Real Men eat Quiche

Ok here we go again, I have read some of my early posts and realise that they are peppered with bad puns ( sorry ), some quite obscure references* and that I seem to regularly lambaste and offend without even trying. I really did not wish to do that today but the choice of title was just too easy an option. I eat quiche, in fact, I adore quiche and so questions concerning the nature of whether I am or not ‘ a real man ‘ must be addressed to my long-suffering partner. I do however have a couple of reservations.

quiche

I like proper quiche, the Quiche Lorraine, rustic French cooking, crisp pastry filled with a thick layer of creamy, wobbly egg custard flavoured only with some fried cubes of really good bacon. That is it, nothing more, not a single thing, not even parsley. I am not a fan of everything-but-the-kitchen-sink quiche of the salmon, broccoli, blue cheese and anchovy variety.  I am in luck then that I have in my possession a very battered but beautiful French cookery book with just the most perfect recipe. At this point take a bow Annie who scoured a Paris flea market to procure it for me as a gift. Everybody a big hand for my friend, thank you so much.

Quiche Lorraine was originally an open pie, rustic in style, made with bread dough for the crust, in a cast iron pan. Today a rich short-crust or flaky rough puff pastry is used to line a pie dish. Regional variations include adding Gruyère cheese which makes a quiche Vosgienne and onions a quiche Alsacienne. Adding tomato to the recipe creates a quiche Provençal and spinach a quiche Florentine.

 *Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche is the name of a book Bruce Feirstein

Quiche Lorraine                            serves 8 – 10

for the pastry

250 gr strong White Flour

75 gr cold Beef Dripping, cut into small pieces

50 gr cold unsalted Butter, diced

1-2 tablespoons ice cold Water

A generous pinch of Salt

for the filling

4 free-range Eggs

30 gr Butter

1 tablespoon quality Virgin Olive Oil

150 gr Bacon Lardons, preferably cut from a thick piece of bacon

250 ml Double Cream

¼ teaspoon freshly grated Nutmeg

A generous pinch of Cayenne Pepper

Sea salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

8 inch flan ring ( at least 1 inch deep )

Sieve the flour and salt into a large bowl. Add both fats and rub together with your fingertips lifting and separating the fat with the flour until you achieve the texture of breadcrumbs. Pour in one tablespoon of water and gentle form together as a dough. Use more water as required. Do not knead the dough and treat gently for the best results. Alternatively blitz ingredients to the crumb stage in a food processor, then add water until you get the same result. Wrap in cling film and chill in the refrigerator to relax for at least half an hour.

Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C/gas mark 6. Roll out the chilled pastry on a clean, floured, work surface to a thickness of approximately a quarter of an inch. Butter a flan dish or pie ring and carefully line trying not to split the pastry. If you do tear the pastry take a little surplus from the edge and gently push over the gap to patch the hole. Trim the edges leaving a half inch overhang over the lip of the pie dish as the pastry will shrink during cooking. Chill again for half an hour then cover the pastry with a sheet of baking parchment and fill the dish with rice or baking beans.

Place on a baking tray and put in the oven. After ten minutes turn the oven down to 375°F/fan 190°C/gas mark 5 and bake for fifteen more minutes. Carefully take out from the oven and remove the baking parchment and rice or beans. Beat up one of the eggs with a fork and brush the inside of the pastry case with a soft pastry brush. Bake in the oven for a further ten minutes until light gold in colour, this is to seal the tart. Take out and set aside to cool. Reduce oven temperature to 350°C/fan 160°C/gas mark 4. When cool trim off any excess pastry.

In a medium sized heavy bottomed frying pan, melt the butter in the olive oil over a low heat. Add the bacon lardons and fry until crispy and light brown. In a large bowl beat the remaining eggs with nutmeg, cayenne pepper and season sparingly as the bacon will naturally add salt. Whisk in the double cream and then strain into a jug to remove any strands of thick egg white. Take the pastry case and evenly spread with the bacon lardons. Place baking tray with the pastry case on to the oven shelf, then pour in the custard mix, filling the case right to the top. Bake in the oven for 25–30 minutes, or until the filling has just set and is slightly wobbly to the touch and the top of the quiche is lovely and golden brown.

