Thursday, 28 August 2014

Ginger Toffee Pudding

Im afraid I had already started. . . . . . .  sorry!

I was making a tiramisu the other day and was reminded just how delicious the mascarpone cream mixture is. The thought occurred to me that it could and should be used far more often, simply in place of whipped cream. It was just this idea that got me thinking about what to make to serve it with and a ginger version of my sticky toffee pudding is what sprang to mind.
The puddings are best served as soon after baking as possible, so make the toffee sauce and whip the cream before starting to make the puddings themselves.

For the puddings (serves 6) you will need;
150g of stoned dates
150g of S R flour
120g of muscovado sugar
120g of unsalted butter
2 medium eggs
1 thumb size piece of ginger, grated
2 teaspoon of powdered dried ginger
1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
1/4 teaspoon of salt.

For the toffee sauce you will need;
50g of muscovado sugar
50g of unsalted butter
200ml of double cream
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt flakes

For the mascarpone cream you will need
200ml of double cream
200g of mascarpone
1 teaspoon of good vanilla extract
20g of caster sugar

Make the toffee sauce by melting the butter in a small heavy based pan on a low heat, add the sugar and cook until the sugar is also completely melted, about 4 to 5 minutes on a low heat, add the cream and stir in the salt. Cook for a further 5 minutes, allowing the sauce to gently bubble and become a smooth, silky brown. This sauce can be heated back up at the point where the puddings are ready to be served.

Whisk the cream until it begins to thicken, add the mascarpone and continue to whisk until the cream forms soft peaks, finally whisk in the sugar and vanilla. Set to one side.

Begin by placing the stoned dates chopped up in a small pan with 200ml of water and bring to a simmer, simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
Switch the oven on to 180C.
Grease the inside of 6 large dariol moulds, I use ones that hold 150ml. Place a small disc of parchment paper in the bottom of each mould to make removal of the puddings easier. When the simmered dates have cooled, transfer them and the water they were cooked in to a food processor. Add all remaining ingredients and process for half a minute. Divide the mixture between the 6 moulds and place in a moderate oven 180C for 17 to 20 minutes or until a bamboo skewer comes out cleanly.
Tip out the puddings onto individual serving dishes and pour on the hot toffee sauce, finally place a large dollop of the mascarpone cream on top and serve immediately.

This pudding pretty much gives you enough calories to then go and plough the bottom 14 acres of land without feeling too hungry, if you don't have the ploughing to do, perhaps you should limit the first course of any meal where this pudding is served to something very low in calories. Either way it is a delicious combination of flavours and once in a while, a bit of a treat.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Lemon Courgette Cake

If like me you grow courgettes and as I do find the odd one that has grown to twice (or more) the size that you would have preferred, this is an excellent cake to use those courgettes up. The shredded vegetable adds just the right degree of moistness to the cake and the subtle flavour doesn't compete with the lemon.

And for the lightest version, make 16 cupcakes.
For this recipe you will need;
300g of caster sugar
300g of grated courgette (weighed after squeezing)
280g of self raising flour
250ml of vegetable oil (I use rapeseed)
4 large eggs
2 lemons
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt

For the lemon syrup;
80g of icing sugar and the juice of both lemons.

Begin by finely grating the courgette and remove as much liquid out of them as you can by placing them in a clean tea towel and squeezing.
Prepare 2 x 23 centimetre cake tins by lining the tins with baking parchment. Leave the sides unlined and un-greased. Switch the oven on to 180C.
Place the sugar and the thinly pared rind of the lemons in a food processor and process until the rind is fine and has pretty much disappeared into the sugar. I find this method is best for extracting the most flavour from any citrus peel. In a large bowl, combine the flour, flavoured sugar salt and baking powder and stir to mix thoroughly. Add the grated courgette. Whisk together the eggs and the oil and add to the bowl. Working quickly, mix all the ingredients to form an even mix. Divide between the 2 cake tins and place in the hot oven to cook for 35 minutes. A bamboo skewer should come out cleanly when pushed into the center of the cake when fully cooked. While the cakes are baking bring the lemon juice and icing sugar up to a boil and cook for no more than a minute to dissolve the sugar. Before the cakes cool completely, make about 40 little holes all over the surface of each cake using a bamboo skewer, divide the lemon syrup between the 2 cakes, ladling it on with a tablespoon, you should have about 3 tablespoons per cake.
Allow to cool on a cooling rack before turning out. Sandwich together with either whipped cream if you plan on serving all of the cake on the same day, or like me a cream cheese frosting if you plan to serve the cake over a period of 2 or 3 days.

Apart from the fact that I don't like discarding anything when I can find a use for it, using the juice of the lemons having already used the rind to flavour the cakes, gives this cake a really fresh lemon flavour.
If you wanted to use orange in place of lemons, use 1 large orange and fill the cake with a chocolate ganache.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Aubergine and Roasted tomato Pasta Sauce

My friend Sylvia grows wonderful aubergines, no easy task for a plant that requires such a long period of growth in the sun. My aubergines will certainly not be ready for another week or two. She kindly gave me a couple the other day and I decided to create a pasta sauce using one of them. The tomatoes from the greenhouse are coming thick and fast so combining the aubergine with some of these and the addition of the obligatory garlic seemed a good idea. People who read my blog know that I rarely use currants, but adding currants to this sauce brought out the slight tannin flavour of the aubergine skin producing a rich deep flavoured sauce.

For this recipe (enough to feed 4) you will need,

700g of fresh tomatoes
1 large aubergine
50g of currants
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of tomato puree
2 anchovy fillets (optional)
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of coarse ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper.

Begin by dicing the aubergine and frying in 2 tablespoons of olive oil along with 1/2 teaspoon of salt in a large heavy based pan. Fry on a medium heat and stir from time to time to ensure each surface gets a reasonable chance to colour up. Meanwhile cut the tomatoes into chunks and place with the remaining salt and oil in a hot oven to roast. Roast them for 15 to 20 minutes at 200C or until they have released their liquid and the skins have taken on a little colour.
When the diced aubergine has turned a little brown, add the chopped garlic and the anchovy fillets if using. Cook for a couple of minutes before adding the tomato puree. Cook for a further couple of minutes, stirring to make sure all the ingredients get exposed to the heat of the pan. Finally add the roasted tomatoes, currants, pepper and cayenne and 200ml of water. Cover with a lid and cook on a low heat for 10 minutes while you cook whatever pasta you fancy.

Frying the aubergine, which so readily soaks up oil, in so little oil is made possible by the addition of salt. The salt will draw liquid out of the aubergine and force the oil back out of the vegetable.
I find the use of anchovy fillets really adds a depth of flavour to the finished sauce, leave them out of course if you are feeding vegetarians, the rest of the dish may well be vegetable based but people who regard themselves as vegetarian quite rightly include fish, even tiny ones.
The currants provide a fruity sweetness which doesn't in any way over-sweeten the dish but does enhance the flavour of the tomatoes and balances the tannins in the aubergine and the currants themselves.