Bacon, Leek and Walnut Tart

Bacon, Leek and Walnut Tart (2)

This is the unashamed winter version of my spring tart – the same base with some lovely, warm, winter flavours to top it with.

I’ve mentioned in a previous post that it’s my birthday soon (on Monday), and in my opinion the celebrations should start today. Only one day left at work before a lovely long weekend – what better time to celebrate with a delicious cheesy, pastry based tart with the beautiful flavours of bacon, leek, walnuts and gorgonzola (and a glass of wine).

The tart is extremely easy to make. Although slightly more difficult to make than my spring tart, due to the frying of the bacon and leeks, it’s still desperately straightforward and if you’re someone who is a bit scared of using pastry, this is an excellent place to start.

The tart was given the accolade “scrumptious” by my husband, so must be good.

This will take you no more than 45 minutes to make, and will serve 4 with a side salad.

Bacon, Leek and Walnut Tart (1)

Bacon, Leek and Walnut Tart

375g ready rolled puff pastry

200g bacon lardons

1 large leek

200g soft cheese

1 egg

1 handful walnut halves

20g gorgonzola

1. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees.

2. Fry the bacon lardons over a medium heat until golden. Finely slice the leeks and add them to the fryng pan; fry for another 3-4 minutes.

3. Unroll the pastry, lay on a baking tray and score all the way around the edge, 1 inch from the sides (don’t cut all the way through). Beat the egg in a bowl and brush a little around the outside edges.

4. Spread the soft cheese evenly over the inside scored rectangle of the pastry. Grind some black pepper over the top, then evenly layer on the bacon and leek mix. Sprinkle over the walnuts, and dot the gorgonzola over.

5. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until the sides are golden and puffed up.

Spinach and Feta Filo Pie

Spinach and Feta Filo Pie (2)

I’ve loved spinach and feta filo pie (or Spanakopita as the Greek call it) ever since I first tried it. There’s something about the heady mixture of salty feta, fragrant nutmeg and crispy, light filo pastry which really appeals to me. It has all of the elements of a comforting pie, but feels light and guilt free (although, of course, there’s far too much butter and cheese involved for it to be really guilt free).

My love for this pie was hightened on our honeymoon in Kos, where I ate it for almost every meal (yes, that’s right, our hotel served it for breakfast! Yes, it was heaven), and cooking this meal now, in the depths of nasty, cold winter, takes me back to that beautiful, golden island under the beautiful, golden sun. Sigh!

Although we’re eating this as a main by itself, it would work perfectly well as part of a Greek mezze, perhaps as a side to these amazing Greek Chicken Tacos and Za’atar and Olive Focaccia on the side, with a wonderfully simple Greek yoghurt pud.

This will take you up to an hour to make, and will serve 4 as a main, 6 as a side.

Spinach and Feta Filo Pie (1)

Spinach and Feta Filo Pie

1 tbsp olive oil

1 onion

200g spinach

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

400g feta

1 egg

6 sheets filo pastry

10g butter, melted

1. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees.

2. Roughly chop your onion and add to a frying pan with the olive oil. Saute over a high heat for 1-2 minutes, then gradually add the spinach until it is all wilted. Stir in the nutmeg, and season with black pepper. Allow to cool.

3. Roughly chop the feta and put in a large bowl. Add the spinach mix and crack in the egg, then stir to combine well.

4. Take a large oven proof dish and brush with a little of the melted butter. Lay one of the sheets of filo pastry over the dish and brush with more butter. Repeat until the dish is completely covered with filo, and you have used 4 sheets.

5. Pile in the feta mix. Spread out evenly, then top with the remaining two sheets of filo pastry. Brush with more butter, then fold the overhanging pieces of filo pastry from the bottom layers over the top, so that it is wrapped like a parcel. Brush with more butter, then bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes until golden brown. Enjoy!

Chicken Stroganoff Pie

This recipe is based on one by Simon Rimmer. Now that the weather’s getting colder and it’s dark by the time I’m home from work I crave comfort food, I’m sure everyone does, and pie is the ultimate comfort food.

This idea for a pie sounded delicious – I love stroganoff but I’d never had a chicken one, and everything is better with pastry. This is a really smoky, creamy pie which you could throw any veggies you have hanging around into – I had three peppers in the fridge which I used, but frozen peas or green beans would go wonderfully too.

This will serve 4 and takes around 1 hour to make.

Chicken Stroganoff Pie

1 tbsp olive oil

400g chicken breast

2 tbsps smoked paprika

150g bacon lardons

1 onion

150g button mushrooms

1 small glass white wine

450ml chicken stock

3 peppers, any colour

125ml soured cream

1 heaped tbsp chopped parsley

300g puff pastry

1. Slice the chicken breast into bite sized pieces and coat with 1 tablespoon of the paprika. Heat the oil in a casserole dish over a medium heat and add the chicken. Brown, then remove from the pan and put to one side.

2. Add the lardons to the casserole dish, brown, and then add the chopped onion and roughly sliced mushrooms. Cook for 3 minutes, then add the white wine. Allow the wine to bubble down, then add the stock. Simmer for 20 minutes, until the stock has reduced by half.

3. Chop the peppers and add to the casserole dish, add the chicken, the rest of the smoked paprika and the soured cream. Taste and season with salt, pepper and more smoked paprika if necessary. Stir in the parsley.

4. Tip into an oven proof dish and top with the puff pastry. Cook in the oven for about 20-30 minutes until the pastry is puffed up and golden brown.

Leftover Shepherd’s Pie

There’s nothing better than cooking  big Sunday roast and knowing there will be leftovers to make something delicious and comforting the next evening.

Shepherd’s Pie made from leftover lamb is a classic, but I decided to make the mash from the leftover dauphinoise potatoes – it was a success! And why wouldn’t it be; how could creamy, garlicky mash not be delicious?

You’re going to find this recipe difficult if you don’t make my slow-roast lamb first – but you could switch the leftover lamb with lamb mince (just brown first) and the dauphinoise mash with normal mash (but it won’t be anywhere near as naughty and lovely).

This takes approximately 45 minutes and will serve at least 4.

Leftover Shepherd’s Pie

1 tbsp olive oil

1 onion

250g mushrooms

Approx 300g leftover lamb, shredded

Approx 200ml leftover gravy

3 carrots

100g frozen peas

2 tbsps chopped fresh mint

Approx 400g leftover dauphinoise potatoes

Small knob of butter

30g grated cheddar cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.

2. Chop the onion and add to a large saucepan with the olive oil and put on a medium heat. Add the roughly sliced mushrooms.

3. Sizzle for a couple of minutes, then add the leftover lamb and sliced carrots. Pour over the leftover gravy and add about the same amount again of water. Add the frozen peas, bring to a simmer, stir in the mint and then turn off the heat.

4. Put the leftover dauphinoise potatoes in another saucepan and add the butter. Put on a low heat (so the butter will melt) and mash well until smooth, then turn off the heat.

5. Pour your lamb filling into a casserole dish, then carefully pile on the mash. Even out with a fork, then sprinkle over the grated cheese.

6. Bake in the oven for around 30 minutes, until it’s bubbling and the top is golden brown.

Beetroot and Wensleydale Tartlets

These lovely little tartlets are like a hug in a pastry casing. They do take about an hour to make, but if you put the beetroot on to roast as soon as you get home from work they’re really not too time consuming or labour intensive.

Although they sound unhealthy, they contain plenty of fresh veg (onion, spinach, beetroot – and we had ours with a side salad) which I’m sure counterbalances the puff pastry…

The recipe below will make six tartlets, we had two each and we’ll have the left overs for lunch tomorrow. You could easily double or even triple the quantities if you wanted to make them for a dinner party.

Beetroot and Wensleydale Tartlets

2 tbsps olive oil

500g beetroot

1 large white onion

200g baby leaf spinach

75g dried cranberries

1 tsp dried thyme

300g wensleydale cheese (or any other crumbly cheese)

320g readymade puff pastry (unless you fancy making your own!)

1 egg, beaten

1. Chop the ends off the beetroot and cut each one into small cubes – about 1cm square. Put into a large ovenproof dish, drizzle with half of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Put in the oven at 180 degrees for about 20 minutes, until softened. Leave the oven on.

2. Meanwhile, chop the onion and add to a frying pan with the remaining olive oil. Soften for a couple of minutes, then add the spinach bit by bit until wilted. Remove from the heat.

3. In a large bowl, mix together the beetroot, spinach mix, cranberries, thyme and cubed wensleydale.

4. Unroll the pastry and divide into six. Place a spoonful of the mix into the centre of each square of pastry. Pull up the corners around the filling, then pinch the edges shut.

5. Brush each tartlet with beaten egg, then pop in the oven for about 15-20 minutes until puffed up and golden brown.

Leek and Crab Tart

A little bit of an indulgent treat tonight. This is a beautiful, delicate, creamy tart with soft leeks and dainty crab – mmm!

