Thursday 18 April 2013

Leek and Pont-l'Évêque tart...

Pont-l'Évêque is a soft cows' milk cheese being first made around the 12th Century, probably the oldest Normandy cheese still in production today, If you haven't tried it, it is something like a Brie or Camembert. It comes in three sizes which is quite practical.

Leeks from our garden...

Pastry of your choice for the base. 
(Mine being 300g (1 1/2 cup) flour, 170g (3/4 cup) butter, egg yolk and ice water to bind)

For the filling :

2 leeks, trimmed of the dark green parts and washed thoroughly, finely chopped
120 ml (1/2 cup) cream
120 ml (1/2 cup)  milk
4 eggs
170 g  (6 oz) cheese (Pont - l'Évêque, or Camembert or Brie) you may want to add more cheese!

Roll out the pastry, trim and chill.  Bake the base blind (with pastry weights or dried beans on baking paper)  at 200°c / 400°f for 20 minutes;  remove the weights and return for another 5 minutes or until brown as this will not colour any more in the second part of the cooking as we are just setting the eggs.

Cook the chopped leeks for about 5 minutes in a little olive oil, just to soften them.

Mix the cream and milk with the eggs. You could use just cream or milk also if you have a bigger mold, then you can add more custard mixture  (1 egg to 60 ml / 1/4 cup of milk or cream).

Place the leeks into the eggs and cream, season well with salt and black pepper. Pour the mixture in your base and place the sliced cheese in at an angle. You can eat the rind but you may prefer to remove it.

Bake for a further 35/40 minutes until set at 140°c/ 285°f

Eat preferably warm if you like oozing warm cheese!!

You could add 'extras' to this, but I really like the simplicity of this tart without the addition of meat or herbs. If you can't get the cheeses above then a strong flavoured hard cheese (grated) would be a very good alternative.

Wednesday 10 April 2013

Sumac Roasted Chicken and Couscous.

Sumac is a berry that adds a romantic exotic lemony note to your cuisine.  I first tasted it nearly twenty years ago at our Persian friend's house in his famous rice dish that has a base of crispy potatoes and fluffy rice on top with sumac berries - A dish I did not dare make as I only wanted to eat it there!  Sumac is now more readily available (my French supermarket stocks it!) or ethnic food stores will have it.

You could use a whole chicken or pieces; oil lightly the chicken and rub in the ground sumac.  I then roasted my chicken slowly on a high heat to start (for about twenty minutes), then finishing it for a good hour (or more depending on the size) on a lower setting.  I roasted the tomatoes and preserved little lemons at the same time; they then go into the couscous at the end.

For the couscous, mix one cup/250 ml of grain to two cups/500ml of water or stock (for two servings).
 In a pan, simply add a few tablespoons of olive oil to the grains and make sure it is well mixed in. Pour in the water, season (also you can add a tablespoon of sumac) if not using stock and onto the heat, bring to the boil (add a knob of butter) and put the lid on -  continue to cook for thirty seconds and cut the heat, not lifting the lid for ten minutes.  Using the fork, just fluff up the grains to break the lumps. Mix in the warmed tomatoes and sliced lemons (or other warm pre cooked chopped vegetables work wonderfully) and serve!

Wednesday 3 April 2013

Gnocchi of butternut squash.

I have made gnocchi previously HERE (click!) so this is the same process, but different ingredients.  It is similar in that it is delicate to work with.  I prefer to just roll these ones into sausage shapes and cut, without the usual fork indentation on the back, but go a head if you wish to.

500 g / 1 lb butternut squash (about a half)
3 egg yolks
75 g/  1/2 cup flour
125 g / 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
50 g /  1/2 cup parmesan cheese
salt and black pepper

Some olive oil (about three tablespoons) and a tablespoon of butter to finish.

Peel and dice the butternut squash, cook in a non-stick pan over a low heat with just a tiny amount of olive oil.  Cook until soft around twenty plus minutes.  You can choose to mash the butternut squash with a fork (as I like, it has more texture this way) or purée it in a blender. Put back in the pan and cook away any moisture - for say, another 5 minutes, the dryer the better. Leave to cool completely.
 Once cooled, add in the egg yolks and stir well.  Fold in the two cheeses, then the flour and seasoning (adding a little more flour if too soft). Don't over stir at this stage. On a floured surface, roll out into thin sausage shapes and cut (see the link above for this stage). 
Poach in salted boiling water in batches and once they float, count to 10 and transfer to a wide frying pan (skillet) with the olive oil and butter.  Keep on a low heat while you cook another batch.  You can turn the gnocchi over gently as they will fry and have a little crunch to them.  Serve with some fresh herbs of your choice : I used coriander leaves (cilantro) and some more black pepper.

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