Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Pasta

Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Pasta, it tastes good, looks good, and is full of iron.

It was one of those Sundays where time passed as life between meals. It is my favourite kind of life.

My stomach was a bottomless pit, and I had little else to do but cook lots. And lots. I made a cake too, but that was not enough.

Sometimes I like a challenge, so I chose this, inspired by GHK food again. It looks visually like a lot of work! Truth is it isn’t that much work at all, just some serious stuffing skills.

Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Pasta

You will need:

  • 450g fresh spinach
  • 125g ricotta
  • 1 medium free range egg
  • A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • Zest of ½ lemon
  • 25g grated parmesan
  • 225g conchiglione shells or large enough pasta to stuff, I used this
  • 25g each grated parmesan
  • Your favourite tomato sauce recipe
  • 1 tbs cream cheese

1) Make the sauce (I fry off 2 cloves of crushed garlic, add 1 tsp oregano, one can tinned tomatoes, pinch of sugar and a splash of Worcestershire sauce). Then set the oven to 180 degrees celsius.

2) Wilt down the spinach in a large pan and squeeze out most of the moisture. Run the spinach under some cold water first if you are squeezing it with your palms!

3) Chop the spinach finely, then stir in the the ricotta, egg, nutmeg and parmesan.

4) Cook the pasta for 10 minutes, then use a teaspoon to fill each pasta shape with the spinach and ricotta filling.

5) Pour the sauce into an oven proof dish, stir in the cream cheese then arrange the shapes.

6) Grate over more parmesan or cheddar if you prefer, and bake for 20-25 mins until bubbling and slightly golden.

Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Pasta

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Baked Fish and Fresh Pesto

Fresh pesto is my new obsession. I can’t describe how much better it is than that stuff out a jar! It’s cheesier, garlicky-er, basily-er, errrrmazing.

You can buy it from most supermarkets in the bit where they sell fresh pasta and italian stuff. Me and my italian-food obsessed friend want to make pasta soon, and I can’t wait to pair mine with some of this pesto.

Baked Fish and Fresh Pesto

We used Cod, but you can use any white fish. Make sure it’s from a sustainable source, and preferably has one of these symbols on it because fish are friends and the ocean is cool.

Fish guide

You will need:

  • 1 pot fresh pesto
  • 1 lemon
  • white fish fillets- one per person
  • green beans
  • Organic tomatos on the vine
  • British asparagus spears
  • New potatoes- boiled
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Baked Fish and Fresh Pesto

1) Set your oven at 180C. Prepare your green beans and asparagus. To get rid of the tough ends on the vegetable, bend the spear from the base and it should snap at the point where it is less woody. Then blanche the greens for 6 minutes until supple. Pop these to one side while you prepare your fish.

2) lay the fish fillets onto a large deep baking pan with a good glug of olive oil. Throw in the beans, asparagus and vine tomatos to the pan, then place in the oven to bake for 10 minutes. If you want you can add your new potatoes to the pan and squash them slightly with a fork to oven roast them.

3) After 10 minutes, remove the pan and spoon 1.5 tbsp of fresh pesto onto each fish fillet before returning to the oven for a further 10 minutes.

4) When the fish is baked, serve and enjoy al fresco or at a dinner party.

Pesto is also pretty easy to make, so you could try it with your own! Let me know if you have any great pesto recipes.

Baked Fish and Fresh Pesto

Lemon Meringue Pie

A zingy lemon filling with a golden crisp top meringue and absolutely no soggy bottoms. Mary Berry would be proud.

Happy April!

I hope you are all owners of slightly rounder stomachs in the wake of Easter, if not please come and help yourself to my chocolate before I resemble Augustus Gloop.

The sun is shining today, so maybe spring has finally arrived (touch wood, white rabbits). Either way, I am going to provide you with a springy zingy recipe to celebrate, and bombard you with cheesy puns and sayings along the way.

This is the first Lemon Meringue Pie I have ever made, so it’s proof that anyone can make it with success. The proof is in the pudding!

Lemon Meringue Pie

I was helped by life long best friend Polly Wicks (can’t get rid of her), who was especially good removing egg shells and taking pictures. There were a few ups and downs along the way; at one point it nearly fell on the floor, which I’m sure Mr Pigley would have been very happy about. But we made it out the other side mostly unscathed.

Confession: I didn’t make the pastry due to time constraints, laziness, and a short attention span. Next time I will I promise!

Also, before we start I would like words with whoever invented the spelling for Meringue. Seriously give me a break, my spell check has never had to work harder.

Lemon Meringue Pie

You will need:

  • Sweet short crust pastry- bought or made. Don’t feel guilty if you cheat, Delia does it!

For the filling:

  • 2 level tbsp cornflour
  • 100g golden caster sugar
  • finely grated zest of 2 large lemons
  • 125ml fresh lemon juice (from 3-4 lemons)
  • juice 1 small orange
  • 85g butter , cut into chunks
  • 3 egg yolks and plus 1 whole egg

For the meringue:

  • 4 egg whites at room temperature, avoid all yolks!
  • 200g golden caster sugar
  • 2 level tsp cornflour
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence

1) First you need to bake your pastry so that it retains it’s shape and there is no soggy business. Roll it out and lay it into your 23 x 2.5cm pastry tin with push out base. Leave the excess over the edges as the pastry shrinks in the oven, you can cut it off afterwards. I didn’t do this… I call it literal shortcrust pastry.

