Tag Archives: cooking

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

Sunshine food – Quesadillas

Quesadillas are something which I like to eat when I fancy a bit of sunshine –  I love them because they’re bursting with fresh and healthy ingredients and taste phenomenal for it. They’re also excellent barbecue fare for vegetarians. This is a recipe that I picked up from the excellent Otto Lenghi book ‘Plenty’ a few years ago and have written to my memory, making it time and time again.

INGREDIENTS
(makes 8 quesadillas – sometimes less depending on how generously you fill them!)

1 pack of corn tortillas (the brand ‘Discovery’ do these in the UK – I always find they have them in Waitrose and make special trips to stock up on these!) – however, normal flour based ones will do the job too though if there is a corn tortilla deficit

SALSA
2 ripe avocados
5 large ripe tomatoes (or lots of little ones, though these make the salsa a bit sweeter)
Half a red onion
3 spring onions (or thereabouts)
Juice of 1 lime
Crushed clove of garlic
1 fresh red chilli (finely diced)
pinch of salt
1 bunch of fresh coriander
2 tbsps cider/white wine vinegar

BEAN PASTE
1 tin of black beans (or equivalent in soaked weight)
1 bunch of fresh coriander (I often use  just one between the salsa and bean paste and add a little more ground coriander as my student budget prefers this)
1 tsp ground coriander
half a tsp ground cumin
quarter tsp cayenne pepper
Pinch of salt
Juice of a lime

GARNISHES
Soured cream (enough for a blob in each tortilla)
Grated cheddar (enough for a sprinkling on each tortilla)
Chopped jalapeno peppers  – also for sprinkling in the tortillas (the kind that come in vinegar in jars)

Chop the ends off the red onion, peel and then cut in half down the centre. Very finely slice this half to get neat little semi-circle slithers of onion. Place these in a large bowl (everything else will also go in here eventually) and mix with the vinegar. Then dice and slice all of the other salsa ingredients, finely chopping the leaves and stalks of the coriander and put these all in the bowl too. This is probably the most time consuming bit of the dish but well worth it!

For the bean paste, put all of the bean paste ingredients in a food processor and blend to form a lovely tasty paste.

Put a griddle pan (or failing that, a frying pan) on a good high heat whilst assembling the first 2 (unless you get several pans on the go, these cook 2 at a time). To assemble, put the tortilla on a plate, take a spoonful of the bean paste and spread it on the tortilla, leaving a good cm or two round the edge. Dollop some soured cream (or creme fraiche) in the middle of this in a little circle and then put a spoonful or two of salsa on. It’s best to go easy with the salsa otherwise it all ends up on the griddle pan which is rather upsetting. I find it’s generally better to serve it up with an extra spoonful of the stuff than overfill it and risk loosing it between the cavernous ridges of the griddle pan.

Once the salsa is on, sprinkle on some cheese and jalapenos then fold the tortilla gently in half  and put it on the hot griddle. Turn the griddle down to a medium heat so you don’t set the whole thing on fire and wait until the edges start turning the tiniest bit browned then flip the tortilla carefully and repeat (a few minutes on each side). If using a griddle this should result in lovely dark griddle lines across the tortillas.

I find that two of these alone is a good substantial lunch and one/two of these with a rice salad or some home made oven chips  is a substantial dinner.

Hannah

Moules

For Jack, Hannah and I, Moules are reminiscent of holidays spent on the Ile de Ré. Alongside Andy’s chilli and lime prawns, bought fresh from the market that morning, this is a staple  lunch time meal before heading to the beach.

Jack made Moules for himself and I a month or so back, maybe yearning warmer weather, classic flavours and outdoor cooking whilst we were hunkering down to a typical February in Edinburgh evening, avoiding the rain and dreary cold. It was also inspired by recent visits to the Mussel Inn on Rose Street in Edinburgh, of which the menu is largely a selection of mussels, oysters and fish, good bread and good frites. A firm favourite, cheap enough for students, too.

Simplest of soul foods, this crock of mussels was just cooked with shallots and garlic, then steamed in its juices with a sauce of white wine, cream and lots of parsley. Served with great hunks of bread on the side, this is fast, beautiful food.

Catriona

‘Clay pot’ sea bass with ginger and lemongrass

I have been feeling unwell for a few days and have been fancying something light and fresh and uplifting – soul food really. One of my absolute favourite places to eat in Sheffield is the Vietnamese restaurant ‘Pho 68’ because they do an incredible clay pot sea bass dish which never fails to uplift so it was with this in mind that I dreamt up this evening’s supper which is not only incredibly delicious (honestly, even if I say so myself!) but is also remarkably healthy for something so tasty.

Ingredients (serves 3/ 4)

2 Whole sea bass, gutted and with heads removed
A great big thumb of fresh root ginger
Several spring onions
2 stalks of fresh lemon grass
4 tablespoons of light soy sauce
2 tablespoons of fish sauce
Juice of 4 limes
400 mls of stock (preferably chicken stock. Vegetable stock is okay but try to use a reduced salt version as the soy sauce is salty enough!)
A pinch of sugar
Half a cucumber
Bunch of coriander

You will also need either a clay pot or some kind of oven suitable dish with a lid (I am using a creuset dish).
Heat the oven to 220 degrees and if you are using a genuine clay pot, put it to soak in cold water for 20 minutes.

Top and tail the lemon grass stalks and bruise them with something like a rolling pin to bring out the wonderful heady scent. Finely slice the lemon grass, spring onions and ginger in thin strips of about an inch or two in length. Lay half of this in the bottom of the dish you will be using. Wash the fish under a tap, checking the scales have all been removed. Score the fish deeply along its width on both sides several times and rub them with olive oil, salt and pepper. Then place the fish on top of the finely sliced ingredients in the dish. Place the rest of the sliced ingredients on top of the fish and turn to preparing the sauce.

In a separate bowl combine the soy sauce, fish sauce, lime juice, stock and sugar and pour this over the fish and chopped vegetables. Put a lid on and place this in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until the sea bass is white and falling away from the bone in moist flakes. Chop the cucumber in the same way that you chopped the rest of the vegetables but slightly thicker and place this in with the sea bass for the last 5 minutes of the cooking time. Coarsely chop the coriander and sprinkle this across the dish to serve. Serve with rice, preferably fluffy steamed jasmine rice (just watch out for bones! If you are not a fan of filleting your fish as you eat it or serve it, I’m sure this recipe would work fine with fillets too – just watch you don’t overcook them!)

Enjoy! For quantities and particularly for the sauce, I based this recipe on one from Nigel Slater’s ‘the kitchen diaries’  – a version in which he steams the sea bass Nigel Slater calls this a ‘soothing supper’ which I can certainly attest to. The wonderful intensity of flavours in this dish is remarkable and incredibly rewarding given the relatively short amount of kitchen time needed – it has certainly served its function as soul food.

Hannah

Well Delia, maybe ‘One IS fun’, at least when it comes to soufflés!

Today I went out for a wonderful and rather filling lunch (Nonna’s, Sheffield, http://www.nonnas.co.uk/), and since I had the evening to myself I decided to tackle something I’ve never before been brave enough to make – a lovely light souffle.

It’s frustrating trying to find a soufflé recipe for one, despite the fact that all sources seem to suggest that they are best cooked in small quantities. However, on this occasion Delia Smith came to the rescue with a book that has previously just sat on my shelf – ‘One is Fun!’ (something my mum sent me to uni with!). This particular soufflé is courgette and cheese which was great, as they were both in my fridge!

Heat the oven to 200 degrees (i put mine on at 185 as its a fan oven) or gas mark 6. grease a 13cm diameter soufflé dish with plenty of butter and fill a roasting tin with 2.5cm of water and place in the oven to heat up with it (the soufflé will be cooked sitting in this water). I don’t own a soufflé dish and whilst I considered using my house mate’s teacups (they’re pretty sturdy), I settled for my pyrex measuring jug on the grounds that a) it’s pyrex, what can go wrong? and b) when it goes wrong, it’s mine which will save a lot of guilt. Luckily, this turned out to be a remarkably successful soufflé dish!

Ingredients:

  • 175g Courgette(s – if they’re small)
  • 1 large egg, separated AND an extra egg white
  • 40g butter
  • 2 rounded teaspoons of flour (a dessert spoon)
  • 55 ml of milk
  • 2 teaspoons of chopped parsley 
  • 2 teaspoons of finely chopped chives or spring onion
  • 10g grated cheese – Cheddar or Gruyère or other hard cheese of choice
  •  Nutmeg
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Grated parmesan or more cheddar for the top
  • Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
1. Cut the courgettes into 4 quarters, lengthways. then slice finely to end up with little delicate quarters of courgette. The precision of this does not matter too much as the courgette melts away as you cook it, the important thing is that it is consistently small, allowing it to cook evenly and rapidly. Put this in a medium frying pan or saucepan (the milk will be poured in later so it must be deep enough to hold a bit more stuff!). Put the butter in with the  courgette and cook slowly on a low to medium heat for about 10 minutes with a lid on, until the courgettes look soft and melty, but make sure to stir to avoid burnt bits. Season with salt and pepper
 
2. When the courgettes are cooked to perfection, add the 2 teaspoons of plain flour and stir around to soak up the butter/courgette juices. Then gradually add the milk a little bit at a time, stirring to create a smooth mixture – this is essentially a courgetty roux. Remove this from the heat and stir in the egg yolk, parsley, chives/spring onion, grated cheese (coarsely grated!!), a good whack of nutmeg and cayenne pepper to taste – for me also a good whack! As those of you who watch masterchef will have learnt this week, cheese for a soufflé must be coarsely grated if you want your soufflé to taste cheesey as finely grated cheese gets completely lost in the mixture, resulting in a disappointing cheese flavour.Taste this and adjust seasoning of the salt, pepper, cayenne and nutmeg.
 
3. In a separate large bowl beat the two egg whites. Make sure that no yolk has mixed in with the whites as it will stop the aeration process working effectively!! Beat until the whites are at the soft peak stage and be careful not to overbeat. Fold the whites a third of the mixture at a time into the bowl of courgettey roux. Gently coax into your souffle dish and sprinkle the top with more cheese. Place very carefully in the hot water in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes. do not open the oven door to check until about 25/30 minutes (especially not early on in the cooking!). 
 
