Caramelised Red Onion Tart with Jamón and Stilton

WordPress tells me that the top search on my blog, pretty much constantly, is for Olive Oil Pastry. Those of you who regularly follow my blog will know that until recently I was a self-confessed pastry cheat, using ready made pastry most of the time. In the summer though, I experimented with the pastry made using olive oil instead of butter and in the autumn, with delicious English butter available, I tried out the deliciously naughty Rough Puff Pastry.

The olive oil pastry is a healthier option for more frequent use and as there are so many searches for this recipe, I thought I should make an effort to show some of the ways I use it in the kitchen. This is a delicious tart which serves 4 as a main course or 6 as a starter.

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Ingredients

  • 1 batch of olive oil pastry
  • 6 red onions
  • 2 small sprigs of thyme
  • Olive oil for shallow frying
  • 3 slices of jamón, prosciutto or bacon (omit if you want a vegetarian tart) cut into small pieces
  • About 3 tablespoons of crumbled stilton or some of your favourite cheese

No need for blind baking with this pastry, it goes crispy underneath, even when baked with the filling.

Half and finely slice your onions and fry slowly in about 3 tablespoons of olive until soft and slightly caramelised. This will probably take at least 20 minutes.  Season with a little pepper but you will probably not need salt if you are using the jamón and stilton which are both salty.

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Roll out the chilled pastry to fit your tart tin, prick the bottom and fill with the cooked onion mixture. Sprinkle over the jamón and cheese and bake at 200 (regular oven) or 180 degrees (fan assisted) for about 30 minutes or until the pastry is browned.

Leave to cool slightly – this is delicious served at room temperature with a salad.

The Little Grey Cells….

Fans of the fictional Agatha Christie Detective, Hercule Poirot will know what I am talking about. Those little grey cells in the brain which sort the information and keep things in order.

Clearly mine were on a go slow yesterday. I published a recipe for ravioli and today I was glossing paintwork and thinking about food, as you do. Thinking that it would be good to make more ravioli as they had been so good. Oh, I remembered, the taste of that fresh crab was amazing. Crab?! Yikes, I forgot to mention the key ingredient in my post. Which just goes to show that too many paint fumes combined with too much wine when cooking can indeed affect those little grey cells.

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So to calm things down, I’m taking myself off to a peaceful place – a beach in the Cook Islands I visited at this time of year 9 years ago on my Round the World trip. Enjoy the view and apologies for the temporary brain malfunction!

Crab, Lemon, Chili and Ricotta Ravioli and Mushroom and Tomato Ravioli

That’s a whole lot of ravioli, but as Chgo John will confirm, if you’re going to make ravioli, you may as well make plenty!

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A previous ravioli making session confirmed that they’re much easier and more fun to make if you work with friends. A recent Sunday lunch with girlfriends was a hands on affair – cooking first, eating later, but all accompanied with laughter, wine and chatting.

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We made half a kilo of pasta (500g of flour with 5 eggs, salt and a splash of olive oil) and two fillings. Weights are approximate, but will make filling for about 25 ravioli per filling and you may find you have enough pasta left over for making a little batch of tagliatelle.

Lemon & Chilli Filling

  • About 200g fresh ricotta
  • Approx 200g cooked crab meat (white and dark)
  • 1 teaspoon of fresh grated ginger
  • The grated zest of a lemon
  • 1 small red chilli, deseeded (or not!) and very finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper

Mix all the ingredients together, taste and adjust seasoning and use to fill your ravioli. We served these with melted butter melted butter mixed with a little crème fraiche, lemon zest and fresh rosemary with parmesan.

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Mushroom Filling with Tomato Sauce

  • 1 dozen medium sized mushrooms and stalks very finely chopped and fired gently with 2 cloves of crushed garlic and 1 teaspoon of finely chopped rosemary until softened
  • About 125g mascarpone cheese
  • ¼ teaspoon of smoked pimentón
  • ½ ball of mozzarella, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • About 2 cups of thick homemade tomato sauce
  • Fresh parmesan

Mix together the mushrooms, pimentón, mascarpone and mozzarella to form a paté type paste, season and adjust if necessary. Use to fill your ravioli and serve with tomato sauce and freshly grated or thinly sliced parmesan.

