Monday, April 6, 2009

Thinking like a Chef

Hello Friends;
It's amazing, as a chef you're always looking at food sources and products wherever you go and often in the most unlikely places. Whilst at my physiotherapist, enduring the painful and agonising manipulation of my shoulder injury and with nothing else to do but gaze out the window, my attention was drawn to two magnificent fig trees, needless to say I now have an abundant supply of figs, when in season.

The same can be said of herbs, rosemary and fennel to name a couple, you begin to rekindle and fine tune your hunter gather skills. It's just as well there are no wild boar, deer, ostrich or goat roaming around suburbia!

Well the figs were put to good use.
Firstly I made a late night meal using pork loin cutlets, which I shallow fried in olive oil, and sage.
Halfway through the cooking process I added the quartered figs, pinch of brown sugar, a knob of butter, chopped garlic, teaspoon of of balsamic vinegar and white wine. Arrange the pork on a serving platter, top with the figs and drizzle with the sauce. I garnished with watercress dressed with extra virgin olive oil. Very quick and easy!
Yesterday I made a fresh fig tart using an old family recipe which I will share with you now.
Fig Tart Recipe
Prepare the pastry as follows;
200g flour
50g sugar
125g unsalted butter
pinch of salt
1 egg
Sieve the flour and salt. Add the cubed and room temperature butter.
Incorporate the flour and butter by rubbing with your fingertips, should be a sandy texture. Whisk the egg and sugar, make a well in the flour and add. Mix gently to form a paste. Keep cool and allow to rest. Grease a 26-28cm tart tin, preferably a loose bottom one, roll out the dough and line the tin. Prick the bottom with a fork and rest in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
Preheat your oven to 180 Celsius and bake "blind" the pastry case for 15 minutes.

Fig Tart Filling
18 fresh figs, wash well, cut off stem and cut a cross on the bottom, flatten them out gently.
260g ground almonds
60g plain flour
250g unsalted butter
250g caster sugar
3 eggs
1 vanilla pod, cut length ways and seeds removed
1 tablespoon brandy, strega or galliano. Choose just 1, not all 3.
3 sprigs of lemon thyme
grated zest of 1 orange
Preheat the oven to 170 c (fan bake)
Whisk the softened butter and sugar till white, add the eggs, one at a time, whisking continuously. Add the rest of the ingredients and fold in gently. Spread mixture into tart case, push figs into case, cross side up and bake in the oven for 1 hour or until centre is set.

Chef Jules Tips
Wash the figs very well as the birds enjoy them too!

If you make a sugar syrup with the juice and rind of 2 oranges, more lemon thyme, boil for 15minutes and drizzle over figs just before placing in the oven it enhances the flavour.

Serve the tart warm with a dollop of cream fraiche.

Hope you enjoy this my friends and let me know if there is any particular recipe or food you would like to know about or cook. And remember to be conscious of whats available around you, and utilise fresh produce when in season.

Ciao for now.

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