Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Inspired by the Scouts & a little deception - yes really - Courgette Pesto Pasta Bake

Well we're back on the courgettes I'm afraid, after a brief respite over the weekend. Courgettes and weetabix, would you believe.

I'm in school holiday fug, now that scout camp is over and the kids are back home having spent a week at my mum's - trying to juggle work and make sure the kids have a good time as well as getting their dreaded 'holiday scrapbooks' slowly filled up so that they have something to take back with them in September. While I'd like to stand back and just let them get on with it (or not), I know that Blue in particular would leave it all till the last minute and then want to do it all at once, find the task impossible and collapse, sobbing, about how he can't possibly go back to school because he hasn't done his scrapbook. All nonsense of course, but I can't get away from the need to gently (and frequently) remind him that little and often is probably the way to go. Beyond that, of course it's up to them. I am (mostly) way passed the point of it being 'my' holiday homework. 

But back to the courgettes.

I had 3 sneak up on my over the weekend, so took inspiration from a recent Good Food recipe which I saw in the mag, but looking online now, it has 2 fairly damning comments after it. Good job I'd already fiddled with the ingredients and added parmesan into the mix. Garlic would probably be good too, possibly some chilli.It's very, very easy and the kids ate it, which for now, makes it a winner.

The smoke and mirrors involved was rather impressive. "What are we having for supper?" "Pesto Pasta Bake" "??" "Mmm well you like pesto, it's got basil and pine nuts and parmesan in it " (I can rather smugly report that Pink gets very excited about high end ingredients like this). "Ooo goody". Come the actual meal - "Has this got ... COURGETTE in it?" (adopts outraged tone at possible deception) "Ah but it's grated - you like grated courgette." "Oh yes." Eats food. 

The mind boggles.

I didn't have any bread in the house and no breadcrumbs in the freezer so I had to improvise for the crunchy topping. Eventually I was inspired by the scouts. Yes really. One of the activities we run on camp is a 'patrol' Ready Steady Cook night where we give each patrol (that's about 6 scouts) them some basic ingredients, and then a small sum of money (and a trip to the supermarket) to supplement and cook an original recipe which will feed them all. We judge on things like it actually all being cooked and tasting reasonable - nothing higher than that, but we get some really great results. This year, the standard was particularly high (stop sniggering will you) and the overall winner really surprised us by stepping away from the usual stir fry/chilli type meals and making turkey nuggets and chips with a tomato dipping sauce. They were brilliant. The killer ingredient was crushed up cornflakes mixed with some fajita mix to coat the pieces of turkey. Inspired.

I didn't have cornflakes or fajita mix, but I did have some 'whole wheat biscuits' in the cupboard. Great for breakfast and when you're out of superglue, it turns out crushed up, they also make a passable crunchy topping for a pasta bake.

Courgette Pasta Bake

serves 4 hungry people - you coould probably get away with 300g of pasta

400g pasta
250g courgettes, grated
150-200ml half fat creme fraiche
150g pesto
2 'whole wheat biscuits'
25g parmesan or other hard cheese
olive oil

Pre-heat the oven to 180

Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling water till al dente, reserve a ladleful or so of the cooking water and drain.

While the pasta is cooking, grate the courgette, and mix it with the pesto and creme fraiche and plenty of salt and pepper. Stir it all into the pasta with the cooking water, and add a little more creme fraich if you think  it needs it.

Tip into a baking dish, crush the while wheat biscuits over the top, finely grate the cheese over that (or you could crush the cereal into a bowl, stir the grated cheese through and then sprinkle that over the top - hindsight is a wonderful thing)

Drizzle with some olive oil and bake for 20-30 minutes till crunchy on top.

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