Sunday, 31 October 2010

Halloween Cupcake Masacre


... up until about 5 minutes ago this was an entirely different post... I tend to write my recipes and thoughts for the day into the 'new post' edit box and then make the dish, altering what i've written to suit... and so it was with these fabulous cupcakes... but then, as they were baking snuggly in the oven and the warm scent of ginger and allspice wafted through the house I had an icing disaster... then I cut my finger really badly on a misplaced knife sticking out of the dishwasher and proceeded to bleed heavily over the whole kitchen.... flash of inspiration and a few drops of red food colouring later, I came up with a way to save the sloppy icing and still fit within theme... 


... it's a really simple recipe for using up those bits of hollowed out pumpkin and the inclusion of ginger and allspice makes for a spicy undertone which compliments the sweet icing really well... and I promie you the recipe is divine, they taste incredible...


... I just have to conquer my icing techniques... I just can't get the hang of it...


... now, other than the fact that it's Halloween tonight, I have absolutely no reason to make these... I mean obviously I wanted to use up the last wedge of pumpkin I had left over from my soup but we live in the middle of nowhere and our neighbours kids have grown up and moved away and staring at my ever expanding waistline I think I may have to do the trick or treating tonight and give these away... 


Ingredients for 24 cakes:
 
450g of plain flour
3 eggs
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice or ginger
2/3 cup chopped walnuts
400g of caster sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons pure vanilla
400g shredded fresh pumpkin
a handful of crystalized ginger - finely chopped 

For the cream cheese icing:

250g of unsalted butter
1000g of icing sugar
2 teaspoons of pure vanilla paste
500g Cream Cheese

- grate 400g of pumpkin chunks.

- Sift together the plain flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and allspice. Add the walnuts now too as this will stop them sinking to the bottom of the cupcake.
 
- Measure the sugar, oil and vanilla into a large size bowl and stir to combine. Add the eggs one at a time, whisking after each addition.  This is the wet mixture.
 
- Add the majority of the dry mixture to the wet and stir until just combined. Add the remaining dry mixture very slowly until all incorporated.  This will result in a very thick batter.  Do not overbeat!
 
- Fold the pumpkin and crystalized ginger into the batter with a large wooden spoon.

- Pipe or spoon the mixture into cupcake cases about 3/4 full.

- Bake at 350 degrees, until the cupcakes are golden and a toothpick comes out clean, which should take between 20 and 25 minutes.

- Finish the cooled cupcakes with generous helpings of bright orange cream cheese icing and decorate accordingly.


trick or treat and of course, enjoy!

Friday, 29 October 2010

spooky soup


unless you've been living under a stone... blah blah blah... Halloween... blah blah blah...

... we seem to look very sourly at Halloween over here in the UK... as though we tagged on to an American tradition and it went from pagan ritual to commercial enterprise in less time than it takes to cut two holes in a sheet... pretty much like Christmas really... anyone remember who Father Christmas is...? he's that bloke what got eaten by Santa Claus...

... anyway, I'm drifting again but my point is that the 31st October should be better respected in the UK and celebrated properly like they do in the US... and it really does have a special place in my heart for too many reasons to go into here and now... however, I always loved the dressing up and the pumpkin carving and the 'trick or treating'... it's festive and foreboding at the same time... it celebrates our darker sides and allows us to be creative and scary... and really is the only fun thing between Easter and Christmas... plus, we get to use the much maligned, often neglected, rarely touched outside this week.... pumpkin!

here's a favourite of mine which celebrates this vegetable twice over... once for taste and again for presentation...

Roasted Pumpkin and Garlic Soup

The roasting of the pumpkin really brings out its deeper, nuttier notes and helped along by the roasted garlic it really brings it to life.  Pumpkin soup is notorious for its velvety texture, so I would recommend foregoing the hand-blender for the desk-top blender (surely that's not what it's called... but you know what I mean) every time.

1kg peeled and de-seeded pumpkin, cut into chunks
5 medium cloves garlic - unpeeled
1 medium onion - finely chopped
1 medium leek - finely chopped
1 medium carrot - finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 pints stock

- place the chunks of pumpkin onto a baking tray, with the garlic, smother with olive oil and bake in a hot oven for 20 minutes... don't overcook the garlic, or it will ruin the taste of the finished soup... so after 20 minutes take the garlic out and set aside... continue to roast the pumpkin till it's tender and a bit roasty around the edges.

- meanwhile, in a heavy pan, melt some butter and oil and saute the onions, add the cumin, then leek and carrot. (you don't have to add the leek and carrot, I just like the added texture they bring... plus I had them in the fridge and they needed a home.)

- once the onion is soft add the pumpkin and garlic and 2 pints of good veg stock.

- allow it to simmer for 20 minutes, then blend to smooth velvety perfection.

As you can see I have served it into hollowed out, mini pumpkins I picked up at Whole Foods in Kensington whilst I was down in London this week.  I had to re-mortgage the house to pay for them but you must agree they look so pretty and kind of complete the story...

eat and of course, enjoy!

Sourdough Friday


... probably a regular feature now here at Belleau Kitchen as we usually get back from London on a Thursday night and I get just about enough time before bed to feed Lucretia and make a sponge...

... anyway the test in this whole process of keeping a fridge pet was in this second loaf... if I could do it a second time and it be a success then I know i've got something worth keeping... although the thought of getting rid of Lucretia would be horrific!

... so here you go... I plaited it this time but the recipe was the same except I replaced one of the cups of white flour for rye flour...

eat and of course, enjoy!

chocolate and hazelnut cake


... I had such great plans to make a chocolate and hazelnut cake for the 'we should cocoa' challenge this month... and use pureed chestnuts in it too (just to prove BVG wrong) ... but then Tracey bought me an Ice Cream Maker and things kind of changed...

... this is a very very very late entry due to my commitments in London this week, in fact I have missed the deadline completely... but here it is nonetheless...


Ludicrously Chunky Toasted Hazelnut and Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream


1 small packet of hazelnuts
1 large bar of fabulous dark chocolate (I used Green and Blacks 72%)
225ml cream
225ml semi skimmed milk
50g sugar

An ice cream maker is not essential but it does make the whole thing a lot easier so just get your neighbour to buy you one for goodness sake!

- crush the nuts with a rolling pin and then toast them in a dry frying pan till they're toasty (technical term) and they start to give off that stunning aroma that only toasting them can do... be careful not to burn... there's a very fine line between toasty and burnt and it tastes horrid!

- gently warm the milk and melt the sugar in to it (this can be done on the stove or in the microwave) ... you do it so that the finished ice cream doesn't have that granulated texture from the un-melted sugar

- let the milk cool in the fridge till cold

- break the chocolate bar into chunky chunks and then combine all the ingredients

- add to the Ice Cream Maker and let it do it's magic baby!

simple, chunky... and bloody tasty!

eat and of course, enjoy!



Sunday, 24 October 2010

sourdough... success at last

... even though my dear Lucretia failed me the first time, i've not given up on her... feeding her regularly each week... and last night I felt the urge to make bread...

...this time i let the sponge rise overnight and it clearly made a huge difference... very happy... and very tasty...



so... several hours before you plan to make your dough (recipe below), you need to make a sponge. A "sponge" is just another word for a bowl of warm, fermented batter. This is how you make your sponge.

Take Lucretia out of the fridge. Pour her into a large glass or plastic bowl. Meanwhile, wash the jar and dry it. You may also wish to pour boiling water over it, since you don't want other things growing in there with your pet!

Add a cup of warm water and a cup of flour to the bowl. Stir well, and set it in a warm place for several hours. (or overnight... )


Watch for Froth and and Sniff. When your sponge is bubbly and has a white froth, and it smells a little sour, it is ready... The longer you let the sponge sit, the more sour flavor you will get.
The proofing-time varies. Some starters can proof up to frothiness in an hour or two. Some take 6-8 hours, or even longer. Just experiment and see how long yours takes. If you're going to bake in the morning, set your sponge out to proof overnight.

The Actual Recipe

2 Cups of sponge (proofed starter)
3 Cups of unbleached flour
2 tablespoons of olive oil or softened margarine
4 teaspoons of sugar
2 teaspoons of salt

First, let's talk about leftover sponge... you should have some. The leftover sponge is your starter for next time... so put Lucretia back into the jar, and give her a fresh feed of a half-cup each of flour and warm water... keep her in the fridge as above... you'll have starter again next time.

Now, for the recipe:
- To the sponge, add the sugar, salt, and oil... Mix well, then knead in the flour a half-cup at a time.
- Knead in enough flour to make a good, flexible bread dough. You can do this with an electric mixer, a bread machine on "dough cycle," or a food processor. You can also do it with a big bowl and your bare hands.

... keep in mind that flour amounts are approximate; flour varies in absorbency, and your sponge can vary in wetness. Use your judgement; treat it like ordinary white or french bread dough. Trust your hands and eyes more than the recipe, always.

...let the dough rise in a warm place, in a bowl covered loosely with a towel (if you're using a bread machine's dough cycle, let it rise in the machine). Note that sourdough rises more slowly than yeast bread... let the dough double in bulk, just like yeast-bread dough.

- Punch the dough down and knead it a little more. Make a loaf and place it on a baking sheet... slit the top if you like, and cover the loaf with a paper towel and place it in a warm place to rise again, until doubled in bulk.

- place the pan with the loaf in your oven, and then turn your oven to 350o Farenheit and bake the bread for 30-45 minutes. Do not preheat the oven. The loaf is done when the crust is brown and the bottom sounds hollow when thumped with a wooden spoon. Turn the loaf out onto a cooling rack or a towel and let it cool for an hour before slicing...

eat and of course, enjoy!

Saturday, 23 October 2010

dedicated to the bird


i have set myself a little challenge... play along if you feel so inclined... you see I have been so inspired watching Jay Rayners' brilliant 'Food - What goes in your basket?' that I have decided to purchase a whole chicken every weekend... and then find a different way to cook with it.

... you see, the chicken is my basic staple, I love it for its flexibility... all those wonderful things you can do with it, from the basic but sumptuous roast, to pan fried with pancetta, or pot stewed, curried, barbecued... the list is quite frankly, endless... and if you buy a whole chicken it's not only cheaper but tastier and even more versatile.

so I started last week with my One-Pot Roast Chicken but I thought, this week i ought to at least learn how to joint a chicken, so that I can use it in more ways... and so I refer you, dear reader, to the excellent, most definitely not for vegetarians, 'Meat' by HFW... a book I stole from the 'Best Book' display when I was organising the Observer Food Monthly Awards in 2007... naughty yes, but the perks of the job if you ask me!...

...the jointing was pretty damn easy to be honest and at 40, about time I knew how to do it...


... and with my jointed chicken I'm going for a curry... should last me a few days...

Anjum Anand's Punjabi Chicken Curry


I love Anjum Anand's style of modern Indian, but this classic is a really easy to eat, crowd pleaser.  I've adapted and changed certain elements mainly due to lack of ingredients and I've thrown in some risotto rice at the end to soak up all that delicious liquid...

... oh and I also made a small veggie version for The Big V... I just used 2 pans and followed the same method for both, but when I added the chicken to my pan I added veggie sausages, carrots and mushrooms to the veggie version... other than that it's exactly the same except I used more of everything to make the curry paste.


15g fresh ginger, peeled
10 large cloves of garlic, peeled
4 small black cardamom pods
4 cloves
a 5cm piece of cinnamon stick
5 tspn vegetable oil
1 bay leaf
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 green chillies - whole put pricked with a knife
750g of chicken joints
5tsp ground coriander
1/4tsp red chilli powder
1/4tsp tumeric
1 1/2 tsp garam masala
salt, to taste
3 medium tomatoes, cut into small wedges (I used a tin of chopped toms)
a handful of rice (any rice but I used risotto, because I had it in the cupboard)

- using a blender, make a fine paste of the ginger and garlic with a little water, set aside.

- place the black cardamom pods in a mortar, give them a bash with the pestle, then remove the husks to leave only the seeds. Add the cloves and cinnamon and grind to a powder. (to be honest I used regular cardamom and just ground the whole lot together...)

- heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan or casserole dish.  Add the bay leaf and onion and cook until brown, around 8-10 minutes.  Add the green chillies and ginger and garlic paste and cook until golden, around 2-4 minutes.

- add the chicken (or veggie stuff) and brown gently over a moderate heat, stir in the spices and the salt and give the whole pan a good stir.  Add the tomatoes and enough water to come 2.5cm up the pan.  Bring to a boil, then cover and cook over a low heat for 15 - 20 mins

- uncover the pan, increase the heat to high and brown the masala.  This will add a lot of depth to the flavour.  Toss and turn the chicken in the reducing paste.  once the water has reduced, lower the heat and continue for another few minutes.  Then add enough hot water to the pan to come to more than halfway up the chicken joints, bring to the boil, stir in the fresh coriander and serve.

