Eight Bells

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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Tarte Tatin

Tarte Tatin is classic French cuisine at its very best and, when served warm with a couple of scoops of vanilla ice cream, my favourite dessert.
The key to the perfect Tarte Tatin is the reduction of the caramel and the choice of apple. The apples should be dessert apples such as Cox or Golden Delicious and must be large, firm and crisp; the caramel should be reduced to a rich, syrupy, golden brown before the tarte goes into the oven. It may take you two or three attempts before you get your caramel and your tart just right but it's well worth the effort.
This recipe is taken from Rick Stein's excellent "French Odyssey".

Tarte Tatin

250g puff pastry (buy sheets but make sure the pastry is wide enough to cover your tart pan).
75g softened butter
175g caster sugar
5 large, firm dessert apples (not cooking apples like Granny Smiths as they tend to turn to mush quite quickly)

The pan pictured is a 20cm cast iron Le Creuset skillet and is perfect for this dish. If you don't have one then use any non-stick cast iron frying pan but of course it must be able to go from the stove top into the oven. You can also buy purpose made tarte tatin dishes.
Roll out your puff pastry and cut a circle of pastry around 4cm larger in diameter than your pan. Chill for 30 minutes (the pastry, not you, get back to work).
Spread the softened butter over the base of your pan and then sprinkle the sugar evenly over the top.
Peel, core and quarter (or halve) your apples then pack them neatly into your pan as pictured below.

Place your pan over a medium heat and cook, shaking the pan every now and again, until the butter and sugar have mixed with the apple juices to produce a rich toffee coloured sauce and the apples are just tender. This should take 30-40 minutes. Take care not to take the sauce too far, it is better under done than over and if it burns even a little you should start again or just cry and eat the ice cream on its own.
Preheat your oven to 190C. Lift the pastry on top of the apples and tuck the edges down inside the pan. Prick the pastry five or six times with a sharp knife or fork, transfer to the oven and bake for 25 minutes until the pastry is puffed up, crisp and golden.
Remove the tart from the oven and leave to rest for five minutes. Once rested, run a knife around the edge of the tart to free any stuck pastry and then invert it onto a flat round serving plate. Serve warm or cold with creme fraiche or vanilla ice cream. Magnifique!

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Caramelised Onion and Potato Stacks.

This is the accompaniment to the spatchcock and again it is from the Dec/Jan 2011 edition of "Donna Hay" magazine.
We didn't make individual stacks, we instead used a 20cm x 20cm square dish about 4cm deep. This is so delicious don't wait until the next time you cook spatchcocks to serve it because, let's be honest, that could be never.

Caramelised Onion and Potato Stacks

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 large brown onions, thickly sliced (about 1cm slices)
500g floury potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced (we used a mandoline on 1.5mm slice setting)
2/3 cup of chicken stock
80g butter, melted
8 sprigs of thyme (we used double this about but removed the leaves from the stalks as they can be a little twiggy)

Preheat your oven to 180C (350F). Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion slices in batches and cook for around 3 minutes or until golden. Place an onion slice in the base of each of eight, 1/2 cup capacity (125ml) muffin tins lined with non-stick baking paper. Layer with potato slices and finish with another slice of onion. Divide the stock and butter between the stacks and top with a sprig of thyme. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for a further 30 minutes or until the onions and potatoes are golden and cooked through.

Spatchcock with Apple and Pistachio Stuffing

It seems ever so slighty gruesome to be eating baby chickens when our own baby chickens will be arriving in about 5 days but if you're going to make the choice to be a meat eater you can't be too precious about these things. In our defence we only buy free range chicken, pork and eggs and do our best to support local businesses by buying locally grown produce as much as possible.
Don't be scared off this recipe by assuming it's difficult, it's actually very simple and incredibly delicious, it's really just flash roast chicken.
This recipe is taken from the Dec/Jan 2011 edition of "Donna Hay" magazine and serves eight. We only cooked two spatchcocks so we made half the stuffing, wrapped the left over stuffing in bacon, cooked it with the birds and ate it in sandwiches the next day, yum.

Spatchcock with Apple and Pistachio Stuffing

1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 brown onion, chopped
3 cups (210g) fresh breadcrumbs
2 small Granny Smith (green) apples, peeled and chopped
2 1/2 teaspoons chopped thyme leaves
3/4 cup (105g) shelled unsalted pistachios, chopped
50g butter, melted
Sea salt and cracked black pepper
8 x 500g spatchcock (baby chickens), trimmed
8 slices of prosciutto (we used rindless, streaky bacon)

Preheat your oven to 200C (400F). Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat, add onion and cook for 4-5 minutes or until softened. Set aside to cool. Place the breadcrumbs, apple, thyme, pistachios, butter, onion, salt and pepper in a bowl and mix well. Spoon the breadrumb mixture into the cavities of the spatchcocks. Wrap each spatchcock in a slice of prosciutto (again, we used bacon) and secure the legs with kitchen string (stops them running away).
Place on a lightly greased roasting tray and roast 40-45 minutes or until golden and cooked through (test the thickest part of the spatchcock with a wooden skewer if unsure, the juices should flow clearly). Reserve the pan juices for gravy or just do what we did and make it from a packet, we used Massel Supreme Gravy Mix, easy peasy.
Cover the birds with foil and rest for 10 minutes, serve with green beans and caramelised onion and potato stacks (recipe to follow).