Friday, 17 April 2015

rosanna pink onion tarte tatin

... I imagine the developers of predictive text thought they were building a tool for a better future when in fact they have unwittingly created a monster.  Whilst it's wonderful for those quick corrections of obvious typo's it also manages to both correct and destroy prose in one fail swoop of the keyboard.  I've recently been fortunate enough to purchase a reconditioned MacBook Air which I adore but it comes with many functions that are so beyond clever that i've ended up switching them off.  I know I can do that with the predictive text too but it is a fine balance between useful and frustrating.  If I read back through recent blog posts I am often left with a sense of bewilderment at the strange language and odd words that I clearly didn't mean but that clever old PT slipped under the radar in the name of correct spelling... this usually become most frustrating when i'm trying to write recipes or recipe titles, such as the simple tarte tatin.  It's been named tarte tatin for countless generations.  Not tart satin or air tat-in.  It sends an angry shiver down my spine because it makes me question the validity of my knowledge and makes me assume that one day the tarte tatin will simply disappear forever under the misguided notion of some clever boffins in california...

rosanna pink onion tarte tatin
meanwhile back in the world where i'm not so grumpy I was sent a bag of beautiful Rosanna Pink Onions to play with... i'd never heard of them before but they are quite delightful and so pretty too and even though my recipe called for such a long cooking time that they totally lost their colour they gained a stunning golden hue that I forgive myself for this little indiscretion... plus they tasted wonderful so I can only implore you to hunt them down...

... It's been a bumper time for gifts at Belleau Kitchen recently and I've been very lucky with my haul.     You'll notice in this recipe that i've also listed a balsamic vinegar.  I'm using a wonderfully rich and sweet balsamic called Due Vittorie and I can honestly say it is one of the most delicious balsamic's i've ever tried, i've actually been abusing myself with it over the weekend, not only adding it to recipes such as this along with salads but i've been tonguing it out of the bottle too... i'm filthy I know but it's too glorious not to!

this is such an incredibly simple tart to make... by placing butter and sugar under the onions in the pan i've eliminated the pre-frying in the pan first so it can all be done in the oven... so simple yet it looks so stunning...

roughly 8 medium sized onions - peeled
a few knobs of butter
olive oil
a little golden sugar
fresh thyme
a tablespoon or two of balsamic vinegar
1 sheet of ready made puff pastry (or make your own if you're mad)

i've used an oblong roasting tin as I like the shape and of course the puff pastry sheets come in an oblong shape so there's no wastage - and even less work!

pre-heat the oven to 140C

cut your onions in half... i've cut some from tip to root and some through the middle so that there's some pretty patterns going on in the final tart.

lay some knobs of butter in the bottom of the pan, sprinkle with a pinch or two of sugar and plenty of fresh thyme and lay your onions on top

drizzle with olive oil and place in the oven for at least an hour so that it gently bakes and caramelises the onions

after an hour, take it out of the oven and drizzle a little balsamic over and around the onions then pop it back into the oven for another gentle half an hour.

after half an hour take it out of the oven and set aside a little to cool, then once it's stop steaming, lay the sheet of pastry over the top, brush with egg wash or milk and pop it back into the oven for another 20 minutes or until the pastry has risen and turned golden

remove from the oven and set aside for a few minutes to cool

take a knife and ensure that the edges of the pastry are loose from the pan, then place a plate or chopping board over the pan and quickly flip the whole thing upside down and remove the pan

eat and of course, enjoy!

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Baileys Chocolate Luxe rice crispie squares

... they say that us Brits are obsessed with the weather and to be fair if I look back over this blog I do mention the weather on a regularly repeating's not just the changing seasons that i'm talking about here - which kind of makes sense as this is a food blog and the seasons do make a big difference for what we eat - but the general day to day weather.  We do live on an island on the edge of a large continent in the direct path of both the jet stream and the gulf stream which bring us a mix-n-match bag of weather throughout the year... we can barely plan for a weekend barbecue let alone a picnic in the park or even a walk to the local and this makes us a little obsessed about what's coming next.  if we lived in California we could be guaranteed of endless sunshine and we'd know that on any given weekend we could, with at least 80% accuracy, plan an alfresco meal with friends.  So when the headlines tell us that we're due a three month heatwave starting on Wednesday it's not surprising that we all go a little bit nuts...

