Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Flavoured Coffee: with Cinnamon

It's a rare thing these days not to enjoy a coffee in the morning. Most people do it. Walking to work clutching your favourite local coffee shop's fresh brew. It's an unofficial ritual. You might even be inclined to give a passer-by a hint of a smile when you see them with the same labelled coffee cup in their hand too. 

What about at home?
We all have a favourite! Since moving to London, we have become fans of a few local roasters. Not to offend these awesome Coffee Gods, but occasionally I will "adulterate" our coffee at home. No, I don't use Syrups. These flavourings are often too sweet, and never tastes fresh to me. 

Coffee with Acacia Bark
Coffee with spice.
You can cheat a little with this one if you want (I know I do!) You can use cinnamon that's already ground. You can also use Acacia Bark. It has a softer flavour than cinnamon. 

If you don't have scales that measure in grams, the easiest way to do this is to put a small amount on a teaspoon first (Really. Just heap a little at the tip of the spoon! You're looking to use around 4grams only). Put it into about 50grams of coffee. 
Mix it in, and go by smell. 

*From the Chef: Just be careful, too much cinnamon can be quite dry when you taste it. Trust me. She's overdone it once or twice! But we figured it out in the end, Happy Days.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Tagines- Taste Morocco (even if you can't be there tonight!)

It's always nice to have a meal that can be shared. 
Even if it's just the two of us... There's something to be said for dishing out dinner from a communal bowl or two. As a group, it's easy chitchat. "Can you pass..." or "Grab that for me." The best part, which I think we would all agree is pinching that extra fork-full from your dinner buddy while they're not looking!

Sharing is Caring with a meal like this!

1 onions, medium diced
20g grated ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
125ml olive oil
1 kg lamb neck, or beef cheek, or chicken thigh (or any other tough cut of meat)
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 pinch saffron
1 pce cinnamon
1 tbsp harissa
5 tbsp ground almond
2 pce preserved lemon
50g sliced dried apricots
50g sliced dates
75g slice prunes

Take a large pot (8L) and sweat onions, garlic & ginger in the olive oil for 3 mins on med heat. Add the spices and harissa, and continue to cook for 2 mins.

Add the meat and the rest of the ingredients, and fill pot with fresh chicken or vegetable stock or water. 

All the goodies going into the Pot!
Bring to the boil, and put a piece of silicone paper on top of the meat, and pop the lid on, and place in the oven at 180˚c for 1 hour, or until the meat is very tender.

While your meat is cooking away, make your cous cous.
Oil up your pan. Wait till your pan is at medium heat before tossing in your Onions and Red peppers. Cook them down till soft.

Place the peppers & onions in a bowl together with the cous cous. Add in Pine Nuts, and some Sultanas for some extra flavours that will go beautifully with your tagine.

Equal Quantities (ie.200grams stock = 200grams Couscous)
Then add your stock. Work on equal quantities of stock to liquid by weight. Cover the dish with cling film, then set it aside. 

Grab a big (or little) bowl. Get your cous cous and meat all happy. Everything comes together in the end! Grab your fork, and distract whoever is sitting next to you. Don't forget to have some of theirs too!

Monday, 21 January 2013

Risotto- Getting the basics right

It's something that as a dish, it's like coming home. It's warming, and never wrong.

A very versatile dish in that ANY flavour can be used to make this awesome italian peasant dish. Use only Carnaroli or Vialone Nano rice. These two are more expensive than arborio, but have infinitely better absorption.

1 medium onion fine diced
2 garlic cloves minced
1 cup carnaroli rice (this will almost quadruple in quantity)
1/2 cup white wine
2 Litres stock (either fish or chicken depending on your flavour) 
Flavour (peas, pumpkin, ham hocks, prawns etc)

In a large base saucepan, on med - high heat, sweat the onions and garlic with a little salt (sweat means to cook without colour) for 2-3 mins. Be careful not to have the heat too high, or the onions and garlic WILL burn. 

Add the rice and stir well. When the rice sounds like it’s popping, add the wine and cook until evaporated. Then add your stock, enough to just cover the rice, and turn down the heat enough so you can see the rice just ticking over. 

Cook the rice until all the liquid is evaporated, and add more stock and repeat the process. The rice is ready when you take a grain and bite into it and it is firm but not crunchy and you can see a small circle of white inside the grain. 

Then make sure the liquid has fully evaporated and take the rice out of the pot and lay out on to cling film or baking paper. Spread the rice out to cool it down quickly. 

Spread the Risotto over Cling Film. It helps the grains cool down quicker
Next step is to sort out the flavouring. 
For example, I’ll use Pea as a flavour. Take 500g peas, frozen or otherwise and blanch quickly in boiling salted water for 2-3 mins. Then strain them into a colander and put into ice water straight away. 

Once cooled, take 300g of the peas and puree them in a blender until smooth. Set the other 200g aside. Take your risotto, and place into your large base saucepan again, roughly 100g per person. Pour in enough stock to just cover the rice and cook on high heat for about 7 mins. 

When the liquid is almost evaporated, add the pea puree and the peas to the rice and finish cooking (until no liquid remains). 

Then with a wooden spoon work in grated parmesan (fresh is always best!) and butter. The amount depends on you. The cheese will make the risotto drier, and the butter will make it more smooth, creamy and delicious! Finish with salt, fresh cracked pepper, and more parmesan. 

As I said before, risotto can be made with any flavour, just make sure you know which one before you start, but the base will always be the same. 
Buon Appetito!

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Good Enough To Eat!

You get that faint smell of something delicious, and then Voila! 
Don't you just love seeing food on a plate when it comes to the table? Your mouth starts to salivate at the though of what this meal will be. Food is amazing when it has presence!

This entry is just a quick note.
But I wanted to show you a few things Chef does to create some Magic.

Watermelon Granita. With Goats Cheese, & Balsamic

Pear Sauce. For Pork Belly and Fennel Crisps

Painted Chocolate. For Venison pressed with Coffee & Spice

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Salads- Broad Beans and Mint

Here's a light and easy (and super quick!) alternative to salads.

We buy broad beans fresh. They are so nice to have with any fish or meat dish.  If you can't get them fresh, don't panic. You can still buy them from the freezer section. The nicest thing being is this little side dish is just so easy and quick to make.

Take a Kilo of Broad Beans and de-pod them. Cook in Boiling salted water for 3-4 minutes, then stain into icy water. Take the skins off (you should be able to just 'pop' them out of the skins. It's a little fun actually!) and place them into a clean bowl.

Take fork and mash the beans with salt, pepper and extra virgin olive oil. Mash only roughly to leave little texture. 

 Add as much olive oil as you like as everyones' taste is different.

Finish off with finely sliced mint leaves, again as much as you like!

It's certainly one of the easiest little salads to make. 
Goes with just about everything too! 

(Sorry. I should look at getting a finish photo of this...I'll keep you posted)

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Poached Fruit- Making it fresh

Poaching fruit is something you need a little time to do, but the results are something you can enjoy straight away or within a couple of weeks (if you can hold off the temptation for that long!) Try this to have on a Sunday morning with one you love... It's also just as good with a few friends round for brunch and a catch up!

1 kg water
500 g castor sugar
1 cinnamon quill
3 star anise
ginger peel
2 cloves
5 peaches (white or yellow)

For the poached fruit, mix the first 6 ingredients together in a heavy bottomed pot and bring to the boil, and cook for 1 min. 
All your spices and sugar for the flavour

Take off the heat and let it cool completely. This should be done a day ahead as the peaches need to be started in cold liquid. When the liquor is completely cold, put it back in the pot, add the peaches, and put a sheet of baking paper on top, and a plate to weigh them down, and bring them to the boil. 

Use a plate with grease proof paper to keep the fruit under

Turn the heat down to a gentle simmer and cook for 5 mins. Then remove the pot from the heat and leave the peaches to cool down in the liquid. When the peaches are cold, peel the skin off with a knife. 
Ready. Set...


Then put the peeled peaches into a container, strain the liquid over them and put them in the fridge. Can be stored for up to 2 weeks.

Want to use this fruit with Sweet couscous? Have a look at the link below and let us know what you think.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Banoffee Pie- An English Favourite. (Gluten Free!)

Banana and Toffee. Nomnomnom.

It's an awesome dessert combo. The English created a winner with Banoffee Pie. There is something similar in the States, but I'm told it's more of a pudding by definition...

If you want the recipe... all you need to do is ask!

There's so many ways to make it. But my Chef reckons this is the best way. You can make the base and toffee a few days before. Then slice your bananas on the day to serve, so they are fresh and lovely (not Brown. Please don't let your bananas go brown! They don't taste that nice...)

Making the Toffee. You use to be able to boil condensed Milk in it's tin to make it... But gone are those days because of the ring pull tins that are available. It caused a danger to Amateurs and Pros alike. (Rob has a funny story about it, but you'll have to ask for that one!)

Pressing the biscuit base down. Digestive biscuits are often the best. They break down well and have good flavour. You can use any range of Gluten Free Digestives from your supermarket!

Putting the Toffee on is pretty easy. Pour it in, and spread it round, making it flat as you go. Try to get everything in... Don't worry about the spatula. Do what I do, Just lick it clean (when you're finished of course!) Pop the cake tin into your fridge. The toffee needs to set, so like I said before you can make this a few days before hand. 

On the day: Slice your bananas. Try keeping them uniform in width. Start by laying them on the outter most round. Then work into the centre. Chef's trick here is to do the round. if everything is not perfect with the spacing on the bananas, that's fine. He gets the whole circle down first. Then he'll space everything around a little till it looks more even!

There. Ready to go! 
Now all you need is the cream on top. You can dollop your cream on for a slightly more uneven finish. You can be a perfectionist (Like someone else I know...), put your cream into a bag and pipe it on. If you want everyone to know how amazing you made the Bananas look, take it to the table like this! Show it off. Bring the cream in it's own bowl, and let everyone help themselves to as much or as little Cream as they want!

Wanna see a totally different way of doing this dish??

Here's and Abstract Banoffee Pie Rob did as part of a 7 course degustation evening.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Figs and Prosciutto

So we are just chilling out tonight. 
Nothing like a good TV series, and a couple of little morsels. 

Occasionally, I do something for the Chef... Oh yes. Me on my little lonesome comes up with a treat or two! This is one I got him onto! It's fresh Figs, stuffed with Goats Cheese. Wrapped into bite size bundles with Prosciutto. 

It's very quick and simple to make.
Cut the top off the fig, and cut a X from the top of the fig, but do not go all the way down to the base (maybe just over halfway should be fine). 

As you put your goats cheese into the fig, it should open a little like a flower.
Wrap your prosciutto around the figs, and place them into the oven on a tray.
you can have the oven at around 150 degrees (Celsius). Cook for around 5 minutes. Just have a check to see that your cheese has melted and your prosciutto has become crispy (it starts to look like bacon!)

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Lamb for Sunday Roast!

Hi guys!

It everyone's favourite day of the week (A small lie perhaps. For most, it's probably Friday that's the best day cause you've got your weekend ahead of you!) And yes, It's another Sunday roast in the making! 

Hopefully you all had a chilled out day, and are enjoying the company of friends for a little catch up before starting another week...

Do you love Lamb? Well tonight is just that! 

Beautiful Lamb, Aubergine Puree, and Broad Beans with Rosemary Powder.

This would be something that you could make with a big table of friends or family, and it would be quite simple. You wouldn't have to slave all afternoon in the kitchen. 
Aubergine Puree with fresh Broad Beans

And with a plate like this, you'll have plenty of room for Dessert!

Want to know how this was done? Let me know in the comments below, and I'll be happy to post it up for you!

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Poached Eggs (Secret Revealed!)

The most favouritest thing in the World has to be Poached Eggs for Breakky! Am I right? Well, if I'm wrong you're probably missing out in life.

Sadly enough, not a lot of places do them well. Worse still, there are places that will use silicon poaching cups to do their eggs. It's a sad fact, but here is how to get your poached eggs just the way they should be. Free form, and gooey in the centre!

*From the Chef: I am a perfectionist when it comes to poaching. I like about 8L of water, plenty of salt and vinegar (this is widely debated by many, but I just use what works) and 2 coffee cups.  Using this recipe, success rate is around 90%, taking into account that not all eggs are created equal.

Take a heavy bottomed saucepan, of good depth, around 10-12 cm deep (8L). Fill it 3/4 full with hot water, and bring it to the boil with a good handful of salt. When the water has boiled, pour in 1/2 litre of white wine vinegar or plain white vinegar (the taste varies - the better the vinegar, the better the taste on the egg, but only use white vinegars. Not red wine or balsamic or malt....) Bring the water back to the boil, and then turn down the heat until you get a rolling boil, which means the surface of the water is not like a rapid waterfall, but more like semi-fast flowing stream. 

Then take your eggs from the fridge and crack one each into a coffee cup. Then holding the two cups together with your thumb and forefinger, hover the cups over the water like you’re about to pour them in, then do so, lifting the cups away from the pot in an emptying motion, making the whites trail the yolk to get the teardrop shape. 

(Coffee cups are a better vessel for delivery into the water as you are 95% guaranteed of a beautiful egg!)

Then let the eggs cook for about 2 mins. Using a holy spoon, gently lift one out and touch the surface, if it feels like marshmallow, take it out, if it feels like raw egg, don’t.  

Simple huh? It is exactly that. Next......

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Sweet Couscous- A Breakfast Alternative

Couscous is awesome as a savoury Dish. But what about first thing in the morning? Think I'm crazy? Never, when it comes to food! This is a great little dish for something refreshingly different, and can be used with a variety of poached fruits.

100g dry cous cous
100g boiling water or poaching liquid
20g currants
slivered almonds roasted
mint leaf julienne (fine sliced)
diced poached fruit
 *From the Chef: The liquid from the fruit you poach is always amazing. It gives the couscous more depth and flavour

Letting the liquids soak in. This is exactly the same as you would do for any of your savoury dishes.

 Slicing Almonds.

Mixing everything in together. Mint, Almonds, Sultanas (or Raisins if you prefer), and some poached fruit.

A devine way to start your morning. 
If you're having people round in the morning for brunch, you could place smaller amounts into cups as a starter!