Thursday, 5 December 2013

Stuffed Mushroom

I think it was Shirley Conran who claimed life was too short to stuff a mushroom, how sad. Personally I think mushrooms make the perfect vessels for stuffing with all sorts of delicious things; in this case butternut squash. I have been revamping my spice cupboard and decided it would be good to use the fragrant bite of pink peppercorns in some way. The other spice that was calling out was the caraway with it's hints of dill and cumin. What follows is a really delicious version of a stuffed mushroom, but as I often say, you can, as I do, read this recipe and drive off in your own direction. Recipes should inspire adaptation and variation, but before you do that do try this recipe out as written, I promise you it will deliver. I would propose life is too precious not to make time to stuff a few mushrooms, poor Shirley.

For this recipe you will need;
4 large portobello mushrooms
1 medium sized onion
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
500g of butternut squash
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of unsalted butter
2 tablespoons of creme fraiche
1 teaspoon of pink peppercorns
1 scant teaspoon of caraway seeds
1/2 teaspoon of chilli powder
1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
Salt or Marigold bouillon powder
1 tablespoon of Noilly Prat vermouth
20g of parmesan cheese
1 thick slice of bread

Begin by preparing all the vegetables. Dice the onion and 450g of the squash. Using a peeler take 50g of the squash off in thin parings before dicing the remainder. Chop the garlic. Grind the pink peppercorns and caraway seeds in a pestle and mortar. Grate the parmesan and the bread to form crumbs.
In a heavy bottomed pan with a lid, gently fry the mushrooms in 1 tablespoon of oil and the butter on a low heat. Putting the lid on will help the mushrooms wilt and loose their resilience. Remove the mushrooms and set aside. Place the second tablespoon of oil in the pan and gently fry the spices for 2 minutes, add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion becomes translucent. Add the diced squash and the vermouth and cook gently for 10 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. When the squash is tender add the salt or bouillon powder if using and the creme fraiche and replace the lid. After a few minutes stir the mixture through and adjust the seasoning with a little more salt or bouillon powder to taste.
Share the mix between the 4 mushrooms and top with the parmesan breadcrumb mixture. Bake in a hot oven. 200C for 15 minutes. While the mushrooms are baking, deep fry the thin parings of squash to make crisps. Drain the crisps on absorbent kitchen paper. Remove the mushrooms from the oven and pile the crisps on top of the baked mushroom. Serve with a salad or small boiled potatoes if like me you're feeling hungry. Plan on one mushroom per person.

If you allow the mix to cook long enough to just stick slightly to the bottom of the pan before switching off the heat and adding the creme fraiche, after replacing the lid and leaving for a few minutes, the moisture will have loosened the mix and incorporated the extra flavour that the caramelized vegetables will have created. You just need to be careful to not let the vegetables caramelize in this way for too long, no amount of creme fraiche will mask a burnt taste.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Celeriac, Orange & Coriander Soup

If you enjoy the zing of orange peel, you will enjoy this soup. For those of you less keen, simply remove the peel before blending and you will still have a delicious soup but without that citrus peel bite.

Guernsey brings the number of countries & sovereign states up to 117! Welcome!

Macau brings the number up to 118, welcome!
Afghanistan very welcome bringing the number up to 119!

For this soup you will need;
500g of celeriac peeled and cubed
3 cloves of garlic chopped
The peel of 1 large orange, thinly pared
The juice of 1 large orange
1 tablespoon of corainder seeds
Large pinch white pepper
1500ml of vegetable stock
1 tablespoon of groundnut oil
50g of unsalted butter.

Begin by sweating the cubed celeriac and chopped garlic gently in the oil along with the corainder seeds, over a low heat for 5 to 10 minutes. Add the orange peel, juice and stock and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes or until the celeriac is completely softened. Blend the soup adding the butter and white pepper, for a silky texture, always be careful when blending hot liquids in a jug blender. Strain and serve.
Personally I like the added boost of orange, leaving the peel in produces when blending, but you can easily take the peel out if you prefer a more subtle orange flavour. 
I served this soup with a stuffed paratha. Parathas have become a favourite unyeasted bread in my house and I shall publish my recipe soon.