... the crazy thing about our weather is that it can make or break us.  We base huge decisions such as planning our wedding days on the weather.  Fashion and drinks brands can win or lose based on the sunshine or snow and a win at an election can be as simple as if the sun came out that day... I love living here and enjoy the green fields and seasons as much as the next man but if we could just have a little fixed date sunshine and heat for the next couple of months that would be nice.  Please.

Baileys Chocolate Luxe rice crispie squares
there's something particularly grown up and a little naughty about these adorable little crispie treats... they are most definitely an after dinner, late night with a coffee type of thing... and I love that about them.  So many cakes and cookies and cupcakes are 'family friendly' which is all very well and good but it's nice to have something just ti ourselves for a change.  I was very kindly sent a bottle of this glorious creamy Bailey's Chocolate Luxe which is like the classic Bailey's Irish Cream but made with Belgian chocolate.  It's pretty much liquid gold in a glass and is crying out to be baked with, so I have...

150g dark chocolate - broken into pieces
150g butter - cut into cubes
a large glug of Bailey's Chocolate Luxe
150g Rice Krispies, or other puffed rice cereal

for the drizzle
75g milk chocolate
30g butter
a glug of Bailey's Chocolate Luxe
a little icing sugar for sweetness

butter and line a 20cm square deep-sided tin

place the rice krispies into a large bowl

place the chocolate and butter into a pan and very gently heat until it begins to melt, then remove it from the heat and stir with a spoon until it's all melted

add a large glug of liquor to the chocolate and stir, then pour this all over the puffed rice and stir together until entirely coated - you may want to add a dash or two more of the liquor, then spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and press down to form an even layer, pushing the mixture into the corners and sides of the tin - set aside to cool completely - chill it in the fridge for the ultimate crisp crunch

make the drizzle by melting the butter and chocolate together as before and then adding the Bailey's after it's off the heat... I would suggest adding less Bailey's for the drizzle and maybe even stirring a little icing sugar in to make it a little sweeter as it's nice to have that difference

I am of course entering these little treats into the We Should Cocoa bloggers challenge.  We Should Cocoa is hosted by Choclette from Tin and Thyme and this month has the theme of 'no bake' 

They are also going off to the brilliant Treat Petite challenge hosted by Kat from The Baking Explorer and Stuart from Cakeyboi

eat and of course, enjoy!

Monday, 13 April 2015

roast duck with plums, garlic and sweet potato

... it's funny how we go through phases of the things we like.  Up until a couple of years ago I was most definitely a red wine guy and then, for some unknown reason I simply couldn't drink it any more and moved onto white... it may have been a change in season or a change in me but for a while I would much prefer a chilled glass of white.  I think it may have a little to do with what I was eating with the wine.  I found that my choice of drinking white wine was because I wasn't necessarily eating with the wine and that red wine was too heavy to consume on its own at the bar or chatting with friends... and it's true for me as i've now found that if i'm sitting down to a wonderful long evening meal I will much prefer a glass of red.  It seems to set the mood as it has a mood of it's own and can bring so many more layers to the meal.  My palate has also matured, even in the past decade and I understand wine a little more now that i'm not just drinking to get tipsy, i'm actually looking for a wine that I enjoy and that compliments the situation... I sound proper grown up don't I?

