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Happy Easter 2012

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Traditional Simnel Cake for Easter

See Special Occasion Rich Fruit Cake for cake recipe and information on making a Simnel Cake.

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I was reminded of this recipe this morning when a friend at church brought in duck eggs for sale.  We had a ready supply throughout last year but the ducks have been taking a break from laying and the resumed supply is something we have eagerly anticipated!  I discovered this very simple recipe last year and although you can use hen’s eggs the larger and richer duck eggs (see picture) make it an extra special light supper.  I have made egg curries in the past and we always enjoy them, but this is one of the simplest recipes I have come across.

Once more this recipe is based on one from one of my favourite books: Hot & Spicy Cooking: Exciting Ideas for Delicious Meals with recipes by Judith Ferguson, Lalita Ahmed and Carolyn Garner, with just a few very small tweaks.  It’s simple sauce could be used as a base for any grilled meat or fish or diced meat or fish could also be incorporated.  It reminds me a little of other recipes on this site, in particular Pork Sausages Indian Style, a Madhur Jaffrey recipe and Prawn & Tomato Korma, both of which are favourites.  If using hen’s eggs then it is probably better to serve one and a half or even two per person for a light meal: with duck eggs one should be adequate.  If you are serving this at a larger main meal then you will definitely need more eggs and the sauce will serve only two or three people.  If serving as one option at an Indian style multi dish meal then the eggs should be quartered.  This could also be served as a starter with half an egg per portion (in two quarters) and a small piece of naan or poppodums.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Egg Curry
(Serves 4 as a light meal – 2-3 as a main meal – 6-8 as a starter)

4 duck eggs (1 per person – ½ for a starter)
or
4-8 hens eggs (depending on appetite of diners – 1 or less for a starter)
1tbsp sunflower oil
1 large or 2 small white onions (be generous)
2.5cm/1inch piece of cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
6 green cardamom pods
3 cloves
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or crushed
1.5cm/½inch piece of root ginger, finely chopped
1tsp ground coriander
1tsp ground cumin
¼tsp ground turmeric
1tsp garam masala
1tsp chilli powder
1 x 400g tin plum tomatoes, chopped
Salt & black pepper to taste
180ml/6fl ozs vegetable stock or water (or 1tsp stock powder and water)
To garnish
Small handful fresh chopped coriander (parsley if unavailable)
1 small green chilli, a few fine slices (optional – I usually omit this)

1.  Hard boil the eggs in boiling water: 10-12 minutes for duck eggs or 8-10 minutes for hens eggs.  Once cooked plunge immediately into cold water, which will cool them and also help prevent the unsightly grey ring that can form around the yolk.  I usually steam hard boil eggs, having pierced the shells first, which takes about 5 minutes longer.

2.  Finely chop the onion and gently fry it in the oil for 2-3 minutes so it is soft but not browned.

3.  Stir in the finely chopped garlic and ginger along with the cinnamon, bay leaf, cardamoms and cloves.  Fry for 1 minute.

4.  Add the coriander, cumin, turmeric, garam masala and chilli powder.  Stir well and fry for about 30 seconds more.

5.  Add the chopped tinned tomatoes.  Stir well, bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes.   Add the stock or water and bring to the boil.  Season to taste.

6.  Put the hard boiled eggs into the sauce and simmer for 10-12 minutes.

7.  Serve sauce on a bed of plain boiled rice with egg or eggs placed on top.  Garnish with coriander or parsley and, if you wish, a little finely sliced green chilli.

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Mulligatawny is such a strange sounding word, but it simply means pepper water.  Rather than being rooted in India, it is thought that Mulligatawny probably originated in Sri Lanka, although it could possibly have come from the Tamil speaking people of South India.  ‘Mulligatawny’ or ‘Milagu Thanni’ is an amalgam of two Tamil words: ‘Millagu’ meaning pepper and ‘Thanni’ meaning water, although the soup we eat is probably closer to another Tamilian soup called Rasam.  Originally a thin soup, under the rulers of the British colonial Raj Mulligatawny became rich and dense.  A Mulligatawny soup recipe such as this one would have been familiar to those Britons who lived and worked during the Imperial Raj, the British rule of the Indian subcontinent between 1858 and 1947.  Sri Lanka (formerly known as Ceylon), a large island just to the south of mainland India, had close ties to Britain but was never part of the Raj.  The British tried to recreate familiar dishes, as far as possible using the new and unusual ingredients they found but the hot climate, lack of refrigeration and unfamiliar cooking facilities would have made this very difficult.  Originally Mulligatawny was served as a vegetarian ‘sauce’, but the British varied the recipe, including meat and other ingredients, often thickening it with rice and adding turmeric to give a yellow colour.  Recipes for Mulligatawny appeared in many Victorian publications including one in the 1870 Nabob’s cook book which featured the addition of ‘fowl’.  Although the soup was popular in India and Ceylon, it was not highly thought of back home in England but the resulting mixture of East and West has cast an influence on British cooking which can still be found today.

