Sunday, June 20, 2010

best of june

I'm without camera this week (am armed only with my phone), so thought I'd do a bit of a round up of things that have been great this month. Mostly I wanted to draw your attention to some wonderful bits and pieces on blogs I love; there are recipes I'm using to survive the cold weather, articles and DIY stuff you can use to procrastinate the things you're meant to be doing. Ahem.

15 great things in June

1. Roses still blooming in Winter in my garden.

2. Let-my-eggplant-go-free! spaghetti at The Wednesday Chef. A pasta sauce not red or white, but made of slowly melted eggplant. Make it now - trust me.

3. Sewing with vintage patterns. Gertie at the New Blog for Better Sewing posted a great article with tips on sewing with vintage patterns, which can sometimes be intimidating for new sewers. Resources like this are so helpful in dealing with things you may not have come across before with your contemporary patterns.

4. Writing my thesis. Oh! It's good when it's good.

5. Kedgeree and Jackson Dodds. I ate kedgeree for the first time on Saturday at the fabulous new cafe in Preston (finally!) called Jackson Dodds. It was deliciously comforting; spicy and smoky with pieces of smoked trout and soft-boiled egg through the rice and topped with a homemade Indian-style chutney that was perfect. I can't wait to make this at home, but this really was the best breakfast I've had out in while and all parties agreed that the food and coffee were seriously good.

6. My new sewing machine. BFF.

7. Paximathakia Portokaliou at The Wednesday Chef. I've been thinking how my idea of comfort food relates lots to the cooking of my grandmothers', so there's no surprise that many of the dishes I want to cook and eat when it gets cold are Greek. These I'd never made though. And they're excellent with coffee or for breakfast.

8. Self-Stitched September. This is going to be a great event. A whole bunch of people from all over the world (including moi!) have pledged to wear at least one self-made item of clothing everyday for the whole month of September. If you don't sew, you can sign up for a super-light version and pledge to wear refashioned or thrifted garments for the month. Say no to expensive ill-fitting garments mass-produced in sweatshops! For more information click here or on the little SSS logo at the right.

9. Jacques Tourneur's Night of the Demon (1957). Seriously creepy and perfect for cold winter nights.

10. A really interesting blog by Susannah at Cargo Cult Craft on making clothes at home.

11. Using credit card awards points to buy a waffle-maker. 'Free' appliances.

12. Broad beans and Brussels sprouts in my garden. Little pocket rockets are soldiering on through the chilly evenings and morning frosts. Go little plants!

13. Ranch style beans at Homesick Texan. A great all-purpose bean recipe that I've been using for the slow cooker. These beans are good on toast, with eggs for breakfast (or breakfast for dinner when you get home late), on top of rice with sour cream, avocado and other garnishes, served in burritos or packed into enchiladas baked in the oven. The possibilities are endless, really.

14. Homemade paneer. I haven't tried this yet, but Cindy at Where's the Beef? has convinced me to give it a go with her simple instructions. Then, homemade saag paneer! Super-yum.

15. Watching Masterchef with red wine and small cats on the couch.

Has June been good to you?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

chocolate and beetroot cake

This month I bought Gourmet Traveller magazine and immediately wanted to make every single thing in it. So far I've managed three dishes: oven-baked Italian pork sausages with polenta, baked beans with pork spareribs and this chocolate and beetroot cake. All three dishes are well worth a mention, but this cake was AMAZING.

Chocolate and beetroot: sounds weird, right? But trust me, you won't look back. This is a flourless chocolate cake that is lifted to an impossible level of lightness when you separate and whisk the eggs. You fold in whipped cream, a little almond meal, melted chocolate and the magic that is a medium-sized fresh beetroot, finely grated. What you end up with is a very light and moist dark, dark, mossy cake that has the chocolate intensity of a brownie with a wonderfully earthy dimension, courtesy of the beetroot. It is elegant, decadent and totally surprising. And you'll (most probably) love it.

Chocolate and beetroot cake
From Gourmet Traveller 2010

I actually made this in a half quantity in a small square cake tin - it worked wonderfully, but I've included the full recipe as printed. This is a good trick if you can't get through an entire cake and want to avoid freezing. My other trick is to make the full recipe in two smaller tins and use one as a gift. Friends for life.

