Tuesday, 22 November 2011

The Best Chocolate Sauce

An extravagant claim, I know.  But if you like a chocolate sauce to be as dark, brooding and bitter as Heathcliffe, then this recipe from David Lebovitz is for you.  It is also low in fat - hurrah! (erm....we'll just gloss over the sugar, eh?).  This makes a large quantity, and it will keep for a week or so in the fridge to anoint chocolate pear pudding (as we did tonight), ice cream, pancakes, banana splits - or just spooned from the bowl......!  The recipe calls for corn syrup but I used the much more British ingredient, glorious golden syrup.  "Out of the strong came forth sweetness" and all that.  Anyway, do yourself a favour, make this, and dive in.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Potato, Leek and Swede Gratin

This dish came about as I stared at a leek and the remains of a swede sitting accusingly in the bottom of the fridge, but it was surprisingly good, and easy too.  Which is important this week, as I have broken two toes and can't stand around the kitchen easily.  So, I needed something that even my husband could do, and he's useless.  Sorry, dear heart, but it is true.  Anyway, if you can peel veg, and chop them (sort of) then you can make this.  For two: a large leek, well washed and sliced, a large potato (King Edward's or Maris Piper), peeled and thinly sliced and about a quarter of a swede, ditto.  Heat a quarter of a pint of milk, the same quantity of veg stock (Marigold is fine), a bay leaf, and 25g of butter in a pan.  Season well with salt, pepper and grated nutmeg, and add all the veg to the pan.  Cover, and simmer on a low heat for 5 minutes until the veg has softened.  Pour into a buttered shallow baking dish, removing the bay leaf, and sprinkle with about 50g of cheddar, parmesan, whatever you have in the house (I used a mix of the two).  Bake at 180C for 25 minutes until the liquid is absorbed, and the top is crusty brown and bubbling.  We baked some tomatoes alongside and ate with a watercress salad and a crusty loaf.  It would also be a nice accompaniment to roast chicken or turkey, I imagine.

Nigel Slater's Roasted Peppers with Pasta and Basil

We have been getting some wonderful long 'ramiro' peppers from Riverford this Autumn.  They are sweeter than traditional 'bell' peppers, and when I saw this recipe on Nigel's recent 'Simple Cooking' series, I knew I had to make it.  It is a variation on Piedmontese Peppers, where the halved peppers are stuffed with cherry tomatoes and garlic.  You make basil oil by blitzing a lot of fresh basil with olive oil, spoon over the peppers and tomatoes, and bake for 20 minutes or so, until the peppers are soft and juicy.  Serve with orechiette pasta, dressed in the remaining basil oil and the juices from the baking tin.  A delightful dish.  It would work with regular peppers, I'm sure, but do try to get the ramiro ones

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Pissaladiere - sort-of!

Helping with the nibbles for my friend's party was such fun this weekend.  She is a veggie, and a lover of onions (borderline obsessive - sorry, Anu, but it's true!), so I wanted to give her pissaladiere, but without the anchovies.  And without the traditional bread crust.  Oh, and without the black olives, as there was tapenade to eat too.  So not really pissaladiere, then but just an onion tart!  Anyway, the key is the onions - 3 big red ones and 2 Spanish onions, all sliced thinly, and gently, gently cooked for an hour in 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a knob of butter, with 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, a dessertspoon of brown sugar, a good dessertspoon of fresh thyme leaves and salt and pepper.  It is important to cover the pan and take your time.  Let the onions collapse and slowly caramelise for the right texture and intensity of flavour.  Allow to cool, and then spread over a sheet of good butter puff pastry, leaving a small border.  Bake for 25 minutes or so until the edges have risen, the onions have darkened even more and all is crispy.  Will serve four people, or can be cut into smaller squares as a canape.

Spinach Spanikopitas

I helped with the nibbles for a friend's party this weekend, and made spinach spanikopitas, which are such fun.  Good to eat too!  I guess this is one of those recipes where you add whatever flavourings you want - some put Parmesan in, but I don't think that is very Greek.  Having said that, I use ricotta, which mixes better with the spinach than the more authentic feta would.  Anyway, thaw 250g of frozen spinach (I do this on several changes of kitchen paper, like a sort of spinach nappy, as it soaks up all the liquid as it thaws).  Mix with a tub of ricotta, lots of mint (I used about 3 tablespoons, chopped), and an egg.  Season really well with salt, pepper and grated nutmeg.  Taste it to get the seasoning right.  Now, cut sheets of good filo (preferably something like the french feuille de brique) into long strips, brush with butter and fold in half down the middle.  Plop a dessertspoon of the spinach mix at the top and fold over and over itself into a triangle, securing the end with a little butter to hold the final fold down.  Repeat.  I got about 24 out of this quantity of filling.  Lay on a baking sheet (or 2), and brush all over with more butter.  Bake at about 180C for 20 minutes until golden and glossy and crisp.