Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

For my birthday I received the Jamie Oliver 30 minute meals book. It is unlikely that I will ever actually do one of the complete meals, but there are plenty of great recipes to try. One of the first ones that stood out to me was the Cauliflower macaroni. It looked tasty and had very cheap ingredients. Considering it was part of a 30minute meal I’d say it takes about 25minutes to prepare and cook, with plenty of time for some chatting (or desert making) in the process. It tasted great, and I’d say its  good way to hide vegetables. Who doesn’t love Mac and Cheese!? The crunchy was my favourite and you could do it with or without the bacon. The original recipe had pancetta instead of the bacon, I didn’t have any and I have a freezer full of bacon which worked great instead. Also, I swapped creme fraiche for sour cream, which is pretty similar. It is so easy to buy sour cream here, and not so easy or cheap to buy creme fraiche.

I hope you try this one. Its super easy, delicious, and cheap. Oh and it makes enough to feed about 5,000 people (…8)

Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

(time: 25mins, feeds: 8)

Ingredients

6 rashers of bacon

1 large head of cauliflower

500g dried macaroni

250g cheddar cheese grated

4 thick slices of old bread

a few sprigs of fresh rosemary

2 cloves of garlic crushed

250g sour cream

Salt and Pepper and olive oil

Method

Preheat oven to 220c

Place a large pot of salted water onto the stove and bring to the boil.

Place the rashers of bacon in a large baking dish (big enough for the finished mac and cheese) and place in the hot oven. Allow to crisp up.

While the bacon is cooking, trim the cauliflower of the leaves and stalk and roughly chop into medium sized florets. Add the pasta and cauliflower to the pot of boiling water. Return to the boil and cook until the pasta is cooked but  still a  little on the firm side. Drain the pasta and cauliflower and keep a few cups of the pasta water for later.

By this stage the bacon should be done. Remove the bacon from the oven and then the baking dish and set aside. Keep the oven on. Put the cauliflower and macaroni into the baking dish.

In a food processor combine the bread, rosemary, garlic, cooked bacon and a little olive oil. Pulse until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.

Add the cheese and the sour cream to the pasta with about a cup of the pasta water and mix through with some salt and pepper to taste. Add a little more pasta water if you think you need to cook your pasta a little more, or add less water if you pasta is fully cooked. Once combined, pour the breadcrumbs over the top and spread evenly.

Put the cauliflower mac and cheese in the oven and bake for 8-10minutes or until the breadcrumbs on top are nicley browned and crispy and the macaroni and cheese is bubbling.

Serve while still hot!

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Tex Mex Black Eyed Pea Casserole

Although this does not look super appealing, it was REALLY TASTY and Craig loved it (big deal because Craig is really fussy)!

I am an avid Pinterest user (http://pinterest.com/) and this was a recipe posted on Pinterest from Recipe Girl (http://www.recipegirl.com/2011/12/29/tex-mex-black-eyed-pea-casserole/). It looked easy and I love tex mex (we can’t really get the real stuff here in Australia), so I though this would be a good one to try.

It was actually easier than I thought to find black eyed peas, just from a local deli, about $3-4 for a kilo, and you don’t need much. Also, a while back I bought 4kg of bacon when it was really cheap, so any chance to use up some of my bacon and free up some freezer space. The original recipe called for Rotel tomatoes which i’m sure would be hard to find here, so I just altered the recipe to include green chilies and a can of tomatoes which is pretty much the same! The recipe feeds 6 and takes about an hour.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups dried black eyed peas, rinsed
  • 5 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled (or more!)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion (about 1/2 medium)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups rice (your preference)
  • 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 300g canned diced tomatoes (3/4 of the usual 400g can of tomatoes)
  • 1-2 large green chilies, seeds removed and sliced.
  • 3 cups fresh spinach, cut into strips
  • 2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese, divided
  • chopped cilantro, sour cream and sliced avocado (for serving)

Method:

Bring a medium pot of water to boil. Add the dried peas and boil for 30 minutes, or until tender (as tender as a canned black bean would be). You don’t want them to have much of a bite to them, but you don’t want them mushy either. Drain the beans when you’ve got them where you want them.

In a deep medium skillet, heat the olive oil at medium heat. Add onions and chili and cook until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in garlic, then rice, stock, cumin, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover and cook for about 20 minutes (just until the rice has almost absorbed all of the liquid). Time will vary depending on the type of rice you choose to use (20 minutes for white rice, but longer for brown, etc)

Preheat the oven to 200C. Scrape the rice into a large bowl. Add peas, tomatoes, spinach, 1 cup of the cheese and bacon. Stir it all together and then scoop it into a 9×12-inch (or similarly sized) casserole dish.

Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top and bake for an additional 10 minutes, just until cheese is melted.

Serve in bowls topped with sour cream, fresh cilantro and sliced avocado.

I must admit that both my lovely house guest and cooking assistant Jasmine and I agreed that we wanted lots of cheese on top (a bit naughty) so we added about half a cup extra! I used 5 rashers of bacon this time and I think that next time I will either add more or I will try it with some chorizo.

Baked Tomato, Bacon and Haloumi Gnocchi

As a premise to this first recipe blog I must admit that this meal was actually cooked by my wonderful husband Craig!

We got the idea for this baked gnocchi online and altered it to suit what we had in the kitchen.

Ingredients

    • 500g of gnocchi (we used store bought, make your own if you are game!)
    • 1 medium brown onion, diced
    • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
    • 4 rashers of bacon, diced
    • 2tbs balsamic vinegar
    • 2tbs olive oil
    • 100g haloumi, cubed
    • 1 400g can of crushed/diced tomatoes
    • 200mls pasata (or some sort of plain pasta sauce)
    • 1/4 cup of fresh basil, roughly chopped
    • 100g parmesan cheese, grated
    • flat leaf parsley or basil as a garnish

Method:

Preheat oven to 180C

Fill a medium sized saucepan with salted water and bring to the boil. Add Gnocchi and cook according to instructions on the packet, making sure you don’t overcook it. Drain immediately.

Heat oil in a medium sized saucepan (I use the same one as the gnocchi because then I don’t have to wash two), add onion and garlic, cook at medium heat until the onion becomes transparent.

Add balsamic vinegar and bacon, saute for 3 minutes.

Add tomatoes and pasata, bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Combine gnocchi, haloumi, basil and tomato mixture in a large ovenproof casserole dish. Top with parmesan cheese and bake in oven for 15 minutes, or until parmesan appears golden brown.

Serve while hot with fresh parsley or basil as a garnish.

Notes: Feel free to add salt and pepper before baking, however remember that most cans of crushed tomatoes and pasta sauces contain a lot of salt, so taste the tomato mixture before adding any extra. Also, for a vegetarian version of this dish just remove the bacon (your arteries will thank you).

Enjoy!

Lauren