Monday, 27 September 2010

Beetroot Bonanza!

I spent a lovely day with my best friend, C, at the Malvern Autumn show on Saturday in the lovely setting of the Malvern hills.  The sun shone on us as we wandered around the craft stalls, flower show and animals - a real day out. 

Anyway, after a relaxing day out I managed to find the time and enthusiasm yesterday to pull up about half of my beetroot crop and spent the day in the kitchen converting the raw, red vegetable into a variety of produce for the kitchen cupboard and the cake tin!

First on the agenda was the ubiquitous pickled beetroot; actually one of my favourite pickles and so easy to make; just cook the beetroot, then peel and slice or cube and pack into sterile jars.  Pour over cold spiced vinegar then seal and label the jars.  Delicious with a selection of cold meats at Christmas time.

I then made a small quantity of beetroot chutney - a new recipe for me; I'll post the recipe for this once I've had a chance to taste it, which won't be for about 2 months whilst it matures.
Beetroot Bounty

Another recipe to be posted later is for the beetroot soup that I made yesterday, another new one for my kitchen, though whenever I take any beetroot to my sister she always mkes soup with some of it.  I've frozen most my soup as I already had some dreamy, creamy tomato soup in the fridge for us to eat.

So something pickled, something savoury, and finally something sweet.  A Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe from his River Cottage everyday book: Chocolate and Beetroot Brownies.  These didn't make it to the freezer, they were delicious, chocolatey and moist with a little 'je ne sais quoi' provided by the, do try these...

Choco-Root Brownies
Makes about 20
250g dark chocolate broken into pieces
250g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
250g caster sugar
3 free-range eggs
150g self-raising flour
250g beetroot, boiled until tender, then peeled and grated

Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. Grease a baking tin of approximately 20 x 30 x 3cm and line the bottom with baking parchment.

Break up the chocolate into pieces, cut the butter into cubes then melt together in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water.

Whisk the eggs and sugar together in a bowl until combined, then beat in the melted chocolate and butter until smooth. Gently fold in the flour then the beetroot – be careful not to overmix or it will make the brownies tough.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth over the top with a spatula. Bake for about 20 minutes. A knife or skewer pushed into the middle should come out with a few moist crumbs clinging to it.  Remove the tin from the oven and leave on wire rack to cool before cutting into squares  Lovely on their own or even better warm from the oven with some good vanilla ice cream!

I've still got the other half of the beetroot crop to deal with - any suggestions?

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Egg Whites

Yesterday I made some biscuits which required two egg yolks, I don't like to waste food so I used the egg whites to make meringues.  I've not made these before and was intrigued to understand the process.

The egg whites were beaten in a clean bowl with an electric whisk until they formed soft peaks, 100g of caster sugar was added a spoonful at a time whilst continuing to beat the egg whites.  Continue whisking until the egg whites form stiff peaks and the mix looks glossy.

Put spoonfuls of the meringue mix onto a baking tray lined with baking parchment and place in the oven at 140C.  I baked mine at this temperature for about 60 minutes though the recipe said one and a half hours.  At the end of this time the meringues should lift easily off the baking parchment and sound hollow.  Leaving the meringues in the oven, turn off the heat and open the oven door and leave the meringues for a further 30 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely before storing in an airtight tin.

Not sure what I'm going to do with the autumnal Eton mess perhaps?

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Back to Baking

I've really enjoyed the focus on fish in my recent posts and still have the sardines from my delivery to eat - they're in the freezer at the moment.  My thoughts now turn to some more home baking. 

Last night I made a Victoria sponge using Holly Grove bramble jam instead of the more traditional raspberry or strawberry jam.  The bramble jam was made from hedgerow blackberries growing in the lanes around Holly Grove - very satisfying to make something so delicious from free fruit!

The cake makes a lovely light, sweet offering with a cup of tea or coffee as an afternoon treat or served with cream or ice cream as a light pudding.  Good use of the larder full of homemade jam!

