beef sausage lasagna bake with orecchiette

One of the things I so love about cooking is finding inspiration from items I have in my fridge or freezer. A simpler version of lasagna using beef sausage, vegetables and orecchiette pasta, this dish cooks a little faster than your traditional lasagna as the pasta is cooked before adding it to the meat sauce.
Because sausages are packed with so much beautiful flavour I always remove the casing to enhance the dish. I used orecchiette pasta but any other pasta like penne, rigatoni or fusilli are great alternatives.

Serve this comforting meal with a simple garden or avocado salad and shavings of parmesan.
A delicious, budget friendly family meal!

ingredients | serves 6 | a little effort
600g beef sausage
1/2 white onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
150g button mushrooms, quartered
2 zucchini, grated
1t dried oregano
2 rosemary sprigs, leaves only
2T tomato paste
1 can crushed tomato
1T paprika
2T brown sugar
1C cherry tomatoes, whole
bunch fresh parsley, finely chopped
1t salt
good grind of black pepper
3 thyme sprigs, leaves only
2T olive oil
1T butter
2C grated cheddar
3C orecchiette pasta, cooked according to package intstructions

white sauce
35g butter
4T flour
2.5-3C milk
1/2t salt
1/2t white pepper

Preheat the oven to 190C/170 with fan.
Heat the olive oil & butter in a large, ovenproof skillet and sauté the onion and garlic until glossy. Remove the sausage meat from the casings by pressing it out, into the hot pan, like little meatballs. Discard the sausage casings and brown the meat all over. About 8 minutes. Add the tomato paste, stir and cook for 2 minutes.
Add the mushrooms to the pan and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring.
Add the grated zucchini, rosemary, paprika, oregano, sugar, salt & pepper, stir to coat and cook for 5 minutes. Pour the crushed tomato into the pan and cook the mixture for another 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Add the cherry tomatoes, stir and cook for 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir the parsley through the mixture. Set aside.

make the white sauce
Melt the butter in a small pot on medium heat. Add the flour and mix using a wooden spoon.
Remove the pot from the heat and, using a whisk, add the milk while rapidly whisking. Place the pot back onto the heat and continue to whisk until the sauce starts to thicken. Leave to gently simmer for about 10 minutes, while stirring. Add more milk if the sauce is too thick. (You must have a pourable sauce.)
Season with the salt & pepper.

Spoon the cooked orecchiette pasta onto the meat sauce. Pour the white sauce over the pasta and top with the grated cheddar cheese and thyme leaves.
Bake in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes until browned on top.

rice & vegetable croquettes

Making use of beautiful food that was cooked but not eaten is high on my list of kitchen priorities. Wherever and whenever I can, I try to not waste food by ‘recycling’ it into yet another beautiful and delicious dish. These croquettes were so moreish, I was hoping I had space for more.
I again had some leftover rice, in this case Jasmin rice, which is not ideal for fried rice but works brilliantly when mixed together with a few extra ingredients and vegetables, shaped and shallow fried in oil.
Any rice grain will work well here and if you don’t have any leftover rice, simply cook fresh rice, let it cool and follow the recipe.

Although it may seem like a bit of effort I can assure you that it really was very simple to put together and cook. The eating part was, of course, by far the easiest and most enjoyable.
I made a simple sweet soy dipping sauce and served it only with sliced avocado although a fresh tossed salad will also make this a very tasty meal.

ingredients | makes about 12 | a little effort
2C rice
1T olive oil
2T butter
1 large carrot, grated
2 zucchini, grated
1/2 white or red onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2t fine salt
good grind of black pepper
1C finely grated Parmesan cheese
3T fresh herbs, chopped (parsley, thyme, cilantro)
2 1/2 C panko crumbs
3 eggs, beaten
about 4C sunflower / canola oil for frying

In a skillet, heat the olive oil & butter and saute the onion & garlic until glossy. About 5 minutes.
Add the carrot & zucchini, stir to coat and cook for a further five minutes. Set aside to cool for about ten minutes.
Add the rice to the vegetable mixture and mix to combine.
Now add the salt, pepper, cheese, herbs, half cup of panko crumbs and eggs and mix well using your hands.
Place the remaining panko onto a plate. Heat about 4 cups of sunflower or canola oil in a pot. (The oil must come halfway up the croquette)
Using your hands, shape the mixture into the desired size.
Very carefully drop the croquettes into the hot oil and fry for about three to four minutes a side or until beautifully browned and crisp.
Remove the croquettes using a slotted spoon and place onto towel paper to remove excess oil.

Serve warm with a sweet soy dipping sauce or mayonnaise and sweet chili sauce.

Yours in food

vegetable fried rice

I have very fond memories of delicious rice dishes in both Thailand and Bali during my travels. Unlike my mother, I love rice and can eat it with almost anything.
This is a delicious, healthy meal and a great way of using any leftover rice and extra vegetables you may have in your fridge. Perfect fried rice is best when using cold, leftover long grain rice. A very hot wok is ideal but a large skillet will also do.

To simplify things and ensure even cooking, I like to grate some of the vegetables that would normally take longer to cook.
Great on its own or served as a side dish, you will most definitely return for seconds.

ingredients | serves 4-6 | easy
2C long grain rice, preferably a day old
2T olive oil
2T butter
1/2 white onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 large carrot, grated
1 large zucchini, grated
1c broccoli, florets
1c mushrooms, sliced
1/2c frozen peas
2t grated ginger
1/4c soy sauce
1T sesame oil
2t fish sauce
1/2t red chili flakes, optional
3 eggs, beaten
1/2c spring onion, sliced diagonally
bunch fresh coriander/cilantro, roughly chopped
salt to taste
black pepper
sesame seeds, garnish (optional)

how to
Heat olive oil & butter in a large wok or skillet. Fry the onion until glossy. Add the garlic and cook for one minute.
Add the carrot, zucchini, broccoli & mushrooms and cook for three minutes, tossing occasionally. Add the ginger & soya sauce, toss and cook one minute.
Add the rice, stir and toss as you cook for a further three minutes, then adding the peas, fish stock, sesame oil and chili flakes if using. Toss to coat and cook for three minutes.
Make a well in the center and add the eggs. Leave the eggs to cook for about a minute and then gently start folding the vegetable mixture through the eggs.
Season with salt & pepper and keep folding while the eggs cook.
Once the eggs are cooked, remove the wok / skillet from the heat.

Stir the cilantro through the mixture and garnish with the sliced spring onion & sesame seeds.

Serve warm.

apple, cottage cheese & walnut muffins

Simple to make with simple ingredients that had almost reached its expiration date, these delicious muffins are definitely worth baking.
I had quite a few Granny Smith apples hanging around in my fruit bowl and a (half) tub of smooth cottage cheese that desperately needed saving. You can use natural yogurt as an alternative to the cottage cheese. In fact, i used half a cup of cottage cheese and half a cup of double cream natural yogurt.
Almonds, pecan or pistachio’s are also a great alternative if you don’t have walnuts. I love nuts and i love the crunch it adds.
I often bake muffins, savory or sweet, not only because i enjoy devouring it but also because it brings simplicity to every day life, especially when i am on a tight schedule or simply don’t feel like making breakfast or cooking lunch.
The perfect on-the-go snack, breakfast or light lunch for me and for my toddler.

ingredients | makes 12 regular or 6 jumbo | easy
1.5C all purpose flour
1/2C brown sugar
1t baking powder
1t baking soda
1/2t salt
1/2C smooth cottage cheese
1/2C double cream natural yogurt
1.5C grated granny smith apples
1/4C canola oil
1/2C milk
1t ground cinnamon (optional)
1 egg
1t vanilla essence
1/2C walnuts, roughly chopped
1/4C oats, garnish

how to
preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Grease a muffin pan with melted butter or non stick spray and set aside.
Sift the dry ingredients except the walnuts, into a large bowl.
In a separate bowl, mix all the wet ingredients together until well incorporated and smooth.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Do not over-mix.
Gently fold in the walnuts.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared tray, sprinkle with the rolled oats and bake for about 25-30 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean.
Leave to cool in the tray for about 7 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.
Store in an air tight container.

Great on its own or served warm with butter, grated cheese and jam or preserves.

From my kitchen to yours, with love x

brisket & veg mash pie

Because brisket is a tough cut of meat, it yields the best results when slow cooked or braised for a couple of hours using a slow cooker or in your oven, at a low temperature.
Cooked right, brisket is rendered soft with incredible flavor. The meat falls apart and easily shreds, which makes this the perfect cut to cook in advance and freeze to use for pies, quesadillas, tacos or served on top of baked potato or mash. I also often use pulled brisket to serve with pappardelle pasta in a red wine & garlic sauce.

My inspiration for this dish came from a favorite in my home, Shepherd’s pie. I used pulled brisket from my freezer that I cooked for 4.5 hours in a delicious home made BBQ sauce and added chopped, streaky bacon to enhance the flavor.

ingredients | serves 4-6 | easy
600g cooked brisket, roughly chopped or pulled
1 white onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
200g streaky bacon, sliced
2 large carrots, cubed
3 leeks, chopped
2 stalks rosemary, leaves chopped
2 bay leaves
1C frozen peas
Handful fresh parsley, chopped
1 can crushed tomato
2T Worcester sauce
2T tomato paste
2C beef stock
1T brown sugar
1/2t salt
1t black pepper
2T olive oil
1T butter

for the mash
6 medium potatoes, cubed
1 garlic clove, halved
4T butter
1/3c sour cream or normal cream
salt to taste
white pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.
Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a large oven proof skillet and fry the bacon until almost crispy. About five minutes. Heat the remaining one tablespoon of olive oil & butter in the same skillet and saute the onion until glossy. Add the tomato paste, stir and cook for one minute.
Add the carrots, leeks, garlic, rosemary & bay leaf, stir to coat and cook for a further two minutes.
Tip the cooked brisket into the pot and stir. Add the crushed tomato, Worcester sauce, sugar, salt & pepper and simmer for about five minutes while stirring.
Pour the beef stock into the pot and bring to a light boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for the mixture for about 20 – 25 minutes, occasionally stirring, until the carrots are tender and the sauce has thickened slightly.
Remove the pot from the heat, stir the frozen peas through the mixture and set aside.

For the mash
Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and cook the cubed potato and garlic clove until very soft.
Strain and tip the potatoes back into a dry pot. Place the pot on medium heat and dry the potatoes for about four minutes, tossing every now and again.
Add the butter and sour cream or normal cream and mash everything together.
Add salt & pepper to taste.
To remove small lumps, rapidly whisk until smooth.

Spoon the mashed potato onto the meat mixture and smooth it out with a spatula. Use a fork to make grooves/patterns in the mash.
Place the pot, uncovered, into the preheated oven and bake for about twenty minutes until the surface is lightly browned.

Serve with a garden salad.

From my kitchen to yours, with love x