I hope you'll join me in creating memories and sharing the passion of experimentation.

Anything goes, but food, sewing, hosting and DIY are my favourites, what are yours?

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Lambsagne....Otherwise known as lamb lasagne

So after a concious environmental decision to cut down the amount of beef we eat....lambsagne (lamb lasagne) was born. Yes, i'm aware that lamb is no better than beef for the environment, but lamb can't always be used as a substitute to beef so overall less is eaten, EXCEPT where this recipe is concerned!! I love beef, but lambsagne may well be better than a traditional beef lasagne. Give it a try and tell me what you think!

Time Saver: While lasagne isn't the quickest dish to make (just over an hour), it IS just as easy to make for 8 people than it is for 2 people, therefore freezing multiple portions is something I swear by for the weeknights.

This recipe basically just substitutes lamb for beef, however I have a few secret ingredients that might help you make your lasagne that little bit more tasty.


500g lamb mince, beef mince (from a good butcher if you want that extra tasty kick) or Quorn mince (for the veggies and health concious)
1 onion
3 cloves garlic
3 fresh tomatoes
2 tins chopped tomatoes
2 oxo cubes
1.5 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1tsp chilli powder or half a fresh chilli
Fresh herbs to taste (basil, oregano etc)
Knob of butter
Plain flour (about a heaped tablespoon)
1 pint milk
Lasagne sheets
Small amount of grated cheese - to taste

Serving: 4

1) Firstly, chop the onions and fry with a little olive oil in a large frying pan.
2) Once starting to brown, crush the garlic in to the frying pan and stir.
3) Add mince to the pan, draining fat when necessary - i.e. make sure the mince doesn't boil. Stirring occasionally until browned
TIP: If you want to make it really tasty, fry a little mince at a time in a separate pan until crispy and add to the large frying pan.
4) Add roughly chopped fresh tomatoes, herbs, chilli powder, oxo cubes and season. Stirring occasionally for 5 minutes.
5) Add tinned chopped tomatoes and balsamic vinegar. Leave this bubbling (to reduce down) for about 20 minutes, whilst you make the white sauce.
6) Preheat oven to 190 degrees (170 for fan ovens)
7) Now some people might buy white sauce instead of making their own at this point, but please don't - neither the consistency or flavour is even close to as good as the real thing, and a white sauce is really not difficult to make. You can all do it - I promise!
8) Place the knob of butter in a saucepan and melt over a low heat. As soon as it has melted, remove from the heat.
9) Add enough plain flour to the melted butter to form a crumbly dough.
10) Replace pan on a medium heat and add milk whilst whisking everything together to remove all lumps.
11) Don't forget to stir the mince so it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan.
12) Continue to stir the white sauce until it forms the consistency of custard, don't let it boil though. Remove from heat.
13) Now for the fun part :) Assembly
14) Pour a third of the mince into the baking dish, cover with lasagne sheets (no need to pre boil them), pour over a third of the white sauce, making sure it covers all of the lasagne sheets. Repeat another 2 times. Sprinkle grated cheese over the top (last layer of white sauce).
15) Place in the oven for 25-30mins until top has browned.
16) Enjoy :) and freeze the rest.

Tell me what you guys put in your lasagne or lambsagnes and let me know if you enjoy this recipe! All feedback welcome! (I'm about to eat a portion I froze last week and got out to defrost before work this morning - can't wait).

Friday, 13 July 2012

Italian Sausage Pasta to impress...with a little cheat

Have you ever needed a quick meal that still looks amazing? Perhaps you have some unexpected guests? No need to get's what I always fall back on.

Time saving element: Squeeze the sausage meat out of the store bought sausages!! SO SIMPLE but so effective!!

Pasta is usually pretty boring when you make it at home, and never has that wow factor that you get in a restaurant, but with this simple trick you can make even the most simplest of pasta dishes look incredible.

