Gnocchi with Mushroom & Kale Cream Sauce

Welcome 2017
Happy new year readers! I’m starting 2017 off not with a ‘new year new you’ green smoothie or broth, but with some comfort food. It hasn’t exactly been an easy slide into 2017 for me, although I knew it wouldn’t be. My 2016 ended with a whirlwind of change: I got a full-time job! After 4 years as a student/very low-paid adjunct lecturer, I am very pleased about this development. However…the job involves me spending my weeks in the north of England and my weekends in London, which will radically change the way I live plan and cook meals. I start next week, and am currently in a stressful fog of marking, flat-hunting, and preparing for this new job. As ever, being in the kitchen remains a form of solace.

Obviously, the blog is about to undergo a bit of a change of focus, and probably less frequent posting in the short term. I will be cooking in a totally new way and the blog will reflect that. Hopefully you will still want to continue reading. 😉

The dish
Incidentally, I had never bought gnocchi until a couple of months ago (though have made it before). I picked up a couple of packages, thinking it would be a good to throw together on evenings when I didn’t have anything planned.

I can’t find the exact recipe I used online, but this one is similar. Although it has the taste of a dish that took much longer, this can easily be made in under half an hour. The sauce is made from sauteed mushrooms, cream (~150ml), stock (~150ml), thyme, sage, and salt and pepper. The original recipe called for spinach, but I used kale instead as I prefer a sturdier leaf in this type of dish. I also modified the cheese – the recipe called originally for 75g of Gorgonzola, but I used Stilton, and much less of it, and then topped with Parmesan.

Somehow this dish manages to be comforting but not too cloying or heavy, despite the cream. It’s a great one to throw together quickly — tasty, easy, satisfying.

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“Green Goddess” Mac & Cheese

The term green goddess seems to be everywhere these days. I’m not particularly fond of it, since it seems to be one of those terms that can be appropriated for everything from smoothies to face masks, but I’ve left it in the title because it sounds better than ‘healthier mac and cheese’ or ‘mac and cheese with kale, basil, and spinach.’

I’ll get straight to it: this was a real winner for us. I added in curly kale in addition to the basil and spinach. It’s fairly easy to make — pureeing the greens just takes a bit of extra time. There’s still lots of cheese, but you do feel a bit better eating this knowing that there is some healthy bits! It was absolutely delicious and will become a part of my regular rotation of meals.

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Umami Apple Pie

Lucy Waverman and Beppi Crosariol’s The Flavour Principle is one of my favourite cookbooks. I love the way it is organized according to taste. This pie appears, as you might be able to guess from the title, in the umami section. Translated from the Japanese as delicious essence, umami is used to describe tastes that are deep, savoury, often ‘meaty’ flavour such as those in Parmesan, prosciutto, and soy sauce.

Onto the pie. It’s been a long time since I have made pie crust, but since this recipe calls for a special ingredient — cheddar cheese — to be added, I had to make it from scratch. And, surprisingly, it turned out well! (Much better than last time!)

I followed the recipe quite closely, using a mix of apples, although found that I had too much of the mixture after cooking them (this was also because I used a slightly smaller pie dish). I did find that the top browned too quickly so covered it with baking paper as Lucy suggests.

I was really pleased with this pie. The cheddar taste is milder than you might think, and delicious. Perfect fall comfort food.

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Spinach & Blue Cheese Biscuits

WOW is the word to describe these biscuits. Game-changer. They are simply delicious. I’d even go so far as to say amazing… I think they’re the best biscuits I’ve had! They’re so good that I don’t even have a picture to show you because we gobbled them up so quickly.

I followed Joy’s recipe closely, except I started with fresh spinach (not even sure frozen exists here), cooked it down, and allowed it to cool. The blue cheese flavour is subtler than expected, but it really works. And for those that don’t like spinach, I’d urge you to still give these a go. It’s not a strong taste.

They’re quite hardy, not a dainty biscuit. I was a bit worried because I had an oven fiasco and had to delay putting them in, but they turned out perfectly despite that. They’re best warm (I had every intention of freezing a couple but they didn’t make it that long!) and can be heated up in the toaster (just keep an eye on it due to the cheese), best served, I found, with a bit of butter.

I’ll be making another batch soon and will update this point with a photo but wanted to share the recipe as soon as possible.

Broccoli & Gorgonzola Tagliatelle

This is a great spring pasta dish. I found the recipe in an old delicious magazine and adapted it based on what I could find.

This dish is straightforward to make and manages to be light yet filling and decadent yet not indulgent. It even looks a bit summery. I used Gorgonzola in place of Dolcelatte and pine nuts instead of walnuts, and I personally think it worked very well. I’d recommended using the best pasta you can find. I normally use (dried) wholewheat, but this time decided to go for fresh and I do think it made a difference.

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Tuna Casserole

Oooh man, it’s been a busy few weeks. The latter half of March brought me to my knees. Teaching + conference + revision deadlines + job applications + PhD has meant I’ve been feeling a bit on autopilot, working through my responsibilities but perpetually feeling behind. (Oh, academia). And that’s just work-related stuff. 😦

Well, we often turn to food for comfort and there is no better dish to turn to than this one. The nostalgia of tuna casserole….where to begin! This dish will bring all of those childhood memories back but elevates to a completely new level. Chips + cheese + mushroom + cream + noodles….several of my favourite ingredients!

When I saw Meaghan’s post, I knew I had to make it as soon as possible. It did not disappoint — this is one of the best things I’ve eaten in a while! Though there are a few different steps involved, it’s easy to make. Moreish comfort food at its finest. Even though we are getting into spring, and this is more of a winter dish, I urge you to try it. You really can’t go wrong with this one!

