Mushroom & Goat's Cheese Tart (and a little emotional blackmail…)

I love me some fungus.

Yessir, I do.

Portabella, Enoki, Field, Swiss Brown/Cremini, Wood Ear, Oyster, Porcini, Shimeji, King Brown, and even the king of umami – Shiitake (even though the idiotic 5yo child in me giggles and says ‘shit-takes’ in my head).

Basically, what I’m saying here is that if it grows on a soggy log or field of some description and won’t kill me – GIVE ME!

I’m not quite as much a mushroom lover as my mother (who will hoover any raw mushrooms within her grasp by the handful – she is to mushrooms what Dyson is to dog hair), but I do absolutely adore using them – whether it be in pasta, noodles, salads, sandwiches, soups or stews.

There’s a lot you can do with a mushroom.

That is why I squealed like a giddy schoolgirl when I was approached about participating in the first ever Mushroom Masters – a recipe competition with four rounds, each involving a different mushroom.

What better way to celebrate my love for fungi?

My mushroom ended up being the humble button mushroom, one of the most common and versatile mushrooms in the world, and this resulted in a weekend devoted to trying to come up with a glorious combination which would really show off this fantastic product.

Do you know how many button mushrooms there are in 2.5kg?

Neither do I, but I can say with absolute certainty that it is A LOT.

The below recipe for a mushroom & goat’s cheese tart wasn’t the one submitted to the competition, but it is an extremely tasty and easy recipe to make – and excellent ‘fast food’ for when you want something pretty darn tasty with minimal effort and fuss.

Mushroom & Goat’s Cheese Tart

Ingredients
400g button mushrooms, cleaned and thickly sliced (at least 1 – 1.5cm thick)
100g goat’s feta (or marinated goat’s cheese for something a bit more flavourful)
150g ricotta cheese
1 large egg
Juice of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 lemon
1 large onion
3-4 cloves garlic
Salt & pepper, to taste

2-3 sheets puff pastry (this amount of mixture will make 2 large tarts or 1 large and about 8 small)

1. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C, then mix together your ricotta and feta cheese with the egg and salt and pepper to taste, then set aside.

2. Roughly chop the onion, then saute in about 1 tbsp melted butter, till softened and golden.

3. Drain the fried onion, then mix into the cheese along with the lemon juice and zest. Lay out a sheet of puff pastry and spread the cheese onto the middle, leaving a 3-4cm border around the edge.

4. Scatter the sliced mushrooms on top of the cheese mixture, then fold the edges up and brush with some olive oil or melted butter.

5. To make small tarts or hand-pies (whichever you want to cal them), cut out rounds of puff pastry with a cookie cutter, place a small amount of cheese mixture in the middle and top with a slice of mushroom. Lay another round of pastry on top, pinch the sides together and cut air holes into the top.

6. Place the tart onto a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper and bake for 40-45 minutes (15-20 minutes for the small tarts) or till the pastry has puffed up and is golden brown. Serve warm or cool, with a sprinkling of parsley or chives!

DEAR READERS, RABID FANS (and not so rabid fans)

I need to ask you for your help.

You see, the Mushroom Masters competition is something I desperately want to win, despite there being no physical prize (only bragging rights).

I never win anything. EVER.

I’ve never won the lottery, never won a race, never won a raffle, never even won on a bloody $2 scratchie.

In fact, the first and last time I won anything was back in grade 5 in primary school when I placed second in a regional creative writing competition.

I want to win the Mushroom Masters so much that my teeth physically ACHE.

(here’s where the emotional blackmail starts…)

If you love me, and the thought of bringing the joy from a win to my sad little soul makes you smile, then please go to the following link and click to vote for my slow roasted mushroom lasange.

Just two clicks will help me inch closer to giving me the chance to running a victor’s lap (at least in my head) and go all stupid and gushy.

Please? ๐Ÿ™‚

Mushroom Masters Round 2: www.tastespotting.com/features/button-battle-mushroom-masters-tournament-of-taste

And the actual recipe for the slow roasted mushroom lasagne: http://themightymushroom.wordpress.com/2010/09/07/lasagne-with-slow-roasted-mushrooms-and-goats-cheese/

http://www.tastespotting.com/features/button-battle-mushroom-masters-tournament-of-tasteis

Sharp and sweet – bite sized lemon cream tartelettes

I love my lemons.

Think about it – they’re so incredibly versatile that it’s almost a little bit suspicious.

Need to add a fresh ‘zing’ to your fish, potatoes or salad? Just squeeze over some fresh lemon juice.

Wanna stop your cut apple from going icky and brown? Rub the surface with a little fresh lemon.

Have a bit of a stinky issue in your refrigerator from someone forgetting that they’ve left a few whiting in there to ‘defrost overnight’ for three nights in a row? Throw some lemon in there (it works rather well with smells caused by other sources too)

Getting a tickle in your throat from an oncoming cold or yelling too much at the most recent football match (whether that be AFL OR soccer)? Dump a slice of fresh lemon in a cup of boiling water and let it work its magic.

Suffering from dandruff/acne/eczema/blackheads/freckles or wrinkles? Put some lemon on it! (Actually, please don’t – while lemon is fantastic, I’m not sure that rubbing a fresh lemon slice on dandruff is quite the best way to go about getting rid of it. I don’t endorse any of these beauty uses for lemon, but hey, if you’re that bored then I guess I can’t stop you…)

In fact, I love lemons so much that often my problem is not trying to use them all before they get manky, but rather HOW do I use them all and which of my favourite lemon recipes will grace my kitchen while others have to wait for another day.

