Tag Archives: Baking

WNWNW: The Imperiousness of the Imperial, or How Weights and Volumes Encourage Food Waste

Gluten Free Yoghurt Baked Cheesecake

How Do You Get Your Colleagues to Eat Food Waste? Make it Look Like Cake!

(c R. Devit 2014) 

I know that last week, I promised you a recipe, as penance for my confession that I had binned. And to some extent, you will get a guideline to produce a dish but it’s not going to be a traditional recipe. This is something that I’ve been thinking about quite a lot. I often forget to measure amounts when I cook. It took real discipline to get into the habit when I started to publish recipes here. A formula for cookery is a good place to start if you are new to a particular cuisine, technique, or even to the kitchen. But, I find that sticking rigidly to recipes can be limiting when you want to try something new, and especially when using up the contents of your fridge.

Since I decided to launch WNWNW (AKA Waste Not Want Not Wednesday), I have also been trying to reconcile the fact that bunging a bit of this and that into something doesn’t really lend itself to recipe writing in its most common form, but is the best way to use up what you have. In a very timely way, Annie, at Kitchen Counter Culture, posted about how recipes are the antithesis of food waste, since they require exact amounts. She wants to empower people to approach cookery in a freer way. I think this is what cookery really is all about. Let joy (and cooking) be unconfined!

I have always been a visual cook – I start with a picture in my head, and the closer I can get to the picture, the better it works out. Then I rely on taste, and usually don’t measure anything. Cooking with the senses, rather than being bound by weights and measures. I have the confidence to do this, partly because I know what stuff goes together, but mostly through experience. The Big Guy too has learned that mushrooms, bacon, tomato, anchovies and capers should not all  appear in the same pasta sauce, but not before we had to munch our way through his salty, tangy, tomato sour creation (of course, we weren’t going to throw it away!). I hope that this series will encourage people to just try stuff. I learned that dill and mandarin are the perfect foil quite by accident, and I’m sure many of us have similarly brilliant discoveries through a make-do-and-mend way with recipes, and a suck-it-and-see attitude to trying new combinations.

So, for WNWNW, there will be no recipes with amounts and measures. Instead, I’d like to present something a lot more freehand, into which I have bunged a bit of this and a bit of that. A “freecipe”, if you will, that liberates us to chuck stuff in, and gives us permission to omit ingredients that we don’t like, or have. I’ll give a few alternative ingredients, and if you try it or similar, please also feel free to let me know what you used or substituted as well. After all, the best way to use up what you have it to use a basic technique, and ad lib a bit. Or a lot. Depending on what you find in the back of your fridge.

This week; an easy freecipe, made from a mountain of yoghurt from work that was past its sell by date, I am happy to chance it, but my more cautious colleagues would probably have thrown it out. I got around this by making it look like something else entirely. And a bonus is that this recipe is gluten-free. The only thing that I had to buy was the rice flour, but you can just as well use plain. And you can top it with any thing you like, or not at all.

Freecipe: Baked Gluten Free Yoghurt Cheesecake

For the Base:

Some nuts (I used almost half a 250 g packet of almonds. pretty much any unsalted nut will be fine)

Some cold butter (about a quarter of a pat), cubed

Some rice flour (a little less in volume than the nuts, other flours if you prefer)

Couple of tbsp demerara sugar (or granulated white)

For the cheesecake:

Some yoghurt (I used most of a 500 ml tub of plain greek yoghurt. I expect that flavoured yoghurt will also work)

Some cream cheese (also most of a tub. Most recipes say to use much more, but the eggs will set it anyway)

Some eggs (I decided upon 3, but adjust to make a thick custardy texture, depending on how much cream cheese and how thick your yoghurt is)

Some Rice Flour (a couple of tbsp, also to add to the consistency, but not so much that it tastes of flour. Again, the choice of flour is yours)

Some sugar (depending what additions you are using and if they are sweet, taste the mix)

Other additions: citrus zest (I always have some in the freezer), citrus juice, cocoa powder (cut back on the flour), dried fruit, fresh berries, chocolate chips, rum soaked raisins, cold espresso, earl grey tea, flavours you like.

