Homemade gnocchi with a tomato & thyme sauce, spinach and ricotta

Making gnocchi is really quick and easy, and most of all it's really cheap and delicious. Gnocchi is often served with cream based sauces, but I feel these are too heavy and the gnocchi's best accompaniment is a tomato based sauce. Serve in a good big bowl in the middle of the table with some crusty bread and let the whole family dig in. This is social food.

Ingredients

  • 500g of new loose potatoes (48p)
  • 3 shallots (44p)
  • 260g pack of spinach (£1.19)
  • 25g of fresh thyme (68p)
  • 500g of ricotta - x2 250g packs (£1.96)
  • 1 can of tomatoes (44p)

The cupboard staples...

Olive oil, salt, black pepper, 2 garlic cloves and 200g of plain flour.

Total cost

If you already have the cupboard staples, then according to mysupermarket.co.uk, this trolley was cheapest at Tesco where it came to £5.19 - that's £1.29 per head!

Instructions

  • Best to make the gnocchi first. Peel and boil the potatoes as you would usually and then mash them. You really need to work those lumps out - we're looking for a smooth mash. Now place in a bowl, season well with salt and pepper and incorporate the flour into the mash - the mixture will begin to form into dough. Once you have a dough, turn out on to a dusted surface and knead for two minutes (not too rough), then break off the dough into three pieces and roll into three sausage shapes (about 3cm in thickness) and then cut the sausage shapes into pieces around 2cms in length. Set to one side for use later.
  • Now for the sauce. Get a pan on the heat, add a little drizzle of olive oil, finely dice the shallots and add to the pan. Gently cook the shallots for 2 minutes and then add 2 finely chopped cloves of garlic and cook for a further 30 seconds. Now add the tomatoes and half a cup of water. Season and simmer for 20 minutes to reduce the sauce down a little (just add a little water if the sauce is getting to thick). After 20 minutes add some finely chopped thyme and turn the heat right down, but make sure the sauce stays hot.
  • Now get a large pan of water up to the simmer and add the gnocchi. They will take about 2 minutes to cook and will rise to the surface when done. Remove and drain the gnocchi and place in a large bowl. Then add the ricotta (crumble between your fingers before you add), three good handfuls of spinach, and finally the hot tomato sauce (make sure the sauce is hot as you want to wilt the spinach leaves down a little) and give it all a good mix through.
  • Happy eating!

Griddled black pudding, chimichurri mash and caramelised apples

I'm not long back from Argentina and what becomes apparent very quickly in Argentina is the population's love of two things. Firstly meat, lots of it, and none of the animal is wasted - they love the fillet through to the kidneys and the blood. I felt this is something we should really embrace in the UK.

There is an inherent lack a respect for animals and how they arrive at the table in this country, so hopefully this recipe will change some views. We all need to encourage our friends and family to change habits a little and use the whole animal!

The second Argentinean love (in terms of food of course - football is the most loved pastime) is for anything sweet, namely dulce de leche which is a kind of thick and very sweet condensed milk.

Now it's tough to get this sweet thick caramel into a savoury recipe so I've created my take on frugal Argentinean food combining morcilla (black pudding), the sweet (caramelised apples are the perfect partner to black pudding) and chimichirri (which is a punchy sauce served as a side with most meats).

Ingredients

  • 4 thick slices of black pudding - 230g The Bury black pudding company (£1)
  • 4 Cox apples (96p)
  • 1 lemon (30p)
  • 900g of potatoes (£1.11)
  • 1 bulb of garlic (25p)
  • 35g of fresh parsley (68p)

The cupboard staples...

Olive oil, salt, black pepper, dried oregano, cayenne pepper, brown sugar and red wine vinegar.

Total cost

If you already have the cupboard staples, then according to mysupermarket.co.uk, this trolley was cheapest at Tesco where it came to £4.30 - that's £1.07 per head!

Instructions

  • Let's make the chimichurri sauce for the mash first (we'll make it first to get the flavours going). It's nice and simple - in a food processer add 5 cloves of garlic, the fresh parsley (hold back a little for garnish at the end), 80ml of olive oil, 30ml of red wine vinegar, the juice of one lemon, 2 teaspoons of oregano, 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, a really good twist of black pepper and a little salt. Whizz it all together to create a nice thick green sauce. You can chop and make by hand if you don't have a food processor. Set to one side as we'll add this to the mash later.
  • For the mash, cook the potatoes as you would normally. Then mash into a smooth consistency (with a little seasoning) and add the chimichurri sauce. Cover with foil and keep warm whilst you cook the apples and black pudding.
  • Next up is to peel and core the apples and cut into eighths.
  • Now get two pans on the heat. The first should be a frying pan for the apples and the second a griddle pan for the black pudding (if you don't have a griddle pan you can use the grill). The griddle pan needs to be hot (so open some windows as it will smoke!).
  • For the apples, add a good knob of butter to the frying pan and then the apples. Sauté for around 5 minutes (so they soften) and then add 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and a dash of water. Keep the heat on high as you want them to caramelise. Once the sauce starts to bubble and takes on a dark brown colour, you can take off the heat and set to one side (keeping warm).
  • Finally the black pudding. Make sure the griddle pan is hot. Season and rub a little olive oil on the 4 slices of black pudding and place on the griddle pan. They will need around 2 minutes on each side (you're looking for that nice charred bar effect).
  • To serve, place some mash in the middle of the plate, then a spoonful of the caramelised apples on the mash, and finally a slice of black pudding on top and a sprinkle of chopped parsley. Happy eating!

Lamb koftas with a feta, mint and chickpea salad & chilli grilled pittas

Now we have some warmer weather we need to cut loose from the stews and spicy pasta dishes and look to something lighter yet still rewarding. I've always been a big fan of Mediterranean cooking - having spent many a night at Greek and Turkish restaurants in Dalston, London where they cook some of the finest grilled meats I've ever eaten.

This is a very simple dish to put together and you can substitute the lamb for beef or chicken if you wish. (I've also written a recipe for Beef koftas as well.)

Ingredients

  • 500g of British organic lamb mince (£2.86)
  • 1 can of chickpeas (39p)
  • 200g of Feta (£1.11)
  • 1 lemon (30p)
  • 1 large red onion (20p)
  • 2 green chillies (30p)
  • 25g of fresh mint (61p)
  • Pack of 6 white pittas (19p)

The cupboard staples...

Olive oil, salt, black pepper, cumin, dried coriander and 2 cloves of garlic (and 4 large metal skewers)

Total cost

If you already have the cupboard staples, then according to mysupermarket.co.uk, this trolley was cheapest at ASDA, where it came to £5.96 - that's £1.49 per head!

Instructions

  • Let's make the koftas first - place the lamb in a large bowl along with 2 tsps of cumin, 2 tsps of dried coriander, 2 finely chopped cloves of garlic and a generous seasoning. Mix together well and then shape on to the metal skewers (wooden skewers, soaked first, are also good) - the best way to shape on is to create a ball first, slide on to the skewer and then shape down. Once the koftas are made, place in the fridge for at least 40 minutes to firm up a little.
  • Whilst the koftas are in the fridge we can make the salad. Grab a large bowl and add the chick peas, finely chopped mint, finely chopped red onion and cubes of feta. Mix together gently and then add some seasoning, the juice of one lemon and around 3 tablespoons of olive oil. This salad will keep fine until the koftas are ready. In fact, the flavours will develop nicely.
  • To make the chilli pittas - finely chop the green chillies (leave those seeds in!) and sprinkle over the pittas with a twist of black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. These can go under the grill for 4 minutes to brown up whilst the koftas are cooking.
  • The koftas! These are best cooked on a griddle pan (if you don't have a griddle pan 5 minutes on each side under a medium grill will work fine). Get those windows open as you need to get the griddle pan smoking hot! When smoking hot rub a little olive oil over the koftas so they don't stick (no oil in the pan) and griddle on each side for 4 minutes - once cooked set to one side for 2 minutes to let the meat relax.
  • Serve with the salad and pittas - happy eating!