Monday, 29 March 2010

Losing an hour, but gaining the taste of Spring

The past winter has felt as if its last forever. Not that I'm complaining I love all comfort food that winter brings, pies, stews and not to mention root vegetables, kale and Jerusalem artichokes. But in recent weeks the thought of more trouser expanding food has left me feeling somewhat in despair. I have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of purple sprouting broccoli, wild garlic, leeks and of course new season lamb.

The latest secret Sunday Roast was planned for the day after the clocks went forward for British summertime, the perfect opportunity for cooking the start of the new season's produce. A menu of Celeriac and leek soup with chilli confit (Slightly adapted from a Mr Fearnly Whittingstall recipe) , Roast shoulder of lamb and braised lentils along with Bakewell tart for desert was put together for a gentle transition into spring for the secret supper diners. After a quick trip to the local Farmers Market and the veg shop , it was obvious that most of the ingredients that i want to use in the Braised lentils weren't available due to the heavy frosts and the amount of snow we've had over recent weeks in Britain. So no wild garlic and no purple sprouting broccoli to serve on the side this time, I guess we'll all have to wait another week or two.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

When all else fails, there is always cake.....

I have spent the last week not cooking, having become some what dispirited and the enthusiasm which has me thinking about what to cook every minute of the day has disappeared in to thin air. Obviously this poses some what of a major problem when you have twenty random people coming for dinner in your flat every two weeks.
The dispirited mood was also not helped by cooking a mediocre Ox Tail ragu on Saturday night, after which I had to take myself off to bed for a long sleep in a fit of self inflicted rage.
I woke up on Sunday morning bright and early, with the spring Sun streaming in through my bedroom window. Inspired, I made a cup of Yorkshire Tea, switched on Radio 4 and started to make a cake. The combination of Spring Sunshine and a easy Sunday morning had brought back the cooking motivation. After a quick scout around in the cupboards and pantry there was only one cake option and was perfect for a sunny Spring day, everyone's favorite - Lemon Drizzle Cake.

So with Desert Island Disc's and a massive cup of tea for company I got started.

Lemon Drizzle Cake

175g Softened unsalted butter
175g Golden Caster Sugar
Zest of 3 lemons finely grated
3 eggs
175g self raising flour
pinch of Maldon Sea Salt
Drop of milk if needed
200g Icing sugar
Juice of 3 lemons

Grease a large loaf tin and line with greaseproof paper, and pre heat the oven to gas mark 3 or 170 c. Put 175g of softened unsalted butter and 175g of caster sugar in a bowl and then beat you can do it with a wooden spoon but cheat and use a hand held whisk like me. Beat together for five minutes and a bit more. My Grandad always use to say that even when you thought you had beaten butter and sugar together to start the cake mixture you should always cream it for a few more minutes as it always makes your cakes lighter.
Then add the zest of 3 lemons and then beat in 3 eggs. Always add 1 beaten egg at a time with a spoonful of flour so that it doesn't curdle. One you have done this sift the rest if the flour and pinch of salt and then fold it in with a metal spoon. If the cake mixture doesn't drop off the spoon easily just add a drop of milk to get it to the "falling off the spoon " consistency.
Spoon the cake mixture in to the loaf tin and smooth out and bake in the pre heated oven for around 45- 50 minutes, until a skewer inserted in to the centre of the cake comes out clean.
Put 200g of icing sugar and the lemon juice and stir/whisk together until smooth. with a skewer makes loads of holes all over the top of the cake, making sure that you don't poke through to the bottom of the cake. Then spoon the the lemon icing over the cake making sure that it soaks through the cake. Leave in the tin until cool and then turn out.
Make a cup of tea, sit down and have a slice of lemon drizzle cake, does what it says in the tin, Cheers you up, makes a mediocre day into a good day and restores the enthusiasm for cooking once again.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Pesto Gnocchi

Having had a tough week at the day job - I actually managed to leave work on Thursday evening on time and discovered to my delight that it was still actually daylight. Quickening the pace to get home in good time I passed one of the many many Turkish supermarkets on the way home and spied some really fresh Basil. I quickly picked up two bunches of the green stuff up, paid and carried on power walking home in anticipation of closing the door behind me and spending some quality time in my kitchen - alone !

In my opinion there is only one thing that you can do with the freshest basil and that is to make Pesto. It might be basic, simple and really quick to make but it in my opinion its one of the best tastes in the world. Having decided that pesto was the only option the next conundrum was what to have with it. After looking in the pantry and cupboards to see what was in, I very quickly decided against pasta and went for making the fluffy clouds of potato joy - Gnocchi.

Pesto Gnocchi

Couple of floury potatoes
1 large egg, beaten
250g flour, plus extra for dusting
100g butter

Couple of bunches of Basil
Handful of pine nuts
Couple of cloves of garlic
Juice of half a lemon
Extra Virgin Oil
Finely grated Parmesan
Maldon Salt and cracked black pepper
Sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
Buffalo mozzarella, if feeling decedent after payday

Making Pesto always surprises me, purely because it takes no time at all to make and is so easy to make. Fist pick all the leaves of the bunches of the Basil into a food processor. then gently dry fry your pine nuts in a frying pan for a few moments until they change to a golden brown color. Once the pine nuts have changed color drop them in to the food processor as well. Add the couple of crushed cloves of garlic, Salt, pepper and the juice of half a lemon and start blitzing, once the food processor is blitzing, slowly pour in the olive oil so that it gently mixes together with the other ingredients. After a few minutes the ingredients will have combined - season to taste if it needs it.

Boil the unpeeled potatoes in a large pan of water until tender. Drain and, when cool enough to handle, remove the potato skins.Put through a potato Ricer or Mash if you haven't got one
Add the beaten egg, plenty of salt and pepper and the flour and mix to form a dough. Then turn out on to a floured surface and knead for a few minutes.
Put a pan of salted water on to boil. Cut the dough into smaller bits and roll out each piece to 2cm 'sausages'. Cut the rolled 'sausages' at inch and a half or 2cm intervals and cook the gnocchi in the boiling water, its best done in batches, for 3-4 minutes, until the potato dumplings have risen to the surface. Then remove with a slotted spoon Refresh in cold water and drain well - I place mine on kitchen towel to drain fully.

Chop a few sun dried tomatoes and throw them in to the pan with the gnocchi, I also add a handful of rocket leaves in for good measure. If I'm feeling decedent after pay day I tear some Buffalo mozzarella in too. Then stir in a couple of spoons of the pesto making sure that all the gnocchi is covered and serve with plenty of grated Parmesan, and cracked black pepper.

Some what easy and simple but a plate of great flavors and comfort for a Thursday evening supper for one.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Biting the bullet ......

and starting a blog about the trials and tribulations of cooking and eating in my council flat kitchen. Just now got to think of things to post here in the near future that's all