Category Archives: Tarts, Pies, Pizzas, Savoury Cakes, Pancakes

Baked Pasta with Aubergine, Eggs and Anchovies

bakedpastapI rarely eat pasta, almost never bake it and definitely never switch on the oven it when it’s 33°C outside! Yet, today something made me cook pasta, patiently simmer a sauce with vegetables, boil eggs and prepare a dish which turned out perfect for such a hot summery day. I didn’t follow any recipe, but simply opened my cupboards and improvised, adding this and that. I’m really proud to say I don’t hesitate to post this recipe because I’d love to share it with all of you (with a special dedication to anchovy lovers). It was extraordinary, and even more summery, served with peperoncini sott’olio I made yesterday after MJ, my blogging friend (MJ’s Kitchen) and fellow chilli addict reminded me of them:

Peperoncini sott'olio (Fresh Chillies with garlic and Oil)

Peperoncini sott’olio (Fresh Chillies with garlic and Oil)

TIPS: You can use any vegetables you like or simply have in the fridge, but I finally found aubergine the best suited for this dish.

Obviously, if you don’t like anchovies, skip them or add cut up ham for example.

You can use any easily melting Italian cheese here; smoked scamorza or smoked provola are my favourite (try to find those which are really smoked, i.e. don’t contain “smoke aroma” in the ingredients list).

If you don’t have or don’t want to make peperoncini sott’olio (above), this dish would be delicious with a splash of chilli oil.

Preparation: about 1h30 (but it’s definitely worth it!)

Ingredients (serves four):

750 ml tomato passata or tinned chopped tomatoes or fresh skinned tomatoes simmered until they become a thick sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 big garlic cloves, chopped

1 big aubergine or 1 small courgette+1 small aubergine, cut into bite-sized pieces

1 small sweet pepper (bell pepper or long red pepper), cut into bite-sized pieces

3 hard-boiled eggs

150 g mozzarella, smoked scamorza or smoked provola (or any other melting Italian cheese)

100 g canned anchovies

3 tablespoons capers

salt, pepper, thyme

(grated pecorino or parmezan)

fresh basil

Heat the olive oil.

Fry the garlic for one minute.

Add the sweet pepper and the aubergine (if you use courgette, add it raw to the dish just before baking).

Stir-fry for several minutes.

Add the thyme and 1/2 of the tomato sauce/chopped tomatoes.

Simmer the sauce for about 30 minutes, add salt to taste.

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

In the meantime cook short pasta, taking it out of the water 3 minutes before the time indicated  on the package.

In a baking dish place a layer of pasta, cover with vegetables cooked in tomato sauce.

Add courgettes, if using.

Add the remaining tomato sauce.

Cover with half slices of the eggs, capers, chunks of cheese and grate some pecorino/parmezan on top (if using).

Bake for about 40 minutes or until the cheese is completely melted and slightly golden.

Just before serving sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper and torn basil leaves.

Serve with pepperoncini sott’olio, if you have them.

Asparagus has arrived!

breadtartletasppGreen asparagus is almost a perfect vegetable: it doesn’t need any peeling or scrubbing, is particularly low calorie, has important health benefits (e.g. antioxidants), is ridiculously easy and quick to prepare and, last but not least, is absolutely delicious. Moreover, once we take its traditional luxurious image out of ours heads and let our imagination run wild, we discover it’s one of the most versatile vegetables in the world. In fact, asparagus is fantastic in as different dishes as maki sushi, stir-fry, Indian curry, spring roll or tempura. Apart from its short season, I cannot find a single flaw.

