

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Ingredients

  • 500g fusilli pasta
  • 1L whole milk, at room temperature
  • 100g butter, at room temperature
  • 100g plain flour
  • 85g red roasted peppers, drained
  • 400g can of sweetcorn, drained
  • 300g can of pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 250g smoked cheese
  • 100g chorizo sausage
  • 150g can of baked beans
  • 100g mascarpone
  • 3 tbsp dried oregano
  • 3 tsp chipotle paste
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • salt & pepper
  • chopped coriander, to decorate

Method

  1. Start by making the bechamel sauce. Melt the butter in a saucepan over a low to medium heat, then remove the pan from the heat and stir in the flour. Put the saucepan back on the heat and cook gently to create the so-called roux. You should get a smooth and golden-tinted paste, but don’t cook it too long or you-ll burn it. Start adding the milk by pouring it gently into the saucepan and mixing it in with a wooden spoon. Keep on stirring over a medium heat making sure to scrape the bottom of the pan until the mixture starts to thicken a little and covers the back of the spoon. This will take approximately 10 minutes. Remove the bechamel sauce from the heat, season with some salt and pepper, then stir in the ground cumin, chipotle paste and chilli powder. Cover with clingfilm to prevent a skin forming on the surface, then set aside.
  2. Put the sweetcorn, beans (both pinto and baked) and mascarpone in a big bowl, then mix to combine. Add the peppers, previously sliced into small strips.
  3. Slice the chorizo into pound coin slices, then quarter them. Heat a frying pan over a high heat, then tumble the chorizo in and cook until crisp. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain over some kitchen paper. Once cooled, add to the big bowl.
  4. In the meantime, cook the pasta according to packet instructions in plenty of salted boiling water. You want it al dente rather than mushy, as it will have to hold its shape. Once cooked, drain and tumble in the bowl with the beans and sweetcorn. Mix to combine and coat the pasta evenly with the mascarpone. This will prevent the pasta to stick. Add the oregano, then coarsely grate the smoked cheese and set aside.
  5. Pre-heat your oven to 180C, then take a big roasting dish.
  6. Remove the clingfilm from the spicy bechamel sauce and spread about 1 ladleful on the bottom of the dish to prevent the pasta from sticking to the dish. Use half of the pasta mixture to create an even layer in the roasting dish, then scatter with half of the grated smoked cheese. Cover with half of the bechamel sauce and spread it around.
  7. Top with the rest of the pasta, the remaining cheese and bechamel sauce. Bake it for about 35-40 minutes until slightly scorched on top. Remove from the oven and let cool down a little, then scatter with coriander and serve.

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Stuffed Tomatoes

This is a perfect example of how you can re-use your pasta sauces to create something which is equally as delicious. Normally I would just make enough pasta sauce to dress the pasta I am cooking, but for whatever reason I was left with plenty extra when I made this, so instead of freezing it, I decided to add my own twist to it and use two very plump beef tomatoes I had peeping at me from the fridge to create a new dish.

I find ricotta to be a very versatile ingredients. This creamy yet dry cheese is perfect in both savoury and sweet dish as it doesn’t have a strong flavour on its own, but it adds this wonderful creaminess to whatever it is used in and it marries beautifully with herbs, black pepper and Parmesan cheese (for a sweet version, try it with honey or jams). I used sausages in this recipe, but the equal amount of beef/pork mince with added herbs would work just as fine.

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Ingredients

  • 6 good quality herbs sausages, skin removed
  • 2 shallots, finely sliced.
  • 250g tub ricotta
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 50g Parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • ground black pepper
  • salt
  • 3 beef tomatoes
  • 100g creamy cheese, such as a mild cheddar, cubed

Method

  1. First, prepare the tomatoes. Use a sharp knife to remove the tops, then scoop the flesh out with a teaspoon and discard. Set the now empty tomatoes on a baking try lined with parchment, drizzle with some olive oil and roast for about 20 minutes in a 180C oven, until softened.
  2. In the meantime, put the shallots in a frying pan with a drizzle of olive oil and cook until softened, then add the sausagemat and brown all over, stirring occasionally. Add the tomato puree and stir again until fully combined. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
  3. Tip the sausage mixture into a bowl, then add the ricotta, grated Parmesan, salt and pepper and mix to combine.
  4. Remove the tomatoes from the oven, then tumble 2-3 cubes of the creamy cheese inside and fit snugly at the bottom. Fill the tomatoes with the sausage filling, then top with the tomato top and roast for another 20 minutes, until piping hot.
  5. Serve with some salad or as a side dish.

