Cheese, spinach and mushroom baked gnocchi

Ah gnocchi- one of the great Italian exports which is a firm favourite in the household! Gnocchi can pretty much cope with any sauce that you throw (or daintily stir!) at it and is the perfect vehicle from which to serve a rich, wickedly indulgent and creamy sauce. I have used chestnut mushrooms in this however a combination of mushrooms or wild mushrooms would also be delicious. I have cut down the time by leaving the gnocchi to cook in the sauce so there is no need to boil them before baking as they will still go perfectly tender.

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Ingredients- serves 4
400g gnocchi
40g unsalted butter
40g plain flour
200ml double cream
200ml milk
50g blue cheese such as dolcelatte
50g freshly grated parmesan
2 cloves of garlic- crushed
1 red onion- finely chopped
200- 250g chestnut mushrooms- sliced
Small pack of baby spinach- washed and shredded

1. Start by preheating the oven to 200c/ 180 fan in preparation for later. You need to make the cheesy sauce and it really could not be simpler (well, short of using premade of course!). Take a medium saucepan and melt the butter and flour together. Stir to ensure it is smooth and there are no lumps which will help later on. Gradually add in the milk and cream whilst keeping the mixture moving! Bring to a boil before lowering to a simmer and keep going until it is thickening.

2. Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in most of the cheeses, making sure to keep some back for the topping; season to taste. Meanwhile take a frying pan and heat to medium/ high. Quickly cook the garlic and onion together before adding the mushrooms and cooking until tender. Mushrooms lose natural moisture when over a high heat which avoids potential soggy messes in the pan!

3. Add the cooked mushroom mixture into the cheese sauce and stir through the shredded spinach. It should start slowly wilting in the residual heat from the sauce. I love spinach so the more the merrier! Take an ovenproof baking dish and throw in the gnocchi before topping with the sauce. Stir gently to combine so each piece of gnocchi is well coated. Sprinkle the leftover cheese on top and bake for approximately 30 minutes until golden and bubbling!

Cheese, spinach and mushroom baked gnocchi- a quick midweek treat that will have the family going back for more!

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Light spinach, mushroom and ham tagliatelle

It’s that time of year again when minds turn to lighter meals but without compromising on flavour. This tagliatelle recipe is super speedy and delicious so get reading and rustle this up in under half an hour. I lightened this up by using a low fat creme fraiche but you can substitute this with cream if you prefer. It is also delicious without the ham for a vegetarian version.

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Ingredients- serves 2
200g tagliatelle
1 shallot- finely chopped
1 garlic clove- finely chopped or crushed
8- 10 small chestnut mushrooms- cleaned and sliced
4 slice of Parma ham- sliced into ribbons
2 handfuls of baby leaf spinach- washed and roughly chopped
2-3 tbsp low fat creme fraiche
75g creamy blue cheese such as dolcelatte

1. Start off by bringing a large pan of water up to the boil and cooking the pasta according to the pack instructions. Try and aim for al dente tagliatelle so it won’t go limp and soggy.

2. Take a large frying pan and heat a small amount of oil. Cook the shallot and garlic for a minute before adding in the sliced mushroom for an additional couple of minutes until beginning to turn golden. Add the ham ribbons and cook for another minute.

3. Pop in the spinach and allow to wilt before taking the pan off the heat and stirring through the creme fraiche and blue cheese. You must take it off the heat so the creme fraiche doesn’t split. Season to taste.

4. When the pasta is ready, drain well and add to the frying pan and combine with the sauce. I sometimes finish it off with a small amount of freshly grated parmesan cheese before serving.

A light yet creamy spinach perfect for Spring!

Smoky Hungarian pork goulash

In honour of an upcoming trip to Budapest I thought it was only right to get into the spirit of things with a warming, spicy goulash. I have used pork here but you can use beef if you prefer. Much like a lot of traditional recipes, there is no definitive goulash recipe but this is my take on it. I slow cooked this in the oven for 3 hours but you could do it in a slow cooker if you like.

