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!

Simple Flavour-filled Fish Pie

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Another winter warmer of a dish and one that will leave all the family asking for more – so maybe make two!

This is easy and so good in every way – my two teenage children are not huge fish eaters but they wolfed every morsel of this.

It is based on a Jamie Oliver recipe but I have tinkered with it to suit my store cupboard and taste!

And you can play about with it further if so desired – for example, if you are keen to miss out carbs – replace the potatoes with cooked, mashed celeriac – or butternut squash or sweet potatoes- or a mix of both – or a mix of swede and carrot boiled and mashed – with a little butter or cream if you fancy. You get the idea!

You can use any fish you want really and make it as luxurious or simple as you feel so inclined! I love this combo of smoked haddock,, salmon and prawns – but unsmoked haddock would be fine, or cod, or whiting or coley or etc etc etc!!

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

2 shallots peeled and finely chopped

6 baby plum tomatoes sliced

2 cloves of garlic

1 kg potatoes peeled and quartered

150 g good-quality Cheddar cheese

1 lemon

Tsp of dried chili flakes

Small handful of rocket (rugola)chopped

300 g salmon fillets skin off

300 g smoked haddock fillets skin off

125 g raw peeled prawns

Olive oil

Sea salt and black pepper

50 gm of butter

100 ml single cream

Method

Preheat the oven to 190°C and bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Once the water is boiling, add the potatoes and cook until soft (you can stick your knife into them to check. About 12 minutes or so.

Add 25 gm of butter to a hot frying pan and gently fry the shallots and garlic until soft, then add the sliced tomatoes for a further minute. Remove from the heat.

Get a deep baking tray or earthenware dish and stand a box grater in it. Grate 100 gm of the Cheddar cheese on the coarse side of the grater. Use the fine side of the grater to grate the zest from the lemon. Now add the onion mixture and the rocket to the dish.

Cut the salmon and smoked haddock into bite-size chunks and add to the tray with the prawns. Squeeze over the juice from the zested lemon, drizzle with olive oil and add a good pinch of salt and pepper plus the dried chili flakes. Mix everything together well but gently!

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Once the potatoes are cooked, drain them in a colander and return them to the pan. Add the cream and a good grind of sea salt and black pepper and mash until nice and smooth. I love mashing!

Next spread the mashed potatoes evenly over the top of the fish mixture. Grate over the remaining cheese and add the remaining butter in small blobs around the surface.

Place in the preheated oven for around 30 to 40 minutes, until cooked through and crispy and golden on top.

I served it with a green salad. Tis all you need! 

Salmon & Cod Fishcakes on a Salsa bed

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Salmon & Cod Fishcakes on a Salsa bed

This was last Friday night’s supper – apologies for the delay! I got this idea from a Jamie Oliver recipe some time ago and it is one of my favourite fish cake recipes – perfect for fiddling with – you can experiment with a mixture of all sorts of fish from River Cobbler to tuna to haddock to mackerel.
I went with simply salmon and cod.

The salsa gives the whole thing zing and the fish cakes are a real mouthful of pescatorian delight!

For the cakes:
300 grams of salmon fillets
300 grams of cod
2 chunks of crusty bread
1 lemon
Flat leaf parsley – good handful
1 garlic clove
Olive oil

For the salsa

1 green chill & 1 red chilli, deseeded
4 trimmed spring onions
6 good tomatoes – I used tomkins – wonderful flavour
Red wine vinegar
1/2 a cucumber
1 yellow pepper and 1 red pepper
2 limes
Bunch of basil

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Pop the bread in your food mixer and fizz it round tip it’s fine crumbs. Put a sheet of tin foil on a plate. Spread the breadcrumbs on top. Add all the fish to the food mixer, plus the zest of your lemon and the parsley leaves. Add a good grind of sea salt and black pepper. Pulse it until it is coarsely mixed. Scoop the fish mixture into a bowl and add 2 tbsps of the bread crumbs then – this is the good bit – mix it all together with your hands and then divide into 4 equal portions. Form each of these into a ball in your hand and then pat into a cake shape. Place each one on top of the breadcrumbs on the tin foil covered plate. Then sprinkle the surrounding crumbs onto the top of the cakes – I then gently flipped each over to ensure a good coating.

Put a good drizzle of oil into a frying plan and heat- bash the garlic clove with your hand or a spoon or anything hard nearby! Pop into the frying pan – once it starts to sizzle – gently add the fish cakes. Cook on a medium heat for 7 minutes each side. Now make your salsa – or you could make it ahead of time if you wish!

In the food mixer bowl – clean it first if you’ve just made the fish cakes. Obviously! Add the chillies and the spring onions with the whole tomatoes, and a little salt and pepper. Add a glug of red wine vinegar and pulse until finely blended together. Check for seasoning, then pour into a low mixing bowl – add the halved cucumber, chopped into small pieces, the peppers, deseeded and chopped as small as you can and mix it all together. It should be looking very colourful indeed! A veritable rainbow of flavours! Finally, add the juice of the 2 limes and several torn basil leaves. Mix for the gentle final time.

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Serve a pleasant peak of salsa on each plate and top with a nicely browned fish cake.

I served it with lemon new potatoes and an avocado salad, but to be quite honest, it would have been fine with just the salad as the fish cakes were wonderfully filling.

Depends how hungry everyone is!

