Food for Sleepless Nights

Corinne Bailey Rae – Trouble Sleeping

“Sophie couldn’t sleep.”

This is the first sentence in The BFG, one of my favourite childhood books, and I’ve always loved that opening line.

As an on-and-off insomniac, I know that when you can’t sleep it can be pretty rubbish, but I like this line because it reminds me that sometimes, not being able to sleep can bring adventures.

Tart-shaped adventures may not sound as exciting as giants, but adventures they remain. And star-shaped biscuit adventures are just awesomesauce.

At half past eleven a few weeks ago, I realised that yet again my body had decided to forego sleep in favour of making my brain go something like this. Instead of watching endless stupid Youtube videos (which is how I came across that last one, as it happens), I decided to do something productive. At 2am I finally finished, and I slept better than I had done in weeks.

Here are the recipes, both of which are from Good Food Magazine, aka The Bible in convenient monthly packages, as it has become to my household:

Cherry Shortbread.

They used hearts as you can see on the online recipe, but I used stars because they’re a bit less vommy. And lead to far less “Oh, I’ve broken your heart!” or “GO ON – TAKE ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE OF MY HEART!” jokes. I know my colleagues too well.

Also, if you’re not a fan of cherry then feel free to use raspberry or apricot. They work equally scrumptiously.

The other point I will make is not only will you probably need more flour than that stated (I probably used another 30-50g), but you really should put the dough in the fridge for a while before you roll it. Much less sticky.

Ingredients:

  • 100g icing sugar , plus extra for dusting
  • 200g plain flour , plus extra for dusting
  • 50g cornflour
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 250g pack cold butter , cut into cubes
  • 50g glacé cherries , finely chopped
  • ½ tsp almond extract
  • 8 tbsp cherry jam , sieved
Method:
  1. Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Sift the icing sugar, flour and cornflour together into a bowl. Stir in the ground almonds and butter, then rub in the butter until smooth. Stir in the chopped glacé cherries and almond extract, and bring together to form a dough.
  2. Roll out on a lightly floured surface, then stamp out biscuits using a heartshaped cutter. Keep re-rolling the trimmings until all the dough is used. Carefully transfer the biscuits to baking trays lined with parchment and bake for just 8-10 mins until just pale golden.
  3. Using an upturned bottle top or similar, press gently into the centre of each biscuit to make a round indent. Spoon in a little jam and return to the oven for 2 mins. Remove and cool on a wire rack, before dusting with icing sugar to serve.

Cavolo Nero and Pancetta Tart

(Yes, the picture does show that my pastry sort of collapsed and it was a tad overdone. But in my defence, I think the entire thing disappeared within three minutes of me serving it, so it can’t have been a total disaster…)

I really only picked this one because it meant I got to announce it at work in an Italian accent and sound all foreign. But Cavolo Nero is essentially Kale. A bit less romantic but delicious nonetheless.
Oh, and whatever you do don’t ask anyone at ASDA if they sell ‘baking beans’. It leads to scenes you wouldn’t even expect in a badly-written sitcom that make you do a bit of a cry.

The recipe for this really is as easy as it sounds (hooray for Good Food Magazine!). Which is good as, by 1am, I was beginning to get a bit trippy. The only tip I can think of is to actually have a rolling pin, rather than a bottle of strawberry wine, like me. It did a good job, but it was a bit doughy afterwards, and therefore less of a hit when you bring it along to parties. Which for some reason I did, and puzzlingly no one else wanted to drink any of it…

Ingredients:

  • 500g pack all-butter shortcrust pastry
  • 1 small head of cavolo nero , about 200g
  • 70g pack sliced pancetta
  • 200ml whole milk
  • 150ml double cream
  • 2 eggs , plus 1 yolk
  • 85g Parmesan , grated
Method:
  1. Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Roll out the pastry and use to line a deep 20 x 30cm loose-bottomed tart tin or 23cm round tin. Prick the base and line with greaseproof paper and baking beans. Sit the tin on a baking sheet and bake for 15 mins, then remove beans and parchment and return to the oven for a further 5-10 mins until pale golden. Lower the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4.
  2. Meanwhile, trim the cabbage and separate the leaves. Cook in a pan of lightly salted boiling water for 4-5 mins, until tender. Cool and drain well then squeeze out any excess water. Pat dry with kitchen paper.
  3. Arrange the cabbage leaves and pancetta slices in the tart case. Beat together the milk, cream and eggs until well blended. Stir in the Parmesan and some freshly ground black pepper then pour into the tart case. Bake for 25 mins until just set.
  4. Leave to sit in the tin for 10 mins then carefully lift out, cut into slices and serve while still warm.
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