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Friday, 27 January 2012

Experiment: Lemon Biscotti (Angel Eyes, and Hell Boy pt II)

This recipe is a great way to introduce kids to cooking and what a result! A fantastic biscuit that looks hard to make but is simplicity itself!

At this point in my culinary career I'd not really made biscotti before, so it was basically a test run. Now I don't know about anyone else, but when I'm doing test runs I like to have tight control over ingredients, quantities, temperatures, times, shelves, pan types, etc. In other words, I want the result, be it a cricket bat, or the lightest crumbliest sublime biscuit, to be reproducible if nothing else!

So off I went to my friends in the country. What better fun than to make some biscotti with the kids? Or so I thought!

I prepped up the ingredients and got in my master sous chefs for a baking bonanza!













I'd forgotten how excitable youngsters can be - before I knew what was going on there were all sorts of things flying into the mixing bowl at completely inappropriate times, mixing spoons, nuts, what this? baking powder? let's have some! bosh!

Once I gave in to the concept that making biscotti with 2 youngsters, was NO place for the ordered kitchen mind of the ferdie, and just went with it, I had a great time and so did they! 
 

And I found out that this recipe will always give you something resembling a biscotti no matter what you do! It might also resemble a cricket bat, but hey, it'll be an edible cricket bat . . he . . he!

What's all this mess? -  err, uh, oh. . .
Uh ooh!! "Has he seen us?"
Meanwhile . . . back at the lab, a few test runs later . . .

ingredients (Serves 26 - 3 loaves)
150C/40m, slice loaves then 180C/15m turn once

for the lemon biscotti
35g butter
2 lemons (juice and zest)
3 eggs + 2 yolks
300g caster sugar
1 tbsp baking powder (15ml)
550g self raising flour
130g pecans
130g almonds

apparatus
baking tray
wire rack
microplane
juicer (manual is fine - or a fork)

lemon biscottis
Preheat oven G2 / 150C / 300F
Melt the butter and add the lemon juice and zest, warm until the butter is completely melted and set aside to infuse.

Mix the baking powder and flour, then add the nuts and mix further. You can use whichever nuts you like best.
In a separate bowl whisk eggs and sugar until lightly aerated, then add them to the flour and nut mixture. Stir in well.

You're now ready to make and bake the loaves - which is how the biscotti start life!
Divide the mix into 3 loaves and place in the oven on a lined baking sheet for 40 minutes.

Once they're golden, remove them from the oven on to a wire rack to cool. Turn the oven up to G4 / 180C / 350F. 
Once cool enough to handle cut the loaves into biscotti (1/2 inch / 1cm thick slices) and return to the oven on a lined baking tray. Bake them for 15 minutes turning once. It'll take less if you have fan assist on!

Happy munching! Don't forget if you put these in an airtight container they'll last for at least a week, and you can freeze the loaves and bake off a batch on the weekend or when guests come to visit; they suffuse the kitchen with an irresistible aroma.

what can go wrong?
I've got a lumpy dough! Grumos! As the spanish would say!! To avoid a lumpy mixture put your powders in the bowl and make a well. Using a wooden fork (better than a spoon since the liquids can flow through it) mix the flour in a circular motion, going around the outside of the liquid, combining it in bit by bit until it's one big, smooth mix.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Recipe: Naan Bread . . . . . and Turkey Kebab


I was a kebab virgin when I went to college - I know!! I was a bit of a late developer what can I say! Anyway there were 2 kebab houses near our digs in south Manchester. Bar the empty shop between them they were next-door to each other; the kebabs were OK. The selling point of Abduls was the good chicken and sauces, the selling point of the Haji's was it's mahoosive donners. (investigative post coming up on donners - watch this space) You can imagine my surprise when Sajaan a kebabeur (it's a real word honest) with Tony Montana sized balls opened his new kebab shop in between the two!!
Perfect kebab, healthy, tasty, and home made!!























 Fair play! So we went to try them first chance we got!! Blindingly good! Super fresh naan - IE made to order rather than off some huge pile of naans, the meats beautifully marinated, sauces fresh and vibrant, and the salad ingredients many and varied. When you walked out of Sajaans with your kebab, it would be like Gollum prizing the ring! Maiy preeesciooouuus. . . dribble!

Here's how from home . . . .

ingredients (makes 8 naans)

for the naan bread
500g strong flour
170ml    water   
35ml milk
7g yeast (dried)
30g sugar
5g salt
50 ml EVO (extra virgin olive oil)
1 egg    (beaten)
4g  garlic (finely chopped - optional)

for the dressing

8 pinches poppy seeds (optional)
150g salted butter (clarified)

naan bread

Activate the yeast: Boil the milk and add it to the cold water (the mix will be around 35C perfect temperature to activate the yeast). Dissolve the sugar in the liquid and add the yeast, stirring it in. Leave the mix for about 15 mins while measuring out the other ingredients. It should be frothy on the surface when ready.

Beat the egg and add the oil to it.

Put the rest of the ingredients into a food processor fitted with a plastic blade (dough blade).

Once the yeast is frothy, add the oil and egg mix.

With the motor running, add the liquid to the dry ingredients until a dough is formed, it should be coming away from the side of the mixer cleanly.

Knead the dough: by running the machine for another 2 mins (it feels like forever!!) or knead it on the counter for 8-10mins.
(the purpose here is to get gluten forming in the dough to give elasticity)



Once you're done kneading, put the dough into an oiled mixing bowl and cover it with a damp cloth. Leave it somewhere warm to double in size for around 60mins. Alternatively cover with cling film and leave it in the fridge over night.




Get your heavy based pan hot! I did an experiment to see how much dough was required to fit my pan: it's 9inches, not a bad size for a naan. The dough should be about 2mm thick after it's rolled out. I tried a 70g ball, but it was a bit on the wee side, so I upped it to 120g. In the end a 100g dough ball, rolled out to 2mm thickness, was the perfect fit for my pan.

Don't forget to flour the work surface and the rolling pin before you roll the dough. Flip and turn it 90 degrees on each roll to ensure there's enough flour to stop it sticking. Roll it a touch larger than the pan since it will shrink as you transfer it to said pan.



Of course if you have a tandoor oven you'd pop it onto a round spongy thing and stick it to the inside of the oven for it to cook. But if you have a tandoor oven and you're reading this recipe I think you should have done a bit more research before opening your kebab shop!! Having said that, if you follow this recipe it'll come out better than the crap, loveless kebabs you get from most kebab shops. Where's my trumpet gone? Oh look, there it is, that'll be me there blowing it!! : )

Back to he recipe . . .



Watch the bubbles form on the surface, it will start to look irresistible - still needs browning on top - check the underside to make sure it's golden, then pop it under the grill, after putting a fork through the large bubbles - this will stop your naan ballooning under the grill and catching fire!!



Last thing you want is a Homer Simpson style 'Haaaaaaaa' as you run, flaming balloon naan, flicking from hand to hand to the garden, looking for the nearest disposal point.



Remove perfectly browned naan, brush with clarified butter and dust with poppy seeds. Heaven!



The dough will last in the fridge for a couple of days no problem, so fresh naan for lunch or breakfast? Thank you please!
Hmmmm . . .  : )


for 2 ultra healthy and super tasty moist turkey kebabs

This is a really simple prep, mix and assembly job, resulting in a cracking bit of fare for those invited to dinner!

for the marinaded turkey
1/2 tsp  garam masala
1/2 tsp cumin seed (ground)
6 cardamom pods (deseeded & ground)
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp pimentón
60ml EVO
300g turkey breast (cut into chunks)

for the yoghurt and mint sauce
150ml natural yoghurt
10g fresh mint (finely chopped)
10g coriander (finely chopped)

for the mango sauce
100ml mango chutney
50ml water (to loosen)
15ml chilli sauce

for the salad

1/2 gem lettuce (roughly chopped)
1/2 tomato (diced)
1/4 cucumber (quartered lengthways and sliced)
100g cabbage (julienne)
1 spring onion (fine slice)
1/4 red pepper (julienne, halved)
4 mange tout (julienne)
2 tbsp mayo [LINK] (optional - if you're out of yoghurt)

for the naan bread
2 naan bread (see above)

for the garnish
coriander (torn)

yoghurt and mint sauce
Mix ingredients together.

mango sauce
Mix ingredients together



salad
Mix all the ingredients together except the gem lettuce.



marinaded turkey
Mix all the ingredients together and leave to marinate for at least 2hrs or overnight.
Sear in a heavy-based pan, it won't need any oil as  the marinade has enough, cook until golden brown, turning occasionally.
Remove the turkey from pan and deglaze it with a little water or white wine if you have some to hand (50ml). Put the turkey and the juice in a warm bowl ready for assembly of the kebabs!



what could go wrong?
You might eat all 8 naan yourself and turn into a pork chop! It's better to share them with family and friends!

thinking ahead
You can make the naan dough a day in advance, and keep it in the fridge ready for your guests' arrival. Are you kidding? Guestses aren't allowed near the precious are they? No-nooo, it's mineses it is!

to serve
Put all the components on the table and let folk serve themselves: Lay some gem lettuce on a naan, place some turkey on top of that, a little salad on top of that, coriander, and whichever sauces you fancy! Roll and eat

variations
Are many and varied, if you have a kebab recipe that you want tested in the foodlab please comment, or mail!

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Recipe: Herefordshire Beef Pho w/ Brandy de Jerez Digestif


First day's rest for the festive season! Wake up in the morning, slowly, don't have anything to do today. I love that feeling - holiday! - without a care in the world, no responsibilities to deal with and a bit of cash to spend on a good time! Yeay! What to do? Potter about, make a coffee and call friend, "you fancy hanging out?", "yip : )", "cool, I'll come get you, we can do a little shopping for dinner". "You had breakfast yet?" "No? OK we can grab that too". Quick look in the fridge and larder, what have we got? Some oxtail, onions, lemons, ginger, lemon grass, chillies, bottle of Prosecco : ) hmmm and idea begins to form involving slow cooking oxtail. A little piece of fillet steak, some noodles and some coriander will be all I need.

Unbeknown to me, there were secret elements that had been bought for our consumption, so we picked up a poppy and sesame seed baguette from Des Lys Boulangerie which is a cracking spot by the way, and a few other little bits for our dinner and Champagne brunch!

By this point we were starving. Luckily, almost before I'd managed to start browning the oxtail, a rather lovely combo dip of truffle oil and 25 year old balsamic reserve found its way onto the table with a very enticing, seeded French stick. After a little toning down of the truffle flavour to make it a little subtler the combo was a cracking start that went very well with a glass of Prosecco. Aperitif darling? Why I don't mind if I doo!


Bits on the griddle done, oxtail for the pho on the bubble, I got on with brunch but I found myself being distracted by another festive treat: a little brandy de Jerez!!!!



How could I not indeed!! "Rude not to!! Would you like one?" I inquire, to be greeted by a charming smile and a decisive "I think I'm going to have to try some, quality control you understand." A few giggles later and breakfast was on the table, sorry, err . . brunch was on the table and our oriental dinner was bubbling away nicely on the stove, as we settled in for a movie!

I have to say that a strong coffee with a touch of Jerez brandy makes for a fabulous digestif.

The pho that we had later was close to the original but the response it got: "surprising fusion of flavours and freshness it all went together so well!!" and the fact that it had disappeared are good enough signs to me that it's a keeper!!

note for the purists: I put this post up because folks complained they couldn't get half the ingredients where they lived! This recipe is basically as close as you can get to a Pho with plain old supermarket ingredients. If you can make it in Hereford you can make it anywhere!!! It's missing a few of the light fragrant notes from the specialist leaves namely the Thai basil, but the fine Herefordshire steak more than makes up for that!!

Here's how I made it . . . .

ingredients (serves 4)
for the pho
1 oxtail (cut into slices)
1L chicken stock
300g finest Hereford fillet steak
1 red onion / 4 shallots (finely chopped)
2 birdseye chillies (deseeded)
3 star anise
1 lemon (halved)
1 large piece ginger (3 thumbs - halved)
2 onions (halved)
200g pak choi
30g rock sugar (optional)
600g noodles (I like the flat rice vermicelli (ribbon noodles) - but you can use what ever you want)

for the garnish / accompaniment
10g fresh coriander (torn)
2 bird's eye chillies (sliced rounds)
dash of fish sauce
2 spring onions (julienne)
1 lime (quartered)
2 handfuls of bean sprouts
fish sauce

equipment
griddle pan
4 large soup bowls


 
method
In the broth pot, add a little oil and brown the finely chopped red onions / shallots, and star anise. Whenever you want particular spice flavours to come through more in a dish they should be added first: the roasting will bring  the flavours out more prominently 'Thanks Atul Kochhar for that tip', it's made a great difference to a lot of my food over the years!
Next, put the lemon, ginger, onions, and lemon grass on a griddle pan and char them until they have dark lines running across them, this will give you extra depth of flavour.
They need to be browner than this much browner!!
Brown the oxtails in a pan to get that Maillard reaction going. Once brown all over add them to the broth pot, deglaze the pan with a little chicken stock and add it to the broth pot. Add the griddle contents to the broth pot and deglaze that too, adding to sauce to the pot -  loads of flavour.

Add enough chicken stock to the pot to cover the meat by at least an inch (2.5cm), and at least a tablespoon of fish sauce, then bring it to the boil and allow it to simmer for 3-4 hours, keeping it topped up with stock. If you'd like a lighter, more traditional broth add water and sugar to loosen the broth; if you'd like a more wintery broth simply add stock.

thinking ahead
The broth can be made in the morning and reheated for dinner when you need it, the veg, beansprouts, pak chi, coriander etc are always added at the last minute so they don't spoil.

what could go wrong?
My broth isn't clear!! Well that depends on your point of view. I like my oxtail browned before it goes in so it has more flavour, if you're a clear broth only sort, then you can boil the meats that are to be braised for 15min, then rinse them under cold water and continue with the recipe.

to serve
Bring the broth to a simmer.
Cook the fillet steak to the doneness you like (I like mine closer to rare than medium), rest it for about 4mins and then cut it into fine slices. Add the pak choi to the broth, let it warm through while the steak rests.

Warm the bowls and share out the noodles, fill generously with oxtail and broth and dress with slices of fillet steak. Serve with a side plate of the garnishes and accompaniments so that people can season to their taste.


variations
Pho varies from place to place and the ingredients certainly aren't restricted to oxtail for the slow braising. Cuts such as flank, brisket, and rib (cooked bone-in and sliced later) can all be used, and for the rare beef, sirloin, hanger (onglet), and rump can all be used hanger is my personal favourite it's so tasty! You can also make Pho with chicken - happy days for those who don't eat red meat! I garnish mine with crispy chicken skins - nice!


Enjoy!!

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More Techniques, Basics and Corker Recipes

More Techniques, Basics and Corker Recipes
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