Utilising fine, seasonal produce from the folks at Farm Direct, here is a mini feast I threw together for a friend's birthday over the weekend.
We started with 'radishes at their peak' - a suggestion of a recipe in Beyond Nose To Tail by Fergus Henderson. Seperate the radishes and their leaves, and rinse both thoroughly. Take a little good, unsalted butter, some sea salt. Spread a radish with a little of the former, and then a sprinkling of the later, and eat. YES, friends, this is the way to eat salad; covered in butter and salt (it was delicious). The leaves are eaten dressed with a glossy vinagrette - yum.
French onion soup to follow, though it feels unfair to taint fine Lincolnshire onions with the wrong nationality so we'll call it....French Style Onion Soup Made With English Onions. Served with the tradtional cheesy croutons, it was simple, super cheap, and uber tasty.
On to the tarts. Potato, cheddar, leek and rosemary comprised one, smoked salmon, asparagus (British of course!), and creme fraiche another. The key is generousity, both in quantity and quality of the fillings; plenty of world class smoked salmon (Forman & Field, natch), decent cheddar, free range eggs, and asparagus fresh from the ground a merely hours before. Served with dressed rocket; both tart recipes are below.
Proper crumble for pud; rhubarb, apple, honey and ginger made the fruity base, with an oat crumble topping. Served with a spiced nutmeg custard it was scrumptious; a particularly good breakfast the following day!
What followed, I am slightly ashamed to say, was a rather French-influenced cheeseboard, but I didn't shop for that so I am absolved of responsilbility. I have nothing against fromage Français, it was just a shame to end a meal made with a riot of British grown produce with anything but a big hunk of Monty's and a wedge of Colston Bassett. Oh well, next time.
Simplicity ruled, deliciousness prevailed, and, excluding the cheeseboard, it can't have cost more than 4 quid a head. Nice.
Pastry - makes enough for two tarts, each serving 6
250g plain flour
Butter 2 x 20cm tart tin (if making two - you can always freeze half of the pastry), and put into the fridge.
Tip the flour on to a surface, make a well in the middle, and stick the butter, salt and sugar into the well. Mix the ingredients in the well first, then draw in the flour, taking care not to overwork the mixture. Add the water, knead the whole thing a couple of times to makes sure it's nice and smooth, then stick in the fridge for at least two hours.
To roll out;
Heat oven to gas mark 6.
Roll out half of the pastry to a thickness of about 2-3mm. Carefully line a buttered tin with the pastry, taking care not the stretch the dough. Put the now-lined back in the fridge for 20 minutes, and repeat with the remaining pastry.
Remove a pastry case from the fridge, and prick the base several times with a fork. Line with greaseproof and bake blind for 10-15 minutes, until the pastry begins to look a bit cooked. Remove the greaseproof and baking beans, add the filling, and bake for a further 15 minutes, turning the oven up to gas mark 7 while you do so.
Simply mix the below together and add to the tart cases when required - sprinkle a little extra cheddar on top of the first. With both the potatoes and asparagus, refresh under cold water once cooked before combining with the rest of the filling.
Potato, cheddar, leak and rosemary
1 medium-large, floury potato, sliced into smallish discs - about 1cm thick, and cooked until just tender.
2 leeks, thinly sliced and cooked in seasoned butter until soft
3tbsp double cream
Teaspoon of very finely chopped fresh rosemary
Biiig handful of cheddar
Generous amounts of S&P
Salmon, asparagus and creme fraiche
100g smoked salmon
8 spears of asparagus, blanched for 2 minutes in boiling water, then split in half length ways
3tbsp creme fraiche