Moussaka

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moussaka 18/05/2017

A good moussaka is a joy to behold with cinnamon spiced lamb mingling with aubergines and a delicious creamy sauce. It is something I’ve always wanted to make but never have until my friends and I decided to have a Greek night. Perfect chance. I don’t know why I’ve not made one before. It’s extremely comforting and flavourful and well worth the effort.

Serves 6

Ingredients:

Aubergine:

  • 2 large aubergines, cut into ¼” / ¾ cm thick slices
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil

Filling:

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, grated
  • 500 g lamb mince
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 Tbsp plain flour
  • 400g tinned plum tomatoes
  • 3 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 cup chicken or lamb broth/stock, or water + 1 stock cube
  • 1 tsp dried mint
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp allspice (optional)
  • Lemon zest and juice (optional)

Béchamel Sauce:

  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 5 tbsp plain flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • Salt and pepper
  • Topping:
  • ⅓ cup panko or fresh breadcrumbs

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Method:

Aubergine:

  1. Sprinkle the aubergines with salt and place them (stacked) in a large colander. Leave to sweat for 30 minutes, then brush off excess salt and pat dry with a paper towel.
  2. Preheat oven to 200C. Lay the aubergine onto 2 large baking trays, brush with olive oil and bake for 10 minutes or until just softened. Remove and set aside to cool.

Filling:

  1. Heat olive oil in a pan over medium high heat then cook the garlic and onion for 3 minutes. Add the lamb and cook, using the wooden spoon to break up the mince as you go. Add the flour and herbs and stir. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer, then cover, lower heat to medium low and cook for 15 minutes.

Béchamel Sauce:

  1. Melt butter in a pan over medium heat. Add flour and cook for 1 minute, using a whisk to keep it moving.
  2. Add 1 cup of milk and whisk to combine. It will thicken quite quickly. Add the remaining milk. Whisk until smooth then cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until it thickens so that it thickly coats the back of a wooden spoon.
  3. Remove from the stove and whisk in cheese. Allow to cool for 5 minutes then whisk the eggs in.
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Assemble:

  1. Preheat oven to 180C.
  2. Place half the filling in the bottom of a baking dish then half of the aubergine in a layer on top. Repeat the process with the remaining filling and aubergine.
  3. Pour over the béchamel sauce, sprinkle with breadcrumbs and a little extra grated cheese and bake for 30 – 40 minutes or until golden brown.
  4. Allow to stand for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Spicy Sausage Calzones

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IMG_20160414_224340[1] 15/04/2016

Make a batch of clever, cook-from-frozen calzones to pull out of the freezer anytime and have a house filled with fresh doughy aromas and an amazing dinner with no fuss.

Oozing, gooey cheese mixed with subtly spiced chorizo and comforting tomato sauce is encased in crunchy, fresh pizza dough that will easily beat any take-out favourites!

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Use full-fat mozzarella. The high water content in the low-fat versions leaks out when cooking and leaves you with a soggy calzone. No one likes a soggy calzone.

Ingredients:

  • Your favourite pizza dough recipe or 500g ciabatta bread mix
  • Olive oil
  • 1 red onion, finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 150g cooking chorizo, diced
  • 1 red chilli, sliced and deseeded if a milder flavour is desired
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • 4-500ml passata
  • A small bunch of basil, chopped
  • 150-200g mozzarella block, cut into large cubes
  • Fine semolina or plain flour, for dusting

Method:

  1. Make a batch of your pizza dough (see my pizza dough recipe-I’d love to provide a link but haven’t got a clue how to do it). Alternatively, make the bread mix following packet instructions. I always add 1 tsp of dried herbs and some garlic powder for added flavour. Leave it to rise while you make the filling.
  2. Dry fry the chorizo chunks in a frying pan until they begin to brown and release oil. Drain half of the oil and set the chorizo aside. Fry the onion in the remaining oil until soft. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute. Return the chorizo to the pan with the paprika, chilli and passata. Simmer for 20 minutes until the sauce has thickened and reduced. Stir in the basil and season well. Allow to cool a little
  3. Cut the mozzarella block into large cubes. If you can’t find the hard mozzarella blocks, you can use the ball but drain really well in a sieve before using.
  4. Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces on a work surface dusted with fine semolina or flour. Roll each piece out to make ½ cm thick rounds about 20cm wide. Put a generous spoonful of the sauce onto each base and spread over half the dough leaving a 3cm border around the edge. Scatter a few chunks of mozzarella on top.

IMG_20160414_223859[1]       5. Fold the dough over the filling and pinch the sides together making sure to seal the whole edge. Fold the sealed dough over and crimp to make sure no sauce leaks out when cooking. Make a steam whole in the top of each. Carefully transfer the calzones to a baking paper-lined baking sheet and freeze until solid then individually wrap in cling film.

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6. To serve, heat the oven to 200C. Unwrap the frozen calzones, put onto a baking tray and bake for 30 minutes or until the dough is puffed and golden. Stick a metal skewer into the steam hole to check the filling is piping hot before serving.

Serve with salad and your favourite sauce to dunk the crunchy, doughy crust into.

Welsh Rarebit

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IMG_20151118_213733[1] 18/11/2015

There are many variations for this classic dish. Some recipes call for cayenne or paprika, others for ale. This version uses a cheesy bechamel as a base for a beautifully smooth and warming, tangy mustard sauce. A perfect treat for an indulgent brunch.

Ingredients:

  • A knob of butter
  • 2 tsp plain flour
  • Approx 100ml milk
  • 40g Mature cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 tsp English mustard
  • A few dashes of Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 spring onion, finely sliced
  • 2 slices of your favourite bread
  • 1 clove of garlic

Method:

  1. Make a roux by gently heating the butter in a small milk pan then adding the flour. Stir to combine and cook the flour.
  2. Gradually add the milk, stirring constantly so lumps don’t form. Add enough milk to make a smooth sauce that is not too runny.
  3. Add the grated cheese and stir in until melted. Add the mustard, Worcestershire sauce and spring onions then check for seasoning. Remove from the heat.
  4. Toast the bread then cut the clove of garlic in half and rub one half of raw garlic on each slice of toasted bread. Spoon the cheese mix evenly onto each slice of toast then place under a preheated grill until browning and bubbly .