Today I've adapted a recipe for shortbread biscuits to incorporate some essence of orange flower water that I bought on impulse a few days ago.  These, like the sponge, make a lovely accompaniment to afternoon tea or morning coffee or with some stewed fruit and ice cream make a quick dessert. 

Orangish Shortbread Biscuits
Makes about 35
325g plain flour
200g chilled unsalted butter, diced
125g caster sugar
2 tsp essence of orange flower water
2 egg yolks
icing sugar, for dusting

Set the oven to 180C.  Put the flour and butter into a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.  Add the sugar, orange flower water and the eggs and mix to a smooth dough.

Roll the dough into a long sausage shape, wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour.

Lightly grease 2 baking sheets.  Cut the dough into 5mm thick slices and arrange them on the baking sheets spacing them slightly apart.  bake for about 20 minutes until pale golden in colour.  Place biscuits onto a wire to cool and then dust with icing sugar. 

Note: The 'orangish' in the recipe title is because the biscuits didn't taste very orangey, perhaps next time I'll add some grated orange zest?  Despite that the biscuits were crisp and lovely with my latte.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Delicious Halibut

As promised here's my review of our first taste of the produce from fishinabox.  On opening the box I was impressed by the lack of fishy smells - a good sign of really fresh fish - and the way the fish was filleted and packed, so a good start.
Lovely fresh fillets
The halibut fillets were large, meaty, a lovely creamy colour and smelt of the sea - gorgeous!  This fish was one of the best tasting and, I think, best value for money products that I've had in my kitchen...425g for just over £8.  Well done fishinabox, I'll be back for more...I've just got to finish the Craster kippers and Cornish sardines...yum!  

Roasted halibut on a spring onion rosti with tarragon buerre blanc served with Holly Grove french beans

The recipe I had chosen was a little time-consuming to prepare but worth every minute when we tasted the results.  The halibut tasted divinely of the sea and the flesh remained moist, creamy and meaty, gently flaking off with a fork.  The recipe can be found on BBC Food - I replaced the sorrel in the recipe with dried tarragon (about 1 tsp) as the sorrel in my kitchen garden wasn't up to scratch.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

A Box Full of Fishes

My first 'fishinabox' order has arrived!  It was delivered in a polystyrene box filled with crushed ice and came complete with a recipe suggestion for the kippers.  There was more fish in my box than I had visualised when I ordered it, I must get a handle on metric weights! 

How exciting!
So halibut, kippers and sardines - the fish looks and smells lovely and fresh and I can't wait to cook and eat it.  We'll start with the halibut fillets...

I've spent the last hour on the web looking for a suitable recipe.  The one chosen came from the BBC Food site (not to be confused with the BBC Good Food site): roasted halibut on a spring onion rosti with sorrel beurre blanc.  

The joy of this recipe is that the early stages can be carried out in advance and then the finishing stage takes only 15 minutes.  This means that I can have everything prepared and then finish off the dish when the Handyman comes in from the garden (which is pretty late in the evening whilst he's engrossed in his latest project) I'm off to start cooking.  I'll post the recipe and some photos of the finished dish tomorrow...wish me luck!

Monday, 6 September 2010

Fresh Fish

I've just found a local supplier of fresh fish and have placed my first order to be delivered on Thursday. I've yet to test the quality of the service and, of course, the products but the good news is that delivery is free in Shropshire and surrounding counties (check out their website for details).

I'll update with a fishy recipe and comments regarding the fish sometime over the weekend when we've received the order and had time to prepare the fish dish.

I've ordered kipper, halibut and sardine fillets - so if anyone has any good fishy recipes please let me know.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Bright Bite

Just taken enough time to come in from the garden to make myself a bite of lunch.

A local pastie from our local butcher (well, half a pastie as a whole one is too big for lunch), with some homemade tomato salsa and a few tortilla chips. Not a lot of home cooking here but a quick, colourful and tasty back into the garden for some more autumnal sunshine!
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