Sugar Plum Parcels and The Fairy Glenn

IMG_2190

 

This post has been a long time coming. It was in fact planned to run consecutively after my last, but the thunderbolt that is ‘Brexit’ hit us and sent me into a free fall, that to be honest I have not yet recovered from and won’t be discussing it on hear at the moment as it is just too raw, so please respect this and don’t try to draw me into comments or arguments.
Also other recent events in Europe left me feeling that things needed to be said, but again, to disturbed too actually say anything.
My views, if anyone is interested, have been expressed perfectly by ‘Osyth’ on her wonderful blog ‘Half Baked in Paradise’, which is well worth checking out even if you are not interested in my views………..

Back to this post which provides a little bit of magic and much needed escapism from the world and its problems into ‘fairyland’.
The Fairy Glenn or Fairy Village, can be found (if you look very carefully) In the lovely’ Vale Park’ in ‘New Brighton’ (for more on this delightful family resort a beach pebbles throw from Liverpool) then look at my previous post, ‘New Brighton and Caramelised Mango’.

‘Fairy houses’ have been constructed from driftwood washed up on the excellent beach and stones and pebbles, and children have been encouraged to make their own using dolls and trinkets and ‘treasures’. Some of the results are a little bizarre, must most are magical and I have just posted photographs of a small selection to give you an idea.

WP_20160605_020

Who lives in a house like this

Or these

Plums, particularly sugar plums, were made famous by a fairy in Tchaikovsky’s ballet ‘The Nutcracker Suite’ and this has a particular resonance with my childhood as I spent most of my early years pouring over pictures of ballerinas and trying to mimic their poses in front of the huge mirror in the fire place in my bedroom, dreaming of one day floating like a fairy across the stage in an ethereal bell shaped ballet dress, a dream which was destined never to realised as I was physically and temperamentally  more suited to hammering it out in my red tap shoes………

Plums are now just coming into season – though still a bit hard and sharp for eating raw in my opinion, so I have opted cook them in a deceivingly simple dessert.
So put a little magic in to meal times and try my ‘Sugar Plum Fairy Parcels’………………………..

 

Ingredients

1 medium / large ‘firm’ plum (prune) of any colour or variety per person

 
Ready-made puff (pate feuilletee) pastry cut into squares large enough to wrap each plum

30g powdered almonds (poudre d’amandes)

3 dessertspoons of castor sugar (3 cuillere a soupe de sucre en poudre)
(I used Madagascan vanilla sugar for extra flavour and these quantities were plenty for 6 parcels)

A knob of butter per plum

Beaten egg yolk to glaze the pastry

Method

Mix the powdered almonds and sugar

Scoop out the stone from the plum and fill the cavity with the almond / sugar mixture

Top with a knob of butter

IMG_2186

Place in the centre of a pastry square and fold up the edges, squeezing together with the tips of your fingers

Brush with the beaten egg yolk and bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees for around 25 minutes until the pastry is golden and the plum juice bubbling

Sprinkle with a fairy dusting of sugar while still hot

Serve cold or warm (not hot) with a little crème fraiche

IMG_2193

 

 

Advertisements

Caramelised Mango and Coco lime custard

And Honeymoon in Malta part 2

WP_20160526_001

Mangoes are in season and those of you who have been following me for the last year or so have come to know how much I like my culinary journey through the seasons each year, so I created this dish which is the perfect marriage of flavours with the sweet sticky caramelised mangoes covered in silky, zesty coconut custard with the hint of lime and finished off with a crunchy topping of toasted flaked almonds……..

Speaking of perfect marriages, most of you will know that I was married recently and spent a romantic honeymoon on the romantic tiny island of Malta.
Last time I wrote about Malta’s seafaring history and the Knights of Saint John (see my last post on ‘Butternut Squash Lasagne and Maltese Honeymoon for more information) But I wanted to write a little more of what this lovely little island has to offer.

IMG_1808

Like this solitary tree, brave little Malta stood alone for many weeks during relentless bombardment during WWII

As I mentioned, Malta received the George Cross is the second highest honour that can be awarded in the UK (the first being ‘The Victoria Cross) and is an award for ‘gallantry’ given to civilians.
The island sustained more successive air raids than any other place during the second world war and a naval blockade which saw the population on the brink of dying from starvation.
During these air raids, three Gloster Gladiator bi-planes aptly named ‘Faith, Hope and Charity‘ formed part of what is thought to have been only around seven  or eight of these planes that held Maltese air defences for many weeks while waiting for reinforcements in the form of British Hurricanes.
So fierce were their counter attacks and so brave their resilience, that they forced Italian bombers to be escorted by fighters imagining that there was a squadron of between twenty and thirty!

