Sunday, 21 August 2011

22. Thai Green Curry


Although it's going back a few weeks now, I finally got round to making my first from-scratch Thai green curry. I've always loved Thai curries but have relied on decent curry pastes to deliver a tasty, and quick, meal. It was definitely time to give it a go myself!


The recipe, as it often does, comes from theBBC...always guaranteed to give you a reliable, tried and tested recipe! Although you probably could get all of the ingredients from a big supermarket I visited a couple of little speciality shops (Global Fruits...etc) for the bits like galangal and kaffir lime leaves and a little branch of Sainsbury's for the chicken and such like.

Once the actual buying, prepping and blending is done, the transformation from a curry paste to a curry is pretty quick and simple. Just a case of cooking off a good helping of the paste, adding the chicken and, after a few minutes of browning, adding the coconut milk. Although i probably could have been a bit more generous with the chillies the taste, overall, was fantastic. Lovely and fresh with a depth and range of flavours. And the best thing is you can make up a batch of the paste and leave it in the fridge for a few weeks for near-instant thai curry gratification!


Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Young


While traipsing around London, i spotted a shop i hadn't seen before: Paul A Young. I believe it was their new store in Wardour Street, just down the road from a Hummingbird Bakery, that i found. The layout was incredibly simple but elegant and sophisticated with one man waiting to serve customers with a fabric glove. All of the single chocolates were laid out on a central table, ready to be plucked and placed on a wooden tray for taking to the till, on various sized glass stands. A couple of shelving units held other creations such as chocolate bars, brownies and books.


As mentioned, the chocolates are picked from the selection as each one is chosen. They're then packaged up in a simple little silver box with a deep purple ribbon and small note on caring for the chocolates to keep them at their best. Luckily, and unsurprisingly, they didn't last long enough to worry about 'keeping' them good!


I only got a small selection for my first delve into the world of Paul A Young, but they were a magnificent selection at that! My choices were a Pimm's truffle, carrot cake ganache, St Germain liquor and their trademark sea salted caramel. I'm not going to go into massive detail about them but, suffice to say, they were phenomenal. And i certainly can't wait to go back and try more!


Following the initial trip to London when i found the Wardour branch of Paul A Young, i have been back and found another shop where i tried a couple of different treats; their sea salted caramel ice cream and sea salted caramel and pecan brownie. Note the trend?! Both absolutely delicious and just fantastically made, clearly with a vast amount of passion going into the process. I will definitely try a lot more of what Paul A Young has to offer!

Another discovery linked to this, is the finding of the blog Mostly About Chocolate. Every single post is about chocolate. Do i need to say more?!

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Royal

Despite all good intentions the blog has, again, fallen a (considerable) bit behind. I even had some posts part ready to go and still failed to get something published! So i guess i can only start again with the good intentions and tell myself to get back on track...i think the 52 recipes might even still be recoverable with a bit of an effort!

Although there are things to go back on visit, i guess as good a place as any to start is following on from the last London trip with another London trip. This time, i got to experience two 'Royal' firsts...


Martha and Rufus Wainwright at the Royal Opera House and Dvořák and Smetana played at the Royal Albert Hall. Two very different performances but both very amazing. Even putting aside the vast and unbelievably fantastic musical talent (which is very difficult!), just seeing and being in such fantastic buildings for the first time was awe-inspiring. Bon.


Amongst other things, there were a couple of foodie highlights:

Paul - I only had a sandwich (saying 'only' really feels like i'm massively underselling them!) from this bakery but i can remember exclaiming that it was probably the best sandwich i'd ever had. And i can't wait to go back for more. The presentation was fantastic, the staff were wonderful and, from what i've experienced, the food is real, properly made and bloody tasty stuff. But i will definitely have to go back and sample a few more of their offerings before making any solid judgement...

Rococo - Very unfortunately, i didn't buy anything from these guys but did try a couple of bits in the shop and generally just perused and took in the general atmosphere. Definitely worth a look in and, again, i will have to try a few of their delights.

N.B. I really, really, really must sort out my blog template for browsing in Safari!

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

London



Last week i went on a day trip to London and what a day it was! The definite overall highlight (minus the obvious food/cake/chocolate thing) was being with someone that really knew London well. Being able to actually walk around, rather than getting the tube, and seeing everything from a different perspective was just lovely. It's amazing how many wonderful things there are to find when you take the time to find them.



We started off heading to Old Spitalfields Market which was a fabulous collaboration of food, antiques and general oddments. I couldn't believe i hadn't been there before. An extra bonus was finding a Montezuma's shop tucked in the market hall where i couldn't resist stocking up on some chocolates...more on that another time!



We then headed through Leadenhall Market (Hotel Chocolat, more chocolate) to Borough Market. It wasn't quite as busy as normal with it being a Thursday but there was still plenty to entice, beginning with a hog roast!



Of course, there was the obligatory consumption of Portuguese egg custard tarts (oh my) and, as well as indulging on the visual feast, i got a little box of macaroons to try. And some tea! Via various other places and detours, we then set out for South Bank to look at books and beach huts.



With the Hummingbird Bakery being the only other must-go-to place, the rest of the day was quite ad hoc and lovely for it. Alongside other places, Covent Garden was visited where we found this rather awesome ice cream shop; Icecreamist.



The camaraderie of the place was fantastic with the theme and feeling being whole-heartedly carried through and, most importantly, the ice cream was pretty damn good.



A combination of properly made, smooth ice cream, great flavours and the simple practice of serving it with an italian style 'scoop' (for which the proper name eludes me) made it quite the experience. I had the chocolate and hazelnut and chilli and ginger flavours...cor!



There was so much that we did and saw that i can't even recall half of it right now, but i will revisit a few specific things in seperate posts. I just can't wait to go back and walk around until my feet fail me all over again.



P.S. Just realised that all of these photos are aligned to the left...very annoying but i'm not going to sort it out now! Also, on a similar note, i have recently realised that the template settings are all correct to look good on IE but it looks pretty damn awful on Safari (and probably a lot of other browsers). Double doh!

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

21. Chorizo Carbonara


Unfortunately, this is quite a poor photo of poor presentation for what was a rather nice dish! It was made in two parts, with both halves coming from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage Every Day book. First of all, i made his Tupperware Mexican Chorizo which is a brilliant idea. As he wrote, you can make your own chorizo but it is quite quite a lengthy process and this simple blend delivers on so many of the chorizo flavours without the hassle! Plus, any that's left over can be kept in the fridge for around two weeks, ready to go at any time...luckily i do have some left over so will be rustling this up again in the near future.

After that, the actual 'carbonara' part of it is a pretty basic format and only takes as long as the pasta takes to cook; definitely a bonus. Apart from a bit of seasoning, most of the flavour comes from the tupperware chorizo which i left to mature and mingle for a day before using. Very filling, very simple and very delicious...yum!

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

20. Butternut Squash And Sage(ish) Risotto


As if to back up the 'BBC Good Food is amazing' claim, i've gone for another recipe from there; butternut squash and sage risotto. I spent ages contemplating what kind of risotto to cook but in the end just went for the good ol' butternut squash...probably the risotto flavour i've had the most and it's always been consistently yummy, something that i found quite reassuring considering it was my first attempt at a risotto!

Overall the recipe was quite straight forward, especially with having an extra pair of hands in the kitchen, and didn't get too complicated or fussy. I didn't have much chance to read through the comments to pick up any useful tips but i did find that i only used 1 litre of stock...although, having said that i did guesstimate when it came to the amount of arborio rice, so i might have just had less of that! In terms of the sage(ish) aspect, while getting the ingredients somewhat last minute i couldn't find any fresh sage so instead opted to add a bit of dried to the oil which the butternut roasted in. Then, to give a bit of a bite and depth to the finished dish, served with some crispy bacon on top in place of the crispy sage leaves. I found it worked quite well with the bacon serving as another texture and flavour while the sage still came through, balancing out the finished dish nicely.

The general reception was thumbs up all round, so definitely a keeper in the recipe folder!

Monday, 13 June 2011

19. Chocolate And Caramel Layer Cake


This recipe came from the ever inspiring BBC Good Food; initially, i spotted it in one of the magazines (possibly the easter edition?) but it is on the website too. It was always going to be a good cake (after all, where can you go wrong with a wealth of chocolate and sugar?!) but it really did surpass expectations. Not only was it relatively simple, despite possible appearances, it tasted absolutely delicious and the sponge was fantastically light and moist.


The way in which the sponges were made in batches of two, grouping together the vanilla and chocolate mixes and the chocolate and chocolate caramel mixes, made the whole process quite simple and straight forward, as i mentioned earlier. Also, I think it was the use of natural yoghurt that made them so soft and light; definitely something i'll have to try in my other more traditional sponges as a tweak.


I followed the recipe word for word up until it came to sandwiching together the layers...i just couldn't bear to use a shop bought tin of caramel! Instead, i opted for a basic butter cream icing, two thirds of which i left as plain vanilla and the final third which i flavoured with cocoa. I obviously haven't tried the cake with the caramel filling, but the butter creams did work very well and carried the extra joy of having a little bit of elbow grease behind them!


I 'iced' the cake as per instruction with a simple chocolate ganache, which i had more success with than that from the cloud forest cake! Then, rather than leaving it plain as it was a special cake for someone leaving at work, i just topped it with some mini mini marshmallows, caramel cubes from Divine Deli, little crispy chocolate balls and some milk and white chocolate drizzled over.


All in all, considering how eye catching of a cake it is (especially if it were to be made by someone with a bit more refinement!) it really is quite simple. The main challenge is just co-ordinating kitchen space with the numerous bowls and tins it needs!



It has been a long time since i've posted (nearly a month, oops!) but things have, as ever (!), been quite hectic and my time in the kitchen has been drastically slashed. I've got a couple of things lined up to cook this week though, and hopefully i'll get back on track with the blogging!

Monday, 2 May 2011

Fool


My Grandad came over for tea last week so i decided to go for a somewhat unseasonal, but still delicious, steak and ale pie. I've made it before, so knew it was good, and made sure to make the filling a couple of days in advance so it had time to mature. Last time i also added in some oxtail which cooked down beautifully, but forgot with this one...oops!


As a bit of something for dessert i made a quick rhubarb fool; so simple and tasty, i'd definitely recommend trying it if you haven't already.

Rhubarb Fool
5ish sticks of rhubarb, as freshly picked as possible
2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tablespoons of vanilla sugar
300ml-ish of double cream
300ml-ish of custard

Wash and chop the rhubarb then put in a pan with the orange juice and sugar. Stew gently over a low heat until the fruit is tender and syrupy. Cool.

Whisk the double cream to soft peaks then fold in the custard. When the rhubarb is completely cold, ripple through the cream and custard mixture and return to the fridge until required. If you want, you can put some of the compote at the bottom of each serving bowl for a little rhubarby surprise!

If i do say so myself, my rhubarb was absolutely delicious and the fool was quite something because of it. The importance of really fresh rhubarb is due to the simplicity of it- there isn't much to bring flavour and the rhubarb is the focal point. Also, it'll mean that you won't have stringy unpleasant bits in your smooth and velvety fool!

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

18. Marshmallow Cupcakes


120g plain flour
140g caster sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
A pinch of salt
45g unsalted butter (at room temperature)
120ml milk (semi-skimmed is fine, but use whole for extra indulgence!)
1 egg
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
12 medium marshmallows
12 cupcake cases and 12 hole tin

For the frosting:
250g icing sugar
80g unsalted butter
25ml milk
A splash of vanilla extract

For decorating:
Mini (mini!) marshamllows
Edible gliter

Preheat the oven to 170C. Beat the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and butter together with an electric whisk until the mixture reaches a sand consistency. Pour in half the mix and beat until the milk is just incorporated. Combine the rest of the milk, egg and vanilla extract then add into the flour mixture and mix everything together until smooth.

Spoon the mixture evenly into the paper cases and bake in the pre-heated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown. Leave to cool then scoop out a small section from the middle of the cupcake.

In a bain marie, leave the medium marshmallows to melt over a gentle heat. Once they are smoothly, fill each cupcake-hole with the melted marshmallow.

To make the vanilla frosting, beat the icing sugar and butter together until combined. Add in the milk and vanilla extract and beat for another 5+ minutes (the longer you beat it for, the lighter it will be!).

Ice the cupcakes and then decorate with the mini mini marshamllows and glitter.

Eat!


Another sterling recipe from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook, these have to be some of the best cupcakes i've made. Despite having concerns over the amount of mixture there was (the recipe suggests filling the cases 2/3 full but i could barely reach the half way mark with mine!) they generally rose very well and, more importantly for me, stayed lovely and flat on top. The actual sponge was light and moist too, which can sometimes be difficult to maintain with individual buns. For 'fuller' cupcakes it might be worth making enough mixture for 24 and then just using 18 cases.

Melting the marshmallow was an absolute pain though! Tip 1: don't let the water underneath the bowl get too hot...the marshmallow around the sides will begin to crisp up á la toasted marshmallows! Although it tastes fine, it is quite chewy which in a delicate little cupcake isn't ideal! If it does happen, you can avoid it by not scraping the side of the bowl to get marshmallow goo. Tip 2: whether you are using your fingers or two spoons to coax the melted marshmallow into the cupcakes, have a cup of water on hand to moisten your chosen implement before each one. The mixture is ridiculously sticky and very unforgiving! It is definitely worth it though, as it sets beautifully in the cupcake and is a lovely little surprise to find.

As per Hummingbird cupcakes, they are quite heavy on the icing so the amount of mixture might need to be decreased if you wanted a slightly healthier finished product. I just left it the same though!


I think the fact that i made them two nights ago and they're already all gone vouches for how delicious they are!

Thursday, 21 April 2011

17. Quail Scotch Eggs


When some quails eggs were up for grabs, the first thing that sprung to mind was scotch eggs! I've often mused at the idea of making them, but this time i just went for it and used Heston's Recipe from the Times website.


Overall, it's quite a simple recipe with just a few fiddly bits (see below!). Aside from adding the seasoning into the sausage meat, all of the flavour comes from the ingredients rather than needing a professional palate (good for me!) so just make sure you use good quality stuff. My sausage meat was straight from the Food Hall...Broxtead Breakfast Sausage!


The fiddliest bit has to be peeling the boiled quails eggs- Heston's recipe leads to a soft-yolked finish, so at the peeling stage the eggs are quite soft and delicate. We had a few split whites which were salvagable with careful handling but unfortunately lost one egg completely! Following this, wrapping the eggs in the sausage meat (especially any that are slightly damagaed) is quite tricky. I found it a bit easier to flatten the meat into a rectangle then take a strip off the bottom (leaving a square) and lay the strip across the egg. Then, you're bringing the sides up to meat the top strip, rather than trying to squeeze the edges together around it. Plus i found it much faster to churn oil-ready eggs out!


The cooking was fairly undaunting, despite being nervous about dealing with the hot oil, and then it's just a case of holding back long enough to allow them to cool before cracking into one!

I was fairly chuffed with how they turned out for a first attempt; quite uniform looking, well cooked and generally pretty damn tasty!

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Sambal


All tea ideas for tonight were ditched in favour of a mini cheese plate! Bath Soft Cheese (which i bought today), Shropshire Blue, Cooleeney and Aleppo Chilli Cheddar served with some homemade pickles (red cabbage, cucumber slices and picalilli)...quite a treat! Of particular note was the Shropshire Blue and pickled red cabbage combo.


I was given this by a friend at work today; very exciting, especially considering how many chilli seeds you can see in it! Recommended uses are in stir-frys, pasta and cheese sandwiches! Perhaps a bit of this with the Aleppo Chilli Cheddar in a sandwich?!

Got a few more bits for the kitchen today...very excited to try the popcorns! Caramel with either salt, chili or chocolate? Cor! Unforunately, i found the Wheaten Mill chocolate crunch very disappointing- heading towards 'soggy' and a bit too greasy without packing much punch in terms of flavour...not what i've come to expect from The Wheaten Mill. However, the Peri-Peri sauce from The Chilli Company was everything that i was hoping and wanting! I've had their Smoky Chipotle Sauce before which is delicious and carries quite a bit of heat; the Peri-Peri sauce was not disimilar! Will definitely have to get their chilli mayo in the near future.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Surprise


You always know it's going to be a good day when you get to work and there's a little present waiting for you! I got the sweetest selection of easter presents from a friend at work including a homemade card (finished with my lovely nickname 'lardy bum') and knitted creme-egg-hiding chicken! Alongside that, Thursday Cottage and Adnams were doing tasters and the 'Mad Hatter' was was wandering around for half of the afternoon. All in all a very fun day!

Monday, 18 April 2011

Couverture


For easter present i thought i'd try my hand at a bit of chocolate 'making'. I was quite pleased with the end result of my eggs, although not perfect given the rush i had to finish them in! They generally look quite good and fit together well, although their finish has been blemished with the odd finger print due to not having enough time to fully set in the fridge. But i am pleased, particularly with the dark chocolate striped egg and least so with the dotty dark chocolate egg!


Aside from just having to take the time to keep an eye on temperatures, it was quite a simple process which didn't require much specialist equipment; i made use of the jam thermometer we had anyway, bought a mould cheaply off Ebay and got the belgian couverture chocolate reasonably priced off the internet (although this could be substituted with a cheaper chocolate. The quality affects the visual and audio finish so if making chocolates with children, for example, then a bog-standard chocolate would be fine and slightly less work as it wouldn't require tempering).

Couverture chocolate has a higher cocoa butter content which, when tempered, gives the chocolate more shine, a better snap and a creamier flavour all of which i can vouch for! I bought mine from Cakes, Cookies and Crafts and it arrived promptly a few days later...i can see myself using the website quite a bit! The instructions for tempering on the packet were for using the microwave method, which i didn't feel really comfortable with, so decided to use the traditional hob-method for which instructions arrived with the egg mould. Will get round to typing it up when i've got the booklet with me.


I made hollow shells and filled each one with something praline-based...it's always nice to find a little treat inside an easter egg! With the left over melted chocolate i made a few simple chocolates in some rubber shell moulds we have. I filled each hole about 2/3 with chocolate then put a small dollop of salted caramel in the middle before flattening the top off with a bit more chocolate. Nothing special looking, but they are rather tasty and a good little way to use up left overs!

I put the eggs in a little 4-hole egg box which was saved from an easter present a few years ago- simple and quaint, i rather like it with the nice ribbon tied around it. I'd definitely make my own chocolate things again as it's not an expensive undertaking and, although slighty time consuming, is fun and carries the satisfaction of being homemade. However, i will definintely make sure that any chocolate has the full time in the fridge to make sure it's fully set before handling...i don't want anymore fingerprints!


Hot cross buns have been flowing out of the bread ovens at work of late and it's just making me want to make mine all the sooner, although that may now have to be post-dissertation. One of the most exciting things i brought home was a chocolate panettone due to it's great taste and texture but also the prospect of making a rather fancy bread and butter pudding out of it! I know it could be considered a shame to use panettone for such thing, but i can't resist...i think it's going to be delicious.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Sticky


I made some sticky, chewy, yummy chocolate brownies the other day...i've had a few types of really soft, fudgie brownies recently (which i do love!) so just wanted to choose something out of my brownie-arsenal that was a bit different.

They were, unfortunately, over-baked by about two minutes but still stayed nice and soft in the middle with chewier edges and a lovely 'crisp' top that cracked as it was sliced. Oo, i can't wait for the next couple of weeks to be over so i can get stuck into the kitchen!


In a stark contrast to the opening of this post, i am trying to have a bit of a detox and health push, mainly consisting of large amounts of soups and smoothies! Loads of New Covent Garden was on offer, so i stocked up on some old faithfuls and new ones to try.

But, when you do some baking to take into work, you have to try a brownie or two, just to make sure they're good enough for other people to consume! And when there's spelt bread and hot cross buns going at work, you have to have indulge a little, while it's fresh...!

Friday, 8 April 2011

Vanilla


I made some lovely gooey flapjacks this evening to; 1) use up some stuff in the cupboards and 2) give myself a bit of entertainment! I used the basic flapjack recipe from The Great British Book of Baking although any other would suffice (but this is particularly yummy for what i look for in a flapjack!). Then, if i can remember correctly, i added in...some dessicated coconut, cherry infused raisins, almonds, dates, figs and a simple seed mix. Almost inappropriately sticky and entirely bad-for-you feeling, i was very pleased with how my mish-mash of ingredients worked together!


I brought home a rhubarb pie from work today, although it was slightly odd and i can't quite put my finger on why or what it was. The pastry was possibly at fault...a bit too savoury and greasy for what should have been such a fresh, light tart. Otherwise, a nice idea...frangipan-ish base with the finely sliced rhubarb on top. I'm imagining it served with a dollop of cold cream!

It is nice to be getting round to that time of year where things like rhubarb are being used in cooking again. I'm soon going to harvest the rhubarb from the garden and think of something delicious to put it in...maybe my own little tart creation.

I've got a new little batch of homemade vanilla essence/extract on the mash- quite simply vodka and some chopped up vanilla pods left to infuse for...as long as you want! Once sufficient infusing has happened, it's practically identical to the shop bought versions but is cheaper and carries the satisfaction of knowing it's homemade!

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

16. Sausage and Lentil Simmer


1 tbsp veg oil
130g streaky bacon
1lb sausages
2 onions, roughly chopped
1 large carrot, chopped small
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
3 sprigs rosemary
300g puy lentils (merchant gourmet always taste the nicest)
850ml chicken stock
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 can chopped toms
2 tbsp chopped parsley (if not more)

Fry sausages and bacon, taking out the sausages when brown and sticky. Add onions, carrot and garlic to the bacon. Soften onion then return the sausages and add lentils, rosemary, stock, vinegar and tomatoes. Season. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 mins. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 45 mins - stirring occasionally.

This recipe was passed on to me by a friend at hockey when she heard i was doing the 52 recipe challenge, and i'm glad i found out about it! It's a very raw and natural dish with the lovely earthy flavours being promient- especially as i used venison sausages! As far as changes go, the rosemary and water were lessened, the vinegar omitted and i left the seasoning down to the sausages, bacon and stock. One to keep in the recipe folder!


Another nice little discovery was my homemade 'ginger crunch creams'. After making some stem gingernuts seriously lacking in that gingernut-related-crunch (with hindsight, the mixture was too moist) i thought to layer some up with left over buttercream icing from my birthday cake. Absolutely delicious! I'm just really gutted that i don't have anymore buttercream left over!