The Get Ahead Cook recipes: from spinach taleggio to Vietnamese prawn rolls

Preparing ahead is the essence of any good food-gathering, and here Jane Lovett breaks it down into bitesize recipes that are simple to follow for any home cook

Jane Lovett
Friday 20 April 2018 13:35 BST
Get Ahead Cookbook, galette recipe
Get Ahead Cookbook, galette recipe

Spinach, mushroom and taleggio galette

Rustic, super-savoury, very easy and very delicious! Cheesy thyme pastry is filled with an oozing, creamy filling.

Serves 5-6

350g mixed mushrooms 
A good knob of butter
1 clove garlic, crushed
A little grated nutmeg 
500g fresh spinach 
1 heaped tsp Dijon mustard 
200ml crème fraîche 
250g shortcrust pastry (or see hints & tips below)
A few sprigs (4-6) of fresh thyme, or 1-2 tsp dried 
1 egg 
85g Taleggio cheese, straight from the fridge 
Nigella seeds and fresh thyme sprigs, to garnish 
Salt and freshly ground black pepper 

1. Slice any large mushrooms into thick slices, halve medium-sized ones and leave smaller ones whole. Melt the butter in a frying pan, add the mushrooms and plenty of seasoning, and cook over a high heat until they are dry, sizzling and beginning to brown around the edges. Add the garlic and nutmeg, and cook for a further minute. Spread onto a plate to cool.

2. While the mushrooms are cooking, wilt the spinach with a little salt and a dribble of water in a dry saucepan, or use a microwave. Either way, it will only take a few minutes. Drain, cool under cold water and squeeze out all the moisture in batches with your hands. Put into a bowl and mix with the mushrooms. Mix the mustard, crème fraîche and some salt and black pepper together in the crème fraîche carton. Check the seasoning and incorporate into the spinach and mushroom mixture.

3. Preheat the oven to 200C and put in a baking sheet to warm.

4. Roll the pastry roughly into a circle, about 38cm across, and scatter with fresh thyme sprigs (if the stems are soft, or just the leaves if not) or dried thyme. Gently roll the thyme into the pastry. Transfer onto a sheet of silicone or baking paper.

5. Spoon the filling into the middle of the pastry, aiming for a bit of height, leaving a 5cm rim around the edges. Bring the edge of the pastry up over the outside of the filling, leaving most of the filling showing, and pleat the pastry to form a wavy effect around the rim. It’s meant to look rustic and needs a bit of height to hold the filling in while cooking, although any leakages are tasty additions to the rustic charm.

6. Using a fork, lightly beat the egg with a pinch of salt, then brush the pleated pastry rim with the egg wash. Thinly slice the cheese and dot over both the filling and the pastry rims. Scatter with some nigella seeds and a few sprigs of thyme (or a sprinkling of dried).

7. Remove the baking sheet from the oven, carefully slide the galette onto it and cook for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbling. Leave for a few minutes before transferring to a serving platter or board, and a few more minutes before eating – if it’s steaming hot, it will taste of nothing.

Get ahead: make to the end of step 5 up to 24 hours ahead, cover and refrigerate. Bring back to room temperature an hour or so before cooking. Or, prepare steps 1 and 2 up to 3 days in advance and store as above.

Hints & tips: instead of using a block of pastry, you can use a round disc of ready-rolled shortcrust pastry. Chard or kale are delicious alternatives to spinach. Chicken, bacon, ham and smoked fish all make good additions, too.

get ahead cook, prawn rolls recipe

Vietnamese prawn rolls

Fresh and summery, light and healthy, fat-free and crunchy, with a tangy sweet, sour, spicy and salty dipping sauce. These make delicious do-ahead canapés, too, and are far easier to make than you might think. No cooking required!

Makes 12-14 rolls

12-14 round 16cm rice wrappers (banh trang)

For the dipping sauce

1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice (1 juicy lime)
1 large clove of garlic, chopped 
1 red chilli, chopped

For the filling

A small bunch of coriander
1⁄4 cucumber, cut into thin matchsticks 
400g frozen, cooked peeled prawns, thawed and very well drained
4 spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced lengthways
Bean sprouts (optional)
Mint leaves
Salted peanuts, roughly chopped chives (optional)

1. Make the dipping sauce by mixing all the ingredients together. Set aside.

2. Wet two scrunched-up pieces of kitchen paper, squeeze out the excess water and spread one out on a worktop and line a plate with the other.