This is lovely served with salad and some tasty bread and makes a surprisingly filling dinner and a substantial lunch. I made waldorf salad with mine as apart from courgette I happened to have stilton, apple, celery and walnuts! This went quite nicely actually, and I had a few lightly toasted slices of the loaf I made yesterday with it (from the recipe posted by Jack a few days ago).
 
What amazed and delighted me was that this soufflé actually worked!! I think I may attempt a dessert soufflé next!
 
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So behold my very poorly photographed and extremely unglamorous but remarkably successful and totally delicious courgette soufflé. A great dinner for a freezing winter’s night and a wonderful treat for the lone diner!

Dreams of Summer Food

Whilst winter food is so wonderfully comforting and can be fresh and salady (what with the winter salads I keep eating), there’s still nothing like good food eaten outdoors in wonderful weather, something which I find hard to replicate in the winter months. This summer we had an amazing holiday for food – staying on the lovely island off the West coast of France called the Ile de Re, we basically just ate beautiful food for a week in beautiful surroundings, some of which I think is very much deserving of a post, so what follows is a review of these beautiful food experiences – hopefully it will inspire you as it has done me!

A particular food highlight of the holiday for me was a rather decadent lunchtime trip to fish restaurant Le Skipper in Saint Martin (right on the harbour front). For starters I had a rather tasty creamy scallop dish, which was followed by a beautifully citrus-y octopus tagine (pictured below)…

Octopus tagine at Le Skipper

 While the savoury courses were very good, it was after these that I was really sold when the most exciting plateful was set before me – a ‘cafe gourmand’ (below), which hit the spot unbelievably (I have real trouble choosing desserts and a bit of everything couldn’t be more ideal!). With the fresh chocolate macaroon, creme anglais, mini trifle (which was boozy), bite sized piece of chocolate torte, the absolutely stunning caramel cake thing (I’m struggling to remember the name of it) and a hot espresso with a wonderful crema this was a dessert to remember!

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As there were a few couples holidaying together, one evening we decided to split the cooking between us and each create an element of one meal – naturally we ended up with the most colossal feast! Here (below) we have griddle chorizo, falafel burger, flat-bread, grilled aubergine, humus, tabbouleh, green salad and tzatziki (all home made). Needless to say, after this ridiculous feast no one could move for the rest of the evening and some serious swimming in the sea was required the following day!

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A standard meal by the coast, but one that cannot be missed, especially by the coast in the France is  moules, cooked in white wine and garlic…

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… These were stunning, with crusty French bread and the moule-infused white wine source you can’t go wrong! There were also prawns cooked in a very large amount of garlic and a little chilli but alas, no picture exists (they’re probably far too messy to have gone near my camera whilst eating them).

An interesting discovery for me was the fish ‘Ling’ which we came across in the bustling fish market of Le Bois Plage en Re. This we cooked on the barbeque, wrapped in a foil parcel full of lemon, dill and garlic.

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And which turned out wonderfully alongside some fantastic meguez sausages…

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So I’ve spent the evening drinking G & T and surveying my summer food snaps… It’s certainly inspired me to make plans for the summer and in the mean time to make some gorgeous summery food as a winter pick-me-up!!

Watch out for a follow up post on learning to prepare oysters!

Hannah

Side Dish Steals the Show

Last night was a lazy one, I was cooking for myself and decided to keep it simple just do pasta and pesto with a little salad. However when I surveyed the cupboard for ingredients it turned out a standard salad was out of the question so I needed to get inventive. Therefore below is the result of what I did, it wasn’t until I sat down to eat it that I realised it was worth sharing (hence the dodgy photo after I’d started eating), and that it was in fact far more than a side dish; it was the best bit! There is no excuse for not giving it a go, took less time than the pasta to cook.

One lesson to take from this, for me anyway, is that when cooking with ‘healthy’ foods I should be bolder with my seasoning. I never shy away from using enough salt or oil when cooking a standard dish but the second part of my meal is to be healthy I under season and avoid cooking in butter. However I now realise I would eat such food more if I conceded even a little to putting enough taste in! Another idea to bulk this meal out into a main course would be the addition of lentils… easy enough.

Unexpectedly Good.. unlike my photography

Ingredients:

  • 3 or 4 Big Handfuls of Spinach
  • Bit of Butter
  • 1 Clove of Garlic
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Walnuts
  • Tomato – diced
  • Salt to taste

Method:

  1. Start by dry frying walnuts and seeds, quantity depends on how much you want (obviously)
  2. Then chop up your garlic and fry in a good knob of butter… on a low heat
  3. Before the garlic starts to brown put in the spinach with a dash of water – remember you are trying to wilt it not fry it. So you may even want to take it off the heat and just use the residual heat of the pan (or put a lid on)
  4. If you put too much water in the drain some off… no drama.
  5. Once the spinach has wilted and taken on the lovely garlic buttery sauce your pretty much there…. chuck in the diced tomato and seeds before seasoning to taste
  6. Enjoy!

 

Jack