Rhubarb and Pear Frangipane Tart

I wonder how many times other food bloggers make a dish, find a few minutes to take half-decent photos of it despite the urge to forget about blogging and just tuck in and then… just never write about it. I’ve got so many sets of photos that I was actually quite happy with, of food that tasted good and I still never found the motivation to put up here.

This is what happened with this one. I’ve made a Pear and Frangipane Tart and a Caramelised Pear and Almond Cake before but now I’m quite glad they never made it onto the blog. Because this is better.

You see, not only I made my own pastry, which already makes it a winner, it also contains alcohol, which is always a plus (even is such small quantities!) and it has an extra layer of goodness between the pastry and the frangipane: sweet and sharp rhubarb compote.

Now, I can pretend it was my culinary genius that made me put rhubarb in the tart but, in reality, I had half a bowl of the stuff leftover and I couldn’t possibly bring myself to eat any more rhubarb yogurt. And a bit like this, the Rhubarb and Pear Frangipane Tart was born!

I’ve combined several recipes that I have used in the past and I think this works quite nicely. The rhubarb is sharp, the almond filling sweet and nutty and the tart crust crumbly. If I could change one thing, it would be the way I prepared my pears. Next time, instead of just popping them on the top and drizzling with sugary butter, I’ll caramelise them first on the hob to make sure they are soft by the time the tart is cooked.

Rhubarb and Pear Frangipane Tart

For the crust (from Chocolate and Zucchini):

85 gr chilled salted butter
85 gr sugar
170 gr all-purpose flour
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp cold milk

Combine butter and sugar in a food processor until light and fluffy. Add the flour and mix until you get a crumb-like dough. Add the vinegar and the milk and pulse to incorporate.

At this point the dough should have crumb-like consistency (check!), but clump if you squeeze it together in your hand (check!). And also, smell pretty disgustingly of vinegar (check…). I believed Clotilde when she said that the smell would disappear during baking and proceeded happily.

Empty the dough crumbs in a tart dish (or a cake tin which is what I did) and spread evenly along the bottom to form a crust. Keep some extra along the edges to mold it into a low rim. Do not worry too much about making it completely even. Blind-bake it in a 170 degree oven for 15 minutes and let it cool slightly.

For the rhubarb compote:

2 stalks of rhubarb, washed and chopped
a drop of red wine
dark muscovado sugar to taste

Cook the rhubarb and the wine on the hob until the rhubarb is soft. Add sugar to taste and continue to simmer until all lumps of rhubarb have been mixed in and you have a smooth paste. Spread evenly onto the pastry.

For the frangipane filling (adapted from here and here):

75 gr butter
75 gr dark muscovado sugar
75 gr ground almonds
1 large egg
2 tbsp flour
2 tsp Amaretto (alternatively, use a drop of almond extract or omit completely)

Mix all the ingredients together in the food processor or by using an electric hand whisk until smooth. I didn’t worry too much about a few small lumps of brown sugar. Spread on top of the rhubarb compote.

For the topping:

2 pears
50 gr butter
a sprinkle of sugar

Peel the pears and slice them in quarters, removing the hard middle bit. Keeping the thin top intact, slice them to the bottom and fan them out. Arrange on top of the frangipane. Melt the butter with the sugar.

Cook in a preheated oven for 15 minutes at 170 degrees, then take it out and quickly drizzle the melted butter over the pears to stop them from drying out. Place back in the oven and cook for a further 20 minutes or until the frangipane mixture is set and the crust golden-brown.

If you prefer, you can caramelise the pears in a pan before arranging on the tart and avoid the butter-drizzling half way into the baking. Or maybe ignore this step completely. The pears should be fine, especially if they were quite juicy to start with.

When it’s done, remove the tin’s ring and let the tart cool. You can serve it while it’s still warm but I find that the flavours improve after it’s cooled down. Serve with vanilla ice-cream or clotted cream. Even though I had already had quite a lot, I couldn’t resist a slice of it plain, with a cup of tea in the afternoon.

I know the recipe looks a little bit long but it really isn’t very complicated at all and it takes very little time. If you want to make it quicker you can use ready-made sweet shortcrust pastry, although making your own is pretty easy and the taste and texture is almost certainly superior to the store-bought. You can make both fillings while the pastry is blind-baking and cooling down, do your clearing up while the whole thing is baking and then you’re ready to enjoy a lovely slice of tart, sweet, nutty, fruity goodness.

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(Healthy-ish) Spinach and Feta mini-pies

What do you do when you’ve spent three days eating huge amounts of spit-roast lamb for lunch and dinner?

Apparently, you find yourself ordering a crepe at that (life-saving) 24h sandwich shop. At 4 in the morning. I can’t even remember what was in there, but there was definitely cheese, chips (yeah, obviously) and mayo. And probably some meat.

Greedy.

I woke up with no hangover – thankfully all those calories didn’t completely go to waste. But I was really hoping to eat something slightly healthier and preferably green-coloured. I don’t think my mum has ever seen me so excited about spinach.

The recipe is of course quite vague, since this is how mum described it to me. Actually, her first sentence was “Make some dough” and she was not going to offer any further explanation. Thankfully she saw the blank look on my face and got the hint.

Spinach and Feta mini-pies

For the dough

500 gr all-purpose flour
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
enough water to make a dough (~1/2 pint)

Simply mix the flour with the oil and the salt and then add water gradually and knead until you have a dough. You want it as wet as possible without sticking to your fingers or the bowl. Knead until smooth and let it rest. In the meantime, prepare the filling.

For the filling

200 gr spinach
6-7 spring onions
a bunch of dill
150 gr feta, crumbled
2 tbsp rice, washed
olive oil
a pinch of salt and some pepper

First of all, wash your greens and chop them up. In a big bowl, mix with the cheese and the rice. Add some pepper, a little bit of salt, depending on how salty your feta is, and drizzle with olive oil. Mix to combine.

By now the dough should be ready to be used. Cut off an apple-sized piece and place it on a lightly floured surface. You want to roll it out to a rectangular shape, a bit like in the picture below, but probably a bit thinner than mine. Make it thin enough so that you can just about see there’s spinach inside when you fill it and roll it up.

Add some of the mixture in the middle and then roll it into a long cylinder. Squeeze the ends of the dough to seal them and roll it in this kind of shape:

Brush top and bottom with some olive oil, place on a tray and cook in a preheated oven (180 degrees) for about 30-40 minutes or until golden brown. My mum turned them round towards the end, but I forgot to. Not sure how much of a difference it makes but you should probably do it anyway.

I think mine also needed a bit more cooking, but I was in a hurry. I reheated a couple the next day, and they were nicer, so leave yours until they look a bit darker than the ones on the picture.

I really love making a big batch of these and having them for lunch the next day too. You can also have them as a light dinner or serve them as a side to something meaty (in Greece we had them with some lamb – of course!).

You can add less authentic things in there too, like some kind of meat, diced finely. Just don’t skip the rice, it makes a big difference as it absorbs the liquid from the spinach and stops them from turning soggy.

Happy Easter!

There is something really quite magical about being back home, and it’s not just that the beach is 5 minutes away and the sun is almost always shining at this time of the year. Although it helps.

It’s that special feeling you get when you know a place inside out and every street brings back a different memory. Easter is a particularly good time of the year to be here too; I’m glad to have escaped the awful weather back in England and be able to smell all those lovely spring smells.

And Easter is still celebrated in a very traditional way. A week of fasting or at least moderate eating is followed by feasts right after midnight on Saturday. Eggs are dyed bright red and the egg wars are a favourite post-Sunday-lunch game.

There’s been a silly amount of meat-eating, not that I’m complaining of course! We got a whole spit roasted lamb and, since there’s just four of us, something tells me it’s going to take us a while to get through all of it. Even when the novelty wears out, there’s so many things you can do with it: use it in sauces, omelets, salads. Mum likes to eat it straight out of the fridge, Nigella-style.

I am not a huge fan of liver, but when it’s wrapped in intestines and then cooked on a rotisserie until crispy (kokoretsi) I can be tempted.

But apart from the meats, appetisers are also an important part of the Easter table. Salads, cheeses and dips go perfectly with the salty meat. One of my favourite ones is the one I’m about to share with you, and it’s so simple I’m not sure I’m even allowed to call this a recipe.

Roast Peppers

Ingredients
 
long peppers (as many as you like, including a spicy one for a bit of a kick)
olive oil
salt
red wine vinegar

Wash and prick the peppers with a knife. Dry them with a kitchen towel and place them on a baking tray. Sprinkle with olive oil and salt and shake the tray to cover them all over. Place under a medium grill until soft and brown in spots, turning round once to let them cook on both sides. Serve either hot or cold, with a splash of vinegar.

Salt and Snow in Austria

I’m writing this now from the safety of my home and my head is not sunburnt anymore, my legs are not in a stupid amount of pain from skiing and my tastebuds have almost recovered from the salt overdose. The weather was beautiful, the snow was fine (although melting quickly) and the food was filling and intense. That much became clear after the first lunch:

By the way, don’t ask me what any of the dishes are called. My friends told me loads of times but my German skills are non-existent and I’ve completely forgotten. My normal approach was to check what people around me were eating and then point at it until someone told me the name. It worked, I think.

Anyway, the heart-attack in a bowl above consisted of some pasta/gnocchi, loads of cheese, crispy onions and tasted quite good despite (or maybe because of) the fact that it was swimming in fat. My heart was racing and it wasn’t because of the skiing-induced adrenaline.

 

Well, here’s to hoping all the bad food is cancelled out by the fresh air, the amazing views and the physical exercise. Who knew that going down a hill could be so tiring.

We stopped at a hut, and I saw someone eating this giant ball of goodness and I wanted one. I was warned by Phil that it is weird but I wanted to give it a go anyway. Well, it was weird. It’s like a giant steam sponge, which is great, and it’s surrounded by vanilla custard which is even better. But then, rather than throwing some chocolate on the top and in the middle, someone decided it would be a good idea to fill it with some fruity jam with Stroh and sprinkle it with enough ground poppy seeds to get you arrested in most countries. It promised so much but it ended up being plain odd.

And this must be the highlight of our culinary experience, although possibly not in a good way. Cheesy sausage. A sausage oozing with cheese at every touch of the knife. Make your own jokes.

I realised today that I had to add salt to my food twice to be able to taste it. Austria, you have destroyed me. There goes my career as a food critic. But it was a sacrifice worth making since this was a great week with beautiful weather, enough skiing and loads of food and drink. A refreshing Almdudler in the sun is a beautiful thing and it is in that and many other respects that the Austrian Alps are so much better that the French ones.