Thursday 23 April 2009

Recipe:Chocolate Tart

My version of a recipe from Nico Ladenis. Rich and sensual...a small piece goes a long way...but my God, is it good!

This is another egg-based tart filling, to be cooked at a low temperature so that it 'sets' rather than 'bakes'. If cooking this at 170 degrees, as specified here, then you need to hover beside the oven and be sure to remove the tart from the heat when the centre of the filling still perceptibly wobbles when you move the tart tin - it will continue to cook in its own heat, and will be perfectly set after it has sat for a further ten minutes or so. I suspect that it would cook equally well in an oven set at around 130 degrees, but would take longer, and you wouldn't need to bother hovering over it, as there's no danger of over-cooking at the lower temperature.

I generally serve this either with an orange-flavoured crème anglais or else with a lime and lemon flavoured cream - in either case, the citrus flavour cuts across the richness of the chocolate admirably.

Good eaten either shortly after it has been made, or else on the following day.

For one 8" tart.

Ingredients: Shortcrust pastry, made with 150g '00' Flour, 120g Butter, and approx 40ml Water; 200g Butter; 300g good quality dark Chocolate; 2 Eggs; 60g Sugar; Icing Sugar, to decorate.


1. Roll out the pastry, line an 8" false-bottomed tin, and leave to rest for thirty minutes before blind baking in a 200 degree C oven. Reduce the heat to 170 degrees C after the pastry shell has been removed.

2. Melt the Butter and Chocolate together in a double boiler or simmertopf. Allow to cool slightly.

3. Whisk the Eggs with the Sugar to make a Sabayon; stir into this the Chocolate and Butter mixture, and incorporate thoroughly.

4. Pour the mixture into the baked pastry shell, and return to the oven for ten minutes or so. Remove from the oven as soon as the surface shows signs of 'bubbling', and while the centre of the tart still seems quite wobbly. Allow to rest for at least ten minutes, while the filling will continue to firm up.

Dust with Icing Sugar before serving.

Wednesday 22 April 2009

Two tips...

Both born out of laziness (or good household management - which are often the opposite sides of the same coin; it's a matter of perspective how you choose to understand them! )

1. Having made crab tarts for starter on Sunday, I had some leftover dressed crab, and decided to use it in Lamb Mentonais for dinner last night in place of the more usual salmon. Excellent! And in fact a distinct improvement on the normal recipe, as the strongly favoured brown crab meat plays very well against the flavour of lamb. Definitely a modification that will be my preferred method from now on...

2. And, the height of laziness, last week I had leftovers of both puff pastry (from making a Pasqualina at Easter) and shortcrust (following both Lemon and Tomato Tarts, earlier in the week). Not enough of either to make an 8" shell, which was what I wanted for a Tarte aux Pommes. So, I combined them (giving exactly the right amount for one tart shell), by putting the ball of shortcrust on top of the ball of Puff, pressed down with the rolling pin and rolled them out together. As long as you remember to keep the shortcrust pastry on top when rolling out the pastry and lining the tin, then the result is splendid. I had my doubts that it would work, but in fact the result was probably some of the crispest pastry I've ever tasted, with the puff pastry layering nicely on the bottom, and the shortcrust on top keeping it under control and not losing the shape of the tart shell. It even remained beautifully crisp after 24 hours with the apple filling sitting inside it. Try it!

Tonight's Dinner:

Frittata in Tomato Sauce

Lamb Mentonais (leftover, reheated); with Lemon Spinach.

Chocolate Tarts with Lime Cream.

Tuesday 21 April 2009

Anna del Conte

I'm revisiting Anna del Conte's earlier works, which I have in Italy in the form of 'Secrets from an Italian Kitchen' and 'Entertaining al'Italiana', and which have now been combined and republished in a new format, under the title 'Amaretto, Apple Cake and Artichokes'.

Highly, highly recommended.

With frequent literary references and the provenance for her recipes often reliably cited as specific eighteenth and nineteenth century italian authors, del Conte is the italian version of Jane Grigson, with all the four-square stature that that suggests. These recipes date back a few decades now, and there are some things which a decent modern editor (if such a thing even exists in food publishing, these days - which I seriously doubt) would probably change - the repeated use of ring moulds for presentation purposes, for example, smacks rather worryingly of the late seventies, and I suspect that del Conte's sweet tooth would be reined-in a little if the recipes were being produced for the first time now (she uses a third more sugar in her meringue mixture than I feel comfortable with, for one thing, and her recipe for chilled zabaglione with strawberry purée is good, but would be even better if the sweetness was reduced significantly).

Marcella Hazan comes across as much more of a practical 'hoofer' than the rather more intellectual Ms del Conte, and I wonder how they got on in practice - Anna was the editor for the first UK version of Marcella's 'Classic Italian Cooking', about thirty years ago, so it's to be presumed that they did actually have to deal with each other. It may be that La Hazan is more accessible for somebody who is still feeling their way, but for anybody who is confident in the kitchen, then Anna del Conte has a great deal to offer. Particular gems from the current collection are her recipes for Fennel with Pistachio Sauce, and for Lemon Risotto (which I noted from bookshop browsing that Nigella Lawson quoted in one of her many books, and then proceeded comprehensively to make a complete dogs dinner of the recipe!) ; del Conte's recipe for Celery purée is good, but you need to use either proper italian celery or else the organic variety, as ordinary british celery doesn't have enough flavour; and her sauce for Duck with Balsamic vinegar works much better with roast pork tenderloin than with duck breast (in general, I wouldn't bother with Italian recipes for duck - the quality of beast available in Italy is generally quite poor, and so no decent recipes have evolved for dealing with it).

Tonight's dinner:

Sformatino of Fennel, with Gorgonzola Sauce

Lamb Mentonais, with Endive braised with Orange

'White' Tiramisu (made with White Rum and Milk, rather than Kahlua, and incorporating crushed Meringue, along with the Savoiard biscuits.)