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Wild Blackberry and Baklava Dessert.

Wild Blackberry Panna Cotta and Baklava Dessert.
Blackberry Panna Cotta with an Apricot and Nut Baklava.
Served with Whipped Cream, Sharon Fruit and a Blackberry Sauce.

British hedgerow meets Italian cream meets Ottoman delight.
Wild Blackberries are growing in abundance here in England at the moment. I don’t think I have ever seen so many fruits – it’s a bumper year.
After a few hours picking and culling the little black jewels, I put 500g of fruit to one side and froze the rest.
The recipe for today is a Wild Blackberry Panna Cotta with an apricot and nut Baklava. Served with whipped cream, Sharon fruit and a Blackberry sauce.
This dessert can be made in advance, chilled in the refrigerator and served when ready.

Ingredients:

Blackberry Panna Cotta: (makes 5 150ml desserts)
500ml double cream.
200ml skimmed milk.
1 tsp vanilla extract.
1/2 tsp agar agar or setting agent of your choice.
300g fresh blackberries.
70g sugar.
4 tabls water.

Blackberry Sauce:
200g fresh blackberries.
25g sugar.
Juice of 1/2 lemon.
2 tabls water.

Apricot and Nut Baklava: ( makes 20 x 25 tray bake)
15 20cm x 25cm sheets of filo pastry.
300g ground mixed nuts (100g each of walnuts, hazelnuts and almond)
180g melted butter.
150g dried apricots – pureed in a food processor.

for the Baklava syrup:
100g sugar.
210 ml water.
180g honey.

Garnish:
2 ripe Sharon fruits.
15 fresh blackberries.
125ml double or whipping cream.

Method/cook:

Blackberry Panna Cotta:
Add the blackberries, water and sugar to a pan and bring to a boil.
Once boiling, turn down the heat, add the agar agar, simmer for 4 minutes.
Next, blend the blackberry and agar agar mix then pass through a fine sieve. Set aside.
Bring the milk and double cream to just boiling. Thoroughly whisk in the blackberry and agar agar mix.
When combined, divide into five 150ml dariole moulds. Leave to set overnight.
When set, and ready to serve, loosen the at the edges then dip the moulds in hot water for 1 minute. Turn out your Panna cottas on to serving plates.

Blackberry Sauce:
Put all the ingredients into a pan.
Bring to a boil and simmer for 4 minutes.
Once simmered, pass through a sieve and set aside to cool.
Once cooled, chill in the refrigerator.

Apricot and Nut Baklava:
Set oven to gas 3 or 160°C/325°F
In your baking tray, place a single sheet of filo pastry and brush well with butter.
Do this with a further 4 sheets of filo – brushing each layer with plenty butter.
Now add a layer of ground nuts Approx’ 8 tabls’ and a layer of apricots. (see image)
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Add a layer of filo and press down. (see image)
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Now brush with butter and again add a further 4 layers of well buttered filo.
Add a further layer of nuts, followed by 5 more buttered layers of filo pastry.
Bake in the oven for 45 mins’ to 60 mins’ until golden brown.

Now make the Baklava syrup:
Place all ingredients in to a pan, stir and bring to a boil. Boil for 3 minutes.
Once boiled, turn down the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Set aside.

Once the Baklava has baked, cut in to squares. Leave to cool and then pour over the warm Baklava syrup.
Leave to soak for several hours – preferably overnight.
(see image – minus a few irresistible squares)
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Serving:
Turn out your Panna Cottas on to serving plates.
Add two squares of Baklava.
Spoon on ripe Sharon fruit.
Top your Panna Cotta with whipped cream and Blackberry sauce.
Garnish with fresh blackberries.
Optional: top cream with roasted ground mixed nuts.

Enjoy.

bread, broth, food blogging, food photography, oxtail, pickles, quenelles, recipes, restaurant food, savoury, soup, thefoodygrail.com

Glazed Oxtail with Prawn Quenelles, Oxtail Broth and Pickled Radish. Accompanied by Mini Miso buns.

Glazed oxtail in an oxtail broth.
A rich glazed oxtail dish with prawn quenelles, pickled radish and mini miso buns.

