Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Savoury Cakes, Muffins, Scones and Tartlets

Scones, butter and a cup of all helps.

It's been a sad week for me and I haven't felt much like communicating. But friends have said to me that at times like this it is important to do a few 'normal' things and normal for me is cooking and blogging, so I've conjured up this blog from the archives.

There are certain recipes on my blog which have proved much more popular than the rest: a recipe for courgette tart has been shared most often on Pinterest, my recipe for mushy peas (extraordinarily) caused the most controversy and comments on the Guardian website, several other recipes have appeared on other people's blogs - but by far and away the most clicked-on recipe on this blog remains the one for olive cakes.

Olive Cakes

This recipe was given to me by French friends after I'd eaten these delectable savoury muffins at an al fresco lunch in the South of France.

The lunch that launched 1000 clicks
Since then I've made it again and again - as a dinner party starter, smaller versions for a canape at a buffet, or just as a supper meal in its own right.

I've also made lots of variations on a theme and that is what I would like to share with you today on the blog.

First of all, of course- the olive cakes themselves.

Ingredients: (to make a dozen medium muffins)
160 g olives (green or black according to your preference) chopped coarsely
100 g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 large eggs
1 pot of natural yogurt or 100ml of milk
80 ml olive oil
100g grated emmental or cheddar
1. Sift the flour and baking powder together
2. Mix in the olives and cheese
3. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until you have a thick batter
4. Spoon or pour into silicone (or paper) muffin moulds
5. Bake at 200 degrees for 20-25 minutes until risen and golden
6. Serve warm or cold with a green salad.

Now that you have the basic mix, there are lots of ways to vary it- experimenting with different flavours: sweetcorn and cheddar, red and green peppers, aubergine 'mud pies' (so called because of their beigy-brown colour!) made with aubergine puree added to the mix,  and here black pudding, apple and cider.
Black Pudding and Apple Muffins

The mix works well incidentally with a variety of different cheeses- so if you are lactose intolerant, you can use goat's cheese or Pecorino, (or indeed not bother with cheese if you don't like it- the other flavours are strong enough to carry the little cakes whatever).
If you are gluten intolerant, then substitute lentil or chickpea flour for a nuttier but equally tasty version (and achieve a similar effect with wholemeal or buckwheat flour too, if you like a denser cake.)

You can also bake the mix as a loaf and slice it to serve. Here I've made Courgette and Pesto Cake which I urge you to try as it was scrumptious!

150g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 courgettes
2 tbsp green pesto
juice of half a lemon
2 eggs
200ml natural yoghurt
100ml olive oil
100g grated Parmesan or Pecorino
1 tsp each salt and ground pepper
1. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees
2. Sift together the flour and the baking powder and salt
3. Add the eggs, yoghurt and olive oil and beat well
4. Wash and grate the courgettes using a coarse grater or food processor.
5. Wrap in a clean J cloth or tea towel and squeeze hard to remove all excess liquid
Squeeze out the moisture
6. Add the courgettes, lemon, pesto and cheese to the cake mix and beat well.
7. Pour into a buttered and lined loaf tin and bake for 45 minutes until golden and when a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. (Cover with aluminium foil for the last 10 minutes if it is browning too quickly.)
8. Cool on a wire rack and serve warm.

Mix and pour into the mould

Bake until golden
Courgette and Pesto Cake

You are probably thinking of other flavour combinations now to try. Here's a few ideas (which I haven't tried yet- but why not beat me to it!): chorizo and black olive, smoked salmon and dill, bacon and cheese, ham and mushroom, 3 cheese or pine nut and sun dried tomato.

The same principle applies to scones: once you have your basic savoury scone mix (as below) then any of the above flavour combinations will enliven them.
Savoury scones
Cheese Scones:

225g oz plain flour
60 g butter
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
125g grated cheese
1 tsp mustard
150ml milk (approx)

1. Sift the flour, salt and baking powder into a bowl
2. Rub the fat into the flour
3. Mix in the cheese and mustard
4. Add the milk until you have a soft dough
5. Roll out to 3cm thickness and cut out scone shapes
6. Place on a greased baking tray, brush with milk and bake at 180 degrees for 10-15 minutes until golden.

Vary it any way you choose.

 I like spring onion and cheddar, but am also partial to marmite and cheese scones too.

On a cookery course, I took part in a Scon-athon- all of us baking our signature scones and there were so many variations it was like the Galapagos Islands of Baked Goods. (I'm the one hiding in the blue stripey apron. I made sure my scones were at the back).

Zoom in for some scone ideas

Finally, I just want to share some scrumptious tartlet ideas with you.

As an experiment, instead of shortcrust pastry, I used puff pastry (as I had some to use up) as the base for some smoked salmon and asparagus tartlets- and was very pleased with the result.

Salmon andAspargus Tartlets
Here is the recipe:

For 4-5 tartlets

1 roll of ready-rolled puff pastry
10 asparagus spears (steamed till tender)
50g smoked salmon trimmings
2 eggs
100ml milk

1. Cut tartlet shapes from the pastry, place in tartlet tins and bake blind for 10 minutes or so
2. Lay the asparagus spears and the snipped up salmon equally in the tart cases
3. Mix the eggs, milk and seasoning together in a jug and carefully pour into the cases
4. Bake at 180 degrees for 15 minutes or so until risen, firm and golden.

Again, once you've got the idea then try some variations- smoked haddock and sweetcorn for little chowder pies, or anchovy, onion and olive for Pissaladiere tartlets
Pissaladiere Tart
- are two that spring to mind.

All of these are great for using up leftovers- just look in the fridge, see what's there and let the ingredients guide you to success.

Sorry it's a short blog today. I hope I'll be back on form soon.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Porky Blinders

Throughout our travels in France this year, we have enjoyed some marvellous charcuterie- in auberges, routiers and restaurant buffets.

This inspired me to write this week's Porky blog- a celebration of all things piggy.

So, eye protection on - get ready for some blindingly good pork recipes.

First of all, I really wanted to recreate some of that delicious French charcuterie.

Now, I'm not squeamish about offal (see blogpost but this task is not for the fainthearted.

I decided to follow Raymond Blanc's recipe for Pate de Campagne (with a few bits of additional advice from Delia) and I made a pork terrine- using three different cuts of pork : minced shoulder, belly and liver.

Now thereby hangs a tale ( and not a little curly one). Mincing pig's liver in a food procesor is a bit of a grim task- but the end justifies the means, I do promise you.

You need: 250g pork shoulder, 250g pork belly, 250g smoked bacon, 250g pig's liver, 1 egg, 2 tsp salt, 1 tsp black pepper, 1 tsp minced garlic,  1 tsp Chinese five spice powder, 1/2 tsp fresh thyme, 50ml white wine, 2 tbsp brandy, 20g shelled pistachios, (3 bay leaves).

Mince the shoulder, bacon and belly pork first, then the liver (as this can be a bit messy, warns Delia.) She's not wrong.
Messy mix!
Put the minced meats, garlic,  egg, salt and pepper, five spice, herbs, wine, cognac, pistachios all together in a large bowl and mix until everything is thoroughly incorporated.
Turn into a greased loaf tin measuring approximately 23cm x9 x7,  press  the 3 bay leaves on the surface, cover with greaseproof paper and place it in a roasting tin half-filled with hot water.

Bake at 160 degrees for 1 hour or so (mine needed a bit longer) until a skewer inserted randomly comes out clean, feels hot against your skin and the sides of the terrine have come away from the tin.
Leave to cool in its tin- don't drain off the juices mistakenly thinking they are surplus fat- these will soak back into the terrine as it rests.
When cool, still keeping it in its tin, cover anew with foil and press with two tins or weights and leave at least overnight (and preferably for 48 hours) for the flavours to mature and for the terrine to gain the right consistency.
When ready to serve, turn it out onto a platter, pretty it up a bit and slice.
My Country Pork Terrine
RB's Pate de Campagne

Here is Raymond's version next to mine. Separated at birth or what?

After making this, I had some leftover pork mince,  as for once I was strict about weighing things and sticking to the recipe- and so made two extra dishes- pork n' cheese burgers for one night and stuffed cabbage rolls for the next. (Each one used up about 200g of pork mince- serving 2.)

For the burgers (and actually for the cabbage stuffing as this recipe is for  both)- put the mince, a cup of soft breadcrumbs (I hope you're keeping plenty of these in the freezer for whenever you need them), 2 tsp herbes de provence, a crumbled stock cube, 1 tbsp soy sauce and 1/2 tsp pepper into a bowl and incorporate thoroughly. There's no shying away from it- you need to use your (clean) hands to get a really good mix.

Shape 6 small golf ball sized rounds from the mix and reserve for the cabbage dish, if you are making it.

Shape the rest into burger patties
Pork patties
which you should fry in a very little vegetable oil until caramelized on both sides before wrapping with a suitable melty cheese. I used Leerdammer but if you have any of the Raclette cheese left over from last week that would be excellent.

Pork 'n Cheese Burgers
Pop in the oven for a few mintues to melt the cheese - and serve.

For the cabbage parcels, first cook your cabbage leaves quickly in a steamer. You need 6. The outer leaves of a Savoy cabbage are best.
As soon as they begin to tenderise (5 minutes), take them away from the heat and spread out on a tea towel to dry. Use kitchen scissors (or a sharp knife) to take out the central rib.

Place a meatball in the centre and roll up into a parcel.

When all are rolled, put into a slow cooker (or casserole dish),
pour on some tomato sauce and a glug of red wine. (You can use a bought tomato sauce - Value ones are fine- or use any of the tomato sauce recipes on this blog) and cook for 3-4 hours on Low or 40 minutes in a moderate oven.
To finish, warm through in the oven and top with breadcrumbs.

Stuffed Cabbage Leaves

Staying with cheaper cuts, belly pork -slowly braised -is one of my favourite winter meals. I slow cook it in the crockpot and either crisp the fat afterwards in the oven, or trim it off completely after cooking. If you missed this recipe on the blog, here is the link.
The ginger beer makes a lovely gravy and glaze- but cider does well too if you are just braising without glazing.
Pork Belly with Ginger Beer Gravy

Last cheap cut, before moving on to more sophisticated meats, I think sausages deserve a special mention.
I dedicated a whole blogpost to them- and here is the link


My favourite recipe is Sticky Sausages- featured here:

Sticky Sausages

Thanks to blog follower 'The Doctor' for the original recipe.

And Sausages with Puy Lentils (on the same post) is well worth a gastronomic detour.

Sausage and Bean Stew
I'm also partial to a Sausage and Bean

Now, for some slightly leaner cuts- using loin, sometimes called pork steaks or boneless chops.

Let's head East first of all for Sweet and Sour Pork:

I've used cubed pork steaks which are still quite inexpensive- but worth marinading overnight in a little sherry or sweet dessert wine before cooking. Allow 1 per person or 100g.

Fry the marinaded pork cubes briefly to brown them and place them in the slow cooker (or casserole dish) with 1-2 sticks of celery, chopped into 1 cm 'smiles', 1 red pepper- roughly chopped, 1-2 carrots in batons, 1 tin of pineapple chunks in juice (put 'em in juice and all), 1 cup of tomato juice or passata diluted with water to a similar consistency (you will need more liquid if you are casseroling rather than slow cooking), 1 tbsp rice wine (or cider) vinegar and 2 tsp of brown sugar.

Cook on high for 1 hour then on low for a further 4-5. (Or 1 hour in an oven at 180 degrees).

If the final result is a little thin, thicken it with 2 tsp of cornflour mixed to a paste with a little water. If it's too thick , thin it with a little water.

Slow Cooked Sweet and Sour Pork
But West is best - and here are a coiple more recipes using pork steaks.

I was intrigued to see Pork Osso Bucco cut on the butcher's counter this week, so may give that a go soon- but I expect you are all pigged out by now.

Sharnfold Pigs!

Remember- dogs look up to us, cats look down on us- but pigs are equals.

Sir Winston Churchill