Monday, 12 December 2011

For those that don't like sprouts: Sprout Gratin

Sprouts. You either hate them or you... well... you loathe them.

Ok, that might be a bit of bias coming from my side. Apologies. 

They're a festive tradition in our household. Every Christmas, and only at Christmas, I'll cook them - mainly for my Dad. So far, I've only discovered on way that I will eat them - in this gratin. I'm curious about having them raw in a winter salad, but I'm not quite brave enough to venture there yet. 

I drive past Diglake Farm on a regular basis. So, instead of picking up a bag of packaged sprouts from the supermarket, I got them from here. 

As I was prepping the sprouts, my mind started to wonder. "Sprouts are mini-cabbages. The sprout leaves are a bit cabbage-like too. I wonder if sprout leaves are edible?" And yes they are. Well the younger leaves are. They tasted not a lot like sprouts. And were quite pleasant.

Sprout Gratin

Serves 4-6 (depending how much you like sprouts)

500g-600g sprouts (about one stick), shredded
1 tbsp olive oil
100g soft French cheese, roughly cut up
300ml single cream
Few handfuls of dried breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven Gas 6 (200°C/400°F)

Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the sprouts quickly, just to soften them a bit. I did this in two batches.

Put the sprouts into a bowl. Stir in the cheese and season with salt and pepper.

Compact the mixture into an ovenproof dish. Press the sprouts down, but don't squash them.

Pour in the cream - you may not need it all.

Generously coat the top with the breadcrumbs and bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes, until it turns golden-brown and the cheesy cream bubbles up.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Chocolate Workshop

I always knew that working with chocolate took a lot of care. But I never knew just quite how much. Even if you want to simply melt some chocolate for a cake, there are very precise temperatures required to produce a glossy finish. The first workshop was aimed at getting an appreciation of this by making chocolates filled with a ganache. 

Thankfully, we have the option of using readymade chocolate shells, provided by Hotel Chocolat (with whom this project is based around). These will be the same ones that Hotel Chocolat use in their own product development. 

They also provided us with a couple of recipes that they use. One was for a basic chocolate ganache. And I use "basic" as a very loose term. When a recipe calls for measurements down to 1/100th of a gram I think it becomes a bit more than basic.

Still, we managed to make these chocolates pretty successfully. Though we may have got a bit carried away with making some of them look nice. I've also discovered that I'm not that fond of ginger flavoured chocolate. 

What flavours do like or dislike when it comes to chocolate?

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Food Society Evening

Last year, at Liverpool John Moores Univeristy where I study, a few of us started a Food Society. Now, being in our 3rd year, we've taken a back seat to running it and the year below has taken over. Tuesday night saw the first event of the academic calendar. A hotpot evening. 

For those of you that may have noticed in the pictures, it wasn't a traditional hotpot. More of a scouse (a Liverpudlian lamb stew). Nonetheless, it was very tasty. The lamb was melt-in-the-mouth. 

But, I'm gettng ahead of myself... 

There were a couple of guest speakers from FoodCycle. They're a (very new) charity that tackle food poverty by collecting surplus food from supermarkets and give it out to communities in need of help. I recently wrote about food waste here and I'm very much in favour of reducing what we throw away. 

I know that FoodCycle are looking for more food donations, and help with logistics. So, if you can help in anyway or have contacts I'd urge you get in touch with them. Even if you can just get word out about the charity.

Cupcakes. Always cupcakes. There was apple and blackberry crumble too, but I'm like a magpie. I'm easily attracted to bright, shiny things. 

LJMU Food Society are also on Facebook and Twitter.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Chicken & Chorizo Pie

Chicken and chorizo pie. It just sounds so right. I think it's the 'ch'. There's something satisfying about the alliteration of it. It's little things like that that make me happy. Does that make me sad? 

I'm sure I've seen this pie in a magazine or on a blog. I searched and searched, but couldn't seem to find it. So, this recipe was put together in my own head, even if the inspiration had come from some where else. 

This picture below is the pie filling. I know it looks a bit yellow (and looks like custard), but I assure you that's just the juices from the chorizo :$ 

I also have a confession to make. I used ready made shortcrust pastry. Sorry. But if you want to make you own, here's how. And you can find how to make a béchamel here.

