Monday, 29 September 2014

random recipes #43 - round up

... the months roll on and it's quite shocking that we find ourselves at the back end of September with a lovely little round-up of very random recipes, so with further ado here's your lovely entries...

let's kick of in style with a gorgeous recipe for ciabatta from Karen at Lavender and Lovage randomly chosen from Traditional Bread Making by Eve Parker

next is Janet from The Taste Space with her Creamy Mushroom Stroganoff with yummy soba noodles taken from The Blender Girl

and now here's Alison from Dragons and Fairy Dust with my favourite treat Millionaires Shortbread randomly selected from an book and author we've never had before, Gizzi's Kitchen Magic by Gizzi Erskine

next up is random recipes virgin Katie from The Perfect Brownie with what looks like the perfect Peanut Butter Brownie randomly selected from Better Homes and Gardens Cooking for Two

now here's something to celebrate, it's Elizabeth, no longer the law student but now from The Lawyer's Cookbook with a stunning Quick Fried Prawns with Spices randomly shifted from Best Ever Indian Cookbook

now it's time for Charlene from Food Glorious Food and her rather wonderful Big Fat Tipsy Trifle randomly selected from Lorraine Pascale's Cooking Made Easy

next we have a nostalgic dish from Jane over at Onions and Paper with a Savoury Bean Bake taken from Cookery in Colour by the late and very great Marguerite Patton... i'm actually beginning to worry about how many successful entries Jane has had recently...

speaking of nostalgia here's Jean from Baking in Franglais with a simply but wholly beautiful Cottage Pie randomly selected from the recipe book that came with her new oven... of all things!

next up is the lovely Susan from The Spice Garden who has been away from Random recipes for far too long but I forgive her for these gorgeous Crusty White Bread loaves that she randomly selected from A Feast of Ice and Fire which is a companion book to The Game of Thrones... I am buying this book tomorrow!

and here's Corina from Searching for Spice with some divine Lamb Meatballs randomly chosen from the brilliant Jamie's 15 Minute Meals

another random recipes newbie this month from Sasa over at Sasa's Kitchen with this divine looking Mussels, Potatoes and Courgette Casserole randomly selected from Paul Lay's The Real Italian Food

and of course we couldn't have random recipes without an entry from the lovely Choclette from Chocolate Log Blog with this stunning Chocolate Pear Cardamom upside down cake randomly chosen via the Eat Your Books website

and so let's end this round-up with my very own entry from way back at the start of the month and a Lavender Sugar Swiss Roll with Strawberries and Cream taken from WI's Cakes by Liz Herbert

... and thus departs another round-up of rather random recipes... thank you for your contributions... until next month my good friends, when we're going all techno!

Saturday, 27 September 2014

carrot, banana and walnut tray bake with an orange and cognac glaze

... another warm and sunny weekend in Belleau.  The garden is still producing flowers that should have given up the ghost weeks ago but the warmth of this late September breeze seems to be drawing the beauty out of the landscape.  I think everything's a little bit confused as the swallows are still hanging around and the wasps and late summer bees don't seem to care one bit, we even had a burst of butterfly madness this afternoon... but if the chilly mornings have anything to do with it I think all this warmth will be coming to an end soon... i'm seeing more and more piles of red and orange leaves brushing up against the wood shed and there's that incredible rotting vegetable aroma in the air that to me smells of autumn.  The light is different too, no matter how much sunshine we're getting the days are shorter and this means the window for natural light photography is getting smaller... I love this light, there's a golden essence to it that you only get at this time of year so i'm trying to capture it whilst I can...

carrot, banana and walnut tray bake with an orange and cognac glaze
it's Bryan's 50th birthday today and I offered to make something sweet for the gang.  As it happens I woke up not feeling 100% myself and my grandma always told me never to bake when you're feeling un well as it will come out in your cooking and so I left it this morning thinking I wouldn't bother but as the day wore on I kept drifting back to the kitchen... I really didn't know what to bake so it was a case of looking what was in the cupboard and fridge and taking inspiration from that, so two carrots and a rather brown looking banana later and we have this tray bake.  I've used my preferred carrot cake recipe and added a few extras including a little bit of cognac in the glaze... well, it is a birthday after all...

