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!

Cross cultural cooking: Toad in the hole

It had been ages since I last made toad in the hole, so when I saw it on Lou’s Labyrinth I really, really wanted to eat it again. So that’s what Jan and I had for dinner yesterday.

I always use a recipe that I got from BBC Food years ago, and which doesn’t even seem to be on the site any more. Looking at it just now, I found several similar ones but none that were exactly the same. Mine is a very simple recipe – flour, eggs (four of them!), milk, salt and pepper for the batter. I always add dried rosemary as well, although it’s not in the original recipe. And, of course, sausages. Being in Germany, I don’t actually have access to the kind of sausages one would normally use for toad in the hole, but Bratwurst work surprisingly well. Cross-cultural cooking at its best!

Toad in the hole