Smoked Mackerel Pate

Smoked mackerel paté with toasted pitta

If you’ve never tried making smoked mackerel paté before, I’m going to have to insist that you do so immediately. We’re not going to get into that boring debate on whether it is actually paté here, because it’s irrelevant. If you like smoked fish, you will love this. As an added bonus, in case you need convincing, it takes less than five minutes to make. Perfect for those days when you have little time to make dinner and can’t face perusing the chilled pizza aisle in the supermarket yet again.

My in-laws have this brilliant way of doing lunch where every leftover from the fridge is put out on the kitchen table, along with some fresh bread, cheeses and this incredible salami they always seem to have in the house, and everybody helps themselves. Yes, you often end up with a few random things on your plate, but it is a great way of using everything up. Every time I visit I am inspired to do a similar thing at home instead of hotfooting it down to the local bakery for one of their prosciutto sandwiches, for I always have so many leftovers. This weekend, I finally achieved this, with the smoked mackerel pate as the centrepiece.

Depending on how many people you have to feed, this paté will stretch across more than one sitting. You can eat it as I do, by smearing it onto torn-off bits of hot toasted pitta; or as my husband does, in a sandwich with rocket and thinly sliced radishes. Once it’s on the table with your array of other lunch items, people can do with it as they please.

If I can get it, I tend to use the whole smoked mackerels you can buy from a fishmonger. We have two great ones here in south east London; Moxons in East Dulwich and F. C. Soper in Nunhead. The former has a range of smoked fish, including trout and Arbroath Smoakies, both of which I have used to make paté in the past. If I can’t get to a fishmonger, I use the pre-prepared smoked mackerel fillets you can buy in the supermarket. If you do this, just be sure to buy the ones without the pepper crust. Controversially, I have added parsley instead of dill to my paté; which I discovered I liked better when cooking for a friend who had an aversion to anise. I have also added horseradish, but do leave it out or adjust the amounts if you aren’t keen.

Smoked Mackerel Pate

Two whole smoked mackerel, or four fillets
75g sour cream
175g cream cheese
3 tsp horseradish sauce
Sea salt and black pepper
½ tsp lemon juice
Small handful finely chopped parsley

Skin the mackerel fillets and flake the flesh into a food processor, being careful to check for any bones. Add the sour cream and cream cheese and pulse a couple of times. You want the mixture to be blended, but not puréed.

Transfer to a bowl and add the horseradish. I would usually add this a teaspoon at a time, tasting after each one, as horseradish sauces vary in strength. Add salt, black pepper and lemon juice to taste then, finally, stir in the parsley.

One year ago: Kale, Spinach and Spring Onion Potato Cakes

Other things you can put out on a lunch table from More than Just Toast:
Bacon, cheddar and spring onion cornbread
Homemade baked beans
Cherry tomato, prosciutto and ricotta frittata
Egg salad with capers and dill

Savoury Kale Pancakes

Savoury kale pancakes with tahini-honey butter

It’s all a bit exciting for us here at the moment as we are soon to be heading off to Poland for a short holiday. We have three days in Krakow, for which I have meticulously annotated an online map with all of the restaurants and Polish bakeries I wish to visit, and then two days in Rzeszow for a friend’s wedding. So far all I know about Polish weddings is that there is a lot of food and a lot of vodka, so I’m anticipating the need for a diet on my return.

Before I get stuck into packing, I wanted to tell you a little bit about a breakfast I had last week. As you may already know, my love of pancakes knows no bounds. Last year, I finally achieved my goal of creating the most perfect American-style pancakes recipe, so I make them more frequently than ever. My neighbours are already aware of this, as I frequently set off the smoke alarms when making them in a pan that is both embarrassingly dilapidated, yet so good for making pancakes I can’t bear to throw it away.

Despite this, I almost never make savoury pancakes. I can’t really explain my reasons beyond an lifelong sweet tooth and an almost obsessive love of maple syrup, which only really goes with sweet pancakes. If I’m feeling particularly indulgent, I’ll add a couple of rashers of streaky bacon, but that is as far as I will go. Last week, when trawling the internet for inspiration for using up half a bag of kale I had in the fridge, I came across a recipe for kale pancakes on the Abel and Cole website, and decided to take the opportunity to branch out a little.

