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25 February 2012

Tart of Procrastination*

I've been putting it off and putting it off but today was the day: 

Rice Tart.
This is tarte au riz, or vlaamse rysttaart (got to love those three sets of double letters in the Flemish) or, basically, rice pudding baked in a pie. Americans may not be familiar with it. This dish is robustly Belgian, the kind of thing that when you eat it you just feel utterly wholesome -- like a red-cheeked farmer's daughter in a gingham dress, about to run across a polder (yes, this definitely leans to the Vlaams rather than the Wallon). It's delicious and it will put hair on your chest - as they say where I come from. The consistency should be firm; you should be able to slice it and wrap it in wax paper and take it with you; it should keep its shape.

My locally-sourced favourite is hands-down the guy who sells cheeses in the Chatelain market -- cheeses, bread, and a number of peasant-y pies by the whole, half, or quarter. The GB Bascule's by-the-slice version isn't bad either!  But this is unquestionably one of those dishes you can do easily and much more cheaply at home, whether or not you make the pastry -- I do, but I really think the right answer to the question (should one be questioned) is, "None of your business."

Oh the goodness
The version I made is a hybrid between Raymond Blanc, Nigel Slater, the Everybody Eats Well in Belgium Cookbook, and this guy.

Ingredients - Filling
Rice - short grain (as for risotto) 55g
Milk (whole/full fat/whatever you call it) - 1 litre
1 vanilla pod
5 tablespoons sugar
pinch of salt
optional: bit of lemon and orange zest, chopped very fine; candied or crystallized stem ginger, ditto (I'm not entirely convinced, personally, about the ginger.)
2 eggs, separated, the whites whisked until firm

Pastry: enough for one open tart - Raymond Blanc's sweet pastry (here) did the trick for me

Method: Rinse the rice then add to a saucepan with the milk and pinch of salt. Bring to a simmery boil on low-to-medium heat - do not let it boil over - and then reduce heat, keeping it to a very low simmer for 25-30 minutes. Raymond says to stir every 5 minutes; I obeyed. After about 15 minutes I added the sugar and vanilla pod (cut into three-four parts) and covered partially, still stirring every 5 or so minutes. It will start to get thick, I promise. When it's suitably thick and the rice is done (taste it, you'll know), take off the heat and check to see if you want another tablespoon or two of sugar, plus the zests and crystallized ginger if you're using. Preheat the oven to 180C (350F). I had to blind-bake my pastry first so I left the filling in the saucepan and it thickened up beautifully over the next 30+ minutes -- Raymond mentions that letting it rest will allow the creamy texture to develop, and it does. You also have to let it rest before adding the egg yolks and whites. (Well, I was afraid if it was too hot the egg would cook when adding to the mixture and I didn't want that.)

*sigh* the pastry looks nothing like Ray B's...
When you're ready to bake, pop it in the oven (I used a 23-cm - 8-inch? - springform pan) for about 30 minutes. At this point, mine was starting to colour nicely on top, and after 5-10 minutes longer it had even risen. I turned the oven off and let it sit in the warmth for maybe 10 minutes longer, to let it colour further.


I am quite pleased with the result.  The only remaining question is, how long does it have to sit before it's cool enough to eat?

* Isn't that a good title? If I did a new blog that's what I'd call it!

18 February 2012

Good authors too who once knew better words...

I have spent the past week mourning the passing of my friend John Hellon. My papers are full of notes with his comments: succinct, direct, in red ink. Their brevity belies the depth of his knowledge and experience. Along with writing we shared a love of good food, musicals of stage and screen, and the ability to launch into lyrics -- in his case, Cole Porter, Rodgers & Hammerstein, et al., which never ceased to impress me. His death was sudden, unexpected, uprooting. He was one of a kind, and he will be missed.

08 February 2012

In the swim

Still babying my hip, so I went for a dip...
Detail from the old art deco Piscine Molitor in Paris,
a stained glass window made by the workshop
of master glassmaker Louis Barillet


03 February 2012

Pathways


Nothing to do with writing, baking, or living in Brussels. But these are just so cool...

London


San Francisco

 Like spiderwebs, or cracks in the bottom of a china cup...

02 February 2012

Rialto Renewed

You may have heard me going on about how much I love The Rialto. Well, their funding has been confirmed. Whew. By the way their website has come a long way since I wrote that post back in 2008.