ArchiveSeptember 2020

Falastin – A Cookbook

Have you heard of Sami Tamimi? His name may not be all that familiar to you but he is the business partner of Yotam Ottolenghi. The pair are credited with introducing us all to Middle Eastern food and many ingredients that we were hitherto totally unfamiliar with – sumac, za’atar, Aleppo pepper, baharat, sumac, pomegranate molasses, tahini……

The story of how this Palestinian and Israeli met and became firm friends is intriguing, an inspiration to many. Food unites us all and despite the heart breaking political situation, their friendship has endured for over 20 years. They met in 1999 when Sami worked at Baker and Spice in London.

Sami and Yotam run three Ottolenghi branches in Notting Hill, Islington and Belgravia as well as Nopi and Rovi and have co-authored 2 books together, Ottolenghi in 2008 and Jerusalem in 2012.

Sami’s latest book is called Falastin which means Palestine in Arabic. The name is deeply symbolic and for Sami has many interwoven emotions.

Palestinian home cooks and cookbook writers tend to be women who pass the skills and recipes from on generation to another. Sami however lost his mother when he was seven – he spent much of his childhood being shooed out of the kitchen by his aunties and sisters.

For me it’s a fantastic book, it has instant appeal, packed with recipes I really want to dash into the kitchen to cook and share with friends.

Falastin is co-authored with Ballymaloe alumni Tara Wigley who also collaborated with Yotam on his book, Simple.

For Sami, Falastin is a deeply important book full of haunting memories of his mother’s delicious food and Palestine – as Tara wrote – ‘It’s a love letter to his country’. She has been part of the Ottolenghi family since 2010, she turned up on her bike, fresh from a 12 Week Certificate Course here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School.  She had arrived to us in April 2010 with her 18 month old twins and a great big Bosnian dog named Andy. Tara was leaving a decade in publishing, her dream was to combine her love of cooking and writing and it quickly became clear that at Ottolenghi she could have her cake and eat it!

After a few years collaborating with Yotam and Sami on recipe testing, writing and cooking, Tara focused exclusively on writing. She remains a passionate home cook and knows very well how to fill a table with a feast.

It was really hard to pick recipes but here is some to whet your appetite, for me this book comes highly recommended.

Sweet and Spicy Seeds and Nuts

Serves 4 as a snack

2 tbsp light soft brown sugar (20g)

2 tsp flaked sea salt

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp mild curry powder

¼ tsp ground turmeric

½ tsp Aleppo chilli flakes (or ¼ tsp regular chilli flakes)

180g raw unsalted cashews

2 tbsp sunflower seeds (20g)

2 tbsp pumpkin seeds (20g)

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius fan.

Put everything apart from the cashews and seeds into a small saucepan, along with 2 tablespoons of water. Bring to the boil on a medium heat. Stirring often, then add the nuts and seeds. Cook for another 3 minutes or so, stirring constantly until the nuts and seeds are coated in a sticky glaze.

Transfer to a parchment-lined baking tray, then, using a spatula, spread the nuts out so that they’re not stuck together. Bake for 14 minutes, stirring once halfway through, until golden. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool completely, then transfer to a bowl to serve or to a sealed container if making in advance.

(From Falastin by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley, published by Ebury Press)

Hummus

I’m just sharing one way but in Falastin Sami and Tara give two ways and lots of toppings.

Serves 6

250g dried chickpeas, soaked overnight in double their volume of water

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

270g tahini

60ml lemon juice

4 garlic cloves, crushed

100ml ice-cold water

Salt

To make the hummus, drain the chickpeas and place them in a medium saucepan on a high heat. Add the bicarbonate of soda and cook for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add 1½ litres of water and bring to the boil. Cook for about 30 minutes – timing can vary from 20-40 minutes depending on the freshness of the chickpeas – skimming off any foam that appears. The chickpeas are ready when they collapse easily when pressed between thumb and finger: almost but not quite mushy.

Drain the chickpeas and transfer them to a food processor. Process to form a stiff paste and then, with the machine still running, add the tahini, lemon juice, garlic and 1½ teaspoon of salt. Finally, slowly drizzle in the iced water and continue to process for another 5 minutes: this will feel like a long time but it is what is needed to get a very smooth and creamy paste. Transfer to a bowl and set aside at room temperature, until needed. If you are making it in advance then transfer to a sealed container and keep in the fridge. Remove it half an hour before serving, to bring it back to room temperature, and give it a good stir if a ‘skin’ has formed.

When ready to serve, spoon the hummus into individual shallow bowls, creating a slight hollow in the centre of each. Sprinkle with parsley, chilli and mint, if using and serve with a final drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

(From Falastin by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley, published by Ebury Press)

Labneh Balls (Labneh Tabat)

Makes about 50og / 20 balls, to serve 10 as part of a larger spread

900g Greek-style yoghurt (or a combination of 450g goat’s yoghurt and 450g Greek-style yoghurt)

About 500ml olive oil

3 sprigs of thyme or oregano, or a mixture of both

1 ½ tbsp. chilli flakes (enough to coat 10 balls)

2 ½ tbsp. za’atar (enough to coat 10 balls)

Line a deep bowl with a piece of cheese cloth or muslin (a clean J-cloth is also fine, as an alternative) and set aside.

In a separate bowl, mix the yoghurt(s) with 1 teaspoon of salt. Pour into the cloth-lined bowl, then bring the edges of the cloth together and wrap tightly to form a bundle. Tie firmly with a piece of string. Hang the bundle over a bowl (or attached to the handle of a tall jug so that the bundle can hang free – and drip – inside the jug) and leave in the fridge for 24-36 hours, until much of the liquid is lost and the yoghurt is thick and fairly dry.

Another method is to put the bundle into a sieve placed over a bowl, with the weight of a plate, for example, or a couple of tins, sitting on top: this weight speeds up the draining process.

With lightly oiled hands, spoon a small amount – about 20g – of the labneh into the palm of one hand. Roll it around to shape it into a 3cm-wide ball, and transfer  it to a tray lined with a damp (but clean) J-cloth. Continue with the remaining labneh until all the balls are rolled. Transfer to the fridge for a couple of hours (or overnight) to firm up.

Half fill a jar (enough to fit all the rolled labneh: about 10cm wide and 12cm high) or airtight container with olive oil and drop in the balls. Top with more oil, if necessary – you want the balls to be completely covered with oil – and add the thyme or oregano. Seal the jar and store in the fridge.

