Thursday, 24 November 2011

Cooking is an adventure in this house

Here is a nice recipe that you might like to try. Awesome Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni, plucked at random from Jamie Olivers site here You will find it in the vegetarian section. Or it might be in his book.

• 2 knobs of butterolive oil
• 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
• a large handful of fresh marjoram or oregano, roughly chopped
• ¼ of a nutmeg, grated
• 8 large handfuls of spinach, thoroughly washed
• a handful of fresh basil, stalks chopped, leaves ripped
• 2 x 400g tins of good-quality plum tomatoes, chopped
• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• a pinch of sugar
•400g crumbly ricotta cheese
• 2 handfuls of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
• 16 cannelloni tubes200g mozzarella

For the white sauce
• 1 x 500ml tub of crème fraîche
• 3 anchovies, finely chopped
• 2 handfuls of freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas 4. Then find a metal baking tray or ovenproof dish that will fit the cannelloni in one layer so it's nice and snug. This way you'll get the right cover of sauce and the right amount of crispiness on top. When I cook this at home I just use one pan to cut down on lots of washing up! Take your metal tray or a saucepan, put it on a high heat and add your butter, a drizzle of olive oil, one of the sliced garlic cloves, a handful of marjoram or oregano and the grated nutmeg. By the time the pan is hot the garlic should be soft. Put as much spinach as will fit into the pan. Keep turning it over; it will wilt quickly so you will be able to keep adding more spinach until it's all in. Moisture will cook out of the spinach, which is fine. By cooking it this way you don't lose any of the nutrients that you would if boiling it in water.After 5 minutes, put the spinach into a large bowl and leave to cool. Place the pan back on the heat, add a little olive oil, the other clove of sliced garlic, your basil stalks and the tomatoes, then fill one of the empty tomato tins with cold water and add this too. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down, add a pinch of salt and pepper and the sugar, and simmer for about 10 minutes, until you get a loose tomato sauce consistency. Then take the pan off the heat and add the basil leaves.By now the spinach will have cooled down, so squeeze any excess liquid out of it and pour this back into the bowl. Finely chop the spinach and put it back into the bowl. Mix it with the liquid, add the ricotta and a handful of the Parmesan, and then use a piping bag to squeeze the mixture into the cannelloni. You can make your own piping bag by getting a sandwich bag and putting the spinach mix into the corner of it. Then twist the bag up and cut the corner off. Carefully squeeze the filling into the cannelloni tubes so each one is filled right up – really easy.Lay the cannelloni over the tomato sauce in the pan. Or you can pour the tomato sauce into your ovenproof dish and lay the cannelloni on top. To make the white sauce, mix together the crème fraîche, anchovies and the 2 handfuls of Parmesan with a little salt and pepper, then loosen with a little water until you can spoon it over the cannelloni. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan and the mozzarella pieces, and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes until golden and bubbling.

I am using this recipe purely as an illustration to get my message across. No doubt it is a very tasty dish, Jamie is one of the best, and this would be the ideal meal to serve up at a dinner party.

It is thanks to ladyhawthorne who commented on my last post, which has given me the idea for this post. She said, 'adding whatever new veggies and meat that comes along', with reference to the everlasting pan of stew. I thought, yes she is right, this has to be the ultimate frugal food, because you are in control of how much you spend on ingredients, and not buying what some recipe book tells you to buy. If you can find reduced or free veggies, all the better. Frugal cooking is about using what resources you have available.

Lets take a look at the ingredients for Jamies recipe, I see that I don't have any of them in my cupboards at the moment. I do have a tin of tomatoes, but it is Value quality, not sure if this qualifies as 'good' quality. I would have to go out and buy every ingredient to make this. Oops sorry, I have just spotted it, I do have a pinch of sugar. Some people might have three or four of the items in their cupboards if they keep them well stocked, but my minimalistic approach means that I do not store lots of different ingredients, I have a few of the basics to get me by.

So, if I bought these items, and produced this mouth watering dish, what would I do with the rest of the the ingredients left over. The fresh ones would have to be used up quickly, and I suppose the dry ones would be put in the cupboard and saved for next time, if there ever is a next time. And we all know what happens every five years or so, we have a sort out and some of the old stuff gets chucked. What a waste of money. This meal could end up costing quite a bit to make.

On the other hand, inventing your own recipes using the food you already have, or can buy very cheaply, or you can get for free, has to be the way forward to less waste and a healthier life. Tonight I will add some more potatoes and onions to my stewpan. I will grind up some pumpkin seeds and walnuts and throw them in, and peel a couple of cooking apples, of which I have loads. It's apples with everything from now on. Maybe a tad more curry powder and another stock cube would perk it up. Served with a chunk of crusty seeded bread, bought for pennies, it will go down a treat. Very little preparation and no oven use. Ooooh, can't wait, a cheap and delicious winter warmer. And if anyone comes a knockin on my door there is plenty for them as well.


  1. Sometimes my husband thinks my 'personalised' recipes a bit odd! He usually eats them though.

  2. Ilona, do I have something to rock your socks off! is a website where you type in the ingredients you have/want to use up and it will rattle off a list of things you can make with it!

  3. I couldnt agree more. I baulk at a long list of ingredients, knowing that any jars bought especially will say "Once opened use within a week".
    We favour "pot luck" suppers.

  4. I can totally vouch for your post - I made this for some friends a couple of years ago, and it cost an absolute fortune!
    I have to be honest, I really enjoy cooking, and don't necessarily view food as simply 'fuel', but I like it to be healthy and good value too!

  5. I've just eaten a big bowl of everlasting stew, as described above, and I have to say it was absolutely yummy, scrummy, divine, tasty, and bloody lovely. I dipped in the pan a few more times after, it was so so good.

  6. You've just illustrated why I don't try NEW recipes very often. I tend to stick with the tried and true and changes those up a bit here and there. I like variety and so I have to shop carefully. Esp. since our food seems to be far more expensive here than yours in the UK given what I read on the blogs.

  7. You have touched on a subject that is rarely discussed. There is quite an obsession with food/celebrity chefs/elaborate recipes and you are right it can really be expensive. Sometimes it would be cheaper to eat out than cook like that. It also sounds like way too much work and not something like your stew that would tide you over several days.
    I think I should really take a closer look at this topic.
    I am planning a no-spend year next year and am going to try and cut my food consumption down by a third at least.

    Thanks for post Ilona - hit the nail right on the head as per usual !

  8. I very rarely have all the ingredients for recipes and usually end up substituting this and that.
    When I think about it, if you had written your original never ending stew as a recipe, then I would have had to replace several things (split peas, sprouts and bulgar wheat spring to mind).

    Incidentally I wonder what brand is good quality for tinned tomatoes? I've sometimes bought Napolina ones when they've been on special offer but they still have some bad bits on them which I have to cut off. I find Value ones are just as good quality except the juice is thinner.


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