Archive | December, 2011

Hilda Gerber’s Chocolate Sauce

20 Dec

Hilda Gerber’s chocolate sauce is amazing.

It’s amazingly naughty and amazingly rich and for me an amazingly strong memory of Christmas and Hogmanay from my childhood.  It’s also ridiculously easy to make.  And once you can make Hilda Gerbers (the sauce is always just called Hilda Gerbers in our family) you can make the infamous Meringue Mountain, all gloriously seventies.

Hilda Gerber was a cookery writer in the 30s and 40s in South Africa.  Her manuscript for Traditional Cooking of the Cape Malays was found and published after her death in 1954.  Cape Malays are the descendents of slaves and political exiles, mostly from Indonesia and Bengal, who were brought to the Cape of Good Hope in the 17th and 18th century by the Dutch East India Company.  Their name derives from the trader language they spoke, called Malayu.  During the apartheid years any Cape Malay who converted from Islam to Christianity was reclassified as Cape Coloured. Their spices and condiments from the East, which arrived on the ships on their way back to Holland, pepped up the bland Dutch recipes in their colonial kitchens.

I intend to seek out some Malay recipes – I think the only one I have is Bobotie from my Aunt Joyce.  But surely I can get a Bredie recipe from my Aunt Astri?  And I’ve wanted to make mebos (delicious nuggets of salty-sweet dried fruit) for AGES but I suspect Scotland does not have the climate for drying fruit.

Anyway, Hilda Gerber used to ask local Malay women for recipes, so she could record them for posterity and compile a recipe book.  Some of the Malay women silently sabotaged her efforts to create an indigenous cookbook, and would miss out a key ingredient, such as the milk in potato pudding, so any efforts to make it will end up with potato scrambled eggs.  Hmmm, I’ll bet you’re not wanting to make this chocolate sauce now?

Anyway, all of that I have discovered in the last 24 hours, but Hilda Gerbers (the sauce) has been known to me all my life.  I wasn’t exactly weaned on it (although if I was it would go some way to explaining my current size) but it was always there on special occasions.  I suspect the recipe came via my grandmother who lived for many years from the 30s through to the 80s in South Africa.  So, here we go:

Hilda Gerbers Rich Chocolate Sauce

4oz dark chocolate

4oz icing sugar

4 eggs

8oz butter

  1. In a bowl over a pan of water, melt the chocolate.  Make sure the bowl is big enough to take everything, as all the other ingredients will be added to this later.
  2. Once melted, add the icing sugar.  You’ll think it’s all gone badly wrong, when it turns into rubble, but trust me, it’s ok.
  3. Add eggs and beat in, one by one.  Keep warm, but do NOT boil. It’s looking a bit better now, huh?
  4. Now take off the heat and cut the butter into chunks into the mixture.  Stir a bit, but leave to melt in and then stir a bit again
  5. That’s it.
  6. Leave it somewhere cool. Then eat.

Or, instead of just eating it by the spoonful, make a Meringue Mountain.

Make some meringues, the more the better.  Big ones, little ones, medium ones.  Crunchy ones and chewy ones.  Just lots.

And beat some cream, with a wee bit of sugar and vanilla if you want, but it’s not really necessary.

Now make the mountain. Stick some meringues to the bottom of your dish with a dab of cream.  Now squidge some cream on top of the meringues, so you can add another layer.  And keep going with layers of meringue and cream until you have a mountain.  Then pour the chocolate sauce over the top.  You’ll need to have taken it out of the fridge a while before pouring, or it just won’t pour.  Think about it, it’s mostly butter and chocolate which are quite solid in a fridge.

You can do all manner of other things with it other than the Meringue Mountain, but remember it is incredibly rich – so you won’t need much of it.  I suspect it would be good with a teeny tiny chocolate brownie and some vanilla icecream.  Or have I just gone too far?

Oh, and don’t even think of giving this to pregnant women. Or getting pregnant while you’re eating it.  DANGER.

I’m about to go make a batch to have on Christmas Eve.  Nom nom nom.

