Archive for the ‘Nigella’ Category

Everyone loves chocolate chip cookies.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies

What is there not to like?  Butter, sugar, chocolate chips… yum!  But everyone likes their chocolate chip cookie to be different.  Some of us prefer a crisp cookie; others prefer a squidgy, fudgy, almost butterscotch, straight out of the oven chocolate chip cookie.  And then there are those who prefer their chocolate chip cookie to be somewhere in-between: fudgy and chewy in the centre but crisp around the edge.

Then there is the matter of whether it’s chocolate chips, chocolate pieces, or chocolate chunks.

Some of us don’t even get as far as needing to put the cookie dough in the oven!

Snack or Dessert?

Chocolate chip cookies are a go-to favourite dessert, Nigella taking it to another level with chocolate chip cookie dough pots that you bake in the oven!  Cookies make a great sweet snack or after school treat but no matter what your favourite chocolate chip recipe is, why is it that chocolate chip cookies are so appealing?

The imagery surrounding the Chocolate Chip Cookie is always about a caring and loving home.  In films we always see little Johnny’s bedtime routine involves a cookie and glass of milk; or should little Johnny be sick in bed, Mom would nurse him back to health with the miracle cure that was the Chocolate Chip Cookie!  Sesame Street encouraged us to believe that the chocolate chip cookie, courtesy of the Cookie Monster, “Me want cookie.  Nom, nom, nom!” was fun and enjoyable (and generally how I feel when faced with a tray of freshly baked cookies!)

The quintessential American panacea spreading joy and happiness throughout the world!

Please believe me, cynic I am not.  I love a good cookie.  I prefer mine to be fudgy and chewy in the centre with the occasional molten chocolate nugget poking through its cracked carapace but let’s be honest; when faced with a cookie, any cookie, they are all going to be devoured as soon as they come out of the oven.

Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies

Here is my ultimate chocolate chip cookie recipe:

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Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients:

315g Plain Flour
½ tspn Baking Soda
225g Butter
113g Granulated Sugar
170g Soft Brown Sugar
1 tspn Salt
2 tspn Vanilla Extract
2 Large Eggs
350g Choc Chips

Method:

1st: Preheat the oven to 175˚C.

2nd: In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.

3rd: Combine the butter and sugar together in a bowl and cream until light and fluffy.

4th: Add the eggs (1 at a time and combine) and the vanilla extract.

5th: Add the flour mixture and mix until just combined.

6th: Stir in the chocolate chips.

7th: Drop heaped tablespoon-sized balls of dough about 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.  Bake for 8-10mins or until golden brown around the edges.  Allow to cool.

To create either a soft and chewy or thin and crispy bespoke Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie, you’ll need to tinker with the ratios of sugar and butter to get the texture you want.   For a thin and crispy cookie you need to increase the amount of butter and granulated sugar, reducing the amount of brown sugar.  For a cakey cookie you need to reduce the overall sugar and butter quantity.  Another important factor is the use of either baking powder or baking soda– powder puffs; soda spreads – and I want my cookies to spread in the oven.

Cookies that keep on giving

If like me you just fancy a couple of cookies with a cup of tea, note: the dough freezes very well.  I made up the recipe as above and only baked 6 cookies.  I turned the remaining dough out onto a floured surface and rolled it into a sausage shape.  I covered this in greaseproof paper and wrapped in plastic wrap and chucked it in the freezer.

Now every time I want some freshly baked cookies I just slice into the frozen choc chip sausage and bake.  Cook for the same time.

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“I’m no good at chatting up and always get rebuffed,

Enough to drive a man to drink, I don’t do no washing up”

But you will always find me in the kitchen at parties!

And that is exactly where I spent most of my Saturday.  Not just at the party but throughout the day as I prepared, cooked and presented the tasty food that I was to serve at my festive banquet.

