Life is uncertain. Eat Dessert first.

home-made

Salmon Hot Pot

A great one-pot dish, according to the authors this is one of the few dishes to appear in The Wagamama Cookbook that doesn’t feature on the restaurant menu. Wagamama has tried to redefine what it means to serve “fast food”, so it makes sense that this dish, that takes 30 minutes to cook, is better suited to being prepared at home. This has one of the lengthiest cooking times of any meal in The Wagamama Cookbook, but as with most of the recipes the actual prep time isn’t too time-consuming. It’s a really good book if you’re looking for lots of delicious, Japanese-inspired, low-fat dishes.

INGREDIENTS

400g (14oz) salmon

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 leek, trimmed and finely choppped

1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot

1 carrot, peeled and finely diced

1 stick celery, peeled of any strings and finely diced

1 teaspoon sugar

2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

salt and white pepper

75ml (3fl oz) light soy sauce

300g (10 1/2 oz) cooked rice

 

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas mark 4. Remove and skin and bones from the salmon and cut the flesh into bite-sized pieces. Heat the oil in a flame-proof casserole dish and when it is hot add the leek, shallot, carrot and celery and saute gently for 10 minutes.

Add the sugar and garlic, cook for a further minute and then add the fish and season with salt and pepper. Pour over the soy sauce, add 4 tablespoons water, cover and bake in the oven for 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Divide the rice between 2 bowls and ladle over the salmon hot pot.


Focaccia

Two recipes in a row from the Great British Bake Off – How To Bake book! This recipe for home-made focaccia is actually quite straight-forward, but benefits from having reassuringly detailed instructions in the book, and also being able to check the video clip online of Paul Hollywood making it on the show itself.

As advised on the show, and reiterated in the book, this is a really wet dough, and handling it is messy. Make sure to add the water gradually, and be sure to add all of the water. Because you are adding cold water, the dough will be slower to rise,  but it will increase by three to four times it’s original size, so make sure you let it rise in a bowl that will be big enough!

Before you bake this bread you can add olives, sun-dried tomatoes, pancetta etc to the dough. I left mine plain and just drizzled some basil oil over it when it was cooked. The following quantities will make two large loaves.

INGREDIENTS

500g strong white bread flour

10g crushed sea salt flakes

2 x 7g sachets fast-action dried yeast, or 18g fresh yeast

2 tablespoons olive oil (plus extra for drizzling)

fine sea salt, for sprinkling

2 baking trays, about 30x20cm, lined with baking paper

Put the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl and stir in the dried yeast. Make a well in the centre and add the olive oil and 300ml cool water. (If using fresh yeast, crumble it into the water and mix together, then make a well in the flour and pour in the yeast liquid and oil).

Gradually mix the flour into the liquid using a wooden spoon or your hand to form a rough dough. Gently massage the dough in the bowl for 5 minutes, very slowly mixing in about 100ml more cool water. The dough will have a wet consistency.

Work the dough in the bowl for about 5 minutes – first stretch the dough by pulling on one side using your fingers and palms of your hand. Then fold the stretched dough into the centre. Turn the bowl 80 degrees and repeat the stretching and folding process.

When the 5 minutes is up, tip the dough onto a well-oiled worktop. Knead using your knuckles and palms for 5 minutes, pushing the dough away from you and then folding it back on itself.

Oil the bowl and return the dough to it. Cover with a snap-on lid or cling-film. Leave to rise at room temperature for about one and a half hours or until increased to about four times its original size.

Gently tip the dough onto a lightly floured worktop, trying to keep as much air as possible in the dough. Divide the dough in half. Put one half in each baking tray and press out gently, pushing the dough into the corner of the tray.

Leave the shaped dough to rise, uncovered, at room temperature for about 1 hour or until at least doubled in size. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 220degC. Drizzle a little olive oil evenly over the dough.

Sprinkle with fine sea salt, then bake for 20 to 25 minutes: check that the focaccia is cooked by tipping it out of the tray – the underside should be browned. Sprinkle the focaccia with a little more olive oil and serve hot, or allow to cool and serve the next day.

 


Chocolate Crackles

Bad New Year’s Resolution: “I will give up eating biscuits and cakes”. Good New Year’s Resolution: “I will only eat biscuits and cakes I make myself”. This first recipe for 2012 is from The Great British Bake-Off How To Bake book, which is one of the three baking cookbooks I was lucky to receive as gifts over Christmas (more to follow from the other two at later dates!). A fantastic book that does justice to a very enjoyable TV show (probably my favourite from last year), it includes all of Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood’s Masterclass recipes, as well as clear step-by-step instructions on how to make the more difficult bakes.

These dark chocolate biscuits are rolled in icing sugar just before baking, which gives them their crazy paving look. The following quantites make about 30, so there’s plenty to put aside in a airtight container to eat over the next five days, or else bring in to work the next day to impress your colleagues!

INGREDIENTS

100g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)

100g softened unsalted butter

150g light brown muscovado sugar

1 large free-range egg, room temperature

half teaspoon vanilla extract

175g self-raising flour

half teaspoon bicarbonate soda

2-3 tablespoons icing sugar

Put the chopped chocolate in a large heat-proof bowl and set over a pan of steaming hot but not boiling water (don’t let the base of the bowl touch the hot water). Leave to melt gently. Remove the bowl from the pan and stir in the butter. When the mixture is completely smooth stir in the muscovado sugar. Leave to cool for 5 minutes.

Beat the egg with the vanilla just until combined, then add to the bowl. Sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda into the bowl and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and chill for about one hour until firm.

Preheat the oven to 200degC. Divide the chocolate dough into 30 even-ish shaped pieces and roll into neat balls. Spoon the icing sugar into a shallow dish. Roll the balls, one at a time, in the sugar to coat thickly. Set the balls on the prepared baking sheets, spacing well apart to allow for spreading (bake the biscuits in batches, if necessary).

Bake for 10 minutes for a softer biscuit, or 12 minutes for a crisp result. Remove from the oven and leave on the sheets for a minute, then transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool completely. The biscuits will continue to firm up as they cool.


Afternoon Tea: Lemon Squares, Half-blondie/Half-brownies, Crunchy Top Scones

“There are few hours in life more agreeable then the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as Afternoon Tea” – Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady

A dining experience that has come back into vogue in the last few years, the rebooted 21st Century Afternoon Tea can sometimes fall between being a stuffy, mock-aristocratic pastiche, or a doilies and egg sandwich “granny chic” event. This article lists a couple of the best options for Afternoon Tea around Ireland.

The key to hosting a successful Afternoon Tea at home is a diversity of sandwich fillings served on a selection of breads, a variety of tea (and coffee) options, and a selection of bite-sized cakes! Tray bakes are your best bet, as they can just be cut into slightly smaller portions then you would normally serve.

I’ve previously blogged about the Half-blondie, Half-brownies – the other treats in the photo are Lemon Squares from The Hummingbird Bakery cookbook, and Crunchy-Topped Sweet Scones from Darina Allen’s Ballymaloe Cookbook.

LEMON SQUARES

Preheat the oven to 170degC.

For the base, put 290g plain flour, 70g icing sugar, a pinch of salt, 230g unsalted butter and 2 tsp grated lemon zest in a freestanding electric mixer and beat until the mixer resembles breadcrumbs. Press the dough together with your hands, then press it evenly into the base of a deep baking tray, lined with baking parchment. Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes, or until light golden. Leave to cool, with the oven left on, while you make the topping.

Put 210g caster sugar, 3 eggs, 100ml freshly squeezed lemon juice and 3 tsps grated lemon juice in a bowl and whisk with a balloon whisk until well mixed. Pour carefully over the baked base and return to the oven. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown and the top has set. Leave to cool completely, then cover and refrigerate overnight.

CRUNCHY TOP SWEET SCONES

Sieve 450g plain flour, a pinch of salt, 25g caster sugar, and 1 and a half heaped tsp of baking powder into a large bowl. Cut 85g butter into cubes, toss in the flour then rub in the butter. Make a well in the centre. Whisk 3 eggs with 215ml milk, add to the dry ingredients and mix to a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured board.

Knead lightly, just enough to shape into a round. Roll out to 2.5cm and cut into scones with a ring cutter. Put on a baking sheet. Brush the tops with egg wash and dip each one in granulated sugar. Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes until golden brown on top. Cool on a wire rack.

Serve split in half with jam and a blob of whipped cream.


Gratin of Mediterranean Vegetables

The north wind doth blow,
And we shall have snow,
And what will poor robin do then,
Poor thing?
He’ll sit in a barn,
And keep himself warm,
And hide his head under his wing,
Poor thing.

And if he has any sense he’ll make himself up a big batch of this winter-warmer. As the weather starts to take a turn for the worse, this is a great dish to throw together when you’ve just arrived home, wet and cold, from work. You can experiment with the filling too, using whatever you might have in the fridge to save yourself going back out to the shops in the cold! The quantities below serve 2-3.

Preheat the oven to 200degC. Cut an aubergine into 1cm slices, sprinkle with salt and leave to drain for 15-20 minutes. Rinse to remove the excess salt and pat dry with kitchen paper. Peel a couple of tomatoes and cut into thick slices. Slice a courgette at an angle in 1cm slices.

Drizzle a baking dish with a few spoons of extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle in some chopped spring onion and some chopped herbs (rosemary, thyme or marjoram are all lovely in this dish), arrange the aubergine slices alternately with the tomatoes and courgette. Season with salt and pepper, drizzle with a little more oil and sprinkle over some more herbs. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked through.

While the vegetables are cooking, make the crumb topping: melt a knob of butter in a pan and stir in about 50g of soft white breadcrumbs. Remove from the heat immediately and allow to cool. When the vegetables are cooked, mixed some grated parmesan in with the buttered crumbs, sprinkle over the top of the vegetables, and brown under the grill before serving.


Sausages with Celeriac Puree and Braised Shallots

This is a slightly upmarket version of the traditional supper of bangers and mash. Try to source really good sausages for this dish – Hugo Arnold recommends using Toulouse sausages, who’s casing is made from caul fat. A staple part of the Irish diet, there is an almost innumerable amount of different regional variations and specialities of sausages. The greatest variety can be found in Germany, home to over 1,000 different types of sausages!

Peel a head of celeriac and roughly chop into equal sized chunks. Place in a saucepan of boiling, salted water along with an onion studded with 4 cloves. Cook until tender, drain, remove the cloves from the onion and liquidize the onion and the celeriac. Beat in 4 tblsp of olive oil and enough milk to form the desired consistency. Set aside and keep warm.

Fry 8 sausages in a little oil until cooked through and keep warm.

Put 450g peeled shallots in the same pan, coat throughly in oil, cover with tin foil, lower the heat and cook until tender, about five minutes. Remove and keep warm.

Drain any excess oil from the pan, add 300ml cider and reduce, scraping up any bits from the bottom of the pan until the liquid becomes a syrup.

Serve the sausages with the celeriac and the shallots, and pour over the cider gravy.


Pumpkin and Rosemary Muffins

These savoury muffins were a flavoursome accompaniment to the Pumpkin and Chilli Soup, as well as being an economic solution to using up leftover pumpkin at Hallowe’en! The baking paper cases can be a bit fiddly, but you can just use normal muffin cases if you prefer. Lorraine Pascale does use the word “scrumbunctiousness” to describe these in her Baking Made Easy book, which is a pretty good point of reference for their moist, light texture.

Preheat the oven to 200degC. Cut out 12 squares of baking paper, approx 14x14cm each. Oil the muffin tin and push the squares down into each hole so the paper sticks up. The squares of paper have a habit of popping up out of the holes, which is OK for now as once the muffin mixture is spooned in the squares will stay down.

In a large bowl, sift 180g self-raising flour, 130g wholemeal flour, 1 tsp baking powder and half a tsp of bicarbonate of soda together, then stir in a good pinch of salt and 3 sprigs of rosemary, very finely chopped. Put aside the wholemeal husks that will be left in sieve, as these will be sprinkled over the top of the muffins.

In a medium bowl, mix 160g of cooked pumpkin (cut into .5cm dice), 2 lightly beaten eggs, 100ml plain yoghurt, 275ml milk, 3 big squidges of honey and 60ml vegetable oil – stir well until they are all combined. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and, using a large spoon and about 8 turns, mix all the ingredients together. It does not take much to over-mix muffins at this stage and although the end result will still taste sublime the texture will not be as tender. Leave the mixture to stand for 5 minutes, then spoon into the paper cases.

Sprinkle the leftover wholegrain flour, 80g of diced pumpkin, and a few pumpkin seeds over the muffins. Bake in the centre of the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the muffins are risen and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.