Wednesday 30 May 2007

Date, Rum and Pecan Ice Cream

Date, Rum and Pecan Ice Cream
I have been anticipating this book for a few months now, and eventually ordered it from America, so that I could have it in my grasp more quickly. The book in question? None other than The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz. I have six other pure ice cream books, some I have used more than others, and I did wonder do I really need another one? I swept this particular thought to the back of my mind (very quickly!) and ploughed on in my pursuit of ice cream.

Then the day came and it arrived, I tell you I NEED this book, anyone with an ice cream maker or a strong urge for the icy stuff needs it too! I have often read about people who love ice cream above all else, and I have never thought I was one of them, but now I am wondering if perhaps I might be. It’s divided up into chapters for Basics, Ice Creams, Sorbets and Sherbets, Granitas, Sauces and Toppings, Mix-Ins and Vessels. As an aside, I made the baked version of dulce de leche (from the Sauces and Toppings chapter). It tasted like Scottish tablet but with the texture something akin to a quivering panna cotta, if you are ever in need of a sugar fix this is the ultimate – condensed milk baked until it is golden and caramelised, oh boy! It didn’t make it to a sundae, we just spooned it from the dish.

There was no question in my mind of which ice cream to make first – date, rum and pecan ice cream just the name hit all the right buttons for me, and so I made it. It was absolutely perfect! The man is an absolute genius! It was just so good, and because the rum was in the egg custard as well as soaked into the dates, the taste of the rum never disappeared even with the last bite, the dates adding a good toffee element and pecans to give a nice bite. I don’t think I would have come up with the date / rum / pecan combo, but I’m so glad David did. Keith said he thinks this might be his very favourite ice cream ever, and I won’t embarrass him by telling you how many scoops he ate at the first sitting - but it was a lot!

There are a few savoury ice creams which I’m not ready for (yet), but next on my list of to makes are apricot and pistachio ice cream, toasted coconut ice cream swirled with mango sorbet, green tea ice cream and orange popsicle ice cream, but this is just a taster of 4 out of 32 others! So expect to see more over the next few weeks!

This is my contruibution to Meeta’s Big Birthday Bang . Happy Birthday, the party will go with a swing with this ice cream!

Tuesday 29 May 2007

Spaghetti with Red and Yellow Peppers

Spaghetti with Red and Yellow Peppers

I am mad for bell peppers, in fact we as a family are mad for them! They are just so juicy and full of flavour, good raw, sauteed, baked, on the barbecue, stewed - any which way. When I saw this recipe for spaghetti with red and yellow peppers in Giada De Laurentiis’s Everyday Pasta I knew I’d have to give it a go. There is another one with sausages, peppers and onions – and it’s time is coming too.

It is more work blistering and skinning the peppers, but in this dish it was definitely worth the extra effort, because the flavour was much deeper and delicious. I’ve done my usual trick and halved the amount of pasta and left the sauce the same – there was no way 1 pepper per portion would have been enough for us! Sometimes I alter the quantities of cheese, cream, butter or other ingredients a little when down scaling the pasta, and here I changed it about a bit. I’ve left the vegetables and olive oil as they are and altered the wine, stock, pasta, parsley and Parmesan by halving the amounts – if you’d like Giada’s original recipe just up them to 1 cup, 2 cups, 500g etc. The method will be the same for both.

It wouldn’t be okay to use jarred peppers here I don’t think as some of the concentrated flavour is lost in the preserving process, and it’s that flavour which this dish stands upon. I use jarred sometimes, but not here!

Spaghetti with Red and Yellow Peppers

3 large red peppers
3 large yellow peppers
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
4 large shallots, thinly sliced
salt and pepper
½ cup (4 fl oz) dry white wine
1 cup (8 fl oz) chicken stock
250g spaghetti
¼ cup chopped flat leaf parsley
¼ cup Parmesan, grated or shaved

Preheat the grill or oven and line a baking sheet with foil. Arrange the peppers on the sheet (Giada does this whol, I seed and quarter them first), cook until skins brown and blister (in my oven that’s 20 – 30 minutes at 200 oC). Then place in a plastic bag and set aside until cool enough to handle. Skin the pepper pieces and cut them into strips.

Heat the olive oil in a large pan over a medium – low heat. Add the shallots and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add pepper strips, salt and pepper and saute for 5 minutes. Add the wine and chicken stock and cook for 10 minutes, or until the peppers are very soft (Giada suggested 20 minutes here, but mine were fine in 10).

Meanwhile cook the pasta, when everything is ready add the pasta, parsley and Parmesan to the sauce, stir to combine.

Saturday 26 May 2007

Gateau St Honore

Gateau Saint Honore

I’ll start this post with a bit of background information. At the beginning of May I was asked to join the amazing Daring Bakers group. It a group for keen bakers, who are given a baking challenge every month. Everyone has the same challenge and our posts about the challenge are posted at the same time. The past two challenges have been red velvet cake in March and then last month a towering crepe stack with filling and glaze.

I have very much enjoyed reading the posts by other Daring Bakers. When I became a member and saw my first challenge: Gateau Saint Honore my heart did a couple of skips, as I realised what was entailed – home-made puff pastry, choux pastry, Saint Honore cream, caramel and also whipped cream. The only element I have not made before was the puff pastry, but I have had an unsatisfactory time with choux pastry. Sometimes it’s been great and other times it’s been flabby and awful; but being a daring baker is about baking something outside your own comfort zone, and taking on new challenges!

