Tuna and Bean Nicoise Style Salad

First of all, apologies for my absence in posting new recipes, but the holiday season and lack of routine has left me trying recipes out of new cookbooks I have been given or making quick meals, therefore, not coming up with anything creative and worthy of posting, but I’m back and will be aiming to post new recipes a little more frequently, as well as hoping to make a start on my cookbook this year!

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Tuna and beans (from a tin) are 2 ingredients which are highly nutritious and can be used as a meal in themselves or added to other amazing ingredients to make something really special, such as this salad.

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My inspiration for this salad came from an Instagram post from one of my oldest friends and ex-housemate. She was given a whole heap of tomatoes from her neighbour on a 40 degree day and mixed them with beans, tuna and pickled onions and lunch was sorted! This set my tastebuds tingling, so I sought out what we had in the vegetable garden and added a few more ingredients to the base, along with a dressing and thus we have this salad. Perfect as a meal by itself or you can omit the tuna and serve as a salad at a BBQ.

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Tuna, or other oily fish (salmon, sardines, cod) should be eaten three times per week to get the required amount of essential fatty acids the body needs. As most people wouldn’t eat whole or filleted fish three times per week, tinned fish is not only convenient, it also makes reaching this target more achievable. Tinned tuna is great for a snack and also a great addition to a salad to make it into a meal. My favourite tinned tuna is Sirena tuna as it’s not as fishy or cat food like as some of the other brands. Essential fatty acids, or omega 3s are really important for brain and heart health and have also been shown to improve mental health when consumed regularly, as well as decreasing risk of cardiovascular disease.

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You can use any beans for this salad. Four bean mix, borlotti, chickpeas, butter beans, cannellini beans, red kidney beans, whichever you feel like using. The beans I used, on this particular occasion, were chosen by Mark and Claire (who loved the salad by the way). If you prefer to soak your own beans then feel free to do so. Beans are a great source of fibre and non-animal protein, making them a really good choice for vegetarians and vegans to help to get adequate protein in the diet. If you are a vegetarian or vegan, you would obviously omit the tuna from this recipe and the feta.

Enjoy xx.

 

Ingredients:

Serves 5

  • 2 x 400g tins beans (I used butter beans and cannellini beans), drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced thinly
  • 2 tbs white wine vinegar
  • 1 cob of corn, kernels removed
  • 1 punnet of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 100g green beans, ends trimmed, blanched and cut into thirds
  • 1/2 lebanese cucumber, cut into 1cm cubes
  • 50g olives, roughly chopped
  • 2 spring onions, finely sliced
  • 2/3 cup parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 an avocado, cubed
  • 50g feta, crumbled
  • 190g tin Sirena tuna, oil drained

Dressing:

  • 2 tbs white wine vinegar
  • 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp capers, chopped

Method:

  1. Slice the onion as thinly as you can (a mandolin works well here) and place into a small bowl along with the white wine vinegar. Mix well and set aside for at least 20 minutes.
  2. Place the rinsed beans in a large bowl, along with the corn kernels, tomatoes, cucumber, green beans, olives, spring onion and parsley. Mix well to combine.
  3. Prepare the dressing by placing all ingredients into a small bowl and stirring well to combine.
  4. Add the avocado and feta to the beans, pour the dressing over the top and gently toss to allow the dressing to spread through the salad.
  5. Place into a serving dish or onto plates and top with tuna.

Summer Entertaining

Over the weekend, we had some good friends over for a festive season get together. Every year, we catch  up with these friends to celebrate, have a drink and most importantly, share some delicious food.

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I thought I would share our delicious dishes that we created this year, to provide some inspiration for the festive season with some simple, tasty dishes to share with family and friends.

Starters:

Labne Balls with Cranberries and Pistachio Nuts.

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This was the first time I have made labne and it is so delicious and easy. It is commonly eaten more as a dip, but these festive flavoured labne balls were a little bit special. Labne is simply Greek style yoghurt mixed with some salt and strained through a muslin cloth for 12+ hours to remove the whey protein. This leaves a thick yoghurt with a soft goats cheese consistency. I added a small amount of lemon zest and some chilli flakes (only a few as I knew small people would be eating these). After rolling into balls, I rolled them in chopped cranberries and pistachio nuts.

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Baked Camembert.

