Archive for the 'Pastry' Category

Crab spring rolls

December 4, 2009

I urge you to make these – they are far tastier than the little beansprouty things you get with takeaway and, appropriately enough as December is upon us, I reckon they’d make a great little festive canape. Yes, they are a wee bit fiddly – we didn’t eat until 9 last night, but probably only because I insisted on making a vegetable accompaniment that involved peeling and grating coconut. And it was OK, I had a glass of wine and I could watch the debacle that is this year’s The Restaurant contestants out of the corner of my eye, and you sort of get into a rhythm and it’s all very satisfying.

Strictly speaking there should have been pork in these too, which I’m sure would be delicious, but I like to keep my meat consumption low and didn’t want to buy a lot of mince for the small amount required. I swapped the white crab meat asked for for the stronger tasting (and cheaper!) brown meat and swapped the pork for small cubes of tofu. I think the ingredients are really very open to interpretation.

And yes, I know mine aren’t the prettiest spring rolls around, but I don’t think anyone’s going to complain. Especially not if they have a glass of something refreshing in the other hand.

Crab spring rolls   Makes approx. 16

I used filo pastry here, which is not very authentic, but does allow you to bake them in the oven rather than deep frying for a lighter, crispier result. If you want to use spring roll wrappers, you should first make a caramel water (warm 3 tbsp sugar until starting to caramelise, then pour in 150ml warm water, mix, and add 150ml boiling water off the heat). Brush each rice paper with this until pliable before filling the rolls, then deep fry them in one layer.

2 tbsp dried black fungus (Jaffrey says if you cannot obtain this, up the number of Chinese mushrooms to 14)
8 dried Chinese mushrooms
15g cellophane noodles
1 spring onion
40g (about half a medium sized) onion
100g tofu, chopped
100g brown crab meat (Waitrose stocks the ‘seafood and eat it’ brand, which is hand-picked sustainable crabmeat in pots)
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1 head of lettuce
1 large bunch of mint leaves
1 packet of filo pastry (6 large sheets, or 270g), or rice paper spring roll wrappers

For the dipping sauce (to serve 4):
1 clove garlic
4 tbsp fish sauce
4 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp soft brown sugar
3-4 fresh red or green chillies

Soak the black fungus and/or dried mushrooms in warm water for 30 minutes, then lift out and chop finely, cutting off any hard bits. Soak the noodles for 15-30 minutes in hot water and then chop into 1 cm lengths.

Finely chop the spring onion. Peel the onion and chop it finely. In a mixing bowl combine the tofu, crab, black fungus, mushrooms, noodles, spring onion, onion, salt, pepper and egg, and mix well.

Wash the lettuce and separate the leaves. Wash the mint and separate into small sprigs.

To make the dipping sauce, peel and crush the garlic and combine it with all of the other ingredients except for the chillies. Cut the chillies crossways into very thin rounds and add to the sauce.

If using filo, preheat the oven to 200c. To assemble the spring rolls, have 2 large damp cloths handy. Lay one on your worksurface and unwrap the filo pastry, laying it onto the cloth. Carefully separate the top 2 sheets and put them aside. Cover the rest of the sheets with the other damp cloth, and lay the first separated sheet on top of that. Brush it with oil, being fairly liberal, but there’s no need to cover it completely. Lay the second separated sheet on top of that and brush with more oil. Now, take a sharp knife and divide the pastry into squares about 10cm x 10cm (if you’re using the 6 sheet 270g pack that’s 9 squares). Scoop out a heaped teaspoon of the filling mixture and place it in the first square, near the centre but closer to the corner nearest you. Spread the filling out slightly into a sausage shape. Fold that corner nearest you over the filling, then draw the two vertical sides one on top of the other over the folded over corner (is this making sense?) You should now be able to roll it away from you into a cylindrical shape, securing the far end with a little more oil. Place on a lightly oiled baking tray and proceed with the rest of the sheets until you run out of filling or pastry.

Bake the spring rolls for about 20 minutes, until golden and crisp. To serve, arrange the lettuce and mint leaves on a plate and set out a bowl of dipping sauce (or more, depending on how many of you there are). The idea is that you pick up a spring roll, wrap it in a lettuce leaf with a few mint leaves and dip it into the sauce.

Adapted from ‘Madhur Jaffrey’s Far Eastern Cookery’.


Onion tart & petit pots au chocolat

November 21, 2009

Or tarte a l’oignon and little chocolate pots, possibly. Friends were coming round for dinner at the end of another long week, and we had been talking tarts. Specifically, why don’t we make them more? A tart soothes with pastry and soft, billowy mouthfuls of mild creamy custard, yet it’s also a little bit sophisticated and manages to seem somehow wholesome, despite its full-fat dairy quotient. A tart is a light lunch or a simple dinner and the perfect size to share with friends.

‘Roast Chicken and Other Stories’ certainly delivers on the tart front: anchovy and onion, cep, crab, leek, onion, red pepper, tomato and pesto. I decided on the classic onion tart – mountains of thinly sliced onion half-moons, softened very gently in butter for a whole hour until transformed into a tangled slump, then mixed happily with cream, egg yolks and black pepper. The magic is in the slow cooking of the onions to bring out their deep, gentle savory-sweetness. I didn’t even need to add salt.

Dessert was the little chocolate pots, the consistency of a chocolate truffle under a firmer crust, to attack with a spoon while the discussion veered from meetings with Hermione Lee to Megan Fox’s bra size. Well, just because you’re eating sophisticated French food doesn’t mean you have to have sophisticated conversation.

Onion tart  Serves 4

Simon seems to assume you know what you’re doing on the pastry front and, having made it only once before, I didn’t. Well, anyhow, it seemed to work almost perfectly so I’ve added my notes.

This recipe will leave you with a lot of egg whites, so either make meringues or freeze them (try and remember to write the number of whites on the label).

For the pastry:
50g butter, cut into cubes
110g plain flour
1 egg yolk
a pinch of salt

For the filling:
110g butter
4 large onions (I only had miniature onions so I used about 7)
salt and pepper
4 egg yolks
300ml double cream

To make the pastry, quickly work the butter into the flour, rubbing them together with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. There can be a mix of bigger and smaller pieces. I’ve read about everything having to be very cold when you make pastry, but I disregarded that and it didn’t seem to matter. Add the egg yolk, salt, and enough water so that you can stir it and it forms a firm dough. I found this was a tiny amount, so add cautiously. Chill the dough in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180c. On a floured surface, roll out the pastry as thinly as you can. Grease a deep 20.5cm flan tin and line it with the pastry, pressing it into the edges. Trim off the overhang, either with a knife or your fingers. Don’t be over-zealous, as the pastry may shrink in the oven (mine did). Keep the off-cuts in case of cracks developing. Prick the bottom gently with a fork. Now is the time to use your ceramic beans or pie weights if you have them, or you can use dried beans. This is to stop the pastry from bubbling up in the oven. I didn’t use anything and it was fine. Bake the case for about 15-20 minutes until straw coloured. If cracks have developed, patch them up.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large saucepan, add the onions and a sprinkle of salt, and cook gently with a lid on for about 10-15 minutes. Make sure the onions don’t brown. When very sloppy, remove the lid and carry on cooking on the lowest heat, stirring from time to time, until most of the liquid has evaporated. This may take up to 1 hour. The onions should become very soft and turn darker in colour, but you’re not caramelising them so make sure they don’t stick and burn on the bottom of the pan. When done, pour into a bowl and cool.

Mix the egg yolks and cream together and add to the onions with a generous amount of black pepper. Taste and see if it needs salt. Pour the mixture into the pastry case – you may not be able to fit it all in, but try to get in as much as possible. As Simon says, “half-filled tarts are always disappointing.” If you have leftover mixture, look around and see if you still have those pastry off-cuts. If yes, you can form yourself a little miniature tart for your boyfriend to have for lunch tomorrow – you wouldn’t want him to miss out, would you?

Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes, or until set and lightly browned. Mine looked about done after 20, so I turned off the oven and left it in there for the last 10 minutes. Serve with a green salad.

Petit pot au chocolat  Serves 4

175ml double cream
1/2 vanilla pod, split lengthways
75ml milk (I used semi-skimmed)
125g dark, bitter chocolate, broken into pieces (I used some 73% cocoa stuff bought from my veg box people)
2 small egg yolks (now you can really make a lot of meringues)
1 heaped tbsp icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 140c. Warm the cream with the vanilla pod – careful, it can boil up quickly! Stir to disperse the vanilla seeds, turn off the heat, cover and leave to infuse for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in the milk. Beat together the egg yolks and sugar (you may need to sieve the sugar first, icing sugar tends to go lumpy) and add to the chocolate milk and vanilla cream. Mix together thoroughly. Pass through a fine sieve (not sure this was necessary, but I did it) into 4 small pots or ramekins. The ones you get from GU chocolate puds are about the right size.

Bake in a bain-marie (i.e. half fill a deep baking tray with hot water and place the pots in it) for 45 minutes – 1 hour. The pots should puff up slightly and you want them to get to a stage where a crust forms on top – they will probably start to develop teeny cracks in the top when ready. Cool in the fridge for at least 6 hours before serving.

Adapted from Simon Hopkinson’s ‘Roast Chicken and Other Stories’.