Tag Archives: fennel seeds

White Grape, Manchego and Fennel Seed Tartlets

16 Jul

Grapes are just coming into season here now. Where we walk with the dog there are vines, heavy with juicy bunches growing along the fences at the side of the paths. Every day they ripen a little more with the intense heat of the sun.

I’ve never cooked with grapes before. At the restaurant we had an Andalucian salad with Manchego cheese, grapes, Serrano ham and a Jerez (sherry) vinegar dressing that sold very well in the summer.

This got me thinking about the grape and Manchego combination. The Washer Up used to make a Manchego & Red Onion Tartlet that was delicious. He cut the puff pastry into triangles a little bigger than the triangle of cheese and made a red onion marmalade to go on the top. It was a very popular starter.

My version just swaps the red onion marmalade for a grape compote. I used elderflower cordial in the compote because it is the very essence of summer but you can use grape juice if you can’t get any. I bought mine in Ikea.

The fennel seeds idea came from a recipe for Grape & Fennel Seed Focaccia in the Ottolenghi Cookbook. I am slightly Ottolenghi obsessed at the moment. The fennel seeds add an interesting flavour and texture, and the Spanish do love their anis so it finished off the dish nicely.

If you strain the compote before it cools you will also have a grape and elderflower syrup to drizzle over the finished dish, but it’s not essential.

Remember to put the frozen puff pastry in the fridge to defrost the night before you need it.

White Grape, Manchego & Fennel Seed Tartlets Recipe

makes about 6 or 7 tartlets, vegetarian

For the Grape, Elderflower & Fennel Seed Compote

  • about 400 gr seedless white grapes, stemmed & halved
  • 50 gr caster sugar
  • 3 tbsp elderflower cordial
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds, roughly crushed in a mortar & pestle

Stir the grapes and sugar in a large saucepan so all the grapes are coated and set aside for 5 minutes. Add the elderflower cordial and half of the crushed fennel seeds. (Keep the rest for sprinkling on the tarts later).

Bring to a boil over a medium high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the syrup thickens and coats the back of a spoon, about 20 -25 minutes. Pour the compote into a sieve over a bowl to collect the syrup and let the grapes drain well.

Store the grapes and syrup, covered, separately in the fridge until needed.

For the Tartlets

  • 1 block frozen puff pastry, defrosted in the fridge overnight
  • flour for dusting
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten for egg wash
  • 6 or 7  5mm thick triangular slices of Manchego cheese, rind removed
  • grape compote (see above)
  • the rest of the crushed fennel seeds (see above)

Dust your work surface & rolling-pin with flour and roll out the block of pastry, with the narrowest end facing you, into a long thin rectangle about 2 or 3 mm thick.

See photo above. Place one of the slices of Manchego onto the beginning (nearest you) of the pastry rectangle so it is pointing like an arrow to the right. Cut around the cheese leaving a 5 mm border all the way around. Turn the cheese arrow round so it is pointing to the left above the first triangle and do the same. Continue alternating like this until you have run out of pastry. You should get 6 or 7 triangles.

Score a 5 mm border with sharp knife on each pastry triangle but don’t cut all the way through. Trim the short side of the triangle to make it neat.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 220 C.  Line a baking tray with baking paper and place your pastry triangles on it, spaced apart. Put 1 small teaspoon of grape compote in the middle of each of the triangles and spread it out slightly. Don’t go into the 5mm border.

Brush the pastry borders with egg wash and sprinkle a few of the crushed fennel seeds on the borders too (save some for garnishing the finished tart). Cook for about 12 minutes until browned and risen. Keep an eye on them though.

You can keep them like this until you are ready to serve. Then preheat the oven again if necessary, top each with a slice of Manchego and bake for another 2 minutes, just until the cheese melts.

Top with another teaspoon or so of the compote and sprinkle with a little of the crushed fennel seeds. Serve on a flat plate with a simple green salad and drizzle over the grape and elderflower syrup. If your syrup has set in the fridge just heat it up with a bit more elderflower cordial.

These make a great light lunch or starter but you could also quite easily serve them as a dessert/cheese course. They’ve got that sweet cheesey danish pastry feel that would work for afternoon tea too.

They taste just as good at room temperature and would be perfect for a summer picnic with some sparkling elderflower cordial or a nice bottle of chilled cava.

Buen Provecho!!

Things that made me smile today….

Our new friend the Shetland pony. He likes us because we take him carrots.

The Washer Up calls him “Donkey” (from Shrek), I think it might be the teeth!!

Buen Fin de Semana!

Sweet Potato Curry with leek and fennel seed flatbreads

8 Nov

This curry ticks all the right boxes for me. Seasonal, spicy & satisfyingly stodgy. It’s what you need right now, easy to make and tastes amazing. You can substitute different onions and spices into the flatbreads, why not try, red onion & cumin seeds or spring onion & coriander seeds (make sure you crush them first). I like the combination of the sweet leeks with the aniseedy fennel seeds but use whatever you like or have in the house, experiment and enjoy..

Sweet Potato Curry Recipe

Serves 3 -4 Vegetarian 

  • 2 large sweet potatoes scrubbed & cut into 2cm chunks
  • 1 large red onion finely chopped
  • 1 tomato chopped
  • 1 or 2 tbsp tomato paste or passata
  • 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 1 or 2 red chillis (depending on you & the chilli) finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp minced ginger
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp onion seeds/mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • the juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • about 750 ml veg stock
  • a handful of chopped coriander plus leaves for garnish
  • salt & black pepper

Heat some veg oil in a large frying pan or wok over a medium heat. Add the seeds and cook until they start to sputter then add the onion and stir to coat in the spices. Cook  for about 2 minutes until softened then add the garlic, chilli, ginger and the rest of the powdered spices. Cook for another minute then add the chopped tomato, tomato paste/passata and stir again.

Throw in the sweet potato, season with salt & pepper, stir to coat then add half the lemon juice and the veg stock. Bring to the boil then turn the heat down to medium low and cook for about 35 – 40 minutes or until the sweet potato is really soft and the sauce is thickened. When you are ready to serve squeeze over the rest of the lemon juice, sprinkle with chopped coriander and mix well.

While the curry is cooking make your flatbreads and coriander lemon yoghurt raita. You can also make the flatbread dough beforehand and leave it to rest in a bowl covered with cling film at room temperature until you are ready to use it.

Leek & Fennel Seed Flatbreads Recipe

Makes 4 Vegetarian

Adapted from Flavour by Vicky Bhogal

  • 1 leek, halved lengthways, rinsed & thinly sliced
  • about 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 2 tbsp mild olive oil , plus 1 tsp for frying leek
  • 255gr strong bread flour
  • a pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • salt & pepper
  • 125 ml hot water from the kettle

Heat the tsp of oil in a frying pan over a medium high heat and fry the leek, fennel seeds, chilli flakes & black pepper for about 3 minutes then set aside to cool slightly.

In a bowl mix the sifted flour, olive oil and leek together with a metal spoon add a few pinches of salt pressing out any lumps then add the hot water and bring everything together into ball of dough. Flour your hands and the surface and knead for a few minutes until soft and elastic, you may need more flour it should be quite smooth. Put it back in the bowl cover with cling film and leave for at least 30 minutes at room temperature.

Divide the dough into 4 equal balls and, using flour to prevent sticking, roll them out to about 2 or 3 mm thick. (An uneven oval/circle is good!). Preheat a non stick frying pan  until hot. Dry fry them , one at a time over a medium heat (not too hot or they will blister outside before the inside is cooked) for about 2 minutes on each side until crispy and browned in places. Put them on a plate covered with a tea towel to keep warm while you cook the rest..

For the Coriander, Lemon Yoghurt

  • 1 pot greek yoghurt 125 ml
  • the juice of half a lemon
  • a handful of chopped coriander plus leaves for garnish
  • salt & black pepper

Mix all the ingredients together in the yoghurt pot, taste for seasoning then tip into a small bowl for the table garnished with coriander leaves.

Or just heap a generous spoonful directly onto the curry… Yum!

This dish is fantastic for entertaining, you can make it ahead, even the day before it will only get better, and just heat it up when you are ready. Serve it in a gorgeous dish on the table with the coriander lemon yoghurt and the warm, delicious flatbreads.

Everyone is always really impressed when you make your own bread!!!

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