Tag Archives: spinach

Butternut squash Lasagne (#PastaFriday)

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This pasta recipe has practically written itself. I think this has been one of my busiest weeks so far, and one of the most productive, though not in terms of work. I’m really behind on my writing course work, so unfortunately I have to try to remedy that all day tomorrow. I won’t be able to finish everything but I have allotted the whole morning to that. Tough. But now we have aircon units in the office so at least I can continue working even through the afternoon heat. *Pumping fists in the air*

It’s been a fab Friday so far though. There’s a lovely cool breeze around. I spent my morning, taking a mountain of glass jars and bottles to the recycling bins down the road, then I caught up with an old friend of mine whom I haven’t seen in ages, spent more than two hours talking about everything under the sun over a nice meal, squeezed in a little veggie shop while comparing notes on various recipes, I also bought a new lime coloured dress…Shh and returned home right after lunchtime. Life is good.

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Easy Noodle Soup

Noodle Soup from Express (7068)

This recipe – or various variations of it – is what I go for when I want something warm and comforting, with a little saltiness and some veggies thrown in, and whenever I’m eating alone in the evenings. I generally prefer to eat my main meal for lunch and keep things very light during dinner, say for example Greek yoghurt with honey and some fruit, porridge (yes, porridge), a salad or simply a warm drink before bed. It’s got nothing to do with strange diets or the likes; it’s just something that works well for me.

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Spiced Lasagna with Spinach and Ricotta

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I love a good lasagna. To eat that is. Well, let’s say that unless J is at home and can help me with lifting the heavy pans I don’t enjoy it. What I also don’t enjoy is the washing up of all those pots and pans. Even now as I’m writing this, my wrists are not happy and every time I write one word I have to stop and wish my carpal tunnel away. My frustration could also be a result of taking loads of pictures with this one and in my kitchen cooking and carrying a heavy-ish camera don’t always go together.

Look, not all cooking is a breeze and sometimes a challenge is good for the soul. Not to sound too dramatic, this is an easy dish, but it takes some time to prepare. You might be asking me “is there anything you like here?” Of course there is. I have extra portions for the next day, and it will taste even better tomorrow. Just give yourself a couple of hours for prep time and assembly and you’ll be OK. I admit I don’t make this as often as I would like, but when I do I remind myself that I should, and what better way to welcome the winter months! And the kitchen is smelling lovely! I also have a vegetarian one lurking in my files which I must not forget…

Please be aware there are quite a few photos in this post. I just thought they would be of help. Thank you for being ever so patient with me as always.

For the sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon garam masala or mixed spice
  • ¼ chilli flakes (optional)
  • ¼ curry powder (optional)
  • 250g bacon, chopped
  • 2 shots red vermouth
  • 500g minced beef, preferably lean
  • 500g passata di pomodoro
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • around 250ml water

For the ricotta mixture:

  • 500g ricotta
  • 500g frozen spinach, thawed; you could also steam fresh baby spinach, and set it aside to cool
  • 100g fresh parsley or basil, roughly chopped
  • around 6 tablespoons milk, or enough just to thin the mixture a little bit
  • salt and pepper, to taste*
  • 2 large eggs, beaten

For the bechamel sauce:

  • 25g butter
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons plain flour
  • 1 litre semi-skimmed milk

You also need around 700g to 900g lasagna sheets (around 30 sheets), depending on the size of the dish you want to use.

To prepare the sauce place a large pan preferably with a heavy base on medium heat and pour in the olive oil. Chop the onion, crush the garlic and tip in the pan, together with the spices, and stir occasionally. Once the onions have softened and turned opaque add the bacon and the vermouth and let it cook through.

Add the lean minced beef and cook until brown. Pour the passata and sugar in with the beef mixture, stir, add the water, give everything a good stir once more, cover and let it simmer for around 30 minutes. Turn off the heat and set aside.

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For the ricotta mixture, I would advise you to remove as much of the spinach water as you can. To do this, simply thaw on a sieve on top of a bowl and squash the spinach downwards with your hands or a spoon.

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Place the spinach in a medium mixing bowl, together with the ricotta, fresh parsley, milk, add salt and pepper, give everything a good mix and now is the time to taste. When you’re happy with the seasoning, add the beaten eggs, stir and set aside.

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To assemble the lasagne, pour a thin layer of sauce, enough to cover the bottom of the dish. Then build the lasagna alternating as many lasagna sheets as you can fit in one layer (I can fit 6 in mine), then a layer of sauce, another layer of lasagna sheets, a layer of ricotta mixture, a layer of lasagna sheets and start the process again, until you get almost to the top.

