30 March 2012

Heston Blumenthal's Quiche Lorraine

This is one of the recipes from the Heston Blumenthal newspaper pullout I was so snooty about and then wanted to make everything from it. I've made quiche's before and they are very satisfying but my god this one was a faff to do. Luckily I got so overexcited about the prospect of a picnic that I wanted to be all prepared ahead of time so glanced at this recipe the day before. Just as well as not only does he suggest making it a day ahead but you need a whole day to make it (this includes time waiting for pasty to chill and sitting on the kitchen steps feeling slightly weepy about how long it takes (I've never sweated onions for an hour before).

I would say it was really worth it as it is absolutely delicious when it's done. I'm not sure I'd follow the pastry bit again though. I think maybe I'd just do my usual pastry and Heston's filling. Still absolutely worth a try and if you can make it ahead then it will definitely be an impressive 'quick' kitchen lunch for your friends with a really lovely, balsamicy salad.

I've put his recipe down here exactly as it is - if you are a seasoned quiche maker you probably can just use his filling ideas and go from there.

Quiche Lorraine

Serves 6-8

For the pastry:
230g plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
100g cold unsalted butter, cubed
25g egg, lightly beaten (about 1/2 large egg)

For the filling:
40g unsalted butter
4 large onions, peeled and finely sliced
200g bacon lardons
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
300g whipping cream
40g grated Emmental cheese
40g grated Gruyere cheese
Salt and freshly ground white pepper

Now I followed this recipe pretty religiously, I even used the unsalted butter, but I used black pepper instead of white. You will need a 20cm, loose based tart tin and it's easier to make the pastry in a mixer. Heston uses all the technical bits on his but I have a magimix so I just used the normal blade and it was fine.

First make the pastry...
1. In a mixer (fitted with the paddle attachment if you have such a thing_ combine the flour, salt and butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

2. Change to the hook attachment (if you have one) and slowly add 30g cold tap water and the egg. Continue mixing until a smooth dough is formed.

3. Shape the dough into a thick disc, wrap it in clingfilm and rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Pastry dough

For the filling...
4. Melt the butter in a wide-bottomed saucepan over a medium heat and saute the onions until soft and golden in colour, stirring occasionally to prevent the onions catching on the bottom. This will take at least and hour. Drain the onions of any excess butter when cooked.

5. Fry lardons over a low heat until just cooked but not coloured. Drain off any liquid and discard.

6. Place the pasty between two sheets of baking parchment and roll out to a 2mm thickness. Place in the freezer for 30 minutes.

7. Pre heat the oven to 180C. Line a 20cm tart tin with pastry, then prick the base all overe with a fork. Place tin in freezer for 10 mins.

Lined pastry tin
8. Cut a large circle of baking parchment and scrunch up. Lay it in a chilled pastry case an fill with bakin beans or coins.

9. Place case in oven for 30 minutes, then remove beans or coins and parchment. Return case to oven and bake for another 20 minutes until golden brown.

10. Remove tart case from oven and cool a little, then, using a sharp knife,, cut excess pastry from around the top of the tin. Reduce oven to 120C

11. Mix eggs with cream in a saucepan, then add cooked onions, lardons and cheeses. Season with salt, white pepper and a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg. Place pan over a medium heat and bring mixture to 63C (this took about 10 minutes).

12. Make sure the case is still warm when filling. Fill case with egg mixture and ensure the onions are evenly spread out. Return to oven for approximately 40 minutes. When temperature of the quiche filling reaches 70C, remove from the oven (I waited til it was slightly golden on top).

13. Cool at room temperature for 20 minutes, then refrigerate overnight. Bring back to room temperature or warm in an oven preheated to 150C for five mins before serving.

It looked less anaemic in real life

23 March 2012

Sarah Raven's Stuffed Potatoes

I've been wanting to do these for ages because they involve Wensleydale which helpfully can be substituted with Cheshire which is my most favourite of all the cheeses. I made them last night and they were yummy but incredibly fillling so don't go over the top like I did and assume you need the largest potatoes on the planet. You don't.

