Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Leek and Feta Pie

If you are ever in need of something reasonably quick and easy but a little bit special for lunch then this recipe fits the bill.  I probably think it is a bit special because it requires making your own pastry, which is not so onerous when you have a food processor.  Home made pastry is always so much nicer than store bought, and to be fair is definitely worth the effort.  This is perfect served up with a salad and some nice fruity chutney or relish. The recipe comes Delia Smith's How to Cook series,Delia's Complete How to Cook: Both a Guide for Beginners and a Tried and Tested Recipe Collection for Life  a book that is full of how to advice and recipes for the beginner cook but is also more than useful for the accomplished cook. It has really useful stuff in it like how to cook eggs, and I find myself still referring to it for exact instructions on boiling eggs!!!!
I have found stacks of recipes in this book that have become firm favourites and are more importantly family favourites so get made again and again.
The only problem with Delia's recipes is that they are very long, she likes to give very exact instructions, which is fine and very reassuring for the beginner cook, but when typing out for a blog is a bit of a pain.  So I have cut and paste this recipe from her website Deliaonline and included it here- apologies in advance for the length of it!!!!!

Leek and Feta Pie

For the pastry:
 1 oz (25 g) firm goats' cheese (rindless)
 4 oz (110 g) plain flour, plus a little extra for dusting
 pinch of salt
 1 oz (25 g) softened vegetable fat
 1 oz (25 g) softened butter

For the filling:
 1 lb 6 oz (625 g) leeks, ie, 12 oz (350 g) trimmed weight (see instructions in the method)
 6 oz (175 g) firm goats' cheese (rindless)
 ½ oz (10 g) butter
 3 large eggs, beaten
 7 fl oz (200 ml) crème fraîche or double cream
 4 spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced, including the green parts
 salt and freshly milled black pepper

First sift the flour with the pinch of salt into a large bowl, holding the sieve up high to give it a good airing. Then add the lard and butter and, using only your fingertips, lightly rub the fat into the flour, again lifting the mixture up high all the time. When everything is crumbly, coarsely grate the goats' cheese in and then sprinkle in some cold water – about 1 tablespoon. Start to mix the pastry with a knife and then finish off with your hands, adding a few more drops of water, till you have a smooth dough that will leave the bowl clean. Then pop the pastry into a polythene bag and let it rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to gas mark 5, 375°F (190°C) and pop the baking sheet in to pre-heat on the centre shelf. Now prepare the leeks. First take the tough green ends off and throw them out, then make a vertical split about halfway down the centre of each one and clean them by running them under the cold-water tap while you fan out the layers – this will rid them of any hidden dust and grit. Then slice them in half lengthways and chop into ½ inch (1 cm) slices. Next, in a medium-sized frying pan, melt the butter over a gentle heat and add the leeks and some salt. Give it all a good stir and let them cook gently, without a lid, for 10-15 minutes or until the juice runs out of them. Then you need to transfer them to a sieve set over a bowl to drain off the excess juice. Place a saucer with a weight on top of them to press out every last drop. By this time the pastry will have rested, so remove it from the fridge and roll it out into a circle on a lightly floured surface. As you roll, give it quarter turns to keep the round shape and roll it as thinly as possible. Now transfer it, rolling it over the pin, to the tin. Press it lightly and firmly over the base and sides of the tin, easing any overlapping pastry back down to the sides, as it is important not to stretch it.
Now trim the edges and press the pastry up about ¼ inch (5 mm) above the rim of the tin all round, then prick the base all over with a fork. After that, paint some of the beaten egg for the filling over the base and sides.
Now place the tin on the baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the pastry is crisp and golden. Check halfway through the cooking time to make sure that the pastry isn't rising up in the centre. If it is, just prick it a couple of times and press it back down with your hands.While the pastry case is pre-baking, crumble the goats' cheese with your hands, then gently combine it with the leeks in the sieve.
Now, in a jug, mix the beaten eggs with the crème fraîche or double cream, seasoning with just a little salt (there is some already in the leeks) and a good grinding of freshly milled black pepper. As soon as the pastry case is ready, remove it from the oven, arrange the leeks and cheese all over the base and then sprinkle the spring onions over the top. Now gradually pour half the cream and egg mixture in to join them, then put the tart back on the baking sheet with the oven shelf half pulled out, then slowly pour in the rest of the mixture.
Gently slide the shelf back in and bake the tart for 30-35 minutes, until it's firm in the centre and the surface has turned a lovely golden brown.
 Next, remove it from the oven and allow it to settle for 10 minutes before serving. This 10 minutes is important as it will be much easier to cut into portions. The best way to remove the tart from the tin is to ease the edges from the sides of the tin with a small knife, then place it on an upturned jar or tin, which will allow you to carefully ease the sides away. Next slide a palette knife or wide fish slice underneath and ease the tart on to a plate or board ready to serve, or simply cut it into portions straight from the tin base.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Nigella's 'Praised Chicken'