“Oxtail and Prawns!!” I hear you exclaim. The same indignation, to my choice of ingredients, was forthcoming from two family members. Not one to take umbrage, I set out to offer them the ‘proof in the pudding’ as it were.
Later that day, the soothsayers of culinary fusion were not only eating ‘oxtail and prawns’ but their negative words also.

Ingredients:

Oxtail: makes approx’ 1.5 litres of broth.
600g oxtail or 4-6 cuts of oxtail.
270g celery or 4-5 sticks – chopped.
150g red onion or 2 small red onions – chopped.
150g carrot or 1 large carrot – peeled and sliced.
50g unsalted butter.
1.2 litre of rich beef stock. One Knorr rich beef stock pot is fine.
1/2 litre of water.
3 tsps tomato puree.
2 bay leaves.
2 sprigs of fresh thyme.
2 tsps chopped parsley.
2 garlic cloves – sliced.

Glaze:
300ml rich beef stock. Half a Knorr rich beef stock pot is fine.
3 dessert spoons of honey.
2 dessert spoons white wine vinegar.
1 dessert spoon of light soy sauce.
Black pepper to season.

Prawn Quenelles: makes approx’ twelve if using teaspoons.
200g cooked prawns.
20ml double cream.
1 egg white.
1/2 tsp wasabi paste.
Seasoning – salt and pepper.

Pickled Radish:
4-5 radish sliced.
1 level dessert spoon of sea salt.
50ml white wine vinegar.
1 1/2 dessert spoons of sugar.

Mini Miso Buns: makes approx’ 12 buns.
200g strong bread flour.
125ml warm water.
1 tsp sugar.
7g fresh yeast or 1 dessert spoon of dried yeast or 1 tsp of easy yeast.
2 tsps ground coriander.
2 heaped tsps miso paste.
1 egg yolk mixed with 2 tabls of water for egg wash.
1 tsp of caraway or sesame seeds.
Extra flour for kneading.

Garnish:
1 spring onion cut in to fine strips.

Method/cook:

Oxtail:
Set oven to gas 7 or 220°C/425°F.
Place cuts of oxtail in a baking tray. Drizzle with oil and roast in the oven until well browned. Aprox’ 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
While the oxtails roast start to prepare the broth.
Melt the butter in a large pan.
Add the celery, onion and carrot to the butter and sweat until soft.
Next, add the tomato puree and cook out for several minutes.
Add the stock, water, herbs and garlic and bring to a simmer.
Once simmering remove from the heat.
When the oxtails have roasted, add them to the broth and simmer for 2-3 hours, or until the oxtail meat is tender.
When the oxtails are cooked turn off the heat and leave the broth and oxtails to cool in the pan. Once cooled remove the oxtails and set aside.
Season the broth with salt and pepper. Blend the broth with a hand blender and pass through a sieve. Set aside.

Mini Miso Buns: (Don’t add salt as the miso paste is salty.)
Firstly mix the flour with the coriander – set aside.
If using fresh yeast or active dried yeast, dissolve yeast with the warm water and the sugar.
After yeast has fermented, and frothed up, add to the flour and coriander. Form a dough and kneed for 5 minutes.
Place dough in a floured bowl. Cover the dough and leave to prove, in a warm place, until doubled in size.
Next, on a floured surface, roll out the dough to approx’ 13cm x 11cm. Spread with miso paste (see image)
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Fold the dough over a 1/3 (see image)
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Fold the dough over another 1/3 to create an oblong (see image)
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Spread more miso paste over the top half. (see image)
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Fold the bottom half of the dough up over the top half. (see image)
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Roll out the pastry to approx’ 20cm x 30cm. (see image)
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Roll up the pastry in to a sausage shape. (see image)
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Once rolled, cut in to 10-12 slices. (see image)
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Lightly dust each slice with flour and press down with the palm of your hand. (see image)
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Place your dough portions on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with caraway or sesame seeds. Leave to prove and double in size. (See image)
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Once proved, bake at gas 7 or 220°C/425°F for 20 minutes.
Once baked place on a cooling rack. (See image)

Once cooled, store the buns in an airtight container.

