Sunday, 20 April 2014

Just Add Custard (or a poncey quenelle of Mascarpone): Rhubarb and Ginger Pudding Cake


I love the term 'pudding cake' and I think it's only Tamasin Day Lewis who uses the term, but it is completely the right phrase to describe this cake. You see, some cakes, the sandwich cake variety, filled with buttercream or cream cheese frosting or something is definitely for an afternoon tea, or it's birthday cake maybe. This cake however has some kind of gravitas, lacking in creamy frippery and is made for a leisurely after dinner lingering, served just slightly warm, needing only a little custard, a poncey quenelle of Mascarpone, or maybe one of those lovely after dinner sweet wines which I keep promising myself but never actually buy and drink.
I have made enough cakes to have a working knowledge of the basics of how one is put together and I thought it might be nice to combine rhubarb and ginger to make something which was more about flavour than sweetness. Plus, I picked up three sticks of rhubarb in the supermarket for 10p, keeping my irritating habit of not being able to pass the throw outs in the supermarket. Me loves a bargain.
Anyway, I have very little to say other than here is the recipe:
Rhubarb and Ginger Pudding Cake
Makes a 23cm cake
For the cake:
Three sticks of rhubarb
60 g and 180 g caster sugar, divided
150g butter at room temperature
3 eggs at room temperature plus 1 yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g full fat Greek yoghurt
250g flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp of ground ginger
Good pinch of salt
Three balls of stem ginger, chopped finely
For the syrup:
The juice from poaching the rhubarb
A couple of tbsp. of ginger syrup (from the jar of stem ginger)
To serve, custard maybe, or mascarpone, with a little chopped stem ginger scattered on top. Or cream... Cream would be really nice!!
Pre-heat the oven to 150c and butter a 23cm springform cake tin, lining the bottom with greaseproof paper and then buttering the top of the greaseproof paper.
Firstly, poach the rhubarb. Cut the sticks of rhubarb into inch pieces and put into a dish which will hold the rhubarb snugly in one layer. Scatter about 60g of sugar on top of the rhubarb, cover the dish with foil and put it into oven for about 15 minutes, or until the rhubarb is soft but not losing its shape. Allow to cool.
Increase the temperature to 180c
In a mixer, cream together the butter and the 180g sugar together until light and fluffy.
In a bowl, sift together the flour, the baking powder, the ground ginger and the salt.
Add the eggs one at a time to the butter mixture, beating well after addition. By the time you have added the third egg, the mixture might look a bit curdled so add a couple of tablespoons of the flour mixture. Then add the vanilla and yoghurt and mix to combine.
Add the flour mixture in thirds, mixing it in only until it is combined. Do not over beat.
Lastly, add the rhubarb to the batter mixture, reserving the poaching liquid for later. Mix only until combined.
Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin. Smooth the top with a spatula, and place in the middle of the oven for about an hour or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. If it is starting to brown too much without cooking all the way through, cover the cake with foil until it is cooked through.
Meanwhile, mix together the poaching liqueur and the stem ginger syrup. Heat the syrup gently. Once the cake comes out of the oven, make holes in the top with a skewer or toothpick and pour the syrup over the top of the cake. The cake will absorb the syrup because both are warm.
Allow to cool until the cake just has a hint of warmth to it. Take out of the tin and slice. Serve with anything I might have suggested in my ramblings above.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Lola makes Nutella Nests

