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Cherry Tomato and Goat’s Cheese Tart

This tart is an easy recipe to make for lunch or a simple supper. Cherry tomatoes, goat’s cheese and caramelised onion make a tasty filling. Use store bought puff pastry and you could even use a good bought onion jam to make the recipe even easier.

I made mine in a rectangular flan tin, but a round one would do as well.

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.

For the caramelised onion:

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 or 180 degrees C fan. Grease 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.

Beef, Chilli and Beans

Christmas Day is over, and maybe you’re looking for some tasty, easy to make dishes that don’t involve turkey or ham! This dish is a doddle to make, left overs keep well, and it freezes well if you want to make it in quantity.

It guest well with rice, pasta, polenta or just on its own! Kidney beans add both bulk and flavour to the dish. Serve it with extra fresh chilli on the side, sour cream or some grated cheese if you’re going Mexican.

You can throw this dish together provided you have some minced beef, as pretty much everything else would be pantry staples.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large onion

500g good quality beef mince

1 teaspoon chilli paste or chilli powder 

1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes

1 tablespoon tomato purée 

1 x 400g tin of kidney beans

Freshly ground salt and black pepper

Fresh chillies, sour cream, cherry tomatoes, grated cheese, parsley or coriander to serve

Method

Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Chop the onion finely, and fry over a medium heat until slightly softened, about 1-2 minutes. Add the beef mince in small spoonfuls, breaking it up so that it cooks evenly. Fry until all the mince is brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chilli paste or powder. 

Add the chopped tomatoes, half a tin of water using the chopped tomato tin as a measure and the tomato purée. Drain the kidney beans and add to the frying pan. Season with salt and black pepper. Bring the mixture back to the boil, then turn the heat to low and simmer for about 30 minutes until the sauce has reduced and has thickened. If the mixture looks too dry, add a splash or two of water. 

Once cooked, serve straight away with some of the above accompaniments, or keep in the fridge for a day or so to serve later. It also freezes well.

You could easily double or triple the quantities to serve a crowd or batch freeze for later consumption.

Caramelised Onion Traybake

This is an easy and tasty dish perfect for lunch or my favourite, a simple supper.

It’s more of traybake than a tart, as it’s baked in a cake tin or pan. But there’s nothing to stop you from baking it in a traditional tart or pie dish, or even a normal baking dish.

The recipe came about because I had loads of beautiful red onions, plus a few brown ones on hand. I had just been to the Spring Harvest Festival at Vaucluse House run by Sydney Living Museums where I came away with a big tub of Vanella Cheese ricotta.

So caramelised onions on creamy ricotta on puff pastry was the go! Baked as a traybake made it easy to cut into slices for serving.

Not too tricky, give it a go!

Ingredients

3 large brown onions

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

4 red onions

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon brown sugar

300g ricotta

3 free-range eggs

Salt and black pepper

1 sheet of puff pastry (approximately 180g, if you’re using block puff pastry)

Method

Cut all the onions into rings. No need to be too precise – they can be quite chunky. Reserve the rings from two of the red onions.

Melt the butter in a large frying pan over a medium heat on the stovetop. Add the olive oil. Put in all the onion slices except the reserved red onion slices. Add the salt and brown sugar.

Cook for several minutes until the onions are soft and caramelised, turning occasionally. Now add in the reserved onions and cook for a further couple of minutes, until the onions have only just started to soften. Remove from the heat.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C fan forced.

Grease your cake tin/pan or tart dish or baking dish.

Mix the ricotta, free range eggs, salt and black pepper with a spoon or fork. No need to blend or process.

Place the sheet of puff pastry snugly inside the tin/pan/dish, cutting it or stretching it to fit your dish. If using block pastry, roll out 180g into a shape to fit the size of the dish.

Soon the ricotta mixture over the puff pastry. Layer the onions on top, making sure the red onions you cooked last sit on the top.

Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes or until the pastry is golden round the wedges and the ricotta is set.

Serve warm or cold, with a green salad and crusty bread. You can freezer left over slices too.

Hot Smoked Salmon and Asparagus Pasta

When I first acquired Jamie Oliver’s book, 5 Ingredients, I cooked many of the recipes, as they were simple to make up and used only 5 ingredients give or take a staple or two!

