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Tuesday
Dec112018

Nigella Lawson's Christmas Cookies

I love these dark, fat patties of chocolate shortbread exuberantly topped with festive sprinkles. There’s something so cheering about the sight of them, but they have more in their favour than looks: they are a doddle to make, and meltingly gorgeous to eat.

INGREDIENTS

Makes: approx. 24

FOR THE BISCUITS

  • 2¼ sticks soft butter
  • ¾ cup superfine sugar
  • ⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

FOR THE FESTIVE TOPPING

  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 1½ cups confectioners' sugar
  • ¼ cup boiling water (from a kettle)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • christmas sprinkles

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 325ºF and line a baking sheet with Bake-O-Glide or baking parchment.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar in a bowl and, when you have a light, soft, whipped mixture, beat in the one-third cup unsweetened cocoa (sieving if it is lumpy) and, when that’s mixed in, beat in the flour with the bicarb and baking powder. Or just put everything in the processor and blitz, if you prefer.
  3. This mixture is very soft and sticky and I find it easiest to form the biscuits wearing my CSI (disposable vinyl) gloves, so pinch off pieces about the size of a large walnut, roll them into balls, then slightly flatten into fat discs as you place them, well spaced, on your baking sheet; you should get about 12 on at a time.
  4. Bake each batch for 15 minutes; even though the biscuits won’t feel as if they’ve had enough time, they will continue to cook as they cool. They will look slightly cracked on top, and it’s this cosy, homespun look I love.
  5. Remove the baking sheet to a cold surface and let it sit for 15 minutes before transferring the biscuits to a wire rack, with a sheet of newspaper under it (to catch drips while topping them).
  6. To make the topping, put the unsweetened cocoa, confectioners' sugar, water and vanilla extract into a small saucepan and whisk over a low heat until everything’s smoothly combined. Take off the heat for 10 minutes.
  7. When the biscuits are cool, drizzle each one with a tablespoonful of chocolate glaze – to glue the sprinkles on in a minute – using the back of the spoon to help spread the mixture, though an uneven dribbly look is part of their charm.
  8. After you’ve iced 6 biscuits, scatter with some of the Christmas sprinkles, and continue thus until all the biscuits are topped. If you ice them all before sprinkling, you will find the cocoa “glue” has dried and the sprinkles won’t stick on.

Recipe featured in

Sunday
Nov182018

Brine Your Turkey for Best Thanksgiving Ever

Also, always start cooking the bird, breast-side down! (see below)

Editor's Note: I tried this a couple of years ago and it resulted in the most amazing turkey ever. Even the leftovers had far more flavor. It's a little time consuming, but not very difficult. Cooking the turkey breast-side down for most of the time is important, so do not overlook this instruction.

Ingredients 

For the turkey:

  • 10 pints 11 fluid ounces (6 liters) water
  • 4 1/4-ounces (125 grams) table salt
  • 3 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
  • 4 cloves
  • 2 tablespoons allspice berries
  • 4 star anise
  • 2 tablespoons white mustard seeds
  • 7 ounces (200 grams) caster sugar
  • 2 onions, quartered
  • 1 (3-inch) piece ginger, cut into 6 slices
  • 4 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 4 tablespoons clear honey
  • Handful fresh parsley leaves, optional (only if you've got some parsley hanging around)
  • 1 orange, quartered
  • 1 (9 to 11 1/4-pound) (4 to 5-kg) turkey

For the basting glaze:

  • 2 3/4 ounces (75 grams) butter
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup

For the turkey:

Directions

Place the water into your largest cooking pot or bucket/plastic bin and add all the turkey ingredients, stirring to dissolve the salt, sugar, syrup and honey. (Squeeze the juice of the orange quarters into the brine before you chuck in the pieces.)

Untie and remove any string or trussing attached to the turkey, shake it free and add it to the liquid. Add more water if the turkey is not completely submerged. Keep the mixture in a cold place, at or below 40 degrees, even outside overnight or for up 1 or 2 days before you cook it, remembering to take it out of its liquid (and wiping it dry with kitchen-towel) a good 40 or 50 minutes before it has to go into the oven. Turkeys - indeed this is the case for all meat - should be at room temperature before being put in the preheated oven. If you're at all concerned - the cold water in the brine will really chill this bird - then just cook the turkey for longer than its actual weight requires.

For the basting glaze:

Place the butter and syrup into a saucepan and cook over a low heat, while stirring, until the ingredients have melted and combined. 

Brush the turkey with the glaze before roasting, and baste periodically throughout the roasting time.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Put the turkey, breast-side down, in the pan.

Cook the turkey for 30 minutes at this relatively high temperature, then turn the oven down to 350 degrees F and continue cooking, turning the turkey breast-side up and the oven back up to 425 degrees F for the final 15 minutes or so if you want to give a browning boost to the skin. For a 9 to 11-pound turkey, allow 2 1/2 to 3-hours in total. But remember that ovens vary enormously, so just check by piercing the flesh between leg and body with a small sharp knife: when the juices run clear, the turkey is cooked.

Just as it's crucial to let the turkey come to room temperature before it goes in to the oven, so it's important to let it stand out of the oven for a good 20 minutes before you actually carve it.

Friday
Aug242018

Strawberry Meringue Layer Cake a Seasonal Sensation

INTRODUCTION

This is another Oz-emanating recipe, one I scribbled down from a friend once after a gardenside, Sunday’s summer lunch. And you should know that I have never made it myself without some other friend asking me, in turn, for the recipe as well. Pavlova meets Victoria sponge is, give or take, what it is: but, as lazy luck would have it, much simpler to make than that or its ceremonious title would suggest.

INGREDIENTS

Serves: 8

  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 7 tablespoons very soft unsalted butter
  • 1½ cups superfine sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • ½ cup slivered almonds
  • 1½ cups heavy cream
  • 8 ounces strawberries

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375. Line, butter and flour 9-inch Springform tins.
  2. Weigh out the flour, cornstarch and baking powder into a bowl.
  3. Cream the butter and 1/2 cup of the superfine sugar in another bowl until light and fluffy. Separate the eggs and beat the yolks into the butter and sugar, saving the whites to whisk later. Gently fold in the weighed-out dry ingredients, add the vanilla, and then stir in the milk to thin the batter. Divide the mixture between the two prepared Springform tins.
  4. Whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form, then gradually add the remaining 200g superfine sugar. Spread a layer of meringue on top of the sponge batter in each tin, and sprinkle the almonds evenly over.
  5. Bake for 30–35 minutes, by which time the top of the almond-scattered meringues will be a dark gold. Let the cakes cool in their tins, then spring them open at the last minute when you are ready to assemble the cake.
  6. Whip the heavy cream, and hull and slice the strawberries; that’s to say, the bigger ones can be sliced lengthways and the smaller ones halved. Invert one of the cakes on to a plate or cakestand so that the sponge is uppermost. Pile on the cream and stud with the strawberries, letting some of the berries subside into the whipped whiteness. Place the second cake on top, meringue upwards, and press down gently, just to secure it.
  7. If you’ve got any more strawberries in the house, hull and halve them, and serve them in a dish on a table to eat alongside; it gives the cake a more after-lunch, less afternoon-tea kind of a feel, but it’s hardly obligatory.

Recipe from "Nigella Summer," Available here.

Tuesday
Jul312018

Cheesecake Ice Cream Perfect Summer Treat

INTRODUCTION

This started off as something of a culinary conceit: I wanted to recreate the flavour of cheesecake in ice-cream form. I don't claim it's an original idea - I'd once eaten cheesecake ice cream in a restaurant in LA, scooped into a lozenge-shaped ball and served alongside a mini blueberry pie - but striving for originality is frankly a grievous culinary crime.

Anyway, this works exceptionally well, and is in some respects easier to make than regular cheesecake. I love to fold crushed digestive biscuits into the smooth, familiarly sharp-sweet mixture once it comes out of the ice-cream maker but isn't yet frozen solid, but you can leave the ice cream palely pure and sandwich it between two intact digestives as you eat.