When ready to coat – you can do this up to a day before serving – remove the jar from the fridge and bring to room temperature, so that the oil becomes unset. Life the balls out of the oil and roll them in the chilli flakes or za’atar: an easy way to do this is to spread your chosen coating on a plate, place a few balls at a time on top and shake the plate: the balls will be coated in seconds. If not eating at once, return them to the fridge on a plate (but not in the oil). Bring back to room temperature before serving: you don’t want them to be fridge-cold.

(From Falastin by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley, published by Ebury Press)

Chilled cucumber and tahini soup with spicy pumpkin seeds

Serves four

3 large cucumbers (1kg), peeled

65g tahini

2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to serve

2 lemons: finely grate the zest to get 2 tsp, then juice to get 60ml

2 large garlic cloves, crushed

10g dill, roughly chopped, plus a few extra fronds to serve

¾ tsp Aleppo chilli flakes (or 1/3 tsp regular chilli flakes)

100g ice cubes

20g mint leaves

20g parsley, roughly chopped

Salt and black pepper

1 tomato, cut into ½ cm dice (80g), to serve

Spicy pumpkin seeds

3 tbsp olive oil

40g pumpkin seeds

1 tsp ground cumin

¼ tsp chilli flakes

Put all the ingredients for the spicy pumpkin seeds into a small sauté pan, along with 1/8 tsp of salt, and place on a medium heat. Cook for about 8 minutes, stirring frequently, until the seeds begin to colour lightly and pop. Transfer to a bowl (or to an airtight container if making a batch) and set aside to cool.

Cut off a roughly 80g chunk of cucumber and slice in half. Scoop out the seedy core (add this to the pile of cucumber to be blended), then finely chop the remainder into 1cm dice. Set this aside, to serve. Roughly chop the remaining cucumber into 2cm chunks and transfer to a free-standing blender (or a deep bowl if you are using a hand-held blender), along with the tahini, oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, dill, chilli flakes, ice cubes, half the mint, half the parsley, 1 teaspoon of salt and a good grind of black pepper. Blitz for about 2 minutes, until completely smooth, then keep in the fridge until ready to serve.

Divide the soup between four deep bowls and spoon the reserved cucumber and diced tomato on top. Shred the remaining mint and sprinkle this over each portion, along with the remaining parsley, any spare dill fronds, the spicy pumpkin seeds and a final drizzle of oil.

(From Falastin by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley, published by Ebury Press)

Chicken Musakhan

Serves four

1 chicken (about 1.7kg), divided into 4 pieces (1.4kg) or 1kg chicken supremes (between 4 and 6, depending on size), skin on, if you prefer

120ml olive oil, plus 2-3 tbsp extra, to finish

1 tbsp ground cumin

3 tbsp sumac

½ tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp ground allspice

30g pine nuts

3 large red onions, thinly sliced 2-3mm thick (500g)

4 taboon breads or any flatbread (such as Arabic flatbread or naan bread) (330g)

5g parsley leaves, roughly chopped

Salt and black pepper

To serve

300g Greek-style yoghurt

1 lemon, quartered

Preheat the oven to 200°C fan oven.

Place the chicken in a large mixing bowl with 2 tablespoons of oil, 1 teaspoon of cumin, 1 ½ teaspoons of sumac, the cinnamon, allspice, 1 teaspoon of salt and a good grind of black pepper. Mix well to combine, then spread out on a parchment-lined baking tray. Roast until the chicken is cooked through. This will take about 30 minutes if starting with supremes and up to 45 minutes if starting with the whole chicken, quartered. Remove from the oven and set aside. Don’t discard any juices which have collected in the tray.

Meanwhile, put 2 tablespoons of oil into a large sauté pan, about 24cm, and place on a medium heat. Add the pine nuts and cook for about 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly, until the nuts are golden brown. Transfer to a bowl lined with kitchen paper (leaving the oil behind in the pan) and set aside. Add the remaining 60ml of oil to the pan, along with the onions and ¾ teaspoon of salt. Return to a medium heat for about 15 minutes, stirring from time to time, until the onions are completely soft and pale golden but not caramelised. Add 2 tablespoons of sumac, the remaining 2 teaspoons of cumin and a grind of black pepper and mix through, until the onions are completely coated. Remove from the heat and set aside.

When ready to assemble the dish, set the oven to a grill setting and slice or tear the bread into quarters or sixths. Place them under the grill for about 2-3 minutes to crisp up, then arrange them on a large platter. Top the bread with half the onions, followed by all the chicken and any chicken juices left in the tray. Either keep each piece of chicken as it is or else roughly shred it as you plate up, into two or three large chunks. Spoon the remaining onions over the top and sprinkle with the pine nuts, parsley, 1 ½ teaspoons of sumac and a final drizzle of olive oil. Serve at once, with the yoghurt and a wedge of lemon alongside.

(From Falastin by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley, published by Ebury Press)

Pulled lamb Shawarma sandwich

Serves eight

3 onions, 1 roughly chopped and the other 2 quartered (and peeled as always) into wedges

2 heads of garlic, 1 cut in half, horizontally, and 8 cloves from the second head roughly chopped

2 ½ cm piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped

20g parsley, roughly chopped

1 ½ tbsp ground cumin

1 ½ tbsp ground coriander

2 tsp smoked paprika

2 tsp ground turmeric

2 tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp ground cloves

3 tbsp cider vinegar

60ml olive oil

2-2.5kg lamb shoulder, bone in

700ml chicken stock

½ a lemon

Salt and black pepper

Sumac yoghurt

200g Greek-style yoghurt

60g tahini

1 ½ tbsp lemon juice

2 tsp sumac

To serve (any or all of the following)

2 plum tomatoes, thinly sliced (200g)

1 red onion, thinly sliced into rounds (120g)

10g picked parsley leaves

5g picked mint leaves

100g shatta

8 pita breads

First make the spice paste. Put the chopped onion into a food processor along with the chopped garlic and ginger. Pulse until finely minced, then add the parsley and spices. Pulse for about 10 seconds, until just combined. Scrape down the sides, then add the vinegar, oil, 2 ¼ teaspoons of salt and a generous grind of black pepper. Pulse to form a coarse paste, then transfer to a non-metallic food container large enough to hold the lamb

Pat the lamb dry and pierce liberally all over with a small, sharp knife. Add it to the spice paste and coat generously, so that all sides are covered. Cover with foil and leave to marinate, refrigerated, overnight.

Take the lamb out of the fridge about an hour before going into the oven: you want it to be more like room temperature rather than fridge-cold.

