Easy Roast Meatballs with Tagliatelle

Roast meatballs

This is one of those real comforting dinners that everyone enjoys. After all what’s not to like about beefy meatballs in a tasty tomato sauce, tossed in tagliatelle. When I serve this, meal times are stress free as everyone happily tucks in.

This recipe has evolved from my Beefy Meatballs with Bucatini Pasta recipe and as good as that recipe is I needed to adapt it to free up my time. So I thought why not try roasting the meatballs instead of standing at the hob pan frying them and it worked. So while the meatballs are roasting and the tomato sauce is simmering I’m free to do other things. In my busy house there’s always plenty to do.

Regular blog readers will know that I like to experiment with different pasta types however on this occasion I’ve gone for tagliatelle.

Roast meatballs

Ingredients (Serves 4 adults or 2 adults and 3 children)

Meatballs

500g lean mince beef
2 slices of wholemeal bread
1 tablespoon mixed herbs or Italian mixed herbs
1 large egg (beaten)
1 teaspoon of fine sea salt
Black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil

Tomato Sauce

2 x 400g chopped tinned tomatoes
1 small onion (finely chopped)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
Black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried chilli flakes (optional or amount according to taste)

400g tagliatelle
Parmesan cheese (finely grated)

Method

1. In a mini chopper or food processor whizz the bread until you get breadcrumbs.

2. In a large bowl mix together the mince beef, breadcrumbs, mixed herbs, salt, egg and a good grinding of black pepper. I tend to use my hands as it is easier to combine all the ingredients.

3. Once thoroughly combined take small chunks of the mixture and roll with your hands to get small meatballs about 3cm to 4cm in diameter. No need to be exact here but try to get them roughly the same size so they cook at the same time. Then set aside until needed in a non stick roasting tin.

4. To make the tomato sauce first heat the olive oil in a large heavy casserole pan and sauté the onions until soft.

5. Add the tinned tomatoes, dried oregano and a grinding of black pepper. Add the dried chilli flakes at this stage if you wish. I tend to add only 1/4 teaspoon of chilli flakes to half the tomato sauce, so the other half is chilli free and child friendly.

6. Bring to the boil and simmer until you have a lovely thick tomato sauce. Keep on a low heat stirring every now and again. Cook for approximately 30 minutes.

7. Meanwhile to cook the meatballs pre heat the oven to Fan 180c.

8. Drizzle over the olive oil then shake the pan so the meatballs are fully coated in the oil. Then roast the meatballs for 25 to 30 minutes until fully cooked through. Once cooked add to the tomato sauce.

9. Meanwhile, cook the tagliatelle in a large saucepan of salted boiling water, reserving a small cup of the cooking water for later.

10. Once cooked drain the tagliatelle and to the meatballs in tomato sauce along with a splash of the pasta cooking water. Heat through on the hob stirring continuously for about 30 seconds, then serve. Top with grated Parmesan cheese.

Roast meatballs

Enjoy with crusty garlic bread and a leafy rocket salad. I’d love to know if you try out my Easy Roast Meatballs, so don’t forget to leave me a comment in the box below.

Until next time.

Julie
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Avocado and Parma Ham Salad with Balsamic Dressing

Avocado and Parma ham salad

I don’t normally get excited about salads, cakes yes, pasta yes, salad no. However, this salad is different using some of my favourite ingredients creamy avocado, peppery rocket, salty Parmesan cheese and Parma ham in a sweet balsamic dressing this is pure heaven. For a long long time salad for me was lettuce, cucumber and tomatoes all chopped up in a bowl with no dressing and that was pretty much how I liked it. Sometimes I’d have a bit of spring onion or sliced radish but that was as adventurous as I’d get.

For some strange reason I had a massive aversion to dressing on my salad. Anyway, that changed one day after eating a side salad in a restaurant and now I’m converted. This salad is divine and is packed with Italian flavours, just pass the Prosecco and I’ll imagine I’m in Italy while I eat.

