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Monthly Archives: May 2022

Cheesy Pumpkin and Leek Filo Bake

A great winter warmer. Layers of pumpkin, leek and optional bacon with a mixture of cheeses, encased in filo pastry.

Bake, traybake or pie this is delicious for lunch or supper.

And if you’re pumpkin averse, butternut squash works just as well!

Ingredients 

2 tablespoons oil

500g pumpkin or butternut squash

5 rashers of streaky bacon

3 large leeks

1 clove of garlic

100g goat’s cheese

100g feta

2 large tablespoons Greek yoghurt

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

10 filo sheets

Butter for brushing the filo sheets + extra for greasing the baking dish

Method

Heat a medium sized frying pan on the stove top over a  medium heat. If using, fry the bacon rashers. Once cooked, set aside.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Chop the pumpkin into small chunks, skin on. Lay the pumpkin pieces onto a baking tray lined with baking paper. Pour one tablespoon of the oil over the pumpkin pieces. Bake for 20-30 minutes until the pumpkin is soft. Set aside until ready to assemble the pie.

Wash the leeks and cut into small lengths, about 2 cms. Finely chop the garlic. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan – if you cooked the bacon, you can use the same frying pan and the bacon juices. Gently cook the leeks and garlic over a low heat until the leeks are softened. This should take about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Put the goat’s cheese and feta into a bowl with the Greek yoghurt and salt and ground black pepper. Mix to incorporate the cheeses and yoghurt.

Have 10 sheets of filo pastry ready for layering in a medium sized square or rectangular baking dish.  Cover the sheets with a damp tea towel to prevent them from drying out.

Melt a couple of tablespoons of butter. Using the melted butter, lightly grease the baking dish. Lay one sheet of filo in the dish, and brush with melted butter. Lay a second sheet of filo cross wise in the dish, across the first sheet. Brush with melted butter. Continue layering with the remaining  three sheets, putting each sheet on top of the last, crossing the sheets over each other, brushing each sheet with melted butter.

Now it’s time to layer the filling. You will need to remove the skin from the now cooled baked pumpkin. Put a layer of pumpkin into the dish. Then layer some of the leek mixture. Top with some of the cheese mixture. Repeat the layers again, ending with the cheese. If using, place the bacon rashers on top of the filling.

Layer the remaining 5 sheets of filo over the top of the pie, crossing the sheets over each other as in the base of the pie, and brushing with melted butter in between the layers. Once the layers are done, you can tuck the overhanging filo into the sides of the pie. Or you could trim the overhang, but tucking in the filo gives a rustic edge to the pie, as you can see from the photos.

Brush the top with melted butter and place into the 180 degrees C oven for 20 minutes until the pie is golden brown on top and crispy.

Serve with green salad and crusty bread for lunch or as a simple supper. It freezes well too!

Movida’s Slow Cooked Beef Cheeks

An oldie but a goodie! This recipe hails from MoVida Bar de Tapas restaurants in Melbourne and Sydney, from the cookbook MoVida: Spanish Culinary Adventures.

It’s a rainy autumn morning, current temperature in Sydney is 11.9 degrees C. I know by northern hemisphere standards that’s positively balmy – but for Sydney it’s distinctly chilly!

So hence the need to revisit this utterly delicious slow cooked beef recipe, made even more delicious by the addition of Pedro Ximinez sherry, that beautiful sweet and caramel tasting liquor. A casserole perfect for a chilly night.

I cooked the beef cheeks in the oven rather than on the stove top as the original recipe suggests. The temperature needs to be low and the cooking time long.  This is slow cooking at its best!

Ingredients 

1.5 kg beef cheeks
125 mls olive oil
3 carrots, roughly chopped
1 whole garlic bulb, halved
1 brown onion, sliced
500 mls Pedro Ximenez sherry
500 mls red wine
3 bay leaves
3 tablespoons thyme leaves
1 teaspoon fine sea salt

Method

Preheat the oven to 140 degrees C. Trim the beef cheeks to neaten them up and remove any sinew and silver skin. Season well.

Heat half the olive oil in a large heavy-based baking dish over high heat. Brown the beef cheeks for 2 minutes on each side, or until golden, then remove from the pan.

Add the remaining olive oil, then add the carrot, garlic and onion and sauté over high heat for 12-15 minutes, or until well browned. Stir in the sherry, wine, bay leaves, thyme, sea salt and 500 mls water.

Reduce the heat and add the beef cheeks. Cover and place in the oven to cook for 3-4 hours, or until the cheeks are beginning to fall apart. You really need to check the cheeks after 3 hours and continue to check until you’re sure they are really cooked.

The sauce from the beef cheeks should by now be reduced and glaze-like. If it needs further reducing, remove the cheeks from the baking dish, cover with foil to keep them warm and simmer the sauce over high heat on the stove top until nicely reduced. Gently reheat the cheeks in the sauce if necessary.

Serve the beef cheeks with pasta, rice, polenta or mash. Anything to soak up that delicious sauce.

Pear and Sour Cherry Loaf

What to do with a couple of over ripe pears? Put them in a loaf of course and add sour cherries for a tangy flavour. And almond extract goes really well with both these ingredients!

