Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Rhubard and Lemon Soufle

This is based on a recipe from St John's college Cambridge. The chef, Bill Brogan, delights in finding unusual and old recipies. I took his origional and modified it to work with one of my favourite ingredients Rhubard. It is a really delightful dish, best served hot before it deflates. Its a snap to cook, I prep this in about 15 minutes.

  1. Chop the Rhubard, then poach in a little water and the Brown Sugar. once boiling it only needs a couple minutes. You want the Rhubard tenderised, but still in seperate pieces, not gone to mush.
  2. By Warm water, it means just above hand hot. Just uncomfortable to touch, but not so it burns you. Mix the Caster Sugar, Lemon Juice and Zest, and the butter into the water. Whisk it until the butter has melted. It may form small globules on the top, this is OK.
  3. Lightly beat the egg yolks, then also whisk into the previous mixture. Whisk until its all incorporated, but don't froth it too much.
  4. Whisk the egg yolks until they are stiff. Fold the yolk, butter and sugar mixture into the stiff egg whites. Do it gently to mix all ingredients, but lightly to ensure the resulting mix stays light and airy.
  5. Butter six to 10 ramekins, depending on size. Spoon some of the Rhubarb pieces into the bottom of each (just the Rhubard, don't put in much liquid), then spoon the egg mixture on top.
  6. Prepare a bain marie. This is a roasting tin filled with a couple centemeters of warm water. Put the bain marie into a 150C degree oven, then place the ramekins into the water. Bake for about an hour and serve hot.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Get me out of here


I am departing from blogger for sites unseen. First step, the cooking blog. The new site is still only half finished, but it'll do for a test. New recipes to be posted shortly.

So Go Here

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Rhubarb Crumble

It is that time of year, and at the weekend I made the first batch. This is, quite possibly, my favourite pudding. Especially if served with a really good vanilla ice cream (I do make a rather good Rhubard ice cream, but that's another story).

There is a Boy's Family legend that when a babe one of the first real foods me mum put in my mouth was Rhubarb. I appearently scrunched up my face, shivered, then grinned widely and opened my mouth for more. Me mum is quite proud of this story and has told pretty well any one who knows me about it, certainly every girl friend who's been taken home has heard it. Go figure. Any how, I love the stuff, the beautiful colour, the tart tart flavour that makes your mouth contract. Love it, just love it.

So, when the first Rhubard of the season grows tall enough out in the garden this boy is a happy boy. We have a grand mound of Rhubard. It was inherited from LL's family home and is of an uncertain providence, but likely is some hundreds of years old. All I know is it grows quite fine Rhubard in perfect quanitities until the early summer.

The following recipe is by no means scientific, but has been developed with great relish, hard work and sweat (none in the dish of course). The ingredients list is rather vague, but I'll try to explain.

  1. Put the butter in a big bowl.
  2. Dust with some flour, then with a knife begin cutting up the butter. As the flour integrates with the butter, add more. Keep cutting and adding flour until you've got peable sized chunks.
  3. Time to get your hands dirty. Rub the flour and butter together, adding more flour as needed, until it gets to the consistency of light yellow bread crumbs. This is a hard step to describe, and took a fair bit of work until I got the look and feel right. The type of butter and flour you use entirely dictates how much flour you will add, I just keep adding it until the consistency gets right. It should feel like soft grains of sand between your fingers.
  4. Add a handfull of Oats, then a handfull of Sugar and mix up.
  5. This is an optional step, depending on how moist you like the filling. I have experimented with cooking the Rhubard first in a pan. This gets out a lot of the moisture. I pour off the liquid and reserve it for Ice Cream and other things, just leaving a thicker consistency of Rhubard mush.
  6. Put the cut Rhubard into a caserole disk, sprinkle with a bit of sugar (depending on your taste. We leave ours only very lightly sugared as we all like it tart)
  7. Pour on the crumble topping. I like about an inch of topping on mine.
  8. Bake in a pre heated oven at about 180 for at least 40 minutes. The topping should just be starting to turn brown. Don't overcook otherwise the filling may bubble up around the edges.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Easter Feasts

Had fun on Sunday, went a few extra yards to do a bang up meal. Menu below, with cooking notes further on

Starter Smoked Pacific Chum Salmon on Freshly Baked Oatmeal Bread

Main Roast Lamb & Gravy
Baked Potatoes with Greek Yogurt
Roast Carots & Parsnips
Asparagus with Lemon Butter and Parmesan
Steamed Green Beans

Pudding Rhubard & Ginger Upside Cake with Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream

Even the kids where waddling around after this one.

