Wild garlic pesto, asparagus and goats cheese puff tart

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This puff pastry tart makes the most of the seasonal produce around at the moment. The wild garlic and asparagus season in the UK is short so now is the time to get your hands on them and get cooking. Wild garlic is as it sounds- wild! You can forage it (if you’re sure what you’re looking for) but can now be found in some farmers markets or specialist grocers. It can be used in a range of dishes and pesto is only the start and even this can be picked up premade. Failing this, substitute this with a different pesto of your choosing. To ramp up the flavours in this tart, I have also used some Parma ham which I crisped and crumbled over the top for an extra element and texture.

 

Ingredients- serves 4
1 premade pack of puff pastry
3 tbsp wild garlic pesto (see below for recipe)
200g asparagus spears
100g soft rindless goats cheese
4 slices of Parma or Carmarthen ham
1 egg- lightly beaten

Wild garlic pesto
120g wild garlic leaves
1 garlic clove- crushed
15g pine nuts
200ml olive oil
Zest of a small lemon
35g parmesan
Seasoning

1. Get going by preheating the oven to 200c/ 180fan but do check the instructions on the pastry packaging in case this differs slightly. Take the sheet of pastry and place it on a work surface. Leaving a border around the edges of the pastry sheet, use the prongs of a fork to lightly prick the centre of the sheet. This will stop the centre of the pastry from puffing up but will let the edges do so.

2. If you want to make your own wild garlic pesto then simply take the leaves and blanch for 20 seconds in a pan of boiling water. Remove using a slotted spoon and plunge into cold water to refresh it. Take some kitchen roll and pat it dry before roughly chopping. Add all the remaining ingredients to a food processor and blitz and, hey pesto! Sorry… couldn’t resist…

2. Take the pesto of your choice and spread this in the centre of the pastry. Make sure this is as even as possible. Lay each asparagus spear on the pastry and scatter pieces of the cheese in amongst them.

3. In a small pan dry fry the parma ham slices until crisp. Remove from the pan and set aside for a moment; you will find that as they cool they go even crispier which makes the slices much easier to crumble or you can use a knife to roughly chop into smaller pieces.I added the ham topping towards the end of cooking so it didn’t catch..

4. Lastly, use a pastry brush and carefully glaze the edges of the tart with the beaten egg. This will give a wonderful sheen and shine to the tart. Cook the tart for around 20 minutes until the asparagus is tender and the pastry is golden. About 2-3 minutes before the pastry is ready then sprinkle over the parma ham before finishing off. I served this with a simple side salad and new potatoes. Jersey Royals are bang in season so look out for these too. Boil and toss with some butter and fresh herbs.

Wild garlic pesto, asparagus and goats cheese puff pastry tart- a light way to use the best of spring’s offerings!

Roasted vegetable and feta filo pie

Who doesn’t love a good old pie from time to time?! Well this roasted vegetable and feta pie ticks all the boxes but is lighter than a pie you may devour through the winter months. Filo is light and crisp and is perfect for a light lunch or dinner. I have used a selection of vegetables with a Mediterranean vibe but you can mix and match until your heart’s content.

In order to keep the pastry crisp I have chosen to part roast the vegetables in advance so it draws out some natural moisture before popping into the pastry case. Unlike other pies this does not require precise tin lining so think of it as a free form pie that is perfect for pie making novices and well seasoned cooks alike. You will require a pie tin which is around 20cm in diameter which will feed 2 very hungry people or 4 for a lighter dinner.

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Ingredients- serves 4
1 packet of premade filo pastry
30g unsalted butter
1 tbsp basil pesto
1 aubergine
1 courgette
1 red and 1 yellow pepper
1 red onion
2 garlic cloves- kept whole
Glug of olive oil
100g feta

1. Preheat the oven to 200c/ 180 fan. Do check the cooking instructions on the packet of filo as temperatures may vary from brand to brand so adjust accordingly. Whilst this is heating, cut the vegetables into small chunks and place on a baking tray with the garlic cloves, seasoning and olive oil. Toss so they are well coated and roast for a few minutes until beginning to soften.

2. In a small pan, melt the butter over a low heat. Use a pastry brush and brush a little of the butter in the tin. Take one the first filo sheet and lay in the tin before adding more butter to this sheet. Repeat until the sheets of filo are all layered; I offset each layer so they can be gathered more easily to form a crust. If you layer the sheets like this you should end up with a star formation. The last layer should be brushed with pesto so the vegetables will sit on top.

3. Take the roasted vegetables and scatter some of the feta amongst them before placing in the lined pie tin. Gather the loose edges of the filo and you can either bring them into the centre of the tin or, as I did, fold them in to form a crust so you can see the colourful vegetables in the middle. If you do this then add a little more feta crumbled over the top before popping in the oven for 15-20 minutes (depending on the pastry cooking time on the packet) until the filo is crisp and golden. Serve with a side salad and some buttered new potatoes if you like and dig in. The pie is also great for lunch the next day if there are any leftovers but this is highly unlikely!

Roasted vegetable and feta filo pie- a taste of the Med at home this summer!

