Friday, 28 January 2011

Fresh From The Oven 3 - Jan 2011 - Khrushchev Dough.

A Russian recipe this month from Silvia and Ivan from Mushitza (a very beautiful and stylish blog!).
They tell us that this was the favourite dough recipe of the Russian leader Nikita Khrushchev.  It is a very versatile dough and Silvia and Ivan gave us free rein to do with it what we liked.  I decided to simply fill my rolls with peanut butter and Nutella as I knew my husband and boys would appreciate this for their breakfasts.  However, I have since seen other members of the group do amazing things with cheese, garlic and herbs, jam and a whole host of other ideas so I am inspired to do something different next time.  Certainly I think making these into little garlic rolls to serve with pasta or soup would be perfect.

Recipe - 

Ingredients - 
40g fresh yeast (or 10g powdered dry yeast and 30ml water)
10g salt
250ml cold milk, directly from fridge
150g unsalted butter, cut into cubes, room temperature (NOT melted)
1 tbsp sugar
500g plain flour (and extra for counter)

Method - 
1. If using fresh yeast: use an ordinary tablespoon to rub the salt through the yeast block until it becomes liquid.  If using dry yeast: mix salt and dry yeast then add the water.
2. Add in the milk, butter, sugar and sift the flour on top.
3. Mix with an electric mixer equipped with dough hook until all the ingredients are combined and a soft dough forms.
4. Cover the bowl with an air tight lid or cling film and place in the fridge overnight.
5. The next morning, dust the counter with flour, place the dough on top, roll it out and shape it as you like. (The dough will be stiff since the butter goes firm in the fridge but work with it straight form the fridge).
6. Preheat the oven to 180C/GM 4.
7. To make the rolls as above, roll out to a 3mm thick rectangle.  Place your filling (I used a tsp of peanut butter and one of Nutella) onto the dough and roll up to tight rolls. 

8. Arrange them in a baking pan leaving some space between them.
9. Brush the tops with a mixture of egg yolk, a few drops of water and a few drops of vegetable oil. (I also sprinkled mine with flaked almonds which gave a lovely crunchy texture and an extra flavour.) 
10. Bake for around 15 minutes or until golden brown.

The dough can also be used to make many other treats - baked or fried.  Like doughnuts, sweet or savoury rolls, pizza or pirozhki (Russian small stuffed rolls - filling ideas - stewed fruit, mushroom, onion and rice, etc).  For more information take a look at the round up that will go up shortly on the Fresh From The Oven site.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Daring Bakers' Challenge No. 3 - Jan 2011 - Biscuit Joconde Imprime/Entremet.

Oh wow - you really have to go the Daring Kitchen Home Page and look at the gallery of photos of all the entremets made by the daring bakers this month.  So many stunningly creative ideas and beautifully presented desserts.

The January 2011 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Astheroshe of blog Accro.  She chose to challenge everyone to make a Biscuit Joconde Imprime to wrap around an Entremets dessert.

Well, this was a challenge too far for me, I'm afraid.  I am not patient enough or precise enough and with the kids running around getting bored of me fickering with my sponges, mousses and jellies, I ended up with a bit of a failure.  However, I am impressed with myself for giving it ago after my initial reaction was to have this month off and I have also learned loads from my mistakes this time round which may mean I might pluck up the courage to have another go!

I decided to do a chocolate orange concoction and so started off with making the Joconde Imprime with a chocolate design. I wanted to do the boys' names so I started by having to draw them backwards with the chocolate Joconde-decor paste.

I froze this then spread over the joconde sponge layer and put in the oven.  Mistake number one - I used a flat baking sheet with no sides and the sponge mixture started to slide off the side of the baking sheet in the oven until it set in the heat.  I therefore ended up with the first parts of the names looking okay and the ends just being a mushy mess.  Hee hee.  It's okay - my kids can't read anyway.

I can see, though, that the contrast between the chocolate decor paste and the plain sponge is really effective.  If I try this again, though, I would like to do something in colour - some of the bakers did absolutely stunning designs with beautiful, bright colours - really impressive.

I then layered up my entremet with layers of chocolate sponge (just used Delia's basic sponge recipe), a milk chocolate mousse and a white chocolate orange mousse.

I then got to my next mistake which was the jelly but by this point I wasn't really caring that much anymore.  The first jelly I left to set too long and found it solid and we were getting to the end of the day when the kids were playing up and I get stressed on a normal day.  So, the next time I did it, I knew it wasn't set enough but I poured it in anyway, and of course it just soaked through the sponge and out the bottom of the cake pan.

So, all in all, this is not a beautiful dessert but it is a great lesson - I think I could do much better next time.

Recipe - 

Joconde imprime /entremets. A joconde imprime (French Baking term) is a decorative design baked into a light sponge cake providing an elegant finish to desserts/torts/entremets/ formed in ring molds.

A joconde batter is used because it bakes into a moist, flexible cake. The cake batter may be tinted or marbleized for a further decorative effect.

This Joconde/spongecake requires attentive baking so that it remains flexible to easily conform to the molds. If under baked it will stick to the baking mat. It over baked it will dry out and crack. Once cooled, the sponge may be cut into strips to line any shape ring mold.

Entremets (French baking term)- an ornate dessert with many different layers of cake and pastry creams in a mold, usually served cold. Think Trifle in a mold vs. a glass bowl.

A joconde imprime is the outside cake wrapper of the Entremets dessert.

Read through the whole recipe first. This looks more difficult than it is. Very simple ingredients. The baking and execution is the challenge - the assembly can be the most time consuming.

Joconde Sponge
YIELD: Two 1⁄2 size sheet pans or a 13” x 18” (33 x 46 cm) jelly roll pan
3⁄4 cup/ 180 ml/ 3oz/ 85g almond flour/meal - *You can also use hazelnut flour, just omit the butter
1⁄2 cup plus 2 tablespoons/ 150 ml/ 22⁄3 oz/ 75g confectioners' (icing) sugar
1⁄4 cup/ 60 ml/ 1 oz/ 25g cake flour (I just used plain)           
3 large eggs - about 51⁄3 oz/ 150g
3 large egg whites - about 3 oz/ 90g
21⁄2 teaspoons/ 121⁄2 ml/ 1⁄3 oz/ 10g white granulated sugar or superfine (caster) sugar
2 tablespoons/ 30 ml/ 1oz / 30g unsalted butter, melted

1.            In a clean mixing bowl whip the egg whites and white granulated sugar to firm, glossy peeks. Reserve in a separate clean bowl to use later.
2.            Sift almond flour, confectioner’s sugar, cake flour. (This can be done into your dirty egg white bowl)
3.            On medium speed, add the eggs a little at a time. Mix well after each addition. Mix until smooth and
light. (If using a stand mixer use blade attachment. If hand held a whisk attachment is fine, or by hand. )
4.            Fold in one third reserved whipped egg whites to almond mixture to lighten the batter. Fold in
remaining whipped egg whites. Do not over mix.
5.            Fold in melted butter.
6.            Reserve batter to be used later.

Patterned Joconde-Décor Paste
YIELD: Two 1⁄2 size sheet pans or a 13” x 18” (33 x 46 cm) jelly roll pan
Ingredients (Should halve this recipe next time)

14 tablespoons/ 210ml/ 7oz/ 200g unsalted butter, softened
11⁄2 cups plus11⁄2 tablespoons/ 385ml/ 7oz/ 200g Confectioners' (icing) sugar
7 large egg whites - about 7 oz / 200g
13⁄4 cup/ 420ml/ 73⁄4 oz/ 220g cake flour (or use plain flour)
Food coloring gel, paste or liquid

COCOA Décor Paste Variation: Reduce cake flour to 6 oz / 170g. Add 2 oz/ 60 g cocoa powder. Sift the flour and cocoa powder together before adding to creamed mixture.

1.                  Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy (use stand mixer with blade, hand held mixer, or by hand)
2.                  Gradually add egg whites. Beat continuously.
3.                  Fold in sifted flour.
4.                  Tint batter with coloring to desired color, if not making cocoa variation.

Preparing the Joconde- How to make the pattern:
1.                  Spread a thin even layer of décor paste approximately 1/4 inch (5 millimeter) thick onto silicone baking mat with a spatula, or flat knife. Place mat on an upside down baking sheet. The upside down sheet makes spreading easier with no lip from the pan.
2.                  Pattern the décor paste – Here is where you can be creative. Make horizontal /vertical lines (you can use a knife, spatula, cake/pastry comb). Squiggles with your fingers, zig zags, wood grains. Be creative whatever you have at home to make a design can be used. OR use a piping bag. Pipe letters, or polka dots, or a piped design. If you do not have a piping bag. Fill a ziplock bag and snip off corner for a homemade version of one.
3.                  Slide the baking sheet with paste into the freezer. Freeze hard. Approx 15 minutes.
4.                  Remove from freezer. Quickly pour the Joconde batter over the design. Spread evenly to completely cover the pattern of the Décor paste.
5.                  Bake at 475oF /250oC until the joconde bounces back when slightly pressed, approx. 15 minutes. You can bake it as is on the upside down pan. Yes, it is a very quick bake, so watch carefully.
6.                  Cool. Do not leave too long, or you will have difficulty removing it from mat. 7.            Flip cooled cake on to a powdered sugared parchment paper. Remove silpat. Cake should be right side up, and
pattern showing! (The powdered sugar helps the cake from sticking when cutting.)

Preparing the MOLD for entremets
You can use any type of mold. I would suggest:
1.                  Start with a large piece of parchment paper laid on a very flat baking sheet. Then a large piece of cling wrap over the parchment paper. Place a spring form pan ring, with the base removed, over the cling wrap and pull the cling wrap tightly up on the outside of the mold. Line the inside of the ring with a curled piece of parchment paper overlapping top edge by 1⁄2 inch. CUT the parchment paper to the TOP OF THE MOLD. It will be easier to smooth the top of the cake.
2.                  A biscuit cutter/ cookie cutter- using cling wrap pulled tightly as the base and the cling covering the outside of the mold, placed on a parchment lined very flat baking sheet. Line the inside with a curled piece of parchment paper overlapping.
3.                  Cut PVC pipe from your local hardware store. Very cheap! These can be cut into any height you wish to make a mold. 2 to 3 inches is good. My store will cut them for me, ask an employee at your store. You can get several for matching individual desserts. Cling wrap and parchment line, as outlined above.
4.                  Glass Trifle bowl. You will not have a free standing dessert, but you will have a nice pattern to see your joconde for this layered dessert.

Preparing the Jaconde for Molding:
1.            Trim the cake of any dark crispy edges. You should have a nice rectangle shape.
2.            Decide how thick you want your “Joconde wrapper”. Traditionally, it is 1⁄2 the height of your mold.
This is done so more layers of the plated dessert can be shown. However, you can make it the full
3.            Once your height is measured, then you can cut the cake into equal strips, of height and length. (Use a
very sharp paring knife and ruler.)
4.            Make sure your strips are cut cleanly and ends are cut perfectly straight. Press the cake strips inside of the mold, decorative side facing out. Once wrapped inside the mold, overlap your ends slightly. You want your Joconde to fit very tightly pressed up to the sides of the mold. Then gently push and press the ends to meet together to make a seamless cake. The cake is very flexible so you can push it into place. You can use more than one piece to “wrap “your mold, if one cut piece is not long enough.
5.            The mold is done, and ready to fill.
*Note: If not ready to use. Lay cake kept whole or already cut into strips, on a flat surface, wrap in parchment and several layers of cling wrap and freeze.

Entremet- Filling Options:
It is nice to have a completed dessert so you can unmold and see the Joconde working. Fill with anything you desire. Layers of different flavors and textures! However, it needs to be something cold that will not fall apart when unmolded.
Mousses, pastry creams, Bavarian creams, cheesecakes, puddings, curds, jams, cookie bases, more cake (bake off the remaining sponge and cut to layer inside), nuts, Dacquoise, fresh fruit, chocolates, gelee.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Great Chieftan O' The Puddin-Race.

Haggis, neeps and tatties is one of my favourite meals.  I would make a whisky cream sauce to go with it if we had guests but it was just the four of us tonight so we had it plain.  Yum.

Ye Pow'rs wha mak mankind yer care,
And dish them out their bill o' fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinkin ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu prayer,
Gie her a haggis!

Burns Night holds special memories for us.  4 years ago, Steve was MC at a Burns night in the city.  I was just over 35 week's pregnant and I told him to go ahead and drink to give him a bit of Dutch courage and we would make this his last alcohol until the baby was born.  Ooops.  We live an hour away from the city in the middle of nowhere.  I was on my own.  It is so obvious now as I had this incredibly strange urgency to bake loads of cakes.  I made cookies and had a chocolate cake in the oven when I went into, what was to be, a very rapid labour.  Steve had had rather too much whisky by the time he got my call.  He had to get my Mum and Dad to pick him up (still in full kilt regalia) and drive out to me.  By the time they got here I was nearly at the pushing stage.  My Dad drove down the winding country roads at over 100mph while poor Steve was vomiting out the back window and I was effing and blinding in the front seat.  When we arrived at the hospital I was in a bad way and my immediate greeting to the midwives was, "he's drunk".  Well I didn't really know what I was saying but poor Steve tells me that the midwives treated him with disgust - probably thought he was one of those horrid, neglectful husbands.  And, of course, we had forgotten the notes so my poor Mum and Dad had to race all the way back to our house to get them.
We have a good laugh about it now and weren't as careless for the birth of Rufie.  My labour with him was equally quick but we were much better prepared.
Anyway, Steve tells me that he sobered up VERY quickly that evening.  And, of course, Burns night always has us reminiscing.  Happy and funny memories now but at the time I was scared out of my wits.  But we've got a beautiful boy to show for it.
And I'll have to remember to watch what I say to people about my husband even when I'm terrified and in agony.  Poor guy.

Oh, and by the way, I rescued the chocolate cake - I crawled through on my hands and knees to get it out of the oven at the right time.  Unfortunately no-one ever ate it and it was thrown out when we returned home about 5 days later.

Eating Place Review 9 - Laird's Kitchen at Delgatie Castle, Turriff.

We walk Bob at Delgatie Woods fairly often - it is a wonderful dog walking place.  We have only ever toured the castle once and we have gone into the tearoom a few times.

Today, I decided to take the boys for lunch before taking Bob into the woods.

It is a lovely, little tearoom and usually pretty quiet at this time of year.  I have to say that what really makes it is the lovely, friendly and chatty staff.  Good for children - they have high chairs and a box of toys for the kids to play with, and baby changing facilities.  Possibly not the best place to go for wheelchair users as it is a 16th century castle so there a few steps up and down here and there.

I had Cullen Skink and the boys had a cheese toastie split between them then we all had pancakes with butter and jam.  Including a pot of tea for me, three cartons of fruit juice and a cup of milk, the bill came to £12.

The lunch menu has an array of sandwiches, toasties and baked potatoes as well as chilli and a couple of other options.  I offered the boys home-made sticky toffee pudding but, to my disappointment, they just wanted pancakes and I didn't want to order the pudding just for me!  The pancakes are warm and fresh and they also offer scones and a selection of lovely looking home-baking.

It is definitely worth a visit - either a day out including a tour of the castle or just a quick piece of cake after a great dog walk.

Monday, 24 January 2011


If you have been following my blog you will see that I made a S'more-inspired cake recently.  Being Scottish, I didn't really have much idea about what a s'more was.

Kim from Everyday Mom left this comment on my post, "If you haven't tried a s'more - just a chunk of chocolate, roasted marshmallow and graham cracker give it a try. Especially if you can roast the marshmallow over a fire".  Well, I had a fire burning last night and I have plenty of Graham's crackers left over from making the cake, so I had to give them a try.

I was sure the chocolate was supposed to be melty and didn't quite know how to make that happen so I looked up the S'mores entry on Wikipedia which informed me that the heat from the toasted marshmallows should be enough to melt the chocolate.  And, it worked!

Okay, so for an authentic experience I think you are supposed to be on a scout camp making these round the camp fire but doing them on my own by the fire was still a lovely evening activity.

Take a Graham cracker, snap it in half, place a square of chocolate on one, toast your marshmallows, place on top of the chocolate and then put the other half of the cracker on top to make a sandwich.  I also spread my first cracker with peanut butter - perfect combination of flavours!

Okay, so I'm a convert.  Steve and I can't wait to take the boys camping for the first time.  The only thing stopping us (apart from the current weather) is that we don't have a tent big enough to accommodate our Irish wolfhound.  With any luck we can borrow or steal a big one in time for this summer and guess what we'll be making round the camp fire?  The boys are gonna love this!  Can't wait.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Baby Shower Breakfast.

Had a baby shower at brunch time today.  We had a lovely spread.  One of my friends made a gorgeous potato and basil frittata from The Barefoot Contessa and she also did a whole array of smoothies and fruit juices.  Another friend brought her waffle maker and we all made our own waffles which we had with maple syrup, strawberries and cream.  She also brought fruit platters and a cinnamon dip which was gorgeous.

Here is my waffle making attempt - 

I had done a continental selection - croissants, cheeses and cold meats.  And a couple of different cupcakes.

The first batch of cupcakes are Maple Buttermilk Pancake Cupcakes.  The recipe is from The Art Of Being Perfect.

And the other batch is just my plain cupcake recipe with some sultanas thrown in.  My cupcake recipe comes from Cupcake Magic by Kate Shirazi.

  This was the book that got me into baking again after Adam was born.  I found it for sale at Glendoick garden centre in Dundee on our way for a few days in Glasgow and I begged Steve to let me have it.  I'll bet he regrets it now as our house is full of cake making stuff and all sorts of sprinkles, icing bags, etc.!

It was a lovely baby shower for our friend, Rachael.  She's from Texas - hence the baby shower.  She threw one for me when expecting Rufie and so we've had one for all our baby bumps since then.  Rachael's on to her third baby - she's a brave soul!

Thursday, 20 January 2011

The Cake Slice Bakers - Challenge 4 - January 2011 - Graham Cracker - Chocolate Chip Snacking Cake.

This is the cake we made this month from Cake Keeper Cakes by Lauren Chattman and, Look!, I now have a cake keeper.  This was a Christmas gift from my in-laws and I love it.  I can now keep the cake I make fresh but on display on the counter - lovely.

So, this cake is made to be like the American S'mores.  I had never heard of these until recently.  An American friend of mine made us some S'more bars which she brought with her for us to eat on a girlie spa day.  They were heaven and I should really get the recipe from her.  Unfortunately this cake doesn't match up to those.  It is nice enough but not a recipe that I would really be craving.  Rufus and I enjoyed most of these cakes served with strawberries and ice-cream and that seemed to be the best way to eat them and really made us say "yum" whereas, on their own, they were a little bit dry and boring.  I think partly because I had overcooked them a little.  

Recipe - 

Ingredients - 

For the cake - 
8 whole Graham crackers, finely ground (about 1 cup)
1/4 cup plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
6 tbsp (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

For the frosting - 
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup icing sugar
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup Marshmallow fluff (I just used the whole jar)

Method - 

Make the cake - 
1. Preheat the oven to 350F.  Grease an 8-inch square baking pan and dust it with flour, knocking out any extra.  Combine the Graham cracker crumbs, flour, baking powder and salt in a medium mixing bowl.
2. Combine the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and cream with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 3 mins, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.  With the mixer on low speed, add the egg, egg yolk and vanilla.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and then beat until smooth.
3. With the mixer on low speed, add 1/3 of the flour mixture, then 1/2 of the milk, stirring until combined.  Repeat with the remaining flour and milk, ending with the flour.  Stir in the chocolate chips.
4. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula.  Bake until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean, about 35 mins (this was a touch too long, probably check at 25 mins).  Let the cake cool in the pan for about 10 mins.  Invert it onto a wire rack, and then turn it right side up onto a rack to cool completely.

Make the frosting - 
1. Place the butter in a medium mixing bowl and beat until creamy.  With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the sugar, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Stir in the vanilla and the Marshmallow Fluff and beat until smooth.  Use immediately or cover the bowl with plastic wrap and keep it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
2. Cut the cake into squares and serve each one with a dollop of frosting on top.  Store uneaten squares in a cake keeper at room temperature for up to 3 days.

If you don't have Graham crackers, you can substitute digestive biscuits but I decided to get them as I was intrigued as to what they were.  They actually taste a lot like Rich Teas to me.  Now I need to figure out what I am going to do with the other 16 I have so I would be grateful for any suggestions.
Also, if you don't have Marshmallow Fluff, you can simply melt down some marshmallows and use that instead.

Here is the link to The Cake Slice Bakers Blogroll to see how other members got on this month.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Vegetable Biryani.

One of these great stand-by recipes for just bunging in whatever you have.

This recipe is from a book called Quick Cooking For Diabetes by Louise Blair and Norma McGough.
Now, I have serious issue with cookbooks for diabetes - I have type 1 (insulin dependent) diabetes.  I do not eat ANY differently from anyone I know or how I ate before I was diagnosed.  However, I got this book as a gift and it is full of lovely, fairly healthy and quick recipes.  Would actually be better marketed as a family cook book, I think. So, although having a diabetes cookbook makes me cringe, I actually use this book A LOT.  Oh well.

Vegetable Biryani.

Ingredients -
250g long-grain rice
1 tbsp olive oil
2 carrots, chopped
1 large potato, chopped
1 tbsp grated fresh root ginger  (not for me - I just miss this out)
2 garlic cloves, crushed
150g cauliflower florets
100g green beans, halved
1 tbsp hot curry paste
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
150g plain yogurt
25g raisins
50g cashew nuts, toasted
2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves 

Method - 
1. Cook the rice in boiling water and drain.
2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a non-stick saucepan, add the carrots, potato, ginger and garlic and fry for 10 minutes until beginning to soften.
3. Stir in the cauliflower, beans, curry paste, turmeric and cinnamon and cook for 1 minute.
4. Stir in the yogurt and raisins.  Pile the rice on to the vegetable mixture.  Cover and cook over a low heat for 10 minutes, checking from time to time that it isn't sticking to the pan.
5. Turn the biryani into a large serving dish, sprinkle with the nuts and coriander and serve.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

House Demolition.

Well, after all that work, they just all went and ate it.  Can you believe it?

We started it just into the New Year and have been having a bit every bedtime and sometimes after some meals too - hadn't realised how it big it was until we tried to eat it!  Glad to see the back of it now.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

The Daring Cooks' Challenges No. 3 - Cassoulet.

Well, cassoulet, eh?  I have made plenty of cheat versions of this in my time but have never done an authentic one.  It's great timing in that this is perfect food for the cold weather and the dark days but really bad timing in that this is the time of year when people are trying to cut back a bit on the calories after all the excesses of the festive season.  I dread to think how many calories in a portion of this and I'm certainly not going to try and work it out as we have been eating mountains of it!

Our January 2011 Challenge comes from Jenni of The Gingered Whisk and Lisa from Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. They have challenged the Daring Cooks to learn how to make a confit and use it within the traditional French dish of Cassoulet. They have chosen a traditional recipe from Anthony Bourdain and Michael Ruhlman.

So, I chose to follow the fairly traditional recipe of Bourdain and Ruhlman but I have made a few little changes and I'll put my adapted version up here for my own use.  The first thing I did was to halve the quantities of everything and I am so glad I did as even this makes a mountain of the stuff and, as you will be able to tell from the ingredients, it is very filling and very calorific.  The other changes I will be tempted to try next time are 1) this recipe doesn't have the breadcrumb topping that a lot of cassoulet recipes have and I would like to try that.  It did need a little something to add texture.  As it was, we served it with crispy garlic bread which served the purpose; and 2) I notice Delia roasts her pork belly in her version - I think I would like to try that too as I do love a caramelised, roasted pork belly.

I also cheated and didn't make my own duck confit.  This is because it was actually easier for me to get duck confit than fresh duck legs and I have made duck confit in the past so didn't feel it would matter too much.

Be warned - this takes 3 days to make but is ideal for cooking for guests as there is nothing to do except put in the oven on the last day.

Recipe - Cassoulet (based on recipe by Bourdain and Ruhlman)

Ingredients - 
550g dried cannelini beans
450g fresh pork belly
1 onion, quartered
1 bouquet garni
salt and pepper
30g duck fat or dripping
6 Toulouse sausages
3 onions, thinly sliced
1 head of garlic
16 slices of thick cut smoked bacon
2 confit duck legs

Method -

1. Place the beans in a large bowl and cover with cold water so there are at least 2 or 3 inches of water above the top of the beans.  Soak overnight.
2. Drain and rinse the beans and place in a large pot.  
3. Add the pork belly, the quartered onion and the bouquet garni.
4. Cover with water and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for about 30 mins.  Season with salt and pepper and continue to simmer until the beans are tender, about 30mins more.
5. Let cool for 20 mins then discard the onion and the bouquet garni.
6. Remove the pork belly, cut it into squares and set aside.
7. Strain the beans and set aside, reserving the cooking liquid separately.
8. In a saute pan, heat the dripping over a medium-high heat until it shimmers and becomes transparent.
9. Carefully add the sausages and brown on all sides.
10. Remove sausages and set aside.
11. In the same pan, over medium-high heat, brown two onions, sliced, and one clove of garlic, sliced.
12. Once browned, remove from the heat and transfer to the blender and puree until smooth.
13. Preheat the oven to 350F/180C/GM 4.
14. Line the bottom of a deep ovenproof dish with the bacon.

15. Slice the remaining onions.
16. Peel the remaining garlic bulbs and cut into big chunks or leave whole.
17. Strip the duck meat from the bones and rip into bite-size chunks.

18. Cut sausages into chunks.
19. Arrange all your ingredients in alternating layers.  begin with beans, then sausages, then more beans, then pork belly, beans, duck, then finally more beans.  Add a dab of the onion puree and a scattering of onion and garlic to each layer.

20. Add enough of the bean cooking liquid to just cover the beans, reserving about 240mls in the fridge for use later.
21. Cook in the oven for one hour then reduce the heat to 250F/130C/GM 1/2 and cook for another hour.
22. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.  Refrigerate overnight.
23. Cook at 350F/180C/GM 4 for one hour.
24. Add extra bean cooking liquid if needed.
25. Reduce heat to 250F/130C/GM 1/2 and continue cooking for another 15 mins then serve.

So, the verdict?  It was absolutely gorgeous - really filling and hearty.  But it is a faff and I have had dishes with beans and chorizo and the like which can be put together in an hour and taste brilliant too.  I think I will try it again with the breadcrumb topping and with roasting the pork and see how that goes.  I certainly would consider this if I was feeding guests on a cold day but I wouldn't make this at home just for us.  Loved the challenge and am really glad I did it.  I think making the confit was the main point of the challenge so I obviously cheated on that, but, hey, I know I can do that whereas I have never made a proper cassoulet before so I'm happy. 

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Blueberry Pancakes.

Rufie and I went out for a cup of tea and some lovely blueberry pancakes while Adam was at pre-school the other day.  These were beautiful thick Scotch pancakes which we spread with butter.  You really don't need jam as the blueberries burst in your mouth giving up a ready-made jammy loveliness.

Loved them.  Thanks to the Country Kitchen in Turriff.

Every day, after pre-school, we ask Adam what he had for snack and he asks us what we had and of course, when he heard about the blueberry pancakes he wanted some.  I promised we would make some together.

We made crepes rather than Scotch pancakes and they were lovely but I think they are better as Scotch pancakes as the blueberries are better encompassed in the thicker pancake so they hide and then surprise you!

So here is the recipe for the Scotch pancakes rather than the thinner pancakes you see in the photograph.

Ingredients - 
125g self-raising flour
pinch of salt
30g caster sugar
1 egg
300ml milk

Method - 
1. Sift the flour into a large bowl, add the salt and sugar.
2. Whisk the egg into the milk then add to the dry ingredients and whisk to form a smooth batter.
3. Grease your girdle or flat frying pan and put over moderate heat.
4. Drop about a tablespoon of batter onto the pan for small pancakes and more for bigger ones then scatter over your blueberries.
5. When the surface is covered in bubbles and just set, flip over and cook the other side.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Holiday Desserts.

My husband can't eat a dessert unless it is chocolate so for Christmas Day I made Salted Caramel Chocolate Torte which is a James Martin recipe from BBC Good Food.  Steve made everything else for the Christmas dinner so I was rather spoiled this year!

I loved the taste of the salted caramel and everyone enjoyed it but it was rather rich for after a Christmas dinner!  I'm not a huge fan of chocolate desserts and usually prefer something fruity and lighter after a big meal.  I need a husband who matches me better, I think.

On the same theme, we were invited to my Mum and Dad's for a meal on Hogmanay and as Steve wasn't working he made dessert.  Guess what kind he chose?  Chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate!
He made Chocolate Ganache Log from the book Tempted (150 very wicked desserts).

Now, he made it very plain and macho (!) - just a giant hunk of chocolate.  My Mum and I had other ideas and added some girly decoration.

Was made with a lot of almond so had a lovely taste but, again, was just too much after a big meal so we could all only eat a wee bit.  Steve and the boys finished it off pretty easily the next day.

Now, I need to balance all this off with a lovely lemon tart.  If only I had someone who would help me eat it...

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Inspiration Chain Winner And A Few Of My Christmas Pressies.

Happy New Year!

My lovely assistant, Adam, drew a name out of the hat for the winner of a copy of Appetite by Nigel Slater for The Inspiration Chain.

Well done to Hanna from Corner Cottage Bakery.  Hanna - if you could please email me your address, I will get Amazon to send you a copy of the book straight away.  I hope you like it.  Thanks to everyone who entered.

I got lots of foodie gifts for my Christmas - here is a wee snapshot of just a few of them.

I got three cook books - I Love Food by Clare MacPherson-Grant Russell, Yo Sushi and The Great British Book Of Baking.  Steve also got Dough by Richard Bertinet which you can also see in the photo.  I included it because I'll get to use it too.

The first of my cookbooks I have managed to use so far is I Love Food.  This is a cookbook by the Lady Laird of Ballindalloch Castle (about 1.5 hours drive from here).  It is a surprisingly down to earth and simple book.  She says on the back of the book "I love food but I am not prepared to spend hours slaving over the cooker.  For this "domestic goddess" the motto is very definitely "Taste, Ease and Speed"!"
Well, the book lives up to this.  The recipes all look to be very tasty and occasionally fancy but generally very quick and easy to put together.

The first recipe I made from it was Chicken filled with goat's cheese.  It took me about 2 mins to prepare and then 30mins in the oven.  A lovely, easy but tasty way to cook a chicken breast.

I discovered when we went to my Mum and Dad's for a meal on Hogmanay that my Mum also has the book.  She cooked our starter from it.  It was Haggis Mushrooms.  Now these were absolutely lovely but couldn't have been easier to prepare.  Portobello mushrooms stuffed with haggis, parmesan grated over the top then baked in the oven for 10 minutes and served with some salad leaves and a dressing.  I think haggis and mushrooms are a most wonderful combination.  I'll definitely be using this is a starter if I have people round.

I haven't yet had a chance to try the other books.

You can also see in the photo the lovely gift of a panforte and some peanut brittle that I received from Alex from Dear Love Blog.

For the recipe you can see her post here.  Her photos are much better than mine and really show the beauty of her panforte.
It is really lovely - you can really taste the figs through it as well as some generous spices but the best bit is the texture. Really chewy - you can really get your teeth into it but with the contrasting crunch of the nuts too - mmmmmmmm.  Brilliant with a cup of coffee mid morning or last thing at night.
Thanks Alex - very generous of you!