Archive | September, 2011

Chicken liver pate

25 Sep

OK.  So it’s a cooking weekend.  I could add the beef stew (a sort of boeuf bourguignon, but only because I added red wine) but I think I’ll leave it for another day.

Today my nephew made pizza for lunch, and very tasty it was too.  I made a salad or two to accompany it, and to be honest hardly any salad got eaten, but that’s the way of salad when there’s pizza about.  Even pear, blue cheese and toasted walnut salad with a honey dressing.  Ah well.

But after lunch I made chicken liver pate.  It’s so easy. Why don’t I make this all the time?

I looked up a number of recipes, and then went my own way, incorporating what I’d learnt, but not being a slave to the recipe.

The starting point was that I had 270g of chicken livers.  I popped them in a small bowl (actually a souffle dish) and covered them in milk, and then abandoned them in the fridge for a couple of hours.

Then I finely chopped a shallot and gently gently cooked it in its own body weight of butter.  Once it was deliciously soft, I added a chopped clove of garlic.  You could of course have squidged the garlic through a garlic press, but I think life is too short for cleaning garlic presses.  Anyway, the last one I had I squidged the garlic into a dish and ended up having to fish out lots of wee bits of metal from the supper.  The holey bit of the press had sheered out with the pressure of the garlic. Not nice.

OK, soften the garlic in the buttery goodness for a wee while.  Add thyme or sage or bay if you have any. Or marjoram.  Marjoram was all I could find, so that is what we’ve got.  Thyme would have been much much nicer.

Way before you added the garlic, while you were listening to the gentle cooking of the shallot, you should take the chicken livers out of the milk and popped them on some kitchen paper on a plate.  Soak up the milk a bit and then pick over the livers and remove any green bits, or any stringy fatty bits (you know those bits that join two lovely livery bits together). Don’t be over fastidious about the stringy bits – but be as pernickety as you like about the green bits.  Eeek.

Once the garlic has been doing its thing with the butter and shallots for a while, add the chicken livers in.  Turn up the heat a bit, but not too much – you don’t want anything to burn, just to cook.

The livers will only need 4-5 minutes to cook – they should be soft brown on the outside, but still pink on the inside.

Now, plop it all into a liquidiser.  And liquidise.

Once it is all combined, add more butter.  I’d left the butter out on the side all morning so it was deliciously soft, but it will melt quickly anyway in the hot pate.  For 270g of livers, you should add about 140g of butter in total (including what you used to cook the shallots and garlic).  I didn’t weigh anything, but I think I added about that much, judging by how much wasn’t left in the packet!

Now, put the pate into a dish.

Melt enough butter to pour over the top of the pate to make a seal.  Once the butter is melted, spoon it over the top of the pate.  Only use the oily butter which is on top, and throw the liquid white whey away.

A true professional would have added a herb to the melted butter and let it steep for a while to add extra flavour to the finished pate. I didn’t bother.  And I’ll bet it’s delicious anyway.  You can also add madeira or brandy as you cook the chicken livers, but I don’t think it needs it.  Unless of course you are looking for ways to use up those bottle ends of brandy or madeira.

Enjoy with sourdough bread or toasted white, if you’re eating carbs.  If not, have it with a big salad of spinach with sweet cherry tomatoes.  Even an onion relish/marmalade.

Now, I’ve discovered there are lots of apples in the garden, needing to be made into something.  I think it’s time for apple chutney.




Sophisticated chocolate brownies

25 Sep

Brownies seem to be endlessly adaptable.  I’ve made them with ginger, with nuts, with more and more and more chocolate. I think I must try them with mint.  And possibly orange, although I’m never quite sure about chocolate and orange, and thoroughly disapprove of orange anywhere near milk chocolate.

But this weekend it’s all about the sophisticated flavour combo of cardamom and chocolate.  I have to credit both The Times and West London’s favourite provider of baked goods: Cocomaya. So, thank you.  And I hope you don’t mind me re-producing your recipe here.

I’m looking after my nephews this weekend, so am cooking in a less familiar kitchen, although having a Rayburn to bake in is a delight and reminds me of happy happy childhood weekends, baking scrumptious goodies for the family.

Posh chocolate brownies in a Le Creuset dish

Cardamom chocolate brownies

250g unsalted butter (I used slightly salted as that was what was in the fridge)

15 green cardamom pods

100g plain flour

1/4 tsp baking powder

350g dark chocolate (at each 70% cocoa solids)

250g muscovado sugar

50g caster sugar (I used a combination of soft dark brown and soft light brown sugar)

4 large eggs

1/2 tsp salt

15 x 20cm cake tin… I couldn’t find the right size, so ended up using a le creuset oval lasagne style dish, approximately the right size

Oven 130C, GM2.  The Rayburn was on medium, which is probably slightly higher than recommended

