Sunday, 26 July 2009

Unloved Cookbooks - The Best Part 2

The rediscovery of some of my loneliest cookbooks continues with the trial of two further recipes from The Best, the book from the series of the same name by Silvana Franco, Paul Merrett and Ben O'Donoghue.

Following on from last weeks post, where this project began, I selected two sweet recipes from the above book.

The first of these - Coffee and Pecan muffins from the "Best Sweet Breakfast" section - was, I'm afraid to say, not a great success. I'm well aware that some care needs to be taken when making muffins so that you don't overmix the batter and end up with stodgy muffins but I feel pretty sure that I mixed with due care and attention. Nevertheless these demonstrated the most unenthusiastic display of rising I've seen in a cake for some time.

And unenthusiastic pretty much sums up my feelings about the end result. On the first day they tasted OK I suppose - passably edible at any rate. Thereafter they just got progressively stodgier and I'm afraid to say the last few ended up in the bin (almost unheard of in this house). The coffee flavour was not particularly pronounced either. From a cooking perspective there really is nothing worse than a failed recipe is there? The waste of precious time and good ingredients is so infuriating! Ah well, onwards and upwards as they say. I will spare you the recipe - there are far better alternatives out there.

A couple of days later I had a go at the Peach and Raspberry Clafoutis from the "Best Summer Berry Dessert" section. This was definitely more successful, but not without it's problems. This was how is looked after the prescribed 10-12 minutes in the oven.

Pretty good you might think, however an investigative dig into the centre revealed that all bar the outside inch was still runny and most definitely not cooked.

So, I put in back in the oven and, after pacing the kitchen and peering in the oven for a further 10 or 15 minutes, I figured it was probably just about done and even if it wasn't I was jolly well going to eat it anyway.

Luckily it tasted delicious, particularly with a scoop of ice cream on the top. Not what I really expected though - I always thought that clafoutis was just a sweet sort of yorkshire pudding, but this was much lighter than that. A result, no doubt, of the 10 minutes of whisking given to the eggs. The recipe is as follows but be warned - don't turn off the oven until you're sure it's done!

Peach and Raspberry Clafoutis
(adapted from The Best as above)

4 eggs
140g/5oz caster sugar
300ml/10 fl oz double cream
1 tablespoon plain flour
1/2 tablespoon ground almonds
1 vanilla pod
2 peaches (peeled and chopped)
16 raspberries (I though 4 raspberries per person sounded a bit mean so added some more. In hindsight though I don't think this was necessary as the raspberries ended up overpowering the dish somewhat)

1) Whisk the eggs and caster sugar with an electric whisk until thick and the mixture holds its shape (this will take about 10 minutes and the mixture is now called a sabayon)

2) Lightly whip the cream and fold into the sabayon. Fold in the flour and ground almonds and carefully stir in the seeds of the vanilla pod.

3) Divide the peaches and raspberries between four individual oven-proof dishes. Pour over the clafoutis batter and bake for approximately 10-12 minutes (ha ha) at 180c/350f/gas 4 until golden.

I would tentatively call this recipe a success however I would like to try out a different clafoutis recipe at some point as a comparison.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

I have been given an award!

Wow, I go away for a few days and I come back to discover that my little blog has been given an award. Not only that but it's my very first award aswell so I'm doubly chuffed! It was given to me by Nora, whose blog Nora the Kitchen 'Splorer, I follow on a regular basis. I particularly love her "Wednesday Round up of Deliciousness" - one of those great "Why didn't I think of that" ideas and a wonderful source of inspiration.

So here are the rules for the Kreativ Blogger award:

1 Thank the person who has given you the award
2 Copy the logo and paste it on your blog
3 Link to the person who nominated you for the award -> Here it is again!
4 Name 7 things about yourself that people might find interesting
5 Nominate 7 Kreativ Bloggers
6 Post links to the 7 blogs you nominate
7 Leave a comment on each of the blogs to let them know they've been nominated

So...7 interesting things about me...hmmm...ok...