These are pretty easy and can be made in advance and kept in the fridge for up to two days to cook when needed or they can be frozen at the just stuffed stage. As usual with Sarah's recipes this didn't need any tweaking at all - although I seasoned the potatoes my way which I've inclueded. This comes from the ever fantastic Garden Cookbook published by Bloomsbury.

Stuffed baked potatoes with pesto

For 4

4 baking potatoes
Olive oil
200ml creme fraiche
175g grated cheese (Wensleydale or another crumbly hard cheese; Parmesan is also good but halve the amount; I used Cheshire)
150ml pesto (homemade or bought)
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
Salt and black pepper

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4.

1. Wash the potatoes and score round the full diameter of the potato with a sharp knife, only just piercing the skin. This makes it easier to cut them precisely so that you get two perfect halves.

2. Rub each potato with a little olive oil and then salt and pepper.

3. Bake the potatoes for about an hour, until they are cooked all the way through. Remove them from the oven , keeping it on, and cut them in half.

4. Carefully scoop out the potato from the skin and put into a bowl.

5. Add all the other ingredients to the potato flesh and mix thoroughly with a fork. Spoon the mixture back into the potato skins piling them up above the edges so they look generously filled.

6. Return them to the oven for about 15 minutes until the top becomes golden.

7. This is great served with a salad.

20 March 2012

Quick and Easy Chocolate Chip Cookies

I used to make these a lot at uni. Boys would turn up on my doorstep at 3am demanding that I make them and I haven't really made them since. But when my boss came to my flat for a meeting and wanted homemade cookies and my Hawaiian friend was on hand to eat most of the cookie dough so I didn't have to, I decided to dig out the old faithful recipe and give them a go.

The only problem was that the boss doesn't like dark chocolate really and there were no milk chocolate chips to be found so we bashed up some Minstrels and used those instead. I have to say I may just use them all the time in future - I don't really like cookies and I had two of these!

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes 20-30 cookies

300g plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp salt
170g butter, slightly softened
215g light brown sugar
1 tbsp Vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
300g chocolate chips (or just under 2 large bags of minstrels)

Pre-heat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas Mark 5. You will need a couple of lined baking sheets - I prefer the reusable Teflon ones - two mixing bowls and a cooling rack.

1. Sift together the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt and set aside.

2. Stir together the soft butter, sugar and Vanilla extract then add the egg and the yolk. Beat well to ensure the egg is evenly distributed.

3. If you are using Minstrels then wrap them in a clean teatowel and bash with a rolling pin - you don't want it to be too fine though. You could also pulse carefully in a Magimix.

Jo bashing up the Minstrels

4. Stir in the dry ingredients and then fold in the chocolate chips. It may be easier to do this by hand...

Mixing in the chocolate chips by hand
5. Form the dough into a rough sausage shape, cover in clingfilm and chill until firm - at least 30 minutes.

6. When the dough is ready, make hockey puck shapes and press onto the prepared baking tray.

7. Bake for approximately 10 minutes in the pre-heated oven until the edges begin to look golden.

8. Cool on the sheet for a minute then remove to a cooling rack.

Finished Cookies

14 March 2012

An African Villa

There are so many places to stay in Cape Town it's actually quite hard to know where to start and a little nerve wracking to know whether you've picked somewhere good or not. If you want somewhere relaxed, romantic and pretty special then An African Villa is a really good choice.

The rooms are gorgeous - all really thought out when it comes to the decoration and some with a view of Table Mountain. The breakfasts are to die for and the honesty fridge is a fantastic solution to having a fridge in every room.

The plunge pool is lovely to sit and relax in and the courtyard is a real sun-trap. I love a full length swimming pool but actually the majority of the time I want somewhere to sit in the pool where I can read my book and their pool is perfect for that.

A really short taxi ride from the waterfront and Table Mountain and with incredibly friendly owners who will help you book trips, advise you where to eat, even post your postcards for you this is just a fantastic place to stay. I would definitely go again - very highly recommended.
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