Friday, 31 March 2017

Gnocchi with Cauliflower in a Blue Cheese Cream Sauce






This rich but tasty meal was based around a piece of cauliflower and a small piece of blue cheese that were in the fridge....the fact that I had been wanting to make gnocchi for a few weeks inspired the rest of it. It also allowed me to use up some whipping cream, parsley and pinenuts.

Cauliflower and blue cheese are a perfect pairing, the cream sauce carried the flavours and the pinenuts added some crunch. Very filling, incredibly rich but so full of flavour.

Make or buy a batch of potato gnocchi. Have a large pot of salted, boiling water ready while you make the sauce. When the sauce is ready, the water will be ready to cook the gnocchi.



Cut the cauliflower into bite sized pieces; you should have:

2 cups of cauliflower

Using the salted boiling water, blanch the cauliflower for 2 minutes, then remove from the water and drain well. Leave the water on for the gnocchi.







In a hot pan, using some olive oil, cook the blanched cauliflower. Season with salt and pepper.






 
Keeping the heat high, cook, stirring often, until the cauliflower starts to become golden and crispy.

Remove the cauliflower and set aside.







Turn the heat down to medium low, and add:

1 cup whipping cream
1 Parmesan rind
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
2 cloves fresh garlic

Reduce until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.



Remove the Parmesan, rosemary and garlic cloves.

Whisk in:

1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese

Taste and adjust seasoning.







Turn the sauce down to simmer. Turn the heat down on the boiling water so that it is just above a simmer, and cook the gnocchi. 




As the gnocchi cook they will float to the surface of the water. Scoop them out and add them to the sauce, along with:

the reserved cauliflower

Stir gently to coat all the gnocchi and cauliflower with the sauce.






Add:

1/3 cup grated fresh Parmesan
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley








Serve, garnished with some lightly toasted pinenuts and a bit of extra crumbled blue cheese.Bon Appetit!




  • Blue cheese is great to use with cauliflower, but it as also good to use in a cream sauce as the strong flavoured cheese cuts the richness of the cream. Use cheese such as Stilton, Roquefort or Gorgonzola.
  • Goat cheese can be used instead of blue cheese if you like.
  • Blanching the cauliflower first gets the cooking off to a head start. You can then finish cooking it quickly, at a high heat to caramelize the natural sugars and crisp the outside, and still have it cooked to perfection...no more than a slight crunch.
  • Caramelizing the cauliflower in the pan before adding the cream will bring the cauliflower flavour into the sauce; the Parmesan rind, garlic cloves and rosemary infuse more flavour.
  • Season lightly with salt and pepper during each stage of cooking; I find blue cheese can often be on the salty side, so I like to leave the final adjustments to the very end. The saltiness can also intensify as the cream reduces during cooking.
  • The sauce can be used with pasta.
  • If the sauce reduces too much, add some of the cooking water from the gnocchi to thin it. This water was also used to blanch the cauliflower, so it will add flavour as well as adjust the consistency of the cream sauce.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Turkey Sloppy Joes with Basil and Balsamic Vinegar






Sloppy Joes are a wonderful comfort food....I find the combination of saucy, slightly spicy meat and tomato sauce and gooey, melted cheese on a warm bun to be so easy to eat...it reminds me of things like lasagne, grilled cheese, meatball subs...all in one meal!

I had some tomato sauce to use, and a bit of mozzarella cheese, so I decided to make some Sloppy Joes. I played around with it a bit, adding some caramelized onions, fresh basil and balsamic vinegar.

The tanginess of the vinegar was a pleasant surprise, it offset the smokiness of the paprika, and the sweetness of the tomato sauce and onions.




Using a drizzle of olive oil, cook until starting to soften:

1/2 medium onion, finely diced
1/2 red bell pepper, finely diced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground back pepper






Add:

12 ounces ground turkey

Cook, breaking the turkey up as it cooks, and seasoning with a bit more salt and pepper.






When the turkey is no longer pink, add the spices:

1 teaspoon smoked paprika
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
2 cloves garlic, minced







Stir in:

1 cup tomato sauce

Leave the turkey to simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes.






While the turkey is cooking you can caramelize the onions. Thinly slice one medium onion, and cook over medium low heat in olive oil, stirring often, until the onions have softened, and turned a deep golden brown.

To finish off the Sloppy Joes, turn the broiler on to high.





Slice 4 long buns in half, but not all the way through. Place on a baking sheet.

Divide the caramelized onions between the 4 buns.








To finish off the turkey, stir in:

1/2 cup grated fresh Parmesan








When the cheese has melted, stir in:

2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

Taste and adjust seasoning.








Divide the turkey between the four buns.









Sprinkle a bit of grated mozzarella over the turkey.

Place the baking sheet into the oven, watching the cheese and buns carefully under the broiler.






When the cheese has melted and is bubbling, the Sloppy Joes are ready to serve...along with lots of napkins. As the name implies, these are messy to eat, but so yummy all the same!





  • I chose to use ground turkey for a few reasons, one being that it was available, and the other being that I prefer it to ground beef as it is a bit leaner. Ground beef, pork or chicken can be used. You can also add in sausage meat that has been removed from the casings...this adds a lot of interesting flavours, and there are so many wonderful sausage choices available these days.
  • Make a large batch of the meat and freeze some, it can be used for other things such as assembling a lasagne, cannelloni or simply used as a meat sauce for pasta.
  • If your sauce reduces too much, you can add more sauce, water or chicken stock to reach the desired consistency.
  • Play around with the spices...use Spanish paprika instead of smoked; add chili flakes or chipotle chiles; add some garlic powder.
  • Chopped tomatoes can be added if you have some overripe tomatoes that need to be used.
  • Other cheeses that can be used are provolone, bocconcini, white cheddar.
  • Any long bun works for the Sloppy Joes, but try and avoid really soft ones such as hot dog buns as the meat will turn them to mush. Aim for something like a hoagie bun, ciabatta bun or even baguette that has been cut into shorter pieces.
  • The buns can be toasted before the onions and meat are added...brush them with olive oil, melted butter, garlic or herb butter after you have split them, and pop them into the oven, or onto the grill for a couple of minutes to toast.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Basil Flatbread with Sumac and Sesame Seeds




This flatbread is soft, and can easily be folded over and stuffed with meat and vegetables, as I did. It can also have pieces torn off and dipped into hummus, tzatziki, baba ghanoush, dukkah, olive oil.


I have some sumac that I bought to make a specific recipe and I decided that it was time to use it again. I wanted to add it to the dough, but wasn't sure what the outcome would be (that's an experiment for another day), so I combined it with sesame seeds, garlic and olive oil and brushed it onto the bread before warming and serving.






Start the dough by combining the following in a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook:

2 1/4 teaspoons dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3/4 cup warm water







When the yeast begins to froth, add:

1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup wholewheat flour





With the mixer running at a low speed, gradually add:

2 cups of flour


You are looking for a slightly sticky dough that pulls away from the sides of the bowl and forms a ball around the dough hook.





Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter, and knead by hand for a couple of minutes, until it is smooth and elastic.











Place in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave to rise until doubled in size.








Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead briefly.

Divide into 6 pieces, and form each one into a ball.







Roll each ball of dough out to a thickness of about 1/4".

Lightly brush the top side with olive oil.

Heat a griddle pan until it is very hot.




Place one circle of dough onto the hot griddle pan, with the oiled side down.

Cook for 2 - 2 1/2 minutes.


Flip the bread and cook the second side for 1 - 2 minutes.

Remove from the pan and place on a cooling rack. Repeat with the remaining 5 dough circles.



In a small dry pan, lightly toast:

2 tablespoons of sesame seeds

Stir in:

1 teaspoon sumac
pinch of cayenne pepper
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced






Remove from the heat and stir in:

3 tablespoons olive oil









Turn the oven on to 350F, place the cooked flatbreads on a baking sheet, in a single layer. Brush each one with the oil and sesame seed mixture, and place into the oven to heat through. Serve.







I used the flatbreads as a wrap for chicken shawarma, spinach, roasted red pepper, hummus and Greek yoghurt.