Preheat the oven to 140 degrees Celsius fan.

Put the remaining onions and head of garlic into the centre of a large roasting tray and pour over the chicken stock. Sit the lamb on top of the vegetables, cover tightly with foil and bake for 4 hours. Remove from the oven, discard the foil and bake for 90 minutes more, increasing the oven temperature to 160 degrees Celsius fan towards the last 30 minutes of cooking time. The lamb is ready when it is fork-tender and easily pulls away from the bone. Set aside to cool slightly, about 15 minutes, before using two forks to roughly shred the lamb directly in the pan, gathering as much of its juices as possible. Transfer the shredded lamb, onions, garlic cloves and any of the pan juices to a serving bowl. Squeeze over the lemon juice and set aside.

While the lamb is in the oven, prepare the sumac yoghurt. Put the yoghurt, tahini, lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of water, the sumac and ¼ teaspoon of salt into a bowl and whisk well to combine.

When ready to serve, lay out all the various condiments, along with the pita, to let everyone make up their own shawarma sandwich.

(From Falastin by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley, published by Ebury Press)

Shortbread Cookies

Makes about 35 cookies

200g ghee or clarified butter, at room temperature

80g icing sugar, sifted

370g plain flour, sifted

¾ tsp salt

1 ½ tsp orange blossom water

1 tsp rose water

12g unsalted pistachio kernels (enough for one to go on each cookie)

Put the ghee and icing sugar into the bowl of a free-standing mixer with the whisk attachment in place. Mix on a medium-high speed for about 4 minutes, until pale and fluffy. Replace the whisk with the paddle attachment. Add the flour, salt, orange blossom water and rose water and mix for another 3 minutes, until the dough is uniform and smooth. Using your hands, bring the dough together and shape into a ball. Place the dough in an airtight container and leave in the fridge for about an hour, to rest. You’ll need to remove it from the fridge 10 minutes before you want to roll it out so that it has some malleability.

Preheat the oven to 160 degree Celsius fan.

Pinch off a bit of the dough, about 20g, and roll it into a sausage: it should be about 10cm long and ½ inch thick. Bring both ends together, slightly overlapping them and pressing down where the two ends meet. Press a single pistachio into the dough where the ends join and place on a tray lined with baking parchment. Repeat with the remaining dough, spacing the rings 1cm apart on the tray. You’ll need two trays to fit them all. Bake for 15 minutes, until the cookies are cooked through but have not taken on too much colour. Remove from the oven and set aside until completely cool before serving.

(From Falastin by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley, published by Ebury Press)

Windfall Apples…

Storm Ellen and Storm Francis played “hell” with our apple crop. We didn’t have a particularly good crop anyway but much of our meagre harvest ended up as windfalls in the grass underneath the apple trees in the orchard. Some like Beauty of Bath were already ripe, many other varieties were not but still the strong winds managed to shake them off their branches. I collected as many as I could to make windfall jelly. 

These under-ripe fruit are perfect for apple jelly, don’t worry about the odd bruise or slug bite just cut them out. Wash the fruit but don’t bother to peel, save the stalks and seeds too, they all add to the end result.

To make the preserve… Just fill a large pot with the coarsely chopped fruit, cover with cold water.  Add other flavours if you fancy, a few fistfuls of blackberries, sloes, rowan berries, damsons or haws.  If you add  a mixture, it can be called Hedgerow jelly. Alternatively, simply add mint, chillies or a pinch of traditional cloves. This is a brilliant all-purpose recipe – ‘a-catch-all’ to use up a couple of fistfuls of autumn fruit and berries. I can add some ripe elderberries, and in a few weeks bletted medlars to make a delicious apple and medlar jelly to accompany game or a boiled leg of mutton.

We have also found that the strong pectin, rich apple juice works brilliantly as a natural gelling agent in both  strawberry and blackberry jam, both of which can be notoriously difficult to set. We plan to freeze it as an experiment to use in winter jams and jellies instead of jam sugar.

And who doesn’t love an apple tart – every family has their favourite pastry but this recipe for a buttery ‘break all the rules’ shortcrust pastry was passed on to me by my Mum. It’s not just our favourite but has become many other people’s ‘go to’ recipe for a tart or pie crust. Its made by the ‘creaming method’ so those of you who are convinced you have hot hands, there’s no need to worry – this one is a ‘keeper’ and it also freezes well.

The whole family will love this Autumn apple and blackberry pie, with cinnamon sugar  and I’ve also included the aristocrat of apple tarts, the French classic, Tarte Tatin. This is sometimes made with puff pastry but we also love this tender irresistible sour cream pastry – give it a try, it is made in minutes, see how you like it…

Apple charlotte is an almost forgotten pudding. I find it’s best made with Cox’s Orange Pippin apples and slices of good white yeast bread, soaked in melted butter – No wonder, it’s so delicious. I make it just once a year, but the memory of the texture of the crisp buttery bread and the sweetness of the Cox’s Apple puree lingers for months on end. And finally check out this simple recipe for apple fritters, another of my grandchildren’s favourites which they have nicknamed Scary Little Monsters because of the funny shapes the batter cooks into on the pan… sprinkle them with castor sugar and enjoy…. 

Windfall Apple Jelly and Variations

Making jellies is immensely rewarding. This is a brilliant master recipe that can be used for many combinations. A jelly bag is an advantage, but by no means essential. Years ago we strained the juice and pulp through an old cotton pillow and hung it on an upturned stool. A couple of thicknesses of muslin will also do the job. Place a stainless-steel or deep pottery bowl underneath to catch the juice. Tie with cotton string and hang from a sturdy cup-hook. If you can’t get enough windfall apples, use a mixture of crab apples, windfall and cooking apples, like Bramley’s Seedling, Grenadier or any other tart cooking apple.

Makes 2.7–3.2kg (6–7lb)

2.7kg (6lb) windfall apples of crab apples

2.7 litres (5 3⁄4 pints) water

2 organic lemons

425g (15oz) granulated sugar to every 600ml (1 pint) of juice

Wash the apples, cut into quarters, but do not remove either the peel or core. Windfalls may be used, but be sure to cut out the bruised parts. Put the apples into a large stainless-steel saucepan with the water and the thinly pared zest of the lemons and cook for about 30 minutes until reduced to a pulp.

Pour the pulp into a jelly bag and allow to drip until all the juice has been extracted, usually overnight. (The pulp can later go to the hens or compost. The jelly bag or muslin may be washed and reused over and over again.)

