Friday, 6 February 2015

Another Tart

I've always got on terribly well with tarts; a tart is essentially a pastry concoction with pastry underneath and no pastry on top, pastry on top would make it a pie. I'm very fond of this sort of tart, you roll out a large disc of pastry place it in a container with enough of an edge to form the side and fold over a little, fill it up with a choice of filling, bring the edge up and over and bake in the oven. The only thing that limits you is your imagination. Each season brings its ingredients. This tart is packed with mushrooms, sprouts, potatoes, chestnuts and cheese, a simple and rather small amount of egg and cream mixture binds it all together. Admittedly it takes a little time to prepare all the filling ingredients; I roast/fry them in order to maximize flavour. Then it's simply a matter of assembly.
This tart is delicious hot or served at room temperature, ideal for a picnic, it delivers on flavour and equally importantly, texture. It serves 6 extremely hungry people, 8 with a more normal appetite.

Bringing the number to 138, welcome The Isle of Man!
Nicaragua, welcome! now 139.

For this recipe you will need;

1 portion of shortcrust pastry made from;
250g of plain flour
65g of unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
60g of vegetable shortening, chilled and cut into cubes
100ml of chilled water
1 pinch of salt

For the filling
500g of button mushrooms
400g of cheese, a mixture in this case of cheddar, Jarlsberg and Lancashire
250g of small potatoes
250g of sprouts
200g of cooked chestnuts
3 eggs
200g of double cream
1 teaspoon of Marigold Bouillon Powder
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of ground black pepper
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon of olive oil

Begin by making the pastry. Pulse the flour and fat in a food processor until the fat is the size of peas. Add the water and pulse again until the pastry dough comes together. Wrap the pastry in clingfilm and set aside to rest.

Cut the sprouts in half and cut the potatoes into similar sized pieces. Toss in a teaspoon of olive oil and half the salt and pepper. Roast in a hot oven, 200C, for 10 to 15 minutes, turning the vegetables half way through to achieve even browning. Fry the mushrooms having sliced or quartered them, in half the remaining oil (half a tablespoon) and the remaining salt and pepper. Fry them for about 5 minutes, turning regularly to ensure even browning. Readers of my recipes will know I firmly believe in cooking mushrooms long and hard enough to bring out the most flavour. Finally fry off the chestnuts in the remaining oil, again cut up into small pieces. Fry for 3 or 4 minutes or until you begin to see the edges crisping and turning brown.
Prepare the cheese, I grated the cheddar, cubed and sliced the other two cheeses, so that in the finished tart you come across small nuggets of cheese.

Roll out the pastry and place in a container, I use my tart Tatin dish, 28cm across but any pie dish around 28cm to 30cm will suit. Then assemble the tart placing the ingredients in layers. I keep some of the cheddar to place on the top. Mix the eggs and cream, adding the Bouillon Powder and pour into the tart, it will trickle through the vegetables. Bring over the edge of pastry and finish by placing the last of the grated cheddar. Bake in a moderate 180C oven for 1hour to an hour and a quarter. Keep an eye on it and cover if the top looks as though it's getting too dark.

U.S. readers can substitute heavy cream for the double cream, it isn't as rich and I can't for the life of me understand why they don't sell double cream in the U.S. In the UK you can also substitute single or whipping cream if you want to reduce the fat content,.but really there is so little in the recipe I wouldn't bother.
Although the vegetables are cooked before placing in the pastry, the tart cooks for a long time in the oven because pastry loves long cooking, The result will be deliciously crisp and flaky.
Make twice the amount of pastry and freeze half of it, you'll then have a portion of pastry ready to make another tart when you've come up with an idea for the filling.
I used to use baking parchment in making this sort of tart but I think it served mostly as a helpful device for taking the hot tart out of the container.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Roasted Swede Soup with Thai Spices

It was while I was having lunch in a pub yesterday with my dear friend Jan, Lady Fincham, that I came up with the idea of this soup. I had ordered the roasted swede soup, I know you're asking yourself why would anyone order swede soup and had I known what a bland affair it was going to be I wouldn't have. Fortunately for me the condiment set on the table happened to include a bottle of tabasco, so after some adjustment, salt, pepper and a whole load of tabasco the soup was far nicer,
This morning I set out to make a soup which I hoped would not require any adjustment. With a swirl of tomato oil click here for the recipe, this soup is both warming and delicious.

A warm welcome to Kazakhstan, bringing the total to 137

For this recipe you will need;
300g of raw swede, diced
2 shallots, peeled
3 cloves of garlic, peeled
A large thumb sized piece of fresh ginger peeled and sliced into discs
1 or 2 red chillies
2 chopped up lemon grass stalks
2 kafir lime leaves or the zest of 1 lime
1 teaspoon of powdered turmeric
2 teaspoons of palm sugar
2 teaspoons of Thai fish sauce
1 teaspoon of tamarind
200ml of coconut milk
1 litre of vegetable stock
2 tablespoon of vegetable oil

Begin by tossing the diced swede in 1 tablespoon of oil and roast in a hot oven 200C for 5 to 10 minutes, until it has taken on a little colour.
Meanwhile make a paste by placing all remaining ingredients apart from the stock and coconut milk in a blender with 100 ml of water. Blend until you have a paste and fry it gently on a medium heat in 1 tablespoon of oil. Fry until most of the water has been driven off and the oil begins to show on the bottom of the pan. Add the swede, stock and coconut milk and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Blend in small batches (blending hot soup tends to expand and if you're not careful it will burst out of the blender) Adjust the seasoning if you feel it needs it with salt and pepper. Sieve the soup before serving with a swirl of the tomato oil.

