Friday, October 15, 2010

Too Late for Summer Pudding

Yes, late...  again...  but summer pudding is a wonderful English thing, reminds me of my mum, and was the most fun to make of the many things I haven't posted for you yet.  Perhaps you could make a variation with Fall fruit?  Maybe plums, blackberries, blueberries?

It's just cooked fruit, in a bread casing. I served it with cream, but custard is traditional. Whatever you do, the fruit combination needs to be tart, and dark purple-red. Personally I'd always avoid strawberries, too sweet and soggy. And ideally there'd be redcurrants and blackcurrants. Redcurrants we managed to find, blackcurrants were elusive - do you even have them in the US?  (Other ingredients here were blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries.)

Anyway, I made it for July 4th. Everyone brought fabulous desserts, as it turned out (and I'd made a backup chocolate thing too, in case the summer pudding went horribly wrong; will post that another time, promise). But even though it might be regarded as a little weird, with the bread and all, people seemed to like it.

The Recipe: Summer Pudding
From the BBC's h2g2, i.e. Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Of course.

Choice of bread is key - this is one thing where you don't want your fancy artisanal stuff. Something with a close texture, firm enough to hold the pudding together, but that will also melt nicely into the fruit. I did use store-bought white, but a fairly decent one. It was almost OK but, as they said, cheap store-bought white bread turns into an "unpleasantly slimy mush," and mine was a teeny bit closer to slimy than it should have been. Though frankly I'm not sure what else I could have used.

Here it is in the bowl:

The other thing I could have handled better was the juice. I was a bit afraid that the bread wouldn't hold up, so held back on the juice.

Looks pretty, but I should have "primed" it a bit more. Likewise, they tell you to pour two-thirds of the juice into the pudding at the end, but I held back. Again, you can see the result - it should all have been red:

It all came out fine in the end though - I just poured the remaining juice over before serving, and it soaked in fine.  No pictures of the whole turning out of bowl thing, it was a little stressful.

Knew there was some reason why I kept those weights!  Used baked beans for the full English effect.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Hello & Sardine Pasta

So an old friend once said to me, probably quoting someone like Oscar Wilde: "Never apologize, never explain."  Advice I've never followed - always overdoing both. Ah well.

But on this occasion I'm just going to say hello, hope you're all happy and healthy, and that some of you are still tuning in, through inertia if nothing else. And - in the unlikely event that anyone's checking - that even though I haven't been blogging, I've been cooking a lot. Usually much more than the recipe-a-week resolution thing demands. Thus there's an enormous backlog of things to tell you about, which is highly unlikely to happen. So I'll just start with tonight's dinner.

In his video on the NYTimes, Mark Bittman goes on about the cuteness of his tin of sardines. But this one's pretty good too, right?

I saw this in our (crappy) supermarket the day after I'd read Mr. B.'s recipe and couldn't resist. Unsure, though, about the whole sardine thing. We used to like them as children, have them on toast with lemon squeezed on top. But that was a long time ago...

The Recipe: Pasta with Sardines, Breadcrumbs, and Capers
From Mr. B. on the NYTimes.

It was super easy and tasty. I divided the recipe in half for the two of us (used much less pasta, he always carbo-loads), and in future would add more capers. Also squeezed some lemon juice on top, thought it needed it.

Like he says, serve immediately, and it's definitely good to hold back some of the breadcrumbs to garnish so you make sure you get some crunch.

Also added a pinch of red pepper flakes to the sardine mixture while cooking - would maybe make it a bigger pinch next time. 

And talking of next time, might actually try racheleats's version, which adds anchovies to the breadcrumbs and uses arugula instead of parsley - and, bizarrely enough, came out right around the same time as Mr. B.'s. What a strange zeitgeist - pasta with sardines...

Anyhoo, being already nervous about the sardines, and not an anchovy fan, I thought it might be a fish too far.  But it really wasn't super fishy, so will brave Rachel's recipe soon, maybe keeping the capers cos we love them.

Sardines are good - though I did pick out the tiny backbones. Too freaky.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's... Onion Soup

Very romantic. Actually made this the night before Jack's birthday - he pointed out that it was his last night in his forties, so it wasn't really appropriate then either. Oh well. I spent the last night of his forties crying - how about that? (It's a lot of onion-chopping.)

The Recipe: Jamie Oliver's English Onion Soup
Online here.

I assume it's the cheddar that makes it English. It was actually the cheddar that saved it from being a tiny bit bland - but that may not have been the recipe's fault. I have to leave out the garlic, and perhaps this was one of the times when it really makes a difference. But it was nice, we'd have it again.

Didn't think that our soup bowls could go under the broiler, so just made cheese on toast separately and put it on top of the soup (pushing it in a bit) which worked fine.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Jack's Birthday Profiteroles

These were a surprise for Jack's birthday dinner. A surprise for him and for me as, incredibly, they came out perfect.

(Main course - his request - was swedish meatballs. Bring on the old jokes - or maybe don't...)

The Recipe: Profiteroles
Used Alton Brown's recipe - well, half of it, and made by hand (rather than with food processor).

For the sauce used a quarter cup milk, a quarter cup bittersweet chocolate chips, and a tablespoon of honey (a combination of Mark Bittman and Ina Garten). Didn't make the ice-cream, sorry.

Can I be a little smug at the fact that Alton labels these "difficult"?  Though that probably refers to the part where you're supposed to pipe them into perfect little shapes. Which obviously didn't happen here.  These are, shall we say, artisanal?

They were a bit heart-stopping, though. They stayed tiny for several long minutes after going in the oven. Oh well, I thought, they're obviously disasters, might as well do the washing-up. Then turned round and they'd popped up beautifully.  Not so difficult after all!  And apparently they freeze well too, which is a good job, as there's no way we could eat eight of them.

Next stop - gougeres, one of my unmet goals from last year. Onwards and upwards, people!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Belated Happy New Year! And a Fantastic Soup...

Wow, I've almost forgotten how to do this! Sorry it's been so long. Happy New Year to you all!

This was supposed to be posted right after Thanksgiving, to help with using up all those turkey leftovers. Oh well - it's still the perfect winter soup. Really, truly delicious, we raved about it for days.

The Recipe: Chicken Pot Pie Soup
From Chaos in the Kitchen (great name).

None - this soup is a dream!  I didn't do the cute little puff pastry stars, but that's a nice finishing touch if you have the pastry and the inclination.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving: The Inedible

The very first thing that I set out to make on Wednesday morning actually went wrong. It was my mum's cranberry-orange relish which - let's face it - is just cranberries and oranges and doesn't even involve any cooking. So this did seem like a Portent of Doom. It just came out too orangey - inedibly orangey.

Then there was this...

Yes, my gravy was inedible too. Thought I was being so clever doing Mark Bittman's Make-Ahead Gravy the day before. But something went astray with my roux - even though I cooked it for about 15 mins, the gravy still tasted floury. What did I do wrong?

So at the last minute I pulled out my backup can, and went with that instead - though did add some of the very impressive pan juices that a less clueless and terrified person would have been able to use... :(

Last on the inedible list were the roast potatoes, which I cut up too far in advance and turned black while I wasn't looking. I hoped they'd still somehow go crispy and golden in the oven, but nope.

But still...

We give thanks for the fabulously fun company.

And I give thanks for Jack and his incredible patience.

And for leftovers!

Thanksgiving dinner - done!
All in all, it was a blast.

Thanksgiving: The Acceptable

Here it is - kinda, there were peas too (this is a shot of the leftovers). Doesn't look too bad, does it?

Actually forgot to mention that I made an apple galette too (again, no pictures), which came out fine and joined a delicious lemon pie and some rice krispie treats made by our guests, and a pumpkin pie from the old Italian bakery next door (pumpkin pie much too daunting to attempt).

But other things were a bit more, shall we say, challenging...

The main problem was - all together now - timing.

The turkey got off to a good start, but then I worried it would be ready before our guests arrived, so slowed it down by covering it with foil.

But then I put the stuffing and the veggies in the oven and everything seemed to grind to a halt. Nothing was cooking.

So I turned up the oven a bit. And then suddenly everything was done all at once. Which was a bit of a problem, as I still had to rest and carve the turkey, reheat the cabbage, cook the carrots and peas, fix the gravy, etc. Panic!!

The Recipe: Basic Roast TurkeyAdapted from various sources, including Mark Bittman and the NY Times, which was running a very helpful and funny Thanksgiving web hotline.

Our 10lb turkey (very scary and repulsive).

1. Preheat oven to 425F.
2. Prepare turkey: remove neck and giblets; rinse, pat dry; put onions and lemons into cavity (I used 1.5 onions, quartered, and a couple of lemons, halved), with some herb sprigs (I used thyme); rub outside with 3 tbspns melted butter, salt & pepper.
3. Put on rack in large roasting pan. Add 0.5 cup water to bottom of pan. Roast for 30 mins, then turn oven down to 325F.
4. Continue to roast, checking every 30 mins, basting if desired (people don't seem to think this is worth doing, I didn't bother). Cover top with foil if browning too much. Add 0.5 cup water to pan if it dries out.
5. Roast until done (temperature read in thickest part of thigh, not touching bone, is 165F). Allow approx 10-15 mins per pound.
6. Remove from oven, and allow to rest approx. 20 mins before carving.

Sounds so easy. Huh.

The Recipe: Roasted Vegetables
From my friend Kate.

I used half a butternut squash, 4 parsnips, 2 yams, 4 yukon gold potatoes, and had about twice as much as we needed (6 people).

1. Chop veggies into small-ish cubes (about 1.5 inches). Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with rosemary, salt and pepper, and toss to cover.
2. Roast at 400F (yes, a problem right there) for approx 30-40 mins or until done, tossing occasionally to make sure they don't stick and are roasting evenly.

The Recipe: Macheesmo's Favorite Stuffing
From Macheesmo.

My sister recommended the one she uses every year - it's truly gorgeous, but rolling logs was well beyond my capabilities.

Before all the trouble started.

I left out the chestnuts (as he suggested). His only problem with the stuffing is its tendency to be too moist. This is not an issue if you burn it to a crisp.


Oh, where to start?

The problem began, I think, with me trying to slow down the turkey. Too late (i.e. the next day) I saw the entry on the NYTimes blog that said you shouldn't do that - the turkey will be fine sitting and waiting for everyone/everything else to catch up. Better to have lukewarm, moist turkey than hot, dry turkey.

I'd hoped to start the veggies and stuffing alongside the turkey, then crank up the oven after it came out to finish them off. But that all went wrong.

Then I forgot to switch off the oven after removing the turkey, so even though they were done (perhaps perfectly) at that point, the veggies and stuffing sat there, overcooking, for the next 20 mins.

The veggies survived, but the stuffing was a travesty of its no doubt delicious self.

But the end result was still edible (mostly, see above), no-one got food poisoning, and only one person apart from Jack saw me have a very tiny meltdown.