Tip: Jazz up the dish further by using decorative shaped pasta; my favourites are Campanelle and Gigli; and serve on a large plain coloured or white plate. Start with some breads and oil, put a dry white wine, some fresh parmesan and a fresh potted plant (e.g. basil) on the table and your quests will think they've jetted off to Italy for the evening. Maybe...

Try it and let me know how it turns out :)

Here's a really quick recipe to give you an idea of how you could use this trick:

2 garlic cloves
1 red onion
2 handfuls of rocket (you can substitute this with mixed leaves if you prefer)
1 fresh chilli
4 store bought or fresh butcher sausages
2 mugfulls of dried pasta
1 can of tin chopped tomatoes
mixed herbs
olive oil, salt and pepper to season

Serving: 2 portions

1) Cut the onion in half vertically, i.e. cutting through the stalk end and base/root. Lie the onion cut side down on the chopping board and thinly slice from the stalk end to the base/root, to make crescent shapes
2) Finely chop the fresh chilli and garlic
3) Put the dried pasta in a saucepan, add water and a little salt, increase temperature until it's boiling and then reduce slightly so it can simmer
4) Add a little olive oil to a large frying pan, once hot add the garlic and chilli and stir
5) Once garlic starts to turn golden, add the onion and stir for a further 5 minutes
6) Now for the fun bit! Take your first sausage carefully unwrapping the skin at one end. You may find using scissors to score down one side of the sausage makes this step easier. Begin to squeeze out 1cm lengths of sausage meat and drop into the frying pan. Make sure you stir the ingredients occasionally and repeat this step for all sausages
7) Once sausages have browned, add tomatoes, stir and season with salt pepper and herbs of your choice; simmer for another 5 minutes
8) Drain pasta and add to the frying pan
9) Stir sauce into pasta for a minute or so, add the rocket leaves, give one final quick stir and serve.
10) Enjoy :)

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Spicy Szechuan Tofu

This is quite spicy, so tone down the spices if you're not so keen on the 'mouth on fire' feeling. Alternatively, use a spice bag and put chile, peppercorns etc inside and remove after cooking process. If your dish does turn out too spicy, add dairy products i.e. milk/yogurt, or oil does the trick.

You could substitute the tofu for chicken if you prefer

300g plain firm tofu, rainforest friendly please folks
1 fresh red chilli, take out the seeds if you want it to be less spicy. Finely chop (or leave whole if using spice bag)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbsp oil of your choice
2 tbsp oyster sauce, or hoisin sauce
1 inch fresh ginger root finely chopped (it's easier to freeze it an grate when frozen)
2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
400ml water
1 tsp ground pepper (or peppercorns if using spice bag)
400g chopped tomatoes
5 spring onions, chopped into 1cm lengths
1 heaped tbsp black beans, soaked in boiling water if dried.

Serving: 2 large or 3 portions served with rice

1) Put the 2tbsp oil in a heavy saucepan or wok and heat gently (this may seem like a lot but you'll be thankful for it later)
2) Chop tofu in to 1inch chunks and place in pan with garlic and ginger. Stir for 5 minutes, until well coated
3) Place chilli, spring onions and ground pepper in to pan and leave for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally
4) Add oyster sauce, sweet chilli sauce and chopped tomatoes. Stir, and leave for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally
5) Add water, stir and leave uncovered on a medium, low heat to simmer for around 40 minutes. Stir if it starts to stick
6) Rinse the beans and add to saucepan. Cook for around 10 minutes
7) Serve with rice, flour tortilla, poppadoms, or whatever you like really. Freeze the leftovers. Oh this is making me hungry, I love it!!! And it's so easy!!!

