Saturday, 2 March 2013

Week 5- The Magic Potion!

I've just returned from a wonderful weekend in Provence- good food, good company and good things seen and done.

The Mistral however decided to be its most fearsomely freezing yet- and on Sunday night we could do nothing but huddle on the couch under blankets with a delicious bowl of soup and croutons and watch the latest Asterix film- Au Service de sa Majeste.

If you know the book - Asterix in Britain- you know the plot.
Asterix and Obelix come to Britain with magic potion to help the Brits defeat the Romans. They lose the real magic potion and substitute it with tea (previously the Brits had only hot water to drink)- and hey presto! the Brits are filled with vim and vigour and send the Romans packing. Watch a clip here if you want a laugh.

It's true though- tea is magic. Not just as a restorative drink - but as a cooking ingredient too (another tip I discovered this weekend).

So this week's menu celebrates tea- the cup that cheers but doth not inebriate: camembert tart with ginger and lemon tea dressed leaves, lamb parmentier (shepherd's pie) with tea -steamed kale and leeks, and barm brack (Irish black tea fruit bread).

For the camembert tart I am indebted to a family friend who prepared this for me: bake a shortcrust pastry case blind, allow to cool a little and then lay slices of camembert in a wheel shape on the base. Fill in the gaps in between with creme fraiche or ricotta, maybe a sprinkling of chives if you have them, and bake in a moderate oven until golden.

Camembert Tart

This tart is quite rich- especially if, like me, you don't usually eat strong flavoured cheese so it needs just a light salad with it. Make the dressing by preparing a brew of lemon and ginger herb tea. Use an espresso cupful of this tea, cooled and mixed with the juice of half a lemon and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Dress the leaves with the mixture- firm leaves are best such as iceberg, cos and little gem.

Lamb Parmentier

For the lamb parmentier you will need 100g of organic minced lamb per person, one onion, one carrot and one stick of celery, plus seasoning ( salt, pepper, meat stock cube, tomato ketchup and Worcester sauce if you have them and a dash of red wine or red wine vinegar.) You will also need 3-4 Maris Piper potatoes mashed, and a handful of grated cheese.

Fry the finely diced onion, celery and carrot in a tiny amount of vegetable oil. Add the minced lamb and brown it. Mix in your stock or stock cube. If using a cube, now mix in about 200 ml of  hot water and bring to a good bubble. As the mixture reduces, add your seasonings to taste.
Pour into a gratin dish, top with mashed potato and grated cheese and brown under a hot grill.

For the vegetable accompaniment- place a large pan of boiling water on the stove, add an Earl Grey teabag to the water and place a steamer on top. Fill the steamer with chopped green or black kale and sliced leeks. Put  a lid on top and steam until the leeks are tender.

Tea steamed greens

The veg infuses with a lovely sweet tea flavour.

The barm brack needs a bit of planning in advance, but is incredibly easy to make.

Soak 2 cups of dried fruit (raisins, sultanas, dates, whatever you have) overnight or for 5-6 hours in an infusion of 1 cup of hot black tea.
When the fruit is plump and most of the liquid absorbed, mix in one beaten egg, a teaspoon of mixed spice, 4 teaspoons of marmalade or jam, 1 cup of sugar and 2 cups of self-raising flour.

Pour into a 7 inch diameter( 20 cm) or square cake tin and bake at 190 degrees for 30 minutes or so until risen and firm and when a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Barm brack

Allow to cool and serve buttered guessed it ...a cup of tea!
With un nuage de lait?

And the leftovers?

The lamb dish freezes well- and the cake will last for up to one week in an air tight tin.

Any leftover kale is delicious stir-fried with some garlic or chili or sundried tomatoes (or all three!) and served with gnocchi dumplings and a drizzle of olive oil and some grated cheese.

After such hearty fare, you should feel fortified and ready for anything.

Romans, anyone?

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