31 July 2016

Courgette chips

As so many other times, when looking for recipes on the internet, I came across this one which seemed really promising and since I had some surplus courgettes, I decided to try them out.

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Ingredients

450 g dark green courgettes with good skin
2 tbsp olive oil
2.35 dl breadcrumbs
1.55 dl grated parmesan
salt and pepper

Method

  1. Wash the courgettes and trim the ends, then slice thinly on a mandolin and place in a large bowl.
  2. Pour over the olive oil, then carefully turn the courgettes until all have some olive oil on them and set aside.
  3. In another bowl, mix together breadcrumbs, parmesan, salt and pepper.
  4. Line a couple of baking sheets with baking paper and pre-heat the oven to 220 °C.
  5. Dip each courgette slice into the crumb mixture and place on the baking sheet.
  6. Bake in the oven for a few minutes, then take out, flip all slices over and bake for a further few minutes. Keep watch as they burn very easily when thin.

It seems I'd been quite successful in using up all various jars with breadcrumbs, so I had to open a packet of watercrackers and blend. The crumb mixture turned out to be way too much for the courgettes, I've put it in a bag and frozen for another day, though in hindsight, I might use it as a soup thickener or something.

These didn't end up as crispy as I'd expected them and not as cheesy either, which I would have liked. And I burned almost a whole tray of them too, which had to be thrown away.

But the concept was good, I'll just need to work on it a bit. Possibly I need larger proportion of parmesan in the mixture and also more coarsely grated too. Or perhaps mature cheddar or such, which isn't as dry, but might melt in the oven a little.

Finally, rather than turning the courgettes to get coated with the olive oil, I think I might brush them with it instead. Obviously Lundulph sniffed out the parmesan straight away, so didn't try them.

24 July 2016

Using Up Surplus Yolks

After making two batches of nut-free macarons in the past few days, I had 4 large yolks left and had no ideas of what to do with them, so a quick search on the internet resulted in this recipe for what turned out to be a really lovely chocolate pudding. I made some tweaks to the recipe - I rarely buy full milk which was the recommendation in the original recipe, so semi-skimmed milk had to do. To compensate, I had an extra yolk. This balanced out quite nicely, as it turned out.

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Ingredienser

8 portions
115 g dark chocolate
3 tbsp cocoa powder
3 tbsp cornstarch
0.25 tsp salt
2.4 dl double cream
4 large egg yolks
6 dl semi-skimmed milk
1.2 dl granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
fresh raspberries and blueberries for decoration
possibly a little dessicated coconut

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Method

  1. If using a block of chocolate, chop fairly finely and set aside.
  2. Sieve together the cocoa, cornstarch and salt into a heat-proof bowl and stir through to mix them well.
  3. Slowly add the cream and stir in to form a thick paste.
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  4. Whisk the yolks into the paste.
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  5. Place the milk in a saucepan large enough to also take in the cocoa mixture. Add the sugar and heat on medium, stirring until the sugar dissolves.
  6. Bring the milk almost to the boil, then pour some of it into the cocoa mixture to temper the yolks.
  7. Once well incorporated, pour the cocoa mixture back into the saucepan and bring to the boil, while stirring constantly and vigorously. It'll get thicker and thicker and feel like runny mud.
  8. Let simmer for 2 minutes, still stirring, then remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla
  9. Pour in all the chopped chocolate, let it melt for a minute or two, then stir in to incorporate well.
  10. Transfer to a shallow dish, cover the surface with cling film, then cover the dish with a second layer of cling film and let cool to room temperature.
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  11. Chill the pudding in the fridge for a couple of hours at least.

I'd bought some lovely raspberries and blueberries the other day, so they definitely had to be involved in the final serving, and as a last decorating touch, I sprinkled a little dessicated coconut. Spot on, all of it! And it was so very smooth, rich and absolutely heavenly too. After chilling in the fridge for about 24 h, it had set quite nicely and was easy to pipe, keeping the shape from a star nozzle.

