Light Dairy Pasta for Shavuot

Shavuot – that festival of cheese, cream, milk and indigestion! Often, this one-time-a-year excuse to load our food with diary products results in lactose overkill. Instead of overdoing the dairy, how about a dish that’s light on the diary, heavier on the veggies and the result is tasty and easy on the digestive system.

This is a recipe I threw together when I was vacationing at my sister-in-law’s cottage in Ontario last summer. Our niece was having a birthday, and because she’s a vegetarian, we made a diary vegetarian meal, with the whole extended family pitching in with their contributions – lots of fun and good food.

I opened the fridge and did a bit of forraging. There was a bag of fresh spinach, some sun dried tomatoes, piles of cheese, so I went to work on making a fresh vegetable-based pasta sauce. It went down really well. I made it again recently, trying to remember what I had done. Not sure it’s exactly the same recipe, but it’s one of those recipes that you can adjust according to your own taste (or what’s in the fridge!). Just don’t skip the spinach – it makes the dish. And please, for the love of all that is edible, use fresh spinach only. That frozen stuff is evil and does not in any way resemble spinach as nature intended it.

FRESH SPINACH VEGETABLE PASTA

Ingredients

500 g (1lb) penne pasta (or similar large hardy noodle)

2 tablespoons olive oil

10-15 sun dried tomatoes in oil chopped (not too small)

6-8 cloves of garlic thinly sliced

2 medium sized zucchinis quartered and sliced

2-3 cups of cherry tomatoes quartered

Salt and ground pepper

A pinch of dried oregano

A pinch of dried basil, or a few shredded fresh basil leaves

300 g (10 oz) fresh baby spinach leaves washed

200 g (7oz) Tzfatit cheese or any hard white salty cheese diced into small cubes

Water from the pasta pot

Grated parmesan cheese (optional)

How to do it

  1. Add the olive oil to a large skillet or wok and turn the gas to medium high. Add the sun dried tomatoes, zucchini and garlic and saute till the zucchini starts getting soft (about 5 minutes), stirring every now and again.
  2. Make the pasta in a large pot of salted water.
  3. While the pasta is cooking, add the tomatoes and herbs to the skillet and allow to simmer on low heat till the tomatoes start breaking down. After the tomatoes are softened, add about a cup of the water from the pasta pot to the skillet, and stir and continue to simmer for a few minutes, until the pasta is cooked. Add just enough liquid so that you start getting a sauce, but don’t add too much water so that you dilute the flavors.
  4. Drain the pasta and add it to the skillet or wok (if it’s big enough; if not, return the pasta to the post and add the vegetables to the pot.)
  5. Add the spinach leaves. The heat from the pasta and the sauce will wilt the leaves. If you are using a heavier spinach leaf, then keep the flame on low heat only just until the spinach is wilted – you don’t want to over cook the spinach.
  6. Add the slaty cheese and toss together, and sprinkle some parmesan over the top to serve. Serve immediately. (You can make the first part of the sauce ahead of time – till step 4).

Serves about 6.

 

Cold Borscht without the Patchkie

Bosrcht

If there’s anything that conjurs up memories of growing up in a Lithuanian Jewish home in South Africa, it’s cold borscht (or what we simply called beetroot soup) in the summer. There were always large mason jars filled with soup in the fridge in the summer, and it was a great snack or first course for any dairy meal. We would always eat it with a dollop of sour or regular cream, with finely chopped cucumber. If someone was feeling energetic, maybe a boiled baby potato would find its way into the bowl, but if not, that was also fine.

Oddly enough, until not bvery long ago, I had never made beetroot soup myself, for a couple of reasons: Firstly, the gentlemen in my family do not like beets, and secondly, in Israel, beets are very sadly sold devoid of their stems and leaves. My late mother always made her soup with the whole beet, including the stalks and leaves, which were my favorite part. Without them, I don’t believe the soup would taste as good. I’m very likely wrong, but it’s my schtick.

