Za’atar Cacio e Pepe

I was really hesitant to play with the classic cacio e pepe recipe, as it’s such a classic – butter, cheese and pasta is an almost perfect combination in my opinion. However, the addition of za’atar is such a game changer, and works SO well. For those unfamiliar, za’atar is a Middle Eastern herb that usually includes a combination of dried oregano, thyme, marjoram, sumac and toasted sesame seeds. It’s rich and flavoursome but isn’t overpowering, and it goes incredibly well with cheese! This recipe is based on an Ottolenghi recipe that I’ve experimented with and adapted to make it easier to prepare (I personally found the original recipe had a few pitfalls and did not have enough cheese for my liking!)

Ingredients:
Serves 2

  • 200g spaghetti
  • 25g unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5g za’atar
  • 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 15g pecorino cheese
  • 85g parmesan cheese
  • Salt
  • Sumac, to garnish (optional)

Method:

  1. Bring 1L of water to boil in a saucepan on a medium-high heat and add 1 teaspoon salt. Add the spaghetti and cook for 9 minutes (you want it to be al dente).
  2. Drain your pasta, but reserve all the pasta water as you’ll need this for your sauce.
  3. In a large saucepan (large enough to eventually hold all your spaghetti), add the butter and olive oil on a high heat for 1 minute, then add your za’atar and cook for another minute. It’s really important you add olive oil when cooking your butter, otherwise it will burn! (A huge problem I found with the original recipe).
  4. Add 3 ladlefuls of your reserved cooking water to the saucepan and boil on a high heat for 5 minutes, it should reduce a little.
  5. Turn the heat to low. Add the spaghetti to the sauce and stir so it is covered in your sauce. Add the parmesan and continue to stir so it melts through, then add your pecorino until melted and season with salt and the cracked black pepper. If your sauce is looking a little thick you can add more pasta water. Garnish with sumac.

Veggie Shepherd’s Pie

It’s British Pie Week! So in celebration of this fantastic event, I have a new pie recipe for you. This veggie shepherd’s pie is full of lentils, veg and warm spices that are slow cooked and topped with a creamy sweet potato mash. It’s a little different to your average shepherd’s pie, but is delicious all the same. The longer you slow cook the lentil/veg mixture, the more flavoursome it will be! Don’t be alarmed by the unusual mix of seasonings in the recipe, I promise the marmite and soy sauce combination will pay off and you’ll be left with a lovely rich and delicious pie! Lentils soak up a lot of flavour, so you’ll need a lot of seasoning.

Ingredients:
Serves 6

For the sweet potato mash:

  • 1kg sweet potatoes (approximately 5), peeled and cubed
  • 120ml milk
  • 25g butter
  • 150g cheddar cheese, grated
  • handful of parsley, roughly chopped
  • salt and pepper

For the filling:

  • 1 red onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 red pepper, roughly chopped
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 200g mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 250g split red lentils
  • 400g chopped tomatoes
  • 450ml vegetable stock
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp marmite
  • 2 tbsp oregano
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Method:

  1. In a large, lidded saucepan, heat your olive oil on a medium-high heat for 1 minute and then add your onion and pan fry for 2-3 minutes until soft. Add your mushrooms, carrots and red pepper and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic and immediately reduce the heat to low.
  2. Add all the remaining ingredients for your filling then cover the saucepan. Leave to cook on a low heat for at least 30 minutes (I recommend leaving it as long as possible for maximum flavour and stirring occasionally).
  3. Meanwhile, in another saucepan, place your sweet potatoes in boiling water and boil for 20 minutes, until soft. Drain, and prepare your mash. Mash your potatoes in the saucepan and add the milk, butter and salt and pepper, you should be left with a smooth consistency.
  4. Place your lentil mixture in a pie dish. Spoon your mashed potatoes on top and pat down with the back of a spoon. Scatter your cheese and parsley on top.
  5. Bake in the oven on 180C for 30 minutes until the potato topping is crispy and the cheese golden.