Torta pasqualina

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 Veni, vidi, vici: saw it on the Guardian on saturday, bought the ingredients on sunday and served it for Easter brunch on Monday. It was a spot on dish,  very much in the spirit of the season. In case you wonder, it is an Yotam Ottolengi’s take on an Italian dish with lots of modifications to adapt it to what was left on the supermarket. I was getting a bit apprehensive as I kept replacing ingredients by similar thing, but, it all worked very well together… It was a process to do it, but it is a lovely dish, worthwhile the calories and the effort.

Torta pasqualina (adapted from Yotam Ottolengi’s column in The Guardian.)

Ingredients

  • olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 500g  Swiss chard, stalks removed and roughly chopped, leaves cut into 1cm slices
  • 600g spinach leaves
  • 6 sticks celery, trimmed and finely sliced
  • 20g Bärlauch (wild garlic)
  • ¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 250g ricotta
  • 100g grated Emmentaler and Gruyère cheese mix
  • 9 eggs
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 500g all-butter puff pastry
  • Plain flour, for dustin

Method

Heat the oven to 180C.

Put a large sauté pan for which you have a lid on a medium-high heat. Add the oil and onion, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring from time to time, until the onion is soft and starting to colour. Add the chard stalks and celery, cover and cook for five minutes. Stir in the chard leaves and spinach. Cook for five minutes more, until the leaves have wilted and the stalks and celery have softened. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool a little.

Line a colander with a clean tea towel or muslin and pour in the contents of the pan. Draw the sides of the towel around the filling and squeeze out the juice: you want the mixture to be as dry as possible. Transfer the contents of the towel to a bowl and add the herbs, spices, cheeses, three eggs, half a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper. Mix well and set aside.

In case you don’t have a prepared pastry, roll half of it  out pastry on a lightly floured work surface into a 30cm square that’s 2.5mm thick. Transfer to a 20cm-wide spring-form cake tin with 7cm high sides. Press the pastry into the edges of the tin and trim off most of the overhang. Roll the remaining pastry into a 25cm square lid and set aside.

Tip the cheese and greens mixture into the cake tin and use a spoon to create five egg-sized holes. Break an egg into each hole, then lay the lid on top. Trim the edges, then pinch the lid and base together to make sure it’s secure.

Whisk the remaining egg, brush it over the lid, then prick a few times with a fork. Bake for 45 minutes, until cooked and golden brown. Leave to cool for half an hour, and serve warm or at room temperature.

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Chicken potpie

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In short, this is such a good chicken pie,  it is totally worthwhile to endure cooking process. It is arguably one of the best I have ever had. It is hard to believe this dish actually start from, God forgive, leftovers…

A few shortcuts, though: I used pre-made pastry. I know – home made pastry is not that hard to do. But, I didn’t feel brave enough for it… and, the one in the supermarket is also perfectly fine for this purpose…  If you don’t have any chicken leftovers, and need to cook it from scratch, add some herbs and vegetables when boiling it (this recipe work just fine). Everything else is so tasty, it is a crying shame to put in some bland rubbery chicken.

Chicken potpie (adapted from Thomas Keller‘s Ad hoc at home)

Ingredients

2 sheets of basic pie pastry

Chicken Pie Filling

  • 1 cup of potatoes cut in about 6cm  pieces
  • 1 1/4 of carrots cut diagonally in 6cm pieces
  • 12 white pearl onions
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 thyme sprigs
  • 24 black peppercorns
  • 1 1/4 cups of 4-6cm of pieces of celery,  cut on the diagonally
  • 2 cups of shredded cooked chicken

Béchamel sauce

  • 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups of whole milk
  • 1 salt and freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped thyme
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • 1 egg, beaten

Method

Roll out the dough and line the baking tray with one of the sheets. Put the other one a plate. Refrigerate both.

Place the potatoes, carrots and onions in a saucepan with the bay, thyme and peppercorns.  Top with cold water to cover. Gently bring to a simmer. Cook  until just tender, about 8-10min (the original recipe asked for each vegetable to cooked in individual pans, but I just put everything together in the same one). Once cooked, drain the water and discard bay, thyme, and peppercorns. Cut the onions in 2 and set aside to cool.

Blanch the celery for just over a minute in a large pot of boiling salted water, until they are tender/crispy. Drain and let it cool in a bowl of iced water. Set aside with the other vegetables

You can now start the béchamel. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, adjusting the heat as needed so the mixture does not brown. Whisk in the milk, lower the heat to keep the bechamel at a gentle simmer, and cook, whisking ofter to ensure it doesn’t burn. It should take about 30-40minutes until the sauce has thickened and reduced to about 2 cups. Season to taste with salt, pepper, parsley, thyme, and cayenne.

Put the oven racks in the lower third and center of the oven and preheat the oven to 190 oC (about 375oF).

Remove the pastry sheets rom the refrigerator. Scatter the vegetables and chicken into the pie shell. Pour the béchamel over them. Moisten the rim of pie shell with some of the beaten egg. Cover the filling with the top crust and press the edges of the dough together to seal. Trim away the excess dough that overhangs the rim. Brush the top crust with the egg. Cut a small vent in the center of the dough with the tip of a paring knife to allow the steam to escape.

Bake on the lower oven rack until the crust is a rich golden brown, 50 minutes to 1 hour. If necessary, move the pie to the centre rack during the last 10 minutes of baking to brown the crust. On the other hand, if crust is browning too quickly, cover with aluminium foil.

Transfer to a cooling rack and let rest for 10 minutes.


Beetroot tarte tatin with goat cheese

beetroot tatin goat cheese

 

… And we are back to a quasi-Winter weather. While it was meant to brighten any Winter table, it ended up being yet another post of protest against this atrocious Spring.

In any case, after Christmas #beetrootgate , I actually didn’t gave up on cooking them… It sort of become an unavoidable ingredient. It is colourful and sweet and packed with earthy flavours… how could you not want to cook it? Specially when you bump into its 10 best recipes, one of them by the latest foodie TV stars, The Fabulous Baker Brothers? It was worthwhile taking the risk of tarte tatin – the dish was delicious.

Beetroot tarte tatin with goat cheese (adapted from a Fabulous Baker Brother’s recipes found in The Guardian’s  The 10 best beetroot recipes)

Ingredients 

  • 75g golden caster sugar
  • 40g butter
  • A splash of sherry vinegar
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 7 thyme sprigs
  • 4 fresh beetroot, cooked
  • 250g puff pastry
  • 4 slices of goat’s cheese
  • Salt and black pepper

Method

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Place a smallish, heavy, oven-safe frying pan over a medium heat. Add the sugar to the pan and stir until it dissolves, then add a big pinch of salt, all the butter and a splash of sherry vinegar. Keep stirring until it has turned mahogany brown. It’s a good idea to use oven gloves to protect your hands. Take care not to let the sugar burn.

Add 1 tbsp honey to the pan. Pick the thyme leaves from 6 stalks and add them too. Remove from the heat and stir. Place a long sprig of thyme on top of the caramel for decoration.

Cut the cooked beetroot into nice fat slices and carefully (so you don’t burn your fingers) arrange all the slices on top of the caramel, working from the edge to the centre in a spiral pattern. Season with salt and pepper.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the puff pastry so it’s big enough to cover the beetroot, then place it on top, tucking the edges down into the pan. Put the whole lot into the oven for about 30 minutes or until the pastry is golden.

Wearing oven gloves, place an upturned plate over the frying pan (it should be bigger than the pan) and, holding the two together, flip the lot over. Leave it for 30 seconds to let the caramel mostly fall from the pan on to the plate, then slowly lift the pan.

Serve by the wedge while still warm, with a disk of goat’s cheese on top and, if you fancy, a drizzle of honey.

 


Savoury tuna parcels (empanadillas de atún)

Another Spanish classic… Very much like the tortilla de patatas [potato omelette], there are many versions and interpretations. And, as you might guess from previous posts, the best empanada is going to be the one cooked by  the proverbial Mother-in-Law… Actually, at some point, I had scribbled down a recipe that had been in someone’s family for generations. But hélas!, I lost it during one of my many moves. I ended up to use the one Carlos Horrillo and Patrick Morcas have on their Tapas: Simple Flavours, Striking Combinations book.

All in all, it is not exactly easy to get this dish right. The filling is relatively straightforward, but the pastry requires a certain level of skill and commitment. Although this might sound like scratching a chalkboard with nails to some, I ended up using pre made pastry, to avoid any culinary catastrophes…  In any case, it is an awesome combination of flavors and textures, which reminds me of home and many bohemian nights out.

Savory tuna parcels (empanadillas de atún)

For the filling

  • Olive oil
  • 2 medium onions finely sliced
  • 1 large red pepper, finely chopped
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 225g tomatoes coarsely chopped
  • 350g of good quality tuna (in olive oil), drained
  • 8-10 good quality black 0lives, stones removed
  • Small pinch of saffron strands. soaked in 2 tablespoon hot water

For the pastry

  • pack of ready rolled puff pastry
  • 1 beaten egg

Method

Place a large heavy base, non stock frying pan (or wok) on a low heat with 8 dashes of olive oil. Add the sliced onions and pepper, a pinch of salt and pepper then sauté gently until soft and tender.

Add the chopped tomatoes and give everything a good stir, then simmer gently until all the ingredients have reduced to a thick sauce.

Add the tuna, olives, saffron and another pinch of salt and pepper, Summer everything together, stirring regularly until you have a tick, rich sauce. Set aside to cool, and then refrigerate for 2 hours.

Preheat your oven to 200oC/400oC/gas mark 6

Lightly flour your work surface and place the rolled puff pastry on top. Using a sharp knife, cut the pastry into 12cm squares and arrange them on several greased baking sheets. You will need 8-12, depending on how many people you are going to serve. Gauge it so you have enough pastry to wrap the filling. If the pastry is too thin the parcel will burst and all the ingredients will spill out. Some spillage is fine. If the pastry is too thick, it will not allow the flavours of the filling to come through.

Put a dollop of the tuna mixture, a ball shape roughly 5-6cm, in the middle of the square, and then dab the edges of the suare with eaten egg, Bring up the corners of the pastry to the centre and press them together to form a peak at the top. Glaze the tops with beaten egg, and then in the oven for 20min, or until golden brown. Serve hot, warm or cold.

Alternatively, you can put the pastry in the a rectangular or square baking tray, allowing the wall to be coated about 5cm. Put the tuna mixture on it, and put another sheet of pastry on top. Close the edges, sealling with beaten egg. Glaze the top with beaten egg.


Pear and almond tart, take 2

A Food&Travel dish I found on tram 11, back by popular demand.  And, again, many happy testers….

As I was in a bit of a hurry, I used  pre-made pastry.

Pear and almond tart

Ingredients

For the pastry

  • 200g plain flour
  • 2 table spoons caster sugar
  • 100g cold unsalted butter cut into pieces
  • a pinch of salt

For the almond cream

  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 100g sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 2 table spoons flour
  • 3-4 ripe pears

Method

To make the pastry, put the flour, sugar, butter and salt in a food processor, and, using the pulse button, process until the butter is broken down (about 5-10 pulses). Add 3 tablespoons of cold water, and pulse just until the dough forms coarse crumbs; add one more tablespoon of water if necessary, but do not do more than 10 pulses. Transfer the pastry to a sheet of backing parchment, form into a ball and flatten to a disk. Wrap in the paper and let stand for 30-60 minutes.

Roll out the pastry to the diameter of the baking tin (a tarte tatin or other round flame proof baking dish). Turn the tin upside down and on the rolled out pastry and press down and trace around the edge with a sharp knife.

Alternatively, just use pre made pastry. It might not be so good, but it does the trick.

Preheat the oven the 200oC. Prick the pastry all over, line with baking parchment, and fill with baking weights. Bake for 15min, then remove the paper and weights (I used beans), and bake for 10-15min more, until just golden. Let the tart shell cool slightly before filling.

To make the almond cream, put the butter and sugar in a bowl and mix with the electric mixer, until fluffy and lemon coloured (it takes some time and patience. I start with melted butter). Beat in the eggs one at a time. Using a spatula, fold in the almonds and flour until well mixed.

Preheat the oven to 190oC. Spread the almond cream evenly in the tart shell. Peel and core the pears, and slice into 8-12 pieces, depending on the size of the fruit. Arrange the pear slices on top of the almond cream. Bake for about 20-30min, until puff and golden. Serve warm.