Spinach filo pie

fresh spinach

My vegetable beds are looking deliciously green at the moment, helped along in their lushness by this abundant rain, interspersed with bright sunshine. I have the most spinach and swiss chard I’ve ever succeeded in growing and this recipe is a incredibly easy and tasty way of using several large bowlfuls of it. I’ve adapted it from a traditional pita recipe created by Nina from Bosnia and Herzegovina at Nina’s Kitchen

We’re avoiding cow’s milk at the moment, so I made this with goat’s yoghurt and ewe’s milk feta, but you can experiment with any combination of yoghurt and cheese, including cottage cheese. 

This pie was so popular in our house that we didn’t have any leftovers but if you’re lucky enough to have some remaining the next day then it’s great cold too, in lunchboxes or for a picnic. 

Ingredients

4 eggs

500ml yoghurt

Large pinch of salt

6 sheets of filo pastry

Olive oil for brushing

500g spinach or swiss chard, washed and dried

150g feta cheese

1 tsp of nigella or sesame seeds

Serves 6

Method

Preheat the oven to 200ºC (180ºC fan, gas mark 6).

Beat the eggs and mix with the yoghurt and salt.

yogurt and egg

Brush the bottom of an oven dish (I used one 40 cm by 20 cm) with the oil.

Place 1 sheet of filo on the bottom of the dish and brush with oil, before adding another and brushing with oil.

oiling filo in dish

Then spread out half the spinach, dot with half the feta cheese and spoon over half the yoghurt and egg mix.

spinach and feta uncooked

Add another layer of filo, brush with oil, then add another, also brushing with oil.

Repeat the spinach, feta and yoghurt mix layer.

Place another 2 layers of filo, each brushed with oil, then sprinkle with the seeds.

uncooked pita pie

Bake for 40 minutes until golden on top.

spinach filo pie

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Easy masala dosa

Masala dosa

I love masala dosa but an authentic recipe takes some preparation, involving soaking urad dal and rice over night, grinding them the next day and then leaving them to ferment. So when I saw a bag of dosa flour at Bristol’s Sweet Mart I realised I could make reasonable dosas without much hassle at all. The flour and water batter does need leaving overnight, but it’s easy to prepare. Our children love pancakes, so this recipe has the added bonus of being a real crowd pleaser for a family meal.

Serves 4

Ingredients

Dosas

Sunflower oil for frying

200g dosa flour (I used Jalpur Dhosa Mix Flour)

Enough warm water to make a thin batter, about 500-600 ml

1 tsp salt

Potato masala

2 tbsp sunflower oil

1 tsp black mustard seeds

12 curry leaves

2 onions, thinly sliced

1 green chilli, thinly sliced (optional)

800g cooked potatoes

2 tsp cumin seeds, lightly crushed

2 tsp crushed coriander seeds, lightly crushed

2 tsp garam masala

1 tsp chat masala (optional)

Chat masala salad

3 tomatoes, third of a cucumber, diced

half a tin of chickpeas

2 spring onions, finely sliced, or a handful of chives, snipped

1 green chilli, deseeded and finely sliced (optional)

Pinch of chat masala (optional) and salt

Raita

250g natural yoghurt

half a garlic clove, crushed

small handful of mint, chopped

pinch of salt

Method

Dosa batter

Mix the dosa ingredients together and leave overnight.

Masala potatoes

Heat the oil on a medium-high heat.

Add the mustard seeds and when they begin to pop, add the curry leaves and stir for 30 seconds.

Turn the heat down to medium-low and add the onions. Cook for 5-10 mins until soft.

Add the cumin and coriander seeds, garam masala and chat masala and cook for 2 minutes, before adding the cooked potato. Heat through and keep in a warm oven.

Dosas and potato filling

Dosas

Traditionally dosas are cooked in a flat tawa pan but you can also use a crepe pan, or non-stick frying pan. Heat ½ tsp of oil on a medium-high heat and when it’s hot, add a ladleful of batter (I made a rough spiral to cover the pan as thinly as possible).

Gently flip with a spatula when one side is done, after a few minutes. Keep the dosas warm in the oven while you cook the rest.

To assemble, put a few dessert spoons of potato mix on a dosa and fold over. Serve with the chat masala salad and raita, along with lime pickle and mango chutney.

Chutney and dips

Minestrone soup with nettle and smoked cheese pesto

Easy minestrone soupI find that not having a fridge and cupboards constantly stocked means that you can set yourself a creative challenge to cook something delicious out of frugal ingredients. Whilst not everyone will have some smoked cheese lurking at the back of the fridge as I was surprised to find in mine today, you may have a small unkempt patch of nettles in the garden to forage and a lump of cheddar in the fridge. If you live near Frome and you like smoked cheese, the Wiltshire Smokehouse produce a really good one, which they sell locally and at Frome Farmers’ Market.

This easy soup recipe has been a family favourite for years now and is versatile with endless permutations, depending on which storecupboard ingredients you have. Add 50g of chopped pancetta or bacon with the onions, substitute the chickpeas for cannellini or flageolet beans, the spaghetti for whichever pasta you have to hand, the onions for leeks, carrots and peppers for French beans, broad beans or potatoes. The same goes for the pesto; you can also check out my recipes for wild garlic pesto or basil pesto. Or omit the pesto altogether and just add some finely grated parmesan or similar cheese at the end.

Serve with sourdough toast rubbed with a garlic clove and drizzled with olive oil and a green salad.

Serves 4

Ingredients

Minestrone

2 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, chopped

3 cloves of garlic, crushed

2 carrots, diced

1 red pepper, diced

Tin of chopped tomatoes

2 tbsp tomato puree

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp dried oregano

1 bay leaf

1½ pints of stock (I used Marigold bouillion)

Tin of chickpeas

1 tsp sugar

½ tsp salt

25g spaghetti, roughly broken, or macaroni

Nettle pesto

100g nettle tops, picked with rubber gloves and rinsed

50g finely grated smoked cheese

50g walnuts, roughly chopped

1 clove of garlic, crushed

250 ml olive oil

Method

Heat the oil and fry the onion, carrot and pepper for 10 minutes on a medium-low heat.

Add the garlic and cook for a minute or so.

Add the tomatoes, tomato puree, smoked paprika and herbs, cook for 5 minutes before adding the stock, chickpeas, sugar and salt. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the nettle and smoked cheese pesto. Blanch the nettle tops for 1 minute in boiling water and then cool by running cold water over them. Squeeze out the moisture and roughly chop the nettles. Blitz the walnuts in a food processor or in a jug using a stick blender, then add the rest of the ingredients and blend to a paste.

nettle pesto

Add the pasta to the soup and cook for a further 10 minutes.

Serve the bowls of soup with a dollop of pesto on each.

minestrone and nettle pesto

Children love the novelty factor of eating nettles and because this is a family-friendly meal and inspired by Italy, I’m entering this for the Family Foodies Italian challenge, hosted by Vanesther at Bangers and Mash, along with Louisa at Eat Your Veg.

As this soup is packed full with vegetables, I’m also entering it for this month’s Extra Veg challenge, hosted by Jo from Jo’s Kitchen, along with Michelle at Utterly Scrummy and Helen at Fuss Free Flavours.

Extra-Veg-Badge-003

Wild garlic and feta quiche

Wild garlic and feta quicheThis is a seasonal allium-rich dish, full of spring onions, leeks and wild garlic, and a great quiche for a picnic. I’ve also made this recipe as 1½ times the ingredients and used the excess for making mini tarts in a jam tart baking tin, which are perfect for kids’ lunchboxes. Sometimes I make individual tarts instead of a whole quiche; use the same quantity as the recipe below but use a baking tin for tarts instead.

This is an easy quiche recipe as it uses a yeasted pastry, which is much simpler to cook with no need to chill beforehand or bake blind – and it never gets a soggy bottom!

I bought some lovely plump spring onions from VP Collins veg at Frome Farmers’ Market; it’s worth looking for these home-grown varieties, which are fuller in flavour than the supermarket kind. If you can’t find wild garlic, then substitute it with 250g spinach, wilted and squeezed of moisture. You can also substitute the feta for goat’s cheese, or any other strong cheese you have.

Ingredients

Pastry

120g plain flour

50g butter or margarine, melted

1 egg

1 tsp dried fast-action yeast

½ tsp salt

Filling

1 tbsp olive oil

1 leek, finely sliced

Bunch of spring onions, finely sliced

100g wild garlic leaves, shredded

100g feta cheese, roughly cut into small cubes

5 eggs, beaten

100ml milk

Pinch of salt

Method

Mix the pastry ingredients together and set aside for at least an hour, covering it with oiled clingfilm (you can also mix them the night before and put the pastry in the fridge, bringing it out an hour before you want to use it).

Grease a 25 cm quiche dish.

Roll out the pastry when it’s ready, and line the dish.

Preheat the oven to 180°C fan (200°C or gas mark 6).

Heat the olive oil on a medium heat and fry the leek for 10 minutes, then add the shredded wild garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes until just wilted. Add the spring onions and stir for another minute. Remove from the heat.

Beat the eggs and add the milk.

Place the leek mixture in the quiche case, dot the feta cheese on top before adding the egg and milk and salt.

Put in the oven for 30 minutes until firm in the middle and lightly browned on top. Leave to cool for 5-10 minutes before cutting.

wild garlic and feta tart

As this quiche has got three lots of veg, I’m entering it for April’s Extra Veg challenge, hosted by Jo from Jo’s Kitchen, along with Michelle at Utterly Scrummy and Helen at Fuss Free Flavours.

Extra-Veg-Badge-003

Sardine empanadillas

Sardine empanadillas

Whilst in Barcelona last week, I discovered a brilliant stall in the the local neighbourhood market, Mercat de Sant Antoni, which sold loads of different tapas dishes by the kilo. I was in heaven! I couldn’t resist stocking up on some of my favourites: espinacas a la Catalana (Catalan spinach), empanadillas de atún (tuna pastries), croquetas de bacalao (salt cod croquettes) and albóndigas de sepia (cuttlefish balls).

I love savoury pastries and I’ve often had empanadas – the bigger version of empanadillas – in Northern Spain, known as empanada Gallega (Galician empanada), usually filled with tuna, octopus or pork. When I make these pastries, I adapt the recipes from two of my best-loved cookbooks: Elizabeth Luard’s The Food of Spain and Portugal and Casa Moro.

When I returned home from Barcelona I was already missing empanadillas so decided to make my own. As I’d been away for the weekend, I had very little in the cupboard except tinned tomatoes and sardines, but those are the main ingredients of this recipe. You can also make these empanadillas with tinned tuna; just make sure it’s MSC-marked and replace the rosemary with thyme. And if you’re pushed for time or not in a pastry-making mood, you can always use shop-bought puff pastry.

Empanadillas are great in lunchboxes, or for picnics, parties or tapas. If I make an empanada, we’ll have it for dinner alongside roasted cubed potatoes with chopped rosemary, which you can cook at the same time as the pastries (although they take twice as long, about 30 minutes).

The slow-cooked tomato sauce that makes up the filling is called a sofrito in Spain and is really versatile, cheap and easy to make. Use it as a pasta sauce with or without the tinned fish, or to go with meatballs or baked white fish.

Ingredients

Pastry

500g strong white bread flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp sweet paprika

2 tsp or 1 sachet of dried yeast

80 ml lukewarm milk

140 ml lukewarm water

100ml olive oil

1 egg, beaten

Polenta

Filling

2 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

1 red and 1 green pepper, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped

1 tin of tomatoes

1 tbsp tomato puree

¼ tsp salt

pinch of sugar

½ tsp chilli flakes (optional)

250g tinned sardines

Method

Mix all the dry dough ingredients first and then the liquids. Knead to a smooth dough for a few minutes before covering and leaving in a warm place for an hour or so.

Fry the onion and peppers for 10-15 minutes on a medium-low heat.

Empanadilla filling

Heat the oven to 200°C or gas mark 6. Add the garlic and rosemary to the onion and pepper mix and cook for 2 minutes, before adding the tomatoes, tomato puree, salt, sugar and chilli flakes, if using. Simmer on a low heat for 20 minutes. Add the sardines 10 minutes before the end, breaking them up with a wooden spoon.

To make empanadillas, roll the pastry out until it’s quite thin and, using a small bowl or saucer about 10-12cm in diameter, cut out circles. Put a dessert spoon of filling to one side of the centre and, using some of the beaten egg, brush around the edges before folding the pastry over and sticking it, creating a semi-circle.

Empanadilla pastry

You can use a fork to make a pattern along the edges if you like (see the photo below). Brush the top with egg.

Uncooked empanadilla

Lightly sprinkle a baking tray with polenta (or line it with greaseproof paper) and place the empanadillas on it. Bake for 15-20 minutes until light brown.

Cooked sardine empanadillas

As this recipe uses rosemary from the garden, I’m also entering it for the February Cooking with Herbs challenge, hosted by Karen at Lavender and Lovage, using winter herbs. 

Cooking with Herbs Lavender and Lovage

I’m also entering it for the Credit Card Munch, hosted by Elizabeth at Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary, developed by Helen at Fuss Free Flavours and Camilla at Fab Food 4 All as this recipe is good for packed lunches and uses cheap ingredients.

Credit-Crunch-Munch

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Easy Spanish tortilla

Spanish tortillaIf you’re looking for something hassle-free to make in the hectic time around Christmas, try this easy tortilla recipe, which was given to me by Catalan friend, Kiki. It’s a great tapas or party recipe, especially if you cut the tortilla into small squares and add toothpicks.

Everyone in Spain has their own method for making tortillas and some may feel it’s sacrilege to use a microwave for the potatoes instead of frying them, but this recipe using considerably less oil, so is healthier and also less hassle. While the potatoes are cooking in the microwave you’re free to grill some red peppers to make the perfect tapas accompaniment: pimientos asados

This tortilla is also incredibly cheap; depending on where you buy the ingredients, it costs around £2.50-3.00 to make.

Ingredients

800g unpeeled waxy potatoes (such as Charlotte)

6 free-range eggs

8 tbsp olive oil

salt

Method

1 Cut the potatoes in halves or quarters lengthways (depending on their size) and then slice, so you have slices as thick as a £1 coin. As you cut them, put them in a bowl of water.

Tortilla de patatas

2 Drain them in a colander and put them in a microwaveable bowl and mix with 3 tbsp of olive oil, then cover with a plate.

3 Put in the microwave for 7 minutes. Meanwhile, beat the 6 eggs in a separate large bowl and add 6 pinches of salt.

4 Drain the potatoes, then return them to the bowl with another 3 tbsp of olive oil, before putting them back in the microwave for 8 minutes.

5 Check the potatoes; they should be slightly soft around the edges. If they are still a bit hard, put them on for another 2-5 minutes. Put a smallish non stick deep frying pan on a medium-high heat with 1 tbsp of olive oil.

6 Drain the potatoes when they’re done, then mix in with the eggs.

7 When the pan is hot, add the egg and potato mix. It’s important at this stage to have the pan hot enough to seal the egg but once they’re in, turn down to a low-medium heat.

8 Depending on how hot your hob is, it should take around 8 mins to cook on the first side. You can tell when it’s done by the smell (once you’ve got some experience!) of cooked but not burnt egg, or you can flip the pan on to a plate to get the tortilla out. If it’s still pale, pop the pan back over the tortilla and flip it round again and put the pan back on the heat.

9 If it is done, put 1 tbsp of oil in the pan again and heat. Then carefully slide the tortilla off the plate and into the pan to cook the other side, for about 7 mins this time, again on a medium-low heat. Again, you can check if it’s done by flipping it on to a plate.

10 Cut it into eights, or small squares (see photo below) with toothpicks for easy sharing.

IMG_1438

As this tortilla is perfect for lunchboxes, for both kids and adults, I’m entering it for this month’s Tea Time Treats, organised by Lavender and Lovage and The Hedgecombers, hosted by Janie, with the theme packed lunches.

Spanish chorizo and lentil stew

Chorizo and lentil stew

When we’re shivering in darkness as the seasons meld from autumn to winter, this easy chorizo and lentil stew hits the spot: intense smoky flavours from the paprika chorizo cut through by the wine (or sherry’s) fresh sharpness. It’s also a great little tapas recipe, otherwise known as chorizo con lentejas, and freezes well too.

This is the chorizo con lentejas recipe we use for our pop-up tapas bar, Cantina Festival, which appears at the Silk Mill during the Frome Festival every July. It’s one of our most popular tapas and no matter how much we make, we always sell out.

The list of ingredients is deceptively simple but the success of the recipe depends on good-quality chorizo. I buy the chorizo in 1kg packs from the brilliant Tapas Lunch Company; if you’re a chorizo fan, it’s worth getting it in bulk and freezing it in small packages as it cooks beautifully and works out far better economically than buying the inferior chorizo sold in supermarkets. Wherever you buy it, make sure you get semi-cured or cooking chorizo, not cured.

Chorizo smoked paprika

Serves 4, or 8 as a tapa

Olive oil

400g semi-cured chorizo, sliced into thick 1cm coins

1 large onion, about 200g, peeled and finely chopped

3 fat cloves garlic, finely chopped

250g puy lentils

150ml dry white wine or dry sherry

1 bay leaf, preferably fresh

1 tbsp smoked paprika

  • Add a glug of olive oil and fry the chorizo on a medium-high heat for 5 minutes, stirring.
  • Remove the chorizo with a slotted spoon.
  • Add the onions, turning the heat down slightly and cook gently for 10 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and fry for 2 minutes, before mixing in the lentils, strirring for 2 more minutes.
  • Turn the heat up to medium high and add the chorizo and the sherry or wine.
  • Boil the kettle and 1 litre of hot water, enough to just cover the chorizo and lentils.
  • Add the smoked paprika and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the lentils are soft but have some shape to them. Add some more water if it looks too dry.
  • Serve with thick slices of sourdough or ciabatta and maybe a rocket or other peppery leaf salad, along with a glass of Rioja.