Hello, yes, I’m still alive – frankly just extremely busy trying to survive my MA course. I mean it is fun, but I feel lucky if I get to leave the flat at least once a week nowadays. But I’ve come back to try and bring back you lovely readers, especially because Christmas is approaching fast, and well, that’s my time to shine. None of the last year’s duck business this year though. Strictly cookies and truffles and… well… we’ll see I guess.
But for now, here is a recipe that I came up with on a desperate night. There is always the dilemma: should I hold back, lose some calories, eat those tomatoes that are about to go off and feel good about myself? Or should I order an unnecessarily huge amount of Chinese, devour it all by myself, and then wake up with a food baby and the shame… oh the shame…
So this time I was strong.
The ingredients that I dug out of my fridge:
1 pack of mozzarella
1 can of butter beans
2 celery stalks
A jar of capers in brine
2 huge tomatoes
And that’s all it took. Here’s how to make a delicious, baked, vegetarian muffin.
Drain the mozzarella and cut into small cubes. Take your tomatoes and carve out the insides – seeds, core, juice, until all you have is a hollow case. Season the inside well, especially with salt, as this will drain the moisture and give you a more firm case.
Squeeze a bit of garlic paste into the tomato and smear it on the bottom. Then, start packing your mozzarella. Halfway up the tomato, insert a handful of capers, then keep packing your cheese until the tomato is full. Drizzle the top with olive oil, add a couple more capers and season with pepper. Salt at this point is not necessary, because the capers will do the job just fine.
Now came the clever part: since my tomatoes refused to stand up straight, I popped them into a muffin tin. A bit more olive oil drizzled on top and they were ready to be baked at 180 degrees; I also put on the grill on medium to get a nice colour on the top.
Honestly, this dish doesn’t even count as vegetarian. At least to me, if there is cheese involved, it is automatically acceptable. I mean, bring on the halloumi and melted brie or reblochon, and I’m happy.
So when these babies came out of the oven, I squeezed a bit more garlic paste on top and that gooey inside with the warm but firm outside made a fantastic dinner. It really is just mozzarella and tomato, just presented differently – not only is it healthy, it is also super quick. And I got to stuff my face with cheese, which is always nice.
Anyways, there are tons of recipe pictures that I’ve taken over the past couple of weeks, and they’re just waiting to be shared, so expect more to come. And then we’re entering Christmas cooking week, and that’s the best.
I find brownies fascinating. When I was about six or seven years old, my kind-of-godmother (who was and is one of my childhood heroes of the kitchen along with my mother) got me and my brother an American cookbook for youngsters. It was illustrated with awesome drawings and had all the classic recipes from corn on the cob to mini sausage rolls. You even got these colourful measuring spoons with the book to make cooking even easier.
Unfortunately my English wasn’t quite there yet at that age, and so my first attempt at brownies was a complete failure. We scraped that sweet, burnt, collapsed mess from the bottom of the pan for weeks.
A couple of years have passed since though, and making these milk chocolate and cocoa brownies was my second attempt (well, that is if we can count my blondies from last year as brownies). It was a blast. I’m not a fan of cake – in fact I hate cake if it consists of anything else but icing – but these brownies are nothing like sponge. With a thick, gooey consistency, they literally melt in your mouth.
This day also marked the first trial of my year-old silicone ‘tin’, which I absolutely adore – I just never had a chance to try it. I love the heart-shape, although I must say that for transferring a liquid batter in it into the oven, it is absolutely useless.
Anyway, for these delicious and crumbly brownies, you’ll need:
200g unsalted butter
200g milk chocolate for cooking
85g plain flour
4 tbsp cocoa powder
250g brown sugar
So to start off, prepare. Butter your tin and line with parchment paper.
Put your sugar and eggs in a bowl and whisk for about 7-8 minutes. Seriously. This has to rise in volume and look gooey and light brown. When that’s done, set aside.
Sift your flour and cocoa powder into a bowl and add a pinch of salt.
Finally, melt your chocolate and butter in a bowl above hot water until no lumps remain and you get that beautiful, shiny liquid consistency. Let this cool to room temperature before you proceed.
When the chocolate is cooled, add it to your egg and sugar mixture and fold the two together gently, so as to keep the volume in the mix. When nicely encorporated, add your flour and cocoa to the bowl, sifting again, and mix everything together gently – don’t overdo it! It may look very liquid and lumpy, but don’t worry about that.
Transfer the mix to your tin and bake at 180 degrees for about 35 minutes. It is ready when the top has formed a kind of papery film and is slightly risen. Take the tin out and leave to cool completely. It may look soft and not at all brownie like – but this is when the magic happens. When you come back after your long stroll to distract yourself, you will see that the brownie has hardened and shrunk in the middle, and you may now cut into it.
Honestly, these are so very simple and are good anytime, anywhere. I kept them refrigirated because I wanted them to firm up a bit, but they’re awesome when still kind of warm and gooey in the middle too.
Trust me. It’s worth it.
PS. Happy 1st anniversary to the blog!
For the past three years, I have always shopped at supermarkets. In the area where I was based, there wasn’t really a nearby opportunity to buy fresh stuff – no butcher, no market, mainly just quick stop stores and superstores. Which was perfectly fine at the time. Standard Friday night dinner was usually pasta, frozen pizza or, my guilty pleasure, canned chicken korma.
Nowadays though, with the lovely kitchen and all, that’s no longer the norm. (Well, I’m not going to lie, there’s nothing wrong with a quick supper every now and then.) But when I can, I prefer spending some quality time in the kitchen, and ever since I did a little discovering in my new area, I’ve had some very pleasant suprises coming my way.
I discovered the six-day fruit and veg market that functions just two tram stops away from me, where I can get a massive bunch of coriander for 50p, or a bunch of asparagus for only a pound, and where they sell things that often I can’t even identify. And just near the market is the local butcher, where a bunch of jolly men, for some reason, tend do give me big smiles every time I walk by; and right next to that, the fishmonger, which is the shop that provided the base for this here blog post.
I bought this beautiful lemon sole for the low price of £5 (would have been more than £10 presumably, had I gone to Waitrose), and they cleaned the skin and removed the head for me. It was fresh, very tender and it deserved good treatment – hence why I decided to cook it as a classic sole meuniere (or almost).
For sole meuniere, one needs:
1 lemon sole (whole in restaurants, filleted otherwise)
Lots of butter
Yep, c’est tout. Rachel Khoo had the lovely idea though of adding capers to the sauce, so I got a little jar of that too. This time I also decided to invest in butter that costs a little more than normal (in my defense, it was reduced) because this recipe really deserves it. Here’s what I used:
Basically, the method goes: coat the sole in flour and fry in a pan with oil and butter, about a minute on each side. Now, me being me, I completely forgot the coating part; so I kind of just went with the flow and after more or less successfully deboning my first sole, I fried the fillets.
After frying, wipe out the pan and melt a generous nob or two of butter. This needs to be cooked until it turns nutty brown, then it has to be immediately removed from heat. I was too scared of this, so I don’t think I cooked my butter long enough – but butter is always delicious, no matter what the colour.
Away from the heat, whisk in a couple of table spoons of lemon juice and you are ready to serve! I also added my capers at this point and it made a delicious, savoury and sour sauce that was heavenly with the fish. I served the sole with buttered parsley potatoes (so much butter!) and it certainly made a fantastic dinner.
Despite its big reputation, this dish isn’t super complicated or expensive. Now, of course, I would have loved to fry the fish in whole and then have a French waiter bone it for my whilst I watch and sip my white wine, as they do in France… but if you’re a “servantless American cook” like me (minus the American part), this is a good method too.
I love Asian food. I love the taste, the fragrance, the texture, the versatility – I could honestly live on it. And by Asian food I do indeed mean everything from Indian to sushi. But I especially love it when some cuisines coincide and mix, because that’s when all kinds of magic is born.
This dish, as seen on Ramsay’s Ultimate Cookery Course, is probably one of his best in the show. Not only does it look incredibly impressive, it smells and tastes fantastic, and the dipping sauce really is something else. It is not perfect, for sure – but it is really worth a shot. Not to mention it will make you feel like an Asian chef, even though you’re just chopping and frying.
In his original recipe, Gordon uses beef mince mixed with pork mince – but if you’re on a budget like me, one of them will do just fine. The mince turned out rather dry for me and not at all crispy – I’m not sure if the added pork would help that. Then again, it seems to me that crispy texture creation and me are just at constant war. I love eating it – cannot recreate it.
Here’s what you need:
For the beef:
1 pack of mince beef
1-2 red chillies, finely sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
A piece of root ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 lime, zest and juice
1-2 gem lettuce
For the dipping sauce:
Sesame seed oil
Bunch of fresh coriander, coarsely chopped
1 chilli, deseeded (unless you like your food super hot) and roughly chopped
So to start off, heat your pan until it’s almost smoking. With a dash of olive oil, fry the mince until crispy (well, if you can – I can’t). Remove and drain in a sieve.
Wipe the pan with a piece of kitchen towel. In a dash of sesame oil, fry the garlic, the ginger and the chillies for a minute or two. Add a spoonful of brown sugar to caramelise, then add your mince back to the pan.
To the mix, add your lime zest and a generous squeeze of juice. Ramsay also suggests spring onions, added at the last minute for some crunch, but I didn’t have any this time.
Mix your dipping sauce in a separate bowl and serve your mince in gem lettuce leaves to impress anyone.
Now smell your kitchen… That’s something, isn’t it?
Note about the dipping sauce: it doesn’t taste anything like I imagined. But don’t let that discourage: it is actually very nice with the beef. I served the dish as a main course, but when you have guests over, this could pass as a lovely party nibble as well as a starter. Attention: it is super spicy, so if you don’t like it hot like some, cut back on either the chilli or the ginger.
Love the texture of the dish, and I highly recommend it to anyone with a taste for the exotic :) Just try and keep your beef moist!
I hardly ever eat chocolate, and that is the truth. The reason behind it is usually I’d feel very gulity if I bought chocolate in a store, just like that, to eat. But a few weeks back I decided to go against myself and I bought an amazing dark chocolate bar seasoned with sea salt and it was so good that I only allowed myself a cube per day, so as to keep it going for as long as possible.
That little purchase opened a door though – at least temporarily – and so the second thing I decided to cook from Gordon’s new book ended up being a lime-flavoured white chocolate mousse, and oh boy.
Now, I know what you’re thinking – that’s not lime zest. No, I’m not senile, I just ran out of lime zest by the end of the show, and so I went with a lemon decoration.
Anyway, for those not friendly with mousse, it is basically the same process as if you were making a soufflée. (So helpful, I know.) To clarify: the mousse is made so soft because of egg whites, whipped until stiff peaks are formed. So if you have an electric beater, this recipe really shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes – but seeing as I am still set on whisking by hand and buliding incredible muscles only in my right arm, it took me about half an hour. Totally worth it though.
For four portions of this deliciousness, here’s what you need:
(Once again, I’m just passing on this recipe, credit goes to Mr Ramsay)
3 large eggs (white only)
100g white chocolate
300ml double cream
1 lime, zest only
To start, break up your white chocolate into little pieces and put it into a heatproof bowl. Next, pour half your cream into a saucepan and heat until it begins to boil. (Don’t keep it on the stove after that, otherwise it will thicken and you don’t really want that.) So as soon as it’s bubbling away, pour the cream over the white chocolate and mix with a spatula until the mix is completely smooth.
Now comes the harder part that I always mess up: whisking cream. You need to whip the other half of the cream in a separate bowl along with the lime zest until soft peaks are formed. I think I may have whipped it a bit too long though, and so from time to time, whilst eating the mousse, one could feel little lumps of double cream. It’s annoying, but it’s not a catastrophe – but you might as well just learn from my mistake and stop whipping a bit earlier.
Add your whipped cream to the chocolate mixture, folding one into the other, then set aside.
Finally, whip your egg whites until they form soft peaks. This is so much fun. I love watching the consistency of that slimy, disgusting-looking liquid turn into bigger and bigger foam until suddenly it looks like a liquid meringue.
When you have soft peaks, start adding your sugar, bit by bit, and keep whisking until you have stiff peaks. (I like doing this – you can’t over-beat.) Once all the sugar is incorporated, fold your whites into the chocolate mixture gently, and you are ready to portion!
In the original recipe, Gordon puts some crashed raspberries into the bottom of the glass, but I didn’t have any, so I just took four glasses and portioned the mousse evenly between them. After a tiny bit of decorating, let chill for at least two hours, but more is always better, and voilá – dessert is served!
The mousse is light and delicious – and the zest just takes it to a whole new level. While it may sound like it’s time consuming and difficult, I promise you that it’s not. I mean, I was even surprised to look at the clock afterwards and see that I only worked for half an hour. It’s impressive and super good – have fun trying it out!