Monday, 23 November 2009

No Raised Waffles with Warm Brown Sugar Bananas from me I'm afriad....

Hello! No Sweet Melissa Sundays from me this week I'm afraid. My reasons are several fold:
  1. I don't have a waffle maker. It's for the good of my health that I chose not to purchase one - I would in all likelihood form an unhealthy attachment to waffles and, rumour has it, man can not live on waffles alone. Oh how I wish we could though!
  2. I don't really like bananas. Controversial, I know! Banana cake, yes. Fresh banana chopped on top of cereal, sometimes. Cooked banana and banana on stuff? Not so much.
  3. We were in Oxford this weekend visiting friends and going to a fancy pants black tie dinner so I was super tired on Sunday.
  4. When I say tired, I mean hungover.
  5. I crave foods when I'm hungover and I was craving muffins - so I baked apple, carrot and pecan muffins instead which were YUM! But I haven't taken a pic of them yet so watch this space.
  6. JJ had to go away on a business trip so I got to have TOTAL control over the TV I watched! It was amazing.
Ok, the last one's less of a reason and more just how amazing Sunday afternoons are when you've just baked muffins and you have free reign over Sky - yes, I watched Wedding TV and it was the best.

Anyway, promise I'll get the recipe up soon as you really want to make these muffins!

Rosy xx

ps Do have a look at what the other bakers cooked up though - I've been drooling over their creations! And thank you to Lauren of Fried Pickles and Ice Cream for this week's pick. Shall be back again with SMS next week.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Christmas Pudding Stuffed Pheasant

Last night I made christmas pudding stuffed pheasant. A little unusual, granted, but there was method to my madness, I promise! I spotted this competition, run by Matthew Walker, over on the UKFBA website and couldn't resist giving it a go. Many thanks to Matthew Walker for posting me 2 christmas puddings to play around with! There was probably enough for more than one experiment but I'd be lying if I said I didn't sample a bit first... Well it was important to identify what the flavours were in order to inspire my creative side!! Honest!
Not wanting to be totally predictable and make a dessert with my lovely christmas puds, I decided to make a savory dish. And I have to say, it was really tasty! JJ did look terribly worried when I was explaining last night's dinner whilst wandering around the supermarket but he was a very good sport and went along with my random plan. He's very good like that! I tend to have a lot of random plans and I wish I could say that stuffing a bird with a pudding was my most random to date...

Anyway, what I did...

To make the stuffing, I fried up half an onion (finely chopped) with about 4 rashers of streaky bacon and the sausage meat from one large sausage. Once this was lovely and golden, I put it to the side to cool a little. I then mixed up about 200g of christmas pud with some chopped chestnuts, parsley (a good tablespoon), some lemon zest and the onion and bacon mix. I mixed this all up with my hands to make sure there was a good even distribution of the pudding and tasted and added seasoning. Then I took my pheasant and stuffed the cavity with the stuffing before fastening with string, placing in a small roasting tray with half an onion, sliced up, and laid pancetta over the top of the bird. That went into a hot oven (220C) for 50 minutes and voila! A beautifully roasted bird. (Definitely cooking up one of these suckers again - really quick to cook and very tasty).

I served this with buttery mash with spring onions mixed through and brussel sprouts topped with the pancetta from the bird (crumbled up a bit). I made a quick gravy from the roasting juices, just by deglazing with brandy and mixing in a spot of bramble jelly and beef stock.

I would have to say, I was very prepared for this to be a total flop - I'm new to totally inventive cooking like this and I've never even cooked a pheasant before, let alone made up a stuffing! But my gut instinct that the rich fruit of the pudding would go well with the rich game meat of the pheasant proved spot on and we finished up the whole thing! Really was very good.

So anyway, that's something a bit different to my normal baking-related waffle but (poor JJ) I'm thinking of doing more experimental cuisine now that this was such a hit... Have you ever done any crazy combinations before? Were they successful??

Rosy xx

Monday, 16 November 2009

Butter Toffee Crunch

It's Sweet Melissa Sundays time again! On a Monday... There is a reason for this - the recent break in left us laptop-less at home so I have to be in the office to upload any photos. But normal business should resume soon.

Anyway, back to the more important subject of toffee!! Kaitlin from Kait's Plate picked this week's choice and I for one was really looking forward to making it. I'm organising our church christmas coffee morning this year and the plan is to have lots of crafty stalls with bits and pieces of christmassy goodies. So I thought that me and one of the Sweet Supper Club groups could make up lots of little bags of sweeties and gingerbread to sell. These were super easy to make and delicious so a definite addition to the stall! And super cute in their little bags, don't you think?

