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Posts Tagged ‘goat’s cheese’

Last week my mum and I went on a last-minute city break to Avignon where we indulged in sunshine, shopping and lots and lots of beautiful food. Since coming back I’ve been on a Provençal cooking kick having been overloaded with inspiration on our mini holiday. Just wandering around the wonderful indoor market is enough to make you want to sell up and move to France: the stalls were overflowing with all manner of heirloom tomatoes; tiny, round green and yellow courgettes; plump purple- and white-flecked aubergines; strings of garlic; fat bundles of fresh herbs and about 20 types of onion. The delis had big bowls of ratatouille to take home and reheat alongside stuffed tomatoes, rabbit stew, individual egg and vegetable flans and roasted meats. Hams and whole salamis hung above mountains of olives and the boulanger oppostie sold crunchy, fresh sourdough bread, fougasse studded with nuts and apple tart by the slice. Other displays contained jewel-like candied fruits, macarons and iced, almond-shaped Calissons from nearby Aix. (more…)

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Devils on horseback, the posh name for prunes wrapped in bacon, are to my mind one of the best canapés ever invented. If someone puts a plateful in front of me I won’t stop eating until they’re gone, I practically inhale the suckers. When I make them I always try to have a few spare, you know – chef’s perks. (Oh, you mean that’s not an excuse to make more to keep you going until dinner’s ready?) There’s something about the salty/sweet/smokey combo that makes them very hard to share. Yum.

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Apologies for the stupidly long title here but sometimes you just have to cram in all the yummy things! Recently lucky little me had lunch at the Riverford field kitchen. For those of you who’ve not heard of it let me explain. Riverford farm (which is now quite a large conglomeration of farms) was one of the first organic fruit and vegetable farms in the UK to offer produce boxes. Their main farm is less than  half an hour from me and our area is privileged to have been receiving vegetable boxes right from the word go. Back when they started, lots of their produce was quite unusual, I certainly didn’t know what to do with cavolo nero and  broccolo romanesco seemed totally alien. So in addition to the weekly box of goodies, they also sent recipes and suggestions for what to do with your new discoveries.

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One of the things I love most about food (besides eating it!) is the way it can bring people together and help forge friendships. Whether you’re sat round a big table sharing supper with friends and family, swapping recipe tips with colleagues or comparing cookbooks with the person stood next to you at the library; food is something we all have in common. So many of my friends are scattered so far, it’s hard for us to all get together, but, when we do I can absolutely guarantee we’ll be doing some serious eating!

In particular I like the way recipes are handed along, down families – like the Easter biscuit recipe written out by my grandmother, stashed away in my mum’s cookbook collection; between strangers all around the world through all the wonderful blogs and websites there are and, with this recipe, among friends. I don’t know where it originated from but it was taught to my good friend Al (Hello!) by her Italian ‘zia’ in Puglia. I followed Al’s instructions this weekend, put my own twist on it with goat’s cheese and rosemary and came out with a beautifully light bread that had golden, olive oil-soaked crispy base and cute little dimples on top. And now I’m hoping that lovely Jane (Bonjour!) who requested I make foccacia for the blog will be making her own version in the near future.

Focaccia

From Al

  • 500g strong flour
  • 150g boiled mashed potato, still warm
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 packet yeast (7g)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 30g olive oil, plus extra for kneading and drizzling
  • warm water
  • toppings – herbs, cheese, tomatoes, olives, salt

Mix together the flour, potato, salt, yeast, sugar, oil, add water a little at a time to form a soft, pliable dough. The dough should be quite moist but not so sticky you can’t knead it.

Using a little oil on the counter and your hands, knead the dough for several minutes until it becomes smooth. Place in an oiled bowl, cover with cling film and  leave to rise until doubled (1-2 hours).

Put enough oil in a baking tin to cover the base, don’t be shy, use several good glugs so there’s a pool for the dough to bathe in.

Knock the dough back (press out all the air) and place it in the tin making dimples in the top with your fingers. Cover with cling film and leave to rise for another 30 mins.

Heat the oven to 200°C (180 for fan ovens). Top the dough with whatever combination of toppings takes your fancy and some more olive oil. Bake for 20-30mins until golden and enjoy with a messy bowl of pasta!

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I make no apologies for this tart, it is a full-on carb fest, fantastic for a winter’s night when all you want to do is curl up in front of the TV and snooze. But at the same time I’d happily eat this during the summer with green salad and chilled glass of white. A contradiction in terms? No, just a beautifully versatile and simple tart than can be thrown together at a moment’s notice and tweaked depending on what you have in the fridge.

In its current incarnation this tart is puff pastry topped with spring onions, thyme and fat coins of potato hiding under melty goat’s cheese. But how about swapping the onions and thyme for red onion marmalade and sliced black olives; slow-roasted tomatoes and basil; or pesto. Switch the goat’s cheese for feta. During the summer, when you fancy something a little lighter, you can slice the potatoes paper-thin. You don’t even need a recipe but I’ll give you one anyway.

Potato and goat’s cheese tart

(Serves 4)

  • 1 x 375g  pack of pre-rolled puff pastry
  • 5-6 new potatoes, sliced 0.5cm thick
  • 6 spring onions
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 200g goat’s cheese
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil

Pre-heat your oven to 200°C.

In a medium pan boil the potato slices for about 5 mins or until soft. Drain.

Unroll the pastry onto a baking sheet and with a knife, score a 2cm border around the edge of the pastry making sure not to cut completely through. With a fork, gently prick the pastry inside of the border.

Keeping within the border, sprinkle over the chopped spring onions and thyme then arrange the potato slices in a single layer. Season with salt and pepper then crumble over the cheese. Drizzle a little olive oil over the top and bake for 25 mins until the pastry is puffed and golden. If the cheese looks to be browning to quickly move the tart to a lower shelf in the oven or cover with foil.

Now go forth and tart it up!

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