Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Pigging out on pork

I’ve been asked to choose another favourite cookbook and whip up a tasty dish from one of the recipes within for another piece on Channel five’s Cooking the Books. And a book that that totally captured my imagination the moment it turned up on my desk and immersed me in its pink porkiness was Pork & Sons by Stéphane Reynaud, the French purveyor of all things pig. I decided to make the black pudding, apple, potato and fennel tart as I thought it would look tasty on television, travel well to the studio and I know from previous experience - is damn tasty!

Black pudding, apple, potato and fennel tart

Stéphane Reynaud's Pork & Sons - serves 6

3 shallots, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons crème fraîche
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
4 Charlotte or other waxy potatoes
2 eating apples
100g smoked lardons, rindless
400g black pudding
350g puff pastry dough, thawed if frozen
Plain flour for dusting
1/4 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 bunch of rocket, optional, torn into pieces

Mix together the shallots and crème fraîche in a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Cook the potatoes in lightly salted boiling water for 15-20 minutes, until tender. Drain well, then cut into thin rounds. Preheat the grill.

Peel, core and slice the apple. Heat the remaining olive oil in a frying pan, add the apple slices and cook until they're just beginning to colour.

Spread out the lardons on a baking sheet and cook under the grill, turning once for 5-8 minutes, until tender. Meanwhile, remove the skin from the black pudding and cut into thin slices.

Preheat the oven to 180oC

Roll out the puff pastry dough on a lightly floured surface to a 25cm round and place on a baking sheet. Spread 2 tablespoons of the shallot cream evenly over the dough round. Sprinkle with the fennel and lardons, and then arrange alternate layers of black pudding, potato and apple slices on top. Cover with the remaining shallot cream. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes.

Cover the tart with the rocket, if using, drizzle with olive oil and serve immediately.

Despite making it before I seemed to have totally forgotten how much preparation it requires as potato and apples have to be thinly sliced and pre cooked and the lardons had to be sautéed also before the tart can be constructed for the for baking in the oven. And the other thing I’d forgot from following a Pork & Sons recipe is that the quantities shown are extremely generous, I didn’t even bother with the fennel but there was barely room for all the delicious layers of apples, potatoes, smoky lardons and the leeky crème fraîche. But I was pleased with the result; obviously I made a few tweaks as generally I feel a recipe is more a suggestion and some ideas to get the creative juices running but not a blueprint to adhere to slavishly. This time I omitted the fennel, substituted the shallots for leeks and didn’t peel the Red Delicious apples as I thought the red skin would add an extra burst of colour to the finished dish. I think not peeling the apples also prevented the slices getting too soggy in the sautéing process.

I was pretty delighted with the tart as I think the finished dish on the plate really matched the dish on the page, if that was my main objective. And actually is a bit of a stunner really!

It's a shame that the next day my tart got bumped for a slightly depressed poppy seed topped tart but the cook was the mother of a friend of the show so I was usurped. Never mind, the tart looked fabulous anyhow and if it didn't get its five minutes of fame it attracted a lot of admiring glances!

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