Sunday, February 28, 2010

Take five for a quick laughing break


(pic from the foodsection.com)

Ok, so this is not a food post, stricktly speaking. But it was just too funny not to re-post. I can't wait to see Alice in Wonderland and I think it's a huge compliment to Nigella - I'd be happy if I were her :)

Tim Burtons White Queen based on Nigella - read here.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

First dish from Cook Vegetarian

This month I bought Cook Vegetarian for the first time, I had never noticed it before but, boy am I happy I bought it. There are so many yummy things in there that I want to try. I'm strictly omnivorous, but it seem to enjoy having all-veggie dishes on some days and then totally feast on meat on others. I'm not the type to just have a little bit of meat with everything every day.
But I have a friend who's a vegetarian and she came over for a late dinner one night, so I was looking for something quick to make for her. I didn't remember if she ate cheese and dairy or was strictly vegan, so I opted for a safe dish from the magazine that I had my eye on anyway. And that's how I made my first ever Laksa. It's one of Rachel Allen's recipes and I stuck with it pretty much, just made some substitutions where I couldn't find the ingredients, for example hers was all green as she used sugar snap peas, but I couldn't find any so I ended up buying a frozen Asian mix that had some in it.

Veggie Laksa:
Serves 3

~75 g thin rice noodles
1 red chilli, deseeded, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
a knob of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1 stick of lemongrass ( I couldn't get my hands on any, so I had to leave that out)
a large bunch of fresh coriander
juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp of sesame seed oil
~200 ml coconut milk
~400 ml vegetable stock
1 tbsp of soy sauce
~150 g pack of frozen julienned veggies (mine had mushrooms, sugar snap peas, carrot and leek in it I think)
~70 g bean sprouts
a small bunch of green onions, chopped

Place the chopped chillies, garlic, ginger and coriander (save some leaves) and the juice of one lime in a food processor and grind to a paste.
Heat the sesame oil in a large pan or a pot and fry the paste on medium heat for a couple of minutes. Add the coconut milk, stock and the soy sauce. Bring to a boil, then quickly reduce the heat and simmer for ~10 minutes.
Place the noodles in a large bowl and pour over some boiling water to cover so that the water comes up about 2 cm above the noodles. Leave to soak for about 3-4 minutes, drain.
Add the veggies and the bean sprouts to the simmering stock and simmer for 2-3 more minutes, until the veggies are almost done, but still a little crunchy.
Check the taste and add more lime juice or soy sauce if necessary.
Divide the noodles between bowls and ladle the how soup over.
Scatter with some coriander leaves.

I absolutely loved it, I'll definitely be making it again, it's so fresh and fragrant and the kitchen smells lovely while you're cooking it. It's a bit tricky to handle the chillies and your baby (if you have one) at the same time, but if you plan the diversions ahead, it's doable :D
I was afraid it might be too spicy in the beginning when I got a whiff of the ground fresh chilly paste, but it reduced in spiciness considerably with the frying and the cooking. Actually I maybe would even have wished it was a tad bit spicier. A note to self for the future.
Anywhoo, good good good it was :D. Trust me on that one.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

More ice-cream

I've been making good use of my newly acquired ice-cream maker (compliments to my lovely sis for a well chosen gift again). And as I'm in a love love love peanut butter phase again, it was only a matter of time, until I made peanut butter ice-cream.
My Ben&Jerry's book has a variation of peanut butter ice-cream recipes, I used the one for PB&Banana, but substituted bananas, which I surprisingly didn't have at the time (and I always have bananas as my little monkey L*O*V*Es them), with vanilla toffee or fondant candies. They're quite well known and loved here, called Kitty, but the box says pomade candies, which I'm pretty sure means absolutely nothing to any actual English-speaking person (I found a blog post here, that shows a bunch of candy boxes for this particular brand from different times). Basically they're the soft kind you get when boiling sugar, cream and butter.
I was also super-generous when it came to making the sweet cream base and mixed 10% cream with whipping cream (38%), instead of milk and heavy whipping cream so my ice cream ended up a bit over the top, but everyone loved it. And it kept really well.

