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Savoury Tomato Cobbler with Basil and Manchego

26 Sep Savoury Tomato & Basil Cobbler

Tomato & Basil CobblerIt’s been so long since I posted a recipe I’m sorry. I have so many recipes to catch up with but no time, which is a good thing I suppose. Fresh To Go is really busy which is more than we could have hoped for. Thank you customers!

Savoury Tomato & Basil Cobbler

It is still summery here but I realise that in other parts of the world it can’t make up its mind and is sometimes raining and cold. This recipe is perfect because it makes the transition from a light summery dish to cosy comfort food very easily indeed. Just serve it with a nice rocket salad if the sun is out or some yoghurt & herb mashed potatoes if the weather and/or you are miserable. Mashed potato is a well known antidote to misery.

Tomatoes are cheap & plentiful here and also full of flavour. This recipes uses 3 different types of tomato, plum tomatoes, beef tomatoes and cherry tomatoes but you don’t have to. Cooking the tomatoes encourages flavour even out of the most out of season, cold  & dull specimens.

Tomato Basil & Manchego CobblerSavoury Tomato Cobbler with Basil & Manchego Recipe

Serves 6-8, vegetarian. 

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise, white core removed
  • 1 kilo beef (Castellano) tomatoes, chopped (or any tomatoes)
  • 500 g cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp sherry vinegar
  • a pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp dried or fresh thyme
  • a squeeze of honey
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce (vegetarian)
  • about 10 fresh basil leaves, rolled up & julienned (you will need more for the dough mix too)
  • 1 Tbsp cornflour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups (225 g) wholemeal spelt flour (or other flour)
  • 1/2 cup (75 g) cornmeal/fine polenta/masa harina 
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup (110 ml) olive oil
  • 3/4 cup (100 g) finely grated Manchego (or Parmesan) cheese
  • a good handful of basil leaves, rolled & julienned
  • 1 1/4 cups (275 ml) goats (or Greek) yoghurt or buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Cook the onion in 1 Tbsp of olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat with a pinch of salt until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic, chilli flakes & thyme and cook for 2 minutes more. Add the chopped tomatoes, cook for 5 minutes then add the vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, cornflour, salt, pepper and honey. Cook for 5 minutes more. Taste and adjust salt & honey as required.

Place the halved plum tomatoes, cut side up in the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch baking dish (or 1 half in each individual dish if you have them), then spoon the cooked tomato, onion mixture over them. Top with the halved cherry tomatoes. Bake for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile mix together the flours, baking powder & baking soda in a large bowl and season with salt & black pepper. Drizzle over the olive oil and then crush it into the flour using a fork until it is evenly distributed and resembles crumble mix. Put it in the fridge for 10 minutes.

Stir the grated cheese & basil into the flour mix, then add the yoghurt and stir until just combined. Do not overmix or it will be tough. Dollop small roundish handfuls of the mix on top of the tomatoes, leaving gaps in between, do not spread to cover.

Bake for 30 – 35 minutes until golden brown. Leave to cool for 10 minutes or longer before serving with either a green salad and/or yoghurt & herb mashed potatoes.

Tomato, Basil & Manchego Cobbler

I am off to Rome to meet up with my Dad this weekend. For research purposes only you understand. Very excited about the food, I have a long list of restaurants I want to try. I’ve heard there’s some sights to see too. Only if there’s time between lunch & dinner though…

Natalie

Fresh To Go! Courgette Flower and Leek Quiche with Goat’s Ricotta and Parsley

30 Jun Courgette Flower Quiche

Courgette Flower Quiche

“Where the **** have you been?” I hear you ask in my guilt ridden dreams just before morning.

So I promise myself over and over again that today will be the day that I actually blog some of the recipes that I have been developing, cooking and selling (Yes actually selling) over the past few months. But then life takes over again and I run out of time.

Forgive me Father for I have sinned. It has been seven weeks since my last blog. Seven weeks! It feels terrible just typing it.

Courgettes & Flowers

My explanation is as follows:

We have set up a small catering company called “Fresh To Go” supplying naturally delicious & healthy prepared foods, in our local area. It is for people who really want to eat healthily but don’t have the time, skills or inclination to cook for themselves every day.

We send out a newsletter every Friday detailing the dishes (with photographs obviously) on the following week’s menu. It is just an extension of this blog really. I go to the farmer’s market in Coin on Sunday and look at which natural fruit and vegetables are in season and looking gorgeous and create recipes using them. The only difference being is that now we make food for other people too. Sounds simple doesn’t it?

And it is, sort of. The thing is that it doesn’t leave much time for blogging, so I apologise for neglecting you and hope that this beautiful little quiche, made with the best of this season’s produce, will go someway towards making it up to you.

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Courgette Flower Quiche

Courgette, Leek & Courgette Flower Quiche with Goat’s Ricotta & Parsley

Makes 1 large or 3-4 small quiches, vegetarian

For the pastry crust:

  • 150 g wholemeal spelt (or normal) flour
  • 50 g oats
  • 50 g walnuts, blended to a course powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 80-100 ml cold water
  • 1 egg white for glazing (save yolk for filling)

Mix together the flour, oats, walnuts, salt, pepper & thyme in a large bowl with a fork. Then add the olive oil and, using the fork, mix it into the dry ingredients, mashing it together so it is evenly distributed and resembles crumble.

