This simple and very comforting dish (funny how foods not involving melted cheese can be comforting, but they can!) I found in Vogue of all places, i.e. not where I usually get my food inspiration from, but it’s nice they write about food as well as fashion.
The only slightly daunting part of this meal is poaching eggs, but if you have the freshest of eggs and a slotted spoon you’re halfway there. Further instructions here.
Udon noodles with spinach and poached egg, serves 1
1 portion udon noodles, cooked according to the instructions on the packet
2 handfuls fresh spinach
200-300 ml vegetable or chicken stock
1 poached egg
Heat up the stock. Blanch the spinach in boiling water and squeeze it dry. Pour the stock into a bowl. Add noodles and spinach and lastly the poached egg. Sprinkle with chilli flakes or Aleppo pepper.
I’m a very seasonal person. Despite the mainly chilly weather at the moment I can’t face putting tights or warm jackets on. Because it is summer. Instead I layer up on my upper body but keep my legs bare (if I’m wearing a skirt or dress for work). I’m used to this approach but people in the office think I’m a little strange. Fair enough, I think.
But when it comes to food it’s harder. Sure, I incorporate as much asparagus, strawberries, rhubarb, tomatoes and new potatoes into my diet as I possibly can, but instead of craving salads I still want warm filling food. So while this autumnal recipe of gnocchi with a lovely creamy butternut squash sauce with both cream and parmesan may suit the post-bikini season better it’s what I fancy eating right now. Until summer arrives. Then bring on the salads!
Gnocchi with creamy butternut sauce, serves 2
1/2 butternut squash
salt & pepper
approx 300 g gnocchi, cooked according to the instructions on the packet
50-100 ml single cream
finely grated parmesan
a few sprigs of thyme (sage works too!)
Peel the squash and remove the strings and seeds. Cut into even-sized pieces and place in a roasting tin. Drizzle with olive oil and season. Stir to coat all the pieces with oil. Place in the oven and roast until the pumpkin is soft, approx 35 mins in 200C.
Cook the gnocchi and keep it warm.
Purée the roasted squash with a stick blender. Add (cold) cream until you have a nice thick sauce. Season with salt, pepper and grated parmesan. Heat up the sauce in a non-stick saucepan while stirring, if needed. Pour the sauce over the gnocchi, top with more grated parmesan and some thyme leaves.
Homemade gnocchi is easy to make and unlike when you make pasta you don’t need any machines or tools. Just a bowl, your hands and a fork. I also prefer home made gnocchi to the store bought ones as I find they go soggy faster (and in a different way).
For me, the best ways to serve gnocchi is either boiled with a simple sauce or for a bit more texture, fried with some pancetta and vegetables. During the winter months the sauce option is to prefer and this creamy Stilton sauce with spinach is just wonderful. Pure comfort.
Gnocchi with Stilton sauce and spinach, serves 2
Inspired by a dish at Carluccio’s in London.
1 batch gnocchi
200 ml cream
100 g Stilton
salt and white pepper
150-200 g fresh spinach
Make the gnocchi ready for the pan. Heat up the cream in a non-stick saucepan and add the cheese. Stir until the cheese has melted. Season to taste with nutmeg, salt and pepper. Set aside. In a large sacuepan, add 1 cm water and bring to the boil. Add the spinach and put the lid on. Remove the lid after a minute and stir until the spinach have wilted. Drain from water in a sieve.
Add the gnocchi to boiling water in a large saucepan. When they float up to the surface remove with a slotted spoon. Heat up the sauce. Divide the gnocchi and spinach between two plates. Spoon over the sauce and serve.
Melted cheese. Is there anything more comforting in the world? OK, a hug from a dear one and a warm duvet perhaps. But next up is melted cheese.
If in the mood for the ultimate comfort food (maybe because of a heavy night the evening before or just feeling a bit meh), I have the perfect recipe for you. This grilled cheese is exactly how I want it. Fried bread, melted cheese oozing out on the sides and a little depth from cayenne.
Making something as simple as a sandwich, it’s important the ingredients are of great quality. You want a nice sourdough bread and nice cheeses.
Best ever grilled cheese sandwich, serves 2
4 large white slices of sourdough bread
medium cheddar, coarsely grated
comté, finely grated
small pinch of cayenne
Spread one side of each slice of bread with butter. Place a large heap of grated cheddar on two of the slices, on the buttered side. Add comté and a pinch of cayenne. Place another slice of bread, buttered side down, on top so you have two sandwiches.
Butter one of the outsides of each sandwich and place buttered side down in a frying pan on medium heat. Butter the other side of each sandwich and flip the sandwiches around after a few minutes. Lower the heat if needed. What we want to achieve is melted cheese in the middle and crispy golden bread on the outside. When done, remove the sandwiches from the pan. Add a layer of grated comté to the frying pan and put the sandwiches back in, creating a crispy layer of cheese on the outside of the sandwich. Repeat on the other side. Remove from the pan and cut in half (or four). Enjoy!
The weekend before last I enjoyed an ice cream in the sun in Berlin (without a coat on) so there is hope that spring is on it’s way to London too, even though it is a little too cold for my liking at the moment.
But before it’s all barbecues and salads, let’s indulge in the comfort food of colder seasons, like this very creamy polenta with aubergine and chorizo in a rich tomato sauce. Yes, let’s!
Creamy polenta with aubergine and chorizo in tomato sauce, serves 2
a little olive oil
1 garlic clove, pressed
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 can (400 g) chopped tomatoes
1/2 aubergine, peeled and cut into cubes
1/2 chorizo ring, peeled and sliced
oil for frying
600 ml chicken or vegetable stock
150 g polenta
50 g butter
150 ml finely grated parmesan
2 garlic cloves, pressed
salt, white pepper
Fry the pressed garlic in some oil in a non-stick saucepan on medium heat for a minute. Add the tomato paste and chopped tomatoes and a splash of water. Let the sauce cook for 15-20 minutes until it’s thickened nicely. Stir occasionally. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Fry the aubergine cubes in oil until golden. Remove from pan and fry the chorizo slices. Add to the tomato sauce when it’s done.
Bring the stock to the boil in a large saucepan. Add the polenta bit by bit, stir with a wooden spoon while it thickens (this happens pretty quickly). Remove from heat and add butter, parmesan, garlic, salt and pepper. Serve with the tomato sauce.
When the weather is biting cold and one has little energy or body warmth when stepping through the front door I’m of the opinion that mac ‘n cheese is the answer. It’s cheesy and comforting (for me that’s the same thing!), warm and filling and utterly delicious. Although there is no such thing as too much cheese it’s nice with something sharp cutting through the creaminess and this is where the broccoli slaw comes in. It’s fresh, zingy and healthy. The perfect counterpart to the heavy mac ‘n cheese!
Creamy mac ‘n cheese, serves 3-4
250 g de Cecco, I used the Cavatappi shapes
1 tbsp salted butter
1 tbsp plain flour
100 ml semi skimmed or whole milk
150 ml single cream
1 large handful grated matured cheddar
1 tbsp white wine
salt, white pepper
more grated cheddar to go on top
Cook the pasta al dente. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a non-stick saucepan. Add the flour and stir for a few minutes. Add the milk a little at the time while whisking and the sauce thickens. Add the cream little by little while whisking until you have a thick bechamel. Add the cheese and stir while it melts on lower heat. Add the wine and season with salt and pepper.
Drain the pasta and mix with the cheese sauce. Pour the cheesy pasta into an oven-proof dish, sprinkle with grated cheddar and place in 200C oven for 5-10 minutes until the cheese on top is bubbly and golden.
Broccoli slaw with lime, serves 3-4
1/2 head broccoli
1 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tsp wholegrain mustard
1 lime, the juice
salt, black pepper
Slice the broccoli, including the stem and cut into matchsticks. Grate the carrots. Mix mustard and mayo in a bowl. Add the lime juice then add the vegetables. Mix well and season.
This Easter weekend was all about resting for me (apart from a party on Saturday night of course). I have spent a lot of time in my PJs, with my iPad on my lap watching series. So food wise it was also all about comfort for me. Comfort food I mean.
And with the cold weather outside it felt so right indulging in this rich gratin of potatoes, lardons, onions and a fair amount of Reblochon cheese.
A traditional tartiflette should be made from these ingredients only, as the dish was greated in the 1980s to promote this particular cheese from the French Alps.
The result is, as expected when it contains cheese and lardons, delicious! It has a crispy top layer and underneath soft oozing cheesy potatoes. Wonderful!
Tartiflette, serves 2
Adapted from Rachel Khoo’s recipe.
250-300 g Maris Piper potatoes
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 small garlic clove, chopped
1 bay leaf
100 g smoked lardons
50 ml white wine
125 g Reblochon, cut into cubes
Butter a small gratin dish. Peel and grate the potatoes. Chop onion and garlic. Fry onion, garlic, lardons and the bay leaf on medium heat in a little butter or oil in a non-stick frying pan until the lardons are browned. Add the wine and let it reduce to less than half. Remove the bay leaf and add the potatoes. Mix well. Add the cheese cubes, salt and pepper and mix again. Transfer the mixture to the gratin dish. Place in a 180C oven for 15-20 minutes or until golden on top and the potatoes are cooked through.