Quick Pasties Using Roti Paratha

I bought a packed of 8 frozen roti paratha from an Indian grocery store and used them to make these meat pasties. They were amazing. The best meat pies I’ve ever made.

If you can’t find Indian roti paratha, buy puff pastry and cut out big circles about 15cm or 6 inches in diameter. I thawed the roti, filled them, pinched together the sides at the top, brushed them with beaten egg, then baked them at 200°C for just over half an hour.

As for the filling, you can use your imagination. I used some leftover roast lamb from a slow roasted shoulder, mixed with leftover gravy and leftover roast pumpkin, all cut into 2cm cubes. I served the pasties with hot English mustard and a mix of peas and asparagus.

You could look for a Cornish pasty filling online and use that, or use this beef casserole recipe, or this recipe which uses oxtails – just take all the meat off the bones.

For a seafood pasty use this recipe for Seafood Mornay, without the breadcrumb topping. It’s one of the most popular recipes on this blog.

Spinach and Feta Pastries

These little savoury pastries are a great addition to lunch boxes, picnics and buffet lunches. They are also great to serve with drinks. Most kids love them and it’s a good way to get them to eat some green veggies.

Once cooked and cooled, if not serving immediately, you can keep them in the fridge for a few days or freeze them. They will just need a few minutes in a hot oven or an air fryer to heat up.

1-2 sheets bought puff pastry
Filling:
About 225g frozen chopped spinach, thawed (I used half a 450g pkt of spinach nuggets)
100g feta cheese, crumbled
¾ cup thinly sliced spring onions
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 egg
1 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs chopped fresh parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Extra:
1 beaten egg to brush

Preheat oven to 200°C. Squeeze any liquid from the spinach then mix it with remaining filling ingredients. Cut out 12 squares of puff pastry, approximately 8cm or 3 inches square. I got nine from one sheet of ready-rolled puff pastry.

Lightly but thoroughly (mine got a bit stuck) oil a 12 hole muffin pan and place a pastry square in each. Place a rounded tablespoonful of filling in each, then go back and use the rest to top them up. If you have too much you could use another muffin pan and make a couple more but I found the mixture made exactly 12.

Pull the four pastry points over the top of the filling and pinch lightly together. Brush with beaten egg, then bake for 20 minutes or until golden. Serve warm or at room temperature. Can be kept in the fridge for 2-3 days and reheated for a few minutes in a hot oven or frozen.

Makes 12

Grilled Prawns with Cauliflower & Miso Dressing

Our friend Meg served this delicious prawn and cauliflower starter from Aussie chef Matt Moran recently. The recipe makes six starters, or  make half as a light and healthy mid-week dinner for two.

½ cauliflower cut into florets (about 300g)
2 Tbs vegetable oil
18 green jumbo prawns peeled and deveined, tail on
100g butter
100g baby spinach
S and P
¼ green apple finely sliced vertically, then julienned, so you have peel each end
50g sliced almonds, toasted
Baby or regular coriander
Cauliflower purée: 
40g butter
The rest of the cauliflower (about 300g) chopped small
½ cup cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
White Miso Dressing:
100g white miso
½ small golden shallot, very finely chopped
1cm piece ginger, very finely chopped
½ small hot red chilli, very finely chopped
1½ Tbs lemon juice
1 Tbs mirin
1 tsp rice wine
2 tsp tahini
1 Tbs honey
1 Tbs caster sugar
5 tsp veg oil
75 ml water

Puree: heat butter in frying pan, add cauliflower, cover and cook, stirring occasionally for 10-15 mins or till very soft but not coloured. Add a few teaspoons of water if it starts to stick. Process with cream, salt and pepper till smooth. Reheat to serve if necessary.

Dressing: blitz all together in food processor till smooth, then push through a sieve.

Cook cauliflower florets in boiling salted water for 4  minutes or until al dente. Drain and set aside. Preheat chargrill plate till hot. Mix prawns with the oil in a bowl and cook on the grill for 3 minutes, turning once, until just cooked.

Meanwhile heat half the butter in a frying pan and toss the cauliflower florets for 4-5 mins till golden, set aside. Add remaining butter to pan and toss the baby spinach till just wilted, season.

To serve, divide cauliflower purée between 6 plates and spread into a circle. Top each serving with 3 prawns, some spinach, cauliflower florets, almonds, apple julienne. Drizzle with some dressing and top with coriander. I also drizzled a little extra virgin olive oil around the edge.

If serving as a main, increase the prawns so each person gets 5 or 6.

Serves 6 as a starter, four as a main

 

Pasta with Jerusalem Artichokes & Chorizo

It’s Jerusalem artichoke time and I’m always on the look out for new recipes.

I wouldn’t recommend growing them in a suburban garden because they tend to take over and become impossible to eradicate. We grow them at our farm where we have plenty of room.

These root vegetables look a bit like ginger and can be used in any way you would cook potatoes – boiled, baked, pureed into soup or whatever. The flavour is slightly sweet, like a parsnip. Some people avoid them because they cause wind. Others are unaffected or perhaps they don’t care.

To minimise the wind issue, my suggestion is to use them in a recipe which has other ingredients, such as this pasta dish, rather than in a soup made with 100% Jerusalem artichokes. Or mix them 50-50 with potatoes in a mashed or roasted recipe. Some recipes say to peel them, but we just give them a trim and a good scrub, as you would with new potatoes.

This recipe serves 4 so I made half. As you can see I used some penne pasta and some spiral because they both needed using up!

500g penne or another pasta of choice
1 cup diced dry-cured chorizo (about 250g)
500g Jerusalem artichokes, peeled or scrubbed and cut into 5mm slices
1/3 cup water
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried
2 tsp olive oil
4 cups lightly packed baby spinach
1/3 cup cream
2 tsp lemon zest
1 Tbs lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
To serve:
2 Tbs toasted pine nuts
2 Tbs currants in port (see note below) (optional)
Grated Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta in boiling salted water, according to package instructions, until al dente. Drain and keep about ½ cup of the cooking liquid.

Meanwhile in a large nonstick frying pan, cook chorizo until lightly browned and crisp. Remove from the pan and set aside leaving any fat in the pan. Add oil and artichokes and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes or until starting to brown. Add the water and simmer for 5-7 minutes, or until the artichokes are tender and most of the liquid has evaporated. Add garlic and thyme and stir for a minute or two.

Add spinach, pasta, cream and reserved liquid. Season with the lemon zest and juice, salt and pepper. Mix in the chorizo and serve garnished with the pine nuts, currants and grated Parmesan.

Serves 4

Note: Currants in port: place some dry currants in a small jar and cover with port. They  keep in the pantry for months. A very useful addition to many dishes. Delicious to garnish chicken liver paté or foie gras spread on toast or crackers.

Confit of Chicken or Duck

Many readers will have tried confit of duck, a popular dish served in restaurants. This traditional French way of cooking poultry works just as well with chicken. Confit meat almost falls off the bone and is packed with flavour. Great for entertaining as most of the preparation can be done ahead of time. It’s also good for anyone who has trouble chewing because the meat is so tender.

Traditionally confit is made using duck or goose fat, but olive oil works well and can be kept and reused several times. When the oil has cooled pour it through a sieve, discard the bits (or in our house, mix into the dog’s dinner) then pour it into a large jar with a lid and refrigerate. It will separate into three layers – jelly at the bottom, then fat, then olive oil. Next time you make confit, use the top two layers – the oil and the fat – adding more olive oil as required. You can also use this oil and fat to make the most delicious roast potatoes. Use the jelly to enrich gravies and stocks.

8 chicken or duck pieces (about 1 kg) (I used 4 chicken Marylands)
2 tsp salt
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp dried thyme
Olive oil

Trim chicken or duck of excess fat. Chicken Marylands cut in two or left whole (as in the photo) are ideal. Place in a dish. Add the salt, garlic and herbs and rub in well using your hands. Cover and refrigerate for several hours or over night for flavours to penetrate.

Rinse the chicken/duck pieces and pat dry with paper towels. Place in a baking dish just big enough to fit them in a single layer and pour over enough olive oil to just cover. Bake covered for three hours at 120°C. When cool, carefully remove chicken/duck from the oil – keep the oil – see above. Refrigerate chicken/duck pieces until needed, covered. They will keep in the fridge for several days.

To serve: heat a little olive oil in a frying pan and cook the chicken or duck pieces, skin side down, until crispy. Turn over and cook the other side, or put the pan into a hot oven for a few minutes to heat the meat right through. If you have an air fryer cook the pieces for 8-10 minutes at 200°C which is what I did and gives a fantastic all-over crispy finish. If liked, serve with a sweet and sour sauce such as plum sauce.

Note: If you prefer Asian flavours, use soy sauce, garlic and ground star anise or Chinese five spice for the marinade, instead of salt, garlic and herbs.

Serves 4

Best Beef Burgers

When we were a family of five, spaghetti bolognese and lasagne were regulars on the week-day menu. Now there’s just the two of us we don’t eat a lot of mince. Every now and then, however, I like to make burgers. Like everything else you make yourself, they are so much tastier than the ones you get in fast food outlets, especially if you use top quality, lean minced beef. And it’s the additions, such as mustard and grated Parmesan, which make all the difference to creating a great burger.

This mix is our favourite. If you end up with too many burgers, freeze them raw, or cook them and reheat the following day for lunch. Sometimes I have mine with just half a bun, or no bun at all and find I don’t miss the carbs. Feed a family by making some oven fries in the oven, or in an air fryer to go with the burgers.

500g top quality minced beef
1 small onion, or ½ a large onion, very finely chopped
½ tsp dried chilli flakes (optional)
1 egg
½ cup breadcrumbs (made from stale bread or use Panko crumbs)
1 tsp mustard (I use hot English)
2 Tbs grated parmesan cheese
Pinch grated nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1-2 Tbs olive oil, to fry the burgers
To serve: 
4 burger buns, split and toasted
Lettuce, rocket or baby spinach leaves
Sliced tomato
Sliced red onion (optional)
Sliced cucumber or avocado or both
Mayonnaise or aioli
Fruit chutney, tomato ketchup or barbecue sauce (optional)

Mix all ingredients except oil and use your hands to shape into 4 evenly-sized burgers, the diameter of your buns. Refrigerate until serving time.

Heat oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium to high heat and cook the burgers for 3-4 minutes each side, or until cooked to taste. Spread one side of the toasted buns with mayonnaise or aioli and the other with chutney, tomato ketchup or barbecue sauce. Serve the burgers in the buns with lettuce, rocket or spinach leaves, tomato and cucumber slices.

Makes 4 burgers

Kale with Quince

This healthy and delicious side dish from Australian cook Maggie Beer goes well with roast meats, particularly pork, turkey or chicken.

For lunch the following day I heated up the leftovers and served them on toasted sourdough, with a dollop of fresh ricotta cheese, a slice of crispy bacon, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and balsamic glaze.

Quinces are in season in winter, so they are in the shops in Australia now. At other times of the year you could substitute a sharp cooking apple.

Find more quince recipes here and here and here.

1 large quince, peeled, cored and cut into small cubes
1 bunch of kale
50g butter
2 Tbs olive oil
2 shallots or 1 small to medium onion
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1-2 Tbs lemon juice

Wash kale and strip the leaves from the stalks. Discard the stalks. Cook in boiling salted water for 3-5 minutes or until tender. Drain, squeeze out excess water and chop.

Heat butter and oil in a large non-stick frying pan and cook the onion and quince over moderate heat, stirring often, until cooked and starting to turn golden. Add the kale and toss together over the heat for a couple of minutes. Season to taste and drizzle with lemon juice.

Serves 4-6 as a side dish

Persimmon Fennel and Orange Salad

Persimmons are in the supermarkets at the moment. Ready to eat when they feel like a ripe but not overripe tomato, this unusual fruit makes a delicious, slightly sweet, addition to salads.

Persimmons pair particularly well with fennel and this salad goes well with seafood, salmon and chicken. Here’s a similar salad, without the orange.

1 bulb fennel
1 or 2 persimmons
1 orange
2-3 Tbs Basic salad dressing

Trim then thinly slice the fennel, then cut into smaller pieces and place in a bowl. Thinly slice the persimmons, cut into halves or quarters and add to the bowl. Peel the orange, remove the segments and add to the bowl. Add salad dressing and mix well. While it’s nicer fresh, any leftover salad will keep in the fridge for up to 24 hours.

Serves 4

No Bake Chocolate Mousse Cake

I belong to a group which meets once a month to speak French over a pot luck lunch. We take it in turns to host the lunch and the food is always amazing. All you have to do is let the hostess know you will be attending and whether you will bring a sweet or savoury dish, to make sure we don’t end up with too many desserts and not enough savoury dishes.

This delicious dessert was brought last month by Vanessa, one of the members whose husbands work at the French Embassy. It’s very easy to make and Vanessa kindly shared the recipe. It’s not really a cake, more a sliceable chocolate mousse. The texture is more like a panna cotta or a rich chocolate jelly than a mousse.

4 Tbs cocoa powder
¼ cup water
2 cups milk
1¾ cups cream
½ cup condensed milk
5 Tbs sugar (I cut it back to 3 Tbs)
200g dark chocolate, chopped
5 tsp gelatine powder
½ cup water
To serve:
Cocoa powder
Thick pouring cream
Fresh berries

Mix cocoa powder and ¼ cup water to a smooth paste. Heat milk, cream, condensed milk and sugar in a saucepan. Add chocolate paste and chopped chocolate and stir until melted. Mix gelatine powder with ½ cup water in a small bowl, then zap briefly in the microwave to dissolve. Add to the mixture in the pan.

Line a loaf tin with a capacity of about one and a half litres or six 250ml cups with non-stick baking paper. I used a triangular one, but a rectangular one is fine. Pour the chocolate mixture into the pan through a sieve, in case there are any undissolved bits. Refrigerate overnight.

Tip the mousse out onto a serving platter and remove the paper. Cover with sifted cocoa powder. Cut into thick slices and serve with cream and berries.

Serves about 12

Tips and Hints

Instead of the usual weekly recipe, today’s blog is just a collection of money-saving or time-saving tips and hints.

  • Peel half a kilo or more of fresh ginger and chop it very finely in a food processor. Freeze in ice cube trays, tip into a ziplock bag or container and keep in the freezer. Perfect for stir-fries and marinades.
  • Make a batch of Pesto during summer when fresh basil is available. Freeze in ice cube trays, store in a ziplock bag and use over the winter months.
  • Other ingredients to freeze in ice cube trays are lemon juice, lime juice, tomato paste and passionfruit pulp. Better than having them sit in the fridge till they go off.
  • Freeze whole fresh chillies in a ziplock bag so you always have them on hand. Chopped lemon grass also freezes well.
  • Make your own Za’atar by mixing 1 Tbs each of ground cumin, coriander, thyme or oregano, sumac, toasted sesame seeds and 1 tsp salt. Keep in a small jar.
  • Make your own labneh using this recipe.
  • Make your own dukkah using this quick and easy recipe.
  • Make your own mayonnaise in less time than it takes to nip to the local shop.
  • Freeze whole green grapes and use to chill a glass of white wine when the weather is hot, without making it watery.
  • Save hotel shower caps and use to cover large bowls and platters, such as a plate of sandwiches, in the fridge. Easier than plastic wrap which doesn’t always stick. Toss in the washing machine, dry on the line and use again.
  • Wash salad greens, spin dry, then store in the salad spinner in the fridge where they will stay crisp for several days. My favourite salad spinner is made by Zyliss and I have two.
  • Keep fresh herbs in the fridge in a tall tumbler or jar with just enough water to cover the bottoms of the stalks. Cover loosely with a small plastic bag over the top. It should cover the leaves and come halfway down the glass, allowing air to circulate.
  • Don’t throw away leftover or stale cornflakes, savoury crackers, corn chips, rice crackers, potato chips and other savoury snacks. Blitz them all together in a food processor and keep in a jar. Use to make Healthy Oven-Baked KFC.
  • Make one of these seven quick desserts.

And here are three non-culinary tips:

  • Soak your kitchen cloth or sponge in just enough cold water to cover with a splash of bleach added and leave for half an hour. It will come up like new. Bleach isn’t so bad if you use it properly.
  • When a lipstick is finished there’s always a sizeable piece at the bottom you can’t use. Scrape several similar colours into a small jar – the size you get face cream samples in, or individual servings of jam in posh hotels. Have fun making your own new colour. Microwave for 30 seconds (stand on a sheet of kitchen paper) stir with a toothpick, then zap for 20-30 seconds longer, until melted and smooth. Keep checking and don’t overcook. If using a plastic container be extra careful as you don’t want the container to melt. Glass or thick plastic pots are best. Cool and apply with a lip brush.
  • Turn powder eyeshadows into cream ones. Crush the powder in a small container and mix in some lip balm until smooth. About 2/3 eyeshadow to 1/3 lip balm. No need to heat, just mix. I have a whole heap of lip balm sticks collected from the bags they give you on overseas flights.  Blend your own colour as I have done with the bluey grey shown in the photo. They look a bit lumpy (I probably should have crushed them more) but work just fine.