A few weeks ago, to my joy, my greengrocer was selling whole bunches of beets. I grabbed a bunch and finally made my first pot of cold borscht. There are so many recipes out there that over complicate this very simple dish. This recipe is simple, and you can add whatever accompaniments you like. But the basic recipe keeps ingredients, and patchkie, to a minumum and it works well. At the very least, it tastes just like my mother’s!

COLD BORSCHT

Ingredients

1 bunch of beets (about 6 small beets) with stems and leaves

Cold water (about 2 liters/quarts) to more than cover the beets

Juice of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons of vinegar

Sugar to taste

Salt and pepper

Accompaniments: Finely chopped cucumber, sour cream or sweet cream, small boiled baby potatoes

How to do it

  1. Very thouroughly wash the beets so there is no grit left. Cut the beet bulbs off the stems, and peel and cut in half. Grate them in a food processor on the coarse blade. Chop the stems into half inch/1.5 cm pieces. Shred the leaves.
  2. Put all the beet parts into a large pot and cover with the water – water should be about 4cm (2 inches) above the level of the beets. Being to the boil and reduce to a simmer for about half an hour (or until the beets are cooked through). Note: If you don’t have a food processor, you can boild the beet halves for about half an hour or until a fork can slide into the beets, and then hand grate them. Don’t over cook them because they will coninue cooking with the stems and leaves for about 15 minutes.
  3. Remove from the heat and add sugar (about 1-2 tablespoons).
  4. Allow to cool completely, and then add the lemon juice vinegar and salt and pepper. Keep tasting till you get the right level of acidity.
  5. Serve cold with whatever accompaniments you like.

Serves about 8.

Sensational Fish Soup

Fish Soup

Whether we like it or not, us kosher cooks are sometimes limited when it comes to certain flavors. The iconic bouillabaisse is a case in point, with its distinctive flavors drawn from the mix of seafood used to make the dish. Whenever I see recipes for any type of fish soup, seafood is a requirement, so…next! It’s disappointing.

Last week, I came across a New York Times recipe for Fish Soup, where the main ingredient was actually just fish. I got very excited and I immediately tested it out. It was everything it promised to be. It had that perfect taste of the sea, with a flavorful tomato base. The dish is light and healthy, but is still excellent comfort food for the winter.

Make this and impress your friends and family. It’s a good one!

You can serve this as a main course or a first course – my quantities here are for a first course. You can prepare the soup ahead of time and heat it up just before you want to cook the fish. Make sure you have some hot crusty fresh bread to go along with it.

Ingredients

1 kg (2 lbs) firm white-fleshed fish fillets, skin removed – I used “mussar yam” (Red Drum), you can also use “locus” (Bass), “denis” (sea bream) or cod

6 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped

6-8 anchovy fillets, soaked in water for 4 minutes, drained and rinsed

Olive oil

1-2 large onions, chopped

3 sticks of celery, diced

medium carrots, diced

Salt

1.2 kg (42 ounces) canned chopped tomatoes (a big can and small can)

1.5 liters water

800g (1.5 lb) small baby potatoes, washed and quartered (they should be small bite sized pieces). 

A bouquet garni of 2 bay leaves, a few sprigs of fresh parsley, a few sprigs of fresh thyme (use half a teaspoon of dried thyme if you don’t have fresh), half a red chilli (deseeded) or a whole one if you want a little more spice in the soup – tied together with string (if you don’t have string kicking around, don’t worry)

Freshly ground pepper

1/3 cup of chopped fresh parsley

How to do it

  1. In a pestle and mortar crush the garlic cloves, ½ a teaspoon salt and the anchovy fillets and mash. If you don’t have a pestle and mortar, crush the garlic in a garlic press, chop the anchovies as finely as possible with a knife and mix together well in a small bowl with the salt. Set aside
  2. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large soup pot and add the onion, celery, carrot and ½ a teaspoon of salt, and saute until the onion is tender, about five minutes.
  3. Add the garlic and anchovy and stir together, cooking for another about 1 minute. Smell that!
  4. Add the tomatoes, bring to the boil and turn down the heat and simmer, stirring every now and again, for about 10 to 15 minutes.
  5. Add the water, potatoes, salt to taste, and the bouquet garni. (If you don’t have string, throw all the components in to the soup and fish them out before you serve.) Bring the soup to a simmer, turn the heat to low, cover partially and let simmer for 30 minutes. Add salt and add pepper to taste. Remove the bouquet garni  when it’s finished simmering.
  6. Season the fish fillets with salt and pepper on both sides, and stir the fish into the hot soup. The soup should not be boiling. Simmer for five to 10 minutes or just until the fish falls apart when poked with a fork. When the fish fillets are cooked, pull the fish apart into smaller pieces.
  7. Remove from the heat, stir in the chopped parsley, and add more seasoning if required.

