RSS Feed

Tag Archives: cheese

Veggie Lasagne


It’s almost spring in Sydney and the warm weather is here. A sure sign is the jasmine in bloom – sprawling over fences and permeating the air with its heady fragrance.

I thought it was time to revisit a recipe for lasagne I made a while back. It’s made with goat’s cheese, leek and tomato, no meat, so it’s a lighter option, perfect for the spring here, and for the end of summer for those in the Northern Hemisphere.

It’s pretty simple. With no white sauce, it’s easy to make. The goat’s cheese is a perfect substitute. You could change it up with the addition of different veggies – spinach, zucchini, eggplant or pumpkin would be good.

Ingredients

2 tbls extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1 400g tin whole tomatoes
1 tsp sugar
1 big leek or 2 smaller ones
250g goat’s cheese
1 tbls milk
150g Greek yoghurt
Fresh lasagne sheets – enough to make 3 layers
Parmesan to grate over the lasagne
Cherry tomatoes, sage leaves
Fresh basil leaves

Method

For the tomato sauce, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a medium frying pan. Peel and finely slice the garlic and fry gently until softened. Add the tinned tomatoes and using the tin as a measure, add a tinful of water. Add a good grind of rock salt and black pepper and the teaspoon of sugar. Cook on a medium heat until the sauce is thick and reduced, about 20 minutes, breaking up the tomatoes with a spoon occasionally as you stir the sauce.

Wash the leek/s carefully to remove any dirt or grit. Finely chop the leeks. Put another frying pan on medium heat – or you can save washing up like me and use the tomato pan after they have finished cooking! Add the other tablespoon of oil, and when the oil is hot, add the chopped leeks. Stir for a minute or two, moving the leeks around to make sure they are all starting to cook down. Turn the heat to low, cover the pan and cook for about 10 minutes until the leeks are softened.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Break the goat’s cheese up, you still wants sine chunks so no need to blend or process. Add the milk to loosen the mix, and then add the Greek yoghurt. You are looking for a thick bit spreadable consistency. Season with a grind or two of rock salt and black pepper.

Now for the layering. Spoon 1/3 of the tomato sauce on the bottom of your baking dish. Add 1/3 of the leeks.Now put a layer of lasagne sheets on top. The size of your baking dish will determine how many sheets or partial sheets you need. I used one and a half per layer. Spoon ¼ of the goat’s cheese mixture over the lasagne sheets. Now start again and layer 1/3 tomato, 1/3 leeks, lasagne sheets and ¼ goat’s cheese. Finish with the rest of the tomato, the leeks and a lasagne layer.
Spread the remaining ½ goat’s cheese mixture thickly over the top of the lasagne. Grate as much Parmesan as you fancy over the top, and scatter some cherry tomorrow halves and sage leaves.

Place in the bottom of the preheated oven and cook for about 25 minutes until the top is golden and bubbling. Remove from the oven and scatter over a few fresh basil leaves before serving.

NB You could freeze the lasagne before baking, or after cooking, freeze whole or divided into meal size portions.

 

Ham and Leek Pot Pies


I’m making lots of pies this winter, as well as sampling the pies of a couple of of really good bakeries. My local Bourke Street Bakery makes some beautiful beef pies, packed full of beef and encased in excellent pastry. Very yummy if you’re in a hurry and can’t rustle up your own.

I posted this pot pie recipe last year. It’s such a simple one to make as the filling takes no time. I made it recently, this time making ham and leek pasties instead of pies.

So here is the recipe from last year.

”I had some chunky ham pieces and a leek in the fridge so decided that they would be the basis for some simple pies. I also had a lovely washed rind cheese, soft and melting, that I thought would go beautifully with the ham and leek. I’m a huge fan of nuts, so it was a no-brainer that I decided to put some walnuts in the pies as well. They added a lovely crunch and texture to the pies  All these ingredients were stirred into a white sauce, piled into the bowls, topped with puffpastry and baked in the oven.

I recommend using a good bought butter puff pastry for the recipe.

The recipe makes two substantial deep bowl pies. You could double the quantities for a larger pie in a conventional pie dish.”

Ingredients

1 large leek
A knob of butter to cook the leek
Salt
200g ham chunks
50g any soft washed rind cheese
A small handful of walnuts or to taste

White sauce
25g butter
25g plain flour
600ml milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 sheets of butter puff pastry or about 180g from a block of puff pastry

1 egg, lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon milk, for glazing

Method

Cut the leek into small slices. Melt the butter in a frying pan and add the leek with a good pinch or two of salt. Cook on a low temperature until the leek slices are soft, about 10-15 minutes.

