Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Crispiest Apple Crisp, Ever? Ever!

Here is the apple crisp recipe that I teased yesterday, with the outrageous claim that it’s the crispiest apple crisp topping ever. Can I prove that fact? No, and that’s the beauty of such culinary hyperbole, no one can prove otherwise.

The secret ingredient, as identified by several astute observers yesterday, is Grape Nuts. This extremely crispy and crunchy breakfast cereal does some amazing things to your basic oatmeal-based fruit crisp topping mixture. I figured anything that can soak in milk for 10 minutes and still be crunchy, would work well.

Here is a link in case you are not familiar with this product, and if you can’t get any, don’t worry, you can just double the oatmeal, or add other things like chopped nuts, etc. Will it be as good? No, not even close.

By the way, in case you’re not sure, this is a dessert. It’s not a breakfast food, it’s not a healthy snack, it’s a sweet, buttery, deliciously crispy dessert. If you want healthy, slice some apples over a bowl of oatmeal, but if you want a semi-decadent after dinner treat, I hope you give this a try. Enjoy!

UPDATE: Some of you are having issues with your own "accidental apple candy," and while I joked about it in the clip, I should have been more clear about not cooking the sugar too much before adding the apples. You can add them pretty much right after the sugar goes in the pan to avoid this issue. The risk with that is too much water from the apples diluting the caramel sauce, but that's probably the lesser of two evils.

For the topping:
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup oatmeal (rolled oats)
1/2 cup Grape Nuts
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar

For the filling:
5-6 apples
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tbsp butter
1/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tbsp water
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Monday, February 27, 2012

Courgette polpette

My sisters and I grew up on a diet of fish fingers, beans, sausages, spaghetti bolognese, toast, scrambled egg, chips and boil in the bag cod with rice. My mother occasionally made a concession to our general education, by giving us Alphabites, with which we would construct rude words on our plates. We never had to eat vegetables or salad or anything we didn't want to, although it was always available.

Eventually we started eating that stuff of our own accord ,when we reached an age when we thought eating vegetables might make us thin and get rid of our spots. (Misguided of course. In order to be thin it doesn't matter what you eat, as long as you eat almost none of it, and in order to get rid of your spots you need some sort of pharmaceutical assistance.)

So I do not labour under a thing where I think Kitty ought to be eating a lot of fruit and vegetables. Do you even really NEED fruit and vegetables up until the age of about 12? I thought all babies and toddlers and small children need is carbohydrate and a bit of protein. That's all they want anyway. That and the food group known as CAKE.

Anyway it's a good thing I am very relaxed about all this, because Kitty doesn't want to eat any of that vegetable shit, thanks very much. She used to make a good fist of eating broccoli but now doesn't care for it much. From 8 months old onwards she has survived on about seven different kinds of spoonable stew that we make and freeze, mostly bean and animal fat-based.

And she has never, ever been interested in fruit. I must have placed a hundred different pieces of banana, apple, grape and clementine segment on her tray table only for her to discard them with various different disgusted faces. She did once put a piece of banana in her mouth, while mesmerised by one of her cousins - but I think she thought it was cheese.

Now she has reached a stage where she won't eat anything she hasn't eaten before. She will put it in her mouth but then hook it out with her forefinger with the word "Mmlair". Or simply open her little beak and let the food roll out.

The fact that you cannot bribe, cajole or otherwise force a pre-verbal toddler to eat something it doesn't want to is both frightening and liberating. She doesn't want it. There's nothing I can do except try again another time.

But even though I privately think that she can eat whatever the hell she wants, I must maintain a pretence in front of my husband and other middle-class people that I think she needs to eat vegetables.

So I purchased the River Cottage Babies and Toddlers Cookbook and set about making what I thought looked like a very tasty fingerfood, called Courgette Polpette.

They are really, really yummy and easy and I heartily recommend them as a delicious canape for your next soiree. Kitty hated them, obviously. But, thankfully, I don't give a fuck.

Courgette polpette

500g courgettes, finely diced
Grated zest of 1/2 a lemon
1 beaten egg
2 tbsp grated parmesan or pecorino
1/2 ball mozarella
50g breadcrumbs
1 tbsp chopped parsely
1 garlic clove, finely sliced or grated
salt and pepper

1 Heat some oil in a frying pan and fry the courgette over a medium flame for 10 minutes (time it) until they have taken a bit of colour and have collapsed just slightly

2 Allow to cool for as long as you can be bothered and then combine with all the other ingredients. The mixture will be quite wet and sticky

3 Form walnut-sized blobs and place on a greased baking sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes and serve to your baby with prosecco.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Oscar Party Snack Ideas! And the Winner is...

I have no problem waiting a year to watch feature films via my overpriced cable provider, but the major drawback is that I never have any clue what's gong on during the Academy Awards show. I won't get any of Billy Crystal's inside jokes, and the video clip montages will only serve to confuse and annoy. So, for people like me, the highlight of any Oscar party is the food. Here are a few ideas that should garner rave reviews. Enjoy!

Deviled Eggs with Candied Pepper Rings
Clams Casino Dip
Italian Rice Croquettes
Green Hummus
Bacon Ranch Chicken Skewers

Friday, February 24, 2012

Classic Chicken Noodle Soup – Thank Goodness We Had Roasted Chicken Broth Around!

In case you haven’t been following along, let me catch you up. On Wednesday we made a gorgeous roasted chicken broth for the expressed purpose of making this soul-warming soup. Here, we used that wonderfully flavorful broth to complete the recipe, and let me tell you, it was incredible.

You know how much I hate to complicate a recipe, and I'll always err on the side of too few ingredients vs. too many, so when I make this chicken noodle soup it’s a constant battle to not add other “stuff.”

Not that’s there’s anything wrong with stuff, per se, but if properly made, this soup is just too amazing in its pure and natural state for any distracting, supercilious additions. By the way, a little advice to you young up-and-coming food bloggers; never use “per se,” and “supercilious” in the same sentence.

Yes, other than the mirepoix, and a tiny pinch of fresh thyme, the rest of this soup is basically chicken and noodles. Speaking of the noodles, I’m hoping you go with the wide ones I used. I was only half-kidding about this soup being a meditation, and egg noodle wrestling is half the fun.

Like I said in the video, this will work with regular chicken stock, but if you do decide to make this, I sincerely hope you go ahead and make the roasted chicken broth first. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4-6 servings:
1 tbsp melted butter
1 tbsp rendered chicken fat
1/2 cup diced carrot
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced celery
1/4 tsp fresh thyme leaves or pinch of dried thyme
1 pound cooked chicken breast, cubed
4 oz dry wide egg noodles
cayenne, salt and black pepper to taste

Banana bread for Dory

I often, as you might guess, struggle to feel positive about stuff. Any small knock can send me spiralling into an unwashed, disconsolate, uninspired, make-up free bundle of nerves. In recent times, Kitty being ill has been a sure-fire way of me plummeting into despair. A tiny cough, a bout of teething, a sticky eye and I'm moping round the house with eye bags and dirty hair, snapping at my husband and refusing to do any washing up or laundry.

But recently, I've been fighting back. Kitty's been ill for about a week now. Started with a hacking cough, graduated to full-on fever, dull eyes, sporadic weeping (mainly at 3am) etc. It's been pretty tough. Our new plan of action is to have dinner eaten by 8pm and be in bed asleep by 9pm so that when 2/3am comes around and with it an hour or so of analgesic administration, cooing and soothing, we are prepared for it and not utterly fucked by 7am the next morning because we stayed up until 11pm watching Borgen.

My other plan of action is to get up the next morning, have a shower, wash my hair, put on fresh clothes and put my old ones in the wash. I make an effort to keep the house tidy, I try to make dinner every night, rather than barking "Let's just get a takeaway" at my husband.

It helps, it works. This illness, although with its persistent blubbery hacking cough, feverishness, sleeplessness and general horror, has been the longest and worst illness Kitty has had to date, hasn't sent me quite into the depths of despair that it would have done 6 months ago.

And so when the sun came out yesterday and I had a rush of blood to the head having smelled spring on the breeze, (like a demented Carwash in Will o' the Wisp), I decided to bake something.

I have been meaning for a long time to make a lot of things out of the Leon 2 cookbook, which is about baking and puddings. Recipe Rifle's very own pork pie is in there - with a picture and everything - on pages 284/5. And Henry, a friend of my husband's, who runs Leon, remarked the other day that I hadn't mentioned the cookbook once here. That's because I can't see what good it would do them and I'm staggered that he noticed, but still I took the hint.

And then Henry and his wife Jemima, who as coincidence would have it was my first ever boss, went and had a(nother) baby! Little Dorothy "Dory" Dilys Dimbleby. What a little peach she is. And my husband Giles is her godfather, which really means that I get to go absolutely bonkers with his credit card twice a year.

Let me tell you a story about my godfather. His name is Sir Douglass Wass and  he was, I think, my dad's boss when dad was a spy worked at the Treasury. The story goes that dad said to Sir Douglas when I was born "Will you be her godfather?" and Sir Douglas said "Oh I am very bad at that sort of thing but yes sure." And by then it was too late for dad to say "Oh forget it then you useless bastard." And as a result I heard absolutely hide nor hair from Sir Douglas. Ever. Never. Like, NEVER. But then I didn't actually have a christening so he may have been within his rights.

But it didn't stop me from thinking that it was something about me, something I'd done, that made him not especially interested in fulfilling his godfatherly duties. It left me feeling really quite shit about myself, seeing as my other sisters had perfectly normally functioning godparents. And next-eldest didn't have a wretched christening either.

