Spicy nduja macaroni cheese

Who doesn’t love macaroni cheese in its many, deliciously rich guises? This version of macaroni is a spicy revelation which needs to be part of your menu at home. Unlike when I make a classic version, keep the cheeses simple; I have used parmesan and cheddar as blue cheese would not go with the nduja.

Nduja is becoming more accessible and can now be found in a lot of supermarkets and Italian delis. I particularly like the version from Eat Drink Ideas- they can be found on St Albans Market on a Saturday as well as online here. It’s a soft salami which lends itself to use in a range of recipes such as soups, stews and pastas. As we are breaking with tradition, I have not used traditional macaroni, but instead I have gone for larger tubes which hold the sauce just as well.

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Ingredients- serves 4
400g pasta of your choice
40g butter
40g plain flour
200ml double cream
200ml milk
As much parmesan and cheddar as you dare!
1-2 tbsp nduja depending on how much spice you can handle

1. Preheat the oven to 200c/ 180 fan. Take a large pan of water and bring it to the boil; cook the pasta shapes of your choice according to packet instructions. Remember to keep the pasta al dente as it will continue to cook in the oven. Drain the pasta well and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, make the sauce. Melt the butter and flour together in a pan over a medium heat and stir well to combine. Gradually pour in the milk and cream and keep it moving so lumps don’t form. Simmer and continue to stir until the sauce thickens. Remove from the heat, season well and add in the cheese and nduja. The nduja will melt into the warm sauce; stir well to distribute. Add the pasta into the pan and make sure each piece of pasta is well covered in the delightfully spicy sauce.

3. Tip the pasta into an ovenproof dish and top with some extra cheese; bake for 30 minutes until golden and bubbling. Leftovers also reheat really well if you give the pasta a quick blast in the microwave (if there’s any left of course!).

Spicy nduja macaroni cheese- a modern twist on a classic!

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Festive brussel sprout bhajis

I have it on good authority that these bhaji bad boys have converted many a sprout hater so you have no excuse to try them! You can always use half of the sprouts and mix with them same amount again of oninon if you need a gentle introduction into the world of all things cruciferous… Serve with raita for a cooling dip. These can be served hot and cold so they are perfect for an accompaniment to a festive turkey curry or as part of a buffet.

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Brussel sprout bhajis- serves 4
100g brussel sprouts- shredded
100g gram flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp garam masala or curry powder
1/2 tbsp chilli powder
1 tsp turmeric
1 dried red chilli- snipped (optional)
150ml cold water
Vegetable oil to fry

1. Shred the brussels before you make the batter. Gram flour is made from chickpea and lends itself to the perfect bhaji. The baking powder gives a lightness so don’t forget it! Sieve the flour into a large bowl before adding the baking powder and spices. Add the water little at a time until you achieve a thick batter before mixing the sprouts into it.

2. Carefuly heat the oil in a pan so it is a couple of inches deep over a high heat. To test if it’s ready, drop a small piece of sprout into it and it should bubble around it before turning golden. Use a couple of dessert spoons to shape the bhaji mix and carefully lower into the oil. The will take a few minutes to fry and remember to turn them halfway through so they colour evenly. Cook around four at a time so the pan doesn’t get overcrowded. When they are ready, remove from the pan using a slotted spoon and blot onto kitchen towel before serving.

Spicy sprout bhajis- a festive addition to any buffet or curry night!

Red pepper and nduja baked eggs

Bakes eggs are such a fabulous way to kick start the day when you have a few minutes to spare. They are also a great way to line the stomach before Christmas festivities take over and the booze starts to flow freely! Use this recipe as a basis and tweak by adding extras if you like. Baked eggs are forgiving and most things will work. I have used red pepper paired with red onion, garlic and nduja to spice things up. I often include a bit of greenery such as spinach and this is also delicious. Ingredients such as chorizo, kale and feta also work really well so get experimenting.

You can bake these in individual ceramic dishes or one larger one so everyone can dig in!. I like to serve my eggs with fresh sourdough bread so read on and get cooking!

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Ingredients- serves 2 hungry people
Glug of oil
1-2 garlic cloves- finely chopped or crushed
1 red onion- finely chopped
2 ready roasted bell pepper- sliced
1 tbsp nduja
1 tsp oregano
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
Salt and pepper to season
2 large eggs

1.Preheat the oven to 190c/ 170 fan ready for the eggs in a short while. In the meantime, get going with the sauce. Take a saucepan and heat a glug of oil over a medium heat. Add in the garlic and onion and cook for a few minutes until softening nicely. Pop in the pepper, nduja and oregano and cook for a further couple of minutes. Add in the tomatoes and season well. Simmer for a few minutes before placing the sauce into one or two ovenproof ceramic dishes, depending on if you want to make individual portions or one sharing dish. Crack the eggs into the middle of the dishes and cook for around 10 minutes until the egg white is set and the yolk is soft. Serve with lightly toasted sourdough and get dipping!

Spicy baked eggs- perfect for a little festive indulgence!

