Tag Archives: Black olive

Pumpkin, caramelised onion, black olive & feta tart

I’m still a little seasonally-confused.  I thought that by now I’d have settled into the whole winter-in-June/July/August thing, but I guess not.  I think part of the problem is that for a fairly large proportion of the winter so far, we’ve actually had better weather and similar temperatures (at least during the day) to the summers that I’ve spent in Scotland.  A bit depressing for anybody in Scotland, but also not very helpful for my poor little brain.  My flat is on a street lined with deciduous trees, so seeing their bare branches helps to remind me that it’s winter, but there are also plenty of evergreen trees around, NZ species that aren’t fir trees.  I’m not familiar with them and their greenness sometimes throws me.  At least it’s pretty difficult not to notice the fairly short winter days with night falling at around 17:30, since it means that I walk home in the dark every day.  That’s my failsafe reminder that it’s winter.  That and the fact that our lab is significantly colder than it was during the tail-end of summer when I arrived, and I’m starting to seriously consider having a “lab blanket.”

Another great way of telling the season is by what fruit and vegetables are available.  Thank goodness for the Farmers’ Market because at first glance, supermarkets aren’t particularly helpful when it comes to seasonal food.  I saw cherries the other day and got all excited that cherry season had started because I temporarily forgot I’m in the Southern hemisphere and it’s most definitely not cherry season.  Then I saw that they were imported from the US.  Oh yeah, it’s winter here.  No cherries for me.  For the most part, they’re very good here at labelling where fruit and veg are from (which is great!), so I’ve been working on the assumption that if it’s from NZ, it’s most probably in season.  So if there’s an overabundance of NZ-grown apples, it must be autumn, even though it’s April.  NZ apricots?  It must be summer, even though it’s February.  NZ pumpkins?  It must be autumn or winter, even though it’s June.  You get the idea.  Obviously this only works for fruit and vegetables that I’m familiar with, but I think it works pretty well.

Since it’s winter, there are plenty of pumpkins and squashes around at the moment.  I love pumpkin and I’ve got plenty of bookmarked pumpkin recipes, but I often get put off because I don’t like to waste the seeds but separating them out and cleaning them can be a really time drain.  Plus pumpkins tend to be quite big, and as much as I love them, I try to vary my diet and not eat the same thing for a whole week.  Luckily I discovered that you can buy half pumpkins that are already de-seeded, which solves both problems.  Genius!  So I dug out a recipe that I’ve had my eye on for a while: pumpkin, caramelised onion, olive & feta tart.  It turned out to be quite a time-consuming recipe, but luckily I’d anticipated this and prepared the caramelised onions the evening before whilst I was cooking something else.  It might be time-consuming, but it’s not a work-heavy recipe (as long as you don’t have to de-seed the pumpkin) since the caramelised onions more or less do their own thing, as does the pumpkin and then you mix it all together, pop it into the pastry case (ok, so you have to make the pastry, but it’s not particularly difficult) and it bakes away by itself.  So you can get other things done whilst the oven/frying pan takes care of the rest.  And the end result is definitely worth it.  The sweetness of the roasted pumpkin and caramelised onions balances out the sharpness of the feta and the flavour of the olives.  Actually, I don’t think that this recipe really helped my seasonal-confusion because the olives and feta make me think of the Mediterranean, which I associate with warmth and sunshine and summer.  Despite that, since pumpkin is in season (and delicious), I’m submitting it to Simple and in Season, a blog event started by Ren at Fabulicious Food and guest hosted by Laura at How to Cook Good Food this month.

Pumpkin, caramelised onion, black olive & feta tart

Serves 6-8 as a starter, 3-4 as a main course
Adapted from Two Spoons

The caramelised onions take quite a while as it’s important to cook them over a low heat (resist the temptation to turn the heat up!), so if you’re a little tight on time, you can make them in advance (such as the night before) and store them in the fridge for a couple of days until required.  You could substitute sweet potato instead of pumpkin.  If you’d rather make a more quiche-like version of this, just add an extra egg and 3-4 extra tbsp of crème fraîche.  This tart is delicious both warm and cold, served with a dressed green salad on the side.

Ingredients

For the caramelised onions:
3 medium onions
Drizzle tsp rapeseed oil (canola oil)
1½ tbsp light brown sugar
1½-2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
½ tsp chopped dried thyme

For the rest of the tart:
Quiche/tart pastry (click for recipe or use your favourite)
400g pumpkin (weight with seeds removed)
Drizzle of rapeseed oil (canola oil)
100g pitted black olives
150g feta cheese
1 egg
3 heaped tbsp crème fraîche
½ tsp chopped dried thyme
1 tsp Dijon mustard (optional, but brings out the flavours)

Directions

For the caramelised onions:
1.  Finely slice the onions.  Add to a large lidded frying pan or saucepan, along with a drizzle of oil and the brown sugar and melt over a low heat, covered, stirring every 5 mins or so.

2.  Once the onions are golden brown (don’t worry if they’re sticking a little to the pan), add the balsamic vinegar and thyme, stir and cover, once again stirring until every 5 mins or so.  Once they are dark brown (but not burnt!), remove from the heat and let sit in their pan, uncovered.  If making in advance, allow to cool, then store in the fridge in an airtight container until required.

To assemble the tart:
3.  Butter a 24cm fluted tart tin and dust with flour.  Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/fan oven 180°C.

4.  Prepare your pastry, roll out to a 3 or 4 mm thickness and line the prepared tart tin.  Trim the edges and prick with a fork.  Refrigerate for 30 mins.

5.  Meanwhile, prepare the pumpkin.  Remove the skin, dice into about 1.5 cm cubes, and place in a roasting tin.  Drizzle with oil and toss to coat.  Bake for about 20 mins on the top rack of the oven, until softened and the edges are slightly browned.  Remove from the oven and switch the rack to the centre of the oven.

6.  Line the tart pastry with baking paper and cover with baking beans.  Blind-bake for 15 mins, remove the baking paper and beans and return to the oven for a further 5 mins.  Once removed, lower the oven’s heat to 190°C/170°C.

7.  Meanwhile, prepare the filling.  Halve the pitted olives and dice the feta into about 1cm cubes.  In a large bowl, lightly beat the egg with a fork.  Add the crème fraîche and mix together.  Add the caramelised onions, roasted pumpkin, olives, feta thyme and season with some salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Stir together.

8.  Spread the mustard over the blind-baked tart pastry (optional, but it helps to enhance the flavours in the tart) then add the filling and evenly spread around the tart.  Bake for about 30 mins until the tart is golden and the eggs and cream are cooked.  Allow to cool on a wire rack for a couple of minutes before serving (or allow to cool fully) with a dressed green salad.

Enjoy!

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Random Recipe #5: Black olive & sun-dried tomato mini loaves

Having sent all my academic books, folders and files down to Edinburgh with my mum about two weeks ago, my bookshelf here in St Andrews is now looking rather empty.  There’s something awfully desolate about empty bookshelves, don’t you think?  Although I’ve kept all my cookery books with me, so at least it’s not entirely empty yet, but it’s still a very sorry-looking bookshelf.  To be honest, I could easily survive for a month without recipes in book format, so I don’t need my cookery books with me, but they make the bookshelf look less depressingly empty and it also means I can take part in this month’s Random Recipe challenge (asking my mum to dig through several boxes to find the relevant recipe book, then a random recipe and then sending me a copy of said recipe would be a little bit over-complicated).

So, to justify keeping my cookery books up here with me, it’s time to do this month’s Random Recipe challenge, which has to come from our newest gifted cookery book.  In my case, this happens to be a lovely little book entitled Mini cakes, which was a present from one of my mum’s friends in France for my last birthday.  What we call cakes in France translates to loaves and quick breads in English rather than actual cake, which has occasionally lead to some serious confusion between my mum and I when discussing food whilst switching back and forth between languages.  Anyway, back to the recipe book – it contains both savoury and sweet recipes, and those that I’ve tried have all been yummy, so I was rather excited about trying out a new recipe from it.

When I was given the book, it also came with a great set of silicone mini loaf moulds.  Mini versions of things are (almost) always automatically adorable, and mini loaves (or “loaflets” as I sometimes like to call them) are no exception, so I was a little bit more excited than I probably should have been about trying out a new recipe from the book.  The random number button on my calculator directed me to page 26: a recipe for black olive and sun-dried tomato mini loaves, an appropriately summery-sounding recipe which I feel has “picnic food” stamped all over it.  I decided to bake these with a couple of modifications for lunch, and also decided to test the picnic theory by having lunch out in St Mary’s Quad.  They turned out so yummy that I will definitely be making them again soon, and the added bonus is that their mini loaf shape makes them very practical to take as part of a packed lunch/picnic.

Black olive & sun-dried tomato mini loaves

Makes 6-8 mini loaves
Adapted from Mini cakes

The original recipe calls for grated gruyère, but I used parmesan because I thought it would go better and I conveniently had some in the fridge anyway.  I also added oregano, to keep with the Mediterranean flavours.  These are tasty both warm or cold, and would make an excellent picnic food, perhaps accompanied by some chilled white wine…  If you want to make a single loaf of 26cm in length, add an additional ¼ of the ingredients and an extra egg, and cook for a little longer.

Ingredients

100g drained sun-dried tomatoes
100g drained & stoned black olives
70g parmesan
2 eggs
70 ml milk
70 ml olive oil
120g all-purpose flour
2 tsp dried oregano
1 heaped tsp baking powder (equivalent to 5.5g or ½ a French sachet)

Directions

1.  Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.  Butter and lightly flour the mini loaf tins or set out silicone moulds.

2.  Thoroughly drain the sun-dried tomatoes before roughly chopping them.  Drain the olives.  Slice 5-6 olives thinly and set aside to use for garnishing.  Halve the remaining olives.  Grate the parmesan.

3.  In a large bowl, gently beat the eggs, olive oil and milk together.  Add the flour, grated parmesan, tomatoes and halved olives along with the oregano and some salt and pepper and mix.  Gently mix in the baking powder.

4.  As soon as the baking powder has been incorporated, split the batter between the mini loaf tins.  Lay some olive slices over the top of each mini loaf and bake for about 30 mins, until a toothpick comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly on a wire rack (they’re tasty both warm and cold).

Enjoy!

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Warm minty feta salad

My amazing friend (and fellow food-lover) Kat and I first tried this salad whilst she was living with me over the summer.  I think it must have been September-ish – so it was still technically summer, but starting to get cold again (which would imply that it had actually been warm this summer – it wasn’t).  A semi-warm salad sounded like an excellent idea.  And indeed it turned out to be rather fantastic.

We both had a bit of a reminiscent craving for it over the weekend.  We decided to have a fridge left-over-based meal before leaving for the holidays, so we made this as a main course.  Yummy!

Apparently we ate most of the feta off the top - oops

We drank a chardonnay – Olivier Leflaive – Les Sétilles 2009 (Bourgogne) with it – which balanced the mint out really well.  Incidentally, I’ve previously ranted about the bizarre cork for the 2008 Les Sétilles, and we were glad to see that they appear to have sorted that out and just used a normal fake cork.

Warm minty feta salad

Serves 2
Adapted from Waitrose.

This salad would work well as a starter, or as a main course, or as a side salad to go with a barbeque (lamb skewers perhaps?).  Simply adjust the amount of each ingredient that goes in (particularly the cheese) as you see fit.  The measurements are completely adjustable anyway – that’s the beauty of salads!

Ingredients

200g of feta cheese (200g is the smallest amount in my local supermarket – might as well just use it all)
4 tbsp mint sauce (use less if you’re not a huge fan of mint)
1 small pack of mixed salad leaves
½ a small cucumber
2 tomatoes
175g jar of black olives in brine, drained
1 tbsp fresh mint, shredded (don’t worry if you don’t have any, just use extra mint sauce in the marinade)
1 tbsp vinaigrette (or more, depending on how saucy you like you salads)

Directions

1.  Cut the feta into about 16 even chunks.  Place these in a small bowl, add the mint sauce and gently mix without breaking up the cheese, until evenly coated.  Set aside to marinate for at least 10 mins.

2.  Cut the tomatoes and cucumber into 2-3cm chunks, along with the salad, if necessary.  Place in a salad bowl with the olive, fresh mint and vinaigrette and toss to combine.

3.  Warm a small non-stick frying pan over a medium to low heat.  Add the feta and cook  gently for about 4 mins, until the cubes start to melt a bit, but don’t colour.  Either spoon the salad into plates and serve the feta on top, or add the feta to the big salad bowl and gently mix.

Enjoy!

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