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Preheat the oven to 180ºC and set everything aside to prepare the bechamel. In a small heavy-based saucepan make a roux, by melting the butter, adding the flour and stir vigorously until you get a golden paste, around 6 minutes will do the trick. As you whisk, gradually add the milk, a little at a time. Whisk to avoid any lumps and once in a while scrape the bottom sides of the pan so that nothing sticks to it. Whisk in all the milk until you get a nice velvety sauce. Add salt and pepper and some grated nutmeg.

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Pour over the top of the assembled lasagna and bake for 1 hour.

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Leave to stand for 15 minutes and serve to 6-8 hungry people! Enjoy with a glass of red.

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I hope you enjoyed the recipe and the photos. If you decide to try this over the holidays let me know! I always appreciate feedback.

Happy Holidays!

Rob x

Ricotta and Spinach Pie

Ricotta and Spinach Pie (8180)I would have liked to share with you loads of foodie and non-foodie photos I took over the past few months. However over the weekend I felt like baking a pie. I have written about my ricotta pie recipe quite a long time ago, and I felt quite torn about posting this recipe once more for fear of repeating myself too much. However I don’t think I made this for months, if not a year. My fondness for it has won hands down though, so I give it to you once more with some changes to the filling ingredients, and of course with a new set of pictures. I should add that the dishes of food that you see throughout this blog are eaten a few moments after those pictures are taken. The sweet things are generally shared, and what you see is what you get.

Ricotta and Spinach Pie (8171)This weekend was quite full on, with a day trip to Kent and a visit to Chartwell on Saturday. I then decided that Sunday was going to be all about some R&R, with some baking thrown in, just for kicks. Weekdays are usually left for the no-fuss stuff, so it’s nice to be able to spend an afternoon baking things which take a little bit more energy to make. J has been lovely as always and helped to iron roll out the pastry. Shortcrust gives me a headache sometimes (give me that elastic pizza dough anytime) but it’s worth the faff.

Ricotta and Spinach Pie (8172)Ricotta and Spinach Pie (8175)I can be a little OCD on this one but I prefer to use ounces for the pastry! I was taught that the basic rule of thumb for shortcrust is that the amount of flour should be twice as much (by weight) as the amount of fat.

  • 8 oz plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon of salt (optional)
  • 2 oz cold butter
  • 2 oz vegetable shortening
  • around 6 teaspoons cold water (the colder the better, especially if you have warm hands like me!)

Mix the flour, baking powder and butter in a bowl, using your thumbs and second and third fingers. Rub the butter into the flour for about 5 to 10 minutes, until it looks like breadcrumbs. The colder everything is the better. Add the water gradually as needed, remembering not to overwork the pastry. Wrap the finished product in cling film and set aside in the fridge until you need it. I like to keep it there for at least an hour, but I would say 30 minutes is enough.

For the ricotta filling:

  • 500g ricotta
  • 200g frozen peas
  • 300g baby spinach leaves, steamed in a pan with a couple of tablespoons of water
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 large egg

To prepare the filling, mix the ricotta, frozen peas, spinach, salt and pepper in a bowl, and taste. When the seasoning is as you like it, add the egg and give the ingredients one last light mix. When you are ready to assemble to pie, preheat the oven to 180ºC.

To assemble the pie, divide the pastry into two and roll it out on a clean and floured surface, a few inches larger in size than your pie dish. With the help of your rolling pin, lift the pastry and place it on the bottom of the dish. Fill the pastry with the ricotta mixture, then roll out the second piece of pastry and place this on the top. Secure the edges with your fingers. Prong with a knife, brush the top with preferably a beaten egg. Place in a preheated oven for around an hour, till it turns golden. It’s comfort food at it’s best.

Ricotta and Spinach Pie (8176)Ricotta and Spinach Pie (8177)Let it stand for a good 20 minutes before serving – it makes cutting it into slices easier and neater, especially for picnics, but don’t let this hold you back! Enjoy!

Rob x

Lunch

Lunch (7968)We just had a late-ish lunch, and this is what I had. See? I *can* be good…sometimes. When I took the picture I didn’t add any dressing. I totally forgot about it. When we’re having salad I usually throw everything in one big bowl, mix and we help ourselves, but lately I have been prepping the veggies in different containers and we then add what we want at the table. I know that it might appear a bit of a faff, and I confess that sometimes it is, but for days like today, when I had some time to myself in the kitchen, I decided that in the long run (well, for today and tomorrow at least) it’s easier to keep the veggies separate. Storing them in the fridge separately will keep them fresher for longer and will give me the freedom to use them as they are for cooking if I choose to.

Today my salad had lettuce, watercress, baby spinach, plum tomatoes, 2 tablespoons of tuna chunks, 2 strips of anchovies, Kalamata olives, chickpeas, an egg and some basil on top. For the dressing, I had some ranch today but I usually prefer a simple concoction of EVOO, lemon and a pinch of pepper. It’s Summer. Finally.

Rob x