Sunday, March 26, 2017

555/1038 - Braised pork neck with cider

We picked up a pork neck at the market last week, with the vague notion that we had seen a recipe for this particular cut in The Cook's Companion. It turns out our suspicions were correct.

We had all of the required ingredients with the exception of veal stock, which I substituted with some incredible lamb stock I had made and frozen the week before. Using an unusual combination of brandy and kiwifruit cider (which happened to be the only alcoholic cider in the house) I can now say that I have found yet another way to fall in love with pork. 

While the result was fabulous, the execution almost caused me quite serious harm. When the pork was taken out of the oven, I inadvertently touched the (very hot) side of the pot. I threw my hands up in shock and unfortunately one of them was holding the serving spoon which was dipped in the boiling stock. A good amount ended up on my face but thankfully after thirty minutes of ice pack application, the redness subsided and a crisis was averted.

After a little bit of preparation and eighty minutes in the oven, this neck was unbelievably tender and so very tasty.

Pork neck - who knew? x

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

554/1038 - Rote grütze

Having realised that 2016 was my slowest cooking year to date, I am determined to ramp up the pace in 2017. Taking a quick look at my stats, It appears I averaged one recipe a week last year. Being roughly eleven weeks into 2017, I am pleased that I am at least on track to match these numbers.

This recipe turned out quite differently to what I had expected and I am fairly sure something went wrong in the process. I have worked with sago plenty of times, but this time it just did not appear to be cooking, remaining stubbornly white no matter how long I kept my rote grütze on the boil. I am starting to wonder if my sago had sat in the pantry just a little too long...

While the finished product was not supposed to be this firm, it actually tasted very good! We have been eating scoops of it smeared on bread and semi sweet biscuits, occasionally with a dollop of cream on top.

Interestingly, even though my sago refused to become transparent, it was not at all hard and quite pleasant to eat. I may well have discovered (accidentally) that grape paste is a "thing", perhaps an alternative to quince paste given the very limited quince season.    

It appears cooking mistakes CAN equal gastronomic invention x

Monday, March 13, 2017

553/1038 - Strawberry shortcake

Many moons ago, I was asked if I had experienced a recipe failure whilst undertaking this challenge. My answer was strawberry shortcake! Sadly, although the recipe appeared to be travelling well, everything fell to pieces in the cutting stage. I decided not to blog my failure (who wants to see a picture of smashed cake?) and so here is Strawberry Shortcake, version 2.0. 

As I made the dough on this second attempt, I found myself needing to increase the amount of milk in order to get everything to hold together. This does make me wonder if the recipe should have read two tablespoons of milk rather than two teaspoons. Either that or I have made the same measuring error of another ingredient twice! Anything is possible. 

The finished product was rather more biscuit-like than I expected and while we enjoyed eating our little strawberry towers (topped with piles of whipped cream no less!), it was not a dessert that anybody raved enough about for me to put on my repeat list. 

They can't all be my favourite! x

Saturday, March 11, 2017

552/1038 - Chris's pork pie

Confession time...I missed an entire step of this recipe! The shame of this was that in our post match (well, post dinner party) discussion, we agreed that the missing step would have made this dish taste twice as good as it did.

I had good reason for skipping the final step of this recipe; actually in truth I had two good reasons! The first was that in order to fill the completed pie with a gelatinous goop, the cooked pastry was meant to have sealed without any obvious holes. Given that I had attempted to squish twice the recommended filling amount into my pastry, it is fair to say that there was not much chance things were going to hold together. The sealed bottom actually spread quite some way from the filling as it baked and so once cooked there was absolutely no fixing my rather large mistake.

I put my pie in the fridge, knowing I had ruined any chance I had of creating a jellied seal between the pastry and the meat. As I read the recipe to see what I had missed, I discovered that the jelly was supposed to have been left overnight in the fridge to set anyway. Probably lucky for my guests I didn't go there!

Read. The. Recipe.

Great advice that clearly I am never going to learn to take. Thankfully the pie was fabulous anyway, served with onion jam and mustard fruit.

Looks like I dodged another recipe mis-read bullet! x 

Monday, March 6, 2017

551/1038 - Lablabi

If you are at all into chickpeas, you simply must make this soup! 

Chickpea soup does sound a little boring, and to be honest the soup itself is just nice...but when the rest of the ingredients are laid out in bowls and the soup poured on top...well it's what I call a ratatouille moment. If you have no idea what I am talking about, you must watch this little clip.

I will admit to playing with the recipe a bit because when I first had a taste all I was getting was chicken stock. This was of course my own fault as I was plum out of harissa and so substituted it with a handful of the ingredients used to make harissa. Yes, I was aware it would not quite be the same thing...but it was worth a try! 

So as well as very badly adding a harissa substitute, I also doubled the amount of chickpeas (largely because I had cooked too many...) and also blitzed the soup just enough so that around half of the chickpeas turned to mush. Needing a dash more flavour I also added a pinch of white pepper and a tiny splash of sesame oil. 

Even better than the taste of this soup, was the amusement it provided my husband and our sixteen year old guest who each giggled every time I said the name of the soup out loud. I still don't quite know what is funny about the word lablabi and when I asked my husband to explain, he dissolved into giggles so many times it took a good ten minutes for me to get a coherent response. It turns out they just like the way the word sounds...a but like blah blahbi. Indeed. 

I will definitely be making this again, but perhaps next time I will simply announce that I have made chickpea soup. 

Unless, of course, I need a good giggle x

Sunday, March 5, 2017

550/1038 - Banana tartlets with butterscotch sauce

Given my ridiculous sweet tooth, it's hardly surprising that I am showcasing this amazing dessert before I write about the equally wonderful pork and soup that I served up before this dish on Friday night. 

Making the bases for these tartlets in quite warm weather was challenging (read: lots of chilling in between handling) and for whatever reason I had a dreadful time getting the sugar to melt when making the sauce. Not one to shy away from a challenge, I persisted with both elements and ended up with a dessert that had my table full of guests smiling from ear to ear.  

With the pastry and sauce already made, assembly at dessert time was amazingly fast. Slice bananas, lay them on the bases, top with sugar and grill. With the tartlets left under the griller just long enough to melt the sugar and toast the banana, the butterscotch sauce was a decadence that took this dessert from fabulous to "oh my goodness!"

Paired with my husband's wonderful vanilla ice-cream (he pulls his weight for our dinner parties too!), this was an incredible way to finish our evening.

Love x

Saturday, March 4, 2017

549/1038 - Lime lover's punch

Presenting...the first mixed drink I have loved in years.

With gorgeous friends coming over for dinner, I decided it would be lovely to start the evening off with a special drink. Enter lime lover's punch! 

Not being much of a drinker, I really had no idea what was in our liquor cabinet (aka the cupboard above the fridge). I had purchased spiced rum for another recipe some time ago and just assumed the majority of the bottle would still be hanging around. Not so! It appears my husband likes a drink more than I do and had polished off the bottle over the years. 

Always one to improvise, I ended up including a mixture of Grand Marnier, Malibu (my goodness, how long has that one been in there?!), cognac and brandy. The result was spectacular! 

I will admit to only adding half of the recommended alcohol and for a lightweight in the drinking stakes, the balance was absolutely perfect. 

An absolutely brilliant start to what turned out to be a perfect evening x

The menu

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

548/1038 - Pumpkin and amaretto ravioli

With renewed vigour, I am pleased to be posting my second recipe for this week. Realising that my output has diminished dramatically over the past year or so, I am determined to increase the number of blog posts over the coming months. Of course I am secretly cursing February for having only twenty eight days as a well timed leap year would have seen February's total increase to a more respectable three. No matter; it appears this month will be an impressive one!  

Ravioli is a dish that I have recently discovered is easier to make than I thought. The fear of my hard work exploding in the pot stopped me from attempting ravioli for so many years but after my first successful attempt, I am now a ravioli fiend! I use a ravioli stamper (I have no idea if that's the real name for it) which both cuts the ravioli and also provides a fabulous seal. 

I will confess I made extra pasta dough (300g flour rather than 200g) as I knew I would be too nervous to roll the dough to the finest setting. I adore our beautiful pasta machine, which was a wedding gift and so has now been used and loved by us for twenty years. The only little quirk it has is that it tears the dough when the finest setting is used. It's no big deal, I get around this by rolling to the second last setting and then stretching the dough slightly with my hands. 

Playing to my fear of exploding ravioli, I may well have slightly underfilled each one and so ended up with a mountain of ravioli (hooray!) and also some leftover filling. 

Finished with a sage and burnt butter sauce (burnt butter makes everything good!) this was a very popular meal. My youngest particularly liked following his up with a ravioli breakfast and ravioli lunch the next day. 

Speaking of the "stamper", it was a very odd day in the kitchen as I rummaged through my kitchen drawer and found not one, but two stampers in there! I think I stood staring at them for a good five minutes, completely perplexed as to how the second one found its way into my home. Upon further investigation of the drawer, I continued to find items which had been inexplicably replicated. At this point I decided that either I was losing my memory or I was the butt of a practical joke. 

The house remains sufficiently amused. 

The mysteriously replicated utensils