Preserved Lemon, Cannellini Beans & Chickpea Pasta with Parsley Pesto

Apologies for the lack of posts and also the lack of photos in this post! I didn’t have my camera to hand as I made this recipe, but it was so delicious I had to share. So wishing everyone a very Happy New Year and lots of happiness and success for 2013! Did you have a nice Christmas/holiday period?

I have to say, I really enjoyed my Christmas this year. A big family Christmas with lots of eating, drinking and merriment. It does seem to fly by all too quickly though doesn’t it! Which reminds me, time is ticking by, so I really must start working on some of my 101 Things to do before I’m 30 list!! I still have 94 things to do…..eeek!

Happy New Year!!!

Happy New Year!!!

This recipe is so so good. My mum recently bought me a large jar of preserved lemons. I’ve never used them in cooking before and wasn’t quite sure what to do with them. After much searching on the internet and through various blogs, I found this fantastic recipe from The Year in Food. It was such an incredibly easy recipe. I made a couple changes to the recipe, in that I added cannellini beans, chorizo and prawns to the recipe.

Preserved Lemon, Cannellini Beans, Chickpea pasta with Parsley Pesto (Serves 4)

  • 300g pasta (I used linguine)
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 teaspoons olive oil, separated
  • 400g can of chickpeas, drained
  • 400g tin cannellini beans, drained
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 cups fresh parsley, coarsley chopped
  • 1/3 cup toasted almonds, roughly chopped
  •  2 quarters preserved lemon, chopped (equal to 1/2 lemon; substitute zest + 1 tbsp lemon juice if no preserved lemons on hand)
  • 1/3 cup reserved pasta water
  • Chorizo
  • Prawns
  • sea salt + freshly ground black pepper to taste

Firstly, bring a saucepan of water to the boil. Add a little drizzle of olive oil and some sea salt. Many people believe the oil is used to prevent the pasta from sticking together, but on the contrary it is used to prevent the water from foaming and overflowing. As for the salt, an old Italian saying says to salt to pot not the pasta. If you cook the pasta without salt, no matter how tasty the sauce afterwards, the pasta will still taste bland. Cook your pasta and when cooked, reserve about 1/3 cup of the cooking water and then drain. Set aside and keep warm.

While pasta is cooking, heat a frying pan over a medium heat. Add two tsp olive oil. Add one clove of the minced garlic and stir for about 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add the chickpeas and cannellini beans. Saute for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally.

At the same time, prepare your chorizo sausage and prawns in an oven proof dish. Cook for 12 – 15 minutes at 180C (350F). The oils from the chorizo will coat the prawns in cooking, so there is no need for oil when baking. Leave aside and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, prepare the pesto. My parents have a huge parsley plant at home, which is taking over the herb patch, so I took a great big chunk of this for the pesto sauce. Here we need to combine the remaining clove of garlic with the 1/3 cup of olive oil, the parsley and the almonds. Puree in a food processor until a coarse paste has formed. Easy peasy.

Toss the warm pasta with the pesto, chickpeas, chorizo, cannellini beans, prawns and preserved lemons. Gently toss. If a little dry, add some of the reserved pasta water for creaminess. (This is a great tip for cooking all pasta dishes. Always reserve some of the pasta water to add some more creaminess to a dish.)

Taste to see if the preserved lemons provide enough salt. Season to taste with sea salt if desired, along with freshly cracked black pepper. Best served immediately.


Top 10 Recipes Everyone Should Know How to Make

Whether you carbonize your toast in the mornings or have trouble boiling water, there are some basic fundamental cooking skills that everyone should ideally have. Of course, simple recipes like boiling an egg or cooking the perfect pasta are necessary, but it’s also important to know a couple of basic recipes that you should be able to make no matter who or where you are.

