Saturday, 29 October 2011

Moroccan Spiced Pumpkin and Orange Soup

This is one of the best soups I've had in a while. Make your day, make your week even and try this soup! It'll add sunshine and warmth, lustrous beard growth for all. Ok perhaps not the last one, but who knows?!
Simply take one pumpkin...

Friday, 28 October 2011

Halloween: Skulls and Brains

 Another one for the kids - reverse skulls, I suppose you could call them. With the gooey jelly part on the outside and a nest of bony skull tucked inside. These were so easy to make, but came out of frustration at trying to make white chocolate skulls, that just would not come out of the mould. Although I did improvise with the mould, using a Halloween skull decoration that I hacksawed in half! So it was on to the jelly which was a lot easier to prise from the depths of old skully's head. 

For the jelly, I use vegetarian jelly crystals, made by Just Wholefoods. You can find them in health food shops if you would like to avoid actual bones in your food, normally pigs or cows. Although this jelly doesn't have quite a depth of flavour as regular jelly so you could add some fruit squash, to enhance it. 

Just add boiling water to your jelly crystals, stir and pour into the moulds.

For the meringue, I use Delia's  method for perfect meringues, although with no caster sugar to hand, I substituted demerara sugar instead, which gave it a more caramel colour which was more authentically bone like I would say! 

When the skulls are set, scoop out a little of the brains part and fill with pieces of broken meringue. Really easy to do and looks great. 

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Halloween: Witch's Fingers


So it's that time of year again, when witches ghosts and zombies are on the loose. Luckily I managed to capture a witch before she could cast a spell on the mama deer household, and off with her fingers! They just so happened to be quite tasty, what a lucky coincidence. 

For the biscuits, I used a Linda McCartney recipe for chocolate crescents as she called them. As follows:

140g plain flour
50g unrefined caster sugar
pinch of sea salt
85g butter
50g milk chocolate, grated
1-2 tbsp milk

In a large bowl, sift the flour, sugar and salt together. Rub in the butter and work it with your fingers until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add the chocolate and continue to work the mixture until it forms a  smooth dough, adding a little milk if necessary. 

Roll out the dough thinly on a floured surface and cut it into the desired shapes. Bake on a greased baking tray at 160C for 18-20 mins. Allow to cool on a wire rack. 

This is quite a simple and easy recipe to work with, perfect to do with kids. However, I found the "dough" did not come together with 1-2 tbsps of milk, I reckon I needed maybe 5 or 6 to get it into a dough I could work with.When it does come together, its quite sticky, wet and messy. 

When the biscuits were ready, I let them cool, while melting some Green and Blacks white chocolate in a double boiler. I found working with white chocolate a little more difficult than regular milk. To melt, I brought the water to a boil, before turning to a low heat. The chocolate needs to be stirred constantly to bring it to a melting state. Make sure no moisture gets into it, or it will seize up into a claggy mess. If this does happen, it can be rescued by adding a tsp of sunflower oil at a time while constantly stirring. When I finally got to a molten chocolate lake in a bowl, dipped in my biscuits and then transferred to the fridge to chill. 

Finally for the blood and knobbly knuckles look, I mashed up some blackberries in a bowl and drizzled over, along with some of the juice. The white chocolate and the blackberries, go really well together, the tartness of the berries cuts through the sweetness of the white chocolate.

These are a little messy to make, so kids will love them! They also have the gross out factor, another bonus as kids grind away on the crunchy biscuits like old bones and blood. Happy Halloween!

Monday, 17 October 2011

That's how it's...spelt

The perfect accompaniment to some tea, or now the weather is turning a little colder, a hearty bowl of soup, is an equally robust bread. So a couple of days ago, I turned my hand to making some spelt bread.This reminds me of the type of thing we would eat in my grandmothers on a winters day with everyone chatting around the fire. This is proper comfort food. Also spelt grains have more nutritional value than regular old wheat so it's good to get those nutrients any way you can! You could vary the recipe and add nuts, seeds or honey, as you prefer.

Here's my recipe for spelt bread

500g spelt flour
10g dried yeast
1 tsp salt
400ml warm water
40g sesame seeds
40g linseeds
1 tbsp olive oil

Add the flour to the mixing bowl, then the yeast on one side and the salt on the other as the salt can kill the yeast and stop it doing its job. Next pour in the seeds.

Add the water a little at a time, incorporating it into the dough and folding it as you go. Mix until you almost have incorporated everything, but just before, add the olive oil. Continue to mix. I found this quite a wet dough, but knead for 5-10 mins, on a floured surface.

Transfer to a bowl, cover and allow to rise for approx 30 mins. You may want to bake in a loaf tin, but since I didn't have one handy, I simply transferred to a baking tray covered with floured baking paper. I then shaped them into circular loaf shapes. 

