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.