Spinach & Cheese Stuffed Kachapuri-style Bread

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kachapuri2 03/04/2019

This Georgian khachapuri-inspired spinach and cheese stuffed bread tastes amazing. This is not an authentic Georgian version but it definitely delivers flavour and comfort. You can make one large bread or two medium ones from the amount of dough.

Ingredients:

For the dough:

  • 1 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1/3 cup warm water
  • 330g flour (2 2/3 cups)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1/2 egg, whisked

For the filling:

  • 50g spinach, chopped (1/4 cup packed)
  • 200g firm mozzarella, grated (1.5 cups)
  • 100g feta, crumbled (2/3 cups)
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 70g butter (1/3 cup)

Instructions:

To make the dough:

  1. First we’ll begin by adding the yeast to the warm water in a small bowl. Let it sit until creamy, about 7-10 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, add the flour, salt and sugar. Make a well in the middle and add the wet ingredients: oil, yeast-water, milk and egg. The original recipe made double the amount, so here we only need half of the egg, so make sure not to add the entire egg in there.
  3. Starting from the middle of the bowl, first mix the wet ingredients and gradually mix in the flour, continuing until all the flour is mixed and you have a nice dough. It shouldn’t be too wet or too dry. After it is all incorporated, cover with cling film and let it rest until doubled in size, about 1.5 hours.
  4. Halfway through the rise, turn on the oven to the highest temperature. The oven needs to be hot, hot, hot. You can use a pizza stone or turn a baking sheet upside down in the lower half of your oven (but not at the bottom).
  5. When it has risen, separate the dough from the side of the bowl and add a handful of flour and knead the dough inside the bowl. It should be soft and pillowy. If the dough is too wet, continue adding flour.
  6. Form into a ball, remove from the bowl and set aside to rest for 10 minutes.

To make the filling:

  1. While the dough is resting, combine the shredded mozzarella and crumbled feta. Remove 1/4 of the mixture and place it in a separate bowl and set aside. This will go on top of the bread.
  2. In the larger bowl (with 3/4 of the cheese mixture), add one egg, 50 grams (1/4 cup) of butter, chopped spinach, and garlic and mix.

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Putting it all together:

  1. Separate the remaining egg, saving only the egg yolk (you can use the egg white for meringues or a healthier omelette). Whisk it briefly in a small bowl and set it aside. It will be used to glaze the dough.
  2. Place a large piece of baking paper on your counter and add some flour on top.
  3. Now that the dough has rested, stretch the dough in a nice round shape and place it on top of the baking paper. Add the spinach and cheese filling in the center of the dough.
  4. Fold up the edges around the filling and seal the dough. It should look like a ball. Now carefully flatten it by pushing down on the stuffed dough with your palms and finger tips. Make sure to create a lip or “ridge” around the edge of the dough, with a large “valley” in the middle where the cheese will sit.
  5. Add the cheese in this “valley” and then glaze the “ridge” with the egg yolk. This will give the cheese stuffed bread a nice golden color.
  6. The stuffed dough will be heavy. What I do is I slide the dough and baking paper on a sturdy cutting board, and then slide the baking paper and dough onto the pizza stone or upside-down baking sheet.
  7. After about 5-7 minutes in the oven, the dough will puff up beautifully. Bake until the bread has a deep golden brown color and the cheese is brown and bubbling, about 15 minutes in total.
  8. Remove carefully from oven by sliding the bread and baking paper on a cutting board. Take the remaining butter and slather it on the outside of the bread. You can slice immediately for the gooey cheese effect, or probably wait a few minutes so that you don’t burn yourself. Bon appetit!

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Orzo Stuffed Baked Tomatoes

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tomorzo 09/03/2019

When tomatoes are roasted or baked they turn so sweet and sticky and have such incredible flavour. Stuffing them just makes them into a complete meal and you have so many options! I stuffed these with creamy orzo and mushroom pasta plus big chunks of mozzarella cheese because you’ve just got to have cheese.

This recipe serves 6 which is a greater number than I usually cater for but the recipe is easily adjustable and you’ll probably want more for your lunch the next day… and day after that.

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Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 6 beef tomatoes
  • 1/2 white onion , finely chopped
  • 5 chestnut mushrooms , finely sliced
  • 1 cup (200g) orzo pasta
  • 1 3/4 cups (450ml) chicken stock plus extra if needed
  • 1/4 cup/ small handful freshly grated parmesan
  • 1 ball mozzarella
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C fan.
  2. Wash and dry the tomatoes then cut off the tops with a large knife. Do this carefully, not to damage the tops as they’ll act as a lid when baking.
  3. Using the side of a metal spoon cut the edges that connect the middle core to the outside skin of the tomato then scoop out the flesh, juice and seeds into a bowl. Once done, cover the bowl with cling film and store in a fridge, find tips for using the leftover juice below.
  4. Sprinkle the hollowed out tomatoes with salt and sit them top side down on a plate to drain.
  5. Meanwhile make the orzo filling. Finely chop the onion and add to a pan with a little olive oil, saute until soft and translucent. Add the sliced mushrooms and garlic and cook down for around 3 minutes until soft and reduced in size.
  6. Add the orzo pasta and stir to coat in the mushroom and onion mixture. Next add 1/4 of the chicken stock and stir as if you’re making a risotto until the liquid has absorbed. Continue to add the stock 1/4 at a time until you’ve used it all up
  7. Taste and add a good pinch of salt if needed, if the pasta is still under cooked then add more stock until soft. Once done add the parmesan and stir until melted and creamy
  8. To assemble the tomatoes, fill each tomato half way with orzo then top with a few cubs or slices of mozzarella. Add another layer of orzo (they can be slightly mounted) then top with the remaining mozzarella. Place the tomato lids on top of each tomato then bake in the oven for 30 minutes.