Serves about 8 as a side dish

Warm up Winter with Sweet and Spicy Ribs

Sweet and Spicy Ribs

I’m now catering for two sons who come home every weekend from the army, and are starved for home cooked food. I am always on the look out for new ways to provide them with the protein they both crave so much after a week of oily chicken and too much starch.

Recently, I decided to tackle ribs. Don’t worry, I’m talking about the beef variety. Coated in a aromatic spice rub and slow cooked in a sticky sweet and spicy sauce, these ribs come out beautifully soft and falling apart. I served them with crisp roast potatoes, and they went down a treat, especially in this wintery weather.

SWEET AND SPICY RIBS

Ingredients

2 kg (4 lbs) beef ribs (with or without the bones)

Spice Rub

1 tablespoon sweet paprika

½ tablespoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon chili powder

2 teaspoons garlic powder

1 teaspoon chipotle powder (if you don’t have, then increase all your other spices by a little to make up the one teaspoon)

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

½ teaspoon dried thyme

2 teaspoons salt

1½ tablespoons packed brown sugar

Sauce

2 cups ketchup or tomato paste

½ cup silan / golden syrup / molasses

½ cup packed brown sugar

¼ cup of blackberry jam or preserves

1/3 cup vinegar

1 tablespoon of the spice rub

1 tablespoon liquid smoke (optional but recommended)

How to do it

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200ºC (400ºF)
  2. Cut the ribs into 6 pieces, wash and dry well. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
  3. Mix the spice rub together in a small bowl and set aside 1 tablespoon for use in the sauce. Rub the rest of the spice rub evenly over each piece of meat and place each piece on the baking tray. Bake for 15 minutes on each side.
  4. While the meat is in the oven, add all of the sauce ingredients to a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring now and again. Set about a cup of the sauce aside to serve the meat with.
  5. Spray the bowl of the slow cooker with non-stick spray. Spread some of the sauce on the bottom of the bowl. Add the meat and the then the rest of the sauce, making sure all the meat is covered with sauce.
  6. Cook on high heat for 4-5 hours or on low heat for 7-9 hours. The meat should be tender and falling apart when it is done.

Serves about 8.

Baked Eggs in Latke Nests for Hanukkah

Baked Eggs in Latke Nests

This Hanukkah season, there have been dozens of recipes for “latke muffins” online. I can’t say I’m overwhelmed by this concept because basically you just take your latke mix and bake them in muffin tins instead of in the oven (on in a pan), and what does that give you besides muffin-shaped latkes? Bupkes! But it did get me thinking…

For ages I’ve been wanting to try baking eggs in the oven. I’ve seen eggs being baked inside puff pastry in muffin tins. I haven’t quite gotten around to trying that out. Instead, with Hanukkah upon us, I decided to mash up the two concepts and I came up with Hanukkah Baked Eggs in Latke Nests.

This is a fun dish, looks good, and adds a little bit of nutrition into this Hanukkah classic. They are like Hanukkah Hash Browns and Eggs. You can serve them with whatever you enjoy with eggs – smoked salmon, hot sauce, or plain old ketchup. Not sure this will work with apple sauce though. For that, make another batch and serve them for dessert with apple sauce and sour cream.

Happy Hanukkah!

