Sunday, March 31, 2013

Green Goddess Pie

Heading out to drink my morning coffee amongst the greenery this morning, I was really struck by how noticeable the turn of the season was in the garden. The basil and parsley has started to seed, my crop of french sorrel is ready to cut back, as well as my big pot of chives and a wild crop of mint. Flowers and leaves that have flourished during the Summer have started to die off, while others who like the cooler weather are beginning to emerge. The air feels cooler and the native birds are eating up all the seeds and insects that are abundant, even in my little inner city patch of green. Nature is gearing up for winter everywhere you look.

As any regular reader of Gourmet Goddess knows,  I have an almost evangelical fervour about eating seasonally and as locally as possible. In the modern world where mass marketing and huge scale food production has completely exploded, to eat seasonally isn't as straightforward as you might think. It means getting educated about what grows when - as well as the conditions under which it grows, how far it travels and what happens to it when it reaches the place where it is sold. The more interested in this I have become, the more I find there is to learn. It really is an endless education process and one that has completely transformed the way I shop, grow things and cook. One of the most rewarding aspects of this for me, has been how it has really strengthened my connection to nature, and to the seasons - and provided so much inspiration for what I eat and cook.

As I was sitting sipping my coffee this morning, I was looking at all the greens that were ready to harvest in my garden and for some reason remembered a conversation I had with an Italian grocer in Marrickville who was selling big bunches of nettles. I asked him what they were used for, and he told me that they grew abundantly at that time of the year, and that his Greek and Italian customers would make a sort of spiral shaped pie with them, using cheese and any other greens and wild herbs they could find. That conversation and my own harvest is the inspiration for today's recipe.

 A Green Bounty
From left: Sorrel, Basil, Chives, Kale, Spinach, Parsley

 As well as my own greens and herbs, I also had a small bunch of kale, as well as some spinach that arrived in our organic vege box this week, grown locally and super fresh. I gathered it all together to form the basis of this delicious, tasty pie. To the greens I added a little goat cheese from the Hunter Valley, some ricotta and a touch of cheddar, garlic, a small amount of breadcrumbs and a free range egg to bind it all together. I was really inspired by the idea of a traditional spiral shaped pie, so thought I would have a go at creating one - making a series of sausage shaped, filled filo pieces that I then formed into a large spiral.

Creating the first section - about to be rolled

The end result was a lovely rustic, flaky pie packed with amazing local greens - some from my own garden - and that tasted delicious. I really like the visual appeal of the spiral shape too. Actually, the spiral makes complete sense aside from looking nice - It means you get a taste of pastry with every bite. Genius.

Being a rustic dish, don't feel you need to be too precise on the measurement of your ingredients - and use whatever greens you have in the fridge or the garden, as well as whatever cheese you fancy. This is a dish created from whatever was growing in the vicinity at the time, so use the same principle to make your own version. I'm calling mine Green Goddess Pie.

Green Goddess Pie

You will need: 1 box (about 350g) filo pastry, 250g ricotta cheese, 100g soft goat cheese, 1 cup grated cheddar cheese, 2 tablespoons breadcrumbs, handful of chopped parsley, handful of chopped mint, basil, chives (whatever you have), bunch of spinach, bunch of sorrel, bunch of kale, 2 cloves finely chopped garlic, generous pinch cayenne pepper, salt and pepper, 1 egg, 2 tablespoons melted butter, 2 teaspoons sesame seeds.

Note: You can be very free and easy with the greens you use in this recipe. I used spinach, sorrel and kale - but you might want to use just spinach or silverbeet, extra herbs, watercress, nettles - whatever is available.

Method: Roughly chop the spinach, kale and sorrel and blanch in salted boiling water for about a minute. Drain well, and when cooled slightly, squeeze the liquid from the greens.

In a large bowl, place the greens, goat cheese, ricotta, cheddar, breadcrumbs,all of the herbs, garlic, egg cayenne. Season generously with plenty of salt and pepper. With clean hands, mix the ingredients together thoroughly. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if needed. Allow the mixture to cool for 10 minutes or so.

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Remove the filo from the pack and unroll it. Cut it length ways. Take two of the filo pieces and lay it flat, brush with melted butter. Working fairly quickly, lay another two strips of filo on the top of those and brush with the melted butter again. Along the left hand edge of the pastry, lay a line of the filling mixture.

With dry hands, roll up the filling to form a long cigar or sausage shape. Now roll up the pastry to form a coil or snail shape - this will form the basis of your spiral. Gently place the spiral on a baking tray lined with baking paper (I used a pizza tray)

Repeat the process to make more long sausage shaped pieces of pastry and filling, adding each one to the first spiral you made to build up an even bigger one. Brush the pastry at the ends to help you join the pieces together. Continue this until you have used all of your filling.

Brush your spiral with the last of the butter (or you can use a beaten egg if you want to) Sprinkle with the sesame seeds. Bake in the oven for 30 -40 minutes - or until the spiral is golden brown.

Allow to cool for 10 minutes before slicing and serving. Serves 6.


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Calamari Mediterranean Style

Sunday night dinner tonight was something so rustic, simple and super tasty that I'm not even going to worry about writing down the proper recipe! Our cooler Autumn weather has receded a little here in Sydney and it was actually quite hot today, so I felt like something that would suit the weather - and the fact that my stove is out of action at the moment. To me, warm weather says seafood and BBQ, so we headed to the fishmonger this afternoon and picked up some lovely whole local calamari.

I cleaned the calamari, removing and reserving the tentacles (my favourite bit!) and keeping them whole. I then scored the calamari down the side - cutting almost to the edge so that they looked like tiger stripes. This creates rings, however not cutting them right through keeps the calamari in one piece, making them easier to handle on the BBQ. I drizzled them with some good quality extra virgin olive oil, plenty of sea salt and pepper and then cooked them on a super hot (smoking actually) BBQ. They took only a couple of minutes to become golden and charred, just the way I like them.

Grilled Calamari Mediterranean Style

I accompanied the calamari with some gorgeous organic cherry tomatoes, capers, finely chopped cucumber and onion, olives, chilli, red capsicum, fresh basil and continental parsley from the garden, a splash of olive oil, a drizzle of balsamic and a little salt and pepper - all of this was tossed together to make a rustic salsa.

Then, it was just a case of piling the salad onto the plate, laying the calamari on the top, drizzling over a little touch of extra olive oil and presto! Sunday night dinner. All of this was done in the time it would take to microwave a TV dinner. I know which option I'd prefer!!

As I mentioned, my oven is not working at present, so I predict lots of BBQ action this week until it is fixed/replaced. I had vague notions of attempting some Easter themed baking -  however this is going to depend on the fate of the oven. I even bought some groovy, rather kitsch Easter cupcake patty-pans to use in my baking dammit! Still, we may be up and cooking up a storm again in a day or two. In the meantime, have a great week everyone. Hope you get to eat something delicious!


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Warm Carrot Salad with Goat Cheese

So I came home from work last night and was about to throw together a quick rather bog-standard salad to have with some grilled meat for dinner, when I decided that I actually wanted something a lot more tasty and a bit more interesting. I checked the fridge and found I had a couple of bunches of heirloom carrots - one orange bunch and one gorgeous purple bunch. They became the inspiration for a side dish that was so delicious I'd thought I'd share it with you.

This dish is super easy and would also work as a vegetarian starter or main course, as well as a side dish. In addition to the lovely carrots, I used sweet red onions, a bunch of asparagus, fresh continental parsley from the garden, creamy, tangy goat cheese, a little olive oil, balsamic, black pepper and sea salt - and that's about it. Very simple, but full of flavour.

As well as having a great flavour and nice contrasting textures, I loved how colourful the dish looked on the plate. If you haven't seen the purple carrots at your greengrocer, ask for them. They used to be a bit hard to find but are becoming a lot more common now. They look great and taste beautiful, especially when roasted.

I enjoyed this salad so much that I will definitely be making it again. Here at Gourmet Goddess we say - down with boring side salads! Three cheers for finding new and delish ways to eat your vegies!

Roasted Carrot Salad with Goat's Cheese

You will need: 2 large orange carrots, 2 large purple carrots, 1 large red onion, 1 bunch asparagus, 50g goat cheese, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, about 1 tablespoon olive oil, sea salt, pepper, 1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar.

Method: First, prepare the vegetables. Cut the carrots into thick juliennes. Cut the woody ends off the asparagus and then cut each asparagus spear in half. Cut the onion into eight largish chunks.

