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.

White Chocolate- Raspberry Tarts

These elegant and velvety tarts are worth every minute of effort. When presented they will just ooze sophistication and give the impression that you spent HOURS in the kitchen. I’ts a kind of a blend of Crème brûlée and a tart, as I finish it with a blow torch.  You can vary the fruit content, however the tartness of the raspberries marry very well with the super sweet White Chocolate.

White Chocolate- Raspberry Tarts

Ingredients:

100g strong white flour

25g caster sugar

30g Butter, cold from the fridge

1/2 teaspoon salt

approximately 1 tablespoon of cold water

1 tablespoon of raspberry jam

210ml double cream

3 egg yolks

1/2 teaspoon of vanilla

2 tablespoons of icing sugar

210ml double cream

3 egg yolks

1/2 teaspoon of vanilla

2 tablespoons of icing sugar

Method:

As with all pastry, the less handled the better, and I use my “magimix”, on pulse to combine the butter and flour til almost like sand.  Then stir in the sugar, followed by the cold water, which I add a tiny bit at a time until it comes together nicely but is not too wet.  The best thing to do at this stage is to split the dough into two and flatten each into a round.  Wrap in clingfilm and chill for at least two hours.

White Chocolate and Raspberry Tarts

Tart pastry prep

Next roll out each round of pastry on a floured counter.  This recipe is for two 4 inch tart tins.  So roll out the pastry to about a 6 inch circle.  Carefully line each tin.  Trim any large excess from around the top of the tin, but fold over a tiny part to make a tuck at the top of the tin, and put into the freezer for 30 minutes.  (This helps prevent shrinkage). Turn on the oven to 180oC.  Fill each tart with baking beans, and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove the beans and bake for a further 5 minutes.  Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

Tarts

Add the raspberry jam/ puree to the bottom of each tart.  Then prepare the custard filling.

Filling:

Bring the cream to a simmer.  Immediately remove from the heat and add the white chocolate.  Stirring from the inside out, very slowly bring the cream and chocolate together.  Whisk the egg yolks and vanilla in a separate bowl, and VERY slowly add a little of the white chocolate cream to this.  VERY SLOWLY, while whisking all the time.  Once the two are combined divide this custard between the two tarts. Turn the oven down to 160oC.

Bake for about 20 minutes until the centres are just set.  Remove from the oven to cool.  Then refrigerate overnight.

 

Next day you can “brûlée” the top.  Sprinkle the tops with lots of icing sugar then using a blow torch, caramelise the custard tops, or failing that, SECONDS under a piping hot grill.  And I mean SECONDS.

Finish off with some decorative raspberries.

Divine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My One-pot chicken pilaf Recipe

I love love LOVE cooking in the kitchen. But I think if I won the lotto my first splurge would be on a kitchen porter.  Sometimes the washing up just gets to me.  But no need for the help when making this beautiful and fresh pilaf, it’s made in one pot. The term pilaf is borrowed directly from the Turkish pilav. I actaully associate a rice pilaf with Indian Cooking, for my it’s very like Biryani.

If you could research the history of rice pilaf, you could tell the history of the world to at least as far back as Alexander the Great. It’s a dish that is ubiquitous across most of the world’s cuisines. This is probably because it is such a great dish for large gatherings. To make a large pot of rice pilaf is not much more difficult than to make a small pot.  And the washing up is also the same!

Every region adds their own distinct flavours to the dish. In India, rice pilaf is called pulao and it has many variations from region to region. It is most popular in the northern areas, such as Kashmir and Gujarat.  Alexander the Great is said to have first eaten pilaf in the Bactria region of Iran, which is now a part of Afghanistan. Bactria is where his wife, Roxana, was most likely born. I can imagine pots of fragrant rice pilaf being served at gatherings for ancient dignitaries, perhaps even his wedding (I’m just guessing here).

One-pot chicken pilaf

Chicken pilaf

Good range of colour in the ingredients

SERVES 4
Ingredients
1 teaspoon of olive oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped
3 skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks
2 teaspoons of curry paste (choose your favourite, or make your own)
a third of a mug basmati rice
two-thirds of a mug chicken stock (hot)
1 mug frozen peas
1 mug of leaf spinach, washed.
Method
Heat the oil in a frying pan, then fry the onion for 5-6 mins until softened.
Chicken

Chicken pilaf

Still looks a little beige at this stage

Add the chicken pieces, fry for a further couple of minutes just to colour the outside, then stir in curry paste and rice. Cook this for another minute.

