Monday, 29 July 2013

Cherry Espresso Granita

So this post is about a week later than I intended. Last Monday my plan was to pick my beautiful fiancee up from work, then to come home and cook her a nice meal followed by a delicious dessert which we could enjoy out in the sun. Unfortunately her plan involved falling off a bench, breaking her wrist, and setting off a chain of events that meant several trips to A&E, numerous doctors, and one overnight stay in Ward 1. The poor girl. Poor, silly girl. Anyway, needless to say it's been a long and busy week. Thankfully, this recipe is a quick and easy one - a perfect Summertime dessert for me to treat my little cripple with. Even if it was a week late.
When I say this recipe is an easy one, I really mean it. I think I took more time pitting these cherries than doing much of anything else. (Chef's tip - before chomping down on a cherry read the tin to find out if they contain stones or not. I'm still looking for my left rear molar...) Start by separating the syrup from one tin of cherries. Add to the syrup two tablespoons of sugar and the juice of a lemon then stick on a medium heat for a minute or two until the sugar has dissolved.
For the espresso element I added a tablespoon of filter coffee to the syrup and then brought the mixture to a boil for a couple of minutes before straining through a coffee filter. This will give you a great rich coffee taste without any of the little grainy bits. If you're feeling a bit lazy - which I totally condone - then I'm pretty sure any old instant coffee will do the trick.
Add the strained syrup to a food processor along with the pitted cherries and blitz until you've got a smooth-ish liquid. Pour into a bowl or cake tin and bang it straight in the freezer trying your darndest not to spill sticky cherry liquid all over your frozen chips and peas.
After 30-40 minutes or so pull the mixture out of the freezer and rough it up with a fork to prevent ice crystals from forming. Throw it back in the freezer and repeat the process every 40 minutes or so until you're ready to eat.
Job done. Told you it was easy! Spoon into a glass, add a sprig of mint (purely for artistic purposes) and go to town on your chill and refreshing cherry espresso granita. It doesn't get much better.

Ingredients
1 tin of cherries (pitted)
juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon filter coffee

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Chilli Chocolate Bacon

So it was Father's Day a few weeks ago and I was stumped for a present. Normally in this situation I'd buy him a nice bottle of wine, write a card and consider that a fair exchange for 26 years of his support, generosity and commitment to keeping me alive. Unfortunately, as my folks live in France nowadays, sending them a bottle of wine is basically just a waste of stamps. No worries though, this year I had a better idea. Dad was getting some chili chocolate bacon. Now THAT'S a fair exchange. 
There's very little in the way of a recipe here. Cook some streaky bacon off until it's proper crispy, American style then pat it dry with paper towel. I don't get how some people say they prefer crispy bacon and then some say it's got to be a bit meatier like how us Brits eat it. It's BACON. However it comes it's AWESOME.
Dark cooking chocolate. Ermmmm about 300g? Break it up and stick into a heat-proof bowl.
Add a tablespoon or so of lard or shortening and melt over a bains-marie. The lard will give the chocolate a nice shine, and it's not as if the calorie count means anything at this point. Finely chop a red chili and stir half into the melted chocolate.
Cut the bacon slices in half widthways. It's best to do this whilst the bacon is still warm, so as not to break and crack the slices. What you've got there are basically the best crisps in the world.
Holding the bacon by one corner just dip in the melted chocolate, shake off the excess and then lay on baking parchment. Sprinkle with the chopped chili for a little bit of ridiculousness.
A sprinkling of sea salt gives you full-on absurdity. Now then, plenty for Dad and a few leftover for the chef. Bang into the fridge 30 minutes or so until the chocolate hardens.
And there you have it. Chili chocolate freaking covered bacon. Might sound mental, but it really works. The saltiness of the bacon with the bitter chocolate and the kick of the chili, it's a true tastegasm. Give it a go man. Send some to your Dad, he deserve it.
I'm also sending my Mom some white chocolate pretzels. Basically because Dad won't share.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Lemon Meringue Pie

