Thursday 31 January 2013

Peroni fruit loaf


Sometimes I wish I didn't, but I really do like every food out there imaginable. Because I am such a gannet type, I find it hard to come to terms with the fact that some people don't like some foods. I also take great pleasure in reintroducing an ingredient to someone who forbids it, resulting in a 'Come Dine With Me' moment, where one contestant says 'I don't like pears, but I've got to say Nigel, I like this pear dish'. As a kid, I couldn't bare mushrooms, tomatoes, peas and fruit cake. Then one day, because that ingredient is cooked differently or the variety or quality is like none you have tasted before you think to yourself, well that's delicious, I've been missing out for years! 
A light fruit cake like this is so different to the heavy, dark, alcohol fed wedding fruit cake. I like those too now, but it took a while. It is fat free (no butter or oils) and sugar free (if you want it to be) as the fruit is soaked overnight. You can add sugar for a let's face it yummy loaf or you can omit is because all that candied peel got candied in something right, clue is in the name!
I love whole candied fruits. They are beautiful like little works of art and if you have ever seen a cabinet full of them, it's like staring into a display case of jewels. I used whole candied orange slices, apricots and figs but I have also used regular cut peel before which works a treat.
Here's where I confess that there is a bottle of beer in each loaf! It should be a fruity ale but this loaf came about late the other night from a conversation on twitter with @GentlemanBaker, who put the idea of fruit loaf into my head just before bed. I suppose I could have soaked the fruit in tea but I had a couple of beers sitting in the cupboard, so in they went. It tasted the same as the ale, I love discovering things like this. The Gentleman Baker had little faith.

It's best after a few days but that warm loaf is so tempting when there is salty butter to be absorbed. Yes, I see the irony in making it fat free and then slathering it in butter, welcome to my world.

I gave a loaf to my sister and kept one for myself, it lasts weeks!
The perfect accompaniment to your tea break. 
Just as I had filed my self assessment, which was a wee bit stressful being the day before deadline, this card fell through the door to make the cake taste that much sweeter. I did this lovely couple's wedding catering and little did they know, just as I was cursing the decision to be self employed with all this tax nonsense, they had lifted my spirits, high. I love my job. 

Recipe makes 2 loaves

600g made up of currants, raisins, sultanas 
150g candied fruits/mixed peel
1 lemon and 1 orange zested (optional, but I like)
500ml of strong ale or peroni ;)
3 med/lrg eggs 
100g of soft dark brown sugar (not if you don't want)
100g of SR flour
300g wholemeal SR flour
3 tsp mixed spice

It really is simple and if you are anything like me, you may well have all the ingredients in your cupboard.
In a large saucepan, tip in fruit, peel and zest. Cover with ale and bring to the boil. Cover, turn off heat and leave overnight.

The next morning, mix all the ingredients together in the same saucepan and tip into lined 500g loaf tins x2

Cook on 150C for an hour. Check, and if ready cool on a wire rack, in its tin with a cloth over the top. 

Wednesday 30 January 2013

Quick Croissants

Happy National Croissant Day! Any excuse. Croissants for a breakfast meeting make it worth getting up early for. I googled quick croissant dough and up popped Edd Kimber's recipe. It was really very easy, but does need a rest overnight. See recipe here
The recipe made 7

Friday 25 January 2013

Rosa's Paella

I tried to post this once before. I can't explain it, but I got teary and thought I would come back to it. I have been lucky enough have spent long hot Summers, chilly winters and beautiful Easter holidays over the last 25 years, here in my parents home. More recently I have been cooking out there for the family business and however stressful and tiring it can be, nothing beats shopping in the markets, picking fresh herbs from the garden and making people smile through cooking up an Andalusian storm. Cristie and I have such a laugh in the kitchen and I get the feeling the Spanish waiters think the way I run a kitchen is mad, but we all have a giggle together.
Out of the pool and onto the tractor for a bumpy ride around the farm with Pepe. 
Meet our Spanish Mum and Dad, Rosa and Joaquin (neighbours). I wrote here about Joaquin and my Spanish Easter before.
Well today's post is about this wonderful woman right here. My memories of Rosa from my earliest years are of running away from her! She used to hold one of my cheeks, hard in between her thumb and index finger and give it a good shake. It was a gesture of such affection but, I dreaded that.
I don't know when you'll next be cooking your 25 person paella or how useful this recipe will be to you but it is a fantastic dish for a family gathering but the tips really do translate for smaller paellas.

Rosa's recipe which I will translate at bottom of post

I have eaten more paella than I can count over the years and everyone agrees that nothing lives up to Rosa's. I felt genuinely honoured to have spent the afternoon watching her cook and note the little things she did that weren't easy to translate. It was after this memorable day, that I realised that it was only Rosa, standing behind that pan who pours her love into this dish for those who eat it, who can make it taste the way she does. A family rule is to add another handful of rice than needed to the pan for the 'unexpected guest' this just sums up what I love about the Spanish.
First things first. It's important to buy the shellfish on the same day as you are cooking and serving your paella. This is what makes cooking a paella a day long job! Rosa cooks all her shell fish seperately and keeps all the water that the mussels/prawns/clams have simmered in, to use as stock. Before the paella pan comes out, you need to make a sofrito. This is the flavour base. Saute peppers, onion, bay, garlic, tinned tomatoes, meat and squid until thickened.

