Sunday, May 24, 2009

Pasta Bolognese Bake with Garlic Bread

A few weeks back I mentioned that I had written an article about a local botanical garden for Oklahoma Living Magazine. If you’re interested you can find it here:

And whilst I’m on the subject of writing, last week, I got my entries back from the Oklahoma Writer’s Federation contest. I won a big fat zero this year, not even so much as a measly honorable mention. Oh hum. On the plus side, I did get some excellent marks from the judges and some very favorable comments, but I guess others just did better. Oh well, you can’t win them all, and there’s always next year.

And continuing the literary theme, a couple of friends from my writer’s group were recently bemoaning the fact that though they like lasagna, they find it a fiddle to make. I told them I had a much easier pasta bake recipe, personally I prefer it to lasagna, and any leftovers freeze beautifully. So this one’s for you Sharon and Margaret.

If you like you can leave out the baking stage and use this as a pasta sauce. Omit the cheeses, and just sprinkle the finished dish with a little shredded Parmesan.

Pasta Bolognese Bake with Garlic Bread
Serves 4


8 ounces penne pasta
½ tablespoon butter
1 lb. ground sirloin
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 – 3 teaspoons chili powder
1 14½ ounce can whole tomatoes (I used my tomato gloop, you can find that recipe here:
3 tablespoons tomato paste
A couple of dashes of Tabasco sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 level teaspoon sugar
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
4 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded (divided)
½ cup sharp cheddar, shredded

Note: Seasonings, spices, and herb quantities are all guesstimates, I just tinker around until it’s how I like it.

Easy Peasy Garlic Bread


½ a French loaf, cut in half lengthwise
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped – use less if you want, but I like garlic bread that tastes of garlic
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, + about 2 teaspoons butter.

Directions for pasta bake:
  • Cook pasta for about 5 minutes, drain and set aside.
  • Melt butter in a deep-sided skillet, over a medium-high heat, add ground beef and saute until browned.
  • Reduce heat to medium, add onion, and sauté for about 2 minutes. Add garlic and chili powder and sauté for a further minute.
  • Add canned tomatoes, and break tomatoes in half, bring to a gentle boil. Stir in tomato paste.
  • Add Tabasco, Worcestershire sauces, oregano, black pepper, and sugar, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile pre-heat oven to 350F
  • Spoon a layer of about a 1/3 of the sauce into an 11x7-inch baking dish and top with ¾ of the mozzarella.
  • Stir pasta and mushrooms into remaining sauce, and transfer to baking dish. Top with remaining cheeses and bake for about 20 - 25 minutes, until cheese is bubbly.
While pasta bakes prepare garlic bread.
  • Spread each half of French loaf with approximately 2 teaspoons butter, and place on a baking sheet covered with foil for easy clean up.
  • Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan over a medium heat. Add garlic, and sauté for 1 minute.
  • Spoon garlic butter evenly over bread, and set aside.
  • When pasta is out of the oven, heat broiler to high.
  • Place garlic bread under broiler for 2-3 minutes until bread is golden brown. Keep a close eye on it, as it’s easy to burn it.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Mediterranean Potatoes

Thanks to everyone for all your commiserations and good wishes after my recent illness. You are all so kind, and tolerant of my erratic posting and commenting. I’m afraid I’m still playing catch-up as I had an interview to do, and an assignment to write last week for Oklahoma Living. My editor had extended my deadline because of my recent bout of flu, but it was still a bit of a push to get it done in time. Sometimes the writing just refuses to flow. This piece was about a local mushroom farm – a fascinating place to visit – but tricky to write about.

Until I started doing research for this article, I had no idea what a complex process growing mushrooms is. If you’re interested you can take a short video tour of a mushroom farm here:
The site also has lots of information about mushrooms, and some great recipes.

I did include a recipe for portabella burgers with the artcle, but this one was courtesy of Pam at: Thanks so much for allowing me to use your recipe, Pam, you’re a brick.

Today’s recipe, however, contains no mushrooms. It’s based on a recipe I saw in the BBC Good Food newsletter for Spanish Potatoes, I changed it up a bit and called it Mediterranean Potatoes. These were super, the leftovers were also good cold, so you could serve them as a potato salad during the summer.

Mediterranean Potatoes


2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon paprika
A few dashes of hot sauce, Franks or Tabasco
2 lbs. russet potatoes, cut into chunks
1 bulb (head) of garlic, leave skin on but top and tail each clove.
Cracked black pepper, to taste
Juice of ½ a lemon
A handful of chopped parsley


  • Put potatoes in a medium sized saucepan, cover with water and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium high and par-boil for 4 –5 minutes or until potatoes are very slightly softened. Drain and allow to cool.
  • Pre-heat oven to 375°F
  • When potatoes are cool, mix olive oil, tomato paste, paprika, and hot sauce in a large bowl, add potatoes and stir to coat.
  • Add a tablespoon of vegetable oil to a roasting pan and heat in oven. When oil is hot carefully add potatoes and garlic cloves to pan, and season with cracked pepper.
  • Roast for about 40 minutes, turning half way through cooking, or until potatoes are crispy on the outside. Sprinkle over the lemon juice and roast for a further 5 minutes.
  • Transfer potatoes to a warm serving dish, sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Vegetable Samosas

The wanderer returns. I think I’m going to have to stop saying, I’m back, as every time I do that something else goes wrong. By now, I’m sure you all must think that I’m a complete hypochondriac. The truth is, ordinarily I am not a sick person, but these past few months it just seems to have been one thing after another. (Sigh!) The latest ailment was the flu, and it was a bad one. Anyway, I’m not going to bore you with the details, suffice it to say, I’m okay now, and hopefully will stay that way for a while.

I now have a lot of catching up to do on both the work and the blog fronts. I’ve really missed everyone, but I will be visiting with y’all over the next day or two.

This is another recipe inspired by Jason at
we obviously share the same love of Indian cuisine. I love veggie samosas, and I have tried making them before using frozen filo pastry. They were a disaster, they just fell to pieces. Jason had the ingenious idea of making samosas using egg roll wrappers, I tried his method and they worked beautifully. I did use my own recipe for the filling though. Also, I have to confess that I deep-fried them in the traditional Indian way, naughty – but ever so nice. Next time I will try baking them, honest. ;-)

Vegetable Samosas

Makes about 10 – 12 samosas


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion finely chopped
3 – 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 teaspoons red curry powder
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 Russet potatoes, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
1 cup frozen peas
½ cup vegetable/or chicken stock
1 package egg roll wraps
Sufficient vegetable oil for deep frying

  • Heat oil in a large skillet over a medium heat, add onion and sauté until translucent. Add garlic and sauté for a further minute.
  • Stir in all spices and sauté for another minute.
  • Add potatoes, carrots, and peas and stir until coated.
  • Add stock, and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer covered for about 30 minutes until veggies are tender and liquid has almost evaporated.
  • Allow mixture to cool, and place in refrigerator until cold.
  • Place a tablespoon of the mixture in half of the wrap, dampen edges of wrap with water and fold into a triangle. When folding the triangle leave a little extra pastry at the edges to fold over and seal the triangle.
  • In a deep fat fryer or wok heat vegetable oil to 400F, deep-fry samosas in pairs until golden brown, about 3 – 4 minutes.