Monthly Archives: December 2011

Salmon and stuffing wrapped in filo

Salmon… there is a lot of it around, especially around Christmas! If you don’t eat meat and you don’t fancy the vegetarian choice, it seems salmon is your only option, it’s everywhere and usually plain and over cooked at work lunches. This dish makes salmon interesting again!

Serves 4-6

Large handful of fresh parsley
2 sprigs of tarragon
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
3tbsp olive oil plus extra to brush
2tbsp flaked almonds
270g pack of filo pastry
750g salmon in one piece, skinless and bones removed
lemon wedges to serve

The first step can be done up to 1hr ahead.  Preheat the oven to 200C – (180C fan).

1 Put the parsley, tarragon, lemon zest, oil and some seasoning into a food processor and whiz until well combined, but with some texture stil in the mix. Now add the almonds and pulse briefly to break them up. *Transfer to a bowl and cover at room temperature.


2 On a large baking tray arrange a couple of filo sheets to cover the base of your salmon. Now put the skinned salmon along the centre of the pastry and top with your herb mixture that you blended in step one. Brush the pastry with some oil, and ruffle the edges, pulling them towards your salmon. Don’t be neat, it’s not suited to this dish!

3 Use the remaining filo to add to the top scrunching and brushing with oil as you go. Cook for 20 mins unil golden. Transfer onto a serving board and garnish with lemon slices. Serve immediately in slices. If you have leftovers then pop it in a hot oven to reheat for about 10mins.

This was remarkably quick and easy to create and cook. just be sure to get your salmon skinned by your fishmonger.
If you love tarragon pop an extra sprig into your dish, I had this with a lovely celeriac and apple remoulade and roasted broccoli.


Mushroom and Ale Pie

I made this on Christmas eve, ahead of the Christmas day lunch. You can do the first three steps up to 1 day ahead. So if you’re having friends over for new years day and you fear a mild hangover might be on the horizon, I’d suggest making this. You’ll have a minimum effort of New Year’s day and maximum wow factor for your guests.

125g green lentils washed
250g sweet potato, cut into cubes
75g butter 500g mixed mushrooms, slices
200ml (7fl oz) Ale
50g white breadcrumbs
1 medium egg handful of parsley
1tsp english mustard
125g Lancashire cheese, crumbled.
40g pistachios
270g filo pastry (1 pack)

How to create:
1 Put the lentils in  pan with cold water, bring to the boil and simmer for 20 mins Add the sweet potatoes after 15 mins Drain and leave to cool

2 Meanwhile heat 1tbsp of butter in a large frying pan and add the mushrooms, cook for approx 10mins until they are cooked through, and any water has evaporated. Pour in the ale and leave to bubble until the liquid has evaporated. Set aside to cool

3 Put cooled lentil mixture into a large bowl and mix in the: cooled mushrooms, breadcrumbs, mustard, cheese, pistachios, seasoning. If you are eating this on the same day add the egg and parsley in now.  *If not cover and put the bowl in the fridge, add in the egg and parsley the next day.

4 Preheat the oven to 170C fan. Melt the remaining butter. Unwrap the filo and brush the top sheet with some melted butter. put the sheet butter side down into a loose bottomed round cake tin. Leave the excess hanging over the edges. Repeat this exercise with the remaining sheets of filo. The base and sides of the tin should now be lined with pastry. Fill the tin with your lentil mixture, and fold the overhanging pastry back over the filling, covering it completely. brush with the remaining butter

5 Put the tin on a baking sheet and cook for 30-3mins until golden. Carefully remove from the tin and serve warm or at room temperature in slices

This dish was a great accompaniment to the brussels and roast potatoes that go with the Christmas day feast. The ale, mushrooms and cheese gave this dish a moist, yet not sloppy, texture. The filo around the pie made it keep its shape, and look decorative at the same time. The crispy pastry was the perfect addition, and didn’t overfill your stomach, so as to allow for another roast potato! Try it at New Year, if you have guests that are veggie or if you are bored with turkey! The best thing was that it could be done in advance and with the whole of Saturday to cook then give it a go!

I found this in: December 2011 – Good Housekeeping. pg.207

The Rickety Press

Down the road from Oxford University press another great pub and lunch spot lies just off Walton street, on Cranham Street. The Rickety Press is an Arkells pub, and sister of The Rusty Bycicle,  situated just off Cowley Road on Magdalen. With Arkell’s ales on tap, plenty of local Oxford Beers, a list of tasty wines and homemade cordials, popping in to either of these venues for a drink is a pleasure.

The style in The Rickety Press is clean, yet rustic, the clue is in the name I suppose! There is a snug as you enter the pub, with the comfy large brown leather sofas, the bar sits in the centre of the pub rolling around to the amazing, high ceiling conservatory at the back of pub. The seating of booths around the bar sit 4 comfortably for lunch or more depending on how well you know your friends!

The menu is ideal for anyone wanting a quick-lunch in their lunch hour, or a larger leisurly, lunch for a special occasion. We went to The Rickety Press just before Christmas, after a week of various christmas lunches and parties. We wanted to go somewhere together with a good atmosphere and good food, both of which we knew could be found here.

To start we shared: bread, fresh olives & dipping oil/balsamic vinegar. The dish was quite deep for the oil/balsamic vinegar mix, it could have done with being shallower, but the breads and olives were a great start to our festive day.

My main was the squash, feta & pine nut wellington and celeriac puree, this was delicious, it was lovely to have something that was tasty and also creative, I sometimes find that some places don’t dare to be different for vegetarians, that wasn’t the case here.

My other half had a steak sandwich, there was a healthy portion of steak, so much so he had the filling and left the bread!
The puddings looked fantastic, in my head I’d already decided what to have when we chose our starter and main course however we passed up the puddings due to being so comfortably full.

The pub was quiet when we arrived at first, approx 1pm, but it soon filled up with passers by and large table bookings for the full Christmas menu. We approached the bar for our drinks and to find where we had been placed for our booking. We were given a choice of where we wanted to sit, the conservatory, or the more casual bar area. We opted for the latter purely down to the larger tables that would be set up around us. Our drinks order was brought to us, as well as a menu. The food at The Rickety Press is made to your order, you are pre warned on your menu that this might mean that you have to wait a bit longer for the fresh food.  I didn’t notice a wait and if there was one then it was worth it.

If you haven’t been to The Rickety Press, then I’d recommend that your go. If you have patience you can get a parking space close by for 2hrs for free and if not then you can simply pay or walk!

Bombay potato and spinach pie, the curry alternative!

My mum found this recipe and sent it my way last week. The email was named ‘something different’ which it certainly was!
If you find yourself making a curry and you are catering for a vegetarian keep this dish up your sleeve, and surprise your guest with something that will make them feel just as special as other meat-eating guests.
This dish does take time, but most of that time is spent waiting for things to cook in the oven. If you are cooking for an evening of guests I would suggest splitting your time in half. I have starred (*) a break point below in the creating stage.

Cooking for Saturday night? Do the first half in the morning!

Ingredients Serves 6/8 people
200ml/7fl oz vegetable oil
2 onions, sliced
450g/1lb potatoes, cubed
1 tbsp coriander seeds, toasted in a dry frying pan and ground to a powder
1 tbsp cumin seeds, toasted in a dry frying pan and ground to a powder
1 tbsp garam masala
1 tsp ground ginger
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3 red chillies, finely chopped salt and freshly ground black pepper
450g/1lb baby spinach
100g/3½oz pistachios
270g/9½oz pack filo pastry, cut in 15-20 sheets
50g/2oz butter,
melted 1 tbsp honey


Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Heat approximately 1tbsp of the oil in a frying pan and fry the onions for 4-5 minutes, or until golden-brown. Remove from the pan and set aside. Pour 2 tbsp of the vegetable oil into a baking tray and heat in the oven until it starts to smoke. Carefully add the potatoes to the hot oil and stir gently to coat them in the oil. Add the spices, garlic and chilli and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast in the oven for 25 minutes. Remove the potatoes from the tray with a slotted spoon and set aside to cool. Mix the onions, potatoes, spinach and pistachios together in a bowl until well combined. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. I ended up using my largest pan for this as the spinach is quite bulky until the heat and damp wilts it enough.

* Reduce/or set the oven to 160C/300F/Gas 2.

Take your pastry out of the fridge 1/2hr before you need it.
Grease a large ovenproof dish, square would be best!  I found that by unraveling the filo sheets there was no need to cut the sheets, just hold the sheet up, and lay the sheet into the dish, then fold the excess back on itself, once the first layer is brushed with butter. this should effectively mean you are halving the pastry without knives!
When you have 4 layers down, stop with the butter, no need for the top layer as your mixture now goes in.
Spread one third of the potato and spinach mixture on top of the pastry in an even layer.
Add 4 more pastry sheets to the dish in layers, greasing in between each layer with melted butter. Spread over another third of the potato and spinach mixture.
Repeat the process with another four pastry layers and the remaining potato and spinach mixture.
Finish with the last few sheets of filo pastry. Brush the top layer of pastry with the remaining melted butter drizzle over the honey.

