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Thursday, 23 February 2012

hazelnut & buttermilk banana loaf...

I have written of banana bread here before. This butter-less banana bread is the nutty type and easier again if such a thing is possible... and with minimum washing up, my favorite kind of loaf! It's what to make when you are being badgered into baking something but don't want to spend the rest of the evening cleaning up after it. If you have children over the age of three they can also do a lot of the work themselves, which is fair, as it is they who have done the badgering.

As with all banana bread, the very best bananas to use are the kind that are so old and blackened that they look like they have been in a house fire. The buttermilk keeps this very moist and can be replaced with natural or hazelnut yogurt in a pinch. The hazelnuts are best toasted before being added to the mix. It is not essential but it does release their inner nuttiness.

2 eggs
80 ml buttermilk
120 ml vegetable oil
225 g mashed bananas (about two large ones)
300 g golden caster sugar
220 g all-purpose flour
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
55 g chopped hazelnuts (toasted)

Preheat oven to 165 degrees C. Grease one 9x5 inch loaf pan. In a large bowl mash the bananas. Add the buttermilk, vanilla and oil, beat in the eggs. Stir in the sugar. Sift the flour, baking soda and salt onto the mix and mix well. Finally stir in the hazelnuts and pour into prepared loaf pan. Bake for one hour and twenty minutes or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool and serve with a spoon of cream, unsweetened as this is quite a sweet loaf. A drizzle of icing or syrup, a few banana chips and hazelnuts for extra crunch.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

chorizo scrambled eggs taco

It's so easy to go through the morning motions on auto-pilot, doing the routine until the second cup of tea or shot of coffee engages your brain. Have you ever had one of those mornings where you were not firing on all cylinders? Maybe you've sent your child to school with a lunchbox packed with meaty treats on an 'Ash Wednesday' when the rest of her 'God fearing' classmates were dutifully observing the religious teachings of the school? No? Nobody? Just me then I guess!

Here's a nice spicy start to the day to get all your senses firing - Chorizo and Scrambled Eggs Breakfast Tacos! This serves two (befuddled) adults very generously. 

I've made it without the cheese and you wouldn't really miss it. But here I've put the original recipe as I first made it from Bon Appétit Magazine. They mention a vegetarian substitute for the chorizo called Soyrizo, I don't know what that is or if you can get it here in the meat-loving isle of Ireland, but I'm sure there must be something similar on the market… but that's no reason to get it, it just sounds wrong!

4 corn tortillas
1 cup grated extra-sharp white cheddar cheese
4 large eggs
4 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander (cilantro for d'mericans)
7 ounces cooking chorizo, casing removed if necessary
4 green onions, sliced
Sour cream, salsa and lime to serve (optional)

Brush a large nonstick pan with olive or vegetable oil. Char the tortillas over gas flame or directly on electric burner until blackened in spots, turning with tongs. Arrange tortillas in single layer in a pan. Sprinkle each tortilla with 1/4 cup grated cheese and set aside.

Whisk eggs and 2 tablespoons coriander in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Sauté chorizo sausage in heavy medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until cooked through, breaking up with back of spoon, about 5 minutes. Add green onions and sauté 2 minutes. Add egg mixture and stir until very softly set, about 1 minute. Remove egg mixture from heat.

Cook tortillas in skillet over high heat until beginning to crisp on bottom, but still soft and pliable, about 1 minute. Divide egg mixture among tortillas and sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons cilantro. Fold each tortilla in half. Serve with sour cream and your favorite salsa, mild or spicy.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

scrummy sausage rolls...

This is a post about sausage rolls and how to make them extra tasty. Before I go any further I feel I must say in my defence, that it is quite difficult to photograph a sausage without it looking a bit rude. That is all.

Has anyone ever found a decent commercially-made sausage roll? Not me anyway. A recipe that calls for only a few ingredients must have the best, and that just never happens with the commercial type. Cheap puff pastry and low grade pork filling just don't cut the mustard (I also like to add mustard).