Toppings to choose from: frozen berries, chocolate curls, fresh fruit, coffee beans, candied citrus, candied flowers, whatever you fancy

Method: 

Preheat oven to 180°C. Line a springform cake tin with baking paper (or use a loose bottomed one, but also line the outside with tin foil to prevent leaks)

Whizz up the nuts in a food processor, until they are as fine as you like them.

Rub the rice flour and the butter in, until you have a rough breadcrumb texture. Add a little more butter or rice flour until you get it right. Stir in the nuts and the sugar.

Pour the base into the tin, and press with the back of a spoon to compact it and to cover all of the tin. Go up the sides, if you like.

Bake the base for about 15 minutes, or until it is a golden brown colour. Exact times will depend on the nuts you use. Set aside to cool.

To make the cheesecake mix together the yoghurt, cream cheese, eggs, rice flour and sugar. Beat to a smooth batter, about the consistency of thick custard. Add any of the flavourings and mix well.

Pour the cheesecake onto the base and put into the oven for 35-40 mins, or until there is still a slight wobble to the cheesecake. Allow to cool.

Top it with anything you like. Or leave it plain!

 

 

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A Fine Farewell, or Chocolate Cake for Many Celebrations

image

Don’t worry, today’s post is not one in the gourmet camping series! Although it is probably possible, cooking a light and airy cake over a barbecue is well beyond my ken!

I made this cake for a leaving party for a friend from work. Knowing that I would be away at Easter, I have kept this post for now to share. It was a fitting farewell cake, but you can easily dress this with buttercream and mini eggs to make a lovely cake for Easter, or any springtide celebration.

This cake also made the most of some extra buttermilk I had in the fridge, after making pancakes. I don’t use buttermilk much, so it would have gone to waste, but actually, this makes for a lovely moist cake, but that isn’t too sweet. Despite the amount of desserts and custards I have posted on ediblethings, I don’t have a sweet tooth. I prefer fruity desserts over chocolate ones, but there are times when only a chocolate cake will do. And if you are like me, then this is the chocolate cake for you.

I am also not the biggest fan of buttercream, so I used whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles to decorate the cake. In the Netherlands, they have chocolate sprinkles for breakfast, or lunch on bread,  but they are just as good on a cake.

If you wanted to indulge a bit more, you could make a chocolate ganache, adorn the cake with jelly orange and lemon slices (the kind that always appear at Christmas), or even make your own chocolate truffles, and chocolate shavings to go over the ganache.

If you prefer fruit, make the ganache, or a chocolate buttercream and then cover the cake in raspberries or cherries. It’s your celebration, after all!

However you choose to decorate it, this is the perfect celebration cake. And what better way to celebrate anything at springtime than with chocolate? So, I am sending a very Happy Easter, and all other spring and rebirth festivals to you all!

Recipe: Chocolate Celebration Cake

This recipe is enough for two cakes to use as a sandwich. Of course, you can halve the recipe if you only want one tier, but that isn’t too celebratory, is it now?

Ingredients

For the cakes:
250 g butter
400 g plain flour
100 g cocoa
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
400 g raw sugar or 420 g caster sugar
450 ml buttermilk
2 eggs, beaten
2 tsp vanilla extract

To make the sandwich:
2 tbsp of fruit preserve – I used pink grapefruit curd, but a jam would work as well
250 ml double cream, whipped until stiff
Chocolate sprinkles to cover

Method

Grease two 20 cm cake tins. For some reason, my two allegedly 20 cm cake tins are 19 and 21 cm respectively, which goes to show you that you should buy your cake tins as pairs from the same place, but never mind. Line the bottom with greaseproof paper. If you only have shallow tins, line the sides, and allow the paper to extend a fair bit over the tin. These cakes rise quite a lot.

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Gently melt the butter and set aside to cool.

The only time you will hear me extolling the virtues of sifting anything is when cocoa is involved. Obviously, this is one of those times. While you are at it, bung the flour and bicarb through the seive too. Make sure they ennd up in your largest mixing bowl.

Add the sugar to the mixing bowl and stir thoroughly. Make a small well in the floury stuff in the bowl.

