Tag Archives: Lunch

Chicory, Blue Cheese and Caramelised Onion Tart

Chicory

Because I have pretensions towards being middle class, I get a vegetable box from Abel & Cole delivered each fortnight. And, because I am horrendously forgetful – particularly when it comes to vegetable deliveries – I often neglect to take a look at their website to see what’s going to be in it each week. While this often leads to me opening my box to find delicious surprises inside, it also means that I’m frequently presented with vegetables which I have no idea what to do with (Kohlrabi, anyone?) This is how I found myself frantically googling ‘chicory recipes’ recently. I had a vague memory of eating it in a (frankly disgusting) gratin once –  the sprinkling of anemic looking breadcrumbs doing nothing to disguise its hideous slimy bitterness – so I wasn’t feeling too confident. And I certainly didn’t want to find myself spending an hour of my life slaving over a hot stove only to make something which looked vile, smelt like a foot and ended up being swiftly dispatched to the bin.

Then inspiration kindly decided to roll out of my kitchen cupboards in the form of my tart tin. I’m very fond of baking up leftover vegetables into various creations, and I’m even fonder of finding an excuse to wrap them up in pastry. I had a vague inkling that chicory and blue cheese went well together, one thing led to another, and before I knew it, I was eating gigantic slabs of this Chicory, Blue Cheese and Caramelised Onion Tart for my lunch.

Chicory Blue Cheese and Caramelised Onion Tart

Comprising of caramelised onions and chicory, and a larger-than-really-needed handful of blue cheese,  this is quite a robust little number. It’s helped in no small part by the delicious olive oil tart crust I used as a base. Taken from the delightful French food blog Chocolate & Zucchini, it’s a doddle to make, comes together in minutes and rolls out like a dream (although it can be a bit springy when chilled.)  I found this crust to be perfect for this recipe, although I’m sure that no one will complain if you use ready made shortcrust instead (and if they do, I suggest you throw them some serious side-eye.) This makes a fine lunch, a divine dinner and a seriously superb snack.  It goes very well with a crisp green salad and an even crisper glass of white wine. Alternatively, it also works well being eaten in the light of your fridge while listening to the World at One.

A slice of chicory tart

CHICORY, BLUE CHEESE AND CARAMELISED ONION TART

You will need:

  • One tart crust (either make your own, or use your preferred brand of shortcrust pastry)
  • 2 bulbs of chicory
  • 1 large red onion
  • 30g butter
  • 1tbsp light brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 50ml creme fraiche
  • 100g blue cheese (I used Cashel Blue), crumbled into lumps
  • Salt & Pepper

Make It!

  1. First, prepare your tart crust. Roll the pastry out to 3mm thickness, and gently lay it over a tart tin. Blind bake it for 15-20  minutes at 200°C/Gas Mark 6. Remove from the oven and leave to cool while you’re preparing the filling.
  2. Slice the onion and the chicory into rounds (making sure to discard the hard core of the chicory.) Heat the sugar and butter together until they are browned and bubbling slightly. Fry the onion and chicory for roughly 5 – 7 minutes until they are soft and golden. Remove from the pan, and set to one side.
  3. Beat the eggs and creme fraiche together, add the lumps of blue cheese and season well with salt and pepper. Layer the chicory and onions inside your baked tart case, and pour the wet mixture over the top, ensuring that the blue cheese crumbs are spread evenly.
  4. Bake at 200°C/Gas Mark 6 for 30 – 35 minutes until set. Leave to cool for fifteen minutes before serving.  This should be good for around a week, meaning it’s great if you want to cook it the day before taking it to a picnic or brunch. 

 

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Skint Lunch Club: 81 Renshaw Street

Soup and a Sandwich

Streaky Bacon, Cream Cheese & Spring Onion sandwich and a large bowl of Sweet Potato and Chickpea soup.

Hands up who’s skint. Well, that makes two of us. I looked at my bank account last week and let out a wail that could probably be heard across Merseyside. To add insult to injury, January looks to be the month where everything I own suddenly decides to break or run out. Eyeliner, jeans, PC hard drives, you name it. It’s like one long Monday where your bank manager has you on speed dial and you can’t afford to drown your sorrows in overpriced cocktails.

However, like the brave little soldier I am, I refuse to allow my straightened circumstances to stop me indulging in the odd lunch out every now and then. Thankfully, I’m lucky enough to work in an area of Liverpool where I’m spoilt for inexpensive lunch options, one of these being the recently opened 81 Renshaw Street.

81 Renshaw Street is an ‘arts cafe’, which opened with relatively little fanfare a few months ago. It’s the kind of unassuming little place you could easily walk past if you didn’t already know it was there. Like so many recent Liverpool openings, it’s decorated in ‘shabby chic’ (Christ I hate that term), so there are lots of old cabinets full of vintage crockery, rickety-looking tables, large squishy sofas and a gas fire that I’m sure my Nana June owned back in 1989. Where in other places this kind of ‘I’ve just accidentally wandered into a jumble sale’ style looks contrived, here it works – although this may just be because you can tell it’s there with no sense of irony whatsoever.

