Spinach & Feta Filo Pasties

The memory of our summer holidays in Bulgaria is mostly of the warm, friendly and playful waves of the Black Sea and the overwhelming scent of roses, which became beautifully heavy especially in the balmy evenings.

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I also remember lots of green sites around, stray dogs and donkey-pulled carts on the roads. And if you were brave enough you could take a picture standing next to a trained brown bear. Mind you, this all was before and very shortly after revolution, when I was just a school girl.

Besides those, it is a memory of a charming mountain chair- lift ride, or visiting old ruins by the sea with the most wonderful views where the romantic stone steps lead you down to the seashore, and of course the unforgettable gardens with large colourful flowerbeds of so many roses smelling sweet and vibrant it could almost make you go lightheaded.

Then it is the tastes and flavours, where chubritza (summer savory, herb) comes as the most powerful of them to me. We enjoyed tomato, cucumber & feta salads, spicy meatballs or kebabs, cool yoghurt & dill dips, sweet halva, Turkish delight and small doughnuts that you could buy on the beach, alongside with the small deep-fried fish, which my father liked as a random afternoon snack a lot and ate them whole with their tiny heads and fins.

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I remember one particular white stall that sold feta cheese filo pastries that I loved hot or cold, and found comparable ones sold only while living in Romania. Delicious is not enough to say.

Looking for recipes that would help me to create something similar, I found an idea which I fancied a lot – adding spinach, red onion and pine nuts with mint.

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To make these parcels, use a whole packet of fresh young spinach leaves (cca 250 g), place them in a colander that stands in a kitchen sink, pour boiling water over them which will make them welt fast, let drain.

Sweat finely chopped medium red onion on a knob of butter in a deep pan. Take off the heat. Add the feta cheese, I used about 400 g finely finger crumbled (that amount for 12 filo sheets). Stir well, add 2 beaten eggs, spinach, each a good handful of roughly chopped pine nuts (dry pan roasted nuts) and fresh mint leaves, stir again. Season with a bit of freshly ground black pepper. I don’t add salt as the cheese is quite salty itself.

You need to spread all the filo pastry sheets carefully. Use every three for the individual parcels, handling them very gently, while keeping the rest covered with a damp kitchen tea towel.

Melt 50 – 100 g butter and use a pastry brush to spread the butter over the filo sheets to stick them nicely together, as well as brush the coats of the parcels – I created triangular pasties, each containing 2 tbsp of the cheese mixture. I cut the the three sheets in the middle so can I make two large triangles of them. You can also make rectangular shapes if you prefer.

Roast the pasties in pre-heated oven at 180 °C / fan 160 °C / gas 4 for about 30 mins, or until the pastry turns golden and crisp. Once done, take the pasties out of the oven and brush them lightly with water.

Serve with a green salad and youghurt mint sauce. We liked them with a good punchy mix of baby and micro leaves of wild rocket, watercress, red chard, radish and nasturtium.


Radish Side Salad

I don’t think this one can be added as a truly prepared recipe post, neither photo shoot done, because it was all about me taking the very first snaps using my brand new lenses. Shots taken just like that, very random takes indeed. Later on I thought I still could use them and why not?

So, if anyone ever wondered whether radishes can be eaten warm as well, here you are, give it a go!

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So I used what I had on my kitchen table top at that exact moment. Two bunches of fresh radishes. There was also a bunch of fresh asparagus somewhere in the fridge, ready to be used as sides for our dinner later on. See the picture of the side salad lower.

I think I didn’t even use a diffuser. I liked the fresh vegetables and couldn’t wait to try the new glass. I used darker and brighter backgrounds to compare. Shot the ready made salad afterwards. End of the story.

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I never really had the habit of eating radishes warm. The most usual way to enjoy them in my old home country was, and I guess still is, served sliced – thinly or in quarters, or pretty zig-zagged halves, simply salted  and served with another meal, and with simple buttered sour dough slice most often.

Nowadays I got used to eating them warm, too, and it is also lovely. I think it makes them much milder, and it softens them. I am always careful not to cook them for too long though.

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Bring a pan of water to boil, then add washed radishes, tops and bottoms trimmed, and cook for 2 – 3 mins max. Turn the heat off and quickly drain and place the radishes under cold water – this will prevent them from ongoing cooking while still hot inside.

When they cool down a bit, halve them or slice them into shapes that will suit your salad.

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Mix extra virgin olive oil with few splashes of balsamic vinegar, drizzle the radishes and give them a nice toss.

Serve straight away!


A Walk Down Portobello Road

Compared to my usual, rather quieter days, a short visit to London’s Notting Hill the other week was a nice change.

Besides the great business of the place itself – because I live in a small town in the heart of downright countryside – it was nice to experience a little change in the manner of spending my days, too – be somewhere I am the one who is kindly looked after and taken care of (a proud mother of two little rascals has spoken). This is to thank my friend Zuzana, who did such that and wonderfully!

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Apart from the most delightful continental breakfast served in bed, and a long night with “Sleepless In Seattle” afterwards (believe it or not I haven’t seen that movie yet until now! Smile.) or a few lovely strawberry cocktails, she took me for a stroll down Portobello Road in the mild mid-spring sunshine – perhaps we were too lucky about the weather, no complaints here at all.

It was a brilliant weekend, and I’d like to share some quick snaps I took of few of the stalls that I liked a lot.

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For anyone who loves vintage, be it almost anything you can even think of or imagine – from crockery through handbags, old cameras, paintings, badges, stamps, hats, model toys, jewellery to magazines, records or books – there were plenty of food stalls, which, I naturally couldn’t avoid under any circumstances.

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In fact, the diversity, colours, textures and even sounds (yes, food has many a great of them!) all thrilled me a lot.

Under the warm sunlight, in the crowd, with no clouds above and reggae music in far background growing louder as one approaches the busy coconut water sellers, all seems intensified – all the hues and tones of the experience. If I should look for some synonym to Portobello Market, I would call it “a state of excitement”. 

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You feel so tempted to stop at every one and and each of them – the stalls with bubbling seafood being prepared for paellas, sizzling German sausages, caramelized burgers, golden crusts of bread loaves, you long just to try a tiny bit of all they so keenly offer you – savour the custards licked of your sticky fingertips, smell the cheese and dozens above dozens of kinds of olives and pickles, wipe the froth of freshly squeezed fruit juice..

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And after all that dare to walk into the dark, smokey and steamy heaven of cuisines from all around the world.. just one “under- the – bridge” step away from you!

And you do it, you go for it, you accept the challenge! There’s nothing that could stop you!

Hear the spritz, the sizzle, hiss and burn and fry – all in one amazing accord!

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I loved my weekend break in London, and believe me, I am already looking forward to see some more!

How about you, where will your summer steps take you this year? Wink.


Apricot Tart

I do love apricots, they remind me of my first pregnancy, too, when this was the kind of fruit I would want to have very often for no particular reason – well, of course, expecting a baby obviously was a reason good enough – for my apricot cravings. Smile.

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This tart doesn’t require fresh fruit, you can use tinned apricots in juice, so you can make it any time of the year you like. And of course, being pregnant or not. Wink. If you are though, watch for the sugar levels (14.9 g per serving).

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I tried this recipe from Sainsbury’s Cookbook Volume Two, published by © Dorling Kindersley Limited, 2015. I think it’s simple and doable, as most of their recipes, and brings you a lovely pleasant treat in about an hour’s time. It is perfect for an afternoon tea / coffee break.

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For the pastry rub with your fingers 175 g plain flour (keep some extra flour for dusting) with 25 g caster sugar, 100 g baking block (previously cut into pieces) until it crumbly. Add 1 egg yolk and enough water to form a soft dough, which you need to wrap and chill for half an hour (I placed it in the freezer).

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 180 ºC / 160 ºC fan / gas 4.

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Roll out the pastry to about 3 mm thick and line a 22 cm  tart tin, leaving an overhang of at least 1 cm. Prick with a fork, brush with the egg white, line with greaseproof & non-stick baking paper and fill in with baking beans. Bake for 20 mins, remove beans and paper, and bake for further 5 mins, then trim off ragged edges while warm with a sharp knife. (As you can see in my images, I couldn’t do that, I used a larger stone tart baking tray, so was happy to have had enough dough for the edges – not so pretty, but nothing short of the good taste though.)

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For the filling, whisk 200 ml single cream, 50 g caster sugar, 2 eggs + 1 egg yolk and 1/2 tsp Madagascan vanilla extract in a bowl.

Lay 400g apricots (halves of fruit from a tin, in juice, drained) cut-side down, over the tart case. Place on a baking tray and pour the cream mixture over the fruit. use a rubber spatula to distribute the mixture more evenly if necessary. Bake for 30 – 35 mins until just set and golden.

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Allow to cool to room temperature before serving. Enjoy as a part of your afternoon tea but it is also a good idea for a picnic as the filling holds very well.







Passion Fruit & Cream Pots

In her latest book “Foolproof Cooking”, published by BBC Books in 2016, Mary Berry brings us this “divine, delicious, delectable…” dessert – as described by her own words. I am her big fan, and I truly enjoy following recipes from her books, as well as watching her presenting them on tv.

This recipe is so simple, and the result is incredible. It has become an instant favourite of our home, and am sure will stay with us for long. Or more like forever. Smile.

It is a particularly great idea for a dinner party – the pots can be made ahead,  they do not demand any long preparations, truly easy to make and still able to impress your guests – especially when served in pretty glasses. A lovely touch of luxury.

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You need 600ml double cream, 100 g caster sugar, 6 passion fruit, juice of 1 lime.

Pour cream in a saucepan, add the sugar and stir on lower heat until it dissolves completely, then increase the heat and boil for about 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Scoop the pulp, seeds and juice of 5 passion fruit and place in the blender, then pour through sieve, add all the juice to the warm cream and stir well. Discard anything left in the sieve. You will notice how the cream starts to thicken after a while, it is such a fascinating process – I love watching it! The cream will thicken further as you add the lime juice.

Pour the cream into glasses – this amount of cream makes either 4 larger glasses (see images in this blog post) or 6 smaller pots, such as shot glasses.

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Place them in the fridge, where they will need up to 3 hours to set, but you can also make this in the evening and use them the next day.

Serve them topped with juice and pulp of the remaining passion fruit. They will give you lots of love. Wink.



Couscous With Butternut Squash

It has been a sort of a rule for us that Saturdays always called for a little simpler cooking, in order to give us less time spent in the kitchen and more time outdoors.

The Couscous & Butternut Squash is an ideal meal for that reason, it is so quick – and so nice!

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Peel and scrape the seeds out of the butternut squash ( I usually use half a plant for one meal), dice it into cubes (1x1cm approx), place on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with a bit of sea salt and smoked paprika. Cover with kitchen tin foil and roast in a preheated oven (200 ºC / 180 ºC fan ) for about 30 minute till soft.

Prepare couscous according to the packaging instructions, use a 100g couscous, with 150ml boiling hot liquid. I usually use vegetable stock with it. But you can always do with just hot water. I also add a knob of butter in the end and stir it lightly in, couscous tastes milder with it. This takes just a few minutes. Fluff your couscous with a fork, try not using spoons, it would stick the grains together, and that may make them look and feel mushy.

Heat up 2 tbsp olive oil in a deeper pan, then stir fry a small finely diced onion, three chopped sundried tomatoes and two small red and orange peppers till golden (I usually buy a package of these peppers, they’re very sweet and juicy, each of them just between 5 – 10 cm large, see the photo above).  Stir in couscous and gently fold in the squash cubes.

Serve warm, with freshly chopped mint leaves and add chopped roast pine nuts for an even better taste. We love it.

Broad Bean & Pea Soup

This really is one of my favourite soups, although, with how fond of soups I am in general, it is quite hard to say which one I like the most, or at least close to that. What I like about it a lot is the fact, that it can be prepared from both fresh veggies as well as frozen. Its mild comforting taste and beautiful vibrant colour  will capture you superquickly.

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In a large sauce pan melt 25 g butter ( I usually add a little splash of olive oil that helps to prevent the butter from burning),and sweat 1 finely chopped onion on it till soft.

Add the beans and peas, around 200g of each, altogether with about 50g chopped lean bacon ( you will need another 50g of bacon to dry fry on a pan, which will then be served as a garnish).

Pour in 1/2l vegetable stock, bring to boil and after that let simmer for about 15 mins, or until the beans and peas are tender. After that, remove the pan from the heat. Here you can either blend half the soup and return that to the pan, or as I did, keep only some of the beans and peas aside for the serving ( I do that because my young family still prefer smoother soups more).

Once the soup is back in the pan and on the heat, add 300ml milk ( you can use semi-skimmed or full milk). I also add a good dash of single cream, too, but the basic recipe doesn’t require that. Mix all well, bring near to a boiling point, but take from the heat shortly before that. Be careful, with the milk in, the soup level may rise quite fast in the sauce pan, it needs your constant attention. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to your liking.

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We love it served with fresh olive rolls, or any artisan freshly made bread will do. And, of course, don’t forget to garnish your soup with the crisp golden bacon! Wink.

I adapted this recipe from the original by G. Mulligan & D. Phillips, which was written for the book Homemade Soups, published for The Women’s Institute by Simon & Schuster UK Ltd, 2012.