Wednesday, November 21, 2007

waiter, there's something in my... topless tart

nothing like a little bit of imbb pressure to get the blogging juices going again. cooksister's hosting this month's "Waiter, there's something in my…" monthly food blogging event. this months' theme is the rather saucy sounding "topless tarts".

adapted from a g ramsay recipe, my contribution to the topless tart roundup is the open mushroom tart.

open mushroom tarts

puff pastry - puff pastry isn't that difficult to make, but ready rolled's fine too
sliced mushrooms - loads of them and as many as you like - i generally use a mixture of chestnut, ceps, girolles, shitake and portobello
single cream
parmigiano reggiano

preheat the oven to 200C. roll puff pastry out to the thickness of 1/8 inch and cut out discs of approximately 6 inches in diameter. The size of how large you'd like your tarts to be dictates how large your discs should therefore be. place each disc of puff pastry on a baking sheet lined with baking paper. lay another piece of baking paper on top of this disc, and another baking sheet on top to weigh it down. this stops the puff pastry from rising while being baked. by all means use your silpats if you have them you lucky sods (while I think of you and turn green with envy). bake the puff pastry discs till golden brown and entirely crisp.

sauté the sliced mushrooms in butter. the trick is to get as much moisture out of them as possible so that they are entirely mushroomy and the resulting mushroom liquid is thick, syrupy and full of mushroom goodness. season as you go along. this may entail sauté-ing them twice with a rest in between. you want this quite dry and concentrated because you won't want a soggy tart. when you are sufficiently satisfied with the mushroomyness of the mushrooms, add a trickle of double cream and a crackle of black pepper. there should be just enough cream so that the mushrooms are bound together lightly but not so much it's overbearing.

assembling the tart could not be simpler - place a disc of pastry on the plate, and spoon on a heapful of mushrooms and top with generous shavings of parmegiano reggiano. I often serve mine as a starter with a rocket salad, or sometimes as a size adjusted canapé topped with slithers of grilled proscuitto.

Of course if one of your diners is an avid mushroom hater, as a guest-of-honor at a recent dinner party was (and worse still if you're like me and totally forgot this rather major fact, merrily going about your mushroom buying business, realising with horror when it has become far too late to change the starter), the pastry disc is a happy medium for a variety of other toppings. I sautéed leeks and ham in a cream sauce which worked rather well for my mushroom-hating guest.

Sunday, November 04, 2007


there was something rather disturbingly hilarious about the fact that we were sat at a table on the first floor of the savoy, peering intently out of the window over the foyer in anticipation the arrival of a black cab. the vehicle in question had no passengers, simply an envelope bearing a document which ls was going to have to review over dinner. as usual, I filled our time boring ls with random trivia about how the savoy court was the only street in london where vehicles are required to drive on the right.

welcome to london. or rather the anomaly that is the City – where documents take taxi rides by themselves, and according to the play we had just watched, where blackberrys rule the day and bankers diarise sex with the wives via their secretaries. Alex the play is hilarious – based on the comic strip satirizing the comedy that is the City and its clown bankers. hilarious. and perhaps it was so funny because for all the fun it poked at life in the city, it was painfully very close to the truth.

lucky for my tummy, reservations at banquette were in order and we toddled over for a well deserved supper. banquette, one of the g ramsay family, whose design was apparently inspired by the interior of a 1950s corvette stingray, looks like the inside of an American diner, albeit a rather sleek one at that. fortunately there wasn’t any meatloaf or grits on the menu, there was however a delicious sounding burger and spaghetti carbonara – comfort food for a friday evening – the end of a long and painful week battling the clowns and their other circus friends in the City. well, at least it was the end of the week for me. ls was still reading his document.
document drama dealt with, we decided to forgo a rather too energetic sounding party in the interests of sheer fatigue and for more comfort sought in bellinis and the strains of jazz piano in the American Bar – home of harry cradock’s legacy cocktails. it was a lovely mellow bar, evoking images of women in glamorous cocktail dresses and men in fedoras in the days of speakeasy and the prohibition – the long lost days before blackberrys and taxi-riding documents.