Friday, December 14, 2012

Resume in the New Year

      Hi. If you have been wondering why I haven't been posting any recipes lately, it's because I haven't been baking much. I have been cooking dinner but have not made anything worth mentioning. I seem to have gotten a little sick of cooking. However Christmas is in 2 weeks and I will be heading to the UK for a week to spend Christmas with my in-laws. That should give me a break from the monotony of my weekly routine and hopefully put the spark back into my kitchen adventures.

     So look out for more recipes in the new year! Merry Christmas everyone!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Roasted Vegetable, Feta & Cottage Cheese Tart

     A friend made a roasted vegetable tart for afternoon tea at her house a few fortnight ago. I have been thinking of making something similar since then because I enjoyed that tart very much. Feta is a cheese that I like but I hardly buy it because I honestly forget about it when I'm at the shops. It's saltiness and texture lends itself well to salads and savoury tarts. Cottage cheese is also something I like and I tend to have a tub of it in my fridge on most days. I stir cottage cheese into baked beans, have it on toast for lunch, or on crispbread for a snack. I also use cottage cheese as an omelette filling.

      This tart was so easy to make and I didn't need a recipe for it. I looked at several recipes then decided that I can 'guestimate' the amounts of ingredients that I used. Well, it worked! This tart turned out wonderfully!

      I used a 9x7" roasting tin to bake the tart, but any similar-sized square or rectangular pan or dish will work. The base consists of ready-rolled puff pastry. The pastry has to be blind-baked before filling.   The vegetables take around 30 minutes to roast. There was no need for me to add much salt to the filling because the salt in the feta was plenty enough.

Roasted Vegetable, Feta & Cottage Cheese Tart
serves 4

2 cups courgettes, cubed
1 red pepper, cubed
2 small onions, diced
6 button mushrooms, quartered
2 tsp olive oil
sea salt

Puff pastry sheet (I used 200g)

1/4 cup cottage cheese
3 TBSP sour cream
100g feta, crumbled
1 egg
1/2 tsp paprika powder
1 tsp dried rosemary
parmesan cheese (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 190°C
2. Toss the chopped vegetables with the olive oil and place on a baking tray.
3. Sprinkle some salt and pepper over the vegetables and put in the preheated oven to roast.
4. After 10 minutes, remove the mushrooms from the oven and put aside.
5. Return the rest of the vegetables to the oven to roast for another 20 minutes.

6. Line a shallow baking dish with the puff pastry sheet, making sure the pastry comes up the sides of the dish. Fold down or cut off any overhanging pastry.
7. Blind bake the pastry for 10 minutes then remove from the oven. 
Reduce oven heat to 180°C.

9. Mix the cottage cheese, sour cream, feta and egg in a large bowl. Stir in the paprika then add the roasted vegetables and mushrooms to the bowl.
10. Stir to coat the vegetables with the filling.
11. Pour the filling into the baked puff pastry and spread evenly.
*Cover the rim of the puff pastry with foil if you are worried about it burning
12. Sprinkle the rosemary and some pepper (and parmesan) over the filling.
13. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the filling looks set.

     This can be eaten hot or cold, whichever you prefer. That makes it a versatile dish for any time of the year and for entertaining guests as well.

My Oven

     My oven is used frequently, and not just for baking sweet treats. I do make pies, roast meat and such in my oven. Why wouldn't I? Have you seen my oven? It's one of those sizeable standalone dual fuel cookers with 6 gas hobs and a single combi oven, grill. Since it is an important part of my life, I decided that my oven deserves some recognition here.

       The presence of an existing oven was a major requirement when my husband and I were apartment-hunting a year ago. This might seem like a simple requirement. However, apartment-living is the norm in the Netherlands and the Dutch have become adept at squeezing as many rooms into an apartment as possible. As a result, the size of the kitchens are usually compromised. Finding an apartment fitted with the kind of oven we have is not very common. Most Dutch use (gasp!) microwave ovens.

     At this point I do have to say that I don't know when I turned into an 'oven snob'. After all, I started baking using a microwave oven. That was what my family had in Singapore. Since I started baking at 13 year- old till I left Singapore at 22 years-old, my baking was always done in the trusty microwave oven. Now, I have a microwave oven AND a proper oven at home. I hate the microwave oven for baking because it is lousy as an oven. Countless times I have tried to bake a small pie or something in the microwave oven, only to find that after 20 minutes the pie looks completely unbaked. I do however, use the microwave on a daily basis for cooking my oatmeal and reheating things.
     So, what do you use? A microwave oven or a gas/electric oven?