I recently returned to London from a two-week holiday in Egypt. After spending a fortnight in temperatures above 35 degrees Celsius, I was slightly perturbed to discover that winter was far from over in the UK. I was at least expecting to see a few blooming daffodils, announcing the promise of spring.
Amused by my own seasonal juxtaposition and having been inspired by the wealth of spices available in Egypt, I wanted to create a dish that represented both the last breaths of winter and the anticipation of spring on the same plate. I think my Roasted Butternut & Goats Cheese Pie Pockets Infused With Saffron, Safflower And Coriander Seeds achieve this and are perfect for a ‘healthy’ and light dinner party.
The recipe serves four, so it is ideal for singletons who like to cook their meals ahead of a busy week, because these pie pockets are easy to refrigerate and reheat.
2 X Large Butternut squashes
1 X Large Red Onion
120 grams hard Goats Cheese
25 grams Pine Nuts
1 X Tablespoon Coriander Seeds – crushed
1 X Tablespoon Red Saffron
1 X Tablespoon Safflower
One large sheets of short crust pastry
2 X Large Egg Yolks
Heat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
Peel, remove the seeds and cube the butternut squashes. Cut the cubes in equally sized pieces. Butternut takes slightly longer to roast and a way around this is to steam the butternut for approximately 20 minutes or until the cubes are soft, before you roast it.
Once steamed, lay the butternut cubes out in a baking tray, add salt to taste as well as the crushed cumin seeds. Drizzle with olive oil. Roast for 30 minutes, or until the edges are slightly browned.
Dice the red onion and sauté (brown) in a saucepan.
Cube the goat’s cheese into small cubes.
Once roasted, mash the butternut, add the goat’s cheese, saffron, safflower, sautéed onion and pine nuts. Mix well. Put the butternut filling back in the oven.
Take your pastry sheet and portion them into 4 equally sized rectangular strips. Lay the rectangular strips in a baking tray. Beat the egg yolks and brush the edges of your pastry strips.
Remove the butternut filling from the oven, and scoop equally sized portions of the filling on half of each pastry strip.
Fold the remaining half of the pastry strips over the filling to create the pie pockets.
Seal the edges of your pie pockets and make two small cuts on top of each pocket.
Brush the tops of your pockets with the remaining egg yolk.
Stick them back in the oven and bake for 35 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown on top.
Serve with grilled salmon fillet and a simple green leaf and tomato salad. Garnished with lemon thyme and drizzled with balsamic vinegar.
More about the spices:
Coriander is also known as cilantro, Chinese parsley or dhania. All parts of the coriander plant are edible, but the fresh leaves and the dried seeds are the parts traditionally used in cooking.
In the Middle East, coriander has been used to treat eye problems, inflammation, and various gastrointestinal conditions, including abdominal colic, dyspepsia, flatulence and nausea. Coriander was used for relief of anxiety and insomnia in Iranian folk medicine.
Traditionally, this spice was also thought to arouse passion and it is referred to as an aphrodisiac in the classic Arabian novel, A Thousand and One Nights. Ancient Egyptians combined coriander with fresh garlic and wine as an aphrodisiac.
Saffron has long been considered the world’s most highly valued spice. The fertile high plain of La Mancha in Spain is the source of the finest quality. There, in the shadow of the legendary windmills of Don Quixote, grow tiny crocus flowers. Each crocus flower produces three delicate, aromatic red stigmas, known as saffron.
Saffron has a long medicinal history as part of traditional healing. Several modern research studies have hinted that the spice has possible anticarcinogenic (cancer-suppressing), anti-mutagenic (mutation-preventing), immunomodulating, and antioxidant-like properties.
Saffron stigmas, and even petals, may be helpful for depression. Early studies show that saffron may protect the eyes from the direct effects of bright light and retinal stress, apart from slowing down macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa.
Traditionally, the safflower was grown for its seeds, and used for colouring and flavouring foods, in medicines, and making red (carthamin) and yellow dyes. Ancient Egyptians found the flower pleasing to the eye and included it in garlands placed on mummies. Dried safflower flowers are used in traditional Chinese medicine to alleviate pain, increase circulation, and reduce bruising.
Safflower is included in herbal remedies for menstrual pain and minor physical trauma. In India, the flowers are used for their laxative and diaphoretic properties, and are also used for children’s complaints of measles, fevers and eruptive skin conditions.
I know you would not have about any of this as you bite into your pie pocket… But there you have it: It’s packed with the healing power of spices.
Indulge a little bit!
Image: FR Lubbe, Little Red Shoes
Recipe: FR Lubbe, Little Red Shoes