Ottolenghi’s Baby Spinach Salad

2015-11-19_08-38-49

Today, for the first time this ‘summer’ (it’s not actually summer yet), the mercury topped 40°C. Tomorrow’s 35 seems almost chilly by comparison (cough, splutter).

So it would seem that salad season is well and truly upon us.

I would love to pretend that we routinely eat interesting salads but … woooah, that is so not true. We throw some lettuce, tomato and cucumber on a plate. Maybe there’s also avocado or spring onions. And if I’ve thought ahead and been able to track down both Australian feta and olives then they’ll be on the plate too. I don’t like dressing, so that doesn’t even get a look in.

And you know what? I actually LIKE salad.

Anyway, my slender repertoire now has an extension.

A friend organised a ‘cookbook club afternoon’ (for want of a more pithy term). A book was chosen (Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem) and we were all to select different recipes and then come together and share our creations.

Circumstances meant I knew I was going to pushed for time so I picked a salad (it turned out that this was horrendously lazy when compared with other efforts …). In haste I chose the baby spinach and date salad. It ticked all my boxes – easy to shop for, quick to make. Job done.

Come Sunday morning I was able to throw this together, keeping aside the dressing to stir through at the last minute. While I was concerned about the sweetness of the dates, they worked really well and the vinegar and onion helped offset the sweetness. The almonds, of course, added crunch.

You can easily make this in advance – not too much because the pita won’t retain its crispness – but it’s definitely a ‘prep first thing in the morning’ kind of dish. And it tastes really good too!

Ottolenghi’s Baby Spinach Salad

Ingredients

  • ½ red onion, very finely sliced
  • 100g pitted dates, quartered lengthwise
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 30g unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 100g pita bread, torn into generous bite sized pieces
  • 75g almonds, roughly chopped
  • 2 tsp sumac
  • ½ tsp chilli flakes (or to taste, but don't go crazy)
  • 150g baby spinach leaves
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice

Instructions

  1. Place the sliced onion, dates and vinegar in a small bowl and leave for about 15-20 minutes.
  2. Heat the butter and 1tbsp oil in a pan and add the pita bread and nuts. Toast until the almonds take on colour and the pita gets all lovely and crispy. Remove from the heat and stir through the sumac and chilli.
  3. Drain any remaining vinegar from the onion and dates (in my case, there was pretty much none).
  4. Toss the spinach with the dates and onion and pita and almond mix.
  5. When ready to serve, pour over the remaining 1tbsp of oil and lemon juice (I actually shook them together) and season to taste.
  6. Serve immediately.
https://eatingadelaide.com/ottolenghis-baby-spinach-salad/

Chicken, Ricotta and Lemon Pie

IMG_3236

If you are trying to be healthy, filo pastry is an excellent way of having pastry and feeling virtuous – all at once. It IS a pain to work with – no matter how beatific TV chefs look while they’re using it, cheerfully advising to cover it with a damp tea towel. Generally I find we open a packet, don’t use it quickly enough and it becomes a troublesome flaky and yet in patches gooey horrid mess.

I suppose the moral of that story is to use it more often.

The recipe I posted for Jamie Oliver’s spinach and feta filo pie is one of the most popular on this site. And as popular as it is in our household, variety is always the spice of life.

This pie will not only help use up that pesky filo, but contains meat (chicken), so it satisfies those who aren’t keen on a high vegetarian meal count!

It received a thumbs up from all and so will definitely be on the menu again.

Chicken, Ricotta and Lemon Pie

Ingredients

  • 1 packet chicken thigh fillets (there are usually 6 in a packet and ~ 500g)
  • 250g frozen spinach
  • garlic (to taste) - I used a couple of cloves
  • chopped rosemary or thyme (fresh is best, but use dried thyme as a substitute, dried rosemary is horrible)
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 6 eggs
  • 100g ricotta
  • filo pastry
  • olive oil

