Sunday, October 21, 2012

Roasted Vegetable Tart Tatin – lives up to its puff pastry potential...

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I was watching The Great British Bake Off the other evening and the overriding theme was a terror of soggy bottoms. They went on about it so much I began to wonder if the judges and contestants had each had a childhood filled with compulsory picnics on damp grass without the benefit of a ground sheet.
It turns out that the dread lay in the possibility of puff pastry not reaching its full airy potential. Oh the drama of it all!
And yet, as I prepared this roasted vegetable tatin, I too began to worry about stunting the growth of my puff pastry. Ripe juicy tomatoes, plump peppers – all that juice instead of spelling flavour, now just signalled certain disaster. There was nothing for it but to roast the bejaysus (technical term) out of the vegetables before they came anywhere near the pastry. The benefit of roasting the vegetables in advance is that it concentrates the flavour no end as well as driving out those potentially catastrophic juices.
War On Waste: Because this is cooked in two stages, you could pop the vegetables in to the oven with another dish and finish the tart the next day, or you could cook something else in the oven while the vegetables are cooling (This is what I did, making this banana bread - with walnuts instead of coconut)– WOW is about energy efficiency too.
For 1 savoury tarte tatin you will need...
... to preheat the oven to 180

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 medium tomatoes (about the side of a tennis ball), halved across the waist
4 small bell peppers (again, think tennis ball), halved top to bottom, seeds removed
2 onions (yep, tennis ball), peeled, leaving the root intact, then sliced into 4 wedges through the root
1 fat clove of garlic, grated
½ teaspoon dried basil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 x 250g ready-rolled puff pastry sheet 

Fresh basil, parsley or mint leaves to garnish 

1                    Put the olive oil into a medium roasting tin and add the prepared vegetables. Dot with grated garlic and sprinkle with the dried basil, salt and pepper. Roast in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes, or until the edges of the vegetables start to brown. Remove and leave to cool.
2                    Line an 22cm (9”) round cake tin with parchment paper (this stops the vegetables sticking)
3                    Pack the cooled roasted vegetables snugly into the cake tin in one layer, bearing in mind that you’ll be inverting it to serve, so best side down...
4                    Cut the pastry sheet to fit neatly over the top of the tin. Place on top of the vegetable layer and transfer to the preheated oven.
5                    Bake for about 30 minutes (again in a preheated oven at 180°C) or until the pastry is golden and risen. Leave to cool for about 10 minutes before carefully inverting onto a serving plate. Scatter with fresh basil, parsley or mint leaves. 

Note: Although this tart didn’t hang about long enough to get a soggy bottom, I suspect that the juices would leak into the pastry by the following day so feed this to a hungry appreciative crowd who will demolish it before it has time to disgrace you.
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Friday, October 12, 2012

Lemon, Honey and Basil Ice Cream - it'd be a crime to miss it !

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Some years ago a very pleasant trip to visit a friend in France took a rather strange twist that involved a very unique (and ever so slightly stolen) car, being fingerprinted by French police (who also offered great advice on where to dine in the vicinity), and a lemon. Long story.  I’ll tell you when you come round to visit.
I was given the lemon, as a souvenir of this strange adventure, which I took back to Ireland and made into ice cream. It was the first ice cream I ever made and was a convoluted process. Was it the most exciting ice cream I’ve ever tasted? No. But it served to send me on a quest for a lemony ice cream that would create for my taste buds a little of the excitement of that trip, and here it is.

Strictly speaking, this is a frozen yoghurt but because it is Greek yoghurt it is every bit as satisfyingly creamy as an ice cream. It is also dead easy to make. With such a high juice content, you really do need an ice cream maker for this. Note: This ice cream is for grown-ups.

For 4 - 6 servings you will need...
... an ice cream maker

Zest of 2 lemons, grated
Zest of 1 orange, grated
175mls fresh lemon juice
75mls fresh orange juice
10g fresh basil leaves
140g runny honey
550g Greek yoghurt
¼ teaspoon sea salt 

1                    Place everything except the Greek yoghurt in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Immediately remove from the heat and leave to cool. Strain to remove the zest and basil leaves. Leave to cool, then chill in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
2                    When chilled, mix with the Greek yoghurt and salt and churn in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. When the mixture has thickened to ice cream, transfer it to a freezer container and place in the freezer for 24 hours. Although it is ready to eat straight away, the flavours develop further if you can bear to wait until the following day. Before serving, allow to soften in the fridge for 20-25 minutes.

Taste-tester verdict: "Gasp!" but in a good way. 
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