Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Orange Curd and Mascarpone Cake

There's something very pleasing about a layer cake, they're indulgent but not fancy, homey but not plain.   They work for most occasions, from elevenses to an appearance as a birthday cake.  If you don't eat this right away, it really should be chilled because of the filling, which is a shame- refrigerated cakes just aren't the same. However, we just had this as a pudding for after lunch, and save a tiny slice it was gone by the end of the day. Despite the richness of the filling, this has a lightness to it, due to the tang of the curd. 

For the cake:
225g butter,at room tempterature
225g caster sugar
4 medium eggs, room temperature, beaten
Zest of on large orange
225g self raising flour
approx 2 tbsp orange juice

Get the boring parts out of the way; preheathe oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4, grease and line 2 x 18cm/7in cake tins with baking paper. Cream the butter and sugar together in a large mixing bowl until pale and fluffy. Beat in a quarter of the egg mix with a tablespoon of the flour, repeat until all the egg is used. Stir in the orange zest. Sift the flour into the bowl and fold in with a large metal spoon until well combined. The mixture should be a soft 'dropping' consistency- i.e. it should fall off the spoon in thick lumps, add some juice if it needs some adjusting. Divide between the two cake tins, smoothing the top with a knife or spatula. Back for 20-25 minutes, until a skewer pierced in the centre comes out clean. Allow to cool on a wire rack.

For the filling:
284g mascarpone
150g orange curd

Turn the less attractive cake upside down onto a plate and spread with the mascarpone, and then the curd on top of that. Top with the other sponge, and admire.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Watermelon, Chilli and Mint

The recipe is the title, with the addition of a little sugar. It works as a light snack, dessert or even breakfast if you don't mind a bit of heat in the morning. For two: Cube up about 1/6 of a small-medium watermelon, and toss with half a medium hot red chilli, finely chopped and deseeded. Add some chopped mint leaves, and sprinkle over about a teaspoon of sugar. Leave to macerate in the fridge for at least an hour before eating. Give it a stir, spooning the juices over the top of the fruit before serving.

 If you add feta, olives, red or spring onion and a limey olive oil dressing, and omit the sugar, you have a summer salad that was very popular in the food supplements about three years ago, that's goes well with barbecues.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Orange Curd Friands

Admittedly I did make these as a medium for the Seville orange curd, but they turned out so good I wanted them to have be included as a recipe in their own right. Orange curd may or may not be available in shops, but if you don't fancy making your own you could use lemon curd, just changing the zest in the batter to match. But making the curd is a good way to get some of the egg whites needed for the friand batter, or vice-versa. A bonus for me is that the addition of the curd means you need less of the batter, so you can use the leftover for the deep-fried version. I happened to choose the the tin with smaller moulds, just to have a little extra for this treat.

185g unsalted butter
6 medium egg whites
225g icing sugar
75g plain flour
125g ground almonds 
Finely grated zest of one large orange
12 tsp Orange curd

Preheat the oven to 200C, putting in a baking sheet to warm. Melt the butter over a low heat. Using a pastry brush, generously brush a 12-bun muffin or friand tin with some of the butter. In a mixing bowl, whisk the egg whites until they are foamy. They don't have to form peaks, you just want them frothed up. Sieve over the icing sugar and plain flour and scatter over the almonds and orange zest. Fold them in with a spoon, then mix in the rest of the butter until it is completely combined into the batter. Spoon a little on the batter into each mould, just to cover the base. Place a teaspoon of curd in the centre, then divide the rest of the batter into the tins (you may have leftovers, see above. Place in the oven on top of the baking sheet. Cook for around 20 minutes until they are lightly browned on top. These are best eaten on the day they are made.

"Seville" Orange Curd

Seville oranges have a limited season, just a few weeks of availability in January. I don't think you can get them in Australia, but in the UK they are usually available in the greengrocers, mostly for marmalade makers. Not being a fan of the preserve, I spritz it where I would lemons. You can get a very good approximation of the flavour by mixing regular orange juice with lime juice, to get the flavour of the orange  with the correct eye-wincing sourness, if Seville oranges elude you.

Despite the winter associations of Seville oranges, this looks and tastes like summer in a jar. I'll post some recipes using the curd over the next few days, so watch this space.

4 large oranges, e.g. navel, zested and juiced
6 limes, zested and juiced
150g caster sugar
4 eggs, plus 2 egg yolks
150g butter, cubed 

First sterilize your jar; wash with hot soapy water and let it dry out in a low oven.
Put the juices and zests in the saucepan with the eggs, egg yolks, and sugar. Beat together to make it a uniform consistency.  Over a low heat, stir with a wooden spoon. Once it is heated through, add a cube of butter, stirring all the time until in is melted and mixed in. Continue to add the butter cubes, one by one, until they are all used. Keep cooking and stirring the curd. Once it thickly coats the back of the spoon, it is ready. Pour into your sterilised jar. Once it is cool, keep in the fridge for up to a week.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Friands, Fried not Baked.

I had a little batter left over from the sour cherry and orange friands made yesterday. The bonus of friands mix is that it can be made and kept in the fridge until you want to bake as it has no raising agent. Baked, the batter would have stretched to at most two, so (naturally) my thoughts turned to deep frying. They taste like little chewy almond doughnuts.

I've only done this the once, but I think the best course of action is to use the batter when it is fridge-cold, as at room temperature its very soft and probably would be difficult to handle. Heat some flavourless oil in a saucepan. The oil needs to be hot enough for the batter to form large bubbles when placed in the oil.Using two teaspoons, shape a teaspoonful of batter into a ball before putting straight into the pan. Repeat with the rest of the mix. Depending on how much mixture you have you have, and the size of your pan, you may have to do this in batches. It takes around 3 minutes, turn them over halfway through. Once they are golden, remove with a slotted spoon onto a plate lined with some kitchen roll. Dust with a little icing sugar, and eat as soon as they have cooled down enough.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Thyme and Garlic Focaccia

I like this still warm out of the oven, oily and salty, perhaps dipped into yet more grassily green olive oil. I like it so much I've doubled the quantities of the original recipe to make a gargantuan loaf, so just halve it if you want something smaller. Like most recipes including yeast, it takes a little while, but the actual work involved is minimal. If you want fresh bread in the morning, you can make the dough the night before, let it prove overnight in the fridge and continue with the recipe when you wake up.

1kg strong white flour
2 sachets dried yeast
4 tsp fine salt
560 ml lukewarm water
220ml extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, peeled.
Leaves from 10 stalks of thyme, chopped
Coarse sea salt, to sprinkle

In a large mixing bowl, thoroughly combine 250 grams of the flour,  and all the yeast and salt. Quickly whisk together the water and half the olive oil, and stir into the dry ingredients so all the flour is mixed in. Add as much extra flour as you need to make a dough that is only slightly sticky. Tip onto a floured surface, and knead for 5-10 minutes, until it is smooth and elastic. Return to the bowl, cover with a tea towel, and leave to rise until it is doubled in size. This should take about 2 hours.

Once the first prove has finished, punch the dough down and give it another quick knead. Line a baking tray with some baking paper and oil. Roll or press the dough into a rough rectangle, about 1 cm thick, and dimple the surface of the dough all over with your fingers. Leave to prove for another half an hour. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C. Towards the end of the prove, crush the garlic and thyme leaves together into a paste. When you have a cohesive mush, mix in the remaining olive oil. After the final prove, spread the garlic-thyme-oil over the focaccia with your hands. Place in oven and bake for around half an hour, until golden brown.

Sour Cherry and Orange Friands

Friands are almond patisserie popular in Australia, which very closely resemble the french financiers. They are both small cakes made with ground almonds, slightly crisp outside and softly chewy in the centre. However, there are hundreds of variations on the friand recipe, fruit, chocolate and other nuts being added to make different flavours, whereas the financier usually remains plain. The other main difference is the shape; friands are small ovals, financiers are rectangular in order to resemble gold blocks, hence the name.

You don't need a special friand tin, these work well in small muffin tins too.

185g unsalted butter
6 medium egg whites
225g icing sugar
75g plain flour
125g ground almonds
Finely grated zest of one large orange
170g bottled sour cherries, drained.

Preheat the oven to 200C, putting in a baking sheet to warm. Melt the butter over a low heat. Using a pastry brush, generously brush a 12-bun muffin or friand tin with some of the butter. In a mixing bowl, whisk the egg whites until they are foamy. They don't have to form peaks, you just want them frothed up. Sieve over the icing sugar and plain flour and scatter over the almonds, orange zest and cherries. Fold them in with a spoon, then mix in the rest of the butter until it is completely combined into the batter. Divide equally into the tins, then place in the oven on top of the baking sheet. Cook for around 20 minutes until they are lightly browned on top. These are best eaten on the day they are made.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Braised Red Cabbage with Pomegranate Molasses and Cranberries

Red cabbage always comes out at Christmas time, it goes perfectly with my favourite festive meats, goose and gammon. It also has the bonus of benefiting of being prepared a day of so in advance, something that's definitely helpful around Christmas if you're responsible for most of the cooking. At other times of year, it's a fantastic foil for the fattiness of duck and salmon.

Pomegranate molasses had it's heyday as a fashionable ingredient a few years ago, when Nigella brought it to the masses, and might be dismissed by the trend conscious now. But like other foodstuffs that suffered overuse-balsamic vinegar, sundried tomatoes, that doesn't mean they're not good. Pomegranate molasses is dark, sticky and sour, adding an extra depth to the cabbage.

1 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 red cabbage, cored and finely sliced
1 cinnamon stick
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp soft brown sugar
1 tsp mixed spice
25g dried cranberries
250ml cranberry juice
2 tbsp pomegranate molasses

In a casserole, heat the olive oil over a medium heat, and fry the onion in it until softened. Add the garlic, and cook for a few minutes more. Stir in the remaining ingredients except the vinegar, season, and just bring the liquid to a simmer. Put on a lid, turn the heat down and leave to cook, stirring when you remember. You can't really overcook red cabbage, but 2 hours should do it. Reheat when you are ready to eat.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Vacherin Mont D'or

There are certain foods that make the cold weather almost bearable, and this pungent, instant fondue is one of them. It's one of the few cheeses that is still considered seasonal- September to April, according to its website, but I tend to eat it around Christmas time. Unless you are feeling extravagant, it's probably the only time of year that you'd justify its price.
Once you have obtained your cheese, preheat your oven to 180C. Remove any plastic wrapping from the box. Take off the lid and score a cross about 3cm wide in the centre of the cheese. Poke in a few thin slices of garlic, drizzle over a few spoonfuls of dry white wine, and season with pepper. Replace the lid, and wrap the entire box in foil. Bake for around 25 minutes until it is liquid and piping hot all the way through- test with a skewer if you are not sure.
Remove from the foil, and serve with baguette, cornichons and some bitter leaves. A little charcuterie alongside is wonderful but not obligatory.

Lamb, Feta and Sumac Piroshki

Piroshki is a blanket term for little Russian pies that come with various fillings and can be baked, fried or poached. My filling is inauthentic, I've gone for Middle-Eastern flavours, but the pastry is traditional. I've justified the feta and sumac with some stretches of geography, Georgia borders Russia, Georgian food has influences from the Middle East... but really, they taste so good, so that should be reason enough to make them.

I first came across the idea for these pastries in Meat by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, as a way to use up leftover roast lamb, it does make a change from the usual shepherd's pie. When I came to make them this time, I only had about 1/2 the amount of suggested meat, so made up the remaining weight with crumbled feta. That inspired the use of sumac, a tart red spice that is favoured in Turkey and the Middle East.

For the pastry:
225g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
a little beaten egg, to glaze
For the filling:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin seeds, ground
1 tsp coriander seeds, ground
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
100 grams leftover roast lamb, finely chopped
a little liquid- stock, wine or water
1 tsp sumac
pinch chilli powder
100 grams feta, crumbled
Start by making the pastry: sift the flour, salt and baking powder together into a mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre. Whisk together the oil and eggs, then pour into the well. Gradually draw in the dry ingredients to the liquid with a wooden spoon, then beat until smooth. You are looking for a soft but not sticky dough, add a little cold water if you need it. On a lightly floured surface, knead for about 5 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, covered, and leave for around an hour while you get on with the filling.

Heat the olive oil over  medium heat, and add the spices. Cook for about 1 minute, then add the onion and garlic. Let them cook gently until they are softened. The turn up the heat and add the lamb. Let it brown slightly, then turn the heat down, and add your chosen liquid, jut enough to lubricate it, not so much as to drown it. Let it cook for another 3 minutes over a low heat, then remove. Stir in the sumac and chilli powder and season with salt and pepper. Allow to cool, then mix in the crumbled feta.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Line a baking tray Roll out the dough on a floured surface, and cut out 8cm rounds with a cutter. Put a spoonful of filling onto each round, slightly off-centre. Moisten the edges with a little water and a pastry brush, and fold the dough over to meet the other side, pressing down to seal. Using your hands, shape them into a crescent. Transfer to the baking sheet, and brush with beaten egg. Bake for 10-15 minute until the piroshki are nicely browned, and serve warm.