Friday, August 31, 2007
These weren't just any sandwich though, they were deep fried! Yup, you heard it. Deep fried. Good ol' Monte Cristo sandwiches. If you have never heard of them or tried them, I urge you to do so quickly! They are one of the best sandwiches I have ever had. The combination of the powder sugar on the crunchy, greasy bread is just amazing. They are very heavy though and if you would normally eat one sandwich (two slices of bread) that wasn't fried, you'd only need half of a fried one. If you are serving this with fries, it will EASILY feed 4 people. I only ate half of one and Matt didn't finish his so that should give you an idea!
Not only are Monte Cristos delicious, they are also very easy and quick to make. There really isn't a recipe per se apart from the batter but here it is anyway.
Monte Cristo Sandwiches
2/3 cups flour (plain/all purpose)
2/3 cups water
4 slices of bread
4 slices turkey breast
4 slices ham
2 slices American cheese
2 slices Gouda cheese
oil for frying
strawberry or raspberry jam for dipping (optional)
Heat enough oil in a saucepan for deep frying. If you have a deep fryer, turn the temperature dial to 180°C / 350°F.
Mix the egg, flour and water in a bowl until no longer lumpy. Transfer to a shallow bowl.
Assemble the sandwich as normal, dividing the meat and cheese between the two and cut in half. Insert a toothpick in each half to hold in place then dunk in the batter and soak all sides. When the oil is hot enough, deep fry, turning occassionally, until golden.
Sprinkle with powder sugar and serve immediately.
Make sure the oil is really hot or the bread will absorb a lot of of oil and you will end up with soggy bread and you will not be able to eat the sandwich!
This is definitely NOT a diet friendly sandwich but it is SO good! It sure beats a plain ham and cheese sandwich!
Labels: deep fried, ham, sandwich, turkey
Thursday, August 30, 2007
For those who don't know, palm sugar comes from, you guessed it, palm trees; palmyra and date palm trees to be exact. It is very popular in Asian cooking and comes in variety of of forms, from solid blocks to a gooey mess in a can and everything in between. It can also be light or dark.
The recipe was for palm sugar, lime and star anise puff pastry spirals. As usual, I tinkered with it a bit and eliminated the lime part because my husband is not a fan of "citrusy" things and I can do without it. I really didn't know what to expect but I have to say the results were VERY tasty. I made 12 spirals and we inhaled them. I think I may just have to make more! Here is my version of the recipe.
Palm Sugar and Star Anise Spirals
2 star anise
60 g (2 1/4 oz) palm sugar, finely grated or soft brown sugar
2 sheet ready-rolled frozen puff pastry, thawed
40g (1 1/2 oz) butter, melted
Preheat the oven to 200°C / 400°F / Gas 6. Put the star anise on a cookie sheet and dry-roast in the oven for 3 minutes. Cool then grind using a mortar and pestle to form a fine powder.
Mix the palm sugar and ground star anise in a small bowl. Lay the two sheets of puff pasty on a work surface and brush each one with some of the melted butter. Scatter the palm sugar mixture over the two sheets. Take one pastry sheet and roll it up firmly to form a long log. Repeat with the other sheet.
Cut each log into 12 even slices, then put on a lined cookie sheet, spacing them a little. Flatten each pastry slightly with the palm of your hand, then brush the tops with the remaining butter. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, then bake for 20 minutes, or until puffed and golden brown.
Makes 24 spirals
For dinner, the TV trend continued. On Saturday, we were watching Saturday Kitchen with James Martin and he made a very delicious looking pan fried chicken with Vichy carrots. It looked very good and I happened to have the series' accompanying cookbook AND carrots growing in my garden so I decided to give it a go.
The recipe called for chicken breasts but I used chicken legs (drumstick and thigh together) because I am trying to use the stuff we have in the freezer before the move. Everything was delicious; it was all we expected and then some. The only complaint was that there wasn't enough! The legs just don't have as much meat as the breasts and the carrots, the last of the crop, weren't as plentiful as we would have liked. The carrots were amazing and not just because there were from our garden, which of course helps. This dish is DEFINITELY going into our "will make and eat again" list.
Vichy-Glazed Carrots with Pan-Fried Chicken Breasts
50 ml (2 fl oz) olive oil
50 g (2 0z) butter
4 chicken breasts, skin on salt and pepper
500 ml (17 1/2 fl oz) mineral water
25 g (1 oz) sugar 1 tsp salt
500 g (1lb 2oz) chantannay carrots or baby carrots, washed
25 g (1 oz) flat leaf parsley, chopped
25 g (1 oz) chervil, chopped
- Preheat the oven to 190°C / 375°F / Gas Mark 5.
- Heat a frying pan and add the oil.
- Season the chicken with salt and pepper and place in the pan, skin side down.
- Fry for 5 minutes until golden-brown, then turn over and place in the oven.
- Roast for 8 to 10 minutes until tender, then remove and rest for 5 minutes.
