Rumbledethumps

Rumbledethumps is a traditional Scottish dish, made from left over tatties, cabbage and onions. It’s another one of those comfort dishes that can handle all the butter and pepper you can throw at it.

Rumbledethumps is essentially a variation of the Irish colcannon, or the English bubble and squeak. I can remember having plenty of bubble and squeak as a child, with Mum cooking leftover mashed tatties and cabbage in a frying pan. I can’t ever remember anyone calling it Rumbledethumps though, or cooking it in the oven.

I’ve tried in the past to make bubble and squeak in a similar fashion to how I remember Mum making it. We never seem to have leftovers in this house though, so it’s always been from scratch and ended up being a bit disappointing.

As I had some Charlotte potatoes leftover from making the Batata Harra, I decided to used those to make the mash. In a similar fashion to the Clapshot, I simmered the tatties with a bay leaf, a bunch of thyme and some garlic cloves.

Given the choice, I wouldn’t use this variety of tatties to make mash again, as the end result is far too gloopy. You’re much better off with floury tatties like King Edward to make your mash.

Mashing tatties with butter and pepper...

I also decided to use kale, rather than cabbage, mainly as we had a bit bag of it in the fridge, as my wife likes to juice it. Rather than sauté the kale with the onions in some butter, I steamed it over the simmering tatties. This only happened, as I’d totally forgotten about the onion, so ended up quickly frying off a shallot, while everything else sat there ready to go in the oven.

Some grated Red Leicester cheese sprinkled on top, and it was ready for the oven. It just so happened that we had a small amount of this cheese left, so it meant that I could use it all up. This felt a bit more in the spirit of the dish, rather than cracking open a new packet of Cheddar.

I thoroughly enjoyed eating every single last drop of this, even though it could easily have fed two; I was stuffed to the gunwales for hours afterwards. It’s a great comfort food, the tatties and kale go so well together, there’s nothing about it not to like.

Not Quite an Omelette Arnold Bennett

I was watching MasterChef: The Professionals the other night, when some of the competitors were tasked with making an omelette Arnold Bennett as a skills challenge. A flat omelette, topped with poached smoked haddock, parmesan and then slathered in hollandaise sauce, what’s not to like?

As a vegetarian, the omelette Arnold Bennet has a couple of obvious drawbacks, namely the smoked haddock and parmesan. Vegetarian hard cheese is easy, but what do you replace smoked haddock with? I didn’t think that smoked tofu would really fit the bill, especially not that Cauldron stuff you get in the supermarket. It just so happened that we had some spare Jerusalem artichokes in the fridge, so I decided to replace the smoked haddock with those and make one for my dinner one evening last week.

Poaching Jerusalem artichokes

There just happened to be some milk in the fridge too, so I slowly poached the Jerusalem artichokes in that until they were cooked. Rather than going all out with a six egg omelette and four egg yolk hollandaise, as Marcus Wareing appeared to on MasterChef when demonstrating the dish, I decided to go with half quantities. Which I’m rather glad I did, as this is one hell of a rich dish.

Making a hollandaise sauce

So once the artichokes were done, I whipped up a flat omelette, topped it with the artichokes, veggie hard cheese and then drowned the whole lot with a hollandaise sauce, before flashing it under the grill. It looked pretty good sitting in the frying pan, slightly less good when it had slopped out onto the plate though.

Making a flat omelette

It was as you’d expect, utterly delicious, but bordering on the unfinishable; I could feel my arteries furring up as I ate it. I did feel the need to sit down for a bit after polishing it all off, I’ve no idea how Arnold Bennett, or anyone else for that matter, managed to get anything done if they ate one that was twice the size, for breakfast.

Jerusalem artichokes and hard cheese on top...

The only disappointment was the Jerusalem artichokes, they were pretty anonymous. I can see why a smoked fish, like haddock, would be perfect in a dish like this, just providing a layer of lightly smoked flavour to counter all the richness. If I ever make one again, I’ll have to think of some way to treat the artichokes so they don’t get lost, or maybe some smoked tofu would do the job…

Ready to be flashed under the grill...

If you fancy making one yourself, then check out Felicity Cloake’s How to make the perfect omelette Arnold Bennett.

Ready to be devoured...

Leek and Goats Cheese Frittata

Leek and Goats Cheese Frittata

Sometime you get an itch that has to be scratched. Once I got it into my head that I wanted a Leek and Goats Cheese Frittata, then that was it, it had to happen.

My wife and I had been in London for a comedy gig at the O2 and had stayed overnight in a nearby hotel. Sitting on the train on the way back the following day, we were discussing what to have for lunch, when I suddenly decided that I wanted a leek and goats frittata. So we popped into Gog Magog Hill Farm Shop, as it’s sort of on the way home from the station, I could pick up a leek and some soft goats cheese, my wife could get one of their Scotch Eggs.

