Covid-19. We are staying in as much as possible, and I am systematically going through the ingredients in the freezer, seeing how long we can stay in between shopping expeditions. The top shelf is now down to some cooked beetroot (we’ll have to find something to do with that later)
The second shelf had several half-tubs of ricotta cheese and quite a bit of spinach. This is such a good recipe, I didn’t have to think that hard about what I was going to make.
40g plain white flour
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg
another 50g butter
700g (approx) spinach
250g ricotta cheese
125g parmesan cheese, grated
2 cloves of garlic
around 150g oven-ready lasagne sheets
Make a bechamel sauce: Melt 50g butter in a small pan, and add 40g flour. Cook for a few minutes, so that the mixture is smooth and well-mixed.
Slowly add the 1 pint of milk, stirring all the while. Add the bay leaf, and cook slowly, stirring, for ten minutes. The sauce should be thick and smooth.
Remove the bayleaf, season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Use a soup wand to make the sauce extra-creamy.
Set the oven to 200C Gas 6. Grease a dish that measures 20cm by 30cm and around 6cm deep.
In a very large pan, melt 50g butter and add the spinach. It might be a tight squeeze to get it all in, but it will cook down in about five minutes. You might need to squish it in with a spatula or spoon.
Stir in the ricotta cheese, garlic, half the parmesan and a grate of nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper.
Assemble the lasagne. The first layer is sheets of lasagne. Then around a quarter of the bechamel sauce, and then half the spinach. Next, a layer of lasagne, then another quarter of the bechamel and the rest of the spinach. Finally, another layer of lasagne, the rest of the bechamel, and then the rest of the parmesan.
Bake in the oven for around 35 minutes. The top should be golden brown, and the pasta should be tender.
Sorry about the wee hiatus – keep having many things to do. This is an astonishing mix of flavours and textures, and I was raving about it at work. Clair – this is the recipe I was talking about. It is from ‘Simple’ by Yotam Ottolenghi. Even better, it uses lots of ingredients from my garden.
60ml olive oil
50g flaked almonds
1/2 tsp paprika
1 1/2 tsp caraway seeds
2 cloves of garlic
2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
500g chard leaves – roughly shred the green leaves, and finely chop the stems
150g spinach, roughly shredded
1 tsp grated lime zest
2 tbsp lime juice
35g chopped mint
35g chopped dill, or 3 tsp dried dill leaves.
8 spring onions, chopped into 1 cm pieces
In a frying pan, put in half the oil, heat to medium, and then add the almonds and the paprika. Fry for 2-3 minutes, until the almonds are golden brown. Remove them from the heat, and strain the oil from the almonds, which should be set aside in a bowl.
In a large pan, heat the remaining oil over medium to high heat. When it is hot, add the crushed garlic and the caraway, and cook for a a couple of minutes until they start to sizzle and brown.
Add the tomatoes and chard, and 3/4 tsp salt, and stir. The pan will look very full. Cover the pan, and cook for around 20 minutes, stirring every so often. If you are using dried herbs, add them at this step.
Remove from the heat, and stir in the spinach, lime juice and zest, herbs and spring onions.
Serve with the almonds sprinkled on to.
I successfully reheated this the next day, although it did wilt the spinach a bit too much. I ate it with pitta bread and labneh.
I’ve bought a few new cookbooks this year, the theme seems to be about the middle east. This book of Persian recipes is called ‘Nightingales and Roses’ by Maryam Sinaiee. Hopelessly romantic title, but then again, I have a photograph of two Tehrani police officers outside our gate in northern Tehran, posing for my mother with bunches of roses and honeysuckle.
I never had this soup, though, until today. It is easy and delicious. The recipe makes a large quantity, it says it serves four but only if you have two helpings each. It takes about an hour and a half to make.
4 tbsp olive oil
3 medium onions, chopped finely
1 tbsp turmeric
1.5 litres boiling water
50g arborio rice
1 can of chickpeas, drained
1 pack of coriander leaf, chopped (around 40g)
1 pack of flat leaf parsley, chopped (around 40g)
1 tbsp dried summer savory (or substitute a mixture of thyme and mint)
300g spinach, chopped
1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp black pepper, ground
250ml greek yoghurt or sour cream or creme fraiche
Black pepper to garnish
Heat the oil in a large pan with a lid. When it is hot, add the chopped onions, and fry for 10-15 minutes until the onions are brown. Stir in the turmeric and mix. Set aside a tablespoonful of fried onions for a garnish at the end.
Add the water and rice to the rest of the fried onions, and bring to the boil. Simmer for 30 minutes.
Add the chickpeas, herbs and spinach, bring to the boil and then simmer for 40 minutes.
Add the salt and pepper to taste, then beat in the yoghurt. Don’t boil once the yoghurt is added, because it will curdle.
Garnish with extra yoghurt, the fried onions, and a grating of black pepper.
For a vegan version, leave out the yoghurt, or use coconut yoghurt. For a meaty version, use beef stock instead of water and add small meatballs.
I make this to serve with flaky smoked salmon. I got it from Rachel Allen’s website, but it isn’t there any more.
For the shortcrust pastry:
200 g plain flour
100 g chilled butter, diced
pinch of salt
1 egg, beaten
For the filling:
250 g baby or destalked large spinach leaves
7 baby new potatoes (unpeeled)
250 ml double cream
salt and freshly ground black pepper
zest of 1/2 lemon
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
pinch of cayenne pepper
25g parmesan cheese, finely grated
150g soft goat’s cheese (sliced from a goat’s cheese log)
25cm diameter tart tin
Make the pastry: place the flour, salt and butter in a food processor and whiz briefly, or rub together to bread-crumb consistency.
Add half the beaten egg and continue to mix. You might add a little more egg, but not too much as the mixture should be moist enough to come together.
With your hands, flatten out the ball of dough until it is 2cm thick then wrap in cling film and leave in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/Gas mark 4). Line the tart tin and ‘bake blind’.
Wash and spin the spinach, removing any tough stalks and stems if using large spinach leaves. In a medium-sized saucepan, cook the spinach in just the water that’s clinging to it over a low heat until it wilts. Drain in a colander or sieve and allow to cool a little, then squeeze most of the moisture out with your hands and chop roughly.
Meanwhile, steam or boil the potatoes until just cooked, and cool on a tray or board. When cool enough to handle, cut into 5mm (1/4 in) slices.
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the eggs and add the cream, salt and pepper, lemon zest, nutmeg, cayenne pepper and Parmesan. Whisk these ingredients together then add the spinach and mix through.
Season well; potatoes are very mild and need a good contrast.
Spread the potato slices over the base of the prepared tart, and dot with the goat’s cheese
Gently spoon over the spinach cream mixture as high as you can go. If you are concerned about spillage, carry the tart minus the last few spoons of filling over to the oven.
Place in the oven, spoon over the remaining filling and any remaining potato and cheese slices. Bake for 35–40 minutes until the tart is golden brown and just set in the centre. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes before serving.