Tag Archives: pine nuts

Mixed Vegetable Phyllo

27 Aug

With loads of mixed vegetables!Oh what a day! Blissed out baby mode, and when it came time to make dinner, I realised we had nothing in the fridge but bits and pieces – a handful of spinach, a few artichoke hearts, quarter of a butternut. Some days, you dont have one thing to work with, but many many little odds and ends of things. On days like these, I like to make something that will incorporate all the left over bits – a pie, tart, pasta sauce, even a bread pudding …

Tomorrow we go to Whole Foods once again, but tonight was incorporate all the remaining handfuls and try and make something yummy night. This is one reason why I love phyllo dough. I am not a master Greekie cook (like my beloved Osisters – their spanakopita is phenomenal!) but I do like its ease of use, its pliability and its wonderful presentation. I dont know why, but people feel very manja-ed (Malaysian word – means spoiledbelovedcaredforlookedafter all rolled into one!) when you present them with a baked good – pies, tarts, pastries of all kinds. People love them, and the presence of a crust seems to elevate a rather normal meal into something special. On a night like tonight, phyllo dough enabled me to incorporate lots of things quickly and seamlessly… and delectably!

I would never ever try and make my own phyllo dough. Its waaaaaay too delicate and intricate a process. Rather, I purchase the best phyllo I can find, and am thankful to those who take (almost) all the work out of it for me! There are a few general rules for working with phyllo. Use butter if you want a rich tart, and use olive oil if you want a slightly lighter version. Set up everything you need before you even begin to unwrap the phyllo because as soon as you do, you need to work quickly and efficiently. Phyllo will dry out or start to melt and stick together, so know what you want to do, and do it fast. And always try and work on grease proof or wax paper. This allows you to preheat your pan (I use a jelly roll or large flat cookie pan for this free form recipe) in the oven, and then slide your creation onto it, still on the wax paper. The bottom of the phyllo pie will be crisped because of the immediate contact with hot pan, and you wont get that soggy bottom which generally occurs when you bake the phyllo on a cold pan. And finally, try and drain as much of the moisture out of the filling as you can. You need some moisture to bind the vegetables, but dont put a very wet filling into the pie – it will leak and get soggy and be yucky. If you are making a vegan version, just boil all the juices down into a thickened sauce and use it in place of the ricotta and egg.

This will serve 6 hungry – 8 people

I am going to tell you what I put into this pie, but really, use up what you’ve got in the fridge – from tomatoes and carrots to spinach and pine nuts. You will need about 4 – 6 cups of cooked filling in total.

For the filling

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 large Vidalia onion, minced
  • 3 – 4 garlic cloves, minced fine
  • Small handful (may be 1/4 cup) sun dried tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 – 1/2 butternut
  • 1 + 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup mixed dried mushrooms – I used chanterelles, porcini and shiitake
  • Pinch of cinnamon (optional)
  • 1/2 cup chopped spinach
  • 1/2 cup chopped french beans
  • 1 cup chopped asparagus
  • 1/2 cup artichoke hearts
  • 3 heaping tbsp ricotta (optional)
  • 2 eggs (optional)
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta (optional) – use toasted pine nuts instead if you are a vegan!

In a large, non stick frying pan, heat the olive oil and saute the onions, garlic and sun dried tomatoes together until the onions are softened and glossy, and have browned a little.

Add salt, pepper, oregano and paprika, and stir well.

Chop the butternut quite fine – you want little cubes about the size of the nail on your pinkie. You want it to have body, but you want the butternut to cook quickly. Add to the pan, and saute for a few minutes, stirring constantly. Add 1 cup of hot water, and allow to bubble and cook for a while on medium high heat.

In a separate small bowl, immerse the dried mushrooms in another cup of boiling water. Leave for at least 10 minutes, whilst the butternut is bubbling away.

Once the mushrooms have softened, take them out of the water, and chop roughly, and add to the pan. Most of the water from cooking the butternut should have boiled away. Add about half a cup of the mushroom water, and allow to cook for a further five minutes or so. Taste and adjust seasoning. Sometimes I add a little cinnamon for depth of flavour, or more salt, pepper and spices.

Turn off the heat (you should still have a significant amount of liquid in the pan), and transfer the contents of the pan to a sieve set over a small bowl. I usually use the mushroom bowl, cleaned out! Let the liquid drip through, and using your spatula or spoon, press down on the onion-butternut-mushroom mixture so that most of the liquid drains through. Reserve the cooking liquid, either to use as the base of a sauce for the pie, or as the binding liquid if you are baking for vegans.

Transfer the mixture back to the pan, and over medium heat, add the spinach, beans, asparagus and artichoke hearts. Saute briefly until completely combined, but make sure that the greenery does not cook too long – you want it to retain its colour and taste!

Tumble the vegetable mixture into a bowl, and set aside for at least ten minutes to allow it to cool.

If you are cooking vegan, transfer the cooking liquid to the pan, and boil it down until reduced by at least half. It needs to be thick and syrupy. You could add some wine to this if you like, though I didnt have any available. Add a few tablespoons to the vegetable mixture to bind it properly, and give it some body.

Otherwise, beat together the ricotta, eggs and feta, and mix gently through the vegetable mixture. Taste and adjust for seasoning, and set aside.

Phyllo Assembly

  • 7 – 9 large phyllo leaves
  • 1/4 cup olive oil and pastry brush
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta or toasted pine nuts

Preheat the oven to 200 C and put a jelly roll or cookie pan into the oven to preheat.

Lay out your work surface. On a clean tea towel or a strip of waxed paper, unroll your phyllo dough. Have a small bowl with olive oil and a pastry brush handy. Also have a small bowl containing your feta, and your bowl of prepared vegetables.

Tear a strip of waxed paper long enough to fit your baking pan. Lay a phyllo sheet on the paper (my phyllo dough covered almost the entire paper), and gently brush with a bit of olive oil. Continue to layer leaves of phyllo dough, brushing each layer with olive oil. Its okay if the phyllo tears – just patch it up with olive oil, and keep going. You want to work quickly but surely, and dont worry about covering every inch of the pastry with olive oil – you really just want to give it a gentle brushing. I used 7 layers, but you can use as many as you want.

Sprinkle your crumbled feta onto the dough, going straight down lengthways the middle of the dough. Leave a 2 inch space on either side.

Spoon your vegetable filling over the feta, mounding it, and leaving space on either side. You will now have what looks like a log of vegetables centred on your phyllo dough.

To complete the pie, fold over both short sides, like an envelope, and then fold the longer ends over each other. Using the waxed paper, flip the phyllo log over on itself, so that the seam is bottom side down. Centre the phyllo log on the waxed paper. Brush the top with olive oil.

Using oven mits, take the hot baking pan out of the oven. Using the waxed paper, transfer the paper and the phyllo log onto the hot pan, and put back into the oven.

Bake for about 25 – 30 minutes, or until the phyllo is browned and crispy.

Let sit for a few minutes once out of the oven before slicing and serving.

With Sauce!Sauce

If you are not baking a vegan version of this, use the reserved cooking liquid as the basis for a lovely sauce to serve with the phyllo pie. I boiled the cooking liquid until slightly reduced, and then lowered the heat and added a few tablespoons of creme fraiche, a tablespoon of pesto sauce, some salt and pepper, and a few drops of balsamic. I whisked everything together, and served in a little jug to pour over. It was delicious!

Roast Butternut Salad

26 Aug

I am exhausted tonight so this will be a short post! So it goes in a house with baby and multiple generations! I loved this salad. Perfect as a side dish – or if you want, add a few shavings of parmesan, or some salty feta, or a couple dollops of creamy sweet ricotta – or if you are vegan, a few chickpeas – for the protein, and you have lunch! Best served cold, the butternut is oven roasted ahead of time and refrigerated. So when it comes time to serving, its really a matter of putting it all together and devouring.

I love the golden orange happiness of butternut, and I adore how easy it is to cook. Its forgiving, and its natural sweetness automatically caramelises in a hot oven, so you dont really need to add anything in the way of herbs or spices – the vegetable flavours itself beautifully. This is a meal I crave over and over again. I love juxtaposition in my food – the spicy, slightly bitter bite of arugula, and the sweet creamy richness of the butternut are wonderful partners. They compliment and play off each other and make me very happy.

Serves 8 – 10 as a side Ā or 4 with left overs for lunch or dinner

  • 1 medium / large butternut, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 – 5 cloves of garlic
  • 2 – 3 cups (I used about 1 packet) arugula / rocket or other bitter green salad leaf
  • 1/4 cup olive oil + 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • Toppings: sprouts, cheese (parmesan, feta or ricotta are my favourites, but go wild – try it with blue cheese if you want!), toasted walnuts or pine nuts, avocado

The night before (or morning before) you intend to serve the salad, prepare the butternut.

Preheat your oven to 190 C.

Peel, seed and roughly chop 1 medium to large butternut. Put in a bowl, and pour over 2 tbsp olive oil. Using your hands, mix well, ensuring that all the butternut is coated.

