Aubergines in tomato sauce (a.k.a. melanzane alla parmigiana)

Tonight was an opportunity to try our take on a classic Italian aubergine dish ‘melanzane alla parmigiana’.   There are probably several recipes out there but essentially they all entail grilling slices of aubergines, layering them with tomato sauce and then topping it with fresh mozzarella and Parmesan cheese before placing under a hot grill.   That is pretty much what we did and the personalization comes with each individuals preferred version of the tomato sauce.

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What do I need to make it?

  • 2 large aubergines – cut into 5 cm thick slices
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes (400 gms)
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic minced
  • 2-3 fresh bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp fresh oregano (optional – we have some growing in our herb patch)
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 3/4 tsp Balsamic vinegar
  • Small handful of fresh basil and parsley chopped
  • Handful grated Parmesan chesse
  • 125 gm fresh mozzarella cheese sliced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

How much will I make?

Enough for 2 mains or 4 sides

How do I make it?

First rub the aubergine slices with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Place on a griddle pan and cook till they begin to caramelize – keep aside till assembly.   For the sauce, heat some olive oil in a pan and saute the garlic for a minute before adding the red chilli flakes, chopped onion and bay leaves.  Continue to cook on medium heat till the onions are translucent – sprinkle the dried oregano and fresh oregano if you have it.   Add the chopped tomatoes and a pinch of sugar with around 200 ml of water.    Cook on low heat till the sauce thickens.  Adjust the seasoning, add the balsamic vinegar, garnish with fresh basil and parsley and then turn off the heat.

To assemble the dish place alternating layers of aubergine and sauce and finish with sprinkling of Parmesan cheese and a layer of fresh mozzarella cheese.  Place under grill at 220 degrees Centigrade till the cheese melts and forms a nice golden crust.  Cut into portions and serve hot.  Enjoy.

Italian flavoured casserole

Off all the casseroles we have pulled together over the last month, this has to be our favourite only to be matched by the Creole/Mexican flavoured dish we made earlier.  The weather continues to go from bad to worse and this Saturday was no exception – non stop rain from dawn to dusk coupled with a definite bite in the air.  We decided to make a hot comforting casserole for dinner and as promised earlier we were going to experiment with Italian flavours in our next casserole, so here’s the recipe for it.  Our next challenge given to us by one of Anna’s friends is to develop an Indian themed casserole – stay tuned…

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What do I need to make it?

  • 500 gms boneless chicken thighs (6-8 pieces)
  • 1 medium onion sliced
  • 1 small shallot chopped
  • 1 medium leek sliced
  • 1 courgette cubed
  • Handful of green beans chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 carrot sliced
  • 5-6 baby potatoes halved
  • 6-8 button mushrooms quartereded
  • 8 cloves of garlic – 3 chopped for marinade
  • 400 gm tin of cannelini beans drained
  • 400 gm tin of barlotti beans drained
  • 400 gm tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tsp dried Italian seasoning
  • 2 tsp crushed red chilli flakes
  • 2 chicken stock cubes
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary
  • 3 tbsp oilve oil
  • Few sprigs of fresh basil and parsley chopped to garnish
  • Salt and pepper to taste

How much will I make?

Serves 4

How do I make it?

First marinade the chicken thighs with the 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of dried Italian seasoning, 1 teaspoon of crushed red chilli flakes, 3 chopped garlic cloves, chopped shallot and salt – set aside for a few hours.   Heat your oven proof casserole dish and sear the chicken pieces on both sides and remove.   Add remaining olive oil, garlic and rosemary to the same dish and stir for 30 seconds before adding sliced onions and  leeks – stir for a couple of minutes before adding the remaining vegetables.  Sprinkle 1 tsp Italian seasoning, l tsp crushed red chilli flakes and the stock cubes – add about 500 ml of water and stir.  Stir in the cannelini beans, borlotti beans and chopped tomatoes.  Place chicken on top of the vegetables, cover with lid and place the casserole in a pre-heated oven at 200 degree Centigrade for an hour or till the chicken is cooked through.   Garnish with chopped fresh basil and parsley.

 

Curried roasted parsnips

Ever had that situation when you find a vegetable in the fridge and don’t feel like preparing it as you normally do but want something more exciting.   Last night was one of those nights we had parsnips in the fridge and wanted to try something different.   The dish tasted good and will probably feature as an accompaniment with our next roast dinner.

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What do I need to make it?

  • 5 parsnips peeled and cut into chunks
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced
  • 2 sticks of rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp dry mango powder (adds a bit of tang to this dish)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt to taste

How much will I make?

Serves 4

How do I make it?

Simple – place cut parsnips, minced garlic  and rosemary (pull leaves of the stalk) in a large bowl.  Sprinkle the curry powder and dry mango powder with a bit of salt.   Drizzle olive oil, mix and transfer into an oven proof dish.   Bake in a pre heated oven at 200 degrees for 25-30 minutes till the parsnips are cooked through.

Moroccan inspired casserole

What better way to celebrate our 100th blog and Anna’s birthday than with a Moroccan inspired casserole and a sweet bottle of muscat wine.  It has taken us a good seven to eight months to get to this point and we have really enjoyed sharing our culinary exploits.   Thank you for all those that have taken the time to read through, like and follow our blog.   We would love to hear from you and do share any thoughts and comments on improving some of the dishes.  So please join me and raise a glass to toast our next 100 blogs and Anna’s next … birthdays 🙂

Anna has been wanting to cook a Moroccan flavoured dish for quite some time (she has a dish in mind which we will write about in the near future) but I decided to use this as an inspiration to cook her a wonderful casserole for her birthday.

PS.  For the culinary purists – we know parsnip is not a typical vegetable in Moroccan dishes.

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What do I need to make it?

  • 500 gms boneless chicken thighs
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds – toasted
  • 1 big onion sliced
  • 4-5 garlic cloves chopped
  • 1 courgette cut in thick slices
  • 6 small potatoes halved
  • 1 large parsnip cut in chunks
  • 1 large carrot cut in chunks
  • 1/2 butter nut squash
  • 1 stick of celery roughly chopped
  • 1 large green pepper cut in big pieces
  • 400 gm canned chickpeas drained
  • 8-10 dried apricots
  • 4-6 green chillies
  • 2 chicken stock cubes
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp harissa paste
  • 2 preserved lemons sliced
  • 3 tsp honey
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Handful of coriander chopped for garnish
  • Salt and pepper to taste

How much will I make?

Serves 4

How do I make it?

First marinade the chicken with 1 teaspoon of harissa paste and the toasted cumin seeds and leave for a few hours.   Heat a oven proof casserole dish and brown the chicken pieces, remove and add the olive oil.   Saute the garlic and onion for a couple of minutes before adding the green pepper, celery and green chilli.  Cook for a few minutes before adding the remaining vegetables, chickpeas, ground cumin, harissa paste, apricots, preserved lemons, stock cubes, honey and around 500 ml of water.   Season with a pinch of salt and pepper to taste.  Cover the dish and cook in a pre-heated oven at 190 degree Centigrade for an hour till the chicken is cooked.   Garnish with some fresh chopped coriander and enjoy.

Gluten free penne with lamb meatballs

We tried making meatballs for the first time without the obligatory bread crumbs since going on our gluten free journey.  It turned out pretty good as we substituted the breadcrumbs with chestnut flour to act as the binding agent.   The meatballs maintained shape through the cooking process and tasted great.

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What do I need to make it?

Meatballs

  • 200 gms lean minced lamb
  • 1 medium onion finely chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1 tsp crush red chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp dry oregano
  • 2 tsp chestnut flour
  • Handful of fresh parsley chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Tomato sauce

  • 400 gm tinned plum tomatoes
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 4 small green chillies chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 cloves of garlic finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp dry oregano
  • 1 tsp fresh oregano
  • 2 tbsp fresh basil chopped
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley chopped
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

How much will I make?

Serves 2-3

How do I make it?

Place all the meatball ingredients in a bowl and knead together.   Roll the meat mixture into small balls (should get around 20) and refrigerate for an hour.   Heat a pan with some olive oil and brown the meatballs off before placing them in a 200 degree Centigrade pre-heated oven for 12-15 minutes or till the meat is done.

For the sauce, heat a pan, add the olive oil followed by the garlic and bay leaves.   Stir for 30 seconds before adding the onions and green chilli.   Sweat the onions for 5-8 minutes before adding the dry and fresh oregano.   Pour in the plum tomatoes (if whole crush or chop them first) with a cup of water and simmer over gentle heat for 20 minutes.   Add the sugar and adjust the seasoning.   Once the tomatoes have cooked through, add the meatballs and garnish the dish with fresh basil and parsley.   Pour over your favourite pasta and enjoy.

Salad therapy – fennel and apple salad

We tried pulling together this salad for the first time having watched many a Masterchef judge and Jamie Oliver extolling its virtues.  We must agree that this combination of core ingredients works – the dressing can be personalized but the net result is a delicious light salad.

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What do I need to make it?

  • 1 fennel bulb shaved using a mandolin
  • 1 Granny Smith apple cored and cut into match sticks
  • Handful of walnuts

For the dressing

  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • Juice of a lemon
  • 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp English mustard
  • Salt and pepper to taste

How much will I make?

Serves 4 side salads

How do I make it?

Whisk all the dressing ingredients in a bowl till you get a nice emulsion.  Place shaved fennel, chopped apple and walnuts in a large bowl and pour the dressing over it.   Use your hands to gentle toss the salad and portion into bowls.  Enjoy.

Salad therapy – rocket, apple and cheese

Our local TESCO supermarket had some amazing regional cheeses on offer and the salad we had the other night featured a cheddar and garlic/mixed herb soft cheese whirl.

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What do I need to make it?

  • 1 bag of rocket leaves
  • 1/2 gala apple cored and sliced
  • 2 tbsp capers
  • 3 tbsp red pickled jalapenos
  • 10-12 cherry tomatoes cut in half
  • 1/4 large cucumber de-seeded and chopped
  • 100 gms of cheese whirl cubed
  • 3-4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1-2 tbsp apple balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

How much will I make?

Serves 2 main portions or 4 side salads

How do I make it?

Place all ingredients in a large salad bowl.   Sprinkle the salt  and pepper before before drizzling the olive oil and apple cider balsamic vinegar.   Toss gently with your hands and portion into serving bowls.  Enjoy.