Thursday, September 24, 2015

A Country Lunch: Beetroot Tart & Seasonal Kale Salad

Yesterday, the first day of autumn, was bright and clear - a huge blue sky, fluffy white wisps of fast moving clouds and strong sunshine. However it is evident from the chilly breezes coming through the open window that the sunshine isn't quite strong enough to completely erase the the snap in the air.  Summer has succeeded once more to Autumn in that epic aged old battle. 

This day last week, a similar sort of sunshine with a similar sort of air wrapped around me as I stood on a small patch of tall grass, in a gully between a very high old brick wall and a line of thick hedge, every inch of me wrapped up in a white protective suite as I waited for Louise to open the top of the smallish white house-shaped beehive in front of us.

I had the pleasure of attending a gathering at Deans Court, a nearly 600 year old estate set within the charming village of Wimborne.  This gathering, 'Honey & Harvest' was a true celebration of the efforts of the year and indeed the efforts of many over many hundreds of years before. The history of such things, the legacy of the land and the efforts of those who work to ensure its success is not lost on me and truthfully only enriches the experiences and deepens my appreciations. 

Deans Court, it is idyllic in all the ways you imagine the country to be, should be. It is nothing short of an oasis. The stately old home sits at the heart of it all but somehow does not overshadow the  charming outbuildings, cottages, a store and cafe and wonderfully English gardens. Indeed, perhaps my most favorite of all, a veritable Eden encircled by serpentine brick walls, which have seen their share of of seasons. On these walls grow various espalier trained fruit trees in in the middle all manner of vegetables, flowers and fruits. 

Guests gathered around an enormous table, lavishly dressed in linen, voluptuous autumnal flowers and foliage foraged from the grounds and gardens. The glassware sparkled in the early afternoon sunlight an simple but elegant white plates graced each setting. 
Ali, William & Lottie, our hosts for the day, each gave wonderful descriptions of the life and history of Deans Court before a seemingly endless array of dishes were passed around. Each dish inspired by and made with ingredients produced on the farm - all manor of orchard fruit; pear, plums and apples, eggs, kales in various shades, leeks, tomatoes, potatoes, herbs and perhaps best of all roast figs straight from the fig trees inside the walled kitchen garden. 

The recipes for this post are inspired and adapted from a few of the dishes prepared by Julia at Deans Court for the spectacular country lunch. I can think of no better way to showcase the flavors of the season than simple straightforward dishes which capture the bounty and richness of the harvest season. 

For the tart, I have adapted the recipe for spelt crust from the plum galette to work here - I like the rustic texture and nutty tones it lends to dish. I also substituted buttermilk for the cream - its not as lush as the cream would be but its still delightful and a lot lighter. If you wanted a complete meal, a dessert wouldn't go a miss here as this tart is quite light and the kale salad hints at the sweetness of fruit but goes in a more savory direction - 
Baked apples or crumble with a few blackberries thrown in or a few beautifully executed types of local cheeses and a small glass of fortified wine if you are serving this as an evening meal perhaps. 
Beetroot & Goats Cheese Tart 
inspired by Julia from Deans Court
adapted from a recipe by Valli Little

For the Pastry
200g spelt flour
100g cold unsalted butter
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves 
1/2 tsp or about 20 grinds from a pepper mill of black pepper
3 Tbsp ice cold water

Fort the Tart
400g (ish) beetroot
2 red onions
60 ml unfiltered apple cider vinegar
2 tsp thyme leves + a few extra sprigs for serving 
1 tbsp caster sugar 
150g goats cheese 
2 eggs, lightly beaten
150ml buttermilk 
1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg 
1/4 tsp ground corriander 
3 tbsp olive oil

prepare beetroot and pastry crust 

for the beetroot - place trimmed, scrubbed beets in a pan of cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer and cook until beetroot is fork tender - this will depend on the size and age of the beets your are using - when beets are easily pierced by a fork through to the center. Remove from heat and let stand at least 15 minutes. When cool enough to handle, peel under cold water and dice into 1/4 pieces  - set aside 

for the pastry - 
in a large bowl mix together flour, thyme & black pepper. Either with a food processor or with your fingers rub in the butter until the mixture resembles corse bread crumbs. Make a small well in the middle of the dry mixture and slowly dribble in the iced water a little at a time until the dough comes together in a loose ball. Be very careful not to overwork the dough 
Pat it into a disc shape, wrap in parchment paper and chill for 30 minutes. Lightly grease a 30cm loose bottom tart pan.
On a lighly floured work surface, roll out the dough, about 5mm (just shy of 1/4in) in thickness - line the tart pan and cut away any excess from the edges. Then chill again for 15min 

Assemble the Tart
preheat oven to 180°C

Line chilled pastry shell with parchment paper and pastry weights and bake for 10 mins. Then, remove weights and paper and bake an additional 5 minutes or until dry. 

Heat olive oil in a pan then add the onions, thinly sliced and 1 tsp salt, cook covered, stirring occasionally until softened, aprox 8 minutes. Add the vinegar and sugar to the mixture and cook aprox 3 minutes. Then add the chopped beetroot & 1 tsp thyme leaves and stir to combine. Cook and additional 3 minutes until the mixture has thickened and liquid has reduced. 

Spread mixture over the tart shell and crumble goats cheese over the top. In another bowl whist together the egg, buttermilk, nutmeg & coriander. Pour over the beetroot mixture and top with the remaining 1tsp thyme leaves 

Bake aprox 35 minutes or until set. Serve warm or cold but keep chilled if making ahead 

Kale Salad with pickled Onion & Pear 

1 large bunch of Lacinato Kale 
1 large firm pear
1/2 red onion, pickled 
1/4 cup tasted hazel nuts or cobnuts if in season, cut in half 
Juice from half a lemon
1/4 cup unfiltered apple cider vinegar
3 Tbsp good quality olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp cinnamon 
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp black pepper
pinch of cayenne pepper 

For the pickled red onion 
place 1/2 red onion thinly sliced in wedges from top to root in a nonreactive bowl sprinkle with 2 tsp of salt and let it stand 10 minutes. Then cover with red wine vinegar and 1/2 tsp sugar. Let stand at least an hour or place in a jar overnight 

Wash kale and remove the thick center rib. Rough chop into 3 inch pieces and set aside 
In a large bowl, mix the spices and add the cider vinegar. Whisk in the olive oil until emulsified. Add Kale to dressing and massage until the kale begins to break down and soften a bit. Let it stand while 

Top and tail the pear, cut in half, core, then slice thinly and toss with lemon juice and a sprinkle of salt. Add this to the kale mixture and top everything with the toasted hazelnuts jut before serving so they stay crunchy 
taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed. 

Serve a slice of the tart with a portion of the salad. 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Plum & Thyme Galette with Spelt Pastry

I think many of you would likely agree when I say that, I love being in the kitchen. Standing in the kitchen just feels good, right. I love the ritual of washing hands, putting on a clean apron and setting about what ever it is with purpose. I will happily spend all day there working away, listening to music or pod casts with my camera at the ready.
There are many reason why this room appeals to me, not least of which is its openness to possibility. I love it early in the morning when I am making my first cup of coffee and I love it on those warm evenings with the windows wide open and a gentle breeze stirring as I cook. It is a room where magic can happen. A room where people seem to gather as if seduced by some ancient attraction to heat and fire. In my kitchen laughter happens, serious discussions happen, bottles of wine are opened and savored, food is prepared, tasted, shared, memories exchanged.  There is a tiny black stool in my kitchen which has traveled with me to several apartments, countries and continents. Inevitably if someone is in the house they will end up sitting on this short little stool in my narrow galley kitchen - 

But also my kitchen is a space of mediation, for me alone. I can practice, think, breathe and explore. I might be making a dish I have made so many times before that the act of preparing it has nearly become ritual. I might be trying to recreate the flavors of something I had while traveling, working to bring back my memory of that place. Or, I could just be experimenting- prodding, needling at some ideas in my head. I love thinking about how things might, would, could fit together, work to create harmony and something new. Sewing bits of one recipe into another is possibly my most favorite type of work in the kitchen. 

This recipe for a plum and thyme galette with spelt crust was born from an afternoon of this sort. Plums in England are beautiful this time of year -they transition from late summer into the autumn and seem to gain an intensity and sweetness when other produce like tomato and eggplant seem to wane. It is not a sweet dessert and lies somewhere closer to a savory - serve it with a little creme fresh for something even more decadent.

The spelt crust is flaky and light but needs to be handled with a bit more care than normal pastry crust - its is crumbly at times and delicate. Make sure you let it chill properly and take care when rolling it out. Its has such a wonderful texture thought, its worth a tiny bit of extra attention. 

Plum & Thyme Galette with Spelt Pastry

For the Crust 
315g spelt flour 
185g unsalted or lightly salted cold butter
1/3c ice water (likely you will only need around 2 tbsp)
1/2 tsp raw granulated sugar
1/2 tsp fine salt 

For the Filling 
500g fresh plums, pitted stoned and sliced into 1/4" slices 
4 large thyme sprigs, de-stemmed 
3 tbsp good quality olive oil 
2 tbsp of dark brown sugar
1 tbsp spelt flour 
1/4 tsp each of freshly grated cinnamon and nutmeg 
2tbsp fresh whole milk

Preheat your oven to 190c / 375f

combine the flour, sugar, salt and mix. Cut butter into small 1/4 cubes. Scatter butter cubes over the flour mixture and rub together with your finger tips to combined - it should be the texture of a very course sand - a few larger pieces are ok. Then make a small well at the center of the dough and slowly add cold water, mixing well as you go until the dough just comes together into a soft ball. *you will likely need only around 2-3 tbsp of the water but its good to have extra on hand in case. Once the dough is just combined, tip it out onto a flowered work surface and gently form into a disc. Then wrap it tightly in parchment paper and a clean dish towel and refrigerate - at least 1hour but up to 24. R
Remove from refrigerator aprox 20 minutes before you plan to roll it out. 

While your dough chills 
prepare the plums and add them to a large bowl with the thyme, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Toss gently to combine and then add the olive oil. Toss well and sprinkle with the flour bit by bit until it is well combined. 

Roll out your pastry onto a cool,  lightly floured work surface. Working from the middle of the dough gently roll out into a disc shape, taking care that is the same thickness throughout. It should be around 15-18 inches. Then, transfer the dough with the help of the rolling pin and lay it out on a parchment lined baking pan. Add the plum mixture, taking care to drain off any excess juice/oil and spoon on top of the crust. There should be about 1.5/2" between the fruit and the edge of the galette. 
 Starting from one side, gently fold over the edges of the dough to form a pretty boarder around the fruit. 
Gently brush the pastry with the whole milk. 

Bake approximately 30 minutes, turning the baking sheet around once. The crust should be browned and the fruit soft. Timing may vary based on your oven