Well, here we are, Good Friday and all that and I could have bothered myself to make hot cross buns but to be honest, it was all a bit too involved. But, I felt compelled to do something seasonal and as the Easter holiday is nearing its sad end and I probably won't be able to blog 'til, oh, I don't know...end of May maybe. So, I involved one of my creative muses, Lola, and four ingredients - Menier chocolate, Nutella, Cadbury's Mini Eggs and Crunchy Nut Cornflakes to rustle up something that kinda suggested Easter.
During our recent move I amazingly found an untapped jar of Nutella nestling at the back of the cupboard and what's more it was edging towards its best before date. If I'd have opened it, very soon afterwards you would have found me stood in the kitchen trying to get the last of it out of the bottom with a teaspoon. At least this way I used half the jar of it without being the one totally responsible for eating it.
I figured that if I melted some dark chocolate it would counteract some of the sweetness of the Nutella and I did start off with that in mind and then I thought 'Sod it, it's Easter...' so in the end I put it there because I thought it might help with the solidifying process of the nests, once mixed and assembled.
Anyway, the success of these was rapid and compelling. Within an hour these had been demolished by the kids, not me. Luckily they had gone before I got to them.
Nutella Nests
Makes approximately 12
100g dark chocolate
100g Nutella
150 - 200g cornflakes (I used Crunchy Nut Cornflakes because it is what I had in the cupboard)
A bag of mini eggs
Melt the dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Do not allow the bowl to touch the simmering water.
Once melted, add the Nutella and mix to combine
Put the cornflakes into another bowl, then add the molten chocolate to them. Stir carefully to combine.
Using a non stick shallow cupcake/fairy cake pan (grease it with some unflavoured oil if need's be) spoon the mixture into the indentations, pressing the mixture into the sides to create a 'nest' effect.
Place two or three mini eggs into the centre.
Put the nests into the fridge to harden up. They won't fully harden because of the Nutella. Once cohered, carefully release the nests from the pan.
Keep any that are not eaten in the fridge, as they will become soft quickly.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Eureka! (Or any other loosely connected Greek exclamation...) Chicken with Olives

Firstly, allow me to set the scene, in the only way I know is appropriate:
It is highly unlikely that I will get anywhere near Greece this year as hopefully we'll be hotfooting it to France during the Summer hols, but, you never know, should the lottery numbers come up this evening I might decide to tag on a little extra holiday on somewhere. Yeh, who am I trying to kid? I can't believe I said 'might'. Let's be honest, should I acquire the profession of 'Lottery Millionaire' later on this evening then you wouldn't see me for dust. Anyway, until that inevitable time where I put my deposit down on some swanky Maserati and leave on a jetplane for warmer climes, I will have to be content with creating Rhodes, Crete, or (insert your favourite Greek island here) with a little bit of creativity in my own kitchen.
I am very fortunate to own 'Vefa's Kitchen' by Vefa Alexiadou, bought for me by Phill for a birthday a few years ago and it is one of those glorious cookbooks which is chock full of recipes, glossy pictures evocative of warmer climes, herbaceous hillsides, and the contrast of blue against white; that last image being the epitome of Greece (for me at least) whether it be whitewashed buildings against blue domes, or the fluttering of the Greek flag in a warm summer breeze. Even the cover of this weighty tome is blue and white.
I could have cooked anything from this book to be fair, but as I have a brood to feed, I have to choose something that will appeal to all of us (though to be honest, Finn still proves a problem here...) I cooked a very easy dish, chicken and olives, which appealed to Finn (chicken) Lola, (pasta) and me and Phill (olives and it goes well with Mythos).
If you are not olive mad like Phill and I, you can of course omit or fish the offending things out when you serve, but I have to say the cooking of olives tends to mellow them out and add an interesting flavour to the dish, but each to their own of course, and I haven't succeeded in getting either Lola and Finn to them yet. My adaptations to the recipe are below, the main one being that I used chicken thighs so I adjusted the cooking time accordingly as a thigh piece is considerably smaller than a quarter of a chicken.
Chicken with Olives, adapted from 'Vefa's Kitchen' by Vefa Alexiadou
1 chicken, about 3 1/4lb quartered (I used six boneless chicken thighs, skin on)
salt and pepper
5 tbsp. olive oil
three garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 tbsp. of freshly chopped thyme, majoram or oregano (I used oregano)
5 tbsp. of dry white wine
A can of chopped tomatoes
5oz Kalamata olives, pitted and halved
Spaghetti to serve
Season the chicken with salt and pepper
Heat the oil in the pan and add the chicken and cook over a medium heat, turning occasionally until browned all over.
Add the garlic and oregano and cook, storing constantly for about five minutes
Pour in the wine and simmer until the alcohol has evaporated.
Add the tomatoes, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes, (30 if you are cooking chicken quarters) then add the olives. Cook for about 20 minutes more (30 if you are cooking chicken quarters) or until the chicken is tender and the sauce has thickened perceptibly.
Serve the chicken and the sauce over spaghetti.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

