Saffron prawns – creamy mascarpone pasta with prawns in a saffron sauce

Saffron prawns – creamy mascarpone pasta with prawns in a saffron sauce

When we lived in Spain, I met the most amazing friend. Well, actually I met lots of amazing people, but this recipe post is dedicated to one person in particular. This person was always kind, always warm and always supportive. She is one of the most thoughtful and generous people I have ever met, but also one of the most fun people. She reminded me of the importance of enjoying life and of caring about people. She looked after me when I was down, was a constant cheerleader for me and even threw me a surprise birthday party with cupcake decorating.

I miss her.

A lot of our friendship and many of my favourite memories involved eating. Lots of tapas, obviously but plenty of pizzas, cakes, barbecues, curries and the occasional salad. We have had fancy meals in smart restaurants, as well as a weekly challenge to find a new cheap but delicious restaurant. We have compared the best gambas pil pil all over the Costa del Sol. I loved going to eat at hers because the food and craic were always excellent (and because she so often made food with halloumi in it). We chatted and laughed over many delicious meals and also many glasses of cava.

Once when I invited her over for a meal, she arrived with wine (of course) but also a gift of dried chilis and a packet of saffron. Not many people understand how much a gift like that excites me. She knew me well. I remember being so thrilled with my new culinary treats. The dried chilis hung in my kitchen in Spain and made me smile every time I went to the fridge… They also made my mouth burn whenever I ate them but goodness me, they were good! The saffron came with me to Malaysia and still makes me smile whenever I use it.

So this recipe is dedicated to that wonderful friend, who knows me so well and brings even more joy to my cooking. This is my little homage to you, with the saffron you brought me and the prawns from our beloved gambas pil pil.

Thank you. xxx

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Ingredients (serves 2)
– 200g raw prawns, peeled and deveined
– 200g dried spaghetti/linguine/tagliatelle
– 1 white onion, peeled and finely chopped
– 3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
– 1 pinch of saffron
– 100g mascarpone

Method
1. Heat a little butter or oil in a pan and cook the chopped onions and garlic until softened. Meanwhile, cook the pasta to the instructions on the packet.
2. Add the saffron to the onions and garlic and stir together, then add the mascarpone and stir until it is all combined.
3. Add the prawns to the sauce and allow to cook through. When the prawns have turned pink and firm, stir the cooked pasta in and season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste.
4. Serve right away with a side salad – rocket dressed with Parmesan and balsamic works really well.

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Lasagne cupcakes – Individual sun-dried tomato and three cheese lasagnes

Lasagne cupcakes

When I made these, one of the first things I did was send an excited message to my brother saying, “Just made lasagne cupcakes!!” and he replied “Gross.” I think he thought I’d made cupcakes with cheese and tomato in, or some awful cake-pasta hybrid. Thankfully, the only thing “cupcake” about these individual lasagnes is that they are cooked in a muffin tin, making delicious baby lasagnes that cook really quickly.

There are lots of versions of these on the internet at the moment, but I love the combination here of sun-dried tomatoes with the bolognese sauce. Also, mine use an actual bolognese sauce, rather that buying a ready-made jar of “pasta sauce”. It maybe takes slightly longer to make your own, but it is much tastier and there’s less of the hidden salts and sugars you get in shop-bought tomato sauce.
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This recipe also uses my current favourite trick of re-purposing the oil in jars of sun-dried tomatoes. That oil is full of flavour, so use it in place of your regular olive oil. It’s great as a salad dressing. I wouldn’t normally use olive oil to cook with but I made an exception in this case.

The recipe makes 12 individual lasagnes and we found that two was enough per person along with a nice salad or even just some garden peas. They reheat really well in a microwave so are fabulous for work lunches, and they also freeze easily.

The final test will be if my brother agrees now that these are as amazing as I think they are!

File_001Ingredients (makes 12 individual lasagnes)
– 400g beef mince
– 1 small onion, finely chopped
– 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
– 1 teaspoon dried oregano
– 1 tablespoon Worchestershire sauce
– 1 pack wanton wrappers
– 75g sun-dried tomatoes in oil
– 125g ricotta cheese
– 125g mozzarella cheese
– 100g parmesan cheese
– 200g tomato paste

