The sweet, slightly earthy flavours of butternut pumpkin, the richness of caramelised onion and the salty tang of feta work really well together in these easy and delicious tarts. They can be cooked completely in advance and reheated when required or prepare the tarts, refrigerate for a few hours, then bake shortly before serving.
BUTTERNUT, ONION AND FETA TARTS
For 4 servings:
1/2 a medium butternut pumpkin, peeled and deseeded (about 400g)
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp each paprika and salt
2 medium onions, peeled and sliced
1 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
pepper to taste
1 sheet (about 160g) frozen puff pastry, thawed
100g feta cheese
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
Cut the peeled and deseeded pumpkin into thin (about 5mm) slices. Transfer these to a large bowl and add 1 tablespoon of the oil. Sprinkle with the cumin, paprika and salt then toss gently to combine. Spread the seasoned pumpkin slices over a baking sheet covered with baking paper or a non-stick liner, then bake at 200C for 12-15 minutes or until the edges begin to brown and the flesh is soft.
While the pumpkin cooks, heat the remaining oil in a large frypan. Add the sliced onion and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is soft and is beginning to brown (this should take about 10 minutes). Stir in the sugar and balsamic vinegar and cook for a few minutes longer, stirring continuously, until the mixture is a nutty brown colour.
Tip the cooked pumpkin back into the bowl. Add the caramelised onion mixture, the chopped thyme and a generous grind of black pepper and toss gently to combine.
Quarter the pastry sheet to give four smaller squares. Arrange the pastry squares a few centimetres apart on the baking sheet. Using a sharp knife, score a line 5-7mm in from the edge of each square (don't cut right through the sheet).
Divide the pumpkin and onion mixture between the four squares, trying to keep the marked border of the pastry clear. Cut the feta into four pieces and crumble one piece over each square.
Bake at 200C for 12-15 minutes until the feta browns at the edges and the pastry is golden. Remove from the oven and cool for a few minutes before serving with a salad and perhaps some bread on the side.
QUICK BEEF STROGANOFF
We make different versions of this quickly cooked meal for different occasions. On special occasions we use very tender fillet steak, or for an everyday version use a cheaper (lean) cut. Even using expensive beef you may well find that, in all, it costs less than rather nondescript takeaways!
For 2-3 servings:
200g fresh or dried fettuccine
200-250g lean steak or schnitzel cut in pencil-sized strips
1 Tbsp flour
1/2 tsp paprika (smoked paprika is nice)
2 Tbsp olive or canola oil
1 large onion
200-250g large flat mushrooms
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup beef or chicken stock
OR 1/2 cup hot water and 1 tsp instant stock
1 tsp tomato paste
2 Tbsp brandy or sherry (optional)
2 Tbsp sour cream
Salt and pepper to taste
Put a large pot of boiling salted water on, ready to cook the pasta. If using dried pasta, put it in to cook straight away. If using fresh pasta, put it on while the mushrooms cook.
Slice the steak into pencil-thick strips, sprinkle it with the flour and paprika and toss to combine. Heat one tablespoon of the oil in a non- stick pan to cook it in, and drain the cooked pasta. When the pan is very hot add the steak and cook briefly, turning it often, until it has browned. (Do not overcook and dry out the steak.) Remove from the pan and set aside.
Halve the onion and slice crosswise into pencil-width strips. Heat the remaining oil over moderate heat in a large non-stick pan, then add the onion and cook until soft. While the onion cooks slice the mushrooms crossways into similarly wide strips, then add these into the onions, and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the wine, stock, tomato paste and brandy or sherry (or extra stock) and cover and cook for 4-5 minutes over a high heat, stirring occasionally.
Stir the steak and the sour cream into the mushroom mixture, heating just enough to lightly thicken the sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste. (Add a little of the pasta water if the sauce looks too thick.)
Drain the cooked pasta and toss with a little additional oil. Spoon the meat and mushroom mixture over the pasta, top with the remaining sour cream, and sprinkle with fresh herbs if you like. Serve with a green salad that has been drizzled with a little olive oil and lemon juice.
Taranaki Daily News