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.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Pearl Meatballs

I have decided to do a little run of recipes with interesting names. I had intended to start off by remaking ants climbing the tree, but whilst looking at recipes, I got distracted by pearl meatballs- a Cantonese dim sum of minced pork studded with chopped prawn and water chestnuts, and rolled in sticky rice. The whiteness of the rice gives it its name.

For dim sum, these are not too fiddly to make at all. The meatball mix is a little wetter than the European meatball mixes that I am more used to handling, but not unworkably so. I would suggest using a pair of forks to roll the meatballs in the rice when you are coating them- it saves your fingers from getting glued up with pork meat and rice. Another tip I found when making these is to get the rice properly dry, after soaking and draining, I put it in the oven on a very low temperature for a few minutes.

They are pretty easy to make and very delicious- between three of us we managed to finish the whole batch.

The recipe I used was from Sunflower Food Galore, a seemingly endless source of recipe inspiration for me.

After steaming

Finished meatballs

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Black Cake: The first of the Christmas recipes...

... Yes it is rather early to be writing about anything festive. But I wanted to get started on this year's Christmas cake, and it requires quite a lot of advance planning.

This year, I am not making the traditional British Christmas cake,  but instead am making black cake, which hails from the Caribbean. Instead of making the cake in advance, and then feeding it with alcohol, you soak the fruit for the cake in alcohol, for somewhere between 2 weeks and 6 months, and then mix it into the cake batter. The alcohol in question is different too, instead of brandy you use a mix of dark rum and sweet wine.

As I mentioned, this is a traditional Caribbean recipe, but I first heard of it in Nigella Lawson's How to be a Domestic Goddess, and she in turn got it from Laurie Colwin- a wonderful writer who I discovered a few years ago- if you like reading about food, I can really recommend her books.

It's quite hard to make Laurie Colwin's recipe, as it requires burnt sugar essence, which is not an expensive ingredient, but a very elusive one. Nigella uses treacle, but according to my internet sources, it's not really the same. I'll probably have to make do with treacle though.

In terms of soaking the fruit, I used rum, madeira, and also added a few dashes of bitters, which I saw suggested online, and liked the idea. The soaked fruit makes enough to make two cakes. I am planning on making one cake with half the ingredients, and leaving the remaining boozy fruit mix to macerate for the maximum six months, to see the difference.

Here is Nigella's recipe and here is a photo of some of the soaked fruit. There is loads of it- about 2 kilos of it- but a spoonful of brown pulp makes a slightly better photo than a tub of brown pulp.

So far, I have just got to the fruit soaking part- I will report back in few weeks when the cake is made!

23/11/15- Baking the cake
After about 6 weeks of soaking the fruit, I baked the cake. I stuck to Nigella's recipe, but added 2 spheres of grated stem ginger. The cake isn't as dark as the photos of black cake that I have seen, but I think without the elusive burnt sugar essence, it was as dark as I could have gotten in. I am leaving the cake now until Christmas, but tasting the cake mix, and the half baked bit of cake that clings to the knife when you check if it is ready makes me feel pretty confident that it is going to be a success. It has a complex, caramelly flavour, that hopefully will mature between now and Christmas. I am undecided whether or not to ice it. I don't especially like royal icing, but it does make it feel more festive- I shall see how I feel in December.

And finally! The difference between black cake (right), and the more British Christmas  cake (left)

Monday, 12 October 2015

Cornish Yarg and Cider Fondue

I got married a few weeks ago, which was wonderful. You might not be surprised to read that the food was an important factor (obviously not the most important, but up there). The caterer I opted for was Rose's Kentish Kitchen- she offers 'family style dining', i.e. each table has a shared dish and serves themselves, like you would at home. This appealed to me, as it felt much less formal than having something served individually. Also, crucially, she could source me a cheese cake- as in 5 whole different cheeses, stacked up to resemble a traditional wedding cake.

Photo by Oliver Facey
I ended up eating very little cheese on the night. But I did have about 3-4 kg of cheese to take home, including well over a kilo of Cornish Yarg. This is great, but a little tricky to get through when you only live with one other person. But it does give you a lot of scope for trying out different recipes. I came this Cornish Yarg and Cider Fondue from the dairy who makes Cornish Yarg's website.

I kept the recipe basically the same- I couldn't find specified cider, but just used another dry cider. Extras-wise, I used some sourdough rye bread that I had made the day before, instead of the suggested focaccia. As well as the prosciutto, I  sliced some cox apples- not to dip, but just to cut through the richness.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Recipe Revisit: Hazelnut Loaf Cake and Damson Curd

I recently remade the recipes from my most visited blog post, spiced damson curd- damsons have been in season, and I wanted some better pictures of it than they ones I have when I made it the first time around.
When I made it the first time, I had tried it with this hazelnut loaf cake. This also has some rather dark and blurry photos, so I wanted some new ones. It's also really good- with the curd, by itself, and also some buttery-cinnamony fried apples and cream

Friday, 4 September 2015

Exciting Update

I am getting to judge Bravissimo’s Berrylicious competition, where people can submit berry recipes for the chance to win a gorgeous Kitchenaid mixer. This does mean I can’t enter to try and win it for myself, but I will get to try out lots of recipes in order to find a winner.

Also some of my recipes are going to be printed as recipe cards, which are while be available in Bravissimo shops, so keep an eye out if you go into one of their stores!

Some of my recipes to get you started:
Berry and Granola Muffins

Peach and Blackberry Galette

Raspberry and Rosewater Eton Mess
Mini Raspberry Jam Doughnuts

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Korean Spicy Braised Chicken (Dak-bokkeumtang)

As I mentioned in my last post, I am currently on a Korean-cooking kick. This braised chicken recipe is not at all dissimilar from the pork recipe in the previous post- the ingredient lists for the two recipes feature a lot of the same items.

I turned to Maangchi again for this recipe, but made a few changes- I used skinned chicken legs and thighs instead of wings, and used some carrot as well as potato. Reading a few different variations for this recipe suggested to me that any cut of chicken would be OK to use. Maangchi used chicken wings, but I used what I had instead. I also prefer braised chicken dishes without skin, as I don't really like non-crispy chicken skin. In a few other recipes, carrot was used as well as potato, so I added that too. Other recipes also suggested daikon root, which would also be a nice addition.

I think this chicken stew is a great dish for colder weather- it is very comforting, but makes a change from the usual heavy casseroles that I associate with winter food (as much as I love them). It is quite a spicy dish, but not as spicy as the red colour of it would suggest.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Jeyuk Bokkeum- Korean Spicy Stir Fried Pork

I recently went to Toppoki, a Korean restuarant in Birmingham, and it gave me a gentle reminder that Korean food is something I really should get to know better. The food at Toppoki was delicious, and I wanted to recreate some of the dishes we had, one of which was this vibrant coloured and flavoured pork dish.

There were many possible recipes I could have used for this, but a friend pointed me in the direction of Maangchi for good Korean recipes. I hadn't actually heard of her, it seems I have been missing out. If you are interested in Korean cooking, I would recommend looking at her website. I also like Beyond Kimchee.

So, I went with Maangchi's recipe. There are two ingredients that you probably can't pick up at your average supermarket, but if you have access to a decent Asian super market you should be ok. The ingredients in question are gochujang, a chilli paste, and gochugaru, Korean chilli flakes. Both are an exciting fearsome red colour, spicy, but not as hot as they look.

 I used pork belly for this dish, but to be honest I think in future I would prefer something leaner. I love the fattiness of pork belly, but the fat wasn't crispy, like when you cook it quick and fast, or soft and melting, like when you cook it slowly. It was still good with pork belly, but I felt I would prefer it this way.
Despite that, it was a very good dish- hot, quick and tasty.
Link to Maangchi's recipe

Ingredients for the jeyuk bokkeum- pork, onion, green chilli, spring onion, sugar, soy, garlic,gochugaru and gochujang

Ingredients mixed together

Finished dish

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Cranberry, Pecan and Chocolate cookies

225 grams cups oats
75 grams desiccated coconut
225 grams plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
350 grams light brown sugar, packed
250g  unsalted butter
125 ml  maple syrup
2 tablespoons golden syrup
2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
60 ml boiling water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
100 grams pecans
100 grams dried cranberries
100g chocolate chips-milk or dark                                                              

Preheat oven to 150 C , and line two baking sheets. Combine oats, coconut, flour, salt, cinnamon and brown sugar in a large bowl and stir to combine. Combine butter, maple syrup and golden syrup in a saucepan. Heat over medium heat until butter melts, stirring, then remove from the heat. Mix the bicarbonate of soda with the boiling water, then stir this into the butter and syrup mixture along with the pecans, cranberries and vanilla extract. Mix the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients, and then stir in the chocolate chips.
Take golf ball sized lumps of the mixture, and lightly roll into balls. Place on baking sheet, and flatten slightly, leaving a 5cm gap between then cookies. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool on the sheets for 5 minutes, and then transfer with a fish slice to a wire rack.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Raspberry and Ginger Bars

As much as I love cooking and eating curd, I don't get through it especially fast, so I usually need to find a recipe to use it in bigger quantities than I would put on toast. I am usually happy to use it as a cake filling, but I felt like doing something different with this raspberry curd that I made recently.
These raspberry and ginger bars were the result- I was really happy with them! They have a base made of crushed ginger biscuits, similar to a cheesecake base, and then topped with raspberry curd. The raspberry curd is baked on top of the base for a few minutes to firm it up, so you can slice the cake neatly. The curd is still soft though, and is a nice contrast to the crunchy base.
This would work well with other curds- lemon is an obvious choice, but I would also consider this pineapple curd, as this would pair well with ginger too. Playing around with the biscuit base is something I'd like to do too- for raspberry curd, I think a dark chocolate base would be really lovely too.

200g ginger nuts
2 tbsp caster sugar
90g unsalted butter
1/2 quantity of raspberry curd- or a medium jar of a shop bought curd.

Preheat the oven to 200 C, and line a 20cm x 20cm square tin. Crush the ginger nuts, either in a food processor, or by hand (put in a bag and use a rolling pin to reduce them to rubble). Melt the butter, and stir into the biscuit crumbs, along with the sugar. Press into the base of the prepared tin. Bake for 15 minutes, and turn the oven down to 160 degrees. Leave for a few minutes to allow the oven to cool down to the lower temperature, then spread the curd on the base. Return to the oven for 10-12 minutes. Allow to cool, and put in the fridge to set for a few hours before slicing.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Raspberry Curd

I recently made some raspberry ripple blondies- normal blondies, with raspberry purée swirled through (I intend to post the recipe for this soon). They were an improvised recipe, so I was playing around with quantities. I ended up leaving out about half the raspberry puree I made, so decided to turn the rest into some raspberry curd, something I have been intending on trying making for a while.

The method is simple, and is almost identical to this pineapple curd recipe:

175g raspberries (I used frozen ones)
Juice of 2 lemons
200g sugar
100g butter, cut into cubes
3 eggs and 1 egg yolk
Mash the raspberries with a fork (or quickly blitz in a processor or blender). Push through a sieve to remove pips. In a heatproof bowl, mix the raspberry puree, sugar and butter, and sit over a pan of lightly simmering water. Give it a stir to help melt the butter and dissolve the sugar. While this is happening beat together the eggs and yolks. Once the butter has melted and the sugar dissolved, whisk in the beaten egg mix. Keep whisking for about 10 minutes, until the curd mixture has thickened, and feels heavy on the whisk.
Pour into clean jam jars- this makes about two medium jam jars worth of curd.
Other than on toast, I would like to try this as a filling for a sponge, made with some ground almonds and lemon or orange zest. I think I would also like to make a raspberry equivalent of lemon bars with it too.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Green Mango Salad with Crispy Shallots

I am fortunate enough that I live within walking distance of a Thai grocers, and am able to buy ingredients that I couldn't get in the average supermarket.
From my last trip, I came back with a green mango. If you haven't tried them before, they are pretty sour but still have a distinctive mango flavour- I really like them in refreshing salads like these.

Green apples like Granny Smiths are often suggested as a substitute for green mango. Although the salad wouldn't be the same, I still think it would be an enjoyable dish. In addition, although the Thai (holy) basil is nice, I wouldn't let the lack of it stop you making it- just bump up the quantities of the other herbs.

We had this as a side dish to some very sticky and rich Vietnamese Caramel Pork- it was nice to have something so refreshing alongside. I think this salad would also be wonderful as a main, with some cooked and cooled glass noodles and prawns added.

Salad Ingredients
1 green mango, peeled and finely sliced
1/2 a cucumber, made into ribbons with a vegetable peeler, or finely sliced
1 red pepper, finely sliced
1 small-medium carrot, cut into matchsticks
Small bunch of spring onions, finely chopped
small bunch each of: mint, coriander and thai basil, leaves finely chopped

Dressing Ingredients
3 tbsp fish sauce
3 tbsp lime juice
sugar or honey, to taste-start with 1 tsp
red chilli, finely chopped, to tast

Crispy Shallot Garnish
about 6 shallots- peeled and finely sliced
oil for deep frying

I suggest starting with the shallots- heat the oil in a small saucepan, about 2cm deep. Add the shallots, and cook until they are a dark golden brown and crisp. They will need stirring, as the shallot slices on the edges of the pan tend to brown quicker. Remove from the oil (I find a tea strainer works very well) and put on some kitchen roll to remove the excess oil.
In a large bowl, mix together the salad ingredients. Mix the dressing ingredients together, and combine with the salad.
Turn the salad out onto a large plate, and top with the crispy shallots.

Friday, 17 July 2015

A collection of Elderflower Drinks II

I had another flush of seasonal food excitability about a month ago, and went out to pick a lot of elderflowers. I came back with maybe 100 heads of elderflowers, plus a whole lot of bugs. Two years ago, I made elderflower cordial from this recipe- it was really good, so I made some more- I think I had just over two litres of cordial, which I mostly mix with gin, fizzy water and lemons for a very refreshing drink. I am considering trying to turn some of it into sorbet too.

As well as the cordial, I made three alcoholic drinks:

Gooseberry and elderflower vodka- a few elderflower heads, a punnet of gooseberries, and about 8 tablepoons of sugar, and topped up with vodka. I made this last year, and it was really successful, so I felt it was worth repeating. I am going to leave this to steep for a tear again.

Elderflower liqueur- from the Wild Cocktails book- This had 20 heads of elderflowers, some sugar and vodka. You then cut up two lemons, and use it to help keep the elderflower heads under the vodka. This was left to infuse for a month. The elderflower flavour of this is incredibly intense. I have tried it out in the book’s suggested recipe of an ‘Elder sour’, but found it a bit too sour- I think it needs a touch of sugar syrup so it tastes more balanced- at least for my tastes.

Cherry, elderflower and honey gin- A more improvised recipe- I had used up all my sugar making the cordial, but had some orange blossom honey- I am hopeful the honey flavour will come through too. I crushed the cherries (about a punnet, but left the stones in, as they add to the flavour. Like, the gooseberry vodka, I just added a few heads of elderflowers. This was just topped up with gin, and I will try it over the next few months until I get a strong enough flavour.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Pineapple and Coconut Cake

In my last blog post for pineapple curd, I mentioned using it as a filling for a coconut cake- here is the result:

Taste-wise, it was lovely- obviously I am not doing anything new with the pineapple-coconut flavour combination, but it came off well as a cake. For the cake itself, I used a Nigella recipe for a coconut cake. The original recipe uses a coconut buttercream as the filling, and I just switched it with some of my pineapple curd. I haven't tried the original, so I can't compare, but I did like my version's contrast of sweet coconut with tangy pineapple. I was a little apprehensive about part of the recipe- you soak the desiccated coconut in 150ml water, and then put all of it into the cake batter- I wasn't sure if adding so much water would make the cake heavy. But in reality, it came out as a very light sponge. I kept the topping the same- just an icing made with Malibu- but I sprinkled on the zest of a lime, which was my own touch, and one I would keep for this recipe.

25g unsalted butter, softened
225g caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 eggs
200g self-raising flour
25g cornflour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
50g desiccated coconut, soaked in 150ml boiling water

About 6 tbsp pineapple curd (see recipe)

2-4 tablespoons Malibu
125g instant royal icing

Preheat the oven to  180C / 160C fan, and line two 20cm sandwich tins. At this point, I boiled the kettle and soaked the dessicated cocount- you need to give it time to cool before adding it later. Cream the butter until pale and fluffy, and cream in the sugar. Beat in the vanilla extract. Mix in one egg, along with a tablespoon of self raising flour. Repeat with the 3 other eggs (again, with a spoonful of flour with each one). Sift in the remaining flour with the cornflour and baking powder, and fold in. Finally, fold in the coconut and water. Divide between the tins and bake for about 20 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean. Let them cool for about 5 minutes, then gently remove them from the tins, and let them cool completely on a wire rack.

Place one n the cakes on a plate, and spread over the curd. Put the over cake on top. Sift the icing sugar into a bowl, and mix in the Malibu. Spoon and smooth over the top of the cake. Enjoy!

Friday, 24 April 2015

Pineapple Curd

A friend made some very delicious lemon curd the other day, and it got me thinking about the different kinds of fruit that could be used to make curd. I have explored this a bit in my blog previously, with spiced damson curd and Seville orange curd. April isn’t the most inspiring time of year for seasonal fruit, so it’s a good time to turn to tropical flavours- i.e. something that won’t be grown in the UK anyway. And it’ll get you in a summery mood.  I decided to experiment with pineapple- it had a good amount of acidity that I hoped would work well in a curd. I hadn’t heard of a pineapple curd before, but a quick Google showed that other people have made it with success. Some recipes suggested using fresh pressed pineapple, and others just used pineapple juice- I compromised by using the freshest pineapple juice I could buy.

My recipe started off using an adaptation of this Nigel Slater lemon curd recipe, using pineapple juice instead of lemon, plus the juice of half a lemon, and omitting the lemon zest. While I was cooking it, I found it too sweet, and ended up adding an extra lemon and half worth of juice. Because of the additional juice, I quickly added an additional egg yolk. Despite these last minute changes, it came out as a curd should. I was really pleased with the result- it’s a tangy, fresh tasting curd with a good pineapple flavour. As well as on toast, I have plans to use it as a filling in a coconut cake, and to top some meringues with some cream and possibly some passion fruit pulp. 

125ml fresh pineapple juice
Juice of 2 lemons
200g sugar
100g butter, cut into cubes
3 eggs and 1 egg yolk

In a heatproof bowl, mix the juices, sugar and butter, and sit over a pan of lightly simmering water. Give it a stir to help melt the butter and dissolve the sugar. While this is happening beat together the eggs and yolks. Once the butter has melted and the sugar dissolved, whisk in the beaten egg mix. Keep whisking for about 10 minutes, until the curd mixture has thickened, and feels heavy on the whisk.
Pour into clean jam jars- this made about two medium sized jars for me.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Kao Phat Prik

I am slowly transporting all my cookery books from my parents' house to my flat- despite the lack of space for more books, I look forward to the day when the entirety of my collection is no longer based in London. I've just become reacquainted with Charmaine Solomon's Complete Asian Cookbook. I recently discovered this book was first published nearly 40 years ago- amazingly,it hasn't become at all dated.
I sometimes feel a bit overwhelmed by all the recipe books I have, and all the recipes I want to cook- and the lack of time to do it in. Recently, a dear friend and I came to the realisation that 3 meals a day doesn't feel enough to try everything. I'm trying to focus on a few recipes books, and really get into them, rather than feeling swamped by a huge collection of books. I've decided to start with The Complete Asian Cookbook- it's certainly got enough recipes to keep me going for a while.
I picked quite a simple starting point, with Kao Phat Prik, or chilli fried rice. I happened to have both leftover cooked rice, and some red curry paste in the fridge already, so I was partway there, ingredients-wise. I had made this red curry paste, but you could use any, homemade or bought.

Charmaine Solomon suggests garnishing with chilli flowers- I confess I left this part out, and just used the coriander leaves.

4 cups cold, cooked rice
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 red chilli, sliced
I green chilli, sliced
1 tablespoons red curry paste (I upped this a little)
1 pork chop, finely diced or minced
500 g  peeled and deveined raw prawns, roughly chopped if large,
2 eggs, beaten and seasoned,
salt and pepper
3 tablespoon fish sauce
1 bunch chopped spring onions
handful chopped coriander leaves

 Heat the oil in a wok and fry the onion and red chilli until softened. Add the curry paste, and cook until the oil begins to separate.  Add the pork and stir-fry until cooked. Add the prawns to the pan. Once these are cooked through, add the rice, and stir so it is coated with the curry paste and the pork and prawns are well combined. Push the rice to the edge of the wok, leaving a space in the centre, and pour in the beaten eggs.. Stir until they start to set. Mix with the rice and toss over high heat until the eggs are cooked. Sprinkle with fish sauce, and stir in the spring onions.  Take off the heat and stir in the coriander leaves.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Fish Fragrant Aubergine

This recipe has reignited my love of aubergines- I often eat them and find them very unappealing, with a strange woolly texture and tough skin. In this recipe, they are fried in lots of oil, and get a soft/silky texture. I also chose to remove peel them, so avoiding the possibility of difficult to eat skin, although this wasn’t specified in the original recipe.

Perhaps confusingly, ‘fish fragrant’ does not mean the recipe contains any fish- it just refers to a style of cooking involving ginger, garlic, spring onions, soy, and chilli bean paste. The result is quite hot, and very satisfying- very good if you have a cold too. You can cook other ingredients in a similar style, but my favourite is definitely this aubergine and pork mince combination. I’d like to cook prawns with these flavourings, although I am not sure how authentic cooking seafood or fish in this manner is.  
If you are hesitant about cooking with aubergines, I would recommend this- this recipe has jumped into my top ten dishes.
You might have to go to a Chinese supermarket for the chilli bean paste, and almost definitely for the Chinkiang black vinegar. I think it is worth it though, especially for the chilli bean paste, which is fast becoming one of my favourite store cupboard ingredients, for stir fries, stews, or anything I feel needs a kick.

The recipe I used can be found here- another recipe from Sunflower Food Galore. I chose to deep fry the aubergine, and also to peel it. I also made 1 1/2 times as much, for 4 as a main dish with rice- there was enough, but not enough for seconds- I think I would probably double the recipe next time for the same amount of people.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Jerk Gammon Hock and Jerk Ribs

I am lucky to live near a fantastic butcher, Aubrey Allen. The meat is fantastic, and they have possibly the most helpful staff I have ever encountered. I went in the other day for nothing in particular, and came out with a large gammon hock for less than £2. I didn't have any recipe in mind, but came across this jerk gammon hock recipe by Jamie Oliver. I was in the mood for something a bit more fiery than just cooking the hock in cider with root vegetables, which would have been my default cooking method for a gammon hock. It's been a while since I have cooked anything by Jamie Oliver, even though I have always enjoyed his recipes.

I had to change the a little- the recipe specified 4 500g ham hocks. Mine was certainly more than 500g, probably almost double that. I made all the marinade, but had about half of it left over. I also cooked it at a lower temperature, but for about the same time- it came out very tender on the inside, and a little blackened on the outside.

I didn't eat it right away, I let it cool and then shredded it up, coating it in a little clementine juice and olive oil, as per the recipe's instructions. The next day, I fried the ham in a hot frying pan, with a little extra olive oil and a squeeze more juice added at the end of cooking. It turns it sticky and slightly crispy- delicious. To eat alongside, I made some coconut rice, with spring onions and lots of freshly chopped coriander stirred in at the end.

I had half of the marinade left, so I used it on some pork ribs, from the aforementioned Aubrey Allen. They weren't like baby back ribs, which is what I was expecting, but far thicker, more like a slab of pork belly:

I cooked them for about an hour at 170 degrees Celsius, and then turned the heat up to 220 and cooked for a further 15 minutes to crisp up the fat.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Claudia Roden's Honey Cake

One of my all-time favourite cookery books, The Book of Jewish Food by Claudia Roden spends more time next to the sofa or the bed for comfort reading, rather than being used for actual recipes- not that the recipes aren't wonderful, but it is a really compelling read too. I've been intending to make a project of cooking my way through it, but it something of an undertaking.

Claudia Roden's book is divided into two parts- Ashkenazi food and Sepherdic food. The majority of the recipes I have made from the book have been the Sephardic dishes, such as bazargan, a nut-heavy bulgar wheat salad made tart with pomegranate molasses. I've experimented with some of the filo pies, both savoury and incredibly sweet (such as m'hencha, a coil of almond paste, wrapped in filo, and then liberally coated in cinnamon and icing sugar). And I have spent a long time painstakingly making just one batch of kobeba (or kibbeh,or kubba, depending on where you are from). There have been other recipes I have made, but even so, I don't feel I have really scratched the surface of the collection of recipes in The Book of Jewish Food.

I haven't really touched the Ashkenazi side, with the exception of some hamantashen- rich poppy seed pastries, and this honey cake which I made this weekend. It is once of those convenient cakes that taste delicious and keep really well. It is quite rich, and stands well alone with tea. Although you could do what I did for the first servng of it, and have it with butterscotch sauce and ice cream. The cake is traditionally served at Rosh Hashanah, but I would happily have it any time of year.

The recipe can be found here.