27/03/2016

Roast Rib of Beef

We had a 2 bone rib of beef at Christmas, which was quite epic, thanks to our fabulous local butcher nabbing a bargain at the market. He and another butcher had split a trailer between the two of them because it was 'some of the best beef' he'd ever seen, and he didn't want anyone other than him and his mate getting hold of it. He's not a posh butcher at all, just your average high street one, but he knows his meat, and will not sell anything that he deems unworthy.

When I went back in after Christmas, he had one piece of that truck load left, on discount, so I grabbed it and stuck it in the freezer for Special.

My husband's been away since Thursday, and had to work today (Easter Sunday) so it felt like a good time to have that 1 bone rib.

The Meat
It weighed 2lb 12oz, bone in, untrimmed. (Why on earth people want to trim the fat off I have no idea.)
Brush dark mild French mustard all over the meat



Sprinkle a tiny touch of grated nutmeg on it
Then add a barbecue dry rub or a steak seasonoing (I used this one: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B0092EXXPE/ref=s9_dcbhz_bw_g325_i2_sh )



Then drizzle with a bit of olive oil.

Cut 4 or 5 shallots in half lengthways, and place in the roasting tray along with some garlic cloves, unpeeled.
Put the meat on top of them.



I roasted the meat on 170C fan, for 60 minutes (and yes, I used a timer because I am easily distracted) then tested the temperature inside. (My meat thermometer reads Beef, rare, 60C or Beef Medium rare 71C, Beef/Lamb well 82C)

(The potatoes went in while I was doing this)

It was still rare at that point. Fine for me, but not hubby. Back on for 20 minutes, then tested again. It was medium rare by then, so I took it out, covered it with foil (shiny side in) and left it to rest. Don't panic, it keeps hot for a long while.



The Potatoes
3 Albert Bartlett red skinned baking potatoes, peeled. DO NOT RINSE THEM.
Lard
Salt

Put a good slice of lard into a sturdy, flat bottomed baking pan.
Get it in the oven to heat up. You should hear it popping.
Cut the potatoes in half lengthways, then cut each half in half crossways. They should be all roughly the same size.
Put them into the hot fat, turning them to coat.
Sprinkle lightly with salt, and pop them in the oven.
After 30 minutes, check them, and turn them over. Do not worry if they have stuck, get a spatula, and scrape/shove them off the bottom. Those caught edges mean extra crispy bits.
Back into the oven for another 10-25 minutes, until they look crisped and dark golden.



Carrots
Cook carrot slices in boiling water until tender, then drain well. Heat some butter gently in a saucepan, then add 1/2 tsp cinnamon and a touch of brown sugar, mix in the carrots to coat, then cook on a very gentle heat until they get the glaze on them.

Peas
Frozen petit pois, innit?
Pop them in boiling, lightly salted water, then drain, and then some butter gets stirred in.



25/03/2016

Nose to Tail Lamb Curry

If you eat meat, then it's worth checking out the lesser known cuts. The bits that need long, slow cooking give back so much flavour in return for a few hours of low temperature cooking.

I've never really been sure why people would go "Eeew!" at the thought of ears or feet, when they're quite happy to eat the rest, so when I saw lamb neck on sale at the butcher I just had to get some and give it a try.

I will not pretend that this is a quick recipe. It absolutely isn't. The pulling together at the end isn't very difficult though, and doesn't take that much time as the meat is already cooked.

Stage 1
6 - 8 pieces of lamb neck - rinsed well to rid them of any bone shards or chips
1 large carrot chopped in half
water to cover
Stock powder of your choice (I used Essential Cuisine's veal)

Bring to the boil, then simmer, covered, for four hours. The meat should be ready to come away from the bone.
Leave to cool overnight.
Remove the solid fat from the stock, and discard. (I throw it in the bin wrapped in newsprint)
Save the stock, it freezes well in a tupperware.
Start taking the meat from the bones.

When you have a pile of meat, you can put it in a covered container in the fridge for a few days, as I did, or use it right there and then.