  1. Grease the baking tin
  2. Slightly bash the cardamom pods and extract the black seeds, throw away the green dry husks
  3. Put the butter and the cardamom seeds into a small pan and melt.  Set aside for a few hours.  If you have an Aga or a Rayburn  then leave it on the side where it can remain liquid.
  4. Sift the flour and baking powder into a small bowl
  5. Place the chocolate in a bowl and strain the butter onto it. Place over a pan of simmering water to melt
  6. In a large bowl mix the sugars together and squish out any lumps.  Add the eggs and mix.  Don’t beat, you don’t need to add air to this mixture (although I was reading a Hugh Fearnley Whatsisname recipe last night which says you beat for 4-5 minutes at this stage to incorporate lots of air. I didn’t and it worked out REALLY well).
  7. Add the chocolate-butter mixture and stir through
  8. Fold in the flour, followed by the salt
  9. Pour the batter into the prepared tin – spread into the corners if you need to.
  10. Bake for about 45 minutes.  The recipe states only 20 minutes, and in the end I baked it for just over an hour and it still has the lovely squidgy gooey-ness.
  11. Leave to cool and then cut into pieces.  I note that Cocomaya decorate theirs with gold leaf.  Feel free to do the same if you have any spare gold leaf hanging about in your cupboards.

Lemon kisses

11 Sep

It’s Autumn. It has to be – it’s Sunday and we lit the fire mid morning and just hung around and read the papers.

The Sunday Times is our paper of choice; well it’s his paper of choice and I really don’t mind.  I love AA Gill‘s writing and generally read most of the main paper, the news review section and one or two of the features in the magazine.

So far today all I’ve managed is the main paper, until I got too cross about the article on obesity – GPs are offering people gastric band surgery, and the mayor of somewhere or other says that poor people can only afford junk food.  A gastric band should not and must not be seen as an easy solution to obesity – sensible eating and taking more exercise have to come first.  And anyone who believes that junk food is cheaper than fresh food should actually look at what they are eating, and what they could eat if they cooked from scratch.  Fresh veg is not an expensive option, and I don’t believe that junk food is cheaper than a pot of homemade soup.

I’ve been overweight all my life, despite eating relatively healthily (if you believe that relatively low fat, fresh food is healthy).  I live a pretty sedentary life and haven’t exercised for years, literally years.  I’m not proud of this.

I have never thought that a gastric band could be the answer, but have tried weight watchers and other calorie based diets in the past.  Nothing has felt easy for me and the weight has always crept back on.  It’s hard to keep it off when cooking and baking are such enjoyable and key activities in my life.

In July this year I saw a nutritionist.  She asked me thousands of questions, and ‘prescribed’ a low carb diet for me.  No carbs for breakfast, and low carbs for the rest of the day – concentrate on proteins and green veg; avoid white processed carbs, and avoid fruit juice.  In fact avoid most fruit, especially bananas.  I’ve not had a glass of fruit juice or a banana since.  And so far I’ve lost 11lbs and feel healthier than I have in years.  And I’ve never felt hungry, or struggled to know what to eat.

Now, I’m not suggesting that all obese people try this – but it works for me.  I have a metabolism that copes well with this regime.  From day one I haven’t craved a carb, and the best thing about this eating regime is that there are just whole aisles in the supermarket that I just walk past.  Why walk down the bread aisle if I’m not going to eat processed carbs?  In fact, apart from household stuff, I pretty much just go to the meat/fish/dairy and veg aisles and leave all the others.  I’m discovering some interesting new flavour combinations, and now know that I don’t need pasta or rice or potatoes or bread to bulk out a meal for me to feel satisfied.

One disadvantage is that it is not a cheap way of eating as protein rich meals tend to be more expensive than carb rich meals.  Swapping my porridge for scrambled eggs for breakfast may help my weight-loss, but does not help the bank balance.

However, I’m buying more sensibly and not throwing out as much food as I used to, so perhaps it’s balancing out.

Anyway, you might be wondering why this is called lemon kisses if it’s all just about obesity.  I warn you, lemon kisses are not going to help in any diet, whether you are low fat, low carb, low calorie.  It’s got them all.  But oh, they are so light and buttery.  And lemony.

Autumn Sundays aren’t just for getting cross at the papers. They also need to involve lots of good kitchen time – yesterday I made some sweet gherkin pickle (so easy and so delicious) and today is all about the baking.  And knitting.  More on the knitting soon.

But back to the lemon kisses.

I first made them back at the beginning of the year, and then promptly forgot where I’d put the recipe.  So, I googled today, and here they are, courtesy of the BBC Good Food website.  A batch is in the oven right now.

Lemon kisses

200g butter, at room temperature (or warmer if your kitchen is as cold as mine)

140g caster sugar

1 egg yolk

1 tsp vanilla extract

zest of 1 lemon

280g plain flour

And for the filling and icing:

1/2 jar lemon curd (preferably home made – go on, it really is deliciously simple to make and who hasn’t got 30 minutes to make a jar of lemony loveliness?)

zest of 1 lemon

juice of 1 lemon

140g icing sugar

Oven 180C, GM6

  1. Mix the butter, sugar, vanilla extract, egg yolk and lemon zest with a wooden spoon in a large bowl
  2. Add the flour and mix together – you may struggle to get it all to bind with the spoon, so tip it out and lightly knead it together with your hands
  3. Roll out (I do it in two batches) on a lightly floured surface and cut into cute little biscuit shapes
  4. Place on baking trays and pop in the fridge for about 30 mins
  5. Bake for 8-12 minutes till golden. Cool on a wire rack
  6. When cool, spread half the biscuits with a little lemon curd, and sandwich each with a second biscuit
  7. Mix the lemon juice and icing sugar, and drizzle over the biscuits; sprinkle with lemon zest.  Leave to set on a wire rack
  8. Eat. In moderation.
One of my favourite easy puddings is a pretendie lemon ripple ice cream, made with a couple of scoops of nice vanilla ice cream (not too sweet a brand) and some lemon curd swirled through it as it’s served.  Serve with lemon kisses.  I guess you could go mad and do a lemony knickerbocker glory with ice cream, fresh cream, lemon curd and lemon kisses. Perhaps even some crumbled lemon kisses over the top of the glory as decoration? Over to you – just remember that eating a knickerbocker glory every day is probably not the best way to get a portion of your five a day.  You heard it here first.

The tomato glut

5 Sep

OK, so it’s a self-inflicted tomato glut, as I bought a whole big box of tomatoes at the farmers’ market yesterday.  Is it a farmer’s market or farmers’ market?  There seemed to be many farmers there yesterday so I’m settling for farmers’ market on this occasion.

Anyway, I was seduced firstly by some very nice bacon from the lovely Sunnyside Farm near Sanquhar (where I hope to butcher a pig later this year) and then some fresh beetroot, which I adore, and eat in vast quantities, making up for the many, many years when I refused to eat it at all, on account of its unacceptable vinegariness.  Who knew it didn’t need to come in a jar full of vinegar?

Then, just when I thought I was safe, I spied the boxes of tomatoes, with a lovely handwritten sign: Tomatoes different sizes and shapes. £3 a box.  How could I resist?

The first recipe also fortuitously made use of my birthday purchase of a large second-hand Le Creuset lasagne-style dish (bought at Garrion Bridge for only £10).  Roasted tomato passata.  Or sauce to you and me.  It’s adapted from a Hugh Fearnley Whatsinstore book.  The preserves one.  Thanks Hugh.  And Pam Corbin who actually does the preserves, and writes the recipes.  So far all the recipes I’ve tried are lush, so go buy the book, and get the original recipe, along with all her good advice on sterilising jars and all that jazz.

Roasted tomato sauce

about 1kg tomatoes

2-3 shallots, peeled and sliced thinly

2-3 garlic cloves, also peeled and sliced thinly

A few sprigs of a mediterranean herb like rosemary, thyme, basil or oregano, alternatively add a teaspoon of crushed fennel seeds.  Add some sliced fresh chillies if you want a kick, or dried chillies if you haven’t grown/bought any fresh ones!

1/2 tsp salt

a good few grinds of black pepper

1/2 tsp sugar

a serious glug or two of olive oil

Preheat your oven to GM 4, or 180C

  1. Cut your tomatoes in half, and place them cut side up in the dish.  You may end up with a couple of layers, but that’s ok.
  2. Scatter all the other ingredients over the top
  3. Roast for about an hour or so, about until your nose is telling you that there is something seriously delicious in the oven
  4. Use a large spoon to muddle the tomatoes around a bit in the pan, allowing the juicy tomatoes to dissolve some of the lovely caramelised burnty bits in the corners. Or don’t if you’d prefer not to have the richer colour and flavour in your final sauce
  5. Cool for a wee bit and then liquidise.  I put it in a bowl and use the hand-held zizzer, but you could use a proper liquidiser.  Or Pam recommends sieving it, or putting it through a mouli or a passata machine.  Who owns a passata machine?  Hands up.  Get over yourself.  Just zizz it with a zizzer and call it rustic tomato sauce.
  6. Now, I don’t bother with the whole jar thing at this stage, which seems to add a layer of complication I can’t be bothered with when I only have a weekend to play with.  (You have to put it in sterilised jars and sort of seal them, and then put them in a large saucepan of water and simmer the whole lot for a while).
  7. Pop in a labelled freezer bag, and pop the freezer bag in a suitable plastic container. Put it all in the freezer once it’s cooled enough not to defrost your freezer.

And that’s it.

I used the first batch straight away with homemade meatballs and it was absolutely delicious.

My second recipe was Tomato and Fennel Relish, but you’ll have to wait for that because I’m back in Edinburgh now and the recipe book is in the Valley.


%d bloggers like this: