Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Summer Strawberry Tart

Glistening berries sit on creamy custard amid almond paste to make a delectable tart. Recipe serves 8.


1 sheet frozen ready-rolled butter puff pastry, thawed
2 cups ground almonds
3 ounces (90 g) caster sugar
3 ounces (90 g) icing sugar, sifted
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla flavoring essence
4 teaspoons custard powder
1/4 pint (150 ml) milk
1/4 pint (150 ml) fresh or thickened cream, whipped
4 teaspoons caster sugar
8 ounces (250 g) small strawberries, hulled
1/2 cup raspberry jam, warmed and sieved


1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F (220 degrees C). Line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper. Place the pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface. Roll out to 12 inches (30 cm) long. Trim to a 12 x 8 inch (30 x 20 cm) rectangle. Place on the baking tray; prick all over with a fine fork. Chill for 10 minutes.
2. Bake the pastry for 10-15 minutes, until golden. Stand on a wire cooling rack for 10 minutes.
3. For the border, place the ground almonds and sugars in a mixing bowl. Add the egg and vanilla and mix well to form a paste. Spoon the paste into a large piping bag fitted with a star pipe/nozzle.
4. Pipe the paste neatly around the outer edge of the cool pastry. Pipe 5 diagonal lines evenly between the sides. Bake for 5-10 minutes, or until golden brown.
5. For the filling, mix the custard powder and milk in a saucepan until smooth. Bring to the boil, stirring constantly, until thick. Pour into a bowl, cover and leave to cool completely.
6. Fold the whipped cream and caster sugar into the custard. Place the pastry base on a serving plate; spread the custard in between the almond borders. Arrange the strawberries over the custard. Brush the warm raspberry jam over the strawberries.

Tip: You may prepare the almond paste up to a week in advance. Cover and refrigerate until needed. If the strawberries are large, slice them before arranging on the tart.

Pear and Parsnip Puree

This unusual puree is delicious served with a roasted rack of lamb. Recipe serves 6-8.


3 medium parsnips, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 1/2 ounces (100 g) unsalted butter
2 ripe pears, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Freshly ground pepper, to taste


1. Place parsnips in a medium sized saucepan and add water to cover. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until tender (about 20 minutes). Drain.
2. Melt the butter in a small fry pan over medium heat. Add the pears and saute for 5 minutes. Add the lemon juice and cook for 10 minutes stirring frequently.
3. Process the parsnips and the pears in a food processor until smooth. Add the sour cream, nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste and process to blend. Warm gently just before serving.

Chicken and Mushroom Donburi

"Donburi" means a one-dish meal that is eaten from a bowl, and takes its name from the eponymous Japanese porcelain food bowl. As in most Japanese dishes, the rice here is completely plain but its nevertheless an integral part of the dish. Recipe serves 4.


2 teaspoons groundnut oil
2 ounces (60 g) butter
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 inch (2.5 cm) piece of fresh root ginger, grated
5 spring onions, diagonally sliced
1 green fresh chili, seeded and finely sliced
3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into thin strips
5 ounces (150 g) tofu, cut into small cubes
4 ounces (125 g) shiitake mushrooms, stalks discarded and cups sliced
1 tablespoon Japanese rice wine
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 2/3 cups chicken stock
Generous 1-1 1/2 cups Japanese rice or Thai fragrant rice


1. Cook the rice by the absorption method or by following the instructions on the packet.
2. While the rice is cooking, heat the oil and half the butter in a large frying pan. Stir-fry the garlic, ginger, spring onions and chili for 1-2 minutes until slightly softened. Add the strips of chicken and fry, in batches if necessary, until all the pieces are evenly browned.
3. Transfer the chicken mixture to a plate and add the tofu to the pan. Stir- fry for a few minutes, then add the mushrooms. Stir fry for 2-3 minutes over a medium heat until the mushrooms are tender.
4. Stir in the rice wine, soy sauce and sugar and cook briskly for 1-2 minutes, stirring all the time. Return the chicken to the pan, toss over the heat for about 2 minutes, then pour in the stock. Stir well and cook over a gentle heat for 5-6 minutes until bubbling.
5. Spoon the rice into individual serving bowls and pile the chicken mixture on top, making sure that each portion gets a generous amount of chicken sauce.

Tip: Once the rice is cooked, leave it covered until ready to serve. It will stay warm for about 30 minutes. Fork through lightly just before serving.

Pineapple Salsa

This salsa is wonderful served with fish. It is also good with grilled chicken and roasted duck.


1 1/2 cups chopped fresh pineapple
1/2 bunch fresh coriander, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon freshly chopped ginger
Ground black pepper, to taste


1. Stir all the ingredients together, cover and chill until ready to serve.
2. Will keep, covered with plastic wrap, in the refrigerator for 2 days.