The Perfect Quiche

A friend I’ve known for ages who is a very good cook told me the other day that she can’t make pastry, so I’ve offered to invite her round one day for a quick demo. Pastry was one of the first things I learnt from my paternal grandmother, when I was about 11, although being Scottish she didn’t teach me to make a quiche.

Quiches can be made with a variety of fillings, but the best known is Quiche Lorraine, made with bacon, eggs and cream. It’s definitely the most popular in our house, closely followed by Onion Quiche.  Quiche Lorraine originates in Alsace-Lorraine. My French friend Sigrid, who comes from that region of France, says that a true Quiche Lorraine doesn’t have any cheese in it, but I always add a bit.

Quiches can be frozen at any stage of the preparation. You can freeze the uncooked pastry, the uncooked quiche shell or the partly cooked quiche shell, with or without the uncooked filling poured in. While you can freeze a fully cooked quiche, I prefer to freeze them at the point where the filling has just been poured into the partly-baked pastry case. Place the quiche in the freezer until it has frozen completely. Then wrap it in a plastic bag to stop the filling from sticking to the bag which would happen if you wrapped it before it had frozen.

When needed, put the quiche straight from the freezer into the oven and allow about 25% longer cooking time. Use a dish which can go straight from the freezer to the oven – most dishes are fine and you can of course make quiches in metal pans rather than ceramic.

Alternatively you can make lots of mini quiches for drinks parties, lunch boxes or picnics. Follow this recipe for Mini Leek Quiches and if preferred use a different filling such as the Lorraine or Onion fillings below. With mini quiches it’s not necessary to bake the pastry cases blind before filling them and rather than putting the grated cheese on top, which is a bit fiddly, mix it into the rest of the filling.

If you make two batches of the shortcrust pastry recipe below and divide it into 3 equal balls it will be just enough to make three large quiches. I usually do that and use one ball and freeze two for another time, wrapped in plastic wrap. If you only make one batch of pastry you will have enough for one large quiche with some leftover. Use this to make some little tart cases. Cook them completely while empty, then fill with Lemon Curd or Raspberry Jam.

The following three recipes each fill a quiche dish 25cm in diameter and 3.5 cm deep. Serve warm or at room temperature, not piping hot. The first photo shows mini Onion Quiches ready to go into the oven, the second is a Quiche Lorraine and the third is a Cauliflower Cheese and Bacon Quiche.

With large quiches baking the pastry case blind – before you add the filling – is the secret to avoiding a soggy bottom!

 

Quiche Lorraine
1 batch of shortcrust pastry
4 eggs
1½ cups cream
½ cup milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
200g lardons (chunky bits of bacon cut from smoked speck)
60g grated cheese, traditionally Gruyere or Emmental but Cheddar will do

Preheat oven to 180°C. Roll out pastry and line quiche dish then bake it blind. To bake blind, line the pastry case with a piece of aluminium foil, pressing it down to fit, then tip in something to weigh it down and stop the pastry from rising in the middle. I use corn kernels which I keep in a jar and use over and over again. Dried beans or rice will also do the trick.

Bake quiche shell for 5-10 mins, then remove the foil and corn and bake it for a few more minutes until pale golden brown.

Heat a smidgen of oil in a non-stick frying pan. Add lardons and cook until golden then drain and sprinkle over the partly cooked quiche shell. Don’t overcook or they will shrivel up to nothing. Beat eggs with cream and milk, season to taste and pour in. Can be frozen at this stage.

Sprinkle with grated cheese and bake for about 45 minutes or until puffed and golden brown. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Serves 6-8

Onion Quiche
1 batch of shortcrust pastry
1 kg onions, thinly sliced
50g butter
1 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs flour
2 eggs
¾ cup cream
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper
60g grated cheese, preferably Gruyere or Emmental

Preheat oven to 180°C. Roll out pastry and line quiche dish then bake it blind. To bake blind line the pastry case with a piece of aluminium foil, pressing it down to fit, then tip in something to weigh it down and stop the pastry from rising in the middle. I use dried corn kernels which I keep in a jar and use over and over again. Dried beans or rice will also do the trick.

Bake the quiche shell for 5-10 mins, then remove the foil and corn and bake it for a few more minutes until very pale golden in colour.

Meanwhile for the filling heat butter and oil in a large frying pan, add onions and cook very gently for about 45 minutes, or until tender and pale golden, stirring regularly. Add flour and cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes, then cool.

In a mixing bowl beat eggs with cream, add the cooled onions, salt, nutmeg and black pepper to taste and pour into pastry case. Can be frozen at this stage.

Sprinkle with grated cheese and bake for 45 minutes or until puffed and golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 6-8

Cauliflower Cheese and Bacon Quiche
1 batch of shortcrust pastry
1 small cauliflower or half a very big one
1 Tbs olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
100g bacon, chopped
300ml thick cream
3 eggs
180g grated cheddar cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 180°C. Roll out pastry and line quiche dish then bake it blind. To bake blind line the pastry case with a piece of aluminium foil, pressing it down to fit, then tip in something to weigh it down and stop the pastry from rising in the middle. I use dried corn kernels which I keep in a jar and use over and over again. Dried beans or rice will also do the trick.

Bake the quiche shell for 5-10 mins, then remove the foil and corn and bake it for a few more minutes until very pale golden in colour.  For the filling, cut the cauliflower into large florets and cook in boiling salted water for about 5 mins or until just tender. Drain well. Heat olive oil in a non-stick pan and cook the onion and bacon for 3 mins or until onion is soft and bacon starts to brown. Spread into the partly baked pastry shell and arrange the cauliflower over the top. Beat eggs with cream and season to taste. Pour into the quiche and top with the grated cheese. Bake for 35-45 mins or until nicely browned all over.

Serves 6-8

Tips:

  1. To avoid ending up with tough pastry don’t over-roll it,  treat it gently – not like bread dough – and don’t use too much flour.
  2. A problem some people encounter with quiche shells is that it looks fine until it’s been baked blind. You take it out of the oven only to find that it has shrunk down at the sides so there’s nowhere to put the filling! The way to avoid this is as follows. When rolling out the pastry to line the quiche dish, make sure you don’t put it in when it’s just been stretched because it will ping back again as it cooks. Lift the pastry each time you’ve rolled it, so it can relax. Make sure the pastry goes right to the edges of the dish, then up the sides, then fold it back down again, so the sides are double thickness. Then go round with fingers and thumb, squeezing the sides so they are not quite so thick, but still slightly thicker than the base. Then go round with a sharp knife and, cutting away from you, cut off the excess pastry. Another way to avoid shrinkage is to put the dish into the fridge for a while after you’ve lined it with pastry. This may sound like a long-winded explanation, but it’s much easier to show someone than to explain in writing.

 

Steak Diane

Steak Diane is one of my favourite steak recipes. One of those oldies but goodies I’ve been making for decades.

I’m trying to cut down on carbs at the moment and Steak Diane is perfect for a low carbohydrate, also known as a ketogenic, diet.  It’s quick and easy and uses ingredients I always have on hand. Served with a green salad or some steamed green beans, snow peas or broccoli it makes a satisfying meal.

Family members who aren’t avoiding carbs will appreciate a few chips (French fries) on the side. I usually have a packet of bought ones in the freezer and find they crisp up in a very hot oven in the time it takes to cook the steak and veggies. If you want to cut down a bit on the calories use half the amount of butter.

2 Scotch fillet steaks
Freshly ground black pepper
30g butter
1 clove garlic
1 Tbs Worcestershire Sauce
¼ cup cream
2 Tbs finely chopped parsley

Pound steaks to 1cm thick with a meat hammer and season on both sides with pepper. Heat butter on high in a non-stick frying pan and when sizzling add steaks and cook for one minute. While steaks cook on one side rub the crushed garlic into the other side. Turn steaks over, add Worcestershire sauce and swirl steaks around in the sauce. When done to liking – for me pretty much immediately – add cream and parsley, cook for a minute or so to thicken the sauce. Turn steaks over and back again, to coat them with the sauce.

Serves 2

Mango and Passionfruit Ice Cream Cake

The December/January edition of Delicious magazine had a photo on the front of a really quick and easy Mango and Passionfruit Ice Cream Cake which was just perfect for a recent birthday party we hosted.

The recipe uses a bought pavlova so it’s only possible for readers who live in Australia, where you can buy a pavlova base in any supermarket. Readers elsewhere will have to make their own pavlova or modify the recipe and mix 500g of broken up store-bought meringues into the ice cream. The recipe also uses a four litre carton of store-bought ice cream. Easy peasy.

It was absolutely delicious, but a number of variations occurred to me, so I have listed them below. You will no doubt come up with a few of your own.

If you use homemade ice cream rather than store-bought you will need to take the cake out of the freezer 10-15 minutes before serving because homemade ice cream always freezes much harder than store-bought and the cake will be too difficult to slice.

1 x 500g store-bought pavlova base
4L vanilla ice cream
12 passionfruit
A few drops of yellow food colouring (optional)
1/3 cup whisky or water
½ cup sugar
300ml whipping cream
2 ripe but firm mangoes, thinly sliced

You will need a springform cake pan 25cm in diameter with a clip closure – i.e. the same diameter as the pavlova. Choose a flat serving plate which will fit in the freezer. Place the pavlova on the plate then undo the springform pan and take out the base, which you don’t need. Place the ring over the pavlova so it sits down on the plate, then close it.

Spoon the ice cream into a large mixing bowl and let it stand for a few minutes to soften slightly while you add the pulp of 8 of the passionfruit and, if liked, a few drops of yellow food colouring. Mix gently but thoroughly then spread on top of the pavlova, smoothing the top. Freeze overnight – no need to cover.

Place whisky or water, sugar and pulp from the remaining 4 passionfruit into a small saucepan. Heat gently, stirring, till sugar has dissolved then simmer for 6-8 minutes or until thickened, then cool. Can be made ahead and kept in a jug or jam jar.

To serve, whip cream until stiff and slice mango thinly. Remove ice cream cake from freezer. Briefly hold a tea towel wrung out in very hot water around the sides, run a thin knife around the outside of the cake, then release the clip and lift off the tin. Spread whipped cream over the top, cover with sliced mango and drizzle with passionfruit sauce. Serve immediately.

Serves 16

Four Variations: 

  • Use chocolate ice cream, cover the whipped cream with strawberries, whole or sliced if large, then drizzle with chocolate ganache
  • Use plain vanilla ice cream or Quick Raspberry Ice Cream, cover the whipped cream with fresh raspberries, then drizzle with raspberry coulis
  • Dissolve 4 Tbs instant coffee in 2 Tbs hot water then mix thoroughly into the ice cream, mix about 200g broken up Halva into the whipped cream and drizzle with chocolate sauce
  • Use caramel or salted caramel ice cream, cover the whipped cream with sliced bananas and toasted macadamias or peanuts (optional), then drizzle with caramel sauce

 

Ottolenghi’s Rice Salad with Nuts, Sour Cherries & Grilled Salmon

While staying with our son and daughter-in-law in London they served this unusual rice salad from Yotam Ottolenghi’s latest cookbook Plenty More.

It’s delicious on its own, but they served it on individual plates, topped with a portion of pan-fried salmon with crispy skin. For a recent buffet dinner I made one and a half times the rice salad, then baked a one kilo side of skinned and deboned salmon (from Costco), brushed with Thai sweet chilli sauce, at 200°C for 8-10 minutes and placed it on top of the salad. I prepared all the ingredients for the salad earlier in the day and mixed everything together 10 minutes before serving. The salmon can be hot or at room temperature.

I couldn’t find wild rice in Coles, Woolworths or Aldi. The health food store had a packet of 125g for $9.95 which works out at $80 a kilo. Ridiculous! Black rice, which costs around $10 a kilo can be found in all major supermarkets in Australia. It’s a very good substitute and a great colour contrast to the basmati, so I used that.

Ottolenghi cooks the basmati rice by the absorption method. I prefer to cook it in plenty of boiling water, the same as the wild/black rice and the quinoa, so you have more control over when to stop the cooking process. You want all the grains to have a bit of bite to them – al dente as the Italians say.

1 cup wild rice or black rice
1¼ cups basmati rice
4 Tbs olive oil
2/3 cup quinoa
60g almonds, skins on, coarsely chopped
60g pine nuts
3 Tbs sunflower oil
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
1 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
2/3 cup chopped basil leaves
1/3 cup chopped tarragon leaves
2 cups rocket leaves
2/3 cup dried sour cherries (I bought them in Costco)
¼ cup lemon juice
Grated rind 1 lemon
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Grilled salmon portions to serve (optional)

Place wild rice in a pan, cover with plenty of water, bring to the boil then simmer for 35 minutes until cooked but firm. Drain, rinse under cold water, drain again. Cook basmati rice in plenty of boiling salted water until cooked but firm. Drain, rinse and drain.

Cook quinoa in boiling water for 9 mins then drain, rinse and leave to drain. Place the almonds and pine nuts in a small frying pan with one tablespoonful of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Cook stirring until just starting to colour then set aside. Heat sunflower oil in a large frying pan and add the onions, a pinch of salt and some ground black pepper. Cook over high heat for 5-8 minutes, stirring often, until onions are soft with a few crispy bits. Drain on paper towels.

In a large salad bowl place all the grains, chopped herbs, rocket, fried onion, nuts and sour cherries. Add the lemon juice and zest, the remaining 3 Tbs olive oil, the garlic, half a teaspoon of salt (or to taste) and some pepper. Mix well then stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Serve the salad as it is or topped with grilled, pan fried or baked salmon.

Serves 8

Substitutions: 

  • use dried cranberries instead of sour cherries
  • use black rice or brown rice instead of wild rice
  • use skinned almonds if that’s all you have
  • use more parsley and basil if you don’t have any tarragon
  • if you don’t have any quinoa just leave it out

Big Mary’s Raspberry Jam

There are three good times to make raspberry jam. Firstly with fresh raspberries if you have them growing in your garden. Secondly with fresh raspberries in mid-summer, when they’re at their lowest price in your local farmer’s market or supermarket. And thirdly with frozen raspberries. So basically any time is a good time as frozen berries work just as well as fresh ones and they’re considerably cheaper. With frozen fruit the jam ends up a darker red, as you can see in the photo.

Holidays spent as a child with my Dad’s cousins at Hill House, a dairy farm in the very north of England, had a huge impact on my love of cooking. From Great Auntie Vina and Little Mary I learnt how to bake a full repertoire of cakes and pastries. And my Dad’s cousin Big Mary, so-named in order to distinguish her from her brother’s wife Little Mary, who was much shorter, taught me to make raspberry jam. She also gave me the recipe for a spectacular dessert called Mexican Bombe which I make for special occasions. It’s not on the Weight Watchers diet, but everyone loves it.

Unopened jam keeps for several months without refrigeration, but Big Mary said it was best to make a kilo or even half a kilo of raspberries into jam and keep the rest in the freezer to make another batch at a later date. Freshly-made raspberry jam, she said, was much nicer than jam made a few months ago.

With experience you will know when jam has reached setting point, just by looking at it. If you’re new to jam-making the best way to check for setting point is as follows. Put a saucer in the freezer before you start, so it gets very cold. When you think the jam may have reached setting point (which varies according to the acidity of the fruit from 5 to 20 minutes) place a scant teaspoonful onto the cold saucer then put it back in the freezer for a minute or until cold. To avoid over-cooking most cookbooks suggest you take the jam off the heat while you’re testing. Push the cold jam with your finger and if it’s ready you will see that it’s starting to gel. If it’s not ready it will still be liquid when cold.

Raspberry jam is delicious on fresh bread or with croissants. It’s also the perfect topping for thick Greek yoghurt or as a filling for a sponge cake, with some whipped cream. And if you ever make too much to eat yourself, it makes the perfect gift.

1 kg raspberries (fresh or frozen)
800g sugar
A small knob of butter

Place raspberries in a large heavy-bottomed pan with sugar and heat gently, stirring, until sugar has dissolved. A preserving pan is best. Bring to a rolling boil and boil for 5 minutes or until setting point is reached. Stir in a knob of butter which will dissolve any scum.

Pour into hot sterilised jars. Place lids on while jam is hot. Store in dark cupboard and refrigerate after opening.

To sterilise jars, wash thoroughly in hot soapy water, rinse in hot water, then drain. Microwave on High (without lids) for 2 minutes just before you pour in the jam, so they are still hot. Dry the lids and put them on immediately.

Variations: For strawberry jam add the juice of a lemon when cooking the fruit. I like to use small strawberries for jam rather than the huge ones you can buy these days. For apricot jam start by cooking the fruit in 2-4 Tbs water (less if fruit is very ripe, more if not), then proceed as above, adding the juice of a lemon.

Makes 2-4 jars, depending on size of jars

Mushroom and Spinach Frittata

If you’re a regular reader of this blog you will have noticed that we like to give meat and fish a rest about once a week and go vegetarian.

A frittata is an egg-based Italian dish, similar to an omelette. A vegetable frittata makes a tasty light supper and any leftovers are nice cold the next day. Choose a medium sized non-stick frying pan (mine is 25 cm or 10 inches) with a metal handle, so it can go in the oven.

When the frittata comes out of the oven the metal handle will be very hot. I forgot and have the blisters to show for it.

Mushroom and Spinach Frittata

1 Tbs olive oil
60g butter
200g mushrooms, cut into quarters or sliced if large
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
About half a bunch of spinach
6 eggs
½ cup sour cream or fresh cream
Grated rind and juice of half a lemon
2-3 Tbs grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Sour Cream Sauce (optional):
½ cup sour cream
2-3 Tbs finely chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 180°C.

Heat half the butter and oil in the frying pan and cook the mushrooms and garlic over moderately high heat for 2 minutes, stirring, then transfer to a bowl. Strip the spinach from the stalks and discard the stalks. Tear the spinach into smaller pieces. Add to the frying pan with the remaining oil and butter and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes until wilted. Add to the bowl with the mushrooms.

In another bowl using a balloon whisk beat the eggs, sour cream, lemon juice and rind, grated Parmesan and salt and pepper. Pour into the frying pan, Scatter the spinach and mushrooms and any juices over the top. Place small pieces of goat’s cheese or feta all over the top. Place back on the stove until the frittata starts to set, then bake for 10 minutes, or until puffed and golden. Cut the frittata into wedges and serve with a mixed salad and the sour cream sauce.

Sour Cream Sauce: mix sour cream with chopped parsley.

Serves 2-3

Variations: use small broccoli florets instead of spinach; use Pecorino instead of Parmesan cheese; use a mixture of fancy mushrooms instead of the usual ones

Baked Eggplant with Halloumi

Fed up with ham and turkey? Here’s a quick vegetarian dish made with eggplants, tomatoes and halloumi cheese.

Halloumi is a semi-hard cheese which originated in Cyprus. I first ate it at a lunch hosted by my brother and sister-in-law at an Airforce base in the UK where they were stationed nearly 20 years ago. They cooked the halloumi on the barbecue and our kids decided to rename it squeaky cheese, because of the noise it makes as you bite into it.

Some eggplant recipes involve lots of frying. This method doesn’t, making it truly quick and easy.

2 medium to large eggplants, halved lengthwise
3 Tbs olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tin tomatoes (chopped)
2 tsp sugar
250g halloumi cheese
2-3 Tbs Dukkah (bought or home-made)
Fresh basil to garnish

Preheat oven to 180°C. Place eggplant halves in a baking dish in one layer, cut side up. Make deep cuts in the surface of each, one way and then the other, so you cut the flesh into squares but not right through.  Brush with one tablespoon of the olive oil and season. Bake for 30 minutes or until eggplant is tender.

Meanwhile heat another tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan and add onion and garlic. Cook gently for a few minutes till soft but not brown. Add the tomatoes and sugar, season to taste, then simmer for 5-10 minutes to thicken a bit. Spread over the eggplant. Slice halloumi cheese and arrange over the top. Brush the halloumi with the third tablespoon of olive oil. Sprinkle with dukkah, then put the dish back in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until halloumi is golden.

Garnish with fresh basil and serve with a mixed salad.

Serves 4

Substitutions: use fresh, peeled tomatoes instead of a can; use a different cheese such as sliced cheddar or Manchego (hard sheep’s cheese from Spain) or whatever you have.

 

Pasta with Prawns and Pepperoni or Chorizo

This recipe comes from my friend Ferne. She’s made it for me twice, once in Canberra and once in Brisbane where she now lives. Both times it was delicious.

Any kind of pasta will work, but my preference is to use fresh fettuccine, sold in most Australian supermarkets in 375g packets.

With a mixed salad and some fresh crusty bread, this recipe will serve 4.

375g fresh fettuccine
20g butter
250-300g pepperoni or chorizo, sliced
350g peeled raw prawns (weight after peeling)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup dry white wine
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
½ a fresh diced chilli, seeds removed, finely chopped
Handful chopped parsley
½ cup cream
Extra virgin olive oil to garnish

Cook pasta according to packet instructions then drain. Meanwhile heat butter in a large frying pan and cook pepperoni or chorizo for a few minutes, until starting to brown. Add prawns and garlic and continue to cook, stirring, until prawns turn pink. Add wine and lemon juice and cook over moderately high heat for 3-5 mins, to reduce the sauce by half. Add chilli and seasoning to taste. Mix in the cooked pasta, the parsley and cream. Divide between 4 bowls. Top with extra chopped parsley and drizzle a little oil around each serving.

Makes 4 servings

 

Turkish Green Rice

Cappadocia, in the middle of Turkey is well worth a visit. We stayed in Göreme in a cave hotel which had been carved out of the rock, but was nonetheless very comfortable.

Over the centuries the inhabitants of this region have carved out shelters, houses, churches and monasteries from the rocky outcrops, which are often described as fairy chimneys. The geology and history of the area is fascinating and in order to see the terrain from above we went on a balloon flight at dawn. One hundred and twenty balloons all taking off at about the same time is a sight to behold.

A Turkish passenger on our inward flight asked for a drink which the flight attendant poured from what looked like a two litre bottle of milk, but as he poured I could see it was much too thick to be milk. When I asked if I could “have what he’s having” the flight attendant looked sceptical. He said that usually only Turks asked for Ayran and I might not like it, so he gave me a little to try before filling up my glass. It’s basically plain yogurt watered down to pouring consistency, with a little salt added. Full of probiotics it’s really good you, so I drank it all the time while we were there. Delicious.

This was our third trip to Turkey and we felt perfectly safe. The people are friendly and helpful and the food is simple, but healthy and delicious. Lots of kebabs and grills, as well as vegetable dishes, salads and traditional casseroles cooked slowly in sealed clay pots. Thick yoghurt drizzled with local honey was my favourite dessert.

This rice recipe is from the inflight magazine on Turkish Airlines. It makes quite a lot so you may want to halve the recipe. Serve it with kebabs, hummus, Turkish bread and a salad of diced tomato, onion and cucumber.

2 cups long grain rice such as Basmati
1 packet frozen spinach or 1 bunch fresh spinach
1 onion, finely chopped
50g butter
3 cups water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2-3 Tbs each finely chopped parsley and mint
2 Tbs pistachio nuts or pine nuts, lightly toasted in a dry pan

If using fresh spinach, remove leaves and discard stalks. Wash thoroughly. With just the water clinging to the leaves, place spinach in a large saucepan, cover and cook, stirring from time to time, for a few minutes or until wilted. Place in food processor and chop finely. You will need a generous cup or more of this chopped spinach, or use thawed frozen spinach. Quantities are flexible.

Heat butter in a large saucepan and cook onion until soft, stirring from time to time, and allowing it to brown slightly. Add rice, spinach, water, salt and pepper, bring to the boil, then cover and turn the heat as low as it will go. Cook for 20 minutes or until rice is cooked and has absorbed all the liquid. If not quite ready, turn off the heat and let it sit for a few minutes to continue cooking in its own steam. Stir in the chopped herbs. Check for seasoning and if liked add another knob of butter. Garnish with the toasted nuts.

Serves 6-8

Sweet Potatoes with Almond Tahini

I found this recipe in the Financial Times newspaper which I was reading on a recent QANTAS flight from Bangkok to Sydney. I tore it out as  I’m a big fan of sweet potatoes and although we’re not vegetarian I tend to cook a meatless evening meal at least once a week.

So last night was try-out night and the recipe didn’t disappoint. It said to bake the sweet potatoes on a bed of salt to draw out the moisture. I don’t think this made any difference, so I would leave that out next time.

2 large sweet potatoes
Tahini:
100g whole shelled almonds
Small clove garlic, peeled
3 Tbs vegetable or olive oil
Pinch salt
2 tsp lemon juice
4 Tbs water
Garnish:
2 Tbs almonds roughly chopped (blanched or unblanched, I used slivered)
2 tsp oil
pinch salt
2 spring onions, thinly sliced or 2 Tbs snipped chives
Pomegranate or date molasses (or fig glaze)

Preheat oven to 200°C. Wash and dry the sweet potatoes, but don’t peel them. Line a baking tin with foil and place the sweet potatoes on top. Bake for an hour or until soft and a knife can be inserted easily.

Meanwhile make the Tahini by blitzing the almonds in a food processor until fine then adding the garlic, oil, salt, lemon juice and water. Taste and adjust seasoning. It will thicken up as it sits. If made ahead and refrigerated you may need to mix in a little water when serving.

For the garnish, place nuts in a small frying pan with the oil and salt and stir over moderate heat until golden. Turn off heat.

To serve, cut the sweet potatoes in half horizontally. Squeeze to open up the flesh a bit then top with a couple of dollops of tahini. Top with the nuts, the spring onions or chives and a drizzle of molasses or glaze.

Variation: use pine nuts instead of almonds.

Serves 2-4