Monday, 31 October 2011

Pumpkin Pie

Every year without fail I carve a grinning face into a pumpkin, but often, a couple of days after the trick or treaters have cleaned us out of sweets and chocolates the pumpkin just ends up in the compost bin. It is shame to let the flesh go to waste though because it can be made into soup, roasted or chopped up and put into a risotto, this year however I wanted to try my hand at a dessert, pumpkin pie.
I have tasted pumpkin pie before at Thanksgiving but I was keen to try making it myself with fresh pumpkin. I had a look at a few recipes online and picked the bits I liked the sound of from each. I think the result was delicious (even if I do say so myself!), it was rich and custardy but not too sweet because I used fresh pumpkin instead of puree and cream rather than evaporated milk.

Sweet short crust pastry (175g plain white flour, generous pinch of salt, 15g caster sugar, 110g cold unsalted butter cubed and about 2 tbsp cold water)
450g prepared weight pumpkin flesh cut into 1 inch chunks (I bought a very small pumpkin which weighed almost twice this, however once I had peeled and de-seeded it, it was about the right quantity)
2 eggs plus 1 extra egg yolk
75g soft dark brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Lots of freshly grated nutmeg (about 1/2 tsp)
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
275ml double cream

To make the pastry from scratch, sieve the flour into a large bowl, add the salt and sugar and mix. Add the cubes of cold butter and rub with your fingers to combine the fat and flour. Once there are no lumps of butter left and the mixture looks like bread crumbs add a dribble of cold water so that the crumbs will pack together to form a ball of dough. You can also add crushed pecans at this stage if you fancy. Wrap the pastry in lightly floured cling film and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, this relaxed the gluten in the flour and should stop it cracking when you roll it.
Grease a 23cm (9 inch) diameter tart dish with butter. Roll the chilled pastry out on a floured surface, keep rolling until the pastry is big enough to line the dish. Lift the edge of the pastry, slide the rolling pin underneath and use it to pick up the disc of pastry and transfer it to the dish. Make sure the dough is pushed into the corners of the dish and trim the excess pastry with a knife. Cover with cling film and put back in the fridge for another 30 minutes.

The method I used to cook the chunks of pumpkin flesh was steaming but you could roast it if you preferred. I put the pumpkin in the steamer just for a few minutes until it was soft and then pureed the pieces in a blender.
Pre-heat the oven to 180C.
While the pumpkin is steaming and the pastry case chilling, whisk the eggs and extra yolk together in a large bowl. Put the sugar, spices and cream in a pan, bring it to simmering point and mix everything together throughly. Pour the creamy mixture onto the eggs, whisking again. Then mix in the pumpkin puree.
Pour the finished mixture into the pastry lined dish and bake in the oven at 180C for about 40 minutes. The filling should have puffed up a little round the edges but still feel wobbly in the centre.
Allow to cool on a wire rack and serve with creme fraiche or as I chose, double creamed whipped, with a trickle of ginger syrup.
Best enjoyed on a chilly autumn evening, following a roast cooked by Ceri and whilst watching Downton Abbey.

Happy Halloween
Rachael x

p.s. don't chuck away the pumpkin seeds, if you roast them in the oven with a sprinkling of salt they taste amazing, better than popcorn!

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Wiltshire Lardy Cake

Wiltshire Lardy Cake by Charlotte

Lardy cake - a reminder of buying cakes on Saturday with my dad from a bakery in Gloucester, Jane's Pantry, a place that all Gloucester folk know well. What joy when I opened my favourite book, British Regional Food by Mark Hix, to find a recipe for Wiltshire lardy cake.

This recipe will not disappoint; it is gooey, fruity, doughy and sweet - great with a coffee on Sunday morning. It will definitely make you want to visit your local bakery too, which is always a good thing. And, if you cook and bake regularly, you may find you have most of the ingredients already...

200g lard, softened
50g butter, softened
200g mixed dried fruit (I used up old currants and a few tunisian sultanas that were festering in the back of the cupboard!)
75g mixed candied peel (I used some candied ginger and glacier cherries)
200g granulated sugar

for the dough:
650g strong white bread flour
2 tsp salt
1 tsp caster sugar
7g sachet yeast
400ml warm water

First make the bread dough: in a warm bowl mix the flour, salt, sugar and yeast. Add the warm water and mix to a soft dough. Knead by stretching and folding the dough for about 10 mins on a lightly floured surface.

Then mix the lard, butter, fruit, peel and granulated sugar together.

On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough to roughly three times as long as wide. Spread two thirds of the length with a third of the fruit mix, then fold both ends of the dough into the centre and press the edges firmly with your fingers. Repeat this process twice, using up the fruit mix, then roll the dough out to its original size.

Line a shallow baking tray with baking paper and turn the dough over, onto the tray. There should be enough room for the dough to rise again. Let the dough prove for 30 mins.

Pre-heat the oven to 190C and bake for about 45 mins. Turn the cake upside down and cool a little. Sprinkle with caster sugar and serve warm.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Best Steak Lettuce Wrap

Best Steak Lettuce Wrap by Charlotte

Thanks to friends Phil and Sonya I have discovered the best steak lettuce wrap. This is food that is very pleasing to the eye and mouth. It can be made in three shakes of a lambs tail and will be sure to give you that red meat fix.

The ten steps to steak wrapping:
1) Go to your butcher and get a tasty piece of rump steak (to cook whole)
2) Marinade the meat in lemon juice, chilli (fresh or dried) and fresh ginger
3) Grate carrot for salad
4) Make a dressing - I used lemon juice, sesame oil, fish sauce, fresh red chilli, ginger, salt and pepper
5) Mix the dressing with the carrot
6) Use a good sturdy leaf like Romaine as your wrap
7) Griddle or bbq your meat - a few minutes on each side will leave it pretty and pink
8) Slice the steak and put it in the lettuce with the dressed carrot
9) Get kitchen roll ready as the wrap may leak!
10) Enjoy