- At this point I kept it on the hob and lowered the heat, added the rice and let that soak up the liquid.

... oh and whilst writing this post my dear neighbour Tracey turned up with a belated birthday gift of an Ice Cream Maker!  Woo Hoo!... can't wait to start using it... think of the possibilities!

eat and of course, enjoy!

Sunday, 17 October 2010

One Pot Roast Chicken

... I know I've been blogtastic this weekend ... it's just I've got a mental week ahead so not only is the below recipe a perfect way to set up the week but I probably won't have much time to post...


... it's been such a glorious weekend, the sun has been golden and peachy, high in the sky all weekend... it's been one of those weekends that, and bear with me here, if you were an alien, landing in the middle of a field in the great British countryside, you would automatically think it was the start of spring, not the start of winter... that's if you knew what spring was, coming from Alpha Centauri, like you do and don't actually have seasons in your part of the cosmos... oh, I think I've drifted slightly here...

... anyway, you get my point, it's been lovely out... and even with the stinky cold which has continued to lurk around like an un-welcome friend who won't go home... I'm pretty much a happy chappy...

... time for some good old fashioned cooking... and I'm thinking of a one-pot roast, inspired by Nigella's recent TV show... I watched it, then realised that whist it's a great recipe, it is essentially just bunging a chicken in a pot and throwing in whatever veg you have lying around... not exactly like hard work... also, if any of you have been watching the brilliant 'Food - What goes in your basket' program on C4, you'll know that buying a whole chicken is so much better for the pocket!...

... I also saw this exceptional recipe on New England based fellow blogger Ocean Breezes and Country Sneezes site... she calls it 'Boiled Dinner' which quite frankly sounds like something you'd have removed, but it is essentially what it is... simple, good food...

... plus The Viking has indulged me and let me cook this without thinking of him, which means I don't have to think of a veggie version and I get at least 3 meals out of this... genius!

One Pot Roast Chicken


1 whole chicken
4 cloves garlic
1 celery stick per person
1 carrot per person
1/4 onion
1 glass of white wine
celery leaves
flat leaf parsley
thyme
s and p

- first you need to crack the breastbone of the chicken, this flattens the bird so you can brown it properly... Nigella goes on and on about how much she loves the sound of the bone cracking and how much she loves doing it... weirdo... but to be frank, just pretend you're a chiropractor, place both hands over the breast bone and firmly lean on the chicken till it snaps...

- on a medium heat, add some oil to a large casserole pot and brown the chicken for 2 or 3 minutes on each side

- chuck in a glass of wine... I happened to have some sparkling rose in the fridge... and then throw in the garlic cloves.

- chuck in the rest of your veg, leave them whole, chop them up, add anything else you think may work... I had some fennel and some green beans which went in, plus the herbs and celery leaves but don't worry if your celery didn't come with any, it really doesn't matter...

- sprinkle over plenty of salt and pepper and then cover with water just up to the thighs

- into the oven, covered, on 180 for 1 hour, then remove the lid and let it brown for 30 mins... at this stage you could throw in some rice or pearl barley, or cook some separately to serve with it....

eat and of course, enjoy!

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Lincolnshire Vegetarian Tom Yum Thai Noodle Soup


... I've never made any Thai food before... god knows why not because i do love it so

... whilst its wonderful living in bucolic bliss it can sometimes be very frustrating finding ingredients without trawling through the shops and even then sometimes after a whole day of searching you can still be left high and dry... I mean I've spent 2 days searching for lemongrass for goodness sake... not exactly a rare breed!... and I flatly REFUSE to go to Tesco in Skegness... believe me it's like a living Bruegel painting... not pretty!

... so it was with a heavy heart that I left Louth without some major ingredients for this dish and although I've adapted I think it could have really done with some of the missing things to add that extra special punch... and it's that Thai punch I need because I'm still hanging on to this stupid cold!

still, good old Lincolnshire managed to come up with some good substitutes and some extra add-ons that don't seem to have gone amiss... spring greens instead of pak choi anyone?

Recipe


3 pints good veg stock
2 lemongrass stalks - minced
3 whole kaffir lime leaves
2 red chillies - finely sliced (I had one green and one red)
4 cloves garlic - minced
1 thumb sized piece of galangal (I used ginger which is just as good) - cut into fine matchsticks
1 cup of mushrooms - sliced (shitake is good... but could I find any...?)
2 cups of pak choi - chopped into rough slices
a handful of fine green beans (you could add peppers)
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1/2 can of coconut milk
1 tsp. brown sugar
4 tbsp soy sauce
a squeeze of lime juice
basil
coriander

- make up the stock (nice and strong) and get it boiling in a soup pan

- add the lemongrass, lime leaves, chili, garlic,and ginger and boil for about 5 mins until the broth is very fragrant

- add the mushrooms, reduce the heat and simmer for about 8 mins or until the mushrooms are soft

- add the pak choi and cherry toms and green beans and gently simmer for a couple of mins... you want the pak choi to be slightly crunchy

- reduce the heat and add the coconut milk, sugar, soy sauce and lime juice to your taste.

- just before serving throw in some noodles, the glass or fine Asian noodles are the best, they should be light.

You could add tofu pieces (can't think of anything worse...) or any selection of veg to add texture and colour but I think I've got this one just right...

...the whole thing should pack quite a punch...

eat and of course, enjoy!

Friday, 15 October 2010

Irish Fennel Soup



oh its good to be back in the kitchen... and even though I have a stinking cold I still couldn't keep away from the stove!...

... I need something healing and warm and deep with aroma and a little kick so that I can taste it through my thickening head and blocked nose... so, taking inspiration from fellow blogger Mary at One Perfect Bite and my recent trip into the world of TV, where fennel made a guest appearance, I could think of no better base for a soup...

I've decided to be bold and 'Irish' the soup up a bit with a splash of Pernod, ( I suppose you could say i've 'Frenched' the soup up a bit... but you get my drift...) which has brought out the aniseed intensity of the fennel whilst adding a really deep dark undertone.  Due to the fact that I add the Pernod in at the earliest stage the alcohol all burns off, so you can happily serve this to children or those foolish non-alcoholics, but this one's all mine...

so without further ado, whilst the fire's roaring in the living room and as I prepare to languish in- front of it with a bowl of goodness here's the recipe

Ingredients


1 medium onion - finely chopped
a glug (technical term) of Pernod
4 fennel bulbs - finely chopped (keep the frilly fronds for a garnish)
3 sticks of celery - finely chopped
1 leek - finely chopped
1 small cauliflower   - finely chopped
butter and olive oil
2 pints of good veg stock
a small tub of single cream
s and p

- melt a large knob of butter and some olive oil in a heavy pan and add the finely chopped onions, let them saute on a low heat till translucent then turn the heat up and throw in a generous glug of Pernod

- once the liquid has reduced to barely nothing, add the fennel, celery and leeks and saute for 5 mins, then place the lid on, turn down the heat and let them sweat for a further 5 mins

- throw the cauliflower in, season and let that sweat until all the veg are soft

- add the stock and simmer gently for 20 mins

- throw in the cream and then liquidize till smooth and glossy

serve with a sprinkling of fennel fronds and a swirl of cream... heavenly!

eat and of course, enjoy!

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Korean Cultural Centre Auction Dinner


meanwhile in other parts of my life I have to remember that I still need to pay the bills and there are events for clients that need planning...

... in my real life I run an event production company called The Persuaders...  I often get to work with some interesting brands and sometimes if I'm lucky enough I get to travel to far-off exotic climes but nothing really prepared me for working with the Korean Ambassador and his team over the last few weeks...

... we were invited to produce an event to celebrate 60 years since the Korean War.  The event was an auction of amazing Korean art, followed by sumptuous 8 course dinner of Korean food designed by Paul Schenk, Head Chef and now Director of Food and Beverages at The Grand Intercontinental Seoul.  Paul specializes in a western version of traditional Korean dishes and he's been perfecting his art (and in this case it really is an art-form) for the last 6 years in Korea...

... the event itself was pretty simple but the logistics were a nightmare, organising dinner for 90 in a small venue with no kitchen, liaising with a chef who was thousands of miles away and 8 hours ahead of me and working with a team from the Embassy who'd never really done anything like this before but had very exacting ideas of what they wanted, which clearly didn't correspond with what they could afford!

We got there in the end and as you can imagine, the highlight for me was getting to work with such an amazingly creative chef and better yet, to sample all the incredible food!...

... I also got to meet the lovely Sunyoung Kang who runs URBY International which is the only organic food producers association in Korea... she was an incredible, feisty woman who has single handedly changed the face of the Korean organic food production... and as a gift to the diners at the event she had produced the most beautiful hand bound book of the menu, with recipes and photos for each course.

