Portuguese Tarts

Portuguese tarts are famous around the world. Creamy custard filling, encased in flaky pastry then cooked in a hot oven until they start to blister on top. They’re best eaten freshly made, but if there are any left over pop them into a moderate oven for a few minutes to crisp up the pastry again.

1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
½ cup sugar
2 Tbs cornflour
200 ml milk
200 ml cream
1 tsp vanilla essence
About 350g bought puff pastry (or make your own)

In a large saucepan use a balloon whisk to combine all ingredients except the pastry. Bring mixture to the boil, whisking all the time, until thickened. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled.

Pre-heat oven to 200°C. Grease 12 x 1/3 cup muffin pans. Roll out pastry and cut circles to fit the pans. Divide filling between the pastry cases – I managed to get 11 rather than 12. Bake for 20 minutes or until custard starts to brown. If you are able to switch your oven from Bake to Grill, or even better Fan Grill, for the last few minutes it will be easier to brown the tops of the tarts the way they do in Portugal, so they are a bit blackened.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes about 12

Parmesan Chicken with Asparagus and Lemon

Asparagus season is here again and I’m always on the lookout for new ways to use this delicious vegetable.

Making an asparagus bed is a long term project. The bed can’t be used for anything else and for the first two years experts advise you resist picking and let the asparagus die down. The plants need to concentrate on establishing deep roots. But if you have the space an asparagus patch is a very worthwhile investment in time. Once up and running it will continue to produce asparagus every year for up to 20 years. Harvesting where we live in eastern Australia starts some time in October and runs for a month or two. Cut the spears just below the level of the soil with a sharp knife when they’re about six inches or 15cm long.

There is nothing quite like home-grown asparagus, but if you don’t grow your own, take advantage of local asparagus available in Australian supermarkets now. The rest of the year it’s mostly imported from South America.

We like our asparagus served hot with melted butter or cold with vinaigrette or mayonnaise. It’s also delicious roasted in the oven with olive oil, salt and pepper or sprinkled with Parmesan cheese and grilled.

This week’s recipe teams it with chicken and Parmesan. If you have a big enough tray put the chicken and asparagus all on one and serve from the tray, to save washing up. I had to use two.

For the chicken:
2 large chicken breasts (3 if smaller)
2 Tbs flour
½ cup panko breadcrumbs
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tbs finely chopped parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tsp grated lemon rind
2 Tbs melted butter
2 Tbs lemon juice
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 lemon, thinly sliced
For the asparagus:
About 500g asparagus spears, washed and trimmed
1 Tbs melted butter
1 Tbs olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven 180°C. Line a large shallow baking sheet with baking paper. Place flour in a bowl. In a second bowl mix the panko crumbs, Parmesan, parsley, salt and pepper. In a third bowl mix the lemon rind, butter, lemon juice and garlic. Cut the chicken breasts into thick strips. Coat with flour, then the garlic/lemon mixture and lastly the panko crumbs. Place on prepared baking sheet and sprinkle with any leftover panko mixture over.

Bake for 10 minutes then remove from the oven and cover with lemon slices. If there’s enough room, place the asparagus on the same tray. If not line a second tray with baking paper. Mix the butter, oil and garlic and brush all over the asparagus, then drizzle the rest over. Sprinkle with the grated Parmesan. Return to the oven for 10-15 minutes or until chicken is golden brown and asparagus is cooked. If liked serve with a drizzle of olive oil. Steamed new potatoes go well.

Serves 3-4

Smoked Haddock Chowder

Inspired by a recent trip to the West of Scotland I decided to make my version of a soup they call Cullen Skink. Doesn’t sound very appetising does it? Well Cullen Skink is the Scottish name for Smoked Haddock Chowder, a chunky, hearty soup made from smoked haddock, known locally as Finnan Haddie and it’s delicious, despite the name! I read through half a dozen different recipes online and came up with this.

If you can’t find smoked haddock, use smoked cod and if you can’t find either why not experiment with hot smoked salmon? It will only need to be gently heated through as it’s already cooked.

