Category Archives: Cheese

Stuffed Baked Squash

 

DSCN5824I have this lingering love affair with squash. I like it pretty much however it is cooked. However in this neck of the woods, we do not get a lot of choice. On my occasional visits to Germany and Britain, I drool over the different squashes available. Here we basically get one sort and that is the squash that looks like a green curling stone, a flattened globe. They do come in a range of sizes however, from some not much bigger than a tea plate up to bigger than a soccer football. That said it is possible, on the markets at least,  to buy a half or even a quarter of a squash, with no fuss. As an aside, it is also possible to buy one (1) stick of celery! I just love it here.

Anyway I spotted this recipe, and because of my declared love and the original title of ‘Twice Baked Squash’, investigated further.

First off it said use butternut squash. Yes I have seen them, but not around here. But I did have an ordinary squash, so I thought ‘this is a goer’.  Next it said use goats cheese. Well I have some feta that needed using – that will do. Further it said user kosher salt – haven’t got any and none to be bought around here, however as I planned to use feta cheese, which is quite salty, I decided against using any more.Next up was low-fat Greek yoghurt, and again I thought, will ordinary Italian yoghurt from Sud Tirol do? I very sensibly told myself that it would and that no one would be any the wiser.

Lastly it called for Panko breadcrumbs. Now, I have seen this word a lot just lately, but I looked it up on Wikipedia just to refresh my memory. These are breadcrumbs made from a Japanese bread that is baked specially, by passing an electric current through the dough, producing a loaf that has very little crust and has the property of absorbing very little oil or butter when it is further cooked. I make my own breadcrumbs from the bread that I make. My bread is organic sourdough and I am very happy with it, and it has not come from the other side of the world.

I have to say the original title, of Twice Baked Squash, fooled me into thinking that it was a little exotic, and it was not until I had started the first baking that I realized what I was doing. I was softening the squash in the most expensive way possible, by baking it. That is not my style, no way. So I did back-to-back test cooking on how to soften half a squash and here are the results.

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Original Recipe said to wrap the squash in aluminium foil and bake at 230 C/450 F/ Gas 8/  Very Hot for 35 minutes or until a knife tested soft. Well our oven takes about 20 minutes to get to that sort of temperature, so a total of 50 minutes oven time at full bore = expensive.

My Recipe. Next I put the other half, without foil, in our vegetable steamer and steamed it for about 12 minutes, using a low gas on the hob top. Done to perfection. I used a cup full of water which took less than 5 minutes to come to the boil, and that water went straight into the stock pot afterwards. I have to confess that I feel incredibly smug when I save time and money, with no loss of flavour either.

Now to my recipe.

Serves 4. Preparation 15 minutes. Cooking 30 minutes

Ingredients.

Half a medium squash cut through the middle,  deseeded

3 or 4 medium sticks of celery cut to 6 mm/ 1/4 inch lengths

1 medium onion finely sliced

1 clove of garlic minced

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 tablespoon fresh sage chopped finely or 1/2 tablespoon of dried sage

50 gm/ 2 oz feta cheese, crumbled

2 tablespoons of yoghurt

2 tablespoons of breadcrumbs, dry toasted in a frying pan

Method

Steam the half squash for about 10 to 12 minutes or until it is fully softened. Test with a skewer or thin knife.

Meanwhile saute the onion, celery slices and the garlic in a little of the olive oil. Leave a little texture in the celery.

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Using a dessert spoon, remove the flesh, from the squash, transferring it to a small mixing bowl and , leaving a 6 mm/ 1/4 inch layer all over.

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Retain the shell

Mash the flesh and then add the cheese, yoghurt, celery, onion, garlic and sage. Mix thoroughly.

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Transfer the mixture to the retained shell, smoothing over the surface.

Spread the breadcrumbs evenly over the top.

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Sprinkle sparingly with the remaining olive oil.

Bake in a pre set oven at 200 C/425 F/Gas 6/Moderate Hot for about 15 minutes or until it is heated right through.

DSCN5833Serve immediately with vegetables of your choice. And very tasty it was too.

