Sunday, July 24, 2011

Greengage and blackberry fool

A very simple pudding. You use roughly the same quantity of cream as of fruit compote. The amount of sugar you need will vary according to the kind of fruit (or, in the case of rhubarb, vegetable). This fool includes about 20 greengages, two small punnets of blackberries, 2tbsps of caster sugar, 400ml of double cream, and 1tsp of vanilla essence.

Put about 50ml of water into a heavy saucepan, and throw in the greengages and blackberries with the sugar. Cover, bring to a simmer, and cook gently, stirring from time to time, until the fruit is very soft - no more than 15 minutes, probably. Force the compote through a sieve into another saucepan, pushing and stirring the fruit with a spoon.

Bring the sieved compote to a simmer again, and cook until it is lava-like in consistency, with big bubbles breaking the surface. Test for sweetness. Pour the compote into a bowl, and allow to cool. (It will thin the cream if it is hot.)

Whip the cream, with the vanilla if using, and stop as soon as it stiffens. (If you keep beating, it will become almost solid, and grainy too.)

Blend the cream and the compote, and chill for a couple of hours.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Lamb leg steaks

These are steaks, which you would fry or grill, but from the leg, which you would roast. So how to cook them? I chose a compromise.

The marinade includes a garlic clove, crushed with salt; the juice of half a lemon; and about three tbsps of olive oil. The steaks sat in it for only half an hour.

I got a ridged grill pan very hot, scraped excess marinade off the steaks, and seared them (one at a time) for only a minute each side, just long enough to give them a griddled appearance. I returned them to the marinade in the oven dish, and roasted them for 30 minutes at gas mark 6/200C. Those who prefer their lamb to be less well done could allow at least 10 minutes fewer.

As you can see, they produced a fair amount of sauce.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Chocolate cheesecake

150g digestive biscuits
75g butter
3tsp gelatine*
500g ricotta or cottage cheese (drain the cottage cheese)
1 397g tin condensed milk (about 300ml)
200ml double cream, whipped until slightly thickened
100g dark chocolate

Rub a tiny bit of oil over a 20cm flan dish, or line and grease a 20cm springform cake tin (see here).

I whizzed the biscuits in a food processor, cut the butter into pieces, threw them in, and whizzed again until all the crumbs were buttery. But this base did not have the crunchiness I like. So my advice is to melt the butter in a saucepan over a very gentle heat, remove the pan from the heat, tip in the biscuit crumbs, and mix thoroughly with a spoon. Tip the crumbs into the dish or tin, and compact them with the back of a spoon. Put the dish or tin into the freezer to firm up.

Put about 4tbsp of cold water into a small saucepan. Sprinkle over the gelatine, and swirl the water about until the powder is thoroughly soaked. Set aside.

In a bowl, stir together the ricotta, condensed milk, and cream until thoroughly blended. (You may prefer to use 500ml cream alone, without the condensed milk. In which case, throw in 60g caster sugar too.)

Place a bowl in a saucepan of gently simmering water so that the base of the bowl does not touch the water. Break up the chocolate, throw it in, and stir until melted. Remove from the heat.

Add a few spoonfuls of the cheese and cream mixture to the chocolate - stirring them together will help to release the chocolate from the side of the bowl. Tip this mixture into the bowl of cheese and cream, and blend.

Put the saucepan with the gelatine on to the lowest possible flame, and stir. As soon as the powder dissolves and the mixture clarifies, remove it from the heat. (Boiling gelatine disables its setting qualities.) Keep stirring until thoroughly dissolved. Pour the gelatine into the cheese mixture, and blend thoroughly.

Remove the biscuit base from the freezer, and pour over the cheese mixture, levelling it with a knife. Cover the dish or tin with foil (create a tent above the filling if you're using a flan dish), and refrigerate for at least three hours.

This cheesecake is based loosely on one in CLASSIC CHEESE COOKERY by Peter Graham (Grub Street). Graham also includes 3 limes, creme de menthe, and mint leaves; his cheesecake contains a hefty 280g of chocolate. The disadvantage of my quantity is that the pale brown of the filling is not particularly attractive. But 280g would be a bit much, I think. You could leave out the chocolate altogether, and just have lime juice (and zest), or lemon, or a combination of the two. Three fruit in total, I think.

*Graham's recipe has 20g of gelatine, which is far more than I used, or needed, or would have needed even had I included the lime juice. Different gelatines (and particularly different leaf gelatines) have different strengths. Check the recommended quantities on the packet. If you use leaf gelatine (three leaves may be the equivalent of 3tsp), you can prepare it in the same way: soaking, and then warming very gently.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Chorizo and chick pea stew

New potatoes for 2
Olive oil
4 chorizos (the kind you cook, not the salami-type), skinned and cut into pieces
1 clove garlic, chopped
1tsp cumin seeds
2 medium red onions, sliced
2 red peppers, deseeded and cut into fork-sized pieces
1 tin chick peas, drained and rinsed
1tsp harissa, or cayenne pepper to taste

Scrape the potatoes. Cut them into even-sized chunks, put them into a pan of cold, salted water, bring to the boil, and simmer gently until tender.

While the potatoes are cooking, put a splash of oil into a heavy pan, and fry the chorizos over a gentle heat, until they release their own, paprika-hued oil. Throw in the garlic and cumin, and fry for a minute; throw in the onion, and cook for about five minutes, until slightly softened. (Add more oil if the slices threaten to catch. But you may not need it.) Tip in the peppers and chick peas, stir in the harissa or cayenne, cover, and cook gently.

When you have drained the potatoes, stir them into the stew. Continue to cook until the onions and peppers are soft.

This dish might also include tinned or whole, chopped tomatoes (to skin them, drop them into boiling water for 20 seconds, cool them under cold water, and peel off the skins), added with the peppers and chick peas. You may want to cook the stew uncovered, to thicken the tomato sauce.

You might also poach a couple of eggs with the stew - a common recipe in Middle Eastern cooking. I crack the eggs into a cup before tipping them, very gently, on to the surface of the simmering ingredients. They will cook in an uncovered pan, but I usually cover it, and give them about five minutes.

P.s. I've decided to switch to the verdana typeface. It is spacier than arial, and more readable, in my view.