Tag Archives: filo pastry

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

Method

  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.

I blow raspberries at spinach curry

8 Jul

So it’s been a while. That’s a cheesy introduction isn’t it?  There is so much that I want to tell you, my fingers are furiously typing and unable to keep up with my baby-brain.  (Seriously, I have been wearing clothes inside-out and even walked out of baby classes without my shoes on, in the rain).

There is a lot of post-partum food related stuff I want to rant about, but I can’t pack it into one post.  I fear that the next few posts may become part of the rant-chronicles. Please bear with me.  As with life, there is a lot that I have learned through eating my way post-partum and there is a lot I want to share with you.

When my baby boy was born he filled my life and my heart with more love than I can ever imagine.  My heart swells and overflows like nature intended.  Funnily enough, I had always heard people tell me how hard it is…why do people do that? What is ‘easy’ in life…besides of course lying on a beach on holiday blah blah…Anyway, for the first 3.5months I kept pinching myself…could it really be this perfect?  I was joyfully singing baby rhymes in the shower and swinging from one sensory/music/dah-dah class to the next mums-and-baby lunch.

After the 3.5 months…no it’s not what you may be guessing. Nothing to do with my little bubba suddenly becoming a brat. He is still utterly and deliciously lovely (albeit a wee bit naughty). No. I was exhausted despite my baby being a good sleeper. I had headaches, nausea, dizziness…all of that.  I started to look unwell and feel it even more so.  I went to the doctor five times. Five.  The response always traced back to something to do with breast-feeding. Fobbed off?

It’s at that point that I started to analyse my food intake after having had my baby and I have a few opinions.  I will keep them flowing over the posts…

So, I followed this Indian post-baby diet thing.  In the days after I had my boyI adhered to it. Of course when people tell you that it’s best for the baby, you do it. It’s been proven over generations hasn’t it?  Certain parts of it make sense, some of it makes me angry till now, and parts of just perplex me.

I ate loads of fenugreek. That makes sense; apparently it encourages the milk come in and flow.  Actually if you take it within the first two weeks it has most benefit. I ate loads of aubergines. As a vegetarian I often get served aubergines.  I don’t get the aubergine thing.  Maybe because it’s a neutral, non-offensive vegetable insofar as its ability to cause tummy upsets or reflux is concerned. I was given more than enough of those and I don’t want to eat them for quite a long time now!

Unlike the villainous broccoli, cauliflower, potato, tomatoes I had to give up.  Oh and cabbage…anything that’s ‘windy’. Even my beloved lentils and pulses, my darling proteins, went into hibernation.  I gave up citrus and chillies. And even milk. Most people gain a lot of their dietary Iron from breakfast cereals, so this didn’t do me any favours when I later learned about my very low iron levels.

I didn’t even eat chapatti; I ate millet flour bread, which I don’t like. But apparently, even bread is a source of Iron?

I ate ghee and jaggery. When do I ever eat that? I think this stuff has got to suit your body.  This one I find remarkable, given that so many Indian people have a family history of diabetes.

I drank oceans of dill water. Now that one is thought-provoking, because when I smelt gripe water, that’s what it smelt like because the main ingredient is dill water (and sugar I think).  It clears the baby’s tummy. Well. So, by drinking it myself, I was keeping my baby’s tummy clear. Clever.

I ate mountains of spinach, but in a curry. Apparently, spinach has something in it that makes it harder for the body to process the iron. Also, I ate it in a cooked down curry and you know that depletes the level of iron I get from it.

The thing is, I didn’t maintain a balanced diet.  There was no orange juice in my diet (the logic was to avoid exacerbating the baby’s reflux problems) so that didn’t help the iron being absorbed. What happened to salads or watercress (high in iron), beetroot, tomatoes, cucumber, carrots and beanshoots?…The rainbow in my diet had disappeared.  Now, I am bringing back the rainbow and I will be sharing some more balanced recipes with you.  In the meantime, here’s a finger up at those ingredients that temporarily repulsed me (but a tastier take on them). I am sticking my tongue out as I post this…no actually let me blow a raspberry; I am good at that now.

Spinach, Sliced Aubergine and Spiced Tofu Filo Logs

Serves 4-6

12 sheets of filo pastry

400g of firm tofu

2 tbsp. vegetable oil for stir frying and some more for drizzling over the aubergine slices

1 medium sized aubergine, sliced into 1 cm rounds

6-7 curry leaves

200g spinach, wilted

12 cherry tomatoes, halved

2-3 green chillies, coarsely chopped

The spices; ½ tsp. turmeric, 1 tsp. cumin seeds, ½ tsp. fenugreek seeds, salt to taste, ½ tsp. black pepper, 1 tsp. paprika, ¼ tsp. ground nutmeg

Method

1. Firstly sweat the aubergines by salting them and leaving them to stand for about ten minutes. Dab them gently to remove the excess water before roasting them (coated lightly in oil) for about 8-10 minutes on 180 degrees.

2. Whilst the aubergines are roasting, bring the tofu to life. To do this, start by heating a non-stick pan and adding the oil. When it’s hot, sprinkle in the asafoetida, turmeric, chillies, fenugreek seeds, mustard seeds and cumin seeds and watch it sizzle, when the mustard seeds pop, add in the curry leaves, shallots, salt and garlic and then sauté until the onions have softened and lightly browned.

3. Crumble in the tofu with your hands, to a scrambled eggs texture. Then sprinkle in the paprika and black pepper and give it a good stir. Cook for 4-5 minutes before turning off the heat

4. Wilt the spinach by stirring it into boiling hot water for a couple of minutes. Drain and remove the water, give it a good squeeze and sprinkle in the nutmeg.

5. To make the rolls, spoon in equally divided amounts of tofu, aubergine onto the near-end of the pastry sheet. Roll along twice and tuck in the sides, so the mixture doesn’t escape. Stuff in the spinach and keep rolling to form a log, with the sides tucked in.

6. Bake in the oven on 180 degrees, for approximately ten minutes, or until the filo logs are golden and crisp, but not overly browned (you brown them too much you’ll taste a lot of bitterness). Make sure you serve them before they soften and wilt. Perky and crisp is a much better look (and taste, of course).

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