April 30, 2013

Iced buns and some news: I handed in my notice

I've moved on from Warwick and hence onto courgettesandlimes.com. It should automatically redirect you shortly to the new site.


iced buns 1

I've handed in my notice at work.

In about 4 months time, I will be stepping onto a plane and waving good bye to the UK. Because... because (wait for it...) I am moving to Cambodia to join my friends Simon and Becci who lead a church in Phnom Penh. I haven't got a job lined up for me, nor do I know exactly what I'll be doing when I arrive, past the first couple of days of getting over jet lag. I imagine that my initial months will be spent learning Khmer language and culture. But, it's all guess work if I'm honest.

iced buns 2


It's both exciting and terrifying.

I don't think that I've talked about this on the blogosphere before and that makes me feel somewhat dishonest with you. I'm sorry. So, let me give you a bit of context. Ever since I was young, I have wanted to live and work in another culture, specifically doing something that would help people have a better life and give hope. My earliest, serious career ambition was to live and work with street kids in a peruvian shanty town. I think that I was about 9 or 10 at the time and I definitely had some jacked up, romanticised ideas on poverty and 'doing good'.

I'm 31 now and from what I know, romantic is definitely not the adjective to describe poverty or that kind of work. I'm expecting it will be uncomfortable as I adjust to a new climate and culture, confusing to be illiterate in a new language, hard work and lonely being so far away from my family and friends.

So, how come I'm upping sticks and moving to the other side of the world? Besides, what difference can one person affect?

Well, I know that one person can make all the difference. And that childhood dream never died, nor did I want it to. Instead, in all the intervening years, it's been a real trusting game to wait for the right moment and opportunity.

About this time last year, I was sitting in a house, built on stilts over the sewers in Phnom Penh, thinking that sewage really did smell like durian. Between the floorboards, I could see faded, old rubbish lying a couple of feet below me. There were all these rustling sounds that kept distracting me from the conversation and I was trying really hard to curb my imagination as to what those sounds could be.

I think this was day 3 of a 10 day trip I was making with a team from my church, visiting Simon and Becci's church. We had brilliant fun with them and I thoroughly enjoyed myself, even if the airline did lose my luggage for 24 hours and I got really bad diarrhoea for 4 of those days. I never imagined that I'd be joining Simon and Becci in Cambodia. In fact, I distinctly remember the thought passing through my head, 'I really admire what Simon and Becci are doing, but there is no way that I could do that or move out here'.

Ha! God definitely has a sense of humour. Unbeknownst to me, Simon and Becci were thinking the exact opposite.

making coconut milkoverladen motoCambodia team 2012

So, towards the end of 2012, they sprung it on me, out of the blue. A couple of months later, I told them yes and now I'm finally telling you. And to balance out my earlier apprehensions, let me tell you some of what I am looking forward to:

  • Learning a new language and culture
  • Being part of Liberty Family Church, Phnom Penh
  • Making new friends
  • South East Asian food - this is going to be one culinary adventure!
  • Riding a moto
  • Having lots of fun
  • Travelling around the region
  • Blue skies and the sun

And the time just seems to be right.

Which brings me neatly (!!!) to the subject of iced buns. No, honestly it does. Remember how I spoke about trusting and waiting for the right time and how it can be a bit emotional, earlier on? Well, that's kind of how it feels baking with yeast and bread: you can't rush the time the dough takes to rise on that first prove; you have to trust that the yeast will work and nothing beats the thrill of seeing your dough doubled in size. I could continue the analogy but suffice to say, there's quite of bit of emotion and waiting involved!

iced buns attempt no. 1

Attempt no. 1: glazed cream buns

This is a brilliant recipe that I'd wanted to make from the Great British Bake Off Series 2and I finally got round to trying it out 2 weeks ago. The first time, I stuck to the recipe (except I added too much water to the icing by mistake so ended up with glazed buns) and baked them into 12 buns, which I shared with my triathlon club. However, they were pretty big portion sizes and the cream was a bit bland, if I'm honest, not that they complained! So, the second time, I made them into 24 'mini' iced buns, coloured the icing and added vanilla extract to the cream. They weren't that mini, as you can see. Being somewhat unpracticed in the skill of whipping cream, I overwhipped the double cream on this second occasion and had to use my palette knife as a makeshift cream shovel! Not as pretty as my first attempt but that's alright when it's homebaking. I can't imagine Paul or Mary raving about my presentation but the buns still tasted great and looked pretty. I took them to a charity clothes swap that my friend was organising and the buns were all polished off.

So, here is my iced buns recipe, adapted slightly from Paul Hollywood's iced fingers recipe.

Ingredients for the dough

  • 500g strong white flour
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 40g unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs
  • 14g fast action yeast
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 150ml whole milk
  • 140ml water

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/Gas mark 7 and line two baking trays with baking paper.

2. Scald the milk in a small pan, by heating it up until it is just about to boil, and leave it to one side to cool down. I find that doing this creates a softer dough. Alternatively, use the microwave to heat up the milk until it is neither hot nor cold. I added in the cold water to bring down the temperature even more.


iced bun dough 1iced bun dough 2
iced bun dough 3iced bun dough 4

3. If you're doing it by hand, then measure out the flour in a large bowl, mix in the yeast, then add the sugar and the salt, rub in the butter and finally add in the eggs, milk and water. I use a scraper at this point to combine the ingredients, but you can use just your hands. It'll make a wet dough but don't be scared by it. The wetness of the dough should ensure that it's soft texture. Turn it out onto your work surface and knead. If you're like me and a bit slow at kneading, it'll take about 15-20 minutes. Of course, you could use a machine fitted with a dough hook. In which case, put all ingredients for the dough into a large bowl, ensuring that the yeast and salt are added to opposite sides of the bowl. Mix on a slow speed until it all combines and then move it onto a medium-high speed for about 10-15 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.

3. Pour a little bit of vegetable oil into the bowl and lightly cover the dough with oil. This helps the dough not to stick as it rises. Cover the bowl with cling film or a damp tea towel and leave in a warm place for at least 1 hour and doubled in size

4. Turn the dough out of the bowl and knock out the air by pressing your fingers over the dough. I like to strengthen the dough at this stage. Shape into a vague rectangle. Take hold of a longer side, fold one third towards the centre and press down with your thumbs or the heel of your hand. Fold the other third towards the centre and press down. Finally fold it in half lengthways, press down and roll it out a bit with your hands. The dough should feel stronger.

shaping rolls 1shaping rolls 2

shaping rolls 3shaping rolls 4

shaping rolls 5shaping rolls 6

5. Divide the dough into half, then half again, so that you have 4 sections. Work with one section at a time and cover the others with a tea towel or cling film so that they don't dry out. Divide each section into 6 equal-ish pieces. Each piece will probably with between 35-40g. Shape these into rolls, using exactly the same steps as before when strengthening the dough. Place them onto the baking tray, leaving about 1cm of space between them so that they can double in size in the second prove. Cover with a tea towel for about 30-40 minutes.

buns ready to prove
baked buns


6. Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes. Check after 8 minutes and lower the temperature by 20C if they look like they're browning too much. Then set them aside to cool on a wire rack. When the buns are completely cool, start on the icing.

Ingredients for the icing

  • 200g icing sugar
  • 5 tsp cold water
  • food colouring and edible decorations, such as chocolate curls, coloured sprinkles etc. (optional)

Method

1. You can just ice the buns and not fill them, if you want to. However, if you'd like to fill them with cream then use a bread knife to slice the buns in half horizontally, leaving one long edge intact. Do this step now, otherwise the icing transfers onto your hands and they get sticky holding the already iced buns.

2. Measure out icing sugar into a medium sized bowl. Add in the water, one teaspoon at a time until it becomes a thick paste. You want the mixture to be thick enough to stick onto the buns. I coloured half of my icing pink, just for fun, using a cocktail stick dipped into a tiny bit of red colour paste.


icing consistencydipping buns into icingsmoothing icing

3. Dip the top of the buns into the icing, smooth out with your finger and set them to dry on a wire rack. The icing may drip down the sides of the bun a bit, but that's okay. Sprinkle on some decorations if you'd like. I used strawberry curls, white chocolate stars and sugar butterflies.

