Ode to pie

Everyone likes pie. Do you like pie? I like pie.

Far too cutesy pie beads

Pie is not really a thing that one can say no to. And today, in the silence of the still morning, amongst the clackings of my keyboard, I suddenly decided: I want pie.

Why? Does pie need a why? One can never deny the pie.

* end of self indulgent poorly written rhyming *

Pre-caramelised leek Post-caramelised leek

Also, I work from home at present and so I can do these odd things like make pie in the middle of the day. Of course, that means I am back here at the computer working at midnight. Very clever. The sacrifices we make for pie, sigh. (Pie? Sigh? Geddit? snigger snigger)

Hello pie!

Caramelised Leek and Feta Pie with Zaatar Crust

I had leeks in the fridge so cobbled something together. I didn’t like the pie crust I used, and will update the recipe when I find one that I do like.

3 leeks
2 tablesp balsamic vinegar
1 tablesp sugar
Approx 1/2 cup feta, cut into small cubes
3 eggs
150ml milk
Black pepper

1 portion of your favourite savoury pie dough + 1 tablespoon zaatar

  1. When you make your pie dough, add the zaatar to the flour and then continue to prepare the pie crust as per normal. 
  2. Slice the leeks so they are approx 3cm long each. Stand them all up in a frying pan. Pour over a little oil and fry them standing up that way for 5 minutes on medium-high heat.
  3. Slosh the vinegar into the pan, and wait for a couple of minutes so it drys a little. Then sprinkle in the salt.
  4. If you want, gently flip all the little leek cylinders upside down, so both sides char. The easiest way to do this is with a pair of chopsticks, in my opinion
  5. When cooked (and the pie crust is ready to be filled), arrange in the pie crust and place cubes of feta between the bits of leek.
  6. Whisk the eggs and milk together. Pour over the leeks into the pie crust.
  7. Bake for around 15-20 minutes until browned. Use the same temperature as required by your pie crust.
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The Scrooge’s Brunch: Avocado and Feta Sourdough Toast, with Pomegranate Seeds et al.

Hello hello, and welcome to The Scrooge’s Brunch.

The aim of the game is to have a sublime and divine (and other posh words) brunch, without having to spend upwards of $20 (AUD!!) for a single plate of wholesome, tasty, real (i.e., recognisable components) food.

The good thing about wholesome “real” food is that it isn’t so hugely extraordinarily hard to figure out what went into the meal. If you can figure out what went in and approximately how to make it, then technically, a Melbourne style brunch should be within your grasp every weekend (twice!). And by you, I mean me, because I have unfortunately been seduced by Melbourne cafe culture, and eat brunch out far too often.

Inspiring stuff, no? I’ll at least attempt to plate everything in a nice cafe-ish way. And I’ll obviously only try to recreate dishes that I thought kicked some serious coffee cup.

Also, I promise not to ask any of cafes in question about how they make their food. That’s cheating, plus they will probably look at me weirdly/hipster snub me. The point of the exercise is independent recreation at home, not the copying  of a cafe recipe to a T.

First up is a variation on the infamous Avocado and Feta Sourdough Toast. I decided to start with a relatively easy one.

The original:

The original

The Scrooge’s Brunch: 

Pomegranate thievery!I overmixed a littletwo orders of avo-feta sourdough coming up!

Avocado and Feta Sourdough Toast, with Pomegranate Seeds + Other Fun Stuff

Fresh and crunchy and yum, this is a refreshing and satisfying brunch for relatively little effort. 

1 large ripe avocado
1/3 cup feta – I used about half the amount of feta to avocado, it isn’t an exact science here
1/2 cup cooked, drained, cooled chickpeas
2 – 3 radishes
1/2 a pomegranate
1/4 cup toasted pistachios – I used cashews because I didn’t have pistachios
1/8 cup fresh coriander leaves

Loaf of sourdough

  1. Ingredient preparation:
    • Avocado: peel and chop roughly in cubes, at least 1.5 cm long
    • Feta: crumble
    • Chickpeas: if tinned, drain, rinse, and set aside. If you cook them yourself you need a bit more prep time – use a water ratio of 1:4, and stick them in a slow cooker for 2-3 hours the night before. Drain, and leave to cool in the fridge overnight. If you pop the little skins off the texture will be better, do this by gently rubbing them against each other in a metal sieve.
    • Radishes: clean and slice into little sticks that look like toothpicks. Mine as pictured are a little thick.
    • Pomegranate: as carefully as possible, extract all the little pretty seeds.
    • Nuts: toast your nuts briefly and allow to cool
    • Sourdough bread: toast this!
  2. Now, in a big bowl, gently mix all the toppings together. You don’t want to mash it. As you can see above, I mixed a little too enthusiastically.
  3. Just before serving, artfully (yeah right) scoop it onto the toasted bread. Hooray, you saved $20!

Portion control: makes enough for 4 regular portions or 2-3 “Melbourne brunch” portions

Do aheads: you can do the chickpeas, radishes, pomegranate, and nuts ahead. Then just toast the bread and mix everything up with the feta, avocado, and coriander before brunch.

Verdict: 70% likeness, because I swapped the pistachios for cashews. I’m also pretty convinced they candied their pistachios, Bigfoot claims otherwise – this dispute requires another brunch visit to settle it. Also, my radish slices were too thick.

A note on attribution: I have left the name of the cafe in question off the post, as I thought it was better not to publically identify how to make specific dishes at specific cafes (even though this is a re-creation rather than the actual recipe) – though in my view, a huge part of Melbourne brunch culture is the cafe atmosphere, for which, of course, there is no recipe. If this isn’t correct attribution, please let me know and I’ll happily fix it. 

Grudgingly Roasted Broccoli with Feta

I have never liked broccoli. It’s always wet and soggy, and tastes like green. And I don’t mean tastes like green in a nice, healthy way, I mean tastes like green as in eating grass cuttings. Horses like grass cuttings. I don’t like grass cuttings. Don’t let them eat them, they can get stomach ache if it’s fermented.

Only 3 ingredients! Obsessive drying techniques

But in an unfortunate turn of events, I realised that there was a head of broccoli sitting in the fridge, about to go bad. Note that I did not buy this broccoli. I don’t know what possessed the buyer of this broccoli to buy this broccoli. Perhaps he was having a bad day and thought that buying broccoli would make him feel better. You know, in the vein of: “I’m having a bad day, the only thing that could make it worse is owning a head of broccoli”. *Buys broccoli* “Oh look, see how much better my day was before I bought the broccoli? Now I really appreciate my day, pre-broccoli. Life wasn’t so bad then”.

Raw with garlic Ready to roast

Anyway, I am in no position to speculate. I consulted Bel regarding what to do with this terrible vegetable, and she suggested either roasting it with cheese or doing a Chinese stir fry. I don’t really like broccoli in Chinese stir fry either, so that left one option.

Never thought I'd say yummy broccoli

The resulting broccoli was surprisingly tasty, so tasty that we burnt our hands eating it out of the oven dish. I would definitely make it again. Any accumulated likes, thumbs up, and gold stars will be sent directly to Bel. However, I still don’t think I would eat broccoli done any other way at this point. Broccoli-hater’s seal of approval, surely that means something?

Roasted Broccoli with Feta

Inspired by Ina Garten, but turns out I didn’t have half the stuff she needed so I changed the recipe a bit (loads).

1 head of broccoli
5 cloves garlic, crushed
80 – 100g feta, crumbled
A glug of olive oil
Salt and black pepper to taste

Oven temperature: 220 degrees C. I suspect it would also work on grill or in a toaster oven.

  1. Wash your broccoli. Dry it meticulously so it doesn’t get soggy. Break it up into little trees. Dry these obsessively too.
  2. Crush garlic.
  3. Mix olive oil, garlic, broccoli mini-trees, salt and pepper in a bowl. The broccoli only needs to be lightly coated with oil.
  4. Put everything into a baking dish. You can line the baking dish with foil if you want to minimise washing up later.
  5. Bake for about 15 minutes, until the tops of the broccoli bits go brownish and crispy.
  6. Crumble feta over the broccoli, and try not to burn your fingers eating it out of the dish. You’ll probably realise you didn’t make enough.