Thursday, 5 October 2017

Leek, Zucchini and Cheddar Cheese Hand Pies



The last time I made these Leek, Zucchini and Cheddar Cheese Hand Pies, I had a picnic in mind. Preparing to travel from Adelaide to Melbourne via the Overland train, my thoughts as usual were on food. Train food I'd heard, was pretty average which  meant I really needed to pack my own.  I anticipated a glorious picnic on the train and wanted something special to eat.

What an interesting way to experience the countryside from the Adelaide plains, through the hills to the River Murray and out into the rural and farming areas of South Australia and Victoria.

The day started well, cool morning but no rain and the train gathered speed after the hilly bits as we were heading across country at over 100 kms an hour. Compare it to the Bullet Train in Japan and that is a walking pace but it was lovely to see the River Murray from this vantage point as it curls its way down to the sea.



The sun was shining, I was reading "Girl on the Train' by Paula Hawkins and I settled down to the comfort of the Overland. We passed huge wheat silos, kangaroos and emus, sheep and baby lambs. We glimpsed the runners of the Stawell Gift, Australia's richest foot race and saw other animals and farming implements. It was a truly relaxing time.

And resting in my lunch bag was a box full of these hand pies. Cold of course. But when I opened the lid and the smell wafted out into the train all eyes were suddenly on me. Other passengers noses were in the air, they could smell the aroma coming from my lunch box and they were salivating.

Unfortunately, I didn't have enough to hand around and i felt quite guilty eating them myself because they truly were delicious.

And to avoid the same situation recurring, I've shared my recipe.



LEEK, ZUCCHINI AND CHEDDAR CHEESE HAND PIES



To make 10 - 12 pies you will need;


  • Filling
  • 1 large leek, cleaned and finely chopped
  • 1 zucchini, finely chopped
  • 1.5 - 2 cups of cheddar cheese, finely chopped or grated
  • 1 teaspoon of fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon oregano/marjoram, finely chopped
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 2 tablespoons plain yoghurt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • small nob of butter
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • salt and pepper

Pastry

I used bought sheets of Pampas Butter Puff Pastry.


This is how you make them:-

I used a medium sized fry pan, added the oil and butter and gently cooked the zucchini, leek and herbs until they were slightly browned.

In a small bowl I added yoghurt and an egg and gave it a quick beat together. I added salt and pepper, flour and cheese and stirred until it was combined.

Once the leek and zucchini are cooked, let them cool a little, then add them to the yoghurt and egg mixture. Now cover and place in the fridge until completely cold. You can do this the day before if it is easier.

Pastry

Find something round you can used as a template for making circles. I used a mixing bowl that was  5 inches/13 cms in diameter and scored around it with a knife.  My pastry came in sheets and I managed to get 2 circles out of each sheet.



Place a large tablespoon of the mixture in the centre of the pastry circle, wet the edges of the pastry using water and a pastry bush. Now fold the pastry in half and seal the edges with your fingers. With the tip of a sharp knife, cut a small v in the top of the pastry to allow steam to escape.

Repeat with the remaining pastry and filling.


Put the pies on a baking tray lined with baking paper and bake at 200ºC/400ºF/6 for 15 - 20 minutes. Eat them piping hot or cool and refrigerate or freeze for later.






Thursday, 28 September 2017

Delicious Sweet Potato and Butternut Soup with Pistachio Pesto


Sweet Potato and Butternut Soup was my saviour. Yesterday was a miserably cold, wet day. Magpies were sitting under the verandah shivering and the wind was bitterly cold, coming straight off the Antarctic!

If you are in Northern America or Canada, you are probably laughing your head off, because our cold 14 degrees C, is nothing like your cold! But to us, it's the same as being buried in a snow drift.

That said, a good way to warm up the kitchen is to turn on the oven, chuck in some veg and get roasting. And that is exactly how this soup happened.

I had half a butternut squash, sliced it up with olive oil, salt and pepper and put it in the oven to roast. I was thinking I could use it in a vegetable stack, a salad, or a roast vegetable baguette. But as I watched the trees outside of the kitchen window, thrashing around in the wind and the spring blossom slowly disappearing down the block, I yearned for soup.




What turned this soup from being 'Soupa' to extra super was adding the Pistachio Pesto. That really did give it that extra zing. Swirl it around with a spoon of yogurt and thats one fine lunch on a cold day. This is how I made it.

This might be my last winter soup for a while because I have just checked out the weather forecast and we might be in for a tad of sunshine - whoo hoo! Summer is coming!





