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Recipe – Pear, Cherry and Walnut Chocolate Tart

Hello and Happy Sunday!

It’s a glorious day here. Ian is off on a run so I have all morning to myself to potter, blog and read the papers…heavenly.

Today’s recipe was a slightly rushed and experimental job but one that tasted divine! Ian and I had a friend over for dinner last week and I had done most of the prep the night before meaning I could just pop home from work, heat up the food and not spend the evening flapping about in the kitchen. To make life easier for myself, I had even bought a pudding and was all ready to go when an hour before our guest arrived, I decided that I would make a dessert from scratch…why do I do these things to myself!

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This chocolate tart is the result of my madness and was rather tasty, if a little sweet due to the glace cherries (luckily I have inherited my mother’s ridiculously sweet tooth!). Think of gooey chocolate brownie, with sweet poached pears and the crunch of nuts all in a crumbly biscuit base. I think if I made this next time, I would try it without the cherries and possibly swap the walnuts for hazelnuts…I’m getting excited just typing that!

Now, I cannot continue without pointing out my massive baking error which will become apparent when you see the pictures below. I started baking my pastry case with baking beans inside and forgot to set the timer. I thought enough time had passed to remove the beans but it most definitely hadn’t which caused the baking beans to leave a lovely imprint on the inside of my pastry case! You definitely couldn’t taste this error (and I think it actually looked very cool!) but nevertheless, I will know for next time!

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Ingredients

1 packet of shortcrust pastry

3 pears, cored, peeled and halved

100g of caster sugar

100ml of water

A piece of orange peel

40g of good quality dark chocolate

30g of butter

150g of golden syrup

1 egg

Half a teaspoon of vanilla extract

50g of walnuts

50g of glace cherries

How to make it

  • Begin by preheating your oven to 200°C, Gas Mark 6
  • Roll out your pastry and line your pie tin
  • Tip in your baking beans and bake for 10 minutes or so then set aside to cool
  • Next, poach your pears by putting half the sugar, the water and orange rind in to a small panpear12
  • Add the pears and bring to the boil before simmering for about 10 minutes then drain and allow the pears to cool
  • Melt your chocolate either in the microwave or in a bowl over a pan of simmering water
  • Add the butter and mix wellpear13
  • In another pan (quite a bit of washing up involved with this recipe! Sorry!) heat the remaining sugar and golden syrup until the sugar has melted and simmer for 2-3 minutespear6
  • Whisk your egg into the chocolate mixture, then add the syrup, vanilla extract, nuts and cherries
  • Lay your cooled pears on to the pastry basepear1
  • Pour over the chocolate mixturepear2
  • Bake for 25 minutes and enjoy!pear3

Recipe – Sausage, Tomato, Pesto and Goats Cheese Tart

Today has been a whirlwind of finishing off my DIY projects, trying to decide where to put the artwork in our newly painted bedroom, getting laundry done ready for our holiday (2 more sleeps!) and a quick trip in to town to get my eyelashes tinted…phew. Tomorrow shall no doubt include more of the same as well as loading up my Kindle with some new reads and a quick mani/ pedi.

As we are going away, I am trying to use up what is left in our fridge and all of the ingredients in today’s recipe needed to go!

This tart has a lovely meaty quality from the ‘crumbled’ sausages yet a burst of different colours, flavours and textures from the other ingredients. My intention was to eat a slice with some salad but it was so good that both Ian and I missed out the healthy part and just feasted on the tart!

Ingredients

2-3 good quality sausages

1 pack of shop-bought puff pastry

Half a jar of pesto

A small tray of cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered

100g of goats cheese

Salt and pepper

A pinch of dried sage

How to make it

  • Begin by preheating your oven to 180°C, Gas Mark 4
  • In a frying pan, squeeze the sausage meat out of its casings and fry for a few minutes until it begins to resemble cooked mincetart2
  • Using a rolling pin on a floured surface, roll out your pastry until it is the size and shape of your oven traytart1
  • Use a sharp knife to score around the edge
  • Spread a layer of pesto on the base of your tarttart3
  • Next, spread out your cherry tomatoes evenlytart4
  • Spoon over the cooked sausagetart5
  • Finally, slice or crumble your goats cheese and disperse evenly on the tarttart6
  • Season with salt, pepper and sage then pop it in the oven for about 20 minutes (you may need a few minutes longer to ensure it is golden brown)tart10

Try to be good and enjoy this warm with a salad or copy us and scoff the whole lot in one go!

Recipe – Cheeseboard Quiche

I thought this recipe would be useful to post in the New Year because I am sure, like me, many of you still have a fridge packed with cheese leftover from Christmas.

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Alas, the daily cheeseboards I enjoyed over the festive period are no more so I wanted a way to use up all of this cheese and make something delicious with it.

This quiche is so easy to put together and it is one of those great recipes that will work with pretty much any cheese you have hanging around in your fridge – I used a mixture of Stilton, St Agur, Double Gloucester with onion and chives, Wensleydale with apricots and Port Salut. I actually dreamt about this quiche last night after having a big slice for dinner…it’s that good!

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Now if you are busy or have a bit of a fear about making pastry from scratch then by all means buy some ready-made shortcrust pastry or a pre-made base – this quiche is really all about the filling.

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However, I decided to christen my new KitchenAid (a Christmas present from my lovely husband!) last night and made my pastry from scratch. I will include the pastry details in the recipe for those of you that want to have a go!

