Tag Archives: balsamic

Hot Fudge + Port Pear Chili Jam

30 Dec

So yes, I am in a saucy mood. I have been cooking a lot recently, but not new recipes. And its been one of those weeks (months?) – first my phone died, and then my hardrive on my laptop got fried. I am lucky in that I have the means to deal with these issues (new phone on the one hand, and my old laptop on the other). But its been a frustrating time, and I havent felt a whole lot of inspiration.

But a stroll through O’Gourmet certainly helped! Mr. Kumar (the manager) was so excited to show me some chili powder from Kashmir – hand carried back to KL. It was like nothing I had ever seen before – rich, deep burnt orange red, and almost wet … with a scent that had so many layers to it I cannot even begin to describe, but I will try. Soft, mellow, with a sharp tinge… hauntingly musky with a long profound beat of heat and sun and spice. Gorgeous. Stunningly sensual. I had to cook with it – and suddenly, inspiration arrived!

I decided to make a chili ice cream (the recipe for which I will post tomorrow). But this was to be not just a singular ice cream, but an ice cream sundae. Hot fudge sauce (with dark bittersweet chocolate and melted Scottish fudge) and a chili jam – with a base of port and pears – at once sweet, hot and boozily beautiful. I felt that these sauces would elevate and intrigue – and would provide the perfect foil for the cold creamy ice cream. AngelKitten suggested we get some caramelised pistachios to top the sundae. What a combination of flavours and tastes! I couldnt wait to get started.

These two sauces would of course be just as magical on their own (the hot fudge sauce is particularly simple to put together) or combined over chocolate or vanilla ice cream. If you can, though, try the whole package. Its quite a few pieces of cooking work – but if you break it all down, and prepare in advance, its actually a doddle!

Hot Fudge Sauce

Makes about 2 cups of hot fudge. This can be served warm, or made in advance and reheated just before serving. Use the best quality chocolate and fudge you can find.

  • 450 – 500 g (1 lb) vanilla fudge
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 250 – 300 g bittersweet (at least 70%) chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon Maldon or other sea salt

Grate the fudge into a large saucepan. Add the cream and stir a little.

Add the chopped chocolate, stir, and add the Maldon salt.

Place the saucepan over a low heat, and melt the chocolate into the fudge, stirring all the while. Make sure that the fudge too has been completely melted into the sauce.

Serve warm, or store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Reheat before serving.

Port Pear Chili Jam

Makes about 2 cups of jam.

This jam is quite loose. It pours like a sauce, but it also depends on how long you cook it – the less liquid left, the more “jammy” and thick it becomes.Ā  If you do not want to use port or another alcohol, substitute with grape juice.

  • 9 pears (I used 3 each of D’Anjou, Bosc and Conference), peeled, pared and roughly chopped
  • 1 + 1 tbsp pear balsamic vinegar (if you cannot find this, try using pear or apple juice or even some apple cider vinegar)
  • 1 cup port wine (or grape juice)
  • 1 tsp best quality (Kashmir if you can find it) chili
  • 1 tsp chili flakes
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 3 – 6 tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp best quality (25 year old) balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp honey (I used leatherwood honey)
  • 1 tbsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla essence

Peel, core and chop the pears. As you work, place the pears in a large saucepan, and toss them with 1 tbsp of the pear vinegar.

Measure out the pour wine and add to it the remaining 1 tbsp pear vinegar, chili, chili flakes, mustard seed, 3 tbsp of brown sugar, cinnamon, salt and balsamic vinegar. Stir well to combine, and pour over the pears.

Place the saucepan over high heat, and bring the mixture to the boil, stirring well.

Once the mixture comes to the boil, lower the heat to medium, and add the honey and the vanilla. Allow the mixture to simmer, uncovered for at least an hour. The jam will thicken and become much darker in colour. Taste and add a little more brown sugar if you feel you need to up the sweetness of the jam.

Give it a stir every so often. Allow to simmer until it is a thickness that you prefer. I like it a little liquid because I am using it as an ice cream topping … but! If you want to make it into a proper jam, just cook it for a little longer.

This can be served warm or at room temperature, and will keep, uncovered in the fridge for up to 2 – 3 weeks.

Apologies for lack of photos – still dealing with loss of hardrive!

Pretty Pink Pots – Strawberries + Yogurt Cream

9 Nov

Strawberries + Yogurt CreamI do love a good gadget. Its one of the benefits of cooking regularly, the collection of fascinating bits of cooking kit! Gadgets to me are like jewels and baubles to others šŸ˜‰ Every country I go to, every little market or pasar malam stall or cooking shop – I always look for things that are slightly out of the ordinary, bits and pieces of equipment that I have never seen before but which strike my fancy. When in a foreign country, I always go to the grocery store and check out the kitchen aisle. Its amazing whats hidden in places like these, and people are so happy to explain and share and show. Food, and cooking, connect me to new and different cultures in a wonderful way.

