Monday, 31 January 2011

ICCHFC - Week 69: White chocolate and cherry cookies

Mazza needed a quick and easy recipe this week so using the power of Google found a recipe for these white chocolate and cherry cookies.

Very tasty they were too and perfect with a cuppa.

Monday, 24 January 2011

ICCHFC - Week 68

No home baked cake this week but we did have a rather extravagant Fleur de Lys chocolate tart from Paul. I'll leave it to John to exlplin why in his own words:

Hi Cakers,
I do have a delicious cake but because of diy kitchen refurbishment antics, I don’t have an oven so had to buy it.
I promise to make chocolate bourbon biscuits as soon as my new oven is commissioned and hope the inferior shop bought cake will suffice until I’m back in action.
Caker John

I cannot wait for home made bourbons.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

The night of the exploding ketchup at Butlers Wharf Chop House

Booking a table for four on a Friday night at Butlers Wharf Chop House was surprisingly easy and I even managed to book the three courses for £20 "Best of British Menu", so I was expecting it to be pretty quiet in there. I couldn't have been more wrong: the place was packed making for a very vibrant and enjoyable Friday night atmosphere.

The service was up to the usual high D&D level that I've now realised is standard across the whole portfolio. The food was pretty good too.


Chef's homemade black pudding, ham hock hash, Hen's egg

Very peppery black pudding and a fantastic poached egg. I could have eaten a bucket load of the hash (just wish I'd asked what was in it and I was having too good a time to think about it).

Baked Jerusalem artichoke and salsify hot pot, fried duck egg
Given this was the vegetarian main, I was intrigues as to what the hotpot was going to be. Turned out it was just a gratin. Quite disappointing really. And I do hate it when the veg are not cooked through. In this sort of dish the veg should melt not crunch. The salad was a very welcome accompaniment to break the tedium.

Traditional beer battered fish & chips, mushy peas, tartare sauce

I had a little pang of food envy when the fish and chips arrived for J & K. The fish was lovely: huge white flakes of flesh in a crisp batter. The half dozen of so chips were huge and OK. We all agreed, however, that the jars where and chip cage were a little over the top, a touch passée and even a little pretentious now. However, this was countered with the appearance of a bottle of Heinz ketchup on the table.

The ketchup was an integral part of what was possibly one of the funniest events I have ever experienced in a restaurant. As is customary, J gave the new bottle of ketchup a firm shake. As her arms started to rise for a second shake, the contents of the bottle made a decision to make a break for freedom. The next thing I remember is K & I shaking with laughter at he sight of J's ample bosom newly decorated with an abstract red pattern. The scene was only exacerbated by the excellent maître d' proffering a clutch of moist napkins but not actually managing to help clear the mess due to the hypnotic effect of J vigorously stroking her chest.

Traditional English trifle
My trifle was excellent. The custard was fresh and soft rather than set and a sprinkling of caramel added a fantastic crunch. I was enjoying it so much I completely forgot to take a picture until it was half gone. However, the nature of the bowl meant that there was rather an overwhelming amount of custard and cream and not quite enough fruit to cut through it. Still that's a minor grumble and purely a function of the serving vessel.

Sticky toffee pudding, toffee sauce, clotted cream

K & J both enjoyed their sticky toffee pudding, but declared it a touch too rich.

All in all a great night. Good English food at a bargain price. I must return there during the summer so I can enjoy a table outside overlooking the river. That's pretty much the only improvement to be had.

Butlers Wharf Chop House on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Lemon sole with butter bean and chorizo hot pot and sticky toffee pudding

BK was round for dinner this week. Due to the ridiculous demands of the project I'm managing at work at the moment, I only had time to offer two courses (rather than the customary three). Inspired by Channel 4's recent Fish Fight campaign, I wanted to cook fish and I also wanted quite a hearty winter pud. Consequently we ended up having:

Lemon sole with butter bean and chorizo hot pot
Sticky toffee pudding

Lemon sole with butter bean and chorizo hot pot

A perfect example of how a few ingredients simply combined can be made into a very tasty meal that is on the verge of something quite fine. I love chorizo and it's not often that I can find a big cooking sausage so this gave me the perfect excuse to seek one out. This was so good, there wasn't a drop left in our bowls at the end.

