Sausage and fennel pasta bake

Pasta bakeRecently I’ve been experimenting with adding fennel to my dishes. I’d seen it in the shops countless times, but never really knew what to do with it. Finally, I decided to just buy some and find out what happened. This is a nice, comforting dish for autumn/winter and has the added bonus of being quick and easy enough to make in the evening after a long day at work. This amount serves 3-4 (me, Jan plus some leftovers for me to take to work for lunch, but Jan eats more than I do – it would be enough for 4 of me).

Ingredients:
Olive oil for frying
1 clove garlic
500g pork sausages (Germany residents: I would normally buy “grobe Bratwurst” but the supermarket didn’t have those this time)
1 fennel bulb
Any small pasta (I like penne, but fusilli or farfalle would also work)
1 400g tin of tomatoes
Cheese (one with a fairly strong taste, like Cheddar or Bergkäse)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C (roughly 390°F). Heat some olive oil in a pan.

2. While the olive oil is heating, chop the sausages into bite-sized chunks. Once the oil is hot, crush in the garlic clove and fry for about a minute before adding the sausages.

Sausages and garlic
Sausages and garlic

3. While the sausages are cooking (stir them once in a while so they cook on all sides), chop the fennel into chunks. Once the sausages are mostly brown, add the fennel to the pan. Stir occasionally.

Add the fennel
Add the fennel

4. Meanwhile, cook the pasta until it’s just short of being ready (with mine, that took 8 minutes). Drain the pasta then add it to the frying pan with the sausages/fennel.

5. Add a tin of tomatoes to the frying pan, stir everything together and season to taste with salt and pepper, then pour the entire mixture into an oven-proof bowl.

6. Grate cheese all over the top – how much is up to you – and place in the oven until the cheese has all melted. This will take about 20-30 minutes, depending on your oven and exactly how melted you like your cheese.

And there you have it – meaty, cheesy, comforting goodness… and it’s even pretty healthy (as long as you didn’t go too overboard on the cheese). If you wanted, you could add extra vegetables (leek might be nice), replace the sausages with a tin of tuna or, for a vegetarian version, use aubergine or tofu in place of the sausages. It’s entirely up to you!

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Spicy orange turkey with rice

We had some oranges that needed using up, so I decided to combine them with some turkey and spices then serve them with rice to make a meal that we could eat with the chopsticks we bought in Taiwan and hadn’t used yet. It was so tasty that I decided to make it again at the weekend, and this time I took photos for the blog. So here’s my recipe for spicy orange turkey with rice.

Ingredients (serves 2)

Olive oil
1 clove garlic
2 spring onions
400 g turkey breast, chopped into bite-sized pieces (you can also use chicken – the supermarket I went to only had turkey left)
2 oranges
2 carrots
About 1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
1-2 tsp powdered ginger
About 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Basmati rice, prepared according to the package instructions

Method

1. Heat some olive oil in a pan. While it’s heating, chop the spring onion then, once the olive oil is hot, fry the spring onion and some dried chilli flakes in it for about 1 minute.

Spring onion, garlic and chilli frying
Spring onion, garlic and chilli frying

2. Add the turkey (or chicken) to the frying pan and fry, stirring occasionally, until it’s starting to go brown. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

... add the turkey and season
… add the turkey and season

3. While the meat is frying, cut the oranges into thin, shortish slices, then add the sliced carrots to the frying pan and fry for a further 1-2 minutes. We still had purple carrots so I used them because they look pretty.

4. Peel the oranges and roughly chop them, making sure to keep as much of the juice as possible. Add the oranges and their juice to the frying pan and stir everything together

Oranges waiting to go in
Oranges waiting to go in

5. Add powdered ginger to the frying pan (I used quite a lot but you can use less) and roughly half a teaspoon of cayenne pepper.

6. Serve with Basmati rice, prepared according to the instructions on the packet (the rice should have been cooking while you did the above steps)

Dinner time!
Dinner time!

That’s it. Easy peasy! Also, check out my pretty chopsticks 😀

A taste of home: Crumpets

A while ago, my dad’s cousin – who lives in America – gave me a recipe for homemade crumpets, so while my brother was over we decided to give it a try. I’m not sure where she got the recipe from, so apologies if it’s yours. I’m going to be explaining how to make the crumpets using German ingredients though, so it’s not a direct copy.

First of all, you will need something to use as crumpet rings. Mine was actually a set of two round silicone fried egg moulds that I discovered in a shop in Strasbourg. I think they might have a slightly larger diameter than your average crumpet ring, but they worked really well! And the little handles were useful for removing the rings between crumpets.

