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Recipe: Cauliflower Cheese to Sooth the Nerves and Iron Out Your Soul

Tastes MUCH better than it looks. Brown sourdough breadcrumb topping you see...

It’s hot outside, I know. But let us not deceive ourselves, it is October and that will all change soon, in fact, it’s changing already. So, I am going to help you to prepare for that first grim October day with a lovely comforting recipe for cauliflower cheese.

A classic, no? What feelings does it evoke for you? It makes me think of nice warm fires and toasty toes in slippers. Dark nights closing in and mulled wine. Comfort, pure comfort, with a little hint of spice.

I don’t go to the trouble of making a proper white sauce here. I prefer the simplicity and luxury of cream. It’s crap outside so lets make it very nice inside. There is a little pre-amble but it is worth it. I recommend flavouring the cream first with bay leaves, garlic and pepper corns. This gives the dish some warm aromatics and a little bit of oomph. Layers of flavour that will give your cauliflower cheese its own X Factor.

Read more: Cauliflower cheese to sooth the nerves and iron out your soul | iVillage UK http://www.ivillage.co.uk/cauliflower-cheese-sooth-the-nerves-and-iron-out-your-soul/135956#ixzz1Zq2hqQ00

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Orzo salad with pesto, tomatoes & knockalara cheese

Another day, another gorgeous recipe from the Ballymaloe Cookery Course Cookbook, all in the hope of raising money for the World Food Programme’s efforts in Lesotho. If this is your first time hearing of it, briefly:

Chez Pim has announced Menu for Hope 4 – her annual fundraising event. Inspired by the Tsnuami 5 years ago, in 2006, Menu for Hope raised US$62,925.12 to help the UN World Food Programme feed the hungry. I applaud her for this effort and would like to spread the word by directing you to her blog. This year, she is again supporting the UN World Food Programme.

More on how to buy a raffle ticket and prizes here, for now – back to food.

This cookbook hasn’t failed me yet. This recipe is very simple and quick, perfect for today’s lunch. It’s the litle details that really make it – sprinkling some sugar and balsamic vinegar on the cut tomatoes preserves and enhances their lovely flavour. I love the texture and flavour of orzo, a pasta grain with a delicate bite which absorbs other flavours beautifully. It’s great in salads and soups and makes a nice change when substituted for noodles/pasta in noodle soups or minestrone.

A note on Knockalara cheese – as I’ve mentioned it on the blog before, this is a cheese made local to where I grew up in Cappoquin, Co Waterford. I bought it from their stall in Dungarvan Farmer’s Market (which I promised I’d blog but still haven’t, I will eventually!). There are so many wonderful irish cheeses, I always bring some back with me when I go home, but this for me is particularly good. It’s a sheep’s milk cheese, the one I had was a mature one and had a strong flavour, almost reminiscent of a blue cheese, really very good. If you can’t get Knockalara, substitute another sheep’s cheese like a good feta.

I made a change to the recipe, adding more tomatoes as I had many, so instead of Darina’s 12 I had about 20 – 10 red, 10 yellow. I also cut the cheese smaller as mine was quite strong. I think I will add more pine nuts next time I make it as I like the taste and texture. It would be lovely as a side dish, or as I had it, for lunch with some leaves. Delicious![Read more]

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Onion Rarebit

A friend recently recommended this Nigel Slater recipe to me. It’s a comfort one, for times of stress or indulgence. Nigel himself describes it as an “unctuous mix of onions, thick toast and melted cheese that pleases most.” I am an indulgent kinda gal and recent events have been particularly stressful, so, as a form of escape, I dedicated some time to this.

It’s perfect for this time of year! So creamy, and beery, and cheesy. Although, I am not a huge fan of beer, so, I am thinking about ways I can smuggle white wine or even champagne into this dish instead. But, everyone else loves it so, it’s beery, and, I’m sure that you’ll like it that way.

