Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Spinach and Feta Cheese Pasties

I've been meaning to make pasties for ages.  They're a traditional food from Cornwall.  In the old days they were portable meals for farmers, they had meat at one end and a sweet filling at the other - the original "to go" food. Instead of using meat I thought I'd go with spinach and feta - a combination my girls love - so I've really ended up with Spanakopitas Pasties! Nothing too traditional about that - but they tasted great.

Shortcrust Pastry.

3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
Pinch of salt and pepper
8 oz cold unsalted butter, diced
1 egg yolk
1 cup iced water


1 large or 2 medium onions, peeled and finely chopped
Olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2, 10 oz bags of frozen spinach, thawed
2 eggs
6 oz feta cheese
Zest of a lemon
Juice of half a lemon
black pepper

1 egg - for egg wash

Heat the oven to 425F

To make the pastry, combine the flour, salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a couple of times.

Add the butter a few pieces at a time, pulsing all the time.  Add the egg yolk and water and process until the mixture just comes together.

Place the mixture onto a flour surface and gently press together. 

Place it onto a sheet of plastic wrap, wrap it up and put it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to rest.

Meanwhile make the filling.  Saute the onion in the olive oil and butter for approx 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and continue sauteing for another few minutes or until the onions are turning golden. Take off the heat and set aside to cool a little.

Squeeze all the water out of the spinach.  Place in a bowl, add the eggs, pepper, feta cheese, lemon zest and juice.  Combine thoroughly. Add the onion mixture and combine.

Roll out the pastry and cut into circles as big or small as you wish. Place them on a baking sheet sprinkled with a tablespoon of flour to prevent sticking.

Paint the edge of the circles with beaten egg.  Place some of the filling onto the middle of the circle, fold up the sides and pinch together to form a pasty.  Egg wash the top of the pasty.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper. 

When all the pasties are ready place the baking sheet into the oven for 15 minutes. 

Reduce the oven temperature to 350F and continue cooking for approx 20 -40 minutes depending on the size of the pasties.

Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes before serving.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Spiced Chai Latte

Recently I've been spending a fortune on Starbuck's Chai Lattes.  I'm absolutely hooked - it was beginning to get a little out of hand, so I decided to do some research and make my own.  I can only say this is a home run - of course it's as simple as making a cup of tea and honestly it tastes divine.

I used skim milk as I really can't afford the extra fat calories at the moment but use whatever milk you please.

4 black tea bags
1 cinnamon stick
6 cardamon pods
4 whole cloves
1/4 inch of peeled ginger root
3-4 tablespoons of sucanant sugar (regular brown sugar would do the trick)
1 cup of milk

Makes approx 4 good sized cups.

Put the kettle on to boil the water.

Place the teabags, spices and sugar into the teapot.

When the water has boiled, pour into the pot and brew for at least 4 minutes.

Steam the milk.

Pour the tea into a teacup, add milk and enjoy.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Stuffed Peppers with Quinoa and a Mediterranean Twist!

Quinoa, as you probably know is actually from South America - not the Mediterranean. However the rest of the stuffing is positively  Capri - artichokes, capers, lemon zest, roasted peppers etc, etc - I'm getting in the mood for Spring with the temperature touching 60 toady - JOY! 

I have discovered a misconception recently.  I've always prided myself that I feed my family a good deal of vegetables, when I examined this claim - I found I have come up short, very short!  So I'm determind to explore the world of the mighty vegetable and hope that my family will reap the rewards.  These stuffed peppers are a first step in that direction.

3 good sized peppers, cut in half, seeds and pith removed.
Olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
3 sticks of celery, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon capers
2-3 roasted red peppers, chopped (jarred is fine)
3-4 artichoke hearts, chopped(jarred)
Fresh mint, chopped
1 cup toasted pine nuts
Juice and zest of a lemon
salt and pepper
a sprinkle of red pepper flakes
3/4 - 1 cup feta cheese

1 1/2 cups quinoa

Cook the quinoa according to the packet directions.  I used red and white quinoa.

Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan and saute the onion, celery, garlic, salt and pepper for approx 5 minutes.

Add the chopped roasted peppers, artichoke hearts, red pepper flakes, capers, zest and juice of the lemon and a tablespoon of chopped mint.  Continue to cook for a further 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, toast the pine nuts in a dry pan and set aside.

When the quinoa is cooked, add to the vegetable mixture.  Add a couple of tablespoons at a time, making sure there is not too much quinoa.  It there is any left, use as a side for another dish.

Add the pine nuts and combine.

Pour a couple of teaspoons of olive oil into an oven proof dish and grease thoroughly.

Pile the stuffing into the peppers and place the peppers into the greased dish. Top with feta cheese.

Cover the dish with aluminum foil.

Place in the oven for approximately 50 minutes or until the peppers are soft.

To serve sprinkle with a little more fresh mint and some more feta on hand.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Beef Stew with Beer!

There's nothing very elegant about this title but let me assure you the taste of the stew makes up for that!  This is pure winter comfort food. I served it over a piping hot baked potato to make it an unapologetic meat and carbs meal.  I've made stew with red wine many times but the beer seemed to tenderize the meat into melting mouthfuls and it seemed to cook a little quicker than when made with wine. 

As a family we have had a very busy time over the last week, a bowl of this hearty stew and (as my grandmother would say) "a night between the sheets"  seemed to put us all back on track!  As always, I would suggest grass fed beef, happy cow equals delicious stew - poor old cow!

1 1/2lbs lean stew beef meat (best quality meat possible)
1 tablespoon flour
ground black pepper
A sprinkling of dried savory herbs, such as rosemary and thyme
olive oil
1, large onion, peeled and chopped
4-6 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 celery sticks, chopped
2 leeks, thorough washed and chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
fresh rosemary and thyme, very finely chopped
1 bottle of beer
Beef stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 generous tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
1 cup frozen peas
1 teaspoon cornstarch (optional)
1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.

Heat the oven to 350F

Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or heavy saucepan.

Pat the meat dry.  Place the flour, black pepper and dried herbs into a large ziplock bag.  Add the meat and shake until the meat is coated in the flour mixture.

Brown the meat in the hot olive oil,  you will have to do this in batches.  Transfer the browned meat to a plate and cover with aluminium foil.

When all the meat is browned, add the onion, carrots, celery, leeks, garlic, rosemary and thyme to the pan.  Saute for about 5 minutes.

Place the meat and any juices that have accumulated back into the pan.  Pour in the beer and add enough beef stock to just cover the meat and vegetables.  Add the tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce. 

Stir and bring to the boil.  Turn down to a simmer.  Add another fresh sprig of rosemary.  Cover and place in the oven for approx 1 1/2 - 2 hours.

When the meat is tender, remove from oven.  Add the frozen peas, they will cook through from the heat of the stew in a few minutes.

If you need to thicken the stew, mix 1 teaspoon of cornstarch with a tablespoon of soft butter until you have a paste.  Add a tablespoon of stew gravy, mix to combine.  Add this to your the stew and stir until thoroughly incorporated and the stew has thickened. 

The stew can be served immediately or be refrigerated and taste just as good if not better the next day.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Pan Seared Salmon with a Cream Fraiche Sauce and My New Favorite Thing

Pan seared salmon with a cream fraiche sauce is a favorite thing, but my really NEW favorite thing is a ready made balsamic glaze I found in the market the other day.  It comes in a handy dandy squeezy bottle and I'm squeezing it over just about everything.  It provides a lovely "zing" and looks gorgeous. 

Despite the Italian balsamic glaze, this dish really does remind me of England.  When you go to a pub around this time of the year you will invariably find salmon on the menu.  The Brits are good with salmon - just think of all that Scottish Smoked Salmon - delish! This is quick and easy to make, good for you and the cream fraiche sauce adds a nice touch.  Hope you like it too.

4 fillets of wild salmon

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

Lemon juice.

For the sauce.

4 oz crème fraiche

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon of zest of a lemon and the juice of half a lemon

Sprigs of fresh dill

Salt and pepper

Heat the oven to 350F.

Rub the salmon fillets with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in an oven proof non stick pan until hot. 

Place the salmon fillets top side down in the pan.  Don’t touch them

for 2 minutes as they will stick to the pan.  After 2 minutes they are

less likely to stick.  Turn them over and cook for a further 2


Place the pan in the oven and leave until the fish is fully cooked

through, approx 6-8 minutes depending on the thickness of the

fillet.  Start checking after 4 minutes.

Remove from the oven, squeeze over some lemon juice and cover

with aluminum foil until ready to serve.

To make the sauce, mix together all the ingredients. 

To serve, top the salmon with a generous tablespoon of sauce and

place a fresh sprig of dill on top.

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Valentine's Day Chocolate Mousse

What could be more perfect this Valentine's Day than a decadant Chocolate Mousse This is laughingly simple, but no one needs to know that.  It tastes rich, smooth and sublime. It's sure to tempt your sweetheart.

1 cup dark chocolate chips
1 cup heavy cream
4 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon brewed coffee
1 tablespoon rum or brandy (optional)

Heavy cream and a shaving of chocolate for garnish

Separate the eggs.

Pour the cream, coffee, vanilla extract, rum or brandy – if using and
chocolate chips into a saucepan.

