Monday, September 22, 2008

Jerusalem Artichoke Risotto

This is a simple and warming Italian risotto, which benefits from the delicious and distinctive flavor of Jerusalem artichokes. Recipe serves 3-4.


14 ounces (400 g) Jerusalem artichokes
1 1/2 ounces (40 g) tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 1/2 cups risotto rice
1/2 cup fruity white wine
4 cups simmering vegetable stock
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra, to serve
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh thyme sprigs, to garnish


1. Peel the artichokes, cut them into pieces and immediately add them to a pan of lightly salted water. Simmer them until tender, then drain and mash with 1 tablespoon of the butter. Add a little more salt, if needed.
2. Heat the oil and remaining butter in a pan and fry the onion and garlic for 5-6 minutes until soft. Add the rice and cook over a medium heat for about 2 minutes until the grains are translucent around the edges.
3. Pour in the wine, stir until it has been absorbed, then start adding the simmering stock, a ladle full at a time, making sure each quantity has been absorbed before adding more.
4. When you have just one last ladle full of stock to add, stir in the mashed artichokes and the chopped thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Continue cooking until the risotto is creamy and the artichokes are hot. Stir in the Parmesan. Remove from the heat, cover the pan and leave the risotto to stand for a few minutes. Spoon into a serving dish, garnish with thyme, and serve with Parmesan cheese.

Custard-filled Tarts

These dainty, sealed tartlets contain a smooth vanilla custard. Recipe makes 15 tarts.


2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
4 ounces (125 g) unsalted butter, chilled and diced
8 teaspoons caster sugar
2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Icing sugar, to dust
2 egg yolks
8 teaspoons white sugar
8 teaspoons cornflour
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla flavoring essence


1. Place the flour and butter in a food processor; mix to the texture of fine breadcrumbs, about 30 seconds.
2. Add sugar, egg yolks and lemon juice; mix for 10 seconds. Add 6-10 teaspoons chilled water, mixing until a dough forms which leaves the sides of the bowl. Press dough into a disc shape on a lightly floured surface; wrap in greaseproof paper and chill for 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 440 degrees F (220 degrees C).
3. For the filling, put the egg yolks, sugar, cornflour and milk into a small, heavy-based saucepan. Bring the mixture to the boil over a very low heat, stirring constantly, until thick and smooth. Stir in the vanilla. Cover the surface with clear plastic wrap and leave the custard to cool completely.
4. Roll out the pastry on the lightly floured surface until 1/4 inch (6 mm) thick. Thoroughly grease fifteen 2 inch (5 cm) shaped tartlet tins. Arrange the tins close together on a baking tray. Lay the pastry on the tins and gently press into the tins. Trim the edges by rolling over with the rolling pin or use a sharp knife. Reserve trimmings.
5. Spoon the filling into the tins. Brush the pastry edges with a little cold water. Re-roll the trimmings and cut out tops for the tartlets. Place tops over filling and press edges to seal.
6. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden. Stand tins on a wire cooling rack for 3 minutes until firm, then transfer to the rack to cool completely. Dust with icing sugar.

Tip: The tarts may also be made in tartlet or bun tins. Cut the pastry rounds for the bases a little wider than the tins. Make the tops out of the trimmings, as the recipe directs.

Chocolate Chip Eclairs

The addition of chocolate chips gives these luxurious pastries extra appeal. Recipe makes 14-15 eclairs.


1/2 cup all-purpose (plain) flour
Pinch of salt
2 ounces (60 g) unsalted butter
2 large eggs, beaten
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
1/2 pint (300 ml) double (thickened) cream
5 ounces (150 g) dark cooking chocolate, coarsely chopped
Icing and Decoration:
1 ounce (30 g) unsalted butter
2 ounces (60 g) dark cooking chocolate
8 teaspoons golden syrup
8 teaspoons double (thickened) cream
Icing sugar, to dust
Fresh strawberries


1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Grease two baking trays with melted butter. Sift flour and salt onto a sheet of greaseproof paper.
2. Put the butter and 5 fl ounces (150 ml) water into a heavy-based saucepan and heat gently until the butter melts. Raise the heat to medium and bring to the boil. Quickly add the flour all at once, then immediately remove from the heat and beat vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture forms a smooth ball. Cool slightly.
3. Beat the eggs into the mixture, a little at a time, until smooth and glossy. Put mixture in a piping bag fitted with a large plain nozzle/pipe.
4. Pipe the mixture onto the prepared baking trays in thick 3 inch (7.5 cm) lengths. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until well risen; reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) and bake for a further 10 minutes, until golden brown and crisp. Slit down the side of each eclair. Cool in the oven, with the door ajar, for about 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire cooling rack to cool.
5. For the filling, scald the cream in a saucepan over a low heat. Turn off the heat and add the chocolate. Leave to stand undisturbed for 5 minutes, then stir until smooth. Chill until thick.
6. For the icing, put the butter and chocolate in a small bowl over a pan of simmering water and leave to melt, stirring occasionally. Whisk in the golden syrup and cream with a balloon whisk until the icing is smooth and glossy.
7. Pipe the filling in the slit of the eclairs. Dip the tops of the eclairs in the icing and leave to set. Dust with icing sugar and serve with strawberries.