RSS Feed

Category Archives: Pies, Tarts and Quiches

Apple and Almond Orchard Cake

 


I made a cake last week for a communal dinner – First Friday Feast – where the theme was “from the ground up”. Lots of ideas sprang to mind, and I eventually settled on the orchard theme, apples and almonds that grow in the orchard, and are obviously above the ground. The orchard theme is particularly appropriate as Sydney finally heads into autumn after a sweltering summer.

The recipe is a version of Diana Henry’s Swedish Apple, Almond and Cardamom Cake from her column in the UK Telegraph, see here for the original recipe.

I substituted cinnamon and a little ginger for the cardamom as I’m not a huge cardamom fan. I currently have some lovely fragrant cinnamon from Vietnam, which I love using in bakes.

Here’s the recipe. I served the cake with some lovely glacé fruit, orange slices and apricots and fresh herbs. I also made my own version of muscatels by slow roasting some black grapes in a very low oven. Possibly not worth the time, when muscatels are so readily available, but they certainly had a lovely caramelised flavour.

Ingredients

150g butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing

175g light brown sugar

50g marzipan, broken into little chunks

3 large free range eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten

½ teaspoon almond extract

4 Granny Smith apples

175g plain flour

2 teaspoon baking powder

75g ground almonds

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

2 tablespoons milk, if needed

2 tablespoons sugar

4 tablespoons apricot jam, to glaze

Method

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C. Butter and line the base of 
a 23cm springform cake tin.

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and brown sugar together until pale and fluffy, then beat in the pieces of marzipan – the marzipan will break down and become amalgamated. Add the eggs a little at a time, beating well after each addition, then add the almond extract.

Peel, core and chop two of the apples Into small pieces and stir them into the mixture.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and a pinch of salt, and add the ground almonds, cinnamon  and ginger. Gently fold this mixture into the batter, adding it in three lots. If the mixture is really stiff,  add the milk.

Peel the other apples, halve, core and cut them into thin wedges. Toss the wedges with the sugar.

Spoon the batter into the springform tin and arrange the apple wedges on top in concentric circles. Be neat, but no need to be too fussy!

Bake the cake for 40-50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Cover the top with aluminium foil if it looks like it’s browning too quickly.

Cool the cake for about 
15 minutes, then remove the outer ring. By sliding a knife between the cake and the base, carefully move the cake from the base. Quickly invert the cake and peel off the baking paper, and invert again. Carefully put the cake right side up on to a plate and leave to cool completely.

To glaze cake, put the apricot jam in a small saucepan with 1 tablespoon of water and heat until the jam is liquid. You will need to sieve the jam to make sure it’s smooth. Using a pastry brush, brush the jam over the top of the cake.

Serve with glacé fruit or fresh fruit or even some bunches of green herbs. Cake is always good with whipped cream or ice cream!

Frangipane Fig Tart



So it’s fig season, as I talked about in my last post. While the weather in February is not to my taste – hot and very humid – the month is a ripper for bountiful, beautiful fresh fruit. Apricots, yellow and white peaches, nectarines, blood plums, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries, passionfruit and wonderful figs are ripe and plentiful.

Before I talk all things fruit, I need to acknowledge the awful weather conditions we are experiencing in NSW this summer, quite unprecedented. We have endured horrific bush fires and now floods. Absolutely devastating for the communities directly affected, but even here in Sydney we have had weeks of heat, sometimes extreme, and constant smoke haze. The recent floods last weekend (8 and 9 February) affected Sydney too. Torrential rain inundated Sydney. Living just 5 kms from the city, I narrowly avoided a flood in my house as the waters rose, filling my courtyard garden. All was well in the end.

So it is a credit to all those farmers who have managed to keep on producing our lovely summer fruit and veg through such times of trial, ensuring that we have been able to enjoy summer’s bounty. Thank you, we appreciate what you do to bring us your produce.

