Sunday 31 October 2010

Pumpkin Yoghurt Slice for Halloween 2010

I wasn't going to carve a pumpkin this year - although I was very happy with last year's attempt - but on Friday I was in Waitrose and they had cute little carving pumpkins, so I couldn't resist.

My nod to Halloween was going to be a pumpkin pie. Which I really like. Paul was sceptical though: he felt that it could easily be too pumpkin-y and not spicy enough. So I gave it some serious thought and came up with something mid-way between pumpkin pie and cheesecake, but quite a lot lighter than either.

It's a rich vanilla shortbread base (pretty much the base from Joy of Baking's Millionaire's Shortbread), topped with a spiced yoghurt and butternut puree. It turned out beautifully: Paul liked it, so I think even other pumpkin pie sceptics could be turned around by this.

Pumpkin Yoghurt Slice


170g butter, softened
50g golden caster sugar
1/2tsp vanilla bean paste
100g plain flour
100g tapioca flour


400g TOTAL Greek yoghurt (I'm still using the enormous supply they kindly sent me)
300g butternut squash (this is the raw, peeled weight)
85ml maple syrup
1tsp pumpkin pie spice (I haven't seen pumpkin pie spice in the UK, I used this blend)
2 eggs

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a 7" x 11" lamington tin with baking parchment.

Cut the butternut into small chunks and bake for about half an hour until tender but not too brown.

Place the maple syrup in a small pan and boil for a few minutes until slightly reduced, then cool. You want it the consistency of honey, not toffee.

Cream the butter, sugar and vanilla paste with a wooden spoon until fluffy, then add the flours and mix to a paste. I find it easiest to bring it together with my hands towards the end. Press firmly into the base of the lamington. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven.

Force the cooked butternut through a sieve so you have a smooth puree. Discard the fibrous bits left in the sieve. Beat into the puree the cooled, reduced maple syrup, the yoghurt and spices. Taste, and add more spices if needed, remembering that the flavours will develop more with cooking. Then beat in the eggs.

Pour the filling mixture over the shortbread base and return to the oven. Bake for about 35 minutes or until just set in the middle. Remove from the oven and cool.

I topped it with some caramelised almond flakes but that is optional.

Serve at room temperature.

Thursday 28 October 2010

Harvest 2010

While I can't say that 2010 produced an abundant harvest from our garden, it certainly provided us with a few good meals and some excellent learning points for next year.

There isn't really a whole lot to say about each thing, so I decided to take the opportunity to do another snazzy slideshow.

Monday 25 October 2010

Chip hash

I hate wasting food. I really, really hate it. Even so, I was faintly worried that I was taking frugality a bit too far with this one.

As an occasional treat, on a Friday evening Paul and I will get takeaway fish and chips from the shop around the corner. It's very good, but the portions of chips are enormous. We usually get a medium chips to share (they only do medium and large) and even then we can only eat about 1/3 of them.

The last time we did this I looked at the enormous pile of leftover chips and declared that enough was enough - I couldn't bring myself to throw them away.

But what to do with them? They don't reheat to the same glory, so I needed to come up with a different form to present them in. And thus was born...

Leftover chip hash (serves 2)

Leftover chips (French fries people, not crisps)
1 onion, diced
1 packet of bacon, cut into lardons
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
handful of parsley, chopped
eggs to serve

Put your bacon into a saute pan and cook gently until the fat starts to render out. Add your onion and stir until translucent. Turn up the heat and add the chips, cut into smaller chunks, and the garlic, and stir until everything is beginning to mush in places and crisp in places. Season generously with black pepper (no extra salt, don't be silly) and chopped parsley. Top with fried or poached eggs.

Delicious. I almost wished I had a hangover, as I realised what perfect hangover food this was. And then I wished I had a bloody mary, because that would really be an epic food match. I will never throw away chips again.

ETA Simona from the lovely bi-lingual blog briciole put me on to the Love Food, Hate Waste website. It's a campaign I am very happy to support! Recipes to use up leftovers - Love Food Hate  Waste campaign

Saturday 16 October 2010

Weekend with Nigella

Last weekend I realised that all my planned cooking projects were recipes from Nigella Lawson. So, without further ado, I present a weekend of cooking with Nigella (with bonus leftover dishes by me).