First pic, dough and butter packages before combining. Second pic, the dough after one of its many rollings.

The first part I made was the puff pastry, which was actually a piece of cake so to speak. I read the method I don’t know how many times before the picture of exactly what I was going to do became clear to me, but when it did it was really easy. You just have to make sure that you are at home for a few hours in one spell. You make a dough package and a butter package then combine them and roll out and fold, roll out and fold… with an hours rest in the fridge in between each rolling. The rolling seemed to get harder in the last couple of rolls - a real arm workout. I froze it after making it, to spread the workload a bit.

See the oozy Creme!

My Mum is in her 70s and during the course of this challenge I found out that she used to always make her puff pastry. The choice was make it yourself or do without. When I told her I was going to make it myself, oh yes she said, shop bought doesn’t even compare. Now I always thought she liked shop bought, and she does, but she is so right, make it yourself with good butter and you get something so full of buttery flavour it’s almost sweet. Is it worth making yourself? You bet it is. I have heard Sue Lawrence (one of the original Masterchef winners, and a fantastic baker) say the flavour is incomparable and this is absolutely true.

The creme cooling in a cold water bath in the sink, in case you wonder the stripes are the reflection of our kitchen blinds!

The day before I was ready to make the gateau itself it was time for the Saint Honore cream. This is also known as diplomat cream or rapid Crème Chiboust. Chiboust was the chef who first put together the gateau and the cream that fills it. St Honore (pronounced o–no-ray) is the patron saint of pastry chefs and bakers, his Saints Day is on 16th May. It’s a pastry cream or crème patesserie that is enriched with Italian meringue, which can be cooked or just whisked and folded into the cold cream at the end. It is also set with a little gelatine here, to give it more stability. This version has a little rum added in too.

So the next day I had defrosted my homemade puff pastry, and had a ready and waiting bowl of pastry cream. I cut the puff pastry into a circle and left it in the fridge for a final rest before baking. Meanwhile the choux pastry was made. I started it off in the pan as usual, then cooled the initial dough before putting it into the Kitchen Aid and letting it do the beating while gradually adding in the eggs. Maybe it was my imagination, but I’m sure the machine left me with a lighter choux puff when they were baked. Although it might just have been because I was saved the huge amount of beating you need to do if adding the eggs in by hand beating! Anyhow, the mixture was piped into balls and in circles on top of the (uncooked) puff pastry. Then they were all baked, the puffs coming out first.

After cooking and cooling, the choux on top of the puff pastry was halved and filled with pastry cream, and the puffs were pierced and filled also. Next for the final touches, a caramel was made out of just sugar (no water added) which isn’t difficult, but it needs particular care as it caramelises more quickly. Once made the puffs were dipped, top down in the caramel, and also their bases were dipped in to attach or hook them onto the gateau. I was a bit blasé about the caramel and now sport a small blister on my finger as a result, because the sugar is hot hot hot! I also made a few caramel decorations for the middle of the cake. The very last things to do were to whip the cream, pipe it into the middle of the cake, and between the puffs, then finally decorate with a few crystalised violets and the sugar shards.

How did it taste? It was good! Made all the better by knowing that I had made it all myself. I made the puffs a little on the large side, so my gateau is larger than life as opposed to the dainty cake I thought it would be, but I’m very happy to have managed it! Thank you to Helene and Anita for being the hosts this month, and if you’d like to see some of the other Daring Bakers creations of the Gateau Saint Honore just click away on the links on the right under Daring Bakers. The recipe is here if you’d like to give it a go.

First challenge - thanks for having me DBs!

Thursday 24 May 2007

Cute as a Button - Fudge Buttons

Fudge Buttons

This is my entry for the this months Browniebabe event. Last month I did post an entry, but it was just to be included in the round up as I made my brownies before the event was announced. This month I’m after the apron, ha ha!

I decided on another Dorie (Greenspan, I probably don’t need to use a surname here, but I will just in case) brownie, this time from Sweet Times, Simple Desserts for Every Occasion, an out of print book that has many lovely recipes in it – there will be more about this one in the future. This recipe appears in her Baking book as Brownie Buttons. Where it’s only slightly altered, the orange zest and sugar it’s blended with is changed minimally.

Anyhow Fudge Buttons are small, mini cupcake size brownies, that do indeed look like buttons once they have been baked. They are a basic brownie, but made quite magical with brown sugar and orange zest and if that wasn’t enough the lily is gilded with a crown of white chocolate. I used a speck of tangerine food colouring paste, because I like things to have pretty colours. I stood in my kitchen with a bottle of sprinkles (multi coloured hearts) in hand, but decided after a hum and hay that they might have altered the taste of the little buttons. How did they taste? Well first off I would have to admit that chocolate and orange is one of my most favourite combinations. They were very good and so popable, we all liked them, and as a testament to how good they are little one actually ate the brownie part, as well as the chocolate topping. I think they would be a nice addition to any party, and I’ll be making these at Christmas time for sure, when a delicious little something is just what is needed. In the meantime though I’ll have to make more, because they are all gone!