I have wanted to make Mulligatawny Soup for some time but when looking for a recipe, as you can imagine from the information above, there is  a great deal of choice.  I knew that I wanted to make a hearty and spicy soup which could be eaten in place of a main meal: the type that would be ideal when the weather is at its January chilliest.  I found two complementary recipes and this version of Mulligatawny Soup is a combination of the best of both.  The sources were Women’s Institute Soups for all Seasons by Liz Herbert and a wonderful recent find (from the secondhand bookstall at the church where my choir meets) The Ultimate Hot & Spicy Cookbook by various authors (published by Lorenz books), which I will certainly be revisiting again and again.  I certainly wanted to add meat, chicken from choice (but this could be varied) and unable to choose between adding rice as in the Women’s Institute Soups for all Seasons and lentils as in The Ultimate Hot & Spicy Cookbook I decided to add both, something I will definitely do again.  The second book also included sultanas, but as I do not like these in curries I have left them out.  The dollop of Mango Chutney (home made, of course!) made it sweet enough for me.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Mulligatawny Soup
(Serves 3-4)

10g/½oz butter
1tbsp olive oil
4 chicken thigh fillets, cut into bite size chunks
or
2 chicken breast fillets, cut into bite size chunks
or
about 8ozs/200g leftover turkey or chicken from a roast
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 medium sized carrot, diced
1 medium sized potato, diced
1 small turnip, diced (optional)
1 tbsp mild madras curry powder (or another powder of your choice)
1 litre/1¾pints chicken stock
2 large tomatoes, chopped (did not skin & deseed as in original recipe)
2-4 cloves (according to personal preference)
6 black peppercorns, crushed lightly
4ozs/100g rice (preferably Basmati)
2ozs/50g red lentils
2ozs/50g sultanas (optional – I left these out)
handful chopped coriander (reserve some for garnish) – or parsley
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
Garnish
1tbsp per bowl natural yoghurt/crème fraîche/sour cream (more if you wish)
1tsp per bowl mango chutney
chopped fresh coriander (reserved)
grind of black pepper or light dusting of cayenne pepper/chilli powder

1.  Melt the butter and oil together in a large saucepan.  Turn up the heat and fry the diced raw  chicken quickly turning frequently until it has browned.  (Cooked leftover chicken should be added about 10minutes before the serving which should be just long enough for it to be thoroughly heated through.)  This should take about 2 minutes.  Remove from the pan and set aside.

2.  Stir the curry powder into the remaining oil and cook briefly.  Add the onion, garlic, carrot, potato and turnip (if using) to the oil remaining in the pan.  Stir well and turn down the heat.  Cover and cook very gently for about 10 minutes.

3.  Add the stock and stir well.  Add the cloves, crushed peppercorns and chopped tomatoes.  Bring to the boil and reduce the heat, cover the pan and simmer gently for 2o minutes.

4.  Return the cooked chicken to the pan along with most of the chopped coriander, including the stalky pieces (use just chopped leaves for the garnish).  Add the rice and lentils and simmer gently until they are just cooked, adding a little extra water only if needed.  (If leftover cooked chicken is being used in place of fresh meat, this should be added about 10 minutes before the end of cooking time.)

5.  Remove the cloves before serving if you can find them. Taste and adjust seasoning.  Serve in warmed soup bowls topped with a dollop of natural yoghurt, crème fraîche or sour cream, a spoonful of mango chutney and a scattering of chopped fresh coriander leaves (or parsley).  This can be served with Naan bread if you wish.

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A VERY HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO ALL MY READERS

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Dundee Style Christmas Cake 2011

Some years ago, instead of our usual marzipan and iced cake, I experimented by making a Dundee Style one with the traditional topping of cherries and nuts.  This year, having already made two marzipanned cakes with one iced as well (the Easter Simnel Cake and our Silver Wedding Anniversary Cake) I decided to make another Dundee Cake.  The basic cake was made using the Special Occasion Rich Fruit Cake recipe which I use for all family celebration cakes.  Before it was baked I selected enough nuts and fruits to put in concentric rings on top, which are added before the cake was baked.  Last time I used just blanched almonds and glace cherries but this time I topped it with circles of walnuts, pecan nuts and blanched almonds interspersed with red and green glace cherries.  When we were in Spain on holiday this year I discovered green cherries in little bottles and was very pleased as I have been searching for them for some years.  They are not quite the same as the red cherries we have in the UK, as the syrup is much lighter, but the flavour was the same.  The ribbon came from Primark and was a bargain at £1 a roll – a perfect match for the colours I had already used for the cake topping.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

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There was a glut of fresh figs on our market during the autumn and I was able to buy a whole tray really inexpensively.  My family could eat a whole tray in one sitting and these were particularly sweet and soft, but I squirrelled a few away so I could try this wonderful sounding dish.  At the same time on the market there were the last of the years peaches and nectarines, a little hard and not easy to ripen, so not especially good for eating, but ideal for cooking which brings out their flavour beautifully.  A good reminder of the last of summer.

My starting point for this recipe came from Forever Summer by Nigella Lawson and had the exotic sounding name: Figs for 1001 Nights.  I gently grilled the fruits in the spiced butter as in the original recipe but using peaches as well as figs.  An alternative would be to pop them briefly in a hot oven, but I would only do this if I already had the oven on to cook something else  – flash grilling is fine.  Nigella used a little rosewater and orange flower water in her basting mixture.  I used the orange flower but although I had the rose water in my cupboard I left it out as my daughter sadly dislikes the traditional rose turkish delight flavour.   I do have a bottle of rose syrup in the cupboard, however, so I used this as a pouring sauce for those of us who do like it.  (As an alternative she used a little honey, which proved equally as good as honey and figs are also a good match.)  Rose syrup is a lovely item to have in the cupboard and is delicious with rhubarb and yoghurt, or poured over ice cream, however it is very sweet so I suggest it is used sparingly at first as it can be quite overpowering.  I have some sachets of vanilla sugar, bought on holiday in France, with one being just about 1 tbsp.  If this is not available then substitute granulated sugar and a very small amount of vanilla extract, one or two drops maximum.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Grilled Figs & Peaches
(Serves 6 – 6 figs & 6 peaches/nectarines)

1 fresh fig per person (or 2 smaller ones)
1 fresh peach or nectarine per person
25 g unsalted butter
½tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp vanilla sugar
or
1 tbsp granulated sugar & 1 or 2 drops vanilla extract
½tsp orange flower water
To serve:
50 g pistachio nuts, chopped
Crème fraîche
Rose syrup, to drizzle – to taste or honey

1. Preheat the grill on a high heat – alternatively use an oven set to a high heat, at least 200oC/400oF/Gas 6.

2. Carefully cut the figs with a cross shape as if quartering them but do not cut righ through to the bottom and then gently press each fig.  They should look like four petalled flowers.

3.  Cut the peaches or nectarines into halves or quarters, depending on size, removing the stones.

4.  Place the opened figs and peach/nectarine pieces in a snugly fitting single layer in a heatproof dish.

5.  Melt the butter in a small saucepan or in the microwave in a glass microwave proof bowl or jug.  Stir in the cinnamon, sugar and orange flower water until the sugar has dissolved.  If you are using rose water rather than syrup, as in the original recipe, add it at this point (½tsp should be enough).  Stir well and baste the figs and peaches/nectarines.

6.  Place under the hot grill or into the oven for just a few minutes.  The fruit should warm through slightly and the skins should start to blister from the heat.  Beware leaving too long, especially if oven cooked, as the fruit can become over soft and could also burn.

7.  Serve immediately giving each person two figs and one peach or nectarine (either two or four pieces depending on how they have been cut.   Add a generous spoonful of crème fraîche and pour over the brown cooking juices  and a drizzle of rose syrup (if you have not used rose water in the cooking mixture) or honey.  Finally sprinkle over some chopped green pistachio nuts.

