Friday, 20 August 2010

Vegetable paella

Despite buying a copy of Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty about three months ago, I only today got around to making a recipe from the book - vegetable paella. A version of the recipe is available on the Guardian website, where it appeared two years ago. I highly recommend it.

Like many Ottolenghi recipes, this one looks quite intimidating at first. The list of ingredients is long and frighteningly precise. A quarter of a teaspoon? That kind of lightness of touch goes against all my instincts, and I have to fight to force myself to follow the recipe. It is well worth setting such concerns aside, however. Despite the multitude of ingredients, this recipe is quick and easy to make, and the precision of measurement results in a perfectly balanced and incredibly tasty end result. Try it.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Red pepper, ricotta and thyme ravioli

As of this week, I now officially have no space for any new kitchen equipment in my flat (please note if you are already thinking about buying me a Christmas present). This is annoying, because I have also just applied for a new mortgage and have worked out that it's likely to be another five years before I can afford to buy a new place with a larger kitchen. That means five years without buying any new cooking gear. I'm sure I will survive, but it will take self restraint.

The reason for this storage crisis is that I have bought a new toy - a pasta maker. And today was my first attempt at making pasta with it.

The main attraction of buying a pasta maker was the ability to make stuffed pasta like ravioli and tortellini. I'm sure that homemade spaghetti and tagliatelle are sufficiently superior to what you can get out of a packet to make it worth the effort or the special equipment. But homemade ravioli allows one to be a great deal more creative.

The pasta dough itself was very easy to make - just flour and eggs blitzed in the food processor. It looks slightly odd at first, because what you're left with looks like a bowl full of yellow crumbs. But the crumbs come together into a stiff dough very easily.

The pasta maker itself took a bit more getting use to, but it was very satisfying feeding the sheets of pasta through the machine, watching them get progressively thinner.

The pasta maker came with a ravioli mould included - however, since I didn't feel like making star-shaped ravioli tonight (the novelty of that wore off before the machine had even arrived in the post), I decided to make the ravioli freehand.

For the filling, I mashed up a pack of ricotta with an egg, grated parmesan, fresh thyme and black pepper. For the sauce, I charred some long red peppers under a very hot grill before blitzing them in the food processor and then mixing them with garlic and red chilli sautéed in olive oil, more fresh thyme, and the juice of a lemon. Amazingly, the ravioli did not fall apart as soon as they hit boiling water, which I was convinced they would do. The end result was very impressive and far better than anything you can buy in a supermarket. It definitely wasn't a quick meal to prepare, but it was worth the effort, and I'm sure I will be experimenting more in the near future.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

White chocolate and raspberry cheesecake

This baked white chocolate and raspberry cheesecake is a further variant on the recipe for New York cheesecake that I posted last month. Again, it is something you need to make well in advance in order to give it time to set.

Recently, I have become slightly obsessed with making baked cheesecake, and this is a product of my experimentation. I haven't got bored with doing it yet, so it's unlikely to be my last attempt...


140g plain flour
50g butter
50g soft brown sugar
¼ teaspoon baking powder
1 egg yolk


900g cream cheese
150g caster sugar
4 eggs
200g white chocolate
225g fresh raspberries

Start by making the base. Do this a couple of hours ahead to give it time to cool. Place all the dry ingredients in a food processor or in a bowl with an electric hand whisk. Beat in the butter until it is completely incorporated. Then add the egg yolk and combine until you have an even sandy consistency. Butter and line the base of 23cm springform cake tin and press the mixture down evenly across the base of the tin. Bake for 20-25 minutes at 150C or until golden. Remove and allow to cool.

Once the base is cool, butter the sides of the tin and then double wrap the tin with aluminium foil. You need the wrapping to be completely waterproof, so make sure there are no holes or tears in the foil, and make sure the wrapping comes completely up the sides of the tin.

Place the cream cheese in a bowl and beat with an electric hand whisk on a low setting until smooth. Add the sugar and beat until it is evenly incorporated. Meanwhile, chop the white chocolate into small pieces and place in a bowl over simmering water. Once the white chocolate begins to melt, add a spoonful or two of the cream cheese mixture and stir. Once it is evenly incorporated and there are no lumps of unmelted chocolate, remove from the heat and stir in a few more spoons of the cream cheese to reduce the temperature. Once you have done this, scrape the white chocolate mix into the cream cheese and beat until incorporated.

Next, add the eggs one at a time, beating slowly to ensure the mixture doesn’t split. Before adding each egg, scrape the cheese mixture off the sides of the bowl with a spatula to ensure it is evenly mixed. Once the eggs are all incorporated, beat on a higher setting for a short time and then pour the cheese mixture into the cake tin. Finally, fold in the fresh raspberries.

Using a spatula, scrape the cream cheese mixture into the cake tin. Place the foil wrapped cake tin into a roasting tray and then fill the tray with boiling water until it comes three quarters of the way up the sides of the cake tin. Bake the cheesecake at 150C for one hour and then switch off the heat. Remove from the oven after half an hour, but leave the cheesecake in the water filled roasting tray for another half hour. Then remove it from the tray and allow to cool. Refrigerate the cheesecake overnight before serving.


I've recently developed the rather strange habit of storing up bread crusts and the stale ends of loaves, turning them into breadcrumbs and freezing them. This is not an attempt to reinvent myself as Marguerite Patten, though it's not as if I've had any specific recipe in mind.

Anyway, the other day, I thought of a use: beanburgers. This recipe makes 8 large patties. It more or less demolished the supply of breadcrumbs, which I have now set about replenishing. I'm not sure what I'll make with them next, but by the time I have an adequate stock, I will no doubt have worked it out.

1 can of red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
150g of small green lentils
1 small can of tomato puree
1 small can of sweetcorn
1 red pepper, finely diced
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 eggs
2 teaspoons of ground cumin
2 teaspoons of cocoa
2 chillies (1 red, 1 green), finely chopped
1 teaspoon of salt
Handful of chopped fresh coriander
250-350g of white breadcrumbs

Cook the lentils in a pan with plenty of water, boiling them hard with the lid off for 10 minutes and then simmering for a further 30-40 minutes. Drain and allow to cool. Mash the red kidney beans with a potato masher. Mix in the lentils, followed by the tomato puree and the spices. Then add the sweetcorn and pepper. Then beat in the eggs, followed by the coriander. Finally, add the breadcrumbs slowly, mixing constantly until the burger mix reaches a consistency where it can still be moulded easily but isn't wet and squelchy. Form the mixture into 8 balls, roll them in some more breadcrumbs, and then flatten to form patties. Shallow fry the burger buns in vegetable oil over a medium-high heat until browned and crispy on the outside.