Spinach & Farfalle Pie

So I’ve got more spare time on my hands than usual at the moment and one of the things I wanted to do with it was more cooking. Especially more experimental cooking. I’ve gotten into a bit of rut with my repertoire of recipes and as tends to be the case when you don’t have an unlimited budget, you develop a roster of quick, easy, reliable and affordable meals that you return to repeatedly. Which is fine for busy weekdays when you just need to get some food down your throat stat but which can get a bit boring in the long run. And thus began my endeavour to branch out.

Quick shout out to The Smitten Kitchen, a blog that has quickly become a favourite for inspiration and recipes ideas. I came across this unbelievably handsome spaghetti pie and an obsession took hold. Why had I never thought of putting pasta in a pie before? It’s genius.

However, I’m terrible at following a recipe. Namely, in that I don’t. If I’m cooking for people, I’m a fastidious measurer and weigher and pourer of ingredients. But if I’m just cooking for dinner for myself, I’m very much a ‘let’s see what I’ve got in the cupboard and can concoct’ kind of person. Which leads to all manner of strange combinations and often something which tastes good (and occasionally doesn’t) but which won’t win any beauty prizes.

That method created this dish, which to be honest, I was very ready to throw in the bin. But luckily it turned out ok in the oven and though I’d be a bit red-faced about serving it to any guests, or indeed any real chefs, I figured I’d share it on here anyway. Because cooking is all about messing up, wiping the counter, making adjustments and starting over again. And if it’s edible, then you’re half way there.

Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 35 mins
Total time: 40 mins

Recipe type: Dinner
Cuisine: Vegetarian, Gluten-Free
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 large handfuls of washed spinach
  • 250g tub of ricotta
  • 250g of farfalle pasta
  • Salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/gas 6.
  2. Bring some water to the boil and add the pasta. Cook for 10 minutes.
  3. Mix the eggs, ricotta, salt and pepper in bowl. I also added some crushed chilli flakes because I put chilli with everything. I then added all of this to the blender and add a handful of spinach for the intense green colour, as well as later adding the rest of the spinach for the leafy texture.
  4. Pour a kettle of bowling water over the spinach and once drained, add to the mix.
  5. Once the pasta has boiled and also drained, stir all together.
  6. Add to a pie dish and put in the oven.
  7. Bake until crisp on top. Around 30-35 minutes.

So this is super easy to bring together. My worry was that the mixture looked incredible runny when I poured it into the pie dish and I wasn’t sure it would be serve-able. Advice to my future self and anyone trying this would be to make sure the spinach is fully drained. Absorb any excess moisture with some kitchen roll. Or try steaming the spinach.

Regardless of the amateur aesthetic of the food, it did taste pretty darn good and I’ll definitely be refining and trying different types of pasta another time.

Sweet potato fries with a spinach, pine nut & chilli dip.

God I love me some sweet potato fries. They’re substantial and carb-y and feel like a treat, but retain that colourful glow of goodness. Plus they’re really easy to bung in the oven and share with friends, so its a cooking win. The spinach dip is an optional addition. Just as good served with homemade guacamole or mayo.
Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 30 mins
Total time: 45 mins
Recipe type: Side, snack.
Cuisine: Vegetarian, Gluten-Free
Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • 1 sweet potato
  • Paprika
  • Turmeric
  • Salt and pepper

For the dip:

  • 1 Tbsp of pine nuts
  • 2 handfuls of fresh spinach
  • 1 Tbsp of cornflour
  • 2 Tbsp of crème fraîche
  • Crushed chilli
  • Squeeze of lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/gas 6.
  2. Rinse your potato under water. No need to peel.
  3. Slice the sweet potato into thin strips or small wedges.
  4. Arrange on a baking tray so they’re evenly spread.
  5. Drizzle with olive oil, then season with salt and pepper, turmeric and paprika.
  6. Pop them in the oven for 30-35 mins, or until crisp and cooked through.

Whilst they’re cooking, you can prepare the dip.

  1. Blend the spinach, crème fraîche, pinenuts, chilli, lemon juice and salt & pepper until smooth and creamy.
  2. If the consistency is too watery, you can add the cornflour and heat in a pan to thicken it.
  3. Otherwise, serve in a bowl and add some extra pine nuts to garnish.

Once the fries are cooked, serve in a bowl. For best results eat with your fingers!

Spinach, squash & quinoa scramble

Confession time. Up until yesterday evening I wasn’t sure what ‘hash’ was (in food-related terms). After a bit of googling, turns out its a skillet-based, typically breakfast dish involving meat, potatoes and eggs and great for using up leftovers. Well, this recipe includes none of those ingredients but considering that ‘hash’ seems to be a catch-all terms for incorporating whatever you feel like cooking and tossing it together in a pan, then that’s what I’m calling this dish. Either that or a scramble. Ok, I’ve gone with scramble. It feels more like a scramble. Ultimately, what this boils down to is a super easy and very healthy way to combine a bunch of vegetables and some grains and call it dinner. You could probably whack an egg on top or add some tofu too if you need some additional protein. Bon appetit!
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 15 mins
Total time: 25 mins
Recipe type: Dinner
Cuisine: Vegan, Gluten-Free
Serves: 1 hungry person, 2 moderately hungry people
Ingredients
  • 1 Tbsp olive or cooking oil
  • 3 handfuls of washed spinach
  • 1 handful of frozen butternut squash
  • 3 Tbsp of frozen sweetcorn
  • 2 Tbsp brown rice flour
  • 3 Tbsp of quinoa
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp crushed chilli
  • 1 handful of broccoli florets (cut into small pieces)
  • Rocket and pine nuts to garnish

Instructions

  1. Blend the spinach, butternut squash and sweetcorn together.
  2. Add the chilli, salt and pepper.
  3. Tip into a bowl and mix with the flour to create a slightly firmer consistency, almost like a batter.
  4. In a separate pan, bring some water to the boil and add the quinoa. Turn down to a simmer and leave for 10 minutes. (Alternatively, I really like this Bulgar Wheat, Cracked Soya & Red Quinoa combo from Morrisons, which I’m sure they have variants of in most supermarkets.)
  5. Add the broccoli to the quinoa or steam separately.
  6. In a frying pan or skillet, heat up the oil.
  7. Add the spinach batter and stir constantly like scrambled eggs.
  8. Once cooked through, drain the quinoa and broccoli and add to the mixture, stirring through so its all mixed together.
  9. Tip into a bowl and garnish with rocket and pine-nuts.
  10. I reckon some avocado would also work nicely on top.

 

February Culture Round-Up

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Watching…

 Love (Netflix)

After watching 10 episodes in 12 hours, I can safely say I was addicted to Love.

Veering away from the much-chartered and turbulent 20s that forms the epicentre of Girls, Love focuses on Mickey (Gillian Jacobs) and Gus (Paul Rust) as they grapple with their early 30s.

Created by Judd Apatow, Love reveals a contentedness to revel in his comfort zone, surrounded by slackers, stoners and lost souls. The comedy is perhaps less provocative or smutty as in some of his projects and there are moments that feel a bit ‘been-there-done-that’, but it’s perceptive and subtle humour nevertheless. A kind which probes, but never taxes.

It’s not easy to watch characters so intent on self-sabotage. Mickey is a radio programmer who sleeps with men way below her station and drinks away her self-hatred for doing so. Gus, meanwhile, wants to be a writer on the show where he tutors, but lacks any of the ambition or the guts to make it happen. Woe is them.

Yet in each episode, I found myself won over. The chemistry between Jacobs and Rust is well, a little bit rusty. I’m not sure if I’m rooting for them to figure it out as a couple, or just as individuals. But for Jacobs’ detached, destructive performance alone I’d stick with it. Through her, the writers very effectively disseminate the ‘cool girl’ trope and create a character as messed-up as Hannah Horvath but whose issues are dealt with in a thoroughly authentic and original way.

Highlights include: Bertie, as brought to life by the adorable Aussie comedian Claudia O’Doherty, is one of the most fully realised ‘best friend/roommate/supporting’ roles I’ve seen in awhile. Though winsome and eager to please, she’s also admirably astute. The date scene between her and Gus is one to relish. Also look out for Andy Dick playing himself in a wickedly wacky and emotionally stirring cameo.

Love isn’t the kind of show you fall head over heels for, but you’ll be glad to have let it into your life.

 

Show Me A Hero (HBO)

I don’t need any cajoling to watch 6-hours of Oscar Isaac. See below for evidence as to why:

But if I did, mentioning that it entails a New-York set miniseries, penned by The Wire’s David Simon and helmed by Crash’ Paul Haggis would probably do the trick.

That along with a Bruce Springsteen themed soundtrack, 80s costume design and complex politics undercurrents surrounding Mayor Nick Wasicsko and the public housing debacle, make for a charged and compellingly multi-faceted drama. It’s exactly the kind of drama that serves TV’s reputation so well.

RoomReading…

Room – Emma Donaghue.

The potent, poignant and expertly crafted novel upon which the dark horse of the Oscar’s Best Picture category is based. Room is written from the point of view of 5 year old Jack and details his experiences of the 12-foot-square room that forms his existence. Since his ‘Ma’ was kidnapped 7 years ago, Room is all they have ever known.

It’s a harrowing fairytale of sorts. One which celebrates the cavernous potential of a child’s imagination and the triumph of the human spirit, but without first exposing the trauma and suffering it takes to unleash that will to survive. With delicacy, ingenuity and a mastery of language, Donaghue – who also adapted the film’s screenplay – creates a world that is at once vivid and claustrophobic, both inside Room and after Jack and Ma are set free.

Listening to…

Serial.

I’m so late to the party that this recommendation serves little besides my memory. Still, if this is the heads-up to push you over the edge I’ll be glad to have done it. Serial is a brilliantly addictive and concise account of a mysterious murder in Baltimore.

Spearheaded by journalist Sarah Koenig, the investigation drip feeds a meticulous presentation – and dissection – of interviews, interrogations, phone-calls, observations and recreations that relate to a puzzling crime committed in 1999 and culminated in the supposedly wrongful conviction of Adnan Syed. It’s riveting stuff and you often forget this charts a very real case.

The best thing about the podcast format; aside from really forcing you to engage and concentrate and listen, is that you can unleash your inner True Detective AND at least make as if to be doing other things too.

OppoEating…

Oppo Ice-Cream.

The brainchild of the Thullier brothers, Oppo – which refers to ‘opposites’ – is a brand of ice-cream like no other. Blending the taste of a luxury dessert with superfood ingredients, such as lucuma and baobab, as well as replacing sugar and cream for stevia leaf and coconut oil, Oppo is a mouthful of magic. It’s hedonism for the health-conscious. Whether or not you can justifiably consume a tub in one sitting is very much up for debate, but believe me, after one spoonful, you’ll want to.

Doing…

Painting the Modern Garden at the Royal Academy.

Traversing modernist landscapes from Monet to Matisse, this intricately curated exhibition is sumptuous, salient and surprising in its depth. The context of World War 1 provides a harrowing and ironic backdrop to canvas’ that are alive with colour. Structured around Monet’s career, the exhibition delves into the inspirations behind his paintings and the influences they would subsequently have.

From his much-loved water lilies to photographs of the artists themselves – trowels in hands – this is an immersive, compelling experience,  offering healing powers as much in a time of suffering as they do today.

From 30 January to 20 April.

cd3b4cfbf2268f1c0b5bada6f9378d4fBuying…

Bloom & Wild flowers.

Perhaps inspired by my sojourn to the Royal Academy, for Mothers Day this year, I’ve decided to try out online florists ‘Bloom & Wild’, a startup that picks, arranges and sends flat-pack bouquets direct to your door. It’s a bloomin’ great idea for those who want to gift fresh flowers without the hassle of carrying them. I’ll admit I was predominantly swayed by the idea of 3D flowers springing from an envelope as if in a magic show. I’ll have to wait until the 6th March to see if they deliver.