Saturday 23 May 2015

Tarte Bordaloue

I had thought I had posted this recipe on here ages ago - it having long been in my repertoire - and was surprised to find it not there recently when I wanted to check on the quantities I generally use for the ingredents in the almond cream filling (the recipe was originally based on a version from Michel Roux, but I know I don't use his quantities, as his are for a much larger tart than I would normally make). Anyway, I realised that I hadn't ever committed it to blog, which seems a sad failing on my part. The tart is delicious, and using this method it could not be simpler to make.

When adding the almond cream to the shell, don't bother trying to spread it evenly, or to make it look neat - the amount of butter in the mixture in practice means that as it cooks it sorts itself out and levels automatically, and if you heap the mixture on top of the pears, in the centre of the tart shell, and put it in the oven like that, as it cooks, the cream adjusts itself to fill all parts of the tart shell, and puffs evenly all over.

For one 8" tart.

Ingredients: 1 8" shortcrust tart shell (I make three such shells from shortcrust made from 8 oz butter, 10 oz plain flour 1 generous pinch salt, and 50 ml water....yes, I know, it's a hybrid of metric and imperial; that's what happens when a person's long ago schooling bridged the changeover between the two systems...anyway, the three unused shells go into the freezer, from where they can be baked from frozen as and when they're wanted); 2 large pears, of pretty much any flavourful variety; 2 tbs sugar, for sprinkling; 100g butter; 100g sugar; 100g ground almonds; drops of almond essence (optional, but I think necessary, since ground almonds these days have negligible flavour of their own, and need all the help they can get); 3 eggs; 2 tbs rum; apricot glaze (again optional, depending on how much of a perfectionist you are, and on how long before serving you have finished baking the tart; if it is to be left for several hours, it will look better for being brushed with glaze).


1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 C and then blind bake the tart shell until the base is partially browned but not completely baked.

2. Peel, quarter and core the pears, then cut each quarter into two lengthwise, so you have 16 pieces in all.. Lay the pieces in the partially baked shell, making an outer and an inner circle. Sprinkle with the 2 tbs of sugar. Put the pears in the shell back into the oven for ten minutes or so, to soften the flesh and to concentrate the flavour of the pears.

3. In a food processor, work together the butter and the sugar, then add the ground almonds (and optional almond essence), followed by the eggs and the rum. The mixture should be fairly dense.

4.  Out of the oven, spoon the almond mixture into the centre of the tart shell, over the top of the pears. It doesn't matter if the mixture doesn't go anywhere near the edge of the shell - trying to get it to do so will only mess up the arangement of the pear pieces and in any case isn't necessary, as the cream will sort itself out during baking.

5. Bake the tarte in the oven for about forty minutes. By the end of this time, the cream will have covered the entire tart, and should have puffed and browned.

6. Remove the tarte from the oven, and leave it to cool. At this stage, if using it, brush the surface with apricot glaze. Delicious either cold or still warm.

Wednesday 20 May 2015

Richard Olney

...has been my reading material for the past few days. Mostly his memoirs, unfinished at the time of his death in 1999, but with forays also into 'Simple French Food' and into 'Lulu's Provencal Table'. The memoirs have been a complete pleasure, despite - or perhaps because of - their unedited and somewhat formless delivery. With little attempt to shape the events of his life into stories with clear structures, the result is a patchwork of anecdotes and memories, many of which lead to nothing beyond themselves and are merely what they are: recollections of events which occurred and people he met and things people said from time to time. Julia Child and James Beard don't emerge from it particularly well - although both seem diminished and mean as a result, rather than impressive and monstrous - and Nico Ladenis and Simone Beck and Elizabeth David, amongst others, shine brightly.
From the  inclusion of  numerous menus of lunches and dinners he produced over the years, I can see where I've gone wrong with him in the past - with both of the other aforementioned books, I dived straight into the dessert sections. Bad idea. Desserts are not Olney's thing, and were presumably only included at the insistence of his publisher. From SFF - before consigning the book for years to the unreachable and dusty upper shelves of a bookcase - I remember unwisely trying an apple dessert of some kind  the recipe for which he said had come from his sister-in-law Judith .....only to discover that said sister-in-law ('ex' by the time of writing) had, in Olney's opinion, neither any interest in nor any skill in cooking or any knowledge whatsoever about food. Equally, from his many mentions of dinners chez Peyraud, there is no mention anywhere of dessert being served, and one assumes that Lulu's attitude towards them was significantly the same as his, i.e that any meal should finish with a good selection of cheese (and another bottle of something appropriate). Dessert wine was something of which he was very fond, but it seems that he often foreswore the accompanying dessert, on the basis that the food might interfere with the character of the wine.
Odd lacunae remain, even after having finished the memoirs - called 'Reflexions' , by the way, which is an unfortunately 'cutesy' title, and presumably intended to suggest instinctive reactions to what has happened in his life rather than a considered analysis of them; the latter, he certainly doesn't go in for...things happen, you observe them, react as appropriate (or not), record them (maybe), and then move on.   But, where and how did he learn to cook? From where did he develop his abilities and knowledge about wine? And where is any suggestion of the breadth of knowledge and practical experience behind the twenty seven volumes of the Time-Life 'Good Cook' series which he so famously edited in the eighties? His spat with Julia Child over the best way to make pastry (apropos of which, he declared that just because she was on TV did not make her a good cook...) suggests that he was practiced in the art - but, apart from a passing reference to an apple pie, made in Clamart sometime in the fifties, pastry appears to have formed no part of his repertoire. In fact, on the basis of lunches and dinners recorded in the book, he seems to have lived largely on fish soup, salads, and cheese, with the occasional roast bird chucked in for good measure. Oh, and wine. In  quantity.
Significantly, he remains an enigma. And seems destined to be so for evermore, since it seems unlikely that anybody will ever now be inspired to write his biography, and anyway many of those who knew him well enough to be able to give a fair picture of the man are no longer around to tell the story.
I was pushed to read Reflexions by Charles asking the other week if I'd ever heard of 'some chap called Richard Olney', since he never had but had recently come across a reference by somebody else to the greatness of the man.  Which suggests to me that Olney seems destined either to disappear entirely without trace, or else to be resurrected as some kind of obscure but sanctified holy man of food. Neither of which I think would be entirely deserved.

Tonight;s Dinner:

Bouchées à la reine

Bass en croute, stuffed with fennel & pernod; braised cucumber

Chocolate meringue vacherins with strawberries & creme chantilly

Sunday 17 May 2015

And more camera...

Dundee Rambler growing through Trachelospermum, in a corner of the Old Orchard

The Old Orchard, looking towards the Well-house
Emerging from the Old Orchard into the main garden
Roses, under the SE Pergola
Entrance to the Old Orchard, under the Weeping Poplar
Tonight's Dinner:

Terrine of Foie Gras with toasted brioche

Saltimbocca alla romana; zucchini sauteed in butter and thyme

Apple Croustades with Crème Frâiche