I have a question for you. Are there days when you are constantly on the move or in some kind of a rush? Every single day I hear you shout! I lead a small life and generally I have a very fixed timetable. Usually. There are times though when everything I’ve learnt about time management just goes out of whack. Whatever I planned for the day just gets thrown out of the window and I just…just…squeeze in the basic things on my to-do list. Do you have one of those? I do. Crossing out all the tasks rarely happens, no news there I guess, though I relish that yes-I-have-achieved-so-much-today feeling. Don’t you love that?
I wasn’t going to write about this recipe now, well at least for the coming few weeks, but yesterday I’ve noticed that some of my readers were looking for it through this blog. These days I found myself more and more drawn to Nigellissima; you see, even though it’s not my favourite book, I will always be a fan of Nigella, and I did say that the puddings and cakes in Nigellissima (or at least those that I have been making) are very very good. And I had no doubt about that. I will not be trying any more of the savoury stuff, just because in my humble opinion there are much better books out there which cater for the Italian foodie. So I don’t think you will find anything other than the puddings here, but that is not to say that I will never write about the other things, just because I cannot predict the future. You know I will always rave about the sweet stuff…
So one of my latest favourites is the Chocolate and Orange Mousse. Now don’t tell me that this is too sweet for you – the chapter is called Sweet Things so you have been warned. If you don’t want to faff about so much in the kitchen, or you just don’t have the necessary time (you really don’t need much though) to make the one in Nigella’s latest publication, you will find that the one in Express is very similar in richness, takes less time and ingredients to make, but will still give you great results. However I prefer the orange and chocolate one. Short cut ingredients may help you in the long run, but if you want to make something really really good you must take your time. I’m glad I tried this, and now I really don’t see the need for the mousse in Express anymore, just because this could just be *it*. It’s light, airy and fluffy, and the orange and chocolate combo reminds me of the festive season, so I will definitely make this again, perhaps for Christmas lunch. It just needs to sit in the fridge for a while, and you can also make it the day before so less stress. Individual portions also makes life a lot easier. Just what the doctor ordered. (It is also free of eggs, which is good to know for people with allergies.)
You can find the recipe here, on my blog. Enjoy!
As I have said in previous posts I rarely write about recipes the minute I try them out, so this one will break my record. Reason being that with the Olympics and the Queen’s Jubilee coming up, classic British food is all the rage. Imagine last year’s Royal Wedding times a hundred. So instead of the chicken recipe I planned to write about today, I give you this recipe for Victoria Sponge. I made it in a rush but it turned out OK.
I remember the very first one I made (around ten years ago…whoa!) didn’t taste all that great. My dreadful mistake was easy to spot: instead of using baking powder I added bicarbonate of soda into plain flour. You can stop there…again, major disaster! What was I thinking? No baking powder in the pantry, that’s what. We had friends over for dinner that evening and boy was our friendship tested! They *all* had a slice of the sponge and still said it was good. When I insisted on feedback they admitted that it was “soapy”. Poor things! (On a serious note I dislike people who snobbishly, *not* for health reasons of course, refuse good food cooked for *them* when they are invited over at your home. This has happened to me and I’m sure it has happened to you.)
I have finally made a sponge which I really like. It’s very very simple. All you need though are two 7 inch sandwich tins or one 7 inch cake tin. If you only have a different size you could always try it out as I have previously done. It will work but don’t give it more than 15 minutes (per sandwich tin). I recently made one using a different recipe for the top and bottom layer to try things out, like a rebel! Ha!
There are two main versions of Victoria Sponge – one with jam and whipped cream, which is perfect when gobbled up in one sitting by you and your many friends, and the jam minus cream one, like the one I like to make, great for fewer people, assuming that you won’t eat 5 slices each (or so we hope). With the Great British Summer on our doorstep (yeah..right) this is just what we need! Enjoy.
- 125g butter, softened
- 125g golden caster sugar
- 125g self-raising flour
- 2 eggs
- Raspberry jam (or strawberry)
- Heavy cream for whipping (This tastes much much better than the pre-made stuff!)
- Preheat the oven to 170ºC – 180ºC/325ºF/Gas mark 4-5 (depending on type: gas or electric).
- In a medium mixing bowl beat the butter and sugar preferably with an electric whisk until fluffy and light (turning almost white in colour).
- Beat in the eggs, one by one with a tablespoon or two of the flour after each egg. Then gently fold in (don’t beat) what remains of the flour.
- Pour the sponge mixture into greased sandwich tins and bake for around 20-25 minutes in two tins, or 35-40 minutes in one.
