Posts Tagged ‘organic food blog’

Starting Out – The Basics For A Simple Homemade Burger

Friday, July 8th, 2011

Some time ago, I started a quest for a great burger, then stopped that search as things at Steenbergs gave me less time than I had needed.  But I think I am ready to start that hunt again.

In the meantime, I have not been completely idle..well, a little perhaps…and have tweaked my core simple burger recipe, reducing the seasoning to let the flavour of the meat come through more.  However, it is completely a matter of taste as to how much seasoning you want to complement the beef flavours, plus an element of how good the meat itself is, where the better the flavours in the meat, the less seasoning you should be adding.

So here is my amended Simple Burger recipe:

450g / 1lb ground chuck, rib eye, rump, silverside or topside beef
1tbsp grated or minced onion (optional especially for top notch 21+ days’ beef, but ideal for shop bought mince), lightly fried then cooled
½tsp sea salt
¼tsp cracked black pepper

If doing the onion, fry gently in ½tbsp of sunflower oil until clear, then cool until chilled in the fridge. 

Next, clean your hands.  Then, in a clean stainless steel bowl, mix together all the ingredients using your hands, making sure all the ingredients are spread evenly through the mix.  Leave in the fridge for at least an hour and ideally overnight (or 6 hours).  Form the burger mix into patties that are 2cm (¾ inch) thick with your hands or in a burger press.

Season With Mince With Salt & Pepper

Season With Mince With Salt & Pepper

Shape The Burgers In A Pattie Press Or By Hand

Shape The Burgers In A Pattie Press Or By Hand

Homemade Burger Patties

Burger Patties Made At Home

Lightly brush with sunflower oil on each side, then either grill them over a barbecue or in a good cast-iron frying pan over a medium-high heat to the desired degree of doneness – around 4 – 5 minutes per side for medium rare; 5 – 6 minutes for medium.  However, the degree of doneness is not an exact science and depends a lot on the actual temperatures used and the meat, so be flexible rather than rigid in these guides.

Burger Press From Weschenfelder

Burger Press From Weschenfelder

To shape the burgers, I just use my hands.  However, Lakeland have a burger press that would do the job if you do not like the feel of meat, or you could try Twenga where there seem to be loads of alternatives over a wide price bracket.  Better still there is a range of burger presses from £7 – £300 at one of my favourite web secrets, Weschenfelder.

If you find that your burgers are falling apart, you may find that the meat you are using is not moist enough.  Alternatively, you could add some breadcrumbs, which will help to bind the meat together more.  In my homemade burger recipe via the main Steenbergs website, I use these in a more involved burger recipe.  The other possibility is that the burger is being turned too much or you are pressing it down, so releasing the juices that would bind the meat together, as below.

If you wish to barbecue them, a charcoal fire is much better rather than a gas grill, but obviously comes with more of a hassle factor.  Here are some basic burger cooking rules:

  1. Turn the burger only once – flipping might make the burger fall apart, while turning it back and forth will dry it out without letting the burger cook through.
  2. Don’t squash down the burger while it is cooking.  It does not speed up the cooking time much and squeezes out the juices, so ensuring your burger will become dry and solid rather than succulent & delicious.
  3. Finally, make sure your frying pan or grill is hot before you start cooking, but you don’t want a mega hot flame that chars the burgers to a crisp, cinder, better to be white hot charcoals than big flickering flames.  Impatience will not help the best flavours to develop.

But the key to any burger recipe is the meat.

Recipe For Vegan Tofu And Coconut Curry

Saturday, June 4th, 2011

Continuing with our vegetarian fest after a successful week during National Vegetarian Week, I was craving a spicy curry that the kids would enjoy but would also be vegetarian – they are beginning to want some meat, but are just about hanging in there.  I came up with this quick and simple recipe for Tofu & Coconut Milk Curry, which we ate with plain boiled rice and red lentil dhal, plus poppadoms.  It is versatile so you can change the tofu for other vegetarian ingredients like Quorn or, if you are a pescatarian, white fish like cod or coley.

Axel’s Vegan Tofu & Coconut Curry

1 medium onion, chopped finely
3 garlic cloves, chopped finely
1cm / ½ inch cube of fresh ginger, grated finely
1 mild green chilli, sliced lengthways (optional)
2 tbsp organic sunflower oil
1tsp organic  vegetable curry powder, or other mild/medium curry powder
¼tsp organic Fairtrade turmeric powder
10 curry leaves, or bay leaf
400ml coconut milk
4 cherry tomatoes, chopped in half
1tbsp organic white wine vinegar (or cider vinegar)
1tbsp organic lemon juice
1tsp organic garam masala
1tbsp organic sunflower oil
300g tofu, drained then chopped into 1cm / ½ inch cubes
1tbsp chopped fresh coriander leaves

Firstly, we prepare the tofu, by draining it, then placing it between two plates or wooden boards with a weight placed on top to remove the excess water.  This is worth doing as it removes extra water and gives a firmer texture for later.  After 1 hour, pour off excess water and chop into 1cm (½ inch) cubes.

Chop The Tofu Into 1cm Cubes

Chop The Tofu Into 1cm Cubes

Next, we make the coconut milk curry sauce.  Heat the sunflower oil in a heavy bottomed pan.  Add the onion, garlic and grated ginger and sauté on a low heat until translucent – this should take about 5 minutes, but make sure they do not crisp and brown at the edges.

Add the green chilli (if you are after some extra heat, but this is not necessary), curry powder, turmeric and curry leaves and stir in.  Fry gently for 1 minute.  Add the coconut milk and stir in.  Bring to the boil, then turn down to a gentle simmer.  Add the chopped tomatoes and simmer for 5 minutes.

Add the vinegar, lemon juice and garam masala, stir and simmer for another 1-2 minutes. then take off the heat.

Add the sunflower oil to a wok, or frying pan.  Heat until really hot, then add the tofu pieces and turn down the heat.  Fry until golden brown, turning over as they fry to make sure all edges get a nice crispy texture.

Stir Fry The Tofu Cubes

Stir Fry The Tofu Cubes

Until The Tofu Is A Golden Brown Colour

Until The Tofu Is A Golden Brown Colour

Add to the curry sauce and reheat to a boil.  Simmer for 5 minutes until thoroughly cooked through.  Add the chopped coriander leaves about 1 minute before the end.  Serve with plain boiled rice and dhal.

Vegan Tofu And Coconut Milk Curry

Vegan Tofu And Coconut Milk Curry

Recipe For Axel’s Vegan Mung Bean And Tofu Soup

Sunday, May 29th, 2011

This week is National Vegetarian Week and we have been enjoying new and wonderful vegetarian recipes including Sally’s new recipes for Moroccan Vegetable Stew and Vegetable Fajitas that we have added to the main Steenbergs website. 

Vegetable Curry Powder

Vegetable Curry Powder

Meanwhile, I have developed an organic vegan mung bean soup.  It is really versatile as you can reduce the water used and make it into a dhal with a thicker consistency, then eat with boiled rice for a healthy and balanced vegan main course.  The inspiration for this has morphed significantly from a recipe in an old Madhur Jaffrey cookbook that I find lurking on our bookshelves, Far Eastern Cookery, and hails from the Philippines, Mongo Guisado.  The original is a seafood soup using meat stock, but this version adds some extra flavours and uses tofu and vegetable stock.

Axel’s Mung Bean & Tofu Soup

185g / 6½oz organic mung beans
900ml /1½pts organic vegetable bouillon
3tbsp organic sunflower oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
1tsp freshly grated ginger
115g / 4oz tofu
Freshly ground organic black pepper, to taste
½ tsp Steenbergs organic vegetable curry powder

Soak The Mung Beans In Water Overnight

Soak The Mung Beans In Water Overnight

Begin by placing the dry mung beans in a bowl, then check through them picking out any that look black or off.  Cover them in water with 2cm (1 inch) of excess water and leave overnight, or do in the morning for the evening.  When ready, place the soaked mung beans in a colander or sieve, drain then run fresh water over them to wash off any dirt.

Put the mung beans in a pan and cover with water some 2cm (1 inch) in excess and bring the water to the boil.  Boil at a roiling boil for about 2 minutes, then take off the heat, skim off any scum then cover with a lid and leave to soak for 1 hour.  Drain and wash with running water as before.

Return to the pan, then cover with the vegetable stock, either homemade or you can use purchased vegetable bouillon powder adding about 1 tablespoon to the 900 ml (1½pts) of freshly drawn water.   Bring to the boil, cover with lid and simmer for 1 – 1½ hours until tender.  Blend with a hand blender or in a food processor until coarsely blended – you can blend it really smooth if you wish, but I prefer a coarser texture.  Return to a low heat or put into a warmed oven at 90C/200F.

Using A Handblender Mush Up The Mung Beans

Using A Handblender Mush Up The Mung Beans

Heat a wok then add the organic sunflower oil until it starts just to smoke when you should turn down the heat.  Add the chopped onions, garlic and ginger and stir fry until translucent.  Add the vegetable curry powder and stir into the mix.

Add the tofu pieces and stir fry for 3 minutes until cooked through.  Season with some freshly ground black pepper, but do not add salt as there is already plenty in the vegetable stock.

Stir Fry The Onions, Garlic, Ginger And Tofu

Stir Fry The Onions, Garlic, Ginger And Tofu

Mix the tofu stir fry into the mung bean dhal and serve. 

Mung Bean & Tofu Soup

Mung Bean & Tofu Soup

We like to eat ours either relatively runny as a soup with bread or thicker as a main course with boiled rice.  To make the thicker consistency, either boil the mung beans for longer to reduce the liquid content or start with 800ml/1¼ pints of stock, but watch over the mung beans to ensure they do not dry through before they get mushy; if they do get dry, top up with a little extra water.

Recipe For Traditional Style Rogan Josh

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

As part of my ongoing attempts to create Indian recipes that have some bearing on genuineness, I have been fiddling around with rogan josh ideas.  Rogan josh is a signature dish for British curry houses, but was originally a North Indian meat dish that harks back to the exotic meals of the Moghul Courts when luxury was about food that was lavish, plentiful and took time.  Time still remains one of the key ingredients of cooking, especially as we rush around trying to whip something up fast and furious to feed the kids quickly, rustling up whatever we can from a paucity of ingredients in the cupboard and fridge, that always means you are missing something, whether the saffron or the yoghurt.

In this version, I have not ended up with a recipe that is particularly red in colour as I have not used tomatoes or any colouring, save for some token beetroot powder which does not really keep its colour under the heat of your cooking.  If you want to redden the sauce, you can change the water for chopped tomatoes, but I feel that tinned tomatoes are used a little too readily and I have had enough of them at the moment.  Also, the original rogan joshes of the Moghul Era would not have had tomatoes available to them, even though by later times they  could have done.

So here you have it, my version of a traditional rogan josh from India to North Yorkshire and the web.  It tastes better if you give it a day to infuse, so prepare the day before and then leave overnight before reheating.  Another key feature is to get some lamb bones into the sauce as they impart extra depth of character to the curry.

Axel’s Rogan Josh

Thinking About Rogan Josh

Thinking About Rogan Josh

For the meat:

750g / 1¾ lb lamb (I mixed 500g of lamb chopped into 2-3cm dices with 250g lamb breast with bones)
2tbsp sunflower oil
1 pinch asafoetida
200g / ½lb yoghurt
3cm fresh ginger, peeled then grated
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1½tbsp sunflower oil

For the masala:

½tsp chilli (for extra heat you could double or triple this to your heat requirement)
½tsp paprika
1tsp coriander seeds/powder
½tsp black peppercorns, or ground black pepper
¼tsp cloves/ cloves powder
½tsp cardamom powder
2tsp beetroot powder
1tsp sea salt
6½cm cinnamon quill
2 black cardamom pods
1 bay leaf

For the stock:

1 pinch saffron, soaked in 4tbsp cold water for 30 minutes
500ml / 1 pint water

Heat the first amount of sunflower oil in a heavy bottomed frying pan then add the lamb and pinch of asafoetida, then cook until lightly browned and sealed all over.  Set aside.

In a heavy bottomed pot, add next amount of sunflower oil and fry the onions, garlic and ginger until translucent.

While the onions-garlic-ginger are frying, we need to prepare the spices for the rogan josh masala.  Heat a small frying pan to dry fry some of the spices.  When hot, add the coriander seeds, black peppercorns and cloves and dry roast for about 2 minutes; however, watch over them and ensure that they do not burn.  Remove them from the heat and grind in a mortar with a pestle or a coffee grinder.  Add the other ground spices, the black cardamom pods, cinnamon quills and bay leaf.  You can simplify the mix by using ground spices and just mix them all together.

Masala For Rogan Josh

Spices For Rogan Josh

When the onion-garlic-ginger is translucent, turn down the heat and add the spice masala and throughly mix through, cooking gently for 1 minute.  Stir throughout as it can stick to the pot and then start to burn.

Add the yoghurt and mix thoroughly.  Place the top on the pan and heat up until just steaming, then remove lid.  Add the meat, then cover with just enough water to go over all the meat.  Bring to the boil, turn down the heat, place the lid on the pot and simmer for at least 1 hour.

Remove the lid, then add the saffron infused water and cook through thoroughly.

Axel's Rogan Josh Curry

Axel's Rogan Josh

Ready to serve with rice and dhal, however I like to cook this on the night before then reheat the next day  – this gives a much richer, deeper flavour and lets all the spices really meld together.

