Thursday 29 December 2016

Vegetarian Vermicelli -Fideo Pasta bowl.

I really enjoy pasta and find that it is a staple in my families meals. There are so many varieties in many different shapes and sizes. A few of my favourites are the classic spaghetti (cord shape), penne rigate (quills), tagliatelli (ribbon pasta), farfale (bow ties), vermicelli (thin hair like pasta), Fideo Vermicelli  (cut small cord shape pasta) and rotini (spiral pasta).

Different pastas serve different purposes, some with ridges coat thick sauces better, the smoother pasta are great for creamy sauces. One of my favourite quick pasta dish is Fideo Vermicelli, it cooks in a short time and is perfect stir fried with seasonal vegetables. This is one dish that features in my meal planner every week. Its great hot or cold and packs well for lunch. In the picture below you can see the texture of this Vermicelli Fideo pasta.

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Vegetarian Vermicelli -Fideo Pasta bowl.
Delicious Vegetarian Pasta tossed with peppers, carrots, sweetcorn.

  • 125 grams dry Vermicelli Fideo Pasta
  • 1.5 litres water
  • 1 teaspoon salt for pasta water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 30 g frozen peas
  • 1 medium carrot peeled and diced
  • 30 g frozen sweet corn kernels
  • 30 g mixed red /green peppers diced
  • 1 small red onion finely diced
  • 1 clove garlic thinly sliced
  • 1/3 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/3 teaspoon red chilli powder
  • Pinch of turmeric
  • Fresh coriander sprigs finely chopped for garnish
  • 1 Red chilli finely chopped
  • Lemon wedges for serving

1. Put water in a large pan and bring it to the boil, add the vermicelli pasta and salt and cook until the pasta is a l dente. Drain and keep aside. 2. In a pan add the olive oil when its hot add the onions and garlic and saute until onions are translucent. 3. To the onions, add the diced carrots, peas, sweetcorn, finely chopped red chilli and peppers. Cook the vegetables on a low heat for about 5 minutes until they are cooked.4. Add the salt, chilli powder, turmeric to the vegetables and saute for 1-2 minutes.5. Stir in the cooked vermicelli pasta and toss everything together. 6. Transfer the pasta to serving bowls and garnish with fresh coriander and lemon wedges.  
Prep time: Cooking time: Total time: Yield: Serves 2

Saturday 24 December 2016

Vegetarian Cheats Mince Pies

Its Christmas Eve and there is only one sleep left before Christmas day, the excitement in the house is electrifying as most of the preparations are ready for the big day. So before bed time the last thing to remember is to leave a glass of wine and a mince pie for Santa and of course a carrot for Rudolf.

Most people either love mince pies or hate them, unfortunately I am not a big fan of them although my family love them. However being vegetarian we find it hard to find vegetarian mince pies as a lot of shop bought pies use suet and often gelatin.

I have always created a "cheats" mince pies for my family, sometimes its ok to cheat by buying ready made pastry and organic mince meat. These take less than 30 minutes to make and taste delicious.

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Cheats Vegetarian Mince Pies
Delicious pastry with fruity mince meat.


1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C 2. Dust the worktop with some flour and roll out the short crust pastry to 3 mm thick. Using a cookie cutter in the shape of a flower cut out 12 flower shapes.3. Cut out 12 smaller flower shapes for lids.4. Line a muffin tin with  the large flower shape pastry and make sure you push the pastry in the cavity to make a case shape.5. Fill the pastry cases with the mince meat and place the smaller flower shape on top to make a lid.6.  Brush the tops with a little milk and place the mince pies in the oven to bake for 15 minutes or until pastry is golden brown.7.  Remove mince pies from the oven and allow them to cool slightly. Once cooled remove them from the tins and dust with icing sugar.
Prep time: Baking time: Total time: Yield: 12 pies

I hope you enjoy these delicious mince pies, I am sure our Santa will as he always leaves a note asking us to leave him extras!!!!

I would like to also wish all my readers a very Happy Christmas. Enjoy the festivities with family and friends.