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If you haven’t tried baked camembert, it is truly amazing! Rich, gooey and delicious! Don’t waste your money getting the most expensive French triple cream camembert as it will be wasted. Any camembert will work well. If you do not have a suitable dish to bake the cheese in, make sure you choose a camembert in a wooden container that is stapled, NOT glued, as the glue will melt and you will have cheese all through the oven.

To make this beautiful cheese:

  1. Score the top of the cheese in a diamond pattern and stick a sprig of rosemary in each of the intersections.
  2. Bake for 10 minutes in a 180°C oven.
  3. While the cheese is cooking, chop 1 tbs of walnuts
  4. Once cooked, remove from the oven, drizzle with 1 tbs of honey and sprinkle the walnuts on top.
  5. Serve with crackers or thin slices of toasted bread.

Potted Salmon:

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Our lovely friends brought round this tasty salmon dish. It does involve clarifying butter, which actually isn’t as daunting as it may sound and is well worth it. The flavours of salmon, dill, capers and lemon work so well together in this yummy starter and can be served with fresh bread, crackers or toasted baguette.

Baked Samosas Cigars.

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These fill wrapped, Indian inspired, vegetarian cigars were also brought by our lovely guests. These were particularly popular with the kids and had chickpeas and plenty of flavoursome spice in them. They were served with a mango dip and a raita type dip.

Mains:

Smoked Rainbow Trout Salad.

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I have made this salad many a time and it is very loosely based on this salad from the Gourmet Traveller magazine. I am going to save my version for my cookbook!

Aaron cooks the fish on the BBQ with is smoker box, which gives an amazing subtle smoky flavour to the fish, and when mixed with the freshness of the Spring vegetables, fresh herbs and kipfler potatoes, it is definitely a crowd pleaser.

Corn, Mint & Pecorino Salad.

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If you want a super, quick and easy salad that is a taste sensation, then I highly recommend this corn salad. The recipe is originally from a restaurant in Byron Bay and has corn, mint, pecorino cheese, olive oil, salt and pepper as its ingredients! The corn needs to be char grilled, which can done on the BBQ, a the recipe suggests or under the grill or in a frypan. So light and fresh, it will accompany seafood so perfectly this festive season.

Barbecued Prawns with Honey and Sesame.

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These prawns were yet another Gourmet Traveller recipe, this time from this months Christmas edition, which means the online recipe isn’t yet available, so if you want the recipe, you’ll need to buy the magazine. They require the marinating of the prawns over night, but the marinade is simple, as is the cooking process and the cooked prawn is then just sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds and drizzled with honey. So tasty!

Dessert

Cardomom, Rose and Gingerbread  Cake.

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I stumbled across this cake in my Instagram feed and I’m so glad I did. From a website called cardamom and tea, it is a simple cake that has to be one of the best cakes I have ever eaten. I would never have thought to pair gingerbread spices with rose water, but wow, what a combination. Whether it be for a Christmas party or a birthday, it is one cake that should not be overlooked!

I hope that this post has provided some inspiration for this busy and delicious time of the year.

Merry Christmas! Xx

Asparagus and Goats Cheese Tart

I love asparagus and I love that it’s back in season. We have been having it regularly as it’s so cheap at the moment. Next year, we will grow our own!!

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I don’t know what brought me to the flavour combination in this tart, but it’s so good. And you can arrange the asparagus on top to make it look really pretty. Perfect for entertaining! I have added in a whole heap of spinach, which wilts down to not much, which adds a great source of iron, making this an excellent choice for vegetarians. With the good amount of vegetables in this tart, it can be had by itself or served with a simple side salad.

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I made a shortcrust pastry, which is really simple, but you can use bought puff or shortcrust pastry. The combination of the eggs, dill and asparagus work really well together and the caramelised leeks enhance these flavours.

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Mark has expressed his like for asparagus this year, which makes me happy, so he loves this, and Claire, the 2 times we have had it, turns her nose up at it initially, but ends up happily finishing her piece. Even Elise enjoyed it but found the texture of the spinach a bit strange.

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Enjoy xx.

