Gram flour waffles with Cola-braised beef (or chili con carne)

Gram flour waffles with Cola-braised beef (or chili con carne)2012 really was the year of the savoury waffle. Waffles came as sides to deep fried chicken (e.g. Rita’s, not to mention Glady’s Knight’s feature on Man V Food), smothered in shaved or pan-fried foie gras (fain daining restaurants across the land), and as a base for every slow-braised ‘deep South’ meat dish from pulled pork to chili. Twenty-twelve was also the year I finally got a kitchen where all my many gadgets can come out to play, having finally got enough storage space to have them within reach of a kitchen counter.

(BTW…Yes I know we’re halfway through 2013 already. It’s taken me a while to get round to posting this, okay? Waffles still rock.)

One of my most-loved but underused items rescued from long-term storage is a German waffle maker, brought back from Frankfurt for me by my sister’s friend’s parents when I was about 12 years old. I’d only ever made sweet waffles in it, but encouraged by the mood du jour I decided it was time for a savoury test, one to accompany a batch of cola-braised beef, but you could of course use your favourite recipe for chili con carne, or try mine.

Gram (chickpea) flour waffles

150g Gram (chickpea) flour
100g plain flour
generous pinch English mustard powder
1 tbsp baking powder
1½ tsp salt
3 medium eggs, beaten
425ml whole milk
115g unsalted butter, melted & allowed to cool slightly

Sieve the gram flour, plain flour, mustard powder, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Make a well in the middle. Combine the eggs, milk and cooled butter in a jug, then pour gradually into the flour, whisking all the time to gradually combine dry ingredients with liquid. Preheat your waffle iron to medium. Cook a ladleful at a time, until golden (how long will depend very much on your own waffle iron). Keep the waffles warm in a low oven, covered with foil, while you make the rest.

To serve:

  • 4 portions Cola-braised beef*, chili con carne or some saucy pulled pork
  • Apple coleslaw (just replace half the cabbage in your favourite recipe with grated green apple with a squeeze of lemon juice)
  • Grated cheese

Deliciouso, I hope you’ll agree!
See the full post for my cola beef recipe…

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Chocolate coffee cupcakes with orange cheesecake icing

Chocolate cupcake with orange cheesecake frostingThese incredibly easy cupcakes use the magical reaction of vinegar and baking powder to create a light and fluffy texture but you’d honestly never know the vinegar was in there I promise. Because of this kitchen alchemy they are completely dairy free, until you smother them in this delicious icing that is, in which the orange and vanilla balance beautifully against the coffee in the cake, but if you wanted to keep them vegan a simple icing of orange juice and icing sugar would still be lovely.

Super-simple chocolate coffee cupcakes with orange cheesecake icing
Makes 12 cupcakes or 20 fairy cakes

225g plain flour
30g cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
225g granulated sugar
½ tsp fine salt (if using flakes – Maldon for preference – powder them in a pestle & mortar first)
1½ tsp good-quality instant coffee (I like Kenco Millicano wholebean instant)
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (or Madagascan vanilla extract)
6 tbsp olive oil
For the icing:
50g white chocolate
100g full-fat cream cheese
50g soft unsalted butter
½ tsp vanilla bean paste (or extract)
Zest of 1 small orange
250g icing sugar
Edible glitter, to decorate (optional*)

Ready on for the rest of the recipe…

Chillies and Mexican Food – the Sweet Heat Chilli Challenge roundup

Fiery Roasted Red Pepper Salsa For anyone who loves chillies proper Mexican food is a real treat – the Mexicans grow and use probably more varieties of chilli than any other country, from the fiery habanero to the smokey chipotle and everything in between.  This month I am delighted to be the host of the Sweet Heat Chilli Challenge, and hope you will find some inspiration in the fabulous flavours of Mexico which our contributors showcased this month. As usual the rules were simply that the dish had to contain chilli in some form, and the style of cuisine – as this month celebrated Cinco de Mayo – was Mexican, natch.  Starting the fiesta is the queen of the Chilli Challenge herself, Lyndsey, who put forward a fiery roasted red pepper salsa of such stunning proportions I defy anyone not to want to grab one of those tortilla chips and dig in.