Tuesday 20 December 2016

Chocolate Pistachio Bark

I love making edible presents and one of my favourite treats that I make every Christmas is chocolate bark. The beauty of this bark is that you can flavour it with any combination of ingredients to make it unique for the person's taste for whom you are gifting it to. Some of my favourite chocolate bark ingredients are nuts, berries, popping candies, crushed  nut brittle, dried fruits and spices such as peppercorn, chilli flakes and also sea salt.

This Chocolate and pistachio bark with flaked almonds is a lovely Christmas bark which makes a perfect gift for a nut lover.

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Chocolate Pistachio Bark
A combination of dark and white chocolate topped with flaked pistachios and rose scented flaked almonds.

  • 240 g Dark Belgium Chocolate broken in to small pieces.
  • 200 g Milk Chocolate broken into small pieces..
  • 30 g flaked pistachio nuts 
  • 30 g flaked almonds
  • 1/2 teaspoon red food colouring
  • 1/2 teaspoon water
  • 4 drops rose essence

1. Place the flaked almonds in a zip lock bag, add the red food colouring and rose essence and 1/2 teaspoon water. Shake the bag until all the flaked almonds are coated in the red colouring. Transfer the almonds on to a tray that is lined with kitchen paper and leave the almonds to dry completely. 2. In a double boiler add the dark chocolate and melt it .3. Line a baking tray with grease proof paper and pour a thin layer of the dark chocolate on it.4. Using a clean bowl melt the white chocolate on the double boiler. Once the white chocolate has melted fill up a piping bag with the melted white chocolate and swirl it on the dark chocolate in a random pattern.5. Garnish the chocolate bark with the flaked pistachio nuts and the rose flavoured red almonds.6. Leave the bark to set in the fridge for 30 minutes after which using a pizza wheel score the bark into squares. Return the bark back to the fridge to chill fully for another 3 hours.7.  After three hours, remove the bark from the fridge and peel it away from the grease proof paper. Break it into pieces on the score lines. Transfer to gift box.
Prep time: Total time: Yield: 40 pieces

Thursday 15 December 2016

Christmas Desserts made easy with Aldi

The Christmas holidays are almost upon on and by now most people have a guest list and know how many people to expect for Christmas dinner and over the bank holidays. Planning a sit down meal for a large number of people can be very stressful. The trick to get every thing to work to clockwork is:

1.  Plan your shopping list well in advance, this is really important so that you do not end up with things falling short at last minute. Start buying non perishables ahead so you can  spread the cost of the shopping bill. 

2. Prepare a time schedule which includes preparation and cooking times for Christmas dinner.
3. Prepare what ever will keep well in advance such as peeling vegetables making desserts and starters  and also freezing things.
4. Delegate some tasks to family members, remember every little help will mean less stress for you.
5. Set the Christmas dinner table the day before is a great time saver. 
6. Have plenty of disposable crockery that you can use in case of unexpected guests. Plastic cups and plates and foil trays are very useful.
7. Cheat!!! Buy some desserts and treats no one will mind or really judge you. They will be too busy enjoying them selves to notice!!

In my family we always welcome unexpected guests, to ensure I have plenty of food to go around I always keep extra vegetables and a couple of vegetarian pies in the freezer that can be easily prepared to accommodate extra friends. I also keep plenty of ready desserts in my fridge and freezer. Not every one likes mince pies and Christmas cake so to have some alternate desserts are always a good idea.

This year I have been checking my local Aldi store that only opened 5 months ago in a near by town. Its great to have the store within a 15 minute drive away as I find that all the food is high quality and of exceptional taste.The choice is vast and Aldi offer great value for money and luxury items at unbeatable prices.

