…I’ll have the Vegetarian please…
News for the meat industry has been pretty depressing over the last few weeks. I know, at a time of crisis everyone jumps on the band wagon. But actually, this particular food scandal is far from an isolated incident. It sits quite comfortably in the bleak and grubby backdrop of mass food production and retailing scandals that we have become accustomed too in recent times (School dinners anyone? Hospital grub?)
What has shocked me most is the scale and complexity of the supply chain which seems quite mind boggling. Less surprising is the ceaseless appetite of mass retailers to drive profits at the expense of, well, everything (quality, producers and the consumer).
So it seems like a good time to write a blog specifically about cooking and eating more vegetarian food. I’m not a vegetarian you understand – nor do I intend to be. But probably half the meals I make each week just happen to be meat free. I don’t think of them as vegetarian – just great food that we love to eat. This recipe is a perfect example. To me this is a great alternative to a roast dinner. It’s just as satisfying and really good fun to make with a toddler (if not a little messy!). If you want any more convincing, buying a little less meat each week makes a big difference to your weekly food bill!
Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni
- 500g Spinach (Kale also works well)
- 1 Clove of garlic, crushed
- 250g Ricotta Cheese
- Zest of one Lemon
- A handful of grated Parmesan
- Cannelloni tubes (as many as you need)
- 6 x medium tomatoes
- A few basil leaves (or thyme, or oregano, or whatever you have)
- 1 x ball of mozzarella
For the béchamel sauce
- 50g Butter
- 50g Plain flour
- 750ml whole milk
Pre heat the oven to 200 C.
For the filling:
1. Heat a little olive oil in a large pan and fry the garlic gently. Add the Spinach and cover with a lid turning occasionally. Once the spinach has wilted set it aside to cool.
2. When the spinach is cool enough to handle, squeeze out any excess liquid. Chop the spinach roughly then transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add the ricotta cheese, lemon zest and parmesan and mix thoroughly.
For the tomato sauce:
2. Put the tomatoes and herbs into a food processor with a splash of Olive Oil and blitz until a smooth sauce.
Stuffing the tubes:
3. Stuff the spinach and ricotta mixture into the cannelloni tubes. I use a tea spoon; keep stuffing in more filling, pushing it down with a finger or spoon until the tube is filled. Continue doing this until you have used all the filling.
For the béchamel sauce:
4. Melt the butter in a sauce pan over a low heat and add the flour. Cook gently for a few minutes, stirring occasionally until bubbling and golden. Pour in the milk and whisk continuously over a low heat until smooth. Bring to the boil and simmer for a few minutes until the sauce has thickened to a double cream consistency.
5. Take a baking dish, the same one you would use for a lasagne. Pour the tomato sauce into the bottom of the dish and place the cannelloni tubes on top. You want to line them up, so they sit snugly together, and preferably cover the bottom of the dish. Pour the béchamel sauce over the cannelloni. Break up the mozzarella and scatter it over the dish and bake in the pre heated oven for 30-40 minutes, until golden on top and bubbling.
Serve immediately with a green salad.