Death by Chocolate Cherry Cream Pie

I have been doing my best lately to be a bit more health-conscious.  Having spent the best part of this year totally immersed in cooking lots of rich, buttery, salty food (a.k.a. ‘fine dining’), taking a step back and making a concerted effort to eat better seemed like an appropriate summer resolution.

However, there have been some notable set backs.  Like this chocolate cherry cream pie.  Yes, all those things, together.  In a pie.  I brought this along to a friend’s dinner party recently and accidentally put everyone into a food coma and lugged myself home with a renewed commitment to leafy greens.  

Having said that, it was pretty tasty, so do give it a go.  After all, life really is too short not to eat pie and sometimes an indulgence is just what the doctor ordered.  Just maybe serve a salad first.

By the by, heart-shaped dish, below, was a birthday gift from my cousins and is made by the Swedish company, Bruka.

Chocolate Cherry Cream Pie
 as ludicrously decadent as it sounds…

You will need:

Pastry:
200g flour
35g cocoa
100g caster sugar
1/2 tsp salt
110g butter, fridge cold and cut into cubes
2 egg yolks
2 tbsp double cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Filling:
200g cream cheese
1/2 tsp vanilla
60g caster sugar
200ml double cream
Cherry or raspberry jam (I used sour cherry jam, you could also make your own compote*)
1 punnet black cherries, pitted
Small bar of very dark chocolate

Method:

1.  Sift flour and cocoa into a large bowl.  Add the sugar and salt.

2.  Work in the butter to consistency of breadcrumbs, either by transferring to a magimix or by hand.

3.  Add yolks, cream and vanilla and mix well.  Bring dough together on work surface, shape into a flat round, wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate.  If dough seems very dry and like it won’t come together add a little more cream (1/2 teaspoons at a time)- be careful not to add too much cream, though, it should not be sticky or it will be impossible to work with. 

4.  Preheat oven to 200 C.  Dust work surface liberally with cocoa.  Roll out pastry to the thickness of 1/2 cm.  Line a x cm pastry or flan tin.  A loose-bottomed cake tin will also do.  Refrigerate for 15 minutes.  

5.  Blind bake your pastry case- approx 15 min** and allow to cool completely.  Meanwhile, make your filling.  Beat cream cheese with vanilla and sugar.  Add cream and whisk to form soft peaks. Refrigerate until needed.

6.   To assemble, spread jam over the base of the pastry case.  Add the cream cheese mixture.  Arrange cherries over the top and finally grate over some dark chocolate. 

* Simply pit a large handful of cherries and place in a pan over a low heat with a little lemon juice and sweeten to your liking.  Simmer until soft and oozy. 

**At the risk of sounding patronising, but just in case- Place a crumpled circle of baking parchment into the case/on top of the pastry.  Fill with beads, beans, lentils, rice, whatever you have to hand.  Bake in the oven until pastry is almost cooked and the sides have set.  Remove the parchment and beads/beans/lentils/rice/whatever you have to hand and continue to bake until bottom has cooked too.  The exact timing of this will depend on your oven and thickness of the pastry.

 

Midsummer’s Eve Pie

Västerbotten pie with gravad lax and spinach, tomato and melon salad

A game of kubb in the park

Picnic spoils

It was Midsummer’s Eve last Friday.  On of the biggest Swedish holidays, the day is celebrated in a hedonistic, herring-fuelled fashion to honour of the first proper day of summer and the lightest day of the year.  This includes the little frog-dance and downing plenty of snaps.  Not necessarily in that order.

This year, my Midsummer’s was spent it in Mile End Park with a picnic of gravadlax with mustard and dill sauce, västerbotten cheese pie, sour cream and chive potato salad, cucumber and dill salad and a hazelnut cake with cream and raspberries.  And some beautiful berry tarts, which I cannot take credit for. 

The pictures above and below are of my desk lunch made up of leftovers, seeing as I didn’t manage to take any decent photos on the evening itself.  I beefed up the bits and pieces with a fresh and cool salad of spinach, melon and tomato with balsamic. 

Working lunch

The pie is really very simple and straightforward.  What makes it special is the cheese that you choose- the tangier, the better.  I managed to find some Västerbotten cheese from the Scandinavian Kitchen for an authentic version.  It’s a properly strong, holey cheese with a peppery punch and creamy texture.  This classic pie is served at parties, traditionally with some fish roe, chopped red onion and sour cream.  You can, of course, use a really strong Cheddar or maybe some crumbly Lancashire.  You could add some chopped spring onions or herbs like chive or tarragon if you fancied pimping it.  Put personally, I’m a bit of a purist. 


Västerbotten pie:

For the dough:
225g flour
100g unsalted butter
1 egg

For the filling:
3 eggs
300g strong, firm cheese
250 ml cream
100 ml milk
salt, pepper.

1.  First, make the dough.  Combine the flour and the butter, straight from the fridge and chopped into cubes.  Use your fingers to combine until you get a flaky, crumb-like mixture. 

2.  Add the egg, beating to combine to form a dough.  Wrap in cling film and chill for at least half an hour.

3.  Heat the oven to 180 degrees.  Roll out your pastry to line a 20cm loose-bottomed tin.  It may help to use your knuckles to flatten the dough into place.  Prick all over with a fork and blind bake in the oven for about 20 or so minutes, until the case is beginning to come away from the edges of the tin, but not too crisp or golden.  

4.  Meanwhile, make the filling.  Grate the cheese coarsly.  Whisk the eggs, milk and cream together and add a good pinch of salt and a grating of black pepper.  Finally add the cheese- it will seem like quite a lot of cheese and make for a pretty curdy-like consistency.

5.  Pour the filling into the case and place back into the oven for an additional 20 minutes, until the filling is cooked through and only has the faintest of wobbles.  Allow to cool before releasing from the tin and transferring to a plate. 

Springtime Asparagus Tart

It’s time for some Springtime tarts and Asparagus is in season.  This one is great as a starter or light lunch, perhaps even for a picnic if the weather (ever) picks up. 

Lemony Asparagus, Potato and Ricotta Tart
You will need

300g puff pastry
200g ricotta
a bunch of asparagus

3 medium sized potatoes
2 eggs
zest of 1/2 lemon
grated Parmesan
 salt, pepper

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180˚C.

2. Slice the potatoes and bring to boil in salted water.  Simmer until cooked through.  

 
3.  Remove any tougher ends of the asparagus and steam them for about 5 minutes, until just tender but still with a little bit of bite. 
 
4. Roll out the puff pastry on a lightly floured surface until about 3mm thick into a large rectangular shape.  You don’t have to be too precious about it, it’s a rustic tart, this one.   Place on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. With a sharp knife, score a line about 3-4 cm in from the edge of the rectangle, creating a ‘frame.’  This will ensure your pastry puffs up around the filling. 
 
5. In a bowl, mix the ricotta with a good handful of grated Parmesan, lemon zest, one egg and some salt and pepper.  You should have a smooth, custard-like filling.  Spread this all over the ‘framed’ part of the pastry. Arrange the asparagus and potatoes over the filling. 
 
6. Beat the remaining egg lightly and brush over the outer border of the pastry.   Bake the tart for about half an hour, until puffed, golden and crispy around the outside, and the pastry has cooked through even in the middle. Cool to warm on a wire rack, so it doesn’t go soggy.
 
7.  Serve with watercress strewn liberally all over the tart.  

Toby made pie….

It had porcini, leeks and feta in a puff pastry case and it was great.

Summer Supper

Tarragon. A funny herb. I am simultaneously intrigued and slightly put off by it. Partly because I know that it can be quite overpowering. But also because I also know that its Latin name means dragon’s wort which is a bit weird, really.

I think I’ve decided that I prefer it mixed up with other herbs, as in fines herbes, or with loads of lemon, to teasingly jazz things up. Or balance things out by adding a tiny bit to chopped dill. But on it’s own, and in abundance, it just seems too sickly aniseed-y. But perhaps that’s just me.

This was a pie with broccoli, Gorgonzola (except that was a bit too pricey so I used a blue brie) and tarragon. And it was quite nice- crumbly and comforting. If you don’t mind liquorish with your cheesy broccoli, that is.