Sunday, February 27, 2011

Polenta cake revisited

My last polenta cake was a bit heavy on the polenta. Without cream or ice cream as an accompaniment, it was dry in the mouth. This one was gooier, and more readily digestible. Its shortcoming was that, once upended from the tin, it fell to bits. My mistake, I think, was failing to allow it properly to cool first.

225g butter
225g caster sugar
3 eggs
200g ground almonds
125g quick-cook polenta
1tsp baking powder
1tsp vanilla essence
2 lemons - zest and juice

Cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs. Recipes often tell you to add them one at a time; but you're unlikely to get a smooth mixture whatever you do, and the dry ingredients will stabilise it anyway.

Stir in the almonds, polenta, baking powder, vanilla, and lemon.

Pour the batter into a 20cm cake tin (a springform one if you like), and cook it at gas mark 3/160C for about 40 minutes. That timing comes from a majority of recipes rather than from my own experience, which suggests that the cake may take up to an hour to set.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Key lime pie 2

A return to a favourite theme of this blog: the creamy pie with a biscuit base. (See here, here, and here.) This one is adapted from a recipe in Nigella Lawson's KITCHEN. Hers has twice as many (ordinary) digestives, with 50g chocolate chips. You'd be able to use a better class of chocolate that way than you'd get from my chocolate digestives.

Nigella uses only 50g of butter to 300g of biscuits, while I have always believed that a higher ratio of butter gives you a firmer base. And she whizzes up the butter with the biscuits and chocolate: I had never thought of doing that, always stirring the crumbs into butter melted in a pan. The drawback of her method is that the mixture resolves itself into a ball in the food processor, rather as flour and fat do when you add a little water. It is a bit of an effort to spread it out in the dish.

150g chocolate digestives (I used gluten-free)
1tsp cocoa powder
75g unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 397g can condensed milk
3 limes, juiced and zested
284ml double cream

Whizz the biscuits with the cocoa powder and butter in a food processor.

Grease a 20cm flan dish or a springform tin. Tip in the biscuit mixture, spread it out, compact it with the back of a spoon, and put the dish or tin into the freezer for 30 minutes, to firm up the crumbs.

Pour the condensed milk into a bowl. Stir in the lime juice and zest, and pour in the cream. Whisk. With a hand whisk, this is quite hard work. The mixture does not go stiff, but it does, eventually, thicken. Pour this filling on top of the biscuit base.

Cover the dish with foil, tented at the top so that it does not stick to the filling, and refrigerate for at least three hours, or overnight.

This pie has an ideal combination of crunchy base and creamy, but light and tangy, filling.

Friday, February 11, 2011

A kind of hash

An ideal hash would contain plenty of crusted bits. You need a good pan, though, or else the mixture will stick and burn. I played it safe with this version, gently warming through the bacon, cabbage and potatoes. It was still good, though, thanks particularly to the bacon fat. 

Serves 3 (obviously, the contents are adjustable).

3 large potatoes
1 cabbage, tough outer leaves removed, quartered, core removed, chopped (you may think you have a lot of cabbage, but you'll find that it cooks down)
9 slices streaky bacon (I used unsmoked), chopped into fork-sized pieces
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 red onions, chopped

Peel the potatoes, and cut them into pieces. (I usually cut a large potato into three crossways, and cut each of these sections into three or four pieces.) Put them into a pan of lightly salted water, bring to the boil, and simmer gently until soft. Drain.

Cram the cabbage into a saucepan with a little water. Cover, put the pan over a medium heat, and cook for about five minutes, or until the leaves are wilted, stirring from time to time. Drain.

In a heavy casserole or frying pan, fry the bacon pieces gently in a little olive or sunflower oil (they will exude their own fat) until they brown and crisp. (If you use cheap bacon, it will throw off a lot of water. Turn up the heat until this liquid evaporates.) Throw in the garlic and let it fry and soften for 20 seconds or so; now throw in the onions, and fry for five to 10 minutes, by which time they should be soft.

Throw in the potatoes and cabbage, with salt and pepper to taste. Stir everything around as it warms through - there's no harm in breaking up the potatoes. If you're confident in your pan, you could turn up the heat slightly, allow the base of the mixture to brown, and then stir everything up and repeat the process, until you have a kind of green and purple-flecked, crispy mash.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Grilled bacon

I've come to prefer to cook bacon in the bottom of a grill pan lined with foil. Pour in about a dstsp of oil (I use sunflower, mostly), and smear the bacon in it - the oil is both a conductor of heat and a protector from the flame. Set the grill to low, and turn the bacon when you start to hear it sizzling. Thereafter, and particularly if your grill is as hot as mine is, you need to turn the rashers with increasing frequency, because otherwise the rinds will burn. I usually cook them until they're crispy.