l e e k y s o u p

February 5, 2010

 

A yummy simple recipe that requires only a few ingredients, and at little cost for the pocket and the clock, it’s a winter mid-week favourite. I love soup, comfort food at its simplest.

 

 

L E E K Y S O U P

3 leeks

1 white onion

3 large baking potatoes

3 cloves garlic

30g butter

extra virgin olive oil

1.5 L hot vegetable stock

maldon sea salt

black pepper

single cream to serve

 

To P R E P A R E  the vegetables, trim and wash the leeks. Slice them up into 1cm rings. Don’t be exact! It’ll all be blended up eventually, so precision is not necessary here. Peel and dice the onion. Cube the potatoes into 2cm chunks. Don’t bother peeling the potatoes, the skin is good for you, and it’s an extra task you needn’t bother with! Again, precision is not key here. Chop the garlic. 

To make the S O U P, heat the butter in a large pot with a glug of olive oil. Once the butter is melted, add the onions and leek to the pot. Stir gently over a medium heat to coat the vegetables.  Throw in the garlic after a couple of minutes. Give it an occasional stir. After a couple more minutes, add the potatoes. Stir through and cook for a further few minutes. Pour in the stock and gently bring to the boil. Simmer for about 10 minutes stirring occasionally, just long enough to cook the potatoes through. Remove from the heat and rest for a minute. 

Use a hand held blender to B L E N D the soup in the pot. Blend it til completely smooth or leave a few chunks in there for a more rustic finish. Return to the heat for a few more minutes, season with a bit of salt and pepper. Serve hot with a jug of single cream to pour over individual bowls, and make sure there’s plenty of crusty bread to dip! Serves 6-8.

 

 

 

p e c a n p r a l i n e c o o k i e s

January 7, 2010

So I told you there would be another post coming soon! These cookies make use of the pecan praline I made yesterday (see previous entry), and they were a bit of an experiment, but one that paid off!

 

 

P E C A N P R A L I N E C O O K I E S

125g butter

1/2 cup dark muscovado sugar

3/4 cup light brown sugar

2 eggs

1  1/2 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 good pinch maldon sea salt

75g dark belgium cooking chocolate

1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped pecan praline

 

Firstly P R E H E A T the oven to 180°C. To make the cookie batter, cream the butter and sugars in a bowl until smooth. Add the eggs and the vanilla extract and mix well. Sift in the flour and baking powder, and add the salt. Beat mixture thoroughly. Chop the slab of chocolate into smallish 1cm pieces with a knife. Fold into the mix along with the chopped praline.

 

 

For L A R G E cookies, drop generous tablespoons of mixture onto a baking tray covered in wax paper. Leave plenty of room between each cookie! For smaller cookies, drop decent teaspoons of mixture onto the tray. Put them in the oven on the middle shelf, and bake til lightly browned. Large cookies will take about 12 minutes to cook, the smaller ones will take about 9 minutes. Take them out and leave to cool for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

These cookies are S O F T inside with nuggets of praline and chunks of chocolate. Andrew gobbled a few down before they had a chance to even cool down, so they have the thumbs up from him!

 

 

l o u i s i a n a p e c a n p r a l i n e

January 6, 2010

I woke up today to find that bristol is under a blanket of snow. It’s beautiful! But instead of braving the cold, I thought I would stay in today and make something with what I can find in my cupboards (not a lot). This is a simple recipe that is more akin to the traditional praline recipes of the 19th century. There’s no cream or condensed milk, just a small amount of butter. The rest is sugar, water, pecans, and a dash of vanilla! YAY I have ALL these things!

 

 

P E C A N P R A L I N E

1 cup white sugar

1/3 cup dark muscovado sugar

1/2 cup water

1 cup pecan halves

2 tsp butter

1 tsp vanilla

 

To make the P R A L I N E , put  the sugars and water in a heavy based medium saucepan. Bring to the boil on a medium heat stirring occasionally until all the sugar crystals dissolve. This will only take a few minutes. Then with your hands, crush the pecan halves gently into the saucepan, so you have a variety of pecan pieces. Stir these into the sugar syrup, and reduce heat to low, stirring occasionally. Cook for anywhere between 15-30 minutes, until the syrup begins to thicken and reaches setting point. You can test this by dropping a small amount on a saucer and putting it into the freezer for a minute. It should start to set pretty quickly if it’s ready and the mixture will look much more opaque at this point. If it just spills out on the saucer it needs longer.

