Jen's Kitchen offers a fresh approach to home cooking with exciting recipes and blog posts that emphasise hands-on cookery using local and organic produce.

As my thoughts turn to Autumn…

I’m a big fan of Autumn, well the leaves gently falling/ cool breeze/ blackberry picking type weather.  Not the hurricane winds and apocalyptic rain weather.  It’s a good time to take a step back and review the years progress to date.  So how am I doing?

Autumn leaves in the Garden

Autumn leaves in the Garden

Could be better, could be worse.  I loved my running in June.  I really felt that it was an achievement to run every day for thirty days.  After a couple of niggly injuries I’m back running about every second day, and really enjoy that time out.

The after run glow!

Post Run smiles!

Lots of friends have started back on their fitness journeys, be it spinning, or the Waterford Winter Running league.  I’ve love to do a class, and have been wanting to learn Italian for a long time.  So I might look into this.

And my horse is getting more attention.  She’s *thrilled*. She actually is not a fan of the hot summers either, so this weather kinda suits her too, plus she’s very aware after 11 years that I’m not the biggest fan of riding in the pouring rain, so chances are every now and then she gets a day *off*.  Mind you, considering she really only *works* for about 45 minutes 5 days a week, you could hardly say she has a hard life!

Missy

So….. we are going out today, are we?

The kids have settled back to school, and the ‘ol exam year study is going well.  Even if I’m sometimes juggling the mathematical analysis of ph of water that is changing temperature, and a vegetarian menu for a day. It’s all good. Not that we ever watch much TV, but it’s a no go area during the week, so we are *hopefully* getting more done.

Aims for the next three months?

Up my running game

Add a few weights (need guidance on this- apply here)

Make a “Cake of the week” slot for my Facebook page

Spend time with family, extended especially!

Do more foraging

Take my orienteering to another level once I’m fitter.

Enter a race

Enter a horsey competition

Sit down every now and then……

 

 

 

 

Cheat’s Mushroom & Ricotta Tart Recipe

I love mushrooms, and pastry, and this little dinger of a recipe combines both.  Mushrooms are technically in season at the moment, but it is easy to get mushrooms all year round now. You can, absolutely make your own puff pastry, be my guest.  But for a weeknight dinner, I wouldn’t have the time, nor the energy.  And although I make all other types of pastry, puff and filo I tend to leave to the experts, except on a rare occasion.

Cheat’s Mushroom & Ricotta Tart

Ingredients:

1 sheet ready-rolled puff pastry

2 tablespoons of olive oil

500g of mushrooms, preferably mixed type

2 garlic cloves, 1 finely sliced, 1 crushed

250g tub of ricotta

good grating of nutmeg

Fresh Herbs

50g of Rocket
Mushroom

Method

Heat oven to 200oC and place a baking sheet inside.  Unroll the pastry onto a piece of baking parchment and score a border around the pastry about 1.5cm in from the edge.  Place the pastry (still on the parchment) on the baking sheet and cook for 10-15 mins.

Easy Mushroom Tart

Scoring the Pastry


While the pastry bakes, heat the oil in a large frying pan and cook the mushrooms for 2-3 mins, in batches, stirring occasionally.  Add the sliced garlic, then cook for 1 min more to get rid of excess liquid.

Easy Mushroom Tart

Mixing the ricotta, garlic and nutmeg

Mix the crushed garlic with the ricotta and nutmeg, then season well. Remove the pastry from the oven and carefully push down the risen centre. Spread over the ricotta mixture, then spoon on the mushrooms and garlic. Bake for 15 mins.
Easy Mushroom Tart

Served with rocket for that little bit of colour. And a drizzle of olive oil to make it look great.

Easy Mushroom Tart

Looks good enough to eat

Divine.

Me, myself and my GPS

You would think, as an “orienteerer” that I would instinctively know location and direction at all times. Sadly not. Unless either up a mountain, or in a forest- I can’t seem to find my way out of the proverbial paper bag.

So I rely on several GPS devices.  Firstly the Garmin in my car.  Can’t go anywhere without it.  And that’s not to say I’m good at using it either.  But between us we’ll find our way.  I’m ok if I have the address to plug in, or have the location stored in Favourites.  But if I have to actually locate it on the map.  Nah. I canny do it Captain.

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Apricot and Basil Frangipane Tart Recipe

I ‘m a fan of frangipane. And never would have been drawn to it when I was younger.  But for me it’s almost a perfect combination of spongelike texture with a pastry base. A match made in heaven once there isn’t an over-powering taste of almond essence. Ugh. Double ugh in fact.

The earliest mention is in a French Cookbook in 1674! Some believe that the name bears homage to St. Francis of Assisi. That a noblewoman named Jacopa da Settesoli brought some to him on his death bed in 1226.

