Archive for August, 2009

Fajita Sweet Potatoes

August 28, 2009 Leave a comment

This recipe I can take no credit for, innovation wise, as it’s from The Bitten Word, a brilliant food blog, written fantastically by Zach and Clay, and I’m a fan. I’m going to add the link to my blogroll, as I think everyone should visit, and, again, this is another of those great blogs that my fledgling site aspires to be as good as. The idea driving the blog is to actually use recipes in food magazines, and, to that end, I’ve started sticking a post-it in the front of all of mine quickly telling me what’s inside I want to cook, so I can quickly find ideas without having to thumb through the whole pile for hours. Not that this is unpleasurable, mind.

So, see the link above for the original ‘recipe’ and accompanying commentry. (I use ‘recipe’ fairly loosely – cut some sweet potatoes into chunks, coat in oil, season with the bought fajita mix, whack in a 200°C oven for half an hour or so, shaking everything around half way through.) The only change I would make is to increase the quantity. But then, I’m greedy and these are good.


‘Good, shop-bought vanilla ice cream’

August 28, 2009 Leave a comment

Green & Black's Vanilla Ice Cream

‘Good, shop-bought vanilla ice cream’ is a phrase I often stick on the end of a recipe, and I’m not alone, but what does this mean? Vanilla ice cream is a great accompaniment to so many desserts, particularly warm puddings (apple pie anyone?), especially chocolate based ones, is useful for tarting up something shop-bought, and is a great dessert standby all of its own. But, look down the freezer aisle in the supermarket, and there is such a huge variety, what constitutes good?

A traditional (read ‘proper’) ice cream is essentially a frozen custard – a mix of cream and milk, sugar, egg yolks or eggs, and flavouring, and this sort of ice cream is what I would recommend – look at the ingredients, and if they’re mostly dairy, sugar, eggs and natural flavourings, and probably a few other bits and pieces like stabilisers, then you’re on to a winner. An ice cream like this will have the desired creamy texture, and a rich flavour.

Of course, the better ice creams are more expensive. The cheaper ones are likely to have far less dairy, no eggs, unnatural flavourings, and essentially be whipped oil with loads of other stuff in. After all, which sounds tastier, ‘cream’ or ‘partially reconstituted whey protein concentrate and coconut oil’. They are also more likely to be bland and without flavour, and develop ice crystals really quickly in the freezer. Think of it as a good investment – a little more outlay will reap huge rewards, by which I mean a nicer texture, and a better flavour – and don’t think that vanilla ice cream is ‘plain’ or without flavour, because the best ones are far from this.

So, a few recommendations, and of course these are just my favourites and you may have other brands you like. Try a few out, go by the ingredients, and see what you think.

Green & Blacks Organic Vanilla Ice Cream is at the top of my list – it’s delicious. A quick glance at the ingredients list tells you all you need to know – all of the contents seems sensible, and you get a smooth ice cream with the taste of vanilla. (Incidentally, they do more flavours now – try Vanilla Caramel Nut. Go on, try it. Now.)

Ben & Jerry’s Fairtrade Vanilla is another good one. And it’s Fairtrade, so you’ll be doing your bit. And I don’t think there’s a flvaour of their ice cream that isn’t amazing.

Lots of smaller, independent producers make some great ice cream too. Perhaps try your local farm shop. Ooh, and look out for ice creams made with Cornish clotted cream, they’re fantastic. M&S does a good one.

And finally, Wall’s Carte D’Or is nice too. While it breaks some of the ingredients ‘rules’ I’ve talked about above, probably placing it somewhere between cheap ice creams and ‘proper’ ones, it’s a good enough freezer standby, with a nice flavour.

What’s your favourite ice cream?

Categories: Shop Tags: , ,

Lemon Meringue Pie

August 28, 2009 Leave a comment

Lemon Meringue Pie - Perfect Meringue

This has to be one of the best desserts of all time – tangy lemon curd topped with billowing sweet meringue, brown and crunchy on top, white, sticky and soft within. Best of all it’s easy – time consuming, a little, perhaps, but this isn’t the same as difficult – to make. Added to it’s appeal is nostalgia – lemon meringue pie is a classic Sunday lunch dessert from my childhood, although, I suspect they were more often than not packet-mixes, so somewhat naturally, maybe snobilly, this is, I think, superior.

So, with various sources of inspiration, this is my own recipe for perfect lemon meringue pie. Now, handily enough, this amount perfectly fills a standard supermarket sweet pastry case, say 20cm/250g or so, which is how I made this the first time. This takes away part of the work but, you could, of course, use ready made pastry and line a pie dish of your own, in which case I would blind-bake the pastry first. And, to describe your pie as truly homemade, you could make the pastry yourself. (To line a loose bottomed pie or flan tin of about 20cm, 75g butter rubbed into 175g plain flour, with 15g caster sugar then added and bound with around 3 tablespoons of water should suffice. Work this to a firm dough, wrap in cling film and give it a little rest, 30 minutes at least, in the fridge, before rolling out on a lightly floured surface until it’s large enough to line the tin. Blind bake, by which I mean line the pastry case with baking paper, fill with baking beans and cook in a 200°C oven for 20 minutes, or until golden, removing the beans and paper for the final five minutes, and remembering to turn the oven down to 150°C after you’ve removed your cooked pie case.)

Lemon Meringue Pie

  • 1 shop-bought sweet pastry case of about 20cm, or one you’ve made yourself as described above
  • 230g caster sugar (50g and 180g, if it helps)
  • 40g butter
  • 3 tablespoons cornflour
  • 2 large lemons, zested and juiced
  • 2 egg yolks and 3 egg whites

Preheat the oven to 150°C.

First, make the lemon curd filling. Put 50g of the caster sugar in a bowl, and add the cornflour. Add 2 tablespoons of cold water, and mix to a paste.

Place the lemon zest into a saucepan and pour over 200ml water from a recently boiled kettle. Place over heat and return to the boil, then stir it in to the cornflour paste. Pour the whole lot back into the pan and bring it to the boil again, stirring constantly. Simmer for 1 minute, while carrying on stirring. Remove from the heat and beat in the egg yolks, lemon juice and butter. When you have a smooth, yellow mixture, pour this into the pastry shell.

Next, in a ridiculously clean bowl, whisk (by powered means if at all possible) the egg whites to stiff peaks, and then, continuing to whisk, add the remaining sugar, 180g of it, a spoon at a time, until all is combined and glossy.

Spoon the meringue over the lemon filling, using a silicone spatula to get it right to the edges and completely sealing in the yellow filling within. If you’re both inclined and able, swirl the meringue into peaks, and then bake for 45 minutes, by which time the meringue should be lightly browned and crips on top, but still gorgeously soft, stick and white within.

Serve warm or cold, with or without adornment, either cream, or better still (especially if warm) good, shop-bought vanilla ice cream.

Categories: Pudding, Recipe Tags: , , , , ,

Chocolate Cheesecake Pots

August 27, 2009 1 comment

Chocolate Cheesecake Pots

This recipe started as a way of using up some leftovers – I had half a tub of mascarpone and half a pot of double cream left in the fridge from some other meals I’d made, and wanted to make sure they got used, and, with a few bits and pieces added, cheesecake seemed the obvious answer.

Using up leftovers is, as we are increasingly reminded, important in two respects. Firstly, it saves money, clearly, buying food and then throwing it away is not fiscally prudent, and secondly, throwing away food is bad for the environment. When I talk about leftovers, I guess there are two meanings – food you’ve cooked too much of, and, like here, leftover ingredients where perhaps you didn’t need a whole tub of mascarpone for the recipe you had bought it for. Perhaps food you have cooked too much of is easier to deal with – you’ve roasted a chicken, it’s not all been eaten, so you can use leftover meat in sandwiches, stir-fries and the like. Made too much bolognese? Reheat it the next day, or freeze it for another time. But it can be more difficult not to waste leftover ingredients, particularly if your concern is saving money, because usually you’ll need to add more to them, which of course, means further expenditure. Forward planning is one option, as I increasingly try to do with food, but the fact we buy most things in packages of certain sizes means it’s likely something will often be leftover, and here we are back to my cream and mascarpone.

These cheesecake pots were good, more than good in fact, and maybe now the cream and cheese will be purchased especially for them, but all I added to them were ingredients I had in the house anyway – and nothing unusual, nothing that the average home baker, probably, wouldn’t have in their own cupboards. Of course, as I’ve touched on, the addition of chocolate and other bits means this is obviously more expensive than throwing away half a tub of cheese and a dribble of cream, which don’t freeze particularly well, but why not indulge, and remind yourself you’re doing the planet a favour too?

You’ll also need the pots, and this amount (very nearly, and see picture for evidence) filled 4 ramekins about 4cm deep and 7cm in diameter. (Incidentally, I didn’t go out and buy ramekins, but bought Gu Hot Chocolate Souffles which come in ramekins, and wholeheartedly encourage you to do the same. Indeed, I have stacks of ramekins and other little pots that arrived with a dessert already inside them!)

Chocolate Cheesecake Pots (makes 4)

  • 85g bourbon chocolate biscuits (or any biscuits really, perhaps with a little cocoa added if not chocolate ones)
  • 30g butter
  • 125g mascarpone
  • 100g good dark chocolate (70% cocoa)
  • 75ml double cream
  • 50g icing sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa mixed to a paste with 1 tablespoon hot water

Blitz the biscuits to fine crumbs in a mini-chopper or processor, or if you’re having a bad day, seal them into a freezer bag and pulverise them with a rolling pin. Melt the butter gently in a saucepan, then, off the heat, stir in the biscuit crumbs. Divide the buttery crumbs between the ramekins and press down with your fingers to form a firm-ish base, then whack them into the freezer to harden a little while you get on with the rest of it.

