Birthdayliciousness a.k.a Portuguese Olive Oil Lemon Cake

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Yesterday I moved even further into my 40’s than I honestly feel comfortable with. Age is relative, you’re as old as you feel , young at heart, blah blah blah pass the cake please, not a slice , the whole damn thing!

Being a Chef and Chocolatier , I’d rather bake my own cake , not because I think it would be better than Shawn’s ( he’s an awesome baker ) but because I just really love doing it. When he asked if he could bake something for my birthday I already had it in hand.

Chocolate is my ‘bread and butter’ but what I love most is fresh, tangy lemon when I think of cake. In my opinion birthday cakes should be gold or yellow or white, just a thing I have and since it was my day , golden lemon it would jolly well be.

I first had an olive oil cake when I was on holiday one January on the Portuguese island of Madeira. “The Island of Eternal Springtime” turned out to be “The Island of Endless Rain, Wind and Hail” but that’s another story. I remember eating this cake at a boulevard Café-Kiosk and falling head over heels in love with the moist yet firm texture and that intoxicating aroma of lemon zest. This is my version of that memory of Portugal and it’s beyond easy.

Ingredients:

4 eggs at room temperature

1 cup powder sugar

Juice and zest of 2 large lemons

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup all purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

Set oven at 350f.

Beat the eggs, juice and zest , salt and sugar at high speed until frothy and light in colour , about 5 minutes.

Add the oil , baking powder and flour and beat well until smooth, the mixture will be thin and pancake batter-like.

Pour into a prepared 8-9″ cake pan. That means whatever you do to prevent the cake sticking , I usually grease and flour it and place a small piece of parchment paper in the center.

Bake for 20 minutes or until a cocktail stick inserted in the center comes out clean. The cake will not be browned! That is the intention. Remove from the oven and cool in the pan with a saucepan lid on top to trap all the moisture.

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The Lemon Olive Oil Cake I enjoyed in Portugal was dusted with powdered sugar but this one was my birthday cake and you can’t have a birthday without frosting, right?

I took a cup and a half of powder sugar , added 1/4 tsp vanilla extract , the finely grated zest of one lemon and stirred in the juice drop by drop until I had a   thick but pourable Glacé Icing. Then I added one large leaf of fresh basil very finely chopped.

When the cake is completely cooled transfer it to a serving platter and pour  the icing into the center , spread from the middle outwards toward the edges , in a circular motion until evenly coated.

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I finished the top with some white chocolate decor I had in the pantry but you can serve it as is , with some unsweetened sour cream or creme fraiche dolloped on top , or grate some good quality white chocolate over it, whatever…. just keep it light and bright.

This cake is airy but firm and very tender and moist . The citrus is party in your mouth the olive oil accentuating the fruit.

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I have a half a cake left , although it did hear the ::chink:: of a fork against a plate from the kitchen just now . I think I need to go be the Birthday Cake Police before it all disappears.

PJK

 

 

 

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Flaverotica

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What do people want when they buy chocolate?
They want everything , they want nothing but chocolate , they want filled bars, they want the mutant truffle, they want white , dark , bitter, milky , bean-to-bar gluten free fair trade rawganic kosher halal fruit based aaaaaaaaarghhhh !

Deep breath.

So basically,what I want to say is: you can do whatever you want when creating a line of chocolates. It will always be right, always be wrong, and most importantly , it will always be your vision!

The flavour route: there are only two true paths one is a simple path in that you just follow the path well trodden , the flavours have been done , tried tested and voted upon. The other path is simple too , you just pave the way as you go. Wrong . It’s not as simple as it looks. That brick you want to lay as the next step forward doesn’t always fit in place . Flavours are a pain in the behind sometimes.
On the well trodden path we all know that the Aztec and Mayan chaps had the whole cocoa chili pepper salty flavorxaptel thing sorted out LONG before any fancy city chocolatier rethought it up so it’s pretty safe nowadays to combine pepper and chocolate… It’s rapidly become the PB and J of the artisan chocolatier and I won’t knock it . There is a satisfying firework vibe to the proceedings when you first hold the soon to be tasted treat between your expectant finger tips. You know something’s going to happen and that is the unique art of this ancient combination. It’s a flavour with a reputation above and beyond any praliné or matcha infusion.
It does something.
The touch paper is lit the moment you bite into the chocolate. That initial snap and the first suggestion of the chocolate are a prelude to the collapse of that hard shell into a tongue enveloping bitterwsweet balm. The anticipation and apprehension are undeniable;like the best of Mr. Hitchcock we know the chilli is in there… but where is it?!
Never fear, the melting of the crisp chocolate was only intended to lull you into a false sense of (in)security . It begins with a slight tingle , almost akin to effervescence on the sides of your tongue, is it warm? Is it fresh? Ok, the cacao is back, and in the case of these tortillas some bakey corn and salt, then the flavour bubble bursts. Your up until now cocoa butter-coated taste buds are sufficiently ‘cleaned up’ to received the saliva reactivated capsaicin and its show time! Wave upon wave of tingling warmth cover your tongue and trickle past your tonsils, this flavour is a living thing , a wild animal, tethered (for your safety) by the familiar strength and trustworthiness of cacao and sugar. The storm gradually subsides, the crimson tide of pepper ebbs, swishing back onto the beach with each suck of the teeth and probe of the tongue. And then , it’s a memory , a warm rosy glow , cuddled up on the rug of your palate snuggling and smooching with that remaining flavour of dark chocolate sweetness.

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I spent a lot of time creating a line of chocolates that would work flavour wise.
I love tart sweetness combined with chocolate . Chocolate is very full bodied and rich , even white chocolate , so that acidity cutting through the sweetness and richness and mouth-coatingness is a sensation parallel to none in my book .
One of my favourite combinations is rhubarb and white chocolate ; it has both nursery tea time charm and adult sophistication at once. That gorgeous baby pink ganache speckled with a dusting of ground sage is a feast for the eye. Then I dip it into 57% couverture and it becomes a dressed to kill vixen of a bonbon . The bitter sweetness as you bite into the coating with an audible ::crack:: giving way first to the bright acidity of the rhubarb and then to a wave of cream. The aftermath is a mouthgasm of cacao, fruit , sage, cream…… That’s what I meant by spending a lot of time creating .

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I love the aroma of mint . That cool, alive and positively green aroma as you crush the fresh leaves under your nose and breathe it all in. There’s nothing quite like it.
The combination of mint and chocolate is not exactly a new thing, it teeters on the fence between classic and cliché and often the first thought is of sugary sweet centers with a toothpaste like flavour punch. I wanted to take this tired candy and create something that presented the true vitality of these phenomenal flavours. I wanted that fresh mint leaf experience without it being aromatic graffiti on the beautiful wall that is chocolate.
Well, as many of my followers know, I believe that the chocolate should be the star of the show and not the supporting role. The star of my Dark Minted Chocolate Bars is a Belgian couverture, 60% cacao, well balanced, rich, with a subtle marriage of bitterness and sweetness. This accented with a hint of organic essential oils of spearmint and peppermint. The herbaceous tones of the mint develop after the initial cacao hit to your taste buds ; I like that ‘layering’ of flavours. The bars are hand piped and decorated, not moulded, because I want each one to be truly handmade. Unique , like me, like the person not sharing this tastefully sized, minty chocolate corner of the universe that was intended just for them .

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Minding my own business

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“Mijn hemel ! Ik ben het zo zat” I wailed a week before I was to hang up my apron for good at Puccini Bomboni …. Oh , a translation? I was “totally over it” in modern day speak… the chocolate making that had been so good to me . The business that had rewarded me (and I it) was no longer what I wanted. It didn’t serve me to continue. What did serve very nicely was the prospect of sun sea and endless summertime and I was going after it on an island off the coast of Africa.
That was in 2006 , that was another life, another me.

Once you have chocolate in your blood there is no denying it. We in the business love it with a passion, it is a love hate relationship, we curse at this medium as we lovingly craft it . The bug , the chocolate virus, presents itself in various ways, from mildest cases of “I love some chocolates for the holidays ” to chronic ” OMG I can’t get through the day with out it”.
Once infected (there is no incubation period) you can be symptomatic, or you can be like me : a carrier. The dealer… There to get you hooked and supply what you need.

As artisan chocolatier I am one of the four horsemen of the Choc-pocalyse… I’m at the front of the jolly band , I’m the one in between the Angel of Death (Nutella) and the Angel of War ( Nestlé) . We gallop over populated areas spreading melt-in-the-mouth deliciousness with a bitter sweet undertone. Our shields are covered with purple foil and our swords drip with Couverture.
The innovator of the bunch , I spread new and exotic confections and each time the populace thinks they are over it I morph into something totally new and so it continues.

Enough of the parody , I was getting carried away with my fancy pants-ness . The thing is, I was over it , the repetition day after day , the masses of chocolate that would be lovingly and craftily transformed into things of beauty and then consumed at the door of the shop whilst the consumer texted unthinkingly . The work never ended, a stockpile was never completed … Thankful and thankless work that I lovehated to do.

Hence the virus symbolism; once it’s there it’s there.Even if it lays dormant for a while it will flare up again.
It hibernated inside me for a good 6 years … I did odd jobs, made special editions for a single customer or event here and there. But it was done in my opinion.
I loved the variety of private cooking . The hanging out with people , cooking and chatting and entertaining and getting PAID for it .
The Caribbean isn’t a great chocolate destination so ‘dinner theatre’ as it was described by one regular customer, was my creative outlet. The combination of being with people and doing what I love to do is 1+1=infinity.

Yes, that outlet, there has to be one or I will implode. I can’t not be doing something. I can’t not be creating. Be it baking , photography , cooking, writing. Something has to emanate from this factory that is PJ , it’s my purpose; it has to be because I feel so damn good when I’m doing it.

My latest endeavor , Chocolatasm, is a balls-out dive bomb back into the world of cacao. I could have done something a little more timid but no, this is a bonafide Chocolate House : ‘La Maison’ Chocolatasm has opened his doors ( yeah , my baby is a boy).

The idea was to provide something out of the ordinary , maybe I’m not so the exception in some European countries but seeing as I was to be operating in the USA, my endeavours would surely have some level of wow to them . Well, that’s what I was hoping at least…

All my truffles are called bonbons, yeah , I’m going to be technical and hissy about this . A truffle is no longer a truffle in the true sense of the word . Anything that has a soft filling is called a truffle these days and it drives me insane.
Chocolaterie Une zéro Une :
“A truffle is a confection that consists only of chocolate and cream. That’s it. The truffles (….) are hand shaped to resemble a ‘real’ truffle, of the fungi variety, and are dusted with cocoa powder. Bonbons are fillings that are coated with chocolate. The fillings can be ganaches (chocolate, cream, flavoring), pralines (ground nuts), marzipan, caramels or creams.” Karletta Moniz.

So my bonbons are made in a way I learned at school … I don’t use molds , I form my ganaches by hand , some are piped, some scooped and some sliced. I like the variety of textures and the effect those textures have on a flavour profile. My hazelnut Praline with cinnamon is light and airy , the rich thickness of its flavour is carried over your tongue as you bite into it , not heavy at all whereas the bright fresh tang of my Rhubarb ganache is a thick creamy bite that stays longer on your taste buds .
The same goes for the chocolate, a high cacao chocolate will either kill or carry certain flavour additions, I want the chocolate to be king of this castle , upstaging such a handsome product with overpowering flavours would be a crime,in my humble opinion, and I love the exploration of a flavour profile , that “CHOCOLATEcinnamonCHOCOLATEh a z e l n u tCHOCOLATE” kind of experience for want of a better description.
The shapes I want to be eye catching and original , I’m not one for adding colour or tons of decoration, the value of an artisan is how he is with the ‘couture’ element of the process , anyone can stick on a transfer these days and call it “my design”… yes, the flavour and the quality of the ingredients should carry a product but the appearance, when mimicked across the board can reduce the finest of confections to nothing more than “fancy candies” .
Harsh words? Yeah , I suppose so and I apologise for any bruised egos but its just the way I feel after being run through the mill of “No! Sloppy! Start again! No! That’s not the right shape! Dump it! Start again!” Quality is excellence ,and that excellence is standing out as exceptional in the true sense of the word.
My bonbons aren’t food, they are delicious compositions , created for one reason , the pleasure they give both taste wise and visually.

I’m blowing my own trumpet here but to be honest I AM extremely humble, I aspire to be a great chocolatier, I have many heroes and examples I follow. I feel passionately about certain aspects, well, the PJK fundamentals of chocolaterie, actually:
Be original , use the best ingredients available to you, MAKE IT YOURSELF! Keep it pure, and respect the chocolate.

I’m hoping that America appreciates my offerings, only time will tell and I’m sure there will be changes made , additions to and removals from my somewhat eclectic assortment. We’ll see.

One thing that won’t change? The love I feel when I am working .
Chocolatasm online boutique

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Pastry cream-filled penance or Tarte Tropezienne

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“David! Can you open up another bottle of wine?!” Our hostess chanted from the table on the deck we were hanging around ; that would be the table we could hardly even put our wine glasses down on without first sliding the hummus under the edge of the cheese plate and balancing the dipping oil on top of the dolmades. The table was GROANING from the weight of the ‘heavy hors d’oeuvres’ that was dinner at the Mad Mare Farm. It was a long overdue get-together so the wine flowed , and then kept on flowing… through the wander to the pasture where the Mares live and the panic ridden (I have a horse story) proffering of carrots that were clearly too small to give these hoofed Behemoths without losing fingers and then to the neighbours’ paddock where a donkey and a zebra were living in sin … I know, right?! A donkey and a zebra … in backwoods Georgia?! I’m sure God doesn’t approve of such unholiness.

Needless to say, waking up the next morning with the remnants of Cabernet, Merlot and Zinf filtering through my garlic infused body meant I was going to need more than a couple of cups of coffee to get through the day.

When I’m hung over I like to bake… there’s something about the doing of it, the mixing , the aroma of hot flour and the covert finger scoops of raw cake batter that revives me . Maybe it’s the creative juice …the sugar…? Whatever , it makes me feel nice .

I made a bucket of tea and checked out the pantry: eggs, milk, butter, sugar, etc etc… yeah, that’s a start.

I began by making random Pastry Cream or Creme Patissier as we call it in Fancyland (the small nation neighbouring Who-the-f-do-you-think-you-are-alia) I got some eggs separated, two for the yolks and one I left whole. Mixed that all with 1/4 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of sugar and a splash of the 2 cups of milk I was then going to boil with the seeds scraped out of one vanilla pod.

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When the milk came to the boil I poured it, whisking the whole time, onto the egg mixture. Tipped it back into the pan and heated for a couple of minutes until thickened. I then transferred it back to the bowl and added half a stick of salted butter and stirred until it was melted and completely incorporated .

My plan was to let this cool and fill a cake with with it so I didn’t cover it, I just kept stirring every now and then as it cooled to stop a skin forming .

Then I realised that the last of the butter was now in the creme.

Well , bang goes that idea.

I had a think and another B-complex and put on some water for another lake of tea …

I put 3 eggs in a bowl added a cup of sugar with the grated zest of a lemon, a pinch of salt and 1/2 cup of juice ( the lemon topped up to 1/2 cup with orange juice) whipped that til light and fluffy.

I sifted 2 cups of flour with 2tsp baking powder and folded that into the egg foam along with 2/3 cup olive oil, divided it between two 8″ cake tins, greased and floured , and baked them for about 20 minutes on 350 f.

The smell of that doing its thing in the oven will drive out any amount of hangoverishness anyone may have . Remove them from the oven and then let them cool slightly before turing out onto a rack .

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When they are cooled completely you can cut them each into two layers and assemble the cake while there is still some pastry cream left to assemble it with … ::blush::

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I don’t think it needs too much explaining , 4 layers of cake means you need to mentally divide the pastry cream into 3, spoon the first 1/3 on to the cake layer , spread to edges, top with a second layer …etc etc…

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Kind of like this…

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You can top it off with a flat slice for a sharp edged finish but the traditional Tarte Tropezienne, which is in fact an airy, light brioche filled with custard , has a domed top, which I prefer as it looks totally home made and rustic and such .

The cake is , to all intents and purposes, finished … you can dust it with some powdered sugar and “voila!” get stuck in, as they say .

I wanted it to be MORE THAN THIS! MORE!

Being a chocolatier I have everything one needs to make ganache at hand at all times, but I was kind of like “Yawn! Ganache on a cake , chocolate AGAIN!” . I had an idea.

A cup of whole milk . Boil. Add handfuls of white chocolate drops, stirring between each addition, until you get a thick fluid ‘icing’ kind of goop.

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You can flavour this with lemon zest , orange zest , almond extract even… it’s all good.

I had a bowl of Hazelnut Praline at hand. yeah .. I have Praline in my home . just kicking around like any other ingredient. Normal people have a bottle of ketchup, Paul John Kearins has hazelnut frikkin praline .

You can make this by boiling sugar until it caramelizes then throw in chopped hazelnuts and pour onto a buttered baking sheet, cool, then puree in a food processor to a paste .

It’s the Joan Collins of peanut butters .

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I added a spoonful of the Hazelnut Praline to the Ganache … stirred well and poured it over the layered cake.

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There’s a time and a place for neatness and this isn’t one of them , just let the ganache run down the sides and leave it at that . Lets face it … it’s homemade citrus cake, stuffed with vanilla creme, doused with white chocolate hazelnut holy water … close your eyes when you eat it !

The hangover returned , in it’s “you will now fall asleep for 10 hours” form, so it was a wonderful treat to have a huge slice of penance for breakfast this morning…

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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 !