Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Very Very Chocolaty Brownies

Is there a blog that doesn't have a brownie recipe? OK, so maybe ones that just use foods starting with Z or other specialist blogs, but most mainstream blogs will have a brownie recipe and I've yet to see any two the same. There are so many different recipes, and they are all great, I suppose the one constant that makes a good brownie is that it has to be lovely and gooey and moist in the middle.

For me, a classic plain chocolate brownie is the best type there is. Don't get me wrong, I love all the different types of brownies from the ones with nuts or marshmallows in to the ones with caramel, mint, biscuit bases, smarties, oreos, peanut butter or anything else - but why add anything else when the plain chocolate ones are so good just as they are?

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Hake, Ratatouille and Jerusalem Artichoke Tortellini

A couple of weeks ago I found myself with a completely free Saturday which has been quite an unusual thing over the past few months. In fact, I really haven't had huge amounts of free time which has meant that the majority of dishes that I've cooked have largely been ones that haven't taken too much time to prepare for or cook. I think this is one of the things that people who don't really like cooking think is just plain odd about people who do - I can think of very few things that I enjoy more than spending pretty much a whole day planning what I'm going to cook, getting the right ingredients, cooking it and let's not forget eating it at the end of the day.

I'm quite lucky that I live quite close to Portobella Road Market so off I trotted with a vague idea of what I wanted to cook, but also wanting to see what struck my fancy at the market. 

I really enjoy looking around all the stalls and putting together a dish in my head and it was the globe artichokes and Jerusalem artichokes that I first saw and wanted to use. I love the earthy and slightly nutty flavours that each of them have but using them meant that I wanted the main protein of the dish to be quite light as I didn't want to end up with a really heavy dish that made you feel like you needed to sleep it off afterwards. So, on to the fish stall looking for some sort of white fish with enough flavour that it wouldn't be lost in the artichokes. I also had a picture in my head about how I wanted the plate to look at the end of the day, so I went for a couple of nice thick pieces of Hake so I could get some height on the dish.
After a bit more wondering around I got everything I needed and headed back to start cooking. There's nothing too tricky in this recipe but it does take quite a while - the most difficult bit is timing everything so it all comes together at the same time. As you can see, there's a fair bit to do, but like I say, it's not a terribly complicated dish, but from start to finish you probably need to give yourself at least 2 hours.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Bolognese and Black Garlic

Black garlic is one of those ingredients that I have wanted to cook with for ages. It's made by fermenting regular garlic which turns the cloves black and gives it a great flavour. If you've ever heard anyone go on about Umami, the fifth flavour, the taste that you get from black garlic is what they are talking about. It has a sweet and savoury flavour that almost tastes a bit of balsamic vinegar and goes really well with ingredients such as olives, soy, monkfish, tomatoes, mushrooms and red meats. 

So when I finally got my hands on some, the first thing I tried was using it in a bolognese sauce - it has beef, tomatoes, mushrooms and should work perfectly together. Also, my wife likes adding a bit of balsamic vinegar to her bolognese sauce which always tastes good, so I'm taking a lead out of her book and adding it to this recipe as well.

A lot of bolognese recipes will tell you to simmer your sauce for a couple of hours, I prefer to put it in the oven at a low-ish temperature for a few hours as it cooks it more evenly. I sometimes find that when you simmer the sauce, unless you stir it all every 5 minutes, some bits will cook more than others leaving a few tough bits in the sauce. I know it's traditional to use spaghetti, but i like to use linguini as it has more surface area to soak up the sauce.