Monday, February 23, 2015

Kitchen Diary: Spiced Soups for Light Main Courses & Some Baking

This week's theme is 'lightly spiced soups' and I have made three quite different ones for you to choose from.
First up is a somewhat 'made up as I went along', Asian Duck Noodle Soup which I cooked to use up a small amounts of five spice roasted duck and some duck stock made from the carcass.
This is basically a light broth flavoured with miso paste, garlic, ginger, seaweed, and Japanese Nanami Togarashi chilli seasoning. Pieces of thinly sliced duck and fine pre-cooked noodles are added to the broth and heated through just before serving the soup. This soup would also work with chicken, beef or salmon. The 'chilli seasoning' is available as a premixed blend of chilli pepper, orange peel, black sesame seeds, white sesame seeds, pepper, ginger and seaweed and is very good in soups like this.

Approx quantities per person to serve as a meal:
400-500 ml low salt stock (chicken, duck, beef, or good bouillion powder)
1 rounded tsp finely chopped ginger
1 small clove garlic finely chopped
1 tsp vegetable oil with very light flavour
2-4g dried cut wakame sea weed pre-soaked in water
2 rounded tsps miso paste
20g (or more) thin asian dried  noodles which you have precooked
50-100g cooked duck meat or as much as you want to eat!
1 tbs Japanese soy sauce
Nanami Togarashi or Japanese/Korean chilli flakes to taste
  1. Soak the sea weed in cold water for 10-15 minutes.
  2. Pre-cook the noodles according to the packet, drain and rinse in cold water.
  3. Finely chop the garlic and ginger.
  4. Chop the duck into small thin slices.
  5. In a pan large enough to hold all the ingredients gently fry the ginger and garlic in oil until cooked through but not browning.
  6. Stir in the miso paste and then add the stock.
  7. Bring to a simmer and then add the drained seaweed pieces.
  8. Bring back to a simmer and check for seasoning adding as much of the Japanese soy sauce as you need to get salt levels to your taste.
  9. Add the duck meat and bring back to a simmer.
  10. Add the noodles and bring back to a simmer.
  11. Season with the Nanami Togarashi or Japanese/Korean chilli flakes.
  12. Serve straight away.
I am submitting this Asian Duck Noodle Soup to the Bangers & Mash Spice Trail Challenge for this month's theme of Temple Food.

My next soup is from the the chef  Yotam Ottolenghi and the recipe is online here: Chicken & Buttermilk Soup. I was drawn to this soup as I love the combination of citrus and chicken and I have also been keen to start making use of my stash of sumac spice purchased a few months ago. I actually served my soup warm/hot rather than cold, and I did not bother with frying the chicken pieces at the end. The recipe lists basil, coriander and mint, but I used a little potted basil, no coriander and only a hint of mint as that was all I had. It is a delicious soup which is tangy from the buttermilk, lemon and sumac spice while the potato gives it a silky texture. We had this for Sunday supper after a weekend of rather rich food and I will definitely be making this again.
The inspiration for my third soup comes from a recent day trip to London. In between shopping and a pit stop visit to the Saatchi Gallery I headed to Arbutus in Soho for their fixed price 3 course lunch and these are the dishes I tucked into:
Grilled Cornish mackerel, salad of shaved fennel, radish and salmon
Slow roasted leg of rabbit, Artisanal black pudding, turnips and carrots
Yorkshire rhubarb, meringue, yogurt.
It was all very delicious and cooked so precisely. I would have loved to have seen the chefs at work but recipes from Arbutus and their other restaurant Wild Honey have been published in a book titled 'Today's Special' which I have just borrowed from my local library and from that I give you:
Roast Tomato and Fennel Seed Soup.
Ingredients for 2
500g plum tomatoes
sea salt
2-3 tbs good olive oil
1 small onion finely chopped
1 clove garlic crushed
quarter tsp chilli flakes or more to taste
quarter tsp fennel seeds
2-3 anchovy fillets
very small sprig fresh rosemary
2-3 tbs mascarpone cheese

Preheat the oven to 200C

  • Halve the tomatoes and arrange them cut side up in a roasting dish.
  • Sprinkle the tomatoes with salt and drizzle over about 1 tbs olive oil.
  • Roast for 15 minutes or until soft and starting to brown a little.
  • While the tomatoes are roasting cook the onion, garlic, anchovy, chilli flakes and fennel seeds in a heavy pan in about 1 tbs olive oil.  Do not brown just gently cook until tender.
  • When the roasted tomatoes are cool enough to handle, chop them roughly. You can include the skins but I am a bit wary of cooked tomato skins which I hate the texture of so I removed them from my soup. At this point I also removed the rosemary sprigs.
  • Add the chopped tomatoes to the onion mixture and bring back to the boil.
  • Add some water if the soup is too thick.
  • Serve in bowls with a scoop or two of mascarpone cheese, a drizzle more of olive oil and in my case some extra smoked chilli flakes.

You could make this more of a meal by adding chunks of a very tender buffalo mozarella cheese instead of the cream.

I took part in a fund raising auction for some Valentine's chocolates earlier this month and my bid won this rather lovely box of chocolates offered by Graham Hornigold of the Hakesson Group. There were some lovely flavour combinations in the box including a particularly delicious raspberry and rose chocolate. The funds raised go to Galvins Chance a charity set up to help disadvantaged young people get training and work placements in the hospitality industry.

What I have been baking:
Hot cross buns are one of my favourite yeasted buns and I believe it is never too soon in the lead up to Easter to start baking them though they are traditionally eaten on Good Friday. For both these and the @SundayBakeClub 'birthday boule' below, I used a strong white flour from Carrs milled in Cumbria which has been very successful. This flour is milled from Canadian wheat and it has a slightly lower protein content than the Waitrose bread flour I have been using.

Finally for dessert this weekend I made a Tart Tatin based on a recipe from Marcus Wareing found on the the Great British Chefs site; recipe here. This is one of those very simple, and so much greater than the sum of its parts desserts. Loads of butter too!
So I missed pancake day but we still ate well!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Chocolate, Chilli & Chai Spices; a Brownie Based Dessert

I do a lot of baking, but 'smart' desserts rarely feature in our meals at home, so this last valentine's weekend was an excuse to think about plating a dessert, rather than just having a piece of warm cake and custard and calling it pudding.  I am guessing that if you went out for a meal this valentines weekend you would have expected to see a chocolate dessert on the menu. I am always keen to see what ideas restaurants come up with for the much anticipated 'chocolate to make you swoon' dessert. Unlike most pastry chefs I am no artist so I try to keep my desserts pretty simple and focussed on flavours.
So for my not too rich chocolate dessert I chose to serve warm cubes of  a light chocolate brownie with slices of fresh mango, a chai spiced milk ice-cream, creme fraiche and slivers of candied mild chilli.

The beauty of this combination is that much of the dessert can be prepared well in advance and you can serve as much or as little brownie as each person wants to eat. If your mangoes refuse to ripen you can always serve them lightly pan fried in butter and lime juice.

The Chai Spiced Milk Ice-cream is one I was experimenting with last year and I'm still not sure I have the right balance but the base of the ice-cream came from this recipe link Great British Chefs.  I modified it by steeping a heaped dessert spoon of chai tea in the milk first. I also had some ice-cream stabilier  that I was trying out which was used instead of the gelatine. If you want to use a bought ice-cream I think a caramel flavour would go well.

The Brownie recipe came from food writer David Lebovitz. He has a few brownie recipes on his site but this one called Helene's Brownies caught my eye as it is relatively low in fat and lower in sugar than many traditional brownie recipes. It was fine for the dessert here, served warm, in small cubes, but if you looking for the full on sugar/butter hit then this is not the one for you.

The Candied Chilli was made using chillis from a bottle of 'Pepperdew' chilli pickles. These small round chillies are relatively mild and are preserved in a fairly sweet vinegar. I rinsed off the pickling juice, sliced the chillies into slithers, and then dusted them with fine caster sugar. They were then left to dry out overnight. Blanching a fresh red chilli in water for a few minutes and then simmering in sugar syrup until it is tender should also work, just be sure you know how hot the chilli is first. Again cut into slithers and sprinkle with sugar. You should be able to do this a few days in advance, store in plenty of sugar as you can shake excess off just before using.

The Creme Fraiche was served as is topped with the 'candied' chillies but you could add a little sugar and vanilla if you liked.

The Mango was just served at room temperature and cut into sections. Really ripe mangoes can be hard to cut up neatly as they just get so soft but an under-ripe is really best lightly cooked in a little butter and perhaps some lime juice and sugar to sweeten. Unless you are having to cook the mango, which should be done just before serving, the mango can be sliced up well in advance of serving. If you felt like it you could also make a small amount of mango couli with the trimmings and serve this as well.

To Serve

  • Have the ice-cream in the fridge for about a half hour before serving so it is soft enough to scoop
  • If the mango slices have been in the fridge take them out now to come  up to room temperature.
  • Have the oven on high ~ 200C to reheat the brownie cubes. They should only take 5 minutes to heat through if they are cut into cubes. As soon as they are hot turn the oven off and just leave them in there until ready to plate them.
  • If cooking the mango, pan fry it briefly as above until it is just soft.
  • Start by placing a fan of mango slices onto each plate.
  • Scoop a quennelle of creme fraiche onto each plate and sprinkle with candied chilli pieces.
  • Place the brownie cubes around the plate
  • Place a generous scoop of chai tea milk ice-cream on each plate
  • Add a few more candied chilli slithers onto the ice-cream
  • Serve straight away (with mango couli if you made any)
I am submitting this brownie dessert to The We Should Cocoa February challenge. I have missed putting in entries for the last few challenges but as some of these earlier challenges included ice-cream and chilli I feel I have now almost caught up. This month's challenge is being guest hosted by Katie of  recipe for perfection