Quesadilla Stacks

Quesadilla Stacks

Well, this is getting posted a little later than I had hoped for but you’ll have to forgive me – it’s been a hectic few weeks. You have no choice anyway really, I’ve taken the fact you’ve got this far to assume that forgiveness has been granted.

We’ve had a bit of mixed bag weather wise for the past month, and I managed to get “struck down” (very OTT description) with the cold and flu like symptoms that were flying round. That has driven me to generally spicier food (which didnt help the already runny nose) but nothing too ridiculous. I actually had some time to meal plan this month too, which means I did have the odd repetitive (but healthy) meal including about 4 days of chilli with just about every side dish going. That very same week, I needed a veggie day immediately after to take a break from the spicy red meat ragu I'd become overly accustom to.

In 2017 I had one veggie day a week, and I’ve upped that to 2 days a week this year. It’s forced creativity with my recipes which by no means a bad thing, and this recipe is one I love returning to for some wholesome and fresh tasting grub (which in this instance can also be made gluten free): Quesadilla Stacks!

So what do you need?

Core components:
  • 6 pack of (gluten free, if you fancy) tortilla style wraps
  • Grated cheese (light cheddar preferably)

For the Salsa:
  • A 200g pack of plum or tomatoes (quartered)
  • 1 red onion (finely chopped)
  • Fresh coriander (to taste)
  • A squeeze of lime juice

For the spicy guacamole:
  • 2 small or one large avocado
  • Fresh coriander (to taste)
  • 2 birds eye chillies (chopped)
  • A squeeze of lime juice

For the bean pâté:
  • 1 tin of borlotti or pinto beans (washed and drained)
  • Fresh coriander (to taste)
  • A squeeze of lime juice

First thing you will want to do is turn the oven to 180 Celsius for baking the tower once you’ve cooked it, and that can warm up whilst you do the food prep.

The prep couldn’t be easier; it’s a case of mixing each bowl’s ingredients together (albeit more of a mashing technique required for the guacamole and pâté!). Once the prep is done, it’s a case of building it in a large pan. Each of the bowl’s now mixed ingredients will become a wrap separated layer within the tower – but fused together with nature’s glue, the grated cheese. Wrap, cheese, filler, cheese and repeat. Easy! 

You'll need to spread them evenly, about 0.5cm thick per tier. What you don't use in those layers can be served on the side or saved for another meal.

My guidance is to order the layers as follows – pâté, guacamole, salsa, guacamole, pâté. That way any moisture (which is more likely from the middle layers) aren’t going to give you a soggy base as you cook.

Cook the tower on a medium heat for about 2 minutes before using a dinner plate to help you “flip” the tower and cook the other side. I would guess that it’ll take about 3 or 4 turns on each side to give you a nice golden colour to the outer wraps. Once you have that finish you can transfer to a baking tray and pop that into the now pre-heated oven for about 8-10 minutes. This will hopefully help the cheese that’s had less heat exposure in the pan to melt and allow for those layers to further “glue” together.

Once out you can plate up and serve in slices as wide as you like. I love the hints of spice paired with the ever-present freshness of coriander and lime juice. Plus that’s plenty of food for one or two people to enjoy, so it can serve as a great lunchtime snack the next day too!

I’m confident you could get creative with substitutions to the various layers, so would welcome to hear what works (and doesn’t!) should you try it yourselves.

Happy cooking x

Fish in a Parcel

Fish in a Parcel

How on earth are we at the end of March? A whole quarter of 2018 done and dusted.

March has been a busy month. I've actually been out of the country as much as I have been in it - which, you would have thought, would have given me inspiration to cook as I ate abroad. Perhaps some plantain with mango salsa from Barbados? Some raclette from the french ski chalets? Some inventive use of hams from Iberia? Alas, no.

When you're away, sometimes you just want the simple things when you get back - and this is a recipe I return to when I just want to keep things simple: fish in a parcel.

Personally I really like to use sea bass or trout, but here's the full list of what you'll need (per portion).