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Cheesy Potato Pizza with Thyme

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pot piz 08/03/2019

I have decided to set myself the challenge of training for my first ever marathon this year. As I ramp up the mileage, I also inadvertently ramp up my appetite. An hour or so post-run and literally ALL I can think about is carbs! Well this recipe delivers a double dose with the added benefit of cheese. Don’t be put off though, this is not a stodgy recipe but a flavourful warming meal that may even see the way you make pizza change!

Extra Tips For Making This Potato Pizza:

  • Preheat the oven to the highest temperature possible before baking the pizzas.
  • Always sprinkle semolina flour, polenta or regular flour on the baking trays before placing the dough on top so it doesn’t stick. Semolina flour is best for a nice crispy base.
  • Cut the potatoes as thinly as possible using a sharp knife so they cook at the same time as everything else.
  • If you don’t have thyme, rosemary or oregano would also work really well.

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Makes 2 large pizzas

Ingredients:

  • 500g bag of ciabatta bread mix, made according to instructions
  • 2 large potatoes , cut into as thin slices possible
  • 1 small onion , thinly sliced
  • 1 cup + 2 tbsp (250g) sour cream
  • 1 2/3 cup (160g) Gruyere cheese
  • 4 sprigs of thyme
  • Salt and pepper to season
  • Olive oil to drizzle
  • Flour for dusting
  • Semolina flour or polenta, for dusting

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to the highest temperature possible. First, make the ciabatta dough as per instructions. Add a teaspoon of dried oregano and garlic powder to the mix for extra flavour if you like. Set aside to rise for an hour or overnight in the fridge.
  2. Make the cheesy base by adding the sour cream and grated gruyere cheese in a bowl and mix with a small pinch of pepper until combined.
  3. Sprinkle polenta, semolina flour or regular flour on two large baking trays so the dough doesn’t stick, roll out half of the pizza dough (ciabatta mix) and place it on the baking tray.
  4. Spread half of the cheesy mixture on the pizza base and top with thinly sliced potato slices. Add thin strips of onion, a sprinkle of fresh thyme, salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.
  5. Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes (this is enough to make two large pizzas so time depends on if you are baking both at the same time or not) until the crust is golden and the topping is golden and bubbling.

Pasta Al Forno

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pasta bake 07/03/2019

This year I have decided to give up meat and fish for Lent. I have gone for a couple of days without meat before just by chance and have often thought about eating less of it from a financial and environmental point of view. I enjoy meat and fish, and the flavours and textures they bring in a variety of cuisines but now I am actively making an effort to omit it from all my meals and am interested to see the results.

Day 1 of Lent saw me cook up a giant pasta bake. There is nothing fancy or show-off about this dish but it is just comforting cheesy goodness in which you don’t need or miss any meat.

Pasta al forno basically means pasta made in the oven. It can be anything you like, a lot of Italian recipes include vegetables such as eggplant in a tomato sauce with béchamel or mozzarella.

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Top Tips For Making This Tomato Pasta Bake:

  • Undercook the pasta by around 3 minutes because it’ll then be baked in the oven for 30 minutes to cook further.
  • If you don’t have taleggio used a good melting cheese such as fontina, gruyere or a mature cheddar
  • Use homemade breadcrumbs for this bake, they’re totally different from shop bought and make a difference to the end result.
  • You can add different herbs and spices such as parsley and chili flakes.

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 14oz (400g) giant penne pasta or regular
  • 1clove garlic finely chopped
  • 7lbs (4 cups/800g) passata rustic chunky pureed tomatoes
  • 1tsp fennel seeds
  • 1tsp oregano dried
  • 1tbsp fresh basil chopped
  • 1/2tbsp olive oil plus a drizzle for topping
  • 30ghomemade breadcrumbs
  • 1/2tbsp parmesan freshly grated

Cheese Sauce:

  • 7oz (50g) butter
  • 1/3cup (40g) plain flour
  • 1 2/3cup (400ml) milk
  • 5oz (100g) taleggio cheese cut into cubes
  • 1/2tsp nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper to season