... the 8 courses were as follows:


Japache
sun-dried vegetables wrapped in a light noodle pouch constructed to represent a traditional Korean money pouch known as a Bokjumoney.  The dish was served with 2 seared scallops and an intense garlic and bellflower root pesto.

Manduguk
steamed Korean tofu dumplings served in an incredibly light beef broth, traditionally served on New Year's Day as each dumpling represents a wrapped fortune.

Haemul Pajeon
a seafood savory pancake, traditionally eaten when it rains.  This dish was very light yet was intensely prawn flavoured.

Ginseng Sorbet
This course was designed as a pallet cleanser.  The work that went into the sugar art was phenomenal.  The ginseng tasted of Asia.... it's hard to describe... but that's what I got from it.

Kalbi Gui
a very unique dish to Korea... the ribs are marinated and cooked over charcoal and has a sweet intensity to it.  The special pine mushrooms were £600 per kilo and the chef bought 7 kilos from Korea with him!

Bibimbap
the signature dish of Korea which is so simple to make and very healthy and tasty.  It includes steamed rice, pumpkin, bellflower roots, bracken, egg, kelp and a red pepper paste.

Bokbunja
a wild blackberry native to Korea, used for making herbal medicines.  Here it was made into a light mousse, topped with a Korean style hat of caramel and real gold leaf.

... the final course was an Omija Cha or Korean herbal tea made from dried fruits.

... the whole meal a delight for both the pallet and the eyes and a wonderful way for us to learn about the culture and fascinating history of Korean food.  I promise to try my hand at some of the recipes from Suny's amazing book and post them up here sometime soon.







Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Market Kitchen - my big adventure

me and the very lovely Penny Smith

... today I had my TV debut and it was OK... if I don't sound overly enthusiastic about it it's because I feel like crap with a stinking cold... which made it a little hard to sparkle... we're also really busy at work at the moment and my mind is elsewhere.

also, it's a funny, soulless business... all the staff are running around frantically working to deadlines and so they kind of throw you in and chuck you out and before you know it they've turned the spotlights off and you're left standing on a dark TV set wondering where the green room is, which they won't let you in to anyway because the assistants assistant might get fired if you catch a glimpse of Penny Smiths' elbow...


... I don't want to sound completely ungrateful... they were a lovely bunch really, the food was excellent and I got to meet one of my blog heroes Simon Majumdar from Dos Hermanos... who seemed to know EVERYTHING and anything about food and was full of wonderful words of encouragement about my blog.

Simon Majumdar from Dos Hermanos and Mark the chef

I also do really love the premise of the show, which is all about hi-lighting locally grown food and producers; the idea is that the 2 chefs travel around the UK and talk to growers and bakers and then come back to the studio to cook the food... the two episodes I shot were all about South Wales... 

... I asked if they were planning to do one about Lincolnshire but all I got was blank stares... 

Maria, cooking her neck of lamb

... Mark and Maria cooked up some amazing seafood and shellfish in the first program followed by some incredible salt-marsh lamb and puddings made with Welsh whisky in the second... we also met an incredible cake baker who had produced a stunning decorated cake in the shape of a bag of Welsh produce... all in all an interesting day and a fascinating insight into the world of TV cookery... and I would love to go back and talk more passionately about my local food.


Mark's delicious whisky pecan brownie in a pan with whisky and vanilla cream

Maria's spicy neck of lamb with Baba Ganoush


lamb chop with pan-fried kidneys and sweet potato mash

the fruitcake masterpiece


... I believe the show airs sometime in November and I'll keep you all updated as to when and where... until then its back to the kitchen...

Saturday, 9 October 2010

hangover fish pie


... down in London this weekend due to work load... big event with the Koreans on Monday (more of that next week...) and i'm fortunate enough to have some very good friends who are glad to have me snore on their spare bed for the odd weekend... The Viking and I used to live next door to Jenny and George back in the 90's... back in our heady club days... and there would be many a Sunday when we'd all gather hung-over  in one of our kitchens waiting for a chicken to roast...

... last night Jenny and I went out for a bit of a boogie and today we're both pretty much broken...

