Thursday, 30 June 2011

Random Recipe 5 - Battle Of The Chickens.

So, in my last Random Recipe post, I said that Steve and I were now going to be competitive with our random recipes and it would be war!  Well, it didn't work out that way this month.  Instead, we were rather pleasant to one another and collaborative (not like us!).

This month, we were to choose a random recipe from the cookbook we had received most recently as a gift for Dom's latest challenge.  I had received a copy of Nigella Lawson's Kitchen from my Mum-in-law for my birthday.  Have I mentioned before that I have a very glamorous Mum-in-law who inspires me with her cooking and baking dressed up to the nine and in her high heels?  We share a love of Nigella's books and I think my Mum-in-law really has the special Nigella glamour - you know - feeding your family with lovely, tasty, homely food but doing so with style!

Anyway, Steve randomly opened the book at Nigella's Praised Chicken recipe.  This recipe was her Mum's and is obviously very special to her.  It is a very healthy, hearty and inexpensive dish - ideal for families and it can have unending variations to it.  So, we thought it would be perfect for our war - we would each do our own version and choose a winner.

Steve was going to go first and was really going to make it pretty much exactly as Nigella's basic recipe. The afternoon he was due to make it, though, I had volunteered him to help some friends of ours move temporarily out of their home while they had some work done so, as he dashed out the door, he asked me to make it as he wouldn't have time.  I followed the basic recipe exactly and we served it according to Nigella's suggestions.

It was a lovely meal.  I loved the simple, peasant aspect to it and I really felt the kids were getting something really good for them.  It was also quick and easy to sling together.  It fed us again the second day and we also managed to make soup with the leftover so it worked out as a really cost effective meal.

The following week, Steve made another version but he actually wasn't terribly adventurous and didn't stray far from the basic recipe (I think he had wanted to do a version with lots of chilli and other strong flavourings but worried that the kids wouldn't eat so much if he did that).  I think we will certainly make this dish many times more and will try lots of changes.  I really want to put some fennel and pastis in my next one.  

I am so glad we tried this recipe.  The versions we made, don't really have any 'wow' factor to them but I just love the simple, healthy, homeliness of them and think this will be a staple dish here.

Recipe - Adapted from Nigella's basic recipe (Kitchen, p 223).
(Serves 4-8)

Ingredients - 
1 large, free-range chicken
2 tsp garlic oil
100ml white wine or dry white vermouth
2-3 leeks, cleaned, trimmed and cut into approx 7cm logs
2-3 carrots, peeled and cut into batons
1-2 sticks celery, sliced
approx 2 L cold water
1 bouquet garni or 1 tsp dried herbs
fresh parsley stalks or few sprigs, tied or banded together
2 tsp sea salt flakes
2 tsp red peppercorns, or good grinding pepper

to serve - 
chopped parsley
chopped fresh dill
English mustard

Method - 
1. Get out a large, flame-safe, cooking pot with a lid in which the chicken can fit snugly.
2. On a washable board, untruss the chicken, put it breast side down and press down until you hear the breastbone crack.
3. Put the oil in the pan to heat, then brown the chicken for a few minutes breast side down, and turn up the heat and turn the chicken over.  Still over a vigorous heat, add the wine or vermouth to the pan and let it bubble down a little before adding the leeks, carrots and celery.
4. Pour in enough cold water to cover the chicken, though the very top may poke out, then pop in the bouquet garni and the parsley stalks along with the salt and red peppercorns.
5. The chicken should be almost completely submerged by now and, if not, add some more cold water.
6. Bring to a bubble, clamp on the lid, turn the heat to very low and leave to cook for 1 1/2 - 2 hours.
7. Serve the chicken and accompanying vegetables with brown basmati rice, adding a ladleful or two of the liquid over each shallow bowl as you go, and putting fresh dill and mustard on the table for the eaters to add as they wish.

Steve's Variations - 
Steve used cider instead of the white wine and added onions instead of the celery, and bacon lardons and pumpkin seeds. The bacon gave a lovely extra dimension of salty flavour and the pumpkin seeds were an inspired addition for some lovely crunch.

Check Dom's Blog very soon for next month's Random Recipe Challenge.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Fresh From The Oven 6 - June 2011 - Sandwich Loaf.

This month, Jo from Jo's Kitchen challenged us to make Michel Roux Jnr's sandwich loaf recipe from the BBC programme The Great British Food Revival.  I loved the series.  It really inspired me to use seasonal produce local to us but Steve felt the programme was a bit naff and I must agree that sometimes it seemed that it was a programme slung together a bit rather than being based on something the presenters really believed in.  I can't remember exact examples but I'm sure there were times when they would make something using ingredients from half way across the world in their attempts to get us to revive something so there didn't seem to be a huge consistency in their message.  I loved the programme anyway - it's about food and it had recipes!!!

This made a lovely, versatile loaf.  It made excellent sandwiches and excellent toast.  You could vary it in any number of ways too.  We don't eat a lot of white bread so our first attempt at varying it will be to try to make it wholemeal.  Thanks Jo for the challenge as I am really pleased to get to try recipes for really simple, everyday bread as well as the more exotic things we sometimes do.  This will certainly be my staple white loaf recipe from now on.

The recipe can be found on the BBC site here but I'll write it out below to make sure I always have a copy of it.


20g/1oz golden syrup
25g/1oz melted butter
350ml/14 fl oz warm milk
10g/ 1/2oz fresh yeast (I used one 7g sachet of dried)
250g/8 oz plain flour
250g/8 oz strong bread flour
10g/ 1/2oz sea salt

Method - 
1. Stir the golden syrup and melted butter into the warm milk until well combined.  Crumble the yeast into a large bowl, then pour over the warm milk and stir until the yeast has dissolved.
2. Add the remaining ingredients and mix until a smooth dough forms.  Cover the bowl with cling film and set aside for 5 mins.
3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 mins, or until smooth and elastic (I used my Kenwood chef - it was a very sticky dough).  Return the dough to the bowl, cover with cling film and place into a warm place for 1 hour, or until the dough has nearly doubled in size.
4. Meanwhile grease and flour a 12cm X 20cm/5" X 8" bread tin.
5. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface again and knock back a few times.  Divide equally into two pieces and shape into balls.  Place the dough balls side by side in the prepared tin, cover with cling film and set aside to rise again, until doubled in size.
6. Preheat oven to 220C/410F/GM 7.
7. Using a sharp knife, slash the dough a few times and place into the oven immediately.  After 10 mins, reduce the heat to 180C/350F/GM 4 and bake for a further 30 mins, or until the bread is golden-brown.
8. Leave the loaf to cool on a wire rack. 

Have a look at Fresh From The Oven to see other versions of this loaf or to join in the challenges.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Making My Own Filo Pastry - Am I Mad?

Erica of Erica’s Edibles was our host for the Daring Baker’s June challenge. Erica challenged us to be truly DARING by making homemade phyllo dough and then to use that homemade dough to make Baklava.

Well, as you can imagine, I was just thinking to myself that I am far too busy to contemplate making my own Filo pastry!  It wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be.  Really easy to make.  I used my pasta machine to roll out the dough into transparently thin sheets.  

It meant my sheets were very narrow so I just made two for each layer. The dough was really lovely to work with.  I had some shop-bought Filo in the fridge so took it out to compare - the shop stuff is brittle and cardboard-y whereas the home made stuff is moist and soft and pliable - so much easier to work with.

I can't imagine that I will make it myself many times more but if ever I was trying something special with Filo, I certainly would make it myself as I am sure it would make execution of little parcels and things like that a lot easier and probably prettier. 

So, onto the Baklava.  The best thing about making this was that it was the very first time I used my first ever food processor!  I whizzed up the nuts in it - my brand new Magimix.  Oh, I am so excited to finally have a processor.  I have used it loads since getting it but it still feels like such a novelty.  It sits out on the counter and I look at it lovingly every day.

The mistake I made was to halve all the ingredients except the syrup ingredients so I ended up pouring over too much syrup and finding that it was still drowning in syrup the next morning rather than having the syrup all absorbed.  I am glad I halved the recipe though as it is so rich and calorific!  Yum, though!

I felt this recipe gave a lovely Baklava just like that I can buy in the street market.  I particularly loved the evocative tastes - the syrup was beautiful!  I will never ever complain again at the price of the baklava I buy - all that layering is time consuming so I would expect to pay more!

Recipe - 

Filo Pastry.

Recipe source - Phyllo Dough Recipe - Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Caf├ęs of Vienna, Budapest and Prague” by Rick Rodgers

(Enough to make Baklava in an 9” X 9” baking dish – although I halved the recipe for my version.)

2 2/3 cups (640 ml) (370 gm/13 oz) unbleached all purpose (plain) flour

1/4 teaspoon (1.3 ml) (1.5 gm) salt

1 cup less 2 tablespoon (210 ml) water, plus more if needed

4 tablespoons (60 ml) vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough

1 teaspoon (5 ml) cider vinegar, (could substitute white wine vinegar or red wine vinegar, but could affect the taste)
1.    In the bowl of your stand mixer combine flour and salt.
2.    Mix with paddle attachment.
3.    Combine water, oil and vinegar in a small bowl.
4.    Add water & oil mixture with mixer on low speed, mix until you get a soft dough, if it appears dry add a little more water.
5.    Change to the dough hook and let knead approximately 10 minutes. You will end up with beautiful smooth dough. If you are kneading by hand, knead approx. 20 minutes.
6.    Remove the dough from mixer and continue to knead for 2 more minutes. Pick up the dough and through it down hard on the counter a few times during the kneading process.
7.    Shape the dough into a ball and lightly cover with oil.
8.    Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and let rest 30-90 minutes, longer is best.
9.    Use whatever means you have to get the dough as thin as you can. Use a wooden dowel (video showing how to this on YouTube), use a pasta machine if you have one, or a normal rolling pin whatever works for you. Unwrap your dough and cut off a chunk slightly larger then a golf ball. While you are rolling be sure to keep the other dough covered so it doesn’t dry out. Roll out your dough until it is transparent. NOTE: you will not get it as thin as the frozen filo dough you purchase at the store, it is made by machine.
10. Set aside on a well-floured surface. Repeat the process until your dough is used up. Between each sheet again flower well. You will not need to cover your dough with a wet cloth, as you do with boxed dough, it is moist enough that it will not try out.
Adapted from Alton Brown, The Food Network
30 servings
For the filling.
1 (5-inch/125 mm piece) cinnamon stick, broken into 2 to 3 pieces or 2 teaspoons (10 ml) (8 gm) ground cinnamon

15 to 20 whole allspice berries
3/4 cup (180 ml) (170 gm/6 oz) blanched almonds

3/4 cup (180 ml) (155 gm/5½ oz) raw or roasted walnuts

3/4 cup (180 ml) (140 gm/5 oz) raw or roasted pistachios

2/3 cup (160 ml) (150 gm/ 5 1/3 oz) sugar

Filo dough (see recipe above)

1 cup (2 sticks) (240 ml) (225g/8 oz) melted butter
For the syrup.
1 1/4 cups (300 ml) honey
1 1/4 cups (300ml) water

1 1/4 cups (300 ml) (280 gm/10 oz) sugar

1 cinnamon stick

1 (2-inch/50 mm) piece fresh citrus peel (lemon or orange work best)

a few cloves or a pinch or ground clove

1.    Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4.

2.    Combine nuts, sugar and spices in a food processor and pulse on high until finely chopped. If you do not have a food processor chop with a sharp knife as fine as you can. Set aside.
3.    Trim your filo sheets to fit in your pan.
4.    Brush bottom of pan with butter and place first filo sheet.
5.    Brush the first filo sheet with butter and repeat approximately 5 times ending with butter. (Most recipes say more, but homemade filo is thicker so it's not needed).

6.    Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture on top.
7.    Continue layering filo and buttering repeating 4 times.
8.    Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture on top.
9.    Continue layering filo and buttering repeating 4 times.
10. Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture on top.
11. Continue layering and buttering filo 5 more times. On the top layer, make sure you have a piece of filo with no holes if possible, just looks better.
12. Once you have applied the top layer tuck in all the edges to give a nice appearance.
13. With a Sharp knife cut your baklava in desired shapes and number of pieces. If you can't cut all the ways through don’t worry you will cut again later. A 9x9 pan cuts nicely into 30 pieces. Then brush with a generous layer of butter making sure to cover every area and edge.
14. Bake for approximately 30 minutes; remove from oven and cut again this time all the way through. Continue baking for another 30 minutes. (Oven temperatures will vary, you are looking for the top to be a golden brown, take close watch yours may need more or less time in the oven)
15. When you put your baklava in the oven start making your syrup. Combine all ingredients in a medium pot over medium high heat. Stir occasionally until sugar has dissolved.
16. Boil for 10 minutes, stir occasionally.
17. Once boiled for 10 minutes remove from heat and strain cinnamon stick and lemon, allow to cool as baklava cooks.
18. When baklava is cooked remove from oven and pour the cooled (will still be warmish) syrup evenly over the top, taking care to cover all surfaces when pouring. It looks like it is a lot but over night the syrup will soak into the baklava creating a beautifully sweet and wonderfully textured baklava!
19. Allow to cool to room temperature. Once cooled cover and store at room temperature. Allow the baklava to sit overnight to absorb the syrup.

20. Serve at room temperature.
Freezing/Storage Instructions/Tips: There are a few ways to store your Baklava. It is recommended that you store your baklava at room temperature in an airtight container. Stored at room temperature your baklava will last for up to 2 weeks. You will notice as the days pass it will get a little juicier and chewier. You may choose to store it in the fridge; this will make it a little harder and chewy, but does increase the shelf life. You can also freeze your baklava and then just set it out at room temperature to thaw.

Feel free to have a look at The Daring Kitchen to see other bakers' results and sign up if you fancy joining in with the challenges.

Monday, 20 June 2011

The Cake Slice Bakers - Challenge 9 - June 2011 - Fresh Strawberry Cake With White Chocolate Chips.

Another recipe from Cake Keeper Cakes by Lauren Chattman.

We got some beautiful, red, Scottish strawberries for this one - they were so sweet and delicious - it did seem a bit of shame to turn them into cake.  The cake was very nice - kids loved it.  The white chocolate really just made a sweet, sticky layer towards the bottom.  I would probably only use under par strawberries for this, though, as beautiful strawberries should just be eaten as they are!
Also, it was a very sweet cake but some of the other cake slice bakers reduced the sugar in it or added blueberries to balance the sweetness - Feeding My Enthusiasms.

Recipe - 

Ingredients - 
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
6 tbsp (3oz) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
8 oz strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 cup white choc chips or chunks

Method - 
1. Preheat the oven to 350F.  Grease an 8 inch square baking pan and dust it with flour, knocking out any extra.  Combine the egg, egg yolk, sour cream, lemon zest and vanilla in a large glass measuring cup and lightly beat.  Combine 1 1/4 cups flour, the baking powder, baking soda 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..
3. With the mixer on medium-low speed, pour the egg mixture into the bowl in a slow stream.
4. Turn the mixer on low speed and add the flour mixture 1/2 cup at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition.  After the last addition, mix for 30s on medium speed.
5. Combine the strawberries and remaining 1/4 cup of flour in a medium bowl and toss to coat.  Fold the flour covered berries along with the chocolate chips into the batter with a rubber spatula.
6. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake the cake until it is golden and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean, 45 to 50 mins (my one took a bit longer - maybe another 15-20 mins).  Let the cake cool in the pan for about 5 mins, invert it onto a wire rack, and then turn it right side up on a rack to cool completely.  Cut into 9 squares and serve.
7. Store uneaten squares in a cake keeper or wrap in plastic and store at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Click to see the Cake Slice Blogroll.  Some of the bakers made the lime chiffon cake this month and others have done both.

I'm so in the way of baking with American recipes now that we have cooked so many things from this book.  Funny that only a few months ago, I would have been put off by an American recipe whereas now I am quite familiar with the different measurements and a good lot of the ingredients too.  Looking forward to next month's cake. 

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

The Daring Cooks' Challenge No. 7 - June 2011 - Potato Salad.

Jami Sorrento was our June Daring Cooks hostess and she chose to challenge us to celebrate the humble spud by making a delicious and healthy potato salad. The Daring Cooks Potato Salad Challenge was sponsored by the nice people at the United States Potato Board, who awarded prizes to the top 3 most creative and healthy potato salads. A medium-size (5.3 ounce) potato has 110 calories, no fat, no cholesterol, no sodium and includes nearly half your daily value of vitamin C and has more potassium than a banana!

As you may have noticed from the lack of posts, I am still feeling a bit overwhelmed with everything for the move, work and trying to find a new job.  So, for this challenge I actually just made one of my favourite potato salads which is from Jamie Oliver's first book - The Naked Chef.

It is simply potatoes mixed with salsa verde.  Steve made salsa verde for me on an early date and the combination of capers and anchovies is one of his favourites so this always makes me think of him.

I served it warm with pan fried sea bass and then the next day we had the cold leftovers alongside some barbecued meat.  It doesn't look very pretty in the picture.  As you know, I'm not very good at pretty presentation.  It does taste fresh and tangy, though.

Here's the link for Jamie's salsa verde.