Archive | June, 2011

Elderflowers

27 Jun

I love elderflowers.

I love their mop headed look.

I love their sweet, heady scent.

And I love the gentle flavour, which can be captured so easily in a bottle.  A bottle of elderflower cordial or elderflower fizz is a perfect reminder of midsummer. Elderflower vinegar makes a delicious salad dressing.  And gooseberry and elderflower sorbet is a perfect ending to a dinner party.  Or a delicious amuse bouche.

More on the other recipes later.  This last weekend was all about the elderflower vinegar (if only because I had very little time, as I was working most of the weekend).

Elderflower vinegar

First go pick your elderflowers – try to pick them on a sunny morning, but certainly not in the rain.  You’ll need about 5 elderflower heads for every 300ml of white wine vinegar.  So, pick as many as you need, but no more – you want the elders to produce elderberries later in the year for other treats.

So, this is the easiest recipe in the world.  Pour the vinegar into a heavy bottomed pan.  Add the elderflowers (after you’ve picked them over to make sure there are no bugs or nasties).

Warm the vinegar.  Don’t let it actually boil, but get it steamyhot.  Use a wooden spoon to press the flowers down into the vinegar from time to time as it’ heating up.

Leave the vinegar and flowers in the pan till it’s all cooled down.

Strain through muslin. And bottle (the easiest is to put it back in the vinegar bottles it came out of).  Make pretty labels if you’re giving it away.

This is wonderful made into a dressing with olive oil, honey and mustard.  And garlic, black pepper, herbs, lemon juice and whatever else you fancy (or have in the cupboard).

I used the lovely Aspall’s organic white wine, but it would also be lovely made with cider vinegar.

Real men eat quiche (when I make it)

19 Jun

So. Yesterday morning I decided quiche and salad would make the perfect lunch.  I’d intended to have boiled new potatoes too, but completely forgot them at the last minute.  Ah well.

The quiche was going to be one of those fridge leftover scooper uppers, taking in full fat milk; some rashers of bacon, a red onion, frozen broad beans, and a chunk of Coolea cheese left over from G’s birthday.  Oh, and lots and lots of eggs.  And some parsley picked from the doorstep.

Spring quiche

Shortcrust pastry

8oz plain flour

2oz butter, cold from the fridge

2oz lard (cookeen), also cold from the fridge

Some grated parmesan

Salt and pepper, and some harissa style spice mix

  1. Sift the flour into a large bowl
  2. Chop the butter and lard in chunks into the flour
  3. Using your fingertips, rub everything together, lifting it high over the bowl as you go to incorporate air into the mix
  4. When it resembles breadcrumbs (ish) add the seasoning and flavourings if you want them – here I used some leftover parmesan in the fridge and some spicy herb mix
  5. Using a knife mix in enough cold water to form a stiff dough
  6. Squash down a bit (so it’s easier to roll out later) and wrap in clingfilm and leave in the fridge for at least 30 mins.
Quiche filling
3 rashers bacon
1 red onion
knob of butter
a bowl of frozen broad beans
a few spears of asparagus
5 eggs
about 1/2 cup milk
While the pastry is chilling in the fridge grease a tart tin (I used a loose bottomed non-stick tin which must be about 12″ across) and then start preparing the filling ingredients.
  1. Snip the bacon rashers with a pair of scissors into a frying pan (you could of course use a sharp knife, but I find it much easier to use scissors)
  2. Finely chop the red onion and add to the pan with the bacon
  3. Add a knob of butter and cook gently over a medium heat
  4. Meanwhile, if your broad beans need to be peeled again (the grey skin isn’t the nicest flavour, and it doesn’t look too good) then quickly boil them up in a pan with a little water. Boil for a couple of minutes, then rinse in cold water. They are easy to peel – nick the grey skin with your finger nails, then squeeze the bright green beans out of the grey pocket. Yum.  You’ll be surprised how small a bowl you need for the actual beans!
  5. Break the asparagus into roughly inch long sections.  Start by holding the asparagus at both ends and bend it till it breaks.  The end you are holding with the tip is the good stuff.  The other end may be too woody and can be thrown away.  To be honest, in this recipe I ended up using a bit of the woody end too.
  6. By now you can probably take the pastry out of the fridge, roll it out to about 3-4mm and line your well greased tart tin.   Or lots of wee ones if you are making individual quiches.
  7. Prick the base with a fork, leave the pastry draped over the edges while you bake it.  If you don’t the pastry is likely to shrink from the edges and it will be neater if you cook it like this and then cut off the draped edges later.
  8. Roughly cut a piece of greaseproof paper so it is slightly bigger than the tart. Lay this on top of the pastry and cover with baking beans, or ordinary dry beans or rice.
  9. Cook in a hot oven for about 10-15 mins, then remove the paper and the baking beans and cook for a further 3-4 minutes
  10. While it’s in the oven you can crack your eggs into a big bowl and start whisking them – I just use a hand whisk.  Add some milk, or cream if you have any. Or creme fraiche.  You could also add mascarpone cheese or other cream cheese if you have some.
  11. Season with freshly ground black pepper.
  12. Now, neaten the edges of the pastry case, and then start adding the filing.
  13. First, make a layer of bacon and onion.  Then add the broad beans and the then the asparagus.  Grate over some cheese and if you have any herbs add them – I’ve got a couple of pots of parsley by the front door and snipped off a good handful and sprinkled this over the other filling.
  14. You might want to put the tart tin onto another baking tray at this stage, just in case of leakage.
  15. Finally, pour in the eggy mixture and put straight into a hot oven.
  16. It’ll be ready in oh, about 20 – 30 minutes.
You may notice I haven’t got very precise weights, or timings.  I remember when I was still at school and my elder brother had phoned from his university digs to ask mum how long to boil tatties.  She had said ’till they are done’ which has always stuck me as the most sensible answer.
To be fair to my mother, we had an oil-fired rayburn which was on constantly and this forgiving way of cooking meant you never had to focus so carefully on timings.
This quiche is probably enough to feed 8 if you have various other salads and so on with it, if you only have a green salad, then it might only be enough for 6.  Of course, we shared it between two of us, but over several meals.
I think it tastes best still warm rather than hot hot from the oven, or cold from the fridge.

Triple chocolate ginger brownies

6 Jun

This recipe is a bit of an amalgam of several other recipes.  I had decided it was a chocolate brownie weekend.  That was after it had already been a garlic bread, asparagus & parma ham pizza, carrot soup and granary bread weekend.  More on the savoury stuff later, this is all about the chocolate.

So, the amalgam.  I looked at a few recipe books, and the recipe in Leon is the only one which stood out.  It was very particular about the order in which things were added, and also that the melted chocolate and butter should be allowed to cool slightly before mixing with other ingredients, to prevent it seizing up – this makes perfect sense to me now that it’s been mentioned.  They also whipped together the eggs and sugar to make a frothy loveliness before combining with flour/chocolate/butter/whatever else (I seem to recall a lot of orangey stuff, but I’m not a great fan of orange and chocolate).

So, I had some technique to think about from Leon.  And I had an old favourite recipe written out in my old cloth-covered Liberty recipe book.  I wrote it out years ago, and didn’t note where the original recipe came from, I suspect a Good Food magazine.

And on the opposite page from my old tried and tested brownie recipe I have scribbled in the ingredients for Triple Chocolate Brownies.  I made these for the first time when I was looking after my nephews about 2 years ago, and the recipe was either in a book (possibly Delia’s latest?) or ripped out and pinned up on the wall next to the rayburn.  Anyway, I made it, loved it and kept the recipe.

So, I wanted ginger chunks, and found an opened bag of crystallised ginger, you know the stuff all covered in granulated sugar that looks like a cross between a mis-shapen sugar lump and a pineapple chunk.  And I wanted deep chocolatey-ness.  And not too much squelch, more lightness than you might normally associate with a brownie.  And I didn’t want too much sweetness – my original recipe has LOTS of sugar and I felt sure I could lose some of the sugary sweetness without losing any of the nomminess.  I think I succeeded.  But you decide.

Triple chocolate ginger brownies

Grease a 20cm square tin and line with greaseproof paper.  Oven: Gas Mark 4 ish.

150g butter

200g dark chocolate

175g light muscovado sugar

3 eggs

75g plain flour (or use wholewheat if you have it in the cupboard, for a pretendie health improvement, with no associated loss of loveliness)

75g white chocolate

75g milk chocolate

75g crystallised ginger – use ginger in syrup if you can’t find the crystallised stuff, but I think the crystallised is less likely to sink.

  1. Melt butter and dark chocolate over a double boiler.  Use a microwave if you have to, but I prefer being able to heat it gently over water.
  2. You can take it off the heat before it is all melted, especially if you chopped it into smallish chunks before you started.  The residual heat will melt the remaining lumps.
  3. Leave to cool for a wee while, while you get all your other ingredients prepped.
  4. In another bowl, beat the eggs and the sugar together (Using electric beaters) until light in colour and creamy.  It won’t fluff up like egg whites, but it will hold quite a good heavy frothiness.
  5. Chop the remaining chocolate and the ginger into chunks about the half the size of your pinky finger nail.
  6. Now, keep the electric beaters running and gradually add about half of the not-quite-so-hot-now chocolate-butter mixture.  Then mix in the flour, and finally the remaining chocolate-butter mixture. You should have a batter thick enough to fall off a spoon, but not so thin that it just runs off in a liquid stream.
  7. Now stir in the chocolate and ginger chunklets.
  8. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for around 45 minutes.
  9. Cut into teeny squares – I can generally get 16 -20 squares out of the tin.  It’s extremely rich and you only need a wee square to get that chocolatey hit.
For further gingeriness, you could replace some of the sugar with some syrup from a jar of ginger, and even add some ground ginger.  Or grate some fresh ginger and add the juice to the mixture.  Although I possibly only suggest that last one as I recently acquired my mother’s old ginger grater (it is a glass implement, slightly reminiscent of a lemon squeezer gone wrong).
And you could adapt this in many other ways such as:
  • omit all ginger and replace with vanilla paste
  • or omit all ginger and replace with the zest of an orange; use a terry’s chocolate orange cut into chunklets for further orangey-ness
  • add chopped nuts – I think pecans would work well
  • or hazelnuts, and you could replace some of the flour with ground hazelnuts – perhaps a couple of TBsps
  • omit the ginger and instead of adding ordinary chocolate, break in some mint chocolate matchsticks, or whatever they are called – you know the chocolate sticks that look a bit like a chocolate twiglet
  • wee nubbins of marzipan instead of ginger – and replace a couple of TBsps of flour with ground almonds, and add a few drops of almond essence

Tablet

5 Jun

My brother wants a tablet recipe to bag up and sell at a fair… and so I have been tasked with giving him the best tablet recipe I know.

Hmmmmm… I used to have a good plain tablet recipe, but not sure where it is right now, possibly in the flat in Edinburgh.  But never mind, I have an array of Sue Lawrence cook books here, and she is the most reliable recipe writer I know.

So, I give you White chocolate and cardamom tablet

Sue Lawrence instructs you to follow these instructions to the letter.  I would urge you to do the same.  There’s nothing worse than attempting to make tablet and ending up with soft goo.  Or something that sets too hard and too quick and is impossible to cut into cute wee squares.  OK, there are actually some things worse, but you know what I mean.

125g / 4 1/2 oz unsalted butter

1kg / 2 1/4 lb golden granulated sugar

300ml / 1/2 pint full fat milk

a pinch of salt

200ml / 7fl oz condensed milk (this is half a regular can)

100g/ 3 1/2 oz  quality white chocolate, grated

7-8 cardamom pods, snipped open and seeds crushed (about 1tsp)

Butter a 23cm x 33cm Swiss-roll tin

  1. Place the butter in a large heavy based saucepan and melt slowly.
  2. Add the sugar, milk and salt and stir until the sugar is dissolved, still over a low-ish heat. Don’t be tempted to turn the heat too high, you don’t want it to boil before the sugar is dissolved.
  3. Bring to the boil and simmer over a fairly high heat for 8-10 minutes, stirring often, getting into all the corners.
  4. Add the condensed milk, chocolate and cardamom and simmer for 8-10 minutes over a medium high heat, stirring constantly.  Turn off your phone, or if you don’t , ignore it if it rings.
  5. After 8 minutes, remove the pan from the heat and test the contents for readiness: it should be at the ‘soft ball’ stage which means that when you drop a little of the mixture into a cup of very cold water, it will form a soft ball that you can pick up between your fingers.  If you are using a sugar thermometer, it should register 115C / 240F.
  6. Remove the mixture from the heat at once and beat with an electric beater (set at medium speed) for 4-5 minutes (or by hand for 10 minutes) until the mixture begins to stiffen a little and become ever so slightly grainy.
  7. Immediately pour it into the prepared tin and leave to cool.
  8. Mark the tablet into wee squares when it is almost cold.
  9. When it is completely cold, remove it from the tin and store in an airtight container or wrap in waxed paper.

I haven’t made this for years, but I love it.  The white chocolate and cardamom isn’t overwhelming but adds a slight sophistication to this ultimate Scottish home made treat.  Whoever saw a bag of tablet for sale that wasn’t ‘Homemade’?

 

 

 

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