Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Raspberry and ricotta hotcakes

Raspberry ricotta hotcakes

Pancakes; who says they are just for Shrove Tuesday? I seem to forget about them shortly afterwards and never think about them till I happen to wander across a random crepe stall in the summertime when they pop up during the festival. Despite my neglect of pancakes for the majority of the year I do so love them, especially all warm and straight out the pan.

I found this recipe in a book that I was given for Christmas. The said book is called the “Cheese Course” by Fiona Beckett. It's a pretty good read if you ever come across it, all sorts of interesting information about washed rinds et cetra et cetra if you are in to all that stuff. 

The recipe section however was a bit confusing to me. Let me explain... it is a book on specialty cheeses, how they are made, how best to store them and how to pare them with specialty wines but the recipe section is mainly how to cook cheese on toast. I'm pretty sure someone that was interested in food enough to buy a book solely devoted to artisan cheese might have surely mastered the humble cheese on toast by this stage? 

Anyways there was one good find in the form of this recipe. A hotcake is essentially a posh pancake. The ricotta adds flavour but could also weigh the mixture down; by adding whipped egg whites it makes them supper light and fluffy. They make a very romantic brunch but I had them just because.

Raspberry and ricotta hotcake - serves a greedy 2
adapted from the "cheese course"

200g raspberries
6tbs caster sugar
110g ricotta
2 eggs, separated
75ml milk
60g plain flour
1/2tsp baking powder
pinch of salt

Put half the raspberries in a pan with 2tbs of the sugar and over medium heat cook for about 4 minutes until the rasps have softened and you have a thin syrup. Once ready put to one side.
In the meantime mix the ricotta, the remaining sugar, ricotta and egg yolks.
Add the milk and stir well.
Sift in the flour, salt and baking powder.
Beat the egg whites with an electric whisk until stiff.
Add one spoonful of the egg whites into the ricotta mixture to loosen it, then fold in the rest gently.
With a frying pan on a low heat wipe a little butter onto a piece of kitchen towel and wipe that over the pan.
Add more butter as required when cooking the hotcakes.

Enjoy with the raspberry syrup and some double cream if you are feeling decadent.

Footnote- I wish the photo could do their yumminess justice but I really struggled to make these hotcakes look sexy. Suggestions welcome.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Beetroot crisp and goat's cheese salad

            beetroot crisp and goats cheese salad

Ok, this combination is never going to win awards for pushing culinary boundaries but it does hit the yummy spot. I really, really love beetroot: sweet, earthy and oh so versatile.  From roasted on a Sunday to a winter's borsht to this crisp, light salad. It's wonderful stuff. I saw some in the local farmers shop on as I was walking home the other day and couldn't resist. Beetroot is normally in season from late June to early November so I don't know how they managed it but I wasn't going to complain.

One of my favourite beetroot dishes that I've experienced was an amuse bouche that I had the first time I went to a Michelin restaurant. The boyfriend was a sweetie and treated me to it for finishing my degree. It was early summer and it felt like we had so much ahead of us. It was a tiny chilled beetroot soup with horseradish cream and smoked eel. It did exactly what an amuse bouche should and made us so excited about what we were in store for that night. 

The goat's cheese I used is called Golden Cross. Its an ash rolled, bloom rinded log. It is made in southeast England and has a bit of a following apparently. When the goat's cheese is first made the texture is light and mousey, a few days later it can be crumbled and after a week it can be sliced. The "natural rind" or mould coating will take about a month to develop.

Although this salad is so simple sometimes these are the hardest dishes to get just right. This recipe works because the light, fresh, crispy beetroot contrasts beautifully with the velvety, tangy goats cheese. 

Beetroot crisp and goat's cheese salad - serves 2 

2 beetroot
1/4 log of goat's cheese
herby salad leaves

for the dressing -
one third lemon juice 
two thirds extra virgin olive oil

Peel the beetroot and thinly slice. Not too thinly as the texture of the crunch is all important. 
Put into a bowl and add the dressing.
Arrange on a plate with the sliced goat's cheese on top.
Add the salad leaves to the bowl and add more dressing.
Place this on top of the cheese and beets.


