Gnocchi with leek and sausages in a creamy cheese sauce

DSCN0692At this time of year, all I want to eat are hearty, warming, comforting foods, like cottage pie, stews, pasta bakes and chilli. (This “phase” usually lasts from October until around Easter). This particular dish combines three of my favourite things: leek, potatoes (in the form of gnocchi) and cheese. It was actually supposed to be a recipe for gnocchi with vegetables in a creamy cheese sauce, but somewhere between doing the shopping and starting to cook, I managed to lose my courgette! It’s on the receipt, but it’s not in my kitchen. How on earth does one lose a courgette?! So I had a rummage in my fridge and improvised with a packet of Wiener-type sausages instead. Sorry vegetarians – my original recipe would have been for you!

Gnocchi with leek and sausages in a creamy cheese sauce

Ingredients (serves 2)
Butter (for frying)
400 g gnocchi
1 garlic clove
1 leek
4 Wiener (or Frankfurter, if that’s what you want to call them) sausages OR one large courgette/zucchini
1 pot of cream
Cheddar or other strong cheese (I used Swiss mountain cheese this time, because that’s what I had)
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
Cayenne pepper

Method

1. Heat some butter in a frying pan. While it’s heating, chop your garlic into smallish pieces then fry it in the butter.

garlic

2. Put some water on to boil in a pan. Chop the leek – I usually cut off fairly thick slices then quarter the slices – then place the it in the frying pan with the garlic. (If using courgette/zucchini, you should also dice that it this point and put it in the pan at the same time as the leek).

leek

3. Chop the sausages into bite-sized pieces.

4. Once the water has boiled, pour in the gnocchi and boil it for as long as the instructions for your brand say to (usually until bits start to float)

5. Drain the gnocchi then add it to the frying pan along with the sausages. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

food

6. Pour the cream into the frying pan, stir it in and heat for a bit until it and the sausages are warmed though. Grate the cheese over the mixture, pausing every once in a while to stir it in. Keep adding cheese until the cream/cheese mixture forms a thick sauce/you think there’s enough (personally, I like a lot of cheese!). Stir in a pinch of cayenne pepper. Also add more salt/black pepper if you think it needs it.

7. Enjoy carbs covered in melty, cheesy goodness (see photo of the final product at the top).

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Sausage and fennel pasta bake

Pasta bakeRecently I’ve been experimenting with adding fennel to my dishes. I’d seen it in the shops countless times, but never really knew what to do with it. Finally, I decided to just buy some and find out what happened. This is a nice, comforting dish for autumn/winter and has the added bonus of being quick and easy enough to make in the evening after a long day at work. This amount serves 3-4 (me, Jan plus some leftovers for me to take to work for lunch, but Jan eats more than I do – it would be enough for 4 of me).

Ingredients:
Olive oil for frying
1 clove garlic
500g pork sausages (Germany residents: I would normally buy “grobe Bratwurst” but the supermarket didn’t have those this time)
1 fennel bulb
Any small pasta (I like penne, but fusilli or farfalle would also work)
1 400g tin of tomatoes
Cheese (one with a fairly strong taste, like Cheddar or Bergkäse)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C (roughly 390°F). Heat some olive oil in a pan.

2. While the olive oil is heating, chop the sausages into bite-sized chunks. Once the oil is hot, crush in the garlic clove and fry for about a minute before adding the sausages.

Sausages and garlic
Sausages and garlic

3. While the sausages are cooking (stir them once in a while so they cook on all sides), chop the fennel into chunks. Once the sausages are mostly brown, add the fennel to the pan. Stir occasionally.

Add the fennel
Add the fennel

4. Meanwhile, cook the pasta until it’s just short of being ready (with mine, that took 8 minutes). Drain the pasta then add it to the frying pan with the sausages/fennel.

5. Add a tin of tomatoes to the frying pan, stir everything together and season to taste with salt and pepper, then pour the entire mixture into an oven-proof bowl.

6. Grate cheese all over the top – how much is up to you – and place in the oven until the cheese has all melted. This will take about 20-30 minutes, depending on your oven and exactly how melted you like your cheese.

And there you have it – meaty, cheesy, comforting goodness… and it’s even pretty healthy (as long as you didn’t go too overboard on the cheese). If you wanted, you could add extra vegetables (leek might be nice), replace the sausages with a tin of tuna or, for a vegetarian version, use aubergine or tofu in place of the sausages. It’s entirely up to you!

Chicken and gnocchi bake

This isn’t exactly an earth-shattering recipe. Anybody could have made it up (in fact, lots of people probably already have.. I didn’t check, but I bet there are similar recipes all over the Internet!). It was very tasty though, and pretty quick to make. So I give you chicken and gnocchi bake. The amount below serves two.

FoodIngredients:
400g chicken breast, chopped (I bough the pre-chopped variety, because I’m lazy)
400g gnocchi
1 courgette, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Herbs, such as rosemary, thyme, tarragon, etc. I used dried mixed herbs
Grated cheese
Oil for frying

Method:
1. Heat the oil in a frying pan then add the chicken. Season with salt and pepper to taste. While the oil is heating, put on the water for the gnocchi.

2. Fry the chicken until it’s almost cooked through then add the courgette to the frying pan. Put the gnocchi in the water once it’s boiling then, when it’s ready, drain it and add it to the frying pan.

Chicken, courgette, gnocchi
Chicken, courgette, gnocchi

3. Add some herbs then stir in the tin of tomatoes.

4. Place the contents of the frying pan in an oven-proof dish then grate cheese all over it – as much or as little as you want.

5. Bake on 180°C/350°F for about 20 minutes until the cheese has melted, then serve.

Look at all that cheesy goodness!
Look at all that cheesy goodness!

Easy peasy, lemon squeezy! This is also a recipe that could easily be modified, for example by using spinach instead of courgette or leaving out the chicken and using other vegetables to make a vegetarian version. It’s great comfort food! (Although not really recommend as a summer dish… it was 36°C the day Jan and I had it and we were boiling by the time we’d finished eating!)

Chicken, leek and bacon mashed potato topped pie

I made this delicious pie for the second time the other day, and this time I remembered to take photos, which means you, my lovely readers, get a recipe (and I can actually look up how to do it next time instead of guessing and hoping it comes out as nice as the time before… always a danger with made up recipes!). This is perfect as a comfort food or for a warm, hearty meal on a cold day.

Chicken, Leek and Bacon Mashed Potato Topped Pie

You will need:
450 g chicken breast, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 large leek, chopped fairly small
1 packet bacon pieces
1 tub crème fraîche
4 large potatoes, diced
About 1 tsp tarragon
Salt and black pepper
Nutmeg
Butter, for mash
Optional: Grated cheese

The above amount serves two, but could be stretched to more if you add a side dish of salad or vegetables.

What to do:

1. Heat some oil (I use olive oil) in a pan and fry the bacon bits for about a minute. Meanwhile, place some water on to boil in a saucepan.

2. Add the chicken to the pan and continue frying, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is almost completely cooked through.
Also, put the diced potatoes in the water as soon as it starts to boil.

Chicken and bacon

3. Add the leek to the pan with the chicken/bacon and fry until soft, stirring occasionally.

Pie filling

4. Drain the potatoes then place them back in the pan and mash them with some button and about a teaspoon of the crème fraîche.
Season to taste with salt, freshly ground black pepper and nutmeg.

5. Stir about a teaspoon of tarragon into the frying pan with the chicken, bacon and leek (fresh is best, but you can use dried if that’s all you’ve got…
I use a a jar with fresh tarragon in oil), then stir in the remainder of the crème fraîche. Add salt and pepper to the mixture to taste.

Tarragon in oil

6. Place the chicken, leek and bacon mixture into two small or one medium-sized oven proof dishes and spread it out so it covers the bottom.

Pie filling

7. Cover the chicken, leek and bacon mixture with the mashed potatoes and spread it out to complete cover the chicken, etc. layer.
You can then add some grated cheese to the top if you want I did – I used Cheddar).

8. Place the pie in the oven on around 180°C (350°F) until the cheese has melted, then sit back and enjoy your pie. Caution: It will be very hot!

The finished pie

Today could have been so good…

… if only I wasn’t so bloody tired.
Seriously, I’ve spent the whole day trying not to fall asleep at my desk. (HA! Wouldn’t have made a brilliant impression so aoon after the last talking to.) It didn’t help that I spent most of the morning proofreading a humongous SAP translation (SAP = Systems Applications and Products. Random database software. They have all their own random terminology that has to be stuck to at all costs even though half of it sounds utterly crap). Also I have had a headache all day.

Comfort food needed me thinks. Mashed potatoes with gravy for tea then.