Showing posts from 2010

Gâteau Breton with Dates and Chocolate

The December We Should Cocoa challenge is being hosted by Choclette of Chocolate Log Blog and she's chosen dates as the ingredient to combine with chocolate. I use dates in some cakes but not usually with chocolate and I wasn't sure what to do until my good lady wife suggested a Gâteau Breton. Although this gateau is very often plain, some people prefer it with a filling such as apples or prunes soaked in armagnac. So I put together a date and chocolate filling instead, which may look unpromising (or even faintly disgusting) but I assure you it tastes good. You don't even have to buy expensive whole dates for this – simple chopped dates will do fine, as long as they're nice ones. Actually, we did buy some whole dates, but then we ate them.

There are a lot of rules about how the authentic Gâteau Breton should be made and I don't seem to stick to all of them; but then neither do all the apparently authoritative recipes I've seen. Two rules I do stick to, though, …

Lemon Ground Rice Pudding and Croquants de Corde

I remember with something close to horror eating strange puddings made with ground rice as a kid. But in my defence I should point out that cooking as we know it today hadn't been invented then and food was mostly hit with sticks until it gave up. There are ground rice puddings from many parts of the world flavoured with a vast range of lovely things such as rosewater, orange flower water or cardamom as well as good old vanilla, so I thought I should try making some myself. It turns out that everyone else was right and they're very comforting. This pudding will be even more silky and luxurious if you add some cream, of course, but I'm trying to be a little healthy.

The croquants are the traditional biscuit from the beautiful town of Cordes-sur-Ciel in the Tarn. The recipe dates back to the 17th century so I've tried to restrain myself from mucking about with it too much. La Fête du Croquant is held in Cordes-sur-Ciel every June, which sounds like an excellent opportuni…

Venison Pasta Sauce

I've just about got time to enter the November In The Bag Challenge hosted this month by Scott at The Real Epicurean. This month's ingredient is game and I felt like making something with venison. I also felt like eating pasta and so this is the result. A simple enough recipe, but I've got to admit it takes a while to make, especially since you need to put the venison into the marinade the day before.

    150 ml red wine
    50 ml gin
    30 ml blackberry vinegar

300 g venison – the sort sold for casseroles – cut into cubes of roughly 2.5 cm
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
70 g small pancetta or bacon chunks
3 tbsp tomato purée
A generous pinch of sugar
2 sprigs of rosemary, tied up in muslin
A squeeze of lemon

Mix together the marinade ingredients and pour over the venison. Cover and leave in the fridge for 24 hours.

When the time's up, drain the venison, reserving the marinade. Pat the venison dry with paper towel. Gently fry the o…

Lime Pickle

As I understand it, the classic lime pickle involves salting limes for some time, preferably leaving them in the sun during the process. Alternative, quicker versions cook the limes. For some reason the version I've developed both salts and cooks the limes. I'm probably just being awkward again.

The first stage of salting the limes is broadly the same process that I use for preserved lemons and it may be worth adding a few more limes and some extra salt to the jar to give you some preserved limes for use in other dishes. Preserved limes can be used in a very similar way to preserved lemons but they add a distinctive edge which is all their own.

This recipe only makes 1 jar on the principle that a little really does go a long way, but it can easily be scaled up.

5 limes, with maybe one more on standby for extra juice
Sea salt – at least 10 tbsp and very possibly more
1 tsp black mustard seeds
½ tsp fennel seeds
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp dried chilli flakes – or more if you fancy it

Caramelised Pear and Chocolate Friands

Another month and another chocolate challenge. This is my entry in the November “We Should Cocoa” chocolate challenge hosted this month by Chele of Chocolate Teapot. This month the challenge is to combine caramel with chocolate. I had to think about that one for a bit, until I saw some nice looking pears in the supermarket. You need a ripe but quite firm pear for this recipe – if the pear’s too soft it will fall apart completely in the caramel.

Friands always feel like a bit of a faff as you melt butter and separate countless eggs but actually they’re really easy and quick once you’ve done the preparation.

This recipe will make around 10 – 12 friands, depending on the exact size of the holes in your tin. Of course, you don't have to have a friand tin - a muffin tin will do perfectly well. Friands are a nice shape, though.

The caramel in this recipe should end up quite thin, coating the pear without setting too hard. With that in mind, if in any doubt, err on the side of lighter ca…

Lemon and Fruit Polenta Cake

I enjoy the crumbly and buttery style of most polenta or cornmeal cakes but, just for a change, this one is more of a rich fruit loaf. It's a distant cousin of a Northern Italian cake but made the lazy way with a breadmaker. Like a lot of moist fruit cakes, I think this works best as a dessert with cream or something along those lines, but that doesn't stop me eating it with a cup of something warm in the afternoon.

The order of the dough ingredients given here is correct for Panasonic breadmakers which add liquids last; other breadmakers reverse this order so it's probably best to follow the manufacturer's advice.

For the dough:
   ¾ tsp easy bake dried yeast
   150 g white bread flour
   150 g  fine cornmeal (polenta)
   ¼ tsp salt
   80 g caster sugar
   25 g butter, softened
   1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
   zest of 1 small lemon, very finely chopped
   1 small eating apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped
   120 ml water
   50 ml lemon juice
For the fruit:

Sloe Sloe Quince Quince Sloe Chutney

There seemed to be a lot of sloes left in the hedgerows this year and since I just couldn't drink any more sloe gin without becoming a nuisance I thought I'd take the opportunity to make a chutney. Sloes add a rich colour and a very sharp fruitiness to chutneys. Since quinces are also in season it seemed a good idea to combine the two things especially since I'd just got hold of some Berzycki quinces. (I had some spare quince which I added to pork braised in perry and that was rather tasty too).

I used 300 g of sloe pulp in this chutney but you need at least twice the weight of sloes to
produce that amount of pulp – in fact I picked about 640 g of sloes. All you do is wash the sloes, put them in a pan and heat them very gently until they break down. If you do this gently enough, you shouldn't need to add any water, although a little will do no harm. You will need to stir frequently, though. Strain the sloes through a fine sieve and you will have a brightly-coloured, ver…

Europom and an Apple, Ginger and Lemon Cake

I recently wandered along to the exhibition held as part of this year's Europom event – well, it was just down the road at RHS Wisley. Europom might sound vaguely Australian but actually it's a group of very laudable European organisations promoting the conservation of the widest possible range of fruit. Or as the posh lady who elbowed me out of the way to get to the front of the exhibit shouted to her even-posher friend “It's just a load of apples and pears!” (I left out the swear word).

I think it's safe to say that the elbow lady was right - there were a load of apples and pears and after being suitably impressed and thankful that such collections exist I then started to feel guilty that I tend to use such a small variety of fruit in the kitchen.

So for this recipe I got hold of some Byford Wonder apples from the fruit gardens at Wisley. I'm led to believe that Byford Wonder is a 19th century Herefordshire variety of cooking apple and compared to the more common…

Mulligatawny Soup and the Bodhrán Teacher

I couldn't bring myself to eat mulligatawny for a long time. In the distant past, long before I became a happily married man, I was eating a bowl of mulligatawny in a London pub garden with my then girlfriend. Suddenly she  jumped up, shouted “I've got to see my bodhrán teacher while I've still got the chance” and, without finishing her drink, ran off – very fast.

I've never felt quite the same about mulligatawny since.

No two people seem to agree what should be in this soup. This recipe makes a mild soup of contrasting textures which is how I like to think that mulligatawny tasted all those years ago, although, to be honest, it probably didn't.

The easiest way to make this soup, I think, is by pre-cooking the lamb in a slow cooker, but you can cook it in a more conventional way if you prefer. This recipe should make 8 portions.

For reasons I've already discussed, I wouldn't personally recommend listening to traditional Irish music while eating mulligataw…

Chocolate and Hazelnut Buns

There I was, minding my own business and quietly thinking about making some Chelsea buns when I succumbed to another chocolate challenge - I'm so easily led astray. These aren't really Chelsea buns anymore - the dough I ended up making is actually a variation on one I use for a simple brioche-style loaf, so this recipe is probably closer to a French chinois. Whatever they are, they’re suitably sticky and have now become my entry in the October “We Should Cocoa” chocolate challenge hosted by Chocolate Log Blog this month. The latest challenge is to use hazelnuts and, of course, chocolate.
This recipe uses a breadmaker to make life really easy. You could make life even easier still by replacing the filling with nutella or other such spread, but where's the fun in that?

This amount will make 8 buns.

For the dough:
¾ tsp easy bake dried yeast
240 g white bread flour
30 g ground almonds
30 g light soft brown sugar
½ tsp salt
60 g unsalted butter, softened
½ tsp vanilla bean pa…

Duck Herder's Pie

With a chill in the air and a sky full of grey clouds, I was thinking about autumnal dishes in response to the In The Bag challenge for September hosted this month by A Slice of Cherry Pie. The challenge calls for the creation of a dish using  mushrooms, nuts and herbs. Perfect for these grey days.
Then the sun came out, the temperature shot up and I forgot about the English autumn and found myself thinking about south-west France instead (I tend to do that every so often, I have to admit). As a result, I came up with this French-inspired dish. Perhaps I should be calling it Hachis Parmentier au Canard or something like that, but given my endless struggles with the French language, maybe it’s best that I don’t.

This should serve 3 people unless any of them are as greedy as me, in which case it will comfortably serve 2.

1 small handful of dried porcini mushrooms (I suppose I should say cèpes)
2 duck legs
1 onion, chopped
leaves from 3 or 4 sprigs of thyme
leaves from 2 small sprigs of s…

Sloe Gin

Sloe gin is a peculiarly British drink. The French normally gather anything suitable for human consumption from the wild but when I was in the Mayenne earlier this year and suggested that sloes were worth picking I got some very strange looks. So I suppose I’m peculiarly British since I've been making it for quite a few years now. Here's what I do.
First collect your sloes. You want the sloes to be ripe – a nice deep colour with a distinctive bloom on them. You don't have to wait until the first frost, as some people say. (Some years the sloes don't seem to ripen well at all if the summer's not good. You can still make sloe gin with a decent taste in those years, but the colour will be less appealing).

Once you've gathered a goodly number of sloes, take them home and wash them. Drain them thoroughly, pick them over and throw away any that look nasty in the cold light of the kitchen. Get a large, clean jar with a lid that will seal tightly – I use large French-s…

Courgette Jam and the Sorry Tale of Asparagus Peas

I suppose that it's about time to gather in the summer harvest before finally having to admit that the autumn is here.  I feel like I’ve eaten every courgette dish imaginable and I’ve made plenty of chutney but the courgette plants are still producing. So I've used a few of the spare courgettes to make this simple but pleasing jam. Actually, calling it a jam is a bit misleading since it's based loosely on a French confiture de courgettes and is intended for serving with cheese, pâté or other savoury bits and bobs. Of course, there's nothing stopping you spreading it on your toast in the morning; after all breakfast in France is just a small lunch.

You can use up any overgrown marrow-like courgettes in this jam, but only use the fleshy outer parts and discard the seedy core for best results. You can vary the mix of dried fruit as the mood and market takes you, but a few figs are particularly nice. The amount given here should make 3 standard jars.

900 g coarsely grated…

Courgette and Herb Soup

I'm willing to admit that this soup comes as an attempt to use at least some of the bumper crop of courgettes and herbs from the garden, but I think it tastes pretty good too.  Courgettes are good with other herbs like basil too if that's what you have to hand and if you don't have sorrel, then add a little more lemon juice instead.

This soup will work either hot or chilled, but if you're serving it chilled then you may want to increase the amount of lemon or sorrel for that refreshing sharpness on a warm day.

Instead of reaching for the olive oil as I usually would, I used a little extra virgin rapeseed oil. These oils have a very pleasing nutty and slightly grassy flavour which works really well with courgettes. The one I used was Hillfarm extra virgin cold pressed rapeseed oil  but I've also been using Farrington's Mellow Yellow cold pressed rapeseed oil and that's an excellent product as well. Both these oils work very well in courgette cake too (tol…

Blackberry Vinegar

It's the time of year to wander around the hedgerows, assuming that you can still find any, collecting blackberries – I suppose I should say brambles really. There’s nothing original about how I make blackberry vinegar but I find it's really useful throughout the year and especially during the winter to come. I use it in dressings, marinades and dishes like red cabbage.

The first time I made this I couldn't quite believe the amount of sugar that's traditionally added, but when you realise that this is more of a flavouring syrup than a vinegar then it makes sense. All you need is white wine or cider vinegar, sugar and blackberries and this is all you do……

Wash and pick over the berries, getting rid of any foreign bodies and other nasty bits and weigh them once they've drained thoroughly. Put the berries in a deep, non-reactive bowl. Traditionally you now need to add 1 pint of vinegar for every pound of berries – I'm a bit generous with the vinegar and add aroun…

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.

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 digr…