Chop the ham into bite sized pieces and roughly slice the cheese. Chop any whole walnuts into smaller pieces.

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C.

For the white sauce, melt the butter in a medium, heavy bottomed saucepan. Add the flour and stir for 1-2 minutes, to make sure the raw flour taste is cooked out.

It’s important to do this and the subsequent stirring in of the milk with a wooden spoon.

Gradually stir in about a third of the milk, making sure the milk is incorporated and there are no floury lumps. When the sauce has noticeably thickened, add another third of the milk and repeat the process. Add the last third of the milk and cook until the sauce is nice and thick. Simmer gently for 5 minutes and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Stir the ham, leek, cheese and walnuts into the white sauce in the saucepan. Pile the mixture into the individual bowls.

Cut out circles of puff pastry that are larger than the diameter of the bowls and will be enough to completely cover the tops. Brush the tops of pies with the beaten egg.


Place in the preheated oven and cook for about 20 minutes until the top of the pies are golden brown and puffed up.

Serve piping hot straight from the bowls!

Pumpkin and Leek Filo Pie




This is a tasty pie using filo pastry, pumpkin and leek, and mixture of goats cheese and feta. You can add an optional layer of bacon rashers too, for an extra salty kick.

While the pie is simple to assemble using filo pastry, there a little bit of work to cook the pumpkin and leek. But worth the effort, as the pie is really very delicious!

Ingredients 

2 tablespoons oil

500g pumpkin

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

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.

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

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!

Tomato, Caramelized Onion and Goat’s Cheese Tart

While we are making slow cooked casseroles and warming winter pies here in Sydney in winter, others in the northern hemisphere are enjoying cooking in summer.

This is a recipe that suits any climate, a tasty tart that would be great for an alfresco summer lunch or a warming supper dish with crusty bread and a salad.

Store-bought puff pastry tart base, some caramelized onion for the base, then topped with goats’ cheese, cherry tomatoes and a scattering of fresh herbs. I made mine in a rectangular flan tin, but a round one would do as well. You might have to adjust the quantities.

Ingredients

320g store-bought puff pastry (I used 2 sheets from a pack of Pampas puff pastry). Use more or less, if needed, to fit your tin.

1 red onion, chopped

1 teaspoon butter

1 teaspoon brown sugar

Goats’ cheese – or similar crumbly soft cheese. You will crumble this into the tart, so quantities are flexible, about 100gm should be enough

15-20 cherry tomatoes, or more if you want to pack them in, on the vine

Fresh thyme leaves for scattering

Sea salt and ground black pepper

Method

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C. Butter a  flan tin and fit with the puff pastry sheets which you have cut to shape.

Fry the red onion in the butter in a small frying pan over a low to medium heat, until the onion begins to soften. Add the brown sugar to caramelize the onion and cook for a further couple of minutes.

Lay the caramelized onion onto the pastry base. Crumble the goats’ cheese into the tart. Cut some of the cherry tomatoes in half and place on top of the goats’ cheese, place a few whole ones on, too for effect.  Scatter a few fresh thyme leaves over the tomatoes with sea salt and black pepper.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until the puff pastry is nicely browned, the cheese melted and the tomatoes softened. Nice served with a green salad.

Mini Curd Cakes with Mixed Berries

IMG_4977

Cooking is both an art form and a science and is constantly evolving. I am always evaluating recipes, altering and tweaking to suit new conditions or just to try to perfect.

Having made some more fresh curd cheese on the weekend, I decided to make curd cake again. But this time I made mini curd cakes as a result of just this kind of recipe evaluation mentioned above.

Also I wanted to try out a beautiful baking tin from Baker’s Secret that I had recently acquired. It has 12 holes with removable bottoms. It’s meant for pies or puddings but would do just as well for cakes!

IMG_4943

I was aware that the River Cottage Australia recipe I quoted in my previous post uses quantities based around 1 kg of cheese:

https://thequirkandthecool.com/2013/09/27/fresh-curd-cake-with-strawberry-conserve/

However the curd recipe from the same source seems to make only 400-500gms of curd from 2 litres of milk.

