Mark Antony: All right, look here Marcus…
Spencius: No, no, I’m Spencius. ‘S my brother what’s Marcus.We’re in partnership now, you know. Marcus & Spencius.
-Carry on Cleo
Welcome back ample lovelies! What a dreary day we do find our-selves in this grey January morning. The clouds are low, the sky is bleak and yet, the glowing light of the ample servings kitchen never ceases to falter! It may be icy cold outside but boy, I’ve got some naughty nibbles, sweet roasted peppers and a smattering of coffee techniques to keep you burning this winter. January blues is not a term used in my kitchen. I much prefer words such as, blanche or flambé. Food is seasonal and therefore infinitely wonderful and exciting even during a grey season such as janvier. So, pull on your deliciously warm, although perhaps not the most stylish jumper, jump under a duvet and let your eyes feast on this week’s recipes from yours truly.
To start us off, I wish to share with you a lovely and ever so simple dish that works particularly well for dinner parties. Earlier, I called them sweet roasted peppers but they are also stuffed! Inspired by classic Spanish cuisine, these peppers are slow cooked with a good dash of olive oil, cherry tomatoes, a few pieces of garlic and a sneaky anchovy. Anchovy haters, please do not hate in this instance as they work tremendously well in this dish. Their saltiness works wonders against the sweetness of the pepper skins. With a little bit of seasoning, these little gems go down an utter treat with a little rocket on the side.
Sweet Roasted (and stuffed) Red Peppers
Two red peppers
Four tbsp. of olive oil
Six cherry tomatoes
Four anchovies (from a jar is best)
Two cloves of garlic finely sliced
This recipe is pretty much an assembly of ingredients popped into the oven for 15 minutes or so. Turn your oven to 180-200ºC and split your red peppers in half and lie them on a baking tray. Fill each half with three halves of cherry tomatoes, a few slices of garlic, one anchovy fillet and a tablespoon of oil. Season with salt and pepper and place in the oven. Once the peppers turn a little darker and the tomatoes are nicely cooked pull the tray out and leave the peppers to rest a few minutes. A perfect treat when warm but equally tasty to eat cold the next day.
There is a lovely little café not far from me called ‘Tried and True’ whom are notorious in South West London for their delicious brunches and tasty coffee. Not long ago, I ordered their glorious creamy mushrooms with basil pesto served on homemade soda bread and it was to die for. I thought I should give this recipe a go myself. This takes minutes to make and is bound to warrant some admirers when you settle down at the breakfast table on a Saturday morning with this on your plate.
Creamed Mushrooms with Basil Pesto
Knob of butter
Five chestnut mushrooms
Tbsp double cream
Homemade basil pesto (see previous posts for recipe)
Soda or challah bread
Salt and pepper
Place toast under the grill for two minutes (or toaster). In a saucepan, melt a knob of butter and throw in the sliced mushrooms. Cook them slows until they look almost wilted and are soft to touch. Season with salt and pepper and add the double cream and take off the heat. Thinly spread your pesto onto the toasted bread and place on a plate with a few rocket leaves. Arrange the toast neatly and pour on the creamy mushroom liquid. A few basil leaves on top make great presentation but aren’t necessary. This is one quick and easy weekend breakfast.
Now, that your sitting comfortably let’s move onto to this week’s sweet delights. A key lime pie is always something I rather fancied making and to be quite honest I have no idea why. I didn’t actually know what a key lime pie involved exactly but I can tell you now that in the recipe I used there was only lime, no kiwis….bizarre indeed. I think the name attracted me as it sounds a tad exotic and after all my baileys cupcakes, I wanted a fresh and zingy dessert to in the words of my younger brother Henry, ‘take the taste away’. And so, I give you just that. A very zingy and delicious pie (more like a cheesecake let’s me honest) which will please all around the dinner table after a heavy meal. However, don’t be fooled in thinking it’s healthier because it involves fruit. I promise you that this dessert is in a similar vein as my others, it’s quite filthy. Ooh err…
Finally, we move on to something very special and just a little bit sexy. Ladies and gentlemen this is my most requested birthday dessert since I began baking, Nigella’s chocolate pavlova. I cannot stress enough how easy this dessert is to make! The taste to speed to make ratio is beyond comprehension. This recipe never, ever fails to provoke wails of happiness and twinkling smiles. If you want to make someone feel loved, serve this for dessert or even better, for breakfast! Nigella suggests you serve this meringue with double cream and raspberries but usually I mix up the soft fruit a bit. Don’t get me wrong, raspberries are wonderful but there is no harm in throwing in a few strawberries and blueberries too. This dessert is utterly gorgeous and a real treat. Enjoy.
