Bedfordshire Clangers w/ Variations

July is such a wonderful month. The weather’s warm, there’s still plenty of summer left, and the produce is literally amazing.

Midsummer means the farmer’s markets are brimming with great fruit & veggies. With such a colorful bounty of goods, we can settle into our summer cooking routines with tasty meals hot or cold.

But, even in summer, we sometimes crave ‘comfort food’ such as a ‘hand pie’. The humble hand pie goes by many different names: call it a pasty, a turnover, an empanada, or a ‘Bedfordshire clanger’….

A Bedfordshire Clanger dates back to at least the 19th century. It was typically made for agricultural workers to take with them to work as their lunch. The original pastry was made from suet and cooked by a boiling method. There is a theory that the pastry crust was not originally intended for consumption but as a vessel in which to protect the filling from the soiled hands of the workers.

The clanger originated from the county of Bedfordshire, a small, low-lying and predominantly agricultural county nestled in the east of England and adjacent counties, including Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire. 

The name is as intriguing as the food itself. The word clanger, it had been suggested, referred to the mistake of mixing sweet and savory fillings. But a more likely explanation was that in nearby Northamptonshire dialect, ‘clang’ means to eat voraciously.

Knowing their husbands would need lots of protein and carbohydrate sustenance, homemakers came up with the brilliant idea of a doubled, loaf-shaped pie. One end contained a savory filling that used the famed pork of the area while the other end was filled with stewed apples (made from local apples) as dessert. So, the two fillings didn’t combine, there was a ‘pastry wall’ in between blocking any flavors from mixing. A ‘secret code’ denoted which end was meat, and which was dessert: two knife slits on one end of the pastry top means meat, three small holes on the other shows the sweet. This was brilliant, an entire meal for the field workers – handheld, portable and delicious.

The version we have today is not its beginnings but its evolution. Once you’ve nailed this basic Bedfordshire clanger recipe you can experiment with all sorts of flavor combos, there’s really no limit to what you can combine in this savory/sweet pastry.

Since Brion takes lunch to work, I became intrigued with the idea and decided to get creative with the fillings. That way I could make a variety and freeze them and use as needed. These tasty little ‘clangers’ can be served as the main course for a warm-weather picnic or for a hand-held, backyard meal with the addition of a nice fresh salad at home.