Bake it at 180 degrees for 15 mins with greaseproof paper and rice on it to weigh it down and stop the pastry rising.

2) Remove the greaseproof and bake for another 4 mins.

Lemon Meringue Pie
“Short crust” pastry

3) Leave this to one side and begin to make your filling. For this you need to stir your sugar, cornflour and lemon juice together on a medium heat in a pan. Do this until it is slightly sticky, then add your zest and orange juice, plus however much water you need to make the orange juice up to 200 ml.

4) Stir until thick, bubbling and smooth. Then remove from the heat and stir in the butter chunks until melted.

5) Beat in the egg yolks and whole egg- save the egg whites for the meringue. The trick with separating egg yolks is to crack the egg in half, keeping the yolk as a whole in one half of the shell and the white dribbles out. I’m always scared when I do this! But try this tutorial.

6) The mix will be thick, yellow, custard looking and jelly like. Remove it from the heat and now make the meringue.

Lemon Meringue Pie

7) Beat the 4 egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Make sure there is no yolk or shell in the whites- polly was in charge of this!

She likes pugs
She likes pugs

8) Add the sugar gradually with the corn flour. It will still form thick peaks and have a glistening sheen to the mix. If it is ready you can hold your bowl upside down and the mix won’t fall out!

Lemon Meringue Pie

Lemon Meringue Pie

I was actually very scared...!

I was actually very scared…!

9) Reheat the filling and pour it into the pastry case, then spoon on the meringue starting from around the edges or it will sink in the middle.

Lemon Meringue Pie

10) Bake in the oven for 18-20 mins at 180 degrees until the meringue is slightly golden and crisp on top. Let it cool in the tin for 30 mins, then remove and leave it to cool for another 1hr.

Lemon Meringue Piem

Lemon Meringue Pie

Lemon Meringue Pie

Polenta, Roast Veg and Halloumi Salad

This salad is a marriage of the italians and the greeks.

Polenta, Roast Veg and Halloumi Salad- The vegaquarium

Halloumi is a greek goats cheese, but it isn’t squishy and hairy like regular goats cheese. It has a salty taste and a rubbery texture and it is my favourite cheese ever.

Polenta is a cornmeal based carb, and it is loved by the italians. It has a squidgy texture that crisps off in the frying pan. I have never cooked with it before but it is so versitile! You can grill, fry, boil and best of all for us students, you can microwave it. It is the yellow rectangular stuff in the picture above!

You will need:

  • Polenta- looks like this and is fun to squish

Polenta, Roast Veg and Halloumi Salad- The Vegaquarium

  • Halloumi sliced
  • Lemon
  • Chilli flakes
  • Roasted vegetables
  • Courgette
  • Salad leaves
  • Greek yoghurt
  • Ready made polenta- sliced

1) First roast your veg. I roasted mine but also made my Lemon Salted Courgettes because I am slightly obsessed! Cooking the halloumi and polenta takes only about 10 mins so wait till your veg is roasted before you procede.

2) Glug about 2 tbs of oil into a frying pan and heat it till it sizzles. Then start to fry the halloumi and polenta slices. Add them neatly so they don’t over lap so that it is easy to flip over each slice so that they are crispy on both sides. Squeeze into the pan 1 half of a lemon and chilli flakes to taste while they fry off.

3) Meanwhile prep your salad leaves and anything else you may want- cucumber, olives, carrot, sweetcorn, avocardo, you get the idea. Then put your roast veg and courgettes on top.

4) Place the halloumi and polenta on the salad and drop on some greek yoghurt.

My verdict on polenta after this salad is that it is definitely one to try! It has a really different texture and compliments any flavours you put with it. I am soon to blog my dinner tonight which is a pizza with polenta base!

Polenta, Roast Veg and Halloumi Salad

Vegan- Day 1

Vegan week has begun. But not before I had eaten the biggest cheese fest of my life on sunday night. We tucked into a cheese bomb of veggie lasagne and cheesy garlic bread, made by my housemate Beth. It was amazing even if she did set the fire alarm of a few times…

Life was good. Especially as I made eggy, custardy, creamy bread and butter pudding for desert. Life was really good.

Today is Monday and life is a little less cheesy, eggy and custardy. In fact it is bare of any source of dairy, but so far it isn’t too hard. The trickiest bit so far is snacks! Instead of tucking into a chocolate bar or cereal bar I am left with… rasins. I did buy myself a Nak’d bar, but it tasted a little bit like muddy cardboard. I now know why they are called Nak’d bar; they are naked of all possible flavour.

The other girls struggled a bit more and ate nothing all day. I told them off and filled them up with a dinner of vegan paella, with lemon salted courgettes and spicy baked chickpeas. Unfortunately I added the whole bag of rice fearing that there wouldn’t be enough for everyone. There was definitely enough. There was so much it took years to cook and I think we could eat paella for the rest of the week if we needed. Whoops. I’ll give you the recipe tomorrow, in the meantime here’s a sneak preview:

I am also making a video blog of my week, at the end of the week I will share it with you. Expect ratty faces, ratty voices and whining about my need for mayonaise.