Malte-_294

Malta’s glorious coastline

Being an island, Malta has miles of beautiful coastline, beaches and fishing villages, and of course, the Grand Harbour at Valetta, but the interior is not to be overlooked
We did this by means of an open topped tourist bus which allowed us to ‘hop on hop off’ around the island (there are in fact two tours, one taking in the north of the island, which I have featured here, and another the south) One ‘sight’ that is possible to see from the bus, if you do not want to go into the interior, is the Church of ‘Our Lady of the Assumption’ at Mosta, also know as the ‘Rotunda of Mosta’ and ‘The Miracle Church’, as during WWII the people of Mosta were at prayer in the church (which has one of the largest domes in Europe) when the air raid sirens sounded, many chose to remain inside the church which took a direct hit from a bomb, that passed through the centre of the dome and rolled down the aisle and out of the main door without exploding and the church and all inside were saved.

               The Dome  where the bomb passed straight through the center without exploding

8923627914_574e13a9a3_o

View of the dome of the church at Mosta as seen from the bus

One of the stops is an interesting craft center which is housed in former WWII aircraft hangers, this is where my new husband bought me a lovely silver Maltese 8 pointed cross necklace and we bought a gorgeous hand embroidered table cloth and place mats

IMG_1777

Former WWII air craft hangers now serving as a Craft Village

Another must is ‘The Silent City’ (the ancient capital of Malta) Mdina. Mdina which dates back more than 4000 years is one of Europe’s first walled cities, and it is said to be the place where Saint Paul lived after being shipwrecked on the island in 60AD.
This tiny medieval city was once home to many noble families throughout the years (Normans, Sicilians, Spanish) so it has many impressive palaces, bearing the crests of these families, but it is in the city’s narrow winding streets that its charm lies, and the best way to see it (though not to photograph it!) is in the back of a romantic horse drawn carriage ride (we were on honeymoon after all…..)

Mdina’s back streets and the discreet sign showing the way to the ‘Fontanella Tearooms’ with arguably the best view (and cakes!) in Malta

IMG_1792

Your carriage awaits madame

The Fontanella Tea Rooms are also a must, tucked away down a winding backstreet, the sign is easy to miss, but if you find yourself in Mdina, seek it out, if not for the cakes, then for the view, or both!
I opted for an orange and almond gateau and my husband chose, predictably, a dark chocolate and strawberry one, both were equally delicious, as we shared each other’s.
A significant event for us was our hands brushing together as we sat side by side at a function on the very first night that we met (10 years ago to the day before the day of our wedding). My natural instinct was to pull abruptly away, but when I looked down and saw these two hands together, they ‘just looked right’ so I let mine linger a little too long and the rest is history……It seemed fitting then that we took this ‘hand shot’ of us both sporting our sparkly new wedding bands.

Breathtaking view from the terrace of the Fontanella tea rooms

Speaking of desserts, lets get to the recipe, all this ‘armchair travelling’ builds up an appetite……….

Ingredients
Serves 4

1 large ripe mango peeled and sliced into 1/2 inch (1cm) thick wedges

30 g slightly salted butter

1 sachet of vanilla sugar (1 dessertspoon of unrefined castor sugar)

1/2 pint (300mls) coconut milk

1/2 pint (300 mls) double cream

3 large free range egg yolks

1 large free range egg

1 tablespoon (30g) castor sugar

the zest of 1 large lime

A good handful of flaked almonds

Method

Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed frying pan and saute the mango slices sprinkled with the vanilla sugar, turning once until caramelised on both sides.

WP_20160525_002

Divide the mango between four serving dishes and set aside to cool

WP_20160525_004

Mix the eggs and remaining sugar in a large basin

Heat the coconut milk and cream in a saucepan with the lime zest

Add the hot milk to egg and sugar mixture, beating continually with a whisk to avoid lumps

WP_20160525_009

Return the milk and egg mixture to the pan and reheat, still stirring continually until it thickens into a smooth ‘custard’

Pour the custard over the mango and leave to cool

Immediately before serving ‘toast’ the flaked almonds in a nonstick pan and sprinkle over the top of each dessert and simply enjoy

WP_20160526_001

 

Accidental Apple Pie!

 

WP_20151214_003 (2)

Many of you have noticed my absence over the past few weeks, this is due to the fact that, I, like most others at this time of the year, have been very busy (and still am!)
Not in the least to say that I am preparing an extended trip to the UK, so quite a lot of organising to be done!
That said, I was sad to say ‘au revoir’ today to some of my favourite and best students, a group of lovely ladies who have made going to work a pleasure.

We decided to finish half an hour early (and stay half an hour late) and each bring a dish to share a light lunch together – I opted to make a quiche, but being short on time I did what I almost never do, and bought ready made pastry…….I hear you gasp in horror………
My ignorance in buying ready made pastry shone through and I bought ‘Paté  brisée’ which is, I discovered on opening the packet, a sweet variety used for fruit tarts and definitely not quiche! A mistake that I did not discover until after the shops had closed.

Armed with only one apple, I hastily set about making ‘something out of nothing’ which is quite often the case with my cooking.
But ‘All’s well that ends well ‘ and the result was quite delicious (though the pastry not up to my usual standard – see Frangipan Tarte aux Poires et Chocolat’ for how to make the perfect pastry………for how to make the perfect pastry….

Ingredients
Filling only

1 large sweet apple (you can use more, but 1 is all that I had)

1 Tablespoon of jam (I used ‘abricots rouges’ but regular apricot is fine)

2 Table spoons of castor sugar

1 Tablespoon of vanilla sugar

2 medium free range eggs

1/2 pt / 250mls milk

A good sprinkle of nutmeg

Method

Line a tart dish with the pastry and ‘blind bake’ for 7 minutes

Core and finely slice the apple, sprinkle with lemon juice to stop discolouration and set aside

Beat the eggs and sugar together then add the milk

Remove the pastry from the oven and spread the jam evenly over the base

Arrange the apple slices on top of the jam and sprinkle with the vanilla sugar, return to the oven and bake for a further 3 minutes

Remove from the oven and pour over the ‘custard’ mixture and sprinkle the nutmeg over the top

Bake for a further 25 minutes, or until the custard is just set

I think that this tart is best eaten when it has been allowed to cool little  or even cold.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

As we will not be here over the Christmas period, it was not worth decorating a real tree, so we have just got a little fibre optic one on a small table by the window – but it is quite pretty.
Also as this may be my last post for a while, I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very merry Christmas and a peaceful New Year. See you in 2016

Lindy

 

Festive Strudel Tarte and ‘La Goulue’

IMG_1474 (2)

 

As a follow up from my rather complicated, but very warmly received Christmas cake, here is a VERY simple and VERY adaptable ‘Strudel Tarte’ that I saw featured on French breakfast tv, and in true Taste of Two Cities’ manner, I have tweaked and adapted it, and I am very pleased with the results so far.

Also in true ‘Taste of Two Cities’ manner, I am going to run a little cultural introduction, and this week I have been inspired by a visit to a local restaurant on the banks of the river Marne, ‘La Goulue.

WP_20151205_006 (2)

‘La Goulue’ (real name Louise Weber) was a dancer at the ‘Moulin Rouge’ who was immortalised by Toulouse Lautrec’ in his advertising posters.

SAM_0598 (2)
She was in fact the first dancer to introduce the racy dance moves that were to evolve into the famous ‘French Can Can’ by lifting her skirts high while dancing and revealing a heart embroidered on her panties, and would make a high kick, lifting a gentleman’s hat from his head.
She was given the name ‘La Goulue’ (the glutton) as, as she danced past the tables she would sweep up a customer’s drink and down its contents in one!

The restaurant echoes the ambiance of the ‘Belle Epoque’ with Lautrec style murals and Tiffany style glass.
The menu is very typically French with dishes such as ‘Magret de Canard’, ‘Porc Normand’ and ‘Coquilles St Jacques’ and a wonderful selection of traditional desserts all cooked to perfection.
We were there early at a mid-week lunchtime, so I was able, with the permission of the owner, to take some photographs, but at Sunday lunchtime you must book in advance to secure a table.

To return to the Strudel Tarte, the one made on breakfast television contained ‘Nutella’ pecan nuts and pear, as I do not like ‘Nutella’ and I was out of both pecans and pears, I used ‘crème de marrons’ assorted raisons and apple (and a sprinkling of all spice)
My next attempt is going to feature ‘mincemeat’ (to make ‘mince pies’, not ‘minced meat’ to make lasagne – in case any non-Brits are confused!) and cranberries and either pecans or walnuts (whatever I have to hand).
You could equally use fig or apricot jam with figs and dates, or whatever you like – you are only limited by your imagination – and what you have in your cupboards! I am also going to try this out using Cranberry sauce and Brie cheese and walnuts – so watch this space.

All I have to add is that this is one of the easiest recipes that I have tried and it got the ‘Silent’ factor from my usually gregarious beau-fils (step-son) and Monsieur le Frog also…so without further ado…

Ingredients

Two sheets of ready-made ‘puff’ pastry

1 table spoon of crème de marrons (or equivalent – I used ‘crème de marrons du ‘Massif Central’)

IMG_1486 (2)

A good handful of mixed raisons

Half an apple finely chopped

1 teaspoon of all spice

1 beaten egg for brushing

2 teaspoons of vanilla sugar

Method

Cut two circles of puff pastry

Cover one with the crème marrons, leaving a 1 inch (2 cm) border

Sprinkle with the raisins, apple and all spice

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Brush the edges with the egg and place the second circle on top, gently pressing down the edges to seal them

Place a glass upside down in the centre and cut into quarters up to the glass, leaving the centre intact

IMG_1473 (2)

Cut each quarter into three and twist the edges in a ‘clockwise’ direction

Remove the glass and sprinkle a handful of flaked almonds in the space where the glass was

Brush with the remaining beaten egg and bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees/gas mark 4 for 20 minutes

Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the vanilla sugar, return to the oven and cook for a further 10 minutes until golden

Allow to cool a little for 5 minutes before serving with a little crème fraiche on the side

IMG_1477 (4)

Guaranteed success on a plate…..

 

 

Traditional Christmas Cake

 

1912170_10205395752633324_5633348815044253765_n[1]

As it is time to start thinking about what you have in your store cupboards in preparation for making a Christmas cake, here by popular demand, here is my traditional British Christmas cake recipe reposted from last year for those of you who missed it and the many of you who have contacted me asking me to post it again…..
There are no hard and fast rules when making a ‘traditional’ British Christmas cake, some use treacle, others syrup, some dark soft brown sugar and others light, some add ground almonds or walnuts and some use glacé cherries and candied peel.
I prefer a lighter fruitier, less sweet cake, so I do not include syrup or treacle, or glacé cherries or candy peel, and as my daughter is allergic to almonds I leave them out also, and only put marzipan on the top of the cake, so it is easier for her to avoid.
I do however, play about with the fruit varieties, and over time have arrived at what is the perfect cake for me and my family, with the inclusion of ‘blond’ raisons, dates and cranberries to give it a lighter, festive flavour.
But as long as you keep to the amounts, you can use whatever dried fruits you like and reduce the butter a little (25g) if adding treacle or syrup.

GetAttachment[1] (2)

Polar Bears are Christmassy right!

When it comes to decorating, you are only limited by your own imagination… I only ice the top of my cake, as I do not like too much sugary icing, and as I only put marzipan on the top, the icing becomes discoloured with the moisture from the cake seeping through if you put it direct on the cake…..

If you are thinking of making a Christmas cake this year – then make it no later than three weeks before to allow it to ‘mature’ and maybe save it for New Year!

Don’t be put off by the size of this post, all is done in different stages and the end result and sense of satisfaction is well worth the effort………….

Ingredients For the cake

750g of mixed dried fruit (raisins, ‘blond’ raisons, sultanas, currents as you prefer)

150 g of additional dried fruit (glacé cherries, cranberries, dates, candied peel – again as you prefer)

100g of chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds – again as you prefer)

The zest and juice of one orange and one lemon

2 tablespoons of brandy (plus extra for ‘feeding’ – port, sherry, rum or whiskey can also be used)

250g softened butter

250g soft brown sugar (or ‘dark’ soft brown sugar)

4 large free range eggs (beaten)

150g sieved plain flour

75g ground almonds (or 225g sieved plain flour)

2 teaspoons of ground mixed spice (allspice)

1 tablespoon of treacle (optional)

Baking paper/greaseproof paper, brown paper and string

For the icing

1 tablespoon of warm apricot jam

1 pack of ‘Royal’ icing

1 pack of marzipan/almond paste

Cake decorations or food colouring to make your own

Method Preparing the fruit.

Mix all the dried fruit, nuts and orange and lemon zest in a large mixing bowl with the orange and lemon juice and the brandy, cover with cling film and leave to soak for 24 hours

IMG_1403 (3)

Preparing the tin It is really important to prepare the cake tin properly to avoid the cake drying out to much while cooking.

IMG_1408 (2)

Lightly grease the sides and bottom of a loose bottom cake tin with butter, and line with baking or greaseproof paper

Lightly grease the paper and line with a second layer, then lightly grease again before adding the cake mixture.

Wrap a double layer of brown paper around the outside of the tin, reaching 2inches/5 cm higher than the tin, and secure tightly with string.

IMG_1410 (2)

The mixture and putting it all together

Sieve the flour with the allspice and add the ground almonds if using, mixing well

Cream the softened butter with the sugar until pale and fluffy (an electric whisk will make this job much easier)

IMG_1413 (3)

Add the eggs a tablespoon as a time, followed by a dessertspoon of flour after to prevent the eggs from curdling

IMG_1414 (2)

Stir in the soaked fruits along with any liquid, then add the remaining flour and ground almonds

IMG_1415 (2)

Spoon the mixture in to the prepared tin, smoothing with the back of a spoon, making a slight ‘dip’ in the centre and patting the mixture with dampened fingertips to prevent it from drying out too much during cooking.

IMG_1416 (2)

Cook in a preheated oven at 160 degrees/ gas mark 3 for 2hrs

If the top begins to brown too much at this stage, cover the top with tin foil

Reduce heat to 140 degrees/ gas mark 1 for a further 1hr 45mns

Insert a skewer into the centre, if it comes out clean then it is done

Allow to cool completely on a wire cooling rack then wrap in aluminium foil and then in a clean tea towel and store in an airtight container until ready to ice

xmas cake (3)

Feeding the cake

After a week, unwrap the cake and make some small holes with a fine skewer and ‘feed’ it with a teaspoon of brandy, allow to soak in then recover and return to the container Do this every week, turning the cake upside down each time before ‘feeding’ it (as mentioned, brandy can be replaced by sherry or port, or Rum or whiskey if you prefer!)

The final touches – the ‘fun’ part Icing and decorating the cake

At the last moment (preferably Christmas Eve) is the time to let your imagination and creativity run wild. Your cake can be a simple or extravagant, classic or quirky as you want. You can make your own decorations or buy them ready made. You can ice just the top as I, or the sides also. The important thing is to cover the cake with a half inch/1cm layer of marzipan/almond paste before the icing

Roll out the marzipan to ½ 1cm thickness and cut just larger than the top (and sides) of the cake

Warm the apricot jam and spread over the top (and sides) of the cake before covering it with the marzipan

Press the marzipan into position using a rolling pin, then cover with the icing, also pressing into place with a rolling pin, giving you a smooth flat surface which to decorate………

SAM_0472 (2)

One I made last year!

Finish by wrapping a ribbon around the cake and fixing it with a little icing sugar paste.

Have fun!

10433210_10205320010579820_5272474714569705392_n[1]

One my very talented friend Jayne made last year!

BLACKBERRY SEASON AND TARTE AUX MURES

SAM_1073

 

It’s that time of year again – a time that I loved when I was a little girl and off I would go with my cousin, Margaret to ‘Uncle Jack’s allotment’ (see my ‘Radish Starter’) to pick blackberries from his abundant bushes. We would bring half home in plastic bags, the other half went direct into our stomachs – and yes, we did have belly ache! Our fingers, tongues and T-shirts would be purple/black with the juice and our arms and legs covered in scratches where we had pushed ourselves deep into a bush to retrieve a particularly juicy berry that was just out of reach.

Once home our grandmother would make them into a pie, and I can still taste the sweet, soft pastry topped with sugar and the dark, sharp fruit inside.

Sadly this has not been a good year for the blackberries, as there has been very little rain and too much sun, so they are generally small and shrivelled. We did, however managed to salvage some, just enough to make one tart (French equivalent of ‘pie’), and fill some pots with jam; but nowhere near as many as last year. (There will be a ‘jam’ post in a couple of weeks)

SAM_1070 (2)

My meagre Blackberry ‘harvest’ this year

BLACKBERRY TART Ingredients

1lb/500g blackberries (or as many as you can find!)

Sweet pastry (paté sucre)

7oz/200g plain flour*

3 ½ oz/ 100g slightly salted butter

1 Tablespoon (2 cuillers a soupe) Icing sugar (sucre glace)

2 free range egg yolks (jaune d’oeuf)

*See my post on ‘Lindy’s Mama Mia Pizza’ for a table on International flour grades)

Crème Patisserie

2 oz/ 50g unsalted butter

1 oz/25g plain flour*

2 oz/50g castor sugar (sucre en poudre)

2 free range eggs (de poules elevees en plein air)

5 fl oz/150ml milk

Seeds from 1 vanilla pod (grains de vanille)

Method Sweet Pastry (paté sucre)*

Sift (tamiser) the flour and icing sugar together in to a bowl

Cut the butter into small cubes and quickly rub into the flour mixture until it resembles fine breadcrumbs

Add the egg yolks and ‘cut’ into the mixture with a knife before gathering it together with you hands to form a ball (if the mixture is too dry, add a small amount of ice cold water, a little as a time)

Knead (petrir) until smooth and flatten into a disk, wrap in cling film and rest in the fridge for 1-2 hours

*See the end of this post for how to make the perfect pastry

Crème Patisserie

Gently melt the butter in a saucepan over a low heat

Add the flour and sugar stirring constantly with a wooden spoon

Add the eggs and beat until smooth

Add the milk and continue to stir constantly

As the sauce begins to thicken remove from the heat and stir with a hand whisk

Stir in the vanilla, cover with cling film and leave to cool

Putting it all together

Remove the pastry from the fridge for a couple of minutes

Roll out the pastry on a board sprinkled with a little flour until it is large enough to fit a 9”/23cm tart tin and cover the sides.

Line the tart tin with the pastry, trim off any excess and place in the freezer for 10 minutes, while the oven in preheating (with a baking tray inside) at 190 degree/gas mark 5

Remove the pastry from the freezer and lightly prick the base with a fork (do not puncture) Line the pastry with baking foil or greaseproof paper and weigh down with baking beans (I use dried kidney beans)

Bake for 15 minutes, then carefully remove the beans and paper and bake for a further 3-4 minutes, until the pastry is a light biscuit colour. Then leave to cool completely.

Spread the crème patisserie evenly over the cooled pastry case and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes

Decorate with the Blackberries and serve chilled

(This recipe works equally well with raspberries, strawberries or redcurrants)

A perfect marriage of sweet crisp pastry, soft vanilla crème patisserie and tangy berries….Definately my type of tart!

How to make perfect Pastry Ingredients

200g/7oz plain flour (Aldi was my favorite in the UK, but Francine ‘farine de ble pour tous usages’ works well)

80g TREX (100g margarine – TREX has a higher water content so 20% less is needed)

1 egg yolk (jaune)

2 dessertspoons (cuilleres de soupe) of ice cold water

A pinch of salt

The four main factors for making a good pastry are:-

The speed of making it – pastry does not like to be over handled

The temperature – the cooler the room, your hands, the surface, and the water the better.

The amount of moisture – the drier the pastry, the more light and crumbly (short) it is – even if it is more difficult to work with and may need patching up, it is worth it for the end result. The wetter, the more you will break your teeth! The time spent ‘resting the pastry before cooking.

Method

Wash your hands and rinse in cold water

Sieve the flour with the salt into a large, preferable pottery mixing bowl

Chop in the TREX (or equivalent) with a cold knife, then quickly work it into breadcrumbs using the tips of your fingers only and lifting the mixture from the bowl as the work it, to get as much air in the mixture as possible

Cut the egg yolk into the mixture again using a cold knife

Add the water (direct from the fridge – the colder the better, iced water is best) and mix all together with a cold knife

Quickly draw the mixture into a ball, wrap in cling film and put in the fridge to ‘rest’ for at least 30 minutes (alternatively put in the freezer if not ready to use immediately)

Remove from fridge a couple of minutes before rolling out to fit a 12” (30xm) flan/quiche dish

Put back in fridge to rest for at least 30 minutes or until ready to use

Always allow hot fillings to completely cool before putting into uncooked tart or quiche pastry, as otherwise it will make the pastry ‘soggy’ instead of ‘crisp’

I CAN COOK A RAINBOW, ‘TARTE AUX MIRABELLES’ AND NANCY, FRANCE

IMGP2833 (2)

One of the things that I love about this time of year, is the arrival of an array of different coloured fruits and vegetables in the markets and supermarkets. From red, orange, yellow, green’ and ‘black’ tomatoes (actually more a deep purple red, but called ‘black’), to green, orange and yellow courgettes. And orange, yellow, white and violet carrots (See ‘Cocotte de veau avec carottes violettes et gingembre’) to purple and orange cauliflowers!

IMGP2797 (2)

Selection of colourful, seasonal fruit and veg

I resisted the temptation of buying the purple cauliflower, as I was not sure that I would fancy eating something this ‘exotic’ but I was tempted by the orange one.

IMGP2805 (2)

The lovely orange caulie flower, that made a delicious caulie flower cheese (to follow)

There is also an abundance of other wonderful richly coloured fruits, such as bright crimson plumbs and deep purple ‘quetsches’ and gorgeous orange and yellow ‘Mirabelles’ blushed with rose.

MIrabelles are small oval ‘plums’ that in France only grow in the Lorraine region in the extreme east, notably around the towns of Nancy and Metz. My head office is at Nancy, so I get to visit here from time to time. At the heart of this lovely town is the a beautiful ‘Place Stanislas’ (fondly known as ‘Stan’), named after Stanislaw I a former king of Poland, who was the father in law of the French King Louis XV, and it is surrounded by some very impressive buildings, including the stately ‘Hotel de Ville’, the ‘Musee de Beaux Arts, the Opera-Theatre’, and even a mini ‘Arc de Triomphe’ (Arche Heré).

PENTACON DIGITAL CAMERA

Arche Heré , Place ‘Stan’

Place Stan is a great meeting place and is also has several cafés where you can sit and people watch and during the summer evenings watch the magical spectacle of coloured lights being projected onto the all the grand buildings illuminating the square.

PENTACON DIGITAL CAMERA

Statue of ‘Stanislow’ and the Hotel de Ville Nancy

PENTACON DIGITAL CAMERA

Another impressive gate at ‘Place Stanislas’ Nancy

Back to the Mirabelles – the larger, sweeter fruit that is grown near Nancy is best eaten fresh, while the smaller, harder, fruit grown near Metz makes excellent tarts, jam and even brandy!

This time I have made a tart ………

Ingredients
Shortcrust pastry (If you prefer sweet pastry (paté sucré), see my post for ‘Tarte aux Mures’)

200g/7oz plain flour (Aldi was my favorite in the UK, but Francine ‘farine de ble pour tous usages’ works well)

80g TREX (100g margarine – TREX has a higher water content so 20% less is needed)

1 egg yolk (jaune)

2 dessertspoons (cuilleres de soupe) of ice cold water

A pinch of salt

Method

Chop in the TREX (or equivalent) with a cold knife into the flour, then quickly work it into breadcrumbs using the tips of your fingers only and lifting the mixture from the bowl as you work it, to get as much air in the mixture as possible

Cut the egg yolk into the mixture again using a cold knife

Add the water (direct from the fridge) and mix all together with a cold knife

Quickly draw the mixture into a ball, wrap in cling film and put in the fridge to ‘rest’ for at least 30 minutes (alternatively put in the freezer if not ready to use immediately)

Remove from fridge a couple of minutes before rolling out to fit a 12” (30xm) flan/quiche dish

Put back in fridge to rest for at least 30 minutes or until ready to use

Always allow hot fillings to completely cool before putting into uncooked tart or quiche pastry, as otherwise it will make the pastry ‘soggy’ instead of ‘crisp’

Ingredients
Filling

1lb/500g of mirabelles

½ pt /200ml of single cream (crème fraiche liquide)

2 eggs

2 sachets/15g of vanilla sugar

A good pinch of nutmeg (muscade)

1 tablespoon/ 2 cuillers a soupe of plum jam (confiiture de prune) – I used my own home made plum and Mirabelle jam

Method

Lightly beat the eggs with the sugar and stir in the cream and the nutmeg

Line the bottom of the tarte with jam (if it is slightly warm it will spread easier)

Cut the mirabelles in half and arrange in circles around the tart

Pour over the custard mixture and bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees/gas mark 4 for 35-40 minutes, until the custard is set and the pastry golden.

Delicous warm or cold with a little crème fraiche

if you cannot find mirabelles, this tarte works well with plums or gooseberries.

IMGP2798 (3)

You cannot beat eating seasonally!