Beef Lasagne

Batch cooking is a wonderful thing. It’s how I survive at university. The more food I can make in one go, the less effort I have to expend cooking over the next week which is ideal as the term starts to get harder. Like the majority of the recipes in my Cooking to Basics section, this lasagne a number of meals (depending on how hungry you are)! It’s very simple to make and even better, if you happen to have some bolognaise sauce in the freeze, you don’t even need to go to the effort of making the filling.

This is not a traditional lasagne. For a start, there is no béchamel sauce. This isn’t out of convenience, I just don’t particularly like it as I find that the lasagne ends up rather sloppy with a béchamel sauce and I don’t really like super sloppy foods. Instead, I have replaced it with a thin layer of seasoned tomato puree which does the trick very well and also reduces the time it takes to make the dish. Of course, should you really like béchamel sauce, you can just substitute this in instead of the half tube of tomato paste in the recipe. The lack of the béchamel sauce also makes it very easy to turn this recipe dairy free as you can simply substitute the mozzarella with a dairy free cheese (or even just leave it naked with the tomato on top)

If you are vegetarian, it is very simple to just substitute the beef for some form of soya mince or you can bulk out the sauce with mushrooms and other veg of your choice to make a wonderful veggie lasagne. I will often put a layer of spinach in mine as if I am using pre-made bolognaise sauce for the filling, it reduces the amount I need to defrost!

 

Beef Lasagne

Prep time: 30 minutes, Cook time: 45 minutes (excluding the filling)

Serves: 4-6                                                           Cost per portion: around 80p-£1

Ingredients:

250ml tomato passata

2 cloves of garlic

One large onion (or two small onions)

One carrot

One box beef mince

One box lasagne sheets

Half a tube of tomato paste

Mozzarella

 

Optional:

A glug of sherry or red wine

Basil

1 tbsp tomato ketchup

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Chilli

Salt

Pepper

 

Follow the instructions of my bolognaise recipe to make the filling of the lasagne.

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Lightly oil a deep dish.

Place a layer of the lasagne sheets over the bottom and add a thin layer of the filling.

Repeat this, alternating layers of the filling and pasta sheets until there is about 1 cm from the top of the dish (make sure the top layer is the pasta).

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Dilute the tomato paste down with water until it is still thick but you can spread it over the top of the lasagne (at this point, you can add pepper, chilli, garlic, or whatever spices you would like on your lasagne).

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Grate the mozzarella and sprinkle and even layer over the top of the dish.

Bake at gas mark 5 (1900C) for about 45 minutes to make sure the pasta sheets are cooked!

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The lasagne freezes really well which is ideal if you just want a quick meal slightly later in the week. Just wrap up individual portions and pop them into the freezer!

Let me know if you try this at home – give me a tag on Instagram (you can find me @thatcookingthing). If you fancy trying out some lovely warming, soup as the weather gets colder, check out my butternut squash soup or if you are looking of a quick and easy dessert, my tiramisu would be perfect for you!

Have a good one and I’ll see you next week with a recipe for millionaire’s shortbread!

H

Perfect Pizza

As a student, I don’t often get the opportunity to make pizza from scratch as I just don’t have the time to make the dough. Of course you could buy in bases or even just pop down to the local take away but the difference in quality is phenomenal! Not only is it far, far cheaper to make yourself, but you can make sure you have the toppings you want on it without having the faff of spending 10 minutes deciding what you want off the menu. This recipe does take time – there are no two ways about that however like all recipes with bread involved, you will have a couple of hours in the middle in which to do what you want.

I have only done this a couple of times at university because of the time constraints however homemade pizza is a good home recipe too – especially in the holidays. Be careful though as it is very easy to overeat these as they are just so delicious! I like to have mine with chilli, sweetcorn, chicken and I’m getting into onions too. Whilst personally, I am very much against pineapple on pizza, I do appreciate that for some people, it is a fantastic topping and the wonderful thing about this recipe is that you can make personal pizzas that don’t need sharing so no one can complain! I would always advise using precooked meats just in case as you don’t want to eat raw meat and get ill – especially if you have to study for exams.