Tips: you can replace the water with chopped tomatoes to give a redder colour, but sometimes I have just had too much tomato and quite enjoy giving it a miss in this version of rogan josh.  For posh nosh, remove the cinnamon sticks, bay leaves and black cardamom pods so no-one complains about chewing on one, but I quite like leaving them in for some extra authenticity and show everyone that you made this from scratch and not out of a jar.

Context…Social Dividends And Choosing Charities For Steenbergs Web-shop

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

So following on from my last blog, we see Steenbergs’ brand as being entangled with our range, the quality of our products and the context of these products.  Where the spices, teas and blend ideas come from tells us about different cultures around the world and how people interact with their environment, both as nature and as the human world.  Spices grown rurally in India, for example, are part of a history that stretches back into deep human history but then links back to villages and urban environments in a quickly expanding and modernising economy like India.  We must understand and smile at the strangeness of this paradox of old, rural and traditional farming mixed with modern industrial processing of spices and teas, together with the fact that they are shipped from Cochin in normal shipping containers on big containerships and not quaint sailing boats – the old and the modern, the rural and the industrial all get mixed up together in the environment of Steenbergs’ spices and teas.

This social aspect of how our retail products that we pack in North Yorkshire for sale in urban and rural shops across the UK and elsewhere, connects to internet customers almost everywhere, and links back to the Wynad region of Kerala in India or the Uva Highlands in Sri Lanka or Mananara in Northern Madagascar is hugely important to Sophie and me.  And while paying a premium of around one-third for our spices, herbs and teas generates profits that enables people to earn a living wage and reinvest into their businesses and communities, we are not sure that this is enough.  After all Steenbergs is at its heart a social enterprise and while we have very limited resources, so we cannot make much of a difference through our financial capacity, we can reach out wider to the community of people who buy our products.  We feel we must try as if we don’t make even a few small steps then the journey is never started.

We tried this once before with Peace Tea and Green Tea but it did not work because the products were not successful enough, so we would like to retry to generate a social dividend from sales at Steenbergs and believe that the best way to do this is via paying out a fixed amount from each web shop sale via www.steenbergs.co.uk to relevant charities.  We are fixing this at 20p for each web sale and will not make any adjustments to costings for this, i.e. it is a straight cost to Steenbergs and not our customers, which we will backdate to the start of 2011 – if we had done this for 2010 it would have been well over £1,000.

At the outset, as we have only really just firmed up the idea after our own flood, we are thinking of two charities – Practical Action or Water Aid.  However, in the future we would like to consider other more homegrown and smaller charities or projects, particularly those run locally and that foster genuine development like microcredit schemes rather than those that create aid dependency and those without any political or religious agenda – with smaller charities, we can make more of a difference whereas for mega-charities our donations will be just a drop in their ocean of income .  We also would like the charities to be active where we are linked with for our purchasing, so enhancing this context for Steenbergs products.  For example, from our quick scout around, we like ideas such as the Asha Trust, Grameen Bank and the Women’s Bank in Sri Lanka and Zahana in Madagascar.  But in the end, we want to hear from you what charities we could support as every year we are looking to our customers and supporters to choose one to benefit from this social dividend.

With this co-operative spirit in mind, we want people to tell us which of Practical Action or Water Aid we should all support this year and ask that you email your choice to charity@steenbergs.co.uk or tell us via Twitter or Facebook, where we will also explain the choices in a little less depth.  Every year we will hold a similar collective decision, so you can help us choose possible organisations and then make a choice openly and together.

In outline, here is something about the 2 possible charities this year or you can go to their websites for more gen.

Practical Action grew out of an idea from the economist E. F. Schumacher in the 1970s that people in poverty needed technology that met their context rather than grandiose schemes coming out of the developed world.  The founders termed this Intermediate Technology and technology as being “physical infrastructure, machinery and equipment, knowledge and skills and the capacity to organise and use all of these.”  They work closely with communities and at their scale and relative to their power, knowledge and available resource and using sensible, practical ideas like treadle pumps for irrigation, zeer pots for refrigeration and nanotechnology ideas such as filters to remove contaminants and pesticides from water.  These small steps enable communities to lift themselves out of their poverty and then hopefully move out of dependency to build their own wealth.  Practical Action works in (amongst other places) India and Sri Lanka, our major two countries for supplies of spices and teas, including Biofoods and Greenfield in Sri Lanka.  There is lots more information at their website at http://practicalaction.org/.

