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Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Nasi Goreng

Hi guys, sorry about the recent radio silence - my mum and sister came to Manchester for a visit and I cooked roast lamb and about 6 different types of vegetables for them, with apple and blackberry crumble for pudding. I meant to write a post about the roast (hehe, I rhyme) but by the time I remembered that I was meant to take photos the lamb was carved and the potatoes were on their way to our mouths! Other than that one meal and a cold lunch earlier in the day we ate out whilst they were here. For lunch we went to Carluccio at the amazingly OTT Trafford Centre and ordered their delicious arancini (deep-fried and breadcrumbed balls of risotto), followed by the classic spaghetti carbonara (why can I never make it so well?). Supper was a tasty extravaganza of flying potato chips and juggling eggs - we went to a teppanyaki restaurant (Sapporo Tappanyaki on Liverpool Road) - where the chefs cook in front of the diners and throw food, real and pretend, at their customers. It was a great evening and somewhere I really recommend for a fun meal with friends.

The prepared veg for our roast dinner 

Now, back to the title of this post. Nasi Goring is an Indonesian fried rice dish, which you get variations of all over South East Asia. The best one I've ever had has to be from Miss Ly's cafeteria in Hoi An, Vietnam. There was just something so moreish about the mildly spicy dish and it was so incredibly delicious that we went there twice during our five day trip to the city. I've also eaten excellent versions of the meal on my two trips to see the temples of Angkor in Cambodia. It was so simple and so good that it was my lunch every day. On the last day I plucked up the courage to ask the waitress what went into the rice to make it spicy and she said sweet chilli. Delighted, I returned to Manchester and poured a good half bottle of sweet chilli sauce into my cooking rice to recreate the taste. Alas! It was not to be and I scoured the internet for recipes that also just missed the mark. It was not until I watched the chef of the villa we stayed at in Central Java (Villa Borobudur) prepare nasi goring for our lunch that I learnt the secret ingredient - kecap manis or sweet dark soy. It's a treacle-like sweet soy sauce that is also used in Thai chicken with cashew nuts and many other asian dishes. I bought my bottle from and it's the same make I had at home in Singapore. The Asian Cookshop has a great range of ingredients for sale and speedy delivery.

My huge bottle of Kecap Manis
Nasi Goring can be made with many different vegetables. The chefs at Borobudur used cabbage leaf, onion leaf and mustard leaf as well as carrot. I have used vegetables that are staples in my kitchen and, I suspect, many others - red pepper, onion and carrot. You can use what vegetables you like as long as you can dice them into cubes of about three millimetres square. At Borobudur they also used fresh chillies but I found that you'd get one mouthful that was fiery hot and many others that were so mild there was no spice: you just didn't get the gentle heat in your mouth that I so loved with the other fried rices. To remedy this I used dried chilli powder (mine is from Cambodia), which imparted its depth of flavour to the entire dish.

Cambodian dried chilli (chili?) powder
Nasi Goreng Recipe
Serves 2
Make sure you precook and cool the rice before you use it in the recipe. Maybe make a double quantity of rice if you're eating it the night before.
Remember that you can always add more chilli powder but you can't take it away.

Finely diced carrot, onion and pepper

½ cup of dried white rice, cooked to the instructions on the packet and then refrigerated
2 rashers of bacon or ½ chicken breast or equivalent of tofu, all finely diced
1 crushed garlic clove
2 eggs
1 small carrot, diced to 3mm cube
½ white onion, diced to 3mm cube
½ red pepper, diced to 3mm cube
1½ tbsp kecap manis (sweet dark soy)
¼ to ½ tsp dried chilli powder, or more
Pinch of salt

Fry the meat or tofu, on a high heat, in a little butter in a large wok/frying pan until cooked through.
Add the garlic and the eggs. Scramble the eggs until cooked through.
Add the carrot, pepper and onion and sweat for 3 minutes.
Season with a little salt.
Put in the rice and stir constantly until it is hot through.
Pour in the keycap manis and the chilli powder and stir constantly for 5 minutes.
Check the spice and add more chilli if needs be, stirring continually.
Plate up and eat with chopsticks.

Stir, stir and stir again!

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Tortilla Española

Or spanish omelette. I love tapas; done well they taste amazing and it's so nice not to have to choose just one thing from the menu. There's a tapas workshop at the Instituto Cervantes here that I might take next month, 12 cold dishes and the history of them are taught over six weeks, it looks interesting.

I tend to eat omelettes for lunch as they're fairly healthy and very easy to make. Sometimes I have potatoes leftover from a different recipe and so I treat myself to a delicious tortilla española. It's an incredibly simple recipe, involving four ingredients and seasoning but it's one that tastes excellent both hot and cold (the next day's lunch!). Here's my take on the dish.

Tortilla Española Recipe
For two portions.
Make sure the grill is hot.
Dice the shallot/onion and the potatoes in brunoise style, or into 3mm rectangles, if you can, otherwise as small as possible.
If you want you can add chorizo 5 minutes after the potatoes go into the frying pan, it needs to be cut to the same tiny size.

5-6 new potatoes, diced to the above specifications
1 shallot or ½ onion, diced as above
3 eggs
knob of butter

The cooked potatoes

Melt the butter in a frying pan that can go under a grill (no plastic handles).
Add the potatoes and gently fry for 10 minutes or until they have cooked though.
Add the shallot/onion and chorizo and cook for a further 3 minutes.
Crack the eggs into a bowl and whisk them together before pouring them on top of the potatoes and onions. Move the potatoes around until the eggs have coated them all.
Cook on the hob for 4-5 minutes, until the edges are cooked and then place under the grill for 3-5 minutes so that the top firms up and turns golden (it may need more time than these estimates).
Take out of the grill and serve hot or wait until it cools.

Grace, who used to live in Spain, told me that she was horrified when she saw I not only grilled my tortilla but I also diced my potatoes instead of slicing them with a mandolin. What's your opinion on dice versus slice?

i Dunderi

Earlier this year BBC had the show Two Greedy Italians on iPlayer. Bored one day, I decided to watch an episode, and it was great fun. Antonio Carluccio seemed like a cuddly teddy bear whilst Gennaro Contaldo cooked and chivvied Antonio along. One of the recipes was for ricotta dumplings in a spicy tomato sauce. I wanted to make it but it was too late that evening (about 10pm) and so I collared a couple of friends the next day and asked if they wanted to revise after class (ok, so I was procrastinating my exam revision when I watched the show). Grace said yes and came over for one of the first meals that was truly vegetarian and not a meat based recipe that I'd adapted. The i dunderi looked so tasty and simple on screen, and they are, in fact, delicious and not very complicated to make. I made them again last night and from start to finish the process probably took about an hour, maybe a little more. The recipe is generous and feeds two ravenous people or three fairly hungry ones. As my friend and I weren't very hungry last night, there were leftovers for lunch and they tasted just as good as they did yesterday. The only trouble with this recipe is that it generates a lot of leftover egg whites, I get around this by freezing them in a labeled container (don't forget to mark how many whites there are) or making lemon and poppy seed cake or meringues.

My recipe is slightly different to the original, mainly through some additions to the sauce. With regards to the chillies, you can always add more, but start with just one and go from there. A suggestion that I read in a foodie magazine the other day was to cut the chilli in half lengthways and then touch the tip to your tongue and that would give you an idea of the spiciness of it. I tried that yesterday and it worked quite well, it meant that I only used one chilli to start with and then tried the sauce before deciding that another one would help up the kick a bit more, rather than adding three in straight off.

The cut and very floured dumplings!

i dunderi recipe

Serves 2-3 people
Only use the parmesan if you are not vegetarian (my friend fortunately doesn't eat meat for taste reasons and not ethical ones, which is good as I've only recently discovered parmesan isn't vegetarian friendly, oops). If you are veggie then you need to find a substitute (according to the vegetarian society the approved ones are Bookham's Not Just A Pasta Cheese and Pamazano).
I bought the pasta flour from the deli section of the Carluccio restaurant in Spinningfields as the small supermarkets around here don't stock it (big ones should though).
If using a stand mixer, make the sauce whilst it's kneading, if kneading by hand make this after you've finished kneading.

200g pasta flour, also known as 00 flour, plus extra
225g ricotta cheese (I buy 250g pots and put the whole lot in - it works fine)
30g grated parmesan
3 egg yolks
Large drizzle of olive oil
3 garlic cloves, crushed or finely diced
1+ chillies, very finely cut 
1 large onion, roughly chopped
800g (2x400g tins) chopped tomatoes
Lots of salt (add a little sugar if it gets too salty)

If you are using a stand mixer then place all the dumpling ingredients in the mixer's bowl and use the dough hook, if you don't have a stand mixer then use a large bowl and a spoon or hand held whisk with dough hook attachments.
Combine the ingredients and knead for 5-10 minutes, adding more flour if the dough is extremely sticky.
To make the sauce, heat up the olive oil in a large pan and soften the diced onion, garlic and chopped chilli before adding the tinned tomatoes and salt and pepper. Leave to simmer.

Onions, chilli and garlic softening in oil

To make the dumplings you need to roll a quarter of the dough at a time into a ball and cover the outside with flour to stop it from being sticky.

Roll the floured ball into a long sausage shape, about an inch in diameter, and cut widthways into centimetre wide oblongs. Add flour to the cut sides and place so they do not touch one another on a floured surface.
Repeat the steps with the other three quarters of the dough.
Check the seasoning and spice of the sauce and put a large pan of water on to boil.
When the water is boiling place the dumplings in it and run a spoon or something over the bottom of the pan to loosen any stuck dumplings.
When the dumplings float to the top they are cooked.
Scoop them out of the top of the water using a slotted spoon and place into the tomato sauce.
Once all the dumplings are in the sauce, toss them together and they are ready to serve.

Pork Pau Recipe

I meant to write this post and two others yesterday to keep momentum going on the blog but I had a PT session at the gym and we did tabata training, which is evil, just evil. If you don't have firsthand experience of it then I suggest you keep it that way! Basically, it's high intensity interval training with a twist, you do one exercise, or in our case, two, over the course of 4 minutes, 20 seconds of exercise and then 10 seconds rest, 20 seconds hard work, 10 seconds rest and so on until you've done 8 sets when, finally, you get a minute rest! Hallelujah, a chance to get your breath back, or not, as it just begins to return when you find yourself off again to work another part of your body. We did this for 45 minutes and my flatmate appeared to be rueing the day he said he'd join me by the end of it all. Well, understandably afterwards we went home and collapsed until I made i dunderi for supper (one of the posts due) and then settled in to watch the Brave Sir Robin bravely running away in Monty Python and the Holy Grail before bed. 

Rested and aching from the gym I shall now give you my recipe, inspired by and adapted from, and Jamie Oliver's recipes.

Pau are a type of dim sum that are often eaten for breakfast or as snacks. There are many different fillings; chicken, red bean paste, vegetables, char sui (chinese barbecued pork) to name but a few, and my favourite, plain pork. If you cannot eat pork then substitute it for equal amounts of minced chicken. I'm still searching for a recipe that is vegetarian and successful but when I find it I promise to share it with you all.

As much as I love these buns I have to say that it is a real labour of love to make them, time-wise, and it's taken me the better part of a day (5-6 hours) each time I've made these. Having said that, it's worth it! You can freeze the cooked pau and reheat them in the same way that they were originally cooked. If there's leftover dough then flatten it into a rectangular shape and brush water over one side before rolling it up and cutting it into slices. Leave to rise in cases and then steam for 12 minutes, again leaving covered for a further 5. The only thing is, these have to be eaten as soon as they're cooked, or be frozen and recooked; I kept some in a tin overnight to have in the morning and they were stale and chewy when I went to eat them.

Pork Pau Recipe

Makes about 21-24
Use cupcake/muffin cases to put the buns in once they've been made and before they're cooked - it will stop them from sticking to each other/the sides of the steamer and tearing.
You can use a bread machine instead of a stand mixer if you want, or do it by hand but knead for longer.
If you mince your own pork then make sure you buy shoulder of pork for its fattier cut, which helps the taste of the buns.
If needs be, google 'how to form pork pau' and click on videos to show you how to pleat them.
The best thing to do is to read this recipe twice before you attempt it, in order to make sure nothing escapes your notice amongst the myriad of steps.

550g plain flour
1.5tsp active dried yeast
50ml lukewarm water
230ml of ½ water, ½ milk mix, at room temperature (the milk will make the buns look whiter)
1tsp baking powder
2tbsp vegetable or sunflower oil
50g sugar
3g salt
1.5lb or 680g minced pork (or chicken, or beef, or lamb)
520g Taiwanese cabbage or other asian greens; in one recipe I used pak choi
4tbsp light soy sauce (less salt version if possible)
2tsp freshly grated ginger (if you don't like ginger then don't worry, I hate it too, but you don't really taste it in the finished recipe)
2tsp sugar
8tbsp water
pepper, to taste

Activate the yeast in the lukewarm water for 10 minutes or until it is bubbly and milky.
Place the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix it together with a spoon.
Set the stand mixer off slowly using the dough hook, and gradually pour in the activated yeast, followed by the milk and water mix, then add the cooking oil.
Knead with the machine for 10 to 15 minutes, checking to make sure the dough is smooth and not sticky, add more flour if it sticks to your hand too much and more water if the dough is too hard.
Once you have a ball of dough that is soft and smooth, cover the top of the bowl with 2 layers of cling film and leave in a warm place until it has doubled in size (about an hour). I tend to put mine by the radiator in my bathroom as it's often on to dry laundry and therefore kills two birds with one stone.
Once it's risen, knock it back again in the stand mixer (re-knead it) for 5 minutes.
Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces and place 3 back into the bowl.
Whilst you use the dough make sure the bits that you're not using at that point in time are covered to stop them from forming a skin.
Filling - do whilst the dough is proving
If, like me, you are mincing your own pork, do so now and place into a large bowl.
Add to the bowl of minced pork the soy sauce, ginger, sugar, salt, water and pepper and combine.
Chill in the fridge for 15 minutes and dice the cabbage to small pea size, then mix it through with the pork.
Putting everything together
Taking one of the quarters of dough, divide it into 6 and roll into balls before flattening them into 4 inch diameter rounds that are thicker in the middle than at the edges. Cover 5 of them with a clean cloth.

With the bowl of mince next to you, make a circle with the thumb and forefinger of your non-dominant hand and place the sixth disc of dough over it.
Place a large tablespoon of pork into the centre of the disc, keeping it away from the edges by about an inch.
Using your dominant hand, pinch/fold together the edges until you have pinched all the way around and the pau is formed. Have a teaspoon to hand so that you can gently push the filling further under the half-finished pleats, or scoop a bit out if there's far too much. Try not to pleat too thickly, else you'll have, as I did first time round, a tiny bit of pork covered by great mounds of dough.
Place in a cupcake case and leave covered for 30 minutes to rise again.
Repeat this until you run out of filling and discs.

Cooking the pau

Once you have made all the pau, place 4 into a steamer basket and cover, filling the pan below with boiling water.
Steam the buns for 15 minutes and then take off the heat but leave them covered over the water for a further 5 minutes.
They are now ready to eat, but be careful as the liquid inside the bun is scalding hot.
Repeat the process until they have all cooked, checking the water levels between each steaming and topping up if needed (I forgot to do this the first time and wound up steaming the pau with the heat of the pan alone, and with a nasty layer of leaking juices burnt into the bottom of my pan!).
If you make the dough rolls outlined earlier in the post, make sure you cook them first or rinse out the steamer and pan before you cook them in order to avoid an aroma of pork from being baked into them.