- In the mean time, put the water, sugar, salt and butter in a saucepan, then add the carrots, bring to the boil, turn down to a simmer, cover the pan and cook for 5 minutes.
- Remove the lid and allow the liquid to reduce to a syrup on a high heat, then add the chopped herbs and serve with the chicken.
This recipe is a slight variation of the one in the book, which had an error.
PS. My husband has just informed me that he does like citrusy things, it just depends on what it is. Obviously, I don't know him all that well!
Labels: carrots, chicken, palm sugar, puff pastry, star anise
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Growing up, I never understood why adults liked squash (the winter variety). They tried to make me eat some a few times but I outright refused. It didn't taste like much, or rather, it didn't taste like anything I'd want to eat. It was just odd.
Fast forward about 20 years (to last year) and one day, out of the blue, we picked up a butternut squash and decided to try it. Well, we loved it and we have been eating it ever since. So, when I came across a recipe for pumpkin and amaretto gelato and showed it to my husband, we were intrigued.
The recipe called for pumpkin or butternut squash but I used an acorn squash that had been hanging around my vegetable basket for a couple months. We couldn't find any amaretto cookies either so I used some regular cookie curls from M&S.
I really didn't know what to expect but I want into the kitchen, and the tasting, with an open mind. This was only the second time I made ice cream and the first time it was custard based. It was a lot of work, especially because I don't have an ice cream machine so I have to do everything by hand. It was worth it though, the gelato is very good. Don't be fooled by the unusual ingredients, it does work! After all, isn't pumpkin pie good???
This recipe is a slight variation of the one found in Ices Italia by Linda Tubby
Acorn Squash and Cookies Gelato
Serves 6 to 8
550 g / 1 lb 4 oz acorn squash (peeled and seeded weight)
85 g / 3 1/2 oz caster (superfine) sugar
3 egg yolks
250 ml / 9 fl oz full cream (whole) milk
150 ml / 5 fl oz whipping cream
75 g / 3 oz hard cookies, finely crumbled
Cut the squash into chunks and steam for about 25 minutes until soft. Transfer to a blender and process until a puree forms. Tip it into a sieve (strainer) set over a bowl and push it through in a circular motion with the back of a ladle. Set aside until required.
Whisk the sugar and egg yolks together in a heatproof bowl until pale in color. Put the milk and cream in a saucepan and bring to the boil. As soon as bubbles appear around the edge of the pan, pour into the egg mixture and mix well.
Wash out the pan and pour the mixture back in. Cook over a medium heat, stirring constantly for 8 to 10 minutes. When some of the foam disappears from the surface, place a sugar thermometer in the pan and continue to stir until the temperature reads 75°C / 167°F. Do not let the mixture get any hotter or the custard will curdle. Remove from the heat and pour into a bowl. Mix in the cookies and leave to cool.
Mix in the squash puree and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Churn using an ice cream maker following the manufacturer's instructions until frozen, or still freeze. Transfer to a freezerproof container, cover and freeze for 4 hours before serving.
If it is frozen for longer and becomes too hard, remove the lid and transfer to the refrigerator to soften about 45 minutes before serving.
If you don't have an ice cream maker, follow this still freezing method:
Pour the prepared and chilled gelato mixture into a freezerproof, rigid container, ideally one with a clearance of about 3 cm (1 1/4 inches) between the liquid and the top of the container so when you mix it, the mixture won't fly out.
Put the container, uncovered, in the coldest part of the freezer directly in contact with the open bars if possible. Freeze the gelato for 2 hours. Then, using a fork, dig out the frozen edges and corners into the slushy center and whisk the mixture with electric beaters or a hand whisk until it is broken up and slushy. Repeat the freezing and whisking process again then refreeze until evenly firm but not frozen solid (1 to 2 hours). Next, transfer to a food processor and process for 1 to 2 minutes until smooth. Return the mixture to the container and follow the recipe's final freezing time instructions.
I don't have a food processor so the final stage was a bit of a pain for me. I used my immersion blender, which is worth next to nothing in this situation. Obviously, an ice cream maker would make this much easier but it is by no means essential. Where there's a will there's a way!
Who knew acorn squash ice cream could actually be good??? I dare you to try it!
Labels: cookies, gelato, ice cream, Italian, squash
Monday, August 27, 2007
I was originally going to follow a recipe from one of my cookbooks but at the last minute, as it often happens, I decided to do my own thing while taking inspiration from the recipe. I was going to use canned pineapple but then changed my mind because I could not be bothered to climb onto my step stool and rummage through the top shelf of the cabinets looking for it. Instead, I used fresh banana and fresh strawberries.
I didn't really know what to expect but I'm happy to say we inhaled the kebabs and then got a spare banana to eat the rest of the syrup with. I hope next time I make this I can use a real barbecue!