Print Recipe
Bedfordshire Clangers w/ Variations
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
Servings
Ingredients
Chicken w/ Caramelized Onions
Raspberry / Nectarine Filling
Blueberry Filling
Apple / Apricot Filling
Plum / Rhubarb Filling
Rhubarb / Apple Filling
Servings
Ingredients
Chicken w/ Caramelized Onions
Raspberry / Nectarine Filling
Blueberry Filling
Apple / Apricot Filling
Plum / Rhubarb Filling
Rhubarb / Apple Filling
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
Instructions
Pastry
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sage & salt. Sprinkle the butter cubes over the flour mixture & use your fingers to work them in. Alternately you could use a pastry cutter to do this.
  2. When the mixture resembles cornmeal with pea-sized bits of butter remaining, stir in cheese with a fork until evenly distributed. Sprinkle 6 Tbsp ice water over mixture & stir with a fork until dough begins to come together. If needed, add an additional Tbsp or two of ice water.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface & knead for about three times. Gather the dough into a disk & wrap in plastic wrap. refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or overnight.
Pork Filling
  1. Bake potato in microwave, peel & cut into small cubes. Set aside.
  2. Heat oil in a skillet & sauté celery, onion, garlic & bacon together on medium heat until veggies are soft & bacon is cooked. Add ground pork, breaking it up well. Stir in dried herbs & spices. Cover & simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat & stir in cooked potato & cheese. Set aside to cool.
Spiced Meat Combo
  1. In a saucepan, sauté onion & garlic. Add ground meat, basil, thyme, cardamom & salt & pepper. Scramble fry until cooked, remove from heat & add parmesan & potato. Place in a dish.
  2. In the saucepan, melt butter; add flour to make a roux. Cook, stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes. Slowly add beef broth, stirring until sauce thickens. Season to taste. Add to ground meat mixture & combine to form filling. Set aside until ready to use.
Turkey Filling
  1. In a skillet, cook bacon until just crisp, then remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain; chop when cooled. Remove all but 1 Tbsp of the bacon drippings from skillet.
  2. Add butter to the skillet, sauté onions, garlic & mushrooms with herbs & spices, scraping up any brown bits, until the onions have softened & mushrooms have lost most of their size & moisture. Stir in the bacon & shredded cooked turkey, taste for seasoning. Cook for another minute or two, then remove from heat & set aside.
  3. In a saucepan, combine Boursin, milk & spices (if using). Stir until Boursin has melted. Remove from heat. Add to turkey/veg mixture.
Chicken w/ Caramelized Onions
  1. Heat butter over medium low heat in a heavy ovenproof skillet. Add the onions cook for 20 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. When the onions are a deep golden color, remove them from the pan and set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  3. Combine the flour, salt, chili powder, thyme, allspice, & black pepper. Dredge each piece of chicken in the flour mixture, shaking off the excess. In the same pan as the onions, heat the oil over medium high heat. Add each piece of chicken & fry for a few minutes until golden brown; flip & cook for a few more minutes. Transfer to a plate (it will not be fully cooked at this point, just browned – it will finish cooking in the oven).
  4. Turn the heat down & let the oil cool off a little bit. Make a roux with excess oil in skillet & dredging flour. Add chicken broth & cook until a sauce forms. Add the onions & chicken to the pan. Bake for about 20 minutes longer. When chicken/onion mixture is cooked, remove from oven. Allow to cool until ready to use.
Raspberry/Rhubarb Filling
  1. In a small saucepan, whisk together sugar, cornstarch, cardamom & salt. Add water & stir then add chopped nectarines. Simmer until nectarine is slightly soft & liquid is thickened. Remove from heat & carefully fold in raspberries. Set aside to cool.
Blueberry Filling
  1. In a small saucepan, combine all ingredients except blueberries. Cook until sauce starts to thicken then gently fold in blueberries & cook a couple of minutes more. Remove from heat & set aside to cool.
Apple/Apricot Filling
  1. Peel & dice apples. Drain canned apricot juice into a small saucepan. Add sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon & salt & combine. Add apples & cook until apples are tender. Cut canned apricot halves into quarters. When apples are cooked & sauce has thickened, remove from heat & add apricots. Gently combine & set aside to cool.
Plum/Rhubarb Filling
  1. In a small saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch, salt & lemon zest. Add rhubarb & plums. Gently stir over a low heat. When enough juice has formed, allow to simmer until rhubarb is soft & juice has thickened. Remove from heat. Set aside to cool.
Sour Cherry Filling
  1. In a small saucepan, place sugar, cornstarch & salt. Add juice/water mixture & stir to thoroughly combine. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Simmer until thickened, about 2 minutes. Immediately remove from heat. Gradually fold in cherries. Set aside to cool.
Rhubarb/Apple Filling
  1. In a small saucepan, add the rhubarb, apples, salt & sugar. Add a drizzle of water if necessary & heat on medium. The rhubarb will begin to release liquid & break down as the apples soften. Heat the mixture until the moisture has evaporated & begins to thicken. Once the mixture is thickened, add the lemon juice, lemon zest and cinnamon. Place it in a bowl & allow to cool.
Apple/Pear Filling
  1. Heat butter in a small skillet until melted, add apples & pears & cook until fruit begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle sugar over mixture & continue to cook stirring often until fruit begins to lose its juices. Mix together cornstarch & lemon juice & add to pan. Simmer until mixture has thickened, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat & allow to cool.
Assembly/Baking
  1. Divide pastry into 5 equal pieces. On a lightly floured surface (or dry wax paper) roll out each piece of pastry into 14 x 7 1/2-inches. The excess trimmed from the sides will be used for little pastry ‘walls’ dividing the sweet & savory fillings. Roll excess pastry into a 3-inch length.
  2. Cut each piece of pastry in half horizontally so you have (2) 7-inch long pieces from each piece of pastry. From the top of each piece, LIGHTLY make a line across your pastry 4-inches from the outside edge. This will help to place your fillings properly.
  3. On the 3-inch wide section, place savory filling to cover 2/3 of the area. Place one of the rolled strips after that then place sweet filling on the remaining 1/3 to complete the 'clanger'. The little rolled piece of pastry divides the savory & sweet filling.
  4. On the sweet side make 3 holes for vents & on the savory side make 2 slashes. This is the 'code' to let the person eating the clanger which was savory or sweet.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  6. Brush the edges of each pastry with egg wash. Lift the pastry from the opposite side over the fillings & seal the edges with a fork.
  7. Brush clangers with remaining egg wash & bake for about 30-35 minutes or until golden.
Recipe Notes
  • Due to the length of this recipe, I found making the savory & fruit fillings on one day & the pastry, assembling & baking the next, worked out well for me. Although these pastries are VERY time consuming, believe me, the are well worth it in the end, especially if your freezing some to use later. I baked them all & then wrapped them well before freezing.
  • You will probably find there will be enough savory & sweet fillings left over to make about 10 more clangers.
  • All of them will freeze well which will be a time saver for your next batch. Just make a recipe of pastry & your ready to assemble & bake.
  • If your not interested in freezing the 'leftovers', the fruit combined will make a wonderful crisp & the savory fillings can be used in quiche or casseroles.

Baked Scallops w/ Ritz Cracker Topping

The foods that stay always stocked, the staples of anyone’s pantry, hold the secret to understanding what makes each individual household special in its own way.

One of the most telling is where someone keeps their Ritz crackers: stocked as the go-to snack for the family, among the chocolate chips as a home baker’s secret to pie, or with the tinned fish, destined to be the base of canapés for a party. Keeping a box of Ritz crackers on the shelves means always having a welcoming taste on hand— easy access to a versatile staple that goes with anything and requires no effort to prepare.

Ritz Crackers are a universal favorite. They’ve been a comforting fixture in grocery stores for over 80 years. Simply put, these scalloped golden discs have an ideal level of saltiness. They’re tender, but not to the point of crumbling as soon as you take a bite. They’re toasty, buttery, and seasoned throughout (instead of just on the top) but not in a way that would overpower whatever toppings or dips you’d enjoy with them.

Cracker breading is the perfect complement for fish, seafood, chicken or a vegetable casserole, mashed potatoes and of course, macaroni and cheese.

The combination of flavors in this simple casserole make it such a classic — just scallops, lemon, butter, vermouth, and Ritz crackers. Taking a bite of baked scallops with Ritz crackers is like going back in time, an old-school pleasure. It’s purely delicious, and incredibly easy to make.

Print Recipe
Baked Scallops w/ Ritz Cracker Topping
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
Servings
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325 F. Place rack on the second to top position.
  2. Wash scallops & pat dry. Remove the side muscle if still attached.
  3. Arrange scallops in a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. In a small bowl, stir together the cracker crumbs, garlic salt & pepper. Sprinkle the scallops evenly with the cracker crumb mixture, then Parmesan. Pour the butter over all, then sprinkle evenly with the lemon juice & vermouth. Cover the dish with foil & bake for 20 minutes, then remove foil & bake an additional 10 minutes.
  4. Turn the heat up to 'broil' & with the oven door ajar, brown the top for an additional 2 or 3 minutes.
  5. Serve hot, garnished with a slice of lemon & fresh chopped chives or parsley.

Artichoke & Garlic Chicken Rissoles

Rissole is an interesting group of dishes with an intriguing history. The original French rissoles were prepared by enclosing the main ingredients in pastry dough and frying them, but over time the original recipe has evolved and changed.

Many nations have created their own version of the rissole. This food is commonly on offer in street stalls as a casual snack food, or in fast-food restaurants. Some fancy restaurants also serve rissole dishes, although they may use fancier ingredients and dress things up with complex sauces to make their rissoles more interesting. Today, rissoles can be found in numerous European countries, but also in Australia, New Zealand, and even Indonesia and Brazil.

Some cooks refrain from using any sort of coating for a rissole, preferring to make a blend of meat, potatoes, eggs, and breadcrumbs which can be molded into a firm patty. Ingredients such as onions may be added to rissoles as well, along with various spices, especially in nations with a culinary tradition of heavily spiced food. They can be made with ground or cut meat, seafood, or vegetables, and the sweet varieties are usually made with fruit. Most of them, including both sweet and savory rissoles, are usually served with a sauce on the side. Primarily, rissoles were deep-fried, but today the name also encompasses the varieties that are baked in an oven or fried in shallow oil.

Today, I’m making artichoke & garlic chicken rissoles. The sauce gives the rissoles a nice punch of flavor and pairs so well with creamy mashed potatoes & roasted green beans.

Print Recipe
Artichoke & Garlic Chicken Rissoles
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
Servings
Ingredients
Artichoke & Garlic Sauce
Chicken Rissoles
Servings
Ingredients
Artichoke & Garlic Sauce
Chicken Rissoles
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
Instructions
Sauce
  1. Place all ingredients except oil in a food processor. With motor running, add olive oil in a slow stream to make an emulsion. Continue processing while adding the cream to make a fairly smooth consistency. Remove from food processor & set aside.
Chicken Rissoles
  1. Place chicken, panko crumbs, salt, egg, garlic & soup mix in a bowl. Combine well. Divide into 6 portions. Form each portion into a patty shape.
  2. Heat oil in a large saucepan, Cook rissoles for 2-3 minutes. Turn & cook for a further 1-2 minutes or until golden. Transfer to a plate a wipe out saucepan.
  3. Return rissoles back in saucepan & add sauce. Simmer for 10 minutes until rissoles are cooked through. Nice to serve with creamy mashed potatoes & roasted green beans.

Shrimp Pizza w/ Artichoke & Garlic Sauce

It’s hard to get bored of pizza, but sometimes you want to change things up a bit. In addition to trying new toppings and cheeses, consider using an alternative to tomato sauce on pizza.

Pizza night is a cherished tradition in many households, but sometimes, it’s good to break away from the routine and experiment with new flavors. One of the easiest ways to do this is by trying out different alternative pizza sauces.

The other day Brion & I were in a Winners/Homesense store. Of course, my favorite spot is always the area where they have all the cookware and specialty food items. I saw bottled sauce made with artichokes and garlic. Immediately my thoughts were as to how I could use it. It was quite pricey, so I opted to try and make a copycat version at home.

While tomato sauce has long been associated with traditional pizza, there is a whole new world of flavors waiting to be discovered by breaking from tradition. Tradition of course has its place—there’s a reason classic tomato-topped pizza has been a staple for generations. But there is more to pizza sauce than regular tomato. There are exciting flavors, interesting textures, sweet things, spicy things, cheesy things, even exotic things!

Here are some ideas for making pizza without tomato sauce:

  • White pizza – Make a white sauce with olive oil, garlic, parsley, and a dash of salt and pepper. Spread it on the pizza dough instead of tomato sauce. Top with cheeses like mozzarella, ricotta, or feta, and veggies.
  • Pesto pizza – Spread pesto sauce on the dough instead of tomato sauce. Top with veggies and cheeses.
  • BBQ chicken pizza – Use BBQ sauce as the base instead of tomato sauce. Top with chicken, red onion, cheddar cheese, etc.
  • Mediterranean pizza – Make a tahini sauce base. Top with artichoke hearts, kalamata olives, feta, red onion, etc.
  • Breakfast pizza – Scramble eggs with veggies and meats. Spread it on the dough. Sprinkle with cheeses.
  • Buffalo chicken pizza – Spread buffalo wing sauce on the dough. Top with chicken, blue cheese, mozzarella, celery, onion.
  • Thai pizza – Make a spicy peanut sauce base. Top with chicken, carrot, onion, cilantro, mozzarella.
  • Carbonara pizza – Spread an alfredo sauce base. Top with bacon, onion, Parmesan, egg, parsley.

The best thing about pizza is that there are endless ways to enjoy it. So here you have it … shrimp pizza with artichoke & garlic sauce. Yum!

Print Recipe
Shrimp Pizza w/ Artichoke & Garlic Sauce
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
Servings
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
Instructions
Sauce
  1. Place all ingredients except oil in food processor. With motor running, Add olive oil in a slow stream to make an emulsion. Place in a dish & set aside.
Pizza Toppings
  1. Fry bacon until done but not crisp. Drain on a paper towel then chop into bite-sized pieces. In the same skillet, sauté shrimp until just cooked & remove it from skillet.
  2. Sauté sliced mushrooms & sliced onions until just cooked.
  3. Slice cherry tomatoes in halves & prepare fresh herbs.
  4. Shred mozzarella cheese.
Assembly
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Spread each naan bread with artichoke & garlic sauce.
  3. Top pizzas with onions, mushrooms, shrimp & bacon. Sprinkle shredded cheese over all then dot with halved cherry tomatoes & herbs.
  4. Bake 10-15 minutes or until cheese is bubbly & tomatoes are roasted. Serve.
Recipe Notes
  • You will no doubt have extra artichoke & garlic sauce. Store it in an air-tight container for up to one week. Enjoy it on toasted bread or swirl into cooked pasta.

Onion Scones

You might imagine scones as a food that is only served with jam and cream, but there are many variations on this classic tea cake. This flaky treat can also come in a savory scone version with add-ins like cheese and chopped bacon or sun-dried tomato & basil etc.  A scone is closer to a pastry than it is to bread mainly because it doesn’t include any yeast and has almost identical ingredients to a short crust with different fat to flour ratios.

So why not onion scones?? Because onions really form the foundation of our cooking, they are often the first thing that goes in the pan, and they are the flavor base for everything from chicken soup to a quick skillet pasta. Cooked onions give dishes a rich savory flavor and a subtle sweetness — you don’t always know onions are there once the dish has been spiced and sauced, but you’d definitely miss them if they weren’t.

Scone ingredients prefer to be cold. All your starting components need to be kept as cool as possible – this will help to guarantee the soft, light and well-risen qualities of your next batch of scones.

North American or British scones – what’s the difference? British scones are served with butter/cream whereas North American scones or ‘biscuits’ are far butterier and are typically served alongside meat and veg style savory dishes.

These onion scones make such a nice addition to a beef stew meal.

Print Recipe
Onion Scones
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
Course Main Dish
Keyword onion scones
Servings
Course Main Dish
Keyword onion scones
Servings
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. In a microwave-safe bowl, combine the yellow onion, green onions, garlic & butter. Microwave on high for 2 minutes, then stir. Microwave for another 1-2 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Remove bowl from microwave & let the vegetables cool for 10 minutes.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the flour, cheese, sugar, baking powder, pepper & salt.
  4. Add the sautéed onion mixture to the flour mixture along with the light cream & egg. Stir JUST until combined.
  5. Gently press the dough together with your hands to form a ball.
  6. On an ungreased baking sheet, press the dough into an 8-inch circle. Cut the circle into 8 wedges. Separate the wedges slightly.
  7. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until scones are lightly browned. Brush with more melted butter & serve immediately.

Creamy Orzo w/ Bay Scallops, Broccoli & Parmesan

Oblong and common in Mediterranean cooking, orzo has a look of rice and the texture of pasta. While orzo’s origins lie in Italy, it is now a staple in cooking across Europe, especially Greece, and the Middle East. Its use in North America can be traced to the mid-20th century or even earlier. It seems there are recipes that date back to the early 1950s like orzo pasta salad, orzo stuffed tomatoes and Betty Crocker’s Chicken Orzo Soup.

The pasta itself is made from durum semolina wheat… a particularly hard variety of wheat. It holds up perfectly during the cooking process and has a very pleasant clear flavor and chewy ‘mouthfeel’. The name is somewhat misleading though as orzo actually means barley in Italian, but there is no barley in it. Instead, the pasta derives its name from its shape, which closely resembles the grain.

Orzo has been around a long time… and stands on its own as a versatile and tasty pasta in a supporting role as a side dish, or as the star in a main dish. Because of its size, and ability to absorb flavors very well, orzo can be combined with other ingredients and become a perfect filler for things like stuffed peppers and squash.

Orzo pasta also comes colored, and flavored with vegetables. Spinach is common, but it can also be mixed with beets, carrots and other vegetables. Rainbow orzo pasta combines several different vegetables to create a highly colorful take on this wonderful, and versatile pasta.

Today, I’m pairing it with bay scallops and broccoli in a nice cheesy parmesan sauce. Yum!

Print Recipe
Creamy Orzo w/ Bay Scallops, Broccoli & Parmesan
Instructions
  1. Rinse scallops & pat dry. Set aside.
  2. Melt 1 Tbsp of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion & sauté until soft, about 4 - 5 minutes. Remove the onions to a plate. Set aside.
  3. Add 2 Tbsp of the butter to the skillet & melt over medium heat. Add the prepared scallops & sauté for 4 - 5 minutes. Place scallops on a heated platter & cover with foil.
  4. Fill a large sauce pan of water with 4-6 quarts of water & bring to a boil. Add the orzo & stir.
  5. After the orzo has been boiling for 5 minutes, add the broccoli florets to the same pot and continue to cook for 5 additional minutes. Once the orzo & broccoli are cooked and tender, drain well and pour into a large mixing bowl.
  6. Quickly add the parmesan cheese & the final 2 Tbsp of butter to the orzo & broccoli mixture. Stir thoroughly, allowing both the cheese & butter to melt. Slowly add the cream, while stirring. Next, add the sautéed onions, scallops. Mix well. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with parsley if you wish. Serve immediately

Greek Spanakopita Pasta

January is kind of a different month — all the holiday hoopla is done for another year, in our part of the country its fairly cold, bringing on the winter ‘blaas’. I have numerous friends that say they find themselves feeling a bit ‘down’ at this time. That being said, It seemed the perfect time to be a ‘mental traveler’. I’d like to share an experience Brion & I had which was totally amazing in 2010.

Your day begins in central Greece. A misty fog blankets the Kalambaka Valley as the tour takes you to your morning destination.

Here, in the shadow of the Pindus Mountains and just beyond the town of Kalambaka, massive gray colored pinnacles rise out of the valley towards the sky. Over thousands of years, this landscape has been sculpted by wind and water into a strange and breathtaking sight. Perched miraculously on the tops of these pinnacles are monasteries. The area is called METEORA   and literally means ‘columns in the sky’.

The sandstone peaks were first inhabited by Byzantine hermits in the 11th century, who clamored up the rocks to be alone with God. Though it is unknown how the first hermits reached the tops of these vertical rock faces, it is likely that pegs were hammered into tiny gaps in the rocks. Around 1382 the first monastery was built. By the 1500’s, 24 monasteries were built on these sheer cliffs, but by the 19th century most had fallen to ruin.

Because there were no steps, the main access to the monasteries was by means of a net that was hitched over a hook and hoisted up by rope and a hand cranked windlass to winch towers over hanging the chasm. Monks descended in nets or on a retractable rope ladders up to 40 meters long to the fertile valley below to grow grapes, corn and potatoes.

The natural rock buildings blend so evenly with the scenery, they are hard to spot at first. Only the red tile roofs give them away. Centuries of weather have caused natural streaking of the rock which acts as a camouflage. In the 1920’s, roads, pathways and stairs were built to make today’s remaining six monasteries more accessible as they are now largely dependent on tourist donations.

Inside the walls of these monasteries, life goes on as it has for more than 900 years. Wine is still made in giant oak vats where the monks climb in with bare feet to crush grapes. Most of the carpentry and masonry tools are hand made in the same style as their ancestors. Terracotta pots/bowls are fired by hand pumped bellows on a furnace. Traditional icons are painted using hand ground pigments bonded with egg yolk to make tempera paint that was common in the Middle Ages.

Among the existing monasteries is a convent called Saint Stephen’s that was built in 1798. The occupying nuns are courteous and friendly, but no visitor gets past them with bare shoulders or knees. Novices holding piles of blue aprons and capes meet the visitors at the gate. Anyone not meeting the exacting dress code must don the local sackcloth or be turned away.

To experience this rare geographical phenomenon is something you will not forget easily. If you have the opportunity, be sure to take it. In the meantime, I hope you have enjoyed this mental journey I have taken you on. Check out a few more pictures I’ve added in the recipe section of the blog.

Now, in keeping with the food part of the blog, I made a savory  GREEK SPANAKOPITA PASTA  meal. Easy, quick and tasty.

Print Recipe
Greek Spanakopita Pasta
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Greek
Servings
SERVINGS
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Greek
Servings
SERVINGS
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
Instructions
Pasta
  1. Cook pasta in salted boiling water 8-10 minutes, until al dente. Drain & set aside.
Cheese Sauce
  1. In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, heat the milk until hot but not boiling. Combine flour & butter in another saucepan. Whisk until the mixture has gently bubbled for 2 minutes, being careful not to brown the flour.
  2. Begin to add the hot milk to the flour mixture a little at a time while whisking vigorously. Continue to add the milk until it is fully incorporated. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat to low; simmer, stirring constantly, until it thickens, 6-8 minutes ( it will resemble heavy cream). Crumble the feta cheese & add to hot sauce, whisking until smooth. Add dill & pepper; stir. Remove from heat & let cool.
  3. Preheat oven to 375 F. Squeeze water from frozen, thawed spinach. Toss the pasta, cheese sauce, spinach, ricotta & garlic in a large bowl until well combined. Taste to see if any more salt & pepper is needed.
  4. Place in a casserole dish & top with Parmesan Cheese. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until cheese browns a little.
Recipe Notes
  • If you prefer to make this a day ahead of baking, cover well & refrigerate.
  • If you do not care for feta cheese you can substitute 285 grams of either Gorgonzola or mozzarella in place of the 140 grams of feta.

Shrimp & Chicken Sausage Pasta Shells

With Christmas right around the corner, pasta meals are an easy quick fix on those busy days leading up to the big day. Stuffed Shells are truly the perfect meal to make ahead of time since you can prepare everything but hold off on baking them until you’re ready to eat.

Stuffed shells are a tasty dish that is usually made with ricotta cheese or other types of cheese inside the pasta shells. Tomato sauce is another common ingredient in the dish. However, there are so many ways to jazz it up and one might be surprised just how many unique ingredients one can put into a shell.

I have always loved stuffed pasta shells and over the years I have stuffed them in every way I could imagine. There are endless variations such as using different cheeses and herbs or making some homemade marinara or sun-dried tomato sauce.

There’s a reason surf and turf is often one of the most desired items on a restaurant menu — it’s because meat and fish are the perfect complement to each other! The light flavor of fish and shellfish is a great addition to the richer, heartier flavor of meat.

Today, I’m combining some shrimp and chicken sausage in my filling and topping it with a nice smoky sun-dried tomato parmesan sauce. Should be good!

Print Recipe
Shrimp & Chicken Sausage Pasta Shells
Instructions
Pasta / Filling
  1. Cook pasta shells in a pot of salted boiling water for about 10-12 minutes. Drain well & lay on a wire rack to keep them from sticking together until ready to fill.
  2. In a large skillet, heat 1 Tbsp oil over medium heat. Add onion & mushrooms; sauté until tender & moisture has evaporated from mushrooms. Add chicken sausage & minced garlic. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add wine & cook until sausage is no longer pink about 4-5 minutes more. Drain well & transfer to a large bowl.
  3. Peel & devein shrimp; chop into 1/2-inch pieces. In a small bowl, whisk together broth & flour. Set aside.
  4. In the same skillet, heat remaining 1 Tbsp oil over medium heat. Add shrimp; cook, stirring constantly, until shrimp begins to turn pink. Stir in flour mixture. Add cream, Old Bay seasoning, garlic powder & Italian seasoning; stir until thickened. Remove from heat & stir in sausage mixture. Set aside until ready to use.
Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce
  1. In a skillet, heat oil. Add onion & cook for 2 minutes until it starts to soften. Add garlic, oregano, thyme, paprika & sun-dried tomatoes. Cook for 2 minutes while stirring. Add vegetable broth; bring to a boil & simmer for 5 minutes.
  2. Stir in cream & parmesan cheese into the sauce. Remove from heat & cool for a few minutes. Pour sauce into food processor & process to a fairly smooth consistency. It will not be completely smooth but that is fine.
Assembly / Baking
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Spread half of the sauce over the bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking dish. Divide filling between cooked shells. Lay in rows over sauce. Pour remaining sauce over top carefully covering all the shells.
  3. Loosely lay a piece of foil paper over baking dish and bake for 45 minutes or until bubbling nicely.

Chicken, Veal & Shrimp Pastetli (Vol-Au-Vent)

Pastetli were invented in the early 1800s in Antonin Carême’s pastry store in Paris, France where they’re called vol-au-vent, French for ‘windblown’ to describe its lightness. While they’re served as an appetizer in France, they’re eaten as a main meal not only in Switzerland but also in Belgium and the Netherlands. It is also from the Netherlands where the Swiss name Pastetli origins from. The Dutch call them pasteitje (little pastry). From there it came to the German Pastete. Just to add a little complication though, a Pastete in Switzerland is rectangle cake shaped puff pastry pie filled with sausage meat, mushrooms in a creamy sauce.

A vol-au-vent is a light puff pastry shell that resembles a bowl with a lid. The shell is generally filled with a creamy sauce (most often a velouté sauce) containing vegetables, chicken, meat or fish. The lid is placed on the filled shell and the pastry is then served as an appetizer, also known as bouchée à la Reine, or as the main course of a meal. When prepared, the pastry dough is flattened and cut into two circles. A smaller circle is cut out of the center of one of the circles, which then will be used as the lid. The circle without the center cut and the circle with the center cut are then joined together around the edges so as the pastry bakes, it rises into a shell with a hole in the top. The lid, which is baked separately, is added later. The pastry shell may be made the size of an individual serving, or it can be made in several different sizes to become a main serving for one or a larger size to be served for more than one.

Vol-au-vents rose to prominence in Paris in the 19th century. In post-war Britain, they were a mainstay of any self-respecting buffet, served to suitably impressed guests alongside welcome drinks at dinner parties. By the 1990s, they had become unfashionable and remained so for decades. Updated vol-au-vents started reappearing in chic restaurants a year or two before the covid pandemic (2020) erupted and have become the retro appetizer or main course to have.

You can even adapt them to make some elegant desserts. Fill with cream and fresh fruit or melt a chocolate orange with a dash of Grand Marnier and orange zest then spoon this quick-fix mousse into the cases and top with sweetened Chantilly cream and chocolate shavings.

For our main course vol-au-vents, I am making an interesting filling which includes, chicken, shrimp, mushrooms and tiny meatballs. Sounds a little odd but is packed with flavor.

Print Recipe
Chicken, Veal & Shrimp Pastetli (Vol-Au-Vent)
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
Servings
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
Instructions
Chicken/Broth
  1. Add the rosemary, garlic, bay leaves, cloves, chopped celery, carrot and onion to a stock pot. Season generously with pepper and salt. Cut the chicken up: legs, wings and breasts. Also chop up the remaining carcass. Add it all to the pot. Then fill it with water (about 7 cups) until the chicken is fully submerged.
  2. Place the pot over high heat until boiling, then leave it there for 10 minutes. Turn the heat lower and gently cook the chicken for about 30 minutes. Remove the chicken from the heat and let it cool down for another 45 minutes.
Mushrooms/ Shrimp/ Cheese
  1. Chop the mushrooms into bite-size pieces. Peel & devein shrimp. Grate parmesan cheese.
Puff Pastry Shells
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Cut (4) 5-inch circles from puff pastry. Beat the egg & prick holes in the large circles with a fork & brush with egg. Cut 12 more RINGS from pastry about an inch wide. Lay a ring on each of the 4 circles & brush with egg wash. Repeat this until there are 3 rings on each large circle. Bake the puff pastry shells for 25 minutes.
Finish the Broth
  1. Remove the cooked chicken from the hot stock. Reserve stock for later. Remove any chicken skin, bones, veins, cartilage, or sinew (discard all this) & pick the cooked meat from the bones. Shred the larger bits up roughly. Then transfer the chicken meat to a large saucepan.
  2. Strain the chicken stock in a fine sieve or colander over a large pan. You should end up with about 6 cups (1,4 l) of chicken stock. Discard the cooked vegetables.
Meatballs
  1. In a bowl, combine ground veal (pork), salt & pepper, egg & breadcrumbs. Mix well and make tiny balls of ½ oz (15 g) each. You should end up with about 20 of them. Cover the meatballs with cling film and store them in the fridge until later.
  2. Bring the stock to a gentle boil again. Once warm, add the meatballs, shrimp & mushrooms. Poach them for about 5 minutes. Then remove the meatballs, shrimp & mushrooms using a slotted spoon. Add them to the shredded chicken in the large saucepan.
Béchamel Sauce
  1. Take the chicken stock off the heat now. In a large saucepan melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk well until you get a wet crumble. Gently cook this over medium-low heat for about a minute. Then gradually add splashes of the warm chicken stock until you get a sticky flour paste. Keep stirring. Don't add too much at once or the sauce will become lumpy.
  2. Whisk well. Gradually add more chicken stock (about 3 to 4 cups) until you get a pretty runny sauce. Bring the sauce to a low simmer & cook for 3-4 minutes or until thickened. whisk in Montreal Steak Spice, onion salt, garlic powder, mustard & grated parmesan.
  3. Add the béchamel sauce to the chicken, meatballs, shrimp & mushrooms. Stir carefully. Cover the pan for another 5 minutes and let the vol au vent filling warm through or place it back over very low heat.
  4. Put the vol au vent puff pastry casings onto 4 serving plates. Top with the chicken, meatball, shrimp & mushroom filling. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley if desired. Serve the vol au vents hot.

Pork Vegetable Orzo

Oblong and common in Mediterranean cooking, orzo has a look of rice and the texture of pasta. Orzo, also named risoni, is an extremely versatile pasta shape used in a multitude of recipes and cuisines. Translating to mean ‘barley’ in Italian due to its resemblance to the grains of unprocessed barely, it is categorized as a ‘pastina’ meaning ‘little pasta’.

The most common variety of orzo is made from semolina flour, which in turn is made from durum wheat. Because the wheat base gives it a heartier texture, it is better able to absorb the flavors of the ingredients around it as well as providing the pasta with a firmness needed to ensure it maintains its shape while remaining soft and light in texture.

Like most pasta, orzo is boiled in a pot of water to prepare. From there, it can be used in multiple applications. Traditionally it is used in soups and sometimes as a side dish, both hot and chilled, with herbs, olive oil or butter, and parmesan cheese.

Today, I’m incorporating orzo in a ground pork & vegetable, one-pot meal …. pasta, meat & veggies, what more is needed!

Print Recipe
Pork Vegetable Orzo
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
Instructions
  1. In a large saucepan, crumble fry ground pork until cooked. Steam chard stalks in a microwave dish until almost tender-crisp. Add onions, zucchini & chard to saucepan with pork. Sauté until onion has softened & veggies are tender-crisp.
  2. Stir in garlic, Montreal steak spice & orzo, cook for about 30 seconds. Stir in chicken broth & milk. Once it starts to bubble, continue cooking for 10 minutes, uncovered, stirring often. Turn heat to a medium low temperature. It should gently bubble vs. boil as you don't want the liquid to reduce too much before the pasta has cooked.
  3. Remove from heat, stir in parmesan. Cover & gently cook 3-5 minutes until the mixture has slightly thickened. Remove from heat & serve.