Advertisements

Meringues

I come from a family of serious meringue fans, the marriage of whisked egg whites and caster sugar, the crispy meringue shells, dried in the oven overnight and sandwiched with thick cream and topped with fresh berries and the show-stopping Pavlova with its chewy, marshmallow-like center. To make them chewy, we add cornflour and vinegar to the whipped-up sugar and egg whites. My mum makes an epic Pavlova and my Aunty Mary ate nearly a whole one for her eightieth birthday.

meringue.jpg

There is an old saying that you need ‘old eggs and a clear day’ to make a good meringue, certainly meringues are best made from older eggs, the runny whites are easier to whisk up, and frozen egg whites work very well so keep them from other recipes such a Sable pastry labelled in the freezer until needed, but allow to thoroughly defrost and reach room temperature before attempting the recipe.

There are several recipes for meringue in a professional kitchen including using super-hot sugar syrup ( Italian or Swiss Meringue ) but you can use one technique and warm your caster sugar on a baking tray in a hot oven, before adding to the egg whites, this helps the sugar dissolve quicker and the finished meringue will shrink less ( ideal for when you are making a Lemon Meringue Pie ). Golden caster sugar will make your finished meringue a darker colour but adds a delicious caramel flavour.

Finally, your meringues don’t have to be picture perfect remember you can just use some more cream to cover up cracks and flaws and if in the worst case just turn them into Eton Mess.

Top Tips

Use scrupulously clean bowls, any grease in the bowl will stop your egg whites properly expanding. Rubbing your bowl with half a cut lemon can help, but make sure you wipe it really dry with kitchen roll afterward.

It is an old habit I have but whenever I am baking I always crack the eggs individually into a small separate bowl. This means if you get a bad egg which happens occasionally you can avoid contaminating the rest of a bake. If a little egg yolk gets into the white, try to remove it with half of the cracked eggshell. If the yolk gets broken and mixed into the white, start again.

Be careful not to over-beat the egg whites. Whisk them until they hold firm peaks when the whisk is removed from the bowl. If you over‑whip them the finished texture will be grainy.

Cooking meringues is a process of trial and error and getting to know your oven. You don’t need a fan just an even heat. I have relatives and friends who have used the warm section of an Aga cooker, a plate warmer and an airing cupboard to dry out their meringues!

Classic Meringue Recipe

The simple ratio to remember is double the weight of sugar to egg whites.

300 gr Caster Sugar ( golden if you prefer a more caramelised flavour and colour )
The whites of 5 free-range Eggs, at room temperature
Half a fresh Lemon

Pre-heat your oven to 200 C / 400 F / Gas Mark 6, and spread the Caster sugar over an oven tray lined with baking paper and heat in the oven for five minutes. Meanwhile, wipe the inside of your mixing bowl with the cut lemon and add the egg whites. Whisk up to a foam, then carefully remove the sugar from the oven and tip a third into the egg whites continuing to mix constantly ( you may need help if you are using a hand mixer ). Add the remaining sugar and continue whisking until the mixture has cooled, and is glossy and will hold its shape.

Turn the oven down to its lowest setting. Line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper, and spoon the meringue mix on, remember to leave sufficient gaps as they will increase in size as they dry out. Place them into the oven and bake until they are crisp on the outside, and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom, depending on their size, this could take four to six hours. Turn the oven off and leave the meringues in there until it has cooled, then immediately transfer to an air-tight container.

Strawberry Milkshake and White Chocolate Cupcakes

Gosh doesn’t everyone love milkshake, as a child I was so spoilt, with thick shakes made with fresh strawberries, just picked, washed and hulled, scoops of ice cream and a splash or two of full fat, gold top milk? They were so thick you could barely suck them up the straw. Even now I’m quite partial when we are out to a froth, ice cold milkshake, although they are made with syrup or powder. So, when I saw a Strawberry Milkshake cupcake in a magazine, well, I just had to have a try myself.

Strawberry Milkshake Cupcakes.jpg

Cupcakes are a phenomenon, they have become so popular, and are fun and versatile and very easy to make. Next week I will be baking lots of Halloween themed cupcakes topped with sugar pumpkins, ghosts, and witches’ hats. The secret of this recipe to use Nesquik milkshake powder which gives a real milkshake flavour to both the cake and the topping and I added another childhood favourite some white chocolate buttons to give it my own little twist.

