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A Perfect Summer Meal: Luna Raye’s Light and Ea...

Summer has well and truly arrived. For the past few weeks the sun has been shining everyday and it has been hot, hot, hot! This lovely weather has worked wonders on my garden and everything seems to be thriving (which makes a change from last years disappointing efforts.)

There is an abundance of herbs and I have been incorporating them into as many of my meals as I can. Last night I had a craving for pasta. Sometimes you just can’t beat a bowl of spaghetti served with a nice chilled white wine.

Although I am growing tomatoes, they haven’t started to bear fruit yet so I bought some plum tomatoes from a greengrocer that specializes in local Kent produce. I also bought a few chestnut mushrooms. Once I had assembled those ingredients I went out into the garden to collect some herbs. I decided on Parsley, Coriander, Sage and Lemon Thyme.

It was a very light and refreshing meal and the flavour of the herbs came through beautifully. I really love being able to use ingredients from the garden and I can’t wait until we can use our own tomatoes!

So here is my recipe for a perfect summer meal:

Luna Raye’s Recipe For Light and Easy Pasta with Fresh Tomatoes, Mushrooms and Herbs from the Garden.

Ingredients

Spaghetti (I used enough for 2 people approx 160 – 200 grams).

9 Plum Tomatoes cut roughly into chunks (Cherry Tomatoes also work well. What’s important is that they are fresh).

9 Chestnut Mushrooms sliced ( I like mine a bit chunky but they can be sliced thinner if you prefer).

A selection of Fresh Herbs preferably from your garden! I used Curly Parsley, Coriander, Sage and Lemon Thyme. I used approximately about 4 Tablespoons of the chopped mixed herbs.

Drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese.

Directions

Cook the pasta in lightly salted water according to the package directions.

While the pasta is cooking roughly chop the tomatoes and slice the mushrooms. Set them aside.
Roughly chop the herbs and also set aside.

When the spaghetti is al dente drain it and do not rinse. The idea is to keep a small amount of the cooking water in the pot.

Put the spaghetti back in the pot and add the tomatoes, mushrooms, herbs and a drizzle of olive oil.
Mix well and transfer to serving bowls.

Add some freshly ground pepper and parmesan cheese to taste.

Enjoy it out in the garden with some chilled white wine!

NOTES:

For ages whenever I cooked pasta I would add a wee bit of olive oil to the water which I thought would prevent the pasta from sticking together. This was not only rather costly it can actually impair the flavour of the dish. The pasta becomes oily and is unable to absorb any sauce.

I also remember being told that it was important to rinse cooked pasta after it’s been drained. This isn’t a good idea either. Rinsing pasta cools it down which means it stops the pasta from absorbing sauces. This can also impair the over all flavour of the dish.

Rinsing also washes away any starch that is left on the pasta. This starch is important for thickening sauces, so it’s beneficial to always reserve some of the cooking water from your pasta.

I first tried this technique when I made Nigella Lawson’s Linguine with Lemon, Garlic and Thyme Mushrooms and it was wonderful.

Here is a great article by Shirley Corriher on How To Cook Pasta Properly.

Light And Easy Pasta With Fresh Tomatoes, Mushrooms and Herbs

The Abundant Garden.

Bruschetta: A Delicious Half Time (Or Anytime) Tre...

Like many people this summer I will be watching the World Cup. I am not an avid football fan but I do enjoy the bigger matches and the World Cup is always exciting. During the England vs. USA game we needed some cheering up after Robert Green allowed the Americans to score an easy goal.

During the half time I decided to make a quick and easy bruschetta. This recipe is slightly different from traditional bruschetta recipes as I didn’t heat the tomato mixture before spreading it on the bread, but it is still full of flavour and goes very nicely with a chilled beer. We had Maple Moon Ale, an award winning ale from Joseph Holt’s Derby Brewery.

After our half time treat we felt slightly better about the match. We didn’t score another goal, but we didn’t allow another goal in either – which is something.

Luna Raye’s Half Time Or Anytime Bruschetta.

(If you want to make this at half time make sure you put the oven on 10 – 15 minutes in advance. So approximately 30 – 35 minutes into the first half of the match)

Ingredients

15 – 20 organic cherry or plum tomatoes.

1 clove of garlic, minced.

1 banana shallot finely chopped. (You can use any shallot but I prefer banana shallots as they are milder)

3 – 4 Tablespoons freshly chopped herbs. (I used Parsley, Coriander, and Sage) I would have loved to use some of my Basil but it’s struggling at the moment.

Pinch of sea salt.

Black pepper to taste.

Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

2 – 3 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese.

1 small baguette cut lengthways and then halved.

Directions

Preheat oven to 180 degrees.

Place the cut baguette slices on a baking sheet and put in oven to slightly toast them. (You can brush a little virgin olive oil on them at this stage if you wish).

