Pesto Pasta 5 ways

I recently read an article stating that the average Londoner spends £2,500 a year on work lunches (!!!!!) That is an awful lot of money spent largely on fairly boring sandwiches from Pret and overpriced sushi boxes from Itsu, which are also not particularly nutritious. I, personally, think this is a criminal amount of money spent on lunches, and pride myself on making tasty and cheap lunches for work that work out at no more than £1 a day (A total of £250 a year – so that’s a whopping £2250 saving annually.  To put that into perspective, that could probably get you TWO two week holidays to Bali, Thailand or New York).

Apparently the top reasons most people don’t bring their own packed lunches to work is because 1. they don’t have enough time to cook and 2. they don’t know what to make. So I’m on a quest to help people eat tastier, home-cooked lunches and save money.

The idea behind this is batch cooking. Yes, eating the same meal 5 days in a row can get a bit boring, that’s why I’ve come up with 5 different recipes with pesto pasta as the base, to reduce repetitiveness.  If you still can’t stand eating pasta for 5 days, you can make 5 meals, and freeze each portion for another day, or just give some to your other half to take to work.   The process of making these 5 meals should only take 30 minutes. (Highlighted in bold, because, I’m sure even the busiest of people can find 30 minutes a week). So these can be made on Sunday afternoon and stored in the fridge during the week.

IMG_5935.jpg

Ingredients for 5 meals = £5

  • 1 jar (190g) of pesto (98p from Asda – this brand is really tasty and good value)
  • 500g pasta (50p from most supermarkets)
  • A handful of spinach (approximately 10p worth of spinach)
  • 10 washed cherry tomatoes (5p worth of tomatoes)
  • 6 cloves of garlic (5p worth of garlic)
  • 50g smoked salmon (£1 worth of salmon)
  • 1 mackerel fillet (70p worth of mackerel)
  • 1 chicken breast (80p)
  • 5 slices of salami (50p worth of salami)
  • 100g grated cheddar cheese (30p worth of cheese)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Top tip: if you need to buy larger amounts of the ingredients listed, you can freeze extras so they don’t go to waste (always check the storage instructions first).

Method:

  • Start by boiling your pasta in a saucepan according to the instructions. Whilst this is cooking, finely chop your garlic cloves and pan fry in the olive oil for 1 to 2 minutes until golden.
  • Once your pasta has cooked, drain and stir in your pesto and garlic.  This will act as your base for the rest of your dishes.  Separate your pasta mixture into 5 tupperware boxes (I like Lock and Lock because they’re totally leakproof).

1. The Veggie

IMG_5676

  • Panfry your cherry tomatoes and spinach for 2-3 minutes and add to box one.
  • You could also add leeks, onions, mushrooms or peppers according to taste.

2. The Chicken

  • Next, panfry your chopped chicken breast until cooked through and add into the second box.
  • Make sure you stir in thoroughly so the chicken breast is covered in pesto too.

3. The Salami
4. The Salmon
5. The Mackerel 

IMG_5372

  • The next three dishes are as simple as slicing up your salami, salmon and mackerel into small pieces and stirring through your pasta. (Note: if you are going to freeze these dishes, freeze without the salami as most can’t be frozen)
  • Grate your cheese and sprinkle on top of each portion. You could also add some black pepper.
  • Store in the fridge and take to work each morning!

So, it’s really as simple as that. 30 minutes, 5 meals, £1 each.  You’ll save money, and eat better…. and then you can go ahead and book that trip to Thailand!

Mexican Eggs

Overall time needed: 15 minutes

If you’re looking for a healthy recipe packed with protein whilst being super tasty, these Mexican eggs are one to try! They’re really quick to prepare making them a perfect midweek meal idea, and are also vegetarian, so are great for any of you who celebrate Meat-Free-Mondays!

IMG_4253

Ingredients (Serves 2):

  • 3 mushrooms (sliced)
  • 5 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
  • 2 eggs
  • 10 cherry tomatoes (chopped in half)
  • 50g sweetcorn
  • 100g black beans
  • Few sprigs of coriander
  • Few basil leaves
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon chilli flakes
  • Salt and pepper to season
  • 25g feta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Method:

  1. Add your olive oil, mushrooms, sweetcorn and black beans to a frying pan and cook on a low heat for 1 – 2 minutes.  The heat should remain low throughout this recipe to avoid the ingredients burning.
  2. After this, add the cherry tomatoes and paprika, chilli flakes, garlic and salt and pepper and toss the ingredients to they are covered in the spices.
  3. Crack the eggs into the pan and cover until the eggs are cooked through (this should take around 2 minutes for a runny yolk or around 4 minutes for a hard yolk)
  4. Turn the heat off and add the coriander and basil leaves to the pan and then crumble the feta cheese on top.

IMG_4256

Courgetti Bolognese 

Overall time needed: 1 hour 15 minutes 

I’ve been a bit naughty this weekend and may have overindulged in carbs and chocolate yesterday! (Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a balanced diet and am a firm believer in the importance of carbohydrates… But 5 plates of pasta is probably too much!)  So today I’ve tried to make up for it by whipping up my Courgetti Bolognese. It’s packed with protein and loadsa veg and is a perfect Sunday night dinner. Plus any leftovers can be taken to work for lunch on Monday! I used lamb mince but this could be easily substituted with beef or turkey if you prefer.


To make this recipe you’ll need a spiralizer – one of the worlds greatest inventions!! It’s so useful, not just for courgetti, but for making vegetable crisps and also jazzing up boring salads. If you haven’t got one yet I’d wholeheartedly reccomend it. 


Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 250g lamb mince (this could be substituted for beef or turkey)
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
  • 150g mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 1 red pepper 
  • 1 stick of celery 
  • 400g chopped tomatoes
  • 1 chicken stock cube (450ml boiling water)
  • Pinch of salt and crushed black pepper 
  • 2 courgettes
  • grated cheddar cheese, to serve 

Method:

1. Heat the olive oil in a pan and add the lamb mince. Fry until browned and then set aside in a bowl.

2. Fry the onion on a low heat for 5 minutes, then add the garlic, carrot, red pepper, celery and mushrooms and cook for another 5 minutes until softened. Re-add the mince to the pan. 

3. Add the tomato purée and the chopped tomatoes and stir so all the ingredients are mixed together. Add the salt and pepper. 

4. Add the chicken stock in boiling water and then lower the heat to simmer for around 45 minutes until the sauce has thickened. 

5. Whilst the sauce is brewing spiralize your courgettes using a spiralizer. 

6. When the sauce is ready, add your courgetti to the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes until lightly softened. 

7. Serve and top with some grated cheese. Enjoy!

Thai Green Curry with Chicken

In November I spent a few weeks in Asia, firstly stopping in Bangkok for my cousin’s wedding followed by a relaxing few days in Phuket and then on to visit my best friend in Hong Kong! Whilst in Phuket I did an AMAZING Thai cookery class at the JW Marriott Ginja Cookery School. 

The Ginja Cookery School at the JW Marriott Resort, Phuket


Our instructor, Chef Kong, was great. He was super knowledgable and cooked us the best Pad Thai I’ve ever tasted (Mine sadly didn’t turn out as well as his!). We even got a chance to visit a local market. 

Chef Kong at the Ginja Thai Cookery School



Pad Thai


Here is the recipe for the Thai green curry that I learnt on the course. I’ve found that although you can buy a pre-prepared curry paste in the supermarket, the curry tastes 100 times better when you make it yourself. Plus, it’s not as difficult or as time consuming as I had thought, especially if you have a food processor. 

Thai Green Curry with Chicken


I’ve slightly tailored this recipe to British tastes and ingredients, as there were a few authentic Thai ingredients which I’ve found difficult to come across in the UK, don’t worry, it tastes just as good!
Ingredients:

For the green curry paste:

  • 2 green chillies (for a medium spiced curry)
  • 1 lemongrass stick 
  • 1 tablespoon fresh corriander 
  • 1/2 tablespoon lime zest 
  • 1 shallot 
  • 6 garlic cloves 
  • 7 pieces of peppercorns 
  • Pinch of salt 
  • 1 teaspoon shrimp paste 
  • Thumb sized stick of fresh ginger 
  • 1 teaspoon of ground turmeric 
  • Thumb sized stick of galangal ginger 

For the curry 

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil 
  • 100g chicken breast, sliced into small pieces 
  • 50ml chicken stock 
  • 150ml coconut milk 
  • 1 aubergine, sliced into small chunks 
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves 
  • 1 big red chilli, sliced vertically in half 
  • 1 tablespoon palm sugar (or brown sugar)
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce or light soy sauce 
  • Pinch of salt 

Method

1. Put all ingredients for the curry paste in a food processor and blitz until a paste forms.

2. Heat up the oil in a pan and add the curry paste until the aroma develops.

3. Add the chicken stock, aubergine and coconut milk and simmer on a low temperature for 5 minutes.

4. Add the chicken, kaffir like leaves and simmer until the chicken is cooked 

5. Add the fish sauce, Palm sugar, and garnish with the red chilli.

6. Serve alongside rice, or even quinoa! Which is what I use to take to work as a packed lunch. Enjoy!

Flatbread Pizzas

img_9927

If you’re looking for a super quick yet totally delicious DIY meal, you have come to the right place! These flatbread pizzas are bursting with Italian flavours and massive amounts of veggies, although the toppings are optional, you could try adding salami, chicken or a selection of your preferred vegetables instead of what I have suggested.  This is one of my go to meals when having friends round for lunch – its just so easy to make (yet seems impressive!)

img_9910

I came up with this recipe myself after discovering Warburton squares. I love them, they’re really versatile and can be used to make sandwiches, wraps, garlic bread and even pizza. They’re available in most supermarkets, however I find they are so popular nowadays that they are regularly sold out *sob*. So when I spot them in the supermarket I buy a stackful and freeze them (top tip for any kind of bread!)

img_9911

Overall time needed: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • Flatbread – I use Warburton squares but any type will do
  • 150g chopped tomatoes
  • 6 cherry tomatoes, chopped in half
  • 10 fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • pinch of salt and crushed black pepper
  • 50g mozzarella, chopped into small chunks
  • 25g cheddar cheese, grated
  • 2 mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 a courgette, finely sliced
  • 15 olives
  • 4 sundried tomatoes

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to gas mark 6/200 degrees centigrade
  2. Place your flatbread on a baking tray and spread the chopped tomatoes evenly on top
  3. Sprinkle the garlic, basil leaves, salt and pepper on top.
  4. Add your mushrooms, courgette slices, cherry tomatoes, sundried tomatoes and olives on top, followed by the cheese.  Then add a bit more black pepper on top.
  5. Place in the oven for 15 minutes, until the cheese is slightly golden.  Enjoy!

Chicken in a mushroom & cream sauce

This chicken stew is quickly becoming one of my favourite midweek meals this January when it’s sooo cold and dark outside! (boo) It’s super quick to prepare and is delicious alongside some creamy mash or roast potatoes. 

Overall time needed: 30 minutes

Serves 2 people

Ingredients 

  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil 
  • 3 chicken breasts, diced
  • 350ml chicken stock
  • 6 cloves garlic 
  • Salt and crushed black pepper (to taste)
  • 25g butter 
  • 1 leek, chopped 
  • 200g mushrooms 
  • 150ml white wine 
  • 150 ml double cream


Method
:

1. Heat the oil in a frying pan and then add the chicken and cook on a medium heat until slightly golden. 

2. Add the garlic, leek, and mushrooms. At this point I like to reduce the heat and let the veggies ‘slow cook’ to bring out maximum flavour. Leave to cook for 5-7 minutes. 

3. Add the White wine and chicken stock and simmer on a low heat. 

4. Add the double cream followed by the salt and pepper and leave to simmer for 5 minutes. Bon apetit!

Cacio e Pepe

Total time required: 15 minutes
Makes 2 servings

img_8367

Ever since my trips to Rome and Venice earlier this year I’ve been truly obsessed with cacio e pepe pasta.  It’s so simple with 3 main ingredients, cheese, butter and pepper (what’s not to like?!). So I decided to whip up a batch at home.  It was so quick and easy – the ultimate lazy pasta recipe.

The dish has been recently popularised in London, through the newest pasta bar, Padella. But there are a number of other places in London where you can find this amazing dish!  My favourite being Cicchetti…just look at that cheese!!

img_7873

Cacio e pepe – Cicchetti, Piccadilly 

Cecconi’s in Mayfair also serve a great version, although slightly cheesier than Cicchetti’s.

img_8100

Cacio e pepe – Cecconi’s, Mayfair

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 350g good quality spaghetti (I used De Cecco, which is also popular in Italy)
  • 170g grated pecorino cheese
  • 3 tablespoons freshly crushed black pepper
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 30g  grated parmesan cheese

Method:

  1. Add the salt to your saucepan of boiling water and boil the spaghetti as per the instructions on the packet (usually around 10 minutes)
  2. Drain the spaghetti into a colander but hold back a cup of the pasta water.
  3. Place the spaghetti back into the saucepan and add the cup of pasta water and heat on a low heat.
  4. Add the pecorino cheese, butter and black pepper to the pan and stir until melted.
  5. Serve, and add the grated parmesan on top if you wish.