Arrange the butternut on a jelly roll pan or other large shallow baking pan, in a single layer. Salt and pepper well. Arrange the garlic cloves amongst the butternut.

Roast for about 45 minutes, or until you see the butternut beginning to caramelise. I usually try and flip the butternut over half way through the cooking time as well, so that both sides get a bit of browning.

Take out of the oven and let cool to room temperature. Return to bowl, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Just before serving, take the butternut out of the fridge.

Fish the garlic cloves out of the butternut mixture. They should be very soft. Pop them into a small bowl or cup and mash the garlic with a fork. Whisk in the olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Find a lovely large flat serving platter or plate. Strew the baby arugula over the plate in one beautiful bright green layer.

Tumble the butternut over, and pour about half the dressing over. Reserve the rest to serve on the side if you wish.

Sprinkle one or two toppings of your choice over all, and serve.

Perfect for a hot summer’s day!

Mushrooms and Couscous

3 Jul

I first had this dish in a “wymyn friendly” cafe in Observatory, Cape Town. The place was a little intimidating (identifying as I do as a woman šŸ˜‰ ) but the cooking was outstanding. Unfortunately, it closed down because the chef and the front of house manager were partners, and when they ended, the cafe ended. But while it was operational, I ate here on a regular basis to have this meal. Its charm is in its simplicity and clarity, and yet its attention to colour, texture and taste. Its an easy meal to make, but incredibly satisfying for a vegetarian, and a vegan too if you substitute olive oil for butter, and leave out the parmesan.

I made this for MZ one evening when everyone was exhausted and tired. It was so comforting, you could feel the mood around the table change. It was good.

The other thing I love about this is that is so easy to adapt – you can make it for yourself, or you can serve it on a platter, with the golden fluffy couscous, and the beautiful steaming mushrooms arranged in generous synchronicity. Such pleasure.

I usually make this for 4 – 6 people but feel free to double or halve or even quarter!

Couscous

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 white onion, minced
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil or 1 tbsp fresh basil, minced
  • 500 g box of couscous
  • 1 1/4 cups of boiling salted water or vegetable stock (see note)
  • Couple tablespoons of butter or olive oil
  • Salt

First, pour out your couscous and measure the number of cups. Most boxes of couscous can vary by up to half a cup of couscous, though you should get about 2 1/2 cups of couscous in a 500 g box. You will want exactly half the amount of couscous, for your boiling water or stock. Set aside.

In a large saucepan, over medium heat, soften the onion and garlic in the olive oil. When soft and glossy, add basil and a little salt and mix well. Take off heat, and add the couscous. Mix well so that the onion is completely combined with the couscous.

Pour over boiling salted water or vegetable stock, and immediately cover for 5 – 1o minutes, until the water is completely absorbed into the couscous.

Using a fork, fluff the couscous, adding small slithers of butter or a glug of olive oil and tasting for salt. Set aside, covered until ready to serve.

Mushrooms

  • 3 -4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 white onion, minced
  • 2 – 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 – 3 cups mixed mushrooms (portobello, white, Swiss brown), peeled and roughly chopped (you want large pieces)
  • 1 – 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 2 – 3 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 1/4 cup water or veegetable stock
  • 1/4 cup half and half (very optional)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Handful of baby spinach + handful of fresh basil

In a large frying pan, over medium heat, soften onion and garlic, and season with a little bit of salt and pepper. When the onions are glassy, turn heat up to high, and add mushrooms in batches of 1 cup each. You want them to sear a bit, and burn a bit before releasing their juices. Stir well, and continue moving the mushrooms about the pan.

When all the mushrooms have been added to the pan, add the balsamic and soy sauce all at once. This will quickly steam in the pan, caramelising some bits of the mushrooms, but also encouraging them to release their juices. As the liquids begin to come out of the mushrooms, do not stir. Add a few slivers of butter over the mushrooms and allow the heat and steam to melt the butter into the mushrooms. This will do two things: it will flavour the mushrooms, and bring out their incredibly rich and meaty taste, but it will also thicken and encourage the sauce that is being created from their juices. The alchemy of heat and ingredients!

Add the dijon, wine, water and half and half (if using) and mix extremely well. Taste for seasoning and adjust. Allow to boil down by about half, but ensure you still have some liquid at the bottom of the pan. Set aside until ready to serve, or serve immediately.

Just before serving, reheat gently, and add a handful of baby spinach, and a handful of fresh basil to the pan, stirring to wilt.