Water Aid on the other hand focuses as its name suggests on water and sanitation, seeking to improve communities lives by removing the scourge of contaminated water and poor sanitation which are major causes of premature death amongst infants and vulnerable adults throughout the world.  Water Aid’s vision is to transform “lives by improving access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation in the world’s poorest communities.”  They use sustainable technologies like rainwater harvesting, spring protection and hand dug wells, together with dry pit latrines and ventilated improved pit latrines.  Water Aid is active in many countries including India and Madagascar, where we get our fantastic Fairtrade vanilla from in Mananara.  Their web site is a great source of information and awe inspiring – www.wateraid.org/uk

Please take some time to think it all through, then come back to us for your choice and let’s try and make a difference, however small that may be.  Email Steenbergs at charities@steenbergs.co.uk or call Sophie or Axel at 01765 640 088 and tell us your thoughts.

Spices, spices everywhere

Friday, May 13th, 2011

We had a visit recently from Helen Best-Shaw of FussFreeFlavours, who is a lovely lady – other bloggers welcome.  She asked many interesting questions and one of them got me thinking and that was why are we so interested in spices.  It certainly is not the money as I think we are successfully proving that there are no fortunes to be made in spices anymore.

But what it is, I think, is the sheer complexity of them.  Spices, herbs and salts are the essence of cuisine that takes food away from being the source of the raw materials of life into cooking, i.e. something that is human, cultural, social and learned rather than just a bunch of proteins, carbohydrates and fats etc.

Spices, herbs and salt have the key things that make food truly great and tickle the senses:

  1. Aroma – smell
  2. Flavour – taste
  3. Heat – temperature
  4. Colour – sight
  5. Texture – touch
  6. Context – knowledge

For me, context is one of the key things that our spices can give you.  They create a story of where the cuisine has come from – Britain, Thailand, Japan or India, for example – and a sense of our life story and what we have learnt through our travels and experiences, from other people (whether in cookbooks, websites, from mum or the TV) and through experimentation. They offer a leitmotif to our world.  Context tells us whether they are organic or not, whether the people who grew them have been fairly treated or exploited, creating a depth and connection back to farmers who have toiled to bring us these gems of flavour.

When I blend a spice, all these things get wrapped up into the experience.  For example, today I made some ras al-hanut.  It takes an age to weigh out all the ingredients and then mix them up, all of which we do all by hand.  I use a unique recipe that includes 22 ingredients and took about 3 weeks and many years to perfect.  It harks back to when we started Steenbergs in 2004, so has context for me as I remember really struggling with the blend, but it also has context as it is based on the Moroccan blend – ras el hanout  – which is the master blend of the spice merchants in traditional bazaars across North Africa and into the Levant.  It connects Steenbergs back to other spice merchants and we have been indulgent, like you should, as this is not a blend to scrape and pinch like an accountant for bits of profit here and there, it is a thing of character and blend of excellence designed to show off our prowess and balances the flavours, aromas and colours of a stupidly wide selection of spices from a ridiculously wide geographic range of countries.

So we have – galangal from Vietnam; cassia and cubeb pepper from Indonesia; ginger and turmeric from India; cardamom from Sri Lanka; orris root from Italy; paprika and saffron from Spain; black cardamom from Pakistan; dill seed from Turkey; roses from Iran; bay, caraway and fennel from Turkey; and allspice from Guatemala – all of which are blended by hand in rural North Yorkshire.  We can travel the world with our flavours and ingredients.  Then there are the chromatics of the smells, flavours and colours that are carefully balanced to sing together in harmony and create something that has a bottomless depth of gorgeous sensation that is deliciously exotic – much better than each individually and full of pure intensity.  For a little flair, we add some texture by including whole dill seeds and deep purple rose petals that add an extra dimension to a blend of powders.  Then there are the colours from the exuberant deep purple of the damask roses, the mute yellow of turmeric, the blacks and browns of black cardamom, cassia, galangal, cubebs, the greens of cardamom and bay and the reds of paprika and saffron.  All these heats and flavours and colours meld seamlessly into a flavour bomb of depth and intensity that I just love to blend up.

Or we can enjoy something perhaps more mundane like our garam masala, where you can enjoy the flavour mix as well as its context.  The recipe is based on a Punjabi recipe that has been tweaked here in North Yorkshire, then has the context of being organic and Fairtrade, so you get kit that tastes fantastic, is good for the environment and has great social welfare attributes.