Boozy Strawberry and Banana Kebabs with Honey-Cinnamon Syrup
12 strawberries, hulled
2 tbsp honey
20 g (3/4 0z) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp dark rum
1 tbsp soft brown sugar
Soak 4 wooden skewers in cold water for about 15 minutes to prevent them from burning during cooking. Cut the bananas into 12 chunks and thread onto the skewers, alternating with the strawberries. You should have 3 strawberries and 3 banana chunks per skewer.
To make the syrup, combine the rest of the ingredients in a measuring jug. Mix well and pour over the kebabs. Brush to coat. Cover and let stand at room temperature for about one hour.
Heat a griddle pan, barbecue, or broiler. Cook the for about 5 minutes, rotating at least once and brushing with the syrup. Serve drizzled with the remaining syrup and ice cream (optional).
This is perfect for a lazy weekend's mid afternoon munchies!
Labels: bananas, brown sugar, cinnamon, honey, rum, strawberries, Waiter There's Something In My...
Sunday, August 26, 2007
We had almost everything we needed for the laksa from our trip to a small Oriental shop in Wood Green but I had my heart set on a ceramic spoon and chopsticks for the pictures so Matt drove me to Oriental City about half an hour away. What an experience! We had the best Dim Sum ever and came home with more goodies from the big supermarket there.
I had a recipe for laksa that I found online; it wasn't the one on TV which is the one I really wanted but it would do. I ended up not following it to the T and sort of creating my own recipe but it was a good guideline.
The first thing that struck me was the foul smell of the laksa paste when I opened the jar. It was one of the worst smelling edibles I have ever come across. I thought right then and there that I would not like this dish after all but I continued just so I could give it a fair judgement when finished. However, once the coconut milk and the stock were added, it didn't taste as bad as it smelled. In fact, it tasted good. I think the coconut milk and the laksa paste sort of balance each other out so that the broth is not too fishy or too coconuty, if that makes any sense.
It was fairly easy to cook. I used bean vermicelli (cellophane) noodles for no other reason than they look cool! Any noodle will do though. I will give the recipe before I give my final opinion of the laksa so you can draw your own conclusions. This is the actual recipe I used:
5 oz tofu, cut into bite size pieces
1 tbsp oil
4 fl oz laksa paste
280 ml coconut milk
375 ml vegetable or chicken stock
15 fish balls (precooked)
100 g raw shrimp, peeled
80 g uncooked noodles
Prepare the noodles as per package instructions.
In a large wok or saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat and add the laksa paste. Cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes. Stir in the coconut milk and stock. Turn the heat to high and bring to the boil. Lower the heat to medium low and simmer, uncovered for 8 minutes.
Add the fish balls and tofu and simmer for 3 minutes. Stir in the noodles and prawns and simmer until they are both cooked. Serve.
Serves 3-4 people
First of all, we found the fish balls absolutely disgusting. We have had pork and chicken balls before with no problems but the fish balls are just vile. No problem, we just took them out of our bowls and kept on eating. The rest of the soup was actually nice and I'd make it again minus the fish balls.
Another then I'd change is that I would use firmer tofu. We got some that was quite soft and while it didn't disintegrate, it wasn't right. Alternatively, I'd subsitute the tofu for chicken which is not really traditional but who cares. I would also cook the noodles separately, put in bowls and then pour the laksa over them; although that wouldn't really change the taste.
It was definitely a learning experience (we learned we hate fish balls) and I'm glad I made it. I don't want to be one of those people that never discover the wonderful foods of the world because they are constantly afraid to eat anything they are not used to eating; maybe out of habit or maybe out of fear they are going to hate it; or maybe because it "sounds bad". I like to experiment (although I do have limits) because you don't know if you like something or not until you actually try it. After that, if you don't like it, you get on with your life but if you do, you'll be glad you took that first step.
And just for a laugh.......
Labels: Asian, chicken stock, coconut milk, fish balls, shrimp, tofu
Saturday, August 25, 2007
I love seafood, shellfish, etc and it never occurred to me that I might marry a man who did not share my love for it. Well, as unlucky as I am, I did marry such a man. He eats fish but not much else. He can just about tolerate shrimp but no talk of lobster, much less squid! It's a shame really because they are all delicious.
I was looking at that cookbook yesterday and I decided I had waited long enough and I was going to make that recipe! At first, I tried to bribe my husband by offering to make him roast lamb, which I don't like and thus he never gets to eat. He was wondering what I'd have to eat and when I said "something else", he said it would be too much work for me if I cooked two different things. Shoot....on to plan B. Plan B was to reveal I was not offering to cook lamb out of the goodness of my heart but that I had an ulterior motive. He laughed and said he'd think about it. When he got home, he decided he'd have the risotto but instead of the squid, he'd have baked halibut. Easy peasy.
Woke up bright and early this morning, at 8:30 am, to the sound of constant hammering on the walls coming from the apartment below us, which is being remodeled. Don't people know it is not nice to be making so much noise so early on a weekend morning? Not to mention it's against the law here! Anyhow, after breakfast, we headed out to buy the stuff. As usual, we went out for a few things and came back with more than we thought we would. We (well, I) even bought a miniature shopping cart that is supposed to be a vegetable basket. It was just too darn cute and I could not leave it behind!