1 I was born and bred on the lovely island of Jersey and if I ever find enough money to buy a house there I may just go back
2 If I ever get the chance I would love to have a second home in Italy
3 I studied Biology at university but now work in financial services (so my science degree is coming in really handy). In an ideal world though I'd be a professional food blogger : )
4 I am in the process of preparing for the installation of a new kitchen which, as you might expect, is a pretty big deal for someone who loves cooking so much. Needless to say I am VERY excited.
5 My most recent cookbook purchase was In the Mood for Entertaining by Jo Pratt
6 My favourite film is The Shawshank Redemption
7 My least favourite foods are olives and coriander

And now for my nominations:

1 Cooking the Books - this was one the first food blogs I came across. Kelly-Jane's posts always make me want to cook what she's written although I do hold her entirely responsible for my recent book purchase (see above) following her write up about it.
2 A Cracking Good Egg - I love KJ's writing style and I have to keep reading now just to see if she ever gets her KitchenAid!
3 A Spoonful of Sugar - this is another really well written blog with great photographs that make me wish I had a better camera!
4 Culinary (Mis) Adventures! - a great blog with so many appealing recipes
5 Batter Splattered - I love to read blogs from other countries and there's something about this one, which comes from Alaska, that I particularly like
6 The Ginger Gourmand - I love reading about this London-based blogger's restaurant visits and other excursions in and around the capital
7 The Goddess' Kitchen - Sooo many fabulous cake recipes I just don't know where to start!

So, thanks again to Nora for the award - you've made my week : )

Friday, 10 July 2009

My Next Project - Unloved Cookbooks

I have amassed a fair number of cook books over the years. Some of them I return to time and time again, some are reliable reference books, some I take to bed with me now and then to look at the pictures and plan some fantasy dinner party or baking bonanza (I'm not the only person who does this right?!). A few, however, get overlooked entirely for one reason or another - maybe the recipes didn't appeal to me as much as I thought they would or take more time to make than I have available. Some have just been superseded over time by new favourites.

So, in an effort to get a bit more value for money out of some of these poor rejects I have chosen a selection of the most unloved from my shelves and have set myself the challenge of cooking two or three recipes from each one.

The books I have selected are as follows:

The Best - Silvana Franco, Paul Merrett & Ben O'Donoghue
Sunday Lunch - Gordon Ramsey
Indian Food Made Easy - Anjum Anand
Everyday - Bill Granger
Real Fast Food - Nigel Slater
The River Cottage Cookbook - Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Jamie's Italy - Jamie Oliver

The first book off the top of the pile is The Best by Silvana Franco, Paul Merrett and Ben O'Donoghue. You may remember the BBC series where the aformentioned each had to create a dish based on a different theme every week, for example Best Sweet Breakfast, Best Summer Soup etc. I really enjoyed the programme and bought the book off the back of it but I can't remember the last time I actually cooked a recipe from it.

So, here are the first two I've tried....

Curried Scrambled Eggs

I nearly didn't make this - I just couldn't get my head round the egg/curry combination. However, I'm really glad I did as it actually tasted great and was a nice change from regular scrambled eggs. A perfect dish for lunch or a light dinner.

1 Naan Bread, warmed as per instructions (I used two small ones)
a large knob of butter
2 spring onions, thinly sliced
a pinch of cumin seeds
3 eggs (this seemed like quite a lot to me so I just used two)
1-2 teaspoons curry paste
a handful of coriander leaves
S & P

1) Melt the butter in a non-stick frying pan and cook the spring onions and cumin seeds for a minute or so until beginning to soften.

2) Meanwhile whisk together the eggs and curry paste together with two tablespoons of cold water and some salt and pepper. Pour into the pan and leave for a minute or two.

3) Continue to cook for another couple of minutes, stirring until almost set. Stir in the coriander leaves and spoon on to the warmed naan.