Veal, porcini and cavolo nero ragu

This veal, porcini and cavolo nero cannelloni was inspired by a recent trip to a local Italian restaurant where I had order envy! One of my fellow diners ordered a sumptuous veal cannelloni so I thought, ‘why not make a classic even more special?’. Veal mince is more widely available now and gives a lighter flavour but is still delicious. You will see that I have given you the recipes for the ragu and béchamel sauce but the photo is for the veal ragu served with spaghetti- ‘why?’ I hear you cry! Simple as this: time was short and hunger was high! We all get impatient from time to time but really do try it as a cannelloni!

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Ingredients- serves 4
For the filling
Olive oil
400g veal mince
1 red onion- finely chopped
1 carrot- finely chopped
2 garlic cloves- crushed or finely chopped
1 tbsp tomato puree
100ml white wine
25g dried porcini mushrooms- rehydrated
Fresh thyme
400g chopped tinned tomatoes
300ml beef stock
100g cavolo nero
Dried or fresh lasagne sheets
Freshly grated parmesan

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

1. I make the veal sauce in advance so it has plenty of time for the flavours to develop. Take a large pan and heat a glug of oil over a medium/ high heat. When the oil is hot, brown the veal mince. You may need to do this in two batches so the meat browns nicely. Remove from the pan and set aside.

2. If the veal has released a fair bit of natural fat then drain a little away. Return the pan to a medium heat and cook the onion, garlic and carrot for until softening but not so the onions are catching too much colour. Add the tomato puree and stir so it is well combined before cooking for a minute or two before adding the porcini mushrooms and thyme.

3. I have chosen to use a dry white wine in this recipe to keep it lighter but feel free to use red if you would like. Add the wine to the pan and heat until reduced by half; this will deglaze the pan as well as adding flavour. Pour in the stock and tomatoes and bring to a boil before lowering to a simmer. Cover the pan and cook for an hour, stirring occasionally. After the hour is up I then add the cavolo nero before giving it another half an hour or so. Season well.

4. Whilst the sauce is simmering away, you need to make the béchamel sauce which is going to top the cannelloni. For the 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.

5.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 cannelloni.

6. When the veal sauce is thick and reduced, you can get going on forming the cannelloni. Take the lasagne sheets and cook for a couple of minutes, drain and allow to cool until you can handle them. Each pasta will vary in time slightly so do refer to the packet instructions. Place a line of the veal sauce to one end of the lasagne sheet (not right on the end, leave a small gap) and roll. Place the pasta tube, seal side down, into a baking dish and repeat the process until the veal sauce has been used. Tuck each tube in snuggly. Pour over the béchamel sauce and grate over a little fresh parmesan. Bake in a 200c/ 180fan preheated oven for 20-30 minutes until golden and bubbling.

Veal, porcini and cavolo nero ragu which is fit for a king- a twist on an Italian classic!

 

 

Garlic, lemon and herb slow roasted lamb

If you think that slow roasting meat means having to be tied to the oven all day then think again! Lamb shoulder is the perfect cut to pop in the oven whilst you carry on about your daily business before coming back to it later when it’s tender and succulent. Slow roasting brings out the best of the flavour whilst keeping ingredients simple and fresh.

I used half a lamb shoulder which will comfortably feed four but if you have more people to serve than buy a whole shoulder and adjust the cooking time accordingly. Remember that lamb tastes better if you have time to marinade it in advance but also don’t keep it in the fridge up until the minute you want to cook it- let it rest at room temperature for about an hour.

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Ingredients- serves 4
Half a lamb shoulder
1 lemon
4 cloves of garlic (or more if you are a garlic fiend!)
Fresh thyme and oregano- dried will work too
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to season
200ml dry white wine

1.Start the day before if you can so the flavours of the marinade get plenty of time to work their magic. Peel the garlic cloves and cut into halves or thirds, depending on their size. Make incisions into the lamb and slide a piece of garlic into each one. Rub the herbs, oil and seasoning into the lamb all over. I then pared some lemon zest and scattered it all around the lamb before squeezing over a little of the juice. Cover the lamb and pop in the oven to do its thing!

2. When you are ready to cook, bring the lamb up to room temperature and preheat the oven to 200c/ 180 fan. This may seem like a high oven but this is only for the first stage of cooking so don’t despair! Transfer the lamb to a roasting tray with its lemon and all and place on parchment paper. Bring the sides of the paper up before sloshing in a glass of white wine (you could also use water) and wrap loosely. Cook at 200c/ 180fan for 10 minutes before lowering the oven to 150c/ 130fan. Check the timings on the lamb you buy but for half a shoulder you are looking at around 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Some recipes will tell you uncover the lamb for the last hour of cooking but I don’t find this is necessary and I prefer to keep it covered to look in all the flavour.

When the lamb is ready the juices will run clear. Allow to rest before carving and enjoy with roasted potatoes and vegetables. Keep an eye out for little slivers of beautifully sweet roasted garlic- don’t waste them!

Slow roasted lamb with garlic, lemon and herbs- a perfect recipe for a lazy Sunday afternoon!

 

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!