Checkerboard Tarts

Cauliflower and Broccoli Checkerboard Tarts

Wotchers!

This recipe is all about simplicity, and enjoying the delicate flavours of two of my favourite vegetables: beautiful florets of cauliflower and broccoli nestled in crisp shortcrust pastry, delicately seasoned with a light and creamy egg custard.

Underneath the eye-catching exterior, it is a broccoli and cauliflower quiche, but with a slightly different approach and a few minutes devoted to presentation, it can be quite the showstopper.

The pastry base is baked completely, for maximum crispness, the creamy egg filling is poured in and the briefly blanched vegetables are then arranged in a delightful checkerboard pattern. Covering the whole with a tight seal of foil allows the vegetables to cook to al-dente perfection while the custard sets, without becoming discoloured from the heat of the oven. The vegetable stalks, nestled in the creamy filling, cook through perfectly, and the florets gently steam in the resulting moisture, retaining their bright colour.

It can be served warm or cold, as an accompaniment or a side dish. It slices beautifully and thus can be enjoyed as an an usual addition to a picnic hamper.

Cross-section of Checkerboard Tart

Best of all, although possibly not for those of you who love the rigid formality of recipes, it can be made in whatever size and shape you like. Originally, I only planned the large size, but in trimming the florets to even sizes, found myself with numerous smaller, but still perfectly-formed florets, and so made smaller tarts, and even tiny individual ones too.

Small Checkerboard Tart
Individual Checkerboard Tarts

The only limit is how prepared you are for the sometimes fiddly process of arranging the florets. My solution for minimising the Faff™ is to, in the first instance, arrange the florets in the empty pastry case, then remove them in rows and lay them neatly in order to one side, add the filling to the tart case, then lift the florets back into position in rows. Should you have a mishap, and one or more of your florets tumble into the filling, take a moment to rinse off the egg mixture otherwise the overall effect will be spoiled.

A mentioned above, the main enjoyment comes from the delicate flavours, but you could also add other ingredients to the filling, if you’d like to turn up the taste volume.

Checkerboard Tarts

The quantities are, to a large extent, dictated by the size and number of tarts you want to make. The unused vegetables can be stored in the fridge for several days and then steamed for a just five minutes before serving as accompaniments to other meals. Be sure to get the freshest, whitest cauliflower and the firmest, crispest broccoli (the florets should not move when you poke them) for maximum colour and visual impact.

1-2 fresh, white cauliflower
2-3 large florets of broccoli
shortcrust pastry – I prefer my cornflour shortcrust.
egg-white for glazing
500ml low-fat crème fraiche
2 large eggs
salt and pepper

  • Cut the vegetables into large florets and steam for five minutes over boiling water.
  • Put a clean cloth on a baking tray and lay the vegetables on top to cool. Set aside until required.
  • Prepare the baking tin. For the large tart I used a deep spring-form tin and laid the pastry only half-way up the sides. The vegetables also sat neatly inside the sides of the tin. For shallower tins, the vegetables will sit a little higher.
  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Roll the pastry out to a thickness of 5mm and line your baking tin. Trim the sides to a height of about 3cm. Poke holes in the bottom to let out the steam, using a fork.
  • Line the tin with parchment and baking beads/rice and bake for 10 minutes.
  • Remove the parchment/beads/rice and return to the oven for another 8-10 minutes until cooked through.
  • Whisk the egg-white until frothy, then use a pastry brush to ‘paint’ the inside of the tart with it thoroughly.
  • Return the tart case to the oven for two minutes to cook the egg-white. Set aside to cool.
  • Reduce the oven heat to 150°C, 130°C Fan.
  • Trim the vegetables to florets of even sizes of about 5cm. The exact size will be dictated by the size/shape of your tin. You want them to fit snugly together, to hold their shape.
  • Once the pastry case has cooled, arrange the florets in a pattern until it is full, to ensure you have sufficient florets prepared. You will probably need to trim the stalks to no longer than 3cm.
  • When your tart is full, carefully remove the florets and set them aside in rows, so they can easily be returned to the tart once the filling is added.
  • Whisk together the crème fraiche and eggs. Season with salt and pepper. If the tart is to be eaten cold, be generous with the seasoning, as flavours will be slightly muted when chilled.
  • Pour the filling into the pastry case to within 5mm of the top of the pastry. Arrange the blanched vegetables back into place.
  • Cover the tin tightly with foil and bake until the filling is set. For a large tin, this will be about 45 minutes, smaller tins around 35 minutes and mini tins 25 minutes.
  • Allow to cool slightly before removing from the tin(s).