Did I mention how much I love lemons?

One easy standby lemon recipe is lemon curd.

This, my friends, is some good shit.

You can keep eat it by the spoonful, it is DIVINE on a buttered bagel (trust me on this), you can use it to fill cakes and cupcakes and even sandwich butter cookies. It’s sweet and tart and sour and carries a massive lemon punch and is just one of those things that your fridge is probably a better place with than without.

Best of all? It takes nothing but lemon, sugar and eggs. Gluten-free and nut-free and the perfect thing for dessert time if you’re dealing with allergies ๐Ÿ™‚ Well, so long as you love lemon. But let’s be honest – what’s not to love? ๐Ÿ™‚

Lemon Curd

Ingredients
3 lemons
200g caster sugar
3 large organic eggs
120g unsalted butter, diced

1. Zest the lemons, then juice them (leaving out all the pips and bits) and combine with the zest.

2. Lightly beat together the eggs then run through a fine sieve. This is necessary to make sure the curd cooks evenly and reduces the chances of getting big chunks of egg in your curd as it cooks.

3. Combine the strained egg with the lemon zest, lemon juice and sugar in a large heat-proof bowl. Prepare a separate bowl with iced water and set aside.

4. Bring a pot of water to a low simmer, then place the bowl with the lemon mixture on top and stir continuously till it thickens considerably and coats the sides of the bowl and the back of the spoon. This should take about 20-30 minutes.

5. As soon the curd is cooked, remove it from on top of the pot and place it on top of the iced water while stirring continuously for another 5-10 minutes. Add the butter, once piece at a time and stirย vigorouslyย till it is all incorporated.

6. Store in a clean, airtight container for up to 2 weeks in the fridge and enjoy however you’d like!

As wonderful as lemon curd is, you know there is something that (to me) is just a step better!

LEMON CREAM.

Lemon cream is simply a combination of lemon curd and cream in a ratio of 1:3, whipped together till it stiffens up and takes on a lovely pale color like in the above picture.

I find that the cream doesn’t detract from the lemony flavour at all, oh no. In fact, what it does is that it retains the sparkling citrus punch but carries it in a better texture – one that is airy and smooth, almost like a creamy mousse.

And this, my friends, is the ultimate lemon filling.

The texture is too good to be described. Lemon curd is pretty smooth and silky, but there is some sticky and gooeyness to it that is hard for some people to get past. Once it’s combined with cream, it just becomes this light-as-air mixture that dissipates on the tongue and melts into nothing but the essensce of lemon.

And by now, we all agree that this is a good thing.

Right?

Right.

These lemon tartelettes are something that can be prepared in advance for quick and easy assembly just before being served, but can also be made 2 to 3 days in advance and just stored in the fridge in an airtight container. Though, as a responsible food blogger, I probably should warn you that the inherent danger in taking the latter path is that you may find yourself sneaking a tartlette whenever you walk past the fridge. Or two. Or three.

Not that I succumb to this at all.

Of course not.

Shut up, thighs.

Cute Lemon Tartelettes

Crust
120g unsalted butter
1/4 cup caster sugar
Pinch of salt
3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose/plain flour

Filling
1/3 cup lemon curd
2/3 cup thickened or double cream

Decoration suggestions
Fresh berries
Chopped roasted nuts (pistachios are a favourite)
Candied lemon zest

1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C, then place all the ingredients for the crust into a food processor and blitz till just combined. If doing this by hand, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt and set aside. Beat together the butter and vanilla, then combine with the flour mixture.

2. Lightly butter and flour your tart cases (silicone mini muffin trays are GREAT for making tiny little tartelettes!), then press the pastry into each case in a thin, uniform layer. This is a veeeeery crumbly shortcrust so don’t even think about rolling it out and laying it into pastry cases the traditional wait.

3. Using rice / beans / pastry weights, blind bake your pastry for approx 30 minutes, or till golden (the time will differ according to the size of the pastry so it’s a good idea to check it every 10 minutes.

4. While the pastry is baking, whip together the lemon curd and cream till the mixture has approximately tripled in size and is fluffy and very pale yellow. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent the surface from drying out, then store in the fridge.

5. Once the pastry is cooked, remove to a wire rack and cool completely. The pastry cases can be stored in an airtight container for up to a week without being filled. Or, once they’ve cooled down, you can fill them with the lemon cream and decorations of choice and serve immediately!

Other lemon recipes you might be interested in:

Tarte Tatin w/ sour cream shortcrust pastry

People often avoid various foods for any number of reasons. For example, my kid sister sat at the dinner table tonight, very carefully corralling the rather chunkily cut mushrooms to the side of her dish in anticipation of relocating them to another dish where they might be more happily welcomed.

Personally, I used to loathe the smell of celery so much that I would leave the room if I suspected it had been in the vicinity (thankfully, celery and I have now reconciled our differences and manage to coexist fairly well these days).

However, people with coeliac disease have no choice but to avoid consuming any products with gluten in them at all, which means that they have a very difficult time with cooking and eating as every label must be scrutinized. And unfortunately, majority of the gluten-free desserts that I’ve seen tend to be limited to meringues, flourless orange and almond cakes or flourless chocolate cakes.

