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If you need one pasta dish that you can make over and over again this winter, be ready to bookmark this yummy spinach and ricotta recipe by Chef Jamie Oliver. The filling can be used to stuff cannelloni tubes or layer between lasagna sheets and can be varied to suit your preference or to put that bit of leftover roasted chicken from yesterday’s dinner to good use. I like the idea of filling these pasta tubes ahead and saving them for those bad hair days when you come back tired from work and cannot be bothered to cook or do anything else. With this simple bit of pre-planning, you simply have to place the pre-filled cannelloni in an ovenproof dish, spread the tomato sauce on top, sprinkle with cheese and pop it in the oven for half an hour baking time while you slowly unwind from the stress of a hectic day by soaking your tired limbs in a hot, fragrant bubble bath.

SPINACH & RICOTTA CANNELLONI

Ingredients:

400 g spinach

Extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 large brown onion, diced

2 cloves of garlic, squashed

2 x 400 g tins of tomatoes

1 bay leaf, optional

1/2 bunch of basil leaves

1/2 lemon, grated zest of

250 g fresh ricotta cheese

1 free-range egg, beaten

2 teaspoons grated parmesan

150 g cannelloni, about 14 tubes

2 x 125 g mozzarella balls, sliced

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4. Put the spinach and a drizzle of olive oil in a large pan over a low heat.

  • Add nutmeg, season with salt and pepper. Leave to sweat. Stir occasionally till spinach is cooked down.

  • Place in a bowl and set it aside to cool a little. In the same pan, heat a drizzle of olive oil over low heat.

  • Gently sweat the onion until soft. Add the garlic, tomatoes, bay leaf, a few basil leaves and lemon zest.

  • Let it gently simmer for 20 minutes until the sauce has thickened slightly. Season with salt and pepper.

  • Squeeze the moisture out of the spinach into the bowl. Place the spinach on a board so as to chop it up.

  • Return spinach to the liquid in the bowl and stir in ricotta, beaten egg and parmesan. Season to taste.

  • Sit the piping bag in a jug, fold its edges over the rim, then carefully spoon the spinach mixture into it.

  • Pipe the spinach-ricotta mixture into the cannelloni tubes and lay them in a 20-cm x 25-cm oven dish.

  • Spread the tomato sauce over the cannelloni. Scatter over most of the basil, lay mozzarella slices on top.

  • Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and season. Place the pan in the oven and cook for 35 to 40 minutes.

  • The top should turn golden and the pasta is tender; if the top browns too fast, cover the dish with foil.

  • Remove from the oven and let stand for few minutes before serving with the remaining basil. Serves 6.

Spinach & Ricotta Cannelloni

APPLE & FIG FLAPJACKS

Ingredients:

450g apples, peeled and cored

25g golden caster sugar

Zest of 1 small lemon

100g dried figs, chopped

140g butter, cut into pieces

50g light muscovado sugar

140g golden syrup

250g porridge oats

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

25g walnuts, chopped

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 190 oC. Slice the apples into a small pan and stir in the caster sugar.

  • Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 10 minutes until apple is soft, stirring occasionally.

  • Stir in the zest and the figs and cook for another 15 minutes, uncovered. Stir mixture often.

  • When the figs are softened and the mixture is quite dry, remove from heat and cool slightly.

  • Whizz the cooked apple and fig mixture into a smooth puree in a food processor, set aside.

  • Melt butter, muscovado sugar and syrup into a heavy based, medium saucepan over low heat.

  • Do not let it boil. Stir in the oats and cinnamon and mix well to form a loose, sticky mixture.

  • Press half of the mixture into a shallow 18 x 18cm square baking pan. Spread puree on top.

  • Cover the puree with the remaining oat mixture and sprinkle the chopped walnuts all over.

  • Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until it is golden. Remove from oven, cut into squares and serve.

Apple & Fig Flapjacks from BBC GoodFood

After last year’s success of my 7-day Tour de Maurice, I wanted to repeat the experience for my upcoming birthday. It did not take me long to map out my travel plan and organize a tailor-made package for my first ever visit to Rodrigues. After hearing several reviews from different sources, I decided to trash the custom made family tours to plan my excursions and select my accommodation all by myself. The basis of the plan was to have minimum connection with the external world and nothing to remind me of work and related issues for a full 5 days!

After an uneventful flight aboard ATR, we landed in Rodrigues past noon and we immediately whisked off to Pirates Lodge, located only a few minutes from St Francois beach, well away from crowds and traffic. We were the only residents there and were quite happy to have the whole lodge to ourselves. Rooms were clean with comfortable beds and thankfully they have AC and fans on both floors. Though we stayed on B&B basis, food was not a problem as we found that there were quite a few snacks within reasonable walking distance whenever we did not feel like cooking.

Waking up early for my morning walk on the beach became my daily routine as I had no trouble getting up at dawn after a good night’s sleep. You can hike down to Trou d’Argent and Anse Bouteille by following the yellow markers on this easy 30-minutes walk or go further north towards Pointe Cotton through beautiful beaches like Anse Ally or Fumier for a swim before breakfast. Breakfast gets served everyday around 8 and is a simple one with bread/butter/ jam, pastries, tea/ coffee/ juice and a fresh fruit platter. It kept us full till lunch time especially when we planned to go on long drives.

Our 4×4 rental allowed to visit most of the northern and southern coast lines and discover the usual tourist spots as well as several roadside stalls selling pickles, salted fish, honey, dried octopus and handicraft. On our 4th day, we booked a very enriching tour with Rodrigues Friendly where we introduced to the typical aspects of Rodriguan culture through activities like octopus fishing, learning the basics of accordion, basket weaving and the customary Séga Tambour. It even included a culinary hands-on experience where we could actually bake our own tourte, a closed short crust pie filled with caramelized papaya and coconut.

I was not fortunate enough to taste the traditional gâteau maïs during my trip to Rodrigues. However, as a memento of this memorable visit and to honour all the lovely people I encountered during my stay, I wish to share this recipe, from Dans Ma Cuisine Mauricienne et d’Ailleurs, which it seems, is as close to the genuine gâteau as it gets. No need for me to say that I cant wait to go back for another taste of authentic cuisine Rodriguaise which uses only pure, unprocessed ingredients straight from their gardens or fresh catch from local fishermen for simple yet amazingly flavourful dishes.

GATEAU MAIS DE RODRIGUES

Ingredients:

100g butter, softened

250g white caster sugar

6 eggs, room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

250g fine cornmeal/ polenta

100g desiccated coconut

3 tablespoons full cream milk

30g raisins, soaked in water

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 180oC. Grease and line a 8-inch or 9-inch round sandwich tin with parchment paper.

  • Beat butter and sugar together in a bowl until creamy. Add egg yolks and beat well till it is pale yellow.

  • Fold in cornmeal and milk into the butter mixture until everything is well combined and homogenous.

  • eat egg whites until they form soft peaks and carefully fold into batter until there is no trace of whites.

  • Fold in raisins and pour the batter gently into the prepared tin. Bake for about 50 minutes until golden.

  • Remove from oven and cool for 10 minutes in tin before turning out. Cut into wedges and serve warm.

With love from Rodrigues

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PrerrnaMirchi
Mauritius

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