 

 


Cheese-Stuffed Malai Kofta

Malai Kofta

Wotchers!

Haven’t done one of these for a while – it’s Deja Food!

Softly spiced vegetable ‘meatballs’ in a rich and creamy onion gravy.

Actually, the ‘gravy’ is worth making by itself – it’s SO creamy and SO flavourful, I could eat it as is with bread to dip and a crunchy salad – Nom!

Many Malai Kofta recipes have the cheese grated and mixed with the vegetables and potatoes. I prefer to have a cube of sharp-tasting cheese in the middle to act both as a surprise and to cut through the richness of the sauce. The downside of this approach, of course, is that without the cheesy ‘glue’ to hold them together, the vege-balls are a little less sturdy. Chilling in the freezer and gentle handling whilst cooking on the pan should reduce the possibility of them falling apart. Alternatively, grate the cheese and fold in with the rest of the ingredients.

This recipe is perfect for using up leftover vegetables and potatoes, yet glamorous enough to pass off to the family as a freshly-created dish.

*poker-face* Not that I’d ever do that.

*crickets chirp*

ANYHOO…

The recipe can be adapted to whatever vegetables you have to hand. Suggestions for alternative ingredients are given in the recipe.

Originally published in The Guardian Readers’ Recipe Swap: Meatballs.

 

Cheese-Stuffed Malai Kofta

Makes 12.

Serves 4 children, or 4 adults as a starter, or 2 hungry adults as a main course, or 1 peckish adult and 2 ravenous children, or a family of 4 as a side dish, or….you get the gist.

For the kofta:
400g mixed cooked vegetables
200g cooked potato (1 large)
0.5tsp coarse-ground black pepper
0.5tsp salt
0.5tsp garam masala
0.5tsp amchoor (dried mango powder) or sumac or 1-2tsp lemon juice
1 heaped tablespoon cornflour
60g cheshire/feta/goat cheese or paneer or vegetarian cheese – cut into 12 cubes
3tbs oil for frying

  • Chop the vegetables.
  • Grate the potato.
  • Mix together with the salt, pepper, spices and cornflour.
  • Divide into 12 x 50g balls.
  • Make a hole in each ball and press in a cube of cheese.
  • Mould the vegetables around the cheese and shape into a ball.
  • Put the koftas onto a plastic tray and place in the freezer to firm up while you make the sauce/gravy.

For the gravy
2 large onions
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger
60g cashew nuts
60ml plain yoghurt
2tbs oil
1tsp dried fenugreek leaves
2tsp garam masala
1tsp salt
60g tomato paste concentrate
1tsp chilli powder (optional)
250ml double cream or crème fraîche or unsweetened evaporated milk
125ml milk

  • Peel the onions and the ginger and blitz to a puree in a food processor.
  • Make a puree of the cashews and the yoghurt with a mortar and pestle or spice grinder.
  • Heat the oil in a pan.
  • Add the onion mixture and fry over a low heat for several minutes until translucent.
  • Add the cashew mixture, spices and tomato paste. Stir for 2-3 minutes until thoroughly combined.
  • Add the cream and milk and stir thoroughly.
  • Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes.
  • If you prefer a smooth sauce, give it a quick blitz either with a stick blender or in a liquidiser. Additionally, if the sauce is a little thick, add water to thin it to the right consistency.
  • Return to the pan and set aside to keep warm while the koftas are cooked.

To finish:
1. Heat 3tbs oil in a wide, shallow pan.
2. Add the chilled koftas and brown them on all sides. Toss gently, otherwise they might break apart.
3. Ladle the sauce into a warmed serving dish and arrange the koftas on top. Alternatively, go crazy and arrange the koftas in the warm dish and pour the sauce over the top.
4. Serve with naan breads to mop up all the sauce.


Saag Aloo

Saag Aloo

Wotchers!

Today we have one of my favourite types of recipe – Déjà-Food!

Betcha thought I was going to say Indian?

Ha!

Déjà-Food is my preferred way to describe the cunning use of the leftovers from a previous meal. I’ve always disliked the word ‘leftovers’ as it might conjure up images of plate-scrapings, whereas in actual fact, it’s the food that was cooked but never served. It’s obviously a play on words stemming from the French phrase déjà vu (literally meaning ‘already seen’), but it also manages to avoid any negative conotations of that dreaded word ‘leftovers’.

Another reason why I’m such a big fan of Déjà-Food is that it means less work for me in getting a meal together. Cooking potatoes, for example, can take up to an hour to boil, if you’re cooking them whole. With cold, cooked potatoes from yesterday’s supper, this dish can come together in no more than 15 minutes.

I’m such a fan of Déjà-Food, if I’m planning ahead (I’m rarely that organised, but occasionally it happens) I will now deliberately cook extra, specifically to use the following day. There are lots of reasons for making use of leftovers, not least the financial, but not many recipes or TV programs actually go to the trouble of showing you just how easily it can be done. Saying “….and you can use the leftovers to make more great family meals” isn’t very helpful if you’re not feeling particularly inspired. Here’s hoping this recipe helps.

There are lovely big bags of baby spinach leaves in the shops at the moment, and spinach is so very good for you, you could feel doubly virtuous by whipping this together. Use green chillies by all means if you prefer, I just think the flecks of red look so pretty with the green.

Of course, this is just one suggestion for the hundreds of recipes you can make with cooked potatoes – we’ll get to the others later. Maybe start a national campaign. I’d call it “Got Spuds?”

Saag Aloo – Indian Spiced Potatoes and Spinach
50g ghee or 3tbs vegetable oil
5cm piece fresh ginger, peeled
4 cloves of garlic
2 medium onions, roughly chopped
2 red chillies, de-seeded
500g cooked potatoes
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp salt
250g baby spinach leaves, washed

  • Put the ginger, garlic, onions and chillies in a mini food processor and blitz until finely chopped.
  • Cut the potatoes into bite-sized chunks and microwave in a covered bowl for 2-3 minutes until heated through.
  • In a large pan over medium heat, add the ghee or oil and then the ginger garlic mix and stir for 2 minutes.
  • Add the spices and salt, stir briefly, then add the potatoes. Turn the potatoes over gently until coated with the spice mix.
  • Add the spinach leaves and remove the pan from the heat. Gently stir until the spinach leaves are wilted but still bright green. The heat of the pan and the potatoes will provide enough heat to achieve this.

Apple and Fennel Coleslaw

Apple Fennel Coleslaw



Wotchers!

This is a lovely coleslaw if you fancy something a bit different or, if you’re like me and not overly fond of raw onion. It goes especially well with barbecued meats that have a fruity element about them, in the marinade for example, or with slow-cooked dishes like pulled pork with apples.

Fennel is a vegetable bulb that looks a bit like the bottom of a head of celery. It has has a slight aniseed flavour and can be eaten raw or cooked – the raw crunch makes it excellent for use in coleslaws and salads. It also has frond-like leaves which look similar to dill – which also have a slight aniseed taste and can make attractive garnishes, but sadly, they are usually chopped off before they get to the shelf. If you have a local farm shop, you might get lucky and find untrimmed bulbs there.

Apple Fennel Coleslaw

1/2 a white cabbage – about 500g
1 bulb fennel
2 tart, juicy apples – Braeburn, for example
Juice of 1 lemon

Dressing
150ml ‘light’ mayonnaise – I recommend Hellman’s
150ml Low fat yoghurt
1-2tsp freshly-ground black pepper

Equipment
Large bowl
Small bowl
Sharp knife

  • Using the knife, cut the cabbage into thick slices from root to tip. Remove the hard core. I chop it finely and add to the dish.
  • Shred the slices finely. Add to bowl.
  • Squeeze the lemon juice and pour into the small bowl.
  • Peel, quarter and core the apples and cut into thin slices. Toss the apple slices in the lemon juice to prevent discolouration.
  • Trim the fennel bulb and shred finely.
  • Add finely chopped fennel and apples to the cabbage and mix thoroughly.
  • Mix dressing ingredients together until well combined and add to the vegetables a little at a time until desired consistency – personally, I don’t like it to be swimming in dressing, just nicely coated – but you can easily either keep any excess in the fridge or mix up extra if the quantities given seem a bit stingy for your tastes.

Cost: £2.48 (August 2011)