Banana,Coconut and Lime, boozy sponge with Avocado-Chocolate ganache; a nostalgic nod to Brazil.

What with the launch of the Gonville and Cauis CD of Brazilian music, I got rather nostalgic today for my 2 weeks in Brazil last year and turned back to The Comedy Agent’s Birthday present to me from last year; a book of Brazilan recipes.
IMG_1240IMG_1238Cabana:The Cookbook is not just a recipe fountain but also contains essential guides for life such as ‘how to dance the samba’,
IMG_1237‘how to recognise Brazilian fruit’ (something that would’ve come in useful while in the fruit markets in São Paolo), and of course the vital ‘how to make a perfect Caipirinha’. (I’m still not sure I’m pronouncing it properly, for reference: How to say Caipirinha.)IMG_1239
it is full of wonderful recipes such as: Crazy lady cake (a rich dark chocolate sponge), the addictive Pao de Queijo, and one of my favourite recipes that I am constantly doing variations of, Fejioda, or Black bean stew. Of course being me, I decided to ignore all these recipes and instead take inspiration from all the different flavours. Here is my Banana,Coconut and Lime, boozy sponge with Avocado-Chocolate ganache. As usual, a normal version of this is not enough of a challenge, so this is my healthy, dairy and gluten free version. (Hopefully proving Dairy and gluten free isn’t all expensive, hard to source ingredients)

Cake
100g coconut flakes
2 bananas
1tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs
170g caster sugar
100ml oil
Syrup
75ml cachaca (or rum if none available)
50g sugar
pinch sea salt
Ganache
1 large avocado
1tbsp cocoa powder
2 pinches of salt
2tbsp honey
Icing
200g icing sugar
1tbsp cocoa powder
  1. For the coconut flour, Soak the coconut flakes in 25ml hot water for 4hrs. Blend in a blender, drain well, lay out the flakes on a baking tray and dry for either 3hrs at 170°C or overnight with the light on in the oven. Blend in the food processor to a fine powder.
  2. Mix the ingredients for the cake in a food processor. Spoon into a lined cake tin and bake for 30mins at fan 160°C until browned. Leave to cool.

  3. Meanwhile, Heat the syrup ingredients together till sugar is dissolved and syrup has thickened slightly. Pour over cake.FullSizeRender 4. Leave cake to cool COMPLETELY. Make the ganache. Blend the ganache ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Spread onto the cooled cake.

  4. To finish. Make a glace icing by mixing the coca powder and icing sugar with 2-3tsp of water to a very thick icing (nb mix well before adding more water).

  5. Spoon into a piping bag and decorate!

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NB As you may have noticed in this post, I’ve learned how to use links in my blog, onwards and upwards…

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Pan-Fried Salmon, Lentil Dhal and Peanut-butter yoghurt with blueberries: Indulgent health food

The Daily Mail is particularly good at the odd health slogan. Some of my favourites include: ‘a mind is a terrible thing to waste and a waist is a terrible thing to mind!’, or ‘he who indulges, bulges’, and my personal favourite ‘If you let the cake control, you’ll look like a cinnamon roll’. While I’m not particularly motivated to avoid food based on either these slogans or the dismally contradictory “health” articles that follow the headlines, I do listen to my singing teacher. She has practically begged me to spend two weeks giving up alcohol, singing and talking in order to finally rest my voice after 3 years of singing almost every day. While I was being this quiet and anti-social, I thought I might as well use the opportunity to try and quell my addiction to chocolate and be a bit healthier for all of to weeks. While I’m never going to turn into a seed eating, yoga loving, alcohol abstainer, I have to admit that I do feel better and will hopefully keep the daily yoga up, [purely because I quite enjoy the satisfaction of finally being able to do a plank for 3 minutes without collapsing…) However I don’t think I would have ever been able to cope with these two weeks if I hadn’t still been able to eat tasty food, while still healthy. Finding partially smoked salmon fillets in sainsburys, I used some of the money I’d saved on booze from the fortnight and created the following dish. The peanut butter yoghurt was a no-brainer for me, I adore peanut butter (have you heard it’s healthy) and mixed with greek yoghurt, it tastes like an indulgent pudding.

Pan-Fried Salmon, Lentil Dhal, serves 2

  1. For the Dhal: Sweat 1 onion and 2 cloves garlic in 1tsp coconut oil and a pinch of salt. Add 1tsp each of; ginger, cumin, turmeric, coriander and chilli powder. Add 1/2 tin chopped tomatoes, 1tsp sugar, 100g red lentils and vegetable stock to cover. Simmer for 15-20mins, stirring occasionally.
  2. Meanwhile, take the salmon out of the fridge at least 1/2 hour before cooking. Heat a pan, add the salmon, flesh side down for 4-5mins. Flip and cook skin side down for 2-3mins, until skin is crispy. Place on top of the dhal, skin side up and scatter with coriander leaves.

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Peanut butter yoghurt, serves 1

  1. Heat 1tsp peanut butter in a bowl in the microwave for 30 seconds. Mix in 170g greek yoghurt and (optional) 1tsp sugar. Top with blueberries.

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Wine: The classy way to get drunk.

I’ve never been a scientist. As my mother will tell you, I managed to get through my physics GCSE through a mixture of learning the text book and sheer luck. I’m sure my A-levels of Ancient Greek, Latin and Music (which of course I use all the time in everyday life…..) have something to do with the creative side of cooking, but one thing I never expected to find so fascinating was the science behind cooking. From the moment I discovered that some vague memory about how osmosis worked could actually be usefully applied when boiling potatoes, using osmosis to infuse the potatoes with flavour before mashing, I was hooked. It’s not just the science of food that has interested me recently, but I’ve been finding out a lot about wine as well. While I’m not going to be able to spill out all the information I accumulated about wine over a qualification i did this summer in one blog post, and it is almost impossible to understand how different wines taste unless you taste a lot of similar wines one after the other, there are a few things that might surprise you. For anyone who declares I only like Chardonnay; Chardonnay tastes completely different based on the climate – citrusy, fresh in a cool climate, tropical and rich in a warm climate. Red wine can only be made with red grapes but white can be made with both (as long as the red skins are removed). The colour (tannins) are in the skin. Italian wines are almost certainly high in acidity, it’s just how the Italians like it. If a wine says Grand Cru on it, the wine is one of the best, but Special Reserve technically has no guarantee of a good wine. Generally a grape that produces high tannin wine (thick skins e.g Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah) will be better when it is aged and the tannins softened, but thinner skinned grapes (Merlot, Grenache, Pinot Noir) can be drunk earlier. And that is why I always drink Merlot in a pub. I could probably go on like this all day, proper wine geek.

In terms of wine/food pairings – there are a few rules: (If you do one of these courses you get given a handy card you can carry with you – which of course I use all the time…..)

 

While overkilling the wine geekery in a conversation with my friend, Madam Jojo,  she insisted that I design a wine tasting for her and some friends to put my skills to the test. Here is the menu, a little bit about what they taste like and the dishes I matched them with… on that note Majestic Wine were fantastic, great value, delivered to the house for free and huge selection.

Lindauer Special Reserve Blanc de Blancs
Sparkling White New Zealand, 100% Chardonnay, Butter, Biscuit, lemon
Chablis Vieilles Vignes 2012, Vocoret
White Burgundy, 100% Chardonnay, citrus, green apple, minerality

Smoked Salmon, Crab Salad, Fennel, Apple, Avocado, Sourdough Bread

Marquis de Pennautier Chardonnay ‘Terroirs d’Altitude’, 2012 Pays D’oc
Southern France White, 100% Chardonnay, stone and tropical fruits, cloves
Château Tour du Haut Moulin, 2007, Cru Bourgeoise, Haut Medoc
Red Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon dominated Merlot/Cab blend, blackberry, spice, smooth tannins

Spicy Black Beans, Bacon, Confit Potato, Creme Fraiche, Toasted Almonds

Matsu El Recio 2012, Toro
Intense Red, 100% Tempranillo, coffee beans, chocolate, overripe plums, smooth tannins
Royal Tokaji Late Harvest, 2012
Hungarian dessert wine, ripe peach, apricots, nectarine, high acidity so not cloying on palate

Orange Cream, Basil Jelly, Honey toasted oatmeal

  

  

Home, Sweet Home

I have, unfortunately, got a back log of blogs, something I never thought I’d say. So during a period of self induced anti-social behaviour (by this I mean speaking as little as possible, no drinking, no noisy places etc in order to heal my vocal chords after years of singing on them sub-par) I am attempting to knock as many of these out as possible. Let’s start with my trip back home for the weekend, partly on the way back from an interview at Leiths cookery school (shameless name drop there) and partly to catch up with my grandma (and of course download the link to this site as part of her desktop so she never misses an article). I come home and suggest a nice dinner out, my parents enjoying my company, me exploiting free, nice food. My mother had other ideas. She had recently had a delivery from Sandy Lane Farm, the lovely oxfordshire farm that provided our Turkey for Christmas, of an assortment of random vegetables. In her own words, she was never going to get around to using them this week, as they were out almost every night, so could we maybe eat in? Well played mum, who’s exploiting who now…. On that note, Happy Mothers Day for yesterday So here is the vegetable inspired 3 course meal. (NB I think I may have found a way to convert even the most die-hard anti-sprouts veterans with this starter)

Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Wilted Cavolo Nero, Lemon-yoghurt dressing, Parmesan shavings, Poached Duck Eggs.

  1. For the brussels sprouts, wash, trim and cut brussels sprouts in half. Place in a dish and scatter with truffle oil, black pepper, salt and lemon juice. Roast for 20mins at 180°C.
  2. Meanwhile combine lemon juice, pepper, greek yoghurt and a pinch of sea salt and mix well. Wash the cavolo nero then pour over boiling water to wilt slightly, toss in dressing.

  3. Finally poach 4 duck eggs for 2-3mins so the centre is still soft. Top the cavolo nero with the brussel sprouts, parmesan shavings and finally the duck eggs.

Pan Fried Sea Bass, Swede and roasted garlic mash, walnut pesto, roasted lemons and maple roasted baby carrots.

1. Peel and chop swede, boil with salt, bay leaf, thyme and pepper until soft. Meanwhile roast the garlic (Whole) and slices of lemon for 20mins at 180°C.

2. For the pesto, blitz 200g walnuts, handful of parsley, 1tbsp walnut oil, 1tsp truffle oil, 2tsp lemon juice, salt and pepper in a food processor.

3. For the carrots, scrub, top and tail the baby carrots. Roast for 15-20mins in a drizzle of oil, maple syrup, salt, pepper and white wine vinegar.

4. For the sea bass, put 4 sea bass fillets in a pan of cold water with a bay leaf, peppercorns, thyme and cumin. Bring slowly to the boil, as soon as you reach the boil turn of the heat and leave for 10mins. Pan fry in a drizzle of oil skin side down for 2mins, until skin is crispy.

5. To serve, mash the swede with 2-3tbsp olive oil, a pinch of cumin and the roasted garlic. Serve topped with the fish, walnut pesto, lemon slices and carrots.

 Maple and Sweetcorn Pannacotta, Maple Popcorn.

1. Bring 600ml milk and 200ml cream to the boil. Add 1tsp vanilla extract, 3tbsp maple syrup and 500g sweetcorn kernals, simmer for 2-3mins. Blend until smooth and pass through a sieve. Meanwhile soak 4 leaves of gelatine in cold water squeeze out and add to sweetcorn mix. Pour mix into ramekins.

2. For the popcorn, drizzle 1tsp oil in a pan. Add 2tbsp unpopped popping corn. Cook covered until the popcorn begins to pop, turn off heat and leave covered until the popping stops. Add 2tbsp maple syrup and shake well to coat, leave to one side.

3. Serve pannacotta topped with popcorn.