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Homemade Horchata

horchata

So many countries with hotter climes than us make fantastic non alcoholic drinks like ginger beer or mango lassi. My favourite though is the Mexican classic horchata. Made with almond and rice milk and spiced with cinnamon and vanilla, this is better than a cold shower or an ice lolly. I first had it at Casa Morita but it seems to have disappeared from the menu, so here’s a homemade version! (This differs from the Spanish version made from chufa or tiger nut in the same way South and Central American Spanish varies from that spoken in Europe.)

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White Chocolate Nutella Sorbet

 White Chocolate Nutella sorbet

 Every so often, you realise you’ve never seen certain things you just assumed existed. Baby pigeons, a body positive article on the Daily Mail, a smiling traffic warden or white chocolate Nutella…

People love Nutella, especially ones like me who associate it with childhood holidays so it seemed strange that in this day and age they haven’t gone the Marmite route and brought out variations on a theme with different types of chocolate. It looked like if I wanted to try this elusive style of spread I’d have to make it myself.

I came across this David Lebovitz recipe for home made Nutella and while it looks gorgeously rich and much more alluring than the shopbought stuff, it also seemed quite labouriously faffy with its milk powder and two types of chocolate and dollops of honey. I wondered if I could simplify it and still end up with some thing essentially spreadable? I like to think I did just that and that the most difficult part of it was finding a half decent brand of white chocolate!

White chocolate Nutella spread:

  • 200g white chocolate (I used two large bars from Marks & Spencer)
  • 120ml whole milk
  • 100g hazelnuts
  • 75g sugar
  • 50ml vegetable oil

Firstly, either buy ready skinned hazelnuts or prepare yourself for a horrible kitchen job when you skin them yourself. i was advised to boil them for 3 minutes in a small amount of water and bicarbonate of soda to help loosen the skins rather than just roast them. Unfortunately my small amount must have varied to their’s and it all boiled over leaving my cooker coated in a fizzy brown liquid that clung like nobody’s business. Then when I rubbed the skins off in a teatowel, they stained the cloth forever more and although the entire skin came off, they stuck to everything like glue. I then had to roast the nuts at 220℃ for about 25 minutes to dry them out and turn them golden brown.

However this palaver redeemed itself when I went to grind the nuts in a food processor and they turned to a soft powder with ease which I haven’t noticed before with just roasted nuts. Hazelnuts finally tamed, I turned my attention to the rest of the recipe and heated the whole milk and the sugar gently on the stove. Then I broke up the chocolate and blitzed it into the hazelnuts until I had a thick paste.

white chocolate buttons and hazelnuts

Add the warmed milk mixture into this paste and blend it all together (in batches if needs be) and then return it all to the pan to heat it through and make sure the chocolate is totally melted and everything is combined. Then add the oil, a tablespoon at a time until the whole thing looks soft and spreadable rather than stiff and unyielding, bearing it in mind it will thicken as it cools. I probably used about 60ml in total but depending on your chocolate you might need more.

White chocolate Nutella jar

Pour into a sterilised jar and allow to cool. It will be scoopable and spreadable and in my experience very very good with homemade mini doughnuts. It isn’t as smooth as the shopbought version or David Lebovitz’s one but it tastes great and I don’t mind the texture of the nuts. The only problem is that because of the fresh milk it has a fairly limited shelf life even if kept in the fridge so I decided to turn it into sorbet using this recipe from The Little Loaf as a rough guide.

White Chocolate Nutella Sorbet:

  • the jar of Nutella from above
  • 200 ml water
  • 50g sugar
  • 100g extra white chocolate

Heat the water gently and dissolve in the sugar, melting in the extra white chocolate in lieu of the cocoa powder in the original recipe and then stir in the homemade Nutella until you have a thick shiny custard like soup. If you really don’t want the texture of the nuts in your sorbet then strain the mixture through a sieve at this stage. If you don’t mind/are lazy, pop it all in a bowl and chill well before either churning in your ice cream machine or mixing with a fork every so often in the freezer to create a sorbet.

This is the grown up glamourous sibling of that childlike doughnut dip. Icy cold, nutty and sweet, it’s as sophisticated as chocolate spread gets. It’s delicious, but very rich and a little goes a long way but the whole thing is preserved by freezine so you can dip in and out every time you get the craving. I plan to serve it on the side of the dark chocolate sorbet as a real contrast or as an ice crem sandwich so you still the Nutella on toast vibe. I’m even more baffled as to why I’ve never seen a white chocolate version before. It’s converted me to what I always thought was kids’ chocolate!

White chocolate Nutella sorbet

 

Home cured uncooked bacon

Makin’ Bacon

I’m not actually a big fan of bacon. Yes, it was the one thing that caused me to fall off the wagon when I was a vegetarian, but that was more to do with the fact of it being 10pm on a cold April day in Ireland up a mountain and the choice of either eating the proffered bacon butty or going to bed hungry and chilled to the bone. I don’t actually remember the first time I ate bacon after stopped being veggie and I only buy it about twice a year.

A recent care package from the north stuffed with Porcus bacon and Bury black pud reminded me that it’s not bacon I don’t like, it’s cheap or mass produced bacon that doesn’t float my boat. So since I can’t get Mister North to pop to the post office every week with some rashers from the Porcus girls, I decided that I would try making my own bacon to see if I could tempt myself.

A quick Google search established that I wasn’t setting myself an impossible task. Basically I needed a hunk of pork belly, a surprisingly small amount of salt, saltpetre and some time. It sounded fairly simple and I was quite excited to get cracking. I went to Walters in Herne Hill and got him to cut me 1.8 kilos of pork belly into two pieces (including the bones) and skipped home to get curing.

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