There’s something special about watching the steam rise from a hot bowl of soup after you’ve been working in the garden all morning; you just know it’s going to fill you up. My smoked bacon and kale soup came about simply to use up some ingredients in the kitchen. I cooked up enough for six portions so there’s plenty in the freezer for a wet and windy day. We have rather busy weekends and when lunchtime comes it’s nice to stop, take some time and eat something nourishing.
Sometimes I end up with an awful lot of veg in my fridge. I use bits and bobs throughout the week but despite my best brassica consuming efforts I still get left with some of it. These leftovers often end up in a soup (my autumn minestrone is a great way to use kale) but recently I wanted to make something different. I really like green veg with pasta so I grabbed my veggies, some gnocchi and cheese and set about making a gnocchi, kale and spinach gratin.
You will need (for two big portions):
- 1 small broccoli, cut into florets
- Handful kale, stems removed and shredded
- 2 nuggets frozen spinach (you can use cooked, squeezed and chopped fresh spinach instead)
- 500g fresh gnocchi
- 25g butter
- 25g plain flour
- 300ml milk
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- Salt and pepper
- 25g grated Parmesan plus extra for the top
Start by making the cheese sauce. Melt the butter in a small saucepan and then add the flour. Cook for a minute or two and then gradually whisk in the milk ensuring there are no lumps.
Continue whisking the sauce until it bubbles and becomes nice and thick. Remove from the heat, add a little salt and plenty of pepper and stir through the cheese and mustard.
Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and add the gnocchi and frozen spinach. Place the broccoli and kale in a steamer over the top of the gnocchi, bring the pan back to the boil and cook for two minutes.
Drain everything well.
Add the broccoli, gnocchi, kale and spinach to a roasting dish. Pour the cheese sauce over the top; it will dribble down and mix into everything.
Sprinkle some extra cheese over the sauce and then place under a medium grill until the top is golden and bubbling.
Some parts of the broccoli and kale get stuck at the top of the dish meaning they catch ever so slightly under the grill and have that deliciously toasted flavour. The crispy cheese topping is so rich in savoury flavour from the Parmesan and the smooth cheese sauce coats everything nicely. And thanks to the short gnocchi cooking time and grilling rather than baking this dish it’s ready in under half an hour. I think a few cherry tomatoes dotted over the top would add a lovely pop and freshness and using a blue cheese or a strong cheddar would be delicious if you happen to have those in the fridge too.
The weather has certainly changed, although I do consider November to technically be in autumn things have started to get much wintrier. With ice in the mornings, digging scarves and hats out of the drawers and the fire blazing it’s definitely the time of year for soup. The more filling and comforting the soup the better and my autumn vegetable minestrone is exactly that; a restorative bowl of loveliness. Filled with six different vegetables including beans to bulk it all out it’s simple, speedy, cheap and delicious.
You will need (for four hearty bowls):
- 1 large leek, ends removed, sliced £0.25
- 3 carrots, peeled and sliced or diced £0.25
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced £0.05
- 2 tbsp olive oil £0.10
- 1 large handful kale, shredded £0.30
- 1 mug frozen peas £0.15
- 2 nuggets frozen chopped spinach £0.15
- 1 litre hot vegetable stock £0.20
- 100g orzo (or other small) pasta £0.20
- 1 tin cannellini beans, drained and rinsed £0.55
- Salt and pepper £0.02
Start by getting a large lidded saucepan on a low heat. Add the leek, carrots and garlic along with the oil to the pan and cook on a low-medium heat. Cook with the lid on, stirring from time to time, for 10 minutes.
Increase the heat of the pan slightly and add the kale, frozen peas and spinach. Leave for a minute or two to bring the pan back up to temperature before pouring in the hot stock.
Bring the pan to the boil then add the orzo. Reduce the heat to simmer and cook for six minutes.
Add the beans to the pan along with some salt and pepper and cook for four minutes more.
Check the seasoning before serving.
I love that this minestrone is so full of veg and is really substantial and hearty too. The pasta and cannellini beans really fill you up and because it’s not blended each of the vegetables retains its own texture and flavour. This recipe is a great way of using up all those autumn vegetables in the fridge; you could add diced tomato or pepper for a beautiful hit of red too. It freezes really well so it’s ideal for a bit of batch cooking and when it comes to summer, there’s a delicious summer version to try too!
P.S. If you haven’t discovered frozen chopped spinach yet it’s a great freezer staple. I chuck a couple of the nuggets in all sorts of food for extra veg; so convenient!
You know when only a take away will do? I get that feeling sometimes and short of actually eating said take away there’s not much else that can fulfill that craving. The issue I find is the subsequent guilt after consumption because I always order too much and somehow eat it all anyway. At least that was before I made this stir fry. This has everything I want when I’m craving a take away but using my own ingredients. I’d like to think it’s healthy but I’m not entirely convinced.
This is a perfect recipe for the long Easter weekend break. It’s a celebration of Spring vegetables in the best wrapping of all…pastry. This chicken and vegetable pie is extremely versatile as you can change the vegetables depending on what is in season. It is also great for using up leftovers.