Friday, September 30, 2011

Fig Tart

I made this delicious tart a few weeks ago.  It was slightly labour intensive as I was making a starter and main course on top of it all and was in such a hurry to serve and subsequently eat it, that I forgot to photograph it.  So I just had to make it again to share with you! 
Figs are in their second season at the minute although alas in Ireland, it doesn't make them any cheaper as any you see in the shops have been shipped from France and Italy - an expensive and tricky pursuit as they must be picked when perfectly ripe and transported immediately as they do not continue to ripen once they are picked.  So while elsewhere in Europe the market stalls are practically giving them away, in Dublin I am paying 1 euro a piece for a large ripe fig (although apparently Jack Roches on Meath Street has them for less than that).  I have about four figs in the garden which are still the same size and shade of green as the tomatoes - stay tuned for green tomato recipes!

This tart makes a lovely accompaniment to morning coffee or as a light dessert as it's not too creamy or heavy.  It especially appeals to me as a lover of figs and desserts which are not too sweet.

(from a recipe by Skye Gyngell)
Grease a 10" diameter shallow fluted flan tin with removable base.
Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees

To make the Pastry base:
250g plain flour, sifted with extra to dust
125g unsalted butter, well chilled 
1 egg yolk
2 tblsps chilled water
  • In a large bowl, rub the butter into the flour until it is the consistency of coarse breadcrumbs.
  • Add the egg yolk and a little of the water until the pastry comes together.  Try not to use all the water as a damp pastry is harder to handle and will shrink more.
  • Bring the pastry together into a ball, wrap tightly in cling film and place in the fridge for 30minutes to rest.
  • Remove from the fridge and roll out (I used cling film below and above the pastry to roll out, see here).
  • Line the flan-tin, using the excess pastry to patch any holes or imperfections.
  • Place it in the fridge again for 30 minutes.
  • Remove from the fridge, line the base with parchment or tinfoil and baking beans.
  • Place the base into the oven and cook for 15 minutes.  Remove the parchment or tinfoil and beans and cook for a further 10 minutes or so until the base is light brown and cooked through.
  • Set aside and allow to cool completely. 
For the crème pâtissière:

320ml whole milk
3 free-range organic egg yolks
2-3 drops of good quality vanilla essence
3 tablespoons caster sugar
3 tablespoons of plain flour
15g chilled, cubed butter 

  • In a large bowl, mix the egg yolks, caster sugar, flour and vanilla essence - I use a hand held whisk to ensure all the ingredients are well combined. 
  • Warm the milk until you can just see steam starting to rise off it.
  • Take the milk off the heat and slowly add it to the sugar/flour etc. mixture in the bowl, whisking well while you are doing so.  When all the milk is incorporated, turn all the mixture back into the saucepan and place over a low heat.  Stir in a figure-of-eight pattern until the custard has thickened.
  • Immediately take off the heat and turn through a sieve to remove any lumps.
  • Using the hand-held whisk, beat in the butter until you have a smooth, sweet egg-yellow custard.
  • Set aside until completely cold.

When both base and mix are completely cold, spoon the
crème pâtissière in an even layer into the base.
Slice the figs evenly in think slices and arrange in a circular pattern working from the outside to the inside.
Brush the figs with some warmed jam or jelly ( I used crab apple jelly) - this will give them a nice shine.

Enjoy in the last sunshine and warmth of the year.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Irish Soda Farls

I haven't felt much like writing these last few weeks.  I have this deep down feeling that everything is in turmoil out there and I just want to hide in the house. 
I do know that I wrote you a long post on Thursday about all sorts of things and I deleted every last word of it and just gave you a recipe for hake.  I am sure that this left most of you pretty cold but it just sounded too much like a long moan.  I suppose that you could conclude that I was having a bad case of the blues where you feel like life is just running past like one of those really long freight trains in America with the long lonely horn noises - I guess I was just feeling sorry for myself.
I have everything in the world to be thankful for so I will just shut up and get on with it.

On an energetic note, I have been putting in some hours training for the causeway coast marathon which is two weeks tomorrow so there has been a lot of pasta consumed here.  I am hoping that the amazing scenery and a large dose of adrenalin will carry me the distance.

Another thing that cheered me up no end was meeting this nice blogger-ess for an ultra-good coffee at 3FE and you know what? Its really nice that to hear people say nice things about Dublin for a change.  I then came home and in an act of patriotism, made some good old Irish soda farls.  I can say with a hand on my heart that I will never buy these again.  They are so simple to make that I am in shock that I haven't tried it before.
The recipe could not be more easy and I used this one from this nice new book which I will tell you more about in a day or so when I get more of a feel for it.

You will need:

  • 225g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 150ml buttermilk
  • Combine the dry ingredients in a baking bowl and make a well in the centre.  Pour in the buttermilk and working from the inside out, combine to form a sticky dough.  Knead lightly into a ball and flatten out to about 1cm on a lightly floured work surface.  Cut into either quarters or eighths, depending on what size you would prefer.  

  • Heat a heavy bottomed frying pan on a medium heat and sprinkle with a little flour.  Place on each little triangle leaving room at each side for turning.  Cook for about 5 minutes on each side until golden brown.  Set on a wire rack to cool or better still,  serve immediately with (a lot of) butter.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Hake en papillotte with roast tomatoes and basil

Looking for a fish dish to cook recently, I bought some really nice hake from Michael Byrnes in Sandymount.  Supplied by Kish Fish, there is always a good supply of fresh Irish-caught fish.
When I cook fish, I usually turn to Rick Stein's Seafood book for ideas.  I love this book for its encyclopedic information on all fish, the easy recipes and photographic step-by-step guide on preparation.  Taking the easy route, this recipe is so simple and easily prepared in advance.
 Hake has a milder more subtle flavour than cod but has similarly textured sweet white flesh.
This is a great main course to make for a crowd, and prepared in advance, it will take only 15-20 minutes in the oven.  You can also serve it in the little packets if you like, letting everyone cut their open at the table and inhale that magic aroma of fresh fish.

Hake en papillote with oven-roasted tomatoes and tapenade.

For 4, you will need:

750g ripe plum tomatoes
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
2 tablespoons equal mix of sea salt, caster sugar and pepper
Olive oil, for brushing
2 tablespoons shredded basil
4 x 200g hake fillets
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the tapenade:
75g pitted Moroccan black olives
4 boquerones - pickled anchovy fillets
25g capers
3 garlic cloves
75ml olive oil
freshly ground black pepper

For the papillote parcels:
4 sheets 38cm / 15" tin foil
4 sheets 38cm / 15" grease proof paper

Prepare ahead the roast tomatoes and the tapenade.

Firstly, quarter the tomatoes, lay them on a baking tray and sprinkle with sea salt, a little sugar, black pepper and thyme leaves.  Roast the plum tomatoes in the oven at about 130 degrees for 11/2 hours until they have shrivelled to about half their original size.

Make the tapenade buy blitzing the olives, capers, boquerones and garlic in a food processor until smooth and leaving the blade rotating, add the olive oil in a slow trickle until it is all incorporated and you have a dark shiny tapenade.  Season well with black pepper and spoon in to sterilised glass jars, seal and keep in the fridge for up to 3 months.

Turn up the oven to 240 degrees.

Season the hake fillets on both sides generously with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Lay one square of tin foil on top of one square of grease proof paper.
Brush the lower half of the tinfoil with olive oil and lay on 4 quarters of roasted tomato.  Sprinkle with shredded basil.  The lay on the hake fillet, skin-side up on top of the tomato and basil.

Fold over the foil and grease-proof paper and start securing at the right hand side by folding the edges over on themselves.  Seal all around the edges, ensuring that there are no gaps for the steam to escape.  Finish by giving the folded edge a good bash with a rolling pin.  Now you can either cook it or store it in the fridge until you are ready to do so - just ensure that before you place the fish on the tomatoes and seal up the parcel, the tomatoes are completely cold.

Place the parcels on a baking sheet and bake at 240 degrees for 15 minutes.

The fish cooks in the trapped steam, puffing up the little pillows.  Serve these straight from the oven on a warmed plate and let everyone cut into their own parcel, letting the sweet smells escape over the dinner table.
We ate this with some baby new potatoes, the tapenade and some fresh asparagus.
Delicious and very easy.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Peace and Cake

The house I find quiet this morning for the first time in two months.  The church bells announce that is is 10am and I am sitting here in the relative peace, although there is a house alarm in the distance which is rather irritating and something you do not find in Berlin ever - this taking first place on my 'why Germany is a more civilised country than Ireland' list.

Anyway my peace will not be disturbed, neither will my coffee and cake.

Speaking of cake, WheelerandCompany have been busy in the cake department recently.

I was asked to make a 50th birthday cake for our good friends on Francis Street - chocolate was the order of the day.

Now cake is all well and good and not so difficult to mess up but when it comes to cake, its the frosting and middle which matters to me.  Although I make them for my children's birthdays, I have a strong dislike for the cartoon-like sugar paste creations which seem to be all the fashion now.  These to me seem to be all image and no substance, with the overly sweet icing overshadowing an often dry heavy cake.
So in search for the perfect coating I turned to a lovely book called  Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented is an absolute joy.  Anyway if you leave a comment on my blog you too just might get a visit from the Fairy could be your lucky day!

Anyway after a practice cake and several toppings, I made this tall, elegant chocolate cake with coffee butter-cream icing, covered again with a Valrhona chocolate ganache covered with Valrhona chocolate covered almonds.....delicious.

 the sample cake

the finished cake
triple layer chocolate sponge 
with coffee butter-cream and chocolate ganache topping

Coffee Butter-cream Icing
(adapted from Baked Explorations)
  • 150g granulated sugar
  • 25g plain flour, sieved
  • 180ml whole fat milk
  • 40g double (heavy) cream
  • 150g unsalted butter, cubed
  • 3 tblsps espresso strength coffee
  • Put the flour, sugar, milk and cream into a heavy bottomed saucepan.
  • Heat on a medium heat, whisking intermittently until it comes to the boil and thickens. This should take about 10-15 minutes.
  • Transfer the mixture into your stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium until the mixture is completely cold.
  • On low, add the cubes of butter and continue mixing until the butter is completely incorporated.  Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy - this should only take a few minutes.
  • Add the coffee and mix until combined.

The mixture should now be soft enough to spread over a sponge, however if you think it is too soft, place in the refrigerator for 15 minutes until it has stiffened a little.  Beat again and the begin your cake decoration.
When you are icing a sponge, it is good practice to add a crumb-coat first.  This is a light layer of icing to glue down all those little loose bits of cake crumb prior to the final coating.  

If you are constructing a multi-layered cake, trim any domes or bumps off the sponges and place one flat on the serving platter.  Fill the middle with butter-cream and place on the next sponge and repeat of you going taller.  Add a thin layer of butter-cream over the top and sides.  Place in the refrigerator for 15 minutes to harden the crumb coat.
Then add the final layer of butter-cream to the top and sides and decorate until your heart is content.

The Francis Street birthday party was amazing, suckling pig cooked on spit in the garden, home-grown pink fir apple potato salad, beetroot salad, green beans - a wonderful celebratory feast.