Once we were home, I softened the leek with some butter in one of our small frying pans, before adding three lightly beaten eggs. After mixing it up a bit, I dotted the goats cheese over the top and whacked it in the oven for twenty minutes. Yes, I’m aware that this isn’t quite the traditional way to make a frittata, but it’s quick and easy.

While it was nice to eat, it was missing something. That something being a bit of crunch, or some texture other than soft. As a starting point it was fine, plenty of room for experimenting with differing cheeses and what not. I just need to figure out what else to add to it, so it’s not so one dimensional in the texture department.

Pimping Beans on Toast

Beans on toast...

I’d been at the gym after work on Tuesday and by the time I got home, it was far too late to cook anything but a snack. We all know that beans on toast is quick and easy, and all those beans aren’t too bad for you when you need a bit of protein after a workout. The only issue with beans on toast, is that it’s a bit boring, so I decided to pimp mine with a few extras.

I added a teaspoon of homemade harissa to the beans, for a bit of added kick. Once the beans were on the toast, I ground a load of pepper on top and added a sprinkling of grated cheddar cheese. Finally, two fried eggs were placed on top, and drizzled with some homemade saucy haw harissa sauce.

Granted, that poached eggs would have been better for me than fried, but at half ten at night, I went for the quick and easy option. Tasty, tangy and filling, it hit the spot; I’m not sure I’ll ever have plain beans on toast again.

Macaroni Cheese

I love macaroni cheese, I think it’s the combination of pasta and cheese that does it, you canny beat a bit of pasta and cheese, mmmm, pasta and cheese… Anyway, I bought The Geometry of Pasta a while back, I’m not sure why, as it’s not exactly veggie friendly. It’s great to flick through though, as the design of the book is amazing with all the black and white line drawings and any book that tells you how to make Cacio e pepe is a winner as far as I’m concerned.

The recipe for macaroni cheese is quite nice, it doesn’t contain tomato for starters, sorry Felicity, that’s just wrong. It can feel a bit greasy though, which I think it mainly down to the choice of cheese. I need to try it with fontina, rather than cheddar and see if that makes a difference.

Having made this recipe quite a lot, I think the one thing that affects the outcome more than anything else, is the thickness of the bechamel sauce. Too thick and it all becomes a bit of a sticky, lumpy mess when it’s served up. Keeping it on the thinner side, means it’s nice an oozy when served up and feels less like eating a bit greasy brick of pasta.

One other thing about this recipe, is that it claims it serves two as a main course, two giants maybe, as it can easily feed all four of us and leave us all wishing we hadn’t eaten quite as much; so it should serve three normal adults with no worries.

I’ve also been looking at buying Modernist Cuisine at Home, that kind of scientific cooking looks quite interesting, if a bit involved. However, if you do the Amazon look inside thing on this book, you’ll see there is a whole chapter on Mac and Cheese, with a number of different ways of preparing it. The recipes are all there for you to see in the preview, so I’m really tempted to buy some sodium citrate and give a couple of them a try…

Cheese on Toast

I was on my feet most of yesterday. Sorting out some of the kids Lego, two batches of Nigel Slater’s Beetroot and Chocolate cake, meat and meat-less versions of spaghetti and meatballs, dishes, coffee, more dishes, you get the idea. Come dinnertime I wasn’t really hungry, I’d made everyone else either scrambled eggs, or baked beans on toast and was thinking of having similar. Then I thought about cheese on toast and that was that, nothing else would suffice. Cue two bits of bread, slatherings of home made chili pepper jelly, loads of cheddar and a big fat smile. Simple pleasures…

Entertaining

Aubergine with Buttermilk Sauce

We had friends round for dinner last Saturday evening, which meant I got to do some cooking. It was just a shame that I was recovering from a bout of tonsillitis, so I’d not really been up for looking through recipe books, or even thinking about cooking for the previous week and a half. But since I needed to put something on the table, I had to break out the recipe books and try and put together a menu.

I originally thought about finally attempting some stuff out of the Terre à Terre cookbook, but realised that I wasn’t quite well enough for that level of forward planning. Which basically left it as a straight flight between Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty and Denis Cotter’s For The Love of Food. Since I didn’t want it to be too formal, or too demanding, I decided to go with some recipes from Plenty, not that I’m trying to say that Denis Cotter is to formal or demanding, he’s not. The starter was new, but the three things I’d picked for the main course were all recipes I’d cooked before, I was trying to make it a relatively easy and stress free day and go for more of a Mediterranean table covered in food affair.

I wasn’t sure about what to do for pudding though, but as I’d been flicking through Maria Elia’s The Modern Vegetarian a lot recently, I decided to go with her Orange, Lavender and Almond Syrup Cake. I’d wanted to make it a couple of weekends previously, but something came up and I didn’t get the chance, so this was the perfect opportunity.

The notes below are mostly to jog my memory if I ever come to cook them again for entertaining people. If you find them useful then great!

Starter: Yotam Ottolenghi’s Aubergine with Buttermilk Sauce
I followed the recipe to the letter, with the oven at 200°C, but after the stated 40 minute cooking time, the aubergine wasn’t really done enough. I wouldn’t say it was still raw, but it certainly wasn’t as soft as I was expecting. I’ll have to bare this in mind if I do it again and either leave them in for longer, or use a slightly higher temperature. The only other things I can comment on are that unless you absolutely drown the aubergines in the buttermilk sauce, you’ll have loads left over. Similarly with the pomegranate, you probably only need the seeds from half of one, unless you really want a massive pile on top.

Also just realised that I didn’t sprinkle any za’atar on top of the buttermilk sauce, not sure where my head was at that evening…

The recipe for this one is on the Guardian’s website.

Main: Yotam Ottolenghi’s Itamar’s Bulghar Pilaf
Nothing to be said about this one, it’s dead easy to prepare and tastes amazing. Really this is a just a note to myself to make sure that I have all the required ingredients before starting to prepare a dish, especially tomato purée. Then you don’t have to txt your guests and ask them to pop into the supermarket on their way over to pick you some up…
Main: Yotam Ottolenghi’s Leek Fritters
The recipe calls for chopping the leeks into 2cm thick slices and fry with the shallots for fifteen minutes. Two things, either stir the leeks more frequently so they don’t catch and cook for a bit longer so they are soft all the way through, or chop them slightly thinner so they don’t take quite as long to cook. I found that not all the leeks were soft all the way through when prepared according to the recipe. Also, don’t whisk the egg white before it’s required, otherwise it goes a bit manky if left to sit for a bit and re-whisking it doesn’t get it back to how it was.

Finally, you really need to leave them to cook for quite awhile on each side, if you try and flip them to early, they’ll just fall to bits and be rubbish. The base should be quite a dark brown before you attempt to flip them, then you know that the fritter is solid and will survive being turned over.

This recipe is also available on the Guardian’s website.

Main: Yotam Ottolenghi’s Smoky Frittata
This recipe calls for scamorza affumicata, which is a smoked mozzarella. I know you can buy it from the cheese shop in Cambridge, but they have to order it in and it might take a week, so you really need to plan in advance. I’m sure that the oak smoked cheddar that I use instead gives a totally different taste and has different melting characteristics. One of these days I really need to get my finger out and order the real thing. Also, when adding the smoked paprika, make sure you are whisking in a big enough bowl, as it has a tendency to clump together.

Yupo, yet another recipe that’s on the Guardian’s website.

Pudding: Maria Elia – Orange, Lavender and Almond Syrup Cake
The recipe just calls for a 20cm springform cake tin, just make sure the one you use is deep, as this is one big cake! I prepared a tin and the I just knew it wasn’t deep enough once all the ingredients had been mixed together. The picture in the book is top down, so gives no indication of depth, but the one I made was 5cm deep at the edges and 7cm deep in the middle. Also remember to put the cinnamon stick into the syrup when you’re making it, I’m sure that would have made it even more delicious.

The recipe says to cook for around an hour, until a skewer comes out clean, I ended up cooking mine for an hour and a quarter and the skewer wasn’t coming out clean from certain parts of the cake. In the end I just figured that it had had enough and took it out, I didn’t want to do my usual thing of over cooking everything.

Turns out this recipe is on the Daily Mail website.

Pudding: Maria Elia – Ginger Sorbet
Always leave a sorbet mix to cool completely, before putting it into an ice cream maker. Otherwise it’s just going to waste the ice block and instead of turning to sorbet, it’ll just cool down. I still can’t fathom why I poured hot sorbet mix into the ice cream maker, it defies all logic.

It also took longer than three hours to set, it was more of a granita than a sorbet after about five hours. Even the next day, it was still more of a granita than a sorbet, might just have been my idiocy though.

The recipe for this one is on some Australian website – LifeStyle FOOD.

Overall I was quite pleased with how things turned out. The bulghar pilaf was lovely and the leek fritters and their green sauce went wonderfully well with it. I think the smoky frittata would have been better on its own with the pilaf though, it just wasn’t on a par with the leek fritters and the flavours of those two, while they both went with the pilaf, don’t really work together for me. Maybe the pilaf and fritters with a side of some crushed beans, feta and za’atar with some flat breads would have been better, I might have to try that next time.

The Orange, Lavender and Almond Syrup Cake was absolutely delicious, even the kids were noshing their way through it the next day. I can see myself baking that one again and again. I’ll have to have another crack at the ginger sorbet too, but I’ll let it cool down before going in the ice cream maker next time.

Brioche

Brioche

I’ve been wanting to make some brioche for ages, well, ever since I got the River Cottage Bread Handbook really. Not sure why I’ve not done it before, but probably a combination of the suggestion that you use a stand mixer to knead the dough as it’s a bit sticky and not having enough confidence to attempt it free hand.

My main interest in brioche stems from seeing loads of photos of burgers on twitter and not from wanting to replace the horrendous chocolate chip brioche finger monstrosities the kids eat at the weekend, like a good Dad would. I’m sure I also read somewhere that all these trendy London burger vans were using brioche rolls, rather than white baps, so I thought that I could do something similar at home.

Being a vegetarian does have its drawbacks occasionally, and veggie burgers are one of them. It’s either some sort of textured vegetable protein, or some mass produced bread crumb encrusted bean burger, or heaven forbid, some Quorn based monstrosity. So my plan was to buy either The Best Veggie Burgers on the Planet or Veggie Burgers Every Which Way and each Saturday make a burger and some brioche buns for lunch.

I keep flicking through the burger books with Amazon’s Look Inside feature, a great way to sneak a few recipes out of a book you’re thinking of buying before you splash the cash. I always come away from them with the nagging feeling that the kids wouldn’t eat what I’d make and it would all be a colossal waste of time. There’s plenty of veggie burger recipes out there on websites like BBC Good Food, so for the moment, my hard earned cash is staying in my pockets. But I’m digressing…

I suddenly decided the other Friday that I was going to stop sitting on my hands and actually get my finger out and make some brioche. So after a few beers and just before going to bed, I stumbled into the kitchen and started to get all the ingredients together. I grabbed the strong white bread flour and started to measure out the required quantity, I didn’t have enough. Never mind I thought, I have another bag, all be it a different brand, but that still wasn’t enough, so I made up with some plain white flour. I had an inkling that I should really have stopped at this point.

The eggs were the next problem, as I didn’t have any medium eggs, so instead of four medium ones, I used three large ones. I should really ensure I have all the ingredients before spontaneously deciding to make something. After combining everything in a bowl, it was time to turn it out and start kneading, at this point I realised why they recommend a stand mixture, they weren’t joking when they said it was sticky.

After ten minutes or so of slapping the dough round the kitchen worktop, it had smoothed out a bit, so I scraped it off my fingers, shaped it into a round and deposited it into a bowl, it then went into the fridge to stiffen up until the morning. Whereupon it was divvied up into eight roughly equal bits, shaped into rolls on a baking sheet, covered in a bin bag and popped into the dehydrator to prove. The only problem with this is that the dehydrator blows air onto the bag, which then collapses onto whatever is on the baking sheet, which I’m sure has an impact on how high it got as it proved. I don’t have this problem when using my banneton baskets, as the dough doesn’t rise above the side, I might have to create a support to put over the baking sheet.

After quite a few hours in the dehydrator, the dough had come alive, but had expanded out the way, rather than up the way, so I wasn’t very hopeful that they would be any good. I nearly ditched them into the bin at this point, but decided to bake them anyway, just to see if I could learn anything for future attempts. I’m glad I did, as halfway through baking they had risen quite a bit and weren’t looking too bad, so I turned them round and put them back into the oven. I should have taken them out sooner, but as I’m always afraid of under cooking things, I left them in for a too long, so they were more of a David Dickinson mahogany, than a light golden brown.

As they were ready in time for lunch, I broke out a mass produced bread crumb encrusted bean burger and set to work. I slathered some home made saucy haw ketchup on the base of the bun, then the bean burger, followed by some home made chilli pepper jelly and finally some grated cheddar. Other than the bun being slightly too small for the bean burger, the crust was a bit thick and the inside was a bit on the dense side, but overall it was much, much better than I was thinking it was going to be.

I had another for Sunday lunch, this time with added homemade red onion marmalade, which got me thinking. The brioche, saucy haw ketchup, red onion marmalade and chilli pepper jelly were all made by me, just the bean burger and cheese were bought in. Given the books and website I mentioned earlier, making my own burgers will be easy, so I need to start looking into making my own cheese, I want the whole stack to be created by me. I’ll have to grown some lettuce and tomatoes in the garden next year too, just so I can say I grew or made everything.

I’ll definitely do brioche again, but I think I’ll ensure that I have ample strong white bread flour and medium eggs before I do…