Cheesy Pasta with Bread Crumb, Nut & Parsley Topping

Cheesy Pasta with Bread Crumb, Nut & Parsley Topping
Recipe by Dragon, adapted from Jaime Oliver

This grown up version of cheesy pasta is pure comfort on a plate. It is also a great way to use up any leftover firm cheeses you may have hanging around your fridge. Mix it up and change the flavour combination to make this your own. My favourite part is the gorgeous crunchy topping.  Enjoy!

Serves: 2 or 1 hungry Dragon

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil plus more to drizzle
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tablespoons chopped walnuts
3 tablespoons pine nuts
3 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup grated aged cheddar cheese
1/4 cup Parmesan, grated
1/4 lb spaghetti or linguini
Salt to taste

1. To a  small frying pan over a medium heat, add olive oil and heat for 1 minute. Add the bread crumbs, garlic and nuts. Fry for 5 minutes, or until the nuts are toasted and the bread crumbs are crispy. Remove from the heat and allow it to cool. Toss in the parsley and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Reduce the heat to low and place a large heatproof bowl on top, essentially make this a double boiler. Add the mascarpone to the bowl along with the other cheeses. Stir until melted. Carefully remove the bowl from the heat and set aside, then turn the heat up to high.

3. Once the water is boiling, add the pasta and cook until it is al dente. Reserve a cupful of cooking water. Drain the pasta and add it to the to the bowl of melted cheese and toss to coat. Add a splash of the reserved cooking water to loosen, if needed.

4 Transfer pasta to a serving dish, drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle the top with the reserved bread crumb/nut mixture. Serve immediately.

Apple and Olive Oil Cake with Maple Icing

Apple and Olive Oil Cake with Maple Icing
Recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi
Photo Credit: Christina Kakaletris

The olive oil gives this cake extra depth and intensity. This cake just gets better with time, so always make it at least a day before you're going to serve it. The maple icing is one of the best things I've ever eaten but this cake is amazing on its own. But really, don't deny yourself the maple icing. It is quite the treat. Enjoy!

Serves 8-10

heaping 1/2 cup / 80 g raisins
4 tbsp water
2 1/4 cups / 280 g all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup / 120 ml olive oil
3/4 cup / 160 g superfine sugar
1/2 vanilla bean
2 free-range eggs, lightly beaten
3 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 3/8-inch / 1-cm dice
grated zest of 1 lemon
2 free-range egg whites
confectioners' sugar for dusting (optional)

Maple Icing:
7 tbsp / 100 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
scant 1/2 cup / 100 g light muscovado sugar
scant 6 tbsp / 85 ml maple syrup
8 oz / 220 g cream cheese, at room temperature

1. Grease an 8-inch / 20-cm springform cake pan and line the bottom and sides with parchment paper. Place the raisins and water in a medium saucepan and simmer over low heat until all of the water has been absorbed. Leave to cool.

2. Preheat the oven to 325°F / 170°C. Sift together the flour, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, and baking soda and set aside.

3. Put the oil and superfine sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or use a whisk if you don't have a mixer). Slit the vanilla bean lengthwise in half and, using a sharp knife, scrape the seeds out into the bowl. Beat the oil, sugar, and vanilla together, then gradually add the eggs. The mix should be smooth and thick at this stage. Mix in the diced apples, raisins, and lemon zest, then lightly fold in the sifted dry ingredients.

4. Whisk the egg whites in a clean bowl, either by hand or with a mixer, until they have a soft meringue consistency. Fold them into the batter in 2 additions, trying to maintain as much air as possible.

5. Pour the batter into the lined pan, level it with an icing spatula, and place in the oven. Bake for 50 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the plan.

6. Once the cake is completely cold, you can assemble it. Remove from the pan and use a large serrated knife to cut it in half horizontally. You should end up with 2 similar disks. If the cake is very domed, you might need to shave a bit off the top half to level it.

7. To make the icing, beat together the butter, muscovado sugar, and maple syrup until light and airy. You can do this by hand, or preferably, in a mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the cream cheese and beat until the icing is totally smooth.

8. Using the icing spatula, spread a layer of icing 3/8 inch / 1 cm thick over the bottom half of the cake. Carefully place the top half on it. Spoon the rest of the icing on top and use the icing spatula to create a wavelike or any other pattern. Dust it with confectioners' sugar, if you like.

Roast Chicken with Sumac, Za'atar, and Lemon

Roast Chicken with Sumac, Za'atar, and Lemon
Recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi
Photo Credit: Christina Kakaletris

This has become one of my favourite chicken dishes of all time. The beautiful warm spices are balanced by the brightness of lemon and the earthiness of red onions and pine nuts. Perfection. Enjoy!

Serves: 4-6

1 large organic or free-range chicken, divided into quarters: breast and wing, leg and thigh
2 red onions, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
4 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp sumac
1 lemon, thinly sliced
scant 1 cup / 200 ml chicken stock or water
1 1/2 tsp salt, plus extra
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp za'atar
4 tsp / 20 g unsalted butter
6 tbsp / 50 g pine nuts
4 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley


1. In a large bowl, mix the chicken with the onions, garlic, olive oil, spices, lemon, stock, salt, and pepper. Leave in the fridge to marinate for a few hours or overnight.

2. Preheat the oven to 400°F / 200°C. Transfer the chicken and its marinade to a baking sheet large enough to accommodate all the chicken pieces lying flat and spaced well apart. They should be skin side up. Sprinkle the za'atar over the chicken and onions and put the pan in the oven. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is colored and just cooked through.

3. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small frying pan, add the pine nuts and a pinch of salt, and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until they turn golden. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to absorb the fat.

4. Transfer the hot chicken and onions to a serving plate and finish with the chopped parsley, pine nuts, and a drizzle of olive oil. You can sprinkle on more za'atar and sumac, if you like.

Roasted Chicken with Harissa & Chickpeas

Roasted Chicken with Harissa & Chickpeas
Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit

This one pot dish is perfect for a cold winter night. The rich and spicy flavours will warm your body and soul. Taste the Harissa first, if it seems very spicy, use a bit less. You can always stir more into the chickpeas when the dish is finished. Enjoy!

Serves: 4

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
8 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs (about 3 lb.)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 15-oz. cans chickpeas, rinsed
1/4 cup harissa paste
3/4 cup chicken broth
3 strips of lemon zest
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Lemon wedges, for serving


1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Heat oil and butter in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Working in 2 batches, cook the chicken until browned, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a plate.

2. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the drippings from pan. Add the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring often, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, until it begins to darken, about 1 minute. Add chickpeas, harissa and broth. Bring to a simmer.

3. Nestle chicken, skin side up, and lemon peels in chickpeas. Transfer skillet to oven. Roast until chicken is cooked through, 20–25 minutes. Top with parsley and serve with lemon wedges for squeezing over.

Butternut Squash Carbonara with Bacon

Butternut Squash Carbonara with Bacon
Recipe by Dragon, Adapted from Bon Appetit

This is a gorgeous, creamy, unexpected and comforting pasta dish. I love the flavour combination of butternut squash, bacon, maple syrup and cheese, but the secret ingredient is that little bit of nutmeg. Elegant enough to impress your guests but easy enough for a weeknight meal. You can even make the sauce ahead of time for an even easier meal. Enjoy!

Servings: 4

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 strips of peppercorn bacon or regular bacon, chopped
1 2 lb. butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into ½” pieces (about 3 cups)
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
12 oz. fettucine or linguine
1/2 cup finely grated Pecorino, plus shaved for serving
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped plus more for garnish


1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add bacon, reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 6-8 minutes. Transfer bacon to a paper towel lined bowl and set aside.

2. Add butternut squash, onion, and garlic to skillet and season with salt and pepper. Cook the vegetables, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, 8–10 minutes. Add broth and bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until squash is soft and liquid is reduced by half, 15–20 minutes. Let it cool slightly, then purée in a blender until smooth. Stir in the maple syrup and nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Return the sauce to the skillet and keep warm.

3. Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.

4. Combine the pasta, butternut squash purée, and 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking liquid in the skillet and cook over medium heat, tossing and adding more pasta cooking liquid as needed, until sauce coats pasta, about 2 minutes. Stir in the grated Pecorino and parsley. Adjust season with salt and pepper if needed.

5. Serve pasta topped with reserved bacon, shaved Pecorino and chopped parsley.

White Bean, Herb and Garlic Dip

White Bean, Herb and Garlic Dip
Recipe by Dragon

This white bean, herb and garlic dip is healthy, tasty and perfect for either a party or afternoon snack. Make lots! Enjoy.

Serves: 4

1 540 mL can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
12 basil leaves, chopped
10 mint leaves, chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled
zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil plus more for garnish

1. Combine all the ingredients except for the olive oil in a food processor and pulse until the mixture is combined and smooth but still chunky.

2. Slowly add the olive and process until the mixture is smooth.

3. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Transfer the dip to a bowl and drizzle olive oil on top. Serve with crackers or crostini.

Dark Chocolate and Toffee Brownies

Dark Chocolate and Toffee Brownies
Recipe by Dragon

These dark, moist and delicious brownies will become a new favourite in your home. Enjoy!

Makes: 24 brownies

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
6 oz 50% dark chocolate, chopped fine
3/4 cup unsalted butter
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup toffee bits, divided
3/4 cup dark chocolate chips, divided


1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 13x9-inch baking pan and line it with parchment paper.

2. In a bowl, whisk the flour, salt, baking powder and cinnamon, together until combined. Set aside.

3. Melt the chocolate and butter in a large heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until smooth.  When the chocolate mixture is completely smooth, remove the bowl from the saucepan and gradually whisk in the sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking after each addition until well combined. Whisk in the vanilla.

4. Gently fold in the flour mixture, until the batter is smooth. Fold in 1/4 cup toffee bits and 1/2 cup chocolate chips.

5. Transfer the batter to the prepared baking pan; spread the batter into the corners of the pan and smooth the surface. Sprinkle remaining toffee bits and chocolate chips evenly over the surface. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Cool on a wire rack to room temperature, then remove the brownies from the pan. Cut into squares and serve.

Green Beans with Walnuts and Orange

Green Beans with Walnuts and Orange
Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi
Photo Credit: Christina Kakaletris

The key to these beautiful beans is not to over cook them. If you over cook them they will turn a brownish colour and be limp and lifeless. Who wants limp, lifeless beans? Orange and walnut are great additions to this lovely side dish. Enjoy!

Serves: 6

1 1/2 lb green beans, trimmed
1/2 cup walnuts
1 orange
2 tablespoons chopped chives
1 clove garlic, crushed
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons walnut oil
Salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Bring plenty of unsalted water to a boil in a large pot.  You need lots of space for the beans, as this is critical to preserve their color.  Blanch the beans in the water for 4 minutes, then drain into a colander and run them under plenty of tap water until cold.  Leave to drain and dry. 

2. While the beans are cooking, scatter the walnuts over a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 10 minutes.  Chop the nuts with a large, sharp knife.  They should be quite rough; some can even stay whole. 

3. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the zest from the orange in strips, being careful to avoid the bitter white pith.  Slice each piece of zest into very thin strips.  You could also use a citrus zester.

4. To assemble the dish, mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, toss gently, taste and adjust the seasoning.  Serve at room temperature.

Couscous With Dried Apricots And Butternut Squash

Couscous With Dried Apricots And Butternut Squash
Recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi
Photo courtesy of Christina Kakaletris

I adore this side dish. I love the sweetness from both the apricots and the roasted squash but what I love more is the freshness from the herbs. The combination of parsley, mint and tarragon is a new favourite. This is a vibrant dish that you can enjoyed hot, warm or cold. I use the leftovers to make fried couscous cakes. Enjoy!

Serves 4-6

1 large onion, thinly sliced
6 tbsp olive oil
50g dried apricots
1 small butternut squash (about 450g), peeled, seeded and cut into 2cm dice
250g couscous
400ml chicken or vegetable stock
a pinch of saffron strands
3 tbsp roughly chopped tarragon
3 tbsp roughly chopped mint
3 tbsp roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
1½ tsp ground cinnamon
grated zest of ½ lemon
coarse sea salt and black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the onion in a large frying pan with 2 tablespoons of the oil and a pinch of salt. Saute over high heat, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes, until golden brown. Set aside.

2. Meanwhile, pour enough hot water from the tap over the apricots just to cover them. Soak for 5 minutes, then drain and cut into 1/4-inch dice.

3. Mix the diced squash with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and some salt and pepper. Spread the squash out on a baking sheet, place in the oven and bake for about 25 minutes, until lightly colored and quite soft.

4. While waiting for the butternut squash, cook the couscous. Bring the stock to a boil with the saffron. Place the couscous in a large heatproof bowl and pour the boiling stock over it, plus the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil. Cover with plastic wrap and leave for about 10 minutes; all the liquid should be absorbed.

5. Use a fork or a whisk to fluff up the couscous, then add the onion, butternut squash, apricots, herb, cinnamon and lemon zest. Mix well with your hands, trying not to mash the butternut squash. Taste and add salt and pepper if necessary. Serve warmish or cold.

Fennel And Feta With Pomegranate and Sumac

Fennel And Feta With Pomegranate and Sumac
Recipe adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi
Photo Credit: Christina Kakaletris

This refreshing salad is a showstopper and so easy to put together. I adjusted this recipe slightly by adding orange juice to the the mix and crumbling the feta. I love the taste of orange and fennel together and the sweetness of the orange compliments the rest of the salad beautifully. Enjoy!

Serves 4-6

1/2 pomegranate
2 medium fennel heads
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons sumac, plus extra to garnish
juice of 1 lemon
juice of 1 orange
4 tablespoons tarragon leaves
2 tablespoons roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
70g Greek feta cheese, crumbled
salt and black pepper

1. Start by releasing the pomegranate seeds. The best way to do this is to halve the pomegranate along its "belly" (you only need half a pomegranate here), then hold the half firmly in your hand with the seeds facing your palm. Over a large bowl, start bashing the back of the fruit with a wooden spoon. Don't hit the fruit too hard or you'll bruise the seeds and break the skin. Magically, the seeds will just fall out, without splashing you in the process.

2. Pick out any white skin that falls in.

3. Remove the leaves of the fennel, keeping a few to garnish later, and trim the base, making sure you leave enough of it still attached to hold the slices together. Slice very thinly lengthways (a mandolin would come in handy here).

4. In a bowl, mix the olive oil, sumac, lemon juice, orange juice, herbs and some salt and pepper. Add the fennel and toss well. Taste for seasoning but remember the feta will add saltiness.

5. Layer the fennel, then top with feta and then the pomegranate seeds in individual serving dishes.

6. Garnish with fennel leaves, sprinkle over some sumac and serve the salad immediately.

Banana, Chocolate Chip & Walnut Cookies

Banana, Chocolate Chip & Walnut Cookies
Recipe by Dragon

Banana bread in cookie form. I know, right? What's not to love? Don't forget to toast your walnuts, it brings out their nuttiness and makes a huge difference in the taste. Enjoy!

Makes: 24 cookies

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup mashed ripen bananas (about 2)
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
250 grams dark chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

1. Pre-heat the oven to 350F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt and nutmeg. Set aside.

3. In the bowl of an eletric mixer, combine butter and sugars. Beat until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat until incorporated. Mix in vanilla and bananas. Slowly mix flour mixture into the batter. Stir in the chocolate chips and walnuts. Chill dough for an hour.

4. Drop rounded tablespoonfuls of the dough about 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the cookies are browned around the edges. Rotate the baking sheets halfway through baking. Remove the baking sheets from the oven and let them rest for 2 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack and let them cool.
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