Archive for April 2008

The Real Food Festival

April 28th, 2008 — 7:58pm

The Real Food Festival was a 4-day food heaven extravaganza. It was better than I hoped it would be. Imagine Borough Market but a whole lot bigger! In fact, a selection of Borough Market producers were there, along with hundreds of others from around the UK. The best thing about our visit was the opportunity to talk to like minded people – people who love good food to the same degree and are willing to talk about it for ages. I found a place where you don’t have to hold back on the food-talk for fear of people getting bored.

The variety and quality of the produce was outstanding and as someone has written on the graffiti board (top photo), ‘I left with my own body weight in food.’ Well, not quite, but we did buy a lot, it was hard to resist. A highlight was definitely the donkey salami, yes – donkey! The seller was so excited when we tried it and liked it that he said, ‘yes! proper human beings!’ Proper human beings eat donkey – now you know. The flavour is strong and it tastes like donkey (bear with me), it’s like you always knew what it would taste like – it tastes a bit like the smell of a donkey but in a nice way.

We also picked up some Atlantic sea lettuce (great for my new adventure with sea vegetables) and some exciting spices. The long peppers (they are catkins) in the left of the photo are apparently like black pepper, you crush them up and they are stronger and more aromatic. We also nabbed some dried limes (add to soups or curries) and a Japanese seasoning called Schichimi Togarashi which contains among other things, chilli, sansho, nori, orange and sesame (here’s where you can get it).

We ate well as we browsed too, samples galore. To settle our rather sensitive stomachs (too much wine), an olive, tomato, vegetable-stuffed bread – like a calzone but shaped like a pizza slice (From DeGustibus). I also could not resist a scotch egg – the best I have ever tasted. The seller (I wish I had the name) said that his wife made them. She is a very talented lady and he is a very lucky man. We also treated ourselves to some oysters, duchy specials. They were gigantic! The lady selling them was lovely too, recommending them as a first class hangover cure. We can reveal that she is correct. In her words, ‘it has the opposite effect than you expect, they completely refresh your mouth.’ I also nabbed a ‘liver cure’ juice – beetroot, apple and lime, just to make sure. The earthy flavour of beetroot was just right.

The garlic relishes and mayo are from The Garlic Farm on The Isle of Wight. We chose a ‘Vampire Relish’, a gift for a friend, a rhubarb-garlic chutney which is totally inspired and some ever-reliable garlic mayo. So, now for the cheeses. We chose a raw goat’s milk cheese which was soft but dense – creamy and really goaty with a peppery finish. As it warmed up on arrival back home, it started to ooze slightly at the bottom which pleased me immensely. The unpasteurised ewe’s milk cheese was strong, nutty and creamy and had a sharpness, a bit like that of a blue cheese. It was fantastic with the rhubarb chutney.

We ate a bit of everything for dinner last night, tonight and most likely tomorrow too. I think some of the best meals are made in this way, lots of bits and bobs all with a story and some good memories behind them.

16 comments » | Food Events, Markets

Rosewater & Pistachio Cheesecake Pops

April 27th, 2008 — 8:23am

This is my first challenge as a member of The Daring Bakers. You may have noticed that I don’t feature many sweet recipes on this blog which is because, to be honest, I’m not really a dessert kind of person. I’m the one who always orders the cheese. As a consequence of my savoury-biased taste buds, I don’t have much experience with baking. I like an all or nothing approach to things so I signed up to be a Daring Baker. What’s the point in starting with a Victoria sponge? I like a challenge.

The deal clincher for me was seeing the recipe for Julia Child’s French Loaf, I really wanted to make that recipe! This month however, it was a cheesecake. Well, a cheesecake to start off with but soon demolished to make these cheesecake ‘pops’. We were allowed certain adaptations including the use of a colourless flavouring. I’ve been meaning to use the rosewater I have languishing in my cupboard and decided to go with a Middle Eastern theme by adding a pistachio crust on the outside. When I first saw the recipe called for vegetable shortening melted into the chocolate I found the idea a bit gross. When it melts though, you can’t taste it and it does (as promised!) help to give the chocolate a nice crack when you bite into it.

A requirement of the challenge was that we must use lollipop sticks. Apart from the fact that I left it too late to order online, I wanted to find an an alternative – something edible. These chocolate curls worked perfectly (no, I didn’t make them myself!), it’s like eating an ice cream and then eating the cone.

You can see from the finished result that I didn’t produce the most dainty of pops. The cheesecake worked well and didn’t sink like a baked cheesecake normally would (recipe is a keeper) but it didn’t seem to set properly, even after 24 hours in the fridge. I would blame the fridge or the recipe but I’m sure it’s down to something I either did or didn’t do. As a result, the pops are more like blobs really even though I bought a melon baller (none sold since 1975!) especially for the purpose. As I’m writing this, I’ve just thought of the best idea for using that melon baller I could ever wish for. I’ll get back to you on that one.

So, what were they like? Well, they were deliciously naughty actually. The rosewater and pistachio combination is really great in a cheesecake, the rosewater adding a floral depth that works well with a hint of vanilla. I originally wanted to make two flavours, experimenting with orange blossom water and crystallised rose petals too but I ran out of time so I’m saving that one for another post. When I originally read the recipe, I thought it was a bit silly. There is something special though, about having a dainty (or in my case – rugged) little morsel of sin to nibble on, it somehow seems more decadent than eating a whole slice.

I found these are even better if you pop them back in the freezer for half an hour or so before you want to eat them. They are like the best choc-ices in the world afterwards!

Cheesecake Pops (Adapted from Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey by Jill O’Connor)

Makes 30 – 40 Pops

5 8-oz. packages cream cheese at room temperature
2 cups sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
5 large eggs
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons rosewater
¼ cup heavy cream
Boiling water as needed
Thirty to forty 8-inch lollipop sticks
1 pound chocolate, finely chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
Chocolate curls, to use as lollipop sticks
Crushed pistachios, for coating

-Position oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F. Set some water to boil.
-In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, flour, and salt until smooth. If using a mixer, mix on low speed. Add the whole eggs and the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well (but still at low speed) after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and cream.
-Grease a 10-inch cake pan (not a spring form pan. Helen: I used a spring form pan but just lined it really well with foil – no problems), and pour the batter into the cake pan. Place the pan in a larger roasting pan. Fill the roasting pan with the boiling water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Bake until the cheesecake is firm and slightly golden on top, 35 to 45 minutes.
-Remove the cheesecake from the water bath and cool to room temperature. Cover the cheesecake with plastic wrap and refrigerate until very cold, at least 3 hours or up to overnight.
-When the cheesecake is cold and very firm, scoop the cheesecake into 2-ounce balls and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Carefully insert a lollipop stick into each cheesecake ball. Freeze the cheesecake pops, uncovered, until very hard, at least 1 – 2 hours.
-When the cheesecake pops are frozen and ready for dipping, prepare the chocolate. In the top of a double boiler, set over simmering water, or in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, heat half the chocolate and half the shortening, stirring often, until chocolate is melted and chocolate and shortening are combined. Stir until completely smooth. Do not heat the chocolate too much or your chocolate will lose it’s shine after it has dried.Save the rest of the chocolate and shortening for later dipping, or use another type of chocolate for variety.
-Alternately, you can microwave the same amount of chocolate coating pieces on high at 30 second intervals, stirring until smooth.
-At this point I put a plate in the freezer to help the newly dipped pops along a bit. I thought about putting the chocolate curls in there too but forgot and it was fine. You need to be working fairly fast anyway.
-Quickly dip a frozen cheesecake pop in the melted chocolate, swirling quickly to coat it completely. Shake off any excess into the melted chocolate. Now roll the pops in the crushed pistachios. Place the pop on a clean parchment paper-lined baking sheet to set. Repeat with remaining pops, melting more chocolate and shortening (or confectionery chocolate pieces) as needed.
-Refrigerate the pops for up to 24 hours, until ready to serve.

Edit: Elle at Feeding my Enthusiasms and Deborah at Taste and Tell were this month’s Daring Bakers hosts.

43 comments » | Blogging Events, Daring Bakers, Desserts

Jersey Royal, Watercress and Feta Bread

April 18th, 2008 — 10:50pm

This is an entry for ‘In the Bag – Cooking the Month of April‘ hosted by Julia at A Slice of Cherry Pie. When I saw this month’s ingredients I was excited, firstly because the flavour and waxy texture of Jersey Royals is so fantastic and secondly because I can never seem to get enough watercress. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the opportunity to get to a market so I had to opt for being ripped off by the supermarket for a well-travelled, disturbingly-perishable bag of watercress. I did pick up some very cute baby Jersey Royals though, which made up for the disappointment.

I’ve made potato bread before using this recipe so I decided to follow the basic structure and just play around with the ingredients as necessary. Firstly, I must say that this loaf is moist – at first I thought too moist, even sticky. The next day however, it dries out a bit to a respectable bread-like texture. Problem is, you obviously need to eat it warm from the oven otherwise what is the point in baking bread at all? I’m just warning you that’s all. We actually enjoyed the gooey texture. It’s definitely comfort food.

Now, on the back of my derogatory supermarket comment, I did make a surprising discovery a couple of days ago – Greek basil in the herb section. I’ve never come across Greek basil before and I really would not expect to find it in Sainsburys but find it I did and snapped it up pronto. The leaves are very small, like miniature Italian basil leaves but neater and the flavour is very peppery, much more so than it’s common counterpart. It also has a distinctive grassy taste, ‘just like Greek olive oil!’ I screamed (the excitement was all too much…). I chucked a good handful into the bread mix and it perfumed the bread (and our flat) with a wonderful aromatic scent.

I made a simple black olive tapenade to eat with the bread, a spread which I find to be highly addictive and consequently really bad for my waistline. It’s not the tapenade per se that’s the problem, it’s the large quantity of bread that I spread it on. That’s the problem the BEST THING about food blogging, it’s like your duty (you tell yourself!) to test out these recipes and disseminate. I mean, I HAVE to eat that extra slice, I can’t quite tell if those flavours are right yet…..It gives me an excuse and that is the reason I get up at ridiculous o’clock to exercise 5 times a week…

Jersey Royal, Watercress and Feta Bread (with Greek basil!)

Adapted from this recipe

350g Jersey royals, 2/3 grated, 1/3 chopped into small chunks
200g feta cheese
A generous handful of watercress, chopped
A generous handful of Greek (or regular) basil, roughly torn
350g self-raising flour
6 spring onions, finely sliced
1 heaped teaspoon of fine salt
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon sugar (I think? I’m not sure if I actually added this…)

Preheat the oven to Gas 5/190C/375F and grease a baking sheet really well.

– Sift the flour and salt into a mixing bowl.
– Add the grated and chopped potatoes, spring onions, watercress, basil and crumble in the feta.
– Use a palette knife to blend thoroughly.
– Beat the eggs with the milk and add to the bowl. Bring together to form a loose dough, still using the palette knife.
– Put the mix onto the baking sheet and shape it into a rough loaf. Dust the top lightly with flour.
– Bake, middle shelf for 50-60 minutes until golden brown.
– Cool on a rack before serving.

Black Olive Tapenade

We like our tapenade to be anchovy-heavy so you may want to adjust the quantity if you want less of the fish, more just a seasoning. I also like to make it fairly chunky as you can see, which I think helps to keep the individual flavours.

2 garlic cloves, crushed
Juice of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons capers, chopped
8 anchovy fillets, chopped
40 pitted kalamata olives, chopped
Small bunch parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

– I really enjoy chopping this by hand but I realise that normal people would probably just chuck it all in the blender. Pulse everything except the oil. Decant into a bowl first, then stir it in.


16 comments » | Blogging Events, Bread, Fish, Memes, Snacks, Starters

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