Ingredients for the filling

  • 300ml double cream or whipping cream
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 5 tbsp jam - I used raspberry, Paul suggests strawberry, but you could use any flavour that takes your fancy

Method

1. Lightly whip up the cream with the vanilla extract in a medium sized bowl until it thickens but is pipeable. Fill a piping bag fitted with a small star nozzle.

filling

2. Spoon the jam into another piping bag and snip off a very small opening.

3. Pipe a generous amount of cream, followed by a thin line of jam into the middle of each finger. Gently fold the top of the bun down.

Et voila - iced buns! Enjoy.

iced buns 3



March 31, 2013

How to… A beginners guide to creating chocolate butterflies


Cupcakes decorated with salted caramel buttercream and chocolate butterflies
Butterflies resting on banana cupcakes with salted caramel buttercream


I wanted to make a chocolate butterfly, the moment that I saw Emma's beautiful chocolate butterfly resting on top of her Fleur de Sel Caramel Cake.

But I'd never made any form of chocolate decoration before. So, how could I do it?

I found out that Emma had bought some special chocolate that didn't require tempering, which I didn't want to splash out on. Otherwise, I needed to temper my chocolate using a thermometor. That put me off for a few weeks because it felt a bit too complicated and pricey, if I'm honest.

And then, a cherry blossom cake started to take shape in my imagination. Dark chocolate forms the silhouette of the tree and branches and I'd use real cherry blossoms for the flowers. However, I'm not sure what the cake mixture will be so this cherry blossom cake is still locked away in my mind. Since then, I've looked at some pictures of beautiful cherry blossom cakes but they mostly seem to rely on sugarpaste and fondant decorations. I'd still like to do my chocolate version.

Well, true to character, I read a few more blogs and watched a couple of youtube videos. On the note of youtube videos, I recommend watching Ann's How to cook thattutorials for the variety of methods and decorations that one can attempt with chocolate.

Then, at 11 o'clock on Saturday night, armed with a bit more confidence and knowledge, I simplified the process of tempering chocolate as much as I dared, filled a piping bag, traced a butterfly template and gave it a go.

There are more complicated ways of tempering chocolate than the one that I'm going to share with you. Strictly speaking you need to use a minimum of 300g of chocolate in order to temper it. I chose to use 100g because it was meant to be a small trial and if it went wrong then it would be less of a waste. I also wanted to experiment with white and dark chocolate to see if they differed at all and 100g of each felt like it would be sufficient.

Next, I realised that I didn't have enough pyrex bowls. Perhaps it's a sign that it's not meant to be - as if! I used my Denby bowls (they're microwave and oven proof, so I was pretty sure they'd be okay).

Here's how I did it.

You'll need:

  • Chocolate for melting. I began with 100g but, as you know, you're supposed to have a minimum of 300g of chocolate to temper it.
  • Non-stick baking paper
  • Template
  • Pen/Pencil
  • 1 large hardback book. I used 1 hardback and 2 smaller books to lift it up even more.

1. Preparation: I found a template of a butterfly and traced it onto my baking paper. Then I flipped the paper over, so that the chocolate doesn't pick up the ink, folded the paper down the middle of the butterfly's body and opened the paper back out so that it was flat on my worksurface. I opened up the hardback book in the middle. That's where I rested my butterflies so that they'd dry in 3D.

butterfly template

2. I chopped up the chocolate and set aside 20g of the chocolate and put 80g of chocolate in the bowl and zapped it in the microwave at 15 second intervals to begin with, reducing it to 10 seconds. I burnt my first batch, but only in the middle. Rather than waste the chocolate, I scooped out the burnt bits with a teaspoon, gave the remaining chocolate a good stir and learned my first lesson.

When microwaving chocolate to melt, the chocolate in the middle of the bowl melts quickest. Stir the chocolate at each interval, even if they don't look like they've begun to melt.

3. Once the chocolate in the bowl had melted, I stirred in the 20g. By doing this step, you are, in effect, bringing down the temperature of the chocolate. This is my very simple way of tempering the chocolate.

filling a piping bag with melted chocolate

4. I filled a disposable piping bag with the chocolate, pushed the chocolate down and twisted the top end. It's better to do it now rather than when you snip off the tip, otherwise the chocolate will squirt out the hole. I'm not sure what you'd do if you weren't to use a disposable one... If anyone's got any helpful suggestions then please leave them as a comment at the bottom.

5. I snipped a bit off the tip. I began with the tiniest of openings and gradually made it bigger. Mostly because I realised, whilst piping, that I hadn't fished out all the burnt bits and they were causing a blockage. Ooopsies.

piping bag readysnipped off end of piping bag

6. I barely used any pressure on the bag to pipe the chocolate carefully over the butterfly template. Once I finished, I lifted up the tip and quickly began work on my second, third, fourth.. you get the picture. That night, I went on to make chocolate stars and dragonflies.

chocolate butterfly 1butterfly setting in the books

7. I rested the baking paper in the open book so that the fold in the paper nestled into the fold of the open book.

8. Leave them to dry and then carefully peel the baking paper away from the chocolate.


gently peel off the butterfly


See. Not so difficult afterall and the decorations will certainly impress your friends.

The Han-Na of 6 months ago would have been put off making a chocolate butterfly because of the notion of tempering chocolate; I guess my resolution to push myself in developing new baking skills is slowly paying off. Recently I noticed that my attitude is taking on a bit more of a 'if it's difficult, I'll give it a go' sheen.

This makes me giggle ruefully. I always describe myself as one who 'doesn't like pushing themselves'. Honestly, really, I'm not. I'm part of a triathlon club and I constantly see evidence of everyday athletes pushing their physical limits. I don't do that: my swimming at the end of lane two just doesn't mirror their drive.

So... is it baking that is going to knead that push and determination into me?

Maybe.


February 28, 2013

A Hazelnut Brown Butter Cake with Baileys Ganache


hazelnut brown butter cake slice

I had already decided that I was going to like this hazelnut brown butter cake the moment I saw it. And then I read on:

'This is a cake that has it's roots in dacquoise and meringue.' - Shuna Fish Lydon

A whatcha, whatchamacallit? Dacquoise and meringue.

Meringue is a dessert that we're pretty aware of, but dacquoise? I've been blissfully ignorant of its existence until Monday evening. I was trying to find another cake recipe to make for Sarah's birthday, other than Praline Almond Cake, because I didn't have enough butter for that recipe and I was much too tired to trawl round Tescos. I can't even remember how my brain jumped from praline almond cake to hazlenut brown butter cake, but somehow I found myself reading Smitten Kitchen Deb's enticing blog entry on it. Debs links onto Eggbeater Shuna's detailed poston how to make this cake. I highly recommend reading Shuna's step-by-step instructions before baking the cake because if you follow it, it's pretty fool-proof. And that's where I first stumbled across dacquoise. A dacquoise, so Wikipedia tells me, is a french dessert made with layers of nut meringue and whipped cream or buttercream. The meringue is normally made with almonds and hazlenuts.

I decided to read up a bit more on the cake. I got as far as Jibuyabu's metricised description on making this cake(thank-you) and then I stopped. It was 9:30pm and I needed to begin the baking.

My preliminary reading on this cake intrigued me. All three bloggers were in awe of this chef named Suzanne Goin, like we should all know her. "Chef Goin served this as her wedding cake. Need I say more?" - Smitten Kitchen. Well yes. Who is she? and why should that sway my decision on whether or not I should make this cake? As it turns out she is one of America's most highly-acclaimed chef. That is, at least, according to her book on Amazon. Debs and Shuna are US based food bloggers so that probably explains their awe of her. So, okay maybe that should sway my mind. But it doesn't really. At least, not yet. I wondered, whether she is the equivalent of say, Tom Ketteridge in the UK. Now, all you non-Brits, might be typing Tom Ketteridge into google search because you're scratching your head and wondering, 'who is this Tom Ketteridge dude?' Just this incredible michelin starred chef! Ah - the nuances of across the pond baking.