- When sponge is done, place the tins onto a wire rack and leave for a few minutes to cool down. Remove the sponge from the tins to cool completely. Spread one layer with good raspberry jam and whipped cream. If the jam you are using doesn’t have enough chunky fruit pieces it would be nice to add some fresh berries. Then place the other layer on top and sprinkle as much icing sugar as you want!
These days some of my friends are making it very easy for me to decide what recipes to write about. Yesterday a friend told me that she was making some cupcakes and thought of me, which was very very nice of her, me thinks. Today I had a little chat with another friend of mine about the joys of pasta, and how it can be classified as comfort food. As a typical Maltese I enjoy a nice plate of pasta once in a while, not only because it is one of the easiest things to prepare, but because there’s nothing better than pasta with a sauce made from simple ingredients. The Italians serve pasta as a primo, which is as it should be. But unfortunately in general we (as in non-Italians and not as in Maltese please) have made the portions bigger and bigger.
Cooking with chorizo is one of my favourite things to do. It wasn’t common in recipe books at all but lately it’s becoming more and more popular. It’s cured and smoked, and it can be eaten as is, but it gives a great depth of flavour when incorporated into your cooking. It is very strong and salty so go easy with it, but be brave and try it. For those who are new to it (just like me a couple of months ago) here’s something you should consider – a recipe which I tried recently from James Tanner Takes 5. (You know how much I like this book so I won’t bore you again!) It’s quick and uncomplicated. Simple enough, but you will want a second helping. James’ recipe calls for penne, and I can see why. I used tagliatelle instead and if he were here he would probably tell you to use whatever you like. However if you like to eat bite-sized chunks of meat and pasta at one go, then it’s penne all the way!
A little note about the ingredients before you start. If like me you don’t have sherry vinegar in your pantry, try using some white wine vinegar instead, and please don’t panic when you see that this recipe needs whipping cream. You don’t need it…really. James suggests using half-fat crème fraiche instead and it works fine. Tried and tested. Don’t let it heat up too much though because it tends to curdle. James cooks with shallots, most probably because they will give you a delicate flavour which is needed against the chorizo. I must confess that I didn’t have those so I used one common onion. I could have tried using spring onions instead. Also you can adjust the pasta quantity depending on how many people you’re having over for lunch. The quantities below are James’. Serves 4.
- 350g dried penne
- 250g chorizo, cut into diagonal thin slices
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 shallots
- 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
- 125ml whipping cream or half-fat crème fraiche
- Cook the penne according to the packet instructions.
- In the meantime, slice the chorizo, and heat the olive oil in a pan. Tip in the shallots or onion and soften over medium heat for around 2 minutes. Add the chorizo and crank up the heat until it starts to release some of it’s oil.
- Add the sherry vinegar and leave to cook for around another minute or so over high heat and stir to deglaze your pan. Pour in the cream or crème fraiche, but don’t boil it if you’re using the latter. Just let it heat up and remove at once from the heat. Season with some fresh ground pepper.
- Drain the pasta and add the sauce on top into warm individual bowls.
Enjoy with a glass of chilled white vino and eat it in the garden!
Since Valentine’s Day came on a Monday this year, I thought it would be nice to celebrate a whole Valentine’s Weekend instead. It was also a good excuse for cooking something different every day and for testing some recipes.
The whole story behind Mouclade (in other words, Mussels with Cream) began on our first trip to the Lake District. On our last day we came across a beautiful hotel called The Queen’s Head and decided to stop there for lunch. I ordered the mussels; J had the fish pie. I was already in love with the place but when I saw (and later tasted) this big 800g pot of loveliness, I was in Food Heaven. Therefore it was only logical to head back there (excuse the pun) on our second trip and this time both of us ordered the mussels again. We were not disappointed – they tasted even better!
So until we go back once more for a third helping, I found four gorgeous recipes: two by Nigella, one by Lorraine Pascale and another by James Tanner. The following is my interpretation. I’m very pleased with the result. For two 500g portions you need:
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- knob of butter
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- ¼ teaspoon curry (optional but worth trying)
- 375 ml white wine (preferably not too dry)
- 1 kg mussels
- 150 ml double cream (single would also be fine)
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon parsley (optional)
- Clean the mussels in some cold water to remove grit and beard, and discard any which are open and do not close when you knock on them gently.
- Chop the onion finely and gently fry in some butter. When it turns translucent add the garlic and curry.
- Add the wine (I used a Chardonnay). When the liquid has reached boiling point add the mussels and shake very gently to distribute them evenly around the pan. Cover the pan and let simmer for 3 – 5 minutes.
- Once they are open add some salt, pepper and all the cream. Shake gently again, sprinkle some parsley and serve with crusty bread. Remember to remove those mussels which have not opened and put a bowl on the table for discarded shells.
Simply divine. Enjoy!