a good tart

8 Feb

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

Chilli con carne

26 Nov
Chilli con Carne (paired with Benji’s ‘Benjamin Darnault 2019 Minervois’)

It’s blowing a gale out on this Autumn day – it’s miserable weather!
– a perfect evening to savour a heart and stomach-warning ‘Chilli con carne’!

Our daughter Lilas begged me for a long time to cook her a Chilli con Carne. She’d discovered the dish at a friend’s house and every time she returned home, would remind me of my promise to make our own.
There is only so long you can make an 8-year-old wait – so thanks to Lilas (just like the chocolate cake!) I have been making this version, found on Jamie Oliver’s website, ever since.

What’s good about this Chilli con carne? Chickpeas along with the kidney beans lightening it all up, making it a little less ‘meaty’.

A few tips –

  1. I always double the quantity from the original recipe, so listed here is my doubled version.
    To be honest, for people like me who chop slowly (!) it’s a time-consuming dish as you chop the vegetables finely – so I prefer to go for it and make more than less, with the bonus of (even tastier) left-overs (I am a huge left-overs fan!).
  2. I order half beef mince and half beef rib/topside pieces to use (and cut the beef chunks into 3-4cm pieces) as we enjoy the variation in texture. Using only mince, I find the meat ‘disappears’ into the sauce.
  3. For best, tasty results, cook this at least one day ahead. The spices really come through on day 2 (like a good red wine).

Chilli con carne

ingredients:

1kg beef (500g minced/500g beef rib or topside pieces)
olive oil
4 x onions
5 x cloves garlic
4 x carrots
4 x sticks celery
4 x red capsicum/peppers
1 tablespoon chilli powder *
1 tablespoon ground cumin *
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon *
2 x 400 g tin chickpeas
2 x 400 g tin red kidney beans
4 x 400 g tin chopped tomatoes
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

salt and pepper to taste
bunch of fresh coriander (separate leaves from stalks)

* I am constantly tasting the pot as it cooks and often add more

method:

method:

Peel and finely chop the onion and fry over a medium heat, in a large cast-iron pot, with a few tablespoons of olive oil, until slightly golden.

Add garlic and finely chopped carrot, celery, peppers and add the chilli, cumin, cinnamon, salt and pepper and fry until soft, about 15-20 minutes.

Add drained tinned kidney beans and chick peas and tomatoes, breaking up tomatoes, add chopped coriander stalks. Stir.

Add the beef, breaking up the mince and pour two cans of water and balsamic vinegar into pot.

Bring to the boil, then lower heat to simmer, and cover with lid (or ajar if you want it to reduce a little). Cook for about 1 hour.

Serve with steamed rice, Coriander leaves, yoghurt and fresh wedges of lemon or lime.

Cheeky plug…
Why not serve it with Benji’s beautiful Minervois* red – or if you like pairing spicy with a white wine, his Viognier?!*

Et voila!

Kat xoxo

*Benjamin Darnault Minervois 2019, available in the UK here and in the US here
*Benjamin Darnault Viognier 2019, available in the UK here and in the US here

Time for a perfect chocolate cake

16 Jun
 

 

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It’s Spring time in France and as the flowers open and share their beautiful colours and perfume with the world, we begin to emerge from our homes and taste the first days of freedom, life on the ‘other side’.   

For those days inside the bubble of confinement, when masked-face trips to the shop weren’t so frequent and shelves not always so full, this Chocolate Almond Cake – comprising only a few basic ingredients, has been so easy to prepare and gives that little whoop to the spirits that only chocolate can provide.  And the added bonus – there is NO FLOUR.

I discovered this recipe many years ago, thanks to the Australian chef Stephanie Alexander , but at the time had to drop a couple of the key ingredients (I’ll explain) – and my edited version remains our family’s favourite cake.  If you are a lover of chocolate, it is perfect… 

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.

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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!

But where to turn with this sudden urge to take the leap and Make a Cake?  I picked up my food bible, Stephanie Alexander’s ‘The Cook’s Companion’ , and landed on the chapter Chocolate.  Chocolate won me over and so did the recipe’s provenance – it hailed from France’s ‘Reine de Saba’/ Queen of Sheba cake.  Lilas being an Australian-French baby, it felt right.  So was the idea that the ingredients were few and the method uncomplicated – it was a beautifully simple sounding cake.  And it was a perfect fit for a one-year-old’s toddler guests – so long as I dropped the brandy and the coffee.

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

 

Chocolate Almond Cake

(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

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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

I’m back

1 Jul

I'm back photo

Who would have thought.  The goddam ‘Kat’ came back.

It’s been a bloody long while, so I thought I might re-introduce myself.

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I am Kat and I live in a region in Southern France called the ‘Minervois’.  I’ve been here for nearly 20 years, yet still feel like the ‘foreign’ Australian marvelling at the exotic sights, sounds, smells and tastes of this part of Europe. Which is just as well, because with family and friends so damn far away, there’d better be something in it to keep me here!!  The exoticism… and the Vigneron.  He’s called Benjamin and he’s French.  He’s the reason why I am here and the biggest reason why I stay here.  Together we have a child, a lovely 13-year-old called Lilas (which in French means ‘lilac’).

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Why did I start a blog?  To keep me sane!  Living in a foreign world with foreign ways and customs can be so exciting, so frustrating. And so wonderful. I wanted to record it all down and the more I shared, the more I realised I loved living here and noting down my days and collecting images of it all was a fun way to keep the diary going that I never wrote.

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La Liviniere, Minervois, France

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jardiniere cooking

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Then it all came to a screeching halt.  Why it came to a screeching halt was not just one, but a few major events that took my mind off me, then back to me… events that came crashing, unwelcomed, into my family’s life.

But I’m still here!  And in this time I’ve never stopped watching and observing – even if at one point, watching like a stray cat after a fight with only the one eye open.

 

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No of course this isn’t me, it’s Ryan Gosling.. giving you an idea of me as the stray cat after the fight

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…this is me, x-ray version

It’s been a way of distracting myself, to watch and admire the beauty and ‘Frenchness’ around me and snap images to hold it all for longer.  I didn’t continue with my diary/ blog, but I became obsessed (call it OCD) with recording visually the places and people around me and posting on Instagram (they are to be found here).   It’s the same kind of behaviour, you could say, as when I first arrived in France; in not being able to communicate with French people, I was forced to step back and observe.  It was forever tiring and challenging, but in watching and listening, I was taking in the extras that surrounded conversations.  Now, 20 years later, I understand much more of the conversations around me, but my eye has sharpened and I love the extras that surround everything.  Recording all of it has been my way of healing.

first collage 2019

So here you find me many years later, back clunking around on the keyboard, sharing scenes and recipes and wines from the Minervois.

Thanks for your visit!

Kat xoxo

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the locals

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Mum

13 Sep

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Jan Livesey (outside the church for my Christening )

Showering you with flowers for your birthday Mum.

Love Me xoxoxoxo

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13.09.1937 – 11.07.2016

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