March 30, 2010

    Special Spaghetti Cake

    I love comfort food, and I think it's why I'm drawn to so many of Jamie Oliver's recipies. They are comfort food with a touch of class, and generally I don't have to be very spendy with my ingredients. My suggestions? The two things do not skimp on the cost of should be cheese and herbs. Herbs can be cheap, of course, if you grow your own - but if you don't, I'm a huge fan of the living plants you keep in the fridge for a few days. I've even had great sucess in transplanting these into soil to keep growing if I don't need all the herb at once! Once you cook with fresh herbs and full flavored cheeses, you will never be able to go back.

    This simple pasta dish blew me away with it's abundance of flavor. It looked fabulous on Jamie Oliver's website, and I had to give it a try. I have to be honest, the idea of an oven baked spaghetti pie sounded a bit off, but trust me, follow the recipe - it's well worth it! You'll notice in my photo that my pan was not quite large enough. The pan you see there is a 10" pan - when he calls for an 11" pan, heed that warning! I made it with my smaller pan, but it was overflowing and mounded up high on top.

    Adapted from Jamie Oliver's website.

    600 ml (approx 2.5 cups) double cream*
    4 large eggs
    sea salt and freshly ground pepper
    100 g (approx 1/4 lb) mature cheddar cheese, grated **
    100 g (approx 1/4 lb) "smelly cheese" (Brie, Stilton, or goats cheese), cubed ***
    2 large handfuls of baby spinach, roughly chopped
    1 fresh red chili, deseeded and chopped (I had a small serrano left over from last year's farmer's market - it worked well, seeds and all)
    1/2 of a small jar of sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil, drained and roughly chopped (I found the more the merrier with the tomatoes, so don't skimp!)
    1 box of just cooked spaghetti (I use whole wheat pasta only - and out of those my favorite is Hodgson Mills - but standard is fine as well)
    Knob of butter
    Few fresh sage sprigs, leaves picked off stems.
    1/2 - 1 lb chicken thighs, boneless/skinless, cubed ****

    Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). In a large bowl beat the double cream and eggs with a good pinch of salt and pepper. Add the grated Cheddar, most of the smelly cheese, the spinach, chilli, sun-dried tomatoes and the cooked spaghetti. Gently stir to mix well.

    Melt the butter in an ovenproof frying pan, around 11inches in diameter, and swirl it around so the base of the pan is nicely coated. Slowly pour in the spaghetti mixture and shake the pan to even the mixture out. Bake in the hot oven for 30 minutes until it starts to crisp on top. At this point, take it out of the oven and use the back of a spoon to make small indents into the top of the bake. Toss the sage leaves in a little olive oil then press one into each dip with a small cube of the remaining cheese on top.

    Return to the oven and cook for 10 more minutes until crisp. Remove and leave to rest for a few minutes. Serve in wedges with a fresh green salad on the side.

    Notes from the Kitchen:

    *double cream is not available in the US except if you have a really great relationship with a local dairy. Heavy whipping cream is a decent substitute in this recipe from my own trials, read the carton and get the kind with the highest fat content possible.

    ** I used a nice smoked cheddar by Tillamook. It was economical and we love the remnants on crackers!

    *** I used an imported Stilton I found at Reasors' (local grocer) for a great price. While generally not a fan of blue cheeses myself, the Stilton really carried the dish here.

    **** The chicken is not in the original recipe. I added it as I had some chicken that needed to be used from a previous recipe. If you decide to use some as well, cook the chicken seperately before starting, and then add right before the spaghetti is added to the pan. I just pan fried quickly with some salt and pepper in a little canola oil.


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