Ricotta and Chive Cakes

Ricotta and Chive Cakes | Selma's TableI have a friend who I think of as the Imelda Marcos of lunch boxes. She has the most incredible selection – ones for breakfast, ones with separate compartments for salads and dressing, ones that can go in the microwave, spill proof soup mugs, ones that have their own placemat, ones that have their own cutlery – you name it – she’s most probably got it! She takes the most delicious things to work and obviously saves a fortune in the process.

Ricotta and Chive Cakes | Selma's TableHave you ever totted up what you spend on food during the working week? I’m not talking about going out for restaurant  lunches but the stuff you get from the thousands of takeaway sandwich bars and cafe’s that line our streets. Starting with your morning latte and yoghurt pot/muffin/croissant to a mid morning snack, lunch of sandwiches/salads/noodles/sushi, coffee or tea, juice etc…it really adds up. At let’s say £5 – £10 a day, that’s £25 – £50 a week which works out to £1,250 – £2,500 a year! With a little fore thought and organisation, you could so easily be taking in your own food which will be delicious, not full of salt, sugar, preservatives and additives and saving you a fortune at the same time. Those Manolos might be yours sooner than you think…

Ricotta and Chive Cakes | Selma's TableAnyway, I popped round her house recently and she gave me a ricotta cake to try – she had mentioned them a few times in the past and said how wonderful they were and how perfect in one of her “salady” lunch boxes and I could immediately see why. It was so savoury; light but filling and extremely low carb, so, no mid afternoon carb coma. She did tell me what was in them, but all I could remember was the ricotta and parmesan. Possibly basil.

The other day, I bought some ricotta to make ravioli and had some left over so thought I would give the cakes a go. I did a little googling to get the proportions right and came up with these…They are so easy. Just whisk up a couple of eggs with salt and pepper, snip in the chives and stir in the cheeses. Spoon into very well greased tins, top with a little more parmesan and bake. So, so delicious!

These are really quite small – you would probably want 2 or 3 – maybe more, per serving, depending on your appetite. I also think that these would be lovely with a little grated lemon zest in them and maybe a sliver of sundried tomato on top. Thyme or oregano would work well here too. So many possibilities…

P.S. if you click on the link to the Manolo Blahnik website, there is THE most fabulous short film about how, as a child growing up in the Canary Islands, Manolo Blahnik made shoes from sweetie wrappers for lizards. I used to make Christmas decorations out of sweetie wrappers – think I may have missed my calling…

Ricotta and Chive Cakes

  • Servings: makes about 22 small cakes
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS

  • 2 large eggs, free range or organic
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 bunch of chives about 25g
  • 500g ricotta cheese
  • 60g finely grated parmesan cheese, halved

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 150C/300F. Thoroughly grease and flour a couple of 12 hole patty tins (the shallow kind used for mince pies or Yorkshire puds).
  2. Lightly whisk the eggs in a medium sized bowl. Whisk in the salt and pepper and snip in the chives – scissors are much better than a knife for chives.
  3. Add the ricotta and half the parmesan and whisk until all the ingredients are well mixed together.
  4. Pop a tablespoon of the mixture into each hole and lightly smooth over the tops.
  5. Evenly sprinkle over the remaining parmesan cheese.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly golden. Let cool for 5 minutes then remove from pans to either finish cooling on a wire rack or eat warm with a salad.
  7. Store in a lidded container in the fridge for up to 7 days.
© Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table, 2015. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material, including photographs without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Agnello e Patate al Forno (Apulian Shepherd’s Pie)

Agnello e Patate al Forno (Apulian Shepherd's Pie) | Selma's TableApulia is the southern Italian region which makes up the “heel” of the boot after which the country of Italy is likened. The area was once known as the Wine Cellar of Europe and today, their olive oils are much coveted by the cognoscenti . Their food espouses that wonderful Mediterranean diet of olive oil, fresh vegetables, fresh fish and shellfish, pasta and regional cheeses. The meat of choice is lamb or kid which is grilled, roasted or baked which brings me to this recipe for Agnello e Patate al Forno which translates to Lamb and Potatoes of the Oven or an Italian version of Shepherd’s Pie!

Agnello e Patate al Forno (Apulian Shepherd's Pie) | Selma's TableIt’s from a wonderful book called Italian Country Cooking by Susanna Gelmetti which I have had for many more years than I care to remember.  Over those years, I have made many a recipe from it but this is the one that gets made time and time again. Italian cooking is cooking from the heart. It is all about excellent quality ingredients generally cooked simply and without fuss and this ethos completely appeals to me. This recipe depends on flavoursome lamb, tasty fresh tomatoes, good pecorino cheese, good wine and fresh herbs. I have made it with and without wine – it is better with, of course. I tend to use lamb neck fillet as despite being tender, it has a lot of flavour and cooks a little more quickly than other cuts. The dish comes together in about 15 minutes and cooks for 1 – 1.5 hours depending on the cut of meat used.

Agnello e Patate al Forno (Apulian Shepherd's Pie) | Selma's TableI start by pre-heating the oven to 200C/400F and placing a couple slices of bread in it to toast for the bread crumbs. I set the timer for 5 minutes too so that I don’t forget about them! Then I place the garlic, the cheese and the herbs in a small processor and blitz until the mixture resembles green crumbs, which is set aside. Once the bread is out and has cooled, I tear this up and blitz it too and mix it into the cheese and herb mixture. I peel and cut up the potatoes, dice the tomatoes and chop the lamb. A little olive oil is judiciously poured into a baking dish, into which the lamb, potatoes and tomatoes are tumbled about, seasoned and covered with the herbed breadcrumb mixture. A little wine is poured in and a little water to come halfway up the potatoes. At this point I like to pull up bits of lamb to poke through so that the tops get nice and crispy while the underneath braises in the delicious wine and tomato juices and gets melting tender. A little olive oil is then lightly drizzled over the top and it goes into the oven to cook, undisturbed for an hour or so.  In the past, I have used stock for all the liquid if wine was not at hand and also added lemon zest to herb mixture and the juice to the liquid. It smells amazing as it cooks and benefits from resting for a few minutes after coming out of the oven. Served with a peppery rocket salad, it’s a lovely meal at this time of the year.

Agnello e Patate al Forno (Apulian Shepherd's Pie) | Selma's Table

Agnello e Patate al Forno (Apulian Shepherd's Pie)

  • Servings: serves 3 people or 2 generously, with left overs
  • Difficulty: easy
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Adapted from  Italian Country Cooking by Susanna Gelmetti

INGREDIENTS

  • 35g pecorino cheese
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 3 sprigs of rosemary – about 5g of needles
  • 25g fresh parsley including the stalks
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • pepper
  • 25g fresh bread crumbs
  •  500g potatoes (floury or waxy – both types are fine here)
  • 400g – 500g lamb neck fillet or lean lamb
  • 5 ripe tomatoes
  • salt
  • 100ml approx of white or red wine
  • 100ml approx of water or stock
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Fresh parsley and pecorino cheese to serve.

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F. If you are making your own bread crumbs, which I recommend, then place the bread slices in the oven to dry out for 5 minutes while the oven is heating up. In my experience, it is best to set a timer so that you don’t forget about them!
  2. Chop the pecorino into cubes, peel the garlic and strip the needles off the rosemary. Place in a small processor and blitz until it’s crumbly. Add the parsley and oregano and blitz again. Scrape out and set aside. When the bread has been in the oven for 5 minutes, remove to cool, then tear up and blitz into crumbs. Stir into the herb and cheese mixture and grind over lots of freshly milled pepper. Mix well.
  3. Smear the bottom of an oven proof dish with a little olive oil. Mine is about 9″ x 5″.
  4. Peel and chop the potatoes into smaller chunks that you would for a roast. So the larger ones into about 8 equal sized pieces and smaller ones into 4 and place in the dish. Cut the lamb, across the grain in similar sizes to the potatoes. Dice the tomatoes keeping them chunky. Tumble the lot into the dish and season with a good sprinkle of salt. Arrange so that bits of lamb and potato are poking through.
  5. Carefully pour in the wine and water, tilting the dish so that the liquid is evenly distributed. It should come halfway up the potatoes.
  6. Shake over the breadcrumb mixture to cover the top evenly and drizzle over a little olive oil.
  7. Cook in the oven for 1 – 1½ hours or until the potatoes are cooked through. Let rest for 5 minutes then sprinkle over some fresh parsley and shaved pecorino before serving.
© Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table, 2015. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material, including photographs without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.