Don’t get me wrong, everything is DIFFICULT. Life is hard. A genuine slog. I’m not even talking about in a global bees-are-dying-ice-caps-are-melting-america-is-political-hell way, I’m talking very much in the personal, up here in my head kind of context. But I’m not going to focus on that today! Lol I’m ADHD, I can’t focus on anything! Kidding: I’m instead going to talk about some lovely things that have happened, because no matter what’s happening, if you don’t stop and acknowledge good things and hold onto them they might disappear, like a dream you can’t quite remember even though you can picture frames and fragments of it. (Side note though: last night I dreamed that I composed an incredible pop punk song, and in my dream I even wrote down, well, not the notes because I don’t know how to write them, but I drew a line that depicted which directions the melody went in, because I was like I’m going to want to remember this, and then I woke up and all I had left was a few flashes of the accompanying music video and like, there goes my definitely burgeoning and inevitable music career.)
But anyway? What’s good, you ask? Last week I found out I was a national finalist in a cocktail competition. Isn’t that amazing! I’ve been feeling a tiny bit shaky about my abilities of late but it was a shot (ha) of confidence that I needed and honestly just such a wonderful happy feeling, that a cocktail I created out of my own brain resonated with someone. I’m so excited and happy to be involved and cannot wait to present it to the judges because if there’s one thing in this life that gives me joy, it’s having an audience.
On Saturday I had the supreme joy of going to the wedding of two dear friends of mine. I’m gonna be straight up with you, one of said people getting married was Tim, who I used to talk about on this blog a lot on account of he was my partner for some time. It was such a wonderful thing to be there to witness and share the special day for him and his now-wife, and the whole time was so filled with happiness and love and good friends and literal puppies because they held it at the SPCA (thus setting the gold standard for any future weddings I shall attend: will there be puppies?) I’ve been to some fairly dull weddings, this one was pure nonstop goodness and a golden high point of my week.
Last week I also got to be squired to dinner at Shepherd, a fancy restaurant of the kind that I could only go if someone was indeed squiring me. My two best friends, Kim and Kate, and Kate’s mum (the one whomst squired us) drank champagne and ate amazing food and I left replete and happy. I don’t get to go out to dinner, well, honestly ever because I’m either broke or working, so this was a rare treat and to share it with my favourite people was just perfect. On that note, if anyone ELSE wants to squire me out to dinner, you need only but giz a yell.
I’m trying out a new medication in order to temper the wild grunty cantering boar that is my anxiety and the leaden-weighted lead weight that is my depression, and while it’s making me super sluggish I’m kind of excited to be doing something new and to have a doctor who listens to me and is trying to take practical steps to help me out. Thus far the sluggishness is a bit deadening but on the upside I’m too sleepy and gluey of brain to be truly anxious, and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens when it starts to even out a bit.
And! The other night, in a CLASSIC me move, I thought up this recipe whilst unable to sleep. Ironically, I was so excited about it that all I wanted to do was go to sleep so that I could wake up and buy the ingredients to make it. As with most ideas, it appeared in a rush – a fig and feta tart with layers of spiced butter brushed on each sheet of filo pastry in the base. I figured it would be elegant, with the filling all tart and salty and darkly sweet, and that the delicate buttery bite of the filo pastry would be excellent against the grainy figs and creamy feta. As is so often the case, I was correct.
Even if the idea of just up and making a tart sounds like too much admin, this one is supremely easy – no one on earth will ever, nor should they, expect you to make your own filo but damn if it doesn’t look fancy once it’s all baked up. The rest is more or less literally just feta and figs, no actual real filling to worry about, and the spice-studded butter gives it immensely good depth of flavour and stops it being, you know, too uncomplicated.
feta, fig, and spiced butter filo tart
a recipe by myself
- one package of filo pastry
- 50g butter
- one teaspoon ground cumin
- half a teaspoon ground cinnamon
- half a teaspoon dried chilli flakes
- 250g – 300g feta cheese (look for one that’s soft and creamy – happily, this is usually the cheapest one)
- 100g figlets or dried figs, but ideally the uh, soft and damp kind, if that makes sense? Not those rock-solid crystallised ones.
- one tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- one tablespoon olive oil
- one teaspoon Dijon mustard, or any mustard that you fancy
- pink peppercorns and thyme leaves, to garnish
Set the oven to 200C/400F. Melt the butter and stir in the cumin, cinnamon, and chilli flakes.
Using a pastry brush, paint the base and sides of a 20cm pie dish or fluted tart tin with the spiced butter. Place a sheet of filo pastry on top of it, pressing it gently into the inner rim of the dish. Paint it with butter and layer with another sheet of filo. Continue in this manner for roughly ten sheets of filo, pressing them snugly in to fit the tin as you go. It’s honestly up to you how many layers you do really but once you run out of butter that’s as good a time as any to stop, I guess. Trim any major overhang from around the ruffly, layered edges.
Take 2/3 of the feta and mash it roughly with a fork along with the olive oil, vinegar, and mustard. Spatula all of this into the filo-layered pie dish, spreading it gently and evenly over the base.
Slice the figlets in half and place them more or less evenly on top of the feta, then sprinkle over the remaining 1/3 block of feta. Drizzle with a little olive oil and then bake it for about 20 minutes, or until the edges of the pastry are a deep golden brown. Sprinkle with pink peppercorns and thyme leaves, and some more balsamic vinegar if you like.
PS: if all you can find is really dry hard mean figs, try soaking them in some boiling water first to plump them up and soften them somewhat.
The textures at play here are wonderful and even though it’s a modestly filled disc of pastry, the buttery richness and punchy flavours make it extremely satisfying. That said, I reckon two people could demolish this quite qualm-free. It would be easy enough to make it bigger – just use a bigger pie dish and more butter, feta, and figs. I feel like pistachios would be a wonderful addition here, not least because of their colour, but anything at all really. Filo pastry is so lovely – almost dissolving under the weight of your teeth, so fragile and crisp and delicate and butter-absorbing. If you’re feeling like a fancy person this would happily translate to individual tart tins for a dinner party or something too.
Guess what, something ELSE nice happened – I was interviewed by Re: about my ADHD (ADHD is an acronym that stands for “I Will Literally Never Let This Slide and Will Reference It At Every Given Opportunity”) and it was a really fun experience because as I said, I love attention! And also drawing attention to mental health issues! We ended up talking for about ninety minutes but it got sliced down to a snappy four minute clip that you can watch here if you like. Also I woke up about nine minutes before this interview was taken and got dressed in a panicked frenzy and was not happy with my outfit that I ended up choosing; please make any snap judgements with this context in mind.
title from: Every Me Every You by Placebo. Deliciously whiney. Imagine getting to be the first person who wrote about this band for a magazine or whatever and getting to be the first to use the title “The Placebo Effect”. I wonder where that person is now.
Marystaple, Labourer. I was obsessed with this song during its major rotation on Channel Z back in like….I wanna say 2000? 2001? Anyway if the lead singer still looks like that and is reading this, CALL ME. Either way, the song is still extremely good after all this time.
Alan Alda, You Are Not Real, from the 1966 musical The Apple Tree. Yeah, as in Hawkeye. He sings, too. This song is weird to listen to out of the context of the story that it’s telling but also so weirdly compelling in a romping, bawdy, kind of way that you could just have it come on shuffle and be quite happy to leave it on. I like it, is what I’m saying.
Tricky, Evolution Revolution Love. This is another 2000-y song, and it’s like, really lovely. Even if old mate from the band Live who features feels toooo earnest. We were all so earnest back then!
next time: Here’s another nice thing, I have had TWO perfect avocados in the past week. So maybe I’ll tempt fate and get more. I mean, to make something with, I’m not saying the next blog post is going to just be a picture of an avocado.