Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Tres Leches Cake

I came across tres leches cake when I was looking for a dessert to serve after mole poblano. However, I decided against it and made a passionfruit cheesecake instead. Because it is a cake, I thought it wouldn’t be puddingy enough. But I was wrong, it’s incredibly sweet, creamy and rich, the best way I feel I can describe it is that it is like condensed milk in cake form. With cream on top. So yeah, pretty pudding-like. I’m glad I did make it in the end, even if it wasn’t for any particular occasion.

It’s an interesting recipe. You make a cake, similar to a chiffon cake, as it is lightened by beaten egg whites. The cake also doesn’t contain any butter or oil, which was a  new thing to me. Once it is cool, you pour over a mixture of condensed milk, evaporated milk and cream, in stages, so it gets a chance to fully sink in, then leave to absorb. Top with softly whipped, sweetened cream and maraschino cherries, and there you have it.  It definitely tasted better after a night in the fridge, it had firmed up somewhat- although it was still good right away.  It also kind of reminds me of Indian desserts- very sweet and milky. Which has lead me to think a version with rosewater and cardamom as flavourings would be delicious, if inauthentic.

There are loads of recipes for this, I used this one (scroll to the bottom for the recipe). I also added the optional splash of rum to the milks, which I liked- I think it stopped it from being too much like nursery food. Some other recipes suggested Triple Sec instead, which might be nice, although I think I would prefer the deeper taste of a spirit. I was a bit concerned about the quantities of evaporated and condensed milk- this recipe just refers to ‘a can’ of each, and as it is an American site, sizes of can could well vary. Doing a bit of research, the quantities of these should be about the same, so I used a 410g tin of evaporated milk, a 397g of condensed milk, and the specified ¼ cup of cream. It made slightly more than my cake would absorb, but it tasted great. 

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Chongqing Hot and Sour Noodles

I've been continuing on my exploration of Asian cookery. Recently I have been cooking a lot more noodle soups, being inspired by reading about David Chang’s ramen restaurant in his Momafuku cookbook. I think I have been put off in the past of making them- even though I order them a lot when I eat out- because of the stock making process. I have a small freezer which limits me from making huge batches of stock which I can use when I need. But as of late, I have managed to get into a happy rhythm of buy chicken, debone, cook meat, make stock from bones, soup... which basically makes up meals for most of a week. I have yet to make David Chang’s ramen, but I have had fun improvising and making dishes I like without a recipe, and trying out other recipes such as this hot and sour noodle soup. (Recipe from, yet again- Sunflower Food Galore)

This recipe has several different elements you make, and assemble at the last minute, but it isn’t difficult. I really like the noodles for it, made from sweet potato starch. They don’t taste of sweet potato, but they have a really satisfying texture- very soft and slippery, but not at all mushy. I was pleased to find them in my local Asian grocers, as well as this dish, I have seen them used in various Korean recipes that I have been meaning to try. The chilli sauce that goes with it is pretty great too, I would consider making it up in a large batch and so I  can get a quick spicy/sour hit on food when I want it. I didn't make my own chilli oil for the base of the sauce, as suggested in the recipe, but I had a lot of chilli oil at home that I really like so it seemed a bit much to make another kind for this.  

This dish is a really satisfying, sinus-clearing bowl of deliciousness. I think better for winter perhaps, but I wouldn't turn it down anytime of year.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Pets de Nonnes

And for my next recipe in the Interesting Name series, we have Nun's Farts, or pets de nonnes- it definitely sounds better in French. They are basically deep fried choux paste, and are very light and airy, which I believe is where the name comes from.

These are also a type of beignets- you can get the yeasted version, which I blogged about last year, and the choux pastry type- both are good, the latter are much lighter. Both benefit from a good dusting of icing sugar.

I really enjoyed making these- there is something slightly mesmerising about dropping teaspoons of dough into hot oil, and watching them get bigger than a tennis ball- this is something to bear in mind when choosing your pan size! I only did 2-3 at once, as they grow so large- the photos below show the at the start and end of cooking.

Looking at various recipes, some had plain dough, others flavoured it. I decided to add lemon rind and a touch of rum, as recommended by this recipe. It was quite a subtle amount of flavouring, and I would be interested to play around with different flavourings for these.

