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

Custard Tarts

Custard Tarts

Ready, set, BAKE! The Great British Bake Off is back and I am obsessed. Each week, the Bafta award winning show grips the nation as Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood whittle out good crumbs from the soggy bottoms.

Baking is fun, but baking disasters are all part of the process. I once used cumin instead of cinnamon to flavour my baked apples in an FT lesson; safe to say I have now learned to read labels properly…  Watching other people’s baking disasters is also very nerve wracking, especially when your favourite contestant has just used salt instead of sugar, or has watched the middle fall out of their uncooked cake.

The technical challenge is one that is usually full of a few disasters. Contestants are given a recipe, but all technical aspects and methods are excluded from the instructions. Last week we watched in vain as bakers tried their hand at custard tarts. Removing the tarts from the tray proved difficult, and there was soggy bottoms and uncooked custard all over the bake-off kitchen. Things were tense!

Having never made a custard tart myself, I was intrigued. I took up the challenge under the safety that Mary and Paul’s harsh tongues wouldn’t judge me. The secret is making sure that the pastry is cooked but the egg custard isn’t over done. By following Paul Hollywood’s recipe below, everything went pretty much to plan, however if you are making smaller tarts, you will need to watch your cooking times.

Ingredients

For the sweet pastry

  • 165g/5¾oz plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 25g/1oz ground almonds
  • 120g/4¼oz chilled unsalted butter, cubed
  • 55g/2oz caster sugar
  • 1 free-range egg

For the custard filling

  • 700ml/1¼ pint full-fat milk
  • 7 free-range egg yolks
  • 90g/3¼oz caster sugar
  • freshly ground nutmeg

Make the pastry:

1)   Cut the cold butter into cubes and rub it into the flour and almonds with your fingers until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs, then stir in the sugar.

2)   Break in the egg and use your fingers to mix it together to form soft sticky dough. Put the dough ball onto a lightly floured surface, shape into a ball and flatten it into a disk with your fingers. Then pop this in the fridge in cling film to chill for 30 minutes.

3)   Now preheat the oven to 200C/400F/ Gas 6.

4)   Roll out the pastry on a floured surface, then use an 11cm/4.5 inch fluted cutter to cut out 12 discs. Line the muffin tray with the circle ensuring that the pastry overlaps the top of the mould by a few millimetres.

 

For the egg custard:

1)   Warm the milk. In a separate bowl, beat in the egg yolks and sugar until pale and creamy.

2)   Pour the milk onto the egg yolks and stir well to create little bubbles. Now transfer this into a jug and fill each pastry case with custard.

3)   Sprinkle each tart with nutmeg and bake them for 10-15 minutes at 200C. Now turn the temperature down to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and bake for a further 10 minutes.

I used sneaky greaseproof tabs so I could remove them easily
I used sneaky greaseproof tabs so I could remove them easily

4)   Look for a golden pastry and a slight dome in the custard, which indicates it is baked. Too much dome means the custard is overcooked so watch out!

Custard Tarts