Wild garlic pesto, asparagus and goats cheese puff tart

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This puff pastry tart makes the most of the seasonal produce around at the moment. The wild garlic and asparagus season in the UK is short so now is the time to get your hands on them and get cooking. Wild garlic is as it sounds- wild! You can forage it (if you’re sure what you’re looking for) but can now be found in some farmers markets or specialist grocers. It can be used in a range of dishes and pesto is only the start and even this can be picked up premade. Failing this, substitute this with a different pesto of your choosing. To ramp up the flavours in this tart, I have also used some Parma ham which I crisped and crumbled over the top for an extra element and texture.

 

Ingredients- serves 4
1 premade pack of puff pastry
3 tbsp wild garlic pesto (see below for recipe)
200g asparagus spears
100g soft rindless goats cheese
4 slices of Parma or Carmarthen ham
1 egg- lightly beaten

Wild garlic pesto
120g wild garlic leaves
1 garlic clove- crushed
15g pine nuts
200ml olive oil
Zest of a small lemon
35g parmesan
Seasoning

1. Get going by preheating the oven to 200c/ 180fan but do check the instructions on the pastry packaging in case this differs slightly. Take the sheet of pastry and place it on a work surface. Leaving a border around the edges of the pastry sheet, use the prongs of a fork to lightly prick the centre of the sheet. This will stop the centre of the pastry from puffing up but will let the edges do so.

2. If you want to make your own wild garlic pesto then simply take the leaves and blanch for 20 seconds in a pan of boiling water. Remove using a slotted spoon and plunge into cold water to refresh it. Take some kitchen roll and pat it dry before roughly chopping. Add all the remaining ingredients to a food processor and blitz and, hey pesto! Sorry… couldn’t resist…

2. Take the pesto of your choice and spread this in the centre of the pastry. Make sure this is as even as possible. Lay each asparagus spear on the pastry and scatter pieces of the cheese in amongst them.

3. In a small pan dry fry the parma ham slices until crisp. Remove from the pan and set aside for a moment; you will find that as they cool they go even crispier which makes the slices much easier to crumble or you can use a knife to roughly chop into smaller pieces.I added the ham topping towards the end of cooking so it didn’t catch..

4. Lastly, use a pastry brush and carefully glaze the edges of the tart with the beaten egg. This will give a wonderful sheen and shine to the tart. Cook the tart for around 20 minutes until the asparagus is tender and the pastry is golden. About 2-3 minutes before the pastry is ready then sprinkle over the parma ham before finishing off. I served this with a simple side salad and new potatoes. Jersey Royals are bang in season so look out for these too. Boil and toss with some butter and fresh herbs.

Wild garlic pesto, asparagus and goats cheese puff pastry tart- a light way to use the best of spring’s offerings!

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Squash and blue cheese macaroni bake

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Before thoughts turn to Christmas food and festivities, there’s time for one more recipe to get you through once you’ve had enough roast potatoes and sprouts! This squash and blue cheese bake is simple and can be made in advance so it is perfect for a casual dinner as well as if you’re entertaining. I have used coquina squash for this which makes a change to the usual butternut squash. Coquina squash is slightly more sweet and the flesh is soft and tender which lends itself perfectly for roasting. To offset the sweetness I have used a creamy blue cheese and some salty pancetta to give the dish a lift. I served this in individual dishes but you can make a larger one if you prefer.

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Ingredients- serves 4
1 coquina squash
2 garlic cloves
1 tbsp olive oil
30g plain flour
30g unsalted butter
150ml double cream
150ml milk
200g blue cheese such as dolcelatte or gorgonzola
250g macaroni
50g cheddar
50g parmesan
4 slices of pancetta

1. Get going by preheating the oven to 180c/ 160 fan ready for roasting the squash. Use a sturdy sharp knife and halve the squash lengthways. Scoop out the seeds, drizzle with the olive oil and place one garlic clove in each of the hollows. Roast for around 50 minutes or until tender. When the squash is ready, use a spoon to scoop out the flesh and place in a bowl. Squeeze out the roasted garlic and add to the bowl with the squash. Use the back of a fork to mash it down until smooth and set aside whilst you make the base for the sauce.

2. Bring a large pan of water to the boil and cook the pasta until al dente as per the packet instructions; drain well and set aside.

3. Use a medium sized saucepan and add the flour and butter. Heat gently so the butter melts and combines with the flour to make a roux. Gradually pour in the milk and cream, stirring all the while so no lumps form. Increase the heat a touch and keep stirring until the sauce thickens. Remove the pan from the heat and add the blue cheese as well as most of the cheddar and parmesan (reserving some for the topping).

4. Take a frying pan and heat on a medium- high heat. Place the slices of pancetta in the pan and cook until crisp. Roughly chop the pancetta and add to the sauce. Add the roasted squash flesh to the sauce and stir well to combine. Stir the sauce through the cooked macaroni and place in an ovenproof dish or individual dishes. Top with the remaining cheese. Bake for half an hour or until golden and bubbling. Serve with a simple side salad.

Squash and blue cheese macaroni bakes- a twist on a well loved classic!

 

 

Gnocchi with red pepper, tomato and asiago cheese

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Asiago is an Italian cheese that I have recently been using in everything from pasta to salads. It is a sheep’s milk cheese which reminds me of feta in texture and taste. When trying to rustle up a quick dinner the other night I stumbled across some tomatoes and peppers that were nearly seeing better days and, with a few added extras, this gnocchi dish took shape.

