Posts Tagged ‘pastry’

The Brazillian GP – The final race of the season and some more street food!

November 29, 2011

So we’ve finally reached the end of the season and so it was time to celebrate with some Brazilian food. Brazilian cuisine draws on many influences, starting with Portuguese and also incorporating other European and African influences.

I enjoy tactile food and Brazil is another country with a great street food culture. As a result I chose to make two different snacks for us to nibble upon. The first dish was Coxinhas, deep fried chicken croquettes in the shape of little chicken thighs, and Acarajè, which are black eye pea fritters filled with onions and prawns.

The Coxinhas required the most preparation and so I started on these first.  In order to make 4 (2 each) I needed:

  • 125g of chicken breast
  • 180ml water
  • 2 shallots
  • 2 cocktail tomatoes (about 4 cherry ones)
  • 30ml of cream cheese (I did this by eye)
  • ½ cup of plain flour
  • 10mls oil
  • An egg
  • Breadcrumbs

The first thing I needed to do was to simmer the chicken in the water for 20 minutes with the lid on, leaving me with nice soft chicken and a sort of stock.  When it was done I drained the chicken, reserving the liquid, and allowed it to cool.

I then topped the liquid back up to 125ml (despite having the lid on the pan I lost quite a bit!), put it back in the saucepan and added the flour and oil along with some salt and pepper.  This resulted in something that looked like wallpaper paste, but the addition of heat and a lot of stirring eventually resulted in a ball of dough, although it was touch and go for a while!  The pastry then also went to one side to cool down.

While the chicken was cooling I finely diced my two shallots and the flesh of the tomatoes.   I then shredded the chicken when I was able.

The shallots went into a pan with some oil for a couple of minutes, and when they were soft the tomatoes joined them.  Finally the chicken was added along with seasoning, followed by a good dollop of cream cheese to hold everything together.

When the pastry was cool enough to work with (about 30 minutes in the fridge) I split of into four and began assembling the Coxinhas.  The pastry was quite sticky and so I used plenty of flour on my hands and the work surface.  I stretched each piece of pastry into an approximation of a circle and placed a quarter of my filling in the middle.

I then brought up the sides to encase the filling, creating a point at the top and generally trying to make a shape resembling a chicken thigh (this was not my most artistic moment I will admit).

These were then dipped in beaten and then breadcrumbs (I did this twice to give a good coating) before being deep fried.  I don’t own an oil thermometer or professional fryer so I had to guess the temperature of the oil. \But it only needed to be fairly low so to to crisp the outside and gently warm the Coxinhas through.  After about 5 minutes in each in the oil (I managed to fit two at a time in my pan) I drained them on some kitchen towel and they were ready.

So, while the filling and dough for the Coxinhas were cooling I was actually preparing my Acarajè with a plan to serving the two together.  There was a lot less cooking involved in the Acarajè, largely because I was using tinned black eyed peas.  If I had gone for fresh I would have needed to soak them overnight and then boil them, but as it was I could just use them straight away.  To make the Acarajè I needed:

  • 200g of black eyed peas
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 onion
  • Half a red chilli
  • 100g prawns (I used quite large ones)

The black eyed peas went into my mini chopper to be blitzed to a pulse.  These then went into a bowl and the chilli, the garlic and half the onion were next into the chopper (you can do this in one stage if you have a full size processor, I really need to get round to getting one!) and when finely chopped were added to the black eyed peas.

The other half of the onion was finely sliced and went into a small frying pan to gently sweat down.  To be traditional this should have been cooked in palm oil, but unfortunately I couldn’t get hold of any.  When the onion was lovely and soft the prawn were added and cooked through and the filling was finished.

To make the fritters I shaped the mixture into six balls which I then fried.  In a pan, trying my best to make sure that the entire outside touched the pan at some point and crisped up – this was more or less successful, but I think if I was to make these again in the future it might be easier to just quickly deep fry them!

I have to say I really enjoyed both dishes.  I though the Coxinhas were really great and I loved that you could taste a certain chickenyness in the pastry.  My partner wasn’t so keen as he thought the texture was a bit soft, but they were right up my alley!  The Acarajè were slightly tricky to eat, my filling kept making a break for it, but were also very tasty with a nice bit of heat to give some life to the beans.

The race itself, well Vettel didn’t win this one.  A gearbox problem left him travelling just slow enough that his teammate needed to pass him, but quick enough to keep him in front of everyone else.  For the rest, Hamilton also suffered gearbox issues and had to retire two thirds of the way through, Rosberg continued his run of finishing where he qualified or just slightly back, but managed to outperform Schumacher once again after Schuchy had a coming together with Senna.  The race was interesting, fun while it lasted, but not terribly memorable.

I’ve really enjoyed my tour around the globe cooking the cuisines of each of the race locations.  I’ve cooked a lot of dishes that I don’t think I would have tried otherwise, and have found some new favourites.  It’s not all been easy and it hasn’t all worked, but I’ve learnt a lot and I feel quite sad now it’s all over and I don’t have another race to plan for.  I need to find a new project!


French Plum Tarts

December 19, 2010

Several months ago I was contacted by the writer Rosy Thornton who wanted to know if I would like to try some of the recipes from her book “The Tapestry of Love”.   I thought this sounded like a great idea, and resolved to read the book first so that recipes had some context.  Well, life (and work!) got in the way and it is only in the last few weeks that I have finally found the time to read Rosy’s book and got round to trying the food!

The book is set in Cévennes mountain region of France and centres around a middle aged English woman, Catherine, who has relocated to the area.  Throughout the book many delicious dishes are consumed and Rosy had thoughtfully put together a collection of recipes for these.  Having a sweet tooth the one that immediately jumped out at me was the Mirabelle tart.  In the book this is cooked by Catherine for her neighbour using Mirabelles from her own back yard.  Lacking such a luxury I had to settle for some plums from the supermarket instead.

The recipe given is actually for one large tart, but with it just being myself and my partner, I decided to halve it and make three individual tarts instead.  I started by making the pastry, a basic shortcrust of 1oz unsalted butter and 2oz flour which were rubbed together and bound with water.  This went into the fridge to cool for about 10 minutes and in his time I buttered the tart tins.  When the pastry was rested I split it into three and rolled each section out to a thin disc about 3mm thick.  I then pricked the base of each tin, covered them in baking parchment and poured in some baking beans.

The tins then went into the oven (200C ) for 5 minutes to blind bake and I got on with making the custard to fill the tarts. This consisted of:

  • 1oz caster sugar
  • ½ an beaten egg
  • ¾oz plain flour
  • ¾oz ground almonds
  • ¼ pint of milk
  • ½oz melted unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon of suitable fruit liquor (I used Chambord which is black raspberry)

To make the custard I beat the sugar into the egg before adding the flour and almonds to create a smooth paste.  The milk, melted butter and liquor are then added in turn resulting in a fairly thin (and slightly pink!) batter.

Making the custard

With the batter made and the cases blind baked it was time to prepare the plums.  For a large tart the plums should be halved and arranged skin side down in the case, but for these individual tarts I sliced the plums (one for each tart) into thin slices and arranged them in a fan before sprinkling another some sugar (an ounce between the three tarts) over the top.

Adding the fruit...

... and the sugar

The custard mixture was then poured on top.  In the end I had enough custard to have made a fourth tart.  The tarts then went into the oven (still 200C) for about 20-25 minutes (this would be 45 for one large tart!) till the top of the custard was golden. The rest of the custard was then promptly eaten by my partner!

Filled with custard

Just out of the oven

It tasted great! Eating the tarts, the top had taken on a sponge like texture while the custard inside had remained creamy and smooth.  The plums had softened but still retained their structure.  Despite the sugar the plums were still fairly sharp which I enjoyed as it contrasted well with the custard.  The bottom of the pastry was a little underdone, I think that a little more time blind baking would solve this.  All in all these were a hit!

Fidget Pie

October 3, 2010

A slice of Fidget Pie

The Whole Pie

With Autumn fast approaching and a chill in the air I decided that it was high time I made a pie!  What with my current cider related exploits I thought it would be fun to go for a pie which incorporated this wonderful substance and I decided upon a fidget pie.  Fidget pie is a traditional Shropshire dish involving apples, cider, ham and potatoes originally served to workers in the fields.  The recipe I used was taken from the Hairy Bikers Food Tour of Britain and can be found here.  I actually missed this episode, so had not seen the dish made, but it sounded and looked lovely in the book.

The first thing for I needed to do was make up some pastry; the bikers’ recipe just says “shortcrust” with no quantities so I decided to use my usual recipe.  To make something approaching the 500g needed I crumbed 4oz of butter and 4 oz of lard into 16oz of plain flour before mixing through a tsp of salt and combining the lot with water.  The crust needed to be blind baked so I put about a 1/3rd of the pastry in the fridge to make a lid later and rolled the rest out to line the tin.  The hairy bikers recommend a deep false bottomed tin of 23cm diameter so naturally when I measured mine I only had tins of 21cm and 25cm diameter.  I plumped for the 25cm figuring I might not fit everything in the 21cm.

To blind bake the pastry I set the oven to 190C, lined the pastry with baking parchment and poured in my baking beans.  If you don’t have baking beans uncooked rice or dried pulses work fine as well, just make sure there’s enough to cover the bases fully so it doesn’t bubble up.  The case went in the oven for 15 minutes with the beans and then a further 5 minutes uncovered.

While the case was in the oven I started to prep the fillings.  First thing to do was get my potatoes cooking.  I peeled and thickly (but not terribly evenly it must be said) sliced around 450g of potatoes and plunged them into boiling water for just under 5 minutes so that they were soft but didn’t break down when handled.  These were then tossed in 2 tbsp of plain flour, 110ml of double cream and salt and pepper before they went to one side to cool a little.  Next up were the apples, 300g of bramleys; about two large ones, I was supposed to peel these as well but forgot so just sliced them up.  The final thing to prepare since my ham came ready sliced was the onion; 2 onions and a nice rough slice since this pie is fairly rustic.

With my pastry case ready it was time to layer things up.  I started with the apple, followed by potato sage and a little brown sugar and finally some ham before repeating.  Once I had used everything up the pie was pretty full despite being larger than recommended, I’m not sure it would have fit in a 23cm tin had I had one!  Finally I poured in 110ml of perry (I didn’t have any cider to hand unbelievably!  Very remiss of me), topped it with the remaining pastry and then realized much to my horrow that I had left out the onions.

Figuring it was a bit late to fix the missing onions I put the pie in the oven for an hour or so (still at 190C).  When it came out I left it to cool for a while before removing it from the tin.  It was not the prettiest pie ever but it held together!

The pie just out of the oven

Getting the Pie out of the tin

I ate this pie both hot as part of a dinner and cold as lunch and enjoyed it both ways but I think cold was better.   The pie held up really, it travelled fine as slices and even survived freezing (it was a really big pie and a lot to get through!).   It was quite sweet, but this was probably my fault for using perry instead of cider and leaving out the onions.  I don’t feel that leaving the skin of the bramleys caused any problem though and if I made it another time I would probably not peel them again since there’s a lot of goodness in the skins.  This was a lovely picnic or travelling pie!