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Wednesday 31 March 2010

Refrigerator Soup

OK, big news. You might need your hard hats for this one, so be ready people.

Delicious Delicious Delicious is going to be featured on food photography site extraordinaire, Refrigerator Soup!

Refrigerator Soup is the place to feast your eyes on the visual delights the food blog world produces daily; I have unearthed many amazing blogs there that I otherwise would have missed. Better than that, they even accept MY photographs. I love them!

Get on over and check it out. I'll be featured on their fantastic 'Twenty Questions With Our Favourite Food Bloggers' section from the week beginning 5 April.

I'm so excited!

Tuesday 30 March 2010

Pie of the Month - March

You never get nice photos if you just photograph your dinner. But we have a rule here not to waste anything, so pies get baked for dinner, and not at four o'clock when the light is good.

And we're back with the series you all wish he'd never started!

This month, I have once again left everything until the last minute, but you can't be mad and point waggly fingers at me, because I am only late posting this. I made it weeks ago! And the good news is that you could make these pies in a flash anyway, so if even I did leave it until the very last second, which I didn't, it still would have been OK. More than OK. Delicious.

As you've probably already worked out from the (awful) photos, this month, we are bound for Pot Pie Town.

I should say up front that I never would have made pot pies if it weren't for the fact that Lucy and Rish gave us pot pie pie pots as a house warming gift. I don't know if you can make it out in the photos, but they are Le Creuset. I have a complex and difficult to explain relationship with Le Creuset products. I seek them out. I touch them. I admire the myriad of colours they come in (not the orange ones though - surely a case where original is not best), and stare longingly.

Me in the pot. Upside down.

But no matter how desirous I am of the purchase, I never allow myself. Let's face it: they are REALLY expensive. Even the cute little silicon spatulas that say 'Le Creuset' on the handle cost a week's wages. So you can imagine my joy at being the lucky recipient of two blue pie pots. And just for having moved house! I should do that more often. (Obviously that was a joke. I'm not moving ever again, even for Le Creuset. It nearly killed me, it was months ago, and we still have things to unpack.)

Beef brisket was cheap when I was deciding what to fill these little pots with. I guess it always is actually, so don't think these are March-only pies. They are basically pastry topped stew anyway, so you can put whatever you want underneath and I won't mind. Yep. I am giving you free-reign over my pies. Enjoy it.

The pastry itself is puff. The bought kind. I was going to tell you that there's no point making your own, that everybody buys it, and then this happened, literally a day or so after I made my pies. But I still recommend buying your own. It is only shortcrust that you'd be a fool to buy. Homemade not only tastes better, it costs less too. If you're going to buy shortcrust, you may as well just pull a Henry Sugar, and throw twenty pound notes out of the window.

The collar.

Make these. You get enough mixture to make four, and one packet of pastry will do that many tops easily. You could also do just one big pie. Some peas on the side will make it look like you made an effort, except you won't actually have had to.

Beef and Mushroom Pot Pies

You will need:

500g brisket of beef, diced
3 onions
1 carrot
large sprig of rosemary
4 large field mushrooms
salt and pepper
1 can of Guinness, or other stout
1 tbsp flour

bought puff pastry

  1. Dice the peeled onions, and cook in a little oil over a medium heat, with a pinch of salt, for about ten minutes. Add the chopped carrot, and cook for five minutes more.
  2. Add the needles from the rosemary, stir, and add the beef, flour and some more salt and pepper. Then tear up the mushrooms, and add them as well.
  3. Pour over the stout, and simmer the mixture for an hour or so over a low heat. You can leave the stew at this point, covered in the fridge, for a day or so.
  4. Ladle some stew into your pie pots.
  5. Roll out the puff pastry, and cut circles to top the pot with (hint: use the lid as a guide!). Also cut a collar of pastry to attach to the pot - this gives the lid something to cling to. We all need that.
  6. Bake at 200°C for twenty five minutes, or until the pastry is puffed up, and golden.
  7. Serve with green peas.

Monday 22 March 2010

Rome Guide: Antica Caciara

OK, so we've enjoyed our coffee at Sant'Eustachio, have we not? Oh, great; I'm so glad you liked it. And that crostata was beautiful, wasn't it? You think so? Really? You know what, (insert your name here), you really are a gourmet! You should let me take you around Rome and decide what you're going to eat and drink more often.

(Some recent Internet research has made me aware of people who think that the water at Caffè Sant'Eustachio has bicarbonate of soda added to it to give the coffee that good [read: perfect] taste, by the way. I have chosen not to believe them. You must make up your own mind. Even if it were true, I would still go there. For the uniforms, you do understand.)

