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I meant to share this when I made it but I got side tracked with other things between then and now. It’s a sunday morning recipe and I’m on the couch with my laptop for a change so it seems appropriate to write it up now.

Avocado on toast is not a new concept and neither is a poached egg but it took a zealous bout of emptying the fridge of left 0vers for me to consider combining them. The warm creamy egg turned out to be a happy marriage with the cold creamy and crunchy guacamole and salsa left over from the previous evening’s meal. You could use shop bought or homemade dips but I like the fact that this uses up the smidges left over from a dinner of fajitas that you don’t want to through away. You can also multiply the amounts to feed more people but I tend to make poached eggs only when I’m cooking for one or two so I have written the recipe below to make everything from scratch for one. It occurs to me now that this would make quite an elegant canapé if made with quails eggs and mini toasts if a little to prepare.

Poached Egg with Guacamole and Salsa on Toast

I love the science behind cooking and find it frustrating to be given an instruction without the reason behind it so it pleases me to know that the freshest eggs make the best poachers because an egg white is made up of what’s called thick and thin whites and the fresher the egg the more thick white it has which holds together better when dropped into the water. So do use fresh eggs if you can, not just for the sake of it. Having said that if you’re cooking for yourself and you wont be offended by an egg with a bit of bed head then dont stress about it if your eggs are a bit older.

  •  1 large free range egg
  • 1 large or 2 small chunky slices of good bread, toasted
  • roughly 2 heaped tbsp salsa
  • roughly 3 heaped tbsp guacamole
  • sea salt flakes to finish

Salsa

  • 1 small tomato or a few cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 a shallot finely chopped
  • a drop of olive oil
  • salt and black pepper to taste

Guacamole

  • 1/2 an avocado scooped into a bowl
  • 1 spring onion chopped
  • a squeeze of lime juice
  • salt and black pepper to taste

Mix all your salsa and guacamole ingredients together in two bowls and set side. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil. Crack your egg into a tea cup or small bowl. When the water is ready, stir it with a spoon to make a whirlpool in the middle and drop in the egg. Cook for about 3 min until the white is set but the yoke is still runny. Meanwhile make your toast and spread it first with guacamole and then salsa. When the egg is ready lift it out, drain off the water and place on top of the toast. Sprinkle with salt and serve.

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My favourite books to read while I’m on holiday are written by chefs about their lives, using a mixture of narrative and recipes to tell the story. I can actually quite happily read a normal cookbook like a novel but I’d have to bring a small library to keep me busy for two weeks so these keep me occupied a little longer and give me a few recipe ideas if I happen to need them.

My latest read is Dear Francesca by Mary Contini, the co-owner of the famous Italian delicatessen Valvona & Crolla. Its addressed to her daughter, telling the story of their family and how they came to Edinburgh from Italy. Strangely its the first one of her books Ive read but I loved it and Ive been plowing my way through the recipes since I got back home. There are some benefits to the Scottish climate… its cold enough to eat soup!

Besides a freezer full of soup, I finally got around to trying tomato risotto. I thought Nonna Marietta’s risotto al pomodoro was a pretty good recipe to start with. I intended originally to stick to the recipe but I had some mature scottish cheddar in the fridge and thought it would be an interesting alternative to Mary’s suggestion of adding chunks of fontina to the finished dish which melt into stringy pockets as they sit in the risotto. I thought since the book combines dishes from both countries, I wouldn’t be frowned upon by the author if she knew what I was up to.

The experiment didn’t disappoint and I am imagining all kinds of variations on my normal risotto recipes that I want to try with different base flavours and cheeses. This could turn into a very fattening winter (yes in case you are still telling yourself summer might turn up before we hit snow again, I hate to break it to you…its not coming).

Tomato Risotto with Smoked Pancetta and Mature Cheddar

I’ve written out Mary’s recipe with only a couple of small tweaks as I couldnt find a copy on the net but I wholly recommend you buy her book yourself so that you get the Italian mothering and instruction that my version is lacking.

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 75g butter
  • 1 shallot peeled and finely chopped
  • 150g smoked pancetta (the original recipe uses 200g but with the cheddar the smoked pancetta is very rich so a little less pares it back a bit)
  • 200g risotto rice (I normally use 100g per person due to a paranoid fear of having too little but Mary’s original recipe uses 300g to serve 4)
  • 200g Italian plum tomatoes, sieved (half a 400g tin)
  • about 1-1.25 litre hot chicken stock (1 litre is enough for 200g rice)
  • a handful of cubed mature cheddar

Heat the oil and 50g of the butter in a saucepan. Sauté the shallot until softened and transparent. Sauté the pancetta a little and then add the rice and stir around to let it toast. Add the sieved tomatoes and cook for a few minutes. Slowly start to stir in the stock, one ladle at a time. Stir everything and cook for about 20 minutes. When the rice is cooked stir in the remaining butter and divide between two bowls. Sprinkle over the cheddar cubes and gently push them into the rice so that they melt. You could also garnish with fresh herbs such as basil.

Serious comfort food! ♥

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As you may have realised by this point if you have read any of my other posts I’m a little christmas-mad. I wasnt always this way and I’m not entirely sure what happened but I think it was something to do with moving from the warm southern hemisphere (where christmas day consists of cold meat, salad and a dunk in the pool to maintain a temperature suitable for the continuation of life), to the cold climate of Scotland. I remember the first time I walked past a holly bush in Edinburgh that actually had holly berries on it and did a little jump-squeak-dance on the spot of excitement which must have really scared my fellow pedestrians. You don’t want to see me when it snows.

My favourite kind of post to read at this time of year is other blogger’s last minute ideas for christmas dishes, drinks and foodie presents just in case I’ve missed out on something I wont be able to continue life without eating/drinking/owning. And I’m equally as eager to share my own santa list and some recipes so that I am returning the favour to those with a similar compulsion.

Food

Here’s a selection  recipes from other blogs and my own with a Christmassy theme which I would recommend or have me interested.

      

Creamy Pea Soup – coconut milk makes this deliciously creamy and sweet and its the perfect cheerful green….   Spaghetti with Marmite (from Nigella) – when you’ve had enough of turkey….    Chocolate & Thyme Mousse – if you’re sick of Christmas pud….    Poached Pears (from Kosher Camembert) – festive and just stunning….   Chilli Glazed Gammon – warm and spicy….   Chestnut Chocolate Pots (from Nigella) – winter in a cup….   Parmesan, Rosemary and Pancetta Grissini – perfect for parties and gifts….   Gingerbread Latte Cupcakes – if Christmas had a smell….

Presents

Stomach sorted, presents next. Some ideas from my own Christmas list and other brilliant foodie gift ideas I’ve seen this year.

Le Creuset Stoneware Mixing Jug, AlmondThe basics – Stoneware Mixing Jug. 

Everyone needs a sturdy mixing bowl . I have a big metal one which is great because its light and good for whipping meringue but sometimes you need a heavy one that wont slide around the counter top while you are mixing. This one has the benefit of a pouring lip and Le Creuset good looks.

McGee on Food and Cooking: An Encyclopedia of Kitchen Science, History and CultureCook Books – McGee on Food & Cooking.

I love cookbooks that either have a narrative with the recipes or teach you about why you have to do things and the science behind culinary techniques so this book is on my wish list this year.

Its not Christmas to me without a good book to read on Christmas day after I’ve eaten so much I’ve lost the power of movement and speech and have to lie down (I know, aren’t I rock and roll).

Landing_page_beansSubscriptions – Kopi Gourmet Coffee.

My Delicious Magazine subscription is still one of my favourite presents but this is a subscription with a twist. If you know anyone who loves good coffee and drinks enough of it to receive a new bag every month then I think this is very clever.

Crafty – Jam making stuff.

I want to start making my own preserves and although I’ve started by making my own fruit mince without the aid of any special equipment its harder to make proper jams and other preserves without decent jars and strainers etc.

I have my eye on these jars  at Lakeland as well as a pile of other preserving related paraphenalia and books on amazon.co.uk

Andrew James Professional Fully Automatic Ice Cream Maker With Built-in Compressor + Free 128 Page Ice Cream Maker Cook BookGadgets – Ice Cream Maker

Every cook loves gadgets. My cupboards are already crammed full but I am dying to make my own ice cream. My head is brimming with recipe ideas but I’ve tried making it without an ice cream machine and it just doesnt come out the same.

I dont have space in my freezer or patience for the kind with a bowl you have to freeze so this one is a well priced version of the proper electric kind.

Christmas Cooking Challenge

And last but not least, don’t forget to join in my Mince Pie Challenge if you are making your own this year. The idea is to reinvent the standard formula with a twist of any kind but if you just want to share your traditional home-made pies you can still send me a link or photo and at the end of the month I’ll post the entries, pick a winner and send the best one a little surprise foodie christmas gift.  Just leave me a comment to let me know you are entering by the end of the Month.

I’ve started by making Nigella’s Rhubarb and Vanilla Mince which turned out to be delicious and I’m using that to try out different mince pie themed pastries and biscuits. Here’s the recipe if you want an alternative to the ordinary suet and citrus peel kind. The vanilla makes it really rich and velvety.

Rhubarb and Vanilla Fruit Mince

Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Feast.

  • 1kg rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 5mm slices
  • 300g soft brown sugar
  • 2 vanilla pods
  • 2 tsp ground mixed spice
  • 200g raisins
  • 250g sultanas
  • 225g currants
  • 2 tbsp cherry brand

Put the sliced rhubarb with the sugar into a large pan. Cut the vanilla pod in halves length ways and scrape out the seeds, then cut each half into pieces, adding seeds and pod slices to the pan. Add the mixed spice and cook for about 5 mins.

Add the dried fruits and simmer for about 30 mins. Stir in the brandy and take off the heat. When it’s cool enough to handle, bottle in jars.

Makes 1.25 litres.

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So Christmas was a success, more or less anyway. Creamy Pea Soup and Prawn Cocktail with melba toast to start, one Citrus Butter Turkey and all the trimmings, and finally boozy (and I do mean boozy) Grand Marnier Chocolate Mousse topped with Spicy Cocoa Biscuits. All prepared and served to guinea pig family with no adverse effects (besides the adverse effects of eating a three course meal only a few hours after polishing off a proper salmon and scrambled egg breakfast, several Bucks fizz and an Apricot Queen), although I was still disappointed that despite all my efforts of butter under its skin and a white wine bath it was still on the dry side so that will need some tweaking and practising but not bad for a first attempt.

Its a little late to share all the recipes with you as I’m sure you need 12 months to recover before you even contemplate another Christmas dinner but since the theme of this post is a little break from all the decadence before new year finishes us off, I decided I would give you the pea soup recipe (at the end of this post) as it was definitely a keeper. It works really well as a little side with a prawn cocktail but a big bowl and some crusty soup would be just as good as a simple healthy meal on its own. The creaminess comes from adding half a can of coconut milk which isn’t exactly low fat (I did use the light version though) but definitely feels lighter than cream and has a much fresher, less cloying taste. You could add chilli or different spices as well but I quite like the full and unadorned pea flavour and brilliant green colour.

Despite a brief pea soup respite, after three days of drinking and eating I had to give my poor body a chance to get back on the band wagon before I bludgeon it over the head with a bottle or six of champagne so this week  I raided the healthy end of the store cupboard and made up a couple of new granola recipes in an attempt to restore normality.

Dark chocolate and chilli granola might not sound like normality but trust me it works. I got the most brilliant cookbook for my last birthday, The Flavour Thesaurus by Niki Segnit. It gives you suggestions for flavour combinations by grouping ingredients into flavour families and it’s so useful when you are trying to come up with a recipe or use up ingredients and cant decide what to pair them with. Some of the pairings like chilli and chocolate are more common but I’ve learnt some unlikely new ones or finally found an explanation for why some things work together. This granola recipe is great because apart from barely requiring any cooking at all, you can add anything you want to the basic granola to make different versions and you can actually try the raw ingredients rather than having to cook them first and hope for the best.  I developed these combinations by tasting bits of fruit, chocolate and spices before I started to see what works the best. I was originally going to put cinnamon in with the white chocolate and cranberry but nutmeg was just perfect because the nutmeg adds a fresh balance to the extreme sweetness of white chocolate (think about what it does for a creamy white sauce). The ginger in the dark chocolate version is another classic pairing which adds a second gentle heat behind the chilli and brings out the orange flavour from the zest grated into the oats.

Anyway I’m getting a bit scientific about granola. Here are the recipes, enjoy the rest of your holidays and I hope you have a wonderful New Year!

 

Dark Chocolate and Chilli Granola

If you are making both of these at the same time then you can half the ingredients but I’ve given amounts for a full batch of each.

  • 250g rolled oats (preferably jumbo)
  • 50g flaked almonds
  • 50g sunflower seeds
  • 50g butter (if I am halving the recipe then I use 30g butter)
  • 6 tbsp runny honey
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • a large handful of dark chocolate chips (or as much as you like)

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Combine the oats, nuts, seeds and spices in a large bowl. Melt the butter with the honey and add the grated orange zest. Stir into the oat mixture until the oats are properly coated. Spread over a baking tray lined with tin foil and bake for 15-20 min, stirring every 5 to 10 min so that the oats brown evenly. When toasted, remove the granola from the oven and allow it to cool completely before adding the chocolate chips and storing in an airtight container.

White Chocolate and Cranberry Granola

  • 250g rolled oats
  • 50g flaked almonds
  • 50g sunflower seeds
  • 50g butter (if I am halving the recipe then I use 30g butter)
  • 6 tbsp runny honey
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 100g dried cranberries
  • a large handful of white chocolate chips

Repeat as above, adding the white chocolate and cranberries once the granola has cooled.

Creamy Pea Soup

This recipe makes enough to serve 4 as a light meal or at least 6 as a starter, depending on how much you serve. You can make it ahead and freeze as well if you are pushed for time.

  • 1/2 a leek, sliced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 sticks of celery, chopped
  • 1 litre good vegetable stock
  • 50g butter
  • 750g frozen or fresh peas
  • 200ml coconut milk

Melt the butter in a large saucepan and fry the onions and celery over a low heat until soft (do not brown). Add the leeks and fry for another 2 min. Add the stock and bring to the boil, then add the peas (I run the frozen peas under water for a bit before I add them to get rid of some of the ice). Boil the peas for about 4 min until just cooked and then add the coconut milk. Allow the soup to stand for a couple of minutes before blending in batches. You can now store in the fridge or freezer (defrost before you try to heat it) or put it back on the heat straight away to warm slightly. Just avoid boiling at length at any stage or the peas will lose their bright green colour and fresh flavour.

Happy eating! ♥

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There’s no such thing as too much garlic. Many people will disagree with that statement but tough, I’m writing this blog not you. I would put garlic in my coffee given half a chance. So imagine how excited I was when I found an entire farm shop dedicated solely to this pungent little vegetable.

While we were on the Isle of Wight we spent a day driving around the island and since I have a homing beacon for anything food or wine related, I made a bee line for the local vineyards and farm shops…which is how we discovered the Garlic farm.

Tucked away on a quiet farm road, you are greeted by a cosy log cabin building with great big baskets of garlic in the doorway wafting their sulphoury sweet fumes into the air. Rows and rows of garlic chutneys, pickles, sauces, marinades, drizzles,  and even garlic beer (yes I also thought that was a step too far at first but as I said, no such thing as too much garlic). Just to the left of this alliophile paradise is another even more comfortable looking room with a log fire in the corner, flagstone floors softened with a Persian rug, and slate specials boards dangling tantalisingly from the ceiling advertising the day’s tummy pleasers. Outside is a sheltered terrace where you can eat (weather permitting) with a view of the lawn and the slightly mismatched family of resident peacocks and guinea fowl going about their daily wanderings.

The farm is owned by the Boswell family who’s love affair with garlic has lasted more than 30 years and has resulted, luckily for me and other garlic lovers, in a successful farm shop and licensed cafe. I know most people reading this wont be able to just nip down to the Isle of Wight for a nose around so the good news is there’s an online shop as well which sells a selection of the afore mentioned plethora of garlic produce.

If you do land up in their neck of the woods though I would seriously recommend lunch in the cafe. The head chef, Charlie Bartlett, must know what he’s doing because I had such a scrumptious lunch that I came back for a second one before we left. On our first visit the sun was out so we sat on the terrace and munched our way through a plate of crispy fried whitebait with home made tartare sauce and malted bloomer bread door stopper and the most delicious and tender steak sandwich I have ever tasted. For round two, I had the trout and spring onion pot with garlic croutons, side salad and a balsamic dressing and Ross had the beef stew with dumplings, no disappointments there. Delicious.

Having been let loose in the shop I came home with a bag full of loot, including the garlic farm cookbook and a bundle of smoked garlic, so the first thing I did when I was back in my own kitchen was cook something. The weather here was pretty miserable (a common theme you will have noticed) so I chose a roasted garlic soup recipe with potatoes and leeks but instead of the elephant garlic it called for I decided to try the smoked garlic bulbs so that they would be the star of the show. Despite the eye watering aroma coming from the brown paper bag they were stored in, the smoked cloves are very mellow and sweet so I chopped and added a few extra cloves near the end as well as roasting the whole bulbs in the oven for a proper garlic bite.

You can adjust the amount and type of garlic in this recipe to suit your own tastes as long as you remember the following rule. The finer you chop the garlic and the less time you cook it the stronger the flavour will be. If you keep the cloves whole and roast them they will be much gentler with a more caramelised flavour.

Pumpkins aside, you couldn’t get a more appropriate recipe for Halloween than this and you can be safe in the knowledge that no vampires (or co-workers, family and friends for that matter) will come near you with a bowl of this in your tummy.

Happy Halloween!

Smoked Garlic Soup with Parmesan and Sage Toasties

Adapted from the Garlic Farm Cookbook. Serves 4-6.

  • 2 bulbs of smoked garlic plus a few extra cloves (if you are using un-smoked garlic you may not need the extra cloves)
  • olive oil
  • 4 leeks, chopped
  • 2 celery sticks, chopped
  • 2 potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 250ml white wine
  • 1 litre chicken stock
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 slices  white bread person
  • 1/4 cup of grated parmesan per person
  • few sage leaves

Preheat the oven to 220°C. Cut the top off the garlic bulbs so that the flesh is exposed, drizzle with olive oil and wrap in tin foil. Roast for 1 hour until soft and golden.

Squeeze the flesh from each clove into a pan and add the onion, celery leeks and potatoes and a dash more olive oil. Fry for a couple of minutes, then add the wine and cook until the wine has reduced by half. add the stock, salt and pepper and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Near the end, add the chopped garlic cloves. While the soup is cooking, gently fry the sage leaves in a large frying pan for a minute. Cut the crusts off the bread and make into sandwiches with the parmesan and a couple of sage leaves. Then carefully place them into the same frying pan and squash down with a spatula. Fry until golden on each side and cheese has melted.

When the soup is ready take it off the heat and blend with a hand held blender or in a food processor and then serve with the cheese toasties and garnished with the remaining sage leaves.

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I made these ricotta stuffed tomatoes today for lunch from Aimee Lee’s blog “Cooking my way thin” and they were delicious! It was cold and grey outside and I was working from home while the joiners came to start renovating our kitchen so I decided to make something hot for lunch.

I didn’t have any beef tomatoes and I was cooking for one so I made two baby ones without the corn and courgettes and had them on toasted ciabatta drizzled with balsamic syrup. They look just like little red and white baubles so I think I’ll keep the recipe to use again as a starter at Christmas time!

Today is the last time I’ll be able to cook this week as tomorrow the sink and oven will be ripped out so as a final treat I’m making Bunny Chows for dinner tonight.  A Bunny Chow is essentially curry served in a hollowed out loaf of bread and is a South African fast food staple (if you want to know more about the history you can read this Wikipedia article). The magic thing about a bunny is that the bread doubles as a bowl for the curry and your side dish. You just pull bits of bread off and dunk them in the curry as you go, functional and delicious!

I’m not attempting to make the bread tonight because most of my cooking utensils are packed away but this is the one I was going to use from Barefoot Kitchen Witch. I made it with soup a few weeks ago and its perfect – soft but strong enough to hold the curry and you can make it ahead of time (thank you BKW!).

I’ve included two curry recipes that I’ve written: Chicken and Lentil. I’m making the lentil one tonight but they’re both just as nice.

Cooking in a building site

Chicken Curry

This is a rich creamy curry but you can make it slightly lighter by replacing the coconut milk with extra yoghurt at the end. Serves 2-4 people depending on the size of your tummy!

  • 2 large chicken breasts, cubed
  • 1 medium white onion, chopped
  • 1 chilli, chopped
  • 2 tbsp ginger, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup Greek yoghurt (or double if you aren’t using coconut milk)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • bunch of fresh coriander, chopped

Gently heat the oil in a large pan and toast the spices for 1 min. Add the onion, ginger and chilli and fry for 2 min. Add the garlic and fry for a further minute. Add the chicken and fry for 4 min, then add the wine, cook off and turn down the heat. Add the coconut milk and simmer for 15 min. Turn off the heat, stir in the coriander and yoghurt and serve (stir the yoghurt in carefully otherwise it will curdle).

Lentil Curry

This is quite a light curry, especially with the fresh tomato and spring onions tossed through at the end. Serves 2-3.

  • 150g brown lentils
  • 3-4 fresh tomatoes
  • 2 spring onions
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • bunch of fresh coriander, chopped
  • 1 chilli, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 cup wine (white although I use red if that’s all I have and it works fine)
  • 1/2 cup plain yoghurt
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp chopped ginger
  • 1 chicken stock cube
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • pinch of salt

Chop 2 of the tomatoes, the spring onions and the coriander and set aside. Boil the lentils for about 20 min until soft but not mushy. In the meantime toast the spices in the oil and then fry the onion and chilli for 5 min. Add the tomato puree and fry for another 2 min. Add the wine and cook off. Add the remaining chopped tomato, the stock cube and half a cup of water. Add the drained lentils and simmer for 20 min. Turn off the heat and stir in the yoghurt. Finally mix in the fresh tomato, spring onions and coriander and serve.

Bunny Chow

  • 1 small loaf of bread (or half a loaf per person)
  • Curry of your choice

Cut the loaf of bread in half and hollow out the middle. Put the core to one side.  Spoon hot curry into the middle of the loaf and put the core back in the top. Serve on its own or with chutney and sambals.

    I’ve just eaten mine and I’m stuffed! Enjoy x

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    Just to prove my point about making more mistakes than successful meals, yesterday’s new recipe didn’t quite go according to plan. I had some figs in the fridge so I decided to make a fig and goats cheese tart for lunch…

    Attempt Number One

    I did a bit of research beforehand and decided to try out a recipe by Bron Marshall. Everything was going well and it was looking more and more appetising as I assembled the onions, fig slices and cheese on the pastry.

    Sadly the proof wasn’t in the pudding. The onion and fig filling was delicious but I didn’t like the puff pastry base with it and there wasn’t enough cheese on top to give it a proper punch so overall it was a bit of a disappointment (I didnt make the mustard glaze though as I wanted pure fig and cheese flavours).

    However, not to be discouraged, I tweaked the recipe slightly and changed the pastry to short crust instead. Now I think it ticks all my ‘perfect fig and goats cheese tart’ boxes and hopefully yours as well (for those who are still in the puff pastry camp or want to make up their own minds, please refer to Bron’s recipe instead).

    I’ve just come back to add to this post because, reading it over it sounds as though I’m saying Bron’s recipe was a flop which wasnt my intention. There’s nothing wrong with it and I have only adapted it to get the result I had in my own mind, which is why I’ve suggested that anyone who reads this looks at both and chooses according to their personal preferences. Thank you Bron for the  recipe and the inspiration!

    Caramelised Onion, Fig and Goats Cheese Tart

    Adapted from the same recipe by Bron Marshall. Serves 4.

    Pastry:

    125g plain flour

    pinch of salt

    55g butter, cubed

    30-45ml tbsp cold water

    Filling:

    2 large red onions, halved and sliced

    3 figs, sliced

    300g goats cheese (or enough to cover the area of your pie dish)

    3 tbsp brown sugar

    45ml balsamic vinegar

    Put the flour, butter and salt in a food processor and pulse until the butter is rubbed in (you can do this by hand if you dont have a food processor). Gradually add the water through the funnel until the dough comes together into a ball. Only add enough water to bind it and then stop. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and chill for 10-15min.

    Fry the onions on a medium heat until they are soft (about 10min). Add 2 tbsp of the sugar and half the vinegar and fry for another 15-20min until the onions are really sticky and most of the moisture is gone. Sit aside to cool.

    Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees. Roll out the pastry and line a pie dish. Blind bake for 15-20min. Line the base with the onion mixture and season with salt and pepper. Lay the sliced figs over the onions and then lay the slices of cheese over the figs. Put the tart back in the oven for about 20minutes or until the cheese is melted and lightly browned.

    While the tart is in the oven, heat the remaining vinegar and sugar in a small pan until sticky and drizzle over the top when its ready (you can use pre-made balsamic glaze if you have it but it will be nicer warm).

    Yum yum!

    ♥ ♥ ♥

    While I was writing about this recipe, my brain started to wander over other recipes which have taken me several attempts to get right (yesterday’s milk tart is one of these odysseys) and how “practice makes perfect”. One of the things I can remember my mom making when I was young is banana bread. It was wonderfully soft and damp without being too heavy and it smelled of vanilla and spices (and bananas of course).

    Unfortunately I don’t have a copy of my mom’s recipe so I started trying other’s until I found one that fitted my mental blueprint for good banana bread. Here’s my favourite recipe, please feel free to let me know if you think you can beat it though!

    Banana Bread

    Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s recipe (I left out the alcohol, nuts and sultanas because I was trying to recreate my mom’s but you might want to keep them in).

    175g plain flour

    2 tsp baking powder

    1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

    1/2 tsp salt

    125g unsalted butter, melted

    80g brown sugar

    80g white sugar

    2 large eggs

    300g of mashed very very ripe bananas (3-4 bananas)

    1/4 tsp cinnamon

    1/4 tsp nutmeg

    1 teaspoon vanilla extract

    Butter and flour a loaf tin and preheat the oven to 170 degrees.

    Mix the flour, baking powder, bicarb, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and combine well. In a large bowl, mix the melted butter and sugar and beat until blended. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the mashed bananas and vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture, a third at a time, stirring well after each bit. Scrape into the loaf tin and bake in the middle of the oven for 1-1 1/4 hours until a skewer inserted comes out cleanish.

    Leave in the tin on a rack to cool. My favourite way to eat it is hot from the oven or toasted with a slap of butter. Mmmmmmm, hope you like it.

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