Combine the melted butter, buttermilk, beaten egg, and the vanilla in a measuring jug. Pour this into the well you just made, and whisk in with an electric hand whisk, until the batter is creamy and smooth.

Divide the batter between the two cake tins and put them in the oven for 45 mins, or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. You may need to swap the two cakes on their respective shelves with about 10 minutes cooking time left, to ensure even cooking.

Remove from the oven and leave aside in the tins until it won’t completely burn you when you handle it. Remove the cakes from the tins and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

Once cold, place one cake flat side up on a serving plate, and spread over the preserve evenly. Cover this with a third of the cream, the sandwich the two cakes together, flat side to flat side.

Cover the top of the cake with the remaining cream, and then sprinkle over the sprinkles.

Best served to celebrate – even the fact that it is Saturday.

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Aye Crumble!

Apple Crumble and Custard

A Faithful Friend

Today’s post is for my Brother Out-Law (since the Big Guy and I are not married, otherwise he would be my in-law!). Whenever I need a relatively simple dessert, that I can  make up quickly, but that can sit in the oven while we eat a main course, I always fall back on a crumble. Good, comforting, and a great way of using up fruit if you find yourself with a glut; or if you were tempted at the market, but now they are sitting there looking sad, and you need something to use them up with.

I made a pear and apple crumble for the Big Guy’s sister and her family for just such an occasion over Christmas. They asked if I would be blogging the recipe. At first, I resisted, because it is a common dessert. Except, it is a common British Dessert (and in the US, where it is called a Crisp, for reasons I am unable to fathom). It was quickly pointed out that a lot of different people read my blog, including my Swedish family, and they may not think it that common. So, I relented, and here is my version of crumble.

Let’s be honest, crumble is never going to be fine dining, but it is always a great dish to have as a standby for when you need to serve up a tasty dessert.

You can, and probably should, serve a crumble with ice cream, custard or pouring cream. I served this one for dessert after the Beer Can Chicken with some warm, thick custard that I made up using my usual custard methodology. This may have been served in the Netherlands, but you really can’t get more British than that.

Made with Love Mondays

Since I always make crumble and custard from scratch, and always with a lot of love, I’m going to add this to this week’s Made with Love Mondays, hosted by Mark at Javelin Warrior. I haven’t joined this in quite a while, but I always enjoy the posts.

Ingredients
For the crumble:
120 g plain flour
40 g cold butter
50 g rolled oats (you may need a bit more if you use cut oats, for texture)
50 g nuts, roughly chopped
3 tbsp demerara sugar
Fruit of your choice
Butter to grease the dish and dot on the top of the crumble
For the custard:
2oo ml double cream
150 ml milk
1 vanilla pod
4 egg yolks
65 g caster sugar

Method

Rubbing in the Flour and the Butter

Rubbing in the Flour and the Butter

Make the crumble mix. Cut the butter into small cubes, and add to the flour and then rub into the flour, using your fingers and thumbs. Keep going until they look like fine breadcrumbs.

Flour and butter at the fine breadcrumb stage

Stop When the Mixture Looks Like This

You can use rolled or cut oats in this mix, but since their inclusion is as much about texture as they are about flavour, you will need more if you use cut oats.

Roughly chopped nuts

Roughly Chopped for Texture

You can also use whatever nuts you like, or leave them out altogether if you prefer. I have happily used whole almonds, blanched, or flaked, hazelnuts and macadamia nuts. I’ve also used pumpkin seeds, although these burn a bit easier than nuts. I’m confident that walnuts, pecans or brazil nuts will work just as well. They do not top my list of favourite nuts, so I rarely have them in the house.

This another one of those recipes where you can play fairly fast and loose with what you add. For a real crumble you must have the flour, butter and sugar. I personally think that oats are essential, although this may be controversial in some quarters. In fact, I have also used muesli at a push, which I substituted for both the oats and the nuts. I did remove the dried grapes, because the layers you use are thin, and the currants/ raisins will burn. I dislike burnt currants, but you may be of a different opinion, in which case, use muesli and leave the dried grapes in to your heart’s desire.

Add the rest of the ingredients to the flour and butter, except one tbsp of the sugar, and mix thoroughly.

