After a lovely family holiday to Crete we’re now back into the swing of things and the routine of day-to-day life.
Will’s back to the daily work grind and I’m back out running and catching up with friends and drinking too much coffee. Really can’t knock maternity leave.
Family holidays are a little different to the ones I used to enjoy with Will. It’s a good different though. Our old holidays involved hours of sunbathing broken up with over-indulgent meals throughout the day. This time however, our schedule revolved around the little man’s sporadic timetable of naps, swimming and feeding. This meant rushing to try and grab some much needed sunrays when we got him down to sleep in his cot during the day. As you can imagine, we became a little more focused on Seb’s sleep training.
We did get to go out for some lovely walks exploring the town of Rethymnon, getting lost in the old cobbled streets lined with endless restaurants and cafes interspersed with shops selling oils, trinkets and the usual tea-towels. We discovered age-old bakeries creating intricate pastries and pieces of art made from dough.
We visited a few different restaurants during our two weeks, but our favouite by far was the aptly named restaurant ‘The Lemon Tree’.
It had a simple but quaint exterior and as you walked through the restaurant your eye was drawn to the stunning courtyard dining area at the back. The tables were hidden under a shelter of lemon trees, shading you from the heat of the sun and creating a fantastic dining atmosphere which I could only imagine looked stunning in the evening with twinkling fairy lights hanging from the branches.
As we walked through the restaurant to our table in the courtyard garden we did our usual eyeing up of what other people were eating and realized we had stumbled upon a hidden gem. The only challenge would be deciding which dishes to pick off the menu.
We both opted for omelettes (which sounds uninteresting on paper) but looking anything but boring when they passed through the restaurant carried high on trays by the waiters. We picked two different omelettes but each had lovely fresh vegetables and of course the obligatory crumbling of feta on top. We shared a simple fresh side salad of avocado, tomatoes and grated carrot with a light olive oil vinaigrette dressing. The staff were so friendly and welcoming that it was a shame we went there so late in our holiday or we’d definitely have made it back for a second visit.
Last week I came across a roast vegetable galette in the “Topped with Cinnamon” cookbook which went down a treat and reminded me of those omelettes we had enjoyed. But with Autumn well and truly upon us, I thought a more seasonal vegetable should be celebrated , which of course means the humble pumpkin.
You always know Halloween is just around the corner when endless posts of the use of pumpkins hits your inbox. I’m not complaining, I just wish I had time to try them all out. So I’ll be adding to those pumpkin posts with a Harissa pumpkin and feta tart from the beautiful ‘My Darling Lemon Thyme’ cookbook. The only addition I’ll be making is to add some peppers, onions and courgettes to the tart and I’ll be using shop-bought pastry or I’d never get round to make it with a 5 month old on my hands! (That’s my excuse anyway!)
It’s pretty simple to put together and nothing too taxing when it comes to prep. In fact, you can get all the component parts ready during the day and then pop them onto the pre-baked pastry case ready to go in the oven.
There were lots of ‘mmmmm’ noises coming from Will when he tucked into the dish at dinner that evening, although if there is pastry involved he’s normally a happy man! What I did really like though was the heat of harissa on the sweet pumpkin against the creamy feta crumbled and gently baked on the top.
The layers of slightly crisp pastry (no soggy bottom here), sweet carmelised onion, followed by the warmth of harissa on the pumpkin gently heated up your mouth. And then you got the crunch of pepper and a smooth cooling feta to finish the mouthful off. It was a lovely combination of complimentary flavours encased in an buttery pastry shell.
If pumpkin isn’t your thing then you could definitely substitute it for some butternut squash which I imagine would be just as delightful.
A dish that gives a hint of sweetness but not in that sugar rush you normally get during Halloween!
Harissa pumpkin and feta tart
(inspired and a small twist on the recipe from by My Darling Lemon Thyme)
1 small pumpkin, peeled and chopped into 2-3cm chunks
1 red onion finely diced
1 courgette, sliced into 5mm thick round slices
1 pepper, sliced into thin strips
2 tbsp of harissa
1 ready made short crust pastry
100g feta crumbled
coriander leaves to serve
To make your pastry case:
Grease your loose bottomed fluted flan/tart tin well so that you don’t have a problem getting the tart out the case.
Roll out your short crust pastry on a lightly floured surface till it’s about £1 coin thick. Ensure your pastry is rolled out a couple of inches larger than the size of your tin.
Place your pastry in your tin and push the pastry gently into the edge of the tin so that it fits snugly with no air or holes for your filling to escape. Leave the edges to overhang at this point. Using a fork, stab your pastry all over. Chill in the fridge for 10 minutes.
Take your tin out the fridge and line the pastry with baking paper and fill with baking beans or rice. The weight of the baking beans will prevent your pastry rising.
Bake the pastry in the oven for 15 minutes, remove from the oven and take out all the baking beans and paper. Place back in the oven to cook the base for 5 minutes more.
The base should be a light golden colour at this point. Leave to cool in the tin.
To make your filling:
Reduce the heat in the oven to 180 degrees.
Lightly grease an oven tray.
Combine your pumpkin and harissa so that the pumpkin is thoroughly coated and roast in the oven for 30 minutes. Toss the pumpkin every 10 minutes so that they cook evenly. They should be golden and tender by the end. Set aside to cool completely.
Whilst your pumpkin is cooking put a drizzle of olive oil in a frying pan and cook your onion over a low heat. They should become slightly caramelised but not burnt. Leave your onion to cool.
Heat the oven to 180 degrees.
Take your pastry case (you can leave it in the tin) and spread the onion around the bottom. Next add your pumpkin and spread evenly over the base. You can then add your courgette and pepper slices – it’s up to you if you’d like to create a pattern or just scatter randomly over the pumpkin. Finally, crumble on your feta.
Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes until your vegetables look nicely roasted and your pastry looks golden.
Remove the tart from your pastry case – you can leave it on the bottom tin circle if you’re worried about it crumbling!
Drizzle on some olive oil and scatter over your chopped coriander leaves.
Serve with a simple salad of baby gem lettuce, avocado, cherry tomatoes and pine nuts with a classic olive oil and balsamic dressing.