Wednesday, 12 March 2014
... even though I enjoy a cup of coffee i've never been one of those 'must-have' coffee drinkers... for instance, the viking quite literally cannot get moving in the morning without a cup of the strong stuff and his is the kind of cup you could stand a spoon up in... I can function without that first cup and I believe that this makes me appreciate the taste just a little more - whilst the viking is simply after the caffeine I am happy to relax into a glorious cup of toasted, roasted beans... I appreciate the biscuity aroma of a pure arabica coffee but I don't need it injected direct into the vein...
... the good people at Carte Noire have launched a new range of capsules exclusively for use in Nespresso* machines, which is fantastic for those like the viking who simply can't wait for their coffee and even the thought of having to stand and wait for the process of kettle brewing, coffee steeping and cafetiere plunging is just too much! There are four distinct flavours and each espresso comes with its own special character, luckily for my lack of caffeine addiction I can distinguish between these flavours and share my thoughts with you...
No3 - Elegant
pure arabica beans that deliver a classic smooth taste... for me this is the ultimate breakfast coffee as the aroma is reminiscent of biscuits, oats and cereals... the easiest to drink and enjoy cup after cup.
No5 - Delicat
again a pure arabica but this one has a sourness to it that wasn't to my liking... it describes itself as fruity and silky but I wasn't so keen although the viking was more than happy to quaff...
No7 - Aromatique
for me, this was a clear favourite with a distinct 'machiato' naturalness to the taste reminding me of eating chocolate digestives by an open log fire... perfect for baking into a cake you'll find...
No9 - Intense
as the name suggests this one has a bit of a kick to it but not in a horrendous aggressive way, this has one of those chili type heats that builds on each delightful sip - again great for baking into cakes and confectioneries...
coffee, banana and white chocolate cake slices
being the food blogger that I am I couldn't simply provide you with a review, it would only be honourable of me to give you a coffee-based recipe too... something sweet and simple to accompany that first cup of coffee, or at any time of day to be honest. The coffee is plunged last-moment on top of the cake before it goes into oven and swirled through so it blends beautifully with the banana and vanilla in the white chocolate... to me each slice is like an extra creamy sweet latte...
for the cake:
250g slightly salted butter - cut into cubes
250g white chocolate -green and blacks do an amazing one with vanilla
250g light brown soft sugar
3 large eggs
250g mashed banana (roughly three)
150g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 espresso cup Carte Noire Aromatique coffee
for the icing:
200g icing sugar
200g butter - softened
1/2 espresso cup Carte Noire Intense coffee
2 tablespoons TOTAL Greek Yoghurt
you will need a shallow baking tray roughly 25 x 20cm. I actually used an old pyrex dish I normally use for lasagne which I lined with parchment paper and this worked fine
place the chocolate and the butter into a large oven-proof bowl and place it into the oven then switch the oven on to 180C and allow the butter to melt into the chocolate for roughly 6 to 8 minutes although check after five and give it a stir with a spatula
in another large bowl beat the eggs into the sugar with a whisk then pour in the melted chocolate and whisk together
sieve the flour and baking soda into the mixture and gently fold in, then add the banana and fold in.
pour into the baking tray and pour 1 cup of Carte Noire Aromatique on top and using a knife, swirl into the cake - then bake for 20-30 minutes
once out of the oven set aside till cooled and then pop into the fridge to chill for at least an hour
to make the icing beat the softened butter into the icing sugar and greek yoghurt and pour over 1/2 cup of Carte Noire Intense - do this in stages as you want to get a nice, thick consistency - you may need to add more icing sugar to reach the desired thickness
slice the cake into fingers and then pipe little waves of icing onto the slices using a flower-shaped piping nozzle - sprinkle with cocoa before scoffing
This post is an entry in the Foodies100 Espresso Collective Challenge, sponsored by Carte Noire. Each box of Carte Noire Espresso capsules contain 10 single servings and are available in supermarkets at an RRP of £2.79 and are available in four intensities. To find out more about the new Carte Noire Collection Espresso click here
*Nespresso® is a registered trademark of a third party without any link with Mondelez International group. Compatible with all Nespresso®* machines bought before July 1, 2013. After that date, compatible with most Nespresso®* machines bought. For additional information regarding compatibility, please see UK: www.CARTENOIRE.co.uk/compatibility
eat and of course, enjoy!