This is a particularly good recipe for house meals as you can just make the pizzas larger and share them around and they are genuinely so much better than the ones you would buy on the way home from a night out. I love a good greasy take-out pizza however these can be far healthier – using low fat cheese or even cheeseless pizzas can be a good way of using up leftover vegetables and meats without too many calories.

The recipe I use includes a technique I have not yet covered on this blog – rubbing in. This is where you combine flour and fat in a way which keeps the fat from melting and makes sure the mixture is light and airy. Using the tips of your fingers, take a little of the mix in each hand and lift them above the bowl. Use you thumbs to brush the mix back out of your hands and into the bowl rubbing the fat into the flour as it falls through your fingers. Repeat this until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. It may look like nothing is happening at the start but trust me, it will all come together in the end. Just remember, if you really can’t get a technique to work for you, YouTube it! I have learnt a lot of new techniques by watching videos because I find it far easier to understand when I can see what is going on.

The dough also freezes nicely so if you are cooking for two, the third portion can be popped in the freezer – just make sure to defrost it fully and let it warm up to room temperature before using – or it can be used to make a garlic bread (spread over butter, minced garlic and parsley if you have it) or doughballs! If you want to cook for 4 people, multiply the recipe by one and a half but don’t increase the yeast! Once sachet can be used for up to 750g of flour – it might take a little longer to rise but it will still have an amazing flavour.

 

 

Serves 3 – about £1.30 per portion

Preparation – 30 minutes, Rising – 2 hours, Cooking – 15 minutes

 

Dough:

500g Strong white flour

50g butter (or block margarine like Tomor for example)

300ml water

1 sachet instant yeast (7g)

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp sugar

2 tbsp olive oil

 

Optional

Garlic/onion power

Grind of pepper

Grated hard cheese like parmesan

 

Toppings

500ml Tomato Passata/ 1 tube of tomato paste

A few cloves of garlic

375g Mozarella grated

 

If you are using passata, heat it in a pan and add a couple of cloves of minced garlic and a pinch of sugar.

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Reduce it until the passata is thick and non-runny.

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While the passata is cooking, place the flour in a large bowl, cube the butter and rub it in until it looks like fine breadcrumbs. (If you wish to flavour the dough, stir in the extra ingredients now!)

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Make sure the fat you use is cold when you add it to the flour to help prevent it melting during the rubbing in
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After rubbing in, the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs and will have a light yellow tinge

Make a well in the centre, pour the yeast, salt and sugar around the outside of the bowl at even intervals.

Pour in the water and oil and mix to combine.

Knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic, cover and leave to rise for about 2 hours or until it has doubled in size.

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Basic ingredients for a Margharita pizza

 

Turn the oven to gas mark 6 (200oC).

Pour out the dough and divide into portions.

Roll the dough out until it fits the pizza pan you are using or until it has a radius of about 10 inches.

Spread out the thickened passata onto the pizza bases leaving about half an inch around the outside. Alternatively, if you are using paste from a tube, squeeze it into a bowl and add some water to thin it out a bit so you can spread it over the pizzas.

Sprinkle on the mozzarella trying not to get it on the dough around the edge of the bases

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We have a large pizza dish which holds two portions and a smaller one which is a single portion

Add toppings of your choice.

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Sweetcorn and mushroom pizza. I also like adding jalapenos however my dad isn’t fond of them so we go half and half
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Mushrooms, capers and olive pizza
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Mushrooms, capers and olive pizza

Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes until the cheese is bubbling and starting to brown.

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This meal is so amazingly yummy, I wish I could have it more often but it isn’t economical. It is however, perfect for a special event like having friends over or a date night or even if you just deserve a treat!

Let me know if you try this at yourselves and pop a photo in the comments! I love seeing what you guys create at home.

See here for the last Cooking from Basics recipe – an amazing Mushroom and Chicken Pasta Bake or here if you fancy making some super fudgy, gooey Chocolate Brownies.

