Friday, 30 April 2010

A not so secret love affair

Its official. I am in love with Nigella's White chocolate and Cranberry Biscuits. I have made 3 batches of them in the past 2 weeks and now I realise that I have a problem. They are just delicious. White chocolate sweetness with cranberry tang and nutty oaty crunch, they are truly heaven in a biscuit, and so simple and quick to make. After my indulgence in the batches biscuits this week I have seen that I do have a problem and now I am banning myself from making them for the next month, at least. But my minor addiction does not mean that anyone else should not attemt these beauties and partake in the deliciousness. So please do, you will not regret it (unless you have an addictive personality!).

I find when I make these biscuits that the mixture is very sticky and a tiny bit too greasy when I have baked them, so the last time I made them I reduced the butter by 1/4 and I was very happy with the result. Also, I do not press down on the rolled balls of biscuit dough with a fork prior to baking as I find that when I leave them as balls they tend to be fatter and less spread out biscuits, which I prefer. These are only personal preferences though so do feel free to stick to the Nigella original recipe.

Cranberry and White Chocolate Cookies

Makes 24-30

150g plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
75g rolled oats (not instant)
125g soft butter
75g dark brown sugar
100g caster sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
75g dried cranberries
50g pecans, roughly chopped
150g white chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 180oC/ 350°F/gas mark 4.

Measure out the flour, baking powder, salt and rolled oats into a bowl.

Put the butter and sugars into another bowl and beat together until creamy — this is obviously easier with an electric mixer of some kind, but you just need to put some muscle into otherwise — then beat in the egg and vanilla.

Beat in the flour, baking powder, salt and oat mixture and then fold in the cranberries, chopped pecans and chocolate chips.

Roll tablespoonfuls of dough into a ball with your hands, and then place them on a lined or greased baking sheet and squish the dough balls down with a fork. You may need two baking sheets or be prepared to make these in two batches.

Cook for 15 minutes; when ready, the cookies will be tinged a pale gold, but be too soft to lift immediately off the tray, so leave the tray on a cool surface and let them harden for about 5 minutes. Remove with a spatula to cool fully on a wire rack.

Enjoy, and do not blame me when you are compelled to make them again, and again, and again....

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Steamy Stuff

The April 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Esther of The Lilac Kitchen. She challenged everyone to make a traditional British pudding using, if possible, a very traditional British ingredient: suet.

Personally, I'm not a huge fan of suet. Its not just what it is & what its made of, its just that its animal fat, and I don't love that. So I chose to make a steamed pudding without the suet (I know, I'm a total wimp). But the steaming part was totally new to me. It turned out delicious and was sweet & simple and something that I'd definitely make again. 

Steamed ginger pudding

2tbsp ginger syrup from a jar of stem ginger 

2tsp golden syrup 

175g (6oz) plain flour 

3tsp baking powder 

3 eggs, beaten 

175g (6oz) caster sugar 

175g (6oz) butter, softened 

4 pieces stem ginger, finely chopped 

You will need
1 litre (1¾pt) pudding basin, well buttered
Spoon the ginger syrup and golden syrup into the base of the buttered pudding basin. Place the remaining ingredients in a bowl and beat well for 2 minutes until thoroughly combined. Pour into the basin and level off the top. Cover with a double layer of buttered foil that has been pleated down the centre. Secure the foil with string.
Place the basin in a steamer over a pan of boiling water, cover and steam for 1½ hours. Check the water level every now and then and top up with more boiling water if needed. When cooked, turn out onto a warmed serving plate and serve in wedges with cream, ice cream or custard.

Friday, 16 April 2010

A very New Taste

The 2010 April Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Wolf of Wolf’s Den. She chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make Brunswick Stew. Wolf chose recipes for her challenge from The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook by Matt Lee and Ted Lee, and from the Callaway, Virginia Ruritan Club.

Although the principle of most stews are generally all pretty similar, they can have very different flavours and this one is not exception. I can honeslt say that it is a unique taste and I have never tasted anything like it. I do love trying new things and experimenting and to make something like this that was unlike anything that I have attempted before, was a great adventure.

Unfortunately I really had no idea where to get rabbit, so I ended up using chicken and pork, which I would hardly call adventurous. Regardless this culinary foray into the unknown was nonetheless distinctive in flavour. I don't know what it is about the recipe that makes it so different. Maybe it is the lack of herb, maybe the vinegar which i rarely use, but whatever it was it was an education to my palate. being of South African origin, and having lived in New Zealand and now Manchester, England, I have never, ever made anything that is from the South-Eastern of the US of A. When I was reading about the origins of the dish, I was fascinated by the 2 possible origins for the original and first ever Brunswick Stew. We may never know where exactly it came from but I know where its going, into my recipe book for future use.