1 medium sized aubergine, cubed (about 2cm sq pieces)
1 tbs good coconut oil
1 tbs ghee (or just use 1 more tbs coconut oil)
2 cloves smoked or normal garlic, sliced thinly
1/2 cup coconut cream or milk
1 tbs curry paste of your choice
1 can of Merchant Gourmet lentils (or you can use chick peas)

Gently heat the oil with the garlic, you don't want the garlic to colour.
Add the aubergine cubes and toss well in the oil.
Cover, and leave to cook down for 20 minutes. Undercooked aubergine is a thing of horror.
Once the aubergine has acquired some colour, add in the lamb and mix well to coat.
Pour in the coconut cream, and then mix in 1 tablespoon of Patak's tikka masala paste.
Give it all a good stir, and add a bit more coconut milk if you feel it needs a little more sauce.
Cook that down, covered, for about an hour, then tip in the lentils to warm through, uncovered, for the last ten minutes.
It's a complete meal, so you don't need bread or rice. and it will improve with time.

















22/03/2016

Marley's Cake

A few weeks ago we had a baking competition at work. They called it The Great Charity Bake Off, and it was in aid of Action for Kids.

A fun and yet nerve wracking time was had by all, and I think the sales of sugar, flour, carrots (4 carrot cakes in all) and vanilla tripled in the weeks leading up to it.

There were some absolutely stunning entries, 17 in all, and the judging was to be 80% taste and 20% appearance, which gave the more cack handed amongst us *cough* at least a little bit of hope. Flavours I can do, decoration not so much. Certainly not when I've got to bake the cake, then transport the layers, and then decorate it at work in the 30 minutes before I leave work to go home again.

To be honest, I'd even considered pulling out as the competition was on a Thursday, and I was away for the whole of the weekend, and away again on the Tuesday and Wednesday nights, but no. I just spent my Monday night baking the layers and trying to work out how to pack them. 

By chance, I spotted a cake that Lisa Marley from The Cocoa Box had posted about and it sounded so good that I had to give it a try. She very kindly sent me the recipe, and it's a stunner.

We had to name our cakes, but they couldn't have our name on, and as my name is Lisa that was tricky, so then Marley's Cake it became!

I did have to tweak it, as I ran out of time, and caster sugar (how is that even possible?!) and I had some ingredients that I wanted to add as well, but it was still very, very good indeed. (The taste, not the decoration!)

Lemon Meringue or Marley's Cake

Grease and line the bottom of 3 x 20cm cake tins. I'd grease and flour the sides, too. 
Pre heat the oven to 160C.

Ingredients
100g (4oz) salted butter, plus extra for greasing
150g (6oz) dark muscovado sugar
130g (5oz) light muscovado sugar (I whirled these in the food processor to get them a little more fine)
300g (10oz) self raising flour
3 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp lemon extract
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
4 large eggs, beaten
130g (5oz) good-quality white chocolate, melted
100ml (7fl oz) full-fat milk, slightly warmed

Lisa Marley's original soaking syrup:
Zest and juice of 2 lemons
100g sugar
80g water

My soaking syrup was some syrup I had left over from when I candied some blood oranges, all dark citrus and cinnamon scented.

Lemon Buttercream:
500g Betty Crocker vanilla buttercream (I had 2 x 400g tubs, so had half the 2nd tub left over)
3 tbs lemon curd 
50g good white chocolate, melted
Yellow gel food colouring
One jar of Waitrose lemon curd

Decoration:
Mini meringues bought from Waitrose

Pre-heat oven 200°C/180°Fan/Gas 6

The Cakes

Cream the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. With the two brown sugars, it takes a while longer than with white caster.
Slowly add the eggs, and whisk again, then add the spice and extract.
Sieve the flour, bicarbonate and combine
Gently mix in the melted chocolate until combined
Add the milk and gently mix (original recipe called for 200ml but I stopped after 100ml as the batter was very liquid so my eggs may have been larger than usual.
Pour into the three cake tins and bake for 20/25 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
Allow to cool.

