Lattice-topped tart

Lattice-topped tartI made a batch of Vegetarian Mincemeat before Christmas, and although it will keep well enough to make more mince pies next year, it is a lovely, rich filling for a dessert tart.  

I didn’t want to make the mincemeat filling too deep – just enough to cover the base of the tart, so then I topped it with a couple of apples, quartered, cored and finely sliced.

Lattice-topped tart

I have inherited a little wooden pastry wheel (you can buy them incredibly cheaply, made from box wood), so rather than making a completely open tart, which tends to overcook the filling, I enjoyed making these wavy edged strips to create a lattice topping. Lighter than a pie, but rather elegant!

Lattice-topped tartYou may have a lattice tool that you can use, but otherwise, just cut strips with an ordinary knife.

Lattice-topped tartI like to roll my pastry out really thin, so there was enough left over to make a dozen mince pies as well! 

This was lovely served with some custard. Tomorrow I will serve it with either vanilla ice cream or Greek style yogurt.

Lattice-topped tartSeeing as we are doing a dry January, I don’t feel even remotely guilty about having a dessert like this – no more calories than a couple of glasses of wine, I’m sure – and all good home made food from organic ingredients.

Lattice-topped tart

I made the pastry from 250g of Bio Type 65 flour and 125g unsalted butter and a pinch of salt. My flan dish is 25mm diameter. I used a little more than one jar of mincemeat for the tart and the small pies. My mincemeat was based on a Delia Smith recipe. Ok, I’ll work out the calorie counts later!

Celery and Stilton Soup – and Easy Garlic Breadsticks

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We love a bit of Stilton cheese with a glass of port over Christmas, but now it is dry January and the remains of the cheese need using up. Of course, you can use another blue cheese or strongly flavoured cheese for this.

To go with this I have baked some Easy Garlic Breadsticks. Yes, breadsticks means breadsticks 😉 (if you didn’t see this epsiode of HIGNFY, go to about 19:50 and see Maureen Lipman doing a Mrs May..) It is rare for us to eat white bread, but this is such a great way of making croutons! A half sized, ready to bake baguette makes 6 sticks and they keep quite well wrapped in foil, or leftovers can be broken up for use as a croutons for soups or salads. I first made them during one of our photography courses, and they were a great hit (you’ll find them in my Focus on Flavour book). Conversation stoppers though, as you can’t hear anything over the crunch…  I like them with a Caesar salad too.

I’ve included some golden paste in the recipe – you really don’t notice the flavour of turmeric, but it adds a lovely golden colour. I like to include it as often as I can in cooking, especially if I haven’t had it in yogurt for breakfast.

A bowl of this soup (145 kcals)  with one or two breadsticks (91 each) makes a lovely lunch or can be part of a fast day meal.

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Golden tangle pie

Golden Tangle PieContinuing with my theme of using turmeric in more dishes and making delicious, healthy, well balanced meals…

When you are cutting back on starchy carbs, but not cutting them out altogether, a little filo pastry can provide a fantastic (and also quick and easy) topping for a pie. 

Here I have layered some softened leeks and mushrooms, followed by chopped cooked turkey, and pieces of cooked ham, topped with a creamy sauce with added golden paste. Then taking one sheet of filo per person, I cut each sheet into small squares and scrunched these up to cover the top of the dish. Sprayed or brushed very lightly with olive oil, then baked in a hot oven for about 20 – 25 minutes, until crisp and golden.

Tangle Pie

This would work equally well with fish or lentils, in fact there are probably hundreds of different possibilities! This is one of my favourite things to do with the Christmas leftovers – I put up a picture last year, but here is the recipe, complete with calorie counts.

Tangle Pie

My luxury version comes out at
Per serving:
490 kcals 25g Fat, 28g Carbs, 38g Protein
You could reduce this by 100 kcal per portion by using all semi-skim milk and swapping the cheese for a tsp of tamari soy sauce. So a delicious fast day main dish at only 390 kcals! Counts would be similar if you used about 100g of white fish or cooked lentils per person, instead of the meat. Calorie counts in brackets.

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I’ve got a lovely bunch of – Coconuts!

It’s coconut day! I am often tempted by a fresh coconut, especially if when I shake it, it has plenty of water inside. But then it sits in the fruit bowl, waiting… well today is the day!

Here is our coconut friend. 

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I start by making holes in and draining out the coconut water. This makes a fabulous electrolyte-balancing drink on a 5:2 fast day. In the UK you can buy coconut water ready prepared, probably made from green coconuts, which have a lot more liquid. But I can’t buy that here in France, so getting it from a coconut is the only way…. They have to be fresh though; if they have been sitting on the supermarket shelf for weeks, the liquid dries out and the flesh can go bad. So always give a coconut a good shake before buying it.

I put the coconut in a zipped plastic bag and smash it onto the concrete outside, until it is broken into several pieces. I was really lucky with this one, the shell broke off cleanly, leaving the flesh with it’s skin in a few big chunks. Rinse in cold water.

Then I take a few pieces (about 60g) and make slivers using a swivel potato peeler. These go on a baking sheet, to be toasted in the oven.

The remaining flesh is peeled – I find slicing it off with a small sharp knife the easiest way to do it. Then cut into chunks. A few chunks get set aside, just for the joy of eating some fresh coconut.  Put the rest into a blender along with about 250ml water and blend until the coconut is finely chopped and looking creamy, adding some more water if it seems a little dry. 

Turn out the flesh and liquid into a sieve lined with a piece of muslin, over a bowl. Add a little more water to the blender and whizz up to get the last bits of coconut, then add that to the sieve. Gather up the cloth and squeeze to get out as much liquid as possible.

Turn out the remaining coconut flesh and spread over a baking sheet.

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Heat the oven to 160c (fan) and toast the coconut flakes and flesh, turning occasionally until dry and lightly golden. The flakes will only take a few minutes, keep an eye on them. The flesh will take longer; just turn and spread out again a few times, until pale golden and almost dry.

Now you have coconut milk, coconut flakes and dry (dessicated) coconut, as well as a small glassful of coconut water. The dry coconut doesn’t have so much flavour, as so much of the fat has gone into the milk; but it is a great source of fibre and is a good addition to curry or dhal, or a great topping for a dessert.  I store it in a plastic box with a lid. You could grind it up to make coconut flour too. I haven’t tried that yet.

dscf6349I’m going to use the milk in a coconut and lime ice, which will be served topped with toasted coconut flakes. Yummy! The milk is not as creamy as the cans or packs you can buy, as they usually are thickened with guar gum; but the flavour is lovely. Instead of a sugar syrup I will use a few teaspoonfuls of Agave syrup, which will just take the edge off the sharpness without adding a lot of calories. 

How many calories in all these various coconut things is a bit of a puzzle. A typical coconut is 1405 calories. I weighed the flakes before and after and they work out to less than 8 calories per gram. Dessicated coconut is less than 7 cals per gram and I have ended up with about 100 grams of that. So by a process of elimination, I reckon the coconut milk is about 600calories. But hey, it’s not a fast day, so we don’t need to worry too much. Coconut is full of good things and is said to be a boost for our immune systems, helping to protect against viral and bacterial infections. With the number of people around that seem to have suffered from something or other these last few weeks, I think we will be glad of some extra support in that.

A midwinter treat, that reminds us of far off shores and sandy beaches, heat and sunshine. I should coco…. 😉