Archive | October, 2012

Hollandaise Sauce

31 Oct

This is just a super-duper quick one as I’m about to race off to PoleFit (yes, I’ve taken up pole dancing as a sport – it’s actually really hard work for the upper body…).

In my previous post about Pavlova I mentioned the left over egg yolks. Luckily one of my favourite breakfasts in the whole world is poached eggs on toast, so I thought I’d pimp them up a bit with some smoked salmon and Hollandaise sauce. To be honest, I don’t actually like Hollandaise sauce, but hey ho, I think it’s a good one to know how to make, and it was a good way to use up the egg yolks!

I’ve learned that it really MUST, must, MUSSSTTTT be done over a very low temperature, otherwise it will split. Which mine did, of course. As SOON as it starts to thicken, take it straight off the heat.

I did however  find a rescue method for split Hollandaise: I quickly looked up some ‘save my Hollandaise’ videos on youtube, and this guy has a fantastic (and ever so easy) video for saving it, which includes a tiny bit of boiling water and a metal bowl. Simples. What was also interesting was that by the time I’d eaten my yummy eggs and went back to the split sauce, I gave it a little whisk and it all came back together again – so I’m guessing that if it does split, another way to save it would be just to let it cool a little bit and it should be salvageable that way too (I’ve also read that you might be able to save it by adding in an ice cube!).

In terms of the flavour of this recipe, I can’t say I was overly impressed, and I’d be inclined to add some more cayenne pepper and possibly a pinch of white pepper too next time. Possibly also a bit of a white wine vinegar reduction? Bear in mind that I don’t really like Hollandaise though, so it might just be me! There are many, many different ways to make Hollandaise, but this one seemed the most simple and straight forward so I gave it a go. And no, there’s no way to make this healthy, I could feel it clogging up my arteries as I ate it…….just have a little bit!

Recipe (makes enough for four people IMO)

4 large free-range egg yolks
250g cold unsalted butter, diced
¼ lemon
Pinch cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper
2 tbsp water

1. Put the yolks, butter and 2 tbsp water in a heavy-based pan and heat very gently, whisking all the time. As the butter melts, the sauce will begin to thicken. Don’t stop whisking!

2. Once the butter has melted, turn up the heat to medium-low and whisk vigorously until it thickens: if it begins to steam, take it off the heat.

3. When the sauce has thickened, stir in 1 tbsp lemon juice, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper, and taste. Adjust if necessary. Serve immediately.

 

 

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Pavlova (with a healthy twist)

27 Oct

The subject of pavlova is one which divides the dinner table if you’ve got guests from both New Zealand and Australia. In fact, I’ve witnessed many a heated debate over this subject so I tend to try and avoid bringing it up as much as I can! After having a rather delicious version of it last night however, I thought I should post it up – and hope that chaos will NOT ensue (take note all my Aussie/New Zealand friends!).

Just as a little bit of interesting fact for you – according to the Telegraph it is named after Anna Pavlova, the Russian prima ballerina, who toured both Australia and New Zealand in the 1920s.

I always think of pavlova as a bit of a retro dessert, but there’s no disputing the fact that it’s jolly delicious when done well. It’s also a perfect dessert to make the night before, as you can leave it to cool in the oven overnight and then just put your topping on before you want to serve it, minimising the amount of time you need to spend away from the table. My mum used to make this a lot when I was growing up, so it always reminds me of home!

The problem with pavlova is that I don’t really like cream, so when PD suggested it I wasn’t hugely looking forward to the cream bit. However, being the clever and creative man that he is, he suggested using Greek yoghurt instead of cream and topping it with lots of delicious fruit. Obviously it’s not the healthiest dish in the world (let’s be honest – it’s all sugar really!), if you’re going to the trouble of having a dessert there’s no point trying to make it all low fat/kcal/sugar/cholesterol/etc. because otherwise there’s no real point in having a dessert! But by using the yoghurt at least we were making it that tad bit healthier, and it was actually really lovely. We were going to drizzle some Greek honey over the top of the fruit, but as the meringue was so sweet it really didn’t need the additional sweetness, and the yoghurt added just that little bit of bitterness to complement the sugary sweetness of the meringue perfectly. It was beautifully crisp on the outside and wonderfully spongy and cloud-like (did I really just say cloud-like?) on the inside. It was really, reallllllllly nice!

