Monday 27 August 2007

August Daring Baker Challenge

Milk Chocolate and Caramel Tart

This months Daring Baker challenge hails from Eric Kayser’s Sweet and Savory Tarts - Milk Chocolate and Caramel Tart. I often have a little debate with myself which I like better caramel or chocolate, and I’m still not sure, but hey what does it matter they are both present in this tart!

I was pretty sure that this would be our kind of pudding, and it was. It’s made in either a 9" round or 10" square tart tin. I didn’t have a square tin, although I’ve found one online, and although I’d expected it to take weeks to arrive, it came with the postman just as I put this tart in the fridge!

I thought this was a fun tart to make, nothing difficult, just a few stages. The tart comprises a chocolate pastry, caramel layer, then chocolate cream on top, which is finally scattered with fragments of caramel.

I made the pastry one day, lined the tin the next, than baked it the third day. It was a shortbread-y pastry flavoured with hazelnuts and cinnamon, and a good amount of icing sugar as well. It was a very soft dough, and I wondered if it would roll out ok, but it did, so I needn’t have worried. I love cinnamon and chocolate so thought the dough tasted gorgeous!

After baking and cooling the pastry in the tin it was time to do the caramel layer which is a normal sugar caramel with cream and butter, then eggs and flour are added and baked in the cooled chocolate case. The flour and egg mixture turned a fabulous amber caramel into something a bit more murky, but it looked ok when it came out of the oven.

The chocolate layer is added when the caramel is cold. Just a simple melting of milk chocolate and folding it through whipped cream.

The final topping is a caramel decoration, which was a quick job. It’s just a sugar caramel that you pour onto a baking sheet and let it harden and go cold then break up into little crispy sugar shards.

We really liked this pudding, but if you make it be warned a small slice is all you need, as it’s really rich as a whole - absolutely yummy rich =) This would be a lovely special occasion tart to round of a party in small slices. I had a bit leftover, and kept it in the fridge for a couple of days, and although the texture of the mousse and caramel changed into something a lot firmer and fridge cold, it was still good.

I should really confess that I had to buy the book that this tart came from, an a lovely book it is too. Now which recipe will I make to use the other half of the chocolate pastry, hmm…

Thanks to Veronica and Patricia for this months delicious challenge you will find the recipe by clicking their names, and if you'd like to see some more entries please click the Daring Bakers Blogroll and read away.

Friday 24 August 2007

White Chocolate and Passion Fruit Mousse

Thamks to Lisa and Yvonne who are running an event about seasonal fresh produce - La Festa al Fresco 2007 . There are so many good things about just now to buy or pick – it’s hard to choose! I managed though =)

I’ve been really bad over the summer at trying to fit in blogging events, but it just hasn’t worked out. This Fresh event however, fitted right in with the way I’m cooking at the moment and I chose raspberries for this seasonal fresh event.

This is from Nigella Lawson's Forever Summer book. This is a simple dessert where you place raspberries in the bottom of glasses, cups, ramekins – you know the sort of things. Then you make an egg white puffed white chocolate mousse. You can leave them to sit overnight and get the raspberries soused with the passion fruit juice, but I like them after 4 – 6 hours in the fridge.
I would never have come up with a three way matching of white chocolate, passion fruit and raspberries, but it does work very well. My hubby is a white chocolate fan, I don’t mind it but wouldn’t eat it by the square, here though the passion fruit takes the tickle away from the chocolate and leaves a good flavour. I halved the recipe for 6 six servings.

From Nigella Lawson’s Forever Summer.
300g white chocolate
6 eggs, separated
10 passion fruit
300g - 500g raspberries
Break the chocolate into pieces and melt in the microwave for about 3 minutes, or in a bowl over a pan of simmering water then set the bowl aside, and let the chocolate cool a little. Beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Mix the egg yolks into the cooled chocolate, though be gentle to ensure it doesn’t seize. Cut the passion fruit in half and scoop them, juice, pulp, seeds, into the yolk and chocolate mixture, then fold into the egg whites until completely incorporated.Line the bottom of either a big glass bowl or 8-10 small glasses with a layer of raspberries – it’s hard to be specific: it depends on the diameter of the glasses, or bowl, at the base really - and pour over the mousse. Leave for a couple of hours to set in the fridge, or for at least 4 if you’re using one large bowl. Strangely, given that I lean normally towards the communal rather than individual serving, I generally go the one-glass-one-person route. I think it’s because this is intense enough to require - even for me - small portions, and it’s impossible to dollop out as little as would fill a small glass without seeming mean. (my note: this dessert contains uncooked eggs).
Serves 8 -10 depending on the size of glass used

Tuesday 21 August 2007

End of Summer Spring Clean!

