9/28/2014

Cooking Spain Region By Region: Aragon: Malenas: Aragon-style Magdelenas

"Rain, Rain,go away, Come again another day" as the children´s nursery rhyme goes but to tell you the truth I don´t actually mind the rain....too much! This weekend has been pretty overcast and rainy and it appears as if summer is coming to an end and autumn is approaching. However, I for one am glad that the summer heat is over. I like rainy days,spent indoors with your family,cuddling up together and watching TV with a blanket round you and drinking hot chocolate and tea. It also is much more appealing to bake especially if it´s raining...perfect baking weather!

 I wasn´t convinced as to whether I´d like this particular Aragon delicacy, Malenas or Aragon-style Magdelenas, as I´m not a big fan of two of the main ingredients, honey and orange blossom water but I decided to give them a go, only to be pleasantly surprised. They are very distinct-tasting buns with an exotic but tasty flavour and have a lovely, spongy texture.As they don´t contain sugar but are sweetened naturally through the honey, they are not oversweet and are probably a bit healthier too! They are also very simple and quick to make,however I have made them twice nice and have failed to achieve the peak that magdelenas usually have...not really sure as to why but peak or no peak they still taste good!

Malenas (Aragon-style magdelenas) Makes about 12
Ingredients:
150g plain flour
150g honey
75g unsalted butter
2 eggs
1 tbsp orange blossom water

Method:
1.Preheat the oven to around 180ºC and line a cupcake mould with paper cases.
2. Separate the egg whites from the egg yolks, then mix the egg yolks with the honey.
3. Add the butter and orange blossom water and mix till combined.
4. Add the flour gradually, mixing after each addition till all the lumps have gone and the batter is smooth.
5.Whisk the egg whites till they reach the stiff peak stage and then carefully fold it into the batter taking care not to knock the air out, till it looks spongy.
6.Spoon the batter into the cases filling them till they are just over the half full mark, lower the temperature to around 170-160ºC (I made these twice,first time I baked them around 160ºC and I think they turned out to be more spongy,the second time I tried baking them at a slightly higher temperature to try and get more of a peak but I think it overbaked them slightly as they seemed a little drier...the original recipe doesn´t give a temperature but says to bake them at a medium temperature)
7. I only baked them for between 15-20 minutes as I thought they were ready despite the fact that the recipe said 35 minutes...they should be a golden brown and a toothpick should come out clean when inserted.

One thing I have to warn you about is that they don´t stay spongy for very long and soon start to dry out so either eat them all the day you bake them or freeze half a batch to eat another day.

8/16/2014

Cooking England County By County: Berkshire: Eton Mess

Time to move onto the next county, Berkshire, which I´ve never visited.I decided to kick off Berkshire by cooking the renowed pudding,Eton Mess, although surprizingly enough,it´s yet another dish which I haven´t tried before!This is an ideal summer dessert as it´s served cold and strawberries are in season (at least in the UK anyway!). It´s also great for those of you who have never made meringue before as it doesn´t matter if the meringue goes wrong,as it´s going to get broken up anyway!! Also, it´s a fairly simple and quick dessert to prepare and you can even use ready made meringue nests if you are short of time.It´s definitely a winning dessert and I shall be making it again although my daughter unfortunately wouldn´t try it!

However, it definitely lives up to it´s name...Eton Mess by name, Eton Mess by nature. It´s quite difficult to make this dessert look presentable!Eton Mess was served in the 1930s at Eton College in the tuck shop and orginally consisted of strawberries and bananas mixed with ice cream or cream..meringue was a later addition. It is now served annually at the Eton College cricket game against Harrow School although it has gained popularity throughout Britain.I used the following Delia Smith recipe but used less cream! Enjoy!

7/31/2014

Almond Rissoles

It´s feeling hot, hot,hot! Yes, the temperatures have risen, holidays are almost here and cooking lunch seems so much more of a chore as turning the oven or even the hob on in this heat,just makes you swelter even more!

Today was my daughter´s last day at nursery as she will start school in September and I have a bittersweet feeling about it. I can´t believe how fast the past two years have flown by...she´s growing up way too fast!

Anyway, on to the recipe,this is the second time that I´ve made this recipe and we really enjoy it so thought  I´d share it with you. It´s great as it´s vegetarian so it´s ideal for non-meat eaters and as my daughter is a bit fussy with vegetables, this is an excellent way to eat a vegetarian meal(even if it doesn´t really get any more veggies into her!) plus she likes it,which is also a bonus.YES, it DOES have nuts in it and it is advised not to give nuts to under-fives but as there are no allergies in my family and my daughter hasn´t shown any sign of any food, or more importantly nut, allergies, I don´t see any problem in giving her these rissoles.It´s also a great summer recipe even though you do have to fry the rissoles on the hob, and it´s quite a light dish, especially accompanied with a salad. Here, I accompanied it with an apple & rice salad.The recipe is taken from "The Dairy Book of Home Cookery".

