Tomato Tarte Tatin

Tomato Tarte Tatin

Makes one 12-inch tart or two 6-inch tarts

Tarte Tatin, the traditional French apple tart that is cooked upside down, is also popular — and beautiful — prepared with anything savoury, like aromatic summer tomatoes.

Tomato Tarte tatin

Tomato Tarte tatin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ingredients

  • 60g butter
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 700g medium round tomatoes, halved and de-seeded
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp mixed herbs
  • 1 large onion, finely sliced (rings)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 portion ruff puff pastry (or shop bought puff pastry)
  • 1 ball mozzarella
  • Bunch of fresh basil leaves to dress

 Method

  1. Set the oven at 200 degrees.
  2. Prepare a 12-inch French tart pan.
  3. In a frying pan large enough to hold the tomatoes, melt half of the butter over a medium heat and add the onions and cook gently until they are soft and starting to caramelise, remove to a bowl and leave to one side.
  4. Add the remaining butter into the pan and melt over medium heat. Add the sugar and cook to dissolve it. When it starts to caramelise, add the tomatoes, cut sides up. Lower the heat and cook for 5 minutes and turn the tomatoes continue to cook until the tomatoes release their juices.
  5. Add the balsamic vinegar and cook 2 minutes more. Leaving the juices in the pan, arrange the fried onions in the bottom of the tart tin and then the tomatoes, cut sides up, ensuring the tomatoes are touching the bottom of the tart tin, (so the onions should be laced between the tomatoes. Sprinkle with herbs, salt, and pepper.
  6. Roll the pastry to be 2 cm larger than the tart tin.. Place it on top of the tomatoes, tucking it in at the edges. With a fork, make small holes in the pastry.
  7. Set the tart on the baking sheet and transfer to the oven. Immediately reduce the oven temperature to 190 degrees. Bake the tart for 30 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown.
  8. Let the tart sit for 5 minutes. Run a knife around the pastry to loosen it from the pan. If there is a lot of juice in the bottom the tart tin, gently pour some off as this will make the pastry soggy. Set a large serving plate upside down on the tart and using oven gloves or t-towel, quickly turn the plate right side up so the tart comes out.
  9. Take the mozzarella and tear into pieces and place on top of the tomatoes and then garnish with basil.

Luxury Fish Lasagna

Although my passion/obsession is cooking and creating new recipes and menus there are times that we do head out to enjoy the restaurants we have in the area.

Living in Sarthe (department 72) we have a number of reasonably good restaurants, but of course we have a favourite restaurant, ours is in Lavardin (41), Le Relais d’Antan, it is worth the 40 mins drive to the restaurant. It is one of those places that you feel very well looked after, the food and service is fantastic.

I enjoyed a birthday dinner there one year and we had the fabulous Langoustine Lasagne the chefs special. As such I had to try and recreate the dish as I wanted to enjoy over and over again.

The recipe below is my take on this wonderful dish, with my tweaks as I use various fish/sea food, to be honest you can use any combination of fish and sea food, it is your choice. Its a good idea to go and visit your fishmonger and see what is on special, you can also use smoked fish, as I do sometimes, but ensure you poach the smoked fish last or you will end up with everything tasting of smoked fish, not really the best result for this dish.

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Once you have your selection of fish then you can get started.

Serves 4, prep time : 1 hr, cooking time : 30 mins

Ingredients

250g piece of trimmed fresh salmon
250g trimmed fresh white fish (haddock, cod, pollack etc.)
150g crevettes **
1 baby leek, blanched and cut into 1in-long batons
1 large carrot, cleaned and cut into 1in-long batons
1 small courgette, cleaned and cut into 1in-long batons
125g grated Gruyere 400ml fish velouté

Fish velouté,

3 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
7g unsalted butter
500ml white wine
½ litre fish stock
½ litre double cream  

Method

To make the velouté: Cook the shallots in the butter until soft, without any colour.

Deglaze the pan ( to dislodge any flavoursome brown bits stuck to the pan sides from the sautéing) with the white wine, boil and reduce to a syrup. Add the fish stock, boil again and reduce by half. Add the double cream, return to the boil and simmer for 5-8 minutes to reduce to a coating consistency. Pass through a fine sieve. Chill and cover with clingfilm if not using immediately.

To make pasta sheets:

200g plain flour
2 egg

FreshPasta

Sift the flour into a bowl and make a well in the middle. Crack the eggs into the flour and mix together to form a dough. Take the dough out of the bowl and kneed for a couple of minutes until it is smooth. Cover with cling film and put in the fridge to rest for 20 mins.

 

 

 

To make the fish lasagna :  Take the pasta out of the fridge and kneed gently, cut into 4 pieces and roll out slightly, then start to work through a pasta machine, taking down to the lowest point. Lay the sheets out on a floured surface to dry. When all the sheets are ready, cut the lengths into individual sheets ready for cooking.