Avocado and Parma Ham Salad

Ingredients (serves 1)

A handful of rocket leaves
A handful of spinach leaves
4 pomodorino tomatoes (halved)
1/2 avocado (cubed)
2 slices of Parma ham
Parmesan cheese shavings
Balsamic vinegar
Extra virgin olive oil

Method

1. Put the rocket, spinach and tomatoes in a bowl.

2. Drizzle with the extra virgin olive oil and a good drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Toss everything together and transfer to your serving plate.

3. Add the cubed avocado and sliced Parma ham (I removed the fat from mine).

4. Finish with Parmesan cheese shavings and extra balsamic vinegar if desired.

Avocado and Parma Ham Salad

Today has really felt like spring so I’m hoping to enjoy a lot more salad lunches from now on and I plan share my experiments with you.

Until next time.

Julie
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Easter Chocolate Cupcakes

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“Mum those cakes were really nice, they were really chocolatey” said my eldest.

Created to resemble an Easter bird nest these cupcakes are extremely chocolatey and utterly delicious. I think they make the perfect Easter treat for little and big kids alike. The cupcakes bases are a moist chocolate sponge, topped with chocolate buttercream and a layer of flaked chocolate to resemble a nest then finally finished off with Cadbury’s Mini Eggs. Chocolate and more chocolate, what’s not to like about these Easter Chocolate Cupcakes?

Don’t be put off by the length of this recipe, it is actually relatively quick as the sponge cupcakes are made using the all in one method. In fact, when I made these on Sunday morning I was all done and dusted by 10am. I was impressed!

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Easter cupcakes 6

Ingredients (makes 12)

Chocolate sponge cupcakes

160g unsalted butter (very soft)
160g golden caster sugar
2 large eggs
130g self raising flour
30g cocoa powder
2 tablespoon milk
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Chocolate Buttercream

100g dark chocolate (54% cocoa solids)
100g unsalted butter (very soft)
200g icing sugar (sifted)
1 tablespoon milk

Decoration

1 bag of Cadbury’s Mini Eggs
8 small or 4 regular size Cadbury’s Flakes
Creme Eggs and little furry chicks not compulsory but totally cute

Method

1. Pre heat your oven to 160c Fan (180c)

2. Line a 12 hole muffin tin with muffin cases.

3. Put all the cupcake ingredients in the mixing bowl and beat well until the all the mixture is fully combined.

4. Using two dessert spoons, spoon the cake mixture into the cases and bake for 25 minutes until springy to touch.

5. Leave the cakes in the tin for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

6. To make the buttercream begin by melting the chocolate over a bain-marie or in the microwave until fully melted, then allow to cool.

7. In a mixing bowl beat the butter and icing sugar together, then add the melted chocolate and beat again, then finally beat in the milk.

8. In a bowl crumble the flakes.

9. Using a palette knife spread each cake one at a time with the chocolate buttercream and then dip the cakes in the chocolate flakes (to create the bird nest effect).

10. Then top with 2 or 3 mini eggs. Enjoy!

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Easter cupcakes 5

I somehow think I’ll be making some more of these tasty little cupcakes in the next week or so. I hope you like them too.

Until next time.

Julie
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Mary Berry’s Date and Cherry Butter Bars

Date and cherry butter bars

You may have noticed that I’m a huge fan of the queen of cakes Mary Berry and to my delight I received a copy of her latest book Mary Berry Cooks for Mother’s Day just gone. Unfortunately, due to life being extremely hectic at the moment I’ve not had as much time as I would like to potter in the kitchen and try out any new recipes. That said, I have book marked a few so watch this space.

Anyway, I did make these gorgeous little buttery bars a little while back but never got round to putting my review of them on the blog. This recipe is taken from my favourite book Mary Berry’s Baking Bible. Filled with chopped dates and cherries these butter bars are quite delicious. I think they are perfect with your afternoon cup of tea. Mary suggests cutting the bake into 24, however this does result in fairly small bars. I suppose there’s nothing stopping you from eating two bars instead of one!