In a very TV-chef like fasion I tried to be very organised with this recipe and prepped all my ingredients before-hand and put them into cute little bowls for ease and speed of constructing the final dish. It takes some time but it does make the cooking process much simpler and easier by doing all the prep ahead. I may work like this more often from now on. I did use pancetta in the recipe instead of the specified slab bacon as I could not find slab bacon on my shoppint trip and I thought pancetta would suffice, and it certainly did. My only other variatios were using pork instead of rabbit and using Adzuki beans instead of butterbeans. Although i would love to try cooking with it I did not know where to buy rabbit, and I've never been a huge fan of butterbeans so I used what I had in the cupboard.

The stew did take some time to make but it is a nice Sunday afternoon endeavour and the finished result tasted fabulous. Its also so verstaile that you could tweak and change it as you like to suite your taste. A definite keeper! Now bring on the next Daring Cooks Challenge!

Recipe One, the Long Way-

From “The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook: Stories and Recipes for Southerners and Would-Be Southerners” by Matt Lee and Ted Lee

Serves about 12

1/4 lb / 113.88 grams / 4 oz slab bacon, rough diced
2 Serrano, Thai or other dried red chiles, stems trimmed, sliced, seeded, flattened
1lb / 455.52 grams / 16oz rabbit, quartered, skinned
1 4-5lb / 1822.08- 2277.6 grams / 64-80oz chicken, quartered, skinned, and most of the fat removed
1 Tablespoon / 14.235 grams / ½ oz sea salt for seasoning, plus extra to taste
2-3 quarts / 8-12 cups / 64.607-96.9oz Sunday Chicken Broth (recipe below)
2 Bay leaves
2 large celery stalks
2lbs / 911.04 grams / 32oz Yukon Gold potatoes, or other waxy type potatoes, peeled, rough diced
1 ½ cups / 344.88 grams / 12.114oz carrots (about 5 small carrots), chopped
3 ½ / 804.72 grams / 28.266oz cups onion (about 4 medium onions) chopped
2 cups / 459.84 grams / 16.152oz fresh corn kernels, cut from the cob (about 4 ears)
3 cups / 689.76 grams / 24.228oz butterbeans, preferably fresh (1 ¼ lbs) or defrosted frozen
1 35oz can / 996.45 grams / 4 cups whole, peeled tomatoes, drained
¼ cup / 57.48 grams / 2.019 oz red wine vinegar
Juice of 2 lemons
Tabasco sauce to taste

So very decadent

It was my birthday this week and what better way is there to celebrate this occasion then by making a devilishly decadent cake. A Cappuccion Fudge Cheesecake to be precise. I originally saw this recipe on one of my favourite Blogs Smitten Kitchen a few months ago, and I have been waiting for an excuse to make it ever since. I had considered just making it with no special occasion in mind but I could not find a way to justify the construction of a cheesecake that uses 4 tubs of cream cheese and almost 1kg of chocolate without a very good reason. So along came my birthday and with the prefectly good reason of having to bring the traditional cake into the office, I decided on this bohemoth of a cheesecake.

I encountered a slight problem in the first instance as I could not find chocolate wafer biscuits which the recipe calls for to make the cheesecake crust. So I improvised and chose another biscuit but it was one that seemed a rather different consistency so I had to use a bit more biscuit than the prescribed biscuit to chocolate ratio, but it turned out tasty, if somewhat sticky. The hardest part was chopping all 800g of the chocoalte! (Some for the base and the rest for the ganache) I'm sure I ended up with knife-blisters, so you may want to use your food-processor for that part.

Making the Ganache to fill the bottom of the base was quick and easy after the mountain of chocolate had been chopped. It was rich and dark and utterley delicious, and gave me some indication of how rich this cake would be once fully constructed! While the ganache-filled base was chilling I whipped up the cream cheese filling. This took no less than 3 and a half tubs of full fat delicious cream cheese. Once this was combined with the rum and coffee it turned a pale shade of gold and smelled absolutley divine! I was slightly panicked when the filling came so high up the tin. I was certain I'd never fit the last layer in, but the recipe did say to expect this so I took a deep breath and tried not to panic.

I did panic a little again when the cheesecake puffed up well over 2cm above the ende of the base while cooking. I know that this is fairly common and they do sink down again once taken out of the oven, but it looked somewhat terrifying if just for the fact that I knew I'd have to get another layer in there and then decorate it! The cheesecake did sink down again but I had to leave it out of the oven for a lot longer than the recipe's stated 15 minutes before there was space for me to add the sour cream layer, but all was not lost and it worked out. Unfortuantely my sour cream layer bubbled around the edges while in the oven and subsequently did not look very pretty when it came out and had cooled. It rather resembled the surface of a cheese-moon. So in order to make it pretty again I used all the reserved ganache as a spread-over-the-top final layer and it turned out beautifully. Pretty and gorgeous and it certainly earned a lot of oohs and aahs when I brought it in to the office yesterday. I will certainly make it again, but I may have to wait until my next birthday as it is so rich that I am still trying to recover from the slice I had yesterday, and I will most certainly have to run at least 10kms to work off the billions of calories.