I tell you what, though, if we just call the cake what it is - a hazelnut brown butter cake - I think that it makes it sound utterly enticing. Don't you think so?

hazelnut brown butter cake ready to go

The 'not your standard cake' ingredients and the fun of trying out a new technique, validated it as the one to make as Sarah's birthday cake (the same Sarah of the Cardamon, White Chocolate and Rosewater angstand Chocolate Macarons)

In Suzanne Goin's original recipe, she serves it up with sauteed pears and icing sugar; Debs from Smitten Kitchen went for a chocolate ganache. It's a no-brainer which option Sarah would prefer, and I tweaked Deb's version and replaced the coffee with baileys liquor.

And I'll tell you what - the cake lives up to expectations and tastes perfectly divine. On Tuesday evening, I served it up and we all commented on how it smelled and tasted like ferrero rocher. It's not heavy, even with all that butter. Moreover, I believe that it would taste better as it gets older because of all that lovely moist nuttiness. Do you know - I'm pretty sure that we all managed two slices, after a pretty big main meal - so there's not much a chance of this cake hanging around that long.

Hazelnut Brown Butter Cake with Baileys Ganache, adapted from Smitten Kitchen, Jibuyabu and Sunday Suppers at Lucques

Ingredients for the cake

  • 140g blanched whole hazelnuts plus some extra for garnish
  • 225g butter
  • 1/2 vanilla bean or 1tsp of vanilla extract
  • 170g icing sugar
  • 45g plain flour
  • 180g egg whites, which is about the equivalent of 5 extra large egg whites or 6 large egg whites
  • 45g granulated sugar

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 and prepare a 23cm or 25cm springform cake tin, by greasing the sides and lining the bottom with baking paper. I only had a 23cm cake tin and it turned out fine.

toasted hazelnutshazelnuts and icing sugar

2. Toast the hazelnuts under the grill or in the oven, by spreading them out in one layer on a baking tray, until they smell gorgeously nutty and turn a golden brown. It normally takes between 10-15 minutes. Once done, leave them cool. I transferred them onto another baking tray so quicken the cooling process.

3. Put the butter in a medium sized pan. Slice the vanilla bean lengthways down the middle and scrape out all the seeds onto the butter. Add the vanilla bean to the pan. Now, make the brown butter. I was a bit intimidated by this ingredient until I read this tutorial on Poire au Chocolat. Cook the butter on a medium heat until the butter browns, finishes crackling at you and smells nutty. It'll take a good couple of minutes for this amount of butter. Take the pan off the heat and leave it to one side to cool. Remove the vanilla pod and dump it in the bin.

preparing butter to brown with vanilla

4. Weigh out the icing sugar and place in a food processer. Once the hazelnuts have cooled down, add them to the food processer too and whizz them up until they are finely ground (this takes about 10 minutes, interspersed with moments of me scraping the sides of the food processer with a knife so that everything gets whizzed up). Add the flour and pulse it a few times to ensure that the flour is evenly mixed through. This mixture will smell gorgeously nutty and it tastes good too, if you happen to get some of it on your fingers while you are emptying this out into a large bowl. There are some perks for being a bit clumsy.

5. Whisk the eggs with a stand mixer or a handheld electic beater. I held off adding the sugar until the eggs had formed soft peaks, but in the original recipe she says to add the sugar in from the start. Keep whisking until they form stiff peaks.

6. In a small bowl, take a large dollop of egg white and a generous splash of brown butter and mix it together vigorously before re-adding and folding it to the egg whites. Eggbeater Shuna explains this process as creating an emulsion between two ingredients that would normally repel each other (whisked egg whites and butter) so that after it is introduced to egg whites, it makes it easier to incorporate the remaining large quantities of ingredients.

7. Alternate folding in the dry mixture of the icing sugar, hazelnuts and flour and the liquid brown butter to the egg whites, being careful not to overmix and knock back all the air that you've carefully worked into the egg whites.

cake batterhazelnut brown butter cake

8. Pour the batter into the cake tin and bake for 40-50 minutes. It's done when the cake is coming away from the sides of the tin and a knife comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool in the tin for about 30 minutes, before then inverting it onto a wire rack so that you can peel the baking paper from it's bottom.

9. Turn the cake back over onto the plate that you'll be serving on.

** You could serve it just like this with a dusting of icing sugar and sprinkle the reserved hazelnuts. To make it pretty, why not use a stencil?

Ingredients for the ganache

  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 100ml double cream
  • 2 tbsp baileys or irish cream equivalent

Method

chocolate ganache 1chocolate ganache 2

1. Break up the chocolate into small pieces and place in a small pyrex bowl. As you can see, I put mine directly into a pyrex measuring jug to make the pouring bit over the cake easier.

2. Heat up the double cream in a small pan until it just starts bubbling and then pour it over the chocolate. Leave it for a few minutes, then gently stir until all the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth. Add in the baileys and stir to incorporate.

preparing to dress the cake with ganachecake with ganache


3. Carefully pour the ganache evenly over the cake. It doesn't matter if some of the ganache spills over the sides of the cake. I think that it adds a certain charm and elegance. Decorate the top of the cake with the remaining hazelnuts. I toasted and crushed them before sprinkling them over the cake. Alternatively, you could make caramel hazelnuts or a hazelnut praline (unfortunately, I had run out of sugar as well, so couldn't pursue either of those options). Or... just serve it as it is. Plain with the chocolate ganache.

You can make this a day or two in advance and store it in the fridge or in an airtight container in a cold room. So, go on - bake this one up and impress your friends.

Happy Birthday Sarah Cake

January 29, 2013

A Twist on Cranachan: Raspberry, Oatmeal and Whiskey Roulade


Demolished Cranachan

Cranachan - pronounced 'cran-ah-hkun' (the 'ch' being the soft, guttural, scottish 'ch' sound, as in loch'). The scrummy, scottish dessert made with raspberries, whiskey, honey blended with cream and sprinkled with oats. I'd like to appease the purists in cyberspace by letting them know that I had planned to serve it up in the traditional way at my Haggis, Neeps and Tatties in 3 ways Dinner Party.

Until Friday. At 10pm, I had this hankering to make it into a roulade because I'd never made a roulade before. You see, I don't have a swiss roll tin and previously, that has been the one barrier that has stopped me from baking a roulade. However, as I was in an inventive mood, I improvised with a suitably sized baking tray and it all worked out. Hurrah :)

Well, there was more improvising in store. I know that you can make the roulade base purely with egg whites and sugar; there were too many online recipes demanding that I add in some sort of flour or flour substitute. So, that's when I came up with the idea of using toasted oatmeal. And as I couldn't find a recipe for an oatmeal meringue online, I made it up. So, as the hand beater is whisking the egg whites, balancing somewhat precariously on the bowl, I measure out the oats, scatter them across a baking tray and carefully toast them in the oven until a wonderful nutty smell wafts around the kitchen. As you can imagine, I had more moments of K-mix envy as I stood attached to my electric mixer, passing it from one hand to the other as I waited for stiff peaks to form. I can only imagine the freedom of leaving the egg whites to whisk in the stand mixer, while I line the tin, toast and ground the oatflakes... Admittedly, not that it stopped me but that procedure wouldn't have held the same amount of trepidation.

Naturally, I wanted to omit the cream to create a healthier, lighter dessert and I replaced it with full-fat greek yoghurt. If you'd like to do this, then wait until it's almost time to serve the dessert before you start spreading the greek yoghurt onto the base. It's much runnier and wetter than whipped cream so will seep through the base, softening the structure.

(Incidentally Friday was Burns Night. Perhaps the scottish bard inspired me to take artistic license with this dessert.)

whisky cake to go with the roulade

My guests really enjoyed the cranachan roulade on Saturday night. The raspberry, honey and whiskey combination is sweet but not overpowering. Those who like oats particularly enjoyed the nutty, oaty flavour of the base. So I'd make this again with a few tweaks (see below).

My own invention of Cranachan Roulade, serves 6-8 people

Ingredients for the meringue base

  • 4 egg whites
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 50g toasted oatmeal or finely ground oatflakes

Ingredients for the filling

  • 500g greek yoghurt or 250g lightly whipped double cream
  • 2 tbsp whiskey
  • 3 tsp runny honey, preferably of the heather honey variety. I didn't have any so I used a Thai honey instead and it was good.
  • 350g raspberries

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. Line a 23x33cm swiss roll tin (or a similar sized baking tray with raised sides) with tin foil or baking paper, folding the sides up so that you create a raised 4cm border and squeeze the corners together. Lightly spray or brush with vegetable oil.

2. If you are using a stand mixer, then you can do step 2 after you begin the whisking of the egg whites described in step 3. Measure out the oat flakes and spread them on a baking tray and pop it in the oven for 4-5 minutes. Then take them out, turn them over and pop back into the oven for a few more minutes. The oats should be a very light brown colour and smell deliciously nutty. Leave to cool for a few minutes and then grind them up in a food processer until they are the texture of ground almonds, at the very least. I think that I created oat flour, I ground the flakes so fine.

3. Whisk the egg whites until they have a firm peak. Then add the caster sugar in 4 stages if you are using an electric beater, or all in one go if you're using a stand mixer, continuing to whisk for 5 minutes until stiff peaks form. I used an electric beater and made the mistake of adding all the sugar in one go. The resulting base was fine but it took at least 15 minutes before anything vaguely resembling stiff peaks formed.

making meringue

4. Now add the ground oatmeal to the meringue mixture. Fold it in using a metal spoon until it is just mixed in, making the utmost effort not to knock out the volume in the meringue mixture.

5. Spoon out the meringue mixture onto the prepared tin and evenly smooth it out using a palette knife. Now pop it into the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, until it is firm to touch and ever so slightly brown on top. In the meantime, prepare an additional sheet of foil or baking paper that is just larger than the size of the tin and sprinkle it with icing sugar or caster sugar. I didn't do this and in hindsight I think that it's a good way to further ensure that the base doesn't stick to the foil.

6. Take the roulade base out of the oven and allow to cool for about 3 minutes. Here comes the slightly scary part, akin to when you flip pancakes, so do it with confidence. Quickly invert the baking tin onto the prepared sheet of foil, so that the lining is on top. Leave for a few minutes, then gently remove the foil on the base. Don't worry if a few bits come off. No one will see it anyway. Leave to cool completely.

*You could make it up this point the day before and leave the base out on the side, like I did.

oatmeal rouladeSpread the cream on the roulade

6. For the filling, empty the yoghurt into a medium sized mixing bowl. Mix in the whiskey and honey. Spread the mixture evenly on top of the base but leave 2cms round the edges cream free. Sprinkle a thin layer of raspberries on top, reserving a few raspberries to decorate the roulade.

7. Now to roll. This proved trickier than I anticipated. Not helped by the fact that I chose to roll with the longer edge and my hands are too small to do it. When you've finished rolling, leave the foil around the roulade so that it is easier to gently transfer the roulade onto the serving dish. Or, if you are using cream, then you can store the roulade in the fridge for a couple of hours with the foil tightly wrapped around it before serving.

Enjoy and cheers!

Here are my top tips on rolling:

1. Sprinkle the foil with icing sugar or caster sugar before inverting the base onto it. This helps prevent the roulade base from sticking to the foil.

2. Make a cut along the edge of the roll, about 2 cms in, that you're going to begin rolling with so that you are only cutting halfway into the base. This will help you create a roll, as opposed to a circle. Just so that you know, unlike moi, most people use the shortest edge.

3. Use the foil to create tight roll by firmly pulling the foil horizontally away from you with one hand and at the same time gently pressing down on the foil with the other. Do it slowly to start off.

4. Here's an online video tutorial.

Variations on the theme: I'd like to experiment with a few tweaks to this recipe. Next time, either make a raspberry sauce by crushing raspberries and adding sugar to it or make a raspberry compote. Spread the raspberry sauce on the base. Substitute mascapone in place of the greek yoghurt or cream so that there's a firmer mixture before adding the raspberries, rolling it up, sprinkling with icing sugar et voila!

Cranachan Roulade

January 18, 2013

Peanut and Rosemary Cookies

I am, in fact, quite excited that it's snowing outside. It has given me that wee impetus to press publish on this recipe, which has been lurking around in my drafts folder for a while.

peanut and rosemary cookies

On an aside: say aloud with me, 'lurking around for awhile'. Doesn't it conjure up that horrible childhood fear of a shadowy bogeyman patiently waiting to catch you in the middle of a long, dark corridor? Mind you, saying the whole of that first sentence out loud now brings up a ridiculous image of a recipe like a white vapour, snaking out of a metal filing cabinet. It's not quite the way that I'd planned to introduce this recipe to you.

rosemaryrosemary 2

peanutspeanut and rosemary cookies

So, back to the recurring theme of this post. Essentially, it's about ideas remaining dormant and not being actualised because of whatever reason.

You see, I'd been wanting to bake these peanut and rosemary cookies ever since one of my colleagues passed me a newspaper clipping with this recipe on it. That was about 18 months ago. The timing of this recipe landing on my desk was perfect because I had just been thinking about combining rosemary or thyme with a sweet dessert for a wee while. But I just didn't get round to it, or I forgot. Maybe some student emergency came up before I fully committed to baking the recipe, or something! You get the idea. The recipe continued to lurk in between the covers of other recipe books.

When summer came around, my tastebuds changed and my mind started exploring the idea of combining lemons and black pepper. So, one afternoon I invented a lemon, fig, nut and black pepper cookie recipe, which Val promptly decided were her favourite cookies.

When the nights started drawing in and the temperatures dropped, my tastebuds hankered after a more pungent flavour. I pulled out this recipe, sent myself off to go to the shops to buy some salted peanuts and snipped off some fresh rosemary. It's as simple as that really. I think, that most of you, will have the other ingredients as standard store cupboard items already. The other joy of this recipe, I discovered, is that you can pretty much make this in one bowl, mix it within 5 minutes and be biting into your first batch within 20 minutes of starting out on the recipe. I don't know many other cookie recipes out there that can beat that!


chopped rosemarypeanut and rosemary cookie dough balls

And boy, did I enjoy eating them.

peanut and rosemary cookies

These are fast becoming my favourite cookies: I baked them twice within 5 days. Elegant, fragrant, crunchy and very more-ish. If you want an alternative sweet grown up sweet this season, or you'd like to do something different with your leftover bag of salted peanuts which you offer to your guests, then I'd recommend this recipe to you. I know that rosemary and salted peanuts cookies sound odd but I have to congratulate Dan Lepard on this fine flavour combination.

peanut and rosemary cookie ingredients

Dan Lepards' Peanut and Rosemary Cookies.

Ingredients

  • 100ml sunflower oil
  • 200g golden caster sugar
  • 1tsp honey
  • 2tsp very finely chopped rosemary - I used one very long sprig
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • 150g salted peanuts
  • 200g plain flour
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 and line two baking trays with baking or greaseproof paper. I tried out the pizza stone for one batch but found that the baking trays did a better job than the stone.

2. Mix the oil, sugar, honey, rosemary and cinnamon in a bowl until it is like a paste. I use a metal spoon for this,

stage 1 of mixing the ingredientsmixing ingredients stage 2

3. Add in the peanuts and egg and mix well.

4. Finally stir in the flour and bicarb of soda. Naturally you start mixing this in with the metal spoon, but soon, it becomes clear that it'll be much easier to get hands-on stuck in with your hands and finish mixing in the flour.

mixing ingredients stage 3mixing ingredients final stage

5. Press together 30g balls of dough. That's ping pong sized balls, for those of you who don't really want to measure out them out. Lay them out on the baking tray, spaced 5-6cm apart because they spread a lot. Last time I made them, the peanuts rebelled a bit and didn't want to stay on the cookie dough. Tell them who's boss and push them on.

6. Bake them in the oven for 12-14 minutes, depending on how chewy you like them. I aim to take them out when they're a golden colour, rather than bronzed all over. The bronzed ones are fine warmed up, but otherwise they get a bit hard when they cool. Lift the baking paper with the cookies, off the baking tray and let them cool on a wire rack for a minute, then carefully peel them off to the wire rack.

They make 24 cookies, so I bake these in batches.

If you find them a bit too salty, Dan suggests that washing the salt off the peanuts first. Personally, I like salty sweetness. To top it off, I've got a kitchen fragrant of rosemary.


December 08, 2012

Mulled Wine for 300


mulled wine syrup for 300
Mulled wine syrup for 300

For the past three years, we've put on a Winter Wonderland event for our Cryfield and Redfern students, with Christmas music, plenty mulled wine and mince pies to get them into the festive spirit. Of course, the first year we ran this, I realised how gauche I was about how one went around making mulled wine. My previous experiences of making mulled wine consisted of using a cheap bottle of red wine and dropping one of those mulled wine sachets into it. You know the kind I'm talking about right? The schwartz mulled wine spice bag.

So, that first year, I was marshalled into the mulled wine making army. We were inside this tiny kitchen, mixing vast quantities of homemade mulled wine syrup with bottles and bottles of red wine, adding sugar and dropping oranges into stock pots. Passing vats of the stuff outside to the thirsty punters, without making too much a mess, proved one step too far. Cleanliness was sacrificed for speed. I'm not sure that the redfern subwarden's kitchen ever survived it.

It's an understatement to say that it was somewhat of a revelation on how to make mulled wine. But you know what? That mulled wine tasted sweetly spiced wine with the tanginess of oranges, more akin to glühwein, and far superior than my previous homemade mulled wine. And that was even when we were doing it in bulk! The experience revolutionised my approach to making mulled wine.

The following year, I volunteered to make the mulled wine. A bit of research and arithmetic later, I began to compose my email to our deputy warden and organise my mulled wine making team.

Cha, Han-na
Actions
In response to the message from Border, Daniel, 21/11/2011
Sent Items
24 November 2011 00:45

Hi Dan,
I've put the costcutter order into one email.
I've gone for the Guardian's mulled wine recipe - with a wee bit adaptation, think it'll be tasty. -http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2010/dec/09/how-to-make-perfect-mulled-wine.
Chris and Dan - a few questions at the end which need your okaying to.

Here's the mulled wine order for 300.

50 bottles of wine
25 oranges
25 lemons
4.5kg granulated sugar
8 jars of cinnamon sticks
2 jars of cloves
6 packets of whole star anise
3 jars of whole nutmeg
4 jars of whole cardamon pods

Hot chocolate order for 60:
12 litres of semi-skimmed milk
1200g hot chocolate powder

Pies and Biscuits:
300 mince pies (6x50 packets)
150 apple pies (6x25 packets)
2 packets of dark choc digestives
2 packets of milk choc digestives
3 packets of ginger nut biscuits
3 packets of bourbons

Could we have it ordered for Wednesday 30th November for 5pm pick up, rather than the Thursday and store it in Chris's flat? Pinar said that she could store some of the milk in her fridge too.

If we have it on the Wednesday then Pinar and I can make the mulled wine syrup the night before, making it less stressful on the Thursday.

I'll send an email to the wider group with an update and also request for manpower on the Wednesday, if Wednesday delivery is okay? Also have queries about urns/stock pans etc, which i'll include in the email.

thanks,
Han-Na

For the next few days, I couldn't quite get over the fact that I had ordered 50 bottles of wine!

Pinar and Rumana came round the evening before to make the mulled wine syrup with me, studding oranges with cloves, peeling lemons...

ingredients for mulled wine2ingredients for mulled wine3mulled wine factory line_2mulled wine factory line_1ingredients for mulled winemulled wine syrup for 300_2

2 hours and plenty of chatter later, we produced about 7.5 litres of mulled wine syrup. Later that night, I got the calculator out again to work out the mulled wine syrup to wine ratio.

This is what happened on the night.

cheeky Jueadding wine to the syrup

We had 47 bottles of red wine to mull and 2 hours to do it. I'd printed off the instructions in the morning and stuck it up on a cupboard.

For 500-550ml of mulled wine syrup, add 3 bottles of wine and 2 oranges. Heat it on a gentle heat so that all the alcohol doesn't burn off. Empty the pan and start again :)

Rumana and Jue took charge of the mulling of the wine, whilst the rest of us began putting up decorations and heating up the pies. They were super-efficient and had it all done before 7pm before our first punters arrived. Shortly after the event began, I nipped off to a friend's birthday party, confident that my job had been done.

laying out the mince piesmulled wine urns

I guess it's becoming a tradition now to make the mulled wine from scratch for this annual event because this year I find that I'm initiating the new Cryfield team recruits into the art of making mulled wine syrup for the masses. We follow the success of last year and make the syrup a few nights before. Sarah needs a plaster when her finger exchanges sharp words with a vegetable peeler and Rumana shows off her skill for removing citrus peel. Glugs of orange juice and red wine are added into the pans by Dan. The good old calculator comes out as I work out the amount of spices that's going into each stock pan and the ratio of syrup to wine when it comes to mulling.

But this time, it's all happening out of my Redfern kitchen and I'm in charge of organising the whole event. What a difference a year makes!

So there you have it. Mulled wine for 300. Rather simple with a bit of organisation, preparation and a team of hardworking, happy helpers.


November 06, 2012

Cryfield 3 Pudding Competition: 4th November 2009

Follow-up to Cryfield 3: the start of the pudding competition from Courgettes and Limes: Recipes and Rhymes has moved! Find me at www.courgettesandlimes.com

6 November 2012

Haha! Here's a blast from the past: I was editing the tags on this blog entry when I hit save for later button by accident, thereby changing the publish date on this entry!

Many people ask me what it is that I do, in my residential life role. I normally end up telling them a selection of the good, the bad and the ugly. Some stories of when you know that what you've said or done had really helped a student, some horrid grief that a student has given you and then the vomit... It doesn't really do the residential tutor role any justice but it gives them a flavour of it. There is rather a lot more that goes on in the general humdrum of residential life. We go around the blocks to try and get to know the students and in doing so end up answering questions on topics such as heating, fridges and personal tutors. Then there are the nights when you don't get any sleep, for one reason and another. And of course, we run events for students. In my first year as a resident tutor, I ran a pudding competition in my block with 84 students. Pretty much all of them took part. In those early days of blissful ignorance of a disease called 'apathy' so commonly caught by students, I did not realise what a monumental achievement it was to have the whole block take part.

I found these photos lurking in my photo archives. I can't claim any credit for them. One of my students took them and then passed them onto me to publish online, which I never got round to. It's a hazy memory now, but I remember being pretty sleep-deprived by then and losing the will to write any blog entries regularly. So here are some photos of what the students got up to. Finally! And all because I accidentally hit the 'save for later' button. (photos courtesey of my Cryfield 3 kitchen 5 2009 students)

spotted dickbakewell tart
1. spotted dick; 2. bakewell tart (the winner)
bread and butter puddingsticky toffee pudding
3. Bread and Butter Pudding and Chocolate Rice pudding in the foreground; 4. Sticky Toffee Pudding
triflehungry students
5. Trifle; 6. Students lining up

The Cryfield Pudding Competition is on Wednesday 4th November. We've decided to stick to english puddings this time round and if it's a success, then we could have an international spin on things... tiramisu, cheesecake all spring to mind.

We're hoping that, as competitors, you have fun with each other in the block, have enough puddings to taste and discover all the hidden talents that you have.

The rules are relatively simple:

  1. The competition will happen on the evening of Wednesday 4th November.
  2. Entry costs £1 per person (this covers cost of food and the rest will be donated to a charity).
  3. At a 8pm the puddings are to be brought down to the common room where the judging will take place.
  4. There are seven kitchens so there will be seven types of puddings. Each kitchen makes a pudding - or several of the same version.
  5. The puddings will be judged on the following: flavour, originality and presentation.
  6. Students must produce the recipe that they followed plus photographs or a video that show who took part in the making of the puddings and how it was made.
  7. Each kitchen must make enough of their pudding so that they can feed their kitchen.
  8. There are extra points available: Extra 3 points if all the students in your kitchen take part, 2 points if 2 students don't take part, 1 point if 3 students don't take part.

And here's the bit that you've been waiting for allocations of kitchens and puddings:

Kitchen 1 - Trifle
Kitchen 2 - Bakewell Pudding
Kitchen 3 - Spotted Dick
Kitchen 4 - Crumble
Kitchen 5 - Sticky Toffee Pudding
Kitchen 6 - Bread and Butter Pudding
Kitchen 7 - Rice Pudding

The judges are Cryfield Resident Tutors and we'll provide bowls, spoons, cream and custard. Looking forward to it!

ps. please use the comments facility, if you would like to suggest a charity that we can donate the proceeds to. If not, David and I will pick one and let you know.


October 26, 2012

Understudies in Nigella's Chocolate Banana Bread: Introducing Whiskey and Currants

img_1846.jpg

I know this is a rather strange title for a recipe: this is another one of my cakes that appeared, as it were, from the magic created when the actors of a recipe are not there, one looks for the understudies and BOOM! the result is far better than the original. I say 'another' because it isn't the first time that I've improvised with ingredients whilst baking. My baking history is chequered with them, for example the courgette and walnut cake when my cupboard lacked most of the ingredients in and the carrot and pinenut cake that was created when I put baking powder in the wrong bowl of herman...

img_1818.jpg

The smell of this banana cake, that I conjured up, is of Christmas. No wonder as I used sloe whiskey and currants to substitute the called for dark rum and sultanas, respectively.

Have you ever come across - ? No! Have you ever tasted a banana cake that's like a Christmas cake? You'll now start posting recipes in my comments box to tell me of various banana cake recipes that do :) *giggle* I would welcome them.

While I'm asking - do you know what makes a cake into a bread? I don't know. Why is it that most banana cakes call themselves breads? Is it to do with the loaf tin that they are made in?

mixing egg

So... a confession. I made this cake because I was being made to pack up house, again! Do you remember the previous times that I moved flat and I found myself just having to make two lemon and ginger cheesecakesand bramble jelly? My fellow resident tutors and flat movers, David and Lucy, were really worried about the lengths that I went to avoid putting things away. So now, I'm very aware that I bake to distract myself from the pain of packing boxes; there's always good reason. This time, I had a hoard of frozen bananas, 12 as it turned out, that needed to be used up. Well, why not strike a compromise with the chore of packing and this golden (brown) opportunity, and try out quick and easy banana bread recipes.

So, I did with Nigella's and Deb's (from Smitten Kitchen).

According to Nigella (How to be a Domestic Goddess), '[T]his is the first recipe anyone hesitant about baking should try: it's fabulously easy and fills the kitchen with that aromatic fug which is the natural atmospheric setting for the domestic goddess.'Well that sold it to me... as if I needed any convincing. Nevertheless, there are even easier, equally enticing banana cakes out there. Cue: Smitten Kitchen's Jacked Up Banana Bread. I made her banana bread at the same time that I made Nigella's and it is just a tad easier to make. I'll post that recipe later, because this variation of Nigella's banana bread recipe, with the whiskey and currants, supersedes it in taste, flavour and richness.

banana and chocolate cake ingredients

Ingredients (and a suggestions box of other substitutes for the dried fruit and liquor at the bottom of this post)

  • 100g currants.
  • 75ml sloe whiskey, or any whiskey
  • 150g plain flour
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 125g unsalted butter, melted
  • 90-100g soft brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 large or 4 small very ripe bananas, mashed (about 300g in weight with the skins off)
  • 60g chopped walnuts
  • 100g dark chocolate, roughly chopped

Method

1. Put your chosen dried fruit and liquor into a small saucepan (I measured the currants and whiskey directly in the saucepan for ease) and bring to the boil. Now, remove from the heat, cover the saucepan and leave for an hour or so, in order that the currants can plump up as they absorb the most of the liquid. After which, Nigella says, to drain the currants. I decided it was a waste of the sloe whiskey, so I ended up adding it all, currants and whiskey, to the cake mix at the appropriate step. I'm rushing ahead of myself here. While the currants are plumping up, move on with the rest of the recipe.

2. Preheat the oven to 170°C/325°F/gas mark 3 and line a 2lb loaf tin. I only have a 1.5 lb loaf tin and it just about manages it.

banana and flour

3. Measure out the plain flour, cocoa powder into a medium sized bowl. Now add in the bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, salt and give them all a good mix with a metal or wooden spoon. This means that you don't get any lumps of salt, cocoa powder or bicarbonate of soda in the eventual cake.

4. Melt the butter. I've used both methods of carefully zapping butter in the microwave (um, careful and zap don't seem to be natural partners but what other word describes what happens in a microwave?) and melting it in a saucepan. Both work. If you are going to zap it in the microwave, choose a large pyrex bowl that is big enough to make the cake mixture in, as it will save on the washing up later.

stirring butter and sugaradding the banana - looks really yummy!

5. Once melted, add the sugar to the butter and stir well until the sugar is well blended into the butter. It should look almost toffee-like in colour because of the brown sugar. Follow with the eggs. Beat them in, one at a time, to the sugary buttery mixture then add the mashed bananas and beat well.

6. Now add the currants and the remainder of the liquid in the saucepan, along with the walnuts, vanilla extract and the chopped chocolate to the mixture and stir well.

adding the chocolate, nut and fruitadding flour to chocolate banana mixture

7. Add in the flour mix (see 3) but do it a third at time, stirring well after each addition. Once all of the dry mixture is mixed in, add the cake mixture into the loaf tin and bake in the middle of the oven for 1 hour. I check after 40 minutes and if the cake looks like it is browning at the top too quickly, then I cover it with some baking paper to protect the cake from burning. Sometimes the cake takes a little bit longer to bake, so don't worry if it needs an extra 15-20 minutes in the oven. You'll know when the cake is done when you insert a cake tester, or I use a sharp knife, into the cake and it comes out clean.

adding flour to chocolate banana mixwet banana and chocolate cake mix_1wet chocolate and banana cake mix_2

8. Leave the cake in the loaf tin to cool down completely, before slicing it up to eat. It does smell absolutely heavenly at the point the cake leaves the oven, but the inside of the cake steams up and collapses if you cut into it when it's warm. Trust me. I made that mistake last week at Baking Club when we were far too impatient to wait because we were experimenting with various liquors and naturally wanting to taste the different flavours.

Verdict? Scrum-dili-O-cious. Honestly, this version is truly scrumptious and rich in flavour. I've made a few variations (listed below) but there is something to be said about how the flavours of whiskey, chocolate and banana complement each other and stand their ground against each other in this cake. You know how I said to leave the cake to cool down completely before cutting into it. I discovered that this cake gets better with age. The chocolate, whiskey and banana mature well together if you can bear to leave it a day or two before eating it and you'll have a more complex flavour to savour. Leave the cake in an airtight container for at least a week and it won't dry out... if it lasts that long!

Baking Club came round last Wednesday laden with various liquors. We tried a few out.

  • Banana, Date and Toffee Bread: 100g chopped up dried dates, 75ml of butterscotch schnapps, subsitute half of the soft brown sugar with dark brown sugar. I'd also leave out the 25g of cocoa powder with replace it with plain flour so that the toffee has a chance of coming through.
  • The original Banana and Chocolate Bread: 100g sultanas, 75ml dark rum - this is Nigella's original recipe. Tastes alright but the whiskey and currants one tastes even better. I might try this one out later without the chocolate and compare it to Smitten Kitchen's version.
  • Banana, Apricot and Chocolate Bread: 100g chopped up dried apricots, 75ml apricot brandy. - gave this one away before tasting it.
chocolate banana whiskey currant bread
An alternative to Christmas cake, perhaps?

September 30, 2012

Learning to make Ouzi with Ola and her mum

ouziouzi parcels

I aim to post a blog entry once a month. You wouldn't think that it would be a difficult task. However, this is the month of September and I feel like I'm running as hard as I can on an upward inclining treadmill, which is about to spit me off because of the amount of work and time required to prepare for the start of an academic year at university, both at work and in the residential life team. I guess, the feeling is intensified this September because I had to move into a new flat, learning the ropes of a new role and area with my promotion to the role of deputy warden, meeting a new team of tutors, looming work deadlines... I'm going to stop trying to explain now because it's beginning to sound like I'm whinging.

Besides, amidst all the change and chaos, I decided to take a two weeks holiday to Jordan. A luxury, I admit, in September.

So, as the rain beats down against the window of my new study/dressing room, I'm thinking, 'was it really only a fortnight ago, that I was eating breakfast on a balcony in 30°c, listening to the tannoy of the scrap metal truck making it's way around the neighbourhood, looking forward to my first arabic cookery lesson?' I want to go back to that morning, when I made my way to the apartment, drinking in the sun and lingering slowly past the jasmine flowers that seem to overhang the walls on every street corner, so that I could inhale their fragrance one extra breath.

I guess the best thing to do in my case then, is to make some Ouzi.

On holiday, I learned that Jordanian women love FOOD. I had tremendous fun interacting with them whilst eating together, sharing cakes, talking flavours and recipes, helping with cooking. Maybe this is the same for all Arab cultures? I hesitate to generalise. One really interesting cultural food fact that I learned is, that the smaller you dice the tomatoes and cucumber that go into your salad, demonstrates how much you care for your guests. More effort goes into cutting up your salad veg finely, you see. I'd never thought of it in that way before!

The opportunity to cook together with Ola came out of a conversation Ola and I were having about okra! I smile as I remember this because I was telling her that I really don't like the slimeyness of cooked okra, which prompted her to share a recipe with me. I still remember the arabic for okra (bamieh). Oh my random memory! When Ola mentioned how nice it would be to cook together, I seized on the opportunity - yes please! I'm only here for a fortnight, but I love learning new dishes! My British friends, also asked whether they could join in too. We'd agreed to keep okra for another event and settled on making Ouzi, which is a traditional Jordanian rice dish, that can be served as a rice dish or rice stuffed filo parcels. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm guessing that every Jordanian mother has their own family recipe for Ouzi, like the Brits do with roast dinners?

jordanian oven
An arabic oven

We met at Ola's mum's house. What a privilege and because we were there, I experienced baking with an arabic oven! What did I learn?

  1. Arabic mixed spice is entirely different from UK mixed spice. More savoury rather than sweet. Shall I post a recipe for one later?
  2. An arabic oven automatically has a grill function, by design.
  3. Arabic curry powder is different from UK curry powder, but I don't know how, so I'm going to use the british stuff for the timebeing.

I'm going to write this recipe a bit differently. It's in 3 distinct bits and I thought about writing the ingredients list for each separately. I've seen a number of recipes laid out like that. However, I think that in this case, it would be annoying NOT to have the whole list of ingredients at the beginning because there are so many spices that go into each stage.

ouzi spices

Please don't let the long list of ingredients put you off making this delicious dish. I've written down the recipe as Ola's mum taught me; would it help you to imagine that most Jordanian women would add their own variation of spices to this?

To give you an idea of the flexibility of flavouring in Ouzi, I'll let Ola interject: "you can add more spices other than cinnamon to the meat (first step) if you like. but even if you don't it won't matter because all the flavours will blend at the end, so every spice will add to the flavour regardless of the step at which you add it."

So, what ingredientsdoes one need to make Ouzi for about 8-10 people?

  • 454g/1lb ground beef or finely diced steak
  • ground cinnamon
  • curry powder
  • chicken or vegetable stock
  • ground green cardamon
  • ground cumin
  • arabic mixed spice or bokharat
  • ground black pepper
  • salt
  • 400g frozen peas
  • 600g or 4 cups of dry basmati rice
  • raw, blanched almond slices/halves
  • 16 sheets of filo pastry
  • ghee or melted butter
  • sunflower or vegetable oil
  • water
  • 1tbsp of freshly chopped parsley

You'll also need:

  • 2 large baking tins, preferably roasting tins.
  • A soup bowl or ramekin, which you will use to help you shape and stuff your filo pastry sheets with rice.

I think that once you have everything out and ready, then it's pretty easy to cook and assemble. So, let's begin.

Cooking the meat

Ingredientsfor the meat part:

  • 454g or 1lb of beef mince, or finely diced beef steak
  • ½tsp cinnamon
  • 1tsp salt

Method:

1. Brown the beef in a frying pan or the stock pan that you're planning on using for the rice. As the meat is browning, add the cinnamon and the salt. Once the meat is browned, empty it onto a dish.

cooking ouzi meatadding spices to peascooking ouzi rice
Cooking the rice and vegetables

Ingredients for the rice:

  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 400g frozen peas, defrosted in cold water and drained.
  • 600g or 4 cups of basmati rice, rinsed and soaking in cold water
  • 1tsp ground cardamon
  • 1tsp cumin
  • 2tsp arabic mixed spice
  • 1tsp curry powder
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 3 stock cubes
  • boiling water
  • 3 handfuls of raw, blanched almond slices

Method:

1. Put the sunflower oil in the stock pan and add the peas and 1tbsp of salt. Do this on a medium-high heat. Cover the pan to allow the peas to steam for about 5 minutes.

2. Now, comes the fun part of adding all the spices to the peas. Give it a good stir. Break up the stock cubes and add them to the peas as well. You can add a cup of water at this stage, if you think that the peas are starting to burn a bit.

3. Boil the water. Meanwhile, drain the rice and add it to the stock pan. Cover the rice with enough boiling water so that it the rice will steam cook at the end. I'm not very good at measuring out water for this, but I believe it's something like 1 cup of rice:1¼ cups of water?

4. Bring the water to boil, then cover the rice and peas in the pan with a lid and leave it for 10-15 minutes on a very low heat, until the rice is cooked. Test it - it should be light and fluffy. No al dente nonsense.

5. Heat 1tbsp of sunflower oil in a frying pan and on a medium heat, fry 3 handfuls of the almonds until they brown. Leave to one side until the rice is ready.

frying almondsfrying almonds2mixing rice and meat

6. On a big serving dish, put out half of the rice, then half of the meat. Mix it up. Then repeat until you have used up as much rice and meat as you'd like. Ola's mum said to us that we can put the rice and meat together in whatever proportion we like, according to taste. Now at this stage, you can add the almonds and eat it just like this. That's what I did when I made ouzi by myself after my cooking lesson. See below. If you tilt your head, there's thank you (shukran) written with almonds in arabic.

shukran ouzi
serving up ouzi

Or.... you can also wrap up the rice in filo pastry, which is what Ola and her mum taught us to do.

Assembling the filo parcels

Ingredients:

  • The fried almonds
  • The ouzi rice, cooled.
  • 16 sheets of filo pastry
  • ghee or melted butter
  • sunflower oil
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

You'll also need the baking trays/roasting tins and ramekin/soup bowl at this point

Method:

1. So, you need to leave the rice to cool completely now before adding it to the filo pastry. Otherwise, Ola's mum shared that from her experience, the filo pastry will break when you come to wrap up the rice with them. She advised preparing the rice part in the morning when making Ouzi for dinner, in order to give the rice sufficient time to cool down. However, if you have left it too late or are impatient, you can speed up the cooling process by laying the rice out as a thin layer on a BIG serving dish so that the rice is exposed to as much cold air as possible. If you want to use warm rice, then on your heads, be it!

bowl to shape ouzi parcelslaying in the filo pastry

2. While you're waiting for the rice, preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4 you could fry the almonds and prepare the baking trays by generously greasing them with oil. When the rice is ready, get your ramekin or soup bowl out, the almonds and the filo pastry sheets. (For the sake of ease, from this point forward, let's call the ramekin or soup bowl, a bowl.) Cut the sheet so that it's 2½-3 times the size of the dish that you're using. It's possible to cut away extra pastry, so err on the larger size when you first begin.