Since coeliac disease is incurable, the idea of being limited to three desserts for a lifetime does make the sweet tooth weep. Just a little.

When I was contacted by the reps for Vitarium, who asked me whether I would be interested in trialling their product and perhaps coming up with a recipe, I jumped at the chance. Having watched a friend who suffers from coeliac disease struggle with her shopping and eating, I thought that I might as well try the product and see whether it would be one I could recommend to her.

I wasn’t quite daring enough to use a gluten-free flour to make something that requires gluten for texture, but I thought it would work quite well on a buttery, short pastry…somewhere where the development of gluten is usually kept to a minimum.

I decided to go with a tarte tatin as other than the pastry, it is relatively easy to ensure that the other ingredients and components of this dish are gluten free and coeliac friendly. Gluten free flour isn’t a necessity, but after trying it out, I can honestly say that it performed perfectly and made the most beautiful, tender, melt-in-the-mouth pastry you can ask for!

Tarte tatin with sour cream shortcrust pastry

Pastry ingredients
250g plain / all-purpose flour
200g unsalted butter, diced & cold
150g full fat sour cream

Tarte Tatin ingredients
6-10 apples (depending on the size of your pan, and golden delicious apples work well here)
150g unsalted butter
200g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod, split in half
1 sheet sour cream short crust pastry, rolled 3-4mm thick
22 – 25cm oven-proof frying pan

TO MAKE THE PASTRY:

1. Place the flour into a food processor with the butter and pulse till the mixture begins to form lumps.

2. Add the sour cream and pulse till the mixture comes together (this is a very buttery, extremely difficult to handle pastry. Try to avoid handling it with bare hands as much as possible).

3. Using a silicone spatula, scrape the pastry out of the food processor and onto a sheet of non-stick baking paper. Lay another sheet of baking paper on top of it, then slowly and carefully roll out to approx 3-4mm thick. Place in the fridge to chill and rest till needed.

TO MAKE THE TARTE TATIN:

1. Peel the apples, then cut into quarters and remove the core. If you feel it’s necessary, you can toss them with lemon juice at this stage to stop them browning…but bear in mind that this is a dish where the apples are cooked in brown caramel. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

2. Scrape out the vanilla seeds from the pod and add to a heavy, oven-proof frying pan along with the butter and sugar, and cook till it becomes a lovely amber caramel.

3. Once the caramel is bubbling and light brown, remove immediately from heat and carefully arrange the apples over the top, core sides down. You want to make sure that the first layer is rather neat and tidy, as this will be the face that is on display. The second layer can be as haphazard as you wish!

4. Grab a plate which is slightly larger than your frying pan and use it as a guide to cut a rough circle from the chilled pastry, then place on top of the apples and tuck the edges around inside so they surround the apples. Cut a few steam vents into the pastry, then place into the oven and bake till the pastry is completely cooked and you can see the caramel bubbling up the sides.

Rest the baked tarte tatin in the pan for about 15-20 minutes, before CAREFULLY inverting onto a plate (taking care not to drop any of the boiling hot caramel on yourself!). Serve with a dollop of creme fraiche…or sour cream…or lightly whipped double cream…or natural yoghurt…or vanilla ice cream. Your choice ๐Ÿ™‚

Vitarium are running a gluten-free bakeoff until August 8th, so check this link if you’d like to enter ๐Ÿ™‚ Vitarium are also offering to let 5 Kitchen Wench readers try their products, so if you live in Australia and would like to give their products a try for free then please leave a comment. 5 readers will be drawn by Sunday 18th July so you have plenty of time!

Sausage, Capsicum & Sweet Potato Frittata

*cough*

Hi there.

Umm, I don’t know if you remember me. You see, it’s been awhile. After a major drama ended up crushing my spirit, I decided to take a break from the blog…which turned out to be longer than expected.

To be honest, I didn’t know if I’d come back. But here I am…so please be gentle, as it seems a bit like foreign ground ๐Ÿ™‚

While I mustered the energy to restore this blog and resume posting to it, I was still busy at work in the kitchen, trying new recipes and accumulating even more cookbooks. However, this tasty treat is adapted from an old favourite of mine – ‘Every Day‘ by Bill Granger. While Bill’s recipes aren’t exactly high-class fare, its his penchant for providing fast, family-friendly and tasty recipes for home that make me adore him. This is one of those such recipes.

This sausage, sweet potato and capsicum frittata is one of those dishes that takes next to no time to knock together, but is tasty and versatile enough to be served up a few times in different forms till it’s gone! Excellent served warm with a little spicy salsa or chutney and garden salad, it also makes a great filling for a sandwich when accompanied with some chutney and bitter greens.

Sausage, Sweet Potato & Red Pepper Frittata
(Adapted from ‘Every Day‘ by Bill Granger)

Ingredients
2 tbsp olive oil
1 spicy sausage of your choice (Chorizo or spicy Italian works great!), chopped
1 small-medium sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 red bell pepper (capsicum), deseeded and diced
1 large brown onion, peeled and diced
5 large eggs
4 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup light milk (I use soy thanks to frequent incompatability between cow juice and my digestive tract)
*optional: A handful of roughly chopped mushrooms is also marvellous in this

1. Preheat a cast-iron skillet (or ovenproof frying pan) with the oil, then add the onion and bell pepper (capsicum) and fry till slightly softened, then add the chopped sausage and fry till the sausage is cooked.

2. Meanwhile, either steam/boil/microwave the chopped sweet potato till it is almost completely cooked (i.e. soft enough to pierce all the way through but not mushy), then add this to the pan and stir it through for a few minutes to take on the other flavours of the dish.

3. Preheat your grill and the beat together the eggs and milk in a bowl, then carefully pour it over the top of the mixture, giving it a little stir to ensure the egg is getting right between all the chunks of sausage and veg. Sprinkle grated parmesan over the top, then lower the heat and leave to cook till the bottom and sides have just set, then place under the grill to cook the top.

4. Once it’s finished cooking, remove and serve either warm or cold with a spicy tomato salsa or chutney and some green salad on the side.

[tags]Sausage, Chorizo, Frittata, Bill Granger, Recipes[/tags]

For the love of a fresh fruit flan!

fruitflan2.jpg

I poked the remaining pastry and hummed to myself. I had half a batch of sweet shortcrust pastry left after making a lemon tart, and was wondering what on earth I’d use it for. I knew that at the very least I needed to bake it up so that I’d be forced to use it for something – I have a terrible habit of storing unbaked pastry in the freezer and then forgetting all about it till I clean out the freezer and discover in my dismay that it needs to be tossed out!

So, I rolled it out and popped it into the oven to bake, then went over to the fridge, opened it and contemplated its contents while I waited for inspiration to grab me. My eyes happened to glance upon a case of strawberries that were in dire need of being used and I remembered something that my sister had said to me a few months ago – “Oh my god, I LOOOOOOOOOOOOVE fruit flans! I’ll do ANYTHING for one, I love them sooooooooooo much!”

Well, as it turns out that despite her pleas, I’d never actually made her one at the time, so I thought that I’d make one now – and judging by her facial expression and eagerness to help me go grocery shopping, I’d say that I made a good decision ๐Ÿ™‚

(Sorry for the overly short entry but I’ve been cooking and cleaning so much over the past three weeks that my right shoulder has slowly become more and more inflamed so that now even lifting a glass of water to my lips is painful. Am hoping that taking a break and resting it completely will help bring it right again!)

fruitflan1.jpg

Fresh Fruit Flan

Pastry Ingredients (from Shannon Bennett in ‘My Vue‘)
200g unsalted butter, at room temperature
200g pure icing sugar
1 egg
2 tbsp pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 tbsp milk
250g plain (all-purpose) flour

*If you have a favourite sweet shortcrust recipe, then you can certainly use that instead. I’ve tried a few and though this pastry is a B*TCH to work with, it really has no comparison in terms of withstanding moist fillings.

Creme Patissiere ingredients (from Pierre Herme in ‘The Cook’s Book’)
250mL full-fat milk
22.5g corn starch
65g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla paste
3 egg yolks
25g butter, at room temperature and cut into walnut-sized cubes

Fresh fruit, for topping
Apricot jam, for glazing

1. Cream butter and sugar till light and fluffy, then beat in vanilla, egg and milk. Once this is all combined, slowly add the flour till the mixture just comes together. Wrap in cling wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hr.

2. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Remove lemon filling from fridge to become room temperature. On a well-floured surface, roll out the pastry to 6mm thickness and place in the tart tin. Prick all over with a fork then place back in fridge for 15 minutes.

3. Line tart case with foil, making sure that it is completely covered then fill with pastry weights (I use uncooked rice) and bake for 15 minutes. Remove weights and foil and bake for a further 10 minutes or till base is firm and dry. Remove from oven and cool completely.

4. Once pastry has completely cooled, begin work on the crรƒยจme pรƒยขtissiรƒยจre – whisk together the milk, corn starch, vanilla paste and 30g of sugar in a heavy-based pan. Slowly bring the mixture to a boil over low heat, whisking continuously till the mixture thickens and begins to bubble.

5. When the milk mixture has thickened and started to bubble whilst whisking, immediately remove from heat. Whisk together the egg yolks and remaining 35g of sugar, then slowly pour in the milk in a thin stream, whisking continously. Transfer the mixture back to the saucepan and continue whisking till mixture is thick and has just begun to boil, then immediately remove from the heat.

6. Stand the pan in a shallow bowl filled with ice and leave to cool to about 60 degrees C. Once cooled, add the pieces of butter and whisk briskly till they have melted and the sauce is smooth and shiny. Immediately pour into the cooled tart case and smooth over as the pastry cream will set and become more solid as it cools down.

7. Decorate the top of the tart with fresh prepared fruit, then heat and strain the apricot jam and carefully brush over the top of the tart to glaze it – this helps hold the fruit into place and prevents them from drying out too quickly.

8. Place into the fridge to cool and set for at least an hour, and bring back to room temperature just before serving!

fruitflan3.jpg

This is what happens when you cut into your flan before the pastry cream has properly set and the thing hasn’t been glazed yet – whoops!

[tags]tart, fruit flan, sweet, recipe, dessert, Shannon Bennett, Pierre Herme[/tags]

Lovin' my inner nut

Being a nut myself, I’ve always had a fondness for nuts – of the edible and non-edible (i.e. human) variety, so whenever I see a recipe that celebrates the rich, meaty goodness that nuts are all about, I have a tendency to go weak at the knees.