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Ingredients- serves 4

400-500g diced pork
1 large onion- chopped
2 garlic cloves- finely chopped or crushed
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp hot paprika
1 tsp caraway seeds
Pinch of all spice
Pinch cinnamon
150g button mushrooms- halved
1 tbsp tomato puree
2 tins of chopped tomatoes (use 1 if using a slow cooker)
400ml chicken stock
1 dried ancho chilli

1. Preheat the oven to 160c/ 140fan while you get cracking on the pork. Take a large casserole pan and heat a glug of oil over a medium to high heat. When the oil is hot, brown off the pork pieces a few at a time until sealed off and golden. Remove from the pan and set aside.

2. In the same pan, cook off the onion and garlic until softening. Next up goes the spices. I used a combination of smoked and hot paprika but you can adjust these to taste if you want a bit more heat. Goulash comes in a range of heats so play around! Cook the spices for a minute before adding the tomato puree for an additional minute. I also added a dried ancho chilli to give a fruity, smoked flavour which worked perfectly alongside the blend of spices.

3. Add the pork back into the pan along with the mushroom, chopped tomatoes and stock. Bring to a gentle boil before popping in the oven for 3 hours. The pork is ready when it is tender and falls apart under gentle pressure.

Serve with soured cream, sauerkraut and rice or potatoes.

A Hungarian classic that will leave everyone Hungary for more!

An Indian summer… feast

Read on for an Indian feast fit for a king! After a summer full of meat laden BBQ’s it’s time to rediscover seasonal vegetables and to get creative.

Paneer, chickpea and spinach curry: This has become a firm favourite in our household and makes use of the tastiest vegetables around. Paneer is a firm, mild Indian cheese and can be used as a meat substitute so give it a go!

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Serves 4:
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp black mustard seeds
Few curry leaves (optional)
1 small onion finely sliced
1 tsp ginger grated or pureed
1 tsp garlic grated or pureed
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 tsp mild curry powder
2 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp garam masala
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
2 green or red chillies
400g tin of chickpeas- rinsed and drained
Pack of paneer approx. 200g
Small bag of baby spinach- washed

1. Firstly heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat and add the mustard seeds and curry leaves. Heat the pan until the mustard seeds begin to become fragrant, pop and sizzle. Reduce the heat to low, add the onion and cook until golden.

2. Now it’s time to make the paste- that’s right, homemade paste, none of this ready made stuff! This is so simple so combine the ginger puree, garlic puree, turmeric, curry powder, chilli powder and a little water. You are after a thick, rich paste so gradually add the water- you will only need a tablespoon or two. If you fancy paneer with an extra layer of flavour you can reserve a little of the paste and coat the paneer in this.

3. Add the paste to the onion in the pan and cook for a couple of minutes. I then add in the fresh chillies (you can use milder chilies if you prefer or pierce the chillies if you want to release a bit more flavour). Add the chickpeas and stir gently so they get a delicious coating of the paste.

4. Add in the tomatoes and simmer on a low heat whilst you prepare the paneer. This is the perfect time to cut the paneer into 2cm cubes and to fry off in a frying pan so they turn golden on all sides. If you have reserved some of the curry paste this is the time to mix with the paneer before frying off.

5. Simmer the sauce for 20 minutes and then add in the spinach. Continue to simmer until the curry sauce is thick and rich. Just before it’s ready sprinkle over the garam masala and stir in. Serve in warmed bowls with chapatis alongside.

 

Green chilli pickle: This is not for the faint hearted but if you are not a fan of heat then you can choose milder chillies. I make use of my local market and stock up on green finger chillies which you can pick up cheaply. This pickle lasts well and I store mine in a Kilner jar in the fridge so it is on hand for when a curry calls so it is worth making a jar of it at a time. Asafoetida is relatively easy to find these days so I would recommend trying to get hold of this.

