Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Coffee and Honey Granita - I've got chills... they're multiplying...

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If you are cooking with wine, the rule is, make it, at the very least, one you would happily sip. The same is true for coffee, and when coffee is the star ingredient I like it to have a bit of personality.
Heathen that I am, I don’t have a proper grinder so I used my blender – not processor – to crush the single origin specialty roasted coffee beans sent to me by Hancock & Abberton. I used a caffetiere/French press to brew the resultant medium ‘grind’ (you may remember, I blew up my coffee machine...)

This Mexican coffee from Finca Muxbal, which stands on the slopes of the active Tacana volcano on the border with Guatemala, is billed as having “flavours of peaches, cream and sweet honey complemented by an exceptionally clean finish”. There was a fruitiness that may or may not have been peaches and I couldn’t detect the cream but there was rich sweetness to it. It was very smooth and the advertised ‘clean finish’ was there - perfect to round off a meal.
I'd originally planned to flavour the granita with Baileys. However, having tasted the coffee, I ditched the booze. There is enough going on in this cup o’ Joe to let it stand on its own two feet! It is best to end a lunch rather than a dinner with this dessert - unless you want your guests wide awake for the night.

For the lightest, simplest dessert imaginable, you will need...
500mls strong coffee, freshly brewed (I used double-strength)
90g runny honey (I used a light floral honey)

 To serve (optional)
Whipped cream
Finely chopped toasted walnuts or finely shredded lemon zest

 Method

Add the honey to the hot coffee and stir until dissolved. Pour into a shallow freezer-proof container with a lid. Leave to cool to room temperature. Cover and chill before transferring to the freezer. Set a timer for an hour then remove from the freezer and beat the mixture with a whisk or fork to break up the crystals that are starting to form. Replace in the freezer. Reset the timer and repeat the beating process. Repeat every hour until you have a coffee snow (it took me 5 hours but the actual work only takes a few minutes). Leave the lid off the container for another hour after the final whisking to let any excess liquid evaporate. That’s it! Granita done! Covered, it stores well in the freezer.
The 'puddle' stage... (I've got chills...)
 
The 'slush' stage... (They're multiplying...)
 
The 'perfect for skiing on' stage, and ready to eat  (You're the one that I want!)
 
To serve, fluff up the granita with a fork and scoop a portion about the size of an espresso into a pretty glass or cup. At this point it is a stunning, no fat dessert.
Throw caution to the wind and top with a little cream, and some chopped toasted walnuts or shredded lemon zest (delicious with this coffee snow), or both. You could add a little liqueur to the cream if you fancied it – Baileys, Tia Maria or Kahlua all work.


(Ooh, ooh, ooh, honey!)
 
Disclosure: These are my personal views. I have not received any compensation from, nor have I any material connection with, the brands, products, or services I have mentioned.

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Monday, August 11, 2014

Luscious Lemonade (with magic ingredients)

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There are many recipes that claim to be the ‘best ever lemonade’ or the ‘perfect  lemonade’. I don’t make those claims for mine. It does, however, contain two magic ingredients that get my oven cleaned...
How?

Well, I take my inspiration from the bit in Tom Sawyer where Tom gets the neighbourhood kids to happily whitewash Aunt Polly’s fence using a little reverse psychology. Ok, it’s more bribery than reverse psychology in this case but hey…

Sigh,” I say to anyone within earshot...
“What’s up, Hester?”they say

“Well,” I say, “I was thinking of making a jug of my special lemonade... you know ... the one that tastes like summer…  the one with the magic ingredients… sigh
“Yes! Yes! Great idea!” they say.

“... but unfortunately, I won’t have time... because the oven really needs cleaning.”
“Oh,” they say.  “I’ll clean the oven, Hester; and you make the lemonade!”

“Really, you don’t have to...” I say, handing them the spray, the gauntlets, the sponge, the bucket, the protective goggles ...

Ok, it's time for me to get on with the lemonade to supply the thirsty worker(s). Salt and star anise are the magic ingredients. You won't taste them but they round out the flavour.

