Sunday, 19 April 2015


This delicious dish (inspired by Jamie Oliver's "Kushari Al Forno") is a fabulous comforty meal that is perfect now that these spring evenings are getting warmer and staying brighter for longer! It has a carbalicious base of tomato, chili, rice, pasta and lentils topped with fresh parsley, mint and crumbly feta to create a hearty dish perfect when piled high on your plate flying solo as a main, dished up as a side with some salad or presented at a BBQ or party for people to help themselves too with their sausage and burgers. 

My version has gone more rustic in a way with the inclusion of the wild mushroom rice. This gives the dish a more earthy and comforting feel in my opinion but feel free to use any rice you see fit. Just make sure if you do use something like a wild mushroom rice that you get it on as soon as possible as my mine took 45 too simmer and cook.

The conchiglie didn't take as long but always check just in case. Again this is just a pasta suggestion so if you wish to use something else please do but make sure it's something of a similar size like a fusilli or a penne. Anything small like a macaroni will just get lost and go all mushy when you mix everything together.

My pasta uses a good old tin of cannelloni beans. I find this to be a nice earthy, wholesome bean that works really well with the fresh herbs and rusticiness of the rice and pasta. They are readily available in shops nowadays but if your not a fan or don't have any to hand a tin of almost any bean will work as well (baked beans not so much!). Kidney beans would add a Mexican vibe to the dish or (although I'm not really a fan) butter beans for that homegrown feel.

And to ramp up truly rustic vibe to the bake there is the addition of the lentils. You can use a tin of them if you wish however you can find microwaveable bags of Puy lentils in supermarkets now which have been flavored with herbs and spices which I would advise picking up not just as a little cheat but it is also an easy way to add more flavor into your dish. Don't microwave them first, just lob them in cold and they will cook during the bake.

Now if you can't get hold of fresh parsley and mint then I really wouldn't bother making this at all. Dried will just got do in this instance as need the vibrancy of the color and flavor that the fresh leaves being to the dish. I wouldn't stray from using any other cheese than feta too. There is just something about that salty cheese that is the bridge between the fresh herbs and the tomato in the base. It's a combination that is a knock out so change it at your peril!

Let's get too it. This is a hefty meal so your making enough pasta for about 5-6 as a main or it should be more than enough to dish up on your buffet table at your next gathering:

Minty Fresh Pasta Bake

150g Wild Mushroom Rice 
200g Conchiglie
1 Diced Large Red Onion
2 Grated Cloves Of Garlic
1 Diced Red Chili
30g Fresh Chopped Parsley
1 Tsp Ground Cumin
1 Tbsp Tomato Paste
1 400g Tin Of Chopped Tomatoes
200ml Vegetable Stock
1 Tbsp Red Wine Vinegar
1 400g Tin Cannelloni Beans
1/2 Tbsp Cornflour 
1 250g Bag Puy Lentils
200g Crumbled Feta Cheese
15g Chopped Fresh Mint
1 Whole Large Egg

  1. Start by cooking both the rice and pasta by packet instructions. This may take a while depending on the product you have bought but once it is all cook, drain and transfer to a large crock pot or oven proof dish and leave to one side.
  2. In a large oiled pan on a medium heat add in the onion, garlic, chili, half the parsley and cumin and fry until the onions are soft. Keep stirring as you do this so nothing sticks to the pan.
  3. Add in the tomato paste, chopped tomatoes, stock, vinegarand beans and bring to a boil before simmering for 30 minutes after which in the cornflour and mix through until well combined and the sauce has thickened up. 
  4. At this point turn your oven on to 200 degrees (180 fan).
  5. Remove the tomato sauce from the heat and add into the pot with the rice and pasta and mix everything together until well combined,
  6. Take the Puy lentils and add them into the pot with half of the feta cheese, half of the mint and the whole egg and give everything a good mix before popping in the oven for 30 minutes.
  7. Remove from the oven and sprinkle over the rest of the parsley, mint and feta before serving.
There you have it, a rustic pasta/rice bake with a fresh topping that is perfect served either hot or cold. Either way it's a great spring time dish that will perfume your kitchen in that herby aroma and really fill you up right to the core. I served mine as a side with some cold quiche and a glass of beer! Perfect BBQ food! As it's great served cold it's also great to whip up a big batch and then scoop some out to take in a packed lunch. So much better for you and more delicious than a processed snack from the supermarket.
It's proper mint!

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