Monthly Archives: June 2012

Simple Tuna Fishcakes

It’s always good to have some storecupboard recipes at the ready which are a bit more special than simple pasta or rice. This is one of those kinds of recipes – comforting and simple fish cakes made with tinned tuna that make a special meal out of standby ingredients. I also think people don’t home make fish cakes nearly enough – shop bought fish cakes really don’t compare at all to even the most simple of home made efforts. When combined with a lovely leafy salad this makes a wonderfully satisfying meal!

Serves 2 very hungry or 4 less hungry (or with wedges!)

INGREDIENTS
A 200g tin of tuna or for more luxurious fishcakes, another fish of your choice (my mum often makes these with salmon and they’re gorgeous!)
About 325g large potato(es)
30g melted butter
3 or 4 spring onions
a few tbsps of chopped parsley
lemon zest
a good squeeze of lemon juice (or lime as I rather like)
salt and pepper
1 egg, beaten
plain flour

15g of butter
Sunflower oil
Lemon wedges to serve (or lime again)
Tartare Sauce (recipe to follow!)

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees/400 F/ gasmark 6 and bake the potatoes in their skins until soft (about an hour) – though the microwave will do this job too if you’re in a rush! When the potatoes are nice and soft inside, scoop out the flesh into a bowl. If you’re using fish other than tuna make sure it’s cook (either in the oven with the potato or on the hob) and if you’re using tuna, drain it. Add the fish to the bowl, melt the 30g of butter and add it to the bowl alon with the parsley, chopped spring onions, lemon juice, lemon zest and some salt and pepper. Add about half the beaten egg (but NO more!) and mix the whole lot together with your hands – squidging away until you have a rough but nicely bound together mix!

Divide the mix into 4, dust hands with flour and shape each one into a nice round. Sometimes I make them half the size and have smaller fishcakes. Coat each of these in flour, and put on a plate. Cover the plate with clingfilm and leave in the fridge until ready to eat.

About 15 minutes before you want to sit down and eat, put the 15g of butter and a tbsp of sunflower oil in a pan over a moderate heat. As soon as it starts to foam, pop the fishcakes gently in the pan and cook until nicely browned on both sides. Serve very hot with the lemon wedges. I usually serve these with some home made potato wedges, a good big leafy salad and home made tartare sauce (recipe to follow!)

Hannah

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When life gives you lemons… Make Tarte au Citron

It would seem that we can’t stop making pastry at the moment, so here’s another tasty treat to brighten up your week and help bring some lovely lemony sunshine!

There’s a million and one tarte au citron recipes around but I feel it’s important to remember the origins of this lovely recipe and searched round for a recipe that I hoped would be the real deal and came across this lovely Raymond Blanc recipe from his wonderful website – if a foodie Frenchman can’t get a tarte au citron recipe right then there’s simply no winning! I particularly like this recipe because of the inclusion of egg yolk in the pastry which makes it gorgeously rich and crumbly and helps to seal it from the very liquidy filling when its first poured into the case.

INGREDIENTS

SWEET PASTRY
120g unsalted butter, diced (at room temperature)
75g sifted icing sugar
250g plain flour
3 egg yolks
2 tbsps water

LEMON FILLING
5 medium free range eggs
150g caster sugar
85ml lemon juice (about 3 lemons)
2 tbsps finely grated lemon zest
150ml double cream

Mix the butter and icing sugar in a large bowl to a cream and beat in just 2 of the egg yolks (watch out for this – I chucked all 3 in and had to perform a rescue mission on one that hadn’t broken yet!). Add the flour and rub it into the mix to achieve a dry crumby texture. Once it reaches this point, very gently gather it together, gently forming it into a disc. Wrap this in clingfilm and set aside in the fridge for 30 minutes whilst making the lemon filling. When putting the pastry to rest in the clingfilm, I always place the disc between two very large pieces of clingfilm (big enough to cover the size of the tart tin you are using) as this means that to roll it out you can keep it between the clingfilm, eliminating the need for flour and ensure the pastry doesn’t dry out or become overworked.

