Saturday, 31 December 2011

TOP 10 POSTS IN 2011

Here are the ten posts which received the most traffic on this blog in 2011. Thank you to all my readers, and Happy New Year!

Nigella's Crustless Pizza

Don't Make These!

Rock Shandy

Terribly Clever

Easy Saturday Supper - Lamb Mechoui


The Best Chocolate Tart

Marmite Spaghetti

Cheat's Mango Sorbet

Nigella's Buns

Friday Supper: Steak & Leffe Pie

Guests posts invited for 2012. Please contact me via the comments box on this post, or Facebook or Twitter (@crosseyedpiano) if you would like to contribute.

Friday, 30 December 2011

FRIDAY NIGHT PUDDING: TIRAMISU

A classic Italian dessert which has, like Black Forest Gateau, Crepe Suzettes, trifle and profiteroles, become something of a cliché. Done badly, it is sickly, cloying and claggy. Done well, it is light and fluffy, a pillow of marscapone and egg whites over a coffee and liqueur-soaked sponge base.

I have to confess to a real fondness for Tiramisu, and I often order it if I see it on an Italian restaurant menu. The best I've had was at Ca'an Mea, a wonderful and eccentric restaurant just outside Badalucco in Liguria (more here), where it was, inexplicably, served in an enamel chamber pot. My friend Nick also makes a mean version.

The word "tiramisu" literally translates as "pick me up" and it was invented within the last 50-odd years. It is traditionally made with "savoiardi" or Boudoir biscuits/lady fingers, eggs, sugar and mascarpone cheese. It's lighter than a cheesecake, or a trifle. There are countless variations, using panettone or other yeasted breads, different cheeses, with or without eggs. Nigella Lawson has a "white" version, using white rum and crushed meringues. I had planned to make my version for dinner tonight using leftover Madeleines purchased in France last week, but when I went to use them, I discovered someone (who shall remain nameless) had eaten them all. Instead, I used Pain d'Epice (a French spiced cake made from an enriched yeasted dough). Once I had soaked it in a mixture of black coffee and Amaretto, I reckoned it would taste pretty authentic!

Tiramisu is quick and simple to make. Ideally, make it in advance so that the cheese/egg mixture has time to set. Here is Nigella's recipe for White Tiramisu, and a link to Delia Smith's more classic version.

Happy new year!
White Tiramisu (serves 6)
  • Box of shop meringues
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 90g caster sugar
  • 325g mascarpone
  • 160ml white rum, such as Bacardi
  • 200 ml full fat milk
  • 18 savoiardi or as many as needed
Choose a dish about 10cm deep, suitable for holding 9 savoiardi in one layer (a glass one looks nice). Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until pale and mousse-like. Fold in the mascarpone gradually and then beat until incorporated. Whisk one of the egg whites (you don't need the second) until firm and fold into mascarpone mixture. Mix the rum and milk in a soup plate and dip the biscuits in the mixture just long enough for them to soften. Lay about 9 moistened biscuits in the dish and spread over about one-third of the mascarpone mixture. Sprinkle with the meringue crumbs. Dip another 9 biscuits into the rum and milk as before and then arrange them on top of the meringue crumbs. You may need a little more or less of each part; remember that with trifle the point is to make the layers, and the dimensions of the dish will determine how much you need of each of these layers. Spread over about half the remaining cream, cover with clingfilm and refrigerate. Put the remaining cream in a closed container and refrigerate also. Leave for a day. Before serving, smooth the remaining cream all over the pudding and decorate with a final scattering of meringues bits.

A bowl of raspberries makes a good accompaniment.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

COQ AU VIN

A classic French dish cooked for an old friend from university, who happens to be half-French and lives in Nantes.

Our get-togethers, which are infrequent, sadly, but always filled with chat, laughter, music and food, begin around 6pm with an "apero" (aperitif), usually something fizzy, sometimes tarted up into Kir Royale with the addition of Crème de Cassis or Crème de Mure. I made Coq au Vin (which is literally "chicken in wine") because I wanted a dish that could be prepared in advance and left so that Anne and I could get on with catching up on the last 18 months. Also, Coq au Vin is definitely a dish that benefits from being allowed to rest so that all the flavours can meld together.

I had intended to serve brown bread ice cream but forgot to pre-freeze the bowl of the ice cream maker in time. So, for pudding we had soft amaretti biscuits (not homemade), Madeleines purchased from Carrefour in Les Gets, and Charbonnel et Walker truffles. Oh, and more wine....

Coq au Vin is stupidly easy to make, and is one of those useful dishes that can be made elegant or rustic, depending on your mood/dinner party guests. Use tiny button mushrooms and baby shallots for an elegant version.

I use Delia Smith's recipe, which, like all her recipes, is pretty fail-safe. I also use chicken thighs (bone in) as I find breast meat tends to dry out and become stringy. I served the Coq au Vin with fluffy mashed potato. I chucked a couple of garlic cloves in with the spuds as they were cooking, and we ate the leftovers of the Christmas dinner - maple parsnips and spiced red cabbage. A bottle of Gamay from Savoie went very nicely with the food, thank you.

Nigella Lawson includes a variant on this classic dish in one of her cookbooks, the Alsace version, Coq au Riesling. It's light and perfect for spring. You can find the recipe here.

We didn't manage to polish off all the garlic mash, so I'll probably make fishcakes from it for Friday Night Supper.....

Sunday, 11 December 2011

WINTER WARMER: VENISION SAUSAGES BRAISED IN RED WINE

Venison, or rather its living original, deer, has been "in the news" lately as the YouTube film of Fenton the Dog chasing deer in Richmond Park has gone viral. Possibly one of the funniest things on YouTube at the moment, and an example of that particularly English form of schadenfreude, it is also a warning to dog owners, to keep their hounds under control when around deer in the park.

I live not ten minutes walk from Bushy Park, a lovely expanse of open space between Teddington and Hampton Court, and the park has many deer, of different varieties (as well as the famous Bushy Park parakeets, and green and spotted woodpeckers). Autumn is the rutting season and sometimes if I wake in the night, I can hear the deer grunting and bellowing.

Venison is a lovely alternative to beef, and is better for you as it is leaner. It has a rich flavour, but not over-poweringly gamey, and it also makes delicious, rich sausages. Sandy's, the fishmonger in Twickenham, sells wonderful, homemade venison sausages, but you can usually find good ones in Waitrose or M&S. This recipe is a classic Delia (from her Winter Collection book), and is a perennial favourite, particular amongst men, I find (perhaps it's the nod to school dinners or what Granny made that appeals?). It's a proper autumn or winter dish, hearty and heart-warming, especially when served with a mound of fluffy mashed potato, or baked potatoes slathered with butter. It's stupidly easy to make, and can be prepared well in advanced, or even made and then frozen. I can do no better than direct you to Delia's own website for this recipe.  The juniper berries are essential and a classic companion to venison, lending a pleasantly ginny kick. Tonight, I'm going to serve it with baked potatoes and Ottolenghi's Best Mash.

Meanwhile, here's Fenton the Dog (and his angry owner) in action in Richmond Park....