Category Archives: cheese

Send in the Tarts

There are definitely not enough tarts in my life, so here goes. Often the thought of handling pastry in this insane climate is off-putting. There is always aircon I suppose, but I have dreams of a walk in pantry, (and nightmares of dying polar bears).

I usually go for 6oz plain flour to 3oz of butter (i.e. 2:1) for shortcrust pastry. In this heat, the key is being FAST. I had 2 tarts planned and doubled this (so 12/6oz). So the kenwood is ready to go (should freeze the K beater first….), and the butter is cut into wee cubes and put in the bowl with the flour. Incidentally, I don’t think there is any need to sift- I think this used to get the weevils out. Though until I get my pantry, maybe I should?

Anyhoo, lowish speed on the mixer or you have a butter flour bomb, until the butter is broken to crumbs. You could roll this between finger and thumb, but it’s too hot. Now get a jug with ice water mix. Get the mixer going at a reasonable speed, and very slowly start pouring the iced water (not any ice), into the whirring mixture, somewhere in the middle i.e. between the rim of the bowl and the centre of the bowel. As soon as larger clumps appear STOP. This will only be a few tablespoons/ 30ml or so. I should video this really shouldn’t I. Quickly compress with your non-sweaty hands into a ball, wrap in cling film, (OK, glad wrap), and put in the fridge for an hour. I’m not sure of the evidence basis for this but I want it cold as heck, and this has just warmed up a bit.

Alastair Little, an influence from my youth, suggests cutting the pastry to fit the pastry tin


from the deepest darkest nineties…..



So you have a big slab of pastry- cut it into thickish slices as above- though I would in future cut it into thinner to get more coverage. You then need to mould it into the pastry tin.



And hopefully you end up with this. I also reinforced the corners a bit, though on this pastry tin, the sides are low and at an angle- take care with vertical sides. A flopped in pastry edge in the oven is heart breaking.

Prick the base with a fork to stop air trapping, and in she goes at 180C, until solid. Take care not to brown the pastry. When it’s almost done, brush a milk/ egg mixture over the pastry and put back in. Floppy sides is one thing, but a leaky tart is devastating.



So finally, let’s fill yer tart.

Take one crab pot, put a bit of pigs head in it. Leave in a muddy mangrove tidal creek over a high tide, and hey presto, mud crabs.

One I boiled upside down and removed the wee legs after 3 mins and the big claws after 5-6. The main body obviously takes a lot longer (think of boiling an egg- mmmm, maybe there’s a market for a colour changing crab timer….).

It’s worth taking the time to get all the meat out of the body- there is a lot of very good white stuff to be had when you get rid of the gills and poke it all out. Keep it cool, and add a load of chopped tarragon, salt, white pepper, 2 eggs and 300ml of double cream and some sweated shallots. Add all the soft brown stuff in the shell too, though there wasn’t as much as you might find in a UK crab, intertingly. Stir it up and pour it into the pastry case. This is best done whilst it’s half out the oven on a sliding grid or you will spill it.




Next filling was an idea from Shona after we opened some petit sapin a bit late to find it was over the edge of ripeness. There was a French baker, Bertrand, in Edinburgh who used to get the over ripe cheeses from the nearby cheese monger and make sublime tarts with them.

Petit Sapin is the pasteurised (therefore allowed in Oz) version of the most amazing cheese I think there is- Vacherin Mont D’or, from the Franche Comte region of France. This is a bucket list cheese- DO NOT DIE BEFORE TRYING IT. It’s made in winter and is wrapped in a strip of spruce bark. It is truly stunning.



So, in it all went, and 3 eggs and a bit less cream. Shallots and black pepper.


Baked at 130C until no wobble/ ripple when given a nudge.



Oh yes, here’s some fennel seeds on the base I scattered before pressing the pastry down for the crab tart.





A crisp chardonnay here perchance? And the odd droplet of Tabasco. Why not.


Cooking Up In a Storm

Difficult to miss out on a pun with aphorism and descriptor so wittily combined, but then, there’s the gastronomic comedy genius that is adored by my many readers around the world and other people not in my family.

So we had a duck from the rather well named ‘luv-a-duck’ company whose pork, duck and fennel sausages we rather like and the chicken is the current favourite too, so hey, let’s roast.

I’ve always done a good skin blanching with boiling water on most roast with some skin to crisp. so chicken a pork both get a kettle full of boiling water carefully poured over them. However, it’s a bit tricky to find a cool, draughty area to let the skin dry out. A bit of salt maybe helps.

Anyway, this duck got a good smearing of five spice powder and smashed ginger on the inside and was set spinning on the rotisserie as shown. A massive downpour towards the end called for Scottish barbecuing skills, barricading the flames from the water. Overall this was a frustrating effort as the coals just never got hot enough to get a good crisping. The duck wasn’t bad though.


I did however manage to bake some bread, pushing the envelope of barbecuing. Again, the temperature wasn’t quite high enough, but I reckon it might be possible to make a bread oven if you could put some insulating material over the dome? To explore……..


Annoying, I turned the lardy bread out and over the coals but this just burnt the lovely crust, darn it.

Cheese platterIMG_2734[1]

The delicious platter above was courtesy of who deliver very fine cheeses at a great price at great speed. As you can see, there is rather an enormous chunk of stilton in very fine condition. Where’s the port?

Shona’s getting a bit sick of my noodle soups but seems happy enough to scoff laksa. This was one I did on my own with leftover barra, fresh rice noodles, stock of some description, weird Indonesian paste, green pepper and rather successfully, pumpkin. Oh yes, coconut of course.


Interestingly some locally reared lamb- Dorper Damara (??), a south African cross with middle eastern, leg roasted very nicely and carved very well the next day. Weirdly I had a leek, and felt a kind of kedgeree/ pilau urge.

I cooked the rice with some melted leek (careful not to burn), in butter, fried with some toasted and ground fennel seed, cumin, corriander and turemeric, then basmati rice. To this some lamb stock from the bones. Served as shown with some boiled eggs, (and one salted duck- why not?). A v pleasant luncheon.



This chicken roasted supremely well. Inspired by Amy, of Amy’s warung whose (possibly enhanced a la MSG) bbq chicken is the finest in the land. I butterflied it down the vertebra, and smeared grated turmeric, galangal, garlic and chili on the ‘inner’ surface. I placed her over some tins containing aubergines and barbecued with the coals either side of the tins, so the chicken wasn’t over the heat, and put a lid on to assist roastage. Oh my, what a divine experience, possibly the best roast chicken I’ve done. I also made some magic green shit- blitzed corrinder (with root), mint and chive shallots woth coconut milk. No green chilis, (the kids….) but limes would be nice. Pawpaw salad and cucumber with plain rice. Very, very fine.




Finally, some muesli. Shona’s been making a lot of this, and there are some terrifically complex combinations out there. I can’t be arsed with spices and vanilla in mine to be honest, and if I want fruit I’ll add my own dates etc, so a quick way is just to chuck in your oats (these are Swedish I think), with choppped nuts and something sweet. Today I used macadamia and almond with a few tablespoons of local honey, stirring every now and then. Even covered it was too hot, and interestingly the macadamias were more susceptible than the almonds.

225C was a bit high, but I was baking bread, note to self……