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The addition of orange and mint to the mixture makes this couscous recipe both colourful and refreshingly delicious.  It has a summery look and taste, although it originally appeared in a winter magazine and would be perfect served as part of a summer buffet or BBQ.  It was originally designed to be served with Moroccan Style Marinaded Lamb Steaks which would be perfect cooked outdoors, although I grilled them in the kitchen.  There is already a recipe for the much less sweet Coriander & Chickpea Couscous Salad on this site, using preserved lemon and flavoured with fresh coriander.

The original recipe came from the Jan/Feb 2011 issue of the Tesco free instore magazine and there is also a link to Moroccan Lamb Chops with Couscous online.  The couscous recipe below is my own variation with slightly adjusted quantities and the addition of a tin of chick peas to make it more substantial. The original recipe included halved red peppers which were grilled alongside the meat and then added to the couscous mixture, but I simply used a diced ungrilled red pepper.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Orange Couscous
(Serves 4)

3 oranges
250g/8oz couscous
handful mint leaves – reserve a little for final garnish
50g/2oz black olives
1tbsp olive oil
1 red pepper
1 x 400g tin chick peas
150ml/¼ pt boiling water
Salt & freshly ground black pepper

1.   Peel two oranges and remove all of the white pith.  Holding the oranges over a bowl to catch any juice, slice them between the membranes with a sharp knife and carefully divide into segments.  Once the segments have been removed squeeze any remaining juice from the orange membranes before discarding.

2.  Cut the remaining orange in half and squeeze out the juice, adding it to any already collected.

3.  Drain and rinse the chick peas.

4.  Halve, deseed and finely slice the red pepper and cut into small pieces of around 1 inch/2.5cm. Alternatively the pepper can be grilled alongside the meat, as in the original recipe, and then sliced and stirred into the couscous mixture at step 7.

5.  Place the couscous in a heatproof bowl along with the chick peas, red pepper pieces and the olive oil.  Pour over all the orange juice plus the boiling water.

6.  Cover and allow it to stand for 5 minutes, until the couscous has absorbed the liquids.

7.  Chop the mint and gently stir most of it into the couscous along with the orange segments and the black olives.  Be careful not to break up the orange pieces.  Season well to taste.

8.  Serve the meat on a bed of fruity couscous, scattered with a little extra chopped mint.

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This simple flavour rub for a lamb steak or chop is full of the summer warmth of North African spices: cumin, paprika and coriander. Perhaps then in November, once the nights start to draw in, it is a good way to bring back Mediterranean holiday flavour memories that are by now receding into the past.  It is almost too simple a recipe to add here but I have been exploring different marinade recipe ideas recently: for pork especially but also for chicken and lamb so wanted to add this as a stand alone item.  The original recipe was for marinaded chop with a delicious minty/fruity couscous but I have divided the recipe into two posts, with the couscous to follow next.  Both recipes stand alone, of course … but they were delicious together.

The recipe comes from a winter (Jan/Feb 2011) issue of the Tesco free instore magazine. In the original the spice rub marinade is simply rubbed onto the meat just prior to cooking, but to get a better depth of flavour it is much better if left throughout the day or overnight.  The recipe is delicious if served with Orange Couscous, its original accompaniment.  I quickly grilled the lamb steak on a George Foreman grill, but it could be grilled conventionally or pan fried as in the original recipe.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Moroccan Style Marinaded Lamb Steaks
(Serves 4)

4 thick lamb chops or steaks (alternatively use chicken or pork)
2tbsp olive oil
1tsp ground cumin
large pinch paprika
1tsp ground coriander
Salt & ground black pepper

1.   Wipe the lamb steaks and place in a dish.

2.  Sprinkle over the the spices, add a little salt and pepper and then drizzle over the olive oil.

3.  Gently turn the chops around in the spicy mixture using fingers or a fork then cover and leave the flavours to develop.  Ideally this should be throughout the day or overnight.

4.  Using as much of the spicy marinade as possible, grill the chops or steaks under a preheated hot grill for about four minutes each side, or a little long if preferred, but until the lamb is cooked to your preference.  Alternatively they can be gently pan fried for a similar length of time in a hot frying pan with a little additional olive oil if needed.  A George Foreman grill can also be used.

