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

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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!

Chickpea and Sweet Potato Beta Bake


This dish comes courtesy of Dale Pinnock – The Medicinal Chef. Having worked pretty hard digging out and creating a new path in my mums garden I was pretty whacked. Even a lovely chicken roast dinner wasn’t enough. I needed more food.

When we got home I threw this together. It’s pretty straightforward – not dissimilar to a Shepherd’s Pie.

Under the mashed Sweet Potato (picture above) is your base of chickpeas, red onions, garlic, wilted spinach and some sun dried tomato paste. On top of the mash is some blue cheese.

In hindsight more cheese would have been awesome – but it was pretty late so I probably did the right thing.

 

Sweet Potato and Spinach Curry

  
I need to make a resolution to keep this food blog up to date. It’s been too long. Again ! What’s wrong with me. It’s not like I haven’t been cooking. If you saw the size of my belly lately you’d know this for sure!

April resolution – sort the blog out! So I apologise in advance if I over-blog during the next few days – clearing the backlog of food things I have made in the last 2 months!

This curry is from The Medicinal Chef. It’s incredibly easy and for once I under spiced it. Freya isn’t a hug fan of things with fresh ginger so I toned it down a bit and, although nice, I think it needed a bit more kick. 

I have a number of dishes planned from this book – mainly vegetarian – and am hoping that a combination of these very healthy meals and my return to the gym will help me lose a bit of weight so that I don’t look like the porker I did at Resistanz 2016 last week!

Green Mimosa Salad

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Brrrr…. it was chilly last night – and again this morning.

Living on a boat comes with its own share of fears. Sinking – obviously is the big one. But at this time of year flooding is another. You only have to watch the London Boaters forums to spot boats capsizing; boats becoming untied from their moorings and boat owners suffering thousands of pounds of damage due to the weather.

On Tuesday we had to have all our ropes loosened for fear of the boat being pulled over by the extraordinary rising tides. Yesterday, in response to the very high tides on the Thames, the Thames barrier was raised and the risk of flooding to areas of London was removed. For us. No damage and no issues. Phew!

Pleased that I’d come home to a safe boat I got the stove going, and set to making this very simple yet unusual dish for our dinner last night.

A traditional mimosa salad is a layered salad with a grated egg yolk base. This isn’t that. This really is quite different – much like the Quinoa risotto isn’t really a risotto!

Taken from Anna Jones – A Modern Way to Cook – this recipe uses the dressing that is usually made with the mimosa salad and dresses tenderstem broccoli and asparagus instead. The eggs are kept separate and don’t see the dressing until you eat it!

The dressing is simply a Chardonnay White Wine Vinegar, olive oil, dijon mustard and a finely chopped shallot, seasoned well. To this you add your lightly steamed broccoli and asparagus – and then some thickly sliced avocado.

Meanwhile, some hard boiled eggs are grated, seasoned, and mixed with creme fraiche and lemon zest. You can then either stir in some chopped dill – or keep it separate like I did.

There’s nothing else to this dish. It is very simple and very tasty. It’s visually very pleasing too.

Make sure it is seasoned well or it is in danger of being a bit bland. If you don’t have tasty enough avocados (they can be a bit tasteless this time of year) squeeze half a lemon over them to pep them up a bit.

I loved it – but didn’t feel as full up as I have from other meals. Maybe I was just cold. It was very cold last night!

This week has been a week of very simple dishes. This was done in less than 30 minutes. Tomorrow I have more time so I plan on spending a bit more time in the kitchen. I’ll be making the last three dishes I’ve chosen from Anna Jones’s book and then I’ll move onto something different.

Winter Root Soba Noodles with Pickled Greens

IMG_3887Last night was pretty hair raising wasn’t it. 50MPH winds! The boat was all over the place. But I still managed to make this for dinner. Fortunately the wind died down by bedtime so it wasn’t a frightening night.

Over a year ago I bought a load of Black Soba noodles from Amazon and when I saw this recipe in Anna Jones – A Modern Way to Cook – I figured this dish just had to be made.

Serving this I figured I really need some different coloured bowls. Black Soba Noodles in a black bowl isn’t the best way of showing off this dish. I’ll go on a little hunt for some nice big bowls of varying colours.

This is a pretty simple dish. It can be done in 20 minutes easily – depending on your knife skills because the only real preparation is the julienning of the beetroot and the carrot and grating a bit of ginger.

Whenever I go to the shops I buy this big lump of ginger and throw 90% of it away once it’s changed to some weird blue colour. Yesterday I saw this tiny thumb sized piece and popped it on the scales in Morrisons – 3p! How cool is that!

If its fresh, buy it when you need it – and only what you need. It’s false economy otherwise.

Anyway, you fry a little grated ginger in some olive oil and then add your julienned beetroot and carrot and a little water. Wait for the water to be absorbed which softens the vegetables a little bit and then put to one side. That’s a five minute job.

Meanwhile cook the Soba Noodles as per the instruction. I just dunk mine in boiling water – leave for 5 minutes and drain them. They are pretty quick and it’s very easy to overdo them.

Also meanwhile, pick the stalks off some kale and shred it with your hands. As I’ve said before Morrisons already do bags of shredded kale, they just don’t take the stalks out – it makes all the difference to spend five minutes tidying it up. Over the kale pour some brown rice vinegar, maple syrup and a little salt. Scrunch it all up with your hands and leave it for 5 minutes. That’s your pickled greens done.

Finally you add a little more maple syrup, tamari (dark soy sauce), sesame oil, juice of a lime and some black sesame seeds to the winter vegetables and then throw in the Soba Noodles and give it all a good mix. And that’s it.

Serve it like I did with the pickled greens alongside the noodles (and a little chopped coriander garnish) and you have yourself one very tasty dish.

This dish is going to make it into my ‘make it regularly’ list. I love the simplicity and the contrasting textures. I kept my beetroot and carrot crunchy rather than over softening them – and the crunch of the vegetables is awesome alongside the noodles and the pickled kale.

The only real shame is the way the purple from the beetroot bleeds into the carrots making them a bright red. I guess this could be solved by doing them separately but them that’s more washing up! You could also have used normal soba noodles rather than black ones – but I think it is quite striking.

There are so many flavours in this dish and it is very filling and satisfying. I love kale. I really love beetroot. It’s a winner for me.

We chomped through ours whilst watching ‘Friday Night Dinner’. If you haven’t seen it – you must! You’ll wet yourself laughing. It certainly took our mind off the weather outside.

Quinoa Risotto with Mashed Peas and Greens

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I made this on Friday – another recipe from Anna Jones – A Modern Way to Cook.

I do love Quinoa and have made some pretty awesome things with it in the past. For me this wasn’t one of them.

The whole dish was lovely. The addition of the feta, parmesan, pine nuts and pea puree were the highlights of the dish – adding salty flavours (the cheeses), crunch (the nuts) and a sweet freshness (the peas). But the risotto was a bit of a let down. It was a little bit bland.

The quinoa is cooked in a similar way as a risotto Рbut not quite. After frying a couple of thinly sliced leaks in oil you add the quinoa until it start to pop. You then add white wine and lemon juice Рlet that absorb Рand then finally add the stock until that is absorbed. The whole thing takes around 30 minutes. Sometimes that quinoa just refuses to budge.

Once you’ve got your gloopy porridge consistency your quinoa is done. Stir in some shredded greens until they wilt. Finally stir in some grated parmesan to give it a cheesy risotto feel.

While your waiting for your risotto you blitz some peas with some mint and basil until it’s smooth – then add seasoning and the juice of half a lemon. I could eat the puree on its own – maybe on toast or just as a dip – it was amazingly sweet and fresh.

Assembly is simply puddling your risotto in a bowl, crumbling some more parmesan and then some feta, some toasted pine nuts and of course the awesome peas puree.

All in all this is a good dish but you just expect a bit more. The greens and the leeks get lost – you just wouldn’t know they were there.

Making this again I’d have to give the quinoa more zing – it needs more citrus I think. It’s a shame to rely on the dressings to make the dish nice – the quinoa should have been the highlight and it wasn’t.

I’ll experiment and see if I can make it better.