Asparagus and Sour Cream Tart

There’s something about asparagus that makes me happy. Well, a few things really. It tastes wonderful, it looks pretty and has an amazing colour which screams “spring”! It also feels like a luxury ingredient, which it most certainly used to be, but in reality is one which is now readily available and easily affordable. Mind you, in a few weeks when we have the start of the wonderful English asparagus season, we may pay a little more but oh it will be worth it for the flavour!

Asparagus & Sour Cream Tart (4)

Blogging too makes me happy, it allows me to keep a record of dishes I enjoy cooking and eating, it allows me to share my passions with like-minded folk and it has introduced me to new pals around the globe. New cuisines are available at the click of my mouse and one such cuisine which I am gradually learning more about comes from Germany. A wonderful blogger, Ginger, shares her recipes and memories over at Ginger and Bread. A German, with a Chilean partner living in London. Do pop over if you get the chance. She recently shared a recipe for a traditional onion quiche and I was intrigued by the use of sour cream in there with the rest of the more familiar ingredients. Time to buy a carton of sour cream and give this style of quiche a go!

Ingredients (to serve 6)

  • 1 packet of puff pastry (I used puff as this is what I had to hand, use short crust, or make your own – you decide)
  • 1 bunch of Asparagus
  • 3 eggs
  • 300ml of sour cream
  • 100ml milk
  • About 50g grated cheese (I used smoked gouda)
  • Salt & Pepper

Start by snapping off the woody ends of the asparagus and blanching the spears in lightly salted boiling water for about 3 minutes. If you don’t have a wide enough saucepan to take the spears whole, use a deep frying pan filled with water. Drain, rinse in cold water and put to one side.

Turn the oven on to medium (180C in my fan oven)

Line a tin with greaseproof paper (optional) and lay the pastry inside. If you use a flan tin with a loose bottom you don’t need to line – it just makes life easier when it comes to lifting the tart out when it’s cooked if your tin does not have a loose bottom.

Trim the pastry to fit and prick lightly with a fork.

Beat the remaining ingredients (except the asparagus) together and season. Pour into the pastry case then lay the spears gently on top.  Bake for about 45 minutes until lightly puffed up and just starting to turn golden.

Delicious hot or cold, but leave it to cool down slightly for at least 5 minutes before cutting. The addition of sour cream gives you a soft, fluffy filling, almost mousse like. Lovely with a simple dressed salad and great too for picnics.

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Slovenly Strawberry Pie

A pal and commenter, Lynn, asked if I would be posting some strawberry recipes as we are smack bang in the middle of strawberry season….of course, am happy to oblige! Regular readers though will know that I am not much of a dessert maker (the ever expanding waistline does not permit too many treats) so I usually pull together dishes that are quick and easy but delicious enough to satisfy a sweet tooth. Strawberries are also so good right now, they don’t need too much mucking about with.

For anyone who also signed up for the “throw it together and see what happens dessert class”, this one’s for you.

Strwaberry Tart (3)

Ingredients (to serve 4-6)

  • 500g dessert pastry (I cheated and used ready made, but you can always make your own)
  • 600g fresh strawberries halved or quartered if very large
  • 1 heaped tbsp icing sugar
  • 1 level tbsp cornflour
  • Splash of fruit liqueur (I used framboise)
  • 1 beaten egg
  • Brown sugar

Mix the strawberries with the icing sugar, cornflour and liqueur and set aside while you roll the pastry out into a circle. Place the pastry onto an oven tray or into a tin, I used a deep paella pan which worked beautifully!

Pile the strawberries into the middle of the pastry circle then fold the extra pastry in over the top to form a bowl shape. Brush the top of the pastry with egg yolk and sprinkle over some brown sugar.

Bake at 180 degrees C for about 30 minutes or until the pastry is golden and the strawberries are bubbling. Allow to cool for about 15 minutes before serving – the cornflour will slightly thicken the juices. Serve with ice cream or cream whilst pretending to your impressed loved ones that it was really hard work to prepare.

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.

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.

Steak and Mushroom Pie (3)

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.

Beef & Mushroom Pie (5)

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.

Beef & Mushroom Pie (2)

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!

Olive Oil Pastry – So simple, even I couldn’t mess it up….

I love pastry but am mostly too lazy to make it. Except at Christmas, when I make Clara’s Shortcrust Pastry. And sometimes I use it to make quiche.

Perhaps I don’t make it that often because

  1. In Spain, getting hold of butter and keeping it fresh before it reaches my fridge is a saga in itself
  2. In England, I’m either too busy ripping out nasty bathrooms or it’s easier to pop to the supermarket and buy it ready made (oops, did I just admit that in public?!)

Enough of this nonsensical pastry avoidance, Chica. Pull yourself together and make it with olive oil! So of course, I did. And you know what? It’s so easy, and so tasty, and so silky and forgiving should you break it (what, me?!) that I suspect we’ll be eating a lot more of it in the next few months. And also, with only 2 tablespoons of oil in a 4 person serving, it really can’t be bad for you, can it?

Veggie Garden Pie with Olive Oil Pastry

Ingredients to line a 24cm (9.2 inch) flan tin with enough left over to make a few cheese and marmite nibbles (my grandmother always used to make these as a treat with the leftover scraps of pastry), this is what you need:

  • 150g plain flour
  • 2 tbs olive oil (30ml)
  • Up to 4 tbs iced water (60ml)
  • ½ teaspoon of salt

I made mine in my food processor, but if making by hand, follow the same steps, it will only take you a couple of minutes longer.

Blend the flour and salt together then add the olive oil and blitz (or rub with your fingers) for a few seconds. Slowly add the water with the motor running but stop as soon as the mixture clumps together.

Press the mixture into a ball and chill (optional) for half an hour wrapped in cling film.

Cheese & Marmite Nibbles

You can roll this pastry out really thinly if you like, it behaves well. Use it to make your favourite quiches and pies. I made a vegetable pie with a filling of sautéed peppers, onions, tomatoes and blanched runner beans which sat on top of a mix of 2 tablespoons of cream cheese with one beaten egg, and topped wth sliced tomato.

And because pastry is rather dull to look at (never start a sentence with the word “and” Chica), I thought I’d show you a lovely photo from New Zealand, taken way too many years ago!

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Prawn and Mushroom Quiche

Now, I know quiche isn´t remotely Spanish, but just think of it as a tortilla in a pastry case!  I have introduced Big Man to quiche over the last few years and it has become a big favourite.

It´s also an easy dish for me to prepare right now with just a few pots and pans at my disposal and (yes, I confess) I used ready made pastry this time.

Remember Clara´s Pastry for my mince pies? Well, here it is again, it´s a very versatile and tasty pastry. And when I´m not being so lazy or covered in dust, I´ll make my own again!

Ingredients for the pastry

  • 200g plain flour
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 50g each of cold butter and lard
  • One egg, beaten
  • Milk

Rub the fat into the flour and salt until it resembles fine breadcrumbs or pulse in a food processor.  Using a broad knife, work the egg into the flour.  Start to gently bring the pastry together with your hands.  You will probably need to add a very little milk but add drops rather than slugs.  Do not knead or overwork the pastry.

Now wrap in plastic and leave to rest in the fridge until you are ready to use it, but bring it up to room temperature first.

Roll it out on a well floured surface and place into your tin, prick the base with a fork and then fill with baking beans or pulses placed on top of greaseproof paper. Trim off any excess and bake at 180ºC for 15 minutes, or until it just starts to brown.

For the filling

  • 5 eggs and 100 ml of single cream beaten together
  • A cup of peeled cooked prawns
  • A cup of thinly sliced mushrooms (lightly sautéed first)
  • Seasoning

Mix all the ingredients together, if your tin is particularly large, add a drop more cream or milk.  Pour into the pastry base and bake for about 25 minutes at 180ºC or until the centre is set.

Remove from oven and eat hot or cold.

Salmon Spanakopita… Sort Of

The gorgeous dish of Spanakopita hails from beautiful Greece. A delicious spinach pie, filled with feta cheese and egg and then wrapped in filo pastry – it´s a wonderful combination of flavours.

The weather here has turned overnight into summer with temperatures in the early 30s. Although we have used our gas barbecue on and off throughout the winter, we haven´t eaten outside. The weather now is perfect and we are going to make the most of it to eat in the garden, before the tremendous heat of summer drives us back inside to eat in the cool of the house.

I had bought a large salmon fillet (half of a whole salmon) which weighed about 1.5kg to cook for friends. The best laid plans and all that…well, the lunch didn´t happen and I had a massive piece of salmon to cook for two people.

The first lunch we simply cooked the whole thing on the barbecue, sprinkled with salt and served it with lemon juice and home made mayonnaise. We ate about a third of it so I divided the remaining piece into two and froze one piece. In this dish I used about 250g of cooked salmon so still have plenty left over to make a rice dish with prawns and salmon tomorrow.

I fancied making something different from fish cakes and remembered this lovely dish from Greece and set about recreating it, albeit with a few Up the Mountain twists. Or Making Do with what I had available. I realise that the traditional dish doesn´t contain meat or fish, but this is an interpretation rather than a faithful reproduction!

Ingredients (to serve 4 as a main course or 6 as a starter)

Please note, the ingredients are approximate, so feel free to add a little more or take a little away it it suits

  • One pack of puff pastry (275g) rolled out thinly (or use filo if you have it)
  • 180g of feta (I used fresh goat´s cheese made by a neighbour). Do check out Chgo John´s amazing method to make feta here.
  • About 250g cooked salmon, flaked
  • 225g Greek yogurt
  • 3 spring onions finely chopped (I used 1 small onion finely chopped)
  • 125g fresh spinach finely chopped and wilted (I put mine in a large metal colander and pour boiling water over it) with all the water squeezed out
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup each of finely chopped dill (I used wild fennel tops which grow round here) and parsley
  • Seasoning

Heat the oven to 180ºC. Place the pastry on a flat baking tray which has been lined with greaseproof paper (or use a small one about half the size of your pastry which is a little deeper).

Mix all the ingredients together and season (you may not need much salt if you use feta).  Put the filling into the middle of the pastry and bring the pastry up and over to cover it, neatening the corners to seal the filling in. Use some water on the edges if necessary to help seal them.

Tastes great even if you didn´t seal the top up properly….

Brush with milk or beaten egg and bake for about 45 minutes until golden brown. Leave to cool slightly before eating. Perfect with a salad and a cool glass of wine.

Any ideas for that last piece of cooked salmon in my freezer? Go on, inspire me!