Dinner with a neighbour



My life in London has seen many (I do mean many) different addresses. Back when I was living in a flat at the top of the building I was very lucky to share it with very good neighbours. One such neighbour is Josy, a lovely Dutch lady whom I still refer to as “my Dutch neighbour” even though we have long ceased sharing the same address.

Once I had to make a dish for a competition and I asked her if she would mind being my guinea pig. She did not one bit.


Goat’s cheese filled gnocchi and roasted cherry tomatoes and mushroom ragoût (©Gabriela R.)


For the roasted cherry tomatoes and mushroom ragoût


500g cherry tomatoes

5 garlic cloves

300g mushrooms (use the ones you like best, I used button mushrooms)

50g dry oregano

Olive oil

1 tbsp caster sugar

Salt and pepper, to taste

200g smoked bacon

250g bocconcini

Fresh basil leaves


Place the cherry tomatoes on a baking tray, sprinkle them with chopped garlic, sugar and oregano. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake in a very hot oven until they burst.


Add some olive oil to a frying pan, add the chopped bacon and fry until crispy. Add the chopped mushrooms. (I am fastidiously fussy so “I” fry them in a separate pan because they have a lot of water, I drain them a bit and then I add them to the pan with the bacon). Add 1 whole smashed garlic clove. Add the cherry tomatoes which you’ve cooked in the oven. Leave to cook at low heat.

Add the fresh basil leaves (just tear them with your hands) and the bocconcini.


For the gnocchi


2 medium potatoes

2 egg yolks

Plain flour, as needed (equal volume to that obtained by mashing the potatoes)

Pinch of salt

50g butter

Goat’s cheese, to taste (use any cheese you like)

Grated Parmesan cheese, to sprinkle on top


Boil the potatoes with the skin until they are tender (or bake them in the oven or microwave them). Peel them while still hot, warm at best but never cold as it will make your life much harder (the skin is almost impossible to peel once the potatoes are cold). Mash them and place them on the worktop (or use a plastic board). Next to the pile of mashed potatoes make a pile of flour of equal volume. Make a well in the centre of the mash and add the egg yolks, butter and pinch of salt. Mix quickly with your hands while you try to integrate all these ingredients.

Add the flour and mix quickly. Leave to one side until needed.


Cut the cheese in small cubes.


To make the gnocchi:


Take a small portion of dough (almond-sized, not bigger than that) and shape it in your hands like a small, thin round. Add a cube of cheese and roll the gnocco (yep! That’s the name) in your hands to shape it like a ball, enclosing the cheese (it’s actually harder to write this than to make it). Place on a floured tray and boil them in abundant salted boiling water until they float to the surface (they will initially sink). Once they float, they’re ready. Fish them out, drain them and serve with the sauce.

 Note: If you omit the bacon it can be a wonderful vegetarian dish.


No Reservations

And no photos this time. At least not for the moment. And today’s dish is not particularly photogenic anyway.

But I thought I’d blog about the dish that has been a staple in the past few months more times that I’d care to count.

I’ve told you about my teeny-tiny kitchen before. My fridge is teeny-tiny too which means I cannot store a lot of ingredients there, not as many as I’d like to, that’s for sure. So whenever I come across a recipe with less than 5 ingredients, I jump with joy.

Browsing Nigella’s new book I discovered the spaghetti with marmite which she in turn discovered via Anna del Conte and enjoyed them so much that she was somewhat crossed about not having discovered the recipe before. That intrigued me. But the fact that it included marmite as its main ingredient wasn’t very encouraging. After all, in Argentina we only use it for bread. Not to mention the “love it or hate it” ad here in the UK not so long ago.

To say I approached this recipe with apprehension would be the understatement of the year. Still, I trust Nigella for all of the recipes I’ve tried have turned out really tasty. I even forgive her the unnecessary lengthy process for her Clementine cake. So, I closed my eyes, grabbed the smallest marmite jar off the supermarket shelf and headed for the counter, making a mental note of remembering each and every one of her family members if I didn’t like it.

I shouldn’t have worried though. It was so tasty that I promptly adopted it and have been making it over and over again, mostly when I feel like a quick supper and have almost nothing else in the fridge but half a packet of butter.

It is almost embarrassing to say I’ve simplified such a short and easy recipe even more, but I have. Which means I have to do less washing up!

