Soft Cottage Cheese Biscuits

These biscuits are a taste of childhood for me. It comes from the time when our mums couldn’t get hold of chocolate, nuts or any other ‘exotic’ ingredients easily, so they had to make some treats with what was available. However, the cottage cheese was a staple ingredients in any household, hence in our culture so many recipes are based on this product, which is still very popular to this day.

These biscuits are very frugal, just 4 ingredients, but you need to get hold of this type of cottage cheese/farmers cheese/tvorog to get a right consistency. Luckily, it’s widely available in all big supermarkets, in  ‘world section’.

They are the best while still warm, with glass of milk.

SOFT COTTAGE CHEESE BISCUITS

(About 30-35 biscuits)

Ingredients:

200g butter,at room temperature

250g farmers/cottage cheese

350g plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

sugar for rolling , approx 150g

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Line up a baking sheet with the parchment paper.
  2. In a big bowl, mix together the butter and cottage cheese first, then add the flour and baking powder. Using a wooden spoon or a mixer, make sure it is well incorporated. At this stage, you might need to add a bit more flour to get the consistency of sought when it is pliable, but not sticking to the hands.
  3. Then, on a lightly dusted with flour clean surface, roll out the dough at about 0.5 cm thickness. Cut the circuits with the cookies cutter (I prefer using 3 inches/88mm cutter).  Cut as much circles from the dough as possible, save the scraps, scrunch them into a little ball and reuse it, repeating the the same process.
  4. Put the sugar into a small bowl and press one side of  the circle of dough into the sugar. Fold it in half to form a half moon shape. Press one side into the sugar again, fold it in half and press one of the sides in the sugar. Alternately, you can press both sides in the sugar straight away, but in this case your biscuits will be much darker in colour and crispier. I normally do half and half to satisfy everyone. Notice that there is no sugar added in a dough, so you control how much sugar you want to roll into the biscuits.
  5. Place the cookies on pre lined baking tray and bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until the cookies are puffed and golden.

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Mexican Red Rice

This rice dish is full of flavour and texture and is great side for almost any savoury Mexican dish or just on its own with avocado and tangy salsa.

MEXICAN RED RICE

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1-1/2 cups uncooked long grain white rice

3 cloves garlic, minced

2-1/2 cups vegetarian/chicken stock (from the cubes is just fine)

400g passata/canned chopped tomatoes

1 teaspoon chilli powder

1/2 cup frozen petits pois

salt to taste

chopped spring onion/coriander for serving (optional)

Method:

  1. In a medium-sized saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onion, sauté for a few minutes or until softened and translucent.
  2. Add the dry rice and continue cooking, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes or until rice becomes a golden brown colour. Do not allow the rice to burn. Add the garlic to the rice and cook for one more minute.
  3. Add the passata/chopped tomatoes, chicken stock, petit pois, chilli powder and salt, mix well, lower heat and cover with a lid.
  4. Simmer for 20 to 25 minutes until all liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and allow to sit, covered, for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve.

 

 

Open Grilled Sandwich with Apple & Cheese

My Mum used to make this on Sundays for breakfast. What a treat it was, sweet apple slices make a simple grilled cheese sandwich taste gourmet.

OPEN GRILLED SANDWICH WITH APPLE & CHEESE

Ingredients:

(All quantities are flexible)

Preferably whole grain bread, sliced

sweet apple, sliced

mature cheddar, grated or sliced

black pepper

Method:

  1. Place the slices of bread on baking sheet.
  2. Top with sliced apple and grated cheddar cheese, few twists of black pepper on top.
  3. Place it under the grill until cheese has melted,  approx. 2-3 minutes or until it’s golden and bubbling.

Chipolatas with Caramelised Onions and Cranberries

Following Nigel Slater TV advice, with a few improvisations, I’ve been using up all remains of  Christmas (and the freezer). It takes very little effort to prepare, but tastes very festive and special.

CHIPOLATAS WITH CARAMELISED ONION AND CRANBERRIES

(Adapted from N. Slater recipe)

Ingredients:

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

2-3 red onions, thinly sliced

1 pack of your preferred chipolatas

150g fresh cranberries

2 tablespoons cranberry jam

splash of red wine (optional)

pinch of cinnamon

handful of fresh spinach

Method:

  1. Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based frying pan over a low heat. Add the onions, stir to coat the onion in the oil. Cover the pan and cook very slowly for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent them from burning.
  2. Add the chipolatas, increase the heat a little and continue to cook about 15 minutes or until the meat is almost cooked.
  3. Add the fresh cranberries, pinch of cinnamon, cranberry jam and splash of wine, if using. Mix well to coat everything evenly, cover with lid and cook for another 10 minutes.
  4. At the end of the cooking mix in some fresh spinach, give another minute or two, taste for seasoning, serve with some hearty bread or with puy lentils.

 

Veggie Shepherd’s Pie with Sweet Potato Topping

I could’ t recommend this veggie version of shepherd’s pie enough. I first tried it when I had to prepare a dinner  for a few vegetarians some time ago. Since then it became my choice of preference, even over meaty version. Addition of the red wine is a must!