5. When cooked, the meat can be covered with foil to keep warm while the couscous mixture is being finished.  The meat can either be served in one piece or cut into strips or chunks.

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Chorba is a Moroccan spicy vegetable and pasta soup flavoured with the traditional North African spice mix Ras el-Hanout, which translates as ‘top of the shop’.  There are many versions of this spice mixture and each spice merchant has their own, sometimes containing up to one hundred different ingredients. I have already added details on the combination I use to make Ras el-Hanout.  It can be bought ready made, of course, but if you are like me and have a good selection of individual spices in your cupboard it is not difficult to make.  The only ingredient I had to buy was the rose petals, which I found in a local Turkish supermarket.  As far as I am concerned this warming and filling vegetarian soup is definitely as good as any plated evening meal, especially in the colder months.  A decent sized bowlful is adequate for me, but for larger appetites it could be served before a light main course such as a salad or in a much smaller quantity before a more substantial main course.

The recipe comes from the book on my shelf with the honour of having the longest title: The Complete Illustrated Food & Cooking of Africa & the Middle East: A Fascinating Journey Through the Rich & Diverse Cuisines of Morocco, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Turkey & Lebanon by Josephine Bacon and Jenni Fleetwood, bought after I felt I could no longer hang on to the copy I had found in the library.  So many interesting and different ideas from Africa, which is after all a very big place so I would expect a huge variety.  Even though there are some unusual ingredients most of the recipes do not appear to be completely impossible to attempt.  Certainly with this recipe I had everything I needed to hand.  I have made very few adjustments to the original recipe: slightly less clove, half the quantity of celery (as my husband isn’t all that keen) and a tin of tomatoes in place of fresh ones (though both given here as an either/or).  The finishing touches were a swirl of plain yoghurt (always in the fridge), fresh coriander (currently in a pot by the back door) and some crusty bread.  I did not have the Moroccan loaf recommended but we had a crusty seeded pide loaf from the bakery at our local Turkish foodshop which produces wonderful bread.   If you can find an ethnic style flatbread, or even some warmed pitta bread, they would be perfect.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Chorba with Ras el-Hanout & Noodles
(Serves 4)

3-4tbsp olive oil
2-3 whole cloves
2 onions (or 1 very large)
1 crushed garlic clove
1 butternut squash
2 celery sticks, scrubbed and chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
8 large ripe tomatoes
or
1 x 400g tin of plum tomatoes (if using decrease amount of stock or water – see recipe)
1tsp sugar
1tbsp tomato purée (optional)
1-2tsp Ras el-Hanout
½tsp ground turmeric
large handful chopped fresh coriander (reserve a few leaves to garnish)
2-2½ pints vegetable stock (adjust amount if using tomatoes – see recipe)
or
1tsp-1tsp vegetable stock powder, made up with 2-2½ water/tinned tomatoes
1½oz sheet of egg noodles, broken up a little
Salt & ground black pepper
Yoghurt to serve

1.  Peel and de-seed the squash and cut into chunks. Place in a heavy pan with the olive oil, cloves, onion, crushed garlic, celery and carrots.  Fry gently together until they just start to brown.

2.  Stir in the chopped tomatoes or the chopped up contents of the tin of tomatoes and the sugar.  Cook gently for about 5 minutes.

3.  Add the tomato purée, Ras el-Hanout, turmeric and chopped fresh coriander.  Pour in the stock or add the stock powder and water.

4.  Bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered for 30-40minutes.   The vegetables should be very tender and the liquid reduced a little.

5.  The soup can either be puréed until completely smooth or left chunky with a thinner sauce.  I compromised, liquidising half the soup to thicken the sauce whilst still leaving some chunks.

6.  Return the puréed soup to the pan, add the broken noodles and cook for 8-10 minutes until the pasta is soft.

7.  Season to taste and spoon into soup bowls.  Add a swirl of yoghurt to each portion and garnish with a fresh coriander leaf or two.  Serve with crusty bread.

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Some time ago I added a recipe to this site for Cucumber Bread and Butter Pickle.  Put simply, this is a pickle to eat with bread and butter, perhaps alongside some cold meat or cheese.  (I actually enjoy it on its own in a sandwich.)  The original recipe was a fairly traditional one and shortly afterwards I added a second version with coriander seeds which gave a citrus flavour to the pickle. (Well at least I think coriander seed tastes a bit lemony!)  Here is a third version: different again, this time with a spicy bite from the chilli and mustard seeds and called American style, though I am not quite sure why.  I love this one, but next time will make sure I have washed off the salt a little more thoroughly.  The first batch was fine but the second needed either an extra wash or perhaps I should have used a little less salt – it was rather too salty for my taste. The salting is essential as without this step, which draws out the excess water in the cucumber, the pickle would go mouldy.  All of the cucumber based bread and butter pickles are worth making in the summer months when cucumbers are plentiful, but a smaller quantity can be made at any time of the year, especially if you can find a good offer on the market.  Adjust the chilli according to taste: I added a very small one the first time but find I am increasing the quantity with each batch I make.  Just a word about the vinegar: this version uses cider vinegar but another type such as wine or malt can be substituted, however it should be at least 5% proof in order for the recipe to be successful.  If you substitute malt vinegar the distilled clear type will better preserve the bright colours of the ingredients.

The recipe comes from Pam Corbin and the spin off series from River Cottage, River Cottage bites.  I scribbled down the ingredients from the television and am pretty sure they are right.  I expect the full recipe is in one of the two River Cottage volumes that Pam has written but I am not sure.  Now I just have to decide which recipe to make each time!

A note on how to dry the salted cucumber and onion: Tip rinsed items into the centre of a clean tea towel, gather the corners together and making sure there are no gaps for the cucumber and onion to fly out, take outdoors and shake by flicking your arm downwards, towards the ground.  This is Pam’s method demonstrated in the series but has been our family trick for drying lettuce years before the invention of salad spinners.  (Be sure to keep away from anything you could hit and try to avoid spraying the windows or the cat!)

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

American Style ‘Bread & Butter’ Pickle
(Makes 2-3 x 1lb jars)

1kg cucumber
1 medium sized onion
3-4tbsp salt (sea salt recommended if available)
300ml cider vinegar (must be 5%proof – see note above)
200g granulated sugar
1tsp ground turmeric
1tsp celery seeds
2tbsp white mustard seeds
1 chopped red chilli (size to taste – removing the seeds & membranes will make it milder)

1.  Peel the cucumbers, cut off the ends, quarter lengthways and slice into 3-4mm thick slices.  Peel and chop the onion fairly small pieces (no larger than the pieces of cucumber).  Mix the cucumber and onion pieces together in a non metallic bowl.

2.  Sprinkle over the salt, gently toss through the cucumber and onion and leave for 2 hours.

3.  Rinse the cucumber and onion well in icy water. Taste check the cucumber and rinse again if it is too salty.  To dry see note above.

4.  Wash the jars well and sterilise them.  I usually do this by filling the jars with boiling water and putting the lids in a bowl of boiling water.  I pour away the water just before filling each jar and immediately take the lid from the bowl and screw it on.

5.  Place the vinegar into a saucepan that will be large enough to eventually take all the ingredients. Add the sugar, turmeric, celery seeds, white mustard seeds and chopped chilli.

6.   Heat gently so that the sugar has dissolved, stir to combine and bring to the boil.

7.   Add the cucumber and onion, stir and bring back to the boil.  Cook for 3-4 minutes.  It needs this long to destroy any bacteria which could cause the pickle to deteriorate. Any longer and the pickle will be less crisp.

8.  Pot while still hot into the pre-prepared sterilised jars. Screw on the lids well and then turn upside down until cool, which helps with the seal, after which they can be labelled.  This can be eaten immediately but also keeps well.

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When faced with a choice at the French patisserie counter it’s always difficult.  I have already posted a recipe for Tarte au Citron so now, as promised some time ago, here is Tarte aux Poires.  Both are candidates for the title of our favourite, but the jury is still out…  It is a crisp pastry shell filled with cooked pear halves, a delicious soft almondy filling and a top scattered with toasted split almonds and is a relatively straightforward recipe.  Arranging the pears decoratively is not too difficult, just a bit fiddly, but it is worth it for both the positive comments of guests and being able to produce something to keep the family happy!  Another often seen title for Tarte aux Poires is Pear Frangipane Tart, the word frangipane relating to the addition of ground almonds. (More information about this can be found with the recipe for Mincemeat & Almond Delight).  The original recipe I used was called by another relatively common name, Pear Pie Bourdaloue, but the many variations of spelling make the meaning of the name difficult to trace.  Some sources credit a Parisien baker called Coquelin, owner of La Pâtisserie Bourdaloue named after the street in which it stands, who in 1909 baked the first Tarte Bourdaloue aux Poires.  Whatever its origins, however, the numerous recipes for this classic french pear and almond tart all agree with us: it is delicious!

The original version of this recipe Tarte aux Poires comes from the French recipe website Meilleur du chef which is also available translated into English where it is called Cuisine French.  The recipe translation is not perfect – for example it suggests the dish is finished with ‘blond coating’ (nappage blond). This appears to be a product commercially available containing sugar, water and a little apricot flavouring, which gives a slightly sticky finish to the tart.  I substituted a sugar and water glaze, which as far as I can see gives a similar result but is not absolutely necessary.  On many occasions have forgotten to add it or have simply run out of time.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Tarte aux Poires Bourdaloue (Pear Frangipane Tart/Pear Pie Bourdaloue)

Shortcrust Pastry – enough to line a 20cm/8inch flan case
100g butter
100g sugar
100g ground almonds
20g flour
40g whipping cream – single if whipping not available
2 eggs
1 or 2 tins pears (enough to give six halves of roughly equal size)
or
Gently poach three whole sweet pears and cut into six halves, removing the cores.
Split almonds to decorate
Granulated sugar dissolved in a little water to make a light syrup (optional)

1.  Preheat oven to 180oC/350oF/Gas 4.

2.  Line the flan tin with shortcrust pastry, prick with a fork, fill with dried beans and bake blind for about 10 minutes until the pastry starts to set and colour.  Remove beans and set to one side.

3.  Reduce the oven heat to 150oC/300oF/Gas 2

4.  To make the almond cream filling cream together the butter and sugar until it is pale and thick.

5.  Stir in the ground almonds.  Add the eggs one at a time.  Beat well.

6.  Mix in the cream and flour and then beat well to fully combine.

7.  Spoon this almond cream mixture into the blind baked shell, making sure it is level as possible.

8.  Taking each pear half, carefully cut splits lengthways down each piece leaving each slice joined at the top.  Gently ease each half into a fan shape.

9.  Arrange each piece of pear evenly around the dish, carefully easing out the fan shapes.  Some dishes would allow the six pieces in a circle with the points towards the centre.  If the pears are fat and round in shape there may only be space for five pears in the circle in which case the sixth piece can go in the centre.  Gently fan out the pear pieces before you place them on top of the almond cream mixture taking care not to separate them at the point.

10. If not using the sweet coating: Scatter a small handful of split almonds over the tart.  The quantity is up to you – I like to be reasonably generous.  If you intend to add the sugar coating the split almonds are added at the end just before serving and should have been carefully toasted in the oven or under a hot grill.  They burn very quickly and need to be watched as they toast.  Once toasted remove from the tin onto a cold plate to cool.

11.  Bake the tart in a warm oven for 40 to 50 minutes and remove when the top of the tart is golden. The split almonds should be starting to colour but not burn. The low heat will allow the tart to colour slowly whilst the shortcrust pastry bakes thoroughly. The almond cream will rise a little and gradually brown.

12.  Allow the tart to cool.

13.  Optional coating: Dissolve about 2tsp sugar in a very little boiling water.  Alternatively this can be done in a microwave oven.  Brush over the surface of the finished pie for a slightly sticky finish.

14.  Finish the tart by sprinkling over the roasted split almonds.

15.  Serve with cream, ice cream or crème fraîche – or alternatively just as it is.  It makes a delicious dessert, cooled but not long from the oven and can also be served at tea time.  A really good dessert when entertaining, especially as it can be made a little in advance.

Alternatives:
Can be made as individual tarts containing one pear fan each.
Other fruits are often substituted for the pears: especially apricot, apple, plums and blueberries – near Christmas I often make Mincemeat & Almond Delight which is similar but with a sweet mincemeat based filling
Other ground nuts can be substituted for the almonds. Pistachio is particularly delicious and pale green in colour even when baked.

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