Friday, January 28, 2011

Gorgeous Ganache

I haven't cooked much this week through a combination of circumstances but I did make a great discovery on Monday.  It was Bonzo's birthday and Wrigglebottom insisted that we needed to bake him a chocolate cake with chocolate icing in the middle.  As it happened, I had just been flicking through Paul A Young's 'Adventures in Chocolate' ( which is very true to its name. So much so that even my chocaholic husband might draw the line at some things.  Paul has a couple of shops, one of which is around the back of the Bank of England.  We stumbled across it when we were in London for my second graduation last year.

Cutting to the chase....I decided that we should make a ganache to sandwich our chocolate sponges together.  In my twenties, Delia's chocolate mousse was my standard dessert for dinner parties and it never went wrong.  Recently,I have had much more patchy results melting chocolate.  Paul's method was perfect!

1)  I used a combination of 200g milk chocolate (Green & Black) plus 50g of 70% dark chocolate from Hotel Chocolat. Break into small pieces (ideal job for small Wrigglebottom fingers) in a medium sized bowl;
2)  Heat 250g of double cream (or 140g of Guernsey double cream,a spoonful of sour cream and a slosh of full cream Guernsey milk, in our case) in a pan with 100g of light muscovado sugar.
3)  Bring to the boil and simmer for 1 minute.
4) Set aside to cool for at least one minute.  This is the real trick and will ensure that the cocoa butter doesn't separate.  You don't want to scald the chocolate but you still want the cream and sugar mixture to be hot enough to melt the chocolate.
5)  Pour the cream mixture onto thte chocolate and stir like mad with a spatula.  Keep on going until all the chocolate has melted and the mixture is thick and glossy.
6)  Spread on your chocolate sponge base and sandwich together.
7)  Use royal is=cing and a whole load of food colouring to turn in to Saturn(well it was his birthday cake).

If you leave the ganache in the fridge for a couple of  hours to set you can then make truffles with it.

Molto bene!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Terrific Turbot

We seem to have eaten a lot of fish since Christmas.  Not sure whether it's made any difference on the scales.I might check tomorrow. Last time I went into Seafresh, I was challenged as I almost always buy the same fish - haddock,smoked haddock, sea bass,salmon.  Well I suppose at least one of those is not in the top 5 and line caught.  The fish I was challenged with was pout.  It looks a bit like a small whiting but I can't find any recipes for it so I might work up to it.  It's also Bonzo's birthday tomorrow and on request we're not going out and I'm not cooking anything fancy (well that's what he thinks!) so I decided that I'd treat us to a turbot.  When you see them on the TV they're always huge because restaurants like doing steaks rather than the whole fish.  I bought a fish that was just over 3lb which was more than enough for the three of us.

The great thing about fish (apart from the fact that it's good for you) is that it's best not to muck around with it too much and it doesn't take too long to cook.

1)  Heat the oven to 200C

2) If the fishmonger hasn't already done it, cut the frill off round the edge and any other fins (the tail as well if it doesn't fit in the pan).  This will make it easier to skin the fish when it's cooked.

3)  Put it in a roasting pan,dark side up and season.

4) Carefully pour a pint of water around the fish to make sure that it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan and stays nice and moist.  Put the pan in the oven for 30 mins or until the fish is cooked.

5)  Put 3oz/75g butter in a small pan and melt on a low heat.

6)  Finely chop about a handful of mixed herbs (chives, parsley,thyme leaves, dill).  Throw them into the melted butter and set aside.

7)  When the fish is cooked, remove it from the pan and keep warm.

8)  Put the pan on top of the oven and boil the cooking liquid quickly until you have about 2 tablespoons of liquid left.

9)  Whilst this is happening carefully peel the upper layer of skin off the fish.  With a fish slice or pallet knife, ease the top two fillets away from the bone and plate up.

10)  Remove the head and bone and lever the second two fillets away form the lower skin and plate.

11)  Pour the cooking liquor into the warm herb butter and give it a good whisk.  Pour the sauce over the fillets and serve.

I'd give this a 4 for prep. Dealing with a whole fish is a bit scary.  Bonzo gave it an eight, Rosie a 10,I'd give it a 9 but only because I ate too much and I kept thinking about how expensive it was.  It was so much better than the Horrid Haddock.  So a 13 overall (must do a leader board).  I will definitely try anew fish next time I go (even if it means taking 5 cookbooks with me).

Bon appetit!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Meat loaf

I don't know why I've never tried this before.  It was really easy and stretched a pound and a half of meat so far that Bonzo and Wrigglebottom had less than half of it for dinner last night.  I had some with salad for lunch and it was lush as my friend gloshawk would say.

1)  Heat oven to 180C (about 160C) for fan ovens;
2)  Mix 225g of white bread cut up into cubes with 1 egg and 125ml milk in a large mixing bowl.  At this stage in the week there's usually not much bread left in our house so I raided the fridge and used frozen breadcrumbs and a couple of crumpets (after I'd defrosted them).  Leave to soak whilst you gather the rest of the ingredients.
3) Peel and chop a medium onion, 2 sticks of celery and a small bunch of parsley finely.
4)  Mash the bread mixture (didn't have to do much of that in my case)
5) Add the veg and herbs to the bread mixture.
6)  Add225g of minced pork or sausage meat and 450g of minced beef. I used some sausage meat that I had in the freezer left over from Christmas.  At Forest Stores even the sausage meat and mince are better than the supermarkets.
7) Finally add a pinch of dried mixed herbs, 2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard and a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper.
8)  Mix it altogether.  You could use a wooden spoon but honestly it's much quicker and easier with your hands.
9)  Grease a loaf tin with and line the bottom with greaseproof paper.  The original recipe doesn't say this but I left about half the loaf in the tin when I turned it out because I didn't do this.
10)  Tip the mixture into the tin and bake in the oven for 45 minutes.
11)  Use a palette knife to loosen the meat loaf and turn it out.

I served it with mash potato (must give my tips on really good mash some time), carrots and gravy.

I give it a 4.5 for prep.  Would have been a 5 except for the greased loaf tin.  Wrigglebottom gave it a 10 (think that might have been for the mash though) and Bonzo a 7. OK for a school night he said which was a bit rich as I was going out and generally the deal is that I don't cook if I'm not going to eat!  So 13 overall and I will work on it to make it better than a school night dinner!

Thanks to my friend Vaunda who fed 8 of us on homemade lasagne, risotto and a selection of desserts last night.  Delish!

Bon appetit!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Crispy Pork Belly

This is based on Bill Granger recipe (Holidays, page 112).  I did consider Shaun Rankin's version in my new recipe book but his called for using about 2lb of salt which seemed a bit extreme and I didn't have it.

The pork belly came from my local butchers' at Forest Stores who helpfully scored the rind more to allow the 2 tablespoons of salt to soak in.  Bill says to leave the belly salting for 30 mins.  Given how long the pork needed to be in the oven (2 hours 20 mins plus 15 mins resting) that wasn't going to work for me - we'd have eaten at 10pm.  As a compromise, I salted it before I went to work and left it in the fridge.

When I got home, I turned on the oven to 220C (200C for a fan oven) and washed the salt off the pork. I dried it with paper towel and then put it in a deep roasting tim.  Drizzled with olive oil (to stop it sticking) and seasoned with more Maldon salt and freshly ground black pepper.  The pork went into the pan skin side down and then into the oven for 30 mins.  Given that the piece of pork was not as big as Bill's I decide that I wouldn't need quite as long (and didn't have enough time anyway) so once it had done it's first 30 mins I turned the oven down to 190C (should have been 170C for a fan oven) for an hour.  Whilst it was cooking, I cut some Maris Piper potatoes into wedges (no peeling), drizzled them with olive oil and salt and put them on the top shelf of the oven having moved the pork to the middle shelf.  After the hour, I moved turned the pork over, moved it to the top shelf, gave the potatoes another 10 mins on the middle shelf.  Having removed the potatoes, I cooked up some sweet local carrots.  The pork came out of the oven after another 10 mins and rested very briefly whilst I made gravy from the carrot water and dished up the rest.

There was enough pork for us plus one other (still in the fridge waiting for me to decide what to do with it).  I'd give it about 4.5 for prep, Bonzo and I both gave it an 8,Wrigglebottom gave it a 9 even though she found the potatoes a bit salty so about 13 overall.  It was sweet, salty and had great crackling.  I'd definitely do this one again but on the weekend so that I could cook it long and slow and let it rest which I think would have made all the difference to the texture.

Bon appetit!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Horrible Haddock

Since I started this we have been eating a lot more fish.  Nothing to do with the Great Fish Fight,just complete coincidence.  At least, here in Guernsey we don't have to cope with quotas as as I'm aware because we have our own fishing limits.  I also know quite a lot of fishermen and have 2 local fishmongers that buy local line caught fish if at all possible.