Festive Banquetphoto 4

  • Christmas Cocktail: Pointsettia
  • Savoury Pesto Palmiers
  • Spiced Nuts
  • Cranberry and Soy Glazed cocktail sausages
  • Pigs in blankets
  • Savoury cheese twists (aka Just the blankets!)
  • Chocolate peanut butter cups
  • Cheese board with Chilli Jam
  • Charcuterie: jamón, salami, chorizo
  • Crudités and Humous
  • Olives
  • Chocolate reindeer

As with all my parties, if my guests wish to bring things to add to the table then fantastic.  The following were brought by others:

  • Chicken croquetas
  • Tuna Croquetas
  • Nigella’s Christmas Cookies

When I woke up on Saturday morning (after Friday’s hair of the dog beer that then became 5 pints and a kebab!) I thought it best to make a start with menial tasks until I was fully awake and alert to go about measuring and weighing ingredients.

Knife in hand and with several foil platters at my disposal I went about chopping the vegetable crudités and arranging them onto platters; putting the charcuterie onto platters.  Covering the platters with cling film and into the fridge.  Job done.

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°Next job…

Chocolate peanut butter cups.

Ingredients:

  • 200g smooth peanut butter
  • 50g soft butter
  • 200g icing sugar
  • 50g soft dark brown sugarphoto 1

1st: Put all the ingredients into a food mixer and blend together until you have the consistency of coarse sand.

2nd: Then squidge a teaspoonful of this mixture into small petit four cases.  I find it easier to roll the mixture into a ball before pressing it in.  Approx 50 of these can be made.

  • 200g milk chocolate
  • 100g dark chocolate

I didn’t use milk chocolate as I don’t normally use it for cooking so I just used 300g of dark chocolate.

3rd: Melt the chocolate by whatever method you prefer and top each of the peanut butter cups with enough chocolate to cover them.

4th: Sprinkle with any decoration that takes your fancy.  I opted for green and red sugar strands (confetitos).  What can I say?  As camp as Christmas!

I put these peanut butter cups into the fridge to help set the chocolate and to get them out of the way.

The following recipes are in a previous blog titled “Nigella is for life not just for Christmas!”  click on the link to take you to these recipes.

Spiced Nuts

Cranberry and Soy Glazed cocktail sausages

I made both the spiced nuts and the cocktail sausages in advance and then put them into sealed foil containers ready to be warmed up in the evening.

A couple of hours before lift off, I made the Pigs in Blankets and Pesto Palmiers.

Savoury Pesto Palmierspesto palmiers

1st: Unroll the puff pastry onto a floured surface.

2nd: Spread the pastry with pesto from a jar.

3rd: Grate parmesan cheese to cover the pesto.

4th: Hold one end of the pastry and fold into the centre.  Repeat with the opposite side.  Fold in half and cut into thin strips.

5th: Place cut side up onto a baking sheet.  Bake at 220ºC for 15mins or until golden.

Pigs in Blankets & Just the Blankets

photo 5

1st: In a bowl put 375g Self Raising Flour, a heaped teaspoon of salt and 20g of grated Red Leicester.

2nd: In a measuring jug add 125ml of Whole Milk, 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil and an egg.  Mix together and pour the wet ingredients into the dry.

3rd: Once combined into a ball, roll out the pastry onto a floured surface.

4th: Cut the pastry into small rectangles.

5th: Roll each cocktail sausage into the blanket.  For the veggie option just leave out the sausage to create a pastry cheese twist.

6th: Egg wash each blanket and bake in the oven at 220ºC for 15mins or until golden.

As my guests arrived I started baking both the palmiers and pigs in blankets, whilst warming the spiced nuts and the cocktail sausages at the same time.

I will say one thing though: the poinsettia cocktail (1 bottle cava, 500ml of cranberry juice and 125ml of cointreau of which there were 5 bottles of cava!) was also in the kitchen.

Hence spending most of my time in the kitchen at parties!

From welcome cocktail and savoury nibbles to a sweet little something at the end, I hope I’ve been able to give you lots of ideas on how to throw a Christmas Party where your guests are impressed by your food & drink and want to be invited again next year!

Here’s to another great year in food.

Merry Christmas Everyone

Gastrorob

Damn! I just dropped the piece of chicken into the jar of chilli jam. Literally scraping the last few fiery flecks of sweet chilli onto the scalloped chicken breast “gallina empana” I look back, even though a few months late, at what was a highly successful seasonal cooking extravaganza.

