Bringing back childhood food memories

During summer visits to my French grandparents when I was little, I’d always get excited when my grandfather brought in a big bunch of silverbeet (côtes de bette) from the garden.  It meant one thing: silverbeet gratin was in my future.  My grandmother wasn’t exactly an imaginative cook, but in this case, that was absolutely fine by me.  Silverbeet gratin is one of my favourite childhood food memories.  Perhaps because we only ever got to eat it once or twice a year – silverbeet wasn’t available in any of the countries I grew up in – and that made it magical to little Mel.  By the way, this is what I mean by silverbeet:

Silverbeet

I think it’s similar to what is called chard in the UK, but I’m not convinced that it’s exactly the same thing.  When my grandmother was no longer able to cook for herself, my yearly summer silverbeet gratin treat was suddenly restricted to my memory.  Until I moved to NZ last year and discovered that silverbeet exists here.  I was embarrassingly excited about it and promptly made silverbeet gratin.  And proceeded to make one a week for about a month.  Just because I could.  (Balanced diet, woop!)

Silverbeet gratin 1

To be honest, this is barely a recipe – it’s literally a case of cooking the stems, mixing them into a béchamel sauce, topping the whole thing off with cheese and grilling it until bubbly and golden.  Boom, simple as.  The recipe quantities are more guidelines than set in stone.  I never usually measure anything out when I make a béchamel, so doing so to write up the recipe was a bit of a novel experience.  I apologise for the slightly uninspiring photos by the way – I was more focused on actually eating the gratin.

Silverbeet gratin 2

Silverbeet gratin

Serves 2-3 as a light meal, 3-4 as a side dish
Recipe by Sharky Oven Gloves

Although the silverbeet leaves aren’t used in this recipe, don’t throw them out – they work interchangeably with spinach in many recipes (although be warned that they are slightly more bitter).  Comté cheese is the best cheese to use, but if you can’t get it (or it’s prohibitively expensive), gruyère will also do the trick.  The gratin can be served as a side dish alongside meat, or by itself as a light meal, accompanied by a side salad.

Ingredients

1 bunch silverbeet (about 900g)
½ lemon (optional, helps prevent slight browning)

For the béchamel:
50g unsalted butter
2-3 heaped tbsp all-purpose flour
200-250ml whole milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp ground nutmeg

150g comté or gruyère

Directions

1.  Wash the silverbeet, trim the leaves from the stalks (you won’t need the leaves, but keep them as they can be used for other things).  Slice the stalks into 1-1.5 cm slices.

2.  Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil, add the silverbeet slices and the juice of the half lemon.  Cook for about 20 mins, until a knife point easily slides into the stalks.

To prepare the béchamel:
3.  Pre-heat the oven to a hot grill setting.

4.  Meanwhile, make the béchamel.  Melt the butter in a medium saucepan.  Add 2 heaped tbsp of flour and stir until smooth.  Add more if necessary, but a little at a time, ensuring that it remains smooth.  Stir in the milk about 50ml at a time, constantly stirring and allowing the sauce to thicken before adding more.  Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and the nutmeg.

5.  Drain the silverbeet, and add to the béchamel sauce (or add the sauce to the silverbeet, depending on the size of your saucepans) and stir together.  Pour into an ovenproof dish, and top with grated comté or gruyère.  Grill until the cheese is melted and browning.  Serve immediately.

Enjoy!

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Tuesday Tutoring… on a Wednesday

Just a quick post to say that the lovely Javelin Warrior has featured me as his Tuesday Tutor today.  Which is Wednesday, I know, but yay, time zones, it’s still Tuesday in the US.  Anyway, I digress.  Javelin Warrior is one of the genuinely loveliest bloggers out there, so I was delighted when he asked me to get involved with the series.

I feel a bit sorry for the tomato with no stem - it's the odd one out.  But it's not like tomatoes have feelings, so it's all good (in the hood).

He decided to try out my baked beef-stuffed tomatoes which is one of my favourite savoury recipes ever because A) my mum always made stuffed tomatoes in the summertime, so they remind me of growing up and summer holidays, and B) they’re super delicious.  Simple as that.  It’s not quite tomato season here yet, so I have to wait a little while longer to make my own, but I’m starting to grow rather impatient!

Anyway, you can read Javelin Warrior’s thoughts on and step-by-step guide to the recipe here.  I love that he used different coloured tomatoes – so pretty!  And I’m intrigued by his suggestion of adding cheese, because, well, cheese.  Enough said.

Enjoy the rest of your day, wherever you are in the world!

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Sticky lemon & ginger muffins

The lab was a glum place to be on Thursday after that last gutting America’s Cup race.  Actually, NZ was a glum place to be.  Except, presumably, the place in Warkworth where most of the Oracle USA boat was built.  So Team NZ was beaten by a boat largely built and designed in NZ…  Totally not awkward at all, nope.  Anyway.  It’s depressing, so let’s not dwell on it too much.  My actual point is, we were all feeling a bit sulky.  And the solution to that is… cake.  Obviously.  Come on, this is a food blog.  Food is always the answer.

Sticky lemon & ginger muffins 1

Random RecipesI wasn’t sure what I wanted to bake.  Luckily though, Dom has set the theme of puddings, cakes and bakes for this month’s Random Recipes, so that conveniently bypassed the whole issue of indecision.  I randomly picked out A Treasury of NZ Baking, and randomly opened it at page 78: crunchy lemon muffins.  Oh hello…  After coming down with a cold over the weekend and being given lemons by several lovely people, I have plenty to use up.  Inspired by all the hot toddies that I’ve been making with said lemons, I added some ginger to the muffins.  I considered adding whisky, too, but decided to save that experiment for another time (I totally didn’t get distracted and forget).

Sticky lemon & ginger muffins 2

They didn’t come out very crunchy.  As in, they didn’t come out crunchy at all.  I’m not entirely sure why, but I’m guessing it’s something to do with the glaze, which certainly made them sticky – perhaps too much of the sugar dissolved in the lemon juice or our house is too humid and the crunch was lost.  Despite that, they were utterly delicious and lemony, which I love, with a hint of ginger poking through.  So I’ll definitely be making them again.  Especially since they’re also super quick to prepare – start to finish only took about 40 minutes.  Amazing or what?

Sticky lemon & ginger muffins 3

Sticky lemon & ginger muffins

Makes 15 muffins
Adapted from A Treasury of New Zealand Baking

Avoid using muffin liners as I think they’ll just go soggy from the glaze – silicone moulds or directly baking in the muffin holes are the way forward.  These are best eaten within two days, either warm or room temperature.

Ingredients

For the muffins:
75g unsalted butter
250g all-purpose flour
175g caster sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground ginger
Pinch of salt
250ml milk
1 egg
Zest of 2 unwaxed lemons

For the glaze:
60ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
60g caster sugar

Directions

To make the muffins:
1.  Preheat the oven to 220°C/fan oven 200°C.  Set out 15 silicon moulds or butter 15 holes in muffin tins.

2.  Melt the butter in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool a little.

3.  Meanwhile, sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, ginger and salt together into a large bowl and whisk together with a fork.

4.  Add the milk, egg and lemon zest to the bowl of butter and whisk together with a fork.  Add to the bowl of dry ingredients and fold through with a metal spoon until just combined (you don’t want the mixture to be super smooth and traces of flour is good).  Add a heaped spoonful of batter to each muffin mould or hole.  Bake for about 12 mins until lightly browned and the tops spring back when lightly pressed.

To make the glaze:
5.  Whilst they are baking, add the lemon juice and caster sugar to a small bowl.  Don’t mix.

6.  Once the muffins are out of the oven, brush the tops with the glaze using a pastry brush.  Try not to stir the glaze to minimise the sugar dissolving.  Repeat until all the glaze is used up.  Allow the muffins to sit in their moulds/tin for 5 mins before lifting them out onto a wire rack to cool.  Serve warm or cooled to room temperature.

Enjoy!

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Pork sausage & cider crumble

Food photography 101 goes something like this: pretty food + natural light + proper camera = mouthwatering photos.  The formula for this post’s photos went more like this: unpresentable food + rapidly fading natural light (aka half dark) + iPhone = photos that not even Photoshop can redeem.  I more or less set myself up to fail though.  Crumble isn’t the easiest thing to serve up and the resulting mess is generally not very photogenic, particularly when there’s meat involved and everything is varying shades of brown.  Oh and I also wanted to eat dinner at a vaguely normal time, which happens to coincide with sunset at the moment, instead of 17h when the light would have been good.  Shocking, I know.

Pork sausage & cider crumble 1

I came down with one of those feverish change-of-season colds over the weekend, so I was feeling a bit sorry for myself and craving comfort food.  The classic combination of pork and apple had been playing on my mind, but I didn’t quite feel up to faffing around with pastry and making a pie.  So I threw together a pork sausage & cider crumble instead, as you do.  It sounds totally fancy-pants, but it’s ridiculously easy and makes for a hearty main course.  Despite its appearance, it also happens to be totally delicious – with bacon strips, apple pieces and lashings of garlic also chucked in there, how could it not be?

Pork sausage & cider crumble 2

Baking with SpiritCider is the special ingredient for this month’s Baking with Spirit, so I’m submitting this crumble to Janine over at Cake of the Week, who launched this genius challenge a year ago!  (A year already?  What?!)  If you’ve a sudden inspiration to bake something with cider, whether sweet or savoury, I think you’ve got until Saturday to enter.

Pork sausage & cider crumble 3

Ya, I don’t really want to talk about that photo.

Pork sausage & cider crumble

Serves 3-4
Recipe by Sharky Oven Gloves

There’s a lot of room for adjustment in this recipe.  Use whatever good quality pork sausages you feel like – pork and fennel?  Go for it.  Pork and apple?  Sounds amazing.  I used a pretty light-flavoured cider because that’s what we had at home, but a heavily-flavoured cider would probably be even better.  Use your favourite kind of cheddar, as long as it’s flavourful.  If you think the cider is still too liquidy before adding the crumble, sprinkle a little flour over the top first.

Ingredients

For the filling:
100g bacon strips/cubes/lardons
4 cloves garlic
Drizzle extra virgin olive oil
4 pork sausages (about 370g; I used Black Rock traditional pork sausages)
1 apple (I used Braeburn, Granny Smith would also be good)
Black pepper
About 250ml cider (I used Boundary Road Brewery Honesty Box cider)

For the crumble:
65g cheddar (I used Kind Island Surprise Bay cheddar)
75g unsalted butter, softened
70g wholewheat flour
45g all-purpose flour
2-3 sprigs of thyme
Salt & black pepper

Directions

Prepare the filling:
1.  Preheat the oven to 220°C/fan oven 200°C.

2.  Remove any huge bits of fat from the bacon strips/cubes/lardons.  Peel the garlic gloves and finely dice.  Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat, add the bacon and garlic and fry until golden.

3.  Meanwhile, cut each sausage into 4 rounds and place standing up in an ovenproof dish with a little space (about 1 cm) between each piece of sausage.  Scatter the garlicky bacon between the sausage rounds.  Peel and dice the apple into the 1cm pieces, and scatter over the top of the bacon, between the sausages or over the top, depending on how much space you have in your dish.  Season with freshly ground pepper, then pour the cider over the top, stopping 1cm from the top of the dish.

4.  Bake for 25-30 mins, until lightly browned on top.

Prepare the crumble:
5.  Meanwhile, prepare the crumble.  Roughly grate the cheddar into a medium-sized bowl.  Cube the butter into the same bowl, followed by the flours and some salt and freshly ground pepper.  Wash and dry the thyme sprigs, then strip the leaves, adding them to the bowl.  Rub the mixture together with your fingers, until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

6.  Sprinkle the crumble mixture over the top of the filling, then bake for a further 30-35 mins, until golden and a little crispy on top.  Serve immediately, accompanied with a side salad and a glass of cider.

Enjoy!

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Silverbeet & feta quiche

It’s that weird inbetween season where the winter vegetables are coming to the tail end of their season, but the summer vegetables haven’t yet made an appearance.  Well, that’s not quite true – I saw courgettes at Nosh yesterday… priced at a casual $19 a kg.  I love courgettes, but not quite that much.  Silverbeet, however, seems to be in season all year round here.  From what I understand it grows wonderfully in the climate here, well, here in northern NZ anyway.  I think it’s called different things in different places, so this is what I mean by silverbeet:

Silverbeet

This whole always-in-season thing is rather marvellous because I love silverbeet.  Well, specifically the stems, which I will post about later.  I’m sort of doing this backwards, I should really post about the stalks first and why I love them so much (clue: there’s cheese involved).  But instead, I’m going to talk about the leaves.  They’re super bitter, so I wouldn’t eat them raw, but when it comes to cooking them, you can generally use them interchangeably with spinach.

Silverbeet leaves

I had a bunch of silverbeet leaves to use up, so I decided to throw them into a quiche with some feta.  Quiches are the best way to use up leftovers or ingredients loitering in the fridge.  Throw some ingredients together, beat together a couple of eggs and some crème fraîche, throw them all together in a pastry-lined tart tin, and boom, a fancy-pants vehicle for leftovers that’s actually insanely easy to prepare.

Silverbeet & feta quiche 1

AlphaBakesBonus: any leftover quiche can be eaten cold for lunch (or warm for lunch, that works, too).  Basically, quiche is a winner.  This silverbeet and feta quiche is definitely a winner.  It’s pretty light, perfect for lunch or a starter.  Since it’s not totally filled with eggy mixture, the silverbeet leaves on the top go all crispy in the oven.  Scrumptious!  I’m submitting this quiche to September’s AlphaBakes, where the special letter is “Q.”  The challenge is being hosted by Caroline Makes this month.

Silverbeet & feta quiche 2

Silverbeet & feta quiche

Serves 4-6 as a starter, 3 as a main course
Recipe by Sharky Oven Gloves

This would work equally well with spinach leaves, and feel free to throw in some toasted pine nuts if you have some (unfortunately I didn’t).  This quiche is delicious either warm out of the oven, or cooled down to room temperature and makes an excellent light meal or starter.  If you want a more filling quiche, add more feta and silverbeet leaves, or add another egg and some more crème fraîche.  This recipe is pretty flexible, so knock yourself out (not literally, please).

Ingredients

1 quantity of quiche pastry of your choice (I used this recipe)
200g silverbeet leaves
3 cloves garlic
Drizzle extra virgin olive oil
1 heaped tsp Dijon mustard
250g feta
3 eggs
175g crème fraîche
Salt and pepper

Directions

1.  Butter and flour a 24cm fluted tart tin.  Make your pastry, roll it out and line the tart tin with it.  Prick the pastry with a fork.  Refrigerate for at least 30 mins.

2.  Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200°C/fan oven 180°C.

3.  Wash the silverbeet leaves, pat them dry and slice them widthways in about 1cm strips (it doesn’t have to be perfect, we’re making quiche here).  Peel and finely mince the garlic cloves.

4.  Heat a drizzle of oil in large frying pan over a medium heat.  Add the garlic and sauté for 1-2 mins.  Then add the silverbeet leaves.  I generally add half the leaves and allow them to wilt for a couple of minutes before adding the remaining leaves to the pan.  This helps to prevent silverbeet overflow.  Cook until thoroughly wilted and reduced.  Set aside to cool a little.

5.  Remove the pastry from the fridge.  Spread the mustard thinly over the base, then evenly crumble the feta over the top.  Evenly spread the garlicky spinach over the top of the feta.  In a medium bowl, lightly beat together the eggs, then whisk in the crème fraîche and season with salt and pepper (you won’t need much salt since feta is usually quite salty).  Pour over the top of the spinach.

6.  Bake for 50 mins to 1h, until golden and cooked through.  Allow to cool in the tin for about ten mins before serving or transferring to a wire rack to cool.

Enjoy!

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Grapefruit curd

You guys, it’s spring!  Spring officially started on the first of September here in NZ, and you know what that means?  It’s baby animal season!  There are loads of lambs gambolling around in the fields.  There are fuzzy calves aplenty, too.  I don’t know if fuzzy calves are a NZ thing (I’ve no idea what breeds are farmed around here) or if I just haven’t paid much attention to the calves in other countries.  Either way, they’re adorable.  All of the baby animals in the fields are adorable.

Tawharanui lamb pile

So cute!  We came across those little specimens of fluff during a mini-hike through Tawharanui last week.  In other news (super smooth segue alert), we finally got through our mountain of grapefruit.  Huzzah!  Today’s grapefruit-themed recipe is for grapefruit curd.  Curd is a great way of using up any citrus surplus, and super easy to boot.  It just needs a bit of babysitting and continuous stirring until it’s done.  So drinking a shedload of tea beforehand isn’t recommended, because you can’t really abandon the hob mid-curd-production.  Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything.

Grapefruit curd 1

Once it’s done, cooled and set, you can do a tonne of stuff with curd, including eating it straight from the jar with a spoon.  If you have any left after “quality control,” it’s an excellent addition to baked goods (think sandwich biscuits, macarons, etc.) or spread on crumpets or toast.  It also makes a wonderful filling for some blind-baked pastry cases, especially topped with a dollop of whipped cream and eaten for breakfast whilst watching Team NZ smash the US during one of the America’s Cup races (because they’re on at breakfast time for us – thank you time zones).

Grapefruit curd 2

Grapefruit curd

Makes enough to fill about two 350ml jars
Adapted from my lemon curd recipe

I used yellow grapefruit, but this would work equally well with pink grapefruit.  To sterilise the jars, wash in hot soapy water, rinse thoroughly and dry in an oven pre-heated to just over 100°C.  The curd will keep for about a week in the fridge (possibly longer, but I’ve never had a batch remain uneaten for more than a couple of days). 

Ingredients

2 large or 3 medium grapefruit (yellow or pink)
1 small lemon
4 eggs + 2 egg yolks
110g butter
220g caster sugar

Directions

1.  Juice the grapefruit and lemon into a small bowl or jug.  In another small bowl, beat the two eggs and the egg yolk together well.

2.  Melt the cubed butter in a large heat-proof bowl over a simmering pan of water (make sure that the water doesn’t reach the bottom of the bowl).

3.  Add the sugar and the zest and juice from the grapefruit and lemon, followed by the eggs.  Stir the mixture carefully and constantly with a spatula, making sure the mixture doesn’t boil.  Once the mixture coats the back of the spatula (turn the spatula flat and run your finger through the mixture coating it – if you can draw a line through the mixture and it doesn’t re-fill, then it’s done), remove from the heat.

4.  If using the curd straightaway, pour into a bowl, otherwise, pour into sterilised glass jars.  Allow to cool (it will thicken further) before sealing and storing in the fridge.

Enjoy!

Grapefruit curd breakfast tartlets

A winning breakfast, right there.

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Grapefruit galore!

We’ve accidentally ended up with a glut of grapefruit at our house.  Somebody brought a whole bucket in to the lab the other day and one of my housemates and I got a bit carried away when we grabbed some (there were plenty left for everybody else though).  Then my other housemate turned up yesterday evening with even more grapefruit.  Don’t be surprised if there’s a bit of a grapefruit theme over the next week or so…

Mini mountain of grapefruit

Baking with SpiritThe great thing about grapefruit and other citrus is that although they’re winter fruit, they always makes me think of summer, they bring zingy little rays of sunshine to any wintery proceedings.  Spring officially starts on Sunday, so we’re nearly done with winter here and summer is definitely on its way, but I’ll still take anything with a hint of sunshine that I can get.  Except mosquitoes – I killed my first one of the season this morning.  Not cool. Anyway, I digress.  Janine over at Cake of the Week has chosen “Summer” as the theme for this month’s Baking with Spirit challenge.  Now the most summeriest of drinks is, of course, Pimm’s, but I don’t have any at the moment and none of the accompanying fruit are in season here.

Sugar cookies with grapefruit & gin glaze 2

As I was looking at our literal mini-mountain of grapefruit I decided that perhaps I should do something citrussy as my “summer” entry.  I’m going for the winter version of summer.  Did you know that grapefruit and gin go wonderfully well together?  I didn’t know that until last night (thank you Flavour Thesaurus).  I decided to make simple sugar cookies – the catharsis of rolling out cookie dough appealed to me – with a grapefruit and gin glaze.  The cookies came out a bit softer than I was expecting, but are rather delicious – the zing of the grapefruit and subtle hint of gin in the glaze really make them.

Sugar cookies with grapefruit & gin glaze 3

Sugar cookies with grapefruit & gin glaze

Makes about 50 cookies
Cookies slightly adapted from Glorious Treats
Glaze by Sharky Oven Gloves

Rolling these out can be a bit of a faff, but you want to minimise the amount of flour that you add.  These cookies keep their shape really well when baking, so feel free to use whatever fun cookie cutters you have.  I used orange grapefruit, but I’m sure red grapefruit would work wonderfully as well.  You won’t need all the juice from the grapefruit that you take the zest from, so you might as well just drink the rest.  Ideally with a slug of gin.  I definitely recommend the combination!  These cookies will keep for a couple of days in an airtight container.

Ingredients

For the cookies:
375g all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
225g unsalted butter, room temperature
200g caster sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
Zest of 1 grapefruit

For the glaze:
200g icing sugar
2 tbsp gin
2 tbsp freshly squeezed grapefruit juice

Directions

To make the cookies:
1.  Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a medium-sized bowl and stir together.

2.  In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar with an electric whisk until light and fluffy.

3.  Add the egg, vanilla and grapefruit zest and whisk together.

4.  Whisk in the flour a little at a time.  Once it has all been incorporated (it will be rather crumbly), knead together with your hands to form a dough.  Wrap in cling film and either refrigerate for about 2h or pop in the freezer for 20-30 mins (make sure it doesn’t harden otherwise you’ll have to wait for it to thaw).

5.  Line a couple of baking trays with baking paper.  Pre-heat the oven to 195°C/fan oven 175°C.

6.  Take half of the cookie dough (if it’s been in the freezer, transfer the remaining dough to the fridge) and either roll it out between two sheets of baking paper or roll it out on a lightly floured surface with a sheet of baking paper over the top.  (This is to minimise the amount of extra flour added.  I did it the first way, which was a bit of a faff but did work, you just have to anchor the bottom sheet.)  Roll the dough out to a thickness of 4-5 mm.  Cut out rounds of dough using your chosen cookie cutter (I used a 6cm scalloped round cutter) and place on the prepared baking trays, about 2cm apart.  Pop the baking tray in the freezer for 5 mins before baking for 8-10 mins, until just starting to turn golden.  Leave the cookies on the tray for about 1 min before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

7.  Repeat with the remaining cookie dough and leftover bits.

To make the glaze:
8.  Once the cookies are completely cooled, make the glaze.  Sift the icing sugar into a small bowl, add the gin and grapefruit juice and whisk together by hand.  Pour the glaze into a zip-lock bag, snip a tiny corner off and drizzle over the cookies (I usually set paper towels underneath the wire racks to catch and dribbles of glaze).  Allow to set before arranging on a plate or transferring to an airtight box.

Enjoy!

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Blueberry & almond tart

I’ll be honest, I didn’t do a whole lot of cooking whilst I was in Edinburgh – I took full advantage of my mum’s excellent cooking and effectively enjoyed a whole month of being spoilt.  It was awesome.  One of the few things I produced was when Kat came down and we went over to Craig’s for dinner and an evening which revolved around gin, wine, James Bond and much laughter with a healthy dose of immaturity, reminiscent of many evenings spent together in St Andrews.  The only thing missing were my shark-shaped oven gloves (they were busy guarding the house back in NZ).

Blueberry & almond tart 1

Oven gloves or not, we obviously weren’t about to turn up empty-handed, so we raided my mum’s recipe collection and decided to make a blueberry and almond tart.  I was super excited about being able to bake with summer berries.  Because yay, summer!  And yay, blueberries!  And yay, baking with Kat!  We ate a lot of blueberries that day.  We bought rather more than we needed for the tart, so we ate all the evidence whilst it was baking.  Healthy baking!  (That’s totally how it works, right?)

Blueberry & almond tart 2

The tart came out all purple and moist and delicious, all courtesy of the juices of the blueberries.  As well as looking pretty, it packs a marvellous blueberry flavour punch, wonderfully complemented by the ground almonds which also shine through.  I can’t wait for summer to roll around in NZ and blueberries to come into season so that I can make it again.  That said, frozen blueberries would work perfectly well, but a fruit tart in winter just seems rather anachronistic to me – anybody feel the same?

Blueberry & almond tart 3

Blueberry & almond tart

Serves 6-8
Adapted from a random recipe cutting

You can use either fresh or frozen blueberries – if using frozen then just bake them slightly longer before adding the filling.  I know the oven temperatures seem pretty hot.  The tart is best eaten at room temperature and the day it is made as the pastry will start to go a little soft if kept too long.

Ingredients

1 portion of tart pastry (recipe makes 2 portions)
5-6 heaped tbsp ground almonds
500g blueberries, fresh or frozen
2 eggs
100g crème fraîche
75g caster sugar
Handful flaked almonds, to decorate

Directions

1.  Butter and flour a 24 or 26cm tart tin.  Make the tart pastry, roll it out, transfer to the tart tin and refrigerate for 30 mins.

2.  Pre-heat the oven to 230°C/fan oven 210°C.

3.  Prick the pastry with a fork, sprinkle the ground almonds evenly over it and cover with the blueberries.  Bake for 10 mins.

4.  Meanwhile, beat the eggs together in a medium bowl.  Add the crème fraîche and sugar and whisk together.  Pour evenly over the blueberries, reduce the oven temperature to 200°C/fan oven 180°C and bake for a further 30 mins until golden.  Ten minutes before the end, sprinkle the flaked almonds over the top.  Allow the tart to cool in the tin for about 10 mins before turning out onto a wire rack to cool fully.

Enjoy!

Blueberry & almond tart 4

I’m submitting this recipe to Made with Love Mondays which is hosted by Javelin Warrior and is all about making food from scratch.

Made with Love Mondays, hosted by Javelin Warrior

 

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Cherries, champagne & comedy. Mostly comedy

Hello!  I’m alive!  And back home from my trip to Edinburgh.  I’ve spent the past month busily working my way through a slightly mammoth To Do list, trying to make the most of the Fringe and overall having a thoroughly marvellous time, and consequently, as predicted in my last post, blogging took a bit of a hit.

Hey! Hi! Hello!

How splendid are these “HELLO” flags that are fluttering all over Edinburgh by the way?  I’ve never seen them before, so I presume they’re new for this year’s Fringe/Festival.  I thought I’d just recap a few of the highlights of my slightly whirlwind trip:

  • Summer fruit – I scarfed an awful lot of summer berries whilst I was taking a break from the NZ winter.  And cherries – I love cherries!

Cherries!

  • Only having to use a raincoat four times – this might not sound like much to those of you who have proper summers, but in Scotland, this is a major achievement (although lack of rain doesn’t necessarily mean sunshine).  The last few Augusts that I spent in Edinburgh, it rained. Every. Single. Day.  (I wish I was kidding.)
  • St Andrews – Kat and I went up one afternoon.  Some things have changed (why is there a Nando’s?) and some things haven’t (those 500 year-old cathedral ruins aren’t going anywhere any time soon).  My love for that wee town remains unchanged.

St Andrews Cathedral, looking suitably dramatic and moody

  • The St Andrews Wine Company – My friend Pete opened a bottleshop in St Andrews at the beginning of the year and I’ve been dying to see it.  So we obviously stopped by whilst we were in St Andrews.  And it’s amazing.  I wish it had been open when I was there.  Oh and there’s always a bottle open for tasting (maybe it’s not such a bad thing that I don’t live there anymore…).  We also happened to coincidentally visit on a day when there was also a champagne tasting…

Champagne tasting at the St Andrews Wine Company

  • Reunions – Kat, Craig and I were all in the same place for the first time in 18 months.  There was gin, food, wine, some James Bond and much laughter; all the best things in life.

As I mentioned, I tried to make the most of the Edinburgh Fringe as well.  The Fringe is always a mixed bag (which is half the fun), but here are a few Fringe-specific highlights.  If you’re in Edinburgh, you still have a week to try and fit these in:

  • Jollyboat – Their set started off with a medley of pirate-themed songs.  And then it got better.  That was a terrible description, but trust me and just go see it (although probably not ideal for anybody who is easily offended).  Oh and it’s free.
  • Shit-faced Shakespeare – Literally what it says on the tin.  One Shakespeare play (Much Ado About Nothing), one shit-faced actor, and all the other actors trying to keep the play together. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so much.
  • Omid Djalili – Slightly pricey, but worth it in my opinion.  Smart comedy which makes you laugh but also makes a point.  He’s also brilliant at accents and works them in marvellously.  My mum and I were in fits.
  • Inspector Norse – It’s described as a “self-assembly Swedish crime thriller […] featuring a knitted set” and I can’t think of a more apt description for this wonderfully middle class comedic thriller.  And the set is actually knitted and self-assembled.  It’s amazing.
  • The Jeremiah Weed Cow Shed – This isn’t actually a show, but it’s Fringe-related.  We stumbled upon this  formerly empty space on the Cowgate which been transformed into a Kentucky-themed cowshed bar for the duration of the Fringe.  It sells Jeremiah Weed cider (it probably sells other stuff, too, but we went for the yummy cider) and there’s live music.  There are hay bales, plastic cows and wheelbarrow seats.  It’s so hipster it hurts, but it’s also rather brilliant.

So there we have it, a not-so-brief recap of highlights over the past month.  Blogging will resume properly soon, once I’ve settled back in, but in the meantime, here’s some proof of the Edinburgh sunshine:

Sunny Edinburgh (yes, really!)

Enjoy the rest of your day, wherever you are in the world!  And if you’ve been enjoying the Fringe, feel free to leave some show recommendations.

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Nashi pear & ginger upside-down cake

As this post publishes, I should be about 10,000m in the air.  On a plane, obviously.  Specifically on a plane somewhere between Sydney and Heathrow.  Which doesn’t really narrow things down much.  And actually, my exact geographical location is largely irrelevant – the point is that I’m off to Edinburgh for a month.  It won’t really be a holiday, but I’m still excited to see my mum and family.  I’m just hoping that the UK’s sudden recent bout of real summer carries on whilst I’m there.  Whatever the weather, posts are likely to be even more sporadic than they currently are.

Nashi pear & ginger upside-down cake 1

Going away for a month means having a serious fridge and pantry clear out.  I had done a rather good job of using up all my perishables without having to resort to any bizarre combinations, but still had a few nashi pears (aka Asian pears) kicking around.  Since I had more nashi pears than days left to eat them in and I knew that my housemates wouldn’t eat them, I decided to bake with them (big surprise there…).  I happened across a nashi pear and ginger upside-down cake recipe which, aside from making me salivate, also called for 200g of yoghurt, which is precisely how much I had left in the fridge.  A clear sign from the, uhm, pantry gods (uhm, yeah…), that this recipe just had to be tested.

Nashi pear & ginger upside-down cake 2

I adore the combination of pear and ginger, and nashi pears are no exception.  Like any decent upside-down cake, the sides go a little crispy and all caramely and delicious.  The cake itself is basically gingerbread, which to me just smacks of a perfect winter treat.  The slice that was missing by the time the cake got to the lab was obviously an offering of thanks to the pantry gods and nothing at all to do with my breakfast.  I mean really, who would ever eat cake for breakfast?  Definitely not me, nope.

Nashi pear & ginger upside-down cake 3

Nashi pear & ginger upside-down cake

Serves 10-12
Adapted from Anna Eats Auckland

This would work equally well with normal pears or even apples (choose a variety of pear or apple with pretty firm flesh so that they keep their shape and don’t go all mushy).  The Chelsea golden syrup here in NZ seems to be a little richer in flavour than that in the UK, so if you’re using Lyle’s perhaps think about substituting a little bit of the golden syrup for treacle.  I prefer eating the cake the next day so that the caramel can soak in, but it’s also delicious served warm, perhaps accompanied by a scoop of ice cream.  The cake will keep for a couple of days in an airtight container.

Ingredients

For the cake:
125g unsalted butter
300g all-purpose flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
Pinch of salt
250ml (340g) golden syrup (not the easy-pour stuff)
175g light brown sugar
2 eggs
200g plain Greek-style yoghurt (normal would be fine, too)
75g crystallised ginger

For the caramel:
100g unsalted butter
125g light brown sugar
3 medium or 2 large nashi pears

Directions

To make the cake:
1.  Line the bottom of a deep 24cm round cake tin (mine is 5cm deep).  Line a baking tray larger than the cake tin with tin foil.  Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/fan oven 180°C.

2.  Melt the butter in a small saucepan over a low heat.  Take it off the heat as soon as it is melted.  Meanwhile, sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, spices and salt into a medium mixing bowl and stir together.

3.  Add the sugar, golden syrup, eggs and melted butter (you’ll need to melt more butter later so save yourself some washing up by re-using the same saucepan) into a large mixing bowl and whisk together until smooth.  Fold in the dry ingredients with a metal spoon until just combined.  Roughly chop the crystallised ginger, add to the batter with the yoghurt and stir until combined.

To make the caramel:
4.  Add the sugar and butter to the small saucepan from earlier and melt together over a low heat until smooth.  Meanwhile, peel and core the nashi pears.  Slice medium-sized pears into eights or large pears into twelfths.

5.  Pour the melted caramel into the prepared cake tin.  Arrange the pear slices over the caramel and then carefully pour and spread the cake batter over the top.  Place on the prepared baking tray (this will catch any caramel that might bubble over) and bake for 55-65 mins until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

6.  Allow to cool in the tin for 10 mins before turning out onto a serving plate.  Serve warm or room temperature.

Enjoy!

Nashi pear & ginger upside-down cake 4

 

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Filed under Recipes, Sweet Foods