Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Teaching Dad to Cook Flapjack and a Stunning Blackberry Clafoutis Recipe

Teaching Dad to Cook Flapjack by Miranda Gardiner. I stumbled across this book by accident online. I’m getting good at not buying absolutely every single cookbook that takes my eye now, but this one made me click the add to basket button. The cover to me is sort of serene, but still pretty with the fish drawings and also says fun with the cute moose and snail cookie cutters. There are two new designs to look out for! Image of book cover via courtesy of Amazon.co.uk
A few years ago I wouldn’t have been keen at all to admit I’d bought a book on the basis of it’s cover. As I’ve become older though, I’ve come to appreciate that a good cover, particularly on a book by an unknown author is key if the marketing department at the publishers is to entice the target audience.
It’s somehow a Summery book, even thought there are several recipes suited to colder weather cooking. The recipes I’ve been most drawn to so far are the baking and salad-y ones. Maybe that’s down to the time of year and warmer weather.
The book came into being when the author’s Mother passed away, leaving her Father widowed and not very able to feed himself. Miranda gathered together recipes to give to her Father, to help him look after his daily food needs, and so the book took shape.
The chapters are eclectic and include ‘Mid-week Morsels’ and ‘Well Loved Food’. Simple layout, the recipes are intercepted by text about life from the author, most of which is a pleasant enough read.
There are lots of very calming pictures of the food with pretty and atmospheric scenery. I like that there are some real time real cooking pictures too.
Some of the other recipes I’ve book-marked are: Beetroot, feta and clementine salad, Finnish salad with orange blossom dressing, Pumpkin soup with black olive and feta quesadillas, Mum’s Danish apple charlotte, Zesty pistachio & polenta cake and Rose petal and buttermilk cake.
As always here are some of the dishes I’ve cooked, I also made Jean-Christophe Novelli’s lemsip - it definitely helped the sniffles away!

First class porridge, I made it with Channel Island Jersey milk, and it was so good. Blueberries and honey or agave nectar – the best! I got this honey locally and it’s delicious.

Dreamy Prawn Gnocchi
An unusual prawn dish with the comfort of gnocchi and cream, but also interest from mixed seeds and spinach.

Naked Broad Bean Salad
A beautiful salad, both to eat and look at too.

Chocolate Caramel Muffins
Chocolate muffins made with ricotta and Cadburys caramel as the chunks. I wasn’t keen on these the day they were made, but the day after they were good – the tastes all melded together then.

Chewy Flapjack
An ultra sweet and chewy flapjack, the flapjack lover in my house was very pleased indeed!

Caramel Salties
Blondies with dulce de leche, white chocolate and sea salt. The smell in the kitchen was so delicious the day I baked these. I used less salt though – just a slight sprinkle of Maldon instead or the 2-3 teaspoons suggested in the recipe. Good the day made and the day after too.

Blackberry and Sour Cream Clafoutis
This is a seriously fabulous pudding, easy fruity and delicious. I’ve made clafoutis many times before, but this recipe is the keeper, and hands down the best of any I’ve made or tasted.

This is my slight reworking of Miranda Gardiner’s recipe from Teaching Dad to Cook Flapjack, published by Hardie Grant Books (London) Limited in 2010.
Serves 4

350g blackberries
2 tablespoons plain flour, slightly rounded
4 good tablespoons caster sugar
½ tablespoon vanilla extract
125g sour cream (weighed)
icing sugar to decorate, optional
thick double cream to serve

1.Preheat the oven to 170oC fan/ 180oC/ gas mark 4.
2.You’ll need a round baking dish of about 20cm – 25cm. Butter the dish and arrange to fruit over the bottom of the dish.
3. In a bowl whisk together the flour, caster sugar, vanilla extract and sour cream to make a smooth batter.
4. Pour the batter carefully over the fruit, then bake for 20 to 35 minutes, or until cooked. It should be golden, puffy and beautiful. I cook this in my fan oven for 20 minutes, your oven might need the longer cooking time, check after 20 minutes though. Dust with icing sugar if you like and serve with cream.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Jamie's America and Peach Cobbler

