Cheese, Bacon and Onion Lasagne

Cheese, Bacon and Onion Lasagne Now I'm on Maternity Leave, we are making a concerted effort to cut our weekly food bill - it was topping £100, which is far too much (I think nappies play a big part in that though!). This lasagne is just the ticket for helping to cut costs. A simple tomato, basil and bacon sauce takes the place of the traditional ragu with no compromise on flavour. This could easily be adapted for vegetarians too, just omit the bacon and instead use some sliced mushrooms and chopped fresh spinach.


Cheese, Bacon and Onion Lasagne

CHEESE, BACON AND ONION LASAGNE

| Serves:  6 | Prep Time: 20 Minutes | Cook Time: 40 Minutes | Total Time: 1 Hour |


Ingredients: 

  • 2 Onions, thinly sliced
  • Olive Oil
  • Dried Oregano
  • 250g Smoked Back Bacon, chopped
  • 2x400g tins of chopped tomatoes in juice
  • Handful of basil leaves
  • 250g Fresh Egg Lasagne
  • For the cheese sauce:
  • 50g Butter
  • 50g Plain Flour
  • 600ml (1 pint milk)
  • Pinch of Nutmeg
  • 50g Grated Cheddar
  • 50g Grated Parmesan

Instructions:

  • Step 1: Preheat oven to 190c/170c fan/Gas 5.
  • Step 2: Fry the onions in the oil for about 15 mins until golden. Add the oregano and bacon and fry for 5 mins more, stirring frequently. Tip in the tomatoes, season and cook uncovered for 5 mins. Remove from the heat and stir in the basil.
  • Step 3: Make the cheese sauce. Melt the butter in a large saucepan, tip in the flour and stir for two minutes. Whisk the milk in gradually, bring to a simmer and cook until thickened. Take off the heat and add salt, pepper, nutmeg and cheddar cheese. Set to one side.
  • Step 4: Spoon a third of the tomato sauce on the base of a lasagne dish. Top with a third of the lasagne sheets. Then top with a third sauce, a third lasagne, the last of the tomato sauce and finally the last sheets of lasagne. Pour over the cheese sauce and scatter with the parmesan.
  • Step 5: At this stage you can chill the lasagne for 24 hours in the fridge or freeze it. If cooking straight away place in the oven for 40 minutes. 

| Author: Beth Sachs | Date:  25th February 2010 |


Spicy Sausage and Bean Casserole

 Spicy Sausage and Bean Casserole

Tastes like you've spent hours cooking, but in reality it takes about 40 minutes - my kind of nosh then! I've used pork and chorizo sausages in this but something like a Toulouse sausage would also work.

SPICY SAUSAGE AND BEAN CASSEROLE

| Serves: 4  | Prep Time: 10 Minutes | Cook Time: 25 Minutes | Total Time: 35 Minutes |


Ingredients:

  • 2 TBSP Olive Oil
  • 6 spicy sausages
  • 6 slices streaky bacon, chopped
  • 2 leeks, trimmed and sliced thinly
  • 1 garlic clove, sliced
  • 1 x 400g tin Haricot Beans, drained and rinsed
  • Glass of white wine
  • 200ml stock - I used chicken
  • Handful of chopped parsley


Instructions:

  • Step 1: Brown the sausages in the oil and once browned remove from the pan, slice and set aside. Add the bacon and fry for 5 minutes then add in the leeks and garlic and cook until soft.
  • Step 2: Add the sausages back into the pan and then tip in the beans, wine, stock and simmer for 15 minutes.
  • Step 3: When you are ready to serve, sprinkle in the parsley. I served this dish with some crusty bread.

| Author: Beth Sachs | Date: 23rd February 2010 |



Lemon and Bergamot Scented Yogurt Cake

Lemon and Bergamot Scented Yogurt Cake

I'd never used Bergamots before (they look like a cross between an orange and a lemon and have a slightly bitter taste), so when Natoora sent me some in my recent box, I was intrigued. After a bit of research (I found out the distinctive aroma of the bergamot is most commonly known for its use in Earl Grey Tea) I came up with this recipe, which also incorporated the greek yogurt I was sent by Total. The ground almonds and greek yogurt helped keep the cake lovely and moist.