By the way, I’m not talking about pancakes filled with kale; rather pancakes with kale blitzed into the batter. This gives all of the fresh and iron-rich flavour of kale without the rough curls of the leaves. This brainwave was concocted by my friend Jassy, who has the incredible job of inventing recipes with all of Abel and Cole’s produce for their website. Not only does she have an exemplary knowledge of fruit and veg, but can always be relied on for some amazingly creative cooking; she was responsible for bringing bacon baklava and a three-tiered popcorn, pretzel and M&Ms cake to our baking club in the past.

These pancakes have managed to change my view on savoury pancakes, and have even inspired me to expand my repertoire in future. My maple syrup stayed firmly in the cupboard and instead I tried out the tahini-honey butter that is also part of Jassy’s recipe, which matches the pancakes perfectly. Because of my sweet tooth, there was a little extra drizzle of honey, but it worked perfectly.

Savoury Kale Pancakes 

Note: you can replace the kale with other green vegetables, such as spinach, if you wish, but be mindful of the water content. Spinach can be particularly watery.

For the pancakes
75g kale, leaves shredded and tough stems removed
3 eggs
150ml milk
150g self-raising flour
Pinch salt
Pinch sugar
A knob of butter and a little oil, for frying

For the butter
50g unsalted butter, at room temperature
25g tahini
2 tsp honey

Combine the kale, eggs and milk in a bowl and blitz together using a hand blender. Sift in the flour, salt and sugar and stir to a smooth batter.

Heat a little butter and oil in a frying pan and ladle in a small amount of pancake batter. Cook for a few minutes until browned, then flip and cook the other side. Transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining batter. If you have a big enough pan, you may be able to cook more than one at a time.

Make the butter by creaming together the butter, tahini and honey and then chilling in the fridge until required.

Serve the pancakes stacked with some butter and, if required, a little extra honey.

Serves four. Adapted from a recipe by Jassy Davis at Abel and Cole.

More of Jassy’s recipes can be found on her blog, Gin and Crumpets.

One year ago: Mo Pho, Brockley

Other pancake recipes on More than Just Toast:
American-style pancakes
Blueberry pancakes
Sweet potato pancakes
Vegan pancakes

Root Vegetable Tacos

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Root vegetable tacos, made using freestanding taco shells

It’s a special day today: it’s exactly 11 years since I first met my husband. In a dingy indie club in Southampton, in case you’re wondering. He’s working today, so we’re waiting until tomorrow to celebrate.

It was my husband that introduced me to proper Mexican food; when I first went to visit him in Los Angeles in 2006, when he was there recording his first album. Before this, my experience of it was limited to one dreadful Tex Mex restaurant – the kind that offers some kind of green puree as guacamole and uses pre-made margarita mix – and some home experimentation with Old El Paso. I was actually thrown out of this restaurant on my 21st birthday for climbing up onto the table after one too many chilli tequilas and trying to convince the other diners to embark upon a Mexican wave, but that’s a story for another day.

You could argue that anything would shine in comparison to this, but the food in LA was truly incredible. Crispy fish tacos, those little slivers of pink pickled onions, proper guacamole studded with onion, tomato and chilli and hot sauce made with chipotles, a word that had never even permeated into my consciousness until then. Of course, feasting as we were in California was only going to lead to disappointment when we returned home to find Mexican restaurants in the UK a poor imitation – Wahaca didn’t even exist back then – so we took to our own kitchen to try and replicate it.

Fast forward ten years or so; through countless pork shoulders slow cooked in our temperamental oven, a quest for the perfect pico de gallo, and several avocado stone-related knife injuries; and here I am making tacos with root vegetables. Of all things. My husband has a gift for those slow cooked meats you really, really want in your burrito, but I tend to experiment more with vegetables and fish. There are purists who would tell you that root vegetables do not really belong in a taco, even some that would claim that adding a parsnip was sacrilegious, but being able to experiment within a cuisine is what moves it on and evolves it.

These tacos fulfil both my love of Mexican flavours and my seasonal craving for the root vegetables that are in abundance at this time of year. It’s not your traditional taco, no, but a taco it is, still. Label it an abomination if you want, but do give it a go.

Root Vegetable Tacos

3 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
4 parsnips, peeled and diced
½ a butternut squash, peeled and diced
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp dried oregano
½ tsp dried chilli flakes
½ tsp salt

To serve
Taco shells
Pico de gallo, or salsa
Guacamole, or smashed avocado
Sour cream
Coriander leaves, finely chopped
Hot sauce

Preheat the oven to 200°c. Combine all the sweet potatoes, parsnips, butternut squash, olive oil, ground cumin, smoked paprika, dried oregano, dried chilli flakes and salt in a bowl and toss together so that the vegetables become coated in the spices. Spread out on a baking tray in a single layer (you may find you need to use two) and roast in the oven for 20 minutes until browned.

Serve the vegetables alongside the taco shells and other accompaniments.

One year ago: Chicken and Dumplings for the Overworked Soul

Other vegetarian dishes on More than Just Toast:
Late summer grilled vegetables with halloumi
Red lentil, pea and potato curry

Spiced lentils and tomatoes with kale and baked eggs

Simple Pumpkin Pie

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Pumpkin pie

Pumpkin for autumn. I bet you didn’t see that coming.

If I had to make a choice between pumpkin (and its fellow winter squashes) and every other vegetable that is in season right now, the others would not stand a chance. They’re great and all, but how many of them have pumpkin’s versatility? How many of them would work equally well in a curry and a cheesecake? How many of them are centrepieces for Hallowe’en and have American holidays that revolve around them? None, for in October, pumpkin is king.

In Britain, pumpkin pie is not something that many of us grew up eating, and is more a result of what some might call the ‘Americanisation’ of our culture. I remember seeing them in Thanksgiving episodes of my favourite sitcom, but they never made the transition from television to table. In our house, pies were beef and onion or chicken and mushroom; Mum’s homemade apple pie or Sara Lee lemon meringue on Sundays. In fact, forget pumpkin pie, I don’t think a pumpkin even crossed the threshold into my parents’ kitchen until long after all the kids were old enough to vote. By then, I’d left home, got my own kitchen and own set of cookbooks, and was fully in the throes of a pumpkin obsession that’s never quite ended.

My first pumpkin pie was for a pot-luck Thanksgiving dinner with some expat Americans living in London. My job was to make dessert. Should you ever find yourself in a similar situation, my advice to you would be this: don’t do it. Bow out gracefully, or exchange the task for another, washing up duties, perhaps, as making emotionally-charged nostalgic dishes for homesick expats creates a whole lot of trouble. The unsolicited input I received from said friends was enough to tip me over the edge; for they all wanted it to be just like the one they had at home. I felt like Monica from Friends in the episode where she has to accommodate everybody’s potato demands, instead I cobbled all the requests into one instead of making separate pies. It was no less a disaster.

I have, fortunately, had more success since, but am still yet to find a recipe that makes the pumpkin pie of my dreams. Every autumn I make a couple; some elaborate and experimental, some far more muted and simple. This recipe falls into the latter category and is probably the kind that I make most often: a pastry shell with a baked spiced pumpkin filling. My husband, who frequently proclaims his lack of sweet tooth, enjoys this one most of all: no unusual ingredients, no marshmallow toppings, no gingerbread crust; funnily enough, without anything that makes it even remotely American. For extra British points, we ate this with cups of tea whilst discussing how cold the weather has become.

It’s probably not the most authentic of recipes. Neither is it pretty enough to become a runaway Pinterest success; but it is a great way to use a pumpkin whilst they’re in season.

Pumpkin Pie

For the pastry:
225g plain flour
80g caster sugar
110g cold unsalted butter
1 egg

For the filling:
1 large pumpkin, deseeded and cut into cubes
170g caster sugar
½ tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground nutmeg
225g cream cheese
60g butter, melted
3 eggs

Start by making the pastry. Combine the flour and sugar in a large bowl and then rub in the butter with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Crack the egg into the bowl and work the mixture until you have a smooth dough. Add a drop of milk if the dough is too dry. Shape into a disc, wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Note: If you have one, it is far easier to make the pastry in a food processor. Blitz together the flour, sugar and butter until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs then, with the motor running, crack in the egg and blitz until the dough comes together.

Preheat the oven to 180°c. Roll out the pastry and use to line a loose-bottomed tart tin that has been lightly greased with butter. Trim the edges and bake blind in the oven for 12 minutes. Remove the weights and return to the oven for a further 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, steam the pumpkin until tender and purée with a hand blender. Set aside. In a large bowl, stir together the sugar, salt, ground cinnamon, ground ginger and ground nutmeg. Beat in the cream cheese, pumpkin purée and melted butter until smooth. Finally, beat in the eggs.

Note: you can use canned pumpkin here if you can’t face the labour of peeling, de-seeding, chopping and steaming a pumpkin. Most large supermarkets now have it in their world foods aisle.

Reduce the oven temperature to 175°c. Scrape the filling into the cooled pastry case and return to the oven. Bake for 30-35 minutes, rotating the pie half way through. Allow to cool completely before serving.

One year ago: Aubergine Sabich at Honey & Co.

Other pumpkin recipes on More than Just Toast:
Butternut squash falafel
Roast butternut squash and chickpea salad with tahini-lemon dressing
Warm pearl barley squash salad with balsamic-Dijon dressing


Blackberry Ripple Ice Cream

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Blackberry ripple ice cream and some vintage sundae glasses that belonged to my nan

Last week I read somewhere that more ice cream is sold in the winter than in the summer. It makes sense, if you think about it: all those hot desserts. For a slice of hot fruit pie, straight from the oven, or a treacle pudding straight from the steamer, there is no better accompaniment than a scoop of cold vanilla ice cream. When you have the heating on, it doesn’t matter what the weather is like outside. That being said, I do enjoy a walk down to Gelupo on Archer Street on a frosty winter night for a couple of scoops of the Christmas pudding gelato they bring out every festive season.

We’ve always kept ice cream in the freezer during the winter months for such purposes; and recently I have taken to making my own. I considered buying an ice cream maker, but living in a London flat with a small kitchen, I don’t have the space. We had to get rid of our microwave to free up some counter room for the espresso machine, so have put an embargo on more gadgets until we move to a place with a bigger kitchen. Then I thought about an attachment for my KitchenAid, but there was also a problem: the bowl needs to be stored in the freezer and mine is packed full of everything from frozen leftover stews to the good bottles of vodka. Not suitable either.

There is, however, a third option. It’s time-consuming, labour intensive and not ideal by any means, but it does enable you to make ice cream with nothing more than a Tupperware and a fork. The reason that you can’t just make the custard base and pop it in the freezer until it sets is that freezing anything from liquid to solid creates ice crystals. The churning of the ice cream maker breaks up those ice crystals to create a smooth result. When you make ice cream by hand, the alternative way of breaking up the ice crystals is to stir the ice cream during the freezing process. Once the ice cream goes into the freezer, I take it out and stir it with a fork every half an hour for about four hours.

See what I mean about time consuming? But it is a great thing to do if you’re working from home or have a rainy afternoon indoors. Once I put the stirred ice cream back into the freezer, I set the cooker timer for half an hour and just carry on with my day.

This ice cream is an adaptation on the classic raspberry ripple. Blackberries are abundant at this time of year and grow wildly just about anywhere. We used to have a great blackberry bush by the garages opposite my flat, but since Southwark Council cut it back a couple of years ago, I get most of mine from Nunhead Cemetery. When they go out of season, I use frozen berries, which are absolutely fine to bake with. Any berries would work well in this recipe, but you might want to adjust the amount of sugar you use in the ripple; I used quite a lot here as blackberries are especially tart.

Try it with a slice of apple pie.

Blackberry Ripple Ice Cream

Note: this recipe includes a lot of time for chilling and churning, so ideally you should start it one or two days before you want to eat it. This recipe is for making ice cream by hand; if you are lucky enough to have an ice cream maker, adjust the settings according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

500ml double cream
250ml whole milk
Two lemons
6 egg yolks
500g blackberries
280g sugar
¼ tsp salt

In a heavy saucepan, stir together the milk and cream to a simmer. Strip the peel from the lemons using a potato peeler and add them to the saucepan. Take off the heat, cover, and set aside for one hour.