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Chicken, Leek, & Kale Pie with Cheddar Crumble

Ever since we have been back in London I have been on a bit of leek craze. Leeks have been plentiful at the farmers’ market and I have been picking up a few every week (so expect a few leek-related posts to come).

One of the midweek meals I made was this “pie” from Diana Henry, a self-described “cook who loves words.” The concept of a savoury crumble intrigued me and the combination of ingredients sounded like it would work.

Well, it did! This was straightforward to make (although not terribly quick if you’re starting without leftover chicken), satisfying on a winter evening, and very moreish. The recipe doesn’t specify what cut of chicken to use; I only had breast and I found that it worked absolutely fine as there is a lot of moisture with the sauce (if you’re using breasts from scratch make sure to not overcook them — my preferred method is poaching in stock). Boneless thighs would probably be ideal though.

I added in the kale as I had some lying around. I also found there was a bit too much of the topping, but that’s personal preference.

I really liked this dish — it just screams “snowy rainy winter night.” H. loved it too but we differed on whether it was better than Rachel Allen’s chicken and leek pie that I made back in October. I preferred Rachel’s whereas H. preferred this one. 🙂

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Mushroom & Mozza Risotto Cakes / Baked Risotto with Peppers & Eggplant

Two posts in November is not a great record. I had every intention of posting more, but life got in the way. I was a hermit for most of October and was not being very social, so made it my goal to get out more in November. I wish I could say that’s why I haven’t been posting, but no, H. and I were struck down with an awful stomach bug that lasted 10 days. That 1 1/2 weeks was a total write-off in terms of cooking and doing much outside of the house, unfortunately.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately… life has changed a great deal in the almost 5(!) years since I started this blog. While I still have a great deal of control over my schedule, I no longer have the time to experiment in the kitchen as much as I used to. Cooking has become a lot more functional and practical, as I knew it would, and that’s only going to increase over time. I still love being in the kitchen and trying new things, but I now only seem to have the time to do that a few times a month. Of course, this is also coming to the end of the semester during which I have lectured for the first time, am trying to finish my PhD, and of course how can I forget, now starting to apply for ‘real’ jobs. I.e. it’s a very busy of time of year! Reprieve will come (I hope).

Today I have two really good recipes to share, both featuring arborio rice used in ways different to a traditional risotto. Bringing these together was a fluke; I originally intended to post them separately but it makes sense to combine them.

Mushroom & mozarella risoto cakes
delicious magazine tweeted this recipe over a month ago, and it caught my eye straight away. It is one of those recipes that looks straightforward and requires easy-to-get-a-hold-of ingredients. Although my version did not look as good as the photo in the link ;), I loved this meal because it turns out that I love the texture of fried arborio rice. The cakes are a bit hard to get to stick together. Mine did, but just barely. This is the perfect meal to have with a crisp, slightly spicy side green salad. They’re crunchy and simply delicious.

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Baked rice with eggplant and peppers
Luisa’s title sounds better, and her photo looks better too! But essentially this is exactly what is sounds like: rice baked with aubergine and peppers and topped with cheese. It’s very tasty and straightforward enough to make as a weeknight meal. I’d be inclined next time to try it with drained canned tomatoes instead of fresh ones, just to see what a difference it makes in texture. Otherwise this dish gets my full approval.

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PS: Happy December! November favourites coming soon.

Fig & Mascarpone Tart

Figs seem to be everywhere right now. As a recent concert to fresh figs, I was eager to bake something with them this fall. I initially had in mind a cheesecake, but this post caught my eye. I simplified the tart a bit, omitting the orange blossom and almonds — not as fancy or complex, but I think it still worked well.

Throwing this together is almost laughably easy if you use ready made puff pastry, as I did and as the recipe recommends. It only requires a bit of planning as the pastry base has to cool before it can be ‘dressed.’ The first step is to bake the base, which is the hardest part really! As it’s baking, make up the mascarpone spread (and try to resist eating it all) and chop up the figs. That’s it really. When the pastry is cool, spread out the cheese and honey mixture and add the figs.

I’m glad I tried this. Next time I’ll add the almonds and orange (I think zest would have worked well too), but it was still a delicious dessert. Note that the tart should be eaten the same day it’s made. It does keep overnight in the fridge but isn’t quite as tasty.

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Tomato Tart

I love tomatoes and will happily eat them in just about any form in anything. One of my favourite times to be in Nova Scotia is when the tomatoes are ripe and plentiful in my aunt and uncle’s garden — it is overwhelming! The tomatoes are so good that neither of them eat them at any other time of the year unless it’s their own frozen ones. Alas, that didn’t happen this year, so I’ve had to get my fix elsewhere — usually at our weekly farmer’s market, where we’ve had tomatoes since late July (which is actually when I made this).

Before we left for Nova Scotia in early August, H. and I completely cleaned out our freezer and used everything up. I had some frozen puff pastry, and had visions of a tomato tart, and in my search came across this recipe at the Kitchn. I was a bit unsure at first because of the mayo. Yes, I have a fear of mayonnaise that I am gradually overcoming. 😉 In the end, the simplicity of this tart won me round, and I’m really glad I tried it.

My version was two-cheese rather than three (cheddar and feta), and it was delicious. No, it’s not the healthiest meal around, but it’s damn tasty and really hits the spot. And is perfect if you are lucky enough to have access to lots of tomatoes right now!

Market tomatoes
Market tomatoes

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