Sunday, November 16, 2008

Blinded by simplicity

Taken, once again, from the Murphy's Ice Cream book,(full recipe availabe at the link) Earl Grey Ice Cream (photo to follow).

Quite delicious apparently. Apparently, as I am not a huge fan. Others enthusiastically were though, and the plans for utter Christmas domination can continue apace. It's part of a series of experiments geared up towards an unorthodox Christmas treat. Breakfast for dessert.

The idea blinded me with it's simplistic brilliance after I served up the family Gorgeous C eggs, in eggcups, of Brown bread Ice Cream - too butterscotchy and rich a thing to have in excess.

A slice of brown-bread ice-cream, buttered with caramel sauce, a cup of earl-grey ice cream, and an egg of lemon ice-cream for that Lady Grey finish.

I'm often blinded by simplicity. Mine and other peoples.

In other, all to brief news, a new Kenwood Chef was procured bu her Gorgeous Cness, and my good self, leading to a frenzy of culinary activity as we clustered around said object like Pr men at an X-factor final. Unacquainted with popular culture as I am, I hope that simile makes sense.

Ice-cream, bread and pasta dough all quite happily despatched.

For the coup de grace, spinach and ricotta Ravioli, using the last of the spinach from the garden.

The Kenwood Chef recipe called for 500g of flour, no oil, and 4 eggs, as opposed to the standard 1 egg per 100g of flour. It was quite a dry dough - drier than I normally work with, and a bit difficult to work with in the roller. But it worked out fine. It may have expanded more while cooking though. Hrmm. Some experimentation could be afoot.......

Cooked the spinach in butter, and no water, and kept it whole not chopped....

Eh Voila, the finished product, in a sage and lemon sauce...

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Linkfest, and a list of culinary to dos....

A quick, somewhat grim video (culled from Ruhlman's blog), detailing the making of Testa, (also called Copa Di Testa, or Headcheese in America, or, in these parts , Brawn). Warning, the video contains a skinned pigs head being boiled and broken down for meat. The squeamish may not be pleased.....

Pigs heads are available for about a fiver, ears intact, from Buckleys on Moore Street, and I may plump for a more authentically Irish/British version from the BBC website. This one is firmly on the todo list, kind of inspired by Fergus Henderson, and Hugh FW and the whole nose to tail eating idea. Seems topical with the slew of credit crunch rationing type recipes popping up in various media. And a fine way to use of the entire animal as any conscientious meat eater should.

Currently banned from all civilised places for chopping up and cooking the above. Looks like a longer term project. I may have to wait until I have my own kitchen to rustle up this little sweetbread.....

Also on the to do list, perfect bangers.

Photographed, a sliced open Common Earthball mushroom, mildly poisonous. Slicing it open reveals the kind of foamy, granular interior which confirms the identification.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Experiments in the theatre of Ice Cream....

Physics, chemistry and cream.

To egg or not to egg. That is the question.

Heres the short version. For some of the science see below.....

Lessons learned....

Custard based creams are definitely smoother.

Strain the custard, gently.
Small containers are best.
Watch the custard like the family priest at a kindergarten.
Stir the custard, stir the mix.
Powerfreeze is the boss. Minus 25. Minus 18 is the bare minimum.
Pre chill the made mix in the refrigerator.

A quick flick through Harold McGee (On Food and Cooking) clears up some of the science.

The basic elements

Ice Crystals, Air, Concentrated Cream.

In this post

Ice crystals.....

Absolutely necessary for the structure of the ice cream, but also a common issue if they become too big. The addition of eggs slow down ice crystallisation. They make for a smoother ice cream, without the gritty texture you get from large, clumped together ice crystals (unless you scramble them). This is also the idea behind freezing the ice cream as quickly as you can. The faster you freeze it, the more even the ice crystal formation, and the smaller they are.

The aim is to make them so small they are imperceptible. It's also the reason behind not thawing and refreezing. Stirring helps with this, as does prechilling the mix in the fridge. Stirring breaks up ice crystals, spreads them out, encouraging the creation of many more but smaller crystals, and also helps introduce air into the mix. A final help is freezing the mix in several containers, giving a larger surface area exposed to freezing temperatures, and speeding up the freezing.

This is the recipe I used (available in full on their website), taken from the Murphy's Ice-Cream recipe book (the Book of Sweet things). The addition of egg yolks (taken fresh from the chickens out back) to the mix made it especially creamy and velvety - as did freezing it in smaller containers. The texture was far superior to the Tessa Kiros Caramel Ice Cream of last week.

One addition I would make to the recipe - when the custard thickens, chill it in an ice bath immediately, stirring all the time. It scrambles like a bastard.