VEGGIE SHEPHERD’S PIE WITH SWEET POTATO TOPPING

(adapted from BBC Good Food collection)

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large onion, finely diced

2 large carrots, finely cubed

2 celery sticks, finely cubed

2 tablespoons thyme, chopped

200ml red wine

400g can chopped tomatoes

2 vegetable stock cubes

400g cooked green/puy lentils (alternatively 1x410g canned lentil)

About 1kg sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in chunks

25g butter

85g mature cheddar, grated

Method:

  1. In a large frying pan, heat the oil, then fry the onion until golden. Add the carrots, celery and thyme,  continue to cook for a few more minutes. Then pour in the wine, 150ml of water and the tomatoes, sprinkle the stock cubes and simmer for 15 minutes. Tip in the lentils and simmer for another 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile boil the sweet potatoes for 15 minutes or until cooked, drain well and mash with the butter, season well to taste.
  3. Pile the lentil mixture into a pie oven-proof dish, spoon the mash on top, sprinkle over with the grated cheese and some extra thyme if you wish. At this stage, pie can be covered and chilled for 2 days, or frozen for up to a month.
  4. If you are cooking straight away, heat the oven up to 180C. Cook for 20 minutes if cooking straight away, or for 40 minutes from chilled. In both cases cook until golden on the top and hot  and bubbly all the way through. Serve with green veggies of your choice.

Chicken with Prunes, Saffron & Paprika

Rick Stein is one of my absolute favourite TV chefs. He seems to me such a good personality, with his never ending passion for food that it’s almost infectious. He also is great story teller, with a good sense of humour. I loved his ‘Long weekends’ episodes and after watching it, I discovered Bologna. My sister lives just an hour away from Bologna, but every time visiting her, I never considered to visit this place, thinking of it more like a ‘bus or a train stop’ on the way to Tuscany or further a field. And only after watching an episode on Bologna by Rick Stein we decided to pay a visit, and so glad we that we did.

Then again, inspired by his other trip, we went to Sicily and fell in love with the country and its FOOD.

By coincidence, a friend of mine gave me his book (‘Long weekends’) for my birthday, I was thrilled. Not only does it take me back to those wonderful locations from the series and my own travels, it’s also packed with amazing food ideas, tips and techniques.

One of my highlights from this book is this recipe below. It takes only a few ingredients and no time to prepare at all, mainly waiting for it to be cooked.

CHICKEN WITH PRUNES, SAFFRON & PAPRIKA

(from Rick Stein’s ‘Long weekends’ book)

Ingredients:

8 skinless chicken thighs

1 litre water

pinch of saffron

4 tablespoons olive oil

3 red onions, finely sliced

1.5 tablespoon sweet paprika

20 pitted prunes

1 teaspoon salt

blask pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Place the chicken thighs in a saucepan with the water and the saffron. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and allow to poach for 10-15 minutes. Drain, reserving the cooking liquid.
  2. In a large heavy bottomed pan heat the olive oil over medium-low heat and gently sweat the onion util very soft, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add the paprika, cook for 2 minutes, then add the chicken thighs, about 700ml of the cooking liquid and the prunes. Season with the salt and pepper and simmer for about 20 minutes, until heated through.
  4. If at the end of the cooking it remains very watery, remove the chicken, prunes and onion with the slotted spoon and keep it warm while you reduce down the sauce until desired consistency.
  5. Serve it with some rice dish of your choice. I also love it with plain buttery buckwheat.

Beetroot Risotto with Prawns and Horseradish

I’ve recently made this risotto for a dinner with the girls and it turned out to be a very successful dish. Considering that the ingredients are slightly unusual for a risotto, they work so well together. Rich and smooth without an overpowering beetroot flavour, and a pretty dish to serve.

 BEETROOT RISOTTO WITH PRAWNS AND HORSERADISH

(Adapted from ‘Dinner at mine’ by Annie Nochols)

Ingredients:

About 800g small raw beetroots

50g butter

2-4 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, chopped

3 celery sticks, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

1 large tomato or 2 small ones, chopped

1.5 litres chicken or vegetable stock

400g risotto rice

200ml dry white wine

250g cooked peeled prawns

fresh dill to garnish

3-4 teaspoons creamed horseradish

250ml soured cream to serve (optional)

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 190C. Clean the beetroots, leaving the skin on, trim any stringy roots. Wrap up each beetroot in foil and bake for about an hour or until tender. When cooked, remove the beets from the oven, let it cool before peeling away the skin. Grate the beetroots and set aside.
  2. For the risotto, heat the butter and the olive oil together in a large heavy-bottomed pan, add the chopped onion, celery, carrots and cook them on a moderate heat until golden colour and well softened.
  3. Then add the chopped tomatoes and continue to cook for another few minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, place the stock in another pan and bring to just below boiling point; keep on the heat.
  5. Add the rice to the vegetable and cook for about 3 minutes or until the grains are slightly translucent. Add the wine and keep stirring until all of the liquid has been absorbed. Now add the grated beetroots.
  6. Then add a ladleful of the hot stock, stir in well and reduce the heat. Keep adding the stock, one ladleful a time, stirring and making sure that each ladleful has been absorbed before adding the next. You don’t need to stir the risotto all the time, but just make sure that it’s not sticking. Continue to cook until the rice is ready and very slightly al dente. 
  7. Once risotto is cooked, remove the pan from the heat, check for seasoning, cover and leave to stand for 5 minutes.
  8. For the garnish, mix soured cream with the horseradish, chop the dill. (If you prefer, you can add horseradish straight to the risotto and omit soured cream.)
  9. To serve, spoon the risotto into bowls and top with the prawns, chopped dill and horseradish cream.