Niamh Doherty

Archive for the ‘Supper’ Category

A Simple Summer Salad, Side, or Snack

In Lunch, Snack, Supper on June 19, 2013 at 19:58

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I don’t even know what to say anymore. I am officially the Worst Blogger Ever. In fact, let’s just forget I even blog, and that way we can all be pleasantly surprised when I actually do. Okay? Okay.

I threw this dish together earlier as I wanted something healthy but tasty to tide me over ’til dinner. It’s scarcely even a recipe, but it was delicious, and honestly I have Blogger Guilt and decided that my poor followers needed SOMETHING, no matter how haphazard.

It feels a bit silly listing the “ingredients” for this – it’s a dish of components more than anything else. It is ludicrously quick and easy to put together. You could, of course, roast, peel and chop your own beetroot. And if you wanted to make it even fancier, lay it all on a bed of mixed leaves, before adding some roasted peppers, chargrilled chicken, and balsamic dressing. This is not a so much a clear-cut recipe as it is a jumping-off point. I ate this as a quick snack on its own but it would make a lovely summer salad or side dish. I have one proviso, though, and that is: you do need to toast the pinenuts. A dish as simple as this,and with so few ingredients, needs to be perfectly balanced. The sweet, earthy beetroot contrasts with the soft, sharp feta, which in turn needs the crunch of pinenuts to tie it all together. If you lazily skip a step, it won’t taste as good. So, toast your pinenuts. And if the Laziest Cook In The World instructs you to absolutely do something, you know that it’s both necessary, and worth it.

Beetroot, Feta & Pinenut Salad

Serves 1; all measurements are approximate

Ingredients:

1 large cooked beetroot

30g of feta cheese, crumbled

15g of pinenuts

Method:

1. Put an unoiled pan on a low to medium heat. Add the pinenuts and toss occasionally. Keep a close eye on them as they burn easily. When golden, remove from the pan and set aside.

2. Chop the beetroot into bite-size pieces.

3. Lay the beetroot onto a plate or serving dish, scatter over the feta, and top with the toasted pinenuts.

Serves one.

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Spicy Vegetarian Chili

In Comfort Food, Supper on May 22, 2012 at 21:29

I’m of the firm belief that everyone needs a good chili recipe up their sleeve. Cheap, quick, easy – and with a healthy dose of spice – what could be better? The fact that this chili is loaded with vegetables and beans means that it is very nutritious indeed; the culinary version of a 5k run, allowing you to feel smugly virtuous about doing something that’s good for yourself as you spoon a second helping into your bowl. I’ll gloss over the fact that I tend to top mine with dollops of deliciously fatty sour cream, sharp cheddar cheese and crushed-up salty tortilla chips…a girl’s gotta have something, right?

I spied this particular recipe on Joy the Baker’s site, and quickly bookmarked it. Its first outing a couple of weeks later was when I made it for a vegetarian friend, in a fit of  carniverous, what-am-I-supposed-to-feed-you-people desperation. Halfway through making it I realised that perhaps serving an allegedly spicy chili that I hadn’t even road-tested to a new friend whose Dad was Mexican and therefore – in my mind at least – had been chowing  down on jalapeno peppers since infancy probably wasn’t such a good idea. In any event, she declared it to be delicious as she blithely spooned away, my brothers fanning their mouths in unison. If that’s not a gold star for this recipe, I don’t know what is.

As usual, because I can’t leave well enough alone, I’ve meddled with this recipe. I don’t add stock, or frozen corn (I like corn on the cob, but not frozen/canned corn as a vegetable. Hey, I’m complex), and sub cannellini beans for the chickpeas. I also use hot chili powder, and if I can’t find steak seasoning I just add rock salt, freshly ground black pepper and dried chili flakes. The original recipe is here if you want to give it a go – if not, my altered version is set out below. I like it quite spicy, but feel free to use milder chili powder/barbecue sauce if you’re a bit of a spice wimp, as I once was.

The original version claims to feed eight people, but three friends and I scarfed the whole pot down on Friday night, so I would say it feeds four to six, depending on who you’re feeding and their levels of greed. Like all spicy, stew-y dishes, this only gets better the longer it sits, and is glorious reheated the next day (and the next, and the next…), smeared onto a tortilla wrap with guacamole, sour cream and cheddar cheese, or plonked on top of a baked potato. If you’ve got a large enough pot you can also make double the recipe and freeze it for a later date. Just make it, I beg you – you won’t regret it.