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C
  2. First, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the pasta. Undercook it by 3-4 minutes according to your packet instruction.
  3. Meanwhile make the tomato sauce. Fry the chopped garlic with the basil, fennel seeds and dried oregano with 1/2 tbsp of olive oil until fragrant. Add the passata rustica (rustic pureed tomatoes), a good pinch of salt and pepper and let it simmer gently as the pasta cooks.
  4. Next make the cheese sauce by making a roux with butter and flour in a seperate saucepan. Add the butter to a saucepan on a medium heat. Once melted add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon to form a paste.
  5. Stir the paste for 1-2 minutes to cook out the floury taste (important for the taste of the sauce).
  6. Next start by add the milk a little at a time whilst whisking to avoid any lumps. Add the milk slowly whilst whisking until it starts to thicken.
  7. Add the taleggio cheese, salt, pepper and nutmeg and stir until the cheese has melted and is thick. Turn the heat off and keep warm.
  8. Add the cooked pasta to the tomato sauce and stir until coated well. Transfer it to a baking dish then top with the taleggio cheese sauce. Finally top with breadcrumbs, a tiny drizzle of olive oil and freshly grated parmesan.
  9. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes until the breadcrumbs are toasted and crispy.

Orange & Blueberry Cake

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b 01/02/2019

This is an all-in-one method of making a cake. It is so so easy. You literally bung all the ingredients in together and mix well and you are left with the most light and airy cake without the need to cream butter and sugar or add eggs one at a time and worry about curdling. Just stick it in, mix it up, bake it, apply to face!

The blueberries keep the cake lovely and moist and the orange zest adds loads of flavour but go crazy with whatever you have and prefer.

Ingredients:

  • 100 g (4oz) margarine
  • 100 g (4oz) caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 100 g (4oz) self-raising flour
  • 1 level tsp baking powder
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 150g blueberries

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Method:

  1. Grease and base line a 20cm (8in) sandwich tin.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.
  3. Place the eggs in a large bowl and stir. Measure the margarine, sugar, flour, baking powder and orange zest into the egg mix and beat until thoroughly blended.
  4. Mix in the blueberries then spread the mixture evenly into the tin.
  5. Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 25 minutes or until well risen and the tops of the cake springs back when lightly pressed with a finger. Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes then turn out, peel off the parchment and finish cooling on a wire rack.

Chocolate & Peanut Butter Chickpea Cookie Bars

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v 10/01/2019

After too much cycling with my brother (yes, that is a thing), we decided to take a break however, our idea of a restful day somewhat differs so after failing miserably to survive in Fortnight and somehow managing to cause a glitch in the game, I decided to leave my brothers to carry on with that while I knocked up some goodies in the kitchen – a far more relaxing experience. In an attempt to satisfy everyone’s tastebuds and avoid braving the cold, it had to be something vegan, tasty and using only basic store-cupboard ingredients. Introducing chocolatey, gooey, fudgy blondies made of, wait for it… chickpeas.

This recipe is so easy. You just bung everything in a blender then let the oven work its magic. The timings in the recipe are not a typo. You really do leave the mix in the oven for an hour. The idea is the low heat and slow bake result in a fudgy dense consistency. The peanut butter and chickpeas give the cookie bars an unsurprisingly but extremely welcome nuttiness. Studded with dark chocolate chips, this bake is totally vegan and totally luxurious too.

Ingredients:

  • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • ½ cup peanut butter (I used a natural chunky variety)
  • ½ cup maple syrup
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 pack dark chocolate chips (reserve ¼ pack for the top)
  • pinch of sea salt

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 170C/160C fan and line a loaf pan with parchment paper
  2. In a food processor (or high speed blender), add all ingredients except chocolate chips and process until the batter is a smooth consistency similar to hummus
  3. Stir in ¾ of the pack of dark chocolate chips
  4. Scoop the batter into the lined pan and smooth it out evenly. Lightly press the remaining chocolate chips over top
  5. Bake for 60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. This will vary with ovens so be patient and wait until the edges are beginning to brown.
  6. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan then transfer to a rack for another 30 minutes for them to set
  7. Cut into squares.

Sticky Toffee Date Cake

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stick 26/10/2018

A fantastically easy and delicious recipe for a sticky toffee date cake here. This can be enjoyed hot or cold and keeps incredibly well for up to 5 days if you can resist it for that long. The dates turn into fudgy little nuggets in a moist caramel sponge for ultimate comfort. Great served with caramel sauce, custard, ice cream, yoghurt or even eaten on its own with a brew.

Ingredients:

  • 200g of dried dates, roughly chopped
  • 275ml of boiling water
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 175g soft light brown sugar
  • 150g baking margarine, room temperature
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 175g self-raising flour
  • A pinch of salt

Method:

  1. Pour the boiling water over three quarters of the dates
  2. Leave to soak for 30 minutes
  3. Preheat the oven to 160C fan/180C conventional
  4. Blending together the butter , sugar and the soaked dates (including the soaking water)
  5. Add the eggs and finally stir in the self-raising flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda
  6. Finally stir in the remaining unsoaked dates
  7. Pour into a 30cm square cake tin lined with greaseproof paper
  8. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until firm to the touch
  9. Allow to cool , cut into squares and serve