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Monday, 19 January 2015

KitchenAid Basics–How to begin with your new KitchenAid

Just a short vlog this morning to help you get started with your KitchenAid mixer. I found looking through the instructions and trying it out myself would have been much faster if I’d watched a short ‘how to’ video first, so decided to make my own to help get people started.

If you find it useful or helpful, please give it a ‘thumbs up’ and don’t forget to share!

Friday, 16 January 2015

7: Nigel Slater–The Kitchen Diaries–Cooking the Books

Starter:      No-tears Onion Soup

Main:        Pot-Roast Pheasant

Dessert:     Double Ginger Cake

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I was so upset to realise I had overwritten my last Nigel Slater post, that I thought another foray into the simple yet flavoursome depths of his recipes was needed immediately! I'm going to really ensure this post is saved...I might even have to start writing in Word and transferring to the blogging platform so this doesn't happen again. At least I've still got the actual book and know which recipes I tried! I've even used the beef and cheese pasta one since, making it even better with added mushrooms. 

I have another of his books left to attempt but this one is named The Kitchen Diaries. The recipes are set out rather like his musings rather than a formal 1,2,3 method and I'm always one to value his comments and opinions. It's more complex than 'Eat', both in terms of quantity of ingredients and method itself, but still not over complicated.

Starter: No-tears Onion Soup

Easiness: 9/10

Taste: 6/10

Make again: 5/10

Cheats & Changes: Cheddar not Gruyere

This simple onion soup recipe is made even more tasty than usual by roasting the onions first...it also, as Nigel says, doesn't fill the house with the smell of fried or boiled onions and makes it less likely to have watery eyes! The recipe follows la typique French idea of adding cheesy croutons, or you could even do little 'make it yourself' dippers with small crusty rounds, grated cheese and Dijon mustard on the side for guests to create their own 'boats'.

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Simply halve and roast some white onions with a little oil, then pop into a pan with a glass of white wine and reduce until it’s nearly disappeared – you want the flavour, not the alcohol! Add stock, salt and pepper to taste and simmer. Serve with the cheesy croutons. I made mine in the sandwich toaster! I cut little rounds of baguette and sandwiched them together with cheddar, then toasted.

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I wouldn't necessarily make it again, although it did have quite a lot of flavour for such a simple recipe. I prefer creamy soups rather than brothy ones!

Main: Pot-Roast Pheasant

Easiness: 8/10

Taste: 7/10

Make again: 5/10

Cheats & Changes: White wine instead of vermouth

Onto the main course. I've used my large cast iron pot many times since it's purchase late last year but the best use I found was a one-pot chicken recipe. This idea is on a similar theme but uses a pheasant instead.

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Before cooking, pluck any remaining feather stubs and give the pheasant a wipe. Don’t forget to check inside too to make sure all gibletty bits have been removed! In a hob to oven lidded casserole, brown off the pheasant in a large slice of melted butter. Meanwhile, chop the celery into short lengths and halve some baby new potatoes. Once the pheasant is browned, remove from the pan and wipe clean all the excess burnt butter, taking care to leave the gooey stickiness at the bottom! Add and melt another chunk of butter and add the potatoes until slightly browned. Tip in the celery, some celery leaves, sage leaves, salt and pepper. Pour over a large glass of white vermouth – I used white wine which gave a similar flavour – and leave to simmer for a couple of minutes. Return the pheasant to the pan, pop the lid on top and leave in the oven at 180 degrees c for around 30-35 minutes, depending on the size of the pheasant.

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This did have a really lovely flavour and was very easy, but the pheasant was quite tough – I don’t know if that was due to the bird itself or the overcooking of it. Nigel says he doesn’t always want the extra flavour of covering him in bacon first, but I do think this might have helped keep him more moist. We rarely have pheasant, in fact, I don’t think I’ve cooked it at home before today, but really enjoyed the flavour of it – not too gamey or rich. I would do it again, but play around with the cooking times a little more.

Dessert: Double Ginger Cake

Easiness: 8/10 – it’s weighing, mixing and tipping

Taste: 8/10

Make again: 8/10

Cheats & Changes: 0 – but next time I’d use all ginger instead of sultanas

No biscuits this week, as I'm sure you'll all be pleased to hear, but a rich ginger cake instead. Now, I'm not going to cheat, but if you can’t use the Kitchenaid for cake batter, when can you?! I do feel a flex-edge paddle may be of use to ensure all the mixture is removed from the edge, although this would mean, of course, less mixture for F and me to lick from the bowl once we'd finished!

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This double-ginger cake is perfect with a late afternoon cup of tea. Use the link to get to the recipe (it’s too long to post here) and enjoy! When Nigel says ‘the mixture should be sloppy’ read ‘liquid’! I was a little concerned at this point that, after having poured it into the tin with little need for scraping, but it rose beautifully in the oven and ended up the perfect texture, especially after a couple of days! I served it warm with custard the first night, then we just sliced and ate it piece by piece. I had a problem keeping the sultanas evenly distributed: They all sank to the bottom and didn’t add any taste or texture to the final cake. If you wanted to include them, rather than adding to the melted butter mixture, I’d pop into the flour to give them a good coating in the hopes they might stay afloat more happily! It also wasn’t quite gingery or sticky enough for me. Next time, I’d add more ginger powder, more crystallised ginger instead of the sultanas and more ginger syrup too!

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I think it’s really the combination of thought, prose and food ideas I like with Nigel Slater…the fact he makes everything seem so simple and easy. And I love the fact all the food comes out of his fridge wrapped in waxed paper!

The Kitchen Diaries volume i

Saturday, 10 January 2015

6: Jamie Oliver–Jamie’s Kitchen–Cooking the Books

Starter:      Potato, Celeriac & Truffle Oil Soup

Main:         Pappardelle with Amazing Slow-Cooked Meat

Dessert:     Clementine Chocolate Salad

I think it’s about time we began with one of the Jamies. I have so many, but seem not to have previously used this one.  It was one of the first books after his Naked Chef series and ran alongside his setting up of the restaurant, Fifteen: a scheme whereby people who hadn’t made the best start to their lives were given a second chance to learn new skills cheffing.

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Starter: Potato, Celeriac & Truffle Oil Soup

Easiness: 7/10, peeling a celeriac can be quite interesting

Taste: 6/10

Make again: 7/10

Cheats & Changes: Leave out the truffle oil and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil instead

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This soup recipe is fairly basic but, I’ll admit it, I hate truffle oil. It tastes of rubber and, in my opinion, doesn’t really enhance anything. I once ruined a ham, cheese and egg Leon-style pot with it, so am in no hurry to use it again. In fact, I left it out of this recipe completely and simple drizzled with a good quality extra-virgin olive oil to finish the soup. I am also fairly new to celeriac…a friend made a celeriac mash several months ago though, and since then, I’ve been smitten. Having said that, I think there are good and bad years for these vegetables and this season, they seem fairly watery and less intense in flavour.

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Boil onion, potato and celeriac with stock. Flavour with thyme, salt and pepper, add some cream and re-boil, then puree. Due to the flavourless celeriac, I’d double quantities of this whilst leaving the potato weights the same. Add a little more stock to keep the texture though.

Main: Pappardelle with Amazing Slow-Cooked Meat

Easiness: 7/10

Taste: 8/10

Make again: 8/10

Cheats & Changes: a teaspoon of sugar to take the bitterness from the tomatoes.

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Now, I'm not going to cheat, so I will let you into a little secret. I bought myself a post-Christmas pick me up for the kitchen: I just couldn't resist a KitchenAid and since my little hand mixer died shortly beforehand (I'm sure it didn't have anything to do with me going on and on about how lovely a shiny, boysenberry KitchenAid would look) I felt it was a perfectly justified investment! And it has been. I've already made two different doughs, one for steamed buns to hold duck and another for my usual crispy white tear and share bread, and also tried Gino's Lady's Kisses biscuits from a couple of weeks ago...all have worked brilliantly so far, so I have no reason to doubt that trying it out with my pasta attachment will go just as smoothly!

basic pasta

The lovely thing about this book is that Jamie also gives a simple egg pasta recipe and ideas about how to handle it, including how to use the pasta rollers and cutters and how to shape it. So I looked at that, and the suggested recipe in the KitchenAid manual and also found this little post demonstrating someone else’s experiences and method for using the mixer to help. I’ve decided it’s basically a case of 100g and 1 egg per person of pasta. A sprinkle of salt if you’d like and then you only add water spoon by spoon until it comes together. I needed a few as I tried the KitchenAid recipe which had an extra 10g flour per person, but guess it depends on how big your eggs are!

