Saturday 31 October 2009

Halloween Recipe: Toffee Apple Sponge Puddings

These little puds looked like the perfect after-dinner treat, and so easy too! As usual, I took the idea from Simon Rimmer's Something for the Weekend recipe and made up my own version. Again, though, (when will I learn that the recipe generally helps rather than hinders?) the toffee sauce went a bit grainy, probably because I used single cream as it was in the fridge, and because the sugar went clumpy: I think I'd melt the sugar with the butter to start, then add the cream and condensed milk. Simply combine equal quantities of soft brown sugar, double cream, condensed milk and butter. Heat til bubbly and thickly sticky.

For the cake mixture, I always make a very simple one that's so easy to remember. Equal quantities of butter, sugar and flour, half of that in eggs and another half in baking powder. So, for example, 4oz sugar, butter and flour, 2 eggs, 1tsp baking powder. Basically, mix it all together, I never bother creaming the butter and sugar first, but one tip I did learn was to just combine the flour at the end and mix as little as possible to prevent the gluten from stretching.

Basically, you make a toffee sauce, coat the softened chunks of apple in it (I chop mine and pop it in the microwave with a little sugar and water,) leaving some sauce to pour over the sponge at the end. Put a splodge of toffee covered apple in the bottom of a greased ramekin or dariole mould. Blob the cake mixture over the top and bake for between 10 and 20 mins. Tip out when cooked and pour over the sauce. It really was incredibly quick and easy, but absolutely delicious.

Friday 30 October 2009

Poach Pods

I first saw these little things in Lakeland, and couldn't wait to get my hands on a pair, so to speak! Cooking a poached egg has to be one of the hardest things to get right ever, and believe me, I've tried all the little 'tricks'. I've added vinegar to the water, stirred it to create a vortex and dropped the egg into the middle, tried using a cooking ring inside the pan to keep it together, but none of the above worked. So this was really a last resort.

These make it so easy. You simply grease the inside (although, I don't even do that any more,) pop them into a bubbling pan and add an egg to each. Yes, it takes a little longer than you'd expect, and yes, a spoonful of hot water over the top, actually inside the poachpod will help seal the yolk and 'jelly' white that is reluctant to cook, but you're left with perfectly round, perfectly cooked eggs. Just add salt and pepper and serve on hot buttered brown toast!

Thursday 29 October 2009

Tasty Amuse-Bouche


Just a quick post to show the three amuse-bouche I whipped up when trying out the CDwM recipes. The first were the tadpoles in holes, seen across the middle of the picture. The second was a smoked haddock pot-au-feu with a quail's egg on top. It was the first time I had cooked these and so, as I presume is often the case, overcooked them slightly.

These were very tasty, but rather a lot of phaff for such a small part of the meal, though as a larger starter, Smoked Haddock Pot-au-feu, are delicious. First, poach a small piece of smoked haddock in milk til nearly cooked. Make a roux with butter and flour and add the milk from the poaching pan. Season well, add a blob of wholegrain mustard, grated cheddar, chopped parsley and baby-leaf spinach. Place a small piece of fish in something oven-proof that you can 'toast' the tops in. Dollop over some of the sauce and sprinkle with grated cheese. 'Toast' in the oven until the fish is piping hot and the cheese is bubbling. Serve in individual portion amuse-bouche crockery and place a quail's egg on top.

The third one I haven't actually tried out yet. It's going to be a chilled tomato and chill gazpacho! Well, we'll see how it works out.

Wednesday 28 October 2009

Free Pasta!

Working in London does have its benefits for the OH. He returned home with free pasta a couple of days ago, so I thought I'd give it a try. It was 'Giovanni Rana', stuffed with spinach and ricotta: they must have just brought I out that day as I also saw the tv flooded with adverts for it.

Now, I knew OH wouldn't be full with half of the given packet, so had to think up another idea. For the Tortelloni I simply served it with a sage and butter dressing, the same as I used on the Gnocchi. The pasta itself was thin, and generally held together in the pan, altough a few pieces of 'stuffing' had fallen from their pasta wrap in the packet. The pasta itslef was very tasty, and the thinness helped it not become chewy, while the stuffing was also quite tasty, not as rubbery as some I've tasted!

I also heated some penne and some ragu 'sauce' left over from the Oxtail Stew I had made the night before, which I blitzed with the hand processor. It's always better to use a ridged pasta, such as penne with meat sauces or thick ragu as the ridges 'catch' the sauce and coat it better.

As usual, the OH preferred the penne with ragu, while my choice would be the spinach and ricotta tortellini with sage butter. Each to their own!

Tuesday 27 October 2009

Oxtail Stew

The hubby recently attended a butchery course at Allen's of Mayfair, and returned home, rather a bit worse for wear after dinner out with friends, with a selection of meat, butchered by his own fair hands! Tonight it was the turn of the oxtails.

Now, I've never cooked with these before, but the butchers also provided, very kindly I might add, a recipe. It was a simple stew with winter veg. Simply brown the oxtails and place in a ovenproof dish. Fry off the veg - celery, onions, leeks, carrots - in the same pan, then add chopped tomatoes, a bay leaf and a spring of thyme. When softened, add to the pot for the oven. Reduce a few glasses of red wine in the original pan, add some beef stock and pour over the meat and veg. Pop in to a hot oven for at least an hour and a half. I also added some tomato puree, a blob of redcurrant jelly and stirred in a little flour to thicken the sauce. The recipe suggests that once cooked, you pour out the sauce and reduce on the hob, but I couldn't be bothered with the palaver!

I enjoyed using the carrots and the leeks from the garden, even though the carrots were a little stunted!

Monday 26 October 2009

Rising Yorkshire Puddings

I realise I'm very sad and should have more to do with my life, but editing a video of my first Yorkshire puddings and toads in the hole rising was very exciting! I've taken out several 'chunks' of this, so it looks a bit jumpy in some parts, but keep your eye on the one at the back right and see how it grows!

The best way to see it is to let it 'buffer' then slide the time-line pointer along and back - told you I was sad!

Sunday 25 October 2009

Change of Plan

I've decided to change pudd to chocolate fondant. The key lime pie tasted delicious, but I couldn't get the presentation right, so it's the cake all the way.

Will post when I've made them! Now, I'm off to try toffee apple pudds for after the best lamb that the husband's making for tea. Apologies for the short post!

Friday 16 October 2009

Day 3 - Key Lime Pie

So...I tried out Delia's Key Lime Pie as I thought I'd learn a new recipe with a view to doing it for our CDwM in November. Now, I put lots of love into it, but possibly, not enough butter!

The crust was good, it can't fail to be with digestives and butter can it? I chose to use individual cases rather than just one flan tin, so lined each one with the mixture. However, a little more butter was needed as it was rather crumlby, even after baking. I didn't want to over-bake it as when I returned it to the oven with the filling in, I didn't want the edges to burn. So, as it was, it ended up rather thick and crumbly. As a tip for next time, make the edges thinner and add more butter to help it stick .

As for the filling, I followed the instructions, but used a whole egg and one egg yolk rather than simply the three yolks as suggested. This led to the pies 'rising', rather like souffles, as they baked, but didn't alter the flavour. Again, next time, I'd actually follow the recipe!

Oh well, very tasty, but not suitable for CDwM, unless I get much better at following recipes nad making things look neat and tidy! Maybe I'll try a large flan tin rather than individual ones next time.

Saturday 10 October 2009

Day 2 - Tadpoles in Holes!

These were a trial run for one of the amuse-bouche for CDwM. They don't ned little serving platters, howvever, as they come in their own little baking mould! The very little ones need half filling with batter, a small browned sausage putting in and cooking for between 3 and 5 mins - no more. Actual size: 6cm high, 3cm wide!

Onion gravy - thinly sliced onions with sprinkle of sugar. Add dab of cranberry jelly. Fry gently. Add gravy granles - yes, I know its a big cheat - and water. Bubble. Add juice of sausages that have rested after browning.

When cooked, pop about three onions slices inside each one and drizzle - just a 'light drizzle' mimd you! - with gravy!