Bake in the oven at 200C for 50-60 mins. You can check if it's ready by tapping the underside of the loaf with a clean knife, to see if it sounds hollow. If it does, its good eatin'! Serve with some good quality butter, preferably organic or some fruity strawberry or blackberry jam for breakfast.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Potato S.O.S

On another watery, grey October evening here in Dublin, I was hankering after some Spanish flavours to brighten things up. The plan was to try to make my own version of patatas bravas. But somehow the weather had seeped into the potatoes and they just weren't cooperating. I had them on the stove to par boil them before frying, but after just 10 minutes the kerrs pinks were taking on water fast! Any hope of frying them was long gone as they descended  into mash quicker than channel 4 can make new food programmes.

But not all hope was lost, I thought maybe we could save these tubers with a hint of Spain still intact. So instead we got Spanish smash!

5 potatoes, peeled and chopped
lug of olive oil
half tin of chopped tomatoes
half tsp of smoked paprika, add more to taste
pinch of salt

Put the potatoes into salted water and bring to the boil before reducing to a simmer for approximately 10 minutes. Drain the potatoes and rinse.

Add a lug of olive oil to a pot and tip in the potatoes, and start to mash. While they are still lumpy add the tomatoes, paprika and salt. Mash again to remove any lumps and thoroughly combine all the ingredients. Then start to whisk the potatoes until they have smooth, silky texture.

I served them here with a spinach salad with a simple lemon vinaigrette and some Parmesan crisps for added crunch.

To make the Parmesan crisps, simply spread some grated Parmesan on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Arrange the cheese into a circular shape and place in the oven at 190C for 10-15 minutes.

The flavours all worked really well together.The sweet tartness of the tomatoes with the smoky paprika coming through really bounced off the zing from the lemon and the depth of the Parmesan. A job well done saving them from a watery doom!

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Sticky Figgy Mess

I'm on the hunt for the ultimate breakfast. I've grown tired of cereals and pastries.While tasty and I'll admit that sometimes they are the only thing that will hit the spot. Oh the buttery flakiness of a fresh, hot croissant on a wintery morning. But for now I'm after something different. Breakfasts are often the poor, neglected meal of the day. A limp slice of white toast while running out the door or maybe just some coffee, they could often do with being livened up. So while rummaging through the cupboards this morning searching for the thing that would satisfy the morning monster, my eyes alighted on the figs I'd bought last week. They have an almost jewel like quality that drew me in!

It didn't take long to have a deliciously gooey mess of figs with slight hints of crack in the caramel that had turned a sumptuous crimson colour. It was so easy to make, even while stumbling around a dark kitchen in the depths of Winter, it would be a great alternative to porridge with flavours to make you happy for the day!

3 figs, sliced
8 tbsp demerara sugar
juice of half of a lemon
1 tbsp cinnamon

Slice off the nibs at the top of the figs and cut into sections. Arrange them evenly in an ovenproof dish.
Sprinkle over the sugar so that the figs are all well covered. Add in the lemon juice and finally the cinnamon.
Mix thoroughly to coat the figs completely. Pop in the oven for approximately 20 mins at 200C, taking them  out halfway through to swirl the caramel around in the dish. Don't stir the caramel or it will become claggy. Et voila, beautifully jammy, sticky, messy figs.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Tangelo, Pomelo, Hello or Oh no?

When I sent the boyfriend off to the shop the other day to pick up some fruit and veg, I asked for some oranges to make carrot and orange fritters. What he came back with were clementines with what  I would describe as nipples! I was intrigued. A quick google lead me to find that they were actually tangelos, I've never seen them in shops before, but on peeling them I learnt that the boyfriend had found some little gems! Apparently they're a hybrid of a tangerine and a pomelo or a grapefruit. Well let me say those two parents hit it off and produced a beautiful baby! Tangelos are much easier to peel than an orange and they're quite sweet, with lots of juice and a soft, pulpy flesh. They went great in the fritters and didn't have an overpowering taste. Definitely hello, hello!

Then about a week later, I was doing food shopping and they had pomelos on sale. Being in an adventurous mood, I thought what the heck and threw it into the basket. A few days later I ventured to try this fruit that looked like a pear on steroids. I had to hack through the tough rind to get to the fruit inside. It had a pleasant, citrus smell and a pale yellow flesh, not bright like a lemon, more like a cloudy lemon. On taking a bite, first I got apple flavours, then pear, then grapefruit. Like one of Willy Wonka's inventions, except he needs to work on the last one that really lingers in the mouth. I'm not a fan of grapefruit, so I'm probably biased. Here's the pomelo with pear for an idea of size.

I tried to use up the pomelo, thinking if I put it under the grill with some sugar, but somehow the heat and sugar only seemed to intensify the grapefruit-y flavour. So sadly it had to be disposed of quietly and quickly! So for me it's pomelo - oh no! But it was nice to try some new fruits and I'll be on the hunt for more.
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