Ingredients:

800g braising meat

handful fresh chopped rosemary and thyme

1 small red onion

4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped

1 carrot

1 celery stalk

2 glasses Chianti

2 400g tins chopped tomatoes

2 tbsp pearl barley

grated cheese and a fat slice of butter

Finely chop all your veg. Fry off your meat – I used braising steak, but you could choose from venison, lamb, boar or joints of pigeon or hare – then add herbs, onion, garlic, carrot and celery. Continue to fry until softened then pour in a couple of glasses of red wine. Simmer until the liquid has almost cooked away. Add chopped tinned tomatoes, pearl barley and just enough water to cover the meat by 1cm and I added a teaspoon or so of sugar too to take the bitterness from the tomatoes, as I do with any tomato based sauce. Place a cartouche and pan lid on top and leave on a really low heat for 2-3 hours. If it’s too liquid still, leave the lid off on high for it to reduce for a few minutes. Once the meat flakes into deliciously tender strips, allow to cool slightly and pull apart all the meat, removing bones and skin if necessary, before returning to the pan and leaving to keep warm. Add a fat slice of butter and large handful of cheese to melt whilst you cook the pasta – a few minutes in a large pan if using fresh - drain and add to the stew to combine before serving.

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This really was delicious and, if you’ve chopped the veg, or even cheated and bought pre-chopped, and made the pasta previously, it’s really a case of adding to a pan and leaving it to do it’s work. I was worried it wouldn’t hold enough depth but the addition of cheese and butter at the end really did lift the flavours.

I’m going to begin a ‘How Do I Use My New KitchenAid?’ little set of posts as I begin to use it to, hopefully, help others along the way, so look there for more detail regarding the pasta making itself. I’ll add a link once completed.

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Dessert: Clementine Chocolate Salad

Easiness: 7/10

Taste: 7/10

Make again: 7/10

Cheats & Changes: Vanilla extract with seeds rather than scraped pod seeds

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This doesn’t have the same name, but is essentially the same recipe from the book. Feel free to use whichever orangey fruit you prefer and as much or as little of the other ingredients as you’d like too. And why not crumble a Flake over the top, or your favourite chocolate bar? This would be lovely with a broken-up Crunchie! I tried to follow the recipe exactly, but did use Madagascan vanilla extract in the syrup rather than seeds from a vanilla pod. It involves slicing the fruit, sprinkling flaked almonds and chopped mint over the top, making a quick syrup with sugar, water and vanilla, then pouring over and topping with grated chocolate.

It had a Turkish / Greek aspect to it, and despite the mix of several flavours, each was distinct and worked well against the other. If you have the ingredients to hand, this is a very quick ‘light’ alternative to a dessert, and perfect for serving to many on a platter for sharing.

All that remains to be said is Happy New Year. I hope this year time slows slightly and that I remember to live and treasure every moment.

jamies-kitchen-REDUCED

Thursday, 1 January 2015

5: Gino D’Acampo–A Taste of the Sun–Cooking the Books

 

Starter:      Prawn Skewers with Lemon, Butter & Chilli

Main:         Crispy Chicken baked with Lemon and Fennel

Dessert:     Lady’s Kisses

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Thank goodness, a simple week with 'to hand' ingredients and fast and easy recipes from Gino. Along with Christmas preparations, present wrapping, tree decorating, food ordering, general Christmas thinking...all the women will know what I mean, that it doesn't just 'happen'. I mean, I know it's a magical time but really?! I'm one of the lucky ones...my husband always cooks Christmas dinner, with my mum roped in as sous chef. The usual 70s dish of prawn cocktail for starters, with an addition of smoked salmon, then a less traditional forerib of beef for mains. I was told I hadn't given enough warning this year though as my husband was desperately searching around for how best to cook this lovely joint so he can begin to prepare himself! 

Sorry, just like to let you what's running through my head at any one time! The first dish I made this week was the main as a lovely crispy fennel arrived, as if by magic, in the veg. box so that was a given. The next was the prawns, something simple I really should do more often, and the third the biscuits, chosen as I had all the ingredients and F loves biscuits. Especially sandwiched with Nutella! 

Starter: Prawn Skewers with Lemon, Butter & Chilli

Easiness: 8/10, easier if you pan fry the prawns without skewering first!

Taste: 7/10

Make again: 7/10

Cheats & Changes: I didn’t skewer the prawns and used ready cooked

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Easy peasy this one,simple to both prepare and cook. Make a chilli lemon butter: cream the butter, add finely grated lemon zest and juice, and finely chopped red chillis. Thread the prawns onto a skewer then brush with the butter. Grill or pan fry till the prawns are pink or hot all the way through. Drizzle over more lemon juice, sprinkle chopped flat leaf parsley on top, toss and serve with crusty bread to dip. Simple but a classic flavour combination, and you can change quantities as desired.

Main: Crispy Chicken baked with Lemon and Fennel

Easiness: 7/10

Taste: 6/10

Make again: 5/10

Cheats & Changes: None

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The chicken dish is just as easy as it's simply a case of slicing and roasting. Cut the fennel into eights through the core, slice onions and lemons. Strip thyme leaves. Put all in an ovenproof dish and top with chicken thighs, skin up, seasoning and drizzling with extra virgin olive oil. I used breasts as that's what we'd ordered this week, but thighs would have been better and juicier. Cook for about an hour until the chicken is cooked through and the veg soft. If using breasts, put the veg in first for 35 minutes on its own, then add the breasts for the last 20/25 minutes of cooking time. You may want to pan fry them skin side down first to crispen them.

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This is a change from all the usual one-tin chicken recipes as I’d never usually add fennel to chicken, preferring it with fish, but it does work. Nice for a change, but doesn't give a lasting impression – I probably wouldn’t make it again in a hurry, unless I was wondering what to do with a ‘bottom of the fridge’ fennel.

Dessert: Lady’s Kisses

Easiness: 7/10

Taste: 9/10

Make again: 8/10

Cheats & Changes: 0

Readers will know I struggle with biscuits, often overlook them in fact, but I think that through this challenge, I'm going to improve as I'm beginning to choose them quite often! I’ll make no apologies for a very similar idea to last week, but these were even better. So yummy in fact.

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When I next make them, however, I’m going to make them slightly thinner and smaller as it was too much of a mouthful, even for me!

The recipe’s here but it’s a case of combining usual biscuit ingredients, baking, leaving to cool then using Nutella to sandwich them together!  These really are quick, easy and delicious!

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All that remains to be said is Happy New Year. I hope this year time slows slightly and that I remember to live and treasure every moment.

Friday, 12 December 2014

4: Rachel Khoo–My Little French Kitchen–Cooking the Books

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Starter:      Croquettes

Main:         Poulet Roti au Vin Rouge

Dessert:     Bisous Chaumontais

Since Rachel Khoo appeared on our TV in her Little Paris Kitchen, I’ve been hooked: Not only to the recipes, which always look so glamorous, but the whole styling of the programme. Some say that many food programmes these day are over-produced, but, I have to admit, I’m a fan of all the quirky, arty little graphics and gorgeous ‘set’ kitchens. In My little French Kitchen, Rachel works her way round various regions in France, putting her own spin on some familiar, and some less familiar recipes. Some of these are a bit fiddly, but all are typically French.

I left my homework really late this week, only completing two of the tasks on Thursday night and Friday evening. So, after work on Thursday, then picking up F, playing, bathing, bedtiming her, I eventually got round to cooking our dinner, plus the croquettes recipe. I was all out to do the Bisous then as well but since the OH didn’t get back from work until after nine, and I needed to keep the veg. warm for dinner and finish the croquettes in a high oven, and the fact the meringues needed two hours oven use at a low temperature, it just didn’t happen! So they were begun early Friday morning and completed early evening. Just about made my Friday deadline this week. Hopefully, next week’s will be a bit more manageable.

