Arrowtown’s Provisions Café reflects owner and passionate foodie Jane Shaw’s enthusiasm for heritage buildings, fresh food, locally grownproduce and memorable hospitality. In the first of a regular column in QT Magazine she introduces an autumnal recipe from Finland to try at home.
This baked feta cheese dish by Finnish food blogger Jenni Hayrinen’s has been my inspiration for this column. It recently became a global media sensation after American food influencer MacKenzie Smith posted it to Instagram and TikTok which has led to Jenni’s original post receiving over 2.7million views.
It’s definitely worth the hype and is a delicious, easy meal using cherry tomatoes and a block of feta cheese in a traybake. While the cherry tomatoes do make it relatively sweet – regular sized tomatoes or a mixture of tomatoes varieties also work well so use whatever you have on hand.
The original recipe calls for just four main ingredients but I have been a little creative and adapted it to include some of my favourite vegetables. The addition of eggplant, capsicum and anchovies creates a wonderful umami sauce along with the tomatoes and garlic making the dish very moreish.
Eggplants and capsicum are still plentiful in the garden and easy to buy during autumn. They add a rich textural earthiness to this dish and are well worth the effort to include. Foraged wild mushrooms, red onions or courgettes make a great alternative.
Just like Arrowtown is currently being transformed by its rich glowing autumn colours this relatively simple pasta dish captures delicious autumn flavours and satisfies cravings for more warming foods.
While autumn is here, we will be making the most of the late Central Otago stone fruits at Provisions café. My kitchen team and I like to make spicy plum sauce, quince paste and jellies and preserve late golden queen peaches to serve as lovely side additions to our seasonal warming gourmet sausage rolls, pies and savoury dishes in the café.
Baked Feta Pasta
Serves 4 people
- 500 g pasta spirals or any pasta shape
- 1 block (200 g) feta cheese
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/2 red chilli or 1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
- 500 g cherry tomatoes (or regular tomatoes chopped into cherry tomato size)
- 1 eggplant cut into chunks
- 1 or 2 capsicums deseeded and cut in small chunks
- 4 garlic cloves peeled and sliced in half lengthwise & coated in olive oil.
- 3- 4 anchovies (optional)
- Black pepper & salt
- Bunch of fresh basil leaves
Pour some of the olive oil onto the bottom of a baking dish then place the whole block of feta on top of the oil. Sprinkle the chilli flakes or chopped chilli on top of the feta cheese. Pour the rest of the olive oil over the top of this mixture.
Then place the cherry tomatoes, vegetables, garlic (and anchovies if using) along the sides of the dish around the feta cheese and mix around the olive oil in the dish so everything gets coated. Grind pepper over the top and season with a pinch of salt.
Bake at 400 F / 200 C for 20-25 minutes in the middle of the oven. Then turn the heat up to 440 F / 225 C and move the dish to the upper rack using the grilling mode for another 5 minutes.
Remove from oven. If you used cherry tomatoes with stems, remove the stems. Then use a spoon to break up the feta a little and stir through the tomato/ vegetable mix.
Cook the pasta spirals al dente according to the pasta packet cooking instructions. Add the cooked and drained pasta to the sauce and top with plenty of basil leaves. Serve and enjoy.