Frying the crumpets
Frying the crumpets

Ingredients:

350g (12 oz) strong, plain flour (I used type 1050 because it said on the back it’s the typical flour that baker’s use)
1 level teaspoon salt
1 7g sachet fast-action dried yeast (can be found in the baking section, with the flour and baking powder. Use the Dr Oetker Hefe with “Kein Anrühen. Gelingt sicher.” written on it. There is also a Ruf one, but my supermarket didn’t have that)
300 ml full fat milk
300 ml boiling water
Sunflower oil for frying and greasing

Method:

1. Tip the flour into a bowl (no need to sieve) and add the salt and yeast

2. Pour 300 ml of boiling water over the milk and check that the mixture is luke warm. Ours was not, so we let it stand for 5 minutes before continuing.

3. Add the warm liquid to the flour and beat well for 5 minutes until the mixture is a soft and spoonable consistency.

4. Grease the base of the frying pan and the crumpet rings (if necessary – silicone ones don’t need greasing!), place the rings in the pan and heat until the pan and crumpet rings  (if using metal ones) are hot.

5. Fill the rings about half to three quarters of the way up with batter and cook over a gentle to moderate heat for 8-10 mins. If the bubbles that form fail to pop (which is what creates the little holes), you can gently burst them with a cocktail stick. Then remove the rings and turn the crumpets over.

6. Cook for a further 2-3 minutes until golden, then remove from the pan and enjoy!

We got 10 crumpets from the mixture, but our rings were slightly larger than the size given (6×7 cm). The scones can be left to cool then toasted and can be frozen in bags for up to one month. Allow frozen crumpets to defrost before toasting.

The finished article
The finished article

A taste of home: Corned beef hash

corned beef hashI got the idea to post a recipe for corned beef hash when Charlotte mentioned she’d had some in New York that, despite being tasty, resembled no corned beef hash she’d ever seen before. She then went on to say that the baked beans were missing, leading to my response that I make corned beef hash with baked beans, too! And thus the idea was born that I would post a recipe for corned beef hash on my blog so we could compare versions. Of course, that meant first waiting until I actually decided to make corned beef hash again, which doesn’t happen all that often because corned beef is just sooo expensive in this country! But last night I needed to use up some potatoes, which presented the perfect corned beef making opportunity… Of course, I could have posted the recipe without making it first (I know this one by heart… it’s ridiculously easy!) but then there would have been no photo. And who wants a recipe post without a photo?

Corned beef – along with sausage rolls and toad in the hole – is one of the English meals I make that Jan likes so much he occasionally requests that I make it. In fact, I think corned beef hash may even be the only English meal that he’s made himself when cooking for the two of us (usually his fall backs are either some kind of spaghetti or chilli con carne), so it must be good.. right? 😉

Anyway, without further ado, here’s the recipe:

Corned Beef Hash

Ingredients (serves 2):
1 onion, chopped
3 medium potatoes,peeled and  diced
1 tin corned beef, roughly cubed
1 tin baked beans
freshly ground black pepper
cayenne pepper (optional)
tabasco sauce (optional)
oil or butter, for frying

Method

1. Cook the potatoes in a pan of boiling water until they are just starting to go soft (they should be slightly less soft than if you were planning to make mashed potatoes – they’ll soften up further during the rest of the cooking process)

2. While the potatoes are cooking, heat the oil or butter in a frying pan and then fry the onions until they start to go brown

3. Add the potatoes to the frying pan with the onions and cook for about a minute, then add the cubes of corned beef and use a potato masher or fork to slightly mash the corned beef and potatoes together then stir until they’re nicely mixed through

4. Cook the onion/corned beef/potato mixture for about 3 minutes, stirring once in a while

5. Stir in the baked beans then add some black pepper to taste. You can also add some cayenne pepper and/or tabasco sauce at this stage if you like your hash a bit spicy (I used cayenne pepper only as I currently have no tobasco)

6. Spread the micture out evenly in the frying pan and leave it to cook for 3-4 minutes, so it forms a crust on the bottom. Stir in the crusty bits then repeat the process so it forms a new crust. You can do this a third time, if you want (Jan likes the crust best, so we usually do want)

7. Taste the corned beef hash to see if it needs any more spices or seasoning. You can also add some salt if you think it needs it – I tend not to as I find corned beef salty enough as it is!

And that’s it… easy peasy! Instead of the allowing it to form a crust in the pan part, you can also spoon it into a heatproof dish after stage 5 and stick it under the gril until it goes crusty on top. There are no grills in Germany, so this isn’t an option for me but I believe it’s how it’s traditionally done! You can also leave out the baked beans if you’re not into them or substitute them for a tin of spaghetti hoops. Once, when we had no baked beans, Jan suggested putting carrots in the mixture and that was quite nice, too. Basically, you can adapt it as you wish!

Chicken, leek and bacon mashed potato topped pie

I made this delicious pie for the second time the other day, and this time I remembered to take photos, which means you, my lovely readers, get a recipe (and I can actually look up how to do it next time instead of guessing and hoping it comes out as nice as the time before… always a danger with made up recipes!). This is perfect as a comfort food or for a warm, hearty meal on a cold day.

Chicken, Leek and Bacon Mashed Potato Topped Pie

You will need:
450 g chicken breast, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 large leek, chopped fairly small
1 packet bacon pieces
1 tub crème fraîche
4 large potatoes, diced
About 1 tsp tarragon
Salt and black pepper
Nutmeg
Butter, for mash
Optional: Grated cheese

The above amount serves two, but could be stretched to more if you add a side dish of salad or vegetables.

What to do:

1. Heat some oil (I use olive oil) in a pan and fry the bacon bits for about a minute. Meanwhile, place some water on to boil in a saucepan.

2. Add the chicken to the pan and continue frying, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is almost completely cooked through.
Also, put the diced potatoes in the water as soon as it starts to boil.

Chicken and bacon

3. Add the leek to the pan with the chicken/bacon and fry until soft, stirring occasionally.

Pie filling

4. Drain the potatoes then place them back in the pan and mash them with some button and about a teaspoon of the crème fraîche.
Season to taste with salt, freshly ground black pepper and nutmeg.

5. Stir about a teaspoon of tarragon into the frying pan with the chicken, bacon and leek (fresh is best, but you can use dried if that’s all you’ve got…
I use a a jar with fresh tarragon in oil), then stir in the remainder of the crème fraîche. Add salt and pepper to the mixture to taste.

Tarragon in oil

6. Place the chicken, leek and bacon mixture into two small or one medium-sized oven proof dishes and spread it out so it covers the bottom.

Pie filling

7. Cover the chicken, leek and bacon mixture with the mashed potatoes and spread it out to complete cover the chicken, etc. layer.
You can then add some grated cheese to the top if you want I did – I used Cheddar).

8. Place the pie in the oven on around 180°C (350°F) until the cheese has melted, then sit back and enjoy your pie. Caution: It will be very hot!

The finished pie

Chocolate Easter Nests

DSCN9420I first wanted to make Easter nests for my colleagues two years ago, but sadly I was unable to find any equivalent of Cadbury’s Mini Eggs. Last year I failed to find any such thing again… I even tried the English shop in Heidelberg, but they had run out. So when I was in England in February, I grabbed two large bags of Mini Eggs. Arriving back in Germany, I discovered that Milka have now released their own version of Mini Eggs… this is the law of sod in action!

There are probably a million recipes for these Easter nests on the Internet, but I’m going to share mine with you anyway… I tell you how to make them in Germany, so my version is totally different, obviously 😉

Chocolate Easter Nests

You will need:
Cupcake cases
A box of plain Shredded Wheat – in Germany, use the “Original” Toppas. They’re covered in icing sugar, but that doesn’t seem to hurt the nests
Plain or milk chocolate – enough to cover your Shredded Wheat – I used roughly 150g chocolate to 100 g Toppas (guessing as I didn’t actually do any weighing…)
Cadbury’s or Milka Mini Eggs (or your country’s equivalent of chocolate eggs in a colourful sugar shell)

What to do:
1. Break the chocolate up and melt it in a bowl over a pan of water. Or I suppose you could use the microwave… I don’t have one!

2. While the chocolate is melting, in a large mixing bowl break the Shredded Wheat/Toppas into bits. If you’re using Toppas, the ones with most icing sugar might be a little harder to crush – don’t worry if there are some slightly larger bits in there a this point.

Toppas

3. Ad the melted chocolate to the mixing bowl and stir the Shredded Wheat/Toppas and the chocolate together until the Shredded Wheat is completely coated. While stirring, you can crush any larger bits of Toppas that didn’t crush earlier.

4. Place roughly a dessert spoon of the mixture into each of your cupcake cases and use a teaspoon to push some of the mixture up the sides, leaving a dent in the middle. Be careful not to make a hole in the bottom though!

Nest

5. Place 2-3 Mini Eggs in each of the nests. If you think your nests are too dry for the eggs to stick to, you can use a bit of melted chocolate as glue.

Easter nest

6. Place the Easter nests in the fridge for at least half an hour to set. Once they’re ready, you’ll be able to take the cakes out of their cases and they’ll look just like miniature bird’s nests!

Aren't they cute?
Aren’t they cute?

Now go and check out Manda’s recipe post for a different take on edible Easter nests!