Tag Archives: starter

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……….

Brilliant Green Broccoli Soup

23 Feb

This one’s for my Mum. She loves broccoli and she loves soup so this should be her idea of heaven. Broccoli soups can be disappointing, sludgy, smelly and look a bit like dishwater if you’re not careful. This broccoli soup , however, is bright green, elegant, nutritious and delicious. The Washer Up claimed it was the best soup he had ever had, high praise indeed!!

The reason it stays bright green is because of the spinach added at the last-minute to boost the colour. What I like about this soup is that the predominant flavour is still broccoli with a background of cheese to give it richness and the touch of spice which brings it all together. You can make this soup as basic as you like just topped with a swirl of creme fraiche, or sprinkle over some toasted breadcrumbs, grated cheese and walnuts.  I found this soup recipe at All day I dream about food it’s from Cooks Illustrated magazine. I also found another recipe at The Dabble  which had great topping ideas my favourite being potato croutons.

To make the croutons I used some leftover cooked potatoes that I chopped into about 1cm dice. Put them on some baking parchment drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper & a pinch of cayenne toss to coat and roast in a 210 C oven for about 15 – 20 minutes until browned at the edges. Scatter the still hot croutons over the soup and serve.

As I still had some more potatoes left I thought I would try to glam it up a bit more by making a potato gallette to go on top as well. A potato gallette is a flat thin ring of overlapping potato slices usually made with raw very thinly sliced potatoes. My rather rustic attempt using cooked new potatoes, sliced turned out pretty well except the slices didn’t stick together as well as if you used raw potatoes.

To make a gallete, slice a medium new potato (mine was already cooked) as thinly as you can. Lay the discs on a piece of parchment to form an overlapping circle. Drizzle with olive oil, salt & pepper and bake at 210C for 15 – 20 minutes until browned. Keep an eye on them especially if they are really thin, they burn easily. Use a metal spatula to lift the gallete on to the hot soup.

Brilliant Green Broccoli Soup Recipe

serves 2 -3, vegetarian

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large head broccoli
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp mustard
  • a pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • about 1 litre veg stock
  • water if necessary
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 10 squares frozen spinach (or about 15o gr fresh)
  • about 1oo gr grated cheese (I used manchego) parmesan or cheddar would be nice
  • your choice of toppings (see suggestions above)

Cut the broccoli into 1 inch pieces, peel the stem and chop that up into smaller pieces too. In a large pot heat the olive oil over a medium heat, add in the onions, broccoli, garlic, mustard, cayenne, salt & pepper. Cook for about 3 or 4 minutes, stirring until the onion is translucent or starting to brown. Add in about 200 ml veg stock and the baking soda, bring to a simmer, lower the heat slightly, cover and cook for 15 -20 minutes until the broccoli is very soft.

Add in the rest of the veg stock, bring to a boil and add in the spinach. If using fresh, stir to wilt then add in the cheese. If using frozen spinach cook for 2 or 3 minutes more until the spinach is soft, then stir in the cheese. Remove from the heat and blend (carefully) using a stick blender until smooth. Taste for seasoning and add more water if your soup is too thick for your liking. To serve bring back up to the boil and ladle into warmed bowls. Garnish with grated cheese or see suggestions above.

Enjoy!!

Cauliflower Souffle with Brie and Rosemary

8 Jan

This is all part of my cauliflower education. I used to hate it. A hideous, watery, childhood cauliflower cheese is the culprit I think. Thanks to The Washer Up, who persuaded me to reaquaint myself with it, I now love its delicate flavour, texture and versatility. With the addition of a little rosemary it takes on a very grown up and elegant disguise quite unlike any childhood packet cheese sauce memories…..

You start by making a cauliflower puree which can also be used as a base for soups, stirred into a risotto, as a sauce for pasta with spice toasted breadcrumbs or as a side dish. Scallops with bacon & cauliflower puree is a classic combination. The puree works really well with curry flavours added to it as well as the more traditional nutmeg & rosemary I am using for this recipe.

Cauliflower Souffle with Brie & Rosemary

makes 4 small individual souffles, vegetarian

  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets. This makes more puree than you need for this recipe but you can use it for other things (see above)
  • 1 or 2 tbsp milk
  • salt & pepper 1/2 tsp each
  • freshly grated nutmeg ( about 1/4 tsp)
  • 1/2 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • a pinch of cayenne pepper
  • about 125 gr brie, cubed
  • 3 or 4 tbsp finely grated parmesan
  • 25 gr butter
  • 40 gr plain flour
  • about 165 ml milk (I used goat’s milk)
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • butter & flour for greasing dishes/ramekins

Put the cauliflower florets in a large pan of boiling, salted water and cook until very tender about 10-12 minutes. Drain, transfer to a large bowl or food processor, add 1 or 2 tbsp milk, the nutmeg, rosemary, salt & pepper and blend with a stick blender (or process) until very smooth. Leave to cool slightly.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Butter 4 small souffle dishes/ramekins and put in the fridge. Heat the butter, over a medium heat until melted and cook  gently until slightly brown(not burnt). Dump in all of the flour and whisk it into the butter, it will go into a sandy paste. Whisk and cook out the flour for another minute or so then gradually start adding the milk, bit by bit, whisking all the time and cook until it thickens. Remove from the heat and stir in the cheeses, egg yolks & pinch of cayenne pepper. Take about 220ml (1 cup) of the cauliflower puree and put it in a large bowl then stir in the cheese/egg mixture combining everything well. Butter the souffle dishes a second time and put back in the fridge. (This ensures they don’t stick when rising).  Whisk the egg whites in a cold bowl to stiff peaks, take 1 large spoonful of the whites and mix it into the cheese mixture to loosen it. Check for seasoning, add more salt if necessary. Then, carefully & gently, fold in the rest of the egg whites with a spatula a bit at a time until just incorporated. (Don’t over mix). Take the souffle dishes out of the fridge, flour the insides and gently scrape the souffle mix into the dishes, just to the top. Run you thumb all around the inside of the rim to take the mix away from the edge. (This helps it rise evenly).

Bake in the preheated oven for 15-17 minutes until well risen & golden on top. Do not open the oven before then!

Have your serving plates dressed with a green salad, ready to go, before you get the souffles out of the oven so you can serve them immediately, to a standing ovation…..!

Please don’t be scared about making souffles. If you follow this recipe it is a really simple, impressive and delicious starter or lunch dish. By double buttering and flouring the dishes they will not stick and running your thumb around the inside of the rim lets them rise evenly and beautifully. You just have to be organised, confident and ready to serve straight away.

Such an elegant dish, a million miles away from watery cauliflower cheese!

You can also serve these as a Twice Baked Souffle. I made four so we had two for lunch and the other two I cooked at the same time and left to cool. When they were cool I easily removed them from the souffle dishes wrapped them in cling film and put them in the fridge. To serve just preheat the oven to 200 degrees and cook for about 15 minutes to heat them through.

They don’t puff up as much but this may be an easier option for entertaining. You can make them beforehand and just heat them up when you need to, they are just as delicious and moist inside. I kept mine in the fridge for two days before reheating them again and they were still fantastic.

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