Monday, 17 March 2014

Lemon and Raspberry Tart...and the time I got over myself and used a store-bought pastry case.

SPRING BREAK IS HERE LADIES AND GENTLEMEN. I’m heading down south (I think?) to stay with mum’s penpal. It’s a little sad outside…very grey and gloomy. But BBC weather says that it’s going to be nice and warm in Croughton so I’m not complaining. J It’s not quite going to be a wild spring break in Cabo (Although seeing the chickens wandering around in bikinis is a pleasant thought) but I’m really excited. The last time I saw Lesley was when I first arrived in the UK, and I’ve been dying to go back to her beautiful house ever since.

Despite their protests, I’ve promised to cook for my keep which I’m really looking forward to. To be completely honest I’ve kinda lost a bit of my cooking kick this semester. Too much going on, too many deadlines… a change of scenery is just what I need to get back into gear. The train ride has given me a chance to start planning menus in my head. I know I want to do spatchcock chicken at some point and I’ve brought curry powder for an Indian night, but the rest is pretty much up in the air. Shall I do the roast pork belly again you think? Or maybe dumplings? And what about something new? Puddings? The brain in pulsing with new recipe possibilities and I’m glad. It hasn’t had a chance to do that in a while.

Speaking of cooking (not that I ever talk about anything else), Fiona decided on Saturday night to show Eli and I what a proper British roast dinner was like. On a crazy whim we got into her car for an adventure!
 (When I say ‘adventure’, I mean a chicken run to Morrisons, with a stop at Sally’s quad to steal some rosemary)

Anyways I volunteered to make a lemon raspberry tart for pudding. And this is a recipe I really wanna share because it’s so simple to throw together. It’s the sort of thing that looks very glamorous but literally takes minutes to put together on your part. And it all boils down to a little bit of cheating (i.e-using a pre-made shortcrust tart shell).

Now don’t get huffy. When your counter is covered in potato peelings, oil spills and raw chicken sometimes a pre-made crust is what pulls you back from the brink of dinner party insanity. And no one will honestly be able to tell the difference. Once you pop the shell on a baking tray, all that’s left for you to do is whisk up the fabulously lemony filling, pour it in and bake.

Lemon Rasberry Tart
-         -  One 20cm premade shortcrust pastry shell. (be careful to choose one that isn’t cracked or broken)
-          - 2 whole eggs
-          - 2 egg yolks
-          - ½ cup castor sugar
-          - ¼ cup flour
-          - The juice of 2 ½ lemons (Quick tip: rolling the uncut lemon on the counter before squeezing will give you the most juice with minimal effort)
-          - 1 small punnet of raspberries.
-          - Icing sugar and double cream to serve.

+ Preheat your oven to 180’C
+ Put the tart shell on a baking sheet with some parchment paper underneath.
+Whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, castor sugar and flour. Then add the lemon juice and mix well.
+ OK, so you’re going to want to put your pastry case in the oven and then carefully pour in the lemon filling. I poured it in first and carried the lot over, but that resulted in a good lot of the filling sloshing out of the pastry case before the tart even made it to the oven!
+ Bake for 20 minutes. There won’t be any jiggle to the filling when you take it out. Don’t worry; this is more like a lemon bar topping rather than the usual lemon curd. It will still be smooth and creamy when you cut into it.
+Let the tart cool down and transfer to a plate. Bejewel the top with raspberries and chill for atleast 2 hours.
+ Just before serving, dust with icing sugar and serve with some double cream on the side.

:3 I’ll leave you to humbly accept the fountain of compliments you receive for all the ‘hard work’ you put into dessert. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Alice Medrich's Cocoa Brownies

I'm really picky about my brownies. To me, a good brownie starts with the way it looks. Specifically that beautiful, crackly tissue paper crust. You know what I'm talking about right? That light, flaky top that all great brownies seem to have. Then when you bite into it, it shouldn't be cakey or gooey. No, a good brownie hits that golden sweet spot of FUDGY and it tastes of CHOCOLATE. Not a flat, vaguely cocoa-ish taste that disappears into a sugary abyss 2 seconds after you bite down. No. A superior brownie will punch you in the face with an intense, deep, dark chocolate high that'll swirl around your entire mouth till you basically see nothing but chocolate.

Having said that, I can't make a good brownie.
Don't get me wrong, I've tried over and over.
But brownies have always been a problem for me. I know they're supposed to be one of the first things you learn how to make, but I've never found a recipe that's been able to co-operate. Somehow it always ends up either dry or undercooked. Most times straight up burnt. NEVER with the Holy Grail of 'beautiful crust'. Maybe I'm being over-critical but I've just never been happy with how my brownies turn out.

So I'm still on my brownie quest. Maybe not quite with the determination and vengeance that I started off with, but I do try. It was on one of these brownie quirks that I tried making Alice Medrich's cocoa brownies. I've seen so much about them over the years online, but always passed them over as potential flops. I mean... a brownie recipe with no chocolate? Madness! Then one fateful evening a brownie craving arose and I didn't have any dark chocolate in my cupboard nor was I willing to walk 40 minutes to get some. I really wish now that moment had come sooner. Alice's brownies are brilliant. They've got that perfect fudgy texture and chocolatey flavour. I added a sprinkling of Maldon sea salt over the top and that did it for me. My only criticism was that I didn't get that crowning tissue paper crackle. Although, that could've been something I did wrong. Any ideas? Comment below if you know the secret to that beautiful top!

Alice Medrich's Cocoa Brownies

- 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
- 1 1/4 cup sugar
- 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
-1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 cold large eggs
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cups walnut or pecan pieces (optional)

+ Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.
+ Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water (I just used the microwave. Blast for 30 seconds and stir. Repeat till smooth). Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot.
+ Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one.
+ When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Stir in the nuts, if using. Spread evenly in the lined pan.
+ Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack. Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16 or 25 squares.

I'll leave you to bask in your chocolate comas. :p Till next time!

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Sambal Steamed Fish...and the time I repurposed a Brahims sauce packet.

And yet again I've fallen into the no-post trap! Sorry folks, it's been a crazy busy period over here in St. Andrews. More specifically I was in a play written by a friend of mine and it was a bit of a mad scramble to have it up. It was absolutely beautiful and everyone was impressed and happy now the cast is depressed and suffering from PSD (Post Show Depression :p) What to turn to in the light of such a debilitating disease? Why food, of course! Specifically comfort food. And what better comfort food than the kind which invokes flavours from home? Which leads me to a Malaysian Student staple...

Brahim's sauce packets. If you're a Malaysian student studying abroad chances are you stock up on these every time you're home. They're a great quick fix, but it gets a little boring just simmering meat in them. Personally, I rarely use my Brahim's packets for what they're meant to do. :p I get cheeky... I use them as marinades, as basting sauces, as bases for soups, and now I've found a new use. To steam fish. :)

The sambal tumis paste...doesn't really taste like proper sambal tumis. It lacks a certain...richness? sweetness? I don't know. What I DO know is that with a little bit of tweaking it makes a nice spicy steamed fish topping. Served atop a bed of hot white rice, if you close your eyes you could almost convince yourself you're back home. :)

Spicy steamed fish
- 1 cod fillet (if frozen, thawed completely)
- veggie oil
- 1/4 red onion
- 2 Tbsp Brahim's 'Kuah Sambal Tumis'
- 3 Tbsp water
- salt and sugar
- chilli flakes (the Brahim's paste isn't very spicy)
+ baking paper

* I know the pictures show green beans under the fish, but those were half cooked and half uncooked and just entirely very weird. I have a feeling you'd have to steam them separately to include them in the dish, or else you run the risk of overcooking your fish. A bit too much faff really. You'd be better off just stir frying them.

+ Place your cod fillet in the baking paper.
+ Stir fry the red onions till beginning to be translucent. Add the chilli flakes and Brahim's paste, along with 3Tbsp of water. Add salt and sugar to taste. And simmer till slightly thickened. Set aside and allow to cool.
+ Spread the spice paste over your fish and twist the baking paper parcel shut.
+ Place in steamer and steam for 7-9 minutes. The fish is done if it flakes easily when poked with a fork. Check at 7 please. There're few things in life less unpleasant than overcooked fish.
+ Remove packet from heat, and pour contents onto a waiting bed of hot steamed rice.

More next time guys!