I had the soup and a sandwich, which consisted of a Streaky Bacon, Cream Cheese & Spring Onion sandwich and a large bowl of Sweet Potato and Chickpea soup. The sandwich itself was fairly utilitarian – two slices of crunchy streaky bacon and a large smear of spring-onion-studded cream cheese on a crunchy ciabatta roll – yet salty, creamy, crunchy and delicious. Plus, it wasn’t filled with any of the limp lettuce and watery tomato slices that can so easily ruin a perfectly good sarnie.

The real star of the show, though, was the Sweet Potato & Chickpea Soup. It’s always good when you see a simple dish done right, and this was as warm and welcoming as a bear hug. Hearty, slightly sweet and heady with toasty cumin, here was a soup that actually tasted of something, a delightful change from the bland fibrous mulch I’ve often had served up to me in other places. As a testament to how good it was, I overheard a woman at one of the other tables asking her waitress for the recipe, which she duly scribbled down. You don’t get that at Subway.

Flourless Clementine Cake

Flourless Clementine Cake

But woman cannot live on soup alone, so I decided to buy a slice of Flourless Clementine Cake for the road. Packed full of almonds and sour-sweet clementine peel, this was a squidgy slice of tasty complexity, and a cake that I will definitely be attempting to recreate in my kitchen sometime in the next few weeks. While I was there, I also had a sample of their Banana Bread in my mouth and didn’t instantly spit it out and cross myself. As regular readers will know, I deem bananas to be the devil’s own fruit, so the fact I managed to eat something containing them without wanting to wash my mouth out immediately with antiseptic is definite progress.

With its ramshackle charm, minimal web presence and really good homemade food, there’s a refreshing lack of pretence to 81 Renshaw Street. While its food is never going to win any awards for originality, it will win plaudits for being simple, tasty and full of heart. Plus, you can eat like a queen and get change from a tenner. And, in these times of economic hardship, you can’t really say fairer than that.

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Blackburne House Café: Is this the best soup in Liverpool?

As a rule, I dislike soup which I haven’t made myself. You may think that this sounds like a ridiculously arsey statement, but it’s rare I find a café, restaurant or lunch emporium which manages to get such a simple dish right. Most of the soups I’ve eaten recently have tasted of overcooked vegetable mulch and old string. Hell, even the ones I’ve made myself have lacked that certain something (that something mainly being a) seasoning and b) the ability to not smell like I’ve been stewing knicker elastic for an hour and a half).

However, yesterday, I managed to stumble upon possibly the best soup purveyor on Hope Street (if not the whole of Liverpool City Centre), the Blackburne House Café.

Blackburne House is a pretty ace place. Not only is it home to the Liverpool branch of the W.I. (who, may I say, aren’t your average W.I. and seem like a rather cool bunch of ladies), but it’s also a place which supports women’s enterprise, health and wellbeing. They provide massages, well being sessions, education and help for freelancers, or women starting out in business. Despite working on Hope Street for (almost) eighteen months now, and walking past it practically every day,  I’ve never really visited its rather unassuming little café, preferring the (ever so slightly overpriced) delights of the deli situated in The Quarter.

However, on Monday, I was craving something warm and comforting, and – seeing as the last time I bought soup from The Quarter I ended up spending far too much money on something which was, frankly, disgusting – I decided to pay Blackburne House a visit and see what they had on offer. And blimey, I’m glad I did.

There’s no fussy flavours here, no flavours of the East or strange grains chucked in for a bit of exotic flare. Instead, this is simple, uncomplicated fare which puts me in mind of the kind of thing your Nan would make for you when you’re feeling under the weather.  Homemade, well seasoned and absolutely delicious, truly these are the king of soups. Which would go some way to explaining why I’ve gone there for my lunch three days in a row, and demolished a bowl in under five minutes whenever I’ve been there.

Special mention should also go to the bread  it’s served up with.  Soft, fresh, doughy and delicious, it’s just the thing for mopping up all of that excess. Not that you’ll have much if you’re anything like me. And, best of all, you can get this and a Diet Coke and still have a change from a fiver. Bargaintastic!

Does Blackburne House Café serve the best soup in Liverpool? Well, at the moment, I’m reserving judgement until I actually manage to eat a bowl of soup in every restaurant situated within the Merseyside area. But it definitely serves up the best soup on Hope Street. And when I’m cold, hungry and grumpy, that’s enough for me.

Blackburne House Café

Blackburne Place (just off Hope Street)

Liverpool

L8 7PE

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