I changed a couple of things: I caramelised the onions for an hour or so for an extra level of decadence, I used dijon mustard, and, I substituted manchego for the cheddar. Use good bread, I used one with seeds in and the contrast was lovely.

Nigel’s original recipe is published on the Guardian website.

 

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Homemade Pizza

I love good pizza. Everyone has their own take on what that is but for me it has a thin crispy base, good sauce (NOT tomato purée!) and simple but good quality toppings. It can be quite hard to find this so I like to make my own occasionally. It takes alot of time but there’s a real sense of satisfaction in doing it from scratch. Dissolving the yeast, seeing the dough take shape, and kneading & kneading it until the dough becomes stretchy and shiny and ready for a stint of relaxation while you make your sauce. It’s an arduous process, but one I am happy to indulge in when I have the time. And sometimes when I don’t, like last Saturday.

I had been preparing for a few days, stocking up on fresh yeast, Italian 00 flour, too many cheeses and various types of meat. A few words about these, Italian 00 flour is a must, if only because it’s what Italians use and they know what they’re doing. It’s a fine grind flour that’s high in gluten, which results in alot of bite. I take alot of time with my sauce as tomatoes test better the longer they’re cooked, this time however, I tried a new baked tomato sauce which needs very little attention and it worked really well. The toppings? Your pizza will be as good as these, I bought some San Daniele ham, as good as parma (if not better for my taste) but slightly darker and a little sweeter, some sliced piccante chorizo, some nice rocket, buffalo mozarella, a delicate fresh chevre, manchego (one of my favourites, you can substitute cheddar or something similar if you can’t get it), some really nice black olives & lots of basil.

pizza dough

So, what about the dough? Again, this can be a contentious issue. To add olive oil or not? I always used to but actually forgot it this time, and you know what? It was still really nice. So, I would say, really it’s up to you, but this time, I rolled my pizza really thin and the dough was really light and I can’t help but wonder if this was the absence of olive oil. I’ll know next time I make it and add it. I use fresh yeast, I think it gives better results & the dough rises better and faster. You can get it in health food shops normally, at least that’s where I get mine.

Push your domestic oven to it’s limits, heat it to the highest temperature, our flat was like a sauna! I like mine rustic, rolled as big and thin as I can get it and baked on a large tray that is the width of the oven. I am impatient and wanted to try everything so I made half and half pizzas so that I could try the flavours immediately.

homemade pizza

How was it? At the risk of sounding cocky, great. No other adjective required. Washed down with some delicious wine that I brought back from Paris and followed with a good film, a great Saturday night.

Here’s the recipe.[Read more]

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All Gods Creatures Macaroni Cheese

 

Well, two of them anyway, and I had hoped for three, but was otherwise occupied this weekend so didn’t get to the farmer’s market to buy some buffalo milk. I was instead at the Ben & Jerry’s Summer Sundae in Clapham Common, London, where there was unlimited free ice cream, thankfully, for the first time there was sorbet this year and I didn’t feel as left out as before. It is torture watching your friends gorge themselves when you can’t have any. Well, you can but then have to go home early because you are sick… I learned my lesson two years ago!

So, as mentioned in a previous post I have really wanted to make some lactose free macaroni cheese. I spotted a recipe in Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries recently for macaroni with fontina and it looked so good! It’s a great book, if you don’t have it. Styled as a diary, it reminds me of a food blog in print. I really like Nigel Slater’s approach to cooking, as stated on his website: “I have always felt that a recipe should be something to inspire, remind and lightly influence rather than a set of instructions to be followed, pedantically, to the letter.” I absolutely agree, and while this has lent it’s influence to some failures in the kitchen, it has also led to the discovery of some culinary delights, like my recent random broad bean effort.

I’ve never developed a taste for soya milk as a substitute for cows milk. It’s too grainy. I do like my soya latté in the morning but that’s really as far as it goes on a regular basis. Goats Milk is a much better substitute for cooking, both milks have similar fat contents so it’s easier to substitute goats milk for cows in a conventional recipe. I don’t like to use goats milk for baking as it’s a little goaty, buffalo milk is a better substitute for this and occasionally I do use soya milk, especially for muffins and the like. The goat flavour can work really well in a savoury dish if yout twist it to your advantage by using ingredients that will complement this.

