Torta di spinaci e riso


One reason for making this, is that Rachel Roddy said in her column in the Guardian’s Cook Supplement on 30 January 2016 (which provides the recipe on which this is based), “Italy is where … leftovers really do still rule, helping cooking feel like a continuum” – has she been reading my blog?

Anyway, I also needed to use most of a 260g bag of spinach leftover from a stir-fry. Enough for 3 people:

  • 200g spinach
  • 125g risotto rice
  • small onion (finely chopped)
  • 20g butter
  • 1 large egg (beaten)
  • 40g parmesan (grated)
  • black pepper to taste
  • oil (to brush the cake tin)
  • 1 heaped tbsp bread crumbs

Quickly wilt the spinach in a hot pan. Remove it to a plate, allow to cool, and snip into smaller pieces with scissors.

Cook the rice in boiling water and drain.

Heat the butter in a pan and cook the onion very gently over a low heat for about 10 minutes.

Brush a cake tin (about 20cm in diameter) with a little oil and dust with the bread crumbs.

Heat the oven to 200C (Gas Mark 6).

Mix together the spinach, rice, onion and parmesan, and then mix in the beaten egg and add black pepper. Place the mixture in the cake tin, smoothing the top with a spoon.

Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the top starts to brown. Allow to stand for 5 minutes before serving.

I served mine with roasted baby plum tomatoes.


Spinach and potato quiche


This recipe is based on one which appeared in Ruby Tandoh’s ‘Ruby bakes…’ column in the Guardian Cook Supplement (5 April 2014). Serves 4-6:

  • 1 deep savoury short crust flan case (I made mine in a tin with a 20cm diameter base, with the sides sloping outwards from the base, using pastry made with 150g of plain flour and 75g of butter)
  • 15g butter
  • 250g fresh spinach (washed and drained (using a salad spinner is a good idea))
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 medium potatoes (mine amounted to about 330g)
  • A pinch of nutmeg
  • 250ml milk
  • 3 large eggs (beaten)
  • 250g quark
  • Black pepper (to taste)
  • 40g each of parmesan and mature cheddar, finely grated

Heat the butter in a large heavy bottomed pan. Add the spinach (keeping the heat high) and stir until just wilted. Leave to cool.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan, and cook the onion over a gentle heat for 5 minutes. Cover the pan and cook for a further 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is tender.

Meanwhile, peel, and slice the potatoes (to about the thickness of a 10p coin).

Add the potato and nutmeg to the pan with the onion, pour in 150ml of the milk and cook over a gentle heat with the lid on for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. The potato should absorb most of the milk by the time you finish this phase of the cooking process.

Remove the pan from the heat. Add the remaining milk, eggs, quark and grated cheese, and mix thoroughly. Squeeze any excess water from the spinach, and then stir it into the mixture. Season to taste, and pour into the flan case.

Bake the flan in the oven 160C (Gas Mark 3) for approximately 40 minutes, or until browned on top and filling firm.


Butternut squash and stilton pancakes


Last week (it was Shrove Tuesday), I found 5 pancakes in the freezer, and I also had about half a tub of ricotta (left over from Spinach gnocchi), a piece of Stilton, some double cream and a small amount for fresh spinach. I decided to make these pancakes, so I bought a butternut squash.

Enough for 2:

  • 5 savoury pancakes
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 400g butternut squash (peeled and cut into 1cm cubes)
  • 1/2 onion (chopped)
  • 100g spinach
  • 125g ricotta
  • 80g Stilton (grated)
  • Black pepper
  • 50g double cream

Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Add the butternut squash and cook slowly until it begins to change colour, mixing occasionally.  Add water to cover, bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Drain.

Heat the remaining oil in a large saucepan and add the onion, cooking gently for 5 minutes. Turn up the heat, and add the spinach, stirring constantly until all the spinach has wilted. Turn off the heat, and add the butternut squash and mix well. Beat together the ricotta and 3/4 of the Stilton, and stir into the vegetable mixture. Season with black pepper to taste.

Take a pancake and spread it with 1/5 of the mixture . Roll up the pancake and place in a shallow ovenproof dish. Repeat this with the remaining four pancakes. Sprinkle the remaining Stilton over the rolled-up pancakes and pour over the double cream.

Place in the oven at 180C (Gas Mark 4) and cook for about 20 minutes (or until golden brown). Serve.

Spinach gnocchi


This recipe is based on the recipe for ‘Spinach and ricotta malfatti’ which appeared in the dumpling recipes in the Guardian’s Cook supplement on 22 February 2014. Enough for 2:

  • 500g fresh spinach, or 250g frozen, thawed
  • 1 large egg
  • 100g ricotta
  • 140g  plain flour (the recipe said 100g, but this left the mixture too wet), plus extra for rolling the gnocchi
  • 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 50g parmesan, grated
  • 30g unsalted butter melted
  • Black pepper

Cook the (fresh) spinach in a large pan with a lid for 5 minutes. Drain and leave until cool. Then squeeze out all the water, and chop very finely.

Beat the egg and the ricotta in a large bowl. Then mix in the flour, nutmeg, spinach and half the parmesan. Add black pepper to taste.

Form the mixture into balls the size of large marbles, by rolling small amounts of the mixture on a plate of flour. Chill for 30 minutes.

To cook, add the gnocchi, a dozen at a time, to a large pan of boiling water. Cook each batch for about 2 minutes after they have risen to the top. Lift them out with a slotted spoon and transfer them to the serving plates (in this case two), and cover to keep warm.

When all gnocchi are cooked, reheat in the microwave (1 minute on ‘high’ for each plate was sufficient).

Pour the butter over the gnocchi, sprinkle with parmesan and serve.

Meanwhile, melt the remaining butter in a small saucepan. Just before serving, spoon the butter over the cooked gnocchi, sprinkle with the remaining parmesan and serve at once.

Rice gratin


This is an adaptation (the ingredients have substantially changed) of Dish of the Month which appeared on the February 2014 edition of Waitrose Kitchen magazine. It was an Yotam Ottolenghi recipe. Enough for 4:

  • 275 g cherry tomatoes (peeled and halved)
  • 50g camargue rice (I used Waitrose LOVE life red camargue & wild rice)
  • 70g brown rice
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion (finely chopped)
  • 1 stick of celery (finely chopped)
  • 250g spinach (washed and spun in a salad-spinner to remove any moisture)
  • 80g feta (I used Sainsbury’s Basics Greek style salad cheese)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 80g Greek yogurt
  • 40g double cream
  • black pepper (to taste)
  • 60g mature cheddar (grated)
  • 20g parmesan (grated)

Put the tomato halves on a baking sheet and cook in the oven at 120C (Gas Mark 1/2) for about 1.5 hours until semi-dried.

Put all the rice in one pan and cook until tender (about 25 minutes). Drain.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil and very gently cook the onion and celery for 15 minutes. Turn up the heat and add the spinach, stirring constantly until it has all wilted. Remove from the heat, crumble in the feta, mix well and allow to cool for about 15 minutes.

Whisk together the eggs, yogurt, double cream and black pepper. Add this to the rice mixture, and add 2/3rds of the tomatoes. Make sure everything is well combined and transfer to an oven-proof dish. Sprinkle the remaining tomatoes and the grated cheeses over the top.

Bake in the oven at 180C (Gas Mark 4) for 40 minutes until set and golden brown on top.

When I made this dish, I was in a hurry, so I used the microwave instead. Starting with a warm rice mixture, I microwaved it on ‘high’ for 8 minutes and then browned the dish under the grill. I don’t that the finished product suffered as a result.


Green risotto with Stilton


This will feed 2:

  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 small onion (chopped)
  • 120g arborio (risotto) rice (more depending how hungry you are)
  • 1 tsp vegi-stock powder
  • Hot water
  • 100g frozen peas
  • 50g frozen green beans (cut into 4cm lengths)
  • 100g fresh spinach (washed and drained)
  • 2 tbsp crème fraiche
  • 60g grated Stilton
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a thick bottomed saucepan (cast iron pots such as Le Creuset are great for this). Add the onion and fry very gently for about 8 minutes (stirring as necessary). Add the rice, and stir well so that it is coated in oil.

Add the stock powder, and enough hot water to cover the ingredients. Bring to the boil and simmer very gently for about 20 minutes (add the peas and beans after 18 minutes) until the rice is creamy but still has a slight ‘bite’. You will need to add more hot water occasionally and stir the mixture from time to time (I know everyone says that you need to constantly stir risotto, but I find that this is unnecessary provided you use a thick bottomed pan and a very low heat).

When the rice is cooked, turn up the heat and quickly wilt the spinach by adding it to the risotto and stirring the mixture so that the spinach comes into contact with the bottom of the pan. Stir in the crème fraiche. Return to the heat and stir until the mixture is just boiling. Turn off the heat, stir in the Stilton and add black pepper, to taste.


Vegi Indian meal – chickpeas and lentils


These recipes are based on some that appeared in Waitrose Kitchen magazine (November 2013 issue). I was actually rather disappointed with the results, which seemed rather bland to me. Does anyone have any suggestions?

These recipes are supposed to be for 4 people, but the chole recipe seemed to me to make just enough for 2 very hungry people (or 3 with normal appetites). I also added some of the liquid reserved from cooking to the chickpeas (and some spinach which happened to be in the fridge). For the daal recipe, I cut down the main ingredient (lentils) to 2/3 rds of the suggested amount.

Punjabi chole:

  • 150g chickpeas (soaked overnight and then cooked (in water) for about 45 minutes (boiling rapidly for the first 10 minutes))
  • [reserve a small amount of the liquid from cooking the chickpeas]
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 large onion (finely chopped)
  • 2 red chillies (deseeded and finely chopped)
  • Ginger (equivalent of a 3cm cube, grated)
  • 3 cloves of garlic (crushed)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 bayleaf
  • 100g leaf spinach
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Some torn coriander leaves

Heat the oil in a large saucepan. gently cook the onion for 10 minutes. Add the chillies, ginger and garlic. Stir and cook for a further 2 minutes. Stir in the cinnamon and turmeric and cook for 1 minute.

Add the chickpeas and the bay leaf and about 100ml of the reserved cooking liquid. Stir the mixture and simmer gently for 10 minutes. If you are adding spinach, stir it in after 8 minutes and turn up the heat, stirring until it has wilted.

Remove the bay leaf. Stir in the garam masala, the lemon juice and the coriander. Serve.

Tadka daal:

  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 onion (chopped)
  • Ginger (equivalent of a 3cm cube, grated)
  • 2 red chillies (deseeded and finely chopped)
  • 2 cloves of garlic (crushed)
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 200g red split lentils
  • 1 large tomato (peeled and roughly chopped)
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala

Gently heat the oil in a large saucepan. Fry the cumin seeds for 1 minute. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes. Add the chillies, ginger and garlic. Stir and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the turmeric and cook for 1 minute.

Add the lentils and sufficient water to more than cover the pan contents. Stir, bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Adding more water as necessary.

Stir in the tomato, and continue cooking until the lentils are cooked (10-15 minutes – you may need to add more water). Stir in the garam masala and serve.

I served these dishes with Lidl plain naans (which came top in this survey); currently 49p for a packet (2 naans).

Hoisin roast chicken noodle soup


I used these roast chicken thighs as a topping for noodle soup. I bought a pack of four chicken thighs and boned them (this is fairly simple as there is only one large bone to deal with – you just locate the bone, cut into the flesh lying over it and then cut all the way round, between the flesh and the bone, and cut the flesh away from the bone at either end).

Marinate the chicken thighs in a mixture of a generous tablespoon of Hoisin sauce and a dessert spoon of cooking oil. Cover and leave in the fridge for at least 2 hours. Then place the chicken in a roasting dish and brush with any remaining marinade. Roast in the oven at 180C (Gas Mark 4) for about 30 minutes.

I made some stock with the bones, a carrot  (sliced), an onion (quartered) and a stick of celery (sliced), plus a little chopped garlic and ginger, and a pinch of five spice powder. Cover in water, bring to the boil and simmer for a few hours, adding more water if necessary. Then strain the liquid, discarding the vegetables and the bones.

To complete the soup for 2 people:

  • Oil
  • A piece of ginger about 2cm square (chopped)
  • 1 red chilli (deseeded and chopped)
  • 1 clove of garlic (chopped)
  • Chicken stock (see above)
  • A generous dash of soy sauce
  • 4 spring onions (fairly finely sliced)
  • Green vegetables (eg a two handfuls of spinach, pak choi, or similar)
  • Other vegetables (optional) – say baby sweet corn or mange tout etc
  • Chinese noodles for 2 people (cooked in accordance with the instructions on the packet)
  • Hoi sin roast chicken thighs (see above), sliced

Heat a little oil in a large saucepan. Add the ginger, chilli and garlic. Stir fry for 1 minute. Add the chicken stock and the soy sauce. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes.

Depending on the vegetable you are using, add them to the stock (adding the ones that take longer to cook earlier – eg if using baby sweet corn, add these about 3 minutes before the spring onions and the green vegetables). Add more boiling water if necessary.

When the vegetables are cooked, serve the soup by dividing the noodles between two large bowls. The add the soup and top with the sliced chicken.


Green risotto


I had a 450g bag of spinach, and I’d been taken in by a ‘two green veg for £3 offer’, so I also had a bag of green beans and some tender stem broccoli. I’d already used about half the spinach to make Spinach and cheese pancakes, so I decided to make a green risotto. I plan to use the remaining beans and broccoli in a Thai noodle soup. This is enough for 2 people:

  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1/2 onion (chopped)
  • 1 clove garlic (chopped)
  • 120g arborio (risotto) rice (more depending how hungry you are), you could also use pudding rice (or pearl barley which would take longer to cook)
  • 225g fresh leaf spinach (cooked as in Spinach and cheese pancakes)
  • hot water
  • 1 tsp veg-stock powder
  • 140g green beans (washed, stalks removed and cut in half)
  • 120g tender stem broccoli (washed and cut into 4cm lengths (with the stem pieces cut in half lengthways)
  • 2 tbsp double cream
  • 2 heaped tbsp grated parmesan cheese
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste (also if required, salt or a squeeze of lemon juice)

Heat the oil in a thick bottomed saucepan. Add the onion and fry very gently for about 5 minutes (stirring as necessary). Add the garlic and carry on frying and stirring for 3 minutes. Add the rice, and stir so that it is coated in oil.

Add the stock powder and enough hot water to cover the ingredients. Bring to the boil and simmer very gently for about 20 minutes until the rice is creamy but still has a slight ‘bite’. You will need to add more hot water occasionally and stir the mixture from time to time.

Meanwhile microwave the beans and broccoli together with a tablespoon of water in a covered container at 750W for 2.5 minutes.

Stir the cream into the risotto and then the spinach, beans and broccoli. Return to the heat and stir until the mixture is just boiling. Turn off the heat, stir in the cheese and add black pepper, salt etc to taste. Serve.

Spinach and cheese pancakes


This is vegetarian comfort food – serves 2, maybe 3, as a main course. I used some frozen pancakes I had made previously (I often make these if I have eggs which are about to go out of date):

  • 6 savoury pancakes (made from 300ml milk, 130g plain flour, 1 large egg, 1 tbsp oil (and more for cooking the pancakes))
  • 250g fresh spinach (you could use frozen chopped spinach instead)
  • 150g low fat cottage cheeese
  • 30g butter
  • 2 rounded tbsp plain flour
  • 300ml milk
  • 120g grated cheddar
  • 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
  • freshly ground black pepper

Wash the fresh spinach, drain (and if you have one, spin in a salad spinner, to remove additional water). Microwave the spinach in a covered bowl at 750W, for 2 mins (then stir and stand for a minute); then cook at 750W for a further minute. When cooled, squeeze any excess water from the spinach and roughly chop. Mix with the cottage cheese.

Make the cheese sauce with the butter, flour, milk, the black pepper and most of the grated cheese.

Mix a little of the cheese sauce with the spinach and cottage cheese mixture, stir in the grated nutmeg, and spread this mixture on one half of each of the six pancakes. Roll up the pancakes and place in an ovenproof dish. Pour over the cheese sauce so that it covers the top of the pancakes, and sprinkle with the remaining grated cheese.

Bake in the oven at 180C (Gas Mark 4) for about 25 minutes until the top starts to brown, and the whole dish is piping hot.