Then slowly drizzle in the water (you may not need all of it) mixing it with the fork until it starts coming together. Using your hands bring it together into a ball and knead gently just until it holds, don’t overwork it. It will be slightly crumbly.

Preheat oven to 200C. Oil and flour a 9 or 10 inch tart tin/dish or 3 or 4, 4-5  inch tart cases and line the base with a circle of baking paper.Flour you work surface  and rolling-pin and roll out your pastry to a flat disc about 3-4 mm thick and big enough to line your tart case(s).

Using your fingertips and heel of your hand press it into and up the sides of the tin. A flat-bottomed mug can be quite useful too. When you have the base reasonably even, trim off any bits hanging over the edge and use them to fill any holes. Put in the fridge for at least 10 minutes to firm up.

Place a sheet of  baking paper in the tin, fill with baking beans and bake for 8-10 mins. Remove from the oven, brush the base with the egg white and put back in for two minutes – this should stop it getting a soggy base. Leave to cool while you make the filling.

For the filling:

  • 1 courgette, thinly sliced on the slight diagonal
  • 1 leek, trimmed, halved lengthways, rinsed & sliced
  • 1 green spring garlic (or clove), trimmed and sliced
  • 4 courgette flowers (stamens snipped out) if baby courgettes still attached slice them too
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • salt & black pepper
  • a pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • 1 egg yolk (saved from above)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 pot (125 ml) goat’s or Greek yoghurt
  • rice milk (or your choice of milk)
  • about 100 gr goat’s ricotta (or Greek Feta) 
  • a handful of fresh parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 190 C. Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a pan and saute the leeks, courgettes (and baby courgettes if you have them) & spring garlic with a good pinch of salt, black pepper, thyme, chilli flakes. Stir occasionally until the courgettes are well softened. Taste for seasoning and drain for a few minutes on kitchen paper to get rid of any liquid.

Cover the pastry base with an even layer of the courgette & leeks then crumble over the ricotta/feta. In a measuring jug whisk together the egg yolk, eggs and yoghurt. Add in enough milk to take it up to about 400 ml (more if your tin is deep), season well with salt & black pepper, throw in the chopped parsley and whisk again.

Place the quiche on the middle shelf of the oven then whisk and quickly pour in the liquid up to a few mm below the edge. Slide in the tray carefully to avoid spillage and shut the oven door.

Bake for about 25 – 30 minutes, check how it is cooking and add the flowers to the top when it is nearly cooked. Put back in for another 5 or so minutes until the flowers have wilted slightly and the quiche is browned and set in the middle.

Courgette Flower Quiche


My apologies again for the extended absence but cross your fingers for us that  this is a success!

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Broad Bean Bruschettas with Goat’s Ricotta and Spring Onion

11 May Broad Bean Bruschetta

Broad Bean Bruschettas with Goats Ricotta

I have been running past these broad beans with the dog and I kept meaning to go back with my camera to take some photos. I eventually remembered and got stung by a bee on my little finger when I did. I had forgotten how much that hurts. The things I do for you…

Broad Beans

I also photographed some spring onions (Spanish ones are massive in case you were wondering) and some young leeks. These three things are cheap and plentiful at the market right now as well as spring garlic shoots.

Broad Beans, Spring Onions & Leeks

So this is less of a recipe and more of a, placing of ingredients on some toasted bread, really. You can do that even if you have guests, which we did. The good thing about that is that you can get them to help with the podding. (Thanks Lindsey)

Broad Bean Bruschetta

I bought a kilo of broad beans so sharing the job was a good idea. Podding the beans is the first part then you blanche them for a few minutes in boiling water, cool them down under cold running water, then you squeeze the bright green, sweet beans out of their pale jade cases.

This may sound like a faff too far but it is hardly taxing (while sipping a cool drink under an umbrella) and it really makes all the difference to the freshness of the dish. Look at the colour of them, aren’t they pretty?

Broad Bean Bruschettas

Broad Bean Bruschettas with Goats Ricotta & Spring Onion Recipe

Serves (who knows depends how hungry you are) 4-6? Vegetarian

  • 1 kilo broad beans still in their pods
  • a handful of finely sliced spring onions
  • a handful of rinsed, finely sliced baby leeks (or small leek)
  • a handful of finely sliced spring garlic/green garlic
  • dried (or fresh) thyme leaves
  • lemon juice
  • a handful of fresh parsley, chopped (plus leaves for garnish)
  • olive oil
  • sea salt & black pepper
  • goats ricotta (or soft goats cheese/feta)
  • a nice baguette/ciabatta (or 2) sliced on the diagonal

Pod the beans then cook in boiling salted water for 2 minutes. Plunge into cold water to stop the cooking or run under the cold tap until cold. Then squeeze the bright green beans out of their pale green cases.

Toast the baguette slices on both sides under the grill and set aside.

Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat, add the sliced spring onions, leeks and green garlic. Season with salt, pepper and a little thyme. Cook for a minute or so until starting to soften, then add the broad beans, stirring to coat. Cook for a few minutes more, add a squeeze of lemon juice, the chopped parsley and check for seasoning.