When I was in second grade my classmates and I were assigned a book to read. I remember very little about the story, just that at the very end the main character tied up all of the loose ends by baking a lemon meringue pie for all involved. Why do I remember this? I remember this because upon completing the book, an 8 year old Fatboy turned to his classmates and teacher and declared that his mom would, quite happily, spend that evening baking that same pie for everyone to enjoy. Well, it turned out that my mom had better things to do with her evening and so we ended up settling for a delicious pre-made option from the local supermarket (lazy). I'm sure there's a lesson to be learned in there...anyway, almost two decades later here's my HOMEMADE version, just in time for your 4th of July BBQ.
Start by making your pastry base, for which you'll need about 180g plain flour and 110g cold, cubed butter. Mix in a food processor with one egg yolk (save the white, man), a tablespoon of granulated sugar and the same of cold water. Pulse the mixture just until it starts to come together, then tip onto a floured work surface, bring it all together then roll it nice and flat.
Transfer the flattened pastry into a loose-bottomed pie tin. This is tricky, I'm not going to lie. If it breaks in pieces don't worry about it, just use the excess dough to patch it up. Pies shouldn't be perfect, they're made with love and sometimes they look a bit scruffy. It's all good. Trim the edges, then prick the bottom with a fork and stick in the fridge to cool for at least an hour.
Once the pastry has cooled, line with foil or baking parchment and fill with ceramic beans. If you don't have ceramic beans you can always take next month's rent, change it into coins and use them instead. Blind bake at 200C for about 15 minutes, then remove the beans/coins and foil and bake for another 10 minutes or so. Keep an eye on it so that it gets nice and golden but doesn't burn.
For the filling you're basically making lemon curd. 'How do you make lemon curd?' you ask. Well sit down and I'll tell you. In a saucepan combine 100g caster sugar with the zest of two lemons and two tablespoons of cornflour. If, like me, you forgot to buy cornflour then just, like me, run across to the petrol station in a mad panic and pick some up. Mix in 150g of cold water and the juice of three lemons and cook over a medium heat until the mixture thickens.
Remove from the heat and stir in about 90g of butter along with a beaten mixture of three egg yolks and a whole egg. (Again, save the whites homie.) Stick it back on the heat and keep stirring until it all thickens. You want a semi-viscous filling...if it's too liquid add some cornflour mixed with water, if it's too thick add a bit more water. I'm sure you can figure it out. Once ready, set this aside.
Remember those egg whites you kept? To make the meringue, add those to a clean (super-clean) metal bowl and whisk, preferably with an electric beater. Once peaks have formed, add 200g caster sugar mixed with 2 tablespoons of cornflour, tipping in a little at a time. Careful not to overwork the mixture, you want a nice soft meringue for this. None of that chewy nonsense.
Reheat your filling and tip into your pre-baked pastry base. How good does that look? The father of a friend of mine once told me that he survived his entire first year at uni eating only lemon curd. I thought he was crazy at the time. Now I'm beginning to see where he was coming from...
Take your meringue and spread over the filling. This is easier said than done, so start on the outside and use the edge of the pastry kinda like an anchor. Take it bit by bit until you've got a nice big lemony, eggy, masterpiece. Bang it back in the oven at 200C for 20 minutes until the meringue has a nice golden touch to it.
And that's a job well done. A delicious lemon meringue pie perfect for any July 4th BBQ. In fact, perfect for any day of the week. And it was incredibly easy right? See mom...I still don't get what I did wrong. Just kidding.

Ingredients
Pastry
1 egg yolk
180g flour
110g cold butter
1 tbsp water
1 tbsp granulated sugar
Filling
Zest of 2 lemons
Juice of 3 lemons
3 egg yolks and 1 whole egg
100g caster sugar
2 tbsp cornflour
90g butter
150ml water
Meringue
4 egg whites
2 tbsp cornflour
200g caster sugar