Posts

Chocolate Mousse Trifle

trifle

Merry post Christmas and Happy New 2016! I hope you had a fantastic festive season and aren’t planning to punish yourselves in anyway with month long detoxes or exclusions? You can drink a wee bit less or eat more vegan food any time you know. A pissing wet January weekend isn’t my moment to have a major life change, but I guess everyone’s different…

My big difference this Christmas was that I didn’t cook. I ate some excellent food but for once I allowed other people to cook for me. And it was absolutely wonderful.

My lovely friends went out of their way to welcome me to their homes and tables over the holidays and make food I could eat and make no fuss when there was something I couldn’t. As a result I enjoyed each and every time I ate and felt more treated and spoiled than if I’d been plied with gifts.

This was my first Christmas in England and I decided to go the whole hog and do as many firsts as possible and try as much new stuff as I could. I ate my first blini, drank my first Baileys, ate Brussel sprouts and pigs in blankets with Christmas dinner, had a snowball and the big one, made and ate my first ever trifle.

I have always loathed the idea of trifle. Technically I have never loathed trifle because I have never eaten trifle until last week. It’s not something we do in our family and frankly, I’ve always found it rather English.

My only childhood experience of trifle were terrifying ready made Dale Farm ones made of lurid jelly, cryogenically suspended tinned fruit and squirty cream begging to be put out of its mercy. Other Northern Irish children of the Eighties probably remember these in Crazy Prices or Stewarts too. I believe one was supposed to wash it down with some of that day glo orange squash children were practically weaned on in those days since it came in milk bottles beside your daily pinta.

I never touched them no matter how rude it made me look when I went to friends’ houses for tea after school. Luckily most adults were so tickled by a small child refusing sugar that they forgot to tell my parents what a precocious brat I was. Once I got to secondary school, trifle just seemed to vanish out of my life and I’ve avoided it ever since.

Listening to this Radio 4 programme with Tim Hayward before Christmas was my equivalent of watching a horror film. I ducked beneath the bed covers at least once as they discussed jelly and declared myself trifle-phobic.

Then it all happened. My friends who I was joining for Christmas dinner asked me to bring a dessert. I decided to make a version of this chocolate prune cake but with chestnut puree instead of dried fruit. This was my no cooking Christmas after all and that cake is so simple you can make and bake it in under an hour.

But what you can’t do at 1am on the morning of Christmas Eve is take it out of a bundt tin without it breaking into moussey hunks of panic on your kitchen worktops. Emergency Googling told me you have two options with a broken cake: cake pops or trifle.

And when you’ve got Christmas Eve plans involving prosecco and good jamon and better manners than turning up to Christmas lunch with no desert, you go with trifle.

One swift trip to Tesco Express later and I had the makings of a chocolate mousse trifle. I would layer the sliced cake up and pour raspberry coulis and fresh raspberries over it, add homemade chocolate mousse, more raspberries and whipped cream and it would all be fine.

Apart from the fact a trifle-hater doesn’t usually have anything they can make trifle for 6 people in and carry it around the corner with ease. Which is how I found myself making a bucket of trifle in a Tupperware container big enough to bath a baby, but yet easy to transport.

This actually make enough trifle for 16 people so it was going to be too weird to excuse myself from eating my own dessert. I dug in and told myself it wasn’t really trifle because the cake hadn’t been moistened but was meant to be like that.

And it was delicious. Incredibly ridiculously rich. But delicious. Turns out I’m not trifle-phobic. I’m just fussy. But you probably all knew that anyway…

Chocolate Mousse Trifle (serves an even dozen at least)

For the cake:

  • 400g dark chocolate
  • 200g chestnut puree
  • 175g butter
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 6 egg whites
  • 3 tablespoons icing sugar

For the mousse:

  • 400g milk chocolate
  • 175g butter
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 6 egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the trifle:

  • 350g raspberry puree
  • 200g fresh raspberries
  • 500ml double cream

You could of course just make the cake or the mousse and not bugger either of them up and serve them separately. But if I’d done that I wouldn’t have had an amusing anecdote or a blog post.

Grease and flour a 9 inch cake tin. You can use a bundt if you want to save on some of the effort of slicing, but a standard tin is fine. Heat the oven to 175℃.

