Saturday 29 December 2012

Second Helpings from Nigellissima

Cappuccino Pavlova

It’s been a while now since I did my first post about Nigellissima Instant Italian Inspiration by Nigella Lawson 2012, but I’ve been cooking steadily from it so here is a second helping.

I was so happy last month when a friend who was going to one of Nigella's book signings offered to get a signed one for me. Thanks again, you know who you are!

Beef Pizzaiola
I made this one Sunday night for hubby and myself, it’s easy and delicious. Beef with pizza style sauce.

Farro Risotto with Mushrooms
Farro is worth picking up if you see some, it has a nutty deeply savoury taste that I just loved. This was my first time cooking farro, but not the last. Maybe in time it will become more easily available.

Pasta Risotto with Peas and Pancetta
A really fast weeknight supper this one, I’ve made this a good few times now, but always with chicken stock instead of water.

Iced Berries with Limoncello White Chocolate Sauce
Boozey, creamy and not overly sweet, very pretty too.

Green Beans with Pistachio Pesto
What a delightful combination this is, a special way with green beans.

Cappuccino Pavlova
This was a good pavlova, a bit different with the coffee and no fruit. I used grated chocolate instead of cocoa powder for the top. I used decaf, and we thought it worked well.

Romanesco with Rosemary, Garlic, Lemon and Peccorrino
Another new edible here for me, I happened upon romanesco at a deli not so far from me, and I’m so glad I bought some. It seems to take the best parts of broccoli and cauliflower together and it’s a great vegetable. Of course it’s stunning good looks helps too! Another lovely veggie dish from Nigella.

Chocolate Nougat Cookies
Now, Nigella suggests to use nougat or white chocolate chips for the add-ins to these chocolate cookies. I couldn’t decide, so used half of each. These were yummy. The nougat goes crispy.

Chocolate Salame
I like refrigerator cakes, and also chocolate salamis. I’ve tried a number of chocolate salami recipes, but this one is easily the nicest I’ve made. It positively melts in the mouth with a warm cup of coffee. On the Nigellissima Christmas Special the bit at the end shows Nigella with a fit of the giggles when making this, there is something comical about shaping it, I was giggling too! This one has raw eggs in it, so do be aware of that.

Italian Christmas Pudding Cake
This one is like a trifle in cake form. I had the Tuaca (plus Marsala) suggested for the recipe, and a lovely liqueur it is too. I didn’t use the Italian breads suggested, as they are both yeasted (I’m allergic to yeast) so used a light vanilla cake instead. I forgot to remove some of the creamy mixture for the top layer before folding in the bits and pieces (duh!), so sprinkled the top with chocolate flakes instead of more chocolate chips. Also I had a couple of candied chestnuts left so sprinkled them over as well.

Well this is my last post for 2012, this year has had many ups and downs for so many people, me included, so here’s to an even better 2013. Happy New Year.

Next Up: Pig Cooking with a Passion For Pork by Johnnie Mountain

Wednesday 19 December 2012

Gifts Ideas 2012

Now, I did intend to do more than one post of Christmas gift ideas, but alas between one thing and another, my little blog has been a bit neglected recently. Here, as promised though, are some of my favourites from the new books out this year, with a few non book bits thrown in for good measure. Now I have cooked from a few of these, but they will get their turn with recipe reviews in my regular post format at another time. This is just a brief run through of ideas for you.
Limoncello and Linenwater
The new book from Tessa Kiros. Italian food is the topic of this one, though it’s not the same as her previous Italian one Twelve. I’m totally charmed by this book, it’s in a similar style to Falling Cloudberries.
The third book from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. The gentlemen are both from Jerusalem, and in this book they explore the amazing food that can be eaten there, and now here as well with this lovely book.
A Culinary Adventure Marque
By Mark Best and Pasi Petanen. This is one for the budding chef in your life! Contains a lot of ingredients that will take a bit of effort sourcing, but if Heston Blummenthal’s restaurant food is your aspiration this one if worth a look.
Kitchen Diaries 2
The second volume from Nigel Slater. I do like Nigel, and this one is just as inspiring as the first. Great photography too. Very real and do-able.
The world in Your Kitchen Calendar 2013, is illustrated really well by Johnathan Williams, each month sees a different international vegetarian recipe as well as a related picture from Johnathan.

Pink Heart Plates and Mugs
Anyone who reads my blog regularly, or even just looks at the pictures will know I am a fan of Sophie Conran’s range for Portmeirion. This year they have brought out some of the items from the range in a beautiful baby pink. Love!!

A Book for Cooks 101 Classic Cookbooks
By Leslie Geddes-Brown. Not so much a recipe book exactly, but a book covering, as the title says, 101 classic cookbooks as selected by the author. Each book is described and there is a picture of the cover followed by some of the pages from each book. Definitely worth a look if you have any interest at all in collecting cookbooks.
Rachel Allen’s new book this year is Cake, to my mind it is a companion book to her previous Bake. Lots and lots of cakes – big, little, party, pudding….yum!
Little Paris Kitchen
This one from Rachel Koo accompanied the series earlier this year, and it’s a lovely book particularly if you are a Francophile like me!
My Italian Kitchen
By Victoy Scerri. Another favourite Italian one, full of gorgeous recipes, it has a coffee table quality to it, but the food all looks make-able in a home kitchen.
Gorgeous Jug
Another one I love is this jug from the Portmeirion Christmas Wish range, mine is just waiting it’s turn to be filled with some pretty flowers for Christmas.

If you fancy a nutty nibble that you haven’t made (or aren’t inclined to make) yourself then these are gorgeous! Salted Caramelised Nuts and Balsamic Cashews, totally different, but both delicious.

La Tartine Gourmande Recipes for an Inspired Life
I beautifully photographed book, from a lady who loves food – Beatrice Peltre. The book has a lot of gluten free recipes, but do note that the ingredients for some of these are easier to source in the U.S. and Canada. Even so, I love this book
Celebrate A Year of British Festivities for Families and Friends
Pippa Middleton has entered the book world with this, her first book. I would have to admit buying it out of curiosity, but it is lovely, a cookbook and party ideas book, with some hand-made craft projects as well.
Annie Bell’s Baking Bible
A really lovely must have book, I would have loved to have been given this one on Christmas Day! A must have for a keen baker.
I’m a girl for a candle, and this year we are spoilt for choice with so many fabulous fragrances. I like them all and don’t think I could single out one as a favourite.
Cherry Deluxe
I couldn’t go without a little stocking filler of chocolate, I adore these Cherry Deluxe chocolates from Hotel Chocolat. Sweet chocolate, cherry and a little Amaretto. #swoon#!

So all that remains for me to say is to wish everyone a Peaceful and Happy Christmas.
Next up: Second Helpings of Nigellissima

Wednesday 14 November 2012

Under the Walnut Tree

I bought this one on the recommendation of a couple of friends. Words like ‘you’ve got to have it’ were bandied about. Under the Walnut Tree by Anna Bergenstrom and Fanny Bergenstrom, Hardie Grant Books 2012. The Swedish Mother and daughter team who have written this book have also written others, though this is the first to be translated into English (I hope more will follow!).

It’s a lavish book, the photography is stunning. The food looks great and the still life shots are inspiring, the avocado picture just makes me want to go and buy some now. Its contents are centred around different ingredients: Avocado, Tomatoes, Leafy Greens, Herbs, Chillies, Horseradish, Ginger, Citrus, Nuts & Seeds, Coconut, Cardamon, Pears, Mango, Raspberries, Vanilla, Tea and Chocolate.

The recipes are wide ranging and eclectic - Anna’s Avocado Soup, Indian Curry from Stockholm, Mousse with Limoncello, Caribbean Mango-glazed Chicken, A Cake from Tuscany, Pasta Salad a la Gina and Chilli Baked Sweet Potatoes. The authors have a Scandinavian background, but a world-wide outlook where food is concerned. There are 400 recipes and 300 pictures but it has to be said they nearly all appeal.

I sometimes have this little pipe dream that I am in a holiday house with my family having taken along only a couple of cookbooks for ideas, and this one would be perfect for that. It has such a lot of different recipes for all sorts of occasions and there are menu ideas at the back too if that is your thing.

Here are the recipes I’ve made so far, but I’m sure I will dip into this one for years to come. My friends were right - I needed this one in my collection!
Crispy Feta Cheese Pastries
Delicious little puff pastries filled with feta, spinach, garlic and herbs. I halved the spinach, because I didn’t have enough in the fridge!

Very respectable chocolate-y and moist.

Nobis Salad with Croutons and Roasted Parma Ham
If you have never roasted parma ham in the oven, you just must, it goes so crispy and delicious it needs to be tried to be believed. This was a great salad, good ham, -avocado, (in our case tortilla) croutons and a garlic chive dressing.

White Chocolate Panna Cotta
The chocolate made this one very rich, so a smaller portion was best. I’d put the cling film directly onto the cream when setting as a skin can form if you don’t. Perfect for white chocolate lovers served with raspberries.

Next Up: The first of a couple of Christmas Book Idea round ups. In the run up to Christmas this will be a way for me to share more of my favourites from the large amount of new books that are published at this time of year, I may even pop in a couple of non-book foodie bits. Blogging as normal will resume after that again.

