Puff pastry for flat tarts

How time flies. A few years ago I wrote a couple of  posts on puff pastry tarts, both based on best summer tomatoes.  Details here for one featuring tapenade and here for one with buffalo mozzarella.

Tonight I got around to doing this again.

Ingredients

  • 1 sheet puff pastry
  • 1-2 onions peeled and thinly sliced
  • olive oil
  • garlic
  • tomatoes – about 20 cherry or equivalent
  • avocado

Method

Preheat the oven as per packet instructions and then on waxed paper bake the pastry for up to 10 minutes, it really depends on the oven. You don’t want to overdo it, as it’s going back in.

While you are doing all that, caramelise thinly sliced onion  at least one, in olive oil. Take out the onion and add sliced tomato – I added about 20 cherry tomatoes each sliced into three – and a little finely chopped garlic. You don’t want to overcook the tomato, just collapse it.

Take the pastry from the oven, sprinkle with the onion and tomato. Return to oven for at least five minutes. Keep an eye on it, you’ll be able to tell. Meanwhile, peel and slice an avocado.

Take the tart out of the oven, scatter the avocado on top. Slice. Eat. Yum!

And too simple for words.

Belinda Jeffrey’s Cheese & Nigella biscuits

Cheese and Nigella biscuits by Belinda Jeffrey

Jeffrey suggests these with pre-dinner drinks. We have had them with whisky, and tea. I have no idea how long they last, they always get eaten on the spot.

Ingredients

300g plain flour
50g self-raising flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (or similar)
200g grated cheddar cheese I’ve used Coon, most recently M&S’s mid-strength #3
250g cold unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
1 1/2- 2 tablespoons lemon juice, strained
Nigella seeds or sesame seeds

Instructions

I don’t have a mixer and I feel like that changes the order of putting this together. Mix the flours, salt and chilli. Rub in the butter, like you would for scones, until it’s all rather crumbly. Add the cheeses and mix thoroughly. Finally the lemon juice.

Knead it into something that sticks together – you may need a little more butter or lemon-juice. On waxed paper take half the mixture and roll into a long sausage shape, about an Oz 50c piece diameter. Sprinkle the roll and the paper to make sure the seeds stick to the mixture. Roll it up in the waxed paper and pop in the fridge until ready to bake. They need some time in the fridge to become firm enough to slice without crumbling.

Preheat oven to 180C.

Take dough out of the fridge, cut into 5cm pieces, lay on a baking tray on waxed paper and sprinkle with more nigella seeds. It will need 15 minutes in the oven, maybe a tad more, but keep an eye on it from about 10 minute mark as ovens vary so much.

Let them cool a little before serving.

You can freeze the other log, and take it out of the freezer an hour or so before baking.

 

Stephanie Alexander’s sponge topping

I don’t eat desserts out often as I think however adventurous the rest of a meal is, dessert is for comfort. Restaurants don’t seem to get that. The last dessert I recall eating out that really fitted the bill in that regard was an apple crumble, piping hot, with lashings of equally hot custard on the side in Manchester eight years ago.

No surprise then that Stephanie Alexander’s sponge topping is an essential part of my limited dessert repertoire. Indeed, the author herself clearly sees it as more than just a dessert, as it is in her basics section which kicks off The Cook’s Companion.

rhubarb with sponge topping

Ingredients

  • 60g butter
  • 4 tablespoons castor sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 150g SR flour, sifted
  • 1/4 cup milk (about 65 ml)
  • 2 cups drained poached or pureed fruit

Method

Preheat oven to 180C. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Fold flour and milk alternately into egg mixture to make a soft batter. Put fruit into a 1 litre buttered pie dish and cover with topping. Bake for 30 minutes until well risen, firm and golden brown.

To this I add: I’ve tried it with apple and with rhubarb. I’ve also used small individual ramekins instead of one large dish. Cream, creme fraiche and strained yoghurt are all good accompaniments. Sometimes I serve with a little syrup on top.

It’s okay to make the topping ahead, even put it in the fridge if necessary, and as the fruit’s also been precooked, it’s a good dessert for not having to hang about in the kitchen with guests around.

apple with sponge topping

And, it’s comfort food that will simply make everybody happy. I do wish restaurants understood how important that is.

 

Belinda Jeffery’s absolutely scrumptious pork pie

absolutely scrumptious pork, thyme and apple pie Belinda Jeffery

aka her family’s ‘Christmas pie’ which is when I make it too

Serves 6-8.

ingredients

  • shortcrust pastry (she makes her own, I buy it)
  • 500g pork mince
  • 2 medium apples, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 180g bacon, rind removed, cut fairly finely
  • 3 teasp finely chopped thyme or oregano
  • 2 tblesp finely chopped parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • nutmeg or ground mace to taste (try 1/4 teasp)
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 4 small eggs, hard-boiled and peeled (I use quail)
  • milk to brush the pastry top (she uses an egg yolk and water)

to serve:

  • red cabbage or beetroot pickle
  • tomato or apricot chutney

method

  • Preheat oven to 200C and lightly butter a 24cm springform cake tin. Put aside.
  • Mix the filling ingredients except for the small eggs.
  • Line the tin with pastry, leaving a 2 cm overhang. Half-fill tin with mixture and smooth it out. Make 4 little hollows in which the eggs go. Cover with the remaining filling.
  • Dampen the edges of the pastry overhang, add a pastry lid and pinch edges together tightly to seal. Crimp and trim the edges as you please.
  • Brush the top with the milk or eggwash. Prick holes into the top to allow steam to escape. You can embellish the top with left over pastry trim in shapes to taste if you haven’t already eaten it.
  • Put the pie on an oven tray and bake for 15 minutes. Lower temperature to 180C and cook for another 50 minutes. Belinda’s advice is that ‘If the juices bubble up in the final stages of cooking, just mop them up with paper towel and return the pie to the oven to dry out for a few minutes.’ When cooked, leave out to cook in the tin and then chill, preferably overnight.

To serve: run a blunt knife around the edges of the tin to loosen the pie, then release and remove the sides of the tin. Sit on a platter or board in thick slices with the pickles and/or chutney.

It keeps in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Pasties Adelaide style

Some years ago I was in Civic in Canberra and asked if the pasties at the ‘award winning bakery’ were nice. She said ‘yes’ as I was continuing on to explain that I was from Adelaide. ‘Oh no,’ she corrected herself. ‘You won’t think they are nice if you are from Adelaide.’ She went on to wax lyrical about Adelaide pasties and I felt like asking her ‘So why don’t you just make them like that?’ Outside Adelaide it is hard to get a decent pasty in Australia – in fact, you can even add Cornwall to that.

pasty 6

Adelaide pasties

Ingredients as available in Switzerland

puff pastry bought as I couldn’t find shortcrust that wasn’t sweetened

5 medium sized potatoes
2 medium sized carrots
2 turnips, medium sized
mysterious small yellow root vegetables that I used in place of a swede
300-350g minced beef

Method

While the oven is heating to about 170/180C, moderately hot, at any rate, finely chop the vegetables. I do mean finely as they are going into the oven uncooked and you need them to cook as quickly as the pastry.

Mix well with the beef mince, salt and pepper to taste. Salt is important.

Make pasty shapes to taste, this time I used round pieces of pastry, wet the edges, add the mix in the middle, don’t overdo it as they may burst. Crimp firmly closed. Prick tops a few times, brush with milk and pop in the oven.

If you are eating them straight from the oven, give them close to 30 minutes – but check after 20 minutes to make sure they aren’t burning. You can put a bit of alfoil on top if you feel like they need longer but the pastry’s there.

If you are going to be reheating these – I usually freeze them – then undercook them a bit as they will finish cooking when reheating.

If you are reheating and they are frozen, they make take up to an hour, keep an eye on them.

One of the things I really miss when I’m not in Adelaide. They are great cold – maybe better cold – so they can be picnic food.

Marcia’s scones

In Australia I’m fixed in the perplexing position that everybody else’s scones are better than mine. Given there is an adjustment that must be made for not having had to make them, the fact is, mine don’t stack up. That’s despite all the research and practising and experimenting I can muster.

Marcia is a case in point. The first time I tried her scones she was in a caravan making do and produced scones as good as any I’ve ever eaten. I demolished them by the dozen. Much later I asked for, and was given, the recipe.

In Europe and the UK it is impossible to get good scones. At best they are heavy, dense, with an overly sweet biscuit-crumbly texture. I’m less inclined to be disappointed by my own efforts here as they are so much better than the options. Most recently I tried Marcia’s recipe, noting that it takes away the messy labour of rubbing butter into flour.

Marcia’s Scones

4 cups sifted SR flour
1 teasp salt
300 mls pouring cream
enough milk to make a damp mixture

Mix ingredients, place on well-floured surface and knead/fold to smooth dough, adding flour if necessary.

Roll to 1/2″ or 3/4″ thickness and cut into scone shapes. Baste with milk.

180C oven 15-20 minutes. They don’t need to be touching.

Other than needing a bit more salt than I included, these were great. Lower heat, longer cooking time is the main difference from the method of cooking scones made with butter. Whether this is necessary, I don’t know. A half portion of this makes about 8 scones.

Chocolate and pecan biscuits

I can’t believe in 2009 I posted my recipe for cheese rusks and promised that next I’d get to these. With dinner invites to friends’ places the next couple of nights and then catering for a train-picnic on Sunday for nine of us, biscuits will be just the thing to take everywhere.

As I write, cheese rusks are in the oven. They take a long time on low heat to dry out, so plenty of time to write this, go to the shop for chocolate and get the sweet biscuits ready to go in next.

Ingredients

125g butter
125g dark chocolate grated or chopped. I chop fairly finely.
100g castor sugar
100g brown sugar
a few drops vanilla essence
one egg, beaten
250g self-raising flour
60g pecans or walnuts chopped
pinch salt

While oven is pre-heating to 180C

Method

Cream butter and sugars with vanilla
Add beaten egg
Fold in flour, salt, chocolate, nuts
Roll into balls, and place on baking tray, grease-proof paper
Cook for 10-12 minutes, they should be getting just a little brown on top, but you can always do this to your preference. They will get harder when cool.
Spread on wire rack until cold and then move to airtight container.

I must tell the story of the first time I cooked these for my brother, who with his wife was Tea Rose Duo. ‘Mmmm,’ he said. ‘Really. Mmmmm. These are great. Where did they come?’ Hilarious, since at the time TRD was sponsored by the famous Adelaide company Haigh’s Chocolates and every now and then Bernard put Haigh’s recipes on their site. This was one of them!