Monday, August 18, 2008

August 18th, 2008

There is one thing that I rarely buy here and that is shortcrust pastry premade. I more often than not make my own. I will buy phyllo or Puff, but not shortcrust. And at this point in time I haven't made the watercrust pastry that pork pies are famous for. I guess I need to give that a go sometime.
I hardly ever measure my flour, butter, salt and water for my pastry. There are loads of recipes out there on quantities to use. Once you find the one that works best then stick to it and practice. So make pies!!!! This day I wanted to make a vegetable and ham quiche to use up some of the garden produce.

First off make sure you rub your butter and salt into your flour. Until it looks like this....

I tend to only use the tips of my fingers on my right hand. As someone somewhere said that if you need to answer the phone or do something then have one hand clean. So I try to stick to this rule.

Next add just enough cold water to get your dough to come together into a ball. At this stage you can cover it with cling film and let it rest in the refrigerator. But I never have that luxury of time to let it rest.

Make sure your surface and your rolling pin have plenty of flour on them. Turn the pastry a quarter of a turn and I even turn mine over while rolling out to the desired thickness.
Oh you may see specks in my pastry. By now you should know I never leave well enough alone or follow a recipe to the letter. Since I was making a quiche I added in some dried herbs with the flour and butter. You can add all sorts at the beginning. Sugar for extra sweetness in desserts and to help in the browning and crisping. Or Cheese for a savoury crust too. These little things are what make the dishes special.

Once the pastry is rolled out to the desired thickness and size then fold it in half.

And then half again.

My grand mother taught me this trick.... Bring your dish to the pastry.

And just put it over the edge like this. I have seen where folks use the rolling pin but I always have trouble with that method. This one seems to work for me.

Then basically unfold your pastry into your pie dish.

You can make adjustments if need be.

Now gently lift the edges and lightly pat down so the pastry doesn't tear. If you should happen to get a tear, not to worry. Take a bit of the over hang and brush the tear with water and gently press the extra bit into the tear. Don't be afraid to work with pastry. The more you do it the better you get.

You can flute the edges or just leave to over hang and then trim after wards. I just basically pushed mine up a bit and made a lip.

Next line with baking parchment and fill with baking beans. These are little ceramic beads that you can get at any cooking shop. Or just use dried beans to keep the pastry flat. I never prick the bottom of my pastry as I plan to pour a liquid into it and I don't want it seeping out if possible. This by the way is called Blind baking. Put into about a 180C (350F)oven for about 10 to 15 minutes. Keep an eye on it as you don't want it to brown, just set a bit. Then remove the beans and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes.

Now for the quiche bit..... This is really nice with layered Phyllo pastry too. With herbs between the buttered layers of phyllo.

Either blanch or saute your vegetables first. I had broccoli, courgettes, Chard stalks and some sugar snap peas that I cooked for a minute or two in the microwave. Just to soften a bit. Then sauteed some mushrooms, onion, and red pepper with a bit of garlic. And at the last minute I put in some Chopped chard leaves just to wilt.

I next tucked in some sliced torn ham, and some cubed pieces of Gruyere cheese. And sprinkled over some fresh herb leaves and flowers. You can use dry too. Here I used thyme, Oregano, basil and some chive and sage. Then sprinkle over the top some grated cheese. This again is according to taste and to what is at hand. I used some Cheddar and some Parmesan.

Next is the custard mix..... Take a large measuring jug, mine is 500ml. Put in 3 to 4 eggs, I should have used 4 as the vegetables were a bit on the juicy side. Add in about 2 heaping tablespoons of creme fraiche or double cream and then top up to the measure with milk.

You can add some salt, freshly grated black pepper and herbs to this mix too.

Next pour this mixture into the quiche. Making sure to get evenly poured around the dish.
Bake in a 190 to 200C (375-400F) oven for about 30 to 45 minutes. Testing it for doneness by sticking a butter knife in to see if it comes out clean in the middle. If not then stick it in longer.
Ideally you should let your quiche set for at least 10 t0 15 minutes before serving. But when you have three hungry adults who have been smelling it baking, well.......