This recipe lives up to expectations. The main ingredient, hot smoked salmon, is versatile. You can buy it in the supermarket, and as the salmon is already cooked, you can pop it straight into any number of dishes.

I was recently reminded that we need to buy environmentally responsible salmon. In Australia, Petuna and New Zealand King Salmon are good brands to look for and are available in supermarkets.

Ingredients

350g fresh asparagus

300g dried taglierini or angel-hair pasta (I used the latter)

250g hot-smoked salmon skin off

1 lemon

100ml creme fraiche (Jamie recommends half fat if you can get it. Just use full fat if you can’t get half fat)

Method

Use a speed peeler to strip the top tender half of the asparagus stalks into ribbons. Finely slice the remaining stalks, discarding the woody ends. Cook the pasta in a pan of boiling salted water according to the packet instructions, then drain, reserving a mugful of cooking water. Meanwhile, roughly break the salmon into a large non-stick frying pan on a medium-high heat. Add the sliced asparagus stalks, and toss occasionally until the pasta’s ready.

Finely great half the lemon zest into the salmon pan, squeeze in half the juice, then toss in the drained pasta, a good splash of the reserved cooking water and the crème fraiche. Add the asparagus ribbons, toss again, then season to perfection with sea salt and and black pepper. Serve with lemon wedges, for squeezing over.

Hot Smoked Salmon with Coconut Rice and Greens

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Another recipe from the vault. Jamie Oliver is a source of simple but innovative recipes and Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals, which came out a while ago, was the inspiration for this salmon, rice and greens dish. The recipe’s based on his Green Tea Salmon with Coconut Rice, and Jamie’s Killer Kedgeree.

Hot smoked salmon is readily available here in Australia from supermarkets. I buy it often as it’s a quick fix meal that’s very versatile.

Ingredients

1 cup basmati rice

1 cup light coconut milk

1 cup boiling water

1/2 lemon

Handful of coconut flakes

A large handful of sugar snap peas

A large handful of green beans

3 spring onions

A scattering of shelled pistachios

1 hot smoked salmon fillet

Method

To make rice, combine the rice, coconut milk, boiling water and lemon in a saucepan. Bring to the boil, turn down heat, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until rice is almost cooked. Turn off heat and leave rice to finish cooking while you prepare the rest of the dish.

Cook the sugar snap peas and beans, separately, in the microwave, until just cooked but still crunchy.

Assemble the dish by placing the cooked rice minus the lemon half in a bowl. Flake the salmon fillet and scatter over the rice. Top with the coconut flakes.

PS The coconut rice is sensational and I’ll be cooking this again!

Arrange the sugar snap peas and beans on a serving platter to accompany the fish and rice, scattering with sliced spring onions and pistachios.

You can serve this salmon and rice dish with any vegetables and garnishes you like, or that takes your fancy.

Leek and Spinach Galette

Ingredients

450g good store bought shortcrust pastry, or you could make your own.

2 leeks

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 tablespoon butter

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon salt

50g baby spinach leaves

140g light sour cream or creme fraiche

2 free range eggs

1 teaspoon mustard

Salt and ground black pepper

50g cheddar cheese

Egg wash – 1 free-range egg mixed with 1/2 tablespoon water.

Method

Roll out the pastry to a rough circle. About 20-25cm or 9-10 inches in diameter is good. This is a rustic galette and is very forgiving. Put the circle of pastry onto a baking sheet on your chosen baking surface. A cast iron pan is ideal (that’s what I used), but a baking tray works just as well.

Score another circle with a knife inside the pastry base, 2-3 cms smaller. Carefully turn up the outer circle to make a rough side for the galette.

Chop the leeks into rounds. Put the olive oil and butter into a large frying pan. When the butter is melted, add the chopped garlic and leeks. Add the salt and simmer the mixture on a low heat for 10-15 minutes or until the leeks are soft. Add the the baby spinach leaves and stir through. Turn off the heat and cover the frying pan. Leave for 5 minutes until the spinach has wilted.

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C.

Put the sour cream or creme fraiche into a bowl and stir to loosen. Add the eggs, and beat well to fully mix. Add the mustard and salt and pepper and mix.

