Recipe: Simply the best macaroni cheese

So this is my friend Candy’s recipe for macaroni cheese. She was taught to cook it during school holidays on the North Coast of Natal in South Africa, by her Aunt Jenny. She cooked it for us recently and I think it’s the nicest macaroni cheese I’ve tasted, so I had to make it myself and share it with you.
A comforting, cheesy feast that really satisfies. Thanks Cands.
Serves 6
A beautiful macaroni cheese that really hits the spot

A beautiful macaroni cheese that really hits the spot

1 packet streaky bacon or pancetta, chopped
50g butter
4 tbsps all-purpose flour
1 litre Milk
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
350g Cheddar cheese, grated
150g Gruyere cheese, grated
1 x 500g packet Macaroni or Penne
3 tomatoes, thinly sliced
Salt and black pepper
Fry bacon bits in a frying pan until nice and crispy. Drain on a paper towel and set aside for use later.
Boil pasta according to packet instructions until al dente, drain and set aside.
To make your bechamel sauce, melt the butter in a pan. Add the cayenne pepper to the melted butter, then add the flour to the melted butter and mix in until a thick roux is formed.  Add half of the milk to the roux, stirring constantly. You may need to use a whisk to get rid of any lumps. Add the rest of the milk and keep whisking on the heat until you have a lump-free, thickening sauce.
Add  200g of the Cheddar to the bechamel mixture, whisking it in – the balance of the cheddar will be used for sprinkling on top of your dish.  Add the Gruyere and mix in well until melted and incorporated into the sauce.
Season the bechamel well with salt and black pepper.
Add the crispy bacon bits to the sauce.  Pour the drained pasta into the bechamel sauce and mix through.  Pour the pasta and bechamel mixture into a bake-proof casserole dish and arrange tomato slices on top.
Sprinkle the remaining grated cheddar cheese on top.  Place in a pre-heated oven at 180C for 30-35 minutes until bubbling and golden on top.

 

The cheesy concoction before it went into the oven

The cheesy concoction before it went into the oven

Do you have a favourite dish you learnt to cook as a child? I’d love to hear all about it and try it out for myself, do let me know.

Recipes: Two great dishes with Parma ham

Okay, I admit it, I’m a bit of a ham fanatic! There’s always ham of some sort in my fridge and when I go to Italy or Spain I dream about lugging home a whole leg, complete with its special frame and knife so I can nibble freshly sliced delicacies at my leisure. As it’s not the most practical of ideas – have you ever tried lifting one of them, not to mention how long would it take for me to get through a whole leg on my own – there’s no tempting ham on tap in my kitchen. Of course that doesn’t mean I can’t eat it to my heart’s delight.

I went to Parma in Italy a couple of years ago where there was a delicious aroma of ham in the air, I swear there was. The platters I dug into there were truly sensational. So I’m very excited to try cooking with this wonderful meat – a good reminder that while it certainly tastes amazing simply sliced and devoured, it’s also a fabulous ingredient to cook with. Try these yummy dishes.

Fresh Tagliatelle with Black Pepper, Truffle Oil,
Parma Ham and Parmigiano Reggiano

pasta

This wonderfully simple pasta dish is so full of flavour

Serves 2

100g ‘00’ pasta flour

1 medium egg

Pinch of salt

Black pepper

Truffle oil

4 slices of Parma Ham

4 tbsps of Parmigiano Reggiano

1. Place the pasta flour into a small bowl. Make a well and crack an egg into the middle with a pinch of salt. Using a fork, stir the egg and gradually bring in the flour a little at a time until you get a messy dough. Use your hands to press the dough together and kneed on a clean surface for a couple of minutes until you have smooth and firm dough. Add a little water if too dry, or extra flour if too wet

2. Using a pasta machine, make sure the thickness setting is on highest (should be No.10 on most machines). Roll your dough through this setting and then fold the dough in half. Pass it through again and then fold it in half again and follow this procedure 10 times until you have a very smooth dough. Now roll the dough through each setting twice until you get down to No 2 or 1. Your pasta should be very thin now

3. You can now cut your pasta into the shape of your choice. If you have a Tagliatelle cutter feed the thin sheet of pasta through it and lay the pasta on a tray lined with baking paper. Blanch in salted water for 1-11/2 minutes or until cooked and slightly al dente. Toss with truffle oil, and top with Parma ham and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

If you don’t have the time or inclination to make your own pasta (though it is delicious and very therapeutic), simply cook pasta according to the packet instructions and follow the second half of Step 3. Simple.