Strawberry and White Chocolate Milkshake Cupcakes    makes 18

For the Cupcakes

210 ml Full fat Milk

210 gr Plain Flour

220 gr Caster Sugar

120 gr White Chocolate Buttons

70g soft Unsalted Butter

75 gr Strawberry Milkshake Powder

2 large free-range Eggs

1 scant tablespoon of Baking Powder

A good pinch of Salt

For the Icing

500 gr Icing Sugar

160 gr soft Unsalted Butter

100 gr Strawberry Milkshake Powder

50 ml Full Fat Milk

Red Gel Food Colouring

Cupcake or deep Muffin Tins

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 3 / 170°C / 330 °F and line the baking trays with large paper cases. Using an electric mixer or food processor mix the butter, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together until they form a sandy, crumb-like texture. In a bowl, whisk the milk, eggs and strawberry milkshake powder together. With the mixer on a slow speed, gradually pour half of the liquid into the crumb mixture and mix thoroughly until combined and the batter is smooth and thick. Once all the lumps are gone gradually pour in the remaining liquid and mix until thoroughly combined. Stir in half of the white chocolate buttons.

Evenly divide the cake batter between the prepared cases and bake in the oven for twenty to twenty-five minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly before removing them from the tin and placing on a wire rack to cool. Sift the icing sugar into a large bowl and add the butter, beat together with a wooden spoon or electric mixer. In a jug, mix together the milk and strawberry milkshake powder, then gradually pour the liquid into the icing while mixing on a slow speed. Add a little red food colouring to colour the icing pink. Turn the mixer up to a high speed and beat the icing until light and fluffy. Scoop the whipped-up icing into a piping bag with a star nozzle, ready to ice the completely cool cupcakes. To get the two-tone effect I diluted a little more food colouring with a little water and brushed around the inside of the piping bag before piping the frosting onto the cakes.

Decorate with the remaining white chocolate buttons, some fresh or freeze-dried strawberries and a dust of icing sugar.

Seafood Tarts

There are more than a few signs that Spring is definitely here. Last weekend we had an impromptu picnic in the nearby park and the weather was truly glorious * And when Spring is the air we chefs start to think about some delicious, lighter lunches and dinner instead of all the hearty soups and stews. I think I have the perfect recipe then, for you today, Seafood Feuilleté, a buttery, puff-pastry case full of sensational seafood in a creamy vermouth sauce.

Seafood Tart

Now before we start I don’t want you to panic at the thought of puff pastry, I’m going to put up my hands up right now and admit straight away few of us are lucky to have the time and patience to perfect the technique of making puff pastry at home. Even after hours of practice, I struggle to get an even rise and perfect bake every time, so my solution, used correctly the bought-in product is practical, versatile and very labour saving. Rich and flaky, ready-made puff pastry can top a rich fish pie, enclose marzipan and fruit for a luxurious dessert or make simple crisp cheese straws to nibble.

Puff pastry can also be used to make savoury hors d’oeuvre or bite sized appetisers. The most famous of these being little-stuffed Vol-au-vent cases topped with a little lid or delicate Crolines, small lattice topped parcels. My recipe today is how to make the third, great little tartlet case that can be used in a savoury starter, light lunch or filled with whipped cream and fruit as a simple, elegant dessert.

*The fog returned Monday morning with a vengeance and it was more than a tad chilly.

Feuilleté Pastry Tarts

Why not try roasted Provençal vegetables topped with whipped Goat’s cheese and a little rocket dressed with sea salt and Balsamic, creamy garlic mushrooms or a seafood medley as well as fruit purées and Confectioner’s custard, glazed poached peach halves and raspberries.

Puff pastry ( ready made or homemade )

Egg wash

For the method please follow this link.

 

For the Filling

6 -8 Gamba’s or large Shell on Prawns

500 gr Fresh Mussels Fresh Clams

500 gr Fresh Clams

12 Scallops

6 large Banana Shallots, peeled and finely diced

3 cloves of Garlic, peeled and crushed

A small handful of fresh Dill

200 ml thick double cream

50 ml of Vermouth ( White Wine is a great substitute )

25 ml Olive Oil

25 gr Butter

Juice of one fresh Lemon

Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

In a large, heavy-bottomed pan ( with a tight fitting lid ), melt the half of the butter and add half of the oil. Over a medium heat soften the shallots for ten minutes without colouring. Add the garlic and cook out for two or three minutes stirring continuously. Tip in the mussels and clams and add the Vermouth place on the lid add steam the shellfish for five to six minutes. Carefully holding the pan with a heat proof cloth remove from the heat. Place a colander in a large glass bowl and tip in the mussels and allow to cool. Reserve the cooking liquid to be used to make the final sauce.

When cool pick the majority of the mussels and clams from their shells leaving a handful for garnishing. Carefully pour the cooking liquid through a fine strainer into a small pan and place on a medium heat. Bring to a simmer and reduce the volume by half. Add the cream and simmer for a couple more minutes before seasoning with a generous grind of pepper. Melt the remaining butter and oil in a large heavy-bottomed frying pan and saute the gambas, over a gentle heat, for three minutes before turning up the heat and adding the scallops, turn over the prawns and the scallops as soon as they are brown. After two more minutes remove from heat, squeeze over the juice of one lemon and keep warm.