Peanut Butter and Toffee (Fondant) ice-cream (Maapähklivõi ja kiisukommijäätis):
makes a generous quart

2 large eggs
500 ml heavy whipping cream
250 ml 10% cream or half&half or milk
180 ml sugar
3 large tbsp of extra smooth PB (I used Skippy's)
100 g toffee candies

Whisk the eggs in a mixing bowl until fluffy.
Whisk in the sugar, a little at a time, then continue until completely blended.
Pour in the cream and the whipping cream and whisk to blend.
Pour some of the cream base into a separate bowl (or the PB jar, if yours has about 1 cup left in it) and stir in the peanut butter a little at a time. It takes quite some stirring, but eventually you'll and up with a completely blended thick mixture.
Stir into the remaining cream base and whisk until completely blended.
Pour into the prepared ice-cream maker and freeze following the instructions.
Chop or tear up the toffee into nice chunks.
After the ice-cream thickens, about a minute or two before it's done, add the toffee chunks.

I served it with a drizzle of maple syrup and on one occasion with some crushed walnuts. It was lovely. I'll definitely be making that again.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Back to the basics: roast chicken

Chicken doesn't really excite me usually, I mean it's nice and I use it and I eat it, but it's just kind of boring as far as ingredients go. But this week I got an unexpectedly strong craving, I suspect it had something to do with Lisa's and Pille's delectable poultry postings. As I had no clear idea, what I wanted to make, I only bought 4 chicken legs and nothing else, so when at home I just had to make do with what I had lying around. Here's what happened.

Lime and tamarind glazed roast chicken with veggies (Ahjukana laimi ja tamarindikastmes röstitud aedviljadega):
Serves 4

4 chicken legs
2 - 3 potatoes
2-3 large carrots
6 cloves of garlic
1 lime
1 tbsp of marinated sushi ginger
1 knob of tamarind pulp (about a heaped tsp)
a glug of olive oil
some freshly ground salt
some freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp of rice molasses (was out of honey, honey would obviously work fine)
some mango curry powder
some cayenne pepper

Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper and leave in the fridge for a couple of hours.
Preheat the oven to 220C.
Peel and chop the garlic, chop the ginger.
Peel the potatoes and the carrots, cut into wedges and soak in cool water until you're ready to roast them.
Bring some water to a boil and simmer the tamarind in it for a minute or two, the water should turn brownish, strain the tamarind out and put the water back over heat. Add the olive oil, the rice molasses, stir. Keep simmering on medium to low heat for another minute or two. Add the lime juice, the chopped garlic and ginger.
Stir and simmer to reduce. It should be very fragrant, intensely sweet and sour.
Arrange the veggie wedges and the chicken pieces into a roasting-pan and pour over the tamarind-lime sauce. Sprinkle the chicken with the mango curry powder and the cayenne pepper (or don't if you don't like spicy), cover with foil and roast for 40-50 minutes.

Remove the foil and roast (with the fan on) for about 10 more minutes.

I sometimes buy ready-roasted or grilled chicken and always think that it's fine and why bother roasting your own. Especially for salads or sandwiches. Well, I'd obviously not roasted my own for far too long, the difference is irrevocable. Our own little quality detector deemed the roast a big success as he kept demanding his own cut from everyone’s plate even though he had already had his dinner.

Friday, February 5, 2010

One off the "to-bake" list

My friend Liis is one of those skinny, good looking people who're generally careful about what they eat, so whenever she has strong emotions about a baked good I perk my ears as chances are that it should be absolutely fantastic (to be worth the calories and all). So it was her that first alerted me to the fabulous world of macaroons. The way she described the pistachio ones she had in Paris (and she had 2.5 in one sitting) was just mouthwatering. But that was years ago and I kind of filed them away as 'way too much hassle for my liking' and decided to wait until I go to Paris to try them. But then my lovely fellow bloggers who have insanely magical abilities when it comes to cakes, cookies etc. started making and posting them so macaroons were back on agenda.
And that's how we come to my beloved and often-mentioned Nigella book. As I said I made a cheesecake from there recently and that left me with egg-whites I had no particular plans for. So I was leafing through her domestic goddess guidelines and there they were - pistachio macaroons - and the recipe and directions seemed unbelievably easy. What had I been afraid of all these years - the mystery remains.
For some reason I couldn't find the recipe on her webpage, so here goes:

