Friday, 24 October 2014

halloween witches eye-balls and goblins bones

... you know when you attempt to bake something and it all goes horribly wrong, well today I had an epic Halloween fail.  I think it probably has a lot to do with not being totally sure about what I really wanted to bake, thinking that i'd just wing it and see what spooky thing i'd come up with.  This was a mistake and a lesson that, in baking one should really start out knowing exactly what one is preparing to make.  What I really wanted to do was top last years spiders web bundt cake, which looked almost too pretty to be scary but worked out so well and this year I thought i'd go for a multitude of cobwebs using my mini bundt tins but the recipe for the sponge I went with failed so spectacularly I had to change tack halfway through... I suppose in a way, with it being Halloween all this was to be expected and actually the end result looks quite fun but it's the ugliness off it all that works in it's favour... none of which was planned...

witches eye balls and goblins bones with a chocolate and coconut milk ganache
whilst the cake sponge was not what I was expecting for the original plan it actually tasted delicious and was beautifully light and fluffy with more of a meringue quality than full on sponge... I used some delightful potato flour sent to me by the good people at Doves Farm and along with the organic  chocolate this whole bake is gluten free which is a nice surprise and will make perfect fun treats for any halloween parties you're planning.  The eagle-eyed amongst you will observe that the goblin bones are actually a cake that's sunk along its sides.  I cut it into slices not knowing what to do with it and noticed that the slices looked very bone-shaped which worked perfectly for the theme...

for the sponge
3 eggs - separated
5oz caster sugar
the zest of one lemon or small orange
70g potato flour
food colouring of choice

for the chocolate and coconut milk ganache
150g good quality dark chocolate
85ml coconut milk

I used 6 mini bundt tins for the eye sockets and a small alb loaf tin for the bones which were greased appropriately

in a large bowl, combine the egg yolks, sugar and lemon or orange zest and whisk for at least 10 minutes until light and thick then gently fold in the flour

in another bowl, whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks and gently fold these into the cake mixture

pour into your cake tins and bake for 25-30 mins... the bunts may take less time and the loaf tin longer but once they have that spongy touch they are ready - set aside to cool in their tins for 5 mins then remove from tins and cool completely - slice the cake into thick bone chunks

to make the ganache, break the chocolate into chunks and place in a bowl then simply heat the coconut milk in a pan until nearly boiling and pour this over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate had melted.  Set aside for 5 mins to cool and thicken slightly then dip the bundts and bones into the chocolate and set them aside to cool

i've used mint green aero bubbles for the eye balls and little balls of ganache for the irises...

I am of course entering these spooky little treats into the fab We Should Cocoa challenge, founded by Choclette from the Chocolate Log Blog and hosted this month by Hannah from Honey and Dough and also the Treat Petite challenge hosted by Stuart the Cakeyboi and Kat The Baking Explorer as both have selected the theme of Halloween...

eat and of course, enjoy!

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

slow-cooked french onion soup

... it's hurricane season here in the UK.  Well maybe that's a teeny exaggeration but as I write this there's the tail end of some tropical hurricane rushing past the window and it's very strange... completely dark and lashing rain one minute then bright sunshine and strong winds the next.  It's also the first day this autumn that i've properly felt chilled to the bone which i'm absolutely thrilled about. Don't get me wrong, I love the summer but I don't feel properly human until there's that chill in the air, the thick sweaters have to come out of hiding and the fire has to be lit in the mornings... proper food can be eaten without thinking about the bikini body and I can start to dream of Halloween, Bonfire Night and then of course Christmas.  I also think it's important for the health of the environment to have a proper chill and frost, it kills the bugs and the flies and settles everything back into its proper place... time for a rich and thick soup me'thinks...

slow-cooked french onion soup
I received a wonderful and very timely book to review this week. Slow Cooked by Miss South is a compendium of easy, thrifty and of course delicious recipes for slow cookers and it has completely opened my eyes the the joys of slow cooking.  What I love about the book is not only that it's full of gorgeous ideas but that she's clearly done a huge amount of research and recipe development to deliver some truly inspirational recipes that don't just amount to lots of stews.  Did you know you could cook the most glorious, old-fashioned tasting baked potatoes in a slow-cooker, one that comes out brown and crispy or that you can bake puddings and cakes in it?  Call me naive but I had no idea.  The other great thing about the book is that it has very clear and concise instructions, nothing wishy-washy and Miss South explains why she's doing each step so that you feel you understand the way the slow-cooker works and why it works... all in all I'm really enjoying the book and plan to cook a number of dishes from it so watch this space...