This recipe is taken from abc.net.au, and it is another from Bill Granger. We seem to be cooking a lot of his recipes recently, so hopefully that’s testament to how great flavoured and straight forward his recipes are. I can really recommend both his Everyday Asian and Bill’s Basics books; he writes incredibly well and his recipes have always turned out fantastically. I also love the fact that he often takes some of our favourite dishes and tries to make them a little bit healthier, but never loses the wonderful flavours.

Recipe

6 egg whites*
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
11/3 cups (310g) caster sugar
1 tablespoon cornflour
2 tablespoons arrowroot
2 teaspoons white vinegar
300ml thickened cream, lightly whipped (optional)
300ml plain yoghurt (or Greek yoghurt if not adding to cream)
2 punnets fresh strawberries, hulled and halved
Runny honey (optional)

*Yes, you’ll have yolks left over. I’m going to try to make some Hollandaise sauce with them later, so I’ll let you know how that goes. You can also make custard, or mayonnaise…or…<comments on a postcard please!>

– Line a baking tray with baking paper and draw a 20cm diameter circle on the paper.

– Place the egg whites, cream of tartar and vanilla into a clean dry bowl and beat until stiff peaks form.

– Add sugar 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until all the sugar is incorporated and dissolved and the mixture is thick and glossy.

– Stir in the cornflour, arrowroot and vinegar.

– Pile onto prepared tray and spread evenly to the edges of the circle.

– Turn oven to 150C.

– Place in oven and bake for 1 hour 20 minutes, then turn oven off and leave in oven until completely cool.

– Meanwhile, slice the strawberries and any other fruit you fancy. If you want to make the yoghurt cream, whip the cream and fold the plain yoghurt through it. Otherwise simply keep your toppings until your meringue has cooled, and then pile the yoghurt onto the meringue, topped with the fruit.

Wild Mushroom and Ale Bruschetta

25 Oct

Whilst I was waltzing around the supermarket in a bit of a stressed out blur today (I find shopping in unfamiliar supermarkets incredibly stressful, ESPECIALLY during rush hour time! urrrgh!) I bumped into a friend who was also in a bit of a tiz as he only had an hour or so to cook up a dinner for at least six people. He was asking for ideas for simple starters, which got me thinking back on some of my favourite simple starters. PD has made a delicious mushroom and ale bruschetta on a couple of occasions for dinner parties over the last year or so, and it really is a yummy starter which is a bit different, and always seems to go down well. My only tip is to make sure that the sauce has begun to thicken before you serve it – the last time we made it it was a little too thin, and although still delicious it wasn’t quite as perfect as it had been the previous time!

Recipe (from BBC Good Food)

  • 200g wild (foraged) mushrooms such as blewitts, chanterelles, chicken-of-the-woods, ceps, morels etc. We used one of the nice mixed wild mushroom packs from the supermarkets.
  • 1-2 slices seeded sourdough bread per person
  • 2 tbsp good-quality olive oil, plus extra to drizzle
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 30g/1oz unsalted butter
  • 150ml/5fl oz bitter ale
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 sprigs fresh flatleaf parsley, roughly chopped
  1. Clean any dirt from the mushrooms and break them up into rough pieces. Some mushrooms may need to be cooked a little longer, such as blushers, so keep them separate and throw them into the pan a few seconds before the others.
  2. Toast the bread, and keep warm while you cook the mushrooms.
  3. In a large, heavy-bottomed frying pan, heat the olive oil and cook the garlic until it’s a nice nutty brown.
  4. Add the butter and the mushrooms. Toss this all together, then turn the heat up and add the ale. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and keep the heat high. When the liquid released by the mushrooms and the ale has reduced and thickened a little, throw in the parsley.
  5. Place the toast on plates and scoop the mushrooms on top, dividing the juices between the plates. Drizzle a little olive oil on top and serve immediately with a twist of black pepper.