Ingredients:

Pastry

  • 240g plain flour
  • 180g butter
  • 1/4 cup water
  • pinch of salt

Filling

  • 3 leeks, finely sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 3 cups spinach, chopped
  • 6 eggs
  • 100mL cream
  • 150mL milk
  • 2 tbs dill, chopped
  • 60g goats cheese
  • 1 bunch of asparagus, halved lengthways
  • salt and pepper

Method:

  1. To make the pastry, place the flour, butter and salt into a food processor and blitz until it resembles breadcrumbs.
  2. With the motor running, slowly add the water until the mixture comes together. Remove from the food processor and flatten out to a disc, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat the oven to 200°C and prepare a 25cm pie dish
  4. Remove from the fridge and roll out to a diameter of around 32cm. Place into a pie dish, allowing at least a 2cm overhang. Return to the fridge for 20 minutes.
  5. Cover the pastry with baking paper and place baking beads or dried beans on the baking paper to blind bake.
  6. Place into the oven for 15 minutes then remove the baking paper and baking beads and bake for a further 10 minutes. Remove from the oven.
  7. While the pastry is cooking, heat a medium sized frypan over medium heat. Add 1 tbs of olive oil and add the leek and garlic and fry for about 5 minutes, allowing them to caramelise. Add the chopped spinach and cover, allowing it to wilt. Allow to cool slightly and place into the pastry case.
  8. Break the goats cheese into small pieces and place on top of the spinach mix.
  9. In a jug, whisk together eggs, milk, cream, dill, salt and pepper. Pour over the spinach mix.
  10. Arrange asparagus on top of the egg mix and place into the oven to bake for 40 minutes or until the egg mixture is set.
  11. Serve warm or cold.

Zucchini Slice

Zucchini slice is an easy and convenient meal for the whole family. A meal that I grew up eating and one I am now feeding my family.

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With a baby who has recently started solids in the house, finding meals that all 5 of us can eat can be tricky, which leaves me preparing meals for Elise (8 months) and she ends up eating the same thing several days in a row. I made this zucchini slice the other day for the first time in over a year and she LOVED it! As did the older 2, although I did sell it to them as egg and bacon slice, mainly because they think they don’t like zucchini (even though they eat it ALL the time)…next time we have it, I am going to ask them to tell me what they think is in it and all will be revealed!

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Zucchini slice is a very nutritious meal. It’s a great source of protein, from the eggs, bacon and cheese, it’s full of veggies – I have used zucchini, carrot, onion and corn, but you can also use sweet potato, which provide plenty of vitamins and minerals as well as fibre. It can be enjoyed both warm or cold, it freezes superbly and is great for a picnic or in lunch boxes. When we have had this, I have served it with a side salad as the kids are loving salads at the moment, but it is nutritionally balanced so is fine to have on its own.

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This recipe uses self raising flour, but if you are after a gluten free option, I would recommend using almond meal in place of the flour and add 1 teaspoon of baking powder. You could also use a gluten free self raising flour if desired.

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Enjoy xx

Ingredients:

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 bacon rashers, fat trimmed and diced
  • 2 medium zucchini, grated and excess moisture squeezed out
  • 1 carrot, peeled and grated
  • 1 cob of corn, kernels removed
  • 100g tasty or cheddar cheese, grated
  • 50g feta, crumbled
  • 1 tbs chives, finely chopped
  • 1 tbs flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 2/3 cup SR flour
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tomato, sliced (optional)

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a 20cm x 25cm slice tray with baking paper.
  2. Heat a medium sized frypan over medium heat. Once hot, add the onion and bacon and cook, stirring occasionally for ~ 5 minutes.
  3. Once the zucchini has been grated, remove excess moisture by placing into a sieve and squeeze/press the zucchini into the sieve. Quite a lot of moisture will come out.
  4. Place zucchini, carrot, corn, herbs, cheeses and flour into a large bowl and mix. Add the bacon and onion and mix.
  5. Crack the eggs into another bowl, add the milk and salt and pepper and lightly beat.
  6. Add the egg mix to the vegetable mix and mix well to combine.
  7. Pour into prepared tray and top with slices of tomato and bake for ~35 minutes or until it bounces back when touched lightly.
  8. Allow to cool slightly before cutting into squares and serving as is or with a salad.

This will keep for about 5 days in the refrigerator or will freeze exceptionally well for up to 3 months.

Easy Chicken Pot Pie

A good pie is perfect for a cold Winters day, especially one that is super easy and quick to prepare.