Pistachio Macaroons
(makes 20 small ones)


for the macaroons:
75 g pistachios (I assume she means without shells, I used 3/4 of a 200g pack of pistachios with shells)
125 g icing sugar
2 large egg whites (I used 3 small ones)
15 g caster sugar

for the icing:
55 g pistachios (I uses 1/2 of a 200 g pack of pistachios with shells)
250 g icing sugar
125 g unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 180 C.
Shell the pistachios (and get rid of as much of the brown dry skin that's between the nut and the shell as well) and grind the amount meant for the macaroons in a food-processor with the icing sugar. You'll end up with a nice flour (Nigella says it's supposed to be as fine as dust but my processor refused to grind it that thin, but it worked fine anyway).

Whisk the egg whites (and as she said whisk I actually hand-whisked them, don't know if it makes a difference, but I imagine it might, it's easy to overbeat the egg whites with an electric mixer, so that they're too dry) until fairly stiff, sprinkle the caster sugar over and whisk until very stiff.

Fold the egg whites into the pistachio flour and make small rounds onto a baking-paper lined baking tray.

Somewhere during that process I realized that I had just automatically used salted pistachios and got a bit of a panic-attack about that, but in the end it turned out that it was no problem at all.
Nigella says to use a confectioner's pipe, which I initially did, but got annoyed half way through and continued wih a spoon, which works just fine.
Let them sit on a countertop for about 10 minutes, so that they'll form skins, then bake for about 10-12 minutes.
Remove from the oven and let cool, I did that the night before.

For the filling you just need to grind the rest of the nuts with the rest of the icing sugar and then cream the butter and continue creaming as you add the nut-flour. You should end up with a well combined and soft cream.

And then it's simply down to sandwiching them together. While I was doing that I got a flashback to a Soviet-era theatre visits, in the theatre cafeterias they basically sold two types of cake (and one always had to have cake while going to see a play) - rum-cake (cocoa, cookie, butter mass with rum essence) and these meringue-cookies, which were basically two bone-dry and hard, stone-white pieces of meringue (no added flavors) glued together by a blob of white butter-cream (plain as well). So I guess I had heard of macaroons before my friend started gushing over them.
I never liked the theatre cafeteria type, but I remember a story my mom told me about how she went through a phase while in the university, where she had one of those large, boring macaroons with a tall glass of salted tomato juice for lunch every day. Ugh ... right?

Well these ones, they're really indescribably good. The meringues are sticky and marshmallowy and the cream is lovely. Also they're probably the sweetest cookie /cake type of thing I've ever had in my life. You basically need a large latte to eat one and you'll be riding a sugar-high for at least a couple hours after that. So a good thing to bring to the office I imagine :)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Birthday cake

My friend was celebrating his B-day last weekend and I decided to make him a cake. Initially I planned to make a Pavlova as I knew that he loves it, but then I decided that it's been a while since I've made something I haven't made before and I dug out my Nigella book (How to be a domestic goddess) that has never ever disappointed. Every single thing I've ever made out of it has been a success. So I was leafing through the cheese-cake section and realized that I had bookmarked the London Cheesecake earlier and never gotten around to making it. So London cheesecake it was.
It's pretty basic apart from the 'cook in a water basin' thing. But as the queen of cakes says herself, it does make a difference to the texture and it's not such a hassle after all.



And it was well received, everyone seemed to like it.

It also brought on (when I realized that almost all of the cake was gone without me having gotten a picture of it while it was ready) a ruthless conversation about my absolute lack of skills as far as it comes to photographing food (the B-day boy himself is a photographer and there was another one among the guests). Apparently my pics suck :D.
I'm currently trying to muster up enough emotion on that point that would drive me to read some sort of a 'how to photograph food' thing online, but so far ... no luck. I'm still completely nonchalant re: my inaptitude, so I guess it'll be bad pics for some more time :)

this photo's by Andres Teiss

I followed Nigella's recipe and instructions to a t (I only added some chocolate shavings to the sour-cream layer) so you can just follow the link to her webpage for the recipe.