Make a bain marie by placing a large bowl over a pan of water on the cooker, making sure the water doesn’t touch the base of the bowl. Melt the chocolate, chestnut puree and butter together in this. Separate the eggs and set aside.

Once the chocolate is melted, take it off the heat and set carefully into a sink of cold water to cool. Beat the egg whites with the icing sugar until stiff peaks and set aside.

Take the chocolate out of the water and beat each egg yolk into it one at a time with your electric whisk to add lots of air. Then fold in the egg whites a third at a time.

Pour the mix into your cake tin and bake for 40-45 minutes. The cake will rise massively in the oven so allow breathing space. Once the top is slightly cracked and light in colour, take out and let it cool on a wire rack.

Make the raspberry puree by blitzing either defrosted raspberries or fresh ones with a tablespoon of icing sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice and set set aside.

Slice the cooled cake and layer into a trifle bowl (or enormous tupperware container.) Pour the raspberry puree over it and add about half the raspberries. Allow to sit while you make the mousse. You could use that bottle of Chambord you have knocking round instead if you prefer.

Set up up your bain marie again and melt the chocolate and butter together. Separate the eggs and cool the melted chocolate well. You do not want scrambled egg while you’re making trifle (obviously I got it on Christmas Eve and just carried on anyway.)

Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks with a pinch of salt and set aside. Add the vanilla extract and beat each egg yolk in one at a time and then fold in the egg whites a third at a time.

Pour over the cake and raspberry puree and chill for 4 hours or overnight. About an hour before serving whip the double cream and spread on top of the set mousse and decorate with the remaining fresh raspberries. Serve and convert all the trifle haters and jelly doubters!

 

Fodmap Friendly Granola

fodmap granolaThe places that those pesky fodmaps can hide is never ending. If there is isn’t wheat in one thing, there’s lactose in another and honey in the next. Ironically the ‘healthier’ the food is, the more likely it is that a fodmap trigger will leap out at you.

I don’t really eat cereal, but I do love granola. Two things force me to make my own: the cost of the decent ones and the fact they all seem to sneak inulin in there for fibre. Inulin is the stuff that makes Jerusalem artichokes so difficult to digest for most people and it’s a super charged neon light flashing fodmap.

Discovering there was such a thing as oatgerm recently made me realise I could tweak my basic granola recipe to something all fodmappers can eat if I switch the honey for golden syrup. Before everyone gets up in arms about sugar in their breakfast cereal, let me remind you that honey is just middle class sugar. In fact it’s got a higher fructose load than the high fructose corn syrup we are taught to fear but it’s allowed to be put into things as ‘no added sugar’. Ahem.

Fodmap Friendly Granola (makes about 850g)

  • 100g jumbo oats
  • 150g porridge oats
  • 30g oatgerm
  • 30g sesame seeds
  • 30g pumpkin seeds
  • 30g sunflower seeds
  • 100g Brazil nuts, halved
  • 50g pecans
  • 100g flaked coconut (not desiccated)
  • 125g vegetable oil (or coconut oil if you like)
  • 125ml golden syrup
  • pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg white

This is so easy to make and this is a good base recipe that you can tweak to your own preferences. If you want higher protein levels, add some amaranth or if higher fibre is your thing, add chia seeds. If you can tolerate dried fruit, add about 100g as the granola cools. If like me, you like your granola more like a snack than breakfast, add some chocolate chips when it’s cooled.

Put the golden syrup and the oil in a small saucepan and heat until melted together. Take off the heat and add in the salt and the vanilla extract.

Put all the dried ingredients in a large bowl and pour the syrup and oil mix over it all and mix well. It will look like the liquid has soaked in and it will be too dry. Don’t panic. It will be the perfect amount to give a burnished golden look to the granola.

Beat the egg white slightly in a small bowl and add to the dried ingredients. This helps them to cluster together to give that luxurious feeling the posh granolas have and separates it further from its raw cousin muesli. It doesn’t make any difference to the storage of the granola because the egg is cooked.

Put the granola mix into two deep non stick roasting tins, making sure you can move the granola around in them. Cook in a preheated oven at 160℃ for about 25 minutes or until as golden as you like it. It will still be very slightly soft as it crisps up as it cools.

Give the granola a stir round before it cools or it will harden into a massive clump that you will have to chisel off the tray later. I made this mistake the first time and the mice in my kitchen are still enjoying the spoils of it exploding everywhere when I tried to lever it out of the tray.

