Tomato Conchiglie with creamy béchamel and crispy cheese topping

Pasta shells cooked in a delicious tomato sauce, topped with béchamel sauce and cheddar cheese then finished under a hot grill.

 

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Serves two people

Preparation and cooking time 30 minutes

Ingredients and method

200g dried Conchiglie – cooked to al dente as per packet instructions

150g mature cheddar cheese – grated 

75g butter

1 bay leaf

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 heaped dessert spoon plain flour

Approx. 500ml semi skimmed milk

Dried oregano – 1 tsp for tomato sauce, 1/3 tsp for béchamel 

1 tsp dried parsley

4 round tomatoes

4 cloves garlic

1 stick celery

1 red bell pepper

1 tsp brown sugar

2 tsp tomato puree

Black pepper for grinding

Sea salt – to taste

You need a food processor or mini chopper for the tomato sauce

 

To make the tomato sauce

In a large flat non stick frying pan dry fry over a medium heat, 4 tomatoes, 4 cloves garlic, 1 stick celery and 1 red bell pepper, turning occasionally until charred.

Remove from the pan and allow to cool on a chopping board. Then remove the garlic skins and the stalks/seeds from the bell pepper.

Transfer into a mini chopper along with 2 tbsp. olive oil, 1 tsp dried oregano, 1 tsp dried parsley, 1 tsp brown sugar, 2 tsp tomato puree, 1/2 tsp ground black pepper and 1/2 tsp of sea salt. Blitz until a smooth sauce is formed, set aside ready to cook.

To make the béchamel sauce

Melt approx. 75g butter in a sauce pan then add 1 heaped dessert spoon of flour and stir into a paste.

Add a small volume of milk, 1/3 tsp dried oregano, 1 bay leaf, 4-5 turns of a pepper grinder and stir well until a smooth sauce is formed.

Increase heat slightly and add approx. 250ml of milk, stirring well to keep a smooth sauce (Tip: you can use a whisk or silicone spatula to help keep sauce smooth).

Keep stirring as the milk heats and the sauce thickens, once it becomes thick add another 150ml milk and keep stirring as sauce heats again. Bring the sauce to the boil, if the sauce is too thick add a little more milk, stir well and bring back to the boil then fish out the bay leaf and remove the pan from the heat – set aside ready to add to the dish.

With a béchamel you want to keep adding milk whilst heating the sauce until it no longer thickens as it reaches boiling point. I have listed the milk as 500ml, however you may need slightly less or more – cooking a béchamel is one of those things that it is difficult to list an exact quantity for.

 

Cooking the dish

Start by cooking the pasta to al dente as per packet instructions, then drain and set aside ready to add to the pan.

In a deep wide frying pan add the blended tomato sauce and gently heat through until it bubbles and simmer for 4-5 minutes.

Add the pasta to the tomato sauce, stir well and simmer the pasta in the sauce for 2-3 minutes.

Pre heat your grill on a medium to hot setting (3/4 setting).

Give the pasta and tomato sauce another good stir then drizzle the béchamel sauce over the pasta, making sure the béchamel is distributed over the whole dish. Top with the grated mature cheddar.

Place under the hot grill and cook until the cheese melts and starts to colour, this should take 6-8 minutes depending on your grill. Once the cheese melts and colours like a pizza topping the dish is ready, remove from the grill and serve.

We had this dish with a leafy green side salad and some green beans, although it works just fine by itself – I hope you enjoy.

 

 

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Korean beef skewers

A really quick and easy recipe for knock out Korean beef skewers.

 

The beef is knocked flat with a rolling-pin, then thinly sliced. This is added to a marinade made from ginger, garlic, dark soy, vinegar, shaoxing, sesame, honey and gochujan chilli paste.  Left a few hours in a fridge then the beef is skewered, before being cooked quickly over a hot skillet.

In this recipe I used fajita steak, however any steak cut such as sirloin or rump would work just as well. I served this as part of a main meal along with some coconut rice and a cucumber salad (recipe below), however it also works brilliantly as a starter.

You can make a tasty dipping sauce by pouring the marinade into a saucepan and cooking it through the boil.

 

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Serves two as a starter or part of a main meal

Preparation time 20 minutes (plus 3 hrs marinading time)

Cooking time approx 5 minutes

Beef Skewers

2 steaks (fajita, frying, sirloin or rump) – flatten with rolling-pin/mallet, thinly sliced

Bulb of garlic – crush and finely chop

Thumb of ginger – cut into thin match sticks

2 dessert spoons dark soy sauce

1 dessert spoon vinegar

1 desert spoon sesame oil

Dash shaoxing wine

2 teaspoons sesame seeds

1 dessert spoon honey

2 dessert spoons gochujan paste

Vegetable oil  (to lightly bush grill)

You need a skillet grill pan and bamboo skewers for this recipe.

Mix marinade in a bowl then add the thinly sliced steak. Stir then cover in a fridge for at least three hours or overnight. Remove 30 minutes before cooking.

Get cooking!

  1. Start by skewering the beef. Try to get several skewer folds as you do this instead of simply one in one out.
  2. Heat the skillet pan over a high heat until smoking hot, then lightly brush with oil.
  3. Add the skewers across the grill from right to left, spacing out slightly so that all the skewers have room on the grill and are not lifted off by its neighbour – this helps to evenly cook them.
  4. On a hot grill the skewers will cook very quickly and need at most 90 seconds on each side, even less for very thinly sliced beef. Make sure you turn them in the same order for even cooking.
  5. Once cooked on both sides remove skewers in same order placed on grill and transfer to a plate to rest for 2 minutes before serving.
  6. If you wish transfer the remaining marinade into a saucepan and heat through until it bubbles away to kill any bacteria. This makes an excellent dipping sauce along.

Cucumber salad

15cm cucumber – deseed, peel and cut into crescents

2 long red chillies – thinly sliced

3 spring onions – thinly sliced

2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander leaf

2 tbsp chopped peanuts

Mix ingredients in a bowl, keep the coriander and peanuts separate to add as a last-minute garnish.

For the salad dressing:

1 dessert spoon gochujang chilli paste

1 dessert spoon dark soy sauce

1 dessert spoon honey

3 teaspoons rice vinegar

1 teaspoon sesame seeds

1 teaspoon sesame oil

Mix the dressing well in a separate bowl, drizzle over salad before serving.