Tag Archives: cheese

Pizza bread


Pizza, but with less effort and easier ingredients! Big, bold flavours that aren’t really traditional pizza ingredients but work anyway! No effort to make a tomato sauce! Rectangular so it’s easy to cut! And rosemary! I love rosemary! I’m using a lot of exclamation marks, but that’s because I’m happy and this pizza is delicious! You’re on board, right?

pizza bread

300g bread flour
7g sachet instant yeast
200ml warm water
1 tsp salt
1 tsp olive oil
1 red onion
300g cherry tomatoes
100g cheddar
40g sun dried tomatoes
1 tbsp fresh rosemary

Serves 4
Calories: 430
60 minutes for the base, 15-20 minutes to bake

Stage one: Base first. If you’re doing this by hand, put the flour, yeast, water, salt and olive oil in a bowl and knead for about 5 minutes, then cover with a damp tea towel and leave in a warm place for an hour. If you’re doing this by bread maker, switch the bread maker to the dough setting and leave it to do its thing.

Stage two: An hour after you’ve left the dough to rise, preheat the oven to 220C/fan200C. Time to prep all the other ingredients. Cut the red onion into segments and then separate them out into slices. Halve the cherry tomatoes. Grate the cheddar. Roughly chop the sun dried tomatoes. Wash the rosemary and roughly chop. Get out a rectangular roasting tin to put the pizza in.

Stage three: Lightly flour a surface and your hands, then take out the dough and give it a quick knead. Roll it out into a rectangle the size of your roasting tin, then put it in the tin. Sprinkle the cheese over the base, then add the onion, rosemary and sun dried tomatoes.


Stage four: Lay the cherry tomatoes in the gaps between the onions face up and gently push them into the dough. It’s going to look very busy and like the tomatoes won’t stay on. That’s ok. It will come together. Pop it in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes until the base has gone golden and the cheese has baked to your satisfaction.


Gnocchi bake


Gnocchi can be tricky. On the pro side, they take only minutes to boil. On the con side, they can be a little unsatisfying, both in quantity and in flavour. They can be just a few little chewy bites and then they’re gone and you’re wondering how they went so fast. Not in this meal! This recipe retains the easiness of gnocchi to make, but then adds in bags of flavour (from the tomatoes) and texture and bulk (from the baked cheese and spinach). I’m converted to team gnocchi. I was considering actually making them from scratch myself, but you need to take a relationship like that one step at a time. Maybe soon I will be ready to take that step.

800g gnocchi
125g ball lot-fat mozzarella
40g sun dried tomatoes
100g fresh spinach
1 clove garlic

Serves 4
Calories: 370
Takes 25 minutes to make

Stage one: Preheat the oven to 190C/fan 170C. Roughly chop the sun dried tomatoes and chop or crush the clove of garlic.

Stage two: Boil the gnocchi in a big pan until they rise to the top – this will take only a couple of minutes. Meanwhile, put the spinach in a colander. When the gnocchi are cooked, pour the whole pan into the colander – this will wilt the spinach. I love how efficient that is.

Stage three: Tip the gnocchi and spinach into a roasting tin and give them a mix to evenly distribute the spinach. Stir in the tomatoes, garlic and seasoning.


Stage four: Tear up the mozzarella and lay it over the top, and pop in the oven for 20 minutes until the cheese has melted and started to crisp. Serve immediately.


Mushroom tart


That tart is exciting. It’s light and lemony and tastes of summer. And most importantly, it’s all about the mushrooms. I adapted this recipe from the one in the River Cottage Everyday cookbook, which celebrates food in way I really like. Simple ingredients, simple methods, big flavours. In this case, the central ingredient is the mushrooms. This tart would be perfectly adequate if you just used one type of mushroom, but don’t do that. There’s something wonderful about the range of textures and shapes that can occur within the category of things that are still mushrooms. The more of them you can have going on in this tart, the better. I used chestnut, button and oyster mushrooms.

150g puff pastry
200g mixed mushrooms
a pat of butter
1 clove of garlic, crushed
grated zest of 1 lemon
1 handful of fresh parsley, roughly chopped
20g parmesan, grated

Serves 2 as a light main or very substantial starter
Calories: 390
Takes 45 minutes to make

Stage one: Roll out the pastry into whatever shape you like. Make it round or square, it’s all the same to me. Fold the edges over. Pop it in the fridge while you’re cooking the mushrooms.


Stage two: Preheat the oven to 200C/fan 180C. Thickly slice the mushrooms where appropriate. By appropriate, I mean slice chestnut mushrooms, but only halve oyster mushrooms or other fiddly types.

Stage three: In a saucepan, melt the pat of butter over a medium heat and then add in the mushrooms, stirring occasionally. When the mushrooms start to reduce, stir in the garlic. Continue to cook until the water that seeps out of the mushrooms has evaporated. Remove from the heat, and then stir in the lemon zest and parsley. Season lightly – the lemon already adds a lot of flavour!


Stage four: Take the pastry out of the fridge and spread the mushrooms over the top. Sprinkle on the parmesan.


Stage five: Bake for 15-20 minutes until the pastry has gone golden. Serve hot or cold.


Cheesy filo parcels


There exists for me a very rare and special category of food: food that is so much lower in calories than it ought to be that it almost feels unfair. Portions that look huge and are full of cheese, but somehow there’s no nutritional downside. It appears that filo pastry is the key to this category. It’s thin and fragile, but bakes into solid, crunchy goodness so that you don’t notice how little there is of it. Plus it makes me feel all fancy. Filo pastry is a great way of separating out the filling for what would otherwise have been a single large pie into lots of little filo parcels, which means you get so much more crunch for your filling. Brilliant. Fair warning: these parcels are a bit fiddly. But they don’t take long, and they’re worth it. Some of the cheese leaked out of mine in the oven, and at first I panicked and was sad and assumed it was a disaster. Turns out, it wasn’t. It makes no different to the cheesiness or crunchiness of the parcels, plus I got to eat the crispy cheese. I guess a fix for this would be to double up the filo pastry for each parcel, which you are welcome to do, but I’m happy with fewer calories and crispy cheese.

You can use these parcels as a fancy low-calorie starter, or eat three of them and still have a low calorie dinner but feel like you are eating a feast. Guess which I did?

3 filo pastry sheets
250g spinach
800g plum tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
100g mature cheddar (I used low fat)
2 tbsp + 1 tsp olive oil

Makes 6 parcels
Calories per parcel: 160
Takes 60 minutes

Stage one: Preheat the oven to 190C/fan 170C. Quarter the tomatoes, mix in the garlic and 1 tsp of olive oil, season and pop in the oven for 30 minutes. I’d give them a mix around half way through to stop them burning. This should dehydrate the tomatoes and intensify their flavour. If they’re still plump at the end of the 30 minutes, roast them for a further 10 minutes. The drier they are, the easier they will be to work with.

Stage two: Meanwhile, put the spinach in a colander and pour a kettle full of boiling water over it to wilt. Leave to cool, then squeeze as much of the water out of it was possible. Grate the cheddar into a bowl.

Stage three: Lay out the first sheet of filo pastry, and halve it so that you have 2 filo squares. Take a sixth of the tomato mixture and put it on the centre of the bottom edge of one of the squares. Sprinkle a sixth of the cheddar and the spinach on top.


Stage four: OK, here’s the fiddly bit. Gently start to roll up the parcel into a sausage. The tomato is going to want to seep through and rip the filo, so you’ll need to support it as you roll it up. Brush both sides of the pastry roll with olive oil, and then fold the ends of the sausage over the tomato side of the roll. This will help it hold together in the oven. Repeat for the other 5 parcels.


Stage five: Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper, and lay the parcels on it. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden.