I used the recipe linked above, but I didn't use a piping bag, instead just used a teaspoons. You don't get as smooth a finish as you would with a piping bag, but having a more uneven surface means you get parts of the pastry that stick out and crisp enticingly, which I think is a bonus. Plus you don't have to clean out a pastry bag.

These make a nice weekend breakfast.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Toad in the Hole

For my fifth recipe in my collection of recipes-with-interesting names series, I have returned to more familiar cuisine and made Toad in the Hole. I don't ever think about the strangeness of its name, but I guess to a person who didn't grow up with British cooking, it would sound as odd as ants climbing the tree did to me the first time I heard of it.

Like many of the dishes with more unusual names, there is not a definite answer on where the name came from. The most common theory I have seen is that the dish is meant to look like a toad sticking its head out of a hole. Personally I can't see it. However, toad in the hole didn't always have to have sausages, and sometimes was used as a way of stretching out leftover cooked meat- perhaps there was more of a resemblance then.

In the past I have nearly always used Delia's recipe for Toad in the Hole. But when I decided to make it for my blog, I was more conscious when eating it that Delia's recipe didn't contain enough pudding for me. I am admittedly a fan of stodge and carbs, but even so, the amount of batter seemed a bit mean. Perhaps a bit silly, as the idea behind toad in the hole is that it is a way to stretch out meat, and a high sausage-to-pudding ration should be seen as a good, more lavish thing- but in the case of this recipe I would have rather had less sausage in return for more pudding. If you were serving it with mashed potato, which I wasn't, than maybe it would be enough carbohydrate.

So, I turned to what has always proven successful in the past- Felicity Cloakes' 'How to Cook the Perfect...' recipe column.  Her recipe is interesting- the batter includes wholegrain mustard and some ale, and instead of browning the sausages in the oven, you brown them in a frying pan. Her suggestion of adding the batter to the hot roasting dish before the sausages was new to me too, but it really made a difference- the bottom of the Yorkshire pudding part stays crisp. The additions to the batter don't overpower, but do add a more savoury note.

As always, it was a great recipe, and I wanted to share it here. I did, however, make a change and increase the batter quantity by half. This made a very pudding heavy toad in the hole, which to me is perfection, but is probably not for others. Felicity's recipe does use more batter than Delia, if you are worried the original recipe doesn't have enough.

I like to serve my toad in the hole with some kind of green, and a cidery onion gravy.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Christmas Brownies

Just over a year ago, I made a large batch of chocolate and sour cherry mincemeat. With it, I made normal mince pies and these mincemeat Eccles cakes. However the sheer quantity I made meant I still had two big jars left this year. It's not a big deal, as it keeps, but I do want to get through it so I can try something new, although that probably won't be till Christmas 2016 now!

I've thought about making brownies with mincemeat before, hadn't got around to it until yesterday. I thought they were really good, and you could use your own homemade or shop bought mincemeat- no need to make the chocolate and sour cherry one. I do like the cherries with the chocolate though.

There were a few changes I made from the basic brownie recipe I use. Because the mincemeat is sweet, I reduced the sugar down to a mere half kilo. I also used the juice of half a large orange in the brownie mix. Possibly because of the mincemeat, I found this took longer to cook than normal, just over an hour, and I had to cover them with foil mid-bake t stop them from getting too dark. Finally, I wouldn't usually bother, but as these are Christmas brownies, I gave them a  snowy dusting of icing sugar.

These would be nice for a pudding, especially if slightly warm- I would serve them with some lightly whipped cream to which I had added a slug of Cointreau or Grand Marnier.

200 grams butter
200 grams plain chocolate
500 grams caster sugar
4 eggs, large
250 grams plain flour
4 tablespoons cocoa
350g mincemeat

Preheat oven to 180C, Gas 4
Prepare a small rectangular roasting tin or oven proof dish approximately 8 x 12" (20x30cm). Melt the butter and chocolate over a pan of simmering water. Cool slightly. Stir in the sugar and juice from the cherry jar.Add the eggs, one at a time, stirring until well blended each time.
Add the flour and cocoa and beat for about 1 minute, until smooth. Fold in the cherries. Pour into prepared tin, and bake for about 1 hour, covering with foil if it starts to look too dark. The mixture needs to be just cooked, so start testing with a cocktail stick at about 40 minutes - it should have moist crumbs, but not wet batter, still clinging to it.
Cool in tin until cool enough to handle, then turn out and leave until completely cold before cutting into squares.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Weeping Tiger (Suea Rong Hai)

Weeping Tiger is one of my favourite things to order at a Thai restaurant, but I recently found that it is very simple to prepare at home. It is just steak, marinated (what it is marinaded in seems to vary from recipe to recipe), grilled, sliced and served with jaew, a hot and sour dipping sauce.