 

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Filed under Autumn/Winter, Cheese, Main Meal, Spring, Vegetables

Stuffed Sweet Chillis

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I originally tried this Spanish recipe from a blog by Frank Camorra. I was unable to buy either the cheese (shanklish), or the grain (freekah) that he used. This for me is a recurring theme. This is after all Northern Italy and I live in a mountain village. If I lived in Milan or Turin, then maybe I could buy them. That said however there are a number of North Africans living in the vicinity and I feel a trip to nearby Biella coming. Biella, the regional capital, is a small city which does have a few ‘ethnic’ shops, which I do from time to time look into, to see what is on sale. Time perhaps to investigate  again.

However, I am not easily put off, and so I substituted with parmesan (although I intend to try feta next time), and a combination of kamut and wild rice. Kamut is an ancient grain, supposedly used in Egypt during the times of the pharaohs, very similar to wheat and has a nutty flavour. Used in this recipe it gives a satisfying texture.

When you buy the chillis, make sure that you buy the straightest available to enable stuffing with ease.

Serves 3 or 6. Preparation 15 minutes. Cooking 35 minutes

Ingredients.

I large onion roughly chopped

3 sticks of celery cut into 6 mm/ 1/4 inch thick slices

2 or 3 gloves of garlic, minced

200 gm/ kamut or wheat

50 gm/wild rice

2 tomatoes roughly chopped or 225 gm/ 1/2 lb tinned chopped tomatoes

400 ml/water

Juice and grated rind of 1/2 lemon

1 teaspoon dried mixed herbs

salt and pepper

6 large sweet chillis

150 gm/ 5 oz parmesan roughly grated.

Method

The day before, put the kamut and wild rice in a saucepan, cover with the water and leave to soften overnight or simmer for about 45 minutes if you do not want to wait for another day.

Gently saute the onion and celery for about 5 minutes.

Add the garlic and continue sauteing for another 2 minutes.

Drain the wheat and rice and add to the onion,celery and garlic.

Add the tomatoes, lemon juice and grated rind and the herbs.

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Simmer for about 15 minutes without covering to allow some of the liquid to reduce.

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Meanwhile with a sharp knife cut a 1 cm/ 1/2 inch slot down the length of each chilli to allow ease of stuffing.

Season to your taste and then stir in 3/4 of the parmesan.

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Carefully stuff the mixture into each chilli, sprinkle the rest of the parmesan on the stuffing and then arrange in a greased baking dish.

Bake for about 25 minutes in a pre heated oven set at 180 C/350 F/ Gas 4/ Moderate, until the chillis have softened and the stuffing is heated through.

Serve immediately

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Here I have served them with the simple addition of boiled potatoes and steamed carrots

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Filed under All Year, Cheese, Main Meal, Rice, Vegetables

Parmesan Whorls

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In the world of quick nibbles, antipasti and finger food, they don’t come much quicker or as fulfilling as these, and like a lot of good recipes it is possible to chop and change the ingredients to suit the occasion. Leave out the paprika and add curry powder and they would make a good intro to an Indian meal. Not strictly traditional but then again, being British, I have grown up in a culture where anything worth having, from any other culture,  was used, hence the existence of Chinese, Indian and kebab restaurants in every British city, town and village. A nice strong cheddar cheese would go well here as a substitute.

DSCN5808Preparation 10 Minutes. Cooking 20 minutes

Ingredients

1 packet of frozen puff pastry, thawed

1 egg beaten

150 gm/ 5 oz parmesan cheese, coarsely grated

a little flour for rolling

paprika

salt and pepper

Method

On a floured surface, unroll the puff pastry

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Brush generously with the beaten egg

Sprinkle on the grated parmesan

Roll the cheese into the pastry

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Generously sprinkle with the paprika

Give a good grind with the salt and pepper

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Starting from a short end, roll up the pastry

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Put it in the fridge for 30 minutes to cool it down and firm up

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Using a very sharp knife, slice of rounds at 10 mm/ 3/8 ths inch thick

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Transfer onto a baking sheet

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Bake in a pre set oven at 200 C/400 F/ Gas 6/Moderate Hot for about 20 minutes or until they are golden brown

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Cool on a wire rack and then eat . They won’t last too long so get ready to make some more!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under All Year, Antipasti, Cheese, Pastry, Spicy

Pear and Gorgonzola Antipasto

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We park our car on a piece of land owned by the ‘Torino’ club, of which we are members. The Torino club exists to celebrate the successes of a football club in the premier Italian league,Serie A, and also to allow local men to go of an afternoon to play cards and drink cheap red wine. For our 10 Euros per year we can park and men only can enjoy the relative calm of the club. Now 2 years ago the organisers at the club, invited me, and other members out for lunch at a local restaurant. As is the way of things around here, lunch turned out to be a 15 course blowout that took about 4 1/2 hours. Of those 15 courses, 10 were antipasti. Antipasti are not meant to fill you up, but more to whet your appetite for things to come. Of course some antipasti are so tasty that you really want more.

