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Luscious Egg Custard Tart

My second eggy Easter recipe is for a very traditional egg custard tart. A childhood favourite of mine custard tarts now come in all shapes and sizes from the wonderful Portuguese Nata tarts , via custards flavoured with everything from orange flower water to green tea and some awful ones with soggy bottoms from M&S.
I make mine very  simply single cream, castor sugar vanilla and really good eggs. You can see from the colour of the custard that once again I used Burford Browns from Clarence Court.

Baking the shell blind is the thing here. Using a pastry that contains a little sugar helps keep the base crisp and, if when you take the base from the oven you spot any tiny holes,brush them at once with some egg white. This will seal the gaps and make the base custard tight.

Egg Custard Tart

1 baked sweet pastry case about 10″ across
550ml single cream
1 vanilla pod, split
2 whole eggs
4 egg yolks
70g caster sugar
Freshly grated nutmeg

Bring the cream and vanilla pod to the boil, take off the heat and leave for five minutes

Now scrape the seeds out of the pod into the liquid. Whisk the eggs, egg yolks and sugar together lightly in a bowl.

Pour the hottish cream mixture over the egg mixture, whisking all the time .Pour it through a sieve into the pre-baked pastry case, sprinkle on he nutmeg and cook at

150C 300F gas 2 for approx 40-50 minutes or until the custard still has a gentle wobble in the middle.

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Scotch Eggs for Easter

I’ve been obsessing about Scotch eggs recently. A little late I know, trends these days move so fast that it’s often hard to keep up let alone lead the pack but here I am at last and I do think Easter is the right time for all things eggy.
I was lucky enough to meet @cookinboots Ravinder Bhogal recently and she cooked some delicious eggs coated in spicy pork jackets and so I finally decided to stop prevaricating and hit the kitchen.
I had some sausage meat left over from Christmas but plain minced fresh pork works just as well, then I needed was to spice it up. I chose rather traditional spices of sage, onion etc but added garlic and ginger to good effect.  Pimenton de la Vera would work well or curry paste if you have some in the fridge. You could do a Chinese version based on a pork dumpling stuffing so the seasonings would be soy,ginger, spring onion and a touch of sesame oil.
To coat the eggs I used Panko Japanese breadcrumbs, any white crumbs would be just fine and here too you can spice up your eggs by adding seeds or spices to the crumb to give a real burst of flavour. Some I’ve tried are sesame, mustard seed, cumin and black pepper.
Now to get cooking the eggs.
And it’s this part of  making Scotch eggs that is really the only tricky bit. When I was a child the yolk of a Scotch egg was always hard boiled and more often than not had an unappetising greyish tint encircling it. I was watching Simon Hopkinson’s The Good Cook when I picked up the following tip: Place the eggs in a pan and cover with cold water, bring to a full boil and then switch off the heat. Now you cover the pan with a lid and leave the eggs in the water for 4 minutes. Lift them straight into a bowl of iced water and leave until cool. I followed his advice to the letter and as you can see below the yolks were perfect.

Oh and the quality of the eggs is all important I use Clarence Court Burford Browns http://www.clarencecourt.co.uk/

Spicy Scotch Eggs

450gm sausage meat or minced pork
6 large  fresh eggs
Seasonings, I used :
2 shallots chopped fine and 1 clue garlic fried in 1 tablespoon olive oil till soft
2cm fresh ginger finely grated
zest of a lemon
a few sage and thyme leaves chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

To finish
a little flour, a beaten egg and Panko breadcrumbs

Mix the seasonings into the pork/sausage meat adding plenty of salt and pepper.
Cook the eggs as above then peel them and dry on paper towels.
Roll the eggs in a little flour,then take a ball of meat a little larger than the egg and press it into a round. Place the egg on this and gradually ease the meat round the egg till it’s evenly covered. If you find the meat very sticky it helps to wet your hands.

Beat the egg with a pinch of salt. This helps break it down and make it easier to use. Roll the eggs first in egg then breadcrumbs, repeating twice. You can add sesame seeds, black mustard seeds or crush spices like cumin to the breadcrumbs to good effect.

Chill the eggs for 10-15 minutes then fry in hottish oil about 160C for 5-8 minutes. You need the coating to be cooked through so don’t start with really hot oil or the crumb will brown too quickly.

Drain on paper and serve hot with salad.  Easy!

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Pork Cooked in Milk

When I first heard of the concept of cooking pork in milk I could think of few dishes that sounded more revolting. Pork? milk? together, quite dreadful. But as soon as I tasted this delicious tender meat I became an instant convert.

The recipe is Italian and I first tried it when I was teaching in Orvieto at Alistair Little and Tasting Places’ amazing cookery school. It was my first taste of so many things that have become part of my life: Italy, teaching, local seasonal foods and the wonderful enthusiasm that one finds in groups of folk with the same passion.

Gosh what fun we had! What meals! What nights of wine and music sitting under the stars looking at the unbelievably  beautiful, illuminated, golden face of the Duomo. It was magical and , whilst I’m not suggesting this recipe can conjure up those happy halcyon times, the flavours of this delicious dish could create new memories.

I used a rather small piece of pork that I’d had sitting in my freezer but I would suggest you buy a joint that weights about 1.5 kilos as any left over meat is sensational eaten when thinly sliced, cold. A slow grown piece of pork from a rare breed out door pig would be my first choice. I ask my butcher to bone and roll a loin of pork , removing the skin which I cook separately to make excellent crackling. I use the bones as a trivet to keep the pork raised from the base of the pan, they also add flavour to the rich cooking juices.

In another homage to Italy I cooked some cannellini  beans. These creamy white beans are almost a staple in the peasant based foods that we love to eat. I cook my own as I find the flavour and texture superior to tinned beans. Soak the beans over night in plenty of water then drain and cook in plenty of clean cold water until they are soft. Always remember that you should never add salt to pulses until they have softened, about five minutes before the end of cooking. I chose to roast some tomatoes and red onions to make a concentrated compote that I stirred into the beans along with some seasoning  giving them about another five minutes cooking.

This recipe needs to be started a few hours or better yet the night before you need it. The pork is marinated in a wine and vinegar marinade for anything from 2-24 hours. Traditionally this was to help cleanse the pork. In theses day of better animal husbandry this marinating of the meat is now done for flavour.

Pork cooked in milk

1.5kg leg or loin of pork

3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

300ml white wine

2 tablespoons oil

salt and pepper

A few sage leaves

Sprigs of rosemary

600ml milk

Put the meat in a deep dish cover with the vinegar and wine and leave it to marinate over night.

Dry it with kitchen paper and pan fry in a hot roasting pan to seal the meat. Pour in the marinade and boil frantically to let it reduce.

Add the seasoning, herbs and milk and cook slowly for about two hours or until the meat is tender, basting every 20 minutes or so. If the liquid in the pan evaporates completely add more milk or some water.

Remove the meat allowing it to sit for 15 minutes in a warm place. If you have a lot of sauce boil to reduce slightly.

Slice the pork on a plate and serve with the sauce. Don’t be put off  by the fact that the sauce curdles you could strain it if you like.

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Seville in Springtime

Gosh I had a lovely time last weekend in Seville. So many lovely places to visit and so much delicious food to eat. I travelled out to Seville late on wednesday evening . It’s always a joy travelling by Ryanair but I do have to say now that the checkin desk this time was very helpful. We had filled in my husband’s details wrong and we were in great danger of a whopping £160 surcharge. But no, compassion was the order of the day and we boarded and arrived on time.

It is useful flying in late at night as it gives you a head start in getting in to Seville’s late, late hours. We stayed at El Rey Moro a very beautiful but somewhat chilly hotel in the Barrio Santa Cruz. To be fair to the hotel Seville was unusually cool for the time of year and extra blankets were provided on demand.

Barrio Santa Cruz is the oldest part of the city and the closest to both the cathedral and the Real Alcazar and only a short walk from the Plaza Espana . Walk we did, endlessly searching the narrow streets for some sort of path to our intended destination. The medieval streets are a maze, indeed we found one tapas bar, Casa Roman, was directly behind our hotel, visible from our room window and yet we walked for 20 minutes to get to it!!

Our eating experiences were much enhanced by the wonderful folk at A Taste of Spain http://www.atasteofspain.com/ I’d been in touch with them and they recommended some excellent places to eat.

We had tapas at Sol y Sombre a Seville institution and an elegant lunch at Becerrita to the north of the town. We ate churros each morning buying them from a kiosk and eating them in the neighbouring cafe who supplied the coffee and chocolate. We drank a glass of wine in a very touristy place along the river where we watched the rowing on Sunday morning then meandered to Carmen’s tobacco factory , now part of the university, and ate a modern Spanish lunch at Oriza.

We also ate well just stopping when we were hungry and I can honestly say we did not have one bad meal. Quite a feat these days.

Apart form one churlish waiter at Casa Roman everyone was charming and helpful. Altogether a lovely break. Oh and we did do some sightseeing too and we watched Flamenco!

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Becerrita: http://www.becerrita.com

Sol y Sombre: http://www.tabernasolysombre.com

Oriza http://www.restaurantoriza.com

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Lightly Salted Cod with Smoked Paprika Aioli

Before you all start throwing your hands in the air because I’m using cod in this recipe let me just say that I buy my cod fillets direct from the beach in Aldeburgh from where Dean Fryer has been fishing most of his adult life. I’ve talked to Dean a lot over the years about fish stocks and all the problems that are involved with this dangerous profession. Dean has a small off shore boat that fishes within 3 miles of the coast. He fishes for cod, skate and sometimes herring in the winter and flat fish mainly Dover sole and dabs in the summer with bass and lobster adding gilt to his catch.

Dean will tell you that he has seen a huge rise in cod stocks over the last five years and I can see for myself that the fish he now lands are really quite large. As a cod has to be three to four years old before it can reproduce the prevalence of these large fish is good news.

Dean long lines for cod and bass fishing with a baited line therefor minimising the number of unsuitable fish he catches. But before you get too filled with joy about the local nature and sustainability of all this I must mention that the bait he uses is Falklands squid!

I like to lightly salt cod, it’s a fish I find a bit wet preferring haddock for it’s firmer flesh. I use Maldon salt crystals to salt the fillets sprinkling about a 1/2 a teaspoon over each one and leaving for 2-4 hours before washing and drying the fish. Dipped in beaten egg and coated with panko crumbs it’s ready for the pan.

Smoked paprika aioli

1 medium egg, 1teaspoon dijon mustard, 2 teaspoons wine vinegar, I large clove garlic or several smaller ones, a pinch of salt and 2 teaspoons sweet paprika/pimenton.

Place all the above ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and whiz until well blended. Now add 200 ml mild vegetable oil, I prefer groundnut oil, pouring it in a slowish stream. As you can see I’ve used my baby Magimix but a hand held blender would do as well.

Once the first lot of oil is in start adding 100 ml of olive oil, the Ailoi may not begin to thicken until most of the oil is in so don’t panic. Continue to whiz the sauce for about 30 seconds after the last of the oil is added to be sure that it is fully incorporated.

Now add hot paprika/ pimenton picante  to taste I add about 1/2 a teaspoon but taste as you go and you’ll get it right.

Heat a pan add some oil and fry the fish until golden each side. Serve with the Aioli a green vegetable. I chose diced courgette and herbs rice.


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A plum tart fit for a wet day.

I know I shouldn’t complain but I’m finding today’s grey skies and rain rather dispiriting. I guess the sunshine of last week showed us how glorious life can be and now we are back where we belong with proper March weather both, windy and wet.

So a treat is in order and this plum tart came to mind. I fancied something that was sweet, short, nutty and with a tangy edge. I might have used rhubarb but plums were all the shops had to offer. Yes, I do know that they are not British, but I console myself that the women in South Africa who picked them were happy with their wages.

I used a food processor to make the dough adding the walnuts whole and chopping them in once the crumb was formed. I’ve written the recipe to be made by hand but do feel free to do as I did rather than as I write!

Plum, cinnamon and walnut crumble tart.

150gm cold butter

125gm soft brown sugar

250gm plain flour

80gm walnuts finely chopped

2 tablespoons cinnamon

1 medium egg

about 1 kg plums

Rub the butter, sugar and flour together until you have fine crumbs. Add the walnuts then measure out 150gm of the mixture and reserve.

Now add the egg to the remaining mixture and cut in with a knife,

Tip this mixture into an oblong flan tin about 12” x 8”Using your fingers press the mix down to form an even base.

Now cut the plums into quarters and arrange these on the base.Mix the cinnamon with the reserved crumbs and then sprinkle this over the plum tart.

Place this tart on a baking sheet and cook in a heat oven 175 C for 50 minutes or until he plums start to caramelize.

Serve warm with cream.

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