Instant Noodles

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I was feeling both hungry AND lazy last night so made instant noodles for dinner. Simply choose the packet of instant noodles of your choice. To boiling water add the sachet flavour mix, sliced mushrooms, sliced baby corn, sugar snap peas, fresh ginger, fresh or died chilli flakes and cubed tofu. Simmer for a couple of minutes, then add the instant noodles. Once cooked, top with soy sauce, hot chilli sauce, the juice of half a lime and some freshly chopped coriander. Voila….. Asian noodle soup in 6 minutes.

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Review: The Mess – Canteen + Bar, Cowes

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A welcome mid-week break and lunch out with an old friend. The Mess Canteen and Bar opened in Cowes a year or so ago. I had been in a few times for their lager and amazing cocktails, but never for a meal. The atmosphere is really lovely in this place. It has all sorts of fabulous touches like ceiling lamps made out of colanders and light fittings made out of bicycle wheels that manage to look just both fun and stylish rather than pretentious. I loved the wall pots made out of ….. gravy tins!!

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There is a terrific range of interesting cocktails that are easily and willingly made into alcohol-free mocktails. I had a mocktail that consisted of cucumber, rosemary, lavender topped with tonic water. It was just gloriously refreshing and luxuriously delicious.

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The menu is not extensive but that is a good thing as everything is fresh, local and clearly made to order.

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My friend had the grilled goats cheese salad – and raved over how good it was.

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I went for the mushrooms on farmhouse toast and was presented with a plate of the most utterly delicious wild mushrooms.  It was rich, creamy, sumptious.

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In short a good trip. The two us also got away with a bill for £20…… for a mocktail, water, two scrumptious meals and two cups of coffee. That in itself is extraordinary in a town like Cowes that tends to lean to the expensive side of things. I can really recommend The Mess and will certainly be making a return trip very soon.

** True to my word, two days after this visit, Husband-Gusto and I made another trip for lunch. The mushrooms were again ordered, and the pork burger with caramelised apples and coleslaw. Again the food was truly excellent, and for a really exceptional price. Just £6.50 for the burger. We also ordered a side of rosemary fries and the most enormous portion came stacked high in a colander. The fries were piping hot, fresh, crispy and fluffy and not at all greasy. The rosemary and salt was perfect and did not overwhelm. If possible, I liked The Mess even more on the second trip.

Gnocchi Liguria

 

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Some years ago I shared a flat with an Italian girl. The mix of introvert (me) and extrovert (her) meant that our household could be a little volatile, but by heck that girl could cook. She specialised in simple, pure classic Italian dishes that were simply out of this world. I learned from her how to make such delights as mushroom risotto, risotto with radicchio, and last night’s gorgeous supper dish, Gnocchi Liguria.

This is a perfect meal for when you do not have alot of time, or when you are feeling particularly tired. It cooks in approximately 8 minutes and all you need do is open a jar, a packet and boil some water.  Simply boil gnocchi according to packet instructions, add cooked green beans and basil pesto and scatter with pine nuts. Serve with salad. Sacla is my favourite maker of commercial pestos. They do both a vegetarian pesto (using vegetarian hard cheese) and a vegan version without any cheese.

http://www.sacla.co.uk/products/pesto

In order to be truly authentic, any pasta with Liguria sauce ought to include boiled potatoes. I can never quite handle the double serving of carbs, so omitting them makes a lighter slightly fresher dish in my opinion.

Stuffed butternut squash

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This is an easy dish and I use quick-cook rice that comes in a pack (such as Uncle Ben’s).  I just cut the squash in half, scoop the middle out and roast on 200 degrees celsius until soft.

To a pan I add olive oil, diced onion, celery, red peppers and mushrooms and stir until soft. To this I add raisons, flaked almonds, vegetable stock and the quick-cook rice. Once the squash is cooked, I scoop the rice mixture into the mixture, put under the grill for a few minutes until hot, remove and then scatter a pinch of chilli flakes, a drizzle of lime juice and some fresh coriander on the top.

 

Herb Salad

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My Father-In-Law is an excellent cook and one thing he does really well are salads. Instead of using lettuce or other salad leaves as the base he uses herbs exclusively. Most commonly the base is parsley, coriander or mint. It means that the salad is just bursting with fresh flavour. Last night we had one of these herb salads. The key ingredients are always the herbs, avocado and capers but to this you can add anything you like. We had celery, cucumber, tomatoes, radishes and walnuts which we added to the base of a huge bunch of chopped coriander and parsley. I then made up a mustard and agave syrup dressing with a tablespoon of dijon mustard, two tablespoons of agave syrup and a splash of water to make the dressing very runny. Served with warm pita bread, this was a really gorgeous fresh supper.

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Coriander (Cilantro)

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Parsley

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Celery and cucumber

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Lots of fresh vegetables!

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Dinner is served!