Here are a few pics that I’ve cooked recently, with no particular link, except that I’ve cooked them! I’ve decided to blog them altogether, as they might get forgotten soon with all the new books due out, and the corresponding new pictures. These are all worth a mention though…

Firstly there are a couple from David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop.

Matled Milk Ice Cream, very rich but so good!

Orange Popsicle Ice Cream with wine poached apricots from Crazy Water Pickled Lemons by Diana hendry

and again with Dorie Greenspan’s chocolate sauce from Baking From My Home To Yours. I liked the second pairing best, but this is no surprise with my chocolate and orange tendancy!

Prawn Fra Diavlo
A yummy light pasta dish from Giada De Laurentiis’s Everyday Pasta. It should have been lobster, but prawns are more readily available here.

Mushroom, Leek and Tarragon Risotto
This one is a vegetarian dish from The 30 Minute Cook by Nigel Slater. I thought it was an unexpected pairing (or I suppose that would be trilogy?) but it was really inspired and really good.

Rigatoni and Asparagus au Gratin
Delia Smith’s Summer Collection is the home of this recipe, which spins out a small amount of asparagus into a tasty and delicious supper. The recipe is here as well as in the book.

Pea and Coriander Soup, this soup in real life is a real vivid just-cooked-pea-green, I just could not get it to come through in the pictures I took...

Lastly one of my most favourite fast soups from Rachel Allen and Rachel’s Favourite Food. My little one loves this soup. I think she wanted initially because Primrose on Fifi and The Flowertots made pea soup, but now she asks for it because she likes it so much. If you haven’t a clue about that last bit don’t worry – kiddies TV programme! Anyhow here is the recipe for this gorgeous soup.

Pea and Coriander Soup
From Rachel’s Favourite Food by Rachel Allen. I have varied this only slightly by omitting a chilli from the recipe, and I’ve also made it with parsley in place of the coriander - which was also lovely.

50g butter
150g onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed or chopped
½ tsp salt and pepper, or to taste
850ml chicken stock or vegetable stock
450g fresh or frozen peas
2 tbsp chopped coriander
Melt the butter in a large saucepan, and add the onion, garlic and chilli. Cover with a greaseproof paper and a lid, and sweat over a low heat for 3 or 4 minutes, or until the onions are soft. Pour in the stock, and bring the soup to the boil. Tip in the peas and boil rapidly, without the lid, for about 2 or 3 minutes, or until the peas are tender. Add the coriander to the soup, and blend in a liquidiser until smooth.

Thursday 16 August 2007

Courgette Fritters, Rhubarb Fool & Vanilla Shortbread

Courgette Fritters

In recent weeks I saw these being made a few times on other blogs. I have made them before, and can remember liking them, but the memory was quite hazy. So every time I saw them I thought I’ve got to make them again, and eventually I did!

I know why I put it off. I dislike grating things, particularly cheese. Everyone has their thing in the kitchen that they don’t like and mine is grating and sifting icing (confectioners sugar). A couple of birthdays ago a friend gave me a baby grater, and I grated some cheese and carrots on it and thought it wasn’t too bad. Recently when out and about I came across the Mama grater in the same design, so I thought, well anything that gets me over my grating thing, and home it came. I don’t know if it’s the design of the grater or just the joy of new gadgetry, but it works so fast and smoothly that I don’t seem to have the dread of grating that I used too. They even go in the dishwasher!

Back to the courgette fritters though Nigella, Bill Granger and Delia all have version of this fritter, these come from Nigella Lawson’s Forever Summer. I’ve been cooking a lot from it these last couple of weeks and have more planned. They are quick to mix, although take a little while to shallow fry. I served them with the lime for lunch one day, and we had the leftovers reheated in the oven the next night for supper, hubby actually preferred them like that. The reheated ones needed a sauce I decided, so I just made a one minute sauce by mixing a small tub of low fat yoghurt (5 fl oz) and a heaping teaspoon of ready made mint sauce (from a jar) and hey presto a refreshing minty dip. Next time I’m adding the sauce for sure, because it just seemed to compliment the courgette fritters so well, made them seem fresher somehow. Very summery either way.

The Mama and baby graters

In case courgettes are not your thing, here is an easy summery pudding with rhubarb – and a little biscuit to have with it!

Rhubarb Fool and Vanilla Shortbread

This is a pudding that Nigella makes on the TV series which accompanies Forever Summer, and the thing that pulled me to make it the first time I saw it was seeing Nigella drizzling over her beautiful magenta rhubarb syrup on top. You really have to have the very pinkest rhubarb, I made this one with some I’d frozen when I saw some lovely pink slim rhubarb. It’s just as well because all that I could find in the shops was thick and green and I’m sure it’d have been sour as a lemon too! I have copied these recipes from a Nigella article here.
Rhubabrb Fool
From Nigella Lawson's Forever Summer

1 kg rhubarb, trimmed and coarsely chopped
300g vanilla sugar
500ml double cream

Preheat the oven to 190°C/Gas Mark 5.
Mix the rhubarb and vanilla sugar together in an ovenproof dish. Do not add water. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the fruit is completely soft.
Drain in a colander, or sieve, and pour the juice (you should have about 500ml) into a saucepan, then heat and let bubble away until reduced by about half.
Pour into a jug and leave to cool; do not, however refrigerate as the syrup might crystallise and lose its fabulous puce clarity.
Puree the fruit until totally smooth, then cool and chill this as well.
Whip the cream in a large chilled bowl until lusciously thick but not stiff.
Carefully fold in the rhubarb puree, then some of the reduced juice, so the mixture is streaked, rather like raspberry ripple ice cream.
Put the juice in a glass jug so that people can add more, if they want, as they eat. Or frankly, you could instead use half the amount of rhubarb juice in the pan for reducing and use the remaining 250ml for adding to champagne for a fabulous, blush-pink summer drink.

Vanilla Shortbread
From Nigella Lawson's Forever Summer

I know that biscuits sound like the sort of cooking someone else does, but you need never have baked anything ever in your life to be able to make these with ease. And I hate to say this, but they are so much better than anything out of a packet.

Makes 33 fingers
100g icing sugar
200g plain flour, preferably Italian OO
100g cornflour
200g very soft unsalted butter
seeds from 1 vanilla pod
vanilla or ordinary caster sugar for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 160°C/gas mark 3. Put the icing sugar, plain flour and cornflour into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the double-bladed knife and give them a quick blitz (just to save you sieving, which is my most-hated job in the kitchen) before adding the butter along with the vanilla seeds you've scraped out of a pod. (Don't even think of throwing the deseeded bits of pod away: stash them in a jar of caster to use next time a recipe requires vanilla sugar.)
Process again until the soft mixture coheres and begins to form a ball, loosely clumping around the blade. Turn this out on to a Swiss roll tin and press to form an even (or as even as you can make it) layer, using fingers or the back of a spoon, or both. Be patient, it will fit smoothly.
Using the tip of a sharp knife cut the pressed-out shortbread into fingers. I make two incisions lengthways - ie to form three layers - and then make 10 cuts down - so that you end up with 11 fingers per layer. Obviously, the aim should be to cut at regular intervals but don't start getting your ruler out.
Just go by eye: uniformity is the province of the conveyor belt not of home cooking. Use the tines of a fork to make little holes in each marked-out biscuit: I press down about three times, diagonally, on each finger.
Now that you've pressed, incised, and punctured, slide the Swiss roll tin into the oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes, by which time the shortbread will be pale still, but not doughy. Expect a little goldenness around the edges, but shortbread should be not crisp but melting. Remove the tin from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes or so, before removing, with a palette knife and your fingers, to a wire rack. Sprinkle with sugar and leave them to cool completely before storing in a tin.

Friday 10 August 2007

Slut Red Raspberries in Chardonnay Jelly

Slut Red Raspberries in Chardonnay Jelly

I’ve been making this pudding every year since Nigella Lawson’s Forever Summer was published, some years more than once! They are very pretty summery jellies, and if you can get the sun to glint on them, so much the better. I used to be a bit appalled by the name of this recipe, but I seem to have gotten over that eventually!

I usually use an Australian Chardonnay, because I like the fruity taste of Australian wines, and they are easily available to me here, and of course it came to Nigella from a fellow Australian food writer, so I’m keeping in with the original.

I like to burn off most of the alcohol (see method), because I think it tastes better, but it’s your call. Either way they are lovely fruity jellies and you only need a little cream to blend the flavours to prefection.

Just as an extra, do most of you have Nigella’s books? I’m heading towards a Nigella run of recipes and just wondered!

