Thursday, September 25, 2014

White Chocolate and Cardamom Rice Pudding with Rose and Raspberry Sauce

I rarely eat white chocolate on its own as I find it very sweet and just not as enjoyable as a good milk chocolate, but I cook with it quite often. I had been thinking of making a white chocolate cheesecake when I came across this rice pudding recipe and I am glad I changed my plans as this made the most gorgeous creamy dessert.  I have taken my recipe from one I found on the epicurious recipe web site and have only adjusted it a little to reduce the sugar and use whole cardamom pods, not ground spice.

The syrup I have served with this is a mixture of rose petal jam and sieved raspberry puree which goes very well with the cardamom flavours but the rice is pretty good on its own and I think all manner of fruit syrups and compotes would go well with this.

For the Rice Pudding
a half cup of round grain rice (I just use a rissotto rice for puddings)
a third cup of milk
a half cup of whipping cream
3 whole green cardamom pods
1tbs white sugar
85g good quality white chocolate (the Lidl 200g bars are very good value)

  • Place the rice, sugar, milk, 3 whole cardamom pods and cream in a saucepan and bring up to a simmer.
  • Continue to simmer very gently for 30-45 minutes; cooking time will vary with the type of rice you are using so start checking after 20-25 minutes and if it is getting a little dry add in a tablespoon or two of water.
  • Stop cooking once the rice is tender.
  • Take the pan off the heat and gently stir in the white chocolate.
  • Check for sweetness and add extra sugar to taste.
  • Remove the three cardamom pods and discard them.

To Make the Sauce
The quantities below will just make a small amount of sauce but you can scale up if you think you might like this served with other things too.

3 tbs sieved raspberry puree
2 tbs of rose petal jam

Stir the raspberry puree and rose petal jam well together. I kept the jam as it was from the jar but if you want to remove any 'bits' from the sauce you might want to sieve out any rose petal pieces.

I was able to glean a few autumn raspberries from the garden but you could just as easily use pre-frozen raspberries. I don't like raspberry pips so I always lightly cook  (usually in the microwave) and sieve raspberries before adding them to sauces.

This Autumn Raspberry variety is Polka and it has produced lovely large fruits.

My rose petal jam came from a middle-east food store and it has a rather more syrupy than set jelly texture, so using it in cooking has been more successful than spreading it on toast!

Finally to serve you might like to sprinkle a few chopped unsalted pistachio nuts on for colour and texture.

I like the rice to be served just warm and to pour a small puddle of sauce into the middle.

The quantities will just serve four people but if you sneak too many tasters while you are making it you may only have enough to serve three. I found the rice to be very moreish and had consumed quite a lot by the time it actually got dished up.
I am submitting this recipe to the September challenge of Choclette's We Should Cocoa blog spot as the theme this month is to cook up a dish that combines jam and chocolate. Choclette's  Chocolate Log Blog web site has a wonderful selection of recipes and if you like rose flavouring you will find several good ideas for using it in her recipe collection.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Bouchon Bakery Cookbook 'Fuhgeddaboudits'

This is the slightly unusual name for a chocolate covered Rice Krispie Treat 'made better' by the Bouchon Bakery team and as they say in the recipe introduction they have taken the basic 'treat' part as is and then covered it with a layer of caramel and dipped each piece in chocolate. This is one of the simplest recipes in the book so long as you are happy tempering chocolate#.

I find the physical format of the book puts me off using it; basically it is a very heavy book weighing over 2.5 kg and an awkward square shape. Too big to fit in my book stand it has to sit flat on the counter and then seems to take up half of my work space measuring  28cm x 56cm when open. But I whinge too easily, and this is really a very well written bakery book that has not skipped on any of the details you will need to get a professional level of product consistently right.
Bouchon Bakery Cookbook (Signed by Chef Keller)
My only error on this recipe was to allow the cut cripies to sit out uncovered for too long on a humid day and I paid for that with not so crisp crispies. For personal preference I would also up the amount of caramel to twice the given amount.


100g unsalted butter
225g store bought marshmallows
127g Rice Krispies

130g bought dairy caramels (I added 2 tbs double cream to aid melting) ##

260g high cocoa content, tempered# milk chocolate (I worked with a larger amount to make dipping easier)

Fleur de sel for sprinkling  (I missed that bit out)

I made my treats into bar shapes but the recipe calls for rounds that are formed in a silicone mould with 6.5cm diameter cavities. I'll keep my notes to the bars as these are so much easier to work with and can be cut to whatever size you want.


  1. Line the base of a 2cm deep brownie/deep baking pan (20cmx30cm size approx) with parchment paper and grease the sides if pan is not none-stick.
  2. Weigh the Rice Krispies into a large bowl.
  3. Melt the butter in a medium size saucepan on a low heat and then add the marshmallows.
  4. Using a silicone spatula (or other nonstick spatula) stir the marshmallows until melted and then pour onto the Rice Krispies. The mix gets very gloopy.
  5. Quickly stir all to coat the cereal evenly and then tip out into the lined baking tray and level as quickly as possible.
  6. While the base is cooling gently melt the caramels over a low heat. I added a couple of scant  tablespoons of cream to get a slightly softer caramel but this is personal choice as I am wary of chewy caramel and my dentist bills. You just need a little, you are not making caramel sauce.
  7. Once the caramel is melted, pour it over the marshmallow crispie base, spreading it out evenly and leave to set.
  8. Once cool turn the base out onto a board and using a sharp knife cut into the size squares or bars you want.
  9. Line up the cut bars on a sheet of non-stick paper or a silicone mat (they get sticky!) and arrange another tray lined with non stick paper to take the pieces once they are dipped. 
  10. Get your chocolate ready to dip by tempering it using whatever method you prefer#.
  11. Arrange your dipping setup by having the undipped pieces on one side of the chocolate bowl and the tray for placing the dipped pieces on the other side. I am right handed so I place undipped pieces to the left of the bowl and the dipped pieces on the right hand side. As you are placing a dipped piece onto the tray put in down on the far right hand top corner and work towards yourself and then down a row so each time you are not carrying anything over the top of an already dipped item. This avoids those many random drips landing on already dipped pieces. That's the theory, I am not very disciplined so tend to mess the system up every time.
Dipping hints:
  • You want work fairly quickly so the chocolate does not cool too much and go out of temper.
  • Keep stirring the chocolate between dipping every 2-3 blocks so you keep the temperature uniform throughout the bowl. I use a narrow silicone spoon that I  keep in the bowl while I am working but be sure the handle is long enough that it will not fall and get submerged into the pool of chocolate.
  • Keep the caramel layer on the top, if you think the item has flipped over in the pool of chocolate flip it back before trying to lift out as the fork will sink in to the caramel if the item is lifted out upside down.
  • Use a chocolate dipping fork or a large narrow tined dinner fork, this helps to drain off excess chocolate. A plastic fork with the middle tines snapped off may also work but is better on smaller items.
  • Carefully place a bar into the pool of chocolate, caramel side up and using the stirring spoon flood the top surface with chocolate to get a complete covering and then lift out and allow the excess to drain off into the bowl before transferring the bar to the separate sheet. 
  • Gently tapping the fork handle onto the side of the bowl can help but be careful as all too easily the whole bar will just drop off the fork.
  • If too much chocolate stays on the piece it will run off into a large base (see below) when the item is placed on the cooling paper which looks a bit clumsy but who complains about extra chocolate.
 Once the bars have cooled you can of course carefully cut off the excess chocolate from the base.
These went in to work and went down a 'treat'!

I am submitting my 'Fuhgeddaboudits' to this month's We Should Cocoa - Marshmallows blog challenge which is being guest hosted by Rebecca of  BakeNQuilt who chose marshmallows as the special ingredient for August. The 'We Should Cocoa' monthly challenges are managed by Choclette over at Chocolate Log Blog where you will find all manner of delicious chocolate recipes.

# The Callebaut Institute in Banbury have produced a video of how to temper chocolate in a microwave which is a very clear and tells you what you are doing to the chocolate to get it in temper. They are using their own products but of course the process is the same for all bought 'real' chocolate, bars just need to be chopped up. Link:  Beverley Dunkley on Microwave Tempering.
##This only gave a thin layer of caramel, I would double the amount next time.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Tapas for Bloggers Around the World

I have been very slow to wake up to the delights of Spanish cuisine and in particular just how perfect tapas meals are for folks like me who much prefer to graze than restrict themselves to one main dish. Tapas is for me, the ideal tasting menu, you get to choose exactly what you are going to eat and in what order, perfect!

So I finally discovered this huge culinary omission from my life during a short trip to Seville earlier this summer.  Being a small city, Seville is a easy to walk around and we went in May when it was warm but not too warm. I am now dreaming of living somewhere where orange trees just grow in the streets, whole families sit around tapas bars till late in the evening eating and drinking while their children play happily around them; it was all such a beautiful experience.

I cannot hope to recreate the warm friendly buzz of those packed tapas bars back at home but I can hope to learn how to prepare some of the food. To that end I was checking out all of the cookbook sections in the Seville book stores to see what the Spanish might be cooking from, and was particularly taken by a rather modern looking title:
As I do not know more than a few words of Spanish I am relying very heavily on translating each word as I go along, which is slow, but the recipes are quite brief. Many of the tapas dishes in this book remind me of some rather wonderful food we had at restaurant La Azotea which was mentioned in the trip report written by David Lebovitz that inspired me to go to Seville in the first place. Despite our lack of Spanish we were made to feel welcome in all of the places we went to eat, but the staff at La Azotea were particularly warm and friendly, and the food was wonderful. Within minutes of them opening it was standing room only, but somehow they kept track of everything, and everyone, and when I wasn't focusing on the excellent food I was eating, I was mesmerised watching the staff managing the chaos with charm and ease. Actually a few of the places we went were just as busy and just as slick at dealing with it; I couldn't help thinking about experiences back in the UK and wishing they were not so far removed from this.
So my first dish from my new book 'Pintxos' was a simple 'croute' of red pepper, blue cheese and toasted almonds, shown on the mixed plate above at the back.  I used Cornish Blue, a cheese which is a quite fresh and mild blue, that I much prefer to many stronger blue type cheeses. I can get this cheese quite easily in North Devon but it is also available online from the producer.

Cornish Blue Cheese
The croute is a 1cm thick slice of a multi-seed baguette. This is topped with a piece of roasted red pepper which has been marinated in olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar. The blue cheese recommended is roquefort which I used the second time but really much preferred the Cornish blue. The amount of cheese allowed for each croute in the recipe is 30g but I used a little less. The cheese is sliced to sit in one piece on top of the pepper and then about 8 grams of toasted almonds are sprinkled on top of the cheese. The retained juices from marinating the peppers are then drizzled on top. The recipe used nibbed almonds but I just had pin almonds in my cupboard and was too lazy to chop them up.

The combination of sweep pepper salty tangy cheese and toasted almonds was unusual but really good.
The other tapas dish that I made for this meal was a tiny portion each of fresh pea and ham soup. I had recently picked the last peas from a small patch in my garden and found some quite mature pods in amongst the more tender ones. I put these slightly more floury peas aside and used them for this soup.
This was really very basic, just the podded peas cooked until tender in some ham stock that I had kept from cooking a ham joint earlier in the week. The peas and stock were then liquidized and sieved to obtain a perfectly smooth soup. To serve, the tiny cup of soup was garnished with some cubes of ham sizzled briefly in butter and added just before serving.  I really like soups served this way in small portions but with intense flavours.
The rest of my tapas plate was pretty much served as bought, Spanish ham, olives, ripe beefsteak tomato and good tinned tuna, prawns, and those lovely little bread sticks we were served everywhere in Seville which I managed to find in my local Marks & Spencer food section.

So I am submitting my Tapas meal to the Bloggers Around the World August food challenge where Christian has already posted up some of his own wonderful tapas dishes .

Monday, July 28, 2014

Courgette Pakoras

Much to my delight a small patch of paddock owned by my employers and adjacent to our offices was made over to staff allotment space earlier this year, and I have one of the plots. It is a nice size for a lazy gardener and I am delighted to see my courgette plants fruiting regularly and a few squash starting to set too. If you grow courgettes you may also be trying to deal with a glut right now and whilst one of my favourite ways to store the harvest is to make a lot of different courgette soups to freeze, these pakoras also make a great soup garnish if made quite small.
The recipe comes from a book I acquired in the late 1990s called 'Cordon Rouge' which is the recipe book of a long since closed vegetarian and vegan cafe/deli called The Red Herring, which was in the West End of Newcastle upon Tyne, close to many of the ethnic shops and was run as a quite bohemian workers co-operative.
They baked bread in a brick based oven in a bakery they had built themselves, and if I remember right it was the only place in Newcastle I could buy my much loved organic flour from Little Salkeld Watermill based in Cumbria.

But back to the pakoras. The recipe is for mixed vegetable pakoras and although I am majoring on courgette here, at other times of the year I would use a mixture of vegetables.

Vegetable mix:
175g courgette cut into short julienne* or 175 g courgettes/mushrooms/cauliflower sliced thinly
1tbs black mustard seeds
1 large onion finely chopped
2 cloves crushed garlic
1-2 tbs oil for cooking vegetables

Batter mix:
8tbs gram flour / chick pea flour
2tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
2tsp turmeric
3tsp garam masala
1.5tsp baking powder
0.5tsp chilli powder
0.5 tsp salt or to taste
1tsp ground black pepper

oil for frying approx 1 litre for a small fryer/pan

  1. Heat the 1-2tbs oil and fry the mustard seeds until they pop.
  2. Reduce the heat and add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion is tender.
  3. Add the courgette/vegetables and fry gently for 2-3 mins until just softened.
  4. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
  5. Measure all of the batter ingredients into a large bow and stir well to mix.
  6. Stir the cooled vegetable mixture into the batter mix and stir well to bind the mixture together. You may need to add a small amount of water.
  7. Form the batter into rough balls. Small for nibbles/soup garnishes or larger for substantial snacks.
  8. Heat the oil in a large pan. The oil will bubble up when frying the pakoras so the pan should be less than half full of oil. The oil is hot enough when a cube of bread cooks quickly to a light brown.
  9. Gently drop the the pakoras into the hot oil (you can cook them in batches, too may at once will reduce the oil temperature too much)  and cook until a deep golden brown and cooked through. Turn the pakoras in the oil while frying to get an even colouration and cooking.
  10. Once cooked take out and drain on kitchen paper.

First pakora just into the oil
Not quite cooked enough at this point.
Draining on kitchen paper to remove excess oil

The cooked pakoras are to my taste, best when freshly fried but they can be re-heated in a warm oven when needed, or eaten cold of course.

* A microplane style coarse grater is quite good for this.

The soup I served these courgette pakoras with was a 'curried coconut, courgette and chickpea' soup based on a recipe from the Riverford Organic Farms website. I changed the recipe to leave out the cooked chickpeas but instead thickened the soup with chickpea flour. I also pureed the soup which is just personal preference. It is a lovely spicy combination using mustard seeds, cumin, chilli, ginger, turmeric, coriander and cinnamon, and it freezes very well.
I am submitting this recipe to the Spice Trail blog challenge run by Vanesther over at Bangers and Mash who has set the challenge for July to be a recipe including lots of summer spice.
spice trail badge square

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Refreshing Pink Grapefruit and Pomegranate 'Mocktail'

So this month's Random Recipe Challenge from Dom at Belleau Kitchen  is to randomly choose a cocktail from our recipe collection, or the internet, in celebration of summer. Now I would normally be the first to be found pouring a cheeky cocktail on a summer's Sunday afternoon, but I am on self-imposed alcohol restrictions to try and lose some weight, so a 'mocktail' it had to be. Actually, I really don't like that term 'mocktail' as there is nothing of a mockery about a delicious summer drink served up in a nice glass even if it does lack a bit of kick.

So having few cocktail recipe books in my collection, and those all being of the alcoholic type, I turned to the internet and had an as random as I could browse through Yummly to find something I had the ingredients for. Now the trouble with doing things last minute is you never quite have all you need, so this is a bit of a mish-mash, but it was quite delicious and very simple.

Makes 2 drinks:

1 completely ripe pink grapefruit
1 lime
1 tbs pomegranate molasses or grenadine
1 tbs syrup from jar of preserved ginger
200ml cold ginger ale (diet version in my case)
strip of lime zest and sprig of mint to garnish

  1. Squeeze the juice of the pink grapefruit and the lime into a jug and stir in the pomegranate molasses and the ginger syrup until thoroughly mixed.
  2. Stain into a chilled jug and the add the cold ginger ale.
  3. Pour into whatever glasses you like to drink from and garnish with a strip of lime zest and a sprig of mint.
Enjoy, preferable sitting outside watching bees feed off the summer flowers.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Blackcurrant White Chocolate Cheesecake Ice-Cream

You would never put a dish with that name on a menu, far too long and clumsy to say, but that is quite simply what it is, so lets not be bothered with a name.

This last week I have been reluctant to do much cooking, or at least any cooking that involves heat, but this recipe was all about chilling and very welcome too. Even when it has clouded over here in North Devon it has remained hot and humid, and not at all conducive to standing any where near a hot stove or oven. How helpful then that the July 'We Should Cocoa' challenge, this month hosted by Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary, has the theme chocolate ice cream & toppings.

Because I have been eating and drinking rather too much of late I have tried to make this a low fat ice-cream. So the cream cheese I used was a low fat version and I swapped greek yoghurt for the cream. The recipe was loosely based on this cream-cheese ice-cream from the Epicurious Recipe site. I also needed to sneak some chocolate in so instead of the sugar I used white chocolate. I also added some vanilla and lemon zest and of course blackcurrants and shortbread crumbs to complete the 'cheesecake'. This recipe does not produce the silkiest of ice-creams but it is not too sweet, not too rich and with the sharpness of the black currants really quite refreshing.

300g low fat cream cheese
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
grated zest of half a lemon
1tsp vanilla extract
100g greek yoghurt
200 g milk
125g white chocolate'
icing/powdered sugar 'to taste'

100g ripe blackcurrants washed and lightly crushed, do add more if you want a more fruity ice-cream.
100g shortbread biscuits coarsely 'crumbled' (I used a bought 'all butter' biscuit)

  1. Blend together the cream cheese, lemon juice, lemon zest, vanilla and yoghurt until very smooth.
  2. Gently melt the white chocolate in the milk stirring until completed melted and smooth.
  3. Allow the milk mixture to cool until no longer hot then whisk in to the cream cheese mixture.
  4. Taste for sweetness and add powdered sugar to sweeten further if needed. Much will depend on your own taste and the brand of white chocolate used.
  5. If you have an ice-cream maker now freeze the ice-cream base according to the instructions. If not pour the mixture into a shallow plastic bowl and place in your freezer giving the cream mixture a good whisk every 30 minutes until nearly set.
  6. Once nearly set, quickly stir in the crush fresh blackcurrants and return to the freezer until ready to serve.
  7. If your shortbread was a little pale or soft I would gently toast the coarse shortbread crumbles under a grill until they are a light gold brown, then allow to cool completely before using. You want a crisp texture and toasty flavour to contrast with the soft ice-cream.
  8. To serve, place generous scoops of the ice-cream into glass sundae dishes and sprinkle a portion of shortbread crumbles on top.
  9. Enjoy in the sunshine!
This recipe is being submitted to the July 2014 We Should Cocoa Challenge run by Choclette of Chocolate Log Blog and this month hosted by Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary, do pop over to Elizabeth's blog page to see all the other Chocolate Ice-Cream and toppings submissions.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Barnstaple Real Food Market

I was delighted to hear earlier this year that North Devon was about to get a new monthly food market to be held in Barnstaple's rather grand pannier market on the second Sunday of the month; and I eagerly went along to the first one in June. We arrived early before the crowds, and it was really nice to have time to talk to some of the stall holders before they became too busy to stop and chat. I loved the way the space had been used to place tables down the middle for anyone to stop, sit, drink and enjoy whatever they had bought.
The market ran through until mid afternoon and with hot food as well as the usual market produce for sale it was a perfect place to shop for a picnic and just enjoy it all on the spot. As we had arrived soon after opening so our picnic was breakfast, courtesy of some amazing brownies from The Green Brownie and great coffee from Ivan's Coffee
I was rather taken with Ivan's setup and in particular the use of old band kit;
And what a neat trick for using fairy lights!
The coffee was very good too.

There were plenty of stalls to choose from and we came away with a nice loaf of bread from The Red Dog Bakery
Some freshly picked crab that tasted so sweet and fresh.
Local cheese and the so hard to find raw milk.

So the market is back on Sunday 13th July with an even bigger line up of local producers. For up to date information take a look at the market's  Facebook  page or follow them on Twitter.

The traders due to attend the next market are: Olde Forge Fish, Yetland Farm, Monty's Caribbean Kitchen, Garden Jars, Calaca Loca, Stephano's Home Made Foods, Caprine Capers, Ivans Coffee, French Kitchen, Quiet Waters/Loud Flavours, Ashridge Dairy, SeaDog, Wessex Pantry, Wood Smoked, Jakes Bakes, Bampton Game, Barton Farm, Copperhill Chocolates, Evergreen Farm, Laurel Farm Herbs, Western Morning News, The Little Pantry, Middle Campscott Farm, Bobs Eggs, Devon Caterers, Wheelwright Kitchen, KT's Kitchen, American Hotdogs, Bulldog Fish Farm, John's of Instow, The Green Brownie, Big Pot Kitchen, Glampig, Red Dog Bakery, Cranfield's Foods, West Kidland Farm, Boom Kitchen, Posh Kebabs, Norsworthy Goats Cheese.

Barnstaple Real Food