Monday, 12 September 2011

Borek and a meze selection

I like things made with filo pastry, but I've never I actually made anything with it myself. So now I'm in my thirtieth decade I thought I'd better correct this. I wanted something for a light summer lunch, so a meze selection including borek seemed like a good option. Borek are essentially little parcels of pastry with various fillings, which are found all around the Mediterranean and Middle East. The borek I've come across are always filled with a feta-style cheese, but Wikipedia tells me that they can have a range of different fillings. I decided to stick with feta, and used a recipe based on this one. I adapted it a bit, so my version's below. And I (obviously) did not consider making this super-thin pastry myself, but bought some ready-made filo.

Recipe (enough for around 12 pieces):
Ready-made filo pastry (I used 4 sheets in total, but this will depend on the dimensions of your pastry)
1 large egg, beaten
200g feta cheese
1 tblsp chopped dill
A good grinding of black pepper
Around 70g butter, melted
Around 2 tblsp sesame seeds

Firstly make up the filling by mashing the cheese with the egg, adding the dill and seasoning with pepper when they are well combined. It doesn't need to be smooth mix, so don't worry about any large crumbs of cheese.
Next get your filo pastry, and lay one sheet out. Brush this with melted butter, lay a second pastry sheet on top, and then brush this with butter too. I had a large rectangle of pastry so cut this in half across the widest part, and then each half into three, to create six smaller rectangles. I then placed a couple of teaspoons of the cheese mix along the longest edge, tucked in the sides, and rolled them up into cigar shapes (nb I had some rather fat cigars). These were then brushed with more melted butter and sprinkled with some sesame seeds. Depending on the dimensions of your filo you may need to alter how you cut it, but aim to make rectangles. Repeat this process with another batch of filo pastry, to make twelve borek in total. You need to work quickly with filo pastry as it becomes very delicate the drier it is. I found that putting my pastry in the fridge between batches seemed to help, and laying a damp tea towel over it is also supposed to be effective too.
Once the borek are made bake at gas mark 4 for around 25minutes until they are lightly browned.

The borek can be served hot, or at room temperature. I prefer them hot, so as I was making mine in advance I just popped them under the grill for a bit before I wanted to eat them (this also coloured them a little more). Though these are very simple in terms of ingredients, the combination of light, crisp pastry with soft, salty, slighty herby cheese is fantastic.

To go with my borek I made some cacik (a bit like raita but with garlic and mint), and Nigella Lawson's peanut butter hummus. This was a really good recipe which I more or less followed, apart from roasting my cumin and leaving out the yoghurt. To complete the meze selection I included some taramasalata from Waitrose. This is the nicest taramasalata I've had, but I think in this context it wasn't really needed, and the fishy flavour jarred a bit with the other dishes (I think some pitta bread was needed for it to work). But overall this meze lunch was perfect for a warm summer's day- filling but not too heavy, and with lots of flavour. Actually the borek were so nice I'd happily make them in the depths of winter too.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

The Hole in the Wall, Little Wilbraham, Cambridge, UK

I've been a fan of Masterchef for some time and so, like many others, was pretty excited when Cambridge resident and food blogger Alex Rushmer made it into the final three of the competition last year. Even more exciting was the news a few months ago that Mr Rushmer would be opening his restaurant in the Hole in the Wall pub, just outside Cambridge. And so with the Male Companion Person's birthday looming I booked a table for dinner.

The Hole in the Wall is very much a ye olde worlde village pub, and very pretty with it. There are lots of dark timbers, and quite a stange layout which I guess has evolved during the five hundred odd years that it's been around. We were rapidly shown to our table, with bread and butter, menus, and water all following shortly behind. Looking at the menu it was evident that despite the venue Alex and his team are definitely not going for a gastropub vibe (no sign of any posh fish and chips or gourmet burgers here), but for full on restaurant-style dishes. A brief but interesting menu had a choice of at least one meat, vegetarian and fish option for the starter and main courses. It may have been concise, but together with their daily special, a pescatarian person like moi had plenty of choice.

The subdued lighting was perfect for eating but not so good for photography.

I started off with what was simply described as a tomato and mozzarella salad with a parmesan biscuit. But there was a little twist as the mozzarella came in the form of a sort of cheese ice cream. A little reference to Alex's blue cheese ice cream as debuted on Masterchef perhaps? I remember that having mixed reviews (Gregg might not have wanted to stick his face in it), but the cheese ice cream at The Hole in the Wall was fantastic. Light, creamy and savoury- I could easily have eaten a lot more of this. It also went perfectly with the salty parmesan biscuit, and the selection of tomatoes. These were perfectly seasoned and full of flavour. I was particularly intrigued by the green but ripe tomato. The MCP went for the pigeon with beetroot risotto, which looked exceedingly pretty. Both were ideal starters for late summer.

Despite this picture the glass of wine was not actually twice the size of the starter.

Things got a bit more hefty for the main courses. The MCP went for the duck with pickled cucumber, and I had a whole bream stuffed with lemon and fennel. The fish was huge, and could probably have served two, but I managed to fit most of it (along with some samphire and potatoes) in. The baked fish was very moist, and the simple cooking really let the quality of the ingredients speak for themselves. If I was really nit-picking, I'd say that the tartare sauce on the plate, although perfectly nice, was rather unnecessary.

I really did not need any pudding but had one anyway as the MCP was. In fact we both ended up going for the burnt Cambridge cream a.k.a. crème brulée. This was rich and creamy, with a proper caramel crust which shattered on impact, but was not overly sweet.

So overall a really lovely meal. Our bill came to £75 (without service) for three courses each, and three glasses of wine between the two of us, which I thought was very reasonable.

There's very little not to like about The Hole in the Wall really. They bring water to your table without asking (always a big plus in my book), the service was attentive rather than intrusive, and the cooking was solid with good quality ingredients and some interesting flourishes. And all this in the first few months of opening too. I also quite liked the contrast between the very traditional setting and the more modern style of cooking. It means that The Hole in the Wall is just a little bit different, and somewhere I'd be happy to go back to in a flash.

The Hole in the Wall
Primrose Farm Road
Little Wilbraham
Cambridgeshire CB21 5JY