14 January 2015

{Bookshelf} Sweetcorn Slaw from Ottolenghi's Plenty More


This another Ottolenghi gem from Plenty More & it is perfect for those summer BBQs & the weather here in Auckland has been just perfect for BBQs these past few weeks.  Long sunny days & balmy evening. She was a long time coming but summer did arrive & it looks like she wants to hang around. She's been perfect for picnics; lazing around in parks under the dappled light of trees, fountains burbling away in the background, making daisy chains & watching the clouds drift past high above. 




Even better with a picnic basket full of all sorts of goodies from the the French Markets; fresh baked Pukeko Bakery kumura bread, perfectly ripe cheese; especially good a Gorgonzola Picante & a creamy buttery melt in the mouth goat cheese, a hummus spiked with smoked paprika, giant olives stuffed with chillies & feta & blue cheese & even a little salad as a token gesture to new year healthy.  And of course something a little chilled & white. Yes it could well be the summer of picnics if this weather keeps up.  We’re so lucky to have so many, parks, beaches & beautiful spots all over the city; you wouldn’t even need to leave Auckland for an endless summer of picnics.

This slaw takes us to Mexico.  And what’s not to love about Mexican flavours... smokey BBQ sweetcorn, chillies & coriander. And then it's all wrapped up in a sharp tangy dressing with dijon, lemon juice & garlic to give a summery Mexican twist on your usual slaw.




Sweetcorn Slaw, from Ottolenghi's Plenty More

Ingredients

For the salad 
100ml white vinegar 
1/4 white cabbage, shredded
3 small carrots, peeled & ribboned
1 medium red onion, finely sliced
4 corn cobs, lightly brushed with olive oil
2 red chillies, finely chopped
Bunch of fresh coriander leaves, chopped
Bunch of fresh mint leaves, chopped 
Olive oil
Salt & pepper

For the dressing 
50g mayonnaise
2 tsp dijon mustard
1.5 tsp rice bran or other neutral oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 garlic clove, crushed



Directions

Place vinegar, 200ml of water  & 1 tablespoon of salt in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil & remove from the heat. Place the cabbage & carrot in a medium bowl & pour over 2 thirds of the salty liquid & set aside to soften for 20 minutes. Pour the remaining liquid over the onion & set that aside for 20 minutes as well.  Rinse the vegetables & onion, pat dry, place in a large bowl & set aside.

Place a ridged griddle pan or BBQ on a high heat & when smoking hot add the corn.  Char grill for 10-12 minutes, turning every now & then so that all sides get a little colour. If griddling inside best to switch on extractor or open some windows!  Remove from the heat & when cool enough to handle cut off the kernels in clumps & add to the vegetables & onions.


Whisk together the dressing ingredients, pour over the salad & gently mix it all together.  Add the chilli, coriander & mint, season with a little black pepper, one more gentle stir & serve.

This is indeed perfect for Summer.  Sweet smokey corn, creamy yet punchy dressing, a hit of chilli, fragrant coriander & fresh burst of mint.




Enjoy!

04 January 2015

Ham & Spinach Tart


Happy New Year! 

May your coming year be filled with magic & dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you're wonderful, and don't forget to makes some art - write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself".
Neil Gaiman

So far Auckland has put on a spectacular 2015. Sunshine & summer, as always, worth the wait.  In fact perhaps the wait makes us a little more appreciative of these beautiful days.



Along with beautiful sunny days the hamathon continues & the mountain gets a little smaller day by day. It may resemble a hill by next week!  It continued the other day with this tart. And this one is a keeper....well if you like cheese.  And what kind of person doesn’t like cheese??  This is ham & cheese taken to a whole new level.


Ham & cheese – inseparable companions. There’s the classic; the humble ham & cheese sandwich.  Toasted & with a splash of Worcestershire sauce it’s even better. And perhaps not so humble in France or Spain or Italy; cooked ham & emmental in crunchy baguettes in France, a crusty roll with manchego & jamon in Spain & perhaps prosciutto & pecorino panini in Italy.  If you want to really push the boat out head to France where there’s Croque Monsieur; a little béchamel added to the mix & perhaps a little Dijon.  That not enough for you try Croque Madame with the fried egg on top.



Ham & Spinach Tart, adapted from Jamie At Home

Quantities changed to suit my pie case & cheddar instead of Parmesan which made it ever so cheesy!

Ingredients

1/2 recipe savoury short crust pastry – see below.
A knob of butter
Olive oil
1 red onion, peeled & chopped
1 clove of garlic, peeled & chopped
200g / 6oz spinach (you can also use nettles, Swiss chard or borage), washed, thick stems removed
A few sprigs of fresh marjoram or oregano, leaves picked
Salt  & pepper
200g / 6oz crème fraîche
75g / 2.5oz cheddar cheese
2 eggs
100g / 3oz ham, diced


Directions

First, make your pastry (recipe below), wrap it in plastic wrap & rest it in the fridge for at least half an hour. Get the pastry out & roll it with a rolling pin between 2 sheets of baking paper* until about ½  centimetre thick & big enough to line your tart tin with a centimetre or so of an overhang. This was enough for my rectangle case (350mm x 110mm), but you can use round or any shape you like.

*avoids a floury mess!

Grease the tart tin & pop in the pastry. Press in to the tart tin & trim most of the excess off the edges, leaving a centimetre or so overhang. Prick the pastry all over with a fork & chill in the freezer for another 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 190C/ 375F.

Remove the tart from the fridge & blind bake your pastry crust with rice or baking beans for 10 minutes, until lightly golden. Next, heat a glug of olive oil in a large frying pan & gently fry the onions on a low heat for 10 minutes until they're soft, sweet & translucent. 



Turn up the heat to medium & add the garlic, the spinach (in batches if your pan isn't big enough) & most of the marjoram. Season with a little salt & pepper & give it a good stir. Take the pan off the heat when the spinach has wilted; this will only take a couple of minutes. Set aside.

Next for the filling; place the crème fraîche into a bowl, stir in the grated cheddar, eggs & a pinch of salt & pepper.  Mix well together & set aside. To assemble the tart spread the spinach mixture over the bottom of your pastry case. Scatter over the ham & spoon the cheese mixture evenly over the top, smoothing it out with the back of the spoon & make sure it fills the whole pastry case. Scatter over the rest of the marjoram & pop it in the oven for 20-25 minutes until bubbly & golden on top & the filling just set.



Jamie’s Best Ever Savoury Short Crust Pastry*

*have to agree here it is the best savoury pastry I’ve made.  Cheese like bacon makes just about everything better.

**tip….for shortcrust pastry – half fat to flour

Ingredients

500g / 18oz all-purpose /plain flour
200g / 7oz butter
50g / 2oz freshly grated cheddar cheese
Salt
A few sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves picked
2 eggs, beaten
A splash of milk
A little flour for dusting

Directions

Place the flour, butter, cheese & a pinch of salt into a food processor & pulse for 20-30 seconds, until the mixture is crumbly & fine. I used my trusty Russell Hobbs that did the job in no time at all.  Add the thyme leaves or your chosen flavouring….you could add paprika, pepper, lemon zest, rosemary, a little cayenne, a pinch of chilli flakes…endless options!
        
Pour in the eggs & add the milk. Pulse for a few more seconds until the mixture comes together; just together as you want to work the pastry as little as possible. Scoop your pastry dough out of the food processor & onto a clean, floured work surface & pat it a few times to make it more compact don't be tempted to knead it, again we want to work it as little as possible. When you have a flat round, wrap the dough in a plastic wrap & place it in the fridge to rest for at least half an hour.

This is quite rich! Possibly an understatement…but oh my if you like cheese & ham this could be the definition of divine! And you can always have a little salad on the side with a sharp vinaigrette for balance. It will also help cut the richness of the tart! Crumbly, savoury, cheesy pastry & then the rich creamy cheese filling laden with that Christmas ham, oh & there’s a little spinach too.  See balance ��


Enjoy!

*For all things Russell Hobbs head over here.




31 December 2014

Nigel’s Ham, Cheese & Apple Muffins



I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas!

The Christmas festivities are over once again.  Fun was had, there was laughter, crackers were pulled, poppers popped, bubbles drunk & many cheers, a couple of cocktails, a delicious feast consumed & crazy pass the parcel played All the build-up, all the preparation & in a blink of an eye gone until next year leaving in their wake….well ham, lots of ham.  We have a little bit of a ham mountain. I feel I have almost half a pig in the fridge & though much ham has been consumed over the last few days I am not convinced it is getting any smaller.  


Fortunately I love the Christmas ham & have yet to reach my limits.  But a little variety is definitely required.  A take on Jamie’s ham, spinach & cheese tart has been made & it was so cheesy, creamy delicious I will have to share it.  You can even kid yourself it’s a little healthy as it has some of the green stuff in it! So for the next few weeks I may have to change the name my blog to “Ham” & any tasty suggestions will be most welcome!


First up though were these tasty morsels from Nigel Slater; ham, cheese & apple muffins to be precise. Ever so cheesy which is always a good thing, little nuggets of ham & just the hint of sweetness from the apple.

Nigel’s Ham, Cheese & Apple Muffins

Any full flavoured cheese will work here. I also added a little mustard powder as mustard is such a good friend to ham.  I also think a few chilli flakes or a pinch of cayenne wouldn’t go amiss.

Makes a dozen

Ingredients

275g / 10oz plain flour
1 tbsp caster sugar
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp English mustard powder
Pinch of salt
3 eggs
175g / 6oz yoghurt
200g / 7oz cooked ham, chopped
One small apple, grated
75g / 2.5oz firm, mature cheese, grated
A little grated cheese to finish
You will also need 12 medium-sized bun tins; paper muffin cases


Directions

Pre heat oven to 200C/390F.

Line 12 medium-sized muffin tins with paper muffin cases. Place the flour, sugar, baking powder, mustard powder and a little salt in a bowl &  mix well together. In a separate bowl, break the eggs & lightly beat them, stir in the yoghurt, the chopped ham &  the grated apple. Fold the cheese into the yoghurt mixture & lightly mix with the dry ingredients. Gently & quickly to keep them airy & light.

Divide the mixture between the 12 cases, grate over a little cheese & bake for 25 minutes till risen & gold & maybe just a few crunchy toasty cheesy bits. Allow to cool, well at least a little before eating.



Nigel says to eat the same day, which would be easy but after all the over indulgence of the past few days there are limits & a desire not to turn in to a muffin! I found warmed through on day 2 with a little butter they made for the perfect tasty breakfast.




Enjoy & have the happiest of New Year’s!
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