Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Stuffed Zucchini

Stuffed Zucchini

Hello all and apologies for the brief break in posts- I have been experimenting in the Wilkins house. As this one was requested again, and it passes my healthy dinner standards, it definitely makes the cut to appear here!
It uses a few simple ingredients and uses up leftover roast chicken. Depending on whether you have this as a main or a side, it will serve 2-4. 

To start: turn the oven on to 190 degrees, and find 4 zucchinis.
 Start by chopping the ends off.
Slice the zucchinis evenly down the middle, longways. 
 Take a spoon and scoop out the middle of all of the zucchini halves. Leave somewhere between half a centimetre to a centimetre of flesh and skin on each side.
You might need to dig in a little more at the end!
All scooped out. Make sure you keep the flesh! You'll need this for the filling (you can dice the zucchini flesh up too).
Take a nice big baking tray, and spread a little olive oil around the base. 
Place the scooped out zucchinis in the base, and place in the oven for 20 minutes.
Now to make the filling while the bases are starting to soften in the oven. Take a leek, and slice it in half. If you don't have a leek, a large onion would also work (or you can switch it up with some other veges)
Then slice it all up nice and fine
You will also need to put 1/3 of a cup of rice on, to mix into the stuffing. Rice usually only takes about 10 minutes to cook in a big pot of boiling water (less than the time your zucchinis are in the oven). It also tastes really good with some pearl barley as a substitute.
 Now to start the leek cooking, oven a medium heat, place a little olive oil and a small knob of butter into a pan.
Once it's melted, toss in your leek to start cooking.
Let it saute for about 5 minutes.
When the leek is starting to get soft, throw in the diced up zucchini and stir it around.
 (Don't forget to take your rice off when it's cooked!)
Take 2 cloves of garlic, dice these up nice and fine, and throw into the mix 
Take a tin of tomatoes, and stir it into your mix too. 
After another few minutes, take your leftover chicken. We had about 150 grams of leftover roast chicken. You could also throw a chicken breast into the oven if you didn't have any leftover chicken, or fry up smaller pieces.
Just make sure you dice it up, and stir it into your pan.
Time for the rice to go in.
 And here is some lovely mint from the garden which will go very nicely in bringing some freshness to the dish.
Pick some leaves, tear them up and throw them in (along with some salt and pepper, and half a teaspoon of cumin for some warmth)
After 25 minutes of baking, the bases are looking nice and soft.
 Time to spoon the filling in!
Carefully spoon the mixture into the cavity.
 Until they're all filled up and overflowing like little sinking boats.
Grate some parmesan cheese over the top, and pop them in the oven for another 20-30 minutes, or until they are a little bit crispy on top, and the zucchini on the bottom is really tender.
 Here they are after 30 minutes in the oven.
Dinner is served, with some extra parmesan if you like. 

Stuffed Zucchinis

4 medium sized zucchinis (courgettes)
1 leek
1 400g tin diced tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup white rice (cooked makes about a cup)
150g leftover roast chicken, diced (or roast up one breast and dice finely)
grated parmesan cheese
olive oil
knob butter
handful of fresh mint
1/2 tsp cumin

1. Preheat oven to 190 degrees c. 
2. Slice zucchinis in half longways. Scoop flesh out of the middle with a spoon to create little boats (keep the flesh!). Make sure you don't cut through the skin of the zucchinis, they should be about 1/2-1cm thick all the way around.
3. Arrange in a large baking tray with a little olive oil (skin downwards), and bake for 25 minutes.
4.To make the filling, saute leek in a frypan with a little olive oil and knob of butter over a medium-low heat for about 5 minutes, or until starting to soften. Dice up the remaining zucchini flesh and garlic, and add to the leeks. Let this cook for a further 5 minutes.
6. Add tin of tomatoes, diced chicken, rice, a good grate of parmesan cheese, a little salt, pepper and cumin. Mix until combined and let it simmer on low until time to fill the zucchini bases. 
7. Just before you take this off the stove, tear up a handful of fresh mint leaves and stir through the filling.
8. After the zucchini bases have been baking for 25 minutes, take them out of the oven, spoon the filling into the cavity (it's ok if they are overflowing), grate some more parmesan cheese on top, and place back in the oven for a further 20 minutes, or until the tops are slightly crispy, and the bases are soft.

Enjoy. Tasty healthy dinner.

You can also change some of the flavours of the stuffing too! One of my favourites is to use cooked barley instead of the rice, and leftover lamb instead of the chicken. 

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Macaroni (and veg) and cheese

Macaroni (and vegetables) and cheese

It's the first Saturday night of Autumn, it has been pouring with rain, and I had a big run this morning... what else could improve a night in than some cosy carb and cheese loading to make me feel better.  This brings me to some macaroni and cheese! Of course, I couldn't possibly serve anything up without a load of vegetable thrown in. And some bacon for the husband. 
This makes a large lasagne tray full, as I need some leftovers in the fridge this week! Feel free to halve it to feed just 2.

