Thursday, 28 June 2012

Goat Cheese & Pear Tempura with Reduced Balsamic: Starter

Having created two mains and a dessert for the Capricorn challenge, it was time to consider a starter. I've always loved tempura, and have coveted deep-fried camembert which is not suitable for vegetarians. Also wanted to work out how to make the famous 'balsamic reduction' so beloved of modern chefs as a drizzle. So I've created my versions of all three of these for this recipe, and of the seven ingredients (excluding frying oil), four came from Ethel the Goat's very lovely hamper.

It does need constant attention for the (approximate) 25 minutes needed from start to serving. The tempura should be served as soon as it's ready. Or, if this has to be fried in two batches, the first when ready should be kept hot in the oven, and the balsamic should be drizzled over at the last moment. These quantities serve two. The recipe uses cider, but you could use sparkling water or lager. I garnished with land cress leaves from the garden, and walnuts (I'd have toasted the walnuts but forgot until it was too late).

Goat Cheese & Pear Tempura with Reduced Balsamic
50ml dark balsamic vinegar
1 tsp soft dark brown sugar
1 Capricorn goat cheese, cut into 8 wedges
1 firm pear, peeled, cored, and cut into 8 slices
3 tbsp plain flour
2 tsp cornflour
Half a lightly beaten egg
30ml cider
Oil (vegetable type), enough to cover the tempura.

1  For the 'reduction', bring the vinegar and sugar to the boil in a very small pan, and 
          simmer gently for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and set aside.
2  Prepare the goat cheese and the pear as above.  
3  For the batter, place the flour, cornflour and egg in a bowl and use a whisk to blend 
4  Add the cider and whisk briefly again - don't worry if there is still the odd lump of flour.
5  Heat the oil to very hot. Test that it's ready by dripping in a drop of batter; it should
          sizzle and rise straight to the top.
6  Coat the cheese and pear wedges individually in the batter and place in the hot oil.
          Fry for 4-5 minutes until each piece is browned, stirring from time to time with a
          heatproof slotted spoon to keep them separate.
7  When the tempura is nearly ready, heat the balsamic gently so that it's ready to pour.
8  Serve the tempura on a hot plate, drizzle with the balsamic and serve toute suite!

Have to say, this was scrumptious. The reduction worked well, the pears retained their flavour, and the cheese was quietly starting to ooze out from the batter as it was served. This dish could arguably be garnished as a dessert, say with my salted caramel drizzle instead of balsamic and with a couple of small fresh fruits on the side. Still, I liked it as a starter, not least because it needs attention and diners would have to talk among themselves for a while if the tempura were to be their dessert.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Courgette, Goat Cheese & Mushroom Tart - without pastry!

Number 3 of my recipes for the Capricorn challenge is this savoury tart with a pleasing mixed consistency and rich, tangy flavour. Its sort-of Unique Selling Point is that it has no pastry and is wheat-free - the case is a crunchy rice-based shell which has its own tempting taste. It's a nice one to make for anyone avoiding wheat for whatever reason.

This is dear to my heart, as around twenty years ago, I suffered unexplained but severe abdominal pains and a great weariness. The NHS kindly tested all parts of me for possible causes, even considering the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine as I'd been to Bangladesh (to see the work of a charity) not long before. Eventually I discovered the problem myself: the symptoms came on severely a couple of hours after eating a salad sandwich on wholemeal bread. Bingo! For about three years after that I went to enormous trouble to avoid wheat, though within a few days I was back to my normal bouncy self - couldn't believe it at first. Eventually I cautiously took a small amount of wheat and built up, and after that my diet became normal. Result! Anyway, back to the job in hand.

This recipe will serve 4-5 as a main course, and it can be eaten straight from the oven, warm, or at room temperature (e.g. at a picnic). It takes about 90 minutes from start to serving. It has quite a number of ingredients and stages, but they aren't difficult. A number of alternatives are listed for the ingredients, with the most suitable first.

Courgette, Goat Cheese and Mushroom Tart in a Rice Case
The oven should be heated to 175C or 160C for fan, shelf in the centre. 
A non-stick straight-sided flan tin or oven-proof dish is needed, ideally about 4cm deep and 21cm in diameter. For insurance, the base should be lined with a baking parchment circle. (Place tin on parchment, draw round the outside of the base, then cut just within the line.
100g risotto rice (otherwise long grain is fine)
150 courgettes (approx 1 large or 2 medium), trimmed and sliced fairly finely
75ml stock (or water)
60g Emmental cheese (or cheddar), coarsely grated
3 free-range eggs (1 with yolk/white separated)
2 tsp cornflour
80ml milk
30ml double cream
60g goat cheese (pref Capricorn), crumbled
100g mushrooms, trimmed and sliced fairly finely
1 level tsp grated nutmeg

1  Bring 600ml water to the boil in a large pan. Add the rice and simmer for 15 mins until
          just softening. Drain in a colander, run cold water over to cool it and drain again.
2  Meanwhile, put the courgettes in a small pan with the stock or water. Bring to the boil
          and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Drain well and pat gently with kitchen paper 
          to remove some more of the liquid.
3  Place the rice in a bowl with 40g of the Emmental/cheddar and the egg white, and mix
          thoroughly. Press over the base and sides of the lined tin to make an even case
          with no gaps. Bake in the oven for 5 mins then allow to cool a little. (Keep oven on.)
4  Place the cornflour in a medium bowl and add a little of the milk. Stir to a smooth paste
          and then add the remaining milk, the cream, the 2 whole eggs and single yolk, 
          mixing well. Stir in the goat cheese, mushrooms, courgettes and nutmeg.
5  Pour this filling into the rice case and smooth over, making sure the 'bits' are evenly
          spread. Sprinkle the remaining 20g cheese over the tart and bake for 30-35 mins
          until it is puffed up and browned all over.

The crunchy rice shell is very versatile. The vegetables can be endlessly varied; I'm thinking tomatoes, asparagus, peppers, chopped tenderstem broccoli or artichoke hearts, with added thyme, walnuts or toasted pine nuts. And now I'm really hungry!

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Pear, Goat Cheese & Cranberry Tartlets with Salted Caramel Drizzle

This is my second entry for EthelTheGoat's Capricorn Challenge. The tartlets themselves have only six ingredients, three of which came from the magic hamper sent by Ethel to fire our imaginations.

Depending on how good you are with rolling/cutting pastry, this recipe should take about 35 minutes from start to serving - the drizzle is made while the tartlets are baking.

Brag Alert:
Of all the desserts I've created over the years - some of which have won prizes - I have to say that this is the one that I most enjoyed eating. It will turn up, for sure, next time we have guests for a meal.

For a change, this recipe makes three tartlets, and I know many people make meals for three. It was also just the way it turned out with the single egg and the pear. The tartlets are best served straight from the oven, as they are so puffed up and fanciable, though warm is OK too. At room temperature they are still good but look flatter. The drizzle should be served warm - it's optional of course, and can be made to go with plenty of other desserts such as plain vanilla ice cream, meringues, large fruit tarts, coffee gateau or fruit salad.

The tartlets here were made in a tray of individual Yorkshire pudding tins; they could be made in smaller jam tart sized tins but they're then gone in a couple of mouthfuls. Not enough! Here's one pictured on a side plate:
Pear, Goat Cheese & Cranberry Tartlets with Salted Caramel Drizzle
Ingredients for the Tartlets
     90g puff pastry (or 1 ready-rolled sheet)
     1 free range egg
     25g Capricorn goat cheese, crumbled
     2 tsp double cream
     1 dessert pear, peeled, quartered, cored & coarsely sliced
     24 dried cranberries (about 20g) (or fresh)
Ingredients for the Drizzle
     75ml double cream
     2 tbsp golden syrup (about 65g)
     25g soft brown sugar (dark or light)
     15g butter
     Half tsp salt

The oven should be heated to 200C, or 180C fan, shelf in the centre. The Yorkshire pudding/tartlet tins should be very lightly oiled.

1  On a floured board, roll out the pastry to an area large enough to cut out three 
          11cm-diameter circles - and cut them out. Press gently into the tartlet tins.
2  Crack the egg into a small bowl and add the Capricorn cheese and the cream. Beat
          gently with a fork until evenly mixed.
3  Place the pear slices neatly into the cases, and pour the egg mixture evenly over them.
4  Sprinkle the cranberries over the tartlets.
5  Bake for 15 minutes or so, until the pastry is browned and the filling well set.
6  Meanwhile, to make the drizzle, place the cream, syrup and brown sugar in a small pan
          and bring to the boil, stirring. Simmer gently for 3 minutes then remove from heat.
7  Stir in the butter and the salt. Check for taste (it'll be very hot) in case you feel another
          pinch of salt is needed.
8  Serve the tartlets as soon as possible, pouring the drizzle over and around each one.

It's best not to put the filling into the tartlets until it's time to bake them, otherwise the pastry could go soggy. I filled mine and put them in to bake just as a light main course was served, but the drizzle had been made beforehand. If you tend to linger over main courses - which I know we should - then the drizzle can be made in advance and kept warm, and the tartlets quickly filled and put in the oven as soon as the first diner has finished the main course!

I've a dream that will never come true, but I enjoy dreaming it. We open a smart vegetarian restaurant called 'Specials', which becomes famous and successful. Whenever I create a dish that's especially pleasing, I always think, 'That can go on the menu at Specials', and then work out how much it costs to make and what we would charge for it. Daydream par excellence.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Goat Cheese, Mango & Red Onion Pockets with a Sharp Pear Pool

Once @EtheltheGoat had thrown down her #capricornchallenge, resistance was futile. I signed up and received an amazing hamper of vegetarian goodies including, of course, Capricorn goat's cheese. The task was to create a dish using at least some of the hamper contents, but adding any other ingredients that fitted.
       My mind began buzzing straight away, and here's the result. These quantities make two pockets. Preparation should take 25-30 minutes - unless you indulge in pastry artwork for decoration (as I did, an extra few minutes), and baking 20-25 minutes. Economy tip: the oven won't need to go on until the pastry is prepared; it will be hot by the time the pockets are ready to go in.
by rselph
Goat Cheese, Mango & Red Onion Pockets with a Sharp Pear Pool
275g puff pastry, thawed if originally frozen
70g Capricorn goat cheese
3 tbsp red onion chutney
Flesh of about one-third of a mango, finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves (or half tbsp dried)
Half tsp ground black pepper
A little beaten egg
1 fresh pear, peeled, cored and coarsely chopped
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Half tsp sugar

The oven will need to be quite hot, around 180C, shelf in the middle.
Here's what mine looked like, prepped and ready to go. I've placed a portrait of Ethel on each, with olive for eyes and nose, and a thin strip parallel to the plain side of the pocket - to look like a pocket.
1  Roll out the pastry to a 26cm square and trim edges. Cut in half down the middle to
        make 2 rectangles and place them on parchment on a baking sheet.
2  With any scraps of pastry, roll if necessary and cut out shapes (mine are goats).
3  Crumble the goat cheese into a medium bowl. Add the onion chutney, mango, thyme
         and pepper and mix gently but thoroughly.
4  Spread half the mixture evenly onto one half of each strip of pastry, leaving a 15mm
         margin around the edges. Brush all 8 edges with a little of the beaten egg.
5  Fold the plain side of each strip carefully over its filling, matching the edges and 
         pressing down all round to seal. Flute the edges decoratively, e.g. with a knife or the
         handle end of a teaspoon. Brush all over with egg. If attaching any pastry 
         decorations, press them down and brush them with egg too.
6  Bake for 20-25 minutes until browned, checking towards the end that they're not
7  Meanwhile, put the pear and sugar in a small pan with 3 tbsp water and simmer gently
         for 5-10 minutes until the pear is soft. Stir in the vinegar and whizz until smooth. Add
         a little more water if the mixture wouldn't yet drip from a spoon. Serve in a pool 
         beside the pockets.

And here's what one cooked pocket looked like, set on a medium-sized plate.
These are quite substantial, so a potato accompaniment is not necessary, but a couple of colourful vegetables would complete the dish. Examples would be tenderstem broccoli, grilled tomatoes, buttered chantenay carrots, roasted red peppers, sugar snap peas.

And I have to say, the meal was bleatingly lovely!

Friday, 8 June 2012

Competition to Plan an Elizabeth Sponge!

Following my final comment in the previous post, I'm still thinking about the Elizabeth sponge. Our best-known cake is probably the Victoria sponge, but maybe it's time to update now that the jubilee jamboree has been and gone.
by euphro via

I've decided to run a competition for suggestions for the definitive Elizabeth sponge. Doesn't have to be a recipe, more the idea for a style and ingredients, preferably with reasons. The prize will be a £10 Waterstone's token, and the comp will close at the end of Monday 11th June 2012.

I want to judge this one myself, as the chosen idea may well come to life in my kitchen and have its photo in this blog. Absolutely anyone can enter.

Entries can be via twitter @JacquelinePye with the hashtag #E2Rsponge - or in the comments section below. 

I hope and expect some great entries!

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Coronation Quorn & Jubilee Dessert, fit for ... most people!

Couldn't let the weekend pass without a nod at food fitting the theme.

The Coronation Quorn is similar to the chicken version which was apparently created for the coronation in June 1953. I have to admit its 'back-cover blurb' lacks a certain something, as it's served at room temperature and can look a bit of a mess. But its appearance doesn't do it justice, if that helps. I loved it, and John ate every scrap. Turns out his resistance to Quorn chunks dates back to when he was very young, and the family ate stewing steak which had gristle. Reminds me of the charming little boy in 7-Up who said he wouldn't get married because 'Supposing she served me greens. Well I don't like greens.' Such a fascinating series, but I digress.
     To check I hadn't forgotten any key ingredients, I first checked the recipe on , which is 'Cheat's Coronation Quorn'. But all was well. The recipe below serves 2-3, but the Jubilee Dessert would serve 2.

Coronation Quorn
3 tbsp good oil
1 large onion, peeled & coarsely chopped
1 tbsp soft dark brown sugar
3 tbsp plain flour
1 tbsp sesame seeds
300g pack Quorn chunks, defrosted if frozen
2 tbsp mayonnaise (light version is fine)
1 tbsp strong curry paste (approx)

1  Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a large frying pan. Add the onion and fry gently for 7 mins.
2  Stir in the sugar and cook gently for a further 7 mins, stirring from time to time.
3  Meanwhile, place the flour and sesame seeds on a medium plate and mix them. Use this
       to coat the Quorn pieces on all sides.
4  When the onion is done, remove it from the pan into a medium bowl..
5  Heat the remaining 2 tbsp of oil in the pan and fry the Quorn pieces gently for about 10
       mins, turning so that all sides of the cubes are browned. Add to the bowl.
6  Add the mayo and curry paste and mix gently (so the cubes don't break down but are
       evenly coated). Taste at that point, and add more mayo if too spicy, or paste if too 

The cucumber and crusty French stick went well with this. To get the frilly edges to the slices of cue, cut a single chunk enough for 2-3 people. Then use the tines of a tough fork to score heavily down the rind lengthwise before slicing thinly. There's no waste, unlike methods which involve cutting out triangles lengthwise down the side.

Jubilee Dessert
This looked very fine, but as it doesn't have a solid base it couldn't be served in neat portions. Tasted great, all the same. I could have made it on parchment on a square plate, then cut through the dessert and parchment with scissors and serve like that! Confess I needed to find a clear pic of the Union flag to make sure I got the white stripes right.
150ml double cream
70g strawberries
60g blueberries

Method - if possible, use a square plate with flat part more than 20cm along each side.
1  Whip the cream until it is just stiff. Spread it on the serving dish to a square with sides of
       about 20cm, smoothing the top flat and tidying the edges.
2  Wash and pat dry the strawberries. Slice thinly and arrange on the cream to match the red
       in the Union flag.
3  Wash and pat dry the blueberries and put in place for the blue parts of the flag.

A cuttable base would have been good, such as a sweet pastry square, or a base made from crushed digestive biscuits mixed with melted butter and chilled before topping. Even a square of simple sponge cake would be nice too - more or less the ingredients for a Victoria sponge!

And a last thought - is someone going to invent a replacement for the Vic Sponge and call it an Elizabeth sponge? I just might have a crack at that.