Tuesday, April 15, 2014

2014 A to Z Blogging Challenge - M is for Madeleine, Apricot Madeleine

The secret to a good madeleine is all in the lightness of touch!
Assiette of 5 Desserts;
Almond and Apricot Madeleines (at back on top of caramelised oranges)
Shotglass of Elderflower and Prosecco Jelly with Berries
Strawberry and Cream Tartlets
Mini Chocolate Éclairs
Heart Shaped Scones with Clotted Cream and Jam

Madeleines are traditional French small shell shaped sponge cakes. They are lighter than normal sponge cakes.
The original madeleine recipe I use comes from here. I don't add the coffee, but fold in almonds and apricots. The secret is to fold the flour & butter very carefully into the well whipped egg and sugar mix so you don't lose the air. This ensures they are light and fluffy and seriously addictive!

See more assiette of desserts we have served here.

Monday, April 14, 2014

2014 A to Z Blogging Challenge - L is for Layered meringue pavlova with Flavor King plums

Heating the sugar before you make meringue? A new idea, but turned out very well:
No recipe for this one.... yet. You'll have to wait till this book is out as I was testing out the pav recipe from there before it's printed. You heat the sugar in the oven till it goes golden at the edges then mix it into the whipped egg whites - not so different from Italian meringue really. Adds a slight caramelised flavour & look - nice!

You make 3 meringues and layer them up with whipped vanilla cream and fruit. I did it here in January for a lunch party with South African Flavor King plums which were in season at the time - they're a cross between plums and apricots and very morish!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

2014 A to Z Blogging Challenge - K is for Kale - Gluten free vegan kale pizza with grilled vegetables

Yes - gluten free and vegan food can taste amazing! 

So I have been looking at this gluten free cauliflower pizza base for a while. Could you do the same with kale, and make it vegan as well? Why not!


200g   Raw weight kale with large stalks removed
50g     Silken tofu
25g     Pine nuts
1/4tsp Nutmeg
1/2tsp Salt
Crushed black pepper to taste

1. First wash the kale then steam for about 4 minutes till wilted & soft. I do this by removing from the water it has been soaking in to remove any dirt. There should be enough water left on the leaves to steam it when you put a lid on the pan. Once it is cooked leave to chill. 
2. Place kale into a tea towel and squeeze out the water left inside - this helps the pizza base bind together. 
3. Whizz the strained kale in a food processor with the other ingredients till you have a fine texture. 
4. Form into a pizza base shape on a baking tray and non stick baking mat. 
5. Bake the base in a pre-heated oven @ 180 oC for 35 minutes (yes it really does take that long to dry it out). 
6. Take the base out of the oven and add your toppings. 
7. Replace in oven for 5 - 10 minutes to cook the toppings. 
8. Remove from oven and delve in!

For my topping I added neapolitan sauce, caramelised red onion, grilled butternut squash, asparagus, olives and roasted peppers & sprinkled with pinenuts.
Next time I'll try adding a little tapioca flour as well to firm it up a bit more.......

Friday, April 11, 2014

2014 A to Z Blogging Challenge - J is for (Cheesy) Jalapeños wrapped in pancetta or with crispy breadcrumbs

This should spice up the wedding breakfast!
Cheesey jalapeno peppers wrapped in pancetta & topped with breadcrumbs
Originally we were going to do these as a canape for a wedding this coming June. But the wedding couple instead decided on serving them as a side dish for the main course. Why not! This will spice up the lamb & chicken dishes they chose. I am a new fan of jalapenos after making these jalapeno poppers for a Mexican theme menu last year. 

Cheesy jalapeno peppers

Cream cheese or quark
Red onion diced
Lime juice
Coriander (cilantro in US)
Ground cumin
Jalapeno peppers

Slice the jalapeno peppers in half lengthways and remove the seeds. Mix all the other ingredients together and stuff inside the peppers.
You can roll them in pancetta, or for vegetarians top them with  mix of breadcrumbs, herbs & grated parmesan. Both versions can be baked in the oven for c. 15 - 20 minutes @ 180 oC till peppers are soft and either pancetta is crisp (for pancetta version) or breadcrumb mix is crisped up and brown for the other version.

Related posts:
Jalapeno poppers for a Mexican theme menu

Thursday, April 10, 2014

2014 A to Z Blogging Challenge - I is for Italian veal rolls (involtini) with stuffed aubergine: Chef in Venice #11

There's nothing better than getting away from cooking 24/7 and going on holiday..... and cooking! 
Involtini of veal
My excuse is it's more relaxed cooking - and food shops and markets in other countries are always so much more exciting!
We're going back to 2011 now - seems a long time since my last holiday....
Been to Venice a few times - the Biennale keeps dragging me & my friend back - I've been told I'm going next year (yay!).