Slut Red Raspberries in Chardonnay Jelly
From Nigella Lawson’s Forever Summer

You might think that no recipe could live up to this title. It's a reasonable presumption, but thank God, a wrong one. This is heaven on the plate: the wine-soused raspberries take on a stained glass, lucent red, their very raspberriness enhanced; the soft, translucently pale coral just-set jelly in which they sit has a heady, floral fragrance that could make a grateful eater weep. This recipe was emailed to me from Australia from my erstwhile editor, Eugenie Boyd. I've fiddled with it a bit, but it is the best present a foodwriter could ever have. Now it's yours.

1 bottle Chardonnay, choose a good fruity variety
300g raspberries
1 vanilla
pod, split lengthways (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
5 gelatine leaves
250g caster sugar

1 carton double cream, to serve
1. Place the wine and berries in a bowl and allow to steep for half an hour.
2. Strain the wine into a saucepan and keep the raspberries to one side. Heat the wine with vanilla pod until nearly boiling and leave to steep on one side for 15 minutes.
3. Soak the gelatine leaves - which you can find in the supermarket these days - in cold water for about 5 minutes.
4. Remove the vanilla pod and reheat the wine stirring the sugar in until it dissolves; allow to boil if you want to lose the alcohol.
5. Add a third of the hot wine to the wrung-out gelatine leaves in a measuring jug and stir to dissolve, then add this mixture back into the rest of the wine and stir well. Strain into a large jug.
6. Place the raspberries, equally, into 6 flattish, clear glass serving bowls, and pour the strained wine over the top.
7. Allow to set in the fridge for at least 3 hours, though a day would be fine if you want to make this well ahead, and take out of the fridge 15 minutes before serving. Serve with some double cream in a jug, and let people pour this into the fragrant, tender, fruit-jewelled jelly as they eat.

Tuesday 7 August 2007

Chocolate Marsala Cake

Chocolate Marsala Cake
This is one of my favourite chocolate cakes. I used to make it a lot and haven’t for quite a while now, I thought to myself is it really as good as I remember? Oh yes! It’s back on the circuit and it’ll be made again soon.

It comes from Nigella Lawson’s How To Be A Domestic Goddess, that wonderful comforting home bakers book. When it first came out I baked from it constantly, much as I’m doing with Dorie’s Baking now – but there is room for them both in my collection, as they are both so inspiring, packed with fabulous recipes and both brilliant in my eyes.

It’s a light but very chocolate-y cake that is drizzled when warm with marsala and then it has a chocolate ganache icing with an extra tablespoon of Marsala in it. I’ve liked Marsala since my very first taste, and like Maderia wine and sweet sherry too for the same raisin-y depth of flavour and sweetness. The cake puffs up while cooking then sinks to give a crater into which the warm chocolate icing is poured. Where it will set to a mirror like finish. Before I made the Daring Baker strawberry mirror cake I’d have said it was glossy, but it does have mirror like qualities!

I think it’s at it’s best with a spoon of softly whipped cream, it sets off the moist fudgy cake and the smooth marsala icing perfectly.

Chocolate Marsala Cake
From Nigella Lawson’s How To Be A Domestic Goddess. I change it a little in that for both the cake and icing I use half milk and half dark chocolate - instead of all dark chocolate. I sometimes only sift the flour once as well (!); but here is Nigella’s recipe unaltered.

For the Cake:
100g unsalted butter
100g dark chocolate, broken up
4 large eggs
175g caster sugar
50g self-raising flour, sifted 3 times
3 tablespoons Marsala

For the Icing:
100g dark chocolate
1 tablespoon Marsala
100ml double (heavy) cream
Preheat the oven to 180 oC / Gas Mark 4. Greasd and line a 22cm springform tin.
Melt the butter and chocolate together in a microwave or double boiler, and then set aside to cool slightly. Beat the eggs and sugar together until thick, pale and moussy, and greatly increased in volume; it should double, triple even. Gently fold in the sifted flour into the egg mixture, trying not to lose all the air. Now fold the butter and chocolate mixture into the cake mixture. Pour into the tin and cook for 35 minutes, by which time the top should be firm and the cake underneath dense and desirably damp.
Cool in a rack for 5 minutes, and then pour over the Marsala. I find it easier to do this by the teaspoonful so that the liquid is evenly distributed. Leave the cake to cool completely before releasing it from it’s tin.
So, the icing: melt the chocolate, Marsala and cream in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over a gentle heat. Take it off the heat, and whisk until it reaches a good icing consistency; smooth, thick, but not solid. I like to spread this just on the top of the cake, which anyway sinks on cooling so that you should have a roughly circular sunken pond to fill, leaving an outline of cooked-cake rim. When set, you’re left, beautifully with a Sacher-shiny disc of ganache suspended

Monday 6 August 2007

Tagged Times Four

Cheese and Apple Scones

I was Memed by Amanda of Little Foodies, Margaret of Kitchen Delights, Deborah of Taste and Tell and Nora B of Life's Smörgåsbord a few weeks ago. My apologies to all of you for my tardy reply, but better late than never! Here goes.

