Archive for the ‘Weekend’ Category

I walked up to my front door to find that there was a bright red present tied with white and blue ribbon waiting at its feet.  It felt as if I had just received my first valentine card…the excitement, the joy, the intrigue.  Ripping through the wrapping, I found myself faced with a metal madeleine tray with 12 scallop-shell shaped moulds staring up at me.  Now if like me, you’re a food obsessive, you’d know what to do with it – otherwise you’d be taking it down the beach to decorate your sandcastles with.

the excitement, the joy, the intrigue

But I still hadn’t figured out who left it there!

The card that accompanied the tray made everything clearer; it was a gift from my friend, Pie.  On the card were suggestions as to which madeleine recipe to follow and who to youtube should I need direction, so that I too could enjoy the delights of a fresh, warm madeleine with a cup of coffee as a weekend breakfast.

I must place this in a context for you; my friend Pie, bakes delicious madeleines (or so she tells me as she’s never managed to invite me round for Sunday breakfast!)

So what is a madeleine?


A madeleine is a French patisserie favourite.  A small, buttery sponge cake to enjoy with a cup of tea or coffee.  Classically they will either be lemon or almond flavoured, however, they now come in a variety of different flavours; dunked in chocolate or filled with jam/fruit/curd.  But what sets a Madeleine apart from a standard sliced tea-time sponge cake, is the scallop-shell impressed pan they are baked in.

Having taken Pie’s recommendations and done some research myself – Michel Roux Jnr’s recipe is a good one to start with:

Madeleines

Ingredients:
2 eggs

100g caster sugar

100g plain flour + extra for dusting

1 lemon

¾ tsp baking powder

100g melted butter

Method:

1st: Preheat the oven to 200˚C.  Brush the Madeleine tray with melted butter, shake in a little flour to coat the shells and tap out the excess.

2nd: Prepare your dry ingredients in a bowl and the lemon zest.  Pour the lemon juice into the melted butter and set aside.

3rd: Whisk together the eggs and the sugar in a bowl until frothy.

4th: Pour in the melted butter and lemon mixture and lightly whisk in the flour.  Leave to stand for 20mins before carefully pouring the batter into your prepared madeleine tray.

5th: Bake for 8-10mins until risen in the middle and fully cooked through.  The madeleine should be golden brown around the edges.  Transfer the madeleines to a wire rack and leave for a few minutes to cool slightly.

Madeleines are best eaten within the hour – barely warm and sprinkled with icing sugar.

I recommend you set your timer for 8mins and then watch the madeleines like a hawk as they’ll go from pale and white to dark brown within the 2mins left!
Renowned food writers, such as David Lebovitz, who is known to “pop a few for breakfast” drizzles honey into the mix and gives his batter a generous wait time.  Rachel Khoo, from Little Paris Kitchen, drizzles in some honey and prods a raspberry into the centre of the batter mixture before baking, then piping lemon curd into the centre of the baked madeleine.  Julia Child’s recipe calls for salt, vanilla extract, 2 drops of lemon juice and 2 drops of bergamot extract as well as boiling the butter first to turn it brown – why would any home cook want to have to go through all that?!

I followed Michel Roux Jnr’s recipe adding more lemon juice than expressed.  Next time I’d like the madeleine to have a stronger lemon taste therefore adding more juice or perhaps adding some lemon curd to the batter mixture.  I prepared the batter before I went out the night before and placed in the fridge.

Make sure not to fill the moulds too much as they will spill over and engulf the madeleine next to it if you’re not too careful.


I suppose, like the old Chinese proverb: give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.  Teach him to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.  Pie has provided me with the tools and wisdom, so that I too can eat madeleines as often as I want.

Cue accordion music

 

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Fresh Pasta – Tortellini

A couple of years ago, or was it last year? I was given a pasta machine for my birthday.  And whether this was a gift given out of love or the thought that I’d be inviting people around to eat fresh pasta on a regular basis I don’t know BUT what I do know is that it is great fun making fresh pasta from scratch.

