Cauliflower Cheese and Caramelised Onion Tart

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I’ve had cauliflower cheese on my mind for a while, but haven’t got around to make it simply because I’m getting bored from cooking the same recipes, even if I like it a lot. Most of the time I’m coming back to the same ‘repertoire’ when I’m either short on time or need some comfort food. On this occasion I had spare time and was up for trying something new.

I like quiches a lot but some times I find them a bit too eggy for my liking. I prefer tarts instead, which are essentially dryer than quiches and with a little bit more character. Here is what I came up with:

CAULIFLOWER CHEESE & CARAMELISED ONION TART

Ingredients:

For the crust:

250 g plain flour

125 cold butter, cubed

1 egg yolk

1/2 teaspoon salt

3-4 tablespoon cold water

For the filling:

Olive oil

1 big or 2 small cauliflower heads, cut into florets (about 500 g)

2 white onions, sliced

1-2 tablespoon whole grain mustard

2 eggs

220/1 tub cream cheese

120 soured cream

150 g strong Cheddar

parsley or chives to decorate

salt & pepper

Method:

1. Start with roasting the cauliflower florets in 3 tablespoons of olive oil, season with salt and pepper at 220C for about 40 minutes, turning halfway throughout cooking.

2. To make the pastry crumble together by hand the butter into the flour, add salt, mix in the egg and few tablespoons of cold water or milk to form a soft dough, make a ball and chill in a fridge for minimum 15 minutes.

3. Meanwhile cook the onions in a large flying pan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil on a moderate heat, for about 30 minutes or until onion is deep golden and caramelised.
(Everything up to this stage can be made in advance.)

4. Remove the pastry from the fridge, roll it up on a well floured surface, arrange it into the prepared buttered and floured flan dish or spring form tin.  Preheat the oven to 180C. Meanwhile brush the inside of the pastry with whole grain mustard and layer over the caramelised onions followed by the cauliflower.

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4. Whisk together the eggs, cream cheese and soured cream, stir in the grated cheese, leaving some for the topping, fresh herbs and season well with salt and pepper. Pour the mixture over the tart filling and sprinkle with the rest of the cheese.

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5. Bake in the oven (180C) for about 50 minutes until crust and topping are nicely golden. Leave it to cool 15 minutes before serving. Serve with simple green or tomato salad, good for a picnic.

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Coconut Pie

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I had leftover short crust pastry that I’d used for the day before for another pie and I’ve also had a desire for something coconuty for a while, so I decided to combine these two together in a shape of Coconut pie. The result was very rewarding because not only I satisfied my cravings for the coconut, but this pie has also a very custardy flavour. So, if you are fan of custard and coconut, look no further then this recipe.

COCONUT PIE

Ingredients:

For the pastry:

225 g plain flour

100 g butter

80 g sugar

1 egg

Crumb together by hand the butter into the flour, add sugar, mix in the egg and few tablespoons of cold water or milk to form a soft dough.

For the pie filling:

50 g butter, melted

2 eggs

1 tablespoon plain flour

150 g sugar

200 g desiccated coconut (slightly toast in an oven before till it lightly golden)

225 ml milk

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 170C. In a large bowl, combine melted butter, eggs, flour, sugar, coconut and milk.

2. Pour mixture into prepared unbaked pie shell, carefully place it in an oven and bake for about 45-60 minutes or till it sets and spongy when you press it with your finger.

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Korean courgette pancakes with dipping sauce

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This recipe is taken from the Olive magazine (June Issue), tried, tested and … changed, because I didn’t like the first outcome, – pancakes came out too stodgy and doughy in the middle but sauce was good. So I decided to tweak few things and second attempt was a SUCCESS! So, here is an improved version:

KOREAN PANCAKES WITH DIPPING SAUCE

Ingredients:

3 courgettes, coarsely grated

125 self-raising flour

3-4 spring onions

2 eggs

salt,pepper

olive oil for frying

For dipping sause:

4 tablespoon soy sause

4 tablespoon rice vinegar

2 tablespoon sesame oil

1 clove garlic, crushed

a pinch of chilli flakes

Method:

1. Mix the courgettes, spring onion, flour, eggs, salt, pepper together.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a non-stick frying pan, drop in heaped tablespoon of batter. Cook in batches, for 2-3 minutes each side or until golden and cooked through.

3. Meanwhile mix together all ingredients for the sauce. Serve with the pancakes.

Empty food cupboard and Red Lentil Soup

Whenever we are making anything out of red lentils, 9 out of 10 times we have an empty fridge. It serves as an alarm bell for us indicating we need to go grocery shopping. Red split lentils is not only one of my favourites for the nutritional value, but to me  is like an old friend, always with you in hard times and you know ‘he’ will never disappoint. Hence this time, once again I did reach for ‘my best friend’ in a search for comfort food. Although normally I’d immediately think of some creamy coconut dahl or other Indian inspired dish to make, this time I did crave some sweet and sour flavours instead. As I’ve mentioned before,  the empty fridge meant I had limited ingredients to work with, but in the end the result was ABSOLUTELY wonderful.  Despite being rather late in the evening, we ended up having second helpings which I think says it all. 🙂

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RED SPLIT LETIL AND BLACK OLIVES SOUP

Ingredients:

1 cup of red split lentils

2 carrots (peeled and grated)

1 onion (finely chopped)

1 tin of chopped tomatoes (or 3 fresh tomatoes)

about 250 g pitted black olives (or any other you prefer)

2 garlic gloves

1/2 coriander seeds

2 tablespoons ketchup (or tomato purée)

Bay leaf

pinch of chilli

2 tablespoon table vinegar

1 teaspoon sugar

2 tablespoon olive oil

salt, pepper, parsley

Method:

1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and fry the onion, carrots, coriander seeds, pinch of chilli over a low heat for about 10 minutes or until softened but not burnt. Add the garlic and fry for 1 more minute. Add the ketchup, chopped tomatoes, bay leaf and sugar, simmer for a few minutes.

2. Rince red lentils and add into the pan, top up with the water (depends on consistency of soup you prefer, as for me, I like this version being quite thick), bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and continue to cook till lentils are ready.

3. Roughly chop the olives in halves, add them to the soup, add the vinegar, salt, pepper, check for seasoning and adjust it to your taste, garnish with chopped parsley. 

Cheesecake crumble

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No, I didn’t make a mistake in a title, this pudding is the best of both worlds – it is a combination of cheesecake and crumble. It is my Mum’s recipe, so it’s ultimate comfort food for me 🙂 As someone living outside their home country, now and then I really miss some products and for me this special ‘missing’ product is cottage cheese, which gives me a special boost and endless possibilities in cooking.

However, the cottage cheese I grew up with is very different from the ricotta or quark available in the UK, which is sometimes used as a substitute in many recipes. Although it comes from the same dairy family, it fits a different purpose. I’m sure most of you know which type I’m talking about, but if you have not come across this kind of cottage cheese, please do not be put off as it is widely available now. You can easily find it in any international food store or even in local supermarkets. It comes in different packaging but the main thing it should look similar to this:

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CHEESECAKE CRUMBLE

Ingredients:

Crumble base:

150 g butter

300 g plain flour

80 g sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

3 tablespoons desiccated coconut

Cheesecake mix:

400 g cottage cheese

2 eggs

100 g sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Butter the baking dish or spring-form tin and line with the parchment paper.

2. To make the crumble mix, place the flour, butter, sugar, baking powder and desiccated coconut in a bowl and mix it all with your fingers until it forms the crumbs (alternatively, use the food processor and pulse it for a few times).

3. In another bowl, beat together all ingredients for the cheesecake filling.

4. Place half of the crumble mixture on the bottom of the baking dish, making sure there are no gaps but do not press the crumble mixture to the bottom of the tin. Then pour over the cheesecake mix and cover with the left overs of crumbs on top.

5. Bake it for 30-40 minutes, until it’s slightly golden on top. Serve hot or cold.

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Foraged food is so fashionable…

… Well, you probably noticed that too, that people are getting more and more excited about going back to the basics and actually enjoy the benefit of foraging. I’m always up for it as well. What’s not to like?  It’s free and you can’t get more organic than this. Foraging in Spring is very rewarding – garlic mustard, wood sorrel, dandelions, nettle, but my favourite of them all is wild garlic. If you happened to be somewhere in a woodland it won’t take a lot of effort to find wild garlic, as if it’s there you will smell it, and the smell will lead you to a plantation of it. It tends to grow in the woods, often near or among patches of bluebells. PLEASE BE CAREFUL avoid the lillies-of-the valley, which look very similar and always check with a reliable source before eating any unfamiliar wild plants.

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Wild garlic has many of health-giving properties and can be use in many recipes  – soups, salads, pesto, adding into the stews and egg sandwiches. One of the recipe I turn to every year when we get our hands on wild garlic is simple pasta dish which requires only 3 ingredients but some time, like in this case, less is more.

TAGLIATELLE WITH WILD GARLIC AND BLUE CHEESE

Ingredients:

500 g fresh tagliatelle

about 300 g wild garlic

100 g Dolcelatte cheese (or any of your favourite blue cheese)

salt, pepper, olive oil

Method: 

1. Wash and dry the leaves of the wild garlic. Chop them coarsely.

2. Cook the tagliatelle in a salted water.

3. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large frying pan, add the wild garlic, season with salt and pepper, stir until it stated to wilt and become soft.

4. When paste is done, drain it well, add to the pan with garlic, crumble the cheese on top and toss everything well together.

5. Serve the pasta with additional olive oil and crumble more cheese, if desired.

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Re-visiting the classics

We’ve been making this cheesecake (originally adapted from the M. Berry’s recipe) in many different variations for the past few years. The reason for that is that texture of this cheesecake is so divine and silky, and the white chocolate is a perfect companion to the magnificent flavours of raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, passion fruit, mint,- the result never disappoints. However, this time we tried blackberry with drizzled dark chocolate on top for an extra alluring and visually stunning after-meal treat.

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BAKED WHITE CHOCOLATE CHEESECAKE

Ingredients

For the base:

50 g butter

150 g plain chocolate digestive biscuits, crushed

Filling:

300 g good-quality white chocolate

400 g full-fat cream cheese

2 eggs

150 ml soured cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

To serve:

About 200 g blackberries

80 g dark chocolate
(melted over a pan of hot water or in a microwave for 30 seconds)

a dusting of cocoa powder

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 160C. Grease and line the base of a 20cm spring-form cake tin with the non-stick paper.

2. Melt the butter and stir in the crushed biscuits, press evenly over the base of the prepared tin. Chill in the fridge.

3. Break and melt the white chocolate per a pan of hot water (do not allow the chocolate to become too hot!), stirring occasionally with a spoon until runny and smooth.

4. Whisk the cream cheese and eggs together in a large bowl until smooth, then add the soured cream, vanilla and whisk again until completely smooth with no lumps. Stir in the melted chocolate and mix together.

5. Pour this mixture into the tin and spread evenly over the chilled base. Bake in the preheated oven for about 45 minutes until firm around the edge and just set in the middle (the centre should wobble a little). Remove from the oven. Run a small palette knife around the edge of the tin and then allow to cool and chill without removing from the spring-form (this is to avoid a big cracks).

6. Remove the outside ring and lift the base on to a serving plate. Arrange blackberries on top and sprinkle over with the melted dark chocolate and dusting of cocoa powder.

(!) The surface of the baked cheesecake may crack slightly in the middle, but don’t worry, it is part of its charm! Serve very thin slices as this cheesecake is very rich, but so delicious!

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