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15Jun 12

Pasta with pesto, broccoli and Feta cheese

Pasta with Veg and PestoPesto is an all-time favourite of mine and one of my must-have sauces at home. There is both a green and red variety, but I prefer the green one because it is so versatile. Here is a dish of pasta with pesto, broccoli and Feta cheese that I make a lot – often in the morning before I rush to catch the bus to Uni!

A typical pesto is made by first placing garlic and pine nuts in a mortar and reducing it to a cream. After that, you add washed and dried basil leaves and grind it to a creamy consistency. Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino cheeses are then added together with some olive oil. However, if you don’t want to go to all this trouble, you can find pre-made pesto in most supermarkets. The most common one is pesto alla genovese.

You may believe that pesto is only used as a sauce for pasta, but think again! These pesto cod and chips use it as a dressing on top of seafood. Play around with pesto, and you never know what new delights you might discover!

What we need:

  • 200g of tricolour pasta
  • 2 tablespoons of green pesto
  • 1 large red onion
  • 1 large red pepper
  • 1 dl of broccoli florets
  • A small tin of green beans
  • 10 black olives
  • 100g of Feta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil

Tip! If you want to make your life easier, you can even use frozen vegetables instead of fresh.

How to make it:

  1. Wash and chop the onion, pepper and broccoli into pieces.
  2. Pour 1 litre of water into a saucepan and bring it to the boil.
  3. Add the pasta and cook it according to instructions on the package.
  4. Pour the olive oil in a frying pan.
  5. Place the vegetables in the frying pan and let it all fry for a few minutes until the vegetables are soft.
  6. Add the green beans.
  7. Chop the olives into halves and add to the frying pan.
  8. Drain the pasta when ready.
  9. Add the pesto to the hot pasta and mix carefully.
  10. Add all the vegetables from the frying pan.
  11. Grate the Feta cheese over the pasta and stir once or twice.
  12. Serve hot or store it in a Tupperware for later use.

Time needed: 15 minutes
Serves: 2
Level: Easy

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12Jun 12

Japanese style fried rice with tofu

Japanese style fried rice with tofuContinuing my love affair with Asian cuisine, the time has come to try a dish with tofu. Tofu is made by coagulating soy milk and then pressing the resulting curds into soft white blocks that is then used in cooking, often as a meat substitute. (Another example of an Asian recipe using tofu is this recipe for Vietnamese spring rolls.)

Tofu can be used both in savoury and sweet dishes and is low in fat, high in protein, and with a low calorie count, it is excellent for vegetarians or for those of you on a calorie-restrictive diet. I have added oyster sauce and ginger to this dish of Japanese style fried rice with tofu for that scrumptious Japanese taste that I never get tired of.

Tofu is thought to have originated in ancient China, and techniques for its production and preparation eventually spread to many other parts of Asia. Today, many different varieties, such as fresh, fried, marinated, firm or soft tofu are eaten all over East Asia, and its use has spread to the west as well, probably as a result of the rise in vegetarianism in the 20th century.

What we need:

  • 100g jasmine rice
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 red onion
  • 3 large mushrooms
  • 2 teaspoons of rapeseed oil
  • 125g of tofu
  • 1 teaspoon freshly chopped ginger
  • 4 teaspoons of Japanese soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of oyster sauce
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon of sesame seeds (optional)

How to make it:

1. Boil the rice according to the instructions on the package.
2. Wash and cut up all the vegetables into thin slices.
3. Fry the vegetables in the oil in a frying pan.
4. When the rice is ready, pour it into the frying pan, mix and let it all fry together for a few minutes.
5. Cut the tofu into squares and put it in the frying pan.
6. Add the ginger, garlic, soy sauce and the oyster sauce and mix carefully. Sprinkle over some sesame seeds if desired.

Enjoy!

Serves: 2
Time needed: 20 minutes
Level: Easy

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09Jun 12

Mushroom lasagna with mozzarella and tomatoes

Mushroom lasagnaI´m a big fan of Italian cooking, but usually I don´t have time for more than throwing a handful of macaroni and some vegetables into a saucepan and letting them boil together. Last Friday night I thought I´d try a more elaborate pasta dish and found this recipe for mushroom lasagna with mozzarella and tomatoes to be easy enough even for a busy student like me.

Although the preparation does take some time, after that the lasagna makes itself in the oven while I bury my head in the books. Half an hour later, the dish is ready and you can have yourself a well-deserved treat!

What we need:

  • 300g dry fusilli pasta
  • 450g of sliced mushrooms (frozen or fresh)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 1/2 a courgette
  • 400 grams of chopped tomatoes from a tin
  • 400 of crème fraîche
  • 400g of mozzarella
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • a pinch of salt and pepper
  • a sprig of fresh basil (optional)

How we make it:

  1. Preheat the oven to 225 degrees.
  2. Meanwhile, boil the pasta, but not too much as it will later go in the oven as well.
  3. If you use frozen mushrooms, place them in a frying pan and fry until the liquid is gone. Place them on a plate for later use.
  4. Peel and chop the garlic, onion and courgettes.
  5. Fry them along with olive oil in a frying pan and then add the chopped tomatoes and the sugar. Let it boil for around 10 minutes.
  6. Heat the crème fraîche in a saucepan and take half of the mozzarella and place it in lumps in the crème fraîche. Let them melt together. Add the salt and pepper.
  7. Take an oven-safe form and put some of the tomato sauce in the bottom.
  8. Place a layer of the fusilli on top, covering the form.
  9. Now, alternate between the crème fraîche sauce, tomato sauce and fusilli pasta.
  10. On the top, place the rest of the crème fraîche sauce and add the rest of the mozzarella cheese.
  11. Place in the middle of the oven for 30 minutes.
  12. Remove from oven and sprinkle over the fresh basil.

Serves: 4
Time needed: 50 minutes (including oven time)
Level: easy – intermediate

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06Jun 12

Blinis with apricot and cherry tomatoes topping

BlinisBlinis are similar to crepes, but the main difference between a blini and a crepe is that yeast can be used in blini, but not in crepes. Blinis is the traditional Russian mini pancake and is eaten during Shrovetide, a festival which coincides with similar festivals such as Mardi Gras or Carnival a week before Lent.

Blinis are usually served with caviar and sour cream, but really you could use endless variations of toppings. Here is a recipe for Blinis with an apricot and cherry tomato topping that can be used as an appetizer, finger food, or as a light snack before bedtime.

I have added dried apricots to this recipe, not only because they are sweet and delicious, but also because they are an excellent source of beta-carotene and vitamin A, a great antioxidant, which will help to retain healthy eyesight as we age. Being a heavy reader, I am a big fan of foods that help me protect my vision – I am always on the lookout for ‘eye-friendly´ ingredients, and it´s just an extra bonus if they happen to be as scrumptious as the apricot!

Leave the blinis as they are or cut into triangular slices for more of a ´finger-food´ feel, as I have done in this recipe. Since the apricot and tomato mixture goes on top, you could also it to top oat and buckwheat pancakes for a heartier snack.

What we need:

  • 2 blinis (normal size)
  • 80g of tuna
  • 5 dried apricots
  • 200g of natural yoghurt for cooking
  • 1 tablespoon of grainy French mustard
  • 1 tablespoon of honey (according to taste)
  • a small handful of parsley for topping

How to make them:

1. Place the yoghurt in a bowl and add the tuna.
2. Wash and cut the cherry tomatoes into small pieces. Add to the yoghurt.
3. Cut the apricots into thin small slices and add to the yoghurt along with the mustard and honey.
5. Mix all the ingredients carefully.
6. Heat the blinis for a few minutes in an oven or in a microwave.
7. Cut them into triangles and add a teaspoon of the yoghurt mix on each piece.
8. Top it off with a branch of parsley on each triangle for decoration.