The only very minor modifications I made were using pecans on the base (but still almonds on the top) and I used granulated sugar rather than brown. I've heard that brown sugar is a lot harder to make caramel and toffee out of as the impurities in it tend to burn. I didn't want to risk it!

Many thanks to Kaitlin for hosting this week and check out her blog for the recipe and all the other bakers' blogs for their take on the toffee.

Rosy x

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Hot Chocolate Pots with Cardamom Cream

I had my very lovely cousin and her boyfriend over for dinner the other night. As I'm going to attempt to look half way decent in a wedding dress in about 10 months time, I figured I'd do a nice, light dessert. My one golden rule for dinner parties (no matter how casual or fancy they are) is to make dishes that can be largely prepared ahead of time. I want to sit around and drink with my friends, safe in the knowledge that a delicious meal is just a few moments from ready in the kitchen. They're there to see you, after all, not sit around whilst you get into a fluster in the kitchen. So, with this in mind, I decided to make poached pears - they could be poached the night before and served gently warmed, maybe with some prunes that had been steeped in the poaching juices too. Ooo, and then a big dollop of cardamom cream alongside to add a note of richness... So went my thought process, anyway.

So the night before, I carefully prepared and poached 8 sweet little pears. The result? Thoroughly underwhelming. I'm not sure the pears were ripe enough and I'm certain that red wine wasn't the right thing to poach them in. Didn't work for me at all! And so at this point I'm stuck. Last minute desserts are so often a rubbish cop out and I so desperately didn't want to be chained to the kitchen.

And then the answer came to me - individual hot chocolate pots. YUM!!!! Ok, so they don't fall into the slimming catagory but hey, it was an emergency! And boy, were they good. The crowning glory? The cardamom cream. A total revelation!!! I had to take it away from JJ to prevent him eating the whole lot with a spoon. A fantastic contrast to the deeply chocolatey chocolate pots - don't be fooled, these pack one hell of a chocolate punch - and an interestingly different flavour without being too crazy or out there. I could quite happily devour one of these a day for all eternity. Plus they're sooooooooo easy and quick to make. In fact, I'm making them again tonight to take round to one of my friend's houses! So you can see that the wedding diet lasted about 20 seconds...

Hot Chocolate Pots with Cardamom Cream
adapted from David Lebovitz

Chocolate Pots
285g Chocolate - I used Green and Blacks 70%. You want the good stuff. Trust me.
60g Butter (unsalted or salted - just also add a pinch of salt if you use unsalted)
50g Sugar, divided into 2 lots of 25g (roughly)
4 large eggs at room temperature, separated
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
slosh brandy
1 tsp instant coffee granules

Take 6 little pots. Espresso cups that can withstand the oven are just darling, although I don't have these so I used ramekins. Basically, whatever you have will be just fine. Grease these lightly and dust with caster sugar.

In a bowl set over a pan of simmering water (don't let the bottom of the bowl touch the water!) melt the chocolate and butter together, stirring until beautifully smooth and glossy. Remove this from the heat and stir in one portion of the sugar (25g). Allow to cool slightly before mixing in the egg yolks - you don't want them to cook yet! Then mix in the flavourings - I used vanilla, brandy and coffee, you could use whatever makes you go weak at the knees*.

In a nice, sparkley clean bowl - if there's even the faintest hint of grease the egg whites won't whisk up properly - whisk up the egg whites. Bits of yolk and shell also prevent them from frothing nicely, so take care with this bit. It's not hard, just not the time to play it fast and loose with the eggs. In case you ever do that...

Ahem, anyway, so whisk the egg whites up until fairly stiff. Then add in the other half of the sugar and whisk until they form soft, floppy peaks. Fold one third of this into the chocolate mix, then fold in the remainder until just incorporated. You don't want to overmix as you don't want to loose all of that lovely air you just worked so hard to get in there. Divide the mix up between the 6 little pots.

To cook, pop them in a 220C preheated oven for 10-12 mins. Mine cooked in 10 - the tops want to be firm but don't overcook as you want a yummy, molten centre.

They can be left at room temperature for an hour or two and cooked at the last minute or in the fridge for a day or so and brought up to room temperature before cooking. Perfect for dinner parties as you can be super organised!