... I realise that not everyone has a slow-cooker so from now on on this blog, for every slow-cooker method I will include a short regular cooking method or a link back to a similar recipe where i've cooked the dish without a slow-cooker...

500g white onions - peeled, halved and thinly sliced
25g butter
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 cloves of garlic - finely chopped
2 tablespoons plain flour
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
900ml hot good quality vegetable stock (or beef stock)
100ml vermouth or white wine
25ml brandy (optional but excellent)

start by caramelising the onions by placing them in the slow-cooker with the butter and sugar, place the lid n and cook on low for 4 hours or up to 6 hours for a darker gold

after this stage add the chopped garlic, plain flour, mustard powder and salt and pepper and stir well to combine

pour over the stock and vermouth or white wine, stir again to make sure there are no lumps, put the lid back on and allow it to cook for another 4 hours.  Add the brandy (if using) 30 mins before serving

i've served my soup with some crouton rings that were invented by The Viking and are patent pending so I can't divulge how they were made..., I also added plenty of strong grated emmental cheese

if you're cooking this soup without the slow-cooker the most important bit is the caramelisation of the onions which can be done in a regular pan on a low heat, you'll want to keep the onions gently sautéing away for a minimum of 30 minutes until they are a glorious golden brown before adding the rest of the ingredients and the simmering process needs to be at least another 30 mins... take a look at  a similar french onion soup I made on my blog last year.

Slow Cooked by Miss South is to be published by Ebury Press on 6th November and will retail at £14.99

even though I made The Vikings patented crouton rings this soup still qualifies for the No Croutons Required bloggers challenge hosted by Jaq from Tinned Tomatoes and Lisa from Lisa's Kitchen

eat and of course, enjoy!

Monday, 20 October 2014

left-over raw vegetable cake - a random recipe

... Audrey the cat has found a home.  Our dear friend Elaine from Aby, who happens to write the brilliant Bramble Ramble blog has thankfully decided to take her in (after perhaps a little too much hassle from yours truly...) and as you can imagine this makes us extremely happy and has settled quite a few worried nerves.  Elaine and her wonderful family live in a gorgeous cottage nestled away in the crook of a sleepy village and I just know Audrey will be made very welcome and will love it there.  She'll be a good cat for them too and keep away any pesky rats should they dare come anywhere near... and the wonderful thing is that we will be able to pop over and visit... it really couldn't have come at a better time as the weather turns bad and I can honestly say I feel that a little turmoil in our world has settled around us once again... time for cake...

left-over raw vegetable cake
what with halloween on the horizon there's a lot of carved-out pumpkin flesh knocking about and this cake can be made with that or any number of root vegetables you might have lurking in the back of the fridge... I've used swede and carrots along with my pumpkin as that's what I had but feel free to be as inventive as you like, it's a pretty forgiving and very easy cake.

200g melted butter
140g raisins
zest and juice of 2 oranges
300g self-raising flour
300g light brown soft sugar
2 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp bicarb of soda
4 large free-range eggs
300g of root vegetables - finely grated

pre-heat the oven to 180C and grease and line a 30cm x 20cm baking tin or volume equivalent... I used 3 one pound loaf tins

mix the raisins, zest and juice from 1 orange and microwave on high for 2 mins

in a large bowl, beat the eggs into the melted butter, then pour in the raisins and juice, then beat in the  flour, sugar, spices, bicarb and a pinch of salt and stir together well with a wooden spoon

stir in the grated vegetables and pour the batter into your tin and bake for 35-40 minutes until golden and risen and a skewer inserted comes out clean... set aside to cool

to make the icing simply mix the juice and zest of an orange with roughly 250g icing sugar until you have the desired consistency and drizzle on the cooled cake

i'm entering this cake into the brilliant Tea Time Treats bloggers challenge hosted by the lovely Karen from Lavender and Lovage  which has the theme of vegetables and gave me the initial inspiration for this months Random Recipes, which obviously i'm entering this into as I found the recipe by doing a random internet search...

eat and of course, enjoy!