Instructions

  1. Defrost spinach in microwave and then dry fry in a hot frying pan, to evaporate the water. Set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 220C (conv, 200C fan).
  3. Chop chicken into bite size pieces and place it in a bowl with some olive oil, the chopped garlic and chopped herbs. Season with salt and pepper. If you have time, set aside for half an hour.
  4. Heat a large, oven proof frying pan. Brown the chicken: do this in two or three patches so the pan stays hot and the chicken takes colour. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside in a clean bowl.
  5. Wipe the pan out with a paper towel. Working quickly, brush the pan with olive oil and start layering the filo. Brush each layer of filo with olive oil. You will need about 6 or 7 layers. If you have the filo overhanging the pan you can fold it over the filling to make a pastry lid.
  6. Add the chicken to the pan, reserving the juices.
  7. To the juices add the lemon zest and eggs. And then beat in the spinach.
  8. Pour this mix over the chicken and scatter over the ricotta.
  9. Fold over any overhanging pastry.
  10. Cook on a medium heat on the stove for a few minutes before placing in the hot oven.
  11. Bake until filling is set. This took about 40 minutes (in our normally very fast oven). If the filo pastry starts to brown, cover lightly with either baking paper or tin foil.
  12. When the filling is set, remove from the oven, cover and set aside for 10 minutes. This makes it much easier to remove the pie from the pan.
https://eatingadelaide.com/chicken-ricotta-lemon-pie/

Jamie Oliver’s Feta and Spinach Pie

Feta & Spinach Pie

It’s been some pretty horrid weather in Adelaide recently – cold (especially when you don’t have central heating) and wet (yep – the washing’s been hanging on the line for about a week) so what was in order for Sunday night supper was something quick and HOT.

There was another constraint: the huge pile of feta cheese in our fridge that had been bought to make a Greek salad to take to a BBQ that we subsequently couldn’t attend.

Salad out of the question, the natural mate of feta is spinach and I remembered seeing Jamie Oliver do a feta and spinach pie as part of his 30 Minute Meals.

My approach took quite a significant departure from his – mainly because we had less spinach and I suspect a considerably larger pan. As a side note, never ever buy Woolworths Own Brand frozen spinach: not only is it from China but our packet was mostly stalk. It really irritates me that I’m yet to locate an Australian grown frozen spinach. If you know of one, let me know!

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

In a pan, toast off a generous handful of pinenuts – pay attention to them and don’t let them burn!

In a bowl, whisk 4 eggs before adding about 200g of crumbled (or finely diced) feta. If you buy your feta from the supermarket you will most likely find that the deli counter sells a selection and you can buy Australian feta much much more cheaply than you’ll buy anything that’s prepackaged. At our supermarket, the deli product is also much better than the packaged stuff, so it’s a win all round.

Add the pine nuts, a pinch of oregano, a pinch of cayenne pepper, a grating of nutmeg, black pepper to taste and a glug of olive oil (if you want to measure, probably about 1tbsp). Finish by adding the zest of about half a lemon. Don’t miss the lemon zest!

Cook the spinach off in a pan. If you’re using frozen spinach (I used a 250g pack) you want to cook the water out, and if you’re using fresh, you want to wilt it so it’s soft. Allow the spinach to cool a little and then stir into the egg mix.

The bit I really like about this recipe is Jamie’s approach to the filo pastry. You know how working with filo can be a real bore … keep it covered with a damp towel, melt butter and brush the sheets and generally spend all afternoon faffing about. None of that with Jamie (well, we’d hardly expect that, would we?).

Take a large sheet of baking paper, sprinkle it with olive oil and then rub the oil all over it. Layer the baking paper with your filo pastry, rubbing olive oil between the layers (do this with your hands – it is so much quicker than trying to use a brush). Now, overall you want at least three layers of pastry but you’re likely to have to overlap sheets to cover the whole of the paper. Try to keep the overlapping to a sensible minimum though – you don’t want 6 (or even 9) sheets of pastry in some parts and only three in others.

When the baking paper is covered, pick the whole lot up and put it in a large, high sided frying pan. There should be a generous overhang. Pour the egg mixture in to the pastry case and fold the overhanging pastry away from the paper and across the top of your pie. You don’t need to fold it neatly – allow it to finish with bits of pastry sticking up: that looks kind of cool.

Now, cook the pie for a few minutes on the stove so that the bottom starts to cook and crisp up. Literally, we are talking about a few minutes here … don’t do what I did, which was wander off and start doing other things, because the pastry can (and will!) start to burn quite easily. Then put the pan in the oven to finish cooking – it will take about 20 minutes and the pastry should turn golden.

Because the pie is cooked on baking paper, it will be easy to slide off on to a plate. However, if, like me, you need to do some surgery on the base, it’s just as easy to flip the pie over. Fortunately, the layers of filo pastry and a palette knife meant I could remove the burnt bits easily, leaving us with a very tasty dinner. Had the base been shortcrust there’s no way I could have rescued our dinner!

Andy rightly pointed out that this would be brilliant made in smaller pans for an entrée and I think you could definitely do something canapé sized using something like a minced pie tin.

The most important thing though is not to skip on the lemon zest – this noticeably lifts the flavour of the whole dish. With all the cheese and egg having a little something cut through that richness is just perfect.