Then, grease an oven proof dish well with butter. Place large chunks of fruit across the base of the dish in a single layer. Again, it is pretty much anything goes. You can use a single fruit, like the traditional apple, or more unusual peach. You can mix it up; combinations like rhubarb and strawberry, or apple and pear work well. I have added chopped crystallised ginger, and herbs and spices. What you add is up to you. If you are adding fruits that will exude a lot of liquid, such as rhubarb, plums or peaches, then you may find stirring a tablespoon of plain flour through the fruit before you put it in the dish will help stop the juices soaking into the crumble topping, and leaving you with a steaming bowl of soggy disappointment.

Pre-Baked Crumble

Pre-Baked Crumble

Sprinkle the crumble topping over the fruit in a thin layer. It needs to coat the fruit, but not be too thick, or it will be claggy when you come to eat it. If there is any topping leftover, don’t worry, this mixture freezes really well, and you can save it for a time when you want to make a smaller crumble – maybe one just for yourself, made in a smaller pot or ramekin. Sprinkle the remaining tablespoon of sugar over the crumble, and dot here and there with a little butter.

Put in the centre of the hot oven, and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the fruit is cooked, and topping is golden brown. If you have quick cooking fruit, cook in the oven until the fruit is done, then finish browning the topping under the grill.

Serve warm with custard or ice cream.

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Show Some Love This Valentine’s – If You Must

melting moents with grapefruit cream

Melting Moments – When Your Work’s Worth Sharing

I come from a fairly stoical family, who are not big on physical affection. We prefer friendly pats on the back to full-blown hugs.  When I got my A Level results, my Mum had to tell my Dad to give me a hug to show he was proud of me. I knew anyway, and he knew that I knew; but we hugged for my Mum’s sake, and it was awkward. That hug has stuck with me for 20 years, so it just goes to show that it was a Momentous Occasion. We show love through our merciless mickey-taking – and long may it continue!

It will come as no surprise whatsoever to you then, when I confess that I do not have a romantic bone in my body (and whenever I have spare bones hanging about, I tend to make stock from them, so even if I had, it wouldn’t have lasted that long). Cut flowers and chocolates will not woo me (although edible seeds and chocolate as an ingredient would win my heart  in a flash). George, from the Famous Five, was more my style than Cinderella, or Sleeping Beauty. I have never dreamed of fairytale weddings, or handsome princes. My dreams were more likely to feature horses and hansom cabs! The Big Guy and I have never celebrated Valentine’s Day. I think he would love to be a bit more romantic on a more consistent basis, but I don’t like all that soppy stuff.

So, in light of this information, you may surprised to find a Valentine’s post on Edible Things. Not to worry, I am not being inconsistent. We have an organisation-wide meeting on today, and the HR department thought it would be a good excuse to have a bit of a celebration, so they asked us all to show our colleagues some love for Valentine’s, by making each other some fair food.

This set me off in a bit of a panic; if I can’t see what is romantic about a meal for the Big Guy, how was I ever going to come up with something original and interesting for my workmates? So, I turned to Facebook (whilst love may make me queasy, I’m always happy for people to show their likes…) to ask folks over there what they thought. I got some great suggestions but when Emma mentioned melting moments, with a passion fruit filling, I knew this was the perfect thing to serve up. And that I was going to make and blog about passion fruit curd. To me, this is the king of the fruit curds, tart and sweet. Unfortunately, no passion fruits were to be found, so I settled for the next best thing; ruby grapefruit. Once citrus is well cooked, most of it will go orange, so don’t be disappointed to find that you haven’t got a ruby coloured curd.

Ruby Grapefruit Curd

You Ain’t in Kansas Anymore

The curd needs to have time to cool before you use it in the filling, so you should make it the day before you bake the biscuits.

These easy and delicious treats look, and taste impressive. When all’s said and done, what better way to show your colleagues that you are fond of them?

