Monday, 28 January 2013

Key Lime Pie

I suppose outside of the States, possibly even Florida, key lime pie is rarely made with actual key limes. Instead, the name now is used to evoke an acid-laced cream inside a biscuit base. I had never tried, let alone made my own KLP, but I have heard good things, and I really like lime. As normal, I made Nigella's version for my starting point.
As much as I enjoyed it, (and I did, as did my fellow eaters) I could tell on my first mouthful that this would be hugely improved with crushed ginger biscuits for the base, instead of digestives. The filling is so light that I feel it needs a robust as possible outside, which the ginger snaps would provide. I tried the pie after the minimum setting time, and 24 hours later- leaving it overnight is a definite improvement to the texture of the filling.

For the base and sides:
250g digestive biscuits (see above)
50g unsalted butter

For the filling:
4 limes
400g (or more likely 397g) condensed milk, preferably chilled
250ml double cream

Grease the sides and base of a a 25cm round springform cake tin, or pie dish. As you can see from the picture, I had neither and used a square cake tin, which worked just fine too. Crush the biscuits finely in a mixing bowl, melt the butter and stir it into the crumbs. It should be a damp, sandy consistency, if it is a little dry add some more melted butter. Press the biscuit mix onto the base of the cake or pie tine, and up the sides as well. Put in the fridge while you get on with the filling.

Zest and juice the limes. Set the zest aside in the fridge, clingfilmed, for decoration later. In a large mixing bowl, mix the condensed milk and lime juice- don't worry if it curdles. Add the cream, and whisk either by hand, electric whisk or freestanding mixture, until it has thickened and increased in volume. It will feel both light and unctuous. By hand, the whisking took about 5 minutes, so it isn't hard work at all. Pour the filling into your prepared base, smoothing out or swirling the top, whatever your aesthetic preference. Let it chill for a minimum of 4 hours, but preferably overnight. Sprinkle with the reserved zest before serving.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Slow Roast Lamb (and what to do with the leftovers)

The best thing, for me, about this icy weather is the food you can cook to keep the cold at bay. Last week we made a particularly nice roast lamb leg that I feel needs sharing. We actually used a slow cooker for this-the first time I have used one- but if I was doing this at home I would just cook the lamb in a low oven, covered in foil. You could also use shoulder, instead of leg, which I think might be even nicer.
This is one of those recipes that are far to forgiving and flexible to be put into a strict recipe.

Start late morning/ just after an early lunch. Heat the slow cooker, or put the oven onto a low heat- about 150C. Make a paste, either with a blender, or some dedicated knife work with 3 cloves of peeled garlic, 2-3 anchovy fillets, a handful of rosemary leaves, a spoonful of capers, and some lemon zest. Add olive oil to make it a spreadable consistency. Set aside. Heat some olive oil in a large frying pan, and brown the lamb all over, taking your time to get in a good colour. Remove from the heat, and with a spoon, spread the paste allover the leg- it's easiest to do one side, put it in the slow cooker or roasting dish the other way up, and then spread that side with the paste. Add some white wine, and a few peeled but whole shallots. With the wine, we used about 1 large glass, but as the resulting juices were so delicious, I would say use at least half a bottle, possibly the whole thing. Cover, with foil if you are cooking in the oven, or with the lid if you are using a slow cooker. Leave to cook until dinner time, maybe turning the joint over once.
All you need to do is carve the lamb (not proper carving, it is too soft for that), and drain the fat off the gravy, and serve.

I would usually coat the lamb in the paste before browning, but found that the flavours tasted much fresher without the extra cooking.

You can do the obvious with the leftover meat (sandwiches, shepherds pie), but a surprisingly successful meal was a homespun kebab. Split a pitta per person, and spread generously with hummous and fill with the cold lamb. Wrap each pitta in foil individually, and heat in an oven at 180C for 10-15 minutes. Prepare the extras- we had cubed feta, red onion very finely diced, thin strips of pepper, halved cherry tomatoes and stoned olives. I think it is much nicer to have these components separate, so everyone can make their ideal pitta. I also made some garlicky creme fraiche to go alongside- yoghurt would have been the more natural choice, but use whatever's in your fridge.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

New Year Lychee Vodka

A belated happy new year. This year, I have decided to re-embrace flavouring vodkas. Resolutions usually cause nothing but resentment and disappointment in oneself, but I think I can manage this. I am going to aim for about one vodka a month, to build up a store cupboard of fruity alcohol.
So, to start, I made my favourite from my previous experimentation: lychee. I added a star of star anise too, which hopefully will complement the lychee's perfume.
No photo, I am afraid. It doesn't look very nice, in fact it looks like a jar of pickled eggs.