But I am straying off topic (as per usual). I love gadgets, I said. And one of my favourites is the Donvier Wave Yogurt Strainer. Its made by Cuispro, and can be found in most good kitchen shops. I got mine at EuroChef in Plaza Damas for a few bucks because I thought it was nifty. Basically, its a small plastic box with a lid. Inside is a very very fine sieve, shaped into a three dimensional wave, into which you pour yogurt. Pop the lid back on, leave it for a day or so, and your plain old yogurt drains, quickly, efficiently and brilliantly. You get a thick yogurt cheese – depending on how long you leave it in, you have the consistency of thick Greek yogurt or even thicker to a cream cheese like consistency. This is pretty awesome because yogurt is a very healthy foodstuff and with this little beauty, you can really extend its usefulness.

Of course, you can just stick a fine strainer and some cheesecloth over a bowl, pour some yogurt in, cover the whole lot tightly, and then stuff it in your fridge overnight. But it can get messy, and this little gadget makes everything as simple as saying hello! I pour about 3 cups of yogurt in, and within 24 hours, I have a really thick creamy cup of yogurt, with all the liquid drained out on the bottom. You still have all the health giving properties of yogurt, but you can do so much with it now. Mix in a few herbs, salt and fresh cracked black pepper, and you have a divine spread for bagels or toast. Add a couple tablespoons to the blender with some fruit, and you have a really thick and creamy smoothie. Stir a few tablespoons into soup, or use as a substitute for sour cream. Or do what I love best – make pretty pink pots from the yogurt cream and some diced strawberries.

These little pots sit in the fridge and make me smile whenever I open it. Theyre wonderful for breakfast, and fantastic as a sweet ending to lunch or dinner thats not too heavy or overwhelming. Children love them, and you can doll them up with grated chocolate, any other kind of fruit you can dream up, or even flavour the yogurt once its thickened and make a pretty coloured striped parfait. But I like keeping it simple here. The strawberries I found at the open air market over the weekend. Lovely, fat and sweet, but not very pretty – they were the ones that were not chosen for export to the fancy shops. Diced up though, and tossed with a little balsamic and some powdered sugar, they came into their own and made me proud. šŸ™‚ Layered with thick yogurt cream with a hint of vanilla, and sat in the fridge overnight to set, these are a beautiful, healthy and happy making treat. And so easy to make.

If you cant get a Donvier Wave (and given the internet, and proliferation of cooking shops, you really should be able to), use the old school method described below. Its worth it. Youll love it!

Serves 6

  • 2 – 3 cups plain yogurt (I use FarmFresh – a wonderful local brand that’s free of preservatives and conditioners)
  • 2 – 3 tbsp heavy cream (optional)
  • 1 – 2 tsp light brown sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean pod, split and scraped or 1 tbsp vanilla essence or paste
  • 1/2 kg (about 1 lb) strawberries
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 – 2 tbsp powdered or caster sugar to taste

This recipe involves no cooking over heat or baking, but it does take time. Its a wonderful dessert to serve at a dinner party, but you do have to plan in advance. You will need at least 2 days before serving to prepare properly. On the first day, you need to make the yogurt cream.

Yogurt StrainerIf you have a Donvier Wave, just pour the yogurt into the box, cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours. If you dont have a Wave, find a sieve that will hold at least 3 cups of yogurt, and will fit into a bowl that will go into the fridge. Line the sieve with cheesecloth (or any other clean very fine cloth), and pour the yogurt into the the sieve. Cover with clingwrap, and place in the fridge for at least 24 hours.

Once the yogurt has been in the fridge overnight, it will have drained and will have reduced in volume by about half. If you want to add a little heavy cream to add richness, whisk a few tablespoons of cream in a small bowl. Once the cream holds soft peaks, scoop in the yogurt cream, and whisk together to combine. If you decide not to use the cream (healthy you!), then just transfer the yogurt cream to a small bowl, and whisk it gently.

Sprinkle over the light brown sugar, add the vanilla and whisk gently again. Taste and adjust if you like. Cover and refrigerate while you prepare the strawberries.

Chop the strawberries up quite finely. You will have about 3 cups of strawberries. Transfer to a small bowl. Add the balsamic and a few teaspoons of powdered sugar if the strawberries seem to too tart for your liking. Cover and leave in the fridge for about an hour. The strawberries will interact with the balsamic and sugar and let go of quite a bit of liquid. You dont want to have this in your parfait, so this is a good thing.

Once youre ready to make the parfait, remove the vanilla yogurt cream and strawberries from the fridge. Drain the strawberries in a sieve (the strawberry juice is a sublime cook’s treat) and have six little glass containers cleaned and at the ready. You could use small glasses, shot glasses or anything else that you like. I love the little glass containers from Ikea – they have little covers and look gorgeous.