Was planning on a Malay Fish Curry but we had Thai on Saturday and if I do curry I have to find something else for the Wrigglebottom.  Scratched around on the BBC website and found  I thought it would be fine as I used a Dishy recipe a bit like this for trout a few weeks back.  The problems started with the bag.  We're out of tinfoil despite me putting it on the list twice so I had to make do with baking parchment.  The first bag collapsed so I ended up using a dish and covering that.  I did a large dish for us and a smaller one for the Wrigglebottom with no lemon or herbs and put all the fish in skin side up which meant that I could easily take the skin off before serving.  I covered both dishes with the baking parchment and left them 10 minutes longer than the recipe said (having learnt from the Bass en Papillote incident.
What I's do differently next time:
1)  No-one needs 100g of dried couscous.  Probably half of this would do;
2)  Couscous needs spices not herbs;
3)  Bonzo pointed out that it needs some kind of sauce.  To be honest the amount of vegetable stock given is inadequate but I think Bonzo's right and would do a sauce.
4)  Use an oily fish not a white one.  I might even give mackerel a go.

Overall, pretty tasteless and samey.  Waste of good haddock really.  The Wrigglebottom hardly ate any.  I gave up on the couscous and had too much fish.  4 for prep as it's fairly easy as long as you use foil or a dish.  6 from me, 7 from Bonzo, not much from Wrigglebottom so won't be doing this one agian without a major makeover.

Better luck tomorrow....

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Baked Asian Salmon

Friday night is a bit hectic as the Wrigglebottom swims at 6pm and I generally don't get home to 5:20.  By the time we're home from swimming it's after 7 so whatever I cook needs to be quick. If the Outlaw Granny has give her her dinner I can be a bit adventurous but she's currently suffering with her back.  I had planned to do Ginger & Chilli Salmon by Levi Root on his app but the internet was down again and I couldn't find it on my iPhone so I made it up instead!

Heat the oven to 200C
1)  Chop 2 spring onions. Place in a baking dish just big enough to squeeze the salmon that you're cooking in;
2)  Add about 2cm root ginger.  I keep mine in the freezer so that it doesn't get all wizened and then grate it finely.  It stays fresh goes a lot further, doesn't need to be peeled and doesn't give anyone a nasty shock because there are no big lumps.
3)  Add the rind and juice of 1 lime.  Roll the lime on a hard surface before you grate it and it will be a lot easier to squeeze.
4) Add a tablespoon of dark soy and about 50ml of shaoshing rice wine or sake if you have it.
5)  Put the salmon fillets in skin side down;
6)  Cover with foil or baking paper and put in the oven for 10-15 mins depending on the number of salmon steaks. You want the salmon to be just cooked.

Serve with plain boiled rice and steamed veg.  That's got to be the healthiest thing I've cooked since Christmas day!

Ease of prep 5; Bonzo 7 because he doesn't like soy that much; Wrigglebottom 9 because she loves fish, rice & veg even if she could taste the lime and an 8 from me.  I left it in about 2 minutes longer than I would have liked and it would have benefitted from chilli but then the Wrigglebottom wouldn't have eaten it.  Total score 14/15 so will definitely work on this one.

Bon appetit!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Chicken in White Wine

Last night, I had planned to make Dishy's Coq au Vin ie Chicken in Red Wine but decided against it for a number of reasons:-
1)  It was 5:50pm amd the recipe said that it would take 30 mins prep and 2 hours to cook;
2)  The Wrigglebottom doesn't like red wine in her gravy let alone as the main component of a sauce and her taste buds are way to sharp for me to sneak that one by;
3)  I was shattered.

Bearing this in mind, I decided on a knock off version of Nigella's Coq au Riesling (page 119, Nigella Express).  It's a knock off because Bonzo doesn't like fungi anf Wrigglebottom objects to spice which includes herbs!  So this is what it looks like:

1)  Heat vegetable oil in a deep saucepan;
2)  Add about 100g of bacon lardons or chopped smoekd bacon and fry for about 2 mins on fairly high heat;
3)  Chop 2 leeks finely and add to bacon;
3)  Remove skin from whatever chicken you have.  Last night I used chicken legs but you could use breasts, thighs or drumsticks.  Anything with a bone in will give a tastier, thicker sauce;
4)  Add chicken to leeks & bacon;
5)  Absolutely no mushrooms;
6)  Add almost a bottle of white wine.  I used Sauvignon Blanc last night and used all but the cook's glass.  That was probably a bit too much so half a bottle would probably do. 
7)  Add two bay leaves, salt and pepper; the bay leaves can be fished out before the Wrigglebottom sees them.
8)  Bring to the boil and then put on a low heat with a lid on until the chicken is cooked about 30 mins minimum.  At the end of the day you're looking for a sauce that stays on the plate so top it up if it looks too dry and take the lid off if there's too much liquid.
9)  Serve it up with noodles, rice or potatoes.

If you want to tart it up a bit you can add cream and chopped dill before serving.

This gets a 5 for prep as it only takes 10 mins to prepare.  It got a 10 from me, a 9 from Bonzo and Wrigglebottom almost ate a whole chicken leg and just left some of her leeks as she's not keen on the onion family so I make that about 8.5 average so 13.5 overall.

Bon appetit!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Steak and Kidney Pie

This recipe started out on Dishy (  Bonzo doesn't eat fungi so this doesn't include mushrooms but it doesn't suffer from the lack.  Although it takes a while to cook, hence not suitable for my Friday evenings, it is worth the effort.
1)  Heat some oil in a large saucepan;
2)  Cut 400g of braising steak into 2cm cubes and dry with kitchen towel (learnt this from Julie and Julia and their Boeuf Bourgignon) which helps it to brown;
3)  Brown the steak in batches.  Again, doing this means that the meat browns rather than boiling in it s own juices and coming out grey;
4)  Dissect 400g of lamb kidneys, removing the white grisly bits.  Dry with a kitchen towel;
5)  Brown the kidney in batches;
6)  Whilst all this frying is going on, finely chop a medium onion and two medium carrots;
7)  Once all the meat is browned, add more oil to the pan if needed then sweat off the onion and carrots on a mdium hat ie soften without browning;
8)  Tip the meat back into the pan and add a tablespoon of plain flour.  Cook for one minute;
9)  Add 450ml of beef stock (1 sachet of Knorr stock in my case);
10)  Add a teaspoon of dried mixed herbs plus salt and pepper to taste;
11)  Bring to the boil and then put on a very low heat to simmer (with the lid on) for 2 hours or until the meat is soft;
12)  Heat the oven to 200C;
13)  Tip the stew into a pie dish;
14)  Roll out sufficient defrosted puff pastry to cover the dish.  I usually buy ready rolled. Trim it to size and press it into the pie dish to seal. No need for egg or milk wash;
15)  Put in the oven for however long it tells you on the puff pastry packet.

Confession time:  Saturday is strictly my husband's turn to cook.  I put the pie in; he was in the kitchen; I assumed that he was watching it.  Not completely ruined as he did his duty and cut the burnt bits off.  Just enough to feed three of us without any extra potatoes or veg.

I'd give it a 3 for preparation as frying the meat in batches is a bit of a faff but well worth it.  I forgot to ask the others for a score but Bonzo cleared his plate including the pattern and the Wrigglebottom didn't.  I reckon that makes it about an 8.5 so 11.5 overall. That would mean that it wouldn't make it onto the list but I think I'd have ariot on my hands if I didn't make it again this year!

Still to come - waffles with honey, yoghurt and pecans, roast chicken on a weeknight and chicken pie....

Bon appetit!


/*****--/I started this blog over the Christmas period to give myself a creative outlet that would also indulge my love of food. I am a full time working mother and do most of the cooking in our house as well as the shopping.  My husband, Bonzo does cook but only on weekends and never what I expect him to do with the ingredients supplied.  Both he and my daughter, the Wrigglebottom can be pretty fussy about ingredients.  Her taste buds are far too sharp for a 6 year old so it's pretty difficult to sneak anything past her.  We like eating food made from good quality ingredients but I don't have a huge amount of time to cook if I'm going to spend any time with her after school.  Consequently, I look for simple recipes with bags of flavour that can be prepared and cooked in less than half an hour.  Or require that much prep time and then can be left in the oven until we're ready to eat.  I also adapt recipes to exclude or replace ingredients that they don't like or that I don't have.  Where I've adapted a recipe I'll reference it.  Where I've made it up or it was so long ago and the adaptations are multiple I will probably have forgotten where I got it in the first place.

I have a very simple scoring system:

1-5 for prep time with 5 for 20 minutes or less, 4 for 30 minutes etc.  Anything more than an hour for a single dish is something Bonzo would cook with a Heston Blumenthal book in one hand.

1-10 for taste.  All diners get to score the dish and then it's average.

Anything with a total of 12.5 or more goes on the cook again list,  If it's a real favourite but takes a bit more time then it also gets included on the list.

Please feel free to comment, make suggestions about improvements or ask questions.

Bon appetit1