3. It's assembly time :) Flour the bowl if you want to doubly make sure that the pastry won't stick to the sides. Gently place one sheet of filo pastry on top of the bowl, so that the centre of the pastry sheet is in the bowl and the sides of the filo sheet are comfortably overhanging over the edges of the bowl. When we assembled them, Ola used 2 sheets because the pastry broke when we only used one. It's worth experimenting to find out what will work, but don't use anymore than 2 filo sheets per parcel. Press the pastry to the sides of the bowl.

layering the ouzi parcelfolded ouzi parcel

4. Add a tablespoon of almonds and then use a large spoon to add the rice until it reaches the top of the dish. Fold the layers of the filo pastry over the top, so that it begins to look like a parcel. You want to have enough pastry on the top so that when you invert the bowl, there will be enough there to form a firm base. Tear away any spare pastry from the top and store it, just in case you need to patch anything up!

5. With one hand on top of the folded sheets, carefully invert the dish and hopefully you'll get the satisfaction of seeing an unbroken filo parcel appear. Lay the parcel, folded sheets down, carefully on the greased baking tray and move onto the next one. If you find that the filo sheet has torn, gently take it apart and use an additional filo sheet to assemble your parcel again. When lots of them appear on a baking tray, I think that they look like perfect white pillows.

2 ouzi parcels on the golots of perfect parcels of ouzichecking ouzi for baking

6. When they are all assembled, brush them with ghee or melted butter, and cook them in the oven for 3-5 mins, until the parcel bottoms are browned. Check by lifting them up with a spatula. Then take it out and put them under the grill for an additional 2 minutes to brown the tops of the pastry. Essentially, we're making sure that the pastry is cooked.

baked ouzi parcelsserving up ouzi

7. When the tops are brown, take them out the oven and sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley. Et, voila - your ouzi parcels are ready to be served. Ola's mum served them with laban, which is thick natural yoghurt which as slightly soured, and baked chicken.

Do you know what makes this really more-ish? The almonds. The nuts add texture, taste and totally complete the dish. When I made ouzi the next day for 13 friends, I made a slight variation of the recipe and missed out the wrapping in parcels bit, in the interests of time. Also, I burnt the almonds and I could have added a bit more salt. Even then, the resounding verdict from the lunch guests was 'Zaki' (Tasty). In conclusion, this seems to be a pretty fail-safe recipe.

Thank you Ola and Ola's mum.

me assembling ouzialison assembling ouzi



August 28, 2012

When the olympics came to baking club: the olympic macaron rings

Quick! Hide this entry's title with your hand. Can you guess what these are, without looking at the title of the blog entry?

olympic macaron ringsolympic macarons

¡Mira! They're meant to be macarons imitating the Olympic Rings. However, even I as their co-creator, have to admit that in reality, they bear a greater resemblance to Homer Simpson's donuts.

homer simpson dunut

See what I mean?

The story behind the photos goes something like this:

In Sarah's sitting room. Sarah, Emma and I are tasting the results of our 'experimenting with different sugars' cupcakes and plotting what to bake next time.

Me: I've really enjoyed the olympics. Wouldn't it be fun to do some baking that is olympic-inspired?

Sarah:We could do different flavoured cupcakes. Wouldn't it be fun to do...

(a lengthy, rather detailed conversation ensues on the various flavours and colours that would figure in olympic inspired cupcakes, such as blueberries, raspberries, lemon, chocolate... we keep getting stuck on what would make the courgette and lime cupcakes a greener colour.)

Me:How about macarons instead? It would probably be easier to get the colours right on macarons than with cupcakes

Sarah and Emma: Oh that might be fun. I've never baked macarons before.

Me: They're a bit tricky but we can give it a go. I've got Emma's gel colours that we could use.

Emma: Olympic ring shaped macarons! We should be able to get the proper shape too!

Sarah: (enthusiastically) Yes! Let's do it soon.

Me: (eyes popping out of head, trying to think through how to pipe ring shaped macarons! Actually don't think that I've ever seen a non-conventional shaped macaron before in my life!) Uh... Um...

Emma: They're like meringues aren't they, so we can pipe them into circle shapes.

Me: Um... okay (really not convinced how this will work)... so I'll get egg whites and ground almonds... if you're alright with it, then shall we have it at mine, since I've got most of the equipment for baking them already? Save me lugging the stuff over here.

Sarah and Emma: Okay. That's a plan.

Sarah: So, next Wednesday?

We finish clearing up and depart.

----- O -----

Unfortunately, Emma, who had the idea of olympic rings, was poorly on the night. I was kind of counting on Emma to bring the inspiration for the ring shapes. So, picture doubtful moi on baking club evening when an enthusiastic Sarah bounds in. Sarah is very decided that we should push on and experiment with colours and shapes. Hence, riding on the wave of Sarah's determination, there happened a marathon macaron making evening of three different flavours and five bright colours over the course of the next 3 hours.

blue and yellow macaronspink and chocolatepink and chocolate macarons

I wasn't at all convinced that we could pipe macaron circles. However, I knew that if we were going to have any luck with it, we would have to be really very careful in the macaronage stage and not overmix the batter. If you remember, the first time I attempted to bake macarons, I had a disastrous 'my batter spilleth out of the piping nozzle and over everything' moment.

pink and chocolate piped ringsblue and yellow piped rings

Thankfully, not this time round. :)

Do you know, I have yet to see one macaron recipe that is the same in it's ingredients or methodology. Seriously! Each recipe book (Fiona's, Nigella's and the Pink Whisk) that Sarah and I looked at had varying cooking times, oven temperatures, the number of egg whites etc... I'm not sure that the perfect, foolproofmacaron recipe exists, you know. Besides, there are so many varying factors to consider, like the temperament of the oven you use and the humidity of the air for the drying out period. When it comes to baking macarons, I think that the key is to keep trying and practising and trying and practising.

So, back to our macaron marathon. We weren't sure how to mix the three primary colours we had to produce black, so I thought that chocolate would be a good substitute. The chocolate macarons went down a treat with the kids when I took them to a congee party later that week! I think that we did a good job with the other remaining colours - apart from maybe the pink rings. We should have added more red colouring perhaps but Sarah and I were concerned about runniness with that mixture. Hence, we stopped at pink and I'm glad that we did because it proved a bit difficult to control the piping of that particular batter. We saved the hardest to last - green, pistachio macarons. Sarah mixed the colours and macaronaged, whilst I was peeling macaron shells and rings off baking sheets. We had a veritable production line going on!

Personally, as flavours go, I think that the chocolate and the pistachio ones were the yummiest. Both of those flavours married well with the orange flower white chocolate ganache filling, that you can see sandwiched between the rings. The other colours were filled with rosewater white chocolate ganache.

pistachio green macaronsolympic macaron rings

We did make conventionally shaped macaron shells, rather a lot of them in fact! But I never got a chance to photograph them to show you, because a) by the time I'd cleaned everything up, I was too exhausted on that Wednesday night and b) I took them into work the following day and they all got demolished by my intrigued colleagues!

So, one day in the future, I will bake some more pistachio macarons and take photos this time so that I can post you a blog recipe for the pistachio macarons.


Search this blog

Most recent comments

  • Fantastic TutorialThank you so much for posting. www.designerbaseshapers.com by base shaper on this entry
  • I made this cake in January afer finding an old bag of SR wholemeal flour and it was amazing. I was … by Vanessa Rolph on this entry
  • Thanks for letting us all know about your new life. We'll be thinking of you. Genuinely, it will be … by Laura Davies on this entry
  • I totally want to have hot dogs in your buns–before–icing! by Ee-Reh on this entry
  • Impressive! I'm not that brave with chocolate decorations yet. A little tip though, if you pipe your… by Monica on this entry

Recent Tweets

Blog archive

Loading…
RSS2.0 Atom
Not signed in
Sign in

Powered by BlogBuilder
© MMXIV