... so today an easy, but exceptionally tasty meal was called for and I could think of nothing better than fish pie.  We've slightly cheated with the mash potato topping... courtesy of Jenny's inspiration, via Delia and some frozen Aunt Bessie's mash... but all the other ingredients were freshly prepared... I mean for goodness sake, who can be bothered with mashing potatoes..? and like I say, we are broken!



recipe for a very large pie for 3 broken people

300g salmon
300g smoked haddock
300g black bream (although you could use any other plain white fish... we just found a good deal)
280g organic, raw tiger prawns

3 medium leeks
1 small fennel
a handful of frozen peas
1 tablespoon capers
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons English mustard
a glass of white wine
1 pint milk
1/2 pint Marigold Bouillon
2 tablespoons plain flour
some strong cheddar - grated
3 bay leaves
a handful of chopped chives
a handful of chopped parsley
s and p

- place all the fish, except for the prawns, into an oven-proof dish, add the bay leaves, cover with the milk and bake in a hot oven for 6-10 minutes - the fish should be just undercooked and you'll have wonderful stock for your sauce

- saute the leeks and fennel in butter until tender and then place in your pie dish

- once the fish is done, drain the milk (but keep it for the sauce) and place it into the pie dish with the leeks and fennel... add the un-cooked prawns, peas, the chopped capers, the chives and parsley


- melt about 4 teaspoons of butter in a heavy pan and then, off the heat, add the flour and stir until the butter is absorbed and it becomes a thick paste, gently heat this for about 2 mins until it turns dark golden  and smells slightly nutty.

- poor the poaching milk into the made up veg-stock and add a glass of white wine.  Slowly add this to the butter and flour paste, stirring all the time until you have a glossy, runny, sauce... at this stage it should be the consistency of single cream, but it will thicken

- you can turn the heat up now slightly but continue to stir and cook until it thickens to your desired consistency.. add the grated cheese and the mustards until it tastes how you want it to taste... we went slightly mustard-tastic because we need the punch to wake us up a bit!

- poor the sauce onto the fish pie and very gently mix it up... you want keep big chunks of fish

- place the frozen slabs of potato onto the top and bake in a hot oven for about 30 mins... don't forget to to fork the potato half way through cooking and grate some more cheese on top for extra cheesy crispy-ness.

totally perfect, intensely rich, easy peasy, fish pie loveliness... slightly less broken...

eat and of course, enjoy!

Thursday, 7 October 2010

look at me ma... i'm on the telly!


... when I started this blog way back in the heady days of Spring my intention, other than cooking lovely things and writing about them, was for total world domination... the idea being that I do something i love, start writing about it... obsessively... become a bit of a blog nerd and slowly increase my disciples... I mean followers... until either the book publisher or the BBC calls with offers of my own show...

... two days ago part of my dastardly plan came to fruition when, whilst I sat with my white cat upon my knee, twirling my waxed mustache , the phone rang... and no, it wasn't the BBC but it was Richard from the Good Food Channel asking if I'd like to take part in the new series of Market Kitchen!

... they're re-formatting the show and each week they ask a panel of food 'experts' (a chef, a local producer, a celebrity and a food blogger) to sit around a dining table and discuss the food made on the show.  It's going to be more about local food from around the UK, which I think is a great idea and am always keen on celebrating!

They had been researching the food-blog world and had come across my site, liked the look of its 'local' spin and decided to give me a call...

... we start filming next week... I'm doing 2 shows... and they go out sometime in November...

... and I'm totally chuffed, delighted and gob-smacked!... I mean... look out Nigella, here comes Dom!

Sunday, 3 October 2010

sour doh!


well this didn't quite turn out to be the amazing loaf I was expecting... not sure what i did wrong but i'm going to have to remake next week I think... it came out a little dense and heavy for my liking...

... with bread-making there's so much you have to put down to trust, experience and feeling... it's quite an emotional activity making bread... and like many of my mood swings, sometimes I get it just right and others I should give up when I know it's going wrong but by stubborn nature simply won't let me....

... I lost patience and this was the biggest problem, so let' start again next week shall we?

... but just in case you're wondering, stage four should go something like this:


Several hours before you plan to make your dough (recipe below), you need to make a sponge. A "sponge" is just another word for a bowl of warm, fermented batter. This is how you make your sponge.


Take Lucretia out of the fridge. Pour her into a large glass or plastic bowl. Meanwhile, wash the jar and dry it. You may also wish to pour boiling water over it, since you don't want other things growing in there with your pet!


Add a cup of warm water and a cup of flour to the bowl. Stir well, and set it in a warm place for several hours.


Watch for Froth and and Sniff. When your sponge is bubbly and has a white froth, and it smells a little sour, it is ready... The longer you let the sponge sit, the more sour flavor you will get.
The proofing-time varies. Some starters can proof up to frothiness in an hour or two. Some take 6-8 hours, or even longer. Just experiment and see how long yours takes. If you're going to bake in the morning, set your sponge out to proof overnight.

The Actual Recipe

2 Cups of sponge (proofed starter)
3 Cups of unbleached flour
2 tablespoons of olive oil or softened margarine
4 teaspoons of sugar
2 teaspoons of salt


First, let's talk about leftover sponge... you should have some. The leftover sponge is your starter for next time... so put Lucretia back into the jar, and give her a fresh feed of a half-cup each of flour and warm water... keep her in the fridge as above... you'll have starter again next time.

Now, for the recipe:
- To the sponge, add the sugar, salt, and oil... Mix well, then knead in the flour a half-cup at a time.
- Knead in enough flour to make a good, flexible bread dough. You can do this with an electric mixer, a bread machine on "dough cycle," or a food processor. You can also do it with a big bowl and your bare hands.

... keep in mind that flour amounts are approximate; flour varies in absorbency, and your sponge can vary in wetness. Use your judgement; treat it like ordinary white or french bread dough. Trust your hands and eyes more than the recipe, always.

...let the dough rise in a warm place, in a bowl covered loosely with a towel (if you're using a bread machine's dough cycle, let it rise in the machine). Note that sourdough rises more slowly than yeast bread... let the dough double in bulk, just like yeast-bread dough.

- Punch the dough down and knead it a little more. Make a loaf and place it on a baking sheet... slit the top if you like, and cover the loaf with a paper towel and place it in a warm place to rise again, until doubled in bulk.

- place the pan with the loaf in your oven, and then turn your oven to 350o Farenheit and bake the bread for 30-45 minutes. Do not preheat the oven. The loaf is done when the crust is brown and the bottom sounds hollow when thumped with a wooden spoon. Turn the loaf out onto a cooling rack or a towel and let it cool for an hour before slicing...

eat and of course, enjoy!

Friday, 1 October 2010

windfall pie for Esther


what a miserable rainy, windy day... and I think for once, I can speak for the whole of the UK... the weather sucks... it is truly Autumn...

... it's not all bad... Autumn's combination of wind and ripened tree fruit means it's a perfect time for windfall pie!  We were with mum yesterday and just before we left she insisted that I take a bag load of apples from the garden, she has two sorts, one large with a pale yellowish skin which I think is your classic cooking apple and the other looks more like a large cox... they're both really quite sour but perfect for baking... and you don't even have to risk life and limb climbing trees to get them as the ones that drop on the ground are fine...


.. so a classic apple pie was in order and because I had so many apples I thought about some simple baked ones as well...

... it also gave me an excuse to use my new Le Creuset pie-dish!...

... I've also had a crap day going through budgets for an event we have in a couple of weeks... I hate budgets and the client keeps changing their mind so its fizzing my brain slightly... in fact i'm so frazzled I upset my fellow blogger Esther over at Recipe Rifle... she has a great blog and doesn't deserve my non-funny blogging tourettes.. so this pie's for you...


Baked Apples

4 large cooking apples cored and scored around the middle (I used 2 of each type)
3oz of walnuts
3oz of raisins
2-3 tablespoons of honey
2-3 tablespoons golden syrup or maple syrup

- Place your cored and scored apples in a baking dish with plenty of room around them
- fill the empty cores with a mixture of the nuts and raisins and then sprinkle the rest around the dish
- drizzle the honey and the syrup over the apples and around the dish
- bake at 140 for an hour and a half

the long slow bake means the apples don't lose their shape and you end up with a sticky toasted nutty mess around them!

Apple and Damson Jam Pie


3 large mixed cooking apples, peeled and cut into chunks
Half a pot of home made Damson in Distress jam from dear Annie over at The Reluctant Vegetarian
Shortcrust pastry

- line a pie dish with pastry
- spoon your favourite jam into the bottom and up the sides
- cut the apples into the pie dish in big un-cooked chunks and pile it high
- dollop some more jam over the top
- place a shortcrust pie lid over the top and do the fancy stuff with the edges and the pastry leaves
- brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar
- bake at 190 till golden

eat and of course, enjoy!

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