Pear and Gorgonzola is such an antipasto. When I first had this many years ago, I was unfamiliar with the taste combination, and until I had my first mouthful I was skeptical that it would work. But it is like other taste combinations, that seem to be heaven sent. You want more, but it is quite rich and in the final analysis, a little is just the right amount. Interestingly this taste combination is available locally as a pizza topping.

It is simplicity itself, using just those 2 ingredients, apart from a little butter to grease the dish, and takes no time at all to produce. If you are hosting a dinner party you must include this as one of the courses.

This recipe is for 2 people, but is easily scaled up for any number.

Ingredients

1 large firm pear

100 gm Gorgonzola (dolce rather than piccante)(sweet rather than sharp), which has been in the FREEZER for 2 hours. It needs to be hard enough to grate.

a little butter

Method

Grease a 25 cm/10 inches dia baking dish or similar size rectangular dish.

Cut the pear lengthwise in to 4 equal pieces. Cut out the core from each section.

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If the pear is hard or firm then cut slice 3 mm/ 1/8th inch thick. If it is ripe then increase the thickness and use perhaps 2 pears.

Arrange the slices, close together in the baking dish.

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Coarsely grate the Gorgonzola, and spread it equally over the pear slices.

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Bake for 15 minutes at 180 C/ 350 F/ Gas 4/ Moderate in a pre set oven or for a similar time under a moderate grill.

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Serve immediately on hot plates.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under ALL Recipes, All Year, Antipasti, Cheese, Fruit

Leek and Stilton Quiche

 

DSCN5667Hot or cold, I just love quiches and flans, and the way you can tinker around the edges to make them a little different every time you make one. It was the end of the month, and I was pulling the last of any food out of the fridge to see what I could make. A leek, some Stilton, left over from Christmas and a few eggs – OK, a quiche it is.

The key to a successful quiche is the pastry. Get that sorted and the rest just drops into place. I have until recently had variable success with my quiche pastry. Sometimes good and occasionally not so. So I decided to go back to basics and turned to The Hairy Bikers Perfect Pies to see how to make a mean quiche pastry. Time was when I could make a perfect pastry what ever the requirement but I think that I have lost my ‘cold’ hands. Such are the ravages of time. This pastry really does benefit from eggs kept in the fridge. This pastry really is soft yet firm and a perfect compliment to any filling.

Serves 4-6. Preparation 30 minutes. Cooking time 1 1/4 hours

Ingredients for Pastry (This is for a 23 cm/12 inch diam. loose based tart tin. However I used a ceramic dish and it was just fine)

250 gm/ 8 oz/ 2 cups plain flour

150 gm/ 5 oz/ 1 cup unsalted butter

1 large egg or 2 small eggs  beaten

Ingredients for the Filling

40 g/ 1/1/2 oz/1/4 cup  butter

2 leeks (about 350 gm/12 oz/3 cups trimmed weight)

1 tbsp finely chopped fresh thyme

3 large eggs

100 ml/4 fl oz/ 1/2 cup creme fraiche or double cream mixed with 100 ml/4 fl oz/ 1/2 cup milk or just 200 ml/8 fl oz/1 cup of milk

3-4 tbsp grated parmesan (depending on strength)

200 g/ 7 oz/1 cup  Stilton or other medium-strong blue cheese, crumbled

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

Put the flour and butter into a food processor and run at a slow-ish speed until it resembles bread crumbs. With the motor running add the beaten egg until the mixture starts to come together. If you are making by hand rub the butter into the flour until it resembles bread crumbs. Knife in the beaten egg until it starts to come together. By hand shape the dough into a homogeneous ball. You might need to add a little milk to get it to come together.

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Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface until it is big enough and about 3 mm/ 1/8 inch thick. Using your rolling pin lift the dough and transfer it to the tin or dish. Press the dough into the corners, trim any excess dough and prick the base with a fork.

