BBC Lifestyle | Rachel Allen’s Masterclass

Dublin-born Rachel Allen is a household name for many homecooks. Author of four bestselling cookbooks, which includes Rachel’s Favourite Food at Home and Rachel’s Food for Living, Rachel Allen is also a familiar face on BBC Lifestyle where she hosts her own television series.

Recently, Rachel was in town for Starhub’s Hubalicious- The Heritage Food Trail and while I was not lucky enough to get a place at her ‘An Irish Love Affair‘ dinner, I did get invited to take part in her Masterclass at Palate Sensations. As Rachel is currently promoting her new hit series- Rachel Allen’s Easy Meals, we were offered a glimpse into some of the recipes which she will be featuring during the episodes as well as how to whip up a quick 3 course meal that is both easy to prepare and still delicious to eat.

It was a hands-on session with Rachel first giving us a step-by-step demonstration at the front before we returned to our stations to experiment on our own. Seeing Rachel Allen in person was rather surreal after watching her on TV all the time and I certainly enjoyed how down to earth and patient she was with all of us, especially in explaining why some of our tarts or focaccia did not turn out the way it was supposed to be. Definitely an enriching experience learning from the popular Irish chef who was indeed knowledgeable and such a keen teacher.

Read on more for the recipes of the dishes we learnt how to make that day!

APPLE TART

Ingredients for a 9 inch diameter ovenproof shallow pie dish or tart tin:

Pastry

  • 175g (6oz) butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
  • 50g (2oz) caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 2 eggs
  • 250g (9oz) plain flour, plus extra for dusting

To make the pastry use an electric beater or an electric food mixer fitted with a K beater. Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and creamy. Add one egg, beating continuously, then beat the second egg in a separate bowl. Pour half of it into the mixture (reserving the remainder for later) and beat again. Sift over the flour and stir in gently to give a smooth, soft dough. Tip the dough onto a clean work surface and knead a little before dividing in two. Shape each piece into a flat round, cover with cling film and leave in the fridge for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F), Gas mark 4. Lightly butter the plate or tin. Place each pastry half on a floured work surface and roll out to about 3mm (1 in) thick. Use one piece to line the dish or tin, trimming off the excess pastry with the back of a knife. Brush a little of the reserved beaten egg around the edge of the pastry.

Filling

  • 700g (1½lb) Bramley cooking apples, peeled, cored and diced
  • 150g (5oz) caster sugar
  • 3 cloves

In a bowl, toss together the apples with the sugar and cloves, then add to the pastry case in the tin or dish and top with the second rolled-out piece, trimming the excess pastry once again and pressing the edges together to seal. Use any leftover pastry to decorate the top by rolling out and cutting into shapes. Brush all over with the remaining beaten egg.

Bake in the oven for 45–50 minutes or until the fruit is tender when tested with a skewer and the pastry golden. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with a light dusting of sugar and leave to cool slightly. Cut into wedges and serve with whipped cream or custard.

QUICK RED PEPPER AND PESTO FOCACCIA

Ingredients for a 20 x 30cm (8 x 12in) Swiss roll tin or roasting tin:

  • 50–75ml (2–3fl oz) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 450g (11b) plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 350–400ml (12–14fl oz) buttermilk or soured milk (add 2 tsp vinegar or lemon juice to 400ml (14fl oz) cow’s milk or soy or rice milk and leave to stand for 10–15 minutes)
  • 100g (3½oz) preserved roasted red peppers (from a jar or tin), cut into 1cm (½in) pieces
  • 1 tbsp pesto
  • Good pinch of sea salt

Preheat the oven to 230°C (450°F), Gas mark 8. Brush the tin very generously with about half the olive oil (more than you think you will need). Sift the flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl, and make a well in the centre. Pour in most of the buttermilk or soured milk, then stir in the red peppers and pesto.

Using one hand with your fingers held out like a claw, mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should be softish, but not wet and sticky. When it all comes together, turn it out onto a floured work surface and roll it out so that it will fit on the prepared tin. Transfer the dough to the tin, generously drizzle more olive oil over the top and make some dimples over the surface with your fingertips. Sprinkle with the sea salt.

Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes or until the bread is golden both on top and underneath. If it seems to be browning too quickly, turn the over down to 200°C (400°F), Gas mark 6 after 10 or 15 minutes.

When the focaccia is cooked but still hot, drizzle just a little more olive oil over the top. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly before serving.

ARTICHOKE SALAD

Ingredients:

  • 125g (4½oz) preserved artichoke hearts (from a jar or tin), cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 75g (3oz) preserved roasted red peppers (from a jar or tin), cut into 2cm (¾in) dice
  • 50g (2oz) semi-sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • ½ red onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp pesto
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Simply mix everything together in a big bowl, season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Be sure to catch her latest TV series- Rachel Allen’s Easy Meals on BBC Lifestyle (StarHub Ch. 432) every Monday at 8pm!

Thank you PeiRu of Fulford Public Relations for the invite and of course to Rachel Allen herself for that insightful Masterclass!

Masterclass, Singapore

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