Multitasking. It’s a funny sort of thing.
Perhaps it’s hard wired into the X chromosome. The ability to remember we need milk for breakfast, birthdays, devise and source suitable presents, organise council tax, and print out exact paperwork for visas and boarding passes before shuffling ourselves to the panoply of medical appointments that come with the blessings of being a woman.
The Janus face of this is the temptation to be ‘doing’ constantly. No dead time. If I’m cooking, there’s a podcast pottering on in the background. There’s the inability to just log 30 minute on a cross trainer with out some form of cued visual distraction.
And then comes the lack of focus.
Confession: I’ve been letting a few things slip at the moment.
There’s also been some noise creeping up on on the health front. It’s a record I’m plenty bored of playing. It could be chalked up to a return of the leaky tireds, which now have a few fresh tricks up their sleeve. It trickles in with forgetting a birthday, slumpy posture and spilling the milk, before crescendoing to floating scabs of white which hover in front of my right eye like a half drawn curtain, a few too many ulcers for comfort and wobbles that lead to dropped plates next to the window while trying to take a photo.
(There’s a reason there’s no after instagram shot of these spicy hummous and chia stuffed baked peppers- I salvaged what I could. While it was delicious, it was certainly not photo-worthy).
I know it’s time to tether my brain to a calm port until this tempest settles back down.
It’s time to make my multitasking instincts work for me, not against me. It’s time to put bloody twitter down for a while.
The place of calm is usually somewhere in my head fed by blue sky, white sands, wide smiles and clear water. Memories of the beach at Cyprus will certainly suffice. Not everything about Cyprus I’d recommend, but there was something about this view that was particularly soothing.
The below is a dish that channels the sunshine (and beloved sheep milk cheese) of Cyprus. One morning while looking over that view I ate two slices of a spinach and halloumi pastry, a sly slice of extra halloumi and an egg. It was a very happy place.
This is a version of that Fig Tree Bay pastry which feels vaguely healthful with the addition of shaved broccoli and mint. It would be lovely with grated halloumi cheese in the centre, or you could go with feta or goat cheese. To me the saltiness of the sheep cheese really starts to sing when combined with lemon and a little heat from chilli. This is a dish that pairs nicely with a salad of roasted and blistered tomatoes, bleeding crimson juices, gussied up with extra mint and some garlic yoghurt.
And, in the best spirit of multitasking, it’s a dish that’s flexible. It would be grand for a breakfast dish for a small group of friends, yet it’s also perfect for a light lunch, or Meatless Monday supper.
Whether you choose to have something cued for entertainment at the same time, or just sit and eat quietly while you rebuild your energy stores bit by bit, is entirely up to you.
Spinach, Broccoli and Feta Strudel
1 pastry brush. 1 baking tray. 1 damp tea towel for the filo.
300 grams of ricotta, drained
1 egg, beaten
1/2 lemon zested and juiced
1 tsp chilli flakes, plus a few extra to sprinkle over the pastry
1 tsp olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and grated
2 double handfuls of washed baby spinach leaves
1 small head of brocolli, cut into as small pieces as possible (try running your knife down the fluffy edges, as if you were shaving, carving off pieces as small as you can. Then cut the stems into small pieces. There’s good flavour there too.)
60 grams of feta or semi hard goat cheese, grated.
2 tbsp bread crumbs
6 sheets of filo pastry
50 grams of butter, melted
20 mint leaves
2 punnets of cherry tomatoes, cut in half
15 mint leaves, roughly chopped
3 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp Greek yoghurt
1 clove of garlic, grated
Here’s how we roll
1) Preheat the oven to 220 C/430 F.
2) In a large bowl combine the ricotta, egg, chilli and lemon zest.
2. In a frypan or dutch oven wilt add a drizzle of olive oil, the garlic and the spinach leaves. Sautee over a low heat until the spinach has wilted completely. Remove the spinach and squeeze to drain out all liquid and then roughly chop.
3. Add the shaved broccoli and lemon juice to the pan and cook over a medium heat for 3 minutes, until the vegetables have softened a little (alternatively, briefly steam the broccoli and lemon juice in the microwave to soften slightly).
5. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Set up a production line of your filo pastry covered with a damp tea towel, your melted butter, pastry brush, breadcrumbs and filling.
6. Lay out one sheet of filo pastry. Brush with melted butter. Add the next layer and repeat until all six sheets are layered.
7. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs in a horizontal stripe down the centre of the pastry.
8. Place the spinach in a stripe down the centre of the pastry over the top of the breadcrumbs, leaving at least 4cm border on each side.
10. Fold up the sides and brush with melted butter to seal. Gently flip the packet so the seam is at the bottom. Brush the top with a little extra melted butter and sprinkle over a few extra chilli flakes.
(Nb, you can also add into the oven a pan with half of your cherry tomatoes, cut in half, sprinkled with salt and olive oil. Bake them along with the strudel, then combine them with the fresh cherry tomatoes, garlic, yogurt and mint leaves).
12. Cut the strudel with a serrated knife. Serve with the tomato, mint and yoghurt salad.