So, for this, I used St Helens Farm goats milk & butter, Ossau-Iraty – a brebis (sheeps) cheese from south west France and manchego – a sheeps cheese from La Mancha in spain. The Ossau-Iraty is quite mild, I didn’t want a cheese that would fight with the goats milk and butter for dominance and produce an intense dish. I used it in the sauce and used the manchego to finish off the dish by mixing it some breadcrumbs made from day old bread from our local bakery.

The finished product was really good, a delicate goats cheese flavour blended with the mild Ossau-Iraty and topped off by a mature manchego. A successful experiment overall!

Note: not all lactose intolerants can substitiute goats milk for cows, the only way to find out is by trial and error unfortunately. In the same way, some lactose intolerants can have cows yoghurt and hard cheeses, there are different severities of intolerance.

If you don’t have any problems with dairy you can make this with cows milk, butter and cheeses. It’s a very adaptable recipe and really serves as a guideline. I would encourage you to use your favourite cheeses and play around with it as the sauce itself is very mild and the dish will take on the flavour of whatever cheese you choose, next for me is to use buffalo milk with blue sheeps cheese.

This recipe serves 4.

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Broad bean, leek, bacon & roquefort potato skins

Broad bean, leek, bacon & roquefort potato skins

I had a bit of a culinary disaster the other night. I had planned to make a lactose free macaroni cheese and had gone to great pains to get my ingredients. Buffalo milk, goats butter & sheeps cheese, all ready to go. I had planned to make a bechamel and sink the macaroni in it with some manchego & blue cheese throughout and panko breadcrumbs and manchego on top. Alas, it wasn’t to be, my buffalo milk was unpasteurised and was already sour having bought it on Sunday. I was devastated! I had been building up to it for a few days buying my ingredients. So, stranded in my kitchen, with the makings of a bad macaroni cheese and so annoyed I was ready to give up and sulk and watch trash tv with a glass of wine, I reviewed my options. We had had braised sausages and mash the night before and had baked potatoes for the mash in order to get a better texture for our mash. We still had the skins. I had a kilo of broad beans from the farmers market. I had goats cream from St Helens Farm for the dish that shall not be spoken of. Some leeks and a nice big block of roquefort. I started to feel better. In the end, waste of food aside, I was almost happyto have failed as I was so pleased with the outcome of the stuffed potato skins. They were delicious! I served them with grated raw beetroot dressed with balsamic and some redcurrants and washed it all down with a glass of robust red wine.

It was all a bit slap dash given my frustration with preceding events, and while I had a kilo of broad beans, they actually weren’t the best and I had to bin some, so this recipe is approximate. I don’t think changes in the ingredients will compromise this dish though, it’s very rustic and the flavours work well so a little more of one and less than the other should be fine, so feel free to play. It’s the flavour combinations that work well here.

As with all dishes, you’ll get a better result with the best ingredients but I would particularly encourage using a good bacon for this. We get ours in our farmers market from Grassmere Farm and it’s so good! It retains its moisture and the flavour is really distinct, even alongside the strong blue cheese, it really stood up to it. Roquefort is one of my favourite blue cheeses, it’s made from sheeps milk so is great for lactose free dinners.

We were hungry and our potato skins were small so we had three each but two might suffice per person if they were large enough.

Here’s the recipe:[Read more]

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Homemade Pesto

I love pesto. The first time I tasted it, my young irish palette was taken by surprise. I had never had such a flavour combination and wasn’t sure what to make of it. I grew to love it and it’s been a firm favourite ever since. I’ve read that there’s no pesto that can compare with Genovese Pesto in Liguria, that the basil grown in the slightly alkaline soil of the Genovese district of Pra is the best. I really need to go to try this out but for the moment I have to make do with what’s available to me in London.

