Bacon and ricotta cake with roasted tomatoes

Forgive me father readers for I have sinned; it has been two months since my last post.  Oh dear.  Moving house in the middle of an already busy summer has left me with very little time for attempting new recipes, despite the fact that I have a very nice new kitchen that is crying out to be used.  However, I will soon be on enforced home stay thanks to the Olympics and the official* advice to stock up with water and canned goods, barricade the doors, and stay away from the streets and all forms of public transport for the next three weeks.

The upside of this is that it should give me more time for experimentation in the kitchen, so I will hopefully get back into a more consistent blogging routine soon.  To start off, here's a recipe I tried recently that I can tell will become part of my regular repertoire.  Easy, not too time intensive (10-15 minutes to prepare, 45 minutes to cook), and absolutely delicious both warm and reheated.  It works equally well as a side or a main dish, and could be adapted for vegetarians by omitting the bacon (although I must say, one of the two reasons I could never be a vegetarian is my love for bacon.  The other would be my love of a really good steak).  So without further ado:

Bacon and ricotta cake with roasted tomatoes
(adapted from Waitrose Recipes)

For the cake:
  • 1 medium potato, peeled and quartered
  • 225g bag baby spinach
  • 1 or 2 40g packs crispy smoked bacon (the original recipe calls for 4 packs, but I only used one and that seemed to work just fine, so I would recommend reducing that)
  • 4 tbsp Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
  • 250g ricotta cheese (the recipe called for 500g, but again, I used half that with no adverse effects)
  • 2 large (or 3 medium) eggs

For the tomatoes:
  • 300g cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • fresh thyme or oregano
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar  

Before you start, preheat the oven to 180°C (gas mark 4) and grease and line a 900g loaf tin with baking parchment.

Place the potatoes in a pan, cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 10-15 minutes until tender. Drain and allow to cool slightly, then grate coarsely.  While the potato is cooking, place the spinach in a pan, splash with a little water and cook over a medium heat for 1-2 minutes, or until just wilted (microwaving in the bag works equally well - just follow the instructions on the pack). Drain and cool in a colander, then squeeze out any excess liquid and chop roughly.  Crush the bacon into a bowl and mix in the spinach, potato, Parmigiano-Reggiano, ricotta and eggs. Season with pepper. Tip the mixture into the loaf tin. Cook for 25 minutes.

While the cake mixture is in the oven,  chop the cherry tomatoes in half and place in a roasting tin, cut side up. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with the sugar, thyme or oregano and season. After the cake has had 25 minutes, put the tomatoes on a lower oven shelf, beneath the cake, and continue to cook for about 10-15 minutes until the cake is just firm to the touch and the tomatoes are cooked.

Leave the cake to cool slightly in the tin, then turn out while still warm. Drizzle the tomatoes with balsamic vinegar and serve with slices of warm cake.  Et bon appetit!

*This may not have been the message that LOCOG and Transport for London have been trying to convey, but everything they have said thus far has had that effect!


Baked courgettes with leeks and blue cheese

Not a capital offence surely?

I'm talking about unpremeditated blogging here, the kind that happens spontaneously when one makes a new recipe just for fun, it turns out successfully and only then does one realise that one should have had the camera handy before the finish line.  I'm hoping that my punishment won't be eternity slaving over a hot stove for this one.

We're having a rare, make that unprecedented, week in our flat in town.  In the more than four years we've owned High Windows, I've only ever spent three consecutive nights here at a time.  We've planned, on several occasions, to take a week and play tourists in town but never managed to pull it off (perhaps because it's too close to home to really make it a proper holiday) and now, with the insane atmosphere in the capital, it's not the place to be playing anything except perhaps sports for one's country.

But we're here anyway and one of my intentions on this break was to make a new recipe every night.  We've been here for three so far and the first dinner had to be something last minute, easy and familiar.  The second night we went out as I'd been at work all day and didn't want to be getting my head around unfamiliar recipes at the end of it.  So it wasn't until last night that I hauled out what was to have been my kick-off on Night One and away I went.

This is an easy one.  It's vegetarian and would make a good side dish for grilled chicken or fish but it also works as a stand alone and we both agreed it worked well.

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 medium courgettes, halved lengthwise and then cut again into quarters
25g butter
2 leeks, washed and sliced
100g blue cheese, crumbled (David is not a fan of blue and goat's cheese works very well too)
50g walnut pieces (and for once, with Kit no longer living here, I went out on a limb and added these too)

Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the courgettes, in batches, cut side down.  Transfer to an oblong ovenproof dish. 

Melt butter in the same pan and fry the leeks gently for 4 to 5 minutes until they begin to soften.  Season then spoon on top of the courgettes.  Sprinkle the cheese and walnuts evenly on top.  I also added some grated cheddar which, in our opinion, improved the whole but it's not necessary.

Bake at 200ºC for about 20 minutes until walnuts are crisp, vegetables are tender and cheese is melted.  Scatter a few halved cherry tomatoes over the top to add colour and a loaf of hot ciabatta wouldn't go amiss either.

Now of course I realise I could and should have done this on the first night as it's so easy.  But I was too tired to be chopping and slicing at that point, and I think we enjoyed it more as it was planned beforehand, unlike this blog entry!


Salmon and prawn pie

                                                                      WE WILL NOT STARVE

although if you were depending on this blog for your inspiration (until to our great delight, two of our wonderful and loyal followers put up some amazing carbs), you'd have keeled over and expired of starvation some time ago.  It's been a busy month for two of the major bloggers on the site.  One has been travelling and then moved, the other has been going in ever-decreasing circles as the family home became a warehouse and then a ghost town. 

Life changes:  life goes on.  We now need to reorient, refocus and redesignate the purposes of three of the rooms in the house.  Everything is in transition here and I realised one afternoon whilst all this was going on, that there were, at the time, only three places where I could sit, lie or relax until more is moved out and reorganised.  But on the plus side, I had my bedroom, the bath and, thankfully, the kitchen that remained unscathed after the exodus.

So to celebrate kitchen functionality, David and I decided to make a simple fish pie for  supper but the number of steps and exhortations in the given recipe made the whole thing much more complicated than necessary.  The finished product was a great success so our last 'family' meal, before Kit moved away was a memorable one.  The Vas Felix Chardonnay was an excellent accompaniment and encouraged us during the  preparation of the meal.

Here goes, and I'll cut out a lot of the direction guff and just streamline the method as much as I can.

Peel and slice 750g each potato and sweet potato and boil (separately is easier) for 15 minutes until tender.  Remove from the heat, combine and mash together coarsely with 25g butter or margarine.

Put 250 ml semi skimmed milk (skimmed works just as well), 200 ml hot fish or vegetable stock, 500g salmon fillet and 200g cooked and peeled prawns in a roasting tin, fish kettle or large frying pan and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes or until fish is cooked through and will flake easily.  Lift fish onto a plate, reserving liquid.  Skin the salmon and break into chunks.  Arrange with the prawns in the base of a 2L casserole dish.

Wash 250g baby leaf spinach and, leaving the water on the leaves, place in a pan on hob and 'wilt' for a few minutes until reduced slightly.  Spread spinach evenly among the pieces of fish and prawns.

In a medium pan (yes, this recipe uses a lot of cookware!) melt 50g margarine and add 50g flour, stirring constantly to make a roux.  Remove from heat and gradually add reserved fish liquid, stirring until smooth.  Return pan to heat and continue to stir on low until sauce has thickened.  Remove from heat, stir in 170g soured cream and a handful chopped, fresh basil.  Pour sauce over fish in casserole.

Top with the mashed potato and sweet potato mix and bake in a 200ºC oven for about 20 - 30 minutes until bubbling and browned on top.

Serve with a green vegetable such as broccoli, asparagus or beans.

Serves 6