It turned out to be a beautifully delicate cake, with a subtle citrus scent - perfect drizzled with some warm honey and served with a dollop of greek yogurt.
                                     

LEMON AND BERGAMOT SCENTED YOGURT CAKE

 | Serves: 10 slices | Prep Time: 10 Minutes | Cook Time: 40 Minutes | Total Time: 50 Minutes |


Ingredients:

  • 200g Self Raising Flour
  • 100g Ground Almonds
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder
  • 150g Caster Sugar
  • 2 Eggs, beaten
  • 250g Greek Yogurt
  • 150ml Sunflower Oil
  • Zest of 1 Lemon
  • Zest of half a Bergamot

Instructions:

  • Step 1: Preheat the oven to 180c/160 fan/Gas 4. Oil a 20cm springform tin.
  • Step 2: Put all of the dry ingredients in a bowl and make a well in the centre.
  • Step 3: Add the wet ingredients and mix well.
  • Step 4: Pour into the prepared tin and bake in the oven for 40 minutes, although check after 30 minutes. A skewer should come out clean.
  • Step 5: Leave to cool for 10 minutes before removing from the tin and serve with some warm honey and greek yogurt.

| Author: Beth Sachs | Date: 21st February 2010 |





First Stage Weaning

Baby Puree
Rory will soon be ready for weaning onto solid food (time has really flown!) so I thought I'd let you all follow me in the trials and tribulations of weaning a baby in a series of baby related posts. Before I start I must make it clear that I'm not a healthcare professional so a lot of what I will be writing will be based on my personal experience of weaning my daughter (who is almost 3). However, I do think that by charting my progress with Rory, and throwing in a few recipes along the way, it might help people who feel a bit daunted by the whole thing, or for those who don't really know where to start. I will of course refer to current government guidance on weaning but for anyone who isn't 100% sure if their baby is ready for weaning, and especially if the baby is still under 6 months of age, I urge you to seek advice from your Health Visitor or GP before you start introducing food to your little one.


The latest Department of Health guidelines were published in 2003, prompted by recommendations from the World Health Organisation who advise exclusive breast-feeding for the first 6 months of a baby's life - personally I only managed to breastfeed for 4 months with both of my children and I wish I had been able to do it for longer, but thats life.  Previous guidance was to wean babies between 4-6 months but a plethora of research indicated that early weaning could put too much strain on the baby's kidneys and digestive system which may not have fully developed at this age and lead to allergies in adulthood.

Signs babies need weaning
The key thing to remember is that every child is different. My daughter didn't have solids until she was 6 months old, but Rory is going to be a different kettle of fish altogether. Saying that, it's really important not to confuse growth spurts with a child being ready to be weaned. Rory went through a growth spurt at 14 weeks, seemingly not being satisfied with his milk and I was told by various people to start him on solids. I decided to hold out for a week and just gave him top up feeds during the day. By the 6th day he had started to fall back into his regular feeding pattern.


Signs that your baby may be ready to be weaned include;
1. Taking full feeds 4-5 times a day but now gets irritable long before the next feed is due;
2. Screams for more immediately after finishing a feed;
3. Erratic sleeping and night waking;
4. Baby has at least doubled birth weight and weighs over 15lb (and is over 17 weeks old).

Where to start
From my experience with Lowen I think you need to start slowly, introducing baby rice first and when this is tolerated, start introducing fruit and vegetable puree's one at a time over a period of several weeks. I made the mistake with Lowen of giving her too many new foods at once and she started to refuse solids at one point. With Rory I will be introducing new vegetable and fruit purees every 3-4 days. The other thing I found with Lowen is that I gave her too many fruit purees in the first few weeks (probably because she gobbled them down) and she developed a sweet tooth, often refusing to eat the vegetable puree's that I made. With Rory I want to make sure he gets used to the vegetable puree's before introducing too many fruit puree's.


I think time of day is also crucial for successful weaning. Don't try giving babies food when they are tired and teasy. For that reason, I introduced solids after Lowens 11am feed and then a few weeks later started giving her solids after her 6pm feed too (I followed the Gina Ford routine - bit controversial I know, but it worked for us).  Once she was eating a variety of foods, I started giving her the food half-way through her 11am and 6pm bottles, and that way she automatically cut back on these feeds and ate more solids. Gradually a proper breakfast, lunch and tea routine will form, where milk no longer forms the majorty of the diet. By 9-10 months Lowen was having two milk feeds a day one at 7am before breakfast and one at 6:30pm before bed.

Equipment
There are no two ways about it, weaning is a messy business. I always make sure I have the following to hand;
  • 2 bibs
  • Damp cloth
  • 2 spoons (Lowen liked holding one while I fed her with the other)
  • A plastic dish
  • Highchair or Baby Seat (your child must be able to sit up and control his/her head before you use a highchair).

First Foods - Recipes
These are the first few foods I introduced (you can mix these puree's into baby rice if you wish).


1. Pear Puree (makes 20 cubes)
1kg (2lb 4oz) Conference Pears
Method:
Step 1: Wash, peel and core the pears and chop into large chunks.
Step 2: Place in a large saucepan and cover with cold water, bring up to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes, until tender.
Step 3: Drain and puree the pear in a blender or food processor.
Step 4: Open freeze the puree in ice cube trays and once frozen transfer cubes to freezer bags (with labels).


2. Carrot Puree (makes 20 cubes)
1kg (2lb 4oz) of Carrots (I always use Organic carrots)
Method:
Step 1: Wash, peel and top and tail carrots before cutting into chunks.
Step 2: Place in a large saucepan and cover with cold water, bring up to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes until tender.
Step 3: Puree and freeze as pear puree.


3. Sweet Potato Puree (makes 20 cubes)
750g (1lb 8oz) Sweet Potatoes
Method:
Step 1: Wash, Peel and chop the sweet potato up into chunks.
Step 2: Place in a saucepan and cover with cold water, bring up to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes until tender.
Step 3: Puree and freeze as pear puree.


4. Apple Puree (makes 20 cubes)
1kg (2lb 4oz) Eating apples - I used Braeburn
Method:
Step 1: Wash, peel, core and cut the apple into chunks.
Step 2: Place in a pan and cover with cold water, bring up to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes or until tender.
Step 3: Puree and freeze as pear puree

Valentines Choc-Orange Truffles

Chocolate Orange Truffles

Condensed milk is the secret ingredient in these super quick and easy Valentines truffles. All you have to do is bung the ingredients in the microwave and let the mixture set! The recipe is meant to yield 24 truffles but between hubby and I eating the mixture straight from the bowl, I only managed to get 16. I suppose you could use the mixture as body paint too - if the mood takes you...

CHOC ORANGE TRUFFLES

| Serves: Makes 20  | Prep Time: 15 Minutes plus chilling | Cook Time: | Total Time: 15 Minutes plus chilling |


Ingredients:


  • 200g 70% Chocolate
  • 300g Carnation Condensed Milk, squeezy bottle useful here
  • 3tbsp Whipping cream
  • 2tbsp Orange Liqueur or freshly squeezed juice
  • finely grated zest of a large Sicilian Orange
  • 2 tbsp Cocoa Powder

Ingredients:


  • Step 1: Put the chocolate, condensed milk and cream in a large bowl. Place in the microwave and heat on high for 2–3 minutes, stirring occasionally until the chocolate has melted. The mixture will thicken quite a lot – this is normal. Mix in the orange liqueur and zest. Cover and chill for 4 hours, or overnight, so the chocolate sets really well.
  • Step 2: Line a large baking sheet with baking parchment. Using a teaspoon, scoop the mixture into truffles, then drop into cocoa powder and coat well. Lift out, place on a baking sheet and chill well in the refrigerator.

| Author: Beth Sachs | Date: 11th February 2010 |

Oven Baked Mushroom and Taleggio Risotto

Oven Baked Mushroom and Taleggio Risotto

A seriously good risotto for the cold winter nights we are experiencing at the moment. This risotto is oven baked (meaning a lot less arm ache) and I also decided to finish it off under the grill with some Taleggio - which worked really well. Taleggio, if you aren't too familiar is a semi-soft, washed-rind cheese from the Valtaleggio region in northern Italy, near Lombardy. It's fairly mild in flavor (many call it the Italian version of Brie) and it has a moist to oozy texture. Basically it's yummy!!

OVEN BAKED MUSHROOM AND TALEGGIO RISOTTO
By Beth Sachs, 10th Februrary 2010

Ingredients: to serve 4
  • Knob of Butter
  • 20g Dried Porcini Mushrooms
  • 1 Onion, chopped
  • 250g Chestnut Mushrooms, sliced
  • 100g Closed Cup Mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 TBSP Fresh Thyme Leaves
  • Nutmeg, pinch of
  • 250g Arborio Rice
  • 200ml Chicken Stock
  • 1/2 Glass White Wine
  • Handful of Grated Parmesan
  • 200g Taleggio Cheese, sliced thinly
Instructions:
  • Step 1: Soak Porcini Mushrooms in 900ml boiling water for 30 minutes. Drain and reserve mushroom stock and squeeze excess water out of the porcini.
  • Step 2: Preheat oven to 150c/130 Fan/ Gas 2.
  • Step 3: Fry the onion in a little butter for 10 minutes in casserole pan until soft, add in fresh mushrooms, nutmeg, salt and pepper and thyme leaves. Fry for a further 10 minutes.
  • Step 4: Add soaked porcini and rice into the pan and give it a good stir. Add the wine and let it bubble for a minute before adding the chicken stock and reserved mushroom stock. Bring to a simmer.
  • Step 5: Transfer to the oven and cook for 20 minutes uncovered.
  • Step 6: Take out of the oven and stir in the parmesan. Return to the oven for 15 minutes.
  • Step 7: Preheat grill, take the risotto out of the oven and lay the slices of Taleggio on the top, grill for two minutes.

