Tag Archives: river cottage

Tomato, Asparagus, Cheese Tart

This is a brilliant, tasty and simple dish to make. I did it as a starter for six people. I just threw it in the middle and carved it up with a pizza wheel. Went down a storm. The recipe comes from the ever reliable Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall (River Cottage) and his equally reliable Veg book.   The basic ingredients are the puff pastry, some veg, some herbs and some cheese! You could apply some variations quite happily with equally good results. Ive done a few versions. They all work. The basic principle is the same: crisp pastry, soft caramelised tomato, tangy cheese.

ingredients, a bit of prep
ingredients, a bit of prep
  • A little sunflower oil
  • ½ teaspoon fine cornmeal or polenta (optional)
  • 375g all-butter, ready-made puff pastry
  • Beaten egg, for brushing
  • About 350g tomatoes (I used cherry tomatoes)
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • A little extra virgin olive or rapeseed oil
  • 100g rinded goat’s cheese (I used mozzarella)
  • 125g Asparagus (trimmed and sliced lengthways)
  • A handful of thyme sprigs, leaves only
  • Sea salt and freshly ground
  • black pepper

  Method

  • Preheat the oven to 190°C/Gas Mark 5. Lightly oil a baking sheet and scatter over a little fine cornmeal or polenta, if you have some – this helps to keep the pastry really crisp.
  • Roll out the pastry fairly thinly and trim to a rectangle about 30 x 25cm. Put it on the baking sheet. Cut a 1cm strip from each edge. Brush these strips with a little beaten egg, then stick on to the edges of the rectangle, to form a slightly raised border. Brush the edges with a little more egg.
  • Thinly slice the tomatoes across into 2–3mm slices; discard the stalky top and skinny bottom slices. Scatter the garlic over the pastry, then arrange the sliced tomatoes on top, overlapping them only slightly. I used cherry tomatoes on this occasion and simply scattered them over. Season with salt and pepper and trickle with a little oil. Bake for about 15 minutes, until the tomatoes are tender and lightly browned.
  • Take the tart out of the oven, scatter over the cheese and thyme, add another twist of pepper and a trickle of oil, and return to the oven. Bake for another 10 minutes or so, until the cheese is melty and bubbly and the pastry golden brown. You can serve this hot, but I think it’s better half an hour or so after it comes out of the oven, with a green salad.image

VARIATIONS Basil and mozzarella tart

  • Replace the goat’s cheese with 1 ball of buffalo mozzarella (about 125g), torn into small pieces. Replace the thyme with a couple of tablespoons of shredded basil – but add this after the tart is cooked, not before.

Rosemary and pecorino tart

  • Replace the goat’s cheese with a generous grating of pecorino or Parmesan, and the thyme leaves with 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary.

Blue cheese and chives tart

  • Replace the goat’s cheese with crumbled blue cheese. Omit the thyme. Scatter a chopped handful of chives over the tart once it is cooked.

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Beer Battered Fish with Tartar Sauce

It’s Good Friday, The Flame has left out a pretty decent piece of cod. “It’s fish for tea, we can have it steamed with some roasted veg”. I think not. Within seconds I have decided I’m doing my own chippy tea. A quick check reveals a worthy instruction from Hugh and his mates at River Cottage. It works a treat. Even done in a pan it cooked beautifully. Well worth a go. I knocked up a tartar sauce as well. That was a revelation.

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He asks “What makes a good batter? What creates that crisp, savoury, golden coating that seals in all the moisture of the fish it covers?” The answer he reckons is beer. It not only adds lightness to the mixture but adds a nutty, wheaty edge of flavour to the crunch. Beer isn’t the only important element. A good batter needs to have the right consistency: too thick and floury and you’ll end up with a pancakey, chewy result; too thin and it won’t stick to the fish. He reckons the thickness of emulsion paint is what you are after! This recipe is useful because you can use it when you’re deep frying almost any fish or shellfish.

Ingredients – could halve this for two, I had quite a bit over.

200g plain flour
Groundnut oil, including plenty for deep frying. (I used vegetable oil)
About 250ml good beer –- anything really, including stout, but preferably not cheap lager. I used a nice Staffordshire IPA
Mixed fish of your choice. I had a nice piece of cod.
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Prep 30 mins
Cook 5 mins
Serves 4

Method

To make the batter, sift the flour into a bowl, or put it in a bowl and whisk it (which is almost as effective a way to aerate the flour and remove lumps). Add 2 tablespoons of groundnut oil, then gradually whisk in the beer, stopping when you have a batter with the consistency of thick emulsion paint. Beat it well to get rid of any lumps, season generously, then leave to rest for 30 minutes or so.

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Heat the oil in a large, deep, heavy-based pan until it reaches 160°C, or until a cube of bread dropped into it turns golden brown in 1-1½ minutes. I used my digital thermometer. It seemed to work a treat.

Dip your chosen piece of fish into the batter so it is thoroughly immersed, then lift it out and hold it over the bowl for a few seconds so any excess batter drops back in. Now lower the battered fish into the hot oil. Do this one piece at a time, if using large portions, or in small batches for smaller pieces, so as not to crowd the pan.

Fry large pieces of fish for 4–5 minutes, and smaller items, such as squid rings, for 2 minutes or so, until golden brown and crisp. Scoop them out with a wire basket, or ‘spider’, and transfer to a warm dish lined with kitchen paper. Keep them warm while you fry the remaining fish, then serve straight away, with your homemade tartare sauce. (See below)

As well as the obvious fillets of white fish, such as plaice, pollack, coley, cod, haddock and whiting, we’ve had great success with beer-battered dogfish goujons, squid rings, even scallops.

