Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Caramelised Squash and Onion Tart with Feta Cheese and Pine Nuts

Okay chaps! Today I'm introducing a recipe that I made up myself. There was a time early in our marriage when I was banned by Mr Lovelygrey from cooking 'off piste'. I recall it was after I made a cheesy pilchard and ratatouille bake which relied heavily on canned ingredients. He viewed this combination as particularly unsuccessful but worryingly I didn't think that it was too bad.

But now I like to think that my palate is more discerning.  Mr Lovelygrey must think so too because  I'm allowed to experiment once again. My source of inspiration  for this recipe which used up things in the fridge was a  shallot and parsnip tart  found in a 1990's edition of Essentials magazine. This has been lovingly preserved in my book of clippings shown above. Credit must also go to my esteemed colleague, the Master of Love, who encouraged the substititution of squash for parsnip and also recommended the marriage of the my chosen vegetables with pine nuts and feta. His wife, who I suppose should be known as the 'Mistress of Love' stuffed feta parcels with this mixture. For that inspired idea alone I feel that her pseudonym is well deserved.

As usual I have digressed wildly before I've got to my recipe. But then, so does Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall in the Guardian magazine. And of course there's A.A. Gill whose restaurant reviews are an example of how lengthy procrastination before getting to the point can produce pieces of writing of outstanding brilliance. But to get on track -

1. Go to Roscoff in Brittany and pick up a string of the beautiful pink onions that the town is famous for (There is a ferry from Plymouth for fellow Brits).
2. Store in fridge for three weeks.
3. Heat oven to Gas Mark 6 or 200 degrees celsius.
4. Dice (approx 1cm cubed) the peeled long pointy end of the large Lidl butternut squash that you have bought on impulse a few weeks ago. Cut it just before the bit that contains the seeds to save some of the bother.
5. Slice 4-6 small/medium aforementioned onions.
6. Heat 1oz butter and a good glug of olive oil in a lidded pan until the butter is melted. Turn the heat to low and sweat the onions and  butternut squash until softened.
7. Add 2tbsp of balsamic vinegar (again I insist you make a special trip to  Lidl for this), 2tbsp of muscovado sugar, salt, pepper, a pinch of dried chilli and 1tsp dried thyme and cook for a few more minutes at medium heat.  Taste and add a bit more of what you fancy and then leave to cool.
8. Go to fridge to get puff pastry. Wolf down a slice of a particularly excellent piece of leftover beef if you find any lurking there.
9. Roll out 250g puff pastry on a floured surface into a thin 12" square and put on a greased baking tray.
10. Top with the vegetable mixture. This must have cooled down a bit otherwise your pastry will turn into a scaggy mess. Then add a scattering of pine nuts and half a pack of cubed good quality feta cheese. I admit you may have to stray further than the hard discounters for this but might not find any in Roscoff while you're getting the onions.
11. Bake for 20-25 minutes until pastry is golden. Eat a bit more beef during your wait.
12. Serve with cherry tomatoes from the garden. Be particularly careful to choose the type that which would have been organic were it not for the blue glow of slug pellets.

PS: If you try this recipe and like it please write to the BBC and demand that I have my own cookery show. With just a few minor cosmetic enhancements I could be the next Nigella or, at the very least, a Hairy Biker!

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