Sunday food links – 18 September 2016

Hard to get tired of this view. Love the way the sunshine is picking out the dome of St Paul's this afternoon

It seems as though we’ve walked through the looking glass this week, taking a single step that goes directly from summer to autumn. Going from 30C temperatures to grey and raining, with a dose of the flu, has been a bit of a shock to the system. And this week has had both seasons: still-ripe tomatoes on grilled bread, and then apple sauce with the first of the apples from the tree. Ice lollies from the freezer; and then bookmarking butternut squash soup recipes.

I am doing my best to embrace autumn, but the flu is making that a struggle. Still, I’ve been bookmarking some autumnal recipes, finally going back to finish the glorious Essex Serpent, and assembling some colder weather clothes for my autumn wardrobe. But I’d rather have the golden mists-and-mellow-fruitfellness version than the leaden sky one, all the same.

Recipes:

Without a recipe:

  • Fish and oven chips and peas
  • Firezza delivery pizza
  • Pasta with ragu from the freezer
  • Scrambled eggs on toast

Reading:

 

Sunday food links – 26 June 2016

Finally dealing with the strawberry glut. Jam and some put aside for shortcakes for pudding.

What a week. I don’t want to get into the issues too much, but when I look back at the cooking and eating for this week, it’s entirely entwined with The Vote. I made an Estonian carrot pie for the first time, to take to a potluck European lunch at work, that I had conceived in a spirit of hopefulness at the end of last week. I woke at 5am on Friday, checked my phone, and couldn’t get back to sleep. I was teary for most of the morning. I made brownies over breakfast, because, as a friend says, if you bake brownies, whatever else happens, you’ll have brownies. (She baked on both the night of the general election and this Thursday evening).

A visit to a friend and her new baby made the best of a dark day on Friday. And there were those brownies, and some sunshine. There’s something like grief that comes with the loss of a future you thought you understood. With a realisation that your country is not the one you thought it was. That even the things you thought were solid and lasting can disappear overnight. It will take some time to adjust.

My current strategy is just to try and keep away from the discussion until I have to jump back into it at work on Monday. And to keep looking for #reasonstobecheerful wherever I can. This week, those reasons included the amazing perfume from my climbing rose, the soothing tones of Glastonbury, especially James and Adele, strawberry shortcakes, and ripe cherries massacred by my daughter. All we can do is go on.

Recipes:

Without a recipe:

  • An approximation of Salad Nicoise (in that it didn’t have olives or anchovies)
  • A rough interpretation of Anna Jones’ grilled ratatouille from A Modern Way to Cook, a grilled veg dinner of courgette, tomatoes, aubergines, new potatoes, and quick pickled red onions.
  • A traybake of chicken breasts, sausages, cherry tomatoes and red onion, served with jacket potatoes (Friday night comfort food for a post-referendum world)
  • A rerun of Yotam Ottolenghi’s beef shin and butterbean stew, from the freezer
  • And then again in tacos with rice, avocado, veg and cheese.

Reading:

Sunday food links – 22 May 2016

I’ve had a lot of support this week. With my co-parent working away all week, my Mum and Dad helped out a lot, so I didn’t have to worry about dinner most nights this week – such a luxury! And for the other days, the leftovers came in very handy (as did the brownies made last weekend).

This week is also a busy one, and calls for more simple cooking. I’m going to try Yotam Ottolenghi’s butterbean stew from last weekend’s papers, but with beef shin instead of oxtail. I have chicken stock from last night’s roast chicken to make into risotto. And there are still quite a few leftovers too.

I ordered a copy of The Food Lab this week too, planning it as holiday reading (!) but I think it might be a bit too big to take away! It’s a doorstep-like tome covering every sort of food science question and experiment. But unlike other examples of this approach, Kenji Lopez-Alt, from the website Serious Eats, focuses on showing you the outcomes of his personal kitchen experiments, and only talks about the science when it’s a route to a better version of a dish you want to eat. This makes it very practical, whilst illuminating lots of kitchen puzzles. I’ve already learned about pre-salting eggs for scrambling (it makes them more tender), and using vinegar to keep boiled potatoes together, and the importance of properly emulsifying your vinaigrette to stop the salad from wilting. I’m looking forward to getting into some of the chapters in more detail soon.

Recipes:

Pretty much nothing cooked to a recipe this week, with Mum providing meals Sunday – Thursday.

Without a recipe:

  • Pasta bolognese
  • Roast chicken with garlic and thyme, roast potatoes
  • Salad with carrots, kohlrabi and croutons, and a yoghurt-mayonnaise-lemon dressing.
  • Slow-cooker chicken stock

Reading:

Not much spare time for reading this week (though I did managed to watch some David Attenborough and Mary Beard on TV).

Friday food links – 18 March 2016

Following Tamar Adler's advice and doing a batch of veg roasting and sautéing. Very satisfying.

I recently started reading Tamar Adler’s Everlasting Meal. If you’ve seen her extracts in the Guardian Cook supplement, you’ll have an idea of her tone. The language can feel a bit unexpected for food writing, but I think her ambition to imitate the approach of MFK Fisher is at least partly successful (and that’s a high bar). Among the digressions, there is a lot of practical advice.

This week, when the veg box arrived on Tuesday, I followed her advice to do a big batch of preparation all at once. So I roasted a butternut squash and a leftover sweet potato with a little chilli. I sliced and roasted a lurking fennel bulb. And I sliced and roasted cherry tomatoes, leaving them in with the oven turned off to get all ‘sunblush’ texture. Then I shredded the huge heap of cavolo nero and cooked it slowly on the stove with a little onion. This all made it easier to stick extra vegetables on the table this week.

Recipes:

Without a recipe:

  • No-knead bread
  • Fish pie – with prepared ahead roast squash and garlicky sautéed leftover broccoli

Reading:

Friday food links – 17 July 2015

So, I didn't have pine nuts, or yoghurt, and I cooked it in a pan ... but this is definitely still @rrfoodstyle Cauli salad with sultanas 😊

Today rather got away from me, so this one will be short and sweet, before I turn into a pumpkin. The week has been full of leftovers of various kinds – but the good sort of leftovers. Tomorrow is my birthday, so the fridge is now stacked with lots of edible goodies: baguette dough to bake tomorrow morning, St Jude cheese from Neal’s Yard, a joint of pork, and another of beef, prosciutto, peaches, cherries and apricots. So with any luck, next week we’ll have amazing leftovers too.

Recipes:

Without a recipe:

  • Lamb stuffed into pittas with red cabbage salad and hummus
  • Oven fish and chips
  • Meatballs (from the freezer) with roasted cherry tomatoes and tomato sauce over pasta
  • New potato salad with mint

Reading:

Friday food links – 22 May 2015

Dulce de leche brownies

A flurry of cooking is about to take place, in preparation for our first all-comers Sunday lunch this weekend. These brownies are the first in line. Now I’ve posted a photo, I guess eating them all before Sunday is no longer an option! There was also a roast chicken last Saturday evening, which provided the backbone for the week’s eating – chicken pie, and risotto with the stock. There were also a good number of meals from the freezer, plus mopping up odds and ends of leftovers from last week.

Recipes:

Without a recipe:

  • Leftover pork and bean burritos
  • Pasta with leftover beef stew stretched into pasta sauce
  • Chicken pie
  • Asparagus risotto
  • Roasted rhubarb with orange – served with custard

Reading:

Friday food links – 20 Feb 2015

Semla! Scandilicious recipe for Scandinavian cardamom buns, filled with vanilla whipped cream and Odense marzipan 😍

After a week of being cooked for, this week was a combination of new projects, and eating from the freezer. The week was anchored by a big braise of pork with tomatoes, and of beans on Sunday, which gave us pork and bean burritos, tomato sauce for pasta, and mashed beans for baby dinners. I ordered such a large piece of pork, that the other half is in the oven this evening for porchetta. Oh, and I made Semlor (see picture above), Scandinavian cardamom buns filled with vanilla whipped cream and marzipan, for Shrove Tuesday. I am completely converted – and they are even better with a thin layer of raspberry jam.

Recipes:

Without a recipe:

  • Pasta with tomato sauce and meatballs from the freezer
  • Burritos with braised beans, shredded pork, tomato salsa, and weirdly, stir-fried veg, which actually worked ok.
  • My mum’s pheasant casserole from the freezer

Reading:

Friday food links – 30 Jan 2015

Porridge with cream

There has been a lot of simple without-a-recipe cooking this week, coinciding with a more concerted attempt to make proper meals for the little madam, as opposed to just assembling random bits on the fly. A roast chicken at the start of the week provided leftovers for two more meals, and the bones went into the freezer to make stock another day. It’s looking like it will be cold here this weekend, so I’m glad I’ve got some thick slices of beef shin in the fridge to braise slowly and shred into unctuous ragu.

Recipes:

Without a recipe:

  • Slow-roast chicken, roast potatoes in the same pan, broccoli and cauliflower cheese
  • Pasta with tomato sauce and chicken
  • Fried rice with chicken and vegetables
  • Sausages, potatoes and sweet potato, red onions roasted together
  • Fish parcels with sea bream, leeks and potatoes

Reading this week:

Caramel brownie cups

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Tell someone you want them to try a caramel brownie, and they are almost certain to groan at the idea – but in a good way. Caramel and chocolate seems like too much of a good thing, an overload of sugar and fat. In fact, the buttery caramel can provide a nice complement to the brownie, if the brownie is kept on the bitter side with dark chocolate and a little coffee.

My first caramel brownie attempt was to follow a tweeted suggestion by Edd Kimber, The Boy Who Bakes and star of last year’s Great British Bake Off. He suggested sandwiching a layer of caramel between two layers of brownie mixture, and I knew I had to try it. I chilled the brownie layers to make it easier to spread the caramel out, and then chilled the whole thing for a few hours before baking. I was trying to minimise the amount of overflow from the caramel as it bubbles up, but I should have known that caramel will find any way out it can. Still, most of the caramel remained where it was supposed to be, the foil lining the tin prevented it from gluing itself to the tin, and the extra-cooked caramel around the edges turned into toffee, which was another good addition.

Caramel brownies

Still, I felt like a bite-sized solution was needed, both to help with the caramel overflow problem, and to provide the appropriate portion size for these intense bites. With a caramel sauce that is spoonable at room temperature, you can spoon the caramel onto the brownie mixture, top with more mixture, and then bake the whole thing in little paper cases.

Caramel brownie cups

These little cups resemble Rolos – caramel in the centre and chocolate around the outside. The brownie mixture is adapted from a recipe by Alice Medrich. Beating the flour in is not traditional, but helps hold together a mixture that would otherwise be quite crumbly.

IMG_1005
Makes 24 small cups.

Preparation time – around 45 minutes.

  • 1 jar caramel sauce or dulce de leche (bought, or see recipe below)
  • 120g unsalted butter
  • 35g cocoa
  • 90g dark chocolate, chopped or broken up
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp strong coffee, or 1/2 tsp coffee granules dissolved in 1tbsp hot water
  • 2 large eggs
  • 75g plain flour

Heat the oven to 190C/170C fan oven/. Line two mini muffin tins with paper cases.

Put the butter, cocoa and chocolate into a heatproof bowl and melt over hot water or in the microwave. Stir gently until smooth.

Add the sugar into this bowl, along with the vanilla and coffee if using and mix thoroughly.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating the mixture after each one until thoroughly combined.

Add the flour, and stir until combined, then beat together for about 30 strokes.

Using two teaspoons, spoon about a level teaspoon of brownie mixture into each of the paper cases, filling them around one-third full.

Use another two teaspoons to add about half a teaspoon of caramel to each case. Finish with another teaspoon of brownie mixture, so that each case is almost full. If you have leftover brownie mixture, bake in muffin cases or a loaf tin for 20 minutes, or chill for up to 24 hours and use later.

Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the mixture has risen slightly and cracked just a little at the edges. The cups can also be prepared ahead, covered with cling film and refrigerated until ready to bake.

If freezing, cool the cases in the tins, then freeze until solid before putting the cases into a freezer bag and sealing.

Caramel sauce

(adapted from Dan Lepard’s All Purpose Caramel recipe)

If you have leftover cream in the fridge, making a caramel sauce will preserve the cream almost indefinitely. Making caramel is something lots of people are worried about, but it’s entirely a matter of confidence – it’s incredibly simple to make. This recipe also features in Dan’s wonderful new book, Short and Sweet.

Makes 1 jar

  • 75g granulated sugar
  • 35g unsalted butter
  • 100g double cream
  • 75g other sugars (for example, 25g dark muscovado + 25g light muscovado + 25g caster)
  • 35g golden syrup
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt

Tip the granulated sugar into a heavy based pan, and add one or two tablespoons of water – enough just to moisten all the sugar. Weigh out and have ready all the other ingredients.

Put on the lid and bring to the boil to dissolve the sugar to a clear syrup. Remove the lid, and boil hard until the sugar starts to turn golden brown. Watch it very carefully at this stage, and swirl it a little to keep the colour even.

Cook until the caramel reaches a deep reddish brown.

As soon as the caramel reaches the colour you want, remove it from the heat and add the butter. Stir carefully, as it may spit. Then add the other sugars, golden syrup, cream and salt, and stir together until smooth.

Return the caramel to the heat and bring back to the boil. Allow to simmer until the temperature reaches 114C on a sugar thermometer – this will give you a thick caramel sauce, the consistency of set honey at room temperature. If you don’t have a sugar thermometer, simply reboil the mixture for 3 minutes – you may end up with a thinner sauce, but it will still be good.

Remove from the heat and pour into a clean jam jar. Kept in the fridge, this will last at least 6 months.

The Great Brownie Bake-off

Saturday was a momentous day for me. My first piece of competitive baking – and my first win! Yes, my brownies were voted the best of 25 entries on Saturday at The Great Brownie Bake-off. I was amazed when I found out. Firstly, I was convinced I had underbaked them, so when my back started to give out on the day, I headed home a mere 20 minutes before the results were announced. And secondly because the judging panel included the amazing Paul A Young, as well as a host of other professional cake and chocolate experts.

If you’ve been here before, you’ll know that brownies have appeared before. I make them pretty regularly because they can be mixed quickly in one bowl, but the results still feel special enough for a celebration. So when Louise Thomas, The Chocolate Consultant announced that she was organising a brownie bake-off, I thought I would give it a go.

I started with my old recipe, which is a hybrid of a couple of versions in Alice Medrich’s book ‘Bittersweet‘ (one of my favourites) and gave it a few different tweaks to try it out on my work colleagues.

Brownies

I baked more for the Macmillan Coffee morning a couple of weeks later. These were tougher and overbaked, so I knew I had to do something different for the final version.

I went back to the drawing board to make the result softer and less dense. I toasted hazelnuts to give a subtle flavour compared to the more aggressive Frangelico or alcohol. Leon’s brownies include ground almonds which make them very gooey, so I ground some of the nuts to create the same effect. Finally, I replaced the caster sugar with some soft brown sugar and golden syrup for extra stickiness, and I hoped a little extra caramel flavour.

The bake-off was a great day, with demonstrations going on throughout the day. It was pretty packed though, so hard to get to the samples, and I wish I had muscled in a bit more firmly and introduced myself to more people.

Thanks so much to Louise for organising the day, all the judges: Paul A Young, Abigail Phillips, James Hoffmann, Tom Kevill-DaviesLee McCoy and Jennifer Earle, Jane MansonKavita Favelle and Mathilde Delville and Fred Ponnavoy from Gu Chocolate Puds.

Also lots of thanks to the demonstrators: Fred Ponnavoy, Caroline Aherne from Sugargrain Bakery, Edd Kimber, winner of the Great British Bake-off (and doing his first live demo!) Sasha Jenner from Hobbs House Bakery, and Stacie Stuart from Masterchef.

The Winning Recipe:

Ingredients

  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 100g dark chocolate(Valrhona Manjari 64%)
  • 30g Green & Blacks cocoa
  • 30g/2 tbsp Hazelnut chocolate spread (Nutella)
  • 100g light muscovado sugar
  • 85g caster sugar
  • 15g golden syrup
  • 2 large eggs, cold
  • 70g plain flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 150g whole hazelnuts

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 180ºC / 160ºC fan.
  • Toast the hazelnuts, by putting into the oven for 8 minutes. Rub off the skins.
  • Line an 18cm square tin with foil or baking parchment.
  • Put 35g of the toasted hazelnuts into a food processor and grind to a powder. Use some of the flour to prevent the mixture becoming too oily. Combine with the rest of the flour and set aside.
  • Combine the butter, cocoa, chocolate and chocolate spread. Melt in a microwave or in a pan on the stove until the butter and chocolate are completely melted and the whole thing is combined.
  • Stir in the sugars and golden syrup, then beat in the cold eggs one at a time until the mixture is glossy.
  • Add the flour and nut mixture and salt, and beat the mixture 40 times with a wooden spoon, until the mixture thickens slightly. Fold in the remaining whole hazelnuts.
  • Pour into the pan and bake at 180C/160C fan for 20-25 minutes, until it is cracked very slightly at the edges, but still soft in the centre.
  • To cut cleanly, put the cooled pan into the fridge, covered in cling film until thoroughly chilled or overnight. Remove the cold pan, invert over a board and peel off the foil or baking parchment. Cut into squares with a sharp knife.