I reckon that choux pastry gets a bad rap. People think that it’s super-hard to make when the truth is it’s really not and it’s no more temperamental than any other sort of pastry. You simply need a decent a pair of biceps for all […]
As a non-meat eater I would be chuffed to bits to be presented with these for my Christmas dinner, or for any dinner for that matter! The pastry is gorgeously crisp and flaky against the creamy filling and tender sweet squash. The flavours are spot on too, squash, sage and nutmeg is such a classic combination.
Obviously if you’re pushed for time (there’s never enough of it at Christmas) you can use ready-made pastry. These will keep for a day or two in the fridge and re-heat beautifully too so feel free to make them ahead of time if you need to.
40g toasted hazelnuts (ground finely)
200g plain flour
pinch of seasalt
splash of very cold water
450g (ish) butternut squash
1 1/2 tsp dried sage
pinch of grated nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
Rub together the ground hazelnuts, butter, salt and flour, using your fingertips or a food processor, until it looks like fine breadcrumbs. Use a little of the cold water to brind everything together but don’t let the dough get sticky. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and put it in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.
Pre-heat the oven to 230°c and line a large baking sheet with baking parchment.
Combine the ricotta, sage, parmesan, nutmeg and salt and pepper, mixing well and set it aside. Slice the ‘neck’ of the squash (don’t bother to peel it) so that the slices are only a couple of millimeters thick. Use a cookie cutter to cut the squash into pretty shapes, this should be pretty easy if your squash is thin enough.
Once the dough has chilled and relaxed roll it out on a very lightly floured surface so that it is just a few millimeters thick. Cut four circles out of the dough (a breakfast bowl makes a good template) re-rolling the dough as necessary.
Put the discs of pastry on the prepared baking sheet. Add a dollop of the ricotta mixture to the centre of each and spread it a little. Arrange the squash slices on top, so that they overlap. Fold over the edges of the pastry, crimping and gathering as necessary. I like to brush the edges with a little beaten egg so that the pastry is lovely and golden once the galettes are baked. Dot the top of each one with a tiny bit of butter and sprinkle on a bit of black pepper.
Bake them for 15 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 190°c and bake for a further 20 minutes.
When you get really good ingredients it’s worth using them in a recipe that really shows off their full potential. That’s how I feel about these beautiful heirloom tomatoes anyway.
So often the fruits you find in supermarkets are insipid and disappointing but if you come across tomatoes like these, or are lucky enough to be green fingered and grow your own then you’ll know they’ll be packed with flavour and worthy of a bit more love than just tossing them into your Bolognese!
Look at how pretty the colours look in this tart, it’s a picture perfect summer dish. It tastes pretty wonderful too. The fennel seeds in the buttery pastry crust really bring out the sweetness of the tomatoes. Delicious!
150g plain flour
50g wholemeal flour
pinch of sea salt
1 tbsp fennel seeds
splash of ice cold water
5-6 heirloom tomatoes (different varieties if you can)
3 tbsp polenta/semolina
1 tbsp freshly grated parmesan
seasalt, black pepper and fresh oregano
Whisk together the flours and then lightly rub in the butter until it looks like breadcrumbs. Mix through the salt and fennel seeds and then use a little splash of water to bring it all together to form a soft, but not sticky, dough. If you prefer then you can do all this quite quickly and easily in a food processor, which also means there’s less chance of over-working the dough and ending up with tough pastry. Wrap the dough in some cling film and pop it in the fridge to rest for at least 15 minutes.
Pre-heat your oven to 230°c and cover a large baking sheet with some baking parchment. Wash, dry and slice the tomatoes, so that the slices are about 5mm thick. A serrated knife is the best thing to use here.
Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface until you have a large roundish shape, a few millimetres thick. Carefully place this on the prepared baking sheet. Scatter the polenta or semolina (whichever you’re using) over the pastry, leaving a few centimetres gap around the edge. This will help soak up all those lovely tomato juices and stop the pastry becoming a soggy mess. Arrange the tomato slices on top, overlapping them as you go. Season really well with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and then dot the surface with a little butter. Sprinkle over the parmesan and a little chopped fresh oregano. Carefully fold up the edges of the pastry, gathering it a little where you need to.
Bake the tart for 20 minutes before reducing the oven temperature to 190° and baking for a further 25 minutes. The pastry should be crisp and slightly golden when it’s done. Leave to cool to room temperature before serving.
I love most Indian food but I think that my absolute favourite dish is a paneer dosa. I love the crisp, delicate crepe and contrasting soft, fluffy spiced potato filling. I am not, however, any good at making them. The filling isn’t a problem, it’s the dosa crepe. I don’t think that I have the skill and dexterity required to produce such wonderfully thin pancakes.
So I’ve turned to filo pastry to help me get my fix of crisp exterior and fluffy spicy interior. It works well too – like a cross between spanokopita and a dosa!
700g floury potatoes
2 inch piece of ginger
2 fat cloves of garlic
1 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp garam masala
chili powder and salt and pepper to taste
2-3 huge handfuls of spinach
150g filo sheets
1 tbsp sesame seeds
Dice the potato into small cubes, you can peel them if you like but I don’t bother. Put them in a large pan of boiling water and cook until they are quite tender. Drain and set aside.
Melt the butter in a large frying pan and then pour most of it into a small dish for later. Thinly slice the onion and fry this in the butter that’s left in the pan until it is just starting to brown. Peel and grate the garlic and ginger before adding to the pan and cooking for a minute or two. Sprinkle in the spices and seasonings. Cube the paneer and mix it with everything in the pan, keeping the heat low but allowing it to brown a little.
Combine the cooked potato with everything else and then toss it with the spinach. Add a tablespoon or so of water and let the spinach wilt down before removing from the heat.
Pre-heat your oven to 200°c and lightly grease a baking tray.
Now time to assemble the pie! Beat the egg and set it aside and keep the filo sheets under a damp tea towel. Cover your work top with about a meter of clingfilm. Lay out a couple of sheets of filo, over-laping by at least an inch and brush them with the melted butter. Build up the layers of filo and melted butter, working as quickly as you can because the filo will dry out very quickly.
Spread the filling along the length of the filo at the edge closest to you and brush the far edge with beaten egg. Using the cling film to help you roll the pastry away from you to create a sausage shape. Curl the sausage around itself to form a pin wheel. Again, using the cling film to help you, transfer the pie to the baking tray. Brush it really well with the rest of the beaten egg and sprinkle the top with sesame seeds.
Bake the pie for 35 minutes until it is lovely and golden. Serve hot or cold.
Crab was a particular speciality where we were living in the USA. Hauled out of the Chesapeake and boiled up with Old Bay seasoning or turned into delicious crab cakes. It’s a delicacy back home in Cornwall too, freshly picked and eaten in sandwiches. I’ve […]