Category Archives: Pasta….

Spicy seafood pasta


My friends, what you are looking at here is the traditional feast of both Good Friday and Christmas Eve in my home, and a plate of deliciousness so difficult to describe I’ll simply let you drool….

Decadent yes – oh very much so.  But simple, honest and true flavours, layers of which keep you diving back in for mouthful after scrummy mouthful – my husband has found himself in a self induced pasta coma more than once thanks to this one.  The core ingredients of tiger prawns and huge scallops are pricey, but everything else in the recipe is not, and those expensive bits could easily be substituted for your choice of a different seafood – smaller prawns, white fish – I’ve even used chicken which is pretty damn good.  I’m very fortunate to have a brilliant fishmonger close by who gets fresh catch in every day, in my opinion a splurge every now and again is worth it – hence it’s a twice a year special!


I came across this recipe at the start of my almost obsessive love of Ree Drummond – The Pioneer Woman and I happily take zero credit for it.  If you haven’t yet discovered her please do, her story alone is worth investigating – she married a cowboy.  A real life cowboy people!  Her style of cooking is homely, exciting, comforting and absolutely resolutely uncompromising when it comes to flavour.  And did I mentioned the cowboy?

Pasta wise I love to use fusilli lunghi as Ree herself does, the twirly bit is half the drama of the end result, but to be fair any long pasta would work well.

Ingredients – serves 2 generously (I have made for 6 people by upping quantities which worked perfectly well)

The seafood

4 tiger prawns

4 – 6 scallops – depending on the size you can get

The sauce

Olive oil

Large knob of butter

2 fat cloves garlic, grated

Chilli flakes, to taste

Small glass dry white wine

Tin chopped tomatoes – don’t scrimp here, an extra few pence on a quality product will make a difference

Squeeze tomato puree

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

200g fusilli lunghi or your choice of pasta

Small pot double cream

Big handful fresh basil finely shredded

Method – pre-heat oven to 180

Start with the seafood

  1. Take the shells off the prawns, I start by ripping the head off – remarkably satisfying – then use the legs as a starting point and kind of wind strips of the shell around and away from the body.  It’s likely there will be a pretty significant intestinal track running down the back, simply use a small sharp knife to make a shallow incision from head to tail end and you’ll find it lifts away easily.  Not a pleasant job but worth the effort
  2. If the orange roe is still attached to your scallops simple pull gently to remove it along with the small muscle, both will lift easily.  The roe is a very much loved ingredient, I’m not a huge fan myself but understand it to be delicious pan fried for a moment in garlic butter and served on hot toast.  I’m afraid it’s not for me so ends up in the bin.
  3. Heat butter and oil in a large frying pan until very hot, then seal the prawns on both sides until really brown and almost crusty, 30 seconds a side should do it, you don’t want them cooked all the way through.
  4. Same process with the scallops, watch them closely, you want a lovely crust but DO NOT want them fully cooked.
  5. Put the seafood to one side.


The sauce

  1.    In the seafood pan add a little more oil and butter and cook the garlic over a medium heat for a minute, don’t let it colour.
  2. Add the wine and bubble for a couple of minutes.
  3. Add the tomatoes, chilli flakes, puree, salt and pepper and simmer gently for around 10 minutes, if it seems to be thickening a bit too much add a splash more wine or some water if you prefer.

The pasta

  1.    Cook the pasta in a large pan of boiling water until almost done, a bit less than al dente is perfect.  Drain.

The oven

  1.    In a large baking dish, layer a couple of sheets of tin foil overlapping, they need to be large enough to create a parcel, then another sheet on the bottom of the dish to create a base.
  2. Tip in the pasta, pour the sauce over the top and mix gently, then nestle the browned seafood in the pasta.  Wrap carefully making sure you make it as air tight as possible and don’t puncture the parcel.
  3. Put the dish in the oven for 10 – 15 mins.
  4. While it’s cooking, heat the double cream in a small saucepan until scalding but not boiling.
  5. After cooking time, take dish out of oven, carefully unwrap the top of the foil (steam will be super hot when it escapes so caution), pour over the double cream, scatter basil over and a quick bit of black pepper.
  6. Prepare yourself for utter gorgeousness, seriously – you must try this one!

You’re welcome!