So I can now, at last, lay a bad godparenting ghost to rest by being, via Giles, the world's best, most extravagant and mad godparent ever to Dory. I have started by purchasing a new hat for the christening.

And I am following this up with a banana bread baked in her honour. Yes I know it's more bananas, but I need the potassium, okay? And this banana bread is absolutely outstanding - much better than the other banana bread recipe on here. It is very banana-y, it's basically a lot of bananas held together with eggs and flour.

One of my favourite readers, Oraleek, just made the other banana bread, I note via my comments, and I feel very bad that she's been diddled out of making this one because I didn't post in time. But what can I say - life stinks.

Banana bread from the Leon 2 cookbook 

50g pecan nuts
150 veg oil
200g dark brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
350g ripe skinned bananas
75g natural yoghurt
1 tsp bicarb of soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
225g wholemeal spelt flour (yes they sell this in Waitrose)
1 extra banana, peeled
2 tbs caster sugar

1 Pre-heat your oven to 170C and butter a 2lb loaf tin and line it (YES you must do this, don't be lazy) and line a baking sheet, too.

2 Spread the pecans out over the baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 5 mins until golden and smelling yummy. you could probably also do this in a dry frying pan

3 In a bowl whisk together the oil, sugar, vanilla and eggs

4 In another bowl, roughly mash the bananas. I do mean roughly - you are going to stir them a lot later, so don't worry if there are very big lumps at this stage. Add the youghurt and mix together. Sprinkle over the bicarb of soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt and stir again.

5 Mix the banana mixture and the sugar/egg mixture together. Chop the pecans and chuck those in too. Then sprinkle over the flour and stir until things are only just combined. Over-mixing is disastrous here so I actually left about 15% of dried flour still visible, which resulted in some seams of flour left running through the cake. So be brave, but not too brave. Spoon the batter into your smugly lined tin.

6 Slice your spare banana down the middle and place one half on top of the batter, then sprinkle over the caster sugar. The banana half will sink into the mixture during cooking and look terrific. I advise you to eat the other half to get in the mood.

7 Bake for 45-50 mins.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Roasted Chicken Broth – Part 1 of The Ultimate Chicken Noodle Soup!

People throw around the word “ultimate” these days with total disregard for its actual meaning…and I’m no different. I was planning on posting my "ultimate" chicken noodle soup today, but then decided to show you a from-scratch roasted chicken broth first, which made the recipe too long for one single video.

So, we’ll finish this schmaltzy mini-series on Friday, and with all kidding aside, it really is the ultimate chicken noodle soup. And what makes it so much more ultimate than all the other ultimate chicken noodle soups is this deep, rich broth.

We’ve done classic chicken stock before, but this time we're roasting the chicken first, as well as using all of the dark meat to fortify the broth. By the way, it’s the meat addition that turns a “stock” into a “broth,” as stocks are made only using bones.

Regarding the ketchup addition, which will for some bizarre reason raise eyebrows (in particular, those bushy European ones). Sure, you can use a little real tomato, or tomato paste, but I really believe the ketchup is superior. I want those trace amounts of aromatic spice to be subtly present in the aroma as you sip on the broth.

Anyway, get your broth started, and you’ll be ready to complete this amazing soup on Friday. Stay tuned, and enjoy!

3 1/2 lb whole chicken (no innards)
2 tsp kosher salt for seasoning chicken skin
1 onion, quartered
1 rib celery, cut in pieces
3 cloves garlic, bruised slightly with flat of knife
1 tbsp ketchup
2 quarts cold water

Monday, February 20, 2012

Creole Crab & Corn Chowder – Let the Good Clichés Roll!

It’s so trite to say that something is only as good as the ingredients that go into it. Everyone knows that, right? It’s just common sense. Except, there I was, eating a very good bowl of crab and corn chowder that could have, should have, been very great; but it wasn’t because I didn’t remembered that old cliché.

As I mention numerous times in the video, this would ideally be made in the middle of summer, with ears of fresh, sweet-as-sugar corn. If that’s not seasonally possible (i.e., you’re doing a Mardi Gras themed recipe in winter), you can make a perfectly fine version using a premium-quality, extra-sweet, frozen corn. Or, you can do what I did.

I used an old bag of budget-brand corn I found in the freezer. The odd thing is, I’m not sure where it came from, or what it was purchased for. There are things like vodka and fair-trade coffee beans that somehow appear in my icebox as if placed there by invisible kitchen gremlins (btw, that would make a pretty cool name for a band), and I can only assume that’s how the corn got in there.

So, while I could have just walked two-blocks, and bought an expensive bag of something sweet and delicious, I instead went ahead and used a product that only a prison warden could love. The good news is that even with the almost-flavorless corn, this chowder was very good, so if you do as I say, and not as I clichéd, yours will certainly rock.