Add the sofrito to the paella pan with the parsley mix below.
Yes, that is 2 heads of garlic in there. Blitzed with a cup of water, parsley, 3 stock cubes and whole black pepper corns. Blitz until you can't hear the pepper.
This is where I tell you that nothing, absolutely nothing is wasted. Just like you might swirl water around in an emptied tin of tomatoes and add it to your cooking, Rosa does this to every container that has had food in it. Here she scrapes every last bit of sofrito flavour out of the pan, and she then rinsed her blender that she had used for the parsley in this water before adding it as 'stock'.

Then all that shell fish cooking liquid is strained and added.
Another top tip is to sort your mussels. Pick out the most handsome, plump mussels for decorating the pan later on and put aside. Then pick the meat out of the remaining shells and add to the pan. This is wear I was told off for leaving those white suction pad things in the shells. I have always discarded that bit with the shells but, you guessed it, they get scraped in and put in the pan too!

 The mussels and clams have been added with saffron and given a good stir. Next, the rice. 100g per person.
This is where Javier, Rosa's son comes in and helps with the stirring, the smells coax everyone into the kitchen at some point for a stir! Here the peas are added. It is really important they are canned peas, they taste totally different to fresh peas. Also add a small glass of white wine here, not too much or apparently the rice goes soft.
I absolutely love this next pic. The light pouring into the cool kitchen, Joaquin has been waiting in his van, with the engine running outside ready to take the paella over to ours. He is wondering what is taking so long. Rosa ignores him and keeps talking to me. Javier's friend, on standby to help carry the paella out the house. The paella, bubbling away on top of this otherwise redundant washing machine waiting to be adorned.
After a while going untouched, Javi holds the handles and shakes the pan to level the rice. This means the socarrat goes undisturbed. The socarrat is the layer of toasted rice that gets stuck on the bottom of the pan which is a real treat!
 Everyone gets stuck in with the decoration.
If it's for a birthday Rosa will spell out FELIZ CUMPLEANOS with the roasted peppers.
Can you see the circle of pepper in the middle? That's for the lemon and parsley crown that gets put on just before serving. 
Gracias Rosa, BESOS XXXXX

Translation, Paella for 25 people
1/3 kilo olive oil
2 heads of garlic
2 kilos of chicken thigh
4 tins of chopped tomato
1 tin of tinned peas
1 kilo of green peppers for sofrito
2 red peppers roasted for decoration
1/2 kilo of squid
1 kilo mussels
1 tbsp black pepper corns
2 big pinches saffron
4 stock cubes. The best equivalent in UK would be Kallo organic chicken.
Handful of parsley, with stalk
6 bay leaves
Prawns for decoration
Paella rice 100g per person
There was probably 3+ litres of stock added made from shell fish juices etc. 

Please let me know if you have any family/authentic recipes from overseas you want to share!

Tuesday 22 January 2013

Vegan Cashew and Berry Cake

I noticed this blog needed a splash of colour... ta daaa! So above you have the wrinkly impression of tin foil in what looks like a cheesecake. Below you see where I thought I might just smooth things out, I actually quite like the wrinkled effect, it's got character!
I promise this will be the last vegan post for a while, I know I have been a bit carried away of late. The science behind cooking and baking really does fascinate me so the idea of soaking cashew nuts overnight in water and then blitzing them up in the morning to make cashew cream just astounds me, it really does.
Again, this little cake got mixed reviews at dinner the other night. I'll let you know that it reminded one friend of her berry and coconut shower gel. Hmm, so not to everyone's taste. I, for one (or one of 3) really enjoyed it. I love dates and nuts and berries, so what's not to like?
I think you have to be very open minded when tasting food like this, welcome the new flavour combinations you haven't experienced before. The unprocessed, natural and clean flavours, the very fact it is raw, everything that is good for you, still good for you in it's natural, unaltered state.
I presented this as a 'Vegan Berry Cheesecake' which one friend said was a mistake. You say cheesecake and automatically something in your brain pings and your taste buds awaken, and everyone is expecting cheesecake... and it isn't cheesecake.
The next day I gave a slice to another friend and called it simply a vegan dessert. She loved it. 
The recipe is from the most fabulous blog called My New Roots See here
Sarah explains the health bit behind her recipe, I can only tell you that I will be making this again. 
The only alteration I made was adding a blueberry layer.
I have played tour guide today to a Uni friend visiting London. We have been to Buckingham Palace, walked up the glistening snowy blanketed Mall to Trafalgar; wandered around the Taylor Wessing Portrait Awards at the National Portrait Gallery (a must see); dined in China town; had cream tea in Sketch; popped by all the must see shops/sites before slumping into our chairs at the theatre to see Wicked. I'm zonked and there's so much more to come tomorrow!