a good tart

I love a good tart.

Tarts are for hot days on the terrace, warm Summer nights… sitting around a table nibbling on crisp, flaky pastry adorned with fresh tomatoes and basil, and washing it all down with a cold glass of Rose.

In the colder months, it can be a warming slice of delicious saltiness – crisp and topped with the vegetables that I always seem to have in my fridge at this time of year: leeks, onions, mushrooms, spinach. Sprinkle in some hearty bacon pieces, grated Gruyere cheese, cream/yoghurt, garlic and herbs, and you have a seriously good tart on your table.

The tart of the moment in our house is this Winter version.

The market stalls are laden with leeks, onions, spinach and mushrooms and it’s a dish that makes for a delightful lunch or light dinner, served alongside a tossed green salad. It’s also a wonderful left-over served cold or slightly warmed in the oven.

Note: If you are like me and enjoy the flavours of a dish even more on day 2, I like to prepare the filling of this Winter tart the night before. Not only are the flavours of the leek, garlic, onion and bacon all beautifully melded together, it also makes it a super quick meal to prepare the next day if you have the bulk of the filling already sorted.

p.s. a small note on the word ‘tart’ as opposed to ‘quiche’. I personally just prefer the word – tart – or savoury tart to quiche, but I’ve often wondered if I was correct to use this term. I have since been told that I can use it… while a quiche is usually only savoury, a tart can be both, either a sweet version, or the savoury version with the egg ‘custard’ filling. And either of these become a pie when you add a pastry lid. Feel free to correct me if I am wrong!

p.p.s. our local market is full of apples right now, and for a quick, easy apple tart, simply scatter almond flour over pastry to thinly cover and place sliced apples, place about 6-8 knobs of butter and a generous sprinkling of sugar over the top, and bake until golden.

Winter Leek and Mushroom Tart

ingredients:

1 x packet flaky pastry, 230g

(I have a confession to make. I have never made my own flaky pastry 🙄. When I make these tarts here in France, I always buy my pastry (‘pâte feuilletĂŠe’ in a packet of 230g) as it is very good. One day I’ll take the leap)

3 x eggs

200ml fresh cream or plain yoghurt

100ml full-cream or skim milk (I always have a little milk on hand to add to the egg and cream/yoghurt mixture if you don’t think it will be enough to cover the cooked vegetables spread over the tart base)

1-2 cups of grated Swiss Gruyere cheese (as you wish)

200g bacon pieces

1 x onion, chopped or sliced finely

3 x leeks washed and sliced thinly

12 (approx!) x mushrooms, sliced or quartered

option – a cup of blanched spinach if desired

olive oil

salt and pepper (note the mixture might already be salty from the bacon)

fresh or dried thyme to sprinkle on top

method:

Fry onion and leek in large pan over low/medium heat until golden (approx. 25-30 mins.

Pre-heat oven to 190-200 degrees Celsius (375 F/ gas mark 6) when onion/ leek is almost golden.

Add crushed garlic, mushrooms and bacon and fry till takes colour, stirring well.

Remove pan from heat.

Line a 28-30cm diameter tart tin* with baking paper, place pastry and scallop the edges.

Sprinkle grated cheese evenly over tart pastry.

Spoon the cooked vegetables over pastry, making sure evenly covered.

If adding blanched spinach or silverbeet, layer over top.

Whisk eggs with cream/ yoghurt – and add salt and pepper as desired.

Pour egg mixture over pastry/ vegetables, tilting and turning the tin to ensure that it spreads evenly over mix.

Sprinkle over the thyme, and a little extra grated cheese if desired.

Place in middle of oven and cook for 35-40 minutes, or until golden (check after first 25 minutes to see how it looks).

Et voila, Bon appetit!

Kat xoxo

Pssst. Speaking of wine🍷. We’re a house that is happy to drink Ben’s Rose all year round – and always like serving a chilled pale pink glass with this dish. But if you’re not, you could always serve this with a crisp white wine (Ben’s is pretty damn good!) or a chilled, slightly sweet fortified French wine like a Rivesaltes (this one is also pretty damn good!).

*N.B. I don’t use porcelain or glass because the pastry doesn’t cook so well, sometimes turning soggy

Time for a perfect chocolate cake

HipstamaticPhoto-570725398.089199

First up. Let me explain why this cake.  Anyone who knows me knows I hate dessert.  Not hate exactly, but if it comes to ordering the Tarte aux Pommes or Crème BrĂťlĂŠe at a restaurant, I prefer looking up the cheese selection.  Even better, let me flick a few pages back and pore over the starters again: grilled squid, pan-fried scallops, croquetas… Imagining these small plates takes me back to the anticipatory thrill of seating yourself down at a table, excited by the unknown – ready to open that first bottle and savour that first sip.

chocolate

But!  I have a huge love for chocolate (why doesn’t everyone serve a discreet square of dark chocolate with coffee like they do in France?) – and many years ago, to mark a very important occasion, I stumbled upon this recipe.

To be honest, it was the first time I’d ever made a cake.  For the first time in my life, I had a sincere desire to bake because our baby Lilas (our first and only child) was about to turn one.  It was an important, necessary task.  There HAD to be a cake!

So here’s the recipe, and apart from reducing the cooking time and adding more chocolate than the original recipe, we have served this same cake for many birthdays since Lilas’ ‘premier anniversaire’.

