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Very Cherry Tomato Quiche

Sydneysiders are really looking forward to next week when we are allowed to meet friends outside for a picnic – a little easing of our long winter lockdown.

So picnics are the go! And what better for a picnic than a portable tasty treat like a quiche.

Quiche – that versatile combination of short crust pastry, savoury custard and tasty fillings. Great for lunch, dinner or indeed a picnic.

So cherry tomatoes are the basis of this quiche, as well as a handful of sun dried tomatoes. To make the whole thing fresh and light, I used spring onions, rather than onions, utilizing the green tops as well as the white onion bottoms.

The base is shortcrust pastry, for this particular recipe I used Maggie Beer’s Sour Cream Pastry. The savoury custard is the traditional filling for a quiche.

Ingredients

Shortcrust Pastry
200g chilled unsalted butter
250g plain flour
135g sour cream

Filling
2 spring onions, finely chopped
250g cherry tomatoes (a punnet)
A handful of sun dried tomatoes
4 free range eggs
1/2 cup cream
3/4 cup milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan

Method

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C, 170 degrees C fan forced.
To make the sour cream pastry, pulse butter and flour in a food processor until it looks like coarse breadcrumbs. Add the sour cream and continue to pulse until the dough starts to incorporate into a ball. Using your hands, shape pastry into a ball.

Wrap in plastic film and refrigerate for 10 minutes.
 Grease a medium sized fluted quiche tin with a removable bottom. Roll the pastry out to 3mm thick and place in the tin.

Rest for 15 minutes in refrigerator. This helps reduce shrinkage when cooking. Remove from the fridge, place some pie weights on baking paper inside the tart, and bake blind in the pre-heated oven for 10-15 minutes. Remove the pie weights and baking paper.

Decrease oven temperature to 170 degrees C, 160 degrees C fan forced.

Scatter the finely chopped spring onions over the base of the blind-baked pastry case. Chop the cherry tomatoes in quarters, leaving some of the smaller ones in halves. Scatter the quarters over the pastry base. Roughly chop the sun dried tomatoes, and scatter these between the cherry tomatoes.

In a bowl or large jug (the latter is very useful as you can pour the custard into the quiche tin easily), beat the eggs, cream and milk together until thoroughly combined. Add salt, pepper and grated Parmesan.

Carefully pour the custard mixture into the quiche tin. (I find it easiest to place the tin in the oven first before pouring). Place the remaining cherry tomato halves carefully in the custard. Hopefully they will sit artfully displayed in the cooked quiche, but don’t worry if they sink!

Bake until the custard is just set but still wobbly – about 30-40 minutes depending on your oven.
Carefully remove and leave to cool slightly before serving.

The quiche is fine as is, or you can serve with a few basil leaves, and/or some cherry tomatoes on the vine, which you slow roast for a couple of  hours until wilted.

Very fresh, very light, very delicious!

Lockdown Frittata

We’re in lockdown in Sydney, and everyone is turning to cooking to brighten up these wintry days – and nights!

My friend and always inventive cook, John, has been putting out some pretty good dishes from his lockdown hideaway in the northern beaches.

This one is a beauty – a frittata using left over roast veggies as well as fresh veggies, goat’s cheese and eggs of course!

Here’s the recipe. The quantities can be varied – use a little more or less as the mood takes you!

Oh and it’s a one pan dish too! Saves on washing up!

Ingredients

1 tablespoon butter

2 rashers of bacon

3 Roma tomatoes

1/2 teaspoon of harissa

2 to 3 cups any left over roast veggies, such as potato, sweet potato, kumera, onions, carrots

A handful of broccoli florets (or broccolini)

8 eggs

1/3 cup milk

Salt and pepper

3 – 4 small pieces goat’s cheese, broken up (about a handful)

Method

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.

In an oven proof cast iron pan, fry bacon and tomato in the butter on a low heat, until cooked through.

Add harissa and the left over veggies and mix through.

Steam broccoli until just cooked through, then drain.

