Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Italian ham and spinach tart - Jamie at Home

If you looking for something to make for brunch or even a simple lunch with some friends, this tart will hit the spot. The flavours are a perfect match, from the sweet flavour of the red onion and the parmesan cheese mixed in with the creme fraiche, down to the slight hit of rosemary and thyme you get from the shortcrust pastry. By the way, this pastry = very tasty!!

I have never made this one before but it's on my list to make again now (ok B I will make another for you and Mr Always-Hungry-B!!).

I made the pastry from the same book as the tart - Jamie at home - Cook your way to the good life. The pastry was quite easy (I know what your saying "Yeah right!") but it really is. You really can't go wrong, as I've said before the less you handle the dough, the better it will hold up. You can always put it in the fridge for longer or put it back in the fridge again if you find you are losing patience with how soft it is.

The best savoury shortcrust pastry (pg353)

500g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
200g butter cut into cubes (it actually says lard in his book but I just used butter)
50g freshly grated cheddar cheese
1 sprig of fresh rosemary, leaves picked
1 few sprigs of fresh tyme, leave picked
2 large eggs
a splash of milk (which I didn't use)

This savoury pastry is good for making tarts, quiches and the like. Jamie says the two main principles behind making it are the same as for sweet pastry: stick to a ratio of half fat to flour, and bring the pastry together as quickly as possible without pulsing the dough too much.

You can flavour the savoury one in different ways, try things like paprika, black pepper or nutmeg instead of the rosemary and thyme like I did. He also says feel free to use butter instead of lard as suggested.

Put the flour, butter, cheese and generous pinch of sea salt into a food processor and pulse for 20 to 30 seconds or until the mixture is crumbly and fine. Add the rosemary and thyme leaves or your chosen flavouring.

Pour in the eggs and add the milk. Pulse for a few more seconds until the mixture comes together. Scoop your dough out of the food processor on to a clean floured work surface and pat it a few times to make it more compact - don't be tempted to knead it.

Wrap the dough in gladwrap and place it in the fridge to rest for at least half an hour (this is key to rolling success). After half an hour get your pastry out and roll it with a floured rolling pin into a rectangle shape about .5cm thick and gig enough to line a shallow baking tray about 30 x 40cm.

Line your baking tray with paper and place your pastry onto the tray. Trim excess off the edges of the tray, leaving a 1cm overhang. Pinch this overhanging dough up to give a little rim. This not only gives it a rustic edge but also stops the pastry from shrinking and it means theres's no need to fill the pastry case with beans or rice before baking it blind. Prick the pastry all over with a fork and chill in the freezer for another 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees/375F/gas 5. Remove the tray from the fridge/freezer and bake your pastry case in the preheated oven for 6 to 8 minutes, until lightly golden. This is called baking it blind, and it stops the pastry from going soggy when you add the filling.

You will need the following for the filling: (page 347 Jamie at home)
olive oil
3 red oinions, peeled and finely sliced
1 clove of garlic, peeled and sliced
350g spinach, washed and thick stems removed (I used baby spinach)
a few sprigs of fresh marjoram or oregano, leaves picked and chopped
sea salt and black pepper
500g creme fraiche (I found this in the cream section of woolies, it has a picture of masterchef on it!)
150g freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for grating
3 large eggs
200g cooked smoked ham, torn into shreds or chopped ( I used some smoked shaved ham just from my local deli)

Next, heat a glug of olive oil in a large frying pan and gently fry the onions on a low heat for 10 minutes until they're soft and sweet, but don't let them colour. Turn up the heat, add the garlic, the spinach (in batches if your pan isn't big enough) and most of the oregano or marjoram. Season lightly and give it a good stir. Take the pan off the heat whent he spinach has wilted - this will only take a couple of minutes.

To make the filling mixture, put the creme fraiche into a bowl, stir in the Parmesan, eggs and a pinch of salt and pepper, mix together and set aside. Now spread the spinach mixture over your pastry case. Sprinkle over the ham, and spoon the mixture evenly over the top, smoothing it out with the back of the spoon.
Grate over a generous helping of Parmesan, sprinkle over the rest of the marjoran or oregano leaves and drizzle with some olive oil.