1. Stir Fry Sauce

A stir fry is one of the easiest and hassle-free meals to make. Simply through together some meat, vegetables, sauce and noodles! I don’t believe in buying jars of sauces from supermarkets. They’re often full of fat, sodium, MSG’s, e-numbers and more. It’s often just as easy, tasty and cost effective to make your own stir fry sauce at home. This recipe lasts up to 2 weeks in the fridge and yields 3 cups of sauce. 2 -3 tablespoons cornstarch, 1/4 cup brown sugar, pinch minced ginger, 2 minced cloves garlic, 1/2 cup soy sauce, 1/4 cup white vinegar, 1/2 cup water, 1 1/2 cups vegetable stock. Whisk all the ingredients together and add to stir fry towards the end of cooking.

2. Basic Tomato Sauce

Again, I try to avoid jars. This recipe yields 1/2 liter and is perfect for meatballs, casseroles and pasta dishes and it’s so easy to do! All you need is a good glug of olive oil, 4 large cloves of garlic, large handful of fresh basil, 3 tins of plum tomatoes, a handful of fresh cherry tomatoes (optional for extra flavour), sea salt and pepper. Gently fry off the garlic in a saucepan for 1-2 mins. Add rest of ingredients and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat immediately and strain the sauce through a sieve back into the saucepan. Return to the heat and bring to the boil again. Allow to simmer for 5-7 mins to thicken slightly and we’re ready to serve!

3. Salad Dressings

Living alone, I find it’s much easier to make my own salad dressing as and when needed. If I buy a jar of salad dressing it usually ends up going off and I have to throw it out. Making a salad dressing is one of the easiest things! The general rule of thumb, is 3 parts oil to 1 part acidity. So for example to make a simple recipe, all you need is 3 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp lemon juice, 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar, sea salt and pepper. Simples! NB: You should always taste the dressing before serving. Sometimes, it might need an extra squeeze of lemon juice!

4. Steak

Something that’s so easy to get wrong, but once you know how to do it, it’s easy peasy. You’ll need a good heavy bottomed grill pan or frying pan. Put on the heat at the highest setting. Lightly brush the steak with olive oil and dust with salt and pepper. Add your steak to the dry pan. Do not touch it while it’s cooking. For Bleu steak 1 minute on each side. Rare: 2-3 mins on each side. Medium: 4 mins on each side. Well done: 5-6 mins on each side. It’s critical that you do not touch the meat while it’s cooking, only to turn to the other side for cooking. Whichever way you like it cooked, this should yield a nice juicy steak!



5. Roast Chicken

It’s actually very easy to roast a chicken. Add salt, pepper, one bay leaf, one crushed clove of garlic and a small bunch of thyme to the body cavity. Lift up the skin every so slightly with a very sharp knife. Be careful not to pierce the skin. Layer in between the skin and the meat with butter. The butter will melt into the  meat as it cooks. Salt and pepper the outside of the chicken. Place on a baking tray and cook. Baste the chicken at least twice during cooking. Cook in pre-heated oven at 200C (400F). Cook for 15mins per 450g (1lb) of chicken plus an extra 15 mins. Test the chicken to see if it’s cooked. The juices should run clear when you pierce the skin and also if the wings and legs pull away easy, you should have a perfectly cooked chicken. Allow the chicken to stand (covered with foil) for 15 mins before serving.


6. Roast Potatoes

Goose fat is the key ingredient here – makes for the perfect roasties. Peel the potatoes and cut into medium sized pieces. Melt 50 g of fat per 500 g of potatoes in a roasting dish. Add the potatoes and roll around until they are fully coated. Season with salt and pepper. Cook on top shelf of a pre-heated oven at 190C (375F) for 40 mins. Baste frequently until they are a lovely golden colour and cooked through. Serve.

7. Pizza Dough

Ok, ok. This one isn’t really all that necessary. But it’s nice to make your own homemade pizza. You can have fun choosing your own toppings, sooo good! And you can use the tomato sauce recipe above as the pizza sauce also! This recipe makes 6-8 medium sized pizzas.  You’ll need 800g white flour plus 200g finely ground semolina flour, 1 level tsp sea salt, 2 x 7g sachets of dried yeast, 1 tbsp caster sugar, 4 tbsp good extra virgin olive oil and 650ml lukewarm water. Start by sieving the flour, semolina and salt on to a clean work surface and make a well in the middle. In a jug, mix the yeast, sugar and olive oil into the water and leave for a few minutes, then pour into the well. Using a fork, bring the flour in gradually from the sides and swirl it into the liquid. Keep mixing, drawing larger amounts of flour in, and when it all starts to come together, work the rest of the flour in with your clean, flour-dusted hands. Knead until you have a smooth, springy dough.

