Squash, Chickpea and Feta Quesadillas

The other day we took the bus to Flushing. We kept glimpsing it across the bay on our evening walk along the water. Noticing it because of the peculiar way it always seemed to be illuminated in a sunbeam while everything around it was ensconced in gloom. If that alone wasn’t enough to intrigue our curiosity (and it would’ve been) – the huddle of tranquil pastel cottages gathered on the shore, the glittering harbour full of fishing boats and the hills of green patchwork rising up behind it all would have done the trick.

The sun was shining when we set off from Falmouth Moor. There was a brood of old women gossiping together in the front of the bus, all clutching plastic bags and cackling riotously. The bus driver, a man of about thirty, would occasionally turn round and wink at them, causing the cackling to erupt into an even more frenzied pitch. Behind me, the musical tones of a true Cornish accent spilled out of a ruddy faced man in a worn tweed cap who was chatting happily away to the woman seated next to him. I tried very hard, but I couldn’t make out a word.

After about twenty minutes, we spilled out of the bus into the empty sunlit streets of Flushing. There seemed to be no one else about, accept for an old man carrying a newspaper and walking his dog on the other side of the road. To our right, the sun was glittering off the water in the harbour and to our left – the gentle green slopes we had glimpsed from Falmouth were just being hit by the morning light.  Though the streets themselves were quiet, sounds spilling out of open windows suggested families gathered together at the breakfast table. Chairs screeching against the floor. The clanking of silverware. The sounds of water rushing through pipes. The murmur of voices. The smell of freshly hung laundry permeated the air like the scent of a flower.

We took a steep hill up out of the town and into the wooded entrance of the Trefusis Estate, where we merged into the Coast path that extends not just round this particular peninsula - but around the entire peninsula of Cornwall itself. The morning was blooming into a beautiful autumn day – the sun was bright and just strong enough to feel warm on our backs as we walked, despite the ripping breeze coming in off the water. As we meandered along, picking blackberries and kicking at acorns dropped from the twisted, wind-blown oaks – we passed couples walking dogs and families out strolling that often spanned three generations. Stooped grandfathers hobbling after exuberant toddlers. Everyone seemed to be smiling and when they said Good morning! or Beautiful day! – you really felt they meant it.

Just about noontime, we stumbled into the harbour of Mylor. Fishing boats, sail boats and all manner of small sized yachts lined the floating docks. I stood there watching the activity of people going to and fro as M. went to get us a Roskilly’s ice cream cone from the tiny open air stand behind us (hazelnut toffee is what we decided upon – though the ginger-fairing or black-currant cheesecake were close seconds). A burly looking man with grey wind-blown hair and yellow waders passed in front of me and called out to another man, just stepping onto the dock from a weather beaten fishing boat. Kettle’s on! he bellowed.  Come when you’re ready.  The second man nodded.  I’ll just grab some biscuits from me pack and I’ll be right over!  he shouted – and not without a tinge of excitement –  as he stepped back onto his boat and headed below deck.

On our way back to Falmouth, no cackling brood this time to distract me, I sat gazing out the window, utterly bewitched with this place. The street signs, the old terraced houses with their brightly coloured doors,  the steep cobbled lanes, the glimpses of sea through golden lit lanes – everything delighted me. Is it possible to be in love with a place? I asked M.

Once home, we found ourselves in that nebulous afternoon stretch between lunch and dinner that the Brits so appropriately have deigned as tea time. I rustled up this snack from last night’s leftovers – an Egyptian style quesadilla if you will –  while M. put on the kettle. As the scents of cumin, thyme and toasted sesame rose from my pan, I couldn’t help but think of those two burly fisherman on the Mylor docks – the delight that spread over their faces with the idea of simply sitting together and sharing a cup of tea. Yes, I said to M., I think it is possible. He looked up from pouring the steaming water into the tea pot, where little black leaves unfurled and sent up the aroma of bergemot. What is? he asked. But there was no need to answer. The dreamy smile on my face said it all as he handed me my cup of tea.

Squash, Chickpea and Feta Quesadillas

Ingredients

  • 1 small acorn, butternut or kabocha squash cut into 1/2 inch chunks (about 3 cups worth)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 onion, sliced into half moons
  • 1.5 cups cooked chickpeas
  • 1 tablespoon zatar
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 10 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped cilantro
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 flour tortillas, preferably whole grain
  • To serve:
  • Greek Yoghurt mixed with 1 teaspoon each ground cumin and coriander
  • cilantro, roughly torn

Instructions

  1. 1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F or about 200 degrees C. Place the squash on a baking tray, drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper - and pop into the oven for about 30-35 minutes, or until tender.
  2. 2. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Without adding any oil, add your cumin seeds to the dry pan and stir occasionally until they become fragrant. Add the other tablespoon of oil along with your onions, and stir quickly to disperse the seeds over the onions so they do not burn. After a few minutes of cooking, add the zatar, smoked paprika, chickpeas and a generous pinch of salt. Cook for about 5 minutes more and then remove from the heat.
  3. 3. Take half of your roasted squash and place it in a food processor or blender along with a tablespoon of water (or alternately, mash with a potato masher in a bowl). Blitz a few times, so that you have a slightly chunky purée.
  4. 4. Stir the squash and the squash purée into the chickpea/onion mix, along with the feta, lemon zest and juice and cilantro. Taste for seasoning and add more salt as you see fit.
  5. 5. Turn your oven the broiler setting. Place one tortilla onto a baking tray and cover the entire surface with the squash and chickpea mixture, pressing down firmly with the back of a wooden spoon. Place a second tortilla over the top, pressing down with your hands to compress the two tortillas together. Place under the broiler for about 3-4 minutes, or until beginning to brown and bubble up - then remove from the oven, flip to the other side, and repeat. Continue doing this till you've used up your tortillas and filling - or save the rest for another day to have with your afternoon tea!

Notes

Zatar is a mixture of sesame seeds, thyme and sumac and can be found in most health food stores or well stocked super markets. If you can't find it, just use a tablespoon of each of sesame seeds and thyme and add extra lemon zest.

P.S. For those of you who missed the radio show I co-wrote last Friday as part of the UCF MA Professional Writing team, you can listen it to it here

Comments

  1. Kieron says:

    I wonder if the old man behind you on the bus wasn’t speaking actual Cornish (Kernûak), not just English with a Cornish accent. There have been many efforts at saving and reviving the Cornish language, which is Celtic at its root, but influenced by its linguistic neighbors (Welsh, Breton, and of course English). Whatever the case, sounds like you’re clearly where you ought to be. :)

    • Danielle says:

      That hadn’t occured to me as I was under the impression that no one actively speaks Cornish these days – but you may be right and I hope you are because it would be a lovely thing to see the revival of such an ancient and beautiful tongue. Although the Cornish accent is by all rights pretty thick :)

  2. Anonymous says:

    You seem to be settling in nicely and loving every minute of your new life ver there in England….and it certainly shows in your postings for they are even better than ever (if that is at all possible). Bravo!

  3. Wade K. says:

    You’re really making me want to hop across the pond to join you, with your thoughtful, intriguing description of your sights as you explore your new surroundings.
    I hope you both are enjoying yourselves every moment, and I will anxiously await the upcoming sharing of your experiences. Love you both!

  4. Rosanna says:

    I always look forward to reading your posts. This is one of your more “refreshing” posts. Enjoyed it thoroughly.

  5. marthasnail says:

    such atmosphere! i feel like i’m traveling along with you. these quesadillas sound delicious and i already have the za’tar in my pantry. xo ps: so happy i can listen to the program. thanks for the link.

    • Danielle says:

      Most welcome – I’m glad you got a chance to listen!! Also glad to know you have the za’tar because I nearly left it out of the recipe thinking people wouldn’t be likely to have it. Now I feel consoled I’ve done the right thing by including it :)

  6. Lucinda says:

    What a beauteous post! :) It sounds like a completely magical place.
    The quesadillas also look lovely. It is definitely squash time of year again isn’t it and I need some more fun things to do with them other than the good old soup and stew standards.
    Much love. x