Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Walnut Frangipane Tart with Apple and Fudge – when ingredients rebel...

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Yesterday, I bought some Bramley apples. They had “apple pie” written all over them - or so I thought.  Somehow a stray bag of fudge ended up among my shopping. I didn’t spot this stowaway until it had been through the checkout and all the way home.
Hey Apple! We've got a better plan...

On the journey, these ingredients conspired and by the time they were unpacked, the apples refused to be mere apple pie. They recruited the fudge and a bag of walnuts that needed using up, (remember War On Waste?), then staged a revolution.
I gave in and packed the apples and fudge into a crumbly sweet pastry shell, then topped the lot with a walnut frangipane. OMG! I’m glad I listened to those apples. They were so right!
It's a conspiracy!
For one large delicious tart you will need...
Sweet Pastry
150g butter
50g caster sugar
1 egg, beaten
½ teaspoon vanilla essence
225g plain flour

1          For the pastry: In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until fluffy and pale in colour. Now add the flour to the creamed sugar/butter mixture, beating until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Mix together the egg and vanilla essence and add a little at a time, until the mixture comes together in a soft paste. You may not need to use all of the egg. Cover and chill for at least 30 minutes in the fridge (or overnight if possible).
2          Remove the pastry from the fridge and place on a lightly floured surface or on a large sheet of non-stick baking parchment. Roll the pastry out, making sure to roll in one direction, turning the pastry a quarter at a time to keep it spreading out evenly to a thickness of about 3mm (about the thickness of a euro coin).  If you roll in both directions you can end up stretching the pastry which will shrink back in the oven. Use to line a 23cm (9 inch) tart tin. Press gently into place, then run the rolling pin over the top – this neatly removes any pastry overhang. Return the pastry to the fridge to rest while you pre-heat the oven to 170°C.

Apple and Fudge filling
1 - 2 Bramley apples, or your favourite apple (yielding about 250g of fruit when prepared)
150g vanilla fudge, finely chopped (or 12 tablespoons of fleur de sel caramel sauce)

3          Peel the apples and cut into 1cm cubes. Place the apple cubes in a bowl of cold water to which you’ve added a squeeze of lemon juice to stop them turning brown, or if using the fleur de sel caramel sauce pour over the apple cubes and set aside until ready to use.
Walnut Frangipane
100g butter
100g caster sugar
3 medium eggs, beaten
100g walnuts, ground
100g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

4          Make the frangipane filling: Place the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl or stand mixer and beat together until pale and fluffy. Add the beaten egg, a little at a time, mixing well between additions. When all the beaten egg has been added, sprinkle in the ground walnuts, flour and baking powder, and mix well until all the ingredients have been combined.
5          Remove the chilled tart shell from the fridge. Dry the apple cubes in a clean teacloth and arrange evenly in the pastry shell, leaving a margin of about 1cm around the edge .  Sprinkle the chopped fudge over the apple (or if using the fleur de sel caramel sauce simply spoon the apple/caramel mixture into the shell). Now spoon the walnut frangipane filling over this, levelling it out with the back of the spoon or a spatula, right to the edge of the pastry.
6          Place in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the filling is golden brown and risen and springs back when pressed lightly with your finger. Leave to cool, then remove from the baking tin. Dust with icing sugar before serving with a swirl of whipped cream.

Couldn't resist an extra hit of caramel
There are some apples left over from that batch. With such ambition and creativity, who knows what they’ll become! J
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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Mushrooms à la Grecque – a mayo-free zone

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My Aussie pal, Elena, made an observation about Irish salad/sandwich bars... “What’s with all the mayonnaise!!!!” she asked.
It’s true. It is practically impossible to avoid mayo in Ireland. We even have a county called Mayo.

Cute as a button...

As a broad generalisation, if you walk into a sandwich bar in Ireland your choices are limited: You may be offered tuna... mayonnaise; or egg... mayonnaise; or if you manage not to have mayonnaise in your main filling choice, the server will try and foist some “coleslaw” on you. What is this coleslaw, only shreds of cabbage and carrot drowned in a sea of... mayonnaise. If you manage to parry the coleslaw, they will launch a final offensive, the squeezy mayo bottle already in their hand, and smilingly offer you a squirt to glue the top slice of bread in place.
I have nothing against mayonnaise – the sort that has actually seen a fresh egg yolk or two, a spoonful of Dijon mustard, some garlic and a light olive oil can be unbelieveable good. And I’ll admit that sometimes even Hellman’s is just the thing – but all things in moderation.

We're hiding from the mayonnaise!

One ingredient that shouldn’t even be in the same room as mayonnaise is the mushroom. Yuk. Even thinking about mushrooms in mayo is making me queasy. If I am going to include mushrooms in a salad then here’s how that would go...
For 4 - 6 servings you will need...
5 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons olive oil
150mls passata, or two tinned plum tomatoes, finely chopped
1 teaspoon coriander seed, crushed
1 bayleaf
a sprig of thyme (lemon thyme is great if you can get it)
1 clove garlic, crushed
juice and zest of an unwaxed lemon
400g button mushrooms (or larger mushrooms cut into bite-sized pieces)
1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leafed parsley

1          Place all the ingredients - except the parsley – in a medium saucepan over a medium heat and bring to simmering. Simmer uncovered for 5 minutes.
2          Using a slotted spoon, remove the mushrooms and place in a serving dish. Now turn up the heat and allow the sauce to reduce and thicken for a further 5 minutes or so.
3          Taste the sauce and add salt and or pepper if necessary. Then pour the thickened sauce over the mushrooms and leave to cool to room temperature. Scatter with the parsley before serving. This dish will keep for a few days if refrigerated but is best at room temperature. Served hot, it is also wonderful with grilled meats.

Just add crusty bread
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