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

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

Roasted Pumpkin with Maple Syrup, Ginger and Thyme

This simple recipe for pumpkin is quick and easy to prepare. Delicious served as a side dish with any main course. Leftovers are nice cold in wraps or salads. I used a butternut pumpkin, known as butternut squash in some countries.

1kg pumpkin, peeled and cut into 1cm wedges (see photo)
1 Tbs grated fresh ginger
2 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs maple syrup
1 Tbs fresh thyme, chopped
1 tsp salt
To garnish:
Fresh coriander leaves
Toasted pine nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 180°C. Line a large shallow baking sheet with baking paper. Place all ingredients except pumpkin in a bowl and mix well. Add pumpkin and turn to coat, then spread over the baking sheet, in one layer. Drizzle with any oil and syrup mixture left in the bowl. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until cooked and starting to brown and caramelise around the edges. Turn once or twice during cooking time.

Serve garnished with the coriander and, if using, the pine nuts.

Serves 8

Substitution: if you don’t have any maple syrup substitute honey.

Vegetable Curry

This simple vegetable curry is perfect for using up all the odds and ends of vegetables from the bottom drawer of the fridge to produce a tasty family meal. I used sweet potato, pumpkin, green beans, potatoes and frozen peas. Other vegetables such as cauliflower, zucchini, carrots, capsicum, broccoli and eggplants also work well in this recipe.

If you’re not sure how many vegetables to prepare, I filled a one-litre measuring jug twice to overflowing. The quantity is flexible, but basically you need a big bowl full. If you don’t have enough vegetables, add a drained can of chickpeas.

3 Tbs vegetable oil
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 red chilli, seeded and finely chopped (optional)
1 Tbs grated fresh ginger (optional)
3 Tbs curry paste or powder
1 tsp paprika or turmeric
1 can tomatoes, chopped
1 can coconut milk
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 tsp sugar
8-10 cups prepared vegetables (see list above)
2 cups frozen peas or 2 handfuls spinach leaves
Extra water as required
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
To serve:
Steamed rice
Plain yoghurt
Chopped fresh coriander
Fruit chutney

Prepare vegetables by cutting them into large chunks and pieces that will cook in a similar time. Heat oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pan and cook the onion and garlic gently, until soft but not coloured. Add the chilli, ginger, curry paste and paprika or turmeric and cook, stirring for a couple of minutes. Add the tomatoes, coconut milk, stock, sugar and all the vegetables apart from the peas or spinach. Simmer, stirring from time to time, for 20-25 minutes, or until the vegetables are cooked. Add more water as required during cooking and season to taste with salt and pepper. Lastly add the frozen peas or spinach and cook for a minute or two.

Serve the curry garnished with coriander and accompanied by steamed rice, a bowl of plain yoghurt and some fruit chutney.

Serves 6

Note: if you prefer a non-creamy curry leave out the coconut milk and add more stock. If you have coconut cream rather than milk, that works too. This is a very flexible recipe.

Tomato Tarte Tatin with Goat’s Cheese

Many readers will be familiar with the delicious French apple tart called Tarte Tatin. Caramelised apples covered with pastry, cooked until golden and crisp and then inverted onto a serving plate.

This is a tomato version which is perfect to make when you have, as we do at the moment, heaps of cocktail tomatoes in the garden.

About 375g puff pastry
2-3 Tbs balsamic glaze
1 Tbs caster sugar
3 Tbs fresh thyme leaves, plus a few sprigs to garnish
About 500g cocktail tomatoes (enough to cover base of the pan)
To serve:
Rocket, toasted pine nuts and grated Parmesan salad
Crumbled goat cheese
Sun-dried Tomato Pesto:
¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained
¼ cup toasted pine nuts
¼ cup fresh basil leaves
1 Tbs (a 5cm or 2″ chunk) Parmesan cheese

Make the pesto by blitzing all the ingredients together to form a nice chunky paste. Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Cut a circle of baking paper to fit the bottom of a 20cm (8 inch) tart tin. Drizzle the balsamic glaze over the paper, then sprinkle with the sugar and thyme leaves. Arrange the tomatoes over the base – they should cover it completely and snugly. Dollop the tomato pesto all over the tomatoes, as evenly as you can. Roll out the pastry, cut a circle 25cm (10 inches) in diameter. Place on top of the tomatoes and tuck in the edges.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until pastry is puffed and golden brown. Let the tart rest for 5-10 minutes then carefully invert onto a serving plate and remove the paper. Serve warm or at room temperature, garnished with crumbled goat cheese and thyme sprigs, with a lightly-dressed salad of rocket, toasted pine nuts and grated Parmesan.

Serves 6

Crispy oven-baked Cauliflower Bites

Serve these delicious, crunchy cauliflower bites as an aperitif or light meal. The ones in the photo are larger florets which we had as a light meal. I served smaller ones with Christmas drinks and they were a great success. All the preparation can be done several hours ahead.

1 small to medium cauliflower or half a large one
Batter:
2 Tbs Besan (chickpea) flour
1 Tbs cornflour (corn starch)
1 tsp each of turmeric, salt, oregano and paprika
2 eggs and a little water
Coating:
3 cups panko breadcrumbs
1 Tbs sesame seeds
Dipping Sauce:
½ cup mayonnaise (preferably home-made)
¼ cup sour cream or plain yoghurt
1 Tbs tomato sauce
A little chilli sauce such as Tabasco or Sriracha, to taste (optional)
Paprika

Cut cauliflower into florets – one or two bites in size. Mix the batter all together in a bowl with a fork, adding enough cold water to make a coating consistency. Add the cauliflower florets and toss well until thoroughly coated. Preheat oven to 180°C. Line a shallow baking tray with baking paper.

Mix the coating ingredients in a shallow bowl. Remove cauliflower, one or two pieces at a time and toss in the crumbs, patting them on. Arrange in a single layer on the baking tray. Can be prepared in advance to this stage.

Bake for 20-30 minutes until tender (test with a skewer or sharp knife), golden and crispy. Smaller florets will take less time. Mix sauce ingredients together, sprinkle with paprika and serve with the cauliflower.

Makes 36-40

Note: feel free to use different herbs and spices such as dried basil, cumin etc

Curry Dip

I’ve been making this dip since I was at school, which is quite some time ago. Served  with a colourful array of raw vegetables it makes a healthy accompaniment to drinks. Make it the day before serving, for the flavours to develop.

250g cream cheese
1 cup thick Greek-style yoghurt
4 Tbs mayonnaise (preferably home-made)
4 tsp curry paste or powder
1 Tbs grated onion
¼ cup raisins or sultanas, chopped finely
1 tsp sugar
Paprika to garnish

Have the cream cheese at room temperature. Mix with remaining ingredients and refrigerate, covered, overnight, for the flavours to develop. Sprinkle with paprika and serve with raw vegetables or crackers.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts & Shallots with Grapefruit

Adapted from one by Yotam Ottolenghi for Brussels Sprouts with Pomelo, this recipe may sound like a weird combination, but it works. He uses 100g of sugar, which I’ve swapped for a tablespoonful of honey because we found it too sweet.

Pomelo is a citrus fruit which looks like a large grapefruit with one pointy end. Like grapefruit, pomelos come in yellow or pink varieties and are interchangeable in recipes.

Asians love them and when we lived in Malaysia the locals looked forward to each new season and cleared the shelves. Asians who have moved to live in Australia also look forward to the arrival of the new crop of pomelos. I’ve tried them a couple of times and decided that they are overrated. I’d sooner have a grapefruit as they are available all year round and considerably cheaper.

500-600g Brussels sprouts, trimmed
250g shallots, or small onions, peeled
3 Tbs olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large grapefruit
1 Tbs lemon juice
1 Tbs water
1 Tbs honey
2 star anise
1 cinnamon stick, broken
3-4 Tbs chopped coriander or parsley to garnish

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Place the sprouts and shallots in a saucepan. Cover with water, bring to the boil, then drain thoroughly. Cut the sprouts in half vertically and the shallots in halve horizontally. If using onions cut them into quarters. Mix the sprouts and shallots or onions with 2 Tbs of the oil, salt and pepper, then spread out on a baking sheet lined with baking paper and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until everything is golden brown.

Meanwhile peel the grapefruit and remove the segments. Remove the membrane and any seeds and cut each segment into 3 pieces. As you cut up the grapefruit keep any juice. Heat the lemon juice, water, honey, spices and any juice from the grapefruit in a small frying pan for 2-3 minutes, until you have a sticky syrup. Turn off the heat, add the grapefruit, stir gently to coat each piece, then leave to cool.

When the sprouts and shallots are cooked, gently mix in the grapefruit and syrup, discarding the spices. Tip into a serving dish, drizzle with the remaining tablespoon of oil and top with coriander or parsley.

Serves 4-6

Unbaked Granola Bars

These quick and easy granola bars are a welcome, healthy addition to children’s lunch boxes and provide a delicious snack for the rest of the family. They don’t require any baking and are perfect for kids to make themselves.

Both recipes are fairly flexible, so feel free to substitute different seeds or nuts or to leave out something you don’t like or don’t have, such as coconut. The second recipe has honey as a sweetener, while the first one relies on dates for sweetness. Both contain chocolate chips, but leave them out if you prefer. If you don’t have all the seeds, double up on the ones you have.

Superfood Granola Bars
1 cup peanut butter (or another nut butter)
2 cups pitted dates, pureed in food processor
3 Tbs cocoa powder (optional)
1 cup porridge oats
¼ cup coconut flakes or desiccated coconut
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp salt (optional)
2 Tbs sesame seeds
2 Tbs flax seeds
2 Tbs hemp seeds
2 Tbs chia seeds
¼ cup pumpkin seeds
¼ cup sunflower seeds
½ cup almonds (or walnuts, peanuts, pecans, hazelnuts or macadamias)
½ cup chocolate chips

Place peanut butter in a small bowl and zap in the microwave for 20 seconds, or until softened. Add the pureed dates and, if using, the cocoa powder and mix well. Place remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl, add the date mixture and mix thoroughly.

Grease a shallow square or oblong dish or container. This can be metal, glass, silicone, ceramic or plastic. Mine was 20cm or 9″ square dish and I sprayed it with oil. If the container is too big the muesli bars will be too thin.

Tip mixture into the container and use your hand or the bottom of a glass to flatten it evenly. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours, then cut into bars. Stored in an airtight tin they will keep for a week or more, though I doubt they will last that long.

Makes 12-16

Rice Krispie Granola Bars
2 cups Rice Krispies or another brand of puffed rice breakfast cereal
1½ cups porridge oats
¼ cup coconut flakes or desiccated coconut
¾ cup honey
1 cup peanut butter (or another nut butter)
1 tsp vanilla essence
¼ cup chocolate chips (dark, milk, white, your choice)

Place Rice Krispies, porridge oats and coconut in a large mixing bowl. Heat honey in a saucepan or in the microwave, just enough to make it liquid, then mix in the peanut butter and vanilla till smooth. Mix into the dry ingredients and lastly add the chocolate chips.

Grease a shallow square or oblong container. This can be made of metal, glass, silicone, ceramic or plastic. Mine was 20cm or 9″ square and I sprayed it with oil. If the container is too big the granola bars will be too thin.

Tip mixture into the container and use your hand or the bottom of a glass to flatten it evenly. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours, then cut into bars. Stored in an airtight tin they will keep for a week or more, though I doubt they will last that long.

Makes 12-16

 

 

 

 

Tahini Cookies

The Middle Eastern paste known as tahini can be used in both savoury and sweet dishes. Made by pulverising sesame seeds, it’s an integral ingredient in hummus, a dip we’ve all grown to love since it has become widely available in supermarkets and delis.

These very quick and easy cookies use tahini, combined with ground nuts and honey or maple syrup, and don’t contain any butter or oil.

2 cups ground almonds or walnuts (make in the food processor then measure)
½ tsp salt
¾ cup tahini
½ cup maple syrup or honey or half and half
2 tsp vanilla essence
To decorate:
Pecan or Walnut halves

Preheat oven to 150°C. Place ground nuts and salt in a bowl. Place tahini, maple syrup or honey and vanilla essence in a small saucepan and heat, mixing, just enough to make it smooth. Mix into the dry ingredients.

Pinch off pieces the size of a large walnut and roll into balls. Arrange on a biscuit tray lined with baking paper, leaving enough room for them to spread. Press each ball with your finger to flatten slightly, then decorate with a pecan or walnut half and press them in.

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool then store in a sealed container.

Makes 16-20

Note: I didn’t have quite enough ground nuts so I used 1½ cups of ground nuts and ½ cup plain flour. If you want to make them gluten-free, just use ground nuts.