As I said it was a little on the juicy side. The remedy to that would have been to add another egg and it would have helped. Also I think if I had used double cream instead of cream fraiche too that could have helped also. But as you can tell there was nothing at all wrong with the flavour. That piece was wolfed done by me the next day for breakfast. YUM!!!! Quiches can be eaten either hot or cold.

Sliced White Bread
All of a sudden Brian and I have been buying loaves of sliced white bread. It started out because of the summer puddings I have been making. We haven't bought a loaf in years, not since we started doing our own baking in the bread machine. And if we did it was never just plain sliced white bread.
But we have been really bad here lately and I expect we have gone through at least 4 loaves in the last few months. Besides the summer puddings, we have been enjoying good ole peanut butter and jelly sandwiches! And who can resist a good ole grilled sarnie!!!

These contained nice slices of smoked ham, mature cheddar and slices of onion and a good Dijon mustard. We do try to limit ourselves to just one sandwich per lunch. I serve with a fresh salad of lettuces from the garden so feel it is a little healthy.

And these lovely toasted slices are covered in grilled portebello mushrooms that have been drizzled with olive oil, minced garlic and some slices of mozzarella cheese. Again served on a fresh garden salad.
Well besides my tagine I bought us a slicer..... Now I just need a decent white bread recipe.... And we will be back to baking our own. I did make a Delicious loaf of rye bread this past week and another of light wholemeal. So we are going back to the healthy bread baking. The slicer works brilliant by the way. And hopefully soon I can get a roast and try it out on that.

Lamb Tagine

I am really enjoying Tagine cooking!!!!! Talk about easy!!!! I bought some lamb steaks and just pan fried them in a little olive oil and the spice blend from Barts (Baharat). Then added some sliced carrots and onions and some garlic chopped. Added this to the tagine base and poured some orange juice into the pan to deglaze. Added to the lamb and carrots... Little salt and pepper and a cinnamon stick, and 4 whole cloves and sprinkled more Baharat over. Then into the oven 180 for 1 hour. While that was cooking soaked some dried apricots and prunes. Then put into the tagine with a good drizzle of honey. Back into the oven for another 1/2 hour. You can take the lid off and cook for a bit longer if your liquid hasn't thickened or cheat like me and add a bit of chicken bisto (gravy mix) to the pot and stir and back for another 5 to 10 minutes. While this was cooking I made some plain basmati rice. Brian cleaned his plate and gave his approval by saying we could have it again.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

August 10th, 2008


Well Brian and I haven't gone away on holiday this year, so I thought I would treat my self to a new kitchen gadget and maybe have an exotic meal right here at home. So I bought a Tagine from Lakelands. First off for those who don't know what a Tagine is, it is a Moroccan stew and you cook it in this funny shaped pot. The purpose of this weird shape is to keep the stew moist because the liquid steam actually ends up running back down into the cooking vessel keeping the food moist while it is cooked slowly. While I was at it I also treated myself to a new spice blend. It comes from Bart and is called Baharat. If you haven't tried this spice blend I can recommend it. Wow!!!! It is spicy and sweet and exotic all wrapped up into one. I have fallen for it in the short time I have used it and I know it will be used more often in my cooking.
I read the little pamphlet that came with the tagine. And one of my French cooking magazine to see how you go about using this pot and cooking a tagine. And came up with my own recipe with things I had on hand. Alot of tagines combine meat, vegetables and fruit it seems.... So this was my very first one....

First I made some meatballs by taking a packet of mince and putting the mince in a bowl. To this I added about a tablespoon of the Baharat spice blend, a teaspoon or so of cinnamon, some smoked paprika, a crushed clove of garlic and about 1/4 cup or more of bread crumbs and mixed all together by hand. Shape into meat balls and fry in a non stick skillet with a little olive oil.
Now in the base of the tagine, I opened a can of chopped tomatoes and put those in and sprinkled over some sultanas. Then put the cooked meatballs in. Then next I added some sliced onion wedges and some green and red pepper slices. A handful of green olives that had been pitted and the juice and zest of a lemon. I cooked this at 190 for about 45 minutes. I think it could have gone for a bit longer, but it was really lovely served up with some hot basmati rice. And some fresh garden vegetables served alongside.

These lovely beans are from my friends allotment. She asked me to watch over it while she was away and to pick some of the veg. Aren't these beans just a beautiful colour!!!!

The next night I had to try this tagine cooking again. Brian wasn't overly keen on the first recipe, but this one he complimented me on it, saying he would have that again.

Pork Chop Tagine

Okay this one I started by coating the pork chops in some of the Baharat spice blend and pan frying them in a little olive oil. While they were browning I chopped up three carrots and put in the base of the tagine. The added chopped onion, some dates, some dried apricots, some lemon slices some whole almonds, sprinkled over some of the baharat spice blend and then added two quartered tomatoes. Then the chops on top. The pan I deglazed with a little brandy and water. Poured this over the chops and vegetables and then baked in a 180C oven for about 1 and a half hours. This I served with mashed potatoes. And it was a definite winner!!!!

I think possibly this combination would also be nice with lamb. And as if this weren't enough to eat we had some summer pudding for dessert. Let's just say I had a very hard time sleeping that night from being over stuffed.

Just for information the tin of Baharat spice blend says it contains Paprika, Coriander, Black Pepper, Cumin, Cinnamon, Cayenne Pepper, Cloves, Nutmeg, and Cardamom.

Little Yellow Plums
Last year, my friend Fiona over at Cottage Smallholder had written a blog about hedgerow gathering and plums that made me envious. I had spied some little yellow globes of fruit that year too on one of our walkways around the estate, noticing them just rotting on the ground. So I questioned her and her commenters as to what these could be. I had never seen yellow plums. To me plums are purple or red. These little gems are upon closer study are called Mirabelles or Mirrabelles in German cooking. I think either Fiona or a friend called them Cherry plums. Well this year I wasn't going to let them all rot on the ground. Brian said I would get into trouble taking them as they belong to the school whose property they are growing on. But they overhang the fence and these were on the pathway. To me fair game, besides school isn't in session and I don't think they even know they are there if they did want to come in and pick them. Besides I only had about a cup or two of them. Not like I picked all the trees clean.

Once I brought my little treasures home the thinking of what to do with them started.... Fiona said back then why not pick them and do something special..... Well I did. I found a recipe for a plum chutney and I cut it in half. Besides if it wasn't going to taste very nice who would want all that chutney?
So here is my recipe for my special plums. The original says it makes 2 lbs of chutney, but I got one and a bit of a jam jar with my version.

151 g. cooking apple (I used 2 small to med sized braeburns)
76 g. onion chopped
76 g. sultanas chopped
227 g. chopped plums
95 ml malt vinegar
1/4 tsp nutmeg(I probably used a bit more)
1/4 tsp each ground ginger, cayenne pepper and dry mustard powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp allspice
2 whole cloves
30 g. soft brown sugar
Peel and core and chop roughly the apples. Peel and chop the onion. Place each in separate sauce pans with lids and put in a bit of water and boil at a simmer until they are translucent and soft. Chop the sultanas and stone and chop the plums. Place onions, raisins, plums and apples into one of the saucepans(I used the larger of the two pans). Add 1/2 of the vinegar, all of the spices and salt. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer very gently, uncovered, stirring frequently for about 45 minutes.

Next add in the remaining vinegar and the brown sugar and continue cooking as before for a further 45 minutes to an hour, or until thickened. Remove the cloves. (I still have mine in!!!)

Pour the hot chutney into hot dry jars and seal.

Now I know you need to let chutney mature..... so I have stuck mine into the fridge for a week or so before we try it. But if the pan scrapings are anything to go by.... This is going to be very nice with a bit of cheddar cheese and biscuits and a nice glass of wine.