Friday, November 28, 2008

Chocolate Mousse

I cannot remember how many times I have eaten or made this wondrous dessert. It is one of those culinary staples that is a constant in my life! Of course over recent years I have been a little aversive, given it's general decadent nature and high fat content. However, I have been reading Nigella's book How to Eat: Pleasures and Principles of Good Food and enjoying the chapter on feeding small children. There I found a lovely simple recipe for chocolate mousse that I simply had to try. I had also seen a nice easy version in Jo Seagar's excellent book Lip Smackin', Fast Cookin', Hunger Bustin', Gr8 Tastin' Cookbook (which my son uses a lot as the recipes are tasty and straight forward) but Jo's recipe uses a lot of cream and more chocolate and I thought Nigella's version, using both egg yolks and egg white seemed not only more practical (I prefer not to have egg whites hanging around or I will just be tempted to make meringues!!!) and somewhat lighter (in both texture and calories!)
I will include both recipes here though and you can decide for yourself which recipe to try. Nigella says that this recipe would feed 4 small children, and all I can say to that is -they must be very small children!!!! We made the recipe up at 1 1/2 times the called for quantities and it made 4 very small portions- albeit rich and probably quite sufficient! Jo's version, with it's bigger quantities she says makes 6 large servings or 10 small. Having not made it yet (although, let's be realistic here, it is only a matter of time!) I can't comment on how big those serving sizes really are.

Children's Chocolate Mousse (Nigella Lawson)

100g milk chocolate (at least 40% cocoa solids-I used 60% dark chocolate, because it is my preference and it was delicious!)
1 tbsp golden syrup
2 eggs separated

Melt chocolate with 1 1/2 tbsp water and the golden syrup. When smooth remove from heat (I microwaved mine in short bursts). Whisk egg whites until you have a stiff snow. Beat the egg yolks, one by one, into the still warm chocolate mixture. Take a dollop of the egg whites and beat well into the chocolate mix to loosen it a little. Fold the rest of the whites in and incorporate well. Pour into 4 small bowls and refrigerate for at least 6 hours (we waited a couple of hours and they were totally fine)
Delicious Choccy Mud Mousse (Jo Seagar)

300ml cream
250g dark chocolate
3 egg yolks
2 tbsp sugar

Pour cream into microwable jug or bowl and heat on high for 2 mins until just about to boil. Place chocolate, egg yolks and sugar in a blender and pour in the nearly boiled cream. Securely put on lid and blend until smooth and well combined. Pour into serving dishes and leave to set for at leas 3 hours in the fridge. Keeps for 3 -4 days in the fridge.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


I am a total sucker for salmon. I really can't get enough of it. It is usually reasonably priced and the size of the fillets makes for satisfying 'meaty' eating. I am always looking for new ways to cook it, I love it smoked, and am still getting around to making my own gravlax, which I just love! Al Brown did a fabulous feature in the latest cuisine on salmon and they all sound divine. However, what lead me to tonight's dinner was reading Nigella's How to Eat: Pleasures and Principles of Good Food - and being reminded of that lovely sauce that is salsa verde. I have made this before and really love it's fresh flavour and while tonight's version was inspired by Nigella, it is actually quite removed from her version! I simply pan fried the salmon and served it with sauteed veges, then popped on a couple of tablespoons of the gorgeous sauce. After making my version I decided to google it to see how far removed from the authentic recipe I was, which I kind of am, but hey it tasted good, so here's how I made mine:

Salsa Verde (of sorts!)

Approx 1 cup flat leaf parsley
Approx 1/2 cup basil leaves
Approx 1/4 c mint leaves
Approx 1/4c chives
3 tbsp capers
1 garlic clove
1/4 c white wine vinegar
1 c extra virgin olive oil
4 good quality anchovies
2 tsp dijon mustard
6 cornichons

Put everything into a food processor and whiz until it is blended into a reasonably smooth and vibrantly green sauce.This goes really well with any fish, and I have also stirred some through some home made mayo for a nice dip or to coat a mixed green leafy salad or with new potatoes!

Just a note about the anchovies- for the first time ever I used a more expensive brand and could not believe the difference in taste and texture- they were totally sublime! I will never go back, they are about twice the price but so worth it in terms of the difference in flavour.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Lemon Balm Jelly

My mother kindly makes space in her garden for a few bits and pieces that I like. One of those things is lemon balm. Apparently it is related to mint and like mint, spreads! She was concerned at how much space it was starting to take up so I had a quick look on the internet to see what I could make to get rid of as much as possible. Lemon balm syrup or jelly looked like the best options so I went with the jelly. The recipe I found looked somewhat unusual and certainly didn't follow the method I am familiar with when making fruit jellies. However, I decided to give it a go and see how it went. It didn't! It wouldn't set at all so I reverted to the tried and true and boiled it down to get it to the right point where it would. The original recipe was from and is as follows:

Lemon Balm Jelly

1 c. lemon balm
3 c. water
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
6 1/2 c. sugar
1 bottle liquid pectin
Drop of yellow food coloring

Steep lemon balm in boiled water 10-20 minutes. Strain. Bring infusion and sugar to a rolling boil, add pectin and cook and stir for 1 minute. Remove from heat, add coloring, jar and seal.