I have added another couple of my favourite ingredients here to really lift the flavours- anchovy and capers. The capers add a zip and zing whilst the anchovy dials up the savouriness of the sauce to eleven so do try them! I have kept the tomato sauce purposefully light for this time of year however a similar sauce could be made using tinned tomatoes if you prefer. You could also try baking the gnocchi in the sauce in the oven with a liberal extra sprinkling of the asiago to finish.

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Ingredients- serves 2
400g gnocchi
Olive oil
2 garlic cloves- chopped or crushed
Chilli flakes- as many as you dare
2 anchovy fillets- finely chopped
1 red pepper- finely sliced
6-8 tomatoes- roughly chopped
1 tbsp capers
60g asiago cheese
Handful of freshly torn basil to finish

1. Take a pan and heat a glug of olive oil over a medium heat. Add the garlic, chilli and anchovy and cook for a couple of minutes. Pop in the red pepper and continue to cook until softening.

2. Next up, the tomatoes followed by the capers. At this stage lower the heat to low and allow the tomatoes to break down and simmer. You want the sauce to be able to lightly coat the gnocchi. If the tomatoes look dry at any point, simply add a splash of water. When the sauce is nearly ready, bring a pan of water to the boil and cook the gnocchi for 2 minutes or as directed on the packet. Drain and add the gnocchi to the sauce to finish. Crumble in the asiago and finish with the basil before serving.

Gnocchi with red pepper, tomatoes and asiago cheese- the perfect introduction to this Italian beauty!

 

 

Chilli cheese crushed potato stack

After making this chilli cheese crushed potato stack and posting a photo on Twitter I had no idea how popular this would be- retweets, likes and views coming left, right and centre but for very good reason! I was aiming to create a proper comfort dish and it hit the spot so read on… Not only do you get the recipe for the stack but you are also getting my much loved chilli recipe. The combination of spices and chilli gives heat, sweetness, smokiness and an overall well rounded savoury hit. I love the combination of cascabel and smoked chipotle chillies but ancho chillies are also fabulous if you can only find these.

I would advise making the chilli the day before you want to eat it so the flavours have plenty of time to develop. I simmered mine the day before for an hour before then finishing it off the next day. If you want to add beans then be my guest by this is a chilli for meat lovers.

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Ingredients- serves 4
1 tbsp vegetable oil
400g beef mince
1 large red onion- finely chopped
3-4 garlic cloves- crushed or finely chopped
1 tbsp each of ground cumin, ground coriander, paprika and oregano
1 tbsp tomato puree
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
200ml hot beef stock
1 tsp treacle
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
2 cascabel chillies
4 chipotle morita chillies
400g new potatoes
Butter
Cheddar cheese to top
Fresh jalapenos- finely sliced

1. Start by taking a pan and adding a glug of oil. Brown off the mince over a medium to high heat; if it is particularly fatty then drain off most before lowering the heat and adding the onion in. Cook until the onion is softening but not colouring and then add the garlic in for another minute.

2. Add the spices and herbs into the pan and stir well so the meat is well coated. Squeeze in the tomato puree and cook for two minutes. Pour in a little of the hot beef stock to help deglaze the bottom of the pan before pouring in the rest along with the tomatoes. Pop the cascabel and chipotle chillies. Stir through the treacle. Simmer the chilli for at least an hour and a half; leave overnight if you can.

3. When you are ready to assemble the dish, preheat the oven to 180c/ 160 fan. Bring a pan of water to the boil and cook the potatoes until just tender. Drain well and lightly crush with a fork. Toss a good amount of butter through it (don’t hold back!) before placing the potatoes in an ovenproof roasting dish. Roast by themselves for 20-25 minutes until they turn golden and crispy in places. Spoon over the chilli and top with a liberal helping of grated cheese before returning to the oven. Cook until the cheese is melting. Finish with a sprinkling of freshly sliced jalapeno and serve with soured cream, if you like.

Chilli cheese crushed potato stack- forget your normal baked potatoes and give this a try!

 

Traditional Welsh cawl

Cawl is a traditional Welsh stew that could not be simpler to make so give it a go. It is made with whatever meat (or meats) and seasonal vegetables were available so there is room for experimentation! The lamb could also be substituted with beef or a ham joint if you prefer. This is a perfect opportunity to try crumbly Caerphilly cheese if you have not had it before so dig in!

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Ingredients- serves 4
450g lamb casserole steak
25g pearl barley
2 sliced carrots
1 onion sliced
1/2 chopped swede
1 leeks in chunks
400g potatoes in chunks
Sprigs of thyme
2 bay leaves
5 black peppercorns

1. Trim the meat and cut into large chunks. Add to large heavy based pan, top up with plenty of water and bring to a boil. As the meat comes to the boil you will see residue that needs to be skimmed off the top.

2. Next in goes the barley, carrot, onion and swede; bring back to the boil and add a pinch of salt. Bundle together the thyme and bay leaves and drop these in alongside the peppercorns and simmer for 2 hours.

3. When the stew has been simmering for a couple of hours pop in the potatoes and simmer for 20 minutes followed by the leeks which need to be cooked for 5- 10 minutes until tender.  Serve in deep, warmed bowls with a good hunk of Caerphilly cheese and fresh bread.

Simple, warming and authentic!

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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