While the baguette slices are gently toasting in the oven. Roughly chop the tomatoes and place in a medium sized bowl.

Add the minced garlic and chopped shallot and mix well.

Add the sea salt and some black pepper and gently blend in the chopped mixed herbs.

Take the baguette slices out of the oven and spread the tomato mixture liberally over each slice.

Finish with a light drizzle of virgin oil and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.

Place back in the oven for a further 5 minutes or until the Parmesan has melted and the tomato mixture is slightly bubbling.

Keep a close eye on them as you don’t want them to burn.

They should be on the plate by the start of the 2nd half (although it does help to have a kitchen assistant to speed things along!)

Happily serves 2.

Half Time or Any Time Bruschetta

My Poor Basil

A Very Trying Week But We’re Finally Feline Fine...

The past 10 days has been a very trying time for my husband and I. We noticed our beloved moggy Nutmeg was drinking much more water then usual. We also thought she was sleeping more then normal and wasn’t her usual busy body self.

I took her to the Vets where they did some tests and after a few days it was confirmed that she has diabetes. Over the next few days I brought her back for more tests and to be shown how to inject her with insulin. At this point I want to give a big shout out to the wonderful veterinarian who has made time for all my many questions, who has helped ease my worries and anxieties and who patiently showed me how to handle the medication. The vet visits are only just beginning as we need to get her stabilized but after 2 days on insulin she is already showing huge improvements.

Diabetes has affected many members of my family so although I wasn’t overly thrilled with the news about Nutmeg, I did take some comfort in the fact that it is something I know a bit about. I won’t lie and say that I didn’t cry or have moments of complete despair and fear, but once I calmed down and spoke to my mom and sister (who by the way has been successfully managing her diabetes for over 30 years), I felt much more positive. There are many great websites with lots of information on the subject of feline diabetes as well as supportive forums where you can go when it all gets a bit too overwhelming. At this point I would also like to thank the lovely Jules who has been working with me on this site, as soon as she heard about Nutmeg she sent me the following link to this very helpful website. Another site I found has a great forum and I have been getting some good pointers there.

It is still early days with Nutmeg but I am feeling much more hopeful about things. She is such a special little girl and we immediately fell in love with her the moment our local Cats Protection League brought her into our lives. Not a day goes by that I don’t thank the Universe for sending her our way. If you notice your animal companion acting strangely then please don’t wait – go the vets immediately.

Things to look out for are:

• Excessive thirst.
• Excessive urination. They may urinate outside of their litter box.
• Weight loss. Going off their food.
• Extreme lethargy.
• Eating more than normal.
• Any behaviour that seems out of character.

Well during this time I must confess that cooking and eating were not really top of my list of priorities. This was a mistake as by not eating properly I wasn’t able to handle stress effectively. I know that in order to properly care for Nutmeg I need to properly look after myself. Tonight was the first night we actually felt like eating a meal. We hadn’t been shopping for ages so the cupboards and fridge were pretty barren.

Fortunately we had some turkey mince in the freezer which I defrosted. I then put it in a pot with a few other ingredients I found and made a very warming and comforting chilli. In honour of everything we have been through these past few days I have called this recipe Luna’s Finally Feline Fine Chilli. So here it is:

Luna’s Finally Feline Fine Chilli

Ingredients

1 package of turkey mince (500 grams)
½ Spanish onion chopped finely
1 drizzle of maple syrup.
2 Tablespoons of olive oil.
4 cloves of garlic.
1 pinch of salt.
½ teaspoon of oregano.
½ teaspoon of thyme.
½ teaspoon of chilli flakes.
1 pinch of Nutmeg (the spice not the moggy!)
1 ½ cups of vegetable stock.
1 can organic plum tomatoes.
1 can organic cannellini beans, rinsed.
Parmesan cheese.

Directions

Sautee the chopped up onion in olive oil and maple syrup, until soft and translucent.

Add the turkey mince and mix in with the onions until the mince is completely cooked.

Add the garlic. You can mince the cloves but I like to chop them in chunkier pieces. You also don’t have to use as many cloves but as we were feeling run down we thought we would give ourselves a boost of garlic power!

Once garlic is mixed in add the herbs, salt and pinch of nutmeg. Mix well.

Add the vegetable stock and allow it to simmer for 15 minutes.

Then add the can of tomatoes and mix in well, adding the beans at the end.

Allow everything to simmer and stir occasionally. I let mine bubble away for 45 minutes.

Grate some parmesan cheese over top.

Serve with steamed rice or crusty bread and enjoy!

Luna's Finally Feline Fine Chilli

Luna's Finally Feline Fine Chilli

A little pinch of Nutmeg.

I also just wanted to say that if you are considering welcoming an animal companion into your home please do think about adopting from a local shelter.