Sunday, January 30, 2011
Blustery January mornings really put a damper on things. Especially Saturdays, when I like to take my time browsing, shopping, and chatting at the farmers' market. Scratch that, I love spending my Saturdays this way. But when it's completely grey, bone-chillingly cold, or, worse, raining, one needs a little extra incentive.
This week, it came in the form of a lunchtime treat - a fluffy cheddar muffin from Greens of Glastonbury, the most fantastic cheddar producer I've found. That, warmed in the oven, paired with a light salad of claytonia, a watercress-like green from Wild Country Organics, with shaved fennel, and apples made the most uplifting plateful.
Fennel, Apple, and Claytonia Salad
Watercress or baby spinach could easily be used in this salad if you can't get claytonia.
1 cup claytonia, washed
1/2 bulb fennel, shaved thinly
1/2 sharp apple, sliced thinly
brown rice vinegar
Toss together and enjoy!
Saturday, January 29, 2011
I'm a big fan of weekend newspapers. I try my best to get through the Saturday Guardian and The Observer most weeks, but most of all love hunkering down with the magazines that come with. Best is the Observer Food Monthly, which I spend weeks pining for and inevitably rush out to the newsagents to buy on the third week of the month.
Something about an entire magazine full of good food content - for the general public! There's an actual food culture in this country and it's oft celebrated. I love that.
In the January issue of OFM, Nigel Slater published an absolutely moreish looking Celeriac and Bacon Soup. Not being a bacon eater, I've adapted it here using earthy green lentils. I also threw in some carrots and a potato for good measure. The soup is thick, slow-cooking, and delightfully hearty. A total treat.
Nigel Slater's recipe can be found here.
2 onions, chopped
butter - 2 tbsp.
one celeriac, peeled and finely chopped or grated
3 sprigs of thyme
500 ml. vegetable stock
1 carrot, chopped
1 potato, chopped
1 cup green lentils, soaked and precooked for one hour, drained
1 litre water
4 tsp. grainy mustard
salt and pepper
In a big saucepan, sauté your onions in butter until soft. Once they are translucent, stir in your celeriac and thyme. Add your stock a bit at a time, scraping the pan, and bring to a boil. Add in your carrot, potato, lentils, and water, and continue to cook for another hour, seasoning to taste. Part way through, check for seasoning and stir in your mustard. After the lentils are cooked through, remove half of the soup and blitz until smooth, and then stir this back into the soup. Reheat over low, and serve.
Thursday, January 27, 2011
A few month's back, my good friend Ruby invited me to her house for chocolate. Quite why, I wasn't sure, for chocolate is rarely the main event in our social schedule. (Though my domestic schedule is a little different...) But I was quickly put in my place. Ruby handed me a single chocolate truffle, enrobed in white chocolate with a dusting of sweet coffee over the top. I bit in to reveal a smooth coffee centre, nutty cappuccino notes marrying with the not-to-sweet white chocolate. This was surely the taste of love.
Said truffle was a Charbonnel et Walker Cappuccino Truffle and has since become a mainstay of my frequent trips down to New Bond Street. Instead of oggling shoes and diamond jewelry, I stop off at Charbonnel for my hit of fancy chocolate. Forget macarons. Forget cupcakes. This single truffle is all I need to feel pampered, at ease, and a little bit indulgent.
When we received our Daring Bakers challenge for this month, a wave of panic took over. "We're supposed to make a joconde imprimé/entremet? I can't even translate these words, though I speak French pretty well!" said my brain. I didn't know what to do. So I took a break from the computer, put the kettle on, and took a bite of a cappuccino truffle.
It hit me. This was the flavour. Coffee. White chocolate. And something else. In a cake, it would need something else. I remembered Pierre Hermé's vanilla tart, which I'd been trying to get up the nerve to make for months. I remembered it had this incredible, silky smooth vanilla glaze. So I started sketching ideas. The cake would have a cocoa joconde stripe around the sides with a coffee genoise cake inside, layered with vanilla and coffee mousse. The glaze would be Pierre Hermé's, minus the whitening titanium dioxide. White chocolate would marry the mousse and the glaze, creating a cake-sized ode to the cappuccino truffle.
