Tuesday, 27 August 2013

stinging nettle quiche with spelt pastry

stinging nettles are like an invading army in my garden..where ever there's a patch of bare soil they set up camp and they use stand over tactics on the other residents..i have a tendency to turn a bit of a blind eye to their goings on but this week i took the upper hand and gave them their marching orders from around the spinach and broad bean encampment.. 

stinging nettle quiche with spelt pastry
tea with hazel



250 gms spelt flour
100 gms cold butter diced
25 gms grated aged cheddar
1/2 teaspoon (tsp) chilli flakes
1 tsp lemon juice 
iced water


2 cups of nettle tops and young leaves*
4-6 young spinach plants
1 medium onion cut small
8-10 young spring onions cut fine
1 large tablespoon (tbs) parsley cut fine
1/2 tsp fine lemon zest
2 tbs parmesan
2 tbs aged cheddar
100 gms feta crumbled
250 mls single cream
4 eggs
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt**
1 tsp bacon fat



~ process flour and butter until it resembles fine bread crumbs
~ add cheese, chilli, lemon juice and enough cold water for the dough to just come together
~ remove from bowl on to a flour dusted bench, gently knead until the dough forms a ball, flatten into a disk, wrap in cling film and refrigerate for an hour
~ roll the pastry to fit a 23 cm tart pan with a removable base
~ line with baking paper and baking beans and blind bake for 20 minutes at 200 deg c
~ remove paper and beans, cook for a further 10- 15 minutes, then remove from oven and cool


~ wash nettles and spinach well and steam separately until just wilted
~ place in colander over a bowl and leave to drain
~ cut the greens roughly with kitchen scissors while still in the colander and then press them gently with a spoon to extract a little more remaining moisture
~ saute diced onion in bacon fat until soft and set aside to cool
~ beat eggs with cream in a large pouring bowl
~ place all other ingredients in another large bowl, mix, and then distribute evenly over the pastry base
~ place the tart in the oven on a preheated tray and pour over the egg/ milk mix
~ cook at 180 deg c for 40 minutes or until the top is browned and the custard is set

*   just letting you know that i read recently that only young nettles should be eaten because after flowering and seed setting the leaves develop gritty particles called cystoliths, usually consisting of calcium carbonate, which can irritate the urinary tract..other sources (http://foragersharvest.com/stinging-nettle-cystoliths-self-heal/  http://www.eattheweeds.com/bet-your-life-on-it-myth-busting/contradict this premise..i don't know what to believe but for the sake of my kidneys i'll pick the young leaves until i have a definitive answer..
** i use murray river salt which is less salty than some other brands so less my be required if using an alternative salt

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

tarta de santiago

after making quince paste a while back i was keen to use it in cooking rather than just limiting it to a cheese platter..when i looked on line i came upon the tarta de santiago which i hadn't heard of before..reading more about it led me on a wonderful journey through history and i learned that the tarta is named in honour of saint james who is the patron saint of spain..legend has it that his remains were carried by boat from jerusalem and buried at the site of what is now santiago de compostela in northern spain..

the origin of the tarta is not certain but two suggestions have been put forward..on the one hand it may have been brought to the region by a pilgrim during the middle ages when making the journey to santiago de compostela was one of the most important pilgrimages in the christian world or it may date back to the spanish inquisition when jews in hiding cooked it during passover because it doesn't contain flour..in the second case i guess the icing sugar cross that is stencilled on the tarta would have been a later addition because of its christian associations..

the pilgrimage has become really popular in recent times with each year thousands of people making the journey along various sections of the camino (the road) to santiago de comepostela.. i had the opportunity to walk the camino frances (the french way) with some friends about 12 years ago but lack of funds stopped me going..i was really disappointed at the time but any glimmer of yearning and disappointment that lingered about not going was erased as i learned, in reading about the tarta and its associations with the compostela, about the multitudes, the very flat terrain and the close proximity of busy roads to the walking paths..

there seem to be two distinct varieties of tarta de santiago..one has a pastry base and the other more commonly made one doesn't..the recipe (go here for recipe) i chose had a pastry base, a layer of melted quince paste (dulce de membrillo in spanish) and an almond and citrus layer..one day i might try the other variety but it will be hard to veer from this recipe because the tarta is so so good..

unfortunately the cross doesn't stand out so next time i will
cut out a bigger template

i found this shell along with several others on a beach in queensland recently while on holiday with my brothers adam and tim..i have them lined up on a window sill in my sitting room and they are a lovely reminder of the ocean and our holiday but they are also linked to the tarta..that's because the scallop shell is an iconic symbol of the camino de santiago..

next year on july 25, saint james's day, i'd like to make a scallop dish and a tarta de santiago to celebrate his feast day 

Sunday, 18 August 2013

bread and cheese

making bread is an ongoing adventure that i know i will never tire of particularly because there are so many aspects to its preparation and baking that impact on the final loaf..i've played around with different ingredients in my loaves quite a lot in the last couple of years but i haven't experimented very much with my baking method..i've tended to stick to making freeform loaves with the very occasional loaf cooked in a 'proper' bread baking tin but this week i baked one loaf in a lidded cast iron pot and the second in a small round copper pan that belonged to my mother in law..i don't use the copper pan very often because the tinning is a bit worn but i was interested to see the result of using it in bread baking..

i would have been a bit disappointed if the copper pan loaf hadn't turned out well because i made it specifically to have with an italian cheese called brunet* that i'd ordered a few weeks ago after tasting it at my local providore..if you like not too pungent, gooey, slight goaty flavour you will like this cheese..it's absolutely sublime..

sourdough bulgur loaf 

brunet, bulgur sourdough and roasted capsicum, garlic and dried tomato
concasse with a drizzle of balsamic

further reading*:

