Not Just Desserts
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Not Just Desserts

Eating big, hearty meals at this time of the year can seem like the last thing anyone wants to do: unless, of course, those big hearty meals are cooked outside and served in a bread roll. But, at the same time, all those salads can get a little bit boring

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Thu 10 Sep 2009 12:00 AM

Eating big, hearty meals at this time of the year can
seem like the last thing anyone wants to do: unless, of course, those big
hearty meals are cooked outside and served in a bread roll. But, at the same
time, all those salads can get a little bit boring after a while. For the first
couple of days of alfresco dining, armed with a big wooden bowl of mixed raw
vegetables and a pair of salad tongs, it’s fun, easy, cheap, healthy. After a
little while, sifting through the lettuce leaves for interesting bits of
flavour can be a bit of a chore, and the sight of a tomato, washed and waiting
for you to try and turn it into unusual-shaped pieces is too much to bear.
Baking flans, tarts and pies that can be left to cool and then served cold, in
slices, with something light on the side, is a good way to liven up your
late-summer diet. They’re just as good as a starter and main course as they are
a dessert-dependent on ingredients, obviously, but the techniques remain the
same-they can keep for a few days in the fridge, and they’re relatively
low-maintenance and easy to put together. There’s also something very
satisfying about managing to get one looking absolutely perfect: a quiche, when
it goes into the oven, looks like a volcanic mess, destined to fail, but when
it emerges golden-brown, steam hissing from the edges, all crisp pastry, firm
filling and lovely aromas, it’s as if something magic has happened.

 

Savoury tarts generally consist of three things-some
pastry, some cooked ingredients, and something to hold it all together, such as
egg, a cheese mix, or a thick sauce of some description. In terms of summer
eating, the standard quiche-a blind-baked pastry case, without a lid, which is
then filled with a mixture of ingredients and a seasoned egg mix and baked, is
best: it can keep in the fridge for a few days, freezes well, and is good to
eat and easy to portion and serve when it’s cold. Think about the kind of
things that you will use to fill your quiches. Some kind of cooked meat: cubes
of pancetta, salami, slices of cooked ham, or pieces of salsiccia are all good.
Avoid uncured meats like beef and pork, or chicken, as they tend to lose their
moisture into the egg mixture around them (which looks weird) and dry out
(which tastes bad). Complement this with some finely chopped herbs-parsley or
sage, or other softer leaves-and some vegetables. Satueed onion is a classic
thing to put in quiches, but leeks-particularly if you use smoked salmon
instead of meat-red or yellow peppers, mushrooms and sweet corn also work very
well.

 

You can add cheese to your egg mixture, but be
careful. Blue cheeses such as dolcelatte might seems as if they should go very
well with the cooked or cured meats you’ll use, but they will disperse very
quickly into the mix and add a very salty flavour to the flan. Try ricotta: dot
it around the flan before you pour the egg in.

 

If you’re not a fan of eggs, try layering slices of
vegetables such as beetroot or fennel with pieces of goat or sheep cheese and
seasoning. Bake until the pastry is crisp and the vegetables are soft.

 

Sweet tarts can be made using crème anglaise instead
of egg, or a mix of mascarpone and sugar; in addition to this, add a little
sugar to the pastry that you make and use an egg, instead of water, to bind it.
This makes a crisp, sweet pastry. Fruits such as apricots (ripe, and with
stones removed), blueberries, cherries, strawberries and raspberries are
perfect.

 

Alternatively, grease the tin
that you plan to use and lay fruit in slices directly onto this, with a
sprinkling of sugar and a little butter, put pastry on top of this, pierce the
lid, and bake until the pastry is crisp. Turn this upside down, so that the
fruit is turned to the top, for a perfect, light, simple fruit dessert.

 

 

Recipe of
the fortnight: SALMON AND LEEK PIE

To be served
cold, in slices, with salad.

 

 

125g plain
flour, sifted

55g butter,
cut into cubes

A pinch of
salt

30-40ml cold
water

200g smoked
salmon pieces, cut very finely

1 leek,
trimmed and sliced very finely

1 tsp olive
oil

4 eggs

50ml milk

 

 

1. In a bowl, mix the
flour and butter: rub the butter into the flour until the mixture starts to
resemble golden breadcrumbs and all of the pieces of butter have been blended
in. Mix the water in, a little at a time, to form a smooth, not-sticky pastry.
Wrap in a bag or clingfilm, and chill for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.

 

2. Heat the oil in
the pan and fry the leek until soft. Allow to cool.

 

3. Roll the pastry
out and line a 16-cm pie dish or flan tin. Sprinkle the bottom with a few drops
of water, then prick all over with a fork, and bake in a hot oven for 5 to 7
minutes. If you want, you can put baking paper inside the dish, on top of the
pastry, and fill this with beans or lentils to weight it down as the case
“blind bakes” like this.

 

4. Fill
the case with the salmon and leek.

 

5. Beat the eggs with
the milk. Pour over the filling, and bake in a hot oven for 25 minutes until
the egg is golden brown and bubbling. Allow to cool, then chill.

 

 

Ingredient of the fortnight: APRICOT

 

Apricots can be an unappealing
prospect. They look a bit odd-small, yellow and furry-and every now and again
you get a really bad one. You know the type: a bit sour, with thick skin and an
unappealing suede-like texture. But a good apricot is a thing of extreme
beauty: eaten as it is, they can be ultra-juicy, really sweet, far removed from
the processed taste of apricot jam or preserve (the flavour of which actually
comes from the kernel).

 

Bad apricots occur when they’ve
been picked too early: they don’t ripen off the tree, so make sure you choose a
punnet that has already reached optimum ripeness, as you can’t just leave them
and hope that they get better. If you want to remove the skin and dice the
flesh to use in a salad or dessert, you can do this easily by simply dipping
the fruit in boiling water.

 

Dried apricots make a delicious addition to many
breakfast or dessert dishes, but can also be used in couscous dishes. Add them
before the water, with plenty of seasoning and some chopped parsley, then
introduce the stock and watch it all rehydrate.

 

 

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