Two Cooks Make An Excellent Broth

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“They keep saying that sea levels are rising an’ all this. It’s nowt to do with the icebergs melting, it’s because there’s too many fish in it. Get rid of some of the fish and the water will drop. Simple. Basic science.” 

-Karl Pilkington, An Idiot Abroad

 Dearest ample darlings! What a pleasure it is to be back with a rip roaring foodie blog on time and filled to the brim with the best knowledge and tastiest grub, straight from the busy kitchen of professional chef, Margaret Bemand! Last week, I was most fortunate to be asked back to her humble home to assist her in a cooking class for a group of St Pauls scholars. Some of you might remember that I spent a morning with her a few months back and we cooked an abundance of Asian cuisine, the chicken satay was most notable I must say! However, this week the menu was a little more European. Prepare yourselves for a fishy fiesta and sugary celebration all in one fantastic post.

Technique of the Week

Peel and core an apple in under 2 minutes! Your ample servings’ kitchen aid is here to save the day.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PW–uErtVnw&feature=youtu.be

Seemingly Seasonal

Fruit and Vegetables:

  • Asparagus
  • New potatoes
  • Morel
  • Spring onions
  • Samphire
  • Radishes
  • Rocket
  • Watercress
  • Chicory
  • Gooseberries

 

Meat and Fish:

  • Sardines
  • Lamb
  • Crab

Culinary Query

Ness, Borough

‘Can I make homemade bread without a bread tin?’

Yes, of course you can! If you have a look at my last blog there is no need to have a bread tin for focaccia or even a fruit wreath. Equally, if you have a spare flower pot hanging around, that will work just as well as any old tin.  It has to be clay and you best give it a good wash, but it will do nicely! Have a look at this link for an example:  http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/2366635/flowerpot-bread.  Happy bread making!

This Week’s Recipes:

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Moules Marinieres

Anytime I find myself by the sea, be it abroad or on home shore I like to indulge myself in a little seafood. One of my favourite dishes is the French classic, ‘Moules Marinieres’ and lucky for me, this was the first recipe on the list last Thursday morning! Despite many years of sampling all types of fish, I actually have very little experience cooking our scaling finned friends! Chef Margaret was the ideal candidate to give me and now you, a how to on cooking mussels.

(Serves 3)

Ingredients:

1 chopped shallot

1 clove garlic, chopped finely

50g unsalted butter (because you never know how naturally salty your fish might be!)

1 kg mussels

1 carrot cut into juliennes

1 leek cut into juliennes

100ml white wine or cider

100ml double cream

Tbsp chopped parsley

Method:

Melt the butter in a big, heavy bottomed pan with a lid and add the shallot and garlic. Turn down the heat and allow to cook slowly. Now, to your mussels! Before you cook a mussel, they should be closed and then only open when cooked. When you buy your mussels always opt for the farmed variety. Farmed mussels are kept in clean water and undergo regular health checks throughout their growth whereas wild mussels can easily be contaminated. In a bag of mussels it will sometimes be the case that some of them will be open, BUT they can still be alive, meaning good to eat. Margaret suggested that you drop the open mussels from a little height onto the kitchen counter. If the mussel slowly closes (the noise frightens it), you can cook it but if it stays open, it is already dead and should be discarded. Next, clean the mussels. Using a small yet sharp knife, trim off the mussels’ beards (hilarious I know!) and barnacles.

When the shallot and garlic are aromatic and translucent then add the wine, turn up the heat and bring to the boil. Add the mussels and put the lid on the pan. After three or four minutes, the mussels will be open. Give them a minute or two more to be cooked. Scoop the mussels back into the bowl and sieve the liquor on top of them. Throw away the grit in the pan and pour the liquor (through the sieve again) back in the pan. Add the carrots and leeks and boil like crazy for four minutes. Add the cream, stir through and taste-it will need pepper and possibly salt. Put the mussels back in to the pan and add the parsley. Lid on, give it a good shake and serve. I find that the shell of one mussel acts as a pincer to pull out the tasty centre!

Phew! That’s a lot of knowledge for one dish. Right, moving on to something with scales! This recipe is a homemade pesto crust cooked on a flat white fish. In the cooking lesson we used halibut which was incredibly meaty and delicious however, halibut is not a sustainable fish so I’m not going to recommend that you use it yourself. A fillet of salmon or sustainable cod works well as a supplement. Here is a link to check what fish is sustainable right now: http://www.fishonline.org/

 

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Halibut with a Pesto Crust

1 fish steak per person

 

Pesto:

Small clove garlic

One bunch of basil, leaves only

40-50g parmesan freshly grated or chopped

Good glug of olive oil

Pepper

50g pinenuts

A little green chili (optional)

 Traditionally made in a pestle and mortar, I find putting all the pesto ingredients into a small blender with enough olive oil makes an excellent consistency and is much less hassle. Whizz all the ingredients into a paste and if you can, leave it for a little while to allow the flavours to develop.

 Heat an oven 200ºC. Line a baking dish with greaseproof paper or a silicon sheet and place the fish on the sheet. Smother with the pesto and place in the oven. When the pesto begins to colour, the fish should be ready. If the fish flakes, it is ready! Serve hot from the oven with some sautéed potatoes and roasted vegetables. It’s utterly delicious.

Now, let’s move onto something a little sweeter and what’s sweeter than vanilla fudge!? Margaret demonstrated a wonderful method on how to make old fashioned, crumbly fudge and this was a true delight.

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Vanilla Fudge

 Ingredients:

500g Granulated Sugar

80g Butter

150ml Milk

25ml Cream

175ml Evaporated Milk

Vanilla Essence

Method:

Put all the ingredients into a very large and also very clean saucepan. It needs to have a heavy base so that the heat is spread around evenly and have very tall sides as the mixture will boil up very high! Heat the mixture gently until everything melts. Then, turn up the heat and bring to the boil. Take care here as the mixture will boil up high and heat to 116ºC. This make some time as there is a lot of liquid to boil off. Once the heat is turned up, you must stir the mixture continuously to stop it sticking. In the meantime, prepare a tin with greaseproof paper.

When the fudge hits the temperature, take off the heat, add the vanilla and beat it with a wooden spoon. The moment it begins to thicken, pour into the tin. Let it cool a bit but before it hardens, cut the fudge into squares with a knife. Unlike commercial fudge, this will be crystalline and slightly crunchy rather than slightly slimy.

Traditionally, tarte tatin is made with puff pastry however, chef Margaret recommends using sweet pastry. Homemade sweet pastry is quick and easy to make plus, it adds another texture to the soft apples and sticky caramel.

 

 

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Tarte Tatin with Sweet Pastry

 Sweet Pastry:

100g Cold butter, cut up into pieces

200g Flour

40g Sugar

1 Egg

Splash of milk

 Using your hands, work the butter into the flour until you have a texture of breadcrumbs. Add the sugar and then the egg. Work the mixture together with your hands until you can make a ball of dough. You may need to add a splash of milk to get the right consistency. Cover the dough with cling-film for 30 minutes and place in the fridge.

 

For Tarte Tatin

 8 Apples* (or as many as fit in your pan)

100g Butter

100g Sugar

1 Quantity of sweet pastry

 Layer the butter with the sugar on the bottom of a heavy based pan. Peel, core and halve the apples, and place, round side down, on top of the butter/sugar layer. Roll out the pastry, and place on top of the apples. It should cover generously and you should be apple to tuck the edges into the pan. Place on a medium heat. The pastry will begin to puff up as the steam builds up inside. Keep smelling the steam and giving the pan a little shake until the steam smells of caramel. When it smells properly of caramel, put it in the oven at 180ºC to finish cooking the pastry. To serve, very carefully flip the pan onto a dish big enough to hold everything, including the juice. Tarte tatin goes down an absolute treat with cream, custard or even vanilla ice cream. Note that the apples can be substituted for pears in this recipe too.

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[*use technique of the week in order to peel these apple at the speed of light]

Thank you for reading my blog this week! Prepare for a lot more recipes exiting recipes next month. Until then, happy cooking!

E. Wells Xx

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Kitchen Terms Only

black jumper

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.

peppers

Sweet Roasted (and stuffed) Red Peppers

(serves 2)

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.

cooked peppers

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.

mush in a pan

Creamed Mushrooms with Basil Pesto

(serves 1)

Knob of butter

Five chestnut mushrooms

Tbsp double cream

Homemade basil pesto (see previous posts for recipe)

Soda or challah bread

Salt and pepper

Rocket

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.

mush on toast

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…

limes

blender shot

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/2155644/key-lime-pie

lime pie

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.

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Chocolate Pavlova

(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-

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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.

cofeee

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

E. Wells

Italia Calling

italy book

“If you ate pasta and antipasti, would you still be hungry ?”

-Anonymous

This week has certainly been one of culinary note. The arrival of two long lost friends, a catering proposal and a free kitchen spurred on what only could be described as a ‘cookathon’ in my London home. Below lies a smattering of sweetened delights to amuse your bouche this Halloween and a few winter inspired stomach pleasers. Much to your amusement, I have yet to put to bed my love of sweetened meat. I am quite frankly obsessed and for this I apologise. Family, friends and followers please bear with my mutterings as I have a few surprises coming your way!

Aside from Easter Sunday, 31st October acts as a sugar free for all for everyone aged thirteen and under. In suitable tooth decaying fashion, I have spent this week busying myself with an array of scrumptious, ice cream flavours. On the blog menu today we have; salted caramel, nutella and peanut butter swirl. I can guarantee you that the ice cream machine has never seen so much action in one week! Rumoured to be quite a challenge to make, homemade ice cream is one of the easiest things in the world whether you have an ice cream maker or not, plus it keeps for months. Ahh…the beauty of frozen food!

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If you’re without an ice cream maker fear not! It sounds rather fancy but all an ice cream maker is, is an icy bowl with a churning spatula! Homemade ice cream can be made just as well without one. All you do is place the mixture into a tupperware box and put in the freezer. For the first three hours, take out the box on the hour and bash the mixture up a bit. This breaks up the big crystals and makes it the consistency of proper ice cream. The salted caramel recipe is sensational. From experience it is an absolute hit with both adults and children!

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Rule #1 when making the caramel: do NOT stir. Swirl the mixture by holding the handle.

Last week I talked a little about different types of pesto. Since then, a friend from a former life in Italy visited me in London and brought with him a fair few cooking tips. I may as well call him the ‘il re della pasta’ because every time I see him, he cooks up a delicious pasta based treat. This time he made basil pesto with pistachios instead of pine nuts (inspired and tasty) and a lemon zest and mushroom sauce made up of three different types of mushrooms. I really recommend both sauces, although perhaps the mushroom sauce is better for a more formal occasion with a nice glass of red wine. Here are the recipes straight from the heart of Italia:

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Pistachio Pesto:

300g Pistachio (shell them before using)

Glug of olive oil

Handful of basil leaves

Salt and Pepper

Two cloves of garlic

Combine all the ingredients together in a blender. Check for taste and serve with a hefty helping of parmesan cheese!

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Three Mushroom Pasta Sauce:

One box of button mushrooms

One box of chestnut mushrooms

Two Portobello mushrooms

Two/three cloves of garlic

Glug of oil

A glass of the cooking pasta water

Zest and juice of one lemon

Finely chop all the mushrooms and add to a saucepan on a medium heat with the oil and pressed garlic. Stir the mushrooms until soft. They will produce a lot of water but don’t worry as the water will evaporate fairly quickly. Add the lemons zest and juice and then take half of the mixture out of the saucepan and blizz. With the other half of the mushrooms (in the pan) add a glass of water from your cooking pasta. This gives a little more flavour, prevents any last minutes burning and keeps them soft. Return the mushrooms to the pan and season. Serve once again with parmesan cheese over a bed of pasta. For this dish I prefer to use a more interesting shaped pasta. I could be pretentious here and list off a few Italian pasta types however, I’ll refrain and simply say, anything tube-like or with a flowery swirl. How intelligent am I right now!?

http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_pasta

I would also like to mention something extra about pesto. It may sound obvious but pesto isn’t just good on pasta. I sometimes mix it into vegetable broths and stews or even use it as a fish marinade. For my other European guest this week, a talented musician who plays in the Finnish band Beastmilk, I made a classic pesto with pine nuts and spread it upon two salmon fillets. It was incredibly easy to make (see last blog for the pesto recipe), and salmon is so quick to cook in the oven or grill (10-12 mins at 180ºC) that the food was served within minutes of walking into the kitchen and getting started. Equally, the sundried tomato pesto would be gorgeous with chicken or as a pizza base sauce. And with these wonderful ideas swimming about your heads, I say ‘Go! Get creative and get down with pesto!’ God, I’m awkward…

http://www.beastmilk.bandcamp.com

Oh, I mustn’t forget my last pasta recipe of the day. A lovely slow cooked beef ragu that is a wonderfully warming treat at the end of a winter’s day.  No passata necessary, just love and a big ol’ bottle of red wine. Same difference really!

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Slow cooked beef ragu:

Two shallots

One onion

Glug of oil

Two cloves of garlic

500g of beef mince

A few glugs of balsamic vinegar

One and half glasses of red wine

Two sweet peppers (yellow, orange or red)

Approx. 14 cherry tomatoes

A good handful of basil leaves

Salt and Pepper

Combine the oil, shallots, onions and garlic together in a big saucepan over a low heat. Make sure the onions and shallots are finely chopped. Once the onions become soft and see-through, add the mince and brown. Then, add the peppers, balsamic vinegar, wine and a cup of pasta water and stir. When the moisture has absorbed a little, place the tomatoes on top of the mince and season with salt and pepper. Scatter the dish with the basil leaves, lower the heat and put the lid on the pot. The tomatoes will begin to steam and the basil leaves will infuse the meat. After fifteen minutes, take off the lid and stir. The tomatoes will be very soft and the basil leaves will have wilted. Taste the meat, add a little more vinegar or wine if necessary and leave to simmer for another ten minutes. Serve immediately on pasta with a glass of red at hand. If there is any left at the end, keep for lunch the next day. It’s great cold too…. This is an example of slightly sweetened meat. Taste it and you’ll see why.

Finally, after some token savoury recipes we march backwards to the sound of the sweetened drum. Today we finish with something quite special. Its direct translation from French is chocolate lava and well, with a name like that you know that it sounds a little more than promising. This devilish delight is a glorified chocolate fondant. Within its chocolate-y centre lies a gooey layer of salted caramel…..(insert Homer Simpson gurgle noise).

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I discovered this recipe a while ago in Rachel Khoo’s The Little Paris Kitchen but hadn’t the time to make these beauties as there are a few elements to prepare. Firstly, the caramel needs to be made and cooled before any other preparation has begun, allowing you to pipe it into the fondants just before the go into the oven. Secondly, the fondants must sit in the fridge for an hour (or the freezer for half an hour) before you cook them in order for the middle to remain a liquid when cooking. This dessert is a big, sexy hug if ever there was one. These lava desserts are very naughty so, sod the diet and try these moelleux au chocolat asap. I promise you, these little treats will silence even the most persistent of chatterboxes and the most strict diet observers!

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Until next week followers. All my love and happy Halloween!

E. Wells x

When in Bristol, eat sweetened meat!

books

“…he is a heavy eater of beef. Me thinks it doth harm to his wit.”

-Shakespeare

Before I began this blog, I was concerned that I wouldn’t have enough to say each week. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth! If anything, there are far too many delicious treats to discuss in such a small period of time. What is a poor aspiring chef to do?! This week I’ve been focusing on infused oils, spices and sweetened meat. Prepare yourselves for a chapter that will tantalise your taste buds and make you question why you haven’t tried these wonderful recipes before. I guarantee that you’ll never look twice at supermarket bought pesto once you’ve made your own!

Jamie Oliver’s latest cookbook, ‘Save with Jamie’ points out the importance of a decent store cupboard or if you’re really lucky, a pantry! Good things to have in stock are; vinegars, oils and selection of dried herbs and spices. You never know when you might need to add a little heat or spiced flavouring to a dish. A few years ago, I discovered chilli oil in lovely, pizza restaurant called The Actress in South East London. A dash of the stuff can really add a bit of life to anything you want! It’s not only great on pizza but brilliant for dipping bread into, marinating meat and even sautéing onions in for a hot chilli con carne or a tasty homemade curry. Now, I’m sure you’re now thinking the same as me, could I infuse other oils? The answer is YES! You can make almost any infused oil you like using both fresh and dried ingredients. Why not try garlic and chilli, rosemary and lemon or even saffron for something really special.

chilli

Having done some research, there appears to be some discrepancy between fresh and dried herbs. If you want to make a lot of oil and keep it for some time, you must use dried herbs. Fresh herbs hold a stronger flavour, but can produce unpleasant bacteria if left to sit in the oil for too long, so don’t say you haven’t been warned. Freshly infused oils should be kept in the fridge and must be used within 10-12 days. For dried infused oils, they can be left out. To get the flavour out of the herbs, break them up with a pestle and combine with your desired oil (extra virgin is the best, but sunflower will do nicely) in a saucepan over a low heat. After a few minutes, strain the herbs and decant the now flavoured oil into a pretty glass bottle. You can always add a few strands of said herb into the end product. Personally, I like to keep a small amount of the dried chilli flakes in my oil because I just LOVE chilli but it makes quite a pretty aesthetic too. These oils make a great gift especially at dinner parties or for a thoughtful Christmas present. Stick on a delicately inscribed label and you’re good to go.

chilli bottle

Infused oil guideline:

240ml of oil

4tbsp of chilli flakes (or any herb you like!)

2 crushed garlic cloves (optional)

Oils aside, let’s check out the pesto! For a few years now, my mum has been making her own jars of herby, oily goodness and honestly, they’re to die for. Below are the recipes for basil and sundried tomato pesto but once again, you can use the recipe as a framework for whatever flavour you want. Rocket works quite well too. Perhaps you could try a chilli tomato pesto? Oh gosh, I’m off again! Apologies. This is my mother’s own recipe. Keep it secret, keep it safe. This recipe makes one big jar of the good stuff.

pesto

Basil Pesto Recipe:

A bag of fresh basil leaves (or a hefty bunch)

50g pine nuts

Half a triangle of grated parmesan cheese

Two garlic cloves

Salt and pepper

¼ pint of good quality oil

After lightly toasting the pine nuts in a saucepan (without any oil), put all the ingredients into a blender and blizz. Check for taste and add a little more salt and pepper if need be. The garlic has a real kick in this, so this isn’t ideal first date food but then again, if you’re both eating it, it shouldn’t be a problem! If you want to try sundried tomato pesto, exchange the bunch of basil for a small tub of sundried tomatoes which you can buy at any deli counter. Jars of sundried tomatoes would work here too if on a tighter budget. Mix the pesto with some cooked pasta and sprinkle with parmesan to serve. Buon appetito!

Pasta dish

Now, let us talk of Bristol! This week I spent a little time in this wonderfully historic city and needless to say, I visited some delicious establishments. Honestly, my Instagram was near to breaking point! Tapas is known to be pretty spectacular and I can confidently say, that Bristol’s Bravas is a great little spot to find reasonably priced, intelligent food. The iberico pork was gorgeously succulent, the pedro ximenez (south American sherry) marinated liver with caramelized onions was sensational and the fried aubergines with molasses was a bargain at £2.50 a go. I thoroughly recommend a trip here to anyone looking for some good grub. Oh and try not to stuff yourself silly (unlike myself, classic Emily) as the salted chocolate desert truffles are divine (yes, I managed one in the end!).  I must mention here that the only real expense is the alcohol but the house red, described as ‘perfectly gluggable’ goes down swimmingly. If you’re going T-total, order a sparkling elderflower as it’s homemade and so refreshing.

Tapas

Another place I discovered was the newly opened Grillstock on the triangle. As you can probably guess, there is some serious meat involved in this restaurant. The place is relatively small, and the room is mainly taken up by a long wooden table. Food is ordered at the counter and served on a tray. The food is so tasty and the portion size can only be described as worthy of an episode on man vs. food! I had the pulled pork barbeque plate and oh boy, it was scrumptious. The pork was probably the best I’ve ever eaten. It was so moist and sweet. I didn’t know what to do with myself, I must find out what they used to produce such sweetness! The meat came with homemade slaw, cornbread and fries. Scattered over the tables were the following; BBQ sauce, chilli BBQ sauce and chilli sauce so, I was in heaven! A few friends of mine took on a Grillstock challenge. One wolfed down a tray holding three types of meat which was entitled the smokehouse challenge and the other engulfed an enormous, “lockjaw” burger held together with a carving knife! The evidence of food combat and defeat of such dishes lies below and oh, what proud chaps they were indeed.

grills 2 burger   Grills grills 4

I feel it’s time for something light, a light snack that is! As the nights have drawn in closer, it’s almost time to prepare for the frightful (see what I did there) all hallows eve. I’m a big fan of scary films, even more so when the food is good. A while back, Nigella produced a few flavoured popcorn recipes and I really believe they need to be resurfaced. I will be providing both sweet and savoury suggestions to smooth out any controversy amongst popcorn lovers. The latter recipe is from another fellow food blogger and is a solid, sweet toothed choice. Once again, use these recipes as a template. You can add anything you fancy. I might have a go next week making my own, so stay tuned.

  • Savoury:

Nigella’s Party Popcorn:

I suggest that you use half the amount of salt stated in this recipe. It was a tad too salty for little old me.

www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/nigella-lawson/party-popcorn-recipe/index.html

savoury sauce savoury

  • Sweet:

Not quite Nigella:

http://www.notquitenigella.com/2010/02/25/nutty-caramel-popcorn-better-then-bought/

toasted nuts sweet pop

Finally, we reach the grand finale and a cheeky cocktail is in order! As far as I am concerned, all cocktails should be cheeky so this badboy (kill yourself, I know) is perfect. I first sampled this in a pizza restaurant called The Hill in Bristol, once again. It’s called a gingerbread martini and is ideally consumed in number, by a fire and with a group of merry friends. This recipe serves two martini glass servings.

Martini

Gingerbread Martini:

1/2 shot of vodka (Russian standard is the best)

One shot of baileys

One shot of Kahlua

A dash of gingerbread syrup

A little milk

Sprinkling of cinnamon for presentation

That’s all for this week folks! I hope these recipes have got you thinking about your next culinary adventure. A note to close friends of mine, you’re all getting infused oil for the foreseeable gift giving future. You lucky, lucky people! I know there was quite a bit of reading this week but I just couldn’t help myself. I’m most definitely on a mission to test some meat sweetening recipes now. Expect more cake next week and a detailed blog on the moment I met Miss Rachel Khoo at her newest book signing at Harrods this Thursday. She was truly wonderful.

book

Before I go, I must reference a few people (the old university student in me eh?). Firstly, a BIG thank you to the lovely Grace Jenkins who has been taking some wonderful foodie snaps for this blog. She took the main cover image which stands hands and feet over my Instagram photos! If you would like to get hold of Grace for photography here is her website: www.gracejenkins.co.uk. I’ve known her for over fifteen years and she’s great with a lens. Secondly, the restaurants I’ve mentioned are all on twitter and have their own sites. Click on the links below to get to them. Lastly, if you fancy looking at my Instagram which is regularly updated with food and furry animals, add me on EKCWELLS and if that’s simply not enough, my twitter is @BlitheringTwit.

www.theactresseastlondon.com

http://www.pizzakitchenbars.co.uk/location/the-hill

http://www.bravas.co.uk

http://www.grillstock.co.uk

Lots of love,

E.Wells X