Friday, 22 December 2017

Buttermilk Pannacotta with Passionfruit

Cool, creamy, sweet and slightly tangy from the buttermilk and passionfruit, with a crunch from the passionfruit seeds...

this pannacotta is quick and easy to make; the most time needed is for it to set in the fridge.

Pannacotta is an Italian dessert, made from cream, sugar and gelatine. It means cooked cream, which refers to the cream being heated before combined with the gelatine and allowed to set. It can be served in glasses, as I did, or allowed to set and then unmoulded to serve.

This variation uses whipping cream, as well as buttermilk which adds a tang to the dessert. I needed to make a dessert for 2 people and wanted to use up two things: buttermilk and passionfruit. This was perfect, as it was quick and easy, and not too heavy or sweet.

To make the passionfruit jelly for the bottom of the glass, combine the following in a saucepan:

100ml passionfruit puree
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

Heat slowly, allowing the sugar to dissolve.

While the passionfruit and sugar are heating, sprinkle the gelatine over cold water, and leave to sit for 5 minutes:

1 1/2 tablespoons cold water
3/4 teaspoon powdered gelatine

When the sugar has dissolved, turn up the heat and allow the passionfruit mixture to warm up to body temperature. Set aside while you melt the gelatine. Heat the gelatine and water over a low heat until it has melted...DO NOT BOIL!

Immediately whisk the melted gelatine into the warm passionfruit.

Divide the jelly between 3 glasses and refrigerate while you make the buttermilk pannacotta.

In a heavy bottomed saucepan combine the following:

3/4 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup sugar

Heat slowly, allowing the sugar to dissolve before turning up the heat to scald the cream.

While the cream and sugar are heating, sprinkle the gelatine over cold water and leave it for 5 minutes:

2 tablespoons cold water
1 1/2 teaspoons powdered gelatine

When the cream is scalded, remove it from the heat. Melt the gelatine over a low heat. Immediately whisk the gelatine into the cream.

Stir in:

5 ounces buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Strain into a measuring jug.

Carefully pour the pannacotta over the set jelly, dividing it equally between the 3 glasses.

Return to the fridge and leave for 3 - 4 hours to set.

To serve, drizzle some more passionfruit puree over the top of each pannacotta. You can include a biscotti or cookie for crunch, add fresh raspberries or blackberries if they are in season or garnish with chocolate shavings and fresh mint.

  • As this dessert involves working with gelatine, some tips to keep in mind...always add the melted (warm) gelatine to a hot or warm liquid, that way you avoid lumps, which form when the gelatine comes into contact with a cold liquid....Never boil the gelatine when melting it, or after adding it to your base liquid; this weakens it's ability to set the liquid....always allow the gelatine to soften in cold water before melting it over a low heat.
  • To melt the gelatine, you can use a microwave, for between 20 - 40 seconds until it is melted and warm, not boiling. You can place your container in a shallow pan of simmering water and allow the heat from the water to melt it. You can also place the dish or pan directly onto a very low heat and allow it to melt slowly.
  • The seeds from the passionfruit puree can be strained out if you like. Make sure you measure the puree after straining the seeds out.
  • I always strain the pannacotta liquid before pouring it into the moulds, just in case there are any gelatine lumps. No one is perfect, and there is nothing worse than lumps of gelatine in a smooth and creamy dessert.
  • This can be made up to 3 days ahead, cover the glasses with plastic wrap to prevent the custard from absorbing any odours that might be in your fridge.

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Roasted Cauliflower and Caramelized Onion Tart

This is my version of the Cauliflower and Caramelized Onion Tart from Smitten Kitchen. It solved my dilemma of how to use the second half of my rather large cauliflower. I made a few minor changes so that I could use the ricotta and provolone cheese in the fridge, instead of heading out to buy mascarpone and Swiss cheese.

This tart was so full of flavour...sweet onions, thyme roasted cauliflower, cheese and crisp pastry. The leftover tart was even tastier cold, the next day, according to my husband. I ate the last piece today, heated up, and it was just as tasty as when it was made. A dish that keeps well and improves with age is always a good one...

There are a lot of different steps to this tart, but most can be made ahead, so with a bit of pre-planning it all comes together very quickly for baking.

Start off by making the pastry from the post Goat Cheese Tart with Grape Tomatoes and Fresh Basil. Line a 10" tart shell with the pastry, and blind bake it. Set aside until needed.

Bake at 400F until tender:

1/2 large cauliflower, cut into 1/2" thick slices
3 or 4 sprigs fresh thyme
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
salt and pepper
olive oil to coat

Remove from the oven and set aside until needed.

Thinly slice and caramelize in olive oil:

1 1/2 medium onions

Season with salt and pepper. Set aside until needed.

Brush the bottom of the baked tart shell with a thin layer of Dijon mustard.

To make the filling, whisk together:

2 eggs
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of nutmeg

Whisk in:

1/4 cup whipping cream

Stir in:

1 cup grated Provolone cheese

Spread the caramelized onions over the bottom of the pastry shell.

Cover the onions with the cooled, roasted cauliflower, breaking up some of the bigger pieces if necessary.

Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Spread the ricotta cheese mixture over the cauliflower and onions.

Sprinkle more grated Provolone cheese over the tart.

Place the tart shell onto a baking sheet.

Bake at 350F until the filling is puffed and golden, and the filling is set in the centre, about 40 - 45 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow the tart to rest for 5 - 10 minutes before removing from the tart shell and cutting.

Serve the tart hot,, at room temperature, or even cold...this gives the flexibility of adding it to work and school lunches. Add a salad and your dinner (or lunch) is ready!

  • No time or inclination to make your own pastry? A store bought tart shell or pastry can be used instead.
  • I added the fresh thyme and garlic to the cauliflower; if you have leftover roasted cauliflower use that instead. This is a perfect way to make use of it.
  • Add other flavours to your cauliflower for roasting if you like. Try olive oil and curry paste (Thai or Indian); yoghurt, honey and herbs; paprika and Parmesan.
  • The pastry can be made ahead, the tart shell can be lined and even baked a day ahead. All stages of this can also be frozen. If you freeze the baked shell do not defrost it before filling it.
  • The onions can be caramelized a day ahead. The cauliflower can also be roasted a day ahead, if you aren't using leftover cauliflower.
  • Use broccoli instead of cauliflower for something different.
  • I drained my ricotta cheese in cheesecloth to remove the extra moisture so that the filling would not be too wet. If you use mascarpone cheese, cream cheese or goat cheese instead that is not necessary.
  • As I mentioned, I used my Provolone cheese, instead of the Swiss cheese and Parmesan called for in the Smitten Kitchen recipe. Any type of cheddar (white, orange or smoked) could be used as well.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Braised Chicken Thighs with Apricots and Onions

We love the sweet, savoury and spicy combination that seems to be in every Moroccan dish, and this took advantage of all of that, using cinnamon, cumin, coriander, paprika and turmeric as well as a touch of honey. I served the chicken on fluffy couscous that was steamed with grated zucchini, and soaked up all the sauce, and garnished it with toasted almonds.

Braising the chicken with apricots allowed me to use up the few dried apricots I had, and adding grated zucchini to the couscous took care of the half zucchini in the fridge; this  added another vegetable, as well as moisture to the couscous.

Combine the spices and rub them onto the chicken thighs. You will need:

6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Using olive oil, and a hot pan, sear the chicken on both sides. I used a harissa infused olive oil.

Remove the chicken from the pan and set it aside. Keep the pan for the sauce.

Add to the pan, and cook until starting to soften and caramelize:

1 medium onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
More olive oil if needed


1 cup water

Bring to a boil, scraping the bits off the bottom of the pan.

Return the seared chicken to the pan, along with:

1 cup roughly chopped dried apricots

Turn the heat down to simmer, cover the pan, and cook until the chicken is fully cooked and tender, about 45 minutes.

Using a couple of forks, pull the chicken thighs into slightly smaller pieces.

1 tablespoon honey

Simmer until the sauce is the desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Serve the chicken on top of steamed couscous, and garnish with chopped toasted almonds. I added half a zucchini, grated, to the water at the same time as the couscous, and allowed them to steam together.

  • The spices can be combined with olive oil to make a paste, and this can be rubbed onto the chicken and left to marinade overnight.
  • Chicken breasts, whole or cubed for kebabs can be used instead of chicken thighs. If you make a paste with the spices and oil, it can be rubbed onto the skin of a whole chicken (place some under the skin of the breast as well) before roasting.
  • The water can be replaced with chicken stock if you have some available.
  • Instead of apricots use raisins, prunes, dates.
  • The ratio of couscous to water is 2:3. Bring the water to a boil, add the couscous all at once, cover and remove from the heat. Leave to steam for 10 minutes before fluffing with a fork and serving.
  • For 4 people I use 1 cup of couscous and 1 1/2 cups of water. Apple juice or chicken stock can also be used for all, or part of, the water.
  • Grated zucchini or raisins can be added along with the couscous.

Friday, 15 December 2017

Dried Tomato Crusted Chicken Breast with Bocconcini and Pesto

After making up some spice blends to give as Christmas gifts this year, I had little bits of various herbs and spices leftover. One of the things I had was dried tomato; I had used it in a Tuscan rub.

While making breadcrumbs from my stale bread ends, I remembered the tomato, as well as the little bit of dried parsley I had. I combined the three to make a crust for the chicken breasts I had. The pesto in the fridge, together with some baby bocconcini, were stuffed into the chicken breast, giving the contrast of crispy outside and gooey, cheesy inside when cutting into the chicken. Yummy!!

To make the crust, start by grinding the dried tomato and parsley in a spice grinder:

2 tablespoons dried tomato
2 teaspoons dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic

Grind until you have a fine powder, with some chunky pieces of tomato remaining.

Combine the ground tomato and parsley with:

3/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper

Set aside until needed.

For the stuffing, combine:

6 baby bocconcini 
1 tablespoon Basil Pesto

Using a small, sharp knife make a pocket in each boneless, skinless chicken breast, as shown in the post  Herbed Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Warm Peach Chutney. 

Carefully stuff 3 of the pesto bocconcini into each pocket, and secure the opening with a toothpick. Reserve any remaining pesto.

Rub the outside of each stuffed chicken breast with the reserved pesto, adding extra if needed. The pesto will help the breadcrumbs stick to the chicken.

Coat the chicken breasts with the breadcrumbs and dried tomato mixture, pressing to help it adhere.

Using sundried tomato oil, in a hot pan, sear both sides of the stuffed and breaded chicken breasts.

Place the chicken into a 375F oven to finish cooking.

When the chicken is done, allow it to rest for 5 minutes before serving it. If some of the bocconcini has oozed out, just scoop it onto the plate...I had minimal leakage. I served the chicken with orzo, spinach and roasted cauliflower and some steamed green beans. You can leave the chicken breast whole, leaving the cheese in the middle as a surprise, or you can cut it in half to show the centre.

  • If you buy whole sundried tomatoes that are not in oil, dice them up before grinding them with the parsley and garlic. The dried tomato I bought was already diced.
  • If you have fresh herbs such as parsley, basil or oregano use those instead of dried parsley (I was using this up). Finely chop the fresh herbs and add them to the breadcrumbs and ground dried tomato.
  • The chicken does not have to be stuffed. Bake it with a slice of  bocconcini on top, or omit the cheese completely.
  • You can use other cheese for stuffing the chicken, as I did in the post  Herbed Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Warm Peach Chutney.
  • Next time you make chicken Parmesan, add some dried tomato to the breadcrumbs and cheese.
  • The chicken can be stuffed and breaded ahead of time; keep it well wrapped in the fridge, or freeze it for another time.
  • Use the tomato breadcrumbs for a casserole or baked pasta topping....
  • No pesto, then go with the usual flour, egg, breadcrumb breading system.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Candied Shallot and Bacon Tarte Tatin with Goat Cheese

This tarte tatin was my way of using up a handful of grape tomatoes, and some goat cheese. I know, I got a bit carried away, but oh was it worth the amount of steps it took to make this!!! The good thing about it is that most of the steps can be done a day or two ahead, with assembly and baking taking only a short time.

As I said, definitely worth the time...crisp, flaky almond and fennel pastry; sweet, tender and juicy shallots; sweet, salty and chewy bacon bits; juicy tomatoes and creamy, tart goat cheese. My husband is still raving about it, and we had this last night.

That being said, let's make some pastry dough:

In a food processor, combine:

3/4 cup flour
1/3 cup roughly chopped whole almonds
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground fennel seeds

Process until the nuts are finely ground.


3 ounces of cold butter, cubed

Process until you have a mixture that resembles coarse breadcrumbs.

With the processor running, add:

1 - 3 tablespoons of cold water

Add the water a tablespoon at a time, pulsing until the mixture resembles wet crumbs that will stick together when pressed between your fingers.

Dump the mixture onto the counter.


Gently knead or press the dough together to form a ball. Flatten it and wrap with plastic wrap.

Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling  it out.

For the shallots, peel and quarter:

14 large shallots

In a heavy bottomed pan, large enough to hold the shallots in one layer, heat:

1 ounce butter
2 tablespoons olive oil

When the butter has melted, and it starts to bubble, add:

1/3 cup of brown sugar, firmly packed

When the sugar has dissolved and combined with the oil and butter to form a bubbling caramel, add the shallots to the pan.

Keep them in one layer, and cook on a low heat, turning occasionally to coat all sides with the caramel during cooking.

Cook until the shallots are tender, about 20 - 25 minutes.

Remove the shallots from the pan, and reserve the caramel. I tried to keep as many shallots as I could together, so that I could arrange them nicely, but that is your choice. It takes a bit more time and care.

For the bacon, turn the oven on to 400F, and line a baking sheet with foil, and then place a rack on top of the foil.

Turn the reserved caramel back onto a low heat. Add:

1 tablespoon Balsamic vinegar

Bring to a boil, and reduce until it starts to get syrupy. Remove from the heat.

Lay the bacon onto the rack, and brush the top side with half of the Balsamic caramel.

I used:

4 strips of bacon, cut in half

Bake the bacon until the caramel is bubbling, and the bacon is half cooked. Using tongs, turn the bacon strips over, and brush the second side with the remaining caramel. Continue to bake until the bacon is fully cooked and crispy, and the caramel is bubbling. Remove from the oven and allow the bacon to cool completely. As it cools, it will harden slightly.

To assemble, lightly grease the bottom of a pie plate.

Arrange any 'kept together' shallots around the outside if you wish to go this route.

Fill the gaps with:

12 - 14 grape tomatoes, halved
the remaining shallots

Add the candied bacon, that has cooled and been diced.

Roll the pastry out so that it is slightly larger than the pie plate, to a thickness of about 1/8".

Carefully lift the pastry up and place it over the filling, tucking it down around the sides, and trimming the edges as shown.

Brush with egg wash.

Bake at 350F until the pastry is crisp and golden, and the filling is bubbling, about 45 minutes.

Remove from the oven and leave for a couple of minutes.

Put a plate or cutting board over the pie plate, and carefully invert it, so that the tarte tatin unmoulds with the pastry on the bottom and the filling on the top.

Crumble soft goat cheese over the top of the tart tatin.

To serve, cut the tarte tatin into 4 pieces, and serve with salad, or as a side for roast lamb or pork. I served it with an arugula and spinach salad.

  • Yes, this recipe involves a lot of steps, but most can be done ahead. Making the pastry only takes a few minutes, as does the prep for getting the shallots into the pan. Cooking them takes a while, but only requires a bit of attention.
  • For the pastry, any nuts can be used. I have made this with pecans, for the post Fig, Brie and Prosciutto Crostata with a Pecan Crust. 
  • The fennel seeds can be changed to a herb or spice that you prefer, or is more suited to the nut you have chosen.
  • Double the recipe and freeze half of the pastry for next time.
  • There is no need to be extra careful with the shallots, that was just me wanting the arranged effect. If you thinly slice the shallots they will cook faster.
  • Onions can be used instead of shallots.
  • Apple or pear wedges can be cooked in the caramel as well; this would be a nice addition if you are serving the tarte tatin alongside roast pork.
  • Bacon can be diced and cooked in a pan instead of candied; cook extra next time you are cooking bacon, and dice and freeze it. One less step to making the tart.
  • The cheese is optional; I felt that the tartness of it complimented the sweetness of the tart.