Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Spinach Pasta Soufflé Bake

I am back from the horrible wilderness of exam time. I haven't posted anything in absolutely ages, but I honestly haven't produced anything that was even worth eating, let alone blogging! We have been living on convenience food while I frantically tried to learn how to do accounting in time to pass the exam. But it's over now, and what better way to welcome myself back into the kitchen but with a recipe from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's wonderful Veg Every Day.

This is a tasty cross between a pasta bake and a soufflé, with the added bonus of spinach and a decent amount of cheese. Absolutely impossible to veganise though unfortunately, there really is no substitute that I'm aware of for the wizardry of beaten egg white.

We're still dieting too, I make this just under 400 calories a portion if you use semi-skimmed milk and low fat cheese, which is pretttty good for something involving the unholy trinity of pasta, butter and cheese.

For the original recipe and plenty more brilliant stuff besides, Veg Every Day is available here.

I also realised while photographing this that there is no way to make this food look good. Oh well.

Serves 4

What you need

1 onion, chopped
100g pasta of any shape - except spaghetti, that would be weird
200g fresh spinach
50g butter
50g plain flour
300ml semi-skimmed or whole milk
3 eggs, separated into yolk and white. Hugh suggests one extra egg white but that strikes me as unnecessary ballache, and problem of spare egg yolk. Up to you.
60g mature cheddar cheese
salt, pepper, nutmeg

What to do

Heat either a small amount of olive oil or some frylight, and fry off the onion until soft and golden. Set to one side.

Put the pasta on to boil, following the pack instructions for cooking time, then drain and again set to one side.

Wilt the spinach - easiest way is by putting it in a colander and pouring boiling water over it. Make sure to really squeeze as much water as you can out of the wilted spinach or you'll have a very soggy bake. Try either squashing it with a potato masher or putting it in a clean tea towel and squeezing (flush it with cold water first if you do that, or you'll burn your hands! Stating the obvious but you never know!). Use kitchen scissors to snip the spinach into pieces. 

Melt the butter in a heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat. When melted, add the flour all at once and whisk furiously with a balloon whisk until any lumps have gone. Cook for one minute, then add the milk little by little, whisking all the time. Keep whisking until the mixture has come to the boil. You should have a thickish bechamel sauce. Turn the heat off, then stir in the onion, egg yolks, cheese, nutmeg, spinach, salt and pepper. Stir the cooked pasta into the sauce.

In a pristinely-clean bowl, use an electric whisk to beat the egg whites until they are at the firm peaks stage. Stir a spoonful into your spinach and pasta mixture just to loosen it, then carefully fold the rest of the whites in, taking care not to knock too much of the air out.

Transfer the lot to a baking dish and bake at 190 degrees for 25-30 minutes, or until risen and golden brown. 

Have fun!

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