The sausage itself must be excellent. If you are lucky enough to have a butcher who makes pork sausages, those will do nicely. There are a lot of high quality sausages available now. I recently met the happy pork folk over at Oldfarm, Margaret and Alfie. Margaret told me the story of how 'Pigs happened to her'. How careless to let pigs take over one's home like that, I thought. But how clever of her to convert them to porky delights and sell them to the sausage eaters that haunt Twitter Land. I shall be having some of those for myself soon I hope. But until then I buy the best quality sausages with the highest pork content that I can find.

I prefer to use a whole sausage as the texture is usually better than sausage meat, add some favourite herbs if you like, sage or thyme are always good with pork. The puff pastry you can make yourself if you have nothing for doing, but I usually buy it. A nice tomato based chutney is ideal for the filling, I use one from Rua in Castlebar which is the chutney you would make if you were making some yourself. Mustard, sharp and smooth. Cheese, piquant and melty. All rolled together and baked until puffed up and golden, great for a quick lunch with a little salad and some extra chutney on the side.

The cutting down the middle and filling comes from my mother who had picked up some very strange habits in boarding school, but that is a story for another day.

A packet of ready-made puff pastry (all-butter)
8 - 12 herbed sausages sliced length-way down the centre
Smooth mustard
1oz cheddar cheese
A couple of tablespoons of good quality chutney
1 free-range egg, beaten
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Small handful of fresh thyme/sage leaves (optional)

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.

Roll the pastry out (if not the pre-rolled sort) on a floured surface to a rectangle and cut in half lengthways. Paint one side of the pastry with the mustard.

Lay the sausages along both pieces of pastry and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and sprinkle with herbs. Cut your pastry to best fit your sausages. Spread the chutney and cheese generously into the cut down the centers. Roll the sausage up in the pastry to enclose.

Brush with the beaten egg and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, leave to cool slightly before snarfing.

Friday, 10 February 2012

we heart cinnamon rolls...

...with a maple syrup glaze

It's that special time of year when chocolate and greetings card companies encourage you to demonstrate the extent of your love in exchange for cash on February 14th. Yes, I admit it, I hate this 'holiday'. I'm not very mushy and I don't care for hot pink. I don't like roses much either, being more of a wild-flower kind of gal. While some couples like to gaze into each other's eyes over their romantic meal, we are as likely to fall asleep into our fancy dinner.

So this year I am making a stand, I will not give into the pink and red sprinkles or take the heart-shaped cookie cutters out of the baking drawer. I will resist the urge to colour anything pink or carve cupid bows into root vegetables. Angel food and red velvet cupcakes are strictly off the menu. Instead I am making good old reliable, everyday, unromantic cinnamon rolls. So there!

I make these the night before and leave them for their second rise in the fridge overnight. Nothing compares to the lovely smell of these gorgeous yeast buns baking in the oven… big, rich, and full to bursting with cinnamon. These are heart shaped and each one will serve two people, perfect for Valentine's day... whoops!

...with an icing sugar glaze

600 - 650g plain flour
1 package sachet (7 grams) dry yeast
240ml milk
75g butter
65g granulated white sugar
3 large eggs

160g light brown sugar
35g plain flour
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
110g butter, cold and cubed

Glaze: (Optional, but great)
60g icing sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice

In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment (you can use an electric hand mixer), combine half of the flour with the yeast.

In a small saucepan, heat the milk, butter, sugar, and salt till just warm and the butter is almost melted. Gradually pour the milk mixture into the flour mixture, with the mixer on a low setting.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Then beat this mixture on high speed for a couple of minutes. Replace the paddle with the dough hook (or knead by hand), and knead in as much of the remaining flour to make a soft dough that is smooth and elastic (up to 5 minutes), but not sticky. Shape the dough into a ball and place in a greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until almost doubled (about 1 1/2 - 2 hours). Then gently punch the dough to release the air and let rest for a few minutes.

Make the filling. In a food processor whizz together the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and the cold butter into crumbs.

Roll the dough into a 12 inch square. Sprinkle the filling evenly over the rolled out dough and top. Roll the dough evenly from each side to meet in the centre pinching the end into a heart shape. Slice the roll into six equal-sized pieces. Arrange rolls in a large, greased, round glass pie dish. Any sugar mix that escaped during cutting can be sprinked over the top, it makes a lovely crunchy crust. Cover rolls loosely with plastic wrap, leaving room for rolls to rise, at room temperature, until almost doubled (about one hour). They are now ready to bake, or, at this point you can refrigerate the Cinnamon Rolls overnight or up to 24 hours. Next morning, remove the rolls from the refrigerator, take off the plastic wrap, and let stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

Bake in a 180C oven for 30 minutes or till light brown, and a toothpick inserted into one of the buns, comes out clean. Remove rolls from oven. Cool for 5 minutes and then invert onto a baking rack and re-invert onto a serving plate or platter. You can drizzle with maple syrup and a bit of powdered sugar shaken over the top looks nice. An icing glaze is more traditional on these and most people seem to prefer it.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 6 large rolls and 12 servings.

Baked in a round tin they will keep a heart shape.

This recipe has been adapted from the joy of baking

This recipe has been submitted to English Mums Baked with Love Bake-off http://englishmum.com/english-mums-baked-with-love-bakeoff.html

Monday, 6 February 2012

nigella's quadruple chocolate cake

This is a chocolate cake recipe that I found on Nigella Lawson's very pretty site. While I have most of her books, I hardly ever seem to cook from them anymore, though I don't really know why that is. I suppose I'm just using other books as my reference points at the moment. Tessa Kiros, Hugh Fearnly and more robust recipes that do not need as much exact temperature control for good results. I'm slowly coming to grips with my range cooker where the cooking is more intuitive than an exact science, but 'twas a chocolate cake I was after, so I gave this recipe a whirl.

As far as chocolate cakes are concerned this one is a bit misleading. The four kinds of chocolate don't really make for a very chocolatey cake. There is just 50g of cocoa powder in the sponge, the chocolate chips don't add a lot more at just 175g. One more tablespoon of cocoa in the syrup and some grated dark chocolate over the top brings us up to the four kinds of chocolate that give the cake it's name. What you actually get is a very dense everyday kind of chocolate cake, and because it is so nice and squidgy will keep nicely for a week if not longer.

I have included Nigella's instructions as they appear in their entirety here. When I made it, I served the syrup separately as the sponge was already so sticky that poring the syrup over the cake just seemed wrong. It would also have made it difficult to store it anywhere except the tin I had baked it in. The recipe also requires you to line the tin with foil without tearing it. This was quite frankly, impossible, so with a pile of torn tin foil on the floor I turned to baking parchment which did not tear and worked perfectly.

I also must offer a translation for Nigella's introduction to the cake as some of you may not be able to understand her accent.

Nigella says...
This cake is not named for the bypass you might feel you'd need after eating it, but in honour of the four choc-factors that comprise its glory: cocoa to make the cake; chocolate chips or morsels to fold into it; a chocolate syrup to drench it once out of the oven; flakily sliced dark chocolate to top it before slicing.

I love this for tea, even for weekend breakfast, or late at night when its melting squidginess tends to fall darkly on to my white sheets - and I don't care. It's always wonderful as a pudding: put it on the table, ready to slice, alongside a bowl of strawberries and another of creme fraiche.

Nigella means…
I called this cake quadruple chocolate cake because it's got four bits of chocolate in. I eat it anytime I want, even in bed because I have a cleaner. I like pudding.

For the Cake:
200g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
50g cocoa
275g caster sugar
175g soft unsalted butter
2 eggs
1 tablespoon real vanilla extract
80ml sour cream
125ml boiling water
175g dark chocolate chips (unless you'd prefer milk chocolate ones)

For the Syrup:
1 teaspoon cocoa
125ml water
100g caster sugar
25g dark chocolate (from a thick bar if possible)

Makes 10 generous slices

Take whatever you need out of the fridge so that all ingredients can come to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to gas mark 3/170°C, putting in a baking sheet as you do so, and line a 900g loaf tin (mine measures 21x11cm and 7.5cm deep and the cooking times are based on that) with greased foil - making sure there are no tears - and leave an overhang all round. Or use a silicone tin.

Put the flour, bicarb, cocoa, sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla and sour cream into the processor and blitz until it's a smooth, satiny brown batter. Scrape down with a rubber spatula and process again while pouring the boiling water down the funnel. Switch it off then remove the lid and the well-scraped double-bladed knife and, still using your rubber spatula, stir in the chocolate chips or morsels.

Scrape and pour this beautiful batter into the prepared loaf tin and slide into the oven, cooking for about 1 hour. When it's ready, the loaf will be risen and split down the middle and a cake-tester, or a fine skewer, should come out clean. But this is a moist cake, so don't be alarmed at a bit of stickiness in evidence; rather, greet it like a friend.

Not long before the cake is due out of the oven (when it's had about 45-50 minutes) put the syrup ingredients of cocoa, water and sugar into a small saucepan and boil for 5 minutes. You may find it needs a little longer - what you want is a reduced liquid, that's to say a syrup, though I often take it a little further, so that the sugar caramelizes and the syrup has a really dark, smokey chocolate intensity.

Take the cake out of the oven and sit it on a cooling rack and, still in its tin, pierce here and there with a cake tester. Then pour the syrup as evenly as possible over the surface of the cake. It will run to the sides of the tin, but some will have been absorbed in the middle.

Let the cake become completely cold and then slip out of its tin, removing the foil as you do so. Sit on an oblong or other plate. Now take your bar of chocolate and cut with a heavy sharp knife, so that it splinters and flakes and falls in slices of varying thick- and thinness. I've specified a weight, but judge it by eye - when you think you've got enough to scatter over the top of the loafcake, stop slicing. Sprinkle these chocolate splinters over the top of the sticky surface of the cake.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

bloomin' lovely...

Anyone roaming around the food sites lately must have seen that the big trend for the last week was party foods. The Super Bowl brings with it an absolute feast of wings, sliders, chili, chips and dips. I spend quite some time drooling over them all seeing that our own national sport, Hurling (yes, you read right) has an entirely different image associated with it. Supporters travelling in a hired bus, wearing their county jerseys (Up Tipp!), ham sandwiches wrapped in the local bakery's waxy packaging (Hickeys) and a flask of tea. Not so glamorous, but you can't beat a good ham sandwich.

When making food for a party or crowd, foods that are simple to eat with your hands and fingers are by far the best choices. I have filed away lots of lovely things to try for a larger gathering.  One thing I've come across quite a lot is a cheese-filled loaf of bread to share called either a 'pull apart bread' or a 'blooming onion'. It looked great and I loved the idea of it, but the thought of serving it to a crowd was enough to bring me out in a cold sweat. Well, just the thoughts of people pulling lumps from the loaf and the stringy cheese going everywhere, butter dripping all over the place - no thank you!

Instead I have transformed it into something else… an individual portioned blooming crouton to serve with a bowl of soup. Cutting right back on the butter and cheese of the original, this is like a big flavored crouton dried out in the oven to tear into your soup. So, this is not so much a recipe I suppose, more like a suggestion or a starting point. I would flavor the crouton according to the soup or salad you intend to serve it with. Garlic butter and parmesan with a minestrone might be nice; bacon and spring onion with a pea soup is another I thought of. Sprinkling some poppy or sesame seeds over would add another dimension. Or indeed make the original one and stuff it full to bursting with cheese if you think your nerves could stand it.

Here is how to make a blooming crouton!

One crusty bread roll per person
Some fillings of your choice - I used for two people
2 slices of cheese
2 slices of parma ham
4 cherry tomatoes quartered
Salt and pepper
Olive oil for drizzling
a little bit of butter (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut the bread lengthwise and widthwise without cutting clean through the bottom. Place loaf on a baking sheet. Push your fillings down and between the cuts in the rolls slices  Drizzle the olive oil over the bread, dot with the butter and season with salt and pepper.

Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes until nicely colored and crisped up.

Serve one per person to accompany nice bowl of soup or a lunch time salad - blooming lovely!