Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Tweet Pie Choc Chunk Cookies

Those of you that follow us on twitter will be aware that Sous Chef J and I were at the BBC Good Food Show at the NEC last Friday. Whilst there we were able to watch chef Brian Turner demonstrate a couple of recipes on the Belling stand. He used an innovative, twitter crowdsourced, recipe book called Tweet Pie. It contains more than 200 'twecipes’ via Twitter from members of the public - 50 have been published in the book with all proceeds donated to the food charity FoodCycle. It can be bought on eBay for £4.99 using this link .

We chose to recreate the recipe tweeted by @ebmulcahy. Although it’s the one we saw being cooked, Brian made a few tweaks, and we also had to amend the recipe incorporate our gluten free requirements. Plus, we 'sort of' halved the amounts stated in the tweeted recipe in case the switch to gluten free didn't go to plan.

The ingredients we used were:-
125g caster sugar
125g butter (softened)
1 egg yolk
175g Dove's Farm self raising flour (for those not following a gluten free diet, just use SR Flour!)
Chocolate - white and dark, roughly chopped

The sugar and butter were creamed together. Then the egg yolk was added and combined well. Finally the flour was added and the mixture was brought together. This was all done by hand (just like we'd seen in the demo.) The mix was then wrapped in greaseproof paper and chilled (we left ours overnight.)

When it was time to bake the cookies, we removed the dough from the fridge for about half an hour then divided it into three parts.  Sous Chef J had (finally) decided that they would become chocolate chunk cookies - some were to be white chocolate, another lot would be dark chocolate and the third batch a mix of the two chocolates.

Once the dough was kneaded and had the chocolate of choice incorporated, they were roughly rolled into balls, placed on a non-stick baking tray and flattened slightly.  They were then placed in a pre-heated fan oven at 180ÂșC.  Having taken note of Chef Turner checking the oven after a few minutes, Sous Chef J ensured we did the same and set the timer for 6 minutes... whereupon it was decided another 4 minutes were needed to ensure cooked cookies.
Having been cooked "to perfection" the cookies were left to cool on their baking trays for 5 minutes before being transferred to a cooling rack. Then we 'tested' one of the white choc chunk cookies... although there was competition to get to the cookie first!

It was lovely to meet Jo (@jos_kitchen) and Louise (@comidayvida), both Midlands Food Bloggers, on the Belling stand.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Braised Red Cabbage

This recipe is one that we cook every Christmas but, as it freezes well, it's something that's made in advance.  Sous Chef J adores the cabbage and it's easier to make in big batches.

The ingredients are pretty simple...

25g butter - you can use dairy free spread, coconut oil or vegetable oil if you need to
1 onion finely sliced
¼tsp freshly grated nutmeg
3 or 4 allspice, crushed
Small red cabbage, sliced
1 Bramley apple, cored, peeled and grated - we used home made defrosted cooking apple puree (a good dollop)
4 Tbsp red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp light brown sugar
2 Tbsp redcurrant jelly - this isn't needed until just before serving

The butter was melted in a pan (although don't do what we did and use one that's too small for the cabbage.) After this the sliced onion was added and cooked until soft.

During the onion cooking, the red cabbage was halved, the heart was removed and then it was sliced... and, as we noticed, it suddenly took up a lot more room!  The onion/butter was hastily moved to the BIG pan before adding the nutmeg and allspice.  Having stirred the spices into the onion, the red cabbage, apple, vinegar, sugar and 100ml cold water were added.  The whole lot was stirred to combine and make sure the sugar dissolved. 
Some seasoning was added, the pan was brought to the boil, covered and left to simmer for about an hour.  We did remember to stir during the simmering... ensuring all the cabbage cooked. 

Once cooked it can be served immediately or cooled and divided into portions for freezing.  Stir a little redcurrant jelly through the cabbage just prior to serving.

If you have frozen batches, allow the cabbage mix to defrost, heat through thoroughly and then add the redcurrant jelly - it's ready to serve when the jelly has melted into the cabbage.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Merry Chocolat!

We were delighted to be able to review some chocolates from Hotel Chocolat.  It was a real surprise to take a look at their website and see how well they cater for those following a Gluten Free regime.  If you select Genre from the top menu bar, a drop down appears that lists Gluten & Wheat Free as an option.  Having selected this option,  Sous Chef J was amazed that he actually had a choice of things from which to select a product to review.  Having studied the website at length, he finally decided on the Christmas Table Cracker.  I chose the Alternative Mince Pies as thought they sounded a little unusual.

When the parcel was delivered, this is what we found within.  Sous Chef J commented that it was a shame his cracker was bent - and noted that if the cracker had been made about 2cm shorter at each end it would have fitted inside the box it was sent in!  However, after a little remodelling, the cracker was returned to its unbent shape...
...and tasting began.

Here's what the cracker and mince pies looked like close up.

Sous Chef J was pleased to find his cracker contained a snap, a crown (in posh gold paper), a joke (standard cracker fare) and three individually wrapped chocolates.  He loved the fact that the wrappers detail what sort of chocolate is within. Sous Chef J declared the chocolate to be "fab-u-lous" and added that it was "crunchy".
This is the milk chocolate bauble.
The mince pies were quite a bit smaller than we'd been expecting but, after tasting, the reason became apparent.  Looking at the back of the packaging it explains they are made by filling a chocolate case with pralines and caramel.