Now I'm going to suggest we go to one of my favourite areas of Rome, which is actually nicer at night time (in my head, this is about midday), though we'll have dinner there too, so don't worry. It's called Trastevere, and we have to cross over the Tiber to get to it. I suggest we take either the Ponte Garibaldi, or the Ponte Palatino to do so. And the reason? Well, I like to see the little island in between them, the Isola Tiberina, which I have been told many times, and by many people, is the smallest populated island in the world.

Just like the story about bicarb. at Sant'Eustachio, you'll need to decide for yourself about that one.

Another one I have heard, though I don't know if this used to happen on Isola Tiberina, is that in ancient times, executed criminals had their lifeless, dead bodies flung into the Tiber by angry citizens. Which is a lovely image when you're out for lunch (thanks for that, Mr. Other P!).

I digress. It's too early for lunch yet. I fancy a bit of food shopping. I'm taking you to Antica Caciara, which is basically the best cheese shop on the planet. You can see this for yourself, because happily, as well as my photos, there is a website!

We (me and him indoors) just happened on it when we were in Rome on holiday, more than a few years ago. People seem mainly to come for this:

Fresh Ricotta.

But I always come for this:

It's the real deal.

The reason I like this shop, and always buy my cheese here, rather than in the supermarket (which is next door in the underground level, if you prefer), is that all of these cheeses are sourced by the owners, and they don't sell poor quality stuff. They sell good stuff. And they've been doing it for more than 100 years!

How do I know? They told me. Not in Italian (I only speak menu Italian, though I am planning to change this), butI do have funny, stinted conversations with the gentleman who always serves me (he usually shakes my hand and says 'Nice to see you again!', though actually, I think that he's probably thinking, 'Oh lordy, it's that English bloke again who always wants his cheese vacuum packed.'). No, his wife speaks lovely English and sometimes tells me a bit about where the cheeses are from, and how to eat and store them and so on.

Just so you don't accuse me of not sharing this information, here's what I recommend you buy:

  • Pecorino Romano - because what else are you going to have on your pasta?
  • Parmigiano Reggiano - apart from this of course. But I like both.
  • Montasio - from Venice, and very wonderful indeed as part of a cheese board.
When I bought all that last time, I was told (at least I think I was - stinted conversations can only ever be half understood), that the difference between the first two cheeses, basically, is the milk. I thought they were the same thing, but it turns out that pecorino is a sheep's milk cheese, whereas the other two are made from the milk of cows.

Anyhow, apples is apples: all you need to do is ask the lovely staff to vacuum seal your cheese for you (sometimes the sealer is broken, in which case I'm all for taking the risk of your cheese spoiling on the journey back to whatever country you're visiting from, but it's your bag at the end of the day!).

DO NOT PUT THE SEALED CHEESES INTO THE FRIDGE. (I learned that in another stilted conversation - they will keep, vacuum packed and without refrigeration, for a fortnight).

When you get home, open the cheeses, and store in the refrigerator, wrapped in a clean cloth. If you can get muslin, do. But a tea towel would be fine.

They favour De Cecco at Antica Caciara. And so do I.

Antica Caciara also carries wines from all over Italy, and a lovely selection of pasta, oil and vinegar, as well as dried mushrooms and cured meats. I could happily spend all day there.

So what are you going to have?

Antica Caciara
Via San Francesco a Ripa 140, Trastevere
06 581 28 15

Sunday 21 March 2010

As promised!

Sushi grass: finally useful!

I do not lie. I am late however.

Without further ado, here are my belated St David's Day cut-out cookies. The sugar dough recipe can be found here (I used the zest of a lemon to flavour it), and the way I applied the sanding sugar was rather renegade - I diluted a little golden syrup with boiling water, brushed the cookies with this homemade 'glue' (well, come on, that's what it is) and then dipped and sprinkled away.

*SHOCK* Naked Welsh dragon alert.

And I know that the Welsh flag doesn't actually have grass on it as such, but there's only so long a man can have plastic sushi grass in his cupboard without using it. Fact.


Tuesday 16 March 2010

Glittering Raspberry Kulfi

I really don't consider myself a competitive person. Honestly. But at the moment there are about three or four food related competitions that I am just desperate to enter. Or maybe I just like the fit of my 'Blogging Community' apron, I don't know.

Not all of the competitions are blog based, mind you, but one that is is Sanjana's. I don't really want the prize for myself (although would it be so bad if I did? It's the 21st Century - if I, as a man in my mid late twenties want to wear a charm bracelet, I will!), but I know some people who would like it a lot, and I love the idea behind this competition... To create a dish inspired by the bracelet itself.

Well, I am a sucker for sparklies. It's an oft-told story in my family that I was basically a magpie as a child. Anything that sparkled, I wanted. Badly. In my early years, I referred to such items as 'Peter likes'. To this day, it is pre-requisite that the birthday card my mum sends me each year will be glittery.

So, I figured, if there's sparkling food to be made, then I, missus, am in.

I took my inspiration from this particular photo - the ice cream with the diamonds really called out to me. Can you imagine eating diamond studded ice-cream?

Well, you won't have to imagine for much longer.

Obviously, my budget didn't run to real diamonds, but I did find some silver dragees which have sat in place of their less inexpensive cousins quite happily, and come with the added advantage of being entirely edible. Always a nice quality to have in food, don't you think?

I was going to make real ice-cream, but have noticed over the 6 months or so that I have been reading her blog that Sanjana favours eggless cuisine. So ice-cream as I usually make it was out. I could have done frozen yogurt, but it didn't seem very inventive, and I've always liked to think of myself as inventive. So I decided to try and make kulfi.

I love kulfi! I had the most amazing pistachio kulfi in a street café in Delhi once, as well as some pretty good stuff in Rusholme years ago with my mum, and have always wanted to try and make some at home. But I hadn't the foggiest idea how to, so politely asked Google for help. Google is usually quite helpful.

Though not this time.

Cue Problem Number One. There are more ways to make kulfi than I can bear. Some suggest using cream (not doing it, there's been too much cream on desserts in our house recently, we're not getting fat if I have anything to do with it), and most don't seem to add any fruit, only saffron and nuts; I wanted to make a raspberry version.

After much research, I finally found a fairly simple looking recipe for rosewater kulfi that calls only for milk, and decided to just wing it with the raspberries and hope for the best.

Cue Problem Number Two. The recipe requires me to reduce the milk (2 litres of it) by half.

Long story short, the recipe went into the circular file (that's polite office-speak for I BINNED IT!), and I decided to go it alone. Well, not quite alone. It was me and the blender. But you get the idea.

Shall we go all floral? Yeah, let's.

I used a tin of evaporated milk, and whizzed it with the other ingredients. The result was a party-pink mousse that tasted like Mini Milks and froze into the most perfect kulfi I can ever imagine making.

So what do you think? Glittering Raspberry Kulfi. It's my new best friend.

One word Sanjana: winner.

Mr. P's Glittering Raspberry Kulfi

You will need:

1 x 410g tin evaporated milk
large handful of frozen raspberries
2 tbsp caster sugar

  1. Whizz everything together in the blender for 30 seconds; you should have a thick mousse. If not, whizz in 10 second bursts until you do.
  2. Transfer to washed out yogurt pots (or kulfi moulds, if you run to that sort of thing), cover with clingfilm, and freeze for at least 4 hours.
  3. That's it! Run under the cold tap just before serving - it helps you to turn them out.

Friday 12 March 2010

Do WHAT to a biscuit?

I had an email from Gail at The Claytons Blog recently, about the blog event that they are currently orchestrating for the month of March. You can read all about it here. And you should. Because then I can go and pack my suitcase instead of writing all about it here (I'm in a rush!).

For the similarly time-strapped among us, though, here's a summary:

  • It's a competition.
  • It involves baking.
  • There's a prize.
  • Entrants have to make a huge version of a commercially available biscuit, at home, from scratch. This is called, ahem, 'pimping' a biscuit.
I was sold on the first three points. Ordinarily, I am not a competitive person, but throw some flour, butter and sugar into the equation, and I am at it full throttle, guns-a-blazing, going to get me the gold medal and onto that #1 podium and you better believe it.

(I should have been an Olympian.)

Now, this challenge was not without it's difficulties. Despite having survived (though just barely) a childhood addiction to/dependency on those lurid pink wafers that come in the huge biscuit selection boxes you can buy at Christmas, as an adult I don't really buy biscuits that often, and those I like probably wouldn't appeal to judges ( my favourites are fig rolls and Garibaldi - hardly going to set the world alight with my creativity there, am I?). But the cookie gauntlet had been thrown down. On went my 'Blogging Community' apron: I was in.

File under: 'To be pimped'.

That coconut layer right there sold it to me.

More to the point, Gail and Coby both Re-Invented the Lamington, so I owe them big for making them mess up their kitchens on my behalf. Ladies - I've got your back, make no mistake.

Rules state that the biscuit to be pimped must be a known brand in the entrant's country of residence, and also be scaled up to at least 8" in diameter.

Well, I am pushing the boundaries rather more than just a little with my entry, but, darling, I live an international lifestyle, and for me, popping to the Monoprix at Beaugrenelle in Paris is just like nipping out to the Co-Op in Cardiff.

OK, not really. But I do always stop off at the Monoprix when I'm in Paris, and frankly, had hardly any time even to make my entry let alone go shopping for inspiration on my days off. So Mr. P's entry to the competition will be a pimped version of Bonne Maman's tartelettes chocolat noix de coco. You cannot actually buy them in Cardiff;I know I risk disqualification (I did do step by step photos though, Gail, which is a first for me!).

The other rule I broke was the size one. My biscuit measured only 7.5", and was the incorrect shape because I couldn't find the dish I planned to use but, regardless, these things are about taking part, are they not? (Just give me a chance, I can do it, I swear!)

Anyway, the actual biscuits in question are ridiculously scrumptious. I do actually usually buy the chocolate version every once in a while, but thought the coconut layer in this variety would make things more interesting from a home-baking perspective. The packaged experience goes something like this - rich buttery biscuit shell, filled with dark chocolate and a grainy, coconut filled hidden cream layer. It is almost enough to turn me into a regular biscuit buyer.

Since I doubt anyone will actually follow my lead and make this, I'm not posting the recipe as I usually would; completist readers are welcome to drop me an email however - I always like to hear from you.

To 'pimp' it, I considered using pastry as the base, but wanted to actually make a biscuit, as opposed to a pie, so took some plain cookie dough out of the freezer (a half quantity), which, thankfully, I had previously labelled 'vanilla' - I nearly picked up the 'lemon' - and rolled it out to fit into the dish I was using. Then I baked at 180°C until I had a tart-shaped biscuit. Which looked somewhat more rustic than the bought version, but never mind.

Then I mixed 1/3 cup of dessicated coconut with 3 tbsp double cream and spread the resulting (delicious!) mixture into the cooled cookie shell.

Like so.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I had some chocolate chips (about 1/2 cup) melting over simmering water. The coconut layer then received a thick coat of this glossily melted chocolate. If I were to do this again, I would use a ganache instead, or add some butter the chocolate to make it more liquid - the biscuits themselves have a smooth top, which I couldn't achieve with melted chocolate alone. Too time-short for regrets though am I, so let's get over it.

I always think I don't like chocolate as much as everyone else. But I do. I do.

Enough talk - how did the pimped biscuit taste? Well, as you'd expect, about a million times better than anything out of a packet. Mr. Other P was left with over half of it when I went to London the day before yesterday, and I got back last night to find it gone. All of it.

For size comparison, and to remind me to buy hand cream.

Would I do this again? Well, I probably wouldn't 'pimp' any more biscuits (though you never know - the mint Viscount is not without its charms), but I would certainly make this as a dessert if I had the ingredients lying around. And I pretty much always do, so we'll see.

Now, where's my gold medal?

The competition is open until the end of March. You know what to do.

Sunday 7 March 2010

Coconut Macaroons

Every bit as pretty as a French macaron.

I am thinking about entering into the macaron movement. Posts like these have been making me crazy and I feel like I need to try my hand at this biscuit that everybody says is so hard to turn out.

I know mine won't be 'perfect', whatever that means, but I don't care. And neither should anybody who has made failed macarons, because, and I say this with absolute confidence and certainty, there is more luck than skill in ensuring the perfect macaron. So there.

How do I know this without having made any myself? Well, OK, the 'absolute confidence and certainty' might be exaggerating a little, but in my defence, I have been to Paris more times than you have (well, some of you), and have eaten my fair share of macarons. And do you know what? Some of them were RUBBISH!

Is it just me who wants to take a bite out of that? Tell me it isn't.

You heard me, rubbish. If you want my honest opinion, more guff has been written about this biscuit than almost anything else in the world (except perhaps for that scandal involving Gordon Brown, Number 10 and the National Bullying Helpline - that took up a fair few column inches). Macaron recipes, like an awful lot of French patisserie recipes, are ridiculously overcomplicated, and you only have to look around the Internet to see that even when people follow the instructions to the very letter, they still fail. So when I make my macs (which will be next week - I have had one hell of a weekend, with no time at all for baking) I'll be doing it the 'I don't care about the rules' way. And if my macarons fail, well, I don't care. Like I said, you can go into any patisserie in Paris and still get bad macs. I'll be sampling Pierre Hermé's wares when I am in London on Wednesday too, so we'll see if his are any good. Though I'll probably cut him some slack even if they aren't; we share initials after all. It counts.

Now. Until I lived in France myself, which was before I became a food obsessive, the word macaron meant nothing to me. I would have thought you were talking about macaroons, my dear, macaroons.

You see, long before Parisian chic, there were English macaroons, which are nothing like their French cousins. They're made with coconut, they are bigger and they go so nicely with a cup of tea that you really wouldn't believe it. I think that's why we call them 'English' - I mean, it's hardly for the locally produced ingredients is it? 'Ah yes, some coconut from the New Forest, and almonds from Blackpool... You just couldn't make a good macaroon without our fresh, local produce, could you?'

Nice idea, but not realistic.

When I was growing up, there were three bakeries in my local town. Two of them were busy chains in prime locations, and one was independent. It was a bit of a mystery to me as to how the independent one stayed in business, because you never saw a soul inside, and I always thought the window displays were terrible. They were full of things that seemed really old fashioned and boring to me at the time, like jam tarts, shortbread (without a chocolate coating, à la chain bakeries), strange marshmallow-filled ice-cream cones (very seventies) and coconut macaroons with lurid red glacé cherries on top.

Little did I know that in adult life I would love the macaroon as much as I do.

That bakery shut down many years ago, and I always presumed it was through lack of custom, though later I found out it was because the gentleman who ran it passed away (and that, actually, it was an incredibly popular place, famous for its bread in the early morning, which explains why I never saw anyone in there after school).

I wish as a child I liked coconut as much as I do now, because I would have had one of those macaroons each and every day had I known what they could taste like. I have always hated glacé cherries, and that will never change, but they could easily have been picked off and binned. I'll never know if the baker's macaroons were any good, just like I'll never taste the famous bread, and wanting what you can never have is horrendous.

How can something so beautiful taste so awful? (I'm talking about the cherry, not the macaroon!)

Still, there's no point in regrets. The answer is to make macaroons! And OK, they might not be as glamorous as M. Hermé's (though I'm glamorous enough for all of us, so don't dwell on that too much), but they are easy to make and make the house smell like marshmallows.

Of all the things I have thus far made for Delicious Delicious Delicious, I think these are my favourite. Simple and beautiful, they just cannot be beaten. Make them. See. Everyone else will still be prancing on about the French ones, so your sweet treat of choice will afford you an air of mysterious, subcultural anti-cool. And wouldn't that be nice?

At Delicious Delicious Delicious, we take our desserts very seriously.
We know you have a choice, and thank you for saying 'no' to the cherry.

The recipe is adapted from one by Nigella Lawson, which I have made about five or six times in total, and each time I change it a bit. I don't add cream of tartar, use more almonds for a firmer texture and flavour the macaroons with pandan extract (not exactly traditional, I know) because I love it with coconut, but you can go her way if you like.

Coconut Macaroons

You will need:

250g dessicated coconut
75g ground almonds
2 egg whites
100g sugar
1 tsp pandan extract/vanilla

  1. Preheat the oven to 150°C. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Mix the almonds and coconut in a large bowl.
  2. Whisk the egg whites in another bowl until they reach the soft peak stage, then slowly and gradually, still beating, add the sugar until you have a glossy, white meringue with stuff peaks.
  3. Fold the nut mixture and extract into the meringue using a metal spoon.
  4. When the two mixtures are combined, use your hands to make 8 small coconut mounds on the baking sheet. They won't spread much, so you can space them fairly close together.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes, though they may need 20; when done, they will be golden coloured and dry on the outside.
  6. Cool on a wire rack. Top with cherries if you must. Melted chocolate would be fabulous too.

Wednesday 3 March 2010

St. David's Day

I feel so bad.

I didn't have time to make anything even remotely themed for the occasion, as I have been really busy doing other things. Not limited to ironing, hoovering and laundry.

I am making some sugar cookie dough later on though, for an exciting biscuit-related project that I have been asked to partake in - I always like a challenge - and so will still be making dragon cookies anyway. But I wanted you to see this, if you hadn't already.

Look at what Sanjana made with her prize! Rainbow coloured Welsh dragon cookies. I feel envious of both her skill and the fact that she has cookies to eat now and I don't. Sanjana - I think they are amazing. And this is your virtual pat on the back from me.

Happy Belated Saint David's Day to all of you. Or as they say round these parts, Dydd Gwyl Dewi hapus!
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