Monday, 10 March 2014
... this will be the fourth of my sous vide supreme trial posts and to be perfectly honest it is also only the fourth time i've used the machine. Whilst the results are without doubt faultless I still find the whole process a little alien, slightly faffy and dare I say it 'anti-cooking', I simply don't see the point of it. I'm sure if I ate more meat and I wanted to serve perfect steaks then yes, I would use it but to keep it out all the time is too much and I much prefer the hands-on approach to the cooking i've always done... i'm sorry but 6 hours to cook a steak is a pain in the arse, no matter how good the results...
... saying all this, the kangaroo fillet is breathtakingly tender and melts in the mouth like butter, so what do I know... as you can imagine i've never cooked kangaroo before although I have eaten an incredible carpaccio of kangaroo way back when The Viking used to run and bar and restaurant in London called Saint. We had a lovely antipodean chef called Neil who was often experimenting with pacific rim flavours and back in the 90's was one of the forerunners of what has now become a very popular food style. The kangaroo came to me from Kezie Foods as an exotic meat whilst the blackberry vodka came to me as a christmas present from lovely Lady Ann from the village who made it herself and is made with far less exotic, local blackberries.
sous vide kangaroo with rosemary mushrooms and blackberry vodka
for the Cooking with Herbs challenge this month Karen from Lavender and Lovage has given us Rosemary as the key herb... when I think of rosemary I automatically think of mushrooms, I just think they were made to be cooked together, not only do they compliment each other beautifully on a plate but the incredible aroma of mushrooms sauteing in butter with the grassy fragrance of rosemary is simply stunning... if I could bottle it and sell it, I would.
1 x 225g kangaroo fillet
2 tablespoons blackberry vodka (any berry vodka would work - or sloe gin)
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper
200g chestnut mushrooms or small brown mushrooms - thickly sliced
2 springs of rosemary
butter and olive oil
salt and pepper
pre-heat the sous vide to 55C
place the kangaroo fillet into a vacuum seal bag along with the vodka olive oil and seasoning and seal. once the sous vide is up to heat place the kangaroo into the sous vide and set the time for 6 hours
once your meat is ready, heat a large griddle pan or frying pan and melt some olive oil and butter
throw in the mushrooms and rosemary and gently saute for 10 mins, turning regularly, then season well with salt and pepper and once soft and starting to brown scoop out and set aside
increase the heat on the pan and once very hot cut the kangaroo out of the vacuum bag and tip the contents into the pan. seal on both sides for roughly 3 mins then set aside on a cutting board for a few minutes whilst you plate up
eat and of course , enjoy!
Saturday, 8 March 2014
... a huge word of advice... don't bake this in a loose-bottomed cake tin... the sugar dissolves and seeps through the bottom and burns on the bottom of the oven so you have to turn on your second oven, get it up to temperature fast and then shuffle the cake over and clean the oven before your house fills with smoke... but then you knew that didn't you...
pineapple and coconut chocolate upside-down cake
it's been years since i've made an upside-down cake and when I saw this gorgeous beauty from Ros over at The More Than Occasional Baker I simply knew I had to make one for the brilliant AlphaBakes challenge, co hosted by Caroline from Caroline Makes and which reaches its alphabetical conclusion this month with the letter U... I mean come on girls... they really couldn't have picked a worse letter to end with although i am rather pleased as it gives me an excuse to make this utterly lovely cake. When I was thinking about which cleverly sophisticated fruit to use I asked the viking for an idea and he simply blurted out pineapple... old-school... no arguments from me!
for the topping
50g butter - softened
50g soft light brown sugar
6 or 7 tinned pineapple rings
2 tablespoons desiccated coconut
for the cake
100g caster sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons desiccated coconut
2 tablespoons pineapple syrup from the tin
cream the butter and sugar until soft and light and spread this onto the bottom of a 20cm cake tin and about a quarter of the way up the sides - i used a small spreading spatula for this
place the pineapple slices on top of this with a cherry in the middle of each and dotted around the gaps and then sprinkle on the coconut
place all the ingredients for the cake into a bowl and beat together until soft and smooth then pour onto the pineapples and smooth off with a knife
bake for 30-35 mins on 180C until it has risen and a skewer inserted comes out clean - set aside to cool slightly before eating - you want to serve this a little warm
...never to let a good cake baking session go to waste I've added a little bit of cocoa and coconut to the mix purely to allow this cake to qualify for this months we should cocoa challenge, founded by Choclette from the Chocolate Log Blog and hosted this month by Laura at I'd Rather Bake the theme is coconut... as it happens the combination is rather classic and works superbly with this cake, so as ever it's a win-win.
eat and of course, enjoy!
Thursday, 6 March 2014
...isn't it funny how we have those foods we love and the foods we loath? When I was younger I had a thing about avocados and i'm sure my mum will tell you about the times I would be dragged kicking and screaming into the local curry house which seems so odd to me as I simply love both now... I also hated school custard with a vengeance - the dried skin, that acrid fake smell, the yellowness of it all. I'm still not a hundred percent a custard fan but at a push, if it's home made with plenty of cream and vanilla then I can cope... I have friends who don't like cheese... not for dietary reasons, just because they don't like it and this is so alien to me. I could live on cheese and bread alone. Any type of cheese. Big blocks of cheddar or delicate wedges of creamy brie, I love it all... which is probably why I have a belly shaped like a cheese roll...
baked cheesy onion blossom
I think it was an episode of Will & Grace where Grace orders onion blossom from a salubrious seafood shack that first got me intrigued by the idea of this very north american delicacy... normally it would be deep-fried in a cajun style batter and i'm still yet to try this original version, it's funny because I almost like the idea in my mind of how it would taste more than actually trying it, however, I had a glut of onions leftover from my cooking-demo weekend and thought these the perfect way to use them up... and they are glorious when baked - the topping is crunchy with a kick whilst the onion is mellow and soft... I was also sent some gorgeous cheddar from the very kind folks at Davidstow and I wanted to get creative with it and thought this was the perfect opportunity...
... Davidstow has always been my absolute favourite cheddar. It has an unmistakable crumbly creaminess that I have never tasted in another cheddar and they have won many deserving awards over the past 60 years of business. They sent me 3 different vintages - the cornish classic mature, the cornish crackler extra mature and a 3 year special reserve which, lord knows how, I haven't opened yet but i'm planning to use them all in recipes over the next few weeks so look out for some super-cheesy posts...
makes 2 onion blossoms
2 large onions
1 large free-range egg
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon chinese five spice
2 tablespoons plain flour
50g butter - melted
100g strong cheddar cheese - very finely grated
don't attempt this without a really sharp knife...
take the onion, cut off the non-root end and peel the onion, then shave off a slither of the root so that it can stand flat on your baking tray - just be careful not to slice off the whole root as you need it to hold the onion together
now cut across the onion from the tip down to the root but not cutting through the root, then turn it 90 degrees and cut through it again, continue to cut until you've divided it into 16ths, now gently prise apart the layers of the onion so it opens up like a flower
in a large bowl beat the eggs with a dash of milk and then beat in the melted butter and a couple of tablespoons of olive oil
in another bowl mix together the spices, flour and cheese
dip the onion into the egg and make sure all the layers are thoroughly drenched then place the onion on a baking tray and sprinkle generously with the flour and spice mix making sure you get it into all the layers
pour the remaining butter and egg mix onto the onions before baking slowly on 150C for about 30 mins or until the onion softens and opens beautifully
pull apart and eat with lashings of garlic mayonnaise
eat and of course, enjoy!
Tuesday, 4 March 2014
... sometimes I feel that the foodie community has hit a brick wall. This is totally one of those middle-class problems - a classic case of the emperors new clothes but I feel I need to speak up against what I see as an issue before our whole wonderful community throws itself unwittingly off a cliff. The thing is, just because you wrap your food-market stall in hessian and serve it on an aged wooden paddle it doesn't give you an excuse to serve vile food... and i'm not solely blaming the market-stall holder either but the stupid wankers who shop in these awful 'farmers markets' should take some of the flack too... i'm sure we've all seen these pop-up markets take-over trendy neighbourhoods and yes, many of them add value and have a lot to offer but sometimes I get the feeling that these 'artisan' stall-holders are becoming as deadly to the food world as the homogenous 'luxury' high-street stores... if you're everywhere then you simply aren't luxury, you're common...
... now that The Viking and I are spending more weekends in London i'm coming to the realisation that London is a foreign city in its own county, there's very little British left about it and of course, i'm not talking about the historic and ongoing wealth of incredible ethnic variety which i'm proud to be included in, i'm talking about the wealthy non-Londoners who are sculpting the place into a play-town and destroying any chance we have at not becoming one giant mall...
dukkah-crusted chicken thighs
as you know i'm always on the lookout for something new and intriguing to do with my beloved chicken thighs... this week I was sent a wonderful collection of goodies from olives et al who specialise, as the name suggests, in all things olive and the kind of wonderfully tasty things you might imagine eating on a trip around the med and north africa. Their extra virgin olive oil is spectularly grassy and nutty - just the way I like it, plus it retains its taste when cooked, so you can almost treat it like a herb... their egyptian inspired dukkah is a new one for my spice cupboard but i've gone with the north african influence for the rest of the ingredients and the results were really rather special...
