Friday, June 15, 2007

A Plate of Summer

When I saw Stuart Gillies cook this Pea and Leek Tart with Glazed Asparagus and Herb Salad on The Great British Menu tv programme I thought it looked so pretty, and so seasonal. A simple vegetable tart on a plate with a little clump of salad. Beneath the soft quilt of parmesan cream is asparagus, cushioned on a plump green mattress of pea and leek.

When he baked his pastry case blind he lined it with clingfilm filled with beans. Clingfilm? In the oven? Surely not. I have seen this done once before, and I thought maybe there is special cheffy clingfilm that is different from mine, but nothing showed up on Google. So I decided to cook the tart and follow the instructions exactly to see what happened. And the answer is - nothing. Nothing happened. You can put clingfilm in the oven. It’s a good idea actually, because the film moulds easily to the pastry and you don’t get the sharp edges that dig into the cooked pastry when you try to remove it.

Stuart Gillies’ pastry may be the best I have ever made. It is generous with the butter. Try to keep your hands as cool as possible, and maybe even put the bowl back in the fridge a couple of times during the rubbing in. It makes the lightest, most delicate and fragile pastry. When he says add half a beaten egg to the mixture to bind it he means it. You probably won’t need the whole thing.

Keep tasting the mixture – the amount of parmesan and seasoning is critical. And when I was in the middle of making the glaze, whisking the egg yolks over simmering water, I suddenly remembered that one of the judges on the programme – Prue Leith I think – had said that it was deceptively simple looking, but actually quite difficult to make. How true! This little tart really tests quite a lot of techniques. Things you know how to do but haven’t bothered with in a while. Quite a little triumph to pull it off.

The other thing I wanted to make from The Great British Menu Cookbook was Richard Corrigan’s Wheaten Bread.

Just to be clear, in Ireland, soda bread is raised with bicarbonate of soda and made with white flour; wheaten bread is raised in the same way but made with a mixture of meals, white, wholemeal and, often, oatmeal. Corrigan adds honey and a teaspoonful of treacle, just enough to deepen the edge of the sweetness. Now this is what my grandmother’s wheaten bread used to taste like although I looked up her recipe and it’s a ‘handful’ of this and a ‘handful’ of that!

Above you see one loaf, in four 'farls' or quarters (fourths actually). Corrigan’s recipe makes four loaves; you need to eat the bread on the day you make it but it freezes well.


Joanna said...

Yes, I have heard a few times before that you can heat clingfilm, either in the oven, as you have done, or wrapped round something you then boil. But, like you, I assumed it was some special clingfilm that I had never bought - and I've never quite dared with the stuff I get in Waitrose. Now I will.

And LOVE the wheaten bread

Thanks for sharing

bron said...

I'm also quite taken with the recipes from Great British Menu. I had a rib of beef and so served it using Bryn Williams meat course of oxtail, onion puree and cep. Most of the prep was in the oxtail sauce which I made the week before and froze. It was dinner for my partner's birthday - and it was utterly fabulous, really stupendously good.


Susan in Italy said...

So, by extension Irish "brown bread" is all whole meal kinda stuff? No white flour?

June said...


I'm just talking here about bread raised with bicarbonate of soda. All-white bread is called soda bread. The brown kind is called wheaten and it includes white flour - plain white flour, not strong bread flour - as well as wholemeal, best if it is coarsely ground. It's quite difficult to get very coarsely ground wholemeal flour in England, but Burcott Mills in Somerset grinds it specially.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Simple ideas are often the best and this looks lovely. I'm going to try the clingfilm next time I bake blind - thank you!

HerbanGirl said...

I've never heard of heating clingfilm - who would've guessed it would hold up? That wheaten bread looks AMAZING! I love soda bread, and now I've got to give this a try...

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