Christmas Pudding

My dear sister in law, Sally told me she had searched my blog for my Christmas pudding recipe and failed to find it, having meant to put it up last year I had forgotten and so here it is. You will find many people don't like Christmas pudding and having tasted some of the dense, dark and bitter offerings even sold in up market shops, I can well understand why. Christmas pudding should and can be a rich pudding, delicately flavoured with spice and bursting with dried fruit. The fruit, rendered moist and plump from the hours of soaking and cooking in a mix containing liqueur of some sort, mine contains stout and amaretto liqueur but you can use whatever takes your fancy.
Tomorrow is fondly referred to as Stir up Sunday, it is traditionally the day when this pudding is made but I believe it's probably the last Sunday in the year when Christmas puddings should be made since the puddings benefit from a few weeks resting before the second steaming on Christmas day. I once heard Stir up Sunday being pronounced Stirrup Sunday, clearly an altogether different activity.

To make 2, one litre puddings you will need;
250g of white breadcrumbs
100g of Self Raising flour
200g of unsalted butter
450g of muscovado sugar
4 eggs
400g of golden sultanas
300g of lexia raisins
300g of raisins
100g of almonds roughly chopped
100g of candied peel chopped.
1 large apple, grated
The grated zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange
4 tablespoons of Disaronno liqueur
300ml of dark ale or stout
2 teaspoons of mixed spice
1 teaspoon of grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of salt.

Begin by making the breadcrumbs, use a sturdy bread rather than a soft white loaf. I use my white sourdough (2 or even 3 days old), but a bread that has a little wholewheat flour in is also ideal. Place the breadcrumbs in a large bowl. Melt the butter and pour onto the breadcrumbs. Traditionally of course grated suet would be used but since I don't eat meat I use butter, I find melting it, is altogether the easiest way to ensure even distribution and makes mixing easy. Whisk the eggs with the stout, liqueur spices and salt and add to the bowl along with all the other ingredients. 
Leave the bowl covered overnight so that the fruit can fully rehydrate before steaming the puddings. 
Prepare 2 large pudding basins or a number of smaller ones if your prefer, by greasing the inside with softened butter. Divide the mix between the basins, having given the mix a final stir and making a wish. Wrap the basins with several layers of cling film and steam the puddings for 6 hours. Make sure you keep an eye on the puddings so that you can top up with boiling water whenever the pan looks as though it may boil dry. I usually pop an upturned saucer under the basin in each saucepan in order to avoid the bottom of the basin coming in contact with direct heat. Pierce the cling film once the steaming is complete in order to avoid the cling film shrinking back onto the puddings. Wrap with a final layer of cling film once the puddings have cooled.
The puddings can then be kept in a cool place for several months, I have certainly kept a pudding to use the following year. Steam the pudding for 3 hours prior to the festive meal in order to ensure a light textured deliciously rich pudding. Serve with double cream, but if your family prefer, rum or brandy butter.

When it comes to flaming the pudding, heat 100ml of brandy in a soup ladle immediately after turning the pudding out onto a plate ready to serve, when the brandy begins to simmer, pour it onto the pudding and light it, walk proudly into the dining room (lights dimmed) and hold your offering up high.
You can buy a product which is described as chopped candied peel, it is responsible for putting off many people and should be banned, do try to find whole peel that has been candied and chop it yourself, you will be rewarded.
Sharp eyed readers will spot fig seeds in the photos of the puddings. I have had to use last year's photos in order to publish this recipe and having included figs (100g) in my puddings last year for the first time, I have decided not to use them again.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Roasted Vegetable Deep Tart

This is not so much a recipe, but an encouragement to take your favourite quiche recipe and make a deep version that has less of the custard filling. Quiches are fine of course, as long as they have a generous amount of filling and good crisp pastry, but I think there is a lot to be said for this form of tart which uses eggs and a dairy product, in this case cream cheese, to act just as the glue that holds the vegetables together and not as a main component. The result is more robust and cuts well when served at room temperature. It makes an ideal picnic food, not that on November the 4th I'm planning a picnic any time soon.

Benin, welcome! you bring the number up to 116
For this recipe you will need;
Roughly 1750g of vegetables, I used cauliflower, butternut squash, onions and aubergine.
350g of shortcrust pastry
200g of cream cheese
100g of mature cheddar cheese, grated
3 eggs
1 tablespoon of olive oil

Begin by cutting up the vegetables into chunks, tossing in the olive oil, a teaspoon of sea salt flakes and a teaspoon of ground black pepper and roasting in a shallow ovenproof dish for 40 minutes at 200C. Take the dish out every 10 minutes and move the vegetables around so that the chunks that appear cooked and to be taking on colour, are moved to the bottom to allow other chunks to cook. Allow the vegetables to cool.
Switch the oven on to 180C
Line a 20cm by 6cm cake tin with the pastry and allow to rest for 15 minutes while you complete the filling.
Taste the roasted vegetables and adjust the seasoning, I find it best to season the vegetables well rather than season the egg mix. In a bowl, whisk together 3 eggs and the cream cheese, stir in the grated cheddar and finally the roasted vegetables. Fill the pastry lined cake tin with the vegetable mix and bake for 1 hour. The top should be nicely browned and it should feel reasonably firm when pressed. Cool and serve at room temperature.

I like to add a little heat so I add 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne to the vegetables before roasting.
This deep tart can be made with a variety of vegetables, simply prepare them in whatever way makes sense, for instance asparagus, peppers and Jerusalem artichokes are best roasted as above, whereas peas, runner beans and broad beans would be best steamed and mushrooms best fried in olive oil thoroughly until they have taken on good colour and most of the moisture has been driven off. Drain on absorbent kitchen paper before proceeding with the recipe.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Garlic & Cheddar soup

I will have vampires and other ghoulish characters turning up at my door this week, so I thought it best to create a recipe that uses a great deal of garlic. Halloween is one excuse, a really good deal at Al Amin, which led to my buying a lot of garlic is another. The soup is creamy and flavoursome and at this time of year with the days becoming dramatically shorter, a great comfort.

For this recipe you will need;
2 heads of garlic
2 medium size or 1 large potato, diced (roughly 300g)
100g of mature cheddar
25g of unsalted butter
1 litre of vegetable stock
5oo ml of milk
3 sprigs of thyme
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
1/4 teaspoon of cayenne

Begin by peeling the garlic and sweating the cloves gently in the olive oil over a low heat for 5 minutes. Keep an eye on the cloves, they should take on only a little colour. Add the potatoes, stock, seasoning and thyme and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until the garlic and potato are tender. Allow to cool a little then place the contents of the pan along with the cheddar cheese and butter in a blender and blend until smooth. Always be careful when blending hot liquids, don't overfill the blender jug and make sure the lid is secure. Add the milk and blend briefly to fully incorporate. Serve hot with crouton.

Since there is cheese in the soup, you will need to be careful when bringing it back up to the right heat to serve; don't allow the soup to overheat or the velvet texture will be lost.
If anyone asks you to feed four people and gives you no more than 1 potato, 2 heads of garlic, some sprigs of thyme and enough cheddar cheese to make a decent sandwich, this is the recipe to make!

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Hagbech White bread with Date Syrup

I am fond of date syrup as an ingredient, if you need a sweet element in a dish, I think it makes sense to use something that has a greater depth and more complex flavour than sugar. My Banana cake is a good example Click here for the recipe
I was making a batch of my white sourdough yesterday and the bottle of date syrup was out on the work surface. Knowing that if you wish to enhance sourness you can add just a little sugar, just as adding a little salt will point to the sweetness of a dish, I decided to add 50ml of the date syrup to the dough. The result was spectacular. I'm sure date syrup is a really good source of nutrition for yeast.The loaves were light with good oven spring, but best of all the flavour of the crust was better than I think I have ever eaten.

The Bahamas brings the count up to 115, welcome!

In order to make this bread follow the original recipe click here and add 50ml of date syrup when adding the ferment to the main dough ingredients.

Banana Cake

A week ago my lovely niece Meg phoned up to ask if I had a banana cake recipe, I had to admit I hadn't but that I would work on creating one. Lightly cooking the banana helps considerably in enhancing the banana flavour of this cake, I also introduced a favourite ingredient of mine, date syrup. If you do not find date syrup (try whole food shops) golden syrup will work but it won't produce the nutty brown colour the date syrup will. Unlike many banana cakes, this is a light textured sponge.

