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!

Thursday, 9 October 2014

beetroot crisps

... I know that pumpkins are the king of vegetables at halloween but as far as i'm concerned beetroot is the secret star of the spooky holiday... I was thinking about all the fun halloween baking that i'll be doing later in the month and I thought that perhaps I ought to make something that was a little on the healthier side but still has that creepy feeling to it and beetroot is just perfect.  One chop into its hardened flesh reveals an outpouring of blood-red juice that stains the hands in a way that would make Lady Macbeth think twice.  This brilliant vegetable is incredibly healthy for your heart and is incredibly versatile working well in both savoury and sweet dishes.  It's earthiness cuts through rich stews such as this chicken thigh and beetroot roast whilst it's texture and depth of flavour combines beautifully in this lush beetroot and dark chocolate brownie.  I love roasting it like a potato with balsamic vinegar and olive oil as the earthy flavour seems to intensify and these beetroot crisps have that wonderful quality to them, plus they look so darkly evil, how could you not love them?

beetroot crisps
O'live is a new, quality organic fresh produce brand currently available in Whole Foods market stores.  With a specific focus on organic salad vegetables, O'live grows and selects only the finest produce, ensuring it brings us lot truly the best of organic... and yes, it can be an expensive playground but if you're going to spoil yourself once in a while let's make it taste amazing shall we?  The current range comprises five products; celery, fresh beetroot, cos lettuce, little gem lettuce and spring onions, all of which feature minimal packaging (my big bug bear) which helps further minimise the brand's impact on the environment...  I was sent the range to try and review last week and I have to admit it all went very quickly.  We eat a lot of salad during the week and so much of it can be so bland and dull so it is nice to treat yourself once in a while... the beetroot was set aside for my crisps which The Viking and I munched whilst watching our favourite horror flick 28 Days Later, just for practice for the big day at the end of the month!

4 large beetroot - skin on, very thinly sliced
olive oil or spray (I used my new favourite Lurpak Cooking Mist
salt and pepper
fresh thyme

prepare 2 or 3 flat baking sheets with parchment paper and pre-heat the oven to 160C

cut the beetroot as thin as possible, you could use a mandolin but I did them by hand as I like a chunky chip

if you're using olive oil then place them into a large bowl, sprinkle with seasoning and drizzle with a good glut of olive oil and then get your hands in and stir them up

lay them out evenly on your baking tray - if you're using a spray oil then do this first and spray them once they're laid out

bake on 160C for 10 mins, then turn and re-spray and bake for another 10 mins... if you've cut them really thin you'll need to watch them like a hawk so they don't burn.  I baked mine for about 30 mins in total and then turned the oven off and let them stay in the cooling oven to dry out

set them aside to cool completely, season again if you feel they need a little extra salt and then serve them in little paper cones

eat and of course, enjoy!

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

coffee bundt cake

... the new Lurpak Cooks Range Cooking Mist is my new favourite kitchen gadget... don't worry, they haven't paid me to say this and although they did send me some to try I am honestly a little obsessed with it and things have been spritzed that perhaps should have been... many food brands spend time and a lot of money developing extensions to their original offer and of course a lot of them fall at the first, unpalatable hurdle but this range of butter and baking inspired items is grounded is a good quality, traditional produce and offers actual stuff you'd use rather than stuff that's going to lurk at the back of the fridge for years before you throw it away... the Cooking Mist is amazing for a number of things such as quick frying, spray coating vegetables and glazing.  I've used it for greasing my baking tins which is a godsend plus I also used it to spritz onto cubes of bread to make the easiest crutons i've ever made.  The Baking is a butter-like blend of butter and vegetable oil which means you can bake with it directly from the fridge and i've used it here in this cake with lovely results.  I'm not a huge fan of this kind of spread as I fear they use all kinds of dreadful free-radicals to create that soft texture and I'd much rather just use some classic Lurpak butter but it worked fine and tasted very good...

coffee bundt with butter cream icing
lovely Emily at the office has been pining for promised cake for a week or two now and I don't think I can take her cat-like mewling any longer so i've succumbed to bake a bundt.  Instead of just baking something, I made the mistake of asking what kind of cake she'd like.  Emily is one of those wonderful creatures who seems so naturally easy going and carefree but actually she's quite a fusspot, particularly when it comes to food... 'it has to be coffee cake, you like coffee cake don't you, I love coffee cake but not with nuts, I don't like nuts... i'm not allergic to nuts - everyone asks me that, it's just that I don't like them, so coffee cake without the nuts please but it must have coffee butter cream icing'... this came out in one breath and so coffee cake without the nuts but with the butter cream icing it is... I hope she likes it.

i've made a bundt in a 25cm bundt tin but the recipe classically calls for two 20cm round cake tins - either will work and I don't care.

i'm also using the brilliant LittlePod  responsibly sourced pure coffee extract which is widely available... otherwise use instant coffee for that classic coffee hit... you'll need two tablespoons mixed with one tablespoon of water for each of the cake and the icing.

for the cake
250g butter or Lurpak Cooks Range Baking
250g golden caster sugar
4 large free range eggs
250g plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
3 tsp pure coffee extract

for the butter cream icing
170g butter (must be butter)
425g icing sugar
3 tsp pure coffee extract
2 tablespoons TOTAL Greek Yoghurt
1 tsp salt
a little cognac if you like

pre-heat the oven to 170C and grease and line your baking tins... I have used the Lurpak Cooks Range Cooking Mist to spritz on the inside of the bundt tin and as you can see it has helped the cake turn out beautifully...

in a large bowl, beat the sugar and butter using a hand-held electric whisk, for at least 5 minutes until smooth and pale and fluffy, then beat in 2 of the eggs, scrape down the sides of the bowl and sieve in half the flour and baking powder followed by another whisking.

add the remaining eggs along with your coffee and beat in, followed by the remaining flour and beat again, if the mixture is looking too thick add a little milk till you have a thick but dropping consistency - pour into your tin and bake - 25 mins for two round cakes but 35 mins for the bundt, you'll know it's ready when a skewer interred comes out clean

let it sit on a wire rack in the tin for 10 minutes and then remove and set aside until completely cool

to make the icing, beat the butter until very pale and creamy, then add the sugar and coffee and beat until creamed, then add the yoghurt and beat again... go as strong as you like with the coffee and a dash of cognac is always nice too...

pipe or spread the icing over the bundt to the best or messiest of your abilities... I drizzled a little toffee sauce over too and grated some chocolate for extra messiness

eat and of course, enjoy!



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