Friday, August 17, 2012

yummy crumble

I've been trying to find the right balance of butter, sugar and flour to get a nice crunchy crumble topping. I think this might be a winner.

I decided to try using dark brown sugar which caramelizes very nicely with the butter and heat.

I used:
120g plain flour
50 g caster sugar
50 g dark brown sugar
75 g unsalted butter at room temperature

Actually the butter doesn't have to be at room temperature because it warms up as you start mixing the ingredients together. I recommend mixing it all by hand especially if you're using butter straight from the fridge.  Keep mixing until  you get a breadcrumb texture.  Then place on top of your fruit mixture. I decided to do another apple and rhubarb mixture which I posted earlier.

You can see the nice caramelization around the edges of the dish.  I topped it off with a scoop of vanilla ice cream to cool it down. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

fish cakes

One of my husband's hobbies is fly fishing.  He even ties his own flies.  I never mind when he goes fishing because usually 9 of out 10 times it means he will come home with a reward!  Last Saturday while I was cooking my boeuf bourguignon, he was out fishing.  To my delight, he came home with six trout shown on the left.  I learned that trout has similar qualities to salmon.  It has a pink flesh and similar consistency to salmon.  The taste is more earthy than salmon.  So I like to find ways to hide the earthy-ness.

Then my challenge to think of ways to use this salmon.  This time I decided to make fish cakes.  Rather than the usual tarter, we enjoyed our fish cakes with sweet chili dipping sauce.  I made a side salad using our homegrown cherry tomatoes. My husband said he wouldn't mind if I made it again. Nice and easy meal.

If you don't have breadcrumbs at home, try making your own. I just take the ends off the bread that no one ever eats, and let them dry out. Then I bake them in the oven for about 10 minutes. Then pop them into a food processor to get your own homemade bread crumbs.  

  • 2 large potatoes cut into big cubes
  • 2 fillets of trout (or salmon)
  • salt 
  • pepper
  • 1 cup of bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tbsp flour
  1. Boil the potatoes for about 10 minutes until they are tender.  When done, let them steam dry for a few minutes. Then mash them in separate bowl.
  2. While potatoes are boiling, grill the salmon for about 10 minutes until fully cooked. 
  3. Once the trout has cooled, break apart the trout into flakes into the mash.
  4. Combine the trout and potatoes added some salt and pepper to taste. 
  5. Make the fish cakes about 6cm (2 1/2 in) in diameter. You should have about 8 cakes.
  6. Dip them in the flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs. (Tip: I use different hands for this step.   I use my left hand for the dry ingredients, and my right hand for the wet ingredients.)
  7. Chill the cakes in the fridge for about 30 minutes so fish cakes don't fall apart when you fry them.
  8. Place about 3 tablespoon of oil in a frying pan on medium heat.  Cook the fish cakes about 4-5 minutes on both sides until they are nicely brown.
  9. Serve with sweet chili dipping sauce or any dipping sauce of your choice.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Boeuf Bourguignon

Ever since I saw the movie, Julie & Julia, I've always wanted to make Julia Child's Boeuf Bourginion.  However, you do need the right cooking tools.  As a wedding gift, we received a beautiful Le Creuset casserole dish, something I've always wanted.  Granted, they are much heavier than normal pots, but they last a lifetime.

Now that I had this beautiful pot, I decided to make Julia's boeuf bourguignon.  You do need at least 5 hours to make this dish, so when you have a free Saturday or Sunday, this is a fantastic dish to make for your family or friends.It makes about 6 servings. 

I had to adjust a few things because I couldn't find pearl onions, so I used small white onions.  Here's a recipe for brown braised onions. Also I couldn't find bacon rind in time so I just sauteed the bacon in the dish first. And I decided to  use a whole bottle of wine. The recipe calls for 3 cups, but I added another 1/2 a cup. Also, I skipped the step of pouring it into a sieve. 

The preparation does take awhile, but once you get everything into the casserole dish, you basically leave it alone for the next 2 1/2 hours-3 hours.  I checked it every 30 minutes to make sure the dish was simmering slowly.  The aroma from the kitchen was intoxicating. I sat working on my knitting project while watching the olympics.  It was a nice way to spend my Saturday afternoon especially since Team GB did outstanding on Super Saturday with three gold medals!

I wasn't planning to eat it until the next day since my husband was away fishing.  However, I did take a little spoonful when it was done.  The beef was so tender  you didn't need a knife to cut it.  It just fell apart into pieces.  The dish definitely tasted even better the next day.  Before serving I topped it off with mushrooms sauteed in butter and olive oil.   The recipe suggested serving it with boiled potatoes and sweet peas along a nice beaujolais.

I even let our neighbor's cat, Zipper, have a taste.  I think he enjoyed it because he left a very clean plate.  Made doing the dishes a lot easier.

I hope my husband's office mate are jealous my his lunch I packed.  :)

Servings: Serves 6
  • 9- to 10-inch, fireproof casserole dish , 3 inches deep
  • Slotted spoon
  • 6 ounces bacon
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil or cooking oil
  • 3 pounds lean stewing beef , cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 1 sliced carrot
  • 1 sliced onion
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • 3 cups full-bodied, young red wine , such as a Chianti
  • 2 to 3 cups brown beef stock or canned beef bouillon
  • 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 2 cloves mashed garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. thyme
  • Crumbled bay leaf
  • Blanched bacon rind
  • 18 to 24 small white onions , brown-braised in stock
  • 1 pound quartered fresh mushrooms , sautéed in butter
  • Parsley sprigs
Remove rind from bacon, and cut bacon into lardons (sticks, 1/4 inch thick and 1 1/2 inches long). Simmer rind and bacon for 10 minutes in 1 1/2 quarts of water. Drain and dry.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Sauté the bacon in the oil over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon. Set casserole aside. Reheat until fat is almost smoking before you sauté the beef.

Dry the stewing beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Sauté it, a few pieces at a time, in the hot oil and bacon fat until nicely browned on all sides. Add it to the bacon.

In the same fat, brown the sliced vegetables. Pour out the sautéing fat.

Return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with the salt and pepper. Then sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly with the flour. Set casserole uncovered in middle position of preheated oven for 4 minutes. Toss the meat and return to oven for 4 minutes more. (This browns the flour and covers the meat with a light crust.) Remove casserole, and turn oven down to 325 degrees.

Stir in the wine, and enough stock or bouillon so that the meat is barely covered. Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs, and bacon rind. Bring to simmer on top of the stove. Then cover the casserole and set in lower third of preheated oven. Regulate heat so liquid simmers
very slowly for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.

While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms. Set them aside until needed.

When the melt is tender, pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve set over a saucepan. Wash out the casserole and return the beef and bacon to it. Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms over the meat.

Skim fat off the sauce. Simmer sauce for a minute or two, skimming off additional fat as it rises. You should have about 2 1/2 cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly. If too thin, boil it down rapidly. If too thick, mix in a few tablespoons of stock or canned bouillon. Taste carefully for seasoning. Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables. Recipe may be completed in advance to this point.

For immediate serving: Covet the casserole and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times. Serve in its casserole, or arrange the stew on a platter surrounded with potatoes, noodles, or rice, and decorated with parsley.

For later serving: When cold, cover and refrigerate. About 15 to 20 minutes before serving, bring to the simmer, cover, and simmer very slowly for 10 minutes, occasionally basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Banana Coconut bread

What do you do with those very ripe bananas that are almost black, mushy and almost ready to toss? Banana bread! But rather than the normal banana bread, what about banana bread with a twist?

I have enjoyed using my Nigella Kitchen cookbook given to me by my dear friend, Dizzy. Most of these latest baking posts have been from Nigella.

I decided to try her coconut and cherry bread sans cherries because I didn't have any in my cupboard.   In baking usually you want to stick to the recipe, but I figured it wouldn't hurt to leave out the cherries.

What I liked about this recipe was instead of just a plain banana bread, you add coconut.  Here in the UK, they call it dessicated coconuts. How do I have this in my cupboard and not dried cherries? I was planning to bake something else with the coconut. Since it turned out so nicely, I think I will make sure I have coconut in my cupboard for the next time I have very ripe bananas.  My husband enjoyed it.  The bread was nice and moist.  What was a bonus? I didn't have to wait for the butter to get soft.  This step sometimes prevents me from spontaneous combustion , I mean spontaneous baking. Enjoy!

Hm.. just thought of something... what about adding pineapple pieces to make it like a pina colada bread?? Oh... something to try and experiment!

125g soft unsalted butter, plus some for greasing
4 small-medium bananas (approx. 500g with the skin on)
150g of caster sugar
2 eggs
175g plain flour
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
100g of dried cherries (optional)
100g of desicated coconut
1 x 900g (2lb) loaf tin

1. Preheat the oven to 170 C/gas mark 3. Put a loaf liner in your tin, or just line the bottom with baking parchment and grease the sides.
2. Melt the butter in a saucepan, take off the heat and leave to cool. Peel and mash the bananas in another bowl.
3. Beat the sugar into the cooled, melted butter, then beat in the bananas and the eggs. Fold in the flour, baking powder, and bicarb. Finally, add the dried cherries and coconut.
4. Fold well so that everthing is incorporated, then pour and scrape into the lined loaf tin and smooth the top.
5. Bake for 5o mins, but check after 45. When it’s ready, the cake will be coming away from the sides of the tin and will be bouncy on top. Leave it in the tin for 10 mins before transfering to a wire rack to cool.