Olive and Rosemary Stromboli

This recipe is good to do whilst you have other jobs to do, as there is a fair amount of waiting around for the bread to rise etc, whilst the actual making of it is quite simple :)

1tsp Caster sugar
800g Strong white bread flour plus extra for dusting
1tbsp fast action dried yeast
740ml warm water
1tbsp salt
Olive oil for drizzling
Large handful rosemary
Black olives, halved, about 20
Mozzarella, 1 ball
300g Red peppers, sweet or normal

Serving: 2 large loaves

I prefer to knead the dough by hand (stress relief), but you could make the dough in a bread maker.

1) Combine the yeast, water and sugar in a large mixing bowl and leave for 10 minutes (it starts to ferment, and magic dimples appear).
2) Add half the flour to the bowl and mix with wooden spoon, leave for 15 minutes in a warm place. (Atop the boiler in our house, or you could put in an airing cupboard or in the top oven after the lower oven has been on)
3) Add the rest of the flour and salt to the bread mixture, mix first with the spoon until stiff and then with your hands; combining all the ingredients until smooth.
4) Lightly flour your work surface, and lift the dough on to the surface, and start kneading. The dough mixture will be quite sticky, but this all adds to the bouncy and light finished product. If it really is too wet, you have my permission to add a little more flour when kneading. Knead for at least 10 minutes (children love doing this, so if you have things to do, get them involved).
5) Lightly oil a bowl and place dough inside, cover with a damp tea towel, and then leave in a warm place again for an hour or so. It will double in size. Magic.
6) Whilst the dough is growing, slice the peppers into 1cm wide lengths.
7) Place peppers on a baking tray, lightly drizzle with oil and grill until edges are starting to brown, about 10 minutes, but keep an eye on them. (You can always chop the burnt bits off, don't worry). Set aside.
8) Another good step for stress relief. Punch the dough back to remove the air pockets.
9) Place half on a lightly floured surface, roll and stretch into a rectangle (20 x 30cm ish)
10) Scatter half of the mozzarella, rosemary, olives and peppers on to the loaf. Preheat oven to 200 degC (180 degC for a fan oven).

11) Begin to roll carefully from long edge
12) Once rolled into a loaf, repeat with other half of the dough

12) Cover the loaf with a damp tea towel for about 15 minutes
13) Drizzle with olive oil and scatter sea salt over the top, and place in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes
14) Cool for a few minutes, serve and enjoy. YUM!!!

Once cooked, I froze one loaf for the birthday girl and left a message on it telling her to leave out covered for a couple of hours to defrost and then bake for around 20minutes at 170 degC.

Birthday Present Idea - Vegetarian

Sometimes buying someone a birthday present can be pretty stressful, especially when it's a close friend. We've all been there. So here's a present idea for someone who isn't fond of cooking/doesn't really know how.....YET!

Why not, make them some nice meals which they can freeze, and include the recipe so that they can make them again and again?!?

These recipe ideas are also vegetarian, as I know some vegetarians get caught in the trap of just eating a meat based meal, without the meat. i.e. vegetables and carbs. So I wanted to bring a little excitement to the birthday girl's plate, without needing to spend money on a meal out.

Time saving element: I made all of these meals for my own dinner, or whoever I was eating with at the time and just made double portions and froze half for the birthday girl. It takes no more effort or time to cook double portions, but makes a really personal present, as long as you have their tastes in mind. Trying it yourself also means you know that it's good enough to give as a present and hopefully, fingers crossed, they'll like it!

I added cooking instructions, and the recipe to each meal.

Meals I made (recipes to follow) for the birthday girl: Olive and Rosemary Stromboli, Spicy Szechuan Tofu, Spinach and Ricotta Gnocchi, Bean Burgers & Winter Veg Curry.

Enjoy :)

Tuesday, 15 May 2012


With an aspiration to be the perfect domestic goddess (at the age of 23), whilst hankering after anything that will save me time, this is where i'll begin my journey into developing The Contemporary Traditionalist.

This is a space where i'll be sharing any inspiration, ideas, projects, achievements and failures, in the hope of inspiring all those who yearn for domestic perfection, but just don't have the time!

I hope you'll join me :)