A couple of things to say about this loaf. First, it’s an all-in-one loaf, and made in the food processor too. So it’s super simple. Believe me, the all-in-one method produces great results!

Secondly, I have been very interested in the Queen of Baking Mary Berry’s advocacy of baking spread, rather than butter, in cakes. I’ve used baking spread in Mary’s Victoria Sponge recipe and it produced a lovely textured sponge. So I have used baking spread in this recipe. But by all means, use butter if you prefer, but make sure it’s super soft.

Ingredients

125g caster sugar

125g baking spread (I use Nuttelex here in Australia)

2 free range eggs at room temperature

125g self raising flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon almond extract

2 very ripe pears, peeled, cored and cut into chunks

100g sour cherries

Method

Preheat oven to 170 degrees C. Butter a 21cm x 10cm loaf tin, or similar size.

Put everything except the cherries into the bowl of a food processor. Whizz until everything is combined. Don’t overdo it or the mixture will be tough.

Stir in the sour cherries.

Spoon the mixture into the loaf tin and place in the preheated oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes until a skewer inserted into the loaf comes out clean.

Cool completely in the tin before turning out as the loaf is quite fragile while warm.

Serve sprinkled with a little caster sugar. A dollop of cream or yoghurt would be nice – I had some passionfruit curd on hand so I smothered the loaf with a few spoonfuls!

Hearty Beef Pie

I’m on my way back to Sydney from sunny Cairns in far North Queensland. From temperatures of 30 degrees C to a lot less than that in autumnal Sydney!

So here’s a pie recipe that suits colder climes. A hearty pie that is not that difficult to make, with beef and tomato and puff pastry.

This pie has my go-to beef filling, a lovely casserole of slow cooked beef and tomato. And to make it easy, a simple crust of shop bought puff pastry – all butter if you can get it.

It’s rustic – no need to be too fiddly in the presentation!

Ingredients
Beef Filling

500g shin (gravy) beef or chuck steak or blade steak if you can’t get shin
1 dessertspoon plain flour
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium brown onions, chopped
2 – 4 shallots (more or less depending on the size of the shallots), chopped
2 x 400g tins whole peeled tomatoes
I large tomato, roughly chopped
200 mls red wine
1 tinful of water
1 tablespoon molasses
1 dessertspoon Worcestershire sauce
Sea salt, black pepper
A bay leaf
A few springs thyme
Few sprigs rosemary

For the pastry – 2 sheets of all butter puff pastry + free-range egg, beaten, for brushing the pastry

Method
Filling

Preheat oven to 140 degrees C.

Place the beef into a ziplock bag with the flour, close and shake the bag to coat the beef pieces in the flour. Heat a heavy based cast iron casserole on the stovetop. Add two tablespoons of oil to the casserole.

Add half of the beef pieces and cook for a minute or two to brown the meat, turning to make sure all sides get the heat. This is just to caramelise the meat. Remove the pieces from the casserole and set aside. Add the other half of the beef and caramelise in the same way, removing from the casserole once browned.

Add the other tablespoon of oil, and add the the chopped onions and shallots. Fry over a medium heat until the onions and shallots are softened, about 3-5 minutes. Return the meat to the casserole.

Add the tinned tomatoes, roughly breaking up into the casserole. Add the chopped fresh tomato. Stir in the red wine, and using one of the tomato tins, add a tinful  of water. Stir in the molasses and Worcestershire sauce. Season with a sea salt and black pepper. Tie up the bay leaf, thyme and rosemary with an elastic band or a piece of string, to make a bouquet garnis, and put into the casserole mixture.

Making sure the mixture is simmering, carefully remove the casserole to the preheated oven. Cook for 3 hours, or until the beef is tender and almost falling apart. You should check after 2 hours, just in case the casserole has cooked a bit dry. If so, you can add some more water. As a general rule, it’s pretty hard to overcook this cut of beef, so 2 1/2 – 3 hours is usually about the right time.

Remove the casserole from the oven, remove the bouquet garnis,  and cool to room temperature.

Making the Pie

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Remove bought puff pastry from the fridge. You will need a pie dish, tin or mould, 18cms or 20cms in diameter. Cut the pastry from each sheet, into two pieces, one slightly bigger than the other. The bigger round should be at least big enough to fit into the pie dish, covering the base and sides. The other round will need to cover the top of the pie.

Ease the bottom pastry round into the dish. You can trim off any excess from around the edge.

Now it’s time to fill the pie. You won’t need all the filling – fill with enough of the meat mixture to fit comfortably into the pastry. Brush the edge of the pastry with the beaten egg.

Take the second, smaller round of pastry, cutting or stretching to the size of the top of the pie, making sure you have enough pastry to overlap the top of the pie. You can always trim the excess. Place over the filling, making sure the top pastry meets the bottom pastry all around the pie. Seal the the top and bottom of the pastry by pushing down around the edge with the prongs of a fork.

Brush the top of the pie all over with beaten egg, before putting the pie into the hot oven. Cook for 30 minutes, or until golden brown on top. Remove from the oven.

Serve in big slices with a green salad, your sauce of choice and some crusty bread.

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