This is another soup which in my opinion is nicer served really smooth, be warned, sieving produces a great deal of pulp, but my chickens seem to enjoy it.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Marmalade Steamed Pudding

It's the time of year when I make the year's marmalade, Click here for the recipe I do think we are lucky to have such a plethora of citrus during these dark winter months and marmalade made now will bring sunshine throughout the year. Because new marmalade will require room on the shelf, any of last year's marmalade requires using up in ingenious ways. I have a marmalade cake in my repertoire Click here for the recipe but I thought a steamed pudding would make a nice change. If you are able, use a good sourdough loaf, a few days old for your breadcrumbs, if not do avoid at least anything which is light and fluffy, anything made by the Chorleywood method in other words, choosing instead bread which has a more robust crumb. Yes of course you can serve this with cream but please, take to time to make proper custard and you will thank me for suggesting it. Light, bitter - sweet and delicious this pudding delivers all the comfort you would ever wish for. Having just served it to the chaplain of Balliol before he makes his Seville marmalade, it's definitely had the thumbs up.

For this recipe you will need;
350g of good quality Seville orange marmalade
180g of bread
150g of plain flour
150g of light muscovado sugar
3 large eggs
150g of unsalted butter
2 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves
The grated rind of 1 orange

Begin by melting the butter. place the bread, flour, salt, cloves and sugar in a food processor and process until you have fine breadcrumbs, Place in a bowl and stir in the marmalade, melted butter, grated orange rind and finally the eggs.
Butter a 1 litre pudding basin and place a small disc of parchment paper in the bottom. Pour in the mix and wrap several layers of clingfilm around the basin in order to prevent water leaking in during the steaming process.
Steam for 3 to 4 hours, ideally in a steamer but as long as you have wrapped the clingfilm well, you'll find the basin can sit comfortably in a deep saucepan with water coming up no more than halfway up the side of the basin. Whether you are using a steamer or a regular saucepan, make sure it doesn't boil dry by topping up with boiling water whenever you need it.

You can substitute lemon marmalade for Seville orange but if you do, omit the ground clove and add a 1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Wild Mushroom and Chestnut Soup

The rich flavour of this soup belies the simplicity of the recipe, the sofrito, dried porcini and pre-cooked chestnuts are all available in good supermarkets. Considering the creamy texture it is relatively low in fat. I was staring at the chestnuts left over from the Christmas festivities when I decided to create a soup recipe in order to use them up, mushroom seemed the most obvious other ingredient.

For this recipe you will need;
1 tablespoon of sofrito click here for the recipe
(use a commercial brand if you don't fancy making it yourself)
1 large banana shallot or a medium sized onion, chopped
100g of dried porcini mushrooms
200g of roasted chestnuts, peeled (available in vacuum packs)
1 litre of vegetable stock
100ml of double cream
1/2 tablespoon of olive oil
1 tablespoon of Noilly Prat
White pepper

Begin by frying the shallot/onion and sofrito gently in the oil for 4 or 5 minutes. Add the dried porcini mushrooms, I know, they always tell you to soak them but believe me, this recipe doesn't require that. Add the Noilly Prat and continue to cook for a further 2 minutes. Add the chestnuts and vegetable stock and simmer gently with a lid on the pan for 10 to 15 minutes. Blend the soup in small batches, being careful as hot liquids always expand rather dramatically in a blender. Stir in the cream and adjust the seasoning and add plenty of freshly ground white pepper. Strain through a fine sieve and reheat before serving. Serve with a little white truffle oil.

I don't often strain blended soups but the skins on the chestnuts are far too fiddly to remove and very easy to sieve out.


Sofrito is one of the most useful things to have in your fridge. Easily made, it keeps for 3 to 4 weeks.
I find a tablespoonful forms the base of so many sauces, a bit like adding the bulk that stock leaves out.

For this recipe you will need;
300g of celery
300g of leek
400g of carrots
1 whole head of garlic, peeled
200ml of good olive oil
2 teaspoons of sea salt

Blitz the vegetables in a food processor until they are reduced to a fine mush, cook in a large pan on the lowest heat possible with the oil and salt and continue cooking, stirring from time to time, for at least an hour. At first liquid will be released from the vegetables and the bulk of the cooking will involve the gentle cooking off of this liquid, at the point where the oil begins to be visible once more at the bottom of the pan the sofrito should be cooked. Pour into a sterile jar and once cool place in the fridge.

Add a tablespoonful of this mix whenever you require a savoury boost to a soup or sauce.