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.

 

Quiche Lorraine

The Quiche Lorraine is a crisp pastry case filled with a thick layer of creamy, wobbly egg custard flavoured only with some fried cubes of really good bacon. 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 shortcrust 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. This is my recipe for what is essentially a Quiche Alsacienne with Parmesan pastry for an extra tasty crisp crust.

Slice of Quiche.JPG

Quiche                                                                              serves 8 – 10

for the pastry

250 gr Strong White Flour

50 gr Cold Beef Dripping, cut into small pieces

50 gr Cold Butter, diced

50 gr finely grated Parmesan

2-3 tablespoons Ice Cold Water

A generous pinch of Salt

Quiche 2

for the filling

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

1 medium sized White Onion, peeled and finely chopped

4 free range Eggs

250 ml  Double Cream

25 gr Butter

1 tablespoon quality  Olive Oil

1 tablespoon finely chopped Parsley

2 Cloves of Garlic, peeled and pureed

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 the fingertips lifting and separating the fat with the flour until you achieve the texture of bread crumbs. Add the Parmesan and 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.

PastryAlternatively, 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.

 

Rolling Pastry

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. The pastry will need to be wide enough to line the bottom of the tin, the sides and provide a little overhang that will reduce as the pastry shrinks during cooking.

Lining Tin with Pastry.JPG

 

Butter a flan dish or pie ring and carefully roll the pastry onto your rolling pin. Roll back over the flan dish and push to the edges 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.

Pastry Overhang.JPG

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.

Blind Baking.JPG

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. Cook the onion for ten minutes without colouring then remove. Replace the onion with the bacon lardons and fry until crispy and light brown, add garlic and cook for one more minute then mix together with the onions. 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 cooked onion and bacon. Place baking tray with the pastry case onto 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.

 

Classic Moules Marinières

Now the summer is over it is time to eat mussels again but where do you start or who do you look to as an authority for the perfect Moules marinières recipe? My shelves are groaning with cookery books by experts on classical French Cuisine and seafood cookery. Well every author is different in their interpretation and so here I guess is the rub, it is time to experiment and find out if you prefer onion to shallots? What type of white wine do you prefer? And most controversially do you add cream, mayonnaise or crème Fraiche? Well, I don’t add cream to my classic Moules marinières the butter is enough to make the cooking liquids really luxurious.

Mussels

Classic Moules Marinières                                      serves 4

Allow 500 gr to 750 gr of mussels per person for a generous portion. To prepare your mussels first rinse them in plenty of cold running water and throw away any mussels with cracked or broken shells. Give any open mussels a quick squeeze, if they do not close immediately, throw away as well as they are dead and not to be eaten. Then using a small knife scrape the shell to remove any barnacles or dirt and pull out any beards by tugging towards the hinge of the mussel shell. If you intend to cook later that day, store in a plastic container in the bottom of your refrigerator covered with a damp tea towel.

1.5 kg of prepared Mussels

3 large ( Banana ) Shallots, peeled and very finely chopped

100 gr Alderney Butter

4 cloves of Garlic, peeled and very finely chopped

A very generous sprig of fresh Thyme

A bay leaf

A large glass ( 325 ml ) of good quality dry White Wine

A small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, washed and finely chopped

Freshly ground black pepper

Plenty of warm crusty bread

Heat half the butter in a large heavy-bottomed pan and add the shallots, garlic, bay leaf and picked thyme leaves. Soften for five minutes without colouring then pour in the wine and bring up to the boil. Simmer for a further five minutes before turning up the heat to high. Tip the mussels into the pan and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Steam for three minutes until the mussels have all started to open and remove from the heat. Add the remaining butter and the parsley, replace the lid and put back on the heat for thirty seconds shaking the pan well to distribute the parsley. Season with freshly ground black pepper and serve immediately, removing any mussels which have remained closed.

A Bastille Day Classic Recipe

Tomorrow is the 14th of July, Bastille Day, and across France there will French Onion Soupbe large military parades and festivities commemorating the beginning of the French Revolution. Beginning with the storming of the Bastille, a large prison in Paris, the period was one of great political and social upheaval which saw the over throw of the French monarchy and the establishment of the French Republic. In honour of this traditional French National Holiday I am going to cook this classic recipe, which probably had it’s origins in Roman cooking but became prominent amongst eighteenth century French peasants, for which onions were one of the staple dietary components. The addition or use of stock came later as did the cheese croute ( a kind of crispy cheese on toast ). The dish went through a renaissance in the sixties when American chefs really started promoting French recipes and was used as a very fancy dinner party starter although I think it is altogether better as a lunch dish. Enjoy


My Classic French Onion Soup serves 6

1.5 kg peeled sweet Onions, peeled and finely sliced

6 cloves Garlic, peeled and finely crushed

1 ½ litres fresh Beef Stock

100 ml quality Dry Sherry

60 gr Butter

50 ml quality Olive Oil

1 tsp fresh Thyme Leaves, finely chopped

2 Bay Leaves

½ tsp each of Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper

¼ tsp freshly ground Nutmeg

Half of a day old Baguette

50 gr grated Cheddar or Gruyère

50 gr grated Parmesan

A couple of pinches of Cayenne pepper

To garnish

Parsley, washed, dried and finely chopped

Heat a slug of the oil and the butter together in a large heavy bottomed pan and add the onions. Stew the onions stirring frequently until all the cooking juices evaporate and the onions start to caramelise. Begin to stir continuously, to prevent the onions sticking and burning and cook until they reach a light brown nutty colour. Add the garlic, thyme, nutmeg, stock and seasoning and bring up to the boil. Simmer gently for fifteen minutes add the sherry and simmer for a further fifteen minutes to evaporate off the alcohol. Correct the seasoning and keep warm.

For the croutes preheat your oven to 325 F / 170 C / Gas mark 3 and thinly slice the baguette. Lay the pieces on a baking tray and drizzle with the remaining oil. Place in the oven and bake for forty minutes until golden brown. Turn up the oven to 375 F / 190 C / Gas mark 5. Pour the soup into six oven proof bowls and top with the grated cheeses then sprinkle with the Cayenne. Place the bowls on a tray and place in the oven for fifteen minutes until the cheese is golden brown and bubbling. Take out of the oven, top with chopped parsley and serve. Please warn your guests about the hot bowls.