Have a good one and I’ll see you next week for my death by chocolate tart which is sinfully delicious looks like it’s been bought from a professional bakery!!!

H

Chicken and Mushroom Pasta Bake

Pasta bakes have been a staple of my lunches since going to university. They are relatively economical, can be made with pretty much anything you have (including leftovers) and are delicious. You can use them to make a small amount of meat go very far which I have found to be a life saver when you are living off a student loan. They tend to freeze well and are also quite sturdy so once cooked, portions can be cut and put either in boxes or just wrapped in Clingfilm before being put in the freezer as the pasta has enough structural integrity to hold its shape when cool. This meant taking a slice of it in my bag to lectures was a simple task and provided me will a filling lunch during the day.

One of the things I find really interesting about this dish in particular (and to be honest, any dish involving mushrooms) is how they cook. As the fruiting bodies of a fungus, mushrooms hide beneath the soil and once ready to produce spores, they absorb liquid – rain in the wild – and sprout. They can appear out of nowhere overnight but this property is also what leads to them being very easy to burn when cooking. When you first add the mushrooms to an oiled pan, they absorb all the oil up too resulting in basically dry frying them. This can cause them to burn if they aren’t stirred constantly which is a faff if you are trying to get on with another part of the meal. To avoid this, small amounts of water can also be added which again, will be absorbed but if you manage your proportions well, can leave just enough liquid in the pan to prevent burning. Once the mushrooms get to a certain temperature, the heat breaks down the cells holding in the liquid resulting in the mushrooms releasing any water, juice and oil which is contained in them also causing them to shrink which is why the reduce down so much in volume whilst cooking.

The other interesting part of this dish (from a science perspective) is the cornflour. When I was younger, I used to be allowed to play with cornflour as a treat if I was well behaved. Whilst this was a messy, messy endeavour for all involved it did have the benefit of being an introduction to quite a complicated bit of science, the non-Newtonian fluid. As a small child, few things were more exciting than this bizarre mixture that ran through my fingers and I could sink my hand into but if I tried to jerk it out again, the mixture would turn solid and shatter with enough force. Even now as a 21 year old, I find it fascinating! In this recipe, you can only have this fun before the cornflour is added to the sauce as the moment it is mixed in, it thickens up massively giving the sauce a smooth texture.

 

 

 

 

Mushroom Chicken Pasta Bake    –     about £1.90 per portion, makes 6 portions

2 Large Onions (or three medium/small)

500g mushrooms roughly chopped

2 chicken breasts – cubed

½ cup of milk (125ml)

Chicken/mushroom stock

4 tbsp of cornflour

Oil

400g pasta shapes – I use spirals normally

Cheese

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Optional

Garlic

Basil/parsley

Salt and pepper

 

Dice up the onions and sautee in a pan with a small amount of oil.

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Once the onions are translucent, add the mushrooms and a small amount of water (I would go for about two tablespoons). This helps prevent the mushrooms from sticking to the pan. Keep stirring until the mushrooms start to release their liquid. (Should you wish to add garlic, one or two cloves either diced or minced should be added at this point)

Add the chicken and stir until it is sealed (that is to say that the outside of all the chicken has gone white.21104359_1686135108084854_1141188406_o

Add the milk and bring to the boil

Add the stock – if powder, just sprinkle it in and if it is a cube, crumble it up into the mix and stir it through

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Mix the cornflour with a small amount of water to create a slurry and add it a bit at a time to the mixture making sure that you stir well after each addition and wait for the sauce to thicken up before you add more. If there is more liquid in the sauce, you will need more of the cornflour but you may not need it all!

Let the sauce simmer for 5-10 minutes until the chicken is just cooked and then remove from the heat.

Season with salt and pepper and add the basil or parsley at this point

 

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (200oC) and cook the pasta according to the instructions on the bag.

