Merry Merry 2017

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A very quiet one for us – but great nonetheless to kick back,  relax and feast.  The day was sunny and warm – no wind – perfect for a mid-afternoon lunch outside.  The Champagne got opened while putting the finishing touches to lunch – and ‘mmmmmmm’ it was a great drop –  Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut – delectably dry and a perfect complement to the entrées.

Our feast menu was far far too much food, but isn’t that what you do on Christmas day?  The menu:

  • Barbeque prawns with chilli and lime dressing
  • Scallop tarts with pea and mint purée
  • Ham on the bone glazed with Bourbon, orange marmalade and ginger
  • Chicken breast rolled in Bacon stuffed with Cranberries and Pinenuts
  • Roast beetroot salad, with Feta, Red Pepper and Red Onion
  • New potatoes

It was great team-work with Mr MWCED and I in the kitchen.   All came together perfectly and we even managed to have a clean kitchen at the end of the day.

BUT….. I hear you say…….. where was dessert?   Can you REALLY believe we could fit dessert in after all of the above?   We just couldn’t.  Not even later in the evening.  And Mr MWCED had made some special almond tuilles for an easy ice-cream sandwich.  Yup, we even said ‘no’ to ice-cream.

Most of the food we have made before and roll out from time to time – but the newbie for us was the Scallop Tarts.   Will definitely repeat – and hope you might enjoy trying these too:

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2 sheets frozen puff pastry
40g butter chopped
1 small onion, chopped finely ( I used a shallot)
¾ cup (90g) frozen peas
¼ cup fresh mint leaves
18 large (400g) scallops without roe
30 g micro greens
1-1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
lemon wedges to serve

Preheat oven to 220.celsius (200.celsius fan-forced). Line two oven trays with baking paper.

Cut out 8 x 10cm rounds (or whatever size you want – I made mine quite small to fit just one scallop on); place on trays. Top with another sheet of baking paper, then another baking tray (this stops pastry puffing during cooking). Bake pastry for around 12 minutes or until golden or crisp.

Melt butter in a medium pan over medium heat; cook onion until soft but not coloured. Add peas and water and bring to boil. Simmer for around 3 minutes until peas are tender. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.   Process pea mixture and mint in a small food processor until smooth, taste and adjust seasoning if required.     If made ahead, put covered in fridge and then reheat slowly in oven prior to using.

Either barbeque scallops, briefly on each side, or heat oil in frying pan and cook on stove-top.

Divide pea puree between the pastry rounds, scatter micro-greens over puree, top with scallop/s and serve.

the above will serve 8 as a starter – I halved the ingredients for 3 of us – this is an easy recipe to increase or decrease as required.

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Pork, Spinach & Ricotta Cannelloni

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If you have read my previous posts, you’ll probably have a sense that I am pretty comfortable with easy and quick.   This is one of those recipes too.  I bought pre-prepared lasagne sheets and used a can of Italian chopped tomatoes for the ‘pasta sauce’.  This doesn’t take much time to put together, is tasty and allows you to spend more time watching a movie, sharing a glass of wine, or going for a walk (yes, that’s right, the last option is the one we all do).

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Serves 6.   Turn on oven to around 180C.

  • 500g Pork mince
  • 150g Ricotta Cheese
  • 100 g baby Spinach roughly chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp mixed herbs
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • Lasagne Sheets (one packet)
  • 400g can tinned Italian diced tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons pesto
  • 2 teaspoons tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella
  • Combine pork, ricotta, spinach, eggs, mixed herbs and pepper in a large bowl. Mix until well combined.
  • Take lasagna sheets and cut into 2 or 3 sections depending on the size of your lasagna sheet.
  • Spoon the pork mixture onto the centre of each sheet of lasagna, then roll the sheet to enclose the filling. Brush each edge with milk to seal the join.
  • Mix canned tomatoes, pesto and tomato paste in a small bowl (to save dishes perhaps the one you already mixed the pork in – I would)
  • Put a tablespoon or so of the tomato mixture into the bottom of the dish you are going to bake the cannelloni in.
  • Place each roll, seal side down in a baking dish in a single layer.
  • Pour the tomato mixture over the cannelloni and sprinkle the top with the grated cheese.
  • Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until the cheese is bubbling.
  • Serve warm with salad or vegetables.   We had fresh lettuce from the garden (first of the season – and it is Very Good), with some sliced red pepper, finely chopped chives and shredded fresh basil leaves, finished with a bit of raspberry vinegar and olive oil.
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Ready for the oven

Quick Portguese Custard Tarts

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Ok so this feels like the cartoon version of a seriously good piece of literature.  But there are times that you don’t want to spend hours preparing a tasty treat, and once again that rolled around for me last night.  Another rugby game,  cannelloni in the oven for the main and I thought at half time what better than a little tarty treat.     The trick was to precook during the afternoon then fill and heat quickly at the beginning of half time.   Not only did it all work perfectly but the ABs managed a spectacular record breaking win against the South Africans.   A great night then.

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These tarts would be perfect when you have a load of people, and want something quick and easy.   You can play around with the filling.  This one was total cheat from start to finish – but Jamie Oliver has a lovely quick custard filling that is not out of a box – I haven’t tried it,  but just might next time I make these.  Jamie Oliver’s trick with the cinnamon I did use, and boy it is definitely going to be repeated – legend.  Go here for Jamie Oliver’s take, which I just tweaked a little.  (It is so refreshing to watch him in action – so much energy).   Easy too to just add a little something in the middle before you fill with custard (maybe a raspberry, maybe a little chocolate), or finely grate some lemon peel and add it to the custard.

Recipe –  for six small tarts

Take one sheet of sweet short pastry.  (You can also use puff – we just happened to have short).   If it is frozen then allow to sit on bench for around 15 minutes until it has softened.   Sprinkle cinnamon all over the pastry and then roll up into a log shape.   Cut the log into 2, then cut each piece into 3.     Take one of the pieces, push it down with your palm so it is rounded.   You should be able to put that into a small muffin tin so that the pastry comes up the sides.  Squish it around until it fills the space.   Do that with all of the other 5 pieces.  Prick the bottoms of the pastry and then put in fridge for around 15 minutes (or more – it can fit in with whatever timetable you are working to).  Put oven on to around 180C, and when ready put pastry/muffin tin into the oven.  Cook for about 10-15 minutes.  Watch them – I just about lost mine as they were ready earlier than I had thought  –  so our pastry cases ended up quite crunchy –  but still great.

When you take the cases out of the oven you will probably have to push down the pastry with the back of a teaspoon (or fingers – go on – be honest – it’s easier).  You could of course fill each tart with a piece of baking paper and then use some baking beans to hold the pastry down while you cook it. (I preferred just to have another glass of wine).  Once cool take the pastries out of the pan and store.

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Just out of the oven – you can see they are just slightly too browned – but luckily not burnt!

When ready to serve pop cases back onto an oven tray,  open a packet of your favourite ready-made custard and pour into pastry cases until level with the top of the case.  Put into a warm oven (around 140C) for about 15 minutes – you want to gently heat them – not overcook the pastry cases.     When ready top with sifted icing sugar, or any other special treat that takes your fancy.   Some grated chocolate could be good.   Voilà. Done.