Spicy Vegetarian Chili – serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

1 red pepper, diced

1 green/yellow pepper, diced

1 courgette, diced

3 small cloves of garlic, diced

1 cup beer (or vegetable stock if you like)

3 heaping tablespoons steak seasoning (or a mix of rock salt, black pepper and chili flakes if you’re stuck)

1 tablespoon of hot chili powder

1 tablespoon cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1/3 cup barbecue sauce (I use the Reggae Reggae jerk/barbecue sauce)

1 x can black beans, rinsed

1 x  can kidney beans, rinsed

1 x can cannellini beans, rinsed

2 x can chopped tomatoes

Method:

1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil.  Add the onions and saute until translucent and slightly browned.  Add the peppers and courgette and cook for four or five minutes, until they begin to soften.

2. Add garlic and all of the spices to the vegetables.  Cook for two minutes.

3. Deglaze the pan by adding a cup of beer or stock to the pot. Stir and scrape the bits off the bottom of the pot.  Once the beer has stopped sizzling, add the barbecue sauce, beans and diced tomatoes.  Bring to a low boil and cook for about 15 minutes.

4. Serve in a bowl, topped with sour cream, grated cheddar cheese, and salted tortilla chips. Keeps for about 6 days, if you can resist its siren call for that long.

(The image below is care of Penzeys Spices – my phone wasn’t playing ball and refused to upload the picture I wanted. Curse you, technology…)

Sweet Potato, Ginger and Coconut Soup for a So-Called Summer’s Day

In Comfort Food, Life, Lunch, Soup, Supper on May 14, 2012 at 20:48

I haven’t blogged in 18 months. Yowza. It sounds a lot longer than it feels. In any event, I don’t think anyone missed me, so I’m going to brush off my absence with a simple explanation –  some shit happened and I didn’t feel like blogging anymore, but now I do. Let’s get on with it, shall we?

It’s finally summer in Ireland – at least, according to the calendar. Yesterday was gorgeous, with an expanse of blue skies, cotton-wool clouds, and a breeze that would cut you in two. It was far too nice to sit around at home, so I took advantage of the fine weather and went adventuring around Co. Wexford with a friend of mine. We visited Hook Head Lighthouse and Duncannon Fort, built in 1588 by the British in anticipation of an attack by the Spanish Armada. Unlike your ordinary common or garden tourists, we got our hands on a set of keys and were able to go down into the dungeons which were properly creepy. I distracted myself from the gloom by taking some photos – I recently discovered Instagram and I. Am. OBSESSED. Here’s a shot of the fort itself:

All this exploring and running from the supposed spirits of Croppy Boys past worked up quite an appetite, so we sauntered down the road to the Sandy Dock Cafe for a delicious lunch. One of the daily soup specials caught my eye – Sweet Potato, Ginger and Coconut. I LOVE sweet potato, and it’s rare to see something so “daring” on the menu of a small Irish country cafe, so I was doubly intrigued. Unfortunately, I was too hungry to just have soup for lunch, and instead resolved to try it myself at home.

I’m going to annoy you all by saying that I don’t really have a recipe for this. I had a general idea of how I would go about making this tasty soup, and consulted a couple of online resources to make sure I was on the right track. Anna Olson’s recipe was more or less what I was going for, so I forged ahead. If you’d like a definitive recipe, feel free to use hers, but rest assured that my free-form effort turned out beautifully. The soup is silky smooth, with subtle warmth from the ginger and a luxurious feel thanks to the coconut milk. I divvied my soup up into freezable portions, and added the lime once I’d reheated it for some extra zing, topping with natural yoghurt and a sprinkling of chili flakes. Just the thing to warm your soul after a bracing walk, at any time of the year.

Sweet Potato, Ginger and Coconut Soup – Serves 4

Ingredients:

Glug of olive oil

1 onion, peeled and chopped

2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

2 tbsps grated fresh ginger (I just grated the ginger over the pot until I got what I thought was 2 tbps because I’m lazy)

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced

1 can of coconut milk (I used reduced-fat which is thinner – if you use full-fat you may need to use more stock)

2 cups of vegetable stock (be prepared to add more to thin it out if necessary)

Salt, pepper and lime juice to taste; natural yoghurt and red chili flakes to serve.

Method:

1. Heat up the oil  in a saucepan and, when hot, add the onion. Gently cook until soft. Add the garlic and ginger and stir until fragrant.

2. Tip in the diced sweet potatoes and add the coconut milk and stock – just enough to cover the vegetables. Put the lid on and simmer for about 25 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are tender to the point of a knife.

