Monday, 23 May 2016


My husband used to smoke. As a direct result his taste buds were not working properly anymore and he disliked vegetarian food. In fact, he disliked most foods. He wasn't fussy, don't get me wrong. He would eat everything which I would put in front of him but some dishes he simply wouldn't like at all. 19 months ago he gave up smoking for good and I am so proud of him. He was worried he would put on weight, he would binge eat, he would be cranky, grumpy etc etc etc. The truth is he was. He was cranky, grumpy etc etc etc but only for a couple of months. I made sure to prepare healthy snacks for him to take to work and stopped buying ready meals. We were not eating these a lot anyway, maybe once or twice a week. But his desire to eat better and feel better forced him to sign up with the local gym where he is now going for a swim 3 times a week. He quit having 7 cups of tea a day with 2 teaspoons of sugar each! (no, this is no joke!) and he started having packed lunch at work 3 times a week. I am sure you are wondering where I am going with this story. Well, vegetarian dishes are now my husband's favourites. Over the last year he has become a great fan of veggie lasagne, veggie quiches, simple dinners of salads with new potatoes, even vegetarian pizzas! And cannelloni is his absolute favourite. So every time I make it, which is on average once every couple of weeks, I make enough to serve 4. We have half of it for dinner and the rest goes into two Tupperware boxes in the freezer ready for him to enjoy in the middle of day when at work.


For the filling:
1 pack spinach (kale, cime di rapa....)
1 small onion
1 tub ricotta/quark
salt and pepper
a handful of grated cheese

White sauce:
25gr butter
25gr plain flour
about 300ml hot milk (plus more if needed)
a handful of grated cheese

12 cannelloni tubes
500gr passata

extra grated cheese to sprinkle on top


To make the filling:

Finely dice the onion and let it fry gently until soft and translucent. In the meantime wash and cut the spinach roughly, squeezing as much water as you can out of it. Add to the onion and stir for 2-3 minutes until it is just wilted. Turn off the heat and add the ricotta cheese, spices and the grated cheese. Stir until all is blended well, the grated cheese will melt from the heat. Leave to cool down for a bit.

White sauce:

Whilst the filling is cooling, melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the flour and some salt and stir until a roe is made. Add the hot milk (I always microwave mine for 2 minutes) to the pan and whisk vigorously for about a minute - you should end up with a nice smooth sauce. Let it thicken slightly, take off the heat and add the grated cheese to it. This dish is awesome as you can hide any mistakes you make! I made probably the worst white sauce I have ever made  - lumpy, lumpy, lumpy. I had no more milk otherwise I may have made a new one so I was forced to use it. The dish turned out just as good and you could never tell my sauce had any lumps in it!

Preheat your oven to 180C. You need a suitable dish which can hold the 12 tubes comfortably.
Pour half of the passata at the bottom of the dish. I add herbs to mine, whatever is in season or whatever I fancy that day. To fill the cannelloni - it is messy and there is no way round it. I used a piping bag - I cut quite a bit opening at the bottom. You will need to hold your tubes flat. I know it sounds tricky but it did work for me after the second one. Once all 12 tubes are filled arrange them into your dish. Pour over the rest of the tomato sauce. The cheese sauce is next - slowly pour it over, trying to cover as much of the tomato sauce as possible. Sprinkle with the last of the grated cheese and pop into the preheated oven for about half an hour. Serve warm and enjoy!

Desi in the Kitchen

Thursday, 12 May 2016


It has been ages since I have even logged on to the web. 77 days to be exact. Ouch! That hurt me. A lot. It really has been a long time. Following a trip abroad, child illness and Easter holidays I am finally able to tell you all about my bakes. I haven't stopped baking, not in the slightest. I have however, found it pretty much impossible to sit down, unwind and write about it. To celebrate me working on the blog again I thought I will tell you a little bit more about this beautiful cake.
A couple of weeks ago my daughter turned 5. 5!!!!  I can't believe my beautiful  baby girl is growing up. She is turning into a lovely young lady and as such she has very specific demands when it came to her party. She started talking about her birthday party many months ago. She wanted some of her friends to come home and have a tea party. Her birthday was on a Wednesday, so 5 girls from her class came home after school. Miss Annabel wanted them to decorate their own cupcakes. She wanted them to do colouring, play in the garden, have pizza for tea and most importantly - she wanted a cake, covered in roses in shades of pink. You see, Annabel does not know the term ombre yet, but she was very particular about wanting various pinks on the cake. After all of these demands were agreed upon I had to actually make the cupcakes and the cake. To make an ombre cake you need height. I am fortunate to have friends who bake so I was able to borrow a 7'' and a 6'' tins. I made a chocolate cake with chocolate butter cream. I must say THANK YOU to my friend Sarah from Sarah Bakes Cakes (please check her out, she is amazing!) for all her tips and advice. She showed me how to make an ombre cake - I wouldn't have been able to do it without her help. The buttercream for the roses were in various shades of .... purple! Of course, miss Annabel changed her mind about the colour the night before her big day. I used PME violet food gel colour but found it very difficult to work with. I had to use vast quantities of it to achieve the colours I wanted and even then they were not right. I much prefer working with Wilton food gel colours or Sugarflair which is unfortunately very expensive.
I was pleased with the texture and moistness of the chocolate cake, this is probably the best recipe I have ever tried. But don't take my word for it, give it a go and let me know what you think.
I made loads of buttercream, about 800gr in total. It sounds like a lot and it is. But you need every last drop of it. Because the cake was a chocolate one I had to make sure it was crumb coated in white buttercream. Apart from hiding the colour of the cake it helps the buttercream roses to stick to the sides. Here is the result:

It was gorgeous. I was impressed with myself and very pleased. It took me a while to do it but the look on my daughter's face was priceless. She was so happy! I couldn't bring myself to cut it so it was up to my husband to 'destroy' my work of art.
According to hubby it was 'the most delicious and good looking cake' I have ever made. It was a very rich cake and lasted us a few days. I never thought I would be able to pull it off but pushing through anxiety and fear of it not working out I created something amazing and made Annabel's birthday a magical one.
Decorate your own cupcakes went down a treat - the girls were hungry after school and a lemon cupcake with buttercream, loads of marshmallows, sugar animals and some fruit seemed to be exactly what they needed.
Various pizzas, cucumber and carrot sticks, plum baby tomatoes and vast quantities of grapes made a great dinner. The day was beautiful and perfect for jumping on the trampoline, having a go on the swings and running around the garden. All in all, it was a great day, a fab one even. I thoroughly enjoyed it and so did Annabel.
As part of the gifts she gave her friends for helping her have a magical day were my homemade cookies. I attempted to decorate them and here is the result:

I had never decorate cookies before and it clearly shows. But Annabel and the girls enjoyed my first try of making and working with royal icing.