Now that Spanish organic asparagus has appeared (I still wait for the best ones, from the south of France), I cannot imagine my weekly grocery shopping without a precious green bunch carefully places on the top of my bag. I’m still too excited to think of new experiments, but in a couple of weeks I’ll certainly start playing with my beloved vegetable, just like every year. In the meantime I thought my dear readers, especially those who happen to be asparagus lovers too, might find the following suggestions useful:

Asparagus with Chicken and Miso

Asparagus with Chicken and Miso

Asparagus Maki Sushi

Asparagus Maki Sushi

Bread Tartlet with Egg and Asparagus

Bread Tartlet with Egg and Asparagus

Asparagus Teriyaki Pork Rolls

Asparagus Teriyaki Pork Rolls

Chawan Mushi (Egg Custard) with Asparagus

Chawan Mushi (Egg Custard) with Asparagus

Asparagus Tempura

Asparagus Tempura

Filo Rolls with Asparagus, Chorizo and Parmesan

Filo Rolls with Asparagus, Chorizo and Parmesan

Tama Konnyaku with Asparagus

Tama Konnyaku with Asparagus

Rice, Asparagus and Fried Egg

Rice, Asparagus and Fried Egg

Asparagus with Cashew Nuts and Chicken

Asparagus with Cashew Nuts and Chicken

asp_springrollsp

Spring Rolls with Asparagus and Chicken

Curry Pie with Leftover Filo Top

filo_crumble1pDo you ever have leftover filo pastry bits? As a filo addict I have those all the time (especially with my individual rolls). Now that I discovered genuine (though expensive) frozen Greek filo, they started to worry me much more than before. A heap of unused small bits of filo suddenly reminded me of a very unusual chicken “pie” spotted in Hairy Bikers’ Perfect Pies: chicken in a creamy sauce topped with crushed filo pieces. It looked original and delicious enough to stay engraved in my memory. I decided to use their idea of filo top, suspecting it would be perfect for any leftover strips and I was right.

I didn’t follow Hairy Bikers’  filling recipe since I happened to have some other leftovers (curry sauce and unused broccoli stalks from Pork and Broccoli in My Favourite Indian Curry). In fact, my filo rescuing plan became a triple leftover dish! I added some chicken meat, mushrooms and a carrot and the result, though looking quite messy, was a meal of delightful creamy and crunchy goodness. The airy crushed filo topping is so good, I am ready to destroy some whole pastry sheets to make it even if I don’t have leftovers!

As I have mentioned, I didn’t use the pie filling recipe from Hairy Bikers’ book, but it seems absolutely delicious, as well as all the other imaginative pies and tarts this huge source of recipes contains, so make sure you check it whether you are a fan of open tarts, British-style covered pies, mini tartlets, pasties or other similar dishes.

TIPS: You can, of course, make the curry from the scratch (see the recipe here) or use any other sauce of your choice (tomato sauce, for example). I had only 250 ml (about 1 cup) leftover curry sauce, so I have stretched it with some additional coconut milk.

Any vegetable or mushroom can be used here, but I’d advise pre-cooking briefly the mushrooms and the tough vegetables (carrots or broccoli stalks) but not broccoli florets or courgettes, for example.

Preparation: about 1 hour

Ingredients (serves two hungry people; fills a 16 x 16 cm baking dish):

1 chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces

stalks and branches from one medium brocoli, cut into bite-sized pieces

5 rather big cultivated mushrooms (I have used ones called cremini in US and Canada), cut into four

about 400 ml (about 13.5 fl oz) leftover curry sauce (I had only 250 ml, so I added some coconut milk)

1 medium carrot, cut into thick half slices

about 3 sheets of filo/phyllo (can be whole or leftover strips)

oil or butter or coconut fat to brush filo

Preheat the oven to 200°C (392°F).

Heat the leftover sauce (adding more liquid, such as coconut milk, if needed).

As soon as it starts boiling, add the chicken, the carrots, the brocoli stalks and the mushrooms.

Let it simmer until the chicken is done.

If you use softer vegetables, such as courgette or brocoli florets, put them into the sauce about two minutes before the end (unless you like them rather mushy).

Taste the sauce, adjust the flavours and pour everything into a baking dish (you should have roughly 2/3-3/4 of the height filled; I have used here a 16×16 cm dish.

Spread the filo sheets or torn pieces flat and brush them slightly with the fat of your choice.

(If you use whole filo sheets, not leftovers, cut them into six or more squares).

Crush the filo in your palms and place on top of the curry making sure you cover well the whole dish.

Bake until golden (about 15 minutes).

Filo (or Yufka) Rolls with Beetroot and Feta

beet_filoyufkaBeetroot is one of these widely available vegetables I – strangely – almost never buy. I do not hate it, but it never provokes a craving I often experience while seeing beautiful tomatoes, aubergines or recently even fennel. When I recently saw the fabulously elegant Roasted Beets with Aromatised Feta Mousse at Katerina’s Culinary Flavors, I found the combination of the two ingredients highly promising and kept on thinking about it. Whenever I think about Katerina, filo pastry instantly comes to my mind and this is how I had this idea. If you hate beetroot, obviously these rolls are not for you, but for me, who has nothing against it, they were the best thing I’ve ever had with this humble vegetable. Thank you so much, dear Katerina, for this wonderful idea and constant inspiration!

Here are some other filo/phyllo pastry ideas you might like (especially if you hate beetroot):

Filo Rolls with Black Pudding

Filo Rolls with Black Pudding

Feather-Light Filo Tart with Plums

Feather-Light Filo Tart with Plums

Filo Rolls with Chanterelle and Goat Cheese

Filo Rolls with Chanterelle and Goat Cheese

Filo Rolls with Asparagus, Chorizo and Parmesan

Filo Rolls with Asparagus, Chorizo and Parmesan

Filo Rolls with Feta and Leek

Filo Rolls with Feta and Leek

Filo Triangles with Curried Beef

Filo Triangles with Indian-Style Beef

Spanakopita (Greek Feta and Spinach Pie)

Spanakopita (Greek Feta and Spinach Pie)

Mock Spanakopita Rolls with Wild Garlic

Mock Spanakopita Rolls with Wild Garlic

Filo Rolls with Bok Choy Leaves and Feta

Filo Rolls with Bok Choy Leaves and Feta

Filo Rolls with Roasted Green Chilli Pepper and Feta

Filo Rolls with Roasted Green Chilli Pepper and Feta

TIPS:  While adjusting the taste I found the beetroots’ sweetness too overwhelming and decided to add first lots of garlic, then chilli powder and finally some tamarind pulp. For my tastebuds this last magical touch that has made the filling perfect, but you might not like beetroot with strong flavours, so add all those gradually, according to your preferences.

You might wonder what cracked wheat or semolina are doing here. This is a magical trick I learnt from Katerina too: if added in small amounts, cracked wheat will not change the taste or texture, but it will absorb the humidity from the filling (the rolls will not leak).

I have recently had problems to buy filo pastry (my two favourite supermarkets stopped selling it), so I made an experiment with yufka, often described as “filo of the Balkans/Turkey” (my package even had the word “filo” printed). Well, even though I find this new pastry good, it is definitely NOT filo. Yufka (at least the one I bought) is at least 3 or four times thicker than filo pastry and doesn’t have such a light crumbly effect when baked (I find it also doesn’t brown quickly, hence the light colour at the photograph above). In short, it works as an emergency replacement, but is definitely different.

Tamarind (apart from its raw form) is usually sold either in hard blocks or in ready-to-use pulp (usually in jars). I strongly encourage everyone to buy the blocks, which keep for years in the fridge and which yield a much more lively, tangy pulp than the jarred one (moreover, they don’t have strange additives). It’s very easy to prepare pulp from the block: tear a 2×2 cm square and put into a mug. Add about 100 ml boiling water and after 5 minutes start stirring until the block starts dissolving. Leave for about 15 minutes and than strain through a sieve, pushing the pulp out with a spoon. Such a freshly squeezed pulp will keep in the fridge for several days.

Preparation: about 2 hours (or 1 hour if the beetroot is already cooked)

Ingredients (serves 4 as a starter):

8-10 filo sheets or 2 1/2 yufka sheets

2 big beetroots

180-200 g feta

4 big garlic cloves

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/3 teaspoon turmeric

2 tablespoons tamarind pulp (if you make it on your own, or 3-4 tablespoons if you use the jarred pulp) or lime juice

salt, pepper, chilli powder

3 flat tablespoons cracked wheat or semolina

melted butter or oil

(fresh coriander leaves or dill)

Cook or bake the beetroots until very soft.

Put the cold beetroots and the garlic in a food processor and mix to a pulp.

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Place the beetroot pulp in a bowl and add the cumin, the turmeric, the tamarind pulp and crumbled feta.

Season with chilli, salt, pepper and ground black pepper. Taste and adjust the flavours and add cracked wheat at the end. Give the pulp a good last stir.

If you use yufka, cut the sheets into four pieces each. Divide the filling into as many equal parts as the yufka pieces you have obtained.  Then, proceed as if you had filo sheets (which you don’t need to cut).

Place horizontally, about 2,5 cm/1 in. from the filo sheet’s shorter edge closest to you, a portion of the filling.

Roll tightly but delicately, starting from the edge which is closest to you, folding the two lateral edges into the roll, so that the filling doesn’t leak during the baking process (I have folded here about 3 cm/about 1,2 inch on each side).

Proceed in the same way with the remaining rolls.

Brush the rolls just before baking with some oil or melted butter.

Bake until light golden. Serve hot or slightly warm.

You can sprinkle with coriander or dill before serving.

Filo Rolls with Bok Choy Leaves and Feta

bokchoyrolls_Bok choy (or pak choy) is one of the rare autumn and winter vegetables I always look forward to. As much as I love its stir-fried crisp stalks, I have never liked the texture of warm limp leaves, so if my bok choy had abundant leafy part (sometimes half of its height), I used to cut off about 3/4 of the leaves and throw it away. I hate wasting food, so I kept on experimenting with this unwanted part until I found a dish where its softness would be more than welcome. It worked perfectly as the spinach replacement in the famous Greek Spanakopita filling I have been making for some time according to Katerina’s excellent recipe. The result is equally delicious, though of course not  strictly Greek…

Instead of a whole pie I have made individual filo rolls, the form I prefer and find easier. I have slightly modified Katerina’s Spanakopita recipe, mainly adding garlic, so make sure you check her original recipe on Culinary Flavors where you will also find homemade filo pastry instructions.

TIPS: If you have less bok choy or less feta, feel free to change the ratio. I think that increasing the bok choy’s amount is less risky (feta is very salty).

The chopped dill is not obligatory here. If you use it, either use it fresh or frozen (not dried).

Preparation: about 1 hour

Ingredients (makes 6 rolls):

6 sheets of filo pastry

150 g feta cheese, crumbled

1 egg

3 big handfuls of chopped bok choy leaves

1 big clove garlic, crushed

(2 heaped tablespoons fresh chopped dill)

1 flat tablespoon cracked wheat (you can use semolina instead, but I prefer cracked wheat)

black pepper

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Put the chopped leaves into a bowl and squash them with your hands until the volume is reduced. Crumble the drained feta into a bowl. Add the chopped leaves, dill (if using), cracked wheat and some ground black pepper, stir well and with a spoon divide into 6 equal portions (this will make the filo sheets’ filling process much easier).

Spread one filo sheet on a big chopping board.

Place horizontally, about 2,5 cm/1 in. from the filo sheet’s shorter edge which is closest to you, a portion of feta and bok choy mixture.

Roll tightly but delicately, starting from the edge which is closest to you, folding the two lateral edges into the roll, so that the filling doesn’t leak during the baking process (I have folded here about 3 cm/about 1,2 inch on each side).

Proceed in the same way with the remaining rolls.

Brush the top of the rolls with some oil or melted butter, place on a baking tray or baking paper and bake in the oven until slightly golden (about 30 minutes in mine). Watch them often as they tend to burn quite quickly.