Ten Minute Tiramisu

Weekends during lockdown are now a regular excuse to do a cook-along with Freya’s parents. We’ve done a few now and this week we both cooked leg of lamb (more on that in another post).

The In-Laws advocate that all meals have a starter and a dessert. We don’t tend to bother so we patiently waited for them to eat their beetroot, goats cheese, and salmon blinis before tucking into the main event.

After some lengthy shouting into computers we were ready to down tools until Mummy Two Two whipped out a Tiramisu and made Freya wish she could have some.

As luck would have it we had a packet of sponge fingers left over from Christmas. We were going to make Jamie’s Christmas dinner (in it’s entirety) but we didn’t get round to making his dessert.

So this was a bit freestyle but seemed to work. I whisked 4 heaped teaspoons of instant coffee, caster sugar and some very hot water with an electric food mixer until the sugar dissolved (this is the beginnings of a Dalgona coffee – but that’s for another time). To the coffee mix add some brandy then pour it over the sponge fingers.

While the fingers are absorbing all the coffee and brandy goodness, whip together a tub of marscapone cream, some double cream, vanilla bean paste and caster sugar until it comes too (careful not to split it).

Next grate some chocolate (traditionalists say to sift cocoa powder but I didn’t do this). We used Tony’s Chocolonely Dark Milk.

Finally layer the fingers, the cream and the chocolate.

It obviously isn’t a Tiramisu that the Italians will approve of – but for 10 minutes it wasn’t bad.

I imagine the 80% of it that is left will mature nicely in the fridge. I intend to add a coffee foam to my next portion. Simply whisk the same quantities of coffee, sugar and very hot water AGAIN but this time keep going for 3 or 4 minutes until soft peaks form. Spooning this over the tiramisu is bound to make it taste better. Alternatively just spoon it over iced milk.

Nigella’s Cheesecake

I’ve made this cheesecake from Nigella Lawson’s Feast cookbook more than any dessert I’ve ever made. Many reasons; I am not really into desserts or sweet things. I’m definitely a savoury person; much to my wife’s dismay.

Baked cheesecakes are the best. The whipped up cream ones just don’t do it for me – or the shop bought ones where breaking into the plastic packaging is a mission in itself. No thanks!

I think I made this for the first time ten years ago, and have probably made it five or six times since. There’s a Nigella’s Nutella one posted on this blog somewhere that I made in next to no time – but this one takes a bit longer and requires a lot more effort.

Before you consider spontaneously making it one day make sure you have a deep sprung cake tin (I still use the same one from 10 years ago despite it being on its last legs) and clingfilm – AND tin foil. If you don’t have these it probably won’t come out right.

I usually make this the same and mix up the sauce a little each time. Nigella’s recommended sauce is Apple Schapps but this isn’t the easiest to come by – especially in small bottles – so a cheesecake can end up costing you £30 to make. It’s worth is – but.. probably too much!

I’ve since made it without booze, with Besos (vegan monkey nut Baileys), and most recently Chambord (raspberry and blackberry liqueur); my friends Vicky and Dan made theirs with Bourbon and raved about it.

The making is quite simple; you can actually prep everything in the same food mixer, and not even bother cleaning it between the base prep and the cheese part. The base is just Hobnobs and butter blitzed and press into the sprung tin. I went rogue and used chocolate chip Hobnobs for the most recent cheesecake – and I won’t do it again – the base went soggy, so stick to plain Hobnobs.

The baking is not so simple, and can cause issues if you don’t do it right.

Now in the same food mixer beat together double cream, cream cheese, vanilla, cornflour, caster sugar and eggs. I wouldn’t bother getting a branded cream cheese like Philly – but don’t go for the half fat own brand stuff, as it won’t come out as well. Full fat for this.

When you’ve beaten it for a while put some booze in it. Don’t go nuts with it or you’ll probably mess up the chance of the cake setting. In any case your sauce will be all over the cake so go easy!

You now need to wrap the outside of the tin with lots of cling film. The cake tin is going to sit in a water bath and if you don’t seal the tin the water will seep in to the base and ruin it. Once it’s wrapped up – I usually do three layers, pour the cheesecake mixture into the tin.

The cheesecake should now bake in the over in a bath of hot water. It is suggested that you make a nest with tin foil. When you make this for the first time you are quite diligent and have this done well in advance. When you’ve made it a few times you don’t and it can get you in a pickle. So either do this well in advance – or fill the bottom tray of your oven full of water – mine takes 2 kettles worth!

