Breakfast strata

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At weekends when I have a bit more time on my hands I like to prepare a hearty breakfast to keep everyone going all morning especially if we have a busy day ahead. This breakfast strata ticks all the boxes when it comes to being a satisfying crowd pleaser. I have used a combination of vegetables and meat to keep everyone happy and these can all be made and cooled and kept until needed the next day. Similarly the custard can be made the day before, covered and chilled in the fridge to all you have to do is assemble it in the morning. Get reading and discover your new breakfast favourite!

Ingredients- serves 4

Olive oil

8 eggs beaten

250mls milk

30g mature cheddar- grated

30g parmesan (or Gruyere)- grated

100g day old white bread- cubed into inch chunks

150g kale- shredded

1 onion- finely chopped

2 garlic cloves- crushed or grated

250g chestnut mushrooms

6 good quality sausages

6 rashers of bacon- preferably unsmoked

1. Start by heating the oven to 200c/180 fan if you are planning on preparing and cooking this straightaway; if not skip to the next step.

2. Take a large frying pan and heat a glug of olive oil. Fry the bacon until turning crisp then remove from the pan and blot onto kitchen roll; roughly chop. Remove the skin from the sausages and crumble the sausage meat into the pan and fry until golden; remove from the pan using a slotted spoon and also blot.

3. Use kitchen roll to wipe out the pan before warming another glug of olive oil. Roughly slice the mushrooms and fry into their excess liquid has been removed and they are starting to get some colour. Again, wipe out the pan and heat more oil. Sautee the onion and garlic until softened and add the shredded kale. Gently cook until wilted. Remove and set aside.

4. Clean the pan and rub with a little oil to stop the strata from sticking. Layer half of the cubed bread then add in all of the kale, mushrooms, bacon and sausages. Finish with the remaining bread.

5. Crack and beat the eggs into a large bowl. Add in the milk, cheeses and season well. Pour the entire mixture over the bread ensuring it’s evenly distributed.

6. Bake at 200c/180 fan for 30-40 minutes until bubbling and golden. The strata is ready when a skewer comes out clean from the centre of the pan. Allow to rest for a few minutes before serving.

Breakfast strata- or lunchtime strata… or dinnertime strata!

Cavolo nero and bacon tartiflette

Tartiflette is a comforting French dish popular amongst those heading to Alpine resorts. Just picture the scene, coming back in from a day on the slopes and in need of a comforting dish to warm you up whilst sipping a glass of wine or two in front of a roaring log fire- heaven! If you like potato, cheese and bacon then this is the perfect dish for you! In my version I have added cavolo nero as a nod towards one of your five a day but you could leave it out if you prefer or replace with spinach if you like.

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Ingredients- serves 4
150g smoked bacon lardons
250g cavolo nero- washed
2 garlic cloves- crushed
1 shallot- finely chopped
Knob of unsalted butter
800g waxy potatoes, such as King Edwards
400g Reblochon or Camembert cheese
300ml double cream
120ml vegetable stock

1. Firstly preheat the oven to 200c/ 180 fan. Take a frying pan and heat over a medium heat; fry off the lardons until golden, remove from the pan and set aside. Keep an bacon fat which is in the pan. Shred that leaves of the cavolo nero and fry in the pan along with the garlic and shallot until wilted. Remove and set aside.

2. Rub a little softened butter in the inside of a baking dish approximately 20cm x 25cm in size. I sometimes use individual baking dishes so everyone has their own so it’s up to you.

3. Cut the potatoes into 3mm thin slices and layer in the dish with the cavolo nero, bacon and half of the cheese. Leave the thinnest potato slices for the top so they go crispy when it’s cooked. Season the layers as you go.

4. Pour over the cream and stock and top with the remaining cheese. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour until golden and bubbling. Allow to stand for few minutes before digging in.

Cavolo nero and bacon tartiflette- go off piste with my version of this Alpine classic! The diet starts tomorrow…

Cheesy vegetable crumble

Ah October- the month that brings a chill in the air and an urge to hibernate in front of an open fire with all your favourite comfort foods. Well, look no further! This cheesy vegetable crumble makes the most of a range of seasonal vegetables and it is perfect as a main meal or a side dish. Potato, carrot, swede, kale and leek are my vegetables of choice which gives a balanced between earthy flavours and sweetness which marry with the creamy cheesy sauce which is topped with crunchy crumble.

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Ingredients- serves 4 as a main
1 small swede
3 large potatoes such as Maris Piper
1 large carrot
1 leek
Small bag of black kale
500ml vegetable stock
150ml milk
2 garlic cloves- whole
60ml double cream
2 tsp Dijon mustard
Pepper
Crumbly, tangy cheese such as Caerphilly
100g plain flour
50g unsalted butter
Freshly grated parmesan

1. Prepare the vegetables by peeling them and cutting the swede, potatoes and carrots into cubes. Take a large, wide pan and place the cubed vegetables into it along with the vegetable stock and milk. Place two whole unpeeled garlic cloves in that have been pricked with a knife to infuse a delicate flavour. Bring to a boil before lowering to a simmer; cover the pan and simmer until the vegetables are tender to a knife point. Remember that swedes take longer than the other vegetables so keep the cubes of this smaller so they all cook at the same time.

2. Meanwhile, in a small pan sweat the leek with a splash of oil and small knob of butter. Cook until tender before removing and setting aside. Add the kale into the pan along with a splash of water; cover and allow to wilt slightly.

3. Preheat the oven to 200c/ 180 fan. Choose a large ovenproof baking dish that is large enough to fit all the vegetables in. When the vegetables are tender, take the pan off the heat and stir in the double cream along with some freshly grated parmesan cheese, the leeks and kale and mustard. Season to taste. Spoon half into the baking dish before crumbling some Caerphilly through before spooning the remaining vegetables on top followed by more crumbled cheese. Pour the creamy sauce over.

4. Finally, for the crumble topping simply place the flour in a large bowl along with the butter. Cut the butter into small chunks for ease and rub the flour and butter between your fingers to form a crumb. Grate in some parmesan if you like. Scatter the crumble over the vegetables and bake in the oven until golden and crunchy; this should take 30-40 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to stand for a couple of minutes as it will be red hot! Serve as a main or as a side dish and dive in!

Cheesy vegetable crumble- a comforting autumnal meal that deserves to be centre stage on your dining table!

 

Kale, spinach and cheese filo pie

If you think of a filo pie, it is likely that you think of those belonging to Greek cuisine. Well this is my take on the traditional spanakopita! Spanakopita usually includes spinach and feta but I have given it a twist to include kale and halloumi as well to make it even more scrumptious. I have used readymade filo pastry to make this even quicker and easier to make and to serve four people a pie tin which is 22cm in diameter is perfect. The pie also keeps well in the fridge for a day or two and the leftovers are great for a simple lunch.

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Ingredients- serves 4
1 pack of ready made filo pastry
Glug of vegetable oil
4 spring onions- chopped
2 garlic cloves- crushed
200g kale- washed and roughly chopped
200g spinach- washed
1 tsp dried dill (or 1 tbsp fresh dill)
100g feta
100g halloumi- grated
1 egg- beaten
Pepper
60g unsalted butter

1. Start by preheating the oven to 200c/ 180 fan or according to the instructions on the pastry packet as it can differ from brand to brand. Make the pie filling by wilting the spinach- you can do this by pouring a kettle of hot water over it into a colander before then squeezing out the excess water; set aside. Take a large frying pan and heat a glug of oil over a medium heat. Add the garlic and spring onions and cook for a minute before adding the kale; cook until the kale is wilted and keep it moving so the garlic and onion does not catch. For the last minute or two of cooking, add in the drained spinach and dill. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

2. When the filling is cool enough, crumble through the feta and grated halloumi. Beat one egg and stir through the spinach mixture and season with pepper. You should not need to use extra salt as the feta and halloumi will provide this seasoning for you.

3. Now to assemble the pie! Gently melt the butter in a small pan over a low heat and dig out a pastry brush from the depths of your kitchen drawer! Brush a light coating of melted butter in the empty pie tin before adding a sheet of filo. Filo is delicate so be careful when lining the tin. Brush the filo with more butter before adding the next sheet. Line the tin so each sheet of filo is put in at a different angle. Repeat so you have about 5 layers of filo on the base of the tin before adding the cooled pie filling. Make sure it is evenly distributed and press lightly with a back of a spoon to flatten.

4. Gather the edges of the filo sheets and fold in the centre of the pie tin. Brush with more butter. I then took a couple of extra sheets and ripped and scrunches them up and popped them on top of the pie before, you guessed it, brushing with more butter. To stop the filo from curling lightly sprinkle it with water before baking in the oven for 30-35 minutes until golden and hot. Serve with a simple side salad, sautéed potatoes or a liberal helping of cooling tzatsiki.

Kale, spinach and cheese filo pie- my take on spanakopita which is fit for a king!

 

Indulgent tartiflette

Tartiflette is a comforting French dish popular amongst those heading to Alpine resorts. Just picture the scene, coming back in from a day on the slopes and in need of a comforting dish to warm you up whilst sipping a glass of wine or two- heaven! If you like potato, cheese and bacon then this is the perfect dish for you! In my version I have added spinach as a nod towards one of your five a day but you could leave it out if you prefer or replace with kale if you like.

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Ingredients- serves 4
Bag of baby spinach- approx. 250g
Knob of unsalted butter
800g waxy potatoes, such as King Edward
150g smoked bacon lardons (fried off) or smoked ham (cut into squares)
200g Reblochon or Camembert cheese
300ml double cream
120ml vegetable stock

1. Firstly preheat the oven to 160c/ 140 fan. Wilt the bag of spinach into a saucepan over a medium heat and allow to cool slightly before squeezing out any excess water.

2. Rub a little softened butter in the inside of a baking dish approximately 20cm x 25cm in size. I sometimes use individual baking dishes so everyone has their own so it’s up to you. If you like, at this stage you could also cut a garlic clove in half and rub around the dishes for an added dimension.

