This is a hearty warming winter soup that is redolent with fragrant Moroccan spices. The base is root vegetables, and their robust flavours work well with the spice mix.
It’s pretty easy – bake the veggies with the spices, then transfer to a saucepan to cook a little more, then blend to soup consistency.
The root vegetables can be varied, but you definitely need some “orange” vegetables like pumpkin or carrots.
A note on the spices. As well as that beautiful spice sumac, I included ras al hanout or baharat. These are Middle Eastern spice mixes. Either mix is good – use whatever you can get your hands on.
250g sweet potatoes
2 onions cut into chunks
4 -5 garlic cloves
2 teaspoon of ras al hanout or baharat
1 teaspoon sumac
Sea salt and ground black pepper
30mls olive oil
1.5 litres chicken or vegetable stock
Preheat oven to 190 degrees C fan forced.
Peel the vegetables and chop into rough chunks.
Put all the vegetables into a large baking tray, sprinkle over the spices and salt and pepper. Pour over the olive oil. Mix well, making sure everything is coated with oil.
Bake for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.
Remove from the oven and transfer to a large stock pot or saucepan. Place on the stovetop. Add the stock, and bring to a medium boil.
Cook for 5 minutes to amalgamate the veggies and stock. Using a stick blender, blitz in the saucepan until you have a good soup consistency, still a bit chunky. Or you could put the soup in a blender and process.
Serve with crusty bread, preferably sourdough. You could add a dash of yoghurt and a sprinkle of thyme or coriander for added zhush!
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!
2 tablespoons oil
500g pumpkin or butternut squash
5 rashers of streaky bacon
3 large leeks
1 clove of garlic
100g goat’s cheese
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
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!
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.
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
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!
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
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.
I recently acquired Mary Berry’s Love to Cook – a beautiful book, with delicious and no nonsense recipes written with Mary’s trademark common sense.
I also recommend from this book Mary’s Victoria Sponge Sandwich – it is gorgeous and a doddle to make!
But this post is all about Caponata, a Sicilian vegetable dish based on eggplant – well that’s what we call them in Australia – Mary of course refers to them as aubergines.
A simple dish that takes about half an hour to make on the stove top.
I wouldn’t presume to alter Mary’s recipe, so here it is. However I did make a half size version in the photos, as I was cooking for one – me! But this size would do two easily.
I also used green olives rather than black, as I prefer them.
Quantities below are for the full size recipe.
8 tablespoons olive oil
2 aubergines (eggplants) cut into 2cm cubes,
2 onions, finely chopped
2 celery sticks, finely chopped
1 red pepper, deseeded and cut into 1 cm cubes
3 large garlic cloves, crushed
100g pitted black (or green) olives
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons capers
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
1½ tablespoons caster sugar
Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large frying pan over a high heat. Add half of the aubergine cubes and fry until browned. Remove the aubergine from the pan and set aside. Heat another 3 tablespoons of the oil and fry the remaining aubergine. Set aside with the rest.
Heat the remaining oil in the pan. Add the onions, celery and pepper and fry over a high heat for 3–4 minutes. Add the garlic and fry for a few seconds. Return the aubergine to the pan, add the passata, olives, vinegar, capers and sugar. Season with salt and black pepper, cover with a lid and bring up to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for 20–25 minutes. Remove the lid and simmer for another 5 minutes, until the sauce has reduced and the vegetables are soft but not mushy.
Sprinkle with parsley and serve with crusty bread, couscous or as a vegetable side dish.
I love a simple recipe that’s quick to prepare and doesn’t take much effort. Well this is a no-brainer.
Everything in a baking dish and cooked for an hour. That’s it. Simple. And very tasty!
Writing this recipe has actually taken me longer than preparing it. Simple.
3 cloves garlic
4 new potatoes
4 chicken thigh fillets, on the bone
8 artichoke hearts in brine
2 tablespoons olive oil
Juice of 2 lemons
1 generous tablespoon pomegranate molasses (you can substitute balsamic vinegar)
Rock salt and black pepper
1 teaspoon honey
1 lemon finely sliced
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C fan forced.
Peel the garlic and slice into chunky slivers. Peel the shallots and half the larger ones, leave smaller ones whole. Chop the new potatoes into quarters.
Place these ingredients into a large bowl. Add the chicken thigh fillets and the artichoke hearts. Pour over the olive oil, the lemon juice and the pomegranate molasses or balsamic vinegar. Grind rock salt and black pepper liberally over everything. Stir the whole lot to make sure everything is well coated with the oil, lemon juice and molasses.
Put everything into a large baking dish. Make sure the chicken pieces aren’t covered with the vegetables. Drizzle the honey over the chicken thighs. Scatter the lemon slices over the dish.
Bake for about an hour in the preheated oven, turning the temperature down to 180 degrees after 10 minutes, and at 30 minutes do a quick baste with the pan juices.
After an hour the chicken should be brown and sticky. Give it another 5 minutes if you think it needs it.
Take out of the oven and you’re ready to serve! Because you’ve got potatoes inside the tray bake you don’t need any rice or pasta! Just a lovely green salad. And maybe some crusty sourdough bread.
