Thursday, November 29, 2007

Mushroom rarebit

225g Stilton cheese, crumbled
110g cheddar cheese, grated
50ml milk
25g breadcrumbs
25g flour
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
1 egg
1egg yolk
½ tsp English mustard powder
salt and white pepper
6 large field mushrooms, stalks removed
2 Tbsp olive oil
6 slices ciabatta bread, toasted

Preheat the oven to 200c
Place the cheese and milk in a saucepan, and heat until the cheese is melted, stirring occasionally to keep the cheese from catching
Add the breadcrumbs and flour and cook for 2-3 min, stirring all the time
Allow to cool before adding the Worcestershire sauce, egg, egg yolk, and mustard.
Mix thoroughly and season with salt and white pepper
Place the mushrooms on a baking tray, spoon the mixture into the cavities and sprinkle with olive oil.

Place in the oven and bake for 10-15 min until the mushrooms are soft and the cheese is bubbling and brown.
Serve on toasted slices of ciabatta bread, with some of the juices poured over and a spoonful of chutney.

This recipe is from The Saturday Kitchen Cookbook. It also had an apple and tomato chutney part of the recipe, but I used Ruth’s Mom’s Chutney, because I had some already. I think that any good chutney would do as an accompaniment, just don’t skip it all together, because it really rounds out the dish and makes it good.

I’ve not ever made Rarebit before, and I like this version of it because I’m a big fan of stuffed mushrooms in all shapes and sizes. Interestingly, the stilton taste wasn’t nearly as strong as you would expect. Stilton has such an overpowering taste on it’s own, I always expect it to dominate anything I cook it with, but actually it works and plays very nicely with others.

This wasn’t the best thing I’ve ever had, but for a simple quick and nice dinner, this did the job nicely.

Peppermint creams

250g Icing sugar, and some extra
Free-range egg white
Peppermint essence
A few drops of cooking oil
Green food coloring (optional)

Sift 2/3 of the sugar into a mixing bowl.
Lightly whisk the egg white. It should be well mixed and lightly frothy, but not really moussey.
Pour the egg white and a few drops of peppermint essence into the sugar, and start mixing with a fork.
As it begins to stiffen, scrape it off the fork, and start using your hands to work it into a paste. It will probably be very sticky, and you’ll have to keep adding a shake or two of icing sugar. Taste it and add more peppermint if necessary. Keep kneading the mixture and adding sifted icing sugar until you have a smooth paste you can mould like play dough. Keep your hands dusted with sugar at all times.
Prepare a sheet of greasproof paper by rubbing it lightly all over with a few drops of cooking oil.
You can shape in various ways, either roll with a rolling pin on a sugar dusted surface, and then cut up into shapes, or use cookie cutters, or just roll little balls and then flatten them.
Put the finished peppermint creams onto the lightly oiled sheet of paper, and leave them uncovered in the kitchen to dry out for a few hours. Keep them in a Tupperware box.

This was from River Cottage Family Cookbook. I skipped the food coloring, because I didn’t see any need for it, and I used the last method of shaping (roll into a ball then squish).

This was fun. You forget that icing sugar can become a dough with the right amount of liquid. It’s powdery, then it’s sticky, and sticky, and sticky, then suddenly, you have dough.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from these, they are a popular British candy, but we don’t have it in the states. Turns out, Peppermint creams, are just like York Peppermint Patties, but without the chocolate coating. I’m going to make another batch, and coat them in chocolate.

These are super unbelievably easy, and really tasty too. I recommend trying them, if you feel like making any candy.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Spiced Pumpkin Tart with Stem Ginger Cream

For the pumpkin tart:
1 pack dessert pastry, rolled to 5mm thick
500g pumpkin, cut into large chunks
2 eggs
100g caster sugar
50g ground almonds
¼ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
200ml single cream

For the stem ginger
200ml double cream
3Tbsp stem ginger syrup
25g stem ginger, finely chopped

Preheat to 190c
Line a 9inch tart tin with the pastry, line with cling film and baking beans or rice
Place on a baking sheet and place in the oven for 15 min.
Remove the cling film and baking beans, and return to the oven for a further 10 min to crisp the base of the case.
Meanwhile steam the pumpkin for 15-20 min till tender
Remove from the steamer and cool.
Place the cool pumpkin in a food processor, and blend to a puree.
Place the eggs and sugar in a large bowl and whisk to combine.
Add the ground almonds, spices, and cream, and whisk until smooth
Add the pureed pumpkin, and mix once more
Pour into the pastry case, and place in the oven for 40-45 min, until set
Remove from the oven and cool for at least an hour.
To make the stem ginger cream, place the cream, syrup, and ginger in a bowl and whisk until soft peaks are formed
To serve, cut a slice of tart and place on a plate with a spoonful of the cream, a dusting of icing sugar, and a sprig of mint.

This is from The Saturday Kitchen Cookbook. This is the second recipe that I’ve tried from this one, and It’s the second one that I have liked. This looks to be a fun book.

I made this on Thanksgiving, so as not to let the day go by without anything special. I made my own crust, because I like to, but store bought pastry is fine. Also, I used butternut squash, because I couldn’t find any pumpkins. It works just as well. Tastes just like pumpkin once it’s all prepared.