3. Take the soup off the heat and blitz with a hand blender. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If you feel that the soup is too thick, you can add more stock to thin it out at this stage.

4. If adding the lime juice before serving, I would add the juice of one lime and mix well. You can add more if you wish. Personally, I prefer to spritz it over before serving.

This soup freezes well, so it’s just as easy to make double the amount for chilly days when you need something warm and comforting. Serve with crusty bread and enjoy.

My Super Sweet Summer Salad

In Lunch, Supper on June 30, 2010 at 19:52

LOOK! Look at this – it’s a blog post, ON SCHEDULE. I know, I know, I’m shocked too.

When you’ve all picked yourselves up off the floor, allow me to introduce you to my Super Duper Salad. It’s not just a summer salad (I admit it, I like alliteration), but is delicious at any time of the year. I invented it in a flash of hunger-driven inspiration one evening – I’m not struck by culinary inspiration very often, but when it happens, it’s good. All of the flavours and textures in this salad complement each other perfectly – the crisp, salty bacon against the sweet sauteed potatoes and crumbly feta, the bitter leaves against the cool, creamy avocado, and the sweet honey against the lemon juice in the dressing. This is a robust, filling salad – and the guilt-assuaging leaves make you feel good about eating bacon and cheese.

You can either saute precooked potatoes, if you’ve got any hanging around, or oven-roast them from scratch, which is how I make this.  However you cook them, I urge you to add a sprinkling of my new favourite secret ingredient – garlic granules. They add a sweet, garlicky hit to any dish, without the palaver of peeling and mincing fresh cloves.

As with all warm salads, this needs to be assembled at the last minute – but no matter. It’s hardly taxing – just divide the salad leaves between however many plates you need, top with cool scoops of avocado, add the still-warm potatoes, scatter over the crispy bacon and crumble over some feta before drizzling with the fresh-tasting dressing and falling upon your plate with besotted greed.

Super Salad (serves 2)

Ingredients:

For the salad:

600g waxy potatoes

Bag of mixed salad leaves or rocket

1 large, ripe avocade

100g bacon lardons (or 2 bacon slices, chopped)

feta cheese

For the dressing:

olive oil

honey

lemon juice

Method:

1. Either saute your cooked potatoes in a little oil and butter, sprinkling over some salt, pepper and garlic granules. Cook until golden and crisp. If cooking potatoes from scratch, cut them into evenly-sized pieces, drizzle with oil, sprinkle over some salt, pepper and garlic granules and pop into an oven at 150 Celcius for about 30 minutes, or until cooked through and golden.

2. In the meantime make your dressing. Pour a glug of oil into a bowl or screw-top jar, add the juice of half a lemon and enough honey to taste. Whisk or shake up the dressing, taste, and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

3. When the potatoes are ready, quickly fry the bacon in a hot pan until crisp.

4. Divide the salad leaves between two plates (I like to use those wide, large, soup-style bowls) and add half of a scooped-out avocado to each plate, scatter over half each of the cooked potatoes and bacon, before crumbling over some feta and drizzling on the dressing.

5. Serve and enjoy!

Mushrooms a la Toast

In Lunch, Snack, Supper on June 1, 2010 at 21:07

…or Mushroom Bruschetta, if you’re feeling posh.

Rummaging around the kitchen recently, looking for something to turn into a quick, pre-walk snack, I happened upon a semi-forgotten punnet of mushrooms in the fridge, and remembered this recent post on Donal Skehan’s Good Mood Food Blog. Mushrooms on toast are quick, easy and delicious – and for some reason, something I never think of making. Now that I’ve rediscovered this old favourite, though, I’m sure to be making it on a weekly basis again.

I prefer brown, chestnut mushrooms for this dish, as I find them to have more flavour than button or closed cap mushrooms. Slightly older mushrooms are good, too, as they are more flavoursome than those freshly-plucked from a supermarket shelf. I like the bread to be a thick slice from a loaf of proper baker’s bread, but sourdough or ciabatta would be good here too. In fact, I used a baby bake-at-home ciabatta, which I split and popped into the toaster, as I was too impatient to wait for the oven to heat up, and it toasted, crisply golden, like a dream.

Some provisos when cooking mushrooms – make sure that your pan is hot and wide – too low a heat and the mushrooms will simply stew in their own juices; too wide a pan and they won’t brown. I add garlic to this dish for flavour, but am wary of adding garlic to a hot pan – it is all too easy to burn garlic, and its acrid taste will ruin any food – so err on the side of caution and rub the bread with a cut clove of garlic before piling the fragrant mushrooms on top.

Finally, you can tart up this simple snack further, by adding a tablespoon or so of creme fraiche to the mushrooms just as they finish cooking, or sprinkling some finely-grated Parmesan atop the high-piled mushrooms. You can easily turn this into a light lunch or supper by serving a green salad alongside it. The amounts listed below serve one, for simple, solitary sustenance.

Mushrooms a la Toast

Ingredients:

150g mushrooms (this sounds like a lot, but mushrooms shrink down a lot when cooked)

olive oil

butter

1 garlic clove

2 thick slices of good bread/one small ciabatta, cut in half lengthways

Method:

1. Put your largest frying pan over high heat, and add a glug of olive oil along with a small knob of butter (the butter is for flavour; the olive oil stops it from burning.

2. When the oil/butter is hot, add your chopped mushrooms to the pan. Cook, stirring every so often, until brown and soft.

3. While the mushrooms are cooking, toast your bread. Cut the garlic clove in half lengthways, and rub the cut side of one half on each slice of bread.

4. Season the mushrooms with salt and pepper and pile them onto the garlicky bread, before falling on it with equal measures of greed and desire.

Here Comes Summer…

In Supper on May 22, 2010 at 18:39

This is not so much a recipe, as a suggestion for a hot summer’s evening. Temperatures in the (for-once-aptly-named) sunny south-east hit the mid-twenties today, and seeing as I no longer have a garden, I suggested an impromptu barbeque in the local park. At the last minute, we got a fit of the is-this-legals, and we decided to cook at home instead. I didn’t make the burgers myself, but picked up some of the delicious Specially Selected Angus burgers in Aldi. They smelled delicious before they’d even hit the pan, so I knew we’d made a good choice.

I usually have to add fried onions and cheddar cheese to my burgers but, inspired by one that my friend Deanna had described in delicious detail recently, I picked up a log of goat’s cheese with which to top the patties, and added some halved baby plum tomatoes to the pan, too. I topped both burgers with goat’s cheese whilst still in the pan, and turned them cheese-side down for just a few seconds to melt the cheese slightly. I added salad leaves to my bun and accessorised dinner with glasses of cold, cold beer.

Here’s to summer!

Loaded Potato Skins

In Supper on May 4, 2010 at 21:13

I love these. I love them. I love them so much that when I walked into one of the restaurants near my office one day the waiter looked me up and down and said, “Potato skins?” before I was even in my seat. Mortified, I decided that it was time to stop frequenting that particular peddler of potato-based delights, and start making them at home instead.

These are not only outrageously delicious – although I can eat my weight in chocolate like any other self-respecting girl, I have a savoury tooth, and this pushes all my buttons – but ridiculously easy, too. All you have to remember to do is put them in the oven about 90 minutes before you want to eat, and you can sit down and do the crossword while dinner looks after itself. They’re not super-speedy, as you have to wait for the potatoes to bake, but it’s not your time, and they make up for the wait by their ease of assembly. When the potatoes have baked through, cut them in half, scoop out the flesh, mash it with some delicious additions, refill the shells, sprinkle with cheese, blast in a hot oven and apply them to your face. I like these with salad (if I’m being virtuous), peas (if I’m being lazy), or, like tonight, chive-sprinkled sour cream (if I’m being good to myself).

The amounts given below are approximations, so feel free to add more or less, depending on your taste, or vary the ingredients. I use creme fraiche in the mash, but butter can be used in its stead, and add spring onions, but some freshly-snipped chives would be gorgeous too, as would crispy bacon in place of the smoked ham I used. I prefer fully-mature cheddar as it gives more bang for its buck, flavour-wise, but any meltable cheese would be good. These are also good for parties, using bite-sized baking potatoes. A little fiddly, I grant you, but your guests will reward you with their unbridled appreciation.

Loaded Potato Skins

Ingredients:

500g baking potatoes

3tbsps creme fraiche

1.5 spring onions, chopped

2 slices cooked ham, chopped,

grated cheese

salt & pepper

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 200 Celcius/Gas Mark 6. Prick the potatoes with a fork and put in the oven to bake for approx 60 minutes, but they may need longer, depending on their size.

2. When the potatoes have cooked through, remove them from the oven and allow to cool slightly. Cut them in half lengthways, and scoop out the flesh into a saucepan, but be careful not to scoop right through the skin as you’ll need this later.

3. Mash the potato flesh and add the creme fraiche gradually, until you are happy with the consistency. Add the chopped spring onions and ham, and mix thoroughly. Season to taste.

4. Refill the potato skins with the potato mixture, and cover the top with a generous helping of grated cheese. Pop back into the oven and heat until the cheese is golden and bubbling. Serve with your chosen side and enjoy!

Pasta with Spicy Sausage and Cream

In Supper on April 28, 2010 at 21:15

Also known as, “Another Day, Another Chorizo Recipe”…

This is a beauty of a recipe from Rachel Allen’s first book, Rachel’s Favourite Food. It’s quick, easy, delicious, multplies well for those times when you’re faced with a hungry crowd and is just as easily halved when dining à deux. There is no onion to chop, no simmering for hours, and requires little more from you than some light chopping and the occasional stir. This recipe also has the bonus of freezing well, and, since it’s just as easy to make twice the amount if you’re making it at all, is just the thing to keep stashed in the deep freeze for when hunger renders you incapable of even thinking about what it is you’d like to eat.

Any kind of spicy sausage is good here  – pepperoni, chorizo, kabanossi…the sky’s (or, rather, the pig’s) the limit. This is best made in summertime when tomatoes are really fresh – again, a bonus of its freezing capabilities; make it in bulk when the tomatoes are sweetly, juicily at their best – but I’ve always made it with tinned and it still tastes great. The smokiness of the sausage and the heat of the dried chili add a subtle warmth to what would otherwise be a basic pasta sauce.

You can swap the cream for creme fraiche if you’re feeling virtuous, which will lend an extra sharpness to the sauce. You can, of course, skip the cream/creme fraiche entirely, but it does impart a lovely richness, so it would be a shame to omit it altogether. If you’re not planning to freeze this sauce, make sure to  pop it into the fridge as soon as it’s cooled as the cream could turn otherwise.

Pasta with Spicy Sausage and Cream (taken from Rachel’s Favourite Food, by Rachel Allen)

Ingredients:

700g fresh, ripe tomatoes, peeled and roughly chopped, or 2 x 400g tins of tomatoes

25g butter

4 garlic cloves, peeled and grated

2 tsp chopped rosemary

salt, pepper and sugar

225g spicy sausage

pinch dried chili flakes

175ml cream

500g pasta (rigatone, penne etc.)

4 tsbp grated Parmesan

Method:

1. Melt the butter in a large saucepan.  Add the tomatoes, garlic and rosemary.  Season with salt, pepper and sugar (the sugar really helps the tomatoes, especially if they’re tinned, so don’t be tempted to skip this step!). Cook for about 5 minutes, until the tomatoes have just begun to soften.

2. Add the sausage and chili flakes to the pan. Allow to simmer with the lid off for 10-20 minutes, or until the sauce has reduced by half, stirring frequently. Take off the heat and check the seasoning.

3. Meanwhile, cook the pasta until al dente, drain, and toss with the sauce. Divide among your dishes and top with Parmesan.

Frittata with Oven-Roasted Tomatoes, Chorizo and Goat’s Cheese

In Lunch, Supper on April 21, 2010 at 20:26

I’m a sucker for anything with chorizo – I love, love, love the stuff. I love it as part of a tapas plate with some olives, interesting cheeses and a glass of red wine. I love the kick it gives pasta sauces, and the way it adds smokey depth to stews. So when I cooked this dish in Ballymaloe recently, I knew it would be reappearing on my kitchen table soon.

A frittata is an Italian omelette, cooked slowly over a low heat and finished in the oven. As with omelettes, you can put almost anything into a frittata – roasted peppers instead of the chorizo would make this a delicious, vegetarian-friendly dish – but don’t use it as a means of clearing out the fridge; really think about what flavours would work well together and complement each other.

I omitted the herbs specified in favour of drizzling over some home-made pesto when the frittata came out of the oven – a tasty alternative. As I detest parsley, I would leave it out entirely and go heavy on the basil instead. Feel free to halve the quantities listed below – that’s what I did and it’s enough to feed two people, with a salad and some crusty bread alongside. It’s perfect for a simple weekend lunch or stress-free but tasty weekday supper.

Frittata with Oven-Roasted Tomatoes, Chorizo and Goat’s Cheese (taken from Ballymaloe Cookery Course, by Darina Allen)

Ingredients:

450g cherry tomatoes

8 large eggs

1tsp salt and freshly-ground black pepper

2 tbsp parsley, chopped

4 tsp thyme leaves

2 tbsp basil, mint or marjoram

110-175g chorizo, cut into four lengthways and each piece cut into thick quarters

40g Parmesan, grated

25g butter

110g soft goat’s cheese

Method:

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 Celcius/Gas Mark 4.