 

 

When it’s ready, remove from the heat, add the butter and the vanilla, and beat the mixture with a wooden spoon unil it starts to stiffen slightly. Drop spoonfuls of the mixture onto a baking tray lined with wax paper and leave it to set. If it goes too stiff to spoon onto the tray, just add a few drops of hot water and beat well to loosen the mixture.

You can either eat the morsels of candy goodness as they are, or crush and sprinkle over icecream etc… I am going to A T T E M P T to make some cookies with the praline later on today. So there may be another post on the way soon!

 

 

 

 

s t i l t o n a n d w a l n u t b i s c u i t s

December 18, 2009

 

These are becoming a December staple, and are a great alternative to the seasonal mince pie if your taste buds are more inclined towards nibbles of the savoury nature. They’re also a great addition to your festive cheese board; no need to get the cheese knife out, it’s already in the biscuit! They’re based on a pastry recipe so they’re light, flaky…. and packed full of flavour!

 

 

B I S C U I T P A S T R Y

2 cups plain flour

120g butter

130g stilton cheese

50g walnuts

2 egg yolks

 

T O P P I N G

1 egg, beaten

40g stilton cheese

50g walnuts

maldon sea salt


Preheat the oven to 175°C. To make the B I S C U I T P A S T R Y put the flour in a large mixing bowl. Add the butter in small dice. With your finger tips, rub the butter into the flour to form very fine crumbs. This takes a little patience! Chop the walnuts finely and add to the bowl along with the stilton, crumbled. Mix them into the crumbs with your fingertips. Add the two egg yolks and combine well to form a slightly crumbly dough mixture. It will fall apart easily, but should hold together enough for the purposes of rolling it out!

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry (this can be done in small batches) to approx 5mm thick. Using a round cutter or a glass which is about 5cm in diameter, press into the pastry to stamp out small rounds. Pop these onto a baking tray that’s lined with greaseproof paper.

For the T O P P I N G , firstly prick each biscuit gently twice with a fork. Brush them with the beaten egg. Chop the remaining 50g of walnuts, but not quite as fine as before. With your fingers, just crumble a small amount of stilton and walnuts over each biscuit, and then give a light sprinkling of maldon salt on top. Don’t bother crushing the sea salt too much between your fingers, it’s nice to see the larger crystals sitting on top of the biscuits.

To B A K E them, put them in the oven for about 20 minutes, until lightly golden. Place on a wire rack to cool, then store in airtight containers. They should last a few days, but that’s only if they’re not eaten first! Makes ~ 30.

 

 

v a n i l l a b e a n c h e e s e c a k e

December 3, 2009

 

I’ve only made cheesecake once before… and let’s just say it wasn’t perfect! When Andrew was reminiscing about it the other day he remembered it to be raspberry cheesecake with a chocolate base. I had to sadly correct him that it was in fact a burnt base, not chocolate. I can imagine how he might have been mistaken, a similar colour no? But Andrew REALLY wanted one for his birthday so I thought it was time to have a real proper go at it. Inspired by my NYC visit earlier this year, I opted for the big classic vanilla cheesecake. Most recipes floating about have similar ingredients. I think the difference in result, is really in the preparation, cooking technique and patience. You have to be committed to the cheesecake cause! So this recipe is with particular thanks to my Grandma, the internet, and a couple of books!

 

 

B I S C U I T B A S E

13 digestive biscuits, crushed finely

3 Tbsp salted butter, melted

 

C H E E S E C A K E F I L L I N G

1 kg full fat cream cheese, at room temperature

1  1/2 cups sugar

1 vanilla bean

1 Tbsp vanilla extract

4 large eggs, lightly beaten

250ml sour cream

185 ml milk

1 level Tbsp plain flour

 

T O S E R V E :

1 punnet raspberries

 

So the most important thing to know before you start, is that whilst this only takes an hour to cook in the oven, the overall process can take the better part of  a day. I would suggest you bake it the day before you need it, and then you won’t be rushing around frantically cussing at cheese and other inanimate objects!

