Monday, 11 May 2009

Cheese, Grommit!

We had a cheesy day on Sunday. Ricotta berry pancakes for breakfast; spinach and cheese bake for dinner. I like the combination of spinach and cheese very much, whether it's English spinach or silverbeet. In this case, it's both. As you may guess from my previous post, it's the Perfect Italiano brand that I got for free the other day.

The spinach bake is a very flexible recipe; it's another one of this things that I do without a recipe, making it up as I go. Today's version is rather like the old fashioned Hunza Pie popular in the seventies, except without the pastry. I measured as I went, so I could give you the recipe. It's mild in flavour, so you might like to bump up the herbs, or do as the Bloke and I like and add some HP sauce or a dollop of chutney.

Recipe: Spinach, Cheese and Rice Bake
1 large bunch silverbeet
250g frozen spinach
250g ricotta
100g light ricotta
100g light fetta, chopped very fine
250g cooked brown rice
1 large onion
4 eggs
3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon dill
1 teaspoon lemon myrtle
2 teaspoons mint puree
3 teaspoons olive oil
3/4 cup grated cheese

Strip the silverbeet leaves from the stems. Chop the stems finely, discarding any brown bits, and fry gently in 1 teaspoon olive oil, until soft.
Tip into a large bowl.
Fry the onion in another teaspoon of oil, until soft, and add it to the bowl.
Chop the silverbeet greens and steam (or microwave) for a couple of minutes, until wilted. Press out excess liquid.
Thaw the frozen spinach.
Add spinach and silverbeet greens to the bowl.
Add in the cooked rice, the ricottas and fetta, and mix well.
Beat the eggs with the herbs and garlic, and then add this to the spinach/rice mix.
Use the remaining teaspoon of olive oil to grease a medium casserole dish.
Pack the spinach mix into the dish, and cover with foil.
Bake at 180C for 30 minutes.
Remove foil, top with grated cheese, bake for a further 15 minutes until nicely brown.

Notes: The silverbeet came to about 500g once it was cooked, so that's 750g of spinach/silverbeet all up. You could use some other vegies - a grated zucchini, for example.

The ricotta was Perfect Italiano for savoury, and Perfect Italiano light. The grated cheese was 1/2 cup of Perfect Italiano pizza cheese, with a little extra of the Perfect Italiano shaved parmesan. How about that? Every kind of cheese that they sent me in one recipe. The fetta was a South Cape; the rice was a sachet of Tilda pre-cooked brown basmati; the mint puree was a Gourmet Garden paste. We ate it with some sauteed field mushrooms and steamed green beans from Choku Bai Jo. *makes TV gameshow host prize gestures*

Recipe: Ricotta Berry Pancakes
250g ricotta
1 cup milk
3/4 cup plain yoghurt
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
1/4 cup caster sugar
1 1/2 cups frozen mixed berries
butter for frying

* Start by mixing the yoghurt and milk in a medium bowl. Let stand for an hour at room temperature (or refrigerate overnight). Beat in egg yolks and vanilla.
* Whisk egg whites until stuff.
* Mix flour and sugar in a large bowl.
* Fold in milk/egg yolk mix, then ricotta, then berries.
* Gently fold in egg whites.
* Heat up a frypan and add a tiny dab of butter. If it sizzles on contact without burning, proceed.
* Add a little more butter and swirl to coat pan.
* Drop tablespoons of batter in the pan. Cook until bubbles appear, then flip over and cook other side. Regulate heat to keep the cooking time to about 3-5 minutes per side.

Notes: obviously this is a variant on the Donna Hay recipe that we used previously. I used the regular ricotta in this - I would have used the sweet one but they didn't send me that. Perhaps they meant to; I got two tubs of regular, one of light and one of the "ricotta for savoury".

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