Thanks to Myriam of Once Upon a Tart for hosting this event.

Fudge Buttons

2 teaspoons orange zest, finely chopped (I used a microplane)
¾ teaspoon granulated sugar
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons plain (all purpose) flour
pinch salt
½ stick (2 oz) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 ½ oz high quality bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup soft light brown sugar
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
2 oz white chocolate, in small pieces

Preheat the oven to 350oF / 175 oC. Grease 2 x 12 hole mini muffin pans. Mix together the orange zest and granulated sugar, set aside. Whisk together the flour and salt, set aside. In a heavy saucepan melt the butter, chocolate and brown sugar – stirring all the time until smooth. Leave for a minute off the heat then stir in, one at a time, the vanilla, egg and zest mixture. Lastly add the flour and salt and mix until it is all incorporated. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups and bake for 9-10 minutes.

Cool 3 mins before removing the buttons. When cold melt the white chocolate for the glaze and dip each button into the chocolate to coat the top. Leave to set in the fridge for 15 minutes. (I just left them at room temperature, but it’s not that hot here!). Makes 24 little buttons.

Wednesday 23 May 2007

Hot Chicken Salad and Prawn Creole

Hot Chicken Salad

I’ve been reading Paula Deen again recently and she has so many recipes I’d like to try. I can’t try them all because some of the standard shop bought products she uses I can’t lay hands on easily, but there are many others too. I’m really fascinated by Paula, and I love to read her stories about her family and friends, she seems to be such a character. She is so upbeat, and clearly from her books it hasn’t all been a bed of roses for her, but she is so spirited ya’ll! I loved the film Steel Magnolias, and cooking Paula’s recipes (or my versions of them) makes me think I’m a Southern Belle, well for a brief while anyway!

I tried a couple of recipes from Paula Deen & Friends Living It Up Southern Style. The first is a hot chicken salad, hot as in cooked in the oven – not spicy. It was cooked chicken mixed with mayo, cheese, celery, almonds and seasonings, then topped with crisps. Paula says in her introduction that you don’t have to use the crisps as a topping, but it wouldn’t be the same without them. As a one time crisp addict I felt it my duty to give it a go, and it was really very good! An easy weeknight dinner for leftover chicken.

Prawn Creole

The second recipe is called Patty’s Shrimp Creole, and it was another winner, light, fresh, a little spicy and even pretty healthy! I only used ½ a teaspoon of mild chilli powder with four shakes of Tabasco sauce and it was plenty hot for me, but if you like it hot hot hot it would be easy to turn the chilli scale up. Here is my rendition of Paula’s friend’s recipe. It was supposed to serve 6, but I’d say 3 to 4 if you love prawns as much as us.

Prawn Creole
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used sunflower)
½ cup chopped onions
½ cup chopped celery
1 garlic clove, chopped or minced
1 395g tin chopped tomatoes
8 oz tomato passata
1 teaspoon sugar
½ to 1 teaspoon chilli powder
1 tablespoon Worstershire sauce
dash hot sauce
500g cooked prawns
½ cup green peppers
cooked rice to serve

Heat the oil in a pan and saute the onion, celery and garlic until tender. Add in the tomatoes and passata, salt, sugar, chilli powder, Worstershire sauce and hot sauce and simmer for about 20 minutes. Add in green pepper and simmer for another 5 minutes, then finally add in the prawns to heat through. Serve with lots of rice.

Monday 21 May 2007

Chocolate and Cranberry Cookies

Chocolate and Cranberry Cookies

After seeing Freya’s gorgeous cookies recently, I really felt we needed to have some cookies of our own in the kitchen, available for nibbling. I wanted something not too fancy, but with chocolate and hopefully fruit too. I turned to Tessa Kiros and her Apples for Jam book.

These cookies are slightly chewy and crisp on the outside, I’ve tried cranberry and chocolate cookies before in the form of Nigella’s lovely ones from Feast, although they are white chocolate so completely different. These were very good, my friend Ilana says they are one of her favourites and I can see why the darker chocolate and the yummy cranberries make for a great taste combination. We all liked them, and they were gone so quickly. I kept them quite small, so got the 30 suggested by Tessa out of the mixture. I also tried a variation on the recipe which was finely diced dried mango and American butterscotch chips, and they were yummy too.

Chocolate and Cranberry Cookies

75g Butter
50g soft brown sugar
50g caster sugar
1 egg
Few drops vanilla extract
160g plain flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
110g dark (semisweet chocolate) chopped
50g dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 190oc / 375oF / gas 5. Line 2 trays with baking paper or magic mats / silpat.

Cream the butter and sugars together (I used a Kitchen Aid). Add the egg and vanilla and mix again. Add in the flour and baking powder and mix only to combine, then finally add in the chocolate and cranberries and mix invery brielfy. Roll tea spoonfuls of dough into balls and place on the waiting baking sheets (no need to flatten them), bake for 12-15 minutes.

Saturday 19 May 2007

Risotto with Artichokes and Italian Sausage

Risotto with Artichokes and Italian Sausage

We really love artichokes, the globe kind that is. I always seem to want to cook with then in Spring which is quite the wrong time in the UK, but there it is. I have had this risotto in mind since I bought Falling Cloudberries by Tessa Kiros, a few years ago now. Not so long ago I managed to buy some Ilatian sausages and they have been waiting in the freezer since, waiting for me to cook this risotto.

