Sunday, 1 March 2015

Cheesy pumpkin muffins

Herewith another of the trio of recipes "cuisine express" by Flavie Degrave that I found in a magazine, the name of which I no longer recall, in the physotherapists' waiting room. Muffins with Beaufort cheese and red onion squash - simple enough store-cupboard ingredients, we have a couple of potimarrons left and several cheeses in the fridge, "certainly what it takes to make [this recipe]".

The original recipe - muffins with beaufort cheese and red onion squash
So here's cheesy pumpkin muffins.

Shared between twelve cases, they look tasty but rather miserly
  • I substituted St Nectaire, which we had lots of in the freezer, for the Beaufort which is 22 euros a kilo on promo. Both are a "cooked" cheese with a soft but firm texture and a distinctive flavour. Both have AOP status (several paragraphs deleted here burbling on about "patrimoine" and "terroir", both untranslatable unless you are allowed to include a 12-page essay).
  • The recipe says "half a potimarron". Now that's a moveable feast: a potimarron (a.k.a. Red Onion /  Red Kuri / Uchiki Kuri squash) can easily weigh a kilo and a half. I used a small butternut squash which yielded 300 grammes prepared weight of pumpkin flesh and it was too much. No more than 250g, let's say 200g.
  • I split the mixture between 12 muffin cases. The muffins did not rise much, with so much pumpkin to flour, and they looked lost in the paper cases, to which they stuck firmly. The recipe makes six standard muffins and I recommend using silicon moulds rather than paper cases. 
  • I had no fresh chives, so I used a sprinkling of dried lovage; dried thyme could add an interesting dimension. 
  • I added a pinch of cayenne. Naughty, but nice.
  • Most of the time was taken up with the chopping. Once it was all done, the recipe is a doddle. 
  • After the recommended cooking time of 25 minutes using a fan-assisted oven the muffins were not done and I gave them another 10 minutes. They really needed a bit longer - I'd say don't use fan assist to avoid burning the top. It will take longer to cook the same mixture divided into six instead of twelve, but the removal of the paper case will speed things up ... the square on the hypotenuse ... windage ... let g be the acceleration due to gravity... oh, give it another ten minutes and poke one with a skewer!
Next time I'll do this mix as six muffins

Muffins with Beaufort / St Nectaire cheese and red onion squash

200g peeled potimarron, butternut or Crown Prince squash, cut into small dice
80g Beaufort or St Nectaire cheese, cut into small dice
10 leaves chives, rinsed and snipped into short lengths
1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
50 g onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 eggs
110g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
65ml olive/sunflower oil
50ml milk
Freshly ground pepper
A pinch of salt

Soften the onion and garlic in a tablespoon (15 ml) of the oil for 3 minutes. Stir in the pumpkin, sprinkle with pepper, put on the lid and let it cook for 5 minutes. Add the chives or other herbs of your choice, stir and allow the mixture to cool (immerse the bottom of the pan in cold water if necessary).. Meanwhile, lay out six silicone muffin moulds on a baking sheet, or line 6 muffin moulds with greaseproof paper or muffin cases.

Heat the oven to 180°C. Beat the eggs. Putting the pumpkin and the cheese to one side for a minute, mix the remaining wet ingredients in one bowl and the dry ingredients in another. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and give a good stir, but don't overmix or your muffin will be hard on the outside. Add the pumpkin, then the cheese. Share out the mixture between the muffin cases. Cook for 25-40 minutes until done.

Serve at room temperature.

Very tasty, very very tasty ....
And the last recipe - brouillade d'oeufs aux cèpes (scrambled eggs with ceps / bolete mushrooms) - is exactly what it says on the tin. Or in my case, jar.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

A chocolate feast!

Last Friday morning I had my usual physiotherapy appointment in Descartes. While waiting for the kiné to appear, I thumbed through the ghastly celeb magazines to find a "star" I'd actually heard of who might be capable of stringing a sentence together. Instead, I turned up a trio of recipes in a magazine I no longer recall the name of. I photographed them with my mobile phone. At the bottom of one page it says "Retrouvez nos recettes sur" but there is no sign of any of them at that address. Apparently there is a fourth one. It must remain in lost El Dorado forever. What they do have there looks good, I must say. That link is well worth following up.

The original recipe
Yesterday I tried "Tartes choco/gingembre" (chocolate and ginger tart) on friends and family. This turned out to be a rich, sophisticated dessert that's as easy as... er...pie. It's a deep, dark chocolate ganache in a crisp sweet pastry shell, garnished with preserved ginger, "confit de gingembre". The buckwheat flour gives the shell a crunch that contrasts welI with the smooth ganache. I substituted home-made confit de clémentines, which gave a fresh lift to the richness of the chocolate.

