Tag Archives: pecorino

O’Gourmet Food Hall Asparagus & Mushroom Tart

19 Dec

The other day, I bumped into my friend, MsTina, as I was wandering the halls of O’Gourmet. She took one look at my face, and just laughed. I was wandering in a haze of sensual delight, in one hand a spoon, from tasting the oils and vinegars at Vom Fass, and the other hand rubbing together together a bit of Betong ginger – fresh, organic and local and with a scent that has to be experienced to be believed.

I am truly enjoying my weekly sojourns to O’Gourmet because of the quality and variety of ingredients. Inspiration seems to be everywhere. I love all the gorgeous glass bottles of sauce and spice and everything nice. I could just stand and look at all the enticing spices and nuts, tasting this and that, for ages. And dont even get me started on the vegetables! They are so beautiful! Displayed as if in a museum, with the choicest and most perfectly chosen pieces offered up for your pleasure. The woman in charge of the fruits and vegetables, Miss Heng, is a master at knifework, and so she prepares all the produce with an eye to pleasing the visual palate. When I am there, I can be inspired in an instant!

This week, my eye was caught by the most beautiful trio of asparagus – white, green and purple. Asparagus is an fascinating vegetable. Grown above ground, in full sunshine, it turns green, but cover it a little, so that only heads peek above, and the limited amount of chlorophyll it consumes means that the asparagus turns out purple. And grown completely underground, and harvested in the early dawn, so that very little light affects its growing, asparagus is clean pure white. Each tastes different – the white can be very sweet, the purple a kind of calm middle ground, and the green has that traditional nutty lemony flavour.

I decided I wanted to make an asparagus tart – but then I was captured by the gorgeous leeks and the creamy and fresh mushrooms – both white button and portobello. So I decided that I was going to make a tart which incorporated everything. I thought I would use phyllo pastry dough so it would be a rough, freeform tart, and I would place the asparagus and the mushrooms in alternating blocks of intensity on the pastry. From Vom Fass, I sourced gorgeous scented truffle oil for the mushrooms, and a bright, brilliant lemon oil to finish off the asparagus.

Now the only decision was what would form the cushion upon which the veggies would sit in splendour. I wanted the process to be simple – as complex as these tastes are, putting together this tart only takes a few minutes. So, of course, a consultation with M. Sebastien at the cheese room was in order (along with a few heavenly tastings of cheese!). He decided on a Crottin de Chavignol to pair with the asparagus. It was a master step. Crottin de Chavignol is perhaps the most famous of the goat cheeses. Its created, to strict standards, in a tiny village in the Loire valley. Its creamy, nutty, slightly tart – and perfectly balances the delicacy of the asparagus. For the mushrooms, we decided on a Pecorino al Tartufo – a young pecorino, stuffed to the gills with truffles. The scent was overwhelmingly blowsily lush, and I could have purred with happiness right then and there. To bind them together, I decided on using a little cream cheese (and in a bold move), some Delice de Bourgogne – a gorgeous cow’s milk cheese which tastes like organic cream imbued with sunshine and hay. Its like a brie, but less strong – its centre was crumbly and yet yeilding, and the edges were thickly creamy. What a cheese!

I would suggest, if you have a good cheese shop, to go, taste, and consult. There are few experiences quite so lovely as the careful contemplation of beautiful cheese. And a cheese master can help you pair cheese – particularly if you tell them exactly how you will use it – with various vegetables and foods. If you are making this tart from what you can find in the market, I would look for a good parmesan or pecorino, some goat’s cheese and a great cream cheese. This recipe is definitely adaptable – use your own cooking intelligence, your sense of taste and balance, and it will be gorgeous!

While this recipe is simple, there are a few steps to be followed. Because of the phyllo pastry, you want to make sure that the ingredients are not wet, otherwise the pastry will be soggy. Most, if not all, of the work can be done before hand. Prebake the pastry for ten minutes – it can be kept in the fridge up to 2 days. Mix and mash the cheeses, and keep covered in the fridge until ready to use. And blanch the asparagus (they live longer in the fridge if slightly blanched) and prep the mushrooms up to three days in advance. Assembly of the tart takes minutes (particularly if youve already baked the shell), and once baked, the tart can be kept in the fridge, for up to two days, reheated in a low oven, covered, just before serving.

Serves 8 – 10 people as a starter, 4 – 6 people as a main course

Balsamic mushrooms

  • 1/2 cup dried mushrooms – I used black trumpet
  • 1 – 2 tbsp truffle oil or olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 leek, finely diced
  • 2 cups mixed mushrooms – about 4 – 6 portobello and 4 – 6 button – peeled and finely sliced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup red wine (or Fre red alcohol removed wine)
  • 2 – 4 tbsp best quality, aged balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Place the dried mushrooms in a bowl, and cover completely with boiling water. Let stand for ten minutes while you prep all the vegetables. Once the mushrooms have softened, remove from the water with a sieve in a scooping motion. I dont drain the mushrooms because the silt from the mushrooms tends to come with them, so I simply scoop them out of the water they have been softening in.

