Pierneef à la Motte in Franschhoek is one of my favourite restaurants. The menu is constantly changing to reflect the seasons, so you always get the freshest, seasonal ingredients packaged in beautifully plated, explosive flavour combinations. Unfortunately this also means that you best not get your heart set on any one dish, as it may not be there the next time you visit. There is an important life lesson in this. Never put off till tomorrow what you can eat today! The bittersweet Valrhona chocolate tart with peanut butter mousse that I wrote about when I reviewed them in September was one such dish. While the rich chocolate tart itself was obviously delicious, the highlight of the entire meal (okay, a joint tie with the quail and orecchiette pasta salad with smoked pork lardo and almond ginger sauce), was the peanut butter mousse that accompanied the tart. Piped onto the plate into little mounds of salty moreishness, they were the unintentional star of the dish. So I was very disappointed when, on a visit there last week, the chocolate tart was no longer on the menu. After a week of hoping for a miserable rainy day, so that I could stare sadly out the window while I longed for that mousse, I realised I was unsuccessfully dealing with this blow, and decided to try recreating the mousse myself. I added white chocolate, so it is not quite the same, but it makes a similarly rich, lovely, dense mousse. Serve in little shot glasses, as an accompaniment to a tart (I served mine with a salted caramel cheesecake, but chocolate and peanut butter are made for each other when the bread and jam aren’t looking) or as a filling between layers of biscuits.
When Nigella first described this recipe as a Reese’s Peanut Butter cup in cheesecake form, she had me at Reese. It’s a baked peanut butter and chocolate cheesecake. I don’t need to say any more.
The ingredients should be at room temperature before you start. Read the rest of this entry
Let me preface this post by saying that I really suck at making meringues. This is mildly embarrassing as I have an aunt whose meringues would put Nigella to shame. So if you’ve landed here in the hopes of finding a fool proof way of making light and airy meringues, then you better move along. These meringues are strictly for fools and were sort of stumbled upon when the very first thing I baked in my new and unknown little toaster oven was a dish that required precision temperatures. Clever. So I was toggling between bake and grill and 210º and 100º to try and reach the magic 120º for the sustained period required when making meringues the way they should be when I thought buggr’it, they’re going in at 150 for half an hour. This is higher than you’d normally bake meringues. The result of a lower temperature is an airier but drier meringue because the whole thing is baked through slowly and the air bubbles are trapped in a permanent state of sugary suspension. Fortunately, I like my meringues a bit on the gooey side when I bite into them. (Which also explains why mine are rather ugly… But as I’ve gotten older I’ve realised that looks are less important than personality anyway.) So the higher, shorter temperature worked a treat to get them golden on the outside but still uncooked enough on the inside that when I opened the door and they cooled down too quickly, the entire lot collapsed into a cracked heap of toasty, marshmallowy goodness.
If I lost you at “toggling”, then I suggest you completely ignore the entire section on meringues below and try Nigella’s cappucino pavlova instead. Needless to say, omit the espresso. The ice cream recipe is a fantastic vanilla standby as, unlike most homemade ice creams, it doesn’t require you to break up ice crystals every now and then like some sort of demented, commando going character from Basic Instinct. Make a batch and then add whatever flavours you want to zhush it up a bit. Here lemon did the trick.
Use 8 individual tart tins or one large one.
Serves 8 Read the rest of this entry
We all have one of those recipes. A dish with a list of ingredients so extravagant that the only time you would ever actually contemplate making it is when the queen comes to visit. Actually not even the queen. Simon Baker maybe, but nothing less. Jamie Oliver‘s Jethro tart is one of those recipes. 255 grams of pine nuts. With the price we pay for pine nuts it’s utter madness! Madness I tell you! And so this recipe was destined to just lie there, untasted, glaring at me condescendingly every time I page past it in search of a dessert idea for a dinner party. Until I happened upon a ginormous bag of pine nuts for really cheap in the land where there are more pines than people. (I proceeded to stuff myself so full of the delicious little kernels over the weeks following my purchase that I actually developed Pine Nut Syndrome – an annoying but utterly fascinating side effect from pigging out on them). But don’t let that put you off. These tarts are lovely and completely harmless if consumed in moderation. If you don’t have a Costco around the corner (or Simon isn’t coming for a visit), substitute with any nuts you please. I made individual ones instead of one big one.
- Prep time: 20 minutes plus about 2 and a half hours for refrigerating and baking
- 255g pine nuts
- 255g butter
- 255g castor sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 4 tablespoons honey
- 115g plain flour
- a pinch of salt
- For the Pastry
- 115g butter
- 100g icing sugar
- a pinch of salt
- 225g plain flour
- 2 egg yolks
- 2 tablespoons cold water
- Cream together the butter, sugar and salt then rub or pulse in the flour and egg yolks. When the mixture has come together, looking like coarse breadcrumbs, add the water. Gently pat together to form a small ball of dough. Wrap and leave to rest for an hour.
- Carefully cut thin slices of your pastry (or you can roll out if you prefer) and place in and around the bottom and sides of a 30cm tin. Push the pastry together and level out and tidy up the sides. Cover and leave to rest in the freezer for about 1 hour.
- Preheat your oven to 180˚C, and bake the pastry for around 15 minutes until lightly golden. Keep an eye on the pastry if you are making smaller tartlets instead as it might require a shorter cooking time.There is no need to blind bake. Reduce the oven temperature to 170˚C.
- While the pastry is in the oven, toast the pine nuts under the grill. (OK, now you need to listen. REALLY listen. You're going to read this warning and think it won't happen to you. You'll think you're invincible and you've got it covered. But you don't. They will burn. It has happened to all of us. The nuts will go from a gorgeous Gisele Bündchen caramel to black in a matter of seconds. Don't turn your back on them! Seriously. if you're blasé about this it is going to happen to you too. You have been warned.) Using a spatula or a food processor whip the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Stir in the pine nuts, add the eggs one at a time, then fold in the honey, flour and salt. Spoon into the tart shell and bake for 30-35 minutes.
- Serve with crème fraîche or vanilla ice cream.