Ingredients

3 medium sized potatoes (to make about 3 cups of grated potato)

1 small onion

14 eggs (12 should be medium sized, 2 can be large for use in the latke mixture)

2 tablespoons of flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons oil

How to do it

1. Grate the potatoes (not finely) and the onion.

2. Rinse the potatoes in water to get rid of the starch and place them in a colander to drain – leave them to drain for about half and hour (at least). Squeeze out as much liquid as you can with your hands.

3. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (350°F)

4. In a mixing bowl combine the potato, onion, 2 eggs, flour, baking powder and salt.

5. Liberally oil a 12-cup muffin tin.

6. Add about 2 tablespoons of potato mixture to each cup, and spread it up the sides, to the top of the cup, leaving a nest in the middle. Do not fill too much or there won’t be place for the eggs.

7. Bake for 25 minutes.

8. Remove the pan from the oven and carefully break the remaining eggs into the latke nests.

9. Return to the oven for about 8-12 minutes. 12 minutes will give you hard yolks. Check to see when they are done to your taste.

Serve hot. Add smoked salmon on the side to upgrade the dish.

Makes 12 servings.

The “I can make it better at home” Cauliflower Salad

Roasted Cauliflower Salad

One of my pet peeves is going to a restaurant and being charged a ridiculous amount for a dish that I know I can make just as well, if not better, myself at home. Case in point: I recently ate out at a very trendy little Tel Aviv restaurant near Carmel Market where portions were small and prices were inversely proportional. One of the little dishes that arrived at the table was a roasted cauliflower side, with a blob of tehina and some fresh tomato sauce on top. It was delicious, but for the price, it infuriated me. I was paying the price of a main course at any other good restaurant for a few small florets of cauliflower, very simply cooked and served. For that price I could have bought about 10 heads of cauliflower at my local expensive supermarket.

So with thoughts of  the Neiman Marcus chocolate chip cookie recipe urban legend at the back of my mind, I decided to replicate the dish at home, and share the recipe. The fact is that unlike a cookie recipe, it’s not very difficult to figure out what went into the over-priced side dish. This is such a simple dish that you’ll be making it whenever you entertain, and it won’t be very expensive, and this isn’t an urban legend.

ROASTED CAULIFLOWER SALAD

Ingredients

1 large head of cauliflower cut into bite sized florets, washed and dried

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

Ground kosher salt

¼ cup of tehina paste

Cold water

1 clove of garlic crushed

Juice of half a lemon

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley

Salt and pepper

3 large very ripe tomatoes

How to do it

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (350°F)
  2. Line a large baking tray with baking paper and drizzle the olive oil evenly over the surface. Toss the florets through the olive oil so that they are coated lightly and grind the salt over the cauliflower.
  3. Bake for about 10 minutes, then give the cauliflower a stir around so it bakes evenly. Bake for another 5 minutes or just until starting to yield when you stick a fork into a piece. Don’t overcook the cauliflower or it will be mushy. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool to room temperature.
  4. Mix the tehina paste with the lemon juice, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper, and add the water slowly until you get to a slightly runny consistency – you don’t want it too watery – but it should flow off the spoon. Set aside.
  5. Wash the tomatoes and chop each one into about 8 pieces (no need to peel them). Place them in a food processor with a pinch or two of salt and process them until you have an even sauce (do not liquify). Set aside.
  6. Assemble the dish on a platter. First the cauliflower, then drizzle the tehina over the cauliflower and end off with the tomato sauce drizzled over the tehina. You can put as much of the sauces as you want.

Serve at room temperature. Serves about 8 as a side dish or salad.

Fish Pie Made Easy

Fish Pie

I tend to whine about fish. Not all fish, mainly fish in Israel. It’s just not great, and you can see in my archives that I don’t have a whole lot of recipes because I’m never very inspired by the fish available here. The flipside is that I love eating fish.

Watch any British cooking show and the famous Fish Pie will often make an appearance. I’ve always like the idea of a fish pie because it’s a good way to disguise fish that isn’t magnificent. The classic English fish pie features wonderful smoked haddock. It’s easy to find in the UK and in South Africa, but certainly not in any stores in Israel, and I imagine that you’d have to go to a specialty store in the US to find it. Having been put off from trying to make a fish pie for this reason for years, I recently decided to just give it a go. I messed about with a few recipes, and the result was a very tasty and colorful fish pie. I happily now have an additional fish dish in my repertoire and it’s a crowd pleaser too.