3. Dip a rice wrapper into a bowl of warm water for 1 second – in and out – then spread it out on the kitchen paper on the worktop.

4. Spread a row of coriander along the middle of the wrapper, top with some cucumber, prawns, spring onions and bean sprouts, if using. Finally, arrange a row of mint leaves over the top. Wet your fingers, roll up tightly and put seam-side down on the lined plate. Continue with the rest of the wrappers. If not using immediately, cover with another piece of damp kitchen paper, clingfilm and refrigerate.

5. To serve, either cut each roll into four pieces and arrange six of these standing up on individual plates, or cut each one in half on a deep diagonal and arrange three of these propped up artistically against each other on individual plates.

6. Just before serving, spoon over a little of the sauce (not much, as a little goes a long way!) and garnish with chopped peanuts and sprigs of coriander and/or chives.

Get ahead: make the rolls up to 24 hours in advance and the sauce several days in advance.

Hints & tips: all quantities are approximate as it depends what and how much you put into each roll.

Only make one roll at a time. Water is the answer to everything as it stops the wrappers from sticking and also acts as glue when rolling up. If a wrapper is too sticky, floppy or soft, discard it – it’s been soaked for too long. Don’t worry if one breaks and falls apart – simply start again with a new wrapper (there are more than 100 wrappers in a 400g pack).

The rolls look good with a chive sticking out at either end, which needs to be incorporated while rolling. Cut the rolls into four and serve as canapés, standing up, with a chive or other herb sticking out of the top. Other filling ideas include shredded chicken, duck, pork, lettuce, crab and rice noodles.

Get ahead cook, panna cotta recipe

Lime and coconut panna cotta with mango puree and pistachios

These delicious panna cottas are very easy to make and convert even non-pudding eaters to the “dark side”! Don’t be put off by the leaf gelatine, as it is very user-friendly and this quantity produces just the right amount of wobble. For vegetarians, use agar-agar as a setting agent instead.

Serves 8

400ml tin of coconut milk 
400ml double cream
5 tbsp caster sugar
3 limes
4 leaves of gelatine
1 ripe mango or 1 x 400g tin of mango in syrup or mango pulp 
1⁄2-1 tbsp icing sugar
A few pistachios, roughly chopped 

1. Put the coconut milk, cream and sugar into a milk pan. Gently bring to the boil, stirring occasionally, and simmer for a minute or two. Add the zest of one, and the juice of 1 and a half limes. Pour into a jug and set aside while you prepare the gelatine.

2. Submerge the gelatine leaves in a bowl of cold water and leave for 5 minutes to soften. Remove from the water, squeeze out any excess liquid and stir the leaves into the still-warm cream mixture. Pour into 8 mini pudding moulds, ramekins or other small dishes, or pretty glasses. Cool, cover and refrigerate until set (preferably overnight).

3. Peel the mango, slice the flesh from the stone and reserve two slices. Process the rest into a purée with the icing sugar to taste. Cover and refrigerate. If using tinned mango, strain and then purée the flesh, adding icing sugar to taste.

4. To serve, if turning out, dip the moulds briefly into a bowl of hot water or loosen around the edges with your finger, creating a vacuum down to the base, and turn out onto individual plates. Dice the reserved mango and serve separately or arrange with a little purée around each panna cotta. Scatter with the pistachios, and grate a dusting of zest from the final lime over each plate. If serving in glasses, flood the tops with a little mango purée and decorate with the pistachios and lime zest.

Get ahead: make to the end of step 2 up to 3 days in advance. Step 3 can be prepared at any time on the day.

Hints & tips: use a milk-type saucepan, not non-stick, for the coconut milk and cream, to avoid scorching. Substitute passion fruit or fresh berries for the mango.

The Get-Ahead Cook by Jane Lovett is published by Apicius at £20.00 ( Photography by Tony Briscoe

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