slow cooked duck legs

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Recipe from Mark Bittman at the NYT. He was writing this week on grubstreet about grilling duck legs too, although the only grill I have is the one at the top of my oven and isn’t the bbq grill he was talking about.

Anyway, the method we see people on cookery programs most of the time is confit duck legs. I don’t really want to waste a bottle of oil so this slow cooked method is better.

In a cold pan over medium heat start browning the duck legs, skin side down. In the meantime, prep carrots, celery and potatoes. The recipe has onions but I ran out so I used extra celery and 4 cloves of garlic. Added potatoes for a true one pot meal. I chopped the veg into larger chunks than the recipe to give more bite.

Once the duck skin has crisped up, turn over and brown the meat for a couple of minutes. Transfer to baking dish.

Pour out almost all the duck fat (I have an old peanut butter jar I use to keep my duck and bacon fat). Sauté the veg for about 10mins, transfer to baking dish with duck. Season with s&p, rosemary, thyme.

Heat chicken stock in pan to deglaze and bring to the boil. Pour into baking dish until most of duck legs are covered, making sure the skin isn’t covered. I didn’t have enough stock, it was perfectly fine to top up with boiling water.

Cook at 200ºC for 30mins, then turn oven down to 180ºC and continue cooking for around 1hr until duck is tender and most of the liquid has reduced.

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Very, very good. There was just about enough sauce to cover the baking dish, and it had a nice intense flavour. The recipe says use homemade chicken stock and I agree, it makes all the difference. The duck was fork-tender and had lots of flavour.

We are lucky that we can get duck breast and leg fairly inexpensively, perhaps because the locals don’t know how to cook them. It’s frozen and definitely not gressingham duck we get in the UK, but with the right cooking method, is one of our staples. Easy to make too. Total cooking time around 2hrs, but mostly unattended.

jicama salad

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Mum bought a jicama from the market, her friends told her they eat it raw in a salad. It must be good because her friends are not the type to eat raw vegetables.

I’ve never knowingly tried jicama although apparently it’s an ingredient in popiah and rojak. It’s interesting to see it being described as the most exciting vegetable you’re not eating. I see it in the market fairly often and never thought to buy it.

Lots of salad recipes, usually with fruit like mango, or orange and a lime chili dressing. It seems to be a little tasteless, like a savoury apple, so need stronger flavours.

I julienned half of one and had it with salad greens, cucumber, cherry tomato. I could have used orange, apple or watermelon but there were fresh lychees in the fridge so I popped a few in. Normally I don’t use dressing in salad but for this one I whisked up some lemon juice, white balsamic, honey and evoo.

It’s really good. Crunchy with some texture. Definitely somewhat like an apple or pear. Really helps add depth to a salad.

cauliflower steak

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I made not very successful cauliflower steak. This is one of the trendy cauliflower food that has cropped up recentlly, a far cry from the awful soggy cauliflower we used to get when we were younger.

It’s simply a matter of cutting the stalk part of a cauli, seasoning with s&p, chopped garlic and lemon juice, and roasting in the oven. 200ºC for around 45mins. I think these weren’t as successful as I wanted them to be because I was using a different type of cauliflower. Not the usual tight bulb with white florets, these have more space between the branches and so didn’t give a whole steak. Tasted nice though.

braised pork rib tips

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The small supermarket is having a chain-wide 30% off sale on all items until Monday. The aisles, usually choc-a-bloc with boxes and goods, are already clear and some shelves are almost empty. There are also more people than usual.

I bought wine, water, noodles, cheese, ice cream and saw rib tips at a low, low price. Easy to cook, just stew in the vacuum pot overnight with mirepoix, chicken stock and a glass of red wine. Had half a lemon left over from cooking salmon, added that. Some sweetcorn, added that too at the end.

Served with bulgar wheat. First time cooking bulgar wheat (though not first time eating), I think I like it better than couscous. Same cooking method: simmer in water till absorbed, turn off the heat and sit for 5-10mins.

What’s great about the rib tips, aside from tenderness from braising, is that there are lots of soft bone, or cartilage, in with the meat. It’s the white tube-like nub at the tip of the bone, it doesn’t have much flavour and is chewy and crunchy. It’s one of those food items like offal or fish cheek, that are revered by people in the know but most lay people will spit it out.

flounder spinach rollups

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I bought a couple of packets of flounder filets at the supermarket. Mum and I aren’t very good at fish with bones so I prefer to stick with salmon or white fish filets. This is the first time I tried cooking flounder. The first batch, I pan-fried them but it wasn’t successful. The filets were too fragile and difficult to keep whole. Plus I couldn’t find much flavour to them.

For the second batch I decided to roll them up and bake them. It was dead easy. Cooked some spinach, rolled in filets, secure with toothpick. Baked in 180ºC oven for 15mins. I served them with hollandaise sauce which shamefully I have to admit came from a packet. I can make my own, but we had the packet so it’s best to use it up before it expires.

Since I was turning the oven on, I made sweet potatoes too. I’m so much happier with the rollups than the pan-fried version. I’m sure I can cook the rollups in a pan, either pan-fry them or poach them. Oven seems the best though, to keep them whole.

duck risotto

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When we took my great aunt to lunch a few weeks ago for peking duck we came away with leftover duck meat and the carcass. They’ve been sitting in the freezer so i should use them.

I made stock with the carcass. Half the stock I used in congee, which seems to be traditional at least in my family; the other half I made risotto whch is less traditional–I think I’m the only one who makes risotto. Honestly, it’s not difficult.

Heat the stock and keep at a low simmer. Sauté garlic in olive oil, add risotto rice to toast for a little bit. Add the stock one ladle at a time, stirring until it has been absorbed. Total time was around 40mins until the rice was cooked. I added sun-dried tomatoes (soaked and diced) and fresh tomato because that’s what I had in the fridge; plus the duck meat. It’s good use of leftovers.

One thing I’ve notice about my cooking the past year, I’ve barely done any baking or made food I used to eat when I was living by myself. Whereas in the past I’d stick a tray of chicken thighs in the oven, cook a whole savoy cabbage and eat that 3 days in a row, that’s hardly what I can serve to mum. She’ll say she’s fine but I bet opening a whole packet of ham and calling it a meal is not something she would be happy doing. I’ve had to plan what I cook for lunch and dinner almost every day and try not to repeat two meals running. Mostly it’s pedestrian food. Fry or grill some protein (salmon, pork chop), add simple vegetables (greens from the market) and some form of carb (mash, rice). Try to make soup (pork+carrot+sweetcorn) every week. Everything is seasoned with s&p and italian seasoning. Perfectly edible but no spark.

recipebooks

I can’t remember when was the last time I flipped through a recipe book for inspiration. I don’t know where the creativity has gone. What happened to a whole weekend of cooking, or beetroot & sweet potato stack, or summer lasagne, or vegetarian savoury bread pudding, or roast belly pork, or delicious chocolate quinoa cake. Sigh.

What has worked is forward planning and cooking for multiple meals. Adam Liaw, masterchef australia s2 winner, wrote that the fundamental issue with modern day recipes assume it’s for one discrete meal:

Making a simple dish that’s over and done with in under an hour is all well and good, but it is also a very inefficient way to cook.

He gave examples: Japanese cooking relies on pickles and condiments made in advance; French cooking is full of sauces and stocks that cannot be made in the alloted 15-, 30- or 60-minute timeframe of a typical recipe.

Motherjones takes it further and tells us we’re using recipes wrong and the one-meal recipe is not a good use of time or money. We should be taking the long view:

Say on Sunday, you cooked a pot of beans, roasted a whole chicken (tip: butterfly it), and whipped up a simple vinaigrette as a salad dressing and marinade. Monday’s dinner could be a quick chicken-bean soup; Tuesday could be taco night; Wednesday, these elements could be incorporated along with some quick-sautéd vegetables into a pasta.

I’m fully on board with this. Planning and leftovers are such an important part of my daily cooking. Here’s to the duck that was first served as fancy Peking duck, its carcass made into stock and two different dishes came out of it for multiple meals.

Next up, 101 Cookbooks’ one tomato sauce, three lunches. All vegetarian too and I’m loving those tiffin boxes.

magic cake

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The ingredients for magic cake are straightforward: butter, sugar, eggs, flour, milk. The magic is created with the proportion of the ingredients and when baked at a low temperature, it separates into 3 layers: the lowest layer is a dense cake, the middle layer creamy custard and the top layer is a crunchy, light genoise sponge. This recipe was from the telegraph.

500ml milk
2 vanilla pods
4 eggs, separated
150g sugar
1tbsp vanilla extract
125g butter
110g flour

scrape the seeds from the vanilla pods, heat seeds and pods with milk until boiling
remove and leave to cool and infuse for 1hr
beat egg yolks with sugar and vanilla extract until thick
melt butter and add to mixture
fold in flour
add milk little by little
whisk egg whites till soft peaks and fold into mixture, no need to mix thoroughly, there should be lumps of egg white floating in a liquid mixture
bake at 150ºC in a lined tin for around 50mins
leave to cool in tin before turning out, chill in fridge to set

Very tasty and rich. A little less sugar next time, I find with most baking recipes I need to reduce the amount of sugar. My magic cake didn’t separate as well as the ones people post; the bottle dense layer probably needed a little more cooking. I was also impatient and ate a slice before it had a chance to chill in the fridge.

Definitely must make again. Most people credit jocooks as the originator of magic cake recipes and she has many different flavours like lemon, chocolate, butterscotch (ouch, too sweet probably), coconut.

thai coconut curry

Mum visited a farm expo with her friends and came back with galangal. I’d only recently started cooking with more ginger so I was like, I have to learn a new recipe.

Googling ‘galangal recipe’ gave lots of examples such as curry, soup, satay. It’s used in several iconic southeast Asian dishes: beef rendang, penang laksa and tom kha gai. Kha is the Thai word for galangal.

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There are plenty of Thai, Indonesian, SE Asian stores around. Two already at the market. The nice lady there helped me gather all the other ingredients for a Thai curry in addition to the galangal: lemongrass, thai basil, kaffir lime leaves, chili, fresh lime. I already have coconut milk. I didn’t really follow any particular recipe or measurements.

3 chicken leg, skinned and deboned, cut into pieces
1 cauliflower, cut into pieces
about 2 tbsp galangal, finely grated
3 stalks lemongrass, thinly sliced
1 handful keffir lime leaves, sliced
1 handful thai basil, reserve some for decoration
3 cloves garlic
half a red onion
1 small chili
1 can coconut milk
juice of 1 lime
chicken stock
small block rock sugar
fish sauce

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Mise en place took a good half an hour. The chicken and cauliflower had to be cut into bite-sized pieces. All the herbs and spices were chopped or grated. I decided to use only one small chili because mum can’t eat food that is too spicy.

Brown the chicken, remove from heat. Sautée garlic, onion galangal and lemongrass until onion and garlic are soft. Add rest of herbs and spices. Return chicken to pan, add cauliflower and rest of ingredients. Season with salt, pepper, fish sauce.

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Simmer for about 1hr. The cauliflower got a bit soft and some of it melted, but I didn’t mind.

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Serve with rice. I added a couple more slices of chili to my plate, it was just spicy enough to feel the heat. Very coconut-y and tasty. I think leaving in the fridge overnight will improve the flavour.

Other ingredients that will work: potato, carrot, pork, fish, tofu. For a low carb version, make cauliflower rice instead of normal rice.

I had galangal, chili and thai basil left over. They all went into the freezer. The galangal directly; the chili after washing and drying; and the thai basil after blanching in hot water for 2 seconds then drying.

turkey and kale frittata

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When I was stripping the turkey we got for Christmas I ended up with a box of small bits of meat too small to serve on its own. It’s useful for fried rice, soup, filling for baked potato, pizza topping. I made frittata.

Fry some kale until soft, add turkey and season. Pour in 8 eggs and cook until bottom is done. I had to add more eggs as the pan is too large. Put under the grill to firm up the top. Very easy and tasty. I drizzled some sriracha on my slice.

spaghetti meatballs

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This is the first time I made spaghetti with meatballs. All right, actually it’s capellini because that’s what we had. Combined minced beef and minced pork (around 60:40, but that’s because it’s what I have) with 1 egg, some flour and seasoning.

Sautéed some garlic and onion in a pan, added the meatballs to brown. Added water, tomatoes, tinned tomatoes, ketchup, worcestershire sauce, herbs, s&p and simmered for about 45mins. Could do with longer, had to turn the heat up towards the end to reduce the sauce.

Pretty good. Definitely tasted homemade, better than spag bol.

steamed egg with pork mince

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Tried my hand at making steamed egg with minced pork. The ultimate comfort food. Goes very well with plain rice and supposedly one of those dishes that are easy to make yet hard to master.

Steamed the pork first, seasoned with soy sauce, sesame oil and I chopped a few dried mushrooms in with the mixture. Poured in the egg and water mixture and steamed for 10mins.

Not quite as silky and smooth as it can be. The egg was overdone on the outside but undercooked in the middle. Apparently both the heat and egg:water ratio are important. I used 1:1 egg and water (measured in measuring cup) but next time will try 1:1.5. And use low heat.

cauliflower rice / couscous

Been noticing more and more cauliflower getting onto fine dining menus. As a purée serving as a perfect bed for scallops; as a curried tempura and cooked three ways [pdf]. It’s touted as a superfood nowadays.

I made cauliflower rice, aka cauliflower cous cous. It’s described as a low-carb substitute for the starch component of a dish. It’s also gluten-free, vegan and forms part of the paleo diet.

Easy enough to prepare. Grate the florets of a whole cauliflower using a box grater. The stem is harder to grate, just put it in with other vegetables. There are many cooking methods for the rice: steam, sautée, microwave, roast in oven. I just tossed it around in a pan with a little s&p and water for about 10 mins until it felt cooked and there were no visible white uncook bits.

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Served some with slow roasted pork and crackling. I don’t have much luck with making crackling in the oven so these were fried in a very hot pan.

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Another batch of the cauliflower I treated like regular couscous by mixing in dried cranberries and pecans from a packet I bought at the farmer’s market a long time ago.

I knew it’s cauliflower and I could taste the vegetable freshness. But it’s true, it’s just like rice, couscous, mash in its ability to accompany the main protein and absorb gravy. Doesn’t make you bloated after the meal too. Definitely must make more.

#60: tiny but intense chocolate cake [recipe]

Task #60 of 101.1001 is to open a cookbook to a random page and make whatever comes up.

Because of differences in terminology and how ingredients are measured, I never use American recipes. For the longest time the only American food website I visit was simply recipes because of the old MT-loyalty thing. Gradually I added smitten kitchen, especially after Ms Perelman added proper measurements to her recipes. I bought her book when it came out, even got an autographed copy.

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So when I decided I should start cooking again, as in not just day-to-day cooking, I grabbed the book and opened it up. There, on page 250, is a recipe for tiny but intense chocolate cake. Looks divine, and very simple to make with easy ingredients. Can’t find it on her website, but it was on house and garden. I love the description:

In the short list of recipes I think any baker should have – or simply any person with friends, who delights in making those friends happy – is a chocolate cake to be thrown together just because I… Well, actually I did not know today was your birthday. Of course I am free tonight!

85g butter – the book says 85g, online recipe says 115g
115g chocolate
3 eggs, separated
65g sugar – online recipe says 45g
vanilla extract – i made it myself
pinch of sea salt
pinch of cinnamon

Melt the butter in a small saucepan until almost brown. Remove from heat, add chocolate and stir until chocolate has melted. Let the mixture cool.

Whisk egg yolks, sugar, vanilla, salt, cinnamon until smooth. I only used about 10g sugar because I was using toblerone instead of 70% chocolate. Add chocolate mixture. Whisk egg whites separately until stiff peaks, then fold into chocolate mixture.

Bake at 180ºC for 15-20mins until skewer comes out clean.

Remove from oven, allow to cool inside tin. The cake will deflate and come away from the side of the tin, at which time it’s okay to take out.

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The recipe says to use one 15cm/6-inch tin, but I only have the standard sized ones so I used even smaller 12cm/5-inch tins. Yielded 3 cakes.

Very, very light! It was like biting into air. Flourless cake, that’s why. I used barely any sugar so it wasn’t too sweet. From start to finish, less than 1 hr and it took that long because I couldn’t be bothered to get the electric whisk out and whisked the egg whites by hand.

Excellent last minute recipe and definitely worth making again.

seared salmon sushi

Today it’s my day to teenager-sit my niece. Had a quick lunch with sis and went back to her place. Made lunch for my niece (pasta with tomato sauce and cheese) which she wolved down, it was good to see her eating.

She has taekwondo on fridays. We were very lucky to get a taxi quickly, although the traffic was horrendous due to an accident. She normally has one hour of lesson and the second hour she helps her teacher to teach younger kids. I followed sis’ routine while I waited for her: went to m&s to get snacks and drinks; the japanese supermarket to get sushi and waited at the bookstore until for a text. Grabbed a taxi, picked her up outside the library building and headed home.

Dinner was sushi, mainly salmon. They’ve been searing the salmon using a blowtorch so I tried the method out too. It’s so much fun. I tried to use the part of the flame just above the blue flame where it’s supposed to be hottest, but not always successful. That, and I had the blowtorch in one hand and the iphone in the other, hehehe.

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Tasted very good. Sis says gis normally only eats about 4 pieces; she polished off a good 6 pieces, plus a piece of scallop sushi and half the portion of okra I bought as the veg component of the meal.

I used to have a blowtorch, when I wanted to try making crème brûlée. Never got round to doing it though. May be I’ll get another blowtorch and do some searing. Sis used safety goggles, I suppose I should have too, I still have mine from the lab.

prawn & clam pasta

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Probably the last meal I’ll cook at home, at least for a while. If I end up selling the flat, it will be the last meal cooked at home forever.

I had to walk down to the station to sell something. I thought about going out for lunch, may be at the craft beer place. Decided against it. I had a bottle of beer at home, so I went to the market and got some fresh prawns and clams. Opened a can of tomatoes and cooked up some remaining pasta. Probably more expensive than lunch at the craft brewery, but it’s all homemade. I had a moment when I started cooking when I realised I’d packed away my salt, herbs, pasta and can opener; luckily I know which box they were in.

So, yeah. Last cooked meal at home. Going to sis’ for dinner and she’ll bring me lunch tomorrow when the movers are here. The end of an era.

toad-in-a-hole

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I just felt like it, so I went to the supermarket and bought a packet of sausages. The batter is a standard pancake / yorkshire pudding mix.

150g flour
2 eggs
450ml milk
seasoning

Make a hole in the flour, add the eggs and milk and whisk until no lumps. Add s&p and herbs, I used thyme.

Heat oven to 200ºC, roast the sausages in 2tbsp oil for 5-10mins. Pour the batter into the baking tray and bake until golden, around 40mins.

I think the tray was too large so the batter was too spread out, making it a bit burnt at the bottom. In retrospect I should have bought two packets of sausages; or used a smaller baking tray.

Seasoning was nice. Crunchy on the bottom and soft in the middle. And sausages.

applesauce cake-bread

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This applesauce bread-cake recipe is from cooking on a bootstrap, formerly known as A Girl Called Jack. Jack Monroe is a writer, cook and activist who first came into the public eye as a blogger sharing recipes from trying to survive as a single parent on £10 a week. Now a media personality due to activism against poverty (and the Tory govt) and after coming out as non-binary transgender. Interesting person to follow on twitter, there are always good stories on politics, family and cooking.

This is a vegan recipe that is supposed to cost 9p per serving. It’s always good to come across healthier recipes.

2 apples (whatever kind)
1 tsp lemon juice
100ml vegetable oil
225g plain flour
1.5tsp bicarbonate of soda
1tsp cinnamon
2 tsp sugar (if using tart apples)

Dice apples and cook with lemon juice until soft. Leave the skin on for texture. Leave to cool. The recipe says to drain but I didn’t have any liquid in the pan.

Sift dry ingredients into a mixing bowl, add applesauce and oil. I found the mixture very dry so I added a little water to loosen it up.

Bake at 180ºC for 35-40mins.

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The result was nothing like I expected. It was quite dry and almost like a crumble. I think it needed one more apple and lots more liquid. Or I hadn’t cooked the apples mushy enough. It was nice though, if I didn’t think of it as being like the apple equivalent of banana bread. I was missing the richness of butter; flavourless sunflower oil simply isn’t as good.

Served with vanilla ice cream, which was gave more sweetness and acted as sauce (took it out of vegan territory, but it’s not important for us). I’m thinking we can also use custard, jam, honey, fruit compote or coulis. It definitely needed a sauce or accompaniment.

happy pancake day

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It’s Shrove Tuesday, so I made pancakes for tea. Easy to remember ingredients:

100g flour + pinch of salt
300ml milk
2 eggs
1tsp vegetable oil

The recipe says to rest the batter for 30mins. I usually don’t, but this time I did. A little googling reveals that it’s to do with letting the starch absorb the liquid, the gluten to relax and the air bubbles to disperse evenly. The end result is supposed to be a thick, uniform batter and more delicate cooked product.

They do seem easier to cook, although we scoffed them down too quickly to really appreciate the texture or delicate taste. The first one never works properly–that’s an accepted fact. Cook’s perk.

Parents had them with maple syrup or peanut butter. I had mine with lemon and sugar. Simple is best.

burns night dessert: cranachan

25-Jan is Burns Night, celebrating Robert Burns’ birthday. Traditionally Burns Night supper has a particular order. The guests are piped in, the Selkirk Grace is said:

Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it,
But we hae meat and we can eat,
And sae the Lord be thankit.

Then the star of the meal, haggis, is piped in, welcomed by reciting the poem To A Haggis. The haggis is served with neeps & tatties, and the meal finishes with cranachan and a toast with whisky.

I like haggis, but we don’t have it readily available so it’s just normal meals today. But I did make cranachan for dessert. It’s the Scottish version of Eton Mess, really. The traditional recipe uses double cream, toasted oats, raspberries and whisky. Some chefs add their personal touches, folding a raspberry purée through the cream, macerating the fruit, substituting mascarpone, making fancy granola.

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I didn’t want to use double cream. The smallest container I can buy is a 250ml carton, plus I don’t like plain cream. I substituted with vanilla ice cream instead.

The oats were, I’m ashamed to say, instant from a packet. This was flavoured with apple and cinnamon; the dried apple and cinnamon sugar gave a caramel-y fruity flavour when melted and mixed with the toasted oats. Quite nice.

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It’s an assembly dessert. I put a few raspberries at the bottom of the glass, added ice cream, more raspberries then the oats. Poured over about 1tbsp whisky straight from my hip flask. Ate it with whisky. Washed down with whisky. More whisky afterwards, of course.

Happy Burns Night!

duck breast with roast potatoes and okra

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Duck breast is easy to prepare, just need a little patience. Pat dry the duck and score the skin, then season. In a cold pan, place skin side down and turn the gas to medium. Let the fat render for 6-7mins, basting the meat and removing excess fat.

The potatoes had already been parboiled and in the oven. As soon as the duck fat started rendering, add a tablespoon or two to the potatoes for flavour.

Finish the duck in the oven, when the potatoes are almost done.

We had okra in the fridge so I fried them in the same pan as the duck.

#websiterebuild recipes menu

Took an easier approach with the recipes section. As I only have around 120 recipe posts in total and I’m not bothered about putting them in any sort of order within their corresponding category, I used the functionality that converts a custom page to a menu item.

If I wanted the recipe for chocolate truffles, I can click on the FOOD menu and select DESSERT. In fact, clicking FOOD calls all posts tagged with recipe.

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I like looking at recipes, especially ones with pictures. So I don’t mind scrolling down till I see chocolate truffles.

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I just have to make sure I tag a recipe post using one of the menu items. I can also change the menu items quickly, as long as I have a tag for it. The other advantage is I can tag, say, vegetarian lasagne both main and vegetable and it shows up under both menus. Honestly, I could have done this with the travel section, but it’s more important trips are listed in an orderly manner.

In terms of website rebuild, this is 95% of everything I want to do. Personal 25 square pages remain, and I have to figure out the best way to display them that doesn’t involve faffing around with css. Otherwise, switching to maintenance mode.

chilled cheesecake

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I realised I don’t have searchable recipe for chilled cheesecake. It’s hidden on an old page that was part of v1.0 of the website and no longer linked. And it’s so old it’s in ounces, so I need to update it. I’ve also based the new recipe on the packaging of ingredients available to me; the recipe converts to 350g cream cheese, but cream cheese packets are 200g, so I used 2 packets.

50g butter
120g digestives
400g cream cheese
75g caster sugar
zest and juice of 1 lemon
gelatine — about 1 tbsp in 3 tbsp hot water, this is powdered
250ml double cream
3 egg whites
1 punnet blueberries, or other fruit

  1. make base using butter and digestives, chill until set
  2. break up cheese, add sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice
  3. dissolve gelatine in water, add to cheese mixture
  4. add fruit
  5. whisk cream until soft peaks, fold into mixture
  6. whisk egg whites until firm peaks, fold into mixture
  7. pour mixture over base and chill till set

no family recipes, it’s okay

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It’s International Women’s Day. There are articles where writers talk about the women who have most influenced their lives. Top of the list, their mums and grandmothers.

I must say I don’t feel influenced by Mum or either of my Grandmas. [Caveat: I don’t feel terribly influenced by anyone specifically so it’s nothing against Mum or Grandmothers.] I don’t think there’s any legacy they will pass to me. People who are chefs or go on cookery competition shows always say that their greatest cooking influence is their family. “I cooked at my grandmother’s knees” is a common sentiment.

I don’t have any family recipes passed down from the older generation. None of my grandparents cooked. Mum is an okay cook, but she is a better appreciater of food. My dad is the best cook in this group, and like me, he’s not the best at presentation.

I learned cooking from tv and reading recipes. Now I cook so I can share with my family. I wish I had a chance to cook for my grandmothers.

30.30 #15: new recipe onion soup

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Task #15 of 30in30 is to try a new recipe.

Mum felt like onion soup so she bought a ton of onions. I don’t like onions so I usually relegate it to a flavouring as a component in mirepoix. Although IIRC I never made onion soup, I don’t think it’s something that requires a recipe. I mean, cook the onions, add liquid and simmer, right?

Ha!

There’s a good discussion about the various methods for making onion soup. The type of onions to use, how long to caramelise the onions (from Michel Roux Jr’s 30-40mins to Thomas Keller’s 5 hours), the type of stock, additional seasoning (balsamic) and even what alcohol to add (cider, brandy).

Here’s what I did. I chopped 6 large onions and cooked them in butter for about 1.5hrs. I stirred like crazy towards the end, and left the lid off to reduce the liquid and break down the onion further. Most recipes call for beef stock which I didn’t have, I compromised by adding about 100g total of cubed beef with the onions.

After 1.5hrs the onions were soft and mushy and turned a nice medium brown. I then added vegetable stock I had in the freezer. Brought the whole lot to a boil and kept at a rolling boil for 20mins. Seasoned with s&p, thyme, worcestershire sauce, a dash of balsamic and soy sauce. Recipes tend not to include worcestershire or soy sauce, but they are my secret ingredients for adding umami to soups.

The cheese toast was made from baguette and shredded cheese. Proper cheeses like gruyere or comteé are simply too expensive and difficult to find so I used processed, sigh. I toasted the croutons on both sides before melting the cheese on top. Sprinkled more cheese onto the soup.

I was fairly pleased with the results. A tad too watery, I could have done with another 10-15mins reduction at the end, or taken half the soup and blitzed it. Still not a fan of onions.

banana cranberry bread

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This banana bread recipe from the Mary Berry era is so old that the measurements are in oz. It is so tried and tested that I didn’t convert to grams—113g butter sounds funny.

4oz butter
4oz sugar
2 large eggs
8oz plain flour
2tsp bp
3 bananas, crushed
handful dried cranberries
1 vanilla pod

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Whisk in eggs one at a time. Add bananas, cranberries and scrape vanilla beans from pod. Fold in flour, bp, add a splash of milk to loosen the mixture. Bake at 180°C for 45-50mins until a skewer comes out clean.

Traditionally it’s banana & walnut bread but I’ve never used walnuts because I don’t like them. For a slightly modern twist I added a handful of dried cranberries, taking inspiration from chocolat et zucchini—if Ms Dusoulier can do it, so can I. The cranberries added a tart taste and made the whole thing less stodgy.

We had it straight out of the oven so it was extra nice. Everybody liked it because it wasn’t too sweet.

#58 new recipe: double chocolate tart

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Tasks #49-58 of 101.1001 are to try 10 new recipes. It’s great that the 10th one turned out so nice.

I’ve mentioned before that even though I’ve been baking for a long time, it’s usually cakes and biscuits. I only tried bread a few months ago and choux is the only pastry I’m comfortable with. I rarely work with the most basic pastry of them all: shortcrust.

So we were watching MKR4 repeat and I decided to try the double chocolate tart one team made, because it looked so indulgent.

for the pastry:
150g cold butter
185g plain flour
25g cocoa powder
50g icing sugar
1 egg yolk

for the filling:
350g chocolate
80ml cream
50g brown sugar
2 eggs + 4 egg yolks

Sift the flour, cocoa and icing sugar into a large bowl, mix butter until resembling breadcrumbs. In the recipe they use a food processor but I couldn’t find mine, and besides I’m not sure it works anymore. Takes longer using hands but it’s not too bad. Put the mixture back in the fridge for 5mins to cool, then add the egg yolk. Combine into a dough. Initially I thought one egg yolk surely wasn’t enough to bind so much dry ingredients, but it worked after a bit of elbow grease. Knead on a flat surface briefly. Chill dough in fridge for 30mins.

Roll out dough to a tart tin. Well, I don’t have a tart tin, so I used half the dough and rolled out into a regular small cake tin, mending gaps where necessary. I tried to trim the side so it was flat. Cool the pastry in the fridge for 5mins, then blind bake at 180°C for 15mins with baking beans, followed by 10mins without. Didn’t have baking beans at parents’ place, so substituted with rice.

While the baked pastry case cools, make the filling. Melt chocolate and cream in a bain marie. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, egg yolk and sugar until frothy. Combine with melted chocolate carefully then pour into pastry case. Bake at 160°C for 30mins. Cool at room temperature, then in fridge until set.

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The pastry was quite short, may be a tad too short, but I like it. The filling was rich and, yes, indulgent. Should have served it with strawberries or raspberries but didn’t have it. Added to the richness by pouring a little cream over. I’ll have to buy a proper tart tin, it’s one of those desserts I’m going to add to my repertoire.
 

salted caramel truffle

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Mum asked my niece what she wanted for her birthday and the reply was chocolate. Mum normally gives her nice chocoalte like godiva or equivalent. This year, I offered to make truffles. I made two types: mint choc and salted caramel.

The mint choc used 70% mint chocolate as base, and the usual add cream and butter method. The end result was a very subtle, almost non-existent mint flavour. If I had more time I’d infuse mint leaves in sugar syrup or find mint flavouring.

The salted caramel truffle came from an Edd Kimber recipe. In case people are not aware who is Edd Kimber, he was the winner of the first Great British Bake-off. I used 1/3rd of his recipe, to get about 20 truffles.

100g 70% chocolate
100g caster sugar
7g light brown sugar — probably not needed
100ml double or whipping cream
7g butter
1/2tsp salt

  1. break the chocolate into a large bowl, set aside
  2. in a heavy saucepan, slowly melt the white sugar, gently moving the pan until all the sugar has melted
  3. add half the cream and the recipe says brown sugar but I don’t think it’s needed
  4. the mixture will bubble madly, remove from heat if it gets too violent
  5. when the bubbling has subsided, add the rest of the cream, butter and salt
  6. pour over chocolate and stir until all chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth and glossy
  7. cover and set overnight. Roll into balls with hands, coat with cocoa powder (or icing sugar or chocolate shell), decorate with a crystal of rock salt

Very nice. I added more salt, it contrasted well with the sweetness of the caramel. 

#57 new recipe: rosemary flatbread

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Tasks #49-58 of 101 in 1001 are 10 new recipes. This is #9, and the first bread recipe.

I’ve been baking since I was 11 or 12, but I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I’ve made bread. I’ve been watching too many GBBO and masterchef episodes and I want to have a bread recipe I can master and keep in my back pocket. This is based on a jamie recipe.

500g strong bread flour
15g (or 1.5 packet) yeast
1/2 tbsp salt
1tbsp sugar
300ml water

Mix the dry ingredients with about half the water, add more water to get to a sticky consistency. Knead until a silky, elastic dough is formed. Leave in a covered bowl for 30mins to prove, until doubled in size.

Knock the air out and knead a little more. Tear off chunks of the dough, add fresh rosemary leaves and roll into small balls. Pat between palms into flat shapes about 0.5cm thick.

Pan fry in olive oil until golden. Sprinkle sea salt and drizzle rosemary & oil.

I’m very pleased with the results. A little yeasty, I think I added too much yeast. They fluffed up nicely during cooking and had a wonderful golden brown colour. Slightly crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside. I’ll definitely make them again.

chocolate cake no scales

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My scales broke, or rather, the scales I had at parents’ place broke and I can’t be bothered to a) go get the ones at my place or b) go buy new ones. Sales start in november, so I want to wait a few weeks. That said, for some reason I felt like making chocolate cake. So I did some random googling and found a recipe that uses cup measurements.

First of, I know many, many, many bakers use cup measurements — all American recipes are in cups as well as some NZ and Aussie recipes. But I’m uncomfortable with it, as we can see from the results. The recipe didn’t specify what type of cup so I used a proper ones from a professional cooking shop.

3 cups SR flour — that looked like A LOT! Must be something like 300-400g
2 tsp bicarb
pinch of salt
2 cups sugar — I used less, about 1.75 cups
3/4 cup cocoa powder — I used a combo of cocoa powder and chocolate pieces
2 eggs — didn’t seem enough
1 cup oil — I used a combo of soft butter and canola oil
1 cup milk
1 cup hot water

Sift dry ingredients into a large bowl, add wet ingredients and mix well.

That’s it. No creaming, no beating, no getting lots of air into the mixture.

Bake at 180˚C for 45mins. The recipe said 200˚C but I was slow cooking ribs in the oven so I couldn’t bring the temp that high. The rib roasting tray also meant I had room for a rectangular cake tin as opposed to a regular round cake tin. I had enough mixture for 2 cakes—I thought that was a lot of flour and sugar.

The result was, surprisingly, good. We liked the reduced sugar, so it’s not sickly sweet. Light and fluffy inside (bicarb+SR flour?), perhaps a tad too crumbly and a really nice crust outside. I normally don’t go for the end bits but this time I was super glad I did.

So, using a cup to gram conversion table:
350g SR flour
2 tsp bicarb
pinch of salt
350g sugar
75g cocoa
2 eggs — I still think it’s not enough, may be increase to 3 eggs
250g butter
250ml milk
250ml hot water

Or half for just one cake.

 

handmade vanilla ice cream

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When I was in Chicago during the summer, I walked past a Williams-Sonoma, couldn’t help but go inside and ended up buying a couple of zoku ice cream makers. I don’t have space for an ice cream maker, so this small bowl seemed to be a great idea — no churning, and it claims to make ice cream in 10mins.

I’ve watched enough cookery competition programs to know that the best ice cream is made from a custard base. The recipe I used is from david liebovitz, one of the few american cookery writers who give metric measurements. I used half his recipe.

125ml milk — I used hi-calcium 2% milk, because that’s what I have in my fridge
75g sugar — I think this is too much, next time I’ll start with 50g
3 egg yolks — I splurged and bought best quality organic “intense flavour” eggs from japan
250ml whipping cream
1 vanilla pod — if I halved the recipe I should have used half a pod, but I used a whole one anyway, I scraped the seeds out and the pod is now soaking in bourbon to make vanilla extract

Gently heat milk, sugar and vanilla seeds until sugar has melted. Slowly add to egg yolks, whisk and return to pan. Heat very slowly, stirring constantly to make the custard, it will be ready when it coats the back of a wooden spoon. Cool.

In a separate bowl, cool the cream in an ice bath. Add the custard, stir and whisk until thickened and cold. The mixture can be kept in the fridge until ready to make the ice cream.

The instructions for the zoku is to chill the inner bowl in the freezer for 12hrs. The bowl is made of an inner metallic bowl and an outer ceramic bowl with coolant inside. At room temperature I can shake the bowl and feel the fluid sloshing inside. When frozen the coolant feels solid.

To make the ice cream, add a portion of the custard mixture to the frozen bowl, no more than half full. Then stir, fold and scrape for about 10mins until the mixture turns from a thick liquid to frozen ice cream. It really works!

Because all the ingredients are fresh and of good quality, and because I used real cream and a whole vanilla pod, the ice cream tasted unbelievable. Smooth and rich and creamy and simply irrestible.

#56 new recipe: chicken ballotine

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Tasks #49-58 of 101 in 1001 are to try 10 new recipes. This is #8, the third savoury and only the second meat recipe.

One of the classics in cooking history is Jacques Pepin deboning a whole chicken, stuffing it and making a galantine, a truly amazing demonstration of butchery and cooking skills. Nowadays I see chefs on masterchef and cookery competition programs making ballotine of chicken, duck, veal or another meat. There are many names, Pepin’s galantine, Americans favour roulade and ballotine seems to be used in the UK and commonwealth. It all comes down to the same concept: meat swiss roll with some stuffing (meat, vegetables or a combination) rolled up in an outer layer of meat.

This is a recipe I worked out myself, inspired by bonappetit. Serves 4 with sides, or 2 very hungry adults:

  1. pan fry 2 chicken thighs, season and dice to small bite-size pieces
  2. dice mushroom into small pieces, cook with chopped reconstituted dried porcini and sun-dried tomato, season
  3. combine thigh with mushroom mixture to make the filling and leave to cool
  4. butterfly 2 chicken breasts, cover with clingfilm and flatten slightly — not as flat as an escalope, around 1cm thick, season with s&p
  5. layer jamon, fresh basil, emmental slices on top of the chicken breast — jamon because the packet I bought was from spain, I was initially aiming for prosciutto; emmental because that’s what I found in the fridge, mozzarella or provolone will work just as well
  6. spoon on filling and roll carefully, secure with toothpick if necessary — it was difficult to roll so I used another slice of jamon on the outside
  7. sear in a pan until golden brown
  8. transfer to oven and bake at 180°C for 10mins
  9. rest for 5mins then slice

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Served the ballotine with roast potatoes, mushroom and cherry tomato. I made some sauce by combining the mushroom cooking liquid with the water from the porcini and sun-dried tomato. It tasted really good, I only cooked the chicken breast for 10mins so it was still juicy.

#55 new recipe: key lime pie

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Tasks #49-58 of 101 in 1001 are to try 10 new recipes. This is #7 and the 5th baking recipe so far.

Mum went to lunch at the restaurant of a training hotel the other day. She had chocolate mousse (“like really bad ice cream”) and tried her friend’s key lime pie (“it was good”). Sis and gis had key lime pie recently and liked it. It’s my dad’s birthday. So all these events combined mean I should make key lime pie.

Yes, it’s quintessentially American, but the recipe I trusted was from bbc good food because: a) hob nobs!! and b) grams not cups.

300g hob nobs
150g butter
3 egg yolks (I used 4 because the eggs were small)
1 can (397g) condensed milk
zest and juice from 4 limes (these were tiny limes so I used 5)

Make the base from crushed hob nobs and melted butter. Allow to cool. Whisk egg yolks for about 1min, add the condensed milk and whisk for 3mins. Add lime zest and juice, whisk for another 3mins. Pour over base, bake at 160°C for 15-20mins. Leave in tin to cool overnight in fridge.

keylimepie03

I tried to make candied lime peel. Blanched lime slices in hot water then simmered in a simple syrup made from equal quantities of sugar and water for 15mins. Was still quite bitter (from peel, not pith) so I didn’t use it to decorate. Instead I whipped up some cream and used strawberries. Couldn’t be bothered to break out the piping bag so I just quenelled the cream.

Everyone seemed to like it and no complaints. I thought it was an extremely simple recipe, I liked that it was loaded with lime flavour and wasn’t too sweet. Next time I’ll make mixed citrus peel, may be that’ll work. Or just grate lime zest over a heap of cream.

101.1001 #54.6 | 30in30 #17 new sweet recipe

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This is a combination of task #54.6 of 101 in 1001 and task #17 in 30 in 30 is to try a new sweet recipe.

This is a recipe for no-bake blueberry truffle tart that has been bookmarked for a while. I made some adjustments, mainly in the ingredients and making of the base. The idea remains the same, make a biscuit base, make a ganache, top with blueberries.

225g crushed biscuits — I used half oreos and half hob-nobs, the recipe used just oreos
75g butter
225g dark chocolate
250ml cream — should be 300ml but the carton was 250ml
1 punnet blueberries

Crush the biscuits, I put them in a ziploc bag and whacked them with a pestle but a rolling pin or food processor will work. Melt butter in pan, add biscuit crumbs and transfer to lined tin. The recipe used individual fairy cake tins but mum didn’t have that tin so I improvised and used a square tin. Allow to set in fridge (around 20-30mins).

Melt the chocolate on a bain marie and stir in the cream. Can do it the other way round, heat cream and pour over chocolate. Either way, stir until chocolate has melted and the mixture glossy and smooth.

I sprinkled half the punnet of blueberries on the biscuit base and added the ganache. Set in fridge for about 10mins, then sprinkle the rest on top. Return to fridge so the ganache sets. I left mine overnight.

Usually we combine chocolate with raspberries or strawberries but blueberries work very well too. The ganache was extremely rich, and the fruitiness of the blueberries in every bite was a good contrast. A small slice is more than enough.

30in30 #16: new savoury recipe

skordalia01

Task #16 in 30 in 30 is to try a new savoury recipe. I made skordalia, a greek styled potato and garlic dip that is halfway between regular mashed potato and hummus.

The first time I heard of skordalia was when Torode cooked it on masterchef. It seemed to be an interesting alternative to mashed potato, a good source of starch for a dish. Based on the recipe I found at the guardian.

Roughly chopped 4 potatoes and boil until soft. I don’t have a potato ricer so I passed the cooked potato pieces through a sieve, which proved harder to do than I expected. Made a paste of 2 cloves garlic, salt and pepper and mixed into the potato. Added olive oil, juice of 1/2 a lemon and further seasoning. Topped with crushed peanut for decoration.

It sort of looked like a cross between mashed potato and hummus, erring to the side of potatoes. At first I didn’t add enough olive oil and the bitter-sourness of the lemon juice was too overwhelming. It was better when I added more oil and more seasoning. Although it’s described as a dip, I served it with braised lamb shanks, which technically we shouldn’t be having since it’s Good Friday. Ah well.

pandan cake

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Very common in Malaysia, Singapore and other parts of SE Asia is food flavoured with pandan leaves. It imparts a bright green colour and a gentle coconuty fragrant. They use it mainly with desserts and curries.

You can get pandan cake even at Singapore airport. The shop is right next to the departure gate so you check your luggage, go get your cake and then go through immigration. Easy peasy.

Pandan cake is basically a chiffon cake flavoured with pandan. I spotted a packet of pandan sugar at an indonesian store the other day and thought i should give it a try. They have a recipe at the back, although not completely clear (they don’t tell people to whisk the egg white and no oven time or temperature specified).

5 eggs, separated
2 tbsp cooking oil — i used grapeseed
4 tbsp coconut milk
150g SR flour
120g pandan sugar

Mix egg yolks with half the sugar until thick. Normally the mixture turns pale but with the green sugar I had to use texture and experience—took about 10mins vigorous hand beating. Add ccoking oil, coconut milk and fold in flour.

Beat egg whites until soft peak stage, add rest of sugar and beat until stiff. Fold into egg yolk mixture.

Bake at 180°C for about 1hr until a skewer comes out clean.

Very light, fluffy and the pandan flavour was subtle. Some people may be put off by the strange green colour but it really was very good.

#53: new recipe — roasted cabbage with bacon

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Task #53 of 101 in 1001 challenge: 5 of 10 new recipe.

I was making honey soy chicken wings (strictly speaking, also a new recipe — marinade chicken wings in soy sauce, honey, worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, mustard, olive oil and roast at 180°C for 30mins) and was looking in the fridge for vegetables. Found a small cabbage, perfect. Normally I’d be boring and just boil it, but anyone who has ever suffered school lunches will have dire recollections of overboiled cabbage and brussels sprouts. Speaking of brussels sprouts, my favourite method is to roast them at high heat with olive oil and lots of salt so the edges of the leaves are almost charred. I was sure this method also works for cabbage.

Yep. Recipe from thekitchn, who recommended roasting cabbage wedges with bacon. They were positively gushing about the end result,

the high-heat roasting gets rid of any cabbage funk and makes the cabbage sweet and flavorful — all that bacon grease certainly adds to the irresistible aroma. The bacon pieces were crispy and chewy, and the bacon fat seeped into the cabbage, making it tender and juicy in the middle and crispy and browned on the outside

Wash cabbage and remove any outer leaves that have wilted. Cut the whole cabbage in to quarters, remove some of the core and cut in half again, ending up with 8 wedges. Roughly cut up 4 bacon rashers and sprinkle on cabbage wedges. Drizzle olive oil and season with pepper and mixed herbs (no salt). Roast at 180°C for about 30mins until slightly charred.

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I now know the reason behind the gushing. It was crunchy on the outside and sweet on the inside, none of the boiled cabbage smell or flavour. The bacon was a perfect accompaniment — the bacon I found in the fridge wasn’t crispy American bacon or meaty British back bacon but something in between that is ham-like and didn’t render a lot of fat — still worked okay with the dish.

I don’t think I’ll ever make boiled cabbage again, roasting was so simple and so delicious. Served it with the equally successful chicken wings and some cheese grits I found in the cupboard. See, I don’t always eat strange food.

#52: new recipe — roast belly pork

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Task #52 of 101 in 1001 challenge: 4 of 10 new recipes.

The actual recipe for making roast belly pork is straightforward, it’s the execution that is difficult. This is sort of based on a jamie recipe.

Score the skin of the belly in a criss-cross pattern. Dry vigorously with kitchen towel, I actually went as far as blow drying it. Rub in lots of garlic salt, some thyme, a few peppercorns and about 2 tbsp olive oil. Place on top of sliced garlic, carrot and celery pieces.

Preheat oven to its highest setting, in this case it was 240°C. Supposed to blast the skin in the hot oven for 10-15mins until it starts to blister and turn golden brown. After 25mins, mine turned golden brown with just a little bubbling. Pretty pathetic. I turned the oven down to 170°C and roasted for 1hr. After 1hr, time to some liquid for the slow cooking. The recipe uses white wine, I used some bitter beer that we reserve for cooking because it’s a bit undrinkable. Continue slow cooking for 1.5hrs.

Supposed to turn the oven back up for the last 30mins to finish the crackling. I did that, but no crackling. Disappointing.

I ended up having to take off the skin and fry in a frying pan to finally get crackling. It gave a satisfying crunch all right. The meat was tender and easy to pull apart. Next time, take the skin off and poach the whole joint in milk or cider.

#51: new recipe — cheesecake

 

I usually make chilled cheesecake rather than baked, but after this one I think I’ll switch to baked. Recipe from Gordon Ramsay’s Ultimate Cookery Course. I used blueberries instead of his raspberries.

500g cream cheese
150g sugar
3 eggs
2 tbsp flour
zest of 1 lemon
200g blueberries

Mix cream cheese and sugar, add eggs a little at at time, then flour and the lemon zest. The mixture looked a bit thick at that point so I added the juice of 1/2 lemon. Stir in the blueberries and transfer to baking tin. Tap firmly to get rid of air bubbles and distribute blueberries. Bake at 180°C for about 45mins-1hr.

Like I said, I don’t usually make baked cheesecake. I forgot that you’re supposed to let it cool completely in the tin before removing, so when I took the outer ring off like I would do with cake, I ended up with Michelin man cheesecake that had bulged in the middle like belly fat. Argh. Put the ring back on immediately and let it cool overnight in the fridge.

That said, it was delicious. Rich, good taste and texture. The recipe doesn’t have a biscuit base, and I don’t think it needs it.

bacon egg pancake stack

bacon egg pancake stack

Mum and I saw this in the newspaper, about some restaurant café that was serving a bacon and egg pancake stack. The article made it out to be some newfangled thing, to combine savoury and sweet. The saying about the frog at the bottom of the well comes to mind. Anyway, we decided we should try our own version. Cheated and used pancake mix that she has in the cupboard, and some weird ham-like bacon she had in the freezer. She wanted scrambled eggs, so the fried egg topper I had in mind had to be adjusted. I know I could have made scrambled for her plate and fried for mine, but couldn’t be arsed. Threw in some blueberries because we have 8 punnets in the fridge.

Breakfast for dinner, yum. Next time I’ll try to find American-styled crispy bacon, and fry the egg. I’ll also use rings, or my tiny 4” frying pan, so the pancakes are the same size. There might be a next time, because we have a jar of maple syrup now.

#50 new recipe — christmas chocolate log

Task #50 in 101 in 1001 challenge: 2 of 10 new recipes.

I’ve made yule log before, and it is a sort of family tradition. I wanted to find a recipe that was less sweet, and was pleased that bbc goodfood came through again. I made some adjustments to the recipe, taking out some more sugar, substituting honey for golden syrup and using the chocolate cream for both filling and icing.

for the sponge:
3 eggs
85g sugar
85g plain flour
1/2 tsp bp
2 tbsp cocoa powder

for the filling:
50g butter
150g dark toblerone
250ml carton + 5tbsp whipping cream
1 tbsp honey

Whisk the eggs and sugar until pale and fluffy. Sift flour, bp, cocoa and fold into egg mixture. Bake in a swiss roll tray for 10-12mins at 200°C. Remove from oven, roll in the greaseproof paper and leave to cool.

Melt the butter and chocolate on a bain marie, cool. Add honey and 5tbsp cream. Whip the carton of cream until soft peaks then fold in the chocolate mixture.

Unroll sponge and spread filling generously. Roll carefully into log shape. Cut off one end as the branch. Ice with rest of chocolate cream.

We didn’t have icing sugar so I sieved some caster sugar over as the snow. I like this chocolate cream filling much better than using butter icing. It was very rich, I cut a thickish slice and divided it into three for me and parents, it was enough.

#49: new recipe — lebkuchen

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Task #49 in 101 task in 1001 days challenge: 1 of 10 new recipes.

Lebkuchen are German gingerbread-like biscuits that are traditionally made at christmas. We bought some at my niece’s school fair, loved them and I decided to try my hand at making them. This recipe is from bbc goodfood, which was hands down the easiest.

250g plain flour
1 tsp bp
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
85g ground almonds
1tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
zest of 1 lemon
a pinch each of ground cloves, grated nutmeg and black pepper
85g butter
200ml clear honey

  • sift all the dry ingredients into a large bowl
  • heat the butter and honey until the butter has melted and add to the dry ingredients
  • mix well, cool mixture to room temperature
  • roll the dough into 30 balls, flatten on baking sheet, bake at 180°C for 12-15mins
  • cool on wire rack, pretend to be Jamie Oliver by flicking melted chocolate haphazardly over biscuits

I very nearly burnt the first batch of 15, another minute and they would have to go into the bin. Luckily the second batch were okay. I think they were too small, next time I’ll make 20 instead of 30.

I think the jury is still out on the rorschach style of decoration, which I saw on a Jamie Oliver christmas program the other day. That’s all he seemed to be doing nowadays, either piling food on a platter or wooden board and then flicking whatever sauce or dressing all over the place.

I wouldn’t say this recipe was 100% successful. It tasted quite nice, I like using honey instead of sugar and having lots of spices made the whole kitchen smell of christmas. Because they were so small, they weren’t as chewy as I’d like. Next time I’ll also grate in a little ginger to give it more of a ginger taste.

brownies

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Based on Nigella’s recipe for snow-flecked brownies. Half the recipe quantity was perfect for the square tin.

melt 190g chocolate + 190g butter over bain marie, cool
whisk 160g sugar and 2 large eggs until pale and thick
combine chocolate and egg mixtures
add 50g mixed nuts
fold in 115g plain flour
bake at 180°C for 30mins until top is dry

The recipe uses 100g white chocolate buttons, when I first made it I used dark chocolate but this time I just used nuts, and a smaller quantity because I didn’t want the brownie to be overwhelmed by nuts. We had peanuts, almonds, pistachios and cashews in a snack jar so that was what I used. Although I cut it into 3×3 squares for presentation, 4×4 squares is probably a more reasonable serving size.

There is a debate about whether brownies should be cakey, gooey or fudgy. These were somewhere in between gooey and fudgy. The tops were crispy and the inside quite dense without being too sticky. The rich chocolate taste came through, which is always important.

yogurt panna cotta

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The kitchn described panna cotta as the perfect dessert because it’s easy to make, using standard ingredients. It is also incredibly versatile: substituting ingredients or reducing the sugar level doesn’t seem to bother the recipe at all. Last time I made it, it was a little too firm. Tasted good, but it was like cream flavoured jelly.

This is a slightly healthier version of the traditional panna cotta, with less sugar and uses yogurt instead of a lot of the cream. Recipe from smitten kitchen and all credit goes to Deb Perelman for converting her American measurements to metric.

  • 475ml mixture of milk and cream — use as much or as little of each, even 100% milk or 100% cream, using just a little cream will make it so much richer; I used 200ml whipping cream and the rest was reduced fat milk
  • 450g yogurt — most recipes use greek yogurt, it just happened that mum made natural yogurt which worked equally well
  • 75g sugar — recipe says between 50-100g
  • 4 tbsp water
  • 2.5 tsp gelatin powder
  • 2 tbsp lime juice — recipe says lemon juice but we ran out of lemons so I substituted lime

Dissolve the gelatin in water, set aside
Combine the yogurt with half the milk+cream
Slowly heat sugar and the remaining milk+cream to a gentle simmer, then pour onto the dissolved gelatin
Add the milk+cream mixture to the yogurt mixture, whisk until smooth
Add lime juice
Pour into oiled containers and set in fridge

There was richness from the cream, tartness from the yogurt and the texture was suitably wobbly and creamy. Strawberries and other berries are expensive recently so mum suggesting using nutella. I tried to do a little fancy decoration with the thick spread and some museli crumbs. The chocolate and crumbs actually went well with the panna cotta.

american blueberry pancakes

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Another request from mum. Recipe from bbc goodfood.

200g SR flour
1tsp bp
1 egg
300ml milk
125g blueberries
pinch of salt
knob of butter, melted

Sift flour, bp and salt into a large bowl. Lightly whisk egg and add to milk. Create a hole in the dry ingredients and slowly add the wet ingredients, mixing to get a thick smooth batter. Add melted butter and 100g blueberries.

Drop a large tablespoonful of the batter into a hot pan and cook until bubbles form on top, then flip and continue cooking till browned. Serve with remaining blueberries and maple syrup.

We didn’t have syrup (golden or maple) so we substituted honey and the lemon curd I made earlier. Recipe says it makes 10, I got 12 out of it.

braised lamb shank

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This is my standard stew recipe. Brown the meat, remove. Deglaze pan with mirepoix and cooking liquid. Add canned tomato, put meat back, season, cover, cook in oven at 160-180°C for 3 hours. Remove lid/foil about 30mins from the end. It’s pretty foolproof.

The meat this time was lamb shank, and nowadays I’m chef-y enough to trim the ends to expose the bone. The cooking liquid was a dark beer my dad found in the cupboard. I like Guinness and ales and dark beers but this one was actually too harsh to drink. As a braising liquid, it worked well, giving the sauce an intensity without bitterness that was different to wine.

I took some cous cous from home, intending to serve with the shanks but mum wanted mashed potatoes. Cous cous next time.

lemon curd & blueberry cake

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Based on a bbc recipe. Lemon and blueberries go so well together.

175g butter
175g sugar
3 eggs
200g SR flour
100g greek yogurt
2 tbsp lemon curd
zest & juice of 1 lemon
punnet of blueberries (around 100g)

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, add eggs. Add yogurt, lemon curd, lemon zest & juice. Fold in flour.

Spoon half the mixture into tin, sprinkle half the blueberries. Add the other half of the mixture, and the rest of the blueberries.

Bake at 180°C for about 45mins. Serve with more lemon curd and blueberries.

homemade lemon curd

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Mise en place to me isn’t just weighing out and prepping the ingredients, it’s the process and equipment too. To prepare homemade preserves like jams and marmalade, the first thing to do is to sterilise the containers. I washed them very thoroughly in soapy water, then placed the jars in an oven at 150°C. The lids I put in a pot of boiling water.

The lemon curd recipe itself is from bbc and very straightforward:

  • zest and juice 5 medium lemons (recipe was for 4 large lemons) — I measured the juice, I had 175ml
  • mix the zest, juice with 100g butter and 180-200g sugar in a bowl over a bain marie — the jar lids were still boiling away in the main pot
  • lightly whisk 4 eggs and add slowly to the lemon butter mixture
  • cook for 15-20mins over the bain marie, stirring constantly, until thick and coated the back of a spoon

I’d used slightly less sugar than the recipe, measured out 180g and added about an extra tablespoon when I was tasting at the end. The resultant lemon curd was really wonderful — lovely and smooth and glossy, still a little tangy because of the reduced sugar, it will become a favourite I hope.

uk, us, aussie recipes

Zingy Home-Made Lemon Curd
Image courtesy flickr user french tart

I’m looking for a lemon curd recipe, and there are tons and tons online. I find that whenever I’m looking for online recipes, I gravitate to the usual sites: bbc good food, the guardian (especially if it’s Nigel Slater), sometimes Jamie, Delia or Nigella although I find Delia too sweet and Nigella too fiddly. Donna Hay if it’s an Aussie dish. Very rarely do I click on a page that I know or suspect is American.

It doesn’t mean American recipes are bad, I’m sure they work and are really good.

But I can’t follow them, especially if I’m baking. Frying a steak or French trimming a rack of lamb is okay, and I’m a big fan of Elise but I stay away from American baking recipes.

Everything is measured in cups. Of course liquids are measured in volume but dry ingredients? And what is the size of this magical cup? The dainty tea cup, a regular mug or a giant Starbucks cup, it’s so subjective. Baking depends on precision and “a cup of flour” is meaningless. How should it be scooped out? Compacted or loosely? Heaped or flat top? There may end up being a good 50g difference.

Yes, I know there are converters. But why go through the hassle? I like measuring my ingredients out. I like using ingredients I’m familiar with.

So back to the lemon curd recipe. Just for the sake of this post, I clicked on Martha Stewart’s recipe — 3 eggs, zest of half a lemon, 1/4 cup lemon juice, 6tbsp sugar, 4tbsp butter. I’ve never seen butter measured in tablespoons, heaped or melted or scooped like ice cream? There doesn’t seem to be enough lemon either. I don’t like this recipe.

Delia uses zest and juice of 4 lemons, 4 eggs, 12oz (350g) sugar and 8oz (225g) butter. That seems like way, way too much sugar. I remember her recipe for bread and butter pudding (or was it apple crumble, probably both) and that was too sweet too.

The recipe I like most is from bbc: zest and juice of 4 lemons, 3 eggs plus 1 egg yolk, 200g sugar, 100g butter, cooked over a bain marie. Seems quite suitably lemony. I’ll try to make a batch this weekend.

chocolate fondant

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This is the last of the chocfest we’ve been having at home. First attempt at chocolate fondant, recipe from the guardian.

60g dark chocolate
60g butter
30g sugar — recipe says 60g, I didn’t think we need so much
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp plain flour

Melt chocolate and butter over bain marie and set aside to cool. Whisk egg, egg yolk and sugar until pale and thick, around 5-10mins or the time it takes for the chocolate to melt. Combine chocolate and egg mixtures. Fold in flour, pour into greased tins. Bake at 200°C for 10mins, until the top is just set.

Leave in tin for 30-60 seconds then turn out.

Probably a little tiny bit overdone. The recipe says 12mins, I took them out at 10mins, may be that was even a minute too late.

chocolate yogurt mousse

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The recipe for regular chocolate mousse is very rich, almost 500ml of cream total. So we wanted to find a less fattening alternative, and Mum found a chocolate yogurt mousse recipe that uses greek yogurt. I bought her a yogurt maker a long long time ago, and she’s been making her own yogurt occasionally.

We didn’t exactly follow the recipe, skipped the coffee and there was a step with boiling water that didn’t work. Skipped the sugar too.

85g chocolate — we used 100g, a whole dark toblerone
1tbsp cocoa — not even sure it’s necessary, will skip next time
2 egg whites, whisked to soft peaks stage
50g greek yogurt — that’s not a lot, we added an extra tablespoon

Melt the chocolate over a bain marie, add cocoa powder. At this point the recipe said add a couple of tablespoons of boiling water to soften the chocolate. Argh! Adding water to melted chocolate makes it lumpy and solid. I had to rescue it using vegetable oil and a bit of egg yolk.

Add yogurt to chocolate mixture. Fold in egg whites. We tasted at this point and decided no sugar was needed. Leave in fridge to set.

The end result is definitely light, although still very chocolate-y. Can taste the slight sourness of the yogurt, in a pleasant but not overpowering way. Quite soft and doesn’t hold its shape that well — it’s fine in a glass but spooning it out on a plate for presentation will end up being chocolate milkshake. To make it more solid, may be add the egg yolks or whisk the egg whites to stiffer peaks? I want to add more yogurt but it’ll make it too sour. Hmm, more research needed.