My most recent cook book buys were Seductions of Rice by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid, Nobody Does It Better by Trish Deseine (French food one) and The Olives Dessert Table By Todd English, Sally Sampson and Paige Retus.

I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to Nigella Lawson’s new book out in less than a month. I’m almost counting down the days!

I have been on podge patrol and managed to lose 6lbs. I’d like to lose a good bit more, but it’s a start.

I am currently reading the 7th Harry Potter, having read the 6th one a couple of weeks ago – because I realised that although I pre-ordered no 6 I didn’t actually get round to reading it back then!

I often want to eat chocolate for breakfast, I have only done it twice, but I’d like to be able to do it more (and not gain weight / stay healthy).

I love to make jam, I don’t suppose it’s that fashionable now to say this, but I do enjoy make it.

Despite my best efforts not to this year I’ve become hooked on Big Brother again…
A mouthful of a Great Grains Muffin

Due to me having left it so long to get round to doing this everyone I can think of seems to have been memed already – but if you are on my ‘Places I like to Visit’ list and would like to do one – consider yourself memed!

The two food pictures to keep you going are two breakfasts I made from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking from My Home to Yours. Both delicious – real treats in the morning. I had a batch pic of the great grains one, but I can’t find it now, but a bite of a great muffin is better than no muffin atall!

Wednesday 1 August 2007

Yummy Salads

Here are three side salads and one main course chicken salad.
I have been making this potato salad for a good number of years now, and it is easily one of my favourite potato salads. I’m a girl for potatoes, and always try a potato salad at any party, I hope this is not judgemental, but there are some really horrible versions out there, especially mass catered ones; and potato salad is so easy to get right. Whether it’s tossed with dressing and bits or with sauteed bacon and shallots. This one comes from Sheila Lukin’s U.S.A. Cookbook. She describes it as the salad that blew her own top potato salad out of the water.

Lone Star Creamy Potato Salad
My variation on Sheila Lukin’s recipe from USA Cookbook. I added in the chives and spring onions, and use a tomato based sweet pickle.

1 ½ lbs potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
3 hard boiled eggs, coarsley chopped
2 tablespoons snipped chives
8 spring onions, stems only, chopped
1/3 cup red pepper
¾ cup cour cream
½ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup sweet pickle relish
salt and pepper

Cook the potatoes until tender 15 – 20 minutes. When they are cool enough to handle chop them into approx 1 x 1 ½ inch cubes. Place in a bowl and add the eggs, chives, spring onions and red peppers. Mix everthing else in a bowl for the dressing them add to the bowl with the potatoes, egg and vegetables then toss gently until thoroughly combined.

Tomato and Feta Salad

The next two are from Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa at Home.Tomato and feta salad has only come to me recently in her newest book, and it’s a clear winner. I leave the cheese on top because I like the pristine look of it, and if there is any left the cheese fairs better not tossed in. It’s a really good, well balanced salad. It just screams Summer as well. Although I made it first in Winter when it was a very cheery sight.

Couscous with Pine Nuts

This one also comes from Barefoot Contessa at Home, and comprises couscous mixed with butter, shallots, salt, pepper, taosted pine nuts, currants and some parsley. I like fruit and nuts in savoury dishes, so it’s right up my street. Even good cold as well!

Honey Pecan Chicken Salad

I made this one after seeing it on Cookie Baker Lynn’s blog. I mean honey and pecan nuts and chicken – how good does that sound! It’s a gorgeous chicken salad. This is my variation on Lynn’s salad. I used sweet onion relish. If you like honey, pecans and chicken you've got to make it!!

Honey Pecan Chicken Salad
(adapted from Cookie Baker Lynn) Serves 3-4.

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sweet pickle relish,
2 Tbsp spring onions, finely sliced
1/2 Tbsp honey
salt & pepper
scant 1/2 cup chopped celery
scant 1/2 cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped
4 cooked chicken breasts (about 2 cups)

Mix together the mayonnaise, relish, onion, honey, salt and white pepper in a bowl and mix well. Stir in the celery and pecans. fold in the chicken. Check the seasoning. Chill, covered, in the refrigerator.