Friday, October 31, 2008

...and pulled out a plum

my baby is now 10 days late and i am sick of raspberry leaf tea, walking, curry, pineapple and all of the less discussed methods of natural induction ... i am now eating a skellig's brandy plum. if i go into labour in the next 24 hours, i shall officially add it to the list of myths....

please note: anyone trying this method should accept that one might not be enough!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

white chocolate panna cotta

after much talk about it i finally got round to having a stab at the white chocolate panna cotta; the production of which had to be abruptly halted a couple of months ago when i discovered the disappearance of my ramekins. since their reappearance i haven’t had chance for what i thought was going to be a delicate and time consuming operation.

i have shied away from gelatine, on the whole, since the consternation and distress it caused my sister during home economic lesson at school and the resultant consternation and distress it caused the family that evening as we fixed grins of pleasure and delight to our faces and ploughed through dishes of lumpy blancmange and half set jellies.

it turns out though that gelatine has come on leaps and bounds since the mid eighties and i could have whipped these little delights up anytime. the only difficulties i encountered was having the patience to leave them to set over night and the fact i was also marinating some pork in the fridge with quite a potent blend of Chinese spices. the smell of star anise somewhat pervaded the gentle understated flavours of vanilla and rosewater in the panna cotta. worth making sure there is nothing too strongly flavoured in the fridge before beginning this one.

the recipe for this came from video jug website. with a few additions and alterations. this website is a great resource for recipes as it takes you through the ingredients, equipment and method with visual step by step instructions. just worth double checking quantities etc though as there were a couple of inconsistencies in this recipe, i’ve ironed these out below.

as it is all made ahead of time this is perfect for entertaining– a moment for unmoulding and plating is all you need on the day. and there is something so utterly appealing about the sexy, vanilla flecked, barely set wobbliness of these little beauties.

400ml double cream
200ml milk
40g caster sugar
a pinch of salt
120g white chocolate
3 sheets of gelatine (or 14g of gelatine powder)
1 vanilla pod
a little rose water

put the cream, milk, sugar, salt and the seeds from the vanilla pod into a saucepan and heat over a medium heat.
before the mixture comaes to the boil add the chocolate and turn off the heat. whisk thoroughly until the chocolate is melted and remove the pan from the heat.
soften the gelatine in a bowl of cold water - leave for a couple of minutes. when the gelatine is soft remove it from the water and squeeze out any excess water. add the gelatine to the cream and chocolate mixture and whisk well until entirely dissolved.
the original recipe said to use 3 half sheets of gelatine but the image on the video looked like 3 full sheets of the type i had got so i used 3 full sheets and they were set perfectly but i wouldn't have wanted to use any less. depending on the make of gelatine you may want to watch the video to make your own judgement.
place the lightly oiled moulds on a tray that will fit inside your sweet smelling fridge and fill the moulds nearly to the top with the mixture.
chill in the fridge overnight.
as you come to serve the panna cotta run a knife gently round the inside edge of the mould and carefully dip the bottom of the mould into a bowl of warm water to help it release. turn onto the serving plate, spritz with a little rose water and decorate with fresh raspberries.

this would make a fabulously light dinner party dessert for a summer evening as it is all made ahead of time – a moment for unmoulding and plating is all you need on the day. darker alternatives would stand up to a richer, heavier winter menu. and there is something so utterly appealing about the sexy, vanilla flecked, barely set wobbliness of these little beauties.

Friday, October 17, 2008

birthday baklava

i have broken away from the obsession with all things chocolate for one night and made a baklava birthday cake for aidan. the rose water takes me back to our little ground floor flat beside the river shannon where we started cocoa bean nearly 7 years ago. every friday night emily and i made turkish delight, soft and bright pink and dipped it into dark chocolate, crisp and shiny. if there was any left after the satuday market, we'd eat it on a sunday walk in curragh chase.

this is a realtime blog! the baklava are in the oven. they smell good but pastry is so different to chocolate... fingers crossed! if they fail, hopefully the baby will arrive during the night to share her dad's birthday and distract everyone's attention from birthday cakes, traditional or not.


place 225g sugar in a pot with 1/4 pint of water and bring to the boil. simmer for 10 minutes and then add a tablespoon of rose water. set the syrup aside to cool.

mix together 175g ground pistahio nuts with 75g icing sugar and 12 crushed cardamoms.

melt 75g unsalted butter and brush a rectangular tin with some of the butter.

preheat the oven to 160 c/ 325 f/ gas 3

lay six layers of filo in the tin, brushing each layer with melted butter. sprinkle half of the nut mixture over the filo. lay another six layers of filo in the tin and sprinkle the rest of the nut mixture, topping it with filo. Pour any remaining butter over the top and cut the pastry into small lozenge shapes with a sharp knife.

bake for 20 minutes and then increase the heat to 200 c/ 400 f/ gas 6 and bake for another 15 minutes until light golden in colour.

remove from the oven and pour 3/4 of the syrup over the pastry. keep the rest for serving

if you would rather not break with the chocolate obsession, even for one night, then a bar of cocoa bean rose and pistachio has some of the same ingredients...

it's now 11pm and i have just poured the syrup over the pastry. it has worked!!! you can break them up into lozenges and arrange artfully with rose petals and icing sugar but mine is staying as a cake. happy birthday aidan x

Monday, October 6, 2008

super duper buns

i guarantee that emily's recipe for buns is super and that all the short cuts on the folding front work perfectly! i replaced 25g of flour with 25g of good quality cocoa powder and made up the chocolate icing as emily suggests below with dark melted chocolate. i also put raspberries on the top to celebrate their season - hope you're all able to dash out to the garden for freshly picked ones. only cherry tomatoes are thriving in our garden.

i made these at 38 weeks pregnant with a massive bump and with the help of my youngest daughter elsie. the whole experience was a pleasure from measuring to munching...