Sunday, 30 October 2011

Apple and Calvados Crostata

Crostata or galette - whatever you want to call them, they are my favourite way of making a fruit pie or tart.  No fiddly lining of flan or pie tins, no baking blind, and an uneven finish is positively encouraged to ensure a fashionably 'rustic' look.  I've made others on here before - peach and blueberry, fig and raspberry - this one makes use of some fabulous Bramley cooking apples from Riverford.  I cooked 4 of them to a fluffy puree with sugar to taste, and chopped another one in for a bit of texture.  To this, I added a big handful of raisins that had been soaked in a good splosh (technical term, there) of Calvados, to emphasise the appliness.  When cool, this mixture was piled into the centre of a rough round of sweet shortcrust (200g flour, 100g butter, a tablespoon of sugar and an egg yolk).  A sprinkling of ground almonds on the bottom soaks up any extra liquid from the apples.  Fold the edges of the pastry up to form a rough border, brush with the left-over egg white and sprinkle with demerara sugar and more ground almonds.  Bake on a sheet of parchment at around 180C for about 40 minutes until golden and cooked through.  Lovely served warm with a little custard or cream, to which a further splosh of Calvados has been added.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Beetroot, Carrot and Orange Soup

I have blogged the Beetroot and Carrot soup already, and declared my love for it, but it was taken to new heights by the addition of the zest and juice of an orange.  Gosh, it was so wonderful, I could have eaten the entire pot!  Anyway, if you like these flavours, they all go together really well - it is simple to make: sweat a chopped onion, some chopped carrots and peeled fresh beetroot (a ration of 2:1 carrot/beetroot) in a tablespoon or so of olive oil until softening.  Grate in the zest of a large orange, followed by its juice.  Just cover with veg stock (Marilgold is fine) and simmer gently until the veg is tender.  Puree with a hand-blender and serve.  You can add cream if you like, but we didn't, enjoying the pure, fresh tastes of the veggies and orange. 

Friday, 21 October 2011

Sticky Pecan and Raisin Buns

Gosh, these are good!  Puff pastry rolled around brown sugar, cinnamon and raisins, sliced, then baked on a bed of butter, more brown sugar, and chopped pecans.   Another contribution to the charity cake sale today, and everyone enjoyed them heated very briefly in the microwave, when they emerged squidgy, fragrant and buttery (the buns, that is, not my colleagues, though they ended up that way after eating them).  I broke the low(er) fat regime by sharing one with a colleague.  Unfortunately, I also shared a chocolate danish, a slice of the Lemon and Apple Tart, a piece of Apple and Blueberry Cake and half a Raspberry and White Chocolate Brownie through the course of the day.  My maths isn't very good, but even I know that adds up to ......errr.....rather a lot of cake :-)

Anyway, make these buns, and they will make you smile all day.  based on a recipe by Ina Garten, they can be found on any number of blogs, but here is a link to the Food Network recipe from her show.  Follow the advice in the comments boxes - cut back the amount of butter and sugar a wee bit, and I reduced the cinnamon too - 3 teaspoons would be overwhelming.  Also, DO NOT let them sit for too long before turning out, as the molten butter and sugar quickly sets rock hard, and you will be chipping them out with a pick-axe.

Apple and Lemon Tart

I am doing another charity cake sale at work, and I thought I'd celebrate the British apple this time, so I had to make my Apple and Lemon tart.  I don't know why I haven't put it on here before - it is so delicious and simple and doesn't require the pastry to be blind-baked.  You line a 10" loose-bottomed flan case (metal) with some good sweet shortcrust - bought is fine, but I just knocked some up in the processor with 200g plain flour 100g butter and a tablespoon of icing sugar, bound with an egg yolk and water.  Now, peel and grate two large Cox's apples (British please!) and add to the juice and zest of two lemons, 2 eggs, 4 tablespoons caster sugar and 120ml of double cream.  Mix well, pour into the pie crust and bake at 170C for 40 minutes.  It is like a Tarte au Citron but with the freshness and texture of apple .  It is very nice indeed!  One tip: it looks a bit like a quiche, so a heavy drenching with icing sugar just before serving helps.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Ina Garten's Italian Wedding Soup

I have been watching Ina Garten's 'Back to Basics' on the UK Food Network (obsessively, my husband would assert) and saw her make this the other day.  It is a famous recipe in the blogosphere, and consists of little chicken meatballs in a good chicken broth with diced carrots, onions, spinach and parsley.   Tiny pasta is added, in my case risoni, and it is topped with grated Parmesan.  I made the meatballs by mixing a couple of skinned pork sausages (Ina recommends chicken sausages, but it is tricky to find good quality ones), with some minced cooked chicken, some breadcrumbs, garlic, grated Parmesan, an egg and lots of chopped parsley.  The little balls are baked in the oven, which keeps the fat down.  Meanwhile, cook the carrot and onion in the stock until tender - use good homemade stock, and we got through 2 pints of it for our dinner! - and then add the pasta about 10 minutes before serving.  In the final minute, add a handful of chopped spinach, the meatballs and lots of parsley and serve piping hot with Parmesan on top.  Delicious!