Preheat the oven to 170°C (fan assisted). Now, you’ll need a 9″ diameter, non-stick springform C A K E T I N . It would be a nightmare to get it out of anything else! With a bit of butter, grease the inside of the tin thoroughly. Grease the base, and all the way up the sides. This will help to remove the cake from the tin, but it will also help prevent the cake from splitting across the top (As it cools down, the sides of the cake will pull away from the tin; so greasing it will ensure it doesn’t split during this process).

To make the B I S C U I T B A S E all you need to do is combine the biscuit crumbs in a bowl with the melted butter until it is mixed well. Now I really must stress using salted butter for this base, because it tastes especially sublime against the smooth sweet creaminess of the filling. Press the crumbs firmly and evenly into the tin.

To make the C R E A M C H E E S E F I L L I N G firstly ensure that all ingredients are room temperature. I remove my cheese, eggs, and sour cream from the fridge several hours before I start. It prevents lumps, which in turn prevents the cake from splitting! In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese with a wooden spoon until smooth. Add the sugar and mix this in. Take the vanilla bean and split it lengthways, then run a knife down it to scrape the seeds out. Add the seeds to the mixture and stir them through, along with the milk and vanilla extract. Gradually stir the beaten eggs in, mixing to combine. Beat the sour cream til smooth in a small bowl first, then add to the mixture. Sift in the flour. Try not to over stir the mixture, just stir enough to ensure everything is combined and it’s smooth.

To A S S E M B L E, pour the filling over the biscuit base in the tin. Give the tin a little tap on the work surface, to help any bubbles rise to the surface. You want the filling to be as smooth as possible!

To B A K E the cheesecake, place it in the lower middle shelf of the preheated oven. Bake it for 60 minutes and then turn the oven off. It might look like it hasn’t finished after the 60 minutes baking time, or it hasn’t risen evenly, but trust me that’s all it needs! Take it out very briefly to run a knife carefully around the edge of the cake, gently loosening the sides from the tin. Put it back in the oven with the door closed for at least 2-3 hours. Longer if you can! It will set, settle, and cool in the oven during this post-baking period. This V I T A L step will help to prevent cracking of the surface, so please be patient! Once it is sufficiently cooled, chill it in the fridge for a couple of hours before serving, or overnight if serving the next day.

Now get those raspberries out and  scatter them all over a big massive slice and tuck in! Birthday candles optional…

 

d o l m a d e s

November 25, 2009

 

I had a couple of friends over on the weekend so I planned a mediterranean ‘tapas’ evening. Handy because you can prepare most of it in advance so you can enjoy the company rather than spending the whole evening in the kitchen! On the menu I had spanish tortilla, tzatziki, chorizo & garlic prawns, crusty bread, cheeses, olives, and dolmades. And I thought i’d put the recipe for the dolmades up, as they were my first attempt, and they proved to be a popular nibble! I didn’t have a chance to take any proper photos, but I took a few briskly in a badly lit kitchen.

 

 

D O L M A D E S

1 packet vine leaves in brine

extra virgin olive oil

1 cup long grain rice

2 red onions, chopped fine

2 cloves garlic, chopped fine

1 lemon sliced

the juice of 1 lemon

3 tbsp pine nuts, toasted lightly

2 tbsp sultanas

handful of dill, chopped

handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped

maldon salt & black pepper

 

To prepare the V I N E  L E A V E S remove them from the packaging, and blanch them in boiling water for about 3 minutes. Drain, and run under cold water to prevent them from cooking further. Try not to tear them when doing this, you want the leaves in tact as much a possible, so the dolmades hold their shape and don’t lose their stuffing!

To make the S T U F F I N G heat a few tbsp of olive oil in a 20cm diameter heavy based pan (about 7-8cm deep). Gently fry the onions for about 7 minutes, until soft. Add the garlic and stir through over low heat for 1 minute. Then add the rice, and turn through well, coating in the oil. We only want to partially cook the  rice during this stage. The rice will finish cooking once wrapped inside the vine leaves. So now gradually add about 1 cup of warm water to the pan and stir it into the rice mixture, allowing it to be absorbed fully, this should take no more than 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, and remove the pan from the heat, transfer to a large mixing bowl and allow to cool for 5 or so minutes. Then add the pine-nuts, sultanas, parsley, dill, a dash of olive oil, and a bit more seasoning if needed.

