A quick post today, but hopefully none the worse for it. I have a good excuse: as well as working I have been busy cooking, scribbling and snapping for an upcoming Easy Food Gifts For Friends and Family post. After a good bit of thought, and a thumb through some old cookbooks and recipes, I have put together a small but wide-ranging collection of easy to make holiday treats suitable for sharing with foodie friends and family. I will also give links to fabulous ideas from other food bloggers. Can’t wait!
Today’s recipe is also easy to make – and even easier to eat. Flaky puff pastry framing a healthy but decadently flavoured filling of creme fraiche, roasted sweet potatoes, black kale (aka cavolo nero – my winter hero), shiitake mushrooms and earthy, exotic dukkah spice mix. As well as being a quickish weekday meal, I am willing to bet that this might be a suitably attractive and tasty vegetarian addition to the festive table. See what you think. To accompany it you could do worse than mix together my snappy, fresh pear and cranberry slaw. We will have the slaw on Boxing Day, probably in turkey or ham sandwiches, but maybe as a topping to thinly sliced leftover cornbread stuffing – kind of like a weird bruschetta. This mayo-free sweet and sour slaw gets served quite frequently during my winter nutrition workshops as it goes with so many things that I prepare at this time of year. I sometimes use sour cherries instead of the cranberries, or add in sunflower seeds, so feel free to use these if you have them. The simple dressing is transferrable to just about any salad, too.
Sweet Potato and Black Kale Open Tarts
The December edition of Waitrose magazine inspires this easy-as-pie recipe. I love flopping on the sofa with a cup of tea and flicking through supermarket magazines, and posh as you like Waitrose has arguably the best one. But I really rate the ones from Morrisons and Sainsbury’s too – Morrison’s being especially strong on budget meals and what to do with leftovers. In addition to the product promotion and adverts that you might expect these free, or very cheap (Waitroses’s is £1 – bargain), magazines are sources of seasonal, special occasion and family recipes, up-to-date health and nutrition information, foodie travel features, and mouth-watering, frustratingly aspirational photography.
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled
1 large red onion, peeled, quartered and sliced
1 tbsp thyme leaves, with extra as sprigs (optional)
2 and 1/2 tbsp olive oil, divided
2 tbsp dukkah mix, divided (bought, or see below)
200 g black kale OR spinach OR chard; inner ‘ribs’ removed if using kale or older chard
150g half-fat crème fraiche OR Quark (skimmed soft cheese)
Zest of ½ lemon
1 sheet ready-rolled puff pastry (half-fat kind of you like)
1 egg, lightly whisked
8 or 9 shiitake or chestnut mushrooms
100g shelled pistachios (natural – not salted)
100g natural almonds
½ tsp sumac (optional but I use it)
1 tbsp whole coriander seeds
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp sea salt
Lightly toast the coriander and cumin seeds in a pan until just starting to release their fragrance – about one minute. Cool for a couple of minutes, then pop the spices in a mini food processor, or equivalent, and whiz until quite powdery. Now add the remaining ingredients and pulse or grind until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. You don’t want a paste so err on the side of chunky. You can use pre-ground cumin and coriander but the flavour is not quite as intense. If you do this reduce the quantities to 1 ½ teaspoons each. Pour the mix into a little jar or tin and store in a dark cool place. This makes a great pre-supper nibble with quality olive oil and nice bread, as well as a topping for pizza dough, pitta breads, in salad dressings and as a rub on chicken and fish. You will find other uses for this addictively dippable spice mix.
Assembling the Tart
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Cut the peeled potatoes into ½ cm slices and toss in 1 tbsp of oil and ½ tbsp of the dukkah. Spread on a baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes. Mix the onions with 1/2 tbsp oil and ½ tbsp dukkah and put on another tray. Pop the tray in the oven with the potatoes and roast for 12-15 minutes.
While the vegetables are roasting, slice the kale or chard (no need to slice the spinach) and steam or boil for five minutes. For the spinach, just wilt it in a saucepan with a tablespoon of water until it collapses. Whatever greens you use, strain them and then press out as much water as possible. I just use my asbestos hands but you might like to press it in sieve with a wooden spoon. Now pop the greens in a bowl and mix them with the crème fraiche, vegetable stock powder or Herbamare, the remaining dukkah and the lemon zest. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Turn the oven up to 200C/400F.
Now unroll the pastry sheet and slice it into four rectangles or six squares (I did as squares). Lightly score a ½ centimetre border into the pastry (don’t cut all the way through) and brush with the egg. Spread a good tablespoon of green filling onto each piece, avoiding the border. Arrange the onions, potatoes and mushrooms on the filling as well as a few thyme sprigs. Drizzle over the remaining oil and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown and puffed. Check the bottom of one to make sure it is cooked all the way through. Serve with Winter Pear and Cranberry Slaw (below).
Winter Pear and Cranberry Slaw
There is absolutely nothing in this not to like. Tastes fab, check. Great for you, check. Easy to prepare, check. Don’t worry about quantities of individual ingredients; use this as a guide only.
200 gm mixed shredded cabbage (red and white), or all red
50 g dried cranberries or sour cherries (minimal added sugar, if possible)
2 firm, ripe pears, cored and roughly chopped
Handful of parsley, roughly chopped
1 tbsp poppy seeds OR 50 gm walnuts or sunflower seeds, toasted
3 tbsp rapeseed oil or 2 tbsp rapeseed and 1 tbsp walnut oil
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard or grain mustard
1 tsp runny honey
Pour the dressing ingredients into a small screwtop jar and shake until blended. Decant the salad ingredients into a wide shallow bowl and toss through the dressing. Serve immediately.