Place in the oven for 30-40 minutes, or until the pastry layers are crisp and pale golden-brown. To serve, spoon a portion of the pie onto each plate. spoon the yoghurt alongside and sprinkle with sesame seeds.


I served this with broccoli and cauliflower, you can serve with salad if you want.
This dish had great flavour and the crispy filo pastry gave it a good contrast in texture. for more heat throw in another chilli, but that is down to your own, or your guests tastebuds.

This recipe was on the BBC Food by Simon Rimmer. I’ve amended it to take you through my steps.

Spring Roll Fakeaway

I discovered how to make vegetable spring rolls when I attended the Orchards Cookery School in Worcestershire, and they are great! While frying anything isn’t all that healthy, don’t let that put you off making this dish. It’s certainly healthier than most takeaway versions that you’ve had, and most definately cheaper and it’s good fun to make this with your friends. I made this the other week, normally when I make this my other half opts for something different such as Duck and Ruby Sauce, (to be blogged about later) but this time I added pheasant into his spring rolls, which worked as a good meat option. The sauce is something not to be messed with, it’s certainly a great combination and addition to this dish, so don’t forget it.

1 Red onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
15g fresh ginger, finely sliced
2 carrots, peeled and cut into juliennes
4 mushrooms, finely sliced
1/2 green pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
1/2 yellow pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
8 sheets of spring roll pastry / filo could be used.
2 eggs, beaten
7.5 vegetable oil
* Meat option if required Duck or Pheasant.

2 tsp white wine vinegar
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp sugar
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sesame seeds
1 fresh chilli, finely chopped
1 tsp fresh ginger, grated


Make the sauce in advance, place the vinegar, soy sauce, sugar in a jar with a lid, shake to disolve the sugar Add the rest of the ingredients and leave for an 1hour so that the falvours can infuse.

*To make a meaty roll I would recommend using pheasant or duck. Cook the bird in advance and take off the bone. (You can then add this in with your vegetable filling before you roll up your rolls.)

Warm 1.5tbsp vegetable oil in a frying pan, add the onion, garlic, ginger and cook until soft

Add the carrots, mushrooms and green and yellow peppers and cook for about 7mins until al dente. Season to taste

Take a square sheet of pastry and place on a chopping board in a diamond shape, glaze with egg and place 1/8 of the filling, in the shape of a sausage about 2/3 down from the middle. Turn up the bottom corner towards the filling, turn in the left and right corners and roll the parcel away from you to create a spring roll.

Warm the remaining oil in a frying pan and fry the parcels over a medium heat for about 2mins, until the parcels are golden brown.

Serve with salad and drizzle the sauce, for presentation cut the rolls in half at a jaunty angle, if you wish!

scallops, spinach and mushroom sauce

Scallops half a pack per person, approximately 8.
Spinach large handful per person
150g Oyster mushrooms
Double cream
White wine
Salt and Pepper

I had been to M&S to pick up an easy vegetarian or fish dinner for one, this was impossible! Nearly everything in their ‘easy meal’ wise was meaty, or most definitely for two, I suppose I could have frozen half but I wasn’t in the right frame of mind.
So instead I picked up a small bag of spinach and some scallops, and figured it would be a very light meal for one, dependant on what was to be found in my fridge.

I was in luck there were some oyster mushrooms in the fridge, a small amount of double cream, white wine and therefore, in my head anyway, a side dish with sauce.

Add the oyster mushrooms to a pan with a knob of butter allow and cook for a few mins, add a dash of cream and a splash of white wine and simmer.

Meanwhile heat some oil in a frying pan and put this on the heat.This is for your scallops. Put the spinach in a pan with a splash of water and add this to the heat too. Put your scallops into the pan in a clockwise order, 12:00, 2:00, 4:00, 6:00, 8:00, 10:00, after 1min turn the scallops over in clockwise order for another 1min.

Now add your spinach to your plate, top with scallops and then pour the mushroom and cream sauce. Here you have a very fast yet tasty meal, but this way you can be more prepared than me, and know what you’re having in advance.