I bought some pectin (Kings) as I had never used it before. I also used a heap more lemon balm to get a good infusion. I probably quadrupled the lemon juice too! I then boiled the heck out of it!
It turned out a gorgeous jelly, fragrant and subtle, and perfect on toast. I reckon it would be fab on butterfly cakes too. Or on scones with cream, or in the middle of a sponge.......I got about 6 150 ml jars from this foray, which I thought was worth the effort!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Stuffed Potatoes

This recipe was posted by Sally on Violet's Pantry, and reminded me of how much I adore them and that I hadn't made them in eons. The recipe was published somewhere in the lead up to the Nigella Christmas: Food, Family, Friends, Festivities book being released as it appears in it. Sally remarked that she had been making these for years but she rather liked Nigella's name for them- Fully Loaded Potato Skins! I too have been making them for a long time, they were one of my first staple recipes when I was first flatting, as you can make them cheaply and they are tasty and filling. I didn't think this would be the first recipe I would post from Nigella Christmas: Food, Family, Friends, Festivities, (there are so many more decadent and interesting recipes in the book!!!) but actually I love this recipe for its much of it can be done ahead, it is tasty and the kids really love them!!!! That, to me, is more of what cooking is about, serving up great but easy food day to day! The great thing about this recipe is it's ability to be a vehicle for left overs. You really can add anything you like into it, and it keeps it interesting too.
Here's Nigella's recipe:

Fully Loaded Potato Skins

10 baking potatoes
225g strong cheddar or red leicester
250ml sour cream

4 spring onions
1 teaspoon Maldon salt or
½ teaspoon table salt or to taste
good grinding of black pepper
1 x 15ml tablespoon worcestershire sauce

10 rashers American-style or thin-cut streaky bacon
oil for frying


The day (or up to 2 days) before you load them, preheat your oven to 200C/180C fan/400F/gas 6 and bake the potatoes (pricking them first) for about 1½ hours, or until the skins are crisp and the insides fluffy. As soon as you can bear to tackle the hot potatoes, cut the
m in half lengthways and scoop the insides into a bowl.Put the husk-like skins of the potatoes on a tray and, when cool, cover until you are ready to fill them. Let the potato cool in the bowl, and then cover until needed.
When you are ready to fill the potatoes, preheat your oven to 200C/180C fan/400F/gas 6. Grate the cheese, and add 200g of it to the cold potato along with the sour cream. Chop the spring onions and add to the potato, with the salt, pepper and worcestershire sauce. (I deviate a bit here, and fry the onion and bacon, ricing the potato and adding it in with all the other ingredients!)
Spoon the potato filling into the potato skins, and lay each half on a baking tray so they fit snugly together. Sprinkle over the remaining cheese, giving each potato skin a light covering, and cook for 20-30 minutes until golden.Fry (or grill) the bacon rashers in oil until crispy, then crumble them and sprinkle half a rasher’s worth over each potato skin to make them fully loaded.

MAKE AHEAD TIP Fill the potato skins, as directed, and sprinkle with the cheese and crispy bacon (or add the crispy bacon after cooking if preferred). Cover loosely and keep in the fridge for up to 2 days. Cook as directed.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Another pantry challenge

This recipe is one I have made before. I liked it the first time (and have since made it a couple more times) so when it came up as the Pantry Challenge, I thought I would have a go at mucking about with it a bit. So I used the same basic recipe and method, but added in a few extras. The inspiration from this came from a yummy creamy bacon and tomato pasta I made recently and thought it would be quite nice to try it in a risotto version. So I added in 4 chopped slices of streaky bacon with the onion and got it as crispy as possible, then added in 1/2 a chopped red pepper and 1/2 a chopped yellow pepper and two chopped tomatoes and sauteed. I then added the rice. At this point I followed the usual method of adding wine then stock (I used chicken). For something different I substituted 1 cup of the chicken stock for 1 cup of (shock horror) tinned tomato soup-(I used the condensed soup and diluted with water to make the 1 cup). I have to say, tinned tomato soup is a staple in my pantry and finds it's way into many meals - it is extremely versatile!
This turned out wonderfully, cheesy, bacony, and tomatoey!!!! Just a fabulous combination in my book!I did some crispy bacon up for garnish along with some baby basil leaves.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Spiced nuts

This recipe is adapted from a recipe I found in the NZ Home and Garden "Food, Friends and Fun" Magazine, which I took a quick flick through and just knew I had to have. It is packed with excellent ideas both for cooking and decorating for occasions. I had seen a recipe for spiced nuts inNigella Christmas: Food, Family, Friends, Festivities and thought it sounded lovely, but liked this one better as it had a lot less sugar and no oil.
I will give the original recipe here (as it is made with pretzels as well) and then add my variations (there are, as always, a few). I made mine with nuts only and they turned out just beautifully. The slight amount of sugar is just enough to make them 'special', combined with the spices of course. I think they would make a lovely gift, wrapped up, or a nice thing to take along to a party. One thing though, my version would not be cheap to make. The recipe makes 4 cups (and I would recommend 1/4 c per serve) and the nuts cost about $9.00 all up (so each serve is approx 50c each). Okay occasionally -maybe only as a special treat however!!!

Spiced Nuts and Pretzels

1 small egg white
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp each: cayenne pepper, sweet smoked paprika
1 1/2c natural almonds
1 c natural cashew nuts
100g pretzels

Preheat oven to 180C. Line a swiss roll tin with baking paper. In a large bowl, whisk together egg white with sugar, then add cumin, salt, cayenne pepper and paprika. Add nuts and toss to coat.
Spread nuts in a single layer in tin and bake 20-25 mins, lifting and turning every 5 mins, until crisp and golden. Lift baking paper and nuts from tin and lay on a wire rack to allow nuts to coll completely before combining with the pretzels.Changes:
  • I ommited the pretzels and used:
  • 150 g sunflower seeds
  • 150g raw blanched almonds
  • 75g pecans
  • 75g hazelnuts
  • I used a teaspoon of soy instead of the salt
  • I used 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp paprika, and 1/2 tsp cinnamon.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

What to do, what to do.....

I have been away from this blog for what seems like an eternity, certainly this is the longest since I started it. I have been feeling somewhat ambivalent to be honest, not really sure how much of a priority I want it to be- clearly it is not a priority at the moment. But I have so many lovely photos and recipes that I want to share and that is the catch 22 part of it all. For some reason the motivation doesn't seem to be there. I actually think it probably is down to the time of year and change of seasons. Suddenly the days are long, fine and warm and cooking or baking, then sitting in front of a computer has lost its appeal. So I think I am going to try and clear the backlog of posts and take a wee break over summer. I really don't like to cook over summer, it is something I do reluctantly actually! Too much going on, lots of lovely fresh food that gets assembled rather than properly cooked if you know what I mean. It seems a shame, given how gorgeous the light is for taking photos at the moment!!!!!!
I have also made a pact to stop baking for a wee while, and since doing so have noticed a significant improvement in how my clothes fit!!! I am wanting to cut down on all the excess so chances are my food will be somewhat basic and uninspiring! I will of course feel compelled to cook from time to time I know, and those instances will undoubtedly be honoured with a post!:)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Cyber Friends

I would never have imagined I would make good friends on the internet. It just wasn't something I entertained! But since joining Violets' Pantry (after Nigella's forum closed) it has become a place to catch up with interesting people from all over the world and all walks of life, connected primarily by our shared love of cooking. Violets started the forum, with Pistachio coming in soon after to help with lots of the techie stuff. Between them they moderated a lovely friendly safe place to share recipes, photos of food and plenty of day to day happenings in our lives. There have been so many events, births, marriages, engagements, graduations, birthdays -you name it we have shared it.
Sadly, we had a first recently, one which has knocked us all. Pistachio fell ill quite suddenly and after a worrying time in hospital in and out of consciousness, she died on November 5th.
This post is a wee tribute to her, as she was such a constant presence in all of the lives of those who frequent 'The Pantry' - and also Mr X, where she had many friends too.
She had a strong moral compass and always stood up for what she thought, firmly and resolutely yet it never felt threatening. I always admired her for her courage of conviction. She was a fabulous cook and we shared a love for Mediterranean and Moroccan food, I cooked many a recipe from her lovely blog. She inspired me to start this blog and was helpful in the set up phase, in fact my first ever post was one of her recipes.
My life is certainly the better for having 'known' her and we are all so sad that she has gone.
Tonight's dinner was especially for her.....Moroccan lamb and chickpeas with gingered couscous. Her method of cooking couscous is one I often use now, it is quick and easy and lifts it to something a bit more special. She added one tsp of ground ginger per cup of couscous and her instructions are as follows:
Toast the couscous with the powdered ginger and salt to taste in a smallish thick-bottomed pan, when it starts to smell nutty and aromatic take it off the heat. Now pour over exactly one and a half times the amount of boiling water to couscous and quickly clamp on a tightly fitting lid. Let stand exactly ten minutes. Fluff with a fork, cover with a cloth and then put the lid on again. Let rest five minutes before serving. Best couscous ever!
I agree it IS the best couscous ever Pi! I will miss your down to earth input on the Pantry and your gorgeous cooking.