Thursday 26 November 2015

Diana Henry's cheddar, onion and spinach tart

It's Potluck week again at I Heart Cooking Clubs - where you simply have to cook a dish from any of the previous featured cooks and food writers. 

The dish I've made is one of the best savoury tarts I have ever made, even though I thoroughly bollocksed up the pastry.

It's Diana Henry's cheddar, onion and spinach tart - slowly cooked onions and minerally spinach, topped with a rich savoury cheesy custard.  Utterly delectable.
Unfortunately, when I was completely committed to making this, I realised that I didn't have nearly enough plain flour for the pastry. So I ended up having to use 175g of wholemeal self-raising flour to make up the quantity. Bad Idea. It ended up expanding so much that the filling overflowed and stuck to the tin and made a considerable mess.

That aside, the only change I made to the recipe was adding a good grating of nutmeg, because I am constitutionally incapable of making something cheesy and spinachy without adding nutmeg. And even with the lovely sharp cheese and strong mustard, the nutmeg flavour did carry through. And it was good.

Tuesday 24 November 2015

Gorgonzola and kale tortelloni bake

It's got a bit chilly this week! The temperature yesterday hovered around 5 or 6C. Definitely melted cheese weather.

This tortelloni bake isn't pretty and is mind-bogglingly calorific. Perfect when a walk to the post office means you can't feel your face.

Gorgonzola and kale tortelloni bake (serves 2)

500g good quality fresh spinach and ricotta tortelloni or ravioli (I bought some from The Fresh Pasta Company with walnuts in, which were particularly good, but not cheap)
60g baby kale leaves, washed (which is a lot more than it sounds)
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
170ml cream
200g gorgonzola, crumbled

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Cook the tortelloni according to packet instructions and drain.

Spread half the kale leaves in the base of a 9" square casserole dish, sprinkle with half of the garlic and 1/3 of the gorgonzola. Add half of the cooked tortelloni, spread out in a single layer. Top with the rest of the kale leaves and garlic, half of the remaining gorgonzola and half of the cream. Arrange the rest of the tortelloni on top, the rest of the gorgonzola and sprinkle on the remaining cream, making sure each piece of pasta gets a trickle.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly.

Saturday 21 November 2015

Häagen-Dazs Chocolate Salted Caramel

Saying "yes" to the offer of sampling the chocolate salted caramel ice cream from Häagen-Dazs was pretty obvious. I think it's been clear over the years that I really like Häagen-Dazs as a brand and I really like ice cream under most circumstances.

I said "yes" and a couple of vouchers arrived in the post a day or so later. Getting to the shops took a bit longer. It meant I totally missed National Chocolate Week, which was the whole point of them offering me the product to try. But as I know that for many people every week is chocolate week I don't feel too bad about that time slip.

So I knew I really liked their regular salted caramel ice cream and I thought I'd better get a tub of that as well as the chocolate to do a side by side comparison. Definitely for research purposes. And not at all just for me because it is delicious. I also picked up a tub of vanilla for Paul. His choice. I'm generous like that.

"Chocolate ice cream with a decadent salted caramel swirl and salted caramel brittle". The chocolate wasn't too sweet, which I really liked. The salted caramel had enough salt to stand up against the chocolate - I had wondered about that, because chocolate can be such a brute - although I thought the chunky bits of caramel were more chewy than brittle. It's very good, and I am sure lovers of grown up chocolate flavours will absolutely fall for it, but it's not quite enough to make chocolate my first choice of ice cream flavour. Not in a world with salted caramel, and dulce de leche, and macadamia nut brittle, and pralines and cream.

Wednesday 18 November 2015

Chorizo and tomatoes

Not a recipe or anything, I just got a kick out of the halved cherry tomatoes being the same size, shape and colour as the halved cooking chorizo.

Monday 16 November 2015

Dr Oetker Ristorante Calzone

Yes, I like cooking. I cook four or five nights a week. I cook even if I'm eating alone. It's more of a pleasure than a chore (particularly since I have a dishwasher...). But we always, always have a couple of pizzas in the freezer. Pizza is Paul's comfort food. It fits, for him, into some weird mental category where the calories don't count, he considers it low-carb and no matter how queasy he is feeling pizza makes him feel better.

Unfortunately, the pizza places that deliver to us are all pretty awful and overpriced. We were delighted, a few months ago, to discover a new one. The first pizzas we had from there were delicious, some of the best we've had in years. Our second order was patchy. Our third was so undercooked it was almost raw and made us both sick. And I've noticed they have stopped delivering.

So we'd rather stick with frozen pizzas, where at least we know they are cooked all the way through. I was very pleased to accept a couple of vouchers to try Dr Oetker Ristorante Pizza Calzone.

First things first, the instructions say to place the frozen calzone directly onto the rack in a preheated oven. Now, I always do that with other frozen pizzas, but I just wasn't 100% convinced of the structural integrity of the dough envelope, so I decided to be cautious and put it straight onto the rack, but with a paper-lined tray on the shelf underneath it. Which was a good move, as I watched a long drip of cheese ooze down.

As this sort of folded pastry tends to be lava-hot inside, I was quite happy to take a few pictures before I ate it. I know from past experience that you can't really taste anything with a blistered palate. The aroma when I first cut into it was very good - a savoury waft of yeast and herbs.

To me, this tasted of my childhood. I don't know if we actually ate French tinned champignons that often, but that slightly pickled mushroom taste took me straight back there. The Edam cheese is mild and pleasantly gooey, the salami nicely meaty, the crust crunchy. There could/should have been more cheese, as quite a lot of it dripped out and was lost, though. It doesn't taste particularly Italian; it's a very Teutonic approach to a pizza, but it was an enjoyable solo meal.

The biggest problem I can see with us adding these calzones to our regular pizza supply is the cooking time. Because they are folded they take more than twice as long to bake as an ordinary frozen pizza. If it's going to take half an hour to bake I'm probably more likely to go up the road for a kebab. But other people are more patient than I am.

One other concern I had was over the use of palm oil, but I read the Dr Oetker supplier report to the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil. Dr Oetker has been in conversion to sustainable palm oil suppliers since 2011, and world wide conversion is scheduled for this year.  Which is very pleasing for those of us who like orang utans as much as we like pizza.

Disclaimer: In the words of Simply Red "If you don't know me by now, you will never never never know me". I was given vouchers for Dr Oetker pizza products. No other payment was offered, no promises were made. My opinions are my own.

Monday 9 November 2015

Chilli harvest 2015

Wonkus early chilli fruit

Last year's habanero crop was a bit much for us. Even taking the Caribbean approach to Scotch Bonnets, of putting a whole, un-cut one into a pot of stew for flavour with less heat left us sweating and gasping. So this year we wanted a milder, more generally useful chilli. Paul chose Santa Fe Grande, and successfully grew four plants. Four prolific plants.

The first fruits that were formed were... not what we were expecting. "Hot conical blunt-tipped waxed fruits, 1½" wide by 3½" long"? No. But eventually they started producing more normal-looking fruit, so I guess it was just like a young hen producing double-yolk eggs - all a bit over-enthusiastic until things settle into a rhythm. For me, though, I thought we'd swung too far in the other direction. The habaneros were too hot for us but these had hardly any heat at all. So this is not the cultivar of my dreams.

As it has got colder we've had to strip the plants of fruit to make room in the conservatory for the calamondin bonsai, so I've been on a chilli processing kick. It hasn't quite matched the Great Wall of Cherries but there have been enough to be getting on with.

I've made Thai chilli paste and Turkish chilli paste, a vast quantity of chilli, garlic and ginger paste for curries, pickled some, preserved some in oil (heat processed for safety) and made a couple of jars of our family recipe pizza relish. Everything we're eating from eggs to ragu has been getting a spoonful or two of chilli. It's a good thing we are fond of a little heat.


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