food for thought

by michelle

Archive for the ‘cheese’ Category

vegetarian moussaka

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This classic Greek dish is usually made with layers of eggplant and minced lamb, topped with a bechamel sauce. In this version mushrooms take the place of meat. It’s both satisfying and delicious.

Slice 1.5kg (3.3 lbs) of eggplants (aubergines) into 1cm (less than ½”) slices. Brush with olive oil, season with salt and cook on a griddle or bbq until soft and a little charred. Set aside. Heat some olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 finely sliced large onion and 1 cup each of finely diced carrots and celery. Sauté until the onion is soft and translucent. Add 4 minced cloves of garlic and 340g (12 oz) of chopped portobello mushrooms. Sauté until the juices evaporate then add 1 teaspoon of dried oregano, ½ a teaspoon of ground cinnamon, 1 can of diced tomatoes and ¼ of a cup of chopped fresh Italian parsley. Cook for at least 10 minutes until the mixture thickens a little. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. To assemble, oil a lasagna baking dish and arrange half of the eggplant slices in a single layer. Spoon half of the tomato mixture over the eggplant. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of grated parmesan. Repeat with the remaining eggplant, tomato mixture and more cheese. In a heavy saucepan, melt 6 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Whisk in 7 tablespoons of all purpose flour. Stir and cook for 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in 3½ cups of whole milk. Simmer, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens. Whisk in ½ a cup of grated parmesan and season with salt and pepper to taste. Whisk 4 large egg yolks in a bowl and then gradually whisk them into the hot sauce. Finally, pour the sauce over the moussaka and sprinkle with another ¼ of a cup of cheese. Bake the moussaka for approximately 45 minutes or until heated through and golden brown on top. Cool 15 minutes before serving. .

*Adapted from this recipe.

Written by michelle picker

February 5, 2020 at 12:07 am

spinach and ricotta gnocchi

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Another fabulous River Café recipe. Light and airy fresh ricotta dumplings swimming in a butter and sage sauce. What’s not to like?

Blanch 1kg (2¼ lbs) of spinach in boiling water until wilted. Squeeze the cooked spinach dry and chop it roughly. In a pan melt a ¼ of a cup of unsalted butter and add the picked leaves from a small bunch of fresh marjoram. Cook for a minute then add the spinach and stir to combine. Season to taste then leave to cool. In a large bowl, lightly beat 400g (14 oz) of fresh ricotta with a fork. Sift in 40g (8 teaspoons) of all-purpose flour. Add 3 egg yolks, ¼ of a freshly grated nutmeg and 120g (4¼ oz) of grated Parmesan and mix well. Finally, fold in the cooled spinach mixture until well combined and taste for seasoning. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and, using two dessert spoons, shape the gnocchi and place them on the baking sheet. They should all be the same size. To make the sage butter, heat 1 cup of butter gently until it separates. Pour out the clarified butter into a clean pan and return it to the heat. When very hot, add the sage leaves briefly then remove from the heat and allow to cool. When you’re ready to cook the gnocchi, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil, then lower the heat to a simmer. Gently drop the gnocchi in the water. Don’t overcrowd the pot – cook them in batches if necessary. When the gnocchi come up to the surface they are cooked. Carefully remove them with a slotted spoon and briefly place the spoon on paper towels to drain off the excess water. Toss them gently in the sage butter and keep them warm while you cook the rest. Serve immediately with some extra sage butter and grated parmesan on top.

Written by michelle picker

November 20, 2019 at 12:13 am

Posted in cheese, vegetables

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frittata with fresh ricotta

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Really fresh ricotta has a great texture and taste so I like to keep it unadulterated. This frittata is a lovely way to enjoy it in a quick and simple meal.

Wash and trim a bunch of spinach and blanch it in boiling salted water until just wilted. Drain and cool it under cold running water then squeeze out the excess water. Chop the spinach roughly and set aside in a large bowl. Heat some olive oil in a pan and fry 1 sliced onion and 1 sliced red pepper over moderate heat until the onion is soft and translucent. Add 2-3 cloves of minced garlic and cook just a little longer. Add the onions and peppers to the bowl of spinach and combine with 4- 6 eggs, salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Wipe your pan clean and heat some more olive oil. Pour in the egg mixture and cook over low heat. When the eggs have cooked halfway up, dot the fresh ricotta over everything and top with pine nuts and finely grated pecorino or parmesan. Place under a hot grill until the egg is firm and the pine nuts are golden brown. Serve from the pan.

Written by michelle picker

October 9, 2019 at 12:13 am

Posted in cheese, eggs

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stuffed poblanos

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Poblanos are mild chillies which originated in Puebla, Mexico. When dried they are known as ancho chillies and the fresh chillies are popular stuffed and roasted. Here’s my version.

Roast or barbecue 4-6 whole poblano chillies and 1 red pepper until they are softening and slightly charred. Meanwhile in a little oil fry 1 finely diced onion and 2 minced cloves of garlic until wilted. Add small cubes of butternut pumpkin (squash), ground cumin, dried oregano and salt to taste. Continue to cook, adding a little water if necessary, until soft. When the red pepper is soft remove the seeds, dice it finely and add it to the onions and pumpkin. Remove from the heat and add some fresh goat cheese and chopped fresh coriander (cilantro). Cut the poblano chillies in half and carefully scoop out the seeds. Lie the halves in an oven tray and fill them with the goat cheese mixture. Top them with grated cheese (something that melts easily) and sprinkle with pumpkin seeds (pepitas). Roast in a moderate oven until the seeds are browning and the filling is hot.

Written by michelle picker

April 3, 2019 at 12:18 am

chèvre omelette

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A simple dish of eggs and cheese might only take 10-15 minutes to prepare but it can still impress. This omelette highlights light and fluffy just-melted goats cheese.

Break up 1 cup of fresh chèvre, mix through 1 tablespoon of finely chopped chives and set aside. In a small frypan heat some butter with a little oil and fry 10 -12 sage leaves until crispy. Drain them on a paper towel and set aside as the garnish. Whisk 4 eggs with a little milk or cream, making sure to season them well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Over medium heat, melt a generous amount of butter and oil in a large frypan. When it’s sizzling, pour the eggs into the pan. Break any bubbles that form in the omelette and allow the egg to run through. When the egg is nearly cooked, place the chèvre onto one half and carefully fold the other half over the top. Continue to cook just long enough for the cheese to melt before sliding the omelette onto a serving plate. Garnish with the crispy sage leaves.

Written by michelle picker

July 4, 2018 at 12:29 am

Posted in cheese, eggs

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mini breakfast frittatas

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Here’s a great breakfast for a crowd that’s easy to prepare ahead. These were simple ham and cheese but there are endless ingredient choices for mini frittatas and they’re excellent party food too. Try mushrooms, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, chillies, olives and truffle to name just a few. Let your imagination run wild.

Generously butter some muffin trays (silicone works really well) and place some chunks of good quality free-range ham and some shredded tasty cheese into each opening. Whisk all your eggs (1 per frittata) adding some cream, sour cream or just milk and seasoning to taste with salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Divide the eggs evenly into the muffin trays then top each frittata with chopped fresh chives and some more grated cheese. Bake in a moderate oven for 15-20 minutes or until set.

And while the oven is on, why not roast a tray of tomatoes? Cut the tomatoes into wedges, sprinkle with chopped fresh basil, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Written by michelle picker

May 23, 2018 at 12:20 am

Posted in breakfast, cheese, eggs

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stuffed mushrooms

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Whoever said life was too short to stuff a mushroom was wrong. I love mushrooms and this recipe uses 3 types of mushrooms to make a most delicious and satisfying vegetarian meal.

For this recipe use portobello mushrooms (these are large, mature button mushrooms) with a good edge to hold the filling. For the filling finely dice some brown shallots, the stems of the portobello mushrooms and some Swiss Brown mushrooms (these are more flavoursome than button mushrooms – they look similar with a darker and slightly mottled cap). Heat some oil in a pan and fry the shallots until just wilting. Add the mushrooms and some fresh thyme leaves as well as some porcini mushroom powder for extra mushroom flavour. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and cook until the mushrooms are softening then remove them to a bowl to cool. Add 1 egg and a generous amount of soft goat’s cheese to the mushrooms. When you’re happy with the flavour spoon the mixture into the mushrooms and place them into an oiled baking dish. Top with some finely grated parmesan or pecorino and drizzle with a little olive oil. Bake in a moderate oven (along with some roasted vegetables for accompaniment) until nicely browned and well cooked.

Written by michelle picker

May 2, 2018 at 12:17 am