Spaghetti with marmite – adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Kitchen: Recipes from the Heart of the Home


  • 375g/13oz dried spaghetti
  • 50g/2oz unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp Marmite, to taste
  • freshly grated Parmesan, to serve

Preparation method:

  1. Cook the spaghetti in plenty of boiling, salted water, according to the packet instructions.
  2. When the pasta is almost cooked, grab the bowl where you are going to serve the pasta (I am normally quite hungry so that tends to be a deep bowl), and add a couple of tablespoons of the pasta cooking water to it.
  3. Add the Marmite and the butter and mix thoroughly to dissolve.
  4. Reserve half a cup of the pasta water; then drain the pasta and pour it in the bowl to mix with the sauce, adding a little of the reserved pasta water to amalgamate if required.
  5. Serve with plenty of grated Parmesan.

Penne all’arrabbiata

Nothing could be simpler, tastier and cheaper than this recipe. I’m chuffed to have had this for lunch today.

I tweaked with the recipe a bit, I added tomato extract, oregano and even soy sauce and some vegetable stock powder to make it more interesting. I guess that, as long as you have the chilli flakes, anything goes, really.

Penne all’arrabbiata – © Gabriela R.

Serves 2

200g dried penne
1 can of chopped tomatoes
3 tbsp olive oil
half an onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 tsp chilli flakes
salt and black pepper
pinch of sugar (optional)
grated Parmesan, to serve


1. In a saucepan, gently cook the onion, garlic and chilli flakes in the olive oil until the onion has softened. Add the chopped tomatoes and sugar.
Season with salt and pepper, bring to the boil, then lower the heat, cover and simmer for 25-30 minutes until thickened.
2. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in plenty of salted water until cooked ‘al dente’, and then drain the pasta.
3. Add the pasta to the sauce and mix in well. Serve with grated Parmesan.

Lemon pasta

lemon pasta

No doubt Jamie got his inspiration for this dish at The River Café. It is ridiculously easy to make, and so satisfying. I have experimented in the past using lemon with pasta and it adds a whole new dimension to a dish.

Lemon Pasta by Jamie Oliver from a Sainsbury’s recipe card

serves: 6

preparation time: 15 minutes

cooking time: 10 minutes

What you need:

450g dried linguine pasta

juice and zest of 3 lemons

6 tablespoons olive oil

125g Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 handfuls fresh basil leaves, finely chopped

100g bag rocket

What to do:

Cook the linguine in a generous amount of boiling, salted water for about 10 minutes, then drain thoroughly and return to the saucepan. Meanwhile, beat the lemon juice and zest with the olive oil, then stir in the Parmesan until thick and creamy. Season and add more lemon juice if needed. Add the lemon sauce to the linguine and shake the pan to coat each strand of pasta with the sauce. (The Parmesan melts when mixed with the pasta.) Finish by stirring in the chopped basil and the rocket.

Jamie’s tip:

‘to get the most juice out of a lemon, give it a good roll on a flat surface with the palm of your hand before squeezing’

Eating and Having a Good Time



I know I have been blogging a lot about books lately. This is partly because the charger for my digital camera has decided to go on holiday for a while (since my last move, actually). No charger means my digital toy is essentially dead so, no photos for a while.

Truth is, I have been wanting to blog about Narda’s book for a while. As I said before I am quite a late-comer for everything. I bought this book last year when I went on holidays to Argentina. It had been on the shelves since the year before.

People rightly say “the proof is in the pudding”. Well, I have now made several recipes from Narda’s book and they have proved a huge hit. There was the fish with capers I have blogged about before and recently I made the beetroot gnocci.

I fiddled with the recipe a bit. I didn’t have any goat’s cheese (nor did I feel like filling each one of them just for me) so I made unpretentious, normal gnocci this time. I will try them with goat’s cheese, though. I also have several ideas for other coloured gnocci (tomato, carrot, spinach…) which I will eventually try and blog about. I couldn’t find any raw beetroot either. Narda suggests baking them in salt so that they release most of their water. Since mine were already cooked (boiled, to be precise), I had to add A LOT of flour. And this is why they didn’t turn out dramatically purple but sort of pinkish instead. Ah, well.

The beauty of gnocci is that, although they are time-consuming, you can make the lot and then freeze them. They will sit quite happily in the freezer for a couple of months and you can boil them from frozen.


