Mascarpone & Leek Stuffed Crepes

I’ve recently discovered the wonderful world of Meetups. Having social events where you just turn up and don’t have to harass people for availability has considerably lowered my anxiety levels. I’m enjoying a French exchange group and also a book club/games night. Tomorrow, we’ll be discussing ‘Woman on the Edge of Time’. Feminist dystopia is so my genre with the added benefit of being a warm pub as opposed to being in the arctic tundra of my house (the boiler has broken down). This delicious recipe was in Gino Di Campo’s cookbook ‘Gino’s Veg Italia’ which is highly recommended. I used tinned artichokes but proper ones or the nice jarred ones would be even better. I was proud of myself for finally being able to make a half decent crepe. The trick being a hot pan and plenty of butter.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 115g plain flour
  • 3 large eggs
  • 300ml milk
  • salt & pepper
  • butter
  • 2 tins artichokes
  • 1 leek
  • 50g self raising flour
  • 150g mascarpone
  • 50g parmesan
  • 25g parsley
  • pinch nutmeg

Method

1.) Make the crepes by whisking together the plain flour, milk and 1 off the eggs. Add a pinch of salt.

2.) Melt enough butter to cover a frying pan and pour in 1/8th of the crepe batter.

3.) Fry until browning on the bottom then turn over (or flip if you’re feeling brave).

4.) When browned on both sides, remove to a plate.

5.) Repeat until all the mixture is used. Wash out the pan.

6.) Now, preheat the oven to 180 degrees C

7.) Wash and slice the leek finely.

8.) Melt 1 tbsp butter into the pan and add the slices of leek. Open and drain the tins of artichokes and then wash the artichokes under the tap to remove the grit.

9.) Chop up the artichoke and add to the pan.

10.) While the leek is softening, separate the remaining two eggs into yolks and whites. Finely chop the parsley and grate the parmesan.

11.) Add the mascarpone, a pinch of nutmeg, the parmesan, some salt and pepper, the flour and the egg yolks to a mixing bowl and whisk.

12.) Once the leek is soft, remove everything from the pan and add to the mixing bowl. Give it a stir.

13.) Whisk up the egg whites until there is a light foam and then stir this through into the mixing bowl.

14.) Find an oven proof dish and start loading up with the crepes and filling. Do this by folding a crepe into half then half again to make a pocket. Stuff with the mascarpone mixture.

15.) Bake for 18 minutes to crisp up the pancakes.

Minestrone soup

I really love this soup from Jamie Oliver’s website. I first came across it during lockdown when he was doing a show to encourage people to home cook filmed by at home by himself and his family. This recipe uses tinned beans, passata and pasta, some of the things some crazy people were stocking up on at that time. Some people must have been pretty bored of pasta with tomato sauce, really Jamie was doing a bit of a service for us. It’s a light soup but also quite filling and is a great choice for when you want to cook in bulk.

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 small onions
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • 2 handfuls of kale
  • 1 veggie stock cube
  • 400g passata
  • 2 tins of beans (kidney or butter, whatever you like)
  • 100g dried small pasta e.g. orzo, macaroni
  • 25g parmesan cheese (if you have rinds of parmesan cheese, you can stick them in to simmer with the soup)
  • salt & pepper

Method

1.) Peel and finely chop the garlic. Peel and dice the onion.

2.) Heat some oil in a large pan and add the onions. Let them soften for 5 minutes or so.

3.) In the meantime, peel and chop up the carrot. Chop up the celery.

4.) Add the garlic to the pan and fry for 1 minute.

5.) Add the celery and carrot and leave to soften for a further 10 – 15 minutes. Close to the end, fill a kettle with water and boil.

6.) Pour in the beans and their juices, the passata, crumble in the stock cube then fill up one of the tins and pour in the water from that. Measure out 600ml of the boiled water and pour that in too.

7.) Throw in the pasta, tear up the kale leaves and put them in too.

8.) Simmer for 10 – 15 minutes.

9.) Grate the parmesan.

10.) Stir into the soup. Season with salt and pepper. Serve.

Pesto Pasta

I generally wouldn’t choose to eat Italian food in a restaurant, but when I’m at home sometimes I find pasta to be a real comfort food. It’s great after a long gym session when I can really appreciate a mountain of carbs like this and I think everyone loves pesto. If you buy the pasta ready-made it can be really quick to throw together too. Here I’ve used fresh pasta from the supermarket which doesn’t taste any different from when I’ve actually made pasta. I got the recipe from ‘Gino’s pasta’.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 500g tagliatele pasta
  • 50g fresh basil
  • 50g pine nuts
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 130ml olive oil
  • 25g parmesan (more to serve)
  • 150g frozen peas
  • salt and pepper

Method

1.) Put the basil, pine nuts and garlic in a food processor, pour in the oil and blitz until smooth.

2.) Grate 25g parmesan and add to the pesto mix. Grate a bit of extra parmesan for a garnish.

3.) Cook the pasta until done. 1 minute from the end, add the peas and cook until hot. Drain off the water then add the pesto into the pan with the pasta. Sprinkle in some salt and pepper and stir through.

4.) Serve into dishes and garnish with a bit more parmesan and that’s all there is to it!

Gnocchi Puttanesca

I love the idea of gnocchi but I always feel like it’s cheating to not make my own even though I’ll happily use pre-made pasta. I got over my reservations to put this quick to prep meal together on my language class night. At 8.30pm I can’t be bothered with anything too labour intensive. Using spinach gnocchi allowed me also to get some greens in there. Puttanesca is my favourite pasta recipe (maybe excluding Spaghetti Vongole) and when I saw the recipe on BBC Good Food, it was an instant winner. I did add a tin of tuna to it which I think was a bit too much but my husband liked it so I’ll leave it to your discretion.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 500g gnocchi of your choice
  • 500g passata (I went for passata with veggies)
  • 1 onion
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 60g kalamata olives
  • 1 tin anchovies
  • 1 tin tuna
  • 1 tbsp capers
  • 250g mozzarella
  • olive oil

Method

1.) Peel the onion and finely chop

2.) Heat some oil in a frying pan and add the onion. Fry on a low heat for 5 minutes or so until starting to soften.

