Sunday, 28 February 2010

Maple Walnut Tart

Every so often - actually, fairly often- my husband will pipe up with something along the lines of "You know what sounds GOOD right now?? Chocolate Chip Cookies!" Usually, I'll do a quick mental inventory of my cupboards and if I can, I'll make what he's fancying. Today, we were watching a Thanksgiving episode of Gossip Girl (Shut up) and he said "Ooooh, I want pie!" A quick sort through the supplies closet later and I decided to make this Maple-Walnut tart. It has a teeny tiny hint of orange, which adds a lovely background flavour.

Maple Walnut Tart
Takes 1 hour 15 mins, serves 8
For the Pastry:
200g chilled flour
50g golden caster sugar
125g cold butter, cut into 1 cm cubes
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp grated orange peel
pinch, cinnamon
3 tbsp ice-cold water

For the filling:
200g walnut halves
150ml golden syrup
130ml real maple syrup
50 ml freshly squeezed orange juice
4 eggs
55g butter, melted
120g light brown sugar

In the bowl of a food processor, mix together the cold flour, salt and sugar together and add the cold chunks of butter. Pulse this lot together for a few seconds, until you have the texture of fresh breadcrumbs, don't over-work. Tip this mixture into a cold bowl and add the orange peel and cinnamon, stirring through with a cold butter knife. Dribble the first two tbsp of the cold water over the flour mixture and use the knife to stir it through. Use your fingertips to bring the dough together, adding a few more drops of the cold water through if you need to. When you can just bring the mixture together into a tender ball, wrap with cling film and chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180C/375F
Roll the pastry out between two layers of cling film until a little larger than a 25cm tart tin.
keeping one layer of clingfilm on the pastry, gently place it into the tart tin. Press the pastry into the edges carefully and use the edge of the tin to cut the excess off (See Below) but keep the cling film on top of the pastry.
Fill with rice, beans or pie weights and bake for ten minutes, then remove the clingfilm, carrying the weights with it, brush the bottom of the pastry case with beaten egg and bake for a further 5 minutes. Put the tart tin on a baking sheet before filling it.Whisk together the eggs, sugar, syrups and orange juice. Melt the butter in a small saucepan or in the microwave (careful!) and pour into the sugary mixture, whisking all the while.
Stir the walnuts through and pour the whole mixture carefully into the pie shell. Make sure you spread the walnuts out evenly and be careful not to over-fill the pastry shell.

Bake for 30-35 minutes in the middle of the oven, checking after 20 minutes to check that the tart is browning evenly, rotate it if you need to.
Cool for 15+ minutes before serving. If you're not at all worried about calories, go ahead and serve with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.

** The filling minus the walnuts is gorgeous if baked in ramekins a bain marie for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with the teeniest pinch of clove and nutmeg before baking, then chill and serve with vanilla custard. Mmmmmmmmm Silky Autumn loveliness.

Walnut Tart

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Velvety Squid and Chorizo Stew

I am totally, utterly sick of this weather. On one hand, it gives me a really good excuse to not do any grueling yard-work but on the other, the house is all stuffy because I can't leave the windows open for two minutes without hearing "You're letting all the heat out!!!" This has been going on for too long now and I'm going a little stir-crazy but I do rather like curling up on the sofa for an afternoon doing something useless and crafty while dinner cooks slooooowly over a low heat, warming the house with tasty smells.

This dish actually isn't as time consuming as some winter stews, but it is absolutely packed with vibrant flavour from the chorizo and slow cooked squid. Squid has to be cooked either super quick or low and slow, anything in between leaves you with chewy rubbery yuck. Slow cooking breaks down the collagen that makes up the squid meat and releases it into the sauce of this stew, giving it a wonderfully luxurious texture.
Following the theme of the week, this dish is stupid-cheap, serving 4+ at less than £4.50. It's probably the best tasting £4.50 you can spend and is so incredibly good for you, not to mention a good way to introduce kids to squid because if the soft texture.

Squid, Chorizo and White Bean Stew

1 tbsp olive oil (not extra virgin, its smoke point is too low)
250g/4oz Spanish or portuguese style chorizo, casing removed, cut in half then sliced.
1 stalk celery, finely chopped.
12 oz squid tubes and tentacles, (cleaned) cut into 1" rings, beak removed from tentacles
1 large yellow onion, sliced 1/4 thick
4-5 large cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
1 1/2 cups of dried cannelini beans (Soak over night, simmer in unsalted water for 2 hours) OR
1 1/2 cans of same, already soaked)
1 tsp smoked sweet paprika
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 tbsp tomato paste/puree
4 large, salted anchovy fillets, chopped*
1 1/2 tsp sea salt or to taste
grated zest of one lemon (keep the flesh for later)
small handful fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 quart good (home made pref) **chicken stock

In a med- high sautee pan, heat the olive oil and add the onion slices and fry until golden/translucent.
Add the pieces of chorizo and stir in, cook for a couple of minutes until the sausage gives up some of its oil and colour. Then add the celery, chilli, smoked paprika and squid.
Sautee for 4-5 mins until the celery softens and the whole mixture is well coloured by the sausage and spices. Add the cooked or canned beans, stir.
Pour over the chicken stock, (and pulled chicken meat) Add the garlic, tomato paste, salt and lemon zest.
Bring to a bare simmer, lower the heat and cover for approx. 1 hour, checking once for moisture levels and to stir.
After an hour, uncover and turn the heat up slightly to reduce the liquid. Allow to cook for about another half hour at a loooow simmer. The starch form the beans will thicken the sauce some.

Best served in a bowl, scattered with the fresh parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice with very crusty bread.

*Note: For all you anchovy haters, I PROMISE, you wont be able to tell they're in here. They just bring a gorgeous round richness to the sauce. It will do the same in tomato-y pasta sauces and braised meat dishes, but that's another blog post. If you don't believe me leave the anchovies out and it will still be a tasty, tasty dish.
**If you make your own stock and take the time to pull any remaining meat from the bones of the chicken, add this to the stew, it's a lovely additional texture.