Bacon maple brownies

11 Dec

Thank you Nigella.  They’re in the oven, so I don’t know yet if they are to die for, or a waste of some perfectly good ingredients.  The constituent parts were scrummy (well, I had to lick the spoon after scraping the brownie batter into the tin, and the baconny-syrupy scraps on the plate were just asking to be licked up).

But really?  Bacon in chocolate brownies?  I totally see where you came from with this – bacon and maple syrup pancakes are divine.  And as a child I remember the treat that was bacon with fried bread and honey. Now, whatever happened to fried bread?  Did the health Nazis get rid of it for good? Possibly not the worst decision ever made, but still divine in my childhood memory.

Anyway, Nigella sent me a recipe for Bacon Brownies.  Well, she didn’t just send it to me, it was sent out to anyone who subscribed to whatever style thingy she’s guest editing this week.  And now I’m wondering if it was all just a big hoax, to see what muppets would actually make it.  Well, here I am, prize muppet! I give you Bacon Maple Brownies, inspired by Nigella, but not exactly the same.

Bacon maple brownies

Preheat oven to 190C / 375F / GM5

(OK, now I see why my finished brownies seem even gooier than they should be, I had the oven not quite hot enough).

Grease and line a 25cm square brownie tin.  Or Nigella does it in a throw away tin, of course she does.  Her hands aren’t made for washing up.  And it’s so much easier to take a gift of brownies when you pop in to your neighbours if they are in a throw away dish!

100g thin rashers of streaky bacon, snipped or chopped into teeny weeny pieces

2tsp maple syrup (or golden syrup)

150g unsalted butter

250g soft light brown sugar

75g cocoa powder

150g plain flour

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

4 large eggs, beaten

150g chopped chocolate (dark, or milk)

  1. Heat a heavy frying pan and then add the bacon bits, and fry till they are just going crispy
  2. Add the syrup, and mix quickly, then pour the whole bacony syrupy mixture onto a plate to cool
  3. In a large heavy pan melt the butter over a low heat.  This is the pan the whole batter will be made, so make it big enough
  4. Once the butter is melted, remove from the heat and stir in the sugar with a wooden spoon.  Bash out the sugary lumps (unless you anticipated this and sifted it in advance).
  5. While the butter was melting you should have put the flour, cocoa and bicarb into a bowl and mixed it.  And cracked the eggs into a bowl and beaten them.
  6. Once the sugar and butter are mixed, add the flour mixture and stir it in
  7. Add the beaten eggs, and stir all together
  8. Throw in the chopped chocolate, and then use your finger to nudge all the bacon off the plate into the chocolate batter. Lick your fingers.  And wonder if this was all a hoax and you should have just made ordinary brownies, and had maple syrupy bacon bits as a separate snack.
  9. Mix all together
  10. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 25 mins or so.  It will still be slightly wobbly, so you have ultimate gooeyness in your brownies.  But if you cook it at the right temperature it shouldn’t be too gooey.
  11. Leave to cool in the tin, then remove and cut into pieces.  Not too small, but not too big pieces.  You know, a couple of decent mouthfuls.

Don’t tell anyone what is in them

Mine are out of the oven now and I’ve decided it’s not a hoax – they are divine.  That sweet yet salty hit of a wee nubbin of bacon is just perfect in the rich gooeyness of the brownie.  They may not be glamorous, but oh my god they are tasty.

Eat your greens… introducing the greenest soup ever

10 Dec

This morning I had the most delicious breakfast: buttery scrambled eggs and grilled rashers of smoked back bacon from our local butcher.  I really don’t miss my carbs at breakfast time!

My heliboy was out on a mission (fitting a friend’s dishwasher) so I was without a car and kicking around the house.  I could have gone out and put all the garden furniture back where it belonged, after Hurrican Bawbag did its worst on Thursday.  But my wellies were in the car, on the mission.

So, I knitted for a while (Christmas gifts to be made) and then poked around the fridge to see what soup I could make for lunch.  It wasn’t terribly inspiring I have to say, but there was a bag of spinach, and a leek and some onions and potatoes.  It was looking like spinach soup.

Spinach soup

A knob of butter

1 leek

1 onion

1 medium-large potato

1 bag of spinach

chicken stock cube

some grated nutmeg

  1. Finely chop the onion, peel and chop the potato into small chunks, and slice the leek.  I prefer to cut the leek lengthwise and then chop it, so all the slices are half moons.
  2. Melt the butter in a heavy based saucepan, and chuck the chopped veg in on top
  3. Sweat the veg, stirring regularly
  4. Grate in about 1/2 tsp nutmeg, adn throw in the chicken stock cube
  5. Pour in boiling water.  Oh, I don’t know how much, about 3/4 kettle full I think
  6. Stir, then leave to simmer for about 15-20 minutes (and I really don’t care if you leave the lid on or not while it’s simmering)
  7. Check the potato and onion are cooked, then add the whole bag of spinach to the soup
  8. The spinach will quickly wilt down – stir it through and let it simmer for another 3-4 minutes
  9. Zizz it up with a hand held zizzer.  Or do it in a liquidiser if you like washing up
  10. It won’t go completely smooth, but will be completely tasty
  11. Test for seasoning – add freshly ground black pepper and more nutmeg if needed
  12. It would look pretty with a swirl of cream, or a dod of creme fraiche.

This is a subtle, light soup and would make a lovely starter to a big rich meal.  Or even a not so big rich meal.  Enjoy.

Pork with apple and sage

8 Dec

Some things are just meant to go together: scallops and black pudding, hot buttered toast and marmite, candlelight and a jacuzzi bath. And pork and apples.  And sage.

So, this evening, while Hurricane Bawbag is was doing its worst out there I was cooking up a storm in my wee kitchen, creating another delicious low-carb supper: pork with apple and sage, with savoy cabbage.

Pork with apple and sage

a knob of butter

a glug of olive oil

2 pork loin steaks, about 1″ thick

1 apple (I used a British cox as I am a bit of a fascist about eating our homegrown orchard fruit in this country – and cox’s are so tasty)

about 100ml dry cider

2-3 TBsps creme fraiche

a few sage leaves finely chopped

  1. Melt the butter with the olive oil over a medium heat, till the butter is foaming, but not burning
  2. Place the pork in the pan, and season with salt and pepper
  3. Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side
  4. While the pork is cooking, peel the apple and cut in half.  Remove the core, by cutting a V shape with a sharp knife
  5. Cut the apple halfs into slices about 1/4″ thick and add them to the pan, squidging them in between the pork loins
  6. Cook for another 5 minutes or so, turning the apples over once or twice, till they are soft, and slightly caramelised at the edges
  7. Now chuck in the cider, sage and the creme fraiche and stir it around
  8. Turn up the heat and let it bubble away
  9. Ideally you want the sauce to reduce a bit so you haven’t got too much of it, and it’s not too thin.. if it’s all too wet, you might want to remove the pork for a bit, so it doesn’t dry out too much, but you still get the sauce reduced

This was delicious served with lightly boiled savoy cabbage.  It could comfortably have garlic and onions added, but really it doesn’t need them – the sharp sweetness of the apple, combined with creaminess is a perfect accompaniment to the pork.

If you want this to be more low fat, use half fat creme fraiche (and less of it), and don’t bother with the butter.  And remove all fat from the pork loin.  But really?  Why would you?  I lost 2lbs this week – from eating good filling protein rich meals, with lots of greens, but no carbs.  And believe me, this is much more fun than going low fat!

Slowly does it….

6 Dec

So, a few weeks ago I purchased a slow cooker. I’d never really thought of buying one before, and had no desire to own one.  But someone at work was talking about theirs and how brilliant it is to come home in the evening to a tasty stew or casserole, ready when you walk in the door.

So, I weighed it up:

Pros

  1. Delicious hot food ready when I get home from work
  2. I love stews and casseroles
  3. It fits in with low carb lifestyle – easy way to eat meat
  4. It will add variety to my current diet during the week, which currently relies on speedy meals when I get in
  5. I’ll be able to cook tasty meals with cheaper cuts of meat
  6. I can freeze what I don’t eat straight away (or chuck it in the fridge for the next day)
  7. It’s a new challenge
  8. It might encourage me to be more organised about meals, therefore less likely to impulse buy bad food

Cons

  1. Will I worry all day that I’ve left a hot plate on in the flat and it will burn down?
  2. What if I’ve set it on in the morning, but end up not getting home till really late?
  3. I’ll never have time in the morning to get it going
  4. If I do have time, I’ll end up oh so hungry before lunchtime
  5. I’ll never be organised enough to be in on consecutive nights, one to buy meat, the next to eat it
  6. I don’t have room for it in the teeny tiny kitchen

So.  The cons seemed to be mostly things I could overcome quite easily. So I bought one.  Cheap, on amazon. I won’t bother giving you a linky thing there – I’m sure you can find one there for yourself if you want it.

But anyway.. I’ve not used the slow cooker too often, mainly because the con number 5 is very real.  It’s relatively rare that I’m in my flat two nights in a row. And I’m never here at weekends. So, clearly I have to spend less time going out and more staying in and saving money eating tasty cheap stews and casseroles.

Yesterday evening I bought some stewing steak, from the local supermarket, ready diced.

And this morning I made a gingered beef stew in the slow cooker.  It probably took me about 15 minutes before I went to work. OK, maybe 20 minutes tops, but really no longer.  And I was still in work early.

Gingered beef stew

My slow cooker instructions tell me I need to turn the machine on to high for 20 minutes before I put the ingredients in.  So, before I went in for my shower, I turned the cooker on to high and took the beef out of the fridge.  I also assembled all the other ingredients. Then when I was dressed I chopped, stirred and threw the whole thing together.

olive oil

440g diced stewing steak

1 onion, cut in chunks

a knob of butter

about 1TBsp flour

a big squidge of tomato puree

balsamic vinegar – a big splash, maybe about 1-2 TBsps

1 large tsp muscovado sugar

about 1″ fresh ginger, chopped finely

2 bay leaves

tin of chopped tomatoes

beef stock cube

  1. Splash some olive oil into a big frying pan, and once it’s hot add the beef to brown it
  2. Remove the beef from the pan and set aside
  3. Put the butter in the pan, with the onion, cut into large chunks.  Reduce the heat to gently cook the onion (it should take 5-10 mins to get soft and translucent)
  4. Throw in the flour, and stir around, then add the all the other ingredients, except the tin of tomatoes.
  5. Add a good splash of water from the kettle, and stir well to create a thick sauce
  6. Now add the tin of tomatoes
  7. Now put the beef into the slow cooker, and then add the sauce on top
  8. Turn the heat down to slow, or whatever.

Go to work.  Come home and eat with savoy cabbage. Or cauliflower. Or broccoli. Or I guess you could have potatoes or linguine if you wanted the carbs.

The great thing about this is that it can be dressed up with more flavours – garlic, herbs, chilli pepper – if you have time.  But just as it is it’s a pretty tasty dish.

 

 

Nibbles

4 Dec

Are we counting down to Christmas yet?  I am.  In my house, that means practising various recipes to make sure they are up to scratch as Christmas gifts.  And today is nibbles testing.

First off were some cheesy sesame biscuits, which aren’t yet in the oven (they’re doing that resting in the fridge thing, so beloved of pastry-type goods). They were ridiculously easy, and have persuaded me of the value of my food processor.  I’ve owned the food processor for bloody years.  It usually lives on a shelf, just out of reach, under the stairs.  I last used it when I attempted one of Jamie Oliver’s 30 minute meals.  He likes to use a lot of gadgets and I knew if I wanted to be in with a chance of having two courses served up within 45 minutes the food processor would be needed. I actually would have needed two, but that’s another story. It was delicious!

But back to the cheesy sesame biscuits.  They are from my new favourite cook book: Ham, Pickles & Jam by Thane Prince.  It’s a glory of a book – full of reminders of (mostly lost) traditional kitchen skills, like preserving with salt (gravad lax and preserved lemons in this section) and drying (oven-dried tomatoes and beef jerky here).  Sadly most of the drying recipes require a dehydrator, so I may take a while before I get to testing that section.

Oh my, now that I’ve brought the recipe out again to type it up, I see I’ve omitted a key ingredient in the biscuits (how can I do this when there are only 5 ingredients?).  Read on and you’ll see.  And you’ll see my adaptation too.

Cheesy Sesame biscuits

  • 4oz SR flour, or use plain flour and 1 tsp baking powder.  Gluten-free is evidently best, so that is what I have used
  • 3oz butter
  • 3oz blue cheese ( I used a distinctly average dolcelatte from tesco’s but would like to try this with some oozingly yummy gorgonzola next time)
  • 3TBsp parmesan, grated
  • 2-3 TBsp sesame seeds
  1. Place all ingredients except the sesame seeds in the bowl of your food processor and whiz, using short bursts of power, till it combines to make a dough (I forgot to add the parmesan, thinking it was going to be part of the sesame coating at the end… ooopsie)
  2. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and chill for an hour
  3. Preheat the oven to 220C / 425F / GM7 and grease or line a baking sheet
  4. Remove the dough from the fridge and roll cherry-sized pieces of dough into balls
  5. Roll the balls in sesame seeds (or for me, the mix of sesame seeds and parmesan) and place on the greased baking sheet.  Make an indentation in the centre of each ball with your thumb, or a teaspoon
  6. Bake for 7-10 minutes until golden brown.  Cool on a wire rack
  7. Perfect with an aperitif!!!  A nice wee sherry I think.

So… I clearly failed that recipe, but I suspect they will be tasty all the same. While the dough has been in the fridge (and I’ve made our Christmas cake, and lunch) I also made some spicy nuts.  Also from Thane Prince, but to be honest I went a bit off-piste with this recipe too, which I think is the whole point of this one.  But, if you want to make your own roasted spicy nuts, here you go:

Roasted spicy nuts

  • 250g nuts (I used a mixture of cashews and blanched almonds)
  • some olive oil
  • 1 tsp raw egg white (not sure this is entirely necessary)
  • 1 TBsp salt flakes – use the best quality salt you can find
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds, roasted and finely ground

Preheat oven to 150C / 300F / GM2

  1. Drizzle some oil on a baking sheet
  2. Place the nuts on a single layer on the baking sheet
  3. Roast in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes, till a pale golden brown
  4. While they are in the oven, use a teeny tiny whisk and try to whisk up the wee bit of egg white, really just to break it down a bit
  5. And use a pestle and mortar to grind the salt and mix with the cumin. I went off-recipe and just threw some cayenne pepper in with the salt once I’d ground it a bit with the pestle and mortar
  6. As soon as the nuts are out of the oven, turn them in the egg white, which is meant to turn them glossy.  I didn’t notice any glossiness, but it doesn’t seem to have done any harm, and I had a spare egg white from the biscuits I made yesterday, so that was ok.
  7. Once you’ve tossed your nuts in the egg white, throw the salt and spice mix over them and toss some more.  The flavours will dry on as the nuts cool
  8. Keep in an airtight container, unless you are eating immediately with drinkies.  More sherry I think!

I suspect that both of these will end up as Christmas gifts. Further copies of the book might too, if books are allowed in our homemade Christmas again this year.

Next weekend I’m baking a ham. Any suggested recipes or just general ideas for what to do gratefully received (and brutally altered to fit whatever I have in the cupboard and what mood I’m in).

later…

OK… I baked the cheesy sesame biscuits and they are just scrumptious! They are light and crumbly, and have a great blue cheesy flavour, with that typical ‘back’ flavour that comes with a strong blue cheese.  Make them!  they are delicious,  and would be even nicer with a wee glass of something to accompany them.  Pictures will follow.

A few days later… and here is a promised picture.  OK, I know I promised pictures, but you’re just getting one for just now.

Nummy nibbles

%d bloggers like this: