Wednesday, 23 April 2014

This week in my kitchen 4


Capturing my love of whole foods combined with the activity of a bustling kitchen.
A weekly collection of photos from the center of my home. 
Joining:: Heather

Nettle and blue cheese, Mustard Truffle tarts with Red Salad and a Lemony, Honey Mustard Dressing.

I love to try new ingredients and often get offered ones to sample. I don't always accept the invitation.  Sometimes it may be to do with the ingredients, or maybe how they are sourced. I am quite selective about what I eat, and what I write about on my blog. 

But I have a bit of a thing for mustard...You may have noticed. So when Maille, who have been producing the most spectacularly indulgent French mustards since 1747, asked me if I would like to take part in a competition. I was very flattered. It was especially hard for me to refuse. Even more so, when they let me choose two ingredients from their on-line boutique

I had never tried truffle, and love fungi, so chose Maille, Moutarde au Vin Blanc Celerie Rave et Brisures de Truffles as one of my choices. Mustard with white wine, celeriac and black truffle. 

Never having tasted, never mind cooked, with truffle flavour before, pondering what ingredients to use to create a recipe, my favourite Nigel Slater's ethos came to mind : "what grows together, goes together."

I know that truffles are rooted out of the black earth in woodland France. They are earthy and woody. A walk in the garden at the edge of the woods produced fresh seasonal nettle shoots, perfect at this time of year. A little fridge foraging revealed  truffle's poor relative, simple brown mushrooms; and tangy deep flavoured English blue veined Stilton cheese. 

A perfect combination.

This is how I made my Nettle, Blue Cheese and Mustard, Truffle Oil Tarts with Red Salad and a Lemony Honey Mustard Dressing. 

Ingredients for four, four inch pastry tarts:

For the shortcrust pastry:

  • 4oz of flour of choice (wheat, spelt, gluten free or any alternative will do)
  • 2oz of chilled butter or dairy alternative
  • A large pinch of freshly ground sea salt
  • One beaten free range egg, plus a little milk or water to bind. 
  • Four, four inch/ten centimetre baking pans plus a baking tray
  • A little oil or alternative to grease the pans
Method for make the pastry: 
  1. Sieve the flour into a baking bowl.
  2. Cut the chilled butter into small pieces.
  3. Add to the flour. Rub the butter into the flour with the tips of your fingers until they resemble fine breadcrumbs. 
  4. Add the salt and mix.
  5. Add the egg/milk mixture a little at a time combining until a soft dough is formed.
  6. Form the dough into a ball and cover with greased paper, then chill for about 20 minutes.
Ingredients for  four tarts:
  • Shortcrust pastry
  • Maille  Moutarde au Vin Blanc Celeri Rave et Brisures de Truffles
  • Two free range eggs
  • A tbs of skimmed milk (or cream if you want to be a little more indulgent) 
  • A couple of handfuls of nettle tops. ( I have small hands, you may only need one handful) Collect wearing gloves and remember to take only the fresh green tips. You could always substitute with baby spinach or rocket (arugula) leaves.
  • Any blue veined cheese, as locally sourced as possible.
  • A handful of mushrooms of choice. I like Portobello or brown mushrooms. 
  • Fresh sea salt and ground black pepper.
  • One clove of garlic
  • A little butter or oil of choice for frying.

Method for making the tarts:
  1. Preheat the oven to 200c. Prepare the baking tins.
  2. Remove the pastry from the fridge. Sprinkle a little flour onto a surface and divide the pastry into four.
  3. Roll each quarter into a ball and then roll out each one with a rolling pin until just a couple of centimetres larger than the tins. 
  4. Line the tins and place onto the baking tray. Bake blind for five minutes or so until the pastry has set, but is still soft and light brown in colour. Remove from the oven and set to one side to cool a little.
  5. Place a little butter into a small frying pan. Heat up and then add the crushed garlic clove and gently cook ensuring that it doesn't burn. Meanwhile slice the mushrooms finely and add to the pan. 
  6. Add a little sea salt and cook the mushrooms until tender. Drain and reserve to one side.
  7. Once cooled a little, place the mushrooms into the pastry cases.
  8. Cut the cheese into smallish cubes about four or five per tart. 
  9. Blanch the nettle tops with boiling water and then divide between the tarts. 
  10. Crack the eggs into a bowl, add a couple of spoonfuls of the truffle mustard, season, remembering how salty the cheese may be. You may only need to add pepper. Mix well.
  11. Divide the mixture between the four tarts. Use another egg if there isn't enough mixture.
  12. Bake for about twenty minutes or so until the egg has set and the tart is golden brown.
Delicious served warm or cold with a salad.

For this deeply flavoured rich tart, I wanted a light refreshing slightly acidic salad of sliced radishes, sweet red plums and cherry tomatoes.

I made a dressing with the juice of a lemon, a teaspoon of good honey and one or two of the truffle mustard. You may like to add a little rapeseed or olive oil too. Stir well, taste and then adjust the seasoning. 

These little seasonal tarts are very more-ish with an earthy tangy note, accompanied by the refreshing fruity salad. 

Monday, 21 April 2014


I told H that it's Earth day today. She replied "Isn't every day earth day?" 

...I love her...



the almost cottage...

We thought this might be the one, Woodbine cottage with its cottage garden and two sweet little porch doors. One into the living room and the other the kitchen. 'A' loved it. Although we weren't too sure about some of the colour choices I agreed that it was cute and had prospects. It even had it's very own ding dong well, original stove and the funkiest little windy stone staircase. Thankfully it also had a slightly larger wooden one, as I have been known to fall down stairs when rushing...I blame my size four feet. Not big enough to balance on. Others blame clumsiness...

It was so quaint that it felt just a little bit, like being on a stage set. Quite small, perfect for two, a squeeze for four. There was a stone barn in the garden. We climbed the spindly ladder to the top floor and spied chimney sweeping tackle. It was big, with two floors, big enough for two massive rooms for studio/work space or bedrooms. Or maybe four smaller ones. Potentially it all seemed good.

It was on the edge of the Forest of Dean, close to a potters studio and gallery with sheep wandering by. We imagined the walks we could take...I was thinking of all that wool...

We went for supper, then back to the hotel. It seemed good, we just about had the budget to renovate the barn to make the extra rooms and decorate the cottage. Maybe the search would be over. We slept happily. 

But first thing next morning I woke up with an uneasy feeling. There were a couple of things that weren't quite right that hadn't occurred to me the evening before. I'm glad that I mentioned them to A because he felt exactly the same way. It's so good that with house hunting, we always seem to be on the same page...H too. 

...But there's another house that we viewed last Friday. Not the most beautiful, with lots of work to do but tons of potential and in the perfect spot. It feels like someone loved it a lot a while ago, but it's a bit neglected now. It needs someone to bring it back to life. We are all very excited about could be the one...

I shan't say too much until I've phoned the estate agents first thing tomorrow morning.