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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.

Giant Yorkshire Pudding with Smoked Salmon – Jamie Oliver

This is a recipe from Jamie Oliver that everyone loves to cook. I first posted it in 2014! The recipe is from Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals. I think it’s a perfect meal to cook up in isolationist times, as it requires very few ingredients. Also, while the Yorkshire pud is draped with lovely smoked salmon, you could just as easily serve it with ham, left over roast beef or lamb, even hunks of nice cheese. In other words, the pudding is a great base for whatever protein you fancy, plus salad veg!

Jamie’s original Yorkshire pudding is served with smoked salmon, char-grilled asparagus and baby beetroot, with a yoghurt sauce. When I made it, I added some char-grilled green beans.

Jamie cooks the Yorkshire pudding in an oven proof frying pan. I cooked mine in a cake tin, which actually worked really well. A casserole dish would be fine, too.

Ingredients

Yorkshire pudding
Olive oil
2 large eggs
150ml low fat milk
65g plain flour

180g smoked salmon
1 bunch of asparagus
A handful of green beans
Juice of ½ lemon
6 baby beetroot

Sauce
3 heaped tbsp fat-free natural yoghurt
1 heaped tsp horseradish or French mustard

Method

Preheat oven to 200 degrees C. Put 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium sized cake tin and place in the oven and heat till the oil is really hot.

Put the eggs into a blender or food processor, add the milk and flour, then blitz until smooth.

Carefully pour the batter into the hot cake tin and cook in the oven until golden (about 12 minutes). Don’t be tempted to open the oven door!

Trim the asparagus and beans and put dry on a hot char grill plate or barbecue, turning until nicely charred on all sides.

Drain and slice the beetroot, then place over some salad greens on a board or plate. Mix the yoghurt and horseradish or mustard in a bowl, then season to taste with salt.

Squeeze lemon juice over the asparagus and beans, add salt and pepper, and pile on the board or plate.

When the Yorkshire pudding is really high and puffed up, remove from the oven, slide it on to the board or plate and place the smoked salmon on top of the pudding. Delicious and different!

Minestrone – Jamie Oliver Keep Cooking and Carry On


Everyone is cooking up a storm as we spend a lot of time at home in isolation. Jamie Oliver is doing his bit with his fabulous series Keep Cooking and Carry On. 

I recently saw Jamie cook Minestrone from the series on an Instagram video, and “instantly” had to cook some too. The great thing about this recipe is that Jamie says use whatever is in your cupboard or fridge – don’t be afraid to chop and change ingredients!

So here’s Jamie’s recipe with my changes in italics. The link to Jamie’s original recipe is here.

Ingredients

4 rashers of higher-welfare smoked streaky bacon, optional

olive oil

1 clove of garlic

2 small onions

2 fresh bay leaves

2 carrots

2 sticks of celery

2 large handfuls of seasonal greens, such as savoy cabbage, curly kale, chard I used white cabbage and Swiss chard

1 vegetable stock cube1

1 x 400g tin of quality plum tomatoes

2 x 400g tins of beans, such as cannellini, butter, or mixed 
I used cannellini  and black eyed beans

100g dried pasta I used pappardelle and tricolour pasta

Parmesan cheese , to serve

extra virgin olive oil

Method

Put a large shallow casserole pan on a medium-high heat.

Finely slice the bacon, if using, and sprinkle into the pan with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, stirring occasionally while you prep your veg.

Peel and finely chop the garlic and onion, adding the garlic to the pan with the bay leaves as soon as the bacon turns golden, followed by the onions.

Trim and chop the carrots and celery into rough 1cm dice, adding to the pan as you go. Remove and finely chop any tough stalks from your greens and add to the pan. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring regularly, or until softened and caramelised.

Crumble in the stock cube, pour in the tinned tomatoes, breaking them up with your spoon, then add 1 tin’s worth of water.

Pour in the beans, juice and all, then add a pinch of sea salt and black pepper.

Shred your greens and sprinkle into the pan, top up with 600ml of boiling kettle water, then add the pasta. Cover and leave to simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the pasta is just cooked and the soup has thickened to your liking.

Season the soup to your liking. Jamie serves with a granting of Parmesan cheese, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and basil leaves and sometimes a dollop of pesto.  I just went for the basil – that was all it needed for me.

A note: I love this soup because it’s so thick! You can vary the consistency by cooking a little less to retain more liquids, or, once cooked, thinning with a little water.

The soup, if it’s really thick could be served on toast or bread. I would definitely recommend sprinkling with Parmesan or a cheddar and putting under the griller for a substantial snack!


Chicken, Leek and Asparagus Oven Risotto


Here’s another recipe that’s super easy, pretty fast and will cheer you up if you’re staying at home in social isolation.

It’s quick and easy because it’s an oven baked risotto! The recipe is based on a Bill Granger recipe. Our own home grown cook and restaurateur has recipes for a couple of oven baked risottos.It makes sense to let the oven do the cooking rather than spend all that time stirring on the stove top!

You could replace the leeks or asparagus with whatever you fancy – zucchini, peas, broad beans or even tomatoes for a red hued risotto…

And have a glass or two of the riesling that you opened to put in the risotto!

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
500g chicken breast or thighs, cut into thin strips
1 onion, finely chopped
1 leek, sliced into rounds
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
250g Arborio rice
500ml chicken stock
250ml white wine + extra if needed
1 bunch of asparagus, sliced on the diagonal
A handful of grated parmesan or pecorino cheese, plus extra to serve
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large casserole dish on the stove top over a high heat. Add the chicken pieces and cook, stirring frequently for 3-4 minutes or until golden brown. Remove and set aside.

Add the remaining olive to the pan, then the onion and leek, and cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes or until the onion and leek are soft. Add the lemon zest and cook, stirring for 30 seconds. Add the Arborio rice and stir to coat the grains in the oil. Add the chicken stock and white wine, and bring to the boil, stirring occasionally.

Cover the casserole and put in the oven for 20 minutes. At this point, if the risotto seems to have absorbed all the liquid, add a splash or two of white wine. Add asparagus, return the chicken to the casserole and bake for a few minutes or until the asparagus is just tender, the liquid is absorbed and the rice is cooked. Bill says to do this for 3-4 minutes, I found it took more like 10 minutes to fully cook the rice.

Stir in parmesan or pecorino and season with salt and pepper. Serve with extra cheese.

Hot Smoking Salmon

A while back I discovered how easy it was to hot smoke salmon. I love cooking  salmon – grilled or baked – and I love eating traditional smoked salmon, or cold smoked.

Hot smoking is kind of a cross between cooking and cold smoking. You apply smoke during the cooking process to give the salmon a lovely woody, smoked flavour.

I’ve posted a few hot smoking recipes before. Here’s the how-to of easy hot smoking and some of the recipes using hot smoked salmon.

How to hot smoke salmon:

All you need is an aluminium foil container, aluminium foil, a cake (wire) rack, some wood smoking chips, and a barbecue and you are right to go!

Ingredients 
A few sprigs of fresh rosemary and/or sage leaves 

Salmon fillets, skin on

Sprinkle of sea salt

Sprinkle of sugar

1-2 teaspoons chili paste or sambal oelek (or leave out if you prefer)

Olive oil

Method
Preheat your barbecue to high. You will need a large aluminum foil container, readily available at supermarkets. It should be big enough to hold the size of the fish fillets you are going to smoke. You will also need a wire rack, the kind for cooling cakes on, that will fit inside the container.

Line the base of the foil container with wood smoking chips. These chips (usually hickory) are available at barbecue supply stores or hardware stores. Scatter the rosemary and sage over the wood chips.

Place the wire rack inside the container, so it sits about halfway down.

Sprinkle the salmon fillets with salt and sugar and rub with the chilli paste and a drizzle of olive oil. Put the fillets skin side down on top of the wire rack.  

Cover the container with a large piece of aluminium foil, that’s been doubled over. It should completely cover the container. Using a metal skewer, pierce holes in rows across this foil lid. This is to allow the smoke to escape.

Place the container on the barbecue, turn down to a medium heat and put the top of the barbecue down. If your barbecue doesn’t have a top, you may have to cook for a little longer, as cooking with the top down captures more heat.

 Cook for 10 to 15 minutes – the time taken will depend on how well cooked you want your salmon and the presence/absence of a barbecue top. After a couple of minutes the container will start to smoke.

After the 10-15 minutes of cooking, turn the heat off and leave it to sit for 5 minutes before opening the container. This will allow the residual smoke to continue to penetrate the salmon.

You can always check the “doneness” of the salmon by cutting into it, but, like a barbecued steak you risk spoiling the look of it. However if you are serving to fussy eaters who like their fish cooked through, then it’s worth doing.

This is the basic method. You can serve the hot smoked salmon in a myriad of recipes – here a few pics and links to some recipes.

Hot Smoked Salmon Fillet with Jamie Oliver Coconut Rice and Greens
https://thequirkandthecool.com/2014/03/11/hot-smoked-salmon-fillet-with-coconut-rice-and-greens/

Hot Smoked Salmon Pasta: Jamie Oliver 5 Ingredients https://thequirkandthecool.com/2017/09/10/hot-smoked-salmon-pasta-jamie-oliver-5-ingredients/

Hot Smoked Salmon Club Sandwich – Jamie Oliver’s Comfort Food https://thequirkandthecool.com/2014/11/09/hot-smoked-salmon-club-sandwich-jamie-olivers-comfort-food/

Salmon Fillet with Spaghetti and Pesto https://thequirkandthecool.com/2014/01/26/salmon-fillet-with-spaghetti-and-pesto/

Hot Smoked Salmon, Pappardelle and Garden Greens Salad https://thequirkandthecool.com/2013/10/12/hot-smoked-salmon-pappardelle-and-garden-greens-salad/

Pasta with Pesto and Spring Greens


This is a super easy pasta dish that you can make in a few minutes, including the pesto!

As its spring in Sydney, there are lots of lovely greens about, and nothing feels better than a bowl of pasta with a zingy pesto and just cooked green veggies.

The dish is versatile – you can choose your own pasta and selection of greens – even the pesto can be varied according to what you fancy.

My version has risoni pasta, sugar snap peas and asparagus, with a rocket (arugula) and walnut pesto. 

Spaghetti, fettuccine or penne for the pasta, broccolini or kale or any other greens for the veggies and traditional basil and pine nut pesto are all alternatives.

Lunch, dinner or supper, it’s a lovely bowl of fresh flavours.

Ingredients

Pesto 

50g walnuts

80g rocket 

50g parmesan

2 garlic cloves

150ml olive oil

1 cup risoni pasta

1 bunch fresh asparagus 

1 ½ cups sugar snap peas

Method 

For the pesto, place the walnuts, rocket, parmesan, garlic and olive oil in a food processor and blitz. I like my pesto still a little chunky, so I don’t over blitz. Season to taste with salt. 

This pesto is quite oily, so, if you’re not an oil fan, perhaps add ¾ of the oil at first, then add more if you think it needs it.

Cook the risoni pasta in a saucepan of boiling salted water, for 8-10  minutes or until al dente.

Trim the asparagus ends. String the sugar snap peas, and slice some of them horizontally so that the peas are revealed.

Pile the risoni onto a plate. Spoon over some pesto, and scatter the asparagus and sugar snap peas on top. Drizzle a little more pesto over the veggies.

I don’t think the dish needs additional parmesan, but feel free to add if you like. 

NB I added some beautiful roast garlic from last week’s visit to the Spring Harvest Festival.

Fish Pie

I’ve been experimenting with fish pies recently, with the memory of a great fish pie cooked for me by an Englishman who clearly knows his pies and his fish. Thank you Ken, for your inspiration!

My version is quite simple – smoked fish fillets and poached fresh fish, with some braised leeks, in a white sauce. Topped off with creamy mashed potato and a liberal scattering of grated cheddar. Great on the day, and even tastier reheated the next day, too, when the flavours have developed.

These quantities make a very substantial pie for two, or would serve four with smaller portions too. Double the quantities for a really big pie!

Ingredients 

4 large potatoes, good for mashing

3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon butter

300 mls full fat milk

1/2 tablespoon olive oil 

2 leeks

100g white fish

150g smoked mackerel 

150g hot smoked salmon

1 tablespoon plain flour 

75g cheddar cheese, grated 

Method

Wash the potatoes thoroughly and place whole into a large saucepan. Cover completely with water. Bring to the boil and cook on a medium heat until the potatoes are cooked through. Be careful not to overcook – you don’t want the potatoes breaking up. Remove from the heat and strain in a colander.

When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel quickly and place the still warm potatoes in a bowl.

Add 2 tablespoons butter and 50 mls of milk. Season with salt to taste. Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes really well with the butter and milk, making sure there are no lumps.You can of course adjust the butter and milk amounts to personal taste and because potatoes do vary, requiring more or less butter/milk to get the right consistency.

Cover the mashed potato bowl with aluminium foil to keep warm.

Wash the leeks well and slice into ½ cm rounds. Heat 1 teaspoon butter with the olive oil in a frying pan. Add the leeks and cook over a low heat until the leeks are soft, about 15-20 minutes. Just make sure temperature is low and the leeks don’t brown. Once cooked, remove from the heat.

Heat the remaining 250 mls milk in a wide saucepan until just at a simmer. Place the white fish fillet into the milk, and continue to simmer and let the fish cook for 5 to 8 minutes. Check if the fish fillet is cooked by putting a skewer into the thickest part of the fish. If the skewer goes in easily and is also easy to remove, it should be cooked. 

Remove the fillet carefully with a slotted spoon. Roughly break into chunks. Strain the poaching milk into a bowl or jug.

There’s no need to cook the mackerel and salmon, just break into chunks.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

To make the white sauce, melt 1 tablespoon butter, over a low heat, in the saucepan in which you poached the fish. Add the plain flour, and mix together to a smooth paste, making sure to use a wooden spoon. Cook for a couple of minutes. Add the poaching milk, and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon, combining the paste with the milk. Turn the heat to medium, bring to the boil, then reduce to low and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the sauce is thickened, stirring regularly. Season generously with salt and cracked pepper.

To assemble the pie, place the leek slices and fish chunks in a baking dish. Gently stir through the white sauce. Top with the mashed potato, roughing up the potato with a fork for a little artistry. Scatter the grated cheddar over the pie.

Cook the fish pie in the preheated oven for a 20-30 minutes or until the potato is brown and the mixture underneath is bubbling.

Serve with a green salad and chunky sourdough, or just on its own. I had some beautiful young garlic from a spring harvest market, so I roasted those with the pie. Really delicious!

Steak Sandwich: Jamie Oliver 5 Ingredients

I was looking for a quick dinner involving steak this week. I have a great butcher in Balmain village, with superb free range meat, and their beef is particularly tasty. I had a beautiful piece of sirloin, so how best to cook to showcase it?

Jamie Oliver has a really simple steak sandwich recipe in 5 Ingredients Quick and Easy Food. I’ve made it a couple of times and it’s great!

I made a few tweaks, mentioned in parentheses in the recipe. I made the sandwich with sourdough bread and I charred some spring onions instead of onion, preferring the milder flavour. I prefer Dijon mustard too.

Here’s Jamie’s recipe. Highly recommended for a delicious, quick steak sandwich. Lovely with a little tomato salad.

