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I know what you’re thinking. What is that Victoria? Is a pancake? An omelette?  Another baking disaster? It is none of the above my friends. Witness the birth of the new breakfast/brunch/afternoon tea crossover – the Dutch Baby, baby.

A Dutch Baby is in essence, a big ol’ Yorkshire pud that can be thrown together in an instant. Whacked into a screaming hot oven, the sides puff up, the cherries burst into colourful purple puddles and the butter glazes the top into a sweet crispness. And with a fragrant topping of orange scented sugar, this dish trumps all other breakfast efforts. Forget toast and a cup of tea, this is one breakfast cuddle that will cheer you up when the day is going to be fierce.

And what’s more, this breakfast dish reminds me of my days in Berlin, ordering a MilchKaffee and Kirschplunder in broken German on our lunch break, and devouring on the steps outside of German class. The crisp, fluffiness of the Dutch Baby, with its flecks of juicy cherry are reminiscent of the pastry I devoured by the truckload in Germany, and accompanying with coffee makes a morning of writing a little more bearable if I pretend that I can get the U-Bahn to town after I’ve finished my review. Guten Morgen Monday, it’s time to face you head on. Plus, there’s always some leftovers to have with my afternoon cuppa.

 

Recipe Adapted from Joy the Baker

 

You Will Need

3 eggs

160ml milk

100g plain flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla extract or a spot of vanilla paste

1 pinch of salt

A small handful of cherries, stoned and chopped

50g butter

1 orange, zested

2 tablespoons caster sugar

 

Preheat the oven to 230oc/220oc fan/Gas Mark 8 and place a deep frying pan inside to heat up. Add the eggs to a large mixing bowl and beat using a hand mixer until thick and fluffy. With the mixer still running, alternatively add the flour and milk until full incorporated into the batter. Stir in the cherries, cinnamon, vanilla and salt.

Add the butter to the frying pan and return to the oven until melted. Carefully pour in the batter and return to the oven for 20 minutes until puffed up and golden.

To make the orange sugar, place the zest on a chopping board and add the caster sugar. With the back of a spoon, smooth the two ingredients together until they fully combined and the sugar smells fragrant.

Check on the Dutch Baby; it should now be puffed up with little bursts of cherry and glazed with the butter. Remove from the oven and cut into wedges. Serve with a spoonful of the orange sugar and a cup of coffee.

Sometimes we need a little bit of health in our lives. Ok, so I know we’re nearing the end of January already, and many of you are almost at the end of your detoxes (seriously, well done, I raise a glass of red to you) but there’s no need to slow down on the healthy eating. Butternut squash has such a wonderfully creamy texture and slow roasting in olive oil lifts the flavour to a caramelised sweetness. But the healthy properties of this soup don’t stop there. The colour is complimented with carrot, which is full of antioxidants, and with a little hint of warmth through the red chilli, sweetness from the garlic and a zingy squeeze of lemon, this soup will become your pick-me-up staple. Take it to work in a Thermos, pour into a mug and enjoy whilst tackling your dissertation, or make it on a slow Sunday, and enjoy the last remnants of your weekend with a bowl curled up on the sofa.

 

You Will Need

1 Butternut Squash

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 white onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

½ red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

1 small carrot, grated

1 ½ pints chicken or vegetable stock

A squeeze of lemon

Salt and pepper to taste

1 teaspoon double cream to serve

 

Preheat the oven to 200oc/180oc fan/Gas Mark 5. On a chopping board, top and tail the butternut squash and then slice in half length ways. Scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Remove the outside skin with a peeler or vegetable knife and discard peelings. Slice the squash and cut into 1cm chunks. Place on a baking tray and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, making sure each piece is coated. Season well and roast in the oven for 40 minutes, turning regularly.

After the squash has been roasting for 20 minutes, heat the remaining oil in a large stockpot over a medium heat. Add the onions and slowly cook for 10 minutes. Add the garlic and chilli and cook for a further minute. Add the carrot, cook for another minute, then pour over the stock and bring to the boil.

Once the squash is tender and beginning to crisp at the edges, remove from the oven and add to the pot. Cook for 5 minutes and then remove from the heat. Using a stick blender, whizz the soup until smooth and no lumps remain. Season with some pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice. Ladle into bowls and serve with a drizzle of double cream and extra black pepper.

“Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face, Great chieftan o’ the puddin-race…” I’d like to say I know more, but that was the extent of the address my haggis got this Burns Night. I could have recited Scots Wae Hae, which I won a prize for reciting in primary school, or the first line of To A Mouse, but unless you’re of the notion that a haggis is in fact an actual animal, addressing it as a ‘sleekit, cowrin, tim’rous beastie,’ may have had me laughed out of the kitchen.

Food writers often talk about foodie poetry, gorgeous ingredients that just work together like they were always meant to. The traditional Burns Supper is, in a way, one of them, but on a more literal scale. It is the celebration of food and poetry coming together to celebrate one of Scotland’s best writers and the beauty of it is the simplicity of the food involved. Creamy potatoes, great amber smatterings of neep and that culinary wonder that is the haggis. Peppery and spicy, it is the epitome of the great romantic himself, with his passionate love for words and women. Burns like to live his life devouring as much as he could; for him it was the ladies, for me, it’s simply food.

However this year, I’ve decided to deviate away from the simple and add a touch of grown-up elegance to the traditional meal. All the essential elements are there, but with a few tweaks. Tatties are transformed into a pan fried potato cake, with crunchy spring onions and a hint of roast garlic. Neeps are given a sweet makeover, cut into fries and roasted with honey, lifting their sweetness to a new level. The haggis needs no more dressing up, but the addition of a creamy whisky sauce gives thanks to the other Scottish staple, the nip.

And what Burns Supper would be complete without a glass of Cranachan? Whisky scented whipped cream, toasted oats, and with a swirl of bright pink raspberry, this dish of foodie poetry is screaming out for its own poem. Forget addressing the haggis, let’s address this fabulous dessert. My love is like a sweet, sweet pudding…

Serves Two

For the Main Meal

You Will Need

1 Small Neep

2 cloves of garlic

3 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon runny honey

2 large floury potatoes (I used Rooster)

A little milk and butter

2 Spring onions, chopped

1 small haggis

2 tablespoons double cream

1 tablespoon whisky

1 teaspoon of peppercorns

Salt and pepper to season

Preheat the oven to 200oc/180oc fan/gas mark 5. Wrap the haggis in foil and place in a pan of water over a medium heat and bring to the boil. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes. Cut the neap into 1 cm thick fries and add to a small pan of water. Bring to the boil then drain. Toss in 1 tablespoon of oil, season well and add to a baking tray with the garlic cloves. Roast in the oven for 40 minutes, turning regularly.

Peel the potatoes and cut into quarters then add to pan of boiling water and cook until tender. Drain and mash, adding a little butter, milk and seasoning. Remove the garlic from the tray of neeps and carefully squeeze into the mash. Leave to cool for 5 minutes.

In a frying pan, melt a little butter and sauté the spring onions for about 5 minutes until soft. Stir into the mash and then, using your hands, form into two balls and flatten slightly.

Once the haggis has 10 minutes to go, drizzle the honey over the neeps and return to the oven. Heat some more butter in the pan you used for the spring onions and fry the potato cakes, until crispy on both sides. Place in the oven to keep warm. In the same pan, over a high heat, add a small knob of butter, the whisky and a splash of water. Once bubbling, add the cream and peppercorns and stir until thick. Season to taste. Remove the haggis from the pan once cooked and cut through the skin.

To plate up, place a potato cake in the middle of the plate, then add some haggis. Place the neep fries to the side and drizzle with the whisky sauce.

For the Cranachan

You will need

200ml double cream

1 tablespoon whisky

1 tablespoon runny honey

A large handful of raspberries (if using frozen, defrost a couple of hours before)

A handful of porridge oats

Whip the cream to soft peaks and fold in the whisky and the honey. With the back of a fork, lightly mash the raspberries to create some texture. Toast the oats in a pan for a couple of minutes then add to the cream, reserving some for later. Marble through the raspberries and spoon into glasses. Top with the remaining toasted oats.

I’ve had tiramisu in all shapes and sizes (steady now). I’ve had delicate little slices, trays of gargantuan proportions, and most recently from Jamie Oliver’s restaurant in Glasgow, an affair with so many sponge layers and creamy filling, I thought it should have been served as a main. Having searched the highs and lows of the internet, I still cannot find the definitive answer to my main query: what actually goes in a tiramisu? I see threads bemoaning those who don’t use eggs, those who threaten others by using chocolate and the big debate of buying sponge fingers or making your own (which perhaps veers slightly on the excessive side). What I can deduce is that it is up to your own personal taste and, being one to experiment in the kitchen, I came up with a pretty little dessert that would serve you well at a dinner party, a cosy night in, or in front of BBC iPlayer watching reruns of Don’t Tell the Bride. I tell you, stick a glass of this under their nose and those crazy little brides will forget they have a dress that’s too big, shoes from Primark and a cake that was decorated by the groom himself.

The simplicity of this dish gives you plenty time to potter around making your main meal. It has a hint of Christmas, scented with the juice and zest of a clementine, with a spicy hint of warming cinnamon. I served this up after an Italian feast of lasagne, garlic pizza bread and a good glass of red. Luckily, I was only cooking for two, so afterwards it’s time to settle down with another glass of tiramisu to watch a groom make an arse out making his own invitations. I bet this is the way the Italians do it.

Serves Four

You Will Need

3 tablespoons instant coffee

1 packet sponge fingers

250g mascarpone cheese

150ml double cream

1 clementine

1 teaspoon cinnamon

3 tablespoons caster sugar

1 tablespoon cocoa powder

150g bar of 70% dark chocolate (you won’t use all of it)

Four short glasses to serve

Add the coffee to a small bowl and cover with boiling water to make a strong, but not thick coffee. Leave to cool

In a large bowl, add the mascarpone, cinnamon, sugar and cream. Zest in the clementine then squeeze in the juice of half the fruit. Whisk until fully incorporated. Set aside.

Arrange the glasses next to the bowl of cooled coffee, and begin dipping the sponge fingers in quickly and arranging at the bottom of the glasses. You will need to break them in half to fit. Once each glass has a layer of coffee and sponge, add a large tablespoon of the clementine cream and spread evenly. Repeat with another layer of coffee soaked sponge fingers and divide the remaining cream between the glasses. Chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

Open the bar of chocolate and place it on the worktop right up against you. Carefully take a sharp knife and pull along the surface of the chocolate to create curls. Once you have enough, set aside.

Using a sieve, dust the tops of the tiramisus with cocoa powder and top with the chocolate curls. Serve on plates with a little extra double cream if you fancy.

Jars of pesto are boring. Sure they are convenient, but you’ll open one jar, use a spoonful and then it will linger in the back of the fridge alongside some black pitted olives, slowly sprouting some nice looking mould to scare you when you open it again a month later. To avoid this little green monster, I’ve taken to making my own pesto using all fresh ingredients without leaving any leftovers to sprout in the fridge.

As January has crept back into our lives again, my comfort food radar has been screaming CARBONARA on repeat whenever I get in from the cold. Despite my previous efforts to stick by my cookie diet (go for a walk, eat a cookie), I know that a vat of cream and bacon may just tip the scales in the wrong direction after a Christmas of too much Pinot Grigio and breaded king prawns.

However, the magic of this pesto is that it turns wonderfully creamy with a splash of cooking water swirled into a bowl of linguine. Carbonara? Pah, I’ve forgotten what that is.

All the traditional elements of pesto are in this dish, with a few added twists. The mushrooms give it a meaty flavour, whilst the toasted walnuts give this pesto a great nutty texture. With a good handful of parmesan, this dish feels like it is bursting with cream, but is actually full of vegetable goodness.

You can prepare this pesto in advance and chill in the fridge, so all you need to do is cook your pasta fresh, reducing your time in the kitchen. If you’re eating for one, no problem. Just use half and refrigerate the rest. This pesto would also go great as an alternative bruschetta topping, or add half a pint of vegetable stock and blend to make a tasty soup. 

 

Serves Two

You Will Need

½ white onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, crushed

6-7 mushrooms, sliced

1 handful of walnut pieces

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 large handful of finely grated parmesan

Large bunch of fresh basil, roughly chopped

Salt and pepper to season

Linguine to serve

 

Preheat the oven to 180oc fan/200oc/gas mark 4. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and add the linguine. In a separate saucepan over a medium heat, fry the onion, garlic and mushrooms until soft.

Once the pasta has been cooking for 4 minutes, add the walnuts to a small baking tray and drizzle with a little oil. Toast in the oven for 6 minutes, turning halfway.

Add the basil to the mushroom mix and cook for a further minute, then transfer to a glass jug. Add the toasted walnuts, the majority of the parmesan (reserving some for later) and a good glug of olive oil. Season well and with a stick blender, blitz until coarse, but not pureed.

Drain the pasta, reserving a tablespoon of cooking water to help the pesto bind to the linguine. Mix in the pesto until fully incorporated and creamy.

Transfer to two warmed bowls and serve with a sprinkling of the remaining parmesan, baby basil leaves and a good helping of black pepper.

 

 

It’s January 2012, the month of detoxes, painful gym membership fees and sighing longingly in the mirror at your Christmas food baby. And here I am, asking you to make cookies. What sort of blog post is that? I should probably post you a fabulous salad recipe, or invest in a juicer to make sexy juices like food blog Shutterbean does. And yet, my first experiment of 2012 heralded such success, I’m ripping up the blogging book and telling you to eat some cookies.

The pairing of poppy seed and lemon is normally a flavour of choice for fat American muffins, but this food relationship keeps on giving in biscuit form. These cookies are delicately scented with lemon zest, with little blue-ish flecks of poppy seed. Big chunks of smashed white chocolate give a sweet vanilla flavour which doubles up with the dot of vanilla paste. If you’re looking for a new food love folks, this is it. Hunt some down, it’s baking nectar.

If you’re feeling guilty that sugar and butter aren’t exactly on your ‘Good Food’ list, never fear. Pack ‘em up with a flask of coffee and go for a walk instead. Bundle them up for a friend in need with a bottle of wine to blast away the January Blues. Treat yourself after a day of soul destroying dissertation work with an hour spent making these beauties. I promise you won’t be disappointed. New Year’s resolutions? Pah, let’s just promise to eat well and be happy this year.

Basic cookie recipe from The Boy Who Bakes by Edd Kimber

 

You Will Need

250g plain flour

½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

½ teaspoon baking powder

1 tablespoon of poppy seeds

Zest of 1 lemon

113g softened butter (I used Stork)

110g caster sugar

110g soft brown sugar

1 egg, beaten

¼ teaspoon vanilla paste (optional)

150g good quality white chocolate, roughly chopped

 

Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder through a sieve. Stir through the poppy seeds and lemon zest. Set aside

Using a stand or hand mixer, beat the sugars and butter until creamy. Carefully add the egg a little at a time until fully combined. Add a small dot of vanilla paste if using and mix in well (If you have none to hand, don’t worry, the vanilla flavours in the chocolate will give you the same notes).

Add the dry ingredients to the wet mix slowly until fully combined. Mix in the chocolate carefully (I find this easiest mixing by hand) and wrap the dough in cling film tightly. Either chill overnight or place in the freezer for 15-20 minutes to chill.

Preheat the oven to 160oc fan/ 180/ gas mark 4 and grease two baking trays with butter. Remove the dough from the fridge/freezer and roll into small balls about 60g in weight. The dough should make around 12-14 cookies. Space out evenly on the baking sheets and bake for 16-18 minutes. Cool for a few minutes and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.