Saturday, 7 January 2012

Cheese and spinach potato bake

Made this up today to feed a vegetarian friend. It also went down well with meat-eaters among the guests, and the 8-month-old baby present. Essentially, it's potatoes boulangere turned into a complete meal.

2lb of potatoes - or more or less to feed more/fewer people
1 or more onions
fresh or frozen spinach - if fresh, more than you think you need because it goes down to nothing
cheese - I used a mixture of mozzarella, goat's cheese and parmesan
milk and/or cream

Wash the spinach, then pan on a low heat with no additional water if you can help it. Cook it in batches if your pan is too small. When it has collapsed, squeeze out as much of the water as possible using a sieve, chop and reserve. Slice the potatoes thinly and store in a bowl of water to keep them from oxidising. Slice the onion thinly. Grate the cheese.

Heat the milk and/or cream and soft cheese/goat's cheese/other cheese in a pan until the cheese has melted. You could add an egg.

Butter a large shallow oven dish - or a smaller deeper one. Layer the potatoes, onion and spinach in the dish. You could put some grated cheese in one of the layers. Pour over the milk mixture. Sprinkle any remaining cheese on top.

Bake in the oven at 180C/gas mark 4 for 1 1/2 hours, approximately. It will look after itself.

Gruyere and Parmesan Allumettes

aka fancy cheese straws

110g/4oz Gruyere, finely grated
25g/1 oz freshly grated Parmesan
110g/4oz strong white flour
75g/ 3 oz butter, diced
a pinch of cayenne pepper
a little beaten egg

Put the flour, Gruyere, butter and seasonings into a medium-sized bowl, then rub in until the mixture starts to form clumps. Form into a ball. Chill in the fridge for 15 minutes (optional but I think it makes it easier).

Preheat oven to 180C/Gas mark 4. Grease two baking sheets.

Transfer the dough to a flour-dusted board or surface, knead lightly again, then roll out into an oblong approx 20x30cm. Trim the edges. Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with Parmesan. Cut into allumettes/straws 5mm wide and 10cm long - or any other length you like! Use a palette knife to transfer to the greased baking sheet and spread out a little if you can be bothered.

Bake for 15 minutes, then cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight tin.

Pistachio Sables

Little pistachio biscuits to serve with drinks. Having made these once I would probably make double quantities next time to make them larger.

20g/1oz shelled, unsalted pistachio nuts
40g/2oz strong white flour
40g/2oz unsalted butter, diced
40g/2oz freshly grated Parmesan
a pinch of cayenne pepper

Chop the pistachio nuts until quite small. Mix them with the remaining ingredients. Rub the ingredients together until the mixture starts to form clumps. Press against the side of the bowl to bring it together.

Transfer to a board and knead lightly, then roll into a sausage shape. Wrap and chill in the freezer for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 180C/gas mark 4. Grease a large baking sheet. Slice the chilled log into discs about 5mm thick and place on the baking sheet. They do not spread in cooking so do not need to be placed far apart.

Bake for 13-15 minutes until they start to go golden around the edges. Cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight tin.