Monthly Archives: September 2012

Scallops. Beef. Apples.

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We had guests over for dinner, so I picked three most simple but delicious and impressive dishes to make.  The timing of these three dishes can be very tricky, so make sure if you use this combination again, plan ahead your day’s schedule and have everything you need to hand! I started by preparing the vinaigrettethe caramel walnutsthe beef and nearer the time of cooking, the apples.

Warm Pear Salad with Seared Scallops

Here is what you need (Serves 6):

  • 12 scallops (2 per person) at room temperature so that the inside of the scallops won’t still be cold after searing
  • Mixed salad leaves (preferably with a variety of colours, both scallops and pears are very pale in colour)
  • Thick vinaigrette (I used equal parts extra virgin olive oil, orange blossom honey and balsamic vinegar)
  • 1 ripe pear (I used the green-coloured, pear-shaped variety)
  • A handful of whole walnuts
  • 5 tbsp sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • Salt and pepper to season

Here is what you do:

  1. In a saucepan, boil the water and add in the sugar.  Reduce to a low heat and let it caramelise.  Don’t be tempted to stir it! After some time it will turn a golden syrupy colour.  Add in the walnuts and make sure they are all well coated.  Take them out of the caramel and let them cool on some foil.  Spread them out so you can easily break them away when cooled!
  2. Make your vinaigrette in a jar with a screw lid so you can re-use it at another occasion.
  3. Pour over salad leaves and dress well.
  4. Peel and quarter the pear.  Remove the core and cut each quarter in thirds again, so you get 2 pieces per serving.
  5. Heat up some olive oil in a non-stick pan.  Pat dry the scallops and season well with salt and pepper.  When the pan is very hot, put in the scallops and fry for 2 minutes until browned on one side.  Try not to move them around too much so you can a nice sear on them, and note down which order you put them in so you can turn them over in the right order!
  6. After those 2 minutes, turn the scallops over to fry for a further minute.
  7. Place salad leaves on a plate, then the pear slices, and lastly the scallops.  Drizzle over some more vinaigrette before serving.  Pop the caramel walnuts on top!

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Beef Wellington 

Here is what you will need (serves 6):

  • 2 x 400g beef fillet (try to choose one that is relatively lean, tight and cylindrical); you can use 1 x 800g instead but there will be more rare pieces in the middle
  • 2 x 400g puff pastry block, thawed (I find pre-rolled sheets too thin)
  • 500g mushrooms (I used a mix of brown and white)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to season
  • English mustard (about 2 tablespoons)
  • Fresh thyme
  • Beaten egg for egg wash
  • Enough prosciutto/parma ham slices to completely wrap the fillets
  • Lots of cling film!

Here is what you do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C.
  2. Rub the beef with oil, salt and pepper.  Quickly sear all the sides of the fillets in a hot pan.  Set aside and let them cool down.  Brush with mustard when cooled.
  3. Chop up the mushrooms until they resemble breadcrumbs.  Alternatively you can use a food processor (you will have to pour in some olive oil so it forms a mushroom paste) on a pulse setting.  In a hot pan, fry the mushroom crumbs with about 4-5 tablespoons olive oil (or mushroom paste if using food processor), adding in a handful of fresh thyme, until all the moisture is cooked off. Image
  4. Set aside and let that cool off as well.
  5. Cover a large chopping board with cling film, tucking the edge furthest away from you under the board so that the cling film does not slide around.  Lay out the slices of ham (make a mental note that they must be enough to wrap your piece of beef!), slightly overlapping as you go.  Using the back of a spoon, spread out the mushroom mixture (called a duxelle by the way!) thinly.  This should cover an area big enough to wrap your beef too.  Place the beef in the centre and wrap it up.  As you roll the fillet, you should be tucking it in very tightly and then pulling out the cling film as you go, like wrapping sushi.  Make sure everything is very tight, then roll the two ends of the cling film together like you would see on a piece of candy.  Place in the fridge to chill.Image
  6. When it comes to rolling out the puff pastry, you can do it two ways: cut each block into 2 parts with a 1:2 ratio, so you end up with 2 sets of one large and one small pastry sheets; or, just roll each block out.  These should not be too thin, I rolled mine out to about 5cm thick.  Again, cover a large chopping board with cling film, tucking in the furthest edge again.  Place the smaller pastry sheet on it.  Take out your rolled beef from the fridge.  Brush the whole sheet of pastry with egg wash, then place your beef on top.  (Your smaller pastry sheet should still be slightly bigger than your beef)  Egg wash the larger pastry sheet and put over the beef.  Press the edges together and cut off any excess.  Seal the edges by pressing down with a fork.  Similarly, with a whole pastry sheet, place on top of cling film.  Put rolled beef on top and simply wrap the whole thing up, cutting off excess and sealing the edge.  Don’t forget to egg wash inside!
  7. Repeat for the second beef fillet.  Egg wash outside as well and then let them chill in the fridge, for at least 30 minutes.
  8. Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes.  Rest for 8-10 minutes before serving.

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Tarte Tatin

Here is what you will need (for 6):

  • 3 large apples (I used 2 Braeburn and 1 Granny Smith), peeled, cored and sliced
  • 75g butter
  • 9 tbsp caster sugar
  • Shortcrust pastry
  • Lemon juice (a little more than half a lemon will do)

Here is what you do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C.  Fill a large bowl with some water mixed with the juice of half a lemon.
  2. Peel, core and slice your apples.  A very simple way to do this if you do not own a corer is to halve your apples then scrape out the core with a teaspoon.  Try to make sure the slices are of similar thickness.  Pop them into the lemon water while you prepare other ingredients so they don’t discolour.
  3. In a pan, melt the butter then add in the caster sugar.  Let it caramelise and turn into a gold brown syrup.  (Remember this has to be on low heat).  Squeeze in a little bit of lemon juice.  Add in the apples and make sure they are all coated well.  Image
  4. Line the apple slices carefully in your baking tin. Image
  5. Roll out your shortcrust pastry and cover the apples, cutting off excess but leaving a 5cm edge, which you have to then tuck into the tin.
  6. Bake at 200C for 5 minutes then turn the heat down to 180C, and bake for a further 20-25 minutes, or until the pastry has been cooked.  Turn out onto a plate.Image
  7. I enjoyed mine with vanilla ice-cream and a hot cup of Marco Polo tea from Mariage Frères!
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A Taste of Home

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For those less familiar with the more local side of Asian food, the egg tart is a delicious custard tart pastry, and is very popular in Hong Kong.  Personally I prefer the buttery, crumbly shortcrust pastry, though you can also get egg tarts with a crispy, flaky puff pastry.  The best bit though, has to be the golden yellow, sweet, creamy custard filling.

Since this is my first attempt at making egg tarts, I decided to only make my own shortcrust pastry and leave the puff pastry to the trusty shop bought frozen variety.

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees Celsius, and move your shelf to the lower third of the oven where the heat from the oven will reach your tarts quicker, giving them a brown crust more easily.

This is what you will need for the shortcrust pastry tart shells (makes about 8-10):

  • 225g plain flour
  • 125g butter, softened at room temperature
  • 55g icing sugar
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • A dash of vanilla extract
  1. Cream butter with the sugar until the mixture is smooth, fluffy and light in colour.
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  2. Add in the whisked egg, half at a time, over a low speed (I used an electric mixer).  Add in the vanilla extract and mix well.
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  3. Sift in your flour in batches, making sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl between each addition with a dough scraper or spatula.  Combine well and knead into a dough.  At this point the dough appeared quite soft and moist.
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  4. Flour an area of work surface and also a rolling pin and roll out the dough to about 0.5cm thick, and using a cup or a cookie cutter about the same circumference of your tart tins, cut out discs from the dough and line your tart tins.

Now to the custard (enough to fill 19-20 tarts, so I cut out enough puff pastry discs to make enough tart shells to use up the custard):

  • 3 eggs
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 225 hot water
  • 85g evaporated milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Add the sugar into the hot water and stir until it is all dissolved.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg with evaporated milk.
  3. Pour the egg and evaporated milk mixture into the sugar water.  Make sure you keep stirring or the heat from the water may start cooking the eggs.  Mix well.
  4. Using a tea strainer/small sieve, sift the custard mixture into a teapot or into a container with a pouring spout to get rid of the foam.  Pour into your prepared tart shells.

Now to the exciting bit…

Put your tarts onto a baking tray and bake for 10-15 minutes at 200 degrees Celsius.  Keep an eye on them — when the crusts start turning slightly brown, reduce the oven temperature to 180 degrees Celsius and leave the oven door ajar, about 2-3 inches.  This is so that the custard filling cooks without puffing up too much (or else they will sink a lot, leaving an ugly dented filling when they have cooled down!).  I then baked the tarts for another 20-30 minutes.  However, be aware of the fact that each oven behaves differently, I think my oven does not circulate heat very well, so from about 10-15 minutes on wards, keep an eye on your tarts.  A good way of testing the filling is to put a toothpick or cocktail stick (short ones!) into the centre of the filling,  If the toothpick/cocktail stick stands on its own without tipping over, then you’re good.

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The finished product!

If you do decide to try this recipe out, I would recommend that you eat all of your egg tarts on the day of making.  I have yet to crack the secret of making egg tarts that are still as crumbly/flaky the next day, any ideas would be welcome!

Enjoy! 🙂