31 July 2011

Fruit Fools for Summer

Having written only a few days ago about a foolproof meringue recipe I am now going to write about actual fools, summer fruit fools to be precise, and no, meringues aren't proof against them, they go quite well together.

Last night’s dinner was rather lovely …

~  Menu  ~

A baby Sea Bass baked with Lemon and Thyme on a bed of Roasted Garlic Infused Potatoes
A couple of glasses of white wine (same make as the secret red I keep drinking!)
Strawberry Fool

The bass was quite small and just perfect for one (me), my real man and his father had roast pork.  Whilst their meat was roasting I sliced a couple of new potatoes and tossed them with some of the oil from my roasted garlic plus salt and good bit of black pepper.  With this I formed a fish sized potato bed and roasted it till almost cooked.  I sprinkled the fish with sea salt and put a little lemon and fresh thyme in his cavity and then roasted him on top of the par cooked potatoes as the pork was resting till all was tender.  


This made a summer dinner served with salad and roasted garlic mayo – shame the view out the winder was of thick mist!

My brother-in-law who is a funny man (more ha-ha than peculiar) was wondering if they are called sea bass to distinguish from any land bass that might be lurking about but I think there is a river bass too, isn’t there?

For dessert we all had strawberry fool because it turned out that the pretty little strawberries we had bought cheap were not of the finest; I think they had been a bit frozen. 

I couldn’t be bothered to do too much to them but no need – this very easy recipe works brilliantly.  

Strawberry Fool - serves 3

300g strawberries
1½ tbsp icing sugar
2 tsp Rumtopf (optional, but you have none make some now you won't regret it)
200ml double cream

~   Prepare and sort the strawberries and then crush or mash them with the sugar and optional rumpot. 
~   Whip the cream till it looks like this …


~   Add the crushed strawberries and whip just a little more till all combined and slightly thicker.
~   Divide between pretty glasses and chill till needed.


Blueberry Fool

The same as above but no alcohol (unless you insist) but add a little lemon juice instead, it goes well with blueberries
In fact this simple recipe works for any soft summer fruits; raspberries may need a little more sugar, try peaches and brandy, cherries with vanilla and so on.  It’s a great way to use up fruit that is just a little soft!

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28 July 2011

Foolproof Meringue Recipe – with lots of variations

Not that I am suggesting any of my readers are fools, of course, but just in case you happen to know one …

This morning I found I had a few broken meringues and also, lucky or what!, a few strawberries that needed using up so, obviously, I made myself a private portion of Eton Mess.  

No need for a recipe, it’s just crushed meringue, whipped cream and strawberries folded together.  What I am going to do, however, is give an easy, fail-proof meringue recipe. 

Simple Fail-proof Meringues ~ makes about twelve two inch meringue

Maybe I am tempting fate calling this recipe “fail-proof” but it has always worked for me and for everyone I have given it to.   However here are just a few of pointers to make sure it really works
Pin this for easy reference!  

     Rules when Making Meringues

1. For some reason older egg whites are more successfully whisked than newer ones and room temperature whites work better than cold so get them out of the fridge, if they are in there, an hour or two before using. 

      2. It is Absolutely Imperative that nothing greasy touches the egg whites.  Make sure that your bowl, whisk, hands etc. are completely grease-free.  Also, when separating the whites from the yolks ensure that no yolk at all, at all is left in the whites – yolks are greasy. 

     3. Whisk the whites till very thick, in fact the classic test is if you can turn the bowl upside down and the meringue doesn’t move it’s ready.  I wouldn’t try this unless you are fairly confident.
2 egg whites
12 oz caster sugar
½ tsp pure vanilla essence
3 tablespoons boiling water
~   Preheat the oven to 110˚C/gas 1⁄4
~   Have ready one or two large baking trays lined with baking parchment or greaseproof paper.
~   Put the egg whites, sugar and pure vanilla extract into a large dry grease-free bowl.
Add the boiling water and absolutely immediately whisk everything together (using grease-free whisks) till it is very thick and stands in stiff peaks when you lift out the whisk.
~   Pipe or spoon the meringue into small (about 3 cm) dollops, 2 or 3 cm apart, onto the trays (or make a single big meringue or whatever you like).
~   Bake for about 90 minutes till the meringues are crisp and dry.
~   Gently lift the meringues onto a cooling rack and cool completely.
~   Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.


As if this wasn’t enough there are a few ways to vary this simple recipe, they are …

Squidgy Meringues

These have a soft marshmallowey interior, excellent for Pavolva, for instance.  All you need to do is, when the meringue is stiff, sprinkle over ½ tsp of white vinegar and 1 tsp cornflour (ie. cornstarch – not the yellow cornmeal) and fold in.  I imagine some sort of chemical reaction takes place to cause a soft middle.