Quick tartare sauce (by Jo Pratt)
Ingredients
200ml/7fl oz mayonnaise
3 tbsp capers, drained and chopped
3 tbsp gherkins, drained and chopped
1 small shallot, finely chopped
squeeze of lemon juice
3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
flaked sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

The finished result
The finished result

Preparation method
Mix together all of the ingredients in a small bowl and serve straight away or store in the fridge until needed.

https://www.rivercottage.net/recipes/fish-in-beer-batter
http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/quicktartaresauce_67777

Soda Bread – Easy Bread in an hour

“Easy, quick, tasty bread….anyone can do it”

I love bread, but the anti carb Gestapo tend to steer me away from it. It’s become a rare treat! Still every now and again I reach for this old favourite that I first saw Hugh Fearnely Whittingstall do on one of his River cottage programmes. This soda bread recipe is fail safe, always works and I vary it for good measure. The recipe makes a decent medium loaf which me and the flame can demolish over a weekend.

* 500g plain flour (I sometimes do 250g whole meal, 250g plain)

* 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

* 1 tsp fine sea salt * Approx. 400ml buttermilk or live yoghurt (I just use Greek low fat yoghurt, seems to work!)

* A little milk, if necessary

For a variation, I add various type of seeds to the dry mix. A tsp of fennel gives good flavour, but don’t overdue it. I’ve even added dry herbs which doesn’t seem to upset things.

1. Sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda into a large mixing bowl and stir in the salt. Make a well in the centre and pour in the yoghurt, stirring as you go. If necessary, add a tablespoon or two of milk to bring the mixture together; it should form a soft dough, just this side of sticky. It is quite claggy and sticks to your fingers.

Mixing the stuff
Mixing the stuff
Told you it was easy
Told you it was easy

2. Tip it out on to a lightly floured work surface and knead lightly for about a minute, just long enough to pull it together into a loose ball but no longer – you need to get it into the oven while the bicarb is still doing its stuff. You’re not looking for the kind of smooth, elastic dough you’d get with a yeast-based bread.

3. Put the round of dough on a lightly floured baking sheet and dust generously with flour. Mark a deep cross in it with a sharp, serrated knife, cutting about two-thirds of the way through the loaf. Put it in an oven preheated to 200oC/gas mark 6 and bake for 40-45 minutes, until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped underneath.

The end result
The end result

4. Cool on a wire rack if you like a crunchy crust, or wrap in a clean tea towel if you prefer a soft crust. Soda bread is best eaten while still warm, spread with salty butter and/or a dollop of your favourite jam. But if you have some left over the next day, it makes great toast.

Variation: I add seeds to the dry mix. A suggestion is to mix together 2 tablespoons each of sunflower, pumpkin, sesame, poppy and linseeds, plus 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds; set aside. Follow the main recipe but use half white flour and half wholemeal flour. Add all but 1 tablespoon of the seeds to the dry ingredients before proceeding as above. After cutting a cross in the top of the loaf, brush it with a little buttermilk or ordinary milk and sprinkle with the remaining seeds. Bake at 200oC/gas mark 6 for 40–45 minutes.

The original recipe was taken from http://www.rivercottage.net

 

The Axminster Canteen (River Cottage)

The holidays for 2013 found the cook twit in east devon on the south coast. Crab was plundered with the veracity of a wigan bar tender looking to reduce his stock of pies. However, as an alternative, a look on the map quickly picked up on Axminster home of Hugh Fearnely Whittingstall’s River Cottage offshoot Axminster Canteen. This is often featured in the TV programmes where his mate and fellow chef Sam challenges his lordship with alternative recipes (and often wins!)

The canteen is set in a double shop frontage in the centre of this pleasant market town. It doubles up as a deli and cafe in the day and features the HFW and River Cottage ‘merch’. The resteraunt bit is at the back in a sort of Victorian hanger. The decor is eclectic, rustic with a nod to ‘upcycling’. A gentle jazz soundtrack permeates.

As if to emphasise the sustainable and local ethic the menu is chalked up on blackboards along with the names of the local producers of the ingredients on offer. It is clear that no Belgian truck driver has laid down his sleep overnight to bring the food here tonight. It was most likely dropped off by wheelbarrow earlier in the day by ‘Georgie’ from Elbow Farm.

The menu is not extensive by any means but it is novel and seasonal. Rabbit and Ewe curd on bruschetta to start anyone?
My wife opted for what I called the ‘three shades of hummus’ starter. Very colourful and big on taste, one was scented in cumin, one in beet root and the other with mushroom. I had a standard but very pleasant plate of Exmouth mussels.

For the bigger dish I had slithers of venison loin with mash, jus, beautiful buttered cabbage and a green salsa while my wife had sustainable pollack, devon spuds with roasted tomato. We shared a beautifully dressed bowl of organic leaves, featuring pea shoots complete with flowers. Portion size might concern some, but we were perfectly satiated.

For the sweeter end we both plumbed for the gooseberry crumble. Presented in a big jar, the chantilly cream, gooseberry mush and crumble was layered several times to create a wonderfully sweet desert.

With a fine Lyme Regis Cobb beer and a glass of red, the bill came to £62 for the two of us. An acceptable total for what was a truly pleasant meal served in a warm atmosphere by very friendly staff.

The place was packed out even on a Thursday night from 6.30pm onwards. It would seem that booking would be a good idea!