for the tray bake
150g finely grated carrots
1 ripened banana - forked to a pulp
175g dark soft brown sugar
2 large eggs
5 fl oz sunflower oil
175g wholemeal self raising flour
3 teaspoon mixed spice
1 teaspoon bicarb
grated zest of 1 orange
110g sultanas
50g desiccated coconut
25g walnuts nuts
2 heaped tablespoons of cocoa and berry flax mix

for the syrup glaze
juice of 1 small orange
3 oz dark brown soft sugar
tablespoon cognac (optional)

for the icing 
150g butter
200g icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

whisk the sugar, eggs and oil together in a bowl with an electric hand whisk for about 2-3 minutes, check there's no sugar left un-disolved.

sift the flour, bicarb and mixed spice into the bowl and gently stir it all together, followed by the rest of the cake ingredients

pour the batter into your baking tray and bake for 15-20 mins on 170 till risen and dark gold.

when the tray bake come out of the oven, prick it all over with a toothpick or skewer and drizzle with the syrup glaze which you have simply mixed together into a jug, let the syrup soak through the cakes and once cool remove them from the tins and set aside.

make the icing by beating it all together with an electric whisk and once the cake has completely cooled slather the icing disgracefully over the cake... and then randomly sprinkle with hundreds and thousands of sprinkles because... you know... it's a birthday!

eat and of course, enjoy!

Thursday, 25 September 2014

hand-made chocolate truffles with Paul A Young and Intel

... i've been doing some guest blogging for Intel recently and they've been kind enough to loan me a natty little ASUS T100 tablet to work with, write my blogs on, store photo's and generally mess around with.  I'm having great fun with it.  I particularly like the fact that it comes with a detachable keyboard so that it's easier for my fat little fingers to tripe with... 

... when I was first approached to guest-blog on the Intel #iQBlog I was more than happy to oblige.  As a food writer and recipe developer there’s nothing I love more than sharing my passion for all things edible and I love how working with Intel has made me think so much more about how I use technology on a daily basis... obviously when I found out that the whole project would conclude with a master-class with renowned chocolatier Paul A Young you can imagine that this totally sealed the deal.

I love chocolate.  I’m not just talking about the fancy 90% cocoa-solids stuff either.  I love nothing more than chomping my way through a bar of peanuts wrapped in nougat and chocolate that only a Snickers bar can deliver as much as I adore allowing one of Paul A Young’s infamous salted caramel chocolates to melt slowly in my mouth, releasing it’s glorious molten golden sweetness from the crisp dark chocolate shell… oh sorry readers, I think you may have lost me there for a moment…

I think that chocolate, like a lot of food, has an amazing way to link you to a moment; a favourite meal or a memorable party.  One of my dearest memories from my childhood is when my maternal grandparents would arrive for Christmas.  My Grandpa Henry ran a fruit wholesalers in Hull and he would always come laden with fabulous fruit.  Of course as a kid I wasn’t really interested in that but Grandma Jennie would reach into her bag and bring out a Terry’s Chocolate Orange for my brother and I.  We knew she’d have one in there for us and the anticipation was overwhelming and how I loved to gently un-peel that wonderful ball of zesty orangey chocolate.

One of the many great things about Paul A Young is that he’s not a chocolate snob.  One of the first things we chatted about upon meeting was his love of candy-bar chocolate.  It has its place in our lives and we shouldn’t knock it.  It’s about choosing what’s right for you at that moment or that situation of mood you are in.  It was a great way to start the masterclass because it made us all think about the kind of chocolate we like and gave us a good starting point to try all the different raw chocolates.

The masterclass started with the chocolate tasting and Paul had the intimate class, which took place in the basement kitchen of his Soho shop, try a wide variety of different chocolate with varying amounts of cocoa solids in from a very sweet milk chocolate all the way through to 100% cocoa solids which for me was like eating bitter sand.  We learnt all about the chocolate making process and how they make chocolate to sell at his shops.  Paul is the only chocolatier in London working in a truly artisan way.  The whole process is done by hand in the kitchens. The flavours are developed by his team and made in small batches to keep the incredible taste combinations more creative and his customers begging for more. 

Seeing Paul working in such a traditional and artisan environment was fascinating and so of course I was interested to see how he uses the technology of his intel powered tablet to bring his whole empire together.  He told me how it keeps them connected between shops and kitchens.  It’s an instant training tool, where any member of his team can take a photo of a new recipe or chocolate and is able to store, archive and share it between the teams across the four shops and can take pictures of the new creations to share with managers across the shops as well as with his thousands of followers on social media channels.   They also use them for stock control and research.  Paul said that it has totally changed the way they work in a positive way commenting that it makes working slicker and more productive.

Our masterclass finished with the class really getting stuck in and making our own chocolate truffles.  There was something surprisingly tactile about the experience, forming the little balls of ganache, rolling them in the flat of our hands and best of all dipping them in warm liquid chocolate… a heavenly experience.  I also learnt that you can make ganache by adding any liquid to melted chocolate, from water to cream to whisky and I have since made the most glorious custard ganache which I was very proud of.

This recipe is taken from Paul’s book Adventures with Chocolate
To make a classic dark chocolate ganache, use the following recipe as your base.
Makes up to 50 chocolates

250g dark chocolate

250g double cream

100g light muscovado sugar

First, break the chocolate into small, even-sized pieces and place in a medium-size mixing bowl. Place the cream and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer for 1 minute. This will fully dissolve the sugar and kill any bacteria that may be present in the cream.
Turn off the heat and allow the cream to cool for 1 minute. (Pouring the cream on to the chocolate while boiling will scorch it and cause the cocoa butter in the chocolate to separate, resulting in a split ganache.)
Now pour your rested cream on to the chocolate pieces and mix well with a spatula or whisk until smooth and very glossy.
Allow the ganache to cool to room temperature, then place it, covered, in the fridge for at least 2 hours, or until it is fully set.
To roll the truffles, remove the set ganache from the fridge. Using a teaspoon, scoop even-sized pieces of the chocolate and place on to a sheet of parchment paper.
Powder your hands with cocoa powder, and then, using your fingers, begin to roll the ganache into evenly shaped spheres. Take care not to take too long over this, as the ganache will begin to melt and become impossible to roll.
Place the rolled truffles back on the parchment paper.
You can eat the truffles at this point, as they are dusted in cocoa powder, but I think a real truffle needs to have a crisp shell to protect it and to give a textural difference. To create this shell, you will need to coat your truffle in tempered chocolate.
If you are not eating the dusted truffles, place them in the fridge until needed.

over the next few months I will be exploring more food and technology related topics and sharing them with you here on the blog, plus I will also have a very exciting giveaway coming soon...

eat and of course, enjoy!

Tuesday, 23 September 2014


... we seem to have been adopted by a cat...  Audrey, for this is now her official name, was waiting patiently for us on our return from the big smoke.  We were worried about the little thing but she'd been well looked after by the whole village it seems and particularly Tracey who has been putting food out for her in our garden shed.  This weekend she spent her days lounging in the shafts of sunlight that warmed the sofa here in Belleau Cottage only occasionally looking up when one of us happened to loudly swish by disturbing her slumber but by the time we were ready to settle down for a chilled out evening she started climbing the walls... it was cute at first but she was keen to get out into her territory and start a bit of night hunting so we reluctantly let her out and off she ran into the night... of course the next morning she came meowing at the window and we let her in again and of course she found the nearest shaft of sunshine and promptly fell asleep...

... the problem is that we do love having her there but we are simply not there enough ourselves and so we feel that bonding with her like this is a bit of a mistake... we're already talking about when we're going to go home next to be with her.  So we need to find her a good home.  It's the best possible solution and this is our current task...

I was recently sent some masterclass crustybake bakeware from the good people at KitchenCraft... as you know, i'm a big bread fan, baking my own every weekend but i've never made baguettes before.  I think the traditional method looks quite complicated or at least quite lengthy and I have very little patience for these things so i'd never really bothered but as part of the package from KitchenCraft I received a very handsome baguette crisping tray so my days of excuses were over and I had to take the plunge... for a recipe I've turned the #GBBO master himself Sir Paul of Hollywood for what looks like quite a simple approach to this classic.

as you can see from the photo on the link the unique qualities of the masterclass crustybake bakeware are the multitude of little holes cut out of the heavy duty metal and as you can imagine they are designed to allow air to circulate under and into whatever you're cooking creating perfect, crispy crusty loaves and not a soggy bottom in sight... the double non-stick coating helps enormously too.

