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Easy Spanakopita

Inspired by Spanakopita, this is a simple recipe that’s easy to throw together when time is short and requires very little shopping.

Easy Spinach & Feta Pie (Cheat’s Spanakopita) – to serve 4

  • 1kg frozen whole-leaf spinach
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp cumin, fennel or caraway seeds (use what you have)
  • 1 large onion, finely sliced
  • ½ tsp dried thyme or a few sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves only, chopped
  • a squeeze of lemon juice
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 100g feta or soft goats cheese, broken into small chunks
  • 35g pine nuts, toasted or roughly chopped cashew nuts (we used a mix of both)
  • 375g all-butter, ready-rolled puff pastry

Heat the oven to 200°C /Gas Mark 6.

Put the frozen spinach into a saucepan with a splash of water. Cover and heat gently, stirring occasionally, until totally defrosted. Drain in a sieve, pressing with a wooden spoon.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the spice seeds and cook for a couple of minutes, then add the onion and sauté until soft and golden. Add the thyme.

When the spinach has cooled a bit, squeeze as much liquid out of it as you can with your hands, then roughly chop. Mix with the onion, a squeeze of lemon juice and plenty of seasoning. Keep a few tablespoons of the egg for glazing and stir the rest into the spinach and onion mixture.

Spoon half the spinach mixture into an ovenproof dish (around 25 x 20 cm). Scatter over the cheese and pine nuts or cashews, and top with the remaining spinach. Brush a little beaten egg around the rim of the dish.

Lay the pastry over the dish and trim. Press the edge down on the rim of the dish so that it sticks. Brush with the rest of the beaten egg and bake for about 25 minutes or until the pastry is puffed up and golden brown.

(Original recipe from River Cottage Veg Everyday! by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Bloomsbury, 2011.)

Roast Chicken with a green peppercorn and cinnamon butter

With Julie not being a massive fan of cinnamon, we were a bit hesitant about trying this recipe, but fear not –  the green pepper and cinnamon butter is fabulous and a great way to jazz up roast chicken. The spice and pepper adds depth and personality but does not dominate in the slightest, rather allowing the succulent chicken to shine. If you’re really not convinced by cinnamon you can replace it with ground coriander, cumin or ginger.

Wine Suggestion: We drank an highly unusual white, Foradori’s Manzoni Bianco, and were blown away by both the delicious taste of the wine and the good match with the chicken. The Manzoni grape is a rare and unusual hybrid of Riesling and Pinot Bianco grown in the North East of Italy. There has been an obvious attention to detail in the vineyards and winery with a very complex yellow fruit flavour with layers of spice, flowers, smoke and an exotic hint of incense. This may sound heavy and cloying but the wine is fresh as a daisy and refreshing.

Chicken Baked with Green Pepper & Cinnamon Butter – to serve 4

  • 1 chicken
  • a few bay leaves
  • 2 tsp green peppercorns
  • a small sliver of garlic
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 45g soft butter
  • salt
  • lemon quarters and watercress, to serve

To make the butter:

Crush the green peppercorns with the garlic and cinnamon in a pestle and mortar. Thoroughly combine the spice paste with the butter, then add 1 tsp of salt.

Lift the skin of the chicken and rub with salt and then some spiced butter. Slash the drumsticks and thick part of the legs before spreading with the butter. Save a little bit of butter and put it inside the chicken. If you have time you can leave the chicken for a couple of hours before cooking.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas 4.

Put the chicken and bay leaves into a shallow baking dish into which it fits neatly. Cook, uncovered, on the middle shelf, allowing 20 minutes on each side. Continue to cook breast upwards until the juices run clear and the skin is golden and crisp.

Serve with the lemon quarters, watercress and the buttery juices.

(Original recipe from At Elizabeth David’s Table: Her very best everyday recipes, Penguin, 2010.)

Ouefs en cocotte

A simple but indulgent weekend breakfast. Perfect for using up any leftover cream from the night before.

Ouefs en cocotte 

  • butter
  • one egg per person
  • one tbsp of cream per person

You need small oven-proof china dishes.

Pre-heat the oven to 190°C/Gas 5.

Get your eggs ready by breaking into separate mugs.

Put a lump of butter into each dish. Place in the oven and remove as soon as the butter has melted.

Slide an egg into each dish.

Pour a tablespoon of cream over each egg, avoiding the yolk, and return to the oven.

You need to watch these carefully but they are likely to take about 4-5 minutes. You want to remove them while you still have a runny yoke. If you practice these a few times you will get to know the perfect timings for your oven.