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Lemony pork pasta

As a food blogger one of the toughest things is making dishes look as amazingly appetising as they taste when you’re a mediocre photographer using an iPhone!  This is one of those times.  This pasta dish is years in the making, it originally came from a google search one Friday afternoon which brought up the bones of this recipe that I’ve since spent ages adapting and tweaking (as I tend to do with most).  I think I’ve nailed it to my tastes and if I ever remember where I found it originally I will absolutely provide credit.  One of the best bits is that as a busy mum of a seriously energetic 3 year old, you can make the sauce in stages over a few hours, tips in the method.  This recipe should feed 4 if you add a big salad or some veg, in reality in my house it’s 2 starving adults with leftovers for a quick lunch the next day.  Please forgive the pics and promise me you’ll try it, you won’t be sorry….


olive oil

1 small onion

1 stick celery

2 fat cloves garlic

4 rashers streaky bacon

500g pork mince

Small glass white wine

3 tablespoons reduced fat creme fraiche

Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

Lots of ground black pepper

2 large handfuls freshly grated parmesan cheese

Parsley – finely chopped flat leaf or dried to taste

Fresh taglietelle – 500g will generously serve 4


  1.    In a large pan heat the oil only very slightly, add finely chopped onion, celery and garlic and cook EVER SO GENTLY for as long as you like (this is where I go and bath child), add a splash of water if it seems like it might stick, you want it super soft but not coloured.
  2. Chop bacon into smallish pieces, add to the pan and again cook very slow and low for as long as you like – tonight when I made this it was the time I had a bath myself (candlelit and with a glass of vino, thank you hubby).  As long as it’s super low heat and you add that splash of water it won’t hurt – you don’t want a sizzle.


IMG_3887.jpg3.    Add the pork mince.  Stir to break up just a bit but not too much, turn heat up to barely medium and cook until the raw pink colour is gone.

4.    Add the wine and a splash more water if needed, you want a little bit of sauce but not swimming in it.

5.    Cook pasta according to instructions.  Meanwhile add lemon zest, juice and creme fraiche to the pork mix.

6.    Drain the pasta, add to the sauce with a good handful of freshly grated parmesan (if you use the ready grated, dry, sawdust like stuff you risk ruining a beautiful dish, don’t have it in your house.)

7.  Taste for seasoning, add more pepper if needed, it’s a dish that can take a lot.  Throw in parsley of choice and serve in warmed bowls with plenty of parmesan and more parsley on top.  Now herb wise I usually always use fresh but somehow the dried parsley works here – unlike the parmesan, I don’t think I’ll ever condone dried parmesan….

Garnish with a bit of finely chopped spring onion if it’s knocking about in the fridge….





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Another January, another….

….need to get rid of some of the holiday weight!!

I love Christmas.  No, I adore it, cherish it, celebrate it – and EAT IT!  From around 19th December, the approx date our tree (real and huge) goes up and the hamper (from parents, generous and extremely indulgent) arrives, it’s an ‘all bets are off’ situation for me.  I don’t so much as fall off the wagon, more I fall off, chop the wagon into tiny pieces and set fire to it whilst stuffing stilton in my gob and doing a happy dance!

Now I realise the error of this plan after a year of trying to be reasonably good and seeing some success in the battle of the bulge, but I can’t – no I won’t change.  It’s just too much fun!

Anyway.  It’s now 3rd January.  I’ve had my first couple of coffees made with milk instead of baileys (bleugh), finished the last of the cheese in the fridge, just polishing off the rest of a rather nice bottle of Zinfandel and it’s time to crack on with the health kick.  I don’t do starvation, I simply can’t which is why the principles of Slimming World appeal to me so much.  It’s just basic common sense.  I’m not however a rep, nor am I an expert – self proclaimed or otherwise – so I won’t add a syn value to any of my recipes.  All I’ll assure you of is that I’ve done my very best to make the ones I claim to be SW friendly as close as possible to that as I can, removed as much fat content as I can and tried to keep flavour and satisfaction high on the agenda.

Case in point my roasted veg and tomato pasta sauce.  This has become such a staple in my house.  I make it in huge batches in my beloved slow cooker and freeze in 2 person portions.  It’s great as a sauce on it’s own but even better with a protein added.

Hope you love it, here’s to a happy, healthy 2016!

