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Monday
Oct232017

Red Velvet Cupcakes

INTRODUCTION

Even though I do give instructions below as to how to make these into one big Red Velvet Cake, I like them so much more as cupcakes. Yes, they do use food colouring - and I advise the paste rather than the liquid, as you need less of it to get the requisite ruby hue - but this is one time I don’t let this trouble me. Food colouring pastes can be found in baking supply shops and online, and then you are ready to make a batch of these deliciously pretty babies.

If you want to make this as one big cake then know that the amounts below make enough batter for 2 x 25cm / 10 inch cake tins filled not too deep, and enough icing to squidge them together and decorate the top.

INGREDIENTS

Makes: 24

FOR THE CUPCAKES

  • 1⅔ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa (sifted)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 7 tablespoons soft unsalted butter
  • 1 cup superfine sugar
  • 1 heaped tablespoon christmas-red paste food coloring
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¾ cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon cider vinegar

FOR THE BUTTERY CREAM-CHEESE FROSTING

  • 1 pound confectioners' sugar
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • ½ cup soft unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon cider vinegar (or lemon juice)
  • chocolate sprinkles for decoration
  • red sugar for decoration

METHOD

FOR THE CUPCAKES

  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C/gas mark 3/325°F, and line 2 muffin tins with paper cases.
  2. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder and baking soda in a bowl.
  3. In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar, beating well, and when you have a soft, pale mixture beat in the food colouring - yes all of it - and the vanilla.
  4. Into this vividly coloured mixture, still beating, add 1 spoonful of the dried ingredients, then 1 egg, followed by some more dried ingredients, then the other egg, followed by the rest of the dried ingredients.
  5. Finally beat in the buttermilk and the vinegar and divide this extraordinary batter between the 24 cases. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes by which time the redcurrant-sorbet-coloured batter will have morphed into a more sombre, but still juicily tinted, sponge - more maroon acrylic than red velvet, to be honest.
  6. Leave them to cool on a wire rack and do not ice with the frosting till absolutely cold.

FOR THE BUTTERY CREAM-CHEESE FROSTING

  1. Put the confectioners' sugar into a processor and whizz to remove lumps.
  2. Add the cream cheese and butter and process to mix. Pour in the cider vinegar (or lemon juice) and process again to make a smooth icing.
  3. Ice each cupcake, using a teaspoon or small spatula.
  4. Decorate with chocolate sprinkles and red sugar, or as desired.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Make ahead note: The cupcakes can be baked 2 days ahead and stored, un-iced, layered with baking parchment in airtight containers. The frosting can be made 1 day ahead: cover with clingfilm and refrigerate; remove from fridge 1-2 hours before needed to allow to come to room temperature then beat briefly before using. Best iced and eaten on same day but iced cupcakes can be kept in fridge in airtight container for up to 1 day. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Freeze note: Un-iced cupcakes can be frozen, layered with baking parchment, in airtight containers for up to 2 months. Defrost for 3-4 hours on a wire rack at room temperature. Frosting can be frozen separately in airtight container for up to 3 months; defrost overnight in fridge then bring to room temperature and beat briefly before use.

More Here

Sunday
Sep242017

Venison Stew Perfect Recipe for Deer Season

Nigella Lawson’s venison in white wine

Serves 8
For the marinade
dry white wine 1 bottle
olive oil 2 tbsp
bay leaves 2
carrots 2
onion 1 large
celery 2 sticks
garlic 2 cloves, squashed with flat of knife
juniper berries 10, crushed slightly
black peppercorns 10, crushed slightly

For the rest of the stew
venison 3-4 pounds , cut into chunks about 1.5 inches x 3 inches
dried porcini 20g
unsalted butter 3.5 ounces, or goose or duck fat
olive oil a drop
onions 2 large
sugar 1 tbsp
ground cinnamon ½ tsp
ground cloves 1½ tsp
nutmeg ½, grated
sage 3 leaves
flour 3 tbsp
beef or game stock 11 ounces
mushrooms aa ounces, preferably brown cap or chestnut mushrooms
parsley chopped

Instructions

Put the venison into a bowl and cover with the marinade ingredients. Give a good stir and cover with clingfilm and leave overnight somewhere cool. If the weather’s warm or you just want to stow this away for a few days, then put it to marinate in the fridge, but make sure you take it out and get it back to room temperature before you want to cook it.

When you do, preheat the oven to 300 degrees and, at the same time, cover the porcini with hot water. Then put 3 ounces of the butter and a drop of oil in a large casserole and when it’s melted add the onions, very finely sliced (I use the processor), and cook for about 10-15 minutes or until the onions are soft and translucent. Strain the dried porcini, reserving the water, and then chop them very small. Add these to the onion and give a good stir. Cook gently for another minute or so, stir again, then sprinkle with the sugar. Turn up the heat and caramelise slightly and then add the spices and sage. Tear a piece of kitchen foil about the same measurements as the casserole and place it just above the onions. Turn the heat to low – you may need to use a heat diffuser – and cook for 30-40 minutes, lifting up the foil every now and again to give a gentle prod and stir. You want a brown, sweet mess under there.