Recipe: Melting Moments With Grapefruit Curd Filling

Ingredients

For the Curd (makes 2 jars):

Zest of one, unwaxed grapefruit

200 ml grapefruit juice

125 g butter

450 g sugar

200 ml beaten egg (about 4)

For the Melting Moments:

125 g softened butter

115 g plain flour

45 g icing sugar

50 g custard powder (or cornflour and a tsp of vanilla extract)

For the Filling:

200 ml double cream

Method

Making the curd isn’t hard, but does require patience. Firstly, sterilise your jars, by washing in hot water and placing in a low oven, or by running them and the lids through a hot cycle on the dishwasher. You can seal curd with cellophane,  but if you use lids, these will need to be boiled as the curd is approaching doneness.

There are two methods for cooking curd – direct and indirect heat. The direct method is quicker, but there is a greater risk of the egg scrambling. Sometimes, with very vigorous whisking off the heat, you can save it, as long as you notice as soon as it starts to curdle. The indirect method runs much lower risk of splitting, but it does take a lot more time. If you want to use indirect heat, you will need to cook the mixture in a double boiler, making sure the water at the bottom does not touch the bottom of the bowl, and check it occasionally to make sure the water has not evaporated.

Whichever method you choose, combine the grapefruit zest and juice, butter and sugar, and heat gently, until all of the butter has melted.

Making the curd - after the egg is added

Curd Away

Over a low heat, slowly add the egg to the buttery mixture, whisking vigourously as you go. When all of the egg is combined, increase the heat to medium, and stir until the mixture is thick and creamy. This could take a while, so settle in with a good book, but make sure you don’t allow the curd to catch on the bottom, and remember to scrape down the sides too.

Once the pouring consistency reaches thick ribbons, put it in the hot jars, and fill to 3 mm from the top. Cover with a wax disc, and seal immediately. The curd will last up to 4 weeks. Once opened, store in the fridge.

To make the melting moments, preheat the oven to 160°C, and line two cookie sheets with baking paper.

Beat the butter until pale and fluffy. Add the flour, icing sugar and custard powder, and mix well. This is a pretty dry mix, but it should all come together. There is no need to bother with seiving the dry ingredients.

Formed melting moments

Not as Flat as a Pancake!

Roll small lumps of the dough into balls. This amount of dough should give you about 26 biscuits. Place them on the cookie sheets, then flatten them with the back of a fork, which you should dust occasionally with icing sugar.

Bake them for 15-20 minutes, until crisp. Be aware that these biscuits should come out of the oven pale, as they will continue to cook, and colour more while cooling. Allow to cool.

Whip up the cream until it is pretty stiff, and stir through 3 tbsp of the curd. You can leave it as swirls through the cream, if you want. Place a little curd on the base of a biscuit, add a tiny dollop of the cream (or you will lose it out of the sides) and sandwich it together with a second. Sit back, and enjoy a melting moment.

In theory, these should last a couple of days in an airtight container, but I’ve not yet been able to test this theory.

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Procrastination Pâtisserie

Strawberry and fennel tarts

The Kind Of Procrastination That Leaves a Sweet Aftertaste

At the time that I cooked this, I really should have been packing for a work trip. I have also been so busy since I got back; including dealing with a gaping hole in my kitchen ceiling through which my neighbour’s shower leaks, and a recalcitrant landlord; that I have not really had the time to blog. Procrastination is a big theme in my life. Both mine and that of others, unfortunately.

You may also have noticed that I have had a little bit of an obssesion with pairing  things with fennel of late. I had briefly considered strawberries with candied fennel, a long time ago, but instead it became Rhubarb and Fennel Foolish, following some inspiration from Mister Kitchen at the Rollende Keukens.

I had some fennel stewed rhubarb leftover a while back. I had it for breakfast with some yoghurt and the first of the year’s strawberries, and discovered another match made in heaven. The seed of an idea was planted, and then I put off enacting it until I had something else I wanted to put off doing.

Unlike most procrastination, this did not leave me grumpy, nor with the slightly sour taste of panic in my mouth. Instead, it was a delicious treat for the last meal with the Big Guy before I left for the Philippines for a work trip. If only I’d got around to blogging it sooner…

Strawberry and Fennel tart in Profile

A Treat You Shouldn’t Put Off

I’m really very proud of this tart, it tastes like it is full of complex techniques, but it really is pretty simple. Even the crème patissière is not as complex as it sounds, since the flour in it means it thickens much quicker than it heats, so the risk of splitting is much less than with normal custard.

