Monday, 16 April 2018


Recipe of the week...
... Calamarata Pasta with Mushrooms, Beans and Greens

Ingredients: Extra-virgin olive oil, 1 small onion, 1 garlic clove, 1 bunch of Swiss chard, 225g mixed mushrooms, 240g cooked cannellini beans, 150g tomatoes, 450g calamarata pasta (or similarly thick, tubed pasta), salt and freshly ground black pepper

Serves: 4 bowlfuls of hearty Italian grub

Time taken: 45 mins-1 hr

Hi readers,

How are you all today??

The sun has come out! Barbecues and beer gardens and ice cream cabinets are a calling.. and everyone seems to have a spring in their step today. Has the sun got you in a good mood?

If it hasn’t already, I have a few recommendations from my last week or two which might take your week up a notch…

> CINEMA – A Quiet Place

Last week I bravely agreed to go see A Quiet Place at the cinema, as it was my other half’s turn to pick a flick, and he’s suffered a series of romantic films at home recently. So, off we went – with me thoroughly braced for a scaring. I picked up on the Twitter hype ahead of going and made sure I speedily ate my cinema snack before the film started…

And while I can’t say I enjoyed the film – I was on edge from start to finish – it was a good watch. An interesting premise and fine acting from Emily Blunt. I recommend you go see at the cinema for the surround sound experience, as I doubt it would make you jump in the same way at home. Overall – less scary and better done than I’d expected.

> MUSIC – Summery tunes

There seem to have been a few new tracks on the radio in the car lately, and the kind that have you dancing behind the wheel. I’m enjoying fresh, summery pop! My fave songs at the moment are…

> TV – The Bridge

FINALLY… it’s been announced the BBC will be screening Season 4 of The Bridge in May. That gives us approximately one month to catch up on the first three seasons, which have all been uploaded to iPlayer for just this reason. I started last night.

> BOOK – Milk & Honey

I was tired the other night and trying to fall asleep, and picked up Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur, which I’ve had by my bed for a while now waiting to be opened. In the end, I read the book of poetry from cover to cover and highly recommend! If you’re looking for thoughtful easy reading.. it made my evening. And I’m thinking about it still.

> RECIPE – Calamarata Pasta with Mushrooms, Beans, and Greens

My recipe of the week this week, readers, is one for a vegan Italian pasta dish. I found this recipe recently in a vegan magazine, dated from sometime in 2017, which I was leafing through in the waiting room at the blood donor centre, while there to give blood. It proved a handy distraction! And I took photos of the pages for this recipe to take away and try out at home – a Calamarata Pasta with Mushrooms, Beans, and Greens.

This recipe calls for a pasta called ‘calamarata’. I googled and, as the name implies, calamarata takes its name from calamari and is shaped like squid rings. It’s normally a little thick and often with a slightly rough surface, similar to paccheri but narrower, and comes from southern Italy. But I couldn’t find any! I did try but gave up in the end and used paccheri instead – ASDA Extra Special Mezzi Paccheri.

I also failed at sourcing Swiss chard – it’s not been my best effort this week, readers, in getting the right ingredients! Instead, I bought a pack of ASDA Grower's Selection Spring Greens – a bargain at just 69p for a 500g pack.

However you fare ingredient shopping, readers, as long as you find some ingredients remotely along the right lines, here’s the recipe in just eight simple steps…


Recipe: Calamarata Pasta with Mushrooms, Beans, and Greens

Ingredients: Extra-virgin olive oil, 1 small onion, 1 garlic clove, 1 bunch of Swiss chard, 225g mixed mushrooms, 240g cooked cannellini beans, 150g tomatoes, 450g calamarata pasta (or similarly thick, tubed pasta), salt and freshly ground black pepper


1.     Somehow, get yourself in the mood for a proper Italian cooking session! Set some sunny music playing, pour a hearty glass of wine, maybe some olives to nibble on as you cook?

2.     First, begin with veg prep. Slice the onion, finely chop the garlic clove, roughly chop the Swiss chard and the mushrooms, peel the tomatoes and crush with a fork.

3.     Then heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil in a large frying pan or wok. Fry the onion and garlic in the oil, then add the Swiss chard, season with salt and leave to fry lightly over a low heat for ten minutes, stirring every so often.

