Thursday, April 28, 2011

SPINACH, FETA AND YOGHURT PIE





This delicious pie was born after a frustrating attempt at a recipe that involved milk. The darn thing never cooked, wouldn't slice and was not appropriate for picnics.

However, this quiche sets easily, slices well and is made for travelling. It also impresses guests, hence I'm making it tonight for a friend for dinner.

BUT, you must use full-fat thick yoghurt. None of that runny, skinny stuff. I also use a lot of eggs.

Homemade pastry really kicks this dish into the upper echelons of eating. However, if getting the rolling pin out is enough to send you running, please wander the freezer section of your supermarket and pick up some short crust sheets.

To make this pie really stand out from the crowd I use coconut oil, as well as butter, for the pastry. This idea comes from Cynthia Lair's Feeding the Whole Family.  Coconut fat has no cholesterol and lots of other good stuff going for it. You need to appreciate the faint taste of coconut, but it's not over-powering. Coconut oil comes in jars as a solid form - like the consistency of ghee - and is great for frying as does not burn. It's available from health food shops but if you haven't got any, stick with butter.




SPINACH, FETA AND YOGHURT PIE



Pastry: 
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 tablespoons cold butter
2 tablespoons cold water (the colder the better)


Filling:
1 and a half cups full-fat thick yoghurt
6 eggs
Bunch fresh spinach leaves (English spinach, NOT silver beet)
1 block feta cheese, crumbled
pepper - a few grinds


If making your own pastry, put flour in food processor and add fats. Pulse until crumbly, then slowly add water while pulsing. Mixture should gather into a ball after enough pulsing, or it may need a bit of help form your hands. 


If you don't have a food processor, use a large mixing bowl and cut butter and coconut fat into the flour. Slowly dribble water in, mixing with a fork, until you have a moist, pliable dough. 


Gather into a ball and place in container in fridge for about 20 minutes. Preheat oven to medium hot. Then roll pastry out on a floured surface or a piece of baking paper. Make it quite thin and line a greased round pie tin. Bake it 'blind', ie empty, for ten minutes. ( I use a sprung cake tin, which then can be removed before serving. But any pie dish will do.)


Wash, dry and chop spinach then combine with crumbled feta. Whisk eggs and pepper then gently combine with yoghurt. Place spinach and feta in pie crust. Pour eggs and yoghurt evenly on top and bake in centre of oven for 35-40 minutes. Check, and put back in oven for another ten minutes if not set or lightly browned. Do the cake test - place a knife or skewer in center, and if doesn't come back clean it needs more oven time.


Allow to settle and cool a little before slicing. This pie also works very well cold.


Monday, April 25, 2011

HAPPY BILLIE BITES BIRTHDAY RELAUNCH

We did it. The mission was to get Billie eating the same food as us within a year  - from when I started this blog in April 2010.

She was a 7 month mush-eater then, and I was appalled at the prospect of cooking separate meals - as many parents regularly do.

I asked myself, how do I introduce my daughter to the wonderful world of food?

The biggest challenge to my cooking had arrived.

Well, I thought that was the case.  But then Billie quickly developed a reputation as a darn good eater. Nothing got in the way of her appetite. So it wasn't too hard sticking to the one-family-meal plan.

Instead, the greatest challenge to my cooking arrived a little later. It's been a gradual shift. Late last year the change began.

Now we are faced with a discerning eater. Unpredictable. Unexplainable. Surprising. Random. But often eager. Food is still fairly close to the centre of Billie's world. She's still the toddler found nibbling from the buffet when the crowd has moved on.

Foods that continue to please every time: black beans, kidney beans, white beans, any beans (but not green), cheddar, ricotta, blue cheese, Camembert, feta, soba noodles, pasta, muesli, yoghurt, blue berries, apples, mandarins, peanut butter, Vegemite, crackers, sultanas, currents, dates, prunes, potato, red sauce, spicy foods, capers, olives, grapes, pesto, vegetarian nachos, daddy's vegetable sauces and mashes and soups that taste of vegetable but don't share the texture, pancakes, anything sweet, toast, bread and did I mention bread?

That looks a fairly good list, true. But note the lack of vegetables. Here are the foods embraced with gusto one day, and refused without tasting the next: eggs, mushroom, spinach, pumpkin, fish, quinoa, rice, tofu, tempeh, sweet potato, milk, strawberries, pear, and the list does go on.

I'm sticking with my philosophy of one-meal-for-one-family. I fear I may get very frustrated, grow to dislike cooking, and wind up with a fussy five-year-old if I do anything else.

I've swung between trying to cater to Billie's ever-changing tastes - impossible as it's without rhyme nor reason - and just serving up what I feel like eating.

When I do make a separate special meal for her, she often turns up her nose at what I thought was the flavour of the week.

So I reckon the best compromise may be:

  • Once a week do what Miles did tonight - cook up a vegetable sauce to be blended and stirred generously through pasta - a success every time. This gave her broccoli, onion, garlic, tomato
  • Serve up a variety of whole foods each night - different textures, flavours and colours - whatever the household is eating
  • Try and have one thing on the plate that she/he will LIKELY like, so at least eating something
  • However, at least once a week leave out the always-favoured - Billie's is bread, pasta, noodles, cheese - so the hungry child is encouraged to broaden their palette

I'll keep you posted on our work-in-progress.