Measure the juice into a preserving pan and allow 425g (15oz) sugar to each 600ml (1 pint) of juice. Warm the sugar in a low oven. Squeeze the lemons, strain the juice and add to the pan. Bring to the boil and add the warm sugar. Stir over a gentle heat until the sugar is dissolved. Increase the heat and boil rapidly without stirring for about 8–10 minutes. Skim, test and pot immediately. Flavour with rose geranium, mint, sage or cloves as required (see below).

APPLE AND ELDERBERRY JELLY

Add a fistful or two of elderberries to the apple and continue as above. Up to half the volume of elderberries can be used (1/2 pint of elderberries works very well although it’s not essential to measure – it’s a good starting point). A sprig or two of mint or rose geranium or a cinnamon stick further enhances the flavour.

APPLE AND SLOE JELLY

Substitute sloes for elderberries in the above recipe. You want about the same quantity by weight of crab apples and sloes.

APPLE AND MINT JELLY

Follow the Windfall Apple Jelly recipe and add 3–4 sprigs of mint to the apples as they stew. Add 2–3 tablespoons (2 1/2 – 3 3/4 tablespoons) of finely chopped mint to the jelly just before it’s potted.

APPLE AND ROSEMARY JELLY

Add 2 sprigs of rosemary to the apples as they stew and put a tiny sprig into each pot. Serve with lamb.

APPLE AND ROSE GERANIUM JELLY

Add 8–10 leaves of rose geranium (pelagonium graveoleus) to the apples initially and 5 more when boiling to a set.

Autumn Apple and Blackberry Pie with Cinnamon Sugar

Serves 8 – 10

8 ozs (225 g) soft butter

8 ozs (225 g) caster sugar

4 eggs, preferably free range

11 oz (300 g) self-raising flour

2 good – size cooking apples (approx. 450g (1lb))

4 ozs blackberries

A generous dusting of cinnamon sugar

Cinnamon Sugar

110g (4oz) castor sugar

1 – 2 teaspoons of cinnamon

1 x 9 inch (23 cm) round tin.

Cream the butter and sugar until light, fluffy and pale in colour.  Add the eggs on at a time, beating well after each addition. Gently fold in sifted flour, mixing well.  Place mixture into the well greased tin.

Peel the cooking apples, slice thinly into ¼ inch (5 mm) slices and arrange slightly buried on top of the mixture.  Scatter the blackberries or incorporate as part of the pattern.

Place in a preheated fan oven 170ºC (325ºF/gas mark 3) for 25-30 minutes.  Bake until the cake and the apples are cooked. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

Serve warm or at room temperature with a bowl of softly whipped cream.

Tarte Tatin

Serves 6-8

The ultimate french apple tart. The Tatin sisters ran a restaurant at Lamotte-Beuvron in Sologne at the beginning of the century.  They created this tart, some say accidentally, but however it came about it is a triumph – soft, buttery caramelised apples (or indeed you can also use pears) with crusty golden pastry underneath.  It is unquestionably my favourite French tart! One can buy a special copper tatin especially for this tart.  It takes considerable courage to cook the caramel dark enough but the end result is so worth the effort

1.24kg (2 3/4lb) approx. Golden Delicious, Cox’s Orange Pippin or Bramley Seedling cooking apples

175g (6oz) Sour Cream Pastry or puff pastry or rich Sweet Shortcrust Pastry (see recipe below)

110g (4oz) unsalted butter

210g (7 1/2oz) castor sugar *

a heavy 20.5cm (8inch) tatin mould or copper or stainless steel sauté pan with low sides

Preheat the oven to 220ºC/425ºF/Gas Mark 7 for puff pastry.  For shortcrust -180ºC/350ºF/Gas Mark 4.

First, roll out the pastry into a round slightly larger than the saucepan.  Prick it all over with a fork and chill until needed.

Peel, halve and core the apples.  Melt the butter in the saucepan, add the sugar and cook over a medium heat until it turns golden – fudge colour.  Put the apple halves in upright, packing them in very tightly side by side, careful not to burn your fingers.  Replace the pan on a low heat and cook until the sugar and juice are a dark caramel colour. Hold your nerve otherwise it will be too pale.  Put into a hot oven for approx. 15 minutes.

Cover the apples with the pastry and tuck in the edges.  Put the saucepan into the fully preheated oven until the pastry is cooked and the apples are soft-25-30 minutes approx. For puff pastry reduce the temperature to 200°C/400°F/gas 6 after 10 minutes.

Take out of the oven and rest for 5-10 minutes or longer if you like.  Put a plate over the top of the saucepan and flip the tart on to a serving plate.  (Watch out – this is a rather tricky operation because the hot caramel and juice can ooze out).  Reshape the tart if necessary and serve warm with softly whipped cream.

Sour Cream Short Crust Pastry

Makes 500g (18oz)

250g (9oz) plain white flour

25g (1oz) icing sugar

175g (6oz) butter

62ml (2 1/2fl oz up) sour cream

To make the pastry.

Put the flour and icing sugar into a large bowl.  Dice the butter and rub into the flour until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs.  Add enough sour cream to just bring it together.  Divide in two pieces, wrap, refrigerate and chill for at least 30 minutes before rolling out.  Use for tarts, pies or tarte tatin.

Apple Charlotte

This is the scrummiest, most wickedly rich apple pudding ever. A friend, Peter Lamb, make it as a special treat for me every now and then.

It’s also a brilliant way to use up bread and apples deliciously.

We make apple charlotte from old varieties of eating apples – my favourites are Ergemont, Russet, Charles Ross, Cox’s Orange Pippin or Pitmaston Pineapple. It’s sinfully rich but gorgeous.

Serves 4-6

1 kg (2 1/4lb) dessert apples

225g (8oz) clarified butter

175g (6oz) castor sugar

2 organic egg yolks

good quality white yeast bread

1 loaf tin – 13 x 20cm (5 x 8inch)

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6.

Peel and core the apples. Melt a little of the clarified butter in a stainless steel saucepan, chop the apples into cubes and add to the saucepan with a couple of tablespoons of water and the castor sugar. Cover and cook on a gentle heat until the apples break into a thick pulp. Beat in the egg yolks one by one – this helps to enrich and thicken the apple purée. Taste and add a little more sugar if necessary.

Melt the remaining clarified butter and use a little of this to brush the inside of the tin then dust it with caster sugar.  Cut the crusts off the bread and cut into strips about 4cm (1 1/2inches) wide and 13cm (5 inches) high and quickly brush them with the clarified butter.  Line the sides of the tin with butter-soaked bread. Cut another strip to fit tightly into the base of the tin. Brush it on both sides with butter and tuck it in tightly. Fill the centre with the apple pulp. Cut another strip of bread to fit the top. Brush with melted butter on both sides and fit it neatly to cover the purée.

Bake for 20 minutes then reduce the heat to180°C/350°F/gas mark 4 for another 15 minutes or until the bread is crisp and a rich golden colour.

 To serve

Run a knife around the edges in case the bread has stuck to the tin. Invert the apple charlotte onto a warm oval serving plate. It won’t look like a thing of beauty, it may collapse a bit, but it will taste wonderful. Serve with softly whipped cream.

Apple Fritters

Funny how one sometimes forgets a recipe; we hadn’t had these for ages, but I remembered them recently and they taste just as good as ever. As children we particularly loved fritters because they used to fry into funny shapes, which caused great hilarity. These can also be shallow-fried in a pan. You can add a teaspoon of cinnamon to the sugar to toss the apples in for extra flavour.

Serves 6–8

110g (4oz) plain white flour

pinch of salt

1 organic egg

150ml (5fl oz) milk

good-quality vegetable oil, for frying

450g (1lb) cooking apples (about 4), Bramley’s Seedling or Grenadier

225g (4oz) caster sugar or cinnamon sugar (see apple and blackberry pie recipe)

Sieve the flour and salt into a bowl. Make a well in the centre and drop in the egg. Use a whisk to bring in the flour gradually from the edges, slowly adding in the milk at the same time. Leave the batter in a cool place for about 1 hour.

Heat the oil in a deep-fryer to 190°C (375°F).

Peel and core the apples. Cut into rings, no thicker than 1cm (1⁄4 inch). Dip the rings into the batter and lift out with a skewer, allowing the surplus batter to drain off, then drop into hot fat, a few at a time. Fry until the batter is golden brown and the apple is tender.  Drain well on kitchen paper. Toss each fritter in caster sugar or cinnamon sugar. Serve immediately on hot plates with softly whipped cream.

Wild Foods – Crab Apple (Malus sylvestris)

Crab apples are wild apples that probably grew from seeds in an apple core that was tossed from the window of a car, they are in season at present and may be picked off the tree, but many grow quite high so they can be difficult to reach. However, the windfalls that lie on the ground are also worth collecting. Once the bruised bits are cut out and thrown into the compost bin, the remaining skin, pips and stalks are fine for making jellies.

Preserving the Summer Glut

I’ve been a bit like a broken record throughout this Covid 19 pandemic reminding readers on almost a weekly basis about the importance of really focussing on the quality of the food we are feeding ourselves and our families at this critical time.

Many of you have been actively seeking out local farmers markets and buying directly from the growers and food producers – building up a bond of trust. Others have signed up to an Organic box scheme where you receive a weekly box of beautiful seasonal vegetables, fruit and herbs fresh from the garden. Chock full of minerals, vitamins and trace elements to boost your energy, mood and immune systems. Those of you who like us embrace the concept of growing your own food have been enjoying the fruit of your labours and now fully understand the excitement, importance and frustrations of the ‘farm to fork’ concept and the heightened enjoyment of eating food you have personally grown and sown the seeds, watered, wed and harvested.

The pride and joy of sitting down to a plate of food where everything on your plate came from your garden or local producers known to you personally is tangible, you won’t want to waste a single morsel of this precious food….

Now it’s September and Summer 2020 has just whizzed by in a blur….Several of you have contacted me wondering what to do with the end of Summer glut of home grown fruit and vegetables.

Large courgettes, squishy ripe tomatoes, cucumbers and aubergines…..One lady who rang me from the UK actually had a glut of figs, I was deeply envious but having never been in that fortunate situation I was slightly at a loss to think of how to use up almost 100 ripe figs other than making jam and lots of figgy tart and puddings, but she lives alone and we’re not supposed to invite lots of friends around….. so what to do…..?

Figs dry brilliantly, but Rory suggested freezing them for Winter preserves. In the absence of hot sun, how about experimenting with slowly drying them in a fan oven or dehydrator – Any other ideas?

Chillies are easy, thread the stalks onto a piece of strong cotton thread to make a truss or ‘ristra’ as they call it in Italy.  Hang it on a hook in your pantry or loop them under your kitchen shelves. Either way they’ll look great as well as being easy to snip off when you need to add a bit of excitement to a dish.

Alternatively dig up your mature chilli plants, shake off the earth from the roots, pick off the leaves, hang it upside down in a well ventilated spot, turning every day or two until the chillies are dry. If you have a dehydrator they can be dried whole or in slices as can tomatoes and aubergines.

Dehydrators are not overly expensive – €50 – €200 depending on size and quality. For years I hesitated, reckoning that it would be a white elephant sitting in a corner of the kitchen used only sporadically. However, my dehydrator is in constant use. We dry a myriad of vegetables, fruit herbs and edible flowers.  Students also love to experiment with it. Don’t worry if you don’t have a dehydrator, a fan oven at the lowest setting also works brilliantly, just spread out whole or sliced items on wire or oven racks and turn regularly. Keep an eye on them and then store in airtight jars.

We have buckets of super ripe, end of season tomatoes and like those of you who have grown your own we can’t bear to waste a single one. We freeze lots whole, just as they are, for Winter stews, tagines and of course our all-time favourite tomato fondue (defrost in a sieve to remove the excess liquid, which can be used in soups).

The really soft squishy ones, bursting with flavour are cooked into puree to make tomato and basil soup for the Winter that will be reminiscent of Summer flavours. All soups and liquids are frozen in recycled one litre milk bottles and gallon cream containers. They stack neatly side by side and cost nothing.

Large courgettes don’t have much flavour but can be frozen grated or in cubes (tray freeze) and added to frittatas, tomato fondue or gutsy Winter stews with lots of rosemary, sage and thyme leaves to boost the flavour. As Summer changes to Autumn, basil will wither and fade, so preserve the best leaves in olive oil to add a taste of Summer to Winter dishes.

Aubergines are best made into this spiced aubergine mixture – can’t tell you how many times this delicious pickle has come to the rescue, gorgeous with lamb or pork, mozzarella or paired with an oozing burrata as a starter.

Keen gardeners won’t want to waste a morsel of their home grown produce. For more ideas – check out my Grow, Cook, Nourish book published in 2017 which has a How to use up a glut deliciously, suggestion for every fruit, vegetable and fresh herb.

Here’s a few suggestions to get you going:

Tomato Purée

Note: Tomato Purée is one of the very best ways of preserving the flavour of ripe summer tomatoes for Winter.  Use for soups, stews, casseroles etc.

2lbs (900g) very ripe tomatoes

1 small onion, chopped

1 teaspoon sugar

good pinch of salt 

a few twists of black pepper

Cut the tomatoes into quarters and put into a stainless steel saucepan with the onion, salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar. Cook, covered on a gentle heat until the tomatoes are soft (no water is needed). Put through the fine blade of the mouli-legume or a nylon sieve.

Allow to get cold, refrigerate or freeze.

Note: make tomato purée recipe x 2 for Tomato Soup

Confit of Tomatoes

This method concentrates the flavour of the tomatoes deliciously. The oil absorbs the flavour of the tomatoes and will, of course, enhance dressings and salads.  Serve on grilled bread, with pasta, mozzarella and fish.

Makes 3 x 370g (13oz) jars approximately

1.3kg (3lbs) ripe small or cherry tomatoes

5- 6 garlic cloves, slightly crushed

4-5 sprigs of fresh thyme

extra virgin olive oil, to cover

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 160°C/325°F/Gas Mark 3.

Choose an ovenproof dish that will just fit the tomatoes in a single layer.  Remove the calyxes from the tomatoes and arrange them in the dish.  Tuck a few garlic cloves and the sprigs of thyme in here and there between the tomatoes.  Just cover with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Bake for 1 1/2 hours or until soft and tender.  Eat immediately or allow to cool.  Store in a sterilised jar covered in the oil and use within a week or so.

Eat immediately or leave to cool then store in a sterilised jar covered in the oil and use within a week or so.

Spiced Aubergine Pickle

This is a delicious way to preserve a glut of aubergines – serve with lamb or pork or just with cheese.

Makes 2kg (4 jars)

2kg aubergines, peeled and cut into thick julienne strips or chunks

4 tablespoons salt

1 litre white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons sugar

125ml  extra virgin olive oil

2 chilli peppers, seeded and finely chopped

50g chives, finely cut

2 tablespoons marjoram

4 garlic cloves, halved

Preserving jars

Put the aubergines in a colander, sprinkle with salt, toss them, and allow to degorge in a colander for 30 minutes.

Bring the vinegar and sugar to the boil in a large saucepan.   Add the aubergines and simmer for 5 minutes, careful not to overcook. Drain, reserving the pickling liquid.

Add the oil, chilli pepper, chives and marjoram to the aubergines, and toss well.  Fill the jars, making sure the aubergines are submerged in the cooking liquid.  Divide the garlic between the sterilized jars. If more juice is needed to cover the aubergines, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of the reserved pickling liquid.  Seal each jar tightly.  Store in a cool, dark place for 2-3 weeks before using.

Basil Oil

Basil may be used either to flavour the oil or the oil may be used to preserve the basil, depending on the quantity used. If using a large quantity of basil, you can preserve it in a jar with enough olive oil to completely cover it for up to three months. Basil oil may be used in salad dressings, vegetable stews, pasta sauces or many other instances.

extra virgin olive oil

fresh organic basil leaves

Ensure the basil leaves are clean and dry. Pour a little of the olive oil from the bottle and stuff at least 8–10 basil leaves into the bottle, or more if you like. The basil must be covered by at least 1cm (1⁄2in) of oil. Seal and store in a cold place. We sometimes fill bottles three quarters full and then chill them. When the oil solidifies somewhat, we top it up with another layer of oil. If the basil is not submerged in the oil, it will become mouldy in a relatively short period of time.

Cucumber Neapolitana

A terrifically versatile vegetable dish which may be made ahead and reheats well. It is also delicious served with rice or pasta.  It makes a great stuffing for tomatoes and is particularly good with Roast lamb.

Serves 6 approx.

1 Irish cucumber

½ oz (15g) butter

1 medium onion – 4 ozs (110g) approx., sliced

4 very ripe Irish tomatoes

Salt and freshly ground pepper

2½ flozs (63ml) cream

1 dessertspoon freshly chopped mint

Roux (optional) 

Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan, when it foams add the onion. Cover and sweat for 5 minutes approx. until soft but not coloured. 

Meanwhile, peel the cucumber cut into ½ inch (1cm) cubes; add to the onions, toss well and continue to cook while you scald the tomatoes with water for 10 seconds.  Peel the tomatoes and slice into the casserole, season with salt, freshly ground pepper and a pinch of sugar. Cover the casserole and cook for a few minutes until the cucumbers are tender and the tomatoes have softened, add the cream and bring back to the boil. Add the freshly chopped mint.  If the liquid is very thin, thicken it by carefully whisking in a little roux.  Cucumber Neapolitana keeps for several days and may be reheated.

How to Freeze Zucchini/Courgettes

When you are coping with a glut and have run out of meal slots to use them up it is really worth taking a little time to freeze the remainder of your harvest.

The courgettes can be frozen in nuggets or medallions or simply grated. For the latter, (no need to blanch) just grate the zucchini on the course side of a box grater, pack the shredded vegetable into small zip-lock freezer bags – say 8oz/225g in each. Flatten, press out all the air and seal. Label carefully with name, weight and date and freeze immediately. It will keep for the best part of a year but I prefer to use it within 5 or 6 months.

To defrost – take out of the freezer, allow to defrost then put into a sieve to squeeze out the extra liquid. Use for soup, casseroles or zucchini bread.

Courgette Medallions or Nuggets

Slice the zucchini in ½ inch rounds or ¾ inch dice.

Bring a large pot of water to a fast rolling boil, add the zucchini (not too many at a time). Bring the water back to the boil for just one minute. Scoop out the medallions or nuggets. Transfer to an ice bath to cool and then drain really well. Dry. Lay them out on a parchment paper covered baking sheet. Tray freeze for about 2 hours. Pack the frozen medallions or nuggets into freezer bags or boxes and refreeze immediately. They will keep for up to a year but best to use them up within 5/6 months.

Add the still frozen zucchini directly into stews or casseroles close to the end of the cooking time. Remember they will add some extra liquid to the dish so allow for that in your measurements.

Blackberry Season Again…

Gosh it’s difficult to switch off from the realities of Covid 19 coverage and the resulting anxiety but switch off we must while still complying with the HSE guidelines, otherwise the toll on our mental health can be devastating.

So this week, how about a blackberry picking expedition if it’s possible in your particular situation. Where I live in the country, many of the hedgerows are dripping with berries. Some have been battered by the recent rain and winds but there’s still an abundant crop. Local kids have been out foraging to make some pocket money, they arrive at the Cookery School with great big smiles and gallons brimming with ripe berries, we’re delighted to buy them to pop into the freezer for winter jams and preserves.

Blackberries are a virtual power house of nutrients. They are packed with essential nutrients and antioxidants, loads of vitamin C, magnesium, potassium, calcium and they’re a rich source of both soluble and insoluble fibre that many of us don’t have nearly enough of in our diets. So in other words they are good for our gut biome and for digestion and apparently also boost overall brain function.

Bring along with kids and show them how to choose the best berries and avoid the thorns. Make sure you check the berries before you pop them into your mouths – if the core is discoloured rather than pale and unblemished, it usually means that the little crawly beasties have got there first, so it’s best to discard those.

All berries freeze brilliantly provided they are perfectly dry when picked,  it’s best if you have space to tray freeze them,  then one can take out a couple of fistfuls of frozen berries to add to tarts, crumbles or a breakfast smoothie. A few small cartons close to the top of the freezer will come in handy to add to a sauce or gravy to partner a pheasant or a grouse later in the year.

Blackberries, with their low sugar content can be enjoyed by diabetics and because they are so brilliantly versatile one can enjoy them in both sweet and savoury dishes. I’ve got to start with blackberry, apple and sweet geranium crumble, everyone’s favourite family pud!

Blackberry and Apple and Sweet Geranium Cumble

Serves 6-8

Crumbles are comfort food, vary the fruit according to the season.

1 lbs (450 g) Bramley Seedling cooking apples

1/2 lb (225g) fresh or frozen blackberries

1 1/2-2 ozs (45-50g) sugar

1-2 tablespoons water

2 chopped sweet geranuium leaves (Pelargonium Graveolons) – optional

Crumble

4 ozs (110g) white flour, preferably unbleached

2 ozs (50g) cold butter

2 ozs (50g) castor sugar

1 oz (25g) chopped almonds or hazelnuts (optional)

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

2 pint (1.1L) capacity pie dish

Peel the apples, cut into quarters, remove the core and cut into large cubes.

Turn into a pie dish. Sprinkle with sugar. Add the water. 

Rub the butter into the flour just until the mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs, add the sugar and cinnamon and chopped nuts if using. Sprinkle this mixture over the apple in the pie dish. Bake in a preheated moderate oven 180°C/350°F/regulo 4, for 30-45 minutes or until the topping is cooked and golden. Serve with whipped cream and soft brown sugar.  (optional – serve with Amaretto cream).

Blackberry and Lime Swirls

Believe me these are totally irresistible….

Makes 18-20 scones, using a 3 inch (71/2 cm) cutter

2lb (900g) plain white flour

6oz (175g) butter

pinch of salt

2oz (50g) castor sugar

3 heaped teaspoons baking powder

3 free-range eggs

16fl oz (450ml) approx. full cream milk to mix (not low fat milk)

Lime Butter

150g (5oz) butter

250g (9oz) pale brown sugar

2 teaspoons lime zest

egg wash

150g (5oz) blackberries

Lime Sugar

4oz (110g/1/2 cup) Demerara sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon lime zest for the top of scones

Preheat the oven 250ºC/475ºF/Gas Mark 9.

First make the Lime Butter.

Cream the butter, sugar and lime zest together and beat until light and fluffy.

Sieve the flour into a large wide bowl, add a pinch of salt, the baking powder and castor sugar.  Mix the dry ingredients with your hands, lift up to incorporate air and mix thoroughly.

Cut the butter into cubes, toss well in the flour and then with the tips of your fingers, rub in the butter until it resembles large flakes.  Make a well in the centre.  Whisk the eggs with the milk, pour all at once into the centre.  With the fingers of your ‘best hand’ outstretched and stiff, mix in a full circular movement from the centre to the outside of the bowl.  This takes just seconds and hey presto, the scone dough is made.  Sprinkle some flour on the work surface.  Turn out the dough onto the floured board.  Scrape the dough off your fingers and wash and dry your hands at this point.  Tidy around the edges, flip over and roll or pat gently into a rectangle about 3/4 inch (2cm) thick. 

Spread the soft lime butter over the dough, sprinkle the blackberries evenly over the butter, leaving an inch along one of the long sides without blackberries. Brush this piece with egg wash.

Roll the dough from the long side and seal with the egg wash. Cut into pieces, about 2 inches (5cm) thick.

Brush the tops (cut edge) with egg wash and dip in crunchy lime sugar. Arrange onto a baking sheet, fairly close together.

Bake in a preheated oven for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown on top.

Egg Wash

Whisk one egg thoroughly with about a dessertspoon of milk.  Egg wash adds colour during cooking.

Variation

Blackberry and Rose Geranium Scones

Substitute 3 tablespoons of finely chopped rose geranium for lime zest in the master recipe.  Add 2 tablespoons of finely chopped rose geranium to the Demerara sugar.

Rory O’Connell’s Smoked Black Pudding and Cheddar Cheese Croquettes with Bramley Apple and Blackberry Sauce

I use smoked black pudding from Hugh Maguire for this recipe. Hugh is known as “the Smoking Butcher” and his pudding is excellent.

Makes approximately 40 little croquettes

400g (14oz) potatoes

2 tablespoons ) cream

130g (4 1/2oz) smoked black pudding, very finely diced

100g (3 1/2oz) finely grated cheddar cheese

For coating the croquettes

seasoned plain flour

3 beaten eggs

150g (5oz) crust-less white breadcrumbs

sunflower oil, olive oil or beef dripping for deep frying

Place the potatoes in a saucepan and season with a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and cover and simmer for ten minutes. Pour off all except 2cm (3/4 inch) of water, cover and replace on the heat to cook for a further 20 or so minutes until completely tender.

Immediately peel the skins off the potatoes – you want 300g (10oz) of peeled cooked potatoes. Place in a bowl and mash to a smooth fluff. Add the cream, black pudding, cheddar cheese and season with salt and pepper. Mix everything gently together. Chill the mixture until completely cold.

Roll the mixture into 15g (generous 1/2oz) balls. Place the flour, beaten eggs and breadcrumbs in separate bowls. Roll the balls in the flour first, followed by the beaten egg and finally the breadcrumbs. Place on a parchment paper lined tray and chill for 15 minutes.

Heat the frying fat of choice to 170°C/325°F.

Fry the croquettes a few at a time until well coloured and crisp. Drain on kitchen paper and keep warm in an oven heated to 100°C/210°F.

Serve the croquettes with bamboo skewers to hold and the apple and blackberry sauce on the side.

Bramley Apple and Blackberry Sauce

450g Bramley apples

2 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons sugar

100g (3 1/2oz) blackberries fresh or frozen

Peel, quarter and core the apples. Cut each quarter in half. Place in a small saucepan with the water and sugar. Cover tightly and cook on a very low heat. The apples will gradually collapse to a frothy snow. Add the blackberries and cook for a further 2 minutes. Stir lightly, taste and add a little more sugar if necessary.

Blackberry, Melon and Mint Salad

Serves 6

1 ripe Orgen and Cantaloupe melon

freshly squeezed lemon juice

sugar

2-3 tablespoons torn or shredded mint

225g – 350g (8-12oz) freshly picked blackberries

Cut the ripe melon in half and remove the seeds, cut into quarters, remove the peel and cut the flesh into 1 – 2cm (1/2 – 3/4 inch) dice.

Put into a bowl, sprinkle with sugar and the freshly squeezed juice of a lemon. Toss gently and taste.

The amount of sugar will depend on the sweetness of the melon.

Add the shredded mint and the blackberries and stir very gently to combine.  Serve chilled.

Wild Blackberry, Apple and Rose Geranium Jam

Blackberries are famously low in pectin, so the tart apples help it to set and add extra flavour. Go foraging for blackberries in the early autumn before they’re over-ripe. Cultivated blackberries tend to be sweeter so you may need to reduce the sugar.

Makes about 10 x 450g (1lb) jars

900g (2lb) cooking apples (Bramley, or Grenadier in season) or crab apples

2.25kg (5lb) blackberries

1.8kg (4lb) granulated sugar – since Ireland has gone over to cane sugar  which appears to be more intensely sweet we reduced the sugar to 1.6kg/3 1/2lb.  The intensity of sugar varies in different countries.

8 or more rose geranium leaves (Pelargonium graveolens)

Wash, peel, core and slice the apples. Stew them until soft in 225ml (8fl oz) of water in a stainless-steel saucepan, then beat to a pulp.

Pick over the blackberries and put into a wide, stainless-steel saucepan or preserving pan and cook until soft, stirring occasionally. Add the apple pulp and the heated sugar. Destalk and chop the geranium leaves and add. Stir over a gentle heat until the sugar is dissolved. Then bring to the boil and cook steadily for about 15 minutes. Skim the jam, test it for a set and pot into warm, spotlessly clean jars. Cover and store in a cool, dry place.

Peach and Blackberry Crostata

Alice Waters of Chez Panisse in Berkley in California shared this recipe with me when I visited the restaurant.

In Italy a crostata is something crusty.  We use the term for all the tarts we bake using our cornmeal dough recipe.

Makes one 11 inch tart.

1 pre-baked 30.5 (11 inch) cornmeal tart shell (see below)

3/4 tablespoon cornmeal

4 medium peaches (about 700g/1 1/2 lb in weight)

300g (10oz) blackberries

2 1/2 tablespoons sugar plus extra for sprinkling

300g (10 ozs) cornmeal dough, rolled into a 32.5cm (13 inch) circle and refrigerated

1 egg yolk

1 1/2 tablespoons milk

Preheat the oven to 200°C/400ºF/gas mark 6.

Sprinkle the bottom of the pre-baked tart shell with the cornmeal.  Peel, pit and slice the peaches.  Arrange the sliced peaches evenly in the tart shell.  Scatter the blackberries over the peaches.  Sprinkle the fruit with 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar.

Remove the circle of unbaked cornmeal dough from the refrigerator.  Peel off the top sheet of parchment paper and invert the dough onto the fruit.  Remove the other piece of parchment and let the dough settle over the fruit.  Gently seal the tart by pressing around the outside edge of the dough.

Make an egg wash by mixing the egg yolk and milk and brush the top of the tart with it.  Sprinkle with sugar (for extra crunch we use crystallized or raw sugar).  Bake in the top third of the oven for 45 to 50 minutes, until the top is golden brown.  Let cool for 10 minutes and serve warm with ice cream or crème fraîche.

Prebaked Tart Shell

We have been using this recipe for crisp dough for fruit tarts since it was published fifteen years ago by our friend Carol Field in her bible of Mediterranean pastry making, The Italian Baker.  It adds a pleasant crunch to peach and blackberry crostata, and we also like using it for double-crusted tarts filled with pears poached in white wine.

Makes 20 ozs of dough, enough for two 28cm (11 inch) open face tarts or one 28cm (11 inch) double crusted crostata.

150g (5oz/) unsalted butter, room temperature

175g (175g/6 ozs) sugar

3 egg yolks

175 g/6 ozs) plain flour

50 g (2oz) yellow cornmeal

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cream the butter and sugar together in a large mixing bowl.  Add the egg yolks one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition.  Sift the flour, cornmeal and salt directly into the mixture.  Add the vanilla and stir until the dough is thoroughly mixed.  Divide the dough in half and gather it into 2 balls.  Wrap the balls in plastic, press them into disks, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

To roll out the dough, first cut four 35cm (14 inch) square pieces of parchment paper.  Dust a piece of the parchment paper with flour.  Take a disk of dough from the refrigerator, unwrap it and place on the floured paper.  Dust the top of the dough with flour and cover with another piece of parchment. Roll out the disk into a 32.5cm (13 inch) circle, about 3mm (1/8 inch) thick. If the dough starts to stick to the paper while you are rolling, peel back the paper, dust again with flour, and replace the paper.  Then flip the whole package over and repeat on the other side. If there is excess flour on the dough when you are done rolling, peel back the paper and brush it off. Chill the sheet of dough for at least a few minutes.  Roll out the other disk the same way.

To make an 11 inch tart, generously brush the bottom and sides of an 11 inch tart tin with melted butter (so your tart won’t stick to the pan). Remove 1 sheet of dough from the refrigerator and take off the top sheet of paper.  Invert the dough into the tart tin and peel off the other piece of paper.  Press the dough into the corners of the pan, pinching off any dough overhang.  Use the dough scraps to patch any cracks.  Let the tart shell rest in the freezer for 10 minutes before baking.

To prebake the shell, preheat the oven to 180°C/350Fgas mark 4 and transfer the tart shell directly from the freezer to the oven.  Bake for about 15 minutes, until it is slightly golden.  Halfway through baking, check the shell and pat down any bubbles that may have appeared.  Let cool before filling. 

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