Bake in a preheated oven for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the top is golden and bubbling and the filling has set. Lovely served with a little salad.
Enjoy M xx

Family dinners - Shepherds Pie

Now that I've confessed my cooking sins and told you all about my obsession with Jamie Oliver - I have another obsession confession - Donna Hay!! I love all her books, I probably have all her magazines, especially all the kids issues. B stopped by Donna's shop when she was last in Sydney and sent me a picture and said "Guess where I am?". She at least got me some cupcake wrappers - thanks B! I've even managed to convert the tuckshop convener at our school to add some of Donna's recipes to the tuckshop menu.

The books are easy to follow and have some very yummy recipes, both a 'must' for busy families. Even if you want to impress your dinner guests by simply adding something special to your table decorations these magazines and books have it all. I guess they don't call her the queen of styling for nothing.

I'm working my way through "Modern Classics Book 1" at the moment and I have a few pages that are stuck together already. This book has soups, salads, vegetables, roasts, pasta, rice, pies and tarts but there are no desserts in this book.

The Shepherds Pie I made is very flavoursome. I think the flavour of the peas and that hint of bay leaf and thyme make it even tastier or richer. I have even made them into small pies for the three munchkins, but either way they love it (even with the carrots and peas hiding in it!). This is true family comfort food!

Shepherd's pie 
Donna Hay - Modern Classics Book 1 - page 158

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 onions, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
600g lamb or beef mince
2 tablespoons tomato paste
400g can peeled tomatoes
1 cup beef stock
1 fresh or dried bay leaf
1 sprig thyme
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
sea salt and cracked black pepper

Potato mash
1 kg potatoes, peeled and chopped
75g butter
1/4 cup of milk
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees (375F). Heat a large saucepan over medium heat and cook the oil, onion and carrot for 5 minutes or until soft and golden. Add the mince and cook for 3 minutes or until browned. Stir through the tomato paste, tomatoes, stock, bay leaf and thyme. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the peas and simmer, uncovered, for a further 15 minutes or until all the liquid has evaporated. Add the salt and pepper and set aside.

To make the mash, boil the potatoes in the water until soft. Drain and mash with the butter and milk then stir through the Parmesan.
Spoon the meat mixture into a 4 cup capacity ovenproof dish. Top with the mash and bake for 35 minutes or until golden brown.
Serves 4-6

Enjoy M xx

Jamie's 30 minute meals - Jools's Pasta

So I'm going to jump on the "30 minute meal" band wagon with B. I have to admit the recipes are nice and easy to follow and it actually took me, between 30 and 35 minutes!! Not bad don't you think?

Jamie says you have to make sure you have a clean kitchen to start this means no clean dishes waiting to be put away, no dirty dishes waiting to be washed and make sure you have all your ingredients out and ready to start! I initially thought - are you joking, who does that? But I gave it a go and properly cleaned up and got prepared. I looked like I was about to filmed for a cooking show (where was hair and make-up when I needed them?).

I was actually really impressed, not just about the fact that it only took 30 minutes but the fact that the dish had some great flavours using fresh simple ingredients. The 3 cherubs who will try most things enjoyed it too. (Just a side note - anyone else have a child who doesn't like things touching each other on the plate and who eats pasta with the sauce on the side then dips the pasta into the sauce before eating it - yes I know, strange isn't it??!).

I have a feeling this book is going to get a workout in the next few months (sorry lovely readers, you will also get a visual workout of this book) as we have two days a week that are very busy and I need to be fast and get something on the table that everyone will enjoy.

Ok readers, get your dishes washed, your ingredients ready. Your time starts............ NOW!

Today's dish is from Jamie's 30 minute meal book page 30 "Pregnant Jools's Pasta"

You will need
4 spring onions
1 carrot
1 stick of celery
1-2 fresh red chillies ( I used one chilli and I took the seeds out - for the kids)
1 x 6 pack of good quality sausages - approx 400g (I went and bought some at the butchers - beef ones)
1 heaped teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon dried oregano
500g dried penne
4 cloves of garlic
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
a few Basil leaves torn up
and some parmesan cheese

Trim the spring onions, carrot and celery. Roughly chop all the vegetables, then blitz in the food processor with the chillies( stalks removed). Add the sausages, 1 heaped teaspoons of fennel seeds and 1 teaspoon of oregano. Keep pulsing until well mixed.

Then spoon this mixture into the hot frying pan with a lug of olive oil, breaking it up and stirring as you go.
Put a large deep saucepan on low heat and fill with boiled water for the pasta.

Season the water then add the penne and cook according to packet instructions.
Crush 4 unpeeled cloves of garlic into the sausgae mixture and stir in 4 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and the tinned tomatoes. Add a little of the starchy cooking water from the pasta to loosen if needed.

Drain the pasta, reserving about a wineglass worth of the cooking water. Tip the pasta into the pan of sauce and give it a gentle stir, adding enough of the cooking water to bring it to a silky consistency. Taste, correct the seasoning, then tip into a large serving bowl and take straight  to the table, scatter over some basil leaves and parmesan.

Enjoy! M xx

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Double - decker mud cake! Yes - DOUBLE!

Ok....who needs another chocolate hit? For all those chocolate lovers (that includes you B) this cake is a MUST.....not an everyday must, or a once a week must, but just for a special occiasion or for someone special in your life kinda 'must'. It's a cake that needs some care and attention and can't be rushed, so when you are feeling in the mood and in the baking 'zone' you will be ready to attempt this one.

I first admired this cake in a book I bought many years ago amongst The Australian Women's Weekly cookbooks called Wicked Sweet Indulgences. This book really does have some wickedly nasty indulgent things from self-saucing puddings to creme brulee and Mars Bar cheesecake.

The cake does require alot of chocolate so it's not exactly a cake to make when you're on a budget (or diet for that matter) as you do want to use quality chocolate. Probably the hardest part I found with making it was slicing the cakes evenly in half, as you need 4 even layers (but it's not a huge deal so don't stress). I think it's all about taking your time.

The Australian Women's Weekly - Wicked Sweet Indulgences page 54
250g butter, chopped
150g white chocolate, chopped coarsely
2 cups (440g) caster sugar  ( I can see you all thinking!!! WOW sugar overload)
1 cup (250ml) milk
1 1/2 cups (225g) plain flour
1/2 cup self-raising flour
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
2 eggs, beaten lightly
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
600g milk chocolate (YES I know!!!)
1 cup (250ml) cream

1 Preheat oven to slow. Grease two deep 20cm-round cake pans, line bases and sides with baking paper.
Important - try and make sure your cake tins are as close to 20cm as you can

2. Combine butter, white chocolate, sugar and milk in medium saucepan, stir over heat, without boiling, until smooth. Transfer mixture to large bowl, cool 15 minutes.
3. Whisk sifted flours into white chocolate mixture then whisk in essence and eggs, pour half of the mixture into one of the prepared pans. Whisk sifted cocoa into remaining mixture, pour into other prepared pan.

Bake cakes in slow oven about 50 minutes. Stand cakes 5 minutes, turn cakes, top-side up, onto wire rack to cool.

4. Combine milk chocolate and cream in medium saucepan, stir over low heat until smooth. (make sure it doesn't get too hot or your chocolate will burn). Transfer to medium bowl. Cover, refrigerate, stirring occasionally, until chocolate mixture is of spreadable consistency (not runny!). Reserve 1 cup of the chocolate mixture for spreading over the top of the cake.
5. Split each cooled cake in half. Centre one layer of the cake on serving plate, spread with 1/2 cup of remaining milk chocolate mixture. Repeat layering, alternating colours. Cover top and sides of the cake with reserved chocola te mixture.


tip: You can also melt the milk-chocolate and cream in a microwave oven, cook on HIGH (100%) about 11/2 minutes, pausing to stir every 30 seconds.

I didn't make the icing until I had completed the cake as I wanted to make sure it turned out before I wasted 3 blocks of chocolate.

Enjoy....WE DID! M xx

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Orchard Eve Pudding - another M and B Jamie Oliver obsession!

Something that will really not surprise you by now, is that I really do like the odd Jamie Oliver cook book (and maybe the man himself!). Between M and B we may just have all of his books and even some DVD's on our shelves. I find his recipes very easy to follow and just so darn tasty. This pudding I made is from his "Jamie at Home" book "Cook your way to the Good Life" and with the cooler months approaching us, this pudding is one for the memory bank as you can add any fruit that is in season really, with the exception of raspberries as they tend to disappear!

This Pudding is called "Orchard Eve's pudding with whisky Jersey cream" on page 301 in his book "Jamie at Home"

You will need
1.5kg (any of the following fruit you can use) apples, pears, plums, banana, peaches or strawberries
I used apples, pears and plums in this pudding
a large knob of butter, plus a little extra for buttering the dish
100g brown sugar
a pinch of ground cinnamon
a pinch of ground nutmeg
a pinch of ground ginger
3 fresh bay leaves - i didn't have any fresh ones so i used 2 dried ones
1 vanilla pod
1 300ml double cream
1 tablespoon icing sugar
a little swig of whisky - i pinched a little of Mr M's burbon

for the batter
200g butter, softened
200g golden caster sugar - i used normal caster sugar
4 large free-range eggs
200g self-raising flour

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees/350F/gas mark 4.

Peel and core the apples and pears and cut them into large wedges. Halve and stone the plums (their skin can be left on). Place in a big saucepan with the butter, brown sugar, spices and bay leaves, give it a stir and stew gently for 20 to 30 minutes with the lid on. The smell of the spices and the fruit stewing is devine!!

When the fruit is soft and cooked, remove the pan from the heat, discard the bay leaves and put to one side.

To make the batter, cream the butter and sugar together with a wooden spoon in a bowl until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating them in well, then fold in the flour. You can make this in a food processor too, which is what I did.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer half the cooked fruit (without the juices) into the bottom of a round, 20cm buttered ovenproof baking dish. Top with the batter, then spoon over the remaining fruit, reserving the juices. Bake in the preheated oven for 40 to 45 minutes, or until golden brown and risen. To check whether it's cooked through, stick a skewer or small knife into the middle of the sponge - if it comes out clean, you're in business.

Slice the vanilla pod in half lengthways and scrape the seeds out using the back of your knife. Put them into a bowl with the cream. Lightly whisk the cream and vanilla seeds and icing sugar until it forms soft peaks (Very lightly is the key with double cream). Fold in the whisky!!

Serve straight away with big dollops of the cream and a drizzle of the fruit juices.

M xx

Friday, 25 March 2011

Banneton Bakery - bread for all occasions

Today's post (and photography!) is courtesy of M and B's mum and dad - and grandparents to M's munchkins. Granny and Poppy (as the munchkins call them) have a Saturday morning ritual of grocery shopping and coffee out somewhere. They get their priorities right in B's book - coffee first to help fight the crowds, and groceries second once you have your strength.

Granny and Poppy certainly have their favourite coffee haunts but recently favour Banneton Bakery, Balaclava St, the Gabba ( as their coffee stop on a Saturday morning. Banneton is home to wood-fired breads and a selection of pastries, with light meals and coffee available also. Poppy is addicted to their pumpkin scones and if he misses out on his Saturday fix, WATCH OUT! Banneton's pumpkin scones are to die for - nice, light and quite moist. Poppy clearly prefers his with lashings of butter (see below), whilst B goes all traditional and has jam and cream.

If you are after a variety of breads then Banneton  is the Bakery to head for. The sourdough New York rye is a clear favourite with both Granny and Poppy, followed closely by the ciabatta. B loves their rosemary and olive sourdough too.

I see what's happening here, Gran and Pop have gone all 'Ploughman's Lunch' on us from the photo below. Where was our invite?

Both these varieties make excellent sandwiches. They are also great for those special occiasions calling for dips, croutons, special bread salads or even just toast.


M & B's Granny & Poppy