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.
- 50g butter
- 40g plain white flour
- 600ml milk
- 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.