Thursday, 8 November 2012

Cookies to Save The day

            Sometimes the events of a day just take it right out of you. You start it off with the best intentions of it being a really good day and slowly it starts to fall from beneath your feet. Some people, myself included, will have a stiff drink and go to bed in the hopes that things will be better when they wake up. Some will hit the gym or go for a run to relieve the stress and others will sit in front of a television and slowly drift into a coma like state. If you have read this blog at all you all know that I am a comfort food guy so it should come as no shock that when I am having a really bad day you can find me in my kitchen cooking something that, in my mind, restores balance to the force. I have found that nothing does this better than cookies.

            Cookies may be the best comfort food in the world because they conjure up good memories. I don’t think that I have ever heard a bad cookie story. No one has ever come up to me and told me that a cookie has made their day worse. That in a food item is very impressive. The other thing about them is that even if you fail in making a great cookie at the end of the experience you are still eating a cookie and that is a good thing. They are pretty much the Jedi of sweets. When you make them from scratch you get the additional joy of reverting back to childhood a little and licking the beaters. You cannot help loving this and, if every girl I have ever known is to be believed, cookie dough is awesome on its own. There is something magical about the smell of them baking too. It fills your house and is inexplicably comforting. It just makes you feel good. If these reasons have not convinced you to bake some cookies think of this: after you are done baking them.... you get to eat cookies. So here we go making some cookies so you can feel better about the world at large.

White Chocolate and Cranberry Cookies to the tune of Sugar High by Coyote Shivers

1 cup butter softened
1cup packed brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup of white chocolate chips, I know you will add more and that is okay
1 cup of dried cranberries soaked for 5 minutes and drained

-Pre-heat your oven to 375. Beat together your butter and sugars until they are fluffy and your eggs and vanilla and beat until they are fully incorporated.

-In a separate bowl mix your flour and baking soda with a whisk. Slowly add the flour to the rest of your stuff until it has come together like a Beatles song. Add in your chips and berries and mix them through.

-Roll golf ball sized dough balls and place them on a parchment lined sheet pan. I get about 8 to a pan. Using the heel of your hand flatten the ball out a little and then fire them into the oven for 8-11 minutes. Keep an eye on them so that they don’t burn. Let them cool for a little while and then pour a glass of milk, my friends, because it is cookie time.

            So as some of you may have noticed there are some cookies that do not look like white chocolate ones. With some simple additions you can make them too. To your flour mixture add 2 tbsp of cocoa powder and a tbsp of super finely ground coffee, substitute dark chocolate chips for the white chocolate chips and Scor bits for the berries. And you are done. Enjoy. 

Monday, 5 November 2012

A Grand Reception for Jill and Sean Part 2

            And we carry on with Jill and Sean’s impending reception and it seems that I am in a playful mood. There is very little that has not been done or at least attempted in the world of food, I am sure that more progressive people have tried and succeeded in doing the things that I am doing in my kitchen at home. Yet I still get psyched when I pull something off that I think is cool. It is even better when I pull something off for someone else and they think that it is cool. That sounded way dirtier than I meant it, we soldier on. So here are two more of the small plates that will be appearing at Jill and Sean’s reception.

            The first of the two today is a take on Gazpacho, a Spanish soup that is served cold; it is a killer dish that can act as a very light first course or, in this case, a saucy little starter. It is very fresh and a little spicy. I am sure that mine is not traditional but it is very tasty. The inspiration for this dish came from a whole bunch of my friends who swear up and down that a spicy Caesar is the very best hangover cure in the world. I have taken some of the flavors that I associate with a Caesar and worked them into this recipe and played with the presentation to reflect the dishes origin. I hope that you dig it.

Gazpacho a la Caesar to the tune of Friday I’m in Love by the Cure.

1 cucumber peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 red and 1 yellow pepper, roasted, de-seeded and peeled
Salt and pepper
1 bottle of tomato juice
1 jalapeño diced
1 tsp of cumin seeds toasted and ground
1 tsp chilli flakes toasted and ground
A splash of Worcestershire sauce
A splash of hot sauce, tobacco or any good sauce
1 cup of water to thin it out
A splash of balsamic vinegar
Cherry tomatoes
1 red and 1 yellow pepper, coarsely chopped

-This one is super easy. Toss all of your ingredients, save the tomatoes and raw peppers, into a blender and blend until smooth. Tastes and adjust the levels of heat, salt, and acid to your taste.

-Run the mixture through a sieve to remove any pulp that is remaining.

-Skewer the raw peppers and tomatoes for the garnish. Pour the Gazpacho into a martini glass and garnish with the skewered veg. Enjoy.

            Now we move from an altered recipe to one that is a little bit more traditional. I have been playing with Spanish food on my kitchen a lot lately as you can see in this menu and one of the things that I have found and love to make is Spanish Tortilla. Now when you say the word tortilla we normally get visions of the flour or corn flat bread that we see in Mexican food. This is not the case with the tortilla from Spain. The Spanish term is somewhere between a quiche without the crust or an overstuffed omelette with potatoes being the predominant filling. Part of what I love about making this dish is the versatility of it; you can take the basic technique and put your own spin on it by adding whatever you want as a filling. I did a very basic one and then I did a fancier one with smoked salmon and asparagus. So this is one you can play with.

Spanish Tortilla to the tune of Don’t Go Breaking My Heart by Elton John and Kiki Dee

4 potatoes washed and sliced thin, I used the slicing attachment on my food processor but you can use a mandolin or just a knife. I like my spuds a little thicker but cut them to the thickness that you want.
6 eggs beaten
Salt and pepper
1 clove of garlic minced
1 onion finely diced
3 tbsp olive oil
That is the basic. Like I said you can add whatever you like if you want to try the fancy one you will need:
100g smoked salmon
6 spears of asparagus, roughly chopped and quickly sautéed  
50g of Chevre, un-aged goat’s cheese

-Crank your broiler on. Heat up half the oil in a cast iron or oven proof frying pan over medium high heat. Add in your onions and your garlic and let them sweat a little. Add your spuds and cook them until they start to soften, about 10-20 minutes depending on the thickness. Stir occasionally so they don’t burn or stick.

-Remove the spuds from the pan and let sit for a couple of minutes to cool so you can pick them up with your fingers.

-Heat up the remaining oil in the same pan over medium heat. Make sure your oil gets up unto the interior sides of your pan. Pour in half of your eggs and then layer in half of your spuds. If you are doing the fancy put your salmon, asparagus, and cheese in, another layer of spuds and then the rest of your eggs. Let it work over the heat until the edges turn a little brown and start to come away from the pan.

-Pull it off the heat and pop it into your oven for a couple of minutes until the top is a golden brown. Let it cool for about 5 minutes and then run a paring knife around the edges and then turn it out onto a serving plate. The easiest way of doing this is to put the plate face down on the tortilla, put your hand flat on the plate and then flip the pan over. It is easy just like that. Give it a try.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

A Grand Reception for Jill and Sean Part 1

            There are many things that make me smile really big and true. Amongst them are really good food, really old scotch, long walks on the beach and curling up by the fire on a cold winter night.... wait that is a different web site. Anyway, having two friends tie the knot is one of those smiling things. This just happened with my Friends Jill and Sean. They got married away from the town in which we live but, sweethearts that they are, they are planning to do a reception for those of us who could not make the journey. They asked if I would take care of the food for this reception and of course I said yes. We discussed what they wanted and we decided to do a cocktail party slash tapas sort of a thing. I designed the menu and we had a tasting and now I am going to share the recipes with you my lovelies. This will be a two or three part post so stay tuned.

            The challenge in this little endeavour is that Jill, whom you have met in this blog, is a fish and bacon eating vegetarian and her beau is a confirmed carnivore. So we have split the menu right down the middle. So today we will take on the fish and bacon part of Jill’s side and we will rock some charcuterie for Sean. I have heard that Bacon referred to as a gateway protein. It is apt because I know more than a few vegetarians who will eat bacon and even more who when asked will admit to dreaming about it. Such is the power of bacon. So here is Jilly’s first dish. Enjoy.

Asparagus wrapped in Prawn wrapped in Bacon to the tune of Fell in Love with a Boy by Joss Stone.

8  21/25 count raw prawns
4 strips of good side bacon cut in half
8 asparagus spears trimmed
2 tbsp butter
1 clove garlic minced

-Butterfly your prawns, place a spear of asparagus in the center then wrap in bacon and secure with a tooth pick

-In a medium sized sauté pan over medium low heat, melt your butter and gently fry your garlic. Add your wrapped goodies and cook until the bacon is crispy and the prawns turn pink. Remove and serve. You are done. So good and so easy, give it a go.

            On to the charcuterie, the trick to a really good charcuterie board has less to do with techniques and more to do with the quality of the ingredients that you use. Part of the fun that I have when I am putting a recipe together is sourcing out really good meats and cheeses. Talking to the people who sell the stuff is awesome. They will move you in a better direction than you originally thought possible. Such is the case with Sean’s first offering. So I will put in my thanks to a couple of folks who had a hand in making this board great. My first thanks goes out to Tomas who runs Chorizo and Co. a Spanish deli. This joint makes killer sandwiches and carries some pretty solid ingredients, including of course chorizo. Tomas also gave me this little tip to balance out the spice in the sausage. Adding a little bit of honey as you fry the chorizo it is a killer tip that totally makes the chorizo sing. So I send my thanks to Tomas. The next stop is to pick up some good cheeses. I hit up Hillary’s and the young lady, whose name I never got, helped me pick out some awesome stuff to set up the board. Cheeses to pair with the other stuff going onto the board. She set me up with some fantastic goat’s milk camembert, apple wood smoked cheddar and some fresh chevre. All this stuff worked out in epic fashion. So thanks for all the help. 
Sean’s Charcuterie Board to the tune of Don’t Let Me Down by The Beatles

2-3 good quality chorizo sausages sliced
1-2 tbsp honey
1 round of Goat camembert cheese
1 baguette, sliced
Really whatever else you want to put on the platter. Some suggestions would be pickles, smoked salmon, or a pate of some sort.

-In a medium sized sauté pan fry your chorizo to heat it through. Add your honey and let it liquefy and coat the chorizo.

-Fire everything onto a platter or a wooden cutting board and serve. It is totally easy and equally awesome. There is the first set of tapas. Enjoy.