(p.s. I have not ever since added the brandy or coffee.  For me, spare the confusion, I adore savouring each one on their own)

(p.p.s. If you are a lover of wine like me, you’ll find this cake is a beautiful companion to wine, be it a sticky, sweet Rivesaltes-style dessert wine, a lovely red, a fresh white and why not, a glass of bubbles.  There’s a pretty damn good one that I like to match it with too…

VW cremant

 

(adapted from Stephanie Alexander’s Chocolate and Almond Cake)

ingredients:

140g dark chocolate (70% cocoa or higher )

100g unsalted butter

100g ground (flour) almonds

100g castor sugar

3 eggs, separated

icing sugar (optional for sprinkling)

method:

Preheat oven to 160 degrees Celsius

Line a 18cm baking tin with baker paper

Melt the chocolate on the stove in a double-boiler/ bain-marie

When chocolate has melted add the butter

Stir together when melted and then add almond flour and sugar, mix well

Remove from heat

Lightly beat egg yolks and stir into mixture

Beat egg whites until firm and then fold slowly into mixture, pour into tin

IMG_5812

Bake for 25-30 minutes for a softish centre  (the original recipe says 40-45 minutes but I find the cake is dry and too cake-like)

Cool in tin and then remove

Serve with a dusting of icing sugar or surrounded by fresh strawberries or raspberries …and some sweet or sparkling wine 😺

Et voila!

Kat xoxo

not Zzzzing, Bzzzing

buzzing

I feel like I’ve emerged from a big sleep.

But I haven’t been sleeping.

I haven’t been nodding off, I’ve been just temporarily out of action.

My mind though, has been in overdrive and whirring and whirring.  It’s been having a huge time, chock full of stuff – crap, weird stuff, joy, confusion, peace, weird stuff – buzzing like the beautiful bumblebees around me in the garden right now.

image

But as Spring gets into its step, I am starting too as well.  I can get up, get out, bloody well brushing off the dirt from the last scrape.  The mind is buzzing and ready to clear out the crap.

image from 'Old Tom's Holiday', by Leigh Hobbs,  ABC Books, 2002
felt something like this…

Just one of those little chunks of life that reminds you (again) that it’s good to have life (again).

Please don’t chuck.  I’m sorry for the harp music, the chubby little cherubs and the waffle – sounds like I’ve lost it (again), but I mean it.

And stuff it, they’re flying right above me now with the bumblebees.

The Vigneron at work

squeeze those babies
squeeze those babies

That’s it.  The grapes are all in and the Vigneron is content.  No more 24/7 reading of satellite images and predicted weather patterns on numerous websites, he can relax and is relieved that this region has been pretty bloody lucky with its weather.

The grapes on the vines looked great and ripened slowly resulting in fruit with a lower baume and high maturity.  So, enfin, 2013 looks like a good year!  The man is happy.

Autumn vines, La Liviniere
Autumn vines, La Liviniere

Autumn vines 2

I came down from the hill rather early a couple of mornings ago and had a peek at what was going on in the cellar.  I love the smell in there.  Takes me back to when we met.  OK squeaky violins time – yes, harvest time is special for me, it was during a harvest, all those years ago, that the V and I met.  I was in my hometown, Adelaide and he was ‘the Frenchie’, with little English (come on, admit it), clad in King Gee work gear, a divine Roman nose, working long vintage hours for a winemaker friend – that swept me off my feet.

Fast forward a decade or more, and I am still smitten when I smell the tanks of fermenting grapes in the cellar (oh to bottle this in a jar, a quick whiff and happy married couple all over again…).

‘Les Vendanges’ is a dynamic time and as I’ve said many times before, the village comes alive when the grapes are coming in.  A whole year’s work is reaping its rewards and the old tractors are out on every village road, chugging in full force with trailers laden with glistening grapes.  Even our baby was born on the first day of an Aussie harvest…

But let me get back to where I started.  I was in the village early one morning this week and called in on the V to see what was going on in his cellar.  The red grapes are all resting in their tanks and every couple of days they’re  ‘pumping-over‘.  After a month of this, they will put it all through the press.  One more step towards a delightful, drinkable juice.

Here’s some images for you from that morning, in and out of the cellar…

hq bn

ben at work

Benji in the cellar
Benji and Yves

grenache

grenache!
juicy Grenache

nose

gren a gren bthe Grenache resting in wooden 'tank'

the Grenache resting in wooden ‘tank’

And over the road…

the neighbours opposite
the neighbours opposite, Domaine Arnaud

yves 2
…another neighbour, another Yves – of Chateau Faiteau, the cousin of Domaine Arnaud…(in a village, it’s all family)

Eloise
Eloise, downtown La Liviniere

downtown La Liviniere

Eloise and Fanny
Eloise and Fanny

nap

heart door

hearts

laundry wall

aut col
…and the ride back up the hill to home

autumn col 1

picking

Ambroise emptying 'la hotte'
Ambroise emptying ‘la hotte’

Picking at last.

There’s been stops and starts… and now it’s all GO to get the grapes in.

We’re harvesting three weeks later than previous years, but it’s shaping up to be a pretty good ‘recolte’ … there’s a charged atmosphere and smiles all round.

I’ll fill you in on this harvest over a few posts, but here’s a selection of pics from today, in and out of our village.

(you may note some ‘fx’ in the images – my dear old camera is on the blink so what you see are the results of lumping around with a clunky electronic rectangle)

woke to to the noise of the harvester outside the kitchen window
woke to to the noise of the harvester outside the kitchen window
tent-picking
tent-picking
checking out the noise... a tractor cruising down the driveway
checking out the noise… a tractor cruising down the driveway

picking 1

pick cal1
here comes the sun

cal pick3

empty 2

empty 3

empty 4

cal 7
house on the prairie

pick cal 2Meanwhile, back in the village…

ca 4

chat arnaud
clearing out remains of the ‘pressoir’ (press)

ca 3

the Vigneron having a spray
the Vigneron having a spray
...and the ladies are still out checking the 'raisins'
…and the ladies are still out checking the ‘raisins’