Saturday, May 10, 2014

Bookish Delights - Smoked Ocean Trout & Horseradish Tart

I am a member of a Bookclub made up of a group of literary minded mates who decided we would use our love of books and enjoyment of each other's company as an excuse to discover new things to read. It is also a great way to guarantee that we get together every couple of months. We also happen to be avid food lovers and good cooks, so Bookclub has also become a place to share great food. Even if the book turns out to be a dud, you know that the catering is going to be impeccable!

We found that often we were inspired by the books we were reading, cooking food related to the themes or settings. Sometimes, it is easy to come up with something relevant to the subject - other times, it is more of a challenge. Our latest book falls into the latter category. Our current Bookclub book is the magnificent Burial Rites, by Hannah Kent, telling the story of an accused murderess awaiting execution, set in harsh rural Iceland in 1830. The book actually talks quite a lot about the food that they ate back then - preserved whale blubber anyone?

There were also references to eating dried and preserved fish, which gave me the idea of what I would cook for today's Bookclub. Smoking fish is a very old preservation technique, and also happens to be delicious, so I made that the centrepiece of my dish. Even better was the fact that I happened to have some smoked ocean trout in the fridge (which I love having with poached eggs for a special weekend breakfast treat). I created this very simple to put together tart, with fresh herbs fro the garden, a silky cream cheese filling and the gorgeous bite of horseradish. You could use smoked salmon in place of the trout if you preferred.

I'm sure that folks in rural Iceland probably wouldn't be eating something so pretty and delicate looking - but the cheese, fish and herbs take some of the elements of what they would have eaten and make them fresh and modern. Enjoy!

Smoked Ocean Trout & Horseradish Tart

You will need: 1 sheet pre-rolled puff pastry, 100g smoked ocean trout cut into strips, 1 cup cream cheese, 1 tablespoon horseradish cream, 1 tablespoon chopped parsley, 1 tablespoon chopped chives, 2 teaspoons washed and drained capers, 1/2 small red onion sliced very thinly, salt & pepper.

Method: Preheat the oven to 200C.

Cut the pastry sheet in half. Lay one half on a baking tray lined with baking paper. With the other half, cut a border about 2cm thick the whole way around. When you remove the pastry in the middle and you will be left with a rectangular frame shape. Lay the frame on top of the pastry on the tray, press down gently. Use a fork to prick the middle of the pastry only, not the "frame". I gently score the frame with a knife on the edges for presentation - you can do this if you like.

Bake the pastry in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until lightly golden. As it cooks, you will see the middle puff up - don't panic - you will press it down later when you add the topping of the tart. Once the tart is cooked, allow to cool completely before adding the filling.

Mix together the cream cheese, horseradish, half of the parsley, half of the chives and half of the capers. Season generously with salt and pepper.

Gently push down the pastry that has puffed up in the centre of the tart. If it is particularly puffy, you can also gently lift it out completely - it will still leave a layer of crispy pastry on the base.

Spread the cream cheese mixture over the tart base. Layer the finely sliced red onion and then arrange the strips of ocean trout on the top. Sprinkle over the remaining parsley, chives and capers. Add some cracked pepper and a little salt and serve.

Eat this tart cold or at room temperature.


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