This is probably the easiest tart I've ever made. I say so with confidence because I was under pressure to have lunch ready with a husband breathing down my neck.
Ro has this habit of heading to work late, especially if he has an early morning conf call to take which he does from home. It would invariably be on a day I don't work, which means by the time I wake up at around 9-ish and settle down with coffee and emails and such, Ro is well into his day. He usually heads into work around lunch time and catches lunch there, but last week he apparently changed his mind and asked me 'what are we having for lunch?' at 11.30 that too. I stared at him, then I stared at the contents of my fridge and seeing the ingredients for this tart, my eyes lit up. They were supposed to be dinner, but that was about 7 hrs away and I had enough time to figure it out. Warned him it would take an hour and he agreed. And there, the easiest tart I've ever made came into existence.
Photo courtesy: Daniel Jones Photography for Comte Cheese
I attended a Comte Cheese tasting event beginning of last month at La Cave a Fromage. It was a fun evening with Comte cheese expert Claire Perrot giving us in depth knowledge about the complex flavours that Comte is all about. We then went on to taste Comte cheese from different terrains and ages and were asked to figure out how they tasted different, what flavours were persistent etc. I'm no expert at cheese, but the flavours i could get were so obvious, I was quite surprised myself. What amazed me the most was how a slab of cheese smelt completely different from a cut piece and how certain wine and champagne simply made eating cheese a pleasure. One of the pairings with Comte cheese was vanilla paste and I loved how they tasted together. Came back home with a goody bag and a huge slab of Comte cheese to experiment...and experiment did I.
This tart recipe is made using Comte cheese and I must say it tasted fab (don't forget how easy it was make the tart). I think this is going to be the base recipe for all my tarts and I can just play around with the fillings used. The original recipe used a polenta tart base, but remember husband breathing down neck? So short crust pastry it was!
Recipe adapted from the Comte cheese recipe card (makes 5 to 6 tartlets or one 24cm tart)
Spinach- 200 gms
Comte cheese- 200 gms, grated
Crème fraiche- 150 ml
Single cream- 150 ml
Salt and pepper- to taste
Butter- to grease the tart tins
Short crust pastry- 1 slab/ roll
Pre-heat the oven to 180C and grease the tart tins with melted butter
Roll out the short crust pastry into a rectangle about 5mm thick and carefully lay it into the tart tin. I used mini tart tins so cut the pastry into 5 equal parts and then carefully laid it into the tins.
Place a greaseproof paper on top of the pastry case and fill with baking beans. I don't have baking beans so used rice instead. Works fine.
Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until just golden.
Remove the paper and beans and bake for another 5 to 7 minutes to make sure the pastry is cooked through.
Remove from the oven and keep aside.
While the pastry is cooking, you can go about getting the filling ready.
Wash the spinach and roughly chop it up.
Squeeze most of the water from the spinach and cook covered in a microwave safe bowl on high for about 3 minutes.
Drain the water that has oozed out and keep aside to cool a bit.
Meanwhile, mix together the cheese, crème fraiche, cream and eggs in a large bowl.
Season well with salt and pepper.
Once the spinach has cooled down a bit, layer the bottom of the cooked tart shells with spinach and pour over the cheese mix.
Gently stir to evenly distribute the spinach.
Bake for about 20 minutes or till the tart is just set and golden. If a knife inserted comes out clean you are good to go.
Take the tart out and cool on a rack for about 10 minutes before removing them from the tin.
Serve with a salad.
Notes: Original recipe called for Swiss chard. If using chard, then wash, chop and cook in a bit of olive oil till wilted.
You can make the same tart using puff pastry as well.. in fact I prefer that to short crust. Of course Comte cheese can be replaced with cheddar or rather any cheese of choice. Use double cream in place of creme fraiche
With thanks to Comte cheese for inviting me to the tasting event and for the sample.
Last week, a bunch of us had a cook-along session on Google+ Hangout hosted by Great British Chefs and Tesco Real Food. We were cooking along with award winning Chef Galton Blackiston who runs Morston Hall, up at the Norfolk coast, and making Christmas pudding ice cream was on the agenda. It was my first time doing a hangout session like this and so was a wee bit nervous as to how it would churn out (pun intended).
