Tomato and ricotta puff pastry tart

At this time of year tomatoes are bursting with juice and packed full of flavour so it’s the ideal season to make the most of them. Great tasting tomatoes need little done to them in order to bring out their best so this tomato and ricotta tart is a perfect way to enjoy them. I also have it on good authority that any leftovers are ideal for an easy lunch the next day!

Supermarkets and farmer’s markets are making it easier and easier to get hold of heirloom (heritage) varieties so get shopping and choose your favourites. I have used yellow and red tomatoes in order to add extra colour to the tart but use whatever tomatoes you can find and like.

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Ingredients- serves 2-3
1 sheet of ready made puff pastry
Selection of tomatoes- approx. 300g
200g ricotta
Fresh basil and oregano
Salt and pepper
1 egg- beaten

1. Preheat the oven according to the instructions on the pastry packet as these can sometimes differ. About ten minutes before you want to make the tart, remove the pastry from the fridge and then roll out. Take a small dining plate and place it upside down on the pastry. Carefully cut around it. Take a small knife and lightly run the blade about 1cm from the edge of the sheet to form a border.

2. In a bowl, combine the ricotta, torn fresh basil and oregano (if you can find it) and season well. If you can’t find fresh oregano then you can use a little dried oregano instead but go easy on it. Spoon the ricotta mix on the pastry sheet and spread evenly using the back of a spoon; leave the border clear of the cheese otherwise it won’t puff up.

3. Cut the tomatoes into rounds and arrange on the tart base. When ready to cook, carefully brush a little beaten egg on the border of the tart and bake for around 20 minutes until golden and crisp. Serve with a side salad and buttered new potatoes.

Tomato and ricotta tart- a perfect way to enjoy the best of the season’s produce!

 

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Baked ricotta, spinach and mascarpone conchiglioni

Baked pastas are always comforting and are great for feeding a crowd. Conchiglioni shells lend themselves for stuffing with a whole range of ingredients but spinach and ricotta has to be one of the most classic and most delicious.

I have added a hint of chilli and lemon in the filling to really liven up the flavours and to be bring out the best in the creamy cheese and irony spinach. Ricotta can sometimes be a little claggy by itself so the mascarpone has been added to make sure the filling is smooth and creamy.

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Ingredients- serves 4
For the conchiglioni

400g conchiglioni
250g ricotta
100g mascarpone
100g baby spinach
Zest of half a lemon
1-2 tsp chilli flakes
Freshly grated parmesan- to taste
Slices of pancetta- optional

For the sauce
1 tbsp olive oil
3 garlic cloves- crushed
1 red onion- finely chopped
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar

1. Make the sauce first so that can be simmering away whilst you prepare the pasta. Add the oil to a saucepan and gently cook the garlic and onion until if it soft but not golden. Pour in the tomatoes and break any larger chunks with the spoon. Add the red wine vinegar and sugar and simmer until the sauce has reduced and thickened slightly. Remove from the heat and set aside.

2. In the meantime bring a large pan of water to the boil and cook the shells until they are just tender so check the packet instructions- they should take around 10 minutes. Drain well and allow to cool until you can handle them.

3. To make the pasta filling, simply combine all the ingredients apart from the spinach in a large bowl. I simply prepare the spinach by wilting in a pan or popping the bag of spinach in the microwave for around 1 minute until cooked- do remember to check if the bag of spinach you have is suitable for this though! Squeeze as much excess liquid from the spinach and roughly chop before adding to the cheese mixture. Carefully fill each shell.

4. Take a large ovenproof baking dish that can fit the shells snugly. Pour in the tomato sauce before arranging the shells on top. Finish with some freshly grated parmesan and bake in a 200c/ 180 fan oven for 25-30 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling and the parmesan is golden. You might also like to crumble over some crispy fried pancetta if you like- dry fry slices of pancetta in a pan before removing and allowing to crisp up. Sprinkle over before serving.

Baked ricotta, spinach and mascarpone conchiglioni- make this part of your culinary repertoire to feed a crowd!