Seduced and inspired by Nigella, whom I watch avidly every December, I began my preparations to launch myself into the Christmas Spirit (or several spirits as the case may be)!

I met a friend for a coffee one day to plan what food and cocktail we could make for a party of approx 20 people. She whipped out the Christmas cooking bible that is Nigella Christmas; I am almost sure but I think everyone stopped and turned in our direction! I stroked each and every glossy photo; gently fingered pages and salivated over every Christmas buffet party-clad table, and set to task.

The Christmas Cocktail that we decided upon was Poinsettia – a severely quaffable fizzy wine based cocktail with cointreau and cranberry juice.

“When you run out of cointreau you know it is going to be a good party!”

Foodwise, other than the usual fare* we decided on:

Cranberry and soy-glazed cocktail sausages**, Chilli Jam for cheeses, Union Square Cafe nuts, Tuna Salad, Christmas Rocky Road and Peanut butter cups.

*Gibraltarian households celebrate Christmas with spanish charcuterie – this can be a thing of magnificence; the omnipresent chorizo, the majestic jamón (Pata Negra) and the angelic salchichon. As well as Manchego cheese sliced onto plates and drizzled with olive oil.

Cranberry and Soy-glazed Cocktail Sausages:

These were an absolute hit and will become a regular feature at my future parties.

1st: Put sausages into a disposable roasting tin (to save on labourious washing up after the party when your head cleverly just wants to go to bed!)

2nd: Mix 125ml of sweet chilli sauce, 60ml cranberry sauce, 60ml soy sauce, 1 tbls dark brown sugar, juice of 1 clementine and juice of 1 lime together and pour over the sausages.  Coat evenly.

3rd: Cook in a hot oven for 40mins with a shake of the oven dish half way through cooking.

These are so lip-smackingly good that you’ll have guests asking for more!         **Alternatively replace the sausages for spare ribs.  I however, find that, the spare ribs even though delicious in this sauce, need an extra 10mins in the oven with some honey over to make them extra-sticky-finger-licking-good!  This perhaps isn’t ideal for parties but make a great mid-week treat over a few beers.

Union Square Cafe Nuts:

1st: Roast some mixed nuts in the oven.

2nd: Melt some butter and mix together with dark muscovado sugar, salt, cayenne pepper and finely chopped rosemary.

3rd: Mix the nuts into this butter mixture.

These nuts are so ridiculously moreish, you will come up with all sorts of reasons to make these again and again and again!

Chilli Jam:

My pièce de résistance was Chilli Jam.  I made it with the intention of giving away food presents this year (last year at time of writing!) but could not find jars small enough to be able to make a good batch of them.  So I ended up just making 3 x 500ml jars; keeping one for myself and giving the other two away as presents.

1st: Place 1Kg bag of Jam Sugar into a saucepan and pour over 600ml of cider vinegar.

2nd: Warm through until the sugar dissolves.

3rd: Deseed 150g of red bell pepper and 150g of red chillis and place into a blender.  Blitz until finely chopped.

4th: Add to the saucepan and bring to the boil.  Boil for 10 mins on a very high heat.

Allow the mixture to cool for about 40mins without stirring.  As it cools the jam becomes more viscous.  Place into sterilised jars.  Enjoy!

I made this again during December, this time for my brother and sister-in-law whilst staying at their house over the Christmas holidays but was requested to make it hotter, so therefore added a few birds-eye chillies into the mix as well.  Whilst the sweetness and chilli taste was still there there was an increased tingle on the lips and at the back of the throat.

WARNING: Whilst cooking, the boiling birds-eye mixture made my eyes water and made me cough incessantly.  My face (unintentionally) received a chilli steam facial which was sore for a while after.  Oh and the rest of the house complained about the vinegary smell.

Regardless, having finished off my jar of chilli jam, I shall be making some more (original strength) very soon.  I’ve used it on cheeses, cold meats, gallina empana, croquettes, in sandwiches, in wraps, on chips, as a dip for nachos… the list goes on.  And it is with great respect and authority, hand on my heart, trumpets sounding, that I say:

Nigella is for life, not just for Christmas!