Pour in the hot chicken stock. Bring to the boil, lower the heat, then cover the pan with a lid. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally . Scatter over the spinach, cover, then cook for 10 mins more until all the stock is absorbed and the rice is tender. Now add the peas, (in this case I added them too soon so they look like they’ve been sitting in a carvery for a month, but still taste good). Give everything a good stir, season to taste, then tuck in.
Chicken
Divine.

I love a good fartlek….

As you know I have a serious love/ hate relationship with running.  I love it when I’m finished, but hate that I can never seem to run as fast or as far as everyone else.  I tend to be prone also to injury, so feel sometimes that I am starting from scratch all over again, everytime.  So after much trying of different types of running training, I now combine a number of methods that seem to keep me in the game, injury free, and motivate me. Fartlek being the main one.

Running

Fartlek (meaning speed play) is the first.  Similar to interval training, it was designed in Sweden by Gösta Holmér in 1937, he was the coach of a cross country running team who were not doing particularly well.  Sessions should be performed at an intensity that causes the athlete to work at 60% to 80% of his or her maximum heart rate. This means (hopefully) that the body will not experience too much discomfort while exercising. An athlete should also include a good warm up at the beginning of the session, and a cool down at the end of the session, to improve performance, minimize post-workout muscle soreness, and most importantly for me; to decrease the chances of injury.. So hence it’s the model of choice for me.  The “Fartlek” intervals can vary in length, and speed.  When I’m starting off I’ll do a walk/jog interval, then if I’m feeling “in the groove” I’ll do slow run, fast run intervals.  My ultimate aim is to decrease the number of walk/runs. Fartleks are a great option for people that run for their health because the fat burning portion makes it a very efficient exercise.

Waterford Greenway

The Greenway is fab in both good and bad weather

But still running by yourself can be quite lonely.  I use to run with music, but after a particularly long injury break I started back running and simply forgot to put the music on.  It is also safer for when I’m running on the road. I really envy the people who can run with other people.  I just can’t.  Firstly I’d be embarrassed as I run SO SLOWLY.  And then I’d struggle to chat- and for anyone who knows me- seems impossible.  So I just run and retreat inside my head. And it’s free. With money tight -a gym, or fitness classes are completely out of the question, so I strap on the runners and use some of the roads and tracks around my area.  The Waterford Greenway is an amazing running/ walking/ cycling “way” that runs from Waterford to Dungarvan along the old route of the railway.  it’s 46kms of safe running and we are lucky to have access to quite a few entry points.  If that doesn’t get you out running or walking nothing will!

Running
I do have a machine companion however, I’m one of those annoying people who share their exercise on social media.  The main reason is for support, even if noone “likes” it, I still hope that there is support out there for my lonely feet slapping runs 3-4 times a week in my endless journey to increase my fitness and decrease my weight.  Although over the last few years those priorities have changed in emphasis.  My health, both mental and physical are more important to me now than ever.  Too many friends have gone, too many people take their lives for granted.  I’m determined not to be one of those.  And sure I like the scenery.

Tiramisu- My “secret” recipe

Who doesn’t love Tiramisu? Even people who don’t like coffee like tiramisu.  Regular readers will have seen my tiramisu cake, which is VERY popular and velvety smooth to have as a dessert at the end of a meal. And although it takes a little while to make, it’s very simple.

Tiramisu

The essential ingredients- good coffee and cocoa powder

My Tiramisu Recipe 
Ingredients:
For the sponge
4 large eggs
100g caster sugar
100g self raising flour
30g cocoa powder
For the filling
1 tablespoon instant coffee (Fine granules)
150ml boiling water
50ml tia maria
3 x 250g mascarpone cheese
300ml cream
3 tablespoons icing sugar
65g grated dark chocolate
For the decoration
100g finely chopped dark chocolate
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
Method:
Preheat the oven to 180oC. Grease a Swiss roll tin and line with baking paper, or line two round 7” tins.
For the sponge, place the eggs and sugar in a large bowl and whisk together for about five minutes, or until the mixture is very pale and thick. Sift over the flour and cocoa and fold in gently using a metal spoon or spatula.

Tiramisu

Mixing the flour and cocoa in….

Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin (tins) and tilt the tin to level the surface.
Bake for 20 minutes, until cooked. Cool in the tin for five minutes then turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely.
For the filling, dissolve the coffee in the boiling water and add the tia maria. Set aside to cool. Brush the tops of each cake with the alcohol/ coffee mixture. Wrap sponges in clingfilm until ready to ice.
Place the mascarpone cheese in a large bowl and beat until smooth. Gradually beat in the cream and icing sugar. Decide on your serving dish, what you make the dessert in, is what you will put on the table so choose carefully.  Add broken bits of the cake to the dish, then spread 1/2 of the mascarpone icing over the soaked sponge.