A great activity for the weekend when you’ve got time to make some space, make a mess and clean up.

Believe it or not, fresh pasta is actually very simple to make; 100g pasta ‘00’ flour to one large egg.  Combine the dough together, let it rest for approx 20mins and then start rolling.

In the past I’ve transformed my fresh pasta into tagliatelle and spaghetti using the attachments on my pasta machine but this time I wanted a hand at stuffed fresh pasta such as ravioli or tortellini.

If you want to know about The Science Behind Fresh Pasta – click on the hyperlink to read about the ingredients to make the best fresh pasta, an article written by Nikki Achitoff-Gray from www.seriouseats.com

Spinach and Goats Cheese Tortellini with Toasted Pine Nuts and Sage Butter

Ingredients (serves 2):
For the Pasta:
100g ‘00’ flour and 1 large egg  

For the Butter:
Pine nuts
50g butter
Sage leaves

 

For the Filling:
100g of wilted spinach
100g of goat’s cheese
30g of grated parmesan cheese
Rasp of fresh nutmeg

 

 

Method:
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1st:
On a clean surface pour your flour and make a well in the centre.  Crack the egg into the well, and either using a fork or your fingers, start to mix the ingredients together.  Once the dough has come together, allow to rest for 20-30mins.  Place under a damp tea-cloth, wrap in cling film or hide under an upturned bowl.

2nd: Whilst the dough is resting make the filling.  Chop the wilted spinach and mix with the goat’s cheese and the parmesan cheese, season and add a rasp of nutmeg.  Taste. Adjust seasoning accordingly.

 

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fresh pasta

3rd: Once the dough has rested start rolling it out- it is much easier with a pasta machine (as you can see in the clip above) as you can get it much thinner than if rolling by hand.  Follow the directions on your machine as each will have its own instructions.

4th: To make tortellini: On a pasta sheet, place teaspoonfuls of the filling at regular intervals.  Put another pasta sheet on top and using your fingers, seal the two pasta sheets expelling any air around the filling.  Note: any trapped air may cause the tortellini to burst on cooking.  Using a circular cutter or wine glass, cut out each tortellini and sprinkle in semolina to avoid them sticking together or the surface they are on.  Repeat the process until all your tortellini are made.

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Fresh Pasta – Tortellini

5th: Boil the tortellini in salted water for 4 mins, this is a good time to make the butter.  In a dry frying pan toast your pine nuts.  Once they are as coloured as you dare, place the butter and the sage leaves in the frying pan.  Add a ladleful of the pasta water and mix to make a sauce.  Serve with grated parmesan and crispy sage leaves.

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Spinach and Goat’s Cheese tortellini with toasted pine nuts and sage butter

Buon appetito!

 

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chocolate cake

Baking soothes the soul

Unsettled, squalid weather makes for a perfect cake baking day.  And yesterday was such a day.  Whether you opt for a sandwich cake filled with something sweet and creamy or whether it’s a cake popped out of a spring form tin, baking a cake – for yourself and/or loved ones – is a pleasurable act.

They say that baking soothes the soul.  How can it not?

“The reassuring ritual of quietly weighing out butter, sugar, flour, cracking eggs, whisking, beating and folding”

The smell of a cake wafting through the house providing instant comfort and security from the world outside.  The sense of achievement that you managed to combine the ingredients and create an elemental change in them should never be underestimated.

Basic quantities are 225g of self-raising flour, sugar, butter and 4 eggs.  Baked for 20/25mins.  But feel free to create variations – e.g. for a chocolate sponge swap 2 table spoons of the flour for 2 of cocoa powder.

