Saturday, 31 August 2013

Spiced Aubergine and Lentil Filo Pie

We're still riding the healthy-eating horse, and doing pretty well too, but one of the things I've really been missing is pastry. Big, fat, buttery pastry. Definitely one to avoid for the moment. BUT there's hope yet - thank heaven for filo! At about 100 calories a sheet it means a pie is still a pie, but one that won't make me as wide as I am tall. So I've been doing some experimenting, and this recipe is one of the results.

This crispy, flaky, spicy aubergine and lentil offering came out at under 250 calories per serving if made with the dreaded Fry-Light (I've stated oil in the recipe because I don't hate you all, should only add about 350 cals for the whole recipe though if you measure out the 3 tablespoons). Pretty good going, and it's damn tasty as well. It goes well with Middle Eastern-type accompaniments - a tabbouleh or a fattoush salad for example, but equally well with just some green leaves out of a bag if you can't be bothered. And a glass of red.

It's also vegan! Check the packet of the filo pastry just in case, but most brands I've seen are suitable for vegans, including many supermarket own-brands.

Serves 4 - don't forget to leave time for the filling to cool! 

What you need

1 large aubergine
1 400g tin cooked brown or puy lentils
As many sheets as you like of ready-made filo pastry - I used 6
2 medium sized onions (chopped)
1 400g tin chopped tomatoes
2 cloves garlic (crushed)
thumb-sized nubbin of ginger (grated or just bunged through the garlic crusher)
1/2 tbsp dark brown sugar
3 tbsp olive oil (or other weapon of choice)
2 tsps fennel seeds (plus extra to scatter over)
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp cayenne chilli powder
salt and pepper to taste

What to do

Turn the oven on at 180 degrees. Chop the aubergine into smallish cubes, toss in 1 tablespoon of the oil and transfer to a baking dish. Put in the oven to roast while you carry on with the rest - it will want to be in for about 20 minutes, but keep checking it.

Heat the other tablespoon of olive oil in a large saucepan, and add the chopped onion, garlic, ginger, coriander, cumin and chilli powder. Put the lid on so that it all just sweats together rather than browning too  much.

Grab a frying pan and put on a high heat. Add the fennel seed to the dry pan and dry-fry them for a couple of minutes until they're brown and smelling all fennel-y, then add to the onion and spice mixture.

Once the onions etc. are translucent and starting to brown in places, add the chopped tomatoes and the lentils, having poured off the liquid from the lentil tin. Your aubergine will probably be roasted enough now, so slap that in too. Add the brown sugar, and season with salt and pepper.

Allow the pie filling to cook down over a medium heat until it's thickened. You can mainly just go off and do something else at this point, just come back every once in a while to give it a bit of a stir. It will probably take about 15 minutes for the mixture to reduce to pie-filling consistency. Once it's done, the filling will need some time to cool down. If you add the hot filling straight to the pastry, it will just go into a soggy mush. Spread it out on something so it cools quicker and it should be alright after about half an hour.

Grab a shallow baking dish and layer up 3 (or more if you like) sheets of filo pastry, brushing each sheet with some of your remaining tablespoon of olive oil (or spray with you-know-what). Spread over the filling, then finish up with a further 3+ layers of filo to form the top layer, still brushing each one with oil.

Scatter some fennel seeds over the top, and put in the oven for 25 minutes until the pastry is golden brown.


Monday, 19 August 2013

Courgette, Chilli and Pine Nut Tagliatelle

We're on a bit of a weight loss mission at the moment, scary stuff. Soooo where my normal way of eating pasta is smothering it in cheese and sauce, I've been experimenting with some slightly less artery-fuzzing options. I did the courgettes in Fry-Light (that stuff makes me shudder slightly but it's a necessary evil) and by my maths it works out at under 500 calories per person.

The flavours in this are a bit of a swan-song to summer - it's almost autumn, in fact as I'm typing there's even a Christmas re-run of QI on in the background which is just making me feel all wrong. So may I present some  happy summertime type food before we all plunge back into dark and cold and misery.

Dead easy to veganise, just make sure your pasta is egg-free (most dried varieties are) and leave off the cheese.

Serves 2
What you need

2  medium-sized courgettes
200g tagliatelle (or whatever pasta you've got!)
1 medium-hot red chilli (finely chopped and seeds removed if you don't want too much heat)
2 cloves garlic (crushed)
a small handful of pine nuts (about 10-15g)
2 tbsps olive oil (or Fry-Light if, like us, you are a masochist)
juice of half a lemon (optional)
a few shavings vegetarian parmesan-style cheese
salt and pepper to taste

What to do

Courgettes first. Top and tail them then, with a potato peeler, thinly slice the two courgettes length-wise into ribbons.

Heat half of the olive oil (or depressing Fry-Light) in a ridged griddle pan. If you don't have a griddle pan, a normal non-stick frying pan will be absolutely fine but you won't get the dark ridge marks. When the pan is up to temperature lay out the courgette ribbons, turning when they are starting to brown. It won't take long because they're so thin! You'll probably need to do this in batches, unless you have a monstrous catering-size griddle pan, so pop them on a plate as they're done. It doesn't matter if they get cold, they'll warm back up when you eventually add them to the pasta.

In the mean time, heat a separate dry frying pan and add your pine nuts. Keep shaking the pan until they're evenly toasted all over, then put them on one side. At this point you should also start boiling a pan of water ready for the pasta.

In the same pan (no point creating extra washing up), add the rest of the olive oil, the garlic and the chilli. Keep a careful eye on it because you don't want it to brown, just to sweat slightly so you lose the harshness of the raw garlic. Put that on one side as well when done.

The pasta water will hopefully now be at a rolling boil, so add your tagliatelle and cook for however long the pack says, usually about 10 minutes. Drain it and put it back in the pan.

Toss the courgette ribbons, chilli, garlic and the lemon juice if using, as well as a decent amount of good-quality salt and pepper in with the tagliatelle - the heat from the pasta should warm the courgette etc. back up if it's gone a bit cold.

Plate up and sprinkle over the 'parmesan' shavings.

Now go and sit outside with a glass of chilled white wine and pretend we all live in Italy. Mmm.