The boys helped me make the pie too. They had a great time helping with the mixing and the measuring and the pouring. They get very excited about pie.

It came out great. It tasted perfectly pumpkin pie-y. My youngest was totally and completely enthralled by it. Butternut squash is one of his all time favorite foods, so a dessert squash pie, well, let’s just say he had many pieces. I loved the pie, and the cream too. The cream was amazing. I want to eat that ginger cream on all my desserts, I want that cream for dessert, I could just eat it with a spoon. If you make this pie, make the cream too!!!!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Braised Chicken with lemon, honey and Shepard’s salad with feta

1Tbsp olive oil
1.6kg chicken, cut into 8 pieces
1 red onion, sliced
12 cloves of garlic, peeled but left whole
1 lemon, cut into chunks
175ml chicken stock
125g honey
1 small handful of fresh oregano leaves

For the Salad
400g tinned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
150g feta cheese, crumbled
1 small handful of fresh flat leaf parsley
2 small cucumbers, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
50g black olives, halved and pitted
3tbsp olive oil
1Tbsp lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat a large frying pan over high heat, add the oil and chicken, and cook for 5 min till golden
Remove and set aside
Reduce the heat to medium high, add the onion, and cook for 1 min. Return the chicken to the pan, with the lemon, chicken stock, and honey, reduce the heat, cover the pan and simmer for 20 min, or until the chicken is cooked through.
Lift out the chicken and put on a baking tray.
Increase the heat under the sauce and simmer, uncovered, for another 15 min to thicken
Place the chicken under a hot grill for 5 min until crisp.
Arrange the chicken on a platter, drizzle with the sauce and sprinkle with oregano.
To make the salad, gently mix together the chickpeas, feta, parsley, cucumber, green pepper and olives in a large bowl.
Whisk the olive oil and lemon juice together and season with salt and pepper.
Toss the salad with the dressing

This was very tasty, but I have one word of warning. Be careful while you are reducing the sauce. Mine took far less then the 15 min in the recipe, and I burned it just a tiny bit after only about 5 min because I wasn’t paying as much attention as I should have been.

Still, it was a really good dish. Not too difficult, the sauce went really well with the chicken, and I loved, loved, loved the salad.

This is from The Saturday Kitchen Cookbook. It’s interesting. It’s based on a tv cooking show, so it has a wide variety of recipes, because it tailors it’s self to all the guests on the show, as opposed to any one style. I liked this recipe, and I will definitely try more.

Apple crumble

There are a million recipes for crumble, but I just wanted to find a simple combination that worked. Here’s what I came up with, as my crumble. Amounts can be changed to suit however many people.

Peel the apples, and slice or cut into chunks. I did both for some variety of texture. Mix them with sugar, cinnamon, clove and nutmeg, and pour them into a buttered oven dish.

For the topping, equal weights of butter, flour, and brown sugar, plus a couple of handfuls of oats.

Rub the butter into the flour like you’re making a pie crust. Mix in the sugar, and the oats, and pour it all over the top of the apples. Bake at 190c for 30-40 min.

The apples cook and form a nice syrupy sauce that gets all bubbly as you cook it, and the crumble comes out perfectly lovely and crumbly.

So easy to do, and totally satisfying.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Jeweled Pumpkin Rice

500g peeled and seeded butternut squash (the flesh of a 750g squash), cut into 1cm dice
1tsp fine sea salt
2tbsp olive oil
a big pinch of saffron (about 50 strands)
100g unsalted butter
6cm piece of cinnamon stick
4 allspice berries, crushed
1 large or 2 medium onions, thinly sliced across the grain
15g dried barberries (or currants)
50g shelled, unsalted pistachios
1/2tsp cardamom
300g basmati rice, soaked in tepid salted water for 1 hour
450ml vegetable stock

Preheat the oven to 230c
Toss the diced butternut squash with half of the salt and the olive oil. Spread it in a single layer in a baking tray and roast for 30 min, or until tender. Mix the saffron with 3tbsp of boiling water, and ad 25g of the butter, which should melt, set aside.
Heat the remaining butter in a saucepan with the cinnamon and allspice till it foams, then add the onion, and the remaining ½ tsp salt. Fry over medium heat for 10 or 15 min, stirring occasionally until the onion is soft and starting to color. Add the barberries, pistachios and cardamom, and cook for 10 min more, until the onion is golden and sweet. Now drain the rice and add to the pan, stirring for a min or two to coat, then pour in the stock. Taste for seasoning then scatter with the roast squash. Cover with a circle of greaseproof paper, and a tight fitting lid, and cook over a high heat for 5 min. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer for a final 5 min. Remove the lid and the greaseproof paper, and drizzle with the buttery saffron water. Replace the lid and leave to rest, off the heat, for 5-10 min. Serve with a scattering of crispy onions if you like.

This was a bit time consuming to make, but absolutely and totally worth it. It came out so beautifully. It’s another one from Moro East, which is fast becoming one of my favorite books.

I loved that way of adding the saffron, just pouring it over at the end all mixed with the butter. That, and the cardamom and pistachios really make this a special dish.

