Tag Archives: tarts

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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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……….

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

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