Tag Archives: cheese

Roasted Tomato Tart

18 Oct

Tart!Tonight’s dinner was a work in progress during the day. It was one of those meals that you find a bit of time for, leave, and then come back to. Slow roasting the tomatoes for the tart took a while, and they really benefitted from being left in a hot oven (that I turned off) when we went out for the day.

I also roasted butternut for a soup – but that one was so simple, a recipe is kind of silly. I basically peeled and seeded a butternut, chopped it up, added a few tablespoons of olive oil and some spice – paprika, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg – salt and pepper, and roasted it in a hot oven (225 C / 450 F) until it was soft. I mashed it, put it in a pot, poured a cup of water over, and brought to the boil. Blended it to a puree, and added a touch of milk and adjusted spices. Pure butternut heaven!

I must admit, I used Whole Foods bought puff pastry (from Dufour – amazing stuff!) for the tart. You could use best quality puff pastry, or make a cheese pastry as per the spinach pie I did the other day. Either way, you want a flat pie – almost a pizza but better πŸ˜‰

I roasted these tomatoes in a very hot oven for about 20 – 25 minutes – until they were very soft, slightly burnt and caramelised, but still holding their shape and size. I then flipped them over, turned the oven off, and went out – and when we got back home, the tomatoes were slightly dried – almost like semi-sun-dried tomatoes. They had intensified in colour and flavour, without losing their shape or size. Absolutely gorgeous. I recommend this if you can – roast for half an hour in the morning, and then just leave them there. When you get home, you will have an amazing tomato dinner waiting for you! These are soooo good in pasta, in a grilled cheese, in salad, soup, just about anywhere you need a pure shot of tomato flavour.

Roasted Semi Dried Tomatoes

You will definitely have extra left over. Seems a shame to roast these tomatoes for just the one tart! Anoint your extras with a bit of olive oil and save in the fridge.

  • 10 – 12 juicy red tomatoes
  • 1 – 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Basil (fresh or dried)
  • 1 tsp light brown sugar
  • 8 – 10 garlic cloves, sliced

Preheat oven to 225C (450F). Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Wash and dry the tomatoes. Slice them thickly (about 3 – 4 slices per fruit), destem if you feel the need, and arrange in a single layer on your baking sheet. Sprinkle olive oil judiciously over all.

Sprinkle with salt, pepper, basil and sugar. Add sliced garlic (I usually stick one or two on top of each tomato slice).

Bake for 20 – 25 minutes until the tomatoes are oozing juice, blistered a bit, but still holding their shape and size.

Take the baking sheet out of the oven, switch off the oven, and flip the tomatoes over. Put back into oven and leave for at least 2 hours if not the whole day.

Roasted Tomato Tart

  • 1 large sheet puff pastry (or cheese crust pastry to line a baking sheet)
  • 2 tbsp sour cream
  • 2 tbsp ricotta or cottage cheese
  • 1 tbsp cream cheese
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed or minced
  • 1 egg
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 + 1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • Roasted tomatoes

Preheat oven to 180C (375F). Line a baking sheet or pan with parchment paper.

Remove parchment paper from the baking pan, and place flat on table. Place a sheet of puff pastry (or a square of your own made cheese pastry) onto the parchment.

Roll out the pastry to to a rectangle about 18″ by 12″ and then fold over the edges by about 2 inches all around. Pinch to make sure the folded over edges stick, and using a fork, prick holes in the centre of the pastry. Slide onto your baking sheet or pan, and bake for about 25 minutes, or until the pastry has puffed up and is a light golden brown.

If you are using puff pastry, remove from the oven, and dig out about half of the centre layers. You will have very puffed edges, and a crisp centre.

Beat together the sour cream, ricotta, cream cheese, garlic, egg, salt and pepper and 1/4 cup of grated cheese. Pour into the centre of the pastry.

Arrange the roasted tomatoes on top of the mixture, and sprinkle with the remaining grated cheese, making sure you dont cover the tomatoes completely.

Bake in the oven for a further 20 minutes or so, or until the centre is puffed and browned.

Slice into pieces and enjoy! This can be served at room temperature, or even from the fridge the next day and is still very scrummy.

 

Grilled Cheese with Jammy Onions

15 Oct

with Jammy OnionsIts suddenly cold! Last night when I went out to get the hound in, I saw my breath, puffs of white, against the darkness of the night. And today, its gray and rainy. In about a week, I will be home in the warmth of the tropics, but here, its cold, and only going to get colder.

Lunch today was about comfort – grilled cheese with the addition of jammy, dark caramelised onions. If you need to start from the beginning it can take a little less than an hour to make this meal. But if you make the jammy onions in advance and have them in the fridge… well, then, you can do this quick as a blink! Jammy onions are wonderful to have on hand, by the way. They elevate anything and everything – from pasta sauce, to curry, to soup.

This is very rich – so make sure that when youre actually grilling the sandwiches in the pan, that you use only a little bit of butter – and low heat. This will enable the cheese inside to really melt and meld with the onions, and the bread to toast without getting too greasy and buttery.

Wonderful served with tomato soup – or something green like a sharp mustardy arugula (rocket) salad with sliced tomatoes and a sharp dressing on the side. This is lunch to warm the innards and bring a smile to the faces of those you love. And its just grilled cheese – but with such a lovely twist.

 

Serves 4

  • 2 medium onions
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 tsp basil
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 2 – 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 – 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • Water
  • 8 slices bread – I used sourdough, though a yeasty brown bread would be wonderful here too
  • A few tablespoons mayonnaise (or Marie’s Italian dressing – my family’s favourite!)
  • 2 2/3 cups grated cheese (approximate) – you can use cheddar, brie, blue, goat, parmesan – what ever you like. I used cheddar and jack – and figured about 2/3rd cup cheese per person, but its sometimes less. You could also use 8 slices of cheese but please dont use plastic cheese – its gross!
  • A few tablespoons of butter, softened to room temperature

First, prepare the onions. Slice the onions in half, peel, and slice the top off. Slice half rings, thinly all the way to the root.

Put a medium non stick pan over medium high heat, add olive oil and onions, and saute for 3 – 5 minutes, until the onions have softened. Add salt, pepper, basil, and oregano, and mix well to combine.

Put heat up to high, and add red wine. Allow the red wine to bubble, and mix the onions well to coat them in the wine. The wine will soften the onions, and will be absorbed almost completely by them. Once the onions are a dusky red, and the wine has been absorbed, sprinkle over brown sugar, balsamic and soy sauce. Stir to combine, and allow to bubble for a few minutes.

Add about 1/4 cup water, and bring the heat down to medium. Simmer the onions for at least 10 minutes, or until all the water has been absorbed. Taste, adjust seasonings, and consider if the onions are soft and melting enough for you. If not, add some more water (and a little touch more sugar if you like), and bubble away again. Each time you add more water, and it gets absorbed, the onions will go darker, slicker and jammier. Sometimes I do this, in increments 3 or 4 times.

Once the onions are a good jammy consistency, transfer to a heat proof bowl and set aside.

Rinse out the non stick pan, and have another one ready. If you dont think you can fit two sandwiches in one pan (and will thus have to cook them in two rounds), preheat the oven to the lowest temperature, and have a baking sheet ready to receive grilled sandwiches while you make the rest.

Lay out 8 slices of bread in 4 groups of 2 each. Spread mayonnaise (or other sandwich spread – we use Marie’s Italian dressing – mustard would be good here – as would aioli) sparingly on bread. Spread about 1/3 cup (or less if you like) grated cheese – or 1 slice of cheese – on 4 slices of bread. Divide jammy onions between these four slices, and cover again with another 1/3 cup grated cheese (or 1 slice of cheese) each. Cover with remaining slices of bread to make 4 sandwiches.

Butter the outside of each sandwich, sparingly. Place sandwiches on non stick pans, two to a pan, and place on low heat. Β Grill sandwiches undisturbed for about 5 – 7 minutes (I always check at 5) on low heat. If you think the sandwiches are not toasting enough, bring heat up, but just a little.

Flip sandwiches, and grill for about 3 – 5 minutes on second side. Once sandwiches are grilled to your preference, remove from pan, slice horizontally, and serve. The cheese should have melted through those glorious onions, and it should be a sticky wonderous mess.

Late Night Snack

11 Oct

11.49 pm

We had a big brunch/lunch today – a frittata with leeks, zucchini (courgettes) and a touch of blue cheese, a plum crisp with vanilla scented yogurt, chocolate croissants. I was totally un-hungry until a few minutes ago. I just realised I am starving….

So creep, creep, creep into the kitchen to prepare one of my all time favourite quick bites…

In South Africa (where my mother is from), if you order muffins or any other breakfast breads, most restaurants and cafes will serve you bread, butter, jam and cheese. Jam and cheese is as ubiquitous in South Africa as peanut butter and jelly is in the US. I love jam and cheese more because these two uniquely complement each other, and raise each individual ingredient into a perfect mouthful.

1 slice of multi-grain or other dark whole wheat bread (though I have prepared this with a biscuit and an english muffin with positive results).

Toasted. So its warm, slightly crisp and will melt the tiny smear of butter/marg I spread on it.

Then… some salty cheese. Not a lot. If its creamy, like tonight’s Fromager d’Affinois, I use just a little bit. Enough so it melds with the butter, and softens in the warmth of the toast’s embrace. I want that stinky cheese hit, and a bit of salty creaminess.

And then… to contrast with the cheese, and bring a bright sparkle, a little jam – or in this case, Membrillo – quince paste. Wonderful honeyed caramel notes, sweetness to contrast with the cheese. Again, just a thin sliver of a slice, placed carefully on the cheese. Magenta against creamy pale.

Sliced in half, and sat down at the kitchen table to eat, because, after all.. this is food, and we must respect and savour it. Not rush, not stuff, but enjoy. Taste the mingling of flavours. Allow tummy and appetite to be satisfied. May be a warm cup of herbal tea alongside.

Perfect for a snack before bed.

I ate it so happily, I didnt think to have time for a picture! Too bad πŸ˜‰

Sweet dreams!

Macaroni + Cheese

9 Sep

and cheese!I was watching BSA make lunch for his son to take to school the other day – it was mac + cheese from a box. That haunted me for days – the bright orange glow of the cheese powder. It really disturbed me πŸ˜‰ So tonight, when I was considering what to make for dinner, I decided to do a home made macaroni + cheese, and see how long it took to do. To be honest, this is a quick, easy meal. Absolutely delicious and probably 10 – 15 minutes worth of work in total. And the taste is so much better that really, there is no comparison.

You can make it vegan by substituting margarine for butter, Daiya rice cheese for the cheddar and parmesan, and soy milk (my favourite these days is Silk) for the milk. It turns out really well, especially if you pay attention to the seasonings, and taste taste taste. I baked the whole thing in a loaf pan because it was easy and I had just used the pan when I made the zucchini bread the day before. You can use any pan, the wider and shallower, the more burnt cheese topping you get! πŸ˜‰

Macaroni and cheese can be a bit overwhelming just as is. So I like to mix it up a bit. In this version, I added a handful of sundried tomatoes. In another, you could add truffle oil and dried portobello mushrooms. In yet another, a handful of frozen spinach. It doesnt have to be a lot of work to cut through all that cheesy cheese-ness, but it can be a bit of a relief. Though it must be said, there is something about a purely mac and cheese dish that is deeply soothing. That bland perfection does wonders for a tired soul.

This dish will serve 4 – 6 depending on greed

  • 3 – 4 cups dried pasta – penne, macaroni, etc
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 tsp salt (plus 1 tsp for boiling pasta)
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 2 cups milk, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes (or dried portobello mushrooms and a dash of truffle oil or 1/2 cup spinach or broccoli … as you wish) – optional
  • 1 – 2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese (to taste) – note that you can also add other cheeses as per your desire – crumbled feta, blue, jack, etc.
  • 1/2 cup parmesan, divided
  • 1/4 breadcrumbs

Take the milk out of the fridge, measure out 2 cups, and set aside. Preheat the oven to 200C (400F).

Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add a dash of olive oil and a teaspoon of salt. Read the instructions on the pasta packet, and add the pasta. You will cook it until it is about 2 minutes before al dente, so if it says to cook for 9 minutes, keep the pasta in for only 7 minutes!

In a large saucepan, melt the butter. Once the butter is melted and bubbling, add the flour, and cook this roux, stirring all the time, until it is browned. You want it a nice tan – not quite coffee coloured, but may be toffee coloured! This will add a huge depth of flavour. Add salt and pepper. Once the roux is browned to your liking, add the room temperature milk in increments of 1/4 – 1/3 of a cup. You want to add the milk slowly to enable the sauce to slowly thicken… if you add it all at once, you will have blobs of browned flour floating in the milk! This is the main reason why you want the milk at room temperature, so that incorporating it into the roux is much easier.

Once the first 1/2 cup of milk has been incorporated, add the basil, oregano, paprika and sun dried tomatoes (if using). Continue to add the milk, stirring all the while. Taste for seasoning and adjust.

Take the hot seasoned sauce off the fire, and add the cheddar cheese, tasting and adjusting after about 1 cup. You may need up to 2 cups.

Drain the pasta, and set aside.

Add 1/4 cup of the parmesan, and mix well. Taste and adjust any seasonings. Add the pasta to the sauce, and mix to combine completely.

Mix the remaining parmesan with the breadcrumbs.

Put the macaroni and cheese into a baking dish, sprinkle with the breadcrumb parmesan mixture.

Bake for about half an hour, broiling for the last few minutes if you like a super crispy top.

Never go back to box mac + cheese again!

Frittata!

18 Aug

Ahhhhh… here I am in my “other” home, with my beloved M + Z + B + the AuPairNation of Essia + Julia. And of course, the King, Raai. Its wonderful to be back, and I am blissfully babied out. It was a 24 hour journey to get here, so I let myself off one day of blogging. But today, I cooked and so I thought it would be a good idea to start to blog again … I find that if I let anything go for more than a day, it becomes a habit NOT to do it!

I love cooking in my sister’s kitchen. Its large, airy, comfortable. Everything is so well organised, and its totally open plan. I love her knives, her pots and pans, and particularly, I love the contents of her fridge! There is always something interesting in there that will challenge me to create something delicious. Today, I was cooking for 6 people for lunch, so I decided on a frittata. Its a really simple open omelette, with the fillings added before the eggs. Its fluffy, and is finished in the oven, so that the cheese melts and browns a bit. Delicious – and it can contract and expand to take on whatever is in the fridge! Plus, its wonderfully easy to feed a hoard of people.

Along with the frittata, I made an apple berry crumble, and for dinner a very simple vegetarian curry with brown rice. The remains of the frittata were delicious sliced with dinner. Meals at my sisters are like this… I cook, and we always find ways to incorporate the previous meal into the current one. Simple food, cooked with organic and local ingredients. So much joy … And she has a huge basil plant, her own tomatoes, and a fig tree that is positively laden with swollen purple fruit. I think I am going to have fun here!

I am giving you the approximate ingredients for my frittata today. Use what you have in the fridge – and be experimental. But make sure you use your own judgement about what you mix together into the frittata. I wouldnt add blue cheese, but feta makes a wonderfully salty counterpoint to just about anything. Onions, peas and carrots go well with lots of things, but olives are quite a specific taste and might not meld well with parmesan, for example. Think about what youre putting together into the frittata, and then give yourself permission to experiment! Also be logical. I used 3 different kinds of cheeses because my sister had that in the fridge – but if you only have one cheese, then use that and dont go out and buy extra!

This is a wonderful dish to serve for lunch or breakfast, and its as tasty cold as it is hot, so its fantastic to serve at a picnic or in hot weather πŸ™‚

This will serve six

  • 2 – 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced thinly
  • 2 – 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp basil
  • salt and pepper
  • splash of balsamic vinegar
  • splash of port wine
  • 1/4 cup water (about)
  • 1/2 cup peas
  • 2 small carrots, sliced
  • 1/2 cup artichoke hearts, sliced
  • 1 cup mixed baby tomatoes (roma and plum), sliced
  • 4 vegetarian sausages, crumbled
  • 8 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup parmesan, grated
  • 1/4 cup feta, grated
  • 4 tbsp hummus (optional, but it added lots of protein and it was delicious!)
  • 1/4 cup cheddar, grated

In a large, oven proof frying pan, heat the olive oil, over medium heat, and fry the onions and garlic until glossy and soft. Season with herbs and salt and pepper. Add a splash of vinegar and wine, and let the onions colour and burn just a little bit. Pour a bit of water into the pan, and scrape up the juices and burnt bits if any.

Add the vegetables, and stir to combine. Taste for seasoning. You dont want it too salty as the cheeses will add salt too. Crumble in the sausages and stir well.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, parmesan and feta. When the vegetables and vegetarian sausage have been combined to your liking, arrange them evenly over the bottom of the frying pan. Lower the heat, and pour over the egg mixture. Using a wooden spoon, move the egg mixture around gently in the pan to encourage it to cook about half way through. DONT mix it though – you just want to kind of poke holes in the bottom that will be filled by uncooked eggs!

Spoon the hummus over, if using. Switch the oven broiler on, and sprinkle over the cheddar.

Slide the frittata in the oven for maximum 5 minutes. It will cook through, puff up a little, and the cheese on top will melt and brown a bit.

Serve immediately with fresh brown bread. Or wait a while, till its cooled, refrigerate and serve it sliced, for a summer meal that it light, and delicious.

Potato, Sweet Potato and Beet Gratin

7 Aug

potato, sweet potato and beet gratinTonight, I was lazy. I wanted to spend the entire evening in bed, watching videos, but of course, I needed to cook! I have made a promise to myself to post one recipe or musing every day, and so I wandered into the kitchen to be inspired. I had beets, potatoes and sweet potatoes sitting on the counter waiting for a rosti which I want to make for Ezril. I had loads of little baking paper packages of cheese bits, all wrapped up, and needing to be used. And I had some cream and milk and garlic. Okay then, instead of a rosti, which would take lots of work over the stove, I decided on a gratin. And a gratin with beets! I needed to think this through before jumping in.

I think sometimes that cooking is about inspiration, but equally, it is about preparation. Even if you dont have a clear recipe, and want to be inspired by your ingredients, always, always take five minutes to think about how you are going to put everything together. Β If you dont, even in your head, have a clear work progress plan, you will definitely forget something or an important step. Trust me! Ive done it before, with disastrous results!

Beets are gorgeous creatures, but they have one flaw (or wonderful attribute depending on your way of looking at things) – they make everything they touch turn pink! I wanted to incorporate beets into this gratin because I thought they would add an earthy unique flavour, highlighting the creaminess of the potatoes and the sweetness of the sweet potatoes. A good counterbalance. But I really needed to sit and think for a while about how I was going to keep them separate but together. So I decided to prep them all the same way, but in different bowls, and layer them instead of mix them all up. The milk/cream would bind them all together, and the cheese would act as a barrier between the beets and potatoes so they wouldnt completely bleed into each other.

I think this gratin turned out gorgeously. The garlic scented the milk, but you can still taste each individual ingredient. I love love love crusty burnt bits of cheese on anything, and this gratin gave me acres of it. And silky, creamy, rich potatoes. This is a wonderful side dish for a big group, or you can cut down on the amounts, and bake a small pan for just two. Its fantastic the next day, served for breakfast, cold, or sliced and slightly fried, with an egg. Its also great, served with a very tart (arugula) salad for lunch. Its comfort food, from the heart, without a huge amount of effort. Love it!

For a large gratin dish or casserole, you will need:

  • About 3 – 4 cups potatoes
  • 1 – 2 cup sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup beets
  • Boiling water
  • 3 + 2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 – 3 tbsp butter (optional – I only use butter if I am not using cream)
  • 2 – 3 cups milk and/or cream (I used a mixture)

The preparation is all important in this recipe. You will need to keep your beets and potato mixture separate until you are ready to bake.

Peel and thinly slice your potatoes and sweet potatoes, and immerse them in cold water in a bowl. Peel and thinly slice your beets, and immerse them in cold water in a bowl. Allow the potatoes and beets to sit for at least 10 minutes. This will encourage some of the starch to come out.

Boil some water, drain the cold water from your potatoes, put them back in the bowl, and slice 3 cloves of garlic over. Cover the potatoes completely with boiling water. Β Do the same for your beets, slicing 2 cloves of garlic over. Leave in the boiling water for 15 minutes or so. They will not cook, but they will get a little bit softer. This is what you want.

Meanwhile, grate about 2 – 3 cups of cheese. I used a mix of cheddar, parmesan, mozzarella and pecorino. This was what I had in left over bits in the fridge, and what was available. Swiss cheese, like Gruyere, is more traditional, but I like the process of using up left over bits and pieces.

Drain the potatoes and beets and place back in their individual bowls.

Preheat your oven to 180C

Lightly butter a large baking dish. I use my high casserole dish, because I like layers in my gratin!

Layer a thin layer of beets, salt and pepper them, dot with a bit of butter if you are using, and cover with some cheese. Layer some potatoes, salt and pepper them, and cover with cheese. Continue like this until you have used up all your ingredients. I usually end up with 4 – 6 layers, always trying to end with potatoes. Add a final layering of cheese over the top.

Pour in about 2 cups milk/cream mixture until 2/3rd of the way up to the top layer of cheese. It will vary depending on your dish. Push everything down a bit into the cream. Bake in the oven for at least an 1 hour, possibly up to 2, checking every now and then that you dont need extra milk/cream (you really shouldnt, but add more if you think it needs it). Check to see if the gratin is done by forking a bit of potato – it should be tender, and break under very little pressure.

Take out of the oven and allow to rest for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Apple Pie with a Pecorino Crust

6 Aug

apple pie with pecorino crustOh apple pie. Its a simple simple dish, but you can screw it up in so many ways. Good apple pie is brilliant – bad apple pie, well the less said, the better. I love apple pie but I know how difficult it is to make well. Because the ingredients are so simple – a flaky pastry crust, and apples, basically, you have to really pay attention to technique and process. I have been dreaming of an apple pie with a cheddar cheese crust for ages, and decided I would make one today.

I went to the market to get a few things I needed, and AngelKitten asked if I was sure I had cheddar cheese. I blithely said yes. Of course, I didnt have any. But I had bumped into Iq at the market and when I told him what I was baking, he said he thought it would be gorgeous with a pecorino crust. Well, I did have pecorino, so I made it with that! Cooking is sometimes about making do with what you have, and forgiving yourself for assuming you have what you dont!

I think this pie came out beautifully. Its sweet without being overwhelmingly so. Its crust is so gorgeously savoury. The apple interior is scented with cinnamon. It reminds me that in South Africa, we eat cheese and jam together. Sweet and salty. A perfect balance. This pie has those elements.

And thank you to Iq for the pecorino suggestion!

Pecorino Crust

  • 2 1/2 cups pastry flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 stick (8 tbsp) butter, frozen
  • 2 tbsp vegetable shortening or margarine, very cold
  • 1 1/2 cups pecorino cheese grated (you can use cheddar if you are a traditionalist!)
  • 2 – 4 tbsp ice cold water

Mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Grate the butter into the flour, and toss gently with your hands to mix.

Cut up the margarine into tiny pieces, and toss into the flour butter mixture. Add the pecorino, and toss again. You should have a lumpy, slightly golden mixture.

Using your hands, mix in the cold water, a tablespoon at a time, to create a firm and pliable dough. You can knead this dough a few times, using the heel of your hand to smear the dough away from you (this lengthens the frozen butter bits and makes it flaky).

Wrap the dough in baking paper and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Apple Filling

  • 7 – 8 apples, peeled, cored and chopped – about 6 – 7 cups in total (I used Pink Ladies and Gala)
  • 2 tbsp juice (optional)
  • The juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 – 3 tbsp light brown sugar (depending on the sweetness of your apples)
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 tsp all spice
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar (optional)

Peel, core and chop your apples and place in large bowl. Add the juice and lemon juice as you chop to ensure the apples dont brown too much.

Add the sugar, flour, all spice, cinnamon, vanilla and balsamic, and toss well to combine. Set aside for about 30 minutes.

Assembly

  • Dough
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Apple filling
  • 1 – 2 tbsp cold butter, cut into small pieces (optional)
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 2 tbsp light brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 180C. Butter a 9 – 10″ pie plate, with a removable edge if you like.

Divide the dough in half, and on a floured surface, roll out one half of the dough. Put the remaining half of the dough into the fridge. Fit it into your pie plate, making sure the dough comes up over the edge. Poke holes in the dough with a fork, and bake blind (lined with greaseproof paper or aluminum foil and filled with beans or pie weights). Bake for about 20 minutes. Remove the greaseproof paper and beans, and bake for a further 5 minutes until just lightly brown.

Remove the crust from the oven, let cool for about 5 minutes, and brush with beaten egg.

The apples will have let go of a lot of juice in the bowl. Using a spoon (or as I do, you hands) take the apples out of the bowl, making sure to leave quite a bit of the juices behind. Mound the apples in the pie plate. Take about 2 – 3 tablespoons of the juice and pour over the top. Dot with butter if you want.

Roll out the second half of dough, and place over the pie, crimping the edges to seal. Bake in the oven (on a cookie sheet if you are worried about spillage) for 30 minutes or until lightly browned.

Take the pie out of the oven, and brush all over with the remainder of the beaten egg, and sprinkle with sugar. Return to the oven for 5 – 10 minutes more or until the pie is shiny, and sugar has caramelised a bit.

Take out of oven and allow to cool for about 10 – 15 minutes before serving warm with cream.

By the way, Ezril loves the juices from the apples, mixed with some milk as a drink!

Welsh Rarebit (Rabbit!)

18 Jul

Rarebit Rabbit All Tastes YUMI recently read a post on things on toast. I adore just about anything on toast – from gorgeous glowing tomato bruschetta to a poached egg and mushrooms to simple toast, butter and sugar (a firm favourite of my late Ayah’s). Oooh Nutella and banana!

But when I thought of things on toast at that moment, I thought of Welsh rarebit – that divine burnt cheese creation that comes from poverty (instead of rabbit, you used cheese in an alchemical mix with ale and spices). Goddess, this is good food. Simple, warming, easy to make.

And wonderfully enough, any extra is quite long lasting! You can put it in the fridge where it will firm up. From there, you can slice this cheese-beer mixture and use it to top more toast… or whatever else catches your fancy! Its phenomenal stuffed into portobello mushroom caps and grilled. Its ambrosial as the centrepiece of a grilled cheese and tomato. Im sure you can think of many other uses.

The one issue I had with rarebit is that it is mostly made with Worcestershire sauce as its primary spice ingredient. Worcestershire has many good things – vinegar, molasses, tamarind, onion, garlic and other spices (including clove and cinnamon). Unfortunately, one of its major ingredients is anchovies – a big no no for vegetarians. So I had to find an alternative, and I found it in A1 steak sauce, amazingly enough! It had most of the same ingredients as Worcestershire sauce, but without the anchovies, which would have un-vegetarian-ed this delectable meal.

Because this is basically burnt cheese on toast, you need to really layer flavours. I added some old balsamic vinegar and a touch of soy to the recipe to make up for the “lack” of anchovies. I also rubbed a cut garlic clove over the toast before putting on the cheese – subtle, but it imbues the final dish with a whisper of flavour. Its delicious, easy to make, and a perfect supper or dinner for friends and family.

For the cheese sauce you will need:

  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 – 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 – 2 tsp A1 sauce
  • 1 tsp old Balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup ale – I used Leffe
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3 cups grated cheese (I used a mix of 2 parts Cheddar to 1 part red Leicester with a tad of pecorino grated in)
  • 2 eggs, well beaten
  • 2 – 9 drops hot sauce
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 tsp or so soy sauce (optional to taste)

In a medium saucepan, over low heat, melt the butter. Once the butter has completely melted, add the flour, and mix well. Cook this mixture (a nominal roux), stirring all the while, until lightly toasted in colour – a light tan is good. This should take you about 3 – 5 minutes. Add the Dijon mustard, A1 sauce, balsamic and ground pepper, and mix well.

Add the ale, and stir to combine. I usually start using a whisk at this point. The roux will start to deepen the sauce, but you will be adding a few more elements to get a very rich thick final result. Add the heavy cream, and cheese, and whisk well after each addition. Continue whisking as the cheese melts well into the sauce. Make sure it does not come to a boil.

Once the cheese has completely melted, drip the beaten eggs very slowly into the mixture, whisking all the while. Once the egg is completely incorporated, continue to whisk until it is thick to your liking. It should coat the back of a spoon, and when you draw a line through the sauce, the line should stay clean. Taste. Take off heat, and add hot sauce. I usually add 9 drops because I like it a little spicy, but do what tastes good to you. A few drops will be barely traceable but it will add to the final sublime flavour.

Add salt and soy to taste. The cheese should have added quite a bit of salt already, so be gentle.

Leave to cool for a while, as you prep the toast and oven.

To serve (for 2 people – you can adjust for the number of people in your house – the cheese mixture will serve up to 8 people):

  • 4 slices good toasted bread (I used multigrain and sourdough from my favourite bakery)
  • 1 cut clove of garlic
  • a handful of micro-greens (I used pea shoots), washed and cleaned
  • a lick of olive oil and vinegar for the greens
  • 1 vinegar onion each
  • a few baby tomatoes
  • A little minced Italian parsley

First, preheat your oven broiler, and arrange your oven rack to the highest level.

Toast your bread very well. You want it well browned on both sides (this is caramelisation, and flavour!). Rub one side of each piece of toast with a cut garlic clove.

Arrange the toast, garlic rubbed side up, on a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper. The paper will capture any cheesy bits that come off the toasts – usually the most tasty bits!

Spoon about 2 – 4 tablespoons (depending on the size of your bread and your greed, obviously) of cooled cheese mixture over the toasts.

Broil for about 5 – 10 minutes until the cheese is burnt on top and bubbling.

While the toasts are broiling, toss the micro-greens with a tiny lick of olive oil and vinegar, and slice a few baby tomatoes.

Serve 2 toasts per person, with some micro-green salad, a few tomatoes, and a vinegared onion. Sprinkle a little minced parsley over all.

I specifically chose sharp and vinegary side dishes to cut the serious richness of the cheese toasts, but if you hate micro-greens or vinegar onions, obviously, choose what you love as sides!

Pure heaven.

Chicago Deep Dish Pizza

10 Jul

Mushroom PizzaOh my goodness, this is superb. It elevates pizza (which I think is pretty high on the totem pole anyway) to sublime heights. Its got a golden, nutty crust, oozing cheese, and superb toppings. I make two lots of the crust, and set out two different pizzas – a divine mushroom and onion, and a blue cheese, spinach and onion. Aiyoh. Heaven. Just about my favourite dinner, and I dont know why I make it so rarely. Its pretty easy with a bit of forward planning. You need to have certain ingredients at the ready: the tomato sauce (I use my own tomato sauce recipe but you could just reduce some onions, garlic and tomatoes with oregano); a couple of toppings – I used sauteed spinach (with just salt and pepper), caramelised onions, and sauteed mushrooms; cheese – a mix of mozzarella and parmesan is good; and your dough. Once you have everything set, making and baking the pizzas is a matter of half an hour.

The dough is adapted from the Frog Commissary Cookbook… my favourite cookbook ever. Its very difficult to get durum wheat here in Malaysia, so I used very high protein bread flour. Also, its difficult to get semolina here (which is the rough version of durum wheat) so I decided I wanted a corn textured dough – I used polenta and fine ground cornmeal. Adjusting is the key – but you have to know what to replace and where. This gives you a nutty chewy delicious crust that holds its own against whatever you throw at it. Make sure to prep the dough at least 2 hours before you want to begin cooking.

Dough

For each pizza you will need:

  • 1 1/4 oz packet instant yeast (here in Malaysia, they sell 11g packets – you will need about 2/3rds of this)
  • 1 1/3 cups warm water
  • 3/4 cup polenta
  • 1/2 cup farina
  • 2 1/2 cups high protein bread flour
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup olive oil

Dissolve the instant yeast in the warm water, and set aside for five minutes or so.

Mix all flours with sugar and salt. Make a well in the centre, and pour the warm yeast and water, and the olive oil into the flours and mix well with your hands. You will have a soft dough. Knead a few times in your bowl. Make a ball, cover with a clean cloth and leave for at least half an hour to an hour to rise. Punch down, and use immediately, or refrigerate for up to 24 hours, and punch down and knead before use.

Assembly

For each pie you will need:

  • 14 inch long rectangle baking pan
  • A little oil
  • A little polenta
  • Dough
  • Cheese – a mix of mozzarella and parmesan – about 1 – 1 1/2 cups per pie
  • Tomato sauce – about 1/2 – 3/4 cup per pie
  • Fillings

Preheat oven to 200 C. Oil pan with a little olive oil and sprinkle polenta over.

Roll put the dough – thinner in the centre, and thicker on the sides, and transfer to the baking pan. Use your fingers to push and pull and prod the dough so that it covers the entire pan, going up the sides. Make sure that it is thicker at the edges, and thinner at the bottom of the pan.

Sprinkle about 2/3rds of the cheese along the bottom of the pie. Cover completely with tomato sauce. Spread the toppings over the pie.

I made two pies. The first was with caramelised onions (about 1/2 cup) and sauteed mushrooms (about 2 cups). You need to saute or cook all the vegetables before adding to the pie because you do not want the vegetables to lose their water during baking. You will need to saute the mushrooms until they let go of their liquid before you add them to the pie. The second pizza was with sauteed spinach and caramelised onions, with a little blue cheese added to the cheese topping mix at the end.

Spinach PizzaPut the pie in the oven for approximately 20 minutes, or until you see the edges begin to become golden brown. Take the pizza out of the oven, and sprinkle with the rest of the cheese. Let brown in the oven for a further 5 – 10 minutes. Allow to rest for at least 5 minutes once out of the oven. This is also wonderful cold, and makes a fantastic picnic!

All photographs copyright Chan KY

Roasted Butternut and Pesto Lasagne

2 Jul

I was expecting quite a few people tonight to watch the Brasil – Netherlands game (was that a surprise or what?!) and so decided to make a lasagne. But I didnt want to do one which was rich in tomato sauce (though I do have a wonderful sauce that has a secret ingredient… oh wait, I will leave that for another time!). I decided I wanted to do a lighter version of lasagne, so I thought of butternut (orange for the Dutch) and pesto (green for the Brasilians). Instead of a bechamel or thick cheese sauce, I decided to do a mix of ricotta, light cottage cheese and sour cream. Not traditional, I know, but it made the lasagne very edible especially when watching such a nailbiting game! It wasnt heavy or overwhelming, but really scrumptious and pleasurable.

This is really easy to make, especially if you do the pesto the day before. This is recommended anyway to ensure that the sauce deepens in flavour and complexity. The rest is a matter of mixing a few things together, and roasting the butternut, and it really can do that all by itself!

This recipe will fill a very large roasting pan – serving probably 10 – 12 hungry people (or 6 with double leftovers, which isnt half bad!)

Roasted Butternut

Butternut is extraordinary. Its sweet and roasts, bakes, stews, steams and purees like a dream. It has a vibrant colour, and its just an amazingly beautiful texture and taste. You really dont have to do anything to it for it to taste good. Just let it be, and thank it for being. πŸ™‚

For this recipe you will need:

  • 1 1/2 large butternuts (probably about 5 – 6 cups chopped)
  • Seasoned salt and white pepper
  • Olive oil

Preheat oven to 180C. Peel, deseed and chop your butternuts roughly. Tumble the butternuts onto a cookie sheet in one layer. Sprinkle with a few tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, some seasoned salt if you have it (if not regular salt is fine), and white pepper. Using your hands, mix all well, and pop into the oven. This will roast very quickly – you probably dont need more than 20 – 30 minutes. You will know its done when the butternut starts to caramelise and brown on the edges, and its soft through. Gorgeous. Leave to cool while assembling the rest.

By the way, the butternut is superb just like this, served as a side dish, or as the basis of a wonderful soup (whiz it up with some yogurt or a little bit of vegetable stock), or even as a cold salad, tossed with some rocket and balsamico and parmesan. Can you tell I adore butternut? πŸ™‚

“White Sauce”

This is not your traditional bechamel. Its much lighter, and yet ensures that the lasagne stays moist and tastes very rich. Its easy to make because it takes no cooking. Just a little beating together and you have alchemy.

The egg just adds lightness and helps everything cook. If you dont have one, or dont want to add one, then forego it.

You will need:

  • 500 g light cottage cheese (curds or smooth, your choice, though I like curds)
  • 500 g ricotta (full fat or light, again your choice)
  • 250 g light sour cream or about 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • Handful of parmesan
  • Salt and pepper (just a little)

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients, and set aside until assembly.

May I just make one note here? I had a beautiful bowl of cottage cheese, ricotta and parmesan and I broke the egg straight into it. And the egg was bad. The smell was terrible, and I was heartbroken. All that good food gone to waste, simply because of my laziness. Please do remember to make sure that when you are adding egg to a recipe, always break it open in a separate container and then add it to your main ingredients. You will save yourself an extra expense and trip to the grocery store. I know, from experience!

Assembly

For this lasagne, you will need:

  • Panful of roasted butternut
  • “White sauce”
  • Pesto
  • About 1 1/2 cups pecorino or parmesan, grated
  • 500 g box of dry lasagne pasta or fresh, if you can get it!
  • Olive oil
  • Handful of Italian parsley to finish

Preheat your oven to 180C.

If you are using dry pasta, fill a pan with hot water, add a few drops of olive oil, and put the pasta in. This will hydrate it a little, which will help in the baking process. You dont cook this lasagne for long, and it does not have a thick saucey component that will cook the pasta during baking. Hot tap water is fine, or a kettle that has been boiled and left for 15 minutes or so. You should be able to touch the water. Leave the pasta in for about ten minutes.

Oil the bottom of a very large roasting tin with a little olive oil. Spread about 1/3rd of the butternut over the bottom of the pan, sprinkle a little bit of parmesan over, and drop about 1/2 cup of white sauce over this. Cover entirely with pasta. Spoon about a cup of white sauce over this (or more – you want to cover the pasta entirely but not thickly), and spoon tablespoons of pesto on top. You want a white base, with beautiful bright green blobs. Cover entirely with pasta. As you cover it, you will see the pesto spread – this is good. Do another butternut layer, another pesto, and a final butternut layer. Cover with a final layer of pasta, and pour the rest of the white sauce over all, and sprinkle the remainder of your cheese over. You should have a pretty full pan, and five layers of lasagne.

Bake in hot oven for about half an hour, or until heated throughout, the pasta is soft, and the top is brown and crispy. Let rest for a few minutes when you take it out of the oven, and chop up a handful of Italian parsley to sprinkle over.

Serve with a refreshing salad. And watch your team win! Or lose πŸ˜‰