With winter just around the corner, this is a good recipe to have on hand and it firmly fall into the comfort food category.

Ingredients

1 kg potatoes

3-4 tablespoons butter

1 carrot very finely diced

2 sticks celery very finely diced

Olive oil

150 g good-quality Cheddar cheese

Juice of 1 lemon

½ fresh red chilli finely chopped

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

400 g skinned salmon fillets

400 g skinned fillets of a firm white fish – hake/bass/meagre (if you live in a country where you can get smoked haddock, use haddock)

200 g fake shrimp (optional). If you can’t get hold of this product in your supermarket, increase the quantity of the fish in equal parts.

2 ripe tomatoes , quartered

Salt and Pepper

1 beaten egg

How to do it

  1. Peel and cut the potatoes into chunks. Add them to a large pot of cold salted water. Bring the water to a boil, and simmer until the potatoes are fully cooked through (when you pierce them with a fork they will easily yield.  Drain the water off. In the same pot, add the butter, salt and pepper and mash together until smooth. You can also use olive oil instead of butter if you’re feeling healthy. Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, saute the vegetables in a pan in some olive oil until soft.
  3. Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F)

    Fish mixture

    Fish mixture

  4. Lightly grease a deep oven proof dish. Cut the fishes into bite size chunks and mix them in a large mixing bowl. Add the sauteed vegetables, cheese, chilli, parsley, lemon juice, tomatoes and a drizzle of olive oil over all of it. Grind some black pepper and salt over the top and mix it all together. Spread evenly into the baking dish.
  5. Spread the mashed potatoes over the top of the fish mixture. Brush the top of the potato with some beaten egg.
  6. Bake for 40 minutes.

Serves about 6.

A Decadent Lemon Cake for your Succot Entertaining

Triple Layer Lemon Cake

Succot is almost here. It’s the week of non-stop entertaining, or, if you’re lucky, getting invited out and maybe having to make one thing for the meal. I love it when that happens to me because that’s when I get to invest a lot of energy in one dish that takes too much time to make when you’ve got a whole meal on your cooking agenda.

Lemon cakes are a favorite of mine. Their sweet tartness is the perfect way to round off a meal. This is a cake I eyed in the Better Home and Gardens New Cook Book for a very long time before taking it on because it is quite a bit of work. But if you’ve got something to celebrate, it’s a winner. I made this as a birthday cake for my father-in-law’s 80th birthday. It’s that kind of cake. I had made a dairy meal, which after all the meat eating we’ve been doing over Rosh Hashana is not a bad idea at all, and it was the perfect dessert.

Don’t be put off by the fact that it’s 3 layers – it makes it fun and it just means an extra round of baking if you have a European-sized oven, as I do. Make your own lemon curd – it’s not difficult and it’s so good when it’s fresh and home made. You can make it ahead of time and refrigerate it.

The result is a large, festive and delicious cake that feeds a whole bunch of people.

TRIPLE LAYER LEMON CAKE

Lemon Curd

Ingredients

½ cup sugar

1 tablespoon corn flour

1½ teaspoons lemon zest

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

3 tablespoons water

3 beaten egg yolks

¼ cup butter

How to do it

Le,on Cake Stacked and awaiting frosting

Stacked and awaiting frosting

  1. In a small saucepan, stip together the sugar, cornflour, lemon juice, zest and water until you have a smooth mixture.
  2. Cook over medium heat until the mixture has thickened and is bubbling.
  3. Beat the yolks in a small bowl. Add half the lemon mixture to the bowl while stirring vigorously so that the yolks don’t curdle. When well combined, add the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium heat while constantly stirring until the mixture comes to a gentle boil (medium-sized bubbles). Continue cooking for a another 2-3 minutes until the mixture is nice and thick.
  4. Remove from the heat and add the butter, stirring until it’s fully melted.
  5. Cover the whole surface of the curd with plastic wrap – the plastic should be touching the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Chill for an hour or overnight if you want to make this ahead of time. If you do, when you take it out the next day, give it a good stir to loosen it up again.