Spread or crumble a layer of goats ricotta/cheese on each baguette slice, top with a spoonful of the broad beans and put on your serving plate. Continue with the rest.

To serve, top with some fresh parsley leaves, a sprinkling of sea salt and a few drops of olive oil.

Broad Bean Bruschetta with Goats RicottaI’m thinking a long, cool white wine spritzer to go with this. You may prefer a Mojito though.

I know I said I would let you know about our new business venture in this post. Well I lied. You’re gonna have to wait.

Have a lovely weekend!!

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Primavera Orzo Salad with Fresh Peas, Asparagus, Mint and Feta

22 Apr Orzo Primavera

Primavera Orzo Salad

Spring has definitely sprung. The wild flowers are wafting their sweet fragrance in the mornings where I run with the dog so my thoughts turn away from steaming hot soups and comforting stews towards lighter flavours and all things fresh and green.

Spring Flowers

I bought some fresh peas in their pods from the farmers’ market on Sunday. There is nothing more spring-like than peas, except for maybe asparagus. This recipe has both. In fact it has all my favourite spring flavours in one dish. There’s also fresh mint, dill, lemon, spring onions, spring garlic and feta. Is it singing to you yet?

s3

Orzo, in case you don’t know, is a rice shaped pasta. If you can’t find it (I got mine in Eroski, believe it or not, in the Moroccan section) you could use any small-ish pasta shapes or even cooked rice. The good thing about orzo is that it doesn’t go all flabby and stick together when it is cooked so it is perfect for salads.

s4

You toss all the ingredients and the dressing over the cooked orzo while it is still hot so all the flavours get absorbed and start to mingle. Leave it to cool to room temperature then you can store it in the fridge. The feta and fresh herbs are best stirred through just before serving. This is an ideal lunch that would be easy to take to work or for a weekend picnic.

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Primavera Orzo Salad with Fresh Peas, Asparagus, Mint & Feta Recipe

Serves 3, vegetarian.

  • 300 g uncooked orzo (or other pasta shapes)
  • 2 or 3 spring onions (scallions), finely chopped
  • 1 baby leek (or more spring onion), finely chopped
  • 1 spring garlic/green garlic/ajete, finely chopped
  • salt & black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • a pinch of dried chilli flakes (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 100 gr shelled fresh peas (or frozen)
  • a handful of fresh chopped dill
  • 12 fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • 100 g Greek feta
  • toasted pine nuts (optional)

Cook the orzo in lots of boiling salted water for about 8 minutes until al dente and drain.

Meanwhile, cook the spring onions, baby leek and spring garlic in a tablespoon of olive oil over a medium heat with a pinch of salt some black pepper, the thyme, oregano and chilli flakes until softened. Mix this with the drained cooked pasta in large bowl. Add the olive oil, lemon juice and season with salt & black pepper. Leave to cool.

Trim or snap the woody ends off the asparagus and cut into 1 inch pieces. Shell the peas. Cook the peas & asparagus in boiling salted water for 3 minutes then drain and add to the orzo, Stir everything together well.

Leave to cool to room temperature. It can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge from this point. When ready to serve stir through the crumbled or cubed feta and the chopped herbs. Taste for seasoning, add more salt or lemon juice if required.

Serve topped with some tiny mint leaves, dill fronds and toasted pine nuts, if using. I forgot to put mine on for the photos, duh…

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Say hello to spring even if it is raining where you are!

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Have a lovely week whatever the weather.

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Mushroom Risotto Stuffed Baked Fennel Bulbs with Tomato Sauce

20 Mar Risotto Stuffed Fennel

Risotto Stuffed Fennel with Tomato Sauce

Fennel is another one of those vegetables, like cauliflower, that gets a bit of a bad name. People have preconceived ideas about it. They don’t like it. But many have never tried it cooked. I may have been one of those narrow-minded people.

Fennel Plants

Running past this field full of feathery fennel fronds floating in the breeze in front of an 11th Century Moorish watchtower while Rufus begs me to turn around and run back because of the pack of very tiny dogs who bark (or actually yap) at his heels as we pass, made me want to research this undervalued vegetable a little more deeply.

And by research I mean, look at recipes. On Pinterest mainly. Not that I’m addicted or anything but that is where I store all of the recipes I like the look of and want to make soon.

Mushroom Risotto Stuffed Fennel Bulb

The idea for this recipe didn’t come from Pinterest though. It came from Jim, The Washer Up’s dad. It’s not his recipe. I don’t think he stretches much farther than a ham sandwich in his own particular kitchen, but he does send me everything food related cut out from the British press, neatly folded in a brown envelope every couple of weeks. This is always a very welcome distraction, for me, from any cleaning that might need doing.

It was in one of those envelopes that I found out about baking and stuffing fennel.

Fennel Stock & Bulbs

Because I bought four whole fennel (complete with long feathery fronds still attached)  from the farmer’s market on Sunday, I decided I wouldn’t waste all of that aniseedy greenery and I made a stock out of them for the risotto. This isn’t essential but if you have them, you may as well if you have the time.

