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 feuilletée’ 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 Brûlée 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

some sights #7 – pics from the South!

Hey, hey it’s time for some more sights from around our ‘hood!

I'm always passing this old 'cave co-operative'  - the date on the facade always reminds me of some special people back home, and now there's always this lovely old Renault '4L'
I’m always passing this old ‘cave co-operative’, ‘Costos Roussos‘ – the date on the facade always reminds me of some special people back home(!), and now there’s always this lovely old Renault ‘4L’

This was a first for me...  the ladies in the market vans had old quilts and blankets protecting their produce on a recent market morning.  It was below freezing and bloody cold!
This was a first for me… the ladies in the market vans had old quilts and blankets protecting their produce on a recent market morning. It was below freezing and bloody cold

... and on this moring it was -4 degrees
… and on this morning it was -4 degrees

It's starting to snow, approaching Chateau Violet - a beautiful old wine property near us
It’s starting to snow, approaching Chateau Violet – a beautiful old wine property near us

Saturday morning at the supermarche... preparing delicious 'Aligot'  - yes, a delightfully light, refreshing dish, composed of cheese, cream, potatoes, cheese, garlic, butter and then some more cheese
Saturday morning at the supermarche… preparing delicious ‘Aligot‘ – yes, a delightfully light, refreshing dish, composed of cheese, cream, potatoes, cheese, garlic, butter and then some more cheese.  Come on, it IS light – really!

Wine of the Month in our house- 'Boulevard Napoleon' with local smallgoods (where are you Dad?!)
Wine of the Month in our house:
the recently bottled ‘Boulevard Napoleon‘ with local smallgoods (where are you Dad?!)

the local hospital for the old metalheads
the local hospital for the old metalheads

Sunday night and pooch is hangin' at the pizza van
Sunday night and pooch is hangin’ at the pizza van

hot drinks at the cafe after a playing in the park...but check out the tele, the kids are getting clued up on winemaking
Hot drinks at the cafe after playing in the park
…but check out the tele! – the kids are getting clued-up on winemaking

downtown Narbonne
Downtown Narbonne

Carcassonne market
Carcassonne market

butcher collage 2a
Meat, anyone? Delicacies at the Carcassonne market… lungs, heart, tripe. Note: bottom right in the tripe corner, the butcher has his Rose ready and chilling

...and another glass of Rose.  ONe of the many perks of living around here is the access to delicious, cheap wines served from tap straight out of the wall of our cave co-ops - simply BYO your own bottle
…and another glass of Rose.
One of the many perks of living around here is the access to delicious, cheap wines served from tap straight out of the wall of our cave co-ops – simply BYO your own bottle…

I love this - it's Pierre the baker's price list at the Olonzac market
I love this – it’s Pierre the baker’s price list at the Olonzac market

check out the airbrush work on the hot rod... a Renault 4L van
Check out the airbrush work on the hot rod
… a Renault 4L van

our local school celebrates 'Carnaval' each year, where everybody accompanies the school kids on floats in a tour of the village
Our school celebrates ‘Carnaval‘ each year, where everybody accompanies the school kids on floats in a tour of the village

A few things from last weekend's 'Vide-Grenier' (village garage sale):  some keyrings and an old "Science et Vie' magazine from 1944.Ashamed to say I get obssessed with many things, advertising keyrings from the 60s is one of them!  And I've just discovered there is even a name for it - 'Copoclephliie' (!!)
A few things from last weekend’s ‘vide-grenier’ (village garage sale): some keyrings and an old “Science et Vie’ magazine from 1944.
Ashamed to say I get obssessed with many things, advertising keyrings from the 60s for eg! And hang on, I’ve even discovered there’s a name for it – ‘Copoclephliie‘ (!!)

my favourite view coming out of Olonzac
my favourite view coming out of Olonzac

...and a favourite close to home, this wall in our hamlet
…and a favourite close to home, this wall in our hamlet

favourites, favourites, I think I have a thing about apples?
Favourites, favourites… now I promise this one wasn’t planned!  I think I have a thing about apples? (you started it Mum!)

on the road, yesterday
on the road, yesterday

Short, back and sides in lovely Toulouse
Short, back and sides in lovely Toulouse

the old 'manege' (carousel), downtown Toulouse
the old ‘manege’ (carousel), Toulouse

Phew, I hope you got through that!

xo

a Naked tasting… time for some wine

cadavres on the table
'cadavres' (what Benji calls empties) on the table

Thought you were going to see a cheeky image of naughty bits??

Sorry, no, it’s Summer and this is often what our table looks like the morning after…

Glasses are cleared but the bottles are waiting to be packed and emptied at the village recycling bin (and how the old mesdames and messieurs of the village, seated on their bench, must love counting how many wines that Aussie girl manages to consume).

one of my favourite postcards!
...well it's not exactly the 'dames du village', but one of my favourite postcards. Can't bring myself to asking the real local ladies if I can take their photo!

It’s now past the middle of August and I can’t believe how quickly Lilas’ school holidays have passed, how many interesting people have stayed or called by,  and how much wine and food we’ve consumed.  It seems like a non-stop degustation here sometimes, with the Beroccas coming out first thing in the morning, but things will certainly slow down now that ‘les vendanges’ (harvest time) are approaching and Benji prepares the cellars for receiving grapes.  Soon he’ll be working a seven-day week and mostly absent from our daily timetable.  It’s an intense time until all grapes have been picked and are safe in the tanks or going through the press, so it’s good to make the most of it with family and friends time in this heat.

The bottles photographed above are the empties from an evening with some of the ‘Naked’ crew.  Joe from Naked and is family came to visit, one warm and windy night and an informal tasting turned into a bottle fest (with Lilas and the kids meanwhile transforming the living room into a Playmobil playground) with everyone trying the whites and reds from Benji’s range together with local cheeses, bread and mountain lamb (big merci to our friends Vincent and Isabelle who were staying that week and gave us a huge help in the kitchen – the bbq’d lamb was a treat!).   It’s always great to meet new people around a table of wine, glass in hand and every Naked tasting we’ve had has been full of laughs with interesting people from all parts.

a Naked tasting at home
a Naked tasting at home. Thanks Joe, Anna et al!

Benji's labels for Naked
The prototypes for Benji's Naked Wines range - a collboration between Vincent and Nick

You’re probably wondering what on earth Naked is.  It’s a company in the UK called Naked Wines and Benji makes and sells wine with them.  It’s been just over a year since the collaboration started and we’ve met so many great people – customers and other winemakers – and had lots of fun tasting the range over dinners, lunches and informal evenings like this one.  I know it sounds like a plug – and it is!  But seriuosly, all puns aside, it is an energetic company run by young people with enthusiasm and a love for wine, and fuelled by a community of customers – people buying and tasting wine from anywhere in the world and then sharing their experiences online.  Benji’s range has done well and we’ve learnt a lot from the forums and the feedback people have offered.  Thanks to everyone, Rowan, Joe, Amy, Sam, Fran, Simon, Frankie, Kevin, everyone, for the ride so far!

fun and wine

to market to market… part 1

no. 7, Le Marche, illustrators G. Bonmarti & G. Michel, OGE-HACHETTE

One of the great things about living where we do, is the access to good produce.  The Mediterranean climate allows for almost anything to be grown, and more and more I’m trying to buy locally from people I get to know at the local village markets.

glorious produce on offer at the market

The Olonzac market, one of the biggest in our area, is held every Tuesday morning until about 1pm.  You can find almost anything:  fruit, vegies, pastries, breads, meats, fish, flowers, fresh coffee, cheeses, olives, local honey, wine, ready-made asian dishes from the guy with his own personal dvd collection on loop in his van (Lilas’ favourite)… those hard to find ingredients for ‘exotic’ cuisine such as lemongrass, coriander and chilies and then there’s your zippers, hats, bras, oversized undies, slippers, kitchen utensils, Indian dresses, incense, second-hand books, army surplus clothing, jewellery… it’s endless.

market selection
the usual and some exotic surprises at the market

This market is growing in size each year and in full Summer has traffic jams of people, carts and pushers down the bottleneck streets – you should try pushing a pusher through this mass…

There’s Pierre with his bread.  You can spot him from a mile off, with his old van and black wool beret.  He’s like a character from a film – and his organic bread is of the old, sourdough rustic style.  He takes his time, nearly always a big smile on his face and an open pot of honey on his table to spread on his breakfast ‘pain’.   And there’s always his thermos of hot coffee and tin mug ready for dipping.  Pierre’s bread is the sort that you can keep for a week – not at all your light, airy baguette, but a full, wholesome loaf that is just divine toasted with butter and Vegemite.

Pierre and his pains
Pierre and les pains

Just up from Pierre is Laetitia, the young girl who a lot of the year has only her free-range eggs to sell.  She has a tiny stand but always many people jostling around her.  Throughout the year she sells apples, onions, potatoes, and in full summer has mountains of cheap tomatoes, nectarines, grapes, peaches and a queue leading back for miles.  You have to be quick – her tomatoes can sell out by 9.30am.

free-range eggs chez Laetitia
Laetitia’s free-range eggs

Towards the roundabout on your left are the people selling THAT saucisson (salami)…  ‘Mont Charvin’.  The one that costs an arm and a leg, full of beautiful chunks of bright green pistachios.  It’s a small investment buying even just one of their products, but once you’ve tasted the difference, you can’t buy supermarket salami again. In general I buy a lot less saucisson now, but boy do we enjoy the ’50 centimes slices’ when they’re around.  By chance, I got to meet Jacques, the maker of this wonderful product the other day.  I was thrilled to be able to tell him how much we loved his ‘salted meats’ and hear his story of how he and his brother-in-law, once butchers in Paris, settled down south and built a company from scratch offering a range of products made in the Savoie region of France, using no additives or preservatives.

the selection of 'salaisons' chez Mont Charvin
Jacques slicing a sample from the selection of ‘salaisons’ -salted meats

But before I stop by the saucisson stand, I head quickly for Valerie’s before she runs out of vegetables…

(to be continued, part 2)