It’s been a while since I made homemade pesto so I thought I’d make some last weekend. It’s always good to have some to hand and homemade pesto is infinitely superior to that bought in a jar. If you look at the ingredients in some shop bought pestos they often replace pine nuts with cashew nuts, replace parmesan with random cheese and the oil is low grade. There’s also usually a myriad list of ingredients which have no place there. It’s so good for quick pasta dishes, dips, dressings, whatever takes your fancy. It can be expensive to make in the UK but I think it’s worth it. If only I was in Naples growing the basil in my back garden and collecting pine kernels from under the trees. Must make do with being in London and gathering my crop from deli’s ;)

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Santa plum tomato, avocado & manchego toasts

Santa plum tomato, avocado & manchego toasts

This isn’t exactly complicated but it was so pretty and easy I thought I’d blog it :-)

On a recent trip to the market I spotted beautiful baby santa plum tomatoes. I bought a pound of them with the intention of making a tomato, basil and mozarella salad. But, I forgot to buy the mozarella. So, I quickly threw these toasts together instead:

Chop half the tomatoes & 1 avocado. Season, then add some fresh lemon juice to taste. Toast the bread on one side and lightly toast the second side until slightly crisp but not brown (this ensures they won’t go too soggy when you add the avocado/tomato). Add your tomato and avocado mixture and sprinkle some grated manchego on top. Grill until the cheese is melted. Eat![Read more]

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Mutter Paneer – a speedy interpretation

Mutter Paneer

Before I begin, I will stress that this isn’t truly tried and tested but it was nice so I will post it. It’s a curry sauce that I do already changed on a whim to fit a mutter paneer dish. I will change it next time I do it as I am not 100% happy with it – it’s a nice curry but it’s not truly a mutter paneer. The sauce is thicker than it should be and it’s quite tomato-y. I wanted to make it mainly with things that I already had and quite quickly as I want another quick after work curry to add to my quick dishes. I am over-analysing perhaps – I did enjoy it and I will make it again. I blame Sabras, I want all my curries to taste like theirs now and I don’t have any of their recipes.

Before I begin I should mention that the goats milk paneer is delicious! I thought it might be too strong but it was not dominant. The goat milk flavour was actually really nice and delicate (I don’t like drinking goats milk so was a little concerned). The texture was lovely and spongy too. It’s definitely worth making the effort to make.[Read more]

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Some amateur cheesemaking – homemade paneer

 

Paneer Making -collage

With Sabras closing recently we have been deprived of their mutter paneer. It’s been a while since we made Indian food so I decided that I would make some paneer last night and follow up with mutter paneer tonight. I am lactose intolerant so can’t have cows milk, but this usually isn’t a problem for paneer making as living in London and so I can get my hands on buffalo milk quite easily. Well, I could, until Waitrose stopped selling it. So, it had to be goat’s milk which isn’t my favourite but it will do. Next time I’ll have to plan it and get some buffalo milk at the farmers market.

 

It’s very easy to make paneer. All you do is boil some milk, reduce the heat and add something acidic to separate the curds and whey – white vinegar, lemon or lime juice will do, and then press out the excess moisture. I had a lime to hand last night so I used lime juice, roughly, a couple of tablespoons for a litre of milk. Once you add the lime juice/lemon juice/vinegar you will notice that the curds and whey start to separate immediately. If they don’t seem to be seperating add more of your lime juice/lemon juice/vinegar. Give it about 5 minutes, stirring so it doesn’t stick or burn and the curds will get bigger and the whey will get clearer. After the 5 minutes or so are up, strain through some muslin or cheesecloth to separate the curds. You can suspend your ball of paneer in waiting from the tap or I usually just put mine in a sieve suspended over an empty pot. Leave it for about half an hour or so to cool down and drip then squeeze the excess liquid out. I place a weight on it (a jar of beans and a saucer) at this point for an hour or so and then it’s ready to refrigerate. Easy peasy!