When I saw these on Helen’s blog, that was my immediate reaction, and since walnuts and pecans are always about in my home, I immediately raced off to make them, much to the dismay of my mother. You see, she is also a nut-fan, and though there are many health benefits that come from them, they are kinda offset by the sheer calorie count of desserts such as this. Nonetheless, she put in a stellar effort and polished off half the batch that night, saving the rest to share with her golf buddies the next day.

Seeing this as an outright success, I proceeded to make them again and again…actually, it was probably the fourth time I made these that I was actually issued with an official ban – that’s how irresistable my family found them! So, though I can no longer make them myself, hopefully I can pass the buck and share the delightfulness that is these nutty little tartlets!

(Sorry for the short post, but I have an exam on Wednesday that I am madly studying for…expect the next post after then!)

Pecan, Walnut & Golden Syrup Tartlettes
(Adapted from Helen)

Sweet Short Crust (from Alice Medrich)

Ingredients
120g unsalted butter
1/4 cup caster sugar
Pinch of salt
3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose/plain flour

To make the crust – preheat the oven to 180 degrees C, then mix together the butter, sugar, salt and vanilla, then add the flour and mix till well combined – this is a very crumbly dough so donรขโ‚ฌโ„ขt expect to be able to knead it or roll it out. Press it into your tart tins thinly and evenly, prick all over with a fork, then bake for about 20 mins, or till they begin to go lightly golden in colour. Remove from the oven and allow to cool, and lower oven temperature to 160 degrees C.

Pecan, Walnut & Golden Syrup filling

Ingredients
125g chopped walnuts
125g chopped pecans
2 large eggs
75g butter, melted
100g light brown sugar
100g golden syrup **

In large bowl, whisk together the eggs, brown sugar and golden syrup. Add the melted butter and mix to combine.

In a seperate bowl, mix together the chopped nuts, then divide them evenly between the tart shells and then place them on a baking tray. Carefully spoon the egg mixture over the top, being careful not to overfill them, then carefully transfer the baking tray with filled tarts into the middle tray of the oven and bake for 20-25 mins, or till the tart shells are a deep gold colour and the filling has set.

Remove from the oven, place the tarts onto a cooling rack and allow to completely cool before enjoying with a ridiculously decadent scoop of whipped cream or (my favourite) pecan ice cream on top!

** Golden syrup is a liquid sweetener along the lines of maple syrup and honey – it is thick, sweet and very viscous. However, its flavour is quite deep and intense, with a hint of spiciness which makes it quite difficult to substitute. If you cannot get any in your area, I’d suggest replacing it with a combination of honey + molasses/treacle, or maple syrup + molasses/treacle! You’ll have to play with the quantities to find a balance that you like ๐Ÿ™‚

[tags]tarts, desserts, sweets, pastry, nuts, recipes[/tags]

Starry chocolate skies

Baked mocha tart

Despite my many claims in this blog that I am not a chocoholic, I have to admit that I have a love of it. Of course, unlike serious chocolate fiends, I don’t dream of swimming in lakes of chocolate, nor do I pitch a fit when its unavailable, but more and more I find that I’m becoming attracted to chocolaty recipes. Which would be why, when I saw this recipe in Alice Medrich’s “Bittersweet“, my heart fluttered…just a little ๐Ÿ˜‰

Unfortunately, as my family are not big chocolate fans (a block of chocolate usually lasts about 1-2 weeks in the fridge or pantry), I had to hold of making them as there would be nobody to eat them but me…not a good thing when I’m trying to be very good at the moment! However, as tonight I was to meet the girls in order to go to view a night of feminist theatre, I thought it the perfect occasion for some chocolaty decadence! That…and well, since it’s been a week since my last post, I thought I’d present you with a little something extra spesh in the way of an apology for my absence ๐Ÿ™‚

I have to admit that while baking from this particular book is a ROYAL pain in the hiney (oh why why why are there two different systems of measurement? Please come over to metric, it’s so much nicer on this side of the scales!) , the recipes that I’ve tried from it have made me so happy that its worthwhile sitting down and converting almost every measurement (>___<)

Baked chocolate custard
Any leftover chocolate custard mix? Easy – pour it into ramekins to be baked into delicious chocolate pots!

When I presented these to the girls at the restaurant (they had met for dinner, but I was running late and decided to just courier dessert when I went to meet them to go to the show), there was a round of very audible “ooooohs” and “aaaaaahs” as I shared them out. By their telling, the dinner at the restaurant had been so average that my little treats helped raise their spirits and rally the troops, with K declaring that there should be “much more of this in the future, thank you!” ๐Ÿ™‚

They truly are everything that Ms. Medrich promised they’d be – even though they’re made with cocoa powder, they are sinfully chocolaty, their rather solid appearance hiding an inner gooey-ness that will definitely put a smile on your dial. However, since I didn’t follow Ms. Medrich’s instructions entirely, I’m not sure if this is the texture she had in mind…never the matter, I love them just the way they are!

So if you’re looking for a devilishly dangerous morsel of chocolate – give these little tarts a try. I promise – they won’t disappoint!

Baked mocha tart

Gooey Mocha Tarts
(Adapted from Alice Medrich’s “Bittersweet“)

Ingredients – makes 1 x 9″ tart, or 6 x 3″ tarts

Crust
120g unsalted butter
1/4 cup caster sugar
Pinch of salt
3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose/plain flour

Filling
45g unsalted softened butter, cut into chunks
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup heavy cream
1 1/4 tsp instant espresso powder or instant coffee crystals
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 large egg, lightly beaten

1. Position a rack to the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 180 degrees C, and butter the sides of your tart tins.

2. To make the crust – mix together the butter, sugar, salt and vanilla, then add the flour and mix till well combined – this is a very crumbly dough so don’t expect to be able to knead it or roll it out. Press it into your tart tins thinly and evenly, then bake for about 20 mins, or till they begin to go golden in colour. Remove from the oven and lower the temperature to 120 degrees C.

3. Meanwhile, mix up the filling – place the butter, sugar, cocoa powder and cream in a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat while constantly stirring. Once the mixture is smooth and begins to bubble around the edges, remove from the heat and stir in the espresso powder and vanilla. Leave the mixture to cool slightly, and once it is just warm, thoroughly whisk in the egg.

4. Pour the filling into the tart cases, then put them into the oven for 10 minutes. Once the 10 minutes is up, turn it off and leave them in there for another 10-15 minutes, or till the mixture in the centre is solid enough that it wiggles like jello when jiggled. Put the tarts in the fridge to firm up and set, but bring back to room temperature before serving.

[tags]chocolate, tarts, mocha, dessert, sweets, recipes[/tags]

If you're crazy and you know it, bake a tart

Roast Vegetable Tart

Hi, my name is Ellie and I’m an oven-addict.

I know you’re laughing, but you shouldn’t. You see, it’s a legitimate problem. I have a pastry-obsession and I need to bake at least once a week to feel sane. I love sifting flour, I adore beating eggs and working with butter sends shivers down my spine.

My mother has tried an intervention, but alas, to no avail. Her pleas, her reprimands, warnings and orders to stay away from the oven fall on deaf ears as I gaze affectionately at its temperature dial and cheekily stroke the inner shelves. We’ve been through a lot, this oven and me. We’ve had our ups and downs, our failures and our successes, but through it all we’ve stood firmly by each other, defiant in the faces of those who would try and tear us apart.

But, as is sometimes the case, loving something doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good for you, and after an incident last week, I think I need to explore other options. You see, I’m only just starting to recover from a cold which has held a firm grip on me for the past week and a bit, and I’m convinced that I would have started the recovery process a lot sooner had it not been for my obsession with baking.

The day that the cold hit me with its full force, I was miserably rummaging through the fridge, trying to find something that would whet my disinterested appetite, when I came across half a pumpkin and a sweet potato that was looking a bit dry. Further exploration revealed a slightly shriveled capsicum and a softening zucchini. One final poke about surrendered a handful of pitiful mushrooms and a lonely garlic bulb. I lay my ageing bounty on the kitchen bench and looked at it, feeling bemused. All these old veggies, what would I do to use them before they expired from the world of tastiness? In my sickened state, going shopping was no option so I would have to make do with whatever I had lying around the house. After casting my gaze over my bakeware, my eye finally settled on the new rectangular tart tin that I’d bought a month earlier but still not used, so I thought that this would be the perfect opportunity to break it in!

Roast Vegetable Tart
Yes, I know the photos are awful and the presentation stinks, but I was coughing up a lung and could barely stand upright by the time this was finished so I think I did okay, considering the circumstances!

I trudged back to my room and sat myself down in my chair to try and find a recipe for a roast vegetable tart on the internet so I pulled up google and started hunting…but as soon as I pulled up the first search result, I laughed (perhaps a touch maniacally) as I had forgotten the fact that the cold was messing with my head so badly that I couldn’t focus my eyes on the screen long enough to read through the instructions. Hoo-bloody-ray. By this stage I was feeling a bit woozy from the walking about, cold meds and lack of energy and I should have taken this as a sign that I was in no condition to be in the kitchen, but nooooooooooooooooooo, not me! I completely failed to put them together, and in my spinning-headed state I decided that I’d just wing it.

(At this stage, I must advise that my family are not to fault – they were out and I was home alone so there was nobody to gently inform me that I was being a ninny…though to be honest, this is usually what happens when I’m home alone and left to my own devices!)

Having made a decision, I meandered back to the kitchen where I began to haphazardly chop the veggies and cook them down, growing slightly more spaced out as the process continued till the point where lay on the ground in front of the oven as soon as I’d safely bunged the tart inside. I eventually woke up and crawled to my room where I hid under the covers and shivered on the edge of sleep till the oven timer buzzed to let me know that I should attend to it right this instant if I didn’t want to burn my house down.

Though I didn’t realize it at the time, looking back I can see that me and the oven need to take a little break from each other. I’ll always love it, but in its current state it’s just not a healthy relationship. So, with this tart I bid adieu to my oven for a little while, just till I learn to love it wisely…

Or at least, I will once I’ve made another one of these ๐Ÿ˜‰

Roast Vegetable Tart

Ellie’s Roast Vegetable Tart
(You’ll have to excuse the quantities, they’re rough…I’m surprised I can remember them at all!)

Ingredients
1x quantity of shortcrust pastry, rolled about 3-5mm thick (I had some home made in my freezer, thank god!)
1 cup butternut pumpkin, cut into a large dice
1 medium zucchini, halved lengthways and cut into roughly 5mm thick slices
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and roughly diced
1 red bell pepper (capsicum), core and seeds removed and roughly diced
1 cup mushrooms, cleaned and roughly chopped
1/2 cup chopped semi sundried tomatoes
1 large bulb of garlic
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup cream
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees C, then toss together the pumpkin and sweet potato in a light drizzle of olive oil and place on a lined baking tray. Slice the top off the garlic bulb, drizzle a little olive oil over the top and wrap in some foil, then place the pumpkin, sweet potato and garlic bulb in the oven to bake for about 20 minutes, or till soft enough to poke with a fork.

2. Meanwhile, heat a little olive oil in a frying pan and fry the capsicum till softened, then add the zucchini and mushroom and fry till softened. Place the fried veggies in a bowl and once the pumpkin and sweet potato have roasted, add them along with the semi sundried tomatoes to the bowl as well.

3. Once the garlic is soft enough to squish, remove from the oven (about the same time that you take out the pumpkin) and unwrap it and leave it to cool so that you can handle it, and reduce oven temperature to 180 degrees C. While that’s cooling, mix together the cream, eggs and parmesan then add to the veggies and mix to combine, then season with some salt and freshly cracked pepper.

4. Once the garlic is cool enough to handle, squeeze out all the roasted garlic into the veggie mix and stir it through so everything is well combined. Line your tart tin with your pastry, then pour in the egg and veggies on top of the pastry and place it in the oven to bake for about 20 minutes or till the eggs have set.

5. Leave to cool and firm up slightly, then slice up and enjoy.

This is good whether hot or cold, and a slice of this along with a bowl of soup makes for a hearty lunch full of roasted vegetable goodness!

[tags] roasting, vegetables, tarts, pastry, baking, recipes[/tags]

Food bloggers are good for both body and mind

One of the web’s many food bloggers who never fails to grab my attention is Neil from At My Table. A fellow Aussie and Melbournian, he’s a seasoned cook who makes delights such as infused cherry vodka and mussels in cider as well as writing on a variety of topics from wines and spices to kitchen gadgets and processed foods. One of the few food blogs on the internet that (till recently) wasn’t accompanied by photographs, his writing never fails to engage my attention and make me think.His highly personal blog also helps to draw his readers in, there’s no way that you can’t become drawn to him as he tells tales of his past and present, and shares the thought-provoking stories of life as an individual, husband and father.

Though there have been many recipes that Neil has blogged that I have bookmarked to make (both the vodka and mussels are from the top of that list), when he blogged this creamy apple tart I knew that it had to be made immediately – my family are absolutely mad about apples (we go through a 5kg bag of fuji apples about once a fortnight during the season) and any apple-icious dessert usually gets an automatic thumbs up. And being in the middle of apple season at the moment, these crunchy, sweet, juicy fruit are at their absolute best and this dish celebrated every aspect of this. The creamy caramel was rich without being too sweet, and paired with the caramelized apples, it made for a delightful dessert that went down marvellously with a dollop of freshly whipped cream. This is one of those desserts that I guarantee won’t last till the next morning – if you make this, don’t be surprised to catch various family members cutting themselves “just another morsel”, including yourself ๐Ÿ˜‰

A few weeks ago, Neil also managed to inflate my head and ego to the size of a swollen summer watermelon by tagging me with the Thinking Blogger “award”. Coming from Neil, that’s quite a compliment, but it also means that I had to really think about who I’d pass this baton to. I wasn’t sure whether I was allowed to tag people who had already been tagged, but after browsing the creator’s post I realized that that was perfectly alright, and therefore my list may consist of people who have already done this but this is going to be an honest list with no empty flattery, damnit.

1. Tanna from My Kitchen In Half Cups – There are some blogs that you can skim read, taking in a brief summary of their post, but Tanna is not one of those. Her recipes are wonderful examples that home-cooking need not be difficult nor tedious, and her writing is always entertaining, sharing her successes and failures with her beautiful flair for words.

2. Neil from At My Table – For all the reasons stated at the beginning of this post, plus more. Neil is not only a talented cook and writer, he’s also an intelligent and super-friendly person whose personality shines through in everything he writes. If you haven’t read his blog, then you’re missing out. Trust me.

3. Haalo from Cook (almost) Anything at least once – Haalo is without a doubt one of the best original recipe cooks in the food blogging circut. Not only are most of her recipes originals of her own creation or family dishes, but her photography also never fails to put me to shame. However, the thing that really draws me to her is her use of produce, local and sometimes the more exotic. Reading her blog always makes me want to step outside my comfort zone and challenge myself.

4. Rob from Hungry in Hogtown – This blog was recommended to me by another blogger, and since I started reading it I can’t bring myself to stop. Rob has opened up a world of cooking that was completely unknown to me before (molecular what??). With creations such as deep fried rabbit ears, canteloupe caviar and nutella powder, he makes me rethink cooking as not just an activity but also a science, and I’m always eager to see what he’s cooking up next.

5. Callipygia from FOODChair – Reading Callipygia’s blog is like reading a book of poetry dedicated to life and food – her eloquence and artistry is to be admired (and somewhat envied!). Everytime I see a new post, I sit and read it over and over, her magical writing washing over me and painting the most vivid and vibrant pictures in my mind.

