tiropita strifti - greek cheese pies

29 Jul 2019

When I was in Greece most days I'd buy a cheese pie for lunch. Some times it would be cut from a larger pie but normally I'd buy an individual pie. My favourite cheese pies were the ones shaped like snails, tiropita strifti. 

Once I arrived home in Sydney I started looking at recipes so I could recreate the cheese pie at home. I found plenty of recipes but you had to make the filo from scratch. Unfortunately I don't have a large enough kitchen bench or table to make filo at home so I had to use store bought filo and winged the filling recipe.

The cheese filling varied from pie to pie but feta cheese was always in the mix. Most online recipes suggested combining cheeses as feta alone could be too salty so I added some ricotta cheese. Some recipes added dill or mint and as I have a little pot of mint growing in my kitchen that's what I added. The rolling process reads more complicated than it really is but you can find YouTube videos that demonstrate the process. 

Here's the recipe for you. For all my recipes I use a 250 ml cup, a 20 ml tablespoon, unsalted butter and 60g eggs. My oven is a conventional gas oven so if your oven is fan forced you may need to reduce the oven temperature by 20°C. 

Tiropita Strifti – makes 4
8 sheets defrosted filo pastry
Olive oil spray
30g melted butter
1 tsp sesame seeds

200 g feta, crumbled
200 g ricotta
Two eggs
1 tbs chopped fresh mint
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 190ºC. Grease a baking tray and set to one side. Unwrap the filo pastry then cover the pastry with a damp tea towel while you make the filling.

In a bowl mix the crumbled feta, ricotta, eggs, mint and a sprinkle of salt and pepper to taste. Divide into four.

To Assemble 
Stack the 8 sheets together. Lightly spray the top sheet of filo with olive oil spray then flip it over gently pressing it together with the underlying piece of filo. You’ll use 2 pieces of filo per tiropita.

Spread a quarter of the filling along the long edge of the pastry sheets, about 2 cm in from the edge. Fold the 2 cm of dough in over the filling, and also along the sides. Lightly spray the exposed filo pastry with olive oil before gently rolling up like a strudel. 

Once you have made the roll then form it into a snail, tucking in the loose end so the snail doesn’t uncurl. Brush the top and side of the snail liberally with butter before lightly sprinkling with sesame seeds. Place the snail on the tray and repeat the process with the remaining filo pastry and filling. 

Bake in the preheated 190ºC oven for 50 minutes to 1 hour until the pastry is crisp and golden. Remove to a rack and allow to cool a little. Serve warm with a green salad. 

The commercial filo pastry I used is much thinner and more fragile than the hand made filo used in Greece, but my version still tasted pretty good. I'll definitely be making these again.

See you all again soon with some more baking from my kitchen.

Bye for now,



22 Jul 2019

For years I've been trying to find a stem ginger biscuit recipe just like the packaged biscuits you can buy in the UK. While looking through the 'Flour and Stone' cookbook by Nadine Ingram I saw a recipe for chocolate gingernuts which included stem ginger. I decided to give the recipe a try but I left out the chocolate.

Stem ginger is not easy to find in Sydney so a few months ago I made a batch at home. You can find recipes online and the ginger syrup it produces is so delicious. If you’re not so inclined, then just use crystallized ginger instead of stem ginger and use golden syrup instead of the ginger syrup.

The biscuits were easy to make and after 15 minutes baking time they looked pretty much done and smelt great, so I took them out of the oven. I couldn't wait to try one. I let the biscuits cool down for about 10 minutes then had one with my cup of tea. After 15 minutes baking time the biscuit was still a little chewy just like the packaged ones but there was an overwhelming and unpleasantly bitter taste. The original recipe used self raising flour and I figured the bitter taste was probably the result of the raising agent used in the self raising flour combined with the large amount of bicarbonate soda. I was disappointed but decided to try making the biscuits again this time using plain flour to which I added some baking powder. I didn't add the full quantity though so the second batch didn't rise quite as much.

This time I baked the biscuits for 25 minutes and when I had one with my cup of tea, there was no weird chemical taste, just ginger and spice. These biscuits were definitely crunchy and perfect to dunk in a cup of tea but I think I prefer my biscuits a bit more chewy.

Here's the recipe for you which makes 12 large biscuits. For all my recipes I use a 250 ml cup, a 20 ml tablespoon, unsalted butter and 60g eggs. My oven is a conventional gas oven so if your oven is fan forced you may need to reduce the oven temperature by 20°C. 

Gingernuts, adapted from a Flour and Stone recipe
165g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp ginger
Pinch salt
75g unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into small cubes
60g raw sugar
2 small pieces stem ginger in syrup, finely chopped
60g golden syrup
2 tbs stem ginger syrup
Additional 25g raw sugar.

Preheat the oven to 170°C. Line a baking sheet with baking paper and set to one side while you make the mixture.

Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl. Using your fingertips, rub the softened butter into the dry ingredients until its incorporated and the texture of fine cookie crumbs. Stir in the sugar and the chopped ginger. Make a well in the centre of the mixture and stir in the syrups. Use your hands to combine the sticky syrups with the rest of the mixture and knead until it forms a slightly sticky dough.

Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces, rolling each piece into a ball. Roll each ball in the extra raw sugar until lightly coated. Place the gingernuts on the baking sheet leaving plenty of room for spreading. Lightly press each ball with the palm of your hand to flatten a little before using the tines of the fork to make a criss cross pattern on the top of each biscuit. If you like you can sprinkle a little more raw sugar on each biscuit before baking.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. The longer you bake them, the harder the crunch will be. Nadine recommends taking the cookies out of the oven when the centre of the cookie bounces back when pressed with your finger. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before transferring to a rack. Once cooled, store the gingernuts in an airtight container. My cookies were still good 2 weeks after baking.

With a few more pieces of stem ginger left in the jar, I'll definitely be making the chewy version of these again.

See you all again next week with some more baking from my kitchen.

Bye for now,


rye bread layer cake

15 Jul 2019

When I was struggling with jet-lag a few weeks ago, one of the books that kept me company during the long nights was 'Scandinavian Baking'. I bought my copy of 'Scandinavian Baking' by Trine Hahnemann a few years ago and although I've had it for a while, I've only made a few things from the book mostly bread recipes and one or two of the cake recipes.

When I saw this rye bread layer cake recipe while rifling through the book, I was intrigued and decided to give it a try. The cake doesn't have any flour in it and as my Mum's almond cake recipe uses dried breadcrumbs and ground whole almonds instead of flour I was familiar with the concept.

Instead of dried breadcrumbs and almonds, this recipe uses soft rye breadcrumbs and ground toasted hazelnuts. Hazelnuts I already had in the fridge, so I went on the hunt for some dark rye bread to make the cake but could only find light rye bread.

The 2 cake layers are sandwiched with a layer of jam and cream. The original recipe called for redcurrant jelly or blackcurrant jam but with an unopened jar of lingonberry jam in the cupboard, I thought it would be the perfect fit.

I decorated the cake with some chocolate shards I had in the fridge, a few leftover toasted hazelnuts and lashings of unsweetened whipped cream.

Here's the recipe for you which makes a 17cm layer cake. For all my recipes I use a 250 ml cup, a 20 ml tablespoon, unsalted butter and 60g eggs. My oven is a conventional gas oven so if your oven is fan forced you may need to reduce the oven temperature by 20°C. 

Rye Bread Layer Cake - adapted from a Trine Hahnemann recipe.
75g stale rye bread
75g hazelnuts, toasted and skins removed
½ tsp baking powder
1½ tbs cocoa powder
3 eggs, separated
100g soft dark brown sugar

Filling and topping
250 ml thickened cream
⅓ cup lingonberry jam, redcurrant jelly or Blackcurrant 'jam'
Dark chocolate shards or curls
Extra hazelnuts

Preheat the oven to 220°C. Grease and line the bases of two 17cm diameter springform tins with baking parchment. If you only have the one tin, once it’s cool re-grease and reline the tin to make the other cake.

Process the rye bread in a food processor until crumbs form. Place the breadcrumbs in a bowl then grind the hazelnuts until fine. Mix together the rye breadcrumbs, hazelnuts, baking powder and cocoa powder and set to one side.

Beat the egg yolks and sugar together with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy (about 5 minutes) then fold the crumb mixture into the egg yolk mixture. Whisk the egg whites until stiff, then fold gently into the batter. 

Pour into the prepared tin or tins and place in the oven. Reduce the oven temperature to 190°C then bake for 25-30 minutes or until the top of the cake springs back when touched and the edge of the cake pulls away from the side. Run a knife around the edge of the cake to loosen then leave to cool.

Take a round serving dish and place the least attractive layer of cake on it. Top with the jelly or jam. Whip the cream until billowing and spread half of it on the cake. Now spread the remaining whipped cream over the top layer of cake and gently place it on top of the jam layer. Scatter the chocolate and nuts over the top of the cake.

This was a real hit at work. The cake is surprisingly light and the tart lingonberry jam worked a treat.

See you all again next week with some more baking from my kitchen.

Bye for now,


gluten free mixed berry ricotta cake

8 Jul 2019

Since I returned from my holiday I've been attracted to quick and easy to put together recipes. I hadn't planned to bake a cake this weekend but as I had a cold I didn't feel like making anything that was too time consuming.

I was scrolling through instagram and saw a raspberry ricotta cake that looked nice. I had ricotta in the fridge and just needed to buy some frozen berries and I had all the ingredients to make this cake. I saw a bag of mixed frozen berries at the supermarket so I decided to give those a try instead of using raspberries alone. 

The raspberry ricotta cake is a one bowl cake mixed a wooden spoon but I changed the method to one that made a bit more sense to me. Then I decided I may as well make the cake gluten-free so I could share it with my GF work colleague. I'm not a huge fan of the GF flour I have in the cupboard so I swapped out some almond meal for the flour.  By the time I'd made all my changes the recipe had meandered quite a distance from the original one featured in Bon Appetit.

