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Tomato, Caramelized Onion and Goat’s Cheese Tart

While we are making slow cooked casseroles and warming winter pies here in Sydney in winter, others in the northern hemisphere are enjoying cooking in summer.

This is a recipe that suits any climate, a tasty tart that would be great for an alfresco summer lunch or a warming supper dish with crusty bread and a salad.

Store-bought puff pastry tart base, some caramelized onion for the base, then topped with goats’ cheese, cherry tomatoes and a scattering of fresh herbs. I made mine in a rectangular flan tin, but a round one would do as well. You might have to adjust the quantities.

Ingredients

320g store-bought puff pastry (I used 2 sheets from a pack of Pampas puff pastry). Use more or less, if needed, to fit your tin.

1 red onion, chopped

1 teaspoon butter

1 teaspoon brown sugar

Goats’ cheese – or similar crumbly soft cheese. You will crumble this into the tart, so quantities are flexible, about 100gm should be enough

15-20 cherry tomatoes, or more if you want to pack them in, on the vine

Fresh thyme leaves for scattering

Sea salt and ground black pepper

Method

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C. Butter a  flan tin and fit with the puff pastry sheets which you have cut to shape.

Fry the red onion in the butter in a small frying pan over a low to medium heat, until the onion begins to soften. Add the brown sugar to caramelize the onion and cook for a further couple of minutes.

Lay the caramelized onion onto the pastry base. Crumble the goats’ cheese into the tart. Cut some of the cherry tomatoes in half and place on top of the goats’ cheese, place a few whole ones on, too for effect.  Scatter a few fresh thyme leaves over the tomatoes with sea salt and black pepper.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until the puff pastry is nicely browned, the cheese melted and the tomatoes softened. Nice served with a green salad.

Luscious Lemon Pie


Everyone loves lemons and everyone loves pies, so a really tangy, deep and luscious lemon pie is a wonderful thing. This lemon pie is pretty easy to make. The base is made with crushed biscuit and nuts, with three ingredients, and the filling has just three ingredients too!

I make the pie with an Italian meringue topping. You don’t have to have this – you could just as easily serve it with whipped cream on top, or simpler still, pile up a whole heap of lovely fresh berries like raspberries or blueberries on the pie, and the berries cut through the sweetness of the filling.

I have made this pie with ordinary and with Meyer lemons, and while not essential, Meyer lemons give the pie a lovely flavour.

Ingredients 

Biscuit Base

160g ginger nut biscuits + 90g digestive biscuits (McVities are my fave)

80g salted macadamias (you could use almonds if you like)

100g butter

Filling 

2 tins sweetened condensed milk

4 large free-range egg yolks

Juice of 4 lemons + the juice of 1/2 lemon 

Zest of 1 lemon

Meringue Topping (optional)

100g caster sugar

2 free-range egg whites

Pinch of cream of tartar

Method

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C fan-forced. You will need a 20cm pie/tart tin or dish. A larger tin or dish is fine, you will end up with a shallower pie. A loose bottom tin, while not essential, makes it easier to get the pie out of the tin.

Put the biscuits and macadamias into a ziplock bag and bash with a rolling pin or mallet till you have a rubble of biscuit pieces and crumbs. Place the biscuit/nut mixture into a food processor, and blitz until you have mostly fine crumbs with a few larger biscuit and nut pieces. Melt the butter in a microwave or on the stovetop.

Stir the butter through the biscuit/nut mixture. Press the mixture into the tin, on the base and up the sides. Keep pressing with your fingers to make sure the base covers the tin and there are no holes. Bake for 8-10 minutes until the base is firm. Remove from the oven.

While the base is cooking, put the condensed milk, egg yolks, lemon juice and zest into the food processor and whizz until everything is well blended. Pour onto the warm base. The mixture should come almost up to the top of the tin. You may end up with a little too much lemon mixture, you can always bake this in a little tin or muffin mold and you have an extra dessert! Cook’s treat!

Bake for 20 minutes or until just set but the middle still has a slight wobble. You might like to check it after 17 or 18 minutes. Everyone’s oven is different and some ovens cook faster then others.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely before removing from the tin. Or, if your pie is baked in a dish, leave as is. Chill in the fridge for at least a few hours.

Meringue topping (if using)

Combine sugar and 100ml water in a small saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon until sugar dissolves. Reduce the heat to medium, and cook until syrup reaches 115C (soft ball stage) using a thermometer.

Now whisk the egg whites with cream of tartar on medium speed in a grease-free bowl of an electric mixer until soft peaks form.

Cook the sugar syrup to 121C (hard ball stage). With the mixer speed still on medium, carefully and gradually pour the syrup into the beaten egg whites. Increase speed to high and beat until the meringue is cooled to room temperature and it is thick and glossy.

Spoon the meringue into a piping beg with a plain nozzle, or you could just use a ziplock bag with the end snipped off – works a treat! Pipe in whatever way you like  on top of the lemon pie. Scorch with a kitchen blow torch for added wow!

Serve with whipped cream and berries, lemon slices and anything else you fancy.

Poached Quince Tart



May 2020. Two months into isolation in the era of Covid 19. Things are looking a little brighter – Australia has some great statistics in dealing with the virus, and some restrictions are being lifted. I was very excited to be able to visit the wonderful Orange Grove Market the Saturday before last, the market opened again for fresh food. I’ll be there this Saturday, eager to pick up some lovely local  produce.

Autumn in Sydney means the start of the quince season, and I bought some beautiful quince the other day. With no particular recipe in mind, I just needed their heady perfume in the kitchen.
Of course I had to cook with them – I poached them to a deep, deep red ruby colour, in a sugar syrup and vanilla. I put half the poached quince into a short crust pastry tart, and I’ll be making a fabulous quince crumble/betty recipe with the rest this weekend.
Here’s the tart recipe. There’s no other filling apart from the quince – you could fill it first with a frangipane or creme patissiere, but I think pastry, quince and a good spoonful of cream or Greek yoghurt is sufficient.
Ingredients

Poached quince
2 quince

300g caster sugar

500ml water

Thinly peeled rind and juice of an orange

1 vanilla bean, split in half

1 tablespoon butter

Short Crust Pastry
250g plain flour

50g icing sugar

125g unsalted butter (cold)

Zest of half a lemon

1 free-range egg

Splash of milk

Method

Preheat oven to 120 degrees C. You will need a large casserole that you can put on the stove top and then transfer to the oven. A cast iron casserole is ideal.
Peel and core the quinces, reserving the peel and cores. Cut each quince into eighths, but don’t worry if you can’t cut neat slices – quinces are notoriously hard to manage!
Put the sugar, water, orange rind and vanilla bean into a large casserole on the stove top over a medium heat, and stir to dissolve sugar. Add the quince pieces. Cover the quinces with a cartouche, a circle of baking paper. Lay the peel and cores on top of the baking paper. Place the lid on the casserole and put in the pre-heated oven.
Bake until the quince is ruby red. This should take about 4-6 hours. You should check the quince after 3 hours to see if it is turning red. Remove the quince and strain and reserve the quince liquid. You can discard the peel and cores. Keep the vanilla bean, dry it and pop it in a jar of sugar to create vanilla flavoured sugar.

To make the pastry, sift the flour and icing sugar together, and put into the bowl of a food processor.   Add the cubed butter. Carefully pulse the flour, sugar and butter until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Pulse in the lemon zest.
Mix the egg and a splash of milk, and add this to the mixture, and pulse a few times until the dough comes together into a ball. If you’re having trouble, you can add some iced water, literally a drop or two at a time, to help form the dough into a ball. Be careful not to overwork the dough, as it will end up being tough.
Place a large piece of baking paper or cling film on your work surface. Tip the dough from the food processor onto the baking paper/cling film, and pat into a round. Cover the round with more paper/cling film and put in the fridge for 30 minutes to rest.
Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C, or 170 degrees C fan forced. Remove the pastry from the fridge. Grease an 18cm (7inch) tart tin. A 20cm tin would work too, you would simply roll the pastry a little thinner.
The easiest way to roll out the pastry is between 2 sheets of baking paper. Put the pastry onto one sheet, cover with the other sheet, and using a rolling pin, roll into a round big enough to fit into your tart tin. Ease the rolled pastry into the tin.  Put the tin into the freezer for at least 30 minutes, to make sure the pastry is really cold.
Remove the tin from the freezer. Line the tin with baking paper, and fill with pie weights. Dried beans or rice will work just as well. Bake for 10 minutes, then carefully remove the paper and weights. Return the pastry to the oven and bake for further 5-10 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and cooked through. Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature.

To assemble the tart, carefully take the tart shell from the tin and place on a plate. Choose the nicest pieces of quince and arrange in the tart shell.
Put about 50mls of the reserved quince liquid into a saucepan with the tablespoon of butter, and cook until the butter is incorporated.
Spoon a little of this quince buttery liquid over the tart, which will give it a nice glaze. I scattered a few sprigs of my favourite herb, lemon thyme, over the tart. Serve with spoonfuls of the aforementioned cream or Greek yoghurt!

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!

Simple Quince Tart

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This is a really easy tart. Some short crust pastry blind baked in a flan dish and some wonderful baked quinces layered in the pastry. Serve with cream. Bliss.

A few weeks ago I had a wonderful dinner with friends. Slow cooked lamb followed by tarte tatin made with quinces, which were redolent with heady spices. Cooked overnight, the quinces were a beautiful deep ruby red colour, and the cooking liquid had become quince jelly.

To me, baked quinces are the epitome of gorgeous winter comfort food!

My tart was not so elaborate as the tarte tatin but easy to knock up on a winter weekend afternoon, and quite delicious. This is a small flan just enough for 3 or 4 people.

Baked Quinces

Ingredients
50g butter
2 quinces
120g caster sugar
Juice of 1 lemon

Method
Preheat oven to 150 degrees C. Peel the quinces, halve lengthways and remove cores. Cut in quarters or slices. Melt butter in a heavy oven proof baking dish. Roll the quinces in the melted butter. Scatter over sugar and squeeze the lemon juice over the quince pieces.

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.

Short Crust Pastry*

Ingredients
100g chilled unsalted butter
125g plain flour
75g sour cream

Method
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C, 170 degrees C fan forced. Pulse the butter and flour in a food processor until it looks like coarse breadcrumbs. Add the sour cream and continue to pulse until the dough starts to incorporate into a ball. Remove from the processor and shape pastry into a ball. Wrap in cling wrap and refrigerate for 10 minutes.
 Roll the pastry out to 3mm thick and place in a well greased flan dish or mold, about 18cm or 7 inches in diameter. Any small mold will do.

Rest for 15 minutes in the fridge. This will help reduce shrinkage when cooking. Remove from the fridge, place some pie weights or rice on the baking paper inside the tart, and bake blind in the pre-heated oven for 10-15 minutes. Remove the weights or rice and the baking paper.

To assemble

When cool, place slices of baked quince as elegantly or as rustically as you please in the flan. Serve as is or with cream or creme fraiche.

*This makes enough for a small flan. Doubling the quantities will give you a large pastry shell. You would need 4-5  baked quinces to fill a larger flan.

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Quirky’s Frangipane Tart

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This cake/tart is my adaptation of a French frangipane fruit tart. The version pictured is made with plums. I’ve scattered berries over the top for decoration.

Ingredients
Quantity of fresh summer fruit: cherries, peaches, apricots and plums work well.
150gms butter
150gms sugar
3 eggs
I teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla paste
1 teaspoon almond essence
100gms – 125 gms ground almonds
1 tablespoon plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
Optional – demerara sugar for topping.

Method
Preheat oven to 170 deg C.

Combine butter and sugar in a food processor, with vanilla extract or paste and almond essence.
Add eggs one at a time. Mix well.
Fold in ground almonds, plain flour, baking powder and salt.

Put mixture into a greased flan dish, or springform tin lined with baking paper. It’s important to line the tin as the mixture can sometimes leak.
Scatter cut fruit over top of mixture.
Add a little demerara sugar over fruit if desired.

Bake in 170 deg C oven for 45 minutes  – 1 hour, or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted in the cake.

Serve warm or cold with cream or custard!

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