After being out nearly all day, avoiding the hammering, drilling, and intense desire to kick the builder where it hurts, we came home and I got to cooking. I don't know why I ever thought I'd be able to make risotto AND a whole other meal for Matt. I must have been out of my mind. Risotto is a lot of work! However, the results were good. We thought we'd make the risotto for 4 people as per the recipe because the portions are usually small. That was a mistake. This risotto is so rich and so heavy that the portion sizes they allocate are plenty! All that cream really hits your stomach like a ton of bricks! The squid was good and Matt's fish was very nice too. He liked the Parmesan crisps but I wasn't too keen on them. To each their own! Two heads of garlic may seem like a lot but remember that when garlic is cooked, it is not nearly as potent as when raw. While we could definitely taste the garlic, we have no garlic breath, if you know what I mean. This recipe is a slight variation of the one on the book. The one on the book calls for daikons and grapeseed oil, neither of which I had. I don't think they are essential to be honest!
Garlic Risotto with Calamari and Parmesan Crisps
- 2 heads of garlic, cloves peeled
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper
- 1/4 cup vegetable or olive oil
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (2 1/2 ounces)
- 1 1/2 cups arborio rice (10 ounces)
- 1 pound cleaned baby calamari, bodies cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch strips
- Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Add all but 1 small garlic clove to the water and blanch for 1 minute; drain. In a small saucepan, simmer the blanched garlic cloves in the olive oil over moderately low heat until the oil is fragrant, 10 minutes. Drain, reserving the garlic cloves and oil separately.
- Return the garlic to the saucepan. Add the cream and simmer over moderately low heat for 10 minutes. Transfer the garlic and cream to a blender and let cool slightly, then puree until smooth. With the machine on, pour in all but 2 tablespoons of the garlic oil and blend until slightly thickened and frothy. Season the garlic cream with salt and white pepper. Transfer the garlic cream to a bowl; rinse out the blender.
- Add the small uncooked garlic clove to the blender along with the grapeseed oil, lime juice and parsley and blend until smooth. Transfer the parsley vinaigrette to a small bowl and season with salt and white pepper.
- Heat a large nonstick skillet over moderate heat. Add 3 tablespoons of the Parmesan to the skillet in a 4-inch round and cook until golden and bubbling, 3 to 4 minutes. Using a thin spatula, transfer the Parmesan crisp to a wire rack to cool. Wipe out the skillet and repeat with the remaining Parmesan to make 3 more crisps.
- Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the rice and cook for 9 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain well and return the barely cooked rice to the saucepan. Add 1/2 cup of the garlic cream and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until absorbed. Add the remaining garlic cream, 1/2 cup at a time, cooking and stirring until the rice is al dente and a creamy sauce has formed, about 10 minutes total. If the rice seems very thick, stir in up to 1/2 cup of very hot water. Season the risotto with salt and white pepper and keep warm.
- In a large, heavy skillet, heat the reserved 2 tablespoons of the garlic oil until nearly smoking. Add the calamari and cook over high heat until tender and browned in spots, about 2 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Mound the risotto in the center of 4 plates and top with the squid. Drizzle the parsley vinaigrette over the risotto, garnish with the Parmesan crisp and serve.
MAKE AHEAD The garlic cream can be refrigerated overnight; rewarm before proceeding with the recipe. The Parmesan crisps can be kept in an airtight container overnight; recrisp before serving.
You can make the Parmesan crisps while the garlic cooks in the oil or in the cream, this way you don't waste time. The first crisp I made went straight to the trash. The heat was too high and it burnt. The subsequent ones were a success. When you are peeling them off the skillet, it looks like you are just going to compress them but if you are careful with the spatula, they do come off nicely. It is a bit of work and it does take time so it's definitely not an every day dish. It was not as good as I expected it to be but I suspect that was more to do with the fact I have been drooling over this recipe for so long that the anticipation was better than the food itself.
The fish was easy to make. Preheat the oven to 200°C / 400°F. Melt a bit of butter in the microwave and brush the sides of the steak with it. Generously sprinkle with freshly cracked pepper and salt. Bake for for 10 minutes. Serve.
Labels: cream, fish, garlic, Italian, risotto, seafood, squid
Friday, August 24, 2007
We were told they'd be at their best later in the week so I patiently waited till today and then had my way with them. Sweet and juicy tomatoes like that scream to be put in one of my favorite salads of all time, Insalata Caprese. It may seem like heresy to put British tomatoes in a Southern Italian dish but I don't really think it matters as long as you enjoy the final product.
