Thursday, 15 August 2013

White Chocolate & Cardamom Mousse - Heaven in a ramekin

Mostly air so pretty healthy right?
Everyone loves a chocolate pudding (don't they?!), but this one is special. It's white, it's light, it's fluffy and it's delicately scented with the exotic aroma of cardamom, with a sneaky bit of bay in there as well. It turns out cardamom and bay are really good friends and play very nicely together. Gotta love a pud that can be whipped up in advance and left to set in the fridge while you frantically trash the kitchen creating the rest of dinner. It's so nice to just reach into the fridge, et voila, pudding is served, look how organised I am...

Makes 8 little ramekin sized mousses. You will need three bowls for this, or two bowls and a measuring jug, as I don't have three mixing bowls. Not serious. Use the biggest one for the egg whites.

Pour 100ml milk into a small saucepan, add 8 pre-bashed green cardamom pods and three bay leaves and gently heat. Just before it boils, turn the heat off and leave to infuse for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, melt 250g white chocolate (go with Green & Blacks, it's worth it) in a bowl over a saucepan of boiling water. Watch it, because if you keep heating it after it has melted it can go lumpy, so remove from the saucepan when melted. Whip 300ml double cream to soft mound status, and in a separate bowl, beat three egg whites to stiff peak turn the bowl upside down over your head status. Strain the milk through a sieve into the melted chocolate and stir it in really well until it becomes a bit velvety. A whisk makes this easier than a spoon. With a metal spoon, fold the milky chocolate mixture into the egg whites, and once gently combined, fold in the whipped cream, making sure it's combined really well, but don't smack all the air out. This is a mousse, not a blancmange. Pour into ramekins/teacups/one big bowl and leave to set in the fridge for at least two hours, longer if you have it.

You can sprinkle some cocoa powder on top before handing them out, but last night, after too many vinos, I forgot. Oooh some artistically grated dark chocolate would be nice... woah, let's not get carried away. Once served, these little beauties should disappear in less than 30 seconds. If they don't, you're doing it wrong.

Friday, 9 August 2013

To Sear or Not To Sear? A Beef Carpaccio Dilemma

For many meat lovers, a beautiful beef carpaccio is a sight to behold. Ruby red wafer thin slices of raw fillet beef artfully displayed, ready to almost dissolve on your tongue, with some kind of crunchy vegetable adornment slicked in a tangy vinaigrette, pure heaven. To others, it's simply raw beef, and un-thinkable. Well think again. Never one to go cheapo on his guests, my Dad loves to 'make' carpaccio and it's always divine. Last week however, he took Jamie Oliver's  advice and seared the fillet first. He was rather concerned about this, but I thought it was a great idea. The beef would still 99% raw, but you get the divine flavour from searing it which simply does not exist with the fully raw one. If you want to get technical, read this about the 'Maillard' reaction which goes to some lengths to explain why you sear meat for a casserole, why it tastes good, and why it is important.

Or you could just cook take a very decent fillet of beef (you only need a little per person so no need to go overboard, Dad), rub a little olive oil all over it, season really well, and sear on all sides in a very hot pan, no need to add any more oil as you've oiled your beef already. If the pan is hot enough it should only take a minute or two per side, you want a deep golden brown colour all over. Slice as thin as you can and serve on a pretty place, sprinkled with shaved fennel, a little grated orange zest, rocket, shaved Parmesan, a dribble of extra virgin olive oil and a little more salt and pepper. 

Searing the beef makes it much less 'scary' even though it is still essential raw. The searing troubled Dad for some reason, he couldn't slice the beef as thinly as when it's all raw and semi frozen (helps you slice it thinner as it stays firm), but I can't see the harm in freezing it once seared and then slicing it.

What Dad should have been worried about was how much his head would hurt the next day, after staying up well past his bedtime with my Godfather, un-supervised, with a bottle of brandy. The beef was delicious, his hangover was not.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Lazy Fried Aubergine

I may have burnt one little slice...
It always seems a shame to cut up the mighty aubergine, it's just so beautiful, but it definitely makes it easier to cook with. This is a great super fast nibble that you can produce in no time. I don't even bother salting the aubergine, although if I had more time I think I would, to see if it made any difference. A really nice starter, which I like to make when the aubergine-hating (what a freak) Boyfriend is away. This could be done with courgettes just as successfully.

Feeds 2/3 as a starter. Bash one big clove of garlic with a pinch of salt in a pestle and mortar until you have a garlicky mush. Stir in about 200g natural yoghurt and set aside. Slice one aubergine into thick rounds. Heat a splash of olive oil in a non-stick frying pan. Dip each slice of aubergine into a small bowl of milk, then roll it around a small dish with seasoned flour in it. You want a decent covering of flour. Once the oil is hot, fry until golden on each side and place on kitchen roll to get rid of excess oil (those pesky aubergines do like to suck it up). Sprinkle with salt flakes and roughly chopped fresh mint (really important to add some fresh zing)  and serve with the garlic yoghurt. 

You may stink of garlic for a while, but it's all good, and life is too short to worry about things like that.