500g strong white bread flour
10g salt
10g instant dried yeast
370 water
olive oil for kneading

lightly oil a 2-3 litre square plastic container - square is important as it helps shape the dough.

Paul advises to use a mixer with a bread hook as the dough is quite wet, so for the next stage put the flour, salt and yeast into the bowl of a mixer, add three quarters of the water and begin mixing at a low speed, as the dough starts to come together, slowly add the remaining water, then continue to mix on a medium speed for 7 minutes until you have a glossy, elastic dough.

tip the dough into the prepared tub, cover with a tea towel and leave until at least doubled in size - roughly one hour.

line 2 baking trays with parchment or if you have, use a masterclass crustybake baguette tray

drizzle a little olive oil on your work surface and then gently ease the dough out of the tub onto it.  Rather than knock back the dough, gently handle it.  The dough will be a little sticky

divide the dough into 4 equal rectangles and gently tease out each rectangle into a sausage shape by slowly rolling the palm of your hands along the shape

lay each sausage shape onto your prepared tray, cover with a little oiled cling film or place each tray into a plastic bag and set aside for another hour

during this hour wait, pre-heat your oven to 220C and place an empty but deep baking tray onto the bottom shelf of the oven

once your baguettes are risen, dust them lightly with flour then slash each one 3 times with a sharp knife along its length on the diagonal.  Fill the roasting tray with water to create steam and put the bread into the oven

bake for 25 minutes until the bread is golden brown

cool completely on a wire rack before breaking bread

eat and of course, enjoy!

Sunday, 21 September 2014

rose meringue cupcakes with a kirsch & cherry jam filling

... a few months ago I was invited to join a special group of male bloggers on facebook.  It's just a little meeting place where a few of us rare-breed male bakers can share recipes and cooking ideas and  generally encourage each other towards greatness.  We've also decided to set ourselves a monthly challenge to cook anything we like as long as it includes that months theme, there's no pressure to take part but there are a lot of bloggers in the group that i'd not come across before and it's nice to link up to all those bloggers and spread some baking love... this months theme is meringue.

rose meringue cupcakes with a raspberry jam filling
my main inspiration for these cupcakes are these stunning little beauties over on Janice's blog... it was the stewed apple filling that really got me going and that's when I remembered that my old friend Satu bought me a cupcake corer years ago and i've never used it... last week I also attended a fun launch event for Billington's sugar.  The event was to promote their new campaign called #BakeFace which is encouraging us all to take pictures of our face whilst eating cakes... a bit daft, I know but it's all in the name of fun and if you upload your pic to their on-line gallery you could be in the chance with winning some baking fun... of course we left the event with a bag full of Billingtons goodies so in their honour i'm using some of their gorgeous golden caster sugar to make these cupcakes.  It's a lovely, light and frothy basic cupcake recipe that i've adapted from the Primrose Bakery book of Cupcakes and it's a winner.

for the cupcakes
110g slightly salted butter at room temp
225g Billington's golden caster sugar
2 large free-range eggs
275g plain flour sifted with
2 teaspoons baking powder
120ml milk
1 teaspoon rose water
1 tablespoon kirsch liquor
2 tablespoons cherry jam

for the rose and meringue buttercream icing
110g unsalted butter at room temp
60ml milk
1 teaspoon rose water
500g icing sugar - sifted
2 meringue nests - crushed
one drop of red food colouring

me and Edd Kimber #GBBO winner, doing our #bakeface

pre-heat the oven to 160C fan assisted and line a 12 hole cupcake tray with paper cases

in a large bowl using a hand-held electric whisk, cream the sugar and butter for about 5 mins until it is light and fluffy then add the eggs one at a time, beating for a few minutes after each egg is added

add the rose water to the milk

weigh the flour together with the baking powder and then sift one third into the batter and whisk in followed by a third of the milk whilst beating, continue until all the flour and milk has been used

carefully spoon into your cupcake cases until 2/3rds full and then bake for 20 - 25 minutes until golden and risen.  Let them cool in the tray for 10 mins then remove and place on a wire rack until completely cool

next, make the icing... in a large bowl beat the milk, butter, rose water and half the icing until smooth which can take several minutes with a hand-held electric whisk, then add the remaining icing sugar and any food colouring and beat until the icing is smooth and creamy.