Peach Cobbler

Last years Jamie Oliver's offering in the cookbook line was Jamie’s America. It accompanied a TV series on Channel 4, I didn’t manage to see all of it, but what I did see was good, although some of it was disturbingly thought provoking. I hope they re-run it, as I would like to catch the episodes I missed. My only criticism of the series would be that I’d have liked to see some more cooking.
This is definitely not an issue for the book, because it’s jam packed. It is divided into Chapters covering the six areas visited by Jamie on the TV: New York, Louisiana, Arizona, Los Angeles, Georgia and Wildwest. I love American (and Canadian) cookbooks, and was really interested to see what Jamie’s take on American food would be. I expected some glitzy, glamorous, you know, restaurant style food for part of the book; but not a bit of it, all good home cooking.
My favourite section of the book is hands down Wildwest, it just suits how I cook. Don’t let that put you off the rest though, as there are recipes in all the chapters that I would fancy trying.
I seem to recall reading last year somewhere (although I can’t remember where) that Jamie’s book last year was to be a Christmas one. Well that was obviously nonsense! Although, if the standard of his Jamie’s Family Christmas episodes in 2009 were anything to go by he has it in him to do a fabulous Christmas cookbook…doesn’t look like it’ll be this year either, ah well maybe next year!
Mind you at the moment Jamie has two new books out this year, firstly one from Spring time Jamie Does, another travel cookbook, covering six European countries, armchair – or rather cooker – adventuring without even getting on a plane for those of us who buy the book. Later in the year he has a fast cooking cookbook coming out, I can hardly keep up!
Back to the current post though, I’ve enjoyed cooking the recipes here, not least because I do like a bit of travelling in my cooking, and I’m not talking about out of season goods travelling round the world, although sometimes I succumb to them. I like to do traditional dishes from here, but also like to make things that hail from thousands of miles away. For me it keeps food and cooking interesting and alive. For some reason I was particularly taken with the fruity puddings in ‘Jamie’s America, but everything was good.

Waldorf Salad
Fruity, crispy, fresh, light, zingy and yummy!

Hipp’s Pudding
A spin of Eve’s pudding named after one of Jamie’s cowboy friends that he met. It’s a tough life, the life of a cowboy – I had no idea. Well, that’s not strictly true, I had an idea, but it was way off base! I made this when we were in need of some serious comfort food, and this hit the spot, with a splash of cream.

Southern Pecan and Apple Salad
The pecans here are caramelised, and they are tremendous in this salad, perfect partners for the apple and there is a orange dressing.

Peach Cobbler
The base of this with its juicy peaches, lime, ginger and vanilla was really gorgeous. Complemented by the crispy topping and spongy bit.

Peach Cobbler Recipe
From Jamie’s America by Jamie Oliver published by Penguin Michael Joseph in 2009.
My Notes: I’ve upped the soft brown sugar a little to 55g, but Jamie’s recipe suggests 40g. I often substitute vanilla extract for seeds, but here the seeds are really worth the money. He also cooks it at a higher temperature, preheat to full blast, and turn down to 190oC / 375oF/ Gas 5 when the peaches go in. My oven would burn it at that high heat! You’ll need a food processor.

8 ripe peaches, halved, stoned and cut into slices
1 vanilla pod, halved and seeds scraped out
zest of 1 lime
55g soft brown sugar
zest and juice of 1 orange
2.5cm fresh ginger, peeled and grated finely

40g pine nuts
100g self raising flour
50g caster sugar
pinch salt
100g unsalted butter, from the fridge

For serving:
Icing sugar for dusting
Cream or ice cream

1. Preheat your oven to 190 oC / 375oF/ Gas 5. Toss the peaches with the vanilla seeds, lime zest, sugar, orange juice and zest and ginger. Take care not to break up the peaches. Place in a baking dish and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, until softened a bit.
2. Meantime make the topping. Into the bowl of a food processor place the pine nuts, and whizz briefly. Leave them in the bowl and add the flour, sugar and a pinch of salt. Whizz again briefly. Add in the butter cut into small cubes, and pulse in short bursts until it looks like breadcrumbs. Tip into a bowl and add about 2 tablespoons of water and mix to a firm dough.
3. When the peaches have cooked take out of the oven and add 2 to 3 fl oz of water, mix round gently, taking care not to break up the peaches or burn yourself! Dollop 6 spoonfuls of the dough (use it all) ontop of the peaches and return the dish to the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until bubbling and the cobbles are golden.
Dust with icing sugar, if you like and serve.