In fact, I thought that this little treat would be  great first entry into the Made With Love Monday blog challenge, hosted by Mark at Javelin Warrior because it was all my own work, and was made and shared with love.

Recipe: Fennel and Strawberry Tarts

Makes 6 small tarts

Ingredients

For the Crème Patissière:

½ tsp fennel seeds

350 ml milk

4 egg yolks

65 g caster sugar

15 g plain flour

15 g cornflour (or use 30 g cornflour)

For the Sable Pastry

25 g icing sugar

100 g plain flour

30 g ground almonds

50 g cold butter, cubed

1 egg yolk

A splash of cold milk to bind

For the Tarts:

15-18 Strawberries

2 tbsps rose petal jelly or  strawberry jelly (not jam)

1 tbsp water

Method

Crème Patissière

Add the fennel seed to the milk, bring to the boil, turn off he heat and allow it to infuse for 20 mins.

Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks and the sugar together until pale. Whisk in the flour and cornflour until thick and glossy.

Once the milk is infused with fennel flavour, bring it back up to boiling point, and strain through a sieve. Let it sit for about a minute. Slowly add to the egg yolk mixture. Don’t add it too fast or the eggs will scramble.

Return the custard to the pan, and bring to the boil, whisking constantly, and pretty rapidly. Once it starts to cloy on the whisk, take it off the heat, pour into a waterproof container, whisk a little more until it is thick. Sprinkle a little icing sugar over the top, so that it doesn’t form a skin.

Cool quickly by dipping the bowl in iced water (don’t get water in the custard). Refrigerate until needed. I did mine the night before I needed it.

Cheekily hoover up the scrapings in the saucepan, like you were 5 again. You won’t regret this step, I promise.

Sable Pastry

Sift the flour and icing sugar. Add the ground almonds. Rub through the butter, until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

Mix in the egg yolk. Add very small splashes of milk, until you can just bring the pastry together. You won’t need a lot, this pastry is quite soft.

Wrap the pastry in paper or clingfilm, and allow to rest in the fridge for at least 40 minutes.

Heat the oven to 200°C.

Roll the pastry out thinly. It’s a delicate pastry, it should be really short and buttery when cooked, so don’t add loads of flour when you roll it out. Instead, roll it on a lightly dusted sheet of baking paper (wax side up).

Grease 6 small tartlet tins. I find the ones with the removable bases are the easiest to use.

Line the tins carefully with the pastry. If your pastry is really short, you could make a sausage from it, cut into thin discs, and then overlap some discs and press them together to thin the pastry. Or you could roll it thinly, use a saucer to cut out rounds of the pastry, and slip it into the tart tin using your baking paper. Either way, carefully push the pastry into the flutes of the tin, using a little bit of scrunched up spare dough. Trim the pastry by rolling your rolling-pin over the top of each tart tin.

Cut squares of baking paper (you can use the same stuff you rolled the pastry on) a bit larger than the tart tins, and scrunch each of them up, as if you are going to throw them in a bin. This will help the paper sit better in the tart case, so that you can get the blind bake into all the nooks and crannies, ensuring that none of your pastry can rise.

Gently prick the bases of the pastry cases with a fork. Unscrunch the baking paper, and line the top of the pastry cases. Line thickly with ceramic beans, dried beans or rice and tap on a work surface to get them into the fluting of the cases.

Bake the tartlet cases in the oven for 10 minutes. Then remove the blind bake, and return to the oven for a further five minutes until the pastry is  crisp and lightly browned all over.

Set aside for five minutes, and carefully remove from the tins. Allow to cool completely.

Tarts

Once your pastry and crème patissière are completely cool, you can assemble your tarts. Slice the strawberries in a way you find aesthetically pleasing. Put some of the crème patissière into each tart case, and spread over the base. Arrange your strawberries prettily over the crème patissière.

Make a glaze by heating the rose petal jelly and water gently until the jelly has melted. Mix well, and brush it over the strawberry arrangement.

Enjoy as a slightly unusual treat, with or without friends.

