Thursday, 25 November 2010

The Girl who played with Beetroot...

Hardly an attention grabbing title for a thrilling Swedish novel, but I can't help it...I've been totally engrossed in the Millenium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson.  Oddly enough, as I sit here on my IKEA sofa surrounded by IKEA furniture I have to giggle at the recent Swedish references popping up in my life...I only wish I was able to say that I have been to visit, but alas I have not.  My brother has been, a friend of a friend studied at Uppsala, and there are countless references to famous Swedes in the novels and magazines I read...surely this is a sign (hint hint David...) As the days get colder and with the increasing chance of snow (it is coming...this weekend...) I thought I would try a "Scandinavian-style" dish I've been drooling over in an old copy of Delicious. 

This dish is easy peasy, if you can get your hands on beetroot (which, believe me was more of a problem than I could ever imagine).  The ingredients are...beetroot, creme fraiche (or sour cream), dill and meatballs! The original recipe gave directions for making your own meatballs: ground pork, breadcrumbs, dill, finely chopped onion, a touch of double cream, and lemon zest...but I cheated and bought Swedish-style pork meatballs (they were on-sale and half the price of the ground pork I would have bought...budget budget). you peel and cut into chunks enough beetroot for the number of people you are serving, toss with olive oil and roast in 180 C oven for about 25 mins...then you add the meatballs (store bought or home made) drizzle a LITTLE oil over top and bake for a further 25-30 mins, until beetroot is tender and meatballs are cooked through.  Finally, stir through a good dollop of creme fraiche or sour cream and sprinkle with dill.  I served with buttered steamed new potatoes. 

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Snow White Cupcakes for a freezing Wednesday

It is frickin freezing Mr. Bigglesworth! Thank you Austin Powers and your totally (in)appropriate movie lines! There is well and truly a "cold front" whipping its way across the UK is cold out there! Ok, so I grew up (and up and up) in Canada, so I should be totally invincible to cold weather right?? well..I mean, I sure know how to dress sensibly and keep warm outside, and wear layers and slippers and keep the doors closed inside....but's flippin cold! So...on goes the oven and out comes the butter from the fridge, and now...I wait...

I think I used every ounce of mind control I could muster today to will the butter to soften...soften....soften... but sure enough it did (thank you Jedi mind training) and I whipped up a batch of Hummingbird Bakery Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream warm the cockles and fatten me up for the long winter ahead!

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Finally!! Yeast bread triumph!!

I am finally starting to appreciate the incredible gratification that comes with the lenghty process of making yeast breads.  I haven't had much success over the past year with white loaves and had pretty much accepted that yeast breads weren't ever going to be a strength of mine when I found a recipe for individual Christmas panettones and thought.....DAMN YOU YEAST BREADS! YOU WILL HOLD ME BACK NO LONGER!!

I've been waiting for an appropriately crisp and wintery day (and the whole day free) to embark on this potentially disasterous adventure.  I grew up on Panettone, it is one of my favourite seasonal baked goodies.  I had never thought about baking one before...In fact (I am embarassed to say this) I didn't know people actually baked them....I thought that everyone bought them in their pretty decorated boxes and that was that!! I don't mind admitting that buying one certainly is easier, and hey you get a pretty box/tin as an addition...but, if the thought of yeast breads doesn't send you screaming from the room in terror, there is certainly a huge degree of satisfaction in baking your own!!

The dough is similar to a brioche. Enriched with eggs, butter, sugar, raisins and chocolate chips this dough is not quite the same texture as the familiar store bought panettones, but, by baking in clean chopped tomato tins the finished product somewhat resembles my holiday favourite!

Baby Panettones
from 200 Christmas Recipes

2 tsp easy-blend dried yeast
125g caster suagr, plus 1tsp
175ml hand hot milk
700g strong bread flour
4 large eggs, plus 2 yolks
rind of 2 lemons
175g butter, very soft and diced
175 dried mixed fruit (or a mixture of dried fruit and chocolate chips)

Grease 8x 400ml clean food cans and line with greaseproof paper that extends above the rims. 

Stir the yeast and 1tsp into the milk in a large, warm bowl and leave for 10 mins until frothy.
Stir in 100g of the flour.  Cover with clingfilm and leave for 30 mins.

Add the eggs, yolks, remaining flour and the sugar, vanilla extract, lemon rind and butter.  Mix with a round bladed kife to make a soft dough, adding more flour if the dough feels sticky.  Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead.  Leave to rise in a lightly greased bowl 2-4 hours, until doubled in sized.

Knock back the dough and lightly knead in the dried fruit.  Cut the dough into 8 and drop into the tins.  Cover and leave to rise until the dough almost reaches the rims. 

Bake in a pre-heated oven 200degrees for 20-25 mins. 

Friday, 5 November 2010

a little bit of christmas cheer (i know it's early!)

On Monday Scott Mills started playing Christmas songs on his afternoon radio show...just one song a day, mind you, but still!! CHRISTMAS IS COMING!!! There is nothing a little bit of Christmas cheer can't cure...armed with a grande gingerbread latte I stirred some Christmas lovin into a gorgeous batch of sticky, spicy gingerbread cake.

Topped with a glorious splodge of clotted cream (yum yum yum) this is the perfect start to the Christmas season!

Adapted from Nigella Kitchen
Guinness Gingerbread

150g butter, plus some for greasing
300g golden syrup
200g dark muscavado sugar
250ml Guinness (I used Newcastle Brown Ale)
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves (I used mixed spice)
300g plain flour
2 teaspoons bicarb of soda
300ml sour cream
2 eggs

o PRE HEAT oven to 170 degrees.  Line a square tin (23cm) with foil and grease it.
o PUT butter, sugar, syrup, Guinness, ginger, cinnamon and ground cloves into a pan and melt gently over low heat.
o TAKE off heat and whisk in the flour and bicarb (make sure there are no lumps...I actually sifted my flour)
o Whisk in the sour cream and eggs together in a measuring jug and then beat into gingerbread mixture until smooth.
o POUR into lined square tin, and bake for about 45 mins, or until tester comes out clean (I found it was cooked through but the tester wasn't totally clean...the cake is dense) 
o LET cool before cutting into slices (and topping with clotted cream!!!)

 Gingerbread on Foodista

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Paella novice

It is funny how many times I find myself about to type " I have never made...blah blah blah...before..." It is hard to believe that over the past year blogging and experimenting and generally being inspired by celebrity and amature cooks there are still heaps of what I would consider ordinary foods I haven't attempted yet.  Now, I am not saying that Paella is by any means ordinary, it is very special (hello...seafood!) but I mean that it is a dish that graces tables in the homes of Spain on a regular basis (right?)...heck it is sold as streetfood at markets in London...and so I am totally amazed that I haven't made it myself yet.  Ashamedly it took Nigella's simple pantry paella to get my butt into gear.  I say ashamedly because it is such a simple yet stunning dish that I am ashamed to say I haven't made it before and it took my latest cookbook purchase to knock some sense into my paella-blocked brain! 

In my defense I have made a heck of a lot of risotto over the last year (and throughout my cooking life)...or perhaps it was my afinity to a good risotto that's been holding me back...whatever the underlying issue has been it all ended last night with the creation and inhalation of my own version of Nigella's striaight forward, no mess, pantry paella.  In true Nigella fashion this seems effortless, and in truth it is...except I don't just happen to have bags of frozen frutti di mare tucked away in my freezer, or readily available cleaned baby squid....but, planning ahead (in true Victoria fashion) I had picked up a packet of frozen jumbo shrimp Monday in anticipation of this meal...oh and paella rice...and lemon...the frozen peas I already had...and the onion and garlic...but I can't declare this to be a pantry paella in Nigella's true sense of the words. The hardest part? you may ask....not stirring!! Oh my god it took every ounce of my mental strength to not stir...