Saturday, 28 November 2009

Pumpkin Lasagne for you

It's a good thing to eat seasonally but inevitably there will be a glut of one kind of vegetable or fruit and at the end of two weeks you are ready to vow that you will never eat it again.  It is pretty hard to escape the pumpkin at this time of year. That and cabbage.  Last week I headed East and made a Pumpkin lakhsa. Next week I'm planning to make Pumpkin and Ginger cupcakes but this week we ate pumpkin Italian style. I'm sure the Italians would be horrified at this deviation from the original version, but to the Italians credit the lasagne is a very versatile dish. You can make as many variations of it as there are cheeses in France. (That's a lot in case you were wondering!) 
I was talking with my girlfriends last night and not surprisingly the conversation turned to food. One of them confessed that lasagne was her comfort food and begged for the recipe.  So here it is, just for you Helene.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

a little something for starters...

Having done a cupboard inventory recently I realised that I had a large amount of cupboard space devoted to spices. I buy my spices in bulk and then need to store them in accumulated glass jars of various shapes and sizes.  Because they are different shapes they often don't sit side by side uniformly on the shelf, hence the reason they take up a lot of room.  I found my jars of seeds and so I was pleased to stumble across this recipe in the Saveurs magazine where I could use them.

We had a surprise birthday party for one of our friends recently. I baked these biscuits for the soirée because I had almost everything in the cupboard. After a quick dash to the supermarket for the cheese they didn't take long to whip up.  The recipe calls for Mimolette cheese. It's a semi hard cheese that is traditionally made in Normandy and Holland.  You could however use any hard cheese. Mimolette cheese works nicely because it is slightly orange and adds a lovely colour to the biscuits. 
Because it's not often that you find biscuits like this they are suitable impressive. And for the extra 2 minutes it takes to roll them in seeds you receive a healthy dose of compliments for your work. 

Cheese Biscuits

200g flour
80g mimolette cheese (or another hard tasty cheese if you can't get your hands on Mimolette)
70g butter - cut into cubes
1 egg
3 pinches of salt
2 tablespoons of sesame seeds
1 tablespoon of poppy seeds

Finely grate the cheese.  Mix the flour, salt and cheese together in a bowl.  Rub the butter in with your fingers and work the ingredients together until it resembles breadcrumbs.  
Beat the egg and then add it to the mixture.  Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of water so that the mixture holds together.
Shape the dough into a cylinder approximately 30cm long.
Sprinkle your work bench with the sesame and poppy seeds.  Roll the biscuit cylinder over the seeds, pressing lightly so that the seeds stick to the mixture.
Wrap the cylinder in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Unwrap the biscuit sausage and carefully cut into slices about 7mm thick.  Try to keep them all the same size so that they cook evenly.
Place the biscuits on the biscuit tray (buttered or lined with cooking paper) and cook for 20 minutes. 
They are cooked when they have turned a delicious golden brown colour and the cheese is sizzling.
Serve cold as part of an apéro selection.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

The comfort of Rum and Raisins

I made this cake for my husband who has a particular weakness for anything rum and raisin flavoured. He stops at nothing - ice cream, rice pudding, semoule au lait and we discovered Les Petits Muffins raisin au rhum from Bonne Maman the other day. What a treat!
It inspired a baking session after work one day not long after. I started with a recipe for a date, ginger and honey cake and ended up with the most popular cake in our house so far this year. It fills the house with the most wonderful warming smells that you will want to make it again just to make your place smell good.
We are two, and we ate this cake within 3 days. It featured in every meal including breakfast. I can testify that it is terrifically good with a cup of tea.

Rum and Raisin Cake
250g self raising flour
150g butter
90g sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 tablespoons honey
3 eggs
125g raisins
100mls approx. rum

Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Pour the rum over the raisins, and microwave for 1 minute to encourage the raisins to soak up the rum (that's where the flavour is). Cover and leave to macerate while you make the rest of the cake.
Beat the butter and the sugar until pale and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each egg. Add the vanilla essence. Add the flour and honey and mix well. Check that your raisins are nice and plump. If not, zap them in the microwave to hurry them up. Drain the rum into your cake mixture. Shake 1 tablespoon of flour over your raisins so that the raisins are covered in flour. This stops them sinking to the bottom of the cake while it cooks. The raisins may look lumpy covered with flour but it will all disappear once cooked. Now add the raisins to your mixture and stir well.
Grease and flour (or line with paper) a loaf tin. Pour in your cake mix and cook in the oven for 20 minutes. As usual, the cooking times vary with each oven. It's cooked when you poke knife in and it comes out clean.
Cool the cake in the tin before tipping it out and enjoying it - but I reckon you won't be able to wait that long!

Monday, 9 November 2009

Soup it up

It's autumn and autumn means soup. Whenever the weather turns colder I discover a childlike adoration for hot soup. There is something about coming in from the cold and being warmed up from the inside out with a bowl of soup. Soup is usually filled with vegetables and vitamins which adds to it's appeal. I feel like I am 'souping-up' my defenses against winter illness.

Here is a tasty number that I whipped up the other day. It has a delicate flavour of vegetables, so think china teacups and silver soup spoons.

Autumnal Green Soup

1 onion
1 potato
1 carrot
20g butter
850mls vegetable stock
1 head of lettuce
100ml cream
salt and pepper

Diced the onion, potato and carrot into small cubes. Heat the butter in a large pot and sweat the vegetables for 10 minutes without colouring.
Add the vegetable stock and cover. Simmer for 25 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
Finely slice the top 2/3's of the head of lettuce, leaving the harder whiter part of the leaves behind, and add to the soup. Cook until the lettuce has just wilted, about 2 minutes. If you cook the lettuce any longer you will lose it's bright green colour and your soup will become dull looking.
Cool the soup a little and purée. You can either do this in a blender or with a hand held mouli.
Adjust seasonings and add the cream.