This recipe serves six, if making tartlets, and at eight in a round tin. The amount of pastry is probably about right for six square tartlets, but I only had a round 21 cm tin and there was twice as much as needed (surface to volume ratio, you know). I found that loose-based tart tins were not a great success. A solid tin or tins is preferable. There is no need to line or grease the tin.


For the pastry :
150g wheat flour
75g buckwheat flour
25g ground almond powder
70g icing sugar
A pinch of salt
150g unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 egg
For the ganache filling :
300g good quality dark chocolate, the best you can find. I used 72% cocoa solids
30cl liquid cream (30%fat)
To decorate :
30g crystallised ginger
or 2 confit clementines

Prepare the pastry :
Sift the wheat flour and the icing sugar. Place all the dry ingredients for the pastry in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Mix until well blended. Add the butter and the egg. Mix until the pastry forms an irregular ball. Mould it into a ball shape with your hands. Wrap the pastry in cling film and chill it in the fridge for an hour. Do not leave it in the fridge (as I did, for four hours) because it goes rock-hard - if you need to leave the pastry for more than an hour, move it to a cool place. If making one large tart, cut the pastry ball in half and freeze one half for next time.
Make the pastry shell :
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Roll out the pastry on a sheet of greaseproof paper. Pick it up holding the paper only - warning, fingers go through the pastry! Garnish 6 tartlet moulds or one 20cm square mould or one 25cm round mould with the pastry.  Prick the pastry with a fork, cover it with a circle of greaseproof paper wider than the base and weigh it down with baking beans. Blind bake it for 15 minutes, taking out the weights and the greaseproof for the last five minutes to let the bottom of the pastry brown. Leave the pastry shells to cool.
Prepare the ganache :
Cut the chocolate into small pieces (you can use a hand grinder for this) and put it in a heat-proof basin. Bring the cream to the boil and tip it boiling over the chocolate. Leave it untouched for five minutes for the chocolate to melt. Stir well with a spatula until the ganache is smooth.
Fill and decorate the tarts :
Pour the ganache while still hot into the bottom of the cooled pastry shells. Leave to rest at room temperature and, just before serving, garnish with slices of the preserved ginger / clementines.
Save some for next time!

Astuces: Leave the ganache to cool at room temperature rather than in the fridge. It will then stay glossy and won't go hard.

Don't try adding alcohol or anything fancy, it isn't needed. I put walnuts on but they weren't needed either. The pastry should be sweet: the ganache should not.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Pumpkin Conserve - a serving suggestion

Back in December 2011 we posted about a particularly delicious and easy Conserve made from Pumpkin, lemons, sugar and butter.
This week I made some more.

You can just eat it out of the jar with a spoon!
From comments we received, we thought people might be unsure how to serve it.

Take some digestives, some cream cheese and some Pumpkin preserve...
Tim's favourite is an instant Pumpkin Cheesecake, made with a digestive biscuit, a creamy cheese and a dollop of Pumpkin conserve.

And serve.

Friday, 6 February 2015

A basket of clementines

The 2 kilo basket of Corsican clementines, each still decorated with a couple of leaves, looked charming.
The fruit tasted superb, fresh and sharp, with a background sweetness.
The following morning they were still fine, but it would not be possible simply to eat them till they were gone without losing more than a few.
Find a recipe - already got clementine marmalade - aha! Recette Clémentines confites!

This recipe comes from Le Journal des Femmes (aka Women's Journal) with a stack of comments and queries, mainly on three subjects:
(1) how much fruit do you use,
(2) I can't find glucose syrup, can I use anything else, and
(3) why have my fruit collapsed / shrivelled up (three different french verbs, all meaning roughly the same thing).
I have tried to incorporate the responses and my own experience. 

Firstly, the picture illustrating the process told the story:
you need enough fruit to cover the bottom of your pan in a single loose layer.
I had 18 fruit, but found one of them later uncooked, still on the table.
Note you will not be able to use this pan for a fortnight.
Secondly, you must include glucose syrup, there ain't no substitute.
It stops the sugar crystallising out / turning to jam.
Thirdly, choose fruit just coming to the peak of ripeness, and once cooking begins, handle it as little as possible.
Don't pile one fruit on another until the bottling stage - keep them in a single layer.
I used a deep melamine slotted spoon to lift the clementines in and out of the cooking liquid, which was ideal;
a silicone one would be good if you can find a small one about the size of, well, a clementine

Capturing a clementine

granulated sugar
Glucose syrup

1. Wash the fruit, prick them deeply several times with a fork.
Place them in the bottom of a large pan in a single layer.
Cover with water, bring to the boil and cook gently for 15 minutes.
Drain the fruit, retaining the cooking liquid.

2. Place the fruit in a large pan with a lid, that you won't be needing for a fortnight. 
Measure the cooking liquid. You will need to sums here!
Add 500g granulated sugar and 200g glucose syrup per litre of cooking liquid.
Place on a medium heat and bring to the boil, stirring until the sugar has all dissolved, then turn up the heat.
Remove from the heat at the first decent bubble.

3. Pour the syrup over the clementines.
Put a big plate on top of the clementines to hold them under the surface of the syrup; otherwise they will float.
Put on the lid and leave in a cool place for two days.

4. Two days later (D+2), pour off the syrup, add 100g granulated sugar per litre of the original cooking liquid.
Bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
Pour the boiling syrup over the clementines.
Put on the lid and replace the pan in a cool dark place.
Leave for another two days.

5. D+4, D+6, D+8, D+10, D+12 proceed exactly as on D+2.

6. D+14: place the fruit in storage jars and cover with syrup.
Handle them very gently as they are extremely tender at this stage.
Six fruits fit nicely in a 500ml Le Parfait storage jar.

Not a tight fit

Save any remaining liquid in a sterilised glass bottle with a good cork or stopper.
It makes a delicious cordial, with lots of ice and some fizzy water.

To make glacé clementines, drain the fruit for 24 hours (don't waste the syrup!), mix icing sugar with a little of the syrup, dip the clementines in the mixture and put them in a hot oven oven for a few minutes to dry off.
Alternatively the fruit can be dried in a food drier for four hours.
I'll have a go at this after they have matured for a month or so.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Spuds and leeks and stuff

There's not much left in the potager at the moment - just leeks, rather unhappy chard and broccoli that can't be expected to produce until March. One hopeful sign is the emergence of the first broad beans (Aquadulce aux longues cosses), just in time to be hit by a wave of cold weather. I am buoyed up by the arrival from Jacques Briant of a bag of Hercules onion sets Hoorah! These were removed from their bag, picked over and a couple with mould on removed, counted (199 of them), put back in the bag and hung in a cool place. They will be planted as soon as the weather allows.

So it's turn to the store cupboard and add leeks to whatever you find. Something that emerges in abundance is potatoes. So it's leek and potato soup, cheesyleekymash, colcannon and ... er .... turn to the internet for inspiration. I came across this recipe for cheesy leek and potato pie, from Good Food Magazine of March 2006, on the BBC Good Food site, and went so far as to make my own short crust pastry, having learned at this advanced age to use the food processor.

Pie about to be broached.

My father made the best shortcrust pastry I have ever tasted, mainly because he had huge hands and rather a poor circulation so his fingers were always cold. It was as though he waved his hands once through the fat and flour and suddenly it was all perfectly rubbed in. The pastry turned out light, never hard or leathery, firm but crumbly, crisp but not dry, and his apple pies were what dreams are made of. He used self-raising flour instead of plain, as well. I used dad's recipe for shortcrust pastry - 4 ounces of flour to a scant 3 ounces of fat, half lard / half butter or marge - dad would use Stork - and upped it by a factor of 3 to get the equivalent of a 500gm pack of paté brisé. And don't forget the pinch of salt.
Part pie

I weighed the flour (artisanal farine demi-complet, the equivalent of "brown flour") into the food processor jug, and added a pinch of salt. Then I cut small cubes of lard (saindoux) and unsalted St Hubert soft unsalted (doux) margarine,  dropping them into the flour until I had four ounces of each. The mixture  was pulsed in the processor to the texture of fine breadcrumbs (almost instantaneous - so much better than rubbing it in, it doesn't get warm from sticky fingers and much less mess). I switched the processor to slow but steady, poured about 55-60ml of cold water in a steady stream onto the whizzing blades and watched it convert the breadcrumbs into a smooth lump. The only tricky bit was to get the lump out - this is just as much pastry as our processor can take. I patted the lump into a ball, wrapped it in clingfilm and put it in the fridge while I made the filling.

I cannot improve on Barney Desmazery's recipe for the filling and baking of the pie, so I'll refer you to that again. Except I upped the potato a bit. Actually I used more like 900 grammes (2lb) of Red Duke of York potatoes. The red skin of the potato added a touch of extra colour.
Pie and scramble
It was served with Black Tuscan kale scramble. Chop up two portions of kale, cook in boiling salted water, beat an egg in a small jug and pour it over the cooked and drained kale while it's still good and hot, season, stir until the kale is well coated and the egg is cooked. We used the spare egg wash left over from making the pie.

This is a very satisfying pie for a cold day, and it would make excellent picnic food, too.