My diet has not been brilliant recently, and the pounds have slowly crept on. Instead of eating well 80% of the time and having treats 20% of the time, the rule has reversed and I have been scoffing goodies much more than I should. Well, these things happen – I just realised I needed to start being a bit more aware of portion sizes and stop treating myself with chocolate more nights than not!
So, with a more mindful approach to eating, I decided to remind myself of a few of the recipes which kept me on the straight and narrow when I did weightwatchers several years ago. With that reminisce came a reminder of the wonders of filo pastry.
I love pastry – obviously shortcrust and puff are my absolute favourites, encasing sweet or savoury pies, surrounding sausage, or acting as a base for fruits and creams. I had got out of the habit of using filo which is daft really, considering the area I live in is full of Turkish and Greek stores which sell filo either in its original state or full of butter, honey and nuts in tasty baklava.
So when my mum was coming over for dinner last week, and I wanted to make a dessert, I thought that filo would probably be a good option. At first I was intending to make a fruit tart with apples and berries in a filo case, but thought that they would need some kind of custard base … which obviously would add calories. Then my friend Suzanne suggested some apple samosas – and not only was the recipe a complete doddle but I had all the ingredients. I worked them out at one weightwatchers propoint each, which meant I could have three plus a scoop of vanilla ice cream – a really decent pud which didn’t feel like a diet option. They also seemed a good pudding to have after my seafood curry.
The curry was a variation of what I have blogged about before, but with the addition of some squid and prawns instead of chicken breast, and served with brown rice and naan bread from a place in Finsbury Park which solely exists to make naan bread (four naans for a quid – what a bargain!).
And what to do with the rest of the filo? Well, Suzanne had reminded me of another of her filo favourites – salmon and leek wrapped in filo, which are a kind of cheat’s salmon en croute, but you really don’t feel like you are cheating with them. Andrew and I had them later in the week with veg cooked in garlic and tomatoes (as it’s nice to have a bit of liquid with the pastries). I actually thought I had spoiled them, because I assembled them the previous day and kept them in the fridge, and on the day of cooking the filo had gone soggy. However, the oven bake rescued them and I already have another pack of filo in the fridge to make them again, although I might try a chicken breast variation next time.
2 fresh salmon fillets, skin off and pin boned, 2 sheets of filo pastry, 2 chopped leeks, a teaspoon of lazy garlic, a tablespoon of reduced fat cream cheese (normal is fine if you aren’t watching your weight), salt and pepper
Cook your leeks briefly in a small amount of water and then drain them thoroughly. Stir in the garlic and cream cheese, season with salt and pepper and allow to cool. If you had them, you could add chopped fresh herbs such as chives, oregano, basil or thyme, according to your taste.
Lay open a sheet of filo and add a quarter of the cooled leek mixture to one central end of the pastry sheet. Top with a salmon fillet and top that with another quarter of the leek mixture. Then fold the end of the pastry over the salmon, fold in the ends, and roll so the salmon and leek is completely encased in the pastry. It is essential that you do this when the leek mixture is completely cooled, otherwise you will break the pastry and make a mess! That’s not the end of the world, but it’s better if you can keep everything inside the pastry.
Repeat with the other salmon fillet, using up all of the leek mixture. Place both parcels on a lightly oiled baking tray and brush the tops of the parcels with a little oil. Bake in a pre-heated oven – I found 180 degrees for 30 minutes did the trick, but be careful that the pastry doesn’t start to burn. Allow the parcels to rest for a few minutes before serving with vegetables. I served the following, which was really nice as I do think you need some liquid to stop the dish being too dry.
Vegetables in tomatoes and garlic
Pre-cook any vegetables you want – I did green beans and tenderstem broccoli, but cauliflower, mushrooms and courgette would also be good. Then in the same pan sautee some lazy garlic in olive oil with chopped tomatoes. When the tomatoes have started to break down, mix your pre-cooked vegetables in, season and serve. I also added a bag of spinach to mine, which I wilted in the residual heat of the pan.
600g of seafood – I used a mixture of raw, peeled tiger prawns and cleaned baby squid, tin tomatoes, tin of reduced fat coconut milk, 2 chopped onions, a teaspoon each of lazy garlic and ginger, a couple of pinches of chilli flakes, a selection of garam masala (half a tablespoon), curry powder (half a tablespoon), a shake of ground cumin and ground coriander and turmeric
Put all the ingredients except the fish and coconut milk in a saucepan and bring to the boil, and then allow to simmer for 10 minutes until the flavours infuse. Then add the tin of coconut milk and stir well. Finally, just before you are ready to eat, add the fish and cook for a couple of minutes until everything is just cooked through. Sprinkle with freshly chopped coriander before serving with brown rice and naan bread.
3 sheets of filo pastry, 2 cored eating apples (Suzanne suggested peeling the apples as well but I am lazy so didn’t bother, and it was fine), a sprinkling of cinnamon, 50 g of sultanas and some brown sugar
Cook the chopped, cored apples in a little water with the cinnamon for around 5-10 minutes until they have slightly softened. Add the sultanas. Allow to cool.
Cut a sheet of filo pastry into three strips lengthways, and spoon some of the mixture onto the end. Roll the end up diagonally around the apple until you have made a samosa, and repeat until you have nine little parcels. Sprinkle with a touch of brown sugar and bake in the oven on a lightly oiled baking tray for 15 minutes at 180 degrees until brown. Serve with ice cream.
For the weightwatchers amongst you, I worked out the propoints values as follows:
- Salmon and leek filo parcels – 13pp but I used full fat cream cheese as that’s all I had, so you could probably knock a point or two off for reduced fat cream cheese
- Fish curry – 7pp plus extra for the rice and naan
- Apple samosas – 1pp each
More filo recipes will follow on a future blog, as my friend Judith has reminded me of some other gems …