Roast Breast of Chicken stuffed with Tarragon and wrapped in Parma Ham.
Salad of New Potatoes, Spring Onions, Cress and Purple Sprouting Broccoli

chicken

This combination of ingredients takes chicken to another level

Serves 2

35g full fat cream cheese

1 small onion diced and cooked off in a little olive oil

1 small hand-full of freshly chopped Tarragon

2 chicken fillets

2 slices of Parma Ham

2 pints chicken stock

Salt and pepper

Olive oil

120g baby new potatoes

4 spring onions sliced

1 tub fresh cress

120g purple sprouting broccoli 

1. To make the stuffing, mix the cream-cheese, onion and tarragon together with a little olive oil and add pepper to taste; set aside

2. For the salad, wash the potatoes thoroughly and boil until soft. Blanch the broccoli. Mix extra virgin olive oil with the potatoes cress and spring onions. Add the broccoli to the top of the salad after seasoning; set aside

3. Cut a pocket in the chicken breast fillets and add a teaspoon of the stuffing; close-up the pocket Now wrap a slice of Parma ham around each breast and drizzle with olive oil; lightly season with salt and pepper. Roast in a pre-heated oven at 170C/Gas mark 5 for twenty-five minutes

4. Take 1.5L of chicken stock and reduce to 8 tablespoons /120ml

5. When the chicken is cooked, take out of oven, rest for 5 minutes. Place on top of the salad and drizzle with jus.

Thanks to The Underground Cookery School for the recipes. 

undergroundcookeryschool.com

Top-10 recipes from 2013

Happy (somewhat belated) 2014 everyone.

Apologies for my blog silences over the past month,  I’ve moved to self-hosting (more difficult and time consuming than I was expecting) and I took the opportunity to redesign. Plus of course there’s been the whirlwind of socialising with family and friends in the beautiful Cape Town sunshine. Let’s just say it’s been hectic, and so much fun.

Now it’s time to get serious and I’m ready to jump right back into full blogging mode…with plenty of lovely restaurants, recipes and adventures to share with you.

I thought I’d start with my favourite recipes from last year. It was interesting looking back to discover how the recipes I cooked were influenced by my travels. And of course the ingredients I was surrounded by at the time.  These 10 dishes are all easy to make, taste amazing and have become firm favourites in our household. I hope they will be in yours too. Do try them out and let me know what you think.

Spanish-style sausage stew

I love Spain and visit as often as I can. Cooking is a joy there, a quick visit to the market for the freshest (and cheapest) ingredients you can find and a bit of imaginative thinking. So you’ll see that a lot of my dishes have a Spanish influence. I came up with this stew while I was in London – the paprika, garlic, butter beans and tomatoes add a distinctly Spanish touch.

sausage stew

Serves 2

4 sausages

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

1 onion, peeled and chopped

1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed

2 sticks of celery, chopped

8 small new potatoes, halved

400g tin of butter beans

1 tsp paprika

227g tin of tomatoes

4 tbsps passata (pureed tomatoes)

400ml chicken stock

Salt and pepper to taste

Fry the sausages and onion in a little oil for about 15 mins on a medium/low heat until lightly browned.

Place the sausages and onions in the bottom of a casserole dish.

Add all the rest of the ingredients and pour over the stock.

Cover the dish with foil and cook in the oven at 180C for about 60 minutes or until the potatoes are soft.

Biltong, watercress and pea soup

Cooking with unusual ingredients is always a challenge. And it’s fun. So when the Chichester Biltong Company asked me to come up with some recipes cooking with that fabulous South African ingredient, biltong, I was only too happy to get creative. This soup was the clear winner in a range of (I think) inventive biltong recipes.