We cut one in half to see what they looked like...

...they were as delicious to eat as they look.  Perfect for an after meal treat with a coffee. Definitely my sort of mince pie!

Having been tempted by these lovely items, we called into a Hotel Chocolat shop when we were in London. We were impressed with the clear labelling throughout - not just relating to gluten but many other allergens/ingredients too.  Previously we wouldn't have considered seeing if there were gluten free goodies on sale in store.  Now we know there are treats aplenty, we will be buying for special occasions. 

Thank you to Beth @JamandCream PR and Hotel Chocolat for choosing us and sending us the chocolates to try.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Hearty Vegetable Soup

A firm favourite for colder weather is our hearty vegetable soup.  It's a simple dish to make as it uses one pot and can be made with whatever vegetables you have around.

We start by gathering all the vegetables we are going to use as the base - usually crushed garlic, onions, carrots, leeks, swede, potatoes and sometimes including celery.  These are then chopped/sliced into similar sized pieces by Sous Chef J.  Whilst he is doing this the garlic and onion is sweated in a good dollop of butter (you can use dairy free alternative if you need to) in a heavy based, large pan.  Then about 2 Tablespoons of tomato puree is added to this and cooked off on a low heat and incorporated fully.  Next, the base vegetables are stirred into the tomato/onion mix and a good amount of ground pepper is added.  These are warmed through for about five minutes and then at least two pints of vegetable stock are poured in (we often use Marigold Vegetable Swiss Bouillon gluten free powder to make up the stock.)  The amount of stock used depends on how many veg are in the soup mix.

The soup is then covered and brought to the boil before being simmered for about 20 minutes.  At this point, the peas (we use frozen) and chopped white cabbage can be added for about 4 minutes to cook through before serving.  We top with grated cheese and serve.

If you are not going to eat all of the soup at one sitting (we rarely do), the amount required for eating can be ladled into another, smaller pan, where the peas and/or cabbage are added.... this means that the peas retain their lovely green colour and the soup looks fresh and appetising when it's served.  The remainder of the soup can be cooled and stored in the fridge for a couple of days or frozen.  It's a great way to use up root veg and is a welcome burst of colour on a dreary day!

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Brownies by post

What lovely friends we have made via the internet. We were delighted to receive a parcel of some award winning chocolate brownies from Charlotte at Go Free Foods Ltd.

The brownies arrived wrapped in pairs in cellophane bags, tied with a pink ribbon.  Sous Chef J was keen to try them out and soon declared them to be "delicious".  The deep, chocolatey flavour was amazing and the brownies had a dense, but soft, texture. 
With a cuppa and a sit down in the sunshine they made for a lovely, restorative treat.  The remaining packs were perfect for taking out for days out for those, all too common, just-in-case moments, when eateries have no gluten free cakes on offer.  However, they didn't last long... they're just too tasty.

Thank you Charlotte (aka @GoFreeCakes on Twitter) - we thoroughly enjoyed our delicious treat eats!

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Slow cooker stew

Having been out for a quick food shop one morning, Sous Chef J asked what we would be having for tea.  So, looking at the contents of the fridge, we decided on a stew... "of some sort".  As we were going to be out for the afternoon, it was agreed that a slow cooker meal would be a good idea.

We gathered the ingredients together and decided on using stewing steak, one onion, tomato puree and vegetable stock.  The onion was chopped roughly and sweated for a few minutes in a pan with a dash of sunflower oil.  At this point a generous squeeze of the tomato puree was added and cooked on a low heat for about 5 minutes.  During this time, we peeled and chopped the carrots and cut the beef into smaller chunks.   We also turned the slow cooker on to heat through at this point.

Next, the beef was added to the onion and tomato in the pan and browned lightly.

Once it was all browned, we added it to the slow cooker together with the stock and carrots.  The lid was placed on the pot and we left the cooker on HIGH for the first hour.  Before we headed out for the afternoon we turned the slow cooker down to LOW.
On our return home at the end of the day, we were greeted with the lovely aroma of our simple stew.  It didn't take long to steam some Brussels sprouts and add some potato wedges... serving up the stew in a pasta bowl and our meal was ready.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Hamster heaven

Wow. What a lot of lovely lot of following/followers we have on twitter. I happened to see a tweet from cupcake maker extraordinaire @MrsAitchB the other day where she was sharing pics of her magnificent animal decorations (she is also know as the Cupcake Artisan).  I asked whether she did a hamster, which of course she did, and she kindly offered to send a pic to Sous Chef J.

Well, you can imagine the delight when, instead of a picture of hammy, this amazing parcel was delivered to us today...  

Not only did it have a card with the hamster pic on, but also some freshly made Gluten Free cupcakes and a specially made hamster cupcake decoration too!

@MrsAitchB had written a note to tell us we need to eat the cupcakes today - so that's what we'll be doing...  Sous Chef J says he will try to remember to take a few pics of his decorations before he eats the cakes but can't promise anything.  An update will be posted if he manages it.

Thanks again, @MrsAitchB.  You are extremely talented and we appreciate your kindness greatly.

Evening Update - the decorated cakes...