To make the lemon filling, mix together the eggs, sugar, lemon juice and zest together for a few seconds, add the cream and then whisk for a further few minutes. Then set this aside in the fridge. Wait until the 30 minutes resting time for the pastry is up and roll it out (between the clingfilm sheets!) until its pretty thin (but with no holes!). Peel off one half of the clingfilm and use the clingfilm covered pastry to gently lower the pastry onto a 24cm (91/2 inch) loose bottomed tart tin, being careful not to stretch it and gently push the pastry into the edges of the tin. I don’t own a loose bottomed tart tin, in fact my bottom was firmly in place(!), so I devised a cunning solution to remove my tart from the tin once it had cooked by folding greaseproof paper into two long strips and placing these in a cross in the tin with a bit showing at each end, as you can sort of see below:

This worked remarkably well (with a little help from Jack as four hands were best for this job!). The picture also shows the slight translucency of the pastry which is a useful sign that it’s not too thick! Prick the base of the pastry with a fork and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to help prevent it from shrinking too much when cooking. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees c/gas mark 3.

Once the pastry has rested for 30 minutes, line the case with foil and fill with baking beans. I don’t own baking beans, as much as I’d like to, so I used dried chickpeas which did the job wonderfully… As pointed out by Cat in her recent Pecan Pie post, once these have been used its best to make sure that they are kept labelled as baking beans as they’ll be rubbish to cook with!! Bake the case for 10 minutes then remove from the oven and remove the beans. Then put the case back in the oven for a further 20 minutes sans beans.

Towards the end of the 20 minutes baking time, pour the lemon filling into a saucepan and warm it very gently – this is an important step to reduce the time the tart needs in the oven (an avoid burnt pastry!). Be very careful not to let it scramble. After the 20 minutes of further baking time is up, take the case out of the oven and brush the inside of the case with the remaining beaten egg yolk, returning to the oven for 1 minute – I was skeptical about this because it doesn’t look so appetising at this point but it creates a great seal on the pastry so that when the liquidy lemony filling is poured in, the case stays good and crisp! Now turn the oven down to 140c.

Once the mixture is warm, pour into the pastry case. This is best done in the oven and done very gently as the mix should be quite liquidy. Bake this for 25 minutes only – it should be barely set when you take it out as it continues to set more during cooling. Then comes the hard part – leave it for an hour (yes a whole hour!!) before eating. I’m possibly a bit hypocritical saying this as we just couldn’t wait and had our first pieces about 20 minutes after it came out the oven but it was too soft and was perfect after a night in the fridge! Once this painful waiting period is over, dust all over with icing sugar and dive right in!

Hannah

Pecan Pie

Back in Ivinghoe, tea and cake time in mid afternoon (indeed mid morning as well sometimes) is a daily ritual. However this wonderful gooey, sweet and crunchy tart also made an excellent before bed snack. You could eat it any time of the day, all times of the day. Cold with tea, hot with ice cream, if you please.

A wonderful Leon recipe (slightly adultered) from their fantastic third book Leon Baking & Puddings. The only thing we changed was using regular plain flour rather than gluten free flour.

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[Note: with rest and chilling times for the pastry, start this earlier than you’d think, it took a good few hours: despite starting early afternoon Jack and I struggled to get this ready before 6pm, so post-pub fodder it was.]

150g butter, 100g caster sugar, 1 free range egg plus 1 yolk, 270g plain flour

50g butter, 225g golden syrup, 2 tbsp caster sugar, 1 tsp cornflour, 2 large free range eggs, 200g pecan nut halves

  • Cream together the butter and sugar until smooth (preferably in a free standing mixer, or with a wooden spoon)
  • Add the egg and egg yolk and mix until fully incorporated,. Add the flour and quickly bring it together in a ball (pastry is best when handled and worked as little as possible). Wrap the pastry in clingfilm and refridgerate for at least 30 mins.
  • Butter a 23-25cm fluted flan tin. Roll the pastry out on a floured surface to about 3-5mm thick and line your tart case with it. Trim the edges and chill in the fridge for a further 30 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 160C.
  • Line the chilled pastry case with baking paper, and fill it with baking beans* to stop it shrinking when it’s being baked. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes then remove the baking beans. Return to the oven and bake for a further 5 mins. The pastry should be a nice blonde colour [we compared ours to the colour of Bella the golden retriever, never a better golden one you ever did see! And quite convenient as she likes lying in the kitchen grabbing cuddles between our baking stages]. Set aside to cool.
  • Put the butter and golden syrup into a medium saucepan over a low heat. When it becomes runny, taking it off the heat and whisk in the sugar.
  • In a small bowl, whisk the cornflour and eggs until smooth and then add to the saucepan.
  • Fill the baked pastry with the pecan halves. Pour the golden syrup mixture on top and fill it to just below the edge of the case. Put it into the oven, taking great care not to spill any liquid over the sides, as this might make it difficult to remove from the tin once it’s baked [we used the ol’ pour-in-the-liquid-with-the-case-on-the-oven-shelf-already technique to avoid spills].
  • Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the tart is dark golden in colour and has slightly risen in the middle. Take out of the oven and leave to cool in the tin.
* we never have used baking beans! Dried chickpeas or other dried beans work a treat. Just don’t forget to put them in a well labelled tub afterwards so you can use them again (and so someone doesn’t try to cook with them!).
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Jack and Catriona (+ eaten by Hannah)

