Cheat’s Tzatziki

There are a few items that I used to buy straight from the supermarket without questioning how they were made and what they contained, particularly sauces and dips.

In all honesty, I never really started cooking anything adventurous until my mid twenties, if I could buy an item in a bottle or jar, then I would, and it probably wasn’t until I moved to London and in with my partner that I became slightly more creative as I began to cook for two as opposed to just myself.

I think I initially discovered how simple Tzatziki was to make when the supermarket had ran out in advance of me entertaining a group of friends, rather than going without one of my favourite dips I decided to make it myself, and ever since that evening it’s now very rare that I purchase any pre-made sauces. One of the main benefits of this is that I find portion sizes of sauces and dips sold in supermarkets are often too large for the serving required; by making your own, you can make just the amount you need.

Now this recipe is entitled Cheat’s Tzatziki and that’s because I’ve replaced one of the core ingredients; yoghurt, with crème fraiche. The reason for this was purely that I had a half a tub of crème fraiche to use up, and in keeping with my mantra of food waste, I’m never afraid to experiment and substitute key ingredients when I have an item to use up.

Crème Fraiche generally has a runnier consistency and a more sour taste than yoghurt which will be the main taste difference you’ll find if you do choose to substitute yoghurt with it. If you prefer to stick with tradition and use yoghurt, than the recipe below remains the same.

INGREDIENTS

  • 150 ml Crème Fraiche
  • 1/2 cucumber
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 2 x garlic cloves crushed
  • Fresh pepper

METHOD

Mix together the crème fraiche and lemon juice

 Peel the cucumber and grate

Squeeze the excess water out of the grated cucumber (I just use my hands, but I believe the professional way to do this is by wrapping in a clean tea towel and squeezing)

Mix the grated cucumber and crushed garlic into the crème fraiche and lemon mix

Season to taste

And that’s how to make a super simple cheat’s tzatziki, delicious as a dip for nibbles or crudités or a delicious condiment with Greek dishes such as Pork Gyros.

 

Chicken, Apricot & Almond Pie

The main ingredient that I was trying to use up this week was a packet of Filo pastry that had been in my freezer just a bit too long, after struggling to fold some rather flaky and dry sheets of Filo into a parcel shape, in my Wild Mushroom Parcel Recipe, I didn’t really want to attempt to make some planned chicken parcels.

I was at a loss of what to do with the remaining pastry but as I already had the chicken & apricot filling planned I thought that instead of making a parcel I would create a pie by topping the dish with crushed up filo pastry.

I had some dried apricots left over from a recent baking attempt and I know that apricot and chicken can work quite well together, hence the inspiration for the recipe that follows:

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 x tbsp. Olive Oil
  • 2 x Chicken Breasts diced
  • 1 x Onion finely chopped
  • 1 x Garlic Clove crushed
  • 3 x Dried Apricots finely chopped
  • 200ml Crème Fraiche/Cream
  • 200ml Chicken Stock
  • Dash White Wine (Optional)
  • 2 x Sheets Filo Pastry
  • Small handful of Flaked Almonds (Optional)

METHOD

Preheat oven to 180c (Fan)

Heat 1 tbsp.  Olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat

Add onion and garlic and cook for 3 minutes

Add chicken and cook for a further 5 minutes until browned

Add chopped apricots and cook for a further minute

Add dash of white wine if using (a dash of water or stock will do just fine if not, I used a couple of white wine ice cubes that I’d made previously from the remnants of a bottle of wine) and scrape the bottom of the pan to incorporate all the lovely flavours

Add stock and simmer until the liquid has reduced by half.

Finally add the cream, stir and season well. Continue to cook on the hob for 5-10 minutes, until sauce has thickened slightly

Meanwhile flake the two sheets of filo pastry, I did this by putting the sheets into a plastic freezer back and crushing with my hands

Remove the mixture from the heat and fill a greased pie-dish, top with the flaked filo pastry and for a bit of extra crunch sprinkle over a few flaked almonds

20140323-185222.jpg Sprinkle with milk or egg to ensure that the topping will turn a nice golden brown (I used a pastry brush and flicked it over the pie, you’ll find you’ll be unable to brush it as the flakes of pastry will stick to the brush)

Bake in oven for 15-20 minutes or until the topping of pie turns golden brown.

TIPS

Fresh Apricots would work well (if not better) I’d recommend just reducing the number as my pie was quite sweet.

The measurements of stock and cream are estimates, as a general rule, ensure all of the ingredients are just covered by the liquid.

If you add too much liquid, corn flour is a great way to thicken up a sauce.

If you don’t want to make a pie and are better at working with filo pastry than I am, you could make small individual parcels.

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Wild Mushroom Parcels

One of the ingredients I had to use up in this weeks batch cooking attempt was a packet of Filo pastry that had been festering in my freezer for a bit too long.

I generally find Filo pastry really difficult to work with and I also find that it doesn’t freeze very well despite the packet recommending that it’s perfectly fine to keep frozen for up to a month.

Searching through my cupboards and freezer I discovered that had some leftover dried porcini mushrooms, dried apricots, some chicken breasts and some flaked almonds. From these ingredients I decided two dishes that I could cook up were some Wild Mushroom Parcels and a Chicken, Apricot & Almond Pie (recipe to follow).

The only additional ingredients that I needed to buy to enable me to create both of these dishes were some cream (or I used Crème Fraiche), a packet of button mushrooms and an onion. And here is how I created the Filo Mushroom Parcels.

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 x Sheets Filo Pastry
  • 6 x Porcini Mushrooms (Soaked and Chopped)
  • 300g Button Mushrooms (Washed & Sliced)
  • 1 x Onion (Finely Chopped)
  • 200ml Crème Fraiche or Cream
  • 2 x Garlic Cloves (Crushed)
  • Dash of Stock or White wine (optional)
  • Knob of Butter
  • Parsley (Dried or Fresh)

METHOD

Soak Porcini mushrooms according to the packet instructions (save water for later).

Preheat oven to 180c

Heat butter over a medium heat in a saucepan; once melted, add the chopped onion and garlic and cook for 5 minutes or until the onions soften and become translucent.

Add in chopped button and Porcini mushrooms and continue to cook for a further five minutes.

Once mushrooms have started to soften, add in a dash of stock or white wine (I used frozen wine ice cubes that I’d made from left-over wine) and continue to cook the mushrooms over a low heat until the stock has reduced by half.

Add in 200ml cream (or Crème Fraiche) and some parsley, cook the mushroom mixture for a further 10-15 minutes, until the sauce has thickened and become a rich brown colour. For additional richness you can add in some of the water used to soak the Porcini mushrooms.

Season to taste before removing the mixture from heat and allowing to cool slightly.

Fold the Filo pastry into a triangular shape and place 2-3 tbsps (depending how big you want your parcels to be) of the mushroom mixture in the centre of the pastry.

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Fold the corners of the triangle into the centre to create a parcel and brush with milk or egg to seal.

Place the parcels in the pre-heated oven and cook for 15-20 mins until golden brown.

TIPS

You don’t have to use Porcini mushrooms if not available, normal mushrooms will do just fine.

Why not add some chilli flakes or bacon for additional flavour.

If you don’t have Filo pastry, the filling would also taste great with puff pastry or topped on a bruschetta with a sprinkle of Parmesan for some cheesy goodness.

The cooked parcels can be frozen and reheated at a later date.

As mentioned at the beginning of my post, I find Filo pastry incredibly difficult to work with and probably will refrain from buying it in future and I’ll definitely avoid freezing it.  Due to the crumbliness of the pastry I struggled to actually form a parcel so the finished product looked a bit misshapen. I certainly wouldn’t win any points on Masterchef for presentation, but the parcels tasted great and I managed to get rid of a couple of ingredients that had been lurking in my cupboards/freezer for a bit too long.

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