Saturday, 16 May 2009

Onion Tart with Baked Goat's Cheese

I think we must have a thing for goat's cheese as this is the second recipe I have published here.
I know a lot of people that do not like goat's cheese because it tastes too farm-yardy for them. Indeed, it does have rather a goaty note to it, but that's the appeal for me.

I had two little rounds of Gevrik Goat's Cheese in the fridge and they were edging ever nearer to their use by date. Our local supermarket sells this creamy and nutty flavoured Cornish cheese so on occasion we like to indulge, and one day we had the impulse to drop them into the trolley. Somehow we never got around to eating them soon after buying them, so there they sat in the fridge, nestling next to the cheddar in the cheese box for a good couple of weeks.

Wanting to make something substantial for an evening meal, I decided to make some individual onion tarts to go with the cheese. A sweet onion marmalade is usually a good accompaniment and I thought, why not use that idea but bake the onions in a light puff pastry.
I decided to serve the cheese baked as it's texture becomes so gooey and delicious.

You need lots of thinly sliced onions which you cook slowly and gently in olive oil and butter with a little sugar until they are soft and slightly caramelised. Then add some chopped fresh thyme leaves, a dash of balsamic vinegar and salt and black pepper to taste.

Then cut 2 rounds of puff pastry (I used ready-made) which I placed on to a baking sheet lined with baking parchment. Then make 2 rings of pastry to fit on top of the rounds, stick them on using some a little milk.

Pile the onion mixture into the centre of each and place them in a hot oven until the pastry is risen and golden brown. You'll see that the once flat pastry has now risen up to create a wall around the edges to encase the onions.

You'll need to warm the goat's cheese in the oven. Just pop them on some baking parchment on a tray and cook them until they puff out slightly, but be careful that they're not in the oven too long otherwise they might burst!

You can serve the tarts and cheese with some salad.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Bramble and Bramley Jam

I finally got around to making some blackberry jam and the results from last year's foraging have survived the cold confines of the freezer.
This weekend we have been busy in the front garden clearing a tangle of brutish brambles to make way for some raised vegetable beds. Battling away and getting scratched and spiked in the process, reminded me of last year and the thought of "I must make that jam" quickly entered my mind.

What I like about this particular jam is that it is seedless. Blackberries can be so full of pips and this doesn't always make it a pleasurable eating experience, especially when you get them stuck in between your teeth.
The addition of apples adds another dimension to the flavour and bulks out the texture too.

1kg blackberries
350g bramley apples
white granulated sugar

Core and roughly chop the apples leaving the skin on.
Put the apples and blackberries in a large preserving pan or large heavy bottomed saucepan. Add just enough water to cover and simmer until soft.

Sieve the softened fruit discarding the skins and seeds left behind in the sieve. 
Weigh the sieved pulp, make a note of the weight then weigh out that amount in sugar.

Put the sieved pulp and sugar into a large heavy bottomed saucepan or preserving pan and heat very gently until the sugar has dissolved.
Bring the jam to the boil and continue to boil very rapidly for about 8-10 minutes until the jam reaches setting point. See tip below.
When the jam has set, carefully pour into warm, sterilised jars, using a ladle.
Cover the jars with tight fitting screw-top lids.
Label when cold and store in a cool, dark place, away from damp.

Tricks and Tips: Jam setting point
Achieving the right set does carry a certain knack to it. You could try using a jam thermometer but personally I find it a lot easier using a method that my maternal Grandma showed me. Before you start to make the jam, put a plate in the fridge. When it's cold you then drizzle some warm jam on to it and return the plate to the fridge to cool for approximately two minutes. You can tell that it has set when you run your finger through it leaving a crinkly track mark. If after two minutes the cooled jam is too runny, continue to boil the jam, testing it every few minutes until you have the right set.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Thai (style) Red Curry with Chicken and Prawns

You've probably noticed that I refer to this dish as a Thai 'style' curry, that's because it is my adaptation of an authentic recipe. I really like Thai curries as they are usually quite fresh in taste and I think it's probably the use of lemongrass and fish sauce that gives them a flavour character that sets them apart from Indian curries.

In my exploration of Thai cuisine I found a book in our local charity shop for £5. It's a weighty tome and at that price I just couldn't leave it on the shelf. I have certainly enjoyed reading it. Thai Food by David Thompson is a very comprehensive and informative resource, and now there's not much I don't know about the country's cooking and ingredients. However, there is the small problem of not being able to find those ingredients where I live. I expect if we were to to have well stocked asian supermarket, I would be racing back home with my bag stuffed with snake beans, pea eggplant, pandanus leaves, and water mimosa, but sadly there's nothing like that at my disposal. With that in mind I often choose to make the recipes where I can readily find the components or I adapt them to suit what I can get hold of. Sometimes, it's even difficult to find those Thai cooking kits in the supermarket so I often have to substitute the galangal and use ginger instead.

In the following recipe's instructions you will notice that I suggest using a pestle and mortar to make the paste. You could try using a liquidiser or something similar, but I think that because there's such a small amount, an electric kitchen device would be ineffective. Also pounding and grinding by hand gives a more desirable texture even if it does make a lot of noise and is quite hard work!

for the curry paste

2 long red chillies, deseeded, roughly chopped
1 stem lemongrass, chopped finely
1 inch piece ginger, grated
2 cloves garlic, peeled and grated
1 tablespoon coriander stalks, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper

the rest…
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 chicken thighs, skinless and boneless, cut into inch pieces
1 sweet red pepper such as a capsicum or romano, deseeded and cut into strips
hot water
1 tablespoon fish sauce
4 kaffir lime leaves, dried is fine
1 can coconut milk
1 teaspoon brown sugar
juice of 1 lime
salt to taste
200g raw king prawns
handful coriander leaves, roughly chopped

First make the curry paste.
Using a pestle and mortar, pound the chillies and lemongrass until they are quite fine in texture and reduced to a pulp. Then add the ginger, garlic and coriander stalks and continue to grind until pulped and combined. Finally add the pepper and stir to mix in. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a wok or large frying pan and add the onion, Cook gently until soft, then tip in the curry paste. Stir-fry the paste with the onions until the raw smell of garlic disappears.

Add the chicken and stir-fry for a minute or so until it becomes coated in the spice mixture, drop in the kaffir lime leaves and sweet red pepper strips and pour in some hot water, about enough to scantly cover the meat. Simmer for about 10 minutes until the meat is cooked and the liquid had reduced.

Stir in the coconut milk, sugar and lime juice and continue to simmer, giving it an occasional stir until the sauce has reduced and thickened and become a darker shade.
Add the prawns and heat gently until they turn pink and cooked through.

Finally taste and add some salt if you think it needs it. Stir through the chopped coriander and serve with some steamed Thai jasmine rice and wedges of lime to squeeze over.

Food photo taken from the book

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