Cardamom Cream
250ml double cream
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
2 tbsp caster sugar

Sieve the cardamom as you don't want any gritty bits in the cream. Then simply whip everything together, up to soft peaks and dollop on the hot puds. Or eat straight from the bowl if you're JJ...

Rosy xx

*Being a long time fan of Ina Garten, I tend to always add vanilla and coffee to chocolate as she says it just makes the chocolate taste more chocolately. And she's amazing so who am I to argue?! But David adds a bunch of very interesting flavours to his spiced version of these - cinnamon, chilli, cloves and black pepper. He's amazing too so I totally think that would be awesome! Just go nuts. Only one word of warning - I didn't go with the spices as I had the cardamom cream and was adding a very distinctive flavour in that way. If you have complex flavours in the chocolate pots, you probably want to pair them with something more neutral, such as a simple vanilla icecream or creme fraiche.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Cauliflower Fritters with Lime Yoghurt

Ah, the humble cauliflower. Le chou fleur. Das blumenkohl. A much maligned vegetable that even I don't really like that much (and I eat most things. Apart from aubergine but I'm working on that. And fresh coriander but is it me or does it just taste like soap?!). Sure, smother it in cheese sauce and bake with a breadcrumb top and it's great, but then what isn't improved with cheese sauce?

Enter the fabulous gentlemen at Ottolenghi. Ottolenghi is a bit of a London institution, run by Yotam Ottolenghi and head chef Sami Tamimi, and I have been head over heels about their food ever since JJ gave me the recipe book last Christmas. Definitely my most used recipe book! Love it. Now, I don't know how they manage it, but they can take something as ordinary as a french bean and make a salad with it that you just long to eat forever. Or broccoli - I like broccoli but I like it even more when seared and mixed with garlic and chilli! But I doubted that even they could make a cauliflower tasty. But boy, was I was wrong! Oh how wrong.

These are just delicious - easy to make, wonderfully flavoured and so filling. And if you can't be bothered with the yoghurt, just grate a bit of garlic into some mayonnaise and mix with a bit of seasoning. Although the yoghurt is REALLY good...

Cauliflower Fritters with Lime Yoghurt
Adapted from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook

1 small cauliflower
120g Plain flour
3 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 shallots, finely chopped
4 eggs
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 1/2 tsp salt (don't be afraid - it needs a very generous season)
1 tsp ground black pepper
ca. 500ml sunflower (or other flavourless) oil

Lime Yoghurt
300g Greek yoghurt
2 tbsp chopped mint and parsley (the recipe states coriander but I'm just not that keen on raw coriander)
Grated zest of 1 lime
Juice of 1 1/2 - 2 limes
2 tbsp Olive oil
salt and pepper

First, make the yoghurt by mixing up the yoghurt, herbs, lime zest and some of the juice, olive oil and seasoning. Taste and add more lime juice or seasoning until you have a 'vibrant, tart, citrusy flavour'. Refrigerate or leave out for up to an hour.

Prepare the cauliflower, dividing it into florets. Add to a large pan of boiling salted water and simmer for 15 minutes or until very soft. Drain into a colander.

Put the flour, chopped parsley, garlic, shallots, eggs, spices, salt and pepper in a bowl and whisk into a batter. When the mixture is smooth, add the warm cauliflower. Mix to break down cauliflower into the batter.

Pour sunflower oil into a pan – 1.5cm depth – and heat. When hot, spoon in the cauliflower mixture, I did about 2 tablespoons per fritter. Fry in small batches, controlling oil temperature so the fritters cook but don’t burn. They should take 3-4 minutes on each side.

Remove from pan and drain on a kitchen paper. Serve with sauce on the side. They're wonderful with pita bread and a green salad.
Rosy xx

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Blackberry Upside Down Cake for British Food Fortnight

Have I mentioned recently that I heart autumn? Love it. Me and autumn, we're besties. It's the cool air, the excitement of Christmas being just around the corner (although far enough away not to be in a panic about it just yet) and the leaves! Oh how I love the leaves. Our front door is just down the side of the main house and the little alley way fills up with crisp, russet sycamore leaves. Until we can work up the enthusiasm to sweep them away, we're knee deep in them! I love it. I kick them up every morning just before setting out to work, just as I take my first breath of the fresh, crisp air. Very refreshing!

Other people enjoy the season in other ways. Take my Dad. He's a very handy person and is always whipping up a new kitchen counter, pergola or, in this case, a little house! In his own words:

'In brief, the accommodation comprises: Entrance porch, leading to spacious vestibule with single bed/hibernation room off. The attractive development boasts a contemporary Forest Green finish. Set in large and well tended gardens to front and sides. Viewing essential!'

