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Monthly Archives: May 2012

Is there anything worse in the life of a baker than reading an amazing recipe, deciding to make it right then and there, and running out of caster sugar? You’re about 100g short to make a delicious cake that you swore you had all the ingredients for, and you sulk off, plans ruined and cake-less. There really is no worse feeling.

Yet sometimes in life, you hit the recipe jackpot. The other day, I nonchalantly bought a tub of yoghurt alongside my copy of the Observer, milk and bacon. As I settled down to read the magazine supplement, the ever-brilliant Nigel Slater caught my eye with his column, this week all about mint. In the article accompanying the recipes, he bemoaned the ‘pointless mint sprig’ that appears on many a dessert plate as a garnish, alongside ‘a shower of icing sugar, usually in the company of an inappropriate raspberry’. I couldn’t have agreed (or laughed) more, and couldn’t wait to see his recipes that celebrated, rather than hindered this glorious herb. As I turned the page, I drooled over the concept of frozen mint choc chip yoghurt, glanced over the ingredients list and my heart leapt. I had everything in! I had recently replenished my caster sugar stocks, there was leftover chocolate from my Ultimate Chocolate Birthday Cake, and there was a packet of mint sitting bored in the fridge, with nothing more than a couple of sprigs picked out to make Raspberry Champagne Mojitos. It was recipe making fate, and I quickly set about making this seriously tasty ice cream substitute.

I’ve been rather wary of recipes in the past that don’t call for an ice cream maker; I’ve tried making with and without and more often than not, ice cream machine wins hands down. But this recipe only calls for patience and a little elbow grease whisking the ice particles together into smooth frozen yoghurt. True, there is a lot of waiting around, but it’s a perfect recipe to make when you have other things to do. Put on a wash. Whisk. Tidy your room. Whisk. Make a bacon sandwich. Whisk. A simple way to make a delicious frozen treat without staring at an ice cream machine for 20 minutes. Now that’s what I call recipe genius. Nigel, I salute you.

Recipe adapted slightly from The Observer Magazine 20/05/2012

 

You Will Need

7g mint sprigs

125g caster sugar

125ml water

325g plain yoghurt

40g 70% plain chocolate

Place half the mint sprigs and the caster sugar in a mortar and pestle, and grind together until you have a light green scented sugar. Tip into a saucepan and add the water. Place over a high heat and bring to the boil. Once the sugar has dissolved, remove from the heat and place the saucepan in a sink filled with a shallow layer of cold water. Leave to cool.

Blitz the remaining mint with the yoghurt with a hand blender and pour into a bowl. Once the mint syrup has cooled, pour into the yoghurt and mix together carefully. Transfer to a plastic tub suitable for the freezer and freeze for two hours. Remove, then whisk the ice crystals that have formed at the sides into the middle of the tub then place back in the freezer.

Repeat about 4-5 times each half hour until the yoghurt has almost frozen, then roughly chop the chocolate into small pieces and fold in carefully. Place back in the freezer and leave to freeze completely.

When ready to serve, remove from the freezer for 5-10 minutes, then serve with an ice cream scoop that has been warmed in a mug of hot water.

Sometimes you get an idea in your head and you run with it, no matter how strange it seems. On Sunday evening, walking home from work in the blazing sunshine, I suddenly wanted carbonara. Did I mention the sunshine? I should have bought a pack of burgers, settled down on the grass with a cheap barbeque and burnt the hell out of those things, cider in hand. But despite the sun, all I wanted was a comforting bowl of pasta, some sort of garlic-slathered bread and a glass of pinot grigio. The fact that it was the Observer Food Monthly weekend made it even better, and I nestled down with a bowl reading about Jubilee cocktails and a delicious mint frozen yoghurt that I am desperate to try.

Carbonara, I find, is a very personal thing. The internet has a vast display of recipes, ranging from full fat to skinny, unusual to the downright bizarre (courgette carbonara anyone?). For me, it has been a case of personal trial and error. The first time I ever made it, it was perfect and was something I threw together without much thought. The second time, the eggs scrambled and I was mortified. I persevered with my original method but it was never the same and thus changes had to be made. A quick Google search will tell you the main differences in most carbonara recipes are the addition of cream. Some can’t live without it; others call it a sacrilege to the original recipe. What I have found, is that by omitting the cream, I have never since scrambled my spaghetti. Which I thought called for a blog post.

I will never say my recipes are foolproof (after all, I posses an oven that is akin to the tin man on a hill), but this may be the closest yet. As long as you take your time to prep all your ingredients beforehand, leave the bacon and onions to cool slightly and have a lovely thick egg and parmesan mix, then you should be good to go.

This recipe calls for smoked streaky bacon as I love the smoky aromas, but if you are more of a back bacon person, you could switch. I’ve also tested this recipe with maple bacon, which is delicious and gives a sweet edge to your sauce. Either way, alongside these parmesan garlic toasts, which are sprinkled with a little lemon thyme and a drizzle of olive oil, your dinner will be near enough perfect. Just don’t forget the white wine; it is nearly summer after all.