break one of the meringue nests into a million pieces and gently beat these in to the icing

prepare the kirsch filling by mixing together the kirsch liquor and cherry name and then you're ready to assemble the cupcakes... take your corer and core out the centre of each cupcake, then fill each hole with the jam and cover liberally with icing... sprinkle large chunks of meringue on top

... don't forget to check out all the other Baking Boy Bloggers on the list in my right-hand column and everyone who's taken part in this months challenge... oh and if you're a baking boy then feel free to join our gang over on Facebook.

other great meringue recipes from the Baking Boy Bloggers:

Eton Mess Fudge from The Crafty Larder
Carrot Cake Meringue Pie from Cakeboi
Tart au Citron meringue from Les Plaisirs Sucres d'Antoine
Cataron from Oh la vache!

because i've used kirsch as a main ingredient I am entering these cupcakes into this months AlphaBakes which has the letter K to be thankful for... AlphaBakes is hosted by Caroline from Caroline Bakes and Ros from The More Than Occasional Baker.

eat and of course, enjoy!

Friday, 19 September 2014

all in one - slow roast chicken thighs with plums, carrots, potatoes, garlic and celery

... the perfect Friday night dinner.  Like all good jewish boys the Friday night dinner holds a very special place in my heart.  Whilst we didn't consider ourselves a particularly religious family we proudly embraced any celebration involving food and this included the traditional Friday night dinner.  Most secular jewish households would welcome in the weekend sabbath with a big roast meal - the equivalent of the traditional Christian Sunday lunch which itself has become a very British institution these days of gastropubs and extended groups of friends.  As a child we we often invite good friends over to eat with us and we in turn would go to their houses for this special meal... and much like this I do like to gather the masses, be it family or friends and bung a chicken in the oven on a Friday night... the FND usually starts with a dish of chopped liver, followed by traditional chicken soup and then followed by a large roast meat of some kind, usually chicken... we like our chicken and will use every little bit of the bird if we can... it's a great way to start the weekend as you mean to go on, full of good food and a little bit tipsy with wine...

all in one - slow roast chicken thighs with plums, carrots, potatoes, garlic and celery
can you believe it's been nearly a year since I posted a chicken thigh recipe...many of my long-suffering readers will know all about my love of chicken thighs... just take a look at my word cloud in the right-hand column of this blog to see just how many recipe i've created... but should there be anyone out there who hasn't experienced the delights of the humble chicken thigh then let this super-easy, and ultra-tasty recipe get you hooked.  Chicken thighs - they MUST have their skin-on and bone in - are so wonderfully tender and tasty.  They have the perfect ration of fat to meat compared to the bland breast, which means they slow cook beautifully and after an hour or two on a low heat the meat falls of the bone and the juices become rich and deeply satisfying... they are thoroughly versatile and will take a lot of seasoning without losing their own special flavour so you can whip them into a curry or a gumbo with gusto and I suppose most importantly they are wonderfully inexpensive, even the free-range organic ones...

the victoria plums that i've added here are not traditional but work beautifully with the rich thigh meat... heavenly!

1 packet of mixed free-range chicken thighs and legs (my pack had 3 thighs and 2 legs)
1/2 large onion - roughly chopped
1 medium carrot - roughly chopped
1 large celery - roughly chopped
3 small potatoes - roughly chopped
3 victoria plums - quartered
1 bulb of garlic - cut in half through the middle
a selection of fresh herbs
a little seasoning and olive oil

pre-heat the oven to 140C

place all the chopped veg and plums into an oven proof dish or into a crockpot with a lid, season well and sprinkle with fresh herbs of your choice.

lay the chicken pieces on top, season again then cover tightly with foil or place the lid on and roast in the oven for at least an hour on 140C then take off the lid, turn the heat up to 180C and roast for a further 20 mins to brown the chicken and potatoes

I'm also entering this dish into the Slow Cooker Challenge hosted each month by the jubilant Janice from Farmersgirl Kitchen... the theme this month is to cook something with fruit and yes I know I didn't make this in an actual slow cooker but it is slowly cooked and i'm stubbornly entering it wether she likes it or not...

eat and of course, enjoy!

