Roasted Aubergine Pasta

I’ve never really been a ‘sandwiches for lunch’ kind of person. Sure, sandwiches can be pretty magnificent, but day in day out they lose their appeal quickly. This aubergine pasta recipe is something you can bulk cook, store in the fridge for a few days and enjoy hot or cold. Add this in to your lunch menu to freshen things up and put a smile on your face as you take a break.

I’m starting to learn to sit and eat my lunch with no distractions and actually take some time to myself. Spooning something mindlessly in to my mouth as I fly through emails provides zero satisfaction.  Turning ‘work mode’ off for just half an hour really makes you appreciate the food more and you’ll come back with a bit more energy for the afternoon ahead.

Sweet and flavoursome with a tomatoey tang, this roasted aubergine pasta is whipped up in around 25 minutes, with only 5 of those actually hands on.

easypasta

The basis of this recipe comes from a Nigel Slater supper in The Guardian, a dish my Uncle told me is one of his simplest ‘go to’ meals. As always, I’ve changed the recipe. Firstly, I think the addition of the onion and parmesan is very welcome here and to be honest, what dish isn’t improved by more onions? His recipe calls for eight tablespoons of oil for two servings, I understand this is to compensate for the lack of sauce, but I’ve cut that in half by simply adding more tomatoes. Olive is Nigel Slater’s oil of choice for his recipe but given that the smoke point of your average olive oil is around 190 degrees C and we’re about to cook the aubergine at a temperature higher than that, I prefer to use an oil that I know won’t be releasing volatile compounds.  This wikipedia chart is a good reference to help you decide, but I use a good quality rapeseed (canola if you’re American).

auberginepasta

To make enough for two lunches:

1 Red onion
2 Garlic cloves
1 Aubergine
140g Pasta 
300g Cherry tomatoes
4 Tbsp Rapeseed oil (or other high smoke point oil) 
 
To serve:
Parmesan
Basil
 

Begin by turning the oven on to 200 degrees Celsius. Cut the onion in half then slice in to thin wedges. Lay the onions across the base of roasting tin. Peel the garlic cloves then thinly slice and scatter over the onions.

Remove the top from the aubergine and slice in to thin rounds. Place the aubergine in a layer over the onions then add the cherry tomatoes on top. Season heavily and drizzle in the oil. Roast for around 20 minutes.

When the aubergine is half way there, bring a pan of salted water to the boil and cook the pasta until al dente. I prefer this dish with spaghetti but feel free to use whatever you have to hand.

Remove the roasting tray from the oven and give it a good stir through with a fork, then add the drained pasta and stir again to coat each piece.

Serve with a block of parmesan and some torn basil leaves.

This post is part of the Flexioffices‘ #liveyourlunchbreak challenge. They have offices all over London and some particularly cool offices for rent in Soho.

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Avocado & Rye Bread Toasts

This past two weeks have been ruled by final assignments for one of my degree modules. I’ve been reading, highlighting my heart out and trying to plan mammoth essays and although there’s been plenty of coffee, there hasn’t been many real breaks. It’s daft really, because I know that they boost overall productivity- it was drilled in to me in the run up to my GCSEs- and yet I still don’t take them when it matters most.

Over the next week or so, I’ll be taking part in the #liveyourlunchbreak challenge and sharing a 5 day diary with some really easy lunch time recipes that I adore, simply because I seem to have forgotten how important it is to catch a break in the middle of my day and I’m sure I’m not alone.

Almost all of my lunches are eaten at home, which gives me the privilege of a full kitchen to knock something up in, but even the smallest office kitchen tends to have a toaster, so let’s start with something you could make at work; avocado & rye bread toasts.

avocado toast

This is a tasty lunch that you can knock up in five minutes, but it’s often my breakfast, a mid day snack and sometimes even supper too. Avocado’s high oil content makes it a pretty unusual fruit but all these fats are fantastic for heart health and can actually speed up your basal metabolic rate (how many calories you burn at rest).

The only tricky part of this is catching an avocado at it’s best. They seem to jump from just right to over ripe in the blink of an eye. To stall a ripening avocado, store it in the fridge. Keep it on the counter to let it ripen more readily, or to super speed the process keep it alongside bananas.

All you need is:

A few slices of good brown bread – rye is best in my opinion
1 Avocado, mashed
A generous glug of hot sauce
 

rye bread

Slice your bread generously and toast. This is Tesco’s Rye loaf but I’ve since discovered the awesomeness that is Morrison’s pumpernickel loaf which beats it hands down. If you have a Morrison’s near you, go and try it!

Layer on the mashed avocado and season. Add some hot sauce, like Frank’s original to liven it up.

avocado toast

Eat! Take a break. Read something. Listen to some music. Have a lunch break. It certainly makes me happier when I’ve taken some time to myself in the middle of the day. Do you notice a change in your mood if you manage to take time out for lunch?

Thanks to Flexioffices for setting me the #liveyourlunchbreak challenge. They have some really cool offices for rent in Soho at the moment. Maybe one day I’ll be typing to you from somewhere like that but for now, I’m on my sofa, cup of tea in hand, a Springer Spaniel at my feet and I wouldn’t change a thing.

I’m looking forward to sharing tomorrow’s lunch and maybe some anecdotes from my business start up years. I don’t think we’ve ever talked about that.

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Minestrone

Can the weather make it’s mind up? Between sodden outings with Fynn and harvesting our garden’s crop with the sunshine beating down I’m not quite sure which season we’re in. Somehow I decided that minestrone was what this crossover weather demanded. A soup that’s grateful for summer’s garden crop but will warm you from the inside out whilst the rain lashes against the window pane.

This recipe makes around two litres so it’s perfect to make a bulk batch for lunches or just to keep in the freezer for cosy days. I tend to freeze soup in muffin tins then pop them all in to a big bag for easy to microwave individual portions. Then I fight my Mum for the last of the batch, it’s almost tradition now.

minestrone soup recipe

Before I share my recipe, a note on the ingredients… Soups are for using what you have to hand, they’re concocted in casual measures with a pinch of this and a handful of that. Have you got some courgette in the fridge? Dice it up and throw that in at the beginning. Mushrooms? Beans? They’ll be good too. Don’t go out and buy fennel especially for this recipe, it does add something a little bit special, but your soup will still be fantastic without it. This recipe uses a quick cook minestrone mix, you might need to adjust the timing depending on the type you use.

You’ll need:

1 Onion, diced
1 Carrot, diced
2 Sticks of celery, diced
2 Rashers of smoked bacon, diced
1 Garlic clove, minced
250g quick cook minestrone pasta and pulses (I use Tesco’s Wholefoods)
1 Bay leaf
400g tinned or fresh tomatoes, chopped
1 Tbsp tomato puree
1.5 Litres good quality chicken stock
1 Large handful of spinach (Kale or swiss chard are also lovely)
1 Small bunch of basil
1 Small handful of fennel fronds
 
minestronesoup

quick minestrone soup

In a large pan on a medium heat, fry the soffrito (onion, carrot, celery) and bacon until the bacon is cooked and the soffrito has softened. Add the garlic and fry for a further two minutes.

Pour in the minestrone mix and stir, coating the mix in the flavourful oil. Add the bay leaf, tomatoes, puree and stock. Stir well and allow to simmer with the lid on for 10 minutes or until the pasta and pulses have cooked.

Roughly chop the spinach and stir in.  Add plenty of ground black pepper but check the seasoning before you add any salt; some stocks can be quite salty.

Finally, add the finely chopped basil and fennel then the soup is done.

Serve with crusty bread and a little parmesan as an optional extra.

minestrone

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Fill your home with things you love…

Decorating your first home is pretty exciting. It’s your chance to put your style on an entire house and make it your own. It feels easy enough to go out and pick ‘ok’ pieces to get a room finished in a rush but I’m all set on dragging it out to find things that I love and not settling for ‘ok’. Our home is where we spend most of our time, I want us to love each and every room and if something is just ‘ok’, it isn’t having a home in ours.

We’ve talked before about our bathroom renovations (1,2), my ideal kitchen (1) and my dream living room (1). Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the room that will eventually be a workspace for me, which is currently more of a ‘storage’ room. We all have them right? Little by little, we’re working through clearing it and eventually we’ll get to the decorating stage. I’m starting to pin the bits and pieces that I’d like in there but as soon as I set my eyes on this distressed street sign, I knew I had to have it. Now. Even though the room isn’t ready. I just love it.

baker st sign

When the room is finished, I can picture this sign resting on a double set of the Ikea Hyllis shelving where I’ll store all my study books and blogging bits. I love industrial style furniture and interiors so I’m hoping to bring a touch of that to my office with pops of colour against the monochrome.

Follow Vicki’s board An office to work in on Pinterest.

I know it won’t be everyone’s taste, a lot of people find monochrome and industrial styles ‘cold’, but it’s what we’re drawn to. I love the look of the French style furniture, like this, in fact some of the most gorgeous rooms I’ve seen have beautiful ornate french furniture, but it doesn’t belong in our house. Anyway, perhaps in a few months you’ll see an office before and after post with my Baker Street sign in situ.

Do you collect bits as you go along or are you the ‘go out and get it all at once’ type? I have a feeling Matt would prefer me to be the latter, if only for his sanity!

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