Upside Down Fruit Pie

A while ago, while visiting my family in Italy, I asked my mum, who is a cook, to show me how to bake a wholemeal-flour pie. Despite her pointing out that using only wholemeal flour would be tricky, I wasn’t going to take no for an answer: “Isn’t it nice for you to challenge your skills sometimes, especially when you’re a professional?”

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Ingredients.

I only go back home about four times a year, so she hardly ever says no to my requests! We started straight away.

As a side note, in Italy you find lievito vanigliato, which is raising powder with a vanilla hint. If you don’t have that, just use normal raising powder and then add a teaspoon of vanilla extract to the mixture when you add the egg.

Lievito vanigliato.

Lievito vanigliato.

I have to say the speed my mum was working at – I barely saw how she mixed the crust, that she was already stretching it. But fear not, I took notes.

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The final result is a slightly crumbly but soft pastry (due to the raising powder) with a very sweet and soft filling.

What you’ll need:

For the pastry

  • 250 gr wholemeal flour (we used organic)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla raising powder (or normal powder plus separate vanilla extract)
  • A pinch of salt
  • 160 gr granulated sugar
  • 100 gr good quality butter (we used our local) at room temperature, chopped in small cubes
  • 1 egg
  • icing sugar

For the filling

Any fruit you have kicking around your kitchen that might need using, we used

  • 1 banana
  • 1 apple
  • 1 medium-sized pear
  • A handful of strawberries
  • 1 apricot
  • 2 tablespoons (30 gr) of granulated sugar
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My mum’s expert hands were too fast for the camera.

Preparation:

Mix the raising powder, salt and flour together. Create a well with the dry mixture, place the sugar inside it, then place the room temperature butter inside it and finally the egg. Start kneading making sure your hands are cold and work on it until you obtain a smooth dough ball.

The pie filled and ready to be covered.

The pie filled and ready to be covered.

Cut off a third of the pastry and keep it wrapped while you roll out the rest, and use this to line a pie tin – 20-22cm round and 4cm deep – leaving a slight overhang. Roll the remaining third to a circle about 28cm in diameter and place it on a side. Now fill the pie with all the chopped fruit trying to distribute it evenly. Sprinkle the sugar all over the fruit. Brush a little water around the pastry rim and lay the pastry lid over the fruit pressing the edges together to seal.

All sealed.

All sealed.

Make a few little slashes on top of the lid for the steam to escape. Bake for about 40 minutes or until golden, then remove and let it sit until it’s only tepid.

Done!

Done!

With a knife go over the edges of the pie trying to detach it from the tin very gently. Now place a large plate on top of the tin and turn upside down, letting the pie drop onto the plate (but not on the floor!). Dust all over with icing sugar and scoff serve.

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Chickpea and Vegetable Curry

Here’s a food post – sorry, I do realise it’s been a long time coming, but I’ve been too busy to cook these days!

I thought I’d write about this vegetarian curry, which is low in calories but contains plenty of vitamins and a fair amount of protein from the chickpeas – and it’s dairy-free, which is always a plus to me, as I am dairy intolerant (in spite of all those recipes on this blog that contain dairy, which I find difficult to resist to, sometimes).

This recipe is for two people.

Chickpea curry

What you’ll need:

  • 160g or slightly less than a cup of brown rice
  • 2 tsps of extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 onions
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 can (400g) of chopped tomatoes
  • 3 tsps of curry powder
  • 2 tsps of ginger powder
  • 1 can (140g) of chickpeas, drained
  • 4 balls of frozen spinach (or about 100g of fresh spinach)
  • A few leaves of fresh coriander (cilantro) to garnish

 Preparation:

Wash the brown rice thoroughly and add it to a pot with water – I usually go 1 part rice, 2 parts water. Bring to the boil and then cover and simmer for about 30 minutes. Once the rice is cooked, the water should have been fully absorbed so just cover it and let it steam. This is my way of cooking brown rice, but everyone has their own method.

While the rice is cooking, chop the onions and garlic very finely and shallow fry them until lightly golden. Pour in the chopped tomatoes and your spices. I added about 3 teaspoons of curry and 2 of ginger, but feel free to adjust it to your own taste, and, if you prefer, go ahead and use fresh chillies and ginger instead. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for about five minutes. Add the chopped green pepper to the sauce pan – make sure you cut the pepper into fairly small cubes, about ½ inch – and the drained chickpeas and pour enough water for all the ingredients to be covered. Now cover and let simmer another 15 minutes, making sure you stir the contents regularly. Add your frozen spinach to the mixture and cover the pan, letting them defrost for about 15 minutes. If you add fresh spinach, just wait until they wither. Now check for salt and serve it over the brown rice, topped with the coriander.

Delicious Dairy-free Chicken and Vegetable Quiche

A couple of weekends ago, my friend Sara and I decided to make a healthy quiche which didn’t include tonnes of cheese as pies normally do. We decided to cut out the cheese completely and instead go heavy on the veggie goodness. Unfortunately by the time the quiche was cooked the sun had set and we had to take the picture of the final result with artificial light, but hopefully you should be able to get the idea of how delicious it looked (and tasted) nonetheless. By the way, all the pictures in this post were taken by Sara, the master of food photos.

This quiche is brilliantly healthy and because it has no dairy, it could easily become vegan if you decide to omit the chicken and swap the eggs with flaxseeds. 100 gr of chicken is a very little amount for a whole quiche but I decided to add it in to add some protein, as I did not include any cheese, and because I had defrosted it and wanted to use it. So feel free to add the double amount of chicken, if you like.

What you’ll need:

  • 1 tsp of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 120 gr chestnut mushrooms
  • 10 cherry tomatoes
  • 1 pepper
  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 4 balls of frozen spinach
  • 100 gr chicken
  • 1 tbsp of coarse oats
  • About a couple of tsps of mixed herbs (marjoram, thyme, oregano and dry sage are all good)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp of soya milk (optional)
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • A dash of chili sauce or Tobasco (optional)
  • A handful of flour
  • 1 packet of Jus-Rol puff pastry (or you could make your own puff pastry)

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F/Gas 6). Pour the olive oil into a tissue and rub it thoroughly on a quiche plate, making sure to cover well the bottom and sides of it. Place the spinach in a small pot with about a tbsp of water and let thaw on medium heat. Grill the chicken in a non-stick pan. While the chicken cools chop the vegetables into about 1-inch (2.5-cm) cubes. Chop the chicken. Once the spinach is fully defrosted, spread it on a chopping board and leave it to cool, as you don’t want the egg whites to scramble when you mix them with the spinach later.

Place all the veggies and chicken in a big bowl and mix well. Add the egg whites from the two eggs (saving the yolks), oats, plenty of herbs, salt, a good dose of black pepper and a dash of Tobasco. If at this stage your mixture looks a bit too dry feel free to add the soya milk. If you are worried it might be too runny or wet add another spoonful of oats. Make sure you always stir well in order to get all the ingredients hobnobbing!

Get your puff pastry and knead it altogether. Make sure you’re working on a floured base as you don’t want your pastry to stick to your table/board. Roll it thinly, about 0.2 in (5 mm). You should have enough pastry there to place a whole layer on the quiche dish and save some on a side to cut the lattice pattern. Once you have spread the pastry at the bottom of the dish, pour all the other ingredients into it and then start cutting the pastry for the top pattern. The strips should be about ½ in (1.2 cm) wide. Try to keep them from breaking but even if they do it’s not too big a problem as you can always join to pieces of strips together.

Beat the egg yolks together and spread the liquid on the pastry with a brush. Place in the oven and leave to bake for a good 40 to 45 minutes as you want the vegetable juices to dry away and the pastry to rise beautifully.

Let it cool a little before slicing and then enjoy!