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A Picnic on Public Transport

Asparagus and Potato Tart

Tarted Up Leftovers

The Big Guy and I are seasoned travellers. If you live in a different country from either of your families, you have to get used to the rhythm of packing, transport, and departure times. Where we can, we take the train; it has a much better rhythm – with a continuity of movement, both in terms of the motion of the carriages, and because there is no hanging about in a departure lounge, or being forced through an array of harshly lit shops. The train gets you where you need to be without fuss; you have space to sit comfortably and to move around.

One of the things that we haven’t got the rhythm of is taking our own food. Although, I do know exactly where all the best places to buy food along the journey are. We have recently returned from one such trip abroad, although this time, we had a leg of the journey on a coach. It was OK, but I will be glad if they ever sort out the troubles on trains run by a certain rail company, which has been unable to run for far too long now.

We decided that we should be better prepared for this journey. Since our usual rhythm was interrupted, I could not guarantee getting to my favourite pit stops. I also had a few ingredients in the fridge that wouldn’t last until we returned. So, the obvious choice was to make something to take with us. A picnic, of sorts.

I had a little of the salad, some cream and some eggs that needed using up from the dinner I made for friends, and a few last sprigs of chervil. As so often happens, the day before I was leaving I woke up and knew that these would be perfect in a tart, with some goat’s cheese. We could have some for dinner that evening, and then we could take the rest as a picnic for the coach the next day.

Like many of the best laid plans, the idea for a nice goat cheese went a bit awry. It was a bank holiday, and none of the usual shops were open, so I had to dispatch the Big Guy to the supermarket. Unfortunately, all they had in the way of goat cheese was some presliced stuff, that could have been any generic cheese. It certainly never has the tang of goat that I was looking for in this dish. Fortunately, he returned with some sharp, crumbly feta instead. This was a much better option, it needed to match the asparagus.

The tart was tasty, filling and survived the journey. So did the salad we had with it, because we dressed it en route from a small jar. This is my top tip for picnic salads – if you dress it before you travel, the salad will cook in the acid, and you will be left with a container full of flaccid disappointment.

Cheese Please blog badgeFour Seasons Food Challenge Chez Foti & Delicieux

I know I have entered my dishes into a lot of blog hops lately, but I couldn’t resist entering this recipe into the inaugural Cheese Please Challenge, hosted by Fromage Homage. Then I heard about the inaugural Four Seasons Food, dreamed up by Anneli at Delicieux and Louisa at Chez Foti. This dish is so apt for both.

This was my perfect public transport picnic, and I didn’t waste anything in my fridge. I’d love to hear what appears on your picnic blanket, or even coach seat when you make food for on the go.

Recipe: Asparagus and Potato Tart

Ingredients

For the Pastry: 

100 g plain flour

50 g cold salted butter

Really good grinding of black pepper

1 egg yolk

For the Filling:

100 ml cream

4 eggs

small bunch chervil, very finely chopped

100 g of leftover asparagus salad, or 3-4 small salad potatoes and 5 asparagus spears cooked until just tender, and cut into 5 cm chunks

2 spring onions, sliced finely

90 g feta cheese

Method

Season the flour. I wanted this pastry to taste peppery, the rest of the tart can hold its own. Don’t be afraid of adding  more pepper than you think.

Rub the cold butter (it needs to be fridge temperature) into the seasoned flour until you have a breadcrumb consistency. Add the egg yolk and bring together into a dough. If you need to, you can add a little bit of cold milk to make it all come together. Add a splash at a time.

Form a disc with the dough, and cover it with cling film or foil, and leave it to rest in the fridge for 20 minutes to an hour.

Heat the oven to 200°C. Roll the pastry out thinly on a floured surface. Carefully line a greased flan case with the pastry, and press into the sides or fluting with a small offcut of pastry in a ball, to avoid any tears or holes, you don’t want the filling to leak and burn on the bottom.

Prick the bottom of the pastry all over with a fork. Line the pastry with greaseproof paper, and add a good layer of blind bake – this can be ceramic beans, dried beans or rice – to give some weight help keep it flat and thin. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until the pastry looks dry and is beginning to brown on the sides. Remove the blind bake, and put back in the oven to allow the pastry to cook all over to a light golden colour.