Sunday, 14 September 2014

roast mushroom and caramelised onion pie with quick flaky pastry

... we're off to Cologne this week for a fashion and technology event.   I've never been to Cologne before and to be honest it's not a place i'd ever really considered as a destination and even though we're mostly going to be stuck inside one of those vast exhibition halls all day i've done a little research and it looks as though there's a healthy restaurant and food scene and so i'm hoping it will be more than just sausage and pickled cabbage... we should have a few free evenings to go off exploring and our hotel is in the heart of town so I am keen to seek out a few special places.

Isn't it funny how we think of 'food first', before all else the question of 'but what and where shall we eat?' will be muttered.  Of course most of the time it's in anticipation of culinary delights and perhaps trying something local and new to the pallet but with a vegetarian in tow I always have a little panic about what The Viking will be able to eat without it impacting on the above... like taking the preverbal 'coals to Newcastle' you really shouldn't take a vegetarian to the sausage capital of Europe...

roast mushroom and caramelised onion pie with quick flaky pastry
i'm so glad we're finally coming up to pie season... it seems like a long summer without pie but now the evenings are starting to draw in and despite the current late Indian summer we seem to be experiencing there's enough of a chill in the evening air to call for pie, so I thought a nice, hearty and very simple vegetarian classic was in order... this is my favourite go-to veggie pie... dark and rich with a red wine reduction and the promise of colder more autumnal flavours in mind... but to be honest any vegetables you have in the fridge will work... plus a nice and quick flaky butter pastry which obviously has the power to heal all ails and restore body and soul...

... and yes, whilst I may be criticised for the slipped pastry, I adore the rustic look of this pie and I have to tell you that that pastry was phenomenally good!

for the flaky pastry
250g strong bread flour
250g slightly salted butter - room temp cut into cubes
3 or 4 tablespoons water to mix

for the filling
3 medium onions - roughly diced
300g closed cup mushrooms or button mushrooms - quartered
fresh rosemary and thyme
1 pint good quality vegetable stock
1 teaspoon plain flour
1 large glass of red wine
a large handful of frozen peas
seasoning and olive oil

pre-heat the oven to 180C

start with the pastry by placing the flour and butter into a large bowl and rub together with your fingertips... you want it to be well rubbed in but still with large pieces of butter rather than breadcrumbs

add the water and bring together into a ball of dough, flatten out, wrap in going film and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes until completely cold

whilst you're waiting for the pastry to chill place your mushrooms into an oven-proof dish, drizzle with a little olive oil, season well and sprinkle with plenty of fresh rosemary and thyme.  cover in foil and roast for 20 minutes until tender, then remove the foil and roast for a further 10 minutes until they begin to turn golden - set aside

now the pastry is ready for it's first roll... flour your rolling surface generously and then roll out the pastry nice and thin, then gate-fold the pastry together (fold the top half over towards the centre and the bottom half over to the top) then roll flat, wrap and refrigerate once again until very cold

meanwhile, heat some oil and butter in a pan and very gently sauté the onions with a dash of sugar until they begin to caramelise... this can take up to 30 minutes... then turn up the heat, add the wine and let it bubble away and reduce by half, then add the stock and do the same

time to take the pastry out of the fridge and repeat the roll out and fold, pop it back into the fridge for the last time

take the mushrooms out of the oven and stir them into the onions along with a large handful of frozen peas and then pour the whole lot into your pie dish

take the pastry out of the fridge and roll out... we like our pastry nice and thick in this house, you have to cook it for longer and slower but it's so beautifully buttery it really doesn't matter...

using an egg and milk wash, brush the edges of the pie dish, then cut some pastry strips and fold then along the edges of the pie dish, then brush these strips with the egg wash and lay the main sheet of pastry over the top, brush with milk and score your pastry

bake for 30 mins on 170C until golden

using the rosemary and thyme gives this pie a little Mediterranean flavour so i'm entering it into the Cooking with Herbs and Tea Time Treats bloggers challenges... Cooking with Herbs is hosted by Karen from Lavender and Lovage and Tea Time Treats is also hosted by Karen alongside Jane from The Hedge Combers

eat and of course, enjoy!



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