Mini Jam Tarts (leftover pastry)

This recipe (barely a recipe) used left over scraps of pastry from a pecan pie that Jack and I made a few days ago – that recipe soon to follow. Instead of throwing away the excess pastry left over from lining a fluted flan tin I suggested making some mini tartlets and I’m very glad we did!

A perfect aperitif before the real pie is ready.

  • Use your left over pastry (we had sweet shortcrust but regular shortcrust would work well too) and combine back into a ball and roll out.
  • Cut circles (using a circle cutter a bit bigger than the size of holes you have in your pastry dimple tin) from the pastry, brush the tin with some melted butter and pop the  pastry circles in. Top with a small square of grease proof paper/tinfoil and then add in a few baking beans.
  • Blind bake for about 10 minutes with the beans (around 180C I think the oven was) then remove the beans and paper or foil and return to the oven for another 5 or until golden enough.
  • Put in your chosen filling. We used a strawberry jam and also a strawberry and vodka jam, along with a little blob of creme fraiche.
  • Chuck back in the oven and forget about them for a while (that’s what we did! Very approximate and botch recipe really).
  • Eat up! WARNING even when out of the oven for 10 minutes the jam will still be exceedingly hot and you will burn your tongue, even when you think you have waited long enough. Apologies. It’ll still be scrummy and you’ll wonder why you bothered going to all the effort of making an actual pie or whatever else your pastry was leftover from.

Catriona

Fresher’s Veggie Bean Burgers

When I was in my first year at uni, I made the discovery that by cooking from scratch I could make food that was both tasty and very cheap and that veggie food was even cheaper still. Although I now much more frequently treat myself to somewhat less veggie ingredients, this is a recipe that has stayed with me – particularly because the ingredients are usually just sitting in my cupboard, waiting to brighten up an empty fridge situation or is often a special treat for when I’ve been to give blood!

BEANBURGER INGREDIENTS

1 onion (reds really nice but white’s fine too)
2 tbsps cumin seeds
a good hefty whack of cayenne pepper (I like mine really spicy so use between 2tsp – 3 tsps of the stuff but when cooking for others usually tone it down to somewhere between half and a whole tsp)
1 or two cloves of garlic to taste
1 tin of red kidney beans (can pick and choose whatever tinned beans really but these are cheap and carry the spices nicely)
Paprika – roughly a tsp
a couple of handfuls of breadcrumbs
Beaten egg (usually less than half a beaten egg does it)
Sunflower oil for frying

Chop the onion and fry gently on a medium heat until the onions are soften and nicely browned. Chop or mince the garlic and add these for the last minute or two of the onion’s cooking time, along with the cumin seeds.

Whilst the onion is cooking, drain the tin of beans and place in a large bowl. Mash with a potato masher to achieve a coarsely mashed texture. When the onion, garlic and cumin are cooked, put these in the bowl  add the paprika and only HALF of the beaten egg. Add some salt and pepper to seasons to taste, then mix in the breadcrumbs a very little bit at a time. This it the point where it really pays to get your hands involved so you can feel the texture of the mix. The mix should be fairly moist but should mould nicely into balls. Adjust this by adding either more egg or more breadcrumbs. It’s taken me a few mistakes to get the feel for this so practice makes perfect but what I’ve found is that if you’re not sure, err on the side of a slightly wetter mix.

Dust a plate with flour and shape the mix into fairly thick patties (I usually make 4 large ones from this quantity but you can get 6 slightly smaller ones from this mix), gently coating both sides of each patty with a little of the flour and setting them aside. They are ready to cook at this point and can sit in the fridge until anything else is ready. They take about 8-12 minutes  total time to cook. They’re best cooked in sunflower oil if you want them to crisp up a little bit.

I usually serve these in a soft bun with a few home made oven chips, some home made coleslaw and handful of salad. They keep in the fridge cling-filmed for a day or too and freeze very well, taking just a few hours to defrost.

Hannah