Thursday, 18 December 2014

Baked Filled Courgettes in Tomato Sauce

As much as I enjoy going out or staying in with friends, especially at this time of year - there's so much socializing - every now and then I do like to spend time alone and have my quiet moment. I've been out and about every night this week and it's so good to finally have an evening all to myself.

Not that I am over with all the Christmas spirit... Not at all. I absolutely love Christmas and I look forward to having some friends over for Christmas lunch. I just finished planning my menu the other day and I cannot wait for some more festive fun!

Today after work I cooked this baked filled courgettes in tomato sauce. The courgette is filled with sausage meat and I use Italian sausage which I prefer because it comes pre-flavoured with fragrant fennel seeds. If you're using plain sausage meat, just sprinkle a teaspoon or so of fennel seeds. The filling also includes the courgette pulp that's been cooked with garlic, egg, breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese and some flat leaf Italian parsley.

The spicy tomato sauce that surrounds the baked courgettes is easy to make and speedy too. You'll see...
As much as I am enjoying this dish on my own, actually this will make a great side dish when you're having people around... But I am being completely selfish right now and all I need with this, is a hunk of bread to dip the tomato sauce and a glass or two of fermented grape juice. Have a great one my friends.


Baked Filled Courgettes in Tomato Sauce

6 large courgettes
2 tbsp olive oil, regular kind
1 clove of garlic, finely minced or grated
300 gr Italian sausage, casings removed
50 gr breadcrumbs
1 egg
30 gr grated Parmesan, plus more
Flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the tomato sauce
2 tbsp olive oil, the regular kind
1 small onion, finely chopped
Red pepper flakes, to taste
400 gr tinned chopped tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the tomato sauce, heat the oil in a pan and sauté the onion and red pepper flakes over medium heat until softened. Add the tomatoes, and swirl the can with a little bit of water and add the water to the pan. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil and then simmer for fifteen minutes or so, stirring occasionally.

In the meantime, preheat your oven to 200 C. Cut the courgettes in half lengthways and scoop out the pulp and keep in to one side. In a frying pan, heat the olive oil and add the garlic and fry over medium heat for a couple of minutes just to infuse the oil with the garlic without letting the garlic burn. Then add the courgette pulp and cook for few minutes until cooked. Leave to cool.

In a big bowl, add the sausage meat with the breadcrumbs, egg, Parmesan, parsley and cooled courgette pulp. Mix to combine. I find this easier to do with hands. Clean, of course. Don't forget to season with salt and pepper. Fill the courgette shells with the mixture. 

Pour the tomato sauce into an ovenproof baking dish. Place the filled courgettes on top and sprinkle with a bit more Parmesan. Cover the whole dish with foil and bake for half an hour. Then remove the foil and bake for further 10 minutes to brown and the courgettes are cooked through.
Leave to stand for a few minutes before serving and drizzle with a bit more olive oil, this time the good kind (extra-virgin) and sprinkle with more finely chopped parsley... And you know what to do next... :)

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Chocolate Fruit Cake

Greetings friends!

How is everyone doing? I hope all is well and are in great festive spirit.
I apologise for the lack of posts and I have missed all of you. It's been a busy past few weeks and not that I haven't been cooking or eating - if you are a follower of my Instagram account (@Michael_Toa), you know that it's not the case. After spending hours in the kitchen during the day, I come home and still cook for myself most days, but nothing too elaborate... I mean something simple (and utterly delicious) like spaghetti with marmite.

I can't believe it's been over four months now since my move to the Cayman Islands to start my new job as a pastry cook. I have very much enjoyed this new role and I am constantly learning new recipes, techniques - and pushing myself and giving the best of my ability.

I work in the bakery section of the pastry department, baking many different types of fresh breads, rolls and loaves everyday. Funny thing that I once terrified of baking bread at home, and now it becomes a job that I love so very much. 

There had been days when it's extremely busy and things didn't go as planned, but I learn from the experience. And even when it's crazy busy I try to make it fun... I mean baking is fun and stress is just an unnecessary ingredient.

The island life is getting better I suppose. The weather is a bit cooler right now which I like. I made many new friends and found a group of people who are lovely to feed, so I'm always happy to have them around. 

I am spending my day off from baking, doing some home baking. I am finally getting into the Christmas spirit and as I'm typing this, I have Christmas carols playing and in the oven, my fruit cake is doing its thing and the house is smelling incredible. I use the same recipe every year from Nigella. I'll be sure to put the link to the recipe later. The fruit cake is unbelievably moist and I absolutely love it. In it you'll find raisins, currants, prunes, coffee liquor, orange peel, brown sugar, mixed spice and cocoa... All the good stuff.  The only alteration I made to the recipe is, instead of using honey, I used marmalade with ginger which gives another layer of sweetness, but also warmth to the fruit cake. 

The method to making the cake is also very easy, another reason to love. You don't need to steep the dried fruits days in advance - just put everything in a big pan and the heat along with the liquids will rehydrate the dried fruits for you.

It's still quite early in the morning, but I feel like after my coffee, I need some mulled wine too... :) I mean it is the season after all, right? 

Happy holidays my friends!

Chocolate Fruit Cake
Recipe by Nigella Lawson
Find the list of ingredients and instructions, here.