Yes, it's been a while between recipes. Hope you like the re-design for the re-launch. Tasty recipes coming your way this week: Mediterranean Quinoa Salad and Spinach, Feta and Yoghurt Pie. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Nana's Melting Moments

My Nana bakes the best cookies: Afghans, Anzacs, Shortbread - but most importantly- Melting Moments.



Nana walked off the plane with a ridiculously heavy bag when I collected her from Auckland airport on a recent trip home to New Zealand. Aside from the bundles of green beans from her garden, her bag was weighed down by some serious short bread. Two batches. One's always better than the other.

But there were no Melting Moments. Too rich she said. But necessary, I decided, for the afternoon tea party I was throwing my friends before we returned to Sydney.

I did my best to get this recipe down as accurately as possible, but it was one of those 'add a bit more flour if mixture's too wet to roll' etc.

The biscuits were a hit. They literally "melted in the mouth", a few were heard to comment.


Nana makes her fabulous Melting Moments


NANA'S MELTING MOMENTS


1/2 pound butter (225g)
2 ounces icing sugar (60g)
1/4 pound corn flour (113g)
1/4 pound plain white flour (113g)
dash vanilla
pinch of salt
(As you can see this recipe was not created in metric. But I have converted it)
ICING:
Icing sugar and lemon juice. Quantities not available as Nana just did my eye - but you want a THICK icing.




Heat oven to moderate.


Cream butter and sugar well. Add flours and vanilla and salt. 


Place baking paper on baking tray. Roll mixture into teaspoon-sized balls and place on sheet. Flatten with fork, both ways. 




Bake in centre of oven for 12-15 minutes or until JUST coloured. They cook fast and you don't want them brown.


Remove onto wire rack and ice when cool. TO ICE: Spread just a little icing on the back of a cookie and then sandwich with another biscuit of the same size.






Serve once icing set. Store in airtight container - but you'll be lucky if any are left over.




Billie hosts her gang of NZ friends

Sunday, April 10, 2011

AUTUMN HARVEST


I've bragged about our backyard organic cherry tomato supply - now not looking so hot after a lot of rain, a drop in temperature, a lack of sun and perhaps under-nourished soil.



However, now that the tomato plants have calmed down, the aubergines and peppers are getting a chance.

I was amazed to return from a ten-day holiday to find a large aubergine/eggplant and several smaller neighbours, mostly on the same laden plant. One is looking very purple and ready for vegetarian moussaka.

Aubergine Feast
One Yellow Pepper


But only one pepper/capsicum has materialised from a handful of fairly large leafy pepper plants. Not sure what went wrong there - research required.

Overall though it's been very satisfying growing all this food from seed. Billie has been a fantastic little helper throughout.



I've been waiting patiently for this sole pepper to turn red, but today Billie and I noticed the garden fauna was not being quite so patient. An ant was nibbling away inside a hole presumably left by a worm.

So Billie did the honors and appeared to get great satisfaction from pulling the yellow capsicum off the plant.

I only wish she would show so much enthusiasm when it turns up on her dinner plate tonight.

Billie pretends to eat our freshly-harvested pepper

Friday, April 8, 2011

1980s Cheese Ball Revival

Before there were fancy cheese boards, there was the Cheese Ball.

Probably they weren't available, and probably they were too pricey. But brie, blue vein, Camembert, goats cheese, feta and Gouda were not found in our fridge when I was growing up. Now my mum's fridge is positively bulging with nice cheeses.

I hadn't thought of this Cheese Ball until a reader - an old friend from high school - made a special request. In fact she had to ask twice. I confess I was a little ho hum at first.

However, my mother and I dug out this Cheese Ball recipe on my recent visit back to New Zealand. And I'm very pleased Kura sent me on this treasure hunt.

The Cheese Ball had a fabulous revival at an afternoon tea I hosted in Auckland. Several guests requested the recipe. It was notably gobbled up ahead of other dips and cheeses.




The recipe is adapted from a New Zealand Play Centre cook book.

CHEESE BALL


250g cottage cheese
250g cream cheese
1 1/2 cups cheddar, grated
3 Tablespoons chopped gherkins
2 T tomato sauce/ketchup
3 T finely chopped onions
3 T finely chopped parsley - or other herbs such as oregano and basil
1 T Worcestershire sauce
dash Tabasco sauce (optional)
1 cup chopped walnuts (other nuts and seeds can be used: sunflower, sesame, almond)


Mix all together except for nuts. Shape into a ball, or if too soft refrigerate for 30 mins or longer. Shape into ball and cover with nuts. (You can toast the nuts first but make sure they're cool before putting on cheese ball. Toasting is purely optional). Place in fridge until ready to eat. Serve with crackers.


Next up, another foray back in time: Melting Moments. Not just any, my Nana's melt-in-your-mouth versions. Stay tuned.


Afternoon Tea Party: Billie and her Kiwi mates
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