Tango Like Raindrop was actually the first off the blocks with this colourful mango Pico de Gallo salsa, a fruity twist on a classic recipe:

Mango Pico-de-Gallo SalsaAnother mango offering came from Janet of ‘The Taste Space‘, this time as an accompaniment to a healthy twist on a Mexican favourite – Oyster Mushroom and Black Bean Tacos

Oyster Mushroom and Black Bean Tacos‘Farmer’s Girl’ Janice Pattie went super-meaty with these Lamb Steaks with Adobo Seasoning Lamb Steaks with Adobo SeasoningChris of ‘Cooking Around the World’ took the challenge to a new level (and won the heart of my hubby, who’d tried & failed to persuade me to do the same) by making his own tortillas for these delicious sounding mini Garnachas with tomato-apple salsa:

Garnachas with tomato-apple salsaMy contribution to the month’s round-up had to be the much-maligned (in TexMex restaurants anyway) but genuinely Mexican favourite Faijitas, using a homemade version of a store-bought sauce and a variation on the classic salsa Pico de Gallo

Mexican fajitas with pico de galloAnd finishing the roundup was another contribution from Lyndsey, some delicious Grilled Fish Tacos

Grilled Fish Tacos If you’d like to take part in, or host, a future Sweet Heat Chilli Challenge you can find all the information you need here.

DIY butter – (and scones) – homemade kitchen alchemy

Homemade butterWhat’s that you say? You’ve never made your own butter? Oh daaaarlink, you simply must – it’s so easy!  I was amazed recently by how many people reacted with surprise when I said you could make your own butter in just 5 minutes, using nothing more than an electric mixer and some double cream. In fact, you don’t even need the electric mixer – if you cast your mind way back you might even recall making it in a jam jar at primary school. But unless you still have the boundless energy of a 7-year-old, or the arm muscles and equipment of a 19th century dairy maid, I strongly recommend using the electric mixer.

Homemade butter won’t necessarily taste substantially different or better than anything you can buy (although if you do it with delicious farm-fresh organic cream it will certainly knock the socks off anything Lurpak can produce), but it is just such fun – watching the transformation of a common kitchen substance (cream) changing state from liquid to solid, plus of course you get a delicious bi-product (buttermilk) which just cries out to be baked with, ideally into something you can slather your lovely new butter on.

Whilst we’re on the butter and milkmaid topic, if you fancy a cheap giggle Google ‘butter churner’ then look at the 3rd search result* (adults only!)
Read on for the recipe and more lovely illustrations!

Brownie Bake-Off

Another interlude from the layman.

I, perhaps somewhat rashly, promised everyone at work brownies if I got a good response rate to a questionnaire that I sent out. Which is why I spent a Sunday afternoon with the oven on, and the scent of chocolate slowly driving my partner crazy.

As I work for an environmental charity, we have a higher than normal proportion of vegetarians and vegans in the office, so some of the brownies were going to have to be vegan friendly. Emma had also passed me a rather gorgeous sounding brownie and cherry recipe to try out and the idea of the brownie bake-off tool hold. Then to make it more interesting: how do shop bought mixes compare to making brownies completely from scratch? Enter into the ring the brownie mix that I often keep in the cupboard for chocolate emergencies, and a supermarket own brand version and we have a four-way taste test.

The first thing that I noticed is that the supermarket mix and the brand name mix require you to add the same ingredients to the packet mix and in the same quantities, leading me to wonder if there is actually any difference between the two at all! A closer inspection of the ingredients lists for both showed that the brand name mix seemed to have fewer ingredients (and more pronounceable ingredients) than the supermarket equivalent.

The plus side of both the packet mixes was how quick they were to make: mix in water, oil and egg and shove in the oven. Easily done.

I had some problems with the cooking time of the brand packet mix, and it took me a lot longer to cook than instructed, hence why there aren’t as many on the plate…the rest was all stuck to the inside of the tin. But I suspect this is mostly due to me trying to cook the brownies in a loaf tin as they have previously always come out quite well. But hey, in a very small kitchen there will always be limitations.

The vegan brownies were also extremely easy to make. As they don’t use butter or eggs, and use oil instead, it was again quite an easy case of chucking everything in a bowl and giving it a really good stir.

The cherry brownies were always going to be the most complicated, but although definitely more time-consuming than the other three, they were still quite easy. And they’ve left me with a jug of cherry syrup to do something with. I think that might be a great accompaniment to some plain vanilla ice-cream, but I’m open to suggestions.

From the taste perspective, I think one of the most important things with brownies is not to eat them too quickly. No matter how tempting it may be, there’s no point in eating them straight out of the oven, as they won’t have developed that lovely gooeyness until they’ve cooled down and can taste quite spongy before then.

The most noticeable taste difference between all of the brownies is that the packet ones are much sweeter than the home-made ones. This initially gave the impression that they were more chocolatey, but are actually more sickly.

With the two home made ones, I was sensible enough to use baking parchment in the tins, rather than just greasing the tins as I did with the first two. This made it a lot easier to keep the shape of the brownie afterwards, and reduce the losses (although my partner did enjoy getting to eat the bits that got stuck to the tins).

At work, they all seemed to go down well, and I think I’ll be in my colleagues’ good books for a few days. Although I do now feel guilty about not catering for the wheat intolerant in the office. Next time I’ll do something special for them.

Updated to add: the vegan brownies improve with age! Can’t comment on the others, they’ve all gone!

Continue reading “Brownie Bake-Off”

Topless Tart: Roasted baby tomato and pesto tart with a Parmesan crust

Roasted tomato & pesto tart with Parmesan crustIt’s been a long time since I took part in a food blogger event, but I couldn’t resist joining in with this month’s cheekily titled ‘Topless Tarts’ Monthly Mingle, hosted by one of my favouritest bloggers, Jeanne of Cook Sister!

For me, a homemade tart is all about the pastry. There’s no end of clever and tasty fillings for a tart, and shops have sold most of them at some time or another, but where a homemade tart can beat shop-bought hands down is with carefully made, fresh from the oven, tender, crumbly pastry – there’s just nothing to beat it! The key to good pastry is twofold: keep everything cold, and work fast. For the serious cook with time on their hands, I would advise a one-to-one session with an expert, exploring all the nuances of the words ‘chopping in’, ‘pecking’ and ‘frasiering’ – pâtissiere terms for the three delicate manoeuvres used to create top quality pastry in restaurants. For the more everyday, I would recommend a Magimix. The food processor will work far faster than you ever can, and by not touching the pastry yourself you avoid the pastry getting hot and greasy. You can even chill the blade in advance (if you’re that organised!) for even better results.

With most types of pastry, chilling it before rolling, and again after lining the tart tin, protects against shrinking during cooking. The hefty amount of Parmesan in this crust means some shrinking is unavoidable as the cheese melts, so make sure you use a deep tart tin and line it all the way to the top, so when it is cooked it will still be several centimetres deep.

Read on for the recipe…

Delicious Failure: Kasutera (Castella) Cake

Kasutera (Castella) CakePosting about a recipe which failed isn’t normally something I’d bother with, but after reading up on the subject I realised that failure with one’s first Kasutera Cake isn’t just common – it’s obligatory. Do a quick online search now for this delectable Japanese cake and you’ll find literally hundreds of posts which start “I thought I’d never crack this…” (or words to that effect) so I feel better that mine didn’t turn out right.

This cake is fiendishly difficult to make, requiring a slavish amount of whisking that makes me wonder how this recipe was ever achieved, never mind invented, before the advent of the electric whisk, and although my result wasn’t the mountainous slab of fluffy sponge it was supposed to be, I know that when I do get it right it will be worth it, because even as it was it was simply delicious. Rich, but not too sweet, the honey gives it an extra edge that regular cakes made with sugar and vanilla can’t match – it almost tastes like it’s good for you! Mine was dense and fudgy, much more suited to a pudding than afternoon tea, so I simmered some frozen mixed berries to accompany it (without sugar – the sharpness pairs well with the honey) and it was wonderful. And I’m pretty sure I know what went wrong too! I’m going to keep working at it until I’ve produced a near-foolproof recipe, but in the meantime if you want to try your own Kasutera cake, check out this excellent blog post over at Kirbie’s Cravings which inspired me in the first place.

P.S. Don’t forget to enter my giveaway to win tickets to the BBC Good Food Summer Food Show!

Carrot Cake

We went out for a coffee yesterday, just to a local chain for a quick refreshment before heading to the cinema (The King’s Speech, highly recommended). N had a piece of the establishment’s carrot cake, and while it was perfectly serviceable, we knew that a cake that we had made last year had been much better. So, with the incentive of having visitors over for tea today, I got the scales out. Carrot Cake step by stepBesides, carrot cake counts as one of your five a day doesn’t it?

The recipe originally came from a magazine a number of years ago, but as with anything that I make, recipes get adapted based on the contents of my cupboards.

Cake:

  • 100g Demerara sugar
  • 75g dark muscovado sugar
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 175ml sunflower oil (or rapeseed oil)
  • 150g grated carrot
  • 100g dried fruit (raisins, peel etc)
  • Grated zest of two oranges
  • 180g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 180oc/Gas mark 4.

Mix the sugars, eggs and oil in a bowl. Add the grated carrot, dried fruit, and orange peel and give it a good mix. Sieve in the flour, bicarbonate, cinnamon and nutmeg and mix all together. It’s quite a runny mixture (makes for nice moist cake!). Pour into a greased tin (9″/23cm diameter), and bung it into the oven for 45-50 minutes.

When it comes out, leave it to cool down and while it is, make some icing. This is another reason why I prefer homemade to shop-bought, as I’m not a huge fan of the mounds of buttercream icing that they usually pile onto carrot cake. This version is much simpler (and in my opinion tastier): take the juice of the two oranges that you grated earlier and mix with enough icing sugar to give you a thick but still runny consistency, and then pour it all over the cake.

I then decorated the whole thing with walnuts… I initially planned to add them to the cake mix itself, but forget about them in my rush to get it in the oven on time.

And that’s it, done. Possibly one of the simplest cakes to make, and very very tasty.

Cupcake Masterclass

Lemon glitter cupcakeTo celebrate the random delight which is National Cupcake Week (13-19th September), here at Souperior HQ we’ve recorded a little instructional video which should give anyone the confidence they need to make some stunning little cupcakes, perfect for a party, or just to treat yourself with.

Part 1 & Part 2 – Making the cupcakes


Ingredients

  • 125g unsalted butter, soft
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 2 medium eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 150g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • zest of two unwaxed lemons
  • 2 tsp of Sicilian lemon extract (or lemon juice)

Whisk the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy.

Gradually add the eggs, 1 generous tablespoon at a time, whisking well between each addition.

Sift the flour & baking powder together and whisk gently into the mixture.

Add lemon zest and lemon extract (or juice). Add 1 tsp of extract first, then taste and add more if desired.

Distribute mixture across 12 cupcake cases, then pop into the oven at 180C/160C (fan)/Gas 4 for about 15 minutes, on the middle shelf.

Part 3 – Delicious icing and decorating your cupcakes

Ingredients

  • 100g unsalted butter, softened
  • 250g icing sugar
  • juice of one lemon

Mix the butter and sugar together briefly, and when it starts to clump add the juice of half a lemon and mix again until smooth.

Taste and add the remaining lemon juice if desired.

Pipe or spread this mixture onto the cupcakes once they are completely cool. Edible glitter sprinkles optional! And once you’ve made your cupcakes, why not send us a photo of your success?

Cupcake on FoodistaCupcake