Cheddar scones


Today’s post was meant to be about scones and pea soup, but for some reason I decided to make the pea soup using only standard store cupboard ingredients and it turned out blah. Not bad, just blah. Fortunately, the scones that I am sharing with you are sufficiently wonderful that I really didn’t care. They actually de-blahed the entire meal. The recipe I used on BBC good food suggests making lots of them so they’re tiny, but I like them bigger. I prefer the crust-inside ratio this way – lots of crunchy outside, but more fluffy inside. I think these scones are another example of my lack of interest in prettiness and perfection in my baked goods. I don’t use cutters to make them look even. I don’t want them to look even. I want them to be golden and irregular. The upside of my way is that it takes far less time, and also there’s no guilt about tearing into them. You aren’t destroying perfection; these scones were not meant to last.


50g butter, room temperature
250g self-raising flour
25g porridge oats
75g cheddar cheese (I used low fat)
150ml milk (I used semi-skimmed)
1/4 tsp paprika (optional)
a big sprinkle each of salt and pepper

Makes 8 scones
Calories: 205
Take 15 minute to put together, and 10-15 minutes to bake

Stage one: Preheat the oven to 220C/fan200C. Get out (and preferably measure out) all the ingredients, as you’re about to get your hands buttery and floury, and that’s just the start. Rub the butter and flour together until the mixture forms crumbs. Then add in the oats, cheddar, paprika and seasoning, and mix. Pour in the milk and mix until just combined into a moist dough, adding a splash more milk if it turns out dry and crumbly.


Stage two: If you’re a perfectionist, lightly flour a surface and then cut the scones out using a circular mould. If you’re not, flour the surface and your hands, then gently form the dough into a short sausage. Slice it into 8 roughly equal chunks. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and lay the dough chunks on it.


Stage three: Bake for 12-15 minutes until the scones are golden and beautiful.


Sweet potato bake (aka fake Dauphinoise)


I’ve never been quite sure about Dauphinoise potatoes. I get the point: they’re rich and creamy, which to me is a great quality in a foodstuff. The thing is, I always find myself wanting something more. I want a bit more crunch, a bit more flavour, something a little more substantial that (if possible) won’t make me feel guilty. Somehow, thinking along this vein led me to the conclusion that I could make my own version of the Dauphinoise by basically changing all the ingredients. The plus side of doing it this way is that you can have this as a light main course or a side, and it’s neither too bland for the main nor too overwhelming for the side.

850g sweet potatoes
1 red onion
100g cheddar (I used low fat)
150ml semi skimmed milk
3 eggs
1 tsp wholegrain mustard

Serves 4 (or 6 as a side)
Calories: 350 (if serving 4)
Takes 30 minutes to make, 30 minutes to cook

Stage one: Preheat the oven to 200C/fan180C. Peel and slice the sweet potatoes, and thinly slice the onions. Put in a roasting tin. If you don’t want the top really crispy, now would be the time to measure out some tinfoil to put over the roasting tin half way through and set it aside for later.


Stage two: In a bowl, combine the milk, eggs and mustard, and season well. Pour the mixture over the potato and onion. Grate the cheese and sprinkle it over the top.


Stage three: Pop it in the oven for 30 minutes. Have a look after 15-20 minutes and decide how crispy you want the top. I like the top really crispy, so I just left the roasting tin uncovered, and the top potatoes went all crisp and the onions charred slightly. It’s a personal taste. If you’re not weird like me, very carefully cover the roasting tin with tinfoil and return to the oven.


Spinach, feta and caramelised onion tart


This tart looks posh and colourful but is surprisingly easy to make. The highlights for me are the cheat’s caramelised onions made in 20 minutes (the secret is balsamic vinegar), and puff pastry. The balsamic onions are great because I generally like to add balsamic vinegar to anything I can, but also they’re quick, easy and beautiful. Nothing was ever going to go wrong with those onions. I want to add them to everything. Pastry is less predictable, but I love making puff pastry because the trick is not to try too hard. Don’t mix in the butter too well. Don’t roll it out too much. Just go with it, pop it in the oven and hope for the best, and ta-da! The sight of the pastry puffing despite my limited pastry making abilities fills me with joy.

350g puff pastry (buy ready rolled to make your life easy)
2 red onions
100g feta cheese
200g spinach
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp + 1 tsp vegetable oil

Serves 4
Calories: 480
Takes about 45 minutes

Stage one: Preheat the oven to 200C/fan180C. Slice the red onions and put them in a pan with 1 tbsp vegetable oil over a medium-low heat. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions have gone soft. If they start to burn, lower the heat and add a tbsp water and miraculously everything gets better. After the 10 minutes are up, add the balsamic vinegar and then cook 10 minutes more. They’re going to go the most wonderful red-pinky colour, and taste just like you’ve been caramelising them for hours. But you haven’t! Muahaha. Remove them from the heat.


Stage two: Put the spinach in a colander, fill and boil the kettle and then pour the boiling water over the spinach to wilt it. Leave the colander in the sink for the spinach to cool and drain.

Stage three: While the spinach is cooling, roll out the puff pastry into a rectangle about the thickness of a pound coin. Fold over the edges to make it look fancy. Brush it with the tsp of vegetable oil, and then put it in the oven for 15 minutes until it’s gone golden and puffed up in the middle. While the pastry is in the oven, squeeze as much water as you can out of the spinach.


Stage four: When the pastry is done, gently press the middle down with the back of a spoon. Spread the spinach over the base of the pastry, and then spread the onion over it. Admire the wonderful colours. Finally, crumble the feta over the top, and then pop it in the oven for 10 minutes until the cheese has gone golden. Serve immediately, although it works great cold too!


Pesto pizza


This is my last post for a couple of weeks, because I’m going on a very belated honeymoon to the states! And only 9 months after getting married, too, how efficient is that? New York, Long Island and Boston here I come! This pizza is therefore a glorious combination of everything left in my fridge, and it is totally delicious. Pesto on a pizza is a magical thing, and fortunately I had lots of leftovers from my tart. Getting into the spirit, I even roasted and blitzed my leftover tomatoes to make the tomato base instead of using passata. As usual, most of these things (including, to be honest, the entire pizza) can be bought ready made, but the home made way tastes better.


For the base (or use 1 pre-bought base)
200g bread flour
7g sachet dried yeast
125ml water
For the tomato base (or use 250ml tomato passata)
10 medium tomatoes
1 tbsp olive oil
For the pizza:
3 tbsp pesto
60g mozzarella, sliced
200g mushrooms, sliced (or other veg)

Serves 2
Calories: 590
Takes 2 hours from start to finish, but only 20 minutes contact time

Stage one: Make the base first. If you have a bread maker, put all the ingredients in, put it on the dough setting, and leave it for 1 hour 30 minutes. If you don’t then combine the ingredients, knead well, then cover and leave in a warm room for 1 hour 30 minutes.

Stage two: For the tomato base, preheat the oven to 180C/fan160C. Core and halve the tomatoes, drizzle with olive oil, and put in the oven for 25 minutes. When they’re done, leave them to cool slightly, and then blend them. The tomatoes will have dehydrated in the oven, which is good because if the base was too watery the whole thing will come out damp! This is why a prefer using a home made base to passata, which can be a bit liquidy.


Stage three: Prep the mozzarella and vegetables and preheat the oven to as high as you can get it. Mine was fan220C. When the dough is ready, flour a surface and your hands and turn out the dough. Knead briefly, and then roll it into a base of the thickness you prefer. Slide it onto a baking tray – I have a pizza tray, which I highly recommend for a really crisp base. Spread the tomato base over the dough, and then dollop bits of pesto over the top. If you don’t have pesto, scatter some crushed garlic and herbs (preferably fresh basil) over the top of the pizza. Dot the mozzarella around the pizza, and then lay the vegetables in the spaces between. Season well.


Stage four: Bake for 10-12 minutes until the cheese has melted and serve immediately.


Tomato, mozzarella and pesto tart


I love spending the day in the kitchen. This tart was a multi-stage project and each of those stages was fun. (Today I also made a batch of what were meant to be chocolate orange cookies, because you should eat oranges when you have a cold, but they came out of the oven looking like cookies but tasting like cake. My husband loves both cake and cookies and thinks that they’re great and should be called “cakies”, but I’m still a bit dubious. Still, they contain vitamin C so I will continue to eat them for health purposes. But they aren’t the point of this post.)


Anyway, this tart. You can do it the fast way or the slow way, depending on time and inclination. I had both, so I made the puff pastry and the pesto from scratch. The puff pastry I made using half of Gordon Ramsay’s recipe, which comes to 350g of pastry. Don’t be scared to make your own pastry! Speaking from limited experience, it’s really not that hard. The worst that happens tends to be that overworked puff pastry comes out as shortcrust, which is just as delicious, so have a go sometime.

If you don’t like the sound of making pastry, how about pesto? I love growing basil and making pesto. Growing basil I have down to something of an art. The trick is to put in it as much sun as possible, and to water it about 100ml whenever the leaves feel limp. Last year I grew a basil plant about 3 feet tall and I was very proud of it, but sadly my friends and family formed an emotional attachment to the thing and refused to let me harvest and eat it. And then it got infested with whitefly and died. Yes, I hold a grudge. Now I harvest the plants when they’re smaller (about 1/2 months in) to make the loss easier for them to bear. I don’t really have a recipe that I stick to when it comes to the pesto making bit, so it comes out differently each time, which I like. Generally, I harvest the plant (probably 100g), and blend the leaves with a clove of crushed garlic, about 30g grated vegetarian parmesan, sea salt, and extra virgin olive oil to turn it into a paste/sauce depending on my needs.


Ingredients for the tart:
350g puff pastry
2 tbsp pesto
1 red pepper, thinly sliced
60g half-fat mozzarella, roughly sliced
5-10 cherry tomatoes, halved
a little grated parmesan (optional)

Serves 4
Calories: 400
Takes about 45 minutes to make

Stage one: Preheat the oven to 190C/fan170C. Roll out the pastry into a rectangle, and fold over the edges to make a border about 1cm thick. Prick with a fork and blind bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes until the pastry has puffed in the centre and has gone a pale golden colour. In the meantime, prep the vegetables and the cheese. Remove from the oven and gently flatten the centre using a fork.


Stage two: Lay out the pieces of mozzarella over the centre of the tart, and then spread over the pesto. Scatter the vegetables over the top, season, and finally sprinkle on the parmesan.


Stage three: Pop it in the oven for around 15 minutes until the vegetables are cooked. Serve with salad. This dish works really well cold, too!


Gnocchi with broccoli and parmesan cream


I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with broccoli. I go through phases of loving it and then suddenly I can’t be in a room with it. I’m currently in a loving it phase, and I think the tenderstem broccoli really helps this recipe. I enjoy gnocchi, but they’re so tiny I often end up wolfing them down and the meal is over too fast. Cutting up the broccoli means you need to take your time, and helps to scoop up all that lovely cream. If you don’t like gnocchi or can’t get hold of them, I’ve made this before using pasta and it works just as well.

Another thing I love about this recipe is that the cream is not cream, but creme fraiche. Makes me feel so virtuous. I took this recipe from BBC good food and edited the proportions somewhat.


knob of butter
2 garlic cloves, crushed
300ml vegetable stock
150ml low fat creme fraiche
75g vegetarian parmesan, grated
500g tenderstem broccoli
400g gnocchi

Serves 4
Calories: 330
Takes about 20 minutes to make

Stage one: Fill the kettle and set to boil. Melt a knob of butter over a low heat and heat the garlic in it until fragrant. Then add the vegetable stock, and boil until the reduced by 2/3.

Stage two: While the stock is reducing, put the broccoli in a large pan and pour the boiling water over it. Boil for about 2 minutes, then add in the gnocchi and cook for about 2 minutes more. I love when you get to do that in a recipe. Saves so much washing up. When it’s cooked, drain.


Stage three: The stock and garlic should now be reduced. Take it off the heat and whisk in the creme fraiche, and then the parmesan. The mixture gets lovely and thick. Serve the broccoli and gnocchi into bowls, and then pour the parmesan cream over the top. It is very important to eat the gnocchi with a spoon to scoop up as much of the cream as possible.