Friday, 25 March 2011

Clam linguini

Clam linguini
Today it has been sunny all day. The blossom on the trees is a welcome sight and the lighter evenings are upon us. Spring has sprung!
Today is not a day for cosy comfort food but fresher ideas.

Clams are at their best at the moment. I used the wonderful venus clam. Who could resist such a name?

Clam linguini - serves 2

175g of linguini (half normal and half squid ink pasta makes it look extra pretty)
a very good glug of olive oil
1 large onion
2 shallots
4 garlic cloves
1-2 chopped dried chili 
a very large handful of chopped flat leaf parsley
2 glasses of wine (1 for the dish, 1 as chefs privilege)
2 handfuls of clams
1/2 lemon
parmesan to serve

Give the clams a good rinse under cold running water for a couple of minutes and de-beard them.
Discard any clams that do not close with a quick tap or have broken shells. Leave to soak in a bucket of cold water for at least an hour before you start cooking them. Do this unless you are strange and like gritty seafood.

Finely chop the onion and shallots, add to a pan with the olive oil on a medium heat. The idea is to soften them and give them a gentle brown colour. 
After 3-4 minutes add the thinly sliced garlic. Keep stirring to prevent the garlic from getting burnt and bitter. Add the chili.
Meanwhile get the pasta on. I think the trick of not having clumpy linguini is to make sure there is plenty of water and give the pan an occasional stir. The pasta will take 7-8 minutes.
At this time add a glass of wine to a hot pan and let it reduce so that the alcohol has a little chance to burn off. After a few minutes add the clams, put the lid on and give it a shake once or twice. They will take about 2 minutes to open up.
Once the pasta still has quite a lot of bite, drain and add it to the onions. Add the parsley. Pick the clams out their shells and add them and the lovely fishy, winy liquid to the pasta. 
Season to taste with salt and pepper and add some of the lemon juice. 

Italians don't tend to serve parmesan with fish dishes but I'm not Italian and I like it. To make all the Nona’s turn in their grave add a grating of parmesan and serve.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Orange and polenta cake

Orange and polenta cake
The first time I had this cake was on a trip to London with my sister. We got the night bus from Glasgow and crawled into Victoria bus station at 6am. Bleary eyed we marched round "the big smoke" for the day before going to see Hefner in a little pub in Noting Hill. Night came and we headed back to the bus station for our second night on the night bus back up to Scotland. Grim.

My sister and I love fancy cakes and going to Fortnum and Mason was always one of those things that we liked to do when we were wee. We liked to pretend we were princesses and buy hairgrips with our birthday money. Anyway, on this lovely sunny May day I bought a slice orange polenta cake from Fortnum’s and sat eating it in Hyde Park watching some posh folk fake boxing with their personal trainers. Even though this was all about 4 years ago it is amazing how the taste of this cake has brought back so many memories. 

It's a great cake, interesting texture, summery but making the most of the orange season coming to its end. Blood oranges are at their best this month, please use them if you are lucky enough to get hold of them. This cake works equally well for dinner with friends or with an afternoon cuppa. On the downside, this cake does go past it's best within 24 hours of making it. I had better get munching...

Orange polenta cake (adapted from BBC food)

250g unsalted butter
250g golden caster sugar
4 large eggs
140g medium milled polenta
200g plain flour
2tsp baking powder
zest of 3 oranges
juice of 1 and 1/2 oranges

200ml orange juice (approx 1 and 1/2 oranges)
200g golden caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees. Grease and flour a 23cm springform cake tin.
Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy with an electric whisk, it will take about 4 minutes.
Add the eggs one at a time, be careful not to over mix. 
Add the sugar and polenta and mix with a wooden spoon until well incorporated. Sift the flour from a height and again mix.
Finally add in the zest and the orange juice. Mix and pour into the tin. It is quite a stiff mix and will settle out in the tin as it cooks.

While the cake is cooking you can get going on the syrup.
Heat the remaining juice and sugar on the hob on a medium heat. It will take about 8-10 minutes to thicken up to the consistency of single cream. Try not to let it go too thick as otherwise it has difficulty penetrating the sponge fully. The colour of the syrup will also turn a slight golden hue when it is ready.