SWEET POTATO AND BUTTERNUT SOUP WITH PISTACHIO PESTO

For 4 serves you will need;

600g golden sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
250g butternut pumpkin, peeled, chopped
1 brown onion, chopped
2 clove garlic, minced
1 litre of vegetable stock/stock cube/water
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and peper
knob of butter
Spoonful or 2 of plain yoghurt

Pistachio Pesto

1/2 cup raw, shelled pistachios
3 cloves garlic crushed
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups loosley packed basil leaves
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
2 teaspoons lemon juice 

Prepare a tray with baking paper, add chopped butternut, olive oil, salt and pepper and roast in a pre heated oven 160º fan forced/ 325º/3 Gas, for 20 - 30 minutes until golden.

While the pumpkin is cooking, melt butter in large pan and add onion, and cook until transparent. Add garlic and olive oil and cook a further 2 minutes.

Place the sweet potato into the pan and mix it around until it is well coated in butter and olive oil, 3 minutes or so. You can put in your stock, water or stock cube and water at this point and allow it to come to the boil.

Add salt and pepper and turn down to a simmer. 

Just as the sweet potato begins to soften, around 20 minutes, add the cooked pumpkin. Cook for a further 5 - 10 minutes until the sweet potato is nicely soft and tasting very sweet. (You could cook the pumpkin a day ahead of time, if that works for you).

Cool a little and puree with a hand blender or food processor. The soup can be used by itself with a little extra cracked pepper and a hint of yoghurt. Or you can make the pesto while the potato is cooking.

Pistachio Pesto

Place pistachios in food processor and blend until finely chopped. Set aside.

Add cloves and salt and blend again.

Place the basil into the processor and blend until finely chopped. then again all the other ingredients, except oil and blend again.

Lastly, with the motor running, add the olive oil as a stream. Once all is blended together, check seasoning again and adjust to suit. You can now add a spoonful of this to your soup.

This pesto can be used with any pasta too.












Wednesday, 13 September 2017

A French Weekend in Melbourne

For a whole weekend, I felt I was back in France! And I was excited.

Day 1 - My long weekend started off with a delicious meal at a restaurant/Cafe in the CBD. Higher Ground is an open space of industrial beauty. Formerly a power station, the building has been transformed with arched windows, exposed brick and a host of greenery. The menu varied from Japanese Fish Soup to a medley of fennel, white beans and slow cooked carrots, very much like a Pistou Our waiter was unflappable, attentive and French! and the whole atmosphere was one of unhurried enjoyment.

Day 2  - Melbourne Writers Festival - Sheridan Jobbins, an Australian film maker has written her first book. 'Wish You Were Here' was launched by Amanda Keller, her friend and former colleague at Channel 10.  Nothing French here, but a remarkable girls' own adventure driving a car across America, alone, determined to find herself. The atmosphere at the launch and the whole vibe of Federation Square was uplifting.



Sheridan Left and Amanda Keller


















The House of Dior at National Gallery of Victoria. In celebration of its seventieth anniversary, this adorable exhibition is exclusive to Melbourne. The range of styles from 1947 - 2017 shows the immaculate workings of Haute Couture. I was pretty much blown away by the number of items on display. Hats, gloves, shoes, ball gowns, dresses of the most exquisite embroidery; beadwork, lacework and stunning fabrics. Two women, employees of Dior can be seen working away constructing garments by hand. Truly remarkable to see the way these are made with perfect hand stitching.
Exquisite bead work and gold thread on this gown - stunning.
A couple of little black dresses, Dior style









































































Just a small sample of the range of clothing on vie

On the way back to our hotel, Causeway 353 we stopped at the French Baguette Cafe, Richmond for afternoon tea. Eclairs, Blueberry Cheese cake and a Green Matcha cake - sorry we ate them so quickly I didn't have time to snap them. A celebration for daughter's birthday. 


Day 4 - Our last day in Melbourne saw us visiting family at Woodend. A lovely train ride up through the Macedon Ranges and there we are an hour later. It was a bitterly cold day and just as we were finishing lunch, down came the hail, which then turned into actual snow. It didn't settle luckily, and we headed back on the train to Melbourne, just in time to catch La Belle Miette, a French Patisserie in Collins Street.  



We couldn't resit buying a box of macarons, Lavender, Salted Caramel, Pistachio, Hazlenut, Strawberry and Blueberry. I must admit they were the best macarons I have ever eaten. We also sampled a couple of chocolates, so creamy yet not too sweet. 




Dinner with daughters at East, Little Collins Street, was delicious. The Salt and Pepper Tofu was scrumptious; soft, with a delicious crust.We ate steamed spinach dumplings, broccoli with garlic sauce, string beans and hot chilli sauce. OK so this wasn't French, but it was outstanding.

Such a terrific few days spent in great company, combined with fabulous food cooked by both of my daughters! Alas back to South Australia!