Sunday, 26 July 2009

Weekly Menu 27th to 31st July

Cucumbers growing in my greenhouse last week..

Where did July go? A whole month of both boys at home ahead, no school till sometime in September so I hope we can get out and about and do some things. The weather is very, very variable at the moment with quite a lot of rain in the mix making it hard to know what it is going to be like from one minute to the next.. typical British summer then :)

This week I am hosting the Gluten Free Menu swap and I picked cucumber as my ingredient. Cucumber is one of our favorite vegetables and we have two types plus gherkins growing in the greenhouse. We picked our first home grown cucumber and the first gherkin on Thursday night and two more cucumbers this morning. The tomatoes are growing well but are still green. Noodles told me that the cucumbers were very yummy and they were better because we had grown them.. which is wonderful, the idea growing your own helps kids eat more veg seems to be true with him at least, he ate peas from the pod this morning as well. Here is my menu followed by the others who are joining in the swap this week.

Monday - Fish fingers (GF for me), smiley faces and baked beans

Tuesday - Cauliflower and courgette bake.

Wensday - Burmese curry and cucumber pickle (at the bottom of the page)

Thursday - Sausage with roast beetroot and mashed potato

Friday - not sure yet depends a bit what vegs are ready at the allotment and what we get from the veg box.

Baking -Want to try the marshmallows from this months daring baker challenge I didn't manage by the challenge date. Noodles wants to make mini cupcakes.

Other menus

Kimberly at Gluten free is life has a family birthday to look forward and a full but great sounding week.. She also has an interesting cucumber salad I may have to try.

Sea at Book of Yum has a lovely sounding menu mostly cooked for her by a friend as she has a beautiful looking new baby to concentrate her time on.. congrats Sea she is lovely.

In my box has a fantastic and colourful sounding vegan menu and while I don't plan to become vegan any time soon I could happily eat any of those dishes.

Cheryl at Gluten Free Goodness has some lovely looking hazelnut meringues and a great sounding menu.

Wendy at Celiacs in the house has some lovely summery pictures and a nice mix of dishes this week.

Burmese Cucumber Pickle
from the Complete Asian Cookbook by Charmaine Solomon

Serves 6
2 large green cucumbers
1/2 cup of vinegar (originally malt but I use cider)
2 cups water
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup peanut oil
2 tbsp sesame oil
8 cloves garlic, sliced
1 medium onion
2tbsp sesame seeds

Peel cucumbers, cut in half long ways an scoop out seeds. Cut into fingers, then chop into 2 inch lengths. Bring vinegar, water and salt to the boil, drop in cucumbers and boil till transparent. Drain and leave to cool.

Heat both oils together and fry garlic till pale golden, drain. Fry onion till golden brown in the same oil. Toast sesame in a dry pan till golden brown, stir constantly. Turn onto plate to cool. When oil is cold dress cucumber with 3 tbsp oil. Mix well. Add onion, garlic and seeds. Toss lightly. Serve.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Daring Bakers - July

It's that time again, the reveal date for Daring bakers where cooking blogs all over the world all show you versions of the same recipe..

The July Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.

I really wanted to make both but in the end time was against me and I only managed the Milan Cookies, however as i still have the ingredients for the Marshmallow cookies they may make an appearance later. We were allowed to do only one however so I have still officially completed the challenge.
Milan cookies are very thin cookies sandwiched together with chocolate. Obviously I need to adapt the recipe but in fact it worked very well just substituting Dove Farm flour for the wheat flour and indeed some of those cooking conventionally mentioned the cookies went quite soft after a day where as the gluten free ones kept their texture much better being crisp round the edges with a slight softness in the middle of the biscuit, so a plus for gluten free. I expect that is because of the natural shortness of most gluten free flours and the fact that I did not add any extra liquid to the mix. As gluten free flours tend to need more liquid this kept them crisp.

The first biscuits shown on the trays at the top are a better colour than the ones shown with chocolate as the second batch over cooked slightly, However I gave most of the first batch away before I could photograph them finished, hence the slightly less ideal ones in the finished picture. Still they tasted nice, though te just brown round the edges ones were prettier and did taste even better.

I think I would cut back on the vanilla and lemon for everyday use and in fact i didn't use the full amount in the batch I did but having some in they is very good as it brings them up from being just a basic biscuit.

Milan Cookies
Recipe courtesy Gale Gand, from Food Network website

Prep Time: 20 min
Inactive Prep Time: 0 min
Cook Time: 1 hr 0 min
Serves: about 3 dozen cookies

• 12 tablespoons (170grams/ 6 oz) unsalted butter, softened
• 2 1/2 cups (312.5 grams/ 11.02 oz) powdered sugar
• 7/8 cup egg whites (from about 6 eggs)
• 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
• 2 tablespoons lemon extract
• 1 1/2 cups (187.5grams/ 6.61 oz) all purpose flour (I used Dove Farm gluten free plain flour)
• Cookie filling, recipe follows

Cookie filling:
• 1/2 cup heavy cream
• 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
• 1 orange, zested

1. In a mixer with paddle attachment cream the butter and the sugar.
2. Add the egg whites gradually and then mix in the vanilla and lemon extracts.
3. Add the flour and mix until just well mixed.
4. With a small (1/4-inch) plain tip, pipe 1-inch sections of batter onto a parchment-lined sheet pan, spacing them 2 inches apart as they spread. (I used a teaspoon instead)

5. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or until light golden brown around the edges. Let cool on the pan.
6. While waiting for the cookies to cool, in a small saucepan over medium flame, scald cream.

7. Pour hot cream over chocolate in a bowl, whisk to melt chocolate, add zest and blend well.
8. Set aside to cool (the mixture will thicken as it cools).
9. Spread a thin amount of the filling onto the flat side of a cookie while the filling is still soft and press the flat side of a second cookie on top.
10. Repeat with the remainder of the cookies.

One of the tips given by another Daring baker was to use tins to get all the biscuits the same size, I tried this but put too much in each pan so i did indeed get round cookies but they were more cake like in texture.

I think this recipe will go in my to use again file because while I had to do several batches to use all the mixture it really wasn't hard and I loved the delicate texture and the chocolate was good too. I am tempted to try sandwiching some with my gooseberry curd and dipping one end in chocolate as well.

Weekly Menu 20th to 24th July

This week is the first week of the school holidays so will be marked by us getting into a new routine hopefully and maybe even me driving the big car. I've had a driving lesson and have another booked this evening because my lovely little Smart car is automatic and while I have a manual licence I haven't driven a manual car since I passed, well once a day or so after I passed.. The big car is need to fit both boys in however so if we are to be able to go out and do anything outside the city or indeed some far flung parts of the city I need to drive the other car.

In other news I scored some silicon baking things for 3 pound the lot at a charity shop. One cake 'tin' and two mini fairycake (cupcake) moulds.. really mini they are only about an inch across each hole.

The menu for the week is fairly basic and easy to give the boys my time.

Monday - leftovers from the weekend.

Tuesday - sausage and new potatoes, because I am picking up a sausage order from my butcher, I get 10lb at a time specially made for me. Beef this time.

Wednesday - stir fry

Thursday - pasta and sauce

Friday - out and about.

Baking - I promised Noodles millionaires shortbread this week. Plus working on the Daring Bakers challenge for this month.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Daring cooks go Molecular !

Until this months challenge I had never heard of molecular cuisine (sort of the science of cooking) but I am now fascinated by it, the science geek in me wants to know more plus gluten free baking has a healthy dose of chemistry to learn if you want to get your head round mixing your own flour mixes. Over the winter when there is less growing of vegs going on, and indeed less weeds to keep in check, I may well check out some of the forums on the subject.

Anyway on to the challenge. Sketchy, from Sketchy's Kitchen set us a challenge to recreate a dish from Grant Achatz, found in the Alinea cookbook - page 230. This dish looks very obscure and strange to start with and before this the only chef I'd really come across doing such things was Heston Blumenthal who has recently done a couple of wonderful and very mad programs on british TV.

The dish is basically fish pouched in butter served on beans and slices of banana. Sounds pretty basic so far doesn't it ! However then you add multiple powders, dried and ground up ingredients, things that would normally be put in a sauce to go with the fish. Many people were very thrown by this part but taking a deep breath I looked at it and realised that while there was a bunch of prep none of it was hard in and of itself. As it happened I had just started experimenting with drying and indeed grinding things to powder just a few days earlier and had just done some lemon peal which turned out to be one fo the ingredients.

In the end I did 5 powders and used four of them. We were given various ways to do the drying. A dehydrator - something I'd love to own but don't. Microwave - quick but less good flavour wise on the couple I tried or the oven on a very low heat which is what I opted for on most for mine. They they were crushed in a mortar and pestle and sieved though a fine sieve.

The powders I did were

Parsley -(bottom left) Oven was slightly better than microwave but fundamentally both taste like dried grass which is pretty much the same as shop bought dried parsley

Oregano - quite bitter tasting and I didn't use it in the end, again oven better than microwave.

Lemon peel - (bottom right) just plain peel dried, the recipe called for candied peel but I had already done the plain so that is what I used. Smelt divine and tasted like sherbet.

Red Onion - (top right) Fantastic flavour, lovely pink colour. I very tempted to do more for flavouring things

Capers - (top left) Ones in vinegar, washed and dried. Another very flavoursome one.

To make up the dish the powders were piled on the plate and then swirled. The green beans were cooked in a Beurre Monte, which is basically butter emulsified with water first. The fish was also cooked the same way. The recipe stated skate but I used Pouting which is a nice and fairly cheap white fish.

Some slices of banana were placed on the plate then green beans and finally fish. It was topped with ground dried banana flakes.

So what was it like?? Funny dry powders? Actually it was amