I didn’t have any crystallised stem ginger to hand, just a jar of Chinese stem ginger in syrup, so I used that. I also didn’t bake it for quite as long, about half an hour less and I remembered to add the brandy. It did froth and steam at bit when I added it, as per the recipe, which leaves me wondering if all the alcohol was burnt off or not. It’s supposed to be required to aid in the preserving, so you’d hope some of it survived.
When we made mince pies last Christmas, I wanted to make some Plum and Russet Mincemeat, but I didn’t realise that it’s suppose to mature for a couple of months. When we were offered some plums and apples last month by a friend, I knew exactly what to use them for.
While the apples we were given weren’t russets, I didn’t think it would make that much difference, so didn’t bother trying to hunt some down. We also hummed and hawed about buying ginger wine and brandy, as neither is something that we have in the house. In the end we decided to buy both, as if you’re going to do something, you may as well do it properly.
You start by softening the halved plums in orange juice, before either blending the lot, or passing it through a sieve. As I have a Vitamix though, I wasn’t going to bother with the arm ache of passing it all though a sieve. The recipe says that you should end up with around 700ml of purée, I got waaaaaaaay more than that, so I’m not sure if my plums were extra juice or not. I added a bit of icing sugar to the remaining purée to turn it into a kind of plum coulis, it went quite nicely with some apple and bramble crumble.
Once you have your purée, you add everything else to it, bar the brandy and leave it overnight to meld. The following day, it’s into the oven to bake for two to two and a half hours. I decided to go for the full two and a half hours, I can’t remember why now, but I should only have baked it for two, as it was a bit too reduced and cooked for my liking. All that was left to do was add the brandy and pot it up, so I totally forgot about the brandy and shoveled it into recycled pasata jars and left it too cool.
I have no idea why I forgot the brandy, but as the alcohol is required as part of the preserving process and the fact that I actually went to the trouble of buying some, I’m quite annoyed with myself. Only time will tell if this was a fatal mistake or not. Only time will tell if using pasata jars was the right thing too, as I have not idea how I’m going to get all the mincemeat out of those when the time comes. I might have to buy a really long handled teaspoon or something; I’m not sure what I was thinking when I pulled those from the cupboard.
My brother was round for dinner the other weekend, so I took the opportunity to break out Denis Cotter’sFor The Love Of Food and cook a couple of recipes for the second time. I’d cooked both of these a few months ago when my Sister and Brother-in-law were down for a weekend and have been itching to cook them again. These are just some notes to remind myself to tweak various bits if I come to cook them again.
Portobello mushroom & aduki bean gratin with roast parsnip crust
The title of this one makes it sound really grand, but it’s essentially just a posh shepherds pie and a damn tasty one at that. If you’re going to use dried aduki beans, then you need to give them plenty of soaking time and allow up to 75 minutes or so for them to cook. If you don’t allow enough time, you can end up serving dinner rather on the late side, which is what happened the first time I cooked this. I could have just used a tin of beans, but I’m sure it wouldn’t have been quite as good.
You may also need to vary the cooking time of the portobello mushrooms depending on their size and how ruberry you like them. Personally, I like my mushrooms cooked within an inch of their life, so ten minutes isn’t enough if they are really large. This time I gave them fifteen minutes and they were still rather on the bouncy side for my liking, although it may help to chop them into slightly smaller dice, so they soften a bit more during the final cooking.
That’s pretty much it for this dish, other than a note to use a large dish, as it makes quite a lot.
Citrus, sultana & maple rice pudding with raspberries
The first time I cooked this I was in a bit of a quandary, as I know citrus juice curdles milk and there’s a lot of milk and citrus juice in this recipe. I did wonder if this was intentional, as there’s no reference to it in the recipe, but I suppose it must be. Just keep an eye on the milk and cream, it boils over in the blink of an eye, which can be a bit of a nightmare if you’re in the middle of doing something for the aduki bean gratin.
The recipe says to bake in the oven for an hour until most of the liquid has been absorbed. As you can see from the photos below, after an hour, there is still a load of liquid left. There is no mention of how still the rice pudding should be, so it be really stiff, or still quite runny when served? I used an extra ten grams of rice this time, but was still concerned that there was too much liquid left; maybe my oven isn’t as hot as it claims to be.
I might try using a blowtorch on the sugar crust next time, as sticking it under the grill results in the edges of the dish going all burnt and messy looking. Maybe I should just wipe the excess sugar off the edges, before it goes under the grill, but then I wouldn’t get to use the blowtorch…
These are both recipes that I’ll cook again, as they are both really, really nice. The best bit about cooking stuff that will feed six adults, when there are only three of you, is that you’re setup with leftovers for the next few days. Which means lunch at work is far, far tastier than anything the cafeteria serves up…
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…
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 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.
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.
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.