Assembly

To serve this dish you will need:

  • Couscous
  • Mushrooms
  • About half a cup of toasted pine nuts
  • Another handful of fresh basil or Italian parsley, chopped roughly
  • Thin slices / shards of old parmesan (optional)

On a beautiful serving platter, arrange the couscous so there is a small well or dip in the middle. Mound the mushroom mixture into the well, and pour sauce over the sides, so you soak the couscous, but still allow its fluffy goldenness to shine through. Sprinkle the pine nuts over, and then the basil or parsley. Finally top with shards of parmesan if using.

Delicious!

Pesto

1 Jul

Glowing green. Scented with basil, pine nuts, pecorino and garlic. Goopy, gooey goodness. I am nuts about pesto. Its so easy to make – about 5 minutes cooking time to toast the nuts, and the rest a few pulses in your food processor. You can eat this so many ways: straight from the bowl (as per usual!); stirred through pasta or even rice; as an amazing addition to a sandwich or salad dressing; and, as I will be using it, as the base of a terrific lasagne.

Pesto can be made with so many things – any green vegetable – or go further – let your imagination take flight – use butternut, sun ripened tomatoes, mushrooms even. Try it with almonds, macadamias, walnuts, and change the cheese – blue, parmesan, etc. Its so flexible, and so delicious.

Note that I use some rocket in this recipe (about 1 to 3 in terms of the basil) because basil in Malaysia is very strongly flavoured. If your basil is the gentler variety, feel free to omit the rocket entirely.

For about 2 cups you will need:

  • 1 1/2 cups pine nuts
  • 2 cups (150 g) well packed, washed basil
  • 3/4 cup rocket
  • 5 large cloves of garlic, chopped into chunks
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup grated pecorino or parmesan
  • Up to 1 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil

First off, toast the pine nuts. In a non stick pan, over medium heat, layer the pine nuts. Make sure you keep stirring with a spatula. These go from golden toasty to burnt in a split second, so be careful.

Put your basil into food processor and add about 1/4 cup olive oil. Pulse a couple times so its completely chopped. Add the rocket, and pulse again.

Add the pine nuts, and pulse well, adding a little more olive oil if you feel it is needed.

Add the garlic and salt, and pulse again. Add the pecorino or parmesan, and mix with spatula. Turn out into a bowl, and add a little more olive oil until its the consistency that you prefer.

I would certainly make this at least 1 day in advance to allow the flavours to meld. Save covered with a slick of olive oil, covered, in the fridge.

AsparagusĀ Pesto

23 Jun

Astonishing, divine, food of the Goddesses. Bright green and tasting like spring. You can eat this right out of the bowl (my sister, M’s preferred consumption method), or spoon it over toast rounds for bruschetta, in a sandwich, or over pasta or couscous. Its so extremely good, it needs no accessories. This is one of my favourite meals because who knew that asparagus could be made into pesto – and who knew that this taste combination existed and was soooooooo goood?!

You will need (for about 3 – 4 cups):

  • 1 1/2 pounds (about 600 – 700 gms) asparagus
  • 1 cup pine nuts
  • 5 – 7 cloves of garlic
  • 1 cup grated parmesan
  • 1/2 cup (or more) extra virgin olive oil
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt

First prepare your asparagus. Ensure that the tough woody bits have been snapped off – the asparagus will do the work for you if you just hold it and snap it near the bottom end. It will naturally break where the tough bit is – discard this. Chop the asparagus very roughly – 2 – 3 sections per asparagus. In a large pot of boiling, lightly salted water, blanch the asparagus till bright green. They need to be cooked, but not soft. Probably about 5 minutes or less. Just before you drain the asparagus, put a coffee mug in the boiling water, and remove a mugful, and keep aside. Drain, and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a shallow frying pan, toast the pine nuts (no oil or anything added) until golden and slightly browned. Use a spatula and keep stirring the nuts. Keep a watch – these go from light golden to toasted to burnt in a blink of an eye and you cant really save them when they burn. Set aside to cool.

Put all the asparagus and garlic into your food processor, and pulsing gently, start the machine. Add about half the olive oil in a steady stream. Add all the pine nuts, and pulse again, adding the rest of the olive oil. Add the parmesan and lemon and pulse again. If at any point the mixture gets too thick, add a little of the water you kept from the asparagus. Taste and adjust seasoning. You might need more oil or salt, or even parmesan.

I usually keep aside a few asparagus tips and serve this combined with angel hair pasta, with the tips for prettiness. Its delicious. And very good for you!!!