(I wrapped them when cool, and transported them to work in a big old cake tin.)

Brush each of the three cake layers with the soaking syrup.

Mix three good tablespoons of lemon curd into the buttercream, then stir in 50g melted white chocolate.

Mix well, and then try not to dive FACE FIRST into the bowl.  

Spread a little lemon curd on the first cake, then dollop on some buttercream. Try not to dive FACE FIRST into the bowl.

Place the next cake on top, and repeat, then put the last cake on top. Mine started to slide! 



Add some yellow gel food coloring to the rest of the buttercream (see again FACE FIRST etc.,) and combine.

A professional would do this next bit:

Fill a piping bag half way with the yellow and then add the remaining white buttercream so the bag is full.

Start at the bottom of the cake and pipe with the yellow buttercream until the white starts to come through. Continue upwards and cover the whole cake.
Use a hot palette knife ( dipped in boiling water) to smooth the icing.

I am not a professional anything, so I just covered the whole cake as best I could. Crumb layer went well, but I had to time to fridge the cake so the next lot of buttercream just went on (FACE).

I smoothed it all badly with a borrowed spatula, decorated it with the mini meringues and gold sprinkles because GOLD SPRINKLES and then put it in the fridge overnight to set.




The next day it was still there, and with no fingermarks in it either!

It was a great success. Every piece sold. I didn't win, this one came first (I didn't get a chance to try this one, but it was a carrot cake so I wish I had!)


I loved how mine tasted and I will definitely make it again when I've got more than 30 minutes!

Huge thanks to Lisa Marley for the recipe. I'm extremely grateful. Even though my one isn't the same!

19/03/2016

Sleepy Saturday afternoon baking

Husband has to work today, which means he's been shut in his studio/computer room staring at the VPN screen, looking at servers.

I decided that he (we) needed a nice afternoon pick me up, and I wanted to bake something that wasn't labour intensive. I have very fond memories of my Nan making Butterfly Cakes, and so I thought I'd try for that type of thing, but without the 'wings'. 

Cue the 'weigh some eggs then use the same measurements for everything else' method of cake. Except I used less sugar. I like lemon more than I do sugar.

2 eggs, weighing 146g
120g golden caster sugar
146g very soft butter (I use Kerrygold)
146g plain flour (I have used Dove's Farm GF flour for this before, but subbed in 1 oz ground almonds)
 then
3 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp lemon extract
grated zest of 1 lemon
1 tbs lemon juice
1/4 tsp baking powder

Cream the butter and sugar together until well mixed. 
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each egg.
Add the ginger, lemon extract, lemon juice, zest and baking powder, mix well. 
I tasted the mix at this stage, and added a bit more ginger.
Fold in the flour (I used a spatula so that I knew there was no flour left at the bottom of the plastic jug I was using.)
Line a 12 hole muffin tin with cake papers, then pop a dessert spoon full of mix into each case.
I managed to use all of the mixture up. Apart from the bit that I ate off the spoon. 
Bake in a 170C fan oven for 20 minutes, then take out and leave to cool. 

By all means ice these if you want, but they are just as good without. Neither of us are huge icing fans - unless it's a vanilla cream cheese frosting, then you have to hold me back - but just for a bit of variation I piped, well, squished, some shop bought lemon curd into the middle of each one, and because I had white chocolate and lemon curd buttercream* in the fridge from a baking competition at work, I used a wee bit of that. A really wee bit, as Husband doesn't like too much icing. 

Voila!


*For the baking competition buttercream, I had used two tubs of Betty Crocker vanilla frosting, but whisked in 50g melted white chocolate, and 3 tbs of lemon curd. It made a an enormous difference to the taste. Turned it from something that was okay ish, to something that was GIVE ME A SPOON NOW nice.

Happy Accidents

You know when you really want a food thing, and you haven't got the right ingredients in so you have to make do?

This is one of those 'recipes'.

I had a lovely cauliflower from Ted's Veg in Borough that needed to be used. I wanted to make something akin to the dear, departed Sesame's cauliflower and tahini salad, but I had no turmeric to colour the vegetable. (Yes, I know, it's THE ingredient of the moment and no, I still don't have any.)

Thus a cupboard search happened. I was sure I had curry powder somewhere, but I did not. I actually thought I had turmeric powder, but I didn't have that either. All the while that I am searching for that elusive yellow something, I'm turning recipes and ingredients over in my brain until I find one that fits my mood.

(I am fully aware that cauliflower doesn't need to be yellow. But what the food brain wants...)

Finally I spied a jar of piccalilli from our local farm shop lurking behind the jars of Marmite and honey.

It did seem to be mainly lilli and less pickle, but that worked to my advantage.

1 small head of cauliflower, broken into florets
4 tsp of piccalilli juice
tahini with honey (Eridanous brand from Lidl)
1 tin of chick peas

Put the cauliflower in a pan of water with a touch of salt.
Bring to a simmer, and stir in the 4 spoons of piccalilli.
Mix well.
Simmer until the cauliflower is tender - now this is tricky because the addition of the pickle keeps it slightly crunchy, but when a knife pierces it with no resistance, it's done.
Drain it well.

Whisk the tahini with some water in a large bowl to thin it out - I used a bit of the simmering liquid - and then pop the drained cauliflower into it and mix well. Add in the drained chickpeas, and mix them in also.

The cauliflower keeps its bite, and also has a light pickled tang, which cuts the rich tahini. (The Eridanous brand is a little like liquidised halva.)

Serve warm, as when it's chilled the tahini seizes, and sticks everything together.

This was on day 1


And this was on day 2, after it had sat overnight and needed more tahini to dress it. I did warm it again.





06/03/2016

Taking the Darjeeling Express

Now, if I was Guy Fieri, and I had taken up squatting rights on Food Network, I would say I was on the Darjeeling Express to Flavourtown. I am not he, but you know...the food at Asma Khan's pop up restaurant/supper club transports you fairly and squarely into the very heart of Flavourtown, if Flavourtown was in the middle of Calcutta, scented with cinnamon, cloves and flowing with masala chai. 



The welcome you get at this place, right in the heart of Soho, fitted neatly in to The Sun and 13 Cantons pub, is warm, genuine and very talkative. 

Now I can talk, I am rather well known for it (I sometimes joke that my husband, a naturally reticent man, married me so that I could do all the talking for him and save him the effort) but Asma beats me. She studied law, but food became her calling, finally what she wanted to do. Read more about her here, in an excellent interview with Nicky Richmond.

She fair bubbles over with the love and joy of sharing the foods and tastes of her country, and her passion for bringing 'her' women together in a safe place to work and teach. In doing so she tucks her arm into yours, brings you into her home and, more importantly, leads you into her kitchen and feeds you the choicest morsels of what she has cooked that day, as you would do for any honoured guest.

And an Honoured Guest is indeed how she and her staff make you feel.

We visited on a chilly Tuesday evening, determined to get there before her tenure ends on the 19th March. I am sad that it is ending, because I would go back time and time again if I could. I can't quite work out why it took me so long. 

I was sorely in need of good company and happy things that night. My lovely friends and Asma provided all that I needed and more.

My delight in finding a place that had comfortable seating, with moveable tables! I am broad of beam, and utterly sick of places that stick their tables so close together that you could part waves in someone else's gravy with your arse as you leave should you so choose.

Not this place. We had a proper table with comfortable banquettes, and a functioning candelabra to illuminate our dinner. Photos by candlelight are tricky, but I think we did ok, though they may be a little grainy. I was there for the food, not the photo opportunities.



It was hard to stop talking long enough to order drinks.but we did. Snig got a Nimbu Pani, homemade lemonade, which looked ever so refreshing. 



I was eyeing up the Masala Chai for later in the evening. No way was I going to leave without having one of those. (you'll note it is NOT Chai Tea. Chai means tea. So, coffee shops, stop selling 'Tea Tea'.)

There was, as you can imagine with a table full of food bloggers, a lot of excitement about the menu. We settled on Puchkas, Papri Chaat, Masala Fries and Mutton Shikampuri Kebabs for our starters.

We started on the Papri Chaat first. 



Each crisp wafer was topped with black chickpeas, potato and a darkly tart and fruity tamarind sauce, surrounded by crunchy sev. We devoured those - or possibly inhaled - and then moved quickly on to the Puchkas, which are small, delicately crisp hollow shells, filled with the spiced chickpea mix, but also tamarind water which you pour in yourself. You eat them in one go, because if you try and bite in, you get tamarind water all down your chin. 



These two dishes are something that I would never tire of eating. The mellow chickpeas, the soft potatoes and the dark tang of the tamarind are perfect bedfellows. It is a lovely street food but, according to the conversations at our table,  not one to have in India if you are not a native, because the local water will upset you if you aren't used to it. Asma said that one of her friends loved these so much, she'd just plan extra time off when she goes home as she just can't stop eating them, and is happy to pay the price. I think I'll just go to see Asma. And order two of everything.

Next came the Mutton Shikampuri Kebab. The word 'minced' on the menu doesn't do these justice. The meat is spiced, and very finely ground, then folded around a yoghurt centre. They are so very delicate and light, and more highly spiced than the first two dishes, which did find me asking Asma for some of their stunning strained yoghurt, as I was not leaving any behind just because I'm a chilli wuss. These take a practiced hand to make, as they may well fall apart if the cook is not careful. These really are a melt in the mouth dish.



Masala Fries. That's a name to make me sit up, and I was not disappointed. These are not your triple cooked chips with a dense wall of crunch, though I love those too. These are hand cut, skin on potatoes, turning out how they would at home; some crisped edges, some tender steamed innards, all sprinkled with a spice mix to make you smile with glee and do a little food dance. 



We decided to have a little rest before plunging on in to the mains. I mean, we had talking to do!

And then, the March of the Mains started. Goat Kosha Mangsho, Venison Kofta, Tamarind Dhal, Niramish, beautifully perfect rice, tomato chutney, roti and more of that lovely yoghurt.

Where to start, where to start!

Take a bit of everything, put on plate. Easiest way. 


A lovely plateful
The first thing I went for was the dhal. If I was sentenced to only eat dhal and rice for the rest of my life I would be happy if it was this dhal. (So long as there was some ghee along the way somewhere.) Soothing, and smokey, with real depth to it, and some tang too. It had that silky but slightly rough texture that makes it so homely. Thin enough that it soaks into the perfectly separate rice grains, but thick enough to cling and coat. Wonderful. The rotis that came with it were unlike the very soft Gujarati ones I was used to, they don't fold around the food as easily, but they taste lovely. Buttery, and wholesome. I had to try very hard not to eat all of them. 



The goat is on the bone, just as it should be. It was full of chilli heat, but also full of so many deep and savoury flavours that I just secured some yoghurt and carried on. 



The hottest thing for me was actually the Niramish, and that was the only dish I wasn't keen on. I'd been eager to try since reading about Madhur Jaffrey's first, sad experience of Niramish when she came to London, decades ago, but it just didn't do it for me. I like all the components, so I was a bit unsure as to why I didn't like it. Maybe that one I need to make myself, and adjust the spices. Never say never!

The venison kofta are small, and dense, in direct contrast to the  mutton kebab. Very meaty, in a fragrant, mild creamy sauce. I think there was cardamom in there. Very nice indeed, with a sauce that needed mopping up with extra rice so as not to leave any behind.



At this point, we paused. Full, sated, happy. 

Then our lovely hostess asked if we wanted desserts, with a twinkle in her eye. She knew, oh she knew... 

Indian desserts are a bit of a thing for me. I love them. From the denseness of the huge range of barfis, to the orange stickiness of freshly made jalebi, to the gentle squeak of ras malai and the tender, juicy gulab jamun - and oh my goodness the rich silk of the rice pudding.

Yes, we wanted desserts.

Small, sweet Hunza apricots in clotted cream, and the much longed for kheer turned up, along with four glasses of fragrant Masala Chai.



The Chai was everything I wanted. I had to close my eyes as I sipped it, simply to savour it even more. It took me right back to being 14 again, sitting in my Indian friends' kitchens. Balvinder's tall, slim mum with her shy smile, long grey plaited hair and deft, speedy cooking. Lucky's round and voluble ma, with black curly hair and a relaxed slowness to her kitchen routine as she bossed her four daughters around. Vidhya's birdlike mother, with quicksilver tongue, practiced hand and sad eyes. All of these made me masala chai, in different ways, and I loved them all equally. So much so that I kept a jar of chai masala at home. 

Once my moment of nostalgia was passed, the food called.

I've never had Hunza apricots before, and was thrilled at how juicy and sweet they were. Not syrupy, just naturally sweet, holding their own against the cream and the slivers of pistachio. Many a bowl of those could be easily and speedily consumed.



The Kheer was everything I wanted it to be. Gently spiced, soft, creamy and utterly comforting. Sometimes it can be too sweet, too rich, but this was light and made with a delicate hand on the sugar. 



All in all, a huge success. 

Asma talks of what to do next, perhaps a community oriented kitchen space, where everyone is welcome. She tries to support women where she can, buying the lovely shaped wooden dishes that the yoghurt comes in from India, where women can make them from wood gathered from the trees at the edge of the forests, because you do not venture further in.

She is a feeder, a warm, kind, caring and passionate woman, with a longing to cook for people. Food is love, and affection, and a way to honour your friends. If you step into her place, you are her guests, not just her customers.

The difference this makes is huge. 

It's personal.

 "Kavey, don't eat the green and red chutney, those are too hot for you, go for the other sauce." or "I can temper the chili in this dish, but in the goat it's already set. I'll bring yoghurt."

Bringing us lots of containers so that Alicia could take our extra food home for her husband.

Asma's effortless friendliness is easy to love. I will be watching with great interest to see what she does next because whatever it is, I want to be there.


05/03/2016

Very Very Sweet Child o' Mine

I adore coconut. In any way I can get it. I'm very cross that my alcohol allergy stops me from having Malibu, as I used to like that, too.
You might think that my favourite chocolate bar would be a Bounty, but it isn't. (They need to be more moist, way too dry now.)

It's this. Which you can't get any more. Probably just as well.



We were in the farm shop today and saw some nice but horrifically expensive coconut ice. The conversation went as follows.

Me: I've never made coconut ice. I keep meaning to. I've even got coconut condensed milk.
Tex: Well, you're not doing anything this afternoon are you?
Me: No...apart from...
Us: ...Making coconut ice!

So here I am, having just finished making some. You have to leave it overnight to set up, so I'm passing the tine by blogging it.

The original recipe was on here: http://www.deliciousmagazine.co.uk/recipes/coconut-ice/ but I didn't have all the things, and my can of coconut condensed milk was smaller than the usual 397g, so I had to improvise. I didn't have enough desiccated, so coconut flour made up the rest. I also cut down the icing sugar as I am not keen on things that are overly sweet.

Neither did I have food colouring, but Mr Husband said that he didn't care about that.

1 x can of coconut condensed milk (320g)
180g desiccated coconut
93g coconut flour
150g icing sugar

Put all of that little lot into a bowl.


Inhale the lovely coconutty scent. DO NOT SNEEZE.

Mix really, really well.

Line a baking tin with non stick baking parchment. (I brushed the tin with a little coconut oil so that the paper stuck down)

Make sure the paper overhangs the sides, it will be easier to lift the ice out.

Dollop the mixture into the tin, then smooth out with the back of a metal spoon. I used a little coconut oil on my spoon which helped a lot.

Mine tin was a bit too big, so I only filled it to 3/4 of its length in order to get a decent depth of ice.

It was only after it was all pushed into the tin, that I remembered I had meant to add some vanilla extract. Oops! C'est la vie.

Now, we wait overnight for it to dry out properly and set.