To make the D O L M A D E S firstly prepare the pan. Using the same heavy based pan (but cleaned!), pour about 1-2 tbsp olive oil in the base. Then line the base with about 5 vine leaves, overlapping them so the base is completely covered. I try and use the torn/poorly shaped leaves for this bit, and save the good leaves for the dolmades! Now on a clean surface, lay out several vine leaves with the veiny side facing up, stem side closest to you, leaf tip furthest away. You then put about 1-2 heaped tsp of the filling into the centre of each leaf. Now imagine the leaf is a compass. To roll them up, fold the East and West sides over the filling, bring the base (South) of the leaf up over the filling, and roll away from you, tapering the section of the leaf that you are rolling towards so that each dolmade has a neat, tapered seam (when i make these again, i’ll take some more photos!). It’s important not to roll them TOO tightly. The rice will expand a bit when it cooks completely, so you don’t want them to burst! Put them into the pan as you go, fitting them in snugly, seam side down, until you’ve filled the base of the pan with them.

To C O O K the dolmades, place about 7 lemon slices over them in the pan, and then pour the juice of 1 lemon (about 2 Tbsp lemon juice) over them. Then pour enough water over them until it reaches about 2/3 of the way up the dolmades. I find this usually requires about 1 cup of water. Pour a dash of olive oil over them. Finally, place a circle of greaseproof paper over the dolmades, and then sit a small plate upside down, on-top of the paper. This will keep them snugly in place! Put the lid on, and place on the hob on a low heat, for about 35 minutes. Turn off the heat, and leave them in the pan with the lid on for another 30 minutes, to continue soaking up all the juices.

You can S E R V E  them warm, straight out of the pan… or alternatively leave them to cool or chill them in the fridge until you need to serve them. I prefer them cold with a bit of tzatziki to dip them in!

 

s u s h i s u s h i

November 17, 2009

 

 

S U S H I


I made sushi on the weekend with Andrew. Now I won’t go into all the fancy schmancy details on how to make them, because there are a million other blogs that will explain this better than me! But my favourite combination that I concocted on saturday was an inside out roll filled with king prawns in a tempura batter, with strips of vegetables, a tiny bit of mayo (I want to try wasabi mayo with this next time), and finally, rolled in sesame seeds! The crunch of the tempura batter was delightful. YUM!

We were on a cheap budget, but wanted to make some sushi that didn’t consist of just carrot sticks… So instead of yummy but expensive sashimi grade tuna and salmon, we opted for some cheaper (but still very yummy!) fillings. Crab sticks, smoked salmon (it was on offer ok!), a couple of king prawns, chives, avocado, carrot, cucumber, japanese rolled omelette, sesame seeds, mayonnaise, and capsicum. Obviously not all in the same roll, divide them up into combinations that take your fancy!

Always serve with soy sauce, wasabi, pickled ginger, and a MASSIVE bowl of steamed edamame beans sprinkled with maldon sea salt to snack on.

c h o c o l a t e p e c a n p i e

November 4, 2009

I made this chocolate pecan pie for my birthday dinner on monday. It’s sort of an amalgamation of various different recipes because I wasn’t  happy with the ones i found!

 

 

T A R T C A S E

100g cold butter (i prefer salted!)

200g plain flour

60g caster sugar

2 egg yolks

 

C H O C O L A T E P E C A N P I E F I L L I N G

1  1/2 cups pecan nuts

125g dark belgian cooking chocolate

4 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1/2 cup corn syrup (can substitute with golden or maple syrup)

1 tsp vanilla

pinch maldon sea salt

 

To make the T A R T C A S E , cut the cold butter into small dice. In a bowl rub the butter into the flour between the tips of your fingers to form what looks like fine breadcrumbs. If you have a food processor you can blitz it together in there instead, using short bursts. Add the sugar and turn through. In a separate small bowl, lightly beat the yolks with a fork. Add a tablespoon of cold water to the yolks, then stir this into the flour mixture. Bring it together with your fingers to form a dough. Knead it briefly to make  a smooth ball. Chill in the fridge for an hour or more. Roll it out to fit a 24cm tart tin (the kind with the base that pops out of it). Once it’s in the case and you’ve tidied the edges, put it back in the fridge for an extra 30 minutes of chill time. Blind bake the pastry (i line the pastry with greaseproof paper and fill it with rice) at 180°C for about 15 minutes, or until firm and lightly coloured. Leave to cool on a wire rack!