Why the name? I couldn't find a clear answer, there are various suggestions for the name's origins- one is that the sauce is so hot it made the tiger cry, another is that it used to be made with eat so tough even a tiger couldn't chew it- hence the tears. It certainly doesn't seem to be made with tough meat now- most recipes suggest sirloin or rib eye.

As I said, it is a very simple recipe. The one bit that might seem a bit odd is making the toasted ground rice to go in the dipping sauce, but it isn't hard- just toast some uncooked jasmine rice in a dry frying pan over a low heat until golden, then grind to a powder. It keeps, so you could make enough for several batches of jaew. Which is certainly now a bad idea, jaew is really good with prawns and chicken too.

The recipe I used came from Serious Eats. I didn't cook this over coals, as the recipe suggested, I used my trusty cast-iron griddle pan.

You can find the recipe on the link above, but the sauce and steak recipe are on separate pages, which makes it a bit tricky to read- so I have copied the two parts of the recipe here, for ease.

For the steak:
  • 4 rib eye or New York strip steaks, about 1 1/2-inches thick (about 12 ounces each)
  • 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1 tablespoon light or dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon plain vegetable oil

For the sauce (jaew)
  • 1/2 cup fresh juice from 6 to 10 limes
  • 1/2 cup Thai fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons finely-chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2 tablespoons finely-chopped green onions
  • Raw jasmine rice, to make 1 1/2 tablespoons toasted rice powder (recipe below) I used about half a cup raw rice, which made more than needed-but it keeps.
  • 1 tablespoon dried red pepper powder- I ground up some dried birds eye chillies to make this.
  • 2 plum tomatoes
Mix together the soy sauce, oyster sauce, brown sugar, and vegetable oil in a medium mixing bowl. Coat the steaks with the soy sauce mixture and let them marinate while you work on the dipping sauce.

To make the toasted rice powder, toast the raw rice in a dry frying pan over a low heat until the rice is golden. It's best to go slowly with this, so it cooks evenly and doesn't burn. Grind in a pestle and mortar to a powder.
Peel, deseed and finely chop the tomatoes, and put in a bowl. Mix with the rest of the jaew ingredient.

Grill the steaks, until desired doneness is reached. Remove from the heat and let rest for 5 minutes.

Cut the steaks into 1/4-inch slices and serve with the dipping sauce.

Sunday, 1 November 2015


Kaiserschmarrn, or as it translates, Emperor’s mess, is an ideal dish to make if, like me, presentation isn't your strong point. You make a thick pancake, tear it up, and re-fry the pieces. So there is no problem if you break it when you flip it, because you are tearing it up anyway.

This was the first time I have had or made Kaiserschmarrn, so I don't know if this was the best recipe I could have picked. Having looked at a few recipes, I noticed many people commenting recommended that the egg whites should be whisked to make the batter lighter, so the recipe I went for was this one from the Bavarian kitchen. As I said, I don't have anything to compare it to, but I liked the result.

The recipe from the Bavarian kitchen served it with a blueberry sauce, but for my first taste of Kaiserschmarrn I wanted to try it with the more traditional accompaniment of Zwetschkenröster, a plum compote. It was actually hard to find a recipe in English, so one of my friends translated a German recipe for me. This was the recipe I used, but to give it a brief translation :

Take 1 kilo of plums, and remove the stones. Leave the small ones whole, and quarter any large ones (mine were all of average size, so I halved most of them). Put 150g of sugar in a saucepan, and heat to turn it into caramel. Do not stir or agitate the pan, and don't let the caramel burn. Add the plums and a cinnamon stick. Some of the caramel will solidify again- don't worry, cook on a medium high heat for about 5 minutes and it will turn to a syrup. Stir occasionally. Add a shot of rum, and serve hot.