Tuesday, 27 April 2010

A very late strawberry rhubarb cobbler

I'm getting into terrible habits at the moment - leaving laundry to the last minute, not really thinking through the weekly shop so having to top it up nearly every day, being woefully behind on the hoovering and (by far the worst) posting my Sweet Melissa Sundays posts wildly late! So I must apologise profusely to my fellow bakers and I shall try to do better. As for the laundry and hoovering, I'm making no guarantees...
strawberry rhubarb cobbler 1
Back to this week's pick - Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler Pie. Rhubarb and I have a mixed history. Growing up, it was one of three things I would simply refuse to eat - the others being courgettes and aubergine (or eggplants for all you Americans out there). Which was a little unfortunate given my parents' love of growing the stuff. And courgettes (not aubergines - phew!). Rhubarb was synonymous with being persuaded that the slimy goop in front of me was actually very good for me and I had to eat it - rhubarb fool, rhubarb crumble, rhubarb and custard... All equaled a traumatising childhood in my eyes (note - this may be a slight exaggeration. My childhood was in fact wonderful and in no way traumatising. Apart from my big brother and a certain incident with a pram and a rather large muddy puddle but we shan't go into that now!).

Then, about a year ago, I started to experiment with it to find I actually liked the stuff! I think a certain strawberry rhubarb white chocolate mousse cake might've had something to do with my conversion. I can only conclude that the reason I didn't like it before was my mother's motto that you can always add more sugar to a dish but you can't take it away. This meant that the aforementioned rhubarb crumbles were eye wateringly sour and when we attempted to add a spoon more sugar, we were of course scolded and told we were rotting our teeth. I need not add that my mother does not have a sweet tooth!
strawberry rhubarb cobbler 2
That's the thing with cooking rhubarb - too little sugar and you'll end up with a dish so tart your teeth with be sucked back into your head, but too much and all the tartness and delicate flavour will be lost. With this recipe, that was the main alteration I made right up front - I actually halved the sugar after finding a similar recipe from a very trusted source. I also subbed half the sugar (about 75g) for soft brown sugar, upped the cornstarch by about 1/2tbsp and added a teaspoon of ground ginger. If anything goes better wit rhubarb than ginger, I've yet to find it. I found this also cut through the sweetness of the strawberries nicely - with the original sugar quantity quoted in the recipe I can't help but think this would have been tooth achingly sweet.
I did actually intend to make this as a cobbler pie - I promise!! But I had a mishap with the pastry. I have no idea what I did wrong but it was a disaster! I must've measured the butter out incorrectly as it did not look right at all. After baking off a little disc to check the pastry and binning the resulting weird greasy biscuit thingy, I scrapped the idea of a pie and went with the straight up cobbler. And all's well that ends well! We loved the flavour combination and the cobbler topping was yummy - perfect for a sunday night in watching CSI (again with the terrible tv! I should stop confessing to such things).
strawberry rhubarb cobbler 3
So hop on over to Tracey's blog for the recipe and, as always, don't forget the other lovely ladies!

Rosy xx

Friday, 23 April 2010

Wild Garlic and Walnut Pesto

wild garlic pesto 4
I love living in London with a passion. Have I mentioned that lately?! Whilst having dinner with some friends the other night, we got to discussing how overwhelming some people find life in London and how, in towns outside the capital, you'll frequently meet people who just can't imagine dealing with the constant hustle and bustle, frankly terrifying crime rate and above all, the expense of the big city. And of course I can identify with that sentiment! Finding a quiet space is nigh on impossible and having any space to yourself is normally incredibly expensive (although by the sounds of things, nothing on the cost of New York appartments). As soon as you open your front door, you're never alone and yet lonliness is rife.

So what exactly is the appeal of the city? For me, predictably, this revolves primarily around food. You could eat out at a different restaurant every night and never eat at the same place twice. Of course, some nights might be a whole lot worse than others, and I definitely don't earn enough to test this theory! Within this huge swathe of eateries throughout the city, there are so many marvelous hidden gems. From the stunning sandwiches and cakes in cafes tucked away down alleys to organic pizzas with toppings that make grown men weep. The italian deli in the most unpreposessing of locations with heavenly antipasti, the tiny grocers stocking perfection in chocolate form, sourced from arguably one of Brussels' finest chocolatiers (and they know a thing or two about chocolate) and the late night falafel bar for soaking up the alcohol after a night in the West End. To name but a few. And today, my head is aching thanks to the discovery of some of the finest cocktails I've ever tried, in a bar so hidden it doesn't even have a name.

All of these places and more - oh so many more! On reflection, I've visited each of these places only a handful of times, if only because of the ever growing list of new places on my list to try (a consequence of equally food obsessed friends). On of my favorite and most frequently used discovery to date? Awesome food I don't even have to leave the flat for - sign me up! Especially when my head is quite so painful... And this is how I came to sample the stunning and so underused ingredient that is wild garlic. If we lived in the country, I would dedicate a morning to learning to forage for the stuff, but in the mean time, we shall have to make do with someone else doing the foraging for us (I'm not sure whether Hampstead Heath is a hot spot for foraging. Rumour has it, wandering off the beaten track is left to those with a taste for rather different earthly delights...).
wild garlic pesto 2
Having never tried this leaf before (salad? vegetable? herb? Not sure of the precise definition) I decided to keep it simple. Nothing showcases garlic's pungency quite like pesto. But the charming thing about this particular pesto is its gentler flavour and so much more sociable nature. If you happen to spot wild garlic (whilst foraging or otherwise) I urge you to give it a go. It has been added to our order again this weekend so I shall keep you posted on other uses! Thinking wild garlic mayo...

Rosy xx

Wild Garlic and Walnut Pesto
adapted from Wild Garlic, Gooseberries and Me

100g wild garlic leaves
50g shelled walnuts
200ml olive oil
40g parmesan (or other similar hard cheese)
salt and pepper
lemon juice, parsley

Toast the walunts in a hot over for about 5 minutes - keep a close eye on them as you don't want them to burn but a good amount of colour really brings out the flavour. Allow to cool slightly.

Blend the wild garlic and walnuts in a food processor to for a course puree. Pour in the oil and blend. Add the cheese and pulse a few more times. Taste and season - I added a spritz of lemon juice and a tablespoon of parsley to brighten it up slightly but these aren't in the original recipe and could easily be ommited if you don't have any to hand.

Store in jars of tupperware with a layer of olive oil on top to keep the air from spoiling the pesto. Keeps in the fridge for about a week. Use as you would any other pesto but a little more liberally due to the more delicate flavour. I scaled the recipe for 80g wild garlic and it made 2 small jars of pesto.
wild garlic pesto 1

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Sweet Potato Bread

Oops, a little bit late with this week's Sweet Melissa Sundays! I actually baked it on Friday evening but there's a whole heap on our plates right now - going to have to be a bit cryptic about it for the time being but needless to say if only it were just the wedding invitations keeping us busy!!! We have FINALLY gotten around to planting some seeds so (if we don't suffer the terrorism of the local wildlife again) we should have some homegrown veg this summer. Which might be the best thing if the UK can no longer transport produce to our shores via plane! The volcanic ash cloud is such a surreal phenomenon but one which really drives home just how dependant the UK is on imports. I'm sure my favorite local produce suppliers will be seeing a huge surge in business though so definitely not all bad news.
sweet potato bread 3
Back to Sweet Melissa and her sweet potato bread! I've never used sweet potatoes in a sweet treat before, only ever as a side to a main meal, so I was keen to try it out. Being the huge fan that I am of carrot cake, I figured this would be right up my street. And it was! Wonderfully moist, great spice flavours and impossibly easy to make. And in a bundt tin! I heart my bundt tin. It would've been even easier had I been able to source canned sweet potatoes. Instead, I just threw a few large sweet potatoes in the oven whilst I was cooking dinner and let them roast in their own skins. Once nice and soft, I simply pulled the skins away to reveal the super soft, sweet flesh to use in the recipe. Got to say, a whole lot easier than my attempt at making pumpkin puree!!! Yeah, that didn't go so well...

Anyway, this tasted great and it's still gorgeous several days later! A few things I think I might change next time... I think I'll use at least some brown sugar to add a little depth to the sweetness and I also might try using less sugar as the cake was quite sweet. Also, I'd probably add some raisins and maybe miss the glaze but add cream cheese frosting. This would work so well with cream cheese frosting! Granted, cream cheese frosting makes rocks taste good, but it really would take this cake to a whole new level. Or of course, just use loaf tins for portability.
sweet potato bread 2
Thank you so much to Lorelei of Mermaid Sweets for a fantastic pick and head on over to her site for the recipe (and some great news!!). And, as always, have a look see over here at the other bakers' posts.

Rosy xx

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Chocolate Malted Cupcakes

*Warning, this post reveals I have truely terrible taste in books. And movies for that matter...

I have a terrible habit of baking up Sweet Melissa Sundays treats in advance, thinking myself oh so organised, and then promptly forgetting to take any snaps of them. And then what a shame! I have to bake them again... I swear I don't do it on purpose! (Ok, only sometimes do I do it on purpose). This week's sweet treat was one such occasion and I'm definitely not sorry I had to bake up these babies again!
malted chocolate cake
I first baked these a couple of weeks ago for a girls night in. It was the birthday of one of the girls from work - a girl I hold solely responsible for my love (ahem, obsession!) with a certain vampire romance series. In honour of this, the night was themed. Yep, we were a bunch of old ladies lusting after Edward and Jacob! We're that cool... But how to theme the food?? Everything red?! A little grim... Themed cupcakes to the rescue! Team Edward had red velvet cupcakes - an obvious choice. And Team Jacob? These deeply dark and delicious chocolate malted cupcakes. At the end of the night, everyone was Team Jacob, if only for the superior cupcake!
malted chocolate cake 2
This is a cake recipe used a fair bit throughout the Sweet Melissa Baking book, and an absolutely awesome recipe it is to. I used it in full layer cake form for one of JJ's two birthday cakes and it works equally well in cupcake form. I used 2/3 of the recipe and it yielded 16 good sized cupcakes. Half the icing recipe is mroe than sufficient for that many cupcakes - it's very sweet! Many thanks to Nicole of Sweet Tooth - amazing pick. And don't forget to head on over here to check out the other bakers' creations.

Rosy xx

Monday, 5 April 2010

Pecan Shortbread Cookies

pecan cookies 1

I've been a little rubbish with posting Sweet Melissa Sundays for a few weeks now but wow, I definitely couldn't miss pecan shortbread cookies! I love shortbread and I love love LOVE pecans. And these were wonderful - not a typical shortbread texture but buttery and much much lighter. Delish!

pecan cookies 2

Thank you to Lara from The Lab for hosting this week. And, as usual, don't forget to check out the other bakers' cookies.
pecan cookies 3

Rosy xx