Once cooled, stir any additions in and then store in an airtight container for up to 4 weeks. It would also be rather excellent in small cellophane or foil bags as Christmas gifts. Just leave the egg white out if you’re going vegan.

It will seem like you spent a lot of money to make a small amount of granola, but remember the ingredients make at least five or six batches for the price of two boxes of branded stuff. Plus you can eat it dry in front of the telly over Christmas and look much fancier than if you ate cereal from the packet…

 

Easy Salted Caramels

sea salt caramels 2

As my blogging career goes on, I grow fonder and fonder of making things with sugar and better and better at it. I always know we’re at the crossover time from autumn to Christmas when I get the urge to boil sugar. There was rather good bacon toffee and hot buttered rum caramels and there was less successful fudge, but this year I wanted something equally sweet and impressive but much simpler to make as gifts.

I found it when I was making brigadeiros for the Brixton Blog. These are a Brazilian party favourite made from cooked condensed milk, cocoa powder and butter and then rolled into a ball and coated in hundreds and thousands. They are all chewy fudgeyness and crunch at once and I have no idea why they aren’t better known outside Brazil.

But that seemed too simple for me. I needed to give the recipes a little poke and twist to make it fit me and my love of condensed milk. I decided to omit the cocoa powder and add sea salt to the condensed milk instead for a lighter creamier, more grown up feel.

And then I remembered I had some popping candy I impulse purchased in Waitrose one day I was killing time in there. I would roll my creations in popping candy and make them pure big kid fun in one easy step. It also looks awesome with the colour of the caramelised condensed milk.

These are a great way to make homemade sweets in under an hour (most of which is cooling time) and for mere pennies if you’re looking for eyecatching gifts over the next few weeks. They’ll keep for about 3 days once rolled in the popping candy or up to 5 if you use that glimmer sugar for baking decoration instead.

Easy Salted Caramels (makes about 25)

  • 1 x 397g tin of condensed milk
  • 25g salted butter
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 25g popping candy

This is so easy and quick to make. Put the entire can of condensed milk into a heavy saucepan along with the butter and sea salt. Heat on a medium heat, stirring constantly. Do not take your eye off it or stop for a second or it will burn.

Enjoy the calming rhythm of stirring and cook the condensed milk this way for about 8 minutes or until it thickens up and looks stiff and leaves a void on the base of the pan when you drag a spatula through it.

Take off the heat immediately and add the vanilla extract, beating it through well. Pour the mixture out onto a lightly greased plate, smoothing it out so it isn’t too thick and leave it to cool for about 45 minutes.

Then using a teaspoon, scoop up a spoonful of the cooled caramel and roll it into a ball. Dredge it through the popping candy and place in a petit four case. Repeat until you have about 25 caramels.

Kids will love the rolling and dredging so feel free to use as much imagination for the coating as you fancy. This is the time to hit up the baking aisle and see what you can find.  You could also try varying the flavours in the caramels and using chopped nuts or desiccated coconut to roll them.

They are unashamedly simple and sweet and utterly delicious, like really good white chocolate. It took more willpower than I thought I had to give mine away…

sea salt caramel

Ecuadorian Potato Patties

llapingachos

I am so invested in my Irish obsessiveness about potatoes that I always forget they are in fact South American in origin and am surprised when I see them in recipes from those regions. An Ecudorian cafe has opened near me and when I Googled what llapingachos were, secretly hoping it involved llama, it turned out to be potato cakes filled with cheese. I’m sure you understand nothing about those words disappointed me despite the lack of weird shaped animal.

Potatoes have become even more important to me since going low fodmap because basically they are my fall back option now when eating out. There are always chips on a menu and for some reason other potato dishes rarely contain onion or garlic. I will never go hungry when there’s a spud around but I like to add to my repetoire of potato recipes where I can.

The original version I found of these sounded lovely but distinctly heavy on the onions. They also come in a hominy corn version I reworked for the Brixton Blog and since I was making a batch of the accompanying peanut sauce, I thought I’d tweak them to be onion free.

