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Archive for the ‘chestnut’ Category

French Lentils

We haven’t had a housewarming, per se yet. But we decided last week that something was needed to make our house feel like home. And I also needed something to kick start the kitchen a little. A Winter Dinner was quickly put together, some friends asked around and the fire was lit in the hearth. With Winter having arrived a little earlier than I think we were expecting, the meal was warm and comforting, with loads of winter veg and a little bit of chocolatey goodness to help it all along the way. We started off with a Chestnut and Onion Soup, which is a traditional French soup and neither too hearty not too brothy; followed by a main course of Filo baskets filled with Beetroot, Butternut and Onion, topped with a Broccoli and Pepita pesto and accompanied with a variation of the divine Deb’s Curried Lentils and Sweet potatoes and some fresh Cherry Tomatoes. But my favourite bit was, of-course, dessert, as it so very often is. Le Dessert was a miniaturised variation of Nigella’s Nutella cake, topped with a precious marron glacè and swathed in a white chocolate and saffron ganache. Oh, yum. The little cakes were warm from the oven and slightly sticky on the inside. Chocolate heaven. Mmmmm.

An no, I’m afraid I’m not going to give you the recipe’s this time. I have Christmas Stuff to do! My, it’s busy this time of year. Instead, here are some temptingly yummy pictures to water your mouth over a little.

Fireside dinner 1

 

Fireside dinner 1

 

Fireside dinner 3

 

 

 

 

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the perfect apple

I received a phone call from a wonderful friend the other day. “I’m so excited,” she quirped, ” I’m outside a fruit stall and I’ve found the most perfect apples. They’re just too beautiful, I’m going to buy you one.” My kind of friend. And she was right. When we met up later at the Farmers Market, which has sort of become a naughty habitude of ours, she plonked her find down on the picnic table we were sitting at, snacking on various freshly bought goodies, and grinned at me. “Don’t you think?” she asked. I did. I thought very much. Just perfect. It’s colour somewhere between ochre and chartreuse, the size of a softball, and firm and crisp in texture. I got home, gave it pride of place in the fruit bowl and spent 2 days looking at it before deciding just what would be the perfect ouvre for this perfect apple. A perfect, early autumn apple. A bread pudding perhaps? Could it be that simple?

So, the problem I’ve always had with bread pudding is that it often felt like some sort of punishment at home. I was known, as a child (and sometimes as an adult), for living with ‘my head in cloud nine’, as my Mum would say. There were plenty occasions growing up where I left my lunch behind on the kitchen counter: peanut butter and jam sandwiches neatly wrapped in wax paper; only to find, later that starving day, that we were having bread pudding for dinner. Peanut butter and jam bread pudding. Needless to say, it’s taken me a bit of time to confront the bread pudding demon from my past and establish that it is, indeed, one of the greatest of comfort puddings known to man. And downright thrifty too, if you don’t mind me saying. In fact, I might go so far as to say that bread pudding is quite possibly the only acceptable way to head into autumn. An army marches on its stomach, after all. Best be prepared, non?

Apple nut bread pudding

Apple and Four Nut Bread Pudding

feeds 4 (or 2 with leftovers for round two the next day)

4 slices whole grain bread
butter, enough for spreading bread, greasing dish and dotting on pudding
6 – 8 Tbsp sweetened Chestnut Spread (creme de Marrons)
1 big (perfect) apple, peeled, cored and sliced (I ate the perfect peel, don’t you worry)
½ cup saltana’s
4 large eggs
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp clovesCreme de marrons
pinch nutmeg
pinch salt
¼ cup golden brown sugar
1 cup milk
¼ cup chopped walnuts
¼ pistachio’s

– preheat the oven to 400˚F

– thinly butter the bread and spread with chestnut spread. Cut slices into quarters, diagonally, to make tirangles

– grease an oven proof dish. Alternate slices of bread and slices of apple to fill the dish.

– scatter saltana’s over top

– beat eggs with spices, salt and sugar, then add milk and beat well but not long enough to froth the eggs.

– pour milk/egg over bread. Scatter nuts over top and let pudding sit for 5 minutes. This lets the bread absorb the liquid.

– bake for about 35 – 40 mins.

– serve with vanilla ice-cream or whipped cream.

Apple nut bread pudding baked

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Pear and blackberry tart with chestnut flour pastry

Since the first time I read about it, in a book given to me by the hosts of a Water Colour holiday * I went on last year, called “Simple French Cuisine from Provence and Languedoc”, I’ve been wanting to use, and looking for, Chestnut Flour. The idea intrigued me. Can you make pastry with it? I found some in a bin in a bulk health food store eventually and bought a bag, even though I had no idea what to do with it.

After a bit of reading, I found that it’s a traditionally used flour in parts of Italy and France, among other places, when other flours are unavailable. And traditionally, the pastry I wanted to make was done on a counter top, like pasta pastry. You know the one: you dump all your flour onto your counter top in a nice big pile, make a well in the middle and throw the eggs into it. Well, I’ve never done this before, but I’m not one to back down from a challenge it I can help it. It was a bit of a tricky, sticky task, and after 15 mins of kneading the eggs and butter into the flour I was covered head to toe in the fine chestnut flour and my hands up to my wrists were a sticky, icky mess. Of course I’d forgotten to take off my wedding ring, so all it’s crevices are now caked in dried pastry. Eventually, in exasperation, I put the whole lot in a bowl and mixed it with a wooden spoon, adding more flour until a more manageable consistency was reached. If I hadn’t been laughing so much I would have been cursing!

Well, the end product is still delicious. Does anyone have any tips for working with Chestnut Flour? Any help is appreciated!

* The McEwans run a wonderful workshop holiday, whether you’re there for the lessons, the cuisine or the insightful personal guides to the area and local towns near Lodev. The hosts are warm and intimate, the food, cooked by Mrs McEwan, is inspiring, fresh and hearty and the skills available to you from Mr McEwan are invaluable whether you’re a watercolour hobbyist or a veteran painter.

Pear and blackberry tart with chestnut flour pastry 2

Pear and Blackberry Tarts with Chestnut Pastry

makes 6 tarts

for the pastry:
2½ cups Chestnut Flour
2 sticks butter, soft
3 Tbsp sugar
1 Jumbo egg

for the filling:
¼ cup ground almond
⅓ cup Sugar
1 egg
1 Tbsp Vanilla Essence

1 just ripe pear, quartered, cored and sliced finely
1 punnet blackberries

– make the pastry:

– beat the softened butter with the sugar until creamy

– add the egg and flour and mix, using a spoon and then your hands, until a soft dough is formed. Add more flour is necessary.

– flatten into a disc, cover with plastic and refrigerate for 45 mins.

– grease and flour pie tins.

– in a small bowl, mix almond, sugar, egg, butter and vanilla until well blended. Refrigerate for about 30 mins.

– using pastry in bits (keep the unused amount in the fridge in the mean time) roll out on a floured surface and line pie tins. Refrigerate for 10 mins before filling.

– divide filling cream between shells, arrange pears and berries. I placed a piece of pastry on top of each pie for added decoration. (if doing this, brush lightly with milk so that it browns in the oven)

– bake at 325˚F for 30 – 35 mins until browned and yummy.

these are best served warmish with whipped cream

Pear and blackberry tart with chestnut flour pastry 3

chestnut-tarts-comp.jpg

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