50g butter
2 leeks, chopped (use mostly the white part and a tiny bit of green)
3 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into chunky cubes
Vegetable stock
1 cup cream
500g smoked haddock or cod, skinned and cut into 2 cm chunks
3 Tbs dry sherry (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
To serve:
Chopped parsley
Crusty bread

In a large heavy-based pan melt butter and cook leeks gently for 10 minutes or until soft. Add potatoes and enough stock to just cover them. Simmer for 20 minutes, or until potatoes are tender. Add cream, fish and sherry and cook for a few minutes until the fish is done. Test by taking a piece out. You don’t want the fish to disintegrate and it won’t take long to cook. Season with salt and pepper and add a dash more stock or cream if the soup is too thick.

Garnish with parsley and serve with crusty bread.

Serves 4-6

Pork with Sour Cream, Bacon, Mushrooms & Chutney

In my late teens I worked as a sales assistant every Saturday in a department store in England called Lefevres. In school holidays I often worked full time, especially at Christmas when they needed extra staff. There were no automatic cash registers back then, so it was great for mental math skills.

Over a period of 4 or 5 years I worked in almost every department in the store – from baby wear, women’s wear, underwear and hardware, to haberdashery, menswear and footwear. My hours were from 9am till 5.30pm with an hour off for lunch. I earned the princely sum of one pound a day. You could do a lot with a pound back then.

If you’ve seen the BBC TV series “Are you Being Served?” which aired in the UK in the 1970s and 1980s you have an idea of what it was like. The place was full of bossy Mrs Slocombe-types, with a distinct hierarchy or pecking order. Everyone was referred to by their surname – first names were verboten.

After a couple of years I was offered the job of Switchboard Operator because the girl who held that position during the week wanted Saturdays off. When things were quiet I used to ring a special number for the recipe of the day. This is one of those recipes and it remains a family favourite to this day. It’s a sort of pork stroganoff. If you don’t like pork use chicken thighs instead. By the way, in case you were wondering, the black bit at the bottom of the photo is a raisin from the chutney!

500g pork fillet, cut into strips
50g butter
100g bacon, in chunky dice
200g small mushrooms, wiped (or larger ones halved)
1 cup tomato chutney
2/3 cup sour cream
S and P
Chopped parsley to garnish

Fry bacon in frying pan without fat, remove from pan. Add butter to pan and brown meat. Add mushrooms, bacon and chutney and cook, stirring for 3 mins. Add sour cream, the cooked bacon and check seasoning. Simmer for a few minutes until meat is tender – doesn’t take long. Garnish with parsley and serve with boiled rice and a green salad or green vegetable.

Serves 4

Variations: use strips of chicken instead of pork

Chicken with Dates

My friend Ferne passed on an idea for a quick canapé to serve with drinks – dates with blue cheese and sesame seeds. Cut through one side of each date, remove the stone, fill with some blue cheese and sprinkle with the seeds. I used a creamy blue cheese from Aldi which comes in a half moon shaped pack and black sesame seeds rather than white. They were delicious and the leftover dates went into the chicken dish below.

 

2 Tbs oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 large clove garlic, crushed
1 kg chicken thighs (skinless and boneless)|
1 can tomatoes (chopped if not already)
1 cup water
3 Tbs sherry
1 chicken stock cube
2 tsp cumin
1 cup dates, stoned and halved or quartered
To serve:
Rice, couscous or mashed potatoes
Chopped fresh parsley or coriander

Heat oil in a large deep frying pan and cook onion and garlic gently, until soft. Cut chicken into chunks, discrding any fatty bits. Add chicken to pan and continue to fry, stirring, until chicken has browned all over. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for  10-15 mins, or until chicken is tender, adding a little more water if necessary.

Serve with rice, couscous or mashed potatoes, garnished with the chopped herbs.

Serves 6

Variation: if preferred use about 1.2kg of whole chicken thighs with bone in and skin on or off.

Salted Caramel Macadamia Tart with Chocolate Ganache

Matthew loves anything with salted caramel, so I knew this would be right up his alley.

I used a 28 cm metal flan tin with a loose bottom. If your tin is a bit smaller the filling will be thicker and you may have a bit more pastry left. Use a shallow tin rather than a deep one you would use for a quiche.

1 batch of Sweet Shortcrust Pastry made into a 25-30 cm pastry shell
Or 1 bought pastry shell
400g macadamia nuts
Salted Caramel:
1 cup sugar
¼ cup water
1 cup cream
80g unsalted butter
1 tsp salt
Chocolate Ganache:
1 cup cream
1 Tbs liquid glucose (corn syrup)
300g dark chocolate
30g unsalted butter
To serve:
Sea salt flakes
Whipped cream

Make pastry according to the recipe at the link. Follow the instructions down as far as refrigerating for 15 mins. Bake 10 mins, remove paper and weights, then bake for a further 8 minutes (instead of 3 minutes), or until fully cooked and golden. Place macadamia nuts in a large non-stick frying pan and stir over moderate heat until slightly coloured. Spread over the base of the pastry shell.

For the salted caramel, heat sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves, then cook, without stirring but swirling from time to time, until it turns into a rich amber caramel (10-14 minutes). Carefully add cream and stir until smooth. Remove from heat and stir through butter and salt. Spoon evenly over the nuts in the tart shell, then leave to set.

For chocolate ganache, bring cream and glucose to the boil in a saucepan then remove from heat. Add chocolate broken into squares and butter, stirring until melted. Allow to cool for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until glossy. Spread ganache over the salted caramel, then stand in a cool place until set. Serve at room temperature or chilled with flakes of sea salt scattered on top. It’s very rich so cut into small servings. Whipped cream is optional.

Serves 12-16

Barbecued Cabbage Wedges with Ginger-Miso Dressing

A recipe for barbecued cabbage caught my eye recently. The sauce includes miso, a Japanese paste made from fermented soybeans found amongst the Asian ingredients in Australian supermarkets. If you live elsewhere you may have to visit an Asian grocery store.

Some recipes call for white miso and others for red miso, but they’re fairly interchangeable. I have them both in the fridge, where they keep, once opened, for several weeks. Miso has a strong umami flavour which goes well in marinades and sauces for fish and meat. It also goes well with this delicious barbecued cabbage.

If you can’t be bothered lighting the barbecue you can make this dish in a frying pan. The cabbage once caramelised becomes quite sweet, the way onions do when you fry them.

1 medium to large cabbage
2-3 Tbs olive oil
Salt and freshly ground back pepper
Sauce:
2 Tbs miso paste
2 Tbs brown sugar
2 Tbs soy sauce
1 Tbs rice vinegar
1 Tbs mirin
1 Tbs grated or finely chopped fresh ginger
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp sesame oil
Freshly ground black pepper
To serve:
Snipped chives or finely sliced spring onion tops

Light the barbecue. Remove outer leaves from the cabbage, then with a sharp knife cut it into 8-10 wedges. Place in a bowl and drizzle with the olive oil, using your hands to coat the cabbage thoroughly, then season lightly.

Cook cabbage wedges on the barbecue over a medium to high heat, turning every 2  minutes or so, for 10 minutes or until well charred and tender, but still a bit crunchy in the middle. Meanwhile mix all the ingredients for the sauce.

Serve cabbage drizzled with some of the sauce and sprinkled with the chives or spring onion tops

Serves 8

Rocket Salad with Sweet Potato, Parmesan & Pine Nuts

Whenever we go to our daughter’s in Newcastle we eat lots of rocket. It grows there like a weed. I much prefer the larger flat leafed rocket you can grow to the skinny wild rocket sold in supermarkets.

This salad is delicious with or without the sweet potato.

2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
2-3 tsp olive oil
Salt
A big bowl full of rocket leaves, washed and spun dry
1/3 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
1 cup coarsely grated parmesan cheese
Dressing:
½ cup Extra Virgin olive oil
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 180°C. Mix sweet potato chunks with the oil and a little salt, then spread out on a shallow baking sheet. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until starting to brown. Make dressing by shaking all ingredients in a jar with a lid.

Place rocket, sweet potato, pine nuts and parmesan in a large salad bowl. Add some dressing and mix thoroughly to coat.

Serves 4

Variations: use pumpkin instead of sweet potato. Use goat’s cheese or feta cheese instead of grated parmesan.

Beetroot Kebabs with Labneh and Dukkah

I’m a big fan of beetroot, labneh and dukkah, so when I saw a recipe in Gourmet Traveller using all three, I knew I would like it.

 

500g Greek-style yoghurt
1 tsp salt
3-6 beetroot, depending on size, peeled, halved lengthwise or left whole if smaller
1 Tbs olive oil
50g butter
Dill sprigs
3 Tbs Dukkah

To make the Labneh, mix salt into yoghurt then scrape into a sieve which has been lined with muslin or any thin fabric. A man’s handkerchief works well. Place the sieve over a large bowl, cover then refrigerate overnight to drain. Discard the liquid before serving.

Thinly slice beetroot using a mandoline or slicing blade on a food processor, then mix with the olive oil and salt to taste. Use your hands to make sure the oil is thoroughly distributed. Wear gloves if you’re concerned about the colour, although it does come off quite quickly. Thread onto skewers, allowing one or two skewers per person, folding beetroot if necessary, leaving smaller slices unfolded. Can be prepared ahead to this stage.

Preheat grill or barbecue to high, then cook the kebabs, turning occasionally, for 5 mins, or until lightly charred all over.

Melt butter in a small saucepan, then allow it to turn golden brown (3-4 mins). Mix in the dukkah.

Serve beetroot kebabs with a dollop of labneh to the side. Scoop out a little of the labneh to make a nest and fill it with some warm dukkah butter. Sprinkle a little dukkah around and garnish with dill sprigs.

Makes about 8 kebabs serving 4 or 8

Lemon Curd & Almond Bread & Butter Pudding

When I was growing up in England bread and butter pudding was a popular dessert. My mother made it regularly, using stale bread, butter, dried fruit, sugar, milk and eggs. Nothing fancy, but always one of my favourites. Using up stale bread, rather than giving it to the birds or throwing it away, was something you did automatically if you had lived through the Second World War.

This version is slightly more complicated with the addition of cream, nuts and lemons. Home made lemon curd provides an added zing, but if you don’t have time buy a jar from the supermarket. If you do find time to make a couple of jars it will keep in the fridge, unopened, for a couple of months and is a useful addition to a number of easy desserts such as Blueberry Parfaits.

1 loaf brioche bread
About 1 cup lemon curd
2 cups cream
½ cup milk
Finely grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
4 eggs
4 heaped Tbs sugar
Flaked almonds
Almond Butter:
150g blanched almonds (whole or slivers)
60g butter at room temp
1 heaped Tbs sugar
Finely grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
pinch of salt
To serve:
Fresh cream or crème fraiche
Icing sugar

Make or buy the lemon curd. Make the almond butter: place almonds in food processor and process till fine, then add remaining ingredients and mix well.

Slice brioche into 1 to 1.5cm slices. Use a cookie cutter to cut rounds as big as you can from each slice. Butter a deep 8-10cm pudding tin or dish. Place all the cut offs from the brioche in the bottom then spoon about half the lemon curd over the brioche. Spread one side of each brioche slice with some almond butter and arrange over the surface, nut butter side down and slightly overlapping, if you have enough slices to do so.

Place cream and milk in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. In a bowl whisk eggs, sugar, lemon juice and rind – just enough to combine, using a hand whisk. Pour in the hot cream and whisk to combine. Pour this mixture evenly over the brioche. Sprinkle with flaked almonds and set aside for an hour or more. Dessert can be made several hours ahead or even the day before and kept refrigerated and covered. A shower cap makes a great cover!

Preheat oven to 170°C. Bake dessert for 30-40 minutes or until puffed and golden. If it starts to get too brown, cover loosely with a piece of foil and/or turn the oven down a bit.

When cooked, spoon remaining lemon curd over the top, dust with a little sifted icing sugar and serve with cream.

Serves 8