INGREDIENTS

Serves: 6-8

METRICCUPS
  • ¾ cup whole milk
  • 1 cup superfine sugar
  • ½ cup cream cheese
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • 1½ cups heavy cream
  • 3 sheets crumbled graham crackers (optional)

METHOD

  1. Heat the milk in a pan, and while it's getting warm, beat together the sugar, Philadelphia, vanilla and egg in a bowl. Still whisking, pour the hot milk into the cream cheese mixture and pour this back into the cleaned-out pan and cook till a velvety custard. I don't bother with a double boiler, and actually don't even keep the heat very low, but you will need to stir it constantly, and if you think there's any trouble ahead, plunge the pan into a sink half filled with cold water and whisk like mad. It shouldn't take more than 10 minutes, this way, for the custard to cook. And when it has thickened, take it off the heat, pour into a bowl and let it cool, at which time add the lemon juice and then the heavy cream, lightly whipped.
  2. Freeze in an ice cream maker or place into a covered container, stick it in the freezer and whip it out every hour for 3 hours as it freezes and give it a good beating, folding in the crushed digestives - if using before the ice cream is set solid.

More at https://www.nigella.com/

Tuesday
May152018

Sweet Potato Mac and Cheese 

From Nigella Lawson's "Simply Nigella"

I’m just going to say it: this is the best macaroni cheese I’ve ever eaten – better than the macaroni cheese I ate as a child; better than the macaroni cheese I brought my own children up on when they were little (they don’t agree); better than any fancy restaurant macaroni cheese with white truffle or lobster; better than any macaroni cheese I have loved in my life thus far, and there have been many.

I don’t feel it’s boastful to say as much, as the greatness lies not in any brilliance on my part, but in the simple tastes of the ingredients as they fuse in the heat. That’s home cooking for you.

Serves 4
sweet potatoes 2.5 pounds
pennette 1 1/3 cups pasta
soft unsalted butter 4 tbsp
plain flour 3  tbsp
full-fat milk 2.1 cups
English mustard 1 tsp
paprika ¼ tsp , plus ¼ tsp to sprinkle on top
feta cheese/or other sharp cheese 1 cup
mature cheddar 1 cup, grated, plus 1.2 cup to sprinkle on top
fresh sage leaves 4
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Put on a large-ish pan of water to boil, with the lid on to make it come to the boil faster.

Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them roughly into cubed pieces. When the water’s boiling, add salt to taste, and then the sweet potato pieces, and cook them for about 10 minutes or until they are soft. Scoop them out of the water into a bowl – using a “spider” or slotted spoon – and lightly mash with a fork, without turning them into a purée. Don’t get rid of this water, as you will need it to cook your pasta in later.

In another saucepan, gently melt the butter and add the flour, whisking to form a roux, then take the pan off the heat, slowly whisk in the milk and, when it’s all combined and smooth, put back on the heat. Exchange your whisk for a wooden spoon, and continue to stir until your gently bubbling sauce has lost any floury taste and has thickened. Add the mustard and the ¼ teaspoon of paprika. Season to taste, but do remember that you will be adding cheddar and salty feta later, so underdo it for now.

Cook the pennette in the sweet-potato water, starting to check 2 minutes earlier than packet instructions dictate, as you want to make sure it doesn’t lose its bite entirely. Drain (reserving some of the pasta cooking water first) and then add the pennette to the mashed sweet potato, and fold in to combine; the heat of the pasta will make the mash easier to mix in.

Add the feta cheese to the sweet potato and pasta mixture, crumbling it in so that it is easier to disperse evenly, then fold in the white sauce, adding the 1.5 cups grated cheddar as you go. Add some of the pasta cooking water, should you feel it needs loosening up at all.

Check for seasoning again, then, when you’re happy, spoon the brightly sauced macaroni cheese into 4 small ovenproof dishes  (or 1 large rectangular 2quart dish). Sprinkle the remaining cheddar over each one, dust with the remaining ¼ teaspoon of paprika, then shred the sage leaves and scatter the skinny green ribbons over the top, too.

Put the pots on a baking tray, pop into the oven and bake for 20 minutes (or, if you’re making this in a larger dish, bake for 30-35 minutes), by which time they will be piping hot and bubbling, and begging you to eat them.