Taste - fab
Crispiness vs softness - perfect can actually see them rise, and if you don't believe me, just rewind and look at the beginning, then jump to the end of the video! It's a bit like watching paint dry...but far more fun!

Thursday 8 October 2009

How to serve Amuse Bouche!

Ok, so I'm fairly certain on the main ideas for the Come Dine with Me session! And I think I've made a decision on the third amuse-bouche: a cold tomato / chilli gazpacho. What do you think?

One thing I've been looking for is little amuse-bouche serving things! I've found several, in France and the USA, but very few exciting ones in the UK.

These are lovely but the shipping is going to be $45 - too much! I do have a friend who's offered to get them for me, and we can get them home at new year, but I need them for November! I am interested in the description of them though: white interactive stoneware! Do they talk to you, respond when heated with a sharp cry?

I also like the idea of these little plate-type things. But, yes, once again there's a but, you can only order 4 at a time and have to pay separate shipping on each parcel. Boo!

In the end, I've gone for these: simple and effective I think, and, the only ones at a decent price. Think they'll look effective on black slate; the next challenge beckons!

Tuesday 6 October 2009

Day 1 - chicken with spinach and wild mushrooms

Was rather in a rush tonight when trialling my first dish for the forth-coming CDwM. I'd have been in more of a hurry had I not bumped into Titto in the supermarket; he valiantly offered to help pack and it was finished in a flash! As you know, you need to cook with love if you want it to turn out right, and, to be honest, I really didn't have the heart for it tonight: take-away pizza and coleslaw would have been perfect, but, as I've got rather a lot of trial runs to go this week, so I can change my menu if necessary (!) I thought I'd better get started.

Chicken - overcooked, dry and chewy. Need to buy similar sized fillets and cook for no longer than 15 mins after browning. Good colour on top though!

Mushrooms - due to lack of usual packet from Tescos - sorry, would buy form Borough Market if I lived even marginally close - had different types from normal. Need to cut very thin slivers of these type.

Rice - There's a first time for everything! Perfectly cooked. Be careful to serve hot! Leave over steaming water once rinsed with cold water. Only 2 handfuls needed per person, not three. Don't forget about toasted almonds in pan and leave some for top of rice. Needs serving in narrower circles - little glass ramekins?

To serve - rice in one corner, blob of sauce with chicken on top in other.

Tonight's dinner was ok; definitely not a winning dish though! A lot more attention to detail needed, and accurate cooking times.

Sunday 4 October 2009

Come Dine With Me

I know it's probably been done many times, all across the country, but we're holding our own Come Dine With Me, and are very excited about it! One friend currently does film and food nights, where the food has to match the setting or theme of the film - a great idea! On the other hand, one of the CDwM friends has already confessed she's going to buy the pudding! Well, as long as she admits to it so the scores are fair, I'm all for it!

Over the last few weeks, we've gradually put together the 'rules' for the competition - although we haven't agreed on a prize yet! Maybe pride will be enough! Once a week, during the month of November, one of the four will play host to the other three and cook a delicious, preferably with three courses and a little wine. We all live locally, so getting home shouldn't be a problem. And the rules on boyfriends / husbands? Well, they can play their part as waiter / dancer (?!) / cocktail maker, but apart from that, no help allowed! Menus are to be submitted the Friday before half term, and the spending limit is £10 per head, not including alcohol.

As you can imagine, for the last few weeks, since the idea was first mooted, I have been desperately trying to decide what my menu will be! The mini Toads in their Holes were a first idea for starters, but then I thought they might be bit much. Next I changed my mind to a fish starter, then I considered both courses! And, as I am writing this, I think I've made different decision from those which I thought were made.

So...what is my final menu? Well, never say die but, my final thoughts on the matter are as follows, but don't be surprised if I make alterations between now and then!

Selection of 3 amuse-bouche:
very very mini toads in their holes, smoked haddock with quail's egg, and one other!

Home-made mackerel pate with soldiers and salad.

Main Course:
Chicken with spinach. wild mushrooms and tarragon, served on almond rice.

Chaource, grapes and homemade bread pots.

Key Lime Pie (or maybe chocolate fondant? Could I get away with both?!)

Now, who can I try them out on?
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