Thursday, June 28, 2012

Side for soup

I've done quite a number of the recipes in the soup chapter, but so far, I've overlooked the various croutons and things that are included alongside these recipes. I was making some tomato soup last night, which seemed like a good opportunity for making tasty croûtes (p93) as an accompaniment.

Tasty croûtes are simply thick slices of french stick, spread with mayonnaise, sprinkled with onion stock powder, and grilled - easy.

I'd run out of mayonnaise, so I turned to the salads and dressings and made some quick blender mayonnaise (p184). All you do is put eggs, vinegar, mustard powder, salt and cayenne pepper into a blender or food processor, then add oil in a steady stream while the processor is blending the mixture.

I have to say I prefer the plain mayonnaise recipe to this blender version - this one wasn't as thick, and had a slight aftertaste. It's still a perfectly good mayo though, and it makes heaps! I spread my chunky slices of french stick liberally with the freshly-made mayonnaise, but there was still a lot left over.

The mayo-topped pieces of bread should at this point be sprinkled with onion stock powder, apparently. I don't think I've ever seen onion flavour among the stock powders, so I had to decide what to use as a substitute. I considered onion soup mix, but in the end I went with vege stock powder. I was in a bit of a hurry at this point (the soup was already cooked) and some of the pieces got a more liberal sprinkling than I intended. 

After a few short minutes under the grill, my tasty croûtes were golden and crunchy-looking. They were quite yummy dipped in my hot soup, but the same could be said about plain pieces of french stick. I don't think the mayo and stock powder topping added much flavour at all.

It's a good idea to have some sort of bready side when you're eating soup. It's lovely for soaking up the last bits in the bowl, or just for dipping straight in. It's tasty, and adds a more filling element to a light soup. That said, do you really need to be spreading and sprinkling stuff on the bread first? 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Bubbles / crackles

I went down to Rakaia on Friday night to join Bex for a girly DVD evening. She'd asked me to bring some nibbles to share, so I turned to my trusty Edmonds book for ideas. I'm running a bit short on suitable recipes for this sort of thing, but eventually I landed on chocolate bubble cakes (p46)

If you don't recognise the name, I've always known them as chocolate crackles - the rice-bubble and Kremelta-based mainstay of childhood birthday parties.

Melting the Kremelta and mixing in cocoa, rice bubbles and coconut only takes a few minutes. From there, all you have to do is spoon the bubble mixture into paper cases. I decided to do mine bite-sized, since a full-sized one might be a bit too sickly for an adult palate. This meant the standard recipe made several dozen crunchy little choc-crackle bites. 

It was surprising how much we all enjoyed something I'd thought of as a kiddie's treat. The six of us did the best we could to demolish them during our movie night, but I still returned home with the bowl about half-full. I guess I'll see if the workmates will clean up the remainder for me tomorrow.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Christmas present

Back at Christmas - already six months ago, if you can believe that - I was given a set of round cookie cutters in 11 graduated sizes. At the time, I thought to myself that these would be ideal for shrewsbury biscuits (p43), which require a small hole to be cut out of the middle of the top biscuit.

It took a while before I got around making them, though - I'd run out of the raspberry jam I needed for sandwiching the halves together, and somehow it didn't seem right to use bought stuff. A few weeks ago, I spent an evening making another batch, so now I have enough raspberry jam for the remaining recipes that require it as an ingredient.

Last night, I finally had a chance to make the shrewsbury biscuits. It's a simple dough, made by creaming butter and sugar, beating in egg and lemon zest, and mixing in dry ingredients. Before long, I'd rolled out the dough and was cutting out 7cm rounds. In half of these, I cut a hole in the middle with my smallest cutter.

The biscuits took about 12 minutes to bake. When they'd cooled, I returned to the kitchen and got out a jar of jam. It took quite a lot of jam to fill the 18 pairs of biscuits: I was concerned that too small an amount might mean the biscuits were too dry around the edges. I think I overdid it though, since I found they'd oozed out all over the place when I opened the container this morning.

I sampled one of my shrewsburys immediately. They're a pleasant sort of crisp, sweet biscuit with that nice fruity jam to keep them from being too dry. Just be careful how you eat them - at the first bite, mine broke into pieces, dropping in crumbly jammy bits to the floor. You want all that jam in your mouth, not on your carpet!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Sweet success

For some reason, I decided I wanted an omelet for dinner. I'd originally planned to make one with a savoury cheese and bacon filling, but that wouldn't have knocked off an Edmonds recipe - I've already done the savoury ones. Then again, I didn't see any reason why I shouldn't make a sweet omelet (p96) for dinner instead.

Sweet omelet is a variation of the puffy omelet recipe. I didn't have much luck when I made the savoury version - the omlet certainly didn't live up to the description 'puffy' - but I knew the failed attempt was a one-off as I'd successfully used a similar recipe in the past. The sweet omelet was my chance to prove the recipe is not at fault.