 

 

Chilli cheese roasted cauliflower

Cauliflower had been going through somewhat of a renaissance over the last couple of years and people are enjoying it in new and inventive ways. Cauliflower cheese is a perennial favourite however I recently wanted something lighter and more summery to serve on the side of a steak so I rustled up some roasted cauliflower that is packed with cheesy flavour but without the rich sauce. Saying that, I was unsure about how roasted cauliflower would go down with my dinner partner so I made a side serving of my homemade cheese sauce for dipping- you know, just in case!

Cauliflower is versatile enough to hold plenty of different flavours so get creative! I went for the combination of savoury cheese with spicy chilli but, to be honest, most herbs and spices would work! Just think of all the possibilities! I have roasted the cauliflower in separate florets but you can also roast it whole if you prefer; just simmer it in a pan for around 10 minutes before following the recipe below. You may need to give it longer in the oven too.

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Ingredients- serves 2
1 cauliflower
30g parmesan plus extra to finish
50g mayonnaise
100g ricotta
1 tsp each of chilli powder and paprika
Salt and pepper

1. Start by preheating the oven to 200c/ 180 fan. Take the cauliflower and cut it down into florets. Try to keep them all a similar size so they roast evenly.

2. In a bowl combine 30g of grated parmesan, mayonnaise, the ricotta, chilli powder, paprika and season it well; stir to combine. Place the florets into the dressing and make sure each piece is well coated. Place the florets on a baking sheet or similar and roast for 45-50 minutes or until the cauliflower is tender. Towards the end of cooking you may like to remove from the oven and grate a little extra parmesan over the florets before returning to the oven until golden.

Chilli cheese roasted cauliflower- a perfect accompaniment that’s a welcome change from traditional cauliflower cheese!

Artichoke, spinach and ricotta baked eggs

This recipe basically includes a whole host of my favourite things! I was sat trying to think of what I fancied for a late breakfast one day this week, looked in the cupboard, raided the fridge and came up with this! I loved how the earthiness of the artichokes balances with freshness of spinach and the saltiness of the feta. Marinated artichokes are a thing of beauty and so versatile so it’s always worth having a jar to hand. This recipe is for one person who fancies an indulgent treat but simply multiply the ingredients to share it with others. If you make it for more than one, I would suggest baking them in individual dishes as you simply won’t want other people to share this!

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Ingredients- serves 1
Splash of olive oil
1/2 white onion- finely chopped
1 garlic clove- finely sliced
Approx. half a dozen marinated sliced artichoke hearts
Handful of baby spinach- roughly chopped
2 tbsp ricotta
25g feta
1 large egg
Chilli flakes (optional)

1. Start off by preheating the oven to 180c/ 160 fan. If you are using ceramic baking dishes which are quite thick then you can preheat these too. Take a frying pan and heat a small amount of olive oil over a medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and a pinch of chilli flakes (if using) and cook until starting to soften but not until they are colouring.

2. Take the artichoke hearts and blot with kitchen roll to remove any excess oil. Slice the artichoke into slivers which are going to be easy to scoop up with bread. Add to the pan with the onion and cook along with the chopped spinach. Allow these to have a minute or so to themselves.

3. Next up goes the ricotta into the pan with a small splash of water to loosen it up. Give this a couple of minutes. Crumble in the feta and stir well to combine. Take the baking dishes and spoon the mixture into it carefully. Use the back of a spoon to make a hollow in the centre of the dish and crack the egg into the centre.

4. Bake for around 15 minutes but this will vary according to the size of the egg you use so do check from time to time. In the meantime toast some sourdough bread. When the artichoke is heated through and the egg is done to your liking, serve immediately. I finished mine off with a few more chilli flakes for a little bit more of a kick.

Artichoke, spinach and ricotta baked eggs- light, sumptuous and one of your soon to be new favourites!

 

Butternut squash, sage and ricotta lasagne

The sweetness of the squash, fragrance of the sage and creaminess of ricotta are a divine match. The flavours need very little to bring the best out of them so keep the ingredients as simple as possible so you can taste each element. The secret twist to the creamy ricotta filling is a good helping of sweet roasted garlic which really takes it to another level. Ovenproof dishes come in such a range of shapes and size so, before you cook the lasagne sheets, try to work out how many sheets you need to fit yours. I always cook a couple of extra sheets in case they tear. The filling also works with cannelloni.

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Ingredients- serves 4
For the lasagne filling
1 butternut squash- cut into cubes
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
3-4 garlic cloves- kept whole and with the skin on
Handful of fresh sage
250g ricotta
Ground nutmeg
Lasagne sheets

For the béchamel sauce
500ml milk
1 onion- halved
2 bay leaves
2 cloves
50g butter
50g plain flour
Parmesan to top

1. Get going by preheating the oven to 180c/ 160fan. Place the cubes of squash on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Toss the cubes and add in the garlic cloves so each is coated in the oil and roast until tender. When it is ready, a knife will easily sink through the cubes. Place in a large bowl and set aside.

2. Whilst the squash is roasting you can get started on the béchamel sauce. Secure the bay leaves to the onion halves using the cloves- this way you don’t have to go fishing around the saucepan to find the cloves later on! Add the milk to a small pan and bring to a boil before removing from the heat and allowing the flavours from the bay and clove to infuse for around 20 minutes.

Take another pan and melt the butter and flour together until a paste, or roux, is formed. Remove the onion, clove and bay from the pan containing the milk and slowly add the milk to the pan with the roux. Keep stirring so lumps don’t form! Simmer and stir until it thickens before removing it from the heat ready to pour over the lasagne.

3. Stir the ricotta through the squash cubes so well combined. Finely chop the fresh sage and add to the bowl along with 1tsp of ground nutmeg; use fresh nutmeg if you can. Taste and adjust the seasoning to suit you. Set the mixture aside whilst you prepare the lasagne sheets. Don’t worry if the squash starts to break up; I sometimes mash down half of the squash and leave the other half in cubes to add a different texture and make smoother. Squeeze the tender roasted garlic from their skins and mix through well.

4. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and add the lasagne sheets to cook, a few at a time so the pan does not become overcrowded. Cook the sheets until parboiled- you can cook them without parboiling but I think this really does make a difference. Nobody wants to find chewy pasta in their mouthful!

5. Now to assemble the lasagne. I spoon a little of the béchamel sauce in the bottom of the ovenproof dish to stop the pasta sticking when baked. Lay sheets of lasagne to cover the bottom before adding a layer of the butternut squash filling. Add another layer of pasta and repeat until the filling has been used up and finish with a layer of pasta.

6. Pour the béchamel sauce over the lasagne and top with freshly grated parmesan. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until bubbling and golden. I usually cover the lasagne for the first half of the cooking time and then remove the foil for the end but it will depend on your oven as to if you need to do this or not. Serve with a simple side salad and dig in!

Squash, sage and ricotta lasagne- a satisfying vegetarian pasta dish which is perfect for a midweek meal or special occasion!

Carmarthen ham, asparagus ribbons and ricotta fusilli

This has to be one of the quickest recipes around so there’s no excuse not to get cooking in the week. Keep it simple and keep it delicious! I love the lightness ricotta brings which makes the other ingredients sing!

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Ingredients- serves 4
300g dried fusilli
1 banana shallot- finely sliced
2 garlic cloves- finely chopped
1 small red chilli- deseeded and finely chopped
4 slices of Carmarthen or Parma ham- cut into pieces
150g asparagus- ribboned with a vegetable peeler
4 tbsp ricotta

1. Start off by boiling a large pan of water and cook the fusilli according to packet instructions. Meanwhile take a large frying pan and heat a glug of vegetable oil over a medium heat. Pop in the shallot, garlic and chilli and cook out for a minute or so. Next up goes the asparagus and ham. Cook for an additional couple of minutes until the asparagus has a slight crunch to it and the ham is cooked through.

2. Drain the pasta well, add a little olive oil and stir through the ricotta whilst the pan is on the heat. Add in the asparagus and ham mix and combine. You may also like to top with a parmesan and panko crumb for added texture. Simply take the panko and parmesan and toast in a dry pan before sprinkling over.

A light, fresh pasta for a summer day!