Brown Sugar Meringues

A great variation is to use brown sugar in the recipe – replace half the caster sugar with soft dark brown sugar and the meringues will have slightly toffee-ish taste.  These used to be very popular in out restaurant in Cornwall where we served them with homemade clotted cream from the farm up the road.

Coffee Meringues

Dissolve four teaspoons of instant coffee granules in the hot water before adding to the egg whites or use 3 tablespoons of double strength freshly brewed coffee.  For a more intense effect and a spotty look also fold in a tablespoons of ground coffee.  Of course these are great filled with brandied whipped cream and drizzled with chocolate sauce.

Pink Peppercorn Meringues

These are very pretty and mildly spicy, they go well with strawberries.  A word of warning, however; pink peppercorns are banned in the USA because, I think, they are believed to cause piles (or irritation of mucous membranes as I believe it is called)!  If you are OK in the botty department just fold in a scant tablespoon of crushed pink peppercorns once the whites are thick.

Coloured  Meringues

Just add a little food colouring, of course!  Here is a picture of some dark purple meringues I made and which I folded into homemade blueberry ice cream (made using my genius ice cream recipe, of course).


Use your Imagination ...

Fold in nuts (fairly finely chopped), grated chocolate, coconut (see here for a great way to improve desiccated coconut), different flavourings instead of vanilla, um … orange zest etc.

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24 July 2011

10 Interesting Ways to Use Leftover Pastry Scraps plus a Boring One!

Firstly collect all the pastry scraps and trimmings and knead together very lightly, then …

1.      Palmiers/Pinwheels

Roll the assembled pastry into a rough rectangle, it can be a raggedy one.  Scatter something delicious over the surface – good combinations would be Cheddar and Chilli, Pecans & Maple Sugar, Ham and Cheese, Dried Fruit & Brown Sugar, whatever you’ve got.  Roll up the pastry from one long edge, moisten the far edge and seal the roll. EITHER place sealed side down on a greased baking sheet, glaze and sprinkle the top as appropriate, bake till crisp and golden and then slice into pinwheels OR slice before baking, lay cut side up on the baking tray and cook like that.  The second option is good when using cheese as it goes all melty and yum.


2.      Marmite Nibbles

Spread the rolled out pastry with a little Marmite (it spreads easier if you warmer it a little), fold in half and reroll to enclose the Marmite. Cut into little shapes and bake till crisp and golden.  These are not only delicious but, as a bonus,  you can scare Americans with them!

3.      Turnovers

Roll the pastry out thinly, cut into circles and put a spoonful of something delicious on half the pastry disks. Brush the edges water, milk, cream or beaten egg and fold in half enclosing the filling, press the edges together. Place on a lightly greased baking tray, brush the top with milk or cream and sprinkle with sugar or salt. Using the tip of a sharp knife prod a little hole in the top of each turnover to allow steam to escape.  Bake in a medium hot oven (say 190ºC/375ºF/170ºC fan/gas 5) till crisp and golden. Turnovers can be fried too as with these fake samosas!

4.      Anchovy Bites 

These are much the same as above but using anchovy paste (either Patum Peperium aka Gentleman's Relish or mash an anchovy or two into some soft butter).  Continue as above. These are particularly beguiling cut into fishy shapes.

5.      Rustic Tarts


If you don't have tart cases just cut out rounds or squares of pastry, top with chosen filling leaving about 1cm naked edge and then fold the edge up and over the filling to frame it which gives and attractive a rustic effect. Brush with beaten egg and bake till crisp and golden. 

6.      Sausage Rolls or similar


7.      Mini Napoleons

Cut the rolled out pastry into equal squares or rectangles and lay a little apart on the greased baking sheet.  Bake till risen, cool, split and fill with something wonderful.

8.      Baby Tarte Tatins

Use a little muffin tray for these. Put a spoonful of your chosen filling (which then becomes a topping) into each of the muffin um … hollows?  Top each with a circle of pastry tucking it in at the edges and bake till crisp. Cool a little and then turn out carefully.  Apple is the traditional Tatin topping but roasted tomatoes, caramelised shallots etc. are good too.  Nothing too wet or runny.


9.      Cook's Treat

Just toss the trimmings with a little sugar and powdered cinnamon and bake till crisp.  Make a cup of coffee and have yourself a sit down. You could add a little leftover ice cream (which you are sure to have if you’ve got a copy of my genius recipe no-churn ice cream book!)

10.  Crunchy Topping

Using the same principal as above but more sophisticatedly (is that a word?) roll the scraps out and cut into random or not random (ie. leaves) shapes, toss with sugar and cinnamon and scatter over the top of a dish of cooked apples (or whatever).  Bake till hot and crisp.

11.  BORING – just save all your bits of pastry in the freezer till you have enough to make something big.  See here for how to store puff pastry plus how to make Cheese Straws out of scraps.


Here's a handy image for Pinterest so you can refer back later.

A little more pastry scrap information …

~   Sprinkle a little coarse sea salt on savoury pastries.
~   Where appropriate sprinkle the pastry with grated cheese before cooking.
~   Sprinkle sweet pastries with sugar – caster or light brown are my favourites.
~   Only used ready cooked or quick cooking fillings for these little nibbles as the pastry doesn't take long to bake.
~    Cook these pastries in a medium hot oven 375˚F / 190˚C / Gas 5 / Fan 170˚C would be good but if the oven’s on a different temperature you can, within reason, use that!

PS. ~ I've had some more ideas!  See Brown Sugar Doo Dahs here.

If these are just some of the suggestions I can think of for pastry don't you wonder what ideas I have for the other 450 potential leftovers in my book Creative Ways to Use Up Leftovers?

It was originally published as The Leftovers Handbook so don't go buying a second copy unless you really want to!

A Couple of Reviews ...

 “Really useful!

I love this book. In addition to being clearly set out in alphabetical order and having good ideas for using up a huge range of food, it has tips for cooking and for each ingredient a list of things that go well with it. I have used it a lot since I got it.”


“Leftover Heaven

If you feel the same about using leftovers as I do, then I can truly recommend Suzy Bowler's wondrous book The Leftovers Handbook. Suzy and I have conversed for a while on social media, discussing recipes and the use of flavours and a few days ago we were very lucky to receive a copy of Suzy's book. At just under 300 pages this fabulous book guides us through what we can do with a plethora of ingredients all categorised alphabetically from Aubergines to zest. There are tips and handy hints to get you in the mood and if you are looking for leftovers inspiration then this is the book for you.

Interspersed with the ingredients are wonderful recipes, recipes without pictures, a feature I totally agree with. The addition of pictures in cookbooks only serves to increase pressure on the modern-day home cook and experimenting with the flavours and ingredients is far more important than stacking your vegetables or smearing a coulis across your plate. One of the great things about this book is the ease in which each ingredient is showcased and the recipes follow on so naturally.”

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19 July 2011

How to Roast Garlic – plus 25 delicious things to do with it!

~  Menu  ~

Roasted Garlic and Crumbled Blue Cheese on Toast
Red Wine
A few cherries

A week of so ago I bought a gorgeous fresh bulb of garlic with the intention of topping up my roasted garlic stock. 

There’s lovely, as the Cornish say.

For a few days I couldn’t bring myself to do anything with it except admire it but today as I had the oven on anyway (trying to keep warm!) I  decided to get on with it.  I’ve always loved the smell of garlic roasting and in my cheffing days a whiff of it would often attract in extra customers.

See the end of the post for 25 delicious ways to use roasted garlic.

How to Roast Garlic

~   Cut heads of garlic in half through their equators and stand cut sides up in a shall ovenproof dish.
~   Drizzle quite generously with olive oil, being sure to anoint the cut surfaces well, and season with salt and pepper. 
~ Cover tightly with foil and do in a medium oven till completely tender which takes about an hour or so depending on your idea of “medium oven”. I did mine in a fan oven at 160˚, it is ready when lightly golden and buttery soft.
~ Cool till you are able to handle it and then squeeze the soft garlic cloves into a clean jar adding any oil remaining in the dish too.
~ Pour in extra olive oil till to cover the garlic completely and utterly, put on the lid and store in the fridge for 4 or 5 days.

Two Ways to Freeze Roasted Garlic

1.   Freeze whole roasted garlic cloves by spreading on a baking tray, freezing then storing in a sealed plastic bag in the freezer.
2.   Mash the roasted garlic and divide between the sections in an ice cube tray. Once frozen pop out the cubes and also store  in a sealed plastic bag in the freezer.

25 Delicious Ways to Use Roasted Garlic

Roasted garlic and/or its oil can be used to enhance so many dishes …  

~   mix into mashed potato
~   make a roasted garlic vinaigrette (here’s how to make vinaigrette plus lots of suggestions including roasted garlic)
~   purée into tomato ketchup for a delicious change
~   brush or smear over pizza base before adding the topping
~   roasted garlic Pangrattato (posh word for crispy breadcrumbs - really useful) 
~   add to pasta sauces – for instance stir some in to lovely Alfredo Sauce 
~   rub roasted garlic under the skin of chicken before roasting.
~   make roasted garlic hummus or other bean dip (hummus and bean dip recipes and ideas here)
~   eat with blue or goats cheese with which it has an affinity
~   make roasted garlic butter (see here for how to make flavoured butters and how to use them) and then make …
~   roasted garlic bread
~   mix with mayonnaise – roasted garlic mayo is gorgeous!  See here for 38 ways to flavour mayonnaise
~   mix into the meat when making burgers 
~   mix with sour cream to fill baked potatoes or as a dip
~   add to pesto
~   stir into gravy  and pan sauces (which, incidentally, are very easy!) 

Why not pin this image and try roasted garlic - it's gorgeous!

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