Posts Tagged With: special occasion

Beach Birthday Photographs

Biker Jane

It was my birthday recently so we thought we’d share some pics:

Before a day out on the Blaenau Ffestiniog Railway (last years present from Jane)

My Dad outside the Beach House

Jane and a bottle of bubbly – Whistling Sands Beach, Llyn Peninsula

My birthday bash, with Jane and my Mum – Whistling Sands, Llyn Peninsula

Lift off! Being launched from the sea (we saw seals here later!)

Jane and I looking concerned about the lack of champagne

Jane has a sunset splodge

 

 

 

Categories: 'The Good Life', Photography, Special Occasion, Wales | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Moist Almond and Olive Oil Cake

Mary at her tiger pool in the jungles near the Ganges

Yesterday was Mary’s birthday.  A special day for great cake, wine and song (isn’t everyday!).

Mary is my dear friend who I met on the old Hindustan-Tibetan Highway, somewhere in the Himalayas, India.  She now lives in a cosy log cabin close to the end of Llyn Peninsula, Wales.

This cake went down a treat after a veggie banquet of salad, roast things and Mary’s ace chickpea stew.  We hardly had room for cake, but we soldiered on anyway and ate until we could hardly stand.  Hoorah for birthday excess!

People who know me, know that I am not into my frilly little cup cakes.  I like a dense cake that has some substance and is not packed full of white stuff and butter.  This fits this bill and then some….

I had been sitting on this recipe for a while, looking for an excuse to whip it up.  I liked the sound of almonds and olive oil (although the original had pistachios instead, see link below), the polenta is also an interesting addition.  I have made many changes to the original, no sugar, but honey and dates, brown flour instead of white (we didn’t have white in), cardamom added…..etc.

I also managed to use our goose eggs from Ernie (see ‘Ernie’s eggs’ article from Easter).  It was a beast, breaking into it required a lumberjack hack with my knife and the yolk was truly something to behold.  Vivid yellow.

Ernie's giant goose egg

The olive oil here keeps the cake moist and gives it a lovely fruity flavour.  It is quite a dense cake with a subtle orange tang.  I would recommend white flour here, as it will make the cake lighter.

This will make a large-ish cake, fit for around 12 good slices.

The Bits

1 cup polenta, 1 cup of white flour (sieved), 2 cups of almonds (ground), 1 goose egg (or 3 hens eggs), 1 teas baking powder (sieved), 2 cups of olive oil (mild), 100g unsalted butter, 1 cup dates (well chopped), 1 big teas good honey, 1 orange (cut into segments, little pith) and juice of 1 lemon, 2 cardamom pods (optional) zest of lemon, spare almonds, dried fruit and sunflower seeds for decoration.

I added cardamom to the recipe, because I love it with orange.

Do It

We ground our almonds in our little coffee grinder.  This is preferable as there are some nice lumps of nut left.

In a pan, melt butter in warm olive oil, take off heat, add your orange segments and cardamom.  Allow to cool and infuse for a while (outside on the step with a lid on works).

Gently mix polenta, almonds, flour and b.p. in a bowl.

Whisk egg, date and honey in a blender.  Add flavoured butter (remove cardamom pods) and oil slowly as you blend.

Empty wet ingredients into a large bowl and gradually add dry mix, stirring and folding in, then the zest and juice of lemon.

The mix should be quite wet and shiny with all that lovely oil.

Put into your favourite baking tin, preferably quite a flat one and grease well (I used more olive oil for this job).  Decorate in an ostentatious way using nuts, dried berries and seeds.

Bake at 160oC for 40 mins.

The cake should be a little underdone in the middle, it finishes off on the cooling rack.  Leave to cool for 10 mins in tin, before removing to the rack.

Serve

Preferably warm, we had ours with a rhubarb ice cream.  Then another time with local Welsh yoghurt and some of Mary’s spiced apple compote.

We Love It!

Definitely not your average Victoria Sponge.  The olive oil and almonds work a treat and the sweetness of the dates with the tang of the citrus makes this a very interesting, rich little number.  One for the cool Auntie Ji in your life.

Foodie Fact

Almonds are low in saturated fats and full of calcium and magnesium, good for the bones.  They are also an intense source of phytochemicals which battle against the big ‘C’ and keep your heart ticking nicely.

Almond and Olive Oil Cake (I lost the better picture, apologise)

This is a link for the original pistachio recipe on the ‘Welsh Rarebits’ site:

http://www.rarebits.co.uk/recipes-moist-pistachio-and-olive-oil-cake

Categories: Baking, Cakes, Desserts, Recipes, Special Occasion, Travel, Vegetarian, Wales | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Carrot and Beetroot Tatin, Green Lentil Stew, Orange and Mint Dressing

My Dad is visiting, he likes his food meaty, hearty and tasty. This dish seemed to fit the bill (even though it had no pork chops in it!)
We had a thorough Purple Moose beer tasting before dinner, sampling the full range (belatedly trying the Merry X-Moose Ale). This got my inspiration well oiled for cooking dinner. Like almost all of the BHK food, this required little thought, preparation and execution.
The tatin works a treat with the sweetness of carrot, onion and beetroot being lifted by the touch of balsamic and orange. You can do the tatins individually, but one large one is easier and much more impressive when you flip it out (queue a few ‘ooohhhhhhsss!)
The green lentil stew would be better with puy lentils, but they were expensive. Your humble green lentils still have a nice bite with some earthy flavour. The stew is rich with butter and a the interesting addition of coriander.
The orange and mint dressing is an added dimension of flavour that balances the sweetness of the tatin.
I’m not a huge pastry fan at the minute, but this was a real treat. Dad happy munched away, without mentioning sausages of chops for at least half an hour. A major breakthrough!

We are so lucky that all of these veggies come from Hootons, the organic farm down the road.

This makes enough to sate three hungry souls……and a purple moose.

This dish will be amazing without the butter, for our vegan brothers and sisters.

Dad and I lost in a sunset and Purple Moose haze.

The Bits

Tatin
Puff Pastry (we bought ours, make your own if you prefer, enough to adequately cover your dish, needs to be snug), 1 chopped carrot, red onion and 2 beetroots (veg should fit snuggly in your dish after cooking, so add around a 1/3 more initially and allow for shrinkage), small glug of balsamic vinegar, glug of cooking oil (we use sunflower), knob of butter, 2 teas of fresh thyme, zest of 1/2 orange, juice of half an orange, 2 teas light brown sugar.

Lentil Stew
3 cups of green lentils, 1 finely chopped onion, 2 garlic cloves, big handful of chopped cherry tomatoes, 1 carrot, zest and juice of half a lemon, handful chopped coriander, 1 bay leaf, 1 knob butter, 1 teas thyme, 1 teas chilli flakes, good veg stock.

Dressing
Zest and juice of half a orange, 1/2 cup of good olive oil, handful of finely chopped mint, 1/2 teas dijon mustard, touch of honey (to just slightly sweeten), a little lemon juice (if your orange is super sweet, needs a little sourness in the dressing), s+p.

Do It

Preheat an oven, 200oC.

Lentils should be soaked for at least 6 hours in cold water.  Then bring to a simmer, add stock, bay leaf, herbs (not coriander), veggies (except toms), chilli (monitor chilli level depending on whos eating!).  Cook for half and hour, or until tender with a bit of bite to them.  5 minutes before serving, add toms, butter and lemon, stir well and just before serving stir in the coriander.

Roughly roll out and measure you pastry, should be slightly larger than the dish you are using, prick well with a fork, keep in fridge until needed. We used a heavy bottomed oval casserole dish.

Tatin Pre-bake

Heat dish for a few minutes, then take out and add your oil, butter, veggies, sugar, vinegar, thyme and season.  Mix well and bake in the oven for half an hour or until caramelised.  Then take out dish, squeeze on orange juice and a splash more oil.  Stir the veggies around to loosen and coat with the oil, make sure the veggies are packed in nice and tight (and flat), then carefully lay on your pastry case (brush top side with some olive oil), tuck in at edges, should fit nice and snug.  Put back in oven for 20 mins, or until nicely golden brown…..

Prepare dressing.  Add all ingredients to a bowl (small blender would be good for this) and mix vigorously together.  Check for seasoning and make sure its nicely citrus, to balance the sweetness of the tart.  Perfect when drizzled on all over the tart.

This is a good time to throw a green salad together.

The Voila! Moment

Take tatin out of oven and grab a serving plate that fits over the dish, place on top and skillfully using your oven gloves/ cloth, hold plate and dish together and flip over.  There should be a nice gentle thud, your tart is turned! Take off dish and viola!  A steaming, beautifully caramelised tatin in all its sticky glory.