Ingredients – makes enough to feed 8 hungry adults

6 peppers – mix of colours but not green

4 large onions (peeled)

6 cloves garlic

4 stalks celery

4 carrots (peeled)

2 leeks (cleaned)

2 tins chopped tomatoes

2 bay leaves

Large bunch basil

Light oil spray

Salt and black pepper


Chop onion and peppers into very large pieces, you really want them quartered unless they’re massive in which case a bit smaller.  Chuck in a large roasting dish with the whole peeled garlic cloves, lots of pepper (no salt) and some light oil spray.

Roast at 180 for approx 40 mins.  My oven is like napalm so I check after 25 and stir around if necessary, you want the veg really soft and starting to colour quite black and charred around the edges, great flavour.

Meanwhile celery carrots and leeks can be chopped very big and chucked in the slow cooker with tomatoes, plenty of seasoning and the bay leaves. This 20 mins of gentle chopping effort really is the most you’ll have to do I promise.



Once the veg are roasted add them to the slow cooker mix.


Bung the basil on top, I don’t chop it, just throw the whole bunch, stalks and all in.  Isn’t that just beautiful, you know it’s going to taste amazing!  It needs no stock cube, no water.  Cook on high for 3 hours or if you’ve got time 5 on low.


Let it cool and blitz in a processor or with a stick blender.  I like it left a little chunky but it you go really smooth you could make it into a soup.

And that’s it, a beautiful pot of deliciousness that you just know will be doing you good.  Below some extra things I add at oven roasting stage if I’ve got them knocking around, and a few ways to use the sauce:

To add:

Courgette, sweet potato, cauliflower (roasted cauli is truly gorgeous)


As a pasta sauce on it’s own or with added chicken, white fish or prawns

As a bruschetta topping with some crumbled feta and a few olives on top

Blended a bit smoother with a drop of water if needed and dated as a delicious soup with some seeds or croutons on top




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Good ‘ole Spag Bol my way!

In so many ways it feels odd to even post this as a recipe because it really is super easy.  And yet the results provide a meal of such complex flavour, depth of character and sheer comfort factor we’ve probably all – vegetarians aside – eaten, cooked and ordered this dish in restaurants across the world.

This is my favourite version.  I’ve been cooking spag bol my whole adult life and have veered across about 137 different recipes, some from books by proper actual chefs, some from family and friends, but mostly just my own tweaks from the previous try.  I kinda think I’ve nailed it for my own and my families tastes and also managed to adhere to Slimming World guidelines which makes me happy 🙂

Note: I tend to always do my sauce in a slow cooker now, mainly because I just damn well love that machine but also for time and effort saving – once the chopping is done you’re really free to crack on with whatever else your day has in store.  However, it would work just as well in a big pot on the cooker top too, just brown off all the veg in a splash of olive oil before adding the mince and doing the same, then chuck in all other ingredients and simmer for anything up to 4 hours.

Serves 4 very hungry adults (or in my home 2 adults, 1 child and 2 portions for the freezer)


1 large onion

1 large leek

2 stalks celery

2 carrots

3 fat cloves garlic (I’m in the camp of you can never have too much garlic, feel free to adjust to taste)

500g minced beef, I use 5% fat

1 – 2 beef stock cubes

1 tin chopped tomatoes

good squeeze tomato puree

Balsalmic vinegar

Dried oregano

Red wine

Worcestershire sauce

200g your choice of pasta (for my family, you use whatever quantity suits your situation)

Method (for slow cooker):

  1.    Chop all veg and throw in slow cooker.  I’m not a big fan of ‘hidden’ veg for kiddies but if necessary these ingredients can be prepped seriously finely so they kind of melt in a gorgeous sweet mush within the sauce and end up toddler friendly invisible.


2.    Add minced beef, stock, tomatoes, puree, oregano, a small glass of wine, good splash of balsamic and worcestershire sauce, season, give it a quick stir mainly to break the mince up a bit and bung lid on.

3.  Here’s the beauty of a slow cooker.  High heat for 2 hours then switch to low for 3 – 4 hours more, however long you’ve got really.  If I’m at home I generally can’t resist a quick stir occasionally but you could happily leave this alone altogether.


4.    Towards the end of cooking time or on the warming stage if using a slow cooker, cook pasta according to instructions, drain and put back into the pasta saucepan.  Add however much of the sauce you like and mix lightly.

5.    You can adorn delightedly with oodles of freshly grated parmesan and torn basil but to be honest there’s no need.  This is simplicity itself but utterly delicious.


Serves 4 very hungry people

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