I’ve used half fat creme fraiche to make the filling rather than cream, as you’d usually use in a quiche, just because I think the tartness goes well with the crab and it’s also less calorific, so you can eat more!

I made my own pastry, but of course buy ready made if you don’t have as much time to kill as me 🙂

Leek and Crab Tart

For the pastry:

250g plain flour

110g butter

Splash of water

For the tart:

1 tbsp olive oil

2 leeks

2 x 170g tins crabmeat

3 eggs

300ml half fat creme fraiche

1 tsp dried oregano

60g grated cheddar

1. To make your pastry, rub the flour and butter together with your fingertips in a large bowl until it resembles breadcrumbs. Then gradually add a little water, splash by splash, until it works together into a dough.

2. Roll the pastry out and lay it in a 25cm loose-based tart tin. Push the pastry into the edges and make sure there is an overhang over the edges, as it will shrink a little. Place a sheet of baking parchment over the top and fill with baking beans, then put in the oven for 20 minutes at 170 degrees. Remove the parchment and beads and cook for another five minutes, then remove the pastry from the oven.

3. Slice the leeks and saute them in a saucepan with the olive oil for 3-4 minutes.

4. In a bowl, beat the eggs, stir in the creme fraiche and oregano then season with salt and pepper.

5. To compile the tart, tip the leeks into the pastry case and smooth into an even layer, then layer the crab meat over the top. Evenly drizzle over the sauce, and then top with the cheese.

6. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes until golden, then leave to cool for 15 minutes before removing from the tin.

Perfect served with a rocket salad!

Vegetable Moussaka

In case I haven’t told you (ha! Feta and Dill Pie, Greek Salad) we went to Kos for our honeymoon.

While we were there, we took a boat trip to the volcanic island Nisyros, which is a beautiful, unspoiled place and relatively uncommercial. We were wandering down the streets, looking for somewhere to eat lunch, when we came across a tiny courtyard packed with people sitting at tables, laughing and shouting and eating lovely, freshly made food. We looked around for a quieter spot, close to the bustle, and chose a fairly empty terrace with laid tables. We sat down and were immediately accosted by somebody speaking loudly in Greek, who dragged us into his kitchen (not a restaurant kitchen – his genuine, home kitchen), thrust a plate into each of our hands and pulled dish upon dish out of his oven.

There was pork (a huge cut), chicken (2 whole birds) and the most enormous moussaka I have ever seen. I chose moussaka (I thought he was offering a choice…); he filled our plates with everything. It was piled so high we had to carefully balance our way back to the table, and…it was all delicious.

But that moussaka has stuck in my mind. He used courgette, rather than aubergine, which is probably what was in season but, with so many people I know disliking aubergine, it seems an ingenious solution!

So, rather than try to recreate his dish (I wouldn’t do it justice), I’ve decided to give a veggie moussaka a go using courgette. I’ve had the seal of approval from the other half, so give it a go!

This will serve 6 with a Greek salad on the side; it also freezes well. It’ll take up to one and half hours, but is worth it!

Vegetable Moussaka

2 tbsps olive oil

1 onion

2 cloves garlic

1 glass red wine

1 tsp each of dried oregano, rosemary and sage (use fresh if you have it to hand)

2 x 400g tins chickpeas

250g pack ready to eat green lentils

2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes

2-3 medium courgettes

25g margarine

25g plain flour

1 pt milk

1 egg

25g parmesan

50g feta

1. Chop the onion and garlic and put in a casserole dish with the olive oil. Sizzle for 1 minute over a medium heat, then stir in the dried herbs. Add the red wine and allow to bubble down.

2. Tip in the chickpeas (including the water), lentils and tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper and allow to simmer down for up to 45 minutes (the longer the better).

3. Meanwhile, make your bechamel. Melt the margarine in a saucepan over a medium heat and stir in the flour. Sizzle for 1-2 minutes, then turn off the heat. Grab a whisk, and start gradually adding the milk, whisking all the time. When you’ve added all of the milk, turn the heat back on and continue whisking until the sauce has thickened. Turn the heat off.

4. Slice the courgettes widthways into 0.5cm slices. In a large ovenproof dish, layer chickpea mix, sliced courgette, chickpea mix then sliced courgette.

5. Whisk the egg into your bechamel sauce then quickly pour over the final layer of courgette. Top with the grated parmesan and crumbled feta, then pop in the oven at 70 degrees for 30-40 minutes.