For the next serving, I wanted to see how it would work whipped. I wanted to get a lighter texture, like Angel Delight. However this didn't work out, the mixture just went runny and impossible to pipe prettily and it had big bubbles in it, which made Lundulph think it had gone lumpy and didn't approve at all. The flavour did change a little, and although it wasn't visually as attractive, I quite liked the fluffier result. Maybe as filling for profiteroles.

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For the last serving, I didn't whip and we were back at the good rich velvety texture. I'd also misjudged my previous portions, so we ended up with really huge ones, thus I recommend 8 portions out of the above amounts. What I really liked was the large blueberries I'd layered into the chocolate pudding. Their flavour was completely lost in all the dark velvety chocolate, but they provided a really nice texture and juiciness.

Lundulph's comment was that it reminded him of the rich chocolate ripple ice cream he had as a child - really chocolatey chocolate, rich and very smooth. Very nice indeed, and approved for repeats, but not as part of his calorie controlled diet.

16 July 2016

Whipped ganache

I've been racking my head for ages about a filling for French macarons - one that will not make them soggy within the hour, so that I can make some and give away as presents and I've come to the conclusion that it needs to be based on ganache or on marshmallow mixture. And as we were once again invited to a barbecue this week-end, I decided to make some macarons and try out my theory with a ganache.

I wasn't sure if there would be nut-intolerant people around, so I played it safe and made sesame-based macarons.For the cream, I decided to try out a ganache based on white chocolate and flavoured with raspberries, I thought it would work well with the sesame meringue of the macaron shells. The raspberry pureé is the raspberry liqueur pureé I discovered a few years ago, and remembering to sieve it this time.

The macarons were also a tried and tested recipe from way back as well, but with sesame seeds instead of almonds. So here comes the new bit.

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Ingredients

155 g white chocolate
80 g double cream
120 g sieved raspberry pureé
pink food colouring if needed

Method

  1. Chop the white chocolate as finely as possible and place in a heat-proof bowl.
  2. Scald the double cream and pour over the chocolate.
  3. Let stand for a minute, then stir through to mix the chocolate and cream.
  4. Stir in the raspberry pureé and some pink food colouring, if the mixture is too pale or too yellow-y.
  5. Leave to cool down and store in a cool place, but not the fridge.
  6. Before the ganache is required, whip with an electric whisk for a minute, it'll go a little lighter in colour. Do not over-do because it can go lumpy.
  7. Transfer to a piping bag with a small round nozzle and put the macarons together.

My theory for ganache filling worked - the macarons we kept for home use kept for several days without any sign of sogginess, nicely tucked away in an air-tight box.

And I also came up with a good way of transporting macarons as we took some with us to the barbecue. I cut the cardboard tube from a roll of kitchen paper in half length-wise. I then wrapped each half with aluminium foil and placed both halves in a plastic food box. I placed the macarons on their sides, I was able to fit 9 in each half. I covered with kitchen paper to cushion the macarons, in case of any bumps during transportation and put the lid on. The plastic box is one of Lundulph's old lunch boxes and I have a cooler lunch bag into which it fits, so I placed the box there and put a couple of small frozen cooler blocks on top as it was looking like it'd be quite a hot day. This all worked a treat, all macarons arrived uninjured.

Incidentally, I did find some suitable macaron boxes on the internet, but I've yet to buy some and try out. I'm not sure I'm keeping to the standard macaron size yet.

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There was quite a lot of ganache left, so I made a second batch of macarons a few days later, this time from sunflower seeds. These had a more neutral flavour compared to the sesame version and didn't combine as nicely with the raspberry ganache. Besides, I made a mistake. The mixture was stiffer than I expected it and once I'd piped them, they wouldn't sink down, but kept the peaks from the piping nozzle. The mixture was sticky, so I used a greased up palette knife to level them out. This left some grease on each macaron and when they were baking, this heated up too much and caused almost all macarons to puff up on top, many looked like miniature volcanoes.

11 July 2016

Rum and Raisin Ice Cream

As per usual, the week before going on holiday, the fridge needs to be emptied. This time we'd both been so busy, that I hadn't planned things very well and had over half a can of dulce de leche left in the fridge from the Frozen Mojito Cake I made for Father's Day and I didn't want to leave it and definitely didn't want to throw it away. So, having also caught glimpses of Mary Berry's Knickerbocker Glory recipe on the telly, I decided to make ice cream.

Now Mary's recipe called for eggs and I'd used those up for the Frozen Mojito Cake, so I went back to the wonderful, no-churn, two ingredient basic ice cream recipe. And this time I decided to add some raisins soaked in rum.

Ingredients

100 g raisins
4 tbsp dark rum
200 g dulce de leche
200 ml whipping cream

Method

  1. Soak the raisins in the dark rum for 3 - 4 h before making the ice cream.
  2. Place the dulce de leche and the whipping cream in a large bowl and whip to soft peaks.
  3. Add the raisins along with whatever's left of the rum and stir into the ice cream mixture to distribute as evenly as possible.
  4. Transfer to a plastic tub and freeze overnight at least.

So it was a nice surprise for Lundulph after we came back home to have such a lovely dessert. We gobbled it up in the first few days after returning, it's such a nice texture and so creamy and I'm pleased that whipping cream worked just as well as the double cream I used in my original try. Not to mention that the dulce de leche added a very nice caramel touch to it. I think I'll try adding fruit purée next time.

No photos to show this time, I keep forgetting to get the camera out these days it seems.

18 June 2016

Frozen Mojito Cheesecake

Some time ago, my Sister discovered a recipe for frozen mojito cheesecake, which she made with great success among her friends. Recently she made it again, this time using up all the fresh spearmint my Mum had and as thanks,treated my parents to a small version of this cake. My parents did enjoy this very much and my Mum sent me the recipe once more. So as the English part of the family were gathering to celebrate Father's Day this week-end, I decided to make it, since we were going to have a barbecue and I thought an ice cream cake would fit nicely.

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The original recipe is in Swedish and can be found here. Reading through the recipe, the basis for the ice cream was very similar to the very smooth and rich non-churn ice cream I made last year. What also threw me a bit was that after making the ice cream mixture, it was to be poured straight into the springform tin. I had to read the instructions several times, until I realised that the biscuit base goes in at the end, on top of the ice cream mixture - the cake is made upside-down and turned onto a plate before serving.

Ingredients

Makes 10 portions

2 limes with good skin
25 g packet of mint
4 eggs
1.5 dl granulated sugar
200 g cream cheese
4 dl whipping cream
1 dl dulce de leche or caramelised condensed milk
½ dl dark rum or rum essence
200 g plain digestive biscuits
50 g butter

Method

  1. Grate the zest from the two limes and squeeze out the juice.
  2. Wash the mint, tear off the leaves and chop them finely - about 1 dl is required (not tightly packed though).
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  3. Separate the egg whites and yolks. Place the whites in a large glass bowl, cover and set aside.
  4. Place the yolks in a different large bowl, add the sugar and whisk until pale and fluffy.
  5. At the end whisk in the creak cheese, the lime zest and juice and the chopped mint.
  6. In a third bowl, whip together the cream and the dulce de leche until stiff. Then fold into the egg mixture and follow with the rum or rum essence.
  7. Whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks, then fold into the rest of the mixture until fully incorporated.
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  8. Pour into a 25 cm springform and smooth the surface so it's level.
  9. Break up the digestive biscuits in a food processor and melt the butter gently.
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  10. Add the biscuit crumbs to the butter and stir through, then sprinkle over the ice cream, making sure it's level and push down on it gently.
  11. Cut out a circular piece of baking paper and cover the crumbs, then cover the springform with cling film and freeze for at least 8 h.

To be honest, I didn't like this one much. The mint was very overpowering and perhaps using spearmint works better, but it's not something that's easy to get hold of where I live, so I'll need to sow some and try again. Also possibly use more lime zest, although it looked like a lot from 2 limes.

I also wanted to make the cake pretty, so I buttered the bottom of the springform, and fixed large mint leaves in a circle, with the idea that the ice cream would freeze and they'd remain stuck to it.

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Sadly this was not to be, the leaves remained stuck in the butter.

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My brother-in-law Roger and oldest niece Lou were very good and carefully peeled off each mint leaf and placed them on the cake again. It went quickly of course, even though we'd spent most of the day eating, there's always room for ice cream. But as I said, it didn't quite wow me, though the others said it was nice.

One good thing was that as Lundulph and I were preparing to leave for Roger's place, I caught sight of a new cookery show from Mary Berry, where she was demonstrating her favourite Knickerbocker Glory - which is an ice cream with fruits and the ice cream she made from scratch and it was very much the basic recipe as I've done here - eggs, sugar, whipping cream, so since I have some dulce de leche left, I'll make some ice cream next week, perhaps something with pistachios.

12 June 2016

Rhubarb Muffins with Crunchy Topping

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Well, I finally got round to harvesting the rhubarbs this year. They haven't been too prolific, but then I did harvest them last year, so I should have left them to recover this time, but I really fancied making something with rhubarbs and also wanted to clear out some space in the freezer, where I had two packets of diced frozen rhubarbs as well, not sure from which year. And as the fresh rhubarbs were mostly fairly thin long stalks, I decided to use them for rhubarb muffins. But I wanted to try out a different recipe to the one from Dr Cutie.

And then I remembered that my dear friend Patsy made some fabulous bilberry muffins for a good-bye fika, when I moved back to the UK in 2012. So yummy that I promptly asked her for the recipe and here it is, but with fresh rhubarbs, rather than frozen bilberries. The original recipe is in Swedish here.

Ingredients

20 at 5 cm size
280 g rhubarbs
100 g unsalted butter
2 dl full milk
1 packed tsp lemon zest
2 large eggs
2 dl granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
4 dl plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 pinch salt
3 tbsp potato flour

Topping
75 g cold unsalted butter
1 dl porridge oats
1 dl almond flakes
1 dl plain flour
1 dl granulated sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Method

  1. Trim and wash the rhubarbs, then slice thinly, place in a large bowl and set aside.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 185 °C and line up 20 paper muffin cases.
  3. Place the butter in a saucepan and melt on low medium heat.
  4. When it's completely melted, add the milk and the lemon zest and stir through. When it's at finger warmth, remove from the heat.
  5. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy.
  6. In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Make sure the baking powder is well mixed in.
  7. Pour in the warm liquid into the egg-sugar mixture, then follow with the flour mixture and whisk to get a smooth batter.
  8. Sprinkle the potato flour over the rhubarbs and stir to get them all coated, then stir into the batter.
  9. Distribute the mixture into the muffin cases, filling to about two-thirds.
  10. Make the topping by dicing the cold butter into a bowl, adding the other ingredients and pinching together with your fingers to make crumbs. Distribute between the muffin cases, carefully, as a lot of crumbs will go between them, rather than on top.
  11. Bake each muffin tin/tray for 30 minutes, test with a toothpick, it should come out dry.
  12. Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool completely, then store in an airtight container, but preferably eat on the same day.

The original recipe states that the amounts are for "6 portions", but this doesn't necessarily mean 6 muffins, although that was my original assumption. I started with 12 muffin cases and had to add 8 more and a second muffin tin. And like never before, they rose perfectly without busting like volcanoes or spilling over the edges and they didn't sink back when they came out of the oven, so finally success.

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And boy, were they tasty! Lundulph didn't even wait until they had cooled down and ended up having to scrape crumbs off the paper case. Once they'd cooled down, they were easier to peel. But as per usual, he wants me to inject a blob of custard in the middle. I did think of that, but I'd planned things badly and couldn't try out my idea about this custard-in-the-middle concept.