The recipe is simplicity itself. There’s no need to get out your mixer as you make the dough by hand and then press it into the tin to bake. In fact it took no time at all, so for me it’s a great little recipe that I’ll definitely be making again.

Date and cherry butter bars

Do you have a favourite Mary Berry recipe? I would love to hear about it. Mine is probably her Chocolate Chip Brownies, which are lovely and fudgy in the middle.

Until next time, happy baking.

Julie
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Seeded Soda Bread

Seeded Wholemeal Soda Bread

For me there’s nothing more comforting than homemade bread and a bowl of hearty soup. I don’t often have enough time to bake yeasted bread so soda bread is a super speedy alternative when home baked bread is what I’m craving. For this loaf I’ve used some wholemeal flour in the dough mix along with pumpkin and sunflower seeds, resulting in a wholesome slightly nutty tasting loaf.

Seeded soda bread

Ingredients (makes 1 loaf)

225g plain flour
175g wholemeal plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
300ml buttermilk
25g pumpkin seeds
25g sunflower seeds
Extra seeds and flour for sprinkling on top

Method

1. Pre heat your oven to Fan 200c and line a baking sheet with baking parchment.

2. Put all the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix with a wooden spoon. Then, make a well in the centre.

3. Pour in the buttermilk and stir the mixture, finally bring the dough together with your hands.

4. On a floured surface shape the dough into a ball and then flatten. Place on the lined baking sheet and sprinkle with plain flour.

5. Using a sharp knife cut across the dough vertically and horizontally, forming a cross in the dough. Sprinkle a few seeds on top.

6. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, then cover with foil and bake for a further 10 minutes.

7. Once baked the loaf will be golden brown and sound hollow when tapped underneath. Allow to cool on a wire rack.

So if you’re short of time but still want to bake some bread I recommend you try baking soda bread. Serve buttered with chunks of cheddar cheese or with a bowl of your favourite soup for a delicious lunch or supper.

Seeded Wholemeal Soda Bread

Seeded soda bread

If you liked this recipe take a look at my other soda bread recipes.

Cheddar Cheese and Onion Soda Bread

Cheese and Onion Soda Bread

Cheese and Sun Dried Tomato Soda Bread

Freshly baked Cheese and Sundried Tomato Soda Bread

Until next time, happy baking.

Julie
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My Top 10 Cooking Ingredients

Top 10 cooking ingredients

There are certain ingredients that are staples in my kitchen. These key ingredients provide the foundation for many of my recipes. Knowing that I have these ingredients in my cupboard, fridge or freezer I feel confident that my family will always have something tasty to eat when time is short. Most of all, I’ve learnt that this is what works for us as a family and me as a home cook.

1. Tinned Chopped Tomatoes

I literally cannot survive with these in my cupboard. I always buy in bulk when they are on offer in the supermarket, so I’m able to buy the Italian ones which are of superior quality. Chopped tomatoes make great pasta sauces and bases for pizza.

2. Bucatini Pasta

To my dismay my local supermarket has stopped selling these long tubes of pasta, which I think are more substantial than spaghetti. I now buy mine from the local Italian deli. I like to eat bucantini pasta with my Beefy Meatballs.

3. Frozen spinach leaves

Jamie Oliver is a fan of this and so am I, it’s a great ingredient to have stashed away in your freezer. I often grab a handful of the frozen spinach cubes and throw them into homemade pasta sauces. Frozen spinach is very economical and versatile ingredient.

4. Frozen petit pois (peas)

To my mind another fab frozen veg. I prefer petit pois to garden peas as I think they taste sweeter. I use them with cooked chicken or pancetta in pasta dishes such as my Creamy Pesto Pancetta, Peas and Mushrooms with Spirali Pasta.

5. Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan Cheese)

I love this stuff and a little goes a long way so I think it’s worth the price.

Top 10 cooking ingredients

6. Onions

I always buy a bag of cooking onions. I usually sauté onions in olive oil until they are translucent and then build on flavours from there for stews, sauces and soups.

7. Cubetti di Pancetta

Such an amazing ingredient packed full of flavour. It usually has a long shelf life if unopen so it’s worth having in the fridge as a standby ingredient. It’s great with pasta, try it in my Spaghetti with Mushroom, Spinach and Pancetta Tomato Sauce.

8. Chorizo

Just like pancetta this cured meat has great depth of flavour and releases paprika oils into your cooking. I like to cook with chorizo in different ways. It’s brilliant on pizzas, in stews and goes well with pasta. I recommend you try my tasty Gnocchi with Chorizo Spinach and Tomato Sauce.

9. Crushed Chilli Flakes

Just a pinch of chilli flakes can liven up any dish. I use chilli flakes in sauces and soups to provide heat and warmth. Be careful as too much will spoil your dish.

10. Dried Oregano

I’m no herb snob and use dried herbs often. Dried oregano is one of my favourites and is lovely in a tomato sauce for pizzas.

These are definitely Italian and Mediterranean inspired ingredients and for now that’s where my foodie heart lies.

Until next time.

Julie
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Spicy Chorizo and Spinach Pasta

Spicy chorizo and spinach pasta

Sometimes those meals that literally get thrown together are the best ones. Taking probably no more than 15 minutes from start to finish, I was delighted with this spicy pasta creation.

Be warned it’s hot, hot, hot, so if heat is not your thing than either leave out the chilli flakes or just add a tiny pinch instead. Definitely don’t do what I did and that’s burn your top lip when testing the pasta. It hurts and worse still it’s the second time I’ve done it in as many weeks.

Ingredients (serves 1 but easily doubled)

100g spirali pasta
50g cubed cooking chorizo
2 handfuls of fresh spinach
1/8 teaspoon chilli flakes
Black pepper

Method

1. Cook the pasta in a large saucepan of salted boiling water until al dente. Reserve a small cup of the cooking water.

2. Meanwhile sauté the chorizo in a dry pan until the chorizo releases it’s oils and crisps.

3. Add the cooked pasta to the pan of cooked chorizo. Then add the spinach, chilli flakes, a grinding of black pepper and a splash of the pasta cooking water.

4. Keep on the heat and stir well, cook for a further minute or so until the spinach is wilted. Then serve.

Spicy chorizo and spinach pasta

I would love to hear about your throw together dinner successes, just let me know in the box below.

Until next time.

Julie
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Spicy Potato Wedges

Spicy potato wedges

This recipe for my Spicy Potato Wedges is a fantastic way of livening up old potatoes. Spiced with cayenne pepper and smoked paprika these wedges have a bit of a kick. I served mine with pepperoni pizza and a rocket salad, which made it a brilliant Monday night dinner. It’s also worth making your own sour cream and chive dip too as that works beautifully with the spices. I generally have all these ingredients in, so I can rustle up these potato wedges in no time at all.

Ingredients (serves 2-3)

530g potatoes (4 medium all purpose potatoes)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
Sea salt
Black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil

Method

1. Scrub clean the potatoes. Cut in half down the longest side, then cut each half in long quarters.

2. Pre heat the oven to Fan 200c

3. Par boil the potato wedges for 7-8 minutes and then drain.

4. Place the wedges in a non stick roasting tray. Drizzle over the olive oil, add a grinding of black pepper and a good pinch of salt. Then sprinkle over the cayenne pepper and smoked paprika.

5. Toss the wedges in the oil and spices so everything is fully coated

6. Roast in the oven for about 25 minutes, until the edges begin to crisp.

Spicy potato wedges

The Spicy Potato Wedges would be great served with my Chilli con Carne too.

I love to hear what you think, so don’t be shy and leave me a comment in the box below.

Until next time.

Julie
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Pretty Pink Birthday Cake

Pretty pink birthday cake

To celebrate the birthday of a special girl I baked a delectable and very pink birthday cake. The sponge cake was made using Mary Berry’s All-in-one Victoria Sandwich recipe, which is in her Baking Bible and available on the BBC Food website. I used large eggs for this recipe as specified in the Baking Bible (the website doesn’t state which size eggs to use).

I’ve sandwiched the light sponge layers together with delicious vanilla buttercream and seedless raspberry jam. Then, I topped the cake with glacé icing and decorated it with pretty pink sugar decorations. I was pleased with the result, although I wish I’d made the glacé icing a little thicker. However, that didn’t detract from the taste which was gorgeous. The birthday girl was delighted with her cake, so I’m happy with it too.

Pretty Pink Birthday cake

Pretty pink birthday cake

To make this cake use Mary Berry’s All-in-one Victoria Sandwich recipe for the sponge layers, using 20cm sandwich tins. To fill and decorate the cake follow the rest of my recipe.

Ingredients

100g unsalted butter (very soft)
200g icing sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoon seedless raspberry jam
200g fondant icing sugar
1-2 tablespoon cooled boiled water
Red gel food colour
Pink sugar decorations

Method

1. To make the buttercream, beat together the icing sugar, butter, milk and vanilla extract until light and airy.

2. Spread the buttercream on top of one of the sponge layers. On the base of the other sponge layer spread the jam then sandwich the two layers together.

3. Make the glacé icing by mixing the fondant icing sugar with a little of the water and a few drops of the red gel food colour until you get the desired consistency. Then pour on top of the cake. Next, decorate with the sugar decorations before the icing sets.

Pretty Pink Birthday cake

Pretty pink birthday cake

If you are planning on serving the cake on a cake board like I have, it’s well worth putting a teaspoon of buttercream in the centre of the cake board before you put the cake on it. This will reduce the risk of the cake sliding off.

This cake is a real pleasure to make and eat. Go on, bake a cake for someone special.

Until next time, happy baking.

Julie
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I’ve entered this recipe into the Tea Time Treats challenge organised by Karen at Lavender and Lovage and Jane at The Hedgecombers. This months Decorative Cakes challenge is hosted by Jane.

Tea Time Treats
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Mary Berry’s Bakewell Tart

Bakewell Tart

Bakewell Tart is absolutely my favourite kind of tart. It’s baked in a shortcrust pastry base then filled with lots of raspberry jam and almond frangipane. Finally, it’s finished off with sliced almonds and glacé icing. Unless you have an aversion to almonds, this tart is a delight to eat. This quintessential English tart is believed to be derived from the Bakewell Pudding. The Bakewell Pudding appears to have been created quite by accident, however whilst I was researching the story I found different versions of the pudding’s creation so rather than post something inaccurate I’ll leave it there.

I used Mary Berry’s Bakewell Tart recipe from The Great Comic Relief Bake Off, which I found on the BBC Food website.

I was delighted with this Bakewell Tart and there wasn’t a soggy bottom in sight. (Yes, I’m suffering from Great British Bake Off withdrawal symptoms). The frangipane was extremely moist and bursting with almond flavour. I decided to use 4 tablespoons of seedless raspberry jam and not the 1 tablespoon stated on the website. I’m so glad I did, there would not have been anywhere near enough jam otherwise.

Bakewell Tart

The Bakewell Tart was a huge success with all my family enjoying it. As we were feeling a bit indulgent the tart was served with extra thick double cream, lovely. I would definitely recommend this recipe, it’s relatively easy and the resulting tart looks quite special. Most importantly, it tastes superb.

Bakewell tart

Bakewell tart

I hope you enjoy making this wonderful tart from Mary Berry. I’ll definitely be making it again soon.

Happy Baking.

Julie
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