Monday, 25 April 2011

Creme brulee

Creme brulee is an indulgence at the end of a meal. Or at the beginning of the day, if you have some left over and you are fridge raiding. It's a baked custard with a cristallised sugar lid, so you break through the crisp dark caramel into the soft and creamy custard, and when you put a spoonful in your mouth you get the ultra smooth vanilla flavour against the almost bitter shards of sugar.

It's not hard to make, just needs a little thinking ahead. And if you have a blow torch, involves the pleasure of playing with fire.

It's one of Kitty's favourites, taken from the BBC website, and already mentioned in a previous post. She does it, without vanilla pods and all that scraping, she just uses a natural vanilla essence. It uses a mixture of milk and cream, which makes it a little bit lighter.

You'll use a roasting tin, or similar, four large ramekins and a blow torch (or grill).

450ml/16fl oz double cream
50ml/2 fl oz whole milk
a few drops vanilla extract
5 free-range eggs
75g/2½ oz caster sugar, plus 40g/1½ oz more, for the topping


  • Set the oven to 150C/300F/Gas 2.
  • Separate the egg yolks and egg whites. Only the yolks are used in this recipe, so you can use the egg whites for another dish or freeze them for future use.
  • Pour the caster sugar into the bowl with the yolks. Whisk together the egg yolks and the caster sugar until they start to get paler, and are well combined, the mixture will thicken a little.
  • Pour the cream and the milk into a saucepan, put on a medium heat and bring to just below a boil.
  • Stir in the vanilla extract and simmer.
  • Pour the cream and milk mixture into the egg yolk mixture. Stir thoroughly for a minute or two to mix everything together and make sure the sugar is completely dissolved.
  • Ladle the brûlée mixture into ramekins, or any little heatproof pots.
  • Put the crème brûlées into a deep baking tray and pour hot water into the tray. It should come about halfway up the pots. This is a bain marie.
  • Put the baking tray and contents into the preheated oven and cook for about 30-35 minutes. They need to be firm, but will have a little wobble.
  • Allow to cool, then chill. Chilling them will make the caramel work better. If you can’t wait just go to the next step.
  • For the topping, sprinkle the rest of the sugar on top of the brûlées – if you do it in two stages you’ll get a stronger crust. Heat the surface with a mini-blowtorch until it forms a layer of caramel.
When you're ready - eat.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Jzz Bzz Kofte

These lamb meatballs are very tasty, economic, and easy to make. My dad called them jzz bzz, because that is the sound they make as they cook. I can’t find the family recipe, so I made them from memory. They worked well - although the ingredients are simple the flavour is wonderful.

1 large lamb neck fillet, minced
Handful of chopped parsley
1 piece of white bread
1 clove garlic
½ onion
3 tbsp milk

Tear up the bread, discarding the crust and soak it in the milk
Chop the peeled onion, parsley and garlic finely.
Combine all the ingredients together well (taking the soaked bread and discarding any milk not absorbed).

Make into oval meatballs.

Grill or griddle turning twice, for about 6 minutes.

Eat with a lovely green salad and rice.

Making the meatballs
I wet my hands, take a good pinch of the mixture and put it into the crook of my palm and press gently.
The meatballs need to dry a little in the open air, to help them keep their shape when cooking – leave on a dish or board for about 20m – keep greedy cats away.

light lemon cheesecake

Baked cheesecake

I like baked cheesecake. Most cheesecake these days seems to be the chill-and-set type. It has the same name, but it isn’t the same thing. The chilled type is claggy and sweet, and reminds me of quark, a junket type pudding, clinging to your teeth slightly. A baked cheese cake is more mellow, more interesting and has more texture when you eat it.

I like buying slices of cheesecake from bagel bakeries. Often the cake is so rich that the slice you buy is really too big to eat alone, unless you have a huge appetite. I like to cut it into smaller pieces and share the bounty.

This cheesecake is a light version of the baked original. It’s not a keeper, it’s an eater, and that isn’t usually a problem, as it is delicious and light. The consistency is not the same as a full fat cheesecake, but this one is unlikely to give you a heart attack. Lightly flavoured with lemon zest and vanilla, it goes well with lemon sorbet, vanilla ice cream and/or cream.

You need a high sided tin - the cake will rise quite a lot. If you haven't got one, you can wrap folded greaseproof paper around the tin and tie on with string.

For this recipe you need:
A pan
Two large bowls
A 20cm loose based cake tin

I use a hand blender, with a small bowl attachment.


50g butter
250g digestive biscuits
430g cottage cheese
125g caster sugar
4 eggs
25g cornflour
½ tsp vanilla essence
Zest of 2 lemons

Set the oven to Gas Mark 3/

Butter the tin, line if you like (I don't bother).

  • Melt the butter and mix with the  finely crushed digestive biscuits.
  • Press biscuit and butter mixture  evenly across the bottom of your buttered cake tin
  • Blend the cottage cheese until it’s smooth
  • Separate the yolks from the eggs (put whites in other bowl) and beat them into the cottage cheese, along with the vanilla essence, lemon zest, sugar and cornflour,, until everything is uniformly combined.
  • Beat the egg whites until they make stiff shiny peaks                                                     
  • Fold the cottage cheese mixture into the egg whites and pour the combined mxture over the biscuit base.
Cook for 1.5h, then turn off the oven and leave the cheesecake to cool in the oven. Wait until it's cooled completely before removing from the tin.

flattened chicken today BBQ-tastic

This is my recipe for flattened chicken which I like to jump on to get it really flat. I use a board and cut it up a bit first. It cooks in 20 minutes and tastes sensational. Today I'm going to use mixed peppercorns, to give it an extra tang.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

date and walnut buns

I realise that I am addicted to sugar, come 4pm I started looking around for a sugary fix. It's a dangerous time. A time to eat very slowly.

I stood at the cupboard door and decided today would be date and walnut day. It can make a heavy cake combo, but not this recipe. I think this cake is half and half vice and virtue, and all pleasure. I like it in buns, because cutting a cake with lumps in it can be messy.

So if you want a quick, slightly sticky cake, this could be for you.

Enough for 12 large buns - put cases in bun tray.

Heat oven to 200/400/gas mark 6

100g (3 1/4 oz) chopped and pitted dates
100 g (3 1/4 oz) marg or butter
100g (3 1/4 oz) soft brown sugar
2 eggs (lightly beaten)
2 teaspoons golden syrun (or honey)
100g self raising flour

a shake of mixed spice 
100g (3 1/4 oz) chopped walnuts
100g (3 1/4 oz) chopped prunes or raisins


Cover the chopped dates in boiling water and set aside.
Beat sugar and butter together well.
Add one egg at a time, beating all the while.
Add the honey or syrup.
Stir the mixed spice into the flour with a whisk (saves sifting)
Stir in walnuts, prunes or raisins and the drained chopped dates (discard the liquid)
Spoon mixture into cases, filling to just below the top edge.

Cook for 12 minutes.
Turn out and cool on a rack. 

    Monday, 18 April 2011


    Tiramisu varies hugely. Sometimes I wonder if it’s like chow mein, a recipe made for foreigners. I can’t find trace of it in my Italian cookbooks. It is a rich indulgence, and I prefer to eat it at the end of a light meal, with a demi-tasse of good coffee. I am toying with the idea of making it into an ice cream.

    This mixture is meant to be enough for 4 servings – I find it’s enough for 8, using quite large glasses. If you must, eat it at once, but it is better prepared at least a day before, and will keep for at least three days, providing you hide it from the greedy and exercise restraint. The flavour and consistency are better.

    150ml very strong hot espresso coffee, or double strength instant coffee
    80g caster sugar
    2 tbsp sweet spirit, like amaretto
    4 eggs, separated
    100ml double cream
    250g mascarpone cheese
    300g sponge fingers
    2–3 tbsp finely grated plain chocolate or sifted cocoa powder

    You’ll need an electric whisk, three large bowls, a shallow bowl for the coffee and something to cut the coffee soaked the sponge fingers on.


    • Pour the hot coffee into a shallow dish and stir in half the sugar (40g).
    • Add the alcohol and stir – set aside to cool.
    • Separate  the egg yolks from the egg whites into two large bowls.
    • Whisk the egg whites with an electric beater in a large bowl until soft peaks form, then set aside.
    • Whisk the egg yolks and the other 40g of sugar together, until the mixture becomes pale.
    • In a separate bowl, whip the double cream into soft peaks – better soft than dry, so don’t overdo it. Stir in the mascarpone, whip for a moment to get rid of any lumps.
    • Fold the mascarpone mixture into the egg yolk mixture, then fold in the whisked egg whites, about a third at a time. Use a cutting motion to try and keep some airy volume, until everything is mixed well together.
    • The coffee mixture should have cooled by now – dip the sponge fingers one at a time in the liquid. They need to be soaked but not soggy. Cut to fit the glass you’re using.
    • Spoon the cream mixture to make another layer, then add more soaked sponge fingers and another layer
    • To serve, dust the chocolate/coa powder on top of the final layer of cream mixture.

    Chill for 24 hours before serving.

    I like to add a sprinkle of the chocolate before each layer of soaked sponge…

    Saturday, 16 April 2011

    Steve's birthday meal

    Steve is 50 mumble today. Inconsiderate spouse that I am I didn't get him a card (eek), and my offer of breakfast in bed was rejected as he was up and at the table almost before me. Work beckoned. I also found out that he thinks coffee tastes funny when consumed in bed.

    I have booked theatre tickets for later this week.

    We went to the fishmonger on Golborne Road and bought mussels, to eat a la mariniere. The fishmonger proposed a sackful but we kept to the approximate 1 pint (570ml) per person, even though it was a main course, as we intended to eat a loaf of bread, mopping up the juices. That is still a small saucepanful each.

    Also pudding was tiramisu - the success of this is subject to debate. It tasted good, but I think it needed to sit longer. Also, I used some sponge cake I'd dried off, and it didn't want to absorb the coffee, it was coffee resistant. The quantities were too generous as well, making 8 glasses (individual portions). So I will have another shot at it before I post the recipe.

    Moules mariniere for two enthusiastic eaters

    2 pints moules
    1 onion
    3 cloves garlic
    1 large wineglass of dry white wine
    generous pepper
    good blob butter
    two tablespoonfuls of chopped parsly
    1 french stick

    put the mussels in a large bowl of fresh water.
    Peel the onion and garlic. Slice both to taste.
    fry gently in casserole large enough to house the mussels, until the onion is transparent.
    while onion and garlic is frying
    Clean the mussels, pulling off beards and anything loose on the shell. Discard any cracked or open mussels.
    Drain the mussels, shaking off excess water, and add to the pot with the onion and garlic, with lots of pepper and one tablespoonful of chopped parsly.
    Turn up the heat, shake the lot around and throw in the glass of wine.
    cover the pot and cook for maximum five minutes

    Shake the pot around - if you fancy it, throw in some cream - decant the mussels into a large bowl, sprinkle over the second spoonful of parsley and tuck in.

    You'll need a bowl for discarded shells, napkins for your chins, and bread for soaking in the jus.

    We eat them in bowls.

    Wednesday, 13 April 2011

    Lemon almond biscuit crisps

    Lemon and almond biscuits

    I like a thin crisp biscuit, and I love lemon. These biscuits hit the mark, crisp, buttery with a lemon tang and the almond makes them slightly chewy.

    It’s important to get the temperature right, since overcooking will reduce the lemon flavour. The biscuits should remain very pale. So it’s worth checking them after ten minutes, and turning the heat down if they are browning round the edge – the most colour they should have is the lightest shade of tan around the edge.

    I use wheat free flour, but the recipe works fine with plain flour, you may need slightly less liquid.


    160 g softened butter
    1 cup sugar
    1 large egg
    zest from 3 lemons
    1 tbsp lemon juice
    ½ cup ground almonds
    1.5 cups plain flour

    If you don’t have a cup, use an average sized mug.

    Line two baking trays with baking parchment, set oven to Gas Mark 3/325F/170C

    ·         Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
    ·         Add the egg and beat in well, followed by the lemon zest, juice and ground almonds, beating all the time.
    ·         Add the flour in batches, beating as you do, until blended.
    ·         You can either cover the bowl and chill, or put the dough onto some baking parchment and roll into a sausage shape. Leave the mixture in the fridge for about two hours, until it is nice and firm.
    ·         If you’ve made a sausage shape, cut thin slices with a very sharp knife, and put them onto the baking parchment lined tray. If you’ve left the mixture in a bowl, use two teaspoons and drop a small amount of the mixture onto the baking parchment, squashing each with a fork dipped in water. Leave enough space for the mixture to spread a little.
    ·         Bake at 180C for 10-15 minutes, or until golden around the edge. Transfer them to wire racks.
    The biscuits will crisp up as they cool.

    Monday, 11 April 2011

    oriental flavourings

    I love eating salad veg using the dressing in this recipe (also below). The lime and sweet chilli sauce give an instant fresh and hot hit, and the ready made sauce gives a little sweetness too. Like all dressings, it's a good idea to taste it before pouring it, to make sure it suits you - depending on the sweetness of the chilli sauce, and how you feel that day, you might like to add a little sugar. I find there's enough salt in the soy sauce and don't add any. I always use a wheat free tamari btw.

    other things you might add:
    fish sauce (about 1tsp) - this gives an extra layer of flavour, a nice tang and is also salty
    finely chopped coriander
    finely grated ginger, just a touch
    finely chopped spring onion

    more later

    ·                                             1 lime
    ·                                             1 clove garlic
    ·                                             1 tbsp soy sauce
    ·                                             1 large tbsp sweet chilli sauce
    ·                                             1 clove garlic

    prepare dressing:
    ·                     finely chop garlic
    ·                     squeeze lime
    ·                     mix lime juice with all other ingredients in a bowl and set aside

    Saturday, 9 April 2011

    Use all the egg... Creme Brulee and Meringues

    Kit is cooking again. She knows what she likes, and how to ensure a fine patina of sugar remains on all kitchen surfaces, to prove she has been hard at work. That and the assorted dirty bowls. There is no need for CSI, although the sugar probably has her fingerprints in it, and no doubt the soles of her shoes carry further evidence, and will have provided a trail through the house and probably that of her dear friend across the road.

    The creme brulee was yesterday's glory for the sundry folk who share her home (and keep the store cupboard full). It was very nice too, although the sugar was perhaps a little over brulee'd. Kit hadn't realised that meant burnt until yesterday. Today her friends have benefited from her culinary skills. I knew they had as I came in through the front door, as the burning sugar smell was still lingering in the air, and the empty, unwashed ramekins were  keeping the sugar company.

    Of course, it's not very healthy to eat loads of sugar, eggs and cream. Still, it is cooking.

    Meringue - Kit favours the Dairy Book of Home Cookery

    for each portion of two egg whites, use 100g castor sugar

    whip the egg whites in a clean bowl, until they are stiff and peaky
    add half the castor sugar
    whip a bit more until the sugar is included and the whites are shiny and peaky
    add the rest of the castor sugar
    whip until the whites are shiny and quite dense, and peaky

    put on a lined baking tray (use baking parchment, no oil) in meringue-y shapes
    cook at 1/4/110c/225f for 1 1/2 hours
    take out, turn each meringue carefully upside down and cook for another hour

    kit uses a bbc food recipebbc recipe for creme brulee, without vanilla pods and all that scraping, she just uses a natural vanilla essence. It uses a mixture of milk and cream, which makes it a little bit lighter.

    Monday, 4 April 2011

    who likes lamb?

    I forgot to post this recipe, that I wrote out in December. I think lamb is underrated, I like it cooked rare, or cooked long and slow. This recipe is for long and slow...