Stilton squash risotto

1 tbsp vegetable oil
50g walnuts, roughly chopped
15g butter
1 onion, chopped
1 tbsp freshly chopped sage
400g arborio risotto rice
1 litre vegetable stock, boiling
225g winter squash, deseeded, peeled and roughly chopped
75g Blue Stilton cheese
4 sprigs fresh sage for garnish
1 Heat the vegetable oil in a large saucepan, add half of the chopped walnuts and allow to brown. Spoon the nuts onto a plate and set aside.
2 Add the butter, onions and chopped sage to the pan and soften for 6-8 minutes.
3 Stir in the rice to absorb the cooking juices. Add the stock and the chopped squash, then simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes.
4 Switch off the heat, crumble in the Stilton, add the remaining chopped walnuts, cover and allow to finish cooking in its own heat for 5 minutes.
Serve each portion garnished with a sprig of fresh sage.

I got a coupon for a free block of stilton, so I set about finding something interesting to do with it. It turns out that stilton cheese has an official website, it’s

An official web site for a cheese, fabulous. I found this recipe on it. It calls it’s self a risotto, though I know that any risotto maker worth their salt would scoff at adding all the stock at once like that. Still, if you just think of it as a rice dish, then it won’t offend anyone’s sensibilities. Also it made it super easy and quick to make, and it was very tasty. The combination of the walnuts, squash and strong blue cheese, was really surprising, and good.

Beautiful chicken

This isn’t really a recipe, more of a tip, but it’s worth mentioning.
To prep this chicken, I laid strips of bacon across the breast, covering the whole thing completely. The idea is that the bacon fat will slowly baste the breast to keep it moist. Still, I wanted it to be well browned, so I took the bacon off for the last half hour of cooking. It was enough time to get it nicely brown, and it was still really moist and lovely.

Good stuff.

Hassan’s Celery and white bean soup

250g dried cannelloni beans, soaked in cold water overnight (or 650g cooked beans – drained weight)
10 Tbsp (150ml) olive oil
1 large head of celery with leaves, trimmed of roots, then sliced across into 2cm chunks
8 spring onions, green tops included, sliced into 1 cm rounds
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1tsp caraway seeds, lightly crushed (optional)
500g favoursome tomatoes, blanched, peeled, and seeded, then roughly chopped
1tsp celery salt

To serve
Extra virgin olive oil
A squeeze of lemon juice
4-6 whole spring onions, trimmed
a small bunch of any of the following: Rocket, sorrel, and radish
a small bowl of oily black olives
Turkish bread

Drain the soaked beans and place in a saucepan, with plenty of fresh water. Bring to a boil and simmer gently for approximately 1 hour, or until tender, skimming off any scum and topping up the water as necessary. Season with salt and set aside.
Meanwhile place a large saucepan over medium heat and add 6 Tbsp of olive oil. When it is hot, add the celery and cook for 10 min, stirring often. Now add the spring onions, garlic, caraway if using, and a good pinch of salt. Cook for 10 -15 min, stirring every now and then, until the vegetables are soft and beginning to caramelize. Add the tomatoes and half the celery salt, and cook for a further 5 min. Drain the beans, reserving 250ml of their cooking liquor, and stir them into the pan, with the reserved liquor, or water, and the remaining 4 Tbsp of olive oil. Bring to a simmer, season with salt, if needed, and pepper and cook for another 5 min. Check the seasoning once more.

Serve with a generous drizzle of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, and the remaining celery salt on top. Eat with alternate mouthfuls of spring onions, greens, black olives and bread, as these accompaniments are very much part of the experience.

To make your own celery salt, place a handful of green celery leaves on a baking tray, and dry in a low-medium oven, moving them around till completely dry, but not scorched. Crumble to a powder with your fingers, removing any long veins, and mix with equal parts (by eye) of Maldon salt.

This was from Moro East. I have their orignial book (Moro) too, but I prefer this one. The first book was from their restaurant, and I felt like the food was more restaurant then good home cooking. That said, I still have every intention of trying it, because with a book as wonderful as this one, I can’t imagine that they have a bad book in the lot.

This soup was stunning. It was just the kind of soup I prefer, super chunky and thick, and the beans make it very comforting as well. It says that the caraway seeds are optional, but I don’t believe that they are, I think they are necessary. It’s just such a lovely blend of flavors.

I made some Turkish Flat breads to go with it (I’ll do the recipe for them at some point). They weren’t tough to make, and they went very nicely with the soup, but I think that any bread would, if you can’t get Turkish. DO follow the serving suggestions though, because the olives and the bread and the greens really make this a wonderful feast, rather then just a wonderful soup.

The note about making celery salt is excellent too. It took no time to do, my son really enjoyed helping and now I know what to do with celery leaves from now on.

