Saturday 18 November 2017

Beetroot noodles with goat's cheese, toasted walnuts and baby kale

Beetroot noodles with goat's cheese, toasted walnuts and baby kale
Beetroot noodles with goat's cheese, toasted walnuts and baby kale
Roquefort and honey cheesecake with walnut and pear
Shrimp and grits with bacon and parmesan.
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Beetroot noodles with goat's cheese, toasted walnuts and baby kale

Beetroot noodles with goat's cheese, toasted walnuts and baby kale

I must confess, the clever notion of cooking pasta in vegetable juice is not my own. I read about it in an American food magazine on the train one evening and could hardly wait to get home and try it. As well as turning the noodles a shockingly lovely pink, the reduced juice lends them a sticky vegetable sweetness which works particularly well with creamy, lactic goat's cheese and bitter toasted walnuts, though that first evening I used a tiny hunk of salty pecorino that had been falling from the fridge door with irritating regularity for some weeks, and that worked just fine too.

Serves 2

You will need

200g spaghetti or other pasta of your choice

50g walnuts

300ml beetroot juice

4 big handfuls of baby kale or other young greens

100g soft goat's cheese


1. Bring a large pan of well-salted water to a rolling boil, then add the pasta. Cook for 5 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, toast the walnuts in a dry pan until aromatic, then roughly chop and set aside. Bring the beetroot juice to a simmer in a medium pan.

3. Drain the pasta and add to the pan with the beetroot juice. Cook for about another 5 minutes, until the noodles are al dente (exactly how long will depend on your pasta and your preferences) and the juice is thick - be careful they don't stick. If it does look a little dry before they're done, stir in a splash more juice.

4. Stir in the kale to wilt, then season well to taste; the juice will be quite sweet, so it will be able to take a generous amount of salt and black pepper.

5. Divide between bowls and scatter with chopped nuts and blobs of cheese - the cheese can be stirred in by the eater, but it looks prettier pristine and white against the pink pasta. Serve immediately.

Shrimp and grits with bacon and parmesan

Shrimp and grits with bacon and parmesan.

Seafood and cheese is one of those combinations which the cognoscenti all know to be deeply wrong, but is happily quite the done thing down in Mississippi. Here the nutty sweetness of the prawns bounces beautifully off the salty savoury flavour of the cheese and bacon, with the creamy corn as a soothing backdrop. If you can't find grits (and they are available online), you can substitute cornmeal or polenta, although the flavour won't be quite the same.

Serves 2

You will need

500ml chicken stock

250ml milk

100g stoneground grits

1 tbsp double cream

40g Parmesan or Grana Padano, grated

2 rashers of smoked streaky bacon, finely chopped

10 large raw prawns, peeled and deveined, but tails left on

A small bunch of chives


1. Combine the stock and milk in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer, then pour over the grits, whisking vigorously to combine.

2. Turn down the heat to low and simmer for about 20-30 minutes, until the grits are thick and creamy, stirring regularly to make sure they aren't sticking.

3. Once they're ready, take off the heat and stir in the cream and cheese, then season to taste. Keep warm while you cook the topping.

4. Heat a dry frying pan over a medium-high heat and fry the bacon until crisp and beginning to brown. Scoop out with a slotted spoon and add the prawns. Sauté until pink on both sides, then scoop out and add to the bacon (if you leave them in the hot pan while you assemble the dish they will continue cooking).

5. Divide the grits between two shallow bowls. Top with the prawns, then scatter the bacon around them. Finally snip over the chives to serve.

Roquefort and honey cheesecake with walnut and pear

Roquefort and honey cheesecake with walnut and pear

Because it's so gorgeously rich, a little of this goes a long way, which makes it perfect to feed a festive crowd - salty sweet, with a crunchy oatcake base, it's best served still quivery and warm (emphatically not hot), preferably accompanied by a sharply dressed green salad. And don't worry that the ratio of base to topping seems unusually high - it works, I promise. Serves 10-12

You will need

For the base:

200g plain, finely milled oatcakes

70g walnuts

125g melted butter, plus extra to grease

3 tbsp honey

For the topping:

400g cream cheese

200g Roquefort, crumbled

3 eggs, beaten

3 tbsp honey

black pepper

1 pear


1. To make the base, whiz the oatcakes and 50g of the walnuts in a food processor until finely chopped, then drizzle in the melted butter and the honey and whiz to combine.

2. Grease a 23cm springform tin with butter, making sure the bottom half of the sides is particularly generously greased. Press the mixture down firmly into the base of the tin. Whiz the remaining walnuts until finely chopped, then add to the tin and rotate it on its side so it is coated with walnut crumbs to about halfway up. Chill for at least an hour.

3. Heat the oven to 130°C (fan 110°C, gas ½). Beat together the cheeses until well combined, then beat in the eggs, one at a time, followed by 1 tablespoon of the honey and some black pepper. Pour into the tin and bake for 1½ hours, then remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin.

4. Turn the oven up to 200°C (fan 180°C, gas 6). Thinly slice the pear, removing the stalk, and put it on a greased baking tray. Brush with half the remaining honey and bake for 15 minutes.

5. Heat the grill, brush the pear slices with the rest of the honey and grill for about 5 minutes, until beginning to brown. Arrange on top of the cheesecake and serve warm, but not hot.

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