Monday, 31 March 2008

Fish and Chips

Diana Henry is one of my favourite cookery authors and when I saw her book Cook Simple I just had to buy it. The recipes in this book are wonderful and Diana Henry shows how it is easy to cook a fabulous meal with a few simple ingredients. The chaptes in the book are based on ingredients such as fish, chicken, pasta and sausages and these simple ingredients are transformed into something special. I have some cookery books that I have looked through but never cooked from but I only got this one at the weekend and have cooked from it already. The book is beautifully written with stunning photographs yet the recipes look simple and delicious. This is the first recipe I have made from the book and I am looking forward to trying some more.

I had some cod in the fridge that I had bought when I was out shopping at the weekend. There are several recipes in the book which use cod but I was tempted by one for roast cod with smoked bacon. As I had all the ingredients at home this is what we had for dinner tonight. Frying the cod to start with gives it a wonderful golden colour. It is then roasted in the oven to finish it off. This was a delicious meal and so simple to make. We will definately be having it again I'm sure. I served this with homemade potato wedges but I think it would be delicious with the pea puree from the book which is what Diana herself suggests. I also think it would be nice to BBQ the cod in the summer and have it outside with some salad. Now for the recipe...

Serves 2

3tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
2 cod fillets
200g smoked bacon lardons
35g unsalted butter
a squeeze of lemon juice
1tbsp finely chopped parsley

Preheat the oven to 220C/Gas Mark 7. Heat 2tbsp of olive oil in a frying pan that can go in the oven. Season the cod and then place it in the pan, flesh side down. Cook for about 1 and a half minutes until slightly browned. Turn it over and place the pan in the preheated oven for about 10 minutes. I don't have a frying pan that can go in the oven so I transferred the fish to a small roasting tin and it was fine.

While the fish is roasting heat the rest of the olive oil in a small frying pan and cook the bacon until it is browned on all sides. Add the butter and melt until foaming. Then add the lemon juice and parsley. Pour the butter bacon and parsley over the cod and serve immediately.

Friday, 28 March 2008

Baileys Chocolate Mousse

Baileys Irish cream and chocolate are two of my favourite things. I am definately a bit of a chocoholic and tend to pick the chocolate dessert from the menu when we go out. We don't often have desserts at home but last night I decided to make us a treat. I had some chocolate in the cupboard and some cream in the fridge so settled on making a chocolate mousse. I just so happened to have a bottle of Baileys too so thought that would make a nice addition.

Here are just a few random facts about Baileys. Baileys was the first Irish Cream liqueur and is made in Dublin. The cream used to make Baileys comes from a co-operative dairy called Avonmore Waterford PLC and it is located about 70 miles from Dublin. Each year more than 4 million litres of Irish cream is used in the production of Baileys. This amounts to 4.3% of Irelands total milk production.

This recipe makes enough for 6 but is easy to scale down if required. They set in the fridge after about one hour.
3 eggs
75g caster sugar
350ml double or whipping cream
350g dark chocolate, melted
100ml of Baileys Irish Cream

Place the eggs and sugar into a bowl and whisk them together. Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water and continue to whisk the mixture until thick and mousse like.
Pour the cream into another bowl and add the Baileys. Whisk together until it forms soft peaks.
Pour the melted chocoloate over the eggs and sugar mix and stir together. Add the whipped cream and carefully fold together.
Pour the mixture into 6 glasses or ramekins ans swirl a little cream over the top.
Place them in the fridge and chill until they have set.
Serve and enjoy.

Thursday, 27 March 2008


People have been baking bread for many hundreds of years, yet many of us buy our bread from the shops. I am guilty of doing this and have never tried to make my own bread from scratch. Bread is a staple in many of the world's cultures. It can be a simple combination of flour, salt, yeast and water but there are many different types of bread. I always think of bread being baked in the oven but that doesn't have to be the case. It could be cooked on a hot plate or a griddle. Remember that in ancient times bread was baked on hot rocks.

I went on holiday to Egypt a couple of years ago and on one trip I had a go at making some bread. We did a camel ride into the dessert and we were treated to a traditional meal. They made us some bread and even let us have a go at making some ourselves. It was a flatbread and was almost like a pancake in texture. This is a picture I have of my bread being cooked on a hot stone in the Egyptian desert.

