Five a day roasted vegetable sauce

Every now and again I get a fancy for vegetables and lots of them! This roasted vegetable sauce is perfect for ensuring your family get their five a day and is great with gnocchi and pasta or even with cous cous. I chose to use baby courgettes and baby aubergine alongside pepper and onion to give vibrant colour and a balance between sweet and savoury. Feta was made to be paired with such flavours so a liberal sprinkling of this over your finished dish really lifts the flavours. The sauce should be chunky with a light tomato coating- I used Cirio Tuscan chopped tomatoes which have the perfect ratio of sauce to tomato chunks. You can find them at http://www.cirio1856.co.uk.

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Ingredients- serves 4
4 garlic cloves- kept whole
1 large red onion- peeled and cut into small wedges
1 red and 1 yellow bell pepper- chopped
Handful of baby courgettes- chopped
Handful of baby aubergine- chopped
Handful of black olives- optional
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Chilli flakes
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
Fresh basil

1.Preheat the oven to 180c/ 160 fan ready for the veggies. Take a large roasting tin and place all the chopped vegetables into it including the whole garlic cloves. Drizzle with a good amount of olive oil and season. I used smoked sea salt which is fabulous with roasted vegetables. Roast for around 15 minutes until everything is tender- test with a knife, if it goes into the vegetables easily then it’s ready!

2. Take a large frying pan and add a small glug of oil over a medium heat. Rescue the garlic cloves from the vegetable tray and squeeze out the tender and wonderfully fragrant garlic. I then fried off the garlic with a touch of chilli flakes (or as much as you dare!) for a minute or two before scattering the vegetables into the pan. The chilli should enhance the flavours rather than drowning them out. Pour in the tinned tomatoes and cook for around 10 minutes on a simmer so the tomato brings the sauce together and the flavours develop even more. Finish with a liberal sprinkling of freshly torn basil leaves and away you go! Serve with gnocchi or pasta and feta over the top if you like. Mozzarella would also be delicious. Any leftovers can be easily reheated or blitzed into a smooth sauce or soup for the freezer.

Chunky roasted vegetable sauce- get your five a day in the most effortless way!

Crab, king prawn and rocket spaghetti

As I’m writing this I’m sitting with the heating cranked up and considering reaching for a blanket to try and warm up so such a light pasta recipe may sound a little strange for a winter’s day. It’s simple really, I love seafood and sometimes these cravings have to be indulged regardless of the season!

Crab pasta recipes usually use white meat however I have chosen to use half white and half brown meat as this really ramps up the flavour. The addition of baby plum tomatoes are also lovely if you like. The sweetness of the crab and prawn pair perfectly with the gentle heat from the chilli and kick of acidity from the lemon so read on and get twirling that spaghetti!

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Ingredients- serves 2
200g spaghetti
Glug of olive oil
1-2 garlic cloves- finely sliced or crushed
1 red chilli- deseeded and chopped
60ml dry white wine
2 tbsp low fat crème fraiche
200g raw king prawns- deveined
200g crab meat- white or white and brown meat
50g rocket
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice

1. Start by bringing a large pan of water to the boil; cook the spaghetti according to packet instructions and drain when it is perfectly al dente. Drain well.

2. Whilst the spaghetti cooks, get going on the sauce as it won’t take long. I can’t stand pasta that is drained and then stands around for ages, slowly clumping into a wonderful mess so avoid! Take a large frying pan and add a glug of oil over a medium heat. Add the garlic and red chilli and cook for a couple of minutes until softening. Add the white wine and reduce the amount by half before lowering the heat. In goes the crème fraiche and simmer for a minute or two.

3. Pop the deveined raw prawns into the pan and cook for a further minute before adding the crab meat and rocket. Simmer until the prawns are a gorgeous blush pink and the sauce is warmed through. Season to taste. If the sauce looks a little dry then add a splash of the water from the pasta pan in to loosen it slightly. I try not to add extra crème fraiche as this tends to make it even thicker and a bit claggy. When the pasta is ready, add it to the pan with sauce and toss to coat each strand of spaghetti well and finish with a good squeeze of fresh lemon juice to really make the flavours sing. Serve immediately.

Butternut squash, sage and ricotta lasagne

The sweetness of the squash, fragrance of the sage and creaminess of ricotta are a divine match. The flavours need very little to bring the best out of them so keep the ingredients as simple as possible so you can taste each element. The secret twist to the creamy ricotta filling is a good helping of sweet roasted garlic which really takes it to another level. Ovenproof dishes come in such a range of shapes and size so, before you cook the lasagne sheets, try to work out how many sheets you need to fit yours. I always cook a couple of extra sheets in case they tear. The filling also works with cannelloni.

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Ingredients- serves 4
For the lasagne filling
1 butternut squash- cut into cubes
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
3-4 garlic cloves- kept whole and with the skin on
Handful of fresh sage
250g ricotta
Ground nutmeg
Lasagne sheets

For the béchamel sauce
500ml milk
1 onion- halved
2 bay leaves
2 cloves
50g butter
50g plain flour
Parmesan to top

1. Get going by preheating the oven to 180c/ 160fan. Place the cubes of squash on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Toss the cubes and add in the garlic cloves so each is coated in the oil and roast until tender. When it is ready, a knife will easily sink through the cubes. Place in a large bowl and set aside.

2. Whilst the squash is roasting you can get started on the béchamel sauce. Secure the bay leaves to the onion halves using the cloves- this way you don’t have to go fishing around the saucepan to find the cloves later on! Add the milk to a small pan and bring to a boil before removing from the heat and allowing the flavours from the bay and clove to infuse for around 20 minutes.

Take another pan and melt the butter and flour together until a paste, or roux, is formed. Remove the onion, clove and bay from the pan containing the milk and slowly add the milk to the pan with the roux. Keep stirring so lumps don’t form! Simmer and stir until it thickens before removing it from the heat ready to pour over the lasagne.

3. Stir the ricotta through the squash cubes so well combined. Finely chop the fresh sage and add to the bowl along with 1tsp of ground nutmeg; use fresh nutmeg if you can. Taste and adjust the seasoning to suit you. Set the mixture aside whilst you prepare the lasagne sheets. Don’t worry if the squash starts to break up; I sometimes mash down half of the squash and leave the other half in cubes to add a different texture and make smoother. Squeeze the tender roasted garlic from their skins and mix through well.

4. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and add the lasagne sheets to cook, a few at a time so the pan does not become overcrowded. Cook the sheets until parboiled- you can cook them without parboiling but I think this really does make a difference. Nobody wants to find chewy pasta in their mouthful!

5. Now to assemble the lasagne. I spoon a little of the béchamel sauce in the bottom of the ovenproof dish to stop the pasta sticking when baked. Lay sheets of lasagne to cover the bottom before adding a layer of the butternut squash filling. Add another layer of pasta and repeat until the filling has been used up and finish with a layer of pasta.

6. Pour the béchamel sauce over the lasagne and top with freshly grated parmesan. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until bubbling and golden. I usually cover the lasagne for the first half of the cooking time and then remove the foil for the end but it will depend on your oven as to if you need to do this or not. Serve with a simple side salad and dig in!

Squash, sage and ricotta lasagne- a satisfying vegetarian pasta dish which is perfect for a midweek meal or special occasion!

Prawn, courgette and tomato penne

During the autumn and winter months our dinner tables are full of rich, decadent dishes but sometimes a break from this is needed so this prawn and courgette pasta does the trick. The idea behind this came following a recent trip to Italy where they served a similar pasta dish which was light and oh so moreish. Take a leaf from the Italian’s book and keep the sauce as light as possible. I used raw king prawns to make sure they stay juicy when cooked; you can use a combination of king prawns and smaller prawns if you like but throw in the smaller prawns later in cooking so they don’t dry out.

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Ingredients- serves 2
200g penne
2 garlic cloves- finely chopped or crushed
1 banana shallot- finely chopped
60ml dry white wine
1 small courgette- deseeded and chopped
100g baby plum tomatoes- halved or quartered depending on size
200g raw king prawns- deveined
2-3 tbsp. low fat crème fraiche
Fresh lemon
Handful of fresh basil

1. Get going by bringing a large pan of water to the boil and cook the penne according to packet instructions; aim for an al dente finish. Drain well and set aside whilst you make the sauce.

2. Take a frying pan and add a glug of olive oil. Cook the garlic and shallot until it is softening but make sure it does not turn golden. Add the courgette and tomatoes and cook for a further minute or so. Pour in the white wine and reduce by half. Reduce the heat to low and stir through the crème fraiche before adding in the prawns. Simmer until the prawns turn a gorgeous blush pink before finishing off with a sprinkling of fresh torn basil and a squeeze of lemon juice to lift the flavours. Remember you can adjust the creaminess of the sauce by adding more crème fraiche or loosening up the sauce with a splash of water if you find it becomes too thick.

Prawn and courgette penne- quick, light and a cinch to make!

Seared scallop, king prawn and crab linguine

This scallop, prawn and crab linguine is a celebration of seafood. I have paired it with the lightness of creme fraiche, the tang of lemon and the freshness of parsley to lift the dish to dizzy heights. A hint of red chilli also works well here if you like to add an extra layer of flavour. The sauce should lightly coat each strand of pasta; if you find it is a bit too thick then add a splash of the pasta water to loosen it slightly.

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Ingredients- serves 4
300g linguine
Knob of unsalted butter
300g raw king prawns- peeled and deveined
300g scallops- cleaned
Pot of white crab meat
1 clove of garlic
1 small red chilli- deseeded and finely chopped (optional)
100ml white wine
2-3 tbsp creme fraiche (I used light creme fraiche)
Lemon
Handful of fresh flatleaf parsley- finely chopped

1. Start off by boiling a large pan of water and cook the linguine according to the packet instructions; drain when al dente. As the pasta starts off then get going on the sauce as this is relatively quick.

2. Take a nonstick frying pan and heat the knob of butter over a medium heat. Sear the scallops for approximately 3 minutes on each side until golden, remove from the pan and set aside. Cover with foil. The scallops I used were large and I then cut them across so give two discs so it was easier to toss through the pasta.

3. Add a glug of oil to the pan and fry off the garlic and chilli (if using) for a minute or two. Pour in the wine and cook until reduced by half. Lower the heat and add the creme fraiche, a good squeeze of lemon juice and the prawn and crab. Simmer until the prawns are cooked through and a beautiful blush pink. Just before this, add the scallops back into the pan. Before serving sprinkle through some parsley and toss the scallop sauce through the pasta.

Seared scallop, prawn and crab linguine- simple, fresh and decadent!

Carmarthen ham, asparagus ribbons and ricotta fusilli

This has to be one of the quickest recipes around so there’s no excuse not to get cooking in the week. Keep it simple and keep it delicious! I love the lightness ricotta brings which makes the other ingredients sing!

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Ingredients- serves 4
300g dried fusilli
1 banana shallot- finely sliced
2 garlic cloves- finely chopped
1 small red chilli- deseeded and finely chopped
4 slices of Carmarthen or Parma ham- cut into pieces
150g asparagus- ribboned with a vegetable peeler
4 tbsp ricotta

1. Start off by boiling a large pan of water and cook the fusilli according to packet instructions. Meanwhile take a large frying pan and heat a glug of vegetable oil over a medium heat. Pop in the shallot, garlic and chilli and cook out for a minute or so. Next up goes the asparagus and ham. Cook for an additional couple of minutes until the asparagus has a slight crunch to it and the ham is cooked through.

2. Drain the pasta well, add a little olive oil and stir through the ricotta whilst the pan is on the heat. Add in the asparagus and ham mix and combine. You may also like to top with a parmesan and panko crumb for added texture. Simply take the panko and parmesan and toast in a dry pan before sprinkling over.

A light, fresh pasta for a summer day!

Light spinach, mushroom and ham tagliatelle

It’s that time of year again when minds turn to lighter meals but without compromising on flavour. This tagliatelle recipe is super speedy and delicious so get reading and rustle this up in under half an hour. I lightened this up by using a low fat creme fraiche but you can substitute this with cream if you prefer. It is also delicious without the ham for a vegetarian version.

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Ingredients- serves 2
200g tagliatelle
1 shallot- finely chopped
1 garlic clove- finely chopped or crushed
8- 10 small chestnut mushrooms- cleaned and sliced
4 slice of Parma ham- sliced into ribbons
2 handfuls of baby leaf spinach- washed and roughly chopped
2-3 tbsp low fat creme fraiche
75g creamy blue cheese such as dolcelatte

1. Start off by bringing a large pan of water up to the boil and cooking the pasta according to the pack instructions. Try and aim for al dente tagliatelle so it won’t go limp and soggy.

2. Take a large frying pan and heat a small amount of oil. Cook the shallot and garlic for a minute before adding in the sliced mushroom for an additional couple of minutes until beginning to turn golden. Add the ham ribbons and cook for another minute.

3. Pop in the spinach and allow to wilt before taking the pan off the heat and stirring through the creme fraiche and blue cheese. You must take it off the heat so the creme fraiche doesn’t split. Season to taste.

4. When the pasta is ready, drain well and add to the frying pan and combine with the sauce. I sometimes finish it off with a small amount of freshly grated parmesan cheese before serving.

A light yet creamy spinach perfect for Spring!