Easy Portuguese Tarts

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A real favourite of mine at anytime…and especially with a cup of coffee!

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I was proud of these as I confess to being no baker…I leave that to my daughter, Hannah, who has the touch with pastry. I am more usually of a starter and mains man….but I eat these a lot when I visit my favourite coffee shop in Stockbridge, who make very gentile smaller versions. These are not as delicate but boy are they delicious! The recipe i pinched from Jamie Oliver and it was a fun recipe to follow. The ingredients make enough for 6 tarts. And they last up to two days in the fridge…though none of mine made it beyond day one!

INGREDIENTS

Plain flour

375 gm of pre rolled puff pastry

Ground cinnamon

125 gm crème fraîche

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla essence

5 tbsps caster sugar

1 orange

METHOD

Preheat oven to 200c. Dust a clean surface or chopping board with some plain flour. Unroll the sheet of puff pastry – cut in half. You should end up with 2 2o x 20 cm squares of pastry. You only need one – pop the other away in the fridge for your next batch!

Sprinkle over a dusting of cinnamon and then roll into a swiss roll shape. Cut into 6 rounds. 

Put these into 6 of the holes of a muffin tin and using your thumbs stretch out and mould the pastry into the holes so the bottom is flat and the pastry comes to the top.Put in the oven and cook for 8 minutes until lightly golden.

Now spoon the crème fraîche into a small bowl. Add the egg, vanilla and 1 tbsp of the sugar plus the zest of the orange. Stir well.

After 8 minutes take the tarts out of the oven and use the back of a spoon to press the puff pastry back to the sides and make room for the filling. Spoon in the filling equally into each one and pop back in the oven on the top shelf for another 8 minutes.

Put a small pan on a high heat and add the juice of the orange and 4 tbsp of the sugar. Stir all the time until you get a nice sticky caramel.

Take the tarts out of the oven after 8 minutes and pour a drizzle of the caramel over each one. Put aside to cool.

These are sooooo tasty! Give them a go…I beg you!

A Stunning Balsamic to beat all Balsamics!

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If you have only ever bought balsamic vinegar from your supermarket and think you know what a good one tastes like – forget it! This balsamic comes from Modena and is made by agriturismo San Polo using only organic lambrusco grapes, then aged in ash casks for 5 years. If you want to know more go to emiliadelizia.com

Be adventurous with how you use your balsamic. This one is so beautiful on the palate that you could almost drink it! It has a fabulous taste almost a cross between honey and a velvety sherry. Stunning! The aroma has no sharpness or acid notes.

I have used it so far in a number of ways.

The first thing I made was an aubergine side dish that is an ideal accompaniment to all meats or fish dishes. Great too on its own cold.

Warm Aubergine Salad in Balsamic Vinegar

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Cube an aubergine and pan fry it lightly in olive oil. You may need to add a little more oil early on with the aubergines. As it browns add a finely chopped clove of garlic, a deseeded chopped fresh red chilli and a handful of san marzano tomatoes – or any good baby toms will do. Continue to stir and as the tomatoes begin to soften add a handful of any mushrooms of your choice, quartered – I used chestnut mushrooms this time. Add a little sea salt and a grind of black pepper.

After about 20 minutes on a low to medium heat add a good splash of the balsamic vinegar – about two tablespoons. Bring the heat up and once it begins to bubble,, turn the heat right down low and leave for about another 20 minutes. The resulting dish is a marvellous combination of flavours enriched by the balsamic vinegar and, served warm, it is one of the best vegetable dishes there can be! Crusty bread is essential to mop up any of the unctuous juices!

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I have also used this product to enliven one of my favourite greens – park choi. Once you have separated all the leaves, add to an oiled wok and after a couple of minutes add a tablespoon of the balsamic and toss gently. Magical!

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And it is simply divine with pan fried fruit! The other night I pan fried pears and nectaries, halved in butter and  little brown sugar. After 15 minutes I drizzled each one with balsamic and left it for half an hour to marinate over a warm heat. The vinegar lifts out all the flavours and intensifies them wonderfully. All you need to serve them is a little mascarpone or crème fraîche.

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IMG_5681 A perfect end to any meal, enhanced by blissful balsamic

Oh it’s such a pearfect day….I’m glad I ate this with you!

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Oh it's such a pearfect day....I'm glad I ate this with you!

Supper last eve was rounded off with the simplest of dishes – glimmering green conference pears halved, seeds scooped out gently and then placed carefully, flesh side down, into a frying pan in which around 80 gm unsalted butter and 2 or 3 tablespoons of brown sugar were nicely melted and unctuous.

