Author: K J G

Sweet potato frangipane tart

Ingredients For the sweet pastry 150 gr. plain white flour 50 gr ground almonds 100 gr. butter 80 gr. sugar 1 tsp. spekuloos spices (or mixed spice) 1 beaten egg A pinch of salt. For the filling 200 gr. baked sweet potato 1 pear, cored, peeled and thinly sliced. 150 gr. ground almonds 150 gr butter 100 gr sugar 3 tbs. honey 2 tbs. plain white flour 3 eggs 1 tsp. speculaas spices Raspberry jam Method Begin by making and blind baking the sweet pastry, the recipe of which is set out here. For the filling Purée the baked sweet potato until soft.  Over a medium heat melt the butter and then add the almonds, sugar and honey. Whisk the eggs together with the flour. When the butter, almond, honey and sugar mixture has cooled so that it no longer scalds the hand add the mixed eggs and flour. Layer the bottom of the baked pie with some raspberry jam. Pour the almond custard into the pastry case. Slice the pears thinly and shape like a star over the tart. Place in …

Quince & cardamom-vanilla tart

Ingredients For the sweet pastry 200 gr. plain white flour 100 gr. butter 80 gr. sugar 1 beaten egg A pinch of salt For the filling 3 quinces (or pears if you can’t find quince) 100 ml. cream 2 tbs. plain white flour 3 eggs, beaten 100 gr. sugar 3 tbs. honey 1 vanilla pod 8 cardamom pods, seeded Method Begin by making and blind baking the sweet pastry, the recipe of which is set out here. For the filling If you are using quince they first need to be peeled, cored, thinly sliced and then softened in boiling water for around 40 minutes. If you are using pears you do not need to boil them first. Gently heat the milk, vanilla pod,  cardamom seeds and honey together on the hob for five minutes allowing the vanilla and cardamom to infuse with the cream. Take off the hob and leave to cool until it no longer scalds. Whisk the eggs, flour,  and sugar together in a bowl. When the cream has cooled add the eggy mixture together with the cream …

Late Autumn Dried Fruit and Baked Vegetable Dishes

Autumn is a great season in which to experiment with dried fruit and root vegetables. Traditional societies added a lot of dried fruit to their dishes for the simple reason the results are so pleasing. From the end of Autumn until the following growing season dried fruit was often the only source of sweetness our ancestors had to sweeten a dish.   Dates, figs, apricots, prunes, raisins, sultanas, sliced apples etc. were all used in our ancestral dishes regardless of continent or region. In Afghanistan, along the Hindu Kush, by way of examples local populations have been cultivating mulberry, apricot and plumb trees for thousands of years, drying the fruits in the hot summer months on their roof tops. The sweetness from the fruit was not just reserved for deserts, cakes or puddings. Dried fruit was (and still is) used to add extra flavour to savoury meals. In the absence of sugar and with honey being a rare treat age old dishes combined the sweetness derived from dried fruit with the savoury adding a sprinkling of spices …

Quince Cheese

“For the colour will be as diaphanous as an oriental ruby” Before beginning on quince cheese be aware that this recipe requires some individual love and attention. A good meat stew takes time but not the cook’s time. A good quince cheese, on the other hand, requires both time and the cook’s attention. Especially on the second day when the quinces have cooled and need to be turned from a purée into a paste. If you decide to have a bash at this do not plan anything other than spending at least an hour in the kitchen close to the kitchen hob making sure the cheese does not burn as the moisture evaporates over a medium to high heat. The trick is to make sure that before you spread the cheese out in your chosen container the quince purée forms a paste strong enough to knead with the hand. Finally, as with most preserves many recipes – both traditional and new – suggest an equal weight of sugar to fruit. It is, however, possible to make this …

Wild venison stew with dried prunes

“True wild game has the appeal of rich, variable flavour, thanks to its mature age, free exercise and mixed diet.” McGee on Food and Cooking Late autumn has always been associated with wild game hunting. The cooler days and evening frosts prevent the carcass from putrefying as it is left to hang, mature and tenderise. Harold McGee notes “Wild animals are especially prized in the autumn, when they fatten themselves for the coming winter.” Laura Ingall Wilder’s childhood memories confirm this. “Winter was coming. The days were shorter and frost crawled up the window panes at night. In the bitter cold weather Pa could not be sure of finding any wild game to shoot for meat…Even if he could get a deer, it would be poor and thin, not fat and plump as deer are in the fall.” Little House in the Big Woods. We are incredibly fortunate to have a family run butchers operating close-by who has good contacts in the southern, forested, French-speaking part of Belgium. From early autumn right through to Christmas they offer a good supply of quality, …

Veal Shanks stewed in apricots

I’ve already covered the basic veal shank stew here. Don’t make the same mistake I once did and buy beef shanks which are tougher than veal shanks. Beef shanks make a great beef broth and the left over meat can be turned into a spinach, ricotta, meat pie. For a stew, however, you are better working with veal. The gentle sweetness of dried apricots and cardamom teams up well with the pale, tender veal. There is no need to add a stock to this stew. The bones add enough gelatine to make the stew thick and they add bags of savouriness that gives this dish the extra edge. You can serve this meal alongside either mashed potatoes, roast potatoes or mixed roasted winter vegetables. Any left overs can be turned into a delicious pie – one of my daughter’s favourites.   Ingredients Serves six 6 veal shanks 250 gr. apricots 1 large onion 2 carrots, diced 2 celery sticks cut small 2-3 small yellow turnips (peeled and cubed). Optional The seeds from 7-8 cardamom pods …

Lamb & fig tagine with yoghurt

For a good lamb tagine ask the butcher to cut some lower rib of lamb into small pieces. This is a typical Moroccan cut for lamb tagine as it allows the lamb to cook relatively easily on a medium heat. There is plenty of meat on the lower rib to satisfy everyone. Of course we all associate tagine with the unique chimney shaped pot seen in every good Moroccan shop but if you don’t have one they can be made equally well in a good casserole pot. Serve with either couscous, bulgur wheat salad, rice or tagine bread. Drizzling yoghurt over the tagine before serving is a great way to cut through the grease and give the dish an added zing. If you like fresh coriander sprinkle some fresh, chopped coriander leaves over the tagine before serving. Ingredients Lower rib of lamb – 200 gr. per adult portion 200 gr. dried figs 1 onion 1 tsp. ground cumin 1 tsp. cumin seeds 1 tsp. coriander seeds 1 tsp. turmeric 1 tsp. ginger ½ lt. water …

Bitter Chocolate & Whiskey Cake

Do you, like me, have greedy children who can sniff out a biscuit, cake or chocolate bar from 5 miles away? Do you, like me, sometimes think they were born with an in-built radar alerting them to where all the confectionary is hidden? Competition for the sweet stuff is fierce in this household. Both G. and I have tried – and failed – to find fiendishly tricky hiding places for our stock of goodies. We’re always rumbled with the kids finding our best hiding places within days. It has, however, not gone completely unnoticed by me that they are not very keen on more adult flavours – such a marzipan, liquorice or dark, bitter chocolate. All of which I love. Whenever we have some dark chocolate, marzipan or liquorice in the house  I can normally enjoy these things at my own pace and over a period of days without them vanishing before they’ve even been unpacked and put on the shelf. It was my intention in combining dark, bitter chocolate with whiskey that the children would hate these flavours thus allowing G. and …

Chicken & Mushroom Pie

This is a firm family favourite. A simple supper. There is nothing fancy about a chicken pie yet it leaves most people I know very satisfied indeed. Of course you can make it in any season but it is wonderful comfort food as the days draw in and the evenings turn cooler. I mostly use left over chicken from a roast but you can of course by fresh chicken and fry it up before adding to the pie. Alternatively you can ditch the chicken and just turn it into a mushroom and parsley pie – but whatever your choice try and use a good home-made chicken broth. This recipe is for a  deep 25 cm pie dish. Ingredients For the pastry 350 gr. plain flour 150 gr. butter or lard (I love lard but both are good) 1 egg Some cold water Pinch of salt For the filling Left over chicken meat – what ever you have. If you don’t have any chicken meat then bulk it out with mushrooms but use a good chicken stock to …

Cycling this way and that through Westphalia

For various reasons I found myself for three whole weeks away from the family this September in Westphalia. The weather was glorious and I managed quite a few three to four hour bike rides through the flat, fertile soils of my ancestors. Being the proverbial “army brat” my childhood was more gypsy than person of settled abode. Before the age of 26 I had lived in something like 20 different addresses. It was a strange experience for me to spend so much time in this part of Germany – but very inspiring. Voltaire famously set the opening scenes of Candide in Westphalia: The Baron was one of the most powerful lords in Westphalia, for his castle had not only a gate, but even windows, and his great hall was hung with tapestry.  Even in Voltaire’s day Westphalia had a reputation for sustaining fat diary cows, plentiful crops and sweet fruit (as well as slightly dippy students of philosophy!) Napoleon’s brother became King of Westphalia for a short period. The flat, empty roads are lined with all sorts of …