Saturday, 18 October 2014

slow-cooked panang curry pulled pork with a coconut curry sauce

... following on from my recipe for slow-cooked vegetable and lentil stew with polenta dumplings I asked you all what you'd cook in your slow-cooker and there was an overwhelming majority of you who mentioned pulled-pork.  Obviously being the good jewish boy that I am I'm really not that into cooking pork... don't get me wrong, we eat plenty of sausages and bacon it's just that because my mum never really favoured it as a meat at home I simply never really cooked it.  I don't particularly order it in restaurants although I do love me some pork belly.  Saying all this, I am an avid fan of pulled pork.  I realise that it's the meat of the moment and I can understand why with it's succulent shredded glory, so i'm not going to deny you of a good pulled pork recipe...

slow-cooked vegetable and lentil stew with polenta dumplings

... a word to the wise on choosing the correct cut of meat.  In the US it's easy to find - they call it the butt-end... but in the UK asking for a simple pork shoulder just won't cut the mustard.  According to the festidious-for-all-of-us Felicity Cloake's research from The Guardian who has thankfully done all the hard work for us pulled-pork novices, the cut of meat you need to ask for in the UK is the 'bone-in neck end' with a good layer of fat on top and you'll only be able to track this down without losing face at your local butcher... believe me , like Felicity I tried at two of my local supermarkets and got sneered at...

slow-cooked panang curry pulled pork with a coconut curry sauce
so I had this traditional pulled pork recipe all worked out and then on Thursday night I attended a wok masterclass at the School of Wok, hosted by Jeremy Pang and I discovered a glorious brand of fusion-asian inspired ready-made pastes and curries called World Foods and with one taste of their panang curry paste and I just knew I had to use it with the pork.  Now I often turn down requests for reviews of stuff that comes in jars because lets face it, the quality is often dubious, they're made for convenience and whist they do their job very well I never find them particularly authentic so I was very positively blown away by the quality and taste of the World Foods products... all of their range is gluten-free, vegetarian, trans-fat free with no artificial colourings, preservatives or flavourings.  I was genuinely impressed which is why i'm sharing them with you today... the product is available globally via their website and I urge you to at least give them a whirl...

for the slow-cooked pork
1 onion - roughly sliced
1 joint of well-marbled pork shoulder
1 jar of World Foods panang curry paste
1/4 litre or 1 cup of vegetable stock
1/4 litre or 1 cup of coconut milk

place the onion into the bottom of the slow-cooker

rub the joint of pork all over with the curry paste and lay the joint on top of the onions, pour in the stock and the coconut milk, place the lid on and cook for 6 hours on high or 8 hours on low

one the pork is gloriously tender, remove it carefully from the crockpot with a slotted spoon and place it on a board, be very careful as it will fall apart very easily... using the slotted spoon remove the onions which should be spectacularly golden and tender and set them aside in a large bowl

pour the remaining liquid into a small saucepan, add a teaspoon of cornflour and reduce on a high heat for about 10 minutes until you have a rich and thick curry sauce

the pork should now shred beautifully with a couple of forks, fat and all, place it all in the bowl with the onions and mix together.

i'm serving the pork au-natural in some delicious wholemeal pitta bread drizzles with the thick curry sauce but you could serve them with a salad or something green... if you feel you have to...

don't forget, you still have a teeny bit of time to enter my giveaway to win a slow-cooker

eat and of course, enjoy!

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

mini sticky toffee Lincolnshire puddings

... don't laugh but I was watching Lorraine on telly the other day and the lovely #GBBO2012 winner John Whaite was making sticky toffee pudding. Obviously I was inspired to make some but i've never made sticky toffee pudding before so I was quite surprised to learn that it's made with dates, which I guess is what makes it so sticky.  It's funny isn't it how something as simple and traditional as a sticky toffee pudding, which you would assume to just know how to make, would be something that you know very little about... I think this is one of the things I loved about the final technical challenge of #GBBO this year.  The fact that they were asked to make the simplest of bakes; scones, victoria sponges and tart au citron was a stroke of genius in my humble opinion.  I actually think that the show has got a little lost in its journey into ever more increasingly difficult challenges and sometimes a revisit to the basics can prove the defeat of some chefs... give me a beautifully light victoria sponge with homemade jam and cream over some fancy patisserie any day...

mini sticky toffee Lincolnshire puddings
you may well ask what it is that makes these little puddings 'Lincolnshire' and i'll throw my hands up now and admit that I am taking huge liberties but I was inspired to add some juicy raisins along with the dates.  Raisins are used in the traditional Lincolnshire Plum Loaf and so these little puddings have a little quality of that to them... it really makes no difference but what it does do is open up the idea to adding all kinds of dried fruits such as figs or apricots which would be lovely...

