Filo pastry is one of the few pre-made products that makes no sense to try to attempt yourself. Each sheet is so thin that a little goes a long way, and one packet was enough to form the basis of a main course and dessert for four people.
Using the technique for individual cheese pies from the first Avoca Cafe Cookbook (layering filo into individual muffin tins, brushing each layer with melted butter, and letting the edges hang over the sides) combined with Darina Allen’s recipe for Quiche Lorraine from the Ballymaloe Cookery Course book (rashers and onions chopped, fried and cooled, added to 2 eggs and a yolk mixed with 300ml of half cream, half milk, chopped parsley and chives and 75g of freshly grated cheddar), I baked them in 180 deg C oven for about twenty minutes. I made eight, but those quantities will also be enough to make a traditional quiche in a flan dish with a shortcrust pastry base. I served two each with potato wedges, which had been tossed in a mixture of olive oil and Bush Tucker Rub (a mix of peppers, spices and seeds available from Tesco).
I laid out the remaining filo sheets on cling-film, overlapped to make a bigger “sheet”, using melted butter to seal the overlaps. Larousse Gastronomique has a traditional recipe for Apple Strudel, which involves browning breadcrumbs and chopped walnuts in melted butter in a pan, sprinkling this down the centre of the filo sheet, then layering some washed raisins, cooking apples, sugar and cinnamon over this. Overlap the sides of the pastry over the mixture, using the cling-film to help you roll the strudel. Brush it with milk and bake it in the oven for about 40 mins at 200 deg C.
After trudging around outside in the snow this morning, I wanted something rich and flavoursome to warm me up when I got home. I checked the fridge and the cupboards, and I had nearly everything I needed to make meatballs and tomato sauce from the Avoca Cafe Cookbook.
I started on the sauce first, gently frying 2 finely chopped onions in olive oil for about ten minutes. I then added a couple of cloves of garlic, 2 cans of tomatoes, a glass of red wine, a pinch of sugar, and some salt and pepper. I left that to simmer on a low heat while I started making the meatballs.
In a bowl, I mixed together a packet of mince (about 600g), about 75g of grated Mossfield Organic cheese (the recipe calls for Mozzarella), a sprinkle of dried Oregano (fresh if you have any), about three-quarters of 2 lightly beaten eggs, a grated onion, a grated garlic clove, three teaspoons of pesto and some salt and pepper. I formed this into balls about the size of a golf ball, rolled them in flour and then flattened them slightly. I fried them in two batches in olive oil, browning them gently.
Once all the meatballs were finished I added them gently to the tomato sauce, and left it uncovered on a low heat for about forty minutes. I added some chopped fresh basil at this stage too. It only needs a very gentle stir every so often to prevent them sticking – don’t be too vigorous or the meatballs may break up. The tomato sauce should have reduced by about half by the time you add the meatballs, if it looks like it has reduced too much don’t be afraid to add half a glass of water and bring it back to a simmer before adding the meatballs.
When it’s ready, serve on pasta plates with a sprinkle of fresh basil, and eat with some nice crusty bread for a hearty, warming lunch.