Cooking From: Blackberry & Custard Biscuits (Sweet by Ottolenghi)

Confession time! The actual recipe in Sweet (by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh) is for Rhubarb & Custard Biscuits and, whilst I’m sure they are utterly delicious, it just isn’t the season for rhubarb. I’ll be making them for sure next spring, but for now we’re using the very much in season (and very foragable, unless you live in London!) blackberry. We actually bought blacberries in our weekly shop, expecting the first weekend of September to be cool enough for a crumble – wrong. The heatwave made a brief (albeit slightly cooler) reappearance and so biscuits it was.

 photo Blackberry Custard Biscuits_zpsox78ji5s.jpgAnd what delicious biscuits they are. Sweet custardy biscuits, made with Bird’s custard powder so that they taste of my childhood. Tart homemade blackberry jam, beaten into buttercream and used to sandwich the biscuits. It all combines beaitfully, with the vanilla-sweetness tempering down the sharpness of the berries. It tastes like a bowl of crumble and custard, but it’s far easier to eat. Almost too easy, as the batch disappeared rather quickly…

And the other recipes in this cookbook are just as good, though I confess we’ve used it very sparingly over the year. It aims to “bring the Ottolenghi hallmarks of fresh, evocative ingredients, exotic spices and complex flavourings – including fig, rose petal, saffron, aniseed, orange blossom, pistachio and cardamom – to indulgent cakes, biscuits, tarts, puddings, cheesecakes and ice cream.” It certainly delivers, and in part that’s why we’ve not used this book as much as I’d like. Quite a few recipes seem to request more unusual ingredients, or use a more time consuming method, and quite often we bake as a random, spur-of-the-moment decision. Having tried this recipe, however, I know I need to make more of an effort to thumb through and use it more.

There are around 100 recipes, and a lot of them are very original – you’re not going to find basic brownies. Instead there’s brownies laced with tahini and halva – and as soon as I can find some halva I’ll be making them. There might not be your usual choc-chip cookies, but there are “Chocolate O Cookies” which are said to be the ultimate homemade Oreo. There’s a coffee and cardamon pound cake which sounds delicious. There’s several cheesecake recipes, many desserts we’d prepare for a dinner party (I’ve genuinely already started planning a feast for our next New Year’s Eve dinner – despite not having any guests yet!). Whilst we’ve not really used this, I can imagine it will be a book that will become well-thumbed over the years. Now I just need to get hold of some of Ottolenghi’s savoury cookbooks…

 photo Blackberry and Custard Biscuits 15_zpssfwr42xd.jpg photo Blackberry and Custard Biscuits 12_zpsqspu1gi6.jpg photo Blackberry and Custard Biscuits 18_zpsonjwyria.jpgRecipe (makes around 15)

  • 175g flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 65g custard powder
  • 65g icing (confectioner’s) sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 170g unsalted butter, at room temperature, cubed
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • For the icing: 1 small stick of rhubarb (or 2 handfuls of blackberries – roughly 70g of fruit), 65g unsalted butter, 130g icing sugar, and 1/2 tsp lemon juice

If you making the rhubarb icing: spread pieces of rhubarb on tray and roast at 180C for 30 minutes, or until soft. Remove from oven and cool, then puree in food processor before adding butter. Add icing sugar and lemon juice and continue to process for a few minutes until it thickens. Transfer to a small bowl and let sit in the fridge to firm up. To make our blackberry filling, we popped the blackberries in a small pan with a tiny splash of water and simmered until soft, pureed, passed through a sieve to remove the pips, and then added butter and continued as per the recipe.

For the cookies, cream the butter with the flour, custard powder, icing sugar and salt on low speed til the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Increase speed to medium and beat for about 30 seconds until a dough forms. Roll dough into balls about 3cm round – they should weigh about 15g. Place on lined trays about 4cm apart. Dip the back prongs of a small fork in the extra flour and then press firmly but gently into the back of each ball so that the cookie flattens. Bake at 170C on lined baking trays for about 25 minutes, let cool on trays for about 5 minutes then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

To assemble, spread 15g of icing on the flat side of a cookie and sandwich with the flat side of another. The forked sides should be facing out. Store in an airtight container if you manage not to eat them immediately.

 photo Blackberry and Custard Biscuits 8_zpsajnh5wwy.jpg photo Blackberry and Custard Biscuits 20_zps78yop1qu.jpgThese we found were the perfect afternoon snack for a weekend. Lovely with a cup of tea (I’m favouring Yorkshire’s Biscuit Brew at the moment), they were light, sweet and had a really comforting taste coming from the custard powder. The biscuits really melted in the mouth too! I’m looking forward to next year’s rhubarb season when I can try the full recipe…

Have you tried any of Ottolenghi’s books? Which do you recommend? 