While the pastry is browning, whisk together the cream, eggs, and chervil.

Once the tart case is cooked, remove and turn the oven down to 180°C.

Pick the salad over to remove any leftover capers and cornichons. Scatter the rest over the tart case, so that you get pretty even cover. Then scatter over the spring onions and crumble the feta around, again, so that the coverage is quite even.

Pour the eggs and cream over the rest of the filling, shaking the case a little, to ensure even distribution. Return it to the oven and bake for a further 30-40 minutes, or until the centre is just set, but still has a little wobble if you shake it.

As with all quiches, this is great served hot or cold, but if you want to serve it warm, let it rest for about 10 minutes after it comes out of the oven, so that the filling does not ooze all over the plate.

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Merry Christmas and Tarted Up Mince Pies

P1040219

Merry Christmas

Hello!

Well, It’s been a long time since I fired up the old blog. I haven’t gone away, but things have changed a little. Not least, WordPress have been messing about with the software, and the photos upload differently, so sorry if they look a little bit weird, until I can get used to the new  way.

Anyway, since I posted last I had a bit of computer trouble, so I know that I may owe a few of you e-mails, and I have some catching up to do for Seedy Penpals.

I also have a little news, that is probably exciting for me, and not for many others, but I’m going to tell you anyway. After a lot of deliberation, I decided to take a role as the Campaign Manager for the Land of Promise Campaign to get better working conditions and the use of fewer pesticides in the pineapple industry in the Philippines, and three weeks ago I signed a contract with Fairfood International. I am excited because it is combining my skills of campaigning, and food, and I’m helping Fairfood plan and deliver a new campaigning strategy.

I have dived right in, with planning for the campaign, which has taken all of my head space, but now I have done the background reading, I am hoping to get back to blogging regularly. It does mean that I need to settle into a different posting pattern, but for the time being I have a bit of a backlog of posts to catch up with, which I’ll schedule in the coming days and weeks.

But that’s enough about me. I am with my family, and have just finished the preparations for tomorrow’s food. I have also managed to squeeze in some jam making. I haven’t had as much time this year as I normally would to make all the preserves ready for Christmas, so I haven’t made my own mincemeat. The mincemeat that I picked up on Saturday is at the more mediocre end of the spectrum, and I am not one to compromise on quality that much, so I thought that I would also share my tarted up mincemeat recipe.

And of course, I wanted to wish you all a very merry Christmas, Great Yuletide, and a Happy Winter Solstice, whichever you celebrate.

Mince pie with tarted up mincemeat

Tarted up!

Recipe: Tarted Up Mincemeat

Ingredients

50 g dried fruit, I used a mix of cranberries, raisins and golden sultanas

Port to cover the fruit

1 jar mincemeat

Zest of a lemon

50 g of almonds and hazelnuts, chopped

Sweet shortcrust pastry I added lemon zest to this

Milk or egg wash

Method

Soak the dried fruit in the port until the fruit is plump. This will take at least an hour. Stir in the mincemeat, and lemon zest, and allow to soak together with the fruit.

If you are making your own pastry, make it now using the method here. Wrap it up and let it rest in the fridge for about an hour.

Tarted up mincemeat

Mincemeat Plus

Add the chopped nuts to the mincemeat just before rolling out your pastry. By using shop bought mincemeat, you are taking advantage of the pulped fruit (usually apple) and the spices. Normally mincemeat has to mature for at least a month before use, so this is a shortcut to tasty, fruity mincepies, without compromising on flavour.

Heat the oven to 160°C.

Roll out your pastry to about 3mm thick. Use two cutter sizes, one slightly larger for the base, cut an even number of bases and tops. Grease some tart tins. Cover with the bases, then press down gently with some dough offcuts.

Add a heaped tsp of the mincemeat to each base.

Brush the rim of one side of the top with milk or egg wash, cover the tart, wash side down, and either crimp or press gently with a shot glass to seal the pie.

Mince pies

Cheating Tarts

Brush the pies with more milk or egg wash. Put in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until they are golden brown.

Serve them to your friends and guests and no-one will tell that you cheated a little bit.

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