Friday, 27 August 2010

Raspberry and White Chocolate Tiramisu

This is my entry in the September “We Should Cocoa” chocolate challenge hosted by Chocolate Teapot and Chocolate Log Blog. The challenge this month is to combine raspberries and chocolate. That's particularly convenient since we planted some canes of a variety of raspberry called 'Polka' in the garden last year and we're currently harvesting plenty of beautifully flavoured raspberries.
Raspberry Liqueur 1
Adding chocolate to mascarpone will lose some of the silky smoothness of classic tiramisu but it does add a depth of flavour as compensation. What makes a real difference to tiramisu in my opinion is using freshly baked savoiardi, so I've included my recipe for these at the end of this post.

When making this I used an excellent English raspberry liqueur from Fonthill Glebe , which has the added advantage of sounding like a character from Dickens: 'Ah, Miss Crumhornly,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'allow me to introduce my very particular friend, Mr. Fonthill Glebe.' But I digress.

It's probably best to keep the portions on the small side, since this is fairly rich. The amount given should be too much for two people but they'll probably eat it all anyway.

Raspberry Tiramisu 5

4 savoiardi (although that depends on how big you make them, see below)
150 g raspberries plus an extra few for decoration
70 g white chocolate, melted and cooled
150 g mascarpone
40 g icing sugar plus 2 extra tablespoons
a squeeze or two of lemon juice
1 tbsp raspberry liqueur

Before you start, take the mascarpone out of the fridge – the colder it is, the harder it is to work.

Purée 100 g of the raspberries in a blender with 2 tablespoons of icing sugar and a squeeze or two of lemon. You may need to vary the amount of sugar or lemon depending on the sweetness or otherwise of the raspberries. Put the purée through a fine sieve and stir in the liqueur.

Tear the savoiardi in half, place them in the raspberry purée, quickly turn them over and transfer them to the bottom of your serving dishes or glasses. You should be left with some raspberry purée; lightly crush the other 50 g of raspberries into it and set aside.

Whisk the mascarpone with the icing sugar until it's nice and loose. Add the chocolate and whisk it in thoroughly at a high speed – this is essential if you want to avoid lumps. Whisk the egg whites until firm and fold them carefully into the chocolate and mascarpone mix.

Spoon a layer of the mix over the savoiardi followed by a layer of the reserved raspberry purée. Fill the dish with the rest of the mascarpone and chocolate and decorate with a raspberry or two.

Chill until needed but take them out of the fridge before serving – both the flavour and texture suffer if they’re too cold.

Savoiardi

Savoiardi 1

The amount of ingredients given here will make a fair number of savoiardi, probably between 30 and 40 if you make them small. They keep pretty well in an airtight tin, though. If you want to serve some of them alongside the tiramisu or another dessert, then try varying the topping – a sprinkle of chopped nuts works well. Alternatively, the mixture is fairly similar to that of Gâteau de Savoie, so you could bake a few savoiardi and make a small Gâteau with the rest.

3 eggs, separated
60 g caster sugar
¼ tsp vanilla bean paste
40 g icing sugar, sifted
40 g '00' flour, sifted
30 g potato flour, sifted
extra caster sugar for the top

Preheat the oven to 170°C. Line two good-sized baking trays with non-stick baking paper or silicone sheets.

In a large bowl beat the egg yolks and caster sugar until pale and thick, adding the vanilla bean paste towards the end.

In another bowl whip the egg whites to the soft peak stage, then gradually add the icing sugar while continuing to whisk until the mixture is firm.

Now you need to fold the flours and egg whites into the yolk mixture. It's best to do this gradually: I suggest adding half the combined flours and about a third of the egg white to start off with. You need to do this folding gently and calmly – I found that listening to Cara Dillon singing helped.

When the mixture has come together nicely, put it into a piping bag with a fair-sized nozzle – 2 cm is about right. Pipe short lengths onto the prepared baking trays, leaving a little space for the savoiardi to spread. Of course, you don't have to pipe the mixture, you could just spoon it, but I'm being vaguely traditional for once. Sprinkle over a little caster sugar and bake for around 10 – 12 minutes until the tops are light brown. Definitely err on the side of  a lighter shade of brown if you're in doubt.

Let them cool a little on the trays before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Savoiardi 4

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Lamb Meatball Pilaf

I’ve just been reading a disappointing new cookbook (no names, no packed lunch) by an author so full of himself that it's a wonder he has any space left for food. The author gives his readers the familiar lecture on authenticity and how we should know the origins of a recipe and never use any ingredient not available to the cook who might have created it. That’s not really my cup of authentic British tea. It made me want to cook something as inauthentic as possible at the earliest opportunity.

This recipe is about as inauthentic as it gets. It's based on a dish that I remember seeing made many years ago although I didn't get the recipe at the time. This is very much my own inauthentic recreation of the dish and should serve 4 people
.

For the meatballs:
   1 onion, finely chopped
   30 g breadcrumbs
   1 egg, beaten
   Zest of ½ lemon
   30 g sultanas
   3 dried apricots
   ½ tsp dried lime, ground
   2 tsp sweet chilli sauce
   500 g minced lamb

For the rice mixture:
   1 small onion, finely chopped
   300 g carrot, grated (you can make this coarse or fine, but I prefer quite finely grated)
   2 tsp caster sugar
   1 tsp ras el hanout
   250 g basmati rice
   1 tbsp lemon juice

To make the meatballs, soften the onion in a little oil, allow it to cool and then mix it with all the other meatball ingredients. Once thoroughly combined, form the mix into balls – a little smaller than golf balls is about right. Fry the balls gently in a little olive oil for about 10 minutes until they are evenly browned all over. They will probably be quite soft and somewhat prone to falling apart – if this happens a little, it doesn't really matter.

If you have time soak the rice for half an hour in cold water before cooking, but don't worry if you don't. Cook the rice in boiling salted water until it's just done – the time this takes seems to vary a lot between different suppliers of rice, but mine takes around 8 minutes.

Fry the onion gently in a little olive oil and when it starts to soften (after about 5 minutes or so) add the grated carrot. Continue frying for another 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the sugar and continue cooking and stirring for another 2 minutes. Add the ras el hanout, stir it in and take off the heat.

Preheat the oven to 160ºC. Spread half the cooked rice in an oven-proof dish (one with a lid) and place half of the carrot mixture on top. Now put the meatballs on top of this layer and cover, as far as possible, with the remainder of the carrot mixture. Finally top with the remaining rice, covering as evenly as possible. Drizzle over the lemon juice and a little extra virgin olive oil.

Put the lid on and place the dish in the oven for half an hour until warmed through completely. Be careful that it doesn't dry out too much and add a little water if necessary.

I served this with some simply roasted beetroot for a contrast of taste and colour and that special hint of inauthenticity.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Risotto with Courgettes and Basil and Mint Pesto

We have a new restaurant in the Carluccio's chain coming to our High Street and I'm certainly not complaining about that, but for some reason there are a lot of places to get Italian food in thisCarluccios area . I felt I ought to try to reduce my carbonara footprint and avoid cooking anything with even a vaguely Italian pedigree for a week or two. I failed miserably thanks to my risotto craving.

I remember many years ago shopping in Mr Carluccio's original Neal Street deli and on a couple of occasions the man himself was there. At the time I'd never made a risotto but he told me that there was nothing to be afraid of and many hundreds of risottos later I can confirm that he was right.

Plenty of people far better qualified than I have described the process of adding hot stock to rice to make risotto, so I don't think it's worth me repeating it, but it might be worth passing on a tip I was given some time ago (not by Mr Carluccio, I hasten to add). If you need to prepare the risotto in advance, after adding the rice and wine or whatever you're using to the softened onion or shallots, stir in around a third of your hot stock all at once (and it really must be hot). You can then put the lid on the pan and let it sit for some time. When you're ready, you can finish off the risotto in the usual way by adding the rest of the hot stock gradually with plenty of stirring. This makes risotto less of a last minute dish. Not traditional, I know, but it works with very little damage to the finished product.

I've got a lot of courgettes in the garden at the moment and slicing and drying them prior to cooking works well in risottos. You need to slice the courgettes lengthwise into quite thin strips (not too thin, though, unless you want courgette crisps). Dry the strips of courgette out in a low oven (110ºC or thereabouts) for between 50 and 90 minutes, depending on thickness. You want them to feel quite dry but not completely desiccated. If the weather's good then you can simply cover the slices with a cloth and leave them out in the sun to dry. Once dried either grill or fry the slices in a very small amount of olive oil for a few moments until they're browned and a little charred. Stir them into the risotto very near the end of its cooking.

Courgettes also work well with mint and basil "pesto" (OK so it's not really pesto). The exact amount of each ingredient in the “pesto” mix can vary according to taste and what you happen to have, but the intention is to end up with a loose and quite sharply-flavoured sauce.

Mint Pesto
2 handfuls mint leaves
1 handful basil leaves
1 handful blanched almonds
juice of ½ small lemon
a tablespoon (or so) extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
1 handful grated parmesan


Put the first four ingredients into a small processor (or a pestle and mortar) and process until everything is thoroughly smashed up - although a little texture is no bad thing. Season and add enough oil to give a coating consistency, then stir in the parmesan. Leave aside until needed, but make sure it's at room temperature when you use it. Stir it lightly into the risotto just before serving.

If you add this “pesto” at the end of the cooking process, then be careful not to add too much butter to finish the dish - it just won't taste right. In fact I hardly ever use butter to finish a risotto at all, partly to cut down on fat but mostly because I've had some terrible risottos in restaurants which were actually fried rice in congealed butter stuffed into a ring mould.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Lemon Madeleines

As the sun blazes high in the sky over the English countryside my thoughts inevitably turn to cricket and, of course, what to eat and drink while watching the noble game. Sadly I rarely watch cricket any more. Gone is the deeply satisfying experience of the last day of a thoroughly pointless draw against the Minor Counties. These days people seem to care about who wins and I can’t see the point of that myself.

In my youth refreshments while watching cricket consisted mostly of strong cider and anything resembling a Cornish pasty but in my more reflective, some might say wistful, advancing years I'm more likely to be drawn to a cup of Assam tea and a small cake. Should you have a spare week or two, then you only have to read the first few sentences of 'Du côté de chez Swann' to realise that Marcel Proust was an accomplished and resourceful leg spinner. So what better offering to accompany a slow left armer bowling a maiden over to a number 11 than a madeleine?

A word of warning: I believe that madeleines are widely considered suspect in the cricketing community and should on no account be served as part of the classic and sacred “Cricket Tea”. To do so would risk the sort of brouhaha I remember when Mr Harold “Dickie” Bird gave J.P. Sartre out LBW in a limited overs match at Taunton some years ago. I'll never forget the words the batsman muttered on his way back into the pavilion: “Hell is umpire people”.

I use a little baking powder in this recipe and I believe I once heard a French baker say that it should never be added to true madeleines. On the other hand, despite my best efforts, my grasp of French remains terrible and he could have been discussing an obscure aspect of the Duckworth-Lewis method.

Madeleines 2
This recipe should make at least 20 small madeleines, although the size of moulds seems to vary a lot.

2 eggs
80 g caster sugar
90 g unsalted butter, melted and left to cool a little
100 g plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
Zest of ½ lemon, very finely cut
1 tbsp limoncello

Prepare a madeleine mould by thoroughly rubbing with butter – you don't need to bother if you have a silicone mould, which I have to admit are a lot easier. Preheat the oven to 180ºC.

Using an electric mixer (unless you're really keen on physical exercise), beat the eggs and sugar together until they look very pale. Turn the mixer speed down to its lowest setting, add the limoncello and butter and continue to mix until thoroughly combined.

Sift together the flour and baking powder. Gently fold the flour and lemon zest into the egg and butter mixture.
 
Spoon the mixture into the mould and bake until lightly golden. This will take around 8 minutes for small madeleines but it's best to keep a close eye on them.

Madeleines 1