Fig galette

I must have gone on about galettes before but here I go again. Just so versatile and understated, my kind of galette consists of short, buttery pastry rolled out rough and topped with basically anything you fancy. The edges are then folded over in a haphazard way and the whole thing is baked to a crisp. In my opinion, as long as you use a really fine and melt-in-your-mouth pastry (like the one below) the world is your oyster. I like to sprinkle the pastry with a layer of ground almonds or pistachios when making sweet galettes, and use fruit in season. Having a layer of nuts at the base helps when using juicy fruit like figs or plums as they can make the pastry soggy. Always, always brush the pastry with melted butter and give the whole thing a final scattering of sugar. When it comes to savoury, steamed kale and dots of sausagemeat and pine nuts works very well, as does a riff on the pissaladiere using caramelised onions, chargrilled red peppers, anchovies and a few cheeky olives.

Fig galette

For the pastry

180g plain flour

1/4 tsp salt

170g cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

about 80ml iced water

For the nut layer

3 tbsp ground nuts (hazelnuts, almonds or pistachios)

2 tbsp plain flour

60g caster sugar

For the topping

6–8 fresh figs

pinch sea salt

5 tbsp vanilla sugar or caster sugar, plus extra to sprinkle

handful walnut halves (optional)

knob unsalted butter, melted

 

Make the pastry. Put the flour and salt in a bowl with the butter and use your fingertips to rub the butter into the flour. The butter should still be visible in small chunks. Slowly drizzle in the ice-cold water, just enough to bring the ingredients together to form a dough. Don’t overwork it. Wrap in clingfilm and rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to form a large thin round. You’re aiming to get the pastry about 2–3mm thick. Transfer the dough to a lined baking sheet.

Scatter the ground nuts, flour and sugar over the pastry. Slice the figs and place in a bowl with the salt and sugar. Toss to combine. Arrange the fig slices neatly over the pastry, I like to do concentric circles. Fold the edges of the pastry up over the figs, tucking them as you do so. Scatter over the nuts. Brush the pastry border with melted butter and sprinkle with extra sugar.

Bake in the oven for 40–45 minutes, or until the pastry is crisp and golden.

Serve with ice cream, pouring cream or custard.

(Recipe adapted from apple galette in Spring: the cookbook, Skye Gyngell, Quadrille)

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Tamarillos forever

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I hadn’t eaten a tamarillo in something like 15 years but my god I have been missing out. You don’t see them much in Britain though, so I do have an excuse, but now that I am back in New Zealand I can enjoy these stunning burgundy fruit every autumn. They have a unique flavour that I can’t really pinpoint but it’s like a really fragrant, fruity tomato that is also slightly tropical in taste. They are very sharp eaten raw, but are just the business when poached becoming slightly silken and just pure delightfulness. Skye Gyngell is one of my food heroes (I’ve probably gone on and on about her loads already on this blog) and raves about tamarillos. I’ve had Skye’s recipe for Almond Panna Cotta with Poached Tamarillos earmarked by an unusually stained post-it note for years, waiting patiently to be made. Just the other day, I spotted some fine looking tamarillos at the weekly market and finally got around to making one half of the said recipe – the poached tamarillos. The almond panna cotta will have to wait. Sigh. Tamarillos are simmered gently in sugar syrup imparted with the all-important spices: cinnamon, vanilla pod and yes, bay leaves. (I’ve only just discovered, over the past year, how good bay leaves are in sweet things. Rice pudding with bay leaf and manuka honey being one of my all-time favourite ways to eat rice!)

I served these jewel-like beauties warm with ice cream. On the following days I had them on top of granola and then buttermilk pancakes as the syrup just keeps on giving. You can keep any leftover tamarillos and syrup in a jar in the fridge and just add to smoothies or the odd porridge that needs a bit more excitement. One thing is for sure in this life and that is I’m definitely a tamarillo convert and there is no going back.

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Poached tamarillos

6 tamarillos

220 g caster sugar

1 vanilla pod, slit in half

1 cinnamon stick

2 fresh bay leaves

Prepare the tamarillos buy cutting them in half lengthways. Put 500 ml water, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and bay leaves into a saucepan and set over low heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Increase the heat and bring to a simmer for 5–10 minutes, or until the liquid looks a little syrupy. Add the tamarillos and poach for 5 minutes, or until they begin to soften and pop out of their skins. Take off the heat and leave to cool in the poaching liquid for a few minutes. Serve warm or transfer to a jar and refrigerate for up to 4 days.