  • The flatbreads can be cooked a day ahead of serving; keep well wrapped. They can also be frozen.
  • Use the bread as pizza crusts; folded in half, stuffed and grilled panini style.
  • The bread dough can be flavoured with different herbs; I had basil on hand. Spices such as garlic powder can be added, as can minced fresh garlic.
  • If you do not have a griddle pan, cook the bread on a barbecue or in a flat, heavy bottomed pan.
  • Sesame seeds are optional; I had some to use. If you have dukkah ( an Egyptian blend of nuts, seeds and spices that is often used as a dip, along with olive oil), use that instead.
  • Sumac is  made from a dried berry that is ground to give you a spice. It is lemony and tart, and is a bright red colour. I would use more next time as I felt that the flavour was still a bit too much in the background.
  • Honey can be used instead of sugar in the dough. 
  • Here is a link to the chicken shawarma recipe I used:
http://www.recipetineats.com/chicken-sharwama-middle-eastern/

Monday, 20 March 2017

Pink Grapefruit and Dried Blueberry Shortbread






We were heading to our neighbours' , and as I have been wanting to bake cookies, this was my excuse to do so. Surprisingly, the shortbread was a good pairing with the chardonnay, the chardonnay blend and the gewurztraminer that were served.

I made use of the pink grapefruit in the fruit bowl...using the zest to flavour the cookie dough, and the juice to make a glaze. I garnished the shortbread with some chopped dried blueberries that I had. Grapefruit and blueberries go really well together.

The cookies were buttery, sweet and crumbly and the chewy blueberries were a pleasant surprise.



Combine:

4 ounces soft butter
finely grated zest of 1 pink grapefruit

Mix with the paddle attachment of your mixer until well combined.






Add:

1/4 cup icing sugar
2 - 3 drops of vanilla

Cream until the sugar and butter are well combined.




Add:

3/4 cup flour

Mix on low speed until the flour is just incorporated into the butter and sugar. Do not overmix; you can finish mixing the last little bit by hand if you like.






Scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured counter, and form it into a small square, ready to roll out.








Roll the dough out to a thickness of 1/4".

Try and keep it as square as possible, unless you are using a shaped cookie cutter.








Cut the dough into 2" X 2" squares (or whatever shape you want).

Gently lift and place the cut cookies onto a parchment lined baking sheet.







Place the baking sheet into the fridge to chill the cookies before baking them. I left mine in the fridge for about an hour. Turn the oven on to 325F.




Bake until the cookies are set, and slightly golden around the edges, rotating the baking sheet half way through.

This should take about 13 - 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.




To make the glaze, juice the zested grapefruit.

Measure out:

1 tablespoon of juice

Add:

1/4 cup of icing sugar




Whisk well.

Continue adding icing sugar until you have a thick, but still pourable glaze.

I used just over 1/2 cup of icing sugar to achieve the consistency that I wanted.






Place the cooled cookies onto a cooling rack.

Using a spoon, or a piping bag if you prefer, drizzle the glaze over the shortbread.







Chop some dried blueberries, and sprinkle them over the top of the glaze, gently pressing them to make sure they stick.

Set the cookies aside for an hour to allow the glaze to firm up.





Place the cookies onto a platter and serve...with wine, tea or coffee or even just by themselves.




  • I used the pink grapefruit that I had on hand, but any citrus fruit zest can be used...grapefruit, lemon, lime, orange. The amount of zest I got from the pink grapefruit was about 1 teaspoon, very finely grated.
  • The finer the zest is grated, the more of the fragrant oil in it is released, increasing the flavour. Be careful not to grate any of the white pith underneath the coloured zest, as this tends to be quite bitter.
  • After juicing the grapefruit and using the amount needed for the glaze, I drank the rest...lovely, fresh and sweet. You could also use it for something else, like a salad dressing or marinade.
  • The dried blueberries, or any other dried fruit, can be chopped and combined with the flour when adding it to the butter and sugar. This will give texture, colour and flavour throughout the dough. I chose to garnish with them for the pop of colour on top.
  • Chilling the rolled and cut cookie dough prevents it from spreading out in the oven. The cookies can be rolled, cut out, and layered between sheets of parchment paper and frozen. Remove and bake the amount you need at any given time.
  • The baked cookies can also be frozen. Defrost before glazing.
  • If your dough is too soft to roll and cut right after you have made it, wrap it in plastic wrap and put it into the fridge for half an hour to chill.
  • I used a spoon to drizzle the glaze as I wanted a more rustic look. Using a piping bag or parchment cone is another option; your lines will be more uniform in size.
  • Food colouring can be added to accentuate the pink colour of the grapefruit juice...I'm not a fan of food colouring, and prefer a more natural approach.
  • Other ingredients that can be added to the dough, or to the glaze, include toasted and roughly chopped nuts; candied zest; edible gold leaf; poppy seeds or ground black pepper; coarse sugar (coloured or white).