Risotto Stuffed Baked Fennel

In the original recipe they stuffed the fennel with wild rice. I decided to make a risotto using brown rice and the mushrooms I had in my fridge and use that to stuff them instead.

I have finally worked out how to make risotto from brown rice that actually looks and tastes like risotto. You have to part cook the rice first so it is nearly done. Then you add it to the risotto and continue as you would with uncooked risotto rice. It’ so much softer and creamier. I have to give credit to The Washer Up for this tip, he has been telling me to do it for ages.

And he was right. There I said it.

Risotto Stuffed Fennel

To make the fennel stock I cut the stalks and fronds off of the fennel bulbs and chopped them up roughly. I put them in  a large pot with 3 or 4 bay leaves, 15 whole peppercorns and a good teaspoon of salt. Bring this to the boil then lower the heat and simmer, covered for about an hour. Taste and add more salt if necessary . Then drain and store in the fridge or freezer in 500 ml or 1 litre pots.

You can just use a normal vegetable stock if you don’t have the fronds, time or inclination.

Mushroom Risotto Stuffed Baked Fennel Recipe

Serves  4, vegetarian. Adapted from

  • 300 ml brown rice
  • 600 ml fennel stock or water

Put the rice and stock/water in a pan. Bring to the boil then lower the heat, cover and cook for about 15 minutes until the rice is nearly cooked. Drain if necessary. Rinse under cold water if not using straight away to stop the cooking and set aside.

  • 4  fennel bulbs
  • olive oil
  • salt & black pepper
  • white wine (or cava)

Preheat oven to 180C. Cut about 2 cm off of the base of each bulb so it can stand up. Then cut another inch or so off of the tops. Remove any damaged/bruised outer layers. Using a teaspoon, hollow out the fennel bulbs as best you can (see picture above) reserving the fennel flesh for the risotto.

Stand the hollowed out fennel bulbs on a large sheet of foil, drizzle with olive oil and season well with salt & pepper. Start to bring the edges of the foil up and around the fennel then carefully pour in about 4 Tbsp white wine. Seal the foil package completely around the fennel but make sure that they are still standing. Bake for about 40-45 minutes until nicely softened.

  • reserved fennel flesh from above, finely chopped
  • 1 stick celery, finely chopped
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves, garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • a good pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • 1 lemon, zested 
  • about 250 g mushrooms, cleaned & sliced
  • a splosh of white wine
  • up to 1 litre vegetable/fennel stock
  • 30 g grated manchego/parmesan
  • a handful of breadcrumbs
  • a handful of manchego/parmesan
  • fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • a handful of pine nuts, toasted in a dry pan
  • tomato pasta sauce/marinara sauce

Put the stock in a small pan over a medium heat and keep hot but not boiling.

Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat, add the onion, celery, chopped fennel and a pinch of salt and cook for about 4 minutes until softened but not browned. Then add the garlic, thyme, chilli flakes, half of the lemon zest and cook for another 2 minutes.

Add the mushrooms, cook for three minutes until softened then add the part cooked rice. Add a good splosh of white wine and cook until evaporated. Season well with salt & black pepper then start adding the hot stock a ladleful at a time, waiting for it to be absorbed before adding the next ladleful, stirring and swirling occasionally. Keep going until you have used all the stock and the rice is cooked. The risotto should be soft and quite liquidy.

Add a squeeze of lemon, a little of the chopped parsley and stir in the 30 gr grated manchego/parmesan. Turn off the heat, put a lid on and leave for 3-5 minutes. Heat up your tomato sauce.

If your fennel bulbs are done remove them from the oven and put the grill/broiler on high.

Mix together the breadcrumbs, grated manchego/parmesan, rest of the lemon zest, some pine nuts & some chopped parsley in a small bowl.

Check the risotto for seasoning add more salt if necessary. Spoon some risotto into each fennel bulb right to the top and a little bit more, sprinkle over the breadcrumb mix and put them under the grill for a minute or two until browned.

To serve: Cover the base of each dish with a shallow pool of risotto and place the stuffed fennel in the middle. Spoon some of the tomato sauce on and around the dish and garnish with some of the breadcrumb mix if you have any left, some chopped parsley or fennel fronds.

Risotto Stuffed Fennel & Tomato Sauce

Buen Provecho!!

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Farro “Risotto” with Broad Beans, Wild Asparagus and Poached Egg

18 Jan Broad Bean Farro Risotto

Farro Risotto with Poached Egg

Farro is barley from spelt rather than wheat. This is whole Farro (or spelt).  You can also buy it pearled or semi-pearled apparently but I haven’t found it here yet. Pearling removes some of the outer husks, this means it cooks more quickly but you will also be missing out on some of the fibrey wholeness.

Farro

I bought half a kilo of broad beans at the market this weekend because they screamed “Spring” at me from behind a pile of cabbages and cauliflowers. I love cabbage and cauliflower but it’s nice when new things start to appear.

Broad Beans

I also bought a bunch of wild asparagus, trigueros in Spanish. It is a very fine type of asparagus that grows wild in fields and at the side of the road underneath spiky bushes (very clever). There are sometimes rather scruffy looking men selling big bunches of it at roundabouts at this time of year.  They are probably so scruffy because they have been scrabbling around underneath spiky bushes looking for the asparagus. They are the epitome of “being dragged through a hedge backwards.”