Good recipe, good tips, good all around.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Lemon Meringue Pie

For the pastry:
175g plain flour
100g cold butter, cut into small pieces
1tbsp icing sugar
1 egg yolk

For the filling:
2 level tbsp cornflour
100g golden caster sugar
finely grated zest of 2 large lemons
125ml fresh lemon juice (from 2-3 lemons)
Juice of 1 small orange
85g of butter, cut into pieces
3 egg yolks, and 1 whole egg

For the meringue:
4 egg whites, room temperature
200g golden caster sugar
2 level tsp cornflour

For the pastry, put the flour, butter, icing sugar, egg yolk (save the white for the meringue) and 1 tbsp cold water into a food processor. Using the pulse button so the mixture is not overworked, process till the mix starts to bind. Tip onto a lightly floured surface, gather together till smooth, then roll out and line a 23cm loose bottom fluted flan tin. Trim and neaten the edges. Press the pastry into the flutes, if it cracks, just press it back together. Prick the bse with a fork, line with foil, shiny side down, and chill for ½ to 1 hour, or overnight.
Put a baking sheet into the oven and preheat to 200c fan 180c gas. Bake the pastry case “Blind” (filled with dry beans) for 15 min, then remove the beans and foil, and bake for a further 5-8 minutes, until the pastry is pale golden and cooked. Set aside, and lower the oven to 180c fan 160c gas
While the pastry bakes, prepare the filling: mix the cornflour, sugar, and lemon zest in a medium saucepan. Strain and stir in the lemon juice gradually. Make the orange juice up to 200ml with water and strain into the pan. Cook over a medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened and smooth. Once the mixture bubbles, remove from the heat and beat in the butter till melted. Beat the egg yolks (save whites for meringue) and the whole egg together, stir into the pan and return to a medium heat. Keep stirring vigorously for a few minutes, until the mixture thickens and plops from the spoon. (It will bubble, but doesn’t curdle). Take off the heat and set aside while you make the meringue.
Put the four saved egg whites in a large bowl. Whisk to soft peaks, then add half the sugar, a spoonful at a time, whisking between each addition without overbeating. Whisk in the cornflour, then add the rest of the sugar as before till smooth and thick. Quickly reheat the filling and pour it into the pastry case. Immediately put spoonfuls of meringue around the edge of the filling (if you start in the middle, the meringue may sink), then spread so that it just touches the pastry (this will anchor it, and help to stop it from sliding). Pile the rest into the center, spreading so that it touches the hot filling, then give it a swirl.
Bake for 18-20 min, until the meringue is crisp, and slightly colored. Let the pie sit in the tin for 30 minutes, then remove and leave for at least another ½-1 hour before slicing. Eat the same day.

Apparently the real key, is that the filling has to be hot when you put the meringue on top. If the filling is not hot, then the underside of the meringue will not cook correctly. This will lead to a thin layer of liquid developing between the filling and the topping. This liquid, destroys the texture of the meringue. Even if it’s ok in the beginning, it is what makes it an eat only on the day it was made dessert. The hot filling solves that problem.

That’s what I learned from The Ultimate Recipe Book. This is a cool book. The author picked a list of dishes. Then she went around and asked advice from all of the most knowledgeable chefs in the world (she’s been a food writer for her whole life apparently, so she has access). Then she cooked many many versions of each dish, taking all the advice into account, and figuring out which tips worked best with which other ones, till she figured out the best way to make it. She describes the whole process before each recipe, who she talked to what each one said, what combinations she tried, and then finally, the recipe. I find this book fascinating.

The pie was really good too. The meringue fell a little as it was cooling, but it was not only tasty, it was still just as good, maybe even a little better, the second day.


75g butter
200ml water
a pinch of salt
100g strong plain flour
3 free range eggs
250ml double or whipping cream
For the icing:
100g Caster sugar
100ml water
50g Dark chocolate
25g unsalted butter

Switch on the oven to 200c. Dice the butter, put it into the medium saucepan with the water and salt and switch on the heat to low. Stir from time to time with the wooden spoon as the butter melts. Meanwhile sift the flour into a small bowl.
When the butter has melted, turn up the heat and bring the mixture to the boil. Switch off the heat and quickly tip the flour into the saucepan. Immediately beat the flour into the liquid with the wooden spoonto mix all the ingredients together. After a few seconds or so, you’ll find that the mixture swells into a smooth dough that comes away from the sides of the saucepan. Stop beating.
Let the mixture cool for 3 or 4 min. Crack the eggs into a measuring jug and whisk them with a fork. Pour a little of the egg into the flour mixture and beat it in well. Keep adding and beating in the egg, a little at a time, until the dough looks thick, smooth and shiny, and still holds it’s shape well. You may not need the last 2 or 3 tbsp of egg, if your eggs are large ones.
Spoon the mixture into a freezer bag (you’ll need to scrape in out of the pan with a rubber spatula). Fold down the top of the bag to squeeze the dough to the bottom. Snip off one of the bottom corners of the bagto give you a hole about 1cm long.
Line the baking sheets with parchment paper. Squeeze the mixture into Chipolata-sized sausage shapes on the parchment, allowing about 4cm space between each one. You should be able to make about 12.
Bake for 30 min, they should be puffed up, and a good golden brown all over, and feel hard when you poke one with a knife.
Immediately take each éclair off the sheets (they’ll be very hot, so wear oven gloves) and with the point of a knife gently slit the side to let out the steam. Leave them to cool and dry out on a rack.
Whip the cream in a small bowl till it’s just thick enough to hold it’s shape. Put it in the fridge while you make the chocolate icing.
For the icing, put the sugar and water in the small saucepan, place it on the hob, and turn the heat to low.
Heat gently stirring all the time with a wooden spoon to dissolve the sugar. Bring to the boil and boil fast for thee minutes. Switch off the hob and wait for a few minutes for the syrup to cool down, meanwhile, break up the chocolate, and cut the butter into chunks.
When the syrup is very warm, rather then very hot, add the chocolate and butter. Stir until both have melted, and blended to a smooth glossy sauce. Leave to cool, stirring occasionally. When the sauce starts to thicken, it’s ready to ice your éclairs.
When the buns are cool, use a tsp to fill the inside of each éclair with whipped cream (you may need to make a bigger slit). Then take a different tsp and smear the chocolate icing generously over each éclair. Leave until set.

This was from River Cottage Family Cookbook. I don’t actually have this one, I just got it from the library, but I think I might need to get my own copy I’m becoming a big fan of the River Cottage books, their meat book is one of my all time favorites.

This looks like a lot of work, but it’s not really. There are just a few things you need to know. When you are making Choux pastry, make sure you add the flour all at once. Some people recommend that you put the flour on a piece of paper, and roll the paper into a cone, that way it will definitely all go in at once. The second thing to remember, is that you need to add the eggs a little at a time. This recipe calls for you to beat the eggs first, but generally speaking, you want to only add one egg at a time (so if you’ve beaten three eggs, add them in one third at a time). You really have to make sure that you beat in each egg totally and completely before adding the next. The only other thing, is remembering to poke holes in them when they are done. The steam will make them all soggy if you forget.

That’s it. It’s not exactly as simple as boiling eggs, but at the end, you have home made éclairs. What could be better then that? Choux pastry is one of those things that seems really scary till you do it. Once you’ve done it one time, you realize how it looks so much more impressive and difficult then it really is. It’s extra useful because you can make sweet or savory dishes with it.

I messed up my chocolate sauce a little. I don’t think I let it boil long enough, and I didn’t let it cool down enough either, so it was a bit too runny. Still these were so tasty it was hard not to eat them all in one go.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Tagliatelle with peas and Parma Ham

600g Tagliatelle
200g fresh peas, podded weight
50ml olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 garlic clove, crushed
Handful of freshly chopped mint
Handful of freshly grated Parmesan
8 slices of parma ham or 200g soft goat’s milk cheese, crumbled
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cook pasta according to packet. Actually the recipe called for making your own, but I used store bought because I was in a hurry.

Bring a medium saucepan full of water to the boil. Add the peas and cook for 2-3 minutes. Drain and plunge into iced water. Set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a pan over a low heat and add the garlic. Cook for 1 minute, then add the drained peas, and cook for a further 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Drain the pasta and add to the pea mixture. Toss well then season to taste and add the chopped mint and a drizzle of olive oil. Sprinkle in the parmesan, and drape over the parma ham or scatter with the goat’s cheese before serving.

This was from a book I just got called Angela Hartnett’s Cucina.

This was a really simple and lovely pasta dish. It was interesting to me because it used mint. I have not had a pasta dish that used mint before. I was wondering if it would be strangely like eating toothpaste, but it was not at all. The mint works beautifully with peas, and it winds up being a subtle background flavor. You don’t notice it right away, but then if you are told it’s there, it becomes obvious. This was Italian cooking at it’s best. Super simple, only a few ingredients, and only lightly cooked, but perfectly balanced, and ever so comforting.

This is a perfect dish if you’re in a hurry too, because you can make it in the time it takes to make the pasta. I am definitely going to try it again in the summer when the peas are fresh, I’m sure it will be at it’s best then.

WiId Mushroom Tart

15g dried porcini
60g butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
350g mushrooms, sliced (use some wild ones if you can, or cultivated brown, field (Portobello), oyster, shiitake, or a mixture)
Salt, Black pepper
3 organic eggs, beaten
250g mascarpone
60g parmesan, grated
a handful of fresh basil, sliced
24cm (9 ½ inch) shortcrust pastry case baked blind
Soak the porcini in hand hot water for about half an hour, drain, squeeze out as much water as possible, and chop finely.
Heat the oven to 180 and put in a baking sheet to preheat. Melt the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat, add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until starting to soften, 5 min. Add the mushrooms, raise the heat to high, and cook, stirring, until they begin to brown, about 5 min. Add slat and pepper to taste and allow to cool slightly.

Beat the eggs and mascarpone until smooth (you might want to use a whisk for this as mascarpone is quite thick). Stir in the soaked porcini, pan fried mushrooms, parmesan and basil. Pour this mushroom mascarpone mixture into the pastry case, and put in the oven on to the hot baking sheet (a good tactic to avoid soggy pastry bottoms). Bake until set to a beautiful golden brown, 30-40 min. Transfer to a wire rack and serve warm rather then hot.

From Favourite Recipes Books For Cooks. A book that has been consistently fabulous.

This was so good! Really beautiful and so super tasty. It was wonderful warm on the first day, and the left overs were just as good as a cold lunch on the second day. The mascarpone makes it a satisfyingly creamy filling, which I sometimes prefer to the eggy fillings that a lot of the savory tarts have. Also I just love mushrooms, and this was a really good combination of them.

It’s not at all tough to make either. If you wanted to save time and effort, you could make the crust in advance, or probably even buy a pre made one, then it’s just a little sautéing, a little mixing pour it in and you are good to go. I sometimes find it difficult to tell when an eggy pie is done, because they set a bit after you take them out, but with this one that wasn’t an issue.

I highly recommend trying this one, it’s definitely a winner.

