Monday, 21 May 2012

Spinach, Pea and Broad Bean Tart

I've been wanting to make a tart for ages, especially with all the lovely spring greens in season at the moment. With that in mind I nipped down to the various veg shops in the village the other day with a hankering for asparagus to use as the star ingredient in a lovely seasonal tart. Alas, however, it was not meant to be. There were none to be found and I had to make do with what needed using up; lots of spinach, frozen peas and some frozen broad beans.

First you'll need to line a lightly greased baking tin/pie dish with shortcrust pastry. You can make your own using the instructions here or buy it ready made. Don't worry about having to patch bits up as most of it is hidden and I think a rustic edge always looks far more appetising. This then needs blind baking for around 20minutes, as demonstrated here.

You will need:
A tin lined with shortcrust pastry, blind baked
3 eggs
100 ml double cream
Large bunch spinach
100 g frozen peas
100g frozen broad beans
200g grated cheddar
Grated parmesan
Pinch of salt, pepper and grated nutmeg

1) While the pastry is blind baking wash the spinach and add to a pan with a drop of olive oil. Add the peas and broad beans, then cover and let cook on a very low heat for 10mins, then drain.

2) Whisk the eggs with the cream and some Parmesan cheese until light and fluffy. Add a touch of salt, white pepper and nutmeg and mix well.

3) Remove the semi cooked pie shell from the oven, spread two thirds of your grated cheese over the pie shell, then layer the spinach mix over the cheese. Sprinkle with more cheese. Pour the egg and cream mixture evenly over the entire pie. Go mad and grate some more cheese over the top. Ah go on, you only live once.

4) Place in the oven at 180°C for 25-30 minutes.

This tart was really rich and crammed full of tasty veg. It was enjoyed both hot and cold and lasted a couple of days of snacks and dinners. It really hit the spot. I can't wait to make more tarts now I've got this basic recipe. What are your favourite tart fillings?

Basic Skills: Shortcrust Pastry

After making shortcrust pastry for the first time in ages, I thought I'd share the recipe with you as part of my Basic Skills posts. This batch was really successful; resulting in a crisp, rich pastry case for my Spinach, Pea and Broad Bean Tart.

You will need: 

8 oz of flour 
4 oz of butter (cut into cubes and at room temperature) 
Pinch of salt 
3 tbsp of milk
1 egg

1) Sieve the flour into a large bowl, and add a pinch of salt.  Make a hole in the centre of the flour, crack the egg into it and scatter the cubes of butter around the edge
2) Add up to three tablespoons of milk and then start working all the ingredients into dough. Work the dough for about three minutes, roll into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and leave chill in the fridge.
3) This is ideal for both sweet and savoury tarts. Just roll out on a lightly floured surface (make sure your hands are cold to prevent getting into a sticky mess). Cover your (lightly greased) pie dish in it, patch up any holes so your filling doesn't escape. Lightly prick the case all along the bottom with a fork.

4) To blind bake your case, tear off a large square of greaseproof paper and place on top. Fill you case with baking beans or failing that dried peas or lentils or whatever else you can lay your hands on. I've seen Heston use pennies so, after checking it was safe, I used teaspoons. I'm hoping to invest in some porcelain baking beans soon. Bake in the oven for 20mins

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Antonio's, Ormskirk

Last weekend Gav and I had some really good job-related news to celebrate and decided to do it in style (NB: for 'style', please read 'Ormskirk'). We meandered the streets for a short while with a half formed plan to go to 'Piri Piri' that neither of us were very excited about. It then started to rain and nothing had really captured our interest, plus most places were really busy and we'd have struggled to get a table having not booked. We were thinking of giving up and going home when we almost walked past a little place called 'Antonios' that neither of us had heard of or even noticed before.

On entering we were greeted by an excitable gent whom I presume is the eponymous owner. Despite our late arrival Antonio did his best to seat us, and even opened up a part of the restaurant that had been cleared away. It did mean we didn't exactly have the best seat in the house, but our surroundings were pleasant and the atmosphere was relaxed and jovial.

We were presented with some rather large laminated menus, which caused a minor problem when combined with the romantic tea light table setting. Yes, I proceeded to set fire to my menu. Luckily the rapidly expanding flame was spotted early and a full blown crisis was averted, much to the relief of my heavily blushing self.

I plumped for the Bruschetta Valter to start; after being severely disappointed by some I had sampled at a Frankie and Benny's recently, I had quite the craving for it. I also was aware that I was having a filling pasta for my main course and am well known for 'eyes-bigger-than-belly' syndrome, so I felt this would be just right. It really was. The tomatoes were fresh and juicy and the crumbled goats cheese made for a richer, more satisfying, salty topping, than your usual mozzarella. It tasted really authentic and I was so pleased with my choice. My interest was piqued and I couldn't wait for my main course.

My Farfalle Marinara arrived in timely fashion and seemed a meagre portion on first glance. However the trendy bowls they use have hidden depths and was jam packed with pasta and seafood. I do always seem to have a thing for 'action man bow-tie' pasta; I think sauce seems to cling to it nicely so each rouched morsel is packed with flavour. The predominant flavour in the dish was that of tuna; it almost seemed to be a tuna and white wine sauce. It was scrummy if a little retro; reminding me of my cold tuna pasta school dinner days. The clams, mussels and prawns were plentiful but did not really stand on their own taste-wise; masked by the garlicky tuna sauce. I do feel that our land locked surroundings mean that we miss out on the fresh 'specialness' of seafood those on the coast are lucky enough to enjoy. I'm yet to find a fantastic fishmonger that I can visit easily and would appreciate any recommendations you have. We prefer to order from a fish company that deliver, meaning you have to know what seafood you'll need in advance.
Anyway, I really enjoyed the dish, it was expertly cooked and well put together. I predict that this is probably not their very best dish, and so am excited to explore the rest of the menu.

For two starters/side dishes, two main courses and three alcoholic drinks we paid £28.40. What an absolute bargain for such authentic cuisine in unique and homely surroundings. We are so glad we stumbled across this place and will definitley be returning. I have a feeling it has potential to become something of a local favourite.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

My New Creative Blog

I've decided to start up a blog dedicated to my other big passion aside from cooking, which is that of arts and crafts.

The web address is so feel free to have a look. I've started off a creative journal that I will be documenting over there. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

O'Este, Ormskirk

Since February when I finished covering a maternity leave in a Reception class, I've been working in the same school's Y6 class part time. This was ideal for me as I desperately wanted to stay at the school and was excited about the challenge this post would bring. It also means that, when I'm not needed for supply on a Monday and Tuesday, I get lovely long weekends to get all my work done and have time for weekday jaunts with sister dearest. Highlights of which include farm shop explorings, trips to Hobbycraft, and museum based fun. I know; we're very cool.

Picture courtesy of
So a couple of Mondays ago us two lady's of leisure were at a loose end and very hungry. We decided to try out a tapas place in Ormskirk I've been past a few times but never been it. I like the look of the dining area which is in sort of a conservatory next to the old brick building, and glances at the menu have intrigued me. It's called O'este and they bill themselves as a 'vibrant yet relaxed take on Mediterranean drinking and dining'.

We examined the menu before we went and drew up a list of our selections (told you we were cool) and were prepared to pay around £35-£40 for the 6 or 7 dishes we'd chosen.

The venue is easy to see and get to on foot, however due to Ormskirk's one way systems we found it hard to get to in the car. We ended up parked in a car park you had to pay for that was a couple of minutes way, because we didn't want to go too far and end up stuck on the one way roads and having to go all the way round. Upon arriving at the restaurant I saw that the car park was very cramped and I'd have probably struggled to get in and out of it anyway.

Picture courtesy of
We were greeted warmly by the waiter at the bar who allowed us to choose our table; we opted for window seats and enjoyed watching the world go by while waiting for our food. It was nicely busy for a weekday with people enjoying leisurely lunches with family and friends; adding to the overall warm and relaxed atmosphere.

When we got the menu's we were very pleasantly surprised to see that they have an offer on on Tuesdays where most of the tapas dishes are 3 for £8.95. I think this is only in the daytime; it's not quite clear on the website, but it was really excellent value; especially when we were willing to part with around 40 quid for our lengthy dinner.

We ordered and our dishes arrived all at the same time. We were a little perturbed by the waitress who put us off ordering an extra dish. We'd ordered 6 off the '3 for £8.95' menu, but fancied an extra dish of scallops while the rest were so cheap. However she said that we already had a lot of food and wouldn't need the extra dish. Now my sister and I may not look it, but we're big eaters and we know what we can manage when we're ravenous. We could definitely have eaten it but hey ho, it's an excuse to go back.

Highlights of the meal included the Paella Mixta which was chock full of vegetables, if not as good as Mother Chipmunks, and the Lancashire Black Pudding with saute potatoes in a mustard sauce. I thought the latter was an odd inclusion on the Mediterranean menu; maybe they're taking inspiration from Corrie's Bistro and their 'Lancashire Tapas' which I thought was genius when Ciaran came up with it. Anyway it was really delicious, especially the earthy sauce.

The Oven Baked Lamb Kebabs turned out to be just one kebab, but this may be because it was on the cheaper menu. It was well seasoned and juicy. The Patatas Bravas weren't traditional, having mushrooms in them and dollops of sour cream on the top. They were nicely spiced though with a lovely deep heat that kept my mouth tingling throughout.

The Chicken Liver Pate was a really nice texture, and the apple chutney complimented it really well. The only real disappointment was their Garlic Mushrooms in a Creamy White Wine Sauce which tasted really bland. However, this was meant to be served with goats cheese but my sister had requested this was omitted. I think the dish would have been much improved by this addition.

When it came to the bill there was another weird exchange with the waitress where she asked if we wanted her to leave us alone as I had my bank card ready on the table. It was a bit uncomfortable, but I do think it was a case of her being a bit harrased and busy rather than genuinely bad customer service.

The whole meal came to £17.90 as we just shared a jug of water to drink. How good value is that? We were really pleased and would definitly go again, as the food was of a good quality. I'd also like to try some of the dishes from the table d'hote menu too, which is also really reasonably priced.