The Chefs' Prayer
A Tranquil Haven For Culinary Outcasts
Welcome to The Chefs' Prayer.
A lighthearted look at the current fashions, do and dont's within the catering industry. A veritable cavalcade of reference and review to help guide gourmet vagrants for the next few months, dare I say years, to come.
We all love food! We need it to live, thrive and survive. Be it the sweet, gastric taste of slightly over cooked baked beans as you slowly sink your teeth in, followed by a crispy crunch of well done toast and the esscence of melted dairy butter or is it a succulent Aberdeen Angus fillet steak, medium rare, with a whack of cracked pepper and a flirtation of rock salt, stimulating and exciting every tastebud.
Pastrygrated zest of 1 lemon
500 g plain flour
175 g icing sugar
250 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 vanilla pod, split open
11/2 eggs, beaten
1. Sift the flour and icing sugar on to a work surface and work in the butter. Make a well in the centre and add the lemon zest and seeds scraped from the vanilla pod. Add the eggs. Knead the mixture with your fingers, working as quickly as you can, until everything is combined to a smooth dough. Wrap in plastic film and leave to rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
2. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.
3. Grease a flan tin with a removable base that is 20 cm in diameter and 3.75 cm deep. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface to a disc large enough to line the tin and allowing an overhang of not less than 1 cm. Lay the pastry gently into the tin.
4. Line the pastry case with greaseproof paper and fill with enough dry baking beans or lentils (or indeed any dry pulses) to insure the sides as well as the bottom are weighted. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove the beans and greaseproof paper and trim off the overhanging pastry, then return the flan case to the oven to bake for a further 10 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, make the lemon filling. Whisk the eggs with the caster sugar and lemon zest in a large bowl until smooth. Stir in the lemon juice, then add the cream. Continue to whisk until all the ingredients are thoroughly combined. Skim any froth from the top.
6. Reduce the oven temperature 120°C. Pour the cold filling into the hot pastry case (this will insure that the case is sealed). Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool and set for about an hour.
7. When ready to serve, preheat the grill to very hot. Sift the icing sugar over the top of the tart and place it under the grill to caramelize the sugar to a light golden brown. Alternatively, you can just sprinkle the tart with icing sugar without caramelizing it. Cut the tart into slices and decorate each with a sprig of mint.
• Tip The secret of a really good lemon tart is that the filling should be firm and clear and the pastry light and crisp. It should never be cut immediately after it is cooked as it needs time to cool and set for at least an hour, or the filling will be too runny.
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No Live Or Slightly Inebriated Produce Were Harmed In Making These Recipes
Growers are warning that cold spring weather has delayed UK crops by anything from two to four weeks. This could result in a late start to broccoli, courgettes, peas, broad beans and other summer vegetables. This will increase demand on imported produce and push prices up. There are, however, courgette flowers arriving from France, peas and broad beans from Spain and borlotti beans from Morocco.
St George's mushrooms are coming in from France and eastern Europe but there's a paucity here. White asparagus is arriving from France but it's still too cold for green asparagus in England. There's some arriving from the Wye Valley, but it's expensive and not great.
It's all change from last year, when unseasonably warm weather saw asparagus and even strawberries coming in during April, but it'll be a few months until the red fruit season kicks off this year. Wild garlic is still around and is due to flower soon, but wild leeks are pretty much finished in Scotland. Summer truffles are available at about £400 a kg but, although they look fine, are white inside and lack any strong aroma.
Blood oranges are still around, and new South African satsumas are now arriving regularly, although they're dear, a little pale and watery. But you might have to switch to them soon because Israeli late clementines and ortaniques are becoming scarce.
We seem to be talking ourselves into a recession in the wider scheme of things, and on the meat front we're in danger of doing the same. Beef prices are on the increase again, up about 4% on British cuts because of the scarcity of the meat. Spring lambs are still not readily available, and to make things worse, hogget has now dried up. Pork is stable at a higher price but, all told, there are no bargains to be had.
The gulls' egg season kicked off this week and, although they will be up in price slightly this year because of unfavourable weather for the pickers, they are a fantastic seasonal treat. Good sea trout - called sewin in Welsh - (£21 per kg) are arriving from South Wales and wild salmon will be arriving by next month.
Black bream has now started - a fishy harbinger of summer - and turbot prices are due to come down shortly as nets men gear their ships to catching the fish, which are moving inshore to spawn. There's plenty of good line-caught Cornish mackerel and Cornish sardines, but squid prices are still through the roof so it's best to use cuttlefish instead. Cod, halibut and haddock are all arriving from sustainable sources in Norway and Iceland.