Will warm your frostiest cockles.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Lamb Samosa Love

I love making party foods. Not that I ever really throw parties anymore, as most of our friends live thousands of miles away, (pause to feel sorry for me) but I still really enjoy making the finger foods I used to make to soak up the booze. Samosas were one of my favourite things to make because they're spicy, which is just what you want when you're a three (or seven) sheets to the wind. They're a little different from your normal chips and dips party fare, and you can vary the filling to suit the guests' or your tastes. They're deceptively easy to make, and once you get the first couple out of the way, you'll be done in no time.
These are a meat version, but they can easily be made vegetarian by substituting potato for the minced lamb.
As with a lot of production line type stuff, like making dim sum or frosting cupcakes, I like to take everything to the dining table and do it there, but I'm probably a lot lazier than you...

Lamb Samosas With Fresh Chutney
Makes 24, takes 90 mins including dough resting time.

500g minced lamb
large handful frozen peas
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp garam masala
1 cm ginger root, grated
2 cloves garlic, minced
1tsp salt

For the pastry:
250g plain flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp plus 1 2 tsp veg oil
100ml warm water
1/2 tsp ajwan or onion seeds

1 egg, beaten

500ml veg oil for frying

For the chutney:
2 tsp caster sugar dissolved in
2 tbsp hot water
juice of 1/2 lemon
pinch salt
large handful each fresh coriander (cilantro) and mint leaves, very finely chopped
1 large fresh green chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped

First, make the dough. In a bowl, mix the flour, salt and spices then make a well in the centre of this mixture and pour in the warm water and oil. Use a knife to blend well together, then knead for a few minutes on a clean work surface until the dough is smooth and elastic. Wrap in cling film and rest at room temp while you make the filling.

Heat a frying pan over a high heat, and add the lamb and spices. You wont need oil, as most minced lamb has enough fat to fry without it. Fry the minced lamb for several minutes until dry and well browned, then add the onions, ginger and garlic. Lower the heat and cook for 5-7 minutes longer, until the onions are soft and translucent. Stir through the frozen peas, remove from the heat and set the pan aside for a few minutes to cool a little while you sort out the pastry

Weigh the ball of pastry and divide into 12 equal balls (approx 35 grams) and keep them in an air tight container to prevent them drying out. Roll out a ball of dough without flour (the oil in the dough will prevent it from sticking too much.) to a circle about 12 cm/5" about 2mm thick.
Cut the circle in half and carefully lift one half into the palm of your hand and brush a thin line of egg halfway along the straight edge. Fold into a cone shape and press the two straight edges together firmly to seal well. Use a tablespoon to fill the pocket most of the way with the lamb mixture. Brush more egg along one half of the inside of the top edge and carefully press together to form a seal. Take care to try to press any air out so that it doesn't expand and burst during frying. Repeat 23 times until you have 24 pretty little triangles, then go back through and double check the seals along the edges.

Heat the oil in a deep skillet until 190C or hot enough to quickly sizzle a small piece of left over dough when dropped in. Cook 3-4 in batches, depending on the size of your pan by carefully lowering each samosa into the hot oil. When golden brown and blistered on one side, turn and repeat on the other, then remove to drain on paper towels.

You can prepare the samosas ahead of time and reheat in a hot oven for a few minutes before serving. They even freeze well if in an air tight container.

For the fresh chutney, make sure all the sugar and salt have properly dissolved and mix together well. This is actually a fabulous sauce for all manner of tasty nibbles, so feel free to make lots, as it stores well for a few days in the fridge.

Ground Lamb on FoodistaGround Lamb

Indian Samosas on FoodistaIndian Samosas

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Curry Night On A Budget

Last week, I blew my grocery budget. Like blew it BIG. So big, Hubby got all high pitched when he saw the receipt. The truth was, the store cupboard was running low, so there was a lot of basics stocking up to do and we also ate a lot of meat last week, which adds up quickly.
So I knew that this week I would have to be good and try to be super budget girl. I spent less than half of what I spent last week, so I can stop having to listen to Mr. Naggy-Pants and bathe in the glow of my own smugness.

Tonight I made a Goa-style chicken curry made with dark meat chicken and I served it over a mushroom pilao rice. For the three of us it cost approximately £6.00 total but my two guys eat STUPID-big portions, so this really would serve 4. It's nice and spicy, slightly sour and quite quick to make, so a good one for an evening when your time is limited.
Goan-Stylie Chicken And Cashew Curry With Mushroom Pilao Rice
Serves 4, Takes 45 mins
2 free range chicken thighs, drumsticks and wings.
Large handful raw whole cashew nuts
2 large yellow onions, sliced
100ml white malt vinegar
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground fenugreek
2cm piece ginger root, grated
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp gram flour (chick pea/garbanzo bean flour)

For the rice:
300ml (by volume) basmati rice
1 large red onion, chopped
6-7 large white mushrooms, unwashed chopped
1 tsp garam masala
4 whole green cardamom
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp veg oil
450 ml water

To serve:
coriander leaves
small salad of sliced tomatoes and cucumber, dressed in lemon juice, salt and a pinch of sugar.

For the curry, skin and bone the chicken thighs and drumsticks, cut the meat into 3cm chunks. Cut the tips off the wings, separate into two halves each and remove the skin. You don't need to bother with removing the meat from the wings.*
Heat the oil in a large pan and fry all of the spices for a minute until fragrant and starting to brown a little. Add the onions and stir-fry through the spices for 5-7 minutes until beginning to go golden.
Bring the chicken to the pan and stir through the onion/spice mix for a few minutes until browning nicely all over. Pour the vinegar and 200ml water over, add the cashews, ginger and garlic, bring to a low simmer, cover and cook for approx 20 minutes until onion is very soft and the chicken is well-cooked through.
Stir through the gram flour and leave to cook uncovered for a further ten minutes so that the sauce can reduce and thicken while you make the rice.

For the rice, heat the oil over a medium heat in a large saucepan and fry the onion with the cardamom pods and garam masala for several minutes until the onions are a nice, golden brown.
Stir through the chopped mushrooms and cook for a further few minutes, stirring often until the mushrooms are soft and browning.
Add the rice and salt to the pan and fry for a minute or so until the rice is mixed well in and starting to go fragrant. Add the water to the pan, bring it to the boil, lower the heat to low, cover and cook for 7-10 minutes until all the water has been absorbed and the rice is tender.
Try not to stir it, as you don't want to break up the starch on the surface of the rice and make it sticky.

Serve the curry with the rice and the cucumber salad. Scatter with coriander leaves.
Bathe in your own smug satisfaction!

*Don't throw away the chicken bones, wing tips and skin, use them when you make stock. Mmmmm. Alternatively, you can leave the chicken on the bone if you don't have a family who whines about having to do the work themselves with a knife and fork. (Boo hoo hooo!) This is a more authentic way of doing it, but you should still remove the skin because the texture will not be nice.

Chicken Curry on FoodistaChicken Curry

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

KIDS! Eat Your Damn Vegetables!

A couple of weeks ago, I went with my cousin Maya to a taping of one of the UK's best cooking shows, Market Kitchen. I'm a total groupie for the chefs they feature and have huge foodie crushes on Matthew Fort and Matt Tebbutt, so I took my MK cookbook along for some signatures. If you've ever seen MK, you know that the 'diners' are part of the show, and participate to a small degree in the taping of the show. I have been three times now and it's bee a lot of fun seeing the behind the scenes, sucking my gut in when I'm in the shot and getting to try the food being cooked.
This most recent time, we got to meet Rosemary Shrager, an icon of traditional British cooking and Paul Merritt, a Michelin starred chef and gastro-pub owner.

One of the things I love about Paul Merritt is that he's all about inexpensive, seasonal cooking for people with families. On more than occasion on various shows, he's complained about how much his kids hate their veggies and how he tries to get around this (Chocolate covered brussels sprouts anyone?)
On this occasion, Paul's recipe was a chicken and winter vegetable stir-fry with coconut broth and I admit that I was a little skeptical about a few of the ingredients. It turned out to be really tasty and I put it on the menu for this week. I made it a little differently from Paul's because I try to keep the number of dishes I have to wash to a minimum and worked with the ingredients I had handy. My version is about 90% true to Mr. Merritt's and was really REALLY enjoyed by Hubby, who rarely gets excited about any food, especially when it has broccoli and KALE in it.
Give this a try, but if you have young kids you might want to ease up on the chilli and you can substitute the kale or broccoli with cavolo nero or spinach. Paul will be making his version tomorrow night on Market Kitchen on the Good Food Channel at 7:00pm
Chicken and Winter Veg Stir-Fry with Coconut Broth
Serves 4, takes about 30 minutes
2 free range chicken breasts, cut into 3cm chunks
250g curly kale, washed, chopped
200g tenderstem broccoli
1 400g tin coconut milk
2 shallots, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cm ginger, grated
1 red chilli, finely sliced
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp hot chilli powder
3 tbsp syrup from a jar of stem ginger
3 tbsp light soy sauce
4 tbsp veg oil

Mix the stem ginger syrup and soy sauce together in a bowl and mix in the chicken, set aside to marinade while you do the rest of the prep.
In a small saucepan, heat 2 tbsp of the oil over a medium heat and sautee the shallots, ginger and garlic together until fragrant, then stir in the spices, fry for another minute before adding the coconut milk. Bring this to a low simmer and start the chicken.
Heat a wok over a high flame, add the oil and use a slotted spoon to carefully bring the chicken pieces to the hot oil. The sugar will make the chicken brown quite quickly, which is desirable, but be careful not to let it burn. Pour any remaining marinade into the coconut broth and stir fry the chicken for a few more minutes before adding the broccoli. The broccoli will need to cook for a few minutes, then add the kale and chilli and cook for a couple more. Once the kale is tender pour the broth over the contents of the wok and simmer together for one more minute before serving in wide bowls.
In hindsight, we thought it would have been lovely to try some rice noodles in the bottom of the bowl for hungry dudes.

Chicken Curry on FoodistaChicken Curry

No! Money

This morning I was sitting with Hubby in a VAT (Sales Tax) For Small Business Owners workshop. I know, you're thinking "My God, so that's how the other half live!" What can I say, mine is a glamourous life. As lunch time and the end of the class approached, I slipped a note to my husband asking him out for lunch. Here's how it went:

Me: "How about we go out for a cheap lunch after this?"
Him: "For us, there's no such thing as a cheap lunch."
Me:" Yo! Sushi" (a chain of conveyor belt sushi places)
Him: "No! Money"

As funny as I thought that was, I also knew that it was true. We came home and I cooked (a tasty) lunch on the cheap and started thinking again about our food budget.
Like millions of other women around the globe, I am responsible for keeping the family fed well, and the grocery bill as low as possible. The cost of most foods have gone up over the past couple of years, while incomes have tended to go down and packages have got smaller (sneaky f@&*ers)
I thought it might be fun to have an exchange of money-saving ideas here. I have listed a few of the things I do regularly that really help me and I'd r
eally welcome your comments and ideas so that I can try those too.

Here are my top tips for trimming the food bill:

Make a menu every week and then use this to make you shopping list. It sounds more tedious than it is I promise. The tim
e you take to sit down and think the week through will more than make up for several visits to the store and trying to think "what shall I cook tonight??" Also, think about all those separate trips to the store. How often do you only get what you went in for? How much money do you spend on impulse buys? If you make a list and stick to it you'll save money and reduce waste, because you wont be buying things that sit in the fridge unused until they go bad. BEST of all, you'll be beating the grocery stores out of the money they try to make off you with their clever marketing and store layouts.
Don't be afraid to go off-plan though. If you get to the grocery store or farmers' market and discover that they have a special on lamb chops when you have pork chops on the menu, if it will save you money, swap! Sometimes Buy-One-Get One offers can be useful
if they're on products you regularly use. If you see something on sale that you can't work into this week's menu, maybe get it anyway and work it in next week. You'll spend a bit more this week but that much less the following.