There's no place like a Great British Home (even though this recipe is a little bit French) Spring Lamb Stew

In preparation for this blogging challenge, hosted by Britmums about my #GreatBritishhome, I took the Victoria Plumb quiz which ascertained what my style was. Apparently I am elegant, which for the people who know me well at least will be a source of great amusement. I am only presuming that 'a bit rough with the odd delusion of grandeur' wasn't an option. However, on closer reading what 'elegant' encompassed was not necessarily so incongruous as it did mention some of the things I love, dark wood, period pieces, traditional food...

"Elegant and classy, you just adore period décor and style. You love the classics; subtle wallpaper, dark wood and rich colours. 
You have a penchant for opulent fabrics and secretly covet a Steinway 
piano for your living room. You search antiques fairs until you get the 
perfect piece. At home, your tastes are high-class classics; game pie, 
roast beef and all the trimmings or a fillet of plaice." 
So my take on a Great British Home would be comfortable surroundings for sure, the dark wood, the gilt edged mirror, the leather couch, the vibrant coloured curtains encasing doors opening out onto the garden, but actually there is something much more fundamental which creates my Great British Home, and that is the food on the table, the company, the sound of chatter as we all tuck in and talk about anything and everything. It may not happen like this all the time but when it does, all of us sat about, the clatter of forks and spoons, sharing whatever is on the table, then it is the epitome of 'home' for me.

So, Sunday, we had friends around and as it was a bit unexpected the easiest, and most homeliest thing to have was a stew. I decided on a spring lamb stew seeing as it the time of year was fitting, served with some crusty French bread and butter. It was a lovely light stew with plenty of vegetables in relation to meat and importantly, every mouthful felt good for you. Just like home should feel...

Spring Lamb Stew, adapted from The French Bistro Cookbook by Richard Bertinet


40g butter
2 tbsp. olive oil and more if necessary
900g boned shoulder of lamb, trimmed and cut into chunks. (I used diced lamb leg)
2 shallots, finely chopped (I used two sliced onions)
1 tbsp. sugar
1 litre of strong lamb stock
2 tbsp. tomato puree
1 bouquet garni, (I used some chopped fresh parsley, 1/2 a tsp of dried thyme and a little less of dried rosemary)
16 new potatoes, peeled and halved if large
2 turnips, peeled, cut into halves and then into eighths
12 Chantenay carrots, peeled, topped and cut in half
5oz frozen peas
chopped parsley to garnish

Serve with crusty baguette and butter.

Melt half of the butter with the oil in a suitable casserole and begin to brown off the lamb, Do this in batches so as to allow the lamb to colour well. When browned, remove to a plate.
Melt the rest of the butter with the fat left in the casserole. Add the onions and stir them into the butter ans the oil. Cook out a little and then sprinkle them with sugar. Increase the heat and allow the onions to caramelise but keep an eye on them as they can burn quickly.
Add the stock to the onions, and then pour the meat and the juices into the casserole too. Stir in the tomato puree and herbs. Stir and season and bring to the boil. Put the lid on the casserole and reduce the heat and simmer for about 45 minutes.
Add the vegetables to the casserole and continue simmering for another 15 minutes. Then add the peas and cook uncovered for about 10 minutes. You could cook a little further to thicken the sauce if you wish. Once you are happy with the consistency taste for seasoning and then garnish with chopped parsley.
Serve with baguette, for soaking up the juices.

This post is an entry for the #GreatBritishHome Challenge  sponsored by Victoria Plumb, a source of quality bathrooms for every type of home. Take its “What’s Your Celebrity Home Style?” quiz to discover what your home says about you.

Friday, 11 April 2014

This is what happens when you buy a dozen eggs for 30p: Pear Clafoutis

Version française ici
I do love a bargain. If I had the time I would trawl around supermarkets at the optimum time and hoover up any reduced price stuff I could and put it to good use, stash it in the freezer, etc. Timing is everything however, a good time being last Sunday afternoon, about an hour or so before closing when I happen to walk into a well known supermarket beginning with T on the pretext of buying something else, but then happening to spy that the man with the pricing gun was about to spring into action. I got distracted.
So, after acquiring a dozen golden yolked free range eggs for 30 pence, plus a lovely big corn fed chicken for £2.04 which I roasted on a bed on onions with thyme, garlic and lemon (I may blog about this at some point) and various other bargains, including some delicious dessert pears (50 pence) I left,  nearly leaving without the thing I actually went in to buy.
Now then, what could I possibly make with my newly acquired bargains?
I really like clafoutis, not just because I am a Francophile, but because it is a great way of utilising fruit for a dessert that is not just strewing a crumble topping over it (I would like to stress here and now that there is nothing wrong with crumble; I never ate a crumble I didn't like and there are times when the rubbing together of butter, flour and sugar is just the most therapeutic thing to do, but for impact, the burnished top of a clafoutis with its slight quiver and fruit, like jewels, adorning it gives it the edge on the crumble, just...) and you can use any fruit you like really, The thing to be mindful about is some fruit can give out a tremendous amount of water and ruin the look and the texture of the clafoutis. There certainly is an argument for sautéing  those type of fruits in a little butter and evaporating the excess moisture before putting them into the dish. I considered this when looking at the pears, which were really juicy - definitely too ripe to be eaten with any finesse. But despite being juicy, they were holding their shape when I cut them and so I just put them in without cooking. They were fine, as it happens. though the addition of flour to the batter instead of purely just using a custard mixture of eggs and milk probably helped to absorb any excess moisture that came from when the pears were cooked.
The basis of the recipe is one that I found on the Marmiton website which includes alsorts of other fruit like apples and prunes to be used as well as the pears. I just increased the quantity of pears. I also used my own vanilla sugar instead of the sachets (which I know you can get here as well as France but I just have a Kilner jar of sugar in which I put any used vanilla pods so that the sugar becomes infused with the smell and flavour of vanilla). I substituted the rum recommended in the recipe with some Williams Pear Liqueur which I brought back from the last time we were in France, though as I tend to say in most other situations involving drink, any old booze will do. The last, and frankly inspired thing I did which is different to the original recipe was instead of scattering sugar on the clafoutis as it came out of the oven, I decided to scatter it over five minutes or so before it came out, thus creating a sweet crunchy topping to the clafoutis, which when matched with the unctuous eggy custard and clean taste of the pears was something pretty good!
Pear Clafoutis, translated and then adapted from the Marmiton website
Serves Lola, Finn Mum and Dad plus two others
Four dessert pears, peeled, hulled and cut into eighths (with a little lemon juice to squirt over them to stop them browning)
4 eggs
120 g of flour
110 g  vanilla sugar (or caster sugar with a few drops of vanilla extract)  plus a little extra for scattering on top of the clafoutis
400ml full fat milk
20ml pear liqueur (though you could use rum, and actually, it probably doesn't matter if you wish to leave it out)
A little butter, for greasing the dish
Turn the oven heat to gas mark 6/ 180c
Prepare the pears, 
Combine the flour and the sugar together
Add eggs one at a timeadding the milk and liqueur in between times.
Grease a suitable pan or dish that will hold the mixture comfortably (there will be some rise of the batter in the oven). Place it onto a baking tray to catch any spillages whilst it is in the oven.
Scatter the fruit, or place in a pattern over the bottom of the prepared dish. Pour in the custard mixture.
Place in the centre of the oven and cook about 30  - 40 minutes, or until the custard is set but still retains a wobble. At this point, take the clafoutis out of the oven and scatter some sugar over the top. Return to the oven for five minutes or so until the sugar begins to melt a little.
When you take the clafoutis out of the oven, allow it to cool until it is just warm. The clafoutis will sink.
Serve with cream.


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