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Monday, 25 March 2013

Food: Best ever brownie recipe

It's not just my opinion. Over 500 users of BBC good food agree that this Orlando Murrin recipe really does make the best brownies. The resultant brownies are ultra decadent, oh so chocolatey, and exceptionally squidgy.

185g unsalted butter
185g best dark chocolate
85g plain flour
40g cocoa powder
50g white chocolate, broken into small pieces
50g milk chocolate, broken into small pieces
3 large eggs
275g caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius. Makes around 15 squares.

1. Begin by breaking the dark chocolate into small pieces. Place the chocolate into a heat proof bowl over a saucepan a quarter filled with simmering water and stir until the chocolate melts. Don't boil the water or allow the bowl to touch the water's surface as this could result in grainy chocolate. Take off the heat.

2. Add the butter, in small chunks, to the chocolate and stir to melt. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.

3. Place the eggs and sugar into a large bowl and whisk using an electric mixer for 5 minutes or until the mixture becomes light and frothy and doubles in size.

4. Pour the melted chocolate mixture over the egg mixture and fold to incorporate.

5. Sift the cocoa and plain flour into the rest of the brownie mix and add the pieces of white and milk chocolate. Fold again.

6. Pour into a brownie tin and place into the middle of the preheated oven. Check the brownie after 20 minutes; it should be shiny and cracked on top and be still slightly wet when a skewer is inserted. If it's slightly too wet, leave for a few more minutes. Remember an overdone brownie is terrible! Better to remove from the oven too early than too late!

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Food: Ottolenghi's divine broccoli with garlic and chilli

Yum yum yum. If like me you struggle to create interesting vegetable accompaniments to meat, try this. It's very easy and transforms broccoli from being a pretty boring vegetable to something quite delightful. Make sure you follow the recipe precisely - the few instructions are key to an excellent end result.

Serves 6

2 broccoli heads
3 garlic cloves, very finely slices
1 chilli, finely sliced
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

1. Prepare the broccoli by breaking it into florets. Make sure they're pretty much the same size to allow even cooking. Don't trim the stems too short - keep them longer than you usually would.
2. Add the broccoli to a large pan of boiling water. Don't over crowd the pan, do more than one batch if necessary. Cook for 2 minutes ONLY.
3. Drain the broccoli and cool immediately in a large bowl of iced water. This will keep the broccoli nice and crunchy and maintain its vibrant green colour.
4. Drain and place the broccoli in a bowl. Dress with a little olive oil and some salt and pepper.
5. Place a griddle pan on a high heat for 5 minutes. You want it really hot. Char the broccoli florets in small batches on the griddle, until they get nice char lines - a few minutes on each side.
6. Add 50ml of oil to a pan with the garlic and chili, heat on low for around 5 minutes, just long enough for the garlic and chilli to infuse the oil, but not long enough for any discolouration to take place.
7. Dress the broccoli with the infused oil and serve at room temperature.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Food: Baba Ganoush

Aubergines are still pretty new to me. Although I love eating them, i've struggled to cook them. Yesterday I had a break through and made a yummy baba ganoush which I served up with toasted wholemeal pitta bread. It's a lovely dip alternative to hummus or guacamole and cooking the aubergine this way gives a wonderfully intense flavour.

Serves 4 generously  - takes 1 hour 15 minutes

2 medium aubergines
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp tahini
Juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper
Freshly chopped parsley

1. It's easiest to cook the aubergine if you have a gas cooker. Simply turn on the gas to a medium flame and using a pair of metal tongs, hold the whole aubergine over the flame. A good tip for avoiding mess is to put tin foil over the hob. Keep turning the aubergine every few minutes and make sure that every last inch gets charred. Open a window to let out the smoke. After about 15 minutes the aubergine will have turned wonderfully black and charred. If you don't have a gas hob, use a grill. Make sure you keep an eye on the aubergine.
2. Allow to cool slightly, then slit the aubergine and scoop out the flesh. Leave behind the blackened skin - this will taste too smoky. Feel free to keep or discard the seeds depending on your personal preference.
3. Sit the aubergine over a colander until the excess moisture has drained away - around 1 hour.
4. Roughly chop the aubergine and add the remaining ingredients. Adjust the flavourings according to preference. Serve with lightly toasted pitta bread.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Food: shredded chicken - cheap and easy!

I often find it quite tricky when a recipe asks for chicken pieces e.g. in a curry, pasta dish or casserole. It's very easy to buy chicken supremes/breasts, chop them into pieces and fry them off. I have two problems with this, firstly, chicken breasts are expensive. Yes, it's cheaper if you buy them with their skin on, but even so, a large chicken breast can cost around £3-4. Secondly, chicken breast isn't very tasty and can get quite a dry texture. Because of this I often end up picking around the chicken in curries, ridiculous I know!