Place the ball of dough in a large flour-dusted bowl and flour the top of it. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and place in a warm room for about an hour until the dough has doubled in size. Now remove the dough to a flour-dusted surface and knead it around a bit to push the air out with your hands – this is called knocking back the dough. You can either use it immediately, or keep it, wrapped in clingfilm, in the fridge (or freezer) until required. If using straight away, divide the dough up into as many little balls as you want to make pizzas – this amount of dough is enough to make about six to eight medium pizzas.

8. Cookies

Everyone loves cookies and what’s better than serving up your own freshly baked cookies to friends when they call around. This recipe is so easy and I’ve already featured it on the blog, so check out Rachel Allen’s Basic Cookie Recipe!



9. A One Pot Dish 

This is a great one to impress family and friends when you’re entertaining. One pot dishes are usually quite easy and take little to no preparation. It would be too long for me to include full recipes here, but my favourite’s are James Martin’s Cottage Pie, Jamie Oliver’s Simple Lasagna or Rachel Allen’s Beef Bourguignon. Mouth-watering! 😉

10. Omelette

Although relatively easy to make, it does take some practice to make the perfect omelette. But it’s a quick, protein rich dish to make easily when you’re on the go. For one omelette, take a small pan and melt a knob of butter. Turn heat to medium low. While butter is melting, creack 2 eggs into a bowl. Add good pinch of salt and pepper and mix until only just combined. When butter is melted and starting to sizzle, pour egg mixture into the pan. Stir the omelette to break up any curs that form. When you only have a little bit of runny egg left on top, take the pan off the heat and put it under the grill. Grill until the top has dried completely but not browned. Remove from grill, fold in half and serve. You can add additional toppings before putting under the grill, such as chopped tomatoes, grated cheese, etc.


Lemon Yoghurt Cake

Anyone who knows me knows I love lemons. Lemon juice, lemonade, lemon cupcakes…yum. But this is THE best Lemon cake, or rather Lemon Yoghurt Cake recipe ever. Thanks to Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa! I do love Ina’s recipes, she makes it so easy, no need for a measuring scales, just your set of measuring spoons and cups and you’re set to go.

Last Sunday night, I was due to do a lot of mundane things around the house. Tidy my bedroom. Catch up on washing. Do some ironing. But instead, I got distracted and thought of something better to occupy my time with. Some baking.

Here’s the recipe for this lemon yoghurt cake. For the diet conscious, a loaf pan should yield around 12 slices, so that’s approximately 290 calories per slice. But I promise you, it’s worth it! For the price conscious, by my calculations, this cake costs a bargain €3.88 to make. Now that beats any shop bought cake!


1 1/2 cups cream plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup natural yoghurt (I used Glenisk)
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
3 extra-large eggs
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (usually 2 good-sized lemons)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I actually ran out of vegetable, so substituted with sunflower and it was perfect)
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
For the glaze:

1 cup icing sugar (I didn’t have icing sugar, so substituted with castor – worked just fine)
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Pre-heat the oven to 180C. You will need a loaf pan for this recipe. Grease the tin with butter, then line the bottom of the tin with parchment paper. Again, grease the parchment paper and lightly dust the inside of the tin with flour.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into bowl 1. In bowl 2, whisk the yoghurt, 1 cup sugar, eggs, lemon zest and vanilla together. Slowly and carefully whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.

Fold the vegetable oil into the batter. You need to make sure the oil is well incorporated into the batter at this stage, that there is no excess oil floating on top of the batter. Pour the batter into the loaf tin and bake for about 50 mins. My oven is particularly powerful for some reason – I had to turn temperature down to 170 and it cooked in 40 mins.

Test to make sure the cake is cooked. Dip a skewer or the back of a clean knife into the centre of the cake. If it comes out clean, the cake is cooked.

Meanwhile, cook the 1/3 cup lemon juice and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.

When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully place on a baking rack over a baking tray. While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in. Cool.

Now, make yourself a large cup of tea, or coffee, whichever your preference. Cut a large slice of the cake and enjoy 🙂

I don’t have that much of a sweet tooth. I love baking and making desserts, but given the choice between savory and sweet, I choose savory every time. I like to have something for friends and family when they call over. This lemon cake is perfect. I slice the cake into portions. Separate the slices with parchment paper and store in a Tupperware container in my freezer. When I have visitors calling over, easy peasy, defrost a couple of slices and voille! 🙂

100 Calorie Snacks

Before I continue with this post, I must point out that I am in no way a nutritionist. I have never studied nutrition and know very little about it. This post is based on personal experience and some research into snacks to fill the void when trying to stick to a good healthy diet. 100 calories isn’t a lot, certainly when you consider 100 calories equals:

  • 2 jaffa cakes
  • 25 m&m’s
  • 15 jelly babies
  • 1/3 of a snickers bar
  • 1 1/3 bourbon creams
  • 1 1/3 digestives
  • 1 1/4 jammy dodgers

Not very satisfying is it.

So I’ve come up with a list here of much more satisfying and filling snacks worth 100 calories or less.

  • Honey Yoghurt (1/2 cup low fat greek/natural yoghurt, pinch of cinnamon and 1 tsp honey)
  • Summer Berry Salad (1 cup mixed berries, 1 tbsp orange juice)

  • 1 Mango
  • Grilled Pineapple (about 1 cup pineapple, grilled for 2 minutes until golden brown)
  • Tropical Juice Smoothie (1/4 cup each of pineapple juice, orange juice and apple juice blended with ice)

  • Apple Chips (2 large apples thinly sliced, 2 tbsp sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon. Bake at 95C for 2 hours)
  • Popcorn (2 cups air popped, 1 tsp salt)
  • 1 Cup Mango Chunks
  • Strawberry Salad (1 cup raw spinach, 1/2 cup sliced strawberries, 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar)
  • Baby Carrots (10 baby carrots, 2 tbsp hummus)
  • 30 Grapes
  • One Small Melon (very low calories and very very healthy!)
  • 1/2 Medium Cantaloupe Melon
  • 2 Cups Raspberries
  • 20 Olives

  • 1 Cup Tomatoe Soup (watch calorie count on tins – or homemade is best!)
  • Yoghurt with Sunflower Seeds (1/2 cup natural yoghurt, 1 tsp honey, 1 tsp sunflower seeds)
  • Banana Chips (1 banana sliced, dip in lemon juice and bake at 95C for 2 hours)
  • Wasabi Peas (1/3 cup) – LOVE these!!
  • Chickpea salad (1/4 cup chickpeas, 1/4 cup diced tomatoes, large squeeze of lemon juice)
  • Pistachios (about 25 nuts, or a couple handfuls)

  • Vanilla and Banana Smoothie (1/2 cup sliced banana, 1/4 cup nonfat vanilla yoghurt, handful of ice)
  • Strawberry and Banana Soy Smoothie (Makes 2: 2 cups strawberries, 1 banana, 2 cup low fat soy milks, 1 tbsp honey, 1 tbsp vanilla extract)
  • Berry Yoghurt Smoothie (1/2 cup frozen strawberries, 1/2 cup frozen blueberries, 1 cup natural yoghurt, 2 tsp honey and 1/4 cup soy milk)
  • Chocolate Pudding (Serves 4: 2 cups soy milk, 1 tbsp unsalted butter, 5 tbsp sugar, 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder, 2 tbps cornstarch, 2 tbsp water, 1 tsp vanilla extract. Combine milk and butter in saucepan over medium/low heat. Stir gently to melt butter. In bowl, combine sugar, cocoa and cornstarch. Add water and mix to make a paste. Whisk paste into milk mixture. Raise heat to medium and cook until thick and bubbly, approx. 5 mins. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla extract. Transfer to 4 ramekins. Refridgerate for at least 4 hours) Simple and YUMMY!!!

So there we go…some tasty and healthy alternatives to fatty, high calorie snacks. Happy snacking! 🙂