Sunday, 30 October 2011

chocolate chip cookies

I've been meaning to make cookies for a few weeks now. But, between starting back at uni and having this virus, I never got around to it.

I've noticed a few different recipes for cookies floating around on my Reader lately. There's apple pie cookieslavender shortbread cookies and these beautiful multigrain chocolate and hazelnut cookies. All I really wanted, though, was a simple and delicious chocolate chip cookie. The best. The classic. Then, Delicious: Days comes along with her favourite cookie recipe and how to pimp them.  It's worth checking out the recipe, there are some great ideas on spruce up the humble cookie.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from Delicious: Days

I've just made a couple of changes to the original recipe. I added some vanilla extract, unsalted butter, used caster sugar instead of granulated, used plain flour instead of bread flour, used a combination of dark and milk chocolate and, finally, I omitted the salt altogether.

Makes 16 cookies

150g dark Muscovado sugar
50g caster sugar
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk, medium
150g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
225g plain flour, sifted
1/2 tsp baking powder
100g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
50g milk chocolate, roughly chopped

Preheat oven Gas 4 (180°C/350°F)

In a bowl, add both sugars, egg and egg yolk and whisk. I used an electric hand whisk for this, but just make sure it's all well combined. 

Then, gradually add the melted butter whilst continuously whisking.

Next, mix the flour and baking powder then fold it into the mixture and bit at a time to form a dough. Now, add the chocolate and mix again to ensure even distribution. 

To portion the dough, I moulded it into an oblong and kept halving it into 16 equal portions. Roll the dough portions into balls, then flatten them to get circular shapes. 

Bake on a greased baking tray or baking parchment, in the middle of the oven, for 15-20 minutes. Once cooked, allow to cool for a couple of minutes before transferring to a wire rack. Store in an airtight container or enjoy straight away. 

Serve with a glass of milk.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

pulled beef

In the past, I've tried a couple of times to make pulled pork. Unsuccessfully. So I hadn't attempted it for a while. Having seen this post, though, I thought it was time I had another go. 

For those that don't know, pulled meat is where you slow cook a joint (traditionally pork, I think) until it reaches the point that the meat can literally be pulled apart with a couple of forks. I've recipes where chicken has been used, so I guess it's pretty much any meat that can be used. 

Next time, I'd like to try it with different flavours. Maybe some ale or BBQ flavours. Star anise would go nicely. 

Pulled Beef
Adapted from Food Stories

Serves 4-6

1.5kg beef brisket (slow roasting joint)
3 red chillies
2 onions, halved
2 carrots, roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried rosemary
single cream

Place the beef in a large pan along with all the ingredients (except for the cream) and cover with water. Bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer, then put a lid on top and allow to gently cook away for 6-7 hours. Keep making sure that there is enough water. The beef is done when you can use a fork to easily break the meat away into strings. Take the beef and use two forks to shred the meat. 

Strain the liquid into a clean pan and set it over a high heat. Reduce it by half. The sauce I was left with was very hot from the chillies, so add enough cream to your liking and season with salt and pepper. 

Add the beef to your sauce and serve. I ate it burrito style with flour tortillas, rice, red pepper and sour cream.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

pumpkin & chocolate soup

I really wanted to do a blog post that wasn't obvious. I wanted to be really creative. I failed.The two most blatant Halloween foods rolled into one recipe. Pumpkins and chocolate. 

I picked up the pumpkin from a local farm that I spotted on the way to do my weekly shop. Turns out, that for the same price as that at Tesco, I got a much larger one. So, I peeled, deseeded and chopped the whole pumpkin, used what I needed and then froze the rest. 

As for the chocolate, I used a quality 88% cocoa. The bitter chocolate works well as it contrasts against the sweetness of the roasted pumpkin.

What's your favourite Halloween food or treat?

Pumpkin & Chocolate Soup
Adapted from Willie's Chocolate Factory Cookbook 
by Willie Harcourt-Cooze

The main difference from the original recipe is that it used butternut squash and red peppers.

There was probably a little too much chocolate in this for me, so add a little at a time and keep tasting.

2 kg pumpkin; deseeded, peeled and roughly chopped
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp dried sage
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 onions; roughly chopped
4 cloves of garlic: roughly chopped
1 litre vegetable or chicken stock
50g cacoa, grated plus extra to serve
single cream, to serve

Preheat oven Gas 7 (220°C/425°F)

Place the pumpkin in an ovenproof dish or roasting tray and sprinkle the dried herbs over the top followed by half the oil and salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes until the pumpkin is soft.

Whilst the pumpkin is roasting, gently heat the remaining oil in a large pan and sweat the onion and garlic until translucent, about 20 minutes. 

Remove the pumpkin from the oven and add to the onion and garlic, along with the stock. Bring to the boil and allow to simmer for 10 minutes. Then blend until smooth, either using a stick blender or a processor. 

Stir in the cacao until it has melted in. Serve with a swirl of cream and sprinkle of cacoa.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Odd Names For Food: Toad-in-the-hole

Lamb Chop Shepherd's Pie
Toad-in-the-hole, along with Lancashire hotpot, scouse, faggots, cottage pie and shepherd's pie, bangers 'n' mash, kippers and of course the Sunday roast, is a British dish to be proud of. 

A few weeks ago, I read this blog post about how British food can simply not compete with French food, in terms of names of dishes. Though they did pretty much set formalised cooking and set the rules. Stefan Gates says, "I love the French, but I think Italian food tastes better, Japanese is more refined, Spanish is bolder, British has more character and Scandinavian is more… herring-based." And I tend to agree. 

What our counterparts across the Channel don't have, however, is cool names for their dishes. Yes. I'm talking about spotted dick, trifle, syllabub, bubble and squeak, knickerbocker glory, wet nelly, and plenty more. (Researching this, I didn't realise how rude some of the names are).

I do find it hard to objectively look at British cuisine, simply because I am British. Don't get me wrong. I love British food, and we have come very far as a nation in producing some of the best chefs and best food in the world. But, it's like asking a football fan to objectively decide if their team deserved that free-kick. 

So, when you're having your Italian spaghetti, Spanish paella, Chinese noodles, Indian curry or American Burger, don't forget to consider having British sometime.

What's the most oddly named food you know of? Or better yet, eaten?


Serves 4 (or a very greedy 2)

8 sausages (I used pork and cider)
2 tbsp olive oil
medium eggs, beaten
125g plain flour
150ml semi-skimmed milk
150ml water
1/4 tsp dried sage
1/4 tsp dried rosemary
2 onions, quartered lengthways
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven Gas 7 (220°C/425°F)

Place the sausages in an ovenproof dish (I used two) along with the oil and bake in the oven for 10 minutes, until they start to brown slightly.

Meanwhile, if you have a blender the eggs, flour, milk, water and herbs can be blended in one go. However, if you don't, whisk by hand. Either way, try and get rid of all the lumps. Season with salt and pepper.

Pour the batter oven the sausages and evenly place the onions between them. Return to the oven and cook for another 20-30 minutes, until golden-brown.

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?

Monday, 3 October 2011

Basic Bread & Butter Pudding

Shortly, my parents will be heading off to Wales in the caravan. They're only going for a few days and asked me to make them two lasagnas and a bread and butter pudding. The last dessert I posted was the pancake cake back in August, so I wanted to share this with you. 

I've seen lots of bread and butter recipes that call for things like apricot jam for glazing, or bits of apple layered between the bread. I use to make a chocolate and orange flavoured one in the restaurant. But, if I give you the basic recipe, you can adapt it how you like. (Just remember to try and keep the same amount of liquid, or you'll need to add more eggs).

Here are a few variations you could try:

Different types of bread, e.g. brioche, baguette.
Adding lemon or orange zest.
Layering white and dark chocolate chips between the bread.
Flavour with coffee.

Do you have a favourite twist on the classic bread and butter pudding?

basic bread & butter pudding

8 slices white bread
15g unsalted butter
75g raisins or other dried fruits
1 egg
3 egg yolks
5tsbp caster sugar
2tsp vanilla extract
1/2tsp ground cinnamon
400ml whole milk
400ml skimmed milk

Preheat oven Gas 3 (325°C/160°F)

Butter the bread and cut the slices into triangles. Layer them, four at a time, in an oven proof dish, sprinkling the raisins in between each layer. 
In a bowl, whisk the egg and egg yolks together with the sugar. Mix in the vanilla extract and cinnamon. Pour in the milk whilst continuing to whisk, to ensure it's all combined.
Carefully pour the mixture over the bread. If not all of the mixture fits, gently press the bread down, to remove any air pockets, and leave to stand for 5 minutes. (This allows the bread to soak up the liquid). Then pour the rest of the mixture in.
Bake for 40-50 minutes. Test when it's done by using a small, clean knife or wooden skewer to pierce the middle of the pudding. If it comes out clean, it's cooked. 
Personally, I like to serve with ice cream.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

5 Food Myths Dispelled

Coke makes kids go hyper. 

Contrary to every mother's belief, Coca-Cola does not make children hyperactive. It's the belief itself that makes someone perceive this. If you think it's going to happen, you'll (subconsciously) notice signs that support this idea, regardless. In the same way you might notice a lot of faults in someone you didn't like anyway, regardless of whether they might actual be nice. A similar thing will happen to the child, as a type of placebo effect. Trying convincing a mother of this though...

Courtesy of by Paul
Croissants aren't French

There is a lot of disagreement about the origins of croissants. Was it Vienna? Budapest? Austria? No. There are no contemporary sources to suggest any of these places. While there are many stories and legends floating around, what we consider as a croissant today, using puff pastry, is French. The word "croissant" first appeared in a dictionary in 1850 and first recipe published in 1891.

Haggis is Scottish.

There is little historical evidence to support the popular notion that the origins of haggis is Scottish. In fact, it first appeared in a Lancastrian the cookbook Liber Cure Cocorum. Variations of haggis can be found in Roman and Ancient Greek cultures, but it's unclear as to whether either of these are direct ancestors of the haggis we know today.

Fast food is bad for you.

Well, yes, it is. Having one Big Mac won't kill you, but living on a diet solely of burgers and fries most probably will. Much in the same way living on a diet wholly comprised of homemade shepherd's pie can't be good for you either. Everything in moderation.

E-numbers are bad for you and artificial.

Vitamin C's E-number is E300, vitamin C clearly isn't bad for you. Every ingredient that is used as an additive has a code assigned to it. As for being totally artificial, E122 is a crimson colouring made from cochineal. Cochineal is an insect. Even products that claim to be "E-number free" contain ingredients that have them, it simple means that the pure forms are not added as extra.

Do you have any other myths you'd like to add?