May 26, 2008

individual smoked salmon and watercress tian

Ah..... the Great British Bank Holiday!

Rain again.....but that didn't stop us enjoying it, after all, we wouldn't let a few showers spoil the fun! Not much chance for basking in sunshine in the garden, but, undeterred, we still managed to conjure an illusion of Summer with these individual smoked salmon tian; perfect with a light salad of mixed leaves, dressed with garlic vinaigrette, and freshly made crunchy coleslaw on the side - who cares about the rain when you can create Summer in your kitchen!
A Tian is basically a tart without the pastry crust, named after the half glazed french Tian dish that it was traditionally cooked in. Not only does this mean that it is very easy to make, also get all of the wonderful rich, savoury, flavour of a tart, without all the work of making pastry and lining tart cases etc! Whilst there is obviously still a place for tarts and quiches, these little Tians make a wonderful short-cut, and they're great if you can't eat wheat, or you just simply don't want the extra fuss, or 'packaging' of the pastry crust. They hold together surprisingly well even without a pastry case, so they are also perfect for picnics and packed lunches. (Bet you can't guess what's in my lunch-box for today!....)

Because I wanted small, individual, Tians I improvised and cooked them in my muffin pan. The combination of delicate smoked salmon and punchy watercress is so evocative of lazy Summer eating, and it's all held together with a smooth, creamy textured custard, tinged with garlic and freshly grated aromatic nutmeg (this has an amazing ability to bring out the flavour in any creamy sauce)

Individual Smoked Salmon and Watercress Tian
(Cabbage Roses and Cupcakes)

5 eggs
2 tablespoons creme fraiche
150mls single cream
1 tablespoon parmesan cheese
120g smoked salmon
half an 85g bag of watercress roughly chopped (plus a few sprigs for garnish)
1 clove garlic
half a tsp grated nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste

Set your oven to 180C / Gas 4. Then, in a large bowl, blend together the eggs, cream, creme fraiche, and parmesan. Stir in the garlic, nutmeg, and watercress, and then season to taste. If you don't have a non-stick pan you may need to oil it a little before pouring in the Tian filling. Pour the filling almost to the top of each muffin mould.

(Because the salmon is heavy and sinks to the bottom of the mixture, I found it easier to divide the salmon between the muffin moulds after pouring in the egg and cream filling to make sure that it was evenly distributed). Finally, place a decorative sprig of watercress on the top of each Tian and bake for 20-30 mins until they are just set and golden brown.

May 18, 2008

pistachio meringues with blackberry and elderflower granita

Meringue is one of those things that I find very therapeutic to make, the added bonus being it's always so wonderful to eat too. In the Winter it's comforting with a heavy unctuous chocolate or toffee topping, and in the Summer (well, the sun has been out for a couple of days, so we could be forgiven for thinking that it must be nearly Summer!) what better way to finish off a meal than with a sweet, crisp meringue, dotted with nubs of bright green pistachios, and then piled high with floppy clouds of double cream, and topped off with a tart and refreshing granita?

Firstly, start by making the meringue the day before.

75g shelled pistachio nuts
4 egg whites
200g golden caster sugar
1 tsp cornflour
1 tsp white wine vinegar

Line a baking tray with baking parchment and heat the oven to 120C / Gas 1. Tip the pistachios into a shallow baking tin and toast in the oven for 7-10 minutes. Blitz in a food processor or chop roughly and then set aside.
In a clean bowl whisk the egg whites until they are stiff, but not dry. Gradually whisk in the sugar a spoon at a time until it's all been incorporated and the mixture is no longer gritty. Quickly whisk in the corflour and vinegar, which you have mixed together into a paste, and then lightly fold in about three quarters of the pistachios.

Spoon the mixture onto the baking tray to make four round shells with a slight hollow in the middle for the filling. Then sprinkle over the remaining pistachio nuts, and bake low in the oven for about an hour, or until they are firm and crisp on the outside. If they brown too quickly you may need to turn the oven down, or put the tray lower down in the oven. When they are cooked leave in the oven to cool - preferably overnight.

To make the Granita.......

225g blackberries (or other soft fruit of your choice)
250mls elderflower and blackcurrant cordial
juice of 1 lemon

....simply puree the fruit with the cordial and push through a fine mesh sieve. Add the lemon juice and then pour into a shallow container and freeze for about an hour. By this time the granita should be starting to freeze around the edges.
Gently stir the crystals with a fork and then put the container back into the freezer. Keep doing this every half hour, taking care not to crush the crystals too much otherwise you will lose the lovely 'grainy' texture.

When the mixture has reached the consistency of a firm slush it's ready to be eaten.
Finally, when you're ready, assemble the meringue with the cream and granita and serve straight away. I know I'm definitely looking forward to a long, hot Summer. It's the perfect excuse for eating lots more lovely meringue with refreshing fruit granita!

banana chocolate muffins with banana fudge glaze - definitely not for the faint-hearted!

I make no apologies for yet another post about chocolate (I feel there may be a theme developing here!) after all, chocolate is possibly one of my favourite things (what, you hadn't guessed!) and always seems to work wonderfully well in any context; this recipe being no exception......and these muffins have got banana in them, so that makes them healthy, right?
Adding the banana to these chocolate muffins was the result of needing to use up some sad looking bananas that were sat in the corner of my kitchen slowly turning a deeper and deeper shade of black! When they were cooked they looked a little bare, so I made up a fudge sauce and threw in some more chopped bananas (well there were quite a few to use up!) and voila, there you have it.....soft, chewy chocolate/banana muffin, drizzled with buttery banana fudge mmmmmm!....

Banana Chocolate Muffins with Banana Fudge Glaze
(Recipe) Cabbage Roses & Cupcakes
225mls single cream
50g cornflour
100g dark soft brown sugar
3 tbsp cocoa

75g butter
125g dark chocolate
75mls sunflower oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
125g golden caster sugar
125g plain flour
2 and a half tsps baking powder
1 large banana chopped

Fudge Glaze
50mls double cream
175g soft brown sugar
50g butter
1 chopped banana

Put the cream, cocoa, brown sugar, and cornflour into a saucepan and whisk together over a medium heat until boiled and very thick and smooth. Take off the heat and beat in the butter and broken up chocolate until melted and combined into a thick, glossy batter. Next, add the oil, vanilla, one of the eggs and mix this in. Finally add the caster sugar and the remaining egg and beat again until smooth.

Then, sift the flour and baking powder into the chocolate mixture, add the banana and beat through until combined.

Pour the batter into muffin cases or tins and bake for 25-30 mins at 180C/ 350F / Gas 4.

To make the glaze, melt the butter and sugar together in a small pan until the sugar has melted. Add in the cream and boil for 2-3 minutes stirring all the time. Take off the heat and add in the chopped banana. Stir and leave to cool until it has thickened enough to drizzle over the muffins and cover them.

These are best eaten on the day that they're made, but they also make a delicious, and very tempting dessert eaten warm with ice-cream and extra banana fudge sauce!

May 08, 2008

twisted candy!

You see the thing is......

while I really do love eating good, fresh, healthy, wholefoods, I can also be tempted to go over to 'the dark side'!
This was one of those times; standing in the checkout queue yesterday, absently waiting my turn, blissfully unaware of the temptation ahead, I spied this twist on a Cadbury Creme Egg
It was calling me, with it's iridescent yellow and red and bluey-purple wrap, was a done deal, and I snuck home furtively with my elicit hoard!
Ah - but what's it like inside the wrapper I hear you ask? (Ginny I thought I'd elaborate!) Well, I ate the evidence before I could take any more photos, but it's basically a chunky twist of chocolate with a creme egg centre. Packaging aside - I still prefer the original though, for it's gooey fun-of-eatingness!
No recipe this time, just a pic of a candy wrapper that I wanted to share - just because......!

Arte Y Pico.. PostScript

I was amazed, and delighted, to find that Marye at Baking Delights had also passed on this award to me - two in one week! - Thank you Marye; as you say, for a non-blogger it must seem crazy to get excited about a picture to put on your blog. But really it's more about the fun and networking of the blogshere, and all the wonderful people you meet along the way!
Check out Marye's blog, it's inspiring and full of lovely recipes and interesting articles.

May 03, 2008

Arte Y Pico

Another lovely surprise yesterday..... from Angela - she chose me for the Arte Y Pico Award This award is for creativity, design, interesting material and contribution to the blogging community. I'm really thrilled to receive it, especially as I'm so new to blogging! So, thank you Angela, and as always it's good to pass on the good feeling.

As I particularly love the beautiful photos that I find on so many of the food blogs out there, it's a pleasure to pass this award on to 5 blogs that I always look forward to reading, as much for their wonderful pictures, as for their imaginative and innovative recipes! Make sure you find some time to check them out and see for yourself.

I love Milk and Cookies
Cannelle et Vanille
And then I do the dishes

The rules for this award are:
1. You have to pick 5 blogs that you consider deserve this award for their creativity, design, interesting material, and also contributes to the blogging community, no matter what language.
2. Each award has to have the name of the author and also a link to his/her blog to be visited by everyone.
3. Each award winner has to show the award and put the name and link to the blog that has given her/him the award itself.
4. The award winner and the one who has given the prize have to show the link of Arte y Pico blog, so everyone will know the origin of this award.
5. To show these rules.