(Recipe from A Year in My Kitchen by Skye Gyngell, Quadrille)

Damson Jam

Since making Seville orange marmalade at the start of this year I have been looking forward to making more preserves. I’m still very much a novice—learning the rules and regulations and the ‘science’ of preserving. Although I absolutely hate anything scientific, preserve-making draws me in with the promise of a ‘store’ of food, or the possibility of enjoying my favourite fruits at any time of the year, whether they are steeped in vinegar or intensely sweetened by sugar. There really is something that’s utterly rewarding when you make your own preserves and share it with others.

Damsons are my new favourite fruit. I didn’t even know what they were until recently, when I came across these miniature plums at Maltby Street market. They are a bit tart to eat raw, but I love the taste of them when cooked and the deep jewel-toned burgundy they take on when cooked. It is just so torturous having to stone them! It took me over 2 hours to remove the stones from over 1 kilo, but I must admit, it was worth the hideously stained fingertips and nails for this amazingly delicious, delicious, plummy sweet jam.

 

Damson jam

Makes about 1kg

1kg damsons

750g caster sugar

225ml water

Wash the damsons and pat them dry, getting rid of any that are bruised or badly blemished. Remove the stones.

Place the damsons and sugar into a preserving pan with the water and put over a low heat. Cook for 15 minutes on a gentle heat, stirring often until the sugar has dissolved. Turn up the heat and cook for another 10–15 minutes until the fruit is tender and the skins are soft. At this point, use a slotted spoon to skim off any scum that rises to the surface.

Once the jam looks firm, test for setting. As soon as it is ready, take it off the heat and spoon into warm sterilised jars. Cover the surface with a disc of waxed paper and allow to cool, then seal with a lid. This should keep for 1 year if kept in a cool, dark place.

(Recipe from Skye Gyngell’s How I cook, Quadrille, 2010)

Slow-cooked shoulder of lamb with red wine vinegar

I do love a bit of slow cooking now and then. There is something so satisfying about leaving something to cook slowly in the oven for hours on end while you go off and do your own thing. Good things do indeed come to those who wait. I love Skye Gyngell’s recipes. They always surprise and delight—there isn’t a recipe that I’ve tried yet that has underwhelmed me. In this recipe, a shoulder of lamb (a much neglected cut of meat) is cooked for hours amongst a mixture of fennel seeds, chilli, garlic, anchovy, sage and red wine vinegar. Everything comes together harmoniously and the end result is lamb so meltingly tender, with the vinegar acting to cut the richness. I am a sucker for any recipe that uses anchovies to add saltiness, and this recipe is the perfect example of how well it can work. I made mine with a half shoulder of lamb because it was just for me …

 

Slow-cooked shoulder of lamb with red wine vinegar

half a shoulder of lamb, bone in, about 1kg

sea salt and black pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

about 200ml white wine

½ teaspoon fennel seeds

1 dried red chilli, roughly torn

3 garlic cloves, peeled

small bunch of sage

1 bay leaf

4 anchovy fillets, packed in oil

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Preheat the oven to 160°C. Trim the lamb of most of its surface fat and season it with the salt and a few grindings of pepper. Place a frying pan (big enough to fit the shoulder) over a medium heat and add the olive oil. When it’s really hot, put in the lamb shoulder. Brown well on all sides to get a good colour all over.

Transfer to a roasting tray and pour off the fat from the pan, returning it to the hob on a low heat. Add the wine and let it bubble and reduce for a couple of minutes, then pour over the lamb.

Toast the fennel seeds in a dry pan until fragrant and add them to the roasting tray with the chilli, garlic, sage, bay leaf, anchovies and wine vinegar. Cover the roasting pan with foil, seal it tightly. Cook for 3 hours on the middle shelf.

After this time, take the lamb out of the oven and take the foil off. Return to the oven to cook for a further 30 minutes, at which stage the lamb should be utterly soft and brown. Serve it with some farro or pearl barley or some boiled new potatoes.

(Recipe from My Favourite Ingredients by Skye Gyngell, Quadrille 2008)

Three of the best cookbooks published in 2010

After reading the OFM’s 50 best cookbooks of all time, I was inspired to list three of my favourite. It is a shame to have so few as there have been a lot of great cookbooks published in 2010.

Every year, more and more cookbooks are being published—everyone speaks of how British food has in the past few years encountered a ‘rebirth’ or new lust for flavour. Since moving to the UK I have purchased countless numbers of cookbooks, they are just so varied and relatively well priced. Quadrille, a publisher I worship because they are the forefront of cookbook publishing, churning out amazingly laid out and beautifully produced cookbooks monthly, have come up with a really inspiring and genius series of new voices in food. I think this is a great idea and one that probably other publishers will get on the bandwagon of—promoting new and young foodies and giving any home cook a fresh take or perspective on food.

1. How I Cook by Skye Gyngell (Quadrille)

Skye Gyngell’s style of writing about food comes across so natural and genuine. She clearly knows her stuff in terms of taste and elegance. How I Cook is filled with straightforward recipes dependent on letting quality ingredients speak for themselves. My favourites are banana bread, slow-cooked lamb with artichokes, peas and mint, old-fashioned pancakes, and apple and green tomato pie. Chapter titles are related to meal times or meal occasions such as ‘special occasions’, ‘late night supper’ which gives the book an overall everyday cooking appeal.Whereas Skye’s other books could be seen as recipes for fancy special occasions, this book is more the paired-down little sister. A fantastic addition to the cookbook shelves, and I have to add that all of the baking recipes are to die for!

2. Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi (Ebury)

This choice is pretty much a clear winner. Yotam Ottolenghi is like the king of big and bold flavours. I think Yotam’s recipes are a bit like durian, you either love it or hate it. He must have a brilliant palate to come up with the ‘non-traditionalist’ flavour combinations. Who would have thought aubergine, mango and soba noodles would be so delicious? What’s more is that the whole book contains vegetarian recipes all inspired by a mix of diverse culinary cultures—all sides of the Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Asian. These cover a whole array of vegetables: the countless tasty treats that can come from the aubergine, salads that will make you think twice about calling salads ‘bland’, lentils and squashes. My favourite recipe hands-down has to be the green pancakes with lime butter.

3. Mexican Food: Made Simple by Thomasina Miers (Hodder & Stoughton)

Since winning MasterChef, Thomasina has made a huge success from her Wahaca restaurants. This cookbook is a gem for widening your repetoire of Mexican cooking. The introductory section is fully informative, detailing lots of facinating stuff about the many different kinds of chillies, beans and herbs used in Mexican cooking. I like the salsa recipes, they are so easy but are packed full of smoky or spicy flavours. The best discovery was the coconut ceviche, which was a highlight in terms of flavour sensations for the year of 2010! Dishes not only cover salsas, tacos, burritos and soups but they also include many slow-cooking main courses that are just plain mouth-watering—such as ‘meatballs de mehico’ and chicken and chorizo in an almond mole.

Apple and green tomato pie

When I first saw this recipe I was utterly intrigued. Is it sweet or savoury? My mind was boggled. It did make sense after all, tomato is a fruit! It was really quite hard to find green tomatoes though, unless you grow them in your backyard or know someone who does you have to hunt for them at specialist fruit and veggie market at the right time. Green tomatoes seem to be more commonly eaten in the US. I remember seeing that film back in the days Fried Green Tomatoes, where the main characters make battered fried green tomatoes. Being a kid who grew up in Dunedin where there were no such sightings of green tomatoes, I relished in the idea of biting into these delicious, almost exotic green tomatoes turned into fritter-like delights. Green tomatoes are simply unripened normal tomatoes but you hardly ever see them for sale. I lucked out and found them at Borough market—good old Borough market never lets me down.

Essentially, this is a sweet pie. It turned out a lot like apple and rhubarb pie but the green tomatoes give it a less stringy texture than the rhubarb. One of the best aspects of this recipe is the pastry. I used to make pastry in the food processor but having since then lost an important part to the food processor, I had to do this one the old fashioned way (by hand). It worked out great, I would highly recommend rubbing the butter into the flour by hand it it does lend a more authentic and finer feel to the pastry. It is slightly sweet, light and airy, flakey and rich all at once. It is truly a great sweet pastry recipe. My only slight contribution to the recipe was to make it that extra bit sweeter.

Apple and green tomato pie

Pastry

500g plain flour

pinch of salt

300g unsalted butter, well chilled and cut into 1cm cubes

25g caster sugar, and extra to sprinkle

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 large egg yolk

2-3 tablespoons cold water

milk to brush

Filling

5 Cox’s apples

4 green tomatoes

150g caster sugar

grated zest and juice of a lemon

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon light muscovado sugar

1. To make the pastry, sift flour and salt into a bowl and rub in the butter evenly until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Mix in sugar and vanilla extract. Lightly beat the egg yolk with the water in a small bowl then pour this over the flour mixture.

2. Combine with your fingertips to incorporate and add a little more water if required. Form into a ball and knead lightly. Wrap in foil and chill for an hour.

3. Now to prepare the filling. Core the apples and slice them finely leaving the skin on. Slice the tomatoes into rounds and place into a bowl with the apples. Add caster sugar, lemon zest and juice.

4. When the pastry is ready, take out half from the fridge and roll this out into a 3mm thick round large enough to line the base and sides of a 20cm fluted pie tin. Press the pastry into the tin and prick the base of the pastry. Chill for 30 minutes and preheat the oven to 180°C.

5. Line the pastry with grease proof paper and baking beans and blind bake for 15 minutes. Remove the paper and beans and bake for a further 5 minutes to dry out the base. Set aside to cool.

6. Roll out the rest of the pastry thinly into a round 5mm thick for the pie lid.

7. Stir cinnamon and sugar into the filling and pour into the pie case. Top with the pastry lid and press the pastry edges to seal with your thumbs, fluting them as you go. Brush with a little milk. Mark small incisions into the lid of the pie to let it breathe when baking.

8. Place in the oven (middle shelf) for 30-40 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown.

9. Sprinkle the pie with caster sugar and serve with cold pouring cream, cream friache or just a dollop of vanilla icecream.

Recipe from How I cook by Skye Gyngell (Quadrille).

Banana bread

Over-ripe bananas can be a real pain to use up. Even though there are countless ways to use them it always seems that at the perfect point for which you should be using them, you don’t feel like it, letting them turn from a perfect brown skin to black to utterly mouldy. I have let the banana down all too many times recently and I do love a good banana cake so decided to try Skye Gyngell’s recipe for banana bread from her new book How I cook. This book has been added to my list of best cookbooks of all time. The collection of recipes are so honest and homely and the choices of what has been included in the book seem to have been made with insight and a lot of love for quality and elegant home cooking. So of course when I found out Skye was doing a book signing in Richmond I was there in a flash. She was so nice, genuine, unpretentious and clearly had tonnes of class. These qualities are very much present in her recipes and I think, this one in particular. How could you make something that is usually delicious even more delicious I ask? well, you have to try this banana bread and you will see what I mean. It is perfect, not too sweet, not too heavy and dense and not too light and airy.  The book suggests serving this with apricot butter which really intrigues me, I think I will have to try that next time. The recipe calls for ripe bananas with a few spots but I think the browner the better—the more bruised and brown they are, the more flavour you will have. I used some that were on the verge of going black and this turned out divine.

Although I didn’t manage to get a very good picture that kind of doesn’t do the banana bread justice, I think this is the best thing I have baked all year.

Banana bread

125g unsalted butter, softened

250g plain flour

4 ripe bananas, peeled

a few drops of lemon juice

200g golden caster sugar

100g light muscovado sugar

2 organic free-range eggs

1/2 teaspoon good-quality vanilla extract

pinch of salt

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

125ml whole milk

75g light muscovado sugar (for sprinkling)

Preheat the oven to 190°C. Butter and flour a loaf tin, and line the base with baking paper. Mash the bananas with the lemon juice in a bowl. Beat the butter and sugar together in a large bowl till pale and creamy. Then beat in the eggs and incorporate the mashed bananas and vanilla.

Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon together into the mix. Carefully combine and then add the milk. Spoon the mix into the loaf tin and spread the muscovado sugar on top. Bake for 45 minutes or until done.

Let it cool (if you can resist) and once cool enough to cut, top with slices of cold butter.

Recipe adapted from How I cook (Murdoch).