Saturday 20 October 2012

Sour Cream-Blueberry Crumb Cake, Cake Slice Bakers October 2012

It has been a fast year, I can’t believe we have come to the end of cooking from The Cake Book by Tish Boyle published by John Wiley and Sons 2006.
For this last bake we were given free choice of the book. It was a hard decision, I was very tempted by Raspberry Mousse Cake, Chocolate Almond-Coconut Cake and White Chocolate Raspberry Cake, but in the end of the day I went for something quicker and that used up some of the blueberries in my fridge.
Sour Cream Blueberry Crumb Cake is what I chose, a tender crumbed cake due to the sour cream with a fruity layer of blueberries and a crunchy crumble (crumb) top. I baked this for a dessert one night and it went down well. At its best on the day it is made, the berries make it a bit heavy on day two. This is an easy cake, but needs a few bowls and a jug! Good with cream or custard.
If you would like to see what my fellow bakers chose and baked see here for the blogroll. See you next month for the unveiling of our new book!

Sour Cream-Blueberry Crumb Cake
From The Cake Book by Tish Boyle
Crumb Topping
1 cup plain flour
¼ cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch salt
3 ½ oz butter, melted
1 ½ cups plain flour
1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
Pinch salt
1 cup blueberries
8 fl oz sour cream
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
5 oz butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs

Crumb Topping
Stir together the flour, two sugars, cinnamon and salt in a bowl. Add the melted butter and fork it through until the mix is damp and uniform.

Cake1. Line a 9 inch square tin with baking parchment, preheat the oven to 180oC.
2. In a bowl whisk together the flour baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt.
3. In another bowl toss the blueberries with 1 tablespoon of the whisked flour mixture.
4. In a jug mix the sour cream and vanilla extract.
5. In the bowl of an electric mixer cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time mixing between each egg. Scrape down sides as needed. At low speed mix in the flour in three lots, alternating with the sour cream mixture in two. (flour, sour cream, flour, sour cream, flour). By hand fold in the blueberries with a spoon or spatula, then spoon / spatula into the prepared tin and smooth the top.
6. Sprinkle over the crumb mixture, breaking it up with your fingers to make an even topping.
7. Bake for around 45 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean of crumbs. Cool in the tin on a wire rack. Cut into 16 squares.

Next Up: Under the Walnut Tree

Monday 24 September 2012

Nigellissima, Review and First Makes

Being a big Nigella fan I was very happy when I had my copy of Nigellissima Instant Italian Inspiration by Nigella Lawson Chatto & Windus 2012 in my hands.

It is a relatively slim book for Nigella, but as she says in the introduction there are lots of her Italian recipes in her other books, and this book is full of new recipes. Chapters are: *Introduction* Pasta* Flesh, Fish & Fowl* Vegetables & Sides* Sweet Things* An Italian Inspired Christmas* Notes*. The notes one at the end gives make ahead and leftovers advice for some of the recipes, where this is appropriate.

The photography is stunning and Petrina Tinslay needs a mention here as she manages that hard to capture thing where the food photography is both something that you would like to cook and eat; but somehow art at the same time (David Loftus is another star at this). The recipes are easy to follow and well laid out, all preceded by chatty introductions from Nigella.

You can feel Nigella’s love for Italy in her words, and it is a book that inspires you to the cooker. The only thing I don’t like about this book is the weird cover. When I think of Italian food nowadays I imagine a cornucopia of good things or a fantastic beautiful and great tasting ingredient. This cover doesn’t sit well with that image for me, but hey ho. There are a good number of pasta dishes, but there is a lot more besides. I particularly like the Italian-Inspired Christmas chapter, which is full of good things.

It is Italian inspired though, so don’t be expecting a book of truly authentic Italian Mama’s recipes. I’m not as hung up on authenticity as some are. My base point is I like to know what is actually authentic about cuisines that are not my own; but I tend to then alter them to what I like and my own family will eat anyway, - is that not just what Nigella has done here? If the results are as good as the prawn pasta rose and nutella cheesecake below – I can cope with a bit of inauthenticity!

So how about a little taster of the recipes? Tortelloni Minestrone, Pasta Risotto with Peas & Pancetta, Farro Risotto with Mushrooms, Italian Roast Chicken with Peppers and Olives, Beef Pizzaioli, Tagliata for Two, Iced Berries with Limoncello White Chocolate Sauce, Romanesco with Rosemary, Garlic, Lemon and Peccorino, Chocolate Nougat Cookies, Chocolate Salame, Cappuccino Pavlova and an Italian Christmas Pudding Cake.

My friend Anna G has also had great success with the Chocolate Olive Oil Cake, so it is now also on my long list of to-makes as well. Here are the dishes I’ve cooked so far:

Chilli Crab Risotto
There are a number of risottos in Nigellissima, but this is the only rice one. It’s light, delicious and very filling.
Vanilla Panna Cotta
Silence reigned when I put this one out, and I’m not surprised it was a perfect panna cotta. Rich, dreamy, and vanilla scented. Nigella has three panna cottas in the book - this one, a Nutella one and a coffee one – we will try them all eventually.
The strawberries here have a teensy bit of balsamic vinegar added. I bought a high end bottle of balsamic last time I was in Valvona and Carolla in Edinburgh, and it added a pleasant depth to the berries. You do need a good vinegar though, because I have tried this berry / balsamic thing with cheaper vinegar and it just doesn’t do.