Cake

Ingredients

1 cup butter

2 cups sugar

4 eggs

2 1/3 cups flour

1½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

Pinch of salt

2 teaspoons lemon zest

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 cup buttermilk

How to do it

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC (350ºF)
  2. Line 3 20 or 22 cm (8 or 9 inch) round cake pans with baking paper and spray them with non-stick spray. If you only have 2 then prepare them and you will keep aside one third of the cake mix and bake the third layer separately.
  3. In an electric mixer beat the butter for 30 second till softened. Add the lemon zest, juice and sugar and beat until well combined.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time on high speed till very well mixed – mixture should be fluffy.
  5. Turn the mixer down to low speed, add the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt alternately with the buttermilk, beating until just combined.
  6. Spread the mixture evenly between the baking pans. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool the layers on a cake rack for 15 minutes then turn them out and cool completely so they are ready for assembly.

    The cut lemon cake

    The cut cake

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients

180g (6 oz) cream cheese (at least 25% fat)

½ cup softened butter

1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Up to 4¾ cups powdered sugar

How to do it

  1. In a mixer, beat the cheese, butter and lemon juice on medium speed until light and fluffy
  2. Slowly add the powdered sugar until you have a good spreading consistency – the mixture should clump around the beater but be soft to the touch. It must not be running in any way.

Assembling the cake

  1. Turn out two of the cake layers, bottom side up (flat side). Give the lemon curd a mix so it’s spreadable and spread half the curd on the first layer. Place the second layer of cake round side down on top of the first. Spread the rest of the curd on top of that layer. Place the third layer round side up on top of the 2 layers.
  2. Frost the top and sides of the cake.

Antipasti Lasagna – a Vegetarian Feast

Antipasti Lasagna

Traditional lasagna is not something you’ll be seeing recipes for on this blog. But the lasagna framework is a fun one for trying new things. This recipe is not so new to me. I’ve been making it for years. A couple of months ago I opened by blog to get the recipe (for me, this blog is where I store all my favorite recipes) and I was shocked to find that I had never posted this one. So it’s time to rectify that error.

I cannot say that this recipe is a quick fix dish – it has a few steps and does require time and effort. but the result is just spectacular. The roasted vegetables lighten up the dish and make it a great summer pasta main course, great for vegetarians. Don’t be shy with the vegetables – use your favorite antipasti veggies – the more the merrier.

Ingredients

Antipasti

2 tablespoons oil

4 large  red peppers cut into quarters (I slice the cheeks off the core of the pepper to avoid using the white bits)

1 medium sized eggplant peeled cubed into 2 cm pieces

1 large onion peeled and cut into 8 segments (cut the onion in half then with the round side down, slice from the middle outwards at an angle so you get 4 crescents from each half)

3 medium sized zucchinis cubed into 2 cm pieces

6-7 large mushrooms washed and stemmed cubed into 2 cm pieces or 2 cups of small fresh mushrooms washed,stemmed and quartered

1 whole head of garlic (remove the loose papery skins on the outside by hand but leave the inner layers on)

Coarse salt

(Make sure you have enough cubed vegetables to amply fill a large (European) oven baking tray – about 10 cups full)

Lasagna

1 batch basic tomato sauce without the onion

18-20 lasagna noodles (the ones that don’t require pre-cooking – I use Barilla)

 

250 g (12 oz) ricotta cheese

1 egg

Salt and ground black pepper

400 g (14 oz) grated mozzarella cheese

100 g (3.5 oz) grated Parmesan cheese

How to do it

Antipasti

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (350°F)

2. On an oven tray lined with baking paper, sprinkle the olive oil and place all the cut vegetables in an even layer, turning them through the olive oil so they are lightly oiled. Make sure the peppers are skin side down. Sprinkle lightly with salt.

3. Place in the upper part of the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Then, using tongs, turn over the peppers and stir the rest of the veggies around. Bake for another 20-25 minutes, or until the pepper skins start blackening.

