Friday, August 27, 2010

The Tart. Polenta Crust with Beetroot and Pumpkin, or Leek with Speck and Mushrroms.

So. Thanks to those of you who have joined me.

And I must confess that my first attempt to "bake" everything-free was a complete disaster. I had this great idea that I could make a steamed custard with polenta in it. Then I thought I would drop some rhubarb in it to give it ....... something..... and then I got worried about the acidity of the rhubarb, so I pureed some bananas to add as a sweetner. It was all kinds of wrong. One of the wrongs was that I used banana. I hate banana. If you don't understand that, just think about the smell of a banana, in a plastic bag, in a car, in the sun. Breathe in....... mmmm....... Whilst I don't have the finest palate in the world, I can detect that taste the moment the first brown spot arrives on a banana. If you eat it much before then however, you often end up with the really rough mouth feel. It leaves you about an 8 hr window in which to enjoy a banana and I always seem to miss it. I certainly missed it with the bananas used in my steamed custard. They were quite spotty.
The second thing that went wrong was that at the last minute I decided to bake it instead of steam it. Which would have been fine but instead of pouring it into a big flan dish I decided to make individuals portions in the muffin tray. What so wrong with that? Probably nothing, except I used my regular muffin tin instead of the nonstick one. I sprayed it well before hand so they came out fine. But I didn't count on the acid of the rhubarb reacting with the baking tray and leaving a blue/greyish rust mark with a metallic flavour around it.My husband and I bravely ate one of these wonders and then they did what all cooking flops do, got put into a container until stinky, then thrown into the compost.

I'm sticking with savouries for a while. Yesterday was much more successful with the polenta tarts. I used this recipe for the crust and made up my own fillings.

You start by boiling the polenta with chicken stock and herbs from the garden.

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme (I omitted the parsley)

I added some goats milk and a bit of butter too, then you let it cool before pressing into tart tins. The tip for using glad wrap over the top was a winner - no messy fingers.


These were then cooled and baked for around 40 min before putting the filling in. When boiling the polenta it seemed too thick and 1 added too much extra liquid. This was a mistake and meant that they took a longer to blind bake then they should have.

Once they were a baked I filled them and put them back in the oven. If you have an oven with different settings (as I do in my brand new kitchen) I recommend the strong heat from below to give a nice bite to the bottom of the crust. Mine would have been too wet otherwise.

Here's the leek and speck one. I whisked up an egg, stirred the finely sliced leek and speck through and put it in the shell, added some sliced mushrooms, some hard goats cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.

It's not really burnt, it's the mushrooms!

Here's the roast beetroot and pumpkin one. I par-boiled the beets first to soften them before baking. I topped it with yoghurt mixed with finely chopped garlic and some left over oil from marinated goats cheese, and, a sprig of thyme.

I preferred the beet and pumpkin actually, the sharpness of the yoghurt completed the sweetness of the vegetables and held it together well.

But, I think I have a bit to learn about taking pictures of food. I was in too much of a rush to eat it so it was a quick snap before settling down for dinner.

Recipe. (Thanks to appogiatura)

Polenta Crust

1 cup polenta

1/2 cup chicken stock

2 1/2 cup water


1 tsp finely chopped herbs

pepper flakes (I didn't use these).

Start by cooking the polenta. Bring the liquid to a boil and add stock. Pour polenta in stirring all the while and then cook for an hour on the stove top. You have to stir a lot. It should be soft and quite sticky when done (not gritty). Let it cool until you can handle it. Put a blob in the bottom of your tart tin (previously sprayed with oil) and let sit for a moment so it has a little bit of a skin. Put the glad wrap on it and press it into shape with your hands, then put in the fridge until ready to bake.

Bake until crust is crispy and golden. (She bakes 425 degrees for 25 min) . Add filling and bake again. Wha-la!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

To begin at the beginning.

The dreaded words that you knew were coming but hoped you could avoid, fall from you health professionals lips. Gluten-free. I always stated I would cry if I had to go gluten free and my preemptive moaning has brought on a worse curse. Gluten-free and dairy free and sugar free.

Kill me now.

What will I eat? More to the point, what will I bake?

Preliminary internet searches confirmed my worst fears. Sprouting granola ??? (I kid you not) No, I do not wish to eat nuts that have been boiled for an hour and what the hell is agave nectar and xylitol?

I have decided instead, to search out recipes from regular foodie blogs and just use the ones which avoid most of the things I need to avoid, or ones where easy substitutes can be found.

It's not actually that bad. Firstly, I'm doing this by choice. (We're trying to be healthy to coax my eggs-of-doom into making a baby that can live). Secondly, I'm sure lots of people do this already and they probably have taste buds too and also like to cook. Thirdly, I'm giving my self a time-frame. There's a light at the end of this tunnel baby. Who knows, I too, will probably turn into a righteous fun-free food freak before you can say amaranth porridge.


The rules.

Dairy (mostly)

Organic everything
Goats milk and cheeses
Butter (a bit)
Natural yoghurt (cows milk)
Cold pressed oils
Fruit (3 pieces a day)
Veges (Infinite)
All those gluten free grains and flours I've yet to discover.


I tried not to show my disappointment. And the naturopath kept apologising each time she took away another of my favourite foods. I bit my bottom lip so it wouldn't tremble. I was so ashamed at how upset I was at giving up these foods. A part of my brain was lecturing me about foolish luxuries and gratitude that I can make food choices, but my heart was desperately sad. I love to cook. I particularly love to cook with butter, flour and sugar. My rhubarb muffins, baked for the first time this winter, had been a raving success at both my and my husbands place of work. There'd been requests, duplicate batches dispensed. The softness of the muffin. The perfect balance of sweet and tart and the crust on top of sugar and cinnamon.......In summer it was the blood plums poached in red wine and spices and then sunk into an almond frangipane held in a perfectly thin crisp pastry case...... Friends treasured these and with acts of incredible will power only let themselves eat them one at a time, so, like Charlie with his chocolate, they could spread the love out over the week.

And as sad as I am to be giving up eating these things, I'm equally sad to be giving up baking them. You see, baking and love go hand in hand. A dimpled pie of rabbit and fennel wrapped in layers of buttery filo speaks love in a way quinoa salad simply can't. And I just can't cook these things without eating them - you can taste the bitterness of my torture. It just wouldn't be right at all.

So this is my attempt to find new ways of spreading food love within the parameters set for me by those who know a lot more about nutrition and ovaries and babies then I ever will.


Walk with me as I embark on this food journey. I'm in the process of an early attempt at a tart case. I'll share this with you when they have been baked, filled and et.