For a few weeks I felt lazy. My body has its own cycle. There are weeks or months when I fulfill my schedule without any problem and others when I need to just sit and do nothing. During the last two weeks it was like that. It was a really exhausting few months. Moving to Ireland, putting everything together, meeting new people, sightseeing, and then came the cooking course at Howth Castle. I won it on The Kitchen in the Castle Facebook fan page. I was so happy about it! I had never taken part in a cooking course, but I had always wanted to. It was great, but it took me some time finally write about it. You know, the lazy time.
Howth is a beautiful fishing village. You can get there easily from Dublin with the DART. The Kitchen in the Castle Cookery School is inside the castle. How cool is that? I was so exited about the course that I forgot to take a photo of the castle. It is so lovely and still inhabited. I will go back to Howth Castle in two weeks’ time, so I will try to take a photo then. I swear.
Before the cooking course I was wondering how many things one can fit into a three hours’ cooking course. Tree hours can be both long and very short. I must admit I wanted to run away before the course. You know – new situations, new places, new people stress me a little bit, but everything turned out just great. Our tutor was Hazel Mc Fadden, she was a perfect host. This wasn’t a look and learn course, it reminded me more of my friend’s kitchen. Whenever he invited us for dinner, we ended up in the kitchen chopping, peeling and doing everything that needed to be done and chatting, of course. Here it was the same thing, even with the friend part. It’s really hard to get a nice, friendly atmosphere with people you have just met. Hazel did it, she made sure that everybody would feel good in her kitchen.
We talked about many things – food, which is obvious, where to buy good ingredients, what is the difference between black and green cardamom (actually we smelt the difference), I have learned that if something does not taste salty enough instead of adding salt you should start with something acidic like lemon or vinegar, how to use all the flavour from meat, why when you make shortbread you try to keep it as cool as possible. There were plenty of small tips that can be very useful. If you don’t know much about cooking it will be magical for you, you will learn a lot. If you know quite a lot, you probably still have some questions, so just ask. We also talked about the history of the castle, about growing herbs (the herbs garden in Howth Kitchen is just lovely). And what can I say about Moroccan cuisine? It’s really aromatic and simple.
My favourite course was the dessert. Oh this lovely pistachio tart with cardamom and orange aroma. The starter was so simple and delicious and the lamb just melted in your mouth. Next time I will visit Howth for Glitzy Iced Cup Cakes and Parisian Macaroons, and I hope I have as much fun as I did the last time.
Pistachio and Almond Tart with Orange and Cardamom
recipe from www.thekitcheninthecastle.com
Makes 1 x 24cmPreheat Oven 190ºC/ Gas Mark 4
- 250g plain flour
- ½ tsp fine salt
- 60g caster sugar
- 12 green cardamom, seeds only, ground
- 160g butter
- 1/2 whisked egg
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 egg
- 2 tbsp milk or cream
- 200g blanched almonds
- 300g blanched pistachios
- 250g caster sugar
- 12 green cardamon, seeds only, ground
- 150ml orange juice
- 4 egg yolks
- Zest of one orange
2. Pastry- method: place the dry ingredients in a bowl and between your hands, rub together with the butter cubes until the mixture forms small breadcrumbs. Alternatively,you can use a food processor for 10-12 second.
3. Add the eggs and mix with a fork just until it all comes together. Using one hand only bring the dry and wet ingredients together. Dust your work surface with flour kneed for a couple of minutes until it is smooth and homogeneous. Now it is ready to be rolled.
4. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured work surface until 4mm thick and until it covers the tart base and up the sides. Line the tart case with the pastry and if there is any excess, cut with a knife. Prick the base. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes to chill.
5. Cut out a circle of baking paper and line the pastry with it. Fill with baking beads, rice or dry beans – enough to reach up the sides of the pastry so it does not collapse during baking. Bake the case blind for 15 minutes, until the pastry is just set. Remove the paper and beans, then return the tin to the oven for 5 minutes to cook the base. Remove from the oven & turn the oven down to 180ºC / gas mark 4.
6. To make the filling: Put the nuts, sugar and cardamom in a food processor and grind until very, very fine. When ready, the nuts will have begun to release their oil and cake together. Slowly add the orange juice to make a very thick, smooth paste-let the machine run for a while, and stop only when happy with the consistency or fear the motor will over heat. Let the paste cool for a few minutes, as it will have become quite warm during the blending process. Finally, add the yolks and orange zest and process until incorporated.
7. Spread the filling into the pastry shell and smooth with a wet spatula; it should be thick and sticky, careful not to break the pastry. Bake for 10-15 minutes to dry the surface, then brush on the glaze (made b mixing the egg yolk and milk or cream). Continue to bake for a further 10 mins or until golden.