Friday, 17 March 2017

Spaghetti with Chicken, Olives, Sundried Tomatoes, Spinach and Ricotta






I was very happy with this dish; the image in my head wasn't nearly as good as the end product! This is always a good thing...especially when I am using random items, and making it up as I go along.

We are still adjusting to cooking for only two people, and had cooked way too much spaghetti for our bolognese a couple of nights ago. This was my way of using that already cooked pasta, along with the last few olives in the jar, the pinenuts and some of the ricotta cheese that was open in the fridge. Oh yes, and the half glass of wine that somehow did not get drunk.

The basis of the sauce is a paste made from sundried tomatoes, garlic, parsley and olives. The wine, some chicken stock and ricotta provided the liquid, and shredded fresh spinach was added at the last minute to wilt from the heat of the pasta.

If you do not have already cooked spaghetti, cook enough for the number of people you will be serving. The sauce will make enough for two large servings. If your pasta is already cooked and cooled, heat a pot of water, and add the pasta to it a couple of minutes before you are ready to serve. This will re-heat it.


For the paste you will need:

1/4 cup fresh parsley, loosely packed
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons toasted pinenuts
2 tablespoons roughly chopped sundried tomatoes in oil
2 tablespoons roughly chopped pitted black olives





Using a large, sharp knife, chop these ingredients as finely as possible, creating a chunky paste.

Set aside until needed.








Using some olive oil, cook until soft:

1/4 medium onion, finely chopped
salt and pepper







Add:

8 chicken tenders, cut into 1/2" pieces

Season with salt and pepper and cook until the chicken is almost fully cooked.





Add:

1/4 cup dry white wine

Cook until reduced by half.

Add:

1/2 cup chicken stock





Cook until the liquid has reduced by a third. At this point, you can add the cooked pasta to the boiling water to re-heat it. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot it was heated in.




Add:

the sundried tomato and olive paste

Cook, stirring it into the sauce.








Add:

1/2 cup ricotta cheese
a good handful of grated fresh Parmesan

Stir this in to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning. Remove from the heat.








Add the sauce to the hot pasta.









Add:

2 cups shredded fresh spinach

Using tongs, gently mix the sauce and spinach in, until all of the spaghetti is well coated.






Serve, garnishing with extra toasted pinenuts and grated Parmesan.




  • As I mentioned, I was using the leftover cooked spaghetti from a previous meal; any shape of pasta can be used, but the consistency of the sauce coated the strands of spaghetti really nicely.
  • I chose not to make the paste in the blender or food processor as I wanted some chunkiness to remain, so I chopped it by hand, as finely as I could. It can be pureed in a processor or blender, that is completely a personal choice.
  • The olives I used were black, and still had the pits in. I used the side of a large knife to crush them and easily remove the pits.
  • These were the last of a jar of olives my daughter had received as a housewarming gift, and were in sunflower oil...the oil was nicely infused with the olive flavours, so I used it for cooking my onions and chicken.
  • The oil from the sundried tomatoes is another choice for cooking the onions and chicken.
  • Lightly toasting the pinenuts first brings out more of the nuttiness; they can be toasted in a low temperature oven, or in a dry pan on low heat. Either way, check them and stir them often, they tend to burn very quickly.
  • If you wish to add other herbs, think about basil or oregano.
  • The chicken is optional...I had just bought and frozen some chicken breasts. I always remove the tenders for another use, and added them to what was originally going to be a vegetarian pasta.
  • Add prawns, scallops or even mussels instead. If you use mussels, add them to the onions along with the white wine, cover and allow them to steam until they have all opened. Remove the mussels, and add them back right at the end, just enough to heat them through.
  • If you do not have ricotta, you could omit it completely. You could also substitute heavy cream, mascarpone cheese or goat cheese. These will all add that creaminess that the ricotta adds. The goat cheese will also add a tanginess; the others will add richness.
  • Chopped cooked spinach can be used instead of fresh, so can other cooked greens such as kale or rapini. Other fresh greens that will will nicely in the hot sauce are arugula or beet greens.