And it is not just about blends of spices and herbs, but we also go that extra mile for customers, searching out variety within individual spices.  There is a vast range of peppers, from the basic black peppercorns and white peppercorns through to speciality black pepper like the TGSEB we get from friends in Northern Kerala, the Wayanad Social Service Society and the more unusual peppers like cubeb pepper, long pepper and Madagascan wild pepper.  Or you could try some of the ersatz peppers, such as grains of paradise (Melagueta pepper), allspice (Jamaican pepper), Moor pepper or our vast range of chillies, that includes the mega-hot Naga Jolokia.

But I am particularly proud of Steenbergs vanilla.  As a standard, we have delicious, fragrant, succulent and sensual Bourbon vanilla from Madagascar.  It is organic and Fairtrade, and we use these for the base of our organic Fairtrade vanilla extract as well.  Then there is variety with vanilla from Congo that has tobacco notes to it, from Tahiti that is more floral and succulent than that of Madagascar.  I just love the vanilla.  Then there is the context of these that are grown with so much patience and effort by lovely rural communities in Northern Madagascar, for example around Mananara.

For me, what becomes more amazing as time goes by is the sense of community effort that goes into these small gems that are spices and herbs.  I am not really meaning the work that we do at Steenbergs, but rather the culture, the social structures, the economies and the people that go into growing that extra special vanilla or that amazing peppercorn.  It is they that are the true heroes and heroines and we should salute them by indulging ourselves to enjoy what they have spent time and effort creating, yet they have so little.  That for me is what I mean by context and that community effort gives Steenbergs that little bit more to it than just a rigid focus on the mechanics and standards of quality and value as demanded by those faceless high street and big brand corporations.

Matcha Tea Cupcakes – Green, Healthy and Tasty Recipe

Monday, March 21st, 2011

The terrible events in Japan lay bare to us all how much we are still at the mercy of the elements, rather than completely in control of our earth.

Steenbergs Matcha Tea And Cocoa Powder

Steenbergs Matcha Tea And Cocoa Powder

So I decided to revisit my recent post on matcha tea and create these Matcha Tea Cupcakes ideal for charity events to raise money for the tsunami victims.  They are really delicious combination of matcha and cocoa, with with the cupcake tasting just of chocolate cake and the very mild seaweedy taste of the matcha in the icing complements the classic sweetness of the chocolate.  As an aside, this is great way to get some of the benefits of matcha without needing to drink a cup of slightly bitter matcha tea

Matcha Cupcakes

Matcha Cupcakes

Recipe for Matcha Tea Cupcakes

1 tsp (rounded) organic matcha tea
120ml / ½ cup milk
100g / ¾ cup plus 1 tbsp organic plain flour
1¼ tsp baking powder
2 tbsp Fairtrade cocoa powder
Pinch of sea salt
150g / 1 scant cup Fairtrade caster sugar
1 large free range egg
1 tsp Steenbergs organic Fairtrade vanilla extract
50g / 3½ tsp unsalted butter 

For the topping:

80g / 5 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tsp (level) organic matcha tea, sieved
2 tbsp fromage frais
250g / 2 cups Faitrade icing sugar

1.  Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F.

2.  Pour the milk into a milk pan, then sieve the matcha tea into the milk.  Whisk the mixture with a matcha whisk or a fork.  Then carefully heat the milk until hot to touch but not starting to simmer.  Take off the heat and set aside.

Infuse Milk With Green Matcha Tea

Infuse Milk With Green Matcha Tea

3.  Sieve the plain flour, baking powder and cocoa powder into a mixing bowl.  Add the sea salt and then tip in the caster sugar.  Mix the dry ingredients together.

Put All The Dry Ingredients Into Mixing Bowl

Put All The Dry Ingredients Into Mixing Bowl

4.  Put the egg and vanilla extract into the dry ingredients and mix up a bit with a fork.  Chop the unsalted butter into small cubes and add to the mixture.  Mix thoroughly with an electric whisk or in a blender.  When creamed together, add the matcha milk mix and throughly mix.

Mix In The Matcha Milk

Mix In The Matcha Milk

5.  Spoon the mixture into paper cupcakes until about three-quarters up.

Pour In Mixture Three Quarters Up Cupcake

Pour In Mixture Three Quarters Up Cupcake

6.  Place in oven and cook for about 25 minutes, or until spongy to the touch.  Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack.

7.  To make the matcha icing, simply mix all the ingredients together and put a dessertspoon of the matcha frosting onto each cupcake.

Mix Together The Ingredients For Matcha Frosting

Mix Together The Ingredients For Matcha Frosting

8.  Enjoy the taste straight away.

Brussels Sprouts And Chestnuts With Maple Glaze – A Recipe

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

I have never liked brussels sprouts, feeling they were the devil’s food rather than the fairy cabbages that friends have sought to con their children with.  I have always dreaded Christmas lunch with the obligatory brussels sprouts or as in my case sprout.  So it was with great interest that Sophie told me about a recipe for brussels sprouts that even haters seemed to like.

Brussels Sprouts With Chestnuts And Maple Syrup Glaze

Brussels Sprouts With Chestnuts And Maple Syrup Glaze

It comes from a great little cook book “The Boxing Clever Cookbook” by Jacqui Jones and Joan Wilmot, which is full of recipes to liven up the repetitive dullness that seems to creep into your veg from a box scheme over the months, especially in the depths of winter.  You know what it’s like: week after week of struggling to liven up turnip or cabbage, or even what to do with brussels sprouts. 

Brussels Sprouts Ready For Cooking

Brussels Sprouts Ready For Cooking

The recipe that we liked is brussels sprouts with chestnuts and maple syrup, which basically masks the bitter, cabbagy flavour of brussels sprouts by mixing it with the nuttiness of chestnuts and loads of butter and maple syrup.  Could I still taste the brussels sprouts? Yes, but when diluted with the other flavours, it was actually quite pleasant, so while I won’t be eating brussels sprouts on their own, this is not at all bad.

Brussels Sprouts And Chestnuts With Maple Glaze

Adapted from “The Boxing Clever Cookbook” by Jacqui Jones & Joan Wilmot

90g / 3oz / ⅓ cup cooked, peeled chestnuts, chopped into small dice
225g / ½ lb / 1 cup brussels sprouts, trimmed with outer leaves removed and X on base
3tbsp maple syrup
20g / 1oz butter
Salt and pepper to taste

1.  Boil the sprouts for about 10 minutes until they are tender.  Drain and rinse in cold water.  Set aside.  Quarter them if you want or keep whole as I did.

2.  Put the maple syrup into a pan and warm.  Add the butter and chestnuts and stir as the butter melts.  Add the sprouts and stir.  Season with salt and pepper.

Mixing Chestnuts In With Maple Syrup And Butter

Mixing Chestnuts In With Maple Syrup And Butter

3.  Enjoy.

Recipes For Swede And Parsnip Puree

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011
Parsnip Puree With Partridge And Mashed Potato

Parsnip Puree With Partridge And Mashed Potato

Yesterday, we ate a brace of partridges with mashed potato and parsnip purée.  I noticed a theme had crept recently in my cooking.  It was not to do with the meat or general cooking style, but that I had been enjoying my winter root vegetables.  We like to eat what is in season, or more particularly to veer away from flown in produce, where we can all have the luxury of beans or sprouting broccoli in the dark days of winter.

The problem is that we forget about classic ways of eating in the winter, dropping root vegetables, dried beans and pulses from our diet.  These foods, especially beans like haricot beans, are great for the stomach and circulation, so they make hearty casseroles full of goodness and taste, yet we focus on quickly cooked meats and greens that lack substance, however good they may be for your theoretical dietary needs.

Last week, for example, we complemented Steak And Kidney Pudding with Swede Purée, while this week I chose to make Parsnip Purée with the Roasted Partridge.  They are wonderfully simple recipes and taste so delicious, and can be varied with whatever ingredients you have or can easily lay your hands on.

Recipe for Swede Purée

1 dessertspoon sunflower oil
1 clove garlic, chopped finely
250g onion, chopped finely (medium sized onion)
500ml vegetable bouillon (made as 1 dessert spoon of vegetable bouillon powder plus 500ml boiling water)
700g turnip / swede, chopped into 3cm/ 1 inch cubes
Salt & pepper to taste, or 1tsp of Steenbergs Perfect Salt seasoning

Chop The Swede Into 1cm Chunks

Chop The Swede Into 1cm Chunks

1.  Heat the sunflower oil in a heavy bottomed pan, then add the garlic and onions and fry gently for 5 minutes until translucent.

2.  Add the swede and stir into the garlic-onion mix, then pour over the vegetable bouillon.  Bring the stock to the boil and simmer for about 15 minutes until the swede is soft.  If needed, top up the stock with a little more water, but we are trying to get as little liquid in as possible.

Add Stock To The Swede

Add Stock To The Swede

Puree The Cooked Swede To A Thick Consistency

Puree The Cooked Swede To A Thick Consistency

3.  When cooked, transfer the cooked swede, together with the garlic, onions and stock, to a food processor.  Add 2 tablespoons of double cream and process to a thick purée.  Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve warm.

Recipe for Parsnip Purée

1 dessertspoon sunflower oil
1 dessertspoon olive oil
125g onion-leek mix, chopped finely (it could be just onion here)
300ml vegetable bouillon (made as 1 dessert spoon of vegetable bouillon powder plus 300ml boiling water)
450g parsnip, chopped into 3cm/ 1 inch cubes
2 tbsp crème fraiche 
1 tbsp chopped parsley
Salt & pepper to taste, or 1tsp of Steenbergs Perfect Salt seasoning

1.  Heat the sunflower and olive oils in a heavy bottomed pan, then add the leek and onions and fry gently for 5 minutes until translucent.

Fry The Leeks And Onions In Olive Oil And Sunflower Oil

Fry The Leeks And Onions In Olive Oil And Sunflower Oil

2.  Add the parsnip and stir into the leek-onion mix, then pour over the vegetable bouillon.  Bring the stock to the boil and simmer for about 15 minutes until the swede is soft.  If needed, top up the stock with a little more water, but we are trying to get as little liquid in as possible.

Simmer The Parsnip In Vegetable Stock

Simmer The Parsnip In Vegetable Stock

3.  When cooked, transfer the cooked parsnip, together with the leek-onion mix and stock, to a food processor.  Add 2 tablespoons of crème fraiche and process to a thick purée.  Add the chopped parsley, then check the seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve warm.

Process The Cooked Parsnip To A Smooth Puree

Process The Cooked Parsnip To A Smooth Puree

Recipe For A Warming Winter’s Rabbit Casserole

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

Rabbit used to be the chicken of England with everyone eating rabbits that live in copious amounts around the countryside.  I am not sure why chicken took over from rabbit in our nation’s hearts, but it might be as simple as the fact that it is easier to get the meat off an enlarged chicken breast than cutting the fiddly meat off the rabbit skeleton.  And there are still so many rabbits around that I do not know why we have never taken up this as the poor man’s food – free food from the countryside that also keeps their numbers down instead of factory farmed fowl.

Anyway, I like the light, gamey meat taste of rabbit, so on Saturday I prepared this wintry rabbit casserole for eating on Sunday; Sophie and I were out in our village for a party, so we did not want any particular hassle with the cooking on Sunday.  Thanks to Sally and Paul for the fantastic party and delicious curries.  This is the classic stewing sauce that I make for all game, meat and chicken, varying the amounts of each ingredient depending what is lurking in the vegetables area or in the fridge.  The key is the basic ingredients of onions, carrots, bay, salt and pepper, together with the stock plus a long slow cook to let all the flavours infuse together; everything else can be tweaked and changed.

Ingredients

2tbsp sunflower oil
1 desertspoon butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 celery sticks, halved and chopped finely (approx 1mm)
3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped finely
8 mushrooms, cleaned and halved
200ml / 7 fl oz red wine (roughly a wine glass)
2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
300ml / ½ pint chicken stock
1tsp lemon juice
1 tbsp chopped parsley
2 bay leaves
600g  / 1¼ lb rabbit, cut into 3cm / 1 inch dices
5 rashers streaky bacon, cut into 3cm long strips
Salt & pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F.

Add 1 tbsp sunflower oil and the butter to a heavy bottomed casserole pot and heat to really hot.  Add the onions and cook until translucent and just starting to brown at the edges, which will take about 5 minutes over a medium heat.  Add the sliced celery, carrot and mushrooms, stir and lightly fry for about 3 minutes until translucent.

Mushrooms, Carrots And Celery

Mushrooms, Carrots And Celery

Lightly Fry The Vegetables

Lightly Fry The Vegetables

Add the red wine, then the chopped tomatoes and chicken stock, and bring to the boil.  Cook the stock for about 10 minutes on a full boil and with the lid off to allow it to reduce.

Meanwhile, fry the streaky bacon in 1tbsp of sunflower oil.  When browned add the bacon to the tomato stock.  Add the chopped and prepared rabbit to the streaky bacon oil and cook until sealed and lightly browned.  Add to the tomato and simmer for about 5 minutes with the lid off.

Fry The Rabbit Pieces

Fry The Rabbit Pieces

Transfer to the preheated oven and cook for 15 minutes at 180C / 350F, then reduce the heat to 160C / 320F and cook for another 45 minutes.

Axel's Rabbit Casserole

Axel's Rabbit Casserole

If possible cook this on the day before eating and leave overnight for the flavours to fully infuse, meld and develop.

Serve with mashed potato.