Prawn Quenelles:
Place prawns, egg white, wusabi and seasoning in a food processor.
Blitz to a smooth paste.
Add the cream and blitz until thoroughly combined.
Using two teaspoons, form quenelles with the prawn mix.
Steam the quenelles in a bamboo steamer over a pan of simmering water for 4 minutes. (see image)
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Note: If you don’t have a steamer, poach the quenelles
in simmering water.
When the quenelles are cooked, remove from the steamer, and set aside.

Pickled Radish:
In a dish, sprinkle the slices of radish with the salt.
Leave for 2 hours and drain off any liquid.
Rinse the radish in cold water and then dry.
Heat the vinegar and sugar in a pan. Once boiling pour over the radish.
Leave the radish for 1-2 hours to pickle. Set aside.

Glaze:
Set oven to gas 7 or 220°C/425°F
Place all the glaze ingredients in to a saute pan and bring to a simmer.
Add the previously cooked oxtails.
Spoon over the glaze and place in the oven to re-heat.
Cook the oxtails in the glaze for 35-40 mins. Baste at 10 minute intervals.
When the oxtails are heated, remove the pan from the oven, place on the hob, and continue to reduce the glaze for several minutes while basting the oxtails.
Set aside and keep warm.

Now that all the prep is done it’s time to put the dish together.

Re-heat the broth and the quenelles.
Place a ladle full of broth in to each of your warm serving bowls.
Place a glazed oxtail in to each bowl, followed by portions of quenelles and pickled radish.
Garnish with spring onion and drizzle with extra glaze.

Enjoy.

chocolate, chocolate cream, desserts, food blogging, food photography, ice cream, licorice, liquorice, recipes, restaurant food, sweets, thefoodygrail.com

Fruit Tart with Liquorice Ice Cream and Blackcurrant Jelly.

fruit tart with liquorice ice cream
Fruit Tart with Liquorice Ice Cream. Served with Chocolate Cream and Blackcurrant Jelly

A melt in the mouth sweet pastry filled with a tangy fruit compote and topped with a dark chocolate cream. But it doesn’t stop there; Jelly and ice cream will take you back to your childhood…Mmm liquorice and blackcurrant.

Ingredients: Makes 6 tarts.

Liquorice Ice Cream: (makes approx’ 500ml)
3 egg yolks.
75g sugar.
300ml whole milk.
30ml double cream.
20g skimmed milk powder.
1/4 tsp salt.
1 tsp vanilla extract.
1 1/2 tspns liquorice powder.
1 tsp liquorice syrup.
1g ice cream stabiliser. (Optional)

Pastry for tart cases:
200g plain flour.
125g chilled butter.
50g caster sugar.
1 beaten egg.
Pinch of salt.

Blackcurrant Jelly:
100ml blackcurrant cordial (50% juice).
100ml summer fruit juice.
1 level tsp Agar Agar or jelling agent you prefer.
Note: I prefer agar agar as it sets to a gel at room temperature and makes wonderful soft jellies.

Fruit Compote:
180g Frozen summer fruits.
3 dessert spoons sugar.
Juice of 1/2 lemon.
3 tbls of cold water.
1 heaped tsp of cornflour.

Chocolate Cream:
150g Dark chocolate (70% cocoa)
110ml skimmed milk.
35ml double cream.
1 1/2 tsps sugar.
1 tsp vanilla extract.

Garnish:
6 fresh strawberries
6 sprigs of mint.
Zest of 1 large orange.
Or use fresh fruits of your choice.

Method/cook:

Ice Cream:
Mix 2 dessert spoons of the sugar with the ice cream stabiliser. Set aside.
In a thick bottomed pan heat the milk, cream, milk powder, salt vanilla, liquorice powder and syrup to 82°C / 180°F. Note: Bring to a simmer if you don’t have a thermometer.
When the milk mixture has reached the required temperature, remove from the heat, and leave to cool for 3 mins’. Stir in the sugar and stabiliser mix.
With a whisk, cream together your egg yolks and remaining sugar in a heat proof bowl.
Now add your hot milk mixture to the egg yolks and sugar to create a custard – combine with a hand whisk.
Note: Make sure that your milk mixture isn’t to hot as it will scramble the egg.
Pour the custard back into your thick bottomed pan, and on a low heat, stir until the custard thickens. When the mixture coats the back of a spoon remove from the heat.
Note: If you have a thermometer. Heat and stir the custard to 60°C / 140°F and cook until the custard has thickened, about 5 mins’.
Strain the custard into a clean bowl and leave to cool.
Once cool refrigerate until chilled.
Once chilled, churn your custard in an ice cream maker.
Store your finished ice cream in a suitable container in the freezer.
Note: You can make this ice cream without the stabiliser but it will freeze to a firmer texture.

