Monday, 18 April 2011

Lemon Shortbread

I have been so blessed that my childhood memories are such happy ones. I had so many people in my life, from aunts and uncles to teachers and friends, all of whom helped me to create a quilt of happy places I still retreat to on grey days.

I'm not saying I grew up in a bubble, to be sure, I've had my share of heart breaks and let downs. It's just that the silver lining has always been brighter than the cloud. The older I get (and I'm not that far into old yet) the more I realise that the best memories are priceless, yet do not involve money.

Looking over the highlight reel of my life (so far) they all happen in times and places that are surrounded by family and friends doing things which didn't cost anything.

The best crayfish I have ever tasted, was not in a fancy silver-service restaurant, but rather caught and cooked fresh on the beach in sea water, surrounded by Varsity friends in Lamberts Bay! 
My most memorable lunch : Curry sarmies (sandwiches) and a flask of coffee on the rocks on a cold winter's day on the cliffs of Hermanus.
Best chocolate dessert? Instant chocolate pudding, made with powdered milk- what you say? I can assure you that when you've hiked 60kms in 4 days and everything you have is on your back, your standards are not as high as you would think.

So how do these simple childhood memories bring me back to the best shortbread recipe I have ever made or tasted? Simple, it is so easy to make - you don't need fancy equipment, lots of time or skills learnt over years of training at Le Cordon Bleu!

This is a recipe that  you can make memories with!
Lemon Shortbread
Lemon Shortbread

220g Cornflour
220g Cake Flour
110g Castor Sugar
250g Soft Butter
Finely Grated zest of 2 Lemons (washed and unwaxed)

Pre-heat the oven to 160C
Sift the dry flours together.
Add the sugar
Work in the butter and the zest until you have a stiff dough.
I use my cake mixture with the paddle attachment, but this can be done by hand.
Grease a 20cm - 30cm baking tray.
Smooth the dough in the tray and pre-cut into biscuits.
Prick the dough with a floured fork.
Bake for about 50 minutes until lightly golden.
Re-cut and re-prick the biscuits when you remove from the tray from the oven.
 Dust with extra castor sugar (optional)
Leave the shortbread to cool completely in the tray before removing.
Best enjoyed with a good cuppa tea.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Cornish Pasties

"Every great inspiration is but an experiment.".

Cornish Pasties
Blogging certainly does not happening in a vacuum. I am constantly being inspired by other foodies, from watching TV, reading other blogs, reading magazines or cookbooks (new and old).
What really amazes me is when I post something, thinking that I am the first to think of an idea -until I'll notice that on that same day another blogger (or 2 or 3) has done something with the same theme or using the same unique ingredients as me. This happens so often, I wonder sometime if there is a hidden "nanny cam" in my kitchen.

That being said, this post is not one which I claim to have done independently. It was inspired in it's entirety by one of my favourite bloggers Nina, at My Easy Cooking. I rate Nina as one, if not the best food blogger in South Africa and certainly in my top 3 blogs internationally.

Last week Nina posted her recipe for Cornish Pasties, using her fool-proof pastry. I have used her recipe before and I can certainly say it is everything it promises to be - child's play.

This got me thinking of the last time I made Cornish Pasties and how much I enjoyed them. They are certainly easy to make and a filling meal - as they were intended to be.

I have of course updated my original recipe and made a new filling which includes my new favourite ingredient - beans. I also made a change to my pastry by adding brown flour, making it an even lower GI option. I find the flavour of brown flour also adds a depth which is not there with plain white flour.

Cornish Pasties

Makes about 1kg of Pastry

250g Plain White Flour
250g Brown Bread Flour
350g Cold Butter
150ml Iced Water
35 ml Lemon Juice
5ml Salt

I use my food processor to make this pastry, 
If you are making it by hand then see here for basic instructions.
Sift the flours into the processor bowl.
Add the salt and the butter.
Pulse the mixture until it resembles breadcrumbs.
With the machine running add the lemon juice.
Slowly add just enough ice water until mixture comes together as a ball.
Remove from the machine and flatten into a disk about 1" thick.
Wrap the pastry in plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours.

Makes enough for 6-8 pasties

500g Goulash cubes
1 Onion sliced
½ teaspoon dried Chilli Flakes
2 Garlic Cloves Crushed
1 Teaspoon Dried Thyme
250 -350ml Beef Stock
1 tin  Small White Beans
1 Cup Frozen Mixed Vegetables
Oil for frying
 In a sauce pan, fry the onion in a little oil until soft, but not coloured.
Add the meat and the spices and fry for 1-2 minutes.
Add 250ml the beef stock and simmer until the meat is soft - about 1½ hours.
Keep checking the meat and add more stock when necessary.
Add the beans and the mixed vegetables and cook for a further 20 minutes.
Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely.

Making the Cornish Pasties
1 Egg beaten

On a floured surface roll the pastry out to about 2-3mm thick.
Cut disks about 18cm diameter (I use a regular side plate)
Add filling to the centre of the pastry disk.
Brush the circumference with a little egg.
Crimp the edges together to form your pasties.  
*** Any left over pastry can be re-frozen for later use.
Place the pasties in the freezer for 30 minutes.
Pre-heat the oven to 200ÂșC
Brush the pasties with a little egg and bake for 25-30 minutes until golden.
Serve hot with either some chutney, tomato sauce or my personal favourite sweet chilli sauce.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Plum Tart with Shortcrust Pastry

The other day we threw a staff dinner and invited a well known 
Cape Town photographer to join us. 

He brought a few of his latest photos to show us, 
to which our gracious hostess commented: 
"They are truly wonderful, you must have an amazing camera!"

As we lapped up the last of our dessert our photographer companion, 
not missing a beat, glanced at the hostess and said: 
"The food was must have some fantastic pots and pans."

In a kitchen filled with professionals, the one whose skills I respect the most is the pastry chef. The ability to make a shortcrust pastry that is crisp, yet melts in your mouth or to temper chocolate to reveal it's glossy beauty, is something I envy.

I have always had a problem with shortcrust pastry, from baking blind to resting and rolling, everything about pastry or pies had me beat. This was before I set my mind to researching pastry and then slowly sifting through what made sense and what sounded just plain silly or complicated.

I think that having a good fool proof shortcrust pastry recipe in your kitchen arsenal, it as good as it gets.

I made this shortcrust pastry tart shell, as the base for a simple plum and frangipane filling.

Plum Tart with Shortcrust Pastry

500g Cake Flour
125g Cold Butter
Juice of half a Lemon
2 Whole Eggs
50ml Icing Sugar
Ice cold Water

In a food processor pulse the flour, icing sugar and butter until it resembles breadcrumbs.
With the blades running, add the eggs and the lemon juice.
Add a little of the ice water, one teaspoon at a time until the pastry forms a ball in the bowl.
Remove the pastry from the processor and place on a large piece of plastic wrap.
Flatten the pastry into a disk the size of an average dinner plate.
Wrap completely in plastic wrap and leave in the fridge for at least 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 200C
Once the dough has firmed up, remove from the fridge.
Lightly dust your work surface, and roll out half the dough to about 3mm.
Place the dough in the a greased tin, leave a 1cm extra lip, to allow for shrinkage while baking.
Prick holes in the bottom of the pastry.
Then bake blind for 20 minutes and then another 10 minutes without the beans.
Once you pastry is cooked, allow to cool before adding the filling.

Frangipane Filling

125g Soft Butter
125g Sugar
2 Eggs
100g Ground Almonds

Blend all the ingredients in a food processor until smooth.
You might need to scape down once or twice while processing.

Plum Tart

1 Shortcrust pastry shell
1 batch of frangipane filling
6 plums cut in half and stoned

Pre-heat the oven to 180C.
Fill the pastry shell with frangipane filling.
Place the plums, cut side down in the the frangipane filling.
Bake for about 35 minutes until golden brown and just set.
Allow to cool before serving.

*** If you leave the icing sugar out of the above pastry recipe and add a dash of salt you will have a great savoury pastry.

This is my submission to this month's What's of Lunch Honey's Monthly Mingle, hosted by Maison Cupcake. The theme is Think Pink.

Jeremiah 17: 7-8

"Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. He will be like a tree planted by the water."

It is not your business to succeed, but to do what is right : when you have done so, the rest lies with God.
C.S. Lewis

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