Apricot & Basil Frangipane Tart

Apricot & Basil Frangipane Tart Prep

I like to make this tart a little hap hazard, no need for perfect pastry crust or to get the ruler out to measure the distance between the apricots. So I suppose it’s a pie really. The basil gives a lovely perfume to the apricot filing.  And somehow makes it a little less sweet, which, unlikely as it seems, is a good thing!

Apricot and Basil Frangipane Tart

Ingredients

200g plain flour

100g butter (from the fridge)

50g caster sugar

½ teaspoon of vanilla extract

1 egg yolk

For the frangipane

100g soft butter

100g  caster sugar

2 eggs

140g ground almonds

75g plain flour, plus extra for dusting

About 5 basil leaves

8-10 apricots, stoned and quartered

To serve

Icing sugar, softly whipped cream and vanilla bean paste

Method

To make the pastry, mix the flour, butter and a pinch of salt into your food processor.  Pulse until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.  Add the sugar and pulse again. Add the vanilla, egg and 1-2 tablespoons of cold water, and pulse until the dough just comes together.  Tip out and shape into a disc.  Chill for 30 minutes, then roll out the pastry between two sheets of greaseproof paper, as this pastry is very crumbly.  Line a loose-bottomed tart tin with the pastry, pressing it into the sides. Chill for at least 30 mins.

Meanwhile, prepare the frangipane.  Using electric beaters if you have them, beat the butter until creamy, then add the sugar and continue beating until light and fluffy. Gradually add the eggs, beating well after each addition, then stir in the almonds, flour, and the torn basil leaves.

Heat oven to 160oC fan 4 and put in a baking tray to heat. Spoon the frangipane into the tart case and smooth. Poke the apricots into the frangipane. Bear in mind it’s a very rustic tart.

Apricots
Transfer to the baking tray, in the oven, and bake for 40-50 mins (cover with foil after 30 mins if the tart is getting too dark) until the fruit is tender and a skewer poked in the frangipane comes out clean.

Leave the tart to cool in the tin for 10 mins, then transfer to a wire rack.  Serve warm or cold, dusted with icing sugar, with a dollop of softly whipped cream mixed with a little vanilla bean paste, if you like.

Divine!

Apricots

Apricots- A Taste of France

I just love apricots, they bring a taste of French summer into our home.  And although I didn’t purchase mine from a market stall at the side of the road (Lidl’s best), they are still beautifully coloured and soft skinned.

Apricots in all their glory

Apricots in all their glory

Apricot Cakes

Ingredients

125g plain flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

Pinch of salt

75g butter, room temperature

70g Caster sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

75ml full fat milk

apricots, halved, pitted, cut into 1/4-inch wedges

2 tablespoons brown sugar

Method

Preheat oven to 160oC. Put the paper cases in the tin. Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl, until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined.

With mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients in 3 additions alternately with milk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Divide this batter among muffin cups (cups will be only 1/3 full) and smooth tops. Top with the apricot slices and sprinkle liberally with brown sugar.

Apricot

Bake until cakes are golden and a tester inserted into the centres comes out clean, 20–25 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack; let pan cool 5 minutes. Transfer cakes to rack and let cool completely.

Apricot

Divine!

Looking for a nightgown as I grow older

As the Killers new found BIGGEST fan, I am currently working my way repeatedly through their catalogue. Current song on repeat? (And I mean repeat…..) A Dustland Fairytale. To be perfectly honest I thought I was too old for concerts.   FYI- I’m not.  Second row, all the way.  Standing for 3 hours mind you is havoc on the knees and hips the next day.  But it was SO worth it.

The Killers

Especially as we were so close.  The supporting band- Houndmouth were pretty good too.  Supporting bands don’t get enough credit, and these guys got the crowd going- no mean feat as really a) we were all only there to see The Killers, and b) they sang all their own music!

I love the line-

“Saw Cinderella in a party dress,
But she was looking for a nightgown.”

And it kind of rings true for me. As all my friends know- I LOVE a good night out- but am invariably first to bed!  I love this picture of me in my finery at the Dublin Horse Show.  I was sewing plaits into a friends horse.  You should have seen the shoes!

028

But I’m not often dressed like that around horses.
Thankfully. Especially the heels. But it was a great day…

And as for a night out.  Love the out part, especially the eating- and wine drinking, and mostly the craic.  But the preparation- not so much. I own a hairdryer.  Not sure why, it gets used once or twice a year to dry something in a hurry.  And I never wear make up day to day… so why would I wear it at night.  I reckon Cinderella went au natural anyway 😉

My all nighter days have definitely gone- , and although I might only wear the party dress for a short while- I still like to wear it….

 

 

 

Black Garlic Ice Cream

No, I haven’t lost my mind.  Yes, it sounds strange.  But sometimes savoury ice cream is just what you are looking for on a hot day. Black Garlic is a unique ingredient that really doesn’t resemble garlic at all. A type of Asian cuisine, it’s  made by heating whole bulbs of the garlic over the course of several weeks,  that results in black cloves. (Called a Maillard Reaction)The taste is sweet and syrupy with hints of balsamic vinegar.  Because of that it’s often used in dressing, or as a kind of posh hoi sin.  But it’s the flavours of dark caramel and chocolate that I wanted to harness in this ice cream.
Black Garlic
I purchased my little pot of magic from Superfood Market. I met the owners, Gemma Price last year in New Orleans.  She’s intelligent, beautiful and most definitely walks the walk.

The secret to any good ice cream is the custard base.  And don’t get me wrong, a pure cream based ice cream can be really really good.  But I feel a custard based one is a cut above the rest for texture.  And then it’s just a matter of adding the flavouring.  I use an ice cream maker, and you can now even buy them in Lidl.  Mine is a Kenwood and lives in my freezer all year round until I make ice cream.
Black Garlic

Black Garlic Ice Cream

Ingredients:

275ml double cream

300ml milk

100g icing sugar

4 egg yolks

3 cloves of black Garlic

Method:

Pour the cream and milk into a medium heavy-based pan, and tip in half the sugar.  Heat the cream and milk over a low heat, stirring occasionally, until it almost boils – you’ll see a few bubbles at the edge.  Add the roughly chopped garlic cloves and take off the heat and set aside for 30 minutes so the black garlic can infuse.

Put the egg yolks into a bowl with the remainder of the sugar and beat with an electric mixer for about 2 minutes until the mixture has thickened, is paler in colour and falls in thick ribbons when you lift the beaters.  Slowly, slowly, slowly add the cream/milk mixture to the egg yolks, whisking slowly all the time.

Black Garlic

Return the pan to a low heat and cook, stirring all the time with a wooden spoon, for 8-10 minutes, until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. Watch that it doesn’t boil – as soon as you see any bubbles about to burst to the surface, it should be thick enough, so take the pan off the heat so the mixture doesn’t curdle.

Leave this custard overnight to further infuse.

Pour the custard into your ice cream machine. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions, and churn until the ice cream is frozen and fluffy, about the consistency of soft ice cream (generally 20-25 minutes)
Black Garlic

Divine! Especially with strawberries!
Black Garlic
 

A Very Touristy Guide to Chicago

While in Chicago for a conference we manged to squeeze in a few touristy things.  We had to pick and choose due to our limited time, but I think we did very well. Although numbered, they are not necessarily in order of preference, except for the “cloud”/ “bean”.  That is my number one.

My Chicago Touristy Tips:

  1. The Cloud Gate Sculpture

Hols 2016 121

This iconic Chicago tourist spot is best seen early in the morning when the crowds aren’t around.  We went on a ridiculously sunny afternoon when it was packed with selfie taking tourists intent on getting a good snap. Designed by an Indian-born British artist Anish Kapoorit was construtced between 2004 and 2006, and is nicknamed The Bean because of its shape. Made up of 168 stainless steel plates welded together, its highly polished exterior has no visible seams.  And it is the quintessential structure of coolness.

2. Tribune Tower

Hols 2016 097

This building is straight out of Batman, with it’s addition of sculptures and ornate buttresses. What struck our attention was the various stones, from other architectural buildings around the world that are built into it.  In 1922 the Chicago Tribune hosted an international interior and exterior design competition for its new headquarters to mark its 75th anniversary, and offered $100,000 in prize money with a $50,000 1st prize for “the most beautiful and distinctive office building in the world”. More than 260 entries were received. And the winning design incorporated stones from other exceptional buildings throughout the world, including pieces from buildings with social importance, e.g. the Berlin Wall. We tried to look at all the stones, and see which of the buildings we had visited in our other travels, like the stone from Trondheim Cathedral. Or the Dublin Post office!

Hols 2016 100

3. The Magnificent Mile

Not so much a tourist destination as a collection of buildings and shops that run through the main thoroughfare of Michigan Avenue.  We visited quite a few of the shops- research purposes only of course.  As everything is MEGA expensive.  But in the sun it’s a lovely walk with lots more architecture to wonder at.

Chicago

Tomato Soup – An Irish Summer in a Bowl

I love tomatoes.  Especially in soup.  And often at this time of year it’s the go to soup for a quick lunch.  And although there’s a teeny bit of washing up with this recipe, it doesn’t require the pain-stakingly arduous and time consuming task of peeling the tomatoes pre cooking. I like the Roma tomato variety, but sometimes you just use what’s available. They are a meatier variety so you may need more stock to get the right consistency.

Easy Tomato Soup

Ingredients:

1.5kg of ripe Tomatoes

1 medium onion

1 medium carrot

1 stick of celery

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons of tomato purée

2 bay leaves

1.2 litres/ 2 pints hot vegetable stock (made with boiling water and 4 rounded tsp bouillon powder or 2 stock cubes).
Tomato Soup
Method

Peel and chop the onion and the carrot. Chop the celery stick into roughly the same size pieces.

Add the olive oil into a large heavy-based pan and heat it over a low heat.  Add in the onion, carrot and celery and mix them together.  Season well.  Cover and leave to seat for 10 minutes until soft, stirring occasionally.

Tomato Soup

Holding the tube over the pan, squirt in about 2 tablespoons of tomato purée, then stir it around so it turns the vegetables red.  Quarter the tomatoes and slide them in off the chopping board.  Add the 2 bay leaves into a few pieces and throw them into the pan. Stir to mix everything together, put the lid on the pan and let the tomatoes stew over a low heat for 10 minutes until they shrink down in the pan and their juices flow nicely.  From time to time, give the pan a good shake – this will keep everything well mixed.
Tomato Soup

Slowly pour in the 1.25 litres of hot stock (or just water if you have no stock), stirring at the same time to mix it with the vegetables.  Turn up the heat as high as it will go and wait until everything is bubbling, then turn the heat down to low again and put the lid back on the pan. Cook gently for 25 minutes, stirring a couple of times. At the end of cooking the tomatoes will have broken down and be very slushy looking.

Remove the pan from the heat, take the lid off and stand back for a few seconds or so while the steam escapes, then fish out the pieces of bay leaf and throw them away. Ladle the soup into your blender until it’s about three-quarters full, fit the lid on loosely, covering with a teatowel and turn the machine on slow. . As the steam escapes you can increase the speed. Blitz until the soup’s smooth then pour the puréed soup through a sieve into a large bowl (A little poncy I know but the skins need to come out- it’s easier than peeling them, I promise). Repeat with the soup that’s left in the pan. (The soup may now be frozen for up to 3 months. Defrost before reheating.)

Tomato Soup

Pour the puréed soup back into the pan and reheat it over a medium heat for a few minutes, stirring occasionally until you can see bubbles breaking gently on the surface.
Tomato Soup

Meringue Roulade with Summer Fruits

There’s never enough things to do with egg whites.  But there’s a myriad of recipes for meringue! This meringue roulade is super simple, super quick and super tasty. It’s really a take on my pavlova recipe.  Just with a shorter cooking time, and an addition of rose water.

In order to be a roulade, the meringue base needs to be rolled. In essence, this means making the meringue-cream-fruit combination like a Swiss roll. Typically, this involves having a bottom layer of meringue, then cream and finally fruit laid out on top. The meringue roulade is then rolled slowly in the same way a carpet is rolled to produce the final roulade.

Fresh Berry Meringue Roulade

Ingredients:

4 egg whites

225g caster sugar

1 teaspoon of cornflour

1 teaspoon of vinegar (preferably white wine vinegar)

3 teaspoons of rose water

Filling:

200ml cream

150g mascarpone

100g icing sugar

Fresh fruit- whatever is in season or you have to hand

Method:

Heat the oven to 180oC.  Line a swiss roll tin with tin foil the dull side upwards, facing you.  Shape the tinfoil into the tin so that the sides are tight to the tin and straight up.  Brush this tinfoil with sunflower oil.

Meantime whisk the egg whites in a spotlessly clean bowl until soft peaks form.  (I use my kenwood- you’d have to have arms like Pop Eye to do this by hand).

Gradually add in the sugar, then continue whisking whilst adding the cornflour, vinegar and rose water.  It’s ready when the mixture is very light and there are stiff peaks.

Spread into the tin, and take the time to level the surface well with a palate knife.
Meringue

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until its firm to the touch and beginning to have a coffee coloured top.  Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 5 minutes.
Meringue

Take another sheet of tinfoil, and carefully turn the meringue on top of it, gently peeling off the original tinfoil from the now- top.  Leave to cool.

When cold, whip the cream until it starts to thicken, then add the mascarpone and icing sugar and continue to whisk until quite stiff.

Meringue Roulade

Meringue Roulade

Spread this onto the meringue, leaving a small margin bare on one of the long sides.  Spoon the fruit on top.  Roll tightly using the tinfoil as a guide.

Refrigerate until just before serving.  Add some decoration if required and serve to oohs and ahhs

Meringue

Meringue Roulade ready for the table