Jelly:
Heat all the ingredients to just boiling.
Pour the hot fruit liquid into an oblong mould or dish, lined with cling film. Pop any bubbles that may form. Set aside to set. (See image)
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Tart Pastry cases:
Rub the chilled butter into the flour and salt.
Combine the sugar and the beaten egg.
Make a dough by combining the the egg mix to the flour mix.
Wrap in cling film and chill until pastry is firm.
Note: Initially this pastry mix is quite sticky. Have some extra flour ready to sprinkle over your hands when combining into a dough. Refrigerate the dough overnight, if you can, as it will help when it comes to rolling out.
When the dough has chilled divide into 6 equal portions and roll each piece into a circle – large enough to line 10cm tart cases.
Line six 10 cm tart cases with pastry. Bake blind for 10 minutes at gas 6 or 200°C/400°F
After 10 mins’ remove tart case from the oven. Remove parchment and baking beans and bake for a further 5 mins’ at gas 3 or 160°C/325°F.
Once baked remove from oven and leave to cool.
Note: Baking blind – line uncooked pastry tarts with parchment and weight down with baking beans, dried peas or rice. This stops the bases of the tarts rising (See image)
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Fruit Compote:
Except for the cornflour, in a pan, heat all the ingredients to a simmer.
Mix the cornflour with 2 tabls of water and add to the simmering fruit mixture.
When fruit mixture thickens remove from the heat and set aside to chill.
Note: Don’t be tempted to add extra sugar to the compote. A slight tang or sourness is required to balance out the overall sweetness of the final dish.

Chocolate Cream:
Put all the ingredients into a pan and heat gently. As the chocolate melts whisk all the ingredients together until smooth.
Place in a clean receptacle to cool. Once cooled, place in refrigerator to firm to a piping consistency.

To serve:
Dust the edge of each tart case with icing sugar.
Half fill the tart cases with fruit compote. Top with a swirl of chocolate cream.
Turn out the jelly and cut into cubes. Arrange on the plate with slices of strawberry.
Tip: Strawberry slices will stick to the sides of the moist jelly cubes – it gives a little height and interest to the dish.
Pipe more chocolate swirls around the plate.
Place a scoop of ice cream topped with orange zest with your finished dish.
Enjoy.

food blogging, food photography, pickles, recipes, restaurant food, savoury, terrine, thefoodygrail.com

Chicken Terrine with Sweet Pickle.

Chicken Terrine.
Chicken Terrine with Asparagus, Pistachio and Black Pudding. Served with a Sweet Pickle.

A moist Chicken Terrine, that is so easy to make, you won’t buy from the Deli’ ever again. For those that don’t like liver this Terrine is worth a try – as it doesn’t contain any.

Ingredients:

Terrine: Serves 8-12
Non-stick loaf tin with approx’ outer measurement of 25cm x 13cm x 6cm.
500g chicken thigh meat – (weight without skin and bone)
120g or 2 slices of black pudding – cut into small cubes.
1 red onion – finely chopped.
knob of butter.
1 large egg – beaten.
100ml double cream.
50g crushed pistachio nuts. (don’t grind)
1 tsp salt.
1 tsp black pepper.
Dessert spoon of chopped Thyme.
Dessert spoon of chopped Tarragon.
2 tabls Madeira wine. (optional)

For lining and layering the tin:
12-14 rashers of streaky bacon.
3 bay leaf.
1 medium carrot.
6 Asparagus spears.

Sweet Pickle:
100g cauliflower – break or cut into small florets.
5 radish sliced.
50g red pepper – diced.
3 spring onion – sliced.
100g cucumber – remove seeds and cut into thick slices.
Coarse salt.

For the pickle sauce:
250ml white wine vinegar.
2 tsps Tumeric.
1 tsp ground Coriander.
2 tsps English mustard.
1 tsp Mustard seeds.
1/2 tsp ground Cumin.
4 heaped tsps Cornflour.
80g of sugar.

