I love gnocchi, but only if they are pan-fried. I found boiled ones to be a bit heavy and sloppy. When I discovered pan-fried gnocchi (thanks to Nigella!), it was a game changer and since then I don’t do it any other way.
If I remember it right, I saw this recipe on one of the Sainsbury’s recipe cards, which you can pick up from the store. The recipe is so easy and adaptable, you can easily adjust it to your taste.
PAN-FRIED GNOCCHI WITH WATERCRESS PESTO & ROASTED TOMATOES
200g cherry tomatoes, halved
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
75ml olive oil, plus extra for frying
3 tbsp walnuts/pine nuts, toasted
1 x 110g bag watercress
1 x 500g pack fresh gnocchi
100g fine green beans, halved
- Preheat the oven to 200C. Place the halved tomatoes on the oiled roasting tray and roast until they are ready and caramelised on the edges.
- While the tomatoes are roasting, make the pesto by putting the garlic, olive oil, walnuts and the watercress in a food processor, blitz to combine. Check for seasoning.
- Heat a large frying pan with a splash of olive oil, add the gnocchi and toss gently over a medium-high heat for 6-8 minutes until lightly golden.
- Meanwhile, cook the beans in boiling salted water for 2-3 minutes until just tender, drain.
- To assemble, add the pesto to the gnocchi and toss together. Gently stir in the beans and tomatoes. Serve as a side dish or as a main with some salad.
Here is a quick improvisation on one of the classic Italian Polpette, which I made few times before, which I highly recommend. Fennel is this magic ingredient, which transforms these meatballs to another level of deliciousness.
This time I ran out of fennel seeds, instead I just added some chilli powder, paprika & Worcestershire sauce for a little bit of kick, plus cannellini beans for some substance.
PORK POLPETTE IN TOMATO SAUCE WITH CANNELLINI BEANS
For tomato sauce:
100ml extra virgin olive oil
1 white onion, finely sliced
1 garlic clove, chopped
1/2 tbsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
pinch of chilli flakes to your taste
1/2 paprika powder
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
1 small handful of oregano, finely chopped
pinch of caster sugar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (optional)
1 x 400g tin of cannellini beans (or any other canned beans of your choice)
chopped dill/parsley to garnish (optional)
For the Polpette:
1.5 kg minced pork
3 medium free-range eggs
large pinch of dried chilli flakes
salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
- To make a sauce, heat half the oil in a large saucepan and sweat the onion, garlic, salt, pepper and chilli on a medium heat for about 15 minutes. When transparent, add the tinned tomatoes, cannelloni beans and bring to a gentle simmer. Leave to bubble on the lowest heat for about 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the sugar, Worcestershire sauce, if using, and the oregano. Taste and see if it needs anything else. Set aside for now.
- To make meatballs, preheat the oven to 220C. Put the pork, eggs, breadcrumbs, chilli flakes, salt and pepper into a large mixing bowl and massage thoroughly. Roll into approx 45g balls, place them on a greased baking tray and roast in the oven for 10 minutes, turning once until they are starting to brown.
- Then poach the meatballs in the tomato & beans sauce for 10 minutes.
- Serve on its own with some fresh chopped herbs and nice crusty bread or focaccia.
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)
200g butter,at room temperature
250g farmers/cottage cheese
350g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
sugar for rolling , approx 150g
- Preheat the oven to 180C. Line up a baking sheet with the parchment paper.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Place the cookies on pre lined baking tray and bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until the cookies are puffed and golden.
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
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)
- In a medium-sized saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onion, sauté for a few minutes or until softened and translucent.
- 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.
- Add the passata/chopped tomatoes, chicken stock, petit pois, chilli powder and salt, mix well, lower heat and cover with a lid.
- 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.
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
(All quantities are flexible)
Preferably whole grain bread, sliced
sweet apple, sliced
mature cheddar, grated or sliced
- Place the slices of bread on baking sheet.
- Top with sliced apple and grated cheddar cheese, few twists of black pepper on top.
- Place it under the grill until cheese has melted, approx. 2-3 minutes or until it’s golden and bubbling.
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)
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
- 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.
- Add the chipolatas, increase the heat a little and continue to cook about 15 minutes or until the meat is almost cooked.
- 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.
- 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.
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)
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
85g mature cheddar, grated
- 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.
- Meanwhile boil the sweet potatoes for 15 minutes or until cooked, drain well and mash with the butter, season well to taste.
- 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.
- 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.