Whisk the eggs with the milk and salt and pepper, and add this mixture to the pan, keeping on moderate heat, until it just sets.

Place the broccoli and goat’s cheese on top of the frittata.

Transfer the pan to oven. Bake for 10 minutes until the top is set and the cheese is melted.

Serve with a green salad and enjoy!

Cheat’s Gozleme

So this is a great hack if you want a tasty treat based on Turkish gozleme, that staple of food markets and festivals!

I have adapted a recipe for Green Pockets from “Use it All” by the brilliant Cornersmith people, simplifying it a little for a quick make.

You can make the dough a couple of hours ahead of time and get the filling ready just prior to cooking. Or make dough and filling at the same time.

I threw this together – literally – not being that particular with my chopping and filling skills!

Great for a quick lunch or snack, or even a savoury breakfast!

Ingredients

Cheat’s Dough

1/2 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon white vinegar

125g Greek yoghurt

190g plain flour

1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

Filling

1 1/2 cups of greens eg spinach, rocket, silver beet

1 handful soft herbs eg basil or mint

2 spring onions, white and green parts

1 garlic clove

1/2 teaspoon salt

A grind of black pepper

150g crumbled cheese eg feta, ricotta, mozzarella (I definitely recommend feta!)

1 tablespoon olive oil for frying

Lemon wedges for serving

Method

To make dough, mix all the wet ingredients together. Stir in the flour and bicarb with a wooden spoon until you have a sticky dough. Put the dough onto a floured board and knead by hand for a few minutes until the dough is smooth. Divide the dough into 4 balls.

You can use the dough now or put in a bowl and cover with cling wrap and leave for an hour.

You could even stick in the fridge for a few hours.

To make the filling, chop all the greens, herbs, spring onions and garlic finely. Sprinkle over the salt and pepper.

Chop whatever cheeses you are using into small pieces.

When ready to make your cheat’s gozleme, take a ball and roll out into circles as thin as you can.

Spread equal amounts of cheese onto half of each circle. Then cover the half circles with all the green ingredients.

Fold the dough over the filling to make a semi circle kind of pastie shape, pinching edges together.

Heat the oil in a frying pan on a medium heat. Cook each cheat’s gozleme for about 3 minutes on each side or until brown and speckled. Pressing down the gozleme once you’ve turned them over helps to amalgamate and cook the filling inside.

Remove from the pan and serve hot with lemon wedges.

Winter Warmers – Isolation Cooking

We’re in lockdown in Sydney, so it’s back to isolation cooking!

The weather is chilly, so perfect for some hearty fare. I found 4 dishes that fit that description, all cheerful and easy to make. Chilli beef, Yorkshire pudding, treacle glazed steak and chicken risotto.

Here are the links.

Chilli Beef: https://thequirkandthecool.com/2021/02/20/easy-chilli-beef/

Giant Yorkshire Pudding:https://thequirkandthecool.com/2020/05/08/yorkshire-pudding-with-smoked-salmon-jamie-oliver/

Treacle Glazed Barbecue Steak:https://thequirkandthecool.com/2017/06/09/treacle-glazed-barbecue-steak/

Chicken, Leek and Asparagus Oven Risotto:https://thequirkandthecool.com/2020/03/29/chicken-leek-and-asparagus-oven-risotto/

Breakfast Trifle with Granola Dust

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Granola Dust is a recipe from Jamie Oliver’s healthy take on food Everyday Super Food. It’s basically a granola mix blitzed in the food processor until the mix becomes pulverized. Great for serving with fresh fruit, or just sprinkling over muesli to add another texture.

Breakfast Trifle is a heathy and easy brekkie idea, using Granola Dust that you’ve already made up and have in the store cupboard.

To make a Breakfast Trifle, start of with a layer of Greek yoghurt, then add any mixed mixed berries you like, scatter some Granola Dust on top and finish with a drizzle of honey. You can make this in a jar or in a bowl. You don’t have to limit yourself to berries – stone fruit in summer, or poached apples or pears in winter would be great!