I know some fodmappers won’t be able to do the mozzarella inside them due to the higher lactose levels in softer cheeses. You could try using parmesan which is very low lactose or making a lactose free bechamel sauce which you chill and use to fill them instead like potatoey croquetas. Or you could go carnivorous and use leftover meat from a roast or a bit of bacon in the centre instead? I’d say the world is your oyster, but that would be awful here…

Instead of onion, I’ve added lots of green scallion (only the white bit is fodmap unfriendly), fresh parsley and a bit of fresh coriander for flavour. Make sure to use nice starchy baking potatoes and you’ll get a great shape on the patties. I froze some and they cooked well straight from the freezer for a quick brunch that combined champ, potato bread and Ecuador in one.

Ecudorian potato patties with peanut sauce (serves 4)

For the patties:

  • 4 baking potatoes
  • 2 scallions, chopped (green part only if fodmapping)
  • medium bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • medium bunch fresh coriander, chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • 125g mozzarella, grated
  • 2 -4 tablespoons vegetable oil

For the peanut sauce:

  • 4 tablespoons crunchy peanut butter
  • 250ml milk (non dairy or lactose free is fine)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground achiote (see below)
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce (use tamari if wheat free)
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • salt and pepper
  • fresh coriander, chopped
  • 1 red chilli, chopped or teaspoon hot sauce (optional)

These patties are super easy to make. I had the best results baking my potatoes to keep them drier and starchier and by baking, I mean shoving the baking spuds I bought in the microwave whole two at a time for 12 minutes. If you have the oven for something else, then use that method.

Allow the potatoes to cool down enough to handle them and split them in half and scoop the middles out into a bowl. Add the scallions and fresh herbs and season and mix in well.

Wet your hands slightly and scoop out a handful of the potaro mix into a ball, flattening it slightly onto a plate or lined baking tray. Using your thumbs, push outwards from the centre to make a hollow. Fill with grated mozzarella and then cover the cheese up again with potato so it’s completely hidden. You may need a little pinch of extra potato from the bowl.

Repeat until you have between 10 and 12 patties. Any cheese that doesn’t fit works incredibly well straight into your mouth as you put the patties into the fridge to chill for at least 30 minutes. They’ll be fine in there for up to 24 hours so make ahead if you like.

When you are ready to eat them, heat the oil in a frying pan on a medium high heat and fry the patties for about 3 minutes each side. They should get a nice crisp crust without burning and the cheese is melted. I did about 4 at a time and kept the first batches warm in a low oven.

As the patties fry, make the peanut sauce by mixing the peanut butter with the milk over a low heat. I used the Sainsbury’s Basics peanut butter I had which is slightly sweetened and it was fine so don’t worry about fancy stuff if you don’t have it.

Add the spices once the peanut butter and milk combines. Achiote is a seed used in South American cooking (and known as annatto in the Caribbean). It adds a warm yellow colour and a slightly spicy flavour not unlike nutmeg. It’s not fodmap tested and if you don’t want to use it or can’t get it, substitute it with 1/2 teaspoon more of paprika and 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg. Add the juice of the lime and the soy sauce and then take the peanut sauce off the heat and stir through the fresh coriander and chilli if using.

Serve the patties as hot as possible with the peanut sauce on the side and some fried eggs on top. A little tomato salsa or avocado if you can eat them wouldn’t go amiss either. A dish like this reminds me why brunch is a brilliant thing.

 

 

 

Fodmap Friendly Chicken Liver Pate

pateA recent health glitch involving the gallbladder I had removed when I was 18 means I’ve been stuck in the house recuperating for the last week or so. In between Googling to see if I need to see a gastroenterologist or an exorcist, I’ve almost been enjoying being round the house so much. The last few months have been a whirlwind of activity and it’s oddly comforting to have the chance to start doing more cooking than I’ve managed recently.

Coinciding with the weather becoming distinctly autumnal, the slow cooker has come back into action for more than just a whole chicken or a shoulder of pork and I’ve been enjoying de-fodmapping recipes from Slow Cooked and rediscovering some old favourites. I’ve also been meal planning again rather just eating variations of meat, rice and spinach for dinner every night in a fodmap inspired food funk.

I’ve managed to roast a chicken, make soup from it and whip up a batch of ragu that filled the freezer and made some Tuesday night cannelloni so far in the slow cooker. I felt extremely organised in between naps until I realised I’d managed to forget to put the chicken livers I’d defrosted into the ragu…

Armed with a tub of previously frozen offal and the memory of having to chuck a bag of mince in the bin the previous week because I’d been too ill to eat it, I couldn’t bring myself to throw more food out and my mind turned to pate.

I love love love pate. One of my great comfort foods has always been pate on toast. It’s a thing of joy to have a good pate filled with duck or chicken livers whether you go for rugged and chunky or smooth as silk. I even like the ones of more dubious provenance piled inch thick on toasted cheap white bread. Pate is my jam.

Except that all pate one can buy contains alliums. It’s a festival of shallots/garlic/onions/delete as applicable and thus out of the reach of my sticky little paws now. Even my own slow cooker version uses shallot. And just to add annoyance, there is often dried fruit too. I needed to adapt it but not lose flavour.

I decided to go creative and try to use up leftovers. A half drunk bottle of red wine went over the chicken livers to marinate them and depth. Since I’m supposed to watching my fat intake so as not stress my gallbladder area out and I’m not up to going out to buy double cream, I roasted some pumpkin with caraway seeds and fresh thyme to use instead. I browned some butter and fried the livers lightly in it.

Everything got blitzed together with a splash of brandy and it all went into the slow cooker in ramekins. Once cooked and cooled, I covered the tops of the ramekins with clarified butter and froze the ramekins inside a bag. Each one takes about an hour to defrost so I can have no fuss, low energy allium free lunches with ease and extra smugness.

Fodmap Friendly Chicken Liver Pate (serves 4)

  • 250g chicken livers
  • 100ml red wine
  • 100g pumpkin (or sweet potato if not sensitive)
  • 150g butter (see below for instructions)
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon brandy or red wine
  • dash lemon juice

Whether your chicken livers are fresh or frozen, it’s best to gently rinse them and remove any discoloured patches. Then carefully remove the gallbladders that are attached. These make the pate bitter otherwise. The irony of doing this to a chicken while my body was reacting to someone doing it to me was not lost on me. At least they gave me the good drugs at the same time.

Put the chicken livers in a non metallic bowl and put the red wine over them. Marinate for at least an hour or preferably overnight. This is the one time it’s appropriate to soak your liver in red wine.

While the livers do their thing, roast your pumpkin (or sweet potato or butternut squash if non fodmapping). I buy wedges of pumpkin in Brixton market and roast them chopped into chunks with the skin still on and then peel it off when it cooked.

You’re going to go through the cooking life cycle of butter next. Put all 150g in the pan, chopped into small cubes and melt it gently. Simmer it until it starts to foam and reduce and when the foaming dies down and it stops moving, pour half the butter through a sieve that you’ve lined with some muslin or a clean cloth into a bowl. The clear butter you collect is your clarified butter. Set aside until needed.

Then brown the remaining butter. Keep stirring it over a slightly higher heat and let it heat until the butter foams furiously again and turns brown and smells nutty but not burned. Watch it closely and take it off the heat at this point, pouring it into a clean bowl to cool slightly. You need to do this even though you’re going to cook in it because otherwise it will burn when you heat it again.

Heat the browned butter in a frying pan on a medium heat and when it bubbles slightly, add the chicken livers and the fresh thyme and caraway seeds. Keeping the livers moving the whole time, cook it all for 2 minutes. It’s fine if they are still pink in the middle.

Take the pan off the heat and tip the contents into a large bowl along with the cooking juices, add the pumpkin and lemon juice and with a handblender, blitz it all until it is smooth and silky looking. Add the splash of brandy and put into ramekins.

Set these in the slow cooker crock and fill it halfway with boiling water and put the lid on and cook on low for 2 hours. Or set them into a roasting tin, fill halfway with water and bake in the oven at 140℃ for 45 minutes. Either way when cooked, lift out of the water and allow them to cool.

Pour enough of your clarified butter over each cooled ramekin of pate to cover the surface well. You may need to melt it again first. You don’t want it an inch thick but enough to be noticeable. Allow it to cool and thicken. Pop the ramekins of pate in a freezer bag and seal. Freeze for up to 3 months or eat the pate from the fridge within 3 days.

I was delighted that I froze three quarters of my pate because when I started eating it in front of Don’t Tell The Bride that evening, it was so beautifully smooth and delicious I could have worked my way through the whole lot in one sitting. This way I got to feel smug that I was pacing myself and lying in bed eating pate instead of letting a man organise me a wedding I would hate. What a perfect evening.