Thursday, 15 August 2013

theodora's batsaria (batsaria tis theodoras)

this is a recipe i've been wanting to make for a long long time....i remember standing in my mother in law's kitchen in athens watching her make batsaria and she made it for us a few times when she and my father in law came to australia to visit..fortunately i wrote the recipe out as i watched her making it in my kitchen on that visit nearly 30 years ago..older greeks like my mother in law never followed recipes but learned to cook by watching others and following their instincts so i knew when i was making it to do the same and not adhere strictly to the quantities listed..

theodora's batsaria



1 large bunch of spinach
1 medium onion grated
6 spring onions cut fine
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup chopped dill
125 gms feta crumbled
1 tablespoon (tbs) yoghurt
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup rice
1/2 cup trahana
2 eggs lightly beaten
2 tbs olive oil
2 teaspoons (tsp) pepper
2 tsp salt


2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
2 tbs yoghurt
2 tbs olive oil
1 tsp salt


olive oil
125 gms feta crumbled



~ wash spinach well, place in a colander, sprinkle with salt, and leave to drain while preparing the other ingredients
~ squeeze the spinach well, chop into medium pieces, and place in a large mixing bowl along with the other filling ingredients


~ mix eggs, milk, yoghurt, salt and oil and add enough flour and semolina (adding a smaller proportion of semolina to flour) to make a thick batter


~ oil a baking dish well and place half of the batter on the bottom spreading it out with a wet spoon
~ add filling
~ add a few tablespoons of water to the remaining batter, mix well, and drizzle on the top of the filling
~ sprinkle with the feta and drizzle with olive oil
~ cover with foil and bake at 180 deg c for half an hour, remove foil, continue to cook for a further 30 minutes or until the pie is well browned


my batsaria did not resemble my mother in law theodora's pie in appearance or texture but it did have the flavour i remember loving so much..i remember her pie having more dough on the bottom and top (even though i doubled the recipe) and hers was quite chewy..i also don't remember her pie having as much feta on the top of it and my pie was not nearly as oily as hers either but i always use less oil than a greek cook would use..i don't buy unseasonal vegetables so i didn't add the zucchini listed in the recipe but i will certainly add this ingredient in summer when i have them growing..

next time i make it i will try using a smaller baking dish to see if that makes a difference to the dough layer and i'll use less feta on top too..and maybe just a little bit more oil!

for my children

Monday, 12 August 2013

random things

from the last few days..

left to right:

op shop doily purchased for $1 to be used in patchwork

op shop purchased johnson brothers plate from a set of 6 bread and butter and 6 dinner plates bought for $8

flowers picked from along a railway line heralding spring

roast pumpkin and capsicum soup garnished with yoghurt, parsley, chilli flakes and marigold petals

young's double chocolate stout, chilli and mushroom beef stew (served with champ)

sourdough bread

Sunday, 4 August 2013

orange, currant and pistachio cous cous salad

i first came across this salad when i was working in a cafe while i was studying for a degree as a mature age student..along with typical cafe work we were also required to cook, make salads and do a lot of ingredient preparation..for instance on a sunday i'd make scones first thing in the morning before opening the cafe and throughout the day in between the other work we'd make omelettes in electric frying pans for anti pasta or make and cook terrines..we'd also do a lot of chopping and grating of various vegetables according to the future needs of the chef or ourselves..

navel oranges are fantastic at the moment..the ones i prefer are the thicker skinned variety and at the moment they are $0.68 c/kilo at my local shop so i bought a whole lot yesterday and i used some to make this salad..i don't follow an exact recipe but to make it you need couscous, finely cut parsley, orange rind (i like long thin curls), orange segments, orange juice, currants and pistachios..just make sure you prepare all the ingredients first before adding the juice because it's hard to mix them all in once the juice is added and add enough juice to make a fairly wet mix..after sitting for a while it will be absorbed..oh..and i like to add the pistachios at serving time otherwise they go too soft..

 i even like to eat it for breakfast!

Saturday, 3 August 2013


years ago when i was on a summer bush walk i came across watercress growing at the junction of the shaded side of the path and a small slow trickling stream..i picked a few sprigs and wrapped them carefully in a damp piece of paper to preserve them with a view to growing them at home..we didn't eat any of it at the time because it's not advisable to eat watercress that's been growing in an area of potential contamination..the sprigs of cress were a bit wilted when i eventually got home at about midnight but i popped them in a glass of water hoping that they'd resurrect..i was really happy to see the sprigs develop root filaments after about a week and so i planted them in a pot and because cress likes indirect sun i placed them on the southerly side of my garden..there were times over the years through a combination of neglect and hot weather that i thought i'd lost it but fortunately it's a prolific seeder and so it would always reappear..it's now growing better than ever in my new garden..once again it's in a southerly position but it's planted directly into a garden bed and in an area that receives a lot of rain and run off from a disconnected down pipe..having such a prolific amount of cress growing led me to read up about it recently and to my surprise i learned that it's a particularly nutrient dense green..as a result i've been thinking up ways to incorporate it into more meals..one of the things i've been making a lot is watercress pesto which like other pestos is really versatile..

i have about 2 m x 2 m of watercress growing

lots of well washed watercress, toasted pine nuts, garlic and parmesan
processed with olive oil until it forms a paste

further reading:

http://www.watercress.com/history.aspx (history of watercress)
http://www.thewatercresscompany.co.uk/superfood.php (nutritional content of watercress)
http://www.watercress.com/pdf/pot_health_benefits_of_WC_09.pdf (potential health benefits of watercress
http://watercress.co.uk/recipes/ (watercress recipes)