Put a large pan of water on to start boiling, add the sheets of pasta a few at a time for 2-3 mins until they start to float, remove from the water onto a plate with baking paper to drain. Continue with the pasta sheets until you have all that you need to make the dishes, you will need 4 sheets per person.

 

fish

Trim the pieces of fish, ensuring that any skin, bones and the brown bloodlines have been removed. Cut the fish into evenly sized pieces. Clean the crevettes, removing the head and hard shell.

 

 

Heat the fish velouté in a wide, shallow pan; gently poach the pieces of fish in the velouté until just cooked through, work in batches to ensure your fish has the room to cook. Remove from the pan and place in a dish. Drop the crevettes into the pan, and cook until they are just cooked, this should again only be a couple of minutes. Add the batons of leek, carrots and courgette and heat for a minute, remove to the dish. Everything should still be hot.

Take your plates from the oven ready to start building the lasagna, start with a little of the sauce and vegetables, then a pasta sheet and then some fish and some more sauce, continue until you have used the 4 sheets, and finish with some nice crevettes on top.

Serve immediately with crusty bread.

**Note You can use fresh or cooked crevettes, the cooking time is the only difference, if you are using raw crevettes, clean them as before, removing the heads and hard outer skin and when cooking they will change from grey to pink. Do not over cook the crevettes as they will become tough. Remember the crevettes will continue to cook once you have removed them from the cooking sauce, so remove them when they have just turned pink. If you are using cooked crevettes, you are only heating them, so they will only need about 1-1.5 mins to warm them through, again be vigilant as they are easy to overcook.

Italian Meringue

This is the recipe for Italian Meringue, it has many uses as it is more stable than the typical French Meringue, as the egg whites are ‘cooked’ due to the hot sugar syrup.

You’ll need

  • 100g caster sugar
  • 2      medium egg whites at room temperature
  • 1/2 Pinch of cream of tartar
  • 100 ml water

Combine sugar and water in a small pan, place on a low/medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon to ensure the sugar is dissolved, don’t allow the mixture to come to the boil before the sugar is fully dissolved, once the sugar is fully dissolved, turn the heat up and bring the mixture to the boil, reduce heat to low/medium and brush down sides of pan with a clean, wet pastry brush to remove sugar crystals.

Cook until syrup reaches 115C (soft ball stage) on a thermometer (10-15 minutes).

Start whisking egg whites with cream of tartar in the clean, grease-free bowl of an electric mixer until soft peaks form. (remember to make sure all your equipment is clean as any sign of grease you egg whites will not stiffen up or may break down, if this happens you need to start again).

Meanwhile, bring sugar syrup to 121C (hard ball stage). Increase speed to high and with motor running, gradually pour syrup into meringue, try to ensure you don’t let the hot syrup run down the side of the bowl or onto the whisks as it will cause the syrup to be thrown against the walls of your bowl and not mix properly. Beat at medium speed until cooled to room temperature and meringue is thick and glossy (15-20 minutes).

Take a piping bag and fill with the meringue to top your Lemon Cheese Cakes.

Note  This recipe makes about 2 cups.

French Meringue

There is a multitude of recipes for Meringue, this is a recipe that I have used for various things, including Pavlova, but it makes a great topping for the Lemon Meringue Cheese Cakes if you don’t want to bother with the hot sugar syrup required in the Italian Meringue recipe.

  • 3 medium egg whites at room temperature
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 1/2 tsp white vinegar
  • 2 tsp corn flour

Put the egg whites in a large grease-free bowl, (ensure all your utensils are grease free as your egg whites will not whip or may break down and you will have to start again) start whisking the egg whites until they are stiff, gradually add the caster sugar to the egg whites in thirds, making sure the sugar is mixed in before the next third, continue to whisk until the mixture stands in stiff, glossy peaks. Beat in the vinegar and corn flour.

Take a piping bag and fill with the meringue to top your Lemon Cheese Cakes.

Note  This recipe makes about 2 cups.

Lemon Curd

So here we go with the first for many (hopefully) posts on the recipes we have enjoyed at TheSecretGarden-France. We have been trying a few ideas and decided that this was a winner, and it was fun, there is not a lot of cooking to be fair but the results were fantastic.

 

The building blocks for this recipe start with the Lemon Curd, I don’t know about you, but I like to search for ‘the ultimate recipe’ that JUST feels right, I flick around a number of recipes until I get the RIGHT one, so for me this is it…..

  • 4 Lemons – juice and zest
  • 120g of softened unsalted butter, cut into smallish chunks
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 1 tsp of cornflour
  • 185g of white caster sugar (better as it melts quicker)

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Get all the components of the recipe together before you start making the curd. Start by zesting and juicing the lemons, pour the lemon juice and zest into a cup or small bowl and add the corn flour, mix well.

Take a good sized pot/pan and break the eggs into the pot and whisk until broken and with a bit of volume, next add the lemon mixture (with the corn flour), the sugar and mix all together then add the butter. Put the pot onto a low heat and start to mix, either with a wooden spoon or whisk, you need to keep the temperature at a reasonably low temperature as you really don’t want Lemon scrambled eggs (not nice).

