Hello, hello, hello!
I have some good news! At least for the time being, I’m back in the kitchen and baking! Although we’re steering well clear of any dish that could cause a mess in the oven, I’m once again free to prepare sweets for social gatherings! Which is fortunate, because avoiding having them in the house does mean I don’t get to make them as often as I’d like. It’s been wonderful having people who don’t mind taste testing for me! As readers will know, I’ve been making an effort to eat a bit healthier and introduce more vegetables into my diet. Making sure the sweets are for special occasions, or only a once in a while thing, has helped me a lot. It’s pushed me to try new things!
I have, however, been asked by a good friend to make a couple of cakes for her. I’m so honoured! They’re both gluten and lactose free, and they’ve been a wonderful challenge! I’m not a cake expert by any means, as readers will know I tend more towards biscuits and cupcakes than I do actual cakes. This is more to do with the issue of – who will eat the cake once I make it, than because I dislike cakes! I rarely, if ever, have events that require an entire cake. But now I get to really get some practice in and learn how to build layer cakes! I was so pleased with my test run of the first cake, and I was even more pleased to see how far my piping skills have come since I first started this blog.
But all of this together, in particular with attempting to move house and find somewhere to live, has taught me a few well-deserved lessons in time management. Now, I am frighteningly well organised at times. I know what I’m doing, where I’m going, what I will eat and when. Most of my time is spent planning my next move. And recently I’ve come to realise that it’s not, at times, the most enjoyable way of getting things done. In particular with a few personal things happening I’ve realised I don’t allow myself to rest, and that I treat my need for rest as laziness. But last weekend I took some time to myself, made the test cake, and whipped up a batch of this delicious pasta for work and it was glorious.
So, I have cut right back on a few things to clear up some time for rest and relaxation, and I am now using my planning skills to figure out ways to break up large tasks – like cake baking. I am learning how to cook and freeze cakes, along with my work meals, in order to save time later when I need to assemble a cake for an event. It was suggested that I try the freezing method, and so far my preliminary tests of how to freeze and then thaw a cake have been pretty successful! But I would always welcome more advice! I have also discovered it’s possible to freeze cooked gluten-free pasta and to reheat it, and for there not to be a huge impact on the texture. So now I can both cook the pasta sauce, and the pasta, and have the meal right there, ready to heat up whenever I want! Delish!
Adapted from Super Food Ideas Magazine’s
Eggplant and Bacon Pasta
Serves: 4-6, Prep: 25 mins, Cook: 25-30 mins, + 20-30 mins simmer
At least 375g gluten-free pasta, cooked as per packet instructions
Olive oil, for cooking
250g rindless shortcut bacon, finely diced
1 large eggplant, peeled and cut into 2cm pieces
150g cherry tomatoes, halved
- 200g button mushrooms, diced
600ml jar of Passata with garlic, onion and herbs or a gluten-free pasta sauce*
100g pitted black olives, sliced
- A generous splash of gluten-free Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp sugar, for the diary free option, or a splash of milk for the non-dairy free option
Up to 250ml extra water
- Salt and pepper, to taste.
NOTE: If you can’t get a Passata with garlic and herbs, feel free to use plain Passata and add a generous sprinkling of dried Italian herbs like oregano, etc, as well as a teaspoon of minced garlic and a brown onion, finely diced. Or use a gluten-free pasta sauce.
- Cook the pasta as per the packet instructions, then drain and set aside. I also find quickly rinsing my pasta under lukewarm or cold water helps to stop it from continuing to cook and going mushy. But you may not need that.
- In a large pan, add some oil and fry up the bacon bits on medium-high heat until golden and crispy.
- NOTE: If you’re not using a sauce with garlic and onion and you need to add these two separately, pop them in and cook them up with the bacon. And then remove the whole lot from the pan.
- Add in the eggplant and mushroom, and cook, stirring, until all the water has come out of the mushrooms and cooked away, and the mushrooms and eggplant are starting to look golden, or even a touch brown on the edges.
- Return the bacon to the pan, along with the cherry tomatoes and the Passata.
- Stir all that together. Now, the trick with the water is to pop the water into the Passata jar and shake it well to get all the remaining dregs of sauce.
- Add the water slowly, stirring as you go, until you get a nice thick sauce. It can be as stiff or as runny as you like. Add more or less water to get your preferred consistency. But I prefer mine runnier so I can simmer it for longer without losing too much moisture.
- Add in the olives, the Worcestershire sauce, and bring up to the boil.
- Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for ten to fifteen minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add in the olives, and simmer for a further ten to fifteen minutes. Test the sauce, and try tasting a bit of the eggplant. If it’s still too stiff, simmer for another ten minutes. Otherwise, season to taste and serve!