Starter: Croquettes

Easiness: 7/10 higher still if you use leftovers

Taste: 6/10

Make again: 6/10

Cheats & Changes: none, although I combined many of the ingredients when she suggested I use just one.

Now, these aren’t the BirdsEye ones you’re used to, or indeed the ones served with fish fingers for school dinners. They’re a much more presentable little snack which would be perfect if rolled into small spheres and served as a Christmas canapé.

Mash all your leftover veg together any will really do though I used potatoes, carrots, parsnips and some grated cheese. Form into little cylinders, roll each one into flour, then egg white, then bread crumbs. Bake in a hot oven drizzled with oil for around 15 minutes, through cooking a little longer won’t hurt.

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These really could do with some seasoning – lots of pepper and salt in with the veg and also, season the breadcrumb mixture. Serve with a sweet chilli jam to dip if serving as aperos, or use instead of potatoes with a roast. They were ok, nothing special, but a change from the usual. Too phaffy for everyday though – just the thought of getting the flour, egg and breadcrumb saucers ready and taking up all that surface space is enough to put me off!

Main: Poulet Roti au Vin Rouge

Easiness: 6/10

Taste: 6/10

Make again: 5/10

Cheats & Changes: None

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This Poulet Roti is very similar to a Jamie sticky chicken thighs recipe, and I would say not as quick and easy, or, in fact, tasty. Use a whole chicken and cut into pieces yourself for the cheapest option…

Marinate in a plastic bag with red wine, tomato paste, herbs and red wine vinegar. Leave overnight if you can.

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Season too. Put your veg (potatoes, onion, carrots,) in a baking dish, pour over some water, pop the chicken pieces on top, over and roast for 30 mins. Roast uncovered for another 15 minutes.

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Dessert: Bisous Chaumontais

Easiness: 4/10

Taste: 7/10

Make again: 5/10, but I would for a special present.

Cheats & Changes: 0

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This recipe combines two things I’ve never mastered in the kitchen. The first is meringue…I think I’ve only ever managed to get my egg whites to the ‘stiff peak’ stage once. Maybe I add the sugar too quickly before getting enough air into them? I don’t know but somehow, they’re never quite right. The other thing for which I have no patience is sugar work, of any kind. I just about manage to add it to jams, jellies and chutneys but that’s about it. I always end up crystallising it and this time was no exception. Although it doesn’t impede the flavour, the texture is never quite right.

First make the praline. Toast 50g hazelnuts in a dry pan then remove. Add 75g and 2 tbs water, but make sure the pan has cooled first and is on a gentle heat otherwise you’ll crystallise the sugar as I did. Wait for the sugar to melt – do not stir, then turn up the heat and bubble until a dark caramel colour. Remove from the heat, quickly stir in the hazelnuts and pour onto a baking sheet in one layer. Allow to cool, then blitz in a food processor to make crumbs.

Turn the oven to low, 80 degrees C. Whisk two eggs whites until fluffy. Add a few drops of lemon juice and continue to whisk. As you whisk, gradually pour in 100g sugar and stop when the sugar is combined and egg whites form stiff peaks – never, in my case, but there you go! Pipe or spoon little blobs onto a baking sheet, sprinkle a little of the praline mixture over the top and bake for 1.5 hrs. Then turn oven off and leave them in the oven for a further half an hour with the door open. Remove to cool completely.

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Whip 100g butter until pale and fluffy then mix with the praline, retaining 2 heaped tablespoons of praline). Sandwich the meringue kisses together with the praline butter mix, then roll in the remaining praline and serve.

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These were delicious, but even I could only manage one little ‘kiss’ as they are super-super sweet. In the end, the meringue turned out ok, if a little sticky in the middle, but I quite like them like that anyway.

So, all in all, I think I’ll keep this one as a food porn bedtime book rather than cook from it as the pictures are beautiful. 

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