Seared Scallops with Spinach in Black Bean Sauce

Quick doesn’t have to be boring – especially when it comes to food. Top quality ingredients will give you amazing tasting food, and you don’t always have to spend hours preparing it with a long list of ingredients. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy making complex meals too, but here’s a fast food experience that will be ready in less time than it takes to wait for a food delivery.

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Ingredients per person

  • 4-6 fresh scallops
  • 2 cups of washed spinach (roughly chopped)
  • About 6 mushrooms, sliced not too thinly
  • 1 large clove of garlic, crushed
  • A little oil for frying
  • 1 tablespoon of black bean sauce
  • Soy sauce
  • Lemon or lime juice

Start by gently frying the mushrooms in a little oil and when they start to soften, add the garlic and spinach and cook until the spinach wilts.

On a hot griddle or under a hot grill, quickly cook the scallops on both sides (this can take less than a minute per side).

Stir the black bean sauce and about a teaspoon of soy sauce into the spinach and mushrooms. Serve the scallops on top of the vegetables with a little squeeze of lemon or lime juice.

Beef and Mushroom Pie

Flushed with the success of my recent rough puff pastry I decided to use it again in a warming pie.  Of course, I turned to my pal Mad Dog for recipe inspiration and came across his gorgeous recipe for Steak and Kidney Pie. Using this as the start point, I gathered together my ingredients and got going.

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Ingredients (serves 4): 

  • About 1kg of braising steak
  • 2 medium onions (finely chopped)
  • 1 stick of celery (finely chopped)
  • 1 carrot (finely chopped)
  • About 20 button and chestnut mushrooms (finely chopped)
  • 5 cloves of garlic (crushed)
  • a pinch of crushed chilli or chili powder
  • ground sea salt, black peppercorns, and a tablespoon of finely chopped fresh rosemary, 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato purée
  • Half a bottle of red wine plus enough beef or chicken stock to cover the meat and vegetables
  • Flour for coating the meat and extra (if needed) to thicken the sauce
  • olive oil as needed for frying
  • 1 beaten egg
  • extra salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 batch of rough puff pastry

Make your pastry and leave to rest in the fridge while you get on with the pie filling.

Cut the meat into small cubes and toss them in seasoned flour.

Fry in a little olive oil until browned on the outside (you may need to do this in batches) and set aside but don’t clean out the pan. Add more oil if necessary and gently fry the onions, carrots and celery until the onion is soft and transparent.

Return the meat to the pan and add the mushrooms and garlic. Cook for a few minutes until the mushrooms start to soften then add the seasoning, herbs, tomato purée and liquid. Bring to a gentle boil and transfer to a casserole dish with a lid and continue to cook either on the stove top for about 2 hours on a very low flame or in a low oven until the meat is very tender for 2-3 hours.

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Check for seasoning and adjust if necessary. If the casserole is too liquid, thicken with about a heaped teaspoon of flour mixed with a teaspoon of butter and dropped into the pot and stirred gently until the sauce starts to thicken.

Allow the filling to cool (overnight is best as the flavours will develop) and then you can assemble your pie. Pour the filling into a pie dish and cover with your pastry, cutting a few holes to allow the steam to escape and brushing with a beaten egg.

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I tried to get artistic like Mad Dog but my attempts were more reminiscent of the devil we saw last year on our trip to Jersey. Eek! Luckily I made a double batch of filling and I left the second pie plain…much more appetising.

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Bake for about 30-40 minutes at 220 degrees C until golden brown. Sigh!

Ham, Cheese and Mustard Pasties

One of the lovely things about Street Food in England is that you can eat your way around the world in the space of 100m. From Asia to America, around the Med and back to Blighty – it’s all there for you to enjoy.

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A dish which has been cooked for hundreds of years in England is the Cornish Pasty, and whilst purists will tell you exactly what should and should not go into one, I think most people agree that when made well, they are delicious, filling and portable. Great picnic or street food.

This is by no means a Cornish Pasty – it was made from the leftovers of some spiced ham. And as we move further into January, I am sure many of you will have cooked a ham for the Christmas table so it’s great for using up leftovers.  This recipe is a great one to prepare to take with you on a winter walk to burn off some of the excesses of the festive season. God forbid you should get hungry! If you don’t have ham, this would be great with leftover vegetables or any roasted meats.

