Friday, 4 May 2012

Carrot Pulp Loaf

The makings of this cake happened to be yet another impromptu decision when I came across Cooking for Engineers whilst making my early morning carrot juice. The wonderful thing about fresh fruit and vegetables juices is that it's great for my body and great for my health but ultimately it hurts my soul when I have to throw away all the pulp that's left in the juicer.  I've made all sorts of 'pulp muffins' before but they didn't ever come out how I always imagined... perhaps I have a stupendously larger-than-life type imagination.

When I was browsing through this crazy, interesting website I found a Carrot Pulp Cake recipe.  I couldn't not make carrot cake after seeing this so that's exactly what I did.  
With Cooking For Engineer's Recipe  they also use crushed pineapple in which I omitted and used sultanas instead although crushed pineapples does sound quite delicious.  I also used 300g of golden caster sugar instead of the granulated sugar and switched the 100g of light brown sugar to 100g of dark brown muscovado sugar.  This baked a moist carrot loaf that had triumphant carrot flavour, a delicate sweetness and great texture.  An all-round goodie.  

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Roasted Sweet Squash Soup

I absolutely adore the spring season but before I wave goodbye to the long dark nights and comfort food, I must make a roasted vegetable soup once more.  It's not that you can't have it in the spring or summer but I might just be too preoccupied with the salads and cold soups.

I have to confess, the reason this soup exists is because we have some left over vegetables.  You know when you peer into your vegetable baskets and realise that butternut squash is still there?  So what are you to do but to make soup?

This soup is sweet with a good garlicky hum.  It's tastes really wholesome with simple flavours and is perfect for a cold night.  You can also try adding leek or carrots, coriander or cayenne, and if you like perhaps some pancetta or parmesan cheese!

The key to roasting vegetables is to cut all items into similar size or in proportion as to how fast they cook.  If I am going to add my onions in I like to make the onions chunky so they won't turn to mush by the time the root vegetables are done.  In this soup, I have used two sweet potatoes, half a large butternut squash, a whole bulb of garlic and a medium onion.

Once all vegetables are cut up, throw them in with your halved garlic bulb.  Next you add oil.  I chose to use regular olive oil for its flavour.  

 For seasoning I used a mixture of dried herbs I found in my cupboards but fresh herbs would probably be ideal.  I used a mixture of thyme, rosemary and parsley.  At this point I haven't added salt or pepper.  

Mix until everything is covered in everything.

The vegetables are roasted for 45 minutes to 1 hour depending on your oven at 180 degrees Celsius.

The magical part of this soup is when I get to use my Vitamix Blender.  I have been using this baby for half a year now and it's one of my favourite kitchen gadgets.  With it's super high speed and easy to use functions, it speeds up my cooking times and makes my life really easy.  It does a really good job of blitzing this soup really smooth but if you don't have one of these, a regular blender will work or a hand held blender.  

Once you have a roasted vegetable puree, I add in a litre of chicken stock.  This is chicken stock I made a day ago from a roasted chicken carcass, root vegetables and a lot of rosemary.  Overall it compliments this soup well.  It makes sense to choose a stock you like and prefer, after all, you're the one eating it, right?

With the Vitamix you can get the whole soup heated up in about 3 minutes but I prefer to transfer it all back onto the stove top and heat through.  At this point, I add in the salt and pepper to taste.

Nothing goes better with soup than croutons ... unless you want mini toast bites!  Instead of crunchy bread I like to have toast but in croutons size!  First I spread a little oil on the pan and bread and let that toast on the griddle pan.  I toast it until it's nice and charred.

 Once this has been done, I cut up the little toasties in small bits.

At this point I add in some salt and pepper (or whatever seasoning I'm feeling for.  Garlic and parmesan anyone?) and then toss once over in the pan.  

Serve with toasties on your soup and really, really enjoy it.

Monday, 30 April 2012

Steamed Chocolate Pudding with Chocolate Sauce

An impromptu dinner calls for an impromptu dessert, because after all what is a get-together without a happy ending?  

When I knew we were going to my brother's for dinner I  couldn't pass up the chance of wowing my little nephews with another dessert.  Previously I had presented them with this beauty; a berry banana trifle.

I have to say the kids were particularly pleased but the adults weren't shy of a few helpings either.

A request for a chocolate cake with sauce brought up memories of school dinners which often featured a tray of light chocolate cake with runny chocolate custard.  Does anyone else remember that?  Some of you may have hated it but as a child who loved her school dinners, it's one of my fondest memories of school!