2. Cut the tomatoes in half around the equator, season and put in the oven for 10-15 minutes until almost soft and crinkly. Remove from oven and cool.

3. Whisk the eggs in a bowl, season and add the fresh herbs, chorizo and grated Parmesan and mix. Add the tomatoes and mix gently.

4. Melt the butter in a non-stick frying pan. When it starts to foam, tip in the eggs, and immediately turn the heat down as low as it will go.

5. Divide the goat’s cheese into walnut-sized pieces and drop onto the surface of the frittata.

6. Leave the frittata to cook gently for about 15 minutes, or until the sides are beginning to set but the top is still runny.

7. Put the pan into the oven to finish cooking for another 10-15 minutes, or until the top is set and golden brown.

8. Slide the frittata onto a warm plate, slice and serve. This recipe feeds 6-8 people, depending on their self-restraint (or lack thereof).

Macaroni Cheese

In Supper on April 11, 2010 at 20:47

Mac 'n' cheese

Today’s cosy deliciousness comes courtesy of Bill Granger’s Feed Me Now. He calls it “Cheesy Pasta Gratin”, but I call a spade a spade – it’s Macaroni Cheese. This is a lovely, simple, yet comforting supper dish, and quite speedy, so it’s handy to have up your sleeve for a quick weekday dinner. It’s a real crowd-pleaser too, and so very useful if you have a houseful of children and adults to feed. Bill’s recipe serves 4-6 but I usually halve it, so just double up the quantities listed below if you have more people to provide for.

This is a great way to use up those bits of cheese that are languishing at the back of the fridge, and so, as Bill says, a good way to introduce young palates to more adventurous flavours. You can also play around with add-ins – chunks of smoked ham, coins of chorizo or crispy bacon lardons would be all be delicious, just add them to the cheese sauce before tossing with the pasta.  Bill suggests adding a handful of chopped parsley to serve, which I omit because I can’t stand the flavour of parsley. Any short pasta can be used – macaroni or penne are ideal. I use the Torciglioni Gourmet Pasta from Aldi as it’s the perfect size and shape – you need tubes to hold all that gorgeous cheesy sauce. The breadcrumbs can be bought, or whizzed up fresh as you need them. Any that you don’t use can be frozen and used straight from the freezer – no need to defrost first.

You start the cheese sauce by making a roux, which is equal quantities of butter and flour cooked for one to two minutes and used to thicken sauces. The recipe asks you to take 1.5 tablespoons of flour and the same of butter. How you’re supposed to measure out a tablespoon of butter is beyond me (my tablespoon measure looks like a large spoon, not a small ladle) so I measure 1.5 tablespoons of flour onto my weighing scales, make a note of the weight, and then weigh out the same amount of butter. Easy peasy. And one final, bossy note – when measuring out the milk, it will seem as though I’ve specified an alarming amount of liquid, but trust me! You need a lot of sauce as the pasta will soak some up when it’s in the oven.

Macaroni Cheese (adapted from Feed Me Now by Bill Granger)

Serves 2 hungry people.

Ingredients:

250g dried short pasta such as macaroni or penne

1.5 tbsp flour

1.5 tbsp butter

440 mls milk

125g gruyere or cheddar (or any other hard cheese), grated

salt and pepper

70g fresh breadcrumbs

1 tbsp olive oil

1.5 tbsp freshly grated parmesan

Grated zest of 1/4 small lemon

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 2oo Celcius. Cook the pasta in a large saucepan of boiling salted water until al dente.

2. While the pasta is cooking, make the cheese sauce. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan and add the flour. Stir until smooth and cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and gradually add the milk, whisking constantly. Return the pan to the heat and cook, still whisking (you’ll have Madonna arms by the time you’re finished), until thickened. Add the cheese, stirring to melt. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

3. Put the breadcrumbs, olive oil, parmesan and lemon zest into a bowl and mix to combine.

4. Drain the pasta as soon as it is cooked and add the cheese sauce. Mix well and transfer to an ovenproof dish. Scatter over the breadcrumb mixture and bake for 15 minutes or so until golden.

5. Serve with peas and ketchup if you’re feeding kiddies, or a green salad, roasted cherry tomatoes and a crisp white wine for grown-ups.