Thursday, July 31, 2008

Store cupboard saviours

I am big on keeping my pantry stocked with the kinds of things that mean I can make a meal in a hurry without having to think too much. This meal is one of my favourites, funnily enough it is not one that I would generally make if we were having guests, although I have been known to substitute the tinned salmon for fish and prawns to make it feel a bit more like something special. But as much as I would reluctantly serve my store cupboard version up to visitors, I happily feed it to my family who all love it. I think somehow it is the feeling of cringe I get when I think of tinned fish with curry, but it strangely works- well I am more than happy to eat it anyway and I am as fussy as they come (ask my mother!!!!).

As always the recipe here is a guide, I will try to be as exact as I can (this serves 4)

Storecupboard Salmon Curry

1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
oil for frying
1 tsp curry powder (or more if you like it spicier, this is the mild version for our spice averse daughter!)
1-2 sticks celery, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely diced
1/2 c frozen peas
1/2c frozen corn
2 tins red salmon (400g approx)
1 tin coconut cream (400 ml)
4 boiled eggs (I like them just past soft)
Chopped coriander or flat leaf parsley to serve
Basmati rice to serve

Fry onions and garlic in oil til soft, add curry powder and fry a little longer. Add celery, carrots, peas and corn and soften. Drain salmon and get rid of bones and skin, then flake into pan, incorporating with the veges. Pour in coconut cream and simmer for 15 or so minutes, stirring every now and then.Serve on the cooked rice with the eggs quartered on top, then sprinkled with coriander or parsley (and a lemon or lime wedge for squeezing over if you fancy!)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Irish Stew with Soda Bread

The latest Violet's Pantry challenge has been set by Rhyley's Granny. No sooner had she posted it did I realise that I had everything in to make 2 of the recipes so thought I would strike while the iron was hot! The Irish stew is something I have always wanted to make, but it kept getting bumped down the list as something else would always come along! What appealed was the fact that it suited being done in the crockpot, which I am always really keen to use as it makes cooking so much easier!
Stupid me didn't read the recipe and just bunged it all in the crockpot, fortunately it didn't matter as it turned out really well, an incredibly deep flavour that developed over the next few days (I made enough to feed an army as usual!). I love food like that, so simple but so delicious.
To go with it, Granny suggested Brown Soda Bread. Another recipe I had wanted to try - and I am so glad I did! Using the buttermilk for this gives it a gorgeously light texture, it tasted amazing out of the oven, and kept well in an airtight container- I slathered it with lots of butter and honey to have with my cup of tea the next morning. I really will be making it again....and again!
Thanks Brenda for two lovely recipes!

Irish Stew (copied from Violet's Pantry with Granny's notes)There isn't really a recipe it's more a chuck in the pot thing but to enable me to share it I have tried to make it so.

Approx 1lb/500gms lamb cut into cubes (or beef)
6-8 potatoes cut up into pieces or less whatever your taste.
2 carrots roughly chopped
2 parsnips roughly chopped

1 large leek roughly sliced
2 onions chopped
oil for browning
Worcester sauce
chicken stock (2or 3 stock cubes)
Dried herbs as desired.
Salt and pepper

Brown Lamb and add onions in a large pot Stir around and add leeks leave a few mins and add about 1/2 pint water and 1 stock cube herbs and Worcester sauce. Leave to simmer until lamb is tender. Add more water as desired.

In another pot boil up potatoes carrot and parsnip in stock. Leave in stock until lamb is cooked.
When lamb is tender add cooked potatoes etc, with stock
Stir all around and keep heat low. The potatoes should be a bit mushy now
Taste and add more stock as desired.

Season to taste
Turn heat off and leave to absorb flavour

Brown Soda/Wheaten bread
A very simple very popular Irish Bread. No yeast required. Lovely warm from the oven with lots of butter. Excellent with cheese and lovely with smoked salmon or just butter and jam for an afternoon cuppa. This is the basic bread but it lends itself well to all sorts of additions as you like. It is basically a scone mixture.

