Saturday, October 27, 2012

Cheese and onion bakes: 'Phlegm cakes'

Continuing my rifle through my mother's collection of yellowing, typed recipe cards to bring you our family favourites. (See cheese gunk).

I suppose I'd better explain the name first. The combination of melted hard cheese and onion does, I'm afraid, look a little bit like phlegm, and my brother christened them 'phlegm cakes' at the age of about eight. (He was very advanced). But if you wanted to keep your guests onside, I suppose you could call them 'cheese and onion bakes' or somesuch.

I'm writing this the same day I posted the cheese gunk recipe and musing that these family favourites are not at all what you expect from 50s American food - they're made from scratch, are very simple and taste GREAT. They really are both more than the sum of their parts. (Yeah, might've taken me a while to post.)

Should you be unsure what circles of bread  look like

First, use a small, cookie cutter to cut inch-and-a-half circles out of some white bread. The mix here made 16 cakes.

Then grate 1/2c of pecorino (other hard Italian cheese can be substituted if you like, but it tastes best with pecorino), grate 1 small onion (the worst bit!) and mix them together. I did grate the onion in my food processor, but it came out a little coarse. Add a 1/4c of mayonnaise.

As I've said, my take on American measurements is 'buy a cup measure', but I have weighed the pecorino and it came to 65g of pecorino. As long as they're in proportion, it doesn't really matter anyway. And you're just looking for enough mayonnaise to bind everything together.

Toast the bread in the oven for 8 minutes at 180C (or you could just eyeball it).

Rounds topped with mixture
Then top each one with about a teaspoon of the cheese and onion mix, and grill until the cheese is bubbly. You can top with some paprika, if you like, to provide a bit of colour and an extra taste.

The finished article

They taste fabulous and they're somehow addictive, too. Just a word of warning - don't bite them straight out of the oven. The superhot mix basically cleaves to the roof of your mouth and they're exactly the right size to burn the whole of it.

And here's the recipe card:

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Cheese gunk

Ailbhe of Simply Splendiferous is pretending it's summer. A good idea, even as the weather drops its gloomy reminders that it is not so.

And dips are prime summer food. She has an easy cheesy dip on her blog, and my competitive instinct has led me to post one which is even easier and, I suspect, even tastier.

I took it to a Eurovision party, and people I didn't know came out of the kitchen saying things like 'Who made that? It's delicious! You have to tell me how to make it.'

The recipe in all its glory:

Packet of Danish Blue
Packet of cream cheese
Clove of garlic (optional)

Mash the Danish blue with a fork in a bowl. Mash in about the equivalent amount of cream cheese. Crush garlic clove with side of knife. Place in bowl.

It doesn't sound like much, does it? But it's utterly addictive.

It's another old family recipe known as 'cheese gunk', although @linderella29, whose party it was, misheard it as 'cheese dump'. We like slightly disgusting food names in our family – one day I'll introduce you to 'phlegm cakes'.

Looks awful, tastes fabulous

Monday, April 30, 2012

Chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies

Easy ways to make yourself popular on a long coach journey – get a cake tin, fill it with about 60 cookies and pass it round.

My lovely choir went on a trip to St Ives, Cambridgeshire (yes, yes, seven wives) and I decided to bake something. Partly, the church were providing 'refreshments' and as that can mean anything from biccies'n'tea to a four trestle-table blowout (Darwen URC, I'm looking at you), I thought I'd better bring reinforcements.

This cookie recipe is our family recipe. It has three main advantages: it's delicious, it's easy and it makes loads. It has one major disadvantage: it uses cup measures.

I grew up using cup measures in the UK. I grew up making this recipe, even. Just buy a cup measure and have done with it! I think mine came from Poundland, or it is possible to buy jugs with cups down one side and ml or fl oz down the other.

11/2 cup shortening (As I was once on Radcliffe and Maconie to explain, shortening is whatever marge or butter you have to hand)
11/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1tsp baking soda dissolved in 1/3 cup boiling water
1tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
4 cups rolled oats
12oz chocolate chips (ie 100g, or three bags)

Mix in large bowl in above order. Cover bowl and refrigerate at least 12 hours (I never bother). Drop by greased teaspoon onto greased baking. Bake at 325 F (170C) until lightly browned (that's about 8-10 mins).

The recipe says it makes 7-8 dozen. I've never got that much out of it, but I got 64 out of it on Friday, and I ate quite a bit of dough... (It was there! I was never going to fill another baking sheet!)

Members of the choir were very appreciative and a couple of people asked me for the recipe. I can actually recite the recipe, it's that easy and I've been making it so long, but they didn't have a pen. This blog post will hopefully serve instead.

(Apparently it's National Oatmeal Cookie Day today and I finally got my mother's permission to post the recipe...)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Chicory pakora

No matter how scrupulously one scans the veg box 'dislikes' list, something always gets through.

Chicory. Endive for my American readers. For the avoidance of doubt, those green/white leaves that, when laid out in threes, looks like the Prince of Wales' feathers.

I find its bitterness off-putting and its crunch over-powering. Yeah, I don't like the stuff.

So I posted on Twitter, wonderful wonderful Twitter, for 'recipes that make chicory not taste like chicory'.

I garnered a bunch of suggestions, including from one wag: 'Many, but none of them include chicory'. More helpful ideas were 'braise it in butter' or 'braise it in chicken stock'. The folks at @discoverendive suggested using it in a smoothie. I'm afraid I assumed they were a bot and wrote a rather derisive reply, but they took it in good humour and provided several more choices, such as wrapping it in ham and covering it in Mornay sauce.

Cookwitch, however, who is always good in a food crisis, suggested making pakoras out of it and gave me PukkaPaki's okra pakora recipe to alter. One utter failure to buy chaat masala later, and I gave it a go.

I didn't so much shred the chicory as whack a knife around on it a bit. It seemed to brown very quickly, so place it in what I once saw described as 'acidulated water'. That's water with a squeeze of lemon to you and me.

The batter, even including dry-roasting and grinding the spices, could not have been easier. I made it relatively thick, but it wasn't really thick enough. Go for a proper 'can barely move the spoon' style batter.

I just glumphed wooden-spoonfuls of batter-covered chicory into a vat of vegetable oil. I did wind up turning them, as the oil was not very deep.

I did it in two batches, so I know that cold and crispy is jolly good, as is hot and crispy. In the middle, not so much. Very little of it tasted like chicory, but when it did, the bitterness was a plus.

As I didn't have amchoor (mango powder) or chaat masala, I found myself wanting salt, but I'll try it with those seasonings first.

And now I know how to make pakora batter, I'm sure I'll use it when I want something fried that's a bit more interesting than onion rings.

PS I also made a chicken stew by frying onions and leeks, browning chicken thighs and drumsticks and lobbing cider over it while I messed around with pakoras. Turned out delicious. The cider was Green Goblin.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Roasted beetroot, trout and horseradish

I'm really getting along with beetroot. I first discovered it could be sweet and flavourful in this salmon and horseradish dish, which is a really useful dinner party recipe. (As if I give dinner parties...)

It's cropping up in my veg box a lot, and I made beetroot risotto from this recipe the other night. I put (clean) Marigolds on because I was going to a trade fair the following day and didn't want to do so with blood-red fingers.

We needed something simple, because the storecupboard is depleted. I knew 'pink' fish, like the trout we have out of the freezer, beetroot and horseradish was a match made in heaven, so I did a Google search.

This recipe from Tastebud Travels fitted the bill.

I've cut out quite a bit of it - I may yet do the smoked salt, pepper and lemon rub, but it'll have to be homemade with lemon zest. And I'm ashamed to say that neither of us can quiiiiite be bothered to go out to get cream or yoghurt. We were out till about 20 to 1 at Leluu's supperclub last night, to excuse our utter laziness.

So, essentially, it's roasted beetroot with trout and horseradish sauce ... it's the foodbloglondon difference! We've done the caraway and thyme, but we both think beetroot comes up pretty sweet roasted, so we skipped the honey.

I did do the smoked salt, pepper and lemon rub, partly because I do like crispy fish skin, and partly because I received some Maldon smoked salt as a freebie at Sabrina's French Launderette, which I've never used. As I was making it, I did think, this is a really useful idea just to flavour some fish if I have nothing else in.

The rub. If you think this one is out of focus, you should see the other.

It turned out very nicely. I could have used more rub. And if you wanted to, the rub and a spread of horseradish would do for a quick meal.

Look at the rainbow colour on those scales. Amazing!

The beetroot and caraway was interesting, and quite bitter - hence the honey no doubt. I'll definitely try that combination again, but I think I'd rather have simple roasted beetroot with this.

The finished dish, including an attempt at food styling. Beetroot looks good though, no?