Friday, 27 February 2009

Oven Baked Lamb Chops

Britsh sheep have an ability to thrive on fairly marginal land. They are therefore much less likely to be subjected to intensive farming. Lamb is a distinctive and flavoursome meat. There are some regional variations in taste and flavour which is the result of different breads and the variable quality and character of the grazing land.

Just the other day I bought some lamb chops from my local butcher. I was assured by him that these sheep were locally reared and had spent their days running about on a Dorset hillside. Once I got them home I had to decide how to cook and serve them. Normally I just grill them but I fancied something a bit different. I spent a good couple of hours flicking through my cookery books and in the end I decided to oven bake them.

I hadn't cooked lamb chops like this before but they were truly delicious and I will definately be doing them this way again. I made an onion and rosemary sauce to go with them and served my lamb with some buttery new potatoes and steamed vegetables. It was so easy to just pop the chops in the oven. While they were baking I made the sauce and cooked the potatoes and vegetables.

This recipe serves 2.

4 lamb chops (or more if you fancy it)
1 small onion peeled and chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 6, 200C.
Firstly place the lamb chops in a shallow roasting tin and pop the chopped onion around them. Season with salt and paper and then place on a high shelf in the oven to bake. I like my lamb a little pink so cooked them for about 30 minutes. If you like yours more well done then increase the cooking time.

While the lamb chops are baking you can whip up the sauce easily. For that you will need:

1 small onion peeled and finely chopped
1 rounded teaspoon of rosemary leaves
15g butter
15g plain flour
85ml milk
85ml vegetable stock
1 tablespoon double cream
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Melt the butter and sweat the onions over a gentle heat for five minutes. Meanwhile bruise the rosemary leaves in a pestle and mortar to release their oil and then chop them finely. Add them to the onion and cook gently uncovered for about 15 minutes. Now using a wooden spoon stir in the flour until smooth. Gradually stir in the milk followed by the stock and stir vigorously with a balloon whisk. Season with salt and pepper and then simmer for 2 minutes. Then remove from the heat and liquidise in the pan with a stick blender. If you don't have one then pour the sauce into a conventional blender and liquidise. Then stir in the cream.

Once cooked remove the chops from the oven. The onion will have roasted and caramelised too which is lovely so dish these up along with the chops. Serve the chops with with the sauce poured over and enjoy.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

A Cake Full of Truffles

I have had a heart shaped cake tin languishing in my cupboard for months and I thought that Valentines day was the perfect time to dust it off and use it. We don't normally celebrate Valentines but I thought I would bake a cake for my husband. After consultanting my cookery books I decided to try and create a chocolate box full of truffles. I was quite pleased with the end result and my husband was very impressed although a little guilty that he didn't get me anything. Ah well it is my birthday soon so maybe he will make up for it then.

So on to the cake. I decided to make a chocolate cake and used a recipe from my Divine Chocolate book. All of the recipes that I have tried from this book have been wonderful. I really do like this book but then I love anything to do with chocolate.

While the cake was baking and then cooling I started to make the chocolate truffles. These are so easy to make yet totally delicious. I have made them several times and they make a wonderful gift too. I decided to flavour these truffles with some Baileys Irish Cream but they are still delicious without this. I had to go back and finish the truffles later as you do need to let the mixture set for several hours.

The truffle recipe

275g dark chocolate broken into piece
250ml double cream
50g unsalted butter at room temperature
3-4 tablespoons Baileys Irish Cream according to taste

1. Place the chocolate in a large bowl. Bring the cream to the boil and pour it over the chocolate. Stir gently until the chocolate has melted, trying not to create bubbles. Leave to cool for 2 mins. 2. Add the butter in two stages, stiring gently. Once the butter is incorporated, the ganache should be smooth and glossy with no oil slick on the surface. Set the truffle mixture in the fridge for a minimum of 3 hours or overnight.
3. Remove the ganache from the fridge about 15 mins before you want to make the truffles, depending on room temperature. Put the cocoa in a bowl. Ensure your hands are cold and dry, then dust them with cocoa.
4. Take spoonfuls of the ganache mixture (use a teaspoon or tablespoon depending on how large you like your truffles) and roll the mixture into a ball in your cocoa-dusted hands. I decided to coat some of my truffles in melted chocolate and some in cocoa. For the cocoa dusted ones, drop each shaped truffle into the bowl of cocoa, turn it around and then toss it between your palms to remove any excess powder. Please each individual truffle in a mini petit four case. For the other truffles melt some chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. I did some white chocolate and some milk chocolate. Leave the melted chocolate to cool. Once cooled dip the truffles in the chocolate and place on baking paper to set. Once set put each truffle into a mini petit four case.

Once the cake is cool, slice it into two with a sharp knife. Make some chocolate ganache by melting 100g of dark chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Once it has melted whisk in 175ml double cream until it is smooth. Leave to cool and then spread some chocolate ganache on one half of the cake and then sandwich the two halfs back together again. Use the rest of the chocolate ganache to ice the top and sides of the cake.

Then draw an outline of the cake tin onto some baking parchment and cut it out. You will need red fondant icing for the next part. I cheated and bought mine from my local cake shop but you can colour it yourself with food colouring. Roll out the icing and then place your baking parchment heart on the top. Use a cocktail stick to mark the heart onto the icing. Cut out the heart shape and place on the top of your cake.

Roll out some more red fondant into a long strip. Cut the edges so they are straight and make sure that the strip is slightly wider than the height of the cake. Carefully wrap the strip of fondant around the cake. I rolled out my fondant a little thin so I would recomment that you keep this quite thick so that it doesn't bend over where it is higher than the cake.

Then all you need to do is fill the top of the cake with your truffles.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Tea Cosies for Breast Cancer

No you aren't seeing things. These ladies are wearing tea cosies on their heads. These lovely ladies are from the Exeter branch of the Country Woman's Association in New South Wales, Australia. They are doing something amazing in order to raise money for women with breast cancer. The idea is to knit or create wild and wonderful tea cosies which will be auctioned or sold for this very worthwhile charity.

If you would like more information or would like to create a cosy of your own then have a look at their website for some more information. You can find the link here

So come on everyone, knit or make a wild, whacky and wonderful tea cosy for a very good cause. I will be having a go although I have never knitted anything before.