17 September 2014

Persian Love Cake



So... I was very lucky to receive a new toy from the lovely people at Russell Hobbs, this little beauty.


I've never had a shiny brand spanking new food processor, having been using a trusty hand me down from Mum* for, well forever, so I was quite excited.  I especially love that there is a little bowl built in for pesto & flavoured oils.  This little baby has been fair humming away on the bench top making pesto, herb oils & several batches of Thai prawn cakes. I will have to share that one, it's just too good not to & a whizz to whizz them up in minutes!

*And she's been trusty....over 20 years old & still going strong! And is going to continue her journey in a very lovely new home.

But first up we had a bake off at work pre a MKR* cook off & that's where this cake comes in, a Persian Love Cake no less, I just couldn't go past it.  It just sounded so exotic & a little loves always a good thing.  There's ground almonds, nutmeg & a scattering of pistachios, their almost bright limey green flecked with pink always adding a hint of the exotic.  This cake was the hands down winner at our cook off, the base a wonderful sweet almost caramelised crunch topped with moist, melt in the mouth cake & pistachios. Even better it was easy peasy to whip it up in my new baby.

* going the most exciting part actually getting my vey own MKR apron with my name on it, spelt correctly even! 


It was more successful than the chicken we cooked at the actual cook off, it may have looked pretty but sadly it was a tad over cooked & a little dry which did not make for a winning entry, nonetheless it was a fun night & just a reminder that I don't really like cooking to timelines as it totally removes the relaxing component! Much more fun just to take one's time.

*My Kitchen Rules for you non antipodeans.

Persian Love Cake

Serves 8-10

*next time, & there will definitely be a next time, I will add some orange zest & possibly just a little orange syrup drizzled over the top.

Ingredients

360g almond meal
220g raw sugar
22g brown sugar
1 tsp salt
120g unsalted butter, softened
2 eggs
250g natural yoghurt
1 tbsp grated nutmeg
½ cup pistachio nuts, roughly chopped


Directions

Pre-heat oven to 180C / 350F . Line the base of a 26cm spring form cake tin with baking paper & lightly grease the size.  Place the almond meal, sugars, butter & salt in the bowl of a food processor & process until you have course breadcrumbs. Spoon half the mixture into the spring form cake tin & gently press to evenly cover base.

Add the egg, yoghurt & nutmeg to the rest of the crumble mixture & process on medium speed to mix well. Increase speed to high & process for 1-2 minutes more until smooth & creamy.


Pour the cake mixture over the base, scatter with pistachios & bake for 40-45 minutes until golden.  If a skewer comes out clean she’s cooked.

Cool completely before taking out of the tin & let it cool completely before slicing.  Serve with a dollop of creamy Greek yoghurt.



For all things Russell Hobbs head here.

Enjoy!

08 September 2014

Fast & Fabulous French Bread




Bread & butter; one of life’s simple pleasures.  Even better if it is home baked. The aroma of fresh bread baking wafting from the oven making you wait, me becoming impatient as it tempts & tantalises.  And then once out the oven more waiting, well if you can , before slicing & slathering with butter. 

Biting in to fresh golden crispy crust giving way to a warm interior, butter melting, maybe even running down chin. So comforting, so toasty & buttery delicious.  Nothing else needed; perfect just as it is.


“Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.” 
James Beard


This one from Jamie over at Life’s a Feast via Milk & Honey via Eat Cake for Dinner... a recipe passed on spreading a little joy; a little pay it forward with deliciousness. I love all sorts of bread & more often than not it’s brown & full of grains but the pinnacle of bread for me is white bread.  There’s just nothing quite like it & so this fabulous & fast white bread caught my eye & had to be baked.  It will keep for a few days & makes for good toast & then a few days old & it satisfied my craving for eggy bread top with thyme fried mushrooms & on the sided a crispy bacon & balsamic & thyme roasted tomatoes.



The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight...

[Breadmaking is] one of those almost hypnotic businesses, like a dance from some ancient ceremony. It leaves you filled with one of the world's sweetest smells... there is no chiropractic treatment, no Yoga exercise, no hour of
meditation in a music-throbbing chapel. that will leave you emptier of bad thoughts than this homely ceremony of making bread.” 
M.F.K. Fisher, The Art of Eating: 50th Anniversary Edition


Fast & Fabulous French Bread

*I used half white spelt flour & half “00” flour & made 2 loaves instead of 3

Makes 2 loaves

Ingredients

1 cup boiling water
1 cup cold water
1/3 cup warm water
1 tbsp dry yeast
1 1/2 tbsp caster sugar
1 tbsp salt
15g unsalted butter
2-3 cups "00" flour
2-3 cups white spelt flour
1 egg, beaten


Directions

Preheat the oven to 80C / 175F 

*Yes, that's 80C not 180C. The low starting temperature lets the bread have a little rising time before turning it up.

Spray a large baking tray with cooking oil & set aside.

Pour the 1/3 cup of warm water into a small bowl & sprinkle over the yeast, whisk a little & set it aside for 5 minutes. Place the sugar, salt & butter in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Pour over the boiling water & mix until the butter has melted.  Add the cold water, mix, add the yeast mixture & mix again until all combined.

Add half the flour & mix on low speed. Next add enough of the remaining flour until a soft dough forms (I used 5 & a half cups). Keep the mixer on low & mix for 8 minutes. Stop the mixer & leave the dough to rest for 5 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto the prepared baking tray & divide it into 2 equal portions & allow it to rest for another 5 minutes.

Using your fingertips, spread each portion of dough out to a rectangle. Roll them up like a Swiss roll length ways & then fold the two ends in toward each other. Turn them over so that they are seam-side down. You can tuck the edges in to create smooth tops & sides if you like, or you can leave & go rustic.


Spray a sharp knife with cooking oil & make three diagonal slashes into the tops of each loaf. Brush with the beaten egg & bake at the low heat for 15 minutes before turning up the temperature to 200C/390F & bake for a further 15 - 20 minutes. Turn the oven temperature down to 180C/350F & bake for a final 10 minutes. The bread should be golden & sound hollow if you tap it,

Transfer the loaves to a wire rack to cool for as long as you can resist before slicing & spreading generously with butter.




Enjoy!

31 August 2014

Ale & Marmalade Lamb Shanks


One last comfort dish before we hit Spring....tomorrow! It’s not that it’s been a bad Winter & I even missed a whole month of it enjoying long lazy Summer days in mother country it’s just that I get so excited for Spring. Longer, warmer days, sunshine & asparagus, though yet to spy some of those delectable green spears. However, they can’t be too far away.

“Is the spring coming?" he said. "What is it like?"...
"It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine...” 
Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden


It actually felt like it had come early last weekend, but that was just a tease  as rain & wind has returned to remind us to be patient, that mother nature won't be rushed.


One of life’s comfort foods is lamb shanks, for me preferably atop a mound of fluffy buttery mashed potato. They should be tender, falling off the bone & melt in the mouth.  These ones comes with a rich sticky sauce with a hint of marmalade giving them a little sweetness alongside a little tart. A drizzle of bright fresh mint oil, a scattering of fresh mint leaves & a sprinkle of spring onions cut through the tender meat & treacly sauce to make this dish pop.


Ale & Marmalade Lamb Shanks, adapted from Jamie’s Guinness Lamb Shanks

Ingredients

2 red onions, peeled & finely chopped
Olive oil 
Salt 
1 handfuls raisins 
3 tbsp Seville orange marmalade 
2 tbsp tomato ketchup 
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce, plus extra for serving 
Good pinch chilli flakes
500ml dark ale...I used Harrington’s Pig & Whistle, a mild dark ale
4 quality lamb shanks, roughly 350g each 
4 sprigs fresh rosemary 
1 ltr chicken stock 
1 small bunch fresh mint leaves 
A few tbsp olive oil 
2 spring onions, trimmed & thinly sliced
Cider vinegar


Directions

Place the onions in a large heavy based saucepan or casserole dish with a few tablespoons of olive oil & a pinch of salt. Cook over a medium heat, stirring every now & then, until the onions caramelise.  Add the raisins, marmalade, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, chilli flakes & ale & give everything a good stir. Turn down the heat & let it simmer



Meanwhile heat a few more tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan & add the lamb shanks.  Don’t over crowd the pan & cook in batches if you need to.  Turn them every few moments to brown them all over.  Once coloured add the rosemary leaves & let them brown & get crispy but not burn.


Add the lamb shanks & rosemary to the saucepan with the sauce.  Add the stock, put the lid on, turn down the heat & leave them be for 2-3 hours* until the meat is falling off the bone.  Turn the shanks around ever hour or so to ensure they cook evenly.

*Cooking time will depend on the size of the lamb shanks, you’ll see them start to come away from the bone when ready.

When done, carefully & gently remove the lamb shanks & move them to a platter, keeping them intact.  With a hand blender blend the sauce until smooth. If need be let it cook a little longer to reduce & thicken.



Place most of the mint leaves in a pestle & mortar with a good pinch of salt & the olive oil & give it a good smashing until you have a vibrant green oil.  Spoon the sauce over the lamb shanks.  Drizzle the oil around the lamb, scatter over the remaining mint leaves & spring onions.  To finish drizzle over a little cider vinegar & serve with a pile of mash potatoes.




Enjoy!

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