(for the chocolate meringue base)
6 large egg whites
300 grams caster sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa powder (sieved)
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
50 grams dark chocolate (finely chopped)
(for the topping)
500 ml double cream
200 grams raspberries
200 grams strawberries
100 grams blueberries
3 tablespoons dark chocolate (coarsely grated)
Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4/350ºF and line a baking tray with baking parchment.
Beat the egg whites until satiny peaks form, and then beat in the sugar a spoonful at a time until the meringue is stiff and shiny. Sprinkle over the cocoa and vinegar, and the chopped chocolate. Then gently fold everything until the cocoa is thoroughly mixed in. Mound on to a baking sheet in a fat circle approximately 23cm / 9 inches in diameter, smoothing the sides and top. Place in the oven, then immediately turn the temperature down to 150°C/gas mark 2/300ºF and cook for about one to one and a quarter hours. When it’s ready it should look crisp around the edges and on the sides and be dry on top, but when you prod the centre you should feel the promise of squidginess beneath your fingers. Turn off the oven and open the door slightly, and let the chocolate meringue disc cool completely.
When you’re ready to serve, invert on to a big, flat-bottomed plate. Whisk the cream till thick but still soft and pile it on top of the meringue, then scatter over the raspberries. Coarsely grate the chocolate so that you get curls rather than rubble, as you don’t want the raspberries’ luscious colour and form to be obscured, and sprinkle haphazardly over the top, letting some fall, as it will, on the plate’s rim.
Before I love you and leave you dear friends, I have promised to pass over some coffee making tips! Coffee has become a BIG DEAL in recent years particularly, in London town and I feel it’s my duty to tell you of all I have learnt. Having worked in a coffee shop and now a pizzeria which sells anything from a cappuccino to a irish latte I have a fairly good idea on how to make a decent mug of joe (shout out to Mr. Joseph Silverman here!). And yet, I am pleased to tell you all that I learnt further technique and knowledge about those little beans of energy at a coffee training earlier this week. Here are my five steps to make great coffee with the help of my Australian teacher-
1. Where is your coffee from?
Arabica is the slightly rarer and most sort after coffee bean which we use at work. Grown at high altitudes and hand-picked. Incredibly tasty coffee found in Indonesia. I am of the hippy dippy mind-set that if your food was grown well and cared for, it will taste better. These beans are well nurtured!
2. Grind your beans well
Your grind setting is the key to the type of coffee you will ultimately receive. A shot of espresso should take between 27-30 seconds to filter through the machine and produce a small layer of crema. If the shot takes a shorter amount of time that stated above, the grind was too big and if the shot took much longer, the grind was too small. Fiddle with your grind until your espresso time is perfect.
3. Level off your coffee
When you pull the lever to release the coffee, be confident. One pull should be enough for one shot. If you think it isn’t enough, throw the ground beans back into the machine and start again. One pull of the leaver should produce a little mound in the hand filter which comes up to the line inside of it. Placing the filter on a hard surface, tamp the grind. Hit the left and right side gently and then push down on the grind. Tamp left and right again and wipe off the excess coffee grind on the edges with your hand. Then fix the filter into the coffee machine after releasing a little water to clear the coffee machine’s filter by pressing the one shot button.
4. Be quick!
The longer you leave your shot sitting in the coffee machine, the more your coffee will be ruined. The heat from the coffee machine can actually burn your shot of coffee so, as soon as you place your shot in the machine and your coffee cup is placed underneath, press the one shot button!
5. Milk technique
After you beans, your milk is the most important ingredient to get right in your coffee. There are two types of milk; foam for a cappuccino or macchiato and latte milk for everything else.
-For foam, use fresh milk in a metal jug and use a thermometer. You do not want your milk to heat up above 140ºC. Place the steam nozzle just below the surface of the milk and once it starts to get warmer, place the nozzle slightly deeper into to milk and circulate. At 140ºC remove the foam and pour into the cappuccino cup sideways thus using the maximum amount of foam and only a little liquid milk onto your one shot.
-For latte milk, use fresh milk when possible to reduce the risk of growing bacteria and hold the jug at a 45º angle. Place the nozzle under the milk’s surface and once it begins to heat it up, place a little deeper. Once the milk reaches 140ºC, turn off the steamer and gently bang the bottom of the jug against a hard surface to remove any bubbles. Swirl the milk a little until it looks like glittery egg whites and pour over your coffee shots (two shots for latte).
Next week, I’ll tell you how to do latte art! Until then, you can be amazed by my little latte heart.
Love to all and thank you Grace Jenkins for your brilliant photos. Oh and please keep voting for my Cordon Bleu application video. The closing deadline is in six days! Just click the THUMBS UP icon on the top left hand corner: http://ukscholarship.cordonbleu.edu/videos/all-videos/item/911-emily-wells#.UuI65RDFLIV