Using a small teaspoon, fill the containers with a few teaspoons of strawberries, making sure to cover the bottom of the container. Using a separate teaspoon, spoon over a few teaspoons of yogurt cream, making sure you cover the strawberries completely. Alternate like this until you have used everything up – I usually have two stripes of pink luscious strawberries and two vanilla creamy stripes of yogurt. Of course it all depends on what containers you use! I also try and end with yogurt because I think a creamy top just looks dreamy.

Cover your containers, and leave overnight in the fridge. Serve for breakfast, lunch or dinner – or as a healthy yet indulgent snack. Enjoy!

Savoury Polenta TartĀ Tatin

3 Nov

Tart TatinOne of the things I love about reading great recipes is that they inspire me to create unique dishes of my own. For a long time now, I have been fascinated by tart tatin, the great French creation where you pour caramel into the bottom of a cake tin, layer over caramelised apples, and then top it all off with puff pastry. The pastry bakes at the top, becoming crispy and light, and the apples caramelise even further. When the tart is done, you flip it out of the cake pan, et voila! A perfectly crisp bottom, and sensuously caramelised apple.

I have always wanted to make a tart tatin that was savoury… but part of the trick is that sweet caramel sauce that you pour in first. How to make something savoury with that? And then… I read Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipe for a caramelised garlic tart – with goats cheese and puff pastry. I read the actual recipe for the caramelised garlic and realised that there is a sweet savoury caramelised sauce that coats those gorgeous garlic pieces. And then… I read a recipe for polenta with sauteed mushrooms. I do love mushrooms, and polenta is another obsession of mine. I fell asleep last night daydreaming of a perfect dish… and this morning, when I woke up, I knew what I needed to make a savoury polenta tart tatin.

I cant tell you how happy this makes me. Its like I have figured out some remarkable puzzle. It may have been made before (after all, in cooking, relatively little is new), but I have never read a recipe like this. I loved it from the moment it popped into my head, and I was determined to make it!

It took me more than 3 hours to make this today. Its a hell of a recipe, but … you could definitely do it in stages. Almost everything (even the polenta) can be made in advance and refrigerated until needed (though I would make the spinach mixture on the day). If you spend a day or two caramelising garlic, sauteeing some mushrooms and burnishing them with old thick balsamic, preparing some polenta, thickened with parmesan and butter … well, then this recipe would probably take you about 40 minutes from assembly to final stages of cooking.

And I am here to tell you… Its damn worth it! It is so good. Outrageously good. Celebration, birthday, vegetarian Thanksgiving, dinner party good. Its gorgeous and dramatic, and the layers of flavour are unbelievable. Fluffy yet creamy and cheesy polenta, with a crisp crust, is topped with creamy spinach, which in turn is topped with balsamic mushrooms and caramelised garlic. Its a beautiful tart, and very dramatic. If you want to add a bit of flair, you could probably decorate it with a few sliced cherry tomatoes stuffed strategically into place, but it really does not need it. This tart is a tour de force of flavours and textures … It is sublime, if I say so myself.

Feeds 6 – 8

Caramelised Garlic (from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty)

  • 3 medium heads of garlic
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 220 ml (about 1 1/4 cup) water
  • 3/4 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 tsp chopped rosemary
  • 1 tsp chopped thyme (I did not have any fresh thyme, so I used about 1/2 tsp dried herbes de Provence)
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Break the heads of garlic up, and peel the cloves. I realised I had many different sizes of garlic cloves, so I chopped the larger pieces in half to make them all approximately the same size.

Place the garlic cloves in a small saucepan and cover with water. Place over medium-high heat and bring to the boil. Lower heat so the water is simmering, and blanch the garlic for 3 minutes. Drain well.

Wipe out the saucepan (make sure you do this well – oil and water sputter badly), and place the olive oil in the saucepan. Over high heat, saute the garlic for 2 – 3 minutes. You want the garlic just to begin to brown around the edges.

Add the balsamic and the water (be careful, it will spit and spew at you as the water hits the hot oil), and bring to the boil. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Then add the sugar, rosemary, thyme and salt, and mix well. Simmer on medium heat for a further 10 – 20 minutes, or until most of the liquid has evaporated, and you have a thick Ā dark caramel sauce and deep dark soft garlic.

Take off heat and set aside. If you are only cooking the tart in the next day or so, transfer to a bowl or container, cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before assembly.

Balsamic Mushrooms

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tbsp truffle oil (if you have it – if not, use olive oil or any other flavouring oil that you like)
  • About 8 medium to small portobello mushrooms (about 250 g – 1/2 lb) peeled and sliced thickly
  • About 3 – 4 Swiss brown mushrooms, peeled and sliced thickly
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp butter

In a large non stick frying pan, heat the olive oil and truffle oil over medium high heat. Add all the portobello mushrooms, and stir well to combine, and to ensure that most of the mushrooms have been slicked with a little oil. Leave the mushrooms in the pan, not stirring, and allow them to brown and caramelise on their own. The heat and the olive oil will do the trick – you just have to NOT stir! Once you start smelling a wonderful mushroomy smell (about 3 – 5 minutes – possibly longer if your heat isnt that high), flip the mushrooms over. You should see that the bottom side is well browned.

