Spinach and artichoke dip stuffed garlic bread

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How are Christmas preps going on you loverly people?

I am off to my sister in laws next weekend for a pre Christmas bash and then to a blogger friend’s place for a fun pot luck. We have a tradition of exchanging home made gifts for Christmas, and last year we all went out to brunch to a fancy restaurant sans the husbands, and exchanged them there over cocktails and conversation. This year we have been so busy with chaiparty pop-up stalls and other interesting business ventures, that we couldn’t actually do a day out. We are still doing home made gifts (I have taken the plunge and made something I’m very excited about, fingers crossed on how it would ultimately turn out) but exchanging it on Christmas day, like it should be, with family and dear ones.

We have been busy on our whatsapp group discussing the theme, menu, gifts and so on and I have been entrusted with the vegetarian starter. I’ve made this recipe as a dip again and again at parties, and was quite convinced this is what I was going to take to the party, when I thought I should try this version, one that I book marked eons ago, a try before i decided. It’s a fab appetiser idea and you score points on uniqueness. It doesn’t take any time to put together, and you can cart it off anywhere and finish off the last baking in the oven just before serving. Stress free, hassle free and delicious.

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I decided to use the Norwegian cheese Jarlsberg instead of the traditional mozzarella because I was sure the nutty flavour from the cheese would be a perfect match with spinach and artichoke and it was. Maybe next time I’ll up the quantity to 1.5 cups (oh please, its the holiday season, no ones on a diet). Its a cheese I was not familiar with until I attended a soiree hosted by Jarlsberg at the Good Housekeeping Institute where Signe Johansen and Lucie Bruckner took us through a session on how to use the cheese in different recipes, and of course treated to some delicious canapés using the same. After creating our own mac and cheese sandwish, we sat down to a glorious meal with wine and chatter. (I also got to drink a shot of the famous Aquavit for the first time. It shall be remembered is all i can say).
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Baguette- 1

Oil- 1/2 tbsp

Shallot- 1 small, finely chopped

Spinach- 250 gms 

Canned artichoke hearts- 200 gms, drained and chopped

Salt and pepper- to taste

Chilli flakes- 1/2 tsp (optional)

Cream cheese- 230 gms

Jarlsberg cheese- 1 cup + enough to garnish

Butter- 2 tbsp

Garlic- 3 cloves, finely chopped

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Slice the baguette into 4 and using a long serrated knife cut out the insides, leaving about a cm of bread around the edges, and scoop/ or push it out to make the baguette slices hollow. Keep aside. (Use the scooped out bread to make bread crumbs)

Heat oil in a frying pan and saute the shallots till translucent. 

Add the chopped artichoke hearts and saute for a couple of minutes.

Tip in the spinach, mix it all together and cover and cook till they have all wilted.

Open lid and cook till all the water has evaporated. 

Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder and chilli flakes and transfer the mix into a mixing bowl.

Add the cream cheese and Jarlsberg cheese and give a thorough mix, making sure all the cheese melts.

Pre heat the oven to 175C and line a baking tray with silver foil.

Stuff the baguette quarters with the dip, using a teaspoon and pack it in as much possible. I found it was much easier to do this using a piping bag. Fill it with the dip, nip off the end and pipe into the baguette. 

Place the filled baguette quarters on to a chopping board and slice them carefully to pieces that are about an inch thick.

Place the sliced pieces on to the lined baking tray, arranging them back into the shape of a full baguette, or if your tray isn’t that big, you can arrange them side by side.

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Mix together the butter, garlic and parsley in a small bowl .

Cover and melt in the microwave for a couple of seconds.

Brush the garlic butter generously over the bread, and in between the slices if possible. Also make sure all the minced garlic gets used up, just top it all on the bread.

Cover the baguette with another foil and bake in the oven for 15 minutes.

Take the tray out of the oven, open the foil, sprinkle the remaining cheese and place back in the oven open, for a couple more minutes, for the bread to lightly brown and the cheese to melt.

Serve warm as a starter or as a side with soup.

Notes: Feel free to use mozzarella cheese instead of Jarlsberg and sprinkle parmesan right at the very end.
Add some shredded chicken to it and make it a non veg starter
If you want to do the dip, after you mix in the cheese, dump the mix on to an oven safe bowl, top with more cheese an dbake for about 20 minutes or till the mix is bubbling away. Serve with crusty bread.

With thanks to Jarlsberg cheese for the fab evening and for the cheese sample.

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