Sticky toffee pudding

Apparently this was the "original" recipe and it certainly did hit the spot. Only trouble was I had no cream or ice cream to serve it with. Life is tough sometimes.

Here are the recipes:

Lemon sole with butter bean and chorizo hot pot (taken from One Perfect Ingredient by Marcus Wareing)

2 lemon sole fillets, skinned, cut in half lengthways
Onion, finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
150g chorizo sausage
1tsp smoked paprika
500ml chicken stock
400g can butter beans, drained and rinsed

1. Roll up the fillets and secure with a cocktail stick.
2. Sweat the onion and garlic in olive oil until soft.
3. Remove the skin from the chorizo. Finely slice a third and roughly chop the remainder.
4. Add the paprika and chopped chorizo to the onion and fry for 5mins.
5. Pour in the stock and simmer for 10 mins.
6. Stir in the butter beans.
7. Place the sole fillets on top and spoon over a little of the broth.
8. Cover the pan and simmer until the fish is just cooked, ~8mins.
9. While the fish is cooking, hard fry the chorizo slices until crispy. Drain.
10. To serve spoon the broth into bowls, top with the fish and then garnish with the chorizo slices. Accompany with some crusty bread to help mop up the juices.

Sticky toffee pudding (taken from The Cook's Book edited by Jill Norman)

Ingredients: 2½oz unsalted butter
7oz caster sugar
3 eggs
7oz plain flour
375ml water
7oz pitted dates, roughly chopped
2½tsp baking powder
For the sauce:
2½oz soft dark brown sugar
300ml double cream
1¾oz unsalted butter

1. Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
2. Beat in the eggs.
3. Sift the flour and 1tsp baking powder into the mix and then fold in to combine.
4. Bring the water to biol in a small pan. Add the chopped dates and simmer for 2mins.
5. Remove from the heat and add the remaining baking powder to the pan. Add the date mixture to the sponge mix and stir to combine.
6. Pour the batter into a 9" square baking dish and bake at 200°C for 30mins (or until set).
7. Once the sponge has cooked, make the sauce. Add all the sauce ingredients to a pan and bring to the boil.
8. Pour half the sauce over the pudding and return to the oven for 2mins.
9. Cut into portions and serve with the remaining sauce.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

ICCHFC - Week 67: Banana and walnut loaf

Michael produced another lovely loaf this week (so much for the biscuit season!): banana and walnut.Amazingly, there was a piece saved for me on Tuesday and I'm glad there was. The moist, crumbly, light loaf was a lovely pick-me-up for elevenses.

Not overwhelmingly bananary but it didn't take away from the overall experience.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Souk Medina

Went to the Souk Medina in the Seven Dials for a birthday bash tonight.

Since we had a large party we had the £30 set menu which included a bottle of wine (or four beers) per person plus food: bargainous! There were three courses all of which were served as big sharing dishes. I love that type of mix and match food. The dishes we had were:

Vine leaves - I hate these dolmades, so didn't have any.
Humous - Why is restaurant humous so much better than the stuff I make at home. It always has an ethereal silky quality. what's the secret to that?
Mergues with batata harra (lamb sausages mixed with spiced potato) - phenomenally tasty. Who doesn't love a sausage?
Plenty of fresh warm pita bread
Tagine of lamb with prunes and roasted - Meltingly tender lamb shanks but surprisingly sweet, in fact too sweet.
Tagine of chicken with saffron and herbs - tender chicken (skin left on unfortunately) that had a real depth of flavour. Very moreish.
Tagine of spinach, feta cheese and roast onion - quite bland really, not enough feta and overpowered by the other big flavours.
Tagine of chick peas, cumin and harissa sauce - a spicy and intriguing accompaniment
Couscous with root vegetables
Selection of baklava and mint tea - is is possible to make bad baklava? Crispy pastry, nuts and loads of honey.

Dessert was also accompanied by a live belly dancing show. Needless to say, the birthday boy had to join in.

Overall, the food was OK, the service bizarre (alternating between the aggressive and nonchalant to attentive and suppliant) and the atmosphere brilliant. There was a real sense of the middle-east and a lively buzz.

A great venue for a gang to meet up, less ideal for a date or for a foodie treat.

Souk Medina on Urbanspoon

Oeufs à la neige

Finally got round to re-making oeufs à la neige that I made for Jess last week.

Tips for good poached meringues are to use very fresh egg whites. You're looking for a delicate light meringue as opposed to a "strong" meringue. (Also the acidity from the lemon juice is an absolute must as it cuts through the sweetness.) Finally, the meringues have to be pretty big otherwise they are a nightmare to handle and cook.

I slightly reduced the sugar content in the custard as I thought it was a little too sweet originally.

Also, I wasn't in the mood to make caramel for the top, so just drizzled over a little Golden Syrup instead.

Monday, 10 January 2011

ICCHFC - Week 66: Oat and cranberry cookies

Laura kept up (my unintentionally introduced) theme of biscuits and cookies with some rather good oat and cranberry cookies.

Some of the ICCHFC claimed that these were healthy as they had oats for slow energy release, fruit (dried cranberries) and were made with olive oil. I'm not entirely convinced of this but if it help people with their conscience...

No photo I'm afraid as I forgot my camera and by the time I brought it in the next day they'd all gone!

Sunday, 9 January 2011

CuiZine blog

I forget that all this stuff I put up on this blog can actually be read by anyone surfing the web. My equilibrium position is to assume that no-one I actually know in the real world reads my ramblings. Consequently, I am always shocked to my core when someone mentions something on the blog. This has happened on number of occasions most recently at a wedding.

Then at the end of last year one of my mates told me about his first post for CuiZine: A Beginners Guide to Trinidadian Street Food.

Having finally got round to reading it properly, I wish I had read it much sooner. The article's very good in both content and style. It's also made me want to go back to Sunjam for some Caribbean takeaway.

Having got my head around a Tumblr blog for the first time (I think), I'm looking forward to more.

Beef carpaccio, open seafood ravioli/lasage, oeufs à la neige

My first feast of 2011 is now under my belt. Finally had Jess round (she was my partner in crime for the salt beef adventure and was supposed to come round to share in the home cured delights) on Friday for a menu that was a collaborative affair:

Beef carpaccio
Seafood lasagne
Oeufs à la neige

Beef carpaccio

Unfortunately I couldn't get a big piece of beef fillet so had to be content with two smaller pieces. However, it still turned out pretty well and the rocket, Parmesan and lemon-mayonnaise were excellent accompaniments.

Seafood lasagne

Most recipes for sea food lasagne are variations on a white lasagne with layers of fish, pasta, spinach and ricotta and béchamel. However, that seemed a touch too heavy and just didn't really fit the bill. I wanted something a bit more delicate. In the end I did a combination of monkfish, prawns and salmon, in a creamy white wine sauce with spinach. It was pretty easy and very tasty although, I think I may have used one layer of pasta too many.

Oeufs à la neige

A classic French dessert made only from eggs, milk and sugar. Forgot to take a photo so will re-make later this week.

Beef carpaccio (recipe from BBC Good Food)

250g beef fillet
Rocket leaves, a generous handful
Parmesan, shaved with a potato peeler
For the dressing:
1 egg yolk
50ml olive oil
½ lemon , juiced
½tsp English mustard

1. Sear the beef quickly on all sides in a very hot pan.
2. Wrap the beef in a double thickness of cling film and roll into a tight cylinder. Put the beef into the freezer for an hour to firm it up.
3. For the dressing, put the egg yolk in a bowl and whisk in the olive oil in a steady stream. Season with lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper.
4. Just before serving take the beef out of the freezer and cut slices as thinly as possible. Arrange these on the serving plate.
5. Heap some rocket leaves in the middle and drizzle the dressing around the edge. Finish with Parmesan shavings.

Seafood lasagne


250g king prawns, de-veined and shelled (reserve 2 prawns with their tails for presentation)
250g monkfish
250g salmon fillet
~50g baby spinach leaves (half a bag)
4 pieces of fresh lasagne
For the sauce:
½ onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 glass dry white wine
2oz butter
75ml double cream

1. Chop the monkfish and salmon into large chunks. Quickly fry the each fish to seal the flesh. Allow to cool in a bowl.
2. In the same pan, sweat the onion and garlic until soft (add more olive oil if required).
3. Deglaze the pan with the wine and reduce by half. Add the cream and simmer until slightly thickened. Whisk in the butter. Taste for seasoning (a squeeze of lemon works very well) and then strain through a fine sieve.
4. Put the pasta sheets into a pan of boiling salted water. The whole dish can be put together whilst the pasta cooks.
5. Return the sauce to a clean pan and add the cooked fish (including and juices that may have gathered) to warm over a low heat.
6. Just before the pasta is cooked add the spinach to the fish to let it slightly wilt.
7. Once the pasta is cooked add to the fish pan and mix with the sauce.
8. To plate up, put a pasta sheet on each plate then cover with a quarter of the fish, some spinach and a couple of spoonfuls of sauce. Add another layer of pasta and repeat the fish and spinach layers.
9. Garnish with the prawns that still have their tails and dress with more sauce, if required.

Oeufs à la neige

3 eggs
500ml full fat milk
1dsp vanilla extract
105g caster sugar
Squeeze of lemon juice

1. Separate the eggs and whisk the whites with the lemon juice to soft peaks.
2. Gradually add in 45g of sugar and whisk until the meringue reaches stiff peaks.
3. Bring the milk and vanilla up to the boil then reduce the temperature to a gentle simmer.
4. Poach large spoonfuls (quenelles, if you can) of meringue in the milk for about 4mins (or until firm) turning them half way through the cooking. Work in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan.
5. Whisk the egg yolks and remaining sugar together to a smooth paste.
6. Whilst whisking add the milk to the egg yolks. When thoroughly mixed return to the pan and heat gently until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
7. To serve, distribute the custard between the bowls and top with the meringues.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

ICCHFC - Week 65: Jammy dodgers

Back to work and first day back I was on cake duty. I had an absolute dilemma trying to decide what to make, as I didn't want to go over-board as I thought nobody would be up for a luxurious gateau given the festive excesses.

With moderation in mind I went for a biscuit: a small(ish) bite which could be had with a cup of tea and still perk up the morning. Biscuit of choice was the jammy dodger.

These were very satisfying to make and I felt a very good use of a bank holiday evening. By all accounts they were worth the effort too. Only John and Hannah were in and I'm not sure if the others will be around to sample these delight. Luckily I've got the blog so they can see what they missed!

The recipe (see below) apparently makes 32. I say apparently because there is no way that you could make 32 unless you made small mean biscuits. And nobody like a mean biscuit. I made a dozen of these jam-filled-shortcake-sandwiches-of-joy.

The shortbread was delicious, even on it's own. Not that I had any of the leftovers or anything...

Jammy dodgers (recipe taken from The Great Big Cookie Book by Hilaire Walden)

4oz ground almonds
6oz plain flour
6oz butter, softened
4oz caster sugar
Rind of 1 lemon, grated
1tsp vanilla extract
1 egg white
Pinch salt
2oz flaked almonds, chopped
2tbsp raspberry jam
1dsp lemon juice

1. Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
2. Beat in the lemon rind and vanilla extract.
3. Add the ground almonds and sift in the flour. Mix thoroughly to a dough (it will probably be quite sticky, but don't worry).
4. Gather the dough into a slab, wrap in cling film and chill for at least 30mins to firm the dough.
5. Remove the dough from the fridge and allow to warm slightly for 5mins.
6. Divide the dough into four. Roll the dough until approximately 3mm thick. Then cut out circles and place on a greaseproof paper. Repeat with the remaining three portions of dough.
Note: Beware. The dough will be very sticky so be liberal with the flour.
7. Cut a circle out from the centre of half of the pastry discs.
8. Whisk the egg white with the salt until just frothy.
9. Brush the egg white over the pastry rings and douse with the chopped almonds.
10. Bake at 160°C for 12mins or until the biscuit are lightly golden.
11. Leave to cool in the tray for 5mins then move to a rack and allow to cool completely.
12. For the filling, heat the jam and lemon juice in a pan until just bubbling. Take off the heat and brush the bottom biscuits with jam and then top each with a biscuit ring.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Corned beef pie (for a friend)

I don't normally post random dinner recipes but this one is for a friend, because I found out that it's his favourite

It's a really simple take on corned beef "hash" (I know it's not really a hash, but I am constantly amazed at what some people consider to be a hash).

The "recipe" is a tin of corned beef sliced and placed on a greased baking tray. Slather the meat in ketchup then cover with mash. Bake at 190°C for about 20mins until crispy. Devour. With beans.
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