Cooking for yourselves rather than eating out in Venice (along with a few other canny tips) means you can get by on a shoestring - I'm only a poor chef after all.
I also try out new things. Right then I was trying out roasted whole aubergines. We served them at a few weddings afterwards - a great vegetarian alternative for hog roasts I find.

Roasted aubergine

1. Cut aubergine in half lengthways.
2. Slash the aubergine flesh with a sharp knife in centimetre wide cuts so you almost get down to the skin, but not quite. Then turn it 90 degrees and cut the other way so you end up with diamond shaped cuts.
3. Cut garlic cloves in half and place these in random places in the cut aubergine. Do the same with rosemary and oregano sprigs.
4. Drizzle olive oil over generously, season with salt and pepper and roast in the oven @ 180 oC for about 20 mins.
5. Once cooked you can either leave to cool and scoop out the flesh and use for aubergine caviar or you can chop the flesh and mix it with.. say... parmesan, oregano, salami, tomato and cooked onion and place it back in the aubergine shell and re-bake it to let all those flavours melt together. Tasty!
Involtini veal raw with mozzarella, roast peppers & capers
With the involtini of veal you can either roll it in pancetta like I did with this one or secure it with cocktail ticks like the one above. You can be all healthy and bake it in the oven or fry it in butter with lemon juice added in at the end.
A trip the the Veneto hills is definitely recommended! (It really is that blue!)

Random figurine with parasol on the backstret walk early morning. Get to know the back streets & shortcuts - saves fighting your way through the grockles! 
Besides the 2 main exhibition centres of the Biennale (Giardini & Arsenale) other countries have their pavillions scattered in random palazzos, churches and tumble down buildings across the city - and it is these which by far provide the best experience... maybe because you have a break in between finding each one, or that actually finding some of them is a mission in itself!

For the 2011 Anish Kapoor offering you had to travel by vaporetto as Basilica di San Giorgio sits on its own island. Less is more they say. It is a work he has done apparently in other venues, but this was the first time in a sacred place - and the symbolism sure got everyone thinking....

Related posts 

Other Chef in Venice posts

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

2014 A to Z Blogging Challenge - H is for Haddock, Smoked haddock with creamed potato, cucumber and orange noodles & hollandaise

Time to rewind to Boxing Day (26th December to those outside the UK) 2012 near Fairford and this was on the menu - something lighter after the Christmas Day lunch and Boxing Day lunch buffet with a guest list who had included a few Windsors.....

 I know what you're going to say - who needs another re-working of fish pie? You could say that - or you could just get on and enjoy what is, in essence, comfort food after a few long days of Christmas celebrations!

For the courgette noodles slice the courgette thin on a mandolin (or you can do this with a peeler). Saute these in butter or olive oil. Add orange zest and chopped fresh mint. 

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

2014 A to Z Blogging Challenge - G is for (Cotswolds) Gin and Tonic sorbet

"What?! There's a Cotswold Gin?!" It was enough to make me forget about the bread rolls in the oven while I read up about it a few weeks ago. You can go the place in Bourton-on-the-water where it is made!.....

Gin and tonic sorbet

Ever since I posted the gin and tonic sorbet on the Scottish & Irish theme night we did last year it has become so popular! I was amazed then about the difference that Hendrick's gin made and this Cotswolds gin does exactly the same - lending it's own distinctive taste to the sorbet. What I find is the freezing temperature of the sorbet seems to bring out more flavour in the gin, which is why it is so important to have good quality gin which has been distilled with love. It's like the difference between using vin de table and vintage claret - life is only so long so you might as well enjoy it!

I use the recipe from Ices the Definitive Guide:

120ml (Cotswolds) Gin
500ml Sugar syrup (about 300g sugar, 300ml water)
375ml Tonic water
Juice 1 lemon
1 egg white (pasteurized)
Makes about 1 litre

Combine the gin, sugar syrup, tonic water and lemon juice (may need a bit of extra lemon). Cover and chill in the fridge.
When ready churn in the ice cream machine (I have one of these ones now - best I've had!) or still freeze (there is a link on how to do this here). 10 minutes before the end of churning (I did mine after 40 mins) add the egg white. Continue churning for a further 10 mins.
Due to the alcohol content in the sorbet it won't freeze completely to the point where it can be eaten straight away - you will need to empty it into a container and freeze overnight. Make sure you hide it at the back of the freezer or someone else will have polished it off by the time you come back!
Serve straight from the freezer - it starts to melt faster than normal sorbets due to the alcohol content.
Assiette of deserts in Bourton on the Water 2012 with gin and tonic sorbet shotglass at the back - this was about 1 mile from where this gin is produced (wish I'd known about it then!)
I should point out that I brought this with my own money (great customer service btw):

In other interesting news they also produce a Cotswold Vodka! Just saying.....