Serves: 2
Time needed: 15 minutes
Level: Very easy

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04Jun 12

Rice with chicken, fried vegetables and mango chutney

Rice with mango chutney and fried vegetables
One food item that I always try to have in the fridge is mango chutney. It is really versatile; it can be an accompaniment, a side dish sauce, an actual sauce in a stir-fry or  a topping just to add an extra flavour to something. I usually use it to sweeten something that might be too spicy on its own. It is good with strong cheeses too; try it for yourself – only your imagination sets the limit! (Also sample this pear and mango chutney.)

Chutney is a South Asian condiment, and there are many different kinds. They can be made from virtually any vegetable or fruit, herbs, spices or a combination of them. Often it is fruit, vinegar, and sugar cooked down to a reduction, such as in the case of mango chutney. Chutneys are usually sweet or hot; and both usually contain various spices, including chilli, but are set apart by their main flavour, such as mango or tomato.

If you have a little more time and energy than me, it is reasonably easy to make mango chutney at home, but I just bought a ready-made one. Here is a really simple stir-fry dish which is put together within minutes. I hope you enjoy it!

Rice with mango chutney and fried vegetables
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
 
a really simple stir-fry dish topped with mango chutney
Ingredients
  • 150g rice
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 carrot
  • 150g frozen veggie mix with broccoli, green beans and little corn cobs
  • 100g chicken breast, boneless, chopped into fine slices
  • 2 -3 tablespoons of mango chutney
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
Instructions
  1. Wash and boil the rice according to the instructions on the package.
  2. Sautée the chicken for 10 to 15 minutes on a medium heat until cooked throughout. Set aside.
  3. Peel the onion and carrot and chop them into thin slices.
  4. Wash the pepper and chop it into chunks.
  5. Fry the onion, carrot and red pepper in a frying pan in the olive oil.
  6. Meanwhile, thaw and cook the frozen veggies, according to packet instructions.
  7. When all the vegetables are soft, mix them together with the chicken strips and add the mango chutney as well. Stir all together and let the chutney become more fluid and sauce-like.
  8. When the rice is ready, scoop a bit out on a place next to the chicken/veggie mix. Add another spoonful of chutney to the rice.
  9. Serve immediately.

 

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01Jun 12

Lamb with couscous and apricot salad

Lamb with couscous and Apricot saladI try not to eat a lot of meat, but recently I have taken a shining to finding lamb dishes, and the other day I went on a splurge to a Moroccan restaurant searching for something new and interesting. There I realised that couscous is a rice substitute that I had overlooked. After seeing that I could combine lamb and couscous together, I thought I’d try this lamb with couscous and apricot salad, which is a really light and fresh lunch that won’t leave you feeling heavy in any way.

If you are a vegetarian, you could also try this pistachio and cranberry couscous with goat’s cheese. Either way, couscous makes a satisfying salad!

As it is equally delicious served warm or cold, it is also ideal for a spring picnic. Just put the lamb in one container and the couscous and apricot salad in another and combine them on arrival!

What we need:

  • 600g lamb, cubed or cut into small pieces
  • 400g of couscous
  • 12 dried apricots
  • 1 tablespoon of pressed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 dl of cashew nuts
  • 30g raisins
  • a handful of chopped almonds
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 3 pinches of ground pepper
  • 2 pinches of salt
  • 10 coriander leaves
  • 1 cinnamon stick (to garnish)

How to make it:

  1. Preheat the oven to 150 degrees.
  2. Fry the lamb in a frying pan in the butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  3. Place the meat in an oven-safe form and place in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes until ready.
  4. In a sauce pan, boil the couscous according to the instructions on the package.
  5. Meanwhile, chop the apricots into small pieces.
  6. Mix the olive oil with the lemon juice and cinnamon.
  7. Add the apricots, cashew nuts, raisins and almonds with the lemon juice/olive oil mixture.
  8. Add the couscous when it is ready. Mix it all carefully. Add salt and pepper according to taste.
  9. Serve the couscous salad as the base on a plate and place the lamb on top.
  10. Sprinkle over the coriander leaves and garnish with the cinnamon stick.