Monday, 17 October 2011

Balsamic-glazed Pork Steaks

Can I say right out that I am not a fan of Balsamic Vinegar?  Unless it is very good quality (and, therefore, very expensive) stuff from Modena, I tend to find it sharp and overwhelming.  This is a good way to use it, however - in small quantities, and tempered with the sweetness of honey.  It is dead simple - saute a couple of boneless pork steaks (organic, free-range, outdoor reared, and British, please) in a knob of butter and dash of olive oil.  Make sure the meat is well seasoned with salt and pepper, and don't fiddle with it.  Let it get a good crust on each side, around 5 minutes for the first side and 4 for the other.  Unless your pork is very thick, this will be plenty of time to cook through, yet still be moist and juicy.  After about 9 minutes is up, pour in 120ml of white wine, 2 tablespoons of Balsamic vinegar and a tablespoon of runny honey.  Stir and baste the meat with the sauce and let it reduce down to a syrupy glaze.  Serve straight away with the glaze poured over.  It went very nicely with simple boiled rice, some braised fennel and steamed broccoli.  Mash would be good too.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Apple Tart 'Facon Maman'

One of my least favourite jobs in cooking is the baking 'blind' of tart shells.  I never have enough patience and end up with mis-shapen, shrunken tarts (insert punchline here).  However, Raymond Blanc's method is dead simple, with the apples being baked in the raw shell, after being glazed with butter, sugar and Calvados.  About 10 minutes before the tart is done, a simple custard of an egg, cream and a little sugar is poured in.  What a lovely, fresh apple, flavour you get in the end, with a nicely crisp crust.  The BBC has a recipe - do try it.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Leeks, Cannellini Beans and Chard

Sometimes, the simplest-sounding things can surprise with new flavours and combinations.  This idea, from Riverford's first veggie book, sounded a bit ordinary, but I thought I'd use it to accompany a roasted leg of lamb.  It was delicious!  By all means, soak and cook your own beans, but I find that good-quality tinned ones are just as good - I use the brilliant Italian brand, Cirio, who steam their beans in the tin.  As a consequence, there is barely any liquid in the tin, so no wastage and a much better texture and taste.  It consists of a large, thinly-sliced leek and onion, sweated slowly in a knob of butter and dash of olive oil until soft and velvety.  Don't let it brown.  About 5 minutes before completely done, add a chopped clove of garlic and a teaspoon each of chopped fresh rosemary and thyme.  Add a tin of beans, drained and rinsed, and a handful of chopped chard or spinach leaves.  Add about 120ml of water or veggie stock, season, cover and simmer for a further 5 minutes until all is tender and amalgamated.  Really nice, and would make good soup with extra broth added.  As it was, it accompanied roast lamb and gravy perfectly, along with wedges of roasted Gem Squash.

Ina Garten's Apple and Cranberry Cake

Well folks, did you miss me?  I have been on holiday for 2 and a half weeks in lovely Devon and Cornwall, and then back at work for a week, where I was too tired to cook anything other than old favourites.  But, I'm back in the culinary saddle, enjoying the wonderful weather and the abundance of produce that turned up in our re-instated Riverford delivery - this week brought marrows, celery, bok choy, tomatoes, cabbages, onions, carrots, muscat grapes, leeks, little gem squashes, much inspiration!  Whilst we were away, the digital TV revolution hit Oxfordshire, and I finally have freeview and a multitude of different channels.  However, despite all this wealth of telly, I seem to be stuck on channel 49, the Food Network, where - joy of joys - they broadcast Ina Garten, the 'Barefoot Contessa'.  I have long enjoyed her recipes through the blogs of American foodies, and to be able to see her and watch her cooking is wonderful.  So, expect more from her on these pages.  First up is this opportunity to use the glut of fabulous apples this Autumn, and also to clear out a bag of frozen cranberries before winter sets in.  This is dead simple, and almost the texture of a clafoutis with a little cakiness thrown in.  It is a heavily-blogged recipe, so I have linked to the recipe on Epicurious.  This would work with loads of other fruit combos - apple and blackberry, naturally, but pear and blueberry would be nice too.