Chilli Mac & Cheese

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Happy Monday (and Happy 1st of July!)!  Here’s a recipe to bookmark for later, because – well – firstly, Mac & Cheese isn’t exactly the kind of thing to be scoffing in the middle of summer, is it?  It definitely falls under the category of cold weather comfort food; it’s perfect for gloomy, November night’s in rather than a sticky, July suppers scoffed alfresco – right?  (Although, honestly my appetite knows no season, and – besides – you never know when the Welsh Weather’s going to trip you up…) And secondly, it’s two recipes in one!  Definitely one to keep up your sleeve. 😉

Chilli is one of my absolute favourite meals to make because it’s a one pot wonder that’s easy to whip up mid week when I’m feeling too tired to cook and tempted to reach for that takeaway menu.  It’s also perfect for batch cooking; the recipe makes more than enough to sort both one dinner and a couple of lunches for the week.  Make it meaty with beef mince if you like, but I actually prefer the veggie version using Quorn Mince.  I’ll usually serve it up with some rice, grated cheese and sour cream (my husband likes to add a couple of crushed nachos to his too for some extra crunch), but it’s also pretty fabulous served up on a bed of gooey, super-cheesy Mac and Cheese.

I feel like Mac and Cheese gets a bit of a bad rap from all those cardboard microwave versions (bleugh!).  I mean it only takes a little extra effort to make it yourself, and it tastes so much better!  Especially if you use the right kind of cheese.  Lucky for me, the guys from Dragon Wales (who make my favourite vintage cheddar – my fridge is always stocked with a block!) sent me a lovely little hamper full of their brand new range of cheeses, including a Maple Smoked Cheddar that was born to make the smokiest, creamiest cheese sauce for Mac and Cheese. 👌

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Chilli Mac & Cheese (serves 2 – with plenty for leftovers!)

Ingredients

For the Chilli:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 350g mince (sure, beef’s traditional, but I personally love Quorn mince)
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1 tsp chipotle paste
  • 500g tomato passata
  • 225g black beans
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 3 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp ancho chilli flakes
  • 2 tsp runny honey
  • chopped fresh coriander
  • salt and pepper to season

For the Mac & Cheese:

  • 100g macaroni
  • 100g cheddar cheese, grated (I really like Dragon’s new *Maple-Smoked Cheddar)
  • 100g butter
  • 100g plain flour
  • 200ml milk
  • salt and pepper to season
  1. To make the chilli, heat up your olive oil in a deep pan – then add the diced red onions and fry on a medium heat until they’re glossy.  Add the garlic and fry for one minute.
  2. Next, add the mince and fry it for a couple of minutes until brown, then add the bell pepper and black beans.  Add the chipotle paste, honey and passata and stir until combined.  
  3. Season the chilli with the paprika, cumin, ground coriander, cayenne pepper and chilli flakes – then turn down the heat, whack on the lid and allow the chilli to simmer for twenty five minutes.  If it’s looking a little dry, pour in a little cold water.
  4. Once it’s cooked, you can stop there, season it with salt and pepper and serve it up with some fresh coriander, rice and sour cream… or you can keep the lid on and whip up some Mac and Cheese to scoff it with! 😉
  5. To make the Mac and Cheese, first get your macaroni boiling with some salt.  While it’s cooking, grab a fresh saucepan and gently heat the butter until it’s melted.  Next, add the flour and whisk to make a roux (fancy-pants term which basically means a sauce base). 
  6. Keeping the heat down low, slowly pour in the milk and whisk until everything’s combined.  Add the grated cheddar, season and stir to make a lovely, thick and cheesy sauce. 😉
  7. Stir in the cooked (and drained!) macaroni, then serve up with the chilli and fresh coriander.  Yum!

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Have a great week everyone!  And thanks to Dragon Wales for the lovely cheese!  💛💛💛

*This post isn’t sponsored, but contains gifted items.  To find out more about what this means and to read my disclaimer, click here.

Spaghetti with Fried Tomato and Mozzarella Balls

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I’m a pasta FIEND, but I hardly ever get to make it at home because Sunny’s not a fan (I know, what the hell did I marry???).  My absolute favourite pasta dish is Spaghetti Pomodoro, which most people would label the most boring thing on the menu – but you know what?  I love that it’s simple.  It’s pasta in its purest form and throws the focus on the quality and flavour of each ingredient.  Sweet tomato sauce, spaghetti, fresh basil and mozzarella (…the best bit!).  I love it!  It’s my go to whenever I’ve got a craving for some fresh pasta.

Last week, Sunny was away with work which meant I had a couple of days to get my pasta fix in.  I saw the idea for these fried tomato and mozzarella balls on Pinterest and just had to give them a go and see if they could level up my basic pomodoro.  I mean, deep fried mozzarella, amiright?  Yuuuuuuuuum.

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Spaghetti with Fried Tomato and Mozzarella Balls (serves 2)

Ingredients

For the balls:

  • 125g of Mozzarella Pearls
  • 220g of Cherry Tomatoes (I used about 20 piccalo tomatoes)
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • plain flour
  • 100g breadcrumbs seasoned with salt and pepper
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Kebab Skewer

For the sauce:

  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 200ml of Tomato Passata
  • 1 clove of Garlic, minced
  • Tomato Pits, salted
  • Fresh Chopped Basil
  • 1 tsp of Maple Syrup

To serve:

  • Chopped Basil
  • Enough Spaghetti for 2
  • (More cheese, if you’re a total glutton like me 😉 )
  1. Cut the tomatoes in half and scoop out the pits (set them aside, they’re going to go into the sauce later!).  Fill each tomato with a mozzarella pearl and then set them aside.
  2. Heat up the vegetable oil in a deep saucepan (you’ll know it’s ready for frying when you can drop a small bit of bread into it and see it fizzle).  Batter up!  Create a bit of an assembly line with the whisked egg, flour and breadcrumbs in separate bowls.  Take one of your filled tomatoes and skewer it with one of the kebab skewers (it’ll keep everything together for the next step).  First, coat it with a little flour, then dunk it into the whisked egg, and finally coat it with breadcrumbs.  Deep fry each ball until golden brown, removing each one from the skewer as you go along.
  3. To make the sauce, heat up your olive oil in a saucepan on a medium heat.  Fry the garlic for a minute (careful not to burn it!) and then pour in both the tomato passata, pits and fresh basil. Pour in 1 tsp of Maple Syrup – sounds ridiculous, right?  But trust me, it’ll take away the acidic taste from the tomatoes. 
  4. Simmer for twenty minutes, then season and serve with the fried tomato, fresh basil, mozzarella balls and spaghetti.

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Have a magnifique week! 😉

Easy Korean Dak-galbi

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I’d never heard of Dak-Galbi until I stumbled across a recipe for it over on Pinterest (…honestly, where did I go to hunt down new recipes before Pinterest came along? Books?) – but as soon as I saw it I knew I wanted to add it to my takeaway dupes repertoire.  It’s a stir fry of spicy chicken and sweet potato and is basically Korean Pub Food; you’ll usually find it served up and sizzling with alcohol.  The marinade is sweet and spicy – thanks to the Gochujang Chilli Paste and Honey – and pairs perfectly with the sweet potato chunks.

I’m pretty sure most Koreans would cry sacrilege at my take on Dak-galbi.  I mean, it’s pretty much just the bare bones of the real deal because you just can’t get a lot of Korean ingredients in your average British supermarket – in fact, I’d be surprised if you found any at all!  The one essential ingredient – and pretty much the base ingredient for any Korean cooking – I had to order off of Amazon.  But as for tteok and perilla leaves?  Forget it.  Still, my stripped back version makes for a tasty, spicy and colourful midweek stir fry and – aside from marinating time – goes from wok to table in under 20 minutes.  Noice!  🙂

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Easy Dak-galbi (serves 2)

Ingredients

  • 3 tsbp soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp gochujang paste (I *think* Waitrose stock it, but if not check amazon!)
  • 3 tbsp runny honey
  • 3 tbsp rice wine
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 sweet potato, diced
  • 4 spring onions, sliced
  • shredded red cabbage
  • grated carrot
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
  • 2 chicken breasts, diced
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  1. First things first, make the marinade.  In a small bowl, mix together the soy sauce, gochujang paste, honey, rice wine, curry powder and half of the sesame oil.  Stir until smooth.  Pour in the chicken and stir until it’s thoroughly coated in the marinade – then leave it to rest for at least one hour.
  2. Get your wok smoking hot and pour in the rest of the sesame oil.  Turn down the heat and chuck in the chicken (hold back the marinade) along with the sweet potato.  Cook for ten minutes until the sweet potato has softened and the chicken is mostly cooked; make sure you keep stirring otherwise the honey in the marinade might scorch.
  3. Next throw in the stir fry vegetables – the spring onions, cabbage, carrot and pepper – as well as the remaining marinade and chilli flakes.  Stir fry for five minutes, then serve up with some egg fried rice! 🙂

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Happy four day week! 😉  Oh, and hey – if there’s a takeaway favourite of yours that you’d like to see me take on and come up with an easy to follow recipe for then just let me know in the comments!

Easy Sticky Honey Chicken

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How’s your head, Wales?  Is your hangover still ragin’ after grand-slamming a few celebratory shots on Saturday night?  Sworn off drinking forever?  Sad that the Six Nations are done and dusted for another year?  But what a weekend of Rugby!  If you’re still feeling a bit hanging and wobbling over the idea of just giving in and getting in a takeaway tonight, then have I got the recipe for you – perfect for the Monday after the weekend before. 😉

I’ve been on a kick recently of upping my midweek meal game – particularly when it comes to takeaway dupes – and this sticky honey and sesame chicken is a winner (-winner chicken dinner).  Nail the sauce and the rest is history.  You can either batter your own chicken or pop some chicken dippers (or Quorn Nuggets) in the oven, and then serve it up with some egg fried rice, a sprinkling of sesame seeds and some chopped spring onions.  So easy!

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Easy Sticky Honey Chicken

Ingredients

  • 100ml runny honey
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp tomato ketchup
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp corn flour
  • 125ml water

to serve:

  • a handful battered chicken nuggets
  • sesame seeds
  • chopped spring onions
  1. Whilst your chicken nuggets are cooking, make up the sauce. Pour all the ingredients – except the water – into a mixing bowl and stir well to combine.  Then, add the water and stir.
  2. Pour into a saucepan and bring to the boil; stir until the sauce starts to thicken up, then remove it from the heat.
  3. Drizzle it all over your cooked chicken nuggets, then sprinkle with sesame seeds and chopped spring onions.  Serve with egg fried rice and scoff! 🙂

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Have a great week! 🙂

Easy Cauliflower and Chickpea Curry

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I think I’ve said it before but I’m absolutely bloody useless when it comes to eating lunch.  I’m a grab and go kinda girl – and that would be absolutely fine if it wasn’t for the fact that the kind of foods that I usually end up grabbing are doughnuts, a bag of crisps, five custard creams, a yoghurt, a cheeky cinnamon bun…  You know?  Not great.  So, when I sit down and make my meal plan for the week ahead, I’ve started factoring in lunch, and – more specifically – one meal that I can batch-cook at the start of the week that’ll serve me through those grab and go lunchtimes.  The provisos are that it needs to be healthy(ish), microwavable and survive in the fridge through to Friday, and this cauliflower and chickpea curry ticks all those boxes.

I absolutely love cauliflower in a curry (my mother-in-law makes the best Aloo Gobi) and Chana Masala is always on the menu if we eat out at an Indian restaurant.  So, why not put the two together, eh?  It’s a quick and easy meal to whip up, and a damn tasty treat for lunchtimes when you fancy something warm and comforting to eat.  Not everyone’s got Indian spices banging around in their cupboard though, so if you don’t fancy cooking the curry sauce from scratch, just cheat and buy a jar of Rogan Josh instead. 😉

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Cauliflower and Chickpea Curry (Gobi Chana) – serves two (double up if you’re batch-cooking)

Ingredients

  • 1 can of chickpeas, strained
  • 200g cauliflower florets
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes (fill the empty tin to halfway with water)
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp ginger paste/puree
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1tbsp chilli flakes
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • chopped fresh spinach to serve
  1. Put the chickpeas and cauliflower florets in a saucepan with some water and bring them to the boil.  Strain, then set aside.
  2. Set your frying pan on the hob on a medium heat, then add the vegetable oil.  Add the diced onion and ginger paste and fry for around ten minutes.  Add your ground spices and burn them off for a couple of minutes.  Pour in the tinned tomatoes (and water), the chickpeas and cauliflower florets.  Pop the lid on your pan and allow the whole mix to simmer for ten minutes.
  3. Season with salt and then serve with chopped fresh spinach and cooked basmati rice. 🙂

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Happy weekend! 😉