Sunday, 20 February 2011

My (Raymond's) Plum Clafoutis

French clafoutis is the lightest pudding around -the perfect end to a heavy Sunday Roast- with arguably the prettiest name. The focus of this pudding should be its fruit, as ripe and flavoursome as possible, with the surrounding batter as no more than a delicately sweet cushion holding everything together. The recipe below has its roots in a Raymond Blanc classic which, out of circumstance and necessity, I changed around so much so that it no longer ressembles the original; I thus feel half-justified to call this recipe my own!
10-12 ripe plums
1 tbsp. caster sugar
1/2 tbsp. rum
20cm round baking/oven-proof dish, greased
Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4/180C/350F

Destone and quarter the plums and place them in the baking dish. Scatter the sugar over the fruit as evenly as possible; likewise with the rum. Place the plums in the oven to warm through, soaking up the sugar and the alcohol, whilst you make the batter.

45g caster sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla/almond extract
40g plain flour, sifted
125ml whole milk
25g unsalted butter

Place the sugar, eggs and extract into a medium-sized bowl before whipping them together for a while until pale, thick and fluffy (girls may want to use an electric whisk, or their boyfriends). Add the flour and mix well. Melt the butter in a saucepan over a gentle heat to make a buerre noisette- sounds scary 'cause it's French but is easy to do: when brown flecks appear and the melted butter starts to smell nutty, take it off the heat and add to the egg mixture. Give the batter a good stir before removing the plums from the oven and pouring the batter over the fruit. Bake the clafoutis for 30-35 mins, until the centre is nice and springy but the top not too brown. Serve warm with custard or cream.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Valentine's Velvet Cake

Sometimes, as a singleton, it can be difficult to enter into the spirit of Valentine's Day. I am engaged with what borders on a love affair with my food, however, and see that there is hope still for me to feel included without the need to go boy-hunting.
Red Velvet Cake looks as though it were made for 14th February by St. Valentine himself. Ok, so the cocoa flavour of the sponge is not in keeping with its red crumbs and thus a strange feature for anyone who doesn't know it's in there; and yes, cream cheese in a butter-cream icing is to an acquired taste, BUT people...look at the colour of it! I assure you that the novelty of eating bright red cake, particularly on this upcoming Day of Love, will not wear off before you've finished eating a slice, although by the end of a second portion you may well wonder what the effect of all that food colouring could be on your delicate, love-struck mind.
I had my first attempt at making the cake with my friend Lucy, gleefully getting into the spirit of things by adding double the quantity of food colouring to the cake batter (well, if you're gonna bother to colour a cake...) and strewing crystalized rose petals all over its surface, as though decorating the bed of some romantic boudoir. We even held the knife together to cut the first slice (see above for a photo of 'the happy couple'). Everyone in our biology class loved it, and we loved them for loving it, and they loved us for loving them and...well, you get the picture. Either the spirit of St. Valentine fell upon us, or the mutual attraction was a nasty side-effect of too much food colouring.
Singletons and couples alike: Happy Valentine's Day- treat yourselves to a slice of Red Velvet Cake!

Friday, 4 February 2011

Caramelised-Apple Croissant

This recipe (which doesn't actually involve much cooking i.e. a teenage boy could make it) comes from Nigel Slater, who possesses the wonderful talent of knowing which foodstuffs go perfectly together. It's a dessert-sandwich/midnight snack which is both flaky and tender; sugary hot and creamy cold. It is also inevitably messy, and I would advise tackling the consumption of this dish with your fingers only in the company of good friends, who won't judge.

You begin by melting a large knob of butter (around 50g) in a frying pan whilst thickly slicing a couple of apples (cooking- or eating-). Fry the apple slices in the butter for 5-10 minutes until nicely golden before adding to the pan 50g soft brown sugar. Turn the heat up to let the sugar bubble (thus begin the caramelising process) and heat two croissants in the oven/under the grill. Get a tub of vanilla ice cream out of the freezer to soften. Continue cooking the apples for 5-10 minutes until soft (not mushy) and in a nice, sticky caramel. Slice each warm croissant in half and place on a plate. Spoon the apples into the middle along with a scoop of ice cream in each; finish by dribbling the remaining caramel over it all.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Bourke Street Bakery Crazy Mousse-Cake

I've tried many a chocolate cake recipe in my time- whatever 'time' one gets from 16 years' living -but this one intrigued me in particular. All the way from Australia, it is, put crudely, a mixture of melted chocolate, cocoa powder, whipped eggs, whipped cream and -wait for it -curdled milk. (I'll leave it to someone else to devise the science behind that one.)