It was as good as I could have hoped it would be, and I’ve cooked a fair number of risottos! (or is it risotti in plural?). I used tinned artichokes, but here I trimmed them so that only the bottoms were used, diced up. I usually make vegetable risotto’s and pastas too mainly (though not exclusively). The two exceptions are this one and Tessa’s Tuscan Risotto from her Italian year of cooking book Twelve, it had mixed meats in it. Back to this one though, it had lots of flavour with the herby, almost floral sausages. I toyed with the idea of using chicken stock instead of the vegetable one, but eventually just went with the suggested vegetable. This was actually quite a light risotto, and I was a bit surprised because I though the meat would had made it a bit heavier. One that you could have dessert after, and I don’t think they all fall into this category!

I used to like less soupy risotto, but my tastes have changes a bit, and now I like a bit of liquid left when the rice is cooked. It seems to be up for debate if or not you have to stir your pan of rice almost constantly, and my take is you don’t have to but if you take the time to do it the end result is a lot creamier. I won’t give the recipe, because Falling Cloudberies is such a popular book.

Wednesday 16 May 2007

Buttermilk Pancakes & Bacon Cornmeal Softies

Buttermilk Pancakes

I have made many drop scones or Scots pancakes, but never their American cousins the bigger fluffy puffy breakfast fair. What have I been missing! The book that led me to the kitchen to make breakfast pancakes for my family is Dorie Greenspan’s Pancakes from Morning to Midnight. This book is out of print, but Amazon sellers and Ebay have them for sale sometimes. I got mine from US Ebay.

I made the buttermilk ones first and they were so good! I don’t know if any other pancake will ever match up to them (but I’m willing to experiment). They were so light, a little tangy and a little sweet. Great with maple syrup, butter, jam, anything that you might put on toast in the morning. The bacon cornmeal softies were good too, although a lot more filling, because of, well, the bacon and cornmeal! I tried them with maple syrup, but that wasn’t my thing. I tried them with tomato ketchup and that was good, then HP brown sauce and that was better!

Bacon Cornmeal Softies

Other recipes I have marked in this little treasure trove of pancakes are: basic pancakes, honey-bran pancakes with cheddar, honey-orange pancakes with orange butter, fresh peach pancakes with quick strawberry-peach sauce, banana-pecan pancakes with buttery bananas, Summertime blues with ten minute blueberry jam, apple walnut pancakes with spices apple-pear butter, light lemon pancakes with thick lemon curd, an apricot-ginger butter and last but by no means least – and how gorgeous does this sound? - oatmeal Raisin pancakes with cinnamon sour cream! I’m going to try them over the next few months, so you will probably be seeing more!

Buttermilk Pancakes

1 cup plain flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup (8 fl oz) buttermilk
1 large egg
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 oz) unsalted butter, melted

In a medium bowl whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In another bowl or jug mix the buttermilk, egg and butter. Combine the wet and dry ingredients and cook away!
Makes about 8 4 inch pancakes.

Tuesday 15 May 2007

Ditilini with Mushrooms and Artichokes

This is a Giada De Laurentiis pasta from Everyday Pasta. I changed it by halving the pasta and leaving the sauce the same. Which is something I do quite often, it probably stems from me having had a gluten intolerance for a few years. Very fortunately after I was pregnant the shock and re-boot to the system seems to have cleared it for the main part, but if I eat too much bread or pasta it can flare up a bit. So my remedy is to eat a bit less of the the lovely carb-y pasta.

We thought this was really very good, the sauce was not runny, it just coated the pasta more thickly. Mushrooms, Marsala and cream, a classic combination in themselves, but with a bit more added here. I used tinned well drained artichokes because I have never seen them frozen here and fresh is a nice treat for a very short time in the Summer months.

I served this as an all inclusive side dish to some roasted chicken. The pasta shape is ditalini, little fingers or thimbles, I discovered it last year when making another recipe from Giada’s Family Dinners. I am very fond of the little shapes, and they are a bit more dainty for a side dish. To make it with the full amount of pasta suggested by Giada just use 500g pasta, but you get more vegetables per person for a side dish with half.

Ditilini with Mushrooms and Artichokes

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 pound mushrooms, trimmed, cleaned and finely chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus 3/4 teaspoon
1 cup dry Marsala wine
1/2 pound frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
1/2 cup cream
3/4 cup grated Parmesan
250g ditalini pasta
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
freshly ground black pepper

Place the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook for 1 minute. Add the mushrooms and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Saute, stirring occasionally, until all the moisture has evaporated and the mushrooms have cooked down, about 10 minutes. Add the Marsala and continue cooking until almost all the wine has evaporated, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Stir in remaining salt. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta and add it into the mushrooms, Marsala and onions. Add the artichoke hearts, Parmesan and cream and cook until the artichokes are heated through, about 5 minutes. Stir in the parsley and pepper. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve.

Sunday 13 May 2007

Tarte Tatin and Vanilla Ice Cream

Tarte Tatin and Vanilla Ice Cream

Tatre Tatin it sounds so comforting and good. Apples, butter, sugar and puff pastry couldn’t be bad (to paraphrase Ina). This one was yummy, and hails from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking From My Home to Yours. It is a bit different in method from any that I’ve made in the past. Instead of making a caramel or toffee type mixture and then adding the apples on top, you melt butter sprinkle on sugar, add the apples then caramelise the butter and sugar in the base of the pan. The result is caramel bathed apples with more flavour. I served it with my absolute favourite vanilla ice cream from Gary Rhodes More Rhodes Around Britain. Hubby ate half this tarte (not that I'm advising this!) but it was really good.

It seems to be a common thing to knock Gary Rhodes, but I’ve always liked him, have all his books and I’ve never made any of his recipes that I haven’t thought were fabulous. This book of his was published in 1995, so I’ve been making this vanilla ice cream since then. I have tried quite a few others, because like other cooks striving for perfect or best recipes possible, it is neccesarry to try others to make sure you haven’t missed anything, but regardless of other trials this is the one for me.

Vanilla Ice Cream

This is my variation on Gary Rhodes original recipe. I use 1 teaspoon vanilla extract added in at the end of making the custard if I don’t have a bean handy, and I also cook the custard whereas Gary just mixes the hot milk into the eggs then cools and churns. I’ve done it both ways so many times, and I think making the custard leaves and melted ice cream that little bit thicker and more smooth.

300ml (10floz) double cream
30ml (10 fl oz) milk
1 vanilla pod or a few drops of vanilla extract
6 egg yolks
175g caster sugar

Heat the cream, milk and scraped out vanilla pod (pod and seeds) in a pan, bring to the boil.

Meanwhile beat the egg yolks and sugar together until they are pale and light. When the cream mixture is hot add in about a quarter and beat to acclimatise the eggs, then slowly add in the rest of the milk. Cook in a pan over the heat until a custard is formed. Transfer to a bowl or jug and cover the surface with cling film then leave in the fridge until very cold. Churn in an ice cream maker.

Saturday 12 May 2007

Chicken Braised in White Wine

This is a new recipe that I tried. It comes from Lady Claire MacDonald’s Entertaining Solo (edit: Baroness now apparenty!) . The title doesn’t mean cooking for one, it means if you are single or if you do all the kitchen prep and cooking yourself it will help you by giving recipes that can be mananged by one person.

It’s a creamy wihite wine chicken dish boosted up in flavour by a little curry powder and chilli flakes. I thought it needed a little something so went looking for some mango chitney, but the cupboard was bare, it did however give up some apricot jam, so I added in a bit of that to balance out the chili and curry powder a bit.

I used only a scant ½ teaspoon of chilli flakes and thought it was quite hot, but I am a chilli wimp. Hubby liked the sauce very much and had what was left of it as ‘soup’ at the end! Claire suggested mashed potatoes or boiled rice to accompany it. I chose mashed potatoes, and made Nigella’s lazy mash from Feast (I won’t type out that recipe because probably most of us have a copy. Creamy curry sauce and mash, it was gorgeous! I have never eaten (never thought of it really) curry sauce with mash before, but it was a revelation how good it was! It’s one of the joys of cooking that a small change can give you a whole new avenue of possibilities.

Chicken Braised in White Wine

I use skinless chicken breasts and take extra care. The apricot jam or mango chutney is my addition, so just omit it if you would like to cook Claire’s recipe as it is. I used single cream because our local shop had sold out of double!

3 tablespoons olive oil
4 –6 Chicken Breasts with skin (I used skinless)
4 banana shallots or 1 small onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon plain flour
2 teaspoons curry powder
½ to 1 teapsoons chilli flakes, to taste
½ pint / 300ml dry white wine
½ pint / 300ml double cream
1 tablespoon apricot jam or mango chutney
salt and pepper

Heat the olive oil in a saute pan (with a lid) and cook until the chicken is browned, remove to a warm dish (chicken won’t be cooked through yet). Add shallots to the pan and cook until they are soft and golden. Stir in the flour, curry powder and chilli flakes. Cook for a minute then add in the wine followed by the cream, stir until it bubbles up again and add in the jam or chutney, season the sauce with salt and pepper. Add the chicken and any juices back in and simmer over a gentle heat for 15 minute – or until the chicken is cooked.

Thursday 10 May 2007

Unbelievably Good Chocolate and Blueberry Ice Cream

Unbelievably Good Chocolate and Blueberry Ice Cream

The day I read this recipe in Dorie Greenspan’s Baking From My Home to Yours I went shopping. This is news? You are maybe thinking, well no but I went into a new deli type of shop and they sold blueberry preserve – which I bought, not knowing what I’d use it for exactly. When I was reading Baking later that same day I came across the chocolate and blueberry ice cream recipe and lo and behold it’s is one of the ingredients in this ice cream. Well if that’s not a sign to make something I don’t know what is!

The blueberry preserve (or jam) I have been looking for for quite some time, just to see what it was like. It tasted very much like blackcurrant jam, and if blueberry jam is out of the question I think blackcurrant would be an easy substitute.

The play in flavour between the chocolate and the blueberries in the ice cream is really delicious. I love chocolate. Chocolate almost anything. On TV last week (on Market Kitchen) I saw chocolate covered ants and other mini beasts, my hairs were standing on end with revulsion – so apparently not absolutely anything! Anyhow where this is going is Keith doesn’t go for chocolate in the big way I do, he likes it, but he can take it or leave it and he really loved it.