  1. Smoked Salmon - I'm not adverse to farmed Atlantic Salmon, and there's some organic varieties which are interesting and not quite as environmentally harmful, but I grew up on the West Coast of Canada, and wild Pacific Salmon has a much stronger fuller flavour
  2. Oatmeal Bread - A simple recipe that's very morish. 200g Strong White Flour, 200g Wholemeal Flour, 100g Rolled Oats, 1 tbsp Butter, 1 tbsp soft brown sugar, 1 1/2 tsp salt, 2 tsp dried yeast
  3. Roast Lamb - The uneducated will say the Rosemary & Garlic are "Mediterainian Spices". Both have been present and used in English cuisine for as long as recipes have been recorded here. For lamb there is nothing better than creating a paste of a bunch of chopped Rosemary, Crushed Garlic (I prefer a smoked garlic), A bit of Lemon Juice and a touch of good Olive Oil. Smear it across the lamb before roasting and make sure you baste regularly. To get the best gravy, put a good dose of water (or wine) into the roasting tin first, and chop up a onion and drop it in the liquid. The onion will desolve during the roasting to make an even richer gravy. Keep toping up the liquid until about half way through the roasting.
  4. Baked Potatoes - Make sure you coat the potatoes with just a bit of Olive Oil and salt before baking. I always serve with Greek Yogurt instead of Sour Cream.
  5. Roast Carrots and Parnsips - Roast them whole or if the parsnips are particularly large, just cut in half. I always keep a jar of goose fat handy, its the best for roasting veg. Roast up right near the grill to get the veg properly caramalised.
  6. Asparagas - Lemon Butter is a snip to make, much easier than a full Holandaise. Melt the butter and then slowly drip in lemon juice as you whisk it. Lovely.
  7. Rhubarb Upside Down Cake - Ask if you want the recipe, its lovely. Used the first of this year's rhubarb so it was perfectly young and tender. Perhaps my favourite pudding fruit.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Red Wine and Sage Bread

So, in an attempt to avoid lying, I’m going to try to describe the process. For the sake of the scientific I’ve started with a list of ingredients, but need to put in fair warning. I cook with my touch, look and taste. Though its necessary to have measuring implements about, I get the result by feel as much as anything. This is a necessary thing, as not all ingredients are alike. An egg comes in sizes from tiny to mammoth, different flours need different amounts of water to achieve the same result. You must learn to get into the experience, use your emotion and touch as much as your intelligence. Not unlike sex then.

The ingredients for one loaf:

500g Strong White Flour, alternatively 400g White, 100g Wholemeal
150ml Water
200ml Red Wine
2-4 table spoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 tea spoons salt
1 ½ tea spoons dried yeast
20-30 fresh Sage leaves or 2 table spoons dried Sage

For variations use White Wine instead of Red, throw in a couple crushed garlic cloves or ground black pepper, or replace the Sage with your favourite herb.

Simple no?

Now, on to the tough bit.

  1. Dried yeast works best when given adequate time to activate and form a strong culture. Recipe books always start with “100 ml of tepid water”. What the hell is that? Remember, with yeast, warm is good, cold is bad. So, take 50ml of freshly boiled water and add 50ml of cold water. I use filtered water as yeast tends not to like fluoride or chlorine, but if all you have is bottled Spring Water that has neither of the above the minerals can add some interesting overtones to the flavour of the bread. Sprinkle your yeast on top of your warm water and leave to sit for 5-10 minutes. Its perfect when the yeast “pops” and forms a layer of foamy scum on top. It should smell good and yeasty.
  2. Separately, measure out your flour. The recipe books recommend warming the flour in the oven at 50 degrees first, but I find that makes no difference so long as the flour is room temperature (I have a friend who keeps hers in the fridge to avoid bugs). I like mixing a small bit of Wholemeal into the mix. At a proportion of 1:4 the overriding white flour keeps the bread light, but just a bit of wholemeal adds some texture and a bit of nuttiness to the final load. Add in the salt and mix it up. Again, recipe books say you should sift the flour, but that’s really unnecessary with modern flours so long as you’ve kept it in a dry place.
  3. When the yeast is activated, mix it up until the scum is gone from the top. Make a small dent in your flour and pour the yeast mixture in. Just lightly mix in a bit of flour until you’ve got a loose batter in the centre. Cover and leave it in a warmish place for 20 minutes. This is known as “sponging” in the recipe books, and is done to give the yeast a good start. When kneading in the next step you loose any airiness created, but that isn’t the point. Its all about letting the yeast grow nice and strong.
  4. Add the wine, oil and Sage. I really do prefer fresh Sage, roughly chopped. If you even have room for a couple pots outside, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme are pretty robust plants, not even needing a huge amount of water. All are old English Herbs, been in use for as long as recipes on this Isle have been recorded. Now, about the amount of water & wine to add. This is one of those points that just takes some trying out as how much you should add depends on the flour you’re using. Add the wine first, then slowly add in water as you mix the dough. Keep adding it until you get a firm ball, too little and its still flacky, too much and the mix becomes liquid (which is what you want for a Focassia, but not this bread). You can add more as you kneed it if its too firm, but better to be slightly dry than slightly wet, otherwise your loaf won’t hold its shape.
  5. Now its time to kneed. Personally I let a mixer with a dough hook do the job. My father in law preferred to bash the bread manually as a stress reduction exercise, but that’s too much like hard work. The recipe books say to kneed for ten minutes. It might be less, it might be more. What you’re looking for is the dough in a smooth, almost silky consistent texture. I love it when its like this, and always play with the dough a little when its to this stage, its such a sensual feel.
  6. Right, drop the dough ball in a clean oiled bowl (glass is best, both plastic and metal bowls can taint the taste of the dough). Cover it with a clean tea towel (all recipe books I’ve read specifically require a tea towel, go figure) and leave it. Now, here some more hints learned the hard way. The yeast likes it warm and moist. If your room is cold, or too dry, use the oven, otherwise just leave it out. If you can leave it in warm sunlight all the better (maybe just wet the covering cloth a bit to ensure the dough doesn’t form a dry crust). If you do use the oven, don’t get it too warm, just 50 degrees or less, and spray the inside walls with water to keep it humid.
  7. The longer you leave it to rise, the better (up to about 4 hours), just make sure you knock it back once or twice. I always enjoy this, just punch it in the middle until it deflates, though make sure your hand or the utensil you use is clean (I once destroyed a load because my hand still had wet soap on it, it did something to the yeast and it all went flat). You’re looking for the dough to roughly double in size. The knocking back is important, but not the end of the world if you miss it. If the dough over rises, it will flop in the oven is all, but you have one last chance to correct it.
  8. Now its time to shape the dough, another favourite step. Most of the recipe books warn you to be very gentle when you’re doing it. Only through experience did I learn that you don’t *really* have to be gentle, just don’t go so far that you’re kneeding it again. Because this dough has lots of Olive Oil in it, I’ve found it better to oil my hands that dust them with flower. Do though sprinkle some flour on your work surface to avoid things getting sticky. I’m just going to describe two methods of shaping, there are literally hundreds. The importance of shaping is to get an even consistency of air within the dough. In the bowl, it will have been very mixed up, with some parts very active, some not at all.
    So, if you want a round loaf you “chafe” the bread, which is to gently turn the risen ball of dough tucking in the lower edge as you go. Turn the dough around fully three or four times. What this does is pull the top of the dough out, and pushes it in at the bottom. If done right it essentially pulls the dough around in on itself to even things out.
    If you want a long loaf gently pull the dough out into a rough rectangle. Pull one long edge over on itself in one third to the middle, then do the same with the other edge over on top of it. Do the same from the side, but don’t layer them on top of each other, have the edges meet in the middle. Then turn the loaf over onto your baking tray and ta da, a perfect long loaf with nice even edges.
  9. Now, one last waiting time. Give the loaf ideally a half hour to “prove” itself and rise one final time. Don’t do any longer than a half hour, or it will over rise. Also, don’t worry if you don’t have time for this, the dough will rise one final time quite actively in the oven as it bakes. Before it goes in the oven use the sharpest (and you need very sharp indeed to cut dough) knife you have to slice the top of the loaf. Either one long cut down the centre for a long loaf, or an ‘X’ on a round loaf. Be creative if you want to, it doesn’t hurt the dough. What it does do is give the dough a chance to continue rising as it bakes given the outer surface will start to form a hard crust. Its not the end of the world if you don’t, the bread will still taste perfect, but might look a bit messy if the crust cracks as the inside still expands.
  10. Have your oven warm and ready, I use about 200 degrees C. Again, spray the inside walls of the oven with water. Its still important to keep it moist. The water will react with the baking crust to help it firm up and slightly caramelise the starches improving the flavour.
  11. The one things the recipe books differ on is how long to bake. At 200 degrees I bake for somewhere between 30 and 45 minutes. Frankly, the longer the better so long as you don’t burn the crust. You can always use butter to moisten up the inside when you cut it, if its too dry. Baking it for too short a time leaves a too moist interior, which gets sticky and isn’t as nice to eat. The rule of thumb for testing is to turn the loaf over and knock the bottom. If you get a hollow sound its likely done. I usually get it to this point, then give it another five minutes to be sure.
  12. Once done rest the bread on a raised metal grill outside the oven so the steam can escape from all sides. This is an important step, as getting the steam out just helps the consistency. If you don’t, and cut right away, the middle of the bread can still be a bit sticky. Sometimes I let it rest a few minutes, then pop it back in the oven for no more than a minute or two to firm the crust up again, as it can soften as it rests.
  13. Cut, eat and enjoy. This is a very flavoursome loaf, so is nice just on its own with butter, or with a good strong cheese like a gorgonzola or ripe brie. Its particularly nice with a Smokey Ham and a little relish (I do a nice green bean chutney that’s fantastic with ham, but that’s another story).

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