Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Clean living

As I've mentioned before as much as I love cake I do try and balance it with clean eating. Last week, more as an experiment than anything else, I tried to have a wheat free, diary free, sugar free week (Mon to Fri).

Here is one of the days food...

I started the day with an egg white 'omelette'. The only reason it was egg white was because I had so many left over from making pasteis de nata. It wasn't a true omelette as I much prefer egg poached to fried so I tried poaching the egg white. I had it with tomatoes and mushrooms which I fried in a little rapeseed oil, added a bit of thyme, a splash of red wine vinegar and some seasoning.

For a morning snack I had some roasted mixed nuts and seeds.

For lunch I had a fab veggie salad. I started by 'roasting' some peppers. I did this by charring them directly onto the gas. Remove the metal pan stand, turn the gas on and rest the pepper against the flame. Keep a careful eye on it and turn it every so often until it the skin is blistered and black in places. Put them into a bowl and cover tightly with cling film. This will help the skin come off. Leave them for about 10mins and then peel them. This is easiest under running water. Chop into chunks.

I also had chunks of cucumber, sliced of tomato with basil, sautéed onions and mushrooms and mixed lettuce with some sprouting seeds. You can sprout seeds yourself but I bought these from @wfm_kensington

My afternoon snack was coconut yoghurt also from @wfm_kensington which is dairy free and would make a fantastic ice cream.

For dinner I had chicken which I marinated in oil, mint, chilli, ginger, lime zest and line juice. I pan fried it and then whilst it was resting I quickly fried off some rice noodles that I had pre-soaked in water. This is a trick I learnt in Thailand which means there is no news to boil them. In a separate pan I fried some broccoli and finished it with soy sauce and a little sesame oil.

For dessert I made a chia pudding. Chia seeds originate from Mexico and are great as they can soak up ~10 times their weight in liquid. This means they are fab for thickening and can be used in smoothies as well.

I put about 2 dessertspoons of chia seeds in a blender with 1 dessertspoons of cacoa nibs. I added a teaspoon of vanilla extract, a handful of raw porridge oats, a handful of mixed roaste nuts and about a cup of almond milk. I blended it until it was quite smooth and poured it into a bowl and chilled it until it thickened slightly. Now I wouldn't serve it at a dinner party but considering it is a pudding with no sugar in it was really quite tasty!

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Broad bean smash

I really like beans and pulses, as you can probably see from their inclusion in some form or other in most of my savoury posts.

This is so simple to make and very tasty.

When in season it would be best made with fresh broad beans but as its still early in the season I used tinned. Although tinned do have a slightly 'washed out' colour they work just fine for this.

Take one tin of broad beans (they were from Waitrose but I'm sure other supermarkets sell them too) and place it into a bowl. Add seasoning, about 1/4 crushed clove of garlic, a squeeze of lemon juice, some dried chilli and plenty of chopped mint. Take a potato masher and smash the broad beans to a chunky paste. Serve as a dip with vegetable sticks or on a piece of toasted sourdough rubbed with garlic and drizzled with oil.

I used Isle of Wight garlic. I try to buy it if I can as most of the garlic in supermarkets is imported from China which I just find a bit crazy, especially when the cloves are far smaller and not as strong tasting.

The dried chilli's were from my chilli plant last year but you could use chilli flakes.

The mint was from the garden. If you pick too much or buy a bunch from the supermarket it will keep well in the fridge in a glass of water. In the same way as cut flowers in a case.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Pasteis de Nata

With my previous job I use to have to travel to Portugal fairly frequently and as well as making some good friends I also developed a love for Pasteis de Nata or Pasteis de Belem, which is the name given to the version which allegedly is the original recipe.

Now my understanding is that the original recipe is a closely guarded secret, but I got the recipe below from my friend and I have to say it wasn't a bad attempt!

Start by getting a sheet of ready rolled puff pastry. In a slight variation on the traditional I sprinkled the pastry with cinnamon and brown sugar.

Then from the long side roll the pastry into a sausage shape

Slice into 12 even rolls

And squash or roll each one into a circle to line a muffin tin. Don't worry about being too neat. I've not seen any looking very uniform.

Put the pastry to one side and then carry on by whisking 6 egg yolks with 120g of caster sugar until it is very pale and fluffy. I used my Kitchen Aid table top mixer for this. Then slowly whisk in 300ml of cream.

Put this into a saucepan and heat on a very low heat until it thickens slightly. DO NOT allow it to boil otherwise you'll end up with scrambled egg and waste all of your lovely ingredients.

Once thickened pour the custard into each of the pastry lined muffin tins.

Bake at 250C* for about 20 mins. Until the tops are light brown and the custard is set with a slight wobble.

Traditionally they're served sprinkled with cinnamon and icing sugar.

*As I've said before I always try and trust a recipe the first time and then make alterations if necessary. In this case I found the very hot oven meant that the top burnt before the filling and patty was cooked. So in future I'd lower the temperature quite significantly, maybe to about 200C and probably even blind bake the pastry (no one likes soggy bottoms!). To rescue mine I covered them in tin foil to stop them going any browner but to allow them longer to cook.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Chai Tea Latte

One of my favourite hot drinks is a sweet and spicy chai tea latte. I'm not sure this is entirely authentic but tastes good to my western palate!

Basically I just mix black tea, spices and brown sugar and infuse some warm milk. I like to make up a large mixture of the spice and keep it in a jar so it's quick and easy to make when I fancy a chai.

To make 4 mugs I would suggest trying the contents of 4 tea bags of black tea (throw the actual bags away), 1 tbsp soft brown sugar, 20 whole cardamom (slightly crushed), 20 whole cloves, 2-3 sticks of cinnamon, 10 black pepper corns. You can then adjust the spices to your taste. This can then be stored in a air tight jar.

When you wish to make up the drink place the spice mix in a saucepan along with 4 mugs of milk. Bring it slowly to the boil on a low heat and simmer for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off the pan and leave to infuse for a few minutes before straining into mugs. Yum!

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Cupcakes, cookies and hens

In a couple of weeks I'm going to be bridesmaid for one of my best friends. Last weekend was her hen do and I arranged one of the activities. Given I love baking and we were likely to be a little hungover I decided that cupcake and cookie decorating could be a good idea. I bought a wedding dress and heart cookies cutter, baked away, packed up all of my sugar craft equipment, nozzles, colours etc added in sprinkles, hearts and glitter and the activity was ready!
Most of the hens were a little apprehensive having never done this kind of thing before. However after a short while they were all decorating away like pros. It always amazes me how well people do, even if they claim not to be creative.
Here are some of the efforts
The cupcakes...

The cookies...

The brides dress?

The winning cupcake...

The winning cookie, with the wife and husband to be's initials...

Lion's face...

A few others...

Best of luck to the happy couple!

Sunday, 6 May 2012

First post in my new kitchen - crumpets, crumpets and more crumpets!

This is my first post in a few months, largely because I've had no kitchen, which has made cooking and baking rather difficult. I've moved house and now that the building work is finally finished I have a kitchen with an actual working oven!
After so long without being able to do what I love I thought for a while about what I'd like to make and settled on crumpets. They're so easy, yet delicious and very comforting.
I use a Hugh Fearnely-Whittingstall recipe which can also be used to make pikelets (flat, pancake shaped crumpets) which are great if you don't have crumpet rings.
Basically you whisk all of the ingredients together and leave them somewhere warm until yeast does it's job and the mixture gets nice and bubbly. Alternatively if you want them for breakfast you can make the mixture the night before and put it in the fridge over night. By morning it will be ready to cook.
If you want to make crumpets heat up a frying pan and place some greased crumpet rings in the pan. Carefully pour a spoonful of mixture into each. If the mixture runs under the rings it is too thin so whisk in a little more flour. They are ready to turn over when bubbles have formed on the top and the batter is pretty much cooked. If bubbles don't form the mixture is too thick so add a little water to the batter before cooking the next one.
To make pikelets whisk in about 50g more flour and simply spoon the batter into a hot pan and cook in the same way you would cook pancakes.
Here is one of the crumpets

And here is a pikelet

Hugely satisfying to make. Makes 12.
450g plain white flour
350ml warm milk
350ml warm water (approximately)
5g powdered dried yeast
10g salt
1 tsp baking powder
A little sunflower or vegetable oil
In a bowl, whisk the flour, milk, water and yeast into a rather runny batter the consistency of single cream. Cover with cling-film and leave for an hour until really bubbly (or three to four hours, if need be).
Heat a heavy-based frying pan or flat griddle over a medium-high heat. Whisk the salt and baking powder into the batter. Lightly grease the crumpet rings and pan. Put one ring in the pan, fill to just below the top – the batter should stay in the ring and lots of holes should appear on the surface after a minute or two. (If it dribbles out underneath, it is too thin, so whisk a little more flour into your batter mix. If lots of holes don't form, it's too thick, so whisk in some water.) Assuming your test crumpet is OK, after five minutes or so, when the surface is just set, flip it over, ring and all. (If the cooked base seems too dark, turn down the heat.) Cook for two to three minutes, until golden on the other side. Repeat with the remaining batter in batches. Butter and eat at once, or cool on a wire rack for toasting later.
A pikelet variation If you don't have rings, whisk an extra 50g flour into the batter, to stiffen it, dollop spoonfuls into a greased, warmed pan and cook for a couple of minutes a side.

From http://m.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2009/nov/14/crumpets-muffins-pikelets-farls?cat=lifeandstyle&type=article