Archive for March, 2008

waiter, there’s something in my … flageolet beans with lamb

March 31, 2008

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Here goes my first food blogging event! Waiter there’s something in my … is a food event with broad themes, hence an easy one to get started with.  This month the theme is pulses and it’s hosted by Jeanne from Cook sister.

Now that the spring lamb season is about to begin and it’s still cool enough at night for casseroles, I’ve chosen braised lamb with flageolet beans. The beans absorb all the juices from the lamb and the flavours of the stock while they’re bubbling away, resulting in a soft, velvety texture.

Cooking with dried beans can be a chore. First of all, you have to remember in advance to soak the beans. Then, if you’re using kidney beans, they need a ten minute blast of rapid boiling to get rid of the toxins. And finally, there’s the lengthy cooking time. If your beans are past their best, throw them away because you’ll find that they never quite soften, no matter how long you cook them.

With this dish, it’s not cooking the beans that’s the hard part. It’s that look on Mr B’s face when you tell him that’s your lot, it’s all gone.

Update: Jeanne has now posted the roundup of WTSIM March 2008.

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lemon posset: easy peasy lemon squeezy

March 27, 2008

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Planning a dinner party? Looking for a dessert that’s quick to prepare, and cheap? Then why not try this idea. Heat some cream and sugar, squeeze in some lemon juice, then pour into some glasses and chill.

When you add the lemon juice, it thickens the cream, producing a rich, tangy dessert. To serve, top with sliced strawberries or raspberries, or put the glasses on plates with shortbread biscuits.

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the 3 c’s: cauliflower, chard and cheese

March 25, 2008

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It’s a day for comfort food. The last of the snow has melted but it’s still very chilly, and I’m in the mood for some melted, bubbling cheese. Cauliflower cheese is a British classic, served on its own or as an accompaniment to a main course. It’s usually made with cheddar cheese but you can use any hard cheese with a strong flavour. This variation on this classic dish has a layer of sweet fried onions and chard.

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chocolate mendiants: at this time of year?

March 23, 2008

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Mendiants are chocolate discs with dried fruit and nuts on top and were traditionally eaten at Christmas in the south of France. I know it’s a long way off from December, but today there’s a festive air, what with the long weekend and the snowflakes that have been gently tumbling out of the sky for several hours now.

This Easter Sunday we’ve been invited to dinner. It seems only right that we take a a chocolate gift to offer to our hosts. With the help of Pierre Hermé’s book Chocolate Desserts, I’ve been learning how to temper chocolate. You don’t have to cool and reheat the chocolate to make mendiants, but if you want to try and avoid the little white crystals known as a bloom, I recommend that you do.

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happy easter 2008!

March 20, 2008

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I’ve been good. I haven’t bought or eaten a single hot cross bun, not even last week when I wandered past a bakery in Cambridge and that lovely cinnamon and spice smell followed me down the street.

We had our first attempt at making hot cross buns two years ago and I remember the experience was time consuming but worth the effort. Well, except for the crosses that were made only of flour and water. This time the paste for the crosses has sugar in it so it doesn’t taste so bland and it has melted neatly onto the surface of the buns, giving a more pleasing appearance.

It seemed to take just as long this time to make the buns. Maybe I should have followed Delia’s recipe because in this recipe, the dough is left to rise three times. It’s adapted from the exceptional breads book. This recipe is best tried on a rainy day, just like it was today.

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the jerusalem artichoke giveaway

March 19, 2008

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Last week, River Nene and its sister organic box schemes gave away a free bag of Jerusalem artichokes. Since it was delivered, my bag has been lurking at the back of the vegetable compartment. Probably put at the back on purpose, poor things.

Why did I do this? Well, earlier in the year we had a bad sludge experience with a three root soup. When I say sludge, I mean a bowl full of milky mush. Then, there was the Sunday roast disappointment.

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They look so pretty, raw. But the end result wasn’t great because there were too many sharp flavours.

So third time lucky, I thought I’d try another soup, only this time starring just the Jerusalem artichokes. Learning from the previous experience, the milk went in during the cooking, and after the soup was pureed, it was strained. I served it cup-a-soup style, a great way to warm up your hands on a chilly day.

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triffids in my kitchen: rhubarb

March 14, 2008

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This little piggy went to Bury St Edmunds market and bought some rhubarb. And when I came home I put the stems in a tall glass jug on the kitchen windowsill. From the outside they look like triffids trying to escape! Fear not though, rhubarb is harmless when cooked but don’t forget to remove the leaves because they are poisonous, even after cooking.

You can use rhubarb in sweet dishes such as fools, tarts, or cakes, or in savoury dishes with pork or lamb. As it’s the first time I’ve cooked with rhubarb, I decided to go for a classic rhubarb crumble recipe.

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swede or rutabaga* soup

March 12, 2008

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Help! The vegetables are breeding in my fridge! Much as it is a lovely feeling to come home to a box of vegetables tucked away in the car port, sometimes the vegetables do take over. When the box arrives we take it indoors and then crowd around it, peering over it like two small children at the school toy box. Whoops of joy when there’s squashes and mushrooms. Hint, hint, River Nene!

But, by the end of the week there’s usually one or two items that need a bit of a helping hand on their way before the next delivery arrives. This week it’s Mr Swede’s turn. The ones we’ve been getting are not your average supermarket specimens. Oh no, the last beauty took up almost half of one of the vegetable compartments in the fridge. It’s been making an appearance in the form of the usual suspects: carrot and swede mash, beef stew, and the last pieces are destined for this sweet, earthy soup.

* Rutabaga is what Americans call swede. Apparently, it’s the Swedish word for swede. How weird is that?

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the queen’s pizza: margherita

March 10, 2008

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With the sun streaming in through the patio doors, my thoughts turned away from hearty stews and casseroles to lighter, more summery* dishes like pizza. My ideal pizza has a thin crispy base, topped with juicy mozzarella and as much tomato sauce as I can get away with.

For the tomato sauce, I’d planned on whizzing up a tin of tomatoes and then adding a little salt and pepper. Quick and easy it may be, but the end result is a little lumpy. After a quick flick through Jamie at Home, I stumbled upon a tomato sauce recipe that is infused with basil and garlic, pressed through a sieve and reduced to a smooth liquid. It really is a joy to spread and well worth the extra effort.

* By the time I’d eaten the pizza, the weather had turned and flurries of snowflakes were coming down. So much for spring!

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