Smart Girls Supper

Two clever little girls with two very big appetites.

White chocolate parfait, blackberry soup and buttery biscuits

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This recipe originates from my father’s propensity to invite many a dear colleague to dinner parties at the Conroy Chateau and, to give creative control of the menu, in its entirety, to my sister and me. This is actually not a part we play willingly and is more an expected duty after 23 years of eating him out of house and home ourselves.

I find when cooking for the academic elite, or so they like to think, it is always best to be prepared so that you maximise those wonderful moments when the whole table’s attention focuses on your future. This dish can be made completely ahead of schedule and assembled really easily at the last minute to great affect and many a nod of approval.

White chocolate and blackberry will forever be one of my favourite combinations. Blackberries because I was born in Scotland and they bring with them memories of long days lying in fields with my siblings and friends eating most of our harvest before they made it home to make a pie from. White chocolate because I don’t and won’t order a dessert unless it contains chocolate, white is the preferable variety.

There is a lot more I could tell you about this recipe, like I designed it to use up some of the egg whites as well the egg yolks, and then that opens up room for the free-range egg championing etc etc etc but lucky for you I will leave it here. I hope you enjoy!

For the langue de chat
60 g plain flour
60 g caster sugar
125 g butter
2 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
A pinch of salt

For the blackberry soup
2 small punnets of blackberries
1 oz caster sugar
A good splash of crème de cassis

For the white chocolate parfait
8 egg yolks
3 oz caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
200g white chocolate
250 ml cream

To make the parfait.
Whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl over a bain marie so the mixture warms but the base of the bowl doesn’t get too hot. Whisk for 5-10 minutes until thick, pale and creamy looking. Remove from the heat and place in a larger bowl of iced water to cool the mixture, whisking all the time.
Melt the chocolate slowly over a bain marie. Remove from the heat. When cooled slightly whisk it and the vanilla quickly into the egg mixture.
In a separate bowl whisk the cream until it forms soft peaks.
Thoroughly mix in a third of the cream to the egg mixture to loosen it. Add the remaining two thirds and gently fold it in carefully till fully combined.
Pour into a suitable container and freeze over night.

For the langue de chat
Whisk the butter and sugar till soft and fluffy. Add the four gradually, followed by the egg whites, salt and vanilla. Continue to whisk until smooth. The mixture should be thick enough to pipe and hold its shape at this stage.
Use a piping bag with a 1cm nozzle (or cut a tiny corner off a freezer bag) to pipe long thin lines onto a lined baking tray. Pop the baking tray into the fridge for ten minutes till the biscuit dough is hard to the touch.
Put into a hot oven and cook for 7 minutes or so till slightly brown round the edges.
Once baked work quickly to roll each length into a scroll shape and leave to harden on a wire rack.

For the blackberry soup
Gently heat the blackberries, alcohol and sugar for a few minutes on a medium heat.
Blitz in a blender and sieve to make a smooth sauce.

To assemble
Remove the parfait from the freezer five minutes before serving. Heat a round cutter on your hob. Cut out a circle of parfait using a lot of force and your cutter.
Pour blackberry soup into the bottom of a soup plate. Place your parfait on top of that, followed by your biscuit scroll on top of that. Arrange blackberries around the edge.

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Mushroom risotto

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Ingredients

2 cups of Arborio rice

4 cups of warm chicken stock (preferably homemade)

1 cup white wine

500g mixed mushrooms

A handful of porcini mushrooms soaked in one cup of water

A handful of flowering marjoram (thyme would work well too)

A good knob of butter

4 large cloves of garlic

2 large shallots, diced

Salt and pepper to taste

Parmesan

Gently fry the shallots in some of the butter. Add the rice and cook till transparent. Throw in the white wine and stir till absorbed by the rice. Next add the porcini mushrooms, liquid and all and two thirds of the mixed mushrooms. Gradually add the chicken stock, stirring all the time for around 40 minutes or until the rice is tender and the texture is soft and loose with liquid and not dry.

In another pan add the rest of the butter and remaining mushrooms. Fry on each side until brown and caramalised, add the garlic.

Top the risotto with the garlic mushrooms, shavings of parmesan, salt, pepper and the flower marjoram. I like my risotto with a large salad, although I cannot vouch for this being an authentic way to serve it.

Baked custard with rhubarb

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I love crème brulee and this is essentially just a very large one. Adding gelatine obviously helps it keep its shape so that it is easy to portion for big numbers and sherbety rhubarb is the perfect foil for the sweet creamy baked custard. Unfortunately for the old waistline I tend not to do things in halves and this is made with lots of sugar, egg yolks and double cream- but those are the things that make it so good. Ingredients:

6 egg yolks

1 pint of double cream

4 oz of caster sugar

1 tsp of vanilla paste or 1 vanilla pod

6 sticks of rhubarb

Gelatine sheets

A splash or orange juice

And a little more sugar

Whisk the egg yolks with 4 oz of caster sugar until thick, pale and doubled in size. Heat cream and vanilla over a low heat till just simmering. Pour the cream over the egg yolks and whisk briskly, tip all of it back in the pan and heat through, stirring constantly till thick. Make up the gelatine according to the instructions and add to the custard. Poor mixture into a round pie dish, lined with baking paper and place the dish into a baking tray filled with a half inch of hot water. Bake for half an hour or till browned on top. Allow it to cool and chill in the fridge for a couple of hours to make it easier to slice.

Cut the rhubarb into chunks; add the orange juice and sugar to taste. Stew for forty minutes until soft.

When everything is ready, serve the rhubarb on top of your baked custard and cut into slices. You can serve it warm too which is nice but it won’t hold its shape. If I had had half an inclination I would have made some nice caramel shards by melting sugar and cooling it on baking paper to add to the top, I think it would give it a good crunch.

Lemon and Thyme Rice Pudding

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Classic puddings are not given enough airtime and, in my opinion, shouldn’t be relegated to the depths of winter either. Pies, puddings, jellies and tarts are all delicious served cold and this little number is no exception.

A rice pudding probably doesn’t scream summer to you, and with our recent heat wave you will have no doubt have been reaching for the ice creams, but it is so creamy and delicious I could eat it whatever the weather. The lemon and the thyme lend a fragrant edge and cuts through the expected richness.

Serve it cool with summer berries.

Serves 8

2 Cups of Arborio or pudding rice

2 cups of single cream

2 cups of full fat milk

Half a cup of sugar

A vanilla bean

The rind of a whole lemon (unwaxed and washed)

A few good sprigs of thyme

Throw everything into a pan and bring to the boil. Simmer for half an hour, or until almost tender and then pop into a hot oven until it forms a lovely golden crust.

Zucchini Milanese

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Working in Sardinia last summer had its perks, and one of those was a chef. He made the most amazing traditional food from rotisserie suckling pig and homemade pastas to local sea truffles and mussels seasoned with wine and herbs. One of my favourite dishes he made was a vegetable he called zucchini Milanese, which presumably is courgettes Milan style.

This has turned out to be a fail-safe vegetarian option (obviously minus the pancetta!) compared with the cous-cous stuffed peppers or mushrooms usually on offer. They are delicious served with salad and crusty bread and can even  make a robust and satisfying meal in themselves, sans meat or fish, if  again, you omit the pancetta.

I couldn’t find a recipe for them anywhere on my return to Britain but had luckily asked him how he made them. Here is what I could remember of them and they turned out almost as good as his.

2013-03-20 14.11.40 Serves 4

2 large courgettes, or 4 small ones

A large handful of breadcrumbs

1 onion, finely diced

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

A few sprigs of rosemary, thyme, sage or similar

Salt and Pepper

A knob of butter

Olive oil

Pancetta cubes

Parmesan cheese, grated

Scoop out the flesh of the courgettes, leaving a thick sided shell. Gently fry the onions in the olive oil, remove from the pan and add the pancetta. Cook hot till crispy. Once cooked add onions to the pan, lower the head and add the garlic for a couple of minutes. Add the flesh of the courgette and the knob of butter.

Once the butter has melted, scoop the mixture into the courgette cases and top with Parmesan and breadcrumbs.

When needed, put into a hot oven for around 15 minutes till brown on top and hot through.

Birthday Roses

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What seems like a million years ago I was invited by my friend Millie (it’s a LDN thing) to Cath Kidston’s birthday party. In reality too it was a long time ago and my lack of immediacy may go a long way to explaining my lack of invites to swanky events.

After being fed and watered on rose infused cocktails and little portions of British classics, like sausage and mash and fish pie, we were treated to a cake decorating class by Lili Vanilli. Having the hand equivalent of two left feet when it comes to fiddly icing and pretty cakes I was surprised at how easy it was to make my monstrosity of a cupcake look delicate with a camouflage of sugared flowers.

My sister and I recently missed a friends birthday and had some making up to do.

So here is my attempt at working some egg whites and sugar into a little protective jacket for my home grown roses, and I think it came out surprisingly well for my level of talent. It is easiest with flowers which have just a single row of petals.

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1 egg white

A few drops of cold water

Lots of caster sugar (I used 500g by the time I had enough presentable examples)

Plenty of the freshest flowers you can find

1 small paintbrush

1 drying rack

A handful of pegs!

Make sure the flowers are dry. Whisk the egg white with the water to break it up slightly. Pour the sugar onto a plate. Very carefully paint a thin layer of egg white onto every surface of the flower, not forgetting the backs of the petals. Sprinkle with sugar. Leave to dry in a warm place. I opted for pegging them upside down above our range cooker so that they kept an upright shape.

We made two large classic Victoria sponge cakes, cut each into three and filled them with apricot jam and a rose water scented cream cheese frosting (icing sugar, butter and rose water beaten together with cream cheese added in the last minute). Then smothered the entire thing in more frosting, threw a ribbon round it and covered all its flaws with flowers. Et voila.

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Completos

 

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These Chilean hotdogs called completos were introduced to me by my sister’s boyfriend, Gabriel, whose dad is from Chile. The South American flavours take a barbequed banger to a whole other level and keep the ketchup away from the table. When I was little our Columbian family friend taught my mum to make this zingy guacamole. Our family has always made it this same way since. Sausages piled with homemade mayonnaise, tomato and red onion salad and guacamole is a beautiful thing. I like mine with barbecued potatoes and salad on the side.

Serves 4

8 Good quality free range sausages

4 large crusty baps

A large portion of homemade mayo (recipe here)

2 avocados

1 clove of garlic

A big bunch of parsley

Salt and pepper

The juice of 1-2 limes

2 large tomatoes thinly sliced

1 red onion, finely sliced

To make the guacamole bash together the salt and garlic to form a paste, either in a pestle and mortar or in a bowl with pre-crushed garlic. Add the parsley, finely chopped and bash away at it until it all forms a wet green paste (it will be more appetizing when you’re finished I promise!). Mash in the avocado and squeeze in one of the limes. Check for seasoning and add lime, salt and pepper to taste.

image-1Barbecued sausages give the best flavour, but oven cooked are a close second. Snuggle them into your baps and top with as much mayonnaise, tomato, red onion and guacamole you possibly can.

A little bit of lovely lamb

Fabulous Baker Brothers Spiced Lamb & Quark Flatbreads

On Thursday evening I was asked to go to a press event to represent the magazine I’m interning for at the moment. Luckily for me it was a food event. The Lake District Dairy Co. has just released a new version of an old product- quark- and their PR team put on quite the show to introduce it to the media. They had enlisted the help of the Baker Brothers to show us all how to use the product in recipes diverse as from soup to cakes.

One of the recipes they showed us was so good, and took the boys literally ten minutes to whip up, I thought I should share it. Saying that, I was tempted to claim it for my own and have the compliments of friends stroke my ego at how clever a supper I had thought of all by myself. My conscience won on this occasion, so full credit to the boys.

Quark is a naturally fat-free ingredient which sounds a bit too-good-to-be-true. It can be used in the place of cream cheese, yogurt and milk to create creamy flavours with no fat. I was sceptical but it really is nice, with a smooth texture and subtle yogurt like flavour. If you try it I’d love to know how you used it!

 

Ingredients:

4 lamb leg steaks (200g)

Small bunch of mint

1tbsp coriander seeds crushed

1 lemon

Salt and pepper

Olive oil

Small bag of salad leaves

1 jar sweet red peppers

1peeled large carrot

Quark sauce:

100g The Lake District Dairy Co. Quark

1 clove of garlic

Small bunch of mint

Salt and pepper

Flatbreads:

250g The Lake District Dairy Co. Quark

200g strong white flour

Pinch of salt

Mix the coriander seeds, salt and pepper. Rub all over the lamb with a little olive oil. Leave to marinade for 30 mins in the fridge

Make the pitas by mixing the flour and the Quark together. It should be soft not sticky, so add a pinch more flour if needed. Knead for 10mins in a mixer or for 15 mins by hand until nice and stretchy. Divide into golf size balls and roll round

Heat your oven to the max 250°c / gas mark 9/10 with an oven tray or baking stone. Roll the balls out flat around 3mm thick. Place directly onto the tray or stone and shut the door. They should take around 3 mins to rise. Remove and carefully cut open to eat

For the sauce, crush the garlic and chop the mint. Stir through the Quark and season. This will keep for a week in the fridge and is delicious with lots of things

To make the salad. Slice the peppers, grate the carrot, chop the mint and mix the leaves in. Dress with lemon and oil just before serving

Heat a pan and fry the lamb steaks for about 3 mins on each side for just pink steaks. Do for longer if you prefer more well done. Take out of the pan and rest for a few mins before slicing

Split the pitas, load with salad and lamb. Drizzle on the Quark sauce.

And here is an extra treat- the lovely Tom Herbert succumbing to the culturally diverse peace pose!

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Feeling crabby

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Samphire is one of my favourite foods. Naturally succulent and salty it is a perfect bedfellow for all things fishy. I rather indulgently treated myself to crab this week. It would be rude not to introduce it to my table as it has just started coming into season, a season which will last till winter but peaks in mid summer. These two little seaside gems made for a quick and tasty supper this evening as the last of the sunshine peaked its head through my flat in London. The ingredients do all the work here, ensuring you have ample time for other pursuits, like watching Masterchef. This can also eek out crab between a larger crowd as the beautiful silky smooth crab meat packs a real punch of the sea, and is less expensive than its white alternative.

Sometimes I worry that we misnamed our blog and should have opted for something like butter babies, as once again I found myself reaching for that little block of beauty.

This would also work well with a home made aioli should you find yourself willing.

Ingredients:

Potatoes (2 per person)

White and brown crabmeat

Samphire grass

Courgette, grated

Finly sliced onion

Roughly chopped parsley and chives

A spoonful of cream cheese

A flamboyant swirl of olive oil

A knob of butter

A squeeze of Lemon juice

And a pinch of salt

Finely slice the onions, squeeze lemon over and sprinkle with salt. Leave to pickle.

Boil the potatoes till tender. Mash with the brown crabmeat, butter and cream cheese.

Steam the Samphire for 2-3 minutes, or until bright green (like asparagus).

Top the potato, crab mixture with samphire, courgette, white crabmeat and herbs. Squeeze a generous amount of lemon juice all over and swirl that olive oil.

 

By Rosie