Saturday, 27 October 2012

polenta gnocchi with super-green florentine sauce! (and it's gluten free and vegetarian too!)

A great winter warming recipe - polenta gnocchi with a watercress, spinach and rocket Florentine sauce all topped with parmesan - great as a vegetarian main meal or a side dish with a hearty stew or casserole.
Inspired by gnocchi Romana which is traditionally made with semolina and prepared simply with butter and parmesan. I have added this super-green Florentine to try and add a tasty little boost to my immune system in this cold and flu season.
The super-greens (watercress, spinach and rocket) add lots of vitamins and antioxidants as well as a lovely peppery taste which works well with the crème fraiche that makes the super simple super-green Florentine sauce!
This is a really simple recipe - the hardest bit is stirring the polenta while it cooks and thickens up - which does give you arms a bit of a work out but listen to some music and it'll be over in no time - no pain no gain as they say ;)
This is also a great gluten-free and vegetarian dish.
serves 3-4 as a main or 6 as a side dish
preparation time: 45 minutes (plus about 1 hour cooling time)
cooking time: 20 minutes

polenta gnocchi

3 cups fine/coarse cornmeal/polenta
6 cups water
30g grated parmesan/pecorino
1 tbs butter
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
black pepper to taste
1 tbs chopped sage leaves
few gratings of nutmeg
super-green florentine sauce
300ml creme fraiche (mascarpone/soft cheese would also work well)
100g mixed spinach, watercress, rocket leaves
black pepper to taste
30-50g parmesan or pecorino cheese to grate on top before baking

  • pre-heat the oven to 200C
  • add salt, chopped sage and nutmeg to the water and bring to the boil in a large saucepan
  • when boiling add the polenta in a steady stream to prevent lumps (do as I say not as I do as I accidentally added in one big clump which made it harder work to get the lumps out!)
  • stir, stir, and then stir some more - for about 30-45 minutes with a wooden spoon until the polenta starts to leave the sides of the pan and has thickened up and all lumps are gone.
  • take off the heat and add the grated cheese and butter - stir until combined then tip onto a greased surface or tray
  • spread out with a knife to about 1.5cm thick (dipping the knife in boiled water helps prevent the polenta sticking to it) then leave until completely cool. You can put in fridge to speed things up, but I left mine on the work surface and it was cold in about 1 hour.
  • cut into small circles (I used a 5cm cutter) to make your polenta gnocchi and then put into a greased oven dish slightly overlapping
  • you can add any offcuts together and flatten again to cut out more gnocchi if you still have some left over or save in the fridge for another day.
  • chop the watercress, spinach and rocket roughly then add to the creme fraiche to make your super-green Florentine sauce - add black pepper to taste.
  • top the gnocchi with the sauce then add more grated cheese to top before baking.
  • bake at 200C for about 20 minutes - until the gnocchi are heated through and the top is golden and bubbling
    I served this with a fresh, super-green leaf and beetroot salad.

Friday, 26 October 2012

15 minute peanut butter and chilli noodles

an easy, quick, combination of peanut butter, chilli sauce, and soy sauce - creates this delicious Thai inspired noodle dish.  This is one recipe I will be making more than once!  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. 

serves 3-4
recipe ready in 15 minutes (or less if you are really quick and not using meat!)
250g egg noodles
1 bag stir fry vegetables (I used about 400g size)
300g minced beef (but you can use pork, prawns, chicken, tofu, extra veg - it's up to you)
1 tbs oil
3 tbs peanut butter (I like crunchy for the texture but smooth is OK)
3 tbs soya sauce
3 tbs sweet chilli sauce
6 tbs boiled water
optional sauce extras:
crushed garlic
grated ginger
lime zest
optional toppings:
sesame seeds
lime segment
chilli flakes
chopped mint/coriander
chopped peanuts
sliced spring onions

  • mix all the sauce ingredients together and leave to one side while you prepare everything else
  • turn on frying pan and when hot carefully add oil and fry beef (or other ingredient of choice) for approx 10 minutes on a high heat. Make sure meat is hot and completely cooked through.
  • at the same time add noodles to a pan and carefully pour over boiled water to soften (follow packet instructions as noodles take different amounts of time).
  • drain when cooked and leave to one side
  • when the beef (etc....) is cooked add the stir fry veg mix and fry for a minute on a high heat.
  • add the noodles to the pan with the stir fry and meat and pour over the sauce mix
  • heat through for a couple of minutes
  • serve with optional toppings - I used chopped mint, chilli flakes, sesame seeds and lime segments
  • enjoy your super quick and tasty noodles ready in only 15 minutes! 

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

baked homemade gnocchi with ham, leek, mushroom & cheese

This recipe is a real comfort food dish - full of lovely homemade potato dumplings with a sauce destined to work with it - ham, leek, mushroom and can you go wrong?!  This would be great too with some wilted spinach, caramelised onions, bacon....

The gnocchi surprised me at how easy they were - OK, so there were a few lumps in the mash and
presentation is not my strong point (as the photos will prove)....but in spite of this they were delicious, light and really easy to make. 

It is really worth the effort to make the gnocchi yourselves - but if you don't want to a shop bought pack of pre-made will do just fine in this recipe. 

The following recipe makes enough for 4 people

gnocchi dough:
300g mashed potato
150g 00 flour/plain flour
1 egg
few gratings of nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste

ham, leek and mushroom sauce:
300g mushrooms
300g leeks
300g ham (I used a good quality smoked ham)
2 tbs chopped fresh sage
1 tbs butter
1 tbs olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

(obviously you can play around with the amounts I have given to your own person tastes - but this is what worked for me)

bechamel cheese sauce:
25g butter
25g flour
1/2 pint of milk
50g grated mature cheese (e.g. parmesan, pecorino, mature cheddar)

other ingredients:
1 tin chopped tomatoes/passata
2 handfuls breadcrumbs
50g grated mature cheese

  1. put all the ingredients together in a large bowl and bring together with your hands to form a smooth dough.  Be careful when adding the flour as you may need slightly more or less depending on the moisture in the potatoes. 
  2. knead it only enough to bring it together as you want to keep the dough light (too much kneading makes HEAVY gnocchi - not good!)
  3. divide the dough into 3 or 4 and roll each ball into a long sausage shape - about 2-3cm wide
  4. cut into 1.5cm widths then squash with a fork to leave a mark from the fork prongs - this helps the sauce stick to the gnocchi.   
  5. leave on a lightly floured board or plate and put in the fridge for 15-20 minutes to 'set' before boiling.
  6. when the time is up bring a pan of salted water to a slow boil
  7. add the gnocchi in batches being careful not to overcrowd the pan
  8. when the gnocchi float to the top cook for a further 2-3 minutes then drain carefully with a slotted spoon - leave to one side until ready to assemble.
ham, leek and mushroom sauce:

  1. chop the leeks, mushrooms and ham then fry off in butter and olive oil with the chopped sage until softened (about 10 minutes).  Add salt and pepper to taste. 

bechamel cheese sauce:
  1. add the butter, flour and milk to a pan and bring to the boil stirring all the time to avoid getting lumps. 
  2. when its boiling keep cooking for a further 2-3 minutes to make sure the flour is cooked out.
  3. take off the heat and stir in the cheese. 
.....and to put it all together:
  1. pour the tinned tomatoes/passata on the bottom of the cooking pan
  2. stir the cooked gnocchi into the ham, leek and mushroom sauce then place on top of the tomatoes
  3. top with the bechamel cheese sauce, breadcrumbs and extra mature cheese
  4. bake at 200C for about 15-20 minutes until its heated through and the topping is bubbling and golden


I served this with a nice glass of red wine and some crusty bread. Buon Appetito!

Monday, 22 October 2012

carrot, orange and caraway cake

This is a combination of some of my favourite flavours and a cross between a traditional carrot cake and a seed cake.  Carrot and caraway have long been used together in savoury dishes and are a perfect match so I thought why not use this combination in a cake...? The pungent aniseed flavour of the caraway and the sharp citrus of the orange zests works well with the carrot, and it is definitely a cake I shall be baking again.  I hope you enjoy it.

300g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
200 g soft brown sugar
4 eggs
250ml oil
3 oranges zested
200 g grated carrots
1 tbs caraway seeds
1 tsp nutmeg
1 pinch salt

  • heat the oven to 150.c and grease and line a 20cm deep cake tin or 2 1lb loaf tins.
  • sift the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda together and then stir in the sugar
  • in a separate bowl beat the eggs with the oil and orange zest for a few minutes
  • stir in the grated carrots, caraway seeds, nutmeg and salt and then fold everything into the flour mixture
  • pour into the prepared tins and then bake for 40mins-1hour (depending on the size of tins you are using)
  • it is ready when risen and a skewer comes out clean
  • leave to cool in tins for a few minutes before removing to a cooling rack
Eat with a nice cup of tea while watching Strictly Come Dancing on a Saturday night. 

Saturday, 20 October 2012

pasta with sausage, caramelised onion, petit pois, fennel seed & pecorino sardo






pasta with sausage, caramelised onion, petit pois,fennel seed & pecorino sardo

This is a quick dinner idea with lots of tasty, punchy flavours and textures.  The pecorino sardo (a hard sheep milk cheese from Sardinia) adds a salty taste which contrasts well with the sweetness of the petit pois and caramelised onion.

This is really easy and will be ready in less than 30 minutes.  This would also be good with a bit of fresh chilli thrown in but I need to refrain sometimes from adding chilli to everything!


serves 2-3

4 good quality pork sausages
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 chopped onion
2 crushed garlic cloves
1 tbs olive oil
100g petit pois
1 tbs chopped sage leaves
1 tbs fennel seeds

200-250g pasta (tagliatelle or linguine work well with this recipe)
pecorino sardo (parmesan would work just as well as a substitute)
salt and pepper to taste

  • Remove skins from sausages and break into small pieces before frying off in the olive oil with the chopped sage. 
  • When sausages are browned add onions and continue to fry until they are caramelised
  • Add fennel seeds and crushed garlic cloves - cook for a few minutes before adding the tinned tomatoes.
  • Simmer for about 20-25 minutes until the sauce is thickened up and the sausage pieces cooked through.
  • With 10 minutes to go cook the pasta according to packet instructions
  • 2 minutes before the end throw in the petit pois and check for seasoning 
  • Drain pasta and mix in with the sauce - top with the grated pecorino sardo


chicken noodle soup with carrots, lemon & dill

chicken noodle soup with carrots, lemon and dill

As the title of my blog suggests noodle soup is a major part of my culinary life.  This recipe is inspired by my Gran's Polish chicken noodle soup. I still remember the burnt smell that permeated her flat when she was singeing the feathers off the chicken on the hob ring (well I think that was what she was doing!) and the beautifully clear broth she produced.  I remember it simmering slowly away for hours......

For me noodle soup is a comfort, it's what I cook when I have a cold, when I feel miserable, and when I just want a taste of home.  

To make it from scratch takes hours - obviously you can cheat and use a ready made stock/stock cube but in this instance you would be missing the point.  It seems the amount of time and effort put in is equal to the positive, restorative effects of the soup.  This is food as medicine and you have to cook with love in your heart - otherwise it won't work.

Due to the length of time this takes it is always useful to have a batch of the stock ready in the freezer so you are always ready in a noodle soup emergency!

For the stock:

1 chicken carcass (leftover from a roast chicken)
2 celery sticks
2 carrots
2 onions
1/2 lemon
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp allspice berries
1 tsp black pepper corns
3 bay leaves
1 tbs leaves
1 sprig rosemary 
Salt to taste

For the soup

200g cooked noodles - (I used Spaetzle a German egg noodle for this but vermicelli, rice noodles,Chinese egg noodles would all work well)
2 carrots
3 tbs chopped dill
Zest of 1 lemon  

  • Place all stock ingredients in a large pot and cover with cold water.  
  • Bring to the boil and then simmer for 3-4 hours on the stove top or in a slow cooker for 6 hours on medium.  
  • Skim off any 'scum'/fat that floats to the top every now and then.
  • When the time is up leave to cool before refrigerating over night (with all the veg and chicken still present)
  • The next day before you want to use it bring it to the boil again for 15-20 minutes and then strain through a sieve/colander.  Pick out any large pieces of meat and add them back to the soup.  It is now ready to add the other soup ingredients.....
For the soup:  
  • Prepare the noodles as per packet instructions.  
  • Add chopped carrots to the noodles as they are cooking
  • When done add to the soup stock and serve garnished with chopped dill and lemon zest.  

Enjoy :)  


Friday, 19 October 2012

spicy lamb and lentil soup

A lovely warming dish on these cold days.  Feel free to play around with the spices I use - but I think the cumin and coriander work well with the lamb and add a Moroccan flavour that I love.  This is a really thick soup and a cross between a soup and a stew.  This is also a great way of making a tasty, filling lunch or supper for very little money.  This would work equally as well without the lamb for a veggie alternative.    

This can serve 4-6 people however I left a pot of it in the fridge and all but one portion was devoured by a hungry husband and large 17 year old step son!    

Spicy lamb and lentil soup

For 4-6 people
500g stewing lamb
2 tins tomatoes
2 litres veg stock
200g red lentils
100g grains (I use Pearl barley but bulgar wheat, quinoa, cous cous would all work well)
1 onion chopped
1 carrot chopped
2 garlic cloves chopped
1 tbs cumin seeds
1/2 tbs coriander seeds
1 tbs smoked paprika
1 sprig rosemary
1 tbs olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste


  • Fry the lamb on both sides until nicely browned
  • Add chopped veg and spices and fry for a few minutes until softened and slightly browned
  • At the same time in a separate pan bring the lentils to a rapid boil for 10 minutes before draining and adding to a pan with the tinned tomatoes, grains, stock and seasoning
  • Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for an hour until the lamb and veg are tender
  • Remove the lamb and shred with a fork and remove any bones before putting the meat back in the soup 
  • Serve with crusty bread and butter if you like - I hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Lemon, poppy seed and orange flower Ciambella

"A traditional Italian cake which I have tweaked a bit so it is now crossed with a lemon drizzle style glaze and added a bit of orange flower water for good measure - just because I love it's soft floral flavour with the sharp lemon.

You could also make this flavoured with caraway seeds, orange zest, liqueur soaked fruit, chocolate chips, almonds..... It's up to you. Happy baking :)"

1 cup soured milk (squeeze of lemon until milk curdles - don't worry it'll look horrible but will be ok - it helps the rise!)
3 eggs
2 cups of caster sugar
3 cups of plain flour
grated zest of 2 lemons
1/2 cup poppy seeds
2 tsp vanilla essence/vanilla pod seeds
half cup vegetable oil
2 heaped teaspoons of baking powder
a little milk if too thick
Pinch salt

1/2 cup sugar
Juice of 2 lemons
2 tbs of orange flower water
  1. Grease a ciambella/bundt tin, and dust it lightly with flour. Preheat the oven to 180°C, 350°F. 
  2. Sift flour and baking powder into a bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil, sugar and lemon zest and salt. Beat using an electric whisk for about 3-4 mins 
  3. Stir in poppy seeds, if it’s a bit thick add a little extra milk. 
  4. Pour the mixture into the tin, and bake in the oven for about 50 minutes until well risen and a skewer comes out clean.
  5. Turn off the oven, and remove cake 
  6. Mix the glaze ingredients together. Poke a few holes with skewer then pour over glaze 
  7. Leave it to cool in the tin 
  8. The glaze should leave a nice crunchy topping. This cake can be eaten straight away but is even better the day after all the flavours have mingled. Great with a strong coffee at breakfast time but you don't need me to tell you when you can eat cake!

gypsy tart

"This is my attempt at Gary's Gypsy tart. So simple but amazing. Extremely sweet, caramel, butterscotch flavour. Just remember to whisk until the surface is covered with small air bubbles and the texture becomes thicker and lighter in colour. 
One of my favourites that I first ate in childhood baked by Pani (mrs) Michalska - my Polish grans Polish friend that my sister and I would often visit with her after school. Not sure she would have been using Gary Rhodes recipe however........

banana, coconut & peanut butter breakfast loaf

A nice breakfast idea......

"This was created out of needing to use up some very ripe bananas and wanting to make something that would travel well on my long train commute to work. It's not too sweet and holds together well - great for a breakfast on the go. It's quite a heavy texture before being baked but don't worry as the peanut butter and bananas keep it moist. This would also be great with a handful of seeds added to the mix. This literally takes a few minutes to prepare and is fresher and tastier than mass produced breakfast biscuits and muffins."

1/2 cup peanut butter
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 cup mashed ripe banana
1/2 cup buttermilk/soured milk (just add squeeze of lemon to normal milk)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup grated/desiccated coconut
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg 

  1. Grease and flour a 2lb loaf tin.
  2. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together.
  3. Add all other ingredients and beat with an electric mixture on high for 3-4 minutes. 
  4. Pour mixture into the tin. 
  5. Bake at 175.c for approx 40-50 minutes - until skewer comes out clean. 
  6. Leave to cool before serving a large slice with an nice cup of earl grey or strong black coffee. 

Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce

This recipe is adapted from Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. I discovered this recipe about 10 years ago via its inclusion in cook book Dishy by Kevin Gould. 

You need never buy ready made sauce again. This is so fresh, simple, tasty and cheap. A really delicious and helpful addition to your cooking repertoire. 

This recipe serves 6 

2lb ripe tomatoes (deskinned and chopped) 
or 2 large tins chopped tomatoes
5 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, peeled and cut in half
Salt to taste
  1. Put the tomatoes in a saucepan with the butter, onion, and salt.
  2. Cook uncovered at a very slow, but steady simmer for about 45 minutes, or until it is thickened to your liking and the fat floats free from the tomato.
  3. Stir from time to time, mashing up any large pieces of tomato with the back of a wooden spoon.
  4. Taste and check for salt. 
  5. Discard the onion before tossing with pasta (however I often blend this into the sauce)
  6. Serve with freshly grated parmesan. Enjoy! 

beer and wine bigos

My version of the Polish national dish. There are many recipes for this traditional stew and mine is often added to and changed but this is my basic recipe.

This recipe couldn't be much easier. The hardest bit is chopping the cabbage and waiting for it to cook! Also it always tastes better the next day.....and the day after. Our dad said he could make a pot of bigos last all week adding different ingredients each day and it only improved its flavour. So here we go......delicious and economical bigos. 

1 large jar sauerkraut 
1 white cabbage
1 onion
1 garlic clove
1 tsp juniper berries
1 tsp paprika (I like smoked but any will do)
1 tsp caraway seeds
1 tbs tomato purée 
1 sprig rosemary 
2-3 bay leaves 
250ml red/white wine
250ml beer
200g smoked meat sausages*
(I use Polish smoked kielbasa/kabanos but any smoked sausage/pork would work well - e.g. chorizo)
200g pork (belly, shoulder or ribs would work well or any leftover cooked roast pork)
200g mushrooms (mixture of dried/fresh)
Water if needed
Black pepper to taste 
* the meat can be omitted for a vegetarian option. 
  1. Chop cabbage and onion add to pan with all other ingredients. 
  2. Bring to boil then simmer until cabbage is tender and cooked down. Cook for a minimum of 2-3 hours on the hob or 6 in a slow cooker. However the longer the better - I often cook on a low heat in a slow cooker for 12 hours. 
  3. Add water if it looks like its drying out - but the veg usually creates its own cooking liquid with the beer and wine.
  4. This is lovely with potatoes or bread and butter. Smaznego! (as they say in Poland).