8 ozs/225gms Wholemeal Flour
4 ozs/100gms Plain Flour
4ozs/100gms Porridge Oats Or 2oz/50gms Oats and 2oz/50gms bran
Approx. One pint/575mls Butter Milk
1oz/25gms Butter
1 teasp Bicarbonate of Soda/Baking Soda
1 teasp sugar or honey
1 teasp. salt

Greased and floured round sandwich tin
Oven temp 350F 180.C Gas 4
In a large bowl mix together all the dry ingredients.
Cut the butter into small pieces and rub through.
Add enough buttermilk to form a soft but easily handled dough. It should not be runny.
Knead lightly and quickly into a round and place in prepared tin.
(It is essential you use light hands)
Cut a deep cross in the bread.
Sprinkle with oats if desired

Bake for approx 40 Minutes

Tastes great straight from the oven so don't hold back

Notes: If you do not have or cannot get Buttermilk add a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice or vinegar to ordinary milk and leave for ten minutes or so. Cover with a tea towel when it comes out of the oven to stop the crust getting too hard

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Frozen Yoghurt Pops

These are something that I started making regularly once I started really taking notice of what chemicals, flavours and general nasties go into iceblocks. Over the summer my kids (as do most kids) love eating iceblocks and icecream and I took to making these so we always had a ready supply and didn't cave in to buying the store bought variety (and all the crap that is in them!). I bought 3 containers that each hold 8 'iceblocks' so we rarely ran out. I usually would make them up as a smoothie in the blender first and then pour them into the containers, so really anything goes! The basic components are:

My most popular version is banana with either blueberry, strawberry or raspberry. I am still making them with frozen berries, as they make a great stop gap for Carys when she is whinging for dinner and it isn't quite ready!
I also make up iced chocolate or coffee and pop them into the iceblock containers for the adults as something to cool down with. My recipe for that particular concoction is here

Friday, July 25, 2008

Bacon Hock and Vegetable Soup

This soup always reminds me of home. It has to be one of my all time favourite comforting meals. My mothers version somehow always tastes better, but I happily plug away at making it again and again in pursuit of the perfect brew. If I followed a recipe it might be more likely, but that is part of the beauty of making it, it never tastes exactly the same twice. Of course, ideally the components that make up this soup are:

A Ham or Bacon Hock (or bacon bones)
Soup mix (barley, split peas, red lentils, alphabet pasta)
and water!

Inevitably, quantities and ingredients vary, which is where the excitement starts really! Tonights soup was heavy on the pumpkin, as they are ridiculously cheap at the moment, and not only did it make it go alot further, my family actually prefer it to be overly pumpkin. I didn't have a leek or capsicum, so a couple of onions were tossed in instead.
The basic method is to boil the ham/bacon hock up in plenty of water with the soup mix for a good hour or so, take the bone out of the water (and skim off any icky bits on the top), and get all the meat off it. Return the meat to the stock along with all the other veges (which you have dutifully chopped up while waiting for the stock to develop!). Boil this for at least another 30 mins (to be fair, how much longer after that is up to you- this not being a purist recipe, I am hardly going to preach about achieving perfection here!!!!:).
I quite enjoy the chopping endeavour, but some days I am somewhat ambivalent about hacking through lots of pumpkin, so I microwave the whole pumpkin for around 10 mins and the knife just glides through, you can scoop out the seeds and then de-skin it and chop it in no time at all.
If I am feeling really enthusiastic everything is cut into lovely small dice, or I will grate the carrots and parsnips, but usually it is haphazardly cut into irregular chunks! On those days it is known as the 'rustic' version!
To serve with this I made the cheese scone recipe from here - this time shaping and baking it in a round cake tin and serving them as wedges. I got that idea from making Rhyley's Granny's soda bread, and it is a nifty way to cook and serve savoury scones that I think I will keep up!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Smoked Salmon and Caper Pasta

This is one of my much relied on recipes which takes as much time as cooking the spaghetti that goes with it. I love it for it's luxury yet it is so instant and easy to make that I often fall back on it when I am about to cave into the desire for takeways! It is certainly not terribly much cheaper than takeaways (except for maybe the fact that we don't get in the car to go down and pick them up) and I almost always have the ingredients at hand to make it at the last minute. Whenever smoked salmon is on special I stock up and freeze it in 100g lots. I also always have a couple of tins of evaporated milk in the pantry which is a good low fat substitute for cream in pasta sauces. What follows is a guide (as always, most of my savoury cooking is never confined to a particular recipe!).......The following quantities usually do for about 4 people.

Smoked Salmon and Caper Pasta

Pop your water onto boil for the spaghetti. While you are waiting for that, chop some red onion (or spring onion or leek, in this one I used leek, it is lovely in it!) and some garlic and pop them into a hot pan with oil, frying until soft. Add in a tablespoon (or two!) of capers and briefly fry. Chop in about 200g of smoked salmon, then add in 1/4c white wine. (Put your spaghetti into the pot to cook!) Add in a tin of evaporated milk or a tin minus 1/4 c and top the liquid up with cream for a richer sauce. I usually let this simmer for a few minutes and thicken it with a little bit of cornflour and water mixed together so that it coats the spaghetti a little better. Chop in some fresh herbs just before serving, dill, basil, flat leaf parsley all work well. When the pasta has cooked, drain it and toss it through the sauce, then serve with a wedge of lemon for squeezing over the pasta.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


I have always wanted to make friands. Mainly because I am always searching for ways to use up egg whites, after making hollandaise or some kind of custard! But also because I have eaten them a number of times at a few favourite cafes and have always loved them!
I have been on the look out for a friand tin for some time, I never seem to be able to lay my hands on one. My mother happened upon some individual friand tins on her recent visit to Wellington (from where else, Moore Wilson!) and managed to bring home 12 of them. As she was unpacking her spoils after her trip I seized upon them, and the poor woman didn't have a chance. I assured her I would have them trialled and back to her ASAP- after all this time I knew it wouldn't be long before those lonely egg whites would be mixed together with lots of almonds and butter for a fabulous afternoon treat!
I found the recipe for these on - a brief look on the internet showed them to all be much of a muchness, and this recipe looked like a good place to start. This one is for Lemon Friands, but I plopped a few frozen blueberries and raspberries on top of each one as well, which sunk to the bottom while cooking and made a nice foil for the richness of the 'cake'. I should probably have adjusted the cooking time as I think they should probably have had a little longer, but they were perfectly acceptable for a first attempt. The top was wonderfully chewy yet crunchy and one simply wasn't enough......two was perfect! These were ridiculously easy to make, they would make a fabulous morning tea 'plate' as they are just that level better than a muffin. I can't wait to try a few variations!

Lemon Friands

180g butter
200g icing sugar
50g plain flour
Pinch salt
120g ground almonds
Zest of 2 lemons
1/2 tsp lemon essence
5 egg whites
Extra icing sugar

Heat oven to 180deg. Lightly grease friand moulds (or muffin tins).

Melt the butter then set it aside to cool. Place butter, sifted icing sugar, flour, salt, ground almonds, lemon zest and essence together in a mixing bowl. Lightly beat the egg whites until frothy and then stir into the other ingredients until combined - do not overmix.

Spoon into greased friand moulds and bake for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Allow to stand for five minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool.

To serve, dust with icing sugar and accompany with a spoon of whipped cream and a little seasonal fruit.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Morning tea shout

We are in the midst of building a new house and to fuel the builders morning tea was promised! I produced two standard favourites which I knew would appeal to anyone's tastes, Cheese scones and Nigella's Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake. The cheese scones were a bit of a throw together, a departure from my usual scone recipe, which uses cream and lemonade. Fortunately they turned out well, and there were plenty to go around (enough to have with soup for dinner too!).
Cheese and Mustard Scones
4 c SR flour
2 tsp BP
1 tsp salt
50 g cold butter
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
1 egg
2 tbsp chopped parsley
2 cups grated cheese
milk to mix
Preheat oven to 210C. Put dry ingredients into bowl and grate in butter and work through flour mix. Add grated cheese and parsley. Lightly beat egg with mustard and add to mix with enough milk to form a slightly wet dough, taking care not to over mix. Turn onto a floured surface and form into large rectangle approx 25 mm thick. Cut into squares (approx 16-20) and put on baking paper lined tray. Bake for 12- 15 mins or until golden brown. Cool on rack.
The choclolate cake is a fabulously easy recipe, all the ingredients get bunged into the food processor and blitzed til smooth, making it a cake that my son can (and now has!) make. It is rich and dark in flavour, a real favourite. I do however find that the prescribed recipe doesn't get the cake batter as smooth as I think it needs to so I have taken to adding between 1/4 and 1/2 c milk to get it to the right consistency. The cake still turns out wonderfully. I also bake it in a ring tin, for at least as long as Nigella suggests, often longer. I have taken to baking this one on bake rather than fan bake as I think it turns out better, even if it takes a little longer to cook.
Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup caster sugar
1teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup best-quality cocoa
170g soft unsalted butter
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons good-quality vanilla extract
2/3 cup sour cream

Special equipment: 2 (each 8-inch diameter) layer tins with removable bases, buttered

6 ounces good-quality semisweet chocolate, broken into small pieces
80g unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon good-quality vanilla extract
Take everything out of the refrigerator so that all ingredients can come room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Put all the cake ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder and soda, cocoa, butter, eggs, vanilla, and sour cream into a food processor and process until you have a smooth, thick batter. If you want to go the long way around, just mix the flour, sugar and leavening agents in a large bowl and beat in the soft butter until you have a combined and creamy mixture. Now whisk together the cocoa, sour cream, vanilla, and eggs and beat this into your bowl of mixture.
Divide this batter, using a rubber spatula to help you scrape and spread, into the prepared tins and bake until a cake tester comes out clean, which should be about 35 minutes, but it is wise to start checking at 25 minutes. Also, it might make sense to switch the 2 cakes around in the oven halfway through cooking time. Remove the cakes, in their tins, to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes before turning out of their tins. Don't worry about any cracks as they will easily be covered by the frosting later.

To make this icing, melt the chocolate and butter in a good-sized bowl either in the microwave or suspended over a pan of simmering water. Go slowly either way: you don't want any burning or seizing.
While the chocolate and butter is cooling a little, sieve the confectioners' sugar into another bowl. Or, easier still, put the icing sugar into the food processor and blitz to remove lumps.
Add the corn syrup to the cooled chocolate mixture, followed by the sour cream and vanilla and then when all this is combined whisk in the sieved confectioners' sugar. Or just pour this mixture down the funnel of the food processor onto the powdered sugar, with the motor running.
You may need to add a little boiling water, say a teaspoon or so, or indeed some more confectioners' sugar, depending on whether you need the frosting to be thiner or thicker. It should be liquid enough to coat easily, but thick enough not to drip off.
Choose your cake stand or plate and cut 4 strips of baking parchment to form a square and sit 1 of the cakes, uppermost (i.e. slightly domed) side down.
Spoon about 1/3 of the frosting onto the center of the cake-half and spread with a knife or spatula until you cover the top of it evenly. Sit the other cake on top, normal way up, pressing gently to sandwich the 2 together. Spoon another 1/3 of the frosting onto the top of the cake and spread it in a swirly, textured way (though you can go for a smooth finish if you prefer, and have the patience). Spread the sides of the cake with icing and leave a few minutes until set, then carefully pull away the paper strips.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Lemon Pickle

I found this recipe a while ago in my recently acquired Annabel Langbein book. I had found the book in the library and copied the recipe out and filed it away (to be forgotten about!). Seeing the book again I was reminded of it and as I had a heap of lemons decided to give it a go. This is FABULOUS! It has the most gorgeously lemony, sweet and sour flavour, in fact it reminds me of an intense version of the sauce for lemon chicken. It works spectacularly with fish (I stirred it through mayonaise for our fish burgers the other night, delish!) and chicken and I am loving having it with soft cheese too. It makes a decent enough quantity (about 5 jars) but I know that we are going to eat it very quickly and I am going to have to make another batch! The nice thing is you can make it at any time of the year, with lemons being so freely available so it can be a store cupboard staple. It has definitely risen to the top of my list of favourites at the moment!

Pete’s Lemon Pickle

2 whole lemons, chopped and pips removed
5 large onions, roughly chopped
4 cups white vinegar
1 cup lemon juice
3 tsp salt
5 cups sugar
1 tsp turmeric
4 tsp horseradish
finely grated rind of 2 lemons
5-6 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp ground ginger

Puree lemons and onions with some of the vinegar until very smooth. Place in a large non-corrosive pot with all other ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for about 45 minutes until reduced to a spoonable consistency. Bottle while hot in sterilised jars.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Braised Shin of Beef

I found some lovely pieces of beef shin in the supermarket and knew they would be just lovely done in the slow cooker, long and slow is what really brings the best out of cheaper cuts of meat. I have never cooked shin of beef before but have taken to these kinds of cuts as they work so very well in the slow cooker and it makes for incredibly effortless, tasty and very affordable cooking. I found a recipe from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall on the internet and knew it would be ideal. I added dumplings about half an hour before serving and they were light and fluffy, yet wonderfully substantial and complimentary to this hearty stew! I have really taken to using dumplings as they are so easy and quick to make and are a great substitute for potatoes or bread with soups and stews. I have Vicky to thank for putting me onto them, I really do thrash her recipe for them!
Braised Shin of Beef


2 tbsp olive oil
500g/1lb 2oz un-smoked pancetta, chopped into large cubes (I used ordinary streaky bacon)1.5kg shin of beef, sliced into 2.5cm (1in) wide rounds
85ml/3fl oz red wine
1kg/2¼lb large organic winter carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
1 head of celery, roughly chopped
1kg/2¼lb pickling onions or shallots
1kg/2¼lb tomatoes, roasted and sieved to a purée (I cheated here and used chopped tinned tomatoes!)
1 litre/1¾ pints good beef stock or water
1 bouquet garni
mashed potatoes, to serve


1. Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed frying pan. Add the pancetta and fry until brown and crispy. Remove from the pan and add to a large stock pot or casserole dish.

2. Fry the shin of beef in the frying pan, on both sides, until well browned. Transfer the shin to the stock pot.

3. Pour the red wine into the frying pan and stir, for 2-3 minutes to collect the cooking juices. Tip into the pot.
4. Place the stock pot over a gentle heat.(or transfer to a slow cooker) Add the carrots, celery and onions. Pour in the tomato purée and enough stock or water to cover the meat and vegetables. Add the bouquet garni and cover with a lid.

5. Simmer for 3-4 hours, stirring occasionally(8-9 hours on low or 5-6 hours on high in slow cooker). Serve with mashed potato.

Herb and Mustard Dumplings

1 c SR flour
25 g cold butter, grated
2 tbsp fresh flat leaf parsley and chives, chopped
1 tbsp whole grain mustard
milk to combine
Put all ingredients in bowl and work butter through flour. With a knife mix milk in until you have a fairly firm dough, don’t overwork. Roll into walnut sized balls and drop into stew about ½ an hour before serving. They should swell up to about twice the size.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Rocky Road Slice

The minute I saw this recipe on the front of Julie Le Clerc's latest magazine I had to make it. It looked so colourful and indulgent, and didn't appear to be too complicated either. I had mixed feelings about it when I first made it. Firstly the base seemed alot thicker than the picture, even though I used the exactly specified sized tin. Secondly, the base looked as though it might be nice and fudgy anbd brownie like, but instead turned out more cakey and drier. Cutting it was an absolute nightmare as it crumbled and the marshmallows on top were really sticky. At that point I was quite disappointed with it and put it in its airtight container to come back to the next day. What a difference a day makes. The slice had cooled to this lovely dense and very chocolately flavour, much nicer than the night before and though still a little crumbly it was very nice with a cup of tea or coffee. I would consider making it again, this time in a larger tin so that the base wasn't as thick. Still worth a go if you are thinking of trying it!

Rocky Road Slice

250g butter
2/3 c cocoa
1 1/2 c firmly packed brown sugar
2 large eggs beaten
1 tsp vanilla essence
pinch salt
1 cup flour
1/2 c milk


2 cups mini marshmallows ( Iused normal ones cut up)
3/4 c toasted whole blanched almonds, coarsely chopped
3/4 chocolate bits
100g extra dark chocolate, melted, to decorate

Heat oven to 170 C fanbake. Grease a 23 cm square tin and line with baking paper with an overhang on all sides. Melt butter, then stir in cocoa powder until smooth, add brown sugar, eggs, vanilla and salt and stir well. Gently sitr flour and milk. Spread mix into prepared tin, and bake for 30 minutes until skewer comes out clean. Remove from oven and sprinkle surface with marshmallows, chocolate bits and almonds. Bake for 5 mins or until marshmallows begin to puff slightly. Remove to cool to room temperature. Use the paper overhang to lift and remove the slice from the tin. Decorate with a drizzle of melted chocolate if desired. Cut into squares to serve.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Danish Delights

Before I went to Denmark as an exchange student (some 20 years ago!) I had very little idea of what kind of food they ate, that is, apart from Danish pastries. When I got there I was underwhelmed at the proliferation of pork and potatoes and the idea of eating sandwiches with a knife and fork. However, as my year there progressed I came to really appreciate the rituals and seasonal aspects of Danish food, and I find myself really hankering for the traditional fare (especially in winter!). I love the calendar of events that are marked out by different foods, Festelavn, Easter, Mayday, summer ( and Skt Hans), Christmas and New Year ( I have probably forgotten a good many but these are the ones that stand out for me). I was especially fond of the open sandwich tradition for lunches, the different toppings, breads, beer and spirits that accompanied. When we visited again some years ago it was a particular request that we go to a proper Danish frokost (lunch) restaurant. It was better than I remembered- my host parents Hans and Bodil picked out a fabulous spot around Nyhavn in Copenhagen -where we ate like kings!
I happened to bump into a Danish woman (in the pub!) recently and invited her for dinner as I never need much of an excuse to cook some Danish food!
My most regularly made dinner is frikadeller (pork meatballs), red cabbage and caramelised potatoes. Of course for dessert it is Aebleskiver (the ball pancakes, which I made here). It sounds kind of plain I know, but to me it is flavoursome comfort food and Kate (the Dane) was hanging out for both frikadeller and red cabbage! The caramelised potatoes are usually served with roast pork loin in Denmark, but I like them with any pork dish! I have yet to fully master them actually, I think the potatoes have to be well dried before you toss them in the caramel and I must be too impatient or disorganised because mine never are! They tend to get a bit gloopy but they still have good flavour so I live with it!
We started with some cheese and chutneys, accompanied by the obligatory Carlsberg.
The frikadeller I make quite frequently, I often serve them with mash (this one is kumara and potato) and sauteed leeks and apples. I deglaze the pan with some apple juice and chicken stock for a nice sauce to go with it. My family adores this meal, it is a real staple!
Frikadeller (from Allertiders Kogebog)
500g minced pork (or you can use 1/2 pork mince and 1/2 veal mince)
1 1/2 tsp salt
80 g flour
1 egg
100g chopped onion
1 cup skim milk
ground pepper
oil to cook
Put all ingredients (but only 1/2 the milk) in the food processor and mix well together, adding more milk as needed to get it to a smooth texture. Shape into small patties and cook in a hot frypan until cooked through. (approx 2 mins per side)
Red Cabbage
1 medium sized red cabbage
2 medium sized apples
30 g butter
90-120 ml wine vinegar
90-120 ml water
salt and pepper to taste
4 tbsp red currant jelly
2 tbsp sugar
Remove coarse outer leaves and stalk from cabbage and shred finely in the food processor. Peel core and grate apples. Melt butter in heavy, large saucepan over low heat. Add cabbage and apples. Stir for 5 mins. Do not let scorch. Add vinegar, water, salt and pepper. Cover and cook over low heat until cabbage is very tender (60-90 mins). Add red currant jelly and sugar and bring to boil again.
This is best made a day ahead as the flavour is even better. Reheat slowly to serve.
Caramelised Potatoes (Brune Kartofler)
1 kg potatoes
75 g butter
75g sugar
Peel and cook potatoes for 12-13 minutes. Rough up with a fork. Let potatoes cool and dry off (preferably overnight). Put sugar in a heavy based pan on a hot element and allow to caramelise, swirling just as the sugar begins to melt and deepen in colour. When it is beginning to brown add butter and let it melt and incorporate into the sugar. When thoroughly mixed put potatoes into pan with caramel and coat the potatoes and warm through. Serve hot.

It was lovely to share some good food and conversation with our guest!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Mustard Pork Chops

Now that Nigella Express has finally made it to our screens I can reaquaint myself with all the lovely recipes from the book I received at Christmas. One of the recipes I had bookmarked to try was on the first episode- Mustard Pork Chops! My son and I were watching the programme (as is our new habit!) and he suggested we try them out for dinner. We were unable to find gnocchi to serve with it (hmmmm, I think we might have to have a go at making them....) so we opted for our trusty oven baked potato wedges and also sneaked in some steamed vege.
I have never 'bashed' out a pork chop as is the method for this (and a few other pork chop recipes of Nigella's) and had always thought it to be flipping unnecessary. I was wrong! My son was determined that we should follow this step, which gave bigger chops and they cook so much more evenly and quickly- they are hands down the best pork chops I have ever had! I am a convert, all pork chops shall be bashed in the future!!!!!! The sauce is quick and easy (if a little calorific- that rhymes with terrific so I think I will stick with it!) and very tasty. A fabulous meal in next to no time, I will be making it again! (maybe next time with the gnocchi!)
Mustard Pork Chops

2 pork chops, about 1-pound total weight
2 teaspoons infused oil
1/2 cup dry cider
1 tablespoon grain mustard
1/3 cup heavy cream

Cut the fat or rind off the chops, and then bash them briefly but brutally with a rolling pin between 2 pieces of cling film/plastic wrap to make them thinner.
Heat the oil in a pan, and then cook the chops over a moderately-high heat for about 5 minutes a side. Remove them to a warmed plate.
Pour the cider into the pan, still over the heat, to deglaze the pan. Let it bubble away for a minute or so then add the mustard and stir in the cream. Let the sauce continue cooking for a few minutes before pouring over each plated pork chop. If you're having gnocchi with, make sure you turn them in the pan to absorb any spare juices before adding them to your plates.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Summer tastes in winter!

At the end of summer I visited a few of the local berry farms to stock up on frozen berries. They were lovely quality and very well priced and it is great to have them as a fallback for some colour and variety when the winter feels like it is dragging on. My daughter especially loves them with icecream for dessert and I figure that although one probably cancels the other out at least she is getting something good into her!
I recently had my nephews to stay so we hauled out the waffle maker and the maple syrup, then popped some frozen strawberries into a bowl with some vanilla sugar and gave them a good burst in the microwave. They turned into 'melted' strawberries (as my daughter has coined them), not quite a syrup, but not quite a conserve either! They were delicious with the crispy waffles and provided something a little more special for breakfast.
For the waffle recipe I used one from The Best of Annabel Langbein: Great Food For Busy Lives (revised and expanded edition) which I have just bought and have started a list of all the lovely things in it I would like to make!

Old Fashioned Waffles

2 cups milk
1 tsp salt
3 eggs separated
2 1/4 c flour
3 tsp baking powder
100g butter, melted

Beat together milk, salt and egg yolks, mix flour and baking powder. Once combined, add the melted butter and beat until smooth. Leave to stand about 2 hours. Beat egg whites until stiff then fold into mix. Pour about 3/4 c of mix onto hot buttered waffle iron and close. Cook until golden brown. Makes 8-10 waffles.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Espresso Crème brûlée

If there is a way to get more coffee into my day, then I am all for it. Especially when it is in the form of dessert. I have never made crème brûlée before, mainly because I never had the tools to get the toffee bit on the top. That was fixed recently when my mum gave me a mini blowtorch, so I was dying to give this recipe, which has been beckoning for quite some time, a go. This was one of the desserts we had on the menu at our restaurant (more than 13 years ago!!!) and I was very taken with it. It is one of those classics that simply never dates, in my opinion when something tastes that good it just doesn't go out of style!

The recipe comes from an old book of mine called Espresso: culture and cuisine (by Karl Petzke and Sara Slavin), which has a number of recipes in it that I have relied on over the years and keep revisiting such as Espresso syrup, Espresso and Hazelnut Cheesecake and Biscotti with toasted espresso beans.

Espresso Crème Brûlée

2 cups heavy cream
1/2 c milk

1/4 caster sugar
1/2 c brewed espresso
3 whole eggs
3 egg yolks

1/2c demerara sugar (or white sugar)
2 tbsp finely ground espresso

Preheat oven to 150C (300F). In a medium saucepan, combine the cream, milk, sugar and brewed espresso. Place over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes, or until war, do not let mixture
boil. Remove from heat. In a medium bowl, beat together eggs and egg yolks. Gradually stir or whisk the beaten eggs into the heated mixture, then cook over a medium heat stirring constantly.
Pour the mixture into 8 150 ml (6 ounce) custard cups and place the cups in a shallow baking
dish. Add water to the dish to halfway up the sides of the cups. Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until custards are set in the centre. Remove from baking dish and let sit for 1 hour.
Sprinkle sugar over top of each custard. Apply heat (with blow torch, or put under a hot grill) until sugar begins to melt being careful not to let it burn. It should caramelise and form a liquid, sprinkle on a little espresso grounds, while the sugar is still warm.
Leave for a few minutes for the sugar to harden so you have a toffee 'shell' on top of the custard before serving.