This dish is an easy one to make for a light lunch or dinner. While there are a few steps, there is nothing really challenging, and it’s definitely not time consuming!
And you can always buy dukkah from a health food store or specialty grocer, rather than make your own.
30g skinned hazelnuts
6 cardamom pods, seeds removed
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon white sesame seeds
1 teaspoon black sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 bunch asparagus, about 6-8 spears
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 spring onions, tops trimmed
2 salmon fillets, skin on
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4-8 cherry tomatoes on the vine if possible
To make the dukkah, put the hazelnuts in a heavy bottomed frying pan and lightly toast for a couple of minutes.
Add the spices and toast for a further 2 minutes.
Put this mixture plus the salt into a food processor and blitz. Don’t overdo it- you don’t want a powder, you want small chunks of nuts.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees fan-forced.
Cook the asparagus in the microwave for about 2 minutes just until slightly softened.
Pour 1 tablespoon of the oil into a baking dish. Lay the spring onions on the bottom. Place the salmon fillets, skin side up, on the spring onions. Scatter over some salt and ground black pepper. Place the asparagus spears and the cherry tomatoes around the salmon in the dish.
Place in the oven and bake for 8 minutes. Remove from the oven, and carefully peel the skin from each fillet. Scatter the dukkah over the fillets, put back in the oven and cook for 3 minutes longer.
Remove from the oven. You can serve as is, but I like to arrange the asparagus on top of the salmon. Sometimes I serve the tomatoes separately too.
Great with crusty bread, a green salad and a glass of wine!
Quiche is always a popular lunch or supper dish, winter or summer, served indoors by the fire or alfresco on a sunny day.
Great with crusty bread and a green salad, and a glass of wine!
This quiche is super easy as it’s made with filo pastry. I suppose it’s more like a traybake, cooked in a square dish, and it cuts into hearty slices.
This recipe calls for buttermilk in the custard, for a tangy flavour. But make it with full fat milk instead – it will still taste great.
8 sheets filo pastry
6-8 asparagus spears, trimmed
50g butter, melted
4 free-range eggs
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
50g cheddar or feta
2 spring onions, trinm
1 large cooked salmon fillet*
6-8 cherry tomatoes
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Butter a 20cm – 22cm square baking dish or pan.
Remove filo pastry from the fridge.
Lay a sheet of filo pastry in the dish or pan. Take the next sheet and lay at right angles to the first, to ensure even coverage. Liberally brush with the melted butter. Lay another 2 sheets in the same way, brushing the second sheet with melted butter.
Layer the next 4 sheets, brushing with melted butter after every second sheet.
Take the asparagus and microwave for a couple of minutes on low to medium to just cook. Alternatively stick the asparagus spears top side down in a pan of boiling water for 2-3 minutes until barely cooked.
Refresh asparagus under cold water.
To make the custard, combine cream, buttermilk, free-range eggs, salt, pepper and half the cheese, in a bowl, and beat with a fork or a whisk until thoroughly combined.
Pour the custard into the dish or pan. Lay the asparagus and spring onions on top of the custard. Break up the salmon fillet into chunks and put into the dish. Scatter the cherry tomatoes, whole, in between the other ingredients. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top.
Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes until the custard is set looking, but not hard or cracked.
Remove from the oven to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature, with the previous mentioned bread and a green salad.
* cook the salmon fillet on baking paper for 10 minutes with a little oil in a 180 degrees C oven.
It’s mid March and the last of the figs are still available in the markets. This is a tart I made in another summer, when figs were plentiful, so I thought I would share the recipe again to maximise the last of the fig bounty.
The figs are baked on an almond frangipane base in shortcrust pastry. Figs and frangipane go well together, the lovely almond cream complementing the juicy sweetness of the figs.
The shortcrust pastry is based on Maggie Beer’s sour cream pastry but any good shortcrust would do.
For the shortcrust pastry base:
200gm chilled unsalted butter
250gm plain flour
1 tsp caster sugar
135gm sour cream
For the Frangipane:
100gm caster sugar
100gm ground almonds
1 free-range egg
10 fresh figs, quartered
Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C fan forced, (180 degrees C non fan forced).
Butter a 23cm (9 inch) fluted flan tin with a removable bottom.
To make the pastry, pulse butter, flour and caster sugar 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. Roll the pastry out and place into the buttered flan tin.
To make the frangipane, cream the butter and sugar in a food processor or you can use an electric mixer. Add the ground almonds and egg and mix well.
Spoon the frangipane over the tart base. You may not need all the mixture – the idea is to have a base on which to sit the figs. Arrange the fig quarters in a circular pattern over the frangipane. You needn’t be too precise. The figs should be sitting on top of the frangipane. If they sink in, you probably have too much frangipane and may need to take some out.
Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until the frangipane is set and the pastry looks cooked round the edges. Don’t overcook so that the pastry edge burns.
Remove from the oven, and after 10 minutes, when the tart has cooled slightly, carefully remove the outer ring of the flan tin.
Serve at room temperature on its own, or with cream or yoghurt.