Below....the best ice cream I have ever made.

Finally, Kitchen Chemistry with the bould Heston Blumenthal - the Ice Cream episode....

One for the fluffy bunnies.....

A heartwarming, deepdown, soul hugger of a little soup. One for cold days, one for rain streaked windows. One for wind, and wet. Cook for someone you love. It's that kind of soup.

Puy lentil soup, straight out of the North of Italy. This one is lifted and slightly adapted from Giorgio Locatelli (the pheasant ravioli video is fantastic), and his Made in Italy (free recipes at this link) book. A damned fine read, filled with dodgy measures, and irrepressible vitality. Food as Art.

This is a soup I make entirely by eye. Quantites will be artistic. Tasting is the thing.

For the lentils. Using dried puy lentils (I find a generous helping of circe 250g gives enough for three people), bring them, unsalted, to the boil, and simmer for 45 minutes.

For your soffrito, the base of the soup, you will need one large carrot, finely diced. One medium to large onion, similarly cut. two sticks of celery pulled as freshly from the earth as you can. Or in my cases, heroically hacked from the shelves of Dunnes. Sliced. Two or three bay leaves. Pick up a plant and go fresh with them. They underpin the entire taste of the thing. They give that generous and giving warmth of taste so lacking without the pancetta. Two sprigs of rosemary. Butter. Oil. Heat the oil, and gently sweat the vegetables, stirring in the herbs. You want to soften and sweeten them, with no salt or pepper. At this stage their beauty is nothing other than themselves. I take about 15-20 minutes for this stage. (The omnivorous amonsgt us could add some cubed pancetta here, for a heavenly fix).

After 45 minutes, your lentils should be nearly out of water. Add them (with the water if you wish) to the soffrito, and pop in some warm water, and two peeled, lightly crushed hefty, glorious and ample cloves of garlic. More if they are not ample.

Add salt (if you are not using pancetta), and black pepper, and a dollop of extra virgin olive oil. The salt is, I think, essential at this stage, allowing each flavour to interpenetrate. Simmer gently, adding water if necessary, for a good twenty minutes. More if you can, stirring, and tasting. At the end, season to taste, and blitz to your desired texture, adjusting thickness as you please - as you can probably see, I adore a generopusly gloopy bowl of earthy deliciousness. Sprinkle with chopped Rosemary for the scent. Drizzle with a little olive oil to lift. Eh voila.

A thing of beauty, and a joy for dinner.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Caramel Ice Cream

From China, and Persia, to our modern plates.

Once again, taken quite happily from Falling Cloudberries, Caramel Ice-Cream. It's a simple to make, low maintainance ice cream. Good without, and, more importantly, without an ice cream machine. Of the various recipes I've tried so far, it's turned out to be the easiest, and, so far, quite reliable. Howvere, a little more experimentation is required to make it just a little creamier.

I'm giving the Kiros recipe, but I would suggest a lower caramel to cream ratio - it's almost excessively rich. My o0wn take is going to be to make a double batch - one with the same amount of caramel, one which is a honey or vanilla ice cream, freeze them, and wait until they partially set and swirl them together.

Anyway....heres to the meat of the thing

Caramel Ice Cream


170g of Caster Sugar

500 ml of warm milk

200 ml of single cream

4 egg yolks.

On a medium heat, slowly melt the sugar to a deep gold. Don't stir, ans be careful not to burn it - caramel burns so so easily. Tilting the pan carefully should help to get an even melt.

Make sure your milk is warm, and add it to the caramel. Stand well back. It hisses and spits like a cat in a sack. And caramel burns hurt. Stir contionuously. Most of the caramel should dissolve. The rest will later.

Whisk the egg yolks until foamy. Whisking constantly, add a ladleful of the slightly cooled caramel mixture. You whick and add a little mixture to temper the eggs - to gradually raise their temperature and dilute them so they don't scramble. It's imperative to take care here, as the texture rests on what you do here. Keep adding it slowly, a little at a time.

Return the saucepan to the heat, and heat gently, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until it thickens slightly to a custard - Heston Blumenthal's suggestion is to dip in a spoon - I used a metal one to make it easy to see, and draw your finger down the back of the spoon, right in the middle. If the centre of the spoon satys clear of liquid - it doesn't dribble back in - it's thick enough.

Put it in the absolute coldest part of your freezer (I did this, and surrounded it with frozen peas) and whisk it vigorously, every 40 minutes or so, to avoid ice cruystals forming and ruining the texture.

Serve as you like.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

On a wing and a prayer......ok,ok

terrible joke. Terrible. Recipe number two from the triumphant return of the gorgeous C. Though somewhat selfishly made (C is somewhat of a.....regretful non meat eater.) I'm fairly sure Lor over at Italian foodies has cooked this one up before me. Or maybe it was Bibliocook. Still. Who am I to look gift content in the mouth.
Ok then.


Greek/Cypriot filo parcels, again from Falling Cloudberries. Delectable things when served hot (though they don't reheat fantastically - good taste, but the texture goes....).

Still, here goes.....


500g Spinach (I used large leaf, through lack of choice, but ripping them to shreds helped with the texture.)

350g of Feta Cheese

2 Lightly beaten eggs

Grated Nutmeg

Grated Parmesan circa 3 tablespoons

1 packet of frozen filo pastry

Melted butter - as required

Blanch in salted water, drain, cool and squeeze the spinach. Get out all that liquid. Squeeze it like you're beating the youngest Brady bunch kid. Chop it as finely as you can. Mix it with the feta, eggs, nutmeg and the parmesan. Season wih black pepper.

Preheat your oven to 180C. Lay out a sheet of filo (keeping the other sheets under a mildly moist cloth - the pastry takes 1 hour 15 minutes to defrost), and brush it with the butter. Lay a second sheet on top of it.

Cut the sheets into strips, using a particularly sharp knife - it's incredibly delicate pastry along the width of the pastry. The width of the strips is up to you - we went with 1.5 inch strips. Kiros suggests 10cm. Put a dollop of the mix in the bottom right hand corner, and to make the triangular parcels, first fold the pastry. Take the bottom right hand corner and fold it over itself, so it makes a triangle shape. You should be able to continue this all the way up the strip, overlapping 3 or 4 times. Make sure to seal all sides.

Theres a really excellent youtube demo of rolling up the parcels here - though as a novice, I found it easier to use smaller dollops than in the video.....

Brush them with butter on both sides. Chuck the happy little blighters into an oven tray. Cook for about 15 mins, or until golden brown. Serve immediately.

I cross contaminated my batch with a little lemon juice, Did them the world of good - the merest hint of acidity serving to really highlight the nutmeg, and bring out the salt and milkiness of the cheese. Apparently, Fallon and Byrne do an (uncharacteristically) cheap feta, sold loose in their deli. Tastes good too, if the reports are accurate.

Spiffing. Onward ho. Variations include adding parsley, dill, cottage cheese, onion, spring onion (nice idea that one), lemon juice, using olive oil, and not butter, and, commonly, cooking it as a filo pastry pie.

Youtube it for some great Greek grandmothers getting their pastry on.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Great rooted blossomers.....

Seems like time spirals away from one. So ensconced in work that I have not had time to cook....

Still. Here's to resolutions, eh?

Below, please note, an eclectic spread prepared for the triumphant return of the Gorgeous C. Mainly lifted from Tessa Kiros's Falling Cloudberries........

Please excuse the photo quality.

To wit, spanakopita, bottom right hand corner. Baked leaks in Bechamel, an eatmedrinkme stalwart. Prawns in chilli and butter. Cous cous salad with oven dried tomatoes, Pepperonata, potato salad, and lemon and Oreganno Chicken.

Creme Brulee to follow, speckled with real vanilla seeds, suspended in evanescent delight.....

Lemon and Oregano Chicken.


One chicken (though I used two, so called chicken oysters)
2 lemons
Handful of dried oregano
Salt and pepper

I differed slightly from the Faling Cloudberries recipe, by not using a full chicken (I used pieces of chicken - legs and thigh from a large free range bird, not the actual oyster, which is a small, dark nugget of meat). Fry the chicken legs and thighs in oil and butter (circa 50g of butter), on a medium heat, and pour over half the lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper. Turn frequently, until the exterior is quite browned, and the skin crispy. Drain the perky little bugger.

Preheat your grill to 180c, and place the chicken in a roasting dish (or, alternatively, barbecue him). rub the oregano between you fingers and coat the chicken with the herbs as they fall. Dot with butter, and pour over the remaining juice. Shove under the grill until cooked. Which could well be longer than you think. I kept turning the blighter to avoid burning, and spooning over the gravy.

Serve with the pan juice as a sauce.

Beautiful. And an honourable end to a proud bird.

More recipes to follow.....

Friday, February 08, 2008

By god it's been a while. A combination of a hectic work schedule, moving house, and no broadband have kept me off line for quite some time.

Still, I carved some time out for experiments in bread making and creme brulee. That, some salads, baked trout and a stack of food books should bulk out this blog for the remaining weeks of February.

Still, it's late. And tomorrows another day.