To make the C H O C O L A T E P E C A N P I E , spread the pecan nuts evenly across the base of the tart case. In a bowl, combine the sugars, syrup, vanilla, and salt. Break the chocolate up into small pieces, and place in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering hot water. Stir the chocolate until melted, then take off the heat and allow to cool a little (without letting it set!). Stir the chocolate into the sugar mixture well. When it is just warm to the touch (the eggs will cook and scramble if the chocolate is too hot), gradually beat in the eggs to form a smooth silky texture. Pour this over the pecans in the tart case. Bake in a preheated oven at 180°C for 50-60 minutes, or until it is set.

Cut the pie into wedges, and serve with a ball of vanilla ice cream. Y U M .

g r r r r . . . a r g h ! c u p c a k e s

November 4, 2009

I spent a large part of last weekend fashioning faces for cupcakes. I LOVE decorating cupcakes. And everybody seems to enjoy devouring them, so they’re a regular on my baking agenda. Oh also, I normally double this recipe because I like to make heaps!

 

C U P C A K E S

125g softened butter (i prefer salted variety)

125g self raising flour

125g caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 eggs, lightly beaten

2 tbsp milk

 

F R O S T I N G

100g soft butter

100g icing sugar, sifted

vanilla extract

food colouring of your choice!

lots of candy!!

 

 

To make the C U P C A K E S, you need to firstly beat the softened butter with the sugar in a bowl until pale and fluffy. I use a wooden spoon, but if you’re lucky enough to have an electric mixer, go with that! Gradually beat in the eggs, whisking as you go. Beat in the vanilla. Sift in half the flour, mixing well to incorporate. Then add the milk, and the remaining flour. Continue to fold this in until the mixture is smooth. In a muffin tray lined with paper cases, pour the mixture in to fill each case about 2/3 of the way up. Bake in a preheated oven at 180°C for 12-15 minutes until golden. (n.b. If you’re unsure, stick a wooden kebab stick into the centre of one cake to check it’s done. If it comes out clean, they’re ready! If it’s all globby with bits of cake, keep ’em baking!) Cool on a wire rack. Makes 8-10 large-ish cupcakes.

To make the F R O S T I N G, beat the butter in a bowl until it’s as white and smooth as you can possibly get it. Again, this is a good time to be the proud owner of an electric mixer. Woe is me! Then sift in the icing sugar, a bit at a time, beating to incorporate it. Add a tsp of vanilla (or lemon juice, or other flavouring) at this point, and if you want to colour it, add a few drops of your colouring. Beat it in until you reach a smooth spreadable consistency. If it’s too runny, add more icing sugar; if it’s too stiff, add a splash of milk.

To D E C O R A T E the cupcakes, spread or pipe the icing on. I cut up bits of licorice all sorts, strawberry laces, and so on, to make parts of the faces. I also decorated with hundreds and thousands, and used specialty black icing to pipe the letters and make the cobwebs.

r o a s t e d p u m p k i n s e e d s

October 30, 2009

Happy Halloween everyone! Getting ready for the halloween festivities… As you can see i’ve carved my jack’o’lantern. And after sifting through its guts I decided to have a go at roasting the pumpkin seeds.

 

R O A S T E D  P U M P K I N  S E E D S

1 pumpkin’s worth of seeds

maldon sea salt

olive oil

Take the pumpkin seeds and spread them out thinly on a baking tray. Don’t wash or rinse them, they’ll lose their flavour! just make sure the seeds are free of all the stringy pumpkin guts. A good sprinkling of maldon salt and a very light drizzle of olive oil, and in they go at about 230°C. I left mine in for about 25 minutes. Or until they turn a deep golden colour. Leave to cool on the tray, and give them a little shake. Store in an airtight container for up to a week! An excellent autumnal alternative to boring old nuts and nibbles.