The first half an hour making it is spent melting, stirring, whipping and beating (you must try to ignore the gradual build-up of dirty utensils by the sink). Once all the components are prepared, you have the sensuous fun of combining them all into one bowl- gently folding in the fluffy meringue and delicate cream; watching the dark brown, pale yellow and white streaks mix into a light-cocoa shade. The batter is cooked gently and emerges from the oven as a towering souffle before sinking into deep, dark fudginess. This mousse-cake was described by a friend as '100% taste- no substance' and I'll add in agreement that, although light, it is decadently rich.

Here's a link to the recipe as posted on another fabulous food blog, Almost Bourdain, on which are further (arguably higher-quality) photos as well as a bit of background on Bourke Street Bakery, the creator of this cake.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Happy (Belated) New Year!

A little later than customary, perhaps, but I wish everyone a happy new year and hope that, by now, you're well into the swing of things following the Christmas slump. Over the new year weekend, we not only welcomed in 2011 but also celebrated the birthdays of my grandma and uncle...high time for family feasting, I'm sure you'd agree, and here are some photos of the meals we enjoyed. My auntie's a bit of a whizz in the kitchen (i.e. you know you're gonna get a good feeding in this household) and the greatest comfort in their home is the warm, promising scent of the next meal being made. I aspire to create the same atmosphere in my future home.

By the way, you may be interested to know that my new year's resolution for this blog is to wave off laziness and welcome in, ness in venturing to post more of my own recipes, sharing with you both the delights and disasters which emerge from our kitchen. Posts may be brief and/or sparse at times, particularly during exam period (!), but I look to make whatever I publish more entertaining and enticing than a picture of our latest Sunday roast, or the success of my most recent attempt at making brioche.
Enjoy the rest of the weekend!

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Festive Feasting

Fond foodie memories are held of the meals we ate this Christmas Day; photos are above and descriptions below:
Breakfast was scrambled egg and smoked salmon (seasoned with punchy black peppercorns and pungeant juniper berries) on toasted soda bread; having wholemeal meant that our first meal was easily digested during the morning in preparation for...
Lunch, where we swayed slightly from the traditional by serving roasted duck (which in my opinion has the crispiest and most delicious skin of all birds) along with a platter of curly Cumberland sausages and stuffed chicken thighs wrapped in crispy dry-cured bacon. Golden roasties, a colourful array of vegetables and flavoursome home-made condiments completed the spread. We served two desserts: an apple and mincemeat tart filled generously with sweet, spicy fruit as well as a rich chocolate log (thoroughly cracked and dusted with seasonal sugar-snow), after which...
Well, we all just about collapsed from cooking/eating such a lot, curing post-break peckishness by picking from whatever was in reaching distance (i.e. the annual Celebrations box). Altogether a culinary triumph; I hope that you, too, enjoyed your Christmas meal and, what's more, reap the benefits of all the leftovers for the next few days!

Saturday, 25 December 2010

An Unopened Present

A very Merry Christmas to all the readers of my blog! Of course, I'll soon post pictures of the food we've eaten today, but first I'd like to share a Christmas message that I received this morning...

So, have you opened all of your Christmas presents already? Whether or not it's bare under the tree, there may be a Christmas present that remains unopened. The Lord God offers each one of us the most precious Christmas gift of new life in His Son, Jesus (you know, the guy whose birthday it is today), and it's certainly not one to be left in paper and ribbon. This Christmas time, contemplate what is being offered to you by the birth of Jesus, and don't leave the greatest gift of all unopened!
Enjoy the festivities, everyone.