*BEFORE STARTING: How many lemons you use will depend on how juicy they are. I used 6 lemons for this batch. To get 25g of lemon zest for the recipe, I chose two with the most blemish-free skin, scrubbed them in hot water to remove any wax, then used a potato peeler to remove the yellow part of the zest, and further trimmed the strips of peel with a sharp knife to carefully remove any bitter white skin clinging to it. It is much easier to remove the zest BEFORE you squeeze out the juice.
It's easier to remove the zest BEFORE you squeeze out the juice

To make about 500ml of lemonade cordial (2-3 litres, diluted), you will need...
25g lemon zest (prepared weight) yellow part only*
250g caster sugar
250mls freshly squeezed lemon juice, strained to remove any pips or pulp
250mls water
¼ teaspoon fine table salt
1 point of a whole star anise


Take a moment to enjoy the gorgeous aromas

 Method
Place the prepared lemon zest and the sugar in a food processor and blitz until the zest is finely chopped.
Place this mixture in a medium saucepan with the rest of the ingredients and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved.
Cover and leave to cool. Strain to remove the piece of star anise and any bits of zest and transfer to a sterilised bottle or jar. Sealed, it stores in the fridge for up to a month.
Serve over ice, diluted with still or sparkling water to taste. Cheers!

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Monday, August 4, 2014

Maple French Toast Sticks – it’s an emergency !

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I’ve always had a vague desire for a swimming pool and on Saturday morning, the gods granted my wish. I should have been more specific with my daydream as the pool was rather inconveniently located in the sitting room.  
 
Two plumbers later, there was a gaping hole in the floor and the need to call out an electrician to fix the cable they’d severed in the hunt for the leaking pipe which they were chasing rather alarmingly with a pneumatic drill. I left them to it and escaped to the supermarket.

Returning home, the car boot popped open and spread half the groceries down the road. Argh! Two girls stopped short of running over my scattered purchases and put their hazard lights on, allowing me to collect up my bits and pieces. The runaway groceries were a little battered and dented but the only real casualties were the beer (which was gushing spectacularly from several cans) and the roasted red peppers which had been destined for great things but which had smashed at the bottom of a bag and subsequently leaked oil all over the inside of the car. Oh you gods are capricious!

Back at the ranch, both water and electricity had been restored and although it was way past breakfast time, it is never too late for brunch. It had to be quick. It had to be easy. It had to make my day a whole lot better.

There was nothing else for it – I needed an emergency batch of Maple French Toast Sticks, and quickly.

Look Inside the preview of Alchemy – a Cookbook on Amazon for this quick, easy, make-your-day-a-whole-lot-better recipe.
And don't forget the icing sugar!
 
 
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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Alchemy - A Cookbook... out now on Kindle Store

Pin It Whooops! I’ve let the 4th anniversary of Alchemy slide by, but I’ve been a little busy putting the finishing touches to Alchemy – A Cookbook, which is now available from the Kindle Store on Amazon.
Hester Casey, Alchemy - A Cookbook - buy it now on Amazon.com


Like the blog, the book is bursting with easy-to-follow recipes to help you turn simple ingredients into magical food.

Try Maple French Toast Sticks for a lazy brunch. Magic up a delicious, nutritious and ridiculously low fat ‘Some Like It Hot’ Courgette Vichyssoise, excellent with the ‘Frankly My Dear’ Bacon and Jalapeño Cornbread.  Fill your kitchen with the enticing aromas of Controversial Irish Stew, and win hearts with Chicken with Cointreau Cream.  Dive straight into dessert with a classic Bakewell Tart, the sinful Sour Cherry and Vanilla Wellington Squares or the light and delightful Pears in Cardamom and Chardonnay Syrup and lots, lots more.
 
BUY the book today from the Amazon Kindle Store and create a little magic in your own kitchen.
Then share the magic once you’ve got your copy, tell a good friend about it.

https://twitter.com/intent/tweet?text=I'm+turning+simple+ingredients+into+magical+food+with+ALCHEMY+-+A+COOKBOOK+-+get+yours+from+Amazon+now%20http://amzn.to/1ubwjh5  Alchemy - A Cookbook https://www.linkedin.com/shareArticle?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Ealchemyinthekitchen%2Eie%2F2014%2F07%2Falchemy-cookbook-out-now-on-kindle-store%2Ehtml&mini=true
Don’t have a Kindle? Don’t need one! Read Alchemy – A Cookbook on your Android phone or tablet, iPad, iPhone, Mac, Windows 8 PC or tablet.
Get the free app via Amazon
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Thursday, July 3, 2014

Gremolata Supplì – Surprise !

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Supplì was apparently word-napped from the French surprise because of the morsels – sometimes meat, often cheese - concealed behind the crusty facade, in the depths of the creamy rice filling.


Many recipes tell you that Supplì are made from leftover risotto. No one has that much risotto left over unless they’ve deliberately planned it, or are extremely bad at judging portion size. Making the risotto fresh also means that you can experiment with flavours and ingredients you mightn’t necessarily want to have as a full meal but would happily scoff as a snack.
The bunch of parsley I threw into the shopping basket yesterday was like a green beacon reminding me that the price had inflated by an outrageous 125% in a week. Is there a world shortage of parsley? The bright side of such a price hike is that rather than let it sit there masquerading largely as an edible bouquet until I throw it out, I was determined to put it to good use. I love gremolata – lemon zest, garlic, parsley – sprinkled over Ossobuco. Surprise! Here it is as a star ingredient.
I made the Supplì fairly large – about 100g each – as they were for lunch – 2 per portion. If you are making them as a canapé go smaller.)

For 12 Supplì (of about 100g each) you will need...

...For the risotto
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 fat cloves of garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons of finely grated lemon zest (yellow part only)
250g risotto rice such as Arborio or Carnaroli
750mls hot chicken stock
250mls dry white wine
4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
50g Parmesan cheese 
Method

First heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over a medium heat and add the onion. Cook without colouring until translucent—8–10 minutes.
Add the garlic and lemon zest, along with the rice and cook for a further minute, stirring to coat the rice with the oil.

Combine the stock and wine and add 250mls of this liquid to the pan, stirring frequently until the liquid is almost absorbed before adding the next 250mls of the liquid and again stirring frequently until almost absorbed. Repeat twice more until the entire litre of liquid is more or less absorbed and you have a creamy pot of rice. Remove from the heat and stir in the Parmesan cheese. Taste and add seasoning if necessary. Cover and allow to cool a little before placing in the fridge to chill thoroughly. 

To finish the Supplì
150g plain flour
3 eggs, beaten
200g fine breadcrumbs 

approximately 100g mozzarella, cut into 12 cubes of roughly 8g each
vegetable oil for deep frying (I use sunflower oil or olive oil) 
Method

Remove the chilled risotto from the fridge. Rinse your hands in cold water and shake off the excess moisture. Take about 2 tablespoons of the risotto at a time and, using your hands, mould it in your hands into a ball or egg shape. Bury a cube of mozzarella in the centre and close the rice around it to seal it in well. Chill for about 30 minutes before proceeding with the next step.
When the rice balls have chilled, set out three shallow containers with the flour in the first, the beaten egg in the second and the breadcrumbs in the third.

Supplì production line - flour, egg, breadcrumbs
 Coat each ball in flour, egg and breadcrumbs, making sure to cover the entire surface at each stage . (At this stage, you can freeze them on a tray and then wrap them for storage in the freezer, thawing before deep frying.) Chill for at least an hour before deep frying.
When ready to cook, heat the oil for deep frying to 180°C (350°F) and monitor the temperature during cooking. Any hotter than this and the Supplì will brown long before the cheese melts in the centre—not a complete disaster but isn’t melty mozzarella so much nicer... Carefully lower the Supplì into the hot fat being careful not to overcrowd the pan. You’ll need to cook them in batches. Fry until deep golden brown.
Transfer the cooked Supplì  to a warm dish lined with kitchen paper to absorb any excess fat and leave to cook for a couple of minutes before serving - with a homemade tomato sauce, or garlic mayonnaise if you so desire.
This is street food so forget the cutlery and break them in two with your hands, stretching the “telephone wires” of mozzarella between the two halves in time-honoured tradition.

  

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Monday, May 26, 2014

Cumin and Thyme Hasselback Potatoes – they’re no hassle !

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After 3 shows, involving 200 children, with 450 costumes to organize, and later to wash (the costumes, not the kids), my sister wasn’t lying in bed whimpering, with the covers pulled over her head. She was slicing about a million spuds to make hassle-free Hasselback potatoes for a family dinner at my parent’s house. “You know what, Hester? You should make these on your blog,” she said.


16 down, 434 to go... (Photo, laundry and recipe inspiration by Catherine Casey)

My heart sinks just a tiny little bit when I hear the words “You know what, Hester? You should make … x,y,z … on your blog” helpfully suggested by friend or family. Often it comes with an implied deadline of “very soon”. I really, really do appreciate the suggestions, and please keep them coming but … it’s not up to me what appears, and when, on Alchemy.
The problem is that I have discovered that I don’t actually write my blog. Alchemy writes itself and it is a TOTAL DIVA. If the moment is wrong for a particular recipe, then no amount of coaxing, cajoling, threats or bribes will make the words flow or the photos pop.
Luckily it was onboard with Hasselback potatoes - very onboard - probably clued in by my eating about five of them.
They are a very pretty (and lower fat) alternative to roast potatoes, are a lovely BBQ side, and are simplicity itself to make.
You know what? You should make them! And add extra if you are inviting me around to dinner.