Aldi have introduced the specially selected Exquisite Christmas desserts range. They are beautifully packaged in a turquoise and gold packaging and look very luxurious. Some of the items in the range are:

  •  Specially Selected Exquisite Christmas Cake
  •  Specially Selected Exquisite Vintage Christmas Pudding
  •  Specially Selected Exquisite Yule Log
  •  Specially Selected Exquisite Mince Pies
  •  Specially Selected Exquisite Handcrafted Truffles
  •  Specially Selected Exquisite Handcrafted Chocolate Slabs
  •  Specially Selected Large Fondant Macaroons
  •  Specially Selected Croquembouche  
  •  Specially Selected Melt In The Middle Puddings
  •  Gluten Free Christmas Pudding
  •  Gluten Free Mince Pies
I have stocked up on few of these items and I can vouch that they are really delicious. You may ask how I know this since we have not had Christmas dinner yet!!!! The secret is that when I bought the desserts my family could not resist them so we have sampled out a few so that we can select our favourites to stock up for Christmas. They are so irresistable it is going to be really hard to make them last till Christmas and I can see my self making frequent visits to stock up.

Our family favourites were:
Specially Selected Exquisite Mince Pies- These mince pies have a light airy pastry (They are suitable for vegetarians too) and the ratio of the mincemeat to pastry is perfect. They are garnished with flaked almonds making them look lavish and enjoyable with a glass of mulled wine. The pies retail at £2.99 for a box of 6 and they are already available in all stores at the moment. 

Specially Selected Large Fondant Macaroon-  These giant Macaroons come in two flavours Chocolate with a chocolate ganache centre and  Raspberry with Raspberry centre. Found in the freezer section these Macaroons need to be warmed between 30-50 seconds in the microwave to melt the ganache in the centre before serving. The pool of warm chocolate ganache against the melt in the mouth light macaroons makes this dessert heavenly and simply delectable. A box of two macaroons retail at £1.99 and they are also available for purchase in stores now.

Specially Selected  6 Chocolate & Fruit Dessert  Shots
- These mini desserts are perfect for ending an elaborate Christmas meal. Simply satisfying they come in three flavours; Exotic fruit meringue, Raspberry and whipped mascarpone and White and dark chocolate mousse. Each mini dessert is beautifully presented in distinct layers in mini shot glasses. Rich and decadent you might find your self reaching out for a second shot!!!! These retail at £2.99 for a box of 6 and can be found in the freezer section.

Specially Selected Exquisite Handcrafted Chocolate Slabs- These beautifully made chocolates come in three different flavours, White chocolate with Raspberries and Peach, Dark chocolate and Sparkling Wine and Milk Chocolate and Blackcurrant. These enticing flavours make them the perfect for gifting or for after dinner treats. You will also be surprised that they are only£2.49  each and all the three flavours can be found in the confectionery section of all the stores.

Specially Selected Exquisite Handcrafted Truffles - These truffles are perfect to serve with coffee to end the Christmas meal. Daintily packaged in a beautiful box with gold ribbon trims, these individually glazed and hand decorated chocolates come in mouth watering flavours such as Cranberry, Fig and Cognac, Mango and basil, Royal Marc de champagne, Apricot, Cherry, Bitter chocolate, Coconut and Gingerbread. These distinct flavours are unique and simply sensuous! A box of these amazing truffles are only £4.99 and they too are found in the confectionery section.

This Christmas you can do your complete Christmas shopping  at Aldi. Apart from desserts I have featured, Aldi  also have amazing appetisers, starters, cheeses, crackers, luxury biscuits, sweet treats confectionery, fruit and vegetables, all types of meats together with wines and spirits. Why not make Aldi your one stop shop for Christmas this year. 

I would love to hear about your Christmas stories, tricks and tips to help make Christmas less stressful in the kitchen. Please do share them in the comments below. Have a wonderful foodie filled festive Christmas.

*This is a collaborative post with Aldi

Sunday 11 December 2016

Vegetarian Tortilla Soup

My love affair with Homesense continues and I am not ashamed to admit it either. I adore that shop and the more I visit it the more my love for it is growing. If this was a real life romance I would be married to this shop by now. I am truly head over heels and infatuated with everything that it sells.

On my recent visit I was looking for some Christmas gifts for family and friends, when I accidently stumbled upon this set of beautiful  Glazed terracotta pot and matching serving bowls. It did not take much self persuasion to add them to my shopping basket!!! I had read somewhere recently that one should be kind to one self so taking heed of that advise, I convinced my self that I too need to purchase a Christmas present for me!!!

