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Italian Courgette Crostata with Goat’s Cheese, Garlic and Basil

11 Oct

There is a whole field of courgette plants that I pass every morning with the dog. I have been watching the vegetables grow out of their delicate sunshine flowers and waiting for the day that I arrive and they have  all been harvested. I really hope they don’t leave them too long. They do that a lot here. Leave the courgettes to get too big before they pick them. I know if you grow your own that it is difficult to keep up with the mountain of courgettes that the plants produce but on a farm there is no excuse.

There is nothing worse than big, fat, watery courgettes. You really need them when they are young, firm and still squeaky. Like these ones I found at the market on Sunday.  These were only a euro for a kilo so I had to buy a kilo obviously.

Then you get home and realise you have a load of courgettes. One of my favourite things to cook with them at the moment is this crostata, we have it for dinner about once a week. A crostata is a freeform tart, an Italian version of a French galette. You cut a big circle of pastry, leave an inch or two border spread the base with some ricotta or yoghurt mixed with garlic & herbs, then make pretty concentric circles with courgette slices and brush with some herby garlic oil. You then roll up and crimp the edges and bake. It’s as easy as that, especially with this quick olive oil pastry recipe.

Courgette Crostata with Goat’s Cheese, Garlic & Basil Oil

Serves 4-6 as part of a meal. Vegetarian. Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

For the spelt olive oil pastry:

  • 250 g spelt or wholemeal flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dried herbs (I used 1/2 thyme 1/2 oregano)
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) olive oil
  • 120 ml (1/2 cup) cold water

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, salt and herbs, drizzle in the olive oil mixing/mashing it in with a fork until well combined (a bit like crumble mix). Measure out the water then add an ice-cube to it. Slowly pour the cold water (not the ice-cube) into the flour and mix it in with the fork until just absorbed then bring it together with one hand kneading a little just until it forms a cohesive ball. Do not over work or it will be tough. shape into a flat disc, wrap in cling film and rest in the fridge until ready to use. It doesn’t need long but will keep well for a few days like that.

For the filling:

  • 2 firm small/med. courgettes, sliced into 1/2 cm coins on a slight diagonal
  • 1 pot goats yoghurt (about 100ml) or ricotta or greek yoghurt
  • a handful of grated manchego cheese (or parmesan/cheddar)
  • 25 gr crumbled goats cheese or feta
  • grated lemon zest 1/2 tsp
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • a pinch of dried chilli flakes (optional)
  • 1+1/2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for brushing
  • fresh basil leaves, finely sliced (plus extra for garnish)  or 1 tsp basil pesto
  • salt & black pepper

Lay the courgette slices on kitchen paper, sprinkle with salt and leave to sit while you prepare the pastry & filling.

In a small bowl mix (or blend) together the olive oil, garlic, chilli flakes, basil (or pesto) & lemon zest. Mix 1 tbsp of this in another bowl with the yoghurt (or ricotta), and cheeses. Season with salt & black pepper.

Preheat the oven to 200C and line a baking sheet with baking paper.  Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface, turning it quarter turns as you go to stop it sticking, to a very rough circle about 2-3 mm thick.  Take your largest dinner plate or serving plate,  place it lightly on the pastry and cut around it, remove the excess pastry and keep it in the fridge if there is enough for another small tart. Remove the plate with a sharp knife and lift the circle carefully, on a floured rolling pin, onto the lined baking tray.

Leaving a border round the edge of about an inch or two, spread the cheesy mixture out evenly over the pastry. Dry the tops of your courgette slices well with kitchen towel and then start laying them, overlapping slightly, around the edge still leaving the border clear.  When you have finished the outside circle start another circle going in the opposite direction just inside the first. Then overlap a few slices in the middle. See pictures above for these stages.

Drizzle and/or brush the rest of the garlicky herb oil all over the courgettes and then start to fold up the edges by turning the paper and folding and pleating as you go. Brush the pleated border with a little olive oil and bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes until bubbling and golden. Leave to sit for 5 minutes then scatter over a few fresh basil leaves and serve.

Serve with a simple lemon & olive oil dressed green salad or this delicious White Bean Mash. This is a very versatile recipe, you could easily switch up the herbs and cheese to use whatever you have in the fridge.

I know I said I bought a kilo of courgettes and I only used two of them in this dish and I also know that a lot of you are overrun with courgettes at certain times of the year so maybe, like me,  you could have a go at making this deliciously light Zucchini Green Chilli Cornbread or these very moreish Baked Zucchini Fries as well.

Have a Great Weekend!!

 

Yellow Cherry Tomato Tarte Tatin with Fresh Herbs

29 Aug

I bought some of these little organic yellow tomatoes at the market and have been saving them to star in something rather than just adding them anonymously into salads. Their beauty deserves a leading role.

A tarte tatin is one of those recipes, like souffle, that strikes fear into the hearts of many. This however, is really easy. There I’ve said it. I’m just waiting for the backlash now.

I used my simple spelt flour olive oil pastry recipe to keep it vegan and because it’s so much quicker than using butter and letting the pastry rest. I used honey and a sherry vinegar syrup drizzle to add sweetness but you could use agave syrup (to stay vegan) and balsamic syrup would be lovely too.

Sprinkling the tomatoes with a handful of breadcrumbs before covering them with pastry soaks up a lot of  the juice that leaks out of the tomatoes while cooking and helps to hold them together with the honey.

Turning it out is the scary part but be careful and confident, or get The Washer Up to do it because you burnt yourself on the handle of the frying pan. You will need an ovenproof frying pan obviously, no plastic handles please that would be messy.

You could also use a shop-bought puff pastry for this recipe to save time. The recipe for the olive oil pastry is here. I used about half of that amount for an 8″ tarte. The amount of tomatoes will depend on the size of your frying pan. You need to cover the base snugly so they can’t move about.

Yellow Cherry Tomato Tarte Tatin Recipe

Serves 2, vegan/vegetarian, wheat-free. I used an 8 “/20 cm ovenproof frying pan/skillet

  • about 250 g yellow (or a mix) cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp honey/agave syrup
  • sea salt & black pepper
  • dried oregano
  • balsamic or sherry vinegar syrup
  • a handful of breadcrumbs
  • olive oil spelt flour pastry (or your choice of pastry)
  • fresh basil, thyme or oregano leaves to garnish

Preheat the oven to 200 C. Put the olive oil in the frying pan/skillet and cover the base with a snug even layer of cherry tomatoes. You want to fill any gaps as much as possible. Drizzle over the honey/agave syrup and balsamic/sherry vinegar syrup. Season well with oregano, salt & pepper and leave to cook over a medium heat for a few minutes.

Meanwhile on a floured surface,  roll out the pastry to a rough circle about 2 or 3 mm thick and about the same size as the top of the frying pan. Sprinkle a handful of breadcrumbs all over the top of the tomatoes and remove from the heat. Cover the tomatoes with the circle of pastry and tuck the edges down the inside of the pan encasing the tomatoes. Prick all over the top of the pastry with a sharp knife and bake for 25-30 minutes (depending on size) until the pastry is cooked.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes (preferably longer). When ready to turn out, tip away any excess liquid (I didn’t have any) and run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the sides. Using oven gloves if still hot, place a large plate upside down on top of the pan and press down hard, then quickly and carefully flip the whole thing over so the pan is upside down and the tarte falls out onto the plate. Remove the pan and replace any tomatoes that may have fallen out of their place.

Serve at room temperature scattered with the fresh herbs. Slice and eat with a green salad or offer around thinner slices as a canape before dinner.

Bon Appetit!

Rustic Plum and Lavender Galette

4 Jul

This post is dedicated to my Auntie Pat who left us unexpectedly on Monday night.  She was an amazing woman who lived life to the full and was always there for everyone no matter what. She has left a huge void in all our lives and no one really knows what to do next.

A Shining Star

She was like the sun

And we were all little planets floating around in her orbit

Some  near, some far away

But all held together by the magnetism of her warmth and love

They say the sun is just a huge star

And that the stars died millions of years ago

But we can still see them at night

So as long as there are stars up in the sky

She, the sun, will never die

I used the same wholemeal olive oil pastry recipe that I used for my Fresh Fig & Goat’s Cheese Quiche but added a few tablespoons of sugar, reduced the salt and added some dried lavender instead of the rosemary and oregano.

I’ve been wanting to make a galette for a while now but when I saw this recipe with stunning pictures on Cafe Fernando I knew I had to copy it. Arranging the plums like this is not as difficult as it looks but slicing them is a little fiddly, you need quite firm plums if you pardon the expression.

This amount of pastry made enough for one large galette and two mini individual ones. I cut around a large dinner plate for the large and two bread plates or saucers for the mini ones. I made a mini fig galette a mini plum. You could use nectarines, peaches, apples, pears or apricots too. Just try to keep them in one layer so the fruit doesn’t get too wet and make the pastry soggy.

Rustic Plum & Lavender Galette

Makes 1 large plus two mini individual galettes. Vegan.

Pastry recipe from Chocolate & Zucchini. Filling from Cafe Fernando

Prep time: 35 mins Cooking time 45 mins

  • 250 g wholemeal or spelt flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp chopped dried lavender (optional)
  • 2 tbsp raw or soft brown sugar
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) olive oil
  • 120 ml (1/2 cup) cold water

Mix the flour, salt, sugar & lavender (if using) in a large bowl then slowly add the oil mixing/mashing it in with a fork until crumbly. Add an ice-cube to the water and slowly pour it (not the ice-cube) into the flour and mix it in with the fork until just absorbed then bring it together with one hand kneading a little just until it forms a cohesive ball. Do not over work or it will be tough.

Roll it out on a lightly floured surface, turning it quarter turns as you go to stop it sticking, to the correct size about 2-3 mm thick. Flour your largest dinner plate, turn it onto the pastry and cut around it so you have a large circle. Carefully remove the circle to a piece of baking parchment and put in the fridge for 30 minutes while you prep the filling. Make mini ones with the leftover pastry using small bread plates or saucers.

  • plums (I used about 8 or 9 small ones and a couple of figs for the mini galette)
  • 2 tbsp or more raw or brown sugar (depending how sweet, or not the plums are)
  • 1 or 2 tbsp ground almonds (optional) I used this with the figs to soak up their juices
  • olive oil
  • apricot or plum jam
  • water

Prepare your fruit by halving, removing the stones and slicing them into 3- 5 mm thick pieces. They don’t have to be perfect, it’s easier if the fruit is underripe.

Preheat the oven to 190 C. Place the pastry circle on the baking paper on a baking tray. Leaving a border around the edge of about 1+ 1/2 inches clear, sprinkle a tablespoon of sugar (plus the tablespoon of ground almonds for juicier fruit) evenly over the base of the pastry circle.

Overlap the fruit in a circle all around the outside edge inside the border. Then make another circle of overlapping fruit, going in the opposite direction, just inside the first one. Finish off with a mini circle going the same direction as the first one in the middle of the circle. (see pictures above).

Start to carefully roll up the edge of the pastry towards the fruit turning the tart (or paper) as you go around until it’s all done. Brush the edges of the pastry with olive oil and sprinkle the sugar all over the fruit. Use more if you think the fruit is very tart.

Bake for 40 -45 minutes (25-30 for the minis) until the pastry is golden and the fruit cooked. Leave to cool for 10 minutes. Make the glaze by melting a few tablespoons of seedless jam in a pan with a few tablespoons of water until it forms a smooth syrup. Paint this all over the fruit and serve the galette warm. Some vanilla ice cream or  creme fraiche would be nice to go with it but it is good on its own too.

I just wish she could be here to enjoy it.

For you Auntie Pat

With Lots of Love

Fig, Goat’s Cheese and Caramelised Red Onion Quiche with Easy Olive Oil Pastry

2 Jul

I was clambering up slopes trying to get some good pictures of the early season figs, brevas, yesterday morning while walking the dog. On the way back we went to the Sunday morning organic market and found a box of gorgeous looking specimens that I couldn’t resist. Brevas are larger and darker than the small green figs that ripen later in the year and have a very short season. If you see any you have to buy them, well I do anyway.

I love the combination of figs and goat’s cheese, it works so well. The contrast of the sweetness of the figs with the sharp salty goat’s cheese is heaven. You can just chop them up and put them both in a salad with an olive oil and sherry vinegar syrup dressing if you like but it’s been a while since I posted a quiche recipe and this one is special.

I’ve found a foolproof (yes even for you dad) olive oil pastry recipe. It’s quick and easy. You make it, roll it out straight away (no hour-long resting) put it in your tart/quiche tin and leave it in the fridge for half an hour while you prep the filling. Love it.

I blind baked it for about 10 minutes before putting the filling in because I was worried about getting a soggy bottom. Nothing worse than a soggy bottom. With a drier filling I wouldn’t bother. This amount of pastry made enough for my 9 inch/23 cm quiche dish with some left over for a little individual 4 or 5 inch/12 cm tart tin. It is the right amount for a large 11-12 inch/28-30cm tart tin.

Fig, Goat’s Cheese & Red Onion Quiche with Olive Oil Pastry Recipe

Makes a 28-30 cm quiche. Vegetarian. Pastry recipe from Chocolate & Zucchini

Prep time 35 mins  Cooking Time: 35 mins

  • 250 g spelt or wholemeal flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dried herbs (I used 1/2 thyme 1/2 oregano)
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) olive oil
  • 120 ml (1/2 cup) cold water

Lightly oil & flour your tart tin. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, salt and herbs, drizzle in the olive oil mixing/mashing it in with a fork until well combined (a bit like crumble mix). Measure out the water then add an ice-cube to it. Slowly pour the cold water (not the ice-cube) into the flour and mix it in with the fork until just absorbed then bring it together with one hand kneading a little just until it forms a cohesive ball. Do not over work or it will be tough.

Roll it out on a lightly floured surface, turning it quarter turns as you go to stop it sticking, to the correct size about 2-3 mm thick. Flour your rolling-pin and roll the pastry onto it lifting it gently over to the tart tin and unroll the pastry onto the tin. Push the pastry into the tin (do not stretch it) and trim off the excess. Keep it to make a little one if you have enough. Put it in the fridge for 30 minutes while you make the filling.

  • 1 or 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 medium red onions, finely sliced
  • salt
  • 1 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary & oregano mixed
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 or 3 fresh figs, sliced or chunked
  • 100-150 gr goat’s cheese
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 pot (125 gr) goat’s yoghurt (or greek yoghurt)
  • milk (goat’s milk preferably, I used oat milk)
  • salt & black pepper

Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium high heat and cook the onions and herbs with a pinch of salt for about 5 minutes until starting to brown. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile heat the oven to 200 C. Prick the base of the tart all over with a fork. Blind bake the tart case (with baking paper & beans) for about 8 minutes for the large quiche (5 minutes for individual). Remove the paper & beans and put back in the oven for 3 minutes (2 minutes for small) to set the pastry.

Spread the red onions evenly over the base, crumble/break the goat’s cheese and scatter all over then fill in the gaps with the chopped/sliced figs.

In a measuring jug, beat together the eggs then beat in the yoghurt until combined. Add enough milk to take it up to about 450 ml beating again and season well with salt & black pepper.

Open the oven, put the tart on the middle oven shelf, pull it out and then pour the egg mixture into the tart, gently push the shelf in and close the door. This stops the mixture slopping everywhere hopefully.

Bake until the quiche is just set and slightly browned about 20-30 minutes, less for a small one. Leave to cool slightly and serve warm (not hot) or at room temperature.

This is perfect picnic food, best served at room temperature it really is delicious. Goat’s cheese, figs and caramelised red onions how could that be anything other than lovely. Just serve it with a peppery, crunchy green salad. and a glass of chilled rose maybe. Summer is here. Well it is here anyway!

I am really pleased with this pastry recipe, definitely going to try a sweet version next. I’m thinking a rustic fruit galette, can’t wait. This time of year it all about fruit and there is a lot of it. Plums, peaches, nectarines, figs the list goes on. Dessert for breakfast, lunch and dinner, sound good to me!

Buen Provecho!

Individual Apricot, Almond and Rosewater Tartlets

2 Jun

I have spoken before in a recent post about inspiration. These pretty little tarts came into being because I pass apricot trees laden with fruit, beautiful roses and young green almonds every morning when I run with the dog. These things stick in my head and come out in the form of food generally.

I was going to make an apricot galette inspired by Pease Pudding’s stunning Pear & Chocolate Galette but I wanted to make my pastry using spelt flour and use olive oil instead of butter. The olive oil pastry idea came from Food To Glow’s olive oil crust recipe. It’s a savoury recipe for a  gorgeous Tandoori Cauliflower Tart but she also talks about a sweet version of the pastry using ground almonds and vanilla. This got me thinking.

This is what I do you see, go off on a tangent. I end up using about four different recipes at the same time taking the bits I need from each one. Both ladies above suggested using Chocolate & Zucchini’s olive oil pastry recipe but then I found an apricot and almond tart using a sweet olive oil pastry on La Tartine Gourmande.

So I went with that one. And the pastry is lovely, for a tart. It’s just a bit too delicate for a galette. It’s a really short pastry which means it’s kind of like a biscuity shortbread rather than a pastry you can fold around a fruit filling without it cracking. So the little tart tins came out and the galette got put back a bit. I know my friend Jeanne said recently that she had lots of peaches and plums growing at the moment and both of those would be perfect in a galette.

Apricot, Almond & Rosewater Tartlets

Makes 2 x 10cm tartlets, vegan, wheat-free. Adapted from La Tartine Gourmande

  • 7 or 8 apricots
  • 2 or 3 tbsp rosewater
  • 100 gr spelt flour (or wholemeal/plain)
  • 30 gr raw or soft brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp ground almonds for the pastry
  • pinch salt
  • 2 drops almond extract
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp water (maybe)
  • 2 tbsp ground almonds for the filling
  • 2 tbsp honey or agave syrup
  • flaked almonds
  • icing sugar to serve

 For the pastry, mix the flour, sugar, ground almonds and salt in the bowl of a food processor (or you can do it by hand). Add the almond extract and olive oil and mix/ pulse until crumbly, stop if necessary to scrape the sides of the bowl and make sure that everything is well incorporated. Pulse until it forms a ball that leaves the side of the bowl, you may have to add a little water a teaspoon at a time to get it to hold together. Wrap it in cling film, flatten it into a disc and put in the fridge for at least an hour.

Half the apricots and remove the stones, the skin of mine came off really easily when I was preparing them but you can leave it on if you like. Cut each half into 4 wedges, put in a bowl and sprinkle over the rosewater. Leave this to marinate while your pastry is resting.

Preheat your oven to 180 C. Cut the dough into two equal pieces and roll them out between two sheets of floured clingfilm, this stops it sticking to the work surface & rolling-pin. Roll them into rough circles to fit your tart tins about 2-3 mm thick. Lift them carefully on the clingfilm and place into the tins. Push the dough into the tins so it is even, trim around the top with a sharp knife and patch up any cracks with the off cuts.

Prick the bases all over with a fork and then sprinkle over a thin layer of ground almonds. Arrange the apricots slices in a fanned circle around the edge and put 2 slices in the middle. Squeeze the honey/agave syrup over the fruit and top with some flaked almonds. Bake for about 25 minutes, leave to cool slightly and dust with a layer of icing sugar to serve. Some rose petals scattered over look pretty too.

Have a great weekend!

15 on Orange Blossom and Strawberry Custard Slices

22 May

Following on from yesterday’s post about inspiration and where I get my ideas from, this recipe illustrates perfectly the combination of factors that come together to create something nice to eat. Because that is what we are talking about here. Food that you (and I) want to eat. And you want to eat these, I can tell. You’re dribbling.

Strawberries are at the peak of their season here at the moment, so they are cheap and bursting with flavour. Well these ones are anyway, so they need to star in a recipe.

Every morning for the past month or so I have been running with the dog surrounded by the intoxicating scent of orange blossom. I know, I’m lucky. It is such a beautiful smell that hits you as soon as you walk out of the front door. Well I do live in Andalucia. Anyway the past couple of days it has been noticeable in its absence. We are coming to the end of the orange blossom season and I realised that I haven’t used its aromatic orange blossom water in a recipe this year.

On our last day in Cape Town we went for Sunday lunch at the 15 on Orange Hotel. Every Sunday they have a buffet lunch for 265 Rand that includes endless bubbly. Yes, endless bubbly. Are you mad? Have you met my Dad? And me come to that if you’re talking about bubbly. It’s not cheap stuff either, we really enjoyed quite a few glasses of the Graham Beck Brut Rose.

The hotel is elegant, modern, luxury designer chic . An enormous Murano glass chandelier with a staircase inside leading to a private lounge dominates the luxurious bar area. The lighting is actually really impressive throughout the hotel.

Now when you talk about buffets in hotels what springs to my mind is elbowing your way around a table filled with wilting salad, crusty under the lights sandwiches, dried up slices of meat hidden by a slimy gravy and suspect piles of defrosted prawns. Not my thing, at all. This couldn’t be more different. The restaurant is bright, modern and in no way does it smell of boiled meat.

The standard of the food is unbelievable. It’s the best looking buffet I’ve ever seen.  Beautiful feta salads, mozzarella & tomato Caprese with basil pesto, roasted vegetable terrine, beetroot tian, a cheese selection with chutneys. That’s just the veggie starters by the way. For main course I had an excellent Eggplant Parmigiana but it was the desserts that impressed me the most.

The selection was mind-blowing. Chocolate cherry tortes, blueberries & cream violet syrup shots, cape gooseberry madeleines.

A cake stand full of chewy meringues, chocolate or caramel & cinnamon, white chocolate sacher torte, and enormous pink marshmallows. The keep bringing out new things too. It’s amazing.

It is seriously worth coming here just for the desserts and bubbly. You want to try them all because they look so good. They are all quite dainty so you don’t feel like such a pig for eating more than one. I had the cinnamon caramel meringue, the chocolate cherry torte and one of these strawberry custard slices.

So when I got home and strawberries came into season here, I started badgering them for the recipe. And here it is. The only thing did differently was add some orange blossom water to my custard. I cut my puff pastry into fairly small rectangles 3 x 9 cm so they are quite ladylike and afternoon tea-ish. You can make yours bigger if you like.

Strawberry & Orange Blossom Custard Slice

Makes 30 -36 3 x 9cm slices. Adapted from the 15 on Orange recipe

Remember to defrost the puff pastry in the fridge overnight before you need it.

Prep time: 15 mins Cooking Time: 10-15 mins Assembly time: 15 mins

  • 1 block/roll puff pastry (defrosted in the fridge overnight)
  • about 500 gr fresh strawberries
  • 2 or 3 tbsp clear seedless fruit jam/jelly for glazing (I used apricot)
  • 1 or 2 tbsp water

For the Creme Patissiere (custard or pastry cream)

  • 200 ml milk
  • 55 gr sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 25 gr cornflour/cornstarch
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1+1/2 tsp orange blossom water (or to taste)
  • 1 or 2 tbsp milk to finish

Preheat the oven to 190 C and line a baking sheet with baking paper.

On a floured board, roll out the pastry to a large rectangle about 2 mm thick and trim the edges so they are straight. My rectangle was 27 x 36 cm so I cut it into 36 mini rectangles 3 x 9 cm. (9 columns 4 rows). But you can cut them whatever size you like.  Put them on the lined baking sheet, dock them well with a fork (this stops them rising too much) and put them in the freezer for 5 minutes.

Bake  for 10 to 15 minutes until puffed, golden and cooked all the way through. Some will rise a bit wonky or too much but you can ignore those there’s still loads left. Leave to cool on a wire rack. Meanwhile make the creme patissiere.

Carefully bring the milk to the boil with the vanilla extract and orange blossom water, then turn it off before it boils properly.

Meanwhile whisk the yolks with the sieved cornflour and sugar to a smooth paste. Add a splash of the hot milk to the egg mixture and whisk to loosen. Add this back into the pan on a medium high heat and whisk continuously until it starts to thicken. Remove from the heat when it is thick and taste it. If it still tastes of flour or needs loosening up add a splash of milk, return to heat and whisk it in. When it is ready cover the top of the custard directly with cling film to stop a skin forming.

Hull the strawberries by pulling out the green stalks and removing the stalk area with a small knife. Thinly slice them from top to bottom.

To assemble: pipe  or spoon a small amount of creme patissiere along the pastry rectangles from front to back. Then top with three (or more if bigger rectangles) slices of strawberry, start at the back and position the pointy end up.

To glaze: heat the jam/jelly in a small pan with the water until it is a liquid. Brush the glaze over the positioned strawberries.

You will now realise that you have quite a few custard slices. Obviously you will have to eat a few just to see how they taste but beware, they are addictive. My suggestion is to do what I did and donate them to friends (thanks Rhian & Jeanne) because they will love them and so will their husbands.

And you won’t end up the size of a house and blame it all on me. Hopefully.

For more information about 15 on Orange Hotel and their menus visit their website here.

Overture’s Mushroom Vol au Vent, Cream Sherry, Shaved Truffle and Parsley

17 May

This is my interpretation of the Mushroom Vol au Vent main course I had in Overture restaurant at the Hidden Valley Wine Estate in Stellenbosch.

I must point out first of all that this Vol au Vent is as far removed from the Seventies buffet staple filled with some dubious looking prawn cocktail as it is possible to be.

The Chef at Overture, Bertus Basson, has elevated the humble pre-bought classic to fine dining status and I managed to get the recipe. Result.

As you drive into Hidden Valley you are surrounded by stunning scenery that is the contrasting backdrop to an architectural, modern building that houses the wine tasting area and Overture restaurant with its beautiful dining terrace taking full advantage of those spectacular views.

We opted for the 4 course Chef’s Menu with wine pairings, there are also 5 and 8 course options and the menu changes daily.

After ordering our food the professional waitress (who also had a personality, very rare) brought us the bread (below bottom). Not just any bread basket though, the ciabatta and bricohe were accompanied by a smoked aubergine puree, red salt, confit garlic, aioli and a selection of olives all served on a slate tile, my new favourite thing. Everything looks good on a slate tile.

My starter (above top) was Variations of Beetroot, Buffalo Ridge feta, balsamic onion. The contrast of the sweet roasted and pureed beets with the sharp salty feta was wonderful along with the finely sliced lacey, crisp toasts. The Washer Up had the Chicken liver parfait, smoked raisin, verjus jelly, raisin jus (below) which was light and creamy. It was followed by a Peach Sorbet palate cleanser.

My main course: Vol au Vent, mushroom, brandy cream, celeriac, Brussel sprouts was the standout dish for me.  Beautifully crisp and light pastry with an intensely rich and creamy mushroom sauce that was perfectly seasoned and totally moreish. The roasted Brussel sprouts and celeriac gave the dish amazing flavour and I don’t usually like them at all. All topped off with some slivered truffle, you can’t go wrong with truffle and mushrooms can you. This dish was heavenly.

The Washer Up ordered the Pickled Ox Tongue, gnocchi, mustard, roots (below) and really enjoyed it. He was trying to overcome his fear of eating tongue and did. Something about being made to eat tongue out of a tin when he was little apparently. The palate cleanser was a Berry Thyme Sorbet, fresh raspberries, milk jelly.

The desserts were huge, surprisingly so, but we managed to force them down. Coffee Souffle, vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce served with a Chocolate Grappa shot. And a Deconstructed Lemon Meringue Pie, cinnamon crumble, lemon ice cream.

Overture restaurant is consistently awarded and in the Top 10 restaurants in South Africa which is a lot to live up to. I’m pleased to say that this place doesn’t disappoint, the excellent food and service is definitely up there with the best.

The secret to a light and very well risen Vol au Vent is (I now know) piling three layers of puff pastry on top of each other, glazing with egg wash in between each layer, cutting a circle in the middle of the square half way through the pastry and, very importantly, trimming the edges so that it can rise evenly.

 Following these steps, and making sure you chill your pastry before you put it in the oven, should result in perfectly puffed up pastry. Well if it worked for me….

You then leave them to cool before removing the circle from the top of the vol au vents.

And then hollowing out the inside so you can fill it with gorgeous creamy mushrooms.

In my version I used Greek yoghurt rather than cream (those chefs love a bit of butter and cream) and I used a sweet sherry rather than brandy because that’s what I had. Mushrooms and sherry are a classic combination anyway, oh and I added a bit of fresh parsley.

*Remember to defrost your puff pastry in the fridge overnight before you need it*

Mushroom Vol au Vent Recipe

Makes 3, vegetarian. Adapted from Bertus Basson

Prep time: 30 mins (not including defrosting) Cooking time: 20-25 mins

  • 1 roll/block puff pastry (defrosted in the fridge overnight)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 100 ml milk
  • 500 gr mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • a big splosh or 2 of sweet sherry or brandy
  • 3 sml pots (375 ml) Greek yoghurt
  • salt & black pepper
  • 3 tbsp cream cheese
  •  a big handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped plus leaves for garnish
  • milk to thin sauce if necessary
  • a couple of thin slices of black truffle, finely julienned (optional)

Whisk together, the egg, sugar and milk with a fork for the glaze and set aside. Roll out the puff pastry on a floured board to a 12 x 12 inch square about 2-3 mm thick. With a sharp knife cut into 9 equal squares 4 x 4 inches each. Three rows of three (see picture above).

Stack three squares on top of each other, brushing with glaze in between each layer. Repeat so you have three stacks of three.  Put these in the fridge for about 15 minutes to chill. Preheat oven to 180 C and line a baking sheet with baking paper.

Remove from the fridge and trim the edges with a sharp knife. Brush the top with the glaze (if you haven’t already) and use a round cutter or glass to cut a circle in the centre of each square about half way through the pastry. Place on the lined baking tray and bake for 20-25 minutes until puffed and golden brown.

Leave to cool then remove the circle from the top of each one. I kept mine  to top each one off, like a little hat. Now hollow them out by removing as much of the pastry as possible from inside.

For the filling, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan over a medium high heat and cook the onion and a pinch of salt for about 4 minutes until softened and starting to brown, then add the garlic & thyme and cook for a further minute. Add the sliced mushrooms and cook until nicely browned.

Add a couple of sploshes of sherry and cook out for a minute then add the yoghurt, stirring to combine. Season well with salt & black pepper and cook to reduce the sauce slightly and intensify the flavour. Turn off the heat and stir through the cream cheese and chopped parsley.  Taste for seasoning.

I wanted my filling quite thick and creamy, if you would like it more like a sauce, just add some milk at the end until you are happy with the consistency.

To serve: Heat the vol au vent for a few minutes in a warm oven, place on  your serving plate, fill with the mushrooms, top with the pastry circle and garnish with the slivered truffle and parsley leaves. I served this with a simple green salad dressed with olive oil & lemon juice. Roasted Brussel sprouts and celeriac are lovely too if they are in season where you are.

For more information about Hidden Valley wines and Overture Restaurant visit their website here.

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