Serve with buttered toast soldiers.

(Original recipe from At Elizabeth David’s Table: Her very best everyday recipes, Penguin, 2010.)

Gambas al ajillo

This is the same dish as Prawns Pil-Pil which you get in restaurants all over Spain. Ordinary food but absolutely delicious. Don’t forget some crusty bread to mop up the oil.

Wine Suggestion: This is great with a Manzanilla sherry, like the La Gitana by Hidalgo we had with it. The dry and savoury character of the wine makes every component sing and has a great ability to both entice hunger and also sate the palate.

Gambas al ajillo – to serve 4 as a starter 

  • 750g unpeeled prawns
  • 8 garlic cloves
  • 5g flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 300ml olive oil
  • 2 tsp crushed dried chilli flakes

Peel the prawns but leave the last tail segment in place.

Sprinkle the garlic and parsley with ½ tsp of salt and chop together to form a course mixture.

Pour the oil into a large, deep frying pan over a low heat. When hot, at the chilli flakes and garlic and parsley mixture and cook gently for a few minute or until sizzling and smelling delicious.

Turn the heat up a touch before adding prawns and cooking for a few minutes or until just cooked through. Season with a bit more salt to taste.

(Original recipe from Rick Stein’s Spain, BBC Books, 2011.)

Jerusalem Artichoke soup

This is so refined in flavour and texture with the creamy and elegant soup working perfectly with the crunchy topping of celery, pancetta, garlic and fresh tomato. Highly recommended!

We’re a bit late with the recipe as Jerusalem artichoke season finishes in March but they’ll be back again at the end of the year and they’re probably still around somewhere in the world.

Jerusalem Artichoke Soup – to serve 4

  • 1kg Jerusalem artichokes
  • 1.8 litres of salted water
  • 300ml milk
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled
  • small piece of celery, chopped
  • a little parsley, chopped
  • 2 tbsp chopped ham or bacon or pancetta

Peel and chop the Jerusalem artichokes into even sized chunks. Simmer in the water until tender, then drain and purée with a stick blender.

Heat up the artichokes and gradually add the milk.

Heat the olive oil in a small frying pan and fry the tomatoes, garlic, celery, parsley and bacon for just a few minutes, then pour into the soup (along with the oil).

(Original recipe from At Elizabeth David’s Table: Her very best everyday recipes, Penguin, 2010.)

Broad Bean and Bacon

Spring has definitely sprung in Ireland but we’re not picking beans just yet. This recipe works just as well with the frozen variety.

Broad Beans with Bacon – serves 6

  • 60g diced bacon (or ham)
  • butter
  • 1kg cooked broad beans
  • 2-3 tbsp light béchamel sauce (make a batch and you can freeze the remainder)
  • cream
  • chopped parsley

Cook the bacon in a little butter.

Add the cooked beans, the béchamel sauce, cream and a little chopped parsley. Simmer together for 5 minutes.

(Original recipe from At Elizabeth David’s Table: Her very best everyday recipes, Penguin, 2010.)

Celeriac Purée

Celeriac purée

We’re still waiting on spring veg to arrive in Ireland but we’re comforting ourselves with the old root veggies. We love the earthiness that celeriac brings to lamb cutlets and kale or lighter dishes like seared scallops.

Wine Suggestion: You could try a New World Pinot from a cooler climate, like New Zealand, balancing not too much weight with a joyful fruit and freshness that works with the lamb and creamy celeriac.

Celeriac purée – to serve 4

  • 1 lemon
  • 350g celeriac
  • 150g floury potatoes
  • 50ml double cream or crème fraîche
  • 25-50ml milk
  • 15g butter
  • salt and freshly ground white pepper

Peel and cut the celeriac into 5 cm chunks. Submerge in cold water acidulated with some juice from the lemon.

Peel and cut the potatoes into chunks the same size as the celeriac and put into a small saucepan. Cover with salted water, bring to the boil, then simmer for about 15 minutes, or until tender.

Drain the celeriac chunks and put in a separate saucepan, cover with salted water, add a little lemon juice and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until tender – it will take longer than the potato.

When the vegetables are soft, drain them well and allow to steam-dry in colanders for a few minutes. Mash the potato using a potato ricer or push it through a sieve. Mash the celeriac either with a potato ricer or by blending in a food processor. Combine both vegetables in a clean saucepan.

Put the pan over a gentle heat and stir in the cream and milk. Stir in the butter, season well with salt and pepper and serve.

(Original recipe from Leith’s How To Cook by Claire McDonald and Jenny Stringer, Quadrille, 2013.)

 

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