Tag Archives: Feta cheese

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!

Advertisement

11 Comments

Filed under Recipes, Savoury Foods

Spinach and feta “quichelets”

I have a tendency to bookmark recipes involving spinach. It’s a habit that I picked up in St Andrews, thanks to Kat. She’s on medication that basically limits the amount of alcohol that she can drink to about 2 glasses of wine a day. Which wasn’t ideal for dinner parties (because unfortunately the 2 glasses a day aren’t transferable to the next day if you haven’t consumed them). However, she also had to limit the amount of vitamin K because it has the opposite effect on the medication to alcohol. So clearly, if she ate more vitamin K, she just had to balance it with an extra glass of wine or three and vice versa… Spinach is jam-packed full of vitamin K, so whenever I had Kat for dinner, it was highly likely that spinach would feature at some point. I didn’t want Kat to have to feel limited to drinking less than everybody else, because that’s just not fair. Of course, the obviously sensible thing to do would have been for everybody else to cut down on the amount of wine being consumed… but as fourth year undergrads, let’s be realistic here.

In fact, Kat was first prescribed this medication over the summer of 2010, which she unexpectedly spent living with me in St Andrews – this was the summer that definitely cemented our friendship. We spent a large part of the summer perfecting the amount of spinach required to balance out various quantities of wine and gin. We got it down to a fine art. This wasn’t quite as irresponsible as it sounds since Kat was conveniently having plenty of check-ups to check the levels of her medication throughout the summer. Kids: don’t read this and think it’s a smart idea to play Russian Roulette with your health, it’s not and that’s really not what I’m suggesting you should do. Rather hypocritical, I know, but I felt a disclaimer was probably a good idea.

So anyway, as a result of this, I have lots and lots of bookmarked recipes involving spinach. This particular recipe is adapted from a wonderful little cookbook that Craig (who was also involved in many of the spinach vs wine/gin experiments) gave me for Graduation, so I never got around to trying it out before I moved from St Andrews. The original recipe has been bookmarked for a long time, partly out of habit, partly because it uses egg yolks (I’m always looking for recipes that use up egg yolks) and partly because it sounded delicious. And it turned out scrumptious, as I was expecting – I’ve tried the spinach and feta combination before, and have always enjoyed it. I decided to make these as mini quiches (or “quichelets” as I like to call them), as suggested in the book, but it would also work as a larger quiche, particularly if you want to make this as a main course rather than a starter or light lunch.

Spinach & feta “quichelets”

Serves 6 as a starter
Adapted from Baking – 100 everyday recipes

You could, of course, just make one big quiche, but making the mini quiches doesn’t take that much more time and effort (just the time to cut the pastry from the tartlet tins). A larger quiche will take longer to bake – I can’t give you a time estimate, so I’d suggest just monitoring it, and toasting the pine nuts in a small frying pan and just topping the quiche with them when it comes out of the oven. I always add a tiny bit of Dijon mustard to the bottom of all my savoury tarts and quiches because I find that it subtly heightens the flavours, but it is entirely optional. If you’re not a big fan of cheese, you may wish to reduce the quantity of cheese down to about 100g.

Ingredients

Quiche pastry (click for recipe – it’ll make twice as much as you need)
2 tsp Dijon mustard
250g fresh spinach
1 tbsp butter
150g crème fraîche
3 egg yolks
2 tsp ground nutmeg
150g feta (pick one that crumbles easily)
25g pine nuts

Directions

1. Grease and flour six 9 cm tartlet tins (or one large quiche tin). Divide the pastry equally into six and roll out each portion to about 4mm thick and line one of the tartlet tins. Prick with a fork and refrigerate for about 30 mins. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/fan oven 180°C.

2. Line each pastry case with baking paper and fill with baking beans. Blind bake for 10 mins.

3. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, lightly beat together the egg yolks, crème fraîche and ground nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper (don’t be afraid to be a little heavy-handed with the pepper). Set aside.

4. Blanch the spinach for 1 minute in a large pot of boiling water. Drain and squeeze all the water out (having just been in boiling water, the spinach is very hot – I’m not sure how you would do this if you don’t happen to have asbestos hands like me… Use the back of a spoon perhaps?). Roughly chop the spinach (again, good luck if you don’t have asbestos hands). In a frying pan or wok, melt the butter and add the spinach and cook over a low heat to evaporate any remaining water.

5. Add a tiny dollop of mustard to each blind-baked pastry case and spread evenly. Crumble the feta and split evenly between the six tartlets. Stir the creamy egg mixture into the spinach, mix well, and spoon over the feta. Bake for 10 mins (if you’re making a large quiche, the cooking time will be a bit longer).

6. Sprinkle the pine nuts over the mini quiches and bake a further 5 mins.

7. Remove from the oven and serve immediately accompanied with a green salad or allow to cool on a wire rack.

Enjoy!

PS – Kat, I wish I could have shared these quichelets with you!

5 Comments

Filed under Recipes, Savoury Foods

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!

Leave a comment

Filed under Recipes, Savoury Foods