Fruitful Ad-libery

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That awkward moment when you look into the fridge and see all those fabulously good intentions still sitting there in their neat little packages , bags and boxes…. the 20 fruit yogurts , the two punnets of fresh strawberries…. languishing like inmates in a chilly white cell .

So as the rain fell and the wind raged outside in this unusually torrid January I had a rummage and guess what I came up with ….. No need . I’ll tell you myself .

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It all began with this amazing recipe for pastry I invented by proxy …. or something kind of like that .. I think…….. proxy means by someone else or some such thing , right?

The thing is , I blindly thought it up , randomly pieced together a recipe , then googled a few key words and came across a post of the same thing; the same … but different !

I had no butter for the crust I wanted to make , so I thought  ” I know what! ” I’ll just add some oil” and so was the Olive Oil two-step crust-of-wonder born .

On this occasion I made a Sweet , non-olive oil version of this pastry … it’s so simple you could do it blindfolded.

2 1/4 cups  flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup any oil

1/4 cup sugar

1/3 cup  water

few drops of almond extract

Mix the water, oil , salt, sugar and almond extract together .

pour onto flour , stir until blended.

Form into a Ball .

Flatten out on paper. Rest in the fridge for 20 minutes.

I know ! Right?!

So, use this pastry to line a shallow Pie tin/pan/dish/whatever

Take a full Punnet ( one of those 1lb clear plastic boxes) of strawberries. Wash and dry them , hull and quarter them into a bowl.

Scatter liberally with Sugar … add a scraping of Lemon Zest and one heaping teaspoon of flour . Toss together until the strawberries are coated .

Dump into the tart crust .

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A bit like this ……………..

Then in the same bowl mix together about a cup and half of flour , 3/4 cup of sugar , a tsp cinnamon . Take the trimmings of the pastry and crumble or grate that into the bowl too , mix well , add a half stick of butter and chop through until the mixture is crumbly … pile on top of the Strawberries.

Bake at 350f/175c for about half an hour . Trust me, it’ll be all you can do not to slice into that Puppy immediately ! Restrain yourself, though, cuz there’s more to come ……

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It looks good enough to eat !

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So then I was thinking “If we are going to be flattened by a tornado , we may as well go out with a complete dessert inside us” … So what goes with a fresh fruit tart? Whipped cream! Haven’t got any cream . Creme Anglaise! Too much hassle . Ice Cream ! Haven’t got any cream AND too much hassle.

Yogurt? hmmmm ….. evil grin.

So what do you do when you want to make frozen yogurt and you don’t have much time and you don’t have much in the way of ingredients and you don’t have an ice cream machine ?

You throw what you DO have into a ziploc bag ! Like,  Duh !

I took three pots of strawberry yogurt , tipped them into a bowl , mixed in half a cup of powder sugar , a  little squeeze from the lemon I’d zested earlier and one egg yolk …. mix mix mix .

 POUR INTO A LARGE ZIPLOC ! Keep the bowl to one side before you lick it… we are going to need it later . It can’t get any crazier . 

Seal , flatten out and lay flat in the freezer for a hour or so . Until Frozen …

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Just before serving , remove the bag from the freezer … knead it a bit in you hands until it becomes malleable and turn out into the bowl you’d used to mix it in … I’m all for the minimum of dish-washing .

Take a potato masher/sturdy whisk / fork and mash the frozen mass until it’s smooth.

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That’s it …. slice a big old wedge of that warm , aromatic Strawberry Tart and scoop and even bigger ball of frozen yogurt on top …

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Cheap Class !

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Let me tell you, you won’t regret it and you won’t want to share because this dessert is pretty damn sexy …..

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We didn’t get Twistered off to the Land of Oz , luckily, so I think I’m going to have look what’s hiding in the pantry …… Watch Me !

That thing you do …..

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So yeah… I have this recipe that isn’t really a recipe and the other day my significant other came home with bags full of ‘stuff’ from the latest foray into the realms of “couponing” …. that’s another story , though.

The bags were unpacked to the strains of  ” I wanted you to make the Leek and Mushroom pie you do… ” Awww! It’s so nice to be needed and appreciated !

Seeing as the recipe isn’t a recipe I’ll race through the ingredients and cut to the porn asap.

The pastry is a butter pie dough… pretty easy to do by hand and even easier in the food processor :

1 part flour

⅔ part salted butter

cold water

Crumb the flour and butter either by hand or in the processor.

Add a couple of teaspoons cold water at a time and gently bring together into a ball .. don’t knead it or it will become tough. Flatten slightly onto cling film or parchment and chill for 20 mins.

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The filling is easy too….

3 large leeks … they are sandy so I slice them lengthways , then cut them into slices . BTW I use ALL the leek , the white and that amazing dark healthy antioxidanty green part.

Throw the pieces into a large bowl , cover with lots of cold water and agitate by pushing the leeks down and letting them float back to the surface. The leek floats, the sand doesn’t. Scoop it out into a colander and drain well ( of course no one is dumb enough to tip the bowl into the strainer with all the sand and then have to re-do the whole thing … right?! )

In a pan heat some olive oil and add a couple of large cloves of garlic… chopped.

Get it sizzling then add a pound of mixed mushrooms…. I use all types : White , Brown Caps, Oysters, Chanterelle, Portobello…. sliced. I wouldn’t recommend Shi-take as the rest of the ingredients are pretty western/mediterranean and I don’t really appreciate the combination.

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Brown the mushrooms well in the oil and garlic before throwing in all the leek , a ton of cracked black pepper and a good pinch of sea salt . When the leeks are thoroughly hot and hustled , throw in a ” good measure ” of fresh young chopped thyme leaves , some crumbled feta cheese ( or good goats cheese) and combine.

Transfer into a pie dish and remove the pastry from the fridge and roll out to ¼ inch / ½cm thickness.

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Lay the pastry on top of the leeky mushroomy chaos and tuck the edges down and against the sides of the dish .

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Like this…. if you can grasp my imagery !

ImageThat’s what I meant by DOWN and AGAINST the sides .

Cut the away the excess pastry and decorate if necessary with the scraps . I brushed it with a little beaten egg and baked it at 375f/190c for about half an hour.

Remove from the oven and take pictures of this wondrous work of Art for all your Facebook friends and Tweet to Rachel Ray as it cools.

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This is basically a complete meal as is, being vegetables, some cheese and the pastry  the ‘carb’ but there’s no reason why you can’t serve a side of potatoes , a salad or, as I did, steamed broccoli with a vegetable gravy.

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It was well received any and leftovers nowhere to be seen ……….

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This Vegetable Pot Pie is warming and comforting on a cold winter’s night but can equally be inverted… lining a tart pan/ring with the pastry , adding more goat cheese and a dash of cream to the filling and baking “open” then cooling as a summer lunch or supper enjoyed outside with a glass of Pinot Gris.  Holy crap I’m serfistercated !

See you out on the patio!

Wintry Sweetness

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My last post touched on the dessert side of English Christmas dinner and with Christmas far behind us I want to mention that the Brits will eat their “crimble pud’ all year round !

The enormous amount of rich foods presented to your loved ones on the 25th of December really doesn’t allow for true savoring of the traditional Christmas Pudding , or plum pudding or figgy pudding , or …or….or……. call it what you want to , despite that it’s still a booze bomb that is strictly for the grown-ups ( if you make it my way , at least!) and everyone still manages a piece.

The pudding is traditionally made at least a month before christmas , as this allows it to mature and get all squishy and gorgeous. Also it allows plenty of time to pour alcohol into this confection , rather like putting petrol into your car but, unlike that, with the xmas pudding there really is never “too much” ; every few days you can unwrap the baby and nurse it with ‘medicine’ .

I always used sherry and brandy in the mix and cognac as a soaking agent after the pudding was made, but since my years in the Caribbean I have come to love dark rum in this bundle of fruity spicy joy.

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So……. ::gulp:: ……. I’ll be completely up front and honest with you at this stage; I have no recipe for this …… I’M SORRY, DON’T JUDGE ME! I am one of those nightmarish people that rarely follows a recipe. I have a notion of cooking , as you know, and I have it all in my head. so I have included the above picture showing you the basic ingredients of Chrissy Pudding.

Oh, and to add insult to injury ? I made it on Christmas Eve and it tasted like it had been maturing for a decade. I had been busy with other stuff , ok?!

The way I did it was to take a good handful of pitted prunes, cut them with scissors into a bowl, threw on top a handful of raisins, a huge handful of sultanas and then doused the lot with Rum. I left that covered at room temperature overnight to get acquainted.

Next day I took about a third of a large loaf of bread ; any bread will do but trying to be healthy and using whole grain/bran/wheat bread really doesn’t cut it … we need WHITE , BLEACHED, and SQUIDGY for the ultimate “at home” Texture. Trust me , you’ll thank me . Whatever…. back to the bread… zoom it in a processor to crumb it , or grate it yourself or chop it but make sure it’s crumbs. Throw it in a bowl with a coffee cup of flour, a coffee cup of chopped almonds, a teaspoon of cinnamon , same of all spice, about half a teaspoon of ground nutmeg, a teaspoon of Bicarbonate of soda, a half teaspoon of salt and two coffee cups of dark brown sugar…. now when I say “coffee cup” I don’t mean the type of bucket my brother or my significant other would drink coffee from , I mean a regular pre-war coffee cup sized coffee cup . Mix all of that together well .

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I then grated a couple of carrots, the zest of an orange and a large lemon, squeezed the juice of both and threw all of that together with three eggs, a coffee cup of dark syrup (not maple) a half teaspoon each of Vanilla essence and Almond essence and a half a pack of COLD butter grated. mix that well and add , with the soaked fruit , to the crumby flour spice sugar mix.

Stir ,

stir as if your life depended on it and WISH ! All wishes made whilst stirring christmas pudding come true so do what I do and close your eyes and stir with each syllable of the wish. Then invite any other people in the house to do the same . It’s lame , but such a nice feeling.

Line a heatproof pudding bowl , pyrex bowl/dish with baking parchment ( I just grease it well with some butter and push the paper in ) and then pour in as much of the mix as possible. Fold the top edge of the parchment over the mixture , then wrap the whole bowl in Aluminium foil TWICE so it’s completely sealed. Do the same with more bowls if you have them; made two from my mix .

Place the bowl on top of a saucer in the largest pan you have and pour boiling water around it until almost to the top . Cover and bring back to a boil , lower the heat to simmer and cook for about 3 hrs. Check the water level now and then and top up with boiling water when necessary . This year however , I put the pudding bowl in a slow cooker (crock pot ) added boiling water and cooked it overnight on the lowest setting for ten hours. That’s how I discovered that the slow cook method develops the flavour and creates a texture very close to that of a matured pudding made well in advance.

Next morning I opened up the foil and, whilst blissed-out on the warm spicy aroma, doused that puppy with about a quarter of a bottle of Captain Morgan Spiced Rum. Wrapped it up again and let it sit until serving time.

When The turkey was done and the dinner was ready , I switched off the oven and put the wrapped pudding in and forgot about it until we were ready to serve it….. about two hours I believe ( wine was being thrown around like it was christmas or something! ) by which time it was nicely warmed through.

We ( I was drunkenly being inebriatedly assisted at this point ) unwrapped it and turned it out onto an appropriately festive plate, transported it to the centre of the table  and sprinkled this dark brown monument to flavour with some white crystal sugar . The trick is then to quickly pour a shot glass of rum over the top and igniting the whole with a match…… this moment is always greeted with an enthusiastic “ooh” and “aah” from the table and actually does do something caramelly to the flavour. With a feeling of relief and smoldering eyebrows, I served timid portions (due to the overextension of our waistbands over the previous couple of wine soaked and turkey filled hours) with an impressive scoop of Rum Butter or Hard Sauce (if you like) and I kid you not ….. we had seconds!

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To make Rum ( or Brandy ) Butter hard sauce?

Half a pound of salted butter; none of this unsalted malarky. Cream it with a cup of powder sugar until white and fluffy … that means :  when you think it’s enough beat it some more.

While still whisking gradually add about a shot glass full of whatever flammable liquid you have decided upon and mix well . If it doesn’t seem as if it’s going to separate/curdle add a second shot glass , if it does look a bit ‘separatey’ add a couple of teaspoons more powder sugar and beat until smooth. Chill until firm.

If I’m correct , there’s a picture of a lovely Pear , some sugar and a bottle of wine at the top of this post…. that was for the next part of the piece, but I think I may be typed out at the moment. Luckily I have a livener behind me in the kitchen … the second pudding is amazing at cocktail hour ; CHEERS !