Tuesday, 19 August 2014



Dear all,

The best compliment for a cook is a hearty appetite. It is frustrating to put a lot of effort into preparing a lovely dish when you hear from your guests: ‘Only a tiny slice, please!’ I believe dinner parties are not the right place or time to think of losing weight and dieting. During a recent lunch party at our home, my guests ate almost everything. That made me happy. The Mini Mushroom Cheese Pies from this month’s newsletter vanished almost immediately.

Actually, I had prepared these pies by chance. I had made a spannakopitta, a Greek spinach pie, and I had some pastry left over. As I hate waste, I just threw the Mini Mushroom Cheese Pies together without a recipe. They turned out so well, that I decided to make them the subject of this newsletter. To be sure of the measurements and for the pictures, I made them again yesterday. Amazingly, my son and one of his friends (both teenagers) ate more than half of the two-dozen pies I had made.

These pies deliver a serious amount of calcium, always a good thing. The secret of the taste lies in the combination of three different cheeses; one of them is smoked cheese. Nowadays, you can find smoked Edam or Gouda cheese made in India in many supermarkets. I mixed this cheese with ‘mozzarella’ and goat cheese also of Indian provenance.

These Mini Pies are a great starter for a dinner party or a simple snack. You can prepare them in advance and just heat them in the oven before serving.
Wishing you happy cooking, always!
Kornelia Santoro with family

Mini Cheese Mushroom Pies

Ingredients (for 24 small pies):
  • 3 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 tablespoons cold water
  • 300 grams cheese, preferably three different kinds, one of them smoked cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup cream
  • 200 grams white button mushrooms
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • butter or ghee for the pie moulds
  • salt
  • pepper

I am not an expert on short crust pastry but this savoury version works well for me. It is important not to over mix the ingredients. You don’t want to activate the gluten in the flour, which makes pastry hard. Pour the flour into a bowl; add the olive oil, the water and half a teaspoon salt. Mix everything with a spoon first and then bring the dough together with kneading it by hand – only until you have dough that sticks together. You might need to add some more water. Never mind if it is not completely smooth. Cover it with cling film and let it rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. This helps the pastry shells from shrinking in your pie moulds.

The next step is preparing the filling. While watching Heston Blumenthal on TV, I learned that it is better to grate cheese finely when you want it to melt smoothly. Actually, that is a great tip. Sometimes, little things like this decide if a dish turns out just nice or great. Anyway, grate the cheese on the fine side of a cheese grater. I cannot do this with my Philips Blender because the holes of the grating disc are too big. Place the grated cheese into a bowl.

Peel the mushrooms, give them a quick rinse and chop them into fine cubes. If your mushrooms are clean, you might not have to peel them. I prefer to peel them. Just don’t bath them in water: Mushrooms are like sponges; they soak up the liquid and taste horrible. Add the mushrooms to the grated cheese. Crack the eggs into the bowl. Clean the garlic, crush it and add it to the bowl. If you don’t like garlic just omit it. Add the cream, a pinch of salt (be careful if you have used salty cheese) and freshly grated pepper according to taste. Mix everything well together. You should have quite a solid mix. You don’t want it to be runny. This would turn the pastry shells soggy because we don’t blind bake them.

Now it is time to prepare the moulds. I use trays with small muffin moulds for this recipe. You can use any moulds or ramekins that you have in your kitchen. It is important to grease them properly with butter or ghee so the pies come out easily after baking.

Take the dough from the fridge and roll it out on a flat surface dusted with flour. If the dough cracks, try spreading cling film over it before rolling. That works most of the times. Take a glass that is big enough to cover the bottom and the sides of your moulds. Cut out circles with the glass and tease the dough gently into the moulds.

Preheat your oven to 190 degrees. Fill the mushroom cheese mix into the pastry shells and bake them in the oven for around 35 minutes, until they are golden brown on the top. I give them a few minutes under the grill in my gas oven to make sure they are properly cooked from the top. Remember that baking times vary according to your oven. The pies are done when they look cooked and there is a tiny gap between the pastry shells and the mould. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Eat Blue Cheese to fight cellulite



Blue Cheese behind ‘French paradox’?


Blue Cheese may be an acquired taste for some, but I love it – and a new study suggests it has some astonishing properties. The intensive taste of these cheeses comes from unusually active bacteria named P. Roqueforti.
These bacteria produce peptides and macromolecules that have numerous beneficial properties, although scientists don’t understand yet how exactly they work.
It seems that Blue Cheese hinders inflammation in the body, lowers harmful cholesterol levels and reduces blood pressure. The longer the cheese ripens, the better. 

Researches think that blue cheese might help to explain the so-called ‘French paradox’.  Statistics show French people enjoy long and healthy lives despite a high fat diet. Blue cheese also seems to reduce cellulite, another big plus in my book.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Beetroots - red and ultrahealthy


A flamboyant energizer

The humble beetroot has long been somewhat neglected in European kitchens. Nowadays it is enjoying a revival in British as the center of colorful salads and other fashionable concoctions. I even observed on TV how a famous Indian chef in London stuffed his samosas with a beetroot mixture.
This revival is well deserved. Already the ancient Romans appreciated the health properties and the sweet flavor of this brilliantly colored root. This color comes from the high iron content making it an excellent blood tonic and purifier.

Beetroot also contains a lot of vitamin C, folic acid, potassium, and silica. It qualifies as a remedy for eating too much salt and lowering blood pressure. Silica aids the uptake of calcium. Large doses of this vegetable are used to treat cancer in Europe. Beetroot also increases the body’s absorption of oxygen by as much as 400 per cent.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Beetroot Salad

I cannot help but feel intimidated when I start browsing the web in search of healthy recipes. There is a tidal wave of information out there. When I read through articles, I cannot fend off the feeling I am doing something wrong or not enough. Somehow, I never seem to be able to eat enough vegetables and fruits. Somehow, my appetite does not conform to the never-ending lists of super foods you should consume. Somehow, I feel being torn between the urge to eat healthy and the need not to indulge in naughty pleasures.

Fundamentally, I believe in home cooking without spending the full day in the kitchen or doing shopping. Although I might slip and indulge in naughty stuff from the supermarket, I continuously enlarge my repertoire of dishes that put the right kind of food into our bodies.

One of them is this layered beetroot salad. It is loaded with nutritional goodness. Beetroot and walnuts regularly feature in the many lists of super foods. Sage is known for its benefits, and at this point most of us know the virtues of olive oil. Blue cheese may be an acquired taste for some. If you don’t like it, exchange it for any other cheese or simply skip it. However, I discovered a new study. According to its findings, you should make blue cheese a regular addition to your diet if you like the taste.

Thanks to the proteins of the cheese, this salad makes an excellent starter for a festive menu and is a complete light meal by itself. I present it in layers because it looks a lot nicer than mixing all the ingredients together.
Happy cooking always!

Kornelia Santoro with family
Ingredients (for 4 servings):
  • 500 grams beetroot
  • 200 grams blue cheese
  • 100 grams walnuts
  • 10 sage leaves
  • 3 red chillies, preferably Thai
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 9 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 small cloves garlic
  • Salt
  • Pepper


Boil the beetroots until they are tender. I use a pressure cooker for this purpose. Place the beetroots into the pot, cover them with water, add salt and cook them for half an hour after the first whistle. In a normal pot they take about three times as long. Beetroots are cooked when the skin comes off easily. Let the beetroots cool down, then peel and slice them.

Carefully slice the blue cheese and keep aside. I used Gorgonzola made in Auroville, which I can recommend. However, any blue cheese will do. If you don’t like blue cheese, take any other cheese. I have to say, the contrast between the tender sweetness of the beetroots and the tangy, rich saltiness of the blue cheese combined with crunchy toasted walnuts makes this salad so attractive for me.

Take a small pan and roast the walnuts carefully over a small fire. When roasting nuts, you have to watch them. Roasting turns easily into burning when the process is left unattended. Place the roasted walnuts on a plate for later use.

Pour the vinegar into a vessel. Add about one teaspoon of salt and pepper according to your taste. Wash the chillies and chop them finely. The bright red adds a nice colour contrast to the purple beetroots. If you want your salad spicy, keep the seeds. For a milder zing remove the seeds.

Peel the garlic cloves. Spread about three tablespoons olive oil into the pan you used for toasting the walnuts. Add the garlic cloves to infuse the oil. Turn on the heat. When the oil is hot, add the sage leaves and fry them until crispy. Spread them on a kitchen towel to drain excess oil. These crispy sage leaves add another texture and layer of taste to the salad. However, they don’t stay crispy long so you need to do this shortly before serving the salad. If you don’t want go to this trouble, skip it. The salad is nice also without crispy fried leaves.

Finally, it is time to assemble the salad. Add the remaining olive oil and the garlic infused oil from the pan to the vinegar and stir well. Layer the beetroots and the blue cheese on the plates. Sprinkle the toasted walnuts, the chillies and the crispy sage leaves over the vegetables and the cheese. Spread the vinaigrette over all the ingredients. There should be enough dressing on the plates to coat every beetroot slice. Enjoy!