for the sponge pudding
125g dried stoned dates - finely chopped
100g raisins - finely chopped
175ml boiling water
1 tsp vanilla extract
175g self-raising flour
2 large, free-range eggs
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
85g butter
140g demerara sugar
2 tablespoons treacle or 2 tablespoons dark muscovado sugar
100ml milk

for the toffee sauce
175g light muscovado sugar
50g butter
225ml double cream
1 tablespoon treacle or dark muscovado sugar

i've used my 6 mini silicone bundt moulds which i've sprayed with Lurpak Cooking Mist but there was so much left-over I also greased a 20cm square pyrex dish - you will also need to pre-heat the oven to 180C

place the finely chopped dates and raisins into a bowl with the boiling water and vanilla extract and set aside until cool

in a large bowl beat the sugar and butter together with an electric hand whisk... keep going until you have a smooth-ish paste... it will never be perfectly smooth like a regular cake butter as the proportions of sugar are too high but keep going until it looks lighter.

add one egg and beat in followed by half the flour and beat in, then half the milk and beat, then add the second egg and beat followed by the remaining flour and beat in.  Now add the spices and the treacle or sugar followed by the remaining milk and beat again.

tip the soaked fruit into the batter and beat in once more then divide the batter between the cases or tins and bake for 20-25 mins until risen and firm - set aside to cool in the cases for a few mins and then remove from the tins and cool on a wire rack

to make the toffee sauce simply melt the butter, sugar and half the cream in a pan, stirring all the time.  Allow it to gently come to the boil, then add the treacle or sugar and let it bubble away for a couple of minutes and let it darken without burning.  Take it off the heat and stir in the remaining cream.

now, you can pour the sauce over the puddings once they've had a moment or two to cool and serve then and there or you can pour them in sauce once cooled completely and set aside to eat later, they should keep for at least 3 or 4 days out of the fridge.

eat and of course, enjoy!

Sunday, 12 October 2014

slow-cooked vegetable and lentil stew with polenta dumplings in my new Crock-Pot! - plus a Crock-Pot giveaway

... ever since Janice started the Slow-Cooked Challenge over on the brilliant Farmersgirl Kitchen I have lamented the fact that I didn't have an actual slow-cooker, so much so that she even changed the rules of the challenge just so I could join in... My friends and neighbours all sing the praises of the slow cooker and over the years I have thought about getting myself one but just never got round to it... I often cook long and slow roasted meals in a conventional oven so I never really thought i'd need an actual slow cooker and that I wasn't really missing much... how wrong could I have been?  This week, to celebrate the long-running Crocktober campaign, the good people at CrockPot, the original slow-cooker makers, offered me a Crock-Pot 4.7L Countdown Slow Cooker to trial and review, so now, not only have I spent the best part of the week creating the most wonderful slow-cooked meals but i'm afraid, Janice, you'll just have to change the rules back...

slow-cooked vegetable and lentil stew with polenta dumplings
as you can imagine I did a lot of 'slow-cooker' reading and research over the past week.  It's quite incredible how vast the slow cooker world is out there, it's almost like a cult.  This is a great thing for a novice however as there is a vast plethora of recipes and guides to using the slow cooker... maybe too much information as I did get a little overwhelmed in the end and just decided to go for it and treat it like I would a regular oven, just slower... The one thing I felt was really lacking, although there were a few, was a decent vegetarian stew.  The thing about the slow cooker is that not only does it allow you to have a pot of beautiful food waiting for you on the return home from a long day but it also works wonders on meats, tenderising the fuck out of them in a glorious way, so there are a lot of meat recipes out there and the vegetable ones tend to be side-lined and very 'American' and I wanted something traditional... it was beautifully easy and completely delicious and I feel that i've discovered something new in my polenta dumplings that i'm very pleased with...

for the stew
1 large onion - roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic - crushed
1 teaspoon dried mixed herbs
2 large sticks of celery  - chopped
2 large carrots - chopped
1/2 swede - peeled and chopped
8 or 10 baby pearl potatoes - halved
half a savoy cabbage - chopped
150g red lentils
3/4 litre of good quality vegetable stock with 3 teaspoons of gravy powder in in
1/4 litre white wine
salt and pepper
fresh herbs of your choice - I used rosemary and thyme

for the polenta dumplings
50g vegetable suet
80g self-raising flour
50g polenta
80ml cold water
a pinch of salt
a little extra flour for your hands

heat a little olive oil in a pan and gently sauté the onions until soft, add the garlic and dried herb and let them gently turn golden

pour the cooked onions into the slow cooker, add the rest of the veg, lentils and stock and cook in the slow cooker for 6 hours on low - you'll add the fresh herbs and any more seasoning in the last hour

in the last half hour, make the dumplings by combing the ingredients in a bowl and forming 6 small dumplings - you may need to flour your hands

place the dumplings on the top of the stew, replace the lid and let them cook for at least half an hour

... not only did the lovely folk at Crock-Pot give me a slow-cooker to cook with but they have very generously given me a Crock-Pot 4.7L Countdown Slow Cooker and Crock-Pot Warmer RRP: £74.98 to give away to one lucky Belleau Kitchen reader... all you have to do is fill in the clever little rafflecopter widget below and let me know what you'd cook in yours...

a Rafflecopter giveaway

eat and of course, enjoy!