What filling/topping you go for is a matter of how far you allow your imagination to take you.  Sandwich style cakes can be filled with fruits and or cream as well as topped with a dusting of icing sugar, chocolate ganache, or a calorific butter frosting.  Whether it’s a childhood psychedelic marble cake or a traditional Victoria sponge cake, there is a nostalgic nursery-teatime quality to the custom of cutting cake.  And any iced-cake is ultimately a birthday cake waiting to be called into service.

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ultimate chocolate cake

Of all the places I have travelled to, New York aka New Yoik, is still one of my favourite destinations.  Having been there on three seperate occasions with three different groups of people, I can encouragingly recommend this place to everyone.  Other than the typical tourist attractions statue of liberty, times square, central park, etc which I will gladly visit again, it is the food that stays with me the most!

But what actually is American food?  Historically, as Europeans gradually colonised the Americas they took with them ingredients and cooking styles from their native lands.  These influences continued expanding proportionally with the influx of immigrants from many foreign nations.  It is this influx that has developed a rich diversity in food preparation throughout the country.

As these immigrants passed through Ellis Island, many of them settled in New York City.  Creating a melting pot of cultures, race and food.

On my second visit to NYC we stayed at the Beekman Tower Hotel, near the United Nations building.  Opposite our hotel there was a cafe – I think it was called Union Cafe – which severed food all day from 6am to 11pm (I may be exaggerating).  My NY breakfast of choice was french toast with maple syrup fried bacon and eggs, sunny side up 🙂

What can I say?  If you don’t want to have to keep stopping for mid-morning snacks delaying your itinerary to your next tourist queue this is the sort of breakfast you are going to want, no, correction, need!

But this food obsession does not just stop at breakfast.  From a city that boasts ~23, 500 active restaurants (figure taken from nycgo.com) there is food for all pockets and tastes.

This figure also incorporates food stands selling the quintessential hot dog with relish, burger stands and the other New York City staple, the pretzel.

When you first buy a pretzel you welcome its warmth and bready smell.  Holding it in your hands you feel victorious that you have found the answer to keeping warm in New York in Winter – but when you take your first bite you realise you should have asked the guy for relish!  It is too dry therefore hard.  However, for me, it is the rock salt that covers it that makes it an unpleasant experience.  Each bite you take makes you wonder whether your fillings are being hacked out of your teeth!  Not content with this the first time (or wondering whether I was sold a dodgy pretzel), I have then bought pretzels on my other two visits to NYC and found the same unpleasant, salty experience.

Actually make a point of adding relish to anything you buy from a food stand/hot dog cart/burger stand/pretzel stand as generally the sweet relish masks the taste of what you are consuming!

NYC does sweet very well.  Not only is it a mecca for cupcakes and muffins which are amazing.  Stop in any deli and get a coffee (cu-o-ffy) and a slice of cheesecake that lifts you spiritually as well as providing much needed respite from walking the streets of Manhattan.  And it was with this uplifting memory of NYC and those indulgent if not calorific breakfasts that I made American Style Pancackes for my Saturday breakfast!

American Style Pancakes

1st: Mix plain flour, milk, melted butter, eggs, bicarbonate of soda, sugar and salt in an electric foodmixer until everything is mixed well.

2nd: Pour the mixture into a jug as they are easier to pour onto the pan than spooning them out.

3rd: Cook on both sides.

4th: Serve with maple syrup like a waterfall, cascading over its sides!!

YUMMERS!!

Pancakes…mmmmm! Which type should I make? American style, french crêpe, ricotta hotcakes, galette, gridle cake, pfannkuchen, pannenkoeken, poffertjes, palacinky, palacsinta, blini, drop scones, pikelets, crumpets, waffles the list goes on.  Or so the internet tells me!

“Ultimately, all of the above are a variation on a theme.” 

They all have flour, milk and eggs.  Some use yeast as a leavening agent others use baking powder some even use yoghurt or buttermilk. which as it hits the heat reacts creating a fluffy, light pancake.  On this occasion, and purely because I had a tub of it in the fridge when I planned this weekend’s cooking, I decided on Ricotta Hotcakes.