 

You Will Need

For the Carbonara

2 small shallots or 1 small white onion, finely chopped

3 slices of smoked streaky bacon, chopped

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

75-100g dried spaghetti or linguine (depending how hungry you are!)

1 egg

1 and a ½ tablespoons grated parmesan

Salt and pepper

 

For the Parmesan Garlic Toasts

1 small baguette roll, uncooked

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

A small slice of butter

A few lemon thyme leaves

A drizzle of olive oil

Salt and pepper

A small handful of grated parmesan

 

Preheat the oven to 200oc/180oc fan/Gas Mark 4. In a small ramekin, mix together the garlic, butter, thyme, olive oil, salt and pepper to a thick paste. Using a bread knife, cut the baguette lengthways and spread over the herby butter. Place on a baking tray and grate over a little parmesan.

Place a large pan of salted water on to boil over a medium heat and a frying pan also over a medium heat. Once the water is boiling, add the dried pasta and using tongs, make sure each strand is covered by the water. Place the baguette slices in the oven to cook for 10 minutes, checking regularly.

Add the chopped bacon to the frying pan and fry until beginning to crisp. Add the onions and cook together until soft and the bacon crisp. Meanwhile, whisk the egg and parmesan together with a little salt and pepper until thick. Set aside.

Once the bacon and onions are cooked, add the garlic and fry for a further minute then remove from the heat and set aside. Check the baguettes, if crisp remove and set to one side. Drain the pasta once cooked and return to the pan. Stir in the bacon, onion and garlic with a wooden spoon. Then carefully pour in the egg mixture, stirring quickly all the time to coat each strand well and to prevent the egg from scrambling. Transfer to a serving bowl quickly and top with cracked black pepper and more parmesan. Place the parmesan garlic toasts on a plate and serve alongside the carbonara, with a glass of chilled white wine.

Is there anything more refreshing to dine on in the morning sunlight than fruit salad? It’s like a morning palate cleanser, clearing up your mind after a long languid lie in. Gone are the days when fruit salad was in a large Pyrex bowl, filled with halved grapes and soggy banana; the fruit salad of the future is pretty, sweet and full of grown up textures. Raw rhubarb, one of the highlights of the season, is julienned, macerated overnight with ruby blush grapefruit and served with pretty last minute additions. Fresh orange, segmented and served with its juice, is added alongside little lemon diamonds, glistening like tart jewels. A last minute addition of frozen berries are sprinkled over, acting like fruity ice cubes that cool the dish down for the morning. Topped off with a delicate chiffonade of mint, this is a breakfast for kings. Goodbye mushy banana, there’s a new fruit salad in town.

 

Serves 1

You Will Need

1 10cm piece of rhubarb

1 ruby blush grapefruit

1 orange

1 slice of lemon

A small handful of frozen berries

A small handful of mint leaves

Caster sugar, if required

 

Place the stick of rhubarb on a chopping board, flat side down and slice lengthways into thin strips. Cut each strip into three matchsticks and place in a bowl.

Top and tail the grapefruit with a serrated sharp knife, and carefully cut down the skin, removing the bitter pith and exposing the flesh. Using a small vegetable knife, cut into each segment and tease out the slices of grapefruit. Once finished, add to the bowl of rhubarb and squeeze over the skins and pith to extract any extra juice. Cover with clingfilm and leave to macerate for at least 20 minutes, but preferably overnight.

Once ready to eat, segment the orange in the same way as the grapefruit and add to the bowl. Carefully cut the skin off the lemon slice and with your fingers, pull out the little segments and add to the fruit. Toss the salad together and taste; if you prefer your fruit a little sweeter, add a sprinkling of caster sugar.

Transfer to a bowl and sprinkle over the frozen berries. Roll up the mint leaves loosely and slice into ribbons. Sprinkle over the salad and serve.

If you liked this post, then please click on the link on the right to nominate me for best food blog at the Cosmo Blog Awards 2012! Thanks!

Life hasn’t been all sunshine and roses recently. There have been job interviews that weren’t right for me, an opportunity to write for one of my favourite websites that fell through, and some seriously tough life lessons learnt along the way. Alongside that, there was my dissertation project, and although I found my subject incredibly interesting, there were times the light at the end of the tunnel seemed very far away.

Although life seemed to me punching me from every angle, there was a bright side to all of my problems. The job interview probably went to someone well deserving, and I wish them all the luck. The website, well maybe I will write for them one day. And the project? Finished with gusto, a day early and with a smiling face.

After getting these knockbacks in life, getting back on the horse is the hardest thing, but it is doable. And one way to do it is to look into the future. I’ve got graduation, a ball and a wedding to attend in the next few months, alongside my 22nd birthday and T in the Park. My future doesn’t look so bad, and it’s actually starting to look brighter.

It also means I can blog again, without the weight of writing essays or researching round my neck. After the project was handed in, I sat with a stack of post it notes and highlighted all the recipes I wanted to try over the coming months. I had accumulated a lot of cookery books over the past few months that I have been too busy to bake from, and the opportunity to do so now makes me feel very happy indeed. And with my boyfriend’s birthday coming up, what better excuse than to make Edd Kimber’s Ultimate Chocolate Cake?

This bad boy has had a few tweaks by yours truly, but is still the same magnificent cake, with a fudgy centre, creamy ganache and delicate sprinkle coating. Stick a few candles in it and call it a birthday cake, give it to your dad for father’s day or share round your friends as a post-exam treat. Just remember to be nice and share it round, it isn’t called Ultimate Chocolate Cake for any old reason you know…

Adapted from The Boy who Bakes by Edd Kimber

You Will Need

For the Cake

110g 70% plain chocolate

280ml boiling water

3 tablespoons cocoa powder

140ml buttermilk

280g plain flour

2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda

½ teaspoon salt

340g soft brown sugar

110g Stork (you don’t need butter at this stage)

1 teaspoon vanilla paste

3 eggs, lightly beaten

For the Ganache

225g butter

285g  70% plain chocolate

2 tbsp golden syrup

240ml double cream

Sprinkles to decorate

Note: this recipe calls for 4 separate bowls, so make sure you have enough at hand before you begin, saving the largest for last.

Preheat the oven to 180oc (160oc) gas mark 4. Grease and line two sandwich tins with baking paper and set aside. Put the chocolate in a heat proof bowl and place over a pan of barely simmering water, taking care to not let the bowl touch the water. Slowly melt, then take off the heat and leave to cool.

In a separate bowl, add the cocoa powder and pour over the boiling water, whisking well to incorporate. Add the buttermilk and keep stirring until completely mixed through. Set aside.

In another bowl, pass the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt through a sieve. Set aside.

In the largest bowl you have, add the sugar, Stork and vanilla, and beat with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy. Slowly add the eggs, whisking all the time until fully mixed in. Then carefully pour the cooled chocolate down the side of the bowl and mix in thoroughly. Add a third of the dry ingredients and a third of the chocolate buttermilk and whisk in to incorporate, repeating until everything is mixed together and you have a liquid-like batter. Divide between the cake tins and bake for 25-30 minutes until completely cooked in the middle.

It is worth pointing out at this point that each oven is different, and although for most conventional ovens this baking time is correct, for my rickety old oven it took almost an hour. Leave the cakes well alone in the allotted time, and then check. If they need longer, check repeatedly every 5-10 minutes until cooked through.

Remove the cakes from the oven when cooked and leave to cool in their tins for 10 minutes. Turn out onto a wire rack and remove the paper from the bottom. Leave to cool completely.

To make the ganache, melt the butter, chocolate and golden syrup together over a barely simmering pan of water, again taking care not to let the bowl touch the water. Remove from the heat once melted and whisk in the double cream. Set aside for 20 minutes. If the ganache hasn’t thickened, place in the fridge for 10 minutes before coating the cake.

To assemble, you will need to trim the cakes slightly. With a bread knife, carefully slice off the peaks of the cake until flat. Place one cake upside down on your serving board, and place the other one upside down on top for a flat finish. Inspect the look of the cakes and cut off any extras to make the cake even. Take the top cake off and set aside.

Place two large spoonfuls of ganache on the first cake and spread across evenly. Top with the other cake and add more ganache, smoothing over the top with a palatte knife. To ice the sides, load up the palatte knife and smooth around the outside of the cake until completely covered. This may take a while to get a smooth edge, but the patience you dedicate to this part is vital. Once completely smooth, decorate with a circle of sprinkles around the edge and clean up the edges of the cake on the serving board for a neat finish. Et Voila, a beautiful chocolate cake any professional would be proud of.

So after two weeks of drizzle, torrential rain and even hailstones in the glorious capital of the United Kingdom, I have returned to a bizarrely sunny Scotland, with its bright blue skies, beaming sun and every inch of grassy carpet covered with lazy day students who don’t have dissertations to write. Where is the justice?

My two week stint at delicious. magazine was a fabulous experience, yet the weather in London was rather abysmal. Stifling hot tube journeys to Monument station, then thunderous walks in the rain to the office often meant soggy tights, steamy glasses and an upturned umbrella akin to Mary Poppins. I even saw a stand-off on London Bridge where a man decked another with his horizontally held golf brolly. At groin height. So it is rather lovely to be back on Scottish turf, albeit with a dissertation to finish and the impending doom of graduation. But let’s not think about that.

Yesterday I was in a bit of a rut and my natural instinct lead me to the kettle for my umpteenth coffee of the day. Yet I took a detour, opened the freezer and instead threw this milkshake together in a matter of minutes. My brain needed a break and thus, I made a shake.

There is a simple formula in my mind when it comes to cooling smoothies and milkshakes. Bright natural colours from fruit added to cool milk and multiplied by vanilla ice cream. Brain food maths. You could add vanilla paste, toasted oats for an energy boost or some decadent whipped cream, but for me, this shake is great just as it is. Simple, cooling and summery. Hello sunshine, it’s nice to have you back.

Serves 2

You Will Need

1 handful frozen summer berries

6 scoops vanilla ice cream

½ pint of milk (add more for a thinner shake)

 

Throw all the ingredients into a jug and blitz with a hand blender until well combined. Add more milk if the shake is too thick and blend again. Divide between two glasses and serve with a straw.