Farro Asparagus Risotto

Revueltos de Esparragos Trigurerosis a classic Spanish dish where the wild asparagus is sautéed in pan until just tender then you add some beaten eggs and cook it all together. Scrambled eggs with asparagus basically. This is what inspired me to top this risotto with a poached egg. It’s lovely because if your egg is perfectly runny when you stick your knife in it the yolk runs into the risotto giving it a rich creaminess that works really well in this dish.

 The flavour or the trigueros is slightly more bitter than the thicker asparagus and you still have to trim off quite a lot of the woody ends or the twiggy bits get stuck in your teeth I found, not attractive.

Broad Bean Farro Risotto

I cooked the farro using the risotto method, adding a ladleful of warm stock, waiting for it to be absorbed, then adding another ladleful and so on. It took a long time to cook, about 40 minutes in total I think. If you are using whole spelt/farro like me then I would probably suggest that you cook it according to the instructions on the packet (mine didn’t have any). Cooking it normally, in water or stock, will probably shorten the cooking time, you still want it to be nutty and have some bite so don’t overdo it.

You can then add your broad beans, asparagus etc at the end of cooking and heat it all up together. If you are using normal asparagus you will need to blanch it in boiling water for a few minutes before adding it to the risotto at the end.

Farro Risotto with Asparagus

Farro Risotto with Broad Beans, Asparagus & Poached Egg

Serves 3, vegetarian

  • 300 g Farro (spelt barley) I used whole but pearled or semi-pearled cook quicker
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • a pinch of chilli flakes (optional)
  • 1 litre veg stock
  • salt & black pepper
  • about 30 g ( a handful) of grated manchego/parmesan, plus shaved to garnish
  • 500 g broad beans still in their pod chambers (as in the picture above)
  • 1 bunch of wild (or not) asparagus, woody ends trimmed off, cut into 1- 2 inch pieces
  • 100 g frozen peas, left to defrost
  • a handful of chopped fresh parsley
  • about 15 basil leaves
  • toasted pine nuts
  • 1 egg per person
  • white vinegar

Remove the broad beans from their chambers, then put them in boiling water for a minute or two, drain, rinse under the cold tap, then squeeze the bright green beans out of their pale jade cases. Discard the cases. If using normal asparagus cook this in boiling, salted  water for about 3 minutes until just tender, drain and run under the cold tap to stop the cooking, set aside.

Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan and cook the onion with a pinch of salt over a medium heat for about 4 minutes until softened. Add the garlic, bay leaf, thyme and chilli flakes and cook for another 2 minutes.

At this point you can either:

1) Add in the uncooked farro, stirring to coat for a minute. Heat the veg stock in a small pan until hot but not boiling. Add two ladles of the hot stock to the farro and cook until absorbed then add another two ladles of stock, repeating until the farro is tender but still with a nutty bite. If you need more liquid add some boiling water from the kettle. Season with salt & black pepper.

Or…

2) Add the uncooked farro and the veg stock, bring to the boil, lower the heat and simmer, partially covered until the farro is cooked, tender but still with a nutty bite. Season with salt & black pepper.

Then, when ready to serve stir the peas, broad beans and chopped asparagus into the farro stirring to heat through for a few minutes until cooked. Then stir in the cheese and most of the fresh herbs. Taste for seasoning

For the poached eggs:

Meanwhile, using a pan big enough to hold all the eggs, fill it 2/3 full with water and bring to the boil. Crack the eggs into separate teacups or ramekins.

When the water is boiling, squeeze in about a teaspoon of vinegar and some salt. Remove the pan from the heat, stir it with a wooden spoon very fast to create a little whirlpool then, quickly but gently, slide the eggs into the water, one at a time. Put on a lid and leave for 3 – 3 1/2 minutes.

When the white is cooked, carefully lift the eggs out, one at a time with a slotted spoon onto a double sheet of kitchen paper to drain, cover the tops with another sheet of kitchen paper.

Serve the farro “risotto” in warmed bowls and carefully use the paper and spoon to move the poached egg on top of the farro. Season the egg with a little salt & black pepper and garnish the dish with some shaved manchego/parmesan, the rest of the herbs and the toasted pine nuts.

Farro Risotto with a Poached Egg

Have a Great Weekend Everyone!!

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Romanesco Rigatoni Cheese Bake with Crunchy Nut Topping

8 Jan Romanesco Rigatoni Cheese Bake

Romanesco Rigatoni & Cheese Bake

Romanesco is a fabulously freaky looking thing that tastes like a cross between cauliflower and broccoli. If broccoli florets look like little oak trees then romanesco florets are definitely mini Christmas trees.

Romanesco

This is basically a fusion of two iconic dishes. Macaroni Cheese (Mac & Cheese) and Cauliflower Cheese, which is cauliflower coated in a cheesy white sauce if you didn’t already know. Sometimes gratinated sometimes not. I think it’s a British thing. It’s good to get some extra vegetables in with all that cheeesy carbness so I added some spinach too. Good for the guilt I find.

Romanesco Rigatoni Cheese Bake

This dish is great for using up all the little bits of different cheeses that you might have leftover especially at this time of year. I used some feta, goat’s cheese and grated Manchego. Clear out the fridge food is always satisfying.

Romanesco Rigatoni Cheese Bake

The topping is actually the Hazelnut & Chestnut Dukkah that I made to go on my Moroccan Spiced Cauliflower Soup. The spicy Egyptian nutty crumble give this an extra kick of flavour but you could use breadcrumbs mixed with grated cheese and some spices if you like. The nuts give a nice crunch though. Worth the extra effort definitely.

Romanesco Rigatoni Cheese

Romanesco Rigatoni Cheese Bake with Dukkah Topping

Serves 3-4, vegetarian

You can substitute the cheeses for whatever bits you have around; Stilton, Gruyère, gorgonzola, mozzarella….

  • 1/2 large romanesco (or cauliflower/broccoli), chopped into small florets
  • 300 g wholemeal rigatoni
  • 2 Tbsp flour (I used wholemeal spelt)
  • 2 Tbsp dairy free spread or butter
  • about 300 ml oat milk (or other milk)
  • a good handful of grated manchego (or cheddar/parmesan..)
  • 1/2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp dried chilli flakes (optional)
  • salt & black pepper
  • a big handful of fresh spinach leaves, chopped (about 100 g)
  • 75 – 100 g Greek feta
  • 75 – 100 g goats cheese
  • about 50 g hazelnut dukkah (recipe here) or use breadcrumbs and grated cheese
  • olive oil and breadcrumbs/flour

Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet in a large pan with lots of boiling salted water. About 4 or 5 minutes before it is cooked throw in the florets too. Cauliflower takes longer to cook than broccoli and romanesco so adjust accordingly. When the pasta is cooked and romanesco tender, drain the whole lot in a colander.

While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter/spread in a small pan over a medium heat. When it has melted add the flour, all in one go, and stir for a minute or so. It will form a thick paste, you need to cook the rawness out of the flour.

Add in the milk, stirring continuously, until incorporated, then continue stirring until the mixture thickens, about 3 minutes depending. When thickened, remove from the heat and stir in the grated cheese, rosemary, nutmeg, chilli flakes and season well with salt & black pepper. Set aside.

Pour the drained pasta and florets back into the large pan over a gentle heat and pour over the cheese sauce, stirring to combine.  Add in the chopped spinach, stirring to wilt in the warm pasta then crumble (or grate) in the rest of the cheeses (I saved some feta for the top). Taste and adjust seasoning as required. Preheat oven to 200C.

Prepare one large or 3-4 individual ovenproof gratin dishes by rubbing the insides with oil and then dusting with flour or breadcrumbs. Pour the mixture into the dish(es), top with the reserved feta, a generous sprinkling of the dukkah (or grated cheese & breadcrumbs), drizzle with olive oil and bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes until golden brown and crispy.

Romanesco Rigatoni Cheese Bake

You can serve this on its own or with a bitter leaf salad to cut through the richness of the cheese. A mix of raddichio and rocket is nice with some olive oil and sweet balsamic vinegar.

Enjoy!!

imagesCAFT0O3W

Italian Courgette Crostata with Goat’s Cheese, Garlic and Basil

11 Oct Courgette Crostata

There is a whole field of courgette plants that I pass every morning with the dog. I have been watching the vegetables grow out of their delicate sunshine flowers and waiting for the day that I arrive and they have  all been harvested. I really hope they don’t leave them too long. They do that a lot here. Leave the courgettes to get too big before they pick them. I know if you grow your own that it is difficult to keep up with the mountain of courgettes that the plants produce but on a farm there is no excuse.

There is nothing worse than big, fat, watery courgettes. You really need them when they are young, firm and still squeaky. Like these ones I found at the market on Sunday.  These were only a euro for a kilo so I had to buy a kilo obviously.

Then you get home and realise you have a load of courgettes. One of my favourite things to cook with them at the moment is this crostata, we have it for dinner about once a week. A crostata is a freeform tart, an Italian version of a French galette. You cut a big circle of pastry, leave an inch or two border spread the base with some ricotta or yoghurt mixed with garlic & herbs, then make pretty concentric circles with courgette slices and brush with some herby garlic oil. You then roll up and crimp the edges and bake. It’s as easy as that, especially with this quick olive oil pastry recipe.

Courgette Crostata with Goat’s Cheese, Garlic & Basil Oil

Serves 4-6 as part of a meal. Vegetarian. Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

For the spelt olive oil pastry:

  • 250 g spelt or wholemeal flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dried herbs (I used 1/2 thyme 1/2 oregano)
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) olive oil
  • 120 ml (1/2 cup) cold water

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, salt and herbs, drizzle in the olive oil mixing/mashing it in with a fork until well combined (a bit like crumble mix). Measure out the water then add an ice-cube to it. Slowly pour the cold water (not the ice-cube) into the flour and mix it in with the fork until just absorbed then bring it together with one hand kneading a little just until it forms a cohesive ball. Do not over work or it will be tough. shape into a flat disc, wrap in cling film and rest in the fridge until ready to use. It doesn’t need long but will keep well for a few days like that.

For the filling:

  • 2 firm small/med. courgettes, sliced into 1/2 cm coins on a slight diagonal
  • 1 pot goats yoghurt (about 100ml) or ricotta or greek yoghurt
  • a handful of grated manchego cheese (or parmesan/cheddar)
  • 25 gr crumbled goats cheese or feta
  • grated lemon zest 1/2 tsp
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • a pinch of dried chilli flakes (optional)
  • 1+1/2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for brushing
  • fresh basil leaves, finely sliced (plus extra for garnish)  or 1 tsp basil pesto
  • salt & black pepper

Lay the courgette slices on kitchen paper, sprinkle with salt and leave to sit while you prepare the pastry & filling.

In a small bowl mix (or blend) together the olive oil, garlic, chilli flakes, basil (or pesto) & lemon zest. Mix 1 tbsp of this in another bowl with the yoghurt (or ricotta), and cheeses. Season with salt & black pepper.

Preheat the oven to 200C and line a baking sheet with baking paper.  Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface, turning it quarter turns as you go to stop it sticking, to a very rough circle about 2-3 mm thick.  Take your largest dinner plate or serving plate,  place it lightly on the pastry and cut around it, remove the excess pastry and keep it in the fridge if there is enough for another small tart. Remove the plate with a sharp knife and lift the circle carefully, on a floured rolling pin, onto the lined baking tray.

Leaving a border round the edge of about an inch or two, spread the cheesy mixture out evenly over the pastry. Dry the tops of your courgette slices well with kitchen towel and then start laying them, overlapping slightly, around the edge still leaving the border clear.  When you have finished the outside circle start another circle going in the opposite direction just inside the first. Then overlap a few slices in the middle. See pictures above for these stages.

Drizzle and/or brush the rest of the garlicky herb oil all over the courgettes and then start to fold up the edges by turning the paper and folding and pleating as you go. Brush the pleated border with a little olive oil and bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes until bubbling and golden. Leave to sit for 5 minutes then scatter over a few fresh basil leaves and serve.

Serve with a simple lemon & olive oil dressed green salad or this delicious White Bean Mash. This is a very versatile recipe, you could easily switch up the herbs and cheese to use whatever you have in the fridge.

I know I said I bought a kilo of courgettes and I only used two of them in this dish and I also know that a lot of you are overrun with courgettes at certain times of the year so maybe, like me,  you could have a go at making this deliciously light Zucchini Green Chilli Cornbread or these very moreish Baked Zucchini Fries as well.

Have a Great Weekend!!

 

Pumpkin Gnocchi with Spinach and Green Chilli Basil Oil

8 Oct Squash Gnocchi

It’s that time of year again. You know it’s definitely Autumn when you see piles of beautiful squashes at the market and I’m tripping over knobbly pumpkins growing out of the fences at the side of the road as I run past the fields with the dog in the morning.

This is the first of many squash and pumpkin recipes to come and I make no apology for that. Their sweet savoury substantial flesh is a welcome addition to any soup or stew and its versatility and ability to slip seamlessly into the cuisine of any country make it an easy choice for this greedy vegetarian,

Some of my personal favourite and most popular recipes feature  the mighty squash. These Butternut Squash & Chickpea Cakes spiced with Cape Malay flavours are easily my most viewed recipe. This Indian Spiced Smashed Pumpkin is comfort food at its best and this Vegan Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cake with chocolate ganache is heaven.

So after Africa and India we now set foot back in Europe with a classic Italian recipe served with a green and spiced up version of an Aglio Oglio sauce made with our homegrown green chillis which we are now harvesting for the second time this year.

So, I don’t know how many of you out there have ever made Pumpking Gnocchi before, but I have.  They were a complete disaster, dense, heavy and unappealing. You couldn’t eat more than two or three before feeling like your stomach was about to explode. I tried, obviously. Not a good idea.

That kind of put me off ever trying again but that was two years ago and my skills and knowledge have improved slightly since then. And The Washer Up wanted me to, so here I am.

The mistake I made last time, I now know from watching countless cookery programmes on TV, was adding too much flour to the mix. It’s easily done because you think the mixture is too wet and that it will fall apart in the water when you cook them. Trust me, go easy on the flour, you’ll thank me for it. And so will your stomach.

*Mine were probably slightly under floured this time as you can see from the raw shot above. They look like very soft gnocchi, but this made them so light and fluffy when they were cooked. You didn’t get that “Oh god I’ve eaten a duvet” feeling afterwards. A trick is to cook one first and try it. If it doesn’t hold, add a little more flour to the mix.

Pumpkin Gnocchi with Spinach & Green Chilli Basil Oil

Serves 2-3, vegetarian. Adapted from Cranks Recipe Book

  • 375 g peeled, cubed squash or pumpkin
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • a pinch chilli flakes
  • salt & black pepper

Preheat oven to 190C and line a baking tray with baking paper. Put the squash cubes on the tray, drizzle over the olive oil, sprinkle with the spices and season with salt & pepper. Toss with you hands so evenly coated and lay out in one layer on the tray. Bake for 15-25 minutes until soft, depending on the size of your cubes.

  • 50-75 g plain flour ( I used white spelt flour)
  • 30 g finely grated parmesan or manchego cheese
  • 1 small spring onion green parts, finely chopped
  •  a handful of basil leaves, finely shredded
  • salt & pepper

Mash the pumpkin with a potato masher then sieve over 50 g flour and mix well. Then add and mix together the parmesan, spring onion and basil and season with salt & pepper to taste.

Using floured hands, shape the mixture into small walnut sized ovalish balls, put on a floured, lined tray, then roll over with a floured fork to make the pattern and store in the fridge until ready to cook.

*See note above about adding a little more flour a bit at a time and doing a test run if unhappy with the consistency. But don’t add too much flour or your cooked gnocchi will be very heavy & dense.

For the sauce:

  • 4 or 5 tbsp olive oil
  • a handful of spinach leaves, chopped
  • a handful of basil leaves, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
  • 1 green chilli, deseeded & chopped
  • a cup of the hot pasta water (from cooking the gnocchi)
  • shaved parmesan for garnish
  • pine nuts, toasted in a dry pan for garnish

Heat the oil in a  frying pan large enough to hold the gnocchi over a medium heat and add the sliced garlic and chilli. Cook slowly until the garlic is starting to brown (but don’t let it burn) then remove from the heat.

Meanwhile, cook the gnocchi in lots of boiling salted water for about 2 minutes. They will float to the top when they are cooked.  Reserve a teacup full of the hot cooking water, put the garlic oil back on the heat and add about half of the cup of pasta water when hot.Reduce this slightly while the gnocchi cooks and add the chopped spinach and basil to create the sauce. Season with salt & black pepper.

When the gnocchi are cooked and you are ready to serve, heat them up in the same pan as the sauce for a minute or two (you can add the rest of the cup of pasta water if it needs it) and then serve garnished with the shaved parmesan & toasted pine nuts.

Buon Appetito!

Grape and Fennel Seed Spelt Focaccia with Sea Salt and Basil

9 Sep Grape Focaccia

I see these grapes every day while running with the dog. They are hanging over a fence saying “steal me”. But I don’t. Even though the farmer on the other side of the fence is letting most of them turn to raisins on the vine. It’s all inspiration though because I have now started thinking about raisin recipes.

Grapes are kind of underused in cooking I think. There’s the Veronique thing with sole and they go very nicely on a cheese board of course. About the same time last year I made a White Grape & Manchego Cheese Tartlet that I sprinkled with fennel seeds and served with an elderflower syrup.

The combination of flavours work really well together. The herb should really be tarragon though, not basil,  to follow on with the anise fennel theme but our plant is on its way out so basil was my next choice. It’s an Ottolenghi recipe that I’ve adapted using spelt flour instead of normal and I added the sea salt and herbs. I like the scattering of sea salt on top to contrast with the sweetness of the sugar and fennel seed topping.

Grape & Fennel Seed Focaccia Recipe

Makes a 20 x 30cm focaccia, vegan, wheat-free.

Adapted from Ottolenghi The Cookbook

For the starter:

  • 15g fresh yeast ( or 1 sachet dried)
  • 210ml bottled lukewarm water
  • 165g spelt flour (I used wholemeal)

Put the yeast and water in a large bowl and stir with a wooden spoon until the yeast dissolves. Add the flour, stirring until you get a porridgy consistency. Cover with a damp cloth and leave in a warm place for about 2 hours to double in size.

For the dough:

  • 165g spelt flour (wholemeal or white)
  • 1+1/2 tsp light brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp olive oil plus extra for brushing
  • 1 +1/2 tsp sea salt plus extra to sprinkle

Mix the doubled in size starter (above) with the flour, sugar & olive oil in a bowl. Tip out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 6-8 minutes then add the salt and knead it into the bread for about 2 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Brush the inside of a bowl with some olive oil put the dough in it and brush the surface with more oil. Cover with a damp cloth again and leave in a warm place for an hour until doubled in size.

Tip the dough out onto a floured surface and gently stretch it with your fingers into a rectangle. Fold one of the short edges of the rectangle into the middle, then fold the other short end over that so you get 3 layers. Brush the inside of a 20 x 30cm baking tin with oil and put the folded dough in it with the seam underneath. flatten it out with your fingers until it nearly fills the tin, cover with cling film and leave to rise for another hour. Go back 3 or 4 times in the hour to press it out with your fingers to reach the edges. By the end it should fill the tin, have lots of finger bumps and be about 2cm thick.

For the topping:

  • 150g seedless grapes (I used a mix of red & white)
  • about a tbsp raw/brown sugar
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • flaky sea salt
  • fresh tarragon leaves (or basil)

Preheat oven to 220C.  Halve the grapes lengthways and stud them all over the dough.  Mix the sugar and fennel seeds together and sprinkle this all over the top too.

Bake  for 10 minutes then lower the heat to 190C and bake for a further 15-20 minutes until slightly browned & cooked through. Remove from the oven and brush with olive oil while still hot and then sprinkle over some sea salt. When ready to serve strew or tear over some fresh tarragon or basil leaves.

This is lovely as a snack, supper or picnic with some mature cheese (like a Manchego or Parmesan) and a glass of wine. Or serve as part of a continental breakfast or brunch instead of croissants and pastries.

Enjoy!

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