Have you ever made a mess in the kitchen? Silly question, isn't it? I'm sure you've all experienced those disastrous "kitchen moments". I know I've had a few! For instance, one Saturday evening a few years ago. I was entertaining dinner guests. The dining table set and decorated to the hilt, an elaborate brass candelabra held centre stage on the table of eight.
Following the agreeably appetising first and second courses, the popping of corks, wine sipping (read "guzzling"), spirited conversation and laughter, the time had arrived for dessert. Merrily, I headed off to the kitchen where alone to my own devices I energetically shook a plastic container of cream. The cream needed to be thickened only slightly, not whipped. My guests remained seated at the dining table in the dining room immersed in conversation and wine, while I, in the kitchen, became immersed in cream! At a rapid rate of knots and with the force of a misguided missile, the top flew off the cream’s container. It’s amazing how far cream can spread. You should try it one night...perhaps not! Equally, mushroom sauce makes a similar mess when one drops a saucepan full of a hot, creamy mushroom sauce on to the kitchen floor. The evening that particular calamity occurred, the steak ended up being served with mustard on the side, minus sauce. I made no mention of the upwardly-mobile mushroom sauce and its vast range when I returned to my dinner guests. Until this day those guests remain completely unaware of the drama that unfolded in the kitchen, unless, of course, they read this post, which is unlikely. However just in case, purposely, I’ve divulged no names! It took me days to remove the mess from my open, country-style kitchen cupboards! And yes, I still prepare mushroom sauce and shake cream containers, but nowadays with extra care! I suggest you do similar….
Prawns & Asparagus Bruschetta
1 jar pesto sauce (you can make your own but there are some great varieties on the supermarket shelf these days)
1 sml bunch thin stalk asparagus
Thick slices of Italian or country bread
1-2 vine-ripened tomato diced
About 36 cooked prawns/shrimp
8 oz freshly-shredded parmesan cheese
Extra-virgin olive oil (I always wonder where they find that extra virgin!)
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
Combine olive oil and garlic in a small bowl; set aside. Peel and devein prawns; set aside.
Steam asparagus with water until desired tenderness, like slightly past
al dente. Slice bread into thick slices. Spread even coat of pesto sauce over one side.
Lightly toast (do not brown). Remove seeds from tomato; dice. When asparagus is done and pesto-coated bread slices are lightly toasted, break stalks approximately 3-4 inches in length and place 2-3 stalks on each bread slice. Place prawns on top of each slice. Sprinkle each with diced tomato and shredded parmesan cheese. Drizzle with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and cracked pepper to taste. Serve warm/room temperature.
Fig and Goat Cheese Tart
Serves 8-10. You will need a 9 to 11 inch tart pan with a removable bottom.
For the tart shell:
¾ cup plain (all-purpose) flour
¾ c. whole wheat self-raising flour
½ c. fine yellow cornmeal (not stone ground)
1 tblsp. sugar
¼ tsp. salt
1 stick cold butter, chopped into pieces
1 ½ tblsp. fresh rosemary, chopped or ¾ tblsp. dried
4 tblsp. ice water plus more as needed
For the filling:
8 oz. goat cheese
½ cup ricotta cheese
¼ tsp. salt
¼ cup cream
500g (1 lb) fresh figs, trimmed and sliced crosswise
1 tblsp. honey
2 tblsp. red currant jelly (or strawberry or raspberry jam)
Make the shell: Preheat oven to 218-220C (425F). Add the flours, cornmeal, sugar and salt to a food processor; pulse to combine. Add the cold butter (straight from the fridge) and rosemary. Process until the mixture resembles a coarse meal with little clumps of butter still visible. Add the 4 tblsp. of water; pulse until just combined. Pinch a bit of dough with your fingers. If the dough holds together, it's done, otherwise add a bit more water, a half tablespoon at a time, until your dough just holds together. It should still be fairly dry and may seem a bit crumbly. As long as it holds together, you’ll be fine. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured cutting board and bring it together into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
Roll the dough into a large disc, about 1/8 inch thick. Then roll the dough so it is draped over the rolling pin and lay it back out over your tart pan. Gently press the dough into the edges of the pan and into the fluted sides. If your dough looks like a bit of a patchwork because it did not roll into a perfect circle, don’t worry. Once it is filled, no one will know. Run your rolling pin over the sharp edges of the pan to cut away any excess dough. Place the pan in the freezer for 30 minutes. Remove your shell from the freezer and prick all over with a fork. Put it on a baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes or until firm and just barely starting to brown. If the bottom of the tart starts to bubble up during baking, just prick the spot with a fork. Cool completely in the tart pan, then add the filling.
Make the filling: Preheat oven to 175C (350F). Add the goat cheese, ricotta, egg, salt and cream to the food processor. Process until you reach a smooth consistency. Transfer the goat cheese mixture to the cooled tart shell and spread evenly with the back of a spoon. Arrange the figs in concentric circles starting at the outside of the tart and working your way to the center. Add the honey and red currant jelly to a saucepan over low heat. Cook stirring frequently until melted and combined. Use a pastry brush to dot the glaze all over the figs. Place the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake for 35-40 minutes or until the cheese is firm and the figs are softened. The glaze will bleed around the edges of the shell, but you will not have a soggy tart as the dough is incredibly firm and resilient. Cool on a wire rack, remove the tart from the pan and serve warm or at room temperature. Keeps tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Potato, Rosemary & Goat's Cheese Tarts
1 Sheet ready-made puff pastry
1 large potato
120g goat’s cheese sliced,
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves,
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 200C. Cook the potato in a large saucepan of salted, boiling water for 20-25 minutes or until tender, but not falling apart. Drain, peel and cut into 5mm slices. Cut puff pastry into 4 squares. Top each with slices of potato, goat’s cheese and rosemary leaves. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until puffed and golden. Remove from oven and drizzle with olive oil. Season to taste if you like. You can add and detract different toppings/fillings...whatever takes your fancy at the time.
3 over-ripe bananas
2 Tbsp lemon juice
200 grams sour cream or yoghurt
300 ml sugar
1/2-3/4 cup pitted and chopped dates
400 ml plain flour (about 1-3/4 cups)
3 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
2 Tbsp Buderim candied ginger nibbles (optional...but a really nice additive!)
Peel bananas and mash bananas with a fork, sprinkle with lemon juice and put aside.
Whisk eggs with sugar until pale and frothy. Stir in sour cream. Mix dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger) and fold into the egg mixture together with the banana mush. Stir in candied ginger and dates. Pour the mixture into a prepared loaf tin and bake at 175C (350F) for about an hour. Test for doneness with a toothpick/skewer - it should come out clean and dry. Take the loaf out of the oven; let it cool for 5-10 minutes, then turn out the loaf and cool it completely on a metal rack.