It’s made by making an egg custard and then melting chocolate into it, then after letting get cold you churn it in a machine and add in some blueberry preserve at the end. It only makes about a little over a pint of ice cream, but one big or two small scoops is really plenty for a serving. I really liked the fruity-ness of the preserve in the chocolate ice cream, and will definitely make this one again.

Wednesday 9 May 2007

If You Wanted to Know More...

Thank you very much to Amanda from Litte Foodies for tagging me! Here are 5 random pieces of information about me.

1. I’m a college and uni graduate, and currently an at home Mum (by choice).
2. I get the American magazines Martha Stewart Living and O The Oprah Magazine on order and have recently added the Donna Hay magazine as well. Also get UK Delicious.
2. I used to play the piano and French horn, and would like to learn to play the harp when I’ve got a bit more time.
3. I live with my husband and our dear little miss.
4. I get a lot of migrane headaches – so if I ever leave a comment that sounds a bit odd, spelling or word wise (like tihs) I’ll be post migrane, I’m not illiterate honest!
5. This is probably quite scary, I didn’t realise there were so many! I currently have 39 books in my new cookbook reading pile, here they are newest to oldest:
Gordon Ramsay’s Fast Food
Pierre Herme Chocolate Desserts
Pierre Herme Desserts
The Golden Pear Café Cookbook
Baking with Julia
Salad Days
Best Recipes from the Backs of Boxes, Cans and Jars
Food Network Best of the Best
Cooking with the Firehouse Chef
Paris Desserts
Baking with Julia
Pret Food on the Move
Great British Menu Cookbook (second book)
Classic Stars Desserts
Tea and Sympathy
The Hollywood Cookbook
Breakfast, Lunch, Tea
Room for Dessert
Ripe for Dessert
Everyday Food
The Best Life Diet
Dear Olivia
The Low Carb Gourmet
Simple Italian Sandwiches
The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook
Pedaling Through Provence
Pedaling Through Burgandy
Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook
Cold Weather Cooking
The Thousand Recipe Chinese Cookbook
The American Diner Cookbook
I Like You
Caprial and John’s Kitchen
Tom Aitkin’s Cooking
Mes Confitures

In the good tradition of tagging here are the five people I would like to pass the tag onto. They are the blogs that I have been reading for a good while, that made me think I would like to join in too. My blog roll has expanded considerably since then, but these were my first regular reads.

Sarah at Sarah Cooks, this is her current great blog but she did an awesome job of cooking the entire tome of Nigella’s How To Eat before it.

Lisa at The Chambermaid, the daily life of a foodie and Mum in the US.

Anna at Anna’s Life, another life of a foodie and Mum here in the UK.

Kathryn at From Page to Plate, who has two great blogs - Kathryn Cooks With Jamie being the first one.

Freya and Paul at Writing at The Kitchen Table, who are a daily habit and inspiration, with an amazing blog.

Here are the guidlelines:
--List five random facts/habits about yourself
--Choose another five bloggers to tag and list their names in your blog
--Leave your five tagged bloggers comments to notify them of their tagging along with directions.
I’m looking forward to seeing all of your lists! Thanks again Amanda.

PS I changed it back to five, as that’s what I always seen before (I really hope this is ok!)

Tuesday 8 May 2007

Ari’s Pasta or Baked Rigatoni with Red Wine Vegetables and Creamy Sauce

Ari’s Pasta or Baked Rigatoni with Red Wine Vegetables and Creamy Sauce

After I read Ari from the wonderful Baking and Books story about her cooking of this dish for her Mother I just really wanted to try it. Her recipe is adapted from The Pasta Bible.

It’s a subtle yet complex dish, with aubergine, courgettes, onions and celery. These are cooked in a little butter and aromatically flavoured with thyme, tomatoes and red wine. The almost cooked pasta is mixed with the vegetables and wine and placed in a baking dish. A topping of cream, Parmesan, egg, parsley, rosemary, nutmeg and seasonings are mixed together and poured over the top of the waiting pasta before baking.

What you get is a lovely fragrant, subtle yet well flavoured vegetable pasta. I really like aubergines and courgettes with the red wine background taste. The dried rosemary worked really well, indeed fresh would have overpowered this gentle dish, and I say this with some surprise and I have never (so far) been a fan of dried rosemary, but I live and learn!

Thank you Ari for passing on this lovely recipe, if you would like it too you will find it here at the end of ’ Ari’s ‘Hot Sauce Incident post – which is worth reading even if you don’t cook the pasta, but I was sold on it when I read it.

Saturday 5 May 2007

Banana Cream Pie - A Taste of Yellow

Banana Cream Pie (with apologies for this awful dark picture)

This post is to link in with a blogging event that is going on at the moment A Taste Of Yellow an event to promote cancer awareness, LIVESTRONG Day is on 16th May. I decided to make a Banana Cream Pie for this yellow event.

You are a rare soul if your life has been completely untouched by cancer, in family, friends and colleagues. My only close encounter with the cancer was a few years ago when my Grandma was diagnosed with lung cancer and was given 2 weeks to live, she only survived 5 days. So our experience was very short and hard hitting.