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Before I start with the recipe details, let’s just take a minute to appreciate this appliance in all its beautiful pistachio-coloured glory:

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Ingredients

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250g of plain flour

125g of cold butter, cut into cubes

A pinch of salt

Cold water

4 rashers of streaky bacon, cut into chunks

2 onions, sliced

2 eggs

284ml of single cream

Salt and pepper

A pinch of mixed herbs (you could use fresh or dry herbs)

250g of mixed cheeses

How to make it

  • Begin by making your pastry. Combine the flour, butter and salt until they have the appearance of breadcrumbscheese23 cheese24
  • Add 4-5 tablespoons of cold water and start to work into a dough
  • Tip the contents onto a floured surface and knead gently until your dough has come together to form a ballcheese25
  • Wrap it in clingfilm and chill for about half an hour
  • Preheat the oven to 180°C, Gas Mark 4
  • While the dough is chilling, fry the bacon until lightly browned and then the onions for about 10 minutes until they have softened and turned golden then put to one sidecheese16 cheese17
  • Mix together the eggs, cream, salt, pepper and mixed herbs
  • Get your chilled pastry dough and roll it out on a floured surface until it will cover your quiche dishcheese11
  • Lay the dough inside your dish (I always rub a little olive oil over the surface first) and using a smaller piece of leftover dough, gently push it in to all the edges. I gave a little whoop of delight at this point as my previous attempts at making pastry have been poor!cheese12 cheese13
  • Lay a piece of greaseproof paper over the pastry and add your baking beanscheese6
  • Bake for 15 minutes on a baking tray
  • After 15 minutes, take the tray out of the oven, remove the beans and lightly prick the base with a fork
  • Bake for another 10 minutes until the pastry has just started to turn goldencheese8
  • Now it’s time to fill the quiche! Begin by crumbling all your cheese into the basecheese9
  • Then layer on the bacon and onionscheese10
  • Finally, pour over the cream mixture and gently give it a shakecheese1
  • Turn the oven down slightly to 140°C, Gas Mark 3 and bake the quiche for 40-45 minutes until it is golden brown and the filling has setcheese2
  • I couldn’t resist having a slice of this warm with a fresh salad and some of my auntie’s homemade chilli jam on the side, but this is also delicious cold the next daycheese5

If you don’t have loads of leftover cheese, then I have noticed that the supermarkets are selling their truckles of Christmas cheeses for as little as 30p now so get down there asap!

Now that I have mastered the KitchenAid, I plan to spend my last day off baking something sweet and ignoring the fact I have to go back to school and be a proper adult again tomorrow!

Is anyone else feeling the back-to-work blues? Luckily, I have a few evenings out planned to get me through the first week back! x

Restaurant Review – Raphael Restaurant, Bath

Last night, Ian and I had a mid-week night out…reckless I know! I had been really looking forward to this because we were going for dinner and then to see my favourite ever musical, Blood Brothers, at the Bath Theatre Royal.

I first saw this show in London about 4 years ago when I had a weekend away with my Mum for her birthday and I remember loving the music and the storyline, and keeping my eye out for it playing at a local theatre ever since.

Set in Liverpool, a city close to my heart, the cultural references to the places, shops and people are great and they have managed to capture that elusive northern humour perfectly. Although, I have to say that Marti Pellow’s scouse accent was questionable!

Due to a particularly attentive waitress continuously topping up my glass of wine during dinner, I was a bit tipsy when we arrived at the theatre (so cultured, ha!) which may explain why I had a good cry during the performance!

This show is on until Saturday February 2nd in Bath. I know tickets sold fast, but if you see this musical is showing at a theatre near you then I cannot recommend it enough!

Anyway, onto the food…

We ate at an old favourite of mine in Bath, the French bistro Raphael Restaurant. I have eaten here a few times in the past and have always enjoyed the ambience and food, and last night was no exception.

Being a stone’s throw from the theatre, they do a roaring trade in their 2-course pre-theatre dinner, priced at £14.95.

With 4 choices for both the starter and main course, there is a good selection of meat, fish and vegetarian options. I have to say that the menu is very classic, which is absolutely fine when they do it so well, but there were no real stand-out options for me so I just ordered what I knew I would like and played it safe with a savoury  tart then chicken.

I just reread that and I think I sound completely pedantic and fussy but I do like trying new flavour combinations which this menu didn’t offer.

For my starter, I had a Leek, Pea and Ham Tart with a well-dressed mixed leaf salad and a delicious celeriac remoulade, which was like a lovely, refined coleslaw to accompany the warm tart.

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Ian had warm salad of smoked mackerel on a bed of potato and dill salad with a herby oil drizzled all over. The flavours in this were well balanced with the creamy potato salad and salty smoked fish working really well. (Sorry about the poor quality photo!)

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For our main courses, I had a pan-roasted thyme and garlic chicken breast which was served on a bed of green beans, savoy cabbage and bacon and a delicious creamy mushroom and tarragon sauce. All elements of the dish were perfectly cooked and seasoned and the sauce brought it all together nicely.

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Ian had a proper winter-warmer of Madeira and porcini mushrooms with braised beef and shallots, served with parsley mash and a lovely orange-scented sauce. I have had beef and orange together in Asian dishes but I wasn’t sure how well this citrus fruit would go in a rich, French-style stew. It turns out, very well! The orange running through the sauce lifted the whole dish and is something I would think about trying out in my own cooking next time I make a beef stew.

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Overall, we enjoyed two lovely clean, fresh courses which were full of flavour and well-balanced. The portion sizes were perfect for me too as it meant I had just enough room for an ice-cream during the interval!