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Recipe – Sicilian Sardine Pasta

I had a tin of sardines hanging around in my cupboard so wanted to find a recipe to use them up that was not too ‘fishy’. I know that probably sounds ridiculous but I’m not a huge fan of the taste of oily fish on its own but mixed with other things, I quite like the saltiness it can add. I found a few versions of this Sicilian dish online and kind of mixed up a few recipes to create this one. We enjoyed this for dinner one night and the fennel and pine nuts add really lovely flavours and textures.

Ingredients

A generous handful of dried raisins or currants

1 can of sardines in oil

1 fennel bulb, chopped – save the fronds too!

A pinch of chili flakes

Diced bread – you could use normal bread but a sliced up French stick is better

One onion, roughly chopped

A handful of pine nuts

Enough pasta for two people (I used fusilli)

A small handful of fresh parsley

Salt and pepper

How to make it

  • Begin by soaking the raisins in hot water for about 15 minutes until plump then drain

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  • Pour a little of the oil from the sardines into a large frying pan on a low to medium heat
  • Add the chili flakes and the fennel fronds then sauté for a minute
  • Add the diced bread and fry for about 5 minutes until crisp and golden

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  • Transfer the croutons to some kitchen paper to soak up any excess oil
  • Add the rest of the sardine oil to the pan followed by the fennel and onion

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  • Soften on a medium heat for about 10 minutes
  • In a separate pan, cook your pasta until al dente then drain
  • Add the pine nuts and raisins to the fennel and onion followed by the sardines (you can break the fish into smaller pieces using a wooden spoon)

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  • Cook for about 5 minutes then add the croutons back in and cook for another 3
  • Add the pasta and mix well
  • Season to taste then serve with fresh parsley sprinkled on top

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Sunday Catch-up #33

Whilst most have been bemoaning the rain this week, I have secretly quite liked it as I have been stuck inside essay writing…3 down, 1 more to go! We’ve also been dog-sitting Ruby Soho and I have loved taking her for her morning walk and watching her run through the fields, barking at imaginary dogs. Let’s not mention the fact that this was also the last week of the summer holidays and I have to go back to work next week.

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This week I have been…

Making: my bed every day and feeling like I’m getting into fresh sheets every night (I’m sure most other grown-ups do this as standard!)

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Going: to watch Bristol City play

Wearing: my hair in a centre-parting again

Eating: Sicilian sardine pasta

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Drinking: homemade sangria

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Reading: Pop Goes the Weasel (and it’s just as gripping as the first one!)

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Watching: Sons of Anarchy all day errrryday

Buying: a sneaky Birchbox order

Planning: my lessons for the next few weeks

Cooking: my smoked haddock chowder

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Baking: peanut butter and jelly bites

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Writing: on my blog daily again – I hope I can keep it up when I go back to work!

Favouriting: the new Autumn/ Winter fashion on ASOS

Working on: these damn essays

Trying to decide: what to get Ian for his birthday

Wishing: we could get a pet dog

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Enjoying: the rain

Needing: to start getting up earlier…10am lie-ins just won’t cut it anymore

Feeling: excited about starting a new term

Giggling at: how cosy this little one looked all wrapped up on the sofa!

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Recipe – Courgette and Parmesan Arancini

I feel like I have been teasing you with this recipe for a while and what better way to celebrate the end of the exam period at school than with a delicious arancini recipe?! These little balls of crunchy, cheesy risotto are one of my favourite things to order at an Italian restaurant and I was pleased to find out that they aren’t too tricky to make either.

In order to recreate this, you will need some leftover risotto and I highly recommend following my recipe here! I have left the amounts for this recipe rather vague as it really depends on how much rice you start with but it’s pretty simple to increase or decrease the amounts.

Ingredients

Leftover risotto

A good helping of freshly grated Parmesan cheese

A few tablespoons of plain flour

One egg, whisked up

A few tablespoons of breadcrumbs

Salt and pepper

A glug of olive oil

How to make it

  • Begin by adding a good sprinkling of Parmesan to the leftover risotto to up the cheese factor

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  • Prepare your three dipping bowls/ saucers with the flour, egg and seasoned breadcrumbs

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  • Wet your hands and roll the risotto into small golf ball-sized shapes

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  • Heat some oil in a pan on a low to medium heat
  • Roll each ball in flour, egg then breadcrumbs
  • Add to the frying pan and gently fry until golden brown – you may need to do this in two batches

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  • Drain on some kitchen paper to absorb any grease
  • Serve with a big salad and enjoy! x

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Recipe – Courgette Pasta and Spinach Balls (aka My Favourite Carluccio’s Dish!)

Apologies for the long title but it pretty much sums up today’s post! I think most people have a restaurant dish that they just love and for me, it is the Penne Giardiniera at Carluccio’s. I really like these restaurants and every time I go, I tell myself that I really should try something new but gravitate towards this dish without fail. It is so delicious and I have converted friends too who now order this without fail when they go!

I had a real craving for this pasta dish recently and decided to try and recreate it using my memory of how it looked and tasted, plus a bit of Google as well! There were two main components I had to master. Firstly, there is the pasta in a rich cheesy sauce with courgettes and flecks of heat coming from chilli flakes. This is tasty enough but there are also these beautiful crispy spinach and Parmesan balls which add another texture.

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I am pleased to report that I was triumphant! It tasted just as good as I remember although Carluccio’s use giant penne pasta whereas I just had the normal stuff. I also think my spinach balls weren’t quite as crispy but on the whole it was a really tasty dinner and one I will recreate often.

Ingredients (for 2)

For the spinach balls:

300g of fresh spinach leaves

1 egg, beaten

A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

1 garlic clove, minced

2 Weetabix biscuits (or about 50g of breadcrumbs)

30g of grated Parmesan

Salt and pepper

A glug of olive oil

About 200g of penne pasta (or enough for two people)

For the pasta:

Olive oil

1 clove of garlic, finely chopped

A pinch of chilli flakes

1 courgette, grated

30g of Parmesan (and a little extra to sprinkle on top)

Salt and pepper

How to make it

  • Begin by making the spinach balls then keep them warm on a low heat in the oven. Bring a pan of water to the boil and add the spinach leaves for 3 minutes

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  • Drain well then put the leaves into a pan of ice cold water to stop them cooking

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  • Using your hands, squeeze as much liquid out of the spinach as you can until you are left with a small ball of leaves

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  • Use a sharp knife to shred the spinach as finely as you can
  • Put the spinach in a bowl and add the egg, nutmeg, garlic, Weetabix, parmesan and a generous amount of salt and pepper

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  • Using your hands, mix well until everything is combined

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  • Roll the mixture into small balls

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  • In a frying pan, add a good glug of oil and heat gently on a low to medium setting
  • Fry the spinach balls in batches until crisp and golden and keep warm

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  • Now for the pasta! Cook the penne until al dente
  • In a large frying pan, heat some oil on a medium heat
  • Add your garlic and chilli and fry for a few minutes

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  • Now add the courgettes and cook for about 5 minutes

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  • Next, add the Parmesan and some salt and pepper
  • Finally, add the pasta with about half a ladleful of the cooking liquid to create a bit of a sauce

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  • Serve with the spinach balls on top and another sprinkling of Parmesan cheese

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One of my favourite pasta dishes I’ve ever made! x

Recipe – Goats Cheese and Spinach Ravioli

Recipe – Goats Cheese and Spinach Ravioli

I feel I start a lot of my recipe posts with the caveat that they are really quick and simple to make. That’s how I want the majority of my midweek recipes to be but every now and then, when I have an afternoon free at the weekend, I like to get my hands (and kitchen!) messy and spend a few hours creating something special.

This recipe involves making pasta from scratch – without a pasta maker – and then rolling, filling and crimping the ravioli. Yes, it’s a bit more effort than buying a packet of the stuff but I can honestly say it was worth it and so much better than the ready-made stuff.

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Would I make it every weekend? No – it required quite a bit of time, created some mess and killed my hands rolling it out but for a special treat or when friends come over, I would definitely put the effort in and recreate this.

I used the John Lewis ravioli set which was a rather brilliant Christmas present from my friend Cat and contains everything you need for various sizes of ravioli.

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I chose a vegetarian filling but there are so many options if you wanted to add meat or fish (I want to try a crab filling next!) I also wanted a really simple sauce to serve with the ravioli so made a kind of pesto drizzle but mixing up a spoonful of pesto with some good quality olive to thin it slightly.

Ingredients (for two people)

For the pasta:

300g of ‘00’ white flour

3 eggs

A pinch of salt

A glug of olive oil

For the filling:

Half a bag of fresh spinach

One little ‘log’ of soft goats cheese

Salt and pepper

A grating of nutmeg

For the sauce:

A tablespoon of fresh pesto

A good glug of olive oil

A handful of freshly grated Parmesan

How to make it

  • Begin with a large work surface (I used my kitchen table) and sift the flour

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  • Make a well in the centre and crack in the three eggs (confession…mine went all over the table!)

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  • Add the salt and about one tablespoon of olive oil
  • Using your hands, mix the ingredients together – it will start out as quite a crumbly texture but once you start kneading it, it will become a soft dough

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  • At this point, knead for 5-10 minutes and it should be a smooth dough

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  • Roll it into a ball, pop it in a bowl, cover with cling film and leave it to rest in the fridge for about half an hour
  • Whilst the dough is resting, make the filling
  • In a saucepan, wilt the spinach leaves then add the goats cheese

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  • Season well with salt and pepper and grate some nutmeg into the pan too

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  • Allow to cool
  • It is now time to get rolling!

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  • Lightly flour your work surface and start rolling out your pasta as thin as you can get it – this is quite a task as it’s a very springy dough that almost doesn’t want to be stretched but persevere!

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  • Once the pasta sheet is as thin as possible, cut in half then spoon the filling in equally spaced mounds on the pasta

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  • Brush the spaces between with a beaten egg

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  • Gently lay the other sheet of pasta over the top and press down around the fillings to remove any air bubbles

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  • Use the ravioli cutter to create your pasta shapes

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  • Once you have all your ravioli squares (or circles!) ready, bring a pan of salted water to the boil and gently simmer the pasta for 3-6 minutes
  • Drain and serve with the pesto drizzle over the top – I couldn’t resist a handful of Parmesan too!

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Like I said, this was really delicious and definitely worth the extra bit of effort…expect some more varieties on the blog soon x

Sunday Catch-up #11

Sunday Catch-up #11

I’ve been feeling much better this week and straight away had little bursts of energy and creativity, probably to make up for the fact I did very little apart from sit on the sofa watching trashy TV for most of last week!

This week I have been…

Making: pasta from scratch!

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Going: on a good 5 mile round walk in the sunshine

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Wearing: a new Models Own nail varnish

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Eating: a five-course taster menu at The Moonraker

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Drinking: chilled Appletiser

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Reading: I’m on book three of this series now and cannot put them down…and may have ordered more!

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Watching: The new series of The Following – I think this show kind of peaked in the first series but I will persevere as I love the dark, gothic cult-following storyline

Buying: phone cases…how many is too many?!

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Planning: our weekly meals again – back on the healthy eating

Cooking: goats cheese and spinach ravioli

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Baking: this amazing steak and kidney pie (well my Dad did, we just cooked and ate it!)

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Writing: lots of blog post ideas for the coming weeks

Favouriting: ravioli recipes – so many options!

Working on: my ironing pile (boring but true)

Trying to decide: if I can be bothered to get up early enough to go for a swim before work this week

Wishing: my Mum a very Happy Mothers Day!

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Enjoying: a lazy weekend with Ian with absolutely no plans

Needing: to get back to Pilates – I missed it this week and felt so sluggish

Feeling: much more like myself after shifting this pesky cold

Giggling at: Comic Relief

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Recipe – Mac ‘n’ Cauliflower Cheese

Hello! I hope you are having a good weekend. We have a quiet one planned before several busy weekends and festive plans start kicking in. I’ve been to get my hair cut and coloured this morning in Bath where I had a wander and bought a ‘coatigan’…yeah, I’m not 100% sure what it is either but it’s cosy and fluffy!

Today’s recipe is classic cold weather food although I for one could (and do!) eat mac ‘n’ cheese all year round. Any guilt you may feel at eating a plate of pasta and cheese is eased slightly with the addition of cauliflower and it really does add an extra flavour and texture to the dish. I kept mine veggie this time but if I made it again, I would try adding some bacon and maybe some spinach or broccoli florets too. I’ve stuck to Cheddar and Parmesan cheese for this recipe but it could be good to mix these up and experiment with some flavoured cheese as well.

I will hold my hands up and say that today’s recipe is one inspired by a Jamie Oliver dish my friend told me about where everything is cooked over one pan and the need to make a roux from scratch is avoided making this a perfect mid-week quick supper.

Ingredients

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350-400g of macaroni

1 whole cauliflower (remove the leaves and cut into small florets)

300g Cheese (I used about 200g of Cheddar and 100g of Parmesan)

200g tub of crème fraîche

Salt and pepper

A bunch of fresh parsley

Another handful of grated cheese for the topping (optional but necessary!)

How to make it

  • In large pan of boiling water, add the pasta and cauliflower florets
  • Place a large bowl over the pan, making sure the bottom of the bowl isn’t touching the water, and add the cheese and crème fraîche

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  • Now, the theory is that in the time the pasta and cauliflower takes to cook, the steam from the pan should melt the cheese and crème fraîche to create a smooth cheese sauce! This did work for me although I did have to remove the bowl and give the pasta the occasional stir to ensure it didn’t stick together.

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  • Once you have a lovely smooth cheese sauce, season well and add a generous amount of chopped parsley

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  • Remove the cheese sauce and drain the pasta and cauliflower
  • In a large ovenproof dish, mix the cheese sauce through the pasta – you could serve it like this but I think you have to go for a crispy topping!

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  • Sprinkle over some grated cheese and pop it under the grill until the top has turned golden brown and crispy

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You can enjoy this with a nice green salad but I prefer mine piled high in a bowl with a final sprinkling of fresh parsley whilst catching up on Gogglebox on the sofa! x

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Recipe – Orzo Pasta with Heirloom Tomatoes, Basil and Mozzarella

It seems as though we have had another little burst of summer this week and I have found myself savouring what may be the last of the sunshine with sleeveless dresses and all the windows open.

To celebrate this, I decided to make a vibrant and summery dish using an ingredient that was new to me – orzo pasta.

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Reminiscent of risotto rice, these little pasta pieces are great as a soup base, mixed with a sauce or served as a chilled salad. I made a dish that would be great eaten warm or cold the next day and it looked and tasted amazing!

First of all, how could you not enjoy these beautiful heirloom tomatoes?

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We have had a go at growing two different varieties of tomatoes this summer and are just finishing the fruits of our labour. It has made me appreciate really good quality ingredients, especially when so much of the supermarket veggies taste so bland or is that just me?!

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After looking at a few orzo recipes for inspiration, I noticed several of them recommended cooking the pasta in stock to add some additional flavour. I liked this and saved a few tablespoons of the liquid to use as a light ‘sauce’ rather than drizzle a load of oil over the pasta and it worked really well.orzo12

Ingredients

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1 chicken stock cube

150g of orzo pasta

1 punnet of heirloom tomatoes, halved (normal cherry tomatoes would also work)

A handful of fresh basil

A ball of mozzarella cheese or a tub of the mini mozzarella pearls

Salt and pepper

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How to make it

  • Bring a pan of water to the boil and crumble in your stock cube
  • Pour in the orzo pasta and cook until al dente
  • Drain the pasta leaving a bit of stock in the pan
  • Mix through the tomatoes and some basil and cook on a light heat for a few minutesorzo7
  • Add the mozzarella balls and season wellorzo8
  • Serve with a little more fresh basil and enjoy!orzo2

Recipe – Creamy Prawn Pasta Bake

I’m up bright and early today (9am counts as early during the holidays!) as I’m off into Bath to get my hair cut and coloured. I won’t be repeating my flip-flop mistake again but I am going to risk going out without a coat…living on the edge!

Ian and I spent the last night planning our weekend – we are off to Oxford for two nights (a lovely Christmas present from his parents and Grandad!) and have been looking up good places to eat, have afternoon tea (me!) and pubs to visit (Ian!) – any other recommendations for places to visit are definitely welcome too.

Today’s recipe is something I made us for dinner last night – I had some prawns I wanted to use up but also bought this lovely miniature shell pasta (I think it was called Gnocci Sardi) which the box said was meant to go well with cheese-based sauces. I decided to combine the two and make a sort of mac and cheese type meal with prawns for sweetness and some spinach and cherry tomatoes for colour.

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Ingredients

50g of butter

50g of plain flour

500ml of milk

A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

About 75g of strong cheddar, grated

Salt and pepper

320g of pasta (macaroni or shell pasta would work fine)

300g of fresh prawns (washed and peeled)

150g of fresh spinach

75g of Parmesan cheese

75g of cherry tomatoes, halved

How to make it

o   Begin by making your sauce. Melt the butter and add the flour, stirring to create a rouxprawn11

o   Next, add your milk gradually, whisking constantly, until you have a smooth sauceprawn12

o   Add the cheddar bit by bit then grate in the nutmeg and season well

o   Meanwhile, cook your pasta until it is al denteprawn7

o   Drain your pasta and put it back into the pan

o   Add a knob of butter, prawns, spinach, half of the Parmesan and about half of the cheese sauceprawn8

o   Mix together well and add the cherry tomatoes – the spinach should start to wilt and the prawns will begin to go pinkprawn10

o   Tip the pasta into your ovenproof dish and pour over the rest of the cheese sauce

o   Top with the remaining Parmesan cheese and cook for about 20 minutes at 180°C, Gas Mark 4prawn1

o   I finished mine off under the grill to ensure I had a golden, crispy toppingprawn3

o   Serve immediately with a large glass of white wine!prawn4

This made enough for about 4 large portions or 6 smaller ones if you were going to serve it with a side salad. There was no way to make this look pretty and dainty – it is good honest comfort food and I have to say it was delicious!

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Recipe – Lamb, Fennel and Black Olive Ragu

So I decided to start off this half term as I mean to go on, by eating, drinking and pampering!

After a quick pedicure, we headed into Bath for the afternoon, which was looking glorious in the sunshine. I had forgotten how lovely it is to have the sun streaming in through your window on a Sunday morning – it definitely helped me get up in a good mood.

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I devoured The Observer Food magazine (how cool is Jack Monroe?!) then devoured a pulled pork burger and a side of fried pickles…why is all food better fried?! Note to self…must eat a salad today to balance things out!

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Today’s recipe is a tasty sauce which I made for a midweek pasta dinner.

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It’s a twist on a classic Bolognese with the lovely aniseed-like crunch of fennel to add a bit of variety.

Ingredients

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A glug of olive oil

Salt and pepper

400g of lamb mince

1 fennel bulb, peeled and chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

A few pinches of dried rosemary

1 can of tinned tomatoes

A small jar of black olives, roughly chopped

How to make it

  • Begin by frying off the lamb in a little oil, spooning away any excess fat
  • When the lamb has browned, season well then add the fennel, garlic and rosemary and cook for another 5-10 minutes until the fennel has started to colour
  • Add the tomatoes and olives
  • Simmer for around 15 minutes – if your sauce becomes too thick then add a dash of waterragu3
  • Serve with spaghetti (or any other type of pasta you fancy) and a generous serving of Parmesanragu4