Archive | February, 2012
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Pink buttons and purple lace

20 Feb

I live in Central Scotland and it’s rarely exactly warm.

So, it’s just as well that I find knitting a therapeutic almost meditative activity of an evening, almost as good as baking. And it keeps me supplied with warm things to keep the cold at bay.

My latest is another cowl.

Pink buttons and purple lace

Pink buttons and purple lace

Chocolate morsels of love

20 Feb

Chocolate cakes of love

Over a year ago I bought a silicone pan to make wee heart-shaped cakes, intending to make wee treats of love for Valentines Day.

But I left the cake pan in Edinburgh, while I was enjoying Valentines in the country. So that didn’t work.

This year I remembered to bring the cake pan to the country, but had over-indulged so much already over the weekend that there was no way I was going to make any chocolate cakes, however cute and heart shaped they might be.

But this weekend was different.

I had a whole list of things to achieve: long walk with the dogs; drink with his kids in Glasgow; a couple of sewing projects to finish; soup to make; a curry to make (and eat); a greenhouse to clean and set up for the spring seed-sowing; laundry to wash and hang out; candle lit baths to loll about in. And I intended to do some veg bed digging too, but that didn’t get done. All the other things did get completed though (ish). And while I was on a roll, achieving so much, I ended up achieving more too – I made the cutest heart shaped gingery dark chocolate cakes. And it so happens they are perfect with fresh pears, not even poached, just chopped up and put in a bowl with all their juicy loveliness, accompanied by a sweet wee chocolate heart of cakey wonderfulness.

So, this is what I did:

Wee ginger chocolate hearts (or morsels of love)

Pre-heat oven to GM 5 or 6, if you don’t have a silicone cake pan, prepare either a 23cm sandwich tin, or a loaf tin, or put a load of paper cupcake cases in a muffin tin. 

  • 4oz soft butter (at room temperature if you have a warm room, otherwise pop it in the microwave at a low power setting in 20second bursts till it’s squishy soft)
  • 4oz light muscovado sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 TBsp syrup from a jar of stem ginger
  • 3oz SR flour
  • 1oz cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 balls of ginger from a jar of stem ginger, chopped fine
  1. Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy
  2. Add the eggs and ginger syrup and beat again. It’ll probably curdle, but don’t worry too much about it
  3. Sift in the flour, cocoa and BP and beat again
  4. Now fold in the ginger bits
  5. Spoon the batter into the cake moulds (or sandwich tin or paper cases, or whatever you are using)
  6. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the cakes are firm to touch

Delicious warm (heat up for 30s in the microwave) with that blackcurrant icecream I first made a few months ago. Or as I said, just with fresh pears. Or on their own, just as a wee treat with a cup of coffee.

Wee chocolate heart cakes

I suspect that they would be mighty scrumptious with a cream cheese icing too.

Or replace the ginger nibs with some frozen raspberries, scrunched, or chopped up, and serve with a raspberry coulis.

Go on, experiment.

Bringing home the bacon

16 Feb

Well, the plan is I won’t need to bring it home for much longer, as I’ll be curing my own!

I started my first cure this evening. Verdict in about a weeks’ time.

Dry sweetcure

Pork belly in a bag with sweetcure mix

Pigeon English

15 Feb

This is a piece of Peckham’s peace wall. It was created on a boarded shop window after the riots in London in August 2011. It’s beautiful and meaningful, and I hope made a difference. 
 
In Pigeon English Harri responds to the murder of a school colleague by trying to hunt for clues so he can identify the killer. Harri is an innocent, a boy about to become a man. But what kind of a man can he hope to be, brought up in this violent, aggressive, unkind environment?
 
Harri would have loved the Peckham peace wall. 
 
 
 

Cheese and onion tart

14 Feb

Cheese and caramelised onion tart

I bought one of those value bags of onions the other week.

And I still seemed to have a huge bagful of onions in the kitchen this morning. What to do? Well the first obvious recipe was french onion soup. I have several recipes for french onion soup, but for some reason went for a new recipe: Nigel Slater’s Onion Soup with Madeira and Gruyere Toasts.  The picture of it looks oozingly and unctiously dark and delicious.  But mine wasn’t. He uses chicken stock instead of the traditional beef. I have no problem with this – I’ve often made onion soup with chicken stock. But I’ve no idea how he managed to get his soup so dark in colour, without a beef stock, as mine is light in colour, as you’d expect.

But, we didn’t have onion soup for lunch. And the dough for the baps remained in the bread machine till later in the afternoon.

And I got started on a better lunch solution: Cheese and Onion Tart.  This was clearly a far more sensible lunch, as it made use of not only a whole load of onions, but also some leftover cream, leftover pastry and a lump of cheese from the fridge. I love a fridge-sweep to make something new, delicious and unexpected. Why hadn’t I thought of this sooner?

Cheese and caramelised onion tart

  • Shortcrust pastry made with 4oz flour
  • a big glug of olive oil
  • a big slice of butter, about 25g
  • 4 large onions, cut in half from end to end, and then thinly sliced into half moons
  • 2 soupspoonfuls of muscovado sugar
  • 1 egg, plus 2 extra yolks
  • about 200ml cream
  • about 50ml whole milk
  • 2 soupspoonfuls of cream cheese
  • 50g mature cheddar cheese
  • 2 tsp dijon mustard
  • a few sprigs of fresh thyme

Preheat your oven to 200C or GM7. Butter a sponge sandwich tin (well, that’s what I used, a 23cm round tin with a loose bottom).

  1. Roll out the pastry and line the tin with it. Place the tin on top of a baking sheet – it’ll make everything so much easier later on. Put back in the fridge for 20 minutes.
  2. Prick the base with a fork, then cover the pastry with some baking paper and baking beans. Put in the hot oven for 12 minutes.
  3. Remove the baking beans, turn the oven down to 180C / GM4 and return the pastry to the oven for 5 minutes.
  4. While the pastry is in the oven (for the first time) put the oil, butter and onions in a heavy bottomed frying pan and heat on an oh so gentle heat for 25 minutes with the lid on. You might want to stir them from time to time, but not too often, as you need to keep the lid on to retain their liquid. After 25 minutes they should still be pale in colour, but have a certain sticky gloopiness about them.
  5. Now remove the lid from the onions, stir in the sugar, and cook the onions for a further 10 – 15 mins, till nicely caramelised, and the liquid has all but evaporated.
  6. Whisk the egg and the yolks together in a big bowl. Add the cream cheese, the cream and the milk and mix. Add the grated cheddar, and season with lots of freshly ground black pepper.
  7. Spread the base of the pastry case with the dijon mustard.
  8. Pick the thyme leaves off the stems and fold them through the onions, then spread on top of the mustard
  9. Pour the cheesy, eggy, creamy mix over the top of the onions and carefully slide the whole thing into the oven.
  10. Bake for about 35 minutes – the tart should still have a wee bit of a wibble wobble about it.

Serve with boiled new potatoes and a salad. It’s best at room temperature, or a wee bit warmer.

Yeah... it tasted good

A midweek tart

9 Feb

If you have a notion to make a tart mid-week, and you don’t get home till about 7pm then you really need to use bought pastry.

And if your rolling pin is in the country and you are in the city, then you need to use pre-rolled bought pastry.

So, I swallowed my pride and bought pre-rolled shortcrust pastry tonight. I think it may be a first. And now that my pride is well and truly swallowed, I can admit that it probably won’t be the last!

My notion was to make a rich chocolate tart. I’d been thinking of rich chocolate tart since before breakfast (I know, I know, this isn’t healthy behaviour) and then I went out to lunch with the lovely PAtothecity and she told me all about her fabulous Hotel Chocolat experience yesterday evening, including chilli hot chocolate. She asked how to make chilli hot choc, and I have a sneaky feeling I read a recipe for it just the other day, but have NO IDEA where, probably somewhere on this world wide web. Anyway, I suggested she split a chilli in half longways, de-seeded it and then popped the chilli in a pan with the milk. Warm it up and steep the chilli milk for a few minutes (depending on desired heat). Then remove the chillis, and add the chocolate, and warm to the right temperature for your hot choc.

With this in mind, I decided my chocolate tart would be a chilli chocolate tart. A RICH chilli chocolate tart. A rich chilli chocolate tart with sea salt flakes.

Rich chilli chocolate tart with sea salt flakes

Rich chilli chocolate tart with sea salt flakes

Preheat oven to 180C or Gas Mark 4. Grease a 23cm/9″ tart tin.

  • A packet of ready rolled short crust pastry, or if you have time, make your own pastry
  • 300ml double cream
  • a couple of fresh red chillis
  • 2 tsp caster sugar
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 200g dark chocolate
  • a big glug of full fat milk
  • some maldon sea salt
  1. Line the prepared tin with your rolled out pastry. Cover the pastry with a large piece of baking paper and fill the paper with dry chick peas, or baking beans* or rice, or whatever you can find in a packet or jar to weigh down the pastry.
  2. Bake for 10-15 minutes
  3. Take the pastry out of the oven and remove the paper and the baking beans
  4. Return the pastry to the oven and bake for another 15 minutes, till golden brown
  5. While it’s in the oven you can get going on the rich chocolatey-ness
  6. Cut the chillis in half longways, and de-seed. Put them in a saucepan with  the cream and warm up to not-quite-boiling
  7. Leave to steep for a wee minute or two, and then remove the chillies (and throw them away)
  8. Add the sugar and a pinch of salt to the cream and heat back up till it boils. Remove from the heat immediately, and add the butter and chocolate (broken into chunks) to the pan
  9. Beat with a wooden spoon till all melted and glossy and nummy
  10. Put aside for a wee minute or ten (depending on how cold your kitchen is – mine is freezing, so I just left it for a couple of minutes and it had cooled down quite a bit) and then add a glug or two of milk (about what you’d add to a mug of coffee.
  11. Keep beating till it comes all glossy again
  12. Now, if your pastry shell has just come out of the oven you’ll need it to cool a wee bit before you go any further
  13. Once both shell and chocolatey goodness are cool-ish pour the choc mixture into the shell.  Cool at room temperature, and then sprinkle with sea salt flakes
* Please do NOT use baked beans. It will get messy and will taste disgusting

If you have a hot kitchen, or if you like really cold things, cool it further down in the fridge. But personally, I’d serve it at room temperature, with a scoop of creme fraiche.

Now, all I have to do is work out how to get it to the office tomorrow morning.

And, given that St Valentine’s Day is next week, this might be an appropriate recipe for wooing your loved one. It would certainly work for me, but then I’m particularly susceptible to that chocolatey, salty, hot chilli combo of flavours. And not too sweet.  All I need to know now is what wine to serve with it, as I suspect that it won’t work with fizz. Better ask Convivium Wine.

Burgers for Burghers

8 Feb

At 7.30pm yesterday evening my colleague, Thomas, and I got a taxi to a wee greasy spoon cafe in Leith. The cafe would normally be shut at this hour, and the Tesco’s across the road was always referred to as Tesco’s Beirut by another colleague.  So, you might wonder why we’d get a taxi there on a cold Edinburgh night. We saw another couple walk nervously to the door, and hesitate before trying to go in. The window shutters were closed, and it all looked pretty shut up.

But it wasn’t.

It had been transformed into the first Burgherburger pop up guerilla-dining restaurant. A sort of middle class, foodie lock-in if you like. And TERRIBLY exclusive!

There were only about 40 covers, which meant the place had just the perfect buzzy atmosphere. Most people were sitting at tables for four, so I’m guessing  many were with people they hadn’t met before. Thomas and I were at the ‘naughty table’ with just the two of us, sitting side by side at a narrow wee strip of a table and a wall right in front of us. So, we had no other foodies to distract us from the main attraction: the burgers.

And oh my! What burgers!

The menu was a set menu, released in advance, created by Chef Neil Forbes of Cafe St Honore. And with each course there was a bottle of most fabulous Innis and Gunn beer. So, without further ado, let me run through the menu for you:

On arrival, a bottle of Melville’s Raspberry Beer. Nom nom nom. This reminded me of Weisse mit Schuss (if that’s how it’s spelt) – the fruit flavoured beer I’ve had in Berlin.

Starter: Seafood Cocktail (just scrumptiously delicious, with MASSES of seafood, including mussels, langoustines, and crab) held together with a hint of sauce. And a bottle of Blonde Innis and Gunn.

Main Course: A blue cheese and bacon burger, made with Grierson’s Organic meat, and with gherkins, a sort of mustardy dressing, tomatoes and a wee bit of lettuce. Served with chunky crinkle cut chips and the crispiest onion rings. And an original Innis and Gunn.

Dessert: Gooey Chocolate Brownie, with vanilla ice cream and rich chocolate sauce. Served with the rich dark sweet Rum Cask Innis and Gunn.

And you know what? I don’t really do beer, but I may have been converted! The food was (not surprisingly) amazing.  OK, it was burger and chips, but it was a burger and chips like no other. The sesame bun was REAL BREAD, not the usual smooshy pap that you get with a burger; the meat was plentiful and tasty; the extras were perfectly balanced, adding sweet and sharp, and that tangy blue-i-ness of blue cheese. It wasn’t pretentious, it wasn’t overly cheffy, but the chef had brought superb quality and taste to the meal.

The whole event was organised by Aoife, who runs one of Edinburgh’s supper clubs. And she had organised it impeccably – from the bunting, dressing the cafe, to the designer place mats the space may have been a greasy spoon, but yesterday evening it was just a wonderfully warm and happening space. Well done!

So, I’m a fan of guerilla-dining and can’t wait till next month, with Chef Tony Singh and his bangla burger! Bring it on!

 

 

 

 

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