Add the Swiss browns, mix again, and allow to saute, undisturbed for another few minutes. Salt and pepper well, stir, and then add the balsamic all at once. It will immediately begin to bubble and coat the mushrooms completely. Slice the butter directly over the mushrooms, and allow it to melt into the mixture. The butter will flavour the mushrooms as well as adding a bit of needed oil to the balsamic coating.

Taste, adjust seasonings, and once you are happy with the mushrooms (they should be slightly burnt, sticky, gooey, balsamic-y and intensely mushroom flavoured), tip out into a bowl and set aside. Transfer to a bowl or container if you are making the tart in a day or two, and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before assembly.

Creamed spinach

  • 2 cups baby spinach, tightly packed
  • 2 heaping tbsp cream cheese
  • 1 tbsp cream
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Lots of black pepper
  • 1/2 cup (or more, depending on your cheesiness) grated cheddar – I used an organic white cheddar which was phenomenal here

Wash the baby spinach very well, and then roughly chop it. Add the spinach to a large non stick pan over medium heat. You still want a bit of the water to be clinging to the leaves – this will help it cook. Saute the spinach briefly – a minute or two will do it – until it turns dark green. Remove the spinach from the heat, and place it in a sieve to drain the liquid from it. Allow to cool a little.

In a small bowl, combine the cream cheese, cream and egg. Add the spinach (squeeze it with your hands before adding to the mix to make sure youve gotten rid of as much moisture as possible). Using an immersion blender (or you could transfer the lot to a blender or food processor), cream the spinach until it has completely integrated into the cream cheese mixture. Add salt and pepper, and mix well.

Add the grated cheddar, and mix well. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Set aside until ready to assemble the tart.

Cheesy Polenta

  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup whole milk (low-fat will do, but its better with whole milk)
  • 1 cup polenta (cornmeal grits)
  • 1/2 cup mixed water and milk if you are making as below (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Loads of black pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • 2 tbsp butter

Polenta is usually made in a saucepan, but I actually like the quickness and control I get from making it in a large, non stick, frying pan. You need a good spatula or wide flat wooden spoon.

Place a large non stick frying pan over medium heat and pour in the water and milk. Bring just to the boil, and once it boils, reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Pour in the polenta in a steady stream, mixing constantly as you do so. This will ensure that the polenta is smooth and creamy and without lumps.

Keep stirring, the polenta should begin to thicken almost immediately. I usually use an almost scooping motion – circular, and right at the end, I scoop some polenta, and flip it over itself. Almost like folding egg whites gently into cake batter. Keep stirring and scooping for about 5 – 10 minutes. If the polenta gets too thick, add the water and milk mixture in gentle dribs and drabs.

Taste the polenta – it should be uniformly creamy. Any grittiness, and you need to continue cooking.

Once the polenta has reached a creamy consistency of thick oatmeal, and there is no grittiness, add the salt and tons of black pepper. Stir well and combine. Add the parmesan and butter, and combine well. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Set the polenta aside (in the pan if you like) until it comes to room temperature. The polenta will firm up quite a bit but this is fine. Refrigerate if you are not making the tart immediately, but bring to room temperature when you assemble.

Polenta Tart Tatin – Assembly

  • Caramelised Garlic
  • Balsamic Mushrooms
  • Creamed Spinach
  • Cheesy Polenta
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • Butter for the cake pan

Preheat the oven to 180C (350F), and prepare a 9 – 10 inch round cake tin. Butter the cake tin, and place a circle of grease proof wax paper in the bottom. Butter this as well.

Pour the syrup from the caramelised garlic, and cover the entire bottom of the cake tin with the sauce. Tilt to make sure you coat the wax paper completely. Arrange about half (or all if youre greedy – I like to keep some back for other uses!) of the garlic on the syrup, and arrange the balsamic mushrooms over the garlic. With the garlic and mushrooms, you will cover the entire bottom of the pan. Dont mix them up though, they should remain quite insular.

Pour over the creamed spinach, and use a spatula or knife to ensure that the spinach completely covers the garlic and mushrooms.

Bake the tart in the oven for about ten minutes, or until the spinach has firmed up and puffed a little – it will bronze a bit. Take out of the oven and allow to cool for about ten minutes or so.

Prepare the polenta. Sccop up a handful of polenta, and flatten it between your hands. It should be less than 1/2 inch thick. You will have a polenta patty – place this gently onto the baked spinach in the tin. Keep doing this until the spinach is completely covered. You can patch up the polenta if there are small holes or bits youve missed.

Grate the parmesan over the polenta, and bake again in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until the parmesan has burnished and become a gorgeous burnt mass on top of the polenta.

YumRemove from oven and allow to cool for about 5 to 10 minutes, in the pan, on a cake rack.

