Sunday, 20 July 2014

A Trio of Puds

The summer holidays are fast approaching- and I'm starting to empty my fridge and freezer. It's been a glorious few weeks here - and fresh fruit has been very tempting, so it's not surprising that there is quite a bit lurking in my fridge pleading to be used up.

I was drawn to a recipe in a French magazine. (I always ask visitors from France to bring me a copy of Maxi Cuisine, Cuisine Actuelle or Guide Cuisine- those mags you see at the checkout in French supermarkets- as the recipes seem so much more tempting than the ones in Woman's Own or Prima- possibly a case of greener grass of course).

This was for a clafoutis aux abricots- a sort of apricot Yorkshire pudding.

I made it last Friday- and was surprised and delighted by the results: not at all pudding-y...more like a custard tart almost.

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees.
Butter a gratin or pudding dish and sprinkle vanilla sugar all around to line it. Wash, halve and remove the stones from 10 apricots and lay them face down in the sugar.

Mix together 60 g of flour, 1 tsp of ground ginger and 100g of icing sugar.
Beat 3 eggs with 100ml of milk and 100ml of cream.Add it to the dry ingredients and beat to a smooth batter.
Pour the batter over the apricots and bake in the oven until the pudding is risen all around and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. (The middle part doesn't necessarily rise but should be firm like a baked custard (which is what it is!)

Sprinkle with more sugar and either grill until caramelized (I over-caramelized mine as it goes very quickly) or use a blowtorch for more precision.
Clafoutis aux abricots

Serve with cream or ice cream.

The next pud is also custard based.
You can feel virtuous whilst eating this as it uses up stale chocolate croissants which would otherwise go to waste. There is of course the small matter of the calories involved..but never mind that for now.

Chocolate croissant Pudding

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Tarts, Pies and Pastries

We all have our strengths- and weaknesses. I make fine soups and I'm good with vegetables- but I'm an unreliable cake baker.

I would only make it past the first post at Great British Bake Off! if the first challenge was pastry.

Because I do rustle up a pretty good pie, if I say so myself.

This week, I've put a couple of new recipes in (including one sent to me recently- so not my own work at all!) and then links to some of my favourites from the blog which you might have missed.

First of all, last week I made a lemon and white chocolate tart using a sweet shortcrust pastry (which I made in the food processor). It was very easy- and delicious topped with strawberries.

Lemon and white chocolate tartlet

For the pastry- put 250g of plain flour, 125g of butter, 125g of icing sugar, a pinch of salt and 1 small egg into the goblet of a food processor and pulse until it begins to form a soft ball. Add more flour if it is too sticky.
Scoop it out onto a sheet of cling film, wrap up and refrigerate for at least half an hour.

When ready, roll it out between two sheets of cling film and line 6 buttered tartlet pans with it. Bake blind (lined with parchment paper and baking beans) at 180 degrees for 10-15 minutes until lightly coloured. Allow to cool before pouring in the filling which is made from 100g of white chocolate melted in a bowl over a pan of simmering water mixed with 2-3 tablespoons of lemon curd until it forms a smooth cream.

Pour into the tartlet cases and cool before decorating with fresh fruit.

Once you've mastered this sweet pastry, you can try other fillings of your choice- like this pear and 
almond tart:

For a savoury shortcrust pastry, you need 250g of plain flour, a pinch of salt, 125 g of butter and a splash of cold water. Again, put the flour, butter and salt into the food processor and pulse until it resembles breadcrumbs. Slowly trickle in the water as the blades turn until the mixture forms a soft ball and treat in the same way as the sweet pastry above.

You can flavour the pastry by adding cheese, nutmeg, curry powder, walnuts, herbs or lemon zest at the 'breadcrumb' stage for a more original taste to your pies and quiches.

To bake 'blind' follow these picture instructions
:Line a flan dish with your pastry and trim with a knife then lay a sheet of baking parchment over the pastry and pour in ceramic baking beans or rice and bake at 180 degrees until beginning to colour.

Now you can make all manner of savoury tarts. Here is one I was sent last week from a blog reader. It's a tomato, aubergine and mozzarella pie with homemade pesto (made from a large ripe tomato blitzed with olive oil, garlic and basil)
Before baking
Spread the pastry case with the pesto, lay the vegetables and cheese on top in a wheel pattern and bake until the vegetables are tender and the cheese has melted.
Tomato, Aubergine and Mozzarella pie

Photos and recipe courtesy of laBarbe.

A few other savoury tarts for your delectation:

Quiche Lorraine
This classic is made from fried bacon lardons, 2-3 handfuls of good strong grated cheese and a custard of 3 large eggs, lashings of salt and pepper and 200 ml of milk- baked at 190 degrees for 25 minutes or until firm and golden.

My own favourite : Tarte a l'Indienne (Chicken Curry Tart)
And a favourite with blog readers: Onion and OliveTart

If you like your pies with a lid on, here's a few for you: Chicken and Leek Pie-
and individual meat pies (filled with leftover casserole)

And that's just using shortcurst pastry- there's plenty more recipes I could regale you with using puff pastry and filo pastry or spring roll wrappers (all of which I buy rather than make myself though).

But enough's enough, I think.

Even when it comes to pies...