Tiramisu
Scatter over 1/2 of the grated chocolate.
Place the second sponge on top in pieces if you have to to make it fit (you won’t see this as it chills), spoon over the rest of the coffee mixture then spread more of the icing over the soaked sponge. Spread the rest of the icing in a thicker layer over the top layer. Chill for at least two hours in the fridge before final decoration- of- you guessed it- more grated chocolate! Divine!
Tiramisu

My Rijstevlaai Recipe- A Maastricht Speciality

I love a bit of tart.  And LOVE trying something new.  When we were at the open day in Maastricht they had lots of different tarts to try with your coffee.  I did the honourable thing and tried them all.  But went back to have a second piece of what I believe was Rijstevlaai tart.  or vlaai, (I think)! It’s base was a very thin dough, and to be honest I thought while eating it there that it was a shortcrust base, albeit a little thicker.  The creamy rice pudding filling is particularly good, and we did the honourable, and I believe traditional thing and had it with softly whipped cream and some chocolate gratings.

My Rijstevlaai Recipe

Ingredients

250g flour

15g fresh yeast (7g dried)

3.5fl oz milk

20g soft butter

20g caster sugar

Pinch of salt

For the filling:

500 ml milk

200g short grain rice

1 egg

2 teaspoons vanilla essence

30g granulated sugar

100ml of cream (optional)

Chocolate shavings (Optional)

Method

Mix the flour with the yeast and the milk, knead in the soft butter and the sugar and salt until you have a soft dough, 5 minutes in the mixer.  Cover and let it rise until double in size.

Rijstevlaai Tart

In the meantime, wash the rice until it rinses clear.  Bring it to a boil in the milk, then simmer it for twenty minutes or until the rice is tender. Set aside to let it cool. Split the egg, and mix in the egg yolk with the vanilla and the sugar. Whip the egg white until stiff, then carefully fold it in the rice.

Rijstevlaai Tart

Preheat an oven to 190oC.  Roll the  dough into a large circle and line a deep pie dish with the dough.

Rijstevlaai Tart

Prepping the dough case

Fill it with the rice mixture. Bake on the middle rack for thirty minutes. Remove the pie, let it cool for ten minutes, then remove it from the dish.

Rijstevlaai Tart

When cooled, serve as is, or with softly whipped cream and chocolate savings.

Rijstevlaai Tart

Rijstevlaai Tart

Divine!

My Chocolatey Hot Cross Buns Recipe

I think nothing says Easter to me more than Hot Cross Buns (well, maybe Easter Eggs and Bunnies and the like, and the whole religion thing, but anyway- I digress 😉

Traditionally these would have been eaten in Ireland on Good Friday and Ash Wednesday.  I actually prefer them them day old and toasted.  No accounting for taste.  However…. wait for it, the addition of chocolate is VERY good.  Completely against the whole off-chocolate-for-lent ethos but sure look it…
Hot Cross Buns

Chocolatey Hot Cross Buns

Ingredients:

500g Strong White Flour

90g Castor Sugar

90g Butter

10g dried yeast

1/2 teaaspoon each of cinnamon and nutmeg

1 teaspoon of mixed spice

90g of sultanans

90g of chocolate chips

25g of candied peel

250g of milk

Toppings:

30g water

30g flour

25g caster sugar

25g water

Method:

Mix everything except the sultanas, candied peel and chocolate chips together in your mixing bowl until just combined.  Leave this sit for 10 minutes then mix using your dough hook for 5 minutes until  smooth.

Hot Cross Buns

At this stage add in the other bun ingredients.
Hot Cross Buns
Cover the bowl and let this dough rise in a warm, draft free area until it doubles in size.  Dough with “additives” in this case the sultanas, chocolate drops and candied peel, rise slower due to the extra effort required for the yeast to work in rising the dough.

Turn this out onto a lightly floured area when ready to divide the dough into “buns”.  Divide it into 16 balls approximately and sit on a floured oven proof tray to start their second rise.  I find this works well overnight, in a cool place with just a light teatowel covering them.  You want them to slightly merge into each other.

Hot Cross Buns
The next day, or when they are all puffed up, mix the topping flour and water into a paste.  I put this into a piping bag for ease and pipe it over the buns into the traditional “cross”.

Hot Cross Buns

Bake in a preheated oven for 20 minutes, you may need to reduce the temperature for the last 5 minutes.  Meanwhile make the sugar syrup, combine the sugar and water in a small pan and boil for three minutes.  Leave to cool.

Hot Cross Buns

Brush the sugar syrup over the buns to give them a sweet sugary glaze.

Hot Cross Buns

Divine.

Easy Apple Berry Charlotte Recipe

This Apple Charlotte recipe is loosely based on a Russian recipe.  Classic Russian cuisine abounded in nifty quick recipes for unexpected guests. This puffy dessert requires only sliced tart apples, a few handfuls of berries and a simple batter.  However as it takes so long to cook it would really only be suitable to serve to guests if you have advanced warning.  If they just popped in unexpectedly I’d probably go with scones…. 😉

Easy Apple Berry Charlotte Recipe

Ingredients:
Apple Charlotte
100g butter, melted and cooled, plus more for the pan

40g plain dry bread crumbs

3 large eggs

60ml milk

1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

280g caster sugar

225g plain flour

200g soft fruit

4 large firm tart apples—peeled, quartered, cored and thinly sliced crosswise

1 cup blueberries

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Icing Sugar for dusting

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180oC.

Butter a 10-inch oven proof frying pan and dust the bottom with the bread crumbs.

Apple Charlotte

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the eggs with the milk, vanilla and 200g of the sugar.  Beat in the melted butter until well mixed, then beat in the flour until a thick batter forms.

In another large bowl, toss the cup of soft fruit with the sliced apples, cinnamon and the remaining sugar.

Apple Charlotte

Spread one-fourth of the batter in the prepared skillet and top with the apples and berries. Using an offset spatula, spread the remaining batter over the fruit in an even layer.

Apple Charlotte

Scatter the remaining 8 to 12 pieces of fruit on top and gently press them into the batter. Bake in the centre of the oven for about 1 hour, until lightly golden and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. Let cool completely, then dust with confectioners’ sugar. Slice into wedges and serve.

SERVE WITH

A dollop of crème fraîche or vanilla ice cream.

Apple Charlotte

Apple Charlotte

Divine!

 

Travelling by Air- My Travel Tips

I love to travel, be it only up the road for a cup of tea. But travelling abroad, especially for work takes a little more organisation.  I have to go to London for work this week (I know, I know, there’s a small violin playing in my ear).  BUT I will be inside a convention centre for all of the time I am there- and I have to attend about 17 meetings and lectures.  Anyway.  Back to the travel bit.

Travel

Gone are the days when I would pack all and sundry.  25 pairs of shoes (just in case), 2 swim suits (there’s no sign of a pool), my chef’s knives…. ok, ok, I still sometimes bring them.  Not when flying though.  THAT would be an interesting conversation at the security.

Travel

So it’s the spanking new minimalist Jen. Not even ONE cookbook. I travel now with an extra large handbag- to fit my kindle and iPad and a small suitcase.

But I struggle with all the wires.  For example, in this case, I will be travelling to  a work conference.  So I’d better bring the superfluous hair straightener, so I don’t look like I’ve completely come off the farm.

The charger for my phone, and ipad are essential.  And I ‘ve made the difficult decision to leave the laptop at home. Realistically I can do all my blogging etc on the iPad.  And I won’t have time for anything else.

I’m travelling very early in the morning so hydration is very important, and coffee.  And unfortunately they do not go together, neither does hydration and airport security.  So like a well oiled campaign it will have to go in the order-

coffee, security, water, water, water.

Breakfast and duty free will keep me quiet until boarding.

Luckily I could sleep standing up during an apocalypse, so sleeping on the plane is a goer.

And then the real fun starts-

So in brief:

  1. Water Bottle :: When travelling through most European Airports you can quite easily get a bottle of water when through security for a small donation.
  2. Toiletry Bag :: I have a little bag of toiletry things that I carry along with me. This guy actually stays in my bag, so it’s an easy transition into my carry-on bag when I’m flying.
  3. Kindle :: The Kindle is seriously the best thing to ever happen to airport entertainment. I used to purchase a few magazines and at least one heavy book, not any more. It all fits in my tiny, tiny Kindle. Woo!
  4. Notebook and pens :: Chances are, I won’t need them, but I really don’t go anywhere without them.
  5. Sunglasses
  6. Chewing Gum :: I never chew gum, but it’s a must for me when I’m flying. I’ve had lots of ear problems in the past, and chewing gum helps make it less ouchy.  And takes the are we flying yet idea out of my head while I concetrate on chewing quietly.
  7. Tea :: I’m not a big fan of “foreign tea”, so I bring my own tea. Most airport restaurants will give you a cup of hot water for free and you can always get one during service on the plane.
  8. Wallet
  9. Passports :: I’m the keeper of the passports. Mostly because there is a perfect little passport pocket on the front of my bag.
  10. Phone, Charger and Earbuds:: No explanation needed.
  11. Cash :: I like to bring along a little bit of cash and change just in case I need to tip a driver or buy something at the airport.
  12. Snacks :: I’m gonna go ahead and guess you aren’t surprised that the vast majority of my bag space is reserved for food. I despise buying food at the airport. It’s hard to find healthier options (although getting easier) and always insanely expensive.

And that’s it for the starters….. No need to see inside the luggage….

 

Italian Biscuits- to have with a nice strong coffee, or tea..

Or just to nibble. Who doesn’t love a nice cuppa with a little something on the side.. and the sound of Italian Biscuits is so alluring.

There’s always either egg yolks or egg whites in the fridge. And these biscuits use up egg whites not destined for macaron, or meringue. A biscuit can be several different things depending on which side of the oceans you are on.  In America, when I visited New Orleans, a biscuit was a kind of what we would call a scone.  Mind you they serve them with gravy.  Yes, *sigh* I didn’t really get my head around it either.

What is really interesting is that in her book “English Bread and Yeast Cookery”, Elizabeth David had a section on soft biscuits in which she writes…

“It is interesting that these soft biscuits (such as scones) are common to Scotland and Guernsey, and that the term biscuit as applied to a soft product was retained in these places, and in America, whereas in England it has completely died out.

These “new” biscuits, were hard, flat and unleavened. In some parts of Europe they were baked twice, like the Italian biscuits called biscotti served in cafes across Italy. But all were used as a dry form of food that was easily carried. By the 7th century AD this was changing. The sweetness of a biscuit was much desired.

Fast forward to my recipe for today.

Richard Bertinet’s Italian Biscuits

Ingredients:

300g Icing Sugar

300g ground almonds

2 teaspoons of honey

3 egg whites

Butter for greasing the baking tray

Method

Mix the ground almonds and icing sugar together, add in the honey and the egg whites.  Mix this together until you have a smooth dough.  Leave to chill in the fridge for at least an hour.

Preheat your oven to 150oC.  Prepare your baking trays.

Italian Biscuits

Italian Biscuits- the dough in rolls ready to slice

Divide the dough into four and roll each piece to a rough sausage shape. Slice each of these rolls into about ten pieces and place on the trays.  I used the end of a small butter knife to make an indent in each biscuit.  Being careful not to go straight through to the tray.

Add some jam or something sweet that you might have into the dent.  I used some salted caramel spread in some, and some raspberry curd in others.  It was suggested that nutella might also be acceptable! But I’m not a nutella fan.

Italian Biscuits

Caramel and Raspberry curd filling

Now comes the tricky bit.  Bake for around 15 minutes. They will still be soft coming out of the oven, but once rested they will slide off the trays to cool. They need to be coloured on top.

Divine!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shepherds Pie Potatoes

I always cater for at least 4 people for dinner.  But for a while, as my better half is in New Zealand, I have to downsize.  And it got me thinking about catering for 1.  The secret is to not over cook, as food waste is not good for the pocket or the environment.  And also to have some “master” recipes.  This recipe uses a mince sauce, basically a bolognese that can also be simply heated to go with pasta, or made into a lasagne. And while we are being picky, a shepherds pie is traditionally made with lamb mince. But in this case I’m using beef, so as to stretch out the number of meal options available.  Quick, easy and very moreish, suitable for hungry families after long days, or simply a snack for one.

Shepherds Pie Potatoes

Ingredients

2 teaspoons of olive oil

1 onion, peeled and diced

150g minced beef

250ml beef stock

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon of tomato purée

1 large jacket potato, baked

20g butter

A handful grated cheese, your choice

Method

Heat oven to 180oC. Heat the oil in a non-stick pot.  Cook the onion gently for 3-4 mins, then increase the heat and add the mince.  Fry for a further 10 mins until the beef has browned.  Stir in the stock, Worcestershire sauce, tomato purée and season to taste.  Gently bubble for 15-20 mins until the mince is tender and the sauce has thickened.

 

Sheperds Pie

To assemble, cut the baked jacket potato in half lengthways and scoop the flesh into a small bowl, leaving the skin intact.

Sheperds Pie

Mash the potato with the butter and season well. Divide the mince between the potato skins, then cover with the mash.

Sheperds Pie

Transfer the potatoes to a baking dish, sprinkle with cheese, then bake for 15-20 mins until golden. These can, of course be multiplied up to have as a canape or starter.  However you have these mini shepherds pies they are divine!

Shepherds Pie

Shepherds Pie Potatoes