Sunday, 22 January 2012

Roly poly ice cream cake

I really don't think there is a simpler pudding than this. I almost felt guilty making it because it involves no cooking at all. Compared to the one in the book this is a miniature version. I used the jumbo version of swiss rolls, this was a medium sized pyrex bowl and one swiss roll was enough. Then stuffed it with chocolate and vanilla ice cream. Your meant to leave it in the freezer overnight but I made this a couple of hours before we were going to eat but it was still firm enough. Swiss rolls are strange things, they didn't freeze. It suddenly hit me that I was going to have to cut through it to serve and it was fine. Even when I had another portion a few days later they still hadn't frozen, very very strange! A definite hit in our house, well you can't really go wrong with chocolate cake and ice cream.....

Monday, 16 January 2012

Mini Beef Wellington

Where do I start? These little lovelies caused me so many problems even before I'd started cooking. We had these on New Years Day, family for dinner so did something nice. Well, sort of. Off we went to the butchers to buy the beef. It states in the recipe to buy fillet steak, now anyone who remembers my posts from the first blog (I know it's unlikely) will remember that I made the huge mistake of buying fillet without checking the price, not going to make that mistake again. At the moment it is £35 a kilo!!!! Safe to say, needing about 700g I was not going to buy fillet. I twittered Lorraine for alternative suggestions and got the ideas of maybe chicken or lamb instead but I wanted to keep it as authentic as I could. The second butcher we went to on the Mold Road were brilliant. He suggested sirloin, and even cut them for me.

Happily I started to prepare the wellingtons, this involves chopping millions of mushrooms, which I don't like and cooking them down in butter. You also seal the beef. Here is the biggest mistake I made. Everything was too warm when I started putting the wellingtons together. First rule of using pastry IT NEEDS TO STAY COOL!!!! I made two versions of the wellington, two with mushrooms and two without. This produced very different results.
As you can see in the picture, it exploded. This is after I chilled them in the fridge for 3 hours before cooking them, the hot mushrooms had already ruin the pastry beyond repair. Thankfully the two that didn't have mushrooms came out quite well. The only problem using sirloin is the size, they were enormous! They took up half the plate. Very tasty and well worth the effort, if I could afford it I'd make it with fillet but our budget version seemed to work out ok.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Goats Cheese Truffles and Cheese twists

As you can see from the pictures, these two dishes were a complete and utter disaster. I was asked to make some nibbles for christmas before our meal, no problem. Then I completely forgot I'd agreed to make them and luckily I had some of the ingredients in, well sort of.

Let me start with the truffles, Lorraine makes them look so simple, the recipe is so simple. But it does help that I bought the completely wrong type of goats cheese. I was in the supermarket doing a random shop and spotted the cheese and something in my head went, I'm sure I need some goats cheese I better buy it. As it got closer to christmas and I was reminded about making nibbles I happily checked the cheese, reading soft goats cheese and went, yes it's fine I've got the cheese. Well it was completely the wrong sort of soft cheese. Not knowing goats cheese very well I didn't realise there were varieties of softness and I had it very wrong. The worst thing was I made these christmas morning so no chance of nipping to the shops to buy more. So I had to mould some pretty hard cheese into little boulders and cover them. Thankfully you do brush them with honey first anyway, but these needed extra. Only one was eaten on the day and I'm not surprised, I didn't want one. So lesson is check the softness of your cheese.

The second nibble were the cheese twists. I had everything in the house for these, but I became very impatient. I got the pastry out of the freezer far to late and was waiting for it to thaw. So much that there was no time to put the twists back into the fridge before baking so what came out were these strange oozing cheesy things, not pretty. Again, not many got eaten. Thankfully my wonderful sister in law had some smoked salmon on blinis ready to go so we didn't get hungry. 

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Caramelised Banana and Pecan Bread Pudding

Well what do you make when you have loads of bananas and a humongous pandoro to eat. Well the above pudding with a few tweaks. Those with eagle eyes may notice the lack of pecan nuts. This is true I swapped them for chocolate coins. I didn't bother putting any butter on the bread either, the pandoro was so sweet and buttery anyway I didn't want to add any unnecessary fat (yeah, I know, too late!!).  I bought the pandoro along with a panetone about 2 months before christmas and pressies and then as usual I completely forgot about them. I found a home for the panetone but we ended up keeping the pandoro, and despite trying to dish it out on christmas day there was no way we would be able to eat it all. This thing was huge. I would say  diameter of 10 inches and a height of more than 12 inches. More than half ended up as worm food. But the quarter that went into this little baby was well worth it. This is a really simple pud, basically mix milk, eggs and sugar together and pour over bread. Bake in the oven. I used chocolate coins because we had no pecans in the house, they didn't melt in the way I would have expected them too, you can see the ones on the top are whole and went really hard.

Very nice on it's own but day two (it lasted a while) we had it with chocolate sauce. I was so impressed with myself, no recipe and spur of the moment. I had the end of a tub of cream and some chocolate buttons. Heated the cream and then let the buttons melt in it for a while before mixing, so the same method as ganache but different quantities.

So this is the bowl of sweetness. I didn't manage to get to the end of this, try as I might. I'm not a fan of bread and butter pudding anyway despite my Dads best efforts when I was younger, just bread in a pudding is wrong and the added problem of currants. The banana definitely made it slightly more tempting and changing the bread to cake. But be warned it is seriously sweet. The chocolate sauce did help but make it a dark chocolate, really dark.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Hamper Gifts

For christmas this year I made the strange decision to make food gifts for my friends at christmas. Whilst going through the process I was adament that I would never, ever do it again. The stress of making the food leaving enough time to deliver to everyone and for it to survuve in their fridge long enough so they don't have to eat it instantly. Then there is the question of packaging everything and making little labels. Arrghhhh, I spent every night in the kitchen making two or three items  surrounded by cellophane and little jars and boxes. But after all that it was completely worth the effort. The great thing was that I had plenty of things left from each batch to be able to give everybody at work something too. So what did I make?
Winter spiced lemon curd with cinnamon and cloves. There was a moment while I was making this that I thought the world was about to come and swallow me home. I know looking back it wasn't that big a deal, but I do go into slight neurotic meltdowns when things don't quite go to plan. It looked like the mixture had completely curdled until I realised that the butter wasn't melting. I must have had the heat so low in a worry about curdling that nothing was cooking so I wacked the heat up and it was fine. When I make it in future I think I'll melt the butter before I start. It didn't get quite as thick as a shop bought curd and maybe if I'd boiled it for longer it would have. But it still tasted good.

Peanut Butter Truffles. I love peanut butter and I love chocolate but I'm not a big fan of combining them. I wasn't sure about putting something into a hamper that I wouldn't eat but Mark said they were nice so in they went. The last time I tried to make truffles the mixture just didn't get hard so I was very relieved when these worked. Really need to make sure the peanut butter is stirred in though because when I was rolling them I had huge lumps of the stuff.

Apple and Blackberry Chutney. I love chutney with cheese, but strangely I haven't tried it yet. I have a huge jar of it still sitting in the garage but I just can't bring myself to try it. The smell of cooking vinegar was so potent while I was making it that I can't face tasting it, incase that's all I can taste. Soon I will.

Marshmallow and brown sugar fudge. This recipe is amazing. The last time I made fudge it just didn't harden or you felt like you would have a heart attack with each piece. My husbands answer to failing fudge is to stick it in melted chocolate and it'll be fine. But this one, it was hardening almost as soon as it hit the tin. After the lemon curd this was my favourite thing in the hamper and we will definitely be making it again.

Overall the hampers were well received, although no news on the chutney yet. So I will do it again, but maybe not next year I don't think I could take the stress so soon.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Prociutto and Brie Toastie

I had great pleasure in making this, it contains so many things I like especially brie. Despite lots of attempts with the little ones I am still only brie eater in the house so it was great that I had an excuse to buy some for this recipe. For some reason I bought a slightly wholemeal loaf so it didn't really toast nicely and looks really burnt in the picture. It was absolutely delicious and the next time I have an excuse just to make lunch for myself it will be at the top of my list. Next time though it will be even better, as you can see the toast is burnt and the brie hasn't really melted. Lesson learnt, cook on a lower heat with more butter/oil. Also, definitely use white bread, toasted sandwiches have to be white bread from now on in our house. Yum.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Cracked black pepper pasta with creamy sauce

I amazed even myself with this dish. I made the pasta myself! I have been putting off this little number for a while now. We've had a pasta machine in the house for well over a year and have used it once, which was a complete disaster. It was too sticky, it wouldn't go though the rollers and we over cooked it, yuk. But this time I seem to have got to grips with it. I followed Lorraines pasta recipe but halving the quantities and then happily put it through the machine. I kept waiting for the moment when it would all go wrong. I did have a slightly sticky moment when I rolled out the pasta and cut it in half because it was getting too long and dealt with one half the other got stuck to the worktop. Add flour, my biggest tip. The other is have the hangers ready, I didn't and ended up with bits of tagliatelle everywhere.

The sauce is very simple, fry bacon/pancetta add mushrooms and stir in cream. Although it turned out we didn't have any cream in the house (I'd used it to make a chocolate sauce the night before, whoops!) so I ended up using the end of a creme fraise tub which was fine, but wasn't quite enough. I made the excuse it was the low fat version which is completely true! The best thing was that the children eat it all, so I don't think I'll make the pasta again, although it was delicious I will definitely be serving up the dish again, the low fat version.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Steamed Mars Bar Pudding

This definitely caused me a few problems this pudding. I had to buy a pudding bowl, thankfully a local supermarket had some in at half price. Of course what I hadn't realised was that the basin was too small and as you can see from the pictures the pudding exploded! Thankfully I'd left quite a lot of room above the pudding when I wrapped it in the foil. Then when I turned it out you can see the result, think it was undercooked but boy did it taste nice. Lovely gooy centre and chocolate sauce. I did have problems with the sauce, you melt mars bars in a pan, admittedly I did use less than the recipe states but I couldn't bring myself to melt 5 for just the two of us!!! But while I was melting I think it seized because I ended up with this gloopy mixture and not smooth and runny as the recipe would suggest. Apart from that it's pretty easy to make and if you can stand the smell of cooking mars bars while it boils then it's well worth the effort. But check the size of your pudding bowl first!

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Stove-top haddock with fennel seeds and basil.

We definitely don't eat enough fish in our house. I love fish but I'm really fussy about when and where to buy it. I have always been told never buy fish on a Sunday because they don't land fish so it would always be a day old. The problem we have is that we do our shopping on a Sunday. I also like to buy fish from the fishmonger but then there is the hassle of getting there and on a day when you need to go into town. To cut a long story short I made a special effort and we had this dish midweek. This has to be one of the easiest dishes, also because it uses a lot of ingredients that we have in anyway. The biggest difference was canned cherry tomatoes, which are really nice and now we buy them a bit more often. Basically cook everything in the pan and you can do it all in the time it takes to cook rice. The flavours were really good, I love fennel and anything aniseed, children weren't quite so impressed though. But for a quick mid week supper a definite repeat but might just slightly alter the flavour so the fussy one will eat.