Of course, with the spec. he provided a picture...

All this for the cutest of (flea ridden) creatures, the hedgehog. I love that it even has a proper weather proofed roof! And the to let sign??! I hope those hedgehogs appreciate the effort.

As well as building hedgehog starter homes, my Dad is also an exceptional cook, as I've already shown you, and this is another one of his recipes.  Perfect for cool autumn days and using up the blackberries picked from the hedgerows (or bought in Waitrose if you live in London) and top of my list for the sweet week of British Food Fortnight! I've seen Ina Garten do something similar and call it a cake tatin but whatever you choose to call it, I urge you to give it a try! It's one of those great recipes that so simple yet yields wonderfully impressive results. Great served warm as a dessert or cold with a big cup of tea. Either way, creme fraiche or greek yoghurt is a perfect accompaniment to contrast with the sweet caramel covered berries.

Blackberry Upside Down Cake

Top/Bottom (depending on whether it's upside down or not yet!)
50g Butter
115g Caster Sugar
350g Blackberries (or plums, blueberries, apples, pears... Whatever you've got! Fruit that's a little tart is best though)

150g Butter
200g Caster Sugar
3 large Eggs
150g Self Raising Flour (or plain with 2 1/2 tsp baking powder added)
25g Ground Almonds
1 Tbsp Amaretto (or other liqueur. Or a bit of milk)
pinch salt (if using unsalted butter)

Preheat your oven to 180C/Gas 4. Grease a 10" round cake tin (springform is a definite plus!!).

Heat the 50g butter and 115g sugar for the topping in a small pan over a low heat, stirring well until melted. Simmer gently for 3-4 mins until it turns a delicious coffee brown colour. Pour into the prepared tin and spread to coat the bottom. Arrange the blackberries in one even layer on the caramel. It works best if all the caramel is covered as it looks slightly more impressive with a solid berry layer. I didn't quite have enough so you can see some sponge poking through.

Beat together the butter and sugar for the cake until pale and creamy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Sift in the flour and salt and fold into the batter, followed by the almonds and amaretto. Spoon over the fruit and smooth the top. Bake for 50mins until cooked through.

Cool for 10 mins then run a knife around the edge. Turn out onto a serving plate and serve warm or allow to cool. Turning out while warm is a must!! Otherwise all the berries will stick to the base. Serve with creme fraiche, greek yoghurt or cream.

One last thing, don't forget to check out Katie's blog for the British Food Fortnight summary!

Rosy xx

Monday, 9 November 2009

Pear Muffins with Gingersnap Crumble

Whoop!!! I have a new camera!! I feel whole again. Phew, those couple of weeks felt loooong. So I can get back to normal and bake with the lovely SMS bakers! I've missed my Sunday baking. This one's a touch delayed as we haven't got the laptop replaced yet so I have to be in work to post (sshhhhhh - please don't tell on me).

This week was pear and cranberry muffins with gingersnap crumble chosen by Jennifer of Maple N' Cornbread. I was so looking forward to these as I happen to think pears are just about the epitome of autumn and very tasty too!

I modified like crazy on this recipe. I would love to say that it was due to a rush of creative inspiration but no, it had more to do with me being unable (read: too lazy!) to go to the shops for all the bits I'd forgotten. Such as flour. Oops. So I swapped in wholemeal flour, buttermilk instead of cream and raisins instead of cranberries. I'm just not that much of a cranberry fan, unless it's in juice form poured over vodka with a slice of lime. I also upped the quantity of buttermilk to a full half cup as these muffins have been known to be slightly dry. Then I also thought that they needed christmasying up a bit (that's a word!) so I added ground all spice. And I replaced some of the baking powder with bicarbonate of soda due to the use of buttermilk*.

So. Not such a fan of these! I liked the texture, I just felt that the pear didn't really come through and there wasn't a whole lot of other flavour there. I think some other spices would really liven them up and yes, possibly cranberries would help! Or another berry. Anyway, the wholemeal flour was nice and the texture was a definite improvement.

I'm off to have a look at how the other bakers got on and see what yummy alternatives might improve these little babies next time.

Ahhh, it's good to be back...

Rosy x

*It's a whole acid thing - baking powder is neutral, bicarb of soda, or baking soda, is alkaline. You use baking powder if the mix is neutral and soda if you have acidic components. I like to think my chemistry degree comes in useful now and again!