Ingredients
250g sirloin steak, ideally 1.5cm thick
1 large onion (or 3 or 4 spring onions)
2 teaspoons American mustard (or Dijon)
4 slices of nice bread (I used sourdough)
50g provolone or fontina cheese

Method
Pull the fat off the sirloin, finely slice the fat and place it in a large cold nonstick frying pan.

Put on a medium-high heat to render as it heats up, moving it around
to coat the pan, while you peel and slice the onion/spring onion into thick rounds. Add them to the pan to char for 10 minutes, turning halfway.

Meanwhile, cut off the sinew, then place the steak between two sheets of greaseproof paper and pound with your fist until just under 1 cm thick. Sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt and black pepper, then brush all over with the mustard and cut into two.

Add a good splash of red wine vinegar to the onion, toss for 1 minute over the heat, then divide between two slices of bread, leaving the pan on the heat.

Sear the steaks in the screaming hot pan for just 40 seconds on each side, then slice and lay over the cheese, cover, turn the heat off and leave to melt for just 40 seconds more.

Lay the steak on top of the onion, pop the other slices of bread on top, drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil, and devour.

Ottolenghi’s Lentils with Roast Eggplant, Cherry Tomatoes and Yoghurt

I’ve recently acquired the new Ottolenghi book Simple. It’s a lovely book, written in such an interesting and useful way. The recipes, while not necessarily with a limited number of ingredients, are all quite ”simple” to prepare. The recipes are full of Ottolenghi’s trade mark Middle Eastern flavours.

I’ve tried some of the savoury recipes and of course I’m keen to get into the sweet stuff soon!

Here’s a relatively quick, and definitely easy to prepare savoury veggie dish, that works well as a salad or side as well as a lighter main.

Ottolenghi goes into detail about how to cook the eggplants. While his method uses the oven at a high temperature, he also describes how you can cook the eggplants directly over a gas flame on the stove top, which he rightly points out is very messy!

I cooked the eggplants on the bars of a very hot barbecue, lid down, for extra heat. This was very successful, and they cooked in about 15 minutes. Whatever method you go for, the idea is to blister the skin of the eggplants so the you can peel it off to get to the softened flesh.

Ingredients

4 eggplants, about 1.1kg, pricked a few times with a knife
300g cherry tomatoes
160g Puy lentils or 350g ready-cooked lentils
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra to serve
1½ tbsp lemon juice
1 small garlic clove, crushed
3 tablespoons oregano leaves – I used thyme which I prefer as a herb
salt and black pepper
100g Greek yogurt

Method

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees C or as high as your oven will go.

Place the eggplants on a baking sheet and roast for 1 hour, turning them over halfway through, until the flesh is completely soft and slightly smoky. Or use the barbecue method that I mentioned above. Remove from the oven and, once cool enough handle, scoop the flesh out into a colander. Set aside, in the sink or over a bowl, for 30 minutes, for any liquid to drain away. The skin can be discarded.

Place the cherry tomatoes on the same baking sheet and roast for 12 minutes, until slightly blackened, split, and soft. Remove from the oven and set aside. You can also cook the tomatoes on the barbecue too, but put them on a baking sheet.

Meanwhile, if starting with uncooked lentils, fill a medium saucepan with plenty of water and place over high heat. Once boiling, add the lentils, decrease the heat to medium, and cook for 20 minutes, until soft but still retaining a bite. Drain, then set aside to dry out slightly. If starting with ready-cooked lentils, just tip them into a large bowl and add the eggplant flesh, tomatoes, oil, lemon juice, garlic, 2 tablespoons of oregano or thyme, ¾ teaspoon of salt, and a good grind of pepper. Mix well, then spoon into a large shallow dish. Top with the yogurt, swirling it through slightly so there are obvious streaks. Sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon of oregano or thyme over the top, drizzle with a little oil, and serve.

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