Pollo Balsamico…

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Pollo Balsamico...

Sometimes, I think folk who write cookery magazines can be a little lazy. I have found several recipes, which. if you followed them to the letter would be either rather dull, or even quite tasteless. I like Jamie Oliver a lot, but I sometimes feel, probably like the great painters, many of the recipes have not had his ‘touch’, but one of his minions – someone who is probably trying to fill a space in the mag or beat a deadline.

Anyway – moan over. One of these recipes, I have ‘fiddled with’ and I think it now tastes better than when I originally tried it! In essence it is simple – but success hinges on the use of good ingredients – especially the tomatoes. Too many tasteless ones out there! Beware!

So, last night’s supper went something like this….

For this recipe you need:

500 gm really tasty toms – I used some baby plums and some organic vine wallahs.
2 courgettes – halved lengthways and then cut into threes.
150 gm sourdough or soda bread torn into chunks.
Small bunch fresh thyme leaves stripped off the stalk.
8 free range chicken thighs, skin on and bone in- fine for 4
Olive oil / 5 tablespoons of good balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 190C

Mix the courgettes, tomatoes, bread, thyme, some salt and black pepper in a large bowl. Leave to one side.

Pan fry the thighs skin down in olive oil on a highish heat until the skin browns and crisps a little. 2- 3 minutes should be dandy.

Add them to the bowl with the other ingredients plus the balsamic and a good drizzle of olive oil. Then tip into a large roasting tray. Ensure the thighs are skin side up. Drizzle a little more olive oil – ensure the courgettes get a good dowsing.

Put it in the oven for one hour. Check half way through – baste it a little and add a tad more oil if it looks a little too sticky. But that stickiness is half of what you want! Cook til the chicken is nice and crispy and the toms are squishy and the courgettes nicely roasted. Do not be tempted to put foil over it at any stage! It ends up steaming things and spoils the show!

I served it with a green salad. And a big shiraz….A good dish – and a simple one.
And one that balsamic was made for.

Parmigiana Pugliese…

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Last night’s supper was a new version of an old classic – melanzane parmigiana – my wife’s favourite. Like so many popular Italian dishes there seem to be a hundred different versions. I read about this a while ago in a book on Italy but the other day saw a recipe in a Jamie Oliver magazine I was browsing through. Had to give it a go. The key difference here is the treatment of the aubergine slices and the addition of mortadella sausage. It produces a wonderfully unctious and filling sauce.

Ingredients for 6

olive oil / 4 garlic cloves peeled and finely sliced / bunch of basil, leaves picked and stems finely chopped / 2 medium aubergines / 2 x 400gm chopped tin tomatoes / 150 gm mozzarella torn into pieces / 8 slices of mortadella  a bowl of flour / 3 eggs beaten / handful of breadcrumbs

Oven set to 180c. Lightly fry the garlic and basil stalks in olive oil in a pan until lightly golden. Add the chopped toms, a little salt and black pepper and a dash of tom sauce or puree. Bring to boil and simmer for 20 minutes until thick.

Slice the aubergine into 5mm rounds. Heat more olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Dip each aubergine slice first into the flour then into the beaten egg. Pop straight into the frying pan. Cook in batches – be patient! Each slice will take around a minute per side to brown up. Set to one side on kitchen paper.

In a deep ovenproof dish layer up your parmigiana.A layer of sauce, a few basil leaves and then a layer of aubergine. Top with 4 slices of the mortadella. Then more tomato sauce. Pop in half of the mozzarella and more basil leaves. Then another layer of mortadella. Then more sauce over this and another layer of aubergine. Finish with the remaining tomato sauce. Cover the dish with foil and pop in the oven for half an hour.

Remove fron the oven – remove the foil – add the remaining mozzarella and scatter over the breadcrumbs and a grating or two of parmesan.  Drizzle over some olive oil and pop back in the oven for 20 – 30 minutes til golden and bubbling.

I served it with lamb meatballs – though it is a meal in itself. And i also fancied some white asparagus in lemon juice and oil so we had that too! Greedy, eh?!

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Simple supper inspired by Slater

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Simple supper inspired by Slater

Tonight when I got in from work, sun still shining, I whizzed up a smoked mackerel paté – an easy peasy paté that hits the spot every time. I think it was originally from a Jamie Oliver book – the 30 minute meal one. You must do it – though I would be amazed if many of you out there have not had a crack at this. All you do is get your food mixer out. Then take 3 fillets of peppered smoked mackerel – break them up and add to the mixer, along with 200 gm of soft cream cheese, a good dollop of horse radish, zest and juice of a lemon and a handful of chopped flat leaf parsley. Whizz it all to some good music for about 2 minutes. What emerges is an unctuous cream of a paté. Fridge it for half an hour – then just before you serve it, drizzle a little olive oil over it and serve with toast.

Once we had come to terms with the loveliness of this, sat back, imbibed a glass or two of rosé, I served a very simple Nigel Slater inspired dish as in the pic above. Simply add a splash of olive oil to a frying pan, add a chopped clove of garlic, a handful of sweet red cherry tomatoes and a sprig of chopped fresh rosemary- I throw in the sprig after too. Fry gently til the toms start to fall under a gentle prod. Add a little fresh cream, a little rock salt and some black pepper. Serve with fusilli pasta. So good. A perfect simple supper.