Place the softened mushrooms in a saucepan, cover with water, and simmer over medium heat for about 15 minutes. Drain and chop roughly. Set aside.

In a large frying pan, over medium heat, melt the butter into the oil. Add the leek, and saute for about 5 minutes, or until the leek has softened, and turned glossy.

Add the fresh mushrooms, half a cup at a time. You want them to saute, and quickly lose their water without becoming soggy. Stir well after every addition, and season with salt and pepper.

About half way through your mushrooms, add the red wine, increase the heat to high, and let the mushrooms absorb the wine and bubble away. It shouldnt take too long for the wine to almost completely evaporate.

Add the rest of the fresh mushrooms, adjusting seasoning, and stirring well. Allow them to saute till almost dry, and then add the balsamic. This will caramelise the mushrooms and bring out their dark sweet quality.

Add the reserved chopped dried mushrooms, adjust seasoning, and allow to cook for about 5 minutes on medium high heat. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed, and set aside until at room temperature.

These mushrooms can be used in pasta, salad, sandwiches – whatever strikes your fancy! They will keep for 3 – 5 days in the fridge, well covered.

Asparagus

  • 1 bunch of asparagus – 6 – 9 stalks if large – if you can get a mixed colour variety, do so – it looks dramatically gorgeous!
  • 1 tbsp lemon oil or olive oil to finish

Prepare the asparagus. Wash clean in running water, and then take each stalk, and snap near the base. It will snap naturally – the base bits can be frozen and used for soup or a pasta sauce base at another time.

Place the asparagus in a large bowl, and cover completely with boiling water. Allow to sit for a few minutes, until the asparagus has turned bright green. This really depends on the thickness of your asparagus – if you are using the thin delicate type, this may only be a few seconds, thicker varieties will need 3 minutes or so.

Remove the asparagus from the boiling water with tongs, and place in an ice water bath immediately. Or place in another bowl, and run very cold water over.

Asparagus blanched in this manner can be dried well, and then frozen until ready to use (up to 3 months), or refrigerated up to 3 days

Cheese Base

  • 100 g + 100 g cream cheese
  • 75 g + 75 g Delice de Bourgogne or other soft white delicate cheese (or cream cheese)
  • 2 x 6 g rounds Crottin de Chavignol (or other good goat’s cheese crottin)
  • 100 g Pecorino al Tartufo (truffled pecorino – or other good pecorino or parmesan)
  • 1 tsp lemon oil (or olive oil)
  • 1 tsp truffle oil (or olive oil)

For the asparagus cheese: Place 100 g cream cheese in a small bowl. Cut the rind off the Delice de Bourgogne (if using), and mash into the cream cheese using a fork. Cut the rinds off the Crottin de Chavignol, and mash the cheese in as well. Add 1 tsp lemon oil or olive oil, and taste. Cover and reserve in the fridge for up to two days.

For the mushroom cheese: Place 100 g cream cheese in a small bowl. Cut the rind off the Delice de Bourgogne (if using), and mash into the cream cheese using a fork. Grate or crumble the Pecorino al Tartufo into the bowl, and mash to combine. Add the truffle oil and taste. Cover and reserve in the fridge for up to two days.

Phyllo Tart Case

  • 1 package phyllo pastry
  • 3 – 5 tbsp butter, browned and melted
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Phyllo pastry is very difficult to make by hand because its so thin and delicate. Purchase a good quality phyllo from the store, and treat it well, and you will be fine. Defrost in the fridge for a day before use, or for 2 hours at room temperature. When you unroll the phyllo, place on a board or in a jelly roll pan, and cover with a damp cloth.

Preheat the oven to 170C (350F), and line a baking sheet or jelly roll pan with parchment paper.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan, and allow it to just brown a bit. This will add immeasurably to the flavour of the finished product. Add the olive oil and mix well. Let come to room temperature.

Place one or two sheets of phyllo pastry on the parchment lined sheet, and brush gently with the butter/oil mixture. Gently place another layer of phyllo over and brush with the butter/oil mixture. Continue until the entire package of phyllo pastry has been finished – usually about 15 – 20 layers. Sometimes I double the layers of pastry between brushes of butter and oil.

Create edges along the sides of the tart by folding inward about an inch, along all four sides. Prick the internal pastry with a fork, gently – otherwise the phyllo will puff up.

Bake in the oven for about 10 – 12 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool to room temperature, and reserve, for up to 2 days, tightly wrapped in the fridge.

Assembly

  • Pre-baked Phyllo Pastry Tart case
  • Asparagus Cheese Mix
  • Mushroom Cheese Mix
  • Asparagus
  • Balsamic Mushrooms
  • Olive oil to finish – or lemon oil (for asparagus) and truffle oil (for mushrooms)

Preheat oven to 170C (350F). Make sure everything is at room temperature.

Look at the tart case. It should be a large rectangle. In your mind’s eye, divide the rectangle up into four quarters. Working from the bottom up, spoon asparagus cheese in the left lower quarter, mushroom cheese in the right lower quarter, asparagus cheese in the upper right quarter, and finish off with mushroom cheese in the upper left quarter.

Layer the asparagus over the quarters which hold the asparagus cheese, and spoon the mushrooms over the mushroom cheese. Finish off with just a little dribble of oil.

Bake for 35 – 45 minutes in the oven, until the cheese is bubbling and burnished, and the pastry is a dark golden brown.

Allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving, or serve at room temperature.

Will keep in the fridge, fully baked, tightly covered, for up to 2 days. Reheat in a gentle oven, covered in tin foil to avoid burning, for about 20 minutes.

Enjoy!

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!

Butternut and Spinach Tart with a Parmesan or Pecorino Crust

24 Jul

goldorange perfectionI am really in a tarty mood these days. Not sure why. Must be something to do with the moon 😉 I must admit that tarts and pies have always fascinated me. I love the idea of a pastry enveloping delightful fillings – and I have always believed that the pastry should be as good as the interior, if not better. I made a raspberry curd tart the other day, and now I am trying my hand at a savoury one. I love butternut and spinach together – their colours, green and orangegold are so complementary, and, more importantly, they taste so good together. Roasted butternut and lightly sauteed spinach are a knockout taste combination. But what would happen, I wondered, if you made them both very smooth and creamy, a touch of herbs and garlic, and combined them together, side by side. May be some shards of very salty, briney, goats cheese. That would stand up to the spinach and butternut. And a crust that had a hint of pecorino in it, so it too was a taste explosion.

So I set out to make this tart of my dreams … and I must admit it is a process. I made it over one evening, and an afternoon. This is a tart for a family gathering or celebration, a picnic or a birthday. I have to say that the actual cooking processes are easy, and really not focus consuming at all – you just need to be around as things get roasted and sauteed, and you need to let the crust rest, and then prebake it. Its a doddle if you break it down into smaller components (much like life) and then tackle each individual piece slowly and with great enjoyment. I roasted my butternut and prepared my tart dough the night before while watching tv. The actual work time was about 15 – 20 minutes, and the rest was allowing the ingredients to do their magic.

What I adore about this particular tart is that it is layer up on layer of perfection. When you serve it, it looks like a spinach tart, which in and of itself, is pretty damn delicious. Underneath the bronzed deep green spinach, is the goldenorange perfection of butternut, and nuggets of melted goats cheese. What an astounding mixture, what a brilliant taste sensation, what delightful surprises hidden within that beautiful crust.

Tarts are wonderful things because they can feed many people, in great style. They accommodate fillings pretty much at your whim and desire, and can be savoury or sweet at your discretion. A slice of tart will almost never go unaccepted – and when youre in the mood for just a bite, a sliver of tart can hit the spot perfectly. Plus they are so beautifully dramatic to present. Such a wide expanse of pretty colours and melting goodness. And you can serve them warm from the oven (but never hot), or cold from the fridge the next day (if there’s any left!).

If you decide to make this tart, do think about timing. If you make it all in one afternoon, roast the butternut first, make the dough and put it in the freezer while the butternut is in the oven, then cool the butternut, then make the spinach, etc. You will need to give each element time to rest, cool and intensify their flavours and textures, so be aware of what you make and when.

And just a note, I used pecorino in this recipe, but you could just as easily use parmesan. I love pecorino because its a more tangy version of parmesan, and its made with ewe’s milk so it goes easily with the goat’s cheese.

Pecorino Pastry

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup pecorino, grated
  • 1/2 cup / 110 g / 8 tbsp butter, frozen and grated
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp oregano or sage or rosemary

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and parmesan. Grate the frozen butter over, sifting it into the flour with the tips of your fingers. I pause and do this twice as I grate.

Beat the egg, dijon, oregano (or other herb) and salt together, and pour over the flour-parmesan-butter mixture. Bring the dough together with the tips of your fingers and let it rest in the fridge for about half an hour or up to two days.

When you are ready to use the pastry, roll out on a floured board. Drape over your rolling pin, and centre it in your tart pan. Prick with your fork, line with aluminum foil, fill with beans, and bake in a preheated oven for 20 minutes. Take out the foil and beans, prick again with the fork, and bake for about 5 – 10 minutes until lightly browned. Allow to cool a bit before filling with butternut and spinach.

Roasted butternut (and a garlic head!)

  • 3 – 4 cups butternut (about 700 g), roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp or less olive oil
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 3 tbsp light sour cream
  • 2 eggs + 3 yolks, beaten well together

Preheat your oven to about 220C. Prepare a baking tin with greaseproof paper.

Skin and chop the butternut, and arrange it in one layer on the baking tin. Using your hands, lightly coat the butternut with some olive oil. When I say lightly coat, I really mean lightly – you dont want the butternut swimming in oil because it will most definitely steam in the oil rather than roast and slightly char. You want that caramelised burnt butternut flavour, and a tiny bit of olive oil will really help with that. Too much will be a hindrance.

Using a sharp knife, cut about 1/4th inch off the top of a head of garlic, skins intact.

Place the garlic on the baking tin, and pour olive oil into the cloves.

Salt and pepper everything liberally.

Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until the butternut is soft, and slightly burnt around the edges.

At this point, you can refrigerate the butternut, covered, for up to two days. Take the cloves of garlic out of their skins, cut away any very burnt bits (they can be bitter), and store in the fridge too, covered with olive oil. If you are serving the tart that day, go on to the next step.

Using an immersion blender, combine the butternut and 3 tbsp of sour cream.

Beat 3 eggs and 2 egg yolks together until light and frothy. Use 2/3rd of this in the butternut mixture, and reserve the rest for the spinach. Fold the eggs lightly into the butternut.

Set aside.

Spinach

  • 120 g of baby spinach, washed
  • 3 cloves of roasted garlic
  • 3 tbsp roasted garlic olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Wash a packet of baby spinach well in salted water. Let it sit for a minute in the water while you heat 3 tbsp of olive oil that has been sitting with the roasted garlic cloves, along with three of the cloves, in a large frying pan over high heat. You can mash the cloves into the olive oil.

With your hands, lift the baby spinach out of the water, allowing some water to cling to the leaves. Fry in the very hot oil until it is bright green and soft, about 3 – 5 minutes only. You dont want to over cook the spinach, but you do want it to be wilted completely. Season liberally with salt and pepper.

Transfer the hot spinach to a mixing bowl. Add 3 tbsp sour cream, and using your immersion blender, make sure the spinach has been completely pureed.

Fold in 1/3rd of the egg mixture from the butternut into the spinach and set aside.

Assembly

  • Baked tart crust
  • Butternut mixture
  • Goats cheese – about 3 – 5 tbsp, roughly chopped
  • Spinach mixture

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Pour the butternut mixture into the tart crust. Sprinkle the goats cheese all over the butternut, and then pour the spinach mixture over all, using a spatula to smooth the top completely.

Bake in the oven for 25 – 30 minutes.

tart heavenLet rest for 10 minutes or so before cutting into wedges and serving.

Perfection can be hard work, but it is so bloody satisfying when it comes off!

Pesto

1 Jul

Glowing green. Scented with basil, pine nuts, pecorino and garlic. Goopy, gooey goodness. I am nuts about pesto. Its so easy to make – about 5 minutes cooking time to toast the nuts, and the rest a few pulses in your food processor. You can eat this so many ways: straight from the bowl (as per usual!); stirred through pasta or even rice; as an amazing addition to a sandwich or salad dressing; and, as I will be using it, as the base of a terrific lasagne.

Pesto can be made with so many things – any green vegetable – or go further – let your imagination take flight – use butternut, sun ripened tomatoes, mushrooms even. Try it with almonds, macadamias, walnuts, and change the cheese – blue, parmesan, etc. Its so flexible, and so delicious.

Note that I use some rocket in this recipe (about 1 to 3 in terms of the basil) because basil in Malaysia is very strongly flavoured. If your basil is the gentler variety, feel free to omit the rocket entirely.

For about 2 cups you will need:

  • 1 1/2 cups pine nuts
  • 2 cups (150 g) well packed, washed basil
  • 3/4 cup rocket
  • 5 large cloves of garlic, chopped into chunks
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup grated pecorino or parmesan
  • Up to 1 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil

First off, toast the pine nuts. In a non stick pan, over medium heat, layer the pine nuts. Make sure you keep stirring with a spatula. These go from golden toasty to burnt in a split second, so be careful.

Put your basil into food processor and add about 1/4 cup olive oil. Pulse a couple times so its completely chopped. Add the rocket, and pulse again.

Add the pine nuts, and pulse well, adding a little more olive oil if you feel it is needed.

Add the garlic and salt, and pulse again. Add the pecorino or parmesan, and mix with spatula. Turn out into a bowl, and add a little more olive oil until its the consistency that you prefer.

I would certainly make this at least 1 day in advance to allow the flavours to meld. Save covered with a slick of olive oil, covered, in the fridge.