To celebrate all things delicious, Charlotte Ree, the food influencer and self-confessed pasta queen has designed a feasting menu just for you.
We sat down with Charlotte to discover what inspires her when creating new recipes, the best kitchen hacks she swears by, and advice on how you too can add a dash of creativity and a sprinkle of imagination to all your home-cooked meals.
So much of what I cook is about thinking what will give me maximum reward for minimum effort. I want to make whatever food is the most delicious, but really takes the least amount of time, and is also cost effective. And the three recipes that I am sharing with Westfield – recipes for garlic bread, potato gnocchi and Nutella panna cotta - are the definition of that.
The garlic bread uses day old, or leftover bread from your bread bin, the potato gnocchi is just four ingredients, and the Nutella panna cotta simply mixes ingredients and then let’s the fridge do all the work for you. They are the sort of recipes that are so easy for you to make, but so incredibly impressive for your guests to eat.
Pasta, pasta, pasta. I love it with every fibre of my being. It is my go-to for both convenience and comfort and whilst fresh (like my potato gnocchi) is always best, I have an entire shelf on my pantry dedicated to dried pasta. I love to make lasagne, pasta alla norma, penne alla vodka, spaghetti vongole, the list goes on… There’s a piece of my heart left somewhere in Italy, and I love to cook pasta almost every night of the week to make my heart whole again!
Soup, of course must be right up there. A pumpkin soup reminds me of my grandmother, an asparagus soup reminds me of my time in Europe, but a lentil soup with curry leaf rice and coriander is what I find most comforting.
Then, there is pasta of course. And in Winter it is all about pasta bakes, like a lasagne or eggplant parmigiana. Anything and everything covered in cheese and served piping hot warms the depths of my carbohydrate filled soul.
I have now become the type of cook that finds combining ingredients hard to measure as for me, so much of it is by sight and sound, and smell. That’s why it is so hard to tell someone how to make bechamel sauce, because it is something that I learnt by sight and feel, holding my nanny’s hand as she mixed the sauce at the stove. It’s why so many dishes that I make that are seen as classics that differ from the norm, because so much is based on my own personal tastes and preferences.
Lately I have been reworking my traditional lasagne recipe to replace the meat mixture with layers of roasted pumpkin and spinach. My panna cotta recipe is a twist on the classic, by using my beloved Nutella as a flavour base instead of the usual vanilla.
I always crack eggs into a separate bowl. It avoids any eggshell going into the main mixture and means that you avoid the devastation of a rotten egg. If I do get eggshell in my mixture, I simply scoop it up with a larger piece of eggshell. It is foolproof.
To quickly soften butter, I chop into cubes or even better, grate with a cheese grater.
To line a cake tin, I simply tear off a rectangle sheet of baking paper and lock it into the base of my springform tin. Then I grease the sides with baking spray. No fuss.
For me, it’s all about vulnerability. You need to enter the kitchen with the vulnerability to try something new, to open yourself up to the chance that you might fail – that some dishes may not work perfectly – but that you must try and try again. As soon as you open yourself up and allow your kitchen to become the real heart of your home, you will be able to make some incredibly impressive and delicious meals.
There’s also a story to be told in the kitchen fails, and they are some of my favourite moments right alongside the three or four course dinner success stories. Like the time that I accidentally added two tablespoons instead of two teaspoons of Sichuan pepper to my noodles, or when I forgot to lock my spring form tin and my cake batter seeped into the skin of my oven…