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Pear, Almond and Chocolate Tart

2 Aug

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So I bought a big bag of gorgeous looking pears the other day. I got them home and couldn’t help munching straight into one and I nearly took my teeth out, they were that hard. Disappointment settled over me like a black cloud on a sunny day until I had a stroke of genius. I decided to bake with them, you couldn’t find a better baking pear if you had ordered it specially. Then there was the grueling task of finding the perfect recipe.

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I was going to poach them in red wine and spices but that was a bit too speedy and simple for my liking. It has been a horrible day and I really wanted to get stuck into making a fancy baked treat while I chuckled to myself about the people outside getting soaked to the skin and blown into the next county. It was quite satisfying, both the baking and the gloating. I decided on classic pear flavors, chocolate and almond. This is quite an easy, fool proof  dessert although it does take a while because of all the parts but believe me it is worth it. Especially when you get to sit down to a plateful of this tart at the end of it all!

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The crust is wonderfully buttery and the almond shines through the whole tart. The layer of marzipan in the base gives it a delicious chewy texture and amps the almond flavors up to the max. The chocolate filling just brings the whole thing together and results in a phenomenally elegant and scrumptious tart.

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Pear, Almond and Chocolate Tart 

For the Crust:

1 x 150g packet shortbread biscuits (I used Walkers)

1 egg

56g butter, melted

1/2 cup plain flour

1/3 cup granulated sugar

a pinch of salt

2tsp almond extract

For the Filling:

3 small ripe but firm pears, cored and sliced lengthways

1tsp cinnamon

1tsp dark brown sugar

1/2 lemon, juiced

28g butter

65g dark chocolate, broken into chunks

90ml milk

1tsp almond extract

a pinch of salt

1 egg

1 egg yolk

3tbsp granulated sugar

3tbsp plain flour

2tbsp cocoa powder

175g marzipan

a handful of flaked almonds

  • Preheat the oven to 180°c/375°f and grease and line the bottom of a 9inch tart with baking parchment.
  • For the crust, put the shortbread fingers in the food processor and whizz until it is a fine crumb. Add the egg, butter, flour, sugar, salt and almond extract. Whizz again until it forms a soft dough.
  • Wrap the dough in cling film and refrigerate for 20mins to firm.
  • Press the dough into the prepared tin with your fingers or the back of a spoon until it is evenly covering the bottom and sides of the tin. Place a sheet of baking parchment on top and fill with baking beans. Bake blind for 7mins. Allow cool fully.
  • For the filling, in a large bowl mix the pear slices with the cinnamon, dark brown sugar and lemon juice and set aside.
  • Melt the chocolate and butter in a small bowl in the microwave in 30sec intervals until smooth and completely melted. Mix in the milk, almond extract and salt and set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, beat together the egg, egg yolk, sugar, flour and cocoa powder for about 2mins with a electric mixer. Pour in half the melted chocolate mix and beat to incorporate then add the other half and beat again until it is smooth and silky.
  • Roll out the marzipan into a rough 9inch disc and place in the bottom of the pastry  case. Place the pears on top in a fan shape and finally pour the chocolate filling over making sure it is evenly distributed.
  • Bake in the oven for 25mins until the chocolate filling is set. Scatter with flaked almonds about 8mins before it is due to be done.
  • Let cool completely then slice and serve.

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Couscous Crusted Onion, Mushroom and Parmesan Quiche

9 May

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I have been tempted to make a quiche for so long now as it always just looks so darn delicious but the fact that it is encased in a rich and calorie laden crust has always put me off. But now I have found the most fantastic solution ever… a couscous crust! The provides a much healthier alternative to the traditional quiche and has potfuls or should I say platefuls of flavor. Sorry I had to say it!

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The egg soaks into the couscous and makes it taste just like egg fried rice in my opinion and the onion, mushrooms and parmesan are the perfect combination for the most flavorful filling ever, although you can definitely vary the ingredients to your liking or just whatever you have in the fridge. This is a lovely quick supper to put together and makes the best leftovers, lunch for me today!

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Couscous Crusted Onion, Mushroom and Parmesan Quiche (Serves 2 with leftovers for lunch or 3)

150g coucsous

chicken stock

1tbsp rapeseed oil

1 onion

4 button mushrooms

a handful of spinach, roughly chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

4 eggs

a drop of milk

2tbsp chopped fresh chives

parmesan shavings

3-4 cherry tomatoes, sliced

salt and pepper

  • Preheat the oven to 180°c/350°f and lightly grease a 20cm tart tin (I used a disposable one to save on washing up).
  • Put the couscous in a small bowl and pour in enough chicken stock to just cover the couscous about 1/2cm above. Place a plate on top and leave for 5mins. Fluff with a fork and press it all over the bottom and sides of the tin evenly.
  • Heat the oil in a small frying pan and add the onions and mushrooms, fry over a medium heat until the onions are translucent and the mushrooms are starting to give up their juices. Add the garlic and spinach and cook for a further 2mins. Spread this all over the couscous base.
  • Beat the eggs lightly in a small bowl with the milk. Add the chives and season with salt and pepper. Pour this all over the vegetables in the tin.
  • Scatter the top generously with parmesan and place the tomatoes all over. Season again with salt and pepper and bake in the oven for about 30-40mins until the egg is set and the top is golden.

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Raspberry and White Chocolate Shortcrust Slices

31 Mar

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This is quite a simple little dessert that is great on a warm summer evening. It is great for a beginner or someone who is doing a dinner party because it doesn’t involve any complicated techniques and it can be made well in advance and be chilling in the fridge ready to serve. It isn’t too rich as the raspberries lend it a subtle tartness that balances the whole dish out. It makes enough for about 10 people so it’s also great to  feed a crowd.

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Raspberry and White Chocolate Shortcrust Slices (Makes about 10 slices)

320g pack ready made shortcrust pastry

500g mascarpone

100g golden caster sugar

100g ground almonds

2 eggs, lightly beaten

300g fresh raspberries/frozen, thawed and drained raspberries

100g white chocolate, roughly chopped

  • Preheat the oven to 150°c/300°f and grease and line a tin with baking parchment.
  • Roll out the pastry a bit more until it fits with a border into your tin.
  • Place another sheet of baking parchment on top of the pastry and fill the tin with baking beans. Bake in the oven for 10mins then take out the baking parchment and beans and bake for a further 5mins. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the mascarpone, sugar, almonds and eggs until smooth.
  • Fold in the raspberries and white chocolate and spoon the mixture into your pastry case.
  • Bake again in the oven for 20-25mins until set and starting to turn slightly golden.
  • Open the oven door and leave it in the oven to cool gradually for about 30mins.
  • Remove and chill for roughly 1hr before serving.

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Christmas Mincemeat

15 Oct

I know some of you are just going to look at this in horror because to many of you Christmas shouldn’t be mentioned at all until at least December, but mincemeat and Christmas cake are the exceptions because they need time to mature and develop their flavors so that by the time Christmas comes around you can: 1. Focus on the Christmas dinner instead of the sweet treats and 2. Have desserts packed with flavor and depth. This mincemeat has fresh/frozen cranberries through it which I think gives it an amazing pop of scarlet color but feel free to leave them out. This is quite a traditional mincemeat and should be left to mature for at least a fortnight or can be stored in an sealed jar for up to six months. P.S. Be prepared to be blown away by the magical Christmas aromas that will waft through your kitchen when you make this! 😀

Christmas Mincemeat (Makes 4 jars)

500g mixed dried fruit e.g. raisins, sultanas and currants

85g dried cranberries

140g dried apricots, diced

80g mixed peel

150ml brandy

zest and juice of 1 lemon

zest and juice of 1 orange

175g vegetable suet

100g fresh/frozen cranberries

200g soft dark brown sugar

2tsp ground cinnamon

3/4tsp ground nutmeg

  • Put the dried fruit, cranberries, apricots and mixed peel into a bowl then add the brandy and the zest and juice of the lemon and the orange. Give it a quick mix then cover with a tea towel and leave to soak over night.
  • Put the rest of the ingredients in a large saucepan and add the soaked fruit. Over a medium heat, cook the mincemeat until all the suet is melted.
  • Bring the mixture to a bubble and cook for a further 3-4mins.
  • Preheat your oven to 150ºc/300ºf and wash 4 jars in warm, soapy water and then put them in the oven for 10mins to sterilise.
  • While the mincemeat is still hot put it in the hot jars, screw the lids on and turn unside down while cooling to seal the jars.
  • Now store in a cool, dry cupboard to up to 6 months. And have fun licking the pot clean, mine was delicious!

 

Perfect Pumpkin Pie

3 Sep

I must confess, I have never tried or tasted a pumpkin pie up until now… I live in Ireland where they are rarely seen if ever and so when my mom brought me a pumpkin for cooking, I knew what I had to make. This is a very traditional version of the pie but I’m sure that many of you would agree that in many cases traditional is best and this is one of those cases. The pie is very light and you can taste the wonderful spices which only enhances the pumpkin taste. I hope you all like my recipe!

Perfect Pumpkin Pie ( 1 x deep dish 9 inch pie)

2 cups pumpkin puree or tinned pumpkin

3 eggs

1 1/4 single cream/half and half

1tsp vanilla extract

3/4cup dark brown sugar

1/2tsp salt

1 1/2tsp cinnamon

1tsp ginger

1/2tsp nutmeg

1/4tsp ground cloves

a 9 inch shortcrust pastry case

  • First preheat the oven to 180ºc/350ºf.  Put a sheet of grease proof paper over the pastry and fill the dish with baking beans. Bake for 15mins then remove the parchment and beans and bake for a further 10mins or until golden.
  • For the filling mix together the eggs, cream, vanilla, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves.
  • If you have an actual pumpkin, cut it in half and scoop out the seeds then using a sharp knife, carefully remove the skin and chop the pumpkin into cubes. Put it in a medium pot and stew over a low heat, adding water if needed until it is all soft enough to mash. Mash until smooth and add to the egg mix.
  • Pour the pumpkin filling into the pre-cooked pastry case and bake in the oven for 30-35mins until the filling is set. Cut into slices and serve with cream or ice-cream.

Apple and Blackberry Pie

21 Aug

 

My inspiration to have a bash at making a pie came from a big bag full of cooking apples a family friend gave us and fresh blackberries I picked off the hedge today. They all looked so fresh and bursting with flavor that I just had to make something. This is a pretty basic pie but I have to say it was quite delicious. Serve it hot with a scoop of ice cream or a dollop of cream and it is pretty damn heavenly. I hate to say it but I think I can feel Fall/Autumn creeping in again and if your feeling a bit sad about the warm Summer ending then this is the pie for you.It sums up in one little dish all the good things that come with Fall/Autumn. It will really brighten up your day! 😀

 

Apple and Blackberry Pie( 1 x 9inch pie)

65g castor sugar

113g/1 stick butter, softened

250g flour

1 egg

600-700g brambly/granny smith apples, peeled, cored and diced

50-75g dark brown sugar

2tsp cinnamon, or more to taste

a punnet of blackberries

1 egg, beaten for egg wash

  • Preheat the oven to 210ºc/410ºf and grease a 9inch pie dish.
  • For the pastry, with an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until pale and creamy. Then beat in your egg followed by the flour until a dough starts to form. Try not to over mix it.
  • Turn the pastry out on to a lightly floured surface and knead until the dough comes together in a ball. Wrap in cling film and leave in the fridge for 2 hours or even overnight, until it has firmed up.
  • In the meantime, put all your apple in a medium pot add the sugar and cinnamon and cook over a medium heat, tasting and adding more cinnamon or sugar if necessary, until the apple has slightly softened.
  • Once the pastry is firm, roll out half quite thin but not breaking apart and lay over your pie dish. Egg wash around the edge, then put in your stewed apple and scatter the blackberries over the apple.
  • Roll out the second half of the pastry and lay on top of the pie. Pick the pie up and hold it by the bottom in one hand, then cut the excess pastry off the edge using a knife. With your thumb, press down all the way around the edge to seal the pastry. Cut a cross in the middle of the pie, egg wash it and sprinkle with some brown sugar.
  • Bake the pie for 5mins then turn down the temp to 180ºc/350ºf and bake until the pastry is golden brown and crisp, 15-25mins.

 

 

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