Tag Archives: pastry

Babel Roasted Artichoke Goat’s Cheese Tart, Rocket Pesto, Raisin Puree

29 Mar

We have found a new organic veg supplier, which is really cool. In this weeks box we had some beautiful young artichokes and a bunch of fat peppery rocket leaves (as well as other stuff obviously).  Artichokes are stunning looking thistle-type vegetables and it always seems such a shame to rip all their leaves off and throw them away. I did it though, using this tutorial.

To be honest preparing an artichoke is a complete faff. Such a lot of work for little return. Is that controversial?

That’s why they sell them already prepped and cooked in delis or in jars in supermarkets. So, if you are impatient (like me) or they are not in season where you are, save yourself some time and buy them. Use the whole vegetable as a table decoration instead with some lavender maybe, or even some fat rocket leaves as an alternative bouquet….

The artichokes reminded me of the delicious tart we had at Babel restaurant at Babylonstoren. The pastry was the amazingly crumbly and I managed to get the recipe from the Chef Simone. This tart came with the best chips in the world that I have recreated too. I will share the recipe in my next post.

I have already written about our day at Babylonstoren in another post . They have a huge farm on site that supplies the restaurant with fresh fruit and vegetables. There is also a beautiful greenhouse that houses the more exotic plants where you can sit and enjoy a fresh from the garden herb tea.

The interior of the restaurant is effortlessly chic.

Even the menus are gorgeous.

Their version of the tart came with tamarillo (a cross between a tomato and a passionfruit), onion marmalade and pesto. I made a rocket and walnut pesto with the gorgeous rocket and a sweet raisin puree to cut through the sourness of the goat’s cheese. After preparing the artichoke hearts I roasted them with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic and fresh thyme to enhance their delicate flavour.

You could also buy the tart cases if you are short of time but this pastry recipe is definitely worth the effort.

Roasted Artichoke & Goat’s Cheese Tart

Makes 4 x 10 cm tarts, Vegetarian. Adapted from the Babel Restaurant recipe

For the pastry:

Prep time: 35 mins (including resting)  Cooking time: 15 mins

  • 100 g  chilled butter, cubed
  • 125 spelt flour (or plain)
  • 65 ml sour cream/creme fraiche
  • a pinch of salt

Pulse the cubed butter, flour and salt in a food processor until it resembles crumble mix. Add the sour cream and pulse again until it just comes together. Do not over mix. Wrap in cling film and leave in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

For the filling:

Prep time: 40 mins (if using fresh artichokes) Cooking time: 15-25 mins

  • 3 young artichoke hearts, quartered (to prepare artichokes read this)
  • olive oil
  • salt & black pepper
  • a sprig of fresh thyme, leaves removed & chopped
  • 4 small garlic cloves unpeeled
  • 150 gr soft goat’s cheese
  • 75 ml sour cream/creme fraiche
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • fresh thyme, rosemary leaves, very finely chopped
  • pinch salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 180C and toss the uncooked artichoke hearts (you can leave this part out of you have bought cooked artichoke hearts) with the olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme and the whole unpeeled garlic cloves. Roast for 20-30 minutes until slightly browned.

Whisk together the goat’s cheese, sour cream, herbs, egg, salt & pepper until combined.

Butter and flour your tart tins. Quarter the pastry and roll out each piece between two bits of floured cling film to about 3mm thick. Lift the pastry and carefully push it into the tin, do not stretch it, until fairly even. Trim off the excess with a sharp knife. Put in the fridge while you do the rest.

Prick the bases all over with a fork, cover with a square of greaseproof paper and fill with baking beans or any dried beans.  Bake at 180c for about 10 minutes then remove the paper and beads and cook for a further 5 minutes.

Pour in the cheese, but not to the top, then add in the artichoke hearts and peeled roasted garlic cloves so the filling now reaches the top and bake for 15 -25 minutes, until puffed and golden.

 Rocket & Walnut Pesto

serves 4, vegan, gluten free

  • a bunch of fresh rocket leaves
  • about 100 gr walnuts (toast them in the oven for 4 minutes) then chop
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • a squeeze lemon/orange juice
  • a pinch of sugar

Put all the ingredients except the oil in a measuring jug (or food processor) and start to puree with a stick blender drizzling in the oil until you get a nice consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning.

 

 

For the Raisin Puree:

serves 4, vegan, gluten-free

  • about 100 gr raisins
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp balsamic/sherry vinegar
  • 1 tsp miel de cana (molasses)

Put the raisins and sugar in a small saucepan and just cover with water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 4-5 minutes. Reserving some of the liquid blend the raisins with the rest of the ingredients and a splash of the cooking water if necessary to a smooth puree. Taste for sweetness.

Serve the tart hot or warm with the rocket pesto, raisin puree and some fresh rocket leaves if you like. The perfect accompaniment though would have to be these chunky chips.

Crispy on the outside, soft and fluffy in the middle, sprinkled with sea salt, cracked pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice. Perfect.

I’ll give you the recipe in my next post, I promise….

Quince Frangipane Tartlets

2 Dec

Quince are definitely an unusual and underrated fruit. Until I moved to Spain I had never even seen one let alone tasted one. The Spanish love the quince and make an exceedingly sweet paste/jelly called Dulce de Membrillo that is delicious served with Manchego cheese. It’s a classic tapa. If you would like to make some, Chica Andaluza has the recipe.

They look like a big yellow, gnarly apple and have a kind of peach fluff on the skin when they are on the tree. The flavour and texture are similar to an apple but it has a delicate floral perfume. They are in season here at the moment so I wanted to make something gorgeous with them to showcase their delicious flavour.

Continue reading

Tibetan Vegetable Momos with Coriander and Cashew Nut Pesto

4 Nov

Momos are a type of dumpling popular in Tibet and Nepal where they are sold as street food or fast food. The  main fillings include minced chicken or lamb/goat mixed with onions and spices, as well as finely minced vegetables or cheese. There are even sweet momos filled with chocolate.

They are traditionally steamed, or sometimes fried and served with a tomato based dipping sauce or in a  hot soup/broth. Continue reading

Pumpkin, Carrot and Goat’s Cheese Tart

28 Sep

It is officially pumpkin time. These little babies that I have been watching grow while walking the dog have now been harvested and are sitting in big crates waiting to go to the market.

The Washer Up bought some pastry home from the restaurant saying it was the best pastry he’d ever made. It was an Austrian pastry recipe he used for a Viennese menu they had on Wednesday, he made a gorgeous quiche and had some pastry left over so he told me I had to use it because it was amazing. Continue reading

Fig and Feta Sambousek with Homemade Harissa Sauce

6 Aug

The second wave of figs (higos) are just starting to ripen here now. This means that we have lots of figs.

We actually have a huge carrier bag full of them in the freezer that was given to us by our friend Leigh, thanks Leigh! Fig chutney was one of the first (in fact the second) recipe that I posted when I first started this blog last September. I’ve just made some more, it tastes great, really aromatic and spicy and it is amazing on a cheese sandwich.

We have just found a Lebanese restaurant in Alhaurin de la Torre called Beirut. It’s been there for ages and I don’t know why we haven’t been before because it has a huge amount of vegetarian dishes to choose from. We popped in for lunch on the way to the Viveros Guzman (an amazing garden centre) and ordered a vegetarian mezze called Katastroph to share.

Each little dish that they brought out was delicious. The hummus was the creamiest and the baba ghanoush was the smokiest that I have ever had, and I’ve had a lot. This was followed by a tabouleh, which was really fresh and was mainly fresh parsley (not a lot of bulgur) which is a good thing. The falafel were light and flavourful. All too often falafel can be heavy, dense and bland. Not these, there was an ingredient in there that I couldn’t recognise but was really familiar, something like fennel seeds, but not. All this was served with a really soft, light arab bread.

Then they brought out the thing that was, for me, the highlight. Sambusik (or sambousek) are little mini pasties, like samosas, but smaller. They seemed to be made out of the same dough as the bread and were stuffed with feta and onion or spinach and lemon. TO. DIE. FOR. Especially the feta and onion, like a mini cheese and onion pasty but softer. By the way I am not getting paid for this review, nor do they know that I am writing it. It is just something I had to share.

I researched it and found this recipe for the dough. It is not as soft and bread-like as theirs but it is really easy to work with, I added some fennel seeds to the dough for extra flavour too.

The fig chutney and feta combination was just born out of the fact that I have so much fig chutney and wanted to use it. It’s spicy sweetness contrasts really well with the salty, creamy feta. It would make a fabulous tart filling too. Just spread some on a puff pastry circle and crumble over the feta, cook at 220 C for about 15-20 minutes until puffed and golden and sprinkle over some fresh parsley to serve.

You could also use fresh figs as the base if you don’t want to bother making the chutney.

Those were the step by step pictures, in case you were wondering. This is the finished product.

I decided to make my own harissa sauce to go with this because, as you know, I have a mountain of chillis and it may be the only chilli sauce I haven’t made yet!

This sauce is hot so I mixed it with some greek yoghurt to serve with the sambousek.

Fig & Feta Sambousek with Homemade Harissa Sauce

For the harissa sauce:

Makes about 250 ml, vegan, gluten-free. Adapted from Taste Food

  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1 tin/jar (200 gr) roasted red peppers, and any juice (I used piquillo peppers), roughly chopped
  • 3 red chillies, stemmed and finely chopped with seeds
  • 3 large cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (or more)
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree (tomate frito)
  • 1 tsp salt 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • a handful of fresh parsley, chopped

Toast the seeds in a dry pan until fragrant, but do not burn. Transfer to a mortar and pestle and grid to a fine powder.

Put the peppers, chillis, garlic, ground seeds, tomato puree, olive oil and parsley in a food processor and blend until smooth, adding more oil or tomato puree, if necessary, to get the desired consistency. Season with the salt & black pepper and taste (a tiny amount). You may want to add more salt or a pinch of sugar. Pour into a sterilised bottle/jar, seal and keep in the fridge until needed.

For the Fig & Feta Sambousek:

Makes about 16 small pastries, vegetarian

  • 225 gr (1 1/2 cups) flour (I use Atta wholemeal), plus extra for dusting
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp fennel or cumin seeds
  • 110 ml (1/2 cup) warm, not hot water
  • fig chutney, see my recipe here
  • 100-150 gr greek feta, cut into small cubes
  • fresh parsley leaves
  • sumac (optional)
  • olive oil for brushing
  • harissa sauce (see above)
  • greek yoghurt

Sieve the flour and salt into a large bowl, then stir in the seeds. Add the olive oil, stir it around then make a well in the middle and pour in the tepid water. Fold the flour into the water, turning the bowl as you go until it forms a sticky dough.

Flour the work surface and knead the dough until it is smooth and no longer sticky about 2 minutes. Wrap in cling film and put in the fridge for at least an hour.

Flour your work surface and rolling-pin and roll out the dough to about 3mm thick. Cut out small circles (I used a water-glass) about 3 inches diameter. Lift the excess pastry away from the circles, re-roll it and cut out more circles, you should get about 16 in total.

Spread the circles on your work surface and put a teaspoon of fig chutney in the centre of each one. Top this with a small cube of feta, a parsley leaf and a small pinch of sumac.

Lift up two opposite edges and seal them around the filling. Seal the two other ends, pinching them together to create a four-cornered sambousek (see pictures above). They can be refrigerated at this point.

Preheat oven to 180 C and line a baking tray with baking paper. Brush the baking paper with olive oil and place the sambousek on the tray, you may need two trays. Brush them with olive oil and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden.

Mix some harissa paste and greek yoghurt together, tasting until you get the right balance for you. Top with some fresh parsley leaves.

Serve the hot/warm sambousek with the harissa yoghurt sauce and sprinkle over some more fresh parsley.

Asparagus and Spring Garlic Custard Tart

5 Apr

These pretty little hairy bulbs are spring garlic. Also known as young garlic, green garlic or garlic shoots. They look a lot like spring onions but have a sweet, mild, fresh garlicky flavour. They can be used in place of garlic in any dish and because they have a more delicate flavour can also be used raw in salads as you would a spring onion. In Spain they are called ajos tiernos or ajetes and are used frequently in cooking. One of the most popular dishes is revuelto de ajos tiernos which is eggs scrambled with spring garlic.

This is actually a combination of two recipes put together. The first for an Asparagus Tart from The Art of the Tart and the second for Wild Garlic Custards with Cheddar & Mustard Straws from Terre a Terre. I changed the puff pastry cheese straws for a puff pastry tart and mixed the asparagus into the garlic custard. I wanted a savoury version of a Portuguese Custard Tart type thing.

If I was to do it again I would probably use a blind baked short crust pastry case instead of puff as the base of my tart was undercooked even though I part baked the tart shell before filling it with the custard. Either that or part bake it for longer, say 15- 20 minutes instead of the 10 minutes I gave it. If you are buying a part baked tart case you can miss out the mustard seeds & grated cheese as I don’t think they will stick to the cooked pastry.

Asparagus & Spring Garlic Custard Tart Recipe

serves 4-6, vegetarian

  • a 9 or 10 inch shortcrust pastry case (bought or homemade)
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds (optional)
  • a sprinkling of grated manchego, cheddar or parmesan (optional)
  • 1 egg, beaten with a little milk
  • 50 gr spring garlic, finely chopped
  • a handful of chives, finely chopped
  • 50 ml whole milk. I used goat’s milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 150-200 gr cream cheese (depending on the depth of your tart)
  • salt & black pepper
  • freshly grated nutmeg
  • a bundle of asparagus, snapped and woody ends removed
  • a handful of grated manchego, cheddar or parmesan

Preheat the oven to 200 C. If you have made your own pastry case, bake the pastry blind (by putting some greaseproof paper in the case and filling it with a layer of dried beans) for 15 minutes. Then remove the beans & paper and brush the base with the egg wash and sprinkle over the mustard seeds, grated cheese. Prick all over the base with a fork and return to the oven for 5 minutes. Remove the pastry case from the oven to cool and turn the oven down to 180 C.

Cook the asparagus in salted boiling water for 3 minutes, drain, run under cold water and set aside to cool. Put the finely chopped spring garlic, chives and milk in a bowl or food processor and blend on high until smooth.  Mix the eggs & egg yolks with a fork and stir them into the cream cheese, then add the garlicky milk mix and beat together until smooth. Season with salt, pepper and a little grated nutmeg.

Spoon or tong the cooked asparagus into the tart case evenly then pour over the garlic custard. Sprinkle over a little grated cheese and cook for 25 – 30 minutes until just set and slightly browned. Leave to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Serve with a green salad for lunch or with some buttery baby new potatoes for a more substantial dinner. Garnish with some more chopped chives and enjoy this celebration of spring flavours!!

Flamiche – A Wholemeal Leek and Gruyere Quiche

29 Mar

 I’ve been walking past these leeks every day watching them grow. I thought they were spring onions up until a few days ago when they became definite leeks.

I use leeks a lot for cooking. I like their sweet mellow oniony flavour and they are also quicker and easier to peel and chop than a normal onion. You have to be careful to rinse them thoroughly before you chop them though. They hide a lot of grit in between the layers that could ruin a lovely dish.

Although I use them often it is always in a supporting role. I wanted a dish where they could be the star of the show, come out from the background and impress all by themselves. This is a recipe for Flamiche. A  classic northern French tart where the white parts of the leeks are softened slowly in butter until sweet then mixed with cream and egg yolks and baked in a pastry case. It is a simple recipe with very few ingredients and that is how it should be. I couldn’t resist topping it with some grated Gruyère for the last 5 minutes of cooking, but if you want you be a purist about it leave it out.

I used wholemeal flour and vegetable suet to make my pastry but you can make your own version of short crust pastry or buy a prepared pastry case if you want to make life easier.

Flamiche –  Wholemeal Leek & Gruyère Quiche

Serves 6, makes a 9 inch Quiche, vegetarian. Adapted from The Art of the Tart by Tamasin Day-Lewis

  • 120 gr self-raising wholemeal flour
  • 60 gr vegetable suet (I use Atora)
  • salt & pepper
  • iced water
  • 6 or 7 large leeks
  • 90 gr unsalted butter
  • 150 – 300 ml cream (I used creme fraiche)
  • 3 egg yolks
  • salt & black pepper
  • freshly grated nutmeg
  • a handful of grated Gruyère

To make the pastry, mix together the flour and suet and season with salt & pepper. Pour in about 3 tbsp iced water and stir to combine. Keep adding water a tbsp at a time until the mixture comes together and stays in a ball. Wrap in clingfilm and put in the fridge while you make the filling.

Chop the dark green parts and the hairy ends off the leeks and remove the outer layer(you can use them to make your own veg stock if you want). Slice the leeks in half lengthways and rinse well under the tap to get rid of any grit between the layers. Slice into about 1cm half moons. Heat the butter over a medium low heat in a large pan. When the butter has melted add the leeks and a good pinch of salt and allow them to sweat slowly until they are completely softened, about 15 minutes. Leave to cool.

Butter and flour your tart tin. Remove the pastry from the fridge, flour your work-surface, rolling-pin and pastry and roll it out, making quarter turns to keep it even and stop it sticking. When it looks big enough to fill the tin (it should be about 3mm thick), lift it up by rolling it over your rolling-pin and lay it gently over the tart tin.  Push it into the tin (don’t stretch it out) and cut off any large overhanging bits but don’t trim it completely. Put it in the fridge while you finish the filling.

Preheat the oven to 180 C. When the leeks have cooled, whisk together the cream (the amount you use will depend on the depth of your tart tin, do it by eye) and egg yolks and season with salt, pepper and a little grated nutmeg. Stir this into the leeks. Remove the pastry case from the fridge and spread the leek mixture evenly over the base. Cook for 35 minutes until just barely set then sprinkle over the grated Gruyère, if using, and give it another 5 minutes for the cheese to melt & brown slightly. Leave for at least 10 minutes before serving and trim off the edges of the pastry with a sharp knife.

This is best served warm, not hot, to really appreciate the flavour of the leeks. In my opinion it is even better served the next day at room temperature (Not cold just out of the fridge). It is perfect picnic food or for a spring buffet even if you’re feeling brave about the weather.

Serve it with a peppery green salad, rocket & watercress would be good, dressed with olive oil & lemon juice for a spring time lunch alfresco…..

Individual Cauliflower Cheese Pies

27 Feb

I used vegetable suet and wholemeal flour to make this pastry. I’ve had this packet of vegetable suet in the cupboard for a while and not really known what to do with it. Proper suet is a made from the fat deposits around the kidneys of an animal. I know, disgusting. Vegetable suet (I used Atora Light) has 3o % less fat and is made with vegetable oil. Much more appetising, don’t you think?

Suet can be used to make dumplings, pastries, pies and puddings.  The classic Steak & Kidney Pudding is made with suet pastry and so are most of the traditional Pork Pies. But don’t let that put you off!

The vegetable suet was really easy to work with, so much easier than using butter. You just stir the suet granules and flour together and add water. That’s it, no messy rubbing butter into flour business. You don’t even have to chill it before you use it (although I put it in the fridge while my filling cooled down). It’s definitely a much quicker option if you’re pressed for time or just very impatient, like me.

Don’t be scared about the pastry being that soggy, doughy pudding pastry either, unless you like that sort of thing! Even using wholemeal flour it turned out to be light, flaky and delicious. I followed the pastry recipe on the box (which was for a quiche) but you can send off for an Atora recipe book if you want to make that strange, soft pudding pastry. 

I knew I was going to make a cauliflower cheese because I had a cauliflower getting bored at the back of my fridge. I toyed with the idea of making dumplings with the suet and doing a Cauliflower Cheese Cobbler (which I will definitely try next time) or even a Cauliflower Cheese Quiche. But I am a sucker for individual pies (don’t like sharing, only child!) and The Washer Up wanted to see if I could make his favourite pork pie-like pastry with the suet, so pies it was.

Instead of making a white sauce with butter & flour for the Cauliflower Cheese, I cooked the leeks in the butter and put the cauliflower florets in a freezer bag with the flour and seasonings and shook the bag to coat the cauliflower. This way when you tip the floured cauliflower to the butter & leeks you get the white sauce base to add your cream or milk to and only use one pan, result!! This is a Nigella trick she uses to make her chicken & mushroom pot pies. Anything that saves time and washing up is a definite bonus….

Individual Cauliflower Cheese Pies

makes 4 small individual pies, vegetarian

  • 150 gr self-raising flour (I used wholemeal self-raising)
  • 75 gr vegetable suet (Atora Light)
  • 3 or 4 tbsp iced water
  • salt & black pepper
  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into 1 inch or less size florets
  • 1 leek, halved lengthways, rinsed & sliced
  • 30 gr butter, plus extra for buttering pie dishes
  • 30 gr plain flour, plus extra for flouring
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • a few sprigs thyme leaves chopped, about 1/2 tsp
  • a pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • salt & black pepper
  • 1 pot creme fraiche about 200 ml
  • about 100 – 150ml veg stock 
  • 50 gr mature cheddar, grated
  • 50 gr Greek feta, or Lancashire crumbly, crumbled
  • 50 gr manchego or parmesan grated
  • 1 egg, beaten, for glazing

Butter & flour your pie dish/dishes and put them in the fridge. If you like you can make your pastry first and leave it in the fridge while you make and cool the filling. Mix together the flour, suet, salt & pepper in a bowl and stir in enough iced water to make a firm but not sticky dough. Wrap it in cling film and put it in the fridge.

Heat the butter over a medium heat, in a large frying pan with a lid.  Fry the leeks in the melted butter with a pinch of salt for a few minutes until softened. Meanwhile put the cauliflower florets, flour, nutmeg, thyme, chilli flakes, salt & pepper in a freezer bag, seal it and shake it so that the cauliflower is coated with the seasoned flour. Tip the contents of the freezer bag (including the excess flour) into the pan with the leeks, stir and cook out for about 2 minutes.

Add the creme fraiche, stir to coat the cauliflower, then add in 100 ml veg stock, stir, cover and leave to cook for about 5-7 minutes until the cauliflower is tender crisp.You can add some more veg stock if it is too dry. Then add in the cheeses, turn off the heat and stir to melt the cheeses.  It should be a thick cheesy sauce clinging to the cauliflower with not too much liquid or the pastry might get soggy. Check seasoning and leave to cool.

Preheat the oven to 200 C and take the pastry out of the fridge. Cut the pastry into four and roll out one piece at a time to a thickness of about 3 mm. Cut about a third off of the pastry and set aside for the lid. Push the pastry into your dish, you may have to cut bits off if it overlaps too much and stick bits in the gaps, this is fine. Just make sure it’s about the same thickness all the way round so it cooks evenly. Fill it right to the top with the cooled filling and push it down well.

Roll out the reserved third to about 3 mm thick and use another pie dish to cut a circle the same size as the top. Keep any pastry offcuts in cas you need them. Roll the circle out a little to make it slightly bigger, but not much.  Brush the edges of the pastry that will be touching the lid with the beaten egg then lay the lid on top. Push it down with your fingers, then crimp around the edges with a fork to seal it. Trim of the excess pastry round the edges, make 2 holes in the top with a sharp knife and brush the top with beaten egg.

Repeat with the other 3 pies and cook in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes until puffed & golden brown.

Serve hot straight out of the oven with a simple green salad or some green beans, it’s delicious. Equally good served at room temperature for lunch with some beetroot chutney if you want to go down that ploughman’s/ pub lunch route.

Ahhhh.. Pub Lunch. There are not many things I miss about the UK but lunch (or even just a packet of cheese & onion crisps) in a pub garden on a sunny day is one of them. That, and Grandad’s pickled onions. Which would be great with this, by the way. Maybe Michelle could bring some over in May (hint). Now, you really wouldn’t want that to break in your luggage……………..!

Festive Season Spanakopita with chestnut and cranberry

18 Nov

Spanakopita is a Greek spinach & feta cheese filo pie sometimes with pine nuts & raisins added. I wanted to give it a Christmas twist so it could be a stunning vegetarian Christmas dinner option. The chestnuts and dried cranberries (craisins) were calling me and made perfect seasonal replacements for the pine nuts & raisins.

The chestnuts were a gift from our friends Andrew & Rafa who invited us to dinner on Sunday evening. They have a beautiful country house just outside a small village called Guaro which is about 20 minutes from where we live. Andrew has been following my blog and wanted to try cooking one of my recipes while I was there to supervise him (He is not a confident cook!)

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This is pool area and the views are 360 degrees- stunning ..

The house has a really cosy feel to it and there was roaring fire burning in the fireplace when we arrived to take away the chill of that fresh mountain air.

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They made us feel so welcome and the place was so comfortable that I really did not want to move from the sofa to the kitchen, but I did, occasionally!!

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Andrew chose to cook my recipe for Caramelized Shallot & Goat’s Cheese Tarte Tatin which turned out really well, it’s a bit nerve-wracking watching someone else cook from your recipe, too much responsibility!!

We had some puff pastry left over so we made some Parmesan Cheese Straws as well which were a great aperitivo with  a glass of cava. They are really easy to make you just cut the puff pastry into thin strips, sprinkle with grated parmesan, hold both ends of a strip and twist one end towards you and the other end away from you. Sprinkle with a bit more parmesan  and bake for about 10 -15 minutes at 200 degrees.

We had a wonderful evening and this was where we enjoyed our breakfast on the terrace with that amazing view….

This stunning country cottage is available for holiday rentals and I would thoroughly recommend it, the attention to detail is second to none. For more information see Andrew’s blog at www.andaluciadiary.com which is an insider’s guide to Andalucia and beyond with really great information about where to stay, where to eat and what to do.

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Anyway, back to the Christmas Spanakopita. The inspiration came from the chestnuts Andrew & Rafa gave us as we were leaving.

I have been thinking about a vegetarian christmas option for a while but nothing has excited me until this. It has all of my favourite things, feta, spinach, fresh herbs and the addition of the chestnuts & cranberries makes it  really special. The good thing about this dish is that you can make a big baking dish size pie and even if there is only one vegetarian to serve it is even more delicious cold which means you can serve it for an evening buffet or as part of your  Boxing Day lunch.

Chestnut & Cranberry Spanakopita Recipe

  • 1 packet of filo pastry (defrosted in the fridge overnight)
  • 1 red onion finely chopped
  • 2 large cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  •  a bag of fresh spinach (about 350 gr)
  • a knob of butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh mint
  • 1/2 tsp dried mint
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • freshly grated nutmeg (about 1/2 tsp)
  • a pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • 50 gr dried cranberries
  • 75 gr peeled chestnuts chopped
  • 3 large eggs beaten
  • about 75 ml cream
  •  120 gr feta cheese crumbled
  • 120 gr grated cheese (parmesan, manchego or cheddar or a mixture)

Heat the butter and oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat, fry the onion until translucent, add the garlic, cook for 2 minutes then add the spinach. Stir and cover with a lid, leave to wilt for about 2 minutes stirring occasionally. When the spinach has wilted tip away any water then add the herbs and spices salt & pepper, stir to combine and leave to cool slightly.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Mix together the beaten eggs, cream and cheeses in a large bowl. Then add the  wilted spinach (minus any liquid), cranberries and chopped chestnuts and stir well until combined.

Line a rectangular baking tin/dish about the same size as the filo pastry sheets with some baking paper. Then layer 3 or 4 sheets of filo in the baking dish, brushing each sheet with a little oil. Pour the mixture onto the pastry and spread it out evenly. Cover with the remaining sheets of filo (5 or 6) tucking it down the sides if necessary and brushing each sheet with olive oil.

Brush the top sheet with olive oil, sprinkle with a little water and bake for 40 – 50 minutes until browned.

Serve, cut into squares or wedges, with all the Christmas trimmings or just with some boiled new potatoes in minted butter. (Remember to remove the baking paper from the bottom!)

Leave the rest to cool and serve slices as part of a buffet. This is one of those vegetarian dishes that everyone is going to wish they had, so it is always good to have some left over…..

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