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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!

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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!

Ottolenghi’s Lentils with Roast Eggplant, Cherry Tomatoes and Yoghurt

I’ve recently acquired the new Ottolenghi book Simple. It’s a lovely book, written in such an interesting and useful way. The recipes, while not necessarily with a limited number of ingredients, are all quite ”simple” to prepare. The recipes are full of Ottolenghi’s trade mark Middle Eastern flavours.

I’ve tried some of the savoury recipes and of course I’m keen to get into the sweet stuff soon!

Here’s a relatively quick, and definitely easy to prepare savoury veggie dish, that works well as a salad or side as well as a lighter main.

Ottolenghi goes into detail about how to cook the eggplants. While his method uses the oven at a high temperature, he also describes how you can cook the eggplants directly over a gas flame on the stove top, which he rightly points out is very messy!

I cooked the eggplants on the bars of a very hot barbecue, lid down, for extra heat. This was very successful, and they cooked in about 15 minutes. Whatever method you go for, the idea is to blister the skin of the eggplants so the you can peel it off to get to the softened flesh.

Ingredients

4 eggplants, about 1.1kg, pricked a few times with a knife
300g cherry tomatoes
160g Puy lentils or 350g ready-cooked lentils
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra to serve
1½ tbsp lemon juice
1 small garlic clove, crushed
3 tablespoons oregano leaves – I used thyme which I prefer as a herb
salt and black pepper
100g Greek yogurt

Method

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees C or as high as your oven will go.

Place the eggplants on a baking sheet and roast for 1 hour, turning them over halfway through, until the flesh is completely soft and slightly smoky. Or use the barbecue method that I mentioned above. Remove from the oven and, once cool enough handle, scoop the flesh out into a colander. Set aside, in the sink or over a bowl, for 30 minutes, for any liquid to drain away. The skin can be discarded.

Place the cherry tomatoes on the same baking sheet and roast for 12 minutes, until slightly blackened, split, and soft. Remove from the oven and set aside. You can also cook the tomatoes on the barbecue too, but put them on a baking sheet.

Meanwhile, if starting with uncooked lentils, fill a medium saucepan with plenty of water and place over high heat. Once boiling, add the lentils, decrease the heat to medium, and cook for 20 minutes, until soft but still retaining a bite. Drain, then set aside to dry out slightly. If starting with ready-cooked lentils, just tip them into a large bowl and add the eggplant flesh, tomatoes, oil, lemon juice, garlic, 2 tablespoons of oregano or thyme, ¾ teaspoon of salt, and a good grind of pepper. Mix well, then spoon into a large shallow dish. Top with the yogurt, swirling it through slightly so there are obvious streaks. Sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon of oregano or thyme over the top, drizzle with a little oil, and serve.

Passionfruit and Lemon Ricotta Cake

This cake is pretty easy to make, looks good and keeps really well. It’s quite dense because of the ricotta, and this helps with its keeping properties. It has both self raising flour and baking powder to help with the rise as it’s heavy.

You don’t need huge slices of this cake, either, as it’s very satisfying. Great for an afternoon tea!

Oh, and it freezes beautifully, which is good to know as you can freeze left over cake to enjoy later – much better then eating it all at the one time!

Ingredients

Cake

140g softened butter 

140g caster sugar

2 free-range eggs

200g full fat ricotta

Juice of 1 medium lemon

140g self-raising flour

1 level tsp baking powder

Buttercream Icing

400g icing sugar

200g unsalted butter

2 passionfruit

75g white chocolate (optional)

Method 

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C or 160 degrees C fan forced. Grease and line with baking paper a medium sized cake tin – 18cm or 20cm works well. 

Cream the butter and sugar in a food processor. You can use a stand mixer if you like – but I find the food processor does the job just fine! Add the eggs and process well, then add the ricotta and the lemon juice. Add the flour and the baking powder and pulse a few times to just incorporate the flour. Don’t worry if the cakes looks curdled either after adding the eggs or adding the ricotta – it will come together after you mix in the flour. 

Transfer the mixture to the prepared tin and bake for 30 – 40minutes, or until golden-brown and a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Leave the cake in the tin until quite cool, then turn the cake out and remove the baking paper.

For the buttercream icing, I do use my KitchenAid mixer, as I think it helps to get a really light buttercream. But I have made buttercream quite successfully in the food processor too. 

Beat the butter and icing sugar in a stand mixer until light and creamy. Add the passionfruit, seeds and all. I melted white chocolate and added this to the buttercream to give the buttercream extra stability for piping, but you can easily not include the white chocolate.

You can ice the cake however you like. First of all I covered the whole cake in a load of buttercream. I went for the “naked” look on the sides by scraping back the icing with a palette knife to achieve the exposed effect. Then I decided to practise my piping skills by piping rosettes all over the cake. I liked the effect of the passionfruit seeds in each rosette. But a simply iced cake with buttercream is always a thing of beauty! And tastes just as good as cake with more fancy icing!

Rocket and Pecan Pesto Spaghetti with Avocado

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The theme is green: I needed an antidote to the “white” food I have been making…so much cake…

A simple dish that can be thrown together in minutes. The rocket and pecan pesto is lovely over any pasta, and is also great with some ricotta or yoghurt stirred through as a dip or on bruschetta.

Pesto and Pasta

Put  a couple of garlic cloves into the bowl of a food processor, with a good handful of pecans. Blitz until roughly processed. Add a cup or of rocket, blitz again.

Add a tablespoon or so of extra virgin olive oil, blitz briefly, then add a handful of pecorino cheese. Check for flavour, and add ground rock salt. Continue to dribble in the olive oil, until the pesto is of a loose consistency so that it can be swirled through pasta.

Spoon over spaghetti or any pasta of choice. Add half a sliced avocado. I love Shepard avocados for their delicate flavour. The avocado can be gently mixed in to the pasta as you eat, adding a creamy texture.

Serve with shaved pecorino, E.V. olive oil, a few basil leaves and plenty of ground black pepper.

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