Lola and Finn's Mum

Lola and Finn's Mum

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Not quite Barefoot Contessa, but close: Lasagne with Chicken Sausage

I have been wanting to make this recipe for a while - but could never find the right ingredient - well, I probably could have done if I had looked hard enough, but the fact of the matter is that a quick dash around the supermarket aisles on a Friday night (if I haven't done it online that is: another sop to my role of English teacher up to her neck in A level English Literature coursework) does not necessarily facilitate the idle wanderings and musings that I would like food shopping to be. Anyway, I found the ingredient, well as close as I was going to get, not living in The Hamptons like the Barefoot Contessa, and thought the time is now for lasagna with turkey sausage, only this is a Lola and Finn's Mum's version so it's chicken sausage with Italian herbs and the 'lasagne' bit is spelt correctly. (Don't take offence US readers - this is merely an example of what is known as 'British' humour. Yes, that's right. Humour).
Now I had forgotten that this recipe has a reasonably extensive list of ingredients, some of which I did not have, so I made do with some random stuff in the fridge. Therefore, if you make this, it is quite rich with what turns out to be a four cheese sauce, plus quite a strong tomato and herb sauce flavour to accompany it, and so I would buy in what I needed and make loads as a little goes a long way, . That said, the recipe below that I used and adapted, roughly cuts the ingredient quantity in half, being that I only had half the sausage content to play with in the first place. It just so happened that I had enough with what I had left in the fridge to make half of the original.
The other adaptation I made was that I was concerned that during the cooking of the tomato sauce, the sauce would become too thick before the puree cooked out, and so I added 200ml of chicken stock to the tomato sausage mixture, in the hope that it would give a more rounded flavour.
This was a very punchy, satisfying dish - great for a crowd if you go ahead and make loads, or with a bit of garlic bread and some salad for a Saturday night meal.
Lasagne with Chicken Sausage, adapted from Lasagna with Turkey Sausage, adapted from Barefoot Contessa Family Style by Ina Garten and here
Serves Lola, Finn, Mum and Dad
(Cup measurements, as this is an American recipe - my adaptations in red)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onion (1 onion)
2 garlic cloves, minced
750g chicken sausage with Italian herbs, casings removed
1  can (14oz) tinned tomatoes
3oz tomato puree
200ml chicken stock
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, divided
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves (I used 2 tsp Italian seasoning)
sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
lasagne sheets
7oz ricotta cheese
1 to 2 oz creamy goat cheese, crumbled (I used Tallegio cheese)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for sprinkling
1 medium egg, lightly beaten
250g fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Heat the olive oil in a suitable pan that will be big enough to hold the sauce once all the ingredients are added
Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes over medium-low heat, until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute.
Add the sausage and cook over medium-low heat, breaking it up with a fork, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until no longer pink.
Add the tomatoes, tomato puree, 2 tablespoons of the parsley, the basil, (Italian seasoning), the chicken stock, salt, and  pepper to taste. Simmer, uncovered, over medium-low heat, for 15 to 20 minutes, until thickened. Taste for seasoning once again.
If you are using lasagne sheets you need to soak, now would be a good time to do this.
In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, goat cheese, (Tallegio) the Parmesan, the egg, the remaining 2 tablespoons of parsley,  salt, and  pepper to taste. Set aside.
Start the layering process by ladling some of the sausage mixture over the bottom of a baking dish. Then add the layers as follows: some pasta, some mozzarella and then the ricotta mixture. Repeat, ensuring you finish off with the ricotta. Lastly, sprinkle with some of Parmesan.
Bake for 30 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling then allow to cool slightly before serving.


This post is linked to Cook like a Star, ALL Stars Anniversary organised by me, Bake for Happy Kids, Joyce from Kitchen Flavours and Mich from Piece of Cake

Wanna cook or bake like Donna Hay, Barefoot Contessa, Jamie Oliver, Masterchef, Martha Stewart, Delia Smith, Curtis Stone, Nigella Lawson, Ree Drummond and Bill Granger? To join, simply cook or bake any recipe from their websites or cookbooks and link with us at this Zoe's, this Joyce's or this Mich's post for the whole of March and April 2014.

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Sunday, 20 April 2014

Just Add Custard (or a poncey quenelle of Mascarpone): Rhubarb and Ginger Pudding Cake


I love the term 'pudding cake' and I think it's only Tamasin Day Lewis who uses the term, but it is completely the right phrase to describe this cake. You see, some cakes, the sandwich cake variety, filled with buttercream or cream cheese frosting or something is definitely for an afternoon tea, or it's birthday cake maybe. This cake however has some kind of gravitas, lacking in creamy frippery and is made for a leisurely after dinner lingering, served just slightly warm, needing only a little custard, a poncey quenelle of Mascarpone, or maybe one of those lovely after dinner sweet wines which I keep promising myself but never actually buy and drink.
I have made enough cakes to have a working knowledge of the basics of how one is put together and I thought it might be nice to combine rhubarb and ginger to make something which was more about flavour than sweetness. Plus, I picked up three sticks of rhubarb in the supermarket for 10p, keeping my irritating habit of not being able to pass the throw outs in the supermarket. Me loves a bargain.
Anyway, I have very little to say other than here is the recipe:
Rhubarb and Ginger Pudding Cake
Makes a 23cm cake
For the cake:
Three sticks of rhubarb
60 g and 180 g caster sugar, divided
150g butter at room temperature
3 eggs at room temperature plus 1 yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g full fat Greek yoghurt
250g flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp of ground ginger
Good pinch of salt
Three balls of stem ginger, chopped finely
For the syrup:
The juice from poaching the rhubarb
A couple of tbsp. of ginger syrup (from the jar of stem ginger)
To serve, custard maybe, or mascarpone, with a little chopped stem ginger scattered on top. Or cream... Cream would be really nice!!
Pre-heat the oven to 150c and butter a 23cm springform cake tin, lining the bottom with greaseproof paper and then buttering the top of the greaseproof paper.
Firstly, poach the rhubarb. Cut the sticks of rhubarb into inch pieces and put into a dish which will hold the rhubarb snugly in one layer. Scatter about 60g of sugar on top of the rhubarb, cover the dish with foil and put it into oven for about 15 minutes, or until the rhubarb is soft but not losing its shape. Allow to cool.
Increase the temperature to 180c
In a mixer, cream together the butter and the 180g sugar together until light and fluffy.
In a bowl, sift together the flour, the baking powder, the ground ginger and the salt.
Add the eggs one at a time to the butter mixture, beating well after addition. By the time you have added the third egg, the mixture might look a bit curdled so add a couple of tablespoons of the flour mixture. Then add the vanilla and yoghurt and mix to combine.
Add the flour mixture in thirds, mixing it in only until it is combined. Do not over beat.
Lastly, add the rhubarb to the batter mixture, reserving the poaching liquid for later. Mix only until combined.
Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin. Smooth the top with a spatula, and place in the middle of the oven for about an hour or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. If it is starting to brown too much without cooking all the way through, cover the cake with foil until it is cooked through.
Meanwhile, mix together the poaching liqueur and the stem ginger syrup. Heat the syrup gently. Once the cake comes out of the oven, make holes in the top with a skewer or toothpick and pour the syrup over the top of the cake. The cake will absorb the syrup because both are warm.
Allow to cool until the cake just has a hint of warmth to it. Take out of the tin and slice. Serve with anything I might have suggested in my ramblings above.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Lola makes Nutella Nests

Well, here we are, Good Friday and all that and I could have bothered myself to make hot cross buns but to be honest, it was all a bit too involved. But, I felt compelled to do something seasonal and as the Easter holiday is nearing its sad end and I probably won't be able to blog 'til, oh, I don't know...end of May maybe. So, I involved one of my creative muses, Lola, and four ingredients - Menier chocolate, Nutella, Cadbury's Mini Eggs and Crunchy Nut Cornflakes to rustle up something that kinda suggested Easter.
During our recent move I amazingly found an untapped jar of Nutella nestling at the back of the cupboard and what's more it was edging towards its best before date. If I'd have opened it, very soon afterwards you would have found me stood in the kitchen trying to get the last of it out of the bottom with a teaspoon. At least this way I used half the jar of it without being the one totally responsible for eating it.
I figured that if I melted some dark chocolate it would counteract some of the sweetness of the Nutella and I did start off with that in mind and then I thought 'Sod it, it's Easter...' so in the end I put it there because I thought it might help with the solidifying process of the nests, once mixed and assembled.
Anyway, the success of these was rapid and compelling. Within an hour these had been demolished by the kids, not me. Luckily they had gone before I got to them.
Nutella Nests
Makes approximately 12
100g dark chocolate
100g Nutella
150 - 200g cornflakes (I used Crunchy Nut Cornflakes because it is what I had in the cupboard)
A bag of mini eggs
Melt the dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Do not allow the bowl to touch the simmering water.
Once melted, add the Nutella and mix to combine
Put the cornflakes into another bowl, then add the molten chocolate to them. Stir carefully to combine.
Using a non stick shallow cupcake/fairy cake pan (grease it with some unflavoured oil if need's be) spoon the mixture into the indentations, pressing the mixture into the sides to create a 'nest' effect.
Place two or three mini eggs into the centre.
Put the nests into the fridge to harden up. They won't fully harden because of the Nutella. Once cohered, carefully release the nests from the pan.
Keep any that are not eaten in the fridge, as they will become soft quickly.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Eureka! (Or any other loosely connected Greek exclamation...) Chicken with Olives

Firstly, allow me to set the scene, in the only way I know is appropriate:
It is highly unlikely that I will get anywhere near Greece this year as hopefully we'll be hotfooting it to France during the Summer hols, but, you never know, should the lottery numbers come up this evening I might decide to tag on a little extra holiday on somewhere. Yeh, who am I trying to kid? I can't believe I said 'might'. Let's be honest, should I acquire the profession of 'Lottery Millionaire' later on this evening then you wouldn't see me for dust. Anyway, until that inevitable time where I put my deposit down on some swanky Maserati and leave on a jetplane for warmer climes, I will have to be content with creating Rhodes, Crete, or (insert your favourite Greek island here) with a little bit of creativity in my own kitchen.
I am very fortunate to own 'Vefa's Kitchen' by Vefa Alexiadou, bought for me by Phill for a birthday a few years ago and it is one of those glorious cookbooks which is chock full of recipes, glossy pictures evocative of warmer climes, herbaceous hillsides, and the contrast of blue against white; that last image being the epitome of Greece (for me at least) whether it be whitewashed buildings against blue domes, or the fluttering of the Greek flag in a warm summer breeze. Even the cover of this weighty tome is blue and white.
I could have cooked anything from this book to be fair, but as I have a brood to feed, I have to choose something that will appeal to all of us (though to be honest, Finn still proves a problem here...) I cooked a very easy dish, chicken and olives, which appealed to Finn (chicken) Lola, (pasta) and me and Phill (olives and it goes well with Mythos).
If you are not olive mad like Phill and I, you can of course omit or fish the offending things out when you serve, but I have to say the cooking of olives tends to mellow them out and add an interesting flavour to the dish, but each to their own of course, and I haven't succeeded in getting either Lola and Finn to them yet. My adaptations to the recipe are below, the main one being that I used chicken thighs so I adjusted the cooking time accordingly as a thigh piece is considerably smaller than a quarter of a chicken.
Chicken with Olives, adapted from 'Vefa's Kitchen' by Vefa Alexiadou
1 chicken, about 3 1/4lb quartered (I used six boneless chicken thighs, skin on)
salt and pepper
5 tbsp. olive oil
three garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 tbsp. of freshly chopped thyme, majoram or oregano (I used oregano)
5 tbsp. of dry white wine
A can of chopped tomatoes
5oz Kalamata olives, pitted and halved
Spaghetti to serve
Season the chicken with salt and pepper
Heat the oil in the pan and add the chicken and cook over a medium heat, turning occasionally until browned all over.
Add the garlic and oregano and cook, storing constantly for about five minutes
Pour in the wine and simmer until the alcohol has evaporated.
Add the tomatoes, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes, (30 if you are cooking chicken quarters) then add the olives. Cook for about 20 minutes more (30 if you are cooking chicken quarters) or until the chicken is tender and the sauce has thickened perceptibly.
Serve the chicken and the sauce over spaghetti.


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