Mix the pasta and the sauce and pour it all into an ovenproof dish pushing any exposed pieces of chicken down below the surface

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Add a layer or grated cheese over the top and place in the oven. Personally I use cheddar for this but you could use any cheese that you like (though I would avoid blue cheese in this scenario as I don’t think it would go with the chicken and mushrooms particularly well!)

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Bake for half an hour or until the cheese has melted and the top layer has gone crispy.

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For a vegetarian alternative, use more mushrooms instead of the chicken! It is still delicious and will reduce the price too.

This can be eaten cold and freezes well.

 

Whether batch cooking for yourself or making dinner for friends, this recipe is wonderful for many occations and is super versatile. You can add or take away ingredients or even change up the sauce completely to keep things fresh. Personally, chicken and mushroom is a favourite of mine so I tend to make this one quite a lot!

Let me know in the comments if you try this one yourself and pop a picture in if you can!

See here for the last recipe in the Cooking From Basics series – a delicious bolognaise sauce – or if you fancy trying your hand at some bread making, why not have a look at my recipe for Artisan Bread from last week.

Have a good one and I’ll be back next week with a super chocolatey recipe that you do not want to miss!!!

H

Bolognaise Sauce

 

For me, pasta with bolognaise is very much a comfort food. We used to have it when my mum worked away as I wouldn’t get home from school until 18.30 and my dad from work at a similar time so there was never time to cook on those days. Luckily mum would make up a huge vat of this stuff and freeze it so we would come home and have a fab dinner which just needed to be reheated.

One of the best things about this sauce is how versatile it is! You can use it just on pasta, you can make it into a lasagne. I have been known to just have it on toast if I’m super hungry. The recipe I use is very basic, it only has 4 main ingredients with a smattering of seasonings but I know that some people put in mushrooms and sweetcorn too so if you like them in your bolognaise, feel free to add any extras!

The recipe itself produces a large amount of sauce so make sure that you have boxes to store it in! It’s perfect for after a long day as all you need to do is bung it in a pan (either defrosted or still frozen – though I would add a little water in the second case to prevent burning), cook up some of your favourite pasta and hey presto! You have yourself a delicious meal!!

 

Servings ~ 10                                                                                            Cost per portion ~ 50p

 

Ingredients

Passata/chopped tomatoes

500g Beef Mince (Or for a vegetarian option, use quorn or soya mince!)

2 Large Onions – I use cannon onions (about twice the size of a fist)

3 Large Carrots

Oil

Garlic

Red Wine

Basil/mixed herbs

Chopped Tomatoes

Salt and pepper

Worcestershire Sauce (about a tsp)

Ketchup (about a tbsp)

Soy sauce (about a tbsp.)

 

 

Equipment

A large saucepan (with a lid)

A chopping board

A large knife

A wooden spoon (or equivalent)

 

Optional, if you are using passata, you can thicken it up (so the final sauce is less wet) by boiling it in a pan for 15 minutes or so to reduce it down. Add about a teaspoon of sugar while it’s boiling and should you wish to add garlic to the sauce, this is where you put it in!

 

Dice up the onion and place into a large pan on a medium heat.

Grate the carrot and add it to the pan and fry until it starts to soften.

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Onions and carrots in a pan with a little bit of oil at the bottom

Make a well in the middle of the vegetables and add the mince a little at a time (I generally go for a quarter of the pack and break it up as I put it in).

Make sure the majority of the mince has gone brown before you stir it through and add the next potion of the meat. If you wish to use quorn mince instead, this is where you would add it but unlike meat, you do not need to brown it, just stir it all in and move on to the next step.

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Make sure to brown most of the meat before stirring it througt!

Once all the mince is incorporated, add the tomato and stir it in.

If you wish to add red wine, garlic, salt and pepper, basil or mixed herbs, now is the time to do so.

 

Leave the sauce with a lid on a low heat to simmer for at least half an hour or even longer if possible!

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The sauce will darken a little while it is simmering so don’t be alarmed if you come back to find it a different colour to when you started!

I go for a medium ladle per portion as that suites me just perfectly.