Biltong's the perfect addition to a summery soup

Biltong’s the perfect addition to a summery soup

Serves 4

1 medium potato, peeled and chopped

1 medium onion, peeled and chopped

Olive oil for frying

400g watercress

150g fresh peas

1 litre of vegetable stock

4 sprigs of fresh mint

100g wet biltong, chopped into dice-size pieces

2 tsps  horseradish sauce

For the horseradish cream

2 tsps double cream

1 tsp horseradish sauce

Fry the chopped potato and onion in the olive oil in a deep pan for about 10 minutes until softened.

Add the peas and the vegetable stock and bring to the boil.

Add the chopped biltong and watercress and boil until the watercress has wilted.

Add the fresh  mint and the horseradish.

Take off the heat and blend with a hand blender until the soup is thick and fairly smooth.

To make the horseradish cream, mix together the double cream and horseradish.

Serve the soup with a dollop of horseradish cream on top and a sprig of mint.

Moroccan-style roast lamb

Roasts are always a favourite in our household. A Moroccan-style marinade lifted this leg of lamb to another level.

An exotic twist on an old favourite

An exotic twist on an old favourite

Serves 6

2kg leg of lamb, on the bone

175g salted butter, softened

4 garlic cloves, peeled

1 tsp sea salt

2 tsp ground coriander

2 tsp ground cumin

2 tsp paprika

Half tsp cayenne pepper

Place the garlic cloves into a pestle with the salt and grind to a paste. Add the other spices.

Mix together with the softened butter.

Make small slits all over the lamb, going quite deep into the meat so the flavours can infuse.

Spread generously with the butter and leave for about 4 hours.

Cook the meat at gas mark 8 (220C) for 30 mins and then turn it down to gas mark 5 (190C) for 30 mins per 450g. About two hours 40 minutes for this leg.

For the last hour add chunks of onion and carrots into the dish with the lamb and roast in the juices. Pour over 2 handfuls of dried apricots and a handful of flaked almonds for the last 10 mins of cooking.

Take the lamb out and rest for 10-15mins, covered with foil. Leave the vegetables to carry on cooking.

Carve thinly and serve with roast or mashed potatoes and the vegetables.

Summer salad with peas, prawns, broad beans and Dijon dressing

Nothing says summer like this salad – both in its appearance and taste. I love the beautiful greens combined with the pale pink of the prawns.

A real treat, this is summer on a plate

Serves 2

2 little gem lettuces, quartered

150g peas, steamed and cooled

150g broad beans, peeled, podded, steamed and cooled

Small bag of pea shoots

4 spring onions

2 handfuls of fresh mint leaves, pulled off the stem

1 tbsp fresh tarragon leaves, pulled off the stem

150g peeled, cooked prawns

For the dressing

3 tbsps olive oil

2 tbsps white wine vinegar

1 heaped tsp Dijon mustard

Once you’ve cooked and cooled the peas and broad beans, simply combine all the salad ingredients. Top with the prawns, pour over the dressing, toss and serve. Summer on a plate!

Meatballs in a spicy pepper and tomato sauce

Another Spanish-influenced dish, these meatballs make a hearty yet light dinner.

More Spanish influences with spicy meatballs

More Spanish influences with spicy meatballs

Serves 4

For the meatballs

500g minced pork

1 onion, grated

50g fresh white breadcrumbs

1 egg, beaten

1 handful chopped fresh parsley

2 tbsp olive oil

For the sauce

2 tbsp olive oil

6 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 onion, finely chopped

2 red peppers, finely chopped

700g fresh tomatoes, skinned and finely chopped

1 dried red chilli, crumbled

1 handful fresh, chopped parsley

200g fresh or frozen peas

To make the meatballs, combine the pork, grated onions, breadcrumbs and parsley in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Use your hands to mush all the ingredients together until they are thoroughly mixed. Wet your hands and shape into little balls about the size of an apricot. Cover with clingfilm and leave in the fridge to settle for about half an hour.

To make the sauce, heat the olive oil in a pan. Add the garlic, onion and peppers and fry for about 15 minutes until the peppers are soft.

Add the tomatoes and crumble the chilli into the mixture and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to as low as possible and simmer lightly, uncovered for about 45 minutes until the sauce is slightly thickened. Make sure you stir it regularly to ensure it is not sticking.

To fry the meatballs, add the olive oil to a frying pan and when it is hot, add the meatballs. Turn it down slightly so the meatballs aren’t frying too furiously. Cook until browned and then turn around until browned all over.

Gently add the meatballs into the sauce, spoon the sauce over, cover and simmer lightly for 15 minutes.

Add the peas and stir through gently. Simmer for about 10 minutes to heat through.

Serve in bowls with chopped fresh parsley scattered over. Add crusty bread on the side to mop up all the juices.

Spaghetti with clams

I love Vongole – another dish with very few ingredients that delights in its simplicity. Here’s my version, used making fabulous clams from the local market in Spain.

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Serves 2

200g dried spaghetti

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 small dried chilli

2 medium plum tomatoes, skinned by immersing in boiling water for 2 minutes and then chopped

150ml dry white wine

500g small fresh clams (almejas)

2 handfuls chopped, fresh parsley

Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions.

Five minutes before it’s ready, add 2 tbsps of olive oil to a pan and add the chopped garlic. Crumble in the chilli and add the chopped tomatoes.

Stir together for a couple of minutes.

Add the clams and pour in the wine. Leave for about 4 minutes, shuffling the pan. When the clams open up your sauce is ready.

Drain the pasta and add it to the clams. Add the chopped parsley and toss everything together.

Asian-style prawn salad

South East Asia is another inspiration. I love the freshness and zestiness of Thai and Vietnamese food and came up with this prawn dish for a starter when I had friends round for dinner. Totally amazing.

asian prawn salad

Serves 4

12 large prawns, shelled but with tail still on

1 cucumber, peeled into ribbons

2 handfuls basil leaves

2 handfuls mint leaves

2 handfuls coriander leaves

6 spring onions, chopped

2 handfuls peanuts, dry fried

For the marinade and dressing

1 stick lemon grass, trimmed and thinly sliced

Half a cup of freshly squeezed lime juice

2 tbsps vegetable oil

1 tbsp brown sugar

2 tsps fish sauce

2 small red chillies, deseeded and sliced

Mix the marinade ingredients together. Pour three quarters of the mix over the prawns and leave to marinate for about an hour, stirring occasionally. Save the rest of the liquid to dress the salad.

Mix all the salad ingredients together, pour over the remaining dressing and toss.

Fry the prawns in a little olive oil in a hot pan for about 3 to 4 mins until they are nicely pink.

Place on top of the salad. Sprinkle with the peanuts and serve.

Beef satay

Another Thai-inspired dish – I’ve been to Thailand many times and love Thai food. It was interesting making satay sauce as it comes in many guises. I was very pleased with the results.

satay

For the skewers

500g rump steak, very thinly sliced. I ran a very sharp knife through the middle of the steak (lying flat on the board), to cut it into half before slicing it into strips.

For the marinade

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 sticks of lemongrass, chopped

1 chilli, chopped

2 tsps ginger, chopped

Half a tsp of turmeric

1 tsp coriander powder

1 tsp cumin powder

2 tbsp dark soya sauce

1 tbsp fish sauce

4 tsp brown sugar

Juice of 1 lime

Mix all the marinade ingredients together and add the thinly sliced steak. Leave to marinate for at least two hours, overnight if you have time.

Meanwhile, make the peanut sauce.

This makes a good batch for two meals. We quickly fried  prawns in  chilli oil the next night and dipped them into the leftover sauce. Totally delicious.

1 cup dry roasted peanuts

One-third of a cup of water

1 clove of garlic, peeled

2 tsp sesame oil

2 tbsp brown sugar

1 tsp fish sauce

Half a tsp of cayenne pepper

160ml tin of coconut cream

Place everything into a food mixer and blend until your sauce is completely smooth.

Top tip: Make sure you use dry roasted peanuts they give the sauce a much deeper flavour.

Thread the thin slices of beef in folds onto skewers. If you’re using wooden skewers, make sure to soak them in cold water in the sink for at least half an hour.

Place under the grill for about 4 minutes on each side. They won’t take long as the steak is so finely sliced.

Serve with a generous dollop of the peanut sauce on the side.

Beef Bourguignon

On a cold winter night, you can’t beat comfort food. This bowl of deliciousness is perfect to warm the cockles of your heart and your tummy.

bourguignon

Serves 2

400g diced braising beef

200g shallots, peeled and cut in half

8 rashers of streaky bacon, diced

250g button mushrooms, cut in half

2 cloves garlic

3 tsp dried herbes de Provence

1 carrot, peeled and diced small

2 sticks of celery, thinly sliced

1 tbsp tomato paste

1 tbsp sunflower oil for frying

200ml water

500ml Burgundy wine

Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat and brown the beef. Set aside.

Add the garlic, onions and bacon and fry until softened, about 10 mins. Add the mushrooms and fry for another 5 mins. Add the carrots and celery and fry for another 5 mins.

Add the tomato paste and stir through. Pour in the wine and the water and stir through. Add the beef back in.

Simmer on a low hob for 3-31/2 hours until the liquid is nicely reduced and the meat is tender.

I served it in bowls as a cross between a hearty soup or a stew. For a more substantial meal serve with mash potato and peas

Pan con tomate

Yes, we’re back in Spain. This simple dish is one of my all-time favourites, simple, bursting with flavour and ideal eating as a snack, starter and especially for breakfast with a coffee and some sunshine.

A wonderful any-time dish that I enjoy for breakfast in Spain

A wonderful any-time dish that I enjoy for breakfast in Spain

1 large plum tomato

3 slices white bread/baguette

1 clove of garlic

2 tbsps olive oil plus extra to serve

Salt and pepper

Peel the tomato by immersing in boiling water for about 2 mins and then removing the skin.

Cut it up into small pieces and pour over the olive oil. Use the back of a wooden spoon to mush up the tomato a bit and leave to marinade for at least two hours, overnight is good.

Toast the bread.

Cut the garlic clove in half and rub it over the warm toasted bread, make sure you cover the toast thoroughly.

Top with the tomato topping and serve.

What’s the best thing you cooked in 2013? I’d love to hear all about it.

Spaghetti con almejas – spaghetti with Spanish clams

Little clams are in abundant supply in the Murcia region of Spain. Order them at a local restaurant and the owner will tell you proudly that “they came from over there” pointing in the direction of the sea. And you can tell. Beautifully sweet and juicy, clams don’t get fresher or better than this.

They are also amazingly cheap (this bag from the local supermarket cost 3 euros and there’s certainly enough for four portions, if not more) and quick and easy to cook with. What more could you ask for? So I decided to make a simple pasta dish using the clams and other fresh Spanish ingredients.

The first thing to do when you’re cooking with clams is to make sure they’re fresh. Before cooking, make sure none of the shells are open. If any are, give them a sharp tap. If they close, they’re fine for eating, if not, discard them now. The shells should open up while they are cooking (it’s quite miraculous watching it happen). If any clams don’t open during this process, discard them at this stage.

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Serves 2

200g dried spaghetti

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 small dried chilli

2 medium plum tomatoes, skinned by immersing in boiling water for 2 minutes and then chopped

150ml dry white wine

500g small fresh clams (almejas)

2 handfuls chopped, fresh parsley

Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions.

Five minutes before it’s ready, add 2 tbsps of olive oil to a pan and add the chopped garlic. Crumble in the chilli and add the chopped tomatoes.

Stir together for a couple of minutes.

Add the clams and pour in the wine. Leave for about 4 minutes, shuffling the pan. When the clams open up your sauce is ready.

Drain the pasta and add it to the clams. Add the chopped parsley and toss everything together.

Serve with crusty bread to mop up the juices.

All the ingredients ready to go

All the ingredients ready to go

The sauce bubbles away on the stove

The sauce bubbles away on the stove

There are more Spanish-inspired recipes coming your way in the next couple of weeks. So keep reading.

A week to celebrate (and eat) tomatoes

Today is the start of British Tomato Week. I love British tomatoes. Imagine my delight when the Tomato People (The British Tomato Growers’ Association) sent me two boxes (yes, two large boxes) of amazing tomatoes in different shapes, sizes and colours, all freshly picked from a BTGA member’s tomato nursery. So, inspired and excited, I’ve come up with some lovely, and really easy,  tomato-based recipes for my blog.

I’ll post one a day for the rest of the week for you to try. To get everything off to a good start, here are a couple of tasty dishes from British Tomatoes for you to try. You can find more tomato info and more recipes at www.britishtomatoes.co.uk

tomatoweek2013

SPAGHETTI TOSSED IN MILD CHILLI AND TOMATOES

Pasta and plenty of tomatoes, the perfect Italian combination

Serves 4  

Spaghetti with tomatoes and chilli

Spaghetti with tomatoes and chilli

8 sprays olive oil

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 green chilli pepper, de-seeded and finely chopped

1 sprig fresh thyme

450g British Classic tomatoes, skinned & halved

15ml (1 tbsp) capers, drained

250g spaghetti

350g British Cherry tomatoes

Freshly ground black pepper

Pre-heat the oven 220º C, Gas no 7

Heat 4 sprays of olive oil in a saucepan and sauté garlic and chilli pepper gently for 3 mins.

Strip the thyme leaves from the stem. Add the skinned tomatoes and thyme leaves to the saucepan.  Bring slowly to the boil and simmer, uncovered, for about 15 mins until the tomatoes are reduced to a fairly thick sauce. Stir in the capers.

Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti according to pack instructions.

Put the cherry tomatoes in a roasting tin, spray 4 times with olive oil and roll tomatoes around to coat evenly. Roast tomatoes in the oven for 6 mins.

Strain the spaghetti and stir in the tomato sauce. Divide between four plates then gently fold in the roasted tomatoes. Add a twist of ground black pepper to each plate of spaghetti and serve immediately.

RED, WHITE AND BLUE CHEESE SALAD

This yummy salad is perfect for a summer’s day (if summer ever arrives) and it’s patriotic too!

Serves 4

Red, white and blue cheese salad

Red, white and blue cheese salad

225g rindless, smoked streaky bacon

4 little gem lettuces

450g British cherry tomatoes

1 bunch watercress

2 avocados

Juice of 1 lemon

225g blue cheese, cubed eg Blue Vinney, Oxford Blue, Stilton

2 tbsp red wine vinegar

2 tsp runny honey

1 tsp Dijon mustard

4 tbsp olive oil

Grill the bacon until crisp and then chop into small pieces.

Separate and rinse the lettuce leaves, halve the cherry tomatoes, trim and rinse the watercress. Mix the lettuce leaves, tomato and watercress together.

Peel and slice the avocados and coat with lemon juice to prevent browning. Combine the avocado slices and blue cheese with the salad.

Whisk together the wine vinegar, honey and mustard. Add the olive oil steadily in a fine stream, whisking as you pour. Season the dressing to taste.

Divide the salad between 4 serving plates or bowls and drizzle with the dressing. Scatter the crispy bacon over the top before serving.

Coming on Tuesday…a traditional South African sauce that’s packed with tomatoes.

Big cheese of the month: Parmigiano Reggiano

Welcome to the start of a new series on one of my favourite foods…cheese. This month, in celebration of my trip in the summer to the wonderful Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, I’m starting with Parmesan.

In Parma and the surrounding area you’ll find Parmesan eaten as a starter, in a main course, and as dessert…it’s not just for grating over your pasta! And in some of the markets, the aroma of it is literally in the air! So amazing.

Parmigiano Reggiano (to use its full official name) was first made hundreds of years ago (around 1200) at the Benedictine monasteries in the area between the Po River and the Apennine mountains. It’s special because the milk is produced by cows fed according to strict regulations where certain foodstuffs are forbidden. The cows are milked twice a day and the milk is taken to the cheese house within two hours of each milking.

Then it becomes the responsibility of the cheesemaker – and it’s a serious business with techniques handed down through the centuries as a result of generations of experience.

And you need a lot of milk. 16 litres for 1kg of Parmigiano Reggiano. That’s 550 litres to make one of those big wheels you see. It’s made by hand and aged for a minimum of 12 months. The final result is delicious, creamy, crumbly Parmesan.

It’s a really versatile cheese – so why not be adventurous and try some of these lovely recipes.

Mouthwatering Parmigiano Reggiano

Parmigiano-Reggiano crisp canapés topped with lemon pepper cream and hot smoked salmon

Parmesan crisp canapes

Makes 10 canapés

15ml Crème fraiche

Finely grated zest of one lemon

Fennel seeds, chopped

Grated and shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, to serve

½ small fennel bulb

75g Hot smoked salmon, flaked

Salt and black pepper

Crisps

50g Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated

1 tbsp plain flour

Grease and line a large baking sheet with greaseproof paper

1 Mix Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and plain flour, along with a good pinch of black pepper.

2 Spoon teaspoon-sized rounds of this mixture onto the baking sheet and flatten slightly with the back of the spoon. The mixture should give 10 crisps, make sure there is plenty of space between each one, as the mixture will spread a little.

3 Place the rounds under a hot grill for 2-3 minutes until the cheese has melted to make a golden brown crisp.

4 Remove each crisp carefully using a pallet knife and leave to cool on greaseproof paper.

5 Mix crème fraiche together with lemon zest and season to taste.

6 To assemble,spoon a small amount of lemon crème fraiche on top of each crisp. Then sprinkle with a few fennel seeds, grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese  and finely chopped fennel, before topping with flakes of hot smoked salmon and black pepper.

7 Finally, garnish with sprigs of fresh fennel and serve

Cook’s tip: Make things easy for yourself and prepare ahead. Both the crisps and lemon cream can be made in the morning, just keep the crisps in an air-tight container and refrigerate the cream

Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and asparagus tart

Parmesan and asparagus tart

Serves 2

2 10x20cm puff pastry rectangles

1 egg, beaten

2 tbsp green pesto

30g shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus extra to serve

4 tbsp mascarpone cheese

6 asparagus spears

Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

2tbsp grated Parmgiano-Reggiano cheese

Torn basil leaves, to serve

Salt and black pepper

1 Preheat the oven to 200°C.

2 Place the pastry rectangles on a greased baking sheet and carefully score lines 1cm away from the pastry edges with a sharp knife. Prick the inner rectangle with a fork and brush with beaten egg.

3 Spread a thin layer of pesto all over the base of the inner rectangle and top with shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and small spoonfuls of mascarpone cheese.

4 Blanche the asparagus spears for 1 minute in boiling salted water, drain, and place 3 spears across each tart.

5 Sprinkle a little lemon zest and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano over each tart and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and risen.

6 Serve the tarts with shaved Parmgiano-Reggiano and freshly torn basil leaves.

Open lasagne of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, prawns and baby squid with lemon and basil pesto dressing

Open lasagne with Parmesan and seafood

Serves 2

100g raw tiger prawns

150g calamari rings and tentacles

Zest and juice of ½ lemon

1 tbsp olive oil

6 x 10cm2 sheets fresh lasagne

½ fennel bulb, finely chopped

Salt and black pepper

White sauce

50g butter

1 tbsp plain flour

300ml milk

1 tbsp crème fraiche

50g Parmigano-Reggiano cheese, grated

Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

Walnut and basil pesto dressing

2 tbsp roughly chopped basil

45g chopped walnuts

Finely grated zest of ½ lemon

4tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp roughly chopped parsley

1 garlic clove, crushed

25g grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1 Marinate the seafood in the zest and juice of ½ lemon, 1 tbsp olive oil, salt and black pepper.

2 Meanwhile, blend together all the ingredients for the pesto and season well to taste.

3 For the sauce, melt the butter over a gentle heat and whisk in the flour. Gradually add the milk, whisking continuously until the sauce thickens. Whisk in the crème fraiche, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and lemon zest.  Season to taste.

4 Cook the lasagne sheets in boiling salted water for 2-3 minutes and then keep warm.

5 Place the seafood and fennel on a hot griddle for 2 minutes, or until cooked.

6 To assemble, spoon a little white sauce onto the centre of each plate and top with a sheet of lasagne. Add more white sauce and top with seafood and fennel, followed by some walnut pesto. Repeat this layering process with another sheet of lasagne. Finally, top with another sheet of lasagne and drizzle over more pesto and drizzle over a small amount of olive oil before serving