Zucchini, Goat’s Cheese and Pea Tart

Cleaning out the freezer I found a ball of shortcrust pastry I had forgotten about. Once thawed I looked in the fridge to see what I could find to make a savoury tart, without going shopping, and came up with this. Leftovers heated up well for lunch the following day.

If you have fresh peas in the garden by all means use those instead of frozen peas.

1 batch home-made shortcrust pastry (or substitute shop bought)
4 eggs
½ cup cream or milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbs chopped mint
350g coarsely grated zucchini (courgette)
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
100g goat’s cheese or feta cheese, crumbled
To serve:
1 cup frozen peas, extra
Mint sprigs

Preheat oven to 180°C. Use pastry to line base and sides of a slice pan, about 20/25 cm by about 30cm. Place zucchini in a sieve and mix in a teaspoon of salt. Leave to drain, then push down on it to squeeze out excess liquid. Beat eggs with cream or milk and lemon rind. Add zucchini, peas and lots of pepper then pour evenly into the pastry case. Scatter cheese over the top then bake for 25-30 mins or until set.

Meanwhile pour boiling water over the extra peas. Leave for a minute then drain. Cut the tart into squares and garnish with the extra peas and mint sprigs.

Serves 6

Variations: use asparagus spears, thinly sliced on the diagonal, instead of the zucchini.

Lentil Salad

Whip up this healthy salad in no time with canned lentils, or cook your own which will take a little longer. Buy a cooked chicken from your local supermarket, or throw something onto the barbecue. Fresh crusty bread and a bottle of vino, and dinner is ready.

3½ cups cooked lentils (or two cans, drained and rinsed)
1 red capsicum (pepper) diced
1 cucumber, diced
½ or 1 red onion, finely chopped
½ cup fresh chopped parsley
Dressing:
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
1 Tbs olive oil
1-2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp maple syrup or honey
1 clove garlic, crushed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Shake dressing in a jar, then mix everything together thoroughly.

Variations:

  • add a diced avocado just before serving
  • use spring onions instead of red onion
  • use coriander instead of parsley
  • add some toasted pine nuts

Pancake Stack with Roasted Vegetables

This colourful vegetarian dish was created when I had some pancakes which needed using up. You could probably use round wraps or soft tortillas instead of the pancakes.

I used one kind of vegetable for each layer, but if you’re in a hurry just roast all the vegetables mixed together.

1 medium sweet potato
3 large carrots
1 large red capsicum (pepper)
1 large onion
1 cup pitted black olives (optional)
Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 pancakes (crêpes) either bought or home-made
150g goat’s cheese or feta, crumbled
Pesto (either bought or home-made)
2/3 cup grated cheddar or parmesan

Choose a non-stick springform pan the same diameter as the pancakes. Preheat oven to 200°C. Slice all the vegetables into thick slices rather than the usual chunks, so they’re flatter. Mix each one with s little oil, salt and pepper, then spread them out in one layer, individually, on shallow baking trays lined with baking paper. Roast for 20-30 mins or until cooked and starting to brown.

You can line the bottom of the pan with baking paper, but I found it made cutting the finished dish more difficult as the paper got in the way, so next time I’ll leave it out. Spray cake pan with oil and place one pancake on the bottom. Arrange one vegetable over the pancake, dot with a few pieces of goat’s cheese or feta, drizzle with some pesto (add some oil if it’s too stiff), then top with another pancake and continue with the other vegetables, one for each layer. I put the olives in the onion layer. Finish with a pancake, sprinkle with cheddar or parmesan. Can be made ahead to this stage and kept in the fridge, covered.

Preheat oven to 180°C. Bake the pancake stack for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown on top and heated through. Serve in wedges with a green salad.

Serves 4-6

Variations: use other vegetables such as zucchini, parsnip, pumpkin, mushrooms, asparagus, corn etc. Add another layer or two if you like.

Zucchini and Haloumi Fritters

You only need one or two zucchini plants in the veggie patch to be inundated in the middle of summer. And if you don’t catch them when they’re small, a day or two later you’ll find they’ve turned into huge marrows! Zucchini with Tarragon and Sour Cream is a good way to use up the big ones.

Zucchini and Haloumi Fritters make a tasty vegetarian meal and any leftovers are delicious cold or reheated in a moderate oven for 5-10 minutes. Serve with Tzatziki and/or tomato chutney. Use regular sized zucchini or remove the seeds from bigger ones.

500g zucchini (seeds removed if large)
250g haloumi cheese
1 small onion, finely chopped
¼ cup finely chopped mint leaves
1 egg
2/3 cup self-raising flour
Vegetable oil for frying the fritters
Tzatziki:
1 Lebanese cucumber, coarsely grated (or half a telegraph one)
1 cup thick plain Greek yoghurt
1 clove garlic, crushed
grated rind ½ lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
To serve:
Salt flakes
Ground cumin
Fresh mint leaves
Tomato Baharat Jam (optional)

Coarsely grate zucchini and halloumi. If you have a coarse grating disk on your food processor, this is a breeze. Mix with remaining ingredients. Heat a little oil in a large frying pan and cook the fritters, 3-4 at a time. Use a tablespoon to dollop the mixture into the pan and flatten each fritter into a thick round shape. Fry for about 4 minutes each side, or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels and serve with the Tzatziki, mint leaves, salt flakes and a shake of ground cumin. A little Tomato Baharat Jam, or any other tomato chutney, also goes well.

For the Tzatziki, place the grated cucumber in a sieve and sprinkle with a little salt. Leave to drain for a few minutes, then press down on the cucumber to squeeze out as much liquid as you can. Mix with remaining ingredients.

Serves 4

 

Crème Caramel

Crème Caramel and Crème Brulée are my two favourite desserts. They’re quite similar in terms of ingredients, but one has a liquid caramel sauce while the other has a crunchy caramel topping, achieved with a blow torch.

The raspberries you can see in the photo were ones I had frozen from our garden a couple of months ago. I took them out of the freezer about half an hour before serving, so they just had time to thaw, but not to go squashy.

My Dad lived to the ripe old age of 90 and this was what he had for his last meal. I can see his face now, savouring every mouthful. I can’t think of anything I’d rather have for my Last Supper.

¾ cup sugar
1/3 cup water
5 eggs, thoroughly beaten with a fork
1 tin sweetened condensed milk
3 cups fresh milk (or a mixture of cream and milk)
1 tsp vanilla essence
To serve:
Thick pouring cream
Fresh or frozen berries, just thawed
A dusting of icing sugar

Preheat oven to 170°C. Heat sugar and water in a heavy saucepan and stir until sugar has dissolved. Boil without stirring until you have a rich caramel, swirling the pan so that it colours evenly without burning. Tip into a lightly oiled ovenproof dish with a capacity of 1.5 to 2 litres (I used a metal ring mold) and swirl around so that it coats the sides of the dish as well as the bottom.

Beat remaining ingredients together thoroughly with a balloon whisk, then pour through a sieve on top of the caramel, discarding any bits of egg in the sieve. Place the dish in a baking tin and add enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides. Bake for 50 minutes, remove and cool, then chill for several hours or overnight.

Loosen around the edges with a thin-bladed knife, then tip the Crème Caramel onto a serving plate. If all the caramel doesn’t come out, place the baking dish or tin in a bowl of very hot water to melt it, then pour it over the dessert. Serve with cream, fresh berries and a dusting of icing sugar.

Serves 8-10

Glazed Fig Salad with Feta and Pine Nuts

We’ve tried several times to grow figs at the farm. Each time, despite great care (deep hole, sheltered position etc) the tree doesn’t make it. So unfortunately figs are one of the fruits I have to buy.

They’re in season for such a short time and they don’t freeze well, so make the most of them while you can. Another delicious way to serve them in a savoury dish is with Smoked Salmon.

1 Tbs olive oil
12 fresh figs cut in half, stems removed
Mixed salad leaves
½ cup pine nuts, lightly toasted in a dry pan over moderate heat
100g feta cheese or goat’s cheese
Dressing:
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
Juice of ½ a lemon
1 Tbs honey
¼ cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large frying pan. Place figs in the pan, cut side down and cook until lightly browned and caramelised. Remove from pan. Place all ingredients for dressing in a jar and shake well. Mix salad greens with some of the dressing and arrange on a large, flat serving dish. Arrange the figs, cheese and pine nuts on top, then drizzle with more of the dressing.

Serves 4

Prawn Salad with Creamy Dressing and Herbs

This light, refreshing salad, which serves two as a main course or four as a starter, is perfect as an evening meal in the warmer months. Make it when the corn is at its sweetest.

12-16 large raw prawns, shelled and deveined
1 Tbs oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Finely chopped fresh tarragon (or another fresh herb)
2 cobs of fresh corn
3 Tbs sour cream  (or plain yoghurt or coconut cream)
1 Tbs lemon juice
1 Lebanese cucumber, quartered lengthwise then sliced
2 spring onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
½ small red onion, thinly sliced
3 Tbs coarsely chopped fresh coriander
3 Tbs coarsely chopped fresh mint
Finely chopped fresh chilli, or a pinch of dried chilli flakes, to taste (optional)
Extra virgin olive oil

Lightly season prawns on both sides with salt, pepper and finely chopped fresh tarragon. Heat oil in a small frying pan and fry prawns for 2-3 minutes each side. Turn off the heat and leave to cool. Cook corn cobs in boiling water to cover for 7-10 minutes then drain and cool.  With a very sharp knife, cut the kernels off the cobs, leaving some joined together.

Mix sour cream with lemon juice. Add the cucumber, spring onions, most of the red onion, most of the herbs, most of the corn, chilli to taste and seasoning to taste. Arrange on serving plates, then arrange the prawns on top and garnish with the remaining red onion, corn kernels and herbs. Drizzle a little oil around each serving.

Serves 2 as a main course or 4 as a starter

Substitutions: use cooked, peeled prawns instead of raw ones

Salmon with Macadamia Nut Crust and Zucchini Ribbons

I made this dish when our friends Fiona and Mark came to the farm for the weekend recently. It was inspired by a meal we enjoyed in Tuscany last year. Fiona says she’s made it four times since then, so I thought I had better make it again and record it on the blog, before I forget about it.

The recipe is very quick. Quantities depend on how many you’re feeding.

Salmon portions, with or without skin (about 180g each)
1 heaped Tbs macadamia nuts per person
1-2 Tbs parsley per person
Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1-2 small zucchini (courgettes) per person
Olive oil or butter
Salt and pepper

Line a shallow baking tray with baking paper and arrange the salmon portions on top. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Place the macadamia nuts and parsley in a food processor and pulse until chunky. Add a drizzle of oil through the feed tube with the motor running. Season to taste then spread over the salmon pieces. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Don’t overcook as the nuts will burn.

Top and tail the zucchini then cut into thin ribbons using a vegetable peeler. Discard the first and last slice which will be all skin. Steam for 4 minutes or until al dente. Drain thoroughly then add butter or olive oil and season to taste.

Arrange salmon in the middle of serving plates and surround with the zucchini ribbons.

Variations: use pine nuts instead of macadamias and use chives or basil instead of parsley, or a mixture of two herbs.

Scallops with Champagne Grapes and Almonds

We planted two grapevines at the farm, one red and one white. We didn’t pay a great deal of attention to the varieites and now discover that the black grape is what’s known as a Champagne Grape.

This has nothing to do with Champagne – either the region or the beverage – it’s just the name. The fruit of the Champagne grape is small and round and looks more like a blueberry than a grape. It’s the variety which is dried to make currants, which aren’t really currants at all. Traditionally used in Christmas cakes and puddings, currants are also known as Black Corinthian Raisins or Zante raisins.

We’ve been eating these small sweet grapes fresh for dessert or breakfast, with a dollop of Greek yoghurt. I also dried a few as you can see in the photo. Left on a tray in a sunny spot they were ready in a few days.

The last few Champagne grapes went into this recipe for scallops from a New Zealand website called Epicurious. Matthew declared it was Business Class food, which I think he meant as a compliment – something Neil Perry who plans the menus for QANTAS might approve of?

8 to 12 large scallops without roe (see note below), thawed if frozen
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 Tbs butter
3 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
2/3 cup Champagne grapes (or small seedless black grapes, halved)
1½ Tbs lemon juice
1/3 cup flaked almonds, toasted
2 Tbs chopped parsley

Dry scallops thoroughly with paper towels then season with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat half the butter in a frying pan large enough to cook the scallops in one layer. Let the butter brown slightly then add the scallops and cook them for 2 minutes each side over moderately high heat, until nicely browned. Remove scallops to a warm plate and cover with foil.

Turn the heat down a bit then add the remaining butter to the pan with the shallots. Cook, stirring for 2 minutes or until soft. Champagne grapes are the size of blueberries so if yours are bigger cut them in half. Add grapes to the pan with the lemon juice and most of the almonds and cook, stirring for about 2 minutes. Add most of the parsley and any juices which have accumulated on the scallop plate, then divide among 2 plates (main course) or four plates (starter) and top with the scallops, the reserved nuts and parsley to garnish.

Serves 2 as a main course or 4 as a starter

Note: as a main course for 2 you will need 8-10 scallops and as a starter for 4 you will need 12.

Substitutions: use the white part of spring onions (scallions) instead of shallots; use dried currants, (reconstituted in some hot water for 30 minutes, then drained) instead of the grapes; use pine nuts instead of almonds.

Roast Chicken with Walnut and Bacon Stuffing

A whole chicken cooks more quickly if you butterfly it. While some supermarkets sell butterflied chickens, it’s easy enough to do it yourself. Cut along each side of the backbone with poultry shears and discard it, then flatten the chicken by pressing it with the flat of your hand.

I hate throwing food away, so whenever I have any stale bread, especially delicious sourdough, I whiz it in the food processor, then tip the coarse crumbs into a plastic bag and keep them in the freezer. They are useful for making stuffing or for topping recipes such as Seafood Mornay, one of my all-time favourites.

This makes a tasty family meal, served with salad, and any leftovers are good for sandwiches next day.

1 whole chicken, butterflied (as described above)
1 cup chunky stale breadcrumbs
½ cup chopped walnuts or pecan nuts
½ cup finely chopped parsley
½ cup diced bacon
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs soy sauce

Preheat oven to 180°C. Place chicken in a roasting pan. Mix breadcrumbs, nuts, parsley and bacon and season to taste. Run your fingers under the skin of the chicken, to separate it from the flesh. Go as far as you can into the thighs and drumsticks, being careful not to break the skin.

Push the stuffing under the skin, spreading it out as evenly as you can. Mix olive oil with soy sauce and brush all over the chicken. Roast for 45 minutes to an hour, or until cooked and nicely glazed. Check by piercing the thickest part of the thighs – juices should run clear.

Serves 4-6