Monday, April 07, 2014

2014 A to Z Blogging Challenge - F is for Fabergé avocado

The great thing about the A to Z blogging challenge? I've finally gone through that archive of old pics on the hard drive and found 3 years worth of unused things. Like this avocado event that MsMarmitelover hosted on 27 October 2011 and I helped cook at - it's taken this long to get round to posting all this. This is the story of my life as it stands. I should point out that all these ideas are hers - I just get to do the handiwork.

'I try out one.... you make the rest!' MsMarmitelover is a typical chef!
This avocado themed meal was for The Avocado Brotherhood (now there's an interesting blog!) and each course had avocado as a star ingredient. Just as we had cleaned all the kitchen and were waiting for her guests to arrive she looked around the kitchen at all the prep - "Do you think this is too much avocado?" Going to one of her events you certainly get something you wouldn't get anywhere else - nobody else would put that much work in to it!.

The fabergé avocado was based on a faint recollection of some idea she had seen once, then made into something of her own: the way the best things are created!
The filling was mango salsa mixed ["Here! Chop this!] with ponzu dressing (before ponzu was really popular). We cut the avocados in half, de-stoned them, filled with the mango salsa and put the halves back together. Then rolled in a mix of black sesame, chopped pistachio, pink peppercorns, dried marigold and cornflours. Maybe some other things from the vast collection of spices, salts, peppers which fill every available space of her kitchen. They certainly created a stunning centrepiece sat on rock salt. Getting the things to stand up - now that was fun!

Whoever knew avocados were so versatile!

Avocado pisco sour. 
Tuna steak seared on the aga with guacamole

Avocado creme brulee - before initial baking (would this also be good savoury?)
Avocado and lime sorbet
Avocado truffles (avocado maximalisation!)
Trying to get ripe avocadoes? So difficult! The Avocado Brotherhood had sent her so many to make this meal - so many there were all these left over! What better thing to create than an avocado suite
Pumpkin and marmite in the dining room - got that autumn feel!

Saturday, April 05, 2014

2014 A to Z Blogging Challenge - E is for Elderflowers - Elderflower cordial recipe & elderflower recipe roundup

I look forward to the new elderflower season like some look forward to the new football season!
Elderflower haul - last of the season 2007
Round here there are elderflowers growing everywhere from May - June: such a short season. But if you're clever the season extends - if you know the microclimates. Within a 20 mile radius the season changes by a few weeks depending on microclimate & land height. There's a secret place I picked the ones above when all the others everywhere had finished.
Don't pick directly after rain
Same as berries don't pick directly after rain - it takes away all the flavour and because they're wet they go off much faster. As I was driving to pick these I was beating the rain clouds in the distance. It just started raining as I was finishing picking, so I walked back in the rain. Tell you what though - smelled so amazing as I drove back - nature's perfume! Another time I stopped in the middle of a road near Bath at 11pm at night with the van lights lighting the elderflower crop that I was harvesting... not sure what the odd driver that went past must have thought!......

Elderflowers discolour (go brown) with age & also when cooking. Add lemon as I did with the elderflower liqueur below or citric acid to avoid the discolouration.

The elderflower season is so short! That's why we make cordial, liqueur, sorbet, etc. But you can also make the elderflower poaching liquor that I use for the elderflower poached chicken & salmon below and freeze that in batches to use over the following summer months.
Elderflower liqueur - you can use gin or vodka as a base. Go on try it! 
Elderflower cordial recipe
This is a ancient recipe from my friend's recipe vault - many times tested and approved!

20 Elderflower heads
2 kg Sugar
1 litre boiling water
80g Citric acid
2 lemons & 1 orange zested and sliced

1. Add sugar to the boiling water and stir till dissolved.
2. Add lemon and orange zest and slices.
3. Place elderflowers into a deep container. Pour over the sugar/ lemon/ orange mix.
4. Cover and leave for at least 12 hours.
5. Sieve and strain through muslin bag to clarify. Pour into sterilised bottle. 
6. Place in a very safe place that nobody else knows about - or they won't last long!

