Monday 26 November 2012

Creme Catalana - A Random Recipe

I haven't been to Europe much on my holidays, usually I fly west instead of east. I have, however made the odd trip to the continent and one of these trips was to the amazing city of Barcelona in the Catalan Region of Spain.
Barcelona, pickpockets and scam artists aside, is a beautiful city. It pretty much encompasses everything you want in a holiday with it's white sandy beaches, rolling hills and mountain sides, bustling city life and of course, amazing food. If you ever get the chance to visit, have a wander around The Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria which is the main food market on Las Ramblas in the centre of the city. It is truly stunning, miles of fresh vegetables, seafood, patisserie, meat and charcuterie, it is a food lovers dream. Then play catch the chair with the rest of the crowds (speed and sneakiness is the key) on one of the tapas stands and eat what you have just gawped at.

So why am I wittering on about Barcelona, well as usual over in Blighty, everyone's favourite Ringmaster is orchestrating his usual Random Recipe challenge over at Belleau Kitchen. This months challenge was to pick a cookbook associated with our birthdays e.g. mine is on the 20th (May, I like whisky) so I counted to the 20th book and randomly picked a recipe. The book I picked was Ramsay's World Kitchen and I landed on the Spanish version of the classic Creme Brulee; Creme Catalana.  

4 large yolks
70g Caster sugar
2 tbsp cornflour, sifted
zest of one lemon and one orange
cinnamon stick
250ml whole milk
250ml double cream

Whisk the yolks with the sugar until pale and creamy
Whisk in the cornflour and zests
Slowly pour in the milk and cream whisking continuously.
Pour the custard into a saucepan and add the cinnamon stick.
Heat gently whilst stirring continuously, when the custard can coat the back of a spoon, turn off the heat.
Pour through a fine sieve into a jug then pour into individual ramekins
allow to cool completely and chill in the fridge until needed.

Sprinkle a thin layer of demerara sugar over the top and either wave a blowtorch over the top to caramelise the sugar or preheat a grill to high, place on a tray and place under the grill until golden.

Lighter than a traditional creme brulee with a lovely citrus undertone, couldn't taste much cinnamon, might infuse the milk beforehand  next time to see if that helps.

Sunday 25 November 2012

Living over the Shop - Book Review

A bit ago I was sent a cookbook to review - Living over the Shop by Stephen Doherty. The shop referred to in the title is every cooks favourite - Lakeland, namely the flagship Windermere branch back in my home county of Cumbria.

Lakeland is an absolute bain on my life, I cannot resist wandering in and buying some random kitchen utensil/gadget/tray etc.... I have quite a few items from that shop and all of it is of excellent quality, reasonably priced and lasts an age. So I was quite pleased to find out that this book was from the restaurant at the Windermere store.
Stephen Doherty is the former 3 Michelin star chef currently running the restaurant with a background most chefs would kill for, namely working with the legendary Roux brothers at Le Gavroche.

The book
The book is split into two parts. the first part is about Stephen's life under the Roux's and afterwards running pubs before finally arriving at Lakeland. There is also an excellent bit dedicated to Cumbria's finest producers, some I already know and others I need to track down. This bit of the book might be uniteresting to some but as the Roux brothers are my idols, It was nice to get an insight from another point of view. The producers bit I enjoyed also, more books should have this, allowing people to get quality ingredients straight from the source.
The second part of the book is all about the recipes

The recipes
There are 80 recipes in total ranging from simple basic food that you would expect in a store restaurant, jacket potatoes, sausage and mash but as well as these they cater for the more adventurous; Souffle Suissesse for example, a Gavroche classic. It also consists of variety of 'basic' recipes such as various sauces, chutneys and preserves. The baking section is also well stocked with fondants, chocolate stout cake and honey and whisky creme brulee. There are a lot of recipes based around salmon in various states: rilletes, cured, roasted etc.. which could put some non salmon lovers off but as there is a lot of salmon available in the Lakes, its not that surprising.

I decided to try out a couple of recipes;
Shallot and Goats Cheese Tart Tatin
Honey Madelines

Both recipes were simple to follow, did not consist of a wide range of impossible to get ingredients and both as you see came out excellent, the honey madelines were lighter than air.

Overall a good book, an interesting behind the scenes look at Le Gavroche and Lakeland accompanying some excellent recipes that most people would have no problem making and showing off with.

The book was sent to me free of charge with the intention to review, all opinions above are my own and I was not asked to give a good review or told which recipes to cook.

Tuesday 6 November 2012

Chocolate and Raspberry Tart

Another year passes and another OH birthday approaches which means another stylish creation of a cake is due. Usually on this most holy of days, or so she likes to think it is, the cake is delivered sneakily to a friend ready to be brought out as a surprise when she least expects it.
You may think this requires 007 levels of stealth and sneakery but the reality is far funnier, I recall one year where I turned up at her birthday meal with a cake in a bin bag (the cake was in a container before you say anything), made some flimsy excuse of what was in the bag and entered the restaurant. Oblivious to everything, the bag was passed to a friend who took it to the waiter to bring it out later to great shock and surprise.

Anyway this year provided several problems, 1. she doesn't live with those people anymore, 2. lack of a big birthday meal and 3. We were in London for her birthday weekend.

I could have made some easy to transport cake such as lemon loaf cake or something similar but where is the glamour or effort in that. So I called on my Master Pattisier skills ( I wish) to create a very easily transportable but very tasty and stylish little Chocolate and Raspberry tart.

You will need 5-6 little tiny tart tins or one big one (21cm) if not.

210g Plain flour
35g icing sugar
125g cold butter, cubed
1 egg yolk
2 tsp of water
1 egg white (to brush the cooked case)

Punnet of raspberries
300ml double cream
2 tbsp caster sugar
pinch of salt
50g soft butter
200g Chocolate (70% Cocoa solids)
50ml milk

Mix the flour and sugar together, add the butter.
Rub the butter into the flour gently between your fingertips until mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
Add the yolk and water and mix together.
Using your hands bring together the mix into a dough ball, don't overwork.
Wrap tightly in cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for 30mins to an hour.

Divide into 5-6 even pieces or leave as whole if using 1 tin.
Get two sheets of cling film, spread one across the work surface, place each mound of dough in the middle and spread the other sheet over the top.
Roll out gently in between the two sheets of cling film (this method stops any excess flour being added to the pastry and drying it out).
Remove the top layer and using the bottom layer drape the pastry gently into the tin and press gently into all edges.
Take a square of greaseproof paper and place over the pastry, fill with lentils, baking beans, coins and blind bake for 12-15 minutes at 180C
Remove the paper and items and bake for a further 12-15 mins, keep an eye out, when it reaches a golden colour you are happy with then take it out.
Brush with egg white and place back in the oven for a minute or so.
Take out and leave to cool completely.

Slice up a few raspberries, up to you how many and arrange across the bottom of the tart.
Place the cream, sugar, salt into a saucepan and bring to boil.
The second you see bubbles take it off the heat and stir in the butter and chocolate until smooth and completely chocolaty
Stir in the milk to make it glossy.
Pour into the tart, as close to the brim as you dare.
Leave to cool and set at room temperature for 2 hours

Serve and enjoy


So with autumn in full swing and winter hurtling it way towards us, its time to bring out the thermals, to wake up and go home in darkness, to hide under duvets away from the winter chill but most importantly to get on with some autumn/winter cooking with a wide variety of stews, soups and roast meat.

This stew recipe is a childhood favourite, It's based round the classic Hungarian goulash which is a tomato stew with beef and paprika. I have added a mix of beef and pork to this dish for contrasting textures and because it's good to have a bit of variety.

I also added a scotch bonnet to the mix to give an extra kick of heat, feel free to up the amount of bonnets if you are a chilli head. Recommended amounts: 1 = nice kick of heat, 2 = fiery, 3= toasty. 4+ = you need help my friend.

My shin/shoulder came with the bone attached, you can get this removed by your butcher but personally I recommend you don't. Simply take of as much meat as you can, don't try to hard to get every little bit off, then simply sear the bones on all sides when you fry the rest of the meat. Add this to the stew and over the course of the cooking time, all the remaining meat will fall off the bone which can simply be removed. Be careful that there are no tiny pieces of bone left in the stew.

There is no need to stick to this recipe closely; throw in some mushrooms, carrots parsnips etc..., vary the meat, use different cuts such as oxtail or ox cheek, omit the chilli altogether (you wuss), the world is your proverbial shellfish.

500g Beef shin, cubed
500g Pork shoulder, cubed
4-5 fresh tomatoes, chopped
2 red peppers
1 tin of good quality tomatoes
2 onions, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and slightly crushed
1 stock pot
1.5 tbsp paprika (smoked if you prefer)
1 scotch bonnet (habenero), left whole.
oil for frying


Season and fry off the meat in a frying pan or a heavy based casserole pot in oil until golden. this is easier in batches and set aside on a plate.
Fry the onion and pepper until golden and then add these plus the meat into a large casserole pan with a lid.
Add both varieties of tomatoes, paprika, garlic cloves, stock pot and scotch bonnet.
fill up with water until just covered, season well and bring to a boil. Place the lid on and place in the oven at 130-140C for a minimum of 3 hours, max about 10.
Serve with fresh coriander, sour cream and the carbohydrate of your choice - pasta, jacket spud, rice or lots of crusty bread.