Tag Archives: puff pastry

A Merry Christmas with Mince Pies

24 Dec

Mince Pies

Just a quick hello before I go out to the post office, supermarket, Moroccan shop, forest for more cones and make more of these mince pies. The list is actually a lot longer than that but I am out of bed before 10 am (unheard of) and am not going to get stressed about anything today. I have promised myself. And breathe…

Mince Pies

This is my recipe for mince pies and I have to say that, in my opinion, they beat any shop bought ones by a mile. They are better because: number one they contain Amaretto almond liqueur and anything tastes better with Amaretto in it. They also contain chopped toasted almonds for a bit of crunch, dried cranberries, mandarin zest and, the special ingredient, crystallised ginger. Make these and you’ll never go back to shop bought I promise. Even if you have an ever-increasing list of things to do….

Mince Pie

In the pictures and the recipe below I have used shop bought puff pastry but I have also made a lovely batch with this spelt flour pastry recipe adding a teaspoon of mixed spice to the flour. If you don’t have all the different dried fruits you can just  use the more traditional, raisins and sultanas.

Marvelous Mince Pies Recipe

Makes 12- 16 pies, vegetarian

  • 1 pack frozen puff pastry (defrosted)
  • 4 Tbsp molasses/miel de cana/maple syrup
  • 75 ml sweet sherry or port
  • 250 g moscatel raisins
  • 50 g dried figs
  • 50 g dried apricots, chopped
  • 50 g medjool dates without stones
  • 50 gr dried cranberries
  • 50 g crystallised ginger, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 mandarin, zest first & then juice
  • about 50ml Amaretto (or Cointreau is nice)you may need to add more
  • a few drops of almond extract
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • about 100 -150 gr chopped toasted almonds, roughly chopped
  • olive oil for brushing
  • icing sugar for dusting

In a large pan, dissolve the molasses/miel de cana in the sherry over a gentle heat. Then add the dried fruits, crystallised ginger, spices, zest and  juice of the mandarin and the Amaretto. Bring to a simmer and cook gently for about 15 minutes until all of the liquid has been absorbed stirring occasionally. You may need to add more amaretto if it is absorbed quickly.

Add the almond & vanilla extracts, honey and the nuts. Stir well to combine everything and leave the mixture to cool in a bowl.

When the mixture is cool (very important or the pastry won’t work), preheat the oven to 200 degrees and oil & flour your muffin tins.

Roll out your first piece of puff pastry to a thickness of 2mm (leave the other piece in the fridge). Cut out 6 circles of about 9 or 10 cm diameter and 6 tops of about 7 cm diameter, you may have to re roll the pastry and may get a few more than 6 if you do. Push the larger circles into the muffin tins and fill each pastry case with a dessertspoonful of the mixture. Brush the edges of the pastry base with a little oil and then top with the smaller circles. Push the edges together to seal.

Make a little slit in the top of each with a sharp knife and brush with a little olive oil (or egg wash) and bake for about 15 minutes, until the tops are golden brown and puffy. Keep an eye on them they cook quickly. Leave to cool for a few minutes then take them out of the tin. Leave the tin to cool down completely before rolling out your next batch.

Dust with icing sugar just before serving. You can serve hot, warm or room temperature with cream, ice cream or a glass of Amaretto on the side….

MInce Pies

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! Felices Fiestas!

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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.

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!

Caramelized Onion Tart with Feta and Thyme

4 Mar

I thought I’d show you some pictures today to prove that the weather is not always perfect here.  It still looks beautiful though. Rufus and I walked to the top of this hill yesterday and the weather was on the verge of changing.

By the time we reached the top there was definitely something in the air. Something about the shadows and the clouds.

Rufus knew there was something going on, he could sense it.

You could see the storm clouds moving in above our heads…

So we decided to head home for lunch….

On Monday we went for dinner at our friends Joan & Terry. She made a lovely spiced ginger, carrot & coriander soup followed by a beautiful red onion and goat’s cheese risotto and a delicious apple and almond tart with an Amaretti biscuit base for dessert. I am always really grateful when people who are not vegetarian cook a full vegetarian meal for us. I know how difficult it is if you are not used to it. So thank you again, it was all gorgeous and we really appreciate it.

As we were leaving they gave us a crate (yes a crate) of food to take away with us as they were going back to England in a day or two. Part of the contents of this “food crate” was a bag of onions and some puff pastry.

Caramelized onions are one of my favourite things. Their sweet, savouriness enhances the hell out of  plain cheese sandwich transforming it into something gourmet. Add some veg (or beef) stock, sherry or brandy and cook for 10 minutes and you have an amazing French/Spanish onion soup to top with cheesy croutes. They add a grown up edge to pizzas and can be made into a fantastic caramelized onion dip that I found on Happy When Not Hungry.

My favourite thing to make with caramelized onions though is a tart. It is so easy and tastes lovely. The sweetness of the onions on the thin, crispy, flaky pastry base with a crumbling of some sharp sour cheese is delicious. Add a scattering of fresh herbs and you have an elegant starter or lunch dish. You can even make a big rectangular one to serve four, or cut it into squares or slices for a buffet. It is really versatile you can use whatever cheese and herbs you like. Why not try smoked mozzarella & basil or halloumi, mint & oregano, or try red onions with goat’s cheese & rosemary…..

Caramelized Onion Tarts with Feta & Thyme

serves 4 – 6, vegetarian

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 kg onions, halved, peeled & finely sliced
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp thyme leaves chopped, or dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp chilli flakes (optional)
  • 375 gr (1 block or sheet)puff pastry, defrosted in the fridge overnight
  • 25 gr finely grated Parmesan or Manchego
  • 150 gr Greek Feta cheese
  • a few sprigs of fresh thyme leaves to scatter

Heat the olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat and add in the onions, thyme and chilli flakes. cover with a lid and cook, stirring occasionally for about 20 minutes. Add in the sugar, vinegar, salt & pepper and cook for another 5 minutes until the onion is soft and caramelized. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

Preheat the oven to 220 C. Roll out the pastry, if necessary, to about 2 or 3 mm thick. Cut into a large rectangle with a ruler or cut around some side plates or saucers if you want individual round tarts. You can reroll the off cuts to make more if necessary. Score a 1cm border around the edge of the pastry but don’t cut all the way through. Prick the base inside the scored edges with a fork (see photo above) and sprinkle over the grated parmesan inside the circle too.

Put the caramelized onion on top of the parmesan leaving the border clear. Bake in the preheated oven for 15- 25 minutes depending on the size of your tart/s. Remove from the oven when the pastry is puffed & golden brown.  Crumble over the feta and scatter over some fresh thyme leaves.

Serve with a green salad dressed with olive oil & lemon juice. Depending on how many tarts you make you may have some of the caramelized onions left. Store in a sealed container in the fridge.  If they last that long……….

“Wild” Mushroom, Shallot and Goat’s Cheese Tarts

13 Jan

The inspiration for this dish came from the amazing variety of wild mushrooms we saw growing in the forest where we walk the dog.

Some of them look like leather………

There’s curly ones….

And purple ones…!

I still have absolutely no idea which ones you can eat and which ones are poisonous but I’d say the purple ones are off limits. They seem to like it on damp, dark, mulchy bark and rotting leaves. So does Rufus…

I was too scared to pick any but it got me craving earthy garlic mushrooms and melting cheese. Nigel Slater is always good for earthy, delicious comfort food and he didn’t let me down. This recipe is a mixture of a couple of his recipes. He makes a big rectangular tart from a sheet of puff pastry. I made individual ones because I had some offcuts of pastry left I had to use up, and I don’t like sharing!

 

Mushroom, Shallot & Goat’s Cheese Tarts

serves 2, vegetarian, adapted from a Nigel Slater recipe

  • 1 sheet puff pastry, defrosted in the fridge overnight
  • about 300 gr mushrooms, try to get a mixture of different types
  • 2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 4 or 5 shallots, quartered & peeled 
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • a good squeeze of lemon juice
  •  about 2o – 30 gr butter
  • 100 gr goat’s cheese, sliced into 1/2 cm coins you could use Brie or Tallegio
  • 1/2 tsp fresh chopped rosemary/ thyme leaves, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • salt & black pepper

Melt the butter in a frying pan over a medium low heat and cook the shallots slowly for about 20 minutes until they are softened and caramelized. Meanwhile 1/2 or quarter the mushrooms if large and put them in a bowl with the olive oil, lemon juice,garlic, rosemary, oregano, salt & pepper and mix well.

When the onions are done remove them from the pan, add a bit more butter and throw in the mushrooms and garlic mix. Pre heat oven to 220 degrees. Cook the mushrooms for about 5 minutes until tender and slightly browned. Meanwhile roll out your pastry to about 2 mm thick. If you are keeping it as a rectangle score a border around the edge of the pastry about 2 cm wide and prick all over the centre inside the border with a fork. If not cut two circles (I used side plates) from your pastry and score a 2cm border round the edge & prick the base with a fork.

Put the pastry circles/rectangle on a lined baking sheet and scatter over the shallots and mushrooms, don’t go into the border. Break up the goat’s cheese and stick it in amongst the mushrooms & shallots, sprinkle with a bit more rosemary. Brush the borders with some of the butter from the mushroom pan drizzle over any remaining butter.

 Cook in the preheated oven for 15 – 20 minutes until the pastry is puffed & golden.

Eat with something green, like broccoli, if you think it needs something else. If not, just eat it on it’s own, in slices with your hands like a Mushroom “Puff” Pizza….

    Enjoy!!

Spinach and Feta Fatayers with pine nuts and sultanas

31 Dec

I got the original recipe for Spinach Fatayers from Taste of Beirut. She makes little ones kind of canape style with  a special pastry rolled out really thinly. I had some puff pastry defrosted in the fridge to use up so I decided to go with that. I made them a lot bigger too so they were a main course or lunch portion size each. I added feta cheese to the filling because I love it with spinach, and sultanas to go with the pine nuts. I also added dried mint & nutmeg.  Taste of Beirut always inspires and delivers on flavour, I’m addicted…

Spinach & Feta Fatayers

makes 4 or 5, vegetarian

  • 1 block/ sheet puff pastry defrosted in the fridge overnight (See the original pastry recipe here)
  • 300 gr frozen chopped spinach, defrosted
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 120 gr Greek Feta cheese
  • 50 gr sultanas
  • 50 gr pine nuts, toasted in a dry pan
  • 1 tsp sumac (a crushed dried berry used in Middle Eastern cooking it has a smokey lemony flavour)
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  •  1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • flour for dusting
  • 1 egg, beaten for glazing pastry

Defrost the spinach and squeeze out as much liquid as possible (you can do this in a clean tea towel but don’t use your new favourite one!). Make sure all the water is out of the spinach and that it is really dry. Mix the onions, spices, salt & pepper in a bowl then add the spinach, crumbled feta, pine nuts & sultanas. Whisk the olive oil with the lemon juice and pour it over the spinach mixture, stirring everything well to combine. Put this mixture in the fridge while you roll out the pastry. Preheat the oven to 210 degrees.

Flour your work surface & rolling-pin and roll out the pastry as thinly as possible (about 1 – 2mm). Cut out 4 or 5 circles 6 inches(15 cm) diameter, spoon about 2 heaped tbsp of the mixture into the centre of each circle and spread it out evenly (leave about a 1 cm border clear).

Brush the border with beaten egg, pick up the circle, pinch 2 sides together to from an open cone/triangle. Pinch the edges together so they are sealed.

Then close up the third edge, making a pyramid, pinching the edges together to seal them. It doesn’t matter if there is an opening in the middle.

Brush the tops with beaten egg and place on a baking sheet lined with oiled parchment paper.

Bake in the preheated oven for 15 – 20 minutes or until puffed & golden. Leave to cool slightly before eating. These are best eaten warm or at room temperature.

Serve with a simple cucumber salad dressed with olive oil & lemon juice for lunch or with some spice roasted new potatoes and a cucumber, yoghurt & mint raita for dinner… Enjoy!

“Your Best Recipe” is a monthly round-up of the Food Blogging community’s best recipes hosted by Nancy at Spicie Foodie.  As we come to the end of 2010 people are sharing their best recipes of the year. Click on the badge above to see some fabulous recipes and photos from the last year of cooking and food blogging… Thanks Nancy and Happy New Year to Everyone!!

Easy, Delicious Mince Pies with Mandarin and Ginger Cheat Ice Cream

17 Dec

I should rename this blog 101 things to do with a mandarin….! Well it is Christmas and they are everywhere and I like them.

I didn’t like mince pies until I made some myself, because the Washer Up was begging me to, last Christmas. The bought ones have a strange taste and make your teeth go funny. I thought, if I’m going to make them, I am going to make them better by adding all the Christmas flavours that I love. Like mandarins….

And almonds and hazelnuts and cranberries and Amaretto………! Trust me it makes such a difference. You get the flavour and crunch of the nuts, the sweet sharpness of the cranberries and the punch of the Amaretto. You don’t have to use Amaretto you could use Frangelico to pick out the flavour of the hazelnuts or Cointreau to enhance the orangeyness. If you don’t want to add alcohol you could use cranberry juice, you just need some liquid to soak into the dried fruit while it’s cooking. I use puff pastry because it’s lighter and crispier and you don’t have to make it!!If you’ve never liked mince pies you should give this recipe a go, it might change your mind..

Easy & Delicious Mince Pies Recipe

makes about 18, vegetarian

  • 1 pack frozen puff pastry defrosted in the fridge overnight
  • 75 gr brown sugar
  • 75 ml port or red wine
  • 400 gr mixed dried fruit
  • 100 gr dried cranberries
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 mandarin, zest first & then juice
  • about 50ml Amaretto (or your chosen liqueur)you may need to add more
  • a few drops of almond extract
  •  1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • about 100 -150 gr chopped nuts (I used almonds & hazelnuts)walnuts would be good too
  • 1 egg beaten with a little water
  • icing sugar for dusting

In a large pan, dissolve the sugar in the port or red wine over a gentle heat. Then add the dried fruits, cranberries, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, zest & juice of the mandarin and the Amaretto. Bring to a simmer and cook gently for about 15 minutes until all of the liquid has been absorbed stirring occasionally. You may need to add more amaretto if it is absorbed quickly. Add the almond & vanilla extracts, honey and the nuts. Stir well to combine everything and leave the mixture to cool in a bowl.

When the mixture is cool(very important or the pastry won’t work), preheat the oven to 210 degrees. Butter & flour your muffin tins then roll out your first piece of puff pastry to a thickness of 2mm (leave the other piece in the fridge). Cut out circles of 9 or 10 cm diameter and push them in the muffin tins you should get 9 or 10. Then fill each pastry case with a heaped dessertspoonful of the mixture. With the off cuts of pastry you can cut out Christmas tree shapes to put on the top of the mixture (or use a star cutter). Brush the pastry trees with egg wash and bake for about 15 minutes, until the tops are golden brown. Keep an eye on them they cook quickly. Leave to cool for a few minutes then take them out of the tin. Leave the tin to cool down before rolling out your next batch.

Dust with icing sugar from a height and serve while still warm with a coffee for elevenses or whatever time of day it is…..To make them even more special you can serve them with this easy cheat ice cream. I don’t have an ice cream maker (hint hint!) so this is a great way to “improve” a tub of store-bought vanilla…

Quick Cheat Mandarin & Ginger Ice Cream

  • 1 tub of vanilla ice cream (doesn’t have to be full)
  • the zest of 1 or 2 mandarins
  • some crystallised ginger chopped finely (1 tbsp should be enough)

Take the ice cream out of the freezer and let it soften for about 5 minutes. It should be soft enough to stir but not melted. Stir in the zest and ginger until evenly distributed and put the ice cream back in the freezer to firm up until you are ready to serve it. How easy is that?

This ice cream is really good with the Mince Pies, would be a perfect accompaniment to Christmas Pudding and is also amazing with the Washer Up’s Rhubarb Crumble…Happy Christmas!!

Caribbean Vegetable Patties with Mango and Coriander Yoghurt Chutney

13 Dec

These little pasties/patties were part of a Caribbean meal I made for friends on Friday night. They remind me of the vegetable pasties they sell in the Caribbean shops in Notting Hill and Portobello Road, the ones in the clear plastic packets. I used to live on them when I was working around there, well working & shopping, actually mostly shopping!! I do miss London occasionally, the multicultural buzz and the food, obviously. The fantastic choice of vegetarian food from all over the world. You could eat from around the world just in one street. Anyway, I suppose that living here, in Spain, makes me more creative. It means I continue to learn about food by cooking recipes from around the world rather than going out to eat, cheaper too…!

Caribbean Vegetable Patties

adapted from an www.101cookbooks.com recipe

makes about 15 mini patties, Vegetarian

  • 1 pack (375gr) frozen puff pastry, defrosted in the fridge overnight. If you want to make your own authentic pastry see recipe here
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil (I used vegetable oil)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp dried chilli flakes (I used 1 scotch bonnet fresh chilli, chopped)
  • salt & white pepper
  •  2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • the juice of 1 mandarin & 1/2 a lime
  • about 75 ml of veg stock
  • tbsp grated coconut
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 1 sweet potato, scrubbed & diced
  • a handful of frozen peas
  • a handful of frozen sweet corn
  • 1/4 cabbage finely shredded
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • the other 1/2 lime juice
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • cumin seeds

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium-low heat, add the onion, spices & salt and cook for about 5 minutes until the onions are soft and caramelized slightly. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes more then stir in the juices, veg stock, carrots, sweet potatoes & coconut. Reduce the heat slightly, cover with a lid and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 10- 15 minutes. Stir in the peas, sweetcorn, cabbage, herbs and the rest of the lime juice and cook for 3 minutes more (you don’t want any liquid). Taste & season again with salt & white pepper and leave to cool for at least an hour (I left mine in the fridge over night)

When your filling has cooled preheat the oven to 210 degrees. Flour your work surface and rolling-pin and roll out the pastry, if necessary, to about 2 or 3 mm thick.  Cut out circles of pastry about 12cm (4 1/2 inches) in diameter (I cut around a small bowl). You will have to re roll the off cuts of pastry to get about 12 – 15 circles. Put a heaped tbsp of the filling in the middle of one half of the circle, being careful to leave the edges clear. Get yourself a cup of water, wet you fingers and wet the edges of the pastry. Fold the other half over the filling, press together with your fingers to seal and then crimp around the edges with a fork.

Place the patties on a baking tray lined with baking paper, brush the tops with beaten egg, sprinkle with few cumin seeds and bake until golden brown (about 25 minutes) turning half way through.

These patties are great served hot or cold so they would be perfect for a buffet table or as party food nibbles. Serve them with a chilli sauce or my easy mango & coriander yoghurt chutney. You may have some of the filling leftover, I did, so I made an individual Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie by topping it with mashed potato, grated cheese & breadcrumbs and baking for about 3o minutes. Really tasty Caribbean comfort food!!

Mango & Coriander Yoghurt Chutney

  • 2 pots greek yoghurt about 250 ml
  • about 3 tbsp mango chutney, if you want to make your own see my recipe here
  • a handful of fresh coriander, chopped
  • a good squeeze of lime juice

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, taste and adjust as required. You may want more sweetness from the chutney or more lime juice, it’s up to you.

I served these as a starter as well as a Caribbean Lentil Soup (I will blog this tomorrow) and my Caribbean Squash & Plantain Curry with Roti Bread see recipe here.

Ratatouille & Goats Cheese Tartlets Recipe

13 Oct

 

Ratatouille is another one of those forgotten 70’s/80’s dishes that got a bad reputation through over exposure and people making terrible versions with undercooked, too chunky, watery veg. The secret to delicious ratatouille is to chop the veg small enough and all the same size so it cooks down and to flavour it with lots of great seasonings.

Ratatouille & Goats Cheese Tartlets Recipe

Serves 2  Vegetarian

  • 1/2 pack frozen puff pastry (defrosted in the fridge overnight so it is still cold when you use it)I use Wrights which comes in 2 blocks.
  • 3 slices of goats cheese per tartlet (about 1/2 cm thick)
  • 1 or 2 tbsp olive oil  (to brush the tartlets)
  1. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees.
  2. Flour your board & rolling pin and roll out the pastry to about 3mm thick and cut out two circles from a side plate or bowl about 15 cm diameter.
  3. Score a frame of about 1 1/2 cm around the circle with a sharp knife (Do not cut all the way through) and brush the frames with olive oil or beaten egg. Prick inside the frame all over with a fork.
  4. Bake for 12 – 15 mins until golden brown and remove the middle circle of pastry so it looks like a big vol au vent. (More 70’s flashbacks!)

Scored Pastry Circles

Cooked Pastry Shells

Meanwhile make the ratatouille:

  • 1 red onion chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1/2 red chilli deseeded & chopped
  • 1 small aubergine diced (about 1cm dice for all the vegetables)
  • 1 red pepper diced
  • 1/2 courgette diced
  • 1 big tomato diced
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • a handful of basil chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • a few sprigs of thyme leaves
  1. Cook the onion over a medium heat until translucent then add the garlic & chilli and cook for 2 mins more.
  2. Add the aubergine and red peppers, cook for a few mins then add the courgette, tomatoes, tomato paste & thyme leaves and simmer for about 10 mins until vegetables are tender.
  3. Add the basil, salt and pepper, stir to combine and taste for seasoning.
  4. Fill the pastry shells with the ratatouille ( You will probably have some left over) then top with the sliced goats cheese, drizzle with olive oil & bake for about 6 mins.

You can serve the tartlets with a rocket salad for lunch or I served them with some new potatoes for dinner. The leftover ratatouile can be used as a side dish, as a sauce for pasta, with a cheese omelette or on a toasted baguette with cheese…

Rustic Ratatouille Tartine

Really Good Roasted Tomatoes

20 Sep

Tomato Plants

At this time of year tomatoes are really reasonably priced so if you buy a lot at once & maybe discover that the flavour isn’t that great as sometimes happens especially with the inexpensive varieties, roast them. 

Roasting any vegetable intensifies the flavour & makes them sweeter. It’s really easy just take the core out of the tomatoes, cut them in half or quarters, put them on a baking sheet (with some red onions if you like) drizzle with olive oil, balsamic vinegar & miel de cana(or honey). Add salt, pepper & some oregano or thyme & maybe a few dried chilli flakes if you like it spicy. Toss it all together to coat & roast at 200 degrees for 35 – 40 mins until caramelized & gorgeous! 

Delicious roasted tomatoes & red onion

Roasted tomatoes are fab stirred through pasta, on a pizza, with couscous  & feta, with anything really. My favourite recipe is for a roasted tomato, cumin & smoked mozzarella tart…. 

Roasted Tomato, Cumin & Smoked Mozzarella Tart 

Vegetarian
Serves 2 to 4 (Depending on how hungry you are) 

  • 1 sheet puff pastry (or 1 block rolled out to a rectangle about 3-5mm thick) defrosted
  • 1 baking sheet of roasted tomatoes(or tomatoes & red onion) see above.
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds (dry roasted in a pan)
  • 2 or 3 tbsp of you favourite tomato pasta sauce (I use Barilla Tomato & Ricotta)
  • 1 tsp basil pesto
  • 3 thick slices of smoked mozzarella (or as much as you like)
  • some shaved parmesan
  • preheat the oven to 22o degrees.

1. Put the puff pastry rectangle on a heated baking sheet lined with oiled baking paper. 

2. Prick all over the centre with a fork 

3. Scatter the toasted cumin seeds all over the pastry including the edges and lightly press in. 

4. Using a sharp knife, score all around the  edge about 1 & 1/2cm from the edge. 

5. Mix the pasta sauce with the pesto & spread it all over the base inside the border 

6. Arrange the tomatoes within the border, tear off pieces of the smoked mozzarella & scatter it evenly around the tomatoes. 

7. Finish with a few fresh parmesan shavings. 

8. Brush the pastry border with beaten egg, then fold the edges to meet the line & create a folded border, brush the border with egg again. 

9. Bake for 20 – 25 mins until the pastry is browned, 

10. To serve scatter some rocket over the tart & eat immediately !!

The Finished Tart

 I used the leftover roasted veg the next day in a salad.The Washer Up came up with the idea for a twist on the classic Tricolore using roasted tomatoes, mozzarella & avocado on a bed of rocket drizzled with olive oil & balsamic vinegar topped with freshly shaved parmesan.

Really good!!

Roasted Tomato Tricolore

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