For this recipe you will need;
2 large ripe bananas sliced
200g of caster sugar
50g of date syrup
50g of unsalted butter
2 large eggs
250g of self raising flour
170ml of oil, I use grapeseed
1 tablespoon of sour cream
1 teaspoon of vanilla escence
1 teaspoon of finely grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt

Begin by preparing a 20cm square baking tin, either grease it lightly and dust with flour or line with baking parchment.
Place the butter, sugar and date syrup in a small shallow pan and slowly bring to a boil. Add the sliced bananas and cook on a gentle heat for 5 minutes. The bananas should break up slightly but they will break up completely when mixed with the other ingredients. Allow to cool completely.
Turn the oven on to 180C.
Whisk together the eggs, oil sour cream and banana mixture until light and creamy, sieve the dry ingredients together and fold in, then transfer the mix to the prepared baking tin. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until a toothpick comes out cleanly.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Roasted Cauliflower & Moghrabieh Salad

Some time ago I posted a dish including roasted cauliflower, click here for the recipe, ever since then I have only ever cooked cauliflower by roasting, the flavour and consistency is so much finer than that of boiled or steamed cauliflower. This is a simple salad which uses another grain or more strictly speaking a pasta, moghrabieh or giant couscous, but the combination of flavours makes it one I shall happily make again and again.

Sri Lanka brings the number up to 112, welcome!

Bringing the number to 113, Guadeloupe, welcome!
Finland makes it 114, welcome!

For this recipe you will need;

2oog of moghrabieh or giant couscous
500g of cauliflower florets
100g of  toasted flaked almonds
150g of golden sultanas
50ml of Disaronno amaretto liquer
1 tablespoon of chives, chopped
2 tablespoon of olive oil (1 for roasting the cauliflower)
1/2 tablespoon of lemon juice
1 teaspoon of Marigold bouillon powder or 1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of salt (for roasting the cauliflower)
1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper

Begin by roasting the cauliflower florets, toss the florets in 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Place the florets in a shallow baking dish and roast in a hot 220C oven for 10 to 15 minutes, taking the dish out and turning the florets over, half way through. The cauliflower should be just tender and a little charred on the edges. Allow to cool while you boil the moghrabieh for 6 minutes in salted water. Simmer the golden sultanas in the amaretto liquer for a couple of minutes, this drives off the alcohol but plumps up the fruit and enhances the almond flavour of the finished dish. Drain the moghrabieh and allow to cool, Chop the chives and toss together all the ingredients including the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, and the seasoning.

You can plump the sultanas in a  tablespoon of apple juice if you prefer.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Oven baked Frittata

Occasionally I find a kitchen utensil that inspires a new dish; finding this lurid green silicone "thing" was such an occasion. I imagine its original purpose was to bake cakes in, but for me I thought it would be ideal for making a frittata.

A Frittata is essentially an egg dish, more closely related to the Spanish Tortilla Española, than the French Omelette. Fritatta can make a fine addition to any picnic, equally good (better in my opinion) served at room temperature. It becomes the obvious choice when faced with a glut of eggs (mine are still going strong) and some left over cooked vegetables. For this frittata I used some cooked green beans, potatoes and I added some sliced red peppers which I simply fried for a couple of minutes.

For this recipe you will need;
7 Eggs
4oog of cooked vegetables
250g of ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (optional)

Prepare a cake tin, I used a 21cm square silicone one which I now think of as my frittata pan, by brushing lightly with oil. heat the oven to 180C. Whisk the eggs, ricotta and seasoning until smooth and amalgamated.  Add the cooked vegetables, cut into small sized pieces to the eggs and transfer to whatever vessel you are using to bake the frittata in. Place in the oven and bake until the centre still shows a slight wobble only, about 35 to 45 minutes. Leave for 5 minutes in the pan before tipping out onto a board and cutting up to serve, or until completely cold if you are taking it on a picnic.

Thank you
You can easily vary the ingredients in this frittata; however in order to maintain a consistency that holds together when cut cold, don't use more soft cheese than 250g in proportion to 7 eggs.
As Sue says, always put a silicon container on a metal tray when placing in the oven to avoid spillage.

Hot Crab & Comté dip

This hot dip makes a perfect start to a meal, a dish that can be shared where you and another dunk either chunks of crusty bread or crouton to retrieve the molten delicious goo. Two words of warning:.
  1. Warn people that it will be hot and will require caution and patience.
  2. Be prepared for a fight to the finish.
This dip can also be made without the crab meat, substituting caramelised finely chopped onions instead.

For this recipe you will need;
150g of Comté cheese, grated
150g of white crab meat
150g of double cream
1 small clove of garlic finely minced
1/2 teaspoon of cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
2 teaspoons of finely chopped chives
A good pinch of cayenne pepper

Begin by dry frying the cumin seeds in a small pan for a minute over a medium heat, this releases the cumin's fragrant oils. Add the cream, along with all other ingredients apart from the chives. Continue to heat and stir until the cheese is completely melted. Taste and adjust with a little salt if you think it needs it, personally I find it usually doesn't need any. Stir in the chives and place the pan under a grill just to toast the surface to a golden brown. Serve this with chunks of fresh crusty bread or crouton.

I have a small cast iron pan made by Staub which I use for this dish, it works well for the dining table but it's equally possible to transfer the mix to a small serving dish before toasting the surface under a grill.
You can easily double up the quantities to serve more people, I find this is sufficient for 2 to 3 people, more if you are using it as part of a tray of canapé, in which case I would recommend using thinly sliced crouton.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Retarding the "Sourdough with Gruel"

It's the time of year when getting the timing right with my baking is a bit of a juggling act. In another few weeks I can rely on everywhere being cold and I can return to an overnight period when the dough can ferment without salt but right now with the Indian summer we seem to be blessed with, everything is happening just that bit too quickly. Yesterday, I had some starter left over from my garlic & parsley bread, click here for the recipe and I decided to make some of my sourdough with gruel, click here for the recipe. By early evening, having fed the starter with another 200g of flour and 200ml of water, it was ready to have the main dough ingredients added. I decided to move on to this part of the process so added 1,000g of strong white flour, and the gruel I had made along with the malt extract. I kept back the salt, deciding I would add it last thing before going to bed. At 11 o-clock the dough had more than doubled in size and it was time to add the salt. A decision had to me made about what to do next so I popped the bowl into the fridge and at 6 o-clock this morning I was amazed to find how much the dough had grown even at 5 degrees C. I stretched and folded the dough a couple of times, divided it into 3 and shaped it before placing each loaf into a banneton mould well floured with rice flour. I left the loaves to fully return to room temperature before baking them at 220C for 30 to 35 minutes. This batch is even lighter than usual and the flavour has been enhanced by the extra time it took to ferment. If you are looking for a loaf of bread which is light with a soft crumb and open texture, a loaf that remains fresh for 2 to 3 days, I can't recommend a recipe more highly than this one. I'm still intrigued as to why the simple addition of oats in the form of gruel alters everything to such a degree, but it does and I'm happy.

Make sure your ferment is absolutely at its peak of activity before adding to the main dough ingredients. This is true for all bread baking. See the photo above, the surface shows signs of many bubbles and the characteristic creases of the ferment collapsing on itself.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Sourdough with Garlic & Parsley

When thinking about what to add to this garlic flavoured dough, parsley seemed the obvious choice, since whenever I make garlic butter to use in making garlic bread, I always chop up and incorporate a little fresh parsley. I decided upon baton as the final shape simply because slices of this narrow loaf work perfectly as crouton,  having been brushed lightly with olive oil and toasted in a hot oven.

To make this bread you will need;
for the ferment,
1 tablespoon of starter from the fridge
200g of strong white flour
200ml of cold water.

For the main dough,
half of the ferment (the other half can be returned to the fridge or used to make other bread)
500g of strong white flour
300ml of water
10g of salt
1 head of garlic
a small bunch of fresh parsley
1 tablespoon of olive oil.

Begin by putting together the ferment. Mix the ingredients and place in a large enough bowl for the ferment to double in size. Cover with clingfilm and set to one side for 12 hours. My kitchen is cool, if the ambient temperature of your kitchen is warm, adjust accordingly. Watch for a healthy foaming consistency.

Make the main dough by mixing half the ferment with the flour and the water. Knead or mix with a food mixer to achieve a soft but not sticky dough. Leave the dough for an hour or two while you prepare the garlic and parsley mix. Simmer the peeled bulbs from an entire head of garlic in water for 10 to 15 minutes until completely tender. drain and allow to cool. Chop the parsley up finely and add the cooled garlic. Mash into a paste like consistency with a tablespoon of olive oil.

Add the garlic/parsley mix along with the salt to the dough and knead in until evenly distributed. Leave the dough to rise for 3 to 4 hours, stretching and folding the dough every hour. You should find as the gluten strengthens, the dough will become more lighter and more springy. Divide and form into whatever loaf shape you choose, I decided upon baton and this amount of dough made 4. Leave for a final rise for 1 to 2 hours, depending again on how warm your kitchen space is. Bake at 220C for 25 to 30 minutes.

You can certainly consider doubling the amount of garlic, I found 1 head between 4 loaves a bit on the light side.
This bread can be made using commercial yeast for a lighter texture with with a flavour that has less character.