Tag Archives: Summer

Cherry and Apricot Tart

The idea for this tart came purely was based purely on sight, two fruits nestled next two each other in the market which looked so perfect together I knew I had to combine them somehow. There is something about mounds of fruit that is so appealing and I find it hard to believe I could be inspired this way walking around the packaged products of a supermarket. I love the idea as food as a sensory experience, how sight, sound and touch influence our enjoyment as well as the taste and smell. That moment upon seeing a dish so appetizing that one salivates and impatiently waits to eats it is surely most common in sweet things. With the great weather and the start of the season for both these fruits this is a perfect pudding with some cream, ice cream or just as it is.

As always there are cherry and apricot tarts/cakes/pies everywhere but this is my version. The recipe for the pâte sucrée I got from this amazing blog which provides a quantity for two tarts. I used the pastry I had left over in the freezer from the last batch which meant it was so quick to assemble but in an attempt to defrost it even faster I dried it out a little, the final result was still great it just crumbled around the top edges. Of course to make this really quick you could substitute for a shop-bought pastry.

I also list the recipe for the amount of almond cream I used, next time I would probably use less and reserve some in the freezer as it covered up the fruit more than I wanted upon rising.

Cherry and Apricot Tart

for a 9 1/2” tart tin

1/2 kilo ripe apricots half and de-stoned – I used two varieties

250g cherries

For the Almond Cream:

140g sugar

130g chopped or ground almonds, plus extra to garnish

120g butter, cubed

1 whole egg plus 1 egg yolk

1 tablespoon flour

With a food processor or blender combine the sugar and almonds until well ground and combined. Add the butter and continue blending until combined and continue adding the other ingredients allowing each to combine before adding the next.

To Assemble:

Prepare the pastry and blind bake as explained in the recipe here, leave to cool.

Preheat oven to 170C

Pipe around 3/4 of the almond cream into the base and spread evenly.

Layer fruit on almond cream as desired and bake on middle oven shelf for 40 – 45 minutes when the cream will have a lovely golden colour and the fruit just cooked through.

Leave to cool on a wire rack then serve or refrigerate until ready to eat.

Penne al Pistacchio

I imagine the humble pistachio to be in many eyes as it is in mine, just a humble snack and occupation for bored hands, occasionally stretching its uses to ice cream and fancy biscuits. Probably with good reason, because for any decent quantity that precious commodity time is required: frustrating, nail-breaking shell-breaking. But that is no excuse not to try this recipe, stick on some music, get something to read, reflect and get cracking. This is such a pleasure to eat, it has an amazing nutty flavour and texture whilst the alcohol lends a sweet almost caramel taste all balanced by the fat and saltiness of the pancetta.

Before writing this I thought hard about whether I should post pasta recipes, for everyone knows about pasta and the web is awash with recipes for every kind of pasta imaginable so should I try and stay away from the obvious? But there is such a beautiful simplicity to pasta in all its forms, the story of fuss and controversy over what started as two ingredients has endured over 1000 years and is one full of myth and lore.. It just fascinates me. So I will continue sharing this love here, aiming for the more obscure, unknown and unique dishes from Italy; simple yet interesting and full of flavour and obviously true to the generations of Italians cooking it beforehand.

This recipe is taken from Al Dente by William Black, a truly inspiring read for anyone even slightly interested in Italy and its food. The recipes contained are usually straight from an Italian ‘nonna’ and left unadulterated, so you know it’s the real thing.

As for ingredients in this one, I have read brandy can be substituted for dark rum; I used Jerez and some use white wine. I can’t think of many places that offer a large range, but if you do, aim for the flavoursome Sicilian Bronte variety, whose wonderful red shell gives way to the greenest of nuts – the true King of Pistachios. And feel free to point me in the direction of some more recipes using these please!

Penne al Pistacchio

serves 4

400g penne

30g unsalted butter

1 onion, chopped finely

2 garlic cloves, chopped finely

50g pancetta, diced

1 tablespoon reduced chicken stock

50g pistachios, finely chopped or given a quick whizz in a blender.

100 ml brandy

200ml single cream

salt and pepper

Cook the penne in the normal way until al dente.

Meanwhile, in a large pan on a medium heat melt butter and soften onions, adding garlic after 3 minutes and making sure only slight caramelisation occurs.

Add the pancetta then the stock and a ladel of pasta water. Cook for 5 minutes more. Check the penne.

Stir in pistachios (reserve a sprinkling as a garnish, add brandy and flame with a long match.

Add cream and season to taste then add drained pasta to pan stirring for 1 minute.
Serve.

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Summer is Coming – Home-dried Tomatoes

Welcome news to start this week for all those living in the UK with the prospect of some sun and balmy heights of 25C before the end of the week (well done to the Guardian for putting a downer on things for those living in Scotland though). Underused BBQ’s will be dragged out of sheds throughout the country, Pimm’s opened and pasty bodies exposed as summer finally arrives.

The weekend just gone here in Valencia was hot, nothing unusual there, clocking 34C on Saturday but for me it was the start of Summer with my first BBQ of the year. Prawns with alioli, squid, garlic and rosemary butterflied leg of lamb, chorizos and of course bananas on the coals. What it did miss however was some tomatoes, not your bland supermarket tomato, nor the popular sun-dried tomato (whose texture or taste is really not that great when bought in a jar?), but the semi-dry, over-priced, full-flavoured morsels of goodness that are sun-blushed tomatoes.  Ok so done in the oven isn’t the same as the sun, but let’s not put too much confidence in British weather to stay good and leave them outside, besides when these come out you won’t be going to that deli counter any more.

Get to a grocer or market this weekend and grab a few kilos of very ripe tomatoes, preferably English as imported ones will lack that sweet-savoury caramel flavour that comes from being picked ripe. Even better if you have a bumper garden crop.

I used this recipe from the brilliant Heston Blumenthal at home, a must-have book for any ambitious home cook. The flavours are pretty provencal but obviously this type of recipe calls for individual taste so play around with herbs  and quantities to personal taste. The recipe forms part of a tomato tart which is  probably the best I have ever eaten, think tapenade, caramelised onions, pesto… salivating?

Removing the pulp and seeds first means a shorter time in the oven, and in my opinion removing the skin first leaves such a lovely, smooth texture at the end which is very worth the effort (for less hassle and less pleasure just leave them be, season and dry for 4-5 hours instead).

Oven-dried tomatoes 

medium to large very ripe tomatoes

cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced

bay leaves, finely sliced

thyme sprigs

salt

caster sugar

olive oil

  • Peel tomatoes.
  • Cut in half and scoop out pulp and seeds.
  • Drain on kitchen paper for around 2 hours.
  • Oven at 100C.
  • Line baking tray(s) with parchment , place tomatoes cut-side up and add to each some garlic, bay and thyme. Season with salt and sugar.
  • Drizzle with olive oil and place in oven for 3 hours.

After 3 hours the result should be a dry but soft tomato, for me the texture was almost that of a dried apricot but less chewy. Eat that day drizzled with some good oil or store in a sterilized jar covered with oil – find endless uses for these in pastas, salads, tarts etc.. enjoy!

Spaghetti al Limone

A few weeks ago I returned from my first ever skiing holiday, I had loved every part of it from the beautiful scenery to the wonderful sense of freedom derived from throwing oneself down a mountain. But after my 8 days there I seriously needed some sunshine and fresh food.

I strolled through the Mercado Central the next morning amongst what seemed the freshest, most colourful produce I’d ever seen and was drawn by a huge mound of lemons. The yellow page of The River Cafe Cook Book sprung to mind and I knew what I’d be having for lunch.

A dish that fills the air with unctuous parmigiana, fresh citrus and basil, ticking all the boxes for a fresh summer dish

Spaghetti al Limone

Adapted from the fantastic River Cafe Cook Book by Rose Gray and Ruth Rodgers

Serves 4

400g spaghetti

Juice of 3 lemons, zest of 1-2

150ml ml olive oil

130g Parmigiano

Sea salt and black pepper

Small bunch fresh basil chopped

Drop the pasta in boiling salted water (around a 1:5 ratio of pasta:water), stirring once submerged, leave to cook.

In an empty screw-top jar add the juice of the lemons and the olive oil, shake vigorously until well combined and emulsified.

Pour this mix into a new saucepan and stir in the grated parmesan (reserving a small amount to garnish) until thick, creamy consistency. Season well.

When al dente, pick spaghetti straight from water using pasta tongs, hold 3 seconds for some water to drain off then add to the saucepan containing lemon oil.

Once spaghetti added, place this saucepan on a low-med heat, stir well so pasta well coated whilst adding zest and basil. Serve.