If you want to freeze the buns then cook them as directed and cool on a rack before placing them in a ziplock bag and into the freezer.
To eat, place the frozen buns into a steamer and, once again, cook for 15 minutes over boiling water, leaving off the heat and covered for a further 5 minutes before eating.

Liam just asked me how long this blog post was (word count) as it's taken me a couple of hours to write. When I checked I found that I had written about 1,400 words and I wonder why my french essays aren't this easy to write!!

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

A Strange Time Of Night For Blog Posts

Right now, I should be asleep. In fact, I should think that most of you are asleep at the moment (unless you're my friends and family in Singapore, in which case, Mum, I promise not to stay up and blog when I have lectures!). I have this thought buzzing around in my head, stopping me from sleeping, which is how incredible it is that I've only just started this blog and yet my page stats on Blogger say that I have had 262 page views already, from all over the world, though I have just realised that my Thai visitor was probably actually my dad on one of his business trips there, but I don't think I know anyone in Switzerland and not 50 people in America, and they are reading my blog! Also, there are drunk people outside my window and I can't find my earplugs!

My mum sent the link to The Interesting Food Blog to some of her friends, and I hope they're enjoying reading my writing. A few of them sent her emails back saying well done, a fact that I was really touched by, and my godfather commented about Callebaut chocolates on the Thank You cookies post (I also can't believe I only just discovered they existed). One friend suggested that my next post was about savoury food to keep variety going. As I sat there, scratching my head as to why, for I had equal sweet/savoury posts published, I realised that she had probably been told over the years just how much I loved to bake and that I could spend hours, days even in some cases, making and decorating cakes. My previous blog was all about my baking and I realised very quickly that, although I love making complicated bakes, my everyday staples were brownies, cookies, chocolate cakes and Victoria sponges and that there are only so many times and ways that you can post about the latest batch of cookies that you made, identical to the last batch, and the one before that. Amanda, I promise not to let this blog get like that and to always strive to make unusual but do-able recipes and document them here. The other piece of advice given to me, again by Amanda, was that the most successful blogs drew you in and made you want to read the next instalment and I've been wondering how I can do that. All I can say for now is that I'll work on it.

One of the things I miss most about Singapore is the pork buns that I ate for snacks and ordered at Din Tai Fung on my many visits to their Singapore restaurants. Much to my eternal dismay there is no Din Tai Fung here in Manchester although there is the different, but equally good, Yang Sing (but they only serve Dim Sum before six) so I set out to make my own pork pau - it's complicated. My next post will be about this quest and the very long time it took to get there (hint, the whole process lasts 5 to 6 hours each time!!).

I hope you enjoyed my ramblings and I wish you a good night!

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Massaman Gai With Recipe

I learnt to cook this curry at a cookery course at the Rayavadee Hotel in Krabi, Thailand. It's a potato and chicken (or tofu if you're vegetarian) coconut curry from Thailand with Indian influences. I find it very hard to describe the taste but it's a basic red curry paste with cinnamon, ginger and, I think, star anise.  The way I make it it is a very mellow tasting curry without spice, but in Thai cooking it can be incredibly spicy as they use one tablespoon where I would use one teaspoon! Gai means chicken in Thai.

You can make your own curry pastes but I must confess to using shop-bought ones for ease. The brand I use is Mae Ploy and you can buy it from asian supermarkets or some regular supermarkets, including Tesco. It was recommended to me by a friend in Singapore and it's great, I tend to use their Thai Green Curry paste and I will use their Massaman paste once my pack from the Rayavadee runs out. If you use a different brand of paste then use a little at a time - remember you can always add more!

