an adventure into my cookbook collection: soul-searching, doing things differently & the truths I learn along the way...

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Friday, 11 July 2014

Grilled pepper bruschetta


(nice things on toast, part deux)

Maybe I’ve lost my mojo. It is hard for me to think that maybe my creativity stemmed from my unhappiness, but at least that realisation has given me something to work on.

I have been away at a yoga retreat in Turkey (bliss), and my yoga teacher Dimuthu said something really interesting about scar tissue, and how sometimes we protect old injuries, whether physical or emotional, so carefully that the scar tissue which builds is far bigger than the injury, creating a huge block. That concept resonates with me a lot. I am so much happier now, but maybe I am still protecting those old wounds. 

Inside the yoga studio
I definitely needed a holiday
So anyway, back to food. Being at a vegetarian yoga retreat in Turkey I am, of course eating extremely well. The food is simple and wholesome, and mostly grown in the hotel gardens. I have been taking a lot of notes, and really look forward to recreating some of the dishes when I get home; things like bulgur wheat as a side, full-fat yogurt swirled with olive oil, and tahini swirled with apricot and hazelnuts.

This pepper bruschetta recipe, despite being more Italian in influence, I think it works with the style of the food I have been eating here too – simple vegetables and good olive oil. Some of the best things to eat on a hot day.

Ingredients

Approximately 3 red or yellow peppers. It is hard for me to estimate how many peppers you will need, but obviously it is better to make a bit too much than too little. Any leftovers would be wonderful in a salad or pasta sauce, or just as more bruschetta.
2 tbsp good quality extra virgin olive oil
½ tbsp cider or white wine vinegar
Approximately 5 basil leaves (depending on how big they are), torn up
Coarse-ish sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

For the bruschetta:
6 slices of ciabatta, or similar lovely Italian bread
1 clove of garlic, peeled
Really good quality extra virgin olive oil

Method

This quantity makes approximately 6 pieces of bruschetta – obviously depending on how big your slices of bread are.

Preheat the grill to very hot, but not the hottest it can go.

I find it best to line trays with foil when roasting peppers, as the liquid that comes out of them can be difficult to scrub off trays once it has burnt.

Grill the peppers for 3-5 minutes each side, until softened and blackened in places. When they are done, put them in a bowl and cover it tightly with cling film to let them steam.

When the peppers have mostly cooled down, peel off their skins and take out the stalks and seeds.

Slice the pepper flesh into thin-ish strips and put them in a bowl with the olive oil, vinegar, the torn basil leaves (save a few bits for garnish), and some salt and black pepper.

Cover the bowl and leave the peppers to marinate for at least half an hour. Put them in the fridge if you will be leaving them for longer than half an hour, but make sure to remove them from the fridge in enough time to come back up to room temperature before serving.

To make the bruschetta toast the bread on both sides, and then rub one side with garlic (serving side up).

To serve, spoon the pepper strips onto the bruschetta and garnish with the remaining bits of basil leaf.
 

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Broccoli and anchovy bruschetta


Adapted from The River Café Cook Book, officially one of the best books of all time ever.


Sorry that I haven’t written in a while, I’ve been very busy starting a new job and moving into a new flat. Its been an intense few weeks, but I’m feeling absolutely brilliant, and happier than I have felt in a long while. I started out with this blog because I was feeling terribly unfulfilled, and that is certainly not the case now. That definitely doesn’t mean that I’m going to stop blogging now that other aspects of my life are getting better. I feel like my capacity is just getting bigger. Does that make sense?

This little recipe is the first part of a two-parter, otherwise known as ‘nice things on toast, the mini-series.’ Possibly with more nice things on toast to come, because they are always brilliant.

Bruschetta makes an excellent starter or light meal. I love the messiness of it. The unstructured, loose topping and crunchy toast means that you have to use your fingers, with luscious olive oil dribbling down to your elbow. This is especially rewarding when serving it to guests.

This quantity makes approximately 6 pieces of bruschetta – obviously depending on how big your slices of bread are.



Ingredients

About half a large-ish broccoli. Separate into florets and cut each one in half. You could also use tenderstem or purple-sprouting broccoli, which I suppose would be a bit more summery.
20ml olive oil
A large clove of garlic (or two if you like it super garlicky), peeled and thinly sliced
6 anchovy fillets (in oil)
Juice of ½ a lemon (cut the other half of the lemon into wedges for serving)
Freshly ground black pepper

For the bruschetta:
6 slices of ciabatta, or similar lovely Italian bread
1 clove of garlic, peeled
Really good quality extra virgin olive oil

Method

Blanch the broccoli pieces in salted boiling water for a minute or two, until slightly softened but still bright green. Drain well.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan low-ish heat and fry the garlic until it just starts to colour. Add the anchovies and stir until they melt. Add the broccoli and a small amount of boiling water (roughly 1 tbsp). Season well with black pepper, stir and cook for five or so minutes, until the broccoli is soft. Add the lemon juice.

Toast the bread on both sides, and then rub with garlic (I rub one side only).

To serve, pile the broccoli mixture onto the bruschetta and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil, and serve with lemon wedges.


Thursday, 29 May 2014

Key lime pie


From How to be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson.


A lot of people, including me, really love limes, which is why the rumoured limepocalypse (limegeddon, limetrastrophe) is so terrifying. So let’s make the most of them while we still can. My wonderful friend T.O.M loves limes more than anyone else I know, and I made this dessert as a contribution to her hen party a few weeks ago. T.O.M may now love Steven (who takes brilliant photos) a little bit more than limes, but there is probably not much in it.

This is the second key lime pie recipe in How to be a Domestic Goddess, and I have made both of them. They are both really tasty, but this one wins by being so easy to make. No egg-separating, no baking, just mix and set. The only complication I had was that the bowl of the mixer was a bit too full, and little bits of limey cream splashed my hair, clothes, the kettle, and the boxes of different kinds of tea. It must have been a suitable libation sacrifice to the lime gods, because it made one of the nicest desserts I have ever made – creamy, rich and light at the same time, and absolutely delicious.
  
You will need a 23cm springform or loose-bottomed tin (I used the wrong size tin and messed up the quantities a bit, which is why my key lime pie looks a bit heavy on the base, but if you follow these quantities it should turn out perfectly)

Ingredients

For the base:
200g digestive biscuits, smashed to crumbs (ginger or coconut biscuits might make an interesting variation)
50g softened butter

For the filling:
Juice and zest of 4 limes
397g can of condensed milk
300ml double cream

Method

To make the base, melt the butter and mix it with the biscuit crumbs. Press the buttery crumbs into the cake tin and leave it to set in the fridge for at least half an hour.

To make the filling, simply mix all the ingredients together, and whisk until it has thickened a bit. This is easier to do using an electric hand-held whisk or free-standing mixer. Pour the thickened mixture into the buttery biscuit base, and let it set in the fridge for a few hours (at least) before serving.


Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Sweet Potato and Pak Choi Laksa


Adapted from Nigel Slater’s Tender (Vol.1)
 
This is a really flavourful and delicious soupy noodle dish, it looks complicated, but it is actually really easy and quick to make.

I made this with udon noodles, I love their slippery-slurpy-ness, but you could use whatever noodles you want. This is one of those meals where you cant really work out what cutlery or chopsticks you should be using, and you will inevitably get splashes of soup down your front. But it will be worth it.

Serves 4

Ingredients

For the spice paste:
1 fresh red chilli (seeds in)
2 cloves garlic
About an inch long lump of ginger
2 stalks lemongrass
Handful coriander leaves and stalks
2 tbsp sesame oil

For the soup:
1 very large or two smaller sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into large-ish chunks
2 clusters of pak choi, chop the stalks
2 spring onions, sliced
1 red pepper , sliced (optional)
600ml chicken or vegetable stock (cube or powder is fine – I used fake chicken powder)
400ml coconut milk
2tbsp Thai fish sauce (nam pla) – vegetarian/vegan option – ½ tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp soy sauce (you may need a little more if you are not using fish sauce
Juice of 1 lime (throw the zest in too if you like it super lime-y)

2 portions noodles – egg, rice or udon, cooked if they need pre-cooking
Handful fresh coriander leaves

Method

Roughly chop all of the ingredients for the spice paste, and them blitz them to a paste using an immersion blender, food processor, or pestle and mortar.

Put a large saucepan on a medium heat and dry-fry the spice paste for a minute or two. Add the stock and coconut milk and bring to the boil. Add the sweet potato and simmer for 10-15 minutes, and then add the nam pla (if using), soy sauce, lime juice and pak choi stalks. Simmer for another 10 minutes, or until the sweet potato is cooked through, and then add the pak choi leaves and noodles. Stir together until the leaves are wilted and the noodles are warmed through, and serve in deep bowls with fresh coriander leaves scattered on the top.


Monday, 19 May 2014

Raspberry Custard Cake




This recipe is dedicated to Suzy, who got married yesterday. She is always inspiring me to push myself with my cooking and try new things.

This cake is like no other cake I have made before. A pudding-y kind of cake, the batter separates into layers as it cooks, creating a light baked top, and thick custardy base. When it is baked it doesn’t look all that inspiring, sunken, brownish and a bit lumpy on the top. But when you cut into the cake it is revealed as a rose-pink squidgy slice of heaven.


I saw this recipe on an American blog, but have converted all of the measurements into metric. American measurements really bother me – the vagueness of cups is just so problematic, and ounces seem like an entirely foreign concept. Bee Wilson discusses it really well in her excellent book Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat, which I highly recommend if you are a nerdy foodie like me.

Freeze-dried fruit powder is brilliant. It adds all the flavour of fruit without adding any extra moisture. Fruit powder can be found in Whole Food Market and other similarly poncey foodie shops, or you can do what I do, any buy it online from Healthy Supplies

Be aware that the batter for this cake is a bit tricky and lumpy, and a lot runnier than cake should be. The first time I made this I thought it was going to fail completely, but it came out really lovely.

Probably makes about 9 servings

Ingredients

4 eggs, separated (at room temperature)
1 tbsp water
150g caster sugar
110g butter (or margarine) melted
40g freeze-dried raspberry powder (or use another kind of fruit powder, like cherry or blueberry)
115g plain flour
500ml warmish milk (I used almond milk)
2 tsp vanilla extract

Method

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees (150 with fan)

Whisk the egg whites until stiff.

In another bowl, beat the egg yolks, sugar, water and vanilla until pale and creamy. Then add the melted butter and mix for another minute. Sift in the raspberry powder and flour, and mix until fully incorporated.

Add the warm milk and mix again. Gently fold in the eggs whites (as best you can, its tricky). Pour the batter (which will be very liquidy) into a greased baking dish (either 20 or 23 cm - I used a circular lose-bottomed cake tin).

Bake the custard cake for 50 -60 minutes, or until the top is golden and there is just a slight jiggle in the cake. Cool the cake in the pan for three hours before un-moulding.


Sunday, 20 April 2014

Almond and blueberry pudding


From Second Helpings of Roast Chicken by Simon Hopkinson

Here is another Passover (Pesach) dessert recipe, a totally new one that I have only just discovered. I made it on Friday night for the first time (with help from the wonderful Emma) and everyone went mad for it. Hot berries – is there anything better?

I discovered this recipe as I was using this cookbook to score a game of cards that I was playing with my Mum. We always use cookbooks when scoring card games, with a joker to mark the page - whenever a player (usually me) accumulates points, they have to read out the recipe the joker has landed on.

This recipe was found three points in, in the chapter on almonds. It is always very exciting to find a pesach dessert recipe that doesn’t involve separating eggs and whisking egg whites. It sounded so delicious, and easy to make that I wanted to make it straight away. And I am so glad that I did.

The pudding will go a bit cake-y on the top and a bit custardy on the bottom, stained dark blue and purple with berries. It will sink a bit if not serving immediately, but it doesn’t really matter if it does, it is still really delicious. Simon Hopkinson recommends serving it with cream, but I don’t think it needs it.

Serves 5-6, or 4 if everyone wants seconds (which they probably will)

Ingredients:

100g butter or margarine (if you need it to be dairy-free), softened – plus a little extra for greasing the dish
350g blueberries – we used 260g blueberries (that was all we had) and then made the weight up with raspberries. I’m sure this recipe would work very well with other berries too.
100g sugar – plus a little extra for sprinkling on top
2 eggs
100g ground almonds
1 tbsp amaretto liqueur – or similar – we used kosher for Passover triple sec

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees (170 w/fan)

Grease a wide and shallow baking dish with a bit of butter or margarine. ‘Strew’ with the berries.

In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (this works well with a spoon too). Then add the eggs, one at a time, mixing them in thoroughly. Fold in the ground almonds and the amaretto (or similar).

Spoon the almond sponge mixture over the fruit in the baking dish. Sprinkle with a little extra sugar and bake for 40-45 minutes, until puffed up and firm on the top.  



Saturday, 19 April 2014

Apple cloud pudding from heaven


From Florence Greenberg’s Jewish Cookbook (first published in 1947)

Happy Passover (Pesach) everyone! Is anybody else really craving a sandwich or a big bowl of pasta right about now?

This is definitely (in my opinion) the best specifically Pesach dessert of all time. I mean, there are other good desserts to have during Pesach, like pavlova and chocolate mousse, but as this one has matzo meal in, it is only really made at Pesach – who would want to cook with matzo meal at other times (except for schnitzels or fried fish)?

I’m posting this recipe now because there are still a few days of Pesach left – I really do urge you to make this if you can. It is seriously wonderful. This pudding is kind of like an apple kugel, but much lighter, and supremely apple-y. If I was Nigella Lawson I would call it a ‘slightly slumped soufflé’.

Serves 4  - could potentially serve more, but everyone will want second helpings

Ingredients:

450g cooking apples
3 eggs, separated
100g caster sugar
3 tbsp fine matzo meal
1 tbsp ground almonds
zest and juice of 1 lemon
½ tsp cinnamon

Method:

Preheat the oven to 190c

Use a bit of butter or margarine to grease a deep-ish baking dish.

Peel the apples and the grate them – don’t core them first, but rather grate around the core (to save you from grating your fingers off). Mix the grated apple with the lemon juice and zest immediately to stop it from discolouring.

Whisk the egg whites until stiff.

Beat the egg yolks with sugar until pale and creamy. Add the lemony apple, matzo meal, ground almonds, and cinnamon. Mix thoroughly, and then fold in the egg whites (it will look a bit gross at this stage).


Pour the apple mixture into the baking dish, and bake for 1 hour. When it is ready it will look cake-y on the top, and light and wobbly in the middle. It isn’t the prettiest of desserts, but it is so ruddy delicious that no-one will care.