This is a rather special vegetarian dish for Christmas. Some elements can be made in advance, even the day before, helping to reduce the work on Christmas Day itself. I am suggesting a Scandinavian pastry that is easier to work with than rough puff but if you prefer to use shop-bought, all-butter puff pastry that would work well too. You will need 2 x 320g ready rolled sheets, or 1 x 600g block cut in half.
8 generous servings.
- 250g softened, unsalted butter
- 250g strong bread flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 250g quark cheese
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 2 large courgettes
- 1 large aubergine
- 1 bunch of spring onions
- 400g fresh spinach , ready washed
- Small bunch of parsley – English or flat leaf, chopped
- 6 sprigs of thyme – stripped
- 8 sage leaves – chopped
- 200g whole cooked chestnuts, (vacuum –packed chestnuts are now readily available)
- 100g pine nuts
- 200g stilton (use feta if you don’t like stilton)
- 150g parmesan – coarsely grated
- 250g ricotta
- 2 large egg yolks
- Pepper and a little salt
- Sunflower oil + butter for frying, plus extra to grease baking tray
In a large bowl put soft butter and quark and mix well with a hand held mixer for 2 minutes, or use a stand mixer with paddle attachment.
In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients together well. Transfer to butter/quark mixture. Use a wooden spoon to combine to a dough.
Transfer to lightly floured surface and give it 5-6 kneads until smooth – do not over-knead. Cut in half, cover each half with Clingfilm and refrigerate for 45 – 60 minutes.
Meanwhile prepare the vegetables. *Cut up the courgettes into small dice. Put in bowl and set aside. Next cut the aubergines into 2cm/1/2” dice. Put in bowl and set aside.
- Slice the spring onions finely and put in small bowl.
- Wilt the spinach in a saucepan, drain in sieve fully pressing out all liquid with a wooden spoon. Roughly chop and set aside.
- Cut up chestnuts into quarters and set aside in a bowl.
- Chop parsley and sage leaves fairly finely. Mix in the stripped thyme and set aside.
- Grate the parmesan on the coarse part of the grater and set aside
- Crumble the stilton (or feta) and set aside
all items asterisked can be prepared the day before and kept covered in Clingfilm in the fridge. (Not the aubergine as it will oxidise). The pastry can be made several days in advance and kept refrigerated.
- Fry the courgette in 1tbs hot oil and a small knob of butter for 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside. Fry the aubergine in 2tbs hot oil and a small knob of butter for 3 minutes. Lay on a plate lined with kitchen paper to absorb excess oil before adding to the courgette. Add to the courgette. In a small frying pan, fry the pine nuts in 2tsp of oil and a small knob of butter. Give nuts a 30 second start and then add in the sliced spring onions. Cook until soft and nuts are a light brown. Add these to aubergine/courgette mix. Add in the chopped cooked spinach, plus the mixed herbs, the quartered chestnuts, and the grated parmesan. Mix thoroughly but gently as you don’t want to break the vegetables down.
- Whisk the 2 egg yolks and ricotta together until combined. Add to vegetable mix and seasoning with salt and pepper, bearing in mind that the stilton or feta will add more salt.
- The filling mixture is now ready. (The courgette and aubergine will be al dente but will continue to cook during the baking period, and it is important to have some texture to chew on rather than a vegetable mash!)
Preheat oven to 190C. Grease a 30cm x 40cm/12” x 16” baking tray.
Assembly and Cooking
- Roll out half of the pastry to a rectangle of 20cm x 36cm/8” x 14” and to a £1 coin thickness. Transfer to greased prepared baking tray. Spoon and heap the mixture onto pastry rectangle but leave clear a 1 inch/2.5cm border all the way round. Spread the crumbled feta over the top of filling. Brush the clear border with egg wash that will form seal.
- Now roll the other half of the pastry to a slightly larger rectangle than the previous one – say 22cm x 38cm – as it has to cover the mounded filling. Cover the filling and press both halves together. Trim and neaten edges leaving ¾” border. Scallop the border with the back of a knife. Brush the wellington all over with egg wash.
- Using a small circular cutter, cut 2 holes in top of pastry to allow steam to escape. Cut out shapes from the pastry trimmings to form a pattern. Finally, brush these cut-outs with egg wash. (See photo as a guide).
- Transfer to preheated oven and bake for 35 – 45 minutes. When cooked, leave rest for 10 minutes and transfer carefully to serving tray using 2 large palette knives or spatulas to support it.