Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Spinach and Feta Pastries

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. When life gives you spinach, make spinach and feta pastries!

I was recently fortunate enough to receive a gift of a large bag of home grown spinach from the garden of my Mum's close friend Jan. Fresh, vibrant, bursting with colour - I knew this gift would not be waiting long to be used. After a Bank Holiday trip to the Suffolk seaside inspiration had dutifully struck. Thanks to hot pastries bought from Lawsons Deli and eagerly consumed on the beach, this spinach had been found a use! Once home, the cooking began. 
Mixed with salty, crumbly feta cheese (my current favourite thing: joining lunchtime salads every day.) and wrapped in flaky flaky puff pastry: these were ready. Well, after a speedy 15-minute trip to the oven - these were ready. The pastry rose, the feta melted and the spinach darkened. Just to warn you - these give a  big hit of spinach flavour. As someone still learning to love spinach in forms other than cannelloni, they occasionally erred on the too-spinachy side. However, they were balanced nicely with sweet tomato salad and I know for anyone who likes spinach they are delish. So next time you find spinach lurking in your kitchen? You know what to do :)

Spinach and Feta Pastries
As these were based on Lawsons Deli pastries and a gift of spinach, I didn't use exact measurements, so these are rough approximations. These quantities made 6 pastries, with two per serving for a main meal. You can easily scale the numbers up or down for different amounts of people.

1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
200g carefully washed (no one wants soil in a pasty), destalked and cooked spinach
1 egg
150g feta cheese
1tbsp mint, finely chopped
1tsp thyme leaves, finely chopped
250g puff pastry
1 more beaten egg
  1. Preheat the oven to 190'C.
  2. Saute the onion and garlic slowly in two large knobs of butter until the onion is softened and golden. Meanwhile, squeeze all excess water out of the spinach and chop into more bite-size pieces with a large pair of scissors.
  3. Take the onion off the heat and add in all the remaining ingredients other than pastry. Season well and taste, then add more of whatever is lacking.
  4. Roll out the pastry very thinly and cut into 10cm squares. Place a large tablespoon of the spinach mix into the centre of each pastry square. Brush the edges with beaten egg and bring up to the top, pinching together diagonal edges and twisting the corners. Brush the whole top with more egg.
  5. Place on a baking tray and bake for 15-20minutes until the pastry is risen and golden and the feta is melted. Serve warm with a salad in the sunshine and enjoy! 

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

The Blueberry Muffin

The blueberry muffin is thought of by my family as a classically American treat - whenever we travel to the USA my Dad always eagerly anticipates fantastic breakfasts finished off with a moist and fruit-heavy muffin. Along with treacle tart and coffee cake, muffins rank amongst his favourite ever bakes. In our recent trip to America, the muffin adapted to become our perfect afternoon tea treat. Bought from a Wal-Mart and carefully packed and brought to the beach the huge, blue juice stained delacies filled the afternoon gap perfectly  Once we returned to rainy England, we weren't quite ready to give up the muffin habit and so to the kitchen I was headed...
After a couple of baking flops recently, I wanted to be certain that these muffins would be a success. I have certain authors in the cookery book cupboard who I head to when looking for a reliable recipe for a true classic. These authors also tend to be the ones who have several books on the shelf, all with a particular favourite well-thumbed page. Examples include Rachel Allen, Delia Smith, Mary Berry, Nigel Slater and, in the case of todays recipe, Nigella Lawson. Just one look at the chocolate brownie page in our Nigella book FEAST shows the many many times it has been used (and the many many times brownies have been enjoyed in my household). Nigella's book How To Be A Domestic Goddess is full of delicious and irresisitible and so turning to it today I was certain there would be a decent blueberry muffin - and I was not to be disappointed.
Whilst perhaps not quite as large as their Wal-Mart relations, these muffins were good. Completely loaded with blueberry goodness (the more fruit involved = the more muffins acceptable to eat at one sitting!) and with crackly demerara sugared tops - I was happy. And with a recipe yielding 12 best-eaten-on-the-day-made muffins - I was settled!

Blueberry Muffins from How To Be A Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson
Ingredients: 75g unsalted butter, melted
200g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
75g caster sugar
pinch salt
200 ml buttermilk — (or 1/2 cup plain yogurt and 100 ml semi-skimmed milk, or 200ml milk and 1tsp vinegar)
1 large egg
200g blueberries ( I used 250g, which made them extra blueberry-y!)

  1. Preheat the oven to 200'C. Melt the butter, and set it aside to cool.
  2. Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl
  3. In a measuring cup beat together the buttermilk, (or yogurt and milk), egg, and melted butter
  4. Using a wooded spoon and a light hand, pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix gently to combine
  5. Don’t worry about lumps; the important thing with muffins is that the mixture isn’t overworked
  6. Fold in the blueberries, again keeping mixing to a minimum
  7. Spoon into the muffin tin & bake for 20 minutes, by which time the muffins should be risen and golden and firm on top

Sunday, 15 August 2010


Next on our Washington trip the food tourism momentarily took a backseat as we headed to the Washington Monument, built in memory of George Washington and standing at 555feet tall! We were a little nervous about reaching the top of this imposing building, but it was most definitely worth it in order to enjoy the views from the 'summit'...

In the middle here are the war memorials and the Lincoln Memorial: all beautiful, moving and interesting to wander around, even in 110'F heat. This holiday was my first ever time to Washington DC and the trip up the Washington Monument confirmed to me what an intriguing, diverse and beautiful city it really is. It was hard to pull ourservelves away from the views! After this cultural activity, it was time to return to the business of food. We headed to the fantastic Good Stuff Eatery run by Spike Mendelsohn  (PS thank you to the charming couple who explained to us - some very confused Britons! - exactly how American self-service works!) where we enjoyed the most delicious and calorific milkshakes ever...
On the top we have a Dulce de Leche milkshake, with dulce de leche painted up the sides. Underneath is the Malteser milkshake with dulce de leche and chocolate stripes up the sides and a layer of maltesers at the base as well as throughout. I stress that we also ate savoury food - Obama Burgers - and were left completely stuffed by the end! A perfect day in  Washington and wonderful memories to take with us as we moved on to new East Coast areas...

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Where I’ve Been…

Previously, I was ill. This time my absence is much more exciting: I was spending two gorgeous sunny weeks on the American East Coast! And it all started with four days in the blistering 100’F heat of Washington DC, where we stayed in the fabulous Eastern Market area. Of course, the farmers market was my first stop once we arrived and I adored seeing the huge range of exciting food and colourful fresh produce which was so different from the markets of England or France. Hope you enjoy the photos, and stay tuned for more holiday posts to come :)DSCF7521 (2)DSCF7475 (2) DSCF7508 (2) DSCF7518 (2) DSCF7524 (2)DSCF7486