Run a sharp knife around the edges of the pan to make sure that nothing is sticking to the sides. Place a serving plate over the cake pan, and using oven gloves (as the pan may still be hot), flip the tart over in one smooth move. Remove the cake pan, and the wax paper, and adjust any bits of garlic or mushroom that may have fallen off.

Serve warm, at room temperature, or even cold the next day. Any which way, its mind-blowing-ly deeeeeee-licious!

Enjoy!

Lemon Bundt Cake

25 Oct

Bundt CakeMy beloved gorgeous friend Chiara sent me a bundt pan … and not just a garden variety bundt pan but a stunning, almost architectural pan. It is soooo pretty – and I was really excited to be able to use it! I kept wanting to bake a bundt cake when I was at my sister’s place, but never seemed to find the time. While cakes from scratch are generally easy, they also take a certain amount of commitment.

You need to set aside some time to really think about your ingredients, and gather them. You usually use about three or four mixing bowls to assemble things separately and then mix them all together. You bake, wait, remove from pan, wait again, and then ice. You can make cakes in less than an hour, but the slightly more complex ones take a while. Granted, a lot of the time is spent waiting for things to bake or cool down, but still, you need to set those times aside. I wasnt organised enough at my sister’s house to do that.

However, when I realised I was going to a family BBQ on Saturday night, I decided that Saturday afternoon would be the perfect time to bake a lemon cake … and then I remembered my bundt pan! Oh joy! This is such a terrific cake, and to make it even more stunning … such pleasures are these, I cant even tell you šŸ˜‰

I served this bright tart glowing lemony cake with sweetened vanilla whipped cream and balsamic strawberries. Each on their own is fabulous. (Admit it, sometimes a mouthful of whipped cream is just what the doctor ordered!) But together… oh such ambrosia. Such contrast in colour and texture, such balance of flavours. They enhanced one another. So yummy and so good.

GlazeThe thing I love about this cake is that it is cake. Deceptively simple, its lemon flavour shouts with joy. Its fluffy and yet slightly damp – a pretty good combination if you ask me. Leftover cake becomes a little more solid, like pound cake … nothing to frown at either. You can bake it in 2 9-inch cake tins as well – if you did it this way, I would ice with whipped cream and have a layer of strawberries and whipped cream in the centre. Either way, this is a great dessert which people really flock to – its less rich and decadent than chocolate cake, its a bright and fitting end to a big dinner, and its totally delightful.

Oh and please… dont forgo the lemon glaze. Its fantastically tart, adds a layer of sweetness, and a textural crunch to the crust of the cake. It doubles the lemony flavour and is an integral part of success of the cake.

I adapted this recipe from Cook’s Illustrated

Fills 1 12-cup bundt pan or 2 9-inch cake pans

  • 3 + 2 lemons
  • 3 1/2 cups unbleached cake flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup + 1 tbsp buttermilk
  • 18 tbsp (2 1/4 sticks) butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 2 cups powdered / icing sugar

Preheat oven to 190C (350F). If your bundt pan is non-stick, butter it well with soft butter, making sure to get into the grooves and gulleys well. If its not non-stick, melt about a tablespoon of butter, stir in about a teaspoon of flour, and brush all over pan. This should ensure that your cake comes out whole. If you are baking in cake tins, butter and then line the tins with parchment or baking paper.

Wash the lemons well (I hope you are using organic lemons – they make such a huge difference in flavour!). Grate the lemon peel into a small non reactive bowl, making sure not to grate any (or much) of the pith. Slice the lemons in half, and juice the lemons straight onto the lemon peel. You should have 5 – 7 tablespoons of lemon juice and peel. Set aside for at least ten minutes or so – the acid in the lemon juice will soften the peel so that when it gets added to the cake mixture, it will melt straight into it.

In a small bowl (I actually used a large 4-cup measure – less washing up), whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

Whisk together the eggs and egg yolk until lightly lemon colored, and set aside.

Whisk the vanilla extract (a whole vanilla bean would work wonders here as well but would be rather decadent!) and the buttermilk into the lemon juice and rind. Set aside.

Cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Really allow your mixer to do some work here – you want a creamy mass where the sugars have really been incorporated into the butter. Dont overbeat, but dont just mix it all together quickly either. The basis of a good cake is a solid creamed sugar and butter mixture.

Add the eggs and whisk again until a batter forms.

Add the flour mixture and lemon-buttermilk mixture alternately until all is incorporated and you have a thick batter.

Spoon into your bundt pan (or divide evenly between your cake pans), and bake for 45 – 55 minutes, or a cake tester is inserted and comes out clean.

Let the cake cool in the pan for about 15 minutes.

While the cake is cooling, juice the remaining lemons, and whisk together the lemon juice, 1 tbsp buttermilk and powdered sugar. This will be your glaze. Set aside, covered, until you need to use it.

Then, rap the bundt pan sharply against a flat (strong) surface a couple of times. This should loosen the cake out.

Flip the cake onto a cake rack, and lift off the bundt pan in one smooooth move.

Place the cake and cake rack over a jelly roll pan (to catch any dripping glaze) and slowly pour over about half the glaze. This will soak into the still warm cake. Leave to settle for about an hour, and then pour over the remaining glaze and transfer to a serving plate.

CakeServe with about 2 cups heavy cream, whipped with 1 tbsp sugar and 2 tbsp vanilla extract, and a punnet or box of strawberries, hulled and chopped and mixed with a tablespoon of aged balsamic vinegar.

Photographs copyright Chan KY

 

 

 

Grilled Cheese with Jammy Onions

15 Oct

with Jammy OnionsIts suddenly cold! Last night when I went out to get the hound in, I saw my breath, puffs of white, against the darkness of the night. And today, its gray and rainy. In about a week, I will be home in the warmth of the tropics, but here, its cold, and only going to get colder.

Lunch today was about comfort – grilled cheese with the addition of jammy, dark caramelised onions. If you need to start from the beginning it can take a little less than an hour to make this meal. But if you make the jammy onions in advance and have them in the fridge… well, then, you can do this quick as a blink! Jammy onions are wonderful to have on hand, by the way. They elevate anything and everything – from pasta sauce, to curry, to soup.

This is very rich – so make sure that when youre actually grilling the sandwiches in the pan, that you use only a little bit of butter – and low heat. This will enable the cheese inside to really melt and meld with the onions, and the bread to toast without getting too greasy and buttery.

Wonderful served with tomato soup – or something green like a sharp mustardy arugula (rocket) salad with sliced tomatoes and a sharp dressing on the side. This is lunch to warm the innards and bring a smile to the faces of those you love. And its just grilled cheese – but with such a lovely twist.

 

Serves 4

  • 2 medium onions
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 tsp basil
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 2 – 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 – 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • Water
  • 8 slices bread – I used sourdough, though a yeasty brown bread would be wonderful here too
  • A few tablespoons mayonnaise (or Marie’s Italian dressing – my family’s favourite!)
  • 2 2/3 cups grated cheese (approximate) – you can use cheddar, brie, blue, goat, parmesan – what ever you like. I used cheddar and jack – and figured about 2/3rd cup cheese per person, but its sometimes less. You could also use 8 slices of cheese but please dont use plastic cheese – its gross!
  • A few tablespoons of butter, softened to room temperature

First, prepare the onions. Slice the onions in half, peel, and slice the top off. Slice half rings, thinly all the way to the root.

Put a medium non stick pan over medium high heat, add olive oil and onions, and saute for 3 – 5 minutes, until the onions have softened. Add salt, pepper, basil, and oregano, and mix well to combine.

Put heat up to high, and add red wine. Allow the red wine to bubble, and mix the onions well to coat them in the wine. The wine will soften the onions, and will be absorbed almost completely by them. Once the onions are a dusky red, and the wine has been absorbed, sprinkle over brown sugar, balsamic and soy sauce. Stir to combine, and allow to bubble for a few minutes.

Add about 1/4 cup water, and bring the heat down to medium. Simmer the onions for at least 10 minutes, or until all the water has been absorbed. Taste, adjust seasonings, and consider if the onions are soft and melting enough for you. If not, add some more water (and a little touch more sugar if you like), and bubble away again. Each time you add more water, and it gets absorbed, the onions will go darker, slicker and jammier. Sometimes I do this, in increments 3 or 4 times.

Once the onions are a good jammy consistency, transfer to a heat proof bowl and set aside.

Rinse out the non stick pan, and have another one ready. If you dont think you can fit two sandwiches in one pan (and will thus have to cook them in two rounds), preheat the oven to the lowest temperature, and have a baking sheet ready to receive grilled sandwiches while you make the rest.

Lay out 8 slices of bread in 4 groups of 2 each. Spread mayonnaise (or other sandwich spread – we use Marie’s Italian dressing – mustard would be good here – as would aioli) sparingly on bread. Spread about 1/3 cup (or less if you like) grated cheese – or 1 slice of cheese – on 4 slices of bread. Divide jammy onions between these four slices, and cover again with another 1/3 cup grated cheese (or 1 slice of cheese) each. Cover with remaining slices of bread to make 4 sandwiches.

Butter the outside of each sandwich, sparingly. Place sandwiches on non stick pans, two to a pan, and place on low heat. Ā Grill sandwiches undisturbed for about 5 – 7 minutes (I always check at 5) on low heat. If you think the sandwiches are not toasting enough, bring heat up, but just a little.

Flip sandwiches, and grill for about 3 – 5 minutes on second side. Once sandwiches are grilled to your preference, remove from pan, slice horizontally, and serve. The cheese should have melted through those glorious onions, and it should be a sticky wonderous mess.

