Baked Gnocchi

This isn’t a recipe so much as a revelation.

You know that stodgy, pre-packed gnocchi you can buy in supermarkets?  Well, until just recently I thought it was absolutely inedible.  Then I discovered the joys of baked gnocchi. 

Simple stir your cooked gnocchi and a green (I used rocket but spinach is good too) through lots of (preferably) home-made tomato sauce and sprinkle with a moderate amount of Parmesan cheese.  Bake at 190oC for 30 minutes or until the cheese has crisped up.

The formerly plasticine-like gnocchi go all crisp on top and all moist and soft underneath.  Yum!  Lovely jubbly with a big  green salad.

Hmmmmm.  Now I really want some plasticine to play with.  Or Fimo!  That would be amazing…

Braised Belgian Endive

The second of my current favourite starters uses the slightly maligned Belgian endive.  Perhaps you call it chicory or witlof.   It’s a beautiful pearly vegetable with bitter but satiny white leaves and I adore it.  Tried to grow it last year and failed miserably.  Will try again though.  It’d be wonderful to pick fresh from my garden.

Anyway, though I adore endive all raw and crunchy in salads with cheese and nuts, my absolute favourite way to eat it is braised in a little butter and stock then topped with bubbling parmesan.  Gorgeous as a side dish to grilled chicken and perfect with crusty bread as a sticky starter served

Braised Belgian Endive

One endive per person, halved length-ways

Butter

100-150ml stock (Chicken or veg)

Seasoning

Parmesan cheese

  • Preheat oven to 190oC.
  • Melt a little butter  in an oven-proof dish, just large enough to take your endives.
  • Roll the endives in the butter until coated and discard extra fat. 
  • Lay endives in the dish rounded side up, season and pour in stock until halfway up the vegetables.
  • Cover tightly with foil and roast for 20 minutes.
  • Remove foil and turn endives so the flat side is up.  Roast for another 10 minutes without the foil.
  • Increase oven temp. to 210oC.  Sprinkle endives with parmesan cheese and roast for 10 minutes until cheese is golden and bubbling.
  • Serve drizzled with the juices woth crusty bread on the side.

Hermit No More

In an effort to do as I promised in my New Year’s resolutions list, I have recently been making a concerted effort to be more sociable.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not an utter recluse.  It’s only when school is in session that I tend to retreat from the world of chummy human contact and immerse myself completely in a work/home-hermit routine. 

Still, I wasn’t happy with the situation and, so, last month I decided to get proactive and start seeing my friends and family much more whether I was busy at work or not.

The result has been a lot of folk coming to my place for dinner and I’ve been loving it.  Lasagnes and curries and pies and ribs and tapas have all been shared around my table recently and, to my utter amazement, it has only made me more energetic not less as I had feared.

It’s like my friend Shona used to tell me: the more you do, the more you can do. 

Anyhoo, I’m particularly enjoying making starters at the moment.  Unike Nigella (who in How to Eat focuses on two course meals with a dessert rather than a starter) I’d much rather have a starter and a main than a main and a dessert.  There’s something about little portions of food that I absolutely adore. 

The following is one of my two current favourite starters and a wee beauty of a recipe it is too.  These pastry-less mini quiche-like tarts are wonderfully light, tasty and easy to prepare.  Not fond of goat’s cheese?  Try parmesan.  Want something meaty?  Add some ham or chorizo.  More veg?  Go for it.  Much like a normal quiche, there are a million directions one could take these wee tarts.

Red Pepper and Goat’s Cheese Tarty Things (inspired by Jill Duplieux and Charlotte)

(makes 8)

2 red peppers – roasted, skinned and sliced thinly

50g (or to taste) crumbly goat’s cheese

6 eggs

50ml milk

2 heaped tablespoons ricotta cheese

2 tblspn chopped parsley

Seasoning

  • Preheat an oven to 180oC and lne a muffin tray with 8 circles of baking paper.
  • Pop a few slices of roasted pepper into each muffin mould.
  • In a large bowl mix together the eggs, milk and ricotta.  Stir through the parsley and crumbled goats cheese.  Season.
  • Divide the egg mixture between the 8 moulds, ensuring the goats cheese isn’t all left to the end.
  • Bake in the oven for 15 minutes until risen.  If the tarts aren’t golden on top I tend to pop them under a hot grill for a minute rather than over cook them.
  • Eat warm rather than hot.