Hot Toddy

21 Oct

 

 

This week has been pretty manic, so first off – apologies for the lack of posts. I have just started my first ever clinical placement, and I have absolutely loved the last two weeks. Needless to say, everything else has somewhat been sat on the back burner as I’ve also been quite poorly over the last week. As the cold, dark, miserable nights set in, I suppose it’s inevitable that people start to get ill, so this post is going to be all about the comforting wonders of the ‘hot toddy’.

I’ve read a couple of things about the history of this marvellous drink, and (much like most foodie history) some of the stories differ somewhat. It appears however that this comforting drink has its origins in India; ‘toddy’ is the name used to describe an alcoholic drink created from the fermentation of sap from the palm tree. How and when it became hot and infused with spices I have no idea, but other people seem quite quick to argue that it was actually invented by the Scots many years ago, to make whiskey more attractive to women. Hmm…

Who knows.

All I know is that besides mulled wine, this is one of my favourite tasty, warm you up from the inside comforting autumn drinks. In terms of whether or not it helps a cold…I’m sceptical. Depending on how much whiskey you put in it could probably knock you out, that’s for sure – sadly, I’m pretty sure you’ll wake up with a cracking headache the next day. I suppose if you use the logic that you’d be waking up with a sore head from the cold anyway…?? Medicinal properties aside, here’s my recipe for the perfect hot toddy!

 

– 2 capfuls of whiskey
– 1 clove
– 1 cinnamon stick
– 1-2 tsp honey (depending on taste)
– 2 slices lemon
– near boiling water

Put everything into a mug or thick glass (be careful with the very hot water – it might crack the glass if it’s not thick enough!), and top up with the water. Give it a good stir until the honey dissolves, snuggle up in a warm dressing gown and sip away to your hearts content. Yum.

Stir Fried Vietnamese Lemongrass Chicken

17 Oct

It’s getting cold and a bit miserable outside, and after boasting that I never really get ill around this time…..I now have a cold. That’ll teach me. I feel terrible. Fortunately…food makes everything better!

The flavours in this dish are super tasty, and the ingredients have a load of health benefits too:

Lemongrass

– Antimicrobial properties (take that, evil cold bugs).
– High in antioxidants and vitamins/minerals which are supposed to be good at fighting off colds.
– Apparently acts to reduce cholesterol levels.
– Helps to maintain a healthy digestive system.

Turmeric

– Anti-inflammatory properties are incredibly useful to soothe inflamed throats! I hope it might also extend it’s properties to my poor nose which is looking progressively redder….
– Anti-oxidant, good for boosting the immune system and preventing damage which might be caused by inflammation.
– Used in Chinese medicine to help in clearing infections.

Chillies

– Contain capsaicin, which acts as a decongestant (definitely clears the sinuses…) and apparently also as an expectorant, which basically means it thins mucous and helps the body to get rid of it.

Garlic

– Antibiotic and antiviral properties (as a side note, please remember that most colds are caused by viruses – antibiotics will not help as they act to kill of bacteria, not viruses. So to anyone who pesters their GPs for antibiotics when they’ve got a cold, don’t do it! It won’t help you, and it might actually make matters worse for you and others in the long run due to bacteria becoming resistant to common antibiotics. You just need to wait it out. And eat some good, cold-busting food, of course).
– Antioxidant which helps to boost the immune system.
– The more you eat the less likely other people are to come near you, thus you won’t spread your cold to anyone else. Super!

Chicken

– Contains cysteine, an amino acid which is supposed to help to thin out the mucous too.
– Good source of protein and vitamins, for replenishing some of that lost energy from all the coughing and sniffling!

Asparagus

– Also contains loads of antioxidants such as glutathione, helping the immune system and fighting some of the harmful effects of inflammation.
– Packed full of nutrients.

………..Basically, food is power! And as I like food, I’m quite happy to use these examples as a good excuse to eat more of wonderfully tasting food. This is another dish from Bill Granger, and it was pretty straightforward to make. We don’t own a pestle and mortar, but a good sturdy bowl and the end of a rolling pin did the job just fine!