Bake it until it starts to colour and a wobble offers some resistance. I usually wait for the surface to crack. Again it doesn’t matter as you’re gonna pour sauce all over it anyway. Make sure it cools right down before unspringing it – it’ll keep cooking after you take it out anyway.

The sauce is a standard caramel sauce of butter, 2 sugars, cream, and then the booze of your choice. The most recent Chambord one I added a load of frozen dark fruits (that I usually have in my breakfast smoothie) and it was an epic sauce!

Whatever you do with it – the sauce makes it. The rest is amazing – but the sauce! Whenever we make it we are sick of it by the time is it gone – there are only two of us and it is 16 people big. Really big slices too.

Make this. You’ll definitely keep making it – despite the effort.

Pizza Bianca with potato, anchovy and sage

I think I’ve cooked every recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Simple cookbook. It is in my top 5 go to books for quick stuff. Itsu’s 15 minute meals is another.

During these tricky times – where we are getting our food once every 2-3 weeks – we are planning meals from one cookbook at a time. Ottolenghi’s Simple was last week’s book of choice so we made this incredibly easy pizza.

I appreciate flour is hard to come by at the moment, but this one doesn’t need much. The base is just yeast, flour and water mixed together, lightly kneaded then left under a damp towel for an hour to double in size.

The base is smeared with a paste of marscapone, anchovy, sage, lemon zest and spring onions, the thinly sliced new potatoes popped on top, and finally the grated pecorino. Go crazy with the black pepper – it really makes a difference. And cook it properly! I made 2 – the second one was so much better for leaving it in the oven for longer.

Perhaps my oven wasn’t hot enough for the 9 minutes that it was supposed to need. But it was better for having 12+ minutes – and I have one of those fancy Bake-Off ovens!

I can’t recommend this pizza enough as long as you have the ingredients. For some reason we always have left over anchovies in our fridge, sometimes 2 or 3 jars at a time, as we are notorious for always buying all the ingredients without checking what we already have!

The Pork Belly cook-along

00100trPORTRAIT_00100_BURST20200426183825774_COVER

My birthday promised to be a very uninteresting affair with just my wife, myself and our dog (yes we now have a dog!) at home; no friends, no family – all thanks to lockdown in the UK.

Our very good friends Vicky and Dan suggested we do a cook-along Zoom call. Zoom is the new norm for 2020, web calls to friends instead of meeting them in a pub for a cheeky pint or many…

We settled on both cooking the same pork belly dish, so in the end it was more of a ‘leave it in the oven for many hours’ and just chat and catch up. 4-5 hours in fact.

This pork belly dish is from Tapas Revolution; the recipe is publicly available on their website:

https://www.tapasrevolution.com/recipesomar/2017/10/19/torreznos-con-mojo-dulce-slow-cooked-pork-belly

It is a very simple dish to make. In fact the hardest part was finding someone that sold pork belly. We had to settle for strips from Ocado (they are doing sterling work during the lockdown), and this did not spoil the dish at all.

Simply rub the pork belly with salt, pour a bottle of beer over your pork belly and leave in the oven while you go about your business. No checking required – just leave it to do its thing.

When 5 hours have passed – or somewhere in between make the Mojo Dulce sauce. This is somewhat more complicated but well worth doing properly. Throw in some new potatoes and serve when they are cooked through.

As with all cook-alongs (we’ve done a couple with my in-laws) timing is everything. Both being ready to eat at the same time is an art form. Vicky and Dan’s sauce was beautifully blended – mine was somewhat more rustic! The sauce was finished off properly on my side the next day and had with the leftovers.

I can thoroughly recommend making this if you’re prepared to sacrifice a beer to the oven gods.

I’m back – AGAIN!

runninglow-1024x536Where have I been for 4 years. Oh my! I can’t believe I’ve not posted to sifty for this long.

Well I kind of stopped cooking new things. Freya and I bought a house in Birmingham, moved off the boat and have been busy doing a major house renovation. No time for exciting blogging about food.

Well of course there was time, I just got really distracted. I ended my 17 year long tenure at Ocado Technology and went to work for myself doing IT Consultancy.

And how the world has changed. Now we are all stuck inside, and my appetite for cooking is back – as is the time available to photograph it – and blog about it – and tell you all the fun things I’ve been up to!

So this is just a test post to make sure everything still works, that I remember how to use WordPress, and that I get all my notifications as expected.

Watch this space for more yummy food – and thank you for coming back!