And buy locally. When you buy produce that is in season locally, you will almost always spend less on it because it's plentiful, hasn't had to travel far and hasn't had to be refrigerated or packaged to protect it on a long journey. Buying this way helps the environment, local farmers and your family's health, because you tend to eat a more varied diet.
Building relationships with local producers
will usually ensure fresher foods at better prices than grocery stores offer for similar products. You can often get great deals on buying in quantity from small meat producers, so it's worth investing a little in a well-stocked freezer.
Every bit of processing a piece of food goes through before it gets to you costs money. Buying carrots that have already been peeled and cut, as opposed to whole and loose cost so much more than they should. Buying a chicken whole and jointing it yourself will save you so much money and once you have the knack will only take a few minutes. The left over bones can be used to make stock, which can be used to make soups, risottos and s
auces. Buying larger joints of meat or whole fish can often save you a lot of money per kilo, as long as you're willing and able to take it home, portion it and store it appropriately.
This can be a treasure trove of healthy bulk and flavour. Dried beans and pulses are a brilliant, super inexpensive way to include huge amounts of protein and fibre to a meal. Keeping a well-stocked store cupboard means that you can turn a few fresh ingredients into a hearty, nourishing supper without spending more than a pound or two per head.
I tend to keep a variety of dried beans, lentils, pastas, rices, vinegars, tinned tomatoes, chick peas, coconut milk, and dried mushrooms. It will largely depend on what you like to cook and what your family will eat. Things like chillies, ginger root and garlic store well in the fridge, so it's great to have those around, while tins of anchovies and jars of capers and olives do incredible things to stews and pasta sauces. Having these kinds of thing as permanent residents means you can whip up something incredible even with the most basic fresh ingredients.

Whenever I make Bolognese sauce, Chilli, Stews or anything else that I cook for hours, I will make at least three whole meals' worth, store two lots in air-tight containers and stick them in the freezer. Whenever you can say "It tastes even better the next day" you can usually make this work. It's a brilliant plan for days when you have very little time to cook. All you have to do is defrost a container, re-heat it and maybe boil some rice or pasta. It's wonderful to have slow-cooked comfort in such a hurry.
This might seem extreme or miserly, but things like carrot peelings, celery tops and bottoms, mushroom stems etc are brilliant for stocks. Odd bits of veg can be used up in soups, risotto or fried rice dishes like this one. These are
like free meals, if all you were going to do was throw them away once they get too gross to look at.

Seems impossible to think about at this time of the year, when the weather is so miserable, but even if you don't have much of a (or any) garden, you can grow tons of stuff in containers. Potatoes, carrots, salad leaves and herbs grow brilliantly in bags and pots, while tomatoes and chillies can be bought in their own pre-fertilized bags. If you DO have a garden and room for a compost bin, any scraps of veg and egg shells you have, along with fallen leaves and grass clippings make the most incredible free compost. In the peak of summer, with just a few square metres of dirt, you might find that you're hardly buying any veggies at all.
A £1 family-sized lasagne is £1 for a reason and it's not because the manufacturer is feeling generous. In fact, 'manufacturer' isn't really a word we should want associated with our food.
If you make it from scratch, you can control what goes into your food (and what doesn't!) and again, not pay for processes you can easily do at home and additives you don't want.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Risotto Redemption!

I was having a bit of a crap day today really. Last week's chip-heavy diet was weighing on my conscience as much as my jeans buttons and I had SERIOUS PMS. I felt slightly comforted by the fact that I had this lovely prawn, pepper and pea risotto to look forward to tonight. My stepson had asked me to teach him to make this so that he can make it for his mother when he goes back to visit her this Spring. I'm pretty sure she'll be very proud of how far his culinary skills have come in the past few years. To be completely honest, teaching cookery to a teenager is often nail-on-a-blackboard painful, and I so often want to elbow him to the side and just do it myself (how long can it take a person to dice one onion/de-vein one prawn??!!) But we all started somewhere, and if he can feed himself properly (and take care of his skin) when he goes off to college, then I'll have done my job. I leave 'birds and the bees' conversations to his Dad....

Prawn, Pea and Red Pepper Risotto
Serves 4, takes 30 minutes
200g large prawns (raw, shell-on)
300g arborio risotto rice
600ml homemade free-range chicken stock
1 large glass white wine (plus one to drink)
2 shallots, finely diced
1 small red pepper, finely diced
lg handful frozen peas (or fresh if it's summer)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp sea salt (or to taste)
chunk of parmesan cheese
half a lemon
small bag wild rocket (arugula) leaves
2 tbsp olive oil

Shell and de-vein the prawns and cut them in half length-wise (basically, when you cut to de-vein, go all the way through.) Put the shells in a small saucepan with the stock and bring to a simmer for five minutes to allow the prawny flavour to infuse the stock. Strain the lot and return to the saucepan over a low heat to keep hot.
In a large saucepan, heat 2 of the tbsp of olive oil and sautee the shallots and garlic until soft-about 5 minutes. Do the same with the red pepper before adding the rice to the pan and stirring through thoroughly to coat in the oil cook for a further couple of minutes, stirring constantly. Add the wine and stir though, keeping the rice moving until the alcohol has evapourated and the pan is really fragrant. One ladleful at a time, stir in the hot stock, stirring all the while moving to prevent sticking. As each ladleful of liquid is absorbed, add the next until the rice is cooked almost all the way through. Taste/bite test the rice. is it almost done? season and add the prawns and the peas, stir through and cook for a couple more minutes until the prawns are cooked and the peas are warm, but still lovely and bright green. The rice should be 99% cooked but still a tiny bit al dente and a loose consistency. Turn off the heat and cover for a few minutes.
To serve, spoon onto plates and either grate or use a peeler to slice the parmesan over the top. Dress the rocket leaves with the remaining tbsp of olive oil and a big squeeze of lemon juice and a little sea salt. Heap a handful of the rocket leaves on top of the risotto and dig in.


Sunday, 21 February 2010

Lamb Burgers and Spiced Chips

Today is the final day of National Chip Week, and so rather than the risotto I was supposed to teach my stepson, I did a menu shuffle and did this lamb burger with spiced chips. They're not a hot spice, just a lovely, fragrant combination of flavours which compliment the lamb nicely.
I doubt that next week is National Salad Week, but it might have to be in our house after all the jeans-stuffing food we've had these past few days....

Lamb burgers with Feta Salad and Eastern Spiced Chips.
Serves 4, takes approx 40 minutes
500g minced lamb
handful parsley, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp fresh breadcrumbs
squeeze lemon juice

For the salad:
250g block good feta, crumbled roughly
1/3 red pepper, sliced waffer theen
1/3 red onion, also sliced waffer theen
2 large sprigs fresh mint, leaves picked and sliced
small handful pine nut kernels
squeeze lemon juice
hefty grind of black pepper
1 tbsp good quality olive oil

For the chips:
4 large, floury potatoes
3 tbsp veg oil
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp whole cumin seeds
2 tsp whole coriander seeds
1 tsp sumac, ground
1 tsp paprika

To serve:
2 tomatoes, sliced
2 large handfuls rocket (arugula) leaves
sprinkle of salt
4 burger buns of your choice

Heat the oven o 180C/375F Start a large pan of salted water boiling.
Start the chips first. Leave the skins on and cut into 2cm chips. Blanch the chips in boiling water for five minutes, meanwhile, heat a baking tray with the veg oil, salt and spices. Drain the chips and allow to dry for a couple of minutes before adding to the roasting tin and tossing well through the spicy oil. Return the pan to the oven and roast the chips for about half an hour, turning once during cooking.
For the lamb, mix all of the ingredients well in a bowl and divide the mix evenly into four (I weigh mine) portions and shape into patties.
Mix all the salad ingredients together in a bowl and set aside until needed.
When the chips are done, put the buns in the oven and turn it off.
Heat a grill pan or a large frying pan over a high heat, and when searing hot, gently place the burgers and don't move them for 3-4 minutes. When nicely browned on the first side, turn them over and cook for a further 3-4 minutes. Turn off the heat and start to assemble.

Halve the burger buns and top the bottom half with the rocket and sliced tomato, sprinkle with a little salt. Lay the patty on top of the tomato and then top with a generous couple of spoonfuls of the feta salad. Top with the top half of the bun and serve with the gorgeous chips.

If you're feeling motivated, grind some roasted cumin seeds and mix with a few tablespoons of mayo and a teaspoon or two of lemon juice. FanTASTIC for dipping your chips into. Mmmm.

Lamb Burgers

Traditional cornish pasties

So there were several days there when I didn't post a recipe, rant or review. Largely because I have been glued to this woman's blog into the wee hours, but also because on Thursday, I hacked the end off my pinkie finger with my brand new Oxo Good Grips  (love them!) peeler. The 'Return' and 'Shift' buttons are ouchie and hard to find with my huge club of a bandaged finger, so I've been more of a web spectator these past few days.
I was making a dozen mini Cornish Pasties, which require a lot of peeling, as they are like 80% root veg and when I reached into the drawer for my shiny new Porsche of a peeler, it attacked me. Long story short- Lots of blood, paper towels, Jesus Band Aids and one latex glove later, I was back in the game with my (sterilized) peeler. The result was roundly appreciated and enthusiastically received by all, including the Cornish friend (Aces!) so I have the recipe here for you.
This recipe is sliiightly different from the traditional, but only in as much as I cook the filling most of the way through before I fill the pasties and bake them because I think that browning the meat adds richness and you can make sure it's lovely and tender before you crimp.

Traditional Cornish Pasties
(makes 12 small or 6 reg)

300g (10 oz) braising steak (I used feather steak)
1 large, floury potato
2 small turnips
1 medium swede (rutabaga)
1 large onion
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp-ish freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp salt (or to taste)
2 tbsp flour
2 tbsp veg oil

For the pastry:
400g (15 oz) COLD* plain (all purpose) flour
1 tsp baking powder
100g (3.5oz) cold butter, cut into 1cm cubes
100g (3.5oz) cold lard (or veg shortening if you must), cut into 1cm cubes
1/2tsp fine sea salt
1 egg
200ml cold* water
1 more egg, beaten

First, make the pastry. *If you have time before, put the flour and water in the fridge, and you don't want to take the lard or butter out of the fridge until you need to use it. The point is to keep the fat from melting at all until you bake the pastry. This keeps it super super flaky and light instead of crunchy and hard. You can either do this in a bowl with a couple of cold butter knives or in a food processor. Either way, try to keep your hands out of the mix, as it will warm up the fat and melt it (which is bad!) I used the food processor this time.
In the food processor bowl, tip in all the flour, the salt baking powder, the butter and the lard.
Pulse several times for 15-20 seconds to cut the fat into the flour until you have mixture about the texture of fresh breadcrumbs. Tip this lot into a chilled bowl.
Beat your egg and water together, pour about half of it into the mix and stir with a knife. Add more of the water mixture as needed until you can just about bring the pastry together into a ball without it totally crumbling. DON'T over mix as it will toughen the flour, and use as little water as you can get away with. This again will give you a very light, flaky 'short' pastry. (by the way, I ALWAYS type 'pastry' wrong. I always have to go back and fix it.)
Wrap your ball of pastry (I did it again!) in cling film and pop it in the fridge for at least half an hour, or however long it takes you to make your filling.

Dice the steak into 1cm (1/2") cubes, then peel and dice all of the other veg the same size.
In a large, deep-sided pan, heat the oil over a high heat and add the pieces of steak. You want to brown the steak in one thin layer, rather than stew it, so you might want to do this in a couple of batches. When the steak is browned all over, remove it from the pan with a slotted spoon and bring in the onions. Sautee the onions for a few minutes until beginning to go golden, then bring the swede, turnip, potato, salt, pepper and thyme. Stir to combine and cook for a few minutes, turning from time to time to ensure even cooking. Sprinkle over the flour, stir through and then add about 200ml water to the pot. Lower the temperature and cover for 5 minutes or so, until there is no liquid left and the root veg are almost tender but still intact. Add the steak back to the pot, stir through, taste to check for seasoning and turn the heat off.
Turn your oven on to 180C/375F
To assemble, weigh your pastry -should be about 732g (26oz)- and divide by 12, or 6, depending on the size of your intended finished pasty, in my case, each piece of dough weighed 62 grams.
Rather than rolling out your pastry on a floured surface, roll out your little balls ;-) between two layers of cling film. This doesn't introduce more flour to your pastry and make the dough tougher. You want to roll it out to as close to a perfect round as you can, then spoon the filling mixture into the centre of the pastry, I used an ice cream scoop to keep it even. Then brush one half of the perimeter with the beaten egg, then bring the edges up together like a purse. Pinch together to seal and then fold and twist around the edge to make sure the filling doesn't burst out while baking. Here's a handy video if you want to see it done by someone far more adept than me. Don't worry too much about how pretty the edge is, as long as you have a good seal on it, they'll be fine and will look better after they're baked.
Lay them out as you go on a baking sheet and brush with the egg mixture. Prick the top with the pint of a knife to allow steam to escape and bake for 35-40 minutes for small ones, or a little longer for larger ones. When lovely and golden, remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before moving from the baking sheet. Serve hot with brown sauce, Branston pickle, ketchup etc. Still super tasty at room temperature and they freeze well, so if you make 12 but don't have 12 people to serve them to, let them cool, freeze on the baking sheet, then when frozen, move them to an air-tight container.
Cornish Pasties on FoodistaCornish Pasties

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Chinese Braised Pork Belly AKA Red Cooked Pork

One of the things I learned in China (besides it's ok for kids to defecate in public and their candy is WEIRD) is that the Chinese know how to treat pork. Not pigs, Lordy no, the animal welfare we witnessed was horrifying. Like a dirty game of 'how many clowns can you fit in a Mini' except with livestock and cages. Ugh, but let's not dwell on that.
I have mentioned before that I love to make crispy pork belly all Chinese-y style and I do. I think that there are few things more amazing than crispy crunchy skin scented with five spice BUT. This Hunanese treatment of my favourite part of pig is anything but crisp, but rather tender, melting, unctuous and so comforting. Incredibly easy to make, with just a few store cupboard ingredients and a little time it's a brilliant Sunday dinner dish. If you double the recipe, it'd be brilliant for a dinner party because it's cheap, there's no touchy timing and you can relax and chat (drink) with your guests instead of barging around all sweaty and frantic, waving oven gloves and tongs in the air.
Red Braised Pork Belly with Pak Choi In Chilli Bean Sauce
Serves 4, takes 90 mins

1 1Kg (2.2lbs) slab belly pork, skin on
4 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
5 Shaoxing rice wine
5 tbsp golden caster sugar
4 whole star anise
2 pieces cinnamon bark
2" piece ginger root, thinly sliced
3 whole garlic cloves, halved
4 large dried chillies

For the Pak Choi
6 heads pak choi (AKA bok choi) washed and halved or quartered, depending on the size.
2 tbsp chilli bean paste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1" ginger root, grated
2 tbsp ground nut or veg oil
2 spring onions, sliced, to garnish

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil and cook the pork belly whole for 5 minutes. Remove from the water (don't throw out the water) and set aside to cool for a minute. Meanwhile, in a wok, mix all the other ingredients. Using a sharp knife, cut the pork into large chunks, but don't cut horizontally. Add the pork to the wok, and then enough of the hot, piggy water to cover the pork, then bring the whole lot to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat to a simmer and have a glass of wine and play Doodle Jump on your iPhone for half an hour.
Your pork is going to cook for about an hour or so before you have to do anything else, just keep an eye on it to make sure the liquid doesn't cook too low.
After an hour, start cooking you rice (if you need it, my method is below) and do your prep for the pak (bok?) choi.
After about an hour and fifteen minutes, if the liquid in the wok is still high and thin, raise the heat to a good bubble until thick and sticky. Put into a warm bowl, cover with a pan lid to keep warm for a minute while you do the pak choi.
Over a high heat, bring the oil to a sizzle in the wok (Don't worry about washing it first) and toss in the ginger and garlic. Stir-fry for 20-30 seconds before adding the chilli bean paste. Add half a cup of water and let this bubble for a minute before adding the pak choi. Cook the pak choi in the sauce for 4-5 minutes, turning periodically to ensure even cooking and distribute the flavours.

Serve the amazingly tender, sticky, mahogany-coloured pork on top of the rice with the pak choi on the side.
Bathe in the glory.
Red Cooked Pork on FoodistaRed Cooked Pork

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Baked Chicken and Chips (Fries)

It's National CHIP WEEK! That means that any chips (fries) consumed this week don't count toward your RDA of fat or carbs. Great! Brilliant!

With that thought in mind, the fact that I had a hooooge burger and fries for lunch yesterday, was no reason not to have another meal avec frites today. As we are still in training for my stepson's Thai food Master Chef competition, I had tom kha gai on the menu and a chicken defrosting. As it is the school half-term holiday and given that teenage boys would MUCH rather play XBox with their friends than cook with their step mom, plans changed. To be honest, I was fine with that because teaching the same dish over and over week after week to the same person isn't as thrilling as it sounds. Long story short, after a brief chat with Husband, the chicken was cut up and given my baked-chicken treatment, the mushrooms got sauteed in garlic and butter and what is baked chicken without fries?
While this isn't the lowest fat dish you could ever eat, it's considerably less greasy than the deep-fried version but still lovely and crunchy and full of flavour. This is actually now my junk-food-junkie husband's favorite recipe for chicken. It's quick and simple to prepare and is far more satisfying than a bucket from the (not state specific) fried chicken joint.

Un-Fried Chicken, Baked Chips and Garlicky Mushrooms
Serves 4 Takes 45 minutes
1 whole free range chicken
4ooml whole milk
2 tbsp pommery grain mustard (or dijon)
100g (about a cup) plain flour
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (or more if you like spice)
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp white pepper
1 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1tsp mustard powder
Olive oil spray

4 large floury potatoes like King Edward or Maris Piper
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil

200g closed cup mushrooms*, sliced 1/2cm thick
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp butter
handful curly leaf parsley, finely chopped

Heat your oven to 180C/375F
First, joint the chicken (or have your butcher do it) so that you have 2 drumsticks, 2 thighs, 4 wing pieces and four breast halves. Use the remaining bones to make stock.
In a large bowl, mix the milk and mustard and add all the chicken pieces.
In another bowl, mix the flour and all the spices and mix well. One at a time, dredge the chicken pieces in the flour. I try to keep one wet hand and one dry hand, so that I don't end up with hands like The Thing by the time I'm done.
Lay the chicken pieces on a baking sheet and spritz with the olive oil spray, transfer to the hot oven and allow to cook for 30-40 minutes, depending on how big your chicken pieces are.
Slice your potatoes (leave the skin on) 1cm thick and then cut those slices into 1cm strips.
Par boil the chips for 3 minutes, then drain and allow to drip dry for a few minutes. When you put the potatoes in to boil, put a baking dish with the olive oil and salt in to preheat and when the potatoes are drained, toss them into the pan and toss in the hot oil. Cook in the hot oven for 15 minutes before turning and giving them another 15 minutes to finish going crisp and golden.
The potatoes and chicken should both be ready to come out of the oven at about the same time.
While your oven is doing its thing to the chicken and chips, melt as big a knob of butter as your conscience will allow in a sautee pan over a medium heat and stir in the garlic. When sizzling gently but not brown, add the sliced mushrooms and turn in the butter to coat. Sprinkle with the salt and allow to cook gently, stirring periodically to ensure even cooking and prevent burning. After a few minutes, when the mushrooms are soft and any water that has leaked out has cooked away, stir in the parsley and turn the heat off.

Serve with a big bottle of Frank's Red Hot sauce with which to liberally douse the chicken.

*Don't wash your mushrooms, as they will absorb all that flavourless water and turn to mush when you cook them. Use a mushroom brush or a damp paper towel to brush off any mud, bugs or bits of decaying fag packet that may be stuck to them.

Baked Fried Chicken

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Regal Beef- A Visit to Cattle Grid in Windsor.

Anyone who knows me knows that for me, going out to eat is a gamble. Never more so than when my incredibly, irritatingly picky husband is with me. We live in an area of Berkshire where there are no decent restaurants to speak of, so we rarely eat out, not even for a snack. Whenever we DO (gulp, deep breath) decide to eat out, it really pisses us both off when the food we're served is crap. When I say crap, I mean "This cost a third of our weekly grocery budget and I wouldn't serve it to my dog." A couple of my local pubs (peel a freakin' carrot, change your fryer oil more than once year, cook a potato all the way through!?) fall into this catagory, as did my first Indian takeaway from a local place (coughAmir in Binfieldcough) that had come recommended.
I don't think that we have extremely HIGH standards, it's just that we know what CAN be done with simple ingredients, so if it's your job, why not do it properly? Why hire cooks who take absolutely no pride in what they're serving?

That's why, when we walked into Cattle Grid in Windsor for lunch today, our expectations were no higher than usual.
Cattle Grid is conveniently situated in Royal Windsor Station, just a stone's throw from the castle and seems to be popular among the local professional men, as there were quite a few posh suits munching away this lunch time. We grabbed a table for two near the door and were quickly greeted by a busy but friendly waitress who apologized for being "on her own today".
Not that it mattered, because our order was taken in a timely manner, even though customers continued to flow through the door and the "order up!" bell chimed away in the background.
The restaurant itself is of a moderate size- I'd guess to seat 40?- and has an open kitchen, where we could see two well-groomed, concentrating young men making the food. I didn't notice any music, which is a plus in my book and the decor was butch in a dark wood and steel furniture way, but comfy and clean.
The menu is unapologetically carnivourous, which shouldn't be a surprise, given the name. They have a modest, yet decent selection of steaks, burgers and ribs, none of which would break the (even my!) bank and some lovely looking sides and salads.
We were both in the mood for a burger, mine with beetroot and goats'cheese and Hubby's with brie and caramelized onions (yum, right!?) accompanied by a tidy but not OTT pile of hand-cut chips.
While waiting for our food, my glass of Temperanillo and Hubby's cider arrived and we watched plate after plate of food be delivered to other tables, making me think several times "oooh! That looks good, I should have ordered that!" The hog roast sandwich in particular looked fantastic, and I decided there and then that we were coming back for that in the not-too-distant future.
My wine was rather disappointing, and tasted like the bottle had been left open since yesterday, but Hubby's cider was apparently crisp and refreshing.

Our burgers arrived in good time and were just as attractive as the rest of the food we'd been ogling. The goats' cheese melting on top of mine was just creamy enough with not too strong a flavour and the beet was roasted, not pickled (gold star). The burger was good-vet-could-cure-it-rare, just how I'd ordered it, of really nice quality beef and on a robust herb bap. My only complaint, was that the whole lot could have been a liiiittle more seasoned, as the salad veg and beets were a little on the bland side but this was easy enough to remedy with the condiments on the table. The hand cut fries were every bit as crunchy outside and delightfully fluffy as any I've had and made me wish I could finish them.
We were in and out within an hour and for the two of us including one glass of wine, one bottle of decent cider and tip we spent £30. Granted, not the cheapest lunch you'll have, but well worth the price when you consider what else is on offer on the high street.
This Cattle Grid location has been open for just over a year, while the Balham and Clapham locations have been open for two years and six weeks respectively. It would be nice to see more locations, as long as they're able to maintain the quality of the food and the feel of their restaurants at the price point.
We will definitely be back (only I'll order a whole bottle of wine this time) and in jeans with considerably more stretch than the ones I was wearing today.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Saag Aloo (Indian Potatoes with Spinach)

When I was little and we'd go to our local Indian, my parents would invariably order saag aloo and tarka dhal as side dishes to accompany our various menu selections. Unless I'm cooking for more than our little family, I usually just make a curry and rice, but tend to leave the various side dishes for when we've got guests. I realize that this is a bit of a shame, because no other country than India has such a wealth of incredible vegetarian dishes which are fragrant, nourishing and simple to create.
Tonight, I was serving some lamb curry that I made last week and frozen the leftovers, and so I decided to make this simple potato and spinach dish to accompany it. I'm not sure if it would stand up to scrutiny from the authenticity police, but to me, it tastes every bit as good as any saag aloo I've eaten in a restaurant. With this in mind, feel free to adjust the various spices to taste and let me know what you think.

My Saag Aloo
serves 4, takes approx 30 minutes
5-6 medium-sized floury potatoes (such as Maris Piper or King Edward) Cut into large bite-size pieces
1 large onion, finely diced
150g spinach leaves, thoroughly washed and roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cm ginger root, finely grated
1 tsp brown mustard seeds
2 tsp cumin seed
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground fenugreek
2 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp garam masala
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp ghee or veg oil
1 red chilli sliced thinly

In a medium-sized saucepan, heat the oil over a med-high heat until shimmery. Add the brown mustard and cumin seeds and stir in the oil for a minute or two until the mustard seeds start popping. Stir the onions through and continue to cook until beginning to brown and soften-about 3-4 mins. Add the potatoes, the remaining spices, salt, 300ml water and the chopped spinach. Stir through to combine, lower the heat to low then cover and allow to simmer for 20 minutes. Check the potatoes with the tip of a knife and if necessary allow to cook for a further few minutes, uncovered until most of the moisture has cooked away and the potatoes are tender all the way through.
Serve by scattering with the sliced chilli and some fresh coriander leaves and lovely with naan bread and mushroom pilao rice.

Aloo Saag on FoodistaAloo Saag

Cheap Chinese Fried Rice

I was sitting this afternoon working, with my recorded cooking shows on in the background and it dawned on me that it's the Chinese New Year. Watching Nancy Lam and Ching He Huang chopping and stir-frying away really made me crave something Chinese-y.

I realized that I had a bowl of left over steamed rice in the fridge, and set about making a quick fried rice dish to share with my beloved for a late lunch. I have used asparagus, celery and peas, because that's what I had hanging about in the veggie drawer, but it would be equally lovely with diced radish, cucumber (wet bit removed) carrot, small cooked shrimp, mange tout and on and on. Just use up what ever you have handy.
Including prep, this will take about ten minutes so is perfect for late nights or days when you don't have a lot of time but do have some left over rice taking up space in the fridge.

Quick Fried Rice with Crunchy Veg
Serves 2, takes approx ten minutes
2 cups cold leftover steamed long grain rice
5 asparagus spears chopped into 1cm pieces
1 stalk celery, cut in half length-wise and chopped into 1cm pieces
1/2 cup frozen peas
3 spring onions, sliced thinly
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 cm ginger root, peeled and finely chopped or grated
1 red chilli, seeds removed, thinly sliced
2 tsp sesame seeds
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
2 tbsp ground nut or rapeseed oil

Heat a wok or large frying pan over a high flame and once it begins to smoke, add the oil. Bring the spring onion, chilli, garlic and ginger into the pan and stir-fry for a minute until fragrant. Add the sesame seeds and fry until they start to pop (a few seconds) then add your chosen veggies. Stir-fry this lot for a couple of minutes until they begin to get tender, then add the rice. Fry the rice, keeping it moving for a couple of minutes until it is crackling nicely. Drizzle over the sesame oil, soy sauce and rice wine, stir to distribute these flavours and remove from the heat.
Give the dish a taste and add a little more soy if need be.

See? Mere seconds later you have a tasty, cheap-as-chips lunch that satisfies every one of your tastebuds.

Fried Rice

Learning the Sweeter Side

When I was growing up my Mum didn't make a lot of sweets really. Of course on family birthdays and some holidays Mum would bake incredible cakes and pies but really, I never saw baking as "proper cooking", and poo-pooed cookie and cake bakery as the domain of old fashioned housewives. I loudly maintained this opinion over the years, even as I came to realize that not only does baking take every bit as much talent and patience as savoury cookery, but it also requires a certain precision in order for the magic to work properly. Like most cooks, I often try to make a recipe my own, by adding a little here, omitting a little there and generally putting my own twist on a recipe that has caught my eye. Over the years though, I have tried to do this all too often with pastry recipes, ignoring the basic obvious fact that many of these tried and true recipes rely on a number of chemical and physical reactions to be successful.
Like many things, it turns out that if you can understand the science behind what is going on in your mixer, cake tin and piping bag, THEN you can start applying your own tweaks and changes to make a recipe truly your own.

I bought two cookbooks recently, which have both been invaluable in my quest for successful baking. The first is Leith's Baking Bible from the cookery school of the same name, which has recipes for just about everything you could want to bake both sweet and savoury. Each section has important tips and information about the upcoming recipes and has helpful "What's gone wrong when" suggestions for improving your methods. I have cooked several of these recipes, with great results every time.
The last book I bought, which is actually an essential for every aspect of cookery was McGee on Food and Cooking. This is a hefty tome about the size of a dictionary, with print only slightly larger and is a go-to for Heston Blumenthal. This book investigates the minutiae of each and every ingredient and how and why they react to various treatments, heat and other ingredients. It could definitely be used purely for reference, as it would take months to read cover to cover, but if you CAN take the time to read it, you'll gain more practical knowledge about science and history of food than you ever would watching all 13 seasons of Good Eats back to back. I am on page 114 of 818 (followed by a 48 page-long index!) and have covered milk and milk products and nearly all of the egg section. If you're a complete anorak about cookery and don't fall asleep easily while reading, I'd recommend giving it a go.

One other thing that has vastly improved not only my puny ability, but mostly my confidence, is a pastry class I took last autumn at master patissier Eric Lanlard's Cake Boy cafe and school.
My Dad bought me this day-long class for my birthday and I was rather nervous, because the vast majority of my sugar, flour, egg and butter-related efforts to date had been roundly disappointing. There was one other student in the class, which was brilliant because we each got a lot of one-on-one help. As we went through the day, we learned all kinds of processes like making meringues, mousses, ganache, caramels, pralines and truffles and with each new thing I realized that each little step was something I was very familiar with. The class with Eric taught me that I can actually make pastries and pies, as long as I take my time, don't cut corners and just view each recipe as a series of steps, instead of one intimidating challenge.
At the end of the day, I had a huge bag full of desserts and sweets that I'd made, along with Eric's Glamour Cakes book, which is really for those who want to make rolled fondant tiered cakes. I have used the cake recipes with good results, but I think that most of the designs are a little dated and unexciting, with not very polished work in the pictures. The thing that surprised/dismayed me most was that Cake Boy uses cheap, battery eggs and lower quality ingredients in general than I use at home. The exception to this was the use of copious amounts of Valrhona chocolate. Given the number of eggs his bakery goes through daily and the prices his pastries fetch, it bothers me that he cuts this corner.

I subscribe to Olive Magazine, which I look forward to every month and from which I take endless inspiration. In the most recent (March 2010) edition, I found a recipe for Baileys Cheesecake with Coffee Jelly

This turned out beautifully as a dessert for Valentine's Day. This is a no-bake cheesecake, and rather than being made with cream cheese, uses marscarpone, quark, cream, eggs, Baileys and sugar and is set with gelatine. This produces an incredibly light, velvety treat, which doesn't leave you groaning and unbuttoning your jeans.

One thing though, is that if you follow the recipe, the coffee jelly is only about half as thick as the picture. From a flavour standpoint, this is fine, as if it was as thick as shown, the coffee flavour would overwhelm.

I expect that I will continue along my pastry exploration path in the coming months, so I'll post both my successes, revelations and failures here. Stay tuned.....