27 May 2009

Oldfields, roast duck with chilli noodles and ginger plums

A few month ago I discovered my very favorite restaurant in Newcastle had released its own cookbook, A Passion for Real Food. Split into seasonal chapters it really helps you make use of what the British weather breeds. Like most of my cookbooks, this one sat on my shelf, unused for a good while (I'm very easily distracted) until I bagged myself a bargain from my local Waitrose, two free range duck breasts for £2! Not one to let a find like that slip through my fingers I snapped them up, along with some plums and chillies and set on my merry way home. Unfortunately I overcooked the duck a little, it wasn't as pink as I'd have liked but it was still delicious. The sweet plums complimented the duck breast perfectly while there was a subtle heat from the chillies strewn through the noodles.



Ingredients:

Egg Noodles - enough for two
One chilli, de-seeded
A small handful of fresh coriander
Two duck breasts with the skin scored down to the flesh in a diamond shape
Four basil leaves, shredded
Two plums, each cut into four
One tablespoon of dark soy sauce
One inch of ginger, grated
A wine glass of chicken stock
Olive oil
Seasoning

Method:

Pre-heat the oven to 220C. In a large pan of boiling water, blanch the noodles as per their instructions, drain in a sieve and refresh under running cold water. Allow to drain.

Blend the chilli and coriander with a touch of olive oil, enough to make a loose paste. (I used a pestle and mortar) Combine with the noodles.

Heat an oven proof sauté pan and fry the duck breasts, skin side down, on a medium to high heat for around 3 minutes. No need for oil as the duck has more than enough fat. Turn the breasts over and place the pan in the oven for ten minutes. Remove from oven, cover the pan and allow to rest for 5 minutes.

Whilst the duck is in the oven, heat a second medium pan and gently sauté the plums and ginger in a touch of olive oil for a few minutes. Then add the soy sauce and reduce by half.

Once the duck is rested, re-heat the noodles, spoon the into the centre of the warm plates and place the duck on top. Mix the basil into the plum sauce, taste and adjust the seasoning and spoon over the duck and noodles.

If you ever find yourself in Newcastle, I thoroughly recommend eating at Oldfields. Reasonably priced, locally sourced food with super friendly service. Only today a girlfriend and I had a long chat about tattoos with the very sweet waiter, not only that but we each had a three course lunch for £12.95. That's for both of us, you catch my drift! Go go go!

20 May 2009

Mr Kipling, bah!

I love Bakewell Tarts, they remind me of packed lunches on the school field, the scent of freshly cut grass wafting through the air and sun so blissfully warm you left your coats and blazers inside. Alas, it's mid May and the sun has yet to shine; the cut grass doesn't smell but it does agitate my hay fever, and that school field is nothing but a very distant memory. The only thing I can bring back are those nummy Mr Kipling Bakewell Tarts, except they aren't very nummy, are they? Too small, too sweet and wheres the almonds?! There was only one thing for it, make my own of course!


I found the recipe on the trusty BBC Good Food website, the only thing I altered was rather than topping the tart with toasted almonds I drizeled it with an icing so it replicated the Mr Kipling cakes I loved so much as a child. I loved this recipe, so simple and so very tasty, much better than the boxed version.

125g plain flour
75g unsalted butter, cold and diced
25g caster sugar
1 egg yolk
1 egg white

2 heaped tbsp raspberry jam
150g unsalted butter, at room temperature
150g caster sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1 egg yolk
1 lemon zested
1 tbsp flaked almonds
150g ground almonds

To make the pastry, tip the flour, butter and sugar into a food processor with a pinch of salt. Whizz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk and 1 tsp of cold water and pulse until the dough comes together (if like me you don't have a food processor, just rub the butter into the pastry with your fingertips). Flatten into a disc, cover with clingfilm and chill for no more than 1 hour. n Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface to about 3mm thickness. Line a 20cm fluted tart tin with a depth of 31/2 cm. Prick the base with a fork and chill for 20 minutes.