This is the kind of recipe I am always drawn to.  Not only for the promise of something tasty and nourishing, but for the ease at which it is obtained.  I have made this recipe countless times already, it is a complete winner, and when free range chickens are on special this is something that gets made often.  Given that Nosh has recently opened in Hamilton and free range chicken was among their opening specials, this got made twice in one week! For a low carb version I omit the rice, but my children love it with brown basmati and it is devoured readily by both children.  Don't forget the mustard to go with this, it really adds a level of flavour that makes it just that bit more delicious.
This recipe again comes from
Kitchen which I imagine I will keep returning to as winter creeps in and my desire to cook increases!

Nigella's Praised Chicken


  • 1 large chicken, preferably organic

  • 2 teaspoons garlic oil

  • 100ml white wine or dry white vermouth

  • 2–3 leeks, cleaned, trimmed, and cut into approx. 7cm logs

  • 2–3 carrots, peeled and cut into batons

  • 1–2 sticks celery, sliced approx.

  • 2 litres cold water

  • 1 bouquet garni or 1 teaspoon dried herbs

  • fresh parsley stalks or few sprigs, tied or banded together

  • 2 teaspoons sea salt flakes or 1 teaspoon pouring salt

  • 2 teaspoons red peppercorns, or good grinding pepper

  • To serve: chopped leaves, from parsley stalks above chopped fresh dill

  • English mustard

  • Method

    1. Get out a large, flame-safe cooking pot (with a lid) in which the chicken can fit snugly: mine is about 28cm wide x 10cm deep.
    2. On a washable board, un-truss the chicken, put it breast-side down and press down until you hear the breastbone crack. (As you may imagine, I like this.) Then press down again, so that the chicken is flattened slightly. Now cut off the ankle joints below the drumstick (but keep them); I find kitchen scissors up to the task.
    3. Put the oil in the pan to heat, then brown the chicken for a few minutes breast-side down, and turn up the heat and turn over the chicken, tossing in the feet as you do so. Still over a vigorous heat add the wine or vermouth to the pan and let it bubble down a little before adding the leeks, carrots and celery.
    4. Pour in enough cold water to cover the chicken, though the very top of it may poke out, then pop in the bouquet garni or your herbs of choice, and the parsley stalks (if I have a bunch, I cut the stalks off to use here, but leave them tied in the rubber band) or parsley sprigs
    5. The chicken should be almost completely submerged by now and if not, do add some more cold water. You want it just about covered.
    6. Bring to a bubble, clamp on the lid, turn the heat to very low and leave to cook for 1½–2 hours. I tend to give it 1½ hours, or 1 hour 40 minutes, then leave it to stand with the heat off, but the lid still on, for the remaining 20–30 minutes.
    7. Serve the chicken and accompanying vegetables with brown basmati rice, adding a ladleful or two of liquid over each shallow bowl, as you go, and putting fresh dill and mustard on the table for the eaters to add as they wish.
    Serves: 4-8

    Tuesday, March 15, 2011

    Sticky Lemon Slice

    I have said it before....lemon or chocolate, hard to know which of these flavours (when combined with plenty of sugar) is my favourite.  Certainly either seem to go down well at a morning tea and this recipe is no exception. This has to be one of the easiest slices to make and given how easy it is, I am surprised I don't make it more often.  Again it is all done in the food processor and although the base needs cooking for a spell before the topping is added, it is a low effort recipe. What I particularly love about this slice is how once baked you get an almost meringue-y top and a custardy lemon curd underneath. 
    This is a trusty Alison Holst recipe, out of a book that is much used in my kitchen 
    100 Favourite Muffins and Slices - all of those basic favourites like Louise cake, churchill squares, chocolate caramel slice, tan square and chocolate fudge slice are within its pages and it is therefore very well used.

    Sticky Lemon Slice

    You will need a food processor for this recipe.

    2 cups plain flour
    1/2 cup icing sugar
    150g cold  butter, cut into cubes

    1 1/2 cups sugar
    thinly peeled rind of half a lemon
    3 large eggs
    1/4 cup of lemon juice
    1/4 cup self-raising flour

    Turn oven to 160C. Line a 23cm square tin with baking paper, ensuring the sides are covered and corners are sealed (fold the paper rather then cutting) so the liquid topping will not run off.

    Measure the flour, icing sugar and butter into the food processor and blend until the butter is finely blended through the dry ingredients. It will look quite dry and powdery, but don't fret. Tip the mixture into the tin and press down using the back of a fish slice or something similar. Put in the oven and bake for 15-20 mins, or until firm and straw-coloured.

    While the base is cooking...Without cleaning the blender add the sugar and lemon rind, blend until the rind is finely chopped through the sugar. Add the eggs, lemon juice and flour. Process until smooth.

    Pour onto the partly cooked base and put back into the oven for about 30mins. The top should be lightly browned and there should not be any wobble when the tray is jiggled.

    Once cooled slice into squares with a heavy, lightly oiled knife. If you are serving to guests you could sprinkle with some icing sugar just before you put it on the plate.

    Wednesday, March 9, 2011

    Coffee and Walnut Cake

    This cake comes from Nigella's latest book Kitchen, it is one that I immediately bookmarked to make as it looked delicious.  As it was being made for a girls get together I knew it was safe to make it and not have to worry about ending up eating the lions share of it!
    This is a ridiculously easy one to make, all the ingredients get  thrown into the food processor, and it has walnuts in the actual cake to give it a yummy nutty taste and texture.  The buttercream icing I made in my mixer instead of the food processor as Nigella suggests, because I think making it in the mixer gives it a much lighter fluffier consistency.  Because I wanted a lighter buttercream I added a few tablespoons of milk to the recipe which makes it whip up nicely.  I also cut each cake in half to create a four layered cake, which worked well and there was plenty of buttercream to accommodate this change.
    I had to buy instant coffee for this recipe (can't abide the stuff so never have it in the house) and it pains me to say that it works well in this recipe, you really can't get that strong coffee flavour without it (substituting freshly brewed espresso just doesn't work.....I have tried!!!!)
    This cake served as a birthday cake for 3 of our lovely book club members....

    and didnt last long....

    Nigella Lawson's Coffee and Walnut Cake

    For the sponge:
    50g walnut pieces
    225g caster sugar
    225g unsalted butter, plus some for greasing
    200g plain flour
    4tsps instant espresso powder
    2 1/2tsp baking powder
    1/2tsp bicarbonate of soda
    4 eggs
    1-2 tbsp milk

    For the Buttercream Frosting
    350g icing sugar
    175g soft unsalted butter
    2 1/2tsp instant espresso powder, dissolved in 1 x 15 mls tablespoon boiling water
    25g walnut halves to decorate

    Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Centigrade/gas mark 4. Butter 2 sandwich tins (20cm) and line the bases with baking paper.
    Put the walnut pieces and  sugar into a food processor and blitz to a fine nutty powder. Add the 225g butter, flour, 4 teaspoons espresso powder, baking powder, bicarb and eggs and process to a smooth batter. Add the milk, pouring it down the funnel with the motor still running, or just pulsing, to loosen the cake mixture:it should be a soft dropping consistency, so add more milk if you need to (If you are making this by hand, bash the nuts to a rubbery powder with a rolling pin and mix with the dry ingredients; then cream the butter and sugar together, and beat in some dry ingredients and eggs alternately and, finally the milk).   
    Divide the mixture between the cake tins, and bake in the oven for 25 minutes, or until the sponge has risen and feels springy to the touch.
    Cool the cakes in their tins on a wire rack for about 10 minutes, before turning them out onto the rack and peeling off the baking paper.
    When the sponges are cool, you can make the buttercream, pulse the icing sugar in the food processor until it is lump free, then add the butter and process to make a smooth icing.
    Dissolve the instant espresso powder in 1 tablespoon boiling water and add it while still hot to the processor, pulsing to blend into the buttercream.
    (If you are doing this by hand sieve the icing sugar and beat it into the butter with a wooden spoon. Then beat in the hot coffee liquid.)
    Place 1 sponge upside down on your serving plate. Spread with about half the icing, then place it on the second sponge, right side up (ie so the 2 flat sides of the sponge meet in the middle) and cover the top with the remaining icing in a ramshackle swirly pattern. This cake is all about old-fashioned, rustic charm, so don't worry unduly: however the frosting goes on is fine. Similarly, don't fret about some buttercream oozing out around the middle: that's what makes it look so inviting.
     Gently press the walnut halves into the top of the icing all around the edge of the circle about 1cm apart.