We were asked to do a few preps before hand and jot down any relevant questions we wanted to ask Chef Galton during the session. It all went on extremely well and I'm completely amazed at how technology can just make things so much more convenient. I mean we were all in different parts of UK, in the comfort of our own kitchen and cooking along with so much ease. Except for a few glitches with the audio at times, it was an absolutely well thought out session. Thanks to GBC for this fantastic opportunity and to Chef Galston for the demo. You can watch it here.
Now, I know its not the perfect weather for ice cream, but really this one needs to be made this Christmas y'all. We are all going to od on Christmas pudding and even worse, have tonnes of it left over. Chucking them into a custard base and churning them to make fabulous ice cream is THE way to go about using whats left over. I am not a big pudding fan or for that matter an ice cream fan, meaning I can just about have a slice or scoop of each, but when the two come together it just makes it so much better.
I had to try hard to not keep eating spoonfuls of custard while it was cooling down. So the ice cream base is a really good one, to experiment with. You can use it as it is with a kick ass sauce, chuck in some candied fruits, or add some nuts and such to make it appealing. Its pretty basic and except for the whisking bit, doesn't really take too much time. Those in India, remember the rum and raisin ice creams we get..well this ones sort of like that.. but a whole lot boozier..who's complaining about that now? :)
Add the cream and milk to a sauce pan and scrape in the vanilla seeds along with the pod.
Place the pan over medium high heat and bring to a gentle simmer.
Remove from heat and set aside to infuse for about 30 minutes or so.
In a bowl whisk together the egg yolks and sugar till pale and smooth.
Bring the cream and milk mix back to a simmer.
While whisking the egg, slowly pour in the cream.
Pour the mix back into a saucepan and place over low heat.
Keep stirring continuously till you have a thin layer of custard that coats the back of the spoon.
At this point, take the saucepan off heat and pass the custard through a sieve into a bowl.
Allow to cool completely. Lay cling film on top of the custard to prevent a skin from forming.
If you want to speed up this process, place the bowl over an ice bath and keep stirring till it turns cool. I actually chucked it into the refrigerator for a while.
Once cool, you can either churn it in an ice cream maker, stirring in the Christmas pudding once the mixture begins to thicken and then freeze till ready to use.
If you don't have an ice cream maker, then pour the custard into an air tight container and freeze for about 30 to 45 minutes or till just about set.
Take it out, whisk well and then fold in the Christmas pudding gently, to not break it up too much.
Notes: This is a halved recipe
My air tight container was really good and so i only had to whisk the custard twice, at 1hr intervals and it was perfect. I also added the pud into the custard the first time and kept whisking gently each time. I may not infuse the cream for 30 mins next time. Couldn't really find much difference.
Israeli cuisine is something completely new to me. I've been told that the flavours and dishes are mostly fusion in nature with Arab, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean influences, and from the very few dishes I've tried from Ottolenghi, I kind of understand the classification. So when i was invited to the Taste of Israel hosted at Restaurant 1701, in the grounds of Britain's oldest synagogue, I really couldn't say no. I was completely intrigued by the food that was going to be served and even more the Israeli wines that were going to be paired with the food.
The event was designed to raise awareness of Israeli food in the UK and to break down cultural barriers with the power of food and cooking. WIZO, a charitable initiative brought down 3 renowned chefs who put together the Israeli feast for us. They trained at different WIZO supported institutions and I must say they did a fabulous job.
We were served dishes like pickled mullet with tomato nectar, gourmet lamb kebabs, sea fish medley with za'atar and pickled lemon etc., and they were paired with a selection of really good Israeli wines chosen by expert sommelier John Wriss of Kedem Europe, importer and distributor of kosher wine in the UK. My favourite dish, however ,was the halva cream with strawberries, rose water pistachio and kediff which I cant event begin to explain how amazing it was. In fact my mouth is watering just thinking about it. I did get hold of the recipe, but most of the ingredients were really difficult to source and so I thought of giving the Pastille recipe a go.
The traditional pastille is a sweet and savoury fusion dish, more or less like a puff pastry pie. But it was served like spring rolls at the event and I decided to make them like samosas just for kicks. It tasted great with duck, but I was a bit wary about cooking duck at home and so used chicken instead. It was not the best substitute but not too bad either. The ras-el-hanout spice lends a distinct flavour so try not to avoid it. I was about to buy it from the store when my generous boss offered me a small pack of the spice which her mum had brought down from Tunisia. Now it cant get more authentic like that I'm sure. Ive linked to a recipe which you can try, or most of the supermarkets do stock them. I know Sainsburys does.