Cucumber noodles

225g fresh or dried thin egg noodles
2tsp sesame oil
750g cucumbers
2tsp salt
2tbsp groundnut oil
1.5 tbsp finely chopped garlic
3tbsp finely chopped spring onion
2tsp chili bean sauce
1tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
2tsp sugar
2tsp sesame oil

If you are using fresh noodles, blanch them first by boiling them for 3-5 min in a pot of boiling water. If you are using dried noodles, cook them in boiling water for 4-5 min. Plunge the noodles into cold water, drain them thoroughly, toss them in sesame oil and put them aside till you are ready to use them. They can be kept in this state, if tightly covered in cling film, for up to 2 hours in the fridge.

Peel the cucumbers, slice them in half lengthways, and using a teaspoon, remove the seeds. Then cut the cucumber halves into 7.5cmx3mm (3x1/8inch) shreds. Sprinkle them with salt and mix well. Put the mixture in a colander and let it sit for 20 min to drain. This rids the cucumber of any excess liquid. When the cucumber shreds have drained, rinse them in water and then squeeze any excess moisture from them in a linen tea towel. Set aside.
Heat a wok or large frying pan over a high heat till hot. Add the oil and when it is very hot and slightly smoking , add the garlic, spring onions, and cucumbers and stir fry for about 30 seconds, then add the noodles, chili bean sauce, salt pepper and sugar, an stir for another 30 seconds until they are well coated in the spices and flavorings. Continue to stir fry over high heat for 3-4 min until most of the water has evaporated and the cucumbers are cooked. At this point add the sesame oil, transfer to a warm platter and serve immediately.

I have to admit, this is a bit of a cheat. I forgot when I was about to make this, that you needed Chili bean sauce, which you would need to go to an actual East Asian grocery to get. It said in the book (Ken Hom) not to use the sweet chilli dipping sauce that you can get anywhere, because it is not the right flavor (the sweetness is wrong). Still, it was almost dinner time, and I had everything else I needed, and I’d never cooked with cucumbers before, so I decided to give it a go anyway. I used Oyster Sauce instead of the chili bean sauce. I know that’s probably horribly wrong, but it came out really nicely.

Turns out I like cooked cucumbers. They taste very sweet, and have that semi-crunchy-ish, but still soft-ish consistency that they have as pickles.

I know this is not what this dish was supposed to be, but it was very good, and I am going to seek out the chili bean sauce, so I can try it again properly.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Mansaf (Middle Eastern Saffron broth, with meatballs)

80g unsalted butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
30g flaked almonds
50g pine nuts
400g jar of cooked chickpeas, drained
2 good pinches of saffron (about 40 strands in each pinch), soaked in 2 Tbsp boiling water
800ml good chicken stock, hot
1 egg yolk
1tsp corn flour or plain flour
250g good quality Greek yogurt
2Tbsp roughly chopped Flat leaf parsley

Kifta (little meatballs)
200g minced lamb
50g crust-less white bread, moistened with 2 Tbsp milk
1 garlic clove, crushed to a paste with a pinch of salt
1tsp ground cumin
1tsp sweet Paprika
3Tbsp olive oil

For the Kifta, combine Lamb, bread, garlic, spices, and some salt and pepper in a food processor, and blend until just coming together. Roll into 35-40 hazelnut sized meatballs, then leave in the fridge for half an hour, if time allows. Heat the oil in a large heavy saucepan until very hot, then add the meatballs and brown lightly, stirring ever so gently. Remove the meatballs and place on kitchen paper to absorb excess oil. Discard the oil in the pan, but re-use the pan for the soup.
Add butter to the still hot pan, let it foam, then add the onion and a pinch of salt. Scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to release any sticking fragments of lamb. Let the onion soften for about 20 min, then ad the almonds and pine nuts. Cook for 10-20 min, stirring constantly to ensure that the onions and nuts cook beautifully and do not burn. Now add the meatballs and chickpeas, and cook for 5 min more. Add the saffron infused water, and the hot stock and bring to a boil. While the soup is coming up to temperature, whisk the egg yolk and cornflour into the yogurt to stabilize it. Once boiling, stir a couple of ladlefuls of the hot soup into the yogurt mixture, then add it all back to the pan, and bring to a simmer for another minute or so. Stir in the parsley, season with salt and pepper, and serve hot.

This is from a book called Moro East. I just got it and I am in love with it already. The recipes are inspired by Spain and the Muslim Mediterranean, but also by their gardening allotment. It’s an interesting story, and a beautiful book, and the recipes look amazing. This one is going to be the first of quite a few from this book I think.

This was not hard to make, and it didn’t take too long. Rolling out the 35-40 meatballs actually went quicker then I thought it would. One thing I have to emphasize, is the stirring after you add the almonds and pine nuts. They are not kidding about watching them and constantly stirring, they go from just fine to almost burned really quick if you are not paying them the attention they need. As long as you watch out during that step though, it’s no problem.

This was so good. The flavors were really authentic, and it made the whole house smell gorgeous. The meatballs were quite light which surprised me since lamb is such a heavy meat. Their flavor was lovely too. This was hearty and satisfying, and I liked it so much that I have already chosen a handful of other dishes from the book that I need to try as soon as possible.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Ham And Brie Pie with a walnut and honey crust

So I invented a pie the other day and it came out really amazingly well. I was extra pleased with it. I got the idea from the movie “Waitress”, one of her pies was a brie and ham pie, but that was about all I could remember about it, so I decided to get creative.

I don’t have the exact measurements for some of the ingredients because I was just making it up, but I made a walnut and honey pie crust. I used 150g flour, 75g of butter and a few handfuls of walnuts, chopped super small in the food processor, but not totally to powder. And a few squeezes of honey. Oh, and an egg yolk. Mixed together in the usual fashion, butter rubbed into flour, then walnuts and honey mixed in, and the egg yolk and a Tbsp or so of water to bring it all together. Roll out into the pie shell and leave in the fridge to chill for about an hour. Some people say to rest the dough in the fridge in a ball and then roll it out, but others say to roll it out first, then rest it. I prefer the latter, because it’s just a bit easier to roll that way, besides, I like how the perfect pie case looks coming out of the fridge.
I also blind baked the shell, but I’m not entirely sure that was necessary.

For the filling I lined the bottom with slices of brie, and then sprinkled over a layer of diced cooked ham, and then mixed up 5 eggs with some cream and 2 tsp of Dijon mustard, seasoned with some salt and pepper, and poured it over the ham and cheese. Baked at 180 for about 40 min. I would start checking at 30, but be prepared to go to 45 or 50.

It was really tasty. It had a honey mustard feel to it that went well with the ham and the brie, and the walnuts really tied it all together. The boys liked it too, it was clean plates all around.

It was also really good cold the next day for lunch. I would make this again. I bet it would be great in the summer as a cold picnic pie.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Thai Style Chicken

450g skinless boneless chicken thighs or 900g with bone in
1 stalk fresh lemongrass
1Tbsp ground nut oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
2Tbsp coarsley chopped garlic
2tsp salt
2tsp finely chopped lime zest
3 fresh red or green chillies, seeded and finely shredded
2tsp sugar
Large handful of fresh basil leaves

For the marinade
2tsp light soy sauce
2tsp Shaoxing rice wine, or dry Sherry
1tsp sesame oil
2tsp corn flour

If you are using unboned thighs, remove the skin and bones or have your butcher do it for you. Cut the chicken into 2.5cm chunksand combie in a bowl with the rice wine, soysauce, sesame oil, and corn flour. Leave to marinate for 20 min.
Peel the lemongrass stalk to reveal the tender whitish center and cut into 5cm (2inch) pieces. Smash them with the flat of a knife or cleaver.
Heat a wok or large frying pan until it is very hot. Add the oil, then the chicken and stir fry for 5 min until the chicken is brown. Remove the chicken and drain off the oil. Return the draied chicken to the wok and add the rest of the ingrediants, except the basil leaves. Continue to cook for another 8-10 min, stirring from time to time, until the chicken is cooked. Add the basil leaves, and give the mixture a good stir.

This is from a Ken Hom book that we found at a charity shop the other day. Big score! I love Ken Hom! He is the pan asian cooking guru as far as I'm concerned.

This recipe is no exception. It was so good. Make this recipe right away, who ever you are reading this, make this dish, you won't be sorry.

It's dead easy to make, takes no time at all really, the marinating for 20 min is the longest bit of it. Unless you are skinning and boning the chiken yourself. I do it myself because it's cheaper to buy with skin and bones, but it is a bit of a pain, and I would recommend getting it done for you, especially if you're in a hurry.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Warm Roast Chicken salad with broad beans, butter beans, rocket and preserved lemon

1.75 kg free range chicken
1 red onion, sliced
1 carrot, sliced
1 celery stick , sliced
3 garlic cloves, sliced
Olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the salad:
300g fresh or frozen shelled broad beans
600g cooked or jarred butter beans, rinsed and drained
3x25g piece of preserved lemon, flesh discarded, rind chopped
2 small red onions, halved and thinly sliced
90g wild rocket
20g fresh coriander, chopped
20g fresh mint, leaves chopped
For the dressing:
8Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
A large pinch of cayenne pepper
3 small garlic cloves, finely chopped

Preheat to 200c
Rub the chicken all over with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Spread the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic over the base of a small roasting tin. Place the chicken on top and roast it for 1 hour 40 min, or until it is cooked through and the skin is nicely browned.
Remove the chicken from the oven and tip any juices from the cavity back into the roasting tin, and place it on a board. Cover it loosely with foil and leave it to rest for 15 min. Meanwhile, bring a pan of salted water to a boil.
For the dressing, pour the roasting juices from the tin into a sieve set over a small bowl, and press out as much flavor as you can from the vegetables. Skim off and discard the excess oil from the surface of the juices and whisk in the olive oil, lemon juice, cumin, paprika, cayenne and garlic. Season to taste with salt and adjust the balance of lemon juice if necessary.
As soon as the chicken is just cool enough to handle, remove the meat, break it into small chunky pieces and place in a large bowl. Discard the skin and bones. Drop the broad beans into the boiling water and cook for 1-2 min until just tender. Add the butterbeans and leave for a few seconds to warm through, then drain and add to the chicken with the preserved lemon, red onion, rocket, coriander, and mint. Mix together gently, using your hands and transfer to a shallow serving dish. Drizzle over the dressing and serve straight away while the salad is still warm.

This was from Rick Stein’s Mediterranean Escapes.

I have to admit, I thought it should have been better. A big part of the problem was that the raw red onions were sliced and not diced. Some really finely diced red onion adds such a beautiful flavor, but that amount of onion, in slices, no matter how thin you manage them, it’s going to be a bit much.

I may try it again some day, with more of the lemon, and with less red onion, and more finely chopped. I think it could be really wonderful.

One big tip on this one, DO NOT forget the salt. This recipe is a perfect example of the real use of salt. If you don’t add any at all, you will have a big jumble of tastes that don’t really seem to want to know each other at all, but just add a little salt and all of a sudden all of the flavors mix together and really compliment each other.

I would say this one is worth trying, as long as you adjust it a bit to your own liking.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Rocky Road Crunch Bars and Marshmallow Crispy Squares

Rocky Road Crunch Bars
125g soft butter
300g chocolate (70% cocoa solids), broken into pieces
3X15ml Tbsp Golden syrup
200g rich tea biscuits
100g mini marshmallows
2tsp icing sugar for dusting

Melt the butter, chocolate and golden syrup in a heavy based saucepan. Scoop out about 125ml of the is melted mixture and put to one side
Put the biscuits into a freezer bag and bash them with a rolling pin. You are aiming for both crumbs and pieces of biscuits
Fold the biscuit pieces and crumbs into the melted chocolate mixture in the saucepan, then add the marshmallows.
Tip into a foil tray (24cm square); flatten as best you can with a spatula. Pour the reserved 125ml of melted chocolate mixture over the marshmallow mixture, and smooth the top.
Refrigerate for about 2 hours or overnight
Cut into 24 fingers and dust with icing sugar.

Marshmallow Crispy Squares
45g butter
300g mini marshmallows
180g rice Krispies

Melt butter in a large heavy based saucepan over low heat
Add the marshmallows and cook gently until they are completely melted and blended, stirring constantly
Take the pan off the heat and immediately add the cereal, mixing lightly till well coated.
Press the mixture into a greased 32cmx23cm tin; you may have to put on gloves to press it down into the corners, as It will be very sticky. Flatten the top
Let them cool completely in the tin, then cut them into 24 squares.

These are so easy. I got both of them from Nigella Express, which is funny since Marshmallow Rice Krispy Treats are so very American. Still, the recipe was there, and it looked just like the traditional way to do it, so I gave it try.

If you are having any kind of kid event, or really any event where marshmallow based food would be acceptable, make these. There is nothing easier in the world, they can be done well in advance so you don’t have to even begin to think about them one the day of, and they are so impossibly good you have to make them to believe it. Impossibly good!

These were for my son’s birthday party, to go with the dinosaur cake, and I’m really looking forward to my next opportunity to make them.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Dinosaur Cake

I've not had time to do my typing lately, but I'm still cooking. This was my son's dinosaur cake for his 4th birthday party. Everything on it was edible. I think it could have used some more colorful scales (smarties), but we didn't get a chance to run out for more. This was my first ttempt at a 3-D design cake, and it was gret fun. Like a cross between sculpting and bricklaying, but with frosting. The kids liked it.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Orecchiette with Cavalo Nero

500g orecchiette pasta (I couldn't get Orecchiette, but found a similiar shape)
500g Cavalo Nero, turnip tops, or young purple sprouting broccoli
6Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 Garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp crushed dried chillies
6 anchovy fillets in oil
Freshly grated pecorino or parmesan cheese to serve (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Bring 4.5 liters of water to a boil in a large saucepan with 8 tsp salt. Meanwhile trim any large stalks from the cavalo nero and cut any large leaves into approximately 10cm pieces.
Add pasta to the boiling water and cook for 12 minutes. Four min before the pasta is done, add the cavalo nero to the pan and cook for the remaining time, until the greens are tender and the pasta is Al Dente.
Meanwhile, put the olive oil, garlic, and chili flakes into a large deep frying pan and place over a medium heat. As soon as the garlic begins to sizzle, leave it to cook for a few seconds and then add the anchovy fillets and break them up with a wooden spoon until they have “melted” into the oil. Remove from the heat.
Drain the past and cavalo nero and just before all the water has drained off of them , add them to the frying pan and toss together well. Place over a high heat and shake around for a few seconds until the cooking liquid still clinging to the pasta and leaves has amalgamated with the oil and the cooked leaves to create a sauce. Sprinkle if cheese if using.

I got this recipe from Rick Stein’s Mediterranean Escapes. It’s not the most adventurous recipe in the world, but for a long time I’ve been seeing references to Cavalo Nero. Mostly it pops up in Italian cookbooks, a lot of the time I see it in stews and soups. Anyway, I’ve been wondering about it for quite some time, and then all of a sudden they started carrying it in my local supermarket. I chose this recipe because I figured it would hi-lite, and not overpower the Cavalo Nero.

It is a nice green, I really liked it a lot, It’s very hearty. I’d say it’s kind of like Kale, but with a less bitter, almost nutty flavor. It’s got tons of character, and it carried this dish well. Unfortunately it’s a bit expensive, as it’s obviously a specialty item, but if they keep stocking it, I’d buy it again.