I tried this quite a while ago while cooking with my mum in her kitchen a few weeks after Christmas. We turned simple potatoes into something nice, served with a juicy steak. I love cooking with my mama, and I’m happy to cook something for her once in a while. It’s the least I can do after so many wonderful meals she cooked for me. We made quite a few, had plenty of leftovers and gave some to my aunt who liked them so much that she ate one cold from the fridge. These keep well when cooled and is great for eating outdoors.
The quantities for this recipe are approximate; tastes differ from one person to another and not everyone likes loads of herbs or cheese or even mushrooms. So add or subtract whatever you want and experiment with different ingredients. Then you’ll end up with your personalised recipe. It’s very easy and you can figure out what I did from the photo. But here’s a guide. For the best result it’s better to get the largest potatoes you can get from the market. You need:
- around 6 to 8 potatoes, boiled al dente (meaning ‘with a bite’, not ‘to the teeth’! Yes I’ve heard that!) and cut in half.
For the filling:
- 2 small onions, chopped
- 6 mushrooms, sliced
- 4 slices of bacon, chopped (you can use pancetta for a stronger flavour)
- any herb that you fancy: I used some freshly chopped parsley
- pepper, to taste
- around 2 tablespoons of butter
- around 2 tablespoons of milk
For the topping:
- 12 slices or so of emmental cheese
In a pan prepare the topping by gently frying the onions, bacon and mushrooms in a little olive oil for a few minutes. Don’t cook them too much; the oven will do the rest of the cooking later. Set this mixture aside in a mixing bowl.
Once cooled, slice the cooked potatoes in half and scrape the middle into the same bowl, and add the parsley (or any herb you prefer). Add some pepper but no salt. You get plenty of this from the bacon. Add the butter and milk and mix. This is like making a fancy mash.
Once the mixture is ready and you are happy with the seasoning, scoop this into each half and top with the sliced cheese. Bake in the oven at 180ºC till everything turns golden. You can grill them if you prefer. Serve with steak or chicken and salad.
I can understand the urge to grab a quick takeaway on your way home from a tiring day at work. But think about it, you don’t know what really went into it. Arguably one of the most convenient “kind-of-ready-made” food is pasta. Who doesn’t have a packet of pasta lying around in the cupboard right now? So let me give you a couple of ideas which work for me when I’m in a I’m-hungry-NOW mood.
One thing which I am really loving right now is pappardelle. They are so good for lapping up any kind of sauce. They also offer some variety on a plate, unlike the usual spaghetti. I like any flat pasta – be it linguine, tagliatelle, fettucine, mafaldine etc. They tick all the hunger boxes for me. I have to admit it though: there are few things in life better than spaghetti carbonara, but obviously, take it slow with that!
But how about a nice summery pasta concoction washed down with a fresh white glass of vino? Ahh I have dreams about that – me, in a summer garden calmly *cough* wolfing down a lovely biggish bowl of pasta with fresh vegetables with a prawn or two thrown in, at least for those who love them like I do. If you don’t then leave them out and substitute them with either a light meat option like leftover chicken or turkey that was already cooked, or another vegetable. It’s your pasta, you’re the cook so do whatever you like. That’s freedom! There will be no exact quantities for this. Let this be your guide and go with whatever your gut tells you (excuse the pun).
Pasta with Prawn and Fresh Tomatoes (For 4).
- 500g fresh or dried pappardelle
- 1 tablespoon or so mild olive oil (not extra virgin)
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1-2 cloves of garlic, crushed or finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
- 150g small plum or cherry tomatoes, cut in half
- 6 large chestnut mushrooms, cut into quarters
- 100g or so shrimps or 8 uncooked prawns, de-veined
- Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions. In the meantime gently fry the onion, garlic and chilli flakes in the olive oil for a couple of minutes.
- Quickly add the plum tomatoes and the mushrooms. I like everything to be al dente, so throw in the prawns, leave until they turn pink and toss everything with the pasta. Serve instantly with a drizzling of extra virgin olive oil (now you can since here it only serves as a dressing), freshly ground pepper and some fresh lemon juice. Ready? Now let’s eat!
For a vegetarian option try the following:
While the pasta is cooking, gently fry in olive oil some chopped onion, finely chopped garlic, chilli flakes in a hot pan. Throw in some chopped zucchini (courgettes) and mushrooms. When cooked through but still firm, add some chopped fresh tomatoes and there you have it. Toss with the pasta, serve as the recipe above and go eat this in the garden. Bliss!