Monday, May 14, 2012

Chocolate, pine nut and orange tart in a ginger crust

This weekend I had dinner with my friends Lucy (check out her morsels of reflection here) and Jason. Whenever they've cooked for me in the past I have been a bit awed by how yummy everything is - and they tend to cook meals I rarely make myself, making them all the more enjoyable. So when I offered to bring dessert, and Lucy kindly asserted that I needn't feel I had to make anything too fancy, I kind of knew I was going to make something that was at least a bit fancy. Also, I probably should have been studying on Saturday afternoon, so the idea of making some pastry from scratch was all the more appealing.

This tart is one I've made before. It's all about contrasts.  The chocolate is divinely rich, but in small proportion compared with the tang of the orange and ginger. The ganachey-custard is so incredibly smooth whereas the pine nuts add a lovely crunch, while the pastry is all buttery crumbliness. And the nuts and zest themselves crispen to form a fragile sugary crust over the whole thing.  Best of all, the pastry recipe is very easy. Oh goodness, I do endorse this tart.

I found the recipe for this tart online, from chef Antoine Bouterin.  However adding the ginger to the pastry is my own addition, for that extra kick.

Ingredients - for the pastry:
  • 70 grams butter
  • 1/3 cup caster sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 1/14 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • splash of iced water
For the filling:
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons caster sugar
  • 180g dark chocolate pieces
  • 3/4 cup pine nuts
  • zest of one orange

While it's not tricky, you need to start a little ahead of time if you want to make your own pastry. For shortcrust pastry I really recommend doing it yourself, as the result is always so lovely and fresh and buttery. When making pastry, I tend to cheat. I put all the ingredients in my mixer and turn it on until it's a crumbly mix. Then I tip it into my greased and floured tart tin (about 9 inches across).

Press the mix with the heel of your hand until it evenly covers the tin, making sure you smoosh enough over the sides to form the lovely corrugated edges. Once it's evenly covered, place in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

Now it's time to pre-bake the tart case. Heat the oven to 180 C. Prick your tart case with a fork all over the bottom, and line it with tin foil, pressing the foil firmly against the pastry all the way around.  Now bake for about 15 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for another 10.  When you remove the pastry from the oven, if it looks like it's raising up from the base of the tin a little, just gently push it back down.

Now add your filling. Mix the cream, sugar and egg with a fork or whisk and pour into the tart case. It will form a very shallow layer. Scatter over the chocolate pieces, making sure they're evenly distributed. Next, add the pine nuts. And finally, sprinkle over the orange zest.

Place the whole lot in the oven at a 175 C and cook for 20-25 minutes.

Serve in delicate wedges with whipped cream. Oh yes indeedy.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Spinach and cheese crepes

Time for another gorgeous retro flashback. This meal was another end-of-the-fortnight classic, courtesy of my mother in the 80s. But I thought it was the most delicious treat of a meal. Crepes! For mains! And rolled up and everything. I imagine my mother thought of this as a cunning way to get a heap of spinach into small children.

I have also trotted this out as a 'fancy' entree in times gone by, as you can easily prepare this dish and reheat when you want to serve.  In the 90s, when I was 19 years old, I served this to five friends at a How To Host a Murder Party. Remember those! Hee! Anyway, I was pretty sure it was the height of glamour.

So I heartily recommend this if you need a cheap filling meal, some wonderful comfort food, or just the desire to travel back in time gastronomically. Obviously, this can be made vegetarian by leaving out the bacon, in which case I'd suggest adding mushrooms and some extra salt.

And of course the bonus perk is that if you have any spare crepes (which I strongly suggest you should do), a little lemon and sugar and you have dessert as well. Brilliant.

Ingredients - Crepes:
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 3/4 cups milk
  • 1 egg
  • pinch of salt
  • butter to cook
  • 1/2 bunch fresh spinach
  • 2 rashers bacon
  • 1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese
  • 80g butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • salt
  • pepper
  • nutmeg

Start by preparing your crepe batter.  If you haven't made crepes before, the batter is really just a loose version of pancakes. Mix all the ingredients, blend with a whisk until there are no lumps, and leave to sit while you prepare the filling.

The filling is just a white sauce with extras bits. First prepare your extra bits. Chop your spinach, bacon and grate your cheese. Fry up your bacon in a non-stick pan, then once crunchy, remove to cool.

Start your roux, melting the butter in a saucepan and scatter the flour through it, rubbing it in with a wooden spoon until the mixture is smooth.

Then add the milk and cheese, then the salt, pepper and nutmeg and stir through.  If the mixture feels too thick add more milk; if too thin then add cheese. Finally, toss through your spinach and bacon. Remove from the heat and cover to keep the heat.

Now cook your crepes. Heat a non-stick saucepan to medium-hot. For each crepe, start by dropping in a small (half a teaspoons worth) dollop of butter, and disperse over the pan. Pour in a saucer size amount of batter and swirl around the pan until it covers roughly double the original surface. You want to spread it thinly to create the lovely laced, crispy edges that make crepes so lovely. Stand watch over the crepes as you go, they'll cook fast. Keep your crepes under a tea towel to reserve the warmth until the whole batch is ready.

Once you've cooked all your crepes, fill them with a line of spinach mix down the centre, and roll them up. Yummo!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Yo yos: reblogged

I think these are my all-time favourite biscuits. Which is really saying something, because they don't have any chocolate in them or anything. But they're so buttery and tangy and smooth and sweet. And they are stupidly easy to make. 

This was one of my very first posts on this blog, and I decided it needed revisiting; this time with photos. 

So without further ado, I give you: yo yos... again.