Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Chorizo and Roasted Red Pepper Quiche... it’s pronounced “Quickie” Bill!

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Ah, Quiche. It is so often the butt of jokes, an object of scorn. And yet when my sister-in-law, Rosie, brings her - admittedly, extra fabulous - quiches to a family gathering, there isn’t a morsel left over. (I’m sure some people even lick the quiche dishes clean when no one is looking.)
Once, her quiches had an unfortunate accident between the oven and the table. Guests, who had already caught the scent of pie, seemed quite willing to scoop up the ruins with a spoon - slivers of glass and all. Good sense prevailed in the end, although several people eyed the bin longingly during the course of the evening.

There is that famous joke where Bill Clinton and Al Gore are out to lunch in the middle of the Lewinsky storm. Bill Clinton asks the waitress for a quiche. The waitress sternly tells him she doesn't think that's a good idea given his circumstances. Gore leans in and confides that "it is pronounced Keesh, Bill".

This one isn’t, though, Bill. It is pronounced “Quickie” because it was made in such a hurry, in a WOW (War On Waste) assault on the contents of the fridge.

For a 23cm Chorizo and Roasted Red Pepper “Quickie” with Nutmeg Pastry you will need...
Quickie Nutmeg Pastry
180g plain flour
100g butter, from the fridge (cut into pieces)
1 egg yolk
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
3 – 4 tablespoons iced water 

a little extra flour for your work surface 

Preheat the oven to 180°C when you put the pastry in the fridge to chill

Place everything except the water in your food processor and pulse until combined and resembling a very fine crumb. Add 3 tablespoons of the water and pulse again. The mixture should come together in a soft ball of pastry. If it doesn’t, add another tablespoon of water and pulse again. Wrap the pastry in cling film or place in a freezer bag and chill for about 10 minutes while you prepare the ingredients for the filling.  

Quickie Nutmeg Pastry

When the pastry has chilled, turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface and roll out to a circle approximately 30cm in diameter. Use to line a quiche dish or a 23cm tart tin no less than 3cm deep. Roll your rolling pin over the top to trim off any excess pastry and, using a fork, prick the base of the pastry before lining it with aluminium foil or greaseproof paper and filling it with baking beans (ceramic, or dried beans kept for the purpose). It is well worth taking this extra step to avoid soggy pastry. 

Bake for 10 minutes before removing the beans and foil. Bake for a further 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside while you continue with the filling. 

Quickie Filling
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, halved then cut into thin slices
150g spicy chorizo sausage, diced
200g roasted red peppers (mine were from a jar)
50g Emmental cheese, diced
150mls Greek yoghurt
150mls single cream
2 eggs, beaten
100g Gruyere cheese, grated 

Heat the olive oil in a medium frying pan over a medium heat and gently fry the onion slices until they are translucent and beginning to take on golden edges. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

Meanwhile, scatter the diced chorizo over the base of the pastry. Arrange the roasted red peppers on top, followed by the onions and finally the diced Emmental cheese.

Quickie WOW (War On Waste) Filling 
Mix together the yoghurt, cream and eggs and 50g of the Gruyere cheese. Pour into the pastry shell, making sure to coat the rest of the filling ingredients with the mixture. Sprinkle evenly with the remaining Gruyere cheese.


Say Cheese !

Place on a shallow baking tray (in case of overflow, or spills while baking – especially if you are using a loose-bottomed tin). 

Return the filled pastry to the oven and bake for about 25 – 30mins or until the top is golden brown and the filling just set. 

'Keesh' or 'Quickie'? Who cares as long as it's delicious!
Leave to cool for a few minutes before serving.
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Friday, February 14, 2014

Love is ... sharing your Baileys Chocolate Biscuit Cake

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St Valentine mightn’t have been Irish to begin with, but we’ve certainly adopted him. His relics lie in the Carmelite church at Whitefriar Street, Dublin. If you want to pop in to visit, you may have to elbow your way through the growing crush as the resting place of the Hallmark saint grows in popularity with loved-up couples. Although... according to that great bible of civilization, Wikipedia, there are about eleven St Valentines and it is not known which one inspired the retail frenzy.
Valentine’s Day would try the patience of a saint. Ok, who doesn’t like to know they are someone’s someone special... But... if this commercial outpouring of love is confined to romantic love... and then to just one day of the year, well, it’s a teeny bit exclusive, isn’t it.
For me, love is in the every day things.  It’s in the whole-hearted, rib-cracking bear-hugs from my godson; in the slightly soggy, pre-licked crisps offered by my three-year-old niece when you know she really, really, really wants them herself (“Thanks honey, but you have them, I insist! No, really – I insist”.
I asked friends and family what love meant to them. It turns out, it isn't in the grand gestures. Love is... in having the washing up done for you; in getting a cup of tea... just the way you like it... brought to one’s boudoir. Love is in chocolate; in a tiny posy of primroses; in a bunch of daffodils (preferably not ones stolen from the local park); Love is in a ‘Thank you for feeding me’ lick from a four-legged friend (awwww); it's in a crayoned picture of you looking like a happy witch; in a warm hand that reaches for your cold hand; in sharing a bag of salty, vinegary chips; Love is in cupcakes, hot from the oven; in a hug, just when you need it; it seems that love happens in lots and lots of small ways, - funnily, many of them food-related.
Dear St Valentine, when it comes to love, with all your kitsch hearts and overpriced flowers you are in the ha’penny place. But, seeing as you are now adopted Irish, here is a nod in the form of my Baileys Chocolate Biscuit Cake - for grown up friends and family. (If you are making these for kids, swap the cream liqueur for double cream).
For 1 boozy Baileys Chocolate Biscuit Cake, (or many tiny bites) you will need...
150g Marietta biscuits (or any Rich Tea type biscuit)
150g Digestive biscuits
100g dried sour cherries or dried cranberries (or a mixture of the two), chopped
50g toasted almonds, chopped
50g toasted walnuts, chopped
150g good quality plain chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
150g good quality milk chocolate
150mls Baileys (or a similar Irish Cream Liqueur)
100g butter, melted
25g runny honey (something floral, but not overpowering)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

50g each of dark chocolate and white chocolate for drizzling over the finished cake (optional). Oh, who am I kidding! Since when has  extra chocolate been optional?

Method

Chop the biscuits into bits about the size of a 2c coin (or a penny) and place them in a large mixing bowl. Add the dried fruit and the nuts. 

Place the chocolate in a heatproof (preferably non-metallic) bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water (making sure the base of the bowl doesn’t sit in the water). When the chocolate has melted, add the butter and stir gently together with a wooden spoon or spatula to avoid filling the chocolate with air bubbles. We’re not making mousse today. 

When the butter is incorporated, add the cream liqueur (or double cream if you are going for an alcohol-free version) and stir until you have a smooth, shiny lake of chocolate-y deliciousness. (It will be alarming liquid at this stage but keep the faith - it will set later in the fridge.) Finally, stir in the honey and the vanilla extract. Tip the mixture into the bowl of biscuits. Stir until every last morsel is coated with boozy chocolate lusciousness. 

Transfer to a loaf tin (if you want slices), a mixing bowl or round cake tin (if you want wedges) or a shallow pie dish or similar if you want little squares or bars,  before covering and placing in the fridge to set for at least 4 hours or overnight. You can line your chosen container with cling film if you wish but I find it just as easy to pop the container in a tray of hot water for a minute or so to melt the edges a little before turning out onto a serving tray. 

It would be utterly decadent to drizzle this little treat with even more chocolate...


 Cut into squares, wedges or bars. Share.
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Saturday, February 1, 2014

Gnocchi with Mushrooms and Gorgonzola – and flaming cheeks !

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Upon a time, I had a favourite little restaurant. It did decent coffee and good homely Italian food at a reasonable price. It was the sort of place where you could eavesdrop on the most interesting of conversations, or chat to a complete stranger on the table next to you.
Its main attraction was its star waiter, a crazy, red-haired Roman with a big heart and an eagle eye who kept the place more or less shipshape. He was deeply and irrevocably a fan of The Blues Brothers. From time to time, he would get a little carried away, douse the lights and subject his alarmed (and captive) audience to a rather startling mime of I Can’t Turn You Loose.

I once spent 8 hours there – breakfast with one friend, a chance meeting that turned into lunch with another, and then finally dinner with my beloved – although I did go for a walk in between times to make room for my favourite of their dishes - Gnocchi with Mushrooms and Gorgonzola.
Unfortunately I’m too embarrassed to go there anymore. The eagle-eyed Roman was off duty that evening. And I know I shouldn’t have... but rather stupidly... I left my beloved unattended for a whole five minutes. (The Roman would have kept an eye on him...) When I returned, the restaurant was filled with smoke, and feathery ashes were settling on the clientele. He had managed to accidentally set his napkin on fire. He had quickly extinguished the flames, but while he was busy checking if anyone had actually noticed, he failed to notice the napkin had reignited and set the tablecloth ablaze.

This is my attempt to recreate the gnocchi dish - Blues Brothers soundtrack and inferno optional.
For lunch for 2, you will need...
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
300g ready-prepared potato gnocchi (a lazy dish, this)
150g fresh mushrooms, sliced
a fat clove of garlic, crushed
5 tablespoons cream
40g Gorgonzola cheese
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
freshly ground black pepper

In a frying pan large enough to take the gnocchi in one layer, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over a medium heat. Add the gnocchi and fry gently until a golden crust forms, turning occasionally.

Meanwhile, place the remaining olive oil in another pan over a medium heat and add the mushrooms. Cook for about 5 minutes, then add the crushed garlic. Cook for a further minute or so before adding the cream and the Gorgonzola, stirring as the cheese melts. When the Gorgonzola has completely melted, add the parsley and the now-golden gnocchi.

Serve immediately with a little freshly ground black pepper over the top. I find it doesn’t really need any salt - but maybe keep a fire extinguisher handy :)

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