Keep mixing, moving the mixture in the pan, the butter should start to melt and mix into the other ingredients. This stage can take between 8-10 mins, so be patient, (you don’t want lemon scrambled eggs), once the mixture starts to thicken, keep whisking using a whisk until you get the consistency you want, (you are looking for a thick custard texture) it will thicken more as it cools.

Take of the heat and continue to whisk for 1-2 mins as the bottom/sides of the pot will still be warm and you don’t want the curd to scorch on the bottom of the pot.

You can leave the curd in the pot to cool if you are making it for the Lemon Meringue Cheesecakes or you can transfer into jars for later. (This recipe makes about 500 ml)

If you are transferring into jars, ensure you use sterilised jars and pour the hot curd into the jars, top with a wax paper and put the lids on, it will keep for a few weeks, but must be kept in a cool place.

 

 

Lemon Curd
Lemon Curd

 

Pan-fried Duck Breast with Duck Sausage

Pan-fried Duck Breast with Duck Sausage, this is another favourite at theSecretGarden-France cooking school. The recipe below has all the details for this fantastic key element to any main meal you are preparing for that intimate dinner or dinner party.

Take the time to collect all the ingredients so you can enjoy the making of this meal as well as the eating later.

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Serves 4

Ingredients

4 duck breasts
2 duck legs
300g pork mince
2 tsp cognac
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1 glass of good red wine
300 ml chicken stock
500 ml good rich duck stock
3 dsp balsamic vinegar
5 tbsp cherry jam
Extra virgin olive oil, to serve

Method

Preheat oven to 220°C.

Place the stocks, wine, vinegar into a roomy saucepan and bring to the boil to reduce, allow it to simmer for 10 mins then add the cherry jam, allow to continue to simmer until you reduced by half, check for seasoning, and add salt only. The sauce should be slightly sticky.

Remove the skin from both legs and discard. Cut the meat from the leg bones, and roughly chop. Place chopped leg meat into a food processor and pulse until smooth. Transfer mixture to a bowl add pork mince, pistachios, cognac and lemon zest. Season well with salt and pepper. Put the mixture in the fridge until ready to use.

Put the duck breast on a board and check for any excess skin or feathers, remove the skin and feathers and then turn over and look for any sinew (white skin) remove this too as it will be tough once cooked. Lightly score skin of each duck breast in a lattice pattern, don’t go through to the meat,  and sprinkle each side with salt and freshly ground black pepper, leave on a plate in a cool place until ready to cook. If you need to put the duck breast back in the fridge, remove 1 hr before you are ready to cook to bring back to room temperature.

To make the sausages, take some cling film and place a double layer onto a cutting board, take the mixture out of the fridge and take handfuls of the mixture and shape into sausages, place the sausage in the centre of the cling film and wrap the film tightly around the mixture, twisting the ends to ensure that there is no air inside the wrap and no water will get in, if need be, take another piece of cling film and wrap the sausage again. Continue until you have used all the mixture.

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Bring a large pan of water to the boil, and turn down to a rolling simmer, poach the sausages for 30 mins until cooked. You might need to place a spoon on top of the sausages to ensure they are fully immersed in the water, try to turn them half way through the cooking to ensure they are cooked all the way around. After 30 mins, take the sausages out of the water and place on a plate to cool down, this can be done ahead of time (even the day before), then remove the cling film and let the fat run off.

 

 

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When you are ready to bring all the elements together, bring a frying pan to a medium-high heat there is no need for any oil.(Honest) Place the breasts skin side down first as this will release some of the fat, and cook for 2-3 mins until it is starting to crisp, then flip them on to the flesh side and cook for 2-3 mins until you have a nice golden brown colour, flip back over onto the skin and continue to cook for about 6-8 mins, by which time the skin will be golden brown and crisp, and the pan will have filled with a veritable lake of duck fat.

 

 

Remove the breast to a baking tray lined with tea towels and grease proof paper, place the breasts on the paper and wrap with foil and as many tea towels as you can spare, place in the oven a the lowest setting and leave alone for at least 10 minutes and upto 30 minutes it will depend on the thickness of the breasts, this resting is essential as it allows the cooking process to finish and the meat to relax.

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While the duck breast is resting, pour most of the duck fat out of the frying pan, and take the duck sausage and fry gently until golden brown on all sides, you are also heating the meat at this stage too, so this will depend on whether you have made the sausage ahead or not.  Place on a baking tray in the oven, with the breasts.

Put the cherry sauce back over a low heat ready to plate up.

Cut each breast in to 5 slices and serve fanned out on four warmed serving plates. Add 2-3 slices of the duck sausage and your chosen veg, then pour the sauce around.

We really enjoy this meal and I hope you enjoy it too.

Note : Vegetables that I serve with this is roast potatoes or potato dauphinoise, pan onions, roast beetroots, this is your choice.