... this Friday 17th April is World Malbec Day and to celebrate i've been working with the good people at Kumala Wine to develop a recipe that compliments their delicious Reserve Malbec...

roast duck with plums, garlic and sweet potato
Sometimes people can be intimidated by duck but treated this way using the thighs and legs the meat is rich and tasty and can be roasted slowly without drying out. It's such a simple dish to assemble with very little prep work but you end up with a beautiful and very mature dish.  The plums are the perfect accompaniment to the fruity deep notes in the Malbec and also work well to cut through the richness of the honey-glazed duck.

serves 4
4 duck legs and thigh portions - these can be purchased ready-portioned from the supermarket
4 plums - stoned removed and quartered
1 large sweet potato - peeled and roughly chopped
2 sticks of celery - roughly chopped
1 fennel bulb - roughly chopped
1 courgette - roughly chopped
1 large bulb of garlic - unpeeled and cut in half through the middle
salt and pepper
2 teaspoons honey
2 twigs of fresh rosemary
2 twigs of fresh thyme

pre-heat the oven to 140C

place all the chopped vegetables into an oven-proof dish or roasting pan, season well with salt and pepper and sprinkle over the fresh herbs.  Place the duck portions on top (skin up,) sprinkle well with salt then cover the whole dish with foil and bake slowly in the oven for 1 hour

after an hour carefully remove the foil, turn the duck portions over, turn up the oven to 180C and roast for another 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and carefully turn the duck portions back over.  There should be plenty of duck and plum juices in the dish so take this opportunity to spoon the juices over the duck, then drizzle each one with a little honey and roast again for another 15 mins or until the skin is a glorious golden brown.

remove from the oven, spoon over the juices once more and then you're ready to serve... this dish can be simply served as it is with all the roasting vegetables or alongside some creamy mash and fresh greens such kale or spinach

the good people at Kumala have also created a little gecko character who supplies us with his special #GeckoHacks through their Facebook page... they're all food related but my favourite is the old herbs in ice cube trick -it's pretty simple but as the gecko says..."Add a few weeks' life span to leftover herbs by putting them in an ice tray, covering them in oil and freezing. When you're ready to cook again, simply add the ice cubes to your frying pan and they're good to go!"

eat and of course enjoy!

Saturday, 11 April 2015

spring quiche

... one day when I finally give up the big smoke and retire to the country I will open a little deli that sells gorgeous homemade goodies... it will be a simple and humble place, hopefully somewhere where weary folk can rest their tired bones and refresh on my good, simple but tasty food.  Maybe i'll run a couple of little cookery sessions on how to bake chicken thighs or low-knead bread but I know it'll be a happy place which allows dogs to snooze in the sun whilst their owners walk around the garden where they'll stare enviously at the herb and vegetable patch that The Viking has cultivated so beautifully over the years...  I'll sell proper freshly ground coffee served by people who have been trained how to make a decent cup and i'll serve proper loose-leaf tea in pots.  I will ensure there's a couple of decent vegetarian dishes on the menu that don't involve copious amounts of goats cheese and mandarin and i'll make decent door-wedge sandwiches fat with fillings... I will also serve the best quiche you'll ever eat...

spring quiche
the season has never quite begun until quiche is served don't you find... of course this is a ridiculous statement to make but in all honesty the quiche doesn't usually make its appearance until a few days of sunshine have warmed the land a little at least and here in the UK the past few days have been utterly glorious so there's no doubt that it's the season for quiche.  This quiche is phenomenal and it's the reason I make this same quiche, with different fillings, every year.  It's a recipe slightly adapted from the quiche my mum always served and still serves to this day at all family functions or summery Sunday's.  It's a stunning quiche that freezes beautifully and which both the vegetable fillings and the cream mixture can easily be changed.  If you're not a fan of cream try cottage cheese or creme freche.  If you're not a fan of leeks try mushrooms, spinach or salmon.  Whatever you try, try it.  You won't regret it.

for the pastry
250g plain flour
100g butter
50g finely grated strong cheddar cheese
water to mix

for the filling
6 or 7 Spring onions - chopped
1 medium leek - finely sliced
15 nettle tops
11 asparagus spears
butter and olive oil
fresh chives - finely chopped
salt and pepper
4 eggs - beaten
150ml single cream
100ml soured cream

i'm using a 25cm, 3cm deep fluted tin with a loose bottom which i've greased well

start with the pastry by rubbing the butter into the flour in a large bowl until you have something resembling breadcrumbs, stir in the grated cheddar then add a tablespoon or two of cold water and bring together into a dough with your hands, you may need to add a little more water to create the dough but you will feel how 'short' the pastry is.  Wrap in cling film and pop in the fridge for at least 30 minutes

carefully pick the nettles... you'll need rubber gloves for this... when picking nettles you only want the top 4 leaves of smaller, younger plants.  I pick them a place them directly into the tub of my salad spinner so I can wash them directly after picking whilst I still have the gloves on... then spin them and set them aside till you need them

place the asparagus in a large bowl, boil the kettle and pour the boiling water over the asparagus and set aside

in a large pan gently melt a generous amount of butter with a little olive oil and throw in the spring onions and the leeks and plenty of pepper and let then sweat for a little until they begin to soften, then add a little salt, then turn up the heat a little and saute them further, then add the washed nettles, stir then add the blanched asparagus, place the lid on, turn off the heat and steam for another eight minutes until cool

now your pastry should be ready, roll it out and line your greased quiche pan. Scrunch up some baking parchment and then lay this into the pastry case and pour some baking beans on top. Blind bake for 15 minutes on 150C

once your pastry is turning golden, take it out of the oven and set aside whilst you beat the eggs into the cream... pour leek and nettle mix into the pastry case followed by the cream egg mix and then lay the asparagus on in a random fashion and  bake on 160C for about 15-20 minutes until golden and risen, set aside on a wire rack to cool.  The quiche should easily slide out of the tin.

eat and of course, enjoy!

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

lemon, polenta and almond passover cake

... on Sunday the 10th May I will be taking part in the Bold is Beautiful march in central London.  Bold is Beautiful is the new philanthropic campaign by the wonderful people at Benefit Cosmetics.

Founded in 1976, their philosophy has always been that women are their most beautiful when they feel strong and confident. With the launch of the Bold is Beautiful project, they are spreading that philosophy beyond the beauty counter.  Throughout May if you go for a Brow Wax at any Benefit counter in the world 100% of Benefit's profits of the Brow Wax will go to charities supporting women and girls such as the brilliant Look Good Feel Better and the outstanding Refuge... as many of my regular readers will know The Persuaders has a close relationship with Benefit Cosmetics so The Viking and I are proud to help promote this brilliant endeavour...

...the march in London is the official launch of this new campaign.  We'll be marching from Cavendish Square through Marble Arch and Wellington Arch and then up into Soho and down Carnaby Street finishing up back at Cavendish Square.  There will be much frivolity along the route with mini-make-overs, sing-a-longs and even a marching band... we start at 10am so do come and join us if you can.  You can apply for a place and download all the information you need here on the Bold is Beautiful website

lemon, polenta and almond passover cake
with all the over-exuberance of Easter what with the chocolate and the bunnies and the simnel cake it's easy to forget that we're also celebrating passover... passover is the Spring festival for those of the Jewish persuasion which celebrates the Jewish slaves escape from the pharaohs in Egypt... it's the story with Moses and the parting of the Red Sea and the story that there was no time to allow the bread to rise in time for their escape and so un-levened bread is served during passover to commemorate this.  It's not just un-levened bread that we make, there's actually a whole industry grown up around the creation of products that don't contain yeast or any rising agents.  It's actually a coeliac's dream as there's no wheat flours allowed.  It means that there's a whole special section of baking that has developed over the years to create delicious cakes and treats... the most passover popular cake is an almond chocolate cake that I have made on this blog before but this lemon and polenta cake is a little fresher and to be honest i've pretty much had my fill of chocolate recently...

this recipe is an adaptation of the one in Nigella's How to be a Domestic Goddess.

for the cake
200g soft unsalted butter
200g caster sugar
200g ground almonds
100g fine polenta
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
3 large free-range eggs
zest of 2 lemons (save juice for syrup)

for the syrup
juice of 2 lemons
125 grams icing sugar

grease and line the base and sides of a 23cm springform cake tin with baking parchment and pre-heat the oven to 180°C

in a large bowl beat the butter and sugar with an electric whisk until pale 

mix together the almonds, polenta and baking powder, and beat some of this into the butter-sugar mixture, followed by 1 egg, then alternate dry ingredients and eggs, beating all the while.

finally, beat in the lemon zest and scrape the mixture into your prepared tin and bake in the oven for about 40 minutes

the cake is cooked if a cake tester comes out cleanish and the edges of the cake begin to shrink away from the sides of the tin. 

remove from the oven to a wire cooling rack, but leave in its tin.
make the syrup by boiling together the lemon juice and icing sugar in a smallish saucepan.

prick the top of the cake all over with a skewer and pour the warm syrup over the cake. Leave to cool before taking it out of its tin

eat and of course, enjoy!

Sunday, 5 April 2015

slow cooker lamb shanks

... living in rural Lincolnshire as we do, brings a completely different perspective on the food we eat.  There are little lambs suckling in the field opposite my front door... and when I say opposite I mean two strides away.  They bleat as you walk past.  They bleat all the bloody time as it happens but it's a wonderful thing and connects you directly with your lunch.  Many people - mostly city folk - don't like this idea, preferring to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the 'closeness' of nature and The Viking, being a vegetarian, doesn't quite understand how I can say 'how cute' the lambs are when i'm prepared to eat them.  I don't see it like that.  I love that the lambs are cute and healthy and clearly have a glorious life.  They're not being factory farmed and I am witness to all this goodness.  I'm not sure I could as yet attend the abattoir but I appreciate what's going on here and it encourages me to only by the best I can afford and to of course buy local... if I can't do that then I will go without.  As it happens, not only have I given up smoking since going to California in December but I have rarely eaten meat - perhaps 10 times since the end of 2014.  I'm not going to say here and now that I am going to give up meat entirely but whilst the circle of life goes on outside the front door I feel a little closer the my choices...

slow cooker lamb shanks
does it seem a bit obvious to cook lamb on Easter Sunday... quite frankly, with food this good who cares?  As it happens, in all my years of cooking and blogging I have never cooked lamb shanks.  It's quite unbelievable because they are a big favourite of mine and of course are a gastropub classic too.  They are so simple to cook and they take a lot of punishment so it's unlikely you could go wrong, plus the slow cooker packs them so full of flavour you won't know what hit you... i'm serving mine with the veg from the slow cooker but of course I think maybe mashed potato is an essential lamb shank accompaniment.

2 lamb shanks
2 tablespoons flour seasoned with salt and pepper
1 large onion - roughly sliced
2 carrots chopped
2 sticks of celery - chopped (or if you're like me - chop off the celery in chunks from the tip)
5 or 6 small or new potatoes - halved
fresh rosemary
200ml red wine
200ml good quality stock (I only have vegetable stock in the house but feel free to use the stock of your choice)
1 tablespoon of tomato ketchup
butter and olive oil

place the chopped veg into the bottom of the slow cooker

heat a little butter and olive oil in a heavy pan, pat the seasoned flour over the lamb shanks and then brown the shanks, one at a time in the pan until they have a nice colour then place them on top of the veg in the slow-cooker

pour the red wine into the pan you've just browned the lamb in a de-glaze the pan then pour this over the lamb along with the vegetable stock and ketchup.  You should have enough stock to cover the fleshy bit of the shanks

place the lid on and cook on low for 8 hours (after 7 hours add the rosemary)

towards the end of the 8 hours pre-heat the oven to 180 and then gently remove the lamb shanks and veg from the slow-cooker with a slotted spoon and place them into a roasting tin which you pop into the oven whilst you make a gloriously thick gravy with the juices by rigorously boiling them in a pan until they reduce by half

serve the shank on top of the piled veg dripping in gravy... and have a glorious Easter!

