Khachapuri

Standard

kachapori 14/05/2017

The recipe is very loosely adapted from traditional Georgian versions but makes use of what I had in at the time. First, for a lack of Georgian cheese supplies, I used a more generic assortment of cheeses including parmesan and mozzarella, which yielded a satisfactory gooey-ness and savoury flavour.  Instead of mixing them with egg before baking, as is traditional, I used a thick bechamel sauce because I thought it would be a nice change and provide a creamier filling. You can substitute the sauce for egg if you like or even crack one on top when baking! The added tapenade really gave the bread another depth of savouriness and flavour. Rip off the crust and dunk it into the gooey centre for ultimate yum!

Makes 4 large breads.

Ingredients:

Dough:

  • 450g strong white bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon caster sugar
  • 2 x 7g sachets fast action dried yeast
  • 300ml warm water
  • 2 Tablespoons good olive oil

Filling:

  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • ¾ cup milk, cold
  • ¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg, plus more to top
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 320g of equal parts of grated mozzarella and parmesan cheese
  • 4-6 tbsp black olive tapenade (recipe in instructions)

 

Method:

  1. For the dough: Place salt and flour into a large bowl. Add the sugar and yeast but do not let the yeast directly contact the salt.
  2. Pour in the water and olive oil. Mix together with your fingers.
  3. Work the dough into a soft warm ball then slap it onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes until soft and elastic.
  4. Place the dough in a lightly oiled, large bowl and lightly oil the dough itself so a crust does not form. Cover the bowl with a plastic bag and leave in a warm place for about an hour until the dough has doubled in size.
  5. For the filling: While the dough is proofing, cook/stir butter and flour in a pan over medium heat for 1 min. Add the cold milk and whisk the mixture continuously until it starts to simmer and thicken. The consistency should be like mayonnaise. Add the grated nutmeg then season with a bit of salt and black pepper. Let the sauce COOL COMPLETELY then evenly mix in the grated cheese (the cheese should not melt). Set aside.
  6. If you’re making your own tapenade: In a food-processor, combine 155g pitted black olives, 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 3 cloves of garlic, 3 anchovy fillets, 3/4 tsp white wine vinegar and 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper. Puree the mixture as smoothly as you can. Set aside.
  7. To bake the bread:Preheat the oven on 250C, with a pizza-stone or large inverted cast-iron pan in the middle.
  8. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a large oval with pointy tips then transfer to a piece of parchment paper. Rub 1-2 tbsp of tapenade over the dough, then pile ¼ of the cheese-mixture across the middle. Fold the dough over to partially cover the cheese, then bring the 2 ends together and tuck the tips underneath itself, then pinch at the bottom so it sticks. Repeat with the others.
  9. Slide the parchment with the bread on top, onto the pizza-stone or inverted cast-iron pan. Bake for 10 min until golden browned on all sides.

Cheesy Chicken Schnitzel

Standard

screenshot_2016-10-13-20-19-10-11 13/10/2016

Normally, I’d be dead set against ready grated cheese but it tastes incredible in this recipe and delivers a super savoury umami hit along with the crunch of the panko and the succulence of the chicken for a super tasty meal.

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 50g plain flour
  • 1 egg
  • 75g panko breadcrumbs
  • 75g ready-grated parmesan
  • ½ tsp each smoked paprika, dried rosemary
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • a knob of butter

screenshot_2016-10-13-20-21-27-11

Method:

  1. Butterfly the chicken breasts by cutting them open to spread them out without cutting all the way through. Cover with some cling film and gently bash them with a rolling pin to tenderise and flatten each breast. You should be left with two large ‘sheets’ of thin chicken about 1cm in width.
  2. Take 3 shallow bowls. Place the flour in one and season. Place the beaten egg in the second. Place the panko, parmesan, smoked paprika and rosemary in the third bowl. Season the breadcrumb mix well.
  3. Take each chicken breast and coat with the flour, then the egg and finally the cheesy panko. Press the panko mix gently so it sticks well to the eggy chicken.
  4. In a large frying pan over a medium heat, add the oil and butter. When the butter has melted, add the chicken breasts and fry for a few minutes until the bottom is crisp and golden and you just start to see the sides of the chicken turning white.
  5. Turn the chicken over to make the other side crispy and golden and ensure the chicken is cooked through. By now, the kitchen should smell of amazing cheesy goodness.
  6. Remove from the pan and slice up each piece to serve. I have served mine with rosemary roast potatoes and a rocket salad.

Spinach & Ricotta Cannelloni

Standard

Screenshot_2016-06-25-13-51-45-1[1] 25/06/2016

Here is a beautiful recipe for a homely, comforting dinner. It is a little hands on and requires a bit of effort and time in the kitchen but that is half of the fun and the resulting meal is satisfying and flavourful. If you are pushed for time or don’t have the patience then you can cut corners such as using ready made lasagne sheets or cannelloni tubes and buying ready made pasta sauce but you WILL be able to tell the difference.