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Method
1. Heat a tablespoon of the oil from the sun-dried tomatoes in a large pan. Add the chopped onions and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes until softening. Add the mince and Worchestershire sauce and cook until the mince is brown.
2. Stir in the tomato paste and oregano. Chop the sun-dried tomatoes into halves or thirds and add them to the sauce as well. Leave to simmer, stirring occasionally.
3. Grease a 12-hole muffin tin (I used the oil from the sun-dried tomatoes again). Place two wanton wrappers in the bottom of each hole. Overlap them at an angle make a star shape.
4. Season the Bolognese sauce to taste, but remember not to add too much salt because the Parmesan also adds a saltiness. Take half of the sauce mixture and divide between the muffin holes.
5. Top with a little of the ricotta, the mozzarella and grate some Parmesan over the top.
6. Place two more overlapping wanton wrappers on top and then repeat the layers with the remaining sauce, ricotta, mozzarella and finally Parmesan. Finish off with freshly cracked black pepper.
7. Bake in a preheated oven at 180°C for 15-20 minutes until the cheese on top is melted and bubbling.
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Note – You can cut the wanton wrappers into circle shapes with a glass or cookie cutter to make more elegant shapes, but I prefer the rustic overlapping edges!
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Easy daikon noodles with sun-dried tomato and rosemary sauce

Easy daikon noodles with sun-dried tomato and rosemary sauce

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It’s meat-free Monday again! This recipe takes less than 15 minutes to cook and is simple and delicious. Plus it only has seven ingredients!

I’m not one of those cooks who sticks religiously to recipes. So if you’re like me, try substituting the ricotta for the same amount of mascarpone. That would work as well. If you don’t have a spiralizer, you can also substitute the daikon noodles for spaghetti. Just cook the pasta according to the packet instructions before you add it to the onion and garlic. The pictures show a combination of spaghetti and daikon noodles.

Ingredients (serves 2)
– 1 large daikon
– 1 small onion, finely chopped
– 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
– 16 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, chopped in half
– 125ml ricotta
– 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
– 50g parmesan cheese, freshly grated

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Method
1. Use your spiralizer to cut the daikon into fine noodles and trim them.
2. Pour a tablespoon of the oil from the sun-dried tomatoes into a large frying pan and heat. Cook for onion for a minute and then add the garlic. Cook for a further two minutes, stirring until the onion and garlic are softened.
3. Add the noodles to the frying pan and toss over a medium heat for 7 minutes. Test the noodles at the end of this time to make sure they are cooked to your liking.
4. Add the ricotta, tomatoes and chopped rosemary to the pan. Stir everything together so that the ricotta melts and coats the noodles.
5. Stir in the parmesan cheese. Season to taste with plenty of freshly cracked black pepper.
6. Serve immediately with shavings of parmesan and maybe even some extra rosemary leaves.
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Healthier taco sauce or nacho topping with hidden vegetables – use up vegetables!

IMAG3101_1This sauce makes a great filling for tacos, as well as brilliant topping for nachos. You can also serve it as a chilli con carne with rice. What I love about it is that it is packed full of hidden vegetables – great for tricking those who don’t like to eat their greens!

I’ve been using my food processor to finely chop vegetables to make pasta sauce “secretly” healthier for years, but this my first recipe for Mexican food. The vegetables add a lot of bulk so you aren’t eating as much red meat and they also add tons of texture and flavour. You can mix and match your vegetables to use up whatever is in the fridge – just chuck it in the blender! For this reason, I haven’t specified a particular type of onion or colour of pepper – just use what you have.IMAG3095_1

Don’t buy a jar of salsa to serve with this – they are usually packed with sugar. For a delicious, healthy side, mix together quartered cherry tomatoes with finely chopped red onion and a tablespoon of red wine vinegar. Season to taste.IMAG3098_1

If you serve your hidden vegetable sauce with this salsa and some shredded lettuce, you can easily have six separate fruit and vegetables on just one plate! (So you can sprinkle on extra cheese, guilt free!)

You can also make your own tacos or nachos from a corn tortilla – click here for very simple steps.

Ingredients (serves 4)
– 400 g beef mince
– 1 large onion, peeled
– 3 cloves garlic, peeled
– 2 carrots, peeled
– 1 pepper, deseeded
– 1 leek
– 3 tomatoes
– 200 g tomato puree
– 1 teaspoon each ground cumin and coriander
– 1 teaspoon chipotle paste (or more if you like heat)

To serve:
200 g bag of nachos and 200 g grated cheese OR taco shells
cherry tomato salsa (see above)
shredded lettuce, soured cream, jalapenos

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Method
1. Place the onion, garlic, carrots, pepper, leek and tomatoes in a food processor and pulse until the vegetables are all very finely chopped.
2. Heat a little oil in a large pan and cook the vegetables for 2-3 minutes until beginning to soften.
3. Add the mince, spices, chipotle paste and puree. Cook until the beef is cooked through, stirring well.
4. Leave to simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste and season before stirring.

To cook the nachos, preheat the grill to medium-high. Scatter a layer of nachos over a baking tray then cover with a layer of grated cheese. Repeat with layers until you have used up the nachos and cheese. Cook under the grill until the cheese is melted and bubbling.
Alternatively, heat the tacos according to the packet.

Serve the hidden vegetable sauce.IMAG3103_1

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