Green Lentil Stew

Serve 

We chopped the tart up and served everything family style on the table with a nice glass of Purple Moose (flavoured with elderflowers!) and a green salad (rocket, romaine lettuce, cucumber and mint).

We Love It!

This was a proper feast for St Georges Day.  The patron saint of England (I am English) and countless other countries, including Syria, Serbia and the isle of Gozo.  Strange day really, celebrating the slaying of a dragon?!

Foodie Fact

You know we love our beet!  The greens of beetroots contain more nutrition than the roots and a higher iron content than spinach.  Beetroot is a great blood cleanser and builder for the blood.

Boozie Bit

Purple Moose all the way here!  Dad is now their newest no. 1 fan and he knows his way around an ale.  The Dark Side of the Moose was is my favourite and Dad is a fan of the Bog Myrtle Ale (a unique little number).  These beers seem to compliment anything!

 

Categories: Baking, Dinner, Dressings, Local food, Organic, Recipes, Special Occasion, Vegetarian, Welsh produce, Wine and Booze | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Coconut and Sweet Potato Polenta with Asian Vegetables

Mwynhewch eich bwyd! (Bon appetit in Welsh)

The East meets Wales with a stopover in Rome.
This is a rich polenta dish that adds a full-on Eastern flavour to this very European dish.
We served this dish with pan-fried Asian vegetables, flavoured with sweet chilli. We kept the veg organic and as local as possible, so we made some substitutions here. Instead of water chestnut, we used chunks of jerusalem artichoke, instead of pak choi, we used swiss chard, instead of spring onion, we used leek.  You can use any mixture of veg here, preferably a good mix of colours and textures.
This is luxurious modern dish that takes little time to prepare.  Vegans, just drop the butter, it will still taste amazing.
This makes enough for two hungry people with leftovers.
The Bits
Polenta – 1 large sweet potato (peeled and chopped), 1 1/2 pint of veg. stock, 1 1/2 cups of coconut milk, 4 cups of polenta, 1 knob of good unsalted butter, s + p.

Veg. – 3 cloves of sliced garlic, 1 leek sliced, 2cm cube of ginger sliced, 1 teas chilli flakes or fresh sliced chilli, 1 small head of broccoli chopped, 4 jerusalem artichoke chopped into chunks, 1 large carrot, 1 large handful of chopped swiss chard, splash of veg stock, 4 tbls sweet chilli sauce (we use Linghams brand), splash of veg oil, small knob of butter,

Do It

Polenta – Simmer veg stock in pan, cook sweet potato in stock until tender, around 15 minutes.  Blend with stock to a smooth paste in a blender.  Put mix back into a pan, add coconut milk and a little butter, bring to a gentle simmer and add polenta gradually whilst stirring.  Texture should be that of a wet mash, add the rest of the butter and season.  Cover and leave on a low heat until serving.

Veg. – Move onto veg, all pre-chopped and ready to go (important when cooking in an asian style, which is quickly cooked and immediately served, fresh and crunchy).  Heat the oil and butter in a frying pan or wok, add garlic, ginger and chilli, fry for 30 seconds, add all veg and toss together for a couple of minutes, then add the splash of stock and chilli sauce.

The new Beach House herb garden (soon to bloom)

Serve

In big warmed bowls, polenta poured into the base topped by the veg., spoon on the sauce  Serve and eat asap.

We Love It!

This is a really new take on Polenta for me.  The coconut and a touch of butter add a real luxurious finish to the polenta, which the sweet sauce compliments perfectly.  YUM.

Foodie Fact

Ginger, a pungent root with incredible properties.  Famed throughout the ages for its soothing effect on the intestines.  It can ease intestinal gas and relax the digestive tract.  Ginger is very effective at eliminating the effects of motion sickness and can generally help against nausea.  It contains gingerols that are a powerful anti-inflammatory compounds, aiding ailments like arthritis.  Gingerols also help us to fight off the big ‘C’.  Ginger boosts the immune system, which is why it seems so good on a cold morning with a little hot lemon and honey.  What a root!

Boozy Bit

Light white, medium bodied wine.  I would recommend a nice German White like a Riesling or Gewürztraminer.  Good German whites are not cheap, but well worth it, especially with spiced Eastern dishes.