The pasta in my recipe is so easy to make and the touch of wholemeal flour in the recipe not only adds texture and flavour but fibre too.

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 200g ricotta
  • 300g fresh spinach
  • 2 garlic cloves, grated
  • Nutmeg
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 500ml passata
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • Fresh basil, a handful, roughly chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • A pinch of sugar

For the wholemeal cannelloni:

  • 50g wholemeal flour
  • 50g plain flour
  • 1 large egg
  • Pinch of salt
  • A dash of water, optional

For the béchamel sauce:

  • A knob of butter
  • 2 tsp plain flour
  • Semi skimmed milk
  • Salt and ground white pepper
  • Nutmeg, finely grated
  • Parmesan, finely grated, for topping

Method:

For the spinach and ricotta filling:

  1. Bring a saucepan with 1cm of water to the boil. Add the fresh spinach and wilt it for 30 seconds. Drain all the water and, using a pair of rubber gloves, squeeze the excess water from the spinach.
  2. Roughly chop the spinach and add it to a mixing bowl along with the ricotta, garlic, seasoning and nutmeg. Set aside in the fridge.

For the tomato sauce:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Gently sweat the onions for 8-10 minutes until soft and lightly golden. Add the garlic and stir for another minute.
  2. Add the passata, sugar and seasoning and leave to simmer gently for 20-30 minutes. Stir occasionally then add the basil before removing from the heat.
  3. Place half of the sauce in the base of a loaf tin or ovenproof dish and set the other half aside.

For the wholemeal cannelloni:

  1. Place the flours and salt into a mixing bowl. Add in the egg and combine with a fork until a dough is formed. You may need a little added water to help combine the dough.
  2. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a few minutes. Wrap in cling-film and leave to rest for 30 minutes.
  3. When ready, roll the dough into one long sheet. You can do this with a pasta machine if you have one but a rolling pin and good old fashioned elbow grease is just as good if you don’t. Roll the dough as thinly as you can.

For the béchamel:

  1. Heat the butter in a milk pan. Add the flour and whisk to combine. Cook the flour out over a low-medium heat for a couple of minutes then, away from the heat, add a splash of milk and whisk constantly until thickening. This will happen very quickly. Keep adding small amounts of milk and whisking to incorporate. Keep adding milk until you have a saucy consistency and place back over the gentle heat.
  2. Add the nutmeg and seasoning and keep stirring on the heat until the correct thickness is achieved.

To assemble:

  1. Cut the long sheet of pasta into 8-10 rectangles and fill each with a good dollop of the spinach, ricotta filling. Roll up the rectangles to encase the filling in a cylinder and place each cylinder on top of the tomato sauce in your loaf tin.
  2. Top with the remaining tomato sauce then drizzle the béchamel sauce over the top.
  3. Top with plenty of grated parmesan and bake in an oven preheated to 180C for 30 minutes or until golden and bubbling.

Screenshot_2016-06-25-13-55-24-1[1] Screenshot_2016-06-25-13-53-21-1[1]

Spaghetti Carbonara

Standard

IMG_20150204_212538[1] 08/02/2015

This recipe would probably have Italian mothers turning in their graves as it is certainly not authentic with the addition of such items as peas and mushrooms but the sauce is smooth and velvetty as a good carbonara should be. Note that no lashings of cream or copious amounts of butter are used at all as the flavour and texture come from the salty, smoky, crisp bacon and fresh herbs combined by the silky sauce.

I just added what needed using in the fridge for a quick, tasty, healthy meal. This recipe serves 2.

Ingredients:

  • 4 smoked bacon rashers
  • 50g parmesan
  • 2 eggs
  • 150g spaghetti, linguine or tagliatelle
  • 2 plump garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 100g mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • A few sprigs of fresh thyme
  • A handful of chopped parsley
  • ½ mug of frozen peas, cooked
  • salt and freshly grated black pepper

Method:

  1. Put a large saucepan of water on to boil. Beat the eggs in a medium bowl, season with a little freshly grated black pepper and finely grate the cheese. Mix the cheese and eggs together and set aside.
  2. Add 1 tsp salt to the boiling water, add the chosen pasta and when the water comes back to the boil, cook at a constant simmer, for 10 minutes or until al dente (just cooked).
  3. While the spaghetti is cooking, place the bacon rashers in a cold pan and place the pan over a medium-high heat. As the pan heats up, the fat will render from the bacon. Turn the bacon over to cook both sides until crispy then remove from the pan. Chop the bacon into chunks and set aside. In the same pan you cooked the bacon in, add the mushrooms to the bacon fat along with the garlic and thyme and fry until the mushrooms soften and cook. Add the chopped bacon back to the pan.
  4. Keep the heat under the bacon and mushrooms on low. When the pasta is ready lift it from the water with a pasta fork or tongs and put it in the frying pan with the bacon. Don’t worry if a little water drops in the pan as well (you want this to happen) and don’t throw the rest of the pasta water away yet.
  5. Take the pan of pasta and bacon off the heat. Now quickly pour in the eggs and cheese and, using the tongs or a long fork, lift up the spaghetti so it mixes easily with the egg mixture, which thickens but doesn’t scramble, and everything is coated. Add extra pasta cooking water to keep it saucy (several tablespoons should do it). You don’t want it wet, just moist. Season with a little salt, if needed.
  6. Serve immediately with a little sprinkling of extra parmesan cheese, a grating of black pepper and the parsley. I also added some frozen peas that I boiled for a couple of minutes to add a few more veg to the mix. If the dish does get a little dry before serving, splash in some more hot pasta water and the glossy sauciness will be revived.

Tip: Don’t add the egg mixture to the saucepan before removing it from the heat and allowing to cool slightly or the eggs will scramble. Do not be afraid to add plenty of pasta water either as the pasta will finish cooking and suck up the moisture to create a lovely sauce. Just keep the contents of the pan moving so the egg does not catch then serve immediately and enjoy!

Lasagne

Standard

IMG_20141210_183439[1] 10/12/2014

This is a classic recipe for lasagne. No fancy adages or variations but a hearty, warming and delicious crowd pleaser.

This lasagne is a big one. It serves eight so you’ll need a big oven dish or you could divide it into smaller dishes and freeze what you don’t want for another night. If cooking from frozen, cook at 180C for 90-120 minutes, depending on the size of your dish, until the lasagne is piping hot, brown and bubbling.

Ingredients:

For the meat sauce:

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 celery sticks, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 140g pancetta
  • 500g pack beef mince (I used extra lean)
  • 500g pack pork mince or British veal mince
  • 2 x 500g cartons passata
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 rosemary sprig
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 beef stock cubes
  • 500ml red wine
  • Salt and pepper
  • about 400g dried pasta sheets
  • 50g parmesan, finely grated

For the béchamel sauce:

  • 2 Litres full fat UHT milk
  • 1 onion, thickly sliced
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 cloves
  • 75g butter
  • 75g plain flour
  • good grating of nutmeg

Method:

  1. First infuse the milk for the béchamel sauce. Put the milk, onion, bay and cloves into a large saucepan and bring very gently just up to the boil. Turn off the heat and set aside for 1 hr to infuse.
  2. For the meat sauce, put the oil, celery, onion, carrot, garlic and pancetta in another large saucepan. Gently cook together until the vegetables are soft but not coloured. Remove the vegetables to a large bowl and brown the mince in batches in the same pan. Set each batch aside with the vegetables as you go. Tip all the vegetables and mince back into the pan and add the passata. Using a wooden spoon, stir together well then stir in all the herbs, the stock cubes and wine and bring to a simmer. Gently simmer uncovered for 1 hour, stirring occasionally to stop the bottom catching. Cook until the meat is tender and saucy. Taste and season with salt and fresh ground black pepper.
  3. To finish the béchamel, strain the milk through a fine sieve into a large jug. Melt the butter in the same pan then, using a whisk, mix in the flour and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the strained milk, a little at a time – the mix will thicken at first to a doughy paste, but keep going, adding milk gradually to avoid lumps. When all the milk is added, bring to a gentle simmer, whisking constantly. Gently bubble for a few minutes until thickened. Season with salt, white pepper and nutmeg.
  4. Heat oven to 180C. Spread a spoonful of the meat sauce over the base of a roughly 3.5 litre baking dish or do as I did and make two dishes for four people and store one in the freezer after assembly. Cover with a single layer of pasta sheets, snapping them to fit if needed, then top with a quarter of the béchamel. Spoon over a third of the meat sauce and scatter over a little Parmesan. Repeat the layers – pasta, béchamel, meat and Parmesan – two more times to use all the meat sauce. Add a final layer of pasta, the last of the béchamel and remaining Parmesan. Sit the dish on a baking tray to catch spills and bake for 1 hr until bubbling, browned and crisp on top.

IMG_20141210_174532[1] IMG_20141210_174612[1]

Remove the lasagne from the oven and allow it to sit for 10-15 minutes to firm up a little. This makes it much easier to dish up and you won’t burn the roof of your mouth off. Serve this with a light side salad. I used spinach and tomato. And of course, no lasagne is ever really complete without a chunk of garlic bread and a cheeky glass of red wine!