Cooking From: Moo Pad Prik (Stir Fried Chilli Pork) from the Easy Thai Cookbook

I’ve been saying it for months, but I really want to try cooking more authentic Asian food and follow actual recipes. I can cook a great stir-fry (see my storecupboard recipe here), but it’s far from traditional and there’s a whole world of recipes out there to explore.

 photo Stir-Fried Chilli Pork 5_zpsz29j2lwj.jpgI think in my head, I’ve always perceived authentic Thai cooking in particular to be very complex, very time consuming, and very expensive to buy all of the necessary hard-to-find ingredients. And in some cases that is true – the book I’m posting about had a lot of ingredients I wasn’t sure where to find, how to prepare or even what they were (is it a fruit? a spice?). But that was only a really small sub-section of the recipes, with the vast majority of them being easy to follow, kind to the purse-strings and quick to put together.

The Easy Thai Cookbook by Sallie Morris*, aims to encourage you e seeing a little less of your local take-away driver and lot more variety on your plate. Showcasing the ingredients and techniques used in Thai cookery, there’s over 70 delicious sounding recipes and a very detailed guide on ingredients and equipment. I definitely feel a little more confident venturing to my local Thai store now (though it’s not needed for this recipe!).

 photo Easy Thai Cookbook_zps78rk3lee.jpgOnto this recipe, and I have a feeling it’s going to become a firm favourite. Pork fillet is a pretty bargainous cut of meat, costing around £4 for a full fillet which easily fed two of us (and we’re greedy!) for two meals. It is quite easy to dry out so needs careful cooking, but it’s perfect in a stir-fry style recipe. We served this pretty simply with a small amount of rice, and some courgettes tossed in a soy and basil dressing – it made for a speedy, tasty and light Saturday night supper.

Recipe (served 2)

  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1/2 a pork fillet, around 200-250g
  • 1 small onion, finely sliced
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic (we used two)
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 2 spring onions, cut into lengths and quartered
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • Lots of freshly ground black pepper

First off, trim any excess fat off your pork, and slice into thin rounds of equal thickness. Make sure the rest of our ingredients are chopped and ready to go.

Heat a wok, add the oil and, once it’s hot and shimmering, toss in the pork, onion and garlic. Stir-fry for 5 or so minutes until the pork is almost cooked through, then add the remaining ingredients and toss together until the pork is cooked.Season and serve immediately.

 photo Stir-Fried Chilli Pork 6_zps3pftfx1m.jpgTold you it was easy – and despite the relatively short list of ingredients it was super-tasty. The pork stayed tender, with the quick cooking time preventing it from drying out. I also loved the garlicky taste combined with the fish sauce – really savoury, but it avoided being over-salty too. Definitely one to make again…

*I received a copy of the Easy Thai Cookbook to review however all opinions are, as always, my own.

Are you a fan of Thai food? What’s your favourite Thai recipe?

Cooking From: Bolognese Baked Eggs (Toast Hash Roast Mash by Dan Doherty)

The subtitle of this book is “Real Food for Every Time of Day” – it’s the type of food Dan (executive chef of Duck & Waffle) likes to eat at home and, quite frankly, if he eats like this I’d be happy to move in with him tomorrow. This book is basically a book of comfort food under many guises – there’s pancakes, there’s things to top toast with, there’s sweet things, there’s savoury things. Most dishes are designed for breakfast or brunch, but can really be eaten any time of day.

Whilst we haven’t cooked that many dishes out of this book, it’s one we turn to again and again for inspiration. It’s a joy to read, one of those cookbooks that makes you feel cozy and comforted. In fact reading it again for this review made me realise just how many recipes I want to make!

Chapters are On Toast, Eggs, Hash, Eggs Over Easy, Pancakes, Hangover, Savoury, Sides & Salas, Sweets and Drinks. Basically there’s something for anyone, something for every occasion. There’s jams, homemade nutella, cocktails, instructions to make the best pancakes. And recipes I want to try? Around 99% of them! I won’t list every single one, but top of my list? Dan’s take on Egg’s Benedict featuring a saltbeef bagel and mustard hollandaise. It sounds amazing! The recipe for a Black Pudding Hash made with leftover roast potatoes sounds like the stuff of dreams. But it’s the Hangover chapter which really gets me excited. Scotch Bhaji (basically a scotch egg, with runny yolk, encased in an onion bhaji). The Patty Melt, merging a grilled cheese sandwich with a burger. I’m slobbering at the thought.

However it’s an altogether more simpler recipe I’m featuring here today, and one I’ve simplified even more from the book. Taken from the Eggs chapter, this recipe takes bolognese (see my tomato-free bolognese recipe here, but use your favourite), adds heat in the form of harissa, then nestles in lightly poached eggs, covers in cheese and then bakes. The result is a hug in a dish. It’s warming, spicy, gooey from the eggs, and perfect served with a mound of toast or some freshly baked pitta bread.

Recipe (Serves 2)

  • 2 generous portions of bolognese (I’d veer on the side of too much here!)
  • 1 tsp harissa, or more to taste
  • 4 eggs
  • 100g gruyere cheese

Simply heat the bolognese with the harissa until hot. Lightly poach the eggs until they are just firm enough to remove from the water. Spoon the bolognese mixture into a baking dish, nestle in the eggs and sprinkle over the cheese. Bake at 180C for around 5 minutes, or until the cheese is melted. Serve with plenty of bread for dipping.

It may not be in the hangover section, but I’d certainly be prepared to bet that this would  cure any hangover!

Are you a brunch fan? What’s your go-to at home weekend brunch?

Cooking From: Homemade Pita Bread (James Morton’s Brilliant Bread)

Without a doubt, Brilliant Bread is my most recommended cookbook. It’s the one on my shelves that is well-thumbed, pages stiff with flour, faded with watermarks. If anyone, absolutely anyone, mentions baking their own bread to me I insist they purchase this book. It is quite simply the best book for bread making, both for beginners and beyond.

I could stop with the review and this post there, really, because I quite simply cannot sing James’ praises highly enough.

The writing style is a pleasure to read, it’s a book I can quite happily sit and cosy up with as much as bake from. He has such an excellent way of describing the bread-making process, in a way that’s both easy to understand but also extremely detailed. And the best bit? The majority of the recipes don’t require much, if any, kneading. Bread without having to get my hands dirty is a revelation, and this book alone is the reason I make my own bread so often.

Recipe (I get 10 pittas out of this, as I prefer mine slightly smaller, I quite often quarter or halve too for a small batch)

  • 200g strong white flour
  • 200g plain white flour
  • 8g salt
  • 8g yeast
  • 275g tepid water
  • flavourless oil for greasing

In a large bowl, weigh out the flour. With your fingers, rub in the salt at one edge of the bowl, and the sachet of dried yeast on the opposite side. Add the  water to the dry ingredients, and mix together until it forms a  dough (use your
dough to mop up any flour sticking to the side of the bowl). Cover your bowl with a damp tea towel
and rest in a warm place for about 45 minutes.

Oil the fingertips of one hand, and forcefully fold the dough in half inside the bowl. Turn the bowl a
quarter turn, and repeat until you have removed most of the air. Cover your bowl again rest the dough for another 45 minutes, whilst your oven preheats to it’s hottest temperature (around 250C).

Tip your dough out on to a lightly oiled surface and roll into a long sausage. Chop the dough into equal pieces (Jame’s suggests 8, I go for 10). Take each piece and, using a rolling pin, roll them out until they are about half a centimetre thick. Pop straight onto a baking tray and slide into the oven, turning down the temperature to 220C as soon as they are in. Bake for 8-12 minutes depending depending on how soft or crisp you like them. They should puff up into balls and are blush with a golden colour. But even if they don’t puff up, they’ll be delicious…

Other recipes inspired by Brilliant Bread are my Bagels (which I’m now desperately craving – there’s nothing better than a homemade bagel filled with pastrami and mustard!) and Focaccia.  And in short – I highly recommend that if you want to bake bread, you buy this book. You won’t regret it!

Are you a fan of baking your own bread?

Cooking From: Roasted Cauliflower & Caramelised Red Onion Salad (Fress)

“To eat copiously” is what the Yiddish word “Fress” means. And what a wonderfully appealing title for a cookery book that is. Masterchef finalist Emma Spitzer’s  book mergers the food of the Middle-East with that of Eastern Europe, incorporating her Polish and Russian heritage in a combination that is both homely and exciting. Spiced up comfort food, if you will. The recipes are appealing too, with Emma’s aim to get as much flavour as possible from a simple recipe without spending hours in the kitchen.

The book includes recipes for sharing, soups, big plates with meat and fish dishes (the Sticky Pomegranate Salmon looks especially good),  salads, and some sweet treats. There’s classics like Chicken Soup, which looks wonderfully comforting, something I’ll be sure to get W to make me the next time I’m under the weather. Of course, it helps that this book, this cover is the prettiest one to grace my bookshelves.

The recipe I’m reviewing today is aesthetically pleasing too. The cover recipe for the book, upon tasting it’s not hard to see why it was chosen as not only does it look good, it also tastes amazing. I’ve made the recipe as per the book several times, but the version I’m giving you today is my regular recipe – I generally cook it for lunchboxes, so I’ve made it even less complicated, using less pans, using less ingredients to make it a bit cost effective. I highly recommend you try the original version as the flavours are a lot more complex, but this basic salad is just as delicious.

Recipe – makes 3-4 lunch servings

  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 medium red onions, sliced relatively finely
  • 1 tbsp soft brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp of balsamic vinegar
  • 1 large cauliflower, broken into small-ish florets with the smaller leaves kept
  • 120g giant couscous, cooked as per pack instructions
  • 3 tsp za’atar spice
  • 100g blanched almonds
  • 3-4 tablespoons pomegranate seeds

Heat half of the oil in a large frying pan, and fry the onions with a little salt over a low heat until soft – around 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile toss the cauliflower florets in the remaining oil, spread out onto a baking tray and roast at 180C for 15 minutes – then add the za’tar and the cauliflower leaves, toss together (with some additional oil if it’s looking dry) and roast for another 10 minutes. Tip into a large bowl along with the cooked giant couscous.

When the onions are soft, turn up the heat to medium and turn in the sugar and balsamic vinegar, before cooking for around 5 minutes until sticky and caramelised. Add to the bowl along with a good grind of black pepper and toss everything together.

When ready to serve (at room temperature, not fridge cold), add 25g of almonds per serving, plus a tablespoon of pomegranate seeds. This is excellent on it’s own, alongside homemade pitta breads, or part of a Middle Eastern style spread (think hummus, falafel, spiced chicken, fesenjan…).

Have you tried any Middle Eastern recipes? What would you recommend?

Cooking From: Asian Salmon & Broccoli (The Roasting Tin)

Welcome to a new little series over at Life & Loves. With a ridiculously-sized collection of cookbooks that just keeps on getting bigger, we’ve set ourselves the challenge to use them more. To not cook from the same ones each time. To try out new recipes. And to make myself more accountable for this, I’m going to blog about it.

The first cookbook under scrutiny is The Roasting Tin. One of the most anticipated cookbook releases of 2017, even the cover with its bright yellow sunniness makes me want to pull it off the shelf. Added to the fact that it’s full of simple one-dish recipes that require little preparation and are generally ready fast but deliver flavourful, healthy results means it’s become regularly reached for.

It’s pretty much the perfect midweek cookery book for foodies. Good, fresh ingredients combined with just a few minutes work and very little washing up means a happy Chloe!

We’ve cooked a few things from this book, with the favourites being the recipe below, but also a veggie dish involving Broccoli, Orzo Pasta, Lemon and Chilli – it makes damn good leftovers! There’s so many other dishes we have on our list too! We’ve found the cooking times can be a bit off, so I’ve adjusted for it slightly in the recipe below – as well as playing around with the dressing to suit our tastes – mainly making more of it!

Now onto this recipe. It’s delicious! One of my favourite ways to eat salmon, it’s so simple and easy yet full of flavour. The dressing is punchy, the peanuts add crunch and the broccoli is yum. I rarely eat broc boiled or steamed now, I want it roasted all the time…

Recipe – for 2, easily scaled up or down

  • 300g broccoli, cut into small florets
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil (use vegetable oil if you don’t have any)
  • 2 salmon fillets
  • 2 spring onions, finely sliced
  • 2½ cm ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 red chilli, finely sliced
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 limes, zest and juice
  • Small handful of fresh coriander, chopped
  • 55g peanuts, left whole

Pop the broccoli in a roasting tin, add the garlic and sesame oil, and use your hands to coat. Place the salmon fillets on top, cover tightly with foil and bake for 25 minutes at 180C. Remove the foil for the last 10 minutes.

Meanwhile make the dressing. Mix together the spring onions, ginger, chilli, fish sauce, vegetable oil, lime zest and juice, most of the coriander and the peanuts. Once the salmon is cooked, pour the dressing over the roasting tin. Serve garnished with the rest of the coriander.

We would usually just eat this with no other carby side, but I can confirm it is delicious with brown rice if you feel like you need it! I’ve also taken to cooking broccoli this way, with the same dressing – it’s great served with noodles as a quick study day lunch.

What’s your current favourite cookbook?