A surprisingly easy recipe to follow. 

Creating the batter for these hotcakes is simple.  You need to whisk the egg whites before mixing them into the batter mixture but to be honest, this is not strenuous work.  Even bleary-eyed and jauntily dressed in stripey Pj’s this is manageable.  I do have to say I was tempted to use the electric food mixer but I’m not quite sure my neighbours would have appreciated the racket it makes in the still of an 8 o’clock Sunday morning.  Top Tip: add salt to the egg whites before whisking as this helps them froth up a treat!!

Once you fold the egg whites into the batter you are ready for lift off.

The texture of these hotcakes was sublime.  They felt as if they had souffled in the pan.  The ricotta was so smooth yet tangy in the batter leaving a clean lemony taste in your mouth.  If I were to compare these hotcakes to anything, I would have to say that they reminded me of

a light lemon flavoured doughnut. 

It was due to this that I added the raspberries and blueberries.  Even though I am sure they would be just as delicious doused in maple syrup.  However, I wouldn’t recommend bacon with these! 

The only downside is that I’ve got to wait another 7 days before I’m going to be attempting them again!  Or perhaps next time I’ll dispense with the ricotta version and make american style gridle cakes.

Weekend – Saturday

Posted: February 4, 2012 in Weekend
Tags: , ,

Hard as it may seem, it had felt as if I had not thrown myself into the kitchen for a while. So at some quiet moment on Friday, between breakfast and after work beers (of which there were lots) I sat down with orange post-it notes and pen in hand and decided on cooking/baking that I was willing to embark upon this weekend.

The following recipes are neither of them difficult nor tedious – they just require some waiting around. This is why they are ideal weekend activities. During the week I wouldn’t want to wait 45 mins for something between creation and consumption.

First on my to do list primarily because I had run out of it was the infamous chilli jam:

I have put the recipe on a previous post but here are some photos taken during the production of this batch.

You have got to take my word for it, please believe me; red flecked and fiery this chilli jam is addictive. It makes for complsive eating as you convince yourself that you need that extra chunk of cheese or slice of cold meat drizzled with sweet chilli. It is so easy to make it is a shame not more people try it. All I really need to do here is buy smaller Killner jars and hand out to friends and family, as 1500mls of chilli jam is clearly too much for me. Any takers?

Whilst my preserve cooled, I started on my Saturday night staple Pepperoni Pizza:

I use a very basic bread recipe taken from Jamie Oliver which I have jiggled slightly.

1st: I pour out my bread flour direct onto my granite worktop and mix with lukewarm water, dried yeast, salt and honey. NB: Yeast is a microorganism. Hot water will denature the yeast and it will not make your dough rise (that’s enough science for now.)

2nd: Once the flour has absorbed the liquid I start using my hands to bring the mixture together. At this moment I start kneading the dough.

Kneading: This is the process whereby you use the heel of your hand to push the dough away from you, fold the dough over, rotate and repeat until the dough becomes elastic and smooth.

3rd: I then place this dough ball into a bowl and cover with a tea-cloth to prove. It is this proving that makes the dough rise and fill up with pockets of carbon dioxide gas making for a light and fluffy dough.

After ~45 mins I knock the dough back and start rolling out and assembling my pizza.

I make this pizza so often that I don’t weigh the ingredients. Everything is by eye. My two rules are: how big a pizza am I going to able to consume and how big my oven is!

“For me it is about the feel of the dough under my hands”

If with every push of the heel of my hand I feel the dough is dry and flaky I wet my hands in tepid water and continue. If alternatively it is too moist and not taking the force I add more flour. Once the dough becomes as warm as flesh, it is ready to rest in a warm place to allow the yeast to work its magic.

Fresh parmesan grated over and topped with rocket leaves. Drizzled with olive oil and tobasco sauce at the ready.

I always eat my pizza off the board.

DELICIOUS!