Baking frenzy

Poor lil’ D had a wee bug this weekend.  He was sick friday & saturday, and luckily a good bit improved by sunday.  I’ve gotten quite good at dealing with weekends of nothingness now.  Before every bit of me would pine to be out and about, and that is still preferred, especially with 3 hours to bedtime when Dom is feeling well enough to be playing and get cranky and housebound but not well enough to eat or go anywhere.   Still, I battened down the hatches after a trip to Lidl & did a baking & cooking frenzy.    I was never a girl guide, but they must have some sort of ‘Irish Mammy’ badge and they’ll be round with it this week I’m sure.  Because I made my First Ever Apple Tart and it was delicious.   Actually I might not get that badge, because I made it in a tin and not on a plate.   Then yesterday I made a veggie lasangne, or just “‘sagna” as Dom called it. Or, “no ‘sagna” if I’m really truthful.

Recently I discovered a new to me blog, and I’m really looking forward to working through lots of the recipes over there.  What had caught my eye were the Mini Spinach & Feta muffins as I’m always looking for good snack ideas & we’re clearly going through a spinachy phase.

I think mini muffins are very small – like, bite sized, so I doubled the recipe and made 18 large bun sized ones.  They required about 5 more minutes in the oven for this.  I also used 1 cup of plain & 1 cup of wholemeal flour (remember I doubled everything) just to healthy them up a bit more.  Frozen spinach did the job here, I thawed it in advance then sautéed it slightly in butter & garlic as per the recipe.  And, having taken a commenters on the original recipes views on board, I added about half a teaspoon of nutmeg in too.  Sure it was still sitting out from the sauce for last nights lasagne, why not?

So far I only have the true opinions of 4 thirtysomethings (including me) who seemed to like them (well I definitely did!).  The 2 year old excitedly asked for a cake and was a bit confused/disappointed with it not being an actual cake.  Well there’s one going in for his creche snack tomorrow, so we’ll see how that goes!  I’m going to freeze a few of these in the hope that they’re his new favourite thing, if not, I’m happy to eat them too.

I think these would be really good for starting out baby led weaning – a great little out & about lunch especially.  Probably best to get in there before they have cake-shaped expectations!

Next up and currently cooling are lemon butterfly buns, but they’re adults only…

Spanakopita – a piefull of iron.

Although my tastebuds recognise it’s Greek provenance, to my heart & mind it’s Catalan cuisine.  Specifically post-cava and cocktails street food in late night Barcelona about 10 years ago.  You see I had friends that lived there after we graduated, and deep in the heart of tapas land, my vegetarian friend Fiona introduced me to the wonder of spanokopita, or spinach pie to give it its’ more pedestrian name.  It was purchased from a tiny shop in a dingy square* and the flaky pastry parcel combined with the tangy feta was perfect post pub grub.  The lashings of spinach were just a positive by product, and set it apart from a greasy kebab.

Fiona herself has made spanakopita (not for me mind, hmph!) but I’d never had it outside of holiday scenarios.  I don’t cook with pastry a lot, or ever really, but when the ever reliable Domini Kemp featured it in the Irish Times last saturday, I had to give it a go.  It really is pretty close to store cupboard stuff.  Only, with our small freezer I wouldn’t generally have a kilo of frozen spinach lying around, it would take away space from the Ben & Jerrys.  Still, Popeye type quanties of spinach though it seems, it was actually less than 1.5 bags from Dunnes.    This is definitely a frozen spinach recipe, you would need a ridiculous amount of the fresh stuff to the same yield.  Feta & puff pastry are everywhere, though I got mine in Aldi, and the rest I had.  I believe filo pastry is more authentic but whats a million layers of flaky pastry between (hungry) friends?


Serves 4 

1kg bag frozen spinach, ideally defrosted

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp fennel seeds

1 large onion, finely sliced

Few pinches dried oregano or mint, or any herb

Squeeze of lemon juice

2 eggs

200g feta

100ml crème fraiche

35g pine nuts

300g puff pastry

Salt and pepper

Heat an oven to 200 degrees/gas six. If the spinach hasn’t defrosted, you can heat it up in saucepan with some water and a good knob of butter, then drain and squeeze it dry in a tea towel. Sauté the fennel seeds in a frying pan until you can get a good whiff from them and then add the oil and onions and sweat it slowly. Add the herbs and when the onions have softened up a bit, add the lemon juice. Roughly chop the spinach and then add it also. Mix well and season lightly, then take it off the heat and let it cool down.

Beat the eggs and pour a small amount into a cup, which you can use for glazing the puff pastry later. Chop the feta into cubes and add it and the rest of the beaten eggs to the spinach mix, along with the crème fraiche and pine nuts. Mix well and adjust the seasoning.

Pour the filling into a buttered gratin dish. Roll out the puff pastry big enough to cover the spinach. Press the pastry into the edges of the dish, trim off the excess, and glaze with the beaten egg. Make a few slits in the pastry. Bake for about 30 minutes until it has puffed up and is golden brown. Allow it to settle for a few minutes and then serve.

Dominic, after dinner

This was absolutely beautiful, and I can see me coming back to it again and again.  I didn’t change one single thing about the recipe either. A complete miracle! We had an impromptu grateful dinner guest,  Dom ate loads (he was particularly enamoured by the pine nuts) I ate seconds, and husband bagged the last slice for his lunch today.  You could feed 4 hungry or 6 polite adults I reckon.   I would like to try it as picnic lunch type pastry parcels though, so I might have to experiment.  Mark’s making mac n cheese for tonights dinner as I type, but I really wish I had more leftovers for of this for me now!

*update, Fiona has a remarkable memory and tells me that it was Dionisos, The Quick Greek, in Placa De George Orwell 


It’s not easy being green

A few weeks ago we got a gift of Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty.  Pickings are comparitively scarce for good veggie ccokbooks – I was left disappointed recently by a glance through Simon Hopkinson’s The Vegetarian Option which I bought on the back of his Good Cook TV series (though I must stress I actually haven’t tried making any of the recipes yet).  This one came tried, tested and recommended.  A cursory flick made me really look forward to trying some stuff out, and we’ve made 3 recipes so far – Chickpea Sauté with Greek Yogurt, Puy Lentil Galettes & Green Couscous.

Loves a good grain

This is the Green Couscous – I often cook with couscous, but it’s one of those ‘in from work, in a hurry, what’s in the veg drawer’ no brainer dinners, so it was really nice to actually use it in a proper recipe.  And hey, if it’s good enough for Martha Stewart….

The child loves his grains, I’ll give him that.  I would say that for everything new we try, or everything we try try and try again, we alternate with something we know he’ll eat.  They tell us he’s a savage in creche, so I think that might have a good deal to do with why he doesn’t always eat that much with us in the evening.  Since he moved from a high chair to a little group table & chairs setup in there, he also has ample opportunities to eat other toddlers’ leftovers – and he takes them by all accounts.

So I can see that Dom’s couscous doesn’t look that green.  I can assure the reader that the end product looked like the book/pic on the Martha Stewart site.  I just added the rocket and some feta after I’d served up his. I’m going to hedge my bets and say he’s not going to go for either of those yet.  The pistachios, spring onions & herb paste provided enough flavour for him I reckon.

After our fits and starts and intermittent cooking successes recently we’re trying to do a plan of sorts for the week before we shop – about 4 dinners planned and the rest is leftovers/freezer food/top of the head stuff.   I’m the queen of googling ingredients for meal ideas, loving the end result. and then never being able to find that recipe again.  So I’ve high hopes for this padded white (well, it’s already stained but any good cookbook should be) tome to be our go-to guide each week.

Are any readers a fan of Yotam Ottolenghi, veggie or otherwise?