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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.

Dukkah Crusted Salmon with Asparagus and Vine Ripened Tomatoes

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.

Ingredients

Dukkah

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

The dish

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

Method

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!

Salmon, Asparagus and Tomato Buttermilk Quiche

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.

Ingredients

8 sheets filo pastry

6-8 asparagus spears, trimmed

50g butter, melted

100mls cream

150mls buttermilk

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

Method

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.

Oven Baked Chicken Risotto

I posted this recipe from Australia’s wonderful Bill Granger during lockdown the year before last. It seems so strange to be talking about lockdown in 2020 when we are still dealing with the pandemic…

It’s quick and easy because it’s an oven baked risotto. It makes sense to let the oven do the cooking rather than spend all that time stirring on the stove top.

Recently, a friend told me that this dish is her go to recipe for risotto, as it’s so much easier than cooking risotto the traditional way.

So I thought it’s about time I posted it again, to encourage reluctant risotto cooks to give it a go!

Bill’s recipe has leeks and asparagus as the veggies. You could replace the leeks and/or asparagus with whatever you fancy – zucchini, peas, broad beans or even tomatoes for a red hued 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 Smoked Salmon Club Sandwich

This hot smoked salmon sandwich is Jamie Oliver inspired. The recipe is infinitely variable to make all kinds of different, delicious sandwiches.

Try it with leg ham or roast beef. Make it veggie by using halloumi instead of the salmon. Add a few pickles to the sandwich, or add condiments like chutney, onion or chilli jam, or even try it with pesto or hummus!

Ingredients

4 slices of streaky bacon

4 slices of sourdough bread

1 ripe tomato

1 ripe avocado

2 tablespoons home made or whole egg bought mayonnaise

1 tablespoon of basil or coriander leaves, bashed, stirred through the mayonnaise (optional)

200g hot smoked salmon (available from the deli section of supermarkets)

A handful of lettuce leaves or rocket

A few squeezes of lemon juice

Sea salt and black pepper

Method

Place the bacon in a cold frying pan, turn on the heat to medium and fry the bacon until crispy and cooked through, then remove from the pan. Turn off the heat.

Immediately put the bread slices into the still warm pan in the bacon fat to soak up the bacon flavour.

Cut the tomato into slices. Cut the avocado in half, take out the stone and peel each half. Cut the avocado into slices.

Now assemble the sandwich.

Spread the toasted sourdough slices with the mayonnaise.

Put two slices of toasted bread side by side and layer with the bacon rashers, tomato, avocado, chunks of the salmon and the lettuce or rocket. Squeeze lemon juice over the whole lot and add a grind or two of sea salt and black pepper.

Top each one with the remaining slices of toast. Eat and enjoy!

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!

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/

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!

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