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This chicken pot pie is packed full of vegetables and has more of a gravy to it rather than a creaminess like my Chicken, Pumpkin and Leek Pies. Both are tasty in their own right, but this pot pie has more nutritional value and at the end of the day they are very different. I have topped this one with filo pastry, which enables the filling to be made in advance, requiring only the pastry to be added in the evening, just before going in the oven.

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People often view a pie as a poor choice, which may be the case when the pie is highly processed and the filling doesn’t resemble meat. Homemade pies do not fit into this category. Yes, they contain pastry, which isn’t a food we should be eating all the time, but it does form part of a healthy BALANCED diet. A homemade pie is essentially a casserole with a case. So, when you think of it like that, a pie filling can be whatever you like and the more veggies you can pop in there, the more nutrition you will get out of your meal. If you feel like making a beef and bacon pie with no veggies, then do it, just have some veggies or salad on the side.

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The kids enjoyed this pie and they especially liked the crunch of the filo pastry on top. As the filling is at least half veggies, it is a suitable meal to be served on its own. Having said this, we did eat it with steamed green beans last time, but you could also add some roast or mashed potatoes as a side if you are looking for a more filling meal.

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Enjoy xx.

Ingredients:

Serves 4

  • 400g chicken thighs, chopped into chunks
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 2 leeks, white part, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 2 tsp thyme, chopped
  • 3 spring onions, sliced
  • 1 tbs flour
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cob or corn, kernels removed
  • 2 cups spinach leaves, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 8-10 sheets of filo pastry

Method:

  1. Heat a large frypan over medium heat and add the olive oil. Add the leek, carrot and garlic and cook for ~5 minutes. Add the garlic, thyme and spring onions and cook for a further 1 minute.
  2. Add the chicken and cook until all sides are browned. Add the flour and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring so the flour doesn’t stick. Add the chicken stock and stir to form a gravy. Add the corn and the spinach leaves and cook, stirring for 1-2 minutes or until the spinach is wilted. Season with salt and pepper and place into pie dish and refrigerate. (If you are making the pie filling just before eating, there is no need to refrigerate, instead, preheat the oven and skip to step 5).
  3. 50 minutes prior to eating, preheat oven to 180°C.
  4. Once the oven is at temperature, remove the pie filling from the fridge, cover the dish with foil or a lid and place into the oven for 30-40 minutes or until heated through.
  5. Once the filling is heated, remove the pie filling from the oven. Scrunch up sheets of filo pastry, one at a time, and arrange on top of the filling. Return to the oven for a further 10-15 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown and crunchy.
  6. Serve as is or with greens or potato.

Minestrone Soup

Winter is well and truly here in Melbourne, which means that soup is definitely on the menu again.

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Minestrone soup is a well known, hearty Italian soup, which can be made in many ways with many different ingredients and I would like to share mine with you.

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Minestrone soup can be made using any vegetables really, from potato and pumpkin to zucchini and squash, as well as carrot, peas and broccoli. There is always a carbohydrate component in minestrone soup, usually pasta or rice, and meat is completely optional. I have used bacon, but other recipes call for pork or pork rind (same animal!). Minestrone can often go gluggy or mushy the next day, which is due to the pasta or rice continuing to take on water, losing its structure. What I would recommend to avoid this is to cook the pasta or rice separately and add to each bowl before serving. If you have enough for leftovers, store the extra rice/pasta in a separate airtight container in the fridge and add to the bowl of hot soup just before serving.

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I think that the key to this minestrone is the pesto. I added a teaspoon of bought pesto, although I have included the recipe for pesto below to each bowl, along with some shaved parmesan just before serving and it enhanced the flavours immensely.

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The kids absolutely loved this soup, Mark even said “Mum, this is the best soup I’ve ever had” and asked a second bowl after his first was demolished in about 2 minutes. Claire enjoyed it as well and was asking for it for days after it was all gone….time to make some more!

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This soup really is very easy to make, it uses up whatever vegetables are in the house, it is hearty, nutritious and filling and it is great for leftovers. You can serve it with crusty bread if desired, although, it is not necessary as there is already a carbohydrate component in the soup.

Enjoy xx

Ingredients:

Serves 6

  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 3 rashers bacon, fat trimmed and diced
  • 2 leeks, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 1 parsnip, diced
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced
  • 150g savoy cabbage, sliced (purple cabbage also works)
  • 1 large sprig rosemary, finely chopped
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup parsley
  • 1 tbs thyme, chopped
  • 400g passata
  • 2.5L chicken or vegetable stock
  • 400g tin cannellini beans
  • 150g spinach leaves, chopped
  • 1 cup uncooked pasta
  • Grated parmesan cheese to serve
  • Pesto to serve (recipe below)

Pesto

  • 2 large handfuls of basil leaves
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 50g parmesan, grated
  • 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil

Method:

  1. Make the pesto by placing all ingredients into a food processor and blending until smooth, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the food processor and blend for a further 30 seconds. Place into a bowl and set aside.
  2. Heat a large pot with a lid over medium heat, add olive oil and bacon and fry for 2-3 minutes until the bacon begins to caramelise. Add the leek, carrot, celery, parsnip and cabbage and cook for a further 2-3 minutes to allow the leek to caramelise.
  3. Add the chopped herbs, passata and stock and season to taste. Bring to the boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat and place the lid on, slightly ajar and simmer for about 30 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to the boil and once boiling add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain and run under cold water to stop the cooking process.
  5. Once 30 minutes has passed, add the zucchini and cannellini beans and cook for a further 10 minutes. Add the chopped spinach and cook for 5 more minutes.
  6. Place 1-2 tbs of pasta into each bowl and top with soup. Add a small handful of grated parmesan cheese and 1 tsp of pesto to each bowl and enjoy!

Pork and Fennel Bolognese

Spaghetti bolognese, a winner in every household!

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Spaghetti bolognese, along with homemade pizza, sausages and tacos are guaranteed meals that we can enjoy without encouraging (nagging) the kids to keep eating. So, I decided to mix it up a bit. We only had pork mince in the freezer, so I thought I’d use that in place of the usual beef mince and add some different flavours and here we have the pork and fennel bolognese, also a winner!

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Pork and fennel are a fabulous match, whether it is fresh fennel or fennel seeds, it works, which is why this dish works so well. And the chilli flakes, a necessary addition (maybe not for the little people though), however, you could use fresh chilli instead if wanted and add it in before adding the meat.

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Whenever I make a pasta dish, unless we are having a salad with it, I like to add in veggies wherever I can to make sure that we all get close to our 5 serves per day and so that we get out portions right – 1/2 plate veggies or salad, 1/4 plate protein and 1/4 plate carbohydrate. With a pasta meal like this, it can be a bit tricky to get the portions right, which is fine, as long as you’re aware of it. This bolognese has onion, celery, zucchini and spinach, which work really well with the flavours. I was contemplating adding eggplant, but decided against it….maybe next time.

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The best thing about this meal is that it is quick and easy and it can be made earlier in the day or the night before if work, family or life commitments mean that you are time poor just before dinner. It also freezes well, so you can make a double batch and have a meal waiting in the freezer for a later date!

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If you’re looking for a delicious alternative to a regular spaghetti bolognese, this is your dish.

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Enjoy xx.

Ingredients:

Serves 4

  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 stalks celery, finely diced
  • 1 medium zucchini, finely diced
  • 1 tbs fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes (plus more to serve
  • 500g pork mince
  • 2 tbs tomato paste
  • 2 x 400g tinned crushed tomatoes or passata
  • 1 tbs balsamic vinegar
  • 3 cups baby spinach leaves, roughly torn
  • 250g spaghetti
  • Grated parmesan cheese to serve

Method:

  1. Heat a large frypan, with a lid over medium heat. Add olive oil, onion, celery and zucchini and cook for 5 minutes, stirring. Add garlic, chilli flakes and fennel seeds and cook for a further 1-2 minutes.
  2. Add the pork mince and cook until browned, ~ 5 minutes, breaking up the big chunks as you go.
  3. Add the tomato paste and stir, followed by the tinned tomatoes and balsamic vinegar as well as 1/2 a tin full of water and stir. Bring to the boil and once boiling, reduce the heat to low, place the lid on and allow to simmer away for about 30 minutes.
  4. With 10 minutes to go, remove the lid to allow some of the liquid to evaporate. Cook for a few more minutes if needed.
  5. Stir through the baby spinach leaves and mix until wilted. Season to taste. At this point the sauce can be frozen or refrigerated.
  6. To cook the pasta, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Once boiling, add the pasta and cook as per the packet until al dente.
  7. Divide the pasta between the bowls and top with sauce. Serve with parmesan cheese and extra chilli flakes.