Pastille with some hot mint tea is what you need to eat on a cold and windy Winter afternoon.
Recipe adapted from the Wizo UK Dinner menu (makes around 20 to 22 small pastille pockets)
Chicken- 500 gms, boneless and finely diced (1 to 2 inch cubes)
Onions- 2, finely chopped
Ras-el-hanout- 1/2 tbsp (follow this recipe to whip up your own)
Chicken stock- 125ml
Coriander leaves- 1/2 cup
Eggs- 3, small
Almonds- 125 gms, blanched and sliced
Tahini- 3 tbsp
Oil- 2 tbsp + enough to fry the pastille
Brik pastry or filo pastry sheets- around 10 to 12 (I used filo pastry)
Flour mixed with water to stick the edges if its brik pastry and melted butter if its filo pastry
Preheat the oven to 170C and roast the almond slices in a baking tray for about 7 to 8 minutes or till they turn a slight shade of brown. You can do this on a skillet as well. Once done remove from tray and keep aside.
While that's sorted, heat oil in a frying pan and saute the onions till they become golden brown.
Add the chicken, season with salt, Ras-el-hanout and fry till brown, by stirring on and off.
Pour in the stock, bring to a boil and cook on medium heat for about 6 to 8 minutes or till the chicken is completely cooked and almost all of the liquid is absorbed.
Break the eggs into the pan and scramble for a couple of minutes, until the eggs absorb whatever liquid is remaining in the pan and becomes a crumbly scrambled mixture with the chicken. Make sure this doesn't get too dry.
Stir in the roasted almonds and coriander leaves and remove from heat.
Mix in tahini and keep aside to cool completely.
Once cool, you can assemble and fry the pastille.
Spread the filo pastry on a work surface and fold over so you get two layers. To make sure they don't come apart, lightly join together using melted butter.
Put about 2 tsp of filling (don't over fill it) and roll like how you do a samosa. if its too long, slice off the remaining. If you think rolling it like spring rolls is easier, feel free to do that instead.
Heat enough oil in a frying pan and fry the pastille in batches till about golden and crisp.
Drain on kitchen towels and serve with ketchup or chutney.
Notes: Original recipe was made with duck slices. If using duck, follow the exact same procedure and measurements, just that duck may take a little longer to cook.
Its not a spicy dish at all. So if you want some kick, add a slit green chilli while sauteing the chicken
Once rolled in the pastry, it can frozen in an air tight container and can be fried directly from the freezer.
With thanks to WIZO UK for an invite to the Taste of Israel event
I know...been almost a month since I posted here. I'm not going to give excuses blaming work, weather, this, that etc etc. Instead, I'm going to jump right into it and talk about the 'Cooking with Kikkoman masterclass' I attended a month back at the fabulous Matsuri St James restaurant. Kikkoman is a leading brand of soy sauce and I regularly use it for all my Asian cooking. We networked over cocktails at the foyer before being escorted into the restaurant and seated around a Teppan table. Bing-yu Lee, Manager for Kikkoman UK gave a talk on Kikkoman- how it is made, how its different from the usual ones and we even did a blind tasting between two different types of soy sauces.
Michelin Starred Chef, Simon Hulstone then took over and demonstrated how to use Kikkoman in a mean broccoli and scallop dish which we all got to taste. After a sushi making demo and a theatrical teppan-yaki meal cooked in front of our eyes we went on to enjoy our meal, full on, paired perfectly with wine.
In our goody bag was a Kikkoman cook book and this fried rice is adapted from that. There are so many easy recipes and even though i made this rice a week after the event, it didn't make it to the blog because I wasn't happy with the pictures. I thought id make it again and take better pictures, but nope, that never happened and so you are gonna have to just believe me when I say the fried rice tasted simply good. Its really really simple to make and you should give it a go.
I went a bit crazy with the stir frying and that's why it looks like tiny grain. Its just that the rice broke while I got carried away. So be careful when you do the final mixing.