You start by separating the eggs, then combine the yolks with a little water. The main (savoury) recipe has salt and pepper added here, but (though it doesn't say so in the recipe) I figured it would be best to leave these out n the sweet version.

Next, I beat the egg whites until stiff, and put a frying pan on the heat with a bit of butter in it. While the butter was melting, I carefully folded the yolk mixture through my beaten whites, then poured it all into the pan atop the bubbling butter.

It took about five minutes for the omelet to brown sufficiently on the bottom. Then, I put the pan under the grill to cook the top. I was very happy with my lovely puffy omelet when I took it out of the oven, though it did collapse slightly as I transferred it to a plate and spread it with jam. I've just noticed the recipe states that the omelet should be dusted with icing sugar. This I did not do, but since it'd be more for appearance than flavour, I'm not too bothered.

A sweet omelet is not really something I've ever considered before, having always thought of omelets as savoury. Really, there's no reason why an omlet shouldn't be sweet - in fact, it's delicious! It's not, perhaps, well suited to have for dinner as I did - more like a brunch item or possibly even a dessert.  

My attempt at a sweet puffy omelet was far more successful than the savoury one, proving my theory that the recipe wasn't at fault. So whether you like the sound of this sweet version or prefer a more traditional savoury filling, a light, airy puffy omelet is not a bad way to go.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Cauliflower, please

I'd intended to do some baking after work yesterday, but while perusing the Pak N Save vege section on my way home, I noticed some cauliflower and decided that cauliflower cheese (p159) would be a more suitable selection for a chilly, drizzly winter evening.

I don't recall ever making cauliflower cheese before. If I thought about it at all, I pictured a shallow dish of cauliflower florets covered in cheese sauce. So it was a bit surprising when I checked the recipe and realised you actually cook the entire head of cauliflower whole.

I trimmed the cauliflower and got it into a saucepan full of water. While that was boiling away, I made the cheese sauce, stirring flour into melted butter, then gradually adding milk. When I had a reasonably thick white sauce, I removed it from the heat and added grated cheese, salt and pepper, and mustard powder.

The cauliflower and sauce were ready at about the same time. I drained the cauli, transferred it into a casserole dish and poured the sauce over. Then, a final sprinkle of cheese and into the oven.

My cauliflower cheese came out appealingly golden, and the full head had softened enough to break easily into pieces as I served it up. I'd chosen quite a small cauliflower, so there was more than enough of that yummy cheesy sauce.

I don't particularly dislike cauliflower, but I don't love it either: it can be a bit bland and tasteless. Well, here's one way of giving it a bit of extra flavour!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

A bag of nuts

I'm well aware that I've been a bit lax in my entries lately. For this circumstance, I offer the following excuses reasonable explanations: I have been a) sick; and b) busy. So there. Of course, if I'm ever going to get this challenge finished, I'll have to pick up the pace a bit.

As it happens, I purchased a bag of walnuts the other day from a bloke who comes around every year selling potatoes and walnuts. Among the inevitable crude 'nutbag' jokes from the workmates, there were some suggestions that perhaps I might arrive on Monday morning with some sort of baked item containing said nuts. Though these suggestions were of course entirely motivated by self-interest, it was enough to get me back in the kitchen.

From the few remaining recipes I could use my walnuts in, I chose coconut dream (p63), a slice in which my walnuts could serve the role of unspecified 'chopped nuts'.

The first stage of this slice is the base. I creamed butter and brown sugar, then added flour and baking powder. This was supposed to create a dough that I could tip out and knead; instead I found myself with a bowl of powdery crumbly stuff, which might briefly hold together if you squeezed it, but could by no stretch of the imagination be kneaded.

Instead, I tipped the crumbly stuff straight into my sponge roll tin, and used the back of a spoon to press it all into a firm base. Before long, I had it smooth and even, so I popped it in the oven for 8 minutes.

While the base was baking, I grabbed my hammer and started breaking open walnuts to use for the topping. It would have made more sense had I done this before I started on the base, but (typically) I didn't think that through. By the time I had one cup of walnuts shelled and ready to use, the base was out of the oven and waiting for the topping.

I beat a couple of eggs, before adding more brown sugar and further beating until I had a nice thick mixture. Into this I folded a small amount of flour and baking powder, before mixing in coconut, vanilla and the chopped nuts. I spread the topping mixture over the base, popped it back in the oven at a reduced temperature, and left it to bake.

The cooking time given is 40-45 minutes; I felt mine was brown enough and took it out after 35. I've cut it into 24 squares as indicated in the recipe - the resulting squares are fairly small, likely representing the sort of serving sizes we should be eating, as opposed to the oversized chunks we're all used to these days.

I wasted no time in having a taste - baking is always so much nicer warm from the oven. The base, perhaps unsurprisingly, is a little on the dry side, but the topping is sweet, nutty, and pleasantly chewy at the edges. The walnuts are a major contributor to the flavour, so if you used different nuts, you could expect a different result.

Overall, a tasty little slice. Now, what am I going to do with the rest of these walnuts..?

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