Sometimes I make something like a veggie stew or pasta sauce and realise that it could become a delicious soup with just a little extra water. That’s exactly how this Tomato, Butterbean and Spinach Pesto Soup came about. I had made it as a sauce for baking with gnocchi, similar to this recipe, and I thought it would make a great soup; something a bit different from a normal tomato soup. And I was right. Full of flavour, colour and easy to make from a few ingredients you probably already have in the cupboards.
There’s always something leftover at this time of year; some sort of ingredient hanging around in the fridge that needs using up. I’d bought some baby onions for making a boeuf bourguignon and had half the pack left. I thought about slicing them and lightly pickling them but I then realised I also had some leftover cheese. You can never go wrong with cheese and onion so half an hour later we were tucking into roasted baby onions with cheese on toast.
You will need (for two):
- 12 (ish) baby onions, peeled
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- 1 tsp sugar
- 4 slices white bread, the crustier the better
- Leftover cheese, grated
Put the onions and rosemary into a baking dish and drizzle over a little oil and salt and pepper. Roll the onions round in the dish so they get well coated in the oil and seasoning.
I have made these black bean quesadillas a few times and I am always surprised how filling they are! They are deliciously full of black beans, spices and cheese and are really simple to make. You could add different beans, leftover chilli (or maybe leftover vegan chilli) and serve with your favourite dips. I love scooping up a big load of guacamole; but then I am a guacaholic. Sour cream, chilli sauce, salsa or whatever you like would be amazing on the side of these. One quesadilla each might not sound like a lot, but they are seriously filling.
Say the word halloumi around other people and pretty much all of them will say, “I love halloumi” and then lick their lips. Well, I count myself as one of those people and I’ve got news for you. Rosemary and garlic butter halloumi takes your squeaky cheese to a whole other glorious level. Let’s be frank, shove some garlic butter on anything and it’s instantly better. Note – ‘anything’ does not include bruises or grazes, missing wall or floor grout or use as shampoo and face cream; shoving garlic butter in any of those places will be of no help to you whatsoever. Delicious, full fat, dripping in butter, full of flavour is what we’re looking for here, those of a healthy disposition look away now.
When I make pizza there are no shortcuts. Making it all from scratch from fresh ingredients does take a little longer but it is so worth it, and, good news, batch cooking pizzas is so easy and they freeze really well. Most of the pizza preparation time is waiting for the dough to prove or the sauce to reduce so you can mostly leave it to itself and then reap the rewards in the weeks to come. Coming home and knowing that dinner will be ready in 20 minutes is even better when you know it’s a fantastic homemade pizza.
Feta’s not just for salads you know. I enjoyed something similar to this tomato baked feta while in Greece a few years ago; I needed to try and make it at home. I have previously posted about some Greek inspired feta and tomato spaghetti (which is delicious by the way) and the key to both of those dishes is using the best tomatoes and feta you can get your hands on. In this case it’s also about baking the tomatoes perfectly; not too hot so that they dry out and not too cool so that they turn into mush.
I think this is a perfect meal in many ways: firstly, it’s just the right size for two people; secondly, it’s really simple to make; thirdly, it’s deliciously vegetarian and full of veg and lastly, it’s really versatile. My tomato and mascarpone gnocchi bake is made from a few ingredients which I often have in the kitchen anyway. Just the thing for a busy Monday night when you want something quick and tasty. You could add anything to it that you had hanging around in your cupboards, maybe some olives, sundried tomatoes, leftover chicken or roasted veg or you could pop some cheese on top.
A couple of courgettes turned up in the veg box this week. Although the days have been warm, borderline hot, recently the evenings are still cold reminding me that it’s firmly still spring. I’m certainly not complaining, I prefer spring in some ways; mostly that the heat (if any) is not muggy and there are many, many fewer insects. All the more enjoyable for al fresco dining I think you’ll agree; insects in summer mean I am forever swiping the air to deter a particularly determined fly or being chased round the garden by a wasp with a bad attitude. Not the epitome of glamour and demure that I aim for in every garden dining experience. But not to worry, ones absence from the dining table will hardly be noticed when a plate of these Olive and Fontina Baked Courgettes are served up.
I think I’m part Italian. More likely, I like to think I’m part Italian. The reason for this recent realisation is that Italian food is the food I crave the most; when I’m looking for inspiration I invariably turn my attention to that most wonderful of countries. Pasta is the obvious Italian ingredient to inspire meals but the rice dishes, salads, marinades, stews, cheeses, meats and sauces always make me feel like I’m having a little Italian getaway in my own kitchen. This ragu and aubergine pasta bake was inspired by Rick Stein’s recent series: Long Weekends. I’m sure my recipe is very different to theirs, I’m bound to have forgotten some ingredients or added others, but the principle is the same; great big, hearty portions of food. It’s worth getting hold of some fontina cheese for this pasta bake (more on that later).
When I was in Spain I ordered a dessert on the assumption that there had been a translation error on the menu. They can’t mean cheese ice cream, surely, they must mean cheeseCAKE ice cream, that’ll be delicious. Nope. Along came some cheese ice cream with a massive cracker on the side. What a revelation it was. The ‘cracker’ was actually a slightly sweet, very thin, fennel infused biscuit covered in sticky honey, which when dunked in the cheese ice cream was really rather delicious. I wanted to attempt something similar to this at home, so here are my Spanish fennel biscuits served with cream cheese and honey alongside some cracking fino sherry.