Heat gently until the chocolate is melted, stirring constantly.


Add the egg yolks, one at a time, whisking well so they don’t

Whip the egg whites until just stiff.

Mix one heaped tablespoon of the egg whites into the chocolate
mixture and then carefully fold in the rest of the whites.

Spoon into individual bowls or glasses, cover and place in
refrigerator to set.

To garnish whip the heavy cream, vanilla extract and confectioner’s
sugar until they reach soft peaks.

Decorate each dessert with some cream, a shaving of chocolate and
a mint leaf.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Braised Sausages in Red Wine and Juniper Berry Gravy and Root Vegetable Mash.

“Bangers and Mash” must be one of the best known British dishes and for good reason. This is perfect cold, wet weather food! It warms and nourishes and will fill you up for the day. Braising the sausages in a rich sauce takes this powerhouse meal to another level.  Using root vegetables in the mash not only adds flavor but nourishment as well. Use the best quality sausages you can find. 

For the sausages and gravy.

8 best quality sausages
Olive oil
2 medium onions, peeled and sliced
1 teaspoon of juniper berries
1/3 cup red wine
1/3 cup chicken
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon of cornstarch (optional)

For the Mash.

1 medium celery root
1 large or 2 medium sweet potatoes
4 medium regular potatoes
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons butter
Milk, half and half or cream (to mash potatoes)

Heat the oven to 350F.

Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven and brown the sausages.  You may have to do this in batches.  Don’t overcrowd or the sausages will steam and not brown properly.

Remove the sausages to a plate and cover with aluminum foil.
Add the onions to the pan and cook on a low heat for approx 8-10 minutes, stirring from time to time to stop them burning.  Sprinkle over the salt and pepper

Place the sausages back into the pan with the onions.

Add the red wine, juniper berries, chicken stock and Worcestershire sauce.

Place the top on the Dutch oven and put into the oven for about 20-30 minutes or until the sausages are cooked through. 

Before serving, remove the juniper berries if they haven’t dissolved into the gravy.  If the gravy needs to be a little thicker, spoon 1 tablespoon of gravy into a bowl, stir in the cornstarch, pour the mixture back into the gravy and heat through, stirring constantly until the gravy thickens.

Meanwhile make the mash.  Peel and chop the celery root, sweet potatoes and regular potatoes.  Chop the celery root slightly smaller than the potatoes as it takes slightly longer to cook.

Place all the potatoes into a pan of water and boil until tender.

Mash together with a couple of tablespoons of butter and as much milk, half and half or cream as you wish.  Season with salt and pepper.

To serve, ladle some mash onto a plate and top with a couple of sausages in their gravy and a sprinkling of fresh parsley.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Roasted Butternut Squash and Apple Soup for the very last time and a big Thank You!

I do understand that by this time of the year Butternut Squash soup has really been done to death.  But - I made it again over the weekend and it was SO heavenly I had to share it.  The addition of 10 grain, rosemary scented croutons didn't hurt either.  If you're up for one more bowl of Butternut Squash soup this winter - give this a go.

AND thank you to everyone who voted for my pear cupcake and the Today Show Home Chef Challenge. I don't have the results yet but MUCH appreciate your lovely comments and vote.


1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped into approx 1 inch cubes.
2 apples, peeled, cored and halved.
1 onion, peeled and quartered.
Olive oil.
Salt and pepper.
1/2 teaspoon cumin.
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon.
A sprinkling of fresh parsley, finely chopped
32 oz chicken stock.

For the croutons.

4 thick slices of 10 grain bread  (or whatever bread you want to use - Rye is another good option) crusts cut off and cut into small cubes.
salt and pepper
1 good sized sprig of fresh rosemary, minced.
Olive oil.

Heat oven to 425F.

Place all the vegetables on a baking tray.

Pour over about 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil and rub over all the vegetables.

Sprinkle over the salt and pepper, cumin, cinnamon and a sprinkle of parsley.

Bake in the oven for approx 25 minutes, or until the squash and onions are tender.  The apple will break down quickly but that is just how it should be.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes or so.

In a frying pan heat a tablespoon of olive oil.

Add the bread cubes, season well with the rosemary, salt and pepper.  Fry until golden.  You may need to add another tablespoon of olive oil, or do this in batches depending on the size of your pan.

When golden, remove to a paper towel to blot the excess oil.

To serve the soup, check the seasonings, sprinkle with croutons and add a sprig of parsley.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Today Show's Home Chef Challenge and a Pear Cupcake!


Please vote for me! I am in the final 3 for Today's Home Chef Challenge! 

Please click on the link below to "like" the facebook page and vote for my Pear Cupcake!!

Thank you so much !