Saturday, 11 October 2014

my top 5 rare foodie finds

a version of this commissioned article has appeared on the intel iQblog...

...many people seem to assume that blogging is a lonely game and yes sure, there are some very late nights tapping away at the keypad but on the whole one of the things I love most about being a food blogger is the vast network of international digital foodie friends I have.  There are so many people from every corner of the globe that I now consider blogger companions and I would hope that should I be passing by their doors on foreign soil they would welcome me in with a cup of tea and a bite of some local delicacy.  I know that my doors are open to any one of them.

Obviously, working on the internet also opens doors to an international plethora of positively exotic food stuffs that I would never be able to purchase at the local corner shop.  The dichotomy between reliance on technology and the internet to naturally source produce is an interesting topic that I often explore.

Working in London and living in Lincolnshire I also have a unique dual perspective on country and city life and how in particular food is perceived between the two.  When we first moved to Lincolnshire 11 years ago there was very little ‘food culture.’ Where London was embracing an incredible food revolution, the local folk treated food as fuel.  This has of course changed quite rapidly over the years and now the trend for locally sourced, seasonal food has created a wave of incredible food production here in the county… but sometimes I like to explore food that’s a little more left of centre.  A few weeks back I set myself a challenge, to source some of the most obscure ingredients possible from the comfort of my sofa. I used my ASUS T100 tablet to be bolder with my recipe choices, using the randomness of the internet to make choices for me to expand my cooking horizons and what I found was quite interesting. 

Here are my top 5 rare foodie finds…

My first random search landed me at the brilliant KeziaFoods website who pride themselves in sourcing the finest exotic meats and seafoods from around the world. All their meats are from suppliers who actively participate in environmental programs, from necessary culls in game reserves to breeding programs. All under EU welfare & CITES regulations and the food comes vacuum-packed for freshness.  The range is impossibly varied, from Kangaroo loin to Zebra steak, from Camel steak to Talapia fillets.  If you’re looking to impress dinner guests with something they’ve never eaten before, this is your one-stop shop.

It' a fact that we'll soon be living in a world where eat insects will be a viable form of food, which i guess is lucky for my next rare and unusual foodie find from Crunchy Critters.  If you've ever fancied re-creating the IACGMOUH Bush Tucker Trial in your own home then the UK's number one site for edible insects is the place for you.  From canned tarantula to freeze-dried mealworms to scorpions on a stick, they have it all here... they have a page on responsible sourcing and the environment plus, and this really made me laugh, they also have nutritional info on all their crunchy critters...

Something a little closer to home but in my humble opinion just as exotic and definitely worth the visit is The Rare Breed Meat Company.  This is an incredible company specializing in all those British rare breed meats we so often hear about but are actually quite hard to find such as Norfolk Red Poll beef, Gloucester Old Spot pork and free-range turkeys and geese.  All their meats are free-range and fed only with natural products free from any kind of nasty growth hormones.

I am a huge fan of honey, in fact my love for honey is bordering on the obsessive , so much so that wherever I am in the UK I will always search out the local nectar.  This next site Honey Traveller is less about buying honey on-line, although you can do that, rather it’s more about where to buy amazing quality local honey wherever you are in the world and also particularly if you’re travelling.  It’s a little like train-spotting for honey nerds and I for one can’t wait to pick up a jar of Jelly Bush honey harvested from bees kept on the roof of the Sydney Opera House!

Whilst my final site offers a wide range of incredible quality meats, poultries and fishes its actually the fruit and vegetables that I use Natoora for.  Originally a Paris based produce delivery firm they now have offices all over Europe, including the UK and they source all their amazing produce from local farmers who clearly care a lot about their end-user.  Their selection of unusual and hard-to-find fruit and veg is phenominal plus they also sell little items such as edible flowers, an incredible array of salad leaves and a selection of different coloured veg that will make your dinner table explode in a satisfying rainbow of culinary delights.

I'd love to know if you've tried any interesting or rare foods and what you thought... 

eat and of course, enjoy!



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