Garnish:
Sprigs of fresh Dill.
1 large red or yellow pepper roasted – skin and seeds removed then sliced.
Fresh slices of crusty bread – toasted. Bread of your choice.

Method/cook:
Start by making the pickle first. Veg’ has to be salted for 24 hours.
Add all your prepared vegetables to a bowl.
Generously sprinkle with coarse salt and mix.
Add the veg’ and salt mix to a colander and sit over a bowl – cover with a cloth.
Leave the covered veg’ for 24 hours in a cool place.
After 24 hours rinse the salted veg’ in cold water. Set aside.
Now prepare the pickle sauce.
Mix the spices, mustard and cornflour with 2 tabls of the vinegar. Make a paste.
In a pan, bring the remaining vinegar and sugar to a boil – then simmer.
Add the spice and cornflour mix to the simmering vinegar – whisk until thickened.
Taste the pickle sauce. If more sweetness is required add a little more sugar, a teaspoon at a time, until you are happy with the flavour. 80g of sugar is usually enough, but everyone’s taste buds are different.
When you are happy with the sauce, remove from heat, and stir in your rinsed veg’ Place your Sweet Pickle into a sterilised jar or airtight container. Leave to cool.

Chicken Terrine:
Peel carrot and cut into 3 lengths. Cut each length into thin strips. Blanch in boiling water for 3 minutes. Cool and set aside. (see image)
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Blanch the Asparagus spears in boiling water for 3 minutes. Cool and Set aside.
Lightly fry the onion in the butter until soft.
Add the black pudding cubes to the onion and fry for 3 minutes. Set aside and cool.
Add your chicken meat to a food processor and blitz until smooth – about a minute.
Empty blitzed chicken meat into a mixing bowl.
Tip: Place your mixing bowl over crushed ice to keep the meat cool.
To the chicken, mix in the beaten egg followed by the cream.
Now add the salt, pepper, herbs, cooked black pudding, pistachio nuts and the Madeira – thoroughly mix. Set aside.
Line your loaf tin with streaky bacon, leaving a 5cm overlap all the way around. The overlap can be folded over to seal the top of the terrine later.
Time to layer your Terrine.
Put a layer of the chicken mix in the base of the loaf tin.
Now layer all of your Asparagus onto the chicken layer – lightly press down.
Add another layer of chicken mix over the Asparagus – smooth with a spoon.
Add your slices of carrot to create a layer of carrot.
Add the rest of the chicken mix over the carrot layer and smooth with a spoon.
Fold over the overlaps of streaky bacon, so the final layer of chicken mix is covered. Place 3 bay leaves on top (see image) and seal the top with a layer of tin foil.
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Cook your Terrine in a Bain Marie – see below.  Gas 4 or 180°C/350°F for 1hr 30 mins with the foil on. Then cook a further 30 mins’ without the foil.
Once cooked, remove the Terrine from the oven and cover with a fresh piece of foil. Sit in a clean tray and place a weight on top. I use an oblong glass dish filled with water. Use a brick if you have one. Leave to cool and refrigerate over night.
To turn the Terrine out, run a thin bladed knife all around the edge of the Terrine. Turn the Terrine over onto a board or plate and turn out – give a tap or shake (See image)
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Bain Marie method: Place your loaf tin, with prepared Terrine, in a roasting tray and top up with boiling water until water reaches half way up the loaf tin.
Tip: Place your roasting tray, with loaf tin, in the oven then add the boiling water – much safer than lifting a tray with boiling water sloshing around.

Serving:
Serve a slice of the chilled Terrine with your Sweet Pickle.
Garnish with slices of roasted red/yellow pepper and sprigs of fresh dill.
Toasted and buttered bread of your choice.
Tip: Pick some of the veg’ out of the pickle and blend the rest. It makes a great sauce.

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Ginger and Apricot Steamed Sponge with Irish Liqueur Ice Cream

Ginger and Apricot Steamed Sponge Pudding
Ginger and Apricot Steamed Sponge with Irish Liqueur Ice Cream.

Who doesn’t love a warm steamy pudding? I have been called a puddin’ from time to time, (pudding originally from the Latin botellus, meaning “small sausage”) so make what you will of that.