You can adjust the quantities depending on whether you’re making breakfast trifle for one or a large one for the family! The idea is to have fairly equal layers of Granola Dust, fruit and yoghurt.

The quantities for Granola Dust in the recipe are what Jamie Oliver specifies in his book. I thought that sounded rather a lot, so I made a quarter of the mix – this gave me half a large jar’s worth of Granola Dust.

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Ingredients

1kg porridge oats

250g unsalted mixed nuts such as walnuts, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios, cashews

100g mixed seeds such as chia, poppy,sunflower, sesame, linseed, pumpkin

250g mixed dried fruit such as blueberries, cranberries, sour cherries mango, apricots, figs, sultanas

3 tablespoons quality cocoa powder

1 tablespoon freshly ground coffee

1 orange

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.  Place the oats, nuts and seeds in a large baking tray. Toss together and roast for 15 minutes, stirring halfway.

Stir the dried fruit, cocoa and coffee into the mix, finely grate over the orange zest, then in batches, blitz in the food processor till the mixture forms a rough powder or dust.

Transfer to a large glass jar (or jars) to store.

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Middle Eastern Sherbet Berry Balls

These are super easy sweet bites that need no cooking! Make them small as I did for an after dinner treat or bigger and they could double as a light dessert.

I used frozen blackberries, but raspberries or strawberries would be great too.

The “sherbet” part comes from sprinkling them with freeze dried raspberry powder. If you can’t get hold of any, they are equally delicious just rolled in coconut or chopped nuts. Or you could even roll in more chocolate, grated!

Ingredients

40g dark chocolate

100g frozen berries slightly thawed

80g rolled oats

1 tablespoon golden syrup

40g coconut oil

60g shredded coconut

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Freeze dried raspberry powder

Ground pistachios (optional)

Method

Take the chocolate and chop into squares or small pieces. Place in a ziplock bag and bash using a mallet or similar into chocolate rubble.

Place the berries, oats, golden syrup, coconut oil, 40g of the coconut, sesame seeds and chocolate in a food processor and process until smooth. Transfer mixture to a bowl. Cover with cling wrap. Place in the fridge for several hours or until mixture is stiff enough to roll into balls.

Roll large teaspoon portions of mixture into balls. Roll in remaining coconut to lightly coat.

Sprinkle with freeze dried raspberry powder for the sherbet effect.

If using, sprinkle some ground pistachios over as well. It’s nice to do a few this way.

You will need to store these in the fridge. They should keep in an airtight container for a week or more.

Healthy Banana Bread

Everyone loves banana bread! But the banana bread you get in cafes is really banana cake – too sweet and too “cakey” in texture! I picked up this recipe from a television show Hemsley +Hemsley: Healthy and Delicious. The Helmsley sisters cook food that is natural and healthy – grain, gluten and refined sugar free.

This banana bread is made with coconut flour and coconut oil. The sweetness comes from the bananas and some treacle and golden syrup. It does have 3 eggs. The bread cuts into 12 slices easily, so I think that distributes the extra calories quite well!

It’s a much healthier bread than the usual sweet and cake-like cafe offerings.

As usual I made my version with a few tweaks. You could really add anything you like – nuts or seeds would be great, and honey would be a great sweetener too. The treacle in my version gave a lovely, malty flavour and rich dark colour.

And it’s a throw-in-the-food-processor recipe so it takes no time to prepare.

One more thing – it keeps forever! It doesn’t dry out, and keeps really moist.


Ingredients

350g or 3 medium size bananas, mashed

60g  coconut flour

1 /2 tbs cinnamon

1 pinch salt

3 free-range eggs

50g coconut oil, melted

1 tsp vanilla extract

1.5 tsp bi-carbonate of soda

1 tbs apple cider vineagr

1/2 tbs treacle

1/2 tbs golden syrup

Method

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.  Line a loaf tin with baking paper.

Put all the ingredients (except the golden syrup) into a food processor and whizz until smooth.  Spoon into the prepared tin. Drizzle over the golden syrup onto the top of the mixture.

Bake for 50 minutes. Cool on a wire rack completely before turning out of the tin.