This is meatloaf by another name. It was ok, needed a bit of help I thought, maybe some crispy bacon through the base and olives on top. This is the only recipe here I wouldn’t try again.
A cheeky little tiramisu, made in moments. I halved the recipe to make just two. Although I do think hubby felt a bit robbed that there wasn’t a big dish to have seconds from!

Cherry Tomatoes with Olives
Gosh, this was so good, simple and not for children (alcohol), but hubby and I had this as a side dish and little one had just tomatoes and olives, so that worked out well. It’s a simple dish, but very good.

Gnocchi Gratin
Unusual this one, but we all liked it, fastest potato gratin ever.

Prawn Pasta Rosa
We all loved this one, I changed the method slightly and added the chilli at the end after removing little ones portion so everyone was happy. Creamy tomato kissed pasta with prawns, yum yum. I’ve made twice now, once with the pasta suggested and once with spaghetti. Spaghetti gets our vote.

Sicilian Pasta with Tomatoes, Garlic and Almonds
I halved the anchovies here, and I really liked this alternative pesto. I’ll make it again just for me, I found it’s sweet – sour pull good. My little one took such an aversion to the telephone cord shaped pasta that she had to be bribed with pudding to eat it (well she couldn’t have just Nutella Cheesecake for tea!). I’ve heard before of children who will eat say spaghetti but not other shapes of pasta as it doesn’t taste the same, but so far I’d managed not to experience that first hand. I get off very lightly really!

Nutella Cheesecake
This is an amazing dessert, simple to pull together and so good to eat. As a general rule I like sweeter puddings than this, but the base is sweet and the filling not so much, together they are fabulous! If you like Ferrero Rocher give this one a go. I would have expected my daughter and myself to like it, but even hubby who would never eat Nutella normally, was won over by it too. This is the one I’m making to take to events this party season. You can find the recipe here.

Next Up: Under the Walnut Tree

Tuesday 18 September 2012

My Summer Round Up

When I started blogging I had this idea in my head that I would blog about cook books and also kitchen bits and pieces. I’ve never really managed to get round to the latter, but I’m about to remedy that here and now!

Baking Dishes
Last Christmas my mother-in-law gave me a voucher and I used a bit of it on these pretty little baking / pudding dishes. They came from The House of Bruar.

Some of my very favourite flowers, the world seems such a beautiful place when there are peony flowers in my kitchen.

Spotty Pot
I have a few bits and pieces from this the Polish pottery Polie, but this new one is the jewel in the crown, it’s just gorgeous!

Grater, Peppermint Extract and chocolate Coffee Beans
I’d never seen a chocolate grater before, and although it was pricey I thought it needed to be added to my kitchen kit. I haven’t used it yet, but soon… I love Steenberg’s Organic Rose Water, so when I saw a different one I had to try it, haven’t made anything minty since, but when I do I’ll go steady, it smells very potent. I always buy these little chocolate shaped coffee beans when I see them, they are just right for decorating coffee desserts.

Oh be still my excitable chocoholic heart! I’ve fancied something from Choccywoccydoodah for years now, and at last this summer the time came when I ordered a box of their chocolates. I LOVED these - think I might need to ask nicely for a box for my birthday!

Jubilee Cake
I was itching to make this cake, and when we were going to a Jubilee BBQ and desserts were asked for I took the chance and made it. This was the cake from the front of the BBC Good Food Magazine earlier this year to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, it is a Mary Berry cake. The sponge is given a bit of interest from ground almonds and Greek yoghurt. I increased the buttercream to cover the sides as well. I liked this one a lot, and will file away the recipe for another time too. Recipe here.

The Smithy, High Street, New Galloway
We stopped here for a tea, coffee and a fancy piece (Scottish for a lovely sweet biscuit / cake). The millionaire’s shortbread here was gorgeous, the best I have eaten out and about. This is beautiful scene  beside it.

Cook Book Stand
How pretty is this cook book stand? I have been looking for a new one for about 4 years now, but have never seen ‘the one’. I was asked by Dotcomgiftshop if I’d like to review something from their kitchen range, and when I saw this I knew this was it! It’s quite tall, but this seems to be a good thing as I haven’t sparked the book pages and it is closer to my eyes so easier to see! I love its cute gingerbread house feel, and the pretty heart at the top is the icing on the cake. See here if you fancy one.

So that was this seasons bits and pieces. :o) Back to normal next post!

Next Up: Nigellissima