This is another comforting sounding pudding. I can remember seeing on a TV documentary about Elvis, that one of his favourite puddings was banana pudding. So desirable was this pudding that according to ‘Are You Hungry Tonight – Elvis’ Favourite Recipes’ it was made daily at Graceland to make sure the king got his fix if he wanted it! Banana pudding and banana cream Pie seem to me to have a lot in common, they both have a custard, bananas, cream and a flour based part – pastry in the pie and vanilla wafers in the pudding. Sounds like a classic combination to me! Gooey, fruity, creamy, crispy, yummy.

So banana cream pie it was. I made it from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking From My Home to Yours. I just love this book (in case you hadn’t guessed!) and I have to restrain myself from making something sweet from it everyday (a weight issue, as we would eat too much) – so I’m trying to go with once or twice a week.

I haven’t been this obsessed with a book since Nigella’s Feast was published! But hey, I wouldn’t have the blog title I chose if I wasn’t really obsessed by books. Dorie’s books differ from most of the books I cook from. I don’t think I’ve altered any of her recipes, and I alter so many recipes a bit – just a tinker here and there, but that not a bad thing (well I don’t think anyway) it’s just knowing your own taste and that of your nearest and dearest.

Anyhow, the pie’s base was the good for almost anything pie dough (pastry). Then a vanilla pudding made lovely and warmly spicy with cinnamon and nutmeg, cream whipped with a little sugar and sour cream, folded in at the end and of course the bananas. They were layered: crust, pudding, bananas, pudding, bananas, pudding and cream. Apologies for the picture, I had to take it quite quickly, and although I managed some slice pics, they were just too blurry - believe me when I say this was the best one. BUT it's for such a good cause I really wanted to take part. Now one of these days I’ll have to try the banana pudding too!

Barbara at Winos and Foodies is the host and she will do a round up on the actual day May 16th of all foods yellow. Thank you for hosting a serious edged fun event.

Friday 4 May 2007

Real Butterscotch Pudding

Real Butterscotch Pudding

American Pudding, I have been longing to try one for a long time. It just sounds like a comforting and heal you when you’re ill, make you happy when your well kind of thing. Here in the UK I think Angel Delight or blamange pudding would be the nearest things we have to it. I’ve always wanted to give the real deal a go though. I have many versions marked in books, one in particular by Gale Gand (in Butter Sugar Flour Eggs) was especially alluring, but it was Dorie (Greenspan) who held my hand and got me to give pudding a go in the end. In her Baking From My Home To Yours, she has chocolate pudding, split level pudding (chocolate ganache on the bottom and vanilla pudding on top) and butterscotch pudding. I would like to give them all a go, but I’ve never been under any illusion that it was going to be anything but the Butterscotch one first. Caramel, toffee, butterscotch just the words are enough to spark my interest.

This pudding surprised me a little in that it actually has Whisky / Scotch in it! I sort of thought of it as a child’s pudding first and foremost. I guess the pudding has had lasting appeal for the then children and now adults, and Dorie has upped the ante and made it something great for grown ups too. I topped them with a little whipped cream and some buttered pecans, as suggested in the side bar on the recipe. I've always liked the sound of buttered pecans too, and I could hardly believe how simple they were, toast nuts in a pan, add a little butter and fry / toast some more - done.

My little one has had a bug for the past couple of days, so we are at home today. I thought ‘I cans make her pudding, and it will make her feel better!’ So we made Real Butterscotch Pudding. It makes 6 portions so when I was finishing making it I just added the vanilla and butter then poured little one’s 2 portions into dishes then blended in 2/3 of the amount of whisky to the mixture left to make the other 4. I would never manage to drink whisky, but in desserts and cakes (and savoury sauces) it’s transformed (or perhaps toned down a little) and the resulting puddings were beautiful. Hubby nearly had a fit when he came home and saw his 18 year old Glenlivit Whisky sitting on the kitchen counter, but was remarkably calmer when I assured him it was only 4 teaspoons I had used!

Toffee, vanilla, creaminess from the milk and butter, smoothness from the egg yolks and cornflour and of course the booze too. I made them to do two nights, and although little one has one left, sadly us adults have none – they were really good!

Thursday 3 May 2007

Chewy Seedy Apricot Bars

Chewy Seedy Apricot Bars

These packed with flavour fingers come from Rachel Allen’s Rachel’s Favourite Food at Home. They are chewy, but only a bit. I especially liked the apricots with sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds, but it was the brown sugar and peanut butter that was the real underlying flavour booster. I seem to be having a mini obsession with peanuts and peanut butter recently! I was drawn to these as a sort of Summery version of a Phil Vickery recipe that I bake in the Winter, with no peanuts, and dried cranberries instead of the apricots. I made it for a bake sale a couple of years ago and it’s one of the bars friends remember especially and asked for the recipe, perhaps it because it’s achievable if you aren’t a big baker. Whatever, they make it and ask me to make it for them. I’d probably remember chocolate, caramel, lemon or mint. I like to please my nearest and dearest though .

I think I could have cooked these a few minutes longer, because they were very moist, although this possibly made them still lovely and not dry at all even after a few days.

I made these to be a mid afternoon munch-able, and really to stop us eating any non filling junk, and it worked - they keep tummies full for ages!

Chewy Seedy Apricot Bars

Ingredients300g/11oz porridge oats
100g/4oz pumpkin or sunflower seeds, or a mixture of the two
50g/2oz desiccated coconut
50g/2oz plain flour
200g/7oz butter
200g/7oz golden syrup
150g/5oz soft brown sugar
150g/5oz dried apricots, chopped
125g/4½oz crunchy peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 160C/325F/Gas 3.
2. Line an 18cm/7inx28cm/11in Swiss roll tin with non-stick baking parchment, leaving a little of the parchment hanging over the edges for easy removal later.
3. Place the oats, seeds, coconut and flour into a large bowl and mix together.
4. Place the butter and golden syrup into a saucepan and cook until the two ingredients have melted and combined. 5. Add the sugar, chopped apricots, peanut butter and vanilla extract to the saucepan and mix well. Then pour the mixture into the bowl of dry ingredients and mix together until the ingredients have become evenly combined.
6. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and press down firmly with a wooden spoon. Transfer the tin to the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the mixture has become golden-brown and slightly firm. Remove the mixture from the oven and allow it to cool in the tin.
7. Once the mixture has cooled remove it, and, still in the paper, cut it into 18 bars (or cut them to whatever size you want them to be).
8. Store in an air-tight container for up to one week. These will also freeze well.

Tuesday 1 May 2007

Hamburgers with Pink Sauce and Quick Barbecue Sauce

Hamburger with Pink Sauce

It was a funny thing, we usually eat burgers (other than at friends BBQs) once or twice a year. Two days before Freya and Paul announced their blogging event Burger Ballyhoo I made hamburgers (Tessa Kiros) .

When I read about it I thought right I’ll dig out my grilling and BBQ books, and even the specific burgers book that I own and see what I can come up with. Well, finding the burger book was a feat in itself, and I actually started to doubt if I had even bought it, but I found it eventually. There are some adventurous burgers in it, and I’ll come back to it in the summer time hopefully – there was a lovely seasoned prawn burger with Creole sauce and a salmon burger with Pernod, mustard and dill mayo that I am particularly keen to try.

I also have a hamburger shaper / maker that I bought about 15 years ago that I have never used that I would have liked to have used, but I just couldn’t find it, maybe it made it’s way to the attic in a ‘not rubbish may use one day’ kind of box.

I sometimes buy our local Aberdeen Angus burgers, and they are lovely but I thought I better make them for this event. The burger I decided to make though is the one I turn to if home-made is on the menu. These burgers taste as we expect burgers to taste, and because of this they hit the spot for us. I have made them with the chopped parsley in the recipe, but it wasn’t my favourite version of a burger, so I don’t add it now. Although I made them as before I thought I would also add another sauce from my burger cookbook too. So here is Tessa Kiros Hamburgers from Apples for Jam and a Quick Barbecue Sauce from Burgers by Marcel Desaulniers (he of Death by Chocolate and Desserts to Die For – and all his others!).

Hamburger with Quick Barbecue Sauce

Tessa’s burgers come with the usual fried (red) onions, cheese, gerkins (dill pickles), tomatoes, lettuce and of course buns; but also her fabulous pink sauce. Due to having some sauce left over last time having rescued it before hubby threw it out I kept it in the fridge a few days, and the revelation here was that it tastes way better after the paprika has settled and the flavour is much deeper. I use locally baked soft white buns for my burger buns, and although I like sesame buns they are a bit too big for my taste, and I haven’t met anyone who didn’t like the pillowy white ones.

The BBQ sauce is an easy job, although it needs to be kept an eye on as is blips away for its 30 minute simmer. I was a bit worried that it might burn, although in the end I needn’t have worried about it. It is thick and treacley, and drizzles like honey. It packed a pretty powerful punch! It was pretty much so dark brown that it looked black, which I was alarmed about because no other barbecue sauce I’ve made before has been this consistency or colour. I liked it, but you have to be careful how much you use – just a dribble or it stops complementing the burger and trimmings and overpowers it all. The burger it was created to go with was a sirlion steak burger seasoned with spices and stuffed with blue cheese and served in specifically made onion buns.

I am pleased that I have at long last used my Burger book - it has been waiting in the wings for 10 years! And I have so much inspiration to try out different burgers. Thanks for hosting Freya & Paul.
The Sauces - in the so cute 'Chicken Run' French bowls

Here are the recipes:

Quick Barbecue Sauce:
4 tablespoons ketchup
4 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 tablespoons brown spicy mustard
2 tablespoons dark mollases or treacle
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
Bring everything to the boil, then simmer on a low heat for 30 minutes. Cool before using.

Pink Sauce:
125ml tomato ketchup
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
1 ½ teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
Mix altogether with a seasoning of salt and pepper.

3 tablespoons olive oil (I use 2)
2 large red onions
3 thyme sprigs (I don’t use these)
Saute the red onions in the oil with a pinch of salt for 10 – 15 minutes.
780g best minced beef
2 ½ tablespoons chopped parsley (I don’t add this)
1 egg lightly beaten
1 tablespoon olive oil
Mix altogether with a seasoning of salt and pepper and shape into hamburger patties. Brush the grill with the oil and cook to still be juicy inside. Serve with the onions, sauce and extras.

Cheese slices
Tomato slices
Gerkin slices
6 buns for burgers