Sunday, 31 August 2008

The baking frenzy continues. Fig and apricot muffins are followed by mini pesto dampers and then blueberry friands. Why I'm cooking all this stuff will become clear in a few weeks time, but suffice to say I'm excited at the prospect of cooking every day after a few weeks away from the stove and back in the world of advertising.

Of course with the baking comes the eating. To be honest I don't feel so bad about scoffing the fig and apricot muffins as they're made with All Bran and that's healthy, right? The friands are probably the most addictive thing I've made in a long time, so moreish that I've already cooked a second batch and eaten three in one sitting while watching the wonderfully bad Eating With The Enemy this afternoon. Two guilty pleasures at the same time.

I'm happy to report that all my baking turned out just fine, but I'm even happier to report that the other bun I've had in the oven for the past nine months turned out to be even sweeter. Our baby daughter was born on the 24th August and is an 8lb bundle of pure perfection. Unfortunately for her it'll be a while before she can get stuck into some friands, but on the plus side for me it will also be a while before my cooking has to face the toughest puree critic out there.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Triple choc brownies

Something strange seems to be happening to me. I think I may be turning into a woman. Not only that, I think I may be turning into an all-American housewife. I just baked some triple choc brownies and I'm about to start on a batch of blueberry muffins. This can't be right, can it? Surely I should be butchering a cow or making a pig's head terrine or something. But baking? Whatever next? Will next week see me driving the kids four metres down the road to baseball practice in an SUV or chairing the next meeting of the local PTA? It's unlikely given that four metres down the road there's a home for crazy people and as far as I know they don't have a baseball pitch. Plus I don't have any kids. Yet.

I think there's some weird hormonal stuff floating around the atmosphere and I'm pretty sure I know where it's coming from. They say that a woman begins to 'nest' before she gives birth and I think it might be catching. I even did a spot of cleaning yesterday and I actually quite enjoyed it. Then I watched something on the E Entertainment Channel for over 10 minutes without shouting at the TV. This has never, ever happened before.

Quite frankly, I'm scared that things may get worse. If anyone catches me reading Grazia then please just put me in a cab to Spearmint Rhino with a crisp twenty in my hand and allow me to get back in touch with my masculine side, pronto. If not who knows where it will end. Probably with me making a quiche.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Chocolate and Coriander Tart with Rum and Raisin Ice Cream

I'm not going to write much about the main course, except to say that I let standards slip and went for a dish from the two star Champignon Sauvage - Saddle of Rabbit with Rabbit Leg Bolognaise, Carrot Puree and Braised Baby Gem. It was nice but I think you'll probably be more interested in this beauty, also from the same restaurant. I can understand many people baulking at the thought of making a palette d'ail doux or a rabbit leg bolognaise, but this tart is actually within the reach of most competent home cooks. You'll find the surprising mix of flavours becomes a talking point around the table, and the chocolate and coriander really do work well together. The ground coriander adds a slightly savory edge to the bitter chocolate which for a chocolate abstainer like me makes it a dish worth trying.

I don't normally include recipes on this blog, but this is such a winner I think it deserves to be made by every cook in the country. Here it is, taken from the book Essence by David Everitt-Matthias.

Serves 10 -12

for the pastry

270g plain flour
150g cold unsalted butter
50g ground almonds
grated zest of 1 lemon
seeds from 1 vanilla pod
100g icing sugar
1 egg yolk

for the filling

375ml double cream
375ml milk
675g bitter chocolate, finely chopped
3 eggs lightly beaten
10g coriander seeds ground and sifted to make a powder

To make pastry, place all ingredients in a food processor except egg and egg yolk and pulse until mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg and egg yolk and pulse until mixture starts to form a ball. Turn out onto a floured surface and bring together into a puck. Wrap in clingfilm and chill for 40 mins. Roll out and line a 22cm tart tin. Refrigerate for 1 hour and then bake blind at 180 degrees C.

Put cream and milk into a saucepan and slowly bring to the boil, then remove from the heat. Place chocolate in a bowl and slowly pour on hot cream, stirring all the time. Mix in eggs, and strain through a sieve, stir in half the coriander powder and pour into the pastry case. Dust tart with remaining coriander and then put in oven. Cook for 5 minutes then turn oven off and leave tart in for 30-40 minutes until just set. Remove from oven and leave to cool.

As the book suggests, rum and raisin ice cream is the perfect accompaniment to the tart.