I've been enjoying the new series Nigella Kitchen on iplayer. I have my usual gripes about the pouting and peeping, the unrestrained hair, wearing a denim jacket to cook in (so uncomfortable!) and the overuse of some words (must we "tumble" "rubble" everywhere?). But even so I like her food, and I suspect she has enough insight and humour to view the sex-kitten persona as a bit of a laugh.

Nigella's food isn't original or earth-shattering. It is do-able and delicious and generally forgiving of tweaks.

Her mother's "praised" chicken was the first dish of the day. The recipe is on her website, but this computer has taken agin so I can't link to it. Slightly flattened, then gently cooked with wine and aromatics, the chicken was incredibly tender and delicious, and the broth was wonderful. My only tweak was to use a portion of frozen mirepoix that I had stashed away, instead of chunky fresh vegetables.

I ignored the serving suggestion of pouring the chicken and broth over rice, and decided to make another one of Nigella's dishes, the rapid roastini. Basically bought gnocchi, rendered into miniature roast potatoes by cooking in some oil. I added some rosemary and garlic, and they were just gorgeous with the tender chicken.

Nigella's breakfast bars were my next venture. Oats, nuts, seeds and fruit bound with condensed milk and baked. Minor tweaks - I omitted the coconut and doubled the amount of fruit, using sour cherries and blueberries instead of the cranberries, and I used lightly salted roasted cashews and peanuts as the nuts. These bars are absolutely wonderful. Not as sticky as a flapjack, they have just the right degree of sweetness for my taste, and are very, very sustaining. I will definitely make these again. Although I will line my tin with baking paper next time - oiling it wasn't quite enough.

Something odd about the praised chicken - we ended up with much more leftover than we do normally roasting the same sized chook. So I had loads of lovely leftovers to eat during the week; a large bowlful of cold chicken and a big tub of jellied broth.

I stirfried some of the shredded meat with home made Thai Chilli Jam, then added some noodles cooked in some of the leftover chicken broth. I had some pickled beanshoots & beetroot on the side to tone down the spice a little.

I cooked some rice in some leftover broth, then added some chicken and broccoli. When it was tender, I pulled it off the heat and stirred in an egg, whisked with a handful of parmesan and the juice of a lemon, for a sort of avgolemono/stracciatella comforting bowl of soup. And I still had enough chicken leftover for a sandwich.

Saturday 9 October 2010


My friend Southy recently revealed that she has been making sourdough English muffins for breakfast. Well colour me impressed. I've been scared of sourdough. Half-understood ideas of having to keep feeding and halving the leaven, and the psycho baker in Kitchen Confidential screaming down the phone "Feed the bitch!", and people mentioning babysitting leaven while friends went on holiday left me feeling that sourdough was really not something I could undertake.

But Southy informed me that it wasn't really that bad, and pointed me towards Dan Lepard's sourdough, which is actually stored in the freezer and brought back to life when required (I did consider calling this post Disneyleaven, but apparently it is an urban legend that Walt Disney had himself cryogenically preserved).

I did have an anxious moment mid-way through the week, when I thought my leaven had died. It went from being bubbling and lively to completely silent and a bit dry- looking. I quickly signed up to Dan Lepard's forum, to get help with resuscitation, and my new best friend Dan informed me that it probably wasn't dead at all, but had exhausted its food reserves and that I should just keep feeding as per normal and all would be well. And gosh-darn it he was right.

I used 2 nuggets of the leaven fresh: one for the sourdough naan I made for the last Cook the Books challenge, and one following Southy's recipe for English muffins. Both absolutely wonderful and definitely to be repeated.

But I was really looking forward to bringing some frozen leaven back to life and seeing how that worked.

Pretty damn well, is how it worked! I followed-ish another one of Dan Lepard's recipes, for a sourcream sandwich loaf, using sourdough leaven instead of yeast, and Greek yoghurt instead of sourcream. Very successful! Perfect crisp crust, beautiful flavour, beautiful texture and absolutely magical aroma. Very much to be recommended.

Wednesday 6 October 2010

Scotch Eggs

Just as I was saying that I can't keep up with all the different weeks, I read Mark Hix's column in the Independent and discovered that this is British Egg Week. I love eggs almost as much as I love cheese, so I am very happy that these two weeks come back to back in the calendar!

This gives me an opportunity to post about these lovely Scotch eggs. I made them months ago, but I've never really had the right moment to blog about them.

Apparently the name has nothing to do with Scotland, and is from scotched meaning chopped. I don't know whether that is true, but they are a very British snack food, and really wonderful for picnics. They have been sadly debased with cheap sausage meat and weird orange breadcrumbs, but made with fresh free-range eggs, nicely seasoned organic pork sausages and panko crumbs they are absolutely delicious. I used this recipe from the Hairy Bikers, but there is a lot of wiggle room to customise them to your own taste.

Sunday 3 October 2010

Ultimate steak sandwich

On Friday, unusually, we were both at home. The weather was absolutely dismal (even Urchin accepted that it was too wet to be outdoors) and I felt that a good lunch was important for marking the occasion and lifting the spirits.

Now, when we have pub lunches, we both find it quite difficult to look beyond a steak sandwich. At one point I was compiling notes on the various offerings of the pubs in the area, but then I lost my camera with all the steak sandwich pictures and haven't picked up that idea again. But we both definitely Have Views on what makes a good steak sandwich.

Firstly, the bread has to be good. You are putting hot, juicy meat into it, so flabby white sliced bread is going to collapse to wallpaper paste in an instant. You want something with a bit of texture.

For my steak sandwiches, I pulled my last portion of baguette dough out of the freezer. I blanched and caramelised 6 or 7 fat garlic cloves and rolled them into the dough as I shaped my baguette. The crisp crust and tender, open crumb are just the thing, and the bites of caramelised garlic add interest to the flavour.

The second most important thing is of course the steak itself. You cannot make a good steak sandwich with those pathetic thin "minute steak" things. You need a good quality, thickly cut steak. It needs to be cooked (I cook mine a little bit more than I do ordinarily, because I don't like the blood-streaked bread look), seasoned well, rested and then sliced thinly.

And lastly, you need to think about condiments and additional fillings. Fried onions are a good thing. A few thinly sliced mushrooms, cooked in the pan with the steak are nice. A slice of tomato. A few rocket leaves. Chutney, or mustard, or mayonnaise, or mayonnaise AND mustard. The important thing is not to throw everything at it: just a couple of extra, complementary flavours so that the steak is still the star ingredient.

After a much longer conversation on the subject than most people would think necessary, we had a thick smear of horseradish cream and a few baby spinach leaves in with our steaks. Utter perfection with a bottle of Hoegaarden beer.

This heavenly sandwich is just the thing for Deb's Souper (soup, salad and sammie) Sunday SouperSundays so do pop over to her blog and see what other bloggers have been cooking up this week.

Friday 1 October 2010

Saffron honey yoghurt mousse

I've recently been sent some TOTAL Greek-style yoghurt to try. And when I say some I mean there may actually be a global yoghurt shortage now, because it is all in my freezer! They sent their full-fat, 2%, fat-free and 2% with honey yoghurts to sample, so don't be surprised if yoghurt crops up quite a bit over the next few months. It's a good thing yoghurt freezes well.

To go with my Cooking the Books curry dinner, I decided to make an Indian-influenced yoghurt dessert. As it happens, we were far too full for dessert, so we ate it the next day.

I decided to use the TOTAL honey yoghurt for my dessert. I was adding some cream to it, so having a lower fat content was a good thing! And when I tasted it, the honey was very strong and sweet, so I knew it would provide a good flavour and do away with the need for additional sweetener. It is actually a bit too sweet for me on its own, but in this mousse it is perfect.

Saffron Honey Yoghurt Mousse (serves 2)

1tsp gelatin
2tbs hot water
pinch saffron threads
1 tub TOTAL 2% yoghurt with honey
100ml double cream
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste

Sprinkle the saffron threads over the hot water in a small cup and leave to steep for 5 minutes. Sprinkle the gelatine over the (now warm) water and leave to sponge for a few minutes. Warm half the cream in a small saucepan and add the saffron/gelatin mix, stirring until the gelatin has dissolved and the cream is streaked with gold. Remove from the heat.

Whip the other half of the cream with the vanilla bean paste until it forms soft peaks. Fold in the yoghurt and honey, then fold in the saffron cream. Pile into 2 glasses and chill for a couple of hours until set.


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