Heat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4.Line the pastry case with baking parchment and fill with baking beans. Cook for about 20 minutes until the pastry is a pale golden colour. Take out the beans, brush the inside of the pastry case with a little egg white and cook for a further 2 minutes. Cool slightly.

Spread the jam in an even layer over the base of the pastry case. Cream together the butter and caster sugar. Gradually add the beaten eggs and egg yolk. Fold in the ground almonds and lemon zest. Carefully spoon the mixture over the jam and spread level. Bake for 20 minutes. Scatter with the flaked almonds and continue to cook for a further 15-20 minutes until golden and set.

Cool to room temperature, dust with icing sugar and serve with pouring cream or custard.

16 May 2009

SMS: Guinness Gingerbread

At last, 7 weeks after Sweet Melissa Sunday began it's finally my turn to choose the weekly bakeathon, huzzah! The second I laid eyes upon this recipe I knew it had to be my choice, I'm a total sucker for anything ginger based and putting it together with chocolate and Guinness was just too much to resist. I know, I know, this recipe is much better suited to those chilly Winter months, but unlike the rest of the group I live in sunny England, in even sunnier Newcastle. Yes I am being sarcastic, it's done nothing but rain the past few days, but the rain has benefits and one of those is it's perfect weather for gingerbread. Yum!




This recipe came together perfectly (apart from when I dropped my ground ginger bottle in the flour mix, poofing it out everywhere...oooops) and filled my house with a beautiful Christmassy scent that I just can't get enough of. I subbed the molasses for black treacle, which I'm lead to believe is the same thing and rather than baking the gingerbread in a square pan, I opted to make it into lil cupcakes and smear them with vanilla butter cream. I would have much preferred to pipe a big swirl atop each cupcake but they came out so huge the swirl just looked all wrong, so I attacked it with my pallet knife. So much cuter and much easier to transport and distribute at work :) I will most definitely be making these again, absolutely delightful little mouthfuls of gingery (although not gingery enough for my tastes) goodness. Don't forget to check out the other SMS bakers for their wonderful attempts :)

Recipe:

2/3 cup of Guinness Stout
2 cups of plain flour
2 tbs of cocoa powder
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
2 1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground white pepper
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 large eggs
1/2 cup of caster sugar
1/3 cup of firmly packed dark brown sugar
2/3 cup of molasses (I used black treacle)
3/4 cup of vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350F (175C) and lightly butter and flour a 9x9x2 inch square pan.

In a medium saucepan, bring the beer to a simmer and remove from heat.

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, ginger, white pepper and cinnamon into a medium bowl.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, brown sugar and molasses until smooth. Whisk in the oil to combine (I've just realised I forgot to add the oil, but the recipe didn't seem to suffer) Whisk in the dry ingredients in three batches alternating with the beer. (Dry, beer, dry, beer, dry.) Mix until just combined, do not over mix.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Remove to a wire rack to cool.

9 May 2009

Madeleine's, sweet sweet Madeleines!

One day in winter, my mother offered me some tea ... She sent out for one of those short, plump little cakes called petites madeleines, which look as though they had been moulded in the fluted scallop of a pilgrim’s shell ... I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. No sooner had the warm liquid, and the crumbs with it, touched my palate than a shudder ran through my whole body, and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary changes that were taking place. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses ...”
Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time.


Say's it all really. I recently bought a vintage Madeleine tin in future preparation for a SMS recipe which, much to my dismay, hasn't been picked yet. I simply could not wait however many weeks it may take for the object of my desires to make it onto the upcoming list so I shlomped upon the sofa, laptop in tow, to find a yummy recipe. The one that caught my eye is that of the wonderful Heston Blumenthal, he claimed that he used this recipe to woo his wife. Well, that's good enough for me!

Makes 10 (I got 12)

125g unsalted butter, plus a little for the mould
100g icing sugar
40g ground almonds
40g plain flour, plus a little for the mould
3 large egg whites
2 tsp best-quality honey
Finely grated zest of ½ lemon
Salt

Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas Mark 3. Melt the butter over a medium heat for a few minutes until it starts to sizzle and has a nice nutty scent — beurre noisette. Strain and set aside.

Sieve the icing sugar, ground almonds and flour into a bowl. Using a fork, whisk the egg whites into the dry mix. Next, add the honey and continue to whisk. Incorporate the warm — but not hot — beurre noisette and lemon zest and mix until homogenous. Add a little salt to taste.

Leave the madeleine mixture to rest in the fridge (covered with clingfilm pressed onto the surface) for at least an hour. Resting the dough is important, as the gluten relaxes and produces a lighter result.

Butter a madeleine mould and lightly dust with flour. (This double coating really works as a nonstick surface — you don’t want to be struggling with removing the madeleines while the tea is stewing.) Fill the moulds with the madeleine mixture and return to the fridge for half an hour to rest again (please be patient).

Bake for 10-15 minutes or until set and lightly golden brown. Remove from the oven, turn out from the tin and leave to cool on a cake rack for 5 minutes before serving.

SMS: Lemon Ice Box Cake

When I read the name of this weeks Sweet Melissa Sunday's bake I was more than intrigued. I've never tried an ice box cake, never mind made one. My curiosity was doubled when I read the recipe through and realised it was shockingly similar to the Lemon Meringue Pie recipe I love so much, only rather than being baked, it's frozen. How delightfully odd. This one's all down to the lovely Jennifer of Keep Passing Open Windows. Excellent choice Jennifer, kudos ;)


As I've missed the last two Sweet Melissa Sundays I was dying to get back into the swing of things and dove head first into the kitchen clutching a huge bag of lemons! But, being one of the only English bakers in the group, I encountered a few problems, Vanilla Wafers being the first! What on Earth are Vanilla Wafers, cookies, wafers, big, small? Eeeeep, a little digging told me they're small vanilla flavoured cookies but unfortunately, I couldn't find anything similar in the supermarkets here so I decided to use a tried and tested replacement for Graham Crackers instead, Hob Nobs. The second problem appeared to be one several of the SMS bakers encountered, waiting for the lemon custard to turn thick and fluffy. I whisked, whisked and whisked some more but it just didn't seem to change. After about 20 minutes, I gave up and folded in the egg whites regardless. Not that it seemed to matter much, the cake turned out beautifully and was exactly what I expected, a frozen lemon meringue pie. Nom!



I wasn't a fan of the Strawberry sauce when paired with the cake, wonderful on its own but I don't like anything to taint the flavour of lemon. Not in my house!

As usual, take a peak at the wonderful, beautiful SMS bakers to see what they came up with!


As you can see from the above picture, when removing the base of the cake tin and greaseproof paper I lost half of the brown layer of meringue. But, I actually preferred the cake with the snowy white topping, I thought it looked much more appetising :)

5 May 2009

So neglectful!

I feel dreadful for neglecting you, dear blog of mine but I've been awful busy with horrid uni work and not so horrid birthday fun!

Yep, I'm now the hideous age of 26, closer to 30 than 20? That's me! To detract from my impending maturity, I decided to celebrate this years milestone by throwing a pop stars themed birthday party. It was a roaring success with visits from Katy Perry, Axel Rose, George Michael, Lady Gaga and not to mention Hannah Montana (yep, that was me). The house was packed out with famous lookalikes, what my neighbors must have thought is beyond me, and much alcohol was consumed. A whole bottle of pink gin saw me unable to get out of bed the following day, not my finest moment!

Here are a few of the treats I whipped up for the occasion, it's a good job I took photos when I did because they barely made it past the first few arrivals!



Chocolate cupcakes with strawberry butter cream topped with chocolate covered strawberries. (I got the idea for these from flickr)



Chocolate cupcakes with vanilla butter cream with Oreo crumbs topped with an Oreo cookie.



And last of all, my birthday cake. A giant cupcake iced with vanilla butter cream. We got too drunk to cut this and it's currently a museum piece in my kitchen....