Ingredients(serves 4)
100g ground almonds
175g white breadcrumbs (I made this with less the other day, around 145-150g and they still turned out well!)
1 small onion,grated
3 tbsp frozen or fresh parsley
1/2 tsp mixed herbs
1 egg, beaten
25g butter,melted
pinch of salt & pepper
about 1-2 tbsp milk

Coating
1 egg,beaten
prepared breadcrumbs
1-2 tbsps (roughly) olive oil
50g butter(I didn´t bother weighing,just put a knob of butter in the pan)

Method:
1. Place ground almonds & breadcrumbs in a bowl and add grated onion,parsley and herbs.
2.Add egg and melted butterand mix until combined.Season with salt & pepper.
3. Add milk till mixture comes together and starts to stick,then form into 8 rissoles or little hamburgers.
4. Dip in beaten egg and breadcrumbs till well coated.
5. Place oil and some butter in frying pan and when hot, fry for about 4-5 minutes on both sides or until golden brown on both sides.
6. Drain on kitchen towels and serve.

I think these rissoles are tasty just as they are but adding garlic or some cheese(particularly Cheddar) would maybe just give them an extra dimension! Next time I make them I´ll try it and let you know what I think!



7/05/2014

Cooking Spain Region by Region: Aragon: Chicken in Tomato & Pepper Sauce: Pollo al Chilindrón

Well, here we are about to start discovering more about the food from the Aragon region of Spain. I have visited some cities of this region quite a long time ago as I worked at a summer camp but I don´t recall trying any local specialities...in fact as I ate at the summer camp, I don´t recall the food being anything special so hopefully this culinary journey will convince me otherwise!!

I decided to kick off Aragon cuisine with a dish known as Pollo al chilindron, or in other words chicken in a tomato and pepper sauce. Yes, as you can see I am fond of chicken as I´ve already featured two chicken dishes when I cooked Andalusia!!! This recipe is actually a Thermomix recipe and is taken from the Imprescindible Thermomix TM 31 recipe booklet but I´m sure it can easily be adapted to cooking it on the oven hob. It is a really simple dish to make especially if you are using the Thermomix and is a really tasty dinner...another dish that will become a regular!The great thing about the Thermomix is you don´t have to be totally exact with the ingredients...I didn´t put the whole amounts given in the following recipe as sometimes I didn´t have enough of an ingredient but it still turns out delicious!

Ingredients (for 4 people)
4 chicken drumsticks (booklet doesn´t specify how many legs but says 1000g)
50g olive oil
3 cloves of garlic(peeled)
150g onion,peeled
150g green pepper, deseeded
150g red pepper,deseeded
50g white wine
50g water
200g tomato sauce
1 chicken stock cube(I used an Oxo one)
a pinch of black pepper
a pinch of nutmeg
250g sliced mushrooms

Method
1.Place the cloves of garlic and oil in the Thermomix jug and chop for 6 seconds at Speed 5, then programme for 3 minutes at Varoma temperature,Speed 1.
2. Add the onion, red & green pepper,white wine and chop for 4 seconds at Speed 5.
3. Programme for 10 minutes at Varoma temperature, Speed 1.
4. Add the chicken drumsticks, the water, the tomato sauce, the stock cube, the black pepper and the nutmeg and cook for 20 minutes at Varoma temperature, stirring to the left(anticlockwise direction), on spoon speed.
5. Finally add the sliced mushrooms and cook for a further 10 minutes at Varoma temperature, anticlockwise direction, spoon speed.
6. Serve with rice, pasta or sauteed potatoes and vegetables and enjoy!

6/27/2014

Cooking England County By County:Bedfordshire:Catherine Cakes (Kattern Cakes or Catterning Cakes)

Well, it´s that time of year again...finally even though it seemed like it would never arrive, that time when all teachers breathe a deep sign of relief as now the start of the holidays has begun. However, with the holidays comes the hot weather and baking loses a little of it´s appeal due to the sweltering heat. I, on the other hand, decided to brave the heat and attempt these Catherine Cakes, another Bedfordshire staple, I´ve never heard of or tried before. I didn´t know much about them and even after Googling them, wasn´t much the wiser as I´m not sure if they are meant to be a sweet bread or bread or even if they should be baked as a whole cake or as little buns...I opted for the little buns as I think they are easier to share round and keep as a big slab of cake would probably go stale more quickly. The only other thing I found about these cakes is they are named after Catherine of Aragon and were made for her and they are normally made and eaten on the 25th November, St.Catherine´s Day.