Jane outside the Beach House, the day after the spring blizzard.

Categories: Dairy/ Lactose Free, Local food, Recipes, Special Occasion, Vegan, Vegetarian, Wales, Welsh produce, Wine and Booze | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

El Limonar Stew – A Taste of the Spanish Sun

The 'El Limonar'

The ‘El Limonar’ is not an everyday stew.  It reflects the culture and produce of a special little corner of Spain, the Costa Calida.

This dish that would suit any occasion this summertime, especially a special time when you are eating outside in the sunshine with the people who you love, a time when you are planning to open a few bottles of good wine (it is a Spanish stew after all!) and let the world just pass you by.

‘El Limonar’ is the name of the place my parents have in Spain, its near Cartagena, Murcia, for me it is one of the worlds most beautiful and relaxing places.  The lifestyle in Spain is slow, steeped in history, with much fiesta and siesta.  Relaxing is a way of life and food and drink play a major role in everyday life and traditional celebrations.

When I am in Spain, more than anywhere else in the world, I can happily revert to the wise words below:

‘Sólo un idiota puede ser totalmente feliz.’

‘Only an idiot can be totally happy.’

Mario Vargas Llosa

The Mediterranean sun brings life to the dry red earth.   Murcia is the hottest and driest region in Spain, but the local farmers use a lot of new technology and plenty of old world know-how to make the most of the parched land.  The area is covered with lemon, almond and olive trees, many old and gnarled.  A whole host of incredible local produce blooms with stunning flavours.  This stew combines many of these treats, most notably the sweet and smoky local pimenton (paprika).  We use Coato Paprika, an excellent local co-operative (http://www.coato.com/en/about-coato/).  The figs and almonds reflect the Moorish (North African) influence who were here for hundreds of years.  You can hear the sound of North Africa in every flamenco song.

Being a veggie in Spain is tough, we eat at home most of the time, using the produce from the local markets.  Old men and women gather every Sunday in a car park down at  the port and sell their crops.  We have our favourite olive lady, pepper man, spice mama, knife gypsy, Moroccan mint seller etcetc.  There are an array of characters and smiles.  I love to browse a good market.  It is also very cheap, which makes it that touch more satisfying.

The occasion for the ‘El Limonar’ was a visit from Rob and Linda.  They are super foodies who we met in a local cafe.  These shiny people deserved a treat so I put together this deluxe version of one of my tried and tested simmered chickpea recipes.

The technique is to simmer the chickpeas down until only a little stock remains (chickpea stock is delicious, almost beefy!) then begin to add the ingredients.  I find this retains a lot of flavour and gently cooks everything.  This stew did have some added roast vegetables, but it was most definitely a special occasion.

The best way to recreate this is in a colder country is to buy as much organic produce as possible.  Beautifully ripe tomatoes and a good quality Spanish paprika will give this dish a real taste of the Med!

Local Murcian Pimenton from Coato Cooperative, Totana

This is enough for 4 with plenty for lunch the next day (we are bulk cookers at  the B.H.K).

The Bits

5 cups of fat chickpeas (pre-soaked overnight), 1 bay leaf, good veg stock (enough to cover the chickpeas in the pan by 1 inch, maybe 1 litre), one big red onion (all veg chopped into interesting looking chunks), 1 large sweet red pepper, 1 aubergine, 1 courgette, 5 sweet tomatoes, 1 handful of cherry tomatoes, 6 sundried tomatos, 5 cloves of garlic (finely chopped), 2 tbs Coato paprika, 1 big glass of Spanish red wine (for authenticity), 1 sprig of rosemary, 2 teas of thyme, zest and juice of one large unwaxed lemon, 2 smoked dried peppers (if you can get your hands on them), 1 handful of roasted unsalted almonds (soaked overnight), 1 good handful of chopped dried figs, 1 good handful of pitted green olives (preferably manzanilla), chopped mint, coriander and parsley, s + p, olive oil to start and finish.

Do It

Most of these steps can be done beforehand and kept in the fridge overnight, the flavours will intensify.  Even better, cook everything for a little less time, get the stew together and re-heat it on the day. 

Add your pre-soaked chickpeas and one bay leaf to a pan of good veg stock, it should cover them by 1 inch.  Bring to a gentle boil then simmer until tender, normally 1 hour.   Skim of white froth regularly.  If the stock evaporates too quickly, put a lid on it.  After cooking the chickpeas should be just poking through the stock.