The sauce is so versatile and can be used in pasta bakes, lasagne or just as plain bolognaise – I have been known to just eat it on toast too!

 

Let me know what you think of it in the comments and I’ll see you all next week for another baking post – this time, bread related!

H

Cooking from Basics

Introduction to Cooking from Basics

 

Welcome to Cooking from Basics. Over this series of recipes, I am hoping to introduce you to new recipes or at least teach you how to make others that you may have already heard of. Whilst aimed at students who are cooking for themselves for the first time, the recipes are obviously available to everyone. I will take you through each step of the process with as many photos as I can to help make sure the instructions are clear and by the end of the year, you should be able to fend for yourself in the kitchen!

Each recipe will start with three lists. There will be the mandatory ingredients (in bold), the optional ingredients (not in bold) and the equipment you will need for the recipe. Whilst optional, the second list of ingredients are things that I believe every good kitchen should be stocked with as they can make a meal so much more interesting.

As you will notice, the majority of recipes in this series will produce multiple portions. The best way I have found of saving money at Uni is to batch cook and freeze the leftovers. The other way to save money is to bulk out any dishes you have with vegetables which are far cheaper than the meat used so you can stretch a small amount of meat into many meals – I have managed to make a pair of chicken breasts last for 8 meals before (I will introduce this recipe later in the series).

 

Before the recipes start, I would just like to do a quick introduction into terminology that I will be using!

Slice: Cutting in one direction across an item of food.

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Onion sliced into half moons
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Sliced carrots

Dice: Cutting in two directions so the food is chopped up very finely

For onions, I would advise remofing the top but not the bottom! Cut lengthwise down the onion but not completely to the end. This will mean that it holds together so you can then proceed to cut perpendicular to that.

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For carrots, I would say that grating will usually suffice if you need them cut up small!

 

Julienne: Cutting into long thin strips (usually used on carrots and other vegetables) – while the official definition is 1-2mm x 1-2mm x 4-5cm, unless you are very confident in your knife skills, as fine as you can chop it will surely be sufficient. If you are lucky, you may own a julienne peeler which will do all the hard work for you!

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Julienne Carrot

Sauté: Lightly frying

Sweating: Cooking over a low heat until the outsides start to cook

Cube: Exactly what it sounds like. Cutting an item of food into small cube like shapes. I tend to use this for carrots in curries and pie and pieces of chicken

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Cubed carrot

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I will add to this list as the year goes on and I hope you find it helpful!

The first recipe will be coming on Monday so see you all soon!

Welcome!

 

macarons
Salted Caramel and Chocolate Macarons – a topic to breach around a festive period

Welcome to my blog! I am a fourth year sciences student who loves to cook but if you wanted to know about me, you would have visited the about tag!

This blog is designed for students and those who are less comfortable in the kitchen. It will be linked to the British academic year of September through to July and will consist of weekly updates of recipes. The content will be split into two halves, there will be “Cooking From Basics” as well as a Baking section.

Cooking From Basics will follow the academic year and aims to teach skills in the kitchen. It will start off with simple meals requiring little effort and will progress to teaching new techniques as the year goes on. As it is aimed at students, I will be providing a cost estimate per portion (based on my local shop’s prices) and also, where possible, I will explain how to make the recipe both vegetarian and possibly vegan!

Bread
Herb fougasse inspired by the Great British Bake Off. These little loaves caused more trouble than expected when the oven went out of commission last minute and the dough had to be carried to a friend’s house to bake!

Baking has been a passion of mine for a long time now. I love the creativity and freedom that comes with it and I always spend far too much time baking than I really should. The baking section of this blog will follow the things that I have been making and will provide recipes and if possible, troubleshooting for them.

cake 2
Galaxy themed mirror glaze cake with devil’s food cake inside. Created for a Promenade concert and inspired by Mahler’s Seventh Symphony – Night music

I will aim to alternate between the Cooking From Basics and Baking posts but some recipes may just fall into both!

I hope you enjoy the blog and I will be back with your first instalment next week!