This was my first ever attempt at making Rough Puff Pastry and I’m so glad I went for it. It was easy to make and the flavour was far superior to shop bought puff pastry. Do give it a go!

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This makes about 8 medium (but filling) pasties

Rough Puff Pastry

  • 300g room temperature (but not soft) butter
  • 300g plain flour
  • ¾ teaspoon fine salt
  • Up to about 200ml cold water

Mix the salt into the sieved flour and cut the butter into small chunks (about 1cm) and into the flour. Rub the flour and butter together gently but not to a fine texture – you still want to see chunks of butter.  Gradually add the water (how much you need will depend on your flour), mixing with your hands as you go until it comes together to form a dough.

Wrap in cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for 20 mins. After this time (when you can be getting on with the filling), take it out and roll it gently into a long rectangle. Fold it into thirds, roll again, fold again and put it back (wrapped) into the fridge until you are ready to use it.

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Pasty Filling

  • 400ml of your boiling stock from the ham (or any stock, or milk)
  • 3tbs plain flour
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • About a cup of grated hard cheese (I used a strong cheddar)
  • 1 tbs English mustard
  • Black pepper
  • 200g approx. of chopped cold ham
  • About a cup of finely chopped left over cooked vegetables
  • A beaten egg

Put the stock (or milk) into a pan with the flour and oil and heat gently whilst whisking. It will start to thicken to the texture of a pouring custard. Continue to cook for a couple of minutes then add the cheese, mustard and pepper and then stir in the meat and vegetables. Put into the fridge to chill and thicken slightly.

When you are ready to assemble the pasties, heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius, divide the dough into about 8 pieces (or less if you want bigger pasties), and roll each piece into a circle. Fill one side with the filling (do not over fill), fold over the pastry and press both sides together. You can either crimp the edges or press with the tines of a fork. I have a handy Empanada maker that I use.

Brush the tops of the pasties with beaten egg and place them on a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper. Bake for 20 minutes and enjoy when then are golden brown. These are great both hot and cold – take care not to burn yourself if you can’t resist sampling them straight out of the oven!

Spiced Ham

So, here we are in 2014 and a very happy and healthy New Year to you all and thank you for all your good wishes! This is a dish I made over Christmas, but it was so good I’ve just bought another smoked ham joint to make it again.

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Perfect hot or cold, great as a main course with chips, mashed potatoes or jackets or in sandwiches or as a sneaky midnight feast….

I was inspired by this recipe I found over on the BBC Good Food site, but of course I changed it a little. Well, life would be dull without a few twists and turns! Big Man and I were back to work today at the house renovation and tonight the limbs are aching. A few days off have turned me into a useless Lady Builder. Or maybe it was the food and alcohol…

Is it just me or does my ham look like a grumpy face?!
Is it just me or does my ham look like a grumpy face?!

Ingredients for a 3.5kg ham joint (but they’re flexible)

  • 3.5kg cured ham or gammon (smoked or unsmoked, the choice is yours)
  • 2 litres of ginger ale (plus you may need extra water to cover the meat)
  • The zest and juice of 2 tangerines and one orange
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 onion
  • 6 cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 10 peppercorns
  • 1 dried chili

For the glaze

  • 3 tbsp molasses or treacle
  • 3 tbsp thick cut marmalade

Put the meat into a large pot and add all the first set of ingredients (and extra water if needed to cover the joint). Bring to a boil, skimming off any scum then simmer, partly covered for about 3 ½ hours. Leave to cool in the stock and use the stock to cook lentils with or make soup –  it’s amazing!

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If you want to glaze your ham (you don’t have to but it’s worth doing), warm the molasses and marmalade together in a small saucepan until melted.  Peel the skin off you ham if it has skin on and score the skin. Pour the glaze over your ham (which you will need to put into a heavy oven tray lined with greaseproof paper to save ruining your oven tray) and bake at about 220 degrees C for 30-40 minutes until the glaze starts to brown. Baste it every 10 minutes while it is cooking.

Serve hot or cold – it will keep for about 10 days (in theory) but I bet you won’t be able to resist scoffing the lot before then.

And if you have any leftovers…well, I’ll tell you what to do with them another day.