Tag Archives: Cheese

Return to Blogging: Cheesy truffle pasta bake

17 Jun

Yes it is true I have been away for a long time dear readers.

End of last year saw me slaving away over the last of my masters degree, followed by some wrist surgery that took me out of the cooking game for a while, a lengthy trial followed and some further surgery a couple of weeks ago,  this time to remove my wisdom teeth.

While the limitations on my abilities to cook created by my wrist surgery tested my patience, the removal of wisdom teeth accompanied by the inability to eat anything not in liquid form for almost 2 weeks, was almost a killer. I could cook but I couldn’t eat it. Dante never described this level of hell.

The liquid diet has since stopped, but I am still on the softer foods until the gums are all healed. The only good to come from such severe food limitations is that you have an increased appreciation for even the simplest of things.

Macaroni and cheese is one of those classic comfort dishes and as the weather gets colder, comfort food comes calling. This isn’t the kind of mac and cheese you get out of the box, although there is always a place for that too, this is a pasta and cheese bake for a person who has glimpsed gastronomical redemption.

There are so many variations on this classic and the use of  truffle cream brie in this recipe is really just  decadent excess for the sake of it. I know I am usually so restrained 😉 The truffle  just adds a little extra depth of flavour and makes the whole dish feel more grown up and elegant, you could use truffle oil, or actual truffles if you could get your hands on them, but there are times I have just used a good creamy brie instead.

Cheesy Truffle Pasta Bake

An original recipe by The Legal Tart

Serves 2

  • 300 gms Penne
  • 80 gms truffle brief
  • 80 gms of cheddar
  • 100 gms of Mozzarella
  • 1 Tablespoon of butter
  • Plain flour
  • 100 mls cream
  • 150 mls milk (reduced fat is fine)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Breadcrumbs for topping

1. Boil the penne until just tender and then drain and put aside. Keep in mind that the penne will be baked in the oven, so you don’t want the penne too soft.

2. Put the butter in a small sauce pan and melt,  then add approximately 2 tablespoons of plain flour. Start with one tablespoon and work it in to butter and then add some more until it comes together. Cook for 1-2 mins until the flour is cooked.

Flour and butter

Flour and butter

3.Add 100 mls of milk to break up the flour mixture and use a whisk until the milk and flour is combined and then add the cream. Continue to whisk until the cream thickens and there are no lumps.

4. Add the mozzarella and whisk into the cream mixture until melted and then add the other two cheese one at a time allowing each one to melt before the other one is added.

5. Use as much of the milk as need until the cheese sauce is thinned so that it has a loose dollop consistency that will easily coat the pasta. Season with salt and pepper.

Can be eaten greedily from the pan now.

Can be eaten greedily from the pan now.

6. Toss in the penne until all the pasta is coated.

7. Put the pasta into individual ramekins of a deep baking dish and top with breadcrumbs.

8. Bake for 20-30 mins or until bubbling at the sides and browned on top.

Crunchy and cheesy

Crunchy and cheesy


Reworking an Italian Classic: Pumpkin, Spinach and Goats Cheese Cannelloni

28 Jul

I had a cooking mistress in a class one day lament the acts of terrorism being committed against Italian cooking. Don’t worry no one is hijacking Cannoli for nefarious purposes or dropping gnocchi like missiles from planes, though quite like the idea of gnocchi dropping from the sky 🙂 What she meant was that much Italian food had become reinterpreted and short-cutted to such a point that the craft of the food was undermined. I totally put my hand up for committing some horrible acts and the following recipe is likely to be one of these.

While I like cheese sauce on many things, sometimes I feel that it can overcome the otherwise fresh flavours of foods and those cannelloni dishes I was served as a child in Italian restaurants were often so loaded with cheese sauce they could have filled the cannelloni with anything and you wouldn’t have been able to tell. For this reason I have tried to make a lighter version that is packed with lots of flavour but is also satisfying. I can not emphasise enough how roasting the pumpkin increases the flavour. Boiling it simply isn’t the same, and I quite like anything I can bung in an oven a leave for 30 mins while I get on with a glass of wine and a book, I call it time management. The red onions become sweet from being roasted and the goats cheese adds enough creaminess that you don’t feel that you need a béchamel sauce to cover it. Best of all you are getting a good dose of your vegetable needs in one dish!