I used the following recipe from Recipewise but as I was unsure what quantity it would make, I only made a quarter of the recipe and also decided  to divide them into small buns. If you follow the recipe sticking to it fairly strictly, they are fairly simple to make, even for inexperienced bread makers such as me. I added slightly too much egg,making the dough a very sticky mess but this was soon corrected by adding a little more flour. The smell of these baking was divine and was soon wafting through the house...it´s worth making these for the smell alone. I have to say that they were pretty tasty too although I was a little disappointed as I expected them to be sweeter and more cakey, a little bit like a scone but they were actually more bready than a scone. They were quite a big hit with my husband and friends though, although I think I´d  have prefered them with a bit of jam and butter! Go on, give them a go and let me know what you think! So that´s all for Bedfordshire although I am sure there are more recipes from this county...the next county we´re heading off to is Berkshire. I wonder what kind of regional recipes we will find there!



6/17/2014

The Great British Bake Off Technical Challenge: Banoffee(or Strawboffee) Pie

Well, it´s that time again....time for another Great British Bake Off Technical Challenge and as you have probably noticed I´m not doing these challenges in any particular order other than by what I fancy!!

I´ve only had Banoffee Pie once before which my mother made and I´ve been wanting to make it myself ever since as my mother´s was simply to die for...the only problem is I don´t like bananas. As strawberries were in season at the time I made this, I decided to replace the banana with strawberries, turning the banoffee pie into a strawboffee pie!!

I usually like to try and stick fairly rigidly to the technical challenge recipes but as I already had some frozen homemade shortcrust pastry I decided to use it. This is a great dessert to make if you need something quick or that doesn´t take too long to prepare, you could always make the pastry ahead of time and freeze it or even cheat and use ready-made pastry if you´re short of time. This recipe is Mary Berry´s and is fairly straightforward to follow. The most difficult or challenging part of the recipe is making the shortcrust pastry and making the toffee sauce.

I only made half the amount of the original recipe and up to making the toffee sauce,  didn´t come across any problems.However, I found that the toffee sauce didn´t appear to be setting and eventually put it in the fridge for about half an hour to an hour. It seemed to have firmed up after this time so I put the strawberries on top of the toffee sauce(they didn´t appear to sink,which was definitely a good sign), then whipped up the cream and placed that on top . All appeared to be well however when I cut into the pie, it became clear that the toffee had nowhere near set and it was one, huge runny mess. I liked the taste of the pie although after a couple of mouthfuls, I found it quite sickly so I don´t quite know where I went wrong.I definitely had some issue with the toffee sauce not setting properly but I also wonder if I put too much condensed milk or something, as it was far too sweet. It certainly wasn´t as good as my mum´s version and I will definitely have to play around or practice this dessert as so far I don´t think I´ve managed to fulfil this challenge. Definitely a disappointing result!Let me know if you are also taking part in the Great British Bake Off Technical Challenge and if you´ve had any disasters with the recipes.What would you like the following challenge to be?


5/12/2014

Cooking Spain Region by Region: Andalucia: Soplillos: Almond Meringues

Originally, I was only going to publish two main dish recipes and one sweet recipe but in the end I thought what the heck, I love desserts and cake..why not do two. While looking into typical Andalusian dishes, I came across this cake or biscuit, which I fancied making as it like a cross between a meringue and a macaron and it does not disappoint.It´s light and airy texture makes you want to go back for more.

. When I said I was going to make soplillos,people looked at me and said "eh?" as they´d never heard of them before.However, they were very successful...everyone who tried them liked them and it is hard to resist eating more than only one. My daughter, who doesn´t always try all the cakes and desserts I make, even ate 4 in one day! They are also fairly simple and quick to make. So, here goes with the last but not least, final recipe for Andalusia and then it´s on to the next region, Aragon. Any suggestions of what I should make?Anyway onto the recipe, which is adapted from a book called something like La Cocina de Andalucia:

Ingredients (makes about 32-35)
150g ground almonds
200g sugar
3 egg whites
Juice and rind of one lemon
A pinch of vanilla sugar

Method:
1. Beat the egg whites while gradually adding the sugar, till it forms stiff peaks or so that when bowl is turned upside down over your head,none falls out.

2.Add the lemon juice and peel, almonds and vanilla sugar and fold them into the meringue carefully, taking care not to knock any of the air out. The mixture will have a very grainy appearance.

3. Line a baking sheet with baking paper and fill a piping bag, fitted with the Wilton 1M nozzle, with the meringue mixture and pipe out evenly sized meringues. Leave enough space between each meringue as they spread in the oven and also don´t pipe them too big as they lose their shape.

4. Place in a preheated oven at 140º C and bake for 25 minutes.

5.Leave to cool..don´t try to take them off the baking paper too soon otherwise they may stick to the paper a little.






 
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