I was trying to solve the problem of taste and economics yesterday when I had a brain wave. The best way of being economical with chicken is to buy a whole chicken and then butcher it yourself. I'm making a roast dinner on friday which I only need the breasts for. I was making a chicken bake yesterday and needed chicken pieces so I chopped the two legs off the whole chicken. I wanted the chicken legs with the thighs attached, so I ran my hand up the leg until I reached the joint where it meets the main body of the chicken. I then used a sharp knife to separate the whole leg and it really was that easy!
I then placed the legs on a baking tray and cooked them for 1 hour 15 minutes at 160 degrees celsius in the oven. Leave the chicken legs for 10 minutes to cool slightly and then use two forks to shred all the meat of the bones. It's great, the meat literally just falls off the bones. Discard the skin. To make sure you remove all the tiny chickens bones and gristle, use your hands to go through all the meat. This meat is super tasty, juicy and cheap. I can't recommend it enough.

Typical me,  I forgot to take a photo of that particular chicken, but here are some chicken thighs I cooked a couple of weeks later!

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Food: Butternut squash risotto

Here's another butternut squash recipe! The simple reason is that I used half a squash for the oxtail stew and I didn't want to let the other half go to waste. Butternut squash is great in risotto, it's really creamy and melts beautifully into the rice once you mash it. Sage leaves complement the squash beautifully. This recipe is great for any vegetarian visitors, but rest assured, meat lovers won't be disappointed either! Risotto is a labour of love, you really do need to add the stock very gradually and be willing to stir all the while.

Serves 2

500g buternut squash, peeled seeded and cut into 2.5 cm cubes
200g arborio rice
1 L stock made with hot water and vegetable stock cube
8 sage leaves
1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
20g butter
100ml white wine
A little olive oil
salt and pepper
2 tbsp flat leaf parsley

To serve: freshly grated parmesan

1. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees celsius. Place the butternut squash on an oven proof tray and coat in 2 tbsp of olive oil and a little salt and pepper.
2. Finely chop 4 sage leaves and sprinkle on top of the squash.
3. Roast in the oven for 20-30 minutes until the squash is softened.
4. Add 1 tbsp of oil to a frying pan and sautee the onion and garlic until softened (around 5 minutes), add the arborio rice and cook for a further 3 minutes of until the rice is coated in oil and has turned translucent.
5. Add the white wine to the pan, bring up to the boil, then reduce the heat and cook until most of the wine has evaporated.
6. Add 1 ladleful of stock at a time and stir until most of the stock has been absorbed. Repeat this until you have added all/most of the stock and the rice still has a little 'bite' to it when you try it. Make sure your risotto is still quite runny. Lots of people make the mistake of making their risotto too dry.
7. Mash half the butternut squash and stir into the risotto. Add the butter. Add the remaining squash whole. It's good to have two different textures of squash in the dish.
8. Fry the remaining sage leaves in a little oil.

9. Divide the risotto between two dishes and top with freshly chopped parsley, sage leaves and grated parmesan.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Food: Ottolenghi's oxtail stew with butternut squash and cinnamon

Here's the first offering from Ottolenghi's cookbook with a few adjustments I made to the recipe. I was cooking for my friends, Jonny and Ernie, and decided to make a hearty oxtail and butternut squash stew. Don't be afraid to use oxtail, it's really yummy and rich and it's great value for money. As with so many meat dishes, including the bone adds a huge amount of flavour. I served it with cous cous and broccoli chargrilled with garlic and chili. Make sure you make the effort to make the gremolata - it really lifts and freshens this hearty meal.

Serves 6

olive oil for frying
2 Kg oxtail
200g shallots, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
400ml red wine
650g canned chopped tomatoes
10 sprigs thyme
5 sprigs rosemary
zest of 1 orange
2 bay leaves
2 cinnamon sticks
1 star anise
salt and pepper
500g butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped into 2.5cm cubes
300ml water

For the gremolata:
2 tbsp roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
grated zest of 1 large lemon
2 garlic cloves, crushed

1. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees celsius.
2.  Add the oxtail pieces to a large casserole dish and allow to brown for 15 minutes. Tip the oxtail into a colander to drain off any fat. Reduce the oven temperature to 180 degrees celsius.
3. In a large frying pan, saute the shallots, carrots and garlic in a little oil for 10 minutes until softened but not coloured.
4. Add wine to the pan and bring up to boil, leave until most of the wine is evaporated. Add the tomatoes and thyme, rosemary, star anise, cinnamon, salt and pepper, orange zest and bay leaves. Allow to simmer for a couple of minutes.
5. Add the sauce to the casserole dish, place the oxtail pieces on top and cover first with greaseproof paper and then a tight fitting lid.
6. Place in the oven for approximately 3 hours or until the oxtail meat begins to fall off the bone.
7. 30 minutes before the end of the cooking time add the butternut squash and water to the casserole.
8. To make the gremolata, simply combine all the gremolata ingredients. Serve the stew with cous cous and sprinkle the gremolata on top.