Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Tuna Pasta Bake

Pasta bake has to be my favourite comfort food, there's nothing nicer than a huge dish of pasta covered in bubbling sauce and crispy cheese. This is the recipe I make whenever I want a quick and easy dinner that will ensure I'm full up after. It takes hardly any effort as it's just a case of putting everything in a dish and then baking it, perfect for recharging after a busy day. 
There are loads of ways this recipe could be adapted: maybe try chunks of cooked chicken and peppers, or bacon bits with a Stilton cheese sauce instead of Cheddar. 
(serves 2-3)

1 185g tin of tuna (salmon works well too)
Frozen brocolli & cauliflower
1 small onion
1-2 tomatoes

For the cheese sauce:
30g plain flour
30g butter
400ml milk
60g Cheddar cheese & extra to top

-Cook the pasta, brocolli and cauliflower according to pack instructions. Drain and set aside.
-Finely chop the onion and fry over a low heat with some oil until soft. Place into the dish you'll be using for the pasta bake.
-To make the cheese sauce, melt the butter in a pan then stir in the flour until it makes a paste.
-Add the milk and some salt and pepper to taste. Heat through, stirring constantly.
-Add the cheese and cook through until the sauce reaches a smooth, thick consistency, thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
-Place the pasta and vegetables into the pasta bake dish.
-Drain the tuna and flake into the dish. Pour the sauce over everything, and stir it all together until evenly coated.
-Slice the tomato and lay on the top of the pasta. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese over the top.
-Bake in the oven for about 30-40minutes at 200C until bubbling and golden brown.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

James Patterson - Violets are Blue

I'm a big fan of crime thriller type books, films, TV etc., and started reading James Patterson a while back. His main series of books revolves around the character Alex Cross, a homicide detective/psychiatrist, hunting down serial killers. The first book in the series, "Along Came A Spider" is brilliant in my opinion, it's one of the most twisty turny books I've read (please please please don't watch the film though - it's absolutely TERRIBLE).
Violets are Blue is the seventh book in the series, and features Alex Cross investigating a series of vampire-style murders taking place in different locations in the USA, and involving everything from tigers to magicians. The book also continues a running storyline from previous books featuring the 'Mastermind', a serial killer with a personal vendetta against Cross, who is also responsible for murdering some of those close to Cross.  

Now, I didn't exactly get bored by this book, but it just didn't have anything to it that I thought was new or exciting. Not after reading the first six in the series anyway - if this had been number one I would probably think differently. But this book again consisted of: the killer having a personal problem with Alex Cross (I'm really intrigued as to how often this actually ever happens in real life); another new relationship that is probably doomed; and Cross doing lovely family things in between visiting gruesome crime scenes. 

I might read some of the more recent ones at some point, to see if they start to go in a different direction, but otherwise after reading a handful of these I don't really feel the need to read any more. 
Not that I don't recommend them: they're good, easy to read thrillers with a mix of an older running storyline involving Alex Cross' personal life and unclosed cases; as well as a new crime investigation. I just feel they're a tad predictable after a while. 

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Posh Hot Dogs

As our anniversary is next month, we didn't bother much with Valentine's Day. We usually just have a nice meal together at home but my fiancĂ© cooks instead of me. He's ended up making 'posh fast food' the past couple of years (lamb kebabs and homemade burgers-so yummy!) so thought he'd carry on the tradition this year too with 'hot dogs'.
He probably made a bit too much as we were both stuffed by the end of dinner, but they tasted so good that it didn't matter! Below is his recipe for honey glazed sausages in baguettes. 
Tom's Posh Hot Dogs

Serves 2 very generously

4-6 sausages
2 small onions
1 clove of garlic
2-3 medium tomatoes
2 baguettes
3-4 tablespoons honey
Sprinkle oregano
Olive oil
Salad (to serve) 

-Place sausages in a dish and drizzle with a small amount of oil to prevent them sticking.
-Cook for 10 minutes, turning once, at 200C (fan oven). Add honey, coating all the sausages evenly and cook for a further 20 minutes, turning regularly, until cooked through.
-Add a small amount of butter to a frying pan. Peel the garlic clove and crush this into the pan.
-Chop the onions and tomatoes. Add these to the pan along with a sprinkle of oregano and cook gently until soft.
-Warm the baguettes in the oven for about 5-10 minutes (this will vary depending on the bread you use and how soft/crispy you like it).
-Cut the baguettes in half lengthways and butter them. Slice the sausages in half and place in the baguette. Top with onions and tomatoes. Cut the baguettes in half and serve with salad. 
True love right there!

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Boux Avenue Order

I received my first order from Boux Avenue recently, and I think I've already fallen in love with this shop. I usually buy lingerie and the like from La Senza, but have been on the look out for somewhere new as La Senza generally don't seem as good as they used to. I came across Boux Avenue online and as the prices are similar I thought I'd check them out.
My order arrived in a huge box, filled with lots of lovely pink tissue - don't worry, there is a more environmentally friendly option, but as it's free and my first order I thought I might as well. I must admit, it's always nice when something comes in pretty wrapping, makes it feel that extra bit special. 
I'd ordered a bra, knickers, and a purple petticoat that was on sale and came in the pink box. 
How gorgeous is this?? I have a black dress that I'm hoping this will be the right length for. 
I had to return the bra as the sizing wasn't right, possibly a mix up because of how different it is to all my others. I don't know if this is the case with all their sizes, but they offer free post on returns and exchanges so it's not too much hassle trying them. I'm hoping the exchange will fit better; I'll edit this post when I receive it.

Edit (26/02/12): I received my exchange within a week of returning the bra without any fuss, and was happy to find it's a much better fit. The packaging was also really pretty again; I wasn't expecting this as it was an exchange!
So overall, very happy with this purchase. The customer service has been excellent and I've fallen in love with their products, definitely converted!

Friday, 3 February 2012

Friday Night Pizza Feast

Friday night always feels like it should involve chilling out, films, and no effort food (i.e. takeaway). The past two flats I've lived in have been minutes away from a Domino's (can't you tell I'm a student!) so it's the easiest thing to just pop in on a lazy evening (and my fiancé is always instantly won over by any offer posters they put up - no willpower whatsoever).

I always prefer making something my self though, and being part-Italian yet not being able to make pizza is something I needed to change. Anything breadmaking related has always been something I've avoided though, as it seems like it takes so much effort and never ends up how you wanted, but I couldn't resist trying this easy, scrummy looking pizza dough recipe from (No Knead Pizza).

Trust me when I say how easy this recipe is - I love cooking but don't have enough time to spend in the kitchen for ages, and I'm getting into the habit of making this quite regularly now which is all the proof I need!



Pizza Dough Ingredients (adapted from - which is why some of the amounts are a bit odd. The original uses American cup measurements which I've converted, and I've also halved the recipe)

Makes 2 pizzas, serving 2 hungry people

290g strong white bread flour
1 and 1/4 teaspoon fast action dried yeast
3/8 teaspoon salt
3/8 teaspoon sugar
170ml warm water
Olive oil (for trays)

-Place the flour, yeast, salt and sugar into a large bowl. Give them a quick stir together.
-Add the water and stir into the dry ingredients using a spoon at first, then bringing it together with your hands until it's mixed together, giving it a bit of a knead too if you want, just to get it smooth. (You can even get away with out kneading this at all - judge it on how much stress relief you're in need of!)
-Cover the dough and leave to rise for a couple of hours at room temperature.
-Oil two baking trays.
-When the dough is nicely risen, cut it in half. Gently stretch the dough out slightly, and then place one half of dough onto each tray.    
 -Continue stretching the dough out until it almost covers the tray. You'll need to be patient with it as it tends to spring back. Patch up any holes and leave to rise for another 30 minutes.  
-Top the pizza with tomato sauce (see below) and anything else you fancy!   
-Bake for about 20 minutes at 240C/220C fan oven, keeping an eye on it, until the cheese is bubbling and golden and the edges are going crispy. 

Pizza Sauce (makes enough for 4 pizzas - I tend to freeze half, or it can be used as pasta sauce the day after)
5 or 6 sundried tomatoes, and oil from the jar
1 small onion
A 500g carton of passata

- Pour some of the oil from the sundried tomatoes into a sauce pan.
- Finely chop the onion. Add to the pan.
- Chop up a few of the tomatoes and add to the pan. 
 -Cover the pan and cook over a low heat for 10 minutes, until the onions are softened. 
- Pour in the passata and simmer for 5 minutes or so until warmed through. 
- Set aside until ready to be used.

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