As to the frozen rhubarbs, I made jam once more, my old recipe. But as the fresh rhubarbs were a bit on the depleted side, I used the thinner stalks for the muffins, as they seemed less fibrous and the thicker stalks went into the jam along with the ones from the freezer. Lundulph asked when we could start eating the jam, but he'll have to finish the jams he has on the go first. I'll save a jar for my Sister Bip, she really liked it with cheese.

5 June 2016

Green Masala

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A couple of weeks ago, there was a fête in a nearby village. We've been going to it for many years, it's a nice walk across the fields, even on rainy Spring days. This time it was a very warm and sunny day and we'd also decided to do a longer walk before the fête started at lunchtime. After the really nice walk in an area we didn't think existed, we went straight for the book stall and there I found a small treasure - The World Encyclopedia of Spices. It's not exhaustive in any way and I've used most of the spices described in there, but the book has some good tips on how to determine the quality of different spices. The book also has a lot of recipes for different spice mixtures and pastes, which is the really interesting part of the book. What really caught my eye was a recipe for green masala. This is not a dry spice mixture, but a paste and looks very much like pesto, but smells and tastes quite differently. Lundulph is sold on it and has suggested we move into industrial production and sell it.

A key point to note is that this requires a little bit of planning, as there's pre-soaking and resting/cooling time required before it's ready for use. A spice mill or a clean coffee grinder is needed as well, for best results.

Ingredients

Makes about 400 ml
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
10 green cardamom pods
6 cloves
2 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp salt
4 cloves of garlic
5 cm piece of fresh root ginger
50 g fresh mint leaves
50 g fresh coriander leaves
1 small green pepper
50 ml cider vinegar
60 ml grapeseed or sunflower oil
60 ml sesame oil, preferably not toasted

Method

  1. Soak the fenugreek seeds in some water overnight.
  2. The next day, bruise the cardamom and dry-fry in a thick-bottomed pan together with the cloves, stirring constantly, until their aroma develops. Then grind these finely and add the turmeric and salt and set aside.
  3. Peel the garlic and ginger and cut into chunks.
  4. Wash and cut the mint and coriander. Wash, cut and de-seed the pepper.
  5. Drain the fenugreek seeds and place in a food processor, along with the garlic, ginger, mint, coriander, pepper and vinegar. Blend until a smooth purée forms, then stir in the ground spice mixture.
  6. Mix together the grapeseed/sunflower oil and the sesame oil and heat it in a pan. Add the green paste, stir through to combine and cook for a few minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely.
  7. Transfer to a clean glass jar, level the top with the back of a spoon and if necessary top up with a little grapeseed/sunflower oil to ensure there is a thin layer of it covering the top surface to preserve the colour and freshness. Close tightly and store in the fridge.

I recommend once it's in the fridge, it's left for a further night to allow the flavours to develop even further. A key point is the keeping of a layer of fat on the surface - after each use, I've topped up with a little grapeseed oil, to make sure the paste is kept sealed.

Now this can be used as a marinade - I used about 100 ml for 600 g chicken breasts, which had been cut into bite-sized chunks and I coated them with the green masala and left overnight in the fridge. I fried the chicken in a little toasted sesame oil and served with steamed Jersey Royal potatoes and some green peas.

Last week we had intended to barbecue and I wanted to try this out on another batch of marinated chicken. Sadly it rained the whole day, so I ended up frying it again, but this time we had it with Lebanese flat bread and hummus, also very tasty.

My plan for the remaining paste is to try it on salmon, before baking as usual in aluminium foil. Then I'll have to make another batch, probably a double one and freeze in ice cube trays as the other recommendation for this paste was to add a tablespoon or two to a regular curry, especially if it has coconut milk in it.

Lundulph also requested that I modify the recipe so that it can be used as a dip as well. I'll have to think about that, as it's very strongly flavoured in its "raw" form. The other thing Lundulph was speculating about was whether dramatic changes can be made to a traditional pesto recipe, so as to get the same texture and colour, but completely cut out the parmesan cheese. Another one to think about.

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