3. Cut the potatoes into 3mm thin slices and layer in the dish with the spinach, bacon or ham and 150g of the cheese. I have also fried off a couple of shallots and layered this through as well for an extra texture so do try this next time. Leave the thinnest potato slices for the top so they go crispy when it’s cooked. Season to taste.

4. Pour over the cream and stock and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Take it out of the oven and pop the remaining 50g of cheese over the top and place back in the oven until golden and bubbling. Serve with steamed greens or a crisp salad if you like.

Light the open fire and try this indulgent tartiflette for a little taste of France! Heavenly…

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Kale, butternut squash and pancetta gnocchi

Kale, butternut squash and pancetta gnocchi combines many of my favourite ingredients in a light yet rich sauce to welcome in autumn in the coming weeks. Food should be colourful and vibrant and it certainly is! I have used a simple white sauce base with a touch of parmesan, garlic and red onion to lift and enhance the flavours of the vegetables but it would also be delicious with a mascarpone sauce if you prefer. Gnocchi is easy to buy and quick to cook and, as I baked it, I didn’t need to boil it before cooking so it’s even quicker!

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Ingredients- serves 4
500g fresh gnocchi
Olive oil
75g cubed pancetta
2 cloves of garlic- crushed
1 red onion- finely chopped
1 small butternut squash- cut into small dice
200g bag of kale- washed, tough stalks removed and shredded
Small handful of fresh sage- finely chopped

For the white sauce
40g unsalted butter
40g plain flour
250ml double cream
250ml milk
75g freshly grated parmesan

1. Get started by preheating the oven to 180c/ 160 fan; you don’t want the oven too high so the vegetables and gnocchi don’t catch and burn. Take a large frying pan and add a glug of oil over a medium heat. Fry off the pancetta cubes until turning slightly golden, remove from the pan and set aside. Use the frying pan again and cook the onion and garlic for a couple of minutes until beginning to soften before adding the diced butternut squash. I fried the onion and garlic in the pan with the remaining pancetta juices for extra flavour. Turn the heat down to low/ medium and cook for a further few minutes. Add in the shredded kale, sage and cooked pancetta and cover the pan with a lid or foil. Cook down until the butternut squash is tender and the kale is steamed.

2. Meanwhile, you can make the white sauce. Take a medium pan and melt the butter and flour together over a medium heat. Mix together the cream and milk and gradually add to the pan; don’t rush it! If lumps appear, simply take the pan off the heat and whisk it until they disappear and continue on. When the sauce has thickened, take the pan off the heat, season and add half of the parmesan (the rest will be used as a topping for the gnocchi bake).

3. When the squash and kale mix and sauce is ready, take a large roasting dish and place the gnocchi in the bottom. Add the white sauce of the vegetables and make sure each piece is well coated before tossing through the gnocchi. Sprinkle the remaining parmesan over the top and a drizzle of oil and bake for half an hour or until golden. I covered the dish with foil for the first half of cooking and then removed it to finish it off. Serve is warmed bowls and dig in!

And there you have it- kale, butternut squash and pancetta gnocchi with a light creamy sauce. The perfect way to get in the autumnal mood! I mean, look, who could resist these colours in the pan?…

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Spicy Italian sausage and kale gnocchi

If I don’t have kale or spinach in my meals most weeks then I start to get withdrawal symptoms so this does the trick to satisfy the need even for diehard meat eaters as I’ve included spicy Italian sausage for good measure. This works well as a quick sauce or a baked gnocchi if you prefer so get stuck in!

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Ingredients- serves 4
500g gnocchi
1 small onion- finely chopped
1- 2 garlic cloves- finely chopped
1 tsp chilli flakes or chopped fresh red chilli if you prefer
2-3 fresh rosemary sprigs
8 Italian sausages- skin removed
100g kale- washed, drained and shredded
400ml passata
1 tsp red wine vinegar
Parmesan to serve

1. If you want to bake the gnocchi then you need to preheat the oven to 200c/ 180fan at this stage. Take a large frying pan and add a glug of vegetable oil and gently soften the onion and garlic. Sprinkle in the chilli and rosemary sprigs and cook for a further minute or two.

2. Next up add in the sausage which should have had the skin removed. Break up with the spoon and cook for another few minutes. Next you need to pour in the passata and red wine vinegar and simmer this. Check the seasoning to taste as some Italian sausages can be better seasoned than others to start with.

If you want to bake the gnocchi then disregard the next step and steam or boil the kale for a couple of minutes to start it off before mixing with the gnocchi and tomato base. It will take around 20 minutes in the oven and a topping of parmesan is also delicious.

3. Bring a large pan of water to the boil and cook the kale for 2- 3 minutes before adding the gnocchi to the pan. Cook the gnocchi for one minute less than the cooking time on the packet as you will finish them off in the pan. Drain the gnocchi and kale well.

4. Tip the gnocchi and kale into the pan with the passata and simmer for a further minute or so. Serve in warmed bowls with a liberal shaving of parmesan if you like.

Italian sausage and kale gnocchi- quick, easy and oh so delicious!