I love a Prosecco party. Well if we are in times of austerity I’m prepared to remove champagne from my list but not the bubbles. I have to keep my standards. I’m finding some great bottles out there and unless told, one could hardly tell the difference (or so I tell myself) www.drinkaware.co.uk It was one of those evenings a few weeks back I was invited to a friends apartment on the South Bank; you know, one of those idyllic views at dawn as the sun illuminates the clouds bright orange as it sets overlooking Big Ben, the Shard (I swear there is not a street in London you cant see it from) and the BT Tower amongst others. You get the picture. I hear this deep voice as I enjoy the panorama to hear “Hello. How are you?”, very well indeed was my polite response. I am Alin from Romania was the response in deepest Eastern European accent.
Well I don’t know if you have read 50 Shads or not (I haven’t) by my understanding is it’s about a selection of colour schemes for paint. Alin tells me that he is a property speculator who used to be a chef. We get talking, naturally I tell him all about the AGA and Divertimenti and the sister company Fired Earth where he could easily preview a colour chart of more 50 shades of any colour he likes.
As we start to cook, I realize today’s dish is sort of a Romanian version of Baklava, layers of filo pastry with candied pumpkin in the middle. Alin asks if we are going to make the filo pastry by hand, it’s a pastry I have never made, but always wanted to see being made. My understanding is it takes about 6 hours due to long resting periods in the fridge so I made the executive decision of buying it frozen. When I left university after my degree in Home Economics in 2000 ready-made pastry was not the done thing. Stating as an AGA demonstrator in 2004 I took the very bold step and started to use ready-made pastry, quickly I realized that I could buy better quality pastry than I could make. There is no shame in buying pastry.
We steam the squash (as it’s a little too early in the season for pumpkin) in an AGA pan, and it’s so easy. For root vegetables and harder items like squash it’s always easiest to bring to the boil in a pan with water on the AGA Boiling Plate, when it’s come to the boil, just drain off the water, place the lid on and place into the Simmering Oven for 20 minutes and it will be cooked, that’s the same length of time as it would take to cook on top, the main advantage being no steam in the kitchen and if its left for up to an hour it will be fine. We push the squash through a potato ricer, mix the sugar, butter and spices through. Alin explains to me how to layer the pastry in the ‘Romania way’. It’s by crumpling. Quite easy, filling on top, more filo and so forth until the dish is full. Into the Roasting Oven for 20 minutes, pour some caramel on top. Easy. We cook it in the AGA Portmeirion dish, it’s ceramic and fits easily on the runners in the Roasting Oven, a spectacular product as it can even go on the AGA Boiling Plate.
There we have it, Romanian food on the AGA. As we eat it, I ponder Alin’s deep voice, realise we are cooking a pumpkin dish and that Halloween is just round the corner. Transylvania is in Romania.
Oh, I’ve just noticed a Groupon for my local in Clapham, Bottle of Prosecco and nibbles for 2 for £12. Chin chin.
Dulangaci cu Dovleac – Pumpkin pie
Makes 8 slices
2kg pumpkin or butternut squash peeled and seeded
300g caster sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground star anise
6 x sheets filo pastry (if using frozen, defrost, but keep covered)
50g caster sugar
Place the pumpkin or squash into a large AGA pan together with the sugar and a little water. Bring to the boil on the Boiling Plate, drain off the water, place the lid on top and place into the AGA Simmering Oven for 10 minutes to steam
Squeeze using a potato ricer and add the sugar and spices, mix through. If very wet, place back into a pan and reduce on the AGA Simmering Plate, stirring constantly. Leave to cool before assembling the dish.
Grease a baking dish with butter and line with filo pastry crumpled. It’s best to brush with melted butter as you go so the filo pastry does not dry out.
Add 1/4 of the pumpkin or squash mixture and repeat the layering process 3 times.
Bake in the AGA for 25-30 minutes until golden on top and the filling set. 2 Oven AGA, place onto grid shelf on the 4th set of runners in the Roasting Oven with the Cold Plain Shelf on top. 3, 4 and 5 Oven AGA, place onto the grid shelf on the 4th set of runners in the Baking Oven.
To make the syrup, heat the sugar and water in a pan on the AGA Simmering Plate until the sugar has dissolved. Pour over the filo pie while it’s still hot.