In truth, the cake was no where near as good as the truffle itself. The genoise wasn't great, and I probably won't use that recipe again, but I loved the mousse and the glaze. The joconde was surprisingly delicious, and a few rings of it would have made a much nicer cake filling than the genoise. But was it worth it? Yes, yes, yes. The glaze was a marvel to behold, though not for the faint-hearted, and I'll be looking for ways to make it again all year long. The mousse was so delicate and vanilla-flecked, without too much sweetness. The final dusting of coffee with sugar and cocoa added the most indulgent touch to the whole cake, a bit like eating the chocolatey bit of a tiramisu, but infinitely more refined. And the plus? In the end, I just had to go down to Charbonnel to buy some truffles, because I couldn't very well talk about it and not show you a picture, right?
The January 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Astheroshe of the blog accro. She chose to challenge everyone to make a Biscuit Joconde Imprime to wrap around an Entremets dessert.
White Chocolate Mousse (to which I added a splash of coffee) is here: http://www.pastrypal.com/2010/12/white-chocolate-raspberry-tart-and-how-i-pissed-off-the-whole-town/
The Coffee Genoise is here: http://www.passionateaboutbaking.com/2010/11/baking-espresso-coffee-cream-cake-happy-birthday-to-me.html
Pierre Hermé's Vanilla Glaze is here: http://kitchenmusings.com/2009/07/pierre-hermes-vanilla-tart.html
YIELD: Two ½ size sheet pans or a 13” x 18” (33 x 46 cm) jelly roll pan
¾ cup/ 180 ml/ 3oz/ 85g almond flour/meal - *You can also use hazelnut flour, just omit the butter
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons/ 150 ml/ 2⅔ oz/ 75g confectioners' (icing) sugar
¼ cup/ 60 ml/ 1 oz/ 25g cake flour *See note below
3 large eggs - about 5⅓ oz/ 150g
3 large egg whites - about 3 oz/ 90g
2½ teaspoons/ 12½ ml/ ⅓ oz/ 10g white granulated sugar or superfine (caster) sugar
2 tablespoons/ 30 ml/ 1oz / 30g unsalted butter, melted
*Note: How to make cake flour: http://www.joythebaker.com/blog/2009/09/how-to-make-cake-flour/
In a clean mixing bowl whip the egg whites and white granulated sugar to firm, glossy peeks. Reserve in a separate clean bowl to use later.
Sift almond flour, confectioner’s sugar, cake flour. (This can be done into your dirty egg white bowl)
On medium speed, add the eggs a little at a time. Mix well after each addition. Mix until smooth and light. (If using a stand mixer use blade attachment. If hand held a whisk attachment is fine, or by hand. )
Fold in one third reserved whipped egg whites to almond mixture to lighten the batter. Fold in remaining whipped egg whites. Do not over mix.
Fold in melted butter.
Reserve batter to be used later.
Patterned Joconde-Décor Paste
YIELD: Two ½ size sheet pans or a 13” x 18” (33 x 46 cm) jelly roll pan
14 tablespoons/ 210ml/ 7oz/ 200g unsalted butter, softened
1½ cups plus1½ tablespoons/ 385ml/ 7oz/ 200g Confectioners' (icing) sugar
7 large egg whites - about 7 oz / 200g
1¾ cup/ 420ml/ 7¾ oz/ 220g cake flour
Food coloring gel, paste or liquid
COCOA Décor Paste Variation: Reduce cake flour to 6 oz / 170g. Add 2 oz/ 60 g cocoa powder. Sift the flour and cocoa powder together before adding to creamed mixture.
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy (use stand mixer with blade, hand held mixer, or by hand)
Gradually add egg whites. Beat continuously.
Fold in sifted flour.
Tint batter with coloring to desired color, if not making cocoa variation.
Preparing the Joconde- How to make the pattern:
Spread a thin even layer of décor paste approximately 1/4 inch (5 millimeter) thick onto silicone baking mat with a spatula, or flat knife. Place mat on an upside down baking sheet. The upside down sheet makes spreading easier with no lip from the pan.
Pattern the décor paste – Here is where you can be creative. Make horizontal /vertical lines (you can use a knife, spatula, cake/pastry comb). Squiggles with your fingers, zig zags, wood grains. Be creative whatever you have at home to make a design can be used. OR use a piping bag. Pipe letters, or polka dots, or a piped design. If you do not have a piping bag. Fill a ziplock bag and snip off corner for a homemade version of one.
Slide the baking sheet with paste into the freezer. Freeze hard. Approx 15 minutes.
Remove from freezer. Quickly pour the Joconde batter over the design. Spread evenly to completely cover the pattern of the Décor paste.
Bake at 475ºF /250ºC until the joconde bounces back when slightly pressed, approx. 15 minutes. You can bake it as is on the upside down pan. Yes, it is a very quick bake, so watch carefully.
Cool. Do not leave too long, or you will have difficulty removing it from mat.
Flip cooled cake on to a powdered sugared parchment paper. Remove silpat. Cake should be right side up, and pattern showing! (The powdered sugar helps the cake from sticking when cutting.)
Cutting and Assembling the Joconde:
Trim the cake of any dark crispy edges. You should have a nice rectangle shape.
Decide how thick you want your “Joconde wrapper”. Traditionally, it is ½ the height of your mold. This is done so more layers of the plated dessert can be shown. However, you can make it the full height.
Once your height is measured, then you can cut the cake into equal strips, of height and length. (Use a very sharp paring knife and ruler. Make sure your strips are cut cleanly and ends are cut perfectly straight. Press the cake strips inside of the mold, decorative side facing out. Once wrapped inside the mold, overlap your ends slightly. You want your Joconde to fit very tightly pressed up to the sides of the mold. Then gently push and press the ends to meet together to make a seamless cake. The cake is very flexible so you can push it into place. You can use more than one piece to “wrap“ your mold, if one cut piece is not long enough. The mold is done, and ready to fill.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Quick, homemade lunches are like gold around here - I work partly from home, so often find myself in the kitchen with twenty minutes for lunch before needing to go back out into the world. I've discovered how much can be cooked in twenty minutes - pastas, soups, omelets, and fried sandwiches are mainstays. This salad, however, makes a light, sharply flavoured addition to the roster.
Thin slices of fennel are tossed with a bit of braised cabbage, sliced apples, and a dijon vinaigrette. The anise-flavour of the fennel is matched by the sweetness of apple and the sharpness of the mustard. The cabbage adds a basenote of flavour and bulk, making this salad filling enough, with maybe a slice of toast, for a proper lunch. Salty shavings of parmesan over the top add umami-loaded bite to the whole thing.
Here I used a combination of savoy and brussels sprouts tops for the cabbage, but I expect most cabbages would do nicely. The apples were the sharp, juicy "Evita" apples sold by Brambletye Fruit Farms, who sell their biodynamic fruit at most London Farmers' Markets.
1 cup cabbage, shredded
1 bulb fennel, sliced thinly
1 apple, cored and sliced thinly
1 tbsp. dijon mustard
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. brown rice vinegar (though I expect apple cider vinegar would be nice, too)
1 tsp. honey
salt and pepper
parmesan, for shaving over top
1. Add your cabbage to some oil in a hot pan and fry for 1 minute. Toss in a splash of water and pop a lid on the pan, turning the heat down. 2. Meanwhile, mix your dressing together in a big bowl and season to taste. 3. Your cabbage should cook in about 3 minutes or so, the time it takes to prep your fennel and apple. Toss all the ingredients together and serve with some parmesan and fennel fronds over the top.
Monday, January 24, 2011
I am loath to call any dish, straight-up, "a curry". It rings of a very Western sensibility about Indian and South Asian cooking, of some idea that anything combining spices in sauce constitutes a curry. But in this case, I really lack any vocabulary for this dish. It's not quite chana masala, though it does feature chickpeas in a nice garam masala laced sauce, and it's not quite aloo gobi, for it lacks the potato starchiness. But it does feature a hearty, fragrant blend of cauliflower, chili, coriander, and ginger. If anyone would like to point me in the right direction, please do.
I knocked this up fairly quickly using what I had on hand. I had a bit of swede (that's turnip, to the Americans/Canadians amongst us) left-over from the day before, so used that in place of carrots. I used tinned chickpeas and some tinned tomatoes, but you could easily use fresh tomatoes. I like to buy chickpeas in water with no salt added, as I hate finding out that extra salt's been packed into my perishables!
Served over a bed of hot, nutty brown rice with a good handful of coriander, it's a warm, filling treat on a winter's night.
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 inch knob garlic, grated
1 tbsp. cumin seeds
1 tbsp. coriander powder
1 tbsp. garam masala
1 red chilli, finely diced
1/2 tin chopped tomatoes
1 cup cauliflower, roughly chopped
1/2 cup chopped swede (or carrots or potatoes if you prefer)
1/2 tin chickpeas, drained
1 bunch coriander, chopped
salt and pepper
1. Over medium heat, sauté your onions in some oil until softened. Stir in your garlic and ginger, and when fragrant add in your spices and chili, stirring all the while. 2. After 1 minute or so, add your tomatoes and scrape the bottom of the pan to get all the nice bits mixed into your sauce. Stir in 1/2 cup water, season to taste, and bring to a simmer. 3. Stir in your cauliflower, swede and chickpeas, and continue to cook for about twenty minutes on medium-low heat. Stir in some coriander and season to taste.
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
One of my nicknames is Paneer Monster. I'll happily attest to being a complete and utter paneer monster - I could easily eat it day after day and genuinely spend my days planning my next paneer dish. Something about squidgy, squeeky cheese is just too wonderful for words.
Paneer, a homemade cottage cheese common in Indian cooking, comes in many varieties: soft, curds, factory-pressed. Each version of the cheese offers something special, whether it's the whey-like flavour of soft, homemade paneer, the creamy richness of the curds, or the versatility and fry-ability of the firm, pressed paneers. Like tofu, it's just a brilliant foil for flavour.
This dish is fresh tasting, sharp, and packs a crisp ginger-chili punch. It's super quick to make and very filling. And even though it's packed with delicious cheese, it has enough greens and spices to make you feel virtuous.
100 grams firm paneer, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 cup spinach, washed and chopped
1/4 cup peas
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 inch knob ginger, peeled
3 cloves garlic
1 chili, chopped
1 tbsp. cumin seed
1 tbsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground cumin
3 cardamom pods, bruised
2 tomatoes, pureed
1 cup water
salt and pepper
1. In a blender, puree your onion, garlic, and ginger until smooth. In a heavy saucepan, fry this mixture over medium heat in a bit of olive oil. After five minutes, once the onions have sweetened, toss in your chili and spices and fry, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes. 2. Pour in your tomato puree and water, season, and bring to a simmer. 3. Cook over low heat until the oil separates from the sauce, about twenty minutes. 4. Meanwhile, fry your paneer cubes in oil in a frying pan over high heat. They should become golden after a few minutes. Turn and continue to fry. 5. Once both sides are golden, toss in your spinach and peas, stir and remove from heat. Season very lightly with salt and pepper.
Serve the paneer with sauce over hot rice with a nice dollop of yogurt.
Sunday, January 16, 2011
The past few weeks have been busy, getting back into work after the holidays. I've been out most evenings after work and have been out on the weekends for dinner with friends. As a result, it occurred to me today that Michael and I haven't actually eaten together in at least two weeks. We haven't even eaten the same thing. We've been living parallel to one another - him cooking one meal, me cooking another. So I consider tonight's meal a step in the right direction: he was eating leftover chicken curry while I was eating this absolutely delectable, spicy, rich paneer and celeriac kofte with a fennel- and chili-spiced sauce. I can't speak for him, but my dinner was just the warm, flavoursome treat that I need on a Sunday night.
These kofte are so unbelievably easy. You mash up some boiled celeriac and toss it with spices and grated paneer. The kofte bake for forty minutes or so in a hot oven while you whip up this sauce, which took me no time at all. The sauce recipe is from one of my favourite food blogs, Ko Rasoi. Serve with hot rice or nice chappati and you're set: crunchy, tender parcels of celeriac, melting with paneer, and an almost explosive, rich spiced sauce.
1 celeriac, peeled and cubed
100 grams paneer, grated
1 tbsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. coriander powder
pinch of cayenne pepper
1/4 cup buckwheat flour + some for dusting
salt and pepper
1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F (200 C). Boil your celeriac until tender, about twenty minutes. 2. Drain and mash thoroughly, before mixing with your paneer, spices, and your 1/4 cup flour. Season and form into golf-ball sized patties. Dredge the patties in flour. 3. Brush your patties with a bit of oil and bake on an oiled baking sheet for forty to fifty minutes.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Celeriac might be the least loved vegetable I can think of, besides brussels sprouts. But I must confess that I've recently thought of nothing but delicious, sharp, flavoursome celeriac. It is the ugliest, knobbliest, roughest vegetable I can think of, but once you've reached the white, celery-like flesh, you'll struggle to believe you're dealing with a January root vegetable.
It's strong. Fragrant. Crisp with a celery-like crunch. And it's wonderful roasted, boiled, mashed, stewed - however you cook it. And it's cheap and plentiful at this time of the year.
The ones I get from the farmers' market are covered in dirt and require a good scrubbing before they go anywhere near my chopping board. They get a good trimming on top and bottom, and then I gently slice off the thick skin, revealing the white inside. Here, I've chopped them to centimetre chunks and cooked them into a risotto.
The risotto itself is many-layered in flavour: a base of sautéed onion, nutty arborio rice, sharp celeriac. I added a good grating of fresh nutmeg to spice it up a bit and stirred in a few shredded leaves of savoy cabbage for their green vibrancy. A welcome shock of colour in an otherwise white January dish.
1 small onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small celeriac, or half a large once, peeled and diced to 1 cm
1 cup arborio rice
3 cups vegetable stock
1 cup shredded savoy cabbage
a knob of butter
salt and pepper
parmesan shavings, to serve
1. In a large saucepan, gently cook your onions in oil over medium heat. Once softened, add in your garlic and celeriac and stir. Let cook for a further two minutes before stirring in your rice. Season to taste. 2. Once the rice is glossy, pour in your first ladleful of stock. Deglaze the pan with this and then add a bit more stock. As the rice absorbs the stock, stir, and add more stock once it starts to stick. Repeat. 3. Near the end of cooking, once you're near your last bit of stock, stir in your cabbage and butter. Continue the process of adding stock until all the stock is absorbed or until the risotto is al dente, about an hour. Season to taste and grate in about 1/4 teaspoon of fresh nutmeg. Serve with shavings of parmesan, a drizzle of olive oil, and a bit more nutmeg.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
The bright orange of this soup almost outshines its sheer simplicity - it screams, "Look how colourful I am!", distracting from his simple, silky, pumpkin-ness. Sweet and orange, topped with anise-flavoured fennel shavings and olive oil, this soup adds a bit of sharp, acidic freshness to an otherwise drab winter's day.
Fennel is something I'm never 100% sure about. I have a love-hate relationship with anise flavours, loving a bit of fennel seed in yogurt dips, obsessing over the faint whispers of star anise in a stir fry, but somewhat sceptical of the role of thin, crisp fennel shavings in salads, on its own, or in any other context. Then I realised - it just needed to be in the right place, at the right time.
Fennel shines with freshness and crisp winter bite in this soup, tossed over the top at the last minute to add a cool note to a warm, sweet soup. A good dose of pepper, tossed through the fennel and stirred into the soup, warms the back of the palate and rounds the whole thing out. For so few ingredients, there's a lot of powerful flavour here: raw, as it should be, pumpkin, fennel, and pepper at their best.
5 cloves of garlic, peeled, left whole
2 cups chopped pumpkin, I used a blue pumpkin
3 cups vegetable stock
1 head fennel, thinly sliced
salt and pepper
1. In a large saucepan, sauté your onions and garlic in a bit of oil over medium heat. Once the onions start to soften, toss in the pumpkin and cook, stirring, for another minute. 2. Pour over your stock, deglazing the pan, and bring to a simmer. Cook for 1 hour. 3. Remove from heat, season, and blend with an immersion blender until light and smooth. Reheat over low heat. 4. In another bowl, toss together some fennel, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Serve soup ladled into shallow bowls, topped with some of the fennel shavings.
Monday, January 10, 2011
It's definitely mid-winter, and I've found myself spending more time indoors and much more time craving warm, enriching, satisfyingly moreish bowls of soup. Smooth soups, heavy soups, spicy noodle soups - I've been eating them all.
There seems to be no time at which soup is inappropriate: My Auntie Dang would often give us packets of noodle soup for breakfast, and I spent my university-days boiling up quick vegetable soups to pack in jars in my backpack. These days I've been eating spiced, warming purées - a mélange of vegetables, pulses, spices, and broth, designed specifically to comfort and soothe on dark, rainy January days.
This soup is a simple, tasty mixture of vegetables - it sits in my mind somewhere between memories of childhood soups in school lunches (for its almost gloupy mixture of potatoes, carrots, and saltiness) and somewhere near my mothers split pea soup, thick, rich, and full of flavour. It's easy, in that you leave it for a long while to cook on the stove, but time consuming, in that the split peas can take a few hours to soften even when they've been soaked. A good blitz with a stick blender helps this process along, and you'll soon be in simple, comforting, soup-heaven.
1/2 cup split yellow peas, soaked overnight or in boiling water for one hour
1 onion, chopped
1 potato, peeled and chopped
1 carrot, chopped,
1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped
2 cups vegetable stock
a handful of spinach, torn
salt and pepper
cream, for drizzling
1. Rinse and drain your split peas, and then bring to a boil in some clean water. Boil for about 20 minutes, then set aside, reserving the cooking water. 2. In a soup pot, sauté your onions in a bit of oil over medium heat. When soft, add in your chopped vegetables and continue to cook, stirring occasionally. 3. After about three minutes, add in your stock, deglazing the pan and scraping any nice bits off the bottom. Stir in your split peas and about a cup of the cooking water. Bring the soup to a boil, and simmer for an hour-and-a-half. 4. Season to taste and then remove from heat. Using an immersion blender or in a regular blender, purée the soup to a smooth consistency. I like to leave a tiny bit unblended to add texture, but this is entirely up to you. Return to the pan, stir in your spinach, and reheat over low heat. Serve with a drizzle of cream.
Sunday, January 2, 2011
This warm, spicy, and rich chili is a bit different. In place of the usual red kidney beans, this one uses chickpeas, creating a lighter broth, which is laced with hot chillies, maple syrup, and a splash of coffee. It sounds a bit unusual, I realise, but the combination forms a velvety broth with such depth of flavour you'd have trouble believing it's vegetarian and cooked in but an hour. The sweet potatoes add bulk, colour, and sweetness, though I didn't hesitate to ladle mine over a sliced baked sweet potato to round it out. Topped with yogurt, coriander, and chillies, this dish is a great balance between hot, cool, spicy, and sweet.
2 onions, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 sweet potato, diced
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 tin or carton chickpeas, water retained
1 jalapeño, minced
2 Tbsp. maple syrup
4 Tbsp. hot strong coffee
1 cup shredded cabbage, kale, or other greens
salt and pepper
yogurt and coriander, to serve
1. Sauté your onion in olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy casserole. Once it starts to soften, add in your carrots and cook for a further 3 minutes. 2. Toss in your sweet potato and spices and stir until coated. 3. After a minute, pour in a splash of your tomatoes, scraping the base of the pan to get as much flavour out as possible. Add in the rest of your tomatoes and stir a tinful of water. 4. Bring to a gentle boil and stir in your chickpeas, jalapeño, maple, and coffee. Season to taste, and then cook for twenty minutes. 5. Add in your greens, check for seasoning again, and then cook for a further fifteen minutes. Let stand for a few minutes before serving, topped with yogurt and coriander.