Saturday, February 23, 2013

Syrup sponge

This Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe for syrup sponge works just as well with gluten-free flour (I used Doves self-raising). Being someone who likes to add as much flavour to a dish as possible, even at the risk of overloading it, I also included the zest of a lemon and a teaspoon of vanilla extract.

I greased my pudding bowl with a little oil, rather than butter. But the sponge still got stuck in places, as you can see.

I wrapped the bowl in kitchen paper, and then in three layers of foil – first placing the foil on the top and wrapping, then repeating the process from the bottom, then returning to the top. I did not need string. I placed the wrapped bowl in a steaming basket inside a large saucepan.

Like the wheat flour version, this steamed pudding turns to stodge when kept. It’s not unpleasant, but quite unlike the fluffy concoction that emerges hot from the bowl.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Crespolini with spinach, cheese sauce

I made my crespolini slightly differently this year. (Earlier recipe here.)

I used self-raising gluten-free flour, on the grounds that the xanthan gum that Doves includes might give the pancakes a more coherent texture. They turned out to be somewhat foamy by comparison with wheat flour versions, but perfectly palatable.

As recommended by Felicity Cloake, I used 1 whole egg and 1 egg yolk, with 115g of flour, about half a pint of semi-skimmed milk, and a few pinches of salt. (Advice here – but this time, I added the milk gradually to the flour and egg, not being worried about developing gluten.)

Why is the first pancake so often a failure? I was careful to get my pan very hot, but my first pancake nevertheless fell to bits when I tried to turn it. All the rest were fine. My batter made six pancakes.

I cooked a bagful of spinach (advice here), squeezed it dry, and divided it between the pancakes, rolling them up and placing them in an oven dish. I poured half a pint of cheese sauce (there's advice about this too in the eggs Florentine recipe) on top, and baked the crespolini at the oven’s highest temperature for about 8 minutes, until the sauce was bubbling.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Fish curry with coriander and lime

I put together this curry from spices I had in the cupboard. Other combinations and proportions might have worked better; but I was pleased with the zing and pungency of this version. Spring onions, mustard seeds, lime juice, and coriander were the key ingredients, I feel. Fresh chillis would have been a good addition. For 2.

Sunflower oil, for frying
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and chopped
2tsp cumin seeds
1tsp coriander seeds
1tsp fenugreek seeds
1tsp mustard seeds
6 cardamom pods
6 spring onions, chopped
2 fillets of white fish, such as cod, coley, or hake
1tsp turmeric
Cayenne pepper, to taste
Salt, to taste
100ml water
Large bunch of coriander, washed and chopped
Juice of 1/2 half a lime

Warm about 2 tbsps of sunflower oil in a heavy pan, throw in the onion and garlic, and soften over a gentle heat. Add more oil if the vegetables threaten to catch.

In a dry saucepan, warm the cumin, coriander, fenugreek, and mustard seeds over a gentle heat, until they give off a toasted aroma. Grind them with the cardamom pods in a mortar. Add the spice mixture with the spring onions to the softened onions, and cook, stirring, for about two minutes.

Cut the fish into fork-sized pieces, and add them to the pan with the turmeric, cayenne, salt, and water. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook gently for five to 10 minutes, or until the fish is white and flaky.

Take off the heat, and stir in the coriander and lime juice.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Spiced cauliflower, for pasta or couscous

You can perform many variations on this theme of spiced cauliflower with raisins, a Sicilian dressing for pasta. The first version I came across was by Valentina Harris (her Italian Regional Cookery, an out-of-print BBC book), and included tinned sardines, tomato puree, and saffron.

I like the paprika in the version below, in part because I think that a dish of pasta and cauliflower, or even couscous and cauliflower, can appear too pale.

150ml chicken stock
1 cauliflower, broken into florets – I divide the larger ones
2tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 red onion, chopped
1tbsp paprika
1tsp turmeric
Cayenne pepper to taste, or whizzed dried chillis to taste
Handful of raisins, soaked for 10 minutes in boiling water, sieved and gently squeezed
Handful of pine nuts, toasted in a small pan over a gentle heat – careful: they burn easily

Bring the stock to a simmer in a large pan, throw in the cauliflower, and cover. Steam for about four to five minute, or until the florets are just starting to soften. Remove the florets to a plate with a slotted spoon.

In another pan, warm the olive oil over a low to medium heat, throw in the garlic and onion, and soften for five to 10 minutes. Turn down the heat and/or add more oil if the vegetables threaten to catch.

Add the paprika, turmeric, and cayenne or chillis, with salt to taste. Stir around for a few seconds, and pour in the reserved stock. Bring to a simmer. Tip in the cauliflower, put on the lid, and leave to warm through for a few minutes. Stir in the raisins and pine nuts, and leave for a further minute.