I first came across Insalata Caprese in Naples, Italy, where I lived for almost two and half years. It is by far one of the simplest Italian dishes to make and there is absolutely no cooking involved. In its purest form Insalta Caprese is nothing more than tomatoes, mozzarella di buffala, fresh basil, olive oil, salt and pepper. You can make it look pretty by alternating one slice of mozzarella with one of tomato and then sprinkling with everything else or you can just mix everything together and be done! My advice is, use the best ingredients you can afford because it makes a world of difference. Because there is no cooking, you don't really have the opportunity to "correct" any flavor. Use sweet tomatoes, it doesn't matter what variety or even size. Extra virgin olive oil is also best for this but most importantly, use good mozzarella.
It may be because I was spoiled, having lived in THE home of mozzarella, Campania and in THE home within THE home, the province of Caserta but....I have yet to find mozzarella I really like outside of Italy. I don't know what it is but there is an odd aftertaste to the ones I've tried. The one I had today was probably one of the worst. Serves me right for buying it on sale! However, the tomatoes were amazing, as was the basil which came from my very own plant!
I was reading another food blog a couple days ago (Milk and Cookies) and I came across a recipe for Chickpeas and Potato Curry. It seemed pretty easy so I decided I'd give it a go today.
There is one ingredient you will never, and I do mean NEVER, see me using, that is coriander. It is not that I don't like it, it's that I hate it with a passion I cannot describe. Hate is not an overstatement in this case. Just the smell of it makes me want to throw up. It can not be sneaked into the food without me knowing because I will smell and taste it. Even the smallest amount of coriander is enough to make a meal inedible in my eyes. So, the couple times I have tried to cook anything Indian, I have omitted the coriander. This recipe is no exception. Here is my version.
Chickpea and Potato Curry
Serves 2 hungry people
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1 400g can of chickpeas
1 400g can of chopped tomatoes
6 baby new potatoes, quartered
2 shallots, minced
1 tsp of grated ginger
1 tsp of salt
1/2 tsp of ground cumin
1/4 tsp of red chili flakes
1/4 tsp of whole cumin seeds
1/8 tsp of chili powder
Mix all the ingredients in a saucepan, making sure the potatoes are submerged in the liquid. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 30 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked but not falling apart. Serve over Basmati rice.
Not only was it very simple to make, it was also tasty. I don't normally like food with this much tomato in it but it is not overly "tomatoey" once liquid boils away, as it does. It is a quick meal that can but put together in a pinch. It is definitely filling and warming, perfect for a day like today!
Labels: chickpea, curry, Indian, Italian, mozzarella, potatoes, tomatoes
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
I've always had a sweet tooth so it was no surprise that I quickly acquainted myself with British dessert, or puddings as they call them here, as soon as I knew I'd be spending lots of time here. I tried several but two in particular really tickled my fancy; sticky toffee pudding and golden syrup pudding. I had never heard of either but they are very popular British desserts. By this time I knew better than to expect to see something akin to the "pudding" stuff we are used to in the US when the word "pudding" was mentioned here. Two years later, I still can't get enough of either pudding, although I have had to slow down due to an ever expanding waistline. I had never made either but I had nearly all the ingredients for golden syrup pudding so I decided it to give it a go.
Most of these puddings, including other British classics such as the infamous spotted dick, are steamed which means they take a long time to cook. You can make them in one big pudding basin or in little, individual ones or if you are not up to it, you can just by buy them. Because buying them at the local supermarket is not going to be a choice in the US, I figured I better do it the right way so I can do it later because I can't imagine an entire life without sticky toffee or golden syrup!
For this pudding, you will need either a pudding basin with its own lid or a regular pudding basin, wax paper, kitchen foil and kitchen string. If using the latter, it is a bit tricky to do tie the waxed paper and foil by yourself but it is possible, however, two sets of hands will make it a very easy task. I was alone so I had to manage. First, cut one piece of waxed paper and one piece of foil large enough to cover the top of the basin with plenty of overhang. Take the waxed paper and wrap it around the top of the basin and tie in place, taut, with the string. If you need something to hold the paper in place while you tie, you can use a heavy plate that is larger than the top of the basin. Do the same with the foil paper. Cut three long pieces of string to make the handle. Place the first one around the basin and the other two next to the basin, passing them under the first string so that when you tie around the basin you have two pieces of string at either side. Finally tie the two pieces of string at the sides together to from a handle. It's very hard to describe so I have included a picture of what the finished product looks like. This is not the only way to do this, it's just the way I could manage. I would have done step by step photos but I had no one take them while I worked.
The pudding basin needs to be large enough to accommodate all the batter and allow for rising. I used a 1 3/4 liter or so basin.
Golden Syrup Pudding
175 g very soft unsalted butter, plus more for greasing
175 g self-raising (rising) flour
175 g caster (superfine) sugar
3 large eggs
3 tbsp (45 ml) milk
250g golden syrup
Put a large stockpot on the heat with enough water to come halfway up the basin and bring it to a boil.
In the mean time, put the butter, flour, sugar, eggs, milk and the juice of half the lemon in a bowl and beat until blended, adding a little bit more milk if needed. The batter should be thick but of pouring consistency.
Butter the pudding basin. Mix the golden syrup and the juice of the other half of the lemon and pour in the bottom of the basin. Pour the batter on top of the golden syrup and cover the basin. If using a lidded basin, remember to butter the lid. Put the basin into the stockpot of boiling water and put the lid on. Boil for two hours.
Make sure you do not let the stockpot boil dry. Keep a source of boiling water, such as a kettle, handy so you can refill it if needed.
When ready, remove the basin from the stockpot and let it rest of a couple of minutes but not longer. Turn out onto a large, deep plate taking care not to spill the sauce.
If you really want to eat it the British way, you can serve it with cream, custard or ice cream. If I was forced to pick one, I'd pick custard.
Golden syrup is next to impossible to find in most of the world. If you can't get a hold of it, you can use corn syrup or light molasses instead. It wouldn't be golden syrup pudding per se but it would still be nice.
As you can see, I am not giving the US cup equivalent for the ingredients. I am not just being lazy, I have good reason for that. Living here in the UK, I have come to appreciate and like the ease, and undeniable superiority, of weighing ingredients rather than measuring them, specially for dry ingredients. It doesn't matter if you weigh in ounces or grams but doing so is much more accurate than measuring. It has really grown on me. As matter of fact, I'd go as far as saying that I much more prefer the metric system in the kitchen than the irrational system we use in the US. I kept the metric measurements because most kitchen scales these days can do metric as well as imperial.
According to my husband, who is currently stuffing his face with the pudding, it's delicious. He hasn't actually said so but it is what I gather from his "uuuummmm......hhhh........hhhmm...." He's gone back for seconds.
This recipe was adapted from the one found in "How To Be A Domestic Goddess" by the awesome Nigella Lawson.....hehe....it even rhymes!
Labels: British, dessert, golden sryup, pudding
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
There is a discussion going on on a forum I frequent about how Brits cannot fathom the idea of eating anything without some sort of sauce or liquid accompaniments. I am appalled by this practice because I do not think everything needs to be swimming in gravy, custard, cream, what have you. Ironically, gravy was had with the Toad in the Hole. It wasn't just for the sake of it though, Toad in the Hole is meant to be had with gravy and I have no problems with putting sauces on things are meant to be eaten with sauces. However, I refuse to drown all my dessert, no matter what they are, in cream and all my meals in gravy! I guess it's a British vs American issue.
I love tidbits of food history and I didn't know, not being British, the history of Toad in the Hole. I was pleasantly surprised to see that one of the cookbooks my husband bought me has some history on it, along with history on pretty much every recipe in it. THAT is my kind of cookbook!
Toad in the Hole was originally meant to be made with pieces of meat rather than the sausages that are used today. They could be made with fresh meat but were most often made with leftovers which gave the dish a bad rep as one of the poorest English dishes, right up there with shepherd's pie. It doesn't really say how they went from meat to sausage but I suspect it had something to do with the wealthier class wanting to enjoy the dish without the stigma attached to the leftover meat. I am not quite sure why it's called Toad in the Hole but I believe it is because the sausages, the toad, lay at the bottom of the pan where the Yorkshire Pudding has risen forming a crater, the hole.
Toad in the Hole is made up of sausages and Yorkshire Pudding batter, which has its little bit of history too. Before I came to the UK, I honest to goodness thought that Yorkshire Pudding was a dessert and I was grossed out by the idea of putting meat drippings in a dessert. As it turned out, much to my delight, it was not a dessert but a very tasty baked batter. It goes great with any kind of roast, as most Brits will attest, and it is easy to make. I will do a proper Yorkshire Pudding at another time
Toad in the Hole
Yorkshire Pudding batter
30 g (1 oz) lard or pork fat (butter will work just fine)
500 g (1 lb) pork sausages
Make the batter in the usual way. Separate the pork sausages and cook them for 5 minutes quickly in the lard or pork fat in a frying pan. Strain off the fat into a large roasting pan, pour in a thin layer of batter and bake in the oven for 5 minutes at gas mark 7 / 220°C / 425°F so that it sets. Place the sausages on top and pour over the rest of the batter. Bake for a further 30 to 35 minutes until the batter has puffed up and browned. Serve straight away.
For the batter:
250 g (8 oz) flour
pinch of salt
up to 600 ml (1 pint) milk, or half milk/half water
Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and break the eggs into it. Add a little milk. Beginning at the center, stir the ingredients into a batter, gradually pouring in the remainder of the milk, or milk and water, until the batter is of a creamy but pouring consistency (the quantity will depend on the size of the eggs)
As I said before, this is a dish that does benefit from gravy. I was lucky that I had homemade beef stock from Saturday and I used that for the gravy. It is not necessary to use homemade but make sure you do use a good quality stock as the flavor of the gravy will depend on it.
'Makes about 300 ml (10 fl oz)
1 tbsp butter
2 tsp plain (all purpose) flour
1 tsp tomato puree
300 ml (10.5 fl oz) beef, lamb, chicken or vegetable stock
salt and pepper
In a saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the flour and cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the tomato puree and the stock. Increase the heat and bring to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper if needed. Cook the gravy for a few minutes until it thickens. Strain before serving if needed.
It was very filling and the sausages weren't overpowering, even though I could definitely taste them. It was my first time making Yorkshire Pudding and the batter rose beautifully. I told my husband that Toad in the Hole would be great with Italian sausages, which I do like, but he didn't agree! Go figure!
Labels: gravy, sausage, yorkshire pudding
I am currently using my laptop, which has seen better days. It has issues with the power lead/socket and it is incredibly slow when trying to process images. I don’t have most of my actions on here so I am having to make do.
½ cup rice
1 ½ cups water
1 piece lemon rind
1 cinnamon stick
1 liter milk
1 cup sugar
¼ tsp salt
Rinse the rice and cook it with the water, lemon and cinnamon stick until soft. Add the milk, salt and sugar. Cook at medium heat until it thickens, approximately one hour. Stir every now and then to stop it sticking to the pot. Pour in a wide and shallow container and sprinkle with the ground cinnamon.
Next up was a very nice pulled beef in tomato sauce dish which is very traditional. The Cuban name for it is “Ropa Vieja” which literally translates into “Old Clothes”. The name came about because the meat used to make had already been used to make broth of soup and therefore it was “second hand”. It probably also got the name because it is shredded. I bought the meat specifically for this but ended up with some nice beef broth as a byproduct. Because the meat cooks for so long, you do not need to spend a large amount of money on good beef as it won’t matter. The recipe calls for brisket but the butcher didn’t have any so I got some other sort of braising beef. As a matter of fact, this entire meal for 4 cost us just over £10 or roughly $20. When my husband and I go out to dinner, just the two of us, we spend at least four times that amount for nothing really special!
2 pounds beef brisket
1 sprig parsley
1 bay leaf
3 large onions, peeled and quartered
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 carrot, peeled and cut into chunks
1 tsp salt
1 tsp peppercorns
For the sauce:
1 large green bell pepper
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground pepper
¼ tsp dry leaf oregano
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
1 bay leaf
1 cup tomato sauce
½ cup reserved beef broth
½ cup dry white wine
1 tbsp white wine vinegar (I used plain vinegar)
1 6oz jar pimientos, drained and sliced (I omitted this)
PREPARE THE BROTH:
Place the meat in a large, heavy pot and cover it with water. Add the parsley, bay leaf, onions, garlic, carrot, salt and peppercorns.
PREPARE THE SAUCE:
Cut the green pepper in half, remove the seeds and stem, and place it, cut side down, on a greased cookie sheet. Put it under a hot broiler until it blisters. When it is cool enough to handle, remove the skin, cut the pepper into thin strips and set aside.
I needed my pressure cooker to make the rice and the beans so I started with the beans because I could do the first part in the pressure cooker and then thicken in a regular pot, freeing up the pressure cooker for the rice. The first part of the beans can be made in advance so I started them early too.
1 bay leaf
FOR THE SOFRITO
2/3 cups vegetable or olive oil (I prefer vegetable)
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
3 tsp ground cumin
2 tbsp vinegar
1/8 tsp sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
Put the beans in a pressure cooker and cover with plenty of water (to the max limit mark), add the bay leaf. Lock the lid in place and put the pressure regulator on the vent pipe. Cook over high heat until the regulator starts whistling, indicating high pressure has been achieved. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for about 20 minutes.
Even more so than with beans, no Cuban meal would ever be complete without rice. Cubans eat rice every day, much like Italians eat pasta every day. I do believe that most Cubans don’t know how to eat unless there is rice on their plate. It may be difficult for people who are not used to this to understand it but it makes perfect sense to us. It is not always plain white rice, as I have here; sometimes it’s rice colored yellow with saffron and cooked with chicken in it, other times, it’s congri, other times it’s yellow rice with shrimp, but always rice.
“Fluffy White Rice in the Pressure Cooker”
3 tbsp vegetable oil
2 cups long grain rice
2 cups water
2 tsp salt
Press the garlic with the side of a knife to crush it slightly.
As side dishes, I served sliced avocado with a bit of salt and deep fried ripe plantains. Ripe plantains, which can only be eaten cooked, are my single most favorite Cuban food, hands down. I love it and I would happily eat it every day. If that wasn’t enough, it is extremely easy to make; however, it may be difficult to find in places that lack a
From left to right, Kavey, Pete and Matt (my husband)
And for yesterday…..
1 cup (2 sticks/8 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup superfine sugar
2 cups self rising flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
FOR THE ICING
1 cup cream cheese, softened
1 ½ cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1/3 cup honey
Blue food coloring
2 tbsp dried lavender flowers
Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C. Place 18 baking cups in muffin pans. Combine all the cupcake ingredients in a medium bowl and beat with an electric mixer until smooth and pale, about 2 to 3 minutes. Divide the batter evenly between the baking cups. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes. Then remove the cupcakes and cool on a rack.
Labels: avocado, beef, black beans, cuba, cuban, cupcakes, honey, lavender, meat, peppers, plantains, pudding, rice
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
I didn’t really have much food/restaurant variety in my life until I went to the Navy and moved to
Their Crème Brûlée was, to this date, the best I’ve ever had. I kept going back and the driving force behind that was the amazing Steak au Poivre. I had never had anything like it before but I was hooked from the first bite. They also taught me to love medium rare and give up my heretic well-done ways. Up to that point, I had lived a nearly sheltered life and all of a sudden I was enlightened.
From then on, I ate snails, and liked it; and I swore to have Bouillabaisse someday. I haven’t had it yet because I want my first time to be magical, I want it to authentic and I want to remember for ever. I am waiting until the day I travel to Marseille so I can have a bowl, or three, sitting at a nice outdoor restaurant overlooking the sea. Romanticized idea? Perhaps, but it is MY idea and that’s how I like it!
Anyhow, for the first time ever, I decided to give the Steak au Poivre a try at home. It seemed simple enough, as good French cookery usually is. I wasn’t sure what to expect because the recipe did call for a lot of pepper but, hey, what can you expect from a recipe for PEPPER steak?
I have to say that it doesn’t taste like Mon Ami Gabi’s but it was good. The one at Mon Ami Gabi, from what I remember, was normal grilled steak with a peppercorn sauce. This one was rolled in crushed peppercorns and fried in butter. Anything fried in butter is bound to be good! I omitted the
Steak au Poivre
4 200g (7oz) fillet steaks
2 tbsp oil
6 tbsp black peppercorns, crushed
40g (1 ½ oz) butter
60ml ( ¼ cup) white wine
125ml ( ½ cup) double (thick/heavy) cream
Rub the steaks on both sides with the oil and press the crushed peppercorns into the meat. Melt the butter in a large frying pan and cook the steaks for 2-4 minutes (or to taste) on each side, depending on how you like your steak.
If you don’t like black pepper, stay away from this one!!!
Labels: cream, pepper, poivre, steak
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
I had been procrastinating because that is just my nature but I decided to do it today. I was carefully reading the recipe and realized I’d need cheesecloth. I didn’t have any of course so I just scratched that idea and decided on something else to use the raspberries for.
It was still a cake but no mirror. I looked through some of my books for ideas and went on to create a recipe from a bunch of other ones. If nothing else, it would keep me entertained on this rainy day.
I made a cake with whipped heavy cream and raspberry filling with whipped heavy cream topping. The cake layers were very moist butter cake brushed with
The best thing about this cake is that you don’t have to make it look pretty; you don’t even have to cover the sides with the cream if you do a nice job with the filling. I have seen a similar cake with the sides unfrosted and it looks very impressive. It is meant to look pretty when cut and that’s where you should take your time, if you so choose to (I didn’t). It is also easy to make and can be ready in a couple hours. It’s a perfect finale for a nice family weekend dinner. Here is my recipe:
Gâteau Framboise Royale
-for the cake
1 ¾ cup cake flour
¾ cup milk
1 ½ (6 oz) sticks butter, softened
1 tbsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
½ tsp baking soda
4 large eggs
1 ½ cups sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
Grease and flour two 9 inch round cake pans. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients. With a mixer at low speed, beat ingredients until well blended, scrapping the sides of the bowl often. Increase the speed to high; beat for 3 minutes, occasionally scrapping the bowl.
Pour the batter into the pans, spreading evenly. Bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool cakes in the pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Invert onto wire racks and cool completely. When cool, level the top of one cake and slice each cake in half to form 4 layers. Discard or save unlevelled cake top layer for later use. Only 3 layers are needed for this cake.
-for the filling
4 cups of raspberries, fresh
5 tbsp sugar
1 ¾ cup heavy (double) or whipping cream
½ cup sugar
¼ cup water
Mix the raspberries with 2 tablespoons of the sugar. Whip the remaining sugar, the cream, and the
To make the syrup, place the water and the sugar on a heavy pan over low heat. Stir constantly until all the sugar is dissolved and the liquid is clear. Bring the liquid to a rolling boil and immediately take off the heat and add the
Place one of the cake layers on a plate and brush with some of the syrup. Carefully spoon half of the raspberries evenly over that layer to about ½ inch from the edge. Spoon over one third of the whipped cream and spread evenly over the fruit.
Place a second layer of cake over the fruit and brush with syrup. Spoon the rest of the raspberries over the top and spread out in the same way. Follow with another third of the cream and evenly spread.
Brush one side of the remaining cake layer with the syrup and place syrup side down on the fruit and cream layer. Press down lightly.
Spread the rest of the cream evenly over the top of the cake and the sides, if you have enough. Garnish with more fresh raspberries and dust with powder sugar.
I used raspberries because that is what I had but this is a cake that can be made with pretty much any berry. Experiment and enjoy!
Labels: butter, cake, cream, raspberry