Elderflower roundup
Use the elderflower cordial above to make this turkish delight. But put the cordial in at the beginning not the end like the first time I made it - it sets firmer this way!

Chicken poached in elderflower - a Broadway classic from 2007. We have also often done a similar version with salmon. 

A popular choice on the assiette of dessert:
Assiette of desserts from 8 days ago with elderflower and prosecco jelly centre stage

This particular one was a 2009 vintage - definitely time to make it again!

Elderflower fritters! 
Here's a link to these. I made them at one of her supper clubs I was helping at - literally walked out of the front door to pick the elderflowers and back in the kitchen to fry them off - couldn't be fresher!

Friday, April 04, 2014

2014 A to Z Blogging Challenge - D is for Donburi rice

There is rice under there honest! I made this for a Japanese theme menu at a hen party November 2012. If you've only ever had sushi rice in sushi - you should try it in this as well. 

Donburi is a bowl of white rice with toppings - from there you can take off and make your own version with what you have. 

This is another one where I mashed a few recipes and came up with something else - the flavours of this with a whole load of other vegetables added in with the rice including okra then topped it with raw veg - shiitake and enoki mushrooms, carrots, spring onion, coriander which you can stir into the rice at the table to take the raw edge off slightly. Either way the cooked rice and vegetables and the raw or just off raw topping is a nice mix! You can add other things - cooked pork or prawns. Lots of variations of this have a whole egg on top too. 
Sushi from the Japanese night
Sesame tuna from the Japanese night

Thursday, April 03, 2014

2014 A to Z Blogging Challenge - C is for Caffè Affogato & Carrot and orange cake

"Is there a dessert deli round the corner or something?" asked one of the guests at the Italian themed birthday dinner I cooked for last Saturday near Fossebridge. They couldn't understand how so much can come from one kitchen in such a short time while I was cooking and serving on my own. Magic.
Assiette of desserts with caffee affogato (left), prosecco and berry jelly (middle), tirimisu (right), then 2 non-Italian style desserts (it was their choice after all!) apple tarte tatin (hiding at the back and millionaires shortbread at the front.

Affogato al caffè to be precise. Affogato means drowned in Italian, so this is literally vanilla ice cream drowned in coffee. Now I'm thinking how good would this be with Baileys ice cream? Or whisky and honey ice cream?

Ice cream recipe - vanilla

Need an ice cream recipe for the affogato? Try this one (re-posted from the recent pistachio ice cream)

There are 2 routes you can go down with ice cream - the custard based route or the Phildelphia style (without egg - not because it contains Philadelphia cheese) route. I much prefer the Philadelphia version for my events - saves so may problems with pregnant guests, who, although I would use pasteurised egg still are wary of eating it.  Better safe than sorry!
I use the Philadelphia ice cream recipe from the book (now fallen apart at the spine) that I got in '95 - the summer I'd finished A levels and tested many of the recipes during that summer with the fruit from our garden - Ices: The Definitive Guide.
These days you can use vanilla paste (see rigtht) rather than infusing & scraping vanilla beans - faster & cheaper & tastes very good! Make your own vanilla essence is coming up on the A to Z letter 'T'.

To make another type of ice cream you can miss out the vanilla and add something else using the same recipe - fruit puree for example or another of my favourites is a ginger version - add ginger wine (about 150 ml) and chopped stem ginger.

375ml   Milk
50g      Caster sugar
125ml  Condensed milk
250ml  Double cream
Pinch of salt
1/4 - 1/2 tsp vanilla paste to taste.

1. Heat a small bit of the milk in a pan with the sugar till the sugar melts, then take it off the heat to cool. No point putting all the milk in - just takes longer to cool down, so longer time till you can start making ice cream. 
2. Add all  the remaining ingredients with the sugar/ milk and mix together till combined. 
3. Churn in the ice cream machine. If you don't have an ice cream machine there is a link to still freezing method here

Should make 1 litre. 
Italian meat and cheese sharing platter starter at the Italian themed birthday meal near Fossebridge

Had to use this board they had at the house for the feta and grape  foccacia

C is also for Carrot and orange cake. Another recipe I purloined for one of our lunch parties from The Ginger Bread Lad's blog - see recipe here. I left Shawn icing this & grating zest on top while I was doing something else.... think he got carried away. Sure tasted of orange though!  

Related posts:
Caramel (Millionaires) shortbread
Tarte tatin
Other cakes we have made

Pineapple tarte tatin