Thursday, 30 July 2009

Roasted peaches with vanilla mascarpone

A good peach is a thing of beauty, sweet smelling, fragrant and juicy, and they're at their best right now. The peach season is short so if you haven't been devouring them with reckless abandon like I have may I suggest you pick up a punnet next time you go shopping, before it's too late.

Some of my favourite ways to use peaches -besides eating them raw- are to add them to cakes, crumbles and pies. These are all delicious and fantastic ways to use this wonderful fruit but my favourite is perhaps the easiest of all, I like to roast halved peaches with butter, brown sugar and a little cinnamon.The peaches come out of the oven golden and caramelised, the juices run and form a delicious syrup which can be spooned over the top, like everything that's roasted the flavour is intensified and becomes intensely sweet and peachy. I served mine with vanilla mascarpone for a bit of luxury, you could of course use cream, ice cream or nothing at all.

How to make roasted peaches with vanilla mascarpone

There isn't really a recipe for this but here is the rough method:

You will need:
  • 1 peach (or nectarine) per person
  • Brown sugar
  • Cinnamon (optional but it works really well)
  • Chopped almonds (again optional but really good with this)
For the mascarpone
  • 125g Mascarpone
  • Icing sugar
  • Vanilla extract
  • First halve your peaches and remove the stones.
  • Put the peaches in an oven-proof tray and put a dab of butter in each of the hollows that the stone came from.
  • Mix some brown sugar and cinnamon together, about one teaspoon of sugar per peach half and as much cinnamon as you like.
  • sprinkle the sugar over the peaches, followed by the chopped almonds.
  • Bake the peaches in a medium oven basting every now and again. The cooking time depends on how ripe your peaches are, mine were still a bit hard and took one hour.
  • To make the mascarpone simply mix the mascarpone, sugar and vanilla together.
serve with the peaches with the mascarpone and pour any juices from the roasted pan over the top.Bulleted List

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Tomato and basil bread

For me fresh bread still warm from the oven slathered with melting butter is one of the greatest culinary joys there is, it's just one of the reasons why I've almost entirely stopped buying bread from the supermarket. Not only does fresh homemade bread taste amazing but it's also cheaper to make and much better for you than most supermarket breads.

Normally I just make plain white or wholemeal loaves, all purpose bread that's as good with Nutella as it is with a big wedge of cheddar. Every now and then though I like to be a bit more creative by adding different flavours to my bread or making it using new methods and techniques to make it. A few weeks ago I came up with an idea for making tomato bread, instead of adding water to the flour to make a dough I used a tin of chopped Italian tomatoes.The result is this beautiful loaf of bread not only did it taste amazing and have a fantastic soft texture but it also had a brilliant reddish colour, I only used white flour so all the colour you can see is purely from the tomatoes. I added some basil simply because it works really well and is one of my favourite combinations.This would make the perfect accompaniment to soup, especially something Italian such as minestrone, it also works really well with cheese, ham and obviously tomatoes!

Tomato bread recipe

  • 500g Strong white bread flour
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Sugar
  • A 7g Sachet of dried instant yeast
  • 2-3 Tablespoons of oil
  • A 390g Tin of chopped tomatoes
  • In a large bowl combine the flour, salt, sugar and yeast. Mix well.
  • Make a well in the flour mixture and add the tomatoes and oil, bring everything together to form a dough using either you hands or a wooden spoon. Alternatively use a stand mixer with a dough hook attached. You may need to add a little more flour if your dough is too wet, it should be slightly sticky but not cling to your hands.
  • Knead the dough (by hand or in the mixer) for around 10 minutes then cover with a piece of clingfilm which has been smeared with oil (this stops the dough from sticking to the clingfilm) and leave to rise for around half an hour or until doubled in size.
  • Once the dough has doubled in size knock it back and knead for a few minutes more then, either shape the dough however you want it and place it on a baking tray or place it in a loaf tin.
  • Cover again and leave until it has doubled once more then bake in an oven preheated to gas 6/200c/400f for about half an hour until the top is golden brown and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Spatchcocked chicken with lemon, thyme and chilli

I cook up a nice roast chicken at least a couple of times a month, it's one of those dishes that never fails to please, unless you're a vegetarian of course. I normally add herbs, spices or marinades to my roast chicken to make it a bit more interesting, lemon and thyme is a good combination, Moroccan spices work well and I have had a lot of success with stuffing bacon under the skin before roasting.

Recently I've been experimenting with a completely different way of preparing the chicken - spatchcocking. Not only is it fun to say it's also a really good way to cook chicken, spatchcocking is a simple method for preparing chicken that results in it being spread out flat.One of the brilliant things about using this technique is that unlike on a conventional roast chicken where the bottom tends to stay pale and soggy, on a spatchcocked chicken all the skin is on top which means you get loads more delicious golden crispy skin when it's done. not only that but it cooks in about half the time of a conventional chicken and it's perfect for the barbecue too!

To prepare a spatchcocked chicken is actually really simple, essentially all you do is turn the bird breast side down and using some good strong scissors cut out the backbone (save the backbone for stock). Turn the bird the right way up again and press down firmly on the breast until you hear a crack and that's it! I said it was simple.

Lemon, thyme and chilli marinade

I came up with this marinade to go with my spatchcocked chicken, it's the perfect blend of sweet and spicy.

  • The zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • A large handful of finely chopped fresh thyme
  • A heaped teaspoon of flaked dried chillies or a couple of whole red chillies chopped
  • 4-5 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons dark soft brown sugar
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste
Mix everything together well then rub all over your chicken, leave for as long as possible, an hour will do but preferably overnight before cooking.

For detailed instructions including photos on how to spatchcock a chicken why not visit Mike at Mike's table HERE. I forgot to take photos of the preparation, sorry!

Friday, 10 July 2009

Light ricotta cheesecake

You've probably seen ricotta cheese used in pancakes to give them a light, fluffy texture but did you know it could be used in cheesecakes with similar effect? Cheesecake is normally about as far from light and fluffy as you can get, but trust me this cheese cake is much lighter but every bit as delicious as it's richer denser counterparts.
Unlike most cheesecakes this one has no biscuit or cake base, the cheese mixture is poured straight into the tin to be baked.

The recipe is adapted from one of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's, he used home made goats curd cheese for his version. As I don't have any goats of my own and I couldn't get any goats curd cheese in the shops I used ricotta which made the perfect substitute.

The finished cheesecake was creamy and light with a subtle lemony flavour in the background, a raspberry sauce made the perfect accompaniment.

The original recipe can be found here. The recipe below contains my adaptations.

Ricotta Cheesecake
•750g Ricotta cheese
•45g unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
•3 tablespoons medium oatmeal
•a good pinch of salt
•75g caster sugar
•2 eggs, lightly beaten
•Grated zest of 2 small lemons, plus 1 tbsp lemon juice

For the raspberry sauce
•250g raspberries
•75g caster sugar
•A tablespoon of water
Preheat the oven to 170C/gas 3 and butter a 20-23cm springform cake tin.

Beat the cheese with a wooden spoon until smooth, then add the melted butter, oatmeal, salt, sugar, eggs and lemon zest and juice. Mix well. Spoon the mixture into the tin and smooth the top. Bake for about 25 minutes, until just set.

For the sauce put all the raspberries into a saucepan with a tablespoon of water and the sugar, bring to a simmer and cook for a couple of minutes. You can serve it as it is or pass the raspberries through a sieve for a more refined sauce.

Serve the cheesecake hot, warm or at room temperature with the raspberry sauce and cream if you like.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

A heatwave and a Summer Berry Fool

It's been a scorching few days here the thermometer is my kitchen is reading a whopping 38.9c, OK, so that may not be considered hot at all in some places but here in the UK it's an official heatwave.
In these temperatures there's no way I'm going to have the oven on or do anything too intense in the kitchen, it's hot enough already! What I needed was something cool and summery, something that requires minimal cooking but still tastes great.

It was time to make a fool, not of myself you understand although that's not hard to do, but from summer berries. A fool is a very simple dessert made from whipped cream, fruits and sometimes -as in this case- custard too. The fruit is stewed, the cream is whipped, the custard is made and the whole lot is stirred together and served well chilled, simple as that.I like to stir the fruit in last thing so I can leave it not quite fully Incorporated in to the cream mixture, it just looks good that way! I served mine with crushed shortbread scattered over the top for some added crunch, it would work really well with nuts too.

There is no recipe as such for this but here are the steps.
  • Stew some fruit with a little sugar, any summer berries are good so is rhubarb. Use whatever you like or whatever you have. Chill the mixture while you prepare the cream.
  • Whip some double/heavy cream to the soft peak stage, you don't want stiff peaks.
  • Make some custard or buy some, as long as it's good quality. You need about the same quantity as the whipped cream.
  • Stir the custard into the cream, make sure the berries are completely cold and stir them in too.
  • Serve well chilled scattered with crushed shortbread or nuts.