How to make:

Beetroot gnocci with goat’s cheese filling – adapted from Comer y Pasarla Bien by Narda Lepes


1.5 kg. beetroot (raw)
2 kg. sea salt
horseradish root, 1
2 kg. potatoes
plain flour, as needed
goat’s cheese


4 eggs

1 cup cream or sour cream

chopped parsley

Bake the beetroots in the oven at 180º C over a thick layer of sea salt for around 90 minutes. Bake the potatoes separately. Peel both and mash them also separately. Knead adding flour and 4 eggs until the dough becomes pliable and not sticky. The quantity of flour will depend of how much flour the dough will take, once the dough cannot take any more flour, stop adding to it. Shape the gnocci and fill each one with a tiny piece of goat’s cheese. Heat the pan with the thyme, salt and pepper. Separately whisk the cream and the horseradish.
Boil the gnocci in boiling water with sea salt.
Drain and season with the hot butter (ghee). Serve with a dollop of cream on top and decorate with chopped parsley or sautéed sage leaves.


 When Jamie Oliver’s first TV series, The Naked Chef, started on the BBC a few years ago, he could be seen in the opening credits laughing it off: “It’s not me, it’s the food!”

And indeed, that was a very clever concept. For once you’ve learned to do this you can have two (or indeed three) meals for the price of one!

That was my train of thought the other day as I was preparing my lunch based on one of Nigella’s recipes: Linguini with pancetta and garlic.




It sort of occurred to me that this recipe was a cross between Spaghetti aglio e olio and Spaghetti Carbonara.

You see, Jamie’s idea is to strip the food to the bare essentials and then dress it up from there as it were.

This is not unique to the culinary world, the literary world has been doing it for centuries (remember the seven basic plots?).

When apply it to cooking it makes your world so much better.

For what do you do when you make spaghetti carbonara? You fry the bacon and the garlic together and then add the egg and cream sauce to it.

Omit the sauce and you have Linguini with pancetta and garlic.

Strip it down a bit more and… presto! You have Spaghetti aglio e olio.



 Classic Penne Carbonara – adapted from a recipe by Jamie Oliver in  Happy Days with the Naked Chef

Serves 4


455g penne pasta

10 rashers pancetta or bacon, chopped

olive oil

5 organic egg yolks

100 ml double cream

125g freshly ground Parmesan cheese

salt and freshly ground black pepper


Cook the pasta in salted, boiling water.

While it’s cooking, fry the bacon in the oil until it’s crispy. Set to one side.

Whisk the cream with the yolks and half the cheese.

As soon as the pasta is cooked, toss in the bacon and the egg and cream mixture. If you do it straight away, the heat of the pasta will cook the raw egg. The texture should be creamy and silky.

Top it with the rest of the Parmesan cheese and more if you feel like it.

Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Serve with a green salad and a nice bottle of red wine.


NoteI also like to roast the bacon in the oven with a small clove of garlic as in the next recipe. Bear in mind that if you do, the garlic should be very subtle in the recipe as it shouldn’t overwhelm and take over the taste of the cream and eggs. 


 Linguini with pancetta and garlic (adapted from a recipe from Nigella Bites) by Nigella Lawson


Serves 1


2 rashers of pancetta or good-quality bacon

100g dried linguini or thereabouts

1 crushed garlic clove (leave the skin on, you can always remove it later)

a slug of garlic oil

fresh chopped parsley to garnish (optional) or freshly grated Parmesan


Cook the pasta in some boiling salted water. 

Drizzle a pan with the garlic oil and toss the chopped bacon in it. Place in the oven. Take it out when it’s crunchy and crispy. Put it in the bowl where you are going to eat the pasta together with the garlic oil.

As soon as the pasta is cooked, toss it with the bacon.

Serve with lots of chopped fresh parsley or grated Parmesan cheese and a green salad.


Note: If you, like me, have run out of garlic oil, simply drizzle the pan with olive or regular oil and roast a clove of garlic per person in the oven 230°C/450°F/gas 8 for about 30 minutes until soft. Separate the cloves and squeeze out the sweet insides. Fry or roast the bacon or pancetta after you’ve done this, separately, as the bacon will cook much quicker.

That will give the oil the flavour it needs and, by roasting it, the garlic will become much milder and sweeter. When you mix it with the pasta, you can take it out as it will have served its purpose but I left it in. I just love it!!


If you add grated Cheddar instead of the Parmesan, the cheese will melt into the pasta making it almost like a cheat’s version of Carbonara!



Spaghetti aglio e olio adapted from a recipe by Linda McCartney in Linda’s Kitchen

Serves 2  

2-3 large cloves of garlic (or more according to taste), crushed

3 tbsp. olive oil

freshly ground black pepper

6oz (175g) spaghetti

freshly grated Parmesan, to taste (optional)

chopped fresh herbs such as parsley, basil and oregano, to taste


Stir the crushed garlic into the olive oil and add masses of freshly ground black pepper.

