Monday, 5 December 2011

The end of the (carb) affair.......but before I go...

 Carbs, they make us feel happy, don't they? They're quick and easy and satisfying and cheap. Carbs and I are on a break for a while until I find a size 12 that fits me. Then we might start seeing each other again, but on a less intense basis. So, I won't be cooking some of my favourite things but that doesn't mean I can't continue to share my favourite recipes with you. I had 'The Last Supper' at the weekend, and as Last suppers go, this really did the job. It was a carbalicious farewell for the next few weeks as I move to Proteinville.

On another note, I want to tell you that I have been getting some great feedback from this blog, which I cannot tell you how inspiring and encouraging that is. And what I really loved was 'non foodies' are really enjoying it too. But, if you are one of those people that are reading this and saying "ooooh that looks lovely, but I couldn't never cook that", I'll beg you to TRY. Think of it as payment to me. Maybe not this dish, but try fresh pasta tossed through the tomato sauce that is detailed below. Start simple and build from there. It might not make you rich but it will give you a sense of satisfaction that is incomparable to anything. Well, almost. Go on, make a list, head to tesco and bypass the dolmio isle. You owe me. I'm looking at you Elaine!

Cannelloni stuffed lovingly with ricotta and spinach

I love all of the ingredients used in this dish. It takes a bit of work and lots of pots and pans will be used it's fair to say, but the results are just delicious, and totally worth the extra bitta elbow grease. I found myself in a real Nigella moment as I was smiling away to myself as I prepared this. There was finger licking too. It comes with the territory when food like this is around the house. Theres such satisfaction with the assembly and love that goes into something like cannelloni. You couldn't possibly miss the meat, it's gutsy and solid and any man would be impressed with this.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees

The universal Tomato sauce
For the tomato Sauce
(learn this off by heart and you'll never go hungry)
1 shallot, finely chopped (or a small onion)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tins of plum tomatoes or a big jar of passata
1 Tablespoon of Balsamic Vinegar
1 heaped teaspoon of muscavado sugar (or regular stuff)
Salt and pepper
Pinch of chilli flakes (optional, I love the slight kick)
1 teaspoon of dried basil (or a bunch of fresh leaves, chopped if you can get it)
Infusing the milk is a must

Basic White sauce
1 pint of milk
1 Bouguet garni
1 sliced carrot
1 sliced onion
4 peppercorns
1 oz butter
1 oz flour
grated nutmeg
Salt & Pepper

filled Cannelloni 
1 pack of FRESH lasagne sheets (I got mine in Tesco)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 bags of baby spinach
1 pot of ricotta 
1 small handful of Parmesan
salt & pepper to season
A good grating of nutmeg

Top with torn mozzarella and some more parmesan before baking.

First, make the tomato sauce:

In a large heavy saucepan, gently heat a splash of olive oil and on a very low heat, gently sweat the shallots and garlic for 10 minutes, stirring occasionaly so they don't burn. Add in the vinegar and tomatoes and turn up the heat and bring to a simmer. Add in the sugar pepper, chilli flakes and basil and allow to simmer on a low heat for about 15-25 minutes until you the sauce has reduced  by a third. 

NB- Add in a handful of Parmesan if you like and toss through fresh tagliatelle, maybe with some torn mozarella and fresh basil leaves. That's actually my favourite dish in the world.

Then crack on with the bechamel:

Firstly, to make a wicked Bechamel, it's really important to infuse the milk first. It might sound fussy, but it's not, it's just about firing a few bits and pieces in and the results pay dividends. In a pot, pour in about a pint of milk, and into that throw in a thinly sliced carrot and onion (no need to peel either) if you can make a bouquet garni of a sprig of thyme, parsley, rosemary and a bayleaf (or buy those dried 'teabag' bouquet garni if you don't have access to the fresh stuff) and also three or four pepper corns. Bring to a simmer and turn off the heat and allow to stand for 15 minutes if you can.

In the meantime, melt 1 oz of butter slowly in a pot, when melted add in 1oz of flour and whisk for about a minute over a low heat (we do NOT want it to burn, otherwise you'll have a yucky brown sauce) Using a sieve pour the milk into the roux mixture, using a metal spoon to squeeze the flavour from the veg and herbs.

Continue to whisk until you have a lovely, smooth, creamy sauce. Add a bit more milk if needs be to have a nice consistency. I like to grate in some nutmeg and season to your liking.

And now for the filling & Assembly:

In a big pan, slowly melt a knob of butter and add a splash of olive oil. Sweat the garlic for a couple of minutes on a very low heat, ensuring it doesn't burn. Turn up the heat and add the two bags of spinach. It may sound like a lot, but it wilts to nothingness. Spread it out on a plate to allow it to cool. Squeeze out excess water, chop and mix through the ricotta cheese, parmesan, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Have a chefs treat and eat a couple of spoonfuls. It's just so good!

In a pan of boiling water throw in the lasagne sheets for a minute. Take them out and quickly rinse with cold water. This is just to make the lasagne easy to roll. Spoon the mixture along the end of the sheet and roll up. Place on a casserole dish that has been spread with a nice thick layer of the tomato sauce.

When all the cannelloni has been rolled and placed on the tomato sauce, top with the bechamel and then top that with some torn mozzerella and another sprinkling of Parmesan.

Place into a preheated oven for 25 minutes or until the golden on top. Allow to stand for about 10 minutes before serving to allow to set.

Then think about heading to Proteinville for a holiday if you find yourself eating this every day.

It's with a heavy heart that I say Farewell
to Carbs. I'll be back, don't you worry......


  1. Beautiful recipe Helena, makes me want it NOW, this minute on my plate in all it's gooey cheesey calorific carb loaded wonderfulness!!!

  2. Oh this looks fabulous! I'm always cooking the same things every week, can do with some new ideas. I would love to try this.

  3. @carolineO, oh it looks so good! And it was fabulous, but that was back in my carb days, you know there last sat!!! :)

  4. Hi The mum of all trades, yes me too, I do feel I can get stuck on the same things. I love twitter and reading blogs, it's so wonderfully inspiring I find :)