Main bits:
  • A fish, obviously (can be fillets if you aren't a fan of bones!)
  • A handful of baby potatoes
  • Half a fennel bulb
  • Half of a small red onion

To coat the fish:
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Zest of a half a lemon
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)

To Garnish:
  • Some crème fraîche
  • Lemon wedges (which you can grab from the lemon you use for the zest)
  • Green salad or pea shoots

First things first you need to open a beer parboil or steam the potatoes and whilst you do that you can turn the oven to 200 degrees celcius.You can start the general food prep whilst that bubbles away.

Get some greaseproof paper and cut it roughly 10-15cm longer than the fish, and pop it on a baking . You can use foil but I think the greaseproof paper is more presentationally pleasing and holds the juices better. Mix a glug of the olive oil with the seasoning and lemon zest them rub all over the fish, inside and out, then place the fish in the middle of the paper length ways on the baking tray.

Once the potatoes have cooked and cooled you can slice them and then cut up the onion and fennel into similar size pieces. Pick off some of the flora tips of the fennel, save them for decoration on the plate. As an alternative you could substitute for other harder veg, even leeks if you wanted - go get creative!

Now you'll need to "fill" the fish with the veg. What doesnt fit, feel free to stuff what you can around the outside. You then need to make your parcel, which is done by bringing the edges of the paper together and fold over to form a sealed parcel, twisting the ends together so it looks a bit like a sweet. I like to use string to keep the parcel closed at the ends - a prettier way to stop the juices leaking and keeping the heat in.

Pop the parcel into the middle of the oven and bake for 20-22 mins (depending on the size of the fish). Once it is out you can pop the parcel directly onto the plate open it up and dollop a hearty portion of crème fraîche, a squeeze of lemon and your salad garnish on the side. Add the sprigs of fennel flora and you're all set. Easy, right?

Hope you like it, happy eating x

Happy Bloody New Year

Happy Bloody New Year

Apparently it is now too late to wish you a happy new year... but all the same, I hope this finds you well as you see the first of the 2018 posts to the #tonightstea blog. After some months off I made a commitment that I would post once a month for 2018, so watch this space for more recipes in due course.

I have, quite extremely, avoided Dry January. As such it is only right that I share a dish that's inspired by a cocktail - and don't worry, it's one where the booze is optional! It's a steak (sorry veggies) and avocado salad, that is complimented by an ever refreshing Bloody Mary style dressing.

The whole dish probably takes about 10 mins to prep and cook., and the above could probably serve 2 as a light salad but I was too hungry to consider saving any for a second portion.

So to start with, what you'll need:
  • 1 medium rump steak (preferably a bit thicker if you like it pink)
  • 1 avocado (cut into whatever chunks you like)
  • 2-3 celery sticks (chopped, but save the prettier ends for your cocktail)
  • A handful of flat leaf parsley (a small handful, but is optional)
  • 150g of cheery or plum tomatoes (quartered)
  • Oil or butter (for cooking the steak)

And, for the dressing:
  • Tomato Juice (50ml)
  • Tabasco (to taste, I use about 5 dashes)
  • Worcestershire Sauce or Henderson's Relish* (again to taste, I use about 5 dashes)
  • Celery salt (a pinch)
  • Black pepper (to taste, a few twists of the grinder)
  • Lemon Juice (a short squeeze, but adding more can also help take spice out if you end up being heavy handed with the Tabasco!)

*shout out to David Bradley who put me onto this northern delicacy! For those not in the know, it's similar to Worcestershire sauce but I think it's a bit richer with tomato flavours so makes a fine alternative in this dish.

I start with the salad prep, which is to chop up the tomatoes, celery and avocado (and parsley if you decide to use it) ready to become the foundations of your dish.

To make the dressing, use a small jar or mixing bowl to bring the ingredients together. at this point, you can add 1 tablespoon of the dressing to your salad and mix gently to get some infused flavours early doors.

Obviously you are at liberty to keep the dressing ingredients out and make a cocktail whilst you are at it. My go to recipe for the cocktail itself is by Jamie Oliver, but everyone will no doubt have their own weights and measures to make it their own signature cocktail!

