Thursday, 25 April 2013

Toasted walnut and gruyère biscotti

Toasted walnut and gruyère biscotti 
BISCOTTI150g plain flour
half a teaspoon of baking powder
dash of salt (because cheese provides a lot of saltiness)
2 small/medium eggs, beaten
70g whole walnuts
70g gruyère cheese, grated
a teaspoon of worcestershire sauce

Preheat the oven to 200C, and turn a pan onto medium heat.
In the pan, toast the walnuts for about 5 minutes, but be careful not to burn them! Constantly move them.
Mix together the flour, baking powder, salt, pepper and worcestershire sauce.
Then add the eggs, mixing with the fork until you get a good dough. You don't want the mixture to be wet, so add more flour if it needs it.
Roughly chop the walnuts into smaller chunks (discarding any burnt bits), and add to the dough.
Also add the cheese to the dough and combine by hand. Or do it all by food processor. But cooking like this is healthy! It's exercise! Cans of beans for weights, whisking egg whites for toning, and kneading for stamina. It's cheaper than a gym membership too!

Toasted walnut and gruyère biscotti
Divide the dough into two and shape into rolls.
Press down on the rolls so that you have fat, flat, long rolls (approx, and I mean approx 1.5cm x 5cm x 15cm)
Put them on a baking tray lined with baking paper, and 2 minutes before you put them in the oven, turn the oven down to 180C.
Leave to cook in the oven for 20-25 minutes.
When you take the biscotti out, cut it diagonally (it looks nice) with a serrated knife.
Put these slices back into the oven on the slightly lower temperature of 170C to cook for a further fifteen minutes. You want to dry the biscotti out a bit.

Serve with a nut dip, or a soup.
I would personally serve with a fresh chunky yet smooth blend of cashews and salted/honey roasted peanuts (blitz them together in a food processor) or guacamole, or French onion soup.

Peanut dip
You could:
add diced black olives/ serve with a tapenade
use sundried tomatoes instead of walnuts
use parmigiano reggiano
make a 'quattro formaggi' biscotti with 4 different cheeses

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Pea and leek risotto

Many people think that risottos are rich, creamy, savoury, calorie-laden rice puddings for which you have to laboriously slave over the stove for an hour or more. NOT TRUE. Many people think that it's dinner party food. NOT (necessarily) TRUE. Maybe I'm just projecting all of my previous risotto-related thoughts onto the third person. But whatever. NOT TRUE.

Pea and leek risotto

2 leeks, sliced - about 1cm widths, peppered
150g frozen peas
a few handfuls of spinach
lots of streaky bacon, chopped - I use oak smoked for a deeper flavour
some chunks of ham
250g risotto rice
700ml chicken stock

Preheat the oven to 190C. I use a fan oven.
In a pan, on medium heat, pour in a healthy glug of oil.
When hot (the oil rolls around the pan easily), add the bacon and fry for two minutes.
Then turn the heat down a little and add the leeks.
Whilst the leeks are cooking, prepare the chicken stock (dissolve a cube). If you're using homemade chicken stock, I applaud you!
After the leeks have softened (about 5-6 minutes), add the risotto rice- I use arborio.
After 1 minute, cover with the chicken stock, cover with tinfoil and leave in the oven for 25 minutes.
About half-way through stir the risotto, recover with tinfoil, and pop back in the oven.
After 15 minutes (or until the rice has soaked up all of the moisture), add the peas and ham, and cook for a further 5 minutes.
Once cooked, stir in the cream cheese and mozzarella. ET VOILA.

Serve with wilted spinach and a glass of chablis.

Swap some of the chicken stock for pea and ham soup.
Add mint.
Use double cream/ soured cream/ gran padano/ parmesan instead of cream cheese and mozzarella.
Serve topped with crispy leeks and onions.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

To be honest, there aren't many things you can do with an overripe pineapple. So I was thinking, why not do something using the excess sweetness and slight alcohol tint to complement something which is perfectly nice on its own, but could do with a bit of spicing up.
It's paramount to have fluffy egg whites, because juice from the pineapple drips into the cake (like a tarte tatin) making it a bit wet, and therefore making an otherwise light dessert, dense.
Pineapple Upside Down Cake
Serves 6

1 small pineapple, cut into chunks
3 eggs separated
150g slightly salted butter, softened
150g caster sugar
150g plain flour (you can add baking powder for an extra lift)
a few spoonfuls of muscovado sugar
caster sugar to water in the units of 1:3 (respectively)
a teaspoon of chilli flakes

Pineapple Upside Down Cake
Preheat your oven to 200C and grease a cake tin.
Beat together the egg yolks and sugar until you get a smooth, creamy consistency.
Stir in the flour until you get a sort of wet crumble-looking mixture. Yes it should look like that.
Beat in the softened butter until you have a more typical cake mixture.
Then, whisk the egg whites until they're stiff like meringues.
When you add the egg whites to the rest of the mixture, don't add it from a height or you'll lose some of the air.
Stir the mixtures together until fully combined and you have a fluffy mixture. Yum.
Turn the oven down to 180C as you're nearly to put the cake in.
Put the pineapple in the cake tin, neat and evenly spaced, or dropped in (authentic).
Evenly sprinkle muscovado (or another dark brown sugar, maybe treacle) over the pineapple. This creates a kind of caramel, nuttifying the pineapple.
Completely cover the pineapple with cake mixture, and put in the oven for 40 minutes or until a fork comes out of the cake with a few crumbs. Check the cake at 35 minutes though.
When cooked, turn the cake out and leave to cool- if you leave it in the tin, it continues cooking, drying the cake out.
Over a medium heat, bring caster sugar and cold water to the boil in a saucepan.
Then turn the heat down, add the chilli flakes, and continuously stir until ALL of the sugar is dissolved.
Strain the syrup and leave to cool to remember.
The longer you boil the syrup, the thicker it will be.
Syrup keeps for one month in a sealed container.
Serve a slice of cake with a drizzle of chilli.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake
In the syrup I used chilli flakes instead of fresh chilli because I didn't want too strong a flavour.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Vivat Bacchus

Less than 30 seconds from London bridge station Vivat Bacchus is a pretty convenient location! There is also another branch in Farringdon.
The small chain describes themselves as "European cooking with a South African twist".

Ambience: Even though only a third of the seats were filled, there was a lively atmosphere. The restaurant was mostly filled with thirty-something professionals who'd come from a long day at work judging from the copious amounts of red wine being drunk. The restaurant played modern pop music but when you go to a fusion place you want fusion food.

What did I have?: £14.95 for 2 courses, £17.95 for 3 courses. For main course I had braised oxtail with lentils and mash, and for dessert I had a slice of chocolate torte with a caramel sauce and creme fraîche. The oxtail was meltingly good and lentils were not too hard, but the mash was a tad floury. The best part of the main was the green salad that came with it which had a wonderful dressing. The oxtail was drowned in a rich sauce (too thick for a jus, not quite a gravy,) which was tasty with the lentils. The portion size was massive, a great big bowl. Now I have an appetite, but I only managed half of it. Some of the food was quite salty, so don't come here if you've got high blood pressure. The torte was eggy and heavy and not complemented by the creme fraîche. The caramel sauce on the other hand gave a hint of saltiness, taking away from the bitterness of the torte.

Service: The staff were discreet, but picked up on the fact it was my grandma's birthday and gave her a glass of champagne on the house.

Would I go there again?: Hm. It's a decent (London) price for ostrich and kangaroo.

Banana and coconut ice cream

This recipe is so delicious and simple that you could have it as a milkshake instead (minus the coconut)!

ICE CREAM6 spotted bananas - the overrripeness gives lots of sweetness so you don't have to add too much sugar
600ml double cream
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
3 egg yolks
150g desiccated coconut

Beat the sugar and egg yolks together until fully combined.
In a small saucepan, gently heat the cream on medium heat.
When the cream starts to bubble, take it off the heat and pour into the egg/sugar mixture slowly, whisking at the same time. Never pour the egg mixture into the pan as the direct heat will cook the eggs, giving sweet scrambled eggs but not custard.
In a separate bowl, mash the bananas until you get a smooth purée.
Add the bananas to the custard, mix together, and strain through a sieve into your ice-cream maker.
Add the coconut and leave to churn.
If you don't have an ice cream maker, stir the coconut into the banana custard and leave in a tub to freeze. After an hour, stir it up so you get a smooth mixture, not one with ice in.

You could use chocolate or toffee instead of coconut, or tequila or pineapple instead of banana. Be careful with freezing alcohol... Alcohol has a much lower freezing point than water, and the higher the proof, the lower the temperature. So by diluting the alcohol or using a lower strength, alcohol should freeze.

An alternative way of making ice cream is the Victorian way of getting a huge bag of ice and some rock salt.
As soon as salt is added to ice, they react (doing something of which i'm not quite sure)
So pour the ice cream mixture into a sealed bag, and put this bag into the bag of ice. When you add the salt to the ice, close the bag up, and shake for anywhere from 5-15 minutes until the ice cream sets.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Cardamom poached plum jelly

A very light dessert, perfect to end a rich meal.

Cardamom poached plum jelly

6 plums
8 cardamom pods, crushed
half still water, half fizzy water
60g sugar
gelatine leaves/ powder

Over a medium heat, dissolve sugar in water until you get a syrup.
Add the cardamom and plums to the liquid, turn to a low heat, and leave covered for 20 minutes.
Strain the plums and cardamom (keep the liquid for the jelly), and immediately put the plums into a bowl of iced water for 5 minutes.
Pat the plums dry and dice into thumb-sizes pieces.
Soak the gelatine in cold water, then add to the hot syrup, whisking, to make sure all the gelatine is dissolved.
Put the plums into the jelly mould(s) and cover with the jelly mixture. Leave in the fridge to set.
Serve with a quinelle of orange blossom cream, or chantilly.
Cardamom poached plum jelly

You can peel the plums, but I find the skin adds texture.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Lamb tagine

Tagines are a North African speciality, usually made with lamb or goat. As they're slow cooked, you can use the toughest part of the animal, because in a good tagine the meat should fall off the bone and melt in your mouth.
Lamb tagine

one and a half teaspoons of each: turmeric, dried chilli flakes, whole cumin seeds, paprika
2 red onions
garlic cloves
olive oil
2 lemons
orange juice
flat-leaf parsley
fresh ginger

2 carrots
dried apricots
2 lamb shanks

On medium heat, toast all of the dry spices in a pan until the aromas are released, then blitz until you get a powder.
Add one onion, some garlic, the juice of one and a half lemons, the coriander, the parsley and the ginger to the blender, and blitz until you have a smooth paste.
 Then add 40 ml olive oil and 60 ml orange juice to the blender until you have a smooth sauce. Marinade the meat in the sauce for several hours (or overnight for maximumflavour).

Preheat the oven to 200C.
Heat rapeseed oil in an oven-friendly pan  (or even better, a tagine dish!) over a high heat.
Take the meat out of the marinade, pat dry, and sear in the pan until browned.
When browned, add a chopped onion, the chopped carrots, the apricots, and the rest of the marinade. Pour in enough stock to cover the meat, add a squeeze of lemon juice, cover with foil, and put in the oven.
After 20 minutes, turn the oven down to 160C, and leave to cook for several hourse unril the meat is tender.

Serve with jewelled cous cous and minted yoghurt.

Jewelled couscous (couscous with pomegranate seeds)
Don't use a widepan, because you want to cover the meat with liquid, but too muxh will silute the flavour.
Add blanched almonds before serving.
Once plated, top with sesame seeds.

Lamb tagine

Dean Street Townhouse

After confirming my booking from a very chirpy man on the other end, I have high hopes for Dean Street Townhouse. Situated in "the thick of buzzing Soho" (their website), they're slap bang in the heart of the West End, just down the road from Burger and Lobster.

The dining room is half full when H and I arrive, and two things immediately strike me...Firstly, the service is very good. The man at the desk (maitre d? host?) greets me like he knows me, "ah, Chloé", and after being shown to our seats, water is instantly yet discreetly served. Unfortunately the lighting is somewhat lacking. As a glasses-wearing individual, I need all the light I can get. So whilst I'm sure they save a lot of energy, it's not convenient for reading the weekend papers.

Coffee (£3.75)
After seeing the menu, I opt for the Lorne sausage, tattie scones, and fried egg (£7) which sounds promising. A Lorne sausage is a flat sausage, a bit like a pattie made out of very moist sausage meat. The fried egg was done perfectly with a runny yolk and a cooked white. I did have a slight issue with the tattie scones though...The tattie scones (Scottish potato farls) were a bit chewy and greasy. I'm not sure if it was excess oil from the sausage, but it was just a tad too indigestion inducing. It could have done with some tomato relish or a good dollop of brown sauce, but aside from that it was pleasantly enjoyable, made better by the fresh carrot juice (£3.75).

Lorne sausage, tattie scones and a fried egg (£7)
H had the Full English breakast (£12); the Black Pudding was delicious and everything else was good too. 2 coffees came to £7, a bit steep even for a good coffee!
Full English Breakfast (£12)

Dean Street Townhouse is the kind of place where people come to be seen, a bit like the Delaunay. After thinking we saw Pete Townsend (still undecided whether it was him or not) we were excited as to which jet setting cockney we'd see next. I mean the people next to us sounded famous...There were also your fair share of families, well-dressed ladies, and plenty of Americans.

It's definitely worth a visit if you want to experience a posh breakfast in London, but for the price, you could have twice as much somewhere with twice the taste.