Break the chocolate into pieces, and then melt gently in a bowl over simmering water. (Or, melt, very carefully, in the microwave, say in twenty second blasts on half power, and remebering that chocolate likes to play tricks on you by keeping its shape when melted, so stirring in between each nuking.)

In one bowl, beat the mascarpone, with an electric hand whisk, until light and smooth. Put to one side.

In another bowl, whip the cream to somewhere between soft and firm peaks, but don’t overdo it. Quickly beat in the icing sugar and the cocoa-water paste, until evenly combined. Then gently fold in the melted chocolate, until just combined and a consistent colour all the way through.

Finally, quickly beat the mascarpone into the cream-and-chocolate mix. Now, I know we’ve just folded in the chocolate, but I think quick and rough is the order of the day when mixing in the mascarpone, as you want to make sure that everything is well mixed rather than having lumps of cheese, so I would return to beating here.

Remove the ramekins from the freezer and divide the cheesecake mix between them, pushing down gently with a silicone spatula to ensure you don’t leave a gap between cheesecake and base, although this is easier said than done with these small pots, and since you’ll be eating them from the pot with a spoon, it doesn’t matter too much.

Stick the pots back in the freezer for 30 minutes to an hour, depending on how eager you are to eat these, so they set a little, and then remove to the fridge to store, and indeed leave at least half an hour before you tuck in anyway, just in case they’ve begun to freeze.


Nigella’s Coconut Cake

August 25, 2009 2 comments

Nigella's Coconut Cake

We’ve moved this post to our new blog, with better pictures! Click the link to continue reading ‘Nigella’s Coconut Cake’:

Categories: Pudding, Recipe Tags: , , ,

Photo Update!

August 25, 2009 Leave a comment

As I’ve said somewhere else on the blog, I’m not anything approaching a photographer, however, I’ve added some snaps to some older posts that I’ve been meaning to upload for a while, namely, my scones, caramelised onions, and ginger fudge cakes with fudgy icing. Enjoy!

I also have photos on standby for some of the posts I intend to put up next, so come back soon for a slice of coconut cake, a spoonful of chocolate cheesecake pots, and frustrations with rocky road cheesecake…

Categories: General Tags:

Chilli Chicken Noodles

August 25, 2009 Leave a comment

Chilli Chicken Noodles

Ching-He Huang’s Chinese Food Made Easy is one of my favourite cook books, and definitely my regular go-to for great, and as you would expect from the title, easy chinese meals. I bought the book the day after the first episode of the TV series aired, and several of the recipes have become regular dinners.

Lots of the dishes have quite a long list of ingredients, but actually across the book there is a core of store-cupboard staples that, once you’ve bought them, allow you to cook many of the recipes. And, despite the number of ingredients, everything is still simple to put together and tastes great.

I’ve played around with the original recipe a little. The OH isn’t the greatest fan of hot foods, although I’m working on that, so I’ve substituted the original red chilli for sweet chilli sauce, adding a sweeter but still warming kick, and a pinch of dried red chilli flakes. The original calls for yellow shi wheat flour noodles, but I generally have egg noodles in the house right now, or you could serve this with rice. There are a few other minor deviations from the original, however, the end result is delicious so who’s complaining? 

Chilli Chicken Noodles (serves 2)

For the sauce:

  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2.5cm piece fresh root ginger
  • 1 small red pepper
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 5 tbsp water
  • 1 tablespoon sweet chilli sauce
  • 2 tablespoons tomato ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon light brown sugar
  • pinch dried red chilli flakes

For the chicken:

  • 150g egg noodles
  • 1 tablespoon ground nut oil
  • 250g skinless chicken breast fillets, sliced into 1cm strips
  • 1 courgette, sliced into strips
  • 1 red pepper, sliced into strips
  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 1 bunch (5 or so) spring onions, sliced

Cook the noodles in boiling water as per the packet instructions. Drain, plunge into cold water, drain again and then dress with a little ground nut oil to stop them sticking. Leave to one side.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. Peel the garlic gloves and the ginger and finely chop both. I whizzed them in the mini-chopper, you could grate them on a microplane, or, just do it the traditional way with a knife and some patience. De-seed the pepper and roughly chop into chunks. Roughly chop the tomatoes. Whack the garlic, ginger, tomatoes and pepper into a blender with the sauces, water, sugar and chilli flakes, and whizz. You’re looking for a fairly liquid sauce. Put to one side.

Heat the ground nut oil in a wok, and then stir-fry the chicken for 3-4 minutes until starting to brown. Add the pepper and courgette, and stir-fry for a further minute. Tip the noodles into the wok, give everything a good stir, then pour on the sauce and bring to the boil. Simmer for a minute or two, then season with the soy sauce, and stir in the spring onions. Serve immediately.

Categories: Mains, Recipe Tags: , , ,