Sausage pasta bake

Leftover tomato sauce from pizza has to get turned into something tasty. It’s even better if it can be turned into something delicious with low effort for the next day’s dinner. Pasta bakes can be prepped ahead of time and thrown in the oven whenever, making life pretty easy. Soaking the pasta in hot water instead of going to the trouble of boiling a pot of water makes things easier again. Cover it in cheese, and sure put more cheese on it when it’s served up.

As the pasta will be baked in the oven (and possibly sitting in sauce for 24 hours), it doesn’t need to be fully cooked before assembling the dish. By soaking the pasta in water before cooking, it has time to fully hydrate, the final stage of cooking can then happen in the oven. Using hot water shortens the hydration time, but cold water works just as well, but takes longer (I use this method for lasagne as I like to do a long low simmer on the ragú). The starches all swell up with the water, and don’t take anywhere as long to cook as usual. Don’t forget to salt the water as usual, and to save dishes, I soak the pasta in the dish it’ll be baked in. Respect to Ideas in Food for the idea, and their book of the same name that’s light enough to read in bed. I’ve been soaking lasange sheets since I read it. The other advantage is that your pasta probably won’t soak up as much sauce as usual, so you’ll still have an actual sauce in your pasta bake.

The choice of sausage doesn’t matter. Pork sausages are tasty, but vegetarian sausages are easier in this house. Pick whatever you like, and leftover onions from dressing pizza are welcome too. I like to assemble this while the pizza is cooking, so two day’s worth of dinner are out of the way in no time.

Pre-soaked pasta, sausages, onions, tomato sauce, ready for mixing before baking.

Pre-soaked pasta, sausages, onions, tomato sauce, ready for mixing before baking.

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Polenta Spud Waffles for Chilli

Thanks to Lidl and Clare, I now own a waffle iron. I’m still trying to figure out the optimum breakfast waffle, and have yet to try mad things like waffling brownies, but I did make a potato-corn-based-waffle for going with delicious chilli. It’s not like a Potato Waffle, but as they’re already perfect and available frozen by the kg, I don’t need to figure those out.

Waffles and chilli

Waffles with beef chilli, sour cream and chive, tortillas and a reasonable amount of cheddar.
There was no time for finding the proper camera, so it’s back to phone pictures.

This recipe makes about 6 Belgian waffles-worth. Enough for three big plates of chilli, or two chillis and some breakfast.

  • 250g cold (leftover) mashed potato
  • 30g flour
  • 20g polenta
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 100mL milk
  • butter for oiling the waffle iron

Mash up the potato with the flour, polenta, and baking powder. Beat the egg and milk together in a jug. Pour into the spud/flour mix, beating all the time with a fork. The mix doesnt need to be smooth, just well combined. Turn on the waffle iron, and brush the plates with butter.
The batter puffs up, thanks to all the baking powder, so take care not to overload the iron. Turn halfway through cooking if needed.
Serve with chilli and lashings of cheese and sour cream. Any leftover waffles can be cooled on a wire rack and toasted for breakfast (or frozen for the next time you have chilli).

Veggie chilli

Chilli non carne with plenty of cheese. Note the absence of sour cream. A foolish way to eat chilli

Dinosaur Cheese Bread

Dinosaur cheese bread

Dinosaur cheese bread

No no, there’s no dinosaur cheese in this bread, sure dinosaurs weren’t mammals so they didn’t make milk! The blobs of gouda on top make me think of dinosaurs (what a dull explanation).

  • 200ml Milk
  • 200ml hot water (not boiling)
  • 5g salt
  • 7g packet active yeast (them sachets you find in the supermarkets, you’ll have to increase the amount if you’re fancy enough to use fresh yeast)
  • 300g strong white flour
  • 300g plain white flour
  • 50g butter (softish)
  • sliced up block of gouda (or other nice cheese, gouda was what we had in the fridge)

Put the flours, yeast and salt into a bowl and mix through. Then pour on the milk and then the hot water (the combination of hot water and cold milk should be a pleasant warm temperature that the yeast will like). Squidge around in the bowl until it all starts to come together, you can then turn it out to knead it or you can just squidge around longer in the bowl (i dont like messing up the countertop until I need to). The dough should be slightly sticky, not totally wet, but definitely not dry. Pop the dough back in the bowl and cover with a lid or a plate or some cling film. Leave on the counter for two hours until all puffy and risen.

Flour your worksurface and turn the dough out on to it. Knead about for a bit (if noone’s ever shown you how to knead dough, fear not, it’s quite easy. Use your left hand to rotate the dough 90degrees, then use the knuckles of your right hand to pick up the dough from underneath and fold it on to it self, rinse and repeat (dont actually rinse the dough, it’s just a saying)). When you’re happy with the ball of dough (you’ll have beaten a lot of the air out of it by now), roll it out into roughly a rectangle about 2 or 3 centimetres thick. Spread (smear) the softened butter about the dough, spread the slices of cheese over two thirds of the area of the rectangle, and roll up along the longest side of the dough. Think of it as a swissroll with cheese instead of icing…. I had some spare cheese that I didn’t expect to fit, so I gave one slice to the handsome man, and the other piece got broken up and dotted on top of the roll.

When you’ve got the bread all rolled up, preheat the oven to about 220ºC. The dough will do some nice rising during this time. When the oven is hot, pop in the bread. After 20 mins turn it down to 180ºC for the last 20minutes of baking. If you think it’s not done, leave it in longer! A crusty crust is better than a doughy middle! Once it’s finished, leave it to cool before slicing. Slicing hot bread usually just makes a squishy mess 🙁 and then share pictures of your masterpiece with twitter!