Once that's done you can heat your frying pan ready to cook the steak. Everyone has their own preferences with regards to cooking steak, for this dish I think it's particularly important that you aim for about Medium-Rare, so for me that's a couple of minutes either side on a high heat, turning twice. Once cooked allow to rest for 3-5 mins and then cut into strips to sit atop of your salad.

Once all of that is on the plate, you can add as much dressing as you like over the dish, and even some of the juices from the frying pan should you wish (if you're feeling particularly indulgent).

Here's a snippet of the chef in action for your enjoyment...

It's quick, refreshing and easy - and a good excuse to have a cocktail too.


King Prawn & Chorizo Linguine

King Prawn & Chorizo Linguine

The debut entry on #tonightstea is a prawn and chorizo linguine. I've been trying to be a bit healthier with my cooking in the last week or so having had a rather (alcoholic) indulgent birthday week recently. Soups have been the order of the day most lunchtimes so I wanted something a bit prettier and generally less wet.

It was actually a colleague's suggestion to have this dish. She'd spotted that one of her friends was having it, and got food envy. So I ventured off to the supermarket to top-up the fridge with prosecco get the missing ingredients. 

I had a general idea of how I wanted to make this dish (actually based on reviewing a recipe for a fennel and feta linguine dish - which I'm sure may well feature on here at some point) and in terms of prep and ingredients, for two servings, you will need:
  • Linguine (obviously)
  • Olive oil
  • 10-15 plum tomatoes, halved
  • Half a chorizo ring, sliced and halved
  • 150g of King Prawns, peeled
  • The tails of 4 spring onions
  • 5-10 basil leaves
  • 1 red chilli
  • 1 garlic clove

If you are anything like me I have a host of frozen herbs/spice packs hidden in the depths of the freezer underneath the chicken dippers (who doesn't love chicken dippers?!) and half full bags of sweet potato fries. They are pretty useful to have, as fresh pastes or packs tend to have a pretty short shelf life by comparison. You can even make your own frozen supplies, if you remember before they start to turn!

I digress...

This is a two pan operation, where contents will be combined into a single pan before being served. So to save on washing up, fry in a larger pan in readiness for the pasta addition.

I already had red chilli peppers in thanks to my guacamole addiction so I opted for frozen garlic. If you try and fry them straight from frozen they will burn easily and quickly if the pan is too hot - my tip here is to add the spices to the pan with a little water first just to bring their temperature up whilst you get on with your food prep so they should be a little softer by the time you get cooking.

Get the pasta cooking in a pan of boiling water with a hefty pinch of salt and a drop of olive oil - this adds to flavour and helps the pasta not stick together. Should only need 12 mins or so.

Fry off the garlic and chilli with 1tsp of olive oil on a medium heat and once browned add your chorizo and the prawns. Stir frequently to avoid burnt chorizo (as a slightly healthier alternative you can pre-fry the chorizo to draw out its own fats, then remove the excess oils with a kitchen paper towel and add your less fatty chorizo back into the dish when you add the pasta). I added a splash of lemon juice to take the weight out of the chilli (as they were quite a hot batch) but this is optional.

Once the chorizo and prawns are is nicely browned (probably after about 7-8 minutes) add the tomatoes, basil leaves and spring onion tails. Basil has a nice aniseed quality which helps the other spices and the spring onion tails add a nice bit of colour without too strong a flavour - plus I was able to put the rest of the spring onions (the white bits) into a salad bag for the next day's "healthier" lunch.

When the leaves have wilted it's time to add the pasta. Drain the pasta and simultaneously add a splash of olive oil to the frying pan to help with the mixing. Add the pasta gradually to so as to make the mixing a bit easier, and make sure it is well mixed (otherwise someone gets some pasta and someone else gets the prawns, chorizo and spices). Once well mixed you are good to serve.

Serve in pasta bowls with a bit of mozzarella and a basil leaf garnish and you're on to a winner; visually pleasing and super tasty. 

Enjoy it, I did 🍝😊