Impromtu Cannelloni

 

Turn on the Scottish news at the moment and the main story is all about the impending fuel shortage in the country.  Workers at our main refinery have been striking recently over pension plans and as a result petrol, diesel, heating oil, etc are not being shipped to outlets as per usual.  What the public do not seem to realise is that Scotland is suffering from another shortage: pasta machines.

Seriously, I have been to three shops in the last week trying to buy one and each time have been told that they are currenly unavailable and to check back in June.  June!  Those of you in large cities may be thinking: try another shop.  This is Inverness though.  That three places supply pasta machines at all is pretty good going.  ;) 

Anyway, enough whinging for my lack of pasta machine was rather fortuitous in the end, resulting in a cracking impromtu cannelloni.  Let me explain…

On Sunday I decided to admit pasta machine defeat and to try hand-rolling instead.  I was not successful.  My plan had been to make spinach and ricotta stuffed ravioli and the filling had already been prepared.  After realising that I was failing to roll the pasta to the required thinness I gave up on the idea, put the stuffing in the fridge and had pasta alla puttanesca for dinner instead (more about that next week).  Then this evening I came home from a spinnning class (as in the exercise bike fitness class rather than wool making) and spied the green and white fluffy mixture.  It screamed CANNELLONI at me!!  And so that’s what I made.

 

 

 

The end result was suprisingly delicious. Though I adore bechamel sauce and though it is essential in classic cannelloni, I omitted it from this dish as I wanted it to be light.  

The following amounts are imprecise.  This is the first time I made this and, frankly, I wasn’t paying that much attention. 

Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni

(for four)

250g ricotta

500g spinach

Pinch of nutmeg

Seasoning

8 sheets of lasagne

500g cherry tomatoes (halved)

300ml passata

Handful of basil leaves, torn

Parmesan shavings to serve

  • In a large covered pan wilt the spinach with just a sprinkling of water.  Drain.  Once cool squeeze out all the moisture and chop the spinach finely.
  • Add the spinach, nutmeg and seasoning to the ricotta.  Combine and season well.
  • Spoon the ricotta mixture onto the sheets of lasagne and roll up like a cigar. 
  • Place into a snug fitting shallow casserole dish with some seasoned cherry tomatoes and basil lining the bottom.
  • Add the rest of the cherry tomatoes and the passata on top of the rolled pasta and bake in a 190oC preheated oven for 30 mins.
  • Serve with parmesan shavings.

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I have just realised that this calcium rich dish is a perfect entry for Susan’s Beautiful Bones event, alerting women to the risks of osteoperosis.  All entries to the event are to be calcium rich to help protect our beautiful bones. 

 

Onion Bhaji

 

I’m experimenting with gram flour at the moment.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with this ingredient, gram flour is made from ground chickpeas, it’s a beautiful pale yellow, fine in texture and is predominantly used in Indian dishes.  That said, my first experiment involved a Sicilian dish: panelle.  Won’t be blogging about that though.  It tasted much like polenta and I don’t like polenta very much.

My second experiment were the following onion bhaji and in these gram flour redeemed itself.  These spiced Indian fritters are one of my favourite restaurant starters and I’m absolutely delighted that they are so simple to make at home.

Onion Bhaji

(makes 8 small bhajis)

1 cup gram flour

1 tspn turmeric

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp coriander

1 tsp garam masala

Pinch of cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp salt

1 onion, sliced

1 garlic clove, chopped

Ground nut oil, ghee or other “neutral” oil

  • Mix together the spices and salt.  Add 2/3 of the mixture to the gram flour and sieve into a bowl.
  • Add a little water to the spiced flour and mix with a fork.  Add a little more, stirring continually until the mixture forms a stiff, smooth batter.
  • In a non-stick frying pan, heat a tablespoon of oil over a med-high heat.  Add the onion and fry briskly for one minute.  Reduce the heat slightly.  Add the garlic and fry for 30 seconds.  Add the rest of the spices and stir well.  Continue frying for a couple of minutes until the onion has softened but not browned.
  • Add the fried onions to the chickpea batter and stir well.
  • Pour enough oil into the non stick pan to just cover the base.  Heat over a med-high flame.  Spoon blobs of the onion batter into the pan, leaving at least a couple of centimetres between each bhaji. 
  • Fry for a couple of minutes before turning and pressing the bhajis down to flatten to 1.5-2 cm thickness.  Fry for a further 3-4 minutes or until bhajis are golden brown and cooked through.
  • Remove from pan and blot excess oil. 
  • Serve with raita.

Micro-leaves

 

For the last few weeks I have been growing peas and rocket on the window sill of my spare room.  My intention has never been to let these lovely plants reach full maturity, though.  I’ve been growing them to eat as seedlings or microleaves, as they are known in foodie circles.

D doesn’t approve.  He thinks it’s mean to harvest plants in their infancy.  He also thinks that it’s not financially or spacially economical.  And I can’t really argue with any of these points.  I do have to take a deep breath before snipping at the base of the young leaves and many costly seeds have to be sprouted in many containers to provide a salad for four people. 

But, crisp and sweet and tender, micro-leaves are utterly delicious and for that reason, I’m going to keep on growing those little babies.  :-P

Grow Your Own Micro-leaves

All you need is:

  • A big sunny window sill – Of course, if you live somewhere warmer than here, a sunny spot in a sheltered area of your garden would be great too.
  • Plastic containers and trays – E.g. yogurt pots, punnets, seed trays.
  • Vermiculite or other seed friendly soil (check garden centre).
  • Seeds  – rocket and pea seeds are my favourites but there are plenty of options.  See here and here for a list of possibilities.

Simple scatter seeds onto the filled containers and water daily from the bottom, letting the moisture soak up into the soil rather than rain down on the delicate seeds.  Your micro-leaves will be ready to eat in 6 – 21 days time.  Sow new seeds each week to ensure a constant suppy.

Cumin, Carrot and Cashew Nut Roast (and a tag)

 

Until this evening I had never made nor tasted a nut roast before.  Not terribly sure why.  I love nuts and I love roasts.  It has taken Johanna’s event to spur me into veggie action and, oh my, am I glad it did.  My first attempt was (if you excuse my immodesty) absolutely delicious. 

I can see some more nutty roasty experiments coming on again very, very soon…

Cumin, Carrot and Cashew Nut Roast

(serves 4 as a starter, light lunch or side)

200g carrots, peeled and cut into 2 cm pieces

1 tspn tahini

1 small onion, very finely chopped

1 garlic clove, very finely chopped

1 tblspn olive oil

100g cashew nuts, finely ground in a blender

50g wholemeal breadcrumbs

1.5 tspns ground cumin

Salt and pepper

1/2 lemon

  • Place carrots in a small pan of salted water and bring to the boil.  Simmer until carrots are cooked through.  Drain and mash the carrots with the tahini.
  • Gently fry the onion and garlic in olive oil until soft and translucent.
  • Add the carrot mash and fried onions to the breadcrumbs and cashews.  Sprinkle with cumin, squeeze over lemon juice and season.  Mix together well using your hands. 
  • Rub 4 ramekins with softened butter and dust with flour.  Spoon in the nut mixture and press down firmly.
  • Cook in a 180oC preheated oven for 30 mins.
  • Loosen roasts with a knife and tip out onto a plate.  Serve with a green salad side.

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Before I go, both Johanna and Julia tagged me this week for the six word memoir.  The task was to come up with six words to sum myself up.  So, here they are:

Usually happy

Occasionally obstinate

Terribly lucky

I tag Lucy, Helen, Warda and Susan.

A Rosie Moment

Exams are looming and I’m swamped.  Short and sweet posts will be the norm over the next few weeks but bear with me: it’ll pass.  

For now though, have a giggle at these photos of Rosie.  She’s such a character!  :)