Do you sometimes commit crimes against Italian food?

Pumpkin, Spinach and Goats cheese Cannelloni

A Legal Tart recipe

Serves 10-12

  • 1 butternut pumpkin chopped into chunks
  • 1 red onion cut into segments
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 100 gms goats cheese
  • 300 grams of chopped spinach(frozen) defrosted and squeezed of water
  • 100 gms of pinenuts toasted
  • 1 Egg
  • 250 gms Onion and Garlic Pasta sauce
  • Grated mozzarella

1. Roast the pumpkin with the red onion and some olive oil until soft and burnished. Cool the pumpkin. Squeeze the garlic out of its skin

2. Mash the pumpkin and garlic until slightly smooshed but with some texture. Then add the spinach, goats cheese pinenuts, egg and onion and combine with a fork. Add salt and pepper to taste

3. Spoon pumpkin mixture into the cannelloni sheets and roll then place in the baking tray. Repeat until all the cannelloni sheets are used.

4. Top with tomato pasta sauce and as much grated mozzarella as you prefer. I used about 2 handfuls.

5. Bake until skewer detects a tender pasta sheet and the cheese is golden and melted, about 30 mins.

*I did have some mixture left over. I used this in wonton wrappers to make ravioli. You can freeze the cooked cannelloni.

Accompaniment to a Lazy Sunday: Fig, Brandy and Cinnamon Jam

5 Jun

Sunday afternoons at home has to be my favourite time. I love just taking some time out from chores, seeing people and doing things and savouring those last few hours of the weekend. For me this usually means a cheese platter with a glass of wine or if I am feeling particularly naughty, a cocktail 🙂

I do love a good selection of cheeses. Triple cream brie is pretty high up there in the list of things I must have on a cheese platter and a good blue, Stilton or something that is bitey. I usually have some sort of fruit or a quince paste. The sweet and sharp against the salty tanginess of a blue and the luscious creaminess of a brie, is just heavenly. For this reason after handing in my last paper of the semester on Friday (Hallelujah!) I decided this week I would make a fig jam to have with my cheese platter.I love figs and rather than rely on fresh ones I wanted to use dried figs so I could be safe in the knowledge that I could make a sweet accompaniment to my Sunday cheese platter any time of year.

I only halved the figs, in future I would quarter them. They hold their shape quite well and while I love a chunk of fig in the jam, sometimes it really throws out my cheese to jam ratio, and no one wants that. Don’t be concerned about the brandy, it is not overwhelming and simply adds a warmth and depth to the jam that stops it being overly sweet

Sunday afternoon

Be warned this is an extremely sticky and thick preserve, it is completely moreish and we have finished a 1/3 of the jar in our house in the space of a few days I also suspect this jam would be great on scones which I have no doubt I will be forced to make shortly, for the purposes of research and testing obviously 😉

How do you unwind on Sundays?

Fig, Brandy and Cinnamon Jam

2 small jars

  • 1 1/2 cups of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1/2 cup of brandy
  • 1 packet of dried figs or about 20 dried figs stems removed and quartered
  • 1/2 apple peeled and diced
  • rind of half a lemon
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 cinnamon stick


1. Heat sugar, brandy and water in a pan on medium to high heat until it has dissolved. Do not stir simply swirl occasionally to ensure that it dissolves evenly

2. Add the apple, figs, lemon rind, lemon juice and cinnamon stick to the mixture and bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer. Stir occasionally.

3. Simmer for approximately 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Remove cinnamon about 1/2 way through the cooking time, if you like a more aromatic flavour you can leave it in for the full cooking time. The apple should have completely broken down and only some of the fig pieces will maintain some shape.

4. Place in sterilized jars and refrigerate after opening.


Adventures with Eggs: Pancetta, Ricotta and Spinach Bake

15 May

They say if you have an egg you are wealthy. At the moment I have 25. I have tried buying shoes with them, I have tried paying for my bus ticket with them and well visa apparently doesn’t accept eggs as payment. So I assume I am only wealthy nutritionally speaking. There goes my cunning plan to pay for my cocktails with a carton of eggs and some killer charm 😉

How does one end up with 25 eggs I hear you ask, well I was clearly having a seniors moment when last week I went to the grocery store and thought ‘hmm, I don’t think we have many eggs left, I should buy a dozen, they never go to waste.’ Needless to say to live up to the challenge of an egg not going to waste I have really had to put my brain into action. This post will be one of a few in the coming weeks based around eggs and the wonderful things you can do with them…I hope.

I made this dish to take to a friends house. She is currently moving house and pregnant which is just an awful combination. This made a lovely lunch with some crusty bread. I only very slightly adapted the original recipe by adding pancetta and pine nuts. You could of course keep it completely vegetarian friendly by omitting pancetta, but let’s be honest eggs and bacon a match made in heaven!

Do you ever buy things you don’t need? What are your favourite ways to use up eggs?

Pancetta, ricotta and spinach bake

adapted from BBC Australian Good Food Magazine August 2011

Serves 4

  • 150 gms of pancetta sliced
  • 250 gms of low fat ricotta drained of excess liquid
  • 1 box of frozen chopped spinach defrosted and squeezed of water.
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup of parmesan
  • 1/2 cup of pinenuts
  • 2 Tomatoes sliced
  • salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees

2. Squeeze spinach between a clean tea towel until all the water you can remove is squeezed out.

3. Fry off the pancetta until slightly crispy. Turn of the heat and add the pinenuts to the same pan. Watch the nuts to make sure they don’t burn.

4. Mix together ricotta, eggs and parmesan with salt and pepper in a bowl.

5. Add spinach, pancetta and pine nuts to the ricotta mix.

6. Pour into a baking dish and top with sliced tomatoes.

7. Bake in oven for 15 minutes or until set and golden on top.

8. Serve with crusty bread and a salad.

‘Tis the Season for a Tasty Tart: Fig and Cheese Tart.

22 Dec

I love a good tart……. I mean who doesn’t. Sweet or savoury, tarts are really just so tasty and versatile. Even better they are generally simple and can be made ahead.

I recently made a lovely Goats Cheese and Fig Tart from a recipe I found in Valli Little’s Simply the Best cookbook. The recipe calls for 6 small tarts and while I can’t usually resist the sirens call of miniature food, I didn’t have the small tart baking dishes required and didn’t want to go and buy another set of baking dishes for my already overcrowded cupboard, so I made one large tart instead. If you do make the smaller tarts you will have to cook them for approximately half the time. It will have only a hint of wobble at the centre but otherwise will look golden on top.

The tart has a lovely creamy texture without being overly rich and the figs add a lovely aromatic sweetness. I love figs and always look forward to them coming back in to season. The tart looks so pretty that when I placed it on the table, everyone made appreciative sounds. An attractive and tasty tart, my favourite kind 🙂

Cheese and Fig Tarts

from a Valli Little Recipe in ‘Simply the Best’

Serves 6-8

  • 2 sheet of frozen
  • 150 gms Goats Cheese
  • 240 gms of Ricotta
  • 20 gms of grated parmesan
  • 3 eggs
  • 125mls pure thin cream
  • 1 tbs of chopped rosemary leaves
  • 4 figs halved
  • Caramelised Balsamic Vinegar to drizzle.

1. Line the base of a  loose bottomed flan/tart baking tin and a grease the sides. Line with shortcrust pastry, Cut off excess pastry

2.Prick the base with a fork and then line with baking paper. Fill the baking paper covered pastry with rice or cooking weights

3. Bake for 15 minutes on 180 degrees. Remove from the oven and lift out rice and baking paper and return the pastry to the oven for a further 10 minutes until pastry is dry.

4. Combine goats cheese, ricotta, eggs and parmesan and season to taste. Stir in the chopped rosemary and pour into the pastry shell.

Before Cooking

5. Press halved figs into the tart mixture and place in the oven for 40 mins or until there is only a slight wobble in the centre and the top is golden brown.



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