Claire Thomson’s spiced filo pumpkin pie
Hot out of the oven, drench with honey, chilli and oregano for an impressive lunch, or take it to eat cold on a picnic.
pumpkin or butternut squash 350g, peeled and cut into 2cm dice
pine nuts or chopped walnuts 75g
onion 1, finely diced
olive oil 1 tbsp
feta cheese 200g, crumbled
cottage cheese, ricotta or quark 100g
eggs 2, beaten
dried oregano 3 tsp
ground cinnamon ¼ tsp
nutmeg ¼ tsp, freshly grated
salt and freshly ground black pepper about 1 tsp of each
filo pastry sheets 300g
butter 100g, melted
nigella seeds 1 tsp, or use sesame
runny honey 1 tbsp
chilli flakes 1 tsp
Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Put the pumpkin or squash on a baking tray and roast for about 30 minutes, until tender. Put the pine nuts or walnuts on a separate tray and put into the oven for the last 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, fry the onion in olive oil for about 8-10 minutes, until soft and translucent.
Lower the oven temperature to 190C/gas mark 5. Line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper and set to one side.
In a bowl mix the cooked pumpkin, roasted pine nuts (or walnuts), cooked onion, feta, cottage cheese, beaten eggs, 2 teaspoons of oregano, the cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt and black pepper.
Put the prepared baking sheet on a work surface, with the shorter end facing you. Lay a sheet of filo lengthways on the baking sheet and brush with melted butter. Top with another sheet and brush with more butter. Take 2 more sheets and turn them so that they are at the 11 o’clock and 5 o’clock positions, brushing each sheet you add with the melted butter. Continue to arrange the sheets in a clockwork fashion, until you have an incrementally overlapping circle shape. Be sure to butter each sheet liberally as you go.
When all the sheets have been used, place the pumpkin mixture in the centre and spread out into a circle – leaving a good 5cm border. Carefully fold the filo sheets over the edge of the pumpkin mixture, allowing the majority of the centre to still be visible. With the remaining butter, generously brush all the edges of the pie and scatter over the nigella seeds. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the edges are golden and the centre is set.
Remove from the oven, drizzle with the honey, sprinkle with the remaining oregano and the chilli and set to one side for 5-10 minutes before slicing and serving.
For the full wow factor, get hold of a pizza box to transport this magnificent looking pie on a picnic. Alternatively, cut into quarters and wrap in tin foil with a square of cardboard beneath for support. As for an accompanying salad, some peppery rocket, dressed simply with red-wine vinegar, salt and olive oil would work well here.
Adapted from The Art of the Larder by Claire Thomson (Quadrille, £25)
Nigella Lawson’s sesame peanut noodles
I always make a large vat of these since they’re lovely to pick at in the fridge. Although they’re easy to make, you do need quite a few ingredients – and this holds true whether you’re making a small or big batch, so you may as well go all out. I buy ready-cooked egg noodles from the supermarket, which make these even faster to fix.
For the dressing
sesame oil 1 tbsp
garlic oil 1 tbsp
soy sauce 1 tbsp
sweet chilli sauce 2 tbsp
smooth peanut butter 100g
lime juice 2 tbsp
For the salad
beansprouts 150g, rinsed
red pepper 1, deseeded and cut into small strips
spring onions 2, finely sliced
ready-prepared egg noodles 2 x 275g packets or 550g
sesame seeds 20g
fresh coriander 4 tbsp, chopped
Whisk together all the dressing ingredients in a bowl or jug.
Put the mangetout, beansprouts, red pepper strips, sliced spring onions and the noodles into a bowl.
Pour the dressing over the noodles and mix thoroughly to coat everything well.
Sprinkle with the sesame seeds and chopped coriander and pack up as needed.
From Nigella Express by Nigella Lawson (Chatto & Windus, £25)
Meera Sodha’s pav bhaji
This is my cousin Disha’s recipe for pav bhaji, a famous and much-loved street food in Mumbai. It’s a mash of spicy vegetables slathered in butter, mopped up with a hot “pav” – bread roll – while the juices escape down your chin.
mashing potatoes (desiree, maris piper) 200g
unsalted butter 40g, plus extra knob to finish
onions 2 large, chopped
garlic 4 cloves, crushed
ginger 4cm, peeled and grated
aubergines 2 medium (500g in total), cut into 1cm cubes
tomato passata 400g
tomato puree 1 tbsp
ground cumin 2 tsp
ground coriander 2 tsp
garam masala 1 tsp
ground turmeric ¼ tsp
amchur (dried mango powder) ½ tsp (optional)
salt 1½ tsp
chilli powder ¾ tsp
cauliflower ½ a head (around 250g), broken into 2cm cubes
soft white bread rolls 8-12
red onion 1, finely chopped
fresh coriander leaves a handful
lemon wedges a couple, to squeeze over
Peel and chop the potatoes into equal-size chunks, then boil them for around 10 minutes, or until tender. Drain, mash, then set to one side.
Put the butter into a wide-bottomed, lidded frying pan on medium heat. When it starts to foam, add the onions and cook for 8-10 minutes, until golden. Add the garlic and ginger, and stir well. After a minute, add the aubergines to the pan and cover. Stir them every now and then until they’re soft – this should take around 10 minutes. Add the passata and tomato puree, and cook for around 5-7 minutes until it is a thick mash, rich and dark red.