The cake will take 45 minutes to bake and is ready when it is springy to touch.
Whilst it is cooling on a wire rack pierce it with a thin skewer about 20 times and then spoon the syrup over it until all is absorbed. 

Comes recommended with a good dollop of crème fraise and if you are being fancy another few shaving of the zest.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Smoked haddock croquettes with tartare sauce

                                                                              Smoked haddock croquettes with tartare sauce
Phew, another weekend gone. This one went too quickly. We've had a nice time catching up with friends on Friday and Saturday nights and spend the days relaxing. We had a walk up to the farmers market and I've been working my way through the papers. The weather has been playing games with us; looking all warm and inviting but really being quite chilly when you are out and about.

This little Sunday night supper recipe reflects this time of year. It's a bit of a winter warmer with the smoked fish and celeriac and a touch of lighter spring with the salad and tartare sauce.

Tartare sauce - serves 2

1/4 pint of vegetable oil
2 egg yolks
2 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp white wine vinegar
a good pinch of salt
grind of pepper
2 tbs chopped parsley
2tbs chopped gherkins
3tbs chopped capers

Don't panic, don't panic this recipe only takes 10 minutes to make and that includes the tidying up. 
Separate the yolks from the whites and put them in a clean bowl. You can put a wet dishtowel under the bowl to stop it moving.  
Beat the egg yolks with an electric whisk on a medium speed add the mustard, vinegar and salt until well blended. 
Very slowly, one drop at a time (seriously) add the oil continuing to beat the whole time. 
It will look very thin at this stage but as you continue beating it will start to thicken up.
Once almost half the oil has been added you can then start to add it as a slow steady drizzle. 
After all the oil has been added you may wish to add more vinegar, mustard or seasoning to suit your tastes.
Add the parsley, gherkins and capers and there you have it... homemade tartare sauce.
The patience pays off as I’ve never split the mixture by making it this way.
I defy the sunny, yolky colour not warm your heart just a little and to vow never to buy tartare sauce in jar form again (for this week anyway).

It can be made up to 24 hours in advance.

Smoked haddock and celeriac croquettes - serves a greedy 2

200g floury potato (1 large one roughly)
200g celeriac
2 fillets of lightly smoked haddock
pint of milk
2 bay leaves
a few strokes of grated nutmeg
small bunch of chopped parsley
knob of butter 
black pepper
100g polenta 
lemon wedges to serve

Chop the potato and celeriac into small cubes and boil in salted water for about 10 minutes or until soft.  
One the vegetables are cooked, strain, pat dry with kitchen towel and leave to steam for a few minutes to dry off further. 
Start gently poaching the fish at this point with the bay leaves, nutmeg and a good grind of black pepper.
Returning to the veggies, mash well and add the butter, parsley, and a very good pinch of salt.
The fish will take about 4 minutes to poach and once cooked should be drained and added to the mash.
Keep the fish in quite big chunks for better texture.
Make fat sausages and dust with the polenta.
Shallow fry for a few minutes on each side until golden brown.

Serve with a watercress salad dressed with lemon and olive oil and have lots of lemon wedges for the croquettes on the side.

I’m not sure if this dish is quite enough to make me delight at the prospect of another looming Monday morning but it has given my quite Sunday night evening a bit of a boost.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Matzo Ball Soup/Jewish Penicillin

Today I have faced one of my many fears and after 6 years I finally went to the dentist.  I need 3 fillings. I need Grandma's matzo ball soup. 

My grandpa's family was Jewish, he came over the UK just before the war broke out. He married my Scottish Grandma and they lived happily ever after.

Despite the slightly tenuous link to my Jewish ancestry this soup was genuinely given more reverence than the doctor in times of illness when I was growing up. Although this was traditionally eaten at Passover, we had it whenever a roast chicken was made. From the little research I have done I don't think this recipe is remotely traditional but maybe if I use lots of Yiddish words that could be over looked? Except I don't really know any apart from...

Klutz - noun (slang) a clumsy person
Schlep - noun (slang) 1. A difficult journey 
                                  2. A clumsy person
Bubbe - noun grandmother

(I'm guessing I was a clumsy child?)

From what I understand this soup is traditionally quite thin with larger chunks of vegetables. This is a bit more gelatinous with lots of small chopped up vegetables and dense mid sized dumplings. I’m not going to be an autocrat and tell you exactly how to have your soup... I’m going to tell you how to make the Dallmann version. 

                                                                               Matzo ball soup

Serves 4 ish

2 large onions, fine cubes
3 fat cloves of garlic, very, very thinly sliced
2 carrots grated
3 sticks of celery, thinly sliced
small leek, very thinly sliced
chicken (whatever is left from the roast)
chicken stock
bay leaf

Gently fry off the onions and leek for a few minutes, try not to let them brown. 
Add the garlic and fry for another minute of two. 
Add the stock and the other vegetables and simmer for 20 minutes or so.
Whilst you are waiting you can get started in on the matzo balls.

4 matzos
4 tbps chicken fat/vegetable oil
6 tbps stock
3 eggs

Beat the matzos to small flakes (as small as you can be bothered), add the wet ingredients and mix. Leave to stand for 20 minutes or so, make it into the balls and pop into the soup. The dumplings will take about 15 minutes to cook. It made me so happy to see them bobbing around in the broth. It’s amazing how that simple image took me back almost 20 years to Bubbe's kitchen.

Wonderful soups must be a granny thing as my grandmother-in-law-to-be is a bit of a dab hand as well. The secret to her soup is "don't scrimp on stock and have a third of the vegetables as onions". Following this advice I've never made a dud soup.  However, this principle may be stretched to its limit if you try out my little Brother’s soup combination of mushroom, turnip and aubergine. NOT RECOMMENDED.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

salted caramel brownies

Salted caramel brownies

Okay, okay I admit it... I'm a food addict. I've said it. Whilst men may fantasise about sex every 7 seconds I think about, well, food frankly. Yep, it's a bit sad but then I've never claimed to be anything else.

Over the last week I've been unfaithful the boyfriend and spent far too long fantasising about salted caramel brownies. Salted caramel with chocolate is a bit trendy at the moment but don't let that put you off. Something a bit special happens when the salt and caramel play together. Plus who can say no to a chocolate hit that comes in brownie form?

Eventually Sunday afternoon came around and I found myself with a few hours to try out an idea I had of putting the two together. I made my favourite brownie recipe as usual and added a salted caramel mixture about 20 minutes before the end off cooking so that it sinks gently in the surface of the brownie.

Brownie Recipe (taken from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook - always reliable)

200g dark chocolate
175g unsalted butter (I wont tell anybody if you happen to use salted)
325g caster sugar
130g plain flour
3 medium eggs

Preheat oven to 170 degrees
Put the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl above simmering water. Once melted add the sugar. Take off the heat and add the sifted flour until well incorporated. Finally add the eggs, mix till smooth.
Put into a greased and floured brownie tin (33x23x5cm).
It will take about 30-35 mins, be careful not to overcook. It should be flakey but still soft in the centre.

Salted Caramel

300g caster sugar
150m water
small tub of sour cream approx 150 ml
8 pinches of good quality sea salt ( or to your own taste)

In a heavy saucepan with a low heat add the sugar and water together. Stir until dissolved.
Once the sugar has dissolved you can increase the heat up to a strong simmer.  You don't need to stir at this stage, just give it a gentle swirl ever couple of minutes.
After about 15 minutes the sugar will start to colour once it goes to a lovely rich caramel colour take it off the heat and add the sour cream and salt.
Be really careful as it will "fizz" up at this stage. As it starts to cool it gets gloopier and more wonderful. The picture was taken when it was just added and much thinner than the finished article.

This makes about twice the quantity needed for the brownies so you can use the other half over ice cream later in the week.

Im really pleased with how they worked out. The brownie is dense, chewy and very chocolatey and the salted caramel is the sticky, intriguing and more-ish topping. The acid test will be when I take them in to work tomorrow. Wish me luck.