I think that everyone on my list has actually been tagged, so I won’t bother with the instructions, but I do recommend to my readers to give each of them a visit as they make for very good reading!

Creamy Apple Tart
(At My Table’s adaptation from Memories of Gascony)

Ingredients

Shortcrust Pastry

250g (9 oz) flour
1 egg
5g (3/4 teaspoon salt)
10g (1.5 teaspoons) sugar
150g (5 oz) butter, diced and slightly softened
1 tbsp milk

1. Place the flour, sugar and salt on a work counter, make a well in the centre and put in the egg and butter.

2. Gradually rub in the flour and when everything is almost mixed, add the milk and knead the dough two or three times to combine everything. Try not to work it too much or the dough will shrink back later. Leave to rest in the fridge for an hour.

3. Roll out to fit a 25 cm (10″) flan dish and prick the base with a fork all over. Line with foil, fill with pastry weights or beans and rest in the fridge for thirty minutes.

4. Bake in a 200 c (400 f) preheated oven for ten minutes, remove the weights and foil and cook for another ten minutes.

Apple Filling

5 large golden delicious or Cox’s orange pippin apples
50 g butter
100 g caster sugar
125 ml double cream
2 egg yolks
pinch cinnamon

Peel and core the apples and cut each into eight segments. Heat the butter and 75 g sugar in a large pot, add the apples and slowly cook until the apples are half done and remove them. Boil down the remaining juices until a caramel forms, then carefully add the cream and remaining sugar, be careful it will splatter. When combined and somewhat cooled whisk in the egg yolks and cinnamon. Arrange the apples neatly in the tart case and pour over the caramel. Bake in the oven for 35 minutes.

[tags]apples, fruit, tart, dessert, sweets, recipes[/tags]

Mr. Bear's Teaparty

Or, how to knock up an entry for Sugar High Friday in an hour!

When I saw this post on Habeas Brulee last month for Sugar High Friday, I made a note that I’d prepare something elaborate, try my hand at spun sugar, toffee “glass windows” and all manner of other ideas that I had.

And then it completely slipped my mind! With the ensuing madness of Christmas shopping and baking, I had all manner of sweet goods on my mind, but spun sugar creations were certainly nowhere to be found on the list. So, when I looked in my diary this afternoon and saw a bolded entry to “UPLOAD SHF: SUGAR ART” blog post, to say that I freaked out would be a bit of an understatement. What to do, what to do??

Well, I did the only thing I could do – grabbed what supplies I had in the fridge and went for it!

I had seen a recipe for a free-form tart in Nigella Lawson’s “How To Be A Domestic Goddess” that was accompanied by a beautiful picture of a crisp, puffed pastry filled with blackberries oozing juice and generally looking beautiful, and I had marked the recipe as one that I had to try. By some stroke of luck or divine intervention (or possibly because of the fact that blackberries had been on sale at the grocery store last week), I had a punnet of fresh blackberries sitting in my fridge, so I decided to go ahead and give the recipe a whirl, though it encountered quite a few adaptations just from the lack of ingredients in my cupboards.


My adapted Blackberry Galette, which I donated to Mr. Bear for his afternoon tea

The galette turned out wonderfully, and as I’d made two smaller tarts, I donated one to Mr. Bear as he had informed me that he had invited Mr. Fuzzbutt over for afternoon tea. The tea party was a great success, and both sirs informed me that this recipe was a keeper ๐Ÿ™‚


Mr. Bear and Mr. Fuzzbutt preparing to enjoy their galette

I still have one of these pretty pastries left over, would anyone like to come over and share it with me? ๐Ÿ™‚

Blackberry Galette (adapted from ‘How To Be A Domestic Goddess’)

Ingredients

Pastry
100g plain flour
1 tbsp caster sugar
A pinch of salt
75g cold butter
2 tbsp iced water
Milk, to brush

Filling
150g blackberries
3 tbsp caster sugar
3 tbsp creme fraiche (can substitute with sour cream)

1. In a food processor, pulse the flour, sugar and salt, then add the flour and pulse till the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.

2. Add water and pulse till the mixture forms a ball, them remove, form into a disc, wrap in cling wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

3. Preheat oven to 190 degrees C.

4. Roll out the pastry about 5-7mm thick into a rough circle and transfer to a lined baking tray. Scatter blueberries in centre, making sure to leave a 5cm border.

5. Sprinkle about 1-1.5 tbsp caster sugar over the top of the berries, then dollop creme fraiche/sour cream over the top. Sprinkle another tbsp of caster sugar over the top.

6. Dampen the edges with water, then roll up so they form a rough rim/lip that will keep the juices from leaking out, then give them a quick brush with milk.

7. Bake for 20-30 minutes, or till pastry has cooked through and is nicely golden. Enjoy hot or cold ๐Ÿ™‚


The pastry is buttery, light, flaky and melts in your mouth, and the combination of the fresh sweetness from the berries and the creamy tang from the sour cream makes for a deliciously memorable experience!

Make sure you swing by Habeas Brulee to check out the round up for this month’s Sugar High Friday ๐Ÿ™‚

[tags]sugar high friday, SHF, berries, pies, tarts, pastry, nigella lawson[/tags]


Others who have tried this recipe: