Thursday, October 30, 2014

October Spice Trail Challenge: Fiery Pineapple Chutney

Vanesther of Bangers and Mash blog has chosen Preserves & Pickles as the theme for this October’s Spice Trail challenge, and as pineapples go so well with so many spices and are currently very cheap and plentiful I have picked this 'fiery pineapple chutney' for my entry.
My recipe is based on one from which I found playing around with the yummly recipe search site. I do like some of the search options they have used so you can put emphasis on tastes such as saltiness, bitterness and also filter by seasons, cooking methods, diet restrictions etc.
I am still using up the chilli crop so any recipe which includes chillis is a bonus right now. I only changed the recipe a little to use more whole spices than powdered ones and also to miss out the pureeing of some of the pineapple at the beginning.

I think this would go very well with a chicken or pork curry or bbq dish if you wanted to have a home made relish to serve alongside. The chutney is quite low in the usual preservatives of vinegar sugar and salt so would have to be kept in the fridge and used up a lot faster than a traditional chutney. After making the original version (left spoon) I made a spicier and dryer version (right spoon) to see if it would store longer but I actually prefer the flavour of the original batch which was far more fruity.
Equipment: stick blender/mini chopper/liquidiser

1 large pineapple
150g caster sugar
1.5 tsp cumin seed
0.25 tsp ground cinnamon
0.25tsp chilli pepper flakes or cayenne pepper (I use Turkish or Korean pepper flakes)
0.25tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1 rounded tsp freshly grated ginger root
1 level tsp salt
juice of 1 lemon
2 red chill peppers chopped (heat level to your own taste!)
a small mild flavoured onion thinly sliced

to serve 1 tsp freshly chopped mint (optional)
  • Peel and core the pineapple and chop into roughly 2cm cubes/chunks.
  • Place all of the ingredients except the mint into a saucepan and bring to a boil stirring to dissolve the sugar.
  • Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and continue to cook for 25-30 minutes stirring regularly until the pineapple is tender and most of the liquid has evaporated.
  • Take the pan off the heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes. 
  • Using a stick blender part puree the mix. You want to end up with about half puree / half chunks or just puree until you have the texture you would like. If you do not have a stick blender and are using a mini chopper or liquidiser just remove a portion of the chutney and blend briefly before adding it back to the main pan.
  • Check for seasoning and chilli heat. You could add extra chilli flakes at this stage.
  • Quickly bring back to the boil and then pour into a heat proof bowl and allow to completely cool.
Allow the chutney to sit for at least a few hours before using. If you want the add the mint, then this goes in just before serving.  I didn't add any to mine but would if it was being served with something like a chicken curry.

This chutney does however, go extremely well with toasted cheese and I never thought I liked cheese and pineapple!

spice trail badge square

Monday, October 27, 2014

Kitchen Diary #4

Well it is getting close to Halloween so here are a couple of ideas for spooky themed snacks that I have made this week.

First are my Rice Krispie Monster cakes which are basically a scoop of chocolate rice krispie cake mix set into a crude face shape, dipped into more chocolate and then decorated with smartie eyes.
They went down very well at work along with a tub of chocolate rice krispie rocky road.

If you are trying to steer away from total sugar overload for Halloween then these spooky breads might be fun. The dough was based on a fougasse recipe, but shaped into small portions and modelled as best I could on spooky faces. Here they are proofed and ready to bake.
I used large round piping nozzles of different sizes and a 3cm round cutter to stamp out the holes and then just pulled them into shape. The dough is quite a soft one so this makes shaping relatively easy.

And here are two after baking:
The dough baked up a little pale which was quite appropriate for the theme but perhaps really a fault.
I served them with a carrot, ginger and chilli soup.

Another soup for the week was this version of the classic Spanish Ajo Blanco.
Ajo Blanco is basically a garlic and bread soup served with an egg. I tried a more classical version the first time in which the bread is cooked in small pieces in the soup, but I am really not a fan of mushy bread. After a bit of recipe hunting I found a version by Rick Stein where the egg is served on a bread croute which is just placed in the soup at the end. It is a very simple and delicious dish if you enjoy garlic, paprika and poached egg. You can optionally add some cubes of Spanish ham (or any other ham you like). It makes a great lunch for for one.
You need very fresh eggs for poaching and I was lucky the day I made the soup as my only hen still laying, the rather raggedy tailed Fondant, had obliged with a beautiful large egg.

I am a huge fan of scones and on Sunday I made a batch of chocolate and orange scones. I am getting close to what I would say is a good and reliable scone recipe so will post that here soon.
   I kept the chocolate chips small to help with stamping out the scones
Finally back to Halloween for my recipe, which this week is a cocktail, the Zombie. Well it seemed appropriate!

There seem to be lots of different versions but this is a rough guide:

1 part white rum
1 part golden rum
1 part dark rum
1 part apricot brandy
2 parts pineapple juice
1 part lime juice
dash of grenadine (or pomegranate molasses)

Shake over ice and then pour into a cocktail glass and garnish with a fruit pick. My fruit pick has a lychee and cherry 'eye ball' but not sure it really works.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

We Should Cocoa: Halloween Chocolate Krispie Monsters

First I must confess this is not an original idea; I saw a picture of these somewhere on pinterest and rather liked the idea of very chocolate rich rice crispie cakes turned into monsters for halloween. Some of the eyes have not worked so well but I think you get the idea.

These are a little fiddly to make as the rice crispie cake blobs are allowed to set and are then dipped in tempered chocolate before quickly adding the smartie eyes and then at the end piping some chocolate pupils to the eyes.

I was planning on making a lot more but quickly tired of carefully spooning out the rice crispie mix into mounds. It was fiddly to get the mound into a nice even shape without dropping bits or getting too straggly edges that might drop off when dipping.
If you already have a favourite chocolate crispie recipe do use that but you will need a mix that is not too dry. Whenever I make things like this I use a mix of milk and dark chocolate to reduce the sweetness and up the cocoa flavour, but all milk would be more traditional.

Second confession is that I have no idea how much chocolate you will need for the dipping. I do a lot of home chocolate making so have large bags of couverture chips in store and to make dipping easier I always work with about 750g or more. What is left over is then used for the next chocolate bake or confection. If you do not feel like dipping your monsters you could get away with just sticking the smartie eyes on the bare mounds but the faces will be so cute or, more importantly, so chocolaty. You could use a chocolate flavoured candy covering/melt for easy dipping but then the scary element would be the taste and texture rather than the look.

150g milk chocolate (or milk/dark mix) broken into pieces
50g butter
60ml golden syrup
100g rice crispies

Extra chocolate for dipping, preferably tempered to get the best finish.
Smarties for eyes
2 baking trays lined with baking parchment
  • If your rice crispie packet has been open a while and you live in a damp climate like I do then you might want to dry the crispies out in a low oven (80C) for 20 minutes or so first.
  • Put the chocolate, butter and golden syrup into a large bowl and gently microwave (or place over a pan of warm water) to melt.
  • Add the crispies into the chocolate, butter, syrup mix and stir gently but thoroughly to make sure all the crispies are well coated with chocolate.
  • Using dessertspoons carefully place mounds of the mix onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper.
  • Push any straggly edges back into the mound. Try to leave a slightly flattened top to the mound to make it easier to fix the smarties eyes on later.
  • Allow to set in a cool place and if leaving overnight make sure they are in an airtight container.
  • Melt/ temper the chocolate for dipping and then one at a time using a chocolate fork or large tined dinner fork dip each crispie mound into the pool and gently tap off excess chocolate.
  • Carefully transfer the dipped mound onto a second parchment lined baking tray.
  • Place the smartie eyes onto each monster as you go. If the outer coat has set before you get the eyes on, put a drop of melted chocolate onto one side of the smarties and then pop it chocolate side down onto the mound.
  • Once all the mounds are dipped and eyes are on, put some of the remaining melted chocolate into a piping bag and pipe chocolate pupils onto each one in as spooky a manner as you see fit.
I am submitting my chocolate monsters to this month's We Should Cocoa challenge. The October 2014 challenge is being guest hosted by Hannah of  Honey & Dough.
Happy Monster Munching!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Kitchen Diary #3

October always seems to be the month in which I pick sloes to make a small batch of sloe gin. There are a few sloe bushes not far from our house that seem to reliably set fruit and of course while starting off the new batch it seems a good idea to sample some of the last. I don't like heavily sweetened drinks so my sloe gin has very little added sugar compared to most but here is a useful article from the Guardian on  How to Make Sloe Gin
I was quite pleased with my bread bake this week which was a plain white boule made with a preferment which is crudely some dough that you start a day or two before the actual bake and which does seem to add flavour.
My loaf is a bit uneven but the crust was nice and crisp and the crumb quite springy so no prizes but no complaints. I have recently found a useful website that has a lot of bread tutorial info including video clips of tricky things to describe like shaping loaves. It is quite detailed so perhaps more for bread geeks but well worth a look: Bread Making 101

My simple recipe for the week is a Ginger Yogurt Sauce to serve with fish. I ate this at Outlaws Fish Kitchen in Port Isaac some months ago and it is included in the book Nathan Outlaw published this year under the same name as the restaurant. They also serve a similar yogurt sauce but with horseradish.

I ate this at home with a salmon steak marinated in 1-2 tbs of  sriracha chilli sauce and baked until only just cooked. In the book the sauce is served with barbecued chilli-squid. I had some sauce leftover which I served with a roasted butternut squash soup and this too was also a delicious combination. The ginger flavour is quite bold but not overpowering.

150g root ginger peeled and chopped coarsely
200ml greek style yoghurt

  • Blitz the ginger in a blender
  • Tip out onto a square of muslin and gather up so you can now squeeze out the juice without leting any bits escape.
  • Squeeze the juice out into a bowl and measure 3tbs.
  • Stir the ginger juice into the yogurt.
  • season with a pinch of salt.

If you like coriander leaf you can also add 1 tsp or so of freshly chopped leaf to the sauce.

Cookery Books
Autumn does seem to be the time of year when many new cookery books are released in time for the Christmas spending spree. There haven't been many releases I feel I need to buy so far, but one that caught my eye was A Simply Delicious Christmas by Darina Allen. She is one of my long standing food heroes who once put Keith Floyd in his place when he visited her cookery school, so I doubt anyone messes with her.
This is a revised and expanded edition of the much earlier book by the same name that now has a slightly seventies dinner party feel to it including as it does a recipe for the once ubiquitous piped Duchesse potatoes.

Last Sunday was the North Devon Food Festival, held annually in Barnstaple Pannier Market. The organisers do well to make this a free entry festival and it was pretty packed so I hope everyone was happy. There were a good range of food producers from the area including this rather clever chocolate display piece from Copper Hill Chocolates
I spent quite a large part of my visit in the cookery demonstration theater where the star of the day was the charming Michael Caines. I have incredible admiration for this chef who makes a huge contribution to foodie events in the area and is frequently involved with local initiatives and competitions for young and trainee chefs. He had three students from the local college assisting him on Sunday and here they all are just before the demo starts.
Enjoy your week!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Kitchen Diary #2

This has been a quiet week in the kitchen as I have been home alone for much of it and the fridge was full of leftovers that just needed eating up, rather than cooking. I had mysteriously acquired  three packages of carrots so I made a huge batch of carrot, ginger and chilli soup which lasted several days. I am sneaking chilli peppers into whatever I can as I have just harvested all of my remaining chillies and there are quite a few.
The shopping highlight of the week was to find a gorgeous slab of halibut at the fishmonger in Torrington's Pannier market on Thursday. I couldn't resist and cooked it quite plainly and served it with pasta in a fresh tomato sauce.
I have also picked my pumpkin and brought it home from the allotment. For now I am just admiring it, as this is the largest one I have ever grown. Sooner or later though, I am going to have to decide what to do with it.
My bread bake this week was rye, walnut and raisin rolls but they came out a little on the heavy side. I think this was down to trying to cut back too much on the amount of yeast and then not giving the dough long enough to develop. None the less they were very tasty.
At the weekend I made a calvados and apple cake which again, tasted good, but was a bit soggy in the middle. I can never judge when apple cakes are ready and as the cake came out more like pudding it will be served with custard.
Recipe:  Lebanese rice with vermicelli noodles 
I recently discovered Lebanese rice with vermicelli noodles on a visit to Comptoir Libanais in London, and have been making it at home regularly since. I'm not sure why adding noodles to rice makes such a difference to the flavour, and perhaps it is just the browning of the butter, whatever,  I am rather taken by this way of cooking rice.
Serves 2
70g thin vermicelli noodles broken into small ~ 3cm long pieces
140g long grain rice washed
1 tsp butter
approx 300ml water or vegetable stock/bouillon
salt to taste
chopped pistachios to garnish (optional)

  • Melt the butter in a heavy based pan and add the vermicelli.
  • Gently cook the vermicelli noodles in the butter until they turn golden brown.
  • Add the rice and stir to coat with the butter.
  • Add the stock or water and add any additional salt to taste.
  • Simmer for 15-20 minutes until the rice is cooked, adding any additional liquid if needed. The liquid should be completely absorbed by the rice and noodles when completely cooked.
  • Allow the pan to sit covered for a few minutes and then serve.
  • Serve plain or garnished with chopped pistachios.

This week is London Chocolate week, I cannot get to any of the events but I am compensating by munching on some rather handsome Michel Cluizel Neapolitans. This coming weekend, October 17th-19th is the London Salon du Chocolat where a huge range of international chocolatiers will be exhibiting.
Happy Chocolate Week!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Kitchen Diary #1

I am going to try and do a quick post each week to chat about some of the recipes I have been cooking, interesting articles I have read, new books on the shelf or anything that I hope might be of interest to anyone that drops by.

I'll try and keep it organised but method is not one of my strengths so bear with me.


This week I have tried the Soy Roasted Cashews from author and blogger chocolate and zucchini. I was glad to use up some almost out of date whole cashews lurking in the larder and although you need to start the recipe a day ahead to allow the nuts to absorb the soy sauce this is a very simple 2 ingredient trick that transforms the cashews into a moreish snack with minimal effort.


I bought 'Brilliant Bread', by James Morton soon after it was published in 2013, but have only recently started using it enough to feel I could recommend it. James Morton was a contestant in the 2012 Great British Bake off series, and it was clear from the start he could bake excellent bread, though I don't agree with some of the things he says in his introduction about 'other' bread books. Brilliant Bread though, has some very easy to follow, and very reliable recipes. The range it covers is good with sections on basic loaves, flavoured breads, sourdough, enriched breads, laminated doughs and a few none yeasted items too. I have made the banana muffins and they were as good as any others I have made.  I've made the rye and raisin bread twice but the second time I swapped apricots and some hazelnuts for the raisins. Both times I produced a very flavoursome loaf with a nice chewy, but thin crust. Here is the apricot version.


Chef Chris Eden of the Driftwood Hotel
On Sunday I went along to day two of the Boscastle Food, Art and Craft Festival. This is a really fun even in North Cornwall that manages to attract some of the best chefs working in, or connected to Cornwall, who give some cracking cookery demonstrations. For an entrance price of just £3 you get to watch some very talented chefs and if you are lucky sample some of the dishes. There is also plenty of excellent local food to sample, and to take away with you. For my lunch I had the best crab sandwich ever, thanks to the joint work of the Boscastle Fishing Company who supplied the crab and the Wellington Hotel who were turning it out as filled focaccia sandwiches.
Sorry about the odd picture but I am sat down waiting for the next demo and have just been handed this huge crab sandwich and a glass of Tintagel Castle Gold beer; and I'm not sure I can take a photo without tragically dropping one of them so the lap seemed the safest place to park the sandwich!

I just caught the end of the demo by Andy Appleton of Fifteen Cornwall who prepared venison with a squash and chestnut caponata that also got to taste. This 'squash caponata' is cooked separately to the venison so it could be served along with many others roasts or vegetarian options. Cubes of roasted crown prince squash are cooked with onion, cherry tomatoes, fennel root, chilli, chestnuts, thyme and dried cranberries steeped in balsamic vinegar. It made a delicious sweet and sour medly that would be wonderful at Christmas.  I'm planning on cooking it soon.

Have a great week!