Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Asparagus and Pancetta pastryless Tarts


This recipe was developed to make use of some of the delicious, seasonal products on sale at The Shop in The Shed.  Grown on the farm, asparagus is being picked right now (May) and, paired with bantam eggs and pancetta, makes a lovely addition to our bake - a pastryless tart.

We used -

200g natural yogurt (we used full fat)
125g shallots, sliced
6 bantam eggs
100g pancetta slices
8 spears of asparagus, washed
20g cheddar cheese, finely grated
1 Tablespoon oil
Freshly ground black pepper

These ingredients made 4 larger tarts (made in Yorkshire pudding tins) and 4 smaller, deeper tarts (made in muffin tins).

Preparing the shallots, they were peeled and thinly slicedand then fried in a tablespoon of oil (we used sunflower) over a low heat for about 15 minutes until they started to caramelise.  At this point, they were placed to one side to cool slightly until needed.

Taking the baking tins, they were lightly greased used an old butter wrapper before being lined with slices of the pancetta.


The pancetta we used was smoked and air dried.  Cutting slices to size, the tins were carefully covered (without too much overlap) to form an outer case when cooked.




Next the asparagus was washed and the lower portion (which can
be woody) was snapped off... to do this we held the towards the top and at the bottom then bent each one until the spear snapped.  You can chop the ends off if you prefer.

The spears were then cut so that they were the right length to fit diagonally across the tart, the remaining stems were chopped into small pieces.  The woody ends were not used in this recipe but can be used in soup or to make a 'pesto'.

To prepare the filling, we mixed yogurt with the bantam eggs, freshly ground black pepper and whisked to combine.
Using a dessert spoon, a small amount of the filling mix was added on top of the pancetta lining, before a little of the caramelised onion was also added.


This was then topped with some more of the filling before having the chopped asparagus stalks added, sprinkling a small amount of the grated cheese on top (being careful not to get it on the baking trays) and....

... finally the reserved asparagus spear was added to each tart.

The tarts were then placed in a 170ºC oven for about 20 minutes when they were checked to see if they were browning (at this point ours had risen souffle-like but, luckily, hadn't overflowed).  We left them in the oven for a further 5 minutes.

Having taken the tarts out of the oven, we allowed them to cool for about 15 minutes and then carefully removed them from the tins.
We served our tarts warm with green salad and chilli potatoes....

... or they'd be great on a picnic or as a lunch box item... no soggy bottoms to deal with!







Disclosure - we were given the asparagus, pancetta, eggs and cheese by The Shop in the Shed to develop a recipe.  This is the result and all other ingredients were our own.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Nut Butter Choc Chip Cookies

Since Sous Chef J was a very young lad, we've been making nut butter cookies and have blogged a recipe before.  This is how to make what we think is the best version of our much-tweaked (and tested) recipe.

The ingredients are, basically, store cupboard items and no mixer is needed to make them.

170g Smooth Nut Butter (we like to use Meridian Foods almond)
65g Crunchy Nut Butter (we use peanut - again from Meridian Foods)
165g caster sugar
35g dark chocolate chips
1 Large egg, (lightly beaten with a fork)
1/2 heaped teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (make sure it's gluten free - Dr Oetker & Dove's Farm are)
pinch of salt

We set the oven to heat up to 165ºC (fan) and rapidly prepare the cookie mix.

For ease, we now buy 170g jars of Meridian smooth almond butter but it also comes in 1kg tubs (which we used to buy till we realised it was no cheaper!), we scrape it out carefully using a thin silicone spatula and put in a medium sized mixing bowl.

Next we add the crunchy nut butter and sugar and mix to combine (we use a silicone spatula for this as the nut butter doesn't stick too much).

Then the beaten egg is added and, again, mixed through before adding the chocolate chips and salt and then they are folded in.

Finally the bicarbonate of soda is added (we do this last to ensure the raising agent isn't activating too far in advance of baking) and the mix is thoroughly combined.

We have found that 33g balls of the mix (yes, we are that precise) work best for us... and they are weighed out speedily, then carefully placed on non-stick baking sheets (if you don't have these or the non-stick's a bit old, then use greased sheet covered with baking paper/parchment/silicone sheet).  The mix is rolled lightly, placed on the baking sheet and pressed down slightly.

The cookies will spread during cooking so be careful about overloading the baking sheet.  The picture shows how we lay out the cookies on our baking sheets.

We set the timer to check the cookies after 10 minutes and then remove them once they're turning golden brown - this is usually after 12-15 minutes.

Once cooked, we leave the cookies to cool on the trays for about 5 minutes before transferring them to wire racks to cool completely.

We get 14 same sized cookies and one 'odd' based on this recipe (we find it depends how big the egg is as to the size of the 15th cookie)

This really is a simple, naturally gluten free, flourless cookie recipe.  It is also dairy free if suitable dark choc chips are used.  The cookies keep well in an airtight tin for up to a week (but they don't last that long here as Sous Chef J likes them too much).  We think they look and taste fab and hope you do too!

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Griddled Asparagus wrapped in Parma Ham

 We were able to visit the not-too-distant farm shop called the Shop in the Shed which stocks a good selection of gluten free goodies (of note are the breads from the Wheat Free Bakery Direct) recently.  The asparagus season had just begun on the farm and we were given a bunch (a very generous one) of freshly cut spears.

Generally, less is more when it comes to dealing with fresh produce, so we decided to make a very simple 'recipe'... just two ingredients - Parma Ham and asparagus.  Simplicity itself.


The asparagus spears were prepared by a quick wash, then the stems were bent untill they snapped (during and after shot shown!).







Next the stems were wrapped in Parma Ham.  We used just enough ham to wrap the stem once, getting about three stems wrapped in a slice but obviously this will depend on the size of the stems of asparagus.

Whilst we were wrapping the asparagus stems, we'd heated the griddle pan so it was sizzling hot by the time they were ready.

The wrapped stems were placed on the griddle and turned about every 2 minutes (we did this 3 times but, again, this will depend on the thickness of the asparagus spears being used).

After cooking, the ham had taken on a lovely seared appearance and the asparagus was starting to wilt.  Stacking the spears in a dish, they were ready to be eaten.  They didn't last long as asparagus is one of Sous Chef J's favourite vegetables.

This is a really simple and tasty way to serve asparagus and would also work well if it was prepared ahead and cooked on a barbecue if there's sunny/dry weather about.