Ingredients: (Makes 6 – 8cm x 5cm puddings)

Sponge:
175g softened butter.
175g caster sugar.
175g self raising flour – sieved.
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda – sieved.
3 large eggs – room temperature.

6 individual pudding moulds – 8cm x 5cm.
Butter for greasing.
8 fresh ripe apricots.
50g stem ginger – chopped. (See recipe below or buy ready made)
12 heaped tsps golden syrup.

Ice Cream: (for ice cream maker. I use a MEDION MD16223 maker)
150ml semi skimmed milk.
320ml double cream.
50g sugar.
50ml Irish Cream Liqueur.
Tip: If you want a stronger alcohol taste add more liqueur and reduce the milk by the same amount – ie: extra 20ml liqueur reduce milk by 20ml.

Stem Ginger recipe and stock syrup:
260g peeled fresh ginger – sliced.
400ml water.

Stock Syrup:
500ml water.
200g sugar.
1 slice of orange.
1 slice of lemon.
1 bay leaf.
3 cardamon pods.
3 cloves.
5cm cinnamon stick.

Method/cook:

Ice Cream:
Bring all the ingredients to a simmer – leave to cool.
Once cooled add the mixture to ice cream maker to churn.
After approx’ 50 minutes it will form a soft ice cream.
Transfer soft ice cream to a plastic container – with lid – and pop in the freezer for several hours.
Note: Ice cream made with ice cream makers still need to be popped into a freezer – don’t expect the ice cream maker to give you a finished product. Once the ice cream reaches an almost frozen state the mixing paddle will stop turning, but not all the mixture is frozen. Add this extra freezing time to your timings. Ice cream makers with integrated compressor are best.

Stem Ginger:
In a pan, with a lid, simmer the sliced ginger in the 400ml of water until soft – 40-60 mins’. Be careful that the pan doesn’t boil dry.
While the ginger simmers make the stock syrup.
Put all the stock syrup ingredients into a pan. Bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes.
When the ginger is soft add the stock syrup and simmer until liquid is reduced by half and syrup thickens.
Store in sterilised jam jars.

Sponge: 
Firstly prepare the pudding moulds.
Grease each mould with butter.
Pop a small amount of chopped stem ginger into the bottom of each mould.
Add a 2 heaped teaspoon of golden syrup to the bottom of each mould.
Slice 6 apricots and line each mould. (See image)
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Once the moulds are lined, prepare the sponge mix.
Crack the eggs into a dish and beat with a fork until well mixed. Set aside.
Seive the flour and bicarb’ of soda together. Set aside.
Cream butter and sugar with an electric whisk – or use a wooden spoon if you feel that you need a work out.
Once the butter and sugar are well creamed add the beaten egg a little at a time.
Once all the egg has been incorporated fold in the sieved flour and bicarb’ of soda.
Divide sponge mixture between the 6 moulds. (see iamge)
Note: Chilled eggs will cause the mixture to split, so use eggs that have been stored at room temperature. If the mixture splits before all the egg has been added, mix in a dessert spoon or two of the sieved flour – this should fix it.
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Cover each pudding with parchment paper and then a piece of tin foil. Secure with elastic bands. (see images)
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Note the fold in the parchment paper – this is to allow the sponges to rise during steaming.
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Steam the sponges for 30-35 mins.
To steam the sponges, line the base of a large pan with baking beans or a wire trivet.
Just cover the beans or trivet with water and bring to a simmer.
Add the sealed puddings to the simmering water and top up with boiling water so the level reaches half way up the pudding moulds. (see image)
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Put a lid on the pan and steam the puddings for 35-40 minutes on a low flame.
Once cooked, remove parchment paper and foil. Turn out onto plates and serve with the ice cream, fresh apricot slices and fresh cream.
Enjoy.

duck breast, food blogging, food photography, recipes, savoury

Duck Breast with Rhubarb and Orange Chutney

duck with rhubarb and orange chutney.
Duck breast served with spiced stuffed peppers and a rhubarb and orange chutney.

You’d be ‘quackers’ not to try this for yourself.

Ingredients:  (serves two)
2 duck breasts.
seasoning – salt and pepper.

Chutney:
1 stick rhubarb.
Juice of 1 large orange.
Zest of half an orange.
1/4 onion – diced.
1/2 clove garlic – crushed.
100ml chicken stock.
1 dessert spoon of mango chutney.
2 tsps sugar.
1 dessert spoon of olive/veg’ oil.
seasoning – salt and pepper.

Stuffed Mini Peppers:
8 mini sweet peppers – washed.
80g couscous.
110ml hot chicken stock.
1/4 onion finely diced.
1 button mushroom finely chopped.
1/2 chilli finely diced.
1/2 tsp turmeric.
1/2 tsp ground coriander.
1/2 tsp paprika.
4 dessert spoons olive/veg’ oil.

1 dessert spoon of mango chutney.
2 sun-dried tomatoes – chopped.
seasoning – salt and pepper.
drizzle of olive/veg’ oil for roasting peppers.

Garnish/salad:
1 bunch of watercress – washed.
zest of 1/2 an orange.
1/2 chilli sliced.
2 sun-dried tomatoes – sliced.
Drizzle of olive oil.

Method/cook:
Firstly prepare the stuffed peppers.
In a heat proof dish add your hot chicken stock ( bring the stock to a simmer) to the dry couscous. Leave to soak for ten minutes.
Add oil and spices to a frying pan and gently warm – don’t overheat as the spices will burn.
Add onion, chilli and mushroom to the warm spices and cook until onions are soft. Add a touch more oil if the pan becomes dry.
Once the onions are soft, add the contents of the pan, the sun-dried tomatoes and mango chutney, to the soaked couscous. Season with salt and pepper and thoroughly mix. (Keep the pan for cooking chutney as it contains a residue of flavour.}
Cut the top off the peppers – see image:

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Stuff the peppers with the couscous mix and place in a baking tray.
Replace the tops and secure with cocktail sticks.
Wrap a ring of foil around the peppers to keep them upright – see image:
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Drizzle your peppers with oil and roast for 30 minutes at  gas 6 or 200°C / 400°F.
When the peppers are cooked, carefully trim off any stalks from their bottoms. Keep warm.

Rhubarb and Orange Chutney: 
In the frying pan add the oil, onion and garlic – lightly fry until onions are soft.
Then, add the orange juice, zest, rhubarb, stock, mango chutney and sugar – place a lid on the pan and gently cook until rhubarb is soft.
Once the rhubarb is soft blend the ingredients and season with salt and pepper – set aside.

The Duck Breast:
Set oven to gas 7 or 220°C / 425°F
Score along the skin of each duck breast – 6 to 8 cuts on each breast.
Season each breast with salt and pepper.
Place both duck breast skin side down in a medium hot frying pan.
Fry duck breasts until skin is golden brown.
When skin is golden brown, seal the flesh sides of duck breast and place in pre-heated oven for 8-10 minutes – if you like your meat pink. 20 minutes for well cooked but not over done.
When cooked, leave to rest for 4 minutes before slicing.

Garnish/salad:
Mix together your washed watercress, orange zest, sliced chilli.

Serving:
Slice your cooked duck breast and serve with the stuffed peppers, watercress salad and rhubarb and orange chutney.
Garnish with slices of sun-dried tomatoes. Drizzle with olive oil.

Enjoy this simple but tasty dish.

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Chocolate Layer Cake

One for the Chocoholic…well a slice at least.

Chocolate sponge dessert.
A moreish chocolate sponge cake with layers of summer fruits and fresh cream. Crème de Cassis and a chocolate cream, flavoured with star anise, add a touch of luxury.

Well, I had to make something sweet to show off my latest charity shop purchases – two retro jugs, a 60’s glass plate and a nondescript little pot – all for a tenner.

Ingredients:

Chocolate Genoise Sponge:
4 eggs.
115g caster sugar.
90g plain flour.
25g cocoa powder.
55g melted butter.
1tsp vanilla extract/flavouring.

Chocolate Cream Coating:
400g dark chocolate – 70% cocoa.
300ml milk.
100ml double cream.
2 tsp sugar.
3 star anise.

Fruit Filling and Sauce:
500g Frozen summer berries – use mixed fresh berries if you like.
100g sugar.
Juice of 1/2 a lemon.
5 tablespoons of Crème de Cassis. Or use Blackcurrant juice if you prefer.
4 tbls cold water.
4 tsps cornflour mixed with 5 tbls cold water.

Cream For Filling:
100ml whipped cream.

Chocolate Flakes/scrolls:
200g Dark chocolate:

Garnish to serve:
Fresh summer fruits – I chose raspberries.
300ml Double creme.

Method/cook:

Chocolate Genoise Sponge:
Grease and line a 20cm x 25cm baking tin with greaseproof paper.
Set oven to gas mark 6 or 400°f/200°c
Sieve the flour and cocoa powder together into a bowl – set aside.
In a small dish mix together the melted butter and vanilla – set aside.
Crack the eggs into a heat proof bowl, add the sugar, and whisk over a pan of simmering hot water, with a electric whisk, for 5 minutes.
When the egg and sugar mixture has thickened and increased in volume, to ribbon stage, remove from the heat.
Using a balloon whisk, gently fold half of your sieved flour and cocoa powder, and half of your melted butter mix into the egg mixture.
Fold the remaining flour, cocoa and melted butter into the egg mixture.
Pour sponge mix into prepared cake tin.
Bake at gas mark 6 or 400°f/200°c for 20-30 minutes on middle shelf.
Once baked leave to cool.

Chocolate Cream Coating:
Break 200g of the chocolate into small pieces and place into a pan along with the milk, cream, sugar and star anise. Bring to a simmer and gently stir the ingredients until all the chocolate has melted. Turn the heat to its lowest setting and leave for 5 minutes for the star anise to impart a subtle aniseed flavour.
After the 5 minutes, remove milk and chocolate mix from the heat. Strain to remove star anise and leave to cool for 30 minutes.
Melt the rest of the chocolate (200g) in a heat proof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Once melted add to the cooled milk mixture and whisk by hand to incorporate all the ingredients into a chocolate cream. It will thicken to a fudge texture as it cools further.

Fruit Filling and Sauce:
Place all ingredients, except cornflour and water mix, into a pan.
Place pan, with lid, on a low heat and bring to a simmer to dissolve the sugar.
Once the the ingredients are simmering stir in the cornflour and water mix.
As soon as the fruit mixture thickens, remove from the heat and place in a clean bowl to cool. Once cooled, refrigerate until chilled through.

Chocolate Flakes/scrolls:
Melt chocolate, in a heat proof bowl, over simmering hot water.
Once melted, pour chocolate onto work surface, marble slab – or, as I do, a piece of slate. See image:_V2A4098
Leave the chocolate to set at room temperature.
Note: If the chocolate is too cold it won’t form scrolls/shavings so don’t be tempted to speed up the cooling by placing it in the refrigerator.
When the chocolate has set, scrape a knife along the surface of the chocolate to create the shavings. See Image:_V2A4106
Use the blade of the knife, horizontal against chocolate, and drag from top to bottom across the surface of the chocolate. Keep the top of the knife slightly tilted towards you. Don’t dig the blade into the chocolate, just add enough pressure to create the scrolls/shavings.
Keep scraping across the chocolate until you have enough flakes/scrolls to cover the cake – top and sides. Transfer the choc’ flakes/scrolls to a clean tray and place in the refrigerator to chill.

Building The Cake:
For the final cake I cut 4 oblong sponge slices- approx’ 12cm x 22cm and 2cm in thickness. See image:_V2A4094
Drizzle each slice of sponge with Crème de Cassis or blackcurrant juice. See Image:_V2A4096
Pipe, narrow, lines of cream onto three of the slices and spoon fruit filling between the lines of cream. See image:_V2A4099

Now stack the sponges to create the layers – lightly firm and remove any cream that may ooze out. See Image:_V2A4101

Cover the stacked sponge with the chocolate cream: See image:_V2A4103

Now cover your cake with your chilled chocolate flakes/scrolls.
Finally, pass the remaining fruit filling through a fine sieve to be served as a sauce.

Tip: If the sauce is to thick after chilling just add a little more Crème de Cassis or blackcurrant juice.

Serve:
Serve your final cake with fresh pouring cream, fresh fruits of your choice and the fruit sauce.
Enjoy.