Favourite pie, anyone?

In case any of you are interested, you can now subscribe to this blog by email as well as RSS. Just see the column on the right. 

Chicken & Chorizo Pie

Serves 4

Béchamel sauce (see above)
200g chorizo, cut into small pieces
2 chicken breasts, cut into small pieces
Shortcrust pastry (see above, again)
1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven Gas 7 (220°C/425°F)
Heat a frying pan over a high heat. Throw in the chorizo and cook until the oil starts to seep from it. Use a slotted spoon or spatula to remove the chorizo, leaving the oil, then add the chicken and cook until browned. 
Stir the chorizo and chicken into the béchamel sauce and season with salt and a decent amount of pepper.
Spoon the pie mix into 4 small pie dishes or 1 large one. 
Roll out the pastry so that it is slightly larger than the dish you're using. Brush around the edge of the dish with egg then lay the pastry on top. Brush liberally with the rest of the egg and bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden-brown.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Hotel Chocolat

This week saw the start of my lectures, for my final year at university. Amongst the various modules, I have one called Product Development. Each year our tutor brings in a different company to set the class a brief. This year, we're very lucky to have Hotel Chocolat.

One of Hotel Chocolat's product development team came in to talk about the company and what would be expected. She also gave us lots of chocolate to try from their Spotlight On range. Usually, I'm not a fan of chocolate that has other flavourings (with the exception of nuts). 

So, I was surprised when I had a Midnight Mint and found it wasn't too bad at all. The mint flavour was not overpowering. The Rum Truffle and Whisky Truffle, though, were another story. The flavours were so strong, but not nastily so. I think this was credit to the high quality ingredients that they use.

The only ones that I really wasn't keen on, were the Rose & Violet Crèmes. Their floral flavours just didn't sit right on my tongue and I found myself reaching for another Midnight Mint. 

Our brief is to basically develop a product to extend this range of chocolates. It's going to be tough work. Especially the tasting sessions. But, I think I can handle it.

What's your favourite chocolate brand? What flavours do you love and hate? What flavours would you like to see Hotel Chocolat do?

Friday, 16 September 2011

Food Labelling - Use-by, Best-before, Display-until, Sell-by

This week, I've read a few online articles about the confusion different food labelling can cause among shoppers. But, this time, it's not about RDA's (recommended daily allowance) or fat content or salt levels. It's about dates. Do shoppers know the difference between use-by, best-before, display-until and sell-by? Apparently not. It's reported £12bn worth of edible food is thrown away every year. And food labeling is part of the problem.

Just for clarification:

  • Use-by - the date by which it is SAFE to eat.
  • Best-before - the day by which it is BEST to eat, but is usually NOT unsafe to do so after.
  • Display-until and Sell-by - dates used by shops to keep track of and rotate stock.

The Government has advised that sell-by and display-until dates by removed from packaging, and rightly so. But, there is also some concern over whether the use-by and best-before dates used are accurate enough. I think it's understandable that companies will air on the side of caution when it comes to producing these dates. They would otherwise be at risk of being sued if anyone did get ill from out-of-date foods. However, it's claimed that such products as eggs and yoghurt could last well beyond the stated date.

Apart from reading labels correctly, there are other ways of reducing food waste. 

Firstly, shop in the reduced sections. Supermarkets count towards a large percentage of food waste, but if you buy it they can't bin it. Just make sure you don't forget about the food and bin it yourself. 

Secondly, buy ugly. Supermarkets ask their producers to supply perfect products. Any knobbly bits or irregular shapes, and it's thrown away. 

Lastly, at home, use everything you can. Make a stock out of the roast chicken carcass and vegetable peelings. Turn stale bits of bread into breadcrumbs. And plan your meals. 

Related articles:

Related posts:

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Chorizo Naan Pizza

Once again, this recipe is based on one found in Delicious magazine called Spicy Naan Pizza. I've changed it slightly, with the most obvious difference being the inclusion of the chorizo and the exclusion of chili. 

It's very simple to make, yet is utterly gorgeous to eat. All it takes is naan bread with some tomato-based pasta sauce spread across it, then in individual layers add some grated pecorino, chorizo and mozzarella. Bake for 20 minutes and finish off with some rocket and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.