Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Raspberry Jam

After our  foray into "Pick Your Owning" at the weekend, we had far more berries than we could eat between us before they started to rot... so we searched for a recipe to make use of.  Having had a look around, we decided raspberry jam was the best bet for novice preserve makers like us.

The simplest recipes stated equal weights of fruit and sugar.  So, we weighed the remaining raspberries (452g) and matched them with sugar.

A large saucepan was used and we put the raspberries in and placed them over a low heat for a few minutes.  After they were warmed through, the sugar was added to the pan.  The berries and sugar were stirred and heated until all the sugar had been dissolved.

Once this happened, the heat was turned up and the mix was left to bubble vigourously for ten minutes (Sous Chef J commented "it looks a bit like a lava lake".)

Having chilled a plate in the bottom of the fridge during the lava lake phase, a small blob of jam was placed on the plate and pushed gently to see if it rippled.  It didn't.  So, the bubbling boiling continued for another 3 minutes when the blob pushing was repeated.  This time, there was a ripple!

The jam pan was removed from the heat and the scum was skimmed off (using a silicone spoon) and deposited on the push-test-plate.  The, now un-scummy, jam was then poured into a couple of jam jars which were fresh out of the top shelf of dishwasher (which had just finished its wash cycle).  Lids were placed on and the jam was left to cool.

Sous Chef J was impressed by the taste of our first batch of raspberry jam... which he taste tested, carefully, by licking the spoon.  He then prepared some labels for the jars and we left the jam to cool thoroughly.

Who knew making jam was so simple!

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Berry Bonanza (with Chocolate!)

Finally, we woke up to find the sunshining and blue skies here in the UK.  Having tried, and failed, to go "Pick Your Owning" last weekend, we decided it was worth another try today.

Once at the local farm, we were not disappointed with the rows and rows of raspberries and strawberries waiting to be picked.  We split into two groups so B and Sous Chef J went to pick raspberries and I went in search of strawberries.  It is great that strawberries are now grown about a metre off the ground in an irrigated bag system.  The fruits literally drop off the plants - no grovelling around in mud and straw to locate an unblemished specimen these days!

The haul we had in less than ten minutes of picking was 2.5kg strawberries and a kilo of raspberries.  Once home, the challenge was what to do with them.  Obviously, some didn't make it home, some were eaten on arrival and we did  a 'healthy' chocolate fondue with some more.

For the fondue (a favourite "dish" of Sous Chef J) we used a few pieces of an Aldi Swiss chocolate bar, heated in the fondue and then dipped in a selection of goodies.  This time, as well as the berries, we used cashews and walnut pieces for dipping.... but you can use sliced bananas, nectarine pieces, chopped kiwi fruit, marshmallows, dried fruit and so on.

Sadly, Sous Chef J was more keen on eating than taking a picture of the dipping... so here's a shot of the fondue once he'd finished!

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Pear and Honey Polenta Cake

A while back (early 2011 I think), when Something for the Weekend was on BBC2 on a Sunday morning, we watched Simon Rimmer make this cake... and, ever vigilant for all items Gluten Free, we noticed there was no gluten in the recipe. Yippee! Another cake for us to try.

The first time this was made, we stuck to the recipe to the letter (a rarity in this kitchen) and the resultant cake was HUGE.  Also, the pear prep was "a bit of a faff" so, being lazy, we now came up with an alternative.  We also only make half the quantity that's listed in Simon's recipe... I would link to it on the BBC website but it seems to have disappeared (perhaps at the same time as the show?)  Instead we've taken a pic of the sheet we printed off and, hopefully, it's legible.

In case not, here are the ingredients in Simon's recipe:-
450g/1lb pears, peeled and chopped
500g/4oz unsalted butter
50ml/1¾fl oz honey
450g/1lb caster sugar
450g/1lb ground almonds
6 free-range eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 lemon, zest only
225g/8oz polenta
pinch salt
1½ tsp baking powder

As is the routine, we set about getting all the ingredients out.  You will see we have a tin of pears in the line up.  This is one of the 'tweaks' to Simon's recipe we now use.  One tin of pears, drained, contains the amount needed for the half recipe we make up.  Much easier than using fresh pears and we get consistent results too.

Remember, we make HALF the quantity shown in the ingredients list above.  If you make the full amount you will need a BIG mixing bowl or stand mixer.

Having allowed the butter to reach room temperature, it was creamed with the sugar until it became lighter in colour.  Whilst this was happening, the tinned pears were drained and put in a small pan with the honey and 25g of the butter and heated through.  They were then mashed and left to one side to cool a little.

Once the butter and sugar were combined, the ground almonds were added and mixed.  This is the point where our ancient electric hand mixer starts to groan about nearing retirement age.  The mix at this stage is like a stiff porridge and adding the beaten eggs, one at a time does loosen it slightly.  Then the polenta, baking powder, salt, lemon zest and vanilla extract were incorporated... we use a silicone spatula for this.  After this, the mashed pear mix was added and mixed through.

Finally, it was time to share the mix between 3 individual mini loaf tins and 14 cupcake/muffin cases.  They were then baked in a preheated (160ªC) oven and checked after 25 minutes (using a skewer), returned to the oven and checked again 5 minutes later.  It's quite a wet mix and the moisture content of the pears does vary, so checking regularly rather than relying on set times works best with this recipe.

Once today's baked cakes were declared 'done' by Sous Chef J (having inspected the skewer prodding process) they were left to cool, in their baking tins, on a wire rack.

Simon's recipe uses a 2lb loaf tin and says to cook for 45-55 minutes but the first time we made the cake, it took well over an hour to be baked through.  And, as you can see, we used a round cake tin so perhaps that was the reason why?!

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Genius Breakfast Pastries

Last week, after a particularly wearing hospital appointment, we took Sous Chef J to a Tesco Extra as a treat (yes, really!)  It was late morning and, luckily, the shop was quite empty.  J busied himself with "perusing the bakugan and pokemon offerings" (which B was left to supervise) and I dashed off for a speed shop.  Having located the, frankly very reduced in number, free from shelves I spotted the Genius Gluten Free breakfast items I'd been reading about... and, even better, they were on offer.  So, I bought the pain au chocolat 2 packs to try.

What was really amazing was that when we got home, we found we'd won a twitter competition and were being sent some croissants from the Genius range. What luck.... more on them later.

Saturday morning came and Sous Chef J was keen to taste test the pain au chocolats.  We were rather naughty and decided to ignore the cooking instructions on the pack.  Instead, we used the bun warming rack on our toaster.  We had the heat setting on 4 and did each side once.  This was enough to melt the chocolate hidden within the crispy pastry.  We all loved them and couldn't wait for our twitter treat to be delivered so we could sample the croissants too.

Happily, we didn't have to wait long and on Monday we opened a package that contained a 2 pack of croissants, some recipe cards and a Genius wooden spoon.  We had an early start ahead of us the next day so decided that the croissants would be a great way to keep us going.

Once again, when it came to preparing the croissants, we ignored the 'cook in a preheated oven' instructions (sorry, Genius) and used our pastry rack on the toaster. 

Once heated through, we sliced into the croissants to check the look of the pastry and were very pleasantly surprised.  The croissants looked just like gluten-containing ones!  So, we buttered, jammed and ate.

Having only had one pack of croissants to eat, and given Sous Chef J is a "growing lad", we supplemented our breakfast eats with some toasted fruit loaf.  Sous Chef J also added some nectarines to make it a fruity fruit loaf feast.

We are delighted to have found a lovely selection of gluten free breakfast items.  Although, as in our gluten eating days, they won't be daily breakfast items and we will be saving them for high days and holidays.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Blackcurrant Macaroons

At the BBC Good Food Show last month, Sous Chef J and I spent some time tasting the yogurts on sale at the Rachel's stand.  J was keen to buy some of the products on offer as he had his eye on the handy cool bag that came when you bought 4 items from their range. 

Even better, when we got home, we discovered a little booklet "Our New fat Free Range" which contained 7 recipes.  A speedy flick through and we spotted that the Blackcurrant Macaroons recipe was Gluten Free.  What a find!  Sous Chef J decided this would be the recipe we would try. 

However, we didn't have the ingredients... until we came home last week to find a delivery from Rachel's containing 3 of their Limited Edition Strawberries and Cream yogurt and three flavours of their fat free range... including the Blackcurrant Yogurt needed for the macaroon recipe.  Thus, a plan was hatched to bake a trial batch of macaroons. 

We had decided to make half the amount the recipe listed seeing as this was a trial and our usual cooking style is rustic at best!

As is our way, we gathered all the ingredients for making the macaroon shells and started by whizzing the ground almonds and icing sugar together. 

 We prepared the baking parchment by drawing circles, using a pencil, on the sheets.  These were then turned upside down and placed on a baking sheet ready for the macaroon mix.

Then we moved onto whipping the egg white, food colouring and sugar.  There was a very slight lilac tinge to the mix... more on that later.

Next the almond/sugar mix was folded into the meringue. 

Finally, the mix was placed on the baking parchment, smoothed with a wet teaspoon, the tray was tapped (to remove bubbles) and then left to dry for 15 minutes.  After this time, the macaroons were baked in a 170ºC oven for 10 minutes. 

Unfortunately, by the time they had cooked there was not a hint of lilac to the macaroons - in fact, they were more of a pale salmon shade and they most definitely did NOT look like the ones pictured in the recipe booklet.

However, we persevered undeterred.  So, the mascarpone and yogurt was combined.  After allowing the macaroons to cool fully, one macaroon was spread with blackcurrant jam and another half with mascarpone mix.  Then the macaroons were sandwiched together.

The taste test was next and we can confirm that they were delicious, although not that pretty to look at.  

Half the recipe amount made 8 small macaroon pairs. 

Thank you to Rachel's for sending us the selection of yogurts... the Limited Edition Strawberries and Cream Yogurt was a perfect quick dessert for our weekend of watching tennis at Wimbledon.  The remainder of the Fat Free Blackcurrant Yogurt will be turned into Ice Lollies which is as simple as freezing the yogurt in suitable containers then waiting for summer weather to enjoy them!

Monday, 2 July 2012

Carluccio's, Coffee and Ice Cream

The good news is that after many months, we finally found time to have a meal at Carluccio's.  It's an eatery we've been keen to try since reading about their Gluten Free menu.  The bad news is that we were so overcome by having such wonderful choice of food that we could order, we forgot to take pictures to show you.  However, by way of consolation, here's a pic of the wondrous menu....

Having studied the menu, we made our choices.  Sous Chef J went for pasta with a tomato and basil sauce, B chose pasta too and I had the risotto special (with asparagus).  When we placed the order we were told there'd be a wait of at least 15 minutes to allow the chef to cook the gluten free pasta which was fine with us. 

The food arrived on time.  Was admired and eaten with gusto.  Pasta dishes were declared yummy and I thought the risotto was excellent.

It was then time to move onto picking desserts.  Sous Chef J went for a vanilla ice cream, B chose panna cotta and I first opted for the chocolate fondant but, alas, it had sold out so went instead for Affogato with coffee.  This is what this blog post was inspired by!

Having seen the ice cream and coffee dessert at Carluccio's, Sous Chef J wondered if we could replicate it at home, so we gave it a try.  He gathered all the equipment needed.

Next, I added some vanilla ice cream to the latte glasses (nowhere near as  neatly as Carluccio's do!) whilst Sous Chef J brewed the coffee for us.

Then it was time to pour the coffee over the ice  cream and dive in.  We found these sundae straw/spoons very useful for getting to the bottom of the glass.

Here's a close up of the straw/spoon for those who fancy a look...

... and this is the view from the person eating/drinking the dessert!

Our first meal at Carluccio's was great.  We will be returning and will aim to take pics next time... although can't promise to.  I am keen to try the chocolate fondant and hope they haven't run out next time we're there.  We'll also spend more time looking round the shop as we liked the look of the HUGE meringues on sale.

This dessert could easily be made with Swedish Glace dairy free vanilla ice cream and we're sure it would be just as good as the one we made.