Friday 1 August 2008

White & Dark Chocolate Tart with Raspberries...

This was one of Jennie's contributions to the Masterchef Weekend 2008 - great flavour combination (how can you go wrong with fresh raspberries and white chocolate?) , and a wonderfully crisp, almost biscuity dark chocolate pastry shell holding the whole thing together.

This is more a recipe for the UK rather than for Italy, where the quality of the cream available is too thin to be used in the White Chocolate ganache for the filling - in practice, with Italian cream the relative lack of fat means that the tart filling flows out and all over the plate once you breach the tart shell...which is admittedly an aesthetic rather than a gastronomic point. But even so...the effect is better with better quality cream in the first place, so that the tart holds its shape right until the end.

For four individual tarts.

Ingredients: 150g Flour; 1 heaped tablespoon of Chocolate powder; 75g + 2 tablespoons of Icing Sugar; 125g Butter (frozen); approx 30 ml Cold Water; 175g White Chocolate; 200 ml Double Cream; 400g Fresh Raspberries; juice of half a Lemon.


1. Make the Dark Chocolate Pastry: Using the grater disc on the food processor, grate the frozen Butter into the processor bowl; add the Flour, Chocolate Powder and 75g of Icing Sugar and process all together for about fifteen seconds; then, as the machine is still going, carefully add the Cold Water in small amounts until the whole mixture has homogenised into one ball (as soon as it has, stop adding water immediately). Wrap this pastry in clingfilm, and refrigerate for at least half an hour (or as long as overnight).

2. Make the White Chocolate filling: Break the White Chocolate into small pieces, and place in a medium sized mixing bowl; heat the Cream until almost at boiling point, then pour it over the chocolate pieces; leave to stand for a minute, and then stir the now-melted Chocolate and the Cream together until thoroughly combined. Leave to cool.

3. Roll out the pastry and use it to line 4 greased (or Trennwaxed) individual tart tins; prick the bases and bake blind in a 190 degree C oven (10 minutes with the baking weights in the shells, and a further 10 after they have come out - this should give you thoroughly cooked, beautifully crisp shells). Remove these from the oven and set aside until needed.

4. Make a Raspberry coulis using 200g of the Raspberries, the Lemon juice and the remaining 2 tablespoons of Icing Sugar - blend all together in a liquidizer, and then work through a fine sieve to give a even, velvety texture.

5. To assemble the tarts, briefly whisk the White Chocolate mixture with an electric beater (this lightens the mixture) and then divide it between the dark chocolate shells. Arrange the remaining raspberries over the top of the tarts. Make a pool of coulis in the centre of each of the plates and arrange a finished tart in the centre of each pool. For decorative effect, you can dust the surface of the tart either with a little more Icing Sugar or a little more Chocolate Powder - entirely as you prefer.


Wednesday 30 July 2008

The Last Supper...

...of Masterchef Weekend 2008 was agreeably representative of the entire event, with dishes ranging from excellent, to good, to kind of ho-hum...

Deep-fried Sage Leaves with Aioli - first class! Inappropriate for a heavy date, with all that garlic washing around, but the taste buds were certainly tingling as a result. Trippa alla Parmigiana was ....well, ok...I suppose. I wasn't converted either to or away from tripe as a result of the experience, and in fact I realised in making it that the recipe is almost identical to that for Lentil Soup (sofritto of aromatics, then wine and tomatoes added along with the main event for the dish, and finished off with cheese, and in this instance borlotti beans). It is delicious, but the tripe gets lost amongst all the other ingredients (which is perhaps the whole idea), and as the sticks-to-tiny-ribs dish that it is, it would be better suited to an evening in November than to the heatwave we're currently experiencing.
And Zucotto is good...but when all's said and done it's more of a presentational trick than any thing else, and all you really get is some cake with a couple of different flavoured mousses inside. And we're still finishing it off, three days later....

No, the star of the evening was the pasta with Nepetella and caper sauce. Excellent! As we all said repeatedly as we hoovered it up.....

And the text is as follows:

One of Italy's oldest herbs is nepetella. - a variety of wild catmint(Nepeta calamintha). One finds it referred to frequently in the cooking of Ancient Rome, but - probably because it was common - it became associated with the cooking of the poorest and largely fell out of use. Rather like Thyme in Greece which is hardly ever used in cooking even though the hills are covered in the stuff. This sauce is one of the best ways to use nepetella, but you can also use the herb in place of common or garden mint for a subtler and more interesting result. If you think of this dish as a herb version of aglio-olio, you can visualise the result.

For 4
A good handful of fresh nepetella leaves.
50gms of capers, fresh or, if preserved, well rinsed and drained.
Parsley - half the quantity of nepetella
1 clove garlic, finely chopped or crushed.
A little fresh tomato - i.e. 3 cherry tomatoes or the equivalent. If you grow your own, the stunted, wizened ones which are no good for salad are perfect here.
¼ cup Olive oil
Salt and pepper.

Soften the garlic in the oil in a large frying or saute pan, ideally the pan should be large enough to take the quantity of pasta you are cooking. Chop the herbs and capers finely and add them to the oil. Turn the heat down to minimum. Add the coarsely chopped tomato. Cook for 5-10 mins. Turn off the heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. When the pasta is ready, just scoop it out of the water and add it to the herb mixture and stir well. Add a little pasta water if the herb mix is lumpy and doesn't blend in. Serve at once.

And to finish off, the evening, we had a celebratory game of Scrabble, accompanied by our own-production grappa. Modesty forbids me to say who won, but suffice it to say that by the time we called it a day at around 1.30, it was with a glow of modest pride that I retired to bed.

Monday morning, and we sat long over breakfast and coffee, and then more coffee....until we noticed that in fact it was time for a Kir, along with some reviving roast almonds....and by the time the second Kir was fnished, it was time for Jennie to summon a taxi and disappear to the airport.

And it was all over for another year...

Tonight's Menu:

Celery Risotto

Scaloppini with Truffle Sauce

Peaches stuffed with Chocolate & Amaretto

Sunday 27 July 2008

Masterchef Weekend 2008...

Well, first blood on Friday evening went very definitely to the Technical Department and his Grand Marnier Soufflés. Superb! Show-stoppingly good, in fact.
Notwithstanding the unforeseen difficulties encountered by the rest of us with the first two courses, there was no question but that the dessert was head and shoulders the winner for the evening...

And the difficulties? Oh, nothing major (hollow laughter) : when I came to retrieve my squid from the fridge in order to stuff them, it was only to discover that the fishmonger had not only cleaned them, but had then proceeded to cut the cleaned sacs neatly into small pieces, making any idea of stuffing them quite impossible - and so the dish was re-born as a Squid and Porcini ragu instead, stewed in white wine, with piselli. And Jennie's minor obstacle... was the discovery half way through prep that her recipe (Pork with Fennel & Almonds) in fact had a Page 2 to it, that she'd omitted to photocopy and bring from London. We're still wondering what in fact the 'pinch of.......' should be, which gets added just at the foot of page one, even before the rest of the recipe unfolds. And so, while she and I were consoling ourselves with the fact that our recipes were unarguably completely unique and never-before-produced, since we'd had to make them up on the spot, we took the first mouthful of Grand Marnier Soufflé and just fell silent. There was really nothing further to be said...

Here's the recipe (taken verbatim from the TD, so not set out in my usual format) :

Souffle au Grand Marnier

This is eaily the best souffle recipe I have come across. It is an adaptation of Alain Ducasse’s version. The souffle mix is just custard and sweetened egg white. The flavouring is added by burying a thin slice of liqueur-soaked cake in the souffle. This gives a better flavour hit. If you don’t have Grand Marnier any other interestingly flavoured liquer would do as well – Sambuca, Madarine Napoleon, Cointreau, Anisette or Pastis or, even, Ouzo, Framboise, Poire, well the list is endless. You can buy the cake – or if desperate use a thin slice of white bread – once it is loaded with liqueur the difference is small. If you want to make the cake, here’s the recipe.

Biscuit base

180g Egg white
110g Icing sugar
100g Egg yolk – about 6.
65g Corn Flour
65g Plain Flour

Whip the egg whites until firm and incorporate the sugar and then stir in delicately the yolks with a spatula. Then gently fold in the sieved flours.
Spread the mix thinly( 6-8mm) on a Silpat sheet or greaseproof paper laid on a baking sheet. Bake for a few minutes at 200C until just coloured. Leave to cool on a grill.

I use souffle dis
hes which are 10cm dia. x 6cm. The quantities here make four.

Pastry cream base

25cl Milk
8g Powdered milk
15g flour
50g sugar
50g egg yolks – about three but check.

Make a custard in the usual way. Bring the milk to a boil and pour over the other ingredients mix together with a whisk. Return to the heat and keep stirring until the mixture is thick and hot (80°C). Or use a Zimmertopf to heat the blended ingredients. This is enough custard for 15cl of egg white and 75 grams of sugar.


Butter and sugar the moulds. Cut an 8cm circle of cake, 1 cm thick or less, for each dish and dribble Grand Marnier on the slices until nicely sodden. Whisk the pastry cream until smooth. If the cream has been kept in the fridge, you will need to warm it a little first, otherwise it will be too thick to blend with the egg white. Whisk the egg whites, blend in the sugar, whisking until firm. Then fold in the pastry cream. 1/3 fill the moulds, add the liqueur soaked cake and fill the moulds to the top with more mixture. Run a finger tip around the circumference so that none of the mixture is touching the rim.* Bake on a metal sheet for +/- 12mins in a pre heated oven set at 220C – you may need to adjust the cooking time. Souffle is an egg dish and all egg dishes are cooked by ‘eye’ not by time. Dust the surface of each souffle lightly with icing sugar and serve at once.

Once assembled the souffles can stand at room temperature, or slightly cooler, for up to an hour with little loss of volume.

It is superb!

Last night's dinner was a starter of Tomatoes and Gorgonzola Piccante on a flaky pastry base, followed by Involtini, stuffed with artichokes, served with deep-fried zucchini flowers, and then we finished with White Chocolate and Raspberry tarts, in Dark Chocolate pastry shells. The jury's still out on the winner, as TD thought the first course was technically perfect, while I thought the dessert had the greater flavour-hit-wow-factor... and since Jennie had made both of them, she sat by and let the conversation take its course. Which was still not concluded by the time we were researching macaroon techniques (Hermé in comparison with Ducasse) in order to produce a batch as a way of passing the time this afternoon between lunch and supper. (Delicious! Flavoured variously with Lime, Praline, and Balsamic Strawberry....)

Tonight's Menu:

Sage Leaves deep-fried in Batter, with Aioli (TD)

Pasta with a sauce of Nepitela, Capers, Parsley , Garlic and Tomato (TD)

Trippa all Parmigiana (Me)

Zucotto (Me)

Back to work.....