Heat the mussels and clams gently in the sauce. Take care not to boil or the shellfish will toughen, add the remaining lemon juice and finely chopped dill, taste and add more pepper if required. Place a warm pastry case onto a deep lipped plate and carefully spoon in the picked mussels and clams. Add a couple of scallops then fill with sauce and top with the prepared lids or a large prawn. Spoon around a little extra liquid and the retained shellfish in shells and sprinkle with a little extra dill to garnish.

 

British Pie Week – Braised Beef and Red Wine Pie

It is nearly the end of National Pie Week*, and some of you may already know what I think of some of these marketing inspired theme days, but in the spirit of things it is not too late for you to roll up your sleeves, don an apron and please whilst not exactly releasing your inner Sweeny Todd, get making some pies.

Beef Pie.jpg

 

Pies date back to pre-Egyptian history, early pies were flat, round crusty cakes called ‘galettes’ containing honey, evidence of which can be found on the tomb walls of the Pharaoh Ramesses I, located in the Valley of the Kings. The Roman cookbook Apicius has several recipes which involve a pie case, with a sweet filling, more like a modern-day cheesecake on a pastry base, which more often than not were used as an offering to the gods.

Medieval pies could be easily cooked over an open fire, the earliest pie-like recipes refer to coffyns ( meaning basket or box), with straight sealed sides and a top. The pastry was an effective airtight seal and used to prolong the life of expensive meat and was a handy carrying case when traveling on horseback.

Pies remained as a staple of traveling and working peoples in the colder northern European countries, with regional variations the locally available meats. The Cornish pasty is an excellent adaptation of the pie to a working man’s daily food needs.

*March 6th– March 12th

Shin is an inexpensive cut of meat, which is big on flavour, and is full of gelatinous sinew which cooks down to make the most excellent gravy. It is easy to stew, you can also cook in the oven at around 350 F / 180 C / Gas mark 4 and it really lends itself to batch cooking in the pressure cooker and freezing down until required. You can substitute the red wine for a strong tasting beer for beef and ale pie and adapt the recipe further adding chestnut mushrooms, sautéd kidneys or if you are feeling indulgent a dozen oysters just before you finish cooking.

Shin of Beef and Red Wine Pie

1.5kg Shin of Beef, bone removed, meat cut into chunks

( Ask you butcher to do this as you need a really good knife to cut shin

and ask the butcher to give you the bone )

2 large White Onion, peeled and finely chopped

2 large Carrots, peeled and finely chopped

2 sticks of Celery, washed and finely chopped

1 ltr quality Beef Stock

250 ml good Red Wine

100 ml quality Olive Oil

100 gr Plain Flour or 3 tablespoons Beef Dripping

2 tablespoons Tomato Puree

Bouquet garni; Celery stick, Bay leaf, Parsley and Thyme

A generous pinch of freshly grated Nutmeg

salt & pepper to taste
Ready-made puff pastry (use an all-butter one if you can) or shortcrust
1 egg, beaten

Place the beef, flour, and seasoning into a plastic bag and shake. Meanwhile, heat the oil or dripping in a large heavy-bottomed pan. Fry the beef shin in batches until browned all over and set aside. In the same pan, adding a little more oil necessary, sauté the onions, carrots, and celery until soft for about ten minutes. Add the tomato puree and leftover flour and cook out for another minute, stirring continuously, before adding the red wine and beef stock. Add the beef shin back to the pan, stir everything together and place the marrow bones and bouquet garni, tied with string, on top.

Reduce the heat and place a tight-fitting lid on the pan. Bring to the boil and reduce the heat to achieve a gentle simmer. Allow to cook for about two hours then remove the lid and allow the sauce to reduce for another hour. When the beef is cooked, remove from the heat and thoroughly cool. When cool remove the bones and the bouquet garni.

To serve, pre-heat your oven to 350 F / 180 C / Gas mark 4 and on a floured surface, roll out the half of the pastry to fit an oven-proof pie dish.

Carefully place the pastry into the greased dish and add the beef shin filling. Brush the edges with egg wash and top with remaining rolled out pastry, crimp the edges and brush the top with the rest of the beaten egg. You can decorate with any pastry offcuts if you want. Place the pie in the oven for thirty to forty-five minutes until the pastry is golden and cooked.

Allow to stand for 5 minutes after baking and serve with horseradish mash and buttered peas.

Valentines Ruby Red Velvet Cake

Ruby Red Velvet cake is an American classic but easily adapted for a special Valentines treat. A traditional velvet cake has layers of moist deep red crumb cake with white vanilla buttercream or frosting. In the recipe below I have included a cream cheese frosting recipe. Ruby Red Velvet cake was made famous at  New York City’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, and in fact was named Waldorf-Astoria cake*, it is, however, a Southern recipe and is popular at restaurants such as the soul food based Amy Ruth’s in Harlem**. If you have ever seen the film Steel Magnolias the Armadillo shaped groom’s cake is a red velvet cake.

The Science Bit

Most modern recipes use red colouring but the traditionally the acids in the vinegar and buttermilk reacted with red anthocyanin in the cocoa and developed its colour. The buttermilk also helped keep the cake moist, light, and fluffy. Modern chocolate has often undergone Dutch processing, which prevents the colour change of the anthocyanins.  When foods were rationed during World War II, bakers used boiled beetroot juices to enhance the colour of their cakes. Sugarbeets are still found in some red velvet cake recipes, where they also add sweetness and help to retain moisture, rather like the carrot in carrot cake. Adams Extract, a Texas company, is credited with bringing the red velvet cake to kitchens across America during the Great Depression era, by being one of the first to promote the use and sales of red food colouring use of point-of-sale posters and tear-off recipe cards.

I like this cake because if you follow the recipe it is light and moist and tastes delicious. The frosting is very rich but addictive, all in all, this is a real heart pleaser.

*Rather like the illustrious Savoy hotel in London the Waldorf-Astoria had a tradition of the Chef’s creating dishes for their guests, Thousand Island Dressing is another creation from the hotel’s kitchens that we still use today. At the Savoy the famous hotelier César Ritz and his Maitre de Cuisine  Auguste Escoffier created dishes like Pavlova and Omelette Arnold Bennett for their illustrious clients and for the famous Australian opera singer Nellie Melba both Peach Melba and Melba Toast.

**So Harlem is about as far from the deep south as physically and politically possible but it is where I first tried Velvet cake it’s on the menu as Inez Bass, named after the founder’s Mother. 

ruby-red-velvet-cake

Ruby Red Velvet Cake

For the Cake

250 gr Plain Flour

60 gr Cocoa Powder

150 gr soft Unsalted Butter

260 gr Caster Sugar

2 large free-range Eggs

200 ml Buttermilk

1 tablespoon Red Food Colouring ( approximately )

1 teaspoon pure Vanilla Extract

1 teaspoon Distilled Vinegar

1 teaspoon Baking Soda

¼ teaspoon Salt

 

For the Cream Cheese Frosting

250 gr soft full fat Cream Cheese

250 gr Mascarpone Cheese

100 gr Icing Sugar

1 teaspoon pure Vanilla Extract

175 ml Double Cream

For the Cake

Preheat your oven to 350F / 175C / Gas mark 3, then butter and line two twenty-centimetre cake tins with baking parchment. Into a large mixing bowl sift the flour and salt. In a second large bowl beat the butter until very soft, add the sugar to the butter and beat until light and aerated. Whisk the eggs together and slowly add to the butter and sugar, a little at a time, beating well after each addition. Should the mix start to separate and curdle, beat in a little flour before adding more egg, when finished beat in the vanilla extract.

Whisk the buttermilk together with the red food colouring, you may need a little extra depending on the depth of colour. Fold in the buttermilk and flour to the creamed eggs, sugar and butter in three batches using the edge of a large metal spoon. In a small cup combine the vinegar and baking soda. Allow the mixture to begin to fizz up and then fold into the cake batter. Quickly divide the batter evenly between the two prepared tins and tap to remove any large air bubbles.

Bake in the oven for around twenty-five minutes until a metal skewer inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tins for a few minutes. Turn out onto a wire rack and allow to cool totally. At this stage, you can freeze the cakes or wrap in cling film to store overnight.

For the Frosting

In a large mixing bowl beat together the cream cheese and mascarpone until smooth. Sieve in the icing sugar and add the vanilla, whisk until thoroughly combined. Slowly add the cream, whisking until a thick but spreadable consistency is achieved.

Using a large serrated knife carefully cut each cake layer in half. Spread three cake layers with a layer of frosting. Place all four layers of the cake on top of each other and frost the top and sides of the cake. The cake is traditionally garnished with fresh or desiccated coconut.