Goats Cheese and Thyme Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Goats Cheese and Thyme Stuffed Chicken Breasts

This chicken dish is the perfect thing for a romantic meal with your loved one and forms part of my Valentines Menu this year.  I served the chicken with buttered noodles and broccoli but you could quite easily serve it with some potatoes, or even vegetable rice, whatever tickles your fancy really. 


STUFFED CHICKEN BREASTS

| Serves: 2  | Prep Time: 20 Minutes | Cook Time: 45 Minutes | Total Time: 1 Hour 5 Minutes |


Ingredients:


  • 2 Skinless Boneless Chicken Breasts
  • 100g Crottin Goats Cheese
  • 2 TSP Fresh Thyme Leaves plus 2 extra sprigs
  • 6 rashers of Smoked Streaky Bacon
  • 250g Vine Tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp Olive Oil
  • To serve, Buttered Noodles and Broccoli

Instructions:


  • Step 1: Heat oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5. Split the chicken breasts almost in half from one long side and open them out like a book. Bat them out a little with a rolling pin to flatten them. Put half the goat's cheese on each piece of chicken and sprinkle with the thyme leaves, season with salt and pepper. Fold the chicken over to enclose the cheese, then wrap each one in three slices of the bacon.
  • Step 2: Lightly oil a shallow gratin dish, then arrange the tomatoes over the base. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and thyme sprigs. Sit the chicken on top.
  • Step 3: Bake for 40-45 mins until the bacon is crisp and golden and serve with the buttered noodles and broccoli.

| Author: Beth Sachs | Date: 8th February 2010 |


Sicilian Orange Cake

Sicilian Orange Cake

Natoora sent me a bag of Sicilian Oranges to use for my Valentines mea, but I had one leftover so set about making an Orange Cake. The result was amazing - wonderful texture, and it could quite easily be served as pudding with a dollop of Creme Fraiche.



SICILIAN ORANGE CAKE

| Serves: 10 slices | Prep Time: 15 Minutes | Cook Time: 1 Hour 5 Minutes | Total Time: 1 Hour 20 Minutes |


Ingredients:


  • 250g Butter
  • 4 Eggs
  • 250g Caster Sugar
  • 250g Self Raising Flour
  • Zest of 1 Sicilian Orange
  • Zest of 1 Amalfi Lemon
  • 90ml Freshly squeezed Orange Juice
  • 2 TSP Lemon Juice

Instructions:


  • Step 1: Preheat oven to 170c/325f/Gas 3. Butter a 20cm springform cake tin.
  • Step 2: Melt the butter in a pan over a low heat and remove from the heat before it goes completely to liquid.
  • Step 3: In a processor or mixer, mix together the eggs and sugar, then add in all the other ingredients and mix until you have a smooth batter.
  • Step 4: Pour into tin and bake for 40 minutes.
  • Step 5: Take out of the oven and cover the top with buttered foil, put back in the oven for 25 minutes.
  • Step 6: Leave to cool in tin before serving.

| Author: Beth Sachs | Date: 6th February 2010 |


Smoked Mackerel, Leek and Radicchio Pasta Bake

Smoked Mackerel, Leek and Radicchio Pasta Bake

It sounds a bit of a weird combination - but it worked!

Natoora snuck some Radicchio Trevisano Tarvido into my recent Valentines Box and I have to admit I was a bit stumped to begin with. However, after a little bit of research, and a look in the fridge, I came up with this combo. The slightly bitter taste of the radicchio complimented the salty mackerel and sweet leeks perfectly.


SMOKED MACKEREL, LEEK AND RADICCHIO PASTA BAKE

| Serves:  2 | Prep Time: 10 Minutes | Cook Time: 20 Minutes | Total Time: 30 Minutes |


Ingredients: 


  • 2 medium Leeks, sliced
  • 1 head of Radicchio Trevisano Tarvido, root cut off and sliced
  • 200g Smoked Mackerel, chopped
  • Amalfi Lemon, Zest of
  • 300ml Creme Fraiche
  • Handful of Grated Parmesan
  • Handful of Breadcrumbs
  • 200g Pasta

Instructions:


  • Step 1: Cook pasta according to instructions and set aside for later.
  • Step 2: Sweat the leeks in a knob of butter for 10 minutes then add the radicchio and cook for a further 5 minutes. Add in the creme fraiche, lemon zest and mackerel.
  • Step 3: Mix in the pasta and spoon into an ovepoof dish.
  • Step 4: Top with the breadcrumbs and parmesan and put under a preheated grill for 5 minutes until golden and bubbling.

| Author: Beth Sachs | Date:  5th February 2010 |


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