I do have a bread machine which I have used a few times but although the bread has been OK, it has never been wonderful. I have tried several different recipes but have been quite disappointed by most of them. So I decided to have a go at making some bread myself. I thought it best to start with a basic white loaf so scoured my recipe books for a recipe to use. In the end I settled on the recipe in Nigel Slater's Appetite which was very easy to follow. It did use 1KG of flour so made a huge loaf. Although the bread was delicious it was a bit too much for just the two of us. I think in furture I will half the recipe. I used my KitchenAid to mix and knead the dough which was very successful although the dough did try and escape over the top of the bowl a couple of times.

I was very impressed with my first attempt at bread making and I will definately be having a go at making some more very soon. There is a fascinating array of recipes, techniques and ingredients that are available. Making bread at home is much easier than I thought and I am looking forward to trying some different recipes soon. You can't beat the smell of freshly baked bread and if I can make a delicious loaf then I think anyone can. This is my finished result which was very nice indeed.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Raspberry and White Chocolate Tart

On Sunday I cooked Sunday lunch for my inlaws. It was also Mothers Day here so I wanted to do something a bit special for them. It was actually my husband that invited them as he thought it would be nice for his mum not to have to cook. Note that he didn't actually volunteer to do the cooking instead though.

I had decided to do roast chicken but when I went up to our local butchers on Saturday, he didn't have any left. This meant a swift change of plan and I decided to do beef instead. I got carried away and bought rather a large piece. It was far more than I needed to feed the four of us but meant that we had plenty of leftovers.

I then needed to decide what to make for dessert. I don't normally make a lot of desserts when it is just the two of us but wanted to make the effort and do something yummy. I did think about a crumble but my mother in law makes such delicious ones that I didn't think mine would measure up. I also wanted to try something new and different.

When I went shopping I came across some delicious looking raspberries so bought them and thought I could come up with something when I got home. Raspberries are one of my favourite things and I did think about making a pavlova with them. In the end I decided to make a raspberry and white chocolate tart. This also gave me the chance to try out my new KitchenAid mixer that I had got for my birthday.

This tart had a pastry case that was made using cocoa powder for a delicious chocolate flavour. While the tart case was cooking I melted some white chocolate and whipped up some cream. I then combined the two and filled the cooled tart case with the chocolate cream mixture. The cream was topped with raspberries and I made a raspberry coulis to serve with it. I was very impressed with this tart and will definately be making it again. Everyone really liked it and my father in law even said it was the nicest dessert he had ever had. For that I had to give him a second slice to take home for later.

Serves 8

For the pastry:

150g/5½oz plain flour
25g/1oz cocoa powder
75g/2½oz icing sugar
125g/4½oz unsalted butter
2 tbsp ice cold water

For the white choolate cream:
200g/6oz white chocolate
1 free-range egg yolk
dash hot water
300ml/7fl oz double cream, whipped
200g fresh raspberries

For the raspberry coulis:
2 tsp icing sugar
200g/7oz fresh raspberries

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4.
2. For the pastry, sieve the flour, cocoa powder and icing sugar together into the bowl of a food processor or mixer. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Slowly add the iced water to the mixture and continue to pulse until it comes together in a ball of dough. Place into a bowl, cover in cling film and allow to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
3. Roll out the dough as thinly as possible on a lightly floured surface. Line a tart tin with the pastry. Prick the base with a fork, line with non-stick baking parchment and fill with baking beans. Place the tart tin on a baking tray and blind bake in the preheated oven for ten minutes. Remove the beans and baking parchment and bake for a further five minutes, or until the pastry is crisp and cooked through. Leave to cool.
4. For the white chocolate cream, melt the white chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water. When melted, add an egg yolk and a dash of hot water and whisk together. Allow to cool slightly. Fold in the whipped cream. When the tart case is cool. fill it with the white chocolate cream mixture and top with the raspberries.
5. To make the raspberry coulis, place the raspberries into a small blender with the icing sugar and process until smooth. Check the sweetness and add more sugar if necessary. Then pass the mixture through a sieve to remove the seeds.
6. Serve the tart with a drizzle of the raspberry coulis and some vanilla ice cream if you wish.