In a separate heavy saucepan, whisk together 170g of the sugar with the egg yolks until pale and thick. Pour the lemon-infused cream through a sieve and stir into this mixture. Cook over a medium heat until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Transfer to an airtight container and allow to cool. Once cool, transfer to the fridge and chill overnight.

Meanwhile, make the blackberry ripple. Purée the blackberries in a blender then push through a sieve to extract the juice. Discard the pulp. Bring the juice to a simmer and reduce by half. Add the sugar and salt and stir in until dissolved. Transfer to an airtight container and allow to cool. Once cool, transfer to the fridge and chill overnight.

When you are ready to make the ice cream, transfer the custard base to the freezer. Remove from the freezer and stir well with a fork every half an hour for four hours. On the final stir, spoon the chilled blackberry mixture across the surface and swirl through with a knife. Be careful not to swirl too much as you will ruin the ‘ripple’ effect and end up with purple ice cream. Consume within a week.

Inspired by a recipe by Serious Eats.

One year ago: The Best American-Style Pancakes I Have Ever Made

White Pizza with Broccoli, Anchovies and Chilli

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White pizza with broccoli, anchovies and chilli

A couple of weeks ago we attended the wedding of our dear friends, Katie and Jonny. It was, as a wedding should be if it can help it, in a barn in the Cotswolds on a very beautiful late summer’s day. It was incredible; the guests were in good spirits, the champagne was plentiful and the speeches made everybody laugh uproariously and shed a tear. Once the first dance had been danced and the cake had been cut, we all set about some serious partying. The DJ was playing every party classic you can think of and a large group of us were downing Jagerbombs at the bar. Our heads started to get fuzzy. Some of us started trying to find cigarettes. Somebody fell over a table. Ties were unfastened and tied around heads. The groom started crowdsurfing. All of this had the potential to get seriously messy, then waiters carrying trays of pizza saved the day, providing a little sustenance to keep us going through the heavy drinking. At least for a while.

Photo used with permission by Ross Holkham.

The merits of giving your guests carbs after several hours of drinking do not need to be discussed here, since we’re all well aware of the benefits of a late night burger or kebab after a session; but I felt pizza was an especially nice touch. For who doesn’t like pizza? Even after countless canapés and a three-course wedding dinner, there is always room for a slice.

In the last year, a handful of good pizzerias have opened in our neighbourhood, so we have made pizza at home far less frequently than we used to. It’s a shame, really, as it’s one of the most fun things you can cook together. My husband makes the best dough: he uses the recipe from Dan Lepard’s Short and Sweet and adds a splash of beer to the water as he claims it makes the dough brown better. I am usually in charge of the toppings, and am often reprimanded for using too much mozzarella. You don’t have to pretend to be surprised, my love of cheese is known the world over.

This is one of my favourite pizzas: a white base, which I tend to use more and more these days instead of the traditional tomato, with broccoli, anchovies and a sprinkle of dried chilli flakes. From the white base, you get a creamy, garlicky hum to offset the saltiness of the anchovies and the heat of the chilli. The large pieces of broccoli both give some texture and provide a little freshness to cut right through everything. I’ve tried it with kale, which also works just as well. In fact, you can mix up the toppings as much as you like. I know that there are plenty of anchovy naysayers out there, so do feel free to leave them off if you just can’t cope. Or, if you’re like me and can’t get enough of them, add a couple extra when nobody’s looking.

White Pizza with Broccoli, Anchovies and Chilli

Note: this amount of dough will be far more than you need. I made one large pizza from half of this quantity of dough, then saved the rest of the dough for the following day. It makes an excellent pizza-style garlic bread to have alongside some pasta, for example.