Time needed: 30 minutes
Serves: 4
Level: Easy

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30May 12

Pasta with salmon, carrot and courgette

Pasta with salmon, carrot and courgette

This is a great dish for a lunchbox, so easy to make and still healthy and delicious. Pasta is so versatile that I, being a student, probably eat it several times a week. Good thing that nowadays you can buy the supposedly healthier versions made of spinach or other vegetables, or the wholemeal version.

It is not often that I use lime in my cooking, but lime and salmon is a great combination, and lime is a very tasty and healthy fruit. They are a great source of vitamin C, and historically they were used to treat scurvy among sailors and soldiers. And apparently, due to their vitamin C content and antioxidant properties, limes are also very good for your eyes, something that I try to keep in mind since I read a lot.

Lime juice can be stored for use at a later time if you place freshly squeezed lime juice in ice cube trays until frozen. A great way to use these little zesters in drinks or food! (Also try this prawn and courgette tagliatelli.)

Pasta dish with salmon and lime
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
 
This is a great dish for a lunchbox, so easy to make and still healthy and delicious
Ingredients
  • 200g ravioli
  • 100ml crème fraiche
  • 175ml milk
  • ½ a courgette
  • ½ a carrot
  • 1 tablespoon pressed lime juice
  • 150g smoked salmon (steak)
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh dill
  • 1 pinch of pepper
  • ½ tablespoon of cornflour
Instructions
  1. Boil the ravioli according to instructions on the package.
  2. Fry the salmon steak in a frying pan in the oil. When ready, cut into small pieces.
  3. Wash and peel the courgette and carrot and cut them into small pieces.
  4. Pour the crème fraiche, milk, lime juice and cornflour into a saucepan and bring it to the boil while stirring the whole time.
  5. Add the courgette and carrot and let it all simmer for 5 minutes.
  6. Add the salmon pieces and the dill to the sauce.
  7. Add the pepper and more lime juice according to taste. Let it all simmer for 2 minutes.
  8. When the pasta is ready, add it to the saucepan and mix carefully.
  9. Serve immediately.

 

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28May 12

Japanese-style rice dish with shrimp and ginger

Japanese style rice dish with shrimp and gingerI tend to use Japanese soy sauce quite often when I cook. It is really versatile and adds a little saltiness to a dish. I prefer it to the Chinese version as Japanese soy sauces typically have a slightly sweeter taste than their Chinese counterparts.

 

 

A few years ago, I lived with two Japanese flatmates and they taught me many different ways how to use their soy sauce. Since then I have used it in everything from avocados to eggs, like this scrambled omelette with cherry tomatoes. In coming recipes I will tell you more about how you can use Japanese soy sauce in ways you might not have considered before.

If you love the flavours in sushi, but like me, can’t afford to splurge too often, then this Japanese-style rice dish with shrimp and ginger is for you. It combines several main ingredients in sushi: ginger, rice and soy sauce. I have also added shrimp and sun-dried tomatoes for an extra salty taste.

What we need:

  • 100g of peeled and washed shrimp (use de-frosted if you like)
  • 300g of rice
  • 6 big mushrooms
  • 50g of sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons of Japanese soy sauce
  • Around 1 centimeter of freshly grated ginger (about a teaspoon)

How to make it:
1. Defrost the shrimp on a plate for later use.
2. Place the rice in a sauce pan and cook according to the instructions on the packet.
3. Grate the garlic into a frying pan and fry in the olive oil for 2 minutes.
4. Peel and chop the onion and add to the frying pan. Let it fry until soft.
5. Chop the mushrooms and add to the frying pan.
6. Chop the tomatoes into small pieces and add to the frying pan.
7. Add the soy sauce and let it all blend together until soft.
8. Add the shrimp and the ginger. Mix it all carefully and let it simmer for 3 minutes.
9. When the rice is ready, fluff it and add it to the frying pan.
10. Mix very carefully into a rice dish and serve immediately.

Serves: 2

Takes: 20 minutes

Level: easy

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21May 12

Baked potatoes with aubergine and salmon and mustard filling

Baked potato with aubergine and salmon and mustard fillingBaked potatoes are my favourites for Friday evenings because I just love the smell of potato that fills the room and the anticipation after it has been in the oven for a long hour. Also, you can be sure that it will be tasty with just about any topping. A baked potato with a savoury topping and a glass of white wine sets me in the mood for the weekend!