4. Remove the peppers from the oven (leaving the rest of the veggies to roast if they are not yet cooked through for another about 10 if required). Place the peppers in a small plastic bag, seal and leave them for about 15 minutes while the rest of the veggies cool. Then remove the pepper skins – they should slide off easily.

Lasagna

1. Prepare the tomato sauce as per the recipe, including the red wine but omitting the onion

2. Beat the egg in a medium-sized bowl and add the ricotta cheese, salt and pepper and mix till smooth. Add the cooling antipasti vegetables to the ricotta mixture and gently mix together.

3. Grease a large Pyrex lasagna pan.

4. Spread about 4-5 tablespoons of tomato sauce on the bottom of the dish, just barely covering the whole surface.

5. Arrange one layer of lasagna noodles on top of the sauce (make sure there are no spaces). Break up one of the noodles to fill any gaps.

6. Carefully spread half the antipasti mixture over the noodles, then spread one third of the tomato sauce on top of the antipasti. Sprinkle just under half of the mozzarella over the sauce.

7. Then another layer of noodles, the rest of the antipasti mixture and another one third of the tomato sauce, followed by most of the remaining mozzarella – leaving about half a cup for the top.

8. Add the last layer of noodles and cover with the rest of the tomato sauce. Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and the Parmesan cheese evenly over the top.

9. Place the lasagna in a pre-heated 180°C (350°F) oven for 30-35 minutes (or until the cheese on top is golden – don’t let it burn).

This serves about 8.

 

Meatballs – Great Comfort Food

Meatballs in Sweet and Sour Sauce

There’s something about meatballs in a thick and hearty sauce that makes a the cold and rain of a chilly winter’s day feel like perfect weather. For years I’ve been making a traditional Italian style meatballs in tomato sauce that goes perfectly with spaghetti. I decided to mix it up a bit this winter and make a sweet and sour version. I get a little worried when introducing change into family favorites, but this one went down a treat.

When you have a family like mine that likes to eat, especially my son who’s an athlete and needs his protein, you’ll want to make this recipe with about 1.5 kg of ground beef at least. Don’t be shy! They reheat very easily and well, if there are any leftovers.

Ingredients

Sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion finely chopped

4-5 cloves of garlic crushed

1 800g (28 oz) can of crushed tomatoes (you can also use whole peeled tomatoes and crush them yourself)

2 cups of beef or chicken broth

 

½ cup brown sugar

Juice of half a small lemon (about 1 tablespoon or so)

Meat Balls

1kg (2 lb) fresh ground beef

2 large eggs

4 tablespoons ketchup

½ teaspoon meat spice (preferably BBQ flavor)

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh parsley

Salt and ground black pepper

About ½ cup of bread crumbs (preferably freshly made)

How to do it

  1. Prepare the sauce by heating the olive oil in a large pot. Saute the onions until they are soft (they will just start to color, don’t brown them). Add the crushed garlic and stir around in the pot for a few seconds until they just start to get some color (do not let them brown otherwise they will burn). Add the tomatoes, sugar, lemon and seasoning. Bring to the boil and then turn the heat down to low and let the sauce simmer uncovered for a few minutes. Turn the sauce off while you prepare the meatballs.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk the egg, add the spices and ketchup, and mix together. Add the ground beef and mix well until combined. Add the breadcrumbs and mix well. Check to see that you have a consistency that allows you to shape a ball that retains its shape. If the meat mixture is too soft, add some more breadcrumbs, but don’t make the mixture too dry or your meatballs will be dry.
  3. Bring the sauce to the boil. Make small golf-ball sized meatballs (I use a heaped tablespoon to give me a consistent amount of meat per ball) and drop them carefully into the sauce. Shake the pot occasionally to ensure the meatballs are all covered with sauce. If you find that there isn’t enough sauce, then top up the pot with a little more stock, making sure you don’t add too much so as not to dilute the flavor.
  4. When all the meatballs are in the pot, turn the heat down low, cover the pot and allow the meatballs to simmer for about an hour.

This makes about 20-25 meatballs.

Serve with brown or white rice.