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Roasted Tomato and Red Pepper Soup

July 31, 2009 Leave a comment

Juicy Red Veg Ready for RoastingLast time I was at my local market, I was tempted by tomatoes – every stall seemed to have lots of overflowing bowls of cheery, summery bright red beauties, and having recently had a disappointing batch of pale, flavourless supermarket tomatoes, bought far more than I should have. And for far less than my tiny Tesco punnet. But what to do with them all?

One of my favourite, easy meals is a hot bowl of Tomato and Red Pepper soup, usually bought rather than made. I usually have red peppers in the fridge – I use them in lots of dishes, and making my own version of this soup seemed like a good idea – after all, how hard could it be. So, inspired by a similar tomato sauce and other soups I’ve made, as well as various recipes I’d looked at for this, here is my take on Roasted Tomato and Red Pepper Soup.

  • 750g tomatoes (mine were a mixture of cherry tomatoes and baby plum tomatoes, but any tasty, flavour-packed ones will do)
  • 2 red peppers
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • olive oil
  • 500ml hot vegetable stock (I used 2 teaspoons Marigold Vegetable Bouillon powder in 500ml hot water)

Preheat oven to 160°C.

Prepare the tomatoes – if using larger ones, slice them in half. With my cherry and baby tomatoes, I just slit the skin of each with a sharp knife. De-seed the red peppers and chop them into chunks. Peel the onion and cut into a couple of chunks. 

Throw all of the vegetables into a large roasting dish, and chuck in the unpeeled garlic cloves. Coat with a liberal amount of olive oil, and smoosh everything around in the dish until well coated. Cook in the oven for around an hour, until the vegetables are cooked and some of the pepper and tomato skin is beginning to brown a little.

Put the cooked tomato mixture into a blender, or, as I did, blend in batches with a stick blender, using a little of the stock to loosen the mixture. Blend well!

Rest a sieve over a bowl, and pour through the blended mixture in batches.  My soup was quite thick when it went in the sieve, so for each batch I added a little stock and stirred until the sieve emptied into the bowl. After the last batch, give the sieve a final rinse of stock and a good shake – you should end up with just a fairly dry pile of tomato seeds and little else.

Into the bowl of now-smooth soup, stir in further stock to achieve the final consistency you want. All in all, with the sieving and final addition I ended up using about 350ml. Taste for seasoning – depending on the stock you’ve used, you may need to add a little salt.

Warm through in a saucepan to serve. Will keep in the fridge for a day or two, or freeze for up to a month, in individual portions if you like. Serves 2, with some good bread.

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Categories: Mains, Recipe Tags: , , ,

Nigella’s Chocolate Raspberry Pudding Cake

July 30, 2009 Leave a comment

Nigella's Chocolate Raspberry Pudding CakeI’m sure as the blog progresses, it will become more than clear that I adore everything Nigella, and I’ve already mentioned my penchant for chocolate puddings. This recipe was recently re-printed in Sainsbury’s magazine, and sounded so delicious I couldn’t stop myself. (It also convinced me to re-read How To Eat, cover to cover, and make a list of things to try I hadn’t gotten around to yet.)

I have to confess, I was a little disappointed initially. I’ve made a lot of hot chocolate-y puddings with a wettish, mousse-like inside, and although this was lovely, there was something about this pudding that just wasn’t quite as great as some of the others. (Like I say, this was still good, I think the mild disappointment was far more stinging because it was a) chocolate, and b) Nigella, two things that never usually let me down.)

However, talk about improving with age. Returning to the cake a day later, the texture had become more dense, the small amount of raspberry liquor more pronounced, and, for whatever reason, I found this re-visit much more enjoyable. Nigella recommends re-heating second helpings to aid the texture, which I duly did, and, made hot and served with vanilla ice-cream, this was good. However, what was better was the slice I just ate cold, as is, which was deliciously dense, and had an almost peanut butter-like claggy, sticks-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth quality which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Recipe below, but I strongly recommend you buy How To Eat: The Pleasures and Principles Of Good Food, which is a fantastic read.  

Nigella Lawson’s Chocolate Raspberry Pudding Cake

(Some alternative ingredients are in the original recipe, this is how I made it)

  • 185g self-raising flour
  • 30g cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons creme de framboise
  • 95g caster sugar
  • 95g muscovado sugar
  • 250g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids minimum)
  • 2 teaspoons good instant coffee made up with 370ml hot water
  • 2 eggs, beaten slightly
  • 250g raspberries (or more if using well defrosted, frozen raspberries)

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Butter a 22cm spring-form cake tin and line the base.