Here's the recipe for you which makes a 17cm cake. If you'd like to make a 23cm cake, double all the ingredients and bake for the same length of time. For all my recipes I use a 250 ml cup, a 20 ml tablespoon, unsalted butter and 60g eggs. My oven is a conventional gas oven so if your oven is fan forced you may need to reduce the oven temperature by 20°C. 

Gluten free berry ricotta cake – inspired an Alison Roman recipe
60g melted unsalted butter
½ cup caster sugar (reserve 1 tbs for the topping)
½ tsp finely grated lemon rind
125 g ricotta
2 eggs
½ cup gluten free plain flour
1 pinch of salt
1 tsp baking powder
¼ cup almond meal
¼ cup milk
⅔ cup frozen mixed berries (blueberries, raspberries and blackberries)

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Grease and flour a 17cm round cake pan and line the base with baking paper.

In a medium bowl mix the melted butter with the sugar and lemon rind. Whisk in the ricotta followed by the eggs and beat until smooth.

Sift the flour with the salt and baking powder into a small bowl then stir in the almond meal until combined. Add a third of the flour mixture to the ricotta mixture and stir until combined. Add the remaining flour in thirds until combined. If the mixture is looking a bit too thick gradually beat in some of the milk until you have a soft consistency. Finally fold in half the frozen berries, taking care not to crush them.

Spoon the batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth the top. Scatter the remaining berries over the batter before sprinkling the berries with the reserved sugar.

Bake the cake for about 50-60 minutes until golden brown and a tester inserted into the centre comes out clean. Place on a cooling rack and run a knife around the edge of the cake. Allow to cool for at least 20 minutes before unmoulding.

If desired you can sift a little icing sugar over the cake before serving. The resulting cake studded with berries, is really moist and delicious and probably deserves all the rave reviews it's garnered in the 4 years since the recipe was first published.

See you all again next week with some more baking from my kitchen.

Bye for now,



ottolenghi's cauliflower cake

1 Jul 2019

As I was leaving work last week a colleague mentioned she'd made Ottolenghi's cauliflower cake for a friend who was going through a bad patch. 

The recipe for this savoury cake is in Plenty More and although I'd bookmarked the recipe in my copy some time ago, I'd never made it. Cauliflowers are in season at the moment so I bought one on Saturday and made my version of the cake.

I make Helen Goh's broccoli cake quite often and the technique is quite similar. There are a few steps involved in making the cake so I prepared the vegetables and onion and rosemary infused oil on Saturday and baked the cake on Sunday. 

A few people had mentioned in their reviews that the cake was a bit bland so I made sure I seasoned the mix well and added some garlic to the onion because most savoury things taste even better with a bit of garlic. I also halved the recipe to make a 17cm cake.

Here's the recipe for you. For all my recipes I use a 250 ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon, 60 gm eggs and unsalted butter unless specified. My oven is a conventional gas oven, not fan forced, so you may have to lower your oven temperature by 20°C.

Caulifower Cake, adapted from Ottolenghi's Plenty More. Makes a 17cm cake.
Melted unsalted butter, for brushing
1½ tsp white sesame seeds
½ tsp black sesame seeds 
½ small cauliflower, outer leaves removed, broken into 2 cm florets - 250g 
1 small red onion, peeled - 85g 
1 clove garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
40 mls olive oil
¼ teaspoon finely chopped rosemary
3 large eggs
75g coarsely grated Parmesan or another aged cheese 
7g basil leaves, chopped
60g plain flour, sifted
¾ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
Salt and black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200ºC. Line the base and sides of a 17cm springform cake pan with baking paper and brush the sides with melted butter. Mix together the white and black sesame seeds and sprinkle them around the inside of the pan so that they stick to the sides.

Cook the cauliflower florets in a large pot of boiling salted water. Simmer for 15 minutes until the cauliflower is soft and cooked through. Drain in a colander and set side to cool.. 

Cut 4 round slices 5-mm thick off one end of the red onion and set aside. Chop the rest of the onion and place in a small pan with the garlic, the oil and rosemary. Cook for 10 minutes over medium heat, stirring from time to time, until soft. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

Place the cooled onions in a medium sized bowl. Add the eggs, parmesan cheese and the basil and mix well. Then add the flour, baking powder, turmeric, ½ tsp salt, pepper to taste and mix until you have a smooth batter. Gently fold in the cooked and cooled cauliflower florets and mix lightly to thoroughly coat. Be careful not to break up the florets too much.

Spoon the cauliflower mixture into the pan, spreading it evenly and arrange the reserved onion rings on top. Place in the centre of the oven and bake for 50 - 55 minutes, until golden brown and set; a knife inserted into the centre of the cake should come out clean. Remove from the oven and leave for at least 20 minutes before serving. It needs to be served just warm, rather than hot, or at room temperature.

I served mine as a lunch dish with a simple salad and like all Ottolenghi recipes, it was delicious. I can definitely see I'll be making this again quite soon.

See you all again next week with some more baking from my kitchen.

Bye for now,

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