Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Happy Birthday Mary

It was my lovely mother in laws birthday at the weekend and we had a little celebration for her. I volunteered to make a cake which she thought was a lovely surprise. She is normally the one that makes the cakes and as they are so yummy I felt that I had a lot to live up to. I didn't realise it but apparently no one has ever made her a cake before. She has always had cakes that have been bought and she was chuffed to bits to have one made especially for her.

I decided to make a chocolate cake and used a recipe from the Divine Chocolate book. I sandwiched together 2 chocolate cakes with white chocolate ganache and then spread the ganache over the tops and sides of the cake. I melted some dark chocolate with a little butter and when it was cool I spooned it into a piping bag and piped the message onto the top of the cake. I think I need a bit of practice at this. I decided to decorate the outside of the cake with white chocolate curls. These were so easy to make yet look stunning if I do say so myself. I was planning on having a go at making the flowers but sadly I ran out of time. I took a quick trip to my local cake shop and bought the floral decoration instead.

To make the white chocolate curls melt a bar of white chocolate with a knob of butter. Leave it to cool slightly then spread very thinly onto a granite or plastic board. Place the board in the fridge and let the choclate completely set. Then remove from the fridge and place the board on a work surface or table. Draw a sharp fine bladed knife across the chocolate at an angle of 45 degrees. This will create the chocolate curls. If the chocolate breaks off in brittle pieces then it is too cold so leave at room temperature for a few minutes. If teh choclate is sticky and clings to the knife put it back in the fridge for ten minutes and try again.

Friday, 1 August 2008

Mushroom Risotto

I really enjoy risotto and often choose it from the menu of my favourite Italian restaurant. I have never attemtped to make it myself before now so thought it was about time I had a go. I was a bit daunted to start with as it is something that I haven't made before. I looked at several recipes and finally decided on one by Georgio Locatelli. His book called Made in Italy Food and Stories is wonderful and I have made several delicious meals from it.
There is a huge chapter in the book all about risotto. It goes into detail about the rice and the stock and after reading it all I was a little apprehensive. So I gathered all my ingredients and set too. It was actually not that difficult to make although adding the stock and all the stirring took a while. It was actually quite hypnotic watching the rice slowly absorb the stock. The results were definately worth it and this was so tasty. I will be making risotto again and am looking forward to trying some different ingredients.
Classic Risotto with mushrooms and grana cheese - Serves 2
1.25 litres good chicken stock
25g butter
half an onion, very finely chopped
200g superfino carnaroli rice
125ml dry white wine
salt and pepper
chopped mushrooms
For the mantecatura
35g cold butter, diced
50 finely grated Grana Padano cheese
Chop the onion as finely as you can and grate the cheese. Put the stock into a pan and bring it to the boil. Then reduce the heat so it is just simmering.
Put a pan on the heat and add the 25g butter so it melts. Add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes so it softens. Turn up the heat to medium and add the rice. Stir until the grains are well covered in butter and heated through. Once hot, add the wine and let it reduce and evaporate. Continue to stir until the wine has virtually disappeared.
Now its time to add the stock. This is the bit that takes a while. Add the stock a ladleful at a time. Let each addition be almost absorbed before adding more stock. The idea is to keep it runny and never let it dry out. You need to keep stirring the rice so that it cooks evenly. As you add the stock you will begin to see the rice swell as it absorbs the stock. After about 15 minutes start to test the rice. It is ready when it is plump but still has a slight firmness. I added my mushrooms at the this point and stirred them in for a couple of minutes.
Take the pan off the heat and let it cool slightly. Then quickly beat in the cold butter and then the cheese. Serve the risotto quickly as it will carry on cooking for a few minutes.