Cinnamon-chill onion, asparagus, cashew and cheddar filo rolls

4 Mar


Cinnamon-chill onion, cashew Asparagus and cheddar filo rolls


Sticks and cheese

Spring, 1994

I enjoyed my business studies class at school. In anticipation of starting the class I got some books out on the subject during the summer holidays and learned about the concept of barter trade and achieving break-even point and what constitutes profit.  I started the class with sense of fluency and that made me feel good. One day my not-so-tall, dry pink cheeked, booming-voiced male teacher sat at his desk across from us and I knew from his frown and the way that his two, ear-side grey tufts of hair flounced that he was not in a good mood.

He asked some of us what we wanted to become. He, himself a father of three boys and a qualified accountant had for some reason turned into a secondary school teacher. He pointed at one of the clever lads at the back of the room. Thin, dark, thick-spectacled and he had unfortunately shaped teeth but was a lovely boy. ‘I want to be a pilot’ he beamed.

‘You will never be a pilot, look at the thickness of your glasses, you will probably get a mostly A’s and a few B’s and become an accountant.’

Next he turned to one of the understated beauties of the class. Not one of those permed-haired divas but one of those faces that you know will turn into a success drawing, friend winning, and a champion of happiness. She told him that she wanted to be a dancer and a business woman. He told her that she would get mostly B grade and C grade GCSE’s and may have a clerical job.

Cinnamon-chill onion, asparagus, cashew and cheddar filo rolls

Once he quietened down and the student’s eyes were down into their books I went to him and told him that I had been pondering about what he was saying to everyone. He laughed at me having used the word, ‘pondering’. I asked him why he felt that he could tell people what their destiny will be and why he felt that his influential words should be thrown around; wasn’t he fearful that he would miss-shape, or erode the confidence of a young mind? Weren’t his predictions limiting, shouldn’t he just let the individual dream and at least try? My dad told me that I could do, or be anything I wanted to.

As he gurgled with fury at my perhaps loaded question I turned around and to walk away and I felt my pulse in my mouth as my pony tail was pulled back into his fist. He growled something about my insolence but I don’t remember any of that, I was just stunned and felt clear horror.

When my hair was released, I unobtrusively walked through the buildings; along echoing corridors and I looked out at playing fields through murky windows. My feet patted gently along the balcony and I listened to the sounds of a PE class beneath me and then I shuffled past silent art classes. I sat down, on the large grey, lightly-rough chair at reception and told them that I wanted to speak to the headmaster immediately and that I needed to call my dad.

I was full of conviction, self-assurance and compassion. I was just 14. No words from my teacher damaged me or swayed me, even when my teacher crouched down before me in reception and apologised…something about going through a stressful time. I let him talk. I had plump cheeks and eyes that were always moist and I listened. I asked him if he had a daughter, knowing full well that he hadn’t.

Cinnamon-chill onion, asparagus, cashew and cheddar filo rolls

Winter 2010

I had gone from a ‘rising star’ to being unwanted. I replayed the words over and over and over and I believed them. I let the opinion of one person become my reality. Sticks and stones.

Winter 2014

I am learning from myself. You know, we often draw on examples from those we admire; those who have done things that we would like to do, or be the way that we would like to be. I have found that within myself I hold all the will, the strength, the courage and the conviction. I have done it before, I can do it again. I choose my words, both the ones I speak and the ones I listen to.

My sticks today are full of aroma. Cinnamon, chilli and onion work superbly together in a sweet, spicy, aromatic and fragrant glory. Silky onions work superbly with cashew nuts and there’s a light layer of mature cheese holding it all together with a spear of asparagus as the star of the show in a crisp filo shell. The tasters today told me that they are amazing. I have to agree.

Ingredients to make 5-7 rolls

7 sheets of filo pastry

3 medium onions, sliced

1 tsp. dried chilli flakes

¾ tsp. ground cinnamon

100g cashew nuts

125g mature cheddar cheese, grated

7 asparagus spears

Salt to taste

2 tbsp. cooking oil or a generous nob of butter

¾ tsp. caraway seeds

1 tsp. cumin seeds


  1. Trim the base off the asparagus spears and boil them gently in water for 4-5 minutes before draining them in cool water and leaving them to dry.
  2. Heat the oil in a pan and add the cumin seeds, caraway seeds and then let them sizzle, before stirring in the onions and the salt. Soften the onions on a medium flame until they start to grow golden in colour.
  3. Sprinkle in the cinnamon and chilli flakes and sauté for another minute on a more gentle flame before turning the heat down and adding the cashew nuts. Turn off the heat and move onto assembling the rolls.
  4. Take a sheet of filo and fold it in half. Sprinkle a thin layer of cheese and then a couple of tbsp. of the onions and cashew nut mix.
  5. Place a spear of asparagus near the top, lengthways and leave the tip hanging outside. Fold it into a cigar and place each one onto a baking sheet. Drizzle a little oil on the filo and bake in the oven at 180 degrees until they are lightly browned.

15 Responses to “Cinnamon-chill onion, asparagus, cashew and cheddar filo rolls”

  1. Tina @ The Spicy Pear March 4, 2014 at 10:42 am #

    These look delicious, packed full of flavour and pretty too.

    • Deena Kakaya March 4, 2014 at 10:54 am #

      Thanks Tina, cinnamon, chilli and onion are so good together x

  2. Elaine @ foodbod March 4, 2014 at 11:23 am #

    I hope that you are very proud of your 14 year old self for standing up for yourself and your classmates; just as I hope you are very proud of the woman you have become 🙂 Ben told me the other day that a teacher at his school told one of the other pupils that they would end up working at MacDonalds; it infuriated me, how dare they? I hope that pupil remembers the comment and shows them how wrong they were in later life!
    Lovely recipe xx

    • Deena Kakaya March 4, 2014 at 12:43 pm #

      I am proud of my 14 year old self Elaine, and I am also proud of myself for giving a real good of at rebuilding my life in recent years.

      I hope your Ben is self assured and his friend unaffected my the teachers heartless and thoughtless comment. Some people eh.

      Thank you as always Elaine xxx

  3. Karen Burns Booth March 4, 2014 at 12:34 pm #

    These look just STUNNING Deena and are just the sort of thing I would serve for a spring luncheon party! Wonderful photos too, as usual! Karen

    • Deena Kakaya March 4, 2014 at 12:44 pm #

      Thank you so much Karen! Funnily enough I has the girls round yesterday afternoon and there were a lot of sighs and moans around the room xx

  4. Joanne March 5, 2014 at 12:30 pm #

    I’m glad you stuck to your convictions and reported that teacher! Letting him crush people’s dreams certainly wasn’t right!

    These sticks, as you call them, look super tasty!

    • Deena Kakaya March 5, 2014 at 12:33 pm #

      Thanks Joanne, on both fronts. I do wonder if he ever did it again. These rolls went down so fabulously x

  5. Choclette March 5, 2014 at 4:34 pm #

    These sort of sticks sound infinitely preferable to the others. Well done for speaking out. Would love to have been one of your tasters for this.

    • Deena Kakaya March 5, 2014 at 4:35 pm #

      Thank you lovely chocelette, I would also delighted for you to be on of the tasters of these xx

  6. HELEN March 5, 2014 at 6:00 pm #

    they sound so good, I love both cinnamon & cashews!

    • Deena Kakaya March 5, 2014 at 6:01 pm #

      Hi Helen! They were pretty gorgeous, cinnamon and chilli work so well with onion it appears. Bonus is that they are really easy to make 😉 x x

  7. kellie@foodtoglow March 6, 2014 at 10:27 am #

    That sounds like a very formative experience. Horrible at the time and with lingering effects but of course all experiences – especially the not very good ones – are opportunities for learning and growing. I bet that teacher never ever forgot his encounter with you. Hopefully it changed him for the better. Well done for being so brave. And lovely ‘sticks’ and no stones!

    • Deena Kakaya March 6, 2014 at 10:49 am #

      Hi Kellie,

      Yes it was a very formative experience and you know, I love that knowing that I have the strength within myself.

      They are very lovely sticks, unusual combination but it really works! Xx


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