1 portion of chicken thighs and legs
4 tablespoons olives et al dukkah spice mix
2 tablespoons tapenade
1 onion - finely chopped
4 cloves garlic
a handful runner beans or flat green beans - roughly chopped
2 long sweet red peppers - halved and quartered
1 medium courgette - roughly chopped
1 medium beetroot - peeled and chopped
1 300g tin chickpeas
1 glass white wine
1/2 pint good quality veg stock
8 or 9 olives - pitted and mixed
you will need a large casserole dish with a lid
take your chicken portions and smear the skin with the tapenade then sprinkle each portion with a little of the dukkah spice mix, patting it into the tapenade
place all the veg into the casserole and lay the chicken portions on top, pop the lid on and bake in the oven on 160C for one hour, then remove the lid, turn up the oven to 180C and bake for a further 15 mins
serve over lashings of couscous or mashed sweet potato
eat and of course, enjoy!
Sunday, 2 March 2014
... 24th Feb - 9th March is fairtrade fortnight, a whole two weeks to celebrate the amazing work that the good people at the fairtrade foundation have achieved over the past 22 years. Just in case you've been living under a rock for the past couple of decades, fairtrade is about better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world. It is a sad fact that even now since those 22 years, developing countries still have massive problems with all of these issues, so much so that the fabulous Foncho from Colombia has started his own campaign to ensure the stability of banana farmers all over the world... you can read all about his project and sign his petition here.
... of course as a foodie, for me fairtrade is a mark of reliability for not just food grown with humanity but of exceptional quality... and there's a great range of products available from many of the UK's leading supermarkets, from spices to fruit and veg and of course chocolate...
beetroot and chocolate brownies
as many of you will know I debuted my premier London demo-cooking session at Westfield Stratford yesterday. It was an unusual experience and I felt thrown to the wolves somewhat as it was unlike any of the other demo experiences i'd done... I really had to work the crowd and during my first session I made meatballs which took a long time to pique anyone's interest but on the second session I whipped up these glorious brownies, adapted from a recipe from the River Cottage Every Day book, and they went down an absolute treat, so much so that I changed my third session to make these again... the kids seems to love the pink icing and the mums love that they can fool their kids into eating vegetables and of course everyone loves chocolate...
for the brownies
250g 70% dark chocolate - all the The Co-Operative own brand chocolate is fairtrade
250g slightly salted butter - diced
230g light brown soft sugar
3 large free-range eggs
160g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
250g beetroot - cooked until soft
for the icing
the juices from the beetroot
roughly 200g icing sugar
2 or 3 tablespoons TOTAL greek yoghurt
grease and line a shallow brownie tin roughly 20cm x 25cm
you can either buy raw beetroot, peel it and boil it until soft or I discovered that most supermarkets sell 250g packets of pre-cooked beetroot which works superbly well and saves a lot of mess... make sure you purchase the beetroot cooked in natural juices not pickled, that would not be nice...
break the chocolate and place it into an oven-proof bowl with the butter and pop the bowl into your cold oven and turn it on to pre-heat to 180C... the chocolate will gently melt as you warm your oven but keep an eye on it, the bowl gets hot, melting the choc and the butter and after about 8 mins you can simply take it out of the oven and stir until it's melted and gloriously glossy
place the eggs and sugar into a bowl and whisk together until blended and smooth then pour in the chocolate and beat together gently
sift over the flour and baking powder and using the same balloon whisk fold it in to the chocolate egg mix a couple of times
in a separate bowl, grate the beetroot. Squeeze out most of the juices and retain the bowl with the juices in it
place the grated beetroot into the brownie batter and fold it through gently until all the flour and beetroot has been evenly dispersed
pour into your brownie tin and bake on 180C for 25 - 30 mins... you want a skewer to come out slightly clean but retain a little moisture - set aside to cool
to make the icing simply add the icing sugar and yoghurt to the beetroot juices and beat until you have the desired consistency... you may need to reduce the amount of juices you have before you add the sugar... then simply drizzle this with wild abandon over the brownies
eat and of course, enjoy!
Friday, 28 February 2014
... well what can we say? It's been a month of chocolate madness here at random recipes HQ and I know Choclette will join me in thanking you all for the tremendous effort you've put in to this months challenge and so without further ado let's kick-off with my co-host...
the adorably chocolatey Choclette from the Chocolate Log Blog and her Real Chocolate Brownies randomly selected from Real Chocolate by Chantal Coady
feast your eyes on the rest of your amazing chocolate entries after the jump...