Spinach and cheese tart

In France, spinach and goat’s cheese is a classical combination. The “chèvre-épinards” can be declined in tarts, lasagne, layered savoury pastries (“feuilletés”), flans, muffins and much more. The combination is tested and widely approved.

But I  know that in the UK some people find the taste of goat’s cheese too strong (not me, I once ate a whole goat’s cheese log on my own and without a piece of bread. I know, I’m not proud of myself either), therefore I thought that using mozzarella instead would be a safe option, one that everyone would enjoy. And it is delicious indeed.

Yet, I couldn’t bring myself to leave the goat’s cheese out… So I opted for a tart that is half topped with mozzarella and half with goat’s cheese. Genius, now people can chose what cheese they want!

IMG_5176

Spinach tart topped with goats cheese / mozzarella6

As usual, the recipe is very easy, hence perfect for a weekday dinner. It’s also ideal for picnics, barbecues, summer lunch, whenever.

INGREDIENTS

  • Puff pastry
  • 400 grams of fresh spinach
  • 70 grams of grated cheese (my mum would have used gruyère, but cheddar is just as good)
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 tbsp of crème fraîche
  • For the topping: mozzarella and goat’s cheese (if you want to make it 50/50 like I did: 90 grams of goat’s cheese; 1 ball of mozzarella)
  • Salt and pepper

PUFF PASTRY

Ok, I’ll admit, I bought ready-made puff pastry because, as mentioned before, this was on a school night and I just didn’t have the time – nor will – to make pastry. Also, puff pastry is SO difficult that I don’t really bother, and the ones you buy are good so I don’t even feel bad about it. But if you want to make yours, here’s a good recipe!

Roll your pastry onto a lined tart/quiche/flan baking dish, pick with a fork, cover with baking paper and ceramic balls and blind bake for 10 minutes on the middle shelf of a pre-heated oven (210C). After 5 minutes, remove the ceramic balls and top paper and put back in the oven until slightly golden and the pastry is almost fully cooked. Leave out to cool while you make the filling.

The reason we blind-bake the pastry fully is that spinach is a very wet vegetable, and if we were to put straight onto raw pastry, there’s a chance that the pastry wouldn’t cook thoroughly.

Spinach

FILLING

Cook your spinach covered in a large saucepan (no oil, no water) on very low heat. When raw, 400 grams looks like it’s loads. But by the time it’s cooked, you’ll think it’s a joke, there’s just enough left to cover the base of the tart. Once cooked, put the spinach in a colander and press it down to get as much water out as possible. If you don’t get the water out, the bottom of your tart will be soggy. And we don’t like soggy bottoms (Mary Berry, if you read this!)

Next, in a bowl, mix the creme fraîche, eggs, grated cheese, salt, pepper and whisk until all blended. Don’t hesitate to taste and season, and remember that the spinach have not been seasoned, so feel free to add a little more salt to the mix.

Spinach base

MOUNTING

In the pastry case, place all the spinach making sure it’s spread everywhere. Pour the eggy mixture on top, then top with thick slices of goat’s cheese and/or mozzarella.

Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until golden and the cheese has melted.

Serve warm with a salad on the side. Bon appétit!

Spinach tart topped with goats cheese / mozzarella3

Slice of Spinach tart topped with goats cheese / mozzarella

Advertisements

Tomato and roasted pepper soup

Tomato soup is my ultimate comfort food. When people want chicken soup on off-days, all I wish for is go home, get in my PJs, put thick socks on, and sip hot tomato soup straight from the cup. Not the sexiest of images but we all have our moments of weakness.

Now, I spend hours ranting about processed food and how sad it is that people would rather open a packet than make their own meals… but when it comes to tomato soup, I must admit that (Heinz!) tinned tomato soup does things to me that I didn’t even know were possible. It’s just so smooth, sweet, round, it really is like a cuddle in a tin and no homemade soup could compete. Or so I thought until I had a little soup chat with sexycuisine and he shared his secret to make homemade tomato soup just as sweet as tinned soup: ketchup! Ah, sometimes the answer is so obvious that you can’t think of it, or is it just me?

Anyway, taking his advice on board, I waited for a rainy day – which fortunately are not too rare in the UK – and made my own ‘tinned’ soup. Turned out great, I will definitely make it again.

[Excuse the bad pictures, I guess I was a little bit too excited about eating the soup when I took them.]

Tomato soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 white onion diced
  • 4 ripe tomatoes, diced
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 red peppers, halved and deseeded
  • 1 litre of vegetable stock
  • 2 tbsp of ketchup
  • feta cheese, to sprinkle on top

Sprinkle your peppers with a little bit of oliver and place under the grill, skin up. Leave until the skin blisters and turns black (10 min). Remove from the oven, cover with cling film and leave to cool.

In the meantime, make a sort of ‘tomato fondant’ base for your soup, frying the onion in olive oil until translucent. Add the fresh tomatoes and cook until soft and reduced, then add 1 tin of chopped tomatoes and 2 tbsp of ketchup.

Remove the skin of your peppers, chop roughly and add to the soup. Cover with 1 litre of vegetable stock and bring to the boil.

After 10 minutes, reduce to a simmer and leave to cook for another 10 minutes. Blend until smooth and season to taste, and it’s ready!

Serve the soup with a handful of crumbled feta cheese on top and bread on the side. Sprinkle with smoked paprika and pepper if you like it with a kick.

Tomato soup2

Classic lasagne

Sometimes, when it’s just the two of us, we just don’t feel like making any effort for Sunday dinner. This is when lasagne happens: easy to make, comforting, delicious… and even tastier the next day which can brighten a gloomy Monday! I know it’s oven-baked but in my books lasagne is just as good for cold winter nights as it is for summer late dinners.

I like to keep my lasagne simple and unfussy and let the white cheesy sauce speak for itself, this recipe is therefore very straight-forward. I like to think that it’s not too far from the original Italian recipe, but to be honest I have no idea: I’m just making it the way I saw my mum French-born-from-a-Spanish-mother do it… Let’s call it Mediterranean lasagne to be on the safe side and not offend any Italian friends 🙂

Oh… and I don’t make my own pasta. I never have, but it’s something I’ve had at the back of my mind for a while and will probably try some time soon.

Piping hot lasagne

For 6 servings, I use the below ingredients

  • Sheets of pre-cooked lasagne pasta (the exact number of sheets changes from a dish to another, but it’s roughly 6-8)

FOR THE LASAGNE BASE

  • 375 grams of minced beef
  • 1 big white onion, diced
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp of tomato puree
  • 1 glass (30ml) of red wine
  • oregano
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper

FOR THE WHITE SAUCE

  • 50 grams of flour
  • 50 grams of butter
  • 600 ml of milk
  • ground nutmeg
  • ground pepper
  • 60 grams of cheese, grated (I mix cheddar and parmesan, but I’m pretty sure my maman would have used grated gruyere and the Italians use only parmesan, so: to taste)

Golden brown lasagne

Pre-heat your oven to 200C. In the meantime, heat a little bit of olive oil in a hot and deep enough pan and cook the onion and garlic until soft and translucent. Place the mince in the pan and break it up completely. Season with a pinch of dried oregano (or/and bay leaf, rosemary, basil…) and the tomato puree. When the meat has started to brown, add the wine and tinned tomatoes and leave to simmer on a very gentle fire for 15-20 minutes.

You can then move on to making the white sauce. It is nothing more than a béchamel sauce with grated cheese (I love béchamel  if I had no shame I’d probably eat it with a spoon straight out of the pan).

Start by making a roux: melt the butter in a pan then add the flour and stir to create a paste. On gentle heat pour the milk little by little on that paste, always stirring to prevent lumps. Once the mix is smooth, you can add a little bit more milk and so on. When your sauce has reached the wanted consistency (thick, creamy, smooth), season with freshly ground nutmeg and pepper (I love looooads of pepper in my béchamel), then add the grated cheese off the heat.

Now you can mount your lasagne: spoon half of the meat mix at the bottom of a buttered oven-proof dish, then place a layer of pasta on top (careful not to overlap your sheets or you pasta will be thick and tough – break into them if needed) and pour in half of the white sauce. Start again for the 2nd layer: meat, pasta, white sauce. Grate some more parmesan on top of it all and bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.

NB: sometimes, instead of grated parmesan, I like to place thin layers of mozzarella di buffala on top of the lasagne before baking. The added creaminess is to die for.

Peach crumble

I don’t know about you, but when I go food shopping, I tend to buy tons of fruit because it’s so colourful and appetising I can’t resist (also it’s good for you so why resist anyway?) Then I end up with more fruit than we can eat and I have to make an emergency fruit salad before it goes bad. Thank God, in the summer in the UK, we also have Pimms to use fruit… 😉

Last time we went shopping I bought a crate of peaches, they were so soft and fragrant, there was just no way I could have walked past without picking them up and put them in my trolley. I normally buy nectarines rather than peaches because chipmuncher has this weird silly thing where he cannot stand the furry skin of peaches, ah ah, but this time the amazing smell meant I had no choice really: it had to be peaches, nothing else.

And, of course and unsurprisingly, I ended with 6 peaches that needed using quickly because they were going over-ripe. And that’s when I saw this post by So Hungry I Could Blog.  Now, it’s pretty strange that I got excited by the idea of making crumble because I personally don’t like it. I love the fruit filling, but not really the ‘crumble’ texture… Shameful. But, hey, at least it doesn’t stop me from making it for others who do enjoy it! That was all the inspiration I needed: the very same night, I went home and made a lush peach and cinnamon crumble.

I wish I could describe the smell in the house when it was in the oven. It was something like: a buttery Christmas biscuit running through orchards with a necklace of orange flowers at dawn. I know, it doesn’t make any sense, just picture the image and smell the idea.

Bubbling crumble2

Beware, the below quantities are for a rather small crumble (max. 4 servings).

Pre-heat the oven to 250C.

For the crumble:

  • 60 grams of flour
  • 1/2 tsp of baking powder
  • a pinch of salt
  • 45 grams of cold butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1.5 tbsp of brown sugar
  • 1.5 tbsp of caster sugar

Place the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl, add the cubes of butter and rub it gently into the flour using the tip of your fingers only, until your mix is crumbly. Stir in the sugars and leave to rest in the fridge for 10 minutes.

Peaches and butter 2

For the filling:

  • 6 peaches, peeled and sliced
  • the juice of half a lemon
  • 15 grams of flour
  • 65 grams of brown sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp of cinnamon
  • 1 pinch of ground nutmeg

In a bowl, place the peaches and lemon juice and toss. Add the dry ingredients and combine well. Pour the filling into a pie dish and dot with small bits of butter.

Cover with the crumble mixture and bake for 30 minutes, or when the filling is bubbling through the crumble and the top is of a golden colour. Leave to rest for at least 15 minutes before eating (with cream, a scoop of ice-cream, or Greek yoghurt).

IMG_5102

Smoked salmon salad

Today, it’s 1 month until we go on holiday. The sea, the sun, the seafood, the anise aperitive drinks on the port watching the sun set, the noise of the weekly market, I can’t wait. But before that, it is time to work on our bikini bodies and try and eat well. One month, surely even we can do it. *Cough-yeah-right-cough*

  1. First rule: drinks loads of water to trick your stomach into thinking it’s full.
  2. Second rule: salad is your best friend.
  3. Third rule: put that cookie back in the jar.

We love salad, it shouldn’t be too difficult. As long as we make sure our salads are not boring and can get us excited for 31 long days, we’ll be good. At this point, I don’t know who I’m trying to convince: you or myself.

Anyway, let’s give it a try. And to start with, here’s a good one we made and loved.

Smoked salmon salad with spicy lemon dressing

Smoked salmon salad

  • 500 grams of new potatoes, skin on (I never peel potato – except for mash of course, I’m not an animal)
  • 200 grams of asparagus
  • Mixed salad leaves of your choice
  • 1 red pepper sliced roughly
  • 140 gram of radishes, cut in thin slices
  • 120 grams of smoked salmon, cut into chunks
  • half a cucumber, diced
  • For the dressing: the juice of 1 lemon, 1 tbsp of Dijon mustard, 125 ml of olive oil, dry chilli flakes, salt.

Boil the potatoes in salted water for 10 mins. Boil the asparagus in salted water for 5 minutes. Drain, sprinkle with a little bit of olive oil and salt and leave to cool.

In a large bowl, toss the salad leaves, peppers and radish slices together, pour half of the dressing and mix well so all vegetables are coated in dressing.

Spread this salad on a plate, place potatoes and asparagus on top of the salad, then the chunks of smoked salmon. Pour the rest of the dressing to taste.

Et voila! Healthy, fresh, tasty salad that is probably not bad for your waistline… (or, you could add a poached egg on top and make it naughty again. But sshhhhh….). No, seriously, what’s great in this dish is the variety of textures and temperatures: hot mushy potatoes, crunchy radishes, soft cold salmon. It is also the kind of dish that makes you feel good because it tastes so fresh and healthy, I mean you almost don’t care if it is actually healthy because it makes you feel good about yourself anyway. Finally, because the salmon is smoked, you can keep this salad in the fridge overnight, and bring the coolest lunch box to work the next day. Who knew you could become the cool kid in the office all thanks to a salad?

American diner style

“Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.” – Samuel Johnson

London has so much to offer, you can never be bored here. If you know the right websites, magazine, Twitter accounts, people, you can always find some new activity to take on at the weekend. I’m very active on Twitter (I’m @MisSeffay), can’t spend a single day without it and love discovering new foodies experience on it. Some of my favourite London food&drinks Twitter accounts are: @DiningClub@forkanddram@NoshableAdam@LondonPopups@edible_exp … and I’m certainly forgetting many (any suggestions welcome, wink wink).

But on Saturday it was a friend,  not specialised websites, who suggested an afternoon of great fun for our taste buds: MEANTIME BREW FEST – an afternoon of beer tasting at the Meantime Old Brewery in sunny Greenwich. We tasted lagers (filtered and unfiltered), we tasted ales, we tasted stouts; and we even tasted ales that looked that stout and stouts that tasted like ale! There were hundreds of different varieties of beers, mainly brewed by Meantime but not only, classified by their origin: London, Europe, Americas. We wish we could have tasted more of them, but after 5 hours of consistent sipping, we were a bit pissed I must admit and wisely decided to head home.

But, of course, we were also hungry by then (although we had a snack at the Brew Fest… erm) and started plotting on what delicious dinner we could treat ourselves to once home. It wasn’t long before we decided that what a person needs after hours of beer drinking is a good old cheeseburger. And chips. And onion rings.

And this is how our whole-wheat cheeseburger, paprika sweet potato chips and onion rings were born.

Whole-wheat cheeseburger with paprika sweet potato chips and onion rings1

FOR 2 BURGERS

  • 150 grams minced beef
  • 1 Chopped onion
  • Dried rosemary
  • A few sun-dried tomatoes or preserved roasted peppers
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Salt & pepper
  • + 2 slices of mature Cheddar

Place all the ingredients (except the Cheddar) in a bowl and mix using your hands and releasing any stress you may have accumulated during the week. Then shape into patties. Now, you feel better and the burgers are ready to grill. Cook under the grill for about 10-15 minutes turning once. When almost cooked, place a slice of Cheddar on top for added naughtiness.

To serve:

  • 2 large burger buns (whole-wheat is yummy and healthier)
  • 2 spoonfull of mayonnaise
  • 1 handfull of watercress salad
  • 2 preserved baby beetroot, sliced thinly
  • 4 slices of tomato

Spread mayo on the bottom bun. Layer with thinly sliced baby beetroot, salad and tomato. Arrange the cooked burger and Cheddar on top, with the sauce of your choice (or none if you’re like me).

FOR THE SWEET POTATO CHIPS

  • 2 sweet potatoes
  • olive oil
  • Smoked paprika powder
  • Salt

Slice the sweet potatoes in long wedges, skin on. Place on a baking tray, sprinkle with paprika powder and olive oil and make sure all potatoes are covered in spices and oil. Place in the oven for 20-25 minutes until cooked through. Take out of the oven and season with salt.

FOR THE ONION RINGS

  • 2 large white onions, sliced into thick rings
  • 100 grams plain flour
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 egg white beaten stiff
  • 1 table spoon vegetal oil
  • 150 ml of milk
  • To deep-fry: ground-nut oil (no need to use litres of it, you just need to fill 1/3 of your pan at most)

That was my first time making onion rings and this recipe (found on the BBC GoodFood website) is incredibly easy and light. Well, the onion rings are still deep-fried, but the batter is light!

Stir the flour into a bowl with a pinch of salt, make a well in the centre for the egg yolks, oil and milk. Mix to a smooth batter and stand in the fridge for a little bit (recipe says 30 minutes but I couldn’t wait for longer than 10 minutes). Heat your ground-nut oil to 190c. Fold the  beaten egg white into the batter, dip the onion rings in. Fry in batches (for 3-4 minutes or until golden brown). Place on sheets of kitchen roll to get rid of the excessive oil, salt, serve immediately.

Onion rings are a dream. Wonder if I could try oven baking them for a healthier solution to my fatty cravings… ?

Meantime Brew Fest