Here’s a big shout out to some places where I source my fruit:

Harris Farm Markets, which focuses on seasonality and has the best no waste approach to produce. They espouse the principle of “ugly fruit” – selling at a reduced price misshapen fruit and veg which is perfectly good to eat.

Of course there’s the wonderful Orange Grove Organic Markets, my local farmer’s market where everything is fresh and so delicious!

Having sung the praises of these two produce outlets, I should also mention that my local supermarket, Woolworths, has a pretty good range of seasonal fruit too.

Now to the recipe! This is SO easy! You can knock this together in under an hour. I call it a tart as it’s not quite a cake. You could bake it in a tart tin, but I prefer a small springform pan.

You could make this tart with figs, or stone fruit such as apricots or plums. Or bake it just with a swirl of chocolate hazelnut paste.

A note on chocolate hazelnut paste: this is a great addition to the tart, but it works perfectly well without it too.

I used an amazing product, acquired on my recent trip to Wellington, New Zealand – Fix and Fogg’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter. Utterly delicious and addictive!

Ferrero’s Nutella works really well too, and is pretty much available worldwide.

Ingredients

110g unsalted butter, softened 

110g caster sugar

2 large free range eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

130g ground almonds

1 tablespoon plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

3 tablespoons or to taste chocolate hazelnut paste

3-4 fresh figs

Method

Pre-heat oven to 170 degrees C or 160 degrees C fan-forced. Grease an 18cm (7 inch) spring form pan, and line the base with a circle of baking paper.

Put the butter, caster sugar, eggs, ground almonds and vanilla into the bowl of a food processor, or you could use an electric mixer.

Blitz or mix the ingredients until you have a smooth paste with no lumps. Don’t over mix. Stir in the plain flour and baking powder.

Swirl a tablespoon of the chocolate hazelnut paste through the frangipane mixture. Halve the figs and place on top. Use as many or few of the available halves as you like – for some reason I liked 7!

Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Cool in the tin, then turn out onto a wire rack. Dollop small teaspoonfuls of chocolate hazelnut paste into the cavities of the figs once the tart is completely cool.

Serve with cream or yoghurt and a little more chocolate hazelnut paste spooned over the top. 

Fish Pie

I’ve been experimenting with fish pies recently, with the memory of a great fish pie cooked for me by an Englishman who clearly knows his pies and his fish. Thank you Ken, for your inspiration!

My version is quite simple – smoked fish fillets and poached fresh fish, with some braised leeks, in a white sauce. Topped off with creamy mashed potato and a liberal scattering of grated cheddar. Great on the day, and even tastier reheated the next day, too, when the flavours have developed.

These quantities make a very substantial pie for two, or would serve four with smaller portions too. Double the quantities for a really big pie!

Ingredients 

4 large potatoes, good for mashing

3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon butter

300 mls full fat milk

1/2 tablespoon olive oil 

2 leeks

100g white fish

150g smoked mackerel 

150g hot smoked salmon

1 tablespoon plain flour 

75g cheddar cheese, grated 

Method

Wash the potatoes thoroughly and place whole into a large saucepan. Cover completely with water. Bring to the boil and cook on a medium heat until the potatoes are cooked through. Be careful not to overcook – you don’t want the potatoes breaking up. Remove from the heat and strain in a colander.

When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel quickly and place the still warm potatoes in a bowl.

Add 2 tablespoons butter and 50 mls of milk. Season with salt to taste. Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes really well with the butter and milk, making sure there are no lumps.You can of course adjust the butter and milk amounts to personal taste and because potatoes do vary, requiring more or less butter/milk to get the right consistency.

Cover the mashed potato bowl with aluminium foil to keep warm.

Wash the leeks well and slice into ½ cm rounds. Heat 1 teaspoon butter with the olive oil in a frying pan. Add the leeks and cook over a low heat until the leeks are soft, about 15-20 minutes. Just make sure temperature is low and the leeks don’t brown. Once cooked, remove from the heat.

Heat the remaining 250 mls milk in a wide saucepan until just at a simmer. Place the white fish fillet into the milk, and continue to simmer and let the fish cook for 5 to 8 minutes. Check if the fish fillet is cooked by putting a skewer into the thickest part of the fish. If the skewer goes in easily and is also easy to remove, it should be cooked. 

Remove the fillet carefully with a slotted spoon. Roughly break into chunks. Strain the poaching milk into a bowl or jug.

There’s no need to cook the mackerel and salmon, just break into chunks.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

To make the white sauce, melt 1 tablespoon butter, over a low heat, in the saucepan in which you poached the fish. Add the plain flour, and mix together to a smooth paste, making sure to use a wooden spoon. Cook for a couple of minutes. Add the poaching milk, and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon, combining the paste with the milk. Turn the heat to medium, bring to the boil, then reduce to low and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the sauce is thickened, stirring regularly. Season generously with salt and cracked pepper.

To assemble the pie, place the leek slices and fish chunks in a baking dish. Gently stir through the white sauce. Top with the mashed potato, roughing up the potato with a fork for a little artistry. Scatter the grated cheddar over the pie.

Cook the fish pie in the preheated oven for a 20-30 minutes or until the potato is brown and the mixture underneath is bubbling.

Serve with a green salad and chunky sourdough, or just on its own. I had some beautiful young garlic from a spring harvest market, so I roasted those with the pie. Really delicious!

Rustic Pear Tart

It’s winter in Sydney, although for readers in the northern hemisphere our daytime maximums of 19 or 20 degrees C must seem quite balmy!

But winter it is, and that’s why I’m baking pies and tarts. It just seems the right thing to do as the days draw in and the nights become chilly.

This weekend I made a sweet tart. This rustic pear tart is easy and a relatively quick tart to make. I say quick – I added to the process by making my own rough puff pastry. It’s totally worth the effort, but using good quality bought butter puff pastry is probably the sensible way to go! I will include the recipe for both puff and rough puff pastry in another post.

You can whip this up in the afternoon for dinner that night. Or have it as an afternoon tea treat.

Oh by the way, you could use other seasonal winter fruit such as apples or quinces.

Ingredients
3 pears (any kind, I like Beurre Bosc)
2 tablespoons regular sugar + 1 teaspoon for sprinkling
1 quantity butter puff pastry (or you could make your own)
1 free range egg
1 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon of honey

Method
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C fan forced. Line a large baking tray with baking paper.

Thinly slice the pears, leaving the skin on. This is a rustic tart! Scatter the sugar over the pear slices. If you’re worried about the pears going brown, squeeze a little lemon juice over the top.

If you’re using bought puff pastry, you will need to roll out the pastry on a floured surface to make a rectangle about 35cm x 25 cm. Depending on the brand you have bought, you will either be rolling a block or sheets. For block pastry, roll the block to the required rectangle size. If rolling sheets, you may need to cut a large sheet down to size, or amalgamate 2 sheets to make the rectangle. You can do this by putting the edge of one sheet over the other sheet and rolling with a rolling pin to make them stick together. Then shape into the 35cm x 25cm rectangle by rolling and cutting as necessary.

If making your own pastry, roll the pastry on a floured surface into a rectangle about 35cm x 25cm.

The size doesn’t have to be precise – you just want a rectangle that fits neatly onto your baking tray.

Fold over the four edges about 2cm and crimp down with a fork. Make an egg wash by beating the egg and milk together. Brush the pastry, edges included, with the egg wash.

Place the pears on the pastry, in any design you like. Sprinkle with the additional sugar.

Bake for 30-35 minutes until the pastry is a deep golden brown. Take the tart out of the the oven and allow to cool for at least 10 minutes.

Drizzle with honey and serve with thick cream or ice cream or both!

Ham, Leek, Cheese and Walnut Pies

I was given a present a while back of some beautiful ceramic bowls, great for serving soup in, but also a perfect receptacle for individual rustic pies.

This is a really simple recipe, the filling for which can be adapted to suit your individual taste.

I had some chunky ham pieces and a leek in the fridge so decided that they would be the basis for some simple pies. I also had a lovely washed rind cheese, soft and melting, that I thought would go beautifully with the ham and leek. I’m a huge fan of nuts, so it was a no-brainer that I decided to put some walnuts in the pies as well. They added a lovely crunch and texture to the pies.

All these ingredients were stirred into a white sauce, piled into the bowls, topped with puff pastry and baked in the oven.

I made my own puff pastry, which was a little time consuming. I’m not including the recipe here, I actually can’t remember where I sourced it from!! Looking back on past posts on my blog, I see that I usually make rough puff pastry. So I’m not quite sure why I decided to go the full puff on this occasion. I recommend using a good bought butter puff pastry for the recipe.

I decided I would put a rim of pastry around the edge of the bowls, but this didn’t really work. I’m not quite sure what I did wrong. I have included the photo, as I like to be honest about what works and what doesn’t in my cooking. I’ll know next time to do some more research about how to fix this issue!

The recipe makes two substantial deep bowl pies. You could double the quantities for a larger pie in a conventional pie dish.

Ingredients

1 large leek
A knob of butter to cook the leek
Salt
200g ham chunks
50g any soft washed rind cheese
A small handful of walnuts or to taste

White sauce
25g butter
25g plain flour
600ml milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 sheets of butter puff pastry or the equivalent ( I normally use the Careme brand, readily available in Australia, when not making my own)

1 egg, lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon milk, for glazing

Method

Cut the leek into small slices. Melt the butter in a frying pan and add the leek with a good pinch or two of salt. Cook on a low temperature until the leek slices are soft, about 10-15 minutes.

Chop the ham into bite sized pieces and roughly slice the cheese. Chop any whole walnuts into smaller pieces.

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C.

For the white sauce, melt the butter in a medium, heavy bottomed saucepan. Add the flour and stir for 1-2 minutes, to make sure the raw flour taste is cooked out.

It’s important to do this and the subsequent stirring in of the milk with a wooden spoon.

Gradually stir in about a third of the milk, making sure the milk is incorporated and there are no floury lumps. When the sauce has noticeably thickened, add another third of the milk and repeat the process. Add the last third of the milk and cook until the sauce is nice and thick. Simmer gently for 5 minutes and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Stir the ham, leek, cheese and walnuts into the white sauce in the saucepan. Pile the mixture into the individual bowls.

Cut out circles of puff pastry that are larger than the diameter of the bowls and will be enough to completely cover the tops. Brush the tops of pies with the beaten egg.

Place in the preheated oven and cook for about 20 minutes until the top of the pies are golden brown and puffed up.

Serve piping hot straight from the bowls!

Apple and Lemon Thyme Galette

I love quick and easy cakes and desserts and this one certainly is. My rustic apple galette is easy to prepare and looks pretty, in a rustic kind of way!

This version was helped by using a mixture of apples I picked up at The Loch in Berrima, in the beautiful Southern Highlands. The Loch grows and sells wonderful produce and has a great restaurant too. The apples were spectacular. Some of them even had pink flesh, as you can see from the photos. I wish I knew what the variety was. I’ll ask next time I’m there.

The galette is also enhanced by baking some lemon thyme sprigs with the apples and scattering some crystallised lemon thyme sprigs over the finished galette.

This galette would work with any kind of short crust pastry. My version is based on the sour cream pastry of the wonderful cook Maggie Beer. I sometimes substitute Greek yoghurt for sour cream, as I did this time. However, I find this creates a softer, more delicate pastry. It’s consequently a little harder to handle. Up to you what kind of pastry you use. Good store-bought short crust is fine too!

Ingredients

Pastry
200g butter chilled
250g plain flour
125ml sour cream or Greek yoghurt

3 red apples, whatever you fancy. Crisp apples like Pink Lady are excellent
Lemon juice
1 free-range egg yolk, beaten, for glazing
Several sprigs of lemon thyme
2 tablespoons caster sugar
1 free-range egg white, lightly beaten

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Line a baking tray with baking paper.

Cut the butter into cubes and pulse with the flour in a food processor until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Spoon in the sour cream or yoghurt and continue to pulse in bursts until the mixture comes together into a ball.

Wrap the dough in cling wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Core and slice the apples thinly, and place the slices into the lemon juice to stop them going brown.

Remove the pastry from the fridge and roll out between two pieces of baking paper so that it is about 2cm thick, rolling into a rough circle. Remove the top layer of baking paper and carefully transfer the pastry to your lined baking tray, by turning the pastry over and removing the bottom sheet.

Shape the round to neaten it if needed, and turn the outer edge up about 2cm in to make the sides of the galette.

Drain the apples slices and place in any artistic way you like on the tart.

Brush the 2cm edge of the galette with as much of the beaten egg as you need. Scatter some of the thyme sprigs over the galette and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of the caster sugar.

Place the galette in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes. The galette should be golden brown around the edges.

Once out of the oven, leave to cool. To make the crystallised thyme sprigs, dip some more thyme sprigs in the beaten egg white, then dip in the remaining tablespoon of caster sugar. Leave to dry on a piece of baking paper.

Serve with the thyme sprigs scattered over, and as is, or with plenty of thick cream!

Quince Tart: Free-form Style

1AD01642-ECF4-4AAD-9656-B02B5516A4AC

74EC71E1-AE14-4F34-95CC-8B26D4CC3439It’s winter in the Southern Hemisphere, and in Sydney we’re experiencing a really crisp winter, which I love, as I’m a fan of the cold weather.

Quinces are in season and I make a few quince recipes at this time of year. One of my favourites is baked quince with crumble, slices of slowly baked quince with a crumble topping and thick cream.

Quinces go well with pastry, so I recently made a rustic quince tart, a simple sweet short crust pastry base, baked free-form, topped with cookedquince.

The pastry recipe is from a recipe for Red Apple Rustic Tart,  and the baked quince is adapted from a recipe for Quince Shortcake.

Ingredients

For the quinces:

2 quinces
100g caster sugar
Juice of 1 lemon

For the pastry:

1 3/4 cups plain flour
170 grams butter
1 tablespoon sugar plus extra for sprinkling
A good pinch of salt
2 tablespoons ice cold water

Method

Baked quinces:

Preheat oven to 150 degrees C.  Peel the quinces, halve lengthways and remove cores. Cut in slices and put the slices in a small baking dish. Scatter over sugar and squeeze over the lemon juice.

Cover tightly with a doubled sheet of foil. Bake the quinces for 2-3 hours, basting a few times through the process, until the quinces are soft and a ruby red colour. Remove from the dish to cool.

Pastry:

Pulse flour, butter, sugar and salt in food processor, until the consistency of coarse breadcrumbs. Add enough iced water to bring the pastry together – be careful not to over mix.

Wrap the pastry in cling film and refrigerate for 20 -30 minutes.

To make the tart:

Turn the oven up to 170 degrees C.  Butter a baking dish. Remove the pastry from the fridge and roll out between 2 sheets of cling film. Remove from the cling film and drape over the baking dish, shaping rough sides inside the dish. This is a free-form tart so there is no need to make it look “pretty” or too even.

Place the baked quince slices on top of the pastry higgledy piggledy, the more rustic the better. Sprinkle the additional sugar liberally over the edges of the pastry.

Place in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until the pastry is crisp and golden brown.

Serve warm with whipped cream or thick Greek yoghurt.9AD45771-6D98-40E5-8FB1-B3C89C8BEA88

 

 

%d bloggers like this: