I was sent the following obscene Sainsbury’s cheesecake photo by a reader, who is enjoying looking at it in her fridge so much that she hasn’t eaten it yet. I am almost tempted to start an obscene vegetables week on GD. Almost.
The chocolate puddle pudding I wrote about a few weeks ago went down so well that I felt duty-bound to make another self-saucing dessert for you to try at home. Pouding chomeur (French for poor man’s pudding) is a French Canadian dish, dating from an era when poor men could afford maple syrup. Maple syrup has been pretty pricey stuff for as long as I remember, and I suspect that this pudding was named when dinosaurs still roamed the Latin Quarter of Montreal.
You’ll be making an easy sponge, and pouring a maple syrup and cream sauce over it before putting it in the oven. The liquid magically swaps places with the sponge while the pudding is cooking, and you’ll end up with a lovely moist cake layer on top of a thick, syrupy, mellow and gloriously sweet sauce.
A warning – this is, by design, a very sweet dessert. I recommend cutting through the sweetness by sloshing cream over the warm cake before you eat it, or by having a glass of cold milk by your plate.
To make an amazingly sweet cake from the time of the dinosaurs, you’ll need:
375 ml maple syrup (I used Grade A syrup, but Grade B will be great here too)
250 ml double cream
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
Pinch of salt
170 g caster sugar
90 g butter
225 g self-raising flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
180 ml milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ nutmeg, grated
Zest of 1 lemon
Preheat the oven to 180° C (350° F).
Bring the syrup, cream, vinegar and salt to the boil in a saucepan and immediately remove from the heat. Set aside.
Cream together the butter and sugar with an electric whisk in a large mixing bowl, until the mixture is pale and soft. Add the egg, vanilla extract, lemon zest and nutmeg to the bowl and beat in well with the whisk. Sieve the flour and baking powder in another bowl. Continue to whisk the creamed butter mixture on a medium to high speed, adding the milk and flour a tablespoon at a time until all the milk and flour are used up and the sponge mixture is light and fluffy.
Use a spatula to spread the sponge mixture in the bottom of a 20 cm square cake tin. Pour the sauce gently over the top. Don’t worry if it appears to disturb the sponge mixture – magic will happen as soon as you shut the oven door.
Put the cake tin on a middle shelf of the oven and bake for 45-50 minutes (it may take ten minutes or so longer – test the cake with a toothpick in the centre; if it comes out clean, the cake is done). Serve warm with an insulin drip.
Home-made Boston baked beans are deliciously, wonderfully, shockingly different from the canned variety. When you try these, you’ll wonder just exactly what happened in the long-ago board meeting when Heinz made their plan to pass off their sweetly uninteresting beans as the real thing. There’s so much more going on here than a thin tomato slime surrounding stiff little beans. In beans made properly you’ll find delicately soft beans in a thick, rich sauce packed with clove-studded onions, herbs like bay and cinnamon, and deeply savoury chunks of ham.
Baked beans want your time and your love. You’ll be baking them at a low temperature for six hours, stirring attentively every now and then. Your house will fill up with some really, really good smells. Eat these beans as main course with some good bread, or to accompany a porky barbecue or some pulled pork. This happens to be one of those recipes which improves after a night’s refrigeration, which will help the flavours meld to an even deeper degree.
I’ve used part of a ham I cooked according to this recipe. That ham yielded three meals: the ham itself with fried potatoes, a Pasta alla Medici, and these beans. One of the ingredients in the beans is the liquor the ham cooked in. If you haven’t made a ham yourself, or have made a ham to a recipe which doesn’t yield a sweet cooking liquid, just replace the 500 ml of sweetened stock with 500 ml cola (not diet). It sounds barking, but it tastes divine.
To make six servings, you’ll need:
500 g dried haricot beans
1.5 l water
500 g cooked, smoked ham (recipe here)
500 ml stock from a ham cooked in cola (see above for substitution)
1 large onion
3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon molasses (treacle)
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 dried chipotle pepper (use any hot chilli pepper if you can’t find chipotles)
1 head garlic
1 cinnamon stick
2 teaspoons salt
Put the dried beans in a large bowl and pour the cold water over them. Soak overnight. The next morning, simmer the beans in this water in a covered pan without salt (which will make them tough) until they are soft – about an hour.
Heat the oven to 180° C (350° F). Drain the beans, reserving their soaking liquid, and put them in a heavy casserole dish with a tight-fitting lid. Quarter the onion and press the cloves into it, and chop the garlic. Push the ham, onion, garlic, chilli pepper, bay and cinnamon into the beans, stir in the garlic, then combine 500 ml of the soaking liquid from the beans with 500 ml of the ham’s cooking liquid in a jug and stir in the molasses, the maple syrup, the salt and the mustard. Pour this over the bean mixture, put the lid on and put in the oven for six hours.
Stir the beans every hour or so. You’ll notice that very gradually, the beans will take on colour and the sauce will thicken. If you think the dish is looking too dry, add some water to the casserole dish – if you reach the last hour of cooking and the mixture is looking wetter than you would like, remove the lid.
The beans will keep in the fridge for over a week, but they’re so good that you’re very unlikely to be able to keep them in the house for that long without eating them.
I like to make a vegetable curry as an accompaniment when I make a meat one, but this curry is substantial and tasty enough to stand up as a meal on its own with rice. This curry is in a southern Indian style, with coconut milk making the curry rich and thick, and lime juice adding zing. It’s great for vegetarians – it’s loaded with flavour, and will have the meat-eaters fighting among themselves (probably with forks) for a helping too.
I have been lazy in this recipe and haven’t made my own curry paste. A good shop-bought curry powder works very well here – as usual, I recommend Bolst’s Madras powder, which is really well-balanced and fragrant. To serve four, you’ll need:
3 sweet potatoes
6 spring onions plus more to garnish
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 inch piece of ginger
4 cloves garlic
1 can chickpeas
1 can coconut milk
1 bird’s eye chilli (more if you want a hotter curry)
1 handful chopped coriander leaves
Juice of 1 lime
3 tablespoons oil
Salt to taste
Dice the onions and slice the spring onions, and sauté them in the oil with the curry powder and the coriander, cumin and fennel seeds until the onions are soft and translucent. Add the garlic and ginger, both chopped finely, with the diced and peeled sweet potato and the sliced chilli, and continue to sauté until the sweet potato starts to caramelise and brown a little at the edges.
Pour the coconut milk over the curry, cover and simmer for fifteen minutes, until the sweet potato is soft. Add the drained chickpeas to the pan with half the lime juice and a teaspoon of salt, and simmer for another five minutes. Taste for seasoning – you may want to add more lime. Remove from the heat and stir in the fresh coriander, and garnish with some sliced spring onion.
This curry tastes even better if you leave it in the fridge for a day before reheating and serving. If you do this, add some more fresh coriander when you serve it.
One of the things I love about tapas is that they’re often so easy to prepare. Slice a chorizo, pour over red wine, stick in pan, reduce, eat. Slice some manchego and quince cheese. Eat. Place olives in small bowl. Eat. Put prawns in dish with olive oil, garlic and chillies. Make hot. Eat. Procure a ham. Slice. Eat.
Given that tapas are there primarily as a salty accompaniment to your drink, these simple, clear flavours make a lot of sense. The quality of raw ingredients in preparations like this becomes all-important, and often the best of those raw ingredients are the seasonal ones. Enter the Padron pepper.
These little green jewels are a deliciously sweet, fresh-tasting pepper which comes ready in the summer. They are, for the most part, delightfully mild – but one in every ten or so has a strong chilli kick. There is nothing better than a dish that engages your sense of danger. The Spanish have a saying: Pimiento de Padrón, pequeño pero matón. Translated very approximately, this means: “Padron pepper – teensy-weensy thug”.
To serve two as a nibble with drinks or as a starter, you’ll need:
150-200g Padron peppers (see below for suppliers)
5 tablespoons olive oil
A generous sprinkling of sea salt
Heat the olive oil in a large pan to a medium temperature, and drop the peppers in. Stir the peppers in the oil for about four minutes, until their skins are blistering. Remove the peppers to bowls with a slotted spoon, sprinkle over plenty of salt, and serve piping hot. To eat, hold the peppers by the stem and bite off the whole fruit. Keep a glass of something cold to hand in case you get one of the very spicy ones.
It’s worth getting your hands on some Padron peppers at this time of year, when they are at their very best. I’ve seen them in Waitrose, but if you don’t have a local branch you can also order them online in the UK at Little Green Men, where they have some great chilli products.
Update, 28 Oct 2008 – I’m very pleased to be able to tell you that Sainsbury’s has seen the light, and is now stocking Mighty Spice at selected butchers’ counters, so you’re not going to have to drive to London to buy your own tub any more.
A couple of weeks ago, the nice people at The Mighty Spice Company sent me three of their chilled spice mixes to sample. Exciting stuff, this; I’ve not found anything similar to these fresh blends on sale in the UK. The Mighty Spice Company’s offering is a really refreshing change from the oily, musty pastes and sauces you’ll find on offer in the supermarket which taste vaguely of foreign – instead, these blends are made from fresh ingredients without fillers and additives (so they need to be kept refrigerated), and are really well-judged, with clean and subtle balances of flavour. They’ve been in development for two years, and you can really taste the effort that’s gone into tweaking these mixtures to perfection.
Currently, the range includes a Szechwan mix, a Tandoori mix and a Thai Green mix. All three come with simple recipes on the side of the pack (recipes are also available on the Mighty Spice website), but the mixes are so flexible that you can (as, inevitably, I did – I’m very bad at following instructions) improvise around them very successfully. I was really chuffed to find that the mixes are comprehensive enough that I was able to make a positively fantastic stir-fry without having to add (and chop – hooray!) any ginger, garlic or other spices – and the balance of soy sauce and oyster sauce forming the background of the mix was spot on, so I didn’t have to add any wet ingredients either. I made a lamb curry with the tandoori mix, some crushed tomatoes and coconut – especially good the next day, after a night in the fridge to let the flavours mingle, and again, it needed absolutely no additions to the very well-blended spice mix. The Thai mix was a bit milder than I would usually have chosen, but tasted green and fresh.
My favourite? Probably the Szechwan spice mix, which was loaded with Szechwan peppercorns. It’s a good way into the spice for those of you who aren’t familiar with it and its curious tongue-numbing (but not painful) heat, a sensation a little like a cross between a mint leaf and a chilli. In taste it’s nothing like mint or chilli, but pleasantly citric. None of your syrupy, Chinese-sauce-inna-jar flavours here; this was a really bright, lively sauce that worked well with some chicken and sweet vegetables.
I’m sure it won’t be long before you’re able to find The Mighty Spice Company’s products on sale in a supermarket chiller cabinet near you, but for now they’re very new and are mostly available in London. You’ll find the spice mixes stocked at Wholefoods Market, Selfridges, Harvey Nichols and several organic grocers – a complete list of stockists is available here. I’d heartily recommend you spend the £3.99 on one of their mixes for a professional, easy and hopelessly tasty supper. Brilliant stuff – thanks, Mighty Spice guys!
No proper post for you today; I ate poison pate at the weekend and am currently bundled up in a dressing gown under a duvet, sweating gently (and feeling splendidly thin). Normal service should resume as soon as I can contemplate food without needing to run to the bathroom.
This is a rich chocolate pudding, which makes its own sauce when cooked and rises like a chocolate sponge island in a syrupy chocolate sea. Your mother probably made chocolate puddle pudding. I’ve been asking around, and everybody’s mother seems to have had a similar recipe – and what sensible mothers they were, because this is rich and delicious, malevolently chocolatey and so quick and easy that my cats could make it (given opposable thumbs, the ability to read recipes and access to some weighing scales, an oven, bowls and…you get the idea). To serve six, you’ll need:
6 tablespoons cocoa powder
150 g self-raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
200 g vanilla sugar (or 200g caster sugar and a few drops vanilla essence)
30 g salted butter
75 g dark chocolate (use something with a high proportion of cocoa solids)
150 ml milk
150 g soft brown sugar
500 ml hot water
Preheat the oven to 180° C (350° F).
Measure the flour and vanilla sugar into a large mixing bowl with two tablespoons of the cocoa powder and the baking powder. Melt the butter and chocolate together, and when melted, add them to the bowl with the milk. Stir with a wooden spoon until everything is well blended, and spread the mixture (which should be a thick paste) into the bottom of a baking dish. (I used a 20×30 cm dish.)
Mix the soft brown sugar with the remaining four tablespoons of cocoa, and sprinkle them over the top of the sponge mixture. Pour over the hot water (this should be hot from the kettle but not boiling) and put in the oven for 45 minutes. The sponge pudding will rise through the puddle of chocolate sauce. Serve with vanilla ice cream or a big dollop of cream.
This coleslaw is very quick and easy to throw together, and it’s a great alternative accompaniment for your barbecues. Wasabi and ginger give this coleslaw a great SE Asian kick, and the sweet white cabbage and carrot shreds really respond well to the savoury dressing.
I’ve used powdered wasabi here, which you can usually find at Asian grocers. It’s sweeter and has more zip to it than the pre-prepared version. Check your wasabi packaging to make sure that wasabi (horseradish on some packs) is the only ingredient.
To serve about four people, you’ll need:
1 white cabbage
2 large carrots
½ inch piece of ginger
3 tablespoons seasoned Japanese rice vinegar (I like Mitsukan, which you should be able to find at a good supermarket)
1 ½ tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 ½ tablespoons soy sauce
1 heaped teaspoon wasabi powder
2 teaspoons soft brown sugar
Shred the cabbage finely with a knife, and grate the carrots. Mix the vegetables together in a large bowl.
Add the vinegar to the wasabi in a small bowl, and leave aside for five minutes. Grate the ginger and stir it into the vinegar and wasabi mixture with the soy sauce and sugar, and keep stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Add the sesame oil, whisk briskly to emulsify all the ingredients, and pour the finished dressing over the cabbage and carrots. Toss everything together and serve immediately. This coleslaw does not keep well (the salad will wilt in the dressing), so you have a great excuse to eat it all in one go.
America is a country where every third restaurant seems to be a steakhouse. I didn’t want to overdo the steak, having watched Beverly Hills Cop as a child and taken that thing about your colon very seriously, so we decided on one steakish meal over the week we were in New York. This presented a problem – with so many steak joints on offer, which should I choose? There’s Kobe Club, which reviews well but is amazingly expensive (their menu suggests that you order at least two of their 4 oz portions of Wagyu – but the cheapest 4 oz portion is $50, and with side dishes, a shrimp to balance on top of your steak, the very pricey starters, and supplements for any sauces involving ingredients like foie gras, marrow or truffles, it adds up very quickly). I want at least some money left in my wallet for clothes shopping while I’m in New York, so Kobe Club is off the list. Craftsteak also has an excellent reputation, but Tom Colicchio spreads himself awfully thin – he’s currently involved in 13 restaurants across the United States, so it doesn’t feel very special. Good steak is something so many restaurants here do – so I want a restaurant with something extra-interesting to it. Enter Delmonico’s. (Turn your speakers off before clicking this link – there is intensely aggravating music.)
What’s interesting about Delmonico’s? Simple: it’s the oldest continuously run restaurant in the US, and may be the first fine dining establishment in the whole country, having been established in 1827. Those pillars outside? Imported from Pompeii in the 19th century. This is where Lobster Newburg, Chicken a la King and Baked Alaska were invented; the restaurant also gave its name to the Delmonico steak, a cut served in restaurants all over the country. (They also claim to have invented Eggs Benedict, but this seems to be controversial.) Mark Twain has eaten here – so have Theodore Roosevelt, Dickens, Oscar Wilde, Tesla, Napoleon III and a positive galaxy of America’s great and good. We booked for a Wednesday night, put on those clothes we’d been able to afford because we didn’t go to Kobe Club, and got stuck in.
The dining room is very masculine; all dark leather and wood panelling, like a meaty gentlemen’s club. Service was smiling and fantastically personal – my cocktails, including the most savoury and well-balanced Dirty Martini I’ve ever tasted, were constructed at the tableside in a silver shaker. The menu still includes some of the classic dishes from the restaurant’s past, although I was disappointed that there were no Delmonico Potatoes – a gratin made from parboiled potatoes grated into long shreds with parmesan and nutmeg. That famous steak was there, though, along with the Lobster Newburg and Baked Alaska.
Dr W plumped for a Caesar salad to start with so he could fit in as much steak as possible later on. It was a good example, dressing clearly made in-house and strongly flavoured, with white anchovies interlaced on top. I went for the foie gras, dusted with crushed hazelnuts and grilled, then served hot with three fruity sauces. The crushed nut/foie combination is one that pops up more and more often these days, and it’s a good one, the toasty richness of the nuts complimenting the buttery foie beautifully. This little lobe was nicely and neatly prepared, too; no stringy or bitter bits.
The Delmonico steak (a wet-aged, boneless ribeye) was thick, and served perfectly medium rare; it was gently crusted on the outside, the fat crisping and delicious, and marbling the whole piece. It was also enormous, weighing in at 20 oz, and I wasn’t able to finish it, which made me extremely jealous of Dr W, whose salad decision was a good one which enabled him to absorb his entire steak into his person. Spinach and parmesan and something called “The Perfect Hash Browns” made for good sides, although I’d quibble with the “perfect” thing; they weren’t particularly interesting or memorable.
It is a happy freak of biology that I appear to have been born with a separate stomach especially for dessert. I couldn’t have packed another atom of beef in there, but Baked Alaska (two spoons, because Dr W was so full that tears were appearing in the corners of his eyes) sounded just the ticket. And where those hash browns hadn’t lived up to their description, the Baked Alaska was pretty much divine. A piped hedgehog made from tens of caramelised meringue peaks surrounded a soft, but not melting centre of gorgeous, gorgeous banana-candy ice cream, sat on top of a piece of sponge studded with juicy pieces of apricots. Regular readers will know that I’m not much of a pudding person, but I would be perfectly happy to eat Delmonico’s Baked Alaska and nothing else for…ooh…at least one meal every day.