Goat's Cheese & Cranberry Toast

Now this was really good. So easy and SO yummy! I reckon this would make a great dinner party starter if you scaled down the portions a bit. I will be making this again a LOT.

1 thick slice of sourdough bread *
1-2 teaspoons of cranberry or redcurrant jelly
100g/4oz disc of goats cheese
about 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
a handful of wild rocket leaves
balsamic vinegar

* I couldn't find sourdough bread so just used a slice of plain white bread, which was fine but a bit on the thin side. Next time I'll cut myself a nice thick slice from an unsliced loaf.

1) Toast the bread on one side under a medium grill. Spread the jelly on the uncooked side and sit the cheese on top. Drizzle over some olive oil and season.

2) Return to the grill for 3-4 minutes until the cheese is golden and beginning to melt. Top with a handful of rocket leaves and a splash of balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

A good start by all accounts. I also have my eye on a couple of sweet recipes in this book and will report back in a few days.

Friday, 3 July 2009

A dangerously simple recipe

I am cursed with a terrible affliction - I call it chocolate telepathy.

Chocolate speaks to me you see. I hear it calling to me from far off places....the cupboard, the supermarket, the freezer (see below). Against my will the little voices draw me in, enticing me, encouraging me, until I'm helpless to resist. I hear stories of people leaving chocolate untouched in their cupboards for days, weeks even, but I don't believe them.

Today I am suffering at the hands of this little recipe that I found in Nigella Express (I know....Nigella again). Make it at your peril!

Chocolate Pistachio Fudge
(adapted from Nigella Express by Nigella Lawson)

350g dark chocolate (min 70% cocoa solids), chopped
1 x 397g can condensed milk
30g unsalted butter
pinch salt
150g pistachios, chopped

1) Melt all of the ingredients, apart from the pistachios, in a heavy based saucepan over low heat, stirring regularly.

2) Mix in the pistachios (as you can see from the picture I substituted the pistachios for raisins and was more than happy with the result).

3) Pour into a 23cm foil tray (or any tin of similar proportions) and smooth the top.

4) Leave in the fridge to cool then cut into bite-sized pieces.

5) The fudge can now be stored in the freezer presumably with the intention of keeping for a reasonable length of time. Good luck with that.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Chocolate Orange Loaf Cake

This month I've decided to switch my monthly baking challenge allegiance over to Sweet and Simple Bakes as the recipe on offer this month looked too good to pass up. It's not a recipe I've come across previously but just the name was enough to tell me I was going to like it.

The chosen recipe this month was for Chocolate Orange Drizzle Loaf Cake and I think the name tells you all you need to know! And what a great recipe this is. The addition of orange zest and the orange syrup to what is basically a plain sponge recipe adds an enormous amount of flavour and, as you would expect, the chocolate is a perfect partner for the orange.

Chocolate Orange Drizzle Loaf Cake

For the cake
175g/6oz softened butter
175g/6oz caster sugar
3 large eggs at room temperature
Finely grated zest of two oranges
175g/6oz self raising flour
2 tbsp milk
For the orange syrup
Juice of 1 orange
100g/4oz granulated sugar (although I just used caster sugar again)
For the topping
50g/2oz dark or milk chocolate (I used dark and was glad I did)
Sprinkles of your choice (optional)

1) Preheat the oven to 180c/350f/gas 4

2) Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and beat in until fully incorporated. Add the orange zest, flour and milk and fold in gently with a spatula or metal spoon.

3) Pour the mixture into a greased/lined 900g/2lb loaf tin and bake for 35-45 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. When cool make little holes in the cake for pouring the syrup into.

4) Make the syrup by putting the orange juice and syrup into a pan and heating gently until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to the boil and boil for a couple of minutes. Pour the syrup over the top of the cake. The leave the cake to cool completely before removing it from the tin.

5) Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of barely simmering water. When melted spread it over the top of the cake. Smooth with a spatula or make patterns with the prongs of a fork. Add sprinkles if required. Leave the chocolate to cool before cutting the cake.