As the end of the month fast approaches it feels like winter is well and truly on our doorstep. The wood smoke that fills the crisp, cool air is definitely becoming stronger as more and more homes tuck up tight in a bid to keep Mr Jack Frost from lurking into every nook and cranny.
The days have become a shade of grey and our little home remains quite dark, the soft warm glow of the lamp by the bookshelf adds some light and creates a certain sense of calmness. Its days like these that make me appreciate slowing down and "hibernating", enjoying the quietness. We generally don't have any background noise during our days spent at home, music is provided by the birds outside and the occasional bark of our fur child, Cody, otherwise known as "The Slink', "Slinky" or "The Slink Dog", yes, he has many alias' to which he answers to them all. And is always on high alert! The TV only comes on when the last light of the day has disappeared, as if Mother Nature has thrown a blanket over the sun announcing that another day has come to an end.
Its the time of the year to enjoy all of those slow-cooked, comforting and warming meals utilising all of the delicious produce that is abundant right now. My latest venture to the farmers market on the weekend was a feast for the eyes as I was met with boxes full of shiny, taught eggplants; bundles of brussles sprouts; leeks, spinach, capsicums and pumpkins as big as my head! I arrived home with arms full of endless inspiration that I couldn't wait to create some magic with.
One of the simplest acts I have been thoroughly enjoying lately is that of the art of making pastry, as some of you may already know my love for this buttery concoction is strong. I find it to be such a therapeutic activity and I really do suggest giving it a go for yourself if you are yet to experience its relaxing ways, it really isn't as hard or "scary" as you may think.
There are a number of different ways to create it and this hot water pastry makes a beautiful shell to fill with any number of ingredients that may tickle your tastebuds. I first made this back in the early days of the café, I remember feeling so proud seeing it sitting there on the shelf in the display cabinet. It was full of spinach, bacon and whole eggs with its golden crust and it was a favourite among many.
I was reminded of it as I quickly flicked through some of my older recipe journals and was instantly taken back to the first day we opened the doors. It all seems like such a long time ago now, so much has happened since then! I decided to re-create it, although this time filling it with wood roasted salmon, zucchini and pecorino.
I am happy to report that the end result was absolutely delicious. Mum even made it, although she substituted store-bought shortcrust pastry (I am still yet to convince her to try her hands at the homemade variety, she just doesn't seem to get my hints) which is absolutely fine too. And I have done this on occasion when time has not allowed me to make my own, but I really would love for you to give it a go and if you do please let me know how you go.
This pie is perfect for a cold, blustery night. A generous wedge dolloped with some sort delicious chutney (green tomato pickles go very well) and perhaps a simple little salad or even some lovely, golden, crisp potatoes.
Makes one 20cm deep dish pie.
For the Pastry
150g unsalted butter
3/4 cup water, you may need a little more if its slightly dry
2 1/2 cups plain flour
pinch of salt
place the butter and water in a medium saucepan, bring to the boil and then add the flour and salt. beat it together with a wooden spoon until it combines and comes away from the sides of the pan. Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured bench (be careful though as it will be quite hot) Form it into a ball, flatten it out slightly and wrap in cling film. Pop it into the fridge for about 30-40 minutes.
For the filling
2 tablespoons light olive oil
1 brown onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, finely diced
2 medium sized zucchini, sliced
2-3 big handfuls of spinach
150g wood-roasted salmon, skin removed and flesh flaked
10 free-range eggs
100 ml thickened cream
a good handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped
a generous grating of pecorino
100g truffle infused cheese or feta
salt and pepper
Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees and grease the base and sides of a 20cm springform cake tin with butter, lightly flour the base and sides. Just sift a little flour into the base and then tap it all around the sides, over the sink, until its evenly coated, tipping out any excess.
Whisk together 6 of the eggs, cream, parsley, pecorino and a good grinding of black pepper and a pinch of salt until its all combined. set this aside while you heat the oil in a large fry pan. Add the onion, garlic and zucchini and cook until softened. In a pot that will hold the spinach (you may need to do this in batches) add a dash of water and cover, cook until it has wilted down, which wont take that long. Drain it and squeeze out as much of the liquid as you can. I find placing it into a clean tea-towel and wringing it out this way to work quite well and it also saves your hands from being scorched too. unwrap it from the tea-towel and chop it all up.
Roll out your chilled pastry so that it is large enough to fit into the tin. Carefully drape it into the tin, and press down right into the base, trim off the overhanging pastry, this will then become your lid, so form it back into a ball and leave to the side while you place the spinach on the bottom of the pastry base, top with half of the zucchini, half of the salmon and then repeat with the remaining zucchini and salmon. Pour over the egg mix and scatter over the truffle infused cheese or feta, finally cracking the 4 eggs over the top. Roll out the remaining pastry and lay it over the top, crimping the edges together by pinching it to make it look pretty. Cut a few little slits in the top, and mix together an egg yolk with a dash of water and brush this all over the top.
Place it onto a baking tray lined with baking paper and pop into the oven for about 50-60 minutes. Or until it has turned a lovely golden colour. Rest in the tin for at least 15 minutes, then carefully remove and slice.