Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Blueberry Everything (& a French Lemon Tart)

I love blueberries! It might not be much of a revelation to you but to me it's right up there with trying chocolate for the first time. In the past, blueberries have just seemed to be this bland thing only Americans could rave about. But now, I've prodly joined the clan. Blueberries are cute, fairy tale like and have a really soothing, subtle and happyfying taste. And I only just found out.
It all started last weekend when I went with T to his parents' summer house in Småland (a region in Sweden). There we went on a very fruitful (lame pun intended) scavenger hunt for the berries. And boy did it pay to be rained on that day! After an initial dry spell, we found an area where the berries were so abundant that I went into a frenzy, picking greedily at double speed and sitting in awkward positions that my ancient knees didn't agree with. On that day the four of us picked about 800 grams of berries. Here's my very own blueberry home video:

But that wasn't all.
On the evening of the first hunt, I decided on a daredevil mission. I set out to make a French style lemon tart from two separate recipes to serve as a tangy counterpiece for the delicate blueberries. And guess what? It turned out to be the best I've ever made. The only thing is, I haven't double checked the recipe since, so please tell me if yours doesn't quite work out.

French Lemon Tart (recipe combo)
Tart Crust (from random marzipan manufacturer's brochure)
  • 150 grams flour
  • 100 grams butter
  • 2 tablespoons icing sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon cold water
  • A pinch of salt
For the crust, mix all ingredients into a heavy dough, wrap it in Vita Wrap and leave it to set in the fridge for 1-2 hours. Meanwhile, you can prepare the filling.

Lemon Filling (from Smitten Kitchen)
  • 1 lemon
  • 200 grams sugar (the 300 grams in the original recipe are highly unnecessary)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch (I used potato flour - worked as a charm)
  • 115 grams butter, melted and cooled

(My recap of the recipe) Cut up the whole lemon (skin and all, but no seeds), and blend it into a smooth paste along with the sugar. In a new bowl, mix the lemon paste with the remaining ingredients until you have an even mixture. Keep it in the refrigerator until you start rolling out the dough for the crust. Set the oven at 200 degrees.
Take the dough from the fridge and place it on a lightly floured table. Start rolling out the dough into a round, thin sheet. Transfer the sheet to a regular sized tart pan and gently press it into place in alle the flutes and corners of the pan. When all the edges have been trimmed, take a piece of baking paper the size of your tart pan and roll it into a ball (makes it easier to work with). Unroll it again and place it on the pie dough in the pan. Then cover the paper with ceramic baking beans, or, if you don't have any such silly things, regular old hard chick peas will do. The reason you're doing this, is to prevent the crust from bubbling up and cracking as well as getting an even dose of heat throughout the crust. Put the tart pan in the oven and leave it there for 10 mins. Then remove the ceramic beans/chick peas and bake for another 5 mins without them. Pour in the lemon filling, but make sure to leave about 1/3 centimeter for it to rise. I baked it for about 15 mins with half the filling and then, when it had "curdled" on the crust and shrunk back a little, I added the rest and let it bake for another 10-15 mins. or so. I don't know exactly how the original recipe ends up, but my haphazard method resulted in an almost hard, chewy and really really delicious filling with the most buttery, flaky and brown tasting tart shell I've ever made. I hope you'll experience the same. And don't forget to serve the tart with fresh blueberries.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Recipe Tryout: Cheese Straws from Smitten Kitchen

Behold: The latest recipe tryout from another food site: Cheese Straws from Smitten Kitchen.
With this one I have nothing else to say than: Why aren't you trying it already? It's got cheese, it's a finger food and it's dead easy to make. Go here for the recipe (and to compare our photos).
I would like to mention that the inclusion of the red pepper flakes seems a bit superfluous as they don't really stand a chance against the strong flavour of the cheddar. Instead I would opt for some oregano and garlic to spice things up and give the straws a more colourful appearance. Or I would split the dough in two or three batches with each their flavour. One with chili flakes, another with oregano and garlic and yet another with sesame seeds. And as we speak I'm in the middle of a tiny experiment with the dough. I'm waiting to see if it can stand waiting for a week or two in the freezer before being baked. If so, it would make it even more suited for parties. I'll get back to you with the result.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Pimp My Salad

In many ways the BYO food-party is a great invention. It's economic, eclectic and sometimes it's even exciting. But, and here's the catch, far too often "I'll bring a salad" really does just mean that someone will bring a salad. Salad. As in lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber and maybe even some tinned corn. Yawn! There's just no excuse for that. Throwing together a great salad is the easiest thing in the world and it doesn't even take a recipe. Just round up your favourite fruit and vegetables, slice them up nicely and bam! You've got a money shot.

Still, I know that the creative juices don't always come a-flowin' when we want them to and that's why I've jotted down a few ways for you to pimp up your fresh salad:

There's no end to the delight an unexpected slice of melon or apple will bring to an otherwise boring assembly of veggies. I personally prefer apples because I always seem to have them lying around the kitchen (and I like the crunch), but melons, strawberries, apricots, nectarines, plums, pink grape, oranges, grapes etc. are great too. And don't underestimate the power of colourplay on the plate. It does wonders for the appetite.

I always love balancing the crunch and juice of the vegetables, the sweetness and tangy-ness of the fruit with a nutty touch. Whether it be in the shape of peeled and roasted almonds, soy-salted sunflower seeds or just plain sesame seeds, it's all good. Plus, if you have roasted them and toss them into the salad bowl shortly before serving it, the heat from the nuts tend to bring out the other flavours in the salad. Very Jamie Oliver.

Especially in summer salads fresh dill, basil, coriander, mint, chives etc. can bring some delicate and more complex flavours to the mixture. Dill is great with apples and celery, coriander in just about everything and basil is lovely with sweet ingredients. For the dry kind, crushed rose pepper works well with grapes and dried rosemary/Provence spices are great for a salad with chunks of roasted chicken. Naturally, any salad needs a slight touch of salt and pepper too.

Finally, you've assembled the perfect salad and just want it all to blend together. I would recommend that you go slow on the oils and hit the more fruity or acidy liquids. They tend to keep the salad fresh for longer and you don't get that greasy feeling afterwards. A tablespoon of elderflower cordial or some white balsamic vinegar makes for a delicious "blender", but you can experiment with any number of juices from apples, oranges, lime fruit, raspberries, red currants etc.

Obviously this is just the tip of the iceberg. I haven't even begun talking about real dressings and salads with meat or yogurt/other kinds of "coating". That'll have to wait for another time. Until then, chop along and bring a salad that's pleasing to the eye and the imagination, as well as the palate.
For more inspiration I can really recommend the book on salads by the Danish chef and food entrepreneur Claus Meyer called Claus Meyers Salatværksted (as far as I know, it's only in Danish).