23 Feb 2013

Kicking off Lent with a Parsnip Tarte Tatin

With Carnival and Pancake Day over, some might remember (or would rather forget) the period of Lent that follows all the fun and food indulgence. I see Lent as a suitable period to remind ourselves of the rich and abundant life that we live and to try and give up one or two indulgent habits. As such, I am planning to cook more Vegetarian food until Easter and hopefully carry on afterwards! Though my partner and I love and eat  a lot of vegetables, we don't count ourselves as big fans of veggie food. In fact, we'd almost always go for a nice piece of animal (British!) protein on our plate if we had the choice. Missing out on it for a few days every week for a longer period seemed like a good effort to make, at least in our view.

So, to get Lent on to a good start, I tried to change our perception of vegetarian food with a simple parsnip tarte tatin. It really was delicious and we only marginally missed our beloved meat!

Parsnip Tarte Tatin

For 1 medium-sized tarte
  • 3-4 large parsnips
  • 1 onion
  • 2 tbsp of olive oil
  •  2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp finely chopped fresh chili
  • 2 tso finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme
  • 1tsp of brown sugar
  • 2 tsp of clear honey
  • Salt, pepper and nutmeg
  • 50g grated cheddar
  • 4 sheets of filo pastry

Preheat the oven at 200
°C. Peel the parsnips and the onion. Finely slice the onion and cut the parsnips into 1cm slices. Parboil the parsnips and onions in salted water for no more than 5 minutes. In the meantime, mix together 1 tbsp olive oil with the garlic, ginger, chili, thyme, sugar, honey and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Spread the mix into the base of a pie or flan dish and place into the oven for 5 minutes. Once the oil is hot and the sugar and honey have melted, arrange the drained vegetables into the dish, season well with salt, pepper and nutmeg and scatter the grated cheddar on top. Cover with one sheet of filo pastry making sure the edges of the pastry are tucked well down the sides of the dish. Brush the pastry with olive oil and repeat this step with the remaining 3 sheets of pastry. Bake the tart for 30 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and crisp. I would suggest to serve it hot with a green salad or steamed green vegetables; or actually a nice piece of succulent meat would also got quite well I imagine, if the intention was not to create a vegetarian meal!

6 Feb 2013

Petits Choux au Citron

Having terribly failed at making éclairs once for my mum's birthday several years ago, I felt it was at the time to give choux pastry a go again. In preparation for a Gâteau St Honoré that I had planned to bake for the event "East meets West" back in January organised by the Edinburgh Cake Ladies, I decided to make a few choux buns filled with the traditional cream "crème chiboust" but flavoured with lemon instead of vanilla. Sadly, a nasty virus prevented me from baking the final gâteau and going to what looks like was a great event. But I'd like to share the following recipe for a few choux buns as they are not as difficult to make as I thought and very pretty and light. I turned to my trusted book, the "Larousse Gastronomique", for the recipe and was very pleased with the result.
The following ingredients will make about 15 choux of the size of a golf ball - if well-risen, that is :-)

Ingredients for the choux paste: 
  • 80ml water
  • 13g butter
  • 1/2 tsp caster sugar
  • small pinch of salt
  • 30g flour
  • 1 medium egg (I found that large eggs make the paste too liquid)

Heat the water, butter, sugar and salt until the butter has melted. Add the flour in one go, remove the pan from the heat and stir with a wooden spoon. Add the whisked egg and beat the mixture very hard. You really have to work on this one. Fill the paste into a piping bag or, as I did, use a sandwich bag with the corner cut off and pipe walnut-sized balls on a baking tray lined with greased baking paper. Bake in a hot oven at 200 °C for 20-25 minutes until nicely puffed up and golden. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Crème Chiboust: 

  •          125ml full-fat milk
  •          1 lemon, zested
  •          1 egg, separated
  •          30g caster sugar
  •          3g powdered gelatine
  •          15g cornflour
  •          small pinch of salt

Soften the gelatine by adding 1 tsp of water to the powder. Heat the milk with the finely grated lemon zest. Using an electric mixer, whisk together the egg yolk and sugar until fluffy. Stir in the cornflour. Add the warm milk slowly while mixing and return the mixture to pan. Bring to the boil and whisk in the softened gelatine. Cook over low heat while constantly mixing with a hand-whisk until the cream starts to thicken. Take off the heat and chill for at least two hours.

When set, fill the cream into a piping bag. Pierce small holes into the bottom of each choux bun using a chopstick. Insert the nozzle of the piping bag into the hole and fill the bun with cream. Dust with icing sugar and enjoy!

Small choux filled with lemon crème chiboust