Thursday, 11 April 2013

Italian Night: Vegetable casarecci and baked baby aubergines


Those cheeky chappies at Thomson Al Fresco sent me a fabulous food hamper and asked me to create a recipe inspired by one of the great countries you can go to when you visit one of their parcs. Thomson Al Fresco offer package camping holidays in some of the highest rating campsites in Europe and rest assured you stay in a mobile home, not a tent (luxury - I love my tent, but I think once in a while not having to carry my house around on holiday would be nice!)

I decided to take my inspiration from Thomson Al Fresco's self catering holidays in Italy. I adore Italian food and their use of simple but fabulous ingredients makes the cuisine exciting on the palette but quick to prepare.

The hamper I had included a whole variety of ingredients, including pasta, tapenade, tomato sauce, taralli, infused olive oil, wine and amaretti biscuits, so I looked what was there and also what we already had in and decided to make a vegetarian dish, which makes a real show of some lovely Mediterranean vegetables, and some more that we associate with closer to home.

One of the pastas that was included in my hamper was caserecci. I haven't used this particular type of pasta before so I decided to spend a little while reading up on it, to find out the best way to use it. Coming from Sicily and the region of Puglia, caserecci pasta consists of slightly twisted tubes, which are almost S shaped in profile. Made from semolina, they are shaped to hold sauces well and are often used with a meat or sausage sauce and also are considered to hold up well in a baked dish.




Vegetable casarecci with baked baby aubergines



Ingredients (serves 4)

The Pasta and Aubergines
250g caserecci pasta
Jar of fresh tomato sauce (our hamper contained tomato and oregano sugo)
Dash of cream
Spoonful of cream cheese with herbs
8 baby aubergines
4 cloves of garlic
1 leek
1 courgette
100g grated cheese (an Italian cheese like parmigiano if you have it, but we had Welsh cheddar in and it worked fine!)
A slug of herb infused olive oil
A teaspoon of fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped

Accompaniments
Salad dressed with another drizzle of herb infused olive oil
A handful of delicious Taralli al Peperoncino
A glass of a lovely Italian pinot grigio

Time to from prep to plate - approximately 45 minutes

Method


  • Put the oven on to preheat at 180'C and put a kettle of water on to boil for the pasta.
  • Top your baby aubergines, cut them in half lengthwise and put a criss cross along the meat without breaking through to the skin.
  • Place the aubergines in a baking dish and drizzle with herb or chilli infused olive oil.
  • Put into the oven for 10 minutes.





  • While the aubergines are cooking, put the caserecci on to boil for 9-11 minutes until al dente.
  • As the pasta cooks, finely slice the garlic and leek and cut the courgettes into cubes.
  • Lightly saute the vegetables in a light drizzle of oil, reserving a quarter of the garlic for the aubergines.





  • When the pasta is cooked and the veg is softened, drain most of the cooking water from the pasta and add three quarters of the jar of tomato sauce, add a drizzle of cream, a spoonful of cream cheese and rosemary, salt and pepper to taste.





  • Stir in the sauce and the sauteed veg and place in an oven proof dish.
  • Sprinkle on three quarters of the cheese.
  • Meanwhile, take the aubergines out of the oven. Sprinkle over the reserved garlic, the remaining tomato sauce and the remaining cheese. Season to taste.






  • Put both dishes in the oven for 15 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling and starting to turn golden brown.




Serve the whole lot up with some dressed salad, your taralli (curled Italian bread snacks) and of course, a delicious glass of wine. I had it with a glass of red - The Boy had a glass of the chilled Venetian pinot grigio - this is quite a versatile dish because of the creamy tomato sauce so will match with whatever colour of wine you prefer! Hooray!



So there you have it. All this and more could be yours. This isn't a difficult dish to make, it's a straight forward, Italian inspired feast that we thoroughly enjoyed. It is reasonably healthy, although the fat content is a little high. Each portion contains in the region of 400 kcals and 17g of fat, although that doesn't include the taralli or the glass of wine!

Now I am occupied by the difficult problem of what to do with a packet of delicious looking amaretti biscuits which keep shouting "Just eat me with coffee!" every time I open the cupboard. They are tempting me, but I'm pretty sure I can make them into someething even more amazing with a little thought. Watch this space...

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

La Delizia Pinot Grigio Blush

This time I have written a wine blogger guest post which complained so thoroughly about the rubbish weather we were having that it caused the weather to turn and Spring to appear. Well, maybe that's wishful thinking, but the weather is better (for now!) so this Pinot Grigio Blush might just be the thing to taste the sunshine. Head over to Just Great Wine, have a squizz and let me know what you think!

I'm quite getting into guest posts now, but I'm not sure if writing a post on my blog to tell you about the guest post defeats the object a little bit. At least it keeps you all in the loop.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Passion for Fashion

I've decided to have a crack at the MoneySupermarket Passion for Fashion competition, because I think that £200 is a pretty generous amount of money to spend on an outfit and that my bizarre taste in clothes will throw up some truly unique takes on this year's trends. Basically, I think it'll be a bit of a laugh!

Casual Wear

For me, casual wear can only mean one thing - jeans. They are practical, hard wearing and comfortable and I think it's possibly true to say you can never have too many pairs.Thi sseason a lot of people are going for the straight leg, brightly coloured jeans, but straight leg does not suit me at all. I am definitely a flare girl, and until someone bring out some amazing emerald green kick flares, I'll stick with the usual denim colours. For this outfit, these A Wear classic black flares provide a great base for a casual 'girl about town' outfit. And at £35 they do not break the bank either.

I've teamed this with this pretty pink lace crop to from TopShop for £15. The lace trend is a lovely, soft, feminine look while the crop gives it a bit of edge. For those who are less confident about their stomach area, I've added this burgundy studded waterfall jacket so that you just give a hint of midriff. This is a great on trend item at a great price of £17.95.

As this outfit is hippy, lacy chic with a rock chick edge, the shoes had to be softer, back to that lacy feel. I liked these £9.99 shoes from an Ebay shop, as they will provide a subtle reflection of the tones in the jacket, and also have that lace trend, so really tie the outfit together.

I would accessorise this outfit with some bright nail polish, bringing a tiny splash of neon. This one from 2true at Superdrug is just £1.99 but exactly the colour I'd want to bring out the lace of the top. The jewellery would be plainer so that the outfit was not over the top - this silver tassle necklace fitted the bill perfectly. Currently on sale at Beaverbrooks for £45, this was the special treat I added to the outfit.

This brings my outfit total to £124.93, leaving me with £75.07 in change. Since this is my casual outfit, I would use this change to take my husband for a fun day out of a fab lunch, a couple of games of laser quest and a cocktail.

Holiday Wear

For holiday this year, we are hoping to get on to a bit of wild camping in so I reckon my holiday wear will be a bit different from the norm! However, being out in the redwood forests does not mean that you don't have to be stylish! I think I'll give the cut out trend a miss (just generally, that stuff does not look good on anyone), however, I think we can quite happily get stripes in this outfit!

The key to a good camping outfit is layers - so you have all the clothes you need for all eventualities and all weathers. And of course, to start you need a good base. For that reason, a sports bra is essential. It allows you to go for a good run, or just move firewood around and be supported the whole time. And right now, there isn't a bigger bargain out there than this little number from Sports Direct for just £1.29. The price is all the more amazing when you consider this is a multiway strap offering, so it will fit with all kind of outfits. This is definitely my best buy!

Over our comfy bra, we need to start layering. California is warm in the day but the temperature can drop in the woods, so a good base layer is a must have. There are some more clearance bargains on Mountain Warehouse and this £3.99 short sleeve would be perfect for me, plus I love the colour.
On top of this I would layer this great striped hooded top from Toast, injecting that touch of on trend magic that your fellow campers will both respect and envy. Currently on sale at £53.10, this is a nice statement piece. I should probably add some pants to this outfit I guess. Trousers always come highly recommended when camping. Keeps the poison oak off your bum. These North Face trekking trousers are breathable and also zip off. Plus North Face tend to look slightly more stylish and less drearily outdoorsy, which is not what you want. They are currently on sale for £40 at Cotswold Outdoor, which is a good price for functional clothing like this.

When in forests, shoes are also important when outdoors. The Contour approach shoes have it all, waterproof, good grip, great for running and trekking, they are a good all in one shoe currently on sale at £35. They also look pretty good. The design of functional shoes has definitely become more stylish and less middle age rambler in recent years, which is great for me!

This jacket completes the look. I love a parka, being a child of the late 80s/early 90s and the colour of this one is great. It's lightweight but still warm and water resistant so it'll do the job at night, but fit snugly away in my pack during the day when I don't need it. Like the hooded top, it adds a little bit of style with its fur trim and of course the timeless parka shape. At £40, I am left with £26.62 of my budget to play with and there is one thing that every holiday outfit needs in my opinion - a great sun hat.

There's no way I'd suit a baseball cap, and it wouldn't go with this outfit. I think the only option would be this Fat Face cowboy hat. At £20, it'd be rude not to (and I'll blow my last few quid on some kendal mint cake).
Party Wear

The final outfit for me to style is party wear. Given that my sister in law is getting married this summer, the only outfit I could possibly style for this section is my wedding outfit. Something glamorous but elegant. To aachieve this, there is only one trend for me this SS13 - those subtle, delicate shades of grey that are infiltrating the high street. First seen on the catwalk at New York Fashion Week, this is a much more subtle trend that is easier to wear than most of the recent shades. I absolutely adore the Nagore dress from Desigual. It has those softer colours, starkly contrasted with bold prints and kooky patterns. Absolutely right up my street. I particularly love the panel of circles on the back, it's a real statement that I think would look great at a wedding both for day and evening. It's a great price for a Desigual dress to, at £79 at House of Fraser.
I'd pick out the grey and the pretty turquoise colour from the back panel for accessorising this outfit, and choose these cute slingbacks from Next at £36 along with this gorgeous elephant necklace, such a sweet buy for £32.50 from Not On the High Street.

And since I've got over £50 of my party budget left, it would be rude not to treat myself to a new bag and perhaps some earrings... This stud set from New Look is great value at £4.99, plus their jewellery is currently on buy one get one free so I'd pick myself up a little something extra for another day. I love all of these patterns and symbols and I think mismatched earrings is really stylish - it would give a great funky, hippy vibe that would go well with the elephant necklace and also the quirky irreverance of the Desigual dress.
And finally, the statement evening bag? This little number from Debenhams is understated and elegant, reduced to £18 and a great colour match for the rest of the outfit. The belle of the ball (except for the blushing bride of course) for well under £200.


#Silentsunday



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