Newly inspired I went searching for a recipe that took my fancy when I came across The Caked Crusader's recipe for a Steamed Chocolate Sponge Pudding with Chocolate Sauce.  Now this is more the kind of cake I like and what it really should have been at school.  Looking back, that tray of cake was light yet bland and that also goes for the custard.  I wanted to make something moist and rich with a sweet and creamy sauce.  The Caked Crusader had the answer.

I didn't realise it's just so easy to whip up one of these beauties... well, in theory.  In essence it's a 'mix-it-all-together-and-bake' kind of recipe; no secrets, no Part A and B...fuss free.  

Chocolate Sauce happens to be just as gloriously fattening as I thought; chocolate, more chocolate, cream and vanilla essence.  The actual recipe can be found on The Caked Crusader's post.

CC melts chocolate sauce straight into the pan but having recently watched Heston Blumenthal's channel 4 series 'How to Cook like Heston', I decided to go for his 'seducing chocolate' method.  Basically use the bain-marie method for melting.

I wanted to just stop there and call it a day, after all melted chocolate is as good as any cake, right?  

Having melted most of the chocolate I added the double cream.  Oh what a joy.

Everything should be incorporated and just as I thought 'surely you don't need any more syrup!', I found it tasted just that much better with it than without.  That means a definite sugar hang over the next day.

I scratched my head (then washed my hands) at the actual cake mixture because I wasn't sure what the batter was supposed to be like.  Also, I was left worried because there aren't really clear step by step instructions for the mixing method.  What is supposed to go in first?  But it had to be done...

I gathered my courage and started mixing the butter and sugar, that sounds a bit cake like doesn't it?

I slowly added in the eggs and everything else and in a way I'm glad I was doing this alone.  I'm sure my face wasn't a picture of confidence.  

Having added everything together I found the mixture to be quite thick.  

So an impromptu dessert often calls for improvisational methods; when I realised I didn't have a big enough pudding basin with a lid, I frantically turned my kitchen upside down only to find this little beauty.  A plastic microwavable rice cooker!  I knew I bought this for a reason...

Poor thing doesn't get used much because traditional methods definitely beat these radical ones when it comes to rice cooking.  The contraption really is quite nifty if you are that lazy.  You'll find you can steam anything in it and if you are stuck for a pot to wash things in it becomes quite useful.  Oh and now apparently for steaming puddings too.
You are probably thinking that I microwaved the pudding!  I kid you not I did have these thoughts in my head but as I poured the batter into the buttered basin I realised not all obstacles have been overcome.  You see my brother and his family are extremely awesome and do not use microwaves in their house.  I had no choice but to submerge the foil wrapped basin into hot water and steam. 

An hour and a half later pudding was almost served but disappointingly enough I found a great big hole in the centre!  Can anyone tell me why?
The smell was absolutely divine though.  With help of the brother we tipped the cake upside down and proceeded to mould it back into a presentable shape.  The hole in the centre was giving way to the weight so the beautiful basin shape was disappearing!

In the end the pudding disappeared within seconds anyway.  It was moist, rich, not too sweet but sweet enough to the send the kids reeling.  I have to say this is a winner of a recipe and I'm sure I will do this again.  What fascinated me was that I happened to have made an inverted 'melt-in-the-middle' chocolate cake and I'm wondering how it is that I can get the sauce on the inside, next time....

An impromptu dinner calls for an impromptu dessert and somehow, I think it's the sweetest happy ending I could have hoped for.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

French Lemon Madeleines

Taking more inspiration from The Little Paris Kitchen these dainty Madeleines were served for breakfast at my kitchen this morning. With all smiling nods and a steaming cups of tea, I couldn't help but feel a bit smug having got it spot on first attempt. Next time I want to try Rachel's full recipe which involves raspberries and lemon curd. Is anyone else excited?

Vanilla Souffle

Vanilla Souffle by Miss Pretty Puff
Let's celebrate our first post with Vanilla Soufflé; above is a picture of the soufflés I made not too long ago and they happen to be my very first attempt (admittedly prior to this occasion I have actually never tasted a soufflé before, so my guesses could be all wrong).  Something you need to know about me is that I'm not a natural baker.  These cooking hands are more equipped for savoury, guess-work creations but low and behold, I managed to make the almighty soufflé!  
These little, indulgent pots of sweet, creamy fluff-goo tastes wonderful if not a bit too sweet for my liking.  I adapted this recipe from my latest book shelf addition, Rachel Khoo's 'The Little Paris Kitchen'. While I wasn't a fan of her cheese soufflé recipe, I definitely liked the original vanilla one.  I plan to make soufflé another time and as I'm a keen learner, I will be venturing into a different recipe in order to find the best fluff-goo possible.

Does anyone have an interesting recipe for me?