Pour the venison into a colander or sieve placed over a pan. Then pick out the marinade ingredients or meat (whichever is easier). Remove half the cooked onion mixture and cover the half still in the pan with the venison. Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with the flour, and cover with the rest of the onions. Heat up the marinade liquid in its pan, add the stock and reserved, strained mushroom-soaking liquid, and pour over the venison. If the meat isn’t covered you can add some more wine (though heat it up first) or stock (ditto). Put in the preheated oven, and cook for about 2½ hours or until very tender indeed.

You can now let this cool and keep it in the fridge for 2-3 days. Forty minutes at 350 degrees should be enough to reheat it, but do remember it should be brought back to room temperature first. About 15 minutes before the stew is hot again, wipe the mushrooms, cut them into quarters, melt the remaining 1 ounces of butter in a small frying pan and cook the mushrooms in it, sprinkling with salt and pepper. After about 5 minutes, add them to the stew in the oven. Leave it there to cook for another 10 minutes.

Sprinkle the stew with parsley when you serve it. I always have this with mashed potato and I like sliced green beans with it, too.

I don’t necessarily scale down the quantities if I’m cooking for fewer people since the oniony juices, with or without the leftover meat, make the most fabulous pasta sauce the next day.

From How to Eat by Nigella Lawson (Chatto & Windus, £20). Click here to order a copy from the Guardian Bookshop for £16.40

Sunday
Aug202017

Looking for New Ways to Prepare Pasta? Here are Four

Spaghetti four ways

These spaghettis are not just convenient, quick and easy dishes; they can also be seductively brilliant, a perfect example of how a dish can be so much more than a sum of its parts.

Each recipe makes enough for six. With the exception of the cacio e pepe, allow 1 litre of water to every 100g of pasta, and add a teaspoon of salt per litre of water. The quantity of pasta we seem to have settled on these days is around 70g per person, but anywhere between 70g and 100g is about right for these spaghettis, depending on how hungry you are and if you are eating anything else to follow.

1 Aglio, olio e peperoncino (garlic, oil and chilli)

Don’t be scared to add three, four or five sliced cloves of garlic per person, and don’t be shy with the chilli either; I would use a Scotch bonnet, seeds and all, but how hot you make it is up to you. Chillies in red and green are nice, too.

The real trick to this is to start with just a little extra virgin olive oil in a sauté pan and put in your sliced garlic while the oil is still cold. Raise the temperature slowly and just before the garlic starts to fry, pull the pan off the heat, add a little more cold oil, then put it back on the heat. Keep doing this several times, adding a little more of the cold oil each time, so that you keep the temperature down and the garlic is not frying, but just infusing the maximum amount of its flavour into the oil before you put in the chilli.

Start cooking 500g of spaghetti in plenty of boiling salted water, and slice your chilli (around a tablespoonful, or more if you prefer) and around 4 cloves of garlic about a millimetre thick.

You need around 200ml of good extra virgin olive oil, but start with a little of it, cold, in the pan. Put in your garlic, then keep taking the pan off the heat and adding a little more cold oil, then returning it to the heat so that you don’t burn the garlic.

Once all the oil is in, you can let the garlic begin to take on a little bit of colour and put in your chopped chilli. Let it cook very briefly, stirring it into the garlic, then pull the pan from the heat and stir in a couple of spoonfuls of the cooking water from the pasta – take care, as it may spit.

When the pasta is cooked but still al dente, lift it out and drain it, but keep back the cooking water.

Toss the pasta really well through the oil, garlic and chilli, adding a little more cooking water from the pasta if it is too dry, as you want the garlicky hot oil to really cling to the spaghetti, and serve straight away. If you like, you can toss through a tablespoon of chopped fresh parsley and finish with some grated parmesan or pecorino.

2 Carbonara

Spaghetti carbonara.

 

 

 Pinterest

  Spaghetti carbonara. Photograph: Lisa Linder

The true cured pork to use for carbonara is guanciale, which comes from the cheek, and has less fat than pancetta. Don’t cut it too finely or regularly, as you want a nice chunk to bite into every now and then amid the silkiness of the egg.

Some people add the eggs and cheese to the pan, but it is easy to underestimate the heat of the pan, and the danger is always that the eggs will scramble. So I prefer to mix the eggs and cheese in a warm bowl and then tip in the hot spaghetti, which will cook the eggs but keep their silkiness.

Chop about 10 slices of guanciale or pancetta.

Begin to cook 500g of spaghetti in plenty of boiling salted water.

In a sauté pan, heat a knob of butter, then put in the guanciale or pancetta and fry until golden and crispy. Take off the heat, and lift out to a warm plate, so that it stays crunchy.

Put about a teaspoonful of black peppercorns into the pan and crush with a meat hammer or the end of a rolling pin, then add a couple of spoonfuls of the cooking water from the pasta and stir it around to take up all the bits of guanciale or pancetta which may have stuck to the bottom of the pan.

Beat 5 egg yolks and a whole egg in a warm bowl with 3 tablespoons of grated young pecorino romano.

One minute before the spaghetti is ready, start to mix in a ladleful of the cooking water at a time until the eggs and cheese become creamy.

Drain the pasta (but reserve the cooking water) and toss it in the pan of pepper, together with the reserved guanciale or pancetta.

Add a little more cooking water if the pasta seems too dry, then transfer it to the bowl of eggs and cheese and toss well, until coated in the silky mixture. The heat of the spaghetti will cook the eggs without scrambling them. Add more black pepper, if you like.

3 Tuna, tomato and olives

Tuna, tomato and olive spaghetti.

 

 

Pinterest

 Tuna, tomato and olive spaghetti. Photograph: Lisa Linder

Buy olives with the stone in and crush them, so that the bitterness from the stone is released into the flesh, before pitting them. I suggest finishing the pasta with some chopped fresh mint leaves, but you could use parsley, oregano or marjoram, whichever you have, but no cheese with fish, please.

Heat 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a sauté pan, add 2 finely chopped cloves of garlic, a teaspoon of chopped chilli and a tin of chopped tomatoes, bring to the boil, then turn down to a simmer for 10 minutes.

Cook 500g of spaghetti in plenty of boiling salted water.

Just before it is ready, add 2 x 200g tins of drained tuna and a small handful of good black olives to the tomato sauce, then taste and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Drain the pasta, reserving the cooking water, and toss with the sauce and a spoonful of the cooking water. Scatter some chopped fresh mint leaves over the top, and serve.

4 Cacio e pepe (cheese and pepper)

Cheese and pepper spaghetti.

 

Pinterest

 Cheese and pepper spaghetti. Photograph: Lisa Linder

Don’t push the pecorino, just caress it against the microplane or grater so that it falls like snow: if you press and condense it, it will become grainy.

Grate around 5 tablespoons of young pecorino romano, or more to taste.

Start boiling your water for the pasta. For this recipe, the water becomes an important ingredient that binds the cheese and pepper to the pasta, therefore you want as much starch as possible. So only use 3 litres of water for 500g of pasta. This also means using less salt (a teaspoon) and stirring the pasta around in the water becomes pivotal, so that it doesn’t stick to itself. So give it your full attention: cook only for 5-6 minutes, until al dente.

Once the spaghetti is in, crush around 2 teaspoons of black peppercorns in a sauté pan using a steak hammer or the end of a rolling pin – it is easier to do this in the pan than on your work surface – add a little olive oil, stir in a ladleful of the cooking water from the pasta and bubble up.

Now drain your spaghetti (reserving the cooking water), add it to the pan along with the grated cheese and toss everything together really well – the spaghetti will carry on cooking, and so will release more starch into the pan.

Add a little more of the cooking water from the pasta as necessary so that it combines with the melting cheese to give a creamy consistency.

Made at Home is published by Fourth Estate (£26) on September 1. To order a copy for £21.25, go to bookshop.theguardian.com

Wednesday
Jul122017

Chicken, Mango and Chili Salad Perfect for Summer

This started off life as a reworking of Coronation Chicken, that mixture I can't help liking, against all contemporary culinary strictures, of cold chicken, mayo, mango chutney, curry powder and apricot puree (or that's how both my grandmothers made it). But still, I wanted to pare it down, make it lighter and fresher, and so this is it.

INGREDIENTS

Serves: 2-3

METRIC CUPS
  • 1 mango (cut into small cubes)
  • 1 spring onion (finely chopped)
  • 1 - 2 red chillies (or to taste) deseeded and finely chopped
  • juice of 2 limes (to taste)
  • 1 cold cooked chicken breast (cut into chunks)
  • 1 little gem lettuce (sliced or shredded)
  • 1 large handful fresh coriander (chopped)
  • 1 teaspoon groundnut oil
  • 4 drops toasted sesame oil

METHOD

  1. Tumble the mango cubes, and any juice they make, into a bowl and, with your hands, mix in the chopped spring onion and chilli and squeeze over the lime juice: use as much or as little as you want; frankly, the amount of juice you can get from a lime varies enormously from one to another.
  2. I tend to leave all these to steep while I get on with the rest of my shredding and chopping, but whatever way you do it, tumble in the chunked chicken and shredded lettuce and most of the fresh coriander and, using your hands, toss to combine. Add the oils and toss again then decant on to a large serving plate and sprinkle over the remaining bit of fresh coriander.
Friday
Mar312017

Sweet Potato Mac and Cheese a Winner

Recipe: Nigella Lawson

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 1 Pound
pennette 12 ounces, or other small short pasta
soft unsalted butter 4 x tablespoons
plain flour 3 x 15ml tablespoons
full-fat milk 2 1/8 cups
English mustard 1 tsp
paprika ¼ tsp , plus ¼ tsp to sprinkle on top
feta/other cheese 3/4 cup
mature cheddar 1 cup, grated, plus 1/4 to sprinkle on top
fresh sage leaves 4
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400F/gas mark 6. 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 one-inch 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 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 dish measuring approx 9x12). 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.

Recipe from "Simply Nigella Cookbook," Available at Amazon