I left them for around ten minutes on a low heat, then added a splash of brandy. Several minutes later I turned the pears and
popped a lid on the pan for ten minutes.

The result was the softest and most succulent of pears encrusted with a caramelised coating.

On to a plate – a drizzle of cream, and more of the buttery sugary brandy mix spooned over.

There can be fewer tastier simpler desserts.

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Tarte aux pommes de Maman…

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Tarte aux pommes de Maman...

This was a rare voyage for me into the world of desserts – we had folk round last night for supper who I felt looked like they needed a pud. This is from a highly recommended tome called French Brasserie Cookbook by Daniel Galmiche – if you have not got it – buy it today. It is brilliant and simple to follow.

The resulting tart was fabulous – if not quite as artistically laid out as I would have wished!

Heat oven to 180c.

Ingredients

I used puff pastry ready made – cheating I know – but very good.
1 large egg
100 ml double cream
3 tbsp caster sugar
30 gm of ground almonds or crushed pecans
3 large apples, peeled, cored and cut into wedges – I used bakers from my tree but Mr Gamiche recommends Cox or Braeburn.

Butter an oblong baking tray. Place pastry sheet on and pinch the edges. Sprinkle your choice of nuts over the base.
Then arrange the apple pieces as regularly as possible, overlapping each other. Crack the egg into a jug, add the sugar and cream and whisk with a hand blender until nice and frothy. Pour gently all over the apples ensuring you get into every nook and cranny and that you bless each apple slice with the mixture.

Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes until just golden. Leave the tray to cool on a rack. No need for any extra cream. Perfect served just warm.

Scrumptious!

Monday magic… of the tomato variety…..

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Monday magic... of the tomato variety.....

Tonight was one of those nights when an experiment worked, and worked so well, I wanted to freeze time. The flavours were simply exquisite. I used one of my favourite base dishes of pan fried plum toms with rosemary and cream…and added to it. You know by now, well I know that you know that I know, that I like to fiddle with recipes…so here we fiddly well go!

For 4 folk who may have been working in the garden all day…

Two decent punnets of baby plum tomatoes – mine were from Spain and as sweet as a smile from Marilyn Monroe.
1 clove of garlic finely chopped
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
250 ml of single cream
5 or 6 slices of serrano ham – or prosciutto would be fine
1 slice of smoked bacon
A good handful or more of baby spinach and rocket, chopped
Black pepper
Olive oil

400 gm of pasta – rigatoni or fusilli

Pop a good tablespoon or two of oil in a frying pan. Heat and then add the tomatoes. Add the garlic after a minute or so, then chop off with scissors quite a lot of rosemary into the pan and then add the sprigs too.

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Let them cook for about 15 minutes or so on a low heat until they give when pressed with a spoon. Flatten them a little with a slotted spoon – but don’t break them open too much.

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In a second pan, fry the smoked bacon finely chopped. When cooked, add in the serrano ham chopped and allow to crisp a little.

Cook the pasta – I always use rigatoni for this.

Add the bacon and ham to the tomato mixture, then add the cream. Heat gently and after two or three minutes, add in the spinach and rocket. Grind over some black pepper. Stir for about 5 minutes until it wilts into the cream sauce.

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Drain the pasta and then pop a portion into each of the 4 bowls – then spoon over the tomato mixture.

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I cannot express how wonderfully dreamy and gorgeous this dish is. It is…believe me…….no……don’t….make it for yourself!

I had been gardening all day today trying, as I mentioned in the last post, to get it tidied before this weekend’s belated birthday celebrations for my son and daughter. In the process, I discovered that there were lots of blackberries lurking wistfully below my sage plants and rosemary bushes. So, I picked them! And happily my rhubarb had coped with my absence and soldiered on, producing several fine stems which I duly cut…but with love. I poached the chopped rhubarb lightly and then popped them and the blackberries in a low gratin dish. I knocked up a crumble mix using plain flour, porridge oats, some crushed pecans, pumpkin seeds, butter and brown sugar. The result was stultifyngly superb though I say it myself!

I think part of the secret of the crispy buttery top was cooking it for 40 minutes on 180 degrees then switching the oven off, removing the crumble and after about 10 minutes returning it to the cooling oven whilst we ate the main course.

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Anyway it was fruitastic and even better because it all cane from our garden. I drank a cold pinot noir from Alsace whilst cooking, and a lovely bottle of shiraz with the meal itself. I listened to Bob Marley on the record player, then the Pet Shop Boys ‘Disco’. I felt good… and I felt as if I was back where I belonged……in my kitchen!

And here was the mellow aftermath in Alfredo’s after our meal…my home from home…

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Tikka Lamb Leg for a Lazy Sunday afternoon…

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Tikka Lamb Leg for a Lazy Sunday afternoon...

Well…this was one of those days when..despite me thinking it was all going pear shaped..it all turned out absolutely tickety boo! Mid morning shenanigans centring around trying to ferry my 17 year old daughter to a bus stop to go to London for a concert were time-chewingly annoying as she then realised that she had misread the timetable…no bus on a Sunday.and this all occupied steak-like chunks of my time knowing I had folk round for a late late lunch that I had to get into the oven as soon as…anyway, I ended up driving her and her friends to the station..it’s what Dad’s do…but it also put me slightly…understatement being used here big time – behind time…anyway…all I do here is set the scene…I got back in time to throw the tikka marinade together, slam in the lamb, then grab an hour in the sun, shades on, cricket on the radio…and I almost caught up with myself.

The leg of lamb was from those lovely people at Parsonage Farm..tis lamb like no other, Real lamb. Lamb that fights back.

The recipe is based on an old one of Mr Oliver’s, though I think he uses a shoulder. But I had this monster of a leg..and it was crying out for a summer spice mix. So..here we go.

You need :
2kg leg of lamb
Tikka paste – recipe in a mo..be patient
Red chiili, deseeded and sliced finely
2 garlic cloves finely sliced
I red onion finely sliced

Ok- for the tikka paste – you could use a shop bought jar – but why bother? This is funkier and sexier and far far tastier.

1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
2 garlic cloves peeled
Thumb size piece of ginger, peeled
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp salt
3 tsp veg oil or ground nut oil
2 tbsp of tomato sauce
2 red chillies
Small bunch of coriander
2 tsp ground almonds

For the paste – fry cumin and coriander seeds on a medium heat until toasted and smelling good. Add to a food processor with all the other ingredients and whizz until smooth.

Score lightly the fat side of the lamb. Smear it all over with the tikka paste – you will not use it all. Then stab a few holes in the skin and slot in the red chilli slices and garlic slices. It should look like this…

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In an ideal world..I do not live in one but you might….marinate over night…pre heat oven when you are ready to cook it…170c. Lay the red onion slices on the bottom of a roasting tin. Drizzle with oil. Place lamb on top. Pop in the oven , covered with a wet sheet of grease proof paper for 3 and a half hours. Baste every half an hour. The coating will be beautifully wizened as in photo at top of page. Slice chunks off , or pull off with two forks.

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Serve it with this brilliant crunchy Indian Chopped Salad.

Ingredients –

1 tsp fenugreek seeds / 1 tsp mustard seeds / small handful of dry curry leaves, crumbled / 1 tsp of chutney – I use Mrs Balls, but  mango chutney would be okey dokey / 4 poppadoms / 2 carrots peeled and grated / 1/2 cucumber / 1 bunch radishes / 3 spring onions / 2 little gem lettuces / a big handful of cherry tomatoes / 1 red chill deseeded / bunch coriander / bunch of mint / lemon

On a large board add the grated carrot, then chop up finely the cucumber, radishes, lettuce, tomatoes, chilli and the herbs. Add to the board and mix well. In a frying pan, gently fry the fenugreek, mustard seeds and the curry leaves in a glug of oil – I used garlic infused rapeseed oil. When the mustard seeds start to pop and jump – take off heat and add the chutney. Let it cool, then add to the board and mix in with all the other ingredients, plus a little grind of rock salt, and a squeeze of lemon juice. Crumble in the poppadom and stir again.

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This was a corker of a meal – we ate with friends about 5pm, washed down with this……. well lots of this actually……….

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….and then, for a dessert, which we ate at about 7pm on the garden in the late afternoon sun, I pan fried pears, halved in butter and brown sugar. I added sloe gin to each pears centre. Popped a lid on and left for about 25 minutes. I marinated some strawberries in strawberry liqueur for same length of time. I served them together with all the juices and a blob or so of crème fraîche.

IMG_3237IMG_3240Lazy Sunday afternoon luxury..and we ate our dessert in the sun, listening to the dulcet tones of Frank Sinatra himself, crooning his heart out. Perfect…..

Red Rice Rhubarb & Strawberry Pots…

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Red Rice Strawberry Rhubarb Pots.....

A simple, simple early summer (looks out at rain soaked garden wondering if I’ve been transported back to November overnight !) pud to cleanse the palate at the end of any supper.

I simmered some home grown rhubarb with a little caster sugar until just cooked….I let it cool…then added a glug of Wild Strawberry liqueur (from The Wiltshire Liqueur Company – see link at the side bar) – covered the dish with cling film and popped it in the fridge for about a couple of hours to let the rhubarb soak up the spirit. I crumbled a ginger biscuit into each pot (I actually bashed it in a plastic bag with a rolling pin-very therapeutic actually!) added a beautiful blob of creme fraiche then topped with a spoonful of the rhubarb benevolence!

The trinity of flavours was satisfying and sumptuous and light.

Mmmmmm….!

Kiwi and lime tart

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Kiwi and lime tart...wo!

This is a stunner…and made by my daughter yesterday – recipe from Mitts and Measures – check out Julie’s fab blog. Thank you!!

I cannot explain just how good this is – the lime and kiwi is just so very alluring and sexy and every taste bud in your mouth will just swoon when you taste it!

I think this could become one of my favourite desserts of all time! The pastry is just so crisp and light and packed with macademia nuts.

A marvellous recipe for a Sunday!

Kiwi-Lime Tart

(Adapted from Epicurious)

For crust: (Note – 1 cup = 8oz or half a pint)

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

6 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

Ice water

3/4 cup dry-roasted and lightly salted macadamia nuts, chopped

For filling:

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, at room temperature

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 teaspoon grated lime zest

2/3 cup cold heavy cream

5 ripe kiwis, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds

To prepare crust: Lightly butter the bottom of a 9-inch-diameter tart pan with a removable bottom. Combine flour, sugar and salt in a food processor; pulse to mix. Add butter. Pulse the processor until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add 1 tablespoon ice water; process until moist clumps form. Add more ice water, 1 teaspoon at a time, if dough is dry. Transfer dough to a floured surface. Gently knead nuts into dough. Press dough onto the bottom and up the sides of a the tart pan.

Freeze crust 20 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. 190c

Line crust with foil; fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake crust until sides begin to set, about 15 minutes. Remove foil and beans. Bake crust until cooked through and pale golden, about 10 minutes longer, piercing with a fork if crust bubbles. Let cool completely.

To prepare filling: Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese, sugar, lime juice and lime zest in a large bowl until smooth and fluffy. Beat heavy cream in a medium bowl until firm peaks form. Fold into cream-cheese mixture. Spoon into crust; smooth top with a knife. Refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours. Arrange kiwis in concentric circles atop filling, overlapping slightly. (Can be prepared up to 4 hours ahead. Cover with plastic and refrigerate.) Cut tart into wedges and serve.

This is just mmmmmm.......!

This is just mmmmmm…….!

Raving Raspberries Batman, it’s clafoutis time!

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Raving Raspberries Batman, it's clafoutis time!

I did this a few nights ago and wanted to share with you this pic of the raspberries macerating…the smell was divine and the pud turned out very well too. The recipe I used was from Daniel Galmiche. It is simple and satisfying to make and delicious to dive into! Ok..enough with the fancy pants alliteration…the recipe!
250 gm rasbobs
Zest of 1 cheeky lime
125 gm of caster sugar
25 gm melted butter
25 gm softened butter
85gm plain flour
Pinch of salt
1 egg
1 egg yolk
300 ml of full fat milk – the proper stuff!

Oven set to 180c. Raspberries, lime zest and 2 tbsps of sugar all go into a bowl. Gently mix and set to one side for 15 minutes. Grease an oval oven dish with the softened butter. Sprinkle another 3 tbsps of sugar around insides of the dish. Sift the flour& salt into a mixing bowl. In a second bowl whisk the eggs and remaining sugar as slowly as poss. Once it is smooth, slowly add the milk, stirring until you have a nice batter mix. Add the melted butter gently and combine.
Put the rasbobs in the oval dish and mix to get all the juices flowing! Pour in the batter mix over the red gems and bake in the oven for 25 minutes until golden brown and set. Serve with a little cream or crème fraîche. A raspberry dish to ripple your taste buds!

Double Lemon Pudding…

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INGREDIENTS – 150 gm unsalted butter / 265 caster sugar /grated zest of 2 lemons / tsp vanilla essence / 6 eggs separated / 75 gm plain flour / 190 ml milk/  juice of 3 big lemons – / cream to serve.

So…whack the oven on 180c. Grease a 3 litre ovenproof dish. Cream together butter, sugar lemon zest and vanilla. Then, beat in the egg yolks slowly. Fold in the flour, then the milk, then the lemon juice. Whisk the egg whites in a clean bowl until they form soft peaks. Gently fold this in too.

Pour the mix into the greased dish. Place in a roasting tray. Add boiling water a third of a way up the roasting tray – in effect creating a bain marie…transfer..easy does it..to the oven. Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown on top. Leave it to cool. For me – it is much better cold. Serve with cream. I cannot tell you how good this is….just make it….