Palm sugar is a key ingredient in a lot of Asian cooking as it perfectly counterbalances the fish sauce used to achieve the sweet/salty fusion that the cuisine is known for. It tastes very sweet and almost like mango. Amazon sell Taste Thai palm sugar online, which is a thick liquid and can be used directly in the recipe, otherwise you can cheaply buy dried cakes of palm sugar in Asian supermarkets. Just put a couple of teaspoons of hot water into a small, clean jam jar with one or two of the cakes and stir until it forms a thick, grainy liquid/paste, adding more water if necessary. You can then store the leftovers in the fridge until you next need it.

The sauce of this curry is supposed to be fairly thick and almost gloopy in consistency, and to this end half as much coconut milk is used as in a Thai Green Curry recipe.  If it thickens too much then put a lid over the wok whilst you simmer it for 15 minutes.

Massaman Gai Recipe
Serves 2 hungry people
Cook it in a wok if you have one, otherwise a large saucepan will work
Serve with rice; thai, jasmine or sticky/glutinous rice is best

2 diced chicken breasts (tofu if you want, maybe 300g?)
4 medium parboiled potatoes, cut into chunks the same size as the chicken (about 1 inch cubed)
Diced onion
1tsp massaman paste - after you taste the sauce you can always add more if you want a stronger flavour
200ml coconut milk (you can use light coconut milk like I used to to make it healthier until my flatmate said he preferred the full-fat version; so now I just eat less sauce and use the regular stuff)
1 handful of unsalted peanuts
1tbsp fish sauce
1tbsp palm sugar if you can get it, otherwise brown sugar
1½ tbsp tamarind puree (Tesco sell it)

Parboil the diced potatoes
Heat the massaman paste and a tablespoon of coconut in the wok for 3 minutes and then add the onion and chicken, tossing to coat them in the paste.
Add the potatoes, peanuts and the rest of the coconut milk and stir it all together.
Season the sauce with the fish sauce, palm sugar and tamarind puree.
Leave the curry to simmer on a medium heat for 15 minutes, covering with a lid if needed, and then taste it, adjust the seasonings if they're not in balance (although I normally find they're fine as is, but if you're using brown sugar you're more likely to need to tweak them). If you want it to be more spicy, or you find that the sauce tastes too much of coconut, then add half a teaspoon more paste and leave for a few minutes before tasting again and repeating if still more spice is required.
Leave for another 5 minutes and then serve with rice.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Pasta And Pesto . . . Take One

The pasta went really well, in fact, I love home-made pasta. The pesto, on the other hand, well, it was a bit, alright, very, tasteless and an extremely odd colour (see picture below). Which is a shame really, as proper pesto is gorgeous. I'll try to make it again soon, but to a different recipe, the recipe I used was Theo Randall's one and it involved tipping everything into a blender.  Possibly not the best of ideas as you end up with a thick paste. Having said that, I think his other recipes are great and I might not have followed this one correctly. Oh well, Sam Stern's pesto recipe next, I'll let you know how it goes!

Pasta Recipe
Requires a stand mixer with dough hook and a pasta roller/cutter as I like my recipes to be fairly speedy, especially as this still takes 2 to 3 hours!!!
Basically you need one egg for every 100g and then add as much water as needed to make it stick together, and that will feed one hungry flatmate!
You have to prove the dough for 30 minute or so
For 2 to 3 people

200g pasta flour, also known as 00 flour, plus extra to stop it all sticking together when you roll it out
2 eggs
Water - how much depends on your dough