Convincing over, the pots carefully wrapped and in my shopping basket I was ready to go home. I could not wait to feature them here and so this Tortilla Soup recipe came to mind. I adapted the non veg version and converted it to make it vegetarian.

The soup is spicy, hearty and warming and a complete meal in its self. Furthermore it can be made with any vegetables in season and using store cupboard ingredients such as tinned beans and passata which I keep plenty of in my pantry.

My family love the soup garnished with aromatic coriander, ripe avocado slices, dollops of sour cream or creme fraiche and for the crunch toasted tortilla sticks seasoned with paprika.

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Vegetarian Tortilla Soup
Spicy vegetable and bean soup with tortilla, avocado and sour cream.
  • 1 Medium Carrot 1 cm diced
  • 200 g Butternut squash 1 cm diced
  • 1 Medium Leek chopped in 5 mm round circles
  • 1 Medium Red Onion 1 cm diced
  • 2 cloves Garlic minced
  • 1 Red chilli de seeded and finely chopped
  • 250 g Sieved tomatoes (passata)
  • 250 g Precooked mixed beans
  • 1/2 teaspoon Paprika
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon White pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon Ground Cumin
  • 1 tablespoon Olive oil
  • 400 ml Water
For Garnish:
  • 2 Tortilla wraps
  • 1/2 tablespoon Olive oil
  • pinch of Salt
  • pinch of Paprika
  • 1 Ripe Avocado sliced
  • 4 tablespoons Sour Cream
  • 1 tablespoon Fresh Coriander finely chopped
1. Brush the tortillas with the olive oil and cut them in half. Then cut them into 1 inch strips.Place in the oven for 10 minutes at 180 degrees C to crisp up. 2. Remove the tortillas from the oven and sprinkle with salt and paprika and keep a side.3. Heat oil in a pan and when it is hot add the 1 tablespoon olive oil and add the garlic and onions and leeks and saute for 2-3 minutes. Add the carrots and butternut squash and 400 ml water and cook the vegetables for 8 minutes.4. Add the passata, beans, salt, pepper, paprika, chillies and cumin and simmer the soup for another 10 minutes.5. Once all the vegetables have cooked check the seasoning and adjust as required.6. Spoon the soup into large serving bowls, garnish with chopped coriander, avocado slices, and dollops of sour cream. Top the soup with a stack of the toasted tortillas.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: Serves 4

**This post is in collaboration with Homesense.

Monday 5 December 2016

Roasted Tomato Spaghetti

Pasta is a staple dish in my family's weekly meal planner. We have it at least once a week. Since its so easy to cook and there are so many variations in the way you can serve pasta, you can never get bored with it. One dish that is a firm family favourite is Roasted tomato spaghetti. It's so effortless to prepare, making it the perfect week night meal when everyone is hungry after work and you need a speedy tasty dish.

There is a lovely section of pasta recipe ideas on the Bertolli web site. I have taken inspiration for this dish from Gennaro Contaldo's Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce but I have adapted it by adding some of my family's favourite vegetables. Making the recipe using the Bertolli with butter really enhances the flavour of the dish.

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Roasted Tomato Spaghetti
Buttery spaghetti tossed in a sauce made with cherry tomatoes roasted with peppers, onion and garlic.
  • 200 g Spaghetti
  • 1 teaspoon Bertolli with Butter
  • 2 litres Water
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
For the Sauce
  • 300 g Cherry Tomatoes cut in halves
  • 1/2 each Red /Green Pepper cut into 1 inch dice
  • 1 Red onion peeled and cut into 1 inch dice
  • 2 cloves Garlic peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/3 teaspoon Pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon Chilli flakes
  • 1 teaspoon Bertolli with Butter
  • 12 Basil leaves
1. In an oven proof dish add 1.5 teaspoons of Bertolli with butter. To the dish add the cherry tomatoes, onions, garlic and peppers.2. Sprinkle the vegetables with salt and pepper and toss together. Place in a preheated oven for 25 minutes until the vegetables soften but are still holding shape.3. Remove the roasted vegetables from the oven. Tear the basil leaves by hand and stir into the roasted vegetables. Leave them to wilt for a minute or two from the heat of the vegetables. Stir in the chilli flakes.4.In a large pan add the water and bring it to the boil, add 1 teaspoon salt and add the spaghetti. Cook the spaghetti until its al dente 5. Drain the spaghetti and add 1 teaspoon Bertolli with butter, toss the spaghetti so that its coated with the butter.6. Add the roasted vegetable sauce to the cooked spaghetti and toss it all so that the spaghetti is coated with the sauce.7. Spoon into pasta bowls and serve piping hot.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: Serves 2