Scatter the cheddar cheese over the pastry circle, and then scatter the leeks/garlic/spinach on top. Pour the sour cream/egg mixture very carefully over the filling inside the galette. If you have too much liquid, don’t use it all in case it spills.

Brush the pastry edge with egg wash.

Place the galette into the pre-heated oven, and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the custard is set and slightly puffy. The pastry should be golden brown, too.

Serve warm or at room temperature with a green salad. You could throw in a few baby spinach leaves and some fried leek rounds for decoration too!

Keto Pork Pies

I have a friend who is on a strict keto diet. I often make recipes that are naturally keto friendly or adapting ingredients to make the recipe fit the requirements.

Hearty beef or lamb stews are easy, provided you leave out the root vegetables. Chilli beef is always a winner!

My friend is very partial to pork pies. So they are definitely on the “to bake” list! Now pork pies are notoriously tricky to make with hot water pastry. And if you hand raise the pastry, that’s really challenging!

You need to adapt the pastry with keto friendly ingredients. And it’s still a hot water crust pastry which is more difficult to handle than ordinary pastry. However this recipe doesn’t require hand raising. Simply bake in large muffin molds, or small pie molds as I did.

The keto pastry is not that difficult to handle and the resulting crust is quite delicious!

Ingredients

Filling

2 rashers bacon

300g pork shoulder

4 spring onions or 1 medium onion

A small handful each of thyme and sage

1/2 teaspoon chilli paste or chilli powder

Salt and pepper

Hot water crust pastry

200 grams almond flour

200 grams oat bran

1 ½ teaspoon guar or xanthan gum

1 teaspoon salt

Ground black pepper

60 grams butter

60 grams lard

200 grams water

1 free range egg

Jelly

1 gelatine platinum leaf

125 mls chicken or vegetable stock

1 free range egg, beaten, for glazing.

Method

Butter the pork pie molds well. Large muffin molds work well.

Chop the bacon rashers and the pork shoulder roughly, and put in a food processor. Add the spring onion or onion also roughy chopped, and the thyme, sage, chilli and salt and pepper.

Blitz in the food processor, until the ingredients are combined. Don’t over process. You want a pork mince, not a paste.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C fan forced.

Meanwhile, make the pastry. Mix the almond flour, oat bran, guar or xanthan gum, salt and pepper in a large bowl.

Lightly whisk the egg, make a well in the centre, put in the egg and mix in. Don’t worry if you can’t mix in properly – you will get clumps.

Put the butter, lard and water in a saucepan over a low heat and cook until the butter and lard are fully melted.

Turn the heat up and bring the liquid to the boil, and as soon as it starts boiling, carefully pour all the liquid into the flour mixture. You will need to stir everything together quite quickly while the mixture is still warm. Make sure everything is combined.

This mixture will make 6 pies, so divide the mixture into 6 large balls for the pie bottoms and 6 smaller balls for the pie lids.

Press each of the larger balls of dough into the molds, pushing the dough down into the molds and up the sides. Make sure there are no holes.

Divide the pork mix into 6 portions and put each portion inside the pastry bottoms. Leave a space at the top, for the jelly.

Using your fingers, stretch the small balls of dough into circles to fit the top of the pies for the lids.

Brush some beaten egg around the edges of the pies. Place the dough lids on top of the pies, and gently press all around the edges to stick the lids and bottoms together.

Brush the pork pie tops with more beaten egg, and make a hole in the centre of the pies.

Put the pies in the oven and bake for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven, and egg wash the tops again. Put back in the oven for a further 10 minutes.

Take the pork pies from the oven and allow them to cool inside the molds.

Meanwhile, dissolve the gelatine leaf in the hot stock. Pour the stock slowly inside the pork pies through the hole in the lids until they are full. Let the stock soak in for a moment, then pour in a little more stock.

Put the pies in the fridge for a few hours for the jelly to set.

Serve at room temperature with plenty of your favourite chutney or relish, and maybe a few pickles on the side.

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!

Mary Berry’s Caponata

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.

Ingredients

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

500g passata

100g pitted black (or green) olives

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

3 tablespoons capers

3 tablespoons chopped parsley

1½ tablespoons caster sugar

Method

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.

Lemon Chicken Traybake

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.

Ingredients

3 cloves garlic

8 shallots

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

Method

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.

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