Quick Eats: Spinach Pesto Penne

Worked until late today, and really starvin’ Marvin!!!   Have had a lot of meat lately, so I reckoned a bit of a veggie meal will break that meat streak.

I saw spinach pesto being used in telly the other night, so, I thought I’d rustle up a quick inexpensive meal that I could have for dinner and lunch the following day. This dish costs less than £5 per serving and is really easy to make. Not exactly the traditional Italian pesto made from basil and pine nut kernels, but a good alternative if you can’t find or don’t have all the ingredients.

So, here are all you need:

100g almonds
150g baby spinach
a handful of grated mature cheddar
2 good glugs of extra virgin olive oil
a clove of garlic
some sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds (I had these around and I thought, why not!)
around 300g penne (I used wholewheat)

Cook the pasta as per packet instructions.  While this is happily simmering, whiz all the other ingredients in a blender or a food processor. If it is a little too thick and becomes difficult to blend, add a bit more oil (or hot water if you are saving on the calories).  Add more cheese to taste, or even salt and pepper.

This pesto will be mild tasting in the absence of basil and parmesan.  But this pesto can easily be tweaked if you have these available.  You can even substitute some rocket for a part of the spinach if you fancy a peppery taste. Or use padano romano instead of cheddar.  Thing is, this dish is so forgiving, you can’t really go wrong.

Go on, give it a try! 😀

Asian Beef Salad

First time I tried this beef salad, I just had to have more (so unlike me!).  The soft, melt-in-the-mouth beef, the sweet / sour / salty dressing, the crunch of the raw veggies, and the nutty aroma of toasted rice and nuts all marry together like peas in a pod.

You can actually put this together in under 30 minutes, so good for dinner after tiring day in the office.  The extra portions can be packed and taken to work for lunch the following day 😉

All right then, begin with the salad. I chose some crunchy veggies: carrots, bell peppers, beansprouts, cucumber and some cherry tomatoes.  Shallots are in the original recipe, but I forgot to purchase them in my haste, so, I did without them.

Finely chop the core of 2 stalks of lemongrass and prepare some strips of ginger too.  Add to the veggies and throw in some mint.  Coriander leaves and I do not see eye-to-eye, so I will gladly pretend it wasn’t in the list Google gave me.

Some recipes also call for toasted rice, and I heard it all too well.  To make this, just dry roast some grains of rice in a skillet until they turn little brown and slightly aromatic (nutty and toasted, not burnt!). Set aside to cool down a little bit before grinding to the consistency of rough sand in a mortar and pestle.  Do the same to any type of nut you have lying around – peanuts, cashew nuts, hazelnuts (I had these). Toast, cool, and bash. This adds a bit of depth to the finished product 😉

Now, for the meat: I think ribeye works best for this dish, but rump or sirloin will do too.  I personally prefer not to have the meat more done than medium, otherwise it will be too dry and too chewy.  I tried this new cut of meat at Sains’ (called flat iron) and it worked well!

Cook your meat however you like it, then set aside and rest.

Meanwhile, prepare the dressing by mixing 2 tablespoons of fish sauce, juice of 2 limes and maybe a teaspoon of sesame seed oil.  Throw in a couple of diced bird’s eye chili too – just one if you’re not a big fan of heat.  Add 2 teaspoons of sugar to balance it out — add more to taste.

Assemble your salad by mixing everything together with half of the dressing.  Sprinkle over the bashed toasted rice and nuts. Slice the meat and place beside the salad and dress generously.

If you turn a blind eye to the generous use of fish sauce (es-ey-el-tee) and the potential to second / third helpings of white rice, it is reasonably healthy.

I know I know, I know!!! There was no mention of rice anywhere in this entry, but HEY (!), I am Asian after all and I am not going to deny my genetic pre-disposition to have rice morning, noon AND evening.