Spaghetti on FIRE


This is the only thing that’s ‘on fire’ about me

Hot as a fever, rattle of bones. I could just taste it, taste it. Yooooouuuuu. Your Spaghetti is on FIRE. Ok, so I doubt Kings of Leon will be adapting the lyrics of ‘Sex on Fire’, but I did chuckle to myself while prepping Spaghetti on Fire from Justine Pattison.

This is a belter of a pasta dish, packed with good stuff (vege), and full of flavour from the smoked bacon and chilli flakes. Adding Parmesan and basil leaves is optional but I’d wholeheartedly recommend doing so to enhance the taste. This frugal recipe is right up there with my favourite pasta dishes, but numero uno for me remains Pasta Puttanesca. Which one is yours?

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Ham & Pineapple Pasta Bake


Perfect for the kids to stuff their faces

Ham & Pineapple Pasta Bake from Two Chubby Cubs is a proper feast – pasta, bacon, ham, pineapple, mozzarella and (optional) cheddar cheese in one-pot! It’s a cinch to throw together and will comfortably make 6 portions – perfect for feeding the kids over a couple of days or so.

Speaking of kids, this recipe threw up one of my life’s little mysteries. My son Will, who loves Hawaiian pizzas, curiously wouldn’t entertain having pineapple in this pasta bake. Go figure. The Cubs, whose fab debut book is wonderfully entertaining, suggest serving this with a light salad on the side to ‘pointedly ignore’, which I did :-).

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Home-Made (smoky bacon) Baked Beans


I think I’ll stick to using regular cans of baked beans

Supermarket shopping during the pandemic has been challenging, particularly if you don’t feel comfortable stepping foot into stores. Getting hold of your favourite brands can also be problematic and my son Will has particularly missed his barbecue baked beans. I’ve tried to explain to him that some things are more important, but he’s a teenager ;-).

So, to avoid a household ‘crisis’ I decided to try making Home-Made Baked Beans from the Hairy Dieters. They suggest using dried haricot beans and soaking them overnight, or using 2 400g cans of cooked beans. I chose the latter because spending up to 2 hours to prep beans when I could just open a regular can, even in lockdown, seemed ridiculous. If you opt for using canned beans, in total it will take you about 40 minutes to make this.

Will’s verdict on my smoky bacon beans was soul destroying. “They don’t really taste of barbecue Dad”. “Thanks son”. But the cheeky youth had a point – they were a little bland. The following day I was more liberal with the paprika and black treacle and the leftovers did taste more authentic. But, for the time and effort devoted to make them, I think the ungrateful boy is just going to have to wait until things return to normal.

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Sausage Casserole – Hairy Dieter style


I couldn’t be arsed to wipe the plate

Sausage Casserole, in summer? Wait, I can explain. I’ve been taking full advantage of the glorious English weather recently and my barbecue has rarely been off. My local butcher does a great selection of British bangers and let’s just say I got a little over exuberant and ordered way too many.

When the weather predictably turned, I decided to make Sausage Casserole from the Hairy Dieters, in hindsight a recipe far better suited to winter than a barmy spring evening. Apart from it being a convenient excuse to open another bottle of wine my heart just wasn’t into this. I couldn’t even be arsed to wipe the plate properly when taking a photo. The plus points are that you can use full-fat sausages with a high meat content – I used Cumberland and the Hairy Dieters make other suggestions in their book.

But at the end of the day I don’t think this meal is a patch on some of their other low-cal classics, Sausages and Rich Onion Gravy and Hotdog Hotpot.

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Butternut Squash Pilaf – just 87p per serving


Just 87p per portion – you’re having a pilaf!

Butternut squash is a brilliant vegetable to have in your fridge – it keeps for ages and it’s really versatile. You can roast it for tray bakes, mash it to include as a filling when making fresh pasta or ‘squash’ bruschetta, blend it to make a tasty, buttery sauce or dice it and chuck it in a wok to include in curries.

Butternut Squash Pilaf from BBC Good Food came to my rescue recently when my fridge was bare. I’ve always got some ginger, garlic and rice knocking about and when I found some fruit and nut mix leftover from Christmas I was sorted. I’m not sure I’d go out of my way to buy these ingredients to make this especially, but it was an enjoyable vege curry that had a nice mix of sweet and savoury flavours, plus the heat from the harissa paste. And all this for just 87p – you’re having a pilaf!

If you’re a non-vegan or vegetarian and wondering what to do with any leftover squash, make Beef Kofta Curry – it’s delicious and my favourite recipe of May 2020.

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Roasted Cod with Parma Ham and peppers – just 224 calories!


A great way to introduce children to eating fish

I absolutely love Roasted Cod with Parma Ham and Peppers from the Hairy Dieters. It’s a meal you can enjoy at any time of year and requires minimal effort as it’s cooked in two stages in the oven. This allows you to get on with something else, such as quaffing down a glass of wine or a gin and tonic 😉 as this filling recipe is only 224 calories.

It’s also a good recipe to introduce children to eating fish, as proved by my sceptical teenage son, Will. Roasted fish and vege didn’t float his boat, however wrapping the cod with a piece of parma ham suddenly made it socially acceptable for him and he scoffed it without protest. Result.

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