For the dough:
600g strong white bread flour
1 tsp instant yeast
1½ tsp fine salt
400ml warm water
2 tbsp olive oil
A splash of beer

For the white sauce:
30g butter
3 cloves garlic, crushed
3 tbsp plain flour
Salt and black pepper
250ml whole milk
40g grated parmesan

For the toppings:
Half a head of broccoli, cut into florets
8 anchovy fillets
1 tsp chilli flakes
150g mozzarella
A handful of basil leaves

Start by making the dough. Add the flour, yeast and salt to the bowl of a freestanding mixer fitted with a dough hook. Pour in the water, oil and beer and stir to combine. Cover the bowl and leave for 10 minutes. After this, knead the dough with the dough hook for 10 seconds, then cover and leave for another 10 minutes. Repeat this twice more, but after the final knead, cover and leave for an hour, until the dough has doubled in size.

Note: if you do not have a mixer, knead the dough by hand on an oiled surface.

Meanwhile, make the white sauce by melting some butter in a saucepan and stirring in the crushed garlic. Cook for a couple of minutes and then stir in the flour, salt and pepper until you have a roux. Gradually add the milk, stirring constantly, until smooth and there are no lumps. Cook over a medium heat, still stirring, until the sauce has thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the parmesan. Set aside. Blanch the broccoli in boiling water for a few minutes until tender.

Take about 200g of the dough and place on a lightly floured surface. Knock the air out using your fingers and stretch the dough with your hands into the shape you want. The dough should be as thin as you can make it. Place on to an oiled baking tray and preheat the oven to 220°c.

Put the base in the oven to pre-cook the dough for a couple of minutes, then remove and spread with the white sauce. Arrange the toppings and return the pizza to the oven for 15-20 minutes or until cooked to your liking. Drizzle with a little olive oil or chilli oil and serve immediately.

Finish the rest of that bottle of beer.

Image used with the kind permission of Ross Holkham, who took some gorgeous photos at Katie and Jonny’s wedding. Take a look at his blog here.

One year ago: Lunch at Ganapati, Peckham

Rosewater Shortbread

Rosewater shortbread

The phrase ‘old lady perfume’ tends to come up a lot in conversations about rosewater. I never knew until recently quite how divisive it is: there are people like me who can happily consume box after box of rose-scented Turkish delight, and then there are those who cannot stand even a whiff of it. It’s a bit like lavender or aniseed: people either love it or they hate it. Due to this, under normal circumstances, I would be apprehensive about using it when cooking for others; but last week I was baking for the watching of The Great British Bake Off’s ‘Botanical Week’, so abandoned that apprehension in favour of cooking the first thing that sprung to mind. I figure if the others didn’t like it, they could have gin instead. I also have plenty of that.

Since GBBO started again a couple of months ago, I have been watching it avidly with friends. The tense moments preceding baking catastrophes and gentle innuendos are far better enjoyed with others, particularly when those others also bring episode-themed baked goods. Among my friends, we even have our own hashtag: #GBBOParty. Botanical Week seemed like a bit of an anomaly in the usual line-up of Bread Week, Cake Week, Pastry Week and Dessert Week, and I wasn’t quite sure how to incorporate fruits, flowers and plants when the immediate ones that spring to mind are out of season in October. I had plans to go scouting around greengrocers and florists, and then was given a deadline, so needed something quick. Cue a trusty shortbread recipe and an old bottle of rosewater lurking in the back of the cupboard.

Being naturally optimistic, I always think that if I chuck an extra ingredient in an old recipe, it will work exactly as planned. This approach has, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, caught me out a number of times, but this time it worked well. I added just enough rose to give the shortbread a floral hint without overpowering it completely, and even those who were sceptical to begin with enjoyed it. I didn’t even have to crack open the Tanqueray.

Rosewater Shortbread
Makes one round that can be cut into eight or 12 triangles

150g unsalted butter, at room temperature
75g caster sugar
150g plain flour
75g rice flour
2 tbsp rosewater

Preheat the oven to 175°c. Lightly dust a loose-bottomed fluted tart tin with flour.

In a large bowl, or in the bowl of a freestanding mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the rosewater and sift in the two flours and, using a fork, bring the mixture together into a crumbly dough.

Turn the dough out on to the work surface and knead a couple of times until smooth. Using your hands, press it into the tin. Score the segments into the surface using a sharp knife, then prick all over with a fork. Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes until browned. Leave to cool in the tin before turning out on to a wire rack.

One year ago: Spinach burek