400g dark chocolate (somewhere around 60% cocoa)
6 eggs, separated
150g caster sugar
200g beetroot, very finely grated
100ml pouring cream, whisked to soft peaks
75g almond meal
butter, to grease tin
cocoa (preferably Dutch-process) to dust

1. Heat oven to 180C. Grease and line a 20cm square cake tin with baking paper. Your mixture will be quite runny, so make sure it is watertight!

2. Melt chocolate in a metal (or other heatproof) bowl over a pan of simmering water until smooth. Careful not burn!

3. Whisk egg yolks and 2/3 of sugar with an electric mixer until pale yellow and creamy. Add the melted chocolate and grated beetroot. Stir to combine.

4. Whisk eggwhites to soft peaks, then add remaining sugar and whisk until glossy and smooth. Fold whipped cream then eggwhite then almonds into chocolate mixture carefully.

5. Put cake tin into a larger roasting pan and pour in boiling water to come halfway up the side of the cake tin. Carefully slide the whole shebang into the oven and bake for 45 minutes on 180C, then reduce the heat to 170C and bake for another 30 minutes, or until cake springs back when lightly pressed. Turn off oven and leave the cake there for 20 minutes, then take out and cool in the pan for another 15 minutes before turning out. Take care when turning, as cake is super-moist and quite delicate. Dust with cocoa powder and serve alone, or with cream or ice-cream.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

sides as mains: roasted brussels sprouts with bacon, mushrooms and crispy shallots

If you're one of those people who think they don't like Brussels sprouts, this may cure you.

There's little baby sprouts at the markets at the moment and they were so cute I had to buy some. But to be honest, Brussels sprouts were - up until now - one of those things I wished I liked more. I kept reading about how sweet and nutty they were, but couldn't seem to draw those qualities from the little things the few times I'd tried. The answer was, of course, to roast them in the oven. I should have thought of this earlier - probably around the time I first tried this.

This recipe has you toss the babies in finely minced garlic and some olive oil and roast them until they smell amazing and look all burnished and glossy. While they're cooking, you crisp up some shallots and put them aside to drain. Then in the same pan, sauté some bacon and mushrooms until it looks amazing, add thyme and white wine to make a kind of jus and the toss in the roasted brussels sprouts. Serve topped with the crispy, crispy shallots and this is really too good to be a side dish.

The original recipe has no bacon, as it's designed to serve alongside meat. I had some in the fridge so I threw it in, thinking it would take this dish to the next level. But the roasted sprouts were so good, it would have been just as yummy without. So it makes a wonderful vegetarian side or dinner, if you don't mind sides as mains.

Roasted brussels sprouts with bacon, mushrooms and crispy shallots
Adapted from

Brown bag lunch idea: I popped the leftovers into my lunchbox with a miniature can of chickpeas and some feta. It was ace!

500g Brussels sprouts (the younger the better)
1 clove garlic, minced
olive oil
vegetable oil
2 shallots, thinly sliced
2 rashers of rindless middle bacon, cut into lardons
a knob of unsalted butter
a couple of handfuls of fresh mushrooms (I used swiss brown), quartered if large
a slug of dry white wine
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
salt & pepper
1/4 cup water
an extra knob of butter

1. Toss Brussels sprouts with oil, garlic, salt, and pepper, then spread out in 1 layer in a large shallow baking pan. Roast until tender and browned. This will take around 20 for baby sprouts and up to 35 minutes for larger ones.

2. While the Brussels sprouts roast, fry your shallots. Heat oil in a pan big enough to accommodate the mushrooms later and fry shallots, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. Be careful as they burn very easily! Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain, spreading in a single layer and they'll magically crisp up as they cool.

3. Next do the bacon and mushrooms. Remove excess oil from the pan, but don't clean it! You want to use all that sweet flavour from the shallots. Fry bacon lardons until crispy brown. Push lardons to a far edge of the pan and heat knob of butter in pan until foamy. Sauté mushrooms, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and tender, stirring through the lardons. Add the wine, thyme, salt, and pepper and boil, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until liquid is reduced to a glaze, about 2 minutes. Add water and extra knob of butter and simmer, swirling skillet, until butter is melted. Transfer to a serving dish and stir in Brussels sprouts. Sprinkle with shallots.
Related Posts with Thumbnails