I served my banana bread with cashew butter and fresh figs. The bread is quite sweet, so the cashew butter works well. Peanut, or any nut butter would be fine.

Roasted Pumpkin Dhal

I am trying to eat more protein and I think it’s good to eat more protein from sources other than meat. So I got inspired on the weekend to go down the lentil path. I’m not that keen on lentils, but lentils in the form of dhal takes them from bland to spicy and very tasty!

The idea for this dish came from watching the hilarious series from Jamie Oliver “Keep Cooking and Carry On”. Jamie made the series in lockdown last year and it’s hilarious as most of the episodes are Jamie cooking at home, filmed on an iPhone with his kids helping (or hindering) the process!

One dish from the show was an eggplant (aubergine) dhal. So I got motivated to make my own version of a tasty dhal dish.

The recipe is pretty easy as I’m using bought curry simmer sauce, so no need for extensive ingredients. It’s a one pot dish too, as you roast the vegetables and then cook the lentils in the one pot or dish. Roasting the veggies has the advantage of giving the dhal a nutty, caramelised flavour.

And my genius if slightly unconventional accompaniments of hard boiled eggs, yoghurt and chutney really make the dish!

Ingredients

Approximately 2 cups cut pumpkin – about half of a small pumpkin or butternut squash

2 onions

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 cup of any good curry simmer sauce or 3 tablespoons of curry paste*

250g any lentils (I used 200g red lentils with 50g split peas as that’s all I had)

1 litre boiling water

400g tin whole tomatoes – cherry tomatoes if you can get them

A handful of fresh cherry tomatoes

2 hard boiled eggs

Chilli flakes

2 tablespoons Greek yoghurt

1 tablespoon mango chutney

Basil leaves or any other herb

*Any sauce or paste is ok – Rogan Josh, Butter Chicken, Korma, Tikka Masala or Tandoori.

Method

Peel the pumpkin and chop into small chunks. Peel the onions and roughly chop. Put the pumpkin and onions into a heavy based pan. Make sure this pan can be used on the stove top and that it has a lid.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Pour over the oil and the simmer sauce (or curry paste). Roughly mix everything together.

Put the pan into the oven lid off and roast for about 30 minutes, or until the pumpkin is soft and the onions are caramelised.

Remove from the oven. Take about half of the roast pumpkin and onions and put into another dish and cover with foil.

Stir the lentils and roast veggies into the boiling water. Add the tinned tomatoes.

Put the pan onto the stovetop on a medium heat. Add the lentils to the pan and the litre of boiling water. Note: if you used curry paste rather than simmer sauce you will need to add another 250 mls or so of water.

Turn the heat to low and simmer the mixture with the lid on, until the lentils are soft and the dhal has thickened, about an hour. It’s hard to say exact how long – you will know when the lentils are cooked and really soft. Add a bit more water if the dhal is too thick or it’s sticking to the pan.

Once the dhal is cooked, remove from the heat. Check the seasoning. If you want it hotter, you could add some chilli flakes or even a spoonful of curry taste.

Stir in the rest of the roasted pumpkin and onion that you put aside. Or you can just place them on top of the dhal without stirring them in.

Serve as is or you could add the extras I used – fresh cherry tomatoes, hard boiled eggs scattered with chilli flakes, some Greek yoghurt and mango chutney. Scatter the dhal with basil leaves or any other fresh herb you have on hand.

Stuffed Chokos

In Australia, we have a love/hate relationship with the humble choko. To be more precise, there’s probably more of a “hate” thing going on!

The choko, or chayote, a native of South America, is a plant belonging to the gourd family. Chayote was one of several foods introduced to Europe by the Spanish explorers.

It’s the subject of many jokes here, some based on its “bland” flavour and others because last century it grew riotously in backyards over septic tanks and outdoor dunnies!

One of the wonderful exercise physiologists at my gym has a problem: what to do with a huge crop of chokos growing over his fence. I decided to take up the challenge and devise a tasty recipe for his chokos.

This is a versatile and easy way to cook chokos and can be made into your own dish depending on your choice of fillings.

The basic idea is to fry some ingredients and stuff these into choko halves which have been boiled in salted water to an (almost) cooked state. The stuffed chokos with some grated Parmesan are baked in the oven till the chokos are soft and the filling bubbling.

The recipe is for one choko – double, triple or quadruple the recipe depending on the number of chokos you are stuffing.

Ingredients

1 choko, halved

2 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon olive oil + a glug

2 garlic cloves finely chopped

1/2 onion, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon chilli powder or paste, or to taste

1/2 cup ham or 2 rashers of bacon, chopped into small pieces

1/2 cup sweet corn kernels

1 slice of sourdough bread or similar

1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese

Method

Place the choko halves in a big saucepan in the stovetop and cover with water. Add the salt and bring to the boil. Cook on a medium to high heat till the chokos are softened but not completely cooked, about 15 minutes.

Remove from the heat and strain. Pat the choko halves dry with paper towel.

While the chokos are cooking, make the filling. Heat a frying pan over medium heat on the stovetop and add the olive oil. Fry the garlic and onion pieces till brown, making sure they don’t burn.

Add the chilli powder or paste and cook, stirring, for another minute.

Add the ham or bacon pieces, stir, and fry till they are just crisp. Add the corn kernels and stir into the mixture. Cook for a couple of minutes.

Add a smell glug of olive oil and add a slice of sourdough bread torn into little pieces. Cook until the bread pieces are just crisp.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C or 180 degrees C fan.

To stuff the choko, place each half in a baking dish and sprinkle the inside of both halves liberally with sea salt and black pepper. Spoon the filling into both halves. Top each half with the grated Parmesan cheese.

Place the baking dish in the oven and cook for 20 minutes to half an hour until the choko halves are soft to the touch, the filling is bubbling and the cheese topping is brown.

Serve on their own or with a salad.

You could use almost any filling you like – leave out the ham/ bacon for a vegetarian dish and add beans or lentils, or add other vegetables apart from corn like tomatoes, celery or zucchini. You probably need the onion or garlic for flavour. And add a whole lot more of any kind of cheese for “ cheesy” chokos!

Teriyaki Eggplant – 5 Ingredients Jamie Oliver

Here’s a recipe from Jamie Oliver’s 5 Ingredients that I posted when the book first came out. People seem to like the recipe as it’s pretty simple, with just a few ingredients.

It’s a good lunch or supper dish and great if you’re looking for “lighter” options in your diet!

The original recipe is called “Sticky Teriyaki Aubergine” in Jamie’s 5 Ingredients.

I made one tiny addition to the ingredients – the sticky sauce was quite strong , so I added a little brown sugar. This worked a treat and I think gave the sauce more of an Asian sweet/salty taste.

Ingredients

1 large eggplant (aubergine)
4 spring onions
1 fresh red chilli
20g unsalted peanuts + a few extra for scattering
1 tbls olive oil
2 tbls teriyaki sauce
1 tsp brown sugar (optional – my addition)

Method

Put a 26cm non-stick frying pan on a high heat and pour in 250mls of water.

Halve the eggplant lengthways, quickly slash the skin of each half a few times and place skin side up in the pan, then season with sea salt and black pepper.

Cover and cook for l0 minutes, or until it boils dry and begins to sizzle (listen for the change in sound).

Meanwhile, trim the spring onions. Cut the whites into 3cm lengths at an angle and put aside.

Deseed the chilli and finely slice Iengthways with the green part of the spring onions. Place both in a bowl of ice-cold water and put aside to crisp up.

When the eggplant starts to sizzle, add l tablespoon of olive oil, the white spring onions and the peanuts to the pan, stirring regularly.

After 2 minutes, add a splash of water, drizzle in the teriyaki, stir in the brown sugar and reduce to a medium heat.

Turn the eggplant, jiggle the pan and let it get sticky for a few minutes, then serve sprinkled with the drained green spring onions and chilli and a few peanuts scattered over the dish.

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