Recipe (serves 4)

  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 large green chillies, diced
  • 2 lemongrass stalks, white part only, very finely sliced, or grated zest of 2 lemons
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 800g skinless chicken thigh fillets, cut into chunks
  • 3 tbsp light-flavoured oil
  • 2 celery sticks, cut into batons
  • 1 bunch of asparagus (about 200g), trimmed and halved
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp granulated sugar
  • 3 spring onions, cut into batons
  • WHITE pepper

Pound the garlic, turmeric, chilli, lemongrass and salt to a paste in a pestle and mortar. Combine with the chicken in a bowl and mix well. Cover and put in the fridge for 10 minutes.

Heat a wok or large frying-pan over a high heat. Add half the oil and half the chicken and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes. Remove and repeat with the remaining oil and chicken.

Return the chicken to the wok, add the celery and asparagus and stir-fry for two minutes. Add the fish sauce, soy sauce, lemon juice, sugar, spring onion and some white pepper* and heat for a further minute. Serve immediately with steamed rice.

*Edit 27/10/2012: I cannot stress enough how important the white pepper is! We made this with both normal black peppercorn pepper and white pepper, and the white pepper completely transforms the dish and lifts the flavours.

Dorset Apple Cake

14 Oct

 

I have been very lucky this year, as a friend with whom I play football has a large apple tree in her family garden…and too many apples to know what to do with! So obviously, I was more than willing to take some off her hands.

This is a very straightforward apple cake, and it’s a lovely little cake to go with a nice cup of tea and a natter. It’s not a show stopper by any means, but it is a good, tasty, simple cake. Personally I think it would be nice served warm with a little bit of custard, but it’s also nice on it’s own.

 

Recipe (from BBC Good Food)

  • 450g cooking apples (such as Bramley)
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • 225g butter , softened
  • 280g golden caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 350g self-raising flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • demerara sugar , to sprinkle
  1. Heat oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Butter and line a rectangular baking tin (approx 27cm x 20cm) with parchment paper. Peel, core and thinly slice the apples then squeeze the lemon juice over. Set to one side.
  2. Place the butter, caster sugar, eggs, vanilla, flour and baking powder into a large bowl and mix well until smooth. Spread half the mixture into the prepared tin. Arrange half the apples over the top of the mixture, then repeat the layers. Sprinkle over the demerara sugar.
  3. Bake for 45-50 mins until golden and springy to the touch. Leave to cool for 10 mins, then turn out of tin and remove paper. Cut into bars or squares.

Jamie Oliver’s butter beans and bacon

11 Oct

For some reason I absolutely love butter beans. I’m not entirely sure why, but every time I eat them, I love them a little bit more. The problem is, when I bought a tin of butter beans to actually cook myself, I had absolutely NO idea what to do with them. I’ve tried cooking them a few ways, but they always turn out really rather disappointing and bland. I was incredibly excited when my housemate cooked us dinner only to find that one of the sides she had knocked up had BUTTERBEANS in it! WIN! And they were absolutely delicious. Super easy to whip up, Jamie Oliver’s butter beans are part of his ‘super-fast beef hash, jacket potatoes, goddess salad, lovely butter beans and bacon’ 30 minute meal (let’s not start the debate as to whether or not his recipes are actually 30 minutes………), and they would be a great side for many meals. They were even really nice cold with some salad the next day!

If anyone has any other good recipes using butterbeans (which don’t entail soups!) please do share them as a comment below, I’d love some more inspiration.

(sorry again for the quality of the picture – I took it on my phone as the good camera was upstairs….and I was hungry….recurring theme…..ahem)

Recipe (serves 4, as a side)

  • 4 rashers of smoked streaky bacon, finely sliced
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 400g can of butter beans (plus juices)
  • red wine vinegar
  • 2 or 3 sprigs of fresh Greek basil or basil, leaves picked

Drizzle some olive oil into a hot pan and toss in the bacon. Fry up until golden and crispy (definitely make sure it’s golden, I didn’t when I cooked mine and it just didn’t have the same flavour).

On a high heat, add the tomatoes, butter beans (and juices) and simmer gently until the liquid reduces.

Add a good splash of the red wine vinegar, season, and scatter over the basil leaves.

Serve!