coiled mushroom, dill and pecan strudel

belinda jeffery's recipes

My recipes are easy. They’re for the food I like to eat. Simple, fresh, full of flavour and just a bit different. You certainly don't need any great cooking skills for them, you just need to like food and like eating – just like me. The rest is simple.

coiled mushroom, dill and pecan strudel

Rather than being rolled into a log, this strudel is made into slender ropes that are coiled and joined together to make a rather spectacular dish, as you can see. However, it is a little fiddly to do, so if it all seems a bit daunting, just make it into a regular strudel shape instead.

Mushroom filling
1/3 cup (80ml) olive oil
60g unsalted butter
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 large onions, finely chopped
1kg mushrooms (a variety is great), fairly thickly sliced
1/2 cup (120g) sour cream
2 teaspoons Dijon or honey mustard
lemon juice, to taste
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup (about 15g) tightly packed finely chopped dill
60g roasted pecans (or hazelnuts), coarsely chopped

Pastry
12 sheets filo pastry, plus a few extra in case of tearing
150g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
poppy, sesame or nigella seeds
dill sprigs, to garnish

Start by making the filling. I know it’s a bit more work, but unless you have an enormous frying pan, I’m afraid you’ll have to cook the mushrooms in two pans - it’s nigh on impossible to fit them all into one pan, and even if you manage to do so they will tend to stew rather than fry. So first off, divide the oil and butter evenly between two large frying pans. Warm them over medium heat, then put half the garlic and onion into each pan and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 8 minutes until they have softened. Now increase the heat and divide the mushrooms evenly between the pans. Cook them for about 15 minutes, tossing regularly, until the juices have evaporated and the mushrooms are starting to sizzle. It’s really important to ensure that the liquid has boiled off the mushrooms - if not, the filling will be too wet, and the excess liquid may seep into the pastry, making it soggy (the bottom always is a bit soggy, but ideally the rest should be crisp).

When the mushrooms are ready, turn off the heat. Combine them all in one pan, then mix in the sour cream, mustard, lemon juice and salt and pepper. Leave the filling to cool, then stir in the dill and pecans. (You can make the filling the day before you want to use it and store it in the fridge, but if you do so, don’t add the dill and pecans until the last minute so the dill flavour is fresh and the nuts keep their crunch.) Whatever you do, make sure the mushroom mixture is cool before you start making the pastry coils otherwise you’ll have the devil of a job handling them as the warmth of the filling will soften the filo too much and melt the butter.

Lightly butter a 26cm springform cake tin and line the base with baking paper.

Unroll the filo sheets onto the bench and cover them with a slightly damp tea towel to stop them drying out. Lay three sheets of filo directly on top of each other, buttering each sheet lightly as you go. Spoon about a quarter of the filling in a rough log shape down one long side of the filo, making sure it’s about 3cm in from the edge. (I find a small palette knife comes in very handy at this point, to neaten up the mixture and shape it more easily.) Now roll up the filling in the filo to form a narrow rope, making sure the pastry at the far end is well buttered so it seals properly. Now lightly butter the rope, then cut it in half. If you’re anything like me, by this stage your hands and the bench will be very buttery and messy, but do persevere, as it gets easier as you go. By the way, you could use olive oil instead of butter, but I find the oil doesn’t give the pastry quite the same lovely crispness and flavour as butter does. Then again I would say that, as I’m a bit of a butter girl! Whatever you decide, it’s important that the coil is well lubricated as it will help make it supple enough to bend.

Now, coil one half of the rope into a tight snail shape. This is easier said than done as the first coil is the trickiest one to do. Don’t worry if it splits - mine often does, but it’s easily patched later. Now sit this in the centre of the tin. Attach the other half of the rope to this by pushing the ends together so it looks like one continuous coil (you may have to smooth the join together with your fingers). Make three more ropes from the remaining filo and filling, however don’t cut these ones in half. As each one is ready, just add it to the coil. By the end, the coil should fill the pan (you may have to squash it in a bit to make it fit).

When it’s finished, brush a little more butter over the top and patch any joins or tears that need it with a small piece of filo. Sprinkle the seeds over the top. Put the tin in the fridge for 30 minutes or so to firm up the pastry.

In the meantime, preheat your oven to 190C. Sit the tin on a baking sheet to catch any drips of butter, and bake the strudel for about 35-40 minutes or until it is golden.

When it’s ready, transfer it to a cooling rack and leave it to settle for 10 minutes or so. If the top isn’t as brown as you would like, you can slip the tin under an overhead grill (on medium heat) for a few minutes to colour it a bit more – watch it like a hawk if you do this, as it catches quickly.

Slip off the outer ring of the tin, and as best you can slide the strudel onto a serving plate. I find a couple of large egg slices help with this, as does using a bit of leverage from the baking paper underneath. Garnish the platter with some dill.

To serve, slice the strudel into wedges - a wide-bladed server comes in handy here to lift each slice off the plate intact, but if the coils pull apart a bit just push them back together again. No-one will ever know, I promise.

Serves 4-6.

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