Here are most of your ingredients, and big lasagne tray. Feel free to chop and change the vegetables which you're using (as long as you're eating some!). Carrots, peas, corn etc. will all work just fine.
Start with a big pot of boiling water. Add 2 teaspoons of salt.
Once it's boiling, throw you packet of macaroni into the water (500g)
 Make sure you stir it around so the pasta doesn't stick together!
Leave that for 8 minutes (or until it is al dente- not soggy!)
Now time to get your vegetables ready which we'll be stirring in with the macaroni. Take your onion (or onions if they are small), and dice them up

 Crush your garlic cloves with the side of a knife and dice those up too.
 Heat a big heavy pan, with one teaspoon of olive oil. Throw in your onion and garlic, and let it cook for a few minutes until soft.
In the meantime, you can start to chop up your cauliflower. A whole small head or half a big one. The great thing about the recipe is that you don't need to keep the cauliflower in the florets it comes in. Just dice it up, longways
 then lengthways, until it's in nice small chunks.
By now your onion will be just starting to brown
Throw in 250g of diced bacon. Mine already came diced so no chopping up photos here sorry!
 Stir it around and let the bacon start to brown for a few minutes.
Don't forget to drain your pasta! 
Just so it doesn't stick, rinse your pasta with some cold water. 
 Back to your pan, throw the diced cauliflower in, stir it around and let it cook with the bacon and onion for 5-10 minutes
Let the cauliflower just start to brown up. 
 Find a grater, and grate up the two zucchinis.

Mix the zucchini in with the cauliflower, bacon and onion. Turn the heat off now, this will stop the zucchini over cooking. If you have some fresh herbs (parsley, thyme, even mint) add them now.
Now time to make the white/bechamel/cheese sauce. The secret to this is don't stop stirring!!! 
Start with a small saucepan, and over low heat, melt 40g of butter. 
 Add 3 tablespoons of plain flour.
(now start stirring and don't stop).
Once the butter and flour are well amalgamated, and just starting to bubble (after about 2 minutes)
 Have about 500mls of milk ready. Pour in about half a cup at a time, adding more when it starts to thicken up. 
 Keep stirring on low heat and the lumps will disappear (unlike this picture)
While you're making the sauce, you can add a little extra flavour in- I have thrown in a bay leaf and some nutmeg. If you like, you can skip these and add some cayenne pepper, or chilli for a real kick.
Now find that grater again, and grate up 300g of cheese. You can use any type- mozzarella, parmesan, strong cheddar, even blue cheese. Or just boring old tasty cheese which is all I have in the fridge! 
Stir 200g into the white sauce (taking out the bay leaf if using)
 Mix until it's melted and add some pepper. It should be silky smooth by now.
Now it's time to start assembling! In a big family sized baking dish, pour in your macaroni. Spread it out, and break up any clumps as you go.
On top of that, pour on the vegetable/bacon mix.
 Now stir/fold the pasta and vegetables so they are well amalgamated.
 Time to add the sauce! Drizzle it evenly over your dish.
And give it a quick stir so it sinks down and coats all the pasta and veges. 
Finish by sprinkling the last of the cheese on top. 
 Then sprinkle a cup of breadcrumbs on top too (this gives a great crispy top). 
And you're ready to pop it into the oven! Bake at 190 degrees c for 25 minutes, or until golden brown on top.
Beautiful and golden, out of the oven.
Serve and enjoy on a rainy night in.

Macaroni (and vegetables) and cheese

500g macaroni pasta
2 tsp salt
1 large brown onion (or 2 small), diced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed and diced
250g bacon diced
1 head cauliflower
2 zucchinis
1 teaspoon olive oil
Fresh herbs -parsley/thyme (optional)

White/bechamel/cheese sauce:
40g butter
3 tablespoons plain flour
500mls milk
200g cheese, grated
1/2 tsp nutmeg and 1 bay leaf (optional) -other option is some chilli, or mustard!

To top:
1 cup breadcrumbs &
100g cheese grated

1. Cook pasta until al dente (just a little bitey, mine took 8 minutes) in salted water. Do not overcook! Drain and set aside.
2. Heat oil in a big pan, fry up onion and garlic over low heat until softened. Increase heat and add Bacon.  Cook until just starting to brown.
3. Dice up the cauliflower and add to the onion/bacon mix. Stir for 5-10 minutes until the cauliflower is soft and has colour on all sides.
4. Grate the zucchinis, and stir into cauliflower mix. Turn the heat off and let it sit while you make the white sauce.
5. White sauce: In a small saucepan on very low heat, melt butter, add flour and stir to combine until just bubbling. Slowly add the milk half a cup at a time, while stirring constantly. Add nutmeg, pepper and bay leaf, however take bay leaf out before serving. Once all the milk is combined, stir the cheese in so it is melted and a smooth consistency.
6. To assemble: Fold pasta and vegetable mix together in a large lasagne/baking dish. Pour over white sauce and fold in to combine. Top with extra cheese and breadcrumbs. Place in oven for 25 minutes at 190 degrees, or until the top is golden brown.
Makes 6 big serves.