 

Here is a recipe that uses mustard and honey as base for a yoghurt sauce. I have also used aubergine and tomatoes, mainly because I hardly ever eat aubergine, but this recipe would work just as well with almost any vegetable. I use smoked salmon in the yoghurt sauce because I wanted to make it more “meaty,” but it can also be made as a vegetarian dish.

Baked potatoes, if small enough, also make for a great accompaniment to a meat dish. If you are a meat and potatoes person, try this recipe for lamb with crushed baked potatoes.

What we need:

  • 2 large baked potatoes
  • 100g smoked salmon (optional)
  • 1/2 aubergine
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 170g full fat yoghurt for cooking or crème fraîche
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1/2 of grainy French mustard
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar or slightly less honey

How to make it:
1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.
2. Wash the potatoes carefully and place them in the middle of the oven for 60 minutes.
3. Wash and peel the aubergine. Cut into small pieces and place in a frying pan in the olive oil.
4. Wash and chop the tomatoes into small pieces. Place in the frying pan. Let it all fry together until soft and mushy.
5. Take the yoghurt or crème fraîche and place in a bowl. Add the mustard and honey or sugar. Mix carefully. If you are using smoked salmon, cut it into the yoghurt sauce.
6. When the aubergine and tomato mixture is soft, press a clove of garlic into it and mix carefully.
7. When the potatoes are soft and ready, place on a plate and cut a cross in them. Place 2 tablespoons of the vegetable mixture in the potatoes and top it off with 2 tablespoons of the yoghurt /mustard mix.

Serves: 2
Time needed: 60 minutes (in oven)
Level: Easy

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17May 12

Potato au gratin with pesto and salmon steaks

Potato au gratin with pesto and salmon steaksDid you know that potatoes are delicious with green pesto? I find that making potato bakes (or potato au-gratin, if you want to sound sophisticated) is an easy and comfy way of making a proper dish if you are looking for more variety instead of always eating boiled or mashed potatoes.

Add some vegetables, such as mushrooms and red onion, and blend pesto with yoghurt or crème fraiche for a creamy sauce. Within the hour, you’ll have a dish that looks like a lot of work has gone into it, when really it was a doddle to make!

If you prefer chicken, use chicken breasts instead of salmon steaks in this meal. For more pesto and chicken recipes, I recommend this pesto chicken with caramelised aubergine, roast tomatoes, and olives.

What we need:

  • 4 small salmon steaks (500g)
  • 4 medium sized potatoes
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 red pepper
  • 4 big mushrooms
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of green pesto
  • 250g Greek natural yoghurt (for cooking) or crème fraîche
  • 100g grated cheddar cheese (about 6 slices)

How to make it:
1. Defrost the salmon steaks.
2. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.
3. Wash and peel the potatoes. Chop into thin slices. Place on a plate for later.
4. Wash and chop the mushrooms, onion and pepper into medium-size pieces.
6. Grate the garlic into a frying pan with some of the oil.
7. Add the onion and pepper and let it all become soft.
8. Add the mushrooms, mix it properly and let it all fry for 5 minutes.
9. Pour the yoghurt into a bowl and add the pesto. Mix it carefully.
10. Cover the bottom of an oven-safe form with some of the yoghurt /pesto mix.
11. On top, place slices of potatoes.
12. Next, alternate between yoghurt/pesto mix, vegetables and layers of potatoes.
13. On top of the last potato layer, sprinkle the grated cheese.
14. Place in oven for 60 minutes or until potatoes are ready.
15. 10 minutes before the potato au gratin is ready, and when the salmon is defrosted, place the steaks into a frying pan with some of the olive oil and fry until lightly brown.
16. Serve the salmon steaks with the potato au gratin and a rocket salad.

Serves: 4

Time needed: preparation 15 minutes + 60 mines in oven

Level: easy-intermediate

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