Preheat the oven to 200C. Line a tray with baking paper and place the carrots and onion on the tray. Brush or spray with olive oil, season well with salt and pepper. Bake in the oven for around 20 minutes, turning over the vegetables once during cooking.

In a grill pan or fry pan, cook the asparagus with a little olive oil, and some salt at a high heat for a few minutes until they start to char.

Allow the vegetables to cool a little before assembling the salad. Layer the vegetables and crumbled goat cheese on a serving plate. Drizzle over olive oil, balsamic and season with a little salt nad black pepper.

Sprinkle over the fresh parsley and serve.


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Berry Nut Tart

I always love entertaining and catching up with friends and this weekend I got to hang out with my good friend Yvette who has been living and working in Cambodia for the last 2 years. As well as being excited to see her after so long, I was also very excited to meet her lovely Cambodian husband Vanda for the first time. It was Yvette and Vanda's first anniversary and they chose to celebrate it by sharing their vows in our back garden, with Andrew and I as witnesses and my celebrant mother in law Kate and father in law Peter in attendance. Celebratory champagne and lunch followed of course!

I decided on a quite simple family style lunch. Yvette had previously commented on the fact that in Cambodia, there isn't the option to indulge her craving for roasted lamb, so I thought this was the obvious choice for lunch. I deboned and butterflied out a leg of Cooma lamb and allowed it to marinate overnight with plenty of garlic, paprika, olive oil, lemon and orange rind, a squeeze of orange juice, rosemary from the garden, sea salt, cayenne pepper and a few crushed up anchovies. I then char grilled the lamb on the BBQ, and served it with crispy golden potatoes, plenty of seasonal vegetables, gravy and a native Pepperberry and Pinot Noir jelly that I brought back from our trip to Tasmania. The Pinot and Pepperberry was a really tasty accompaniment to the grilled lamb as an alternative to mint jelly.

For dessert, I wanted something that I could do ahead. When having lunch or dinner guests, I try to include at least one course that can be made - or at least mostly prepared - the day before. It makes things so much easier. There is nothing worse than feeling rushed and stressed when your guests arrive. I mean, entertaining is supposed to be fun right? My second criteria for the dessert dish was that it also had to be pretty much dairy free. I chose a French style homemade almond tart that showed off the delicious berries that are in season right now. I had a handful of macadamia nuts in the cupboard too, so I used those as part of the topping, for a buttery tasting, golden crunch. Normally I would serve a tart like this with creme anglaise or ice cream, but I chose a dairy free sorbet instead from Cow and Moon, a local artisan gelato shop that make delicious, award winning frozen treats. I chose a blackberry and blueberry sorbet that was lovely and tangy against the sweetness of the tart.

Berry Nut Tart

This tart could easily be adapted for all kinds of other seasonal fruit. I think that peach or nectarine would be lovely in place of the berries - or you could go really classic and use apples or pears. This recipe would also work well as smaller, individual tarts.

Tart served with Blackberry & Blueberry Sorbet
from Cow & Moon artisan gelato @ Enmore

You will need: 150g soft butter (I used salted butter), 120g caster sugar, 2 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 tablespoon cornflour, 200g almond meal, 3 eggs, 1/2 cup roughly chopped macadamias, 1 punnet fresh blueberries, 1 punnet fresh raspberries, 1 to 1 1/2 sheets sweet shortcrust pastry (the amount will depend on the size of you tart tin)

Method: Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease and line a tart tin with baking paper. I use a metal tart tin with a removable base - I think they give a good result and it is much easier to get the tart out of the tin.

Line the tart tin with the pastry and then place another sheet of baking paper on the top. Fill with baking beads (or if you don't have them, use dry beans or lentils) Blind bake the pastry in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove and allow to cool.

To make the filling, beat together the softened butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add the cornflour and half of the almond meal and beat together thoroughly. Add the eggs one at a time, beating as you go. Finally, add the last of the almond meal and beat until all combined.

Spread about half of the raspberries and blueberries across the empty tart shell. Pour the filling mixture into the tart and spread out evenly. Press the remaining berries into the mixture.

Sprinkle the macadamias over the tart and bake at 180C for around 30-40 minutes, or until lightly golden. Allow to cool for 20 minutes uncovered before slicing and serving. Can be served either warm or cold.