Thursday, 26 September 2013

Trellis Without Tears - Poor Man's Waffles?

Fanny is very proud of another invention next, and really made a splash of announcing it in this second instalment of her partwork. The first invention she laid claim to in this issue was the rather useful Garlic Oil, which is now available in almost every supermarket across the land. I get the feeling that this new invention will be harder to find on any tea time table ANYWHERE in the world, but I could be wrong. The modern-day, cynical part of me wonders if the invention was just an excuse to use the fabulous trellis tool from the Potato Flan top... So, here is the unveiling of Fanny's own invention, the Poor Man's Waffle! 

Essentially they are baked sheets of puff pastry cut to look like waffles and sandwiched with jam. Sorry if I don't sound overly enthusiastic about them... Maybe it's just a case that I don't consider waffles to be the food of gods or the very rich... But if like me you don't have a waffle machine in your kitchen (oh, I am poor!) and you have some puff pastry to use up, then maybe this one's for you!

So Fanny instructs me to roll out some of her six-minute rough puff pastry and use the trellis tool as before to create a lattice. I decide to roll it out using icing sugar for some added sweetness, but I must make it clear this is my on my own initiative. Sorry Fanny.

Then, simply cut two waffle shapes from the resulting circle, roll up the scraps and roll out again, this time cutting the same size shape with no lattice holes. Give them a quick brush with egg wash and bake until golden.

Fanny suggests spreading them with blackcurrant jelly before 'clapping' them together, but does say that we may use any jam or jelly. I still have some Bramble Jelly so that's what I use. I clap them together. Fanny claims these waffles are wonderful for times when you want to eat something without cream or custard. This is Fanny saying this, of course. Fanny does have the good grace to acknowledge that this recipe is simply a piece of 'little nonsense' so perhaps it was just an excuse to use the trellis tool after all. Still, a tasty snack, but I'd probably prefer just a slice of toast. Not as much fun. 

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Lattice not be De-Terre'd

It's quite a relief to be given another savoury flan from Fanny at this point, there are only so many tartes du jour I can consume! I don't think Fanny thought this through when compiling this part-work, either that or she never reckoned on some crazy cook working their way through each recipe 40 years later. This one is fairly humble - avoiding all possible pie puns is not easy - using Potato, Onion, cream, eggs and cheese really. Of course Fanny encourages me to fancy it up a little.

Fanny insists that I steam my potatoes - never, ever boil them - and fill my raw savoury flan case with grated onion. The grating seems to make them very wet, and ever fearful of that soggy bottom I am cautious, but willing to go with Fanny's flow as before. Usual compiling rules apply here - on top of the grated onion Fanny asks for some smoked bacon, which I substitute for smoked Paprika, then layers of seasoned, sliced, steamed potatoes, the cream and egg mixed together and top off with slices of Gruyere cheese. Fanny has thoroughly modern tastes really.

Fanny says I can now either cover with a plain pastry top (so it is a pie?) or if I am feeling confident I could try a lovely trellised lattice top using a thoroughly modern kitchen gadget to create it. At first I think I'm going to have to go with the pastry top, having never seen the lattice-trellis-maker-thingy Fanny recommends. However a quick search on eBay uncovers the exact one Fanny features - result! Shopping Cart updated, checkout complete.

It seems quite a length to go to to get this trellised top, but it looks pretty and Fanny provides a pic-strip to guide me - so it'd be rude not to. I really I just need to lay some pastry on top, roll over with a rolling pin, pop out the tiny squares and magically a lattice will appear... Easy.

With the trellis firmly in place on top of the onions, potatoes and cheese it's in the oven with it, with the usual instruction to remove it when it's baked. Fanny gives a picture of the finished flan so I keep checking until it is lovely and golden. Fanny tells me I can serve it hot or cold, and recommends this one as a particularly good idea cold for picnics. Fanny tells me if I have left it too late for picnic weather I can save it for 1971 - the following year. I am pretty sure she means saving the recipe and not the actual Tarte aux Pommes de Terre I am carefully removing from the oven - but, as I am learning, with Fanny you never know...

Friday, 13 September 2013

Saved from the 16th Century - a Flowery Flan

I've never made anything with edible flowers before, not even the staple of modern vegetarian chic - the Courgette Flower. This recipe from the past (that's Fanny's past, realising all the recipes I am working on are old too) calls for Borage, Marigold and Cowslip flowers. I've never really seen them anywhere before, but after asking folk on Twitter was soon pointed to some local suppliers, and I found these beauties at the Stockbridge Market at the weekend. So colourful! Maybe not the exact three Fanny recommends but they are good enough for me!

Fanny says I can use other flowers but cautions against using any part of a plant for food unless studying first 'Modern Herbal' by Mrs Grieve and Mrs Leyel. I'm guessing that Fanny has done this for me, and also that the guys at the market have also done their homework and are totally sure their flowers clearly marked 'edible' are indeed. Fanny I am sure did not have the modern day luxury of a farmers market to pick up such things.

The ingredients are fairly simple - apples, egg yolks, butter, the flowers and mace. How very medieval. Even the word 'mace' makes me think historically. No sugar though, so I'm expecting this tart to be quite sharp.

Fanny tells me that back in 'those days' this flan was baked in a 'raised pastry coffin' which doesn't sound very appealing at all, but does conjure up images of Knights and Round Tables. Thankfully Fanny suggest updating it slightly with her very one sweet paste, baked as before, simply as demonstrated by Peter. The apples need to be sliced thinly and poached in the 'least amount of water' possible. 

I wasn't sure how long for, so I kept going until they were puréed. It seemed to make sense. Then Fanny asked me to simmer the lovely flowers in water until they were tender. The water turned a very lovely shade of blue...

To prepare the tart from now on in was fairly simple - combine the cooked apples, a 'walnut' of butter, egg yolks, mace and flowers. I checked again, no sugar. It sort of makes an apple curd, thickens slightly and has a nice sheen.

So all that remains is to fill the baked flan case, allow to cool and decorate with a few flowers I saved from the simmering. I of course changed into my very favourite medieval outfit before tasting - it was indeed extremely 'tart' and the peppery taste of the flowers was unusual, but not unpleasant at all, just made me realise how sweet modern day tastes must be. I really do feel transported back to the 16th Century with this one, and will certainly use more edible flowers in the future. Safely of course. I will complete my studies. Now, quick joust anyone? 

Monday, 9 September 2013

Pushing the Boat Out - a Trio of Tantalising Tartlets

Fanny gives me her instruction on what an 'individual' savoury tartlet size should be - it's really for me to decide I presume depending on which rather grand occasion I am catering for on which very special evening I am planning. If I am making canapés they should be 'one bite size'. If I am making elegant appetisers, they of course need to be 'two bite size'. The 'three bite size' tartlets are saved for a favourite daily snack time for Fanny that she calls 'omnivorous', which sounds good to me - devouring everything in sight seems to sum me up at the moment.

So, what are these Petits Tartelettes Savoureuses that Fanny is tempting me with today? The first of the trio are Papillions a la Russe, or plain old Savoury Butterflies. Except there is nothing plain about these little lovelies, as you might expect. I choose 'three bite size' tartlet cases and bake blind some of Fanny's savoury paste as before. The only other ingredients are a simple Vegetable Macédoine (which of course Fanny does not explain), some mayonnaise and oh yes, some green food colouring. I wondered when that would make an appearance.

So I chop up into very small cubes some carrots, potatoes, French beans and cook them gently in some butter and oil with garden peas until they are soft. Thank heavens for Google. Then I combine the mayonnaise with a drop or two of green colouring. Fanny recommends using perfectly harmless vegetable colouring, just in case anyone was feeling risky and fancied opting for a toxic animal based variety. 

It's very bright. Just as Fanny would want. Now all I need to do is mix the vegetables with the mayonnaise and fill the pre-baked tartlet case. Oh yeah, and of course, add some butterfly wings made from pastry off cuts. Flutter flutter little tartlets. Have you ever seen butterflies that look like this?

Tartlet number two is a variation on Fanny's suggestion. She recommends Ham and Egg filling, but as a veggie alternative I reach for my trusty Macsweens Veggie Haggis, which I think will work wonderfully. This time the tartlet case is lined with wilted spinach, topped with a slice of lightly fried Veggie Haggis and finished off with an egg 'poached' in a little butter inside a scone cutter, naturally.

The final in this tempting little trio are something Fanny seems very proud of - Petits Bateaux Savoureux. Yes, little Savoury Boats. Fanny tells me that it really is quite inexpensive to pop out and buy some little boat shaped moulds, and it really will be such fun to see them 'sailing' between a plateful of other tartlets. I already have a cupboard groaning with various tins, moulds and cooking paraphernalia so am really not keen to purchase any more, no matter how fun it would be. However I have a cunning plan! I bake some savoury pastry in my Madeleine tin - genius! Why didn't Fanny think of this? For this one I need some of my Macédoine from earlier, some cream cheese, a few processed cheese triangles and some very straight pretzel sticks. I could only find Twiglets.

It's a simple case of mixing the cream cheese with the vegetables, filling the 'boat' pastry case, adding a 'sail' of cheese triangle and then to 'complete the illusion' adding the stick as shown... Watch them little boats sail across my dish! I bet Dynamo himself would be fooled by this particular illusion - expect to see it in his next show.

Fanny reassures me that all of these savoury tartlets are really rather simple to put together - she has entrusted little Sally (who has 'only' been with Johnnie and Fanny for six months instruction at the time of writing) to make and garnish all three all by herself. I assume it's been a very intensive period of six month training for poor little Sally. The finished tartlets are really fun, slightly odd to look at but really quite tasty as ever. So, let's wolf them all down, erm, I mean partake in our daily 'omnivorous' session, quick before the other guests arrive in time for for cocktails and canapés.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Taking Stock - insulating the Tarte Du Jour (ou de la Maison) against sog

"No Frenchman would take kindly to a damp and soggy flan"

Fanny pauses slightly to explain how to construct basic flans using the techniques she has already outlined, but ensuring perfect results whatever the fruit you use. Fanny indicates that the French use Fresh Fruit in their flans, seldom the tinned, bottled or frozen that we lean far too heavily on in this country, apparently. Fantastic, I love fresh fruit and seldom use tinned. Fanny also answers one of my previous queries here - when to cook pastry blind and when to fill it raw. It's almost as if she's been reading my blog and I've slightly irritated her by asking. The method, she proclaims, is constant. Note, do not deviate from this, ever. If the fruit needs to be cooked - apples, gooseberries, cherries, plums, damsons - the one selected needs cooking, dusted with sugar and then glazed when hot. If using fruit that need no cooking - raspberries, strawberries or loganberries - bake the case blind and fill. This ensures, Fanny says, that the moisture from the fruit is insulated from the raw or cooked base by the confectioners custard which should be used in both techniques. All clear? The nation needs to be taught these sog-proof methods if they are to compete with the French, Swiss, Danish and Austrians who provide an array of flans daily. Let the competition commence! 

Today's Tarte du Jour is Apricot. A favourite of mine, in season now and perfect for Fanny. She does concede that if I wish to make this in winter I could use a tin of apricots, but with these fresh lovelies how could I resist. Plus, a new method to learn - poaching the fresh apricots in stock sugar syrup. Oh hang on, I assumed as they needed to be cooked I'd be using the method above, but no... I dissolve my sugar cubes in water over a low heat without stirring or boiling, then 'level it off' to a simmer for three minutes. That's it - ready to use, or store in jars for future use. 

Fanny tells me to stone my fruit, and place unskinned halves in a wide shallow pan and cover with the stock syrup. Pop in a vanilla pod, and poach very gently over a very low heat. When they are ready (no clues how long - mine took about 15 minutes) remove and wipe the vanilla pod for storage, drain the apricots on a clean cloth and strain the remaining syrup into a jar for future use. Easy.

Listening to Fanny I realise that I need to bake a sweet flan case blind for this Tarte du Jour, using the recipes and techniques used before. Once it is cool I half fill it with some confectioners custard. It's almost as if I am continental now, I just do it. Next I need to arrange the poached apricots on top, very closely together, dome-side uppermost. Fanny asks me to glaze the flan with redcurrant jelly, but I've run out. I do have a very nostalgic jar of Bramble Jelly lurking about, so this should do the trick. As instructed, I make sure it fills all the empty spaces between fruits too.

Fanny now gives me a recipe for Chantilly Cream, which I should make and pipe round the flan and in between the apricots if I like. I'd never known what made cream 'Chantilly' but it seems to be double cream, whipped until it hangs loosely from the whisk, with 'some' teaspoons of icing sugar added to taste. I add two. Not stopping there, Fanny encourages me to add a few drops of liqueur of my choice, I choose Cherry Brandy - not really considering if Apricots, Brambles and Cherries are really the next combination (as it turns out they are!). Then I add a whisked egg white which has been stiffly whipped, and blend with the cream until it is smooth. When I do this, it looks a little runny, perhaps I added way too much liqueur. Perhaps you understand, only perhaps. So I give it another whisk, maybe a little too vigorously, before the piping commences onto today's Tarte...

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Mamma Mia! It's a Puff Pastry Pizza!

Fanny proudly declares this recipe is one of her own brought back from 'foreign parts' for our delight. Today, it seems strange to be introducing a pizza to the nation, but I am sure back in 1970 it was a continental revelation. My own memories of 1970's pizza were frozen Findus French Bread, which were pretty tasteless I remember, and not very Italian - so at least Fanny has the right country in mind. In fairness to Fanny she suggests that I can make this pizza with either 'ordinary' bread dough as they do in Italy, or with her very own 6-minute rough puff paste. Fanny doesn't give me a recipe for bread dough, ordinary or not, so I am taking the hint and making her rough puff...

Following the previous techniques for paste, I mix the flour, fats - I'm using Cookeen this time for that authentic 1970's feel - salt and water. This contains more fat than before. After rolling it into a flat panel, Fanny tells me to fold one end right over to the centre, then the other to meet it, then fold again to make four layers. Turning it 'half clockwise' I repeat these steps, and then turn, roll and fold twice more. It now needs to be stored in the fridge for at least 24 hours. Oh. No pizza tonight then. Where's that home delivery leaflet...? So, next day, I roll out the paste to a sort of circle and place it on a baking sheet.

The toppings for the pizza seem familiar enough - tomatoes, tomato purée, cheese and optional pimento. Fanny suggest her beloved anchovies and olives too, but neither are for me. 

Fanny tells me the tomatoes should be skinned and rough cut, and in case I have ever felt that this was a tiresome chore she gives me a technique for skinning them 'at speed'. I can't say I've ever felt the usual process of plunging in boiled water was lengthy or time consuming, but ever the good student I am willing to give it a go Fanny-style. The technique is to fork a tomato and hold it at the side of a strong flame, and watch the skins roll back.

Sorry Fanny, but for me this took an age, perhaps I wasn't doing it right, maybe my flame wasn't strong enough or I wasn't bold enough? Plus with four tomatoes to skin, I'd say it would be much quicker to plunge. Regardless, the skinned tomatoes are skinned and rough cut, and then I notice that Fanny does not ever mention them again - another recipe step missed out to test me.  For the assembly of the pizza everything seems back to front, of course. Slices of Emmenthal cheese (this is how she spells it - not very Italian at any rate) on first, then I presume the tomatoes that Fanny forgets, herbs, sliced grilled peppers, season. And then a lattice of tomato purée over the top. Really.

Before baking Fanny urges me to cover the surface with something she has invented herself - Garlic Oil. She proudly gives the recipe, essentially crushed garlic and olive oil which is left for a month in a stone jar. A month. Not wishing to delay this pizza any longer, I use some I bought in the supermarket - I wonder if Fanny sold her invention? I drizzle rather than 'cover' hoping that's what Fanny means.

The pizza needs to bake until it's a 'good golden brown', again no timings, but mine looks good after about 20 minutes. Fanny says I can serve it hot or cold. Fanny has used bread dough in her picture, and it does look like a pizza.

My version looks similar actually, and works really quite well - the pastry is crumbly and very flaky, but it's tasty and way better than those French Bread things. not exactly fast food with all the techniques and inventions, but i suppose it would be next time! It's not a pizza as I'd know it, but thanks to Fanny for bringing it over to the UK all those years ago!