 

Caramelised balsamic shallot tarte tatin

If you think of a tarte tatin, people will conjure up images of deliciously sweet and syrupy apple desserts however think again! This tarte tatin is savoury, moreish and there’s not a single apple in sight. I have previously made an onion tarte tatin however you just can’t beat the softeness of the shallot with its gentle flavour which goes perfectly with the tartness of the balsamic and the savouriness of the pastry. Balsamic and thyme is a match made in heaven so I have included this in the caramel and also sprinkled some more leaves over the top to finish. I used normal shallots however banana shallot will also work well.

Readymade puff pastry sheets tend to be quite large and may need cutting down. You will need to make sure the pastry round is slightly larger than the pan itself so the pastry can be tucked in snuggly.

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Ingredients- makes one tart which serves 2 for dinner
400g shallots
25g butter
1 tbsp balsamic
1 tbsp brown sugar
Salt
Few sprigs of fresh thyme
1 premade puff pastry sheet

1. Double check the instructions on the puff pastry you buy but otherwise preheat the oven to 200c/ 180 fan ready for action shortly. In the meantime, boil a kettle of water and pour into a heat proof bowl that is large enough to hold the shallots. Soak the shallots for 10 minutes before removing, allowing to cool and then peeling them. Carefully cut the shallots in half from end to end so they stay together as best as they can and set aside.

2. Take a frying pan that is around 22cm in diameter. Heat the butter, sugar and balsamic vinegar along with the leaves from several fresh thyme sprigs. Season lightly. Place the shallots cut side down in the pan. Cook on the hob over a low to medium heat until the shallots start to soften which will take around 10 minutes. Don’t be tempted to cook them on a high heat otherwise the balsamic mixture will burn. You will find the balsamic reduces down a bit which is what you want.

3. Take the puff pastry sheet and gently lay it across the top of the shallots. Tuck the sides in so they hug the shallots and cook in the oven for around 20 minutes until golden and cooked through. You can tell if it needs a little longer as pastry may look paler in places. When cooked, remove the pan from the oven and get ready to turn it out. Lay a board or serving plate across the top of the pan and turn it over. If the pastry needs a little hand then use a knife and run it around the edge to help loosen it. Be careful not to burn yourself on the hot pan or with the hot juices. If a shallot or two is stuck to the bottom of the pan, gently coax it off and pop back in its rightful place. Serve with a simple salad.

Balsamic and thyme shallot tart tatin- a savoury twist on a French classic!

 

Kale, spinach and cheese filo pie

If you think of a filo pie, it is likely that you think of those belonging to Greek cuisine. Well this is my take on the traditional spanakopita! Spanakopita usually includes spinach and feta but I have given it a twist to include kale and halloumi as well to make it even more scrumptious. I have used readymade filo pastry to make this even quicker and easier to make and to serve four people a pie tin which is 22cm in diameter is perfect. The pie also keeps well in the fridge for a day or two and the leftovers are great for a simple lunch.

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Ingredients- serves 4
1 pack of ready made filo pastry
Glug of vegetable oil
4 spring onions- chopped
2 garlic cloves- crushed
200g kale- washed and roughly chopped
200g spinach- washed
1 tsp dried dill (or 1 tbsp fresh dill)
100g feta
100g halloumi- grated
1 egg- beaten
Pepper
60g unsalted butter

1. Start by preheating the oven to 200c/ 180 fan or according to the instructions on the pastry packet as it can differ from brand to brand. Make the pie filling by wilting the spinach- you can do this by pouring a kettle of hot water over it into a colander before then squeezing out the excess water; set aside. Take a large frying pan and heat a glug of oil over a medium heat. Add the garlic and spring onions and cook for a minute before adding the kale; cook until the kale is wilted and keep it moving so the garlic and onion does not catch. For the last minute or two of cooking, add in the drained spinach and dill. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

2. When the filling is cool enough, crumble through the feta and grated halloumi. Beat one egg and stir through the spinach mixture and season with pepper. You should not need to use extra salt as the feta and halloumi will provide this seasoning for you.

3. Now to assemble the pie! Gently melt the butter in a small pan over a low heat and dig out a pastry brush from the depths of your kitchen drawer! Brush a light coating of melted butter in the empty pie tin before adding a sheet of filo. Filo is delicate so be careful when lining the tin. Brush the filo with more butter before adding the next sheet. Line the tin so each sheet of filo is put in at a different angle. Repeat so you have about 5 layers of filo on the base of the tin before adding the cooled pie filling. Make sure it is evenly distributed and press lightly with a back of a spoon to flatten.

4. Gather the edges of the filo sheets and fold in the centre of the pie tin. Brush with more butter. I then took a couple of extra sheets and ripped and scrunches them up and popped them on top of the pie before, you guessed it, brushing with more butter. To stop the filo from curling lightly sprinkle it with water before baking in the oven for 30-35 minutes until golden and hot. Serve with a simple side salad, sautéed potatoes or a liberal helping of cooling tzatsiki.

Kale, spinach and cheese filo pie- my take on spanakopita which is fit for a king!