For hassle-free hasselbacks, you will need…
2 – 3 small potatoes, skin on, per person (about the size and shape of an egg is ideal)
a little melted butter or extra virgin olive oil
a little sea salt (Maldon, or similar, looks beautiful)
cumin, freshly ground if possible (wonderful with potatoes)
fresh or dried thyme
Method
Wash the potatoes and remove any blemishes – no need to peel. Place each potato in turn on a wooden spoon and with a sharp knife cut almost all the way through in slices of between 3mm and 5mm thick. The wooden spoon helps prevent the knife going all the way through.
Drop into a bowl of cold water until ready to cook. The water helps remove some of the starch and helps the potatoes fan out a little better. When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 200°C while you drain the potatoes and pat dry with kitchen paper.
Brush with a little melted butter or olive oil, getting the brush between the slices (also helps them fan out a little better).
 
We're brilliant at BBQs!
Sit the potatoes into a baking dish or roasting tin, joined side down, and sprinkle with a little salt, ground cumin and thyme. This is not an exact science. How much of each is up to you.
Place in the preheated oven and bake for about 50 minutes or until golden and cooked through – they should be easily pierced with a fork.
Marvel at just how pretty a spud can be before serving to an appreciative audience.
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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Almond, Orange and Apricot Buttermilk Scones – Would it be rude to eat three?

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The scone, so beloved of the British Isles, is thought to be about a thousand years old. There is a town in Scotland called Scone. It is tempting to believe that that's where the scone got its name from but there are other contenders from as far afield as Germany and The Netherlands.
The scone as we know it can only date from the mid 19th century with the appearance of baking powder and baking soda. These culinary equivalents of the Wonderbra gave what must have been quite a flat and boring mass a bit of a lift. Since then, the scone hasn’t looked back and no teashop worth its salt would be without this stalwart of Afternoon Tea (or breakfast, or anytime with a cuppa really).

I’m not crazy about sultana scones and one of my young nieces shares this foible. If she gets a sultana scone, she picks out all the fruit, saving the ‘good’ plump sultanas for a better life (!!!) and eating the ‘bad’ smaller ones before demolishing the denuded quick bread.
I prefer more interesting fruit in my scones and I’ve gone with a buttermilk version simply because, for the first time in my life, I’ve run out of baking powder. The result is Almond, Orange and Apricot Buttermilk Scones. My taste tester said “Mmmmmmmmmmmmm!!! Would it be rude to eat three?” Of course not!

For approximately 10 dainty (5cm) scones you’ll need...
... to pre-heat your oven to 190°C 

250g plain flour
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (bread soda)
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
the zest of an orange, finely grated
50g butter, cold from the fridge, cut into small pieces
30g honey (or caster sugar if you prefer)
1 egg yolk
110mls buttermilk* (approximately)
½ teaspoon almond extract
50g ready-to-eat dried apricots, snipped into sultana-sized pieces

Method 

In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon, salt and orange zest.

 
Add the butter, and “rub it in” to the flour by taking large pinches of the mixture and crumbling between your fingertips until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the honey (I weigh it directly into the bowl).

Grate! I love orange zest!
 
Combine the egg yolk with the buttermilk and almond extract and add just enough of this mixture to the flour mixture so that there is no dry flour left (you may not need to add it all).
Finally mix in the apricot pieces and turn the dough onto a lightly-floured work surface. (The dough can quickly be prepared in a stand mixer too.)
Handle the dough as little as possible to keep the butter cold for a better rise. Knead very lightly then pat the dough out into a round of about 2cm high. Stamp into rounds using a lightly floured 5cm scone cutter. (Try to avoid twisting as you stamp out the rounds as this will cause them to rise unevenly, like mine... old habits die hard). Gather up any scraps, re-form into a round and continue stamping out scone shapes until you’ve used up the dough.
Place on a non-stick baking sheet and brush with a little beaten egg or milk to glaze. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 12-14 minutes or until well risen and golden brown.

Oven-ready in about 5 minutes flat! Tummy-ready in about 20!
 
Serve warm with butter and/or jam and a decent cup of tea or coffee - best served on the day of baking but can be frozen and refreshed in a hot oven. Cherry jam goes fantastically well with these. 

Rude to eat three? Why, it's practically mandatory!
 
Tip:
* If you don’t have buttermilk, use whole milk and add a generous squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

 

This recipe can easily be increased. Double everything except the cooking time.
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