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Makes a jar:
30 serrano chillies or approx. 50 green finger chillies
2 tbsp whole yellow mustard seeds
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp asafoetida
1 tsp medium or hot chilli powder
1 tsp ground turmeric
Juice of one lemon
5 tbsp of vegetable oil

1. First you need to get going with the preparation for the pickling spice mix. The mustard, fennel and fenugreek seeds one spice at a time and dry roast in a small pan until fragrant. Each spice should take around 30 seconds to roast; put them aside to cool down.

2. Grind the spices so they are coarse and add the salt, asafoetida, chilli powder and turmeric to the mixture.

3. Next up wash and pat dry the chillies of your choice before chopping into 2mm pieces. If you want to reduce the heat level in the pickle then you can remove some or all of the chilli seeds as you go.

4. The pickle needs to be kept in air tight jar (I use Kilner jars which have a proper seal) and make sure the jar is properly sterilised. Now it’s time to mix the pickling spices, chillies, lemon juice and oil together and give a good old stir before putting into the jar. I then push the chilli mixture down a bit with the back of a spoon to level it out a bit and you can then top it up with extra oil if needed in order to create a protective layer if you find the chillies have absorbed some of it. That’s all there’s to it!

The pickle can be used straightaway however I like to leave it for at least a day to develop the flavour- if you resist! The longer the pickle is kept, the punchier it will get!

 

Homemade chapatis: With a bit of effort you can enjoy authentic chapatis which will rival those from even the best Indian restaurant! These are also freezable and I would suggest interleaving each bread with a cling film sheet so they don’t stick together.

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Makes 8 chapatis:
450g wholemeal plain flour
250ml cold water

1. Put 200g of the flour to one side to help with the shaping of the chapatis and place the remaining flour in a deep bowl.

2. Add the cold water gradually to the flour and be sure to knead as you combine the two until you have a soft dough. As rule of thumb, the longer you knead the chapati dough, the softer it will be resulting in a tastier chapati.

3. Lightly flour the work surface and divid the chapati dough into 8 pieces. Shape each piece of dough into a ball.

4. Take each ball of dough one at a time and flatten slightly before rolling it out to achieve a disc of approximately 15cm in diameter. Remember to use some of the leftover flour as you go to keeo the dough from sticking to the surface.

5. Heat a griddle pan to a medium/ high heat and cook each chapati for around 30 seconds until the chapati begins to bubble up and turn golden. Serve on the side of your favourite curry!

 

Onion bhajis:These bhajis are quick and easy to cook. Once you have mastered the basic recipe the ingredients can be tweaked so try experimenting with other vegetables. It is important to make sure you use chickpea flour as this gives a lighter, crisper bhaji.One of my personal favourites is a Brussel sprout bhaji which will convert even the fussiest of eaters!

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Makes approx. 8-10
2 red onions- 1 sliced and 1 finely diced
100g gram (chickpea) flour
1/2 baking powder
2 tsp chilli powder
1 dried red chilli finely snipped
1/2 tsp cumin
Vegetable oil to fry

1. Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl to ensure there are no little lumps. Add the chilli powder, dried chilli, cumin and a pinch of salt.

2. Add 150ml of cold water to the mixture to create a thick, smooth batter. I gradually add the last 20- 30mls of water to make sure the right amount is added. To the batter, add the onion and stir well to ensure the onion is well coated.

3. Now this is the bit where you need you wits about you! Heat enough vegetable oil in a large pan so that it is 3- 4cm deep and bring it up to a medium/ high heat. When you think the oil is hot enough drop a slice of onion in it to double check- if the onion sinks and then comes back up to the surface then it is ready. Add heaped tablespoons of the onion mixture to the oil and fry until golden. Don’t overcrowd the pan when frying- I usually do 2 at a time. When the bhajis are golden, carefully remove them with a slotted spoon and blot onto kitchen paper.

The bhajis are best served warm and fresh however they can also be gently reheated- that’s if you havent already demolished them all!

So there you have it, an Indian feast and not a takeaway menu in sight!