**This recipe is in collaboration with Bertolli.

The patterned Nador plates featured in this post were press samples supplied by Forma. The plates are really pretty and come in various designs and colours. They  designs are available as side plates, soup plates and dinner plates. There are also other accessories available in the range such as spoon holders, platters and cups.They are available to purchase from Forma House

Friday 2 December 2016

Eggless Black Forest Cake

Since the Great British Bake off series was on I have been baking more than I usually do. I joined in a bloggers baking group on face book where a group of amateur bakers took inspiration from the shows weekly challenges and recreated the  many bakes that the contestants made. I really had fun participating and making new friends. It was a big learning curve for me, where I attempted things like homemade phyllo pastry, churros and mousse cake. All these bakes were really out of my comfort zone but the show really inspired me to rise to the challenges.
This week I was well and truly surprised when I heard that Tesco who were sponsoring the Bloggers bake had selected three winners, I am most excited to have come second place which is totally unexpected.

In  celebration of this win I have made an eggless black forest cake, Black forest gateau is one of my favourite flavours so this is a variation of it.

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Black Forest Cake
Delicious and moist chocolate cake flavoured with morello cherries and decorated with whipped cream and morello cherries and chocolate shavings.
  • 300 g plain flour
  • 240 g sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 60 g cocoa powder
  • 75 ml sunflower oil
  • 220 ml water
  • 410 g black cherry pie filling
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 240 ml whipping cream
  • 60 g icing Sugar
  • Dark chocolate shavings 
1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C/ 350 Degrees F.2. Grease a loose bottom cake tin and line it with grease proof paper.3. Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and cocoa in a large mixing bowl.Stir in the sugar.4. In a jug add the oil, water,vanilla essence and vinegar and mix together 5. Fold the wet ingredients from the jug into the sifted flour mixture.6. Open the can of cherries and remove half the cherries and keep them a side for garnish. The remaining juice and cherries add to the cake batter and fold gently. Transfer the batter to the cake tin and bake in the preheated oven at 180 degrees C for 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the cake comes out clean.7.While the cake is baking, add the cream to a bowl and whisk it with the icing sugar to form stiff peaks. Spoon the cream into an icing bag fitted with a star nozzle. and keep the cream in the fridge to chill.8. Once the cake is baked, remove it from oven and allow it to cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then remove it from the tin and leave to fully cool on a wire rack.9. Transfer the cooled cake onto a serving dish and pipe circles of rosettes on the the top of the cake with the cream. In the centre add the remaining cherries.Garnish with some dark chocolate shavings to finish off.
Prep time: Cooking time: Total time: Yield: 1 cake /8 slices

I baked my cake in my new non stick 100% leak proof and watertight PushPan. The PushPan is easy to use, it 's base is sealed by a silicon gasket which prevents any leaks whilst baking. The pan ensures an even bake. it is dishwasher safe, ovenproof and freezer safe too. The PushPan range comes in various sizes and are perfect for all types of baking.

I was sent a press sample of the PushPan to test out, all views and opinions are my own. The PushPan  photos are used with permission.

As always simplyfood likes to give readers a chance to try the products we use in our kitchen. I am excited that I have 1 PushPan  to giveaway to one lucky winner.

How To Enter:
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  • Closing date - 18th Dec 2016 12.00 am
  • Prize 1 8 inch PushPan
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