Thursday, 27 March 2008

Choux buns with raspberries and cream

So today I decided to attempt something that I've wanted to for a while but, I was kind of scared of thinking it would be way too complicated.
Today I made Choux pastry and it was amazingly easy, I am really pleased to have finally taught myself this kind of pastry work as their is so much I can make now. Eclairs, Profiteroles and ...Choux buns with raspberries and cream!! That is what I made today, with some bargain raspberries from Leicester market, I thought after an overdose of chocolate from Easter a light fruit dessert would be nice.
Choux pastry is a very light pastry quite unlike any other. It is made by boiling water and butter together in a saucepan then beating in flour and, when its cooled eggs. The high water content of the dough is what causes it to rise as there is a lot of steam created inside the dough when it is cooked. The pastry is usually baked but can be fried and in Austria is sometimes boiled to make Marillenknödel a kind of sweet dumpling.
I made my pastry into make buns using a homemade piping bag made from a freezer bag with the corner cut off (good tip) to pipe buns onto a lined baking sheet (they expand a lot so it is important to space them well to avoid them touching). They were baked for half an hour and came out perfect! It is important with choux pastry to put them on a cooling rack immediately after they are cooked and to pierce them to let the steam out, otherwise you end up with soggy buns!
My choice of filling was very simple... Lightly whipped cream and raspberries folded together. I added a couple of teaspoons of sugar with the cream to offset the sharpness of the raspberries and spooned to mixture into the centre of the buns which had been split open, a light dusting of icing sugar finishes them off nicely.I think these look really professional and are far nicer than anything from the supermarket, the fillings could easily be changed, the only limit is your imagination, savoury fillings would also be good and the pastry has a multitude of other uses, you could fry it for beignets make crullers or it can be used for gougères which I intend to try soon.

Their is a recipe for Choux pastry here: Recipe

Monday, 24 March 2008

Simnel cake

As it's Easter I decided to make a traditional Simnel cake.

A Simnel cake is a light fruit cake which has a layer of marzipan in the centre and also on the top, the top is also decorated with eleven balls of marzipan around the edge which symbolise the true Apostles of Jesus. Judas is omitted. This cake is traditionally made at Easter time in Britain and Ireland, although it is not really that common any more which I think is a shame.
Originally the cake was made by girls to bring home to their Mothers on Mother's Day. The name Simnel is thought to be derived from the word Simila, which is the fine wheat flour from which they are made.
Their are several different versions of the cake but the most common and the version I have made is the Shrewsbury cake, some other versions use a raising agent or leave the marzipan out from the centre. I have also seen some which add chunks of marzipan mixed into the batter.
We ate ours after a fantastic Easter lunch of roast Lamb and I was very pleased with the result. I used a recipe from the BBC website although I made a few changes. I used a lot of dried apricot as well as the raisins and currants, just because I like the flavour, this made for a much lighter colour than usual. I also soaked the fruit in boiling water for a few minutes first which helped make the cake really moist and delicious.
I would certainly recommend this recipe, it is a lot simpler than it looks, and tastes really good, a lot lighter than Christmas cake and really fruity.

Recipe can be found here: Simnel Cake

Friday, 14 March 2008

Dark chocolate truffles

I have just finished reading The Great Chocolate Book by David Lebovitz, the book lives up to it's title, it is a great book and it's by one of my favourite Bloggers too.
The book tells you everything you could ever want to know about chocolate, from how it's made to where to buy the best. There's even a section on the health benefits if you want an excuse to eat more! Included in the book are 30 recipes which are all very tempting. I am looking forward to making the Black bottom cupcakes very soon.

This time I chose truffles, and it was a very good decision! They're a doddle to make but look professional. I added a generous slug of whisky to mine and coated them in Lindt 85% for a serious cocoa hit, they were than rolled in cocoa powder.

The result? seriously good truffles, especially if you like chocolate dark. you could change the recipe to milk or even white chocolate for a milder flavour. The whisky could be replaced by any number of things, I'm thinking orange zest. I might try rolling them in chopped nuts as well for a different finish and texture. Now I'm off to eat a truffle...

(adapted from The Great Chocolate Book by David Lebovitz)

150g of good dark chocolate, broken into small pieces
150ml Double/Heavy cream
A good slug of whisky or your favourite liquor
About 120g chocolate for coating
Cocoa powder on a plate or in a bowl.


  1. Heat the cream in a pan until just beginning to bubble.
  2. Pour the cream over the broken chocolate, add the Whisky and whisk until it is a smooth, thick liquid.
  3. Leave to set, it must be firm.
  4. Use a melon baller or spoon to scoop balls of the mixture. chill well in the fridge.
  5. Roll the truffle mixture between your hands to form balls, work quickly or they will melt, and you'll be in a mess!
  6. melt the chocolate for coating, and one at a time drop the truffles into it to coat, remove the and quickly drop them into the cocoa powder roll and set aside to cool.
  7. Place in paper cases or a nice box, or just eat them!

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Thyme, oregano and citrus-roasted chicken

Another chicken recipe for you and it's another from Diana Henry as well! After the amazing success of the Roast Chicken With Picada recipe I splurged and bought the book, Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons. The book is a collection of recipes from the middle East, North Africa and the Mediterranean, such as Khoresh, a stew from Persia that uses oranges and fruit to flavour it, or how about the unusual but delicious sounding stuffed figs with chocolate.
There are some fantastic pictures in there as well as brilliant ideas, I can't wait to try the orange cake made with whole pureed oranges.
What caught my eye when I first opened the book though was Thyme, oregano and citrus-roasted poussins.The stunning colours in the picture made it jump out and I just had to try it. The recipe is simple to follow and is a bit different to how I normally cook, it does call for Poussins but i used chicken legs it it came out great.
The chicken is marinated in a mixture of orange and lime zest, as well as the juice of four oranges and the lime, mixed with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, oregano and thyme. it is then roasted surround by wedges of fresh orange.
When it is cooked it looks absolutely fantastic, it is so bright and cheery, great to serve to guests but easy enough for a weekday dinner.
I served it to my family and it was declared absolutely amazing! it doesn't get much better than that.
The recipe:
A really easy, gloriously aromatic dish that looks stunning.

For the marinade

  • the rind of 1 orange and 1 lime
  • the juice of 4 oranges and 1 lime
  • 6 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 125ml (4fl oz) olive oil
  • 6 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • the leaves from 6 sprigs thyme
  • 3 tbsp dried Greek oregano
  • 4 poussins
  • 4 oranges, skin left on, cut into large wedges
  • a small bunch flat-leaf parsley
  • Mix all the marinade ingredients together, seasoning with salt and pepper. Put the poussins breast-down into the marinade, cover and refrigerate for a couple of hours or overnight. Move the birds around every so often so that all sides get a chance to soak in the marinade.

    Take the poussins out of the marinade and put them into a roasting tin with the oranges. Drizzle a little extra oil over the oranges and season them. Roast in an oven preheated to 180°C/ 350°F/gas mark 4 for 50 minutes, spooning the marinade over everything as it cooks.

    When the poussins are cooked, drain off the pan juices, skim off the fat and slightly reduce the juices in a saucepan by boiling for a few minutes until you have something with the consistency of light gravy.

    Serve the poussins surrounded by the orange wedges and parsley leaves, with the juices on the side.

    The Foodie Blogroll

    Good news! I have been listed on The Foodie BlogRoll, this brilliant site is the idea of Jenn of The Leftover Queen.
    It is a list of over 1000 foodie Blogs from all over the world, if you like food then there are some brilliant Blogs listed here. Take a look and see what you find, you can also register your own Blog and join us!

    Monday, 3 March 2008

    Catalan chicken with picada

    This is an amazing chicken dish which you really should try. The recipe came from Diana Henry on Market Kitchen which is a daily program on UKTVFood.
    This recipe in it's simplest form is just a chicken stew but it has a twist and that is the "Picada". A Picada is a Catalan method of thickening stews and soups by using ground bread, nuts and sometimes biscuits. Herbs and garlic can also be added, this is then mixed with olive oil and a little wine to form a not very appetising (think gruel) but fantastic tasting paste. when added to soups or stews it thickens them as well as adding wonderful flavour and texture.
    This is a revelation to me and one that I will definitely be experimenting with, I'm thinking lamb tagine...
    Diana Henry's Picada recipe
    • 1 sweet biscuit, (such as Rich Tea)
    • 25g country bread
    • 25g pine nuts
    • 75ml dry white wine
    • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
    For the picada: grind the biscuit, bread and pine nuts in a mortar and pestle, or in a food processor, gradually adding the white wine and olive oil until well combined.

    I really urge you to try this it is amazing and is very adaptable, change the ingredients to suit whatever you're cooking.

    The following picture is the chicken I made based on the Market Kitchen recipe (link at the bottom of the page). It is a beautiful tomato based dish with onions garlic and thyme. But what makes it special and gives it a Catalan feel is the addition of pine nuts and raisins, not forgetting the Picada...
    I served mine with roast squash and fresh Ciabatta.
    The recipe can be found here: Catalan chicken with Picada