White Sausage Casserole

In a typical British way, when I mentioned to my partner that I was going to make a sausage casserole, he was expecting a very stodgy sausage stew with gravy, mashed potatoes and a few vegetables. This is not it! This is a very delicate and fennel-scented sausage stew/casserole with plenty of creme fraiche, which adds a summery touch. It is also very strange (says my partner), as it is very creamy and yet does not involve any gravy whatsoever.

The recipe comes from the July edition of the BBC Good Food magazine, but, as usual, I added a few of my personal touches here and there, mostly to adapt the recipe to our taste and use up what we had in our fridge. I don’t want to be the one telling you what to eat, but this is a really good dish as it contains plenty of vegetables and only a few sausages, not to mention you can freeze it and re-heat it as and when needed. Please don’t worry if the sauce looks very liquid as this is perfectly normal. make sure you sure you serve the dish with plenty of crusty bread to absorb the sauce and it will be delicious.

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Ingredients

  • 8 good-quality sausages
  • half a red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb, quartered and then finely sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 green chilli, finely sliced, seeds removed
  • 2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • about 150ml white wine
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • 250g green beans, trimmed and halved
  • 200g broad beans, podded
  • 300g peas
  • 200g creme fraiche
  • 1 lemon, juice of
  • handful of coriander and dill, finely chopped, to serve
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the sausages and cook for a few minutes until browned all over, then remove from the pan and transfer to a plate.
  2. Tip the onion and the fennel slices into the pan and cook for about 10 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic and half the green chilli, then cook for another 2 minutes.
  3. Stir the flour into the vegetables and move everything about for 1 minute, then pour in the wine and let it bubble. Add the chicken stock and return the sausages to the pan. Lower the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes.
  4. Add the green beans, peas, broad beans, the rest of the green chilli and cook cor about 2 minutes.
  5. Tumble in the creme fraiche, lemon juice, chopped parsley and dill. Season with salt and pepper, then cook for another 2 minutes. Remove from heat and serve.

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Scotch Eggs

Another classic of the British cuisine, these are best enjoyed warm (not hot, unless you are a bid sadomasochist), and I strongly advise you to either get a proper frying device or to keep your house well ventilated. Also, it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to use smaller eggs (quail’s, for instance) in place of the big chicken ones. I also do apologise in advance for posting pictures which are not mine but, as you can see right here below, the quality of mine is appalling to say the least. Last but not least, the recipe is not mine but is the product of many tried and tested Scotch Eggs recipes by Felicity Cloake.

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Ingredients

  • 6 eggs
  • 200g plain sausagemeat
  • 200g pork mince
  • 3 tbsp chopped mixed herbs
  • A pinch of ground mace
  • 1 tbsp English mustard
  • Splash of milk
  • 50g flour
  • 100g panko breadcrumbs
  • Vegetable oil, to cook

Method

  1. Put four of the eggs into a pan, cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for five minutes, then put straight into a large bowl of iced water for at least 10 minutes.
  2. Put the meat, herbs, mace and mustard into a bowl, season and mix well with your hands. Divide into four.
  3. Carefully peel the eggs. Beat the two raw eggs together in a bowl with a splash of milk. Put the flour in a second bowl and season, then tip the breadcrumbs into a third bowl. Arrange in an assembly line.
  4. Put a square of clingfilm on the worksurface, and flour lightly. Put one of the meatballs in the centre, and flour lightly, then put another square of cling film on top. Roll out the meat until large enough to encase an egg and remove the top sheet of clingfilm.
  5. To assemble the egg, roll one peeled egg in flour, then put in the centre of the meat. Bring up the sides of the film to encase it, and smooth it into an egg shape with your hands. Dip each egg in flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs, then egg and then breadcrumbs.
  6. Fill a large pan a third full of vegetable oil, and heat to 170C (or when a crumb of bread sizzles and turns golden, but does not burn, when dropped in it). Cook the eggs a couple at a time, for seven minutes, until crisp and golden, then drain on kitchen paper before serving.

Tips

  • I found using sausages with herbs works the magic without having to buy the sausagemeat and the herbs separately. You can bulk the amount of herbs by adding some freshly chopped ones if you wish.
  • If you don’t have / can’t get your hands on Panko breadcrumbs, use normal fresh ones. Please restrain from using the horrible orange ones you can find in supermarkets and opt for some freshly grated ones instead. I buy bread specifically to make breadcrumbs.
  • Step number 5 suggests to roll the eggs in flour. I found that keeps the sausagemeat directly in contact with the flour (and the egg) too moist and risks not cooking properly when frying. It’s up to you, but I would suggest avoid using flour and just spending more time making sure the egg is properly encased in its meat blanket.

One of Felicity's perfect scotch eggs

This is how the should look like once finished (picture not mine)