If you’re from New Orleans, I’d love to hear if they make anything similar to this. As I admit in the video, this is not my take on some iconic Creole recipe, but a simple soup inspired by those ingredients and style of cooking. Anyway, I hope you give it a try soon, and laissez le bon (corn) temps rouler!

2 tablespoon melted butter
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced bell pepper, or jalapeno, or combination of any sweet/hot peppers
1/2 cup diced celery
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay
1 1/2 tbsp flour
3 1/2 cup water or stock, divided (2 1/2 for the pot, and 1 cup for the blender)
1 pound sweet corn kernels, divided
2 cloves peeled garlic
8 oz fresh crab meat, divided
1/4 cup cream
1 tsp sweet Spanish paprika, or to taste
green onion to garnish

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Chocolate Soufflés with Nougat Whip (Warning: Intended for Mature Audiences)

Chocolate Soufflés with Nougat Whip Photo (c) SmithBites.com
My friend, Linda from Salty Seattle, called this Chocolate Soufflés with Nougat Whip video, “porn without people,” and I couldn’t agree more. The term “food porn” gets thrown around way too easily these days. Sorry, that picture of your red velvet cupcakes was nice, but it wasn’t really pornographic. This, however, could make you blush. By the way, the surface temperature of a blushing face is the exact temperature at which chocolate melts. Coincidence?

This semi-sweet tour-de-force is from Debra and Rod “The Professor” Smith, from SmithBites.com. I’m relatively new to their work, but quite impressed to say the least. I’m very proud Food Wishes helped pioneer the chef-less recipe video, but this is taking that idea to a whole other place – surreal and viscerally sensual, yet still comforting and familiar. Please follow this link to check out the original post, and see more of their fine work. Enjoy!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Garlic Shrimp – Not Necessarily In That Order

The great thing about posting a recipe as generic as “Garlic Shrimp,” is that nobody can complain it’s not authentic. If it has shrimp and enough garlic in it, it’s authentic. Above and beyond that, just about anything goes.

The only real debate revolves around whether to cook shrimp first, and then add the garlic; or sauté the garlic first, and then cook the shrimp. I’ve used and enjoyed both methods, but I think I prefer the one shown here.

If you cook the garlic first, it mellows out the flavor, and gives it a little sweeter aspect, but it also increases the risk of browning it too much, which is the only way to screw this up. Besides that, it prevents getting any kind of color on the seafood.

By searing the shrimp first, you’ll get some nice caramelization, which I think really adds to the depth of flavor. Speaking of flavor, I can’t believe I’m giving away my caper brine secret; but I decided it’s just too good to not share. The little splash of salty goodness does something that’s easier to taste than explain.

Anyway, if you like shrimp and LOVE garlic, I hope you give this fast and delicious recipe a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 2 large or 4 small portions:
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 pound shrimp
salt to taste
6 cloves garlic, minced fine
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tbsp cold butter, cut in 4 pieces
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp caper brine
1/3 cup chopped Italian parsley, divided
water as needed to thin sauce

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Banana on toast

My favourite time of day is between 8am and 11.15am. I can deal with the day from 7am if absolutely neccessary but any time before 7am is liable to make me depressed and anxious. Similarly, the hours between noon and 5pm can go and fuck themselves, as can any time after 11pm at night.

Similarly I love breakfast. Love, love, love. I could eat breakfast all day long. I go through great phrases of clinging loyalty to certain sorts of breakfast. For example, when I was on the Atkins diet I made myself bacon and eggs (no toast) every single morning. Then I decided that Just Right cereal was the thing. Then there was a couple of years when I would have marmalade on sourdough, every day. Then my weight-loss museli phase. Then for a while when Kitty was very small I would breakfast on Sudocrem and high anxiety. And now, with the smell of spring in the air and sunshine around the corner, I have seized upon bananas on toast and hot chocolate as being the very thing.

Meanwhile, let me tell you a really weird story. About four years ago I knew, very briefly, a girl called Olivia. We met at a bizarre dinner party, set up for the amusement of a Bajan millionaire, at which Olivia was pre-told to leave at 9.15pm so's to encourage everyone else to fuck off, too. But it didn't work and all that happened was that I hung about at the party for another hour, irritated that the only normal person had left. Then we met again at an annual Christmas party, where we stood in a corner and fell into the cautious but basically easy chatter of two redheads talking to each other.

(I often avoid other redheads. The best way I can explain it is because they know too much.)

She is the kind of redhead I so wish I was, is Olivia. Tall, slim, pale, with blue eyes and long elegant fingers. I have the ruddy cheeks of a farmer's son, a fat bum and the stumpy, picked-at dwarf-hands of a labourer. Not neccesssarily in a bad way - it has its merits and it's just a type - I just often wish I was the other type.

Anyway, the following year at the same Christmas party I looked around hopefully for Olivia. I asked people: where is she? Not there, not anywhere. She then published her debut novel, (an absolutely terrific book called The Trouble With Alice), and wrote an enigmatic piece in The Spectator. I emailed the email address she had divulged to me at the first Christmas party. Where was she? Was she alright? The email bounced back.

Then, 18 months later, as I was slumped over my iPad the other night there was an email - from Olivia. She had seen my blog. How was I? She, too, lives in North London. I emailed back, clumsily, from my iPad, in high fever. Where the hell had she been? We had much to talk about. We made a date for coffee.

The next day, Valentine's Day, in the midst of re-reading The Trouble With Alice, my head full of it all, I took a bus to Oxford Circus from Kentish Town. I looked up and down the street - surely Olivia would come pedalling past on her bicycle - it was that sort of day.

But she didn't. I ran my errands in town and turned down Maddox Street, in search of a Ryman's and there she was, after all, coming towards me. I was unsurprised about it, but still, it was the most amazing coincidence.

A lot of banana-eating goes on in Olivia's book, too. It is available on Kindle.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Classic Peanut Butter Cookies – These are to Chocolate Chips as Turkeys are to Eagles

This classic peanut butter cookie recipe has me thinking about something I saw on the history channel a few months ago, about how the bald eagle became our national bird, instead of the wild turkey.

While the regal eagle was the popular choice, many, including Benjamin Franklin, argued that the lesser attractive turkey was more deserving. Not only was it truly indigenous, but they also argued it was more courageous, and unlike the eagle, was not a lowly scavenger. Of course, we all know how that one turned out.

Now, I don’t think America has an official national cookie designation, but if it did, I bet you a Benjamin (see what I did there?) that the ever-popular chocolate chip would beat out peanut butter cookies for the honor. It would be eagle vs. turkey all over again.

Sure the chocolate chip is always popular, and more visually enticing, but when you compare the relative historical significance to American culture, the peanut far eclipses the chocolate chip. I mean, come on, is there even a “Mr. Chocolate Chip?” I don’t think so.

By the way, let me go ahead and answer the obvious question that’s probably on many of your minds right now… no, I don’t have anything more important to worry about. I hope you give this peanut butter cookie, America’s cookie, a try soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients (makes about 24):
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (or 1/4 tsp fine table salt)
1/2 teaspoons baking soda
*Bake at 375 degrees F. for 10 minutes

Monday, February 13, 2012

Valentine’s Day Carpaccio – A Meat Heart for Your Sweetheart!

I like carpaccio. My wife and Valentine, Michele, likes carpaccio. So for us, a heart-shaped version of this classic Italian beef salad seems nothing short of fabulous. Of course, I do understand that this isn’t for everyone. If you don’t like, or more likely, are afraid of rare meat, I don’t imagine you’ll be giving this a try.

That’s perfectly fine, and we’re all too busy to bother trying to convert you over to the red team. However, for people that do enjoy this classic dish, and realize that properly handled, high-quality beef is no more dangerous to eat raw than sushi, or a spinach salad, I think this would make for a creative, and visually arresting start to their Valentine’s Day dinner menu.

While this preparation is fairly classic, I do like to keep my beef a little bit thicker than is traditionally done. Most carpaccios are pounded very, very thin, but if you’re using a really nice piece of beef tenderloin, why smash it so flat? Since it’s naturally tender and buttery, I like it to keep a little bit of its texture, instead of being mashed too thin.

Another tip is to season the meat generously. The salt is very important here, almost as much as some kind of bracing salad tossed with a sharp, acidic dressing. By the way, just because I went with arugula and traditional lemon mustard dressing, doesn’t mean you can’t take this in other exotic directions.

I’ve enjoyed some great renditions over the years, including several which incorporated Asian ingredients into the mix. As usual, I’d love to hear about (and maybe see?) how you adapt this carpaccio to your own personal tastes. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 2 portions:
4-6 oz freshly trimmed, high-quality, beef tenderloin, sliced thin
1 cup baby arugula leaves
1 oz shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 tsp capers
For the dressing:
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of cayenne

Friday, February 10, 2012

Prosciutto-Wrapped Chicken Stuffed with Dried Cherries (Aphrodisiac-Amplifying Alcohol Sold Separately)

As I mention in the opening of the video, this stuffed, prosciutto-wrapped chicken breast has everything you want in a Valentine’s Day entrée; it looks fancy, it tastes amazing, and contains dried cherries, a known aphrodisiac.

Of course, the efficacy of aphrodisiacs has been hotly debated for centuries, and while I think that some foods can have this effect, it’s virtually impossible to prove as scientific fact. One challenge with objectively analyzing the libido-leavening effects of these substances is that they’re often served alongside copious amounts of alcohol.

Would eating two-dozen oysters still turn you on, if you didn’t down all that champagne with them? Does chocolate mousse have the same effect if not preceded by a bottle of wine? I guess we could do some experiments eating these foods without drinking, but to be honest, I’m really not curious enough to do something that extreme.

Anyway, whether this delicious stuffed and rolled chicken breast helps gives your Valentine the urge to merge, or not, no one will argue that it would still make for a beautiful and romantic meal. I hope you give it a try. Enjoy!

2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts
salt and pepper to taste
4 thin slices prosciutto

For the stuffing:
1/4 cup plain breadcrumbs
1/3 cup dried cherries, chopped
1 tsp freshly picked thyme leaves
1 tsp freshly minced oregano
2 cloves minced garlic
1 rounded tbsp finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 tsp olive oil
1 egg yolk
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of cayenne

For optional pan sauce:
3/4 cup chicken broth
1-2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp cold butter
salt and pepper to taste

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Pizza Sauce – Let’s Play ‘Hide the Little Fish’

I can assure you that the anchovies in this pizza sauce recipe are there for the subtle saltiness and unique savoriness they provide, and not just so you can tell your friend (the one who really hates anchovies) that they just ate some. Could it be for both? Sure.

This pizza sauce recipe represents a new and improved version of the one we posted way back in 2007. We snuck in some of the aforementioned fish, and we’re also using both fresh and dried oregano. I love this sauce. If there’s a tastier, all-purpose pizza sauce recipe out there, I haven’t tried it.

Convention wisdom says that great pizza is all about the crust. Which is certainly a huge factor, but if you were given the choice between a great crust topped with a bad sauce, and a grocery store crust made with a delicious, world-class sauce, which would you prefer?

Texture aside, no mater how they're combined, flour, water, and yeast can only taste so bad. But, a terrible sauce can actually make a slice of pizza inedible. I can’t remember ever not eating a piece of pizza because the crust was so awful, but I've given up after biting into an inferior sauce before.

Of course, around these parts the argument is completely academic since we’ve not only provided you with a plan for perfect sauce, but given you several great pizza dough recipes, like our famous no-knead pizza dough, as well as the venerable Wolfgang Puck California-style dough recipe. I hope you make pizza soon. Enjoy!

Ingredients (makes about 3 cups):
3 tbsp olive oil
2 anchovy filets
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp chopped fresh oregano
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes, or to taste
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1 can (28 oz) whole peeled “San Marzano” tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp sugar
very small pinch baking soda

Potatoes boulangere

Ok I'm back. Boiler fixed. Norovirus gone. House tidy. Admin mostly done.

Things not done:

Car still dirty...
...and messy
Desk and general working area an absolute tip
No food in the house
Kitty's tea-stained pyjamas still in a bowl of water and not been through washing machine

BUT I do have here for you a really great idea for potatoes (even though anything with potatoes is just super). It's called potatoes boulangere and I'm sure there are all sorts of smartarses out there who know all about it already, but for those who don't, it's like a non-gloopy/heart attack potato dauphinoise. A real crowd-pleaser. (Is that a totally wankerish phrase or not? I can't decide.)

My husband's friend Jim did this for us the other day and he said he did it like this:

Slice up a lot of potatoes and onions. Arrange them flatly in a baking dish and pour over some good chicken stock until the potatoes are just covered. Add a lot of salt and pepper. Then put in the oven at 180C for 2.5 hours. On the rack above the potatoes put a joint of meat, if you are having one. As the meat cooks, the fat will drip down on to the potatoes.

It was GREAT. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to go and enjoy life before the next ghastly thing happens.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Chorizo and bean soup stew by EmFrid

Nigel Slater’s Chorizo and Bean soup stew

SNOW! Proper. Snow. It has settled and everything! I love snow. It takes me back to of winters of yore (ok, the mid to late eighties) when we lived on a remote farm and got snowed in every winter. Back then every single Christmas was white, godammit, and my parents used to strap Viktor, the piebald Shetland pony impulse-bought by my dad from a circus, to a small sled for Santa to use on his rounds before coming to us with presents. Incidentally, given that he is covered from top to toe in bad tattoos, it’s a testament to my dad’s amazing ability for disguises that it took me until I was nine years old to figure out it was him behind the beard. It was a soul destroying discovery.

Snow is also one of the main reasons behind my relentless Let’s Move Back to Sweden! campaign (besides, you know, the schnapps, the strong economy, the virtually free childcare, the exceedingly generous maternity leave and the schnapps). “Goblin and Troll the Foetus ought to experience proper seasons and white Christmases just like I did!” I wail forlornly. My other half, having grown up in the damp West Country and being equipped with the view that snow is merely an obstacle to overcome during his Very Important Commute, just shrugs cruelly.

ANYWAY, the point that I wanted to make is that the thing with snow and cold weather in general is that it provides an excellent excuse - should you need one - for warming, comforting one pot meals with lots of flavour. Such as this Spanish inspired chorizo and bean stew, by Nigel Slater. It really is lovely, and it’s everything I want out of a dinner when it’s delightfully cold outside. It’s also, once you are done arsing about with all the chopping, very easy to make. If I say one thing it’s don’t leave out the orange peel or the fennel seeds (unless you absolutely can’t stand fennel, you weird, weird person) as it marries beautifully with the smoked paprika flavour of the chorizo and in my frankly grossly unprofessional opinion makes the dish. Do as I say!

Oh, and Nigel refers to this as a “soup”. Hey Nige? It’s a stew, man. It’s a stew.

For about four people you will need:
2 onions - chopped.
3 or so garlic cloves – thinly sliced or just squeezed through a garlic press. Why faff?
2 carrots – chopped.
A rib of celery (that’s a stick of celery to you and me) – chopped.
A tablespoon fresh oregano though I used dry, as I don’t habitually have fresh oregano knocking about in winter
Chorizo – about 400g or however much or little you want, cut into bite sized chunks. I use Unearthed’s cooking chorizo, but this will work well with whatever chorizo you have to hand.
Fennel seeds – Nigel says a pinch but I use a lot more because I love fennel, and I really think it adds to the dish.
3-4 strips of orange zest.
A glass of dry sherry (or white wine, which I used, though I prefer sherry for sherry is the nectar of the gods – I just didn’t have any at home).
5-6 tomatoes – chopped. I (along with Nigel in this instance) don’t bother with the whole peel ‘n’ deseed business, but if you’re feeling less barbaric go ahead and do it.
2 tins of cannellini beans – drained.

Do like so:

1 Heat some oil in a deep pan. Moderate heat. Cook the onion until it starts to soften. Add garlic, carrot and celery, then leave to cook until the onion is golden and soft. Stir in the oregano.

2. Add the chorizo along with the crushed chillies, fennel seeds and strips of orange zest. Cook until the chorizo starts to release its juices to coat the veg. This is delicious and a Very Good Thing. Throw in your glass of sherry/white wine/vermouth and reduce down a bit.

3. Once reduced add your chopped tomatoes, beans and some fresh water – about a canful. Season well with salt and pepper, bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer and leave to slowly cook half covered by a lid, for about 45 minutes.

4. Before serving sprinkle with some chopped parsley and maybe some grated orange zest.

We had this with warm sundried tomato rolls which I made by mixing some sundried tomatoes with the ingredients for a basic white dough and then employing my trusty old bread maker. Bread makers are magic! Eat this while looking out the window at all that pretty, PRETTY snow, feeling warm and cosy and smug that you’re not actually outside in it. Because it’s cold. And wet. And the little shits from next door will chuck snowballs mixed with pebbles right at your neck the second you step outside. You know they will.

Life stoves my head in

I am writing this in my mother's kitchen, trying to make sense of the appalling practical mess I find myself in.

It started with my nanny's deciding to go back to her native St Lucia for 2 months, which in the run-up neccessitated all sorts of days off in which to tend to the personal admin that goes with leaving the country for two months. My cleaner, the beautiful and humorous M-, who is taking over from the nanny, was due to start her nannying duties when Kitty got norovirus. Then I got norovirus. Then just as the snow came down, our boiler finally gave out and I screamed and screamed until the boiler man agreed to come first thing on Monday morning to give us a new one.

So, reeling from 10 hours of vomiting, on Monday morning, I packed up the gargantuan volumes of cack required to spend two days away from home with a one year old and drove through the snow to my mother's house. I haven't got my diary. I've got no fucking idea what's going on. I can't find anything in my mother's house and my mobile phone battery is running out. I also forgot to pack spare pants and am wearing yesterday's. My hands are horrifyingly cracked, dried-out, bleedy and picked-at from the endless hand-washing and anxiety-picking that goes with two bouts of noro and being too distracted to find the hand moisturiser.

What else? Oh yes, the endless slew of crap and paperwork that goes with a minor amount of building work we are having done later on this year. The ghostly images in my head of some really scary things lurking in the back of the fridge and the larder. The horrifying thought of having to pack up and move out of the house for two months while our building work happens.

At the very least, Kitty is going through one of her fortnight-long phases of being totally delightful before she decides that being "challenging" is more interesting. Small mercies.

To cut a long story short: no cooking. But I leave you in the more than capable hands of EmFrid, who is about to tell you all about a bean and chorizo stew, any minute now.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Tiramisu Chocolate Mousse – Pick’em Up and Lay’em Down

Most foodies know that Tiramisu is a decadent dessert featuring coffee soaked ladyfingers layered with a zabaione and mascarpone, but what many people don’t know is that the recipe’s name is one of the best culinary double entendres ever.

“Tiramisu” translates to "pick me up." Considering that this popular Italian dessert is spiked with proven mood-elevators such as coffee, cocoa, sugar, and alcohol, the name seems to fit perfectly. But wait, there’s more.

As legend has it, tiramisu was a popular snack with the “working girls” of northern Italy, where the dessert originated. So, not only does "pick me up" refer metaphorically to the obvious restorative effects of the dessert, but also more literally to the solicitation of another customer.

Which brings us to this upcoming Valentine’s Day. Not only would this make for a very happy ending for your V-Day meal, but think about the stimulating conversation that could follow when you recount this racy tale.

Anyway, even if you don’t end up talking about Italian prostitutes over dessert, if you’re a fan of chocolate mousse, and you enjoy a good "pick me up," you can’t go wrong with this deliciously decadent, yet still fairly light dessert. Enjoy!

Ingredients for 4 portions:
3.5 oz dark chocolate, broken into small pieces
2 tbsp espresso coffee, or strong regular coffee
1 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp Marsala wine (may sub with rum, or omit)
2 egg yolks
4 tsp sugar
2 tbsp mascarpone cheese
3/4 cup heavy cream, whipped

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Super Bowls of Cabbage Rolls

I wanted to wish you all a fun, festive, and very delicious Super Bowl Sunday! I’ll be watching the game with the in-laws, and if you’re wondering what we’re going to be eating, you may be surprised. There will be no Buffalo wings, no nacho cheese, and no baby back ribs.

I’m so tired of football food, having produced all these recent Super Bowl-inspired videos, that I made a batch of cabbage rolls using this very popular, previously posted recipe. Hey, they are football shaped after all. 

I didn’t re-shoot the recipe, but I did snap a couple cell shots that I posted to Instagram (don't worry, they're better the next day...the cabbage rolls, not the photos). Enjoy the game, and GO GIANTS!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Quick Pickled Jalapeno Rings – I Hear These are Great on Nachos!

Unlike nacho cheese sauce, the nutritional label on a jar of pickled jalapenos isn’t very scary at all, so you can’t use that as an excuse when your non-foodie friends start making fun of you for having too much time on your hands. Nope, you’ll just have to fess up to making these pickled jalapeno rings for the simple reason that you knew how.

While these are a no-brainer topping for your nachos, the fun doesn’t stop there. These make any sandwich more special, and any salad less snoozy. It would be faster to list things that this wouldn’t make more delicious.

As I mention in the video, these are intended to be used relatively soon after making, but they will last for a while in the fridge. You don’t have to be too worried about getting sick, as not much bad happens in a brine, but eventually they start to break down, especially if you slice them thin. Having said that, if you enjoy these as much as I do, they won’t be around very long anyway. Enjoy!

Please note: recipe below makes enough for two (8-oz) jars of peppers. I only pickled enough peppers for one jar, and saved the rest of the brine for something else.

10 large jalapeno peppers, sliced
3 tbsp sugar (I like these kind of sweet, so use less or no sugar if you don’t)
3/4 cup white distilled vinegar
3/4 cup water
1 tbsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp oregano
1 clove garlic

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Homemade Nacho Cheese Sauce – Sure it’s Harder, But at Least it’s More Expensive!

Unlike most of the videos I post, this nacho cheese sauce recipe is not cheaper and easier to make at home. In fact, you could probably get a gallon of that industrial strength lubricant that passes for cheese sauce at the grocery store for the same cost as a single batch of this, but what you lose in cost and quantity, you more than make up for in actual food content.

I’m not really that militant about insisting people read nutritional labels. I mean, who has the time? But just for fun, the next time you’re in the processed foods aisle (if those are still legal where you live) check out the back of a nacho cheese sauce. Pretty frightening.

However, while we’re going to use real, honest-to-goodness cheese in this, we still want to mimic some of the other more desirable characteristics of that day-glow yellow cheese syrup they pump on your chips at the movies.

We want the same thin, slightly runny viscosity, so that the sauce seeps down and around all the chips on your plate. It’s a total rookie mistake to make a nacho cheese sauce too thick, since as soon as it hits the chips it tightens up considerably, and you end up with a lump of cheese, and some serious sauce-to-chip ratio issues. Even at room temp, this sauce remains fairly fluid.

As you’ll see, I used Jack, Muenster, and white cheddar cheese for mine, which gave me a pale, yet pleasantly-colored sauce, but if you want something a little “brighter,” then go with the classic orange cheddar instead. Contrary to popular believe, orange cheese is not artificially colored, and uses annatto seed to produce that iconic hue.

Anyway, if you planning on having a nacho cheese sauce involved in your Super Bowl party plans, and you really should, I hope you give this a try. By the way, I’ll show you how to do some quick-pickled jalapeno rings in a video Friday, so stay tuned for that. Enjoy!

Ingredients (makes about 5 cups of sauce):
1/4 cup melted butter
3 tbsp plus 1 tsp all-purpose flour
3 cups cold milk
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 tsp chipotle pepper
1/4 tsp ancho chili powder
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 lb sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1/4 lb Monterey Jack cheese, grated
1/4 lb Muenster cheese, grated