Spinach, goats cheese and pine nut cannelloni

Spinach, goats cheese and pine nut cannelloni

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If you want a recipe to cram about half a kilogram of spinach into your vegetable hating significant other, child or just somebody who is ridiculously picky about vegetables this might be a winner. Spinach has got so many wonderful anti inflammatory properties its nice that its so easily incorporated into a meal.

Anyway, I know pasta and gluten containing products have a bit of a bad reputation for being less healthy, or too heavy; but I did not find this recipe too stodgy. I remained nicely satisfied all evening. Which I think is the purpose of pasta, in moderation it fills you up and stops you creeping to the fridge for a mid evening snack. I admit I was pretty liberal with my cheese adding (I am a dyed in the wool cheese lover) but I used goats cheese and buffalo mozzarella which I find a bit easier to digest.

(As a side note if you do have coeliac disease or a wheat allergy and you do fancy trying this, I suggest you try layering the spinach and tomato with these lasagne sheets I looked up for you that are gluten free. I can be a gem sometimes)

Anyway, you might have noticed I do often cook with meat, but I am trying to incorporate more vegetarian meals into our diet. Unfortunately this is made slightly more difficult by the fact I am pretty intolerant to a lot of pulses (cry). I don’t particularly like my lentils to be served with a side of agonising stomach cramps etc. Anyway, back to the vegetarian meals; I feel if I can keep making vegetables more exciting I might be able to convince D of the merit of Meat Free Mondays….

To make enough cannelloni to feed 3 (or 2 if your male type person is feeling particularly peckish upon waking up from a night shift) you will need:

Approx 9 cannelloni tubes (you might need more or less depending upon how much filling you get)

About 400g frozen spinach (the water will evaporate)

1 glass white wine

fresh rosemary

1 small onion

1 large clove garlic

salt and pepper

vegetable oil

100g pine nuts

100g soft goats cheese

100g mozzarella

500g passata

Preheat your oven to 200°C. Peel and slice your onion and crush your garlic. Fry over a gentle heat until soft. Add your pine nuts and lightly toast before adding your rosemary, wine, spinach, salt and pepper.

Heat until all of the spinach has loosened and is cooked through. Add your goats cheese and stir until it is fully dispersed.

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Set aside the spinach to cool slightly. Using a teaspoon and your fingers stuff your uncooked cannelloni. If any Italian people want to correct me on how to do this in an authentic way please add a comment! Anyway I was obviously feeling pretty jaunty when I did my food shopping as you can see from the cannelloni I purchased.

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If you have any pine nuts leftover from your pasta stuffing endeavours never fear. Just set them aside for use as topping. (There’s no point wasting them).

Cover your pasta with cold passata. Dot over your mozzarella at random and sprinkle over your pine nuts and a little more rosemary. Season with more salt and pepper as desired. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the sauce is bubbling and the pasta is cooked.

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I can always tell when D particularly likes a meal as he is always up for seconds.

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This might take a little longer to make than most midweek meals but I can assure you the extra effort was well worth it.

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Milk chocolate and Bailey’s truffles

Milk chocolate and Bailey’s truffles

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So this is a last minute recipe and its an absolute dream to produce for a crowd. I actually made these for my brother’s 30th birthday back in October but I thought, for many of us, the time we need to feed a lot of people delicious items is over the festive period. I hope you enjoy my last minute Christmas blogging and now you will have another festive recipe set aside should you need it.

These truffles are a dream as they only require 4 ingredients:

200g milk chocolate, broken into pieces

190ml double cream

10ml Baileys

Chopped hazelnuts

(This recipe can be scaled up or down as required)

In a heavy pan heat your cream and Baileys. Once it starts to simmer add the milk chocolate and allow to melt in. Once the ingredients are combined pour the mixture into a glass bowl and cover with cling film.

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Freeze this mixture for a couple of hours until it is solid. Once it has hardened use a teaspoon to make mouth sized pieces (technical term). Use the warmth of your hand to round the truffles – there is no photographic evidence of this as I was covered in chocolate!

Once you have the truffle shape roll this in the chopped nuts to decorate. These keep best if stored in the fridge. Serve with the Christmassy themed drink of your choice.

Ferrero Rocher Tart

This is one of those post festive period posts that feels a little late to the party. I ended up making this dessert when we had friends round on New Years Eve and its one that’s a little bit special. All the chocolate makes this a pretty decadent dessert – it’s actually a bit of a rehash of the  Chocolate and salted caramel hazelnut tart I made last year as the chocolate pastry and basic ganache recipe is pretty much the same. The praline in the Ferrero Rocher goes well with the chocolate and pecan nuts in the ganache. I must admit though, although the chocolate pastry is pretty difficult to work with, overall this recipe is easier than the original (both are good for a special occasion, this one is better if you’re pushed for time).

This time I made my pastry using my food processor as it is less time consuming. If you want to make the pastry by hand, there are instructions in the original recipe.

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“Monsier Ambassador you are really spoiling us with these Ferrero Rocher”

To make your own Ferrero Rocher Tart you will need

For the pastry

175g butter

75g caster sugar

2 egg yolks

250g plain flour

20g cocoa powder

35ml water

For the ganache

200g good quality dark chocolate (I used a mixture of 70% and 85%)

200ml double cream

200g soft brown sugar

70g chopped pecan nuts

For the topping

Approx 16 Ferrero Rocher

Chop your butter into small pieces and add to your food processor along with the caster sugar. Mix thoroughly – keep scraping the sides while using the food processor to make sure everything is evenly mixed. Add the egg yolks and water and mix well. Then gradually add the flour and cocoa powder. Once your pastry has come together gather into a large ball, wrap in cling film and put in the fridge or freezer for an hour until the dough is firm.

Roll out the pastry on a floured surface to a half cm thickness and line a loose bottomed tart tin or cake tin. Leave the pastry to rest again in the fridge for a few minutes. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Bake your pastry lined with baking beans for 20 minutes and blind for a further 6 – 10 minutes.

While your pastry is cooling make your ganache by heating your sugar and cream and allowing to simmer for 2 minutes. Take off the heat and melt in your dark chocolate. Allow to cool slightly and add your chopped pecan nuts. Top your pastry with the chocolate ganache and leave to cool – the ganache will thicken as it does so.

Half your Ferrero Rocher and decorate your tart. I did this at random and added the crumbs I made while chopping the chocolates, but if you want you can eat these (nobody will know!).

This tart works very well with cream, ice cream or creme fraiche – D prefers his served on its own. We ate slices of this after approximately 3 hours of drinking and playing games so you can imagine the high spirits going on.

If anyone wants to see the old advert for Ferrero Rocher click here.

Chocolate and salted caramel hazelnut tart

Christmas is well and truly upon us. If, like me, dried fruit based desserts leave you uninspired, try this gem of a dessert. This one is perfect for a special occasion; it looks impressive, packs a real punch in the flavour department and although making it is time consuming, it isn’t a difficult thing to bake. I did get a bit of pastry shrinkage with this recipe, but I mixed mine by hand and I’m sure this won’t happen as much if you made it using a food processor. When making this you need to allow time for your pastry to chill in the fridge and allow time later for the chocolate to set. If you’re going to make the effort with a dessert like this, really take the time to let things rest and set properly. The other benefit is that you will enjoy making this far more if you’re not running around the kitchen in a flap, up to your elbows in melted chocolate.

I made this as an early birthday dessert for my housemate A. Her birthday is boxing day so I wanted to treat her to a special dessert and I knew she would adore this. (I was right, I got a big hug and a kiss when I produced this!)

To make this tart you will need

For the pastry

175g butter

75g caster sugar

2 egg yolks

250g plain flour

20g cocoa powder

35ml water

For the ganache

200g good quality dark chocolate (I used a mixture of 70% and 85%)

200ml double cream

200g caster sugar or light brown sugar if you prefer

5g sea salt

For the hazelnut topping

100g caster sugar

1 teaspoon sea salt

100g hazelnuts

 

To make the pastry cream together your butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

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Add the egg yolks and the water and mix well.

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Gradually add the flour and cocoa powder until all the ingredients are bound together. This step is way easier using a food processor but it is possible to do this by hand.

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Wrap in a plastic bag and allow to chill in the fridge for at least and hour, if not longer.

Roll your pastry out onto a floured surface and use it to line a loose bottomed tin that is about 24cm in diameter and at least 2.5cm thick. Allow your pastry to rest for 15 minutes in the fridge before trimming it. Patch any bald patches in your tin with excess pastry. Preheat your oven to 180°C. Before baking prick your pastry with a fork.

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Line your tin with greaseproof paper and baking beans and bake blind for 20 minutes. Remove the beans and bake for another 6 minutes.

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While your pastry is baking make your ganache by melting together your cream, sugar, chocolate and sea salt in a heatproof bowl over a boiling pan. Usually I’m a great advocate of zapping stuff like this in a microwave, but its best to keep an eye on ganache.

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Melt together until thick and glossy.

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Pour into your pastry and chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

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To make the topping warm a small saucepan over a medium heat. Add your sugar and melt together until golden brown. Add the salt and mix well before taking off the heat and adding the hazelnuts. Mix thoroughly. Lay over a piece of greaseproof paper to cool. Once cool separate the nuts by smashing them.

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Top the tart with your hazelnuts. Serve.

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Candles and a beautiful rendition of “Happy Birthday” or “Santa Clause is coming to town” entirely optional.