I’m not sure whether my inexperience as a cheese maker has meant I get less curds from the milk, or whether indeed the lesser quantity is what you actually end up with.

So this time I made cheese with 2 litres of milk and ended up with 400gms of curd. Not having enough cheese for a large cake I made mini cheese cakes and adjusted all the quantities appropriately, roughly halving them.

You may note in comparing the recipes that I used 3 eggs not 2 and suggested increasing the cream quantity. From my experience, the extra egg gives richness to the mixture and increasing the cream is necessary if the mixture is a little stiff.

I also adjusted the oven temperature down to 170 degrees C, as I thought the result of my previous baking was a little overcooked, and I prefer to control this through temperature rather than less baking time.

In the photos I stacked the cakes on top of each other for visual and serving appeal. The mixture yielded 4 large mini cakes.

IMG_4990 lighten

Ingredients
400-500 gms fresh curd
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/4-1/2 cup cream
3 large free-range eggs
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp vanilla paste

Method
Preheat oven to 170 degrees C. Line the bases of Baker’s Secret mini tins (as in the photo) with baking paper or just use ordinary muffin tins.
Place the curd, sugar and cream in the bowl of a food processer and process until smooth.
Add the eggs, lemon zest and vanilla paste and process until thoroughly mixed.
Pour into the prepared tin and smooth the surface with the back of a spoon.
Bake in the preheated oven for 30 – 45 minutes or until just beginning to turn brown and the mixture is set. Timing will depend on the heat of your particular oven. You will need to watch carefully as these little cakes will cook quickly.
Serve warm or at room temperature, but not completely cold, with any kind of fresh or cooked fruit.

IMG_4955

Home Made Fresh Curd Cheese

IMG_4909

I have made this fresh curd cheese three times this week. Having never made it before, I was keen to perfect the technique. It’s important to use full cream non-homogenized milk. This milk has a creamy top to it, has a lovely rich flavour and produces stronger curds which separate from the whey quite distinctly.

It’s important to use a thermometer and watch the temperature keenly. The magic number is 80 degrees C.

This recipe is based on that of Paul West from River Cottage Australia.

Ingredients
2 litres of full  cream non-homonogenized milk – the fresher the better

1/2 tsp of salt

1 cup cream (optional – will produce a creamier cheese, I have made the cheese with and without the cream)

1/4 cup cider or white wine vinegar

Method
Add 1/2 tsp of salt to the 2 litres of milk in a large saucepan. Add the cream also if you want a creamier mix.

IMG_4809

IMG_4814

Heat the milk slowly over medium heat to 80 degrees C. Measure the vinegar.IMG_4818

As soon as the milk reaches temperature, add the vinegar. Give it a gentle stir but be careful not to stir too much as this will result in a squeaky curd. Agitate it just enough to incorporate the vinegar into the milk. You should see the curds start to separate from the whey and move to the top of the saucepan.

IMG_4838

Leave for about for about 5 minutes, and watch for any cracks that start to form or any swelling bubbles about to pop on the surface of the pan. You want to maintain the temperature at just below boiling point so pour a small amount of cold water into those spots as you see them pop up.

IMG_4841

Remove the pan from the heat. It should now be done, and have a clear separation between the green-ish colored whey and the curds. The curd is the cheese.

Pour the mixture carefully into a colander or sieve, lined with muslin, set over a large bowl. The whey will drain into the bowl, leaving behind the fresh curd in the colander or sieve.

IMG_4860

Once you have all of the curd in the colander or sieve, set it aside to cool and finish draining to your desired consistency. To facilitate the draining I tied the muslin cloth and gently squeezed the whey from the muslin bag. This is not strictly necessary – it just sped up the process.

IMG_4868

Refrigerate in a container with as little air as possible. Or you can cover with olive oil in a container if you are going to use the cheese in a savoury way.

Use the cheese as you would ricotta. The Fresh Curd Cake in the previous post is a fantastic use of the cheese.

IMG_4906

IMG_4878

Winter Pies: Beef and red wine pasties + Ham, leek and mushroom baby pies

 

IMG_0434

IMG_0572

Beef and Red Wine Pasties

Ingredients
For the beef and red wine stew:
1 tbl olive oil
1 tbl plain flour
300 gms shin beef cut into small pieces
4 eschallots, chopped
1 carrot finely chopped
1 tin whole peeled tomatoes
1 glass red wine
1 tsp vegemite dissolved in 1/2 cup boiling water
Sea salt, black pepper and a big pinch of sugar to season

For the rough puff pastry:
2 cups all-purpose flour
A pinch of sea salt
2/3 cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

To finish:
1 egg, lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon milk, for glazing

Method
Beef Stew
Pre-heat oven to 160 degrees C.

Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed casserole on the stove top. Dust the beef pieces in the flour by placing both in a zip lock bag and shake.

Fry the beef in small quantities to avoid “stewing” the meat, until brown on all sides. Remove the beef to a plate, add a little more oil to the pan if necessary, and fry the eschallots and carrot.

Return the  meat to the casserole. Add the tomatoes, roughly chopping as you mix in to the casserole. Add the red wine and vegemite and water.
Season to taste.

Cook on a medium heat with lid off for 5 minutes, then transfer the casserole, with lid on, to the pre-heated oven. Cook for about 1. 5 hours or until beef is very tender.

Remove from oven, leave to cool before filling pasties. The stew can be refrigerated or frozen until you are ready to use.

Rough Puff Pastry (This recipe is Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s from River Cottage Everyday – and I think it is much better than the recipe I described in my Custard Slice post).
Mix the flour with the salt, then add the cubed butter and toss until the pieces are coated with flour. Stir in just enough ice water (8 to 10 tablespoons) to bring the mixture together into a fairly firm dough.

Shape the dough into a rectangle with your hands and, on a well-floured surface, roll it out in one direction, away from you, so you end up with a rectangle about 3/8 inch thick. Fold the far third towards you, then fold the nearest third over that (rather like folding a business letter), so that you now have a rectangle made up of 3 equal layers. Give the pastry a quarter-turn, then repeat the rolling, folding, and turning process 5 more times. Wrap the pastry in plastic wrap and rest it in the fridge for about 30 minutes, or up to an hour.

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C.

Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured work surface to about 3mm thick. Using a plate or a cake tin as a template, cut out four 20cm circles; you may have to gather up the trimmings and re-roll them to get your fourth circle.

Spoon the stew on to one half of each circle. Brush the pastry edges with water, fold the other half of the pastry over the filling to form a half-moon shape and crimp well to seal.

Place the pasties on a lightly oiled baking sheet and brush the tops with beaten egg. Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 20-25 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown. Eat pasties warm or cold.

IMG_0427

Ham, Leek and Mushroom Baby Pies

IMG_0555

Ingredients
Pastry
3 sheets ready rolled butter puff pastry *
1 egg +1 tbs water mixed together for an egg wash

White Sauce
1 tbl butter
1 tbl plain flour
1/2 – 3/4 cup milk
Handful of grated cheddar cheese
Sea salt to season

Filling
A knob of butter
1 medium size leek, sliced thinly
Sea salt
6 button mushrooms sliced thinly
150 gms free range leg ham

Method
Pre-heat the oven to 190 degrees C.

Cut circles from 2 of the puff pastry sheets with a cutter or plate as guide, big enough to line the holes in a regular muffin tin. Grease the holes, and gently ease the pastry circles into the holes. These pies are rustic, so a perfect fit isn’t important. Brush each pastry circle with the egg wash.

Bake in the oven for 10 minutes or until the pastry is lightly brown and puffed. Remove from the oven to cool.

IMG_0533

While the pastry is cooling, make the white sauce. Melt the butter in heavy bottomed saucepan. Add the flour, stirring carefully with a wooden spoon to make sure there are no lumps. Cook the flour out for a minute or so. Add the milk, and cook gently, stirring all the time, until the sauce thickens. Add the cheese and salt to taste, stirring until cheese is well incorporated.

For the filling, heat the butter in frying pan, sweat the leeks with a little sea salt until softened. Add the mushrooms and cook until mushrooms are just softened also. Roughly chop the ham. Combine the filings ingredients in a bowl with the white sauce.  You may not need all the white sauce – remember you don’t want the pie filling too sloppy.

Fill the pastry cases with a generous amount of the filling. Cut out circles from the remaining puff pastry sheet, big enough to cover each pie. Brush the lids with more egg wash.

IMG_0540

Return the pies to the oven for another 10 minutes or until the pastry lids are lightly brown and puffed.

Serve warm or cold – delicious either way!

* NOTE You can re-roll any left over scraps of pastry both for the pastry cases and lids. And if you really find you don’t have quite enough pastry, then just use another sheet.

 

%d bloggers like this: