Monthly Archives: March 2011

Spinach, Cheese & Filo Pie

Two savoury blog posts in a week, this must be a record! After a few weeks of feeling off colour due to a heavy dose of antibiotics my appetite is returning and while looking for a recipe yesterday involving spinach I stumbled across this on the Good Food Website. A similar recipe is  While I no longer subscribe to the magazine I find the website great. It’s often my first port of call when trying to find food inspiration and I’m sure I’m not the only one who notices the website goes very slow around 5pm when people are clearly trying to work out what to have for dinner!

I’ve started to use filo pastry more than other pastries at the moment as it is healthier. Saying this there is some things that are not the same without glorious all-butter puff pastry but this dish would be ruined with a heavy rich pastry like puff. I suppose this pie is more or less a Spanakopita. It’s a very filling pie that is delicious both warm and cold. We just ate it with salad and looked very much forward to having another slice with lunch today. This will very much become a regular dinner in our house and an added bonus is that it can be frozen which will be great for quick midweek meals. It was that good I think Hubs forgot it was veggie dish!

Jus Roll (it’s the only brand I can seem to buy here) sell frozen filo in packs of 6 sheets which is perfect for this recipe.

Spinach, Cheese & Filo Pie
Serves 8
From Good Food Magazine

200g feta cheese

500g ricotta

50g parmesan, grated

300g spinach, chopped

generous pinch of nutmeg

1 bunch of spring onions, finely chopped

1 egg

100g breadcrumbs (this is roughly 2 soft cobs/baps blitzed in the blender)

olive oil

6 sheets of filo pastry

1) Mash the feta then mix in the ricotta, parmesan, spinach, nutmeg, spring onions, half of the breadcrumbs, egg and liberally season with salt and pepper.

2) Line a 20cmx30cm deep baking pan with baking parchment. Layer three of the filo sheets on the bottom of the pan with a small amount of oil brushed between each layer.

3) Sprinkle the remaining breadcrumbs over the filo  then spoon the spinach filling on top without displacing the breadcrumbs.

4) Layer the last three layers of pastry on top of the filling, again with oil brushed between each layer. Score into 8 pieces then bake at 180oc for 35-40 or until pastry has browned. Eat warm or cold.

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Sweet & Sour Chilli Chicken

I’ve realised I don’t blog main meals much any more. This is partly because the light in our kitchen isn’t great once the sun goes down plus I’m not as good at making them look pretty. I happened to mention this dish on Twitter and promised to blog it.

This meal is a big favourite in our house. It’s full of flavour and I’m sure is healthier than a takeaway even with the quite high sugar content. The blog where I got this recipe from is no longer online so I’m glad I scribbled it down when I did. The original author said how it is based on a toned down recipe for General Tso Chicken that her granddad used to make at a restaurant he worked in. The only alteration I’ve made to the original recipe is to double the sauce quantities as I prefer it saucy and to add the veg. It really is delicious plus after the initial prep you can fling it in the oven and forget about it for a bit. A perfect Friday night dinner.

I usually serve with plain boiled rice, but if we’re feeling a bit naughty we’ll have it with egg fried rice. If you like it spicy add some more chillies.

Sweet & Sour Chilli Chicken
Serves 2-3

2 chicken fillets, diced

½ cup cornflour

2 eggs, beaten

salt & pepper

Red pepper, cut in strips

1 Red chilli, finely chopped

¾ cup of soft brown sugar

4 tbsp tomato ketchup

½ cup rice wine vinegar

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tsp garlic salt (if you don’t have this replace with a clove or two of garlic)

spring onions

1) Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in frying pan. Season the flour. Dip the chicken in the flour then egg. Fry until browned on each side then place in ovenproof dish. Mix the peppers and chillies in with the browned chicken.

2) In a jug mix the sugar, ketchup, vinegar, soy sauce and garlic salt. Pour over the chicken and make sure it is well coated in the sauce.

3) Bake at 180°c for an hour. Stir at 15min intervals to stop chicken sticking. Sprinkle raw spring onions over the chicken before serving.

Blackberry and Lemon Curd Loaf

Sometimes in amongst the chaos you want something to bring a hint of summer to the days. After doing some recipe testing for work I was left with some lemon curd along with some Greek yoghurt and good old Stork (I’ve been teaching about WW2 rationing if you’re wondering about the Stork!) and wanted to do some baking. After a quick request on twitter I decided on this recipe. The blackberries I found at the bottom of the freezer we foraged near Calke Abbey last September were a perfect summery addition.

I’ve only ever made a cake with yogurt before and it was a total fail. The cake refused to cook in the middle and collapsed into a soppy mess when turned out of the tin so I’ve always been a bit suspicious of yogurt cakes. This didn’t work out too badly at all. What is surprising about this recipe is that you just throw all the ingredients together and beat together, this slightly scares the traditionalist in me. I think the cake could be a bit lighter if you do the traditional method of creaming the butter and sugar together then adding the eggs and finally the rest of the ingredients. However, if you still use the bung-it-all-in-together method it does still work.

When baking soft fresh fruit in cakes do be careful. It can be tempting to put more fruit in that the recipe suggests but this can lead to a heavy soggy cake. Also sprinkle the fruit on the top of the cake just before you put it in the oven. This can help reduce the distance the fruit sinks in the cake.

Blackberry & Lemon Curd Loaf
Makes 1 2lb loaf
Based on BBC Good Food recipe

175g softened butter or marg (in this case I use the leftover Stork)

100ml Greek yoghurt

3 tbsp lemon curd

3 eggs

1 tbsp lemon juice

200g self-raising flour

175g caster sugar

100g blackberries

for the icing

icing sugar

lemon juice

1) Preheat oven to 160°c/140°c(fan) and line a 2lb loaf tin.

2) Put all the cake ingredients, apart from the blackberries, in a bowl and beat together with an electric whisk until just combined. Don’t overdo it or you could have a heavy cake.

3) Pour the cake batter into the lined tin then sprinkle the blackberries on top. Bake for 1hr15min – 1hr30min or until cake has risen, golden and cooked through. Use a skewer to test it.

4) Once cake has cooled turn out of the tin. Mix icing sugar and icing sugar together until desired consistency and drizzle over the cake. I never measure the icing amounts, just do it by eye.

Grand Day Out

After last week’s trip to School of Artisan Food now was the turn for another late Christmas gift. I’ve always wanted to experience dining on a train; we’re talking proper food, not the finest dried-out cheese sandwich and bitter coffee from East Midlands Trains’ buffet cart. Orient Express is just a tad bit out of our league at the moment so West Coast Railways who run scenic railway trips throughout the UK seemed like a perfect alternative.

On a damp, dreary Derby Station platform we waited with about 50 other people to catch the Hogwarts’ Express, sorry Diesel hauled Pullman Carriages, to travel 1st class along the famous Settle-Carlisle line. It was quite obvious early on that we were a tad bit different to the rest of the clientele in that the majority of them we’re old enough to be our parents/grandparents and/or were avid trainspotters. Given that Hubs is an Engineer he has a bit of geeky trainspotteresque blood in him, but we were there for the food, experience and the views.

The Settle-Carlisle line is often noted as one of the most scenic train journeys in the UK as it passes through remote parts of the Yorkshire Dales and Pennines while travelling along viaducts and eventually arriving in Carlisle. Some of the route Hubs & I knew well as during September ’09 we walked the Yorkshire 3-Peaks where some of the path between Pen-y-ghent & Whernside travels alongside the railway track. Seeing it again made me pine for the hills. During the outward journey we were served a substantial breakfast of melon, pastries and Full English along with sandwiches and scones as we approached Carlisle. On the return journey we had a four-course meal with cream of tomato soup, roast beef dinner, Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding and cheeseboard. Hats off to the waiting staff. I wouldn’t like to serve hot soup from a tureen on a moving train.

While we were significantly younger that everyone else it was a lovely day just getting away from modern life. No phones, no music just the two of us on our own little table, spectacular views, copious cups of tea and a few Saturday papers to keep us company. If travelling was always like this I’m sure I’d enjoy it more.

Artisan Chocolate at the School of Artisan Food

Lime Moulded Chocolates

Last weekend as a break from the house I travelled up to the Welbeck Estate near Worksop. This trip has been long-awaited. Ever since I heard about the School of Artisan Food way back in 2009, I’ve wanted to visit. Hubs gave me a voucher towards a course there and after spending a great deal of time deliberating as which course to do I settled on Introduction to Artisan Chocolate. It was certainly worth the wait.

When I arrived I was greeted by Joe Pilliero, SOAF’s Marketing Officer, then taken up to the canteen to meet the 14 other students on the course. Waiting for us was possibly the biggest pot of tea I’ve seen and a pile of freshly made pastries. It was interesting to see the age range on the course. I would guess I was one of the youngest with the oldest being mid to late 60s and around half of us were female. Everyone also had different culinary experience. One thing that bound us all was a love of chocolate.

Filling the moulds with lime and milk chocolate ganache

Ross Sneddon led the workshop and was assisted by one of the students who is on the year-long Diploma offered by SOAF. We learnt about different types of chocolate and tasted some amazing Venezuelan white chocolate that was unlike any I had tasted before. It was unique in that it didn’t leave a greasy film in my mouth. After being talked through the theory and how to temper in the microwave we moved on to making our moulded chocolates. It was interesting to learn that tempered chocolate will set after 2 minutes at room temperature.

First job was to polish the moulds, then paint the inside of the moulds with chocolate friendly food dye (must be oil based). After that we set about creating the chocolate shells by filling the moulds with white chocolate, then pouring the excess chocolate out. While the shells were setting we made a lime milk chocolate ganache that was piped into the set moulds.

After superb lunch of roast lamb, potato dauphinoise, carrots along with a glorious cheeseboard, including Lincolnshire Poacher and Stichelton, we returned to the kitchen to cap the lime truffles along with making chilli chocolate bars (the other flavour you could make was tonka bean & thyme) along with some chocolate orange truffles. Towards the end of the day we rolled the truffles in our chocolate coated hands then tossed them in cocoa. This gives them a very subtle crunch when you bit into them. Delicious. Spot the past tense. These chocolate didn’t last long because they were so good!

Chocolate truffles waiting to be dipped

During the course Helen Grace Ventura Thompson was around taking photographs of the day. She’s an incredibly talented photographer, currently studying BA (Hons) Photography; Editorial and Advertising, and it is her photos that illustrate this blogpost. It wasn’t practical for me to take my camera in the class so I was very pleased she was there! Make sure you check out her blog her work is fantastic.

At the end of the course Ross commented at how good my chocolate moulding skills were. Maybe there is a hidden chocolatier inside me waiting to get out! I really enjoyed the course and would like to return to SOAF soon. It’s unique place in that is teaching the dying art of artisan produce and it’s fantastic to have a place like this in the Midlands. Well worth a visit if you ever get the chance.

Chocolate Truffles

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