Add the cumin, coriander, garam masala and turmeric, the amchur if using and the salt. Stir and taste, adding the chilli powder if you’d like more heat. Finally, add the mashed potato and cauliflower. Stir to mix and put the lid on, leaving it to cook for around 10 minutes, or until soft.
Taste and adjust any seasoning. Transfer to a bowl and use a potato masher or a fork to mash it. The consistency should be somewhere between mashed potato and thick pasta sauce – you can add some hot water to loosen the bhaji if need be. For a final flourish, add a generous knob of butter and stir it in.
Pack the bhaji, rolls, butter, coriander and lemon wedges separately.
To assemble, toast the bread rolls and spread with butter (if you don’t have access to a toaster at work, this can be done before you pack your lunch in the morning). Warm the pav bhaji (if you wish). Put a layer of bhaji in the middle of each roll and top with a sprinkling of finely chopped red onion, coriander and a generous squeeze of lemon juice.
Adapted from Made in India by Meera Sodha (Fig Tree, £20)
Henrietta Inman’s halloumi, dill and soured cream maslenica
This is a traditional Bosnian loaf that I learned to bake from my dear friend, Olga. It is delicious warm but just as good cold and perfect in a packed lunch, either for sandwiches, a slice of bread to have alongside a salad or a soup, or more of an open sandwich.
Makes 1 large loaf
dried yeast 2 tsp
honey 1 tsp
lukewarm water 200ml
strong white wheat flour 300g, plus 1 tsp, plus more to dust
strong wholegrain wheat flour 200g
sea salt flakes 1 tsp
eggs 2, lightly beaten
extra virgin olive oil 1 tbsp, plus more for the pan
dill 20g, finely chopped
unsalted butter 15g
soured cream 100g
freshly ground black pepper
halloumi 250g, sliced a bit less than 5mm thick
Mix together the yeast, honey and warm water and set aside for 15 minutes until a little foamy on top.
In a bowl, combine the flours and salt; make a well in the centre. Add the yeast mix, eggs, oil and half the dill, and bring together with your hands, making sure all the ingredients are well combined. Knead the mix for about 5 minutes on a lightly floured surface and then return to the bowl, cover with a towel and leave to prove for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
Place the dough on a floured surface. Melt the butter. Mix the soured cream and remaining dill with a few pinches of black pepper. Stretch and pat the dough into an oval measuring 35cm x 21cm and a bit more than 1cm thick, using a rolling pin if necessary.
Brush the right-hand side of it with a third of the butter, leaving 1cm of the edge uncovered, then top this buttered section with a third of the soured cream, then a third of the halloumi, again leaving the 1cm border. Fold over the left side without the topping, and press it around the edges to seal the filling in. Turn it over, then give it a quarter turn anti-clockwise, flattening out the dough. Use a rolling pin to form a rough oval again, rolling away from your body and making sure there is still enough flour on the work surface, and repeat the process twice more.
After the third time, do not flatten it out, but instead shape the dough into a round. Oil a heavy-based ovenproof saucepan, casserole dish or frying pan (mine has a 20cm base and is deep), put the loaf in with the seal at the bottom and leave to prove for another hour. Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown; when the bottom is tapped, the loaf should sound hollow. It is normal for this loaf to drop slightly in the middle, due to the moisture of the filling. It’s great with chutney.
Adapted from The Natural Baker by Henrietta Inman (Jacqui Small, £20)
Rebecca Oliver’s smoked mackerel, fennel and almond sandwich
The fennel sauce is more easily made in a blender, but the more authentic way of doing it (and how I learned thanks to Sam and Sam Clark of Moro) was with a pestle and mortar. It is less wasteful (small amounts in a machine don’t blend properly) and very therapeutic.
smoked mackerel 1 fillet
extra virgin olive oil
shallot ½, finely diced
fennel seeds ¼ tsp (optional)
garlic 1 clove
flat-leaf parsley 1 big handful, picked
fennel frond small bunch or the top half of a fennel, finely diced
white-wine vinegar (moscatel, if possible) a dribble
mustard 1 tsp
capers 1 tsp (optional)
caster sugar to taste
mix of robust salad, like chicory, watercress, dandelion, fennel, grated celeriac 1 big handful
foccacia a 12cm square
horseradish a couple of gratings (from a jar works fine too)
roasted almonds 1 tbsp, roughly chopped
Break up the mackerel to your liking and dress with a little oil and lemon juice to taste. Lightly mix through the shallot.
Crush the fennel seeds in a pestle and mortar. Continue in the mortar or pour the crushed seeds into a blender. If using a pestle and mortar, finely chop the garlic, parsley and fennel fronds, or just add all to the blender. Bash or whizz, with a big pinch of salt and a glug of oil, till the consistency of a thick sauce or a thin-ish pesto, adding more oil if needs be. Add a good squeeze of lemon juice, the white-wine vinegar, mustard and capers. Season with salt, sugar (may be needed to counteract the vinegar) and pepper to taste.
Dress your salad leaves with a tiny bit of oil and a squeeze of lemon.
Lay your mackerel on your bread and season with pepper. Grate the horseradish over the top, then very lightly spoon about 2-3 tablespoons of sauce over the mackerel, scatter the almonds over the top and then finish with the salad. Place the other half of bread on top and carefully wrap in some lovely brown parchment.
Rebecca Oliver is co-owner of The Dusty Knuckle Bakery, London E8
- 20 best packed lunch recipes part 3 launches tomorrow morning