I am entering this wonderful slow-cooker lamb shank into the brilliant Slow Cooked Challenge hosted by Janice from Farmersgirl Kitchen

eat and of course enjoy!

Friday, 3 April 2015

speckled egg white chocolate bundt with mini eggs

... thank goodness for the long weekend... not only do I feel like i've neglected myself recently but i've definitely neglected my dear blog.  My dear, sweet blog who turned five years old this week.  I know I say this every year but I really cannot believe it's been an astounding five years and i'm still here.  To be honest I feel both a little matronly in my maturity yet also like one of the cool kids on the block... I write a food blog for goodness sake.  On the internet... and i'm actually, for the first time in a long while, looking forward to spending time pottering in the kitchen, making a mess and experimenting with food I like and food i'm not quite sure about.  A time for me to enjoy the kitchen and enjoy the actual food i'm working with.  It's so easy to forget, as we're churning out the goods, why we're here and the actual basic ingredients of good quality food that make us what we are.  Let's raise a glass to good food this weekend!

speckled egg white chocolate bundt with mini eggs
I think the bundt cake was made for Easter... with its nest-like shape and hollow in the middle for filling with chocolate eggs or other goodies, it couldn't be more perfect.  The bundt isn't actually a traditional Easter cake at all but for the sake of dramatic effect let's say it is... this cake is a very simple, clean and light white chocolate cake with a little bit of lemon zest to lift it away from being overtly sweet.  It's a breeze to make and is the perfect antidote to too much dark and rich chocolate... but who are we kidding... Lent is over, Spring is here.  Let's eat as much chocolate as we can.  End of...

for the sponge cake
100g white chocolate - broken into smallish pieces
200g butter - cubed
200g caster sugar
4 large free range eggs
200g self-raising flour
the zest of one large lemon

for the white chocolate ganache speckled egg icing
100ml single cream
200g white chocolate
100g butter
a little blue food colouring gel

grease well your bundt tin - one of those special release sprays should do it and pre-heat your oven to 160C fan

place the butter and white chocolate into a pan and gently warm it through.  It will need regularly stirring but you should be ok if you keep the temperature low.  Once it's entirely melted, set aside till cool

in a large bowl beat the eggs and the sugar with an electric whisk for at least 3 minutes until it's light and fluffy, then pour the cooled chocolate and butter into the bowl and beat again for another 30 seconds

fold in the flour and lemon zest until fully combined and the pour the batter into your bundt tin

bake for 20 - 25 mins until it is golden and risen and a skewer inserted comes out clean - set aside to cool on a wire rack for 5 mins then turn out and let it cool completely

to make the white chocolate ganache speckled egg icing simply heat the cream in a pan then take it off the heat and add the chocolate and butter and let it gently melt

add a teeny amount of blue food colouring gel until you get the desired egg shell colour and then set aside to cool until it reaches a thickish consistency for pouring

gently pour over the bundt and let it drip down the side, then place the cake in the fridge or a cool place to allow the ganache to set with a firm coating, then using a little cocoa powder and water to make a thin paste (the consistency of single cream) and a paint brush, tap the brush around the cake to create a speckled effect

fill the hole with eggs and you're done

I am of course including this cake into my Simply Eggcellent link-up as it's made with 4 gorgeous free-range eggs and plenty of chocolate... it's also going off to Karen from Lavender and Lovage and her Tea Time Treats link-up which also has the theme of chocolate.

i'm also entering it into the brilliant AlphaBakes challenge hosted by Ros from The More Than Occasional Baker and Caroline from Caroline Makes as this is a bundt cake and the random letter is B...

eat and of course, enjoy!



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