3.) In the meantime, chop up the olives then add to the pan with the anchovies and the capers and and fry for a couple of minutes until the anchovies breakdown.

4.) Drain the tinned tuna and add to the pan, stir for a couple of minutes.

5.) Add in the passata and the gnocchi and cook for about 5 minutes. Chop up the mozzarella.

6.) Pour the mixture into a oven-proof casserole dish then dot the mozzarella over the top.

7.) Cook under a grill for 5 minutes or so, until the mozzarella is melted and golden brown.

Fougasse + Beef & Wine Soup

During my holiday staying close to the town of Fougasse, I took it upon myself to try all of the fougasse that I could find. I normally don’t allow myself too much bread at home due to a mild gluten intolerance and a complete incapacity to stop myself eating the whole lot in two days. I was intrigued as to how homemade fougasse (from Rachel Khoo’s ‘Little Paris Kitchen’ would come out compared to the real-thing. The answer was pretty good though I think they put more oil on the outside of the bread that I tried to give it a nice crispy toasted flavour. Fougasse originates from focaccia but is spread out further for the crispiness. As for the beef and wine soup, I’ve just always had an eye on it from the cookbook ‘Two Greedy Italians’ but wasn’t sure how it would work as a vegetarian option. The soup itself was pretty salty using stock and parmesan but it paired very nicely to dip the bread into. As a recommended serving, I would serve a small portion of the soup with the bread as a starter.

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 10g dried yeast
  • 250ml tepid water
  • 400g strong white flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil (plus extra to brush)
  • 500ml ‘beef’ stock – I used Massel beef flavoured stock which I find has a very convincing beef flavour
  • 250ml white wine
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 50ml double cream
  • 50ml parmesan

Method

1.) Measure out the tepid water into a measuring jug and add the yeast. Leave it to brew for about 10 minutes.

2.) Measure out the flour with the salt, stir the salt into the flour so that when you pour the water on, it doesn’t instantly hit the salt which will kill the yeast.

3.) Mix the yeasty water with the flour. Knead by hand on a floured surface until the dough is soft and smells of yeast or as I did in a stand mixer with a dough hook (5 minutes). The dough will be very soft.

4.) Cover with cling film and leave to rise for 1 hour, then place in the fridge overnight.

5.) Knead the dough for 5 minutes, place back in the bowl, put a damp tea towel on top then leave to rise for 30 minutes.

6.) Split the dough into two and form an oval with each. Cut slashes into the dough like the veins of a leaf.

7.) Line a baking tray with baking paper and place the dough on top. Leave to rise for an hour.

8.) About 15 minutes before the hour is up, preheat the oven to 240 degrees C.

9.) Brush the doughs with olive oil. Place the tray in the oven and bake for 5 minutes. Then turn the oven down to 210 degrees C and bake for a further 12 – 15 minutes.

10.) For the soup, measure out the stock and grate the parmesan.

11.) Add the stock and wine to a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Cook for 1 minute then turn down the heat.

12.) Measure out the cream and add to the soup with a pinch of cinnamon.

13.) Tip in the parmesan and stir to melt. Serve with pieces of bread.

Roasted Fennel ‘Chorizo’ Calzone

Calzone is a folded over pizza and it’s hard to find the origins other than it being from Naples but I believe it was was created to be an efficient street/workers food, much like a British pork pie. Like pizza, the filling list is endless but I’m pretty pleased with this roasted fennel, mozzarella and chorizo shroomdog combo (I got the sausages from Sainsburys but any veggie sausage plus smoked paprika will do) adapted from Gizzi’s Healthy Appetite. This could serve 2 as a heavier meal or 4 with a side salad.

Serves 2/4

Ingredients

  • 2 large fennel bulbs
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 chorizo shroomdog sausages
  • 250g mozzarella
  • pinch fennel seeds
  • pinch chilli flakes
  • 200g pizza sauce
  • salt and pepper
  • 300g white bread flour
  • 7g fast action yeast
  • 300ml tepid water

Method

1.) Preheat the oven as far as it will go (around 220 degrees C or more)

2.) Finely slice the fennel and place in a baking tray. Drizzle with 1 tbsp oil and season with salt and pepper

3.) Roast for 20 minutes, turn the fennel over after 10. Set aside.

4.) Make the dough. Measure out 300ml tepid water and add the yeast. Let it brew for at least 10 minutes. In another large bowl, measure out the flour. Add the liquid to the yeast and mix it up and knead to form a smooth dough. Oil the large bowl and place the dough back in there. Cover the bowl with cling film and let it rise for 2 hours.

5.) Slice up the sausages and fry in a frying pan with a tbsp oil. Slice up the mozzarella and set aside.

6.) Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C

7.) Knock back the dough. Divide the dough into half then lightly dust your work surface with flour. Roll the half into a ball then roll out with a rolling pin to a thin circle (as best you can).

8.) Spread out half the pizza sauce, sprinkle with half the chilli flakes and fennel seeds, sprinkle one half of the dough with half of the roasted fennel, half of the sausages and half of the mozzarella.

9.) Fold over the half of the calzone without the mozzarella and crimp the edges together to seal. Place on a pizza baking tray.

10.) Repeat with the rest of the dough and ingredients.

11.) Bake for 10 minutes.