Strawberry Tart with Chocolate Ganache, Creme Patissiere and a Port Wine Balsamico Glaze

16 Jul

Strawberry TartIts the end of exam time for Angel Kitten and Ezril, and I wanted to make them something that would be a celebration. I have a real thing for tarts (a natural affinity, shall we say), and strawberries are on my mind. The organic strawberries are just gorgeous – lush, ripe, juicy, and that glowing red that only strawberries can glow. So a strawberry tart it was, but I wanted to make it even more of a celebration. Each and every part of this tart had to be sublime. So I went with a crumbling sweet cookie crust, that is surprisingly easy to make, and, as long as you freeze it, easy to bake too! No pie weights and all that nonsense. Then, hidden between crust and creme, a lick of dark chocolate. This actually is very useful because it waterproofs the crust from the creme that goes on top. And the creme patissiere? Sweet, but not too sweet, studded with vanilla bean, creamy and yet not overwhelmingly so. Perfection. And then the stars of the show – red, ripe strawberries, glazed with a port wine balsamico reduction that just highlights their sweet-tart-juicy-tang.

For me, the key to this tart is there is a lot of resting and waiting. It seems like a lot of work, but it isnt really. The tart dough comes together in minutes, as do all the other components. The important thing is they all need to rest, cool, freeze, calm down and meld together before you go on with the next step. This is a tart to bake over the course of an afternoon (3 or 4 hours) when you have a good book to read, or a dvd to watch. Its fun because the sum is so much more than the parts – but the parts themselves are pretty delightful!

Crust

For a 10 inch pie plate, you will need:

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup caster sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 9 tablespoons very cold butter
  • 1 large egg

In a large bowl, combine the flour, caster sugar and salt. Mix well and make sure there are no lumps. Take the butter out of the fridge, and grate into the flour mixture. I do this in two stages, grating about half, then putting the butter back in the fridge, then using my fingers to mix the grated butter into the flour, and then repeating. Once the butter has been mixed into the flour, it should look crumbly, almost like oatmeal. Make a well in the centre of the flour butter mixture, and in a separate small bowl, beat the egg lightly. Pour the egg into the well, and using your hands or a large spoon, lightly mix all together. As you turn the mixture upon itself, it should become a dough. Dont overmix. Dont knead. Just get it bound together as a dough. It will happen, I promise.

Centre your dough in your pie plate, and using floured fingers, gently roll out the dough to cover the entire pie plate. Make sure the dough is even, there are no bald spots, and that the dough comes up to over the edge of the plate. Prick with a fork all over, and freeze for at least half an hour or more.

While the dough is freezing, you can go on to do other things.

When youre about ready to bake the crust, preheat your oven to 190C.

Take the frozen dough out of the freezer and cover the dough with buttered tin foil, butter side down, pressing down quite strongly. Bake in the oven for about 20 – 25 minutes until lightly browned. Take out of the oven, remove the tin foil very gently. Put back into the oven to brown completely. You want a pretty dark brown crust, otherwise it will be flavourless and slightly doughy.

Once the crust has browned (about 5 minutes more), take out of the oven and leave to cool.

Chocolate Ganache

This is simple, easy and you can use it for many things – glazing a pie crust is but one life – you could drizzle it over vanilla ice cream, use it as a glaze for a cake, or even as the basis for a phenomenal hot chocolate. Im sure there are loads of other uses that you can imagine up.

  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup dark chocolate, in chunks

In a small saucepan, over low heat, combine cream and chocolate. As soon as the chocolate starts to melt, and the cream starts to bubble, take off the heat. Mix well, to ensure the chocolate melts into the cream and all is combined. Keep aside, and allow to cool.

Creme Patissiere

This is so yum. So easy, and so very subtle. I love the vanilla bean studded throughout, but if you dont have a vanilla bean, just use a couple tablespoons of vanilla extract. You can use this to for the basis of any cream fruit tart, and also to stuff eclairs. Simple and good.

  • 2 1/2 cups thick milk
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 4 – 6 tbsp caster sugar
  • 4 tbsp flour

By thick milk, I really mean milk that has been cut with a bit of cream to give it richness. You dont have to do this, you can definitely use just milk, but I prefer to add about half a cup of cream to 2 cups of milk in this recipe.

Pour the milk into a medium saucepan. Cut the vanilla bean in half, and using the tip of your knife or a small spoon, coax all the seeds out of the bean. Place both bean and seeds into the milk. Put over high heat, and allow the mixture to come just to the boil. Whisk to ensure that a skin doesnt form. Set aside, covered, to steep for about 15 minutes to half an hour.

Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks with the caster sugar until light yellow. By the way, the amount of caster sugar really just reflects how sweet you like your creme patissiere. If your strawberries are not that sweet, then use more sugar. Whisk in the flour. The mixture will become very thick and almost pudding-y.

Once the milk has come down to lukewarm, whisk about half a cup into the egg mixture, and then whisk this back into the remaining milk. Put saucepan over heat again, and cook until the creme just comes to the boil, about 5 minutes or so on medium heat. It must boil to become creme. It will get thicker as it cooks, just make sure you whisk constantly. Once the creme is to your consistency, pour into a bowl, and allow to cool, covered with a bit of greaseproof paper or plastic wrap. This will ensure no skin forms.

You can refrigerate the creme patissiere for up to two days. When you are ready to use it, fish out the vanilla bean stalks.

Port wine and balsamic glaze

  • 3/4 cup port wine
  • 3 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp very old balsamico

In a saucepan (just a note, I used the same saucepan for all these components! Just rewashed it over and over, saved on the cleanup!) combine the port wine, caster sugar and balsamico. Stir to ensure that the sugar has dissolved into the wine mixture. Over medium heat, boil the wine until it reduces by half and becomes very syrupy. It will eventually boil up – this is usually a clue that its reduced far enough. Pour into a heat proof bowl, and allow to cool.

Assembly

  • Baked and cooled tart shell
  • Chocolate ganache
  • Creme patissiere
  • 1lb/500 gm fresh strawberries (or more if you want), hulled, and sliced if you want or kept whole

You can assemble this pie up to 1 day before serving, but honestly, I think its better the day of serving, assembled a few hours before eating.

Using an icing spreader, or the back of a spoon, spread the chocolate ganache all over the cooled tart shell, including the sides. Use as much or as little of the ganache as you like. Any leftover can be used for a variety of delicious things! Place the chocolate covered tart shell in the fridge for at least half an hour to let the ganache solidify.

Once the ganache has hardened, take the tart out of the fridge, and spread the cooled creme patissiere over. Dont fill the pie right to the edge, as the strawberries will displace a bit of the creme.

YumArrange strawberries in a pretty pattern all over the creme patissiere, and brush them gently with the port wine glaze. Refrigerate for at least half an hour and up to a day.

Celebrate šŸ™‚

WorldĀ CupĀ Pasta

20 Jun

Yesterday, we watched the World Cup together, and decided to make a meal. Its such an exciting time of the year, and so much fun to watch the action unfolding in South Africa! We made rice crispie treats with rice crispies, marshmallows, butter and vanilla (very delicious – like crisp vanilla ice cream!) and the perfect chocolate chip cookies from Cook’s Illustrated. I will post the recipe for those later. But the pasta was the star, and oh my goddess it was good!

For 4 – 6 people

  • Approx 2 – 3 tbsp truffle oil (olive oil infused with truffle)
  • 4 -5 cloves garlic, finely sliced
  • 4 – 6 large mushrooms (I used portabello) sliced roughly
  • 4 – 5 thin slices cold butter
  • Good glug of very old delicious balsamic vinegar (the syrupy-er the better!)
  • Approx 10 – 15 ripe cherry tomatoes sliced in half
  • Salt and pepper
  • Big glug of cream
  • Angel hair pasta

Coat the bottom of a large frying pan with the truffle oil, and arrange garlic over. Over a very low heat, begin to fry the garlic. You dont want it to burn, just infuse the oil and become soft and ever so slightly golden. Dont flip the garlic or move it around the pan – just let it slowly come to heat with the oil.

Meanwhile, peel and roughly slice the mushrooms. How many you use depends on how much you like mushrooms, and how many people you have to serve – I usually use 1 large mushroom per person. Once you really smell the garlic wafting from the pan, tip in all the mushrooms all at once, and increase the heat to medium high. Stir the mushrooms so they pick up the oil and garlic, and then lay the butter over the top of the mushrooms. The butter will melt in the heat and steam coming from the mushrooms, and will infuse them with flavour, and will also add to the thickness of your sauce.

As the mushrooms begin to fry, and the butter has been melted, pour a good glug of balsamic vinegar over, and stir the entire heady mixture together once or twice. You should see some mushrooms begin to burn a bit, and some juices begin to release. Slice the cherry tomatoes over the top, and let the heat get to them, and watch them wilt a bit. Add salt and pepper to taste.

As the mixture begins to come together, add the cream. I usually dont measure this but again, its relative to the amount of people eating. The cream will pick up all the flavours of truffle, balsamic, mushroom and garlic, and will turn a rich brown. Squish the tomatoes into the cream so that they add their sweetness and tartness to the sauce. Let the cream come to a full boil and thicken. Taste for seasoning. Add more cream if you want it.

As the cream is boiling, prepare the angel hair pasta. It should take a few minutes in a boiling pot of water, with a pinch of salt and a bit of olive oil to prevent sticking.

Drain the pasta, stir it, and if you want, add a little bit of butter for flavour.

Using tongs, transfer the pasta to the frying pan and mix well. This gives you control over how much pasta you add to the sauce and ensures you dont have a pasta heavy, lightly sauced meal. Keep tasting as you add the pasta – it will dilute the flavours of the sauce. You might need to add a little more salt to brighten the flavour.

Serve, in bowls, with parmesan to grate over. Enjoy the game!