Cook the spaghetti until ‘al dente’ and drain well. Mix the garlicky oil into the hot spaghetti, add Parmesan and herbs, and toss thoroughly. Serve immediately.


 Note: Of course you can make this even simpler just by using the garlic oil explained below instead of the crushed garlic and the oil.


By the way, I also noticed that Jamie has his version, called Pasta Bianca (it comes from Jamie’s Dinners) in case you want to know but basically it is a butter sauce with garlic and Parmesan cheese. My fellow blogger, Anne, made it a while ago. Here’s her version. And here’s mine…



I made it instead with penne instead of tagliatelle because that’s what I had in my pantry (leftover from the carbonara). 


Pasta Bianca adapted from a recipe by Jamie Oliver in Jamie’s Dinners

Serves 1
3-5 balls of tagliatelle (depending on how hungry you are)
20 g butter
1-2 cloves of garlic
1 large handful shredded Parmesan


Boil water for the pasta with salt and a splash of oil. Grate your Parmesan. Grate your garlic (I chopped it finely)

Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the garlic. Fry gently for a couple of minutes. When the pasta is done, drain it over a bowl – you need some pasta water for the sauce to come together. When just doing this for one person – add the pasta directly into the saucepan with the garlic butter, also add the Parmesan and a few tablespoons of pasta water. Toss the pasta and move it around until everything blends into a creamy sauce. You might need some more pasta water. Pour into a bowl, add some white peper and some more Parmesan. Tuck in!


How much more basic can you get than that? Even if you have absolutely nothing in your fridge but do have a busy schedule with harldly any time to shop (I’ve been there), you can always rustle up this wonderful dish. 


And last but not least, here comes the garlic oil (from the truly wonderful Nigella Express, I cannot recommend it enough but more of that in later posts).



 For the garlic oil:  


Chop up 8 garlic cloves and add to ½ litre of regular olive oil, then let it all steep for 48 hours before straining into a bottle (see the pretty little ones I bought from IKEA?).


On a final note, I know that I am possibly stating the obvious but let’s suppose for a moment that not everybody who reads food blogs is a foodie-obsessed freak like me:

Pasta Carbonara belongs to the elite dishes that, like the souffle, absolutely CANNOT wait. Normally it doesn’t really matter because you can easily have all the ingredients (minus the pasta) done a bit in advance. But if, for one of those things should happen that your carbonara gets a bit  colder (like it happens when you’re trying to get nice photos for your blog!), resign yourself to your fate and eat it as it is. But never, ever, for the love of God, re-heat it in the microwave as I was tempted, for a micro-nano-second, to do. Unless you want to eat scrambled eggs, that is…








Let it snow…




Just when we thought we were going to have another snow-less year, here it came, right together with spring.




I remember the year I moved to London, I came in February and the day before my birthday (17th April for the record) surprised me with a snowfall and the biggest snowflakes I’d ever seen.



So here are a few photos of the event I want to share with you.




When the weather is this cold I cannot think of a nicer and more welcoming food than a bowl of steaming risotto.



 I love risotto in all its incarnations but this one is a particular favourite.

I got the gist from Nigella but I played around with the cheeses, that’s the beauty of it.

Do me a favour and try it.



Three-cheese risotto adapted from Nigella Express by Nigella Lawson

 1 x 15ml tablespoon butter
 1 x 15ml tablespoon oil
2 baby leeks (or fat spring onions), finely sliced
300g risotto rice
125ml white wine
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 litre hot vegetable stock
125g Cheddar, chopped (I used Cheddar plus two other Swedish cheeses I had left over in the fridge so I guess you can use pretty much any cheese you fancy). The quantity is also optional
2 x 15ml tablespoons chopped fresh chives (also optional, I didn’t have any as you can see)


1.      Melt the butter and oil in a medium-sized pan and cook the sliced baby leeks until they have softened.

2.      Add the risotto rice and keep stirring for a minute or so, then turn up the head and add the wine and mustard, stirring until the wine is absorbed.

3.      Start ladling hot stock, letting each ladleful become absorbed as you stir, before adding the next one.

4.      Stir and ladle until the rice is al dente, about 18 minutes, then add the cheese, stirring into the rice until it melts.

5.      Take the pan straight off the heat, still stirring as you do so, and spoon the risotto into warmed dishes, sprinkling with some of the chopped chives.


Serves 2 as a main course; 4 as a starter