While they are simmering, chargrill in olive oil your large chunks of aubergine (should be well coloured and gooey inside), pepper, onion and courgette in a frying pan or griddle.  Best to do in batches and keep warm in a covered plate.  I chargrill my cherry tomatoes quickly to give them a little colour.

Add the paprika to the chickpeas and stir in well, then the tomatoes, rosemary, garlic, lemon zest and thyme, put the heat up and before it reaches a boil, add the rest of the ingredients except the wine, which you add just before the stew is about to boil.  Season.  Little finesse here, but maximum flavour!

Once the stew has reached a very gentle boil put the heat down to low and leave simmering, covered for one hour letting the flavours infuse nicely.  Check that the sauce has thickened and is not too thin, if so, turn the heat up and cook down.  Do not boil, this kills flavour.

Just before serving, check seasoning, add a glug of olive oil for shine and richness (or a glug of oil from your jar of sun-dried tomatoes as I did), the lemon juice and most of the chopped mint, coriander and parsley, mix gently in.

Serve

I topped it with a splash of olive oil, some of the left over herbs, finely sliced dried fig and a fistful of crushed almonds.

We ate our stew under the stars, over halved roasted butternut squash with brown rice, a spinach salad with a lemon and honey dressing and a cucumber and local spring onion (like wild garlic) yoghurt.  I think Rob and Linda were amazed at how much we eat!  It’s difficult for me to not get carried away with a kitchen full of amazing produce.

Jane having our 'millionare lunch' (which cost 8 euros)

Foodie Fact

Good old Christopher Columbus got his greedy hands on the pepper plant in South America and like everything else he found of value, brought it back to Spain (I’m not a huge fan of the behavior of these old explorer/conquistador types).

Paprika is made by grinding dried peppers, different paprika uses different peppers and can be sweet, smoked or spicy.  Paprika is used extensively in the cooking of Spain and also quite randomly, Hungary.  Good Goulash would be lost without it.  The name ‘Paprika’ actually comes from the Hungarian word for ‘Pepper’.

Paprika has a high sugar content which must be considered when cooking with it.  It burns easily.

By weight, Paprika contains more Vitamin C than lemon juice.

Boozy Bit

I haven’t had the chance to write about wine in a while.  Thank you Spain for giving me the excuse!

This is best with a wine from the south of Spain.  The stew incorporates many of the flavours of this evocative land, therefore the local wines compliment it perfectly.  We went for a young ‘Casa De La Ermita’ Organic Monastrell from Jumilla (a local wine region), with ripe fruits, lovely vanilla scented oak and dark violet colour.  Monastrell is generally a concentrated wine with good structure and this one held its own with this blockbuster stew.

Casa De La Ermita is a wondeful winery and you can buy the wine in the U.K., I think I even saw it in Tescos.  The Crianza is a very stylish example of the quality of wine now produced in Jumilla, formerly a very ‘rustic’ wine growing region.  They also make a great white and an interesting Petit Verdot.

Here’s their site:

http://www.casadelaermita.com/vinos/casadelaermita_tintoecologico.php

'Casa De La Ermita' Crianza, fine wine from Jumilla, Spain.

Categories: 'The Good Life', Dairy/ Lactose Free, Dinner, Gluten-free, Healthy Eating, Low G.I. (glycemic index), Lunch, Organic, Photography, Recipes, Relax, Special Occasion, Travel, Vegan, Vegetarian, Wine and Booze | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Bitter Chocolate Ricotta

We had this on Valentines, in tea cups.  It’s rich and velvety.

The pinch of salt really brought out the bitterness of the chocolate.  Jane and I aren’t really into very sweet desserts, so this was near perfection.  It’s not a choc pud for those with a super sweet tooth.  Try something new!

With few ingredients, you can’t skimp on quality here.  Use good chocolate and a nice ricotta.

I used ‘Halen Mon’ salt (http://www.halenmon.com/) with Taitian Vanilla.  They are a local salt company, based on Anglesey, who produce some stunning salts.  We don’t use much, so the little we use is important.

As usual with the B.H.K is easy to get together, with very little washing up!

Use 1/2 tub of ricotta and 2/3 bar of chocolate for two people.

The Bits

1 bar of quality dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa), 1 tub of ricotta cheese, 2 pinches of Halen Mon Vanilla Salt (or good sea salt), dried fruits

Do It

Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan with boiled water.  Stir.  Scrap out into a bowl with ricotta cheese, add a couple of pinches of salt, fold in until blended.  The chocolate should be enough to balance the flavour with sweetness, if you add too much salt add a little sugar or honey until its right.

Serve

We topped ours with some dried strawberries and Physalis (see GRAZE article), most dried fruits would be fine or some Amoretti biscuits would go nicely.

We Love It

A quick dessert, minimum fuss and maximum enjoyment!  The Vanilla Salt is a real star here, it adds so much.

Foodie Fact

Chocolate is packed with flavonoids, helping our cells and good monounsaturated fats that can lower cholesterol (if you only eat a few chunks!)

Categories: Cheese, Desserts, Gluten-free, Recipes, Special Occasion, Treats, Vegetarian | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

The Pancake Bake

Looks like a mess though tastes rather amazing

Pancake day is coming soon?  This makes a proper meal out of it.

‘The Pancake Bake’ is more a method, than a specific recipe.

You will end up with succulent layered oven baked pancake wonder.  Hopefully drenched in creamy cheese and a rich tomato stew.  Due to the presentation and perceived difficulty of this dish, its bound to impress friends, guests and family.

The ingredients can chop and change depending on whats in your fridge, that’s the beauty of this.  Its learning the basics and filling in the blanks with your lovely creativity.

The main components are cheese, tomatoes and stuff to make pancakes with.  That should be easy enough.  It takes a while to get together, but when you’ve done it once, you’ll be knocking out bakes like a veteran.

Fresh, fresh tomatoes and spinach with fistfuls of quality strong cheese will make this dish sing for you.  Its worth spending the extra pence on your taste buds (but not necessary).  Balance your pocket with the occasion and how much you love the people eating pancakes (including yourself!!!!).

This is a dish perfectly designed to warm, satisfy and comfort after a particularly wintry day.

Makes enough for two hungry mouths (we eat two pancakes eat).  As usual, it can be made vegan or gluten-free with a few twists and is equally delicious (just not that creamy).  If you haven’t tried a gram flour pancake, give them a whirl.  They’re brilliant with an earthy flavour.

The Bits

Tomato Stew – A small glug of oil (I don’t normally use olive oil for cooking, something cheaper but good ie veg or sunflower), 3 fat cloves of garlic (chopped), 5 tomatoes (or one tin of good chopped tomatoes), one large onion, 1 cup of veg stock (or water), herbs (we used fresh basil and thyme), add one veg or more (we used carrot and potato, we needed some ballast!), salt and pepper to taste.

The Spinach Layer – Good glug of oil, 3 fat cloves of garlic (chopped), a large pan of spinach leaves (the more the better, they cook down to not much).

Cheese – The one you like best.  Quantity depends on how much you want to use.  Get a normal sized block and see how you go.  Vegans add a nice tofu here.

Pancakes – Glugs of oil, one cup of wholewheat flour (gluten free, use gram flour), 1 egg (not essential), 1/2 cup of milk (soya if you like), 3/4 cup of filtered water, 2 teas dried thyme (or similar herb), s+p to taste.  A few roasted sunflower seeds can make a real treat of these.

Do It

Get the tomato stew on the go.  In a thick bottom pan on medium heat, add olive oil and thinly sliced onions.  Stir and cook for at least 10 minutes, until softened and sweet, then add garlic, fry for a couple of minutes then add the tomatoes, herbs and s+p.  Simmer for a few minutes then add stock, continue the simmer with the top off until the sauce thickens, then pop a lid on and leave on a low heat to infuse a little.   You could call this a ragout if you like, it’s a basic sauce for many pasta dishes.  Good to get the ragout in the repertoire.

In a large sauce pan (spinach takes up a lot of space initially), medium heat, a glug of oil and flash fry some chopped garlic.  Then pack the pan full of washed spinach leaves, season with s+p (if needed).  Leave for a minute, then stir the leaves down.  It should only take 5 minutes to get them wilted.  The oil should make them nice and shiny.  Set aside.

Chop your cheese into chunks.  We used a strong local cheddar, parmesan, blue cheese, goats cheese, really anything except cheese slices will be good here.  Your favourite is probably best.  Slice it into pieces that would grace a hearty sandwich.

Now for the tricky bit.  The pancakes.  They can take a little practice to get right, so the quantities here give you some breathing space.  Try a couple before going for the ‘presentation’ pancake.

In a large bowl, add all of the dry pancake ingredients with egg and milk.   Mix a little, I use a hand blender for this, you could hand whisk.  Gradually add water as you mix, you are looking for a batter with the texture of double cream.  Set aside for a couple of minutes to rest.

Pre-heat the oven to 200oC (most recipes tell you to pre-heat the oven far to early, it only takes 5 minutes and you’ll save a load of energy this way).

In a medium size casserole dish or similar (preferably ceramic, they look great).  Add a glug of oil and swoosh it around to cover it nicely.

In a small non-stick frying pan, get the pancakes fired up.  In a hot pan (medium heat, but adjust accordingly as you go) a small glug of oil followed by approx 1/4 cup of batter.  It should cover the base of the pan, but not much more.  Tilting the pan and rolling the batter around, until it meets each panside.

Leave for a minute, then with a thin spatula, life the edges away from the sides, make sure it loose.  Cook for a few minutes, the batter on top should be solid, then flip.  You can either go for the flick wrist acrobatic toss, or the gentile flip, using the spatula to support the pancakes progress.  This will take a bit of practice, don’t worry if the first attempt lands somewhere outside of the pan.  A taster!  When you get the knack, prepare 4 decent pancakes (they don’t have to be perfect!) and lay them on a plate covered with paper towels (to drain any surplus oil).  That’s a hell of a method!  But once mastered, is a real sinch.

Now for the layering.  Remember to portion your bits, you are aiming  for four and enough to pour over the finished pancakes.  On a board/ plate, beside your casserole dish, lay a pancake out flat.  Spoon in approx 2 heaped tbs of ragout, in a line across the centre of the pancake, spread across (not too much you have to roll these suckers).  Top with a layer of spinach, then a decent layer of chopped cheese.  Now gather one side of the pancake and flip it over, tuck and press with your fingers, then quickly whip over the other edge of the pancake to a make a fat sausage.  Hold together in with downward pressure from your hand.  Be firm but gentle.  Some sauce may shoot out of the end, enjoy that.  Now place the pancake fold down on the casserole dish.  Repeat and no doubt, get better with your rolling skills.

When four pancakes are laid out in a neat(ish) row, pour over remaining stew. It should get a good covering, sprinkle the left over cheese and spinach, the more the merrier and whack it in the oven for 20 minutes or until all the cheese is golden and melted and the sauce is bubbling nicely.

You can prepare all of this before hand, all the bits will sit nicely in the fridge overnight.  I’d heat the stew a little first though and keep the pancakes in a tight container or well cling’d.  I would always assemble the dish close to mealtime, the pancakes can go soggy.

Serve

With a good crisp salad tossed in a nice citrus dressing.  I’d finish off the bake with a few more leaves of torn fresh herb.

We Love It

You’ll be proud to view this Pancake Bake sitting in the middle of the dinner table,  it’s so unctuous all over and does have a hint of the wow factor.   Because it’s so rich, it’s a good one for carnivores.

Foodie fact

Allegedly the Mayans first cultivated tomatoes.  It’s a member of the nightshade family which includes aubergine, potato and chillies.   Unique to tomatoes, Lycopene helps to protect your cells from harmful free radicals, it also helps to protect the skin from U.V. rays.

Pickled Part

You don’t want something too tannic and overpowering here, I’d go white, something dry and with good acidity, like a Sauvignon Blanc.  Splash out on a decent bottle of French Touraine Sauvignon.  Normally packed full of fresh fruits, a good one should be around 6-8 pounds and have a decent structure to hold its own against the strong flavours in this dish.

You could go for a lighter red style and Chianti historically goes well with the rich tomato and cheese sauces of Italian cuisine.  I just think that the white will cut through the melted cheese and leave your mouth feeling vibrant and ready for more bake.

Categories: Cheese, Dairy/ Lactose Free, Dinner, Lunch, Recipes, Special Occasion, Vegan, Vegetarian | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jane’s Roasted Goats Cheese and Med Veg Lasagna

Phwoarrrr! Nice LasagnaXXXX

Jane created this decadent Lasagna(ish) recipe as a special treat for last nights dinner.  We were celebrating St Dwynwen’s Day (Welsh Valentines Day), 25th January.  See my other blog for more info:

http://leroywatson4.wordpress.com/2011/09/08/lovers-island-and-llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch-wales-8th-september-2011/

Jane is normally busy (juggling two jobs at the minute) but took the time out to whip up this wonder and it was rich and delicious.  It’s like a cross between Moussaka and a classic Lasagna, with lots of luxury twists along the way.

We have used wheat free pasta here, but normal pasta will be just as good.

This was packed full of love, which is just as well, we’ll be munching our way through this for days!

It takes a while to get together and the veg is not exactly local (unless you are lucky enough to be on the Med), but it’s a one off!

Makes one large oven dish full, serves 4 big people.

The Bits

2 aubergines, 2 bell peppers (yellow and orange look good), 1 large courgette, 2 large field mushrooms all roughly chopped into chunks and sprinkled with fresh thyme and rosemary.

2 large red onions and 4 cloves of garlic, finely sliced, 8 medium ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped, a little dried oregano, 2 handfuls of chopped roasted hazelnuts (one for topping, one for the sauce), 2 handfuls of halved olives, 1 handful of fresh basil leaves, 2 handfuls of spinach, 3 tbsp tomato pesto (or 3 tbsp tomato puree), glug of red wine.

1 knob of butter, 1 ounce of plain flour, 1 big lump of good mature cheddar (grated), 1 pint of good creamy milk, 1 tbsp of whole grain mustard.

1 lump of creamy goats cheese (sliced)

1 packet gluten-free lasagna sheets (200g)

Salt (if needed) and pepper.  We don’t add much salt to our food, especially this.  The cheese and pesto will add saltiness.

Do It

Heat the oven to 200 0c.

Toss aubergine, peppers, courgette and mushrooms in olive oil and a good amount of thyme and rosemary, stick in oven on a baking tray, cook until nicely soft and coloured, around 15 minutes.  Cover and set aside.

In a good pan soften the onions and garlic on medium heat for 10 minutes, when nice and sweet and soft, add a glug of red wine, then tomatoes and a few shakes of oregano, heat for further 10 minutes until all broken down nicely.   Season (if needed).  Then add spinach and basil leaves, halved olives, tomato pesto(or tomato puree) and the roasted veggies.  Mix up, the sauce should be nicely thickened.  Cover and simmer.

Then in another smaller pan on lowish heat, melt butter, stir in flower, add milk slowly whilst stirring constantly, until a smooth sauce is formed.  Stir in grated cheddar (keep a bit for the topping) and mustard (I would sneek a little goats cheese in there too), it should have the texture of a ‘thin custard’.  If not add more milk or flour (made into a loose paste).

Then its layering time.  Make sure you ration the sauce well.  In the oven dish, ladle in a layer of veg, cover with random sheets of pasta, then a layer of cheese sauce, more pasta, then repeat with veg first until dish is full, normally twice (or until you run out of sauce!).  So thats veg pasta cheese pasta veg pasta cheese.

On the last layer of cheese sauce, top with liberal slices of goats cheese, a bit of grated cheddar, a sprinkling of roasted hazelnuts and some fresh thyme.

Heat for 40 minutes at 200 0c, check after 20 mins and cover with foil if getting burnt.

Serve

Cut into slabs and get it on a plate.  We had ours with a simple crunchy green salad.  Best eaten beside an open fire.

We Love It

Two cheeses and the occasional crunch of a hazelnut.  There are so many flavours here, it’s a sunshine party in your mouth.  This is a truly unique lasagna/ moussaka!!!  Food with an identity crisis just shows that the experiments are working!  Not one for the faint hearted or calorie conscious.

Foodie Fact

Tomatoes and Peppers contain more vitamin C than Oranges.  Vitamin C is good for maintaining a healthy immune system and keeps tissues healthy.  Great in these winter months.

Pickled Part

We drank a nice Chianti with ours. Full of cherries.  Look for something red, dry(ish) and acidic (cut through the cheese sauce and stand up to the tangy toms).  You can pick up a decent, reasonably priced Chianti on the high street.  As with most good Italian wines, ask for a D.O.C.G, which is basically a sign of quality.  A higher stamp of approval from the Italian wine people.

Mmmmm. Leftovers

Categories: Cheese, Dinner, Recipes, Special Occasion, Vegetarian, Wine and Booze | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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