4.     Meanwhile, set a kettle boiling, then empty your pasta into a large saucepan of boiling water. Bring to the boil and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain it when it is al dente, reserving the cooking liquid, and set aside.

5.     When your chard looks halfway done cooking, add the mushrooms and a little warm water, if needed, then cook covered until the chard and mushrooms are soft – it should take 15 minutes total.

6.     Next, add the beans to the pan and toss in the crushed tomatoes, then season with salt and pepper. Stir and cook for another 10 minutes.

7.     Then tip the cooked pasta into the pan, stir to combine, and sauté it everything together for a few minutes. Add a little cooking liquid, if necessary, as it shouldn’t be too dry.

8.     Spoon your pasta out between four bowls and serve with a generous grinding of black pepper. Tuck in!


What do you reckon, readers? Might you give this recipe a try? It went down a storm at the weekend! I cooked for the Mr and made a real effort to dress up and lay the table and put out olives and wine… we had a lovely evening.

I will say – I added a little cooking liquid, as called for in Step 7, but definitely not enough. Our pasta was a bit on the dry side, as a result, and we’d homemade garlic bread but didn’t really have much to dunk it in as there wasn’t a lot by way of sauce.

BUT… that’s me knit picking. Overall, the dish was enjoyable to cook, and tasty and filling to eat. It was nice to try new and seasonal ingredients, and the dish came together as planned, and I managed to do this on a hangover so you DEFINITELY can!

Give this recipe a go, readers, and please let me know how you get on in the kitchen.

Have fun in the sun this week!

Sauté safely,


Tuesday, 3 April 2018


Recipe of the week...
... Vegan moussaka

Ingredients: 1 onion, 2 garlic cloves, 400g tin chopped tomatoes, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1 large aubergine, 1 large courgette, 390g tin green lentils in water, 1 beef tomato, 70g pack rocket leaves, 350g frozen butternut squash, 1 tablespoon dairy-free spread, 1 tablespoon wholemeal flour, 300ml dairy-free milk, cooking oil, salt and pepper.

Serves: 4 hearty portions.

Time taken: 90 mins (1-hour prep and ½ hour in oven)

Hi readers,

How are you all today? Are you managing okay, getting back into the swing of real life after the four-day weekend??

For sure – it was a struggle this morning when my alarm went off this morning! And I had to dress in clothes fit for public view. And pack a lunch and get my bum out the door and in the car for work. Bit of a shock to the system.

That’s a lot first thing, for someone who’d just got used to watching Hook in bed wearing lounge gear, eating an Easter bunny and knitting the morning away. Life had just peaked aaaaand now it’s back to normal again.

But what a great weekend! The best I’ve had in years. How was yours, readers??


My weekend leads me to make 3 recommendations for you, readers…

Stonehouse Court Hotel
I went on a mini break away this weekend and had a very special time at the Stonehouse Court Hotel. This was my first real trip with my boyfriend and we were both so pleased with the service and our stay at this hotel near Stroud, in the Cotswolds. The staff couldn’t do enough to accommodate us – they were lovely! The bed was extremely comfy. And the food and the wine… I’ll be talking about for a very long time. We had a wonderful stay.

We weren’t on our mini break for long but wanted to see as much of the Cotswolds as we could and make good use of our time there. A friend’s Lonely Planet guide for the UK recommended a trip to Painswick, a historical little village not far from where we were staying. And it was worth the visit. Crumbling graves in the churchyard, tiny streets packed with old stone houses and views of the countryside all round. Very quaint and English! And good food for the imagination.

Almond Dream
We ended the weekend back home, parked on the settee with our feet up in front of the telly. I treated us to a tub of Almond Dream Non-Dairy Salted Caramel Ice Cream Alternative – a revelation. Neither myself or The Vegan have had much experience with nice creams, but I can vouch for this one. It tastes pretty fine. And just like ice cream – I’d never have known, readers. Worth the price tag in my eyes, as an occasional dairy-free treat.



Another take away from the long weekend, readers, is a great recipe which I can share with you! This recipe came about as I took my car in to the garage for its MOT last week and was left alone in the waiting room with a Tesco food mag. After ten minutes or so fervently ripping out pages, I earmarked this as a hearty vegan recipe to try out over the Bank Holiday.

 I’ll tell you RIGHT NOW that Tesco’s estimation of 50 minutes to make this dish is a barefaced lie. You’d have to have more arms than an octopus to serve this up within an hour. But if you get all the ingredients in and allow double that amount of time, then you should have no trouble at all pulling together this tasty vegan tea.

Here’s the recipe for you, readers, in just 15 simple steps…

Recipe: Vegan moussaka

Ingredients: 1 onion, 2 garlic cloves, 400g tin chopped tomatoes, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1 large aubergine, 1 large courgette, 390g tin green lentils in water, 1 beef tomato, 70g pack rocket leaves, 350g frozen butternut squash, 1 tablespoon dairy-free spread, 1 tablespoon wholemeal flour, 300ml dairy-free milk, cooking oil, salt and pepper.


1.     Prepare yourself for a serious session in the kitchen! I’m thinking – crack a window wide open, pour a cool drink, set some chilled-out music playing at a calming volume, stop trying to multi-task, turn your phone on flight mode, clear your head.

2.     Right. Now, when you’re ready, begin with some veg prep. Thinly slide your onion and your beef tomato. Slice your aubergine lengthways into 6, same for your courgette. Crush your garlic clove, open your tin of tomatoes. Open your tin of lentils, drain and rinse.

3.     Heat the grill to high and line a large baking sheet with foil.

4.     Heat a splash of cooking oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat, add the onion and garlic and cook for 5 minutes until they soften slightly.

5.     Then, add the tomatoes, oregano and 150ml water. Stir together and season with salt and pepper. Leave simmering for 15 minutes.

6.     While your pan simmers, brush the aubergine and courgette on both sides with cooking oil and lay the slices out on the baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper, then grill for 5 minutes on each side until tender and golden.

7.     Once the veg have grilled, set aside. Boil a kettle and heat the oven to 200C.

8.     For the topping, pop your butternut squash in a sieve and steam on a hob (using a saucepan of boiling water, with the sieve balanced over it, and a pan lid covering the sieve) for ten or so minutes until tender.

9.     Add the lentils to your main saucepan and stir into the tomato sauce, then leave to simmer for ten minutes.

10.  In a third saucepan, melt the dairy-free spread over a medium heat. Stir in the flour to make a paste and then whisk in the dairy-free milk. Simmer, stirring, for a few minutes. Then remove from the heat.

11.  Once your squash has steamed, remove from the heat and mash until quite smooth (a few lumps here and there are fine).

12.  Stir your milky mix into the mashed squash until well combined, and season with salt and pepper.

13.  Spoon half the tomato sauce into a deep baking dish, top with half the sliced tomato, and then cover with sliced courgette. Spoon the second half of the tomato sauce in, top with the rest of the sliced tomato, and then cover with sliced aubergine.

14.  Spoon your squash topping over the aubergines until entirely covered. Season with salt and pepper and carefully transport into the oven, to bake for half an hour.

ChefBeHere Top Tip: I’d use this half an hour break to first clear up the chaos you’ve made in the kitchen! Maybe wipe round the surfaces and do your dishes, then set the table? Once that’s sorted, top up your drink and put your feet up for a bit – you’ve done good.

15.  Finally, remove from the moussaka from the oven once golden brown and crisp on top. Spoon out between four plates and serve with rocket. Tuck in!


What do you reckon, readers? Does this recipe take your fancy? Would you try your hand at a vegan moussaka? I highly recommend! If you have the time and energy… and enough pans!

Give this recipe a go – if you commit to a proper session in the kitchen, then you’ll have a proper vegan tea to enjoy. This dish is filling, nutritious, colourful. And the squash in the topping gives it a colour which could almost fool you into believing it’s got cheese in it! It hasn’t – there’s no cheese inside. But, still, this is exciting for vegans.

I enjoyed the food and thought it probably tasted all the better for all the effort we’d put into the cooking. I’m a beginner when it comes to cooking with lentils and so was impressed that we pulled off a lentil dish, without incident. All in all – a success!

Please let me know how you get on in the kitchen, readers, if you give this recipe a try. Let me know your thoughts on the food and please share any tips you have a for tweaks to the recipe! Wishing you every success with your moussaka, my dears.

Mash safely,