Sift the flour and cocoa into a bowl and put to one side.

Put the butter, liqueur, sugars, chocolate and coffee/water mixture into a saucepan and stir over a low-heat until it’s all melted and is ‘thickly, glossily smooth’.

Stir this mixture into the sifted flour and cocoa, and then beat until it’s smooth again. Then beat in the eggs. Nigella warns you at this point not to panic at the fact this is quite runny, but trust her, the cake will cook just fine.

Pour the mixture into the tin to a depth of about 2cm, cover with raspberries, and pour the rest of the mixture on top. Push down and raspberries that bob to the surface, then greedily lick your fingers.

Bake for 40-45 minutes. I put mine in for 40, and my oven seems to be a bit of a scorcher, so it was done by then, perhaps a touch overdone.  Don’t test with a skewer, as the middle is meant to be moist. Set the tin on a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes, and then turn out the cake.

Nigella recommends eating this about an hour later, however I couldn’t wait that long. The top was quite cracked, which could have been prettied-up with icing sugar, and although Nigella recommends serving with more raspberries, and Greek Yoghurt, whipped double cream, or creme fraiche, my usual accompaniment of choice for hot chocolate puddings is good, shop-bought vanilla ice cream which didn’t disappoint.

Photo to follow!

How to Eat: The Pleasures and Principles of Good Food by Nigella Lawson is published by Chatto & Windus.

Thoughts on Creme de Framboise

Sometimes recipes call for a certain liqueur – and of course, there is no need to buy a bottle just to add a tablespoon to a cake you may only make once. I happened to have a bottle of creme de framboise, the raspberry liqueur used in this recipe in the house – in fact, in a cupboard with a load of other bottles of random liqueurs with a few inches missing purchased in anticipation of an exotic cocktail party (Blue Curacao anyone?). However, it does seem to work well in this cake, and I thought I might share a suggestion for using it up.

A little added to a glass of Champagne (or Prosecco), perhaps with a floating fresh raspberry or two, would be delightful, but for those Cherry Coke fans out there, you can make a decent (albeit raspberry rather than cherry) homespun fruity-caffeine concoction of your own which is really delicious.

Categories: Pudding, Recipe Tags: , , ,

Simply Divine

July 29, 2009 Leave a comment

I like chocolate. A lot. Who wouldn’t? So much deliciousness to be had. I cook a lot with chocolate, and in fact, despite recent branching out into other areas (and a recent lemon meringue pie was so good, I’ll no doubt cook again soon and wax lyrical here), the vast majority of my puddings seem to be chocolate based.

The good news then, is that recent years seem to have resulted in an explosion in the availability, variety and quality of chocolate available to buy, especially 70%+ dark chocolate, the backbone of most of my cocoa bean based baking. There is also a much better range of milk chocolate, with higher than standard cocoa content, sometimes useful in cooking and always welcome in eating.

Traditionally, my personal favourite for eating has been Green & Blacks – what could possibly go better with a steaming mug of freshly brewed coffee than a slab of Maya Gold. Or  Dark & Ginger. Or Dark & Cherry. Or Milk & Butterscotch. You get the picture.

For cooking, I’m somewhat less fussy. Of course, dark has to be a minimum of 70% cocoa solids, but other than that, until someone educates me to the contrary (perhaps my palette isn’t as discerning as I’d like), as long as it’s good, it doesn’t make a lot of difference. So one of the deciding factors will probably be the price. Lots of ‘own-brand’ (usually the ‘finest’ or ‘taste the difference’ or ‘doesn’t the shiny, expensive looking packaging make this more tempting’ type ranges) available in supermarkets are really quite good, and clearly, when faced with the choice you’d have to be mad to buy chocolate for cooking from the ‘home baking’ aisle rather than the confectionary aisle, the difference seemingly lower quality, more expensive and less choice. (And, for me, there is something alarmingly off-putting about Doctor Oetker’s 70’s cream-and-stripe packaging, which might be shallow but I’m swayed by pretty boxes.)

So, when stocking up and looking for the bright shelf-edge labels indicating a potential bargain to be had (and for ‘multi-buy’ type offers, do quickly calculate that it is a genuine bargain and you aren’t just saving three pence, feeling smug for it and buying warehouse-type quantities of something you won’t use) I came across Divine Chocolate. And it is. It’s delicious, the milk bar is really creamy, and the dark bar has the telling ‘snap’ of quality. It worked great in cooking, and, it’s Fairtrade too. Now, I must confess I am a wanabe ethical shopper – I support the principles of Fairtrade, and the products usually are of good quality, but if shopping in the weeks before a payday, sometimes find the price-tag a little prohibitive. Good news then! Divine is really competitively priced, cheaper in fact that some similar quality, non-ethical (and I’m not suggesting for a minute that non-Fairtrade stamped products mean the manufacturers must treat their producers like dirt), so winners all round.

I’m also going to enthusiastically recommend Divine’s Milk Chocolate and Orange bar. My orange chocolate of choice, as I’ve already said and will no doubt crop up again, is G&B’s Maya Gold, but for a milkier, creamier treat, or for those of you that don’t like the spice of Maya, or indeed, dark chocolate as eating chocolate, this is a star. Much nicer than a certain foil-wrapped spherical version produced by a chap called Terrence.

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The Great Lazy Potato Wedges Experiment

July 29, 2009 Leave a comment

So, last night I wanted a potato-based side to go with the tarts I was cooking. Something quick and easy, and basically a way of using up the bag of baby new potatoes I had brought to go with something else I ended up not cooking. Hastily put together in my head, I decided crispy shelled, fluffy potato wedges were in order, and although what I ended up with was more of a slightly less-crisp-than-envisaged mess of potatoes, it was delicious and I know what I’d do differently (or less hastily and lazily) next time. This dish also served as a way of using up some leftover chorizo slices, although I have the feeling this would work better with thicker coins snipped from a chorizo hoop rather than thin slices from the larger salami-type sausage.

So, how it was:

  • 1kg baby new potatoes
  • About 12 slices of chorizo (and see above), each slice snipped into 6 pieces, Trivial-Pursuit style
  • 2 tablespoons semolina
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Wash the potatoes, slice each in half lengthwise, and then slice each half in half again, so each potato becomes four long wedges. Add to boiling, generously salted water and cook until tender, around 20 minutes or so. 

Drain the potatoes, return to the pan, and add the semolina and paprika. Clamp the lid to the pan and give the whole thing a good shake to coat the potatoes in the spiced semolina, adding more semolina and paprika if needed.

Heat the oil in a large pan, and add the coated potato wedges. Turn a few times to crispen up all sides. After the last turning, add the chorizo and, as it releases it’s delicious fat, turn the potatoes in it.

That’s it! Serve immediately.

 So, as I said, nice enough, but not as crispy as I wanted. So, for next time, I would try just parboiling the potatoes, coating in the semolina, turning in a roasting pan of very hot vegetable oil and cooking in a very hot oven, roast-potato style. Yum.

Categories: Recipe, Sides Tags: ,

Ultimate Easy Pizza

July 28, 2009 Leave a comment

Something easy to start with then. This is more of a suggestion than a recipe – you will know what you like on a pizza, and the potential here is almost limitless. This pizza is one I made the other night for a spot of last minute ‘entertaining’, and seemed to go down really well.  I used a pizza base mix from a packet, as I happened to have one at home, but it isn’t much more effort to make your own dough from scratch, just a little extra weighing and measuring. There is something satisfying about the kneading and baking of your own dough, even if you cheated a little with the ready prepared mix. One thing I would say is to avoid the ready-made pizza bases you can pick up in the supermarket – their cardboardy texture is far less pleasing, and gives you neither a thin crispy crust or deliciously bready deep pan finish. Here, a simple tomato sauce takes minutes to whip up. I’ve used chorizo in place of the traditional pepperoni, mostly as I prefer it, but also as it seems to go so well with tomatoes. Some people like to spread tomato puree on pizzas, but I think here it can be a little invasive, so I’ve made a simple sauce, but if you prefer you could buy a good, ready made pizza topping sauce.   

  • 1 packet pizza base mix (I used Sainsbury’s, around 150g)
  • Half of a 500g carton Passata (seived tomatoes)
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Dried oregano
  • Thinly sliced chorizo (from the large, salami-style sausage rather than the smaller ones) – you’ll probably need around 15 slices
  • Around 10 good quality baby plum tomatoes, halved
  • 1 red onion, sliced (half moon style slices work well here)
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 ball mozarella, sliced into rounds.
  • Good handfull grated cheddar and around a heaped tablespoon of finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano or other good Parmesan (which, incidentally, isn’t the stuff in a small plastic pepper shaker that smells of old trainers)

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Make up the pizza base as per the packet instructions. While it is proving, drizzle a little olive oil onto a large, flat baking sheet and brush with a pastry brush to give a thin coating of oil to the tray.

Heat the olive oil in a small pan, and fry the garlic for a minute or two. As it begins to brown, add the passata. Simmer for a few minutes, adding around a tablespoon of oregano, or to taste. Season well.

Roll out the pizza base until it is around half a centimetre thick, and lay it on the baking tray. Bonus points for a perfect circle, although I am not in possession of either the dexterity or patience for this and usually end up with a large, raggedy oval.

Spoon over the tomato sauce, as close to the edge as you can, and then add your toppings. If following my suggestions, arrange the chorizo slices in a thin layer on top of the tomato sauce. Scatter over, as evenly as you can manage, the sliced onion and pepper, and then arrange the tomato halves, cut side up, over the pizza. Finally, arrange the slices of mozzarella over the top of everything else. Carefully put into the oven and cook for 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes, remove from the oven, and scatter over the grated Cheddar and Parmesan, and return to the oven for a further 10 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling and golden.  

Sliced, this is great served with a simple green salad. If you are making it stretch further and want something on the side, some potato wedges would be nice. And, for me, the ultimate accompaniment to pizza has to be good, shop brought barbeque sauce. Enjoy!

Categories: Mains, Recipe Tags: , ,

Dorset Cereals Tasty Fruit and Fibre

July 27, 2009 Leave a comment

Breafast cereals and I have a problem. The cause, of course, is entirely selfish. As you’ll hopefully get a sense of as I add to this blog, I like variety. (Or at least, I like to think I do. The spice of life and all that!) With limited time, and limited desire to make much of an effort, early on weekday mornings, having a stash of cereal seems like a sensible thing to do, but eating the same thing each morning doesn’t appeal, so often a box of cereal, greedily opened for an evening snack after an impromptu trip to the supermarket, sits in the cupboard for a while with just a few bowlfuls eaten.

And so we come to the reason for this particular entry – Dorset Cereals Fruit & Fibre. Don’t be put off by the name, for this is a long way from the traditional plain dusty flakes and dull dried fruit, but a fantastic mix of cereal flakes and a generous helping of really good dried fruit. It was the pineapple and papaya version which I tried, although I suspect the other offering (dates and almonds) will be just as delicious. Great with milk, but (in my opinion) even better mixed with a roughly equal quantity of yoghurt. Great box too – although do heed the advice to open the bag with scissors, which I read after I had hastily (and, as ever, clumsily) torn open the tough plastic liner rendering me unable to pour the cereal into my waiting bowl.

Categories: Shop Tags: ,

Welcome and about…

July 27, 2009 Leave a comment

Welcome to Home Cooking | Home Eating. This is my first post, and, although at this point I expect visitors will be unlikely, I thought I should at least post something to read on arrival. In lieu of having anything food related to write about immediately (or rather, having lots to splurge about and deciding to sit back and edit my thought process, so to speak), I feel the best introduction would be to paste from my ‘all about’ page! So here goes…

I love food. That’s to say, I love cooking, and even more than that, I love eating. I also love talking about food. A lot. Of course, I realise not everybody does, and even those who do might not neccessarily love listening to me wittering on about my latest shopping find or what I cooked at the weekend (and how delicious it was), and therefore I thought I’d write it down and share it with the world!

Don’t get me wrong, I have no pretensions about my status as a food writer, and maybe no one will ever visit my little blog! What’s exciting for me is another medium through which to talk about food, whether the audience is just a few people landing on a random blog from a late-night bored googling session or other people who share my passion for eating well.

So, my intention, at least for the moment, is to share what I cook, and also what I eat, which I guess means the blog will be as much about what I buy as what I cook. After all, one of the best parts of cooking (of which there are several, which vary in position on my list of ‘best-ness’ depending on mood and hunger) is shopping.

If you do find your way here, I hope you enjoy my ramblings.  Please feel free to leave feedback, and even better feel free to share the recipes and the food you love.

So there we go. Perhaps if you are one of my first visitors, if what I’ve written above speaks to you, you may wish to bookmark Home Cooking | Home Eating and check back soon, for some actual food related entries. I can’t imagine it will be too long before my need to share gets the best of me.

A | x

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