6. The Greek serve their moussaka luke-warm but I prefer mine boiling hot!

Feta and Dill Pie

Thursday is pie day – a fact already well-established now on this blog. And I thought it apt that today I would make one inspired by our wonderful Greek honeymoon.

If you liked the Feta and Spinach Filo Pie then this will be a winner for you. It’s a traditional Greek pie made, as the title would suggest, from feta and dill. It is full of such beautiful savoury flavours you won’t be able to help but fall in love with it. The issue then, of course, is that – as evidenced by the list of ingredients – it’s not really one you can get away with eating every day!

This would work perfectly as part of a mezze with Greek Salad, or served cold with a picnic.

This takes about 45-50 minutes to make and will serve at least 4, with a side. We had it with peas and wilted spinach.

Feta and Dill Pie

400g feta

250g ricotta

Large handful fresh dill

1 tbsp milk

2 tbsp olive oil

2 eggs

375g shortcrust pastry (you can make your own, or buy it)

1. Preheat the oven to about 170 degrees.

2. Crumble the feta into a bowl and add the ricotta, chopped dill, milk and one of the tablespoons of olive oil. Beat the eggs and add most (leave a little to brush the pastry). Combine this mixture well.

3. Brush a medium, shallow pie dish (about 30cm across) with the remaining olive oil.

4. Roll out the pastry until it’s about 5mm thick. Place it as centrally as you can over the pie dish and push gently into the corners, leaving the edges overhanging.

5. Tip the feta mix into the pie dish and even out, then layer the pastry edges over it. There’ll probably be a bit of a gap in the middle but don’t worry about that, it’ll let any air out. Crumple the pastry as evenly as you can and then brush with the remaining egg.

6. Pop in the oven for about 40 minutes until the pastry is golden. You’ll love it!

Courgette, Pea and Spring Onion Tart

This is a gorgeous early summer tart to make, especially if you have a glut of early veg from the greenhouse, unlike me.

This particular tart is dead easy (I promise!), always works, and tastes lovely. It’s perfect with a rocket salad or as a side on (dare I say it?) a sunny picnic.

This is great hot or cold, but make the same day if you’re having it cold – the puff pastry doesn’t keep too well.

This serves 4 as a main.

Courgette, Pea and Spring Onion Tart

320g ready rolled puff pastry

1 egg

300g low fat soft cheese

1 tbsp lemon juice

60g grated parmesan

100g frozen peas

2 medium courgettes

100g spring onions

1. Heat the oven to 180 degrees.

2. Unroll your pastry sheet and score (don’t cut all the way through) a border all the way around, about an inch in. Beat your egg in a small bowl then brush the border with the egg wash.

3. In a larger bowl, mix together the soft cheese, lemon juice and half of the parmesan. Season well with lots of black pepper, then spread the mixture over the pastry inside your border.

4. Place the peas evenly over the cheese mixture, then slice your spring onions and scatter these over evenly too.

5. Grab a potato peeler and peel the courgettes lengthways into lovely ribbons. Pile these onto the centre of the tart, and put it in the oven.

6. It’ll take about 20 minutes to cook – it’s done when the border is risen and golden and the courgette is soft and wilted.

Spinach and Brie Parcels

It’s the other half’s birthday tomorrow and we’re going out, so I thought I’d make him something special to eat tonight.

These tasty little parcels are full of oozy brie and curried spinach. The perfect naughty treat! They’d work brilliantly with a rocket salad and a glass of something chilled and white.

These are 100% vegetarian, take 30-40 minutes to cook and the recipe below makes 4 – you could easily increase to feed larger numbers.

Spinach and Brie Parcels

1 tbsp olive oil

1 onion

1 clove garlic

1 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp chilli flakes

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp medium curry powder

260g fresh spinach

1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme

160g brie, chopped into 1cm squares

375g ready rolled puff pastry

1 egg

1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees.

2. Chop the onion and garlic and put in a frying pan over a medium heat with the olive oil. Allow to soften for 2 minutes the stir in the coriander, cumin, chilli flakes, salt and curry powder.

3. Add the spinach and thyme, and allow the spinach to wilt then take off the heat. Leave to sit for a few minutes.

4. Cut the puff pastry into 4 equal sized rectangles.

5. Drain any excess moisture from the spinach mix.

6. Beat the egg in a small bowl.

7. Spoon 1/4 of the spinach mix onto one half of each of the pastry slices. Top with 1/4 of the brie, then brush around the outside of the pastry rectangle with the egg. Fold over, pinch down the edges with the back of a fork and transfer carefully to a baking tray.

8. Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes, until the pastry is risen and golden brown. Tuck in!