Recipe adapted from the Kikkoman cook book (serves 2)
Basmati rice- 1 cup
Water- to cook the rice
Oil- 1 tbsp
Minced pork - 300gms
Ginger- 1 1/2 tbsp, peeled and grated
Garlic- 2 tbsp, peeled and finely chopped
Spring onion- 1/4 cup, finely chopped (reserve a few greens for garnish)
I love Jamie Oliver! Like seriously. I think he's one of those chefs who you develop a liking towards right from the start- so down to earth and simply a sweetheart. I used to watch his 30 minute meals on telly and have even given some of the recipes a shot (obviously I take more than 30 minutes). They are absolutely easy to follow and his photographs (courtesy David Loftus) are to die for. I love how he presents his final dishes on his shows, and the props he uses, sigh!
I was asked to review an app on the Google Nexus 7 tablet available at Argos here- a gadget we have both been religiously using for all our browsing and other nonsensical stuff like watch videos, chat, etc etc. I still am not too sure why people need tablets at all, because it really cant do anything your smart phone cant (techies and gadget freaks, kindly excuse). Of course size matters but I think I would have survived without one. However, now that we have it in our life, its being put to regular use. I even carry it around to our Bloggers Buzz meetings looking all important, and it does make life a wee bit more easier. If you do want to pick up a tablet (among other cool things) then Argos is the place to go to.
Coming to the app. I did break my head about which app to pick up and after some research I decided to go with good ol Jamie (first name basis and all after 2 paragraphs). The tablet is a good thing to have on your kitchen counter but what kept bugging me was the fact that I had to keep switching it on each time the screen turned off when not in use (I don't even know if that's the right term to use, but you get the point right?). My tablet doesn't have a stand, so I had to keep cleaning my hands properly to pick it up and do the same. These may be irrelevant to most of you, but to me it kind of makes a difference and is a bit of a hindrance. I am trying to use the tablet more for my recipes while cooking instead of dragging my ginormous laptop on to a small kitchen counter, so ask me about it a few months from now and maybe I would have a different opinion.
The step by step pictures are fabulous, not to mention beautiful photography. It guides you through the entire cooking process.
There are basic videos of Jamie showing is how to chop an onion, basic knife care, cooking the perfect steak and so on..something we all may know, but its kind of informative.
The shopping list is pretty cool, in fact its my favourite feature. You can send it directly from the app to your email, making life a whole lot easier. Yes, I just had to send it to Ro.
Navigating through the app is easy. Nothing techy about it.
GBP 4.99 for an app is pretty steep. You do get 60 recipes for it, but still I find it a little on the expensive side.
It keeps crashing!!! Apparently that's been an issue with the app for a while. This definitely needs to be fixed as it gets annoying after a while.
The app is a good one, but not a great one. I mean it wont be something id miss if it was taken off and I think id find most of his recipes in his book or show. But if you are a big Jamie fan and need to hear his voice once in a while, then just buy the app..really, his videos and the way he cooks is just pure entertainment :)
That said, his chilli corn chowder from the app was excellent. It was my first time with corn chowder (soup to be precise) and was completely surprised at how nice it tasted. Of course i couldn't complete it in 20 minutes (what with me checking fb and whatsapp and a million other 'apps' in between) but it was a winner. Ro gets to taste it today and he can give his verdict. Serve it with some garlic bread and its perfect for an autumn night in,
Chilli- 2, slit (de-seed if you cant handle the heat)
Butter- 1 tbsp
Olive oil- a dash
Thyme- 1 small stalk
Potato- 1 small
Frozen sweetcorn- 200 gms (approx. 1 1/2 cups)
Double cream- 2 tbsp (optional)
Spring onions- 2 small, finely chopped
Cheddar cheese- 25 gms, grated
Sour cream- 75ml
Salt and pepper- to taste
Fill a saucepan with the vegetable stock and bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat.
While that's simmering away, slice the onion, celery and chilli.
Heat a large deep pan on medium heat and melt the butter along with a generous dash of olive oil.
Add to it the chopped vegetables with a splash of water, stir well and cover and cook on medium-low heat for about 10 minutes or until the vegetables start to soften.
Pick the thyme leaves and add to the pot of simmering stock. Let it continue to simmer for a few more minutes.
Peel and roughly grate the potato and add to the vegetable stock.
By now the vegetables would have wilted enough. Open the lid and throw in the sweetcorn. Stir it in and cook for about 2 to 3 minutes.
Carefully pour in the vegetable stock along with potato and bring everything to a boil.
Reduce heat, pour in the double cream and let it simmer for about 5 minutes after which you can take the pan off heat.
In the meat time, slice the spring onions and grate the cheddar.
Once the chowder has cooled down a bit, pulse with an immersion blender, but still retaining the texture. Don't make it too smooth.
Taste and season with enough salt and pepper and cover the pot with a lid and keep aside.
When ready to serve, spoon ladles full of the chowder into slightly warmed bowls, top with a spoon on sour cream, sprinkle over the cheddar followed by a generous sprinkling of spring onions.
(Add some chopped chillies if you are brave)
Notes: The original recipe called for just one chilli, half of which needed to be added with the vegetables and half used as garnish. Adamant that it wouldn't be spicy, I added two whole chillies to the chowder and skipped the garnish. It was SPICY and apparently, one chilli would have been enough.
The cream is completely optional, but i had some left over cream that desperately needed to be used and so chucked it in. Worked for me. The post is in conjunction with Argos
I first tasted Spanish food about 5 years back, when we landed in the UK. I loved it. The tapas, the Sangria, the paella..all good. It was a completely new experience, trying out these small portioned dishes which you doubt would be enough but would nicely fill you up. Oh and the variety of cured meats, that was quite an eye opener. Chorizo was my favourite out of them all for quite some time. It was only after a while that I kind of got the hang of the other cured meats.
The Cinco Jotas Pure Iberico Breed Acorn Fed Ham falls under this category- a class apart and a masterpiece of its own. Its production began way back in 1879 in Jabugo by experts whose mission was to produce the best quality of meat, a tradition they continue even now so us foodies in the 21st century can enjoy this gorgeous ham. A lot of care goes into the diet and breeding of the Pure Breed Iberico pigs and this results in the worlds best quality ham. Talking about flavours, it is very unique and reminds you of acorns and other nuts. They have a high amount of Omega 9 oleic acid (yes the good kind, if you must know) and contains a whole lot more antioxidants than other hams.
October 12th was Spain's National Day and to celebrate this in style, Cinco Jotas has released a couple of interesting mini master classes with renowned Michelin three starred chef Pedra Subijana of Akelarre restaurant in San Sabastian. The videos show some of the most interesting ways to enjoy the ham and I sure cant wait to get my hands on some. Do check out these videos, and you'd get an idea about how much fun tapas dishes are- both to make and to eat.
This is a sponsored post for Cinco Jotas, but all thoughts are my own.
Posting a chicken curry after a really really long time. Some of us BB-ians realised it was National Curry Week and decided to do a curry post together. Of course its the last day of the event, but better late than never right?
I love a good chicken curry. In fact its my favourite past time to keep browsing the internet for new chicken curry recipes and bookmarking every one of them that comes my way. I have a few delicious favourites, which keep making its way through to our tables, but never to the blog because I find photographing any sort of curry incredibly difficult. I keep taking pictures each time I make a nice curry, but then they never look nice. Its mostly the styling, which I'm stuck with.
Which is why, I was pleasantly surprised at how these pictures turned out. I had initially put the curry in a brown bowl and the colour combinations just didn't work. I was all ready to give up, when I thought I'll try it in the beautiful blue bowl which I'd picked up from this gorgeous Polish pottery store called Blue Dot Pottery. The red curry worked well with the blue pottery and it was a pleasure working with that set up. Half of my worries are over if I manage to get the styling right, which brings me to the Bloggers' Buzz Photography Club (#BBPC) which we run every month. We get together in a central London location, do a couple of food photography exercises and learn from each other. If you are not in London, then you can of course join us online where we'd give a theme a month. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to give it a go. We are all amateurs trying to learn a thing or two about food photography, so please don't feel intimidated. All you need is a camera and some food to shoot :)
I have tasted dum ka murgh at various restaurants and it wasn't really a big hit with me. I am not claiming this is the best curry I've ever had, but surely one of the nicer ones. It pairs well with naans and parathas and the good thing about this recipe (sans the frying of onions) is how you don't need to saute various ingredients at various stages etc, but just add the chicken, close with a tight lid and let it cook in its own juices.