Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Asparagus Tart

Hello everyone! I actually have't ever posted about asparagus before, I actually don't cook with it a lot as it's only in season for a shortish period of time and it can be quite pricey. It is in season at the moment though and I was going to a barbeque last weekend so I decided to make an asparagus tart to bring with me. Here's what I used to make it:

  • Shortcrust pastry
  • 400g of asparagus
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp mustard
  • Around 150g of parmesan cheese
  • A little bit of mascarpone 
  • Small bit of nutmeg
I started by making some pastry, feel free to just use ready made pastry as well I was just feeling super mad the day I made it....I mixed flour and butter in my food processor. My mother said the ratio of flour to butter should be 8 to 4 when I asked why she couldn't just say 2:1 she was just like no it's 8:4 , I tried to reason with her that it was the same thing but she was having none of it (she is now claiming she meant 8 ounces to 4 ounces but I'm having none of it)........ anyway you should have roughly double the amount of butter in flour.

Be careful not to over mix the pastry. Then add some salt and a little water until the pastry comes together. Then remove it from the processor and bring it together with your hands.

Then wrap it in cling film and place in the fridge for a around 20-30 minutes. I may have left my pastry in the fridge for too long even though my mom warned me not too. So when I went to roll the pastry it broke a little but my mom kept saying 'It's fine we can patch it'. So in theory you should have a nice round circle which you roll on to a rolling pin and then place on a dish greased with butter. But I actually had various pieces of pastry which we put together like a jigsaw puzzle. The former may be more efficient but if you view the latter as a game it's definitely more fun.

My not so perfect circle

My mother 'patching it' 

Then you have to blind bake the pastry shell which involves putting grease-proof paper over the pastry and then placing cooking beans on the pastry or you can use rice if you don't have these. This stops the pastry from rising in the oven. Blind bake it at 180C for 25 minutes. 

Despite all the patching the pastry came out grand. We even had some scraps left over to make a baby pastry case.

Then I let the pastry cool. For the filling I blanched the asparagus in hot water for five minutes.

Then I beat together two eggs with the mustard and then poured the mixture into the pastry case. I think I may use a little more egg next time as I thought the tart could have been a bit fuller. 

Next I grated some cheese, I used parmesan mainly because it was the only cheese in my fridge along with a tiny bit of leftover mascarpone but you can use whatever cheese you want. Sprinkle most of the cheese over the egg mixture.

 Then neatly place the asparagus on top. I trimmed the stalks of the asparagus to make sure they all fit and we blended up the leftovers in an aubergine dip.

 Then scatter the remaining cheese on top and season with salt, pepper and some grated nutmeg.

Then place the tart in the oven at 200C for 15 minutes until it's a nice golden brown.

The barbeque I went to was at a community gardens at my old university. I arrived kinda late in the day so didn't get to help much with the gardening but I did help with some peas.

A lot of the people were from the UCC Environmental society and I knew a lot of them from the Feeding the 500 event I was involved in back in February. Most of the events I have been to with Envirosoc tend to serve vegetarian food as a lot of members are vegetarian but I think some people drew the line at not having meat at a barbeque. There was still a lot of nice vegetarian and vegan food and I knew I wasn't at a typical barbeque when someone said 'Oh what are they?' and someone replied 'Meat sausages'. Here are some pictures of what I ate.

Vegetarian Sausages with Mushroom Pate

Vegetarian Sausages & Veggie Skewers

Aubergine Dip

Potato Tortilla

I also succeeded in making vegetarian marshmallows which we toasted on the barbeque. I made rose and salted caramel flavours and will post about them soon.

Here are some pretty pictures of the community gardens, you can check out the Facebook page here.

Christina, x

Butternut Squash Risotto

Hello everyone! I have posted before about my love of butternut squash. Recently I made a butternut squash risotto to provide some warmth on an Irish 'summer' day. It was my first time using butternut squash in a risotto and overall I liked it, but it was a bit too sweet for me so maybe next time I'll serve it with a lemon oil or something to contrast the sweetness. Here's what I used for four people:

  • 1 large butternut squash
  • 250g Arborio Rice
  • One onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • Few sprigs of thyme
  • Some vegetable stock
  • Grated Parmesan cheese (around 150 grams)

 I started by peeling and cutting the squash. This isn't the funnest thing to do but if you view it as a work out for your arm then it's ok. I actually had to peel and cut squash a fair bit during my work experience and it really tested my love of it but I am still a fan, for now.....

Then I roasted the squash. I actually fried them in a little butter before roasting them as I think this makes them taste a little nicer but you don't have to do that. Take the butternut squash out of the oven when it is starting to go a nice golden shade.

To make the risotto I started by frying some finely chopped garlic, onion and celery. I added a little thyme as well for flavouring. Then I poured in some arborio rice, being careful to make sure all the rice is coated in oil. Once the rice has gone translucent I added some wine, if you don't have wine it's not a big deal. My grandparents had received a bottle of wine from someone and it sort of tasted like vinegar so using it in a risotto seemed like the best thing for all involved (even thought I may still have drank a few glasses of it.......). Once the wine has evaporated add in some vegetable stock. Bring the stock to the boil and then reduce it to a simmer.

Keep ladling in the stock until the rice becomes soft. As the rice is becoming soft stir in the butternut squash and season to taste.

When the rice is cooked take if off the heat and stir in some grated Parmesan cheese.

Once the cheese has melted and you are left with a beautiful oozy risotto you are ready to serve.

Christina, x

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Ballymaloe LitFest

Hello everyone! A few weeks ago I ventured down to the Ballymaloe LitFest. The festival had a lot of talks from famous food writers such as Claudia Roden, Alice Waters and so on. Unfortunately I didn't make any of the talks. I was working on the Saturday and even though the kindly offered to let me go to a talk on the Evolution of Food Writing for free on Sunday as they had screwed up my volunteer application I didn't make it as I couldn't get a lift and there was no buses on Sunday so I would have had to get a train and a taxi and I just couldn't be dealing with that. Sorry guys my laziness and cheapness won out. I did make it down Sunday afternoon and spent a fair bit of time in the fringe festival in the Big Shed. There were a lot of good food stalls, not much vegetarian options unfortunately. Though maybe this is an opportunity to bring my beetroot and goats cheese sandwiches to the masses.

 I actually have a confession to make....I ate a slice of Iberico ham even though this was during my vegetarian stint, I am such a bad person..... I actually blame my cousin's boyfriend who kept raving about how good it was and I just thought that one little slice of ham couldn't hurt.

 Since there wasn't many vegetarian options and I was too wracked in guilt over the Iberico ham incident to eat more meat I had some gelato and crepes.....

 The festival seemed to be very successful, I just thought the talks were a little expensive and that made the event a tad elitist. Like €30 to hear someone speak for an hour and a half is kind of pricey. Now I understand that they may have to pay speakers, and potentially pay for travel expenses and accommodation etc.  but I still think that if people want to make having a love of food and being a 'foodie' open to everyone then you have to take steps at all times to try and make events such as this as inclusive and open as possible. I must say that the Fringe Festival in the Big Shed was very good and was free so that is something. It would just be hard for me to justify paying €30 to see Claudia Roden when I went to see the legend that is Noam Chomsky recently at my old university for €8, and like look how dotey he is....

Photograph taken by Emmet Curtin

Even though if they had Michael Pollan speaking I probably would have sold all my wordly possessions to go. Either way I am fully supportive of a literary festival that celebrates food and wine and hopes that it will continue on in future years. Here are some pictures from the event........

I then went for a jaunt to Ballycotton and got some nice chips in a cone.

As I mentioned above I applied to be a volunteer but my application got lost or something but they still sent me a thank you card and a voucher to go to a free cookery demonstration and for lunch at Ballymaloe House so I'm pretty excited for that, I'll keep you posed as to how it goes.

Christina, x