Put the flour and eggs in the bowl of your mixer and attach the dough hook.
Mix them together until all the egg has joined the flour and then add water a little bit at a time until the dough comes together in one ball without getting sticky.
Then leave the mixer to work the dough for 5-7 minutes, checking occasionally to keep the dough from trying to escape up the hook as it is wont to do.
Take out and cover your dough with cling film and leave to rest for at least 30 minutes, the dough should feel fairly smooth and almost leathery (it's hard to describe but you'll know it when you feel it).
Get out the pasta roller and pull off a fifth of the dough from the ball before covering the rest back up.
Flour the small ball and flatten into a rectangle.
With the pasta roller on the widest setting, roll the rectangle through and then fold it in half, adding more flour.  Pass this through the roller again.
Repeat the above step 4-5 more times, as this kneads the dough again and it important for the taste and texture.
Move the roller to the next thinnest setting and put the dough through.
Continue this process of moving the roller settings until you achieve the desired pasta thickness.
Now, to cut the pasta, if you want lasagne sheets then just cut it with a knife to less than the size of your pan.  If you want spaghetti then either send it through the spaghetti cutters (I have these and linguine ones for my KitchenAid) or use a knife again. Google pasta shapes videos if you want fancy shapes as I've yet to try them and I've got my eye on the KitchenAid pasta shapes cutter, maybe Father Christmas will give it to me? After all, Christmas is only a hundred and something days away!
Leave the pasta to dry out slightly on a clean tea towel, keeping the pieces from touching one another or you'll wind up with one big lump of pasta.
Repeat the rolling and cutting and drying steps for the rest of the pasta, using small pieces at a time.
To cook the pasta you need a large pan of boiling salted water and then put the pasta in for 4 minutes or so, tasting it to see if it's done or not (the lasagne sheets do not need to be pre-cooked).

Peanut Butter Brownies and Apparently CHRISTMAS IS COMING!!!

Yes, you read the title right; Harvey Nichols has just sent me an email telling me that Christmas is just around the corner and I need to book Christmas drinks there ASAP. I know that it's now September and Christmas is in about three months (or 110 days, 5 hours, 5 minutes and 30 seconds away if you really want to get technical - thanks - although that might be for a different country, I'm not sure!) but let's celebrate Halloween and Guy Fawkes night first!!

For a not at all christmassy, but maybe a just right for the start of  Autumn, snack I wanted to make David Lebovitz's dulce de leche brownies but didn't have the titular ingredient, so, after a bit of googling I hit upon the idea of peanut butter brownies (recipe from Good Housekeeping). Yummy! And I have about a kilo of peanut butter at home. Swirling the two mixtures together made it look so pretty and they tasted fairly good (apart from the edges as I forgot to set a second timer whilst chatting to a friend). In the future I would set another timer and cut the peanut mix by a third as it almost made two complete layers instead of marbled swirls. I used my Callebaut 54% chocolate in this recipe plus their cocoa powder and it made for a intense but not too strong/bitter chocolate flavour (NEWSFLASH I just got the Callebaut milk chocolate chips and the white chocolate ones and both taste good but the milk chocolate is divine, more chocolaty than high street brands and so moreish!)

Marbled Brownie Recipe
Oven at 180˚C
Baking tin required - I normally use an IKEA tin or a rectangular sandwich tin which lets me remove all bar one side of the tin for easier cutting. Whatever you use make sure it's well greased.
Cut as many slices as you want

175g butter
125g dark/milk chocolate
250g sugar - the original recipe says "light brown soft sugar", which has one too many adjectives for my liking! If you have muscovado sugar then use that, if you don't then regular sugar should be fine.
2 eggs - again, the original recipe says medium but really whatever size you have to hand
125g plain flour
25g cocoa powder
Peanut Butter Marble (this is two thirds of the original recipe)
17g MELTED butter (stick it in the microwave for 10 seconds at a time)
27g icing sugar
67g smooth peanut butter
¼tsp vanilla extract (not essence - essence is terrible as it is a synthetic flavour and not really real vanilla)

Melt the butter and chocolate in a big pan on the hob (if you're concerned about burning it then use a bain marie - a bowl suspended over pan/bowl of hot water so that it doesn't touch the water but that the heat melts whatever is in the top bowl).

Take off the heat and stir in the sugar followed by the eggs and then the flour and cocoa powder. This is your brownie base.
For the peanut butter marble you need to combine all the ingredients in a separate bowl until smooth-ish.
Spread ⅓ to ½ the brownie mix into the bottom of your greased pan and dollop half the marble over the top.
Repeat the above step with the rest of the brownie mix followed by the peanut butter marble and then swirl the tip of a knife through the dollops to create a pretty pattern, but try not to over mix it!
Cook in the oven for 20-35 minutes, depending on your oven. I would start at 20 and then check before putting another timer on for five minute increments. You want the brownie to have a crisp/cracked top but still move slightly in the middle, so it's a bit gooey and lovely to eat but not to runny you need a spoon to eat it with (I have had to do that before and it's not great!)

Monday, 1 September 2014

Thank You Cookies

My family have lived in Singapore for the past three years but are sadly in the throes of packing up to return to rainy old England. I've had some amazing holidays in South East Asia and taken cookery lessons in many different countries during my gap year, but more on those in later posts. This summer I spent a month and a half over there, visiting Indonesia and Hong Kong for a few weeks, as well as getting a bit too click happy with internet shopping in the process! Back in Manchester the parcels were piling up for me and a friend who was flat-sitting told me the concierges were a bit grumpy about holding all of my parcels (it was like christmas had come early when I got back and saw them!), so as a thank you I decided to bake them some cookies.

One of these packages contained 2.5kg of Callebaut chocolate chips to stop me from searching the city for Green and Blacks every time I baked a batch of brownies (baking is an expensive habit!). They cost me about £13 from Amazon, and I think I have the 54% (or a number around that). They're delicious, and sadly for my waistline, if I'm not careful, just the right size to snack on. When I added them to my cookies (recipe below) and then baked them the chocolate remained viscous even once they'd cooled, which makes them a bit messy to eat but worth it! If you don't want the mess then add a different chocolate - I used to make them with Smarties or M&Ms, as the original recipe (where from I do not remember) told me to do. As a treat, or for a more upmarket cookie, I replace the regular chocolate with white chocolate and fresh raspberries. I've been making these cookies for years and they've always met with approval from friends and family.  They're easy to make, both by hand or, as I always do, with a stand mixer (cue my new KitchenAid!) or electric hand mixer.

I've tried in the past to make this recipe healthier with golden/brown sugar and brown flour but it just doesn't work. If you forget to use self-raising flour and use plain instead then it's fine, I've done it before and it doesn't appear to noticeably affect the quality. As there aren't any eggs in the recipe it is both safe and delicious to eat the dough without cooking it first. If you don't want to cook it all at once then you can wrap it in cling film and freeze or refrigerate it for a few days and just leave it on the work surface to return to room temperature before you separate it into cookie sized balls.

Cookie Recipe
Oven at 170˚C
Makes as many as you want, but I normally make 18, using 2 trays with 9 cookies on each (original recipe said 12)
Don't forget to grease the baking trays

100g butter (soft if possible, can be blitzed in the microwave for 10 seconds at a time to warm)
100g caster sugar (EDIT it's actually light muscovado in the original recipe and it as tastes really good but if you like a bit of a crunch in your cookies then keep the caster sugar. I promise you both work equally well)
1tbsp golden syrup
150g self-raising flour
85g-120g chocolate, depends on how much you like

Beat together the butter and caster sugar until combined, soft and fluffy and light in colour
Then add the golden syrup and incorporate
Half the flour gets added and mixed in
Chocolate next
And finally the rest of the flour joins the mix
If using something to do the job for you then just put everything in the bowl at the same time and turn the mixer on
Once it looks like cookie dough and there aren't any left over bits at the bottom (if there are then add a smidgen more golden syrup) stop mixing and make as many balls of cookie dough as you want.
Don't flatten them!
Place your raw cookies onto the greased trays ensuring that they have space to spread
Pop into the oven for 8-10 minutes, then remove and leave them on the trays for 5 minutes or so until you can move them onto a cooling rack without them breaking apart (and if you do it too soon then what a shame, you'll just have to eat the broken ones!!!)

N.B. I'm not used to writing recipes so feel free to comment if you think it's too chatty or I'm missing information out etc.. Also, please let me know if the recipe works for you - I'd really love to hear your opinions.

What's your favourite cookie filling?