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Refrigerate for 30 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, slice the leeks into a saucepan with the butter and gently fry until the leeks have softened.  In a separate basin stir in the creme fraiche, milk, parmesan and thyme. Add the eggs and stir well. Season to taste.

Cut a large piece of baking parchment and screw it up tight, unscrew it and then fit it into the quiche base, easing it into the corners. (screwing it up allows it to fit into the corners)

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Add plenty of baking beans.

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Bake blind in a pre heated oven set at 180 C/350 F/Gas 4/Moderate, for 25 minutes.

Take pastry from the oven and remove the paper and beans, and bake for a further 7 minutes.

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Roughly chop or crumble half the Stilton onto the pie. (if your cheese is a bit sticky and resists crumbling, put it into the freezer for a couple of hours and then it will grate quite nicely).

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Add the leeks.

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Add the rest of the crumbled Stilton and then pour most of the cream mixture into the pie.

Open the door of the oven and put the pie on the shelf. Pour the rest of the cream mixture in and carefully slide the pie in. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes at 180 C/350 F/Gas 4/Moderate or until the pie is puffed up and golden brown.

Allow to cool for 20 minutes before serving.

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Filed under ALL Recipes, All Year, Cheese, Main Meal, Pastry, Vegetables

Sage, Parmesan and Onion Rolls

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These are a vegetarian alternative to traditional sausage rolls which are a very common feature of British Christmasses and other important social events. They are very easy to make, and take no time at all. They also freeze well, either before or after baking.

I am indebted to Delia Smith for this recipe, although I have adapted it to suit my own purposes. For instance it is almost impossible to buy cheddar cheese where I live in Italy, and I also use ready made puff pastry.

I find that how ever many I make, it is always too few. They get eaten very quickly.

Ingredients

1  rectangle of ready puff pastry

275 gm/9 oz/ 2 cups   breadcrumbs

225 gm/8 oz/1 1/2 cups  grated parmesan cheese

1 large onion grated

3 tablespoons thick cream

3 tablespoons fresh sage, finely chopped

1 1/2 teaspoons mustard powder

salt and pepper

Method

Unroll the puff pastry

Place all the ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly.

Take a large spoonfuls in your hand and roll it into a ‘sausage’ of about 2 cm/ 1 inch diameter and lay it along the short edge of the puff pastry.

Carefully roll up and seal with the beaten egg. Cut to release the long roll from the rest of the pastry.

With a sharp knife cut the long roll into 2 cm/1 inch long rolls. Place on a tray covered in baking paper.

Brush with beaten egg.

Place in a pre heated oven set to 220 C/425 F /Gas 7/Hot for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. Put them on a cooling rack.

Serve warm or cold or freeze them.

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Filed under ALL Recipes, All Year, Antipasti, Cheese, Christmas, Spicy

Red and Green Pesto

 

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Red  and Green pesto is so easy and quick to make and so full of flavour, you will never want to buy another jar of the factory made stuff again. Either pesto can of course be combined with pasta, rice and as a topping for polenta cubes or other types of finger food.

In the Red, equal quantities of cheese, nuts and sun dried tomatoes go together with garlic, oil, salt and pepper and in the Green, it is equal quantities of cheese, nuts and either basil, sage or even carrot tops go together with garlic,oil,salt and pepper. As easy as that.

In most shop bought pesto, pine nuts are used, however I use walnuts and to my mind they are perfectly acceptable and also much cheaper.

Ingredients

50 gm/2 oz/ 1/4 cup parmesan

50 gm/2 oz/  1/4 cup walnuts shelled

50 gm/2 oz/  1/4 cup (Red) sun dried tomatoes or (Green) fresh basil, fresh sage or fresh green carrot tops

50 ml/2 fl oz / 1/4 cup or so of olive oil

1 or 2 cloves of garlic

a good grind of salt and pepper

Method

Using a stick blender mince up the ingredients with the oil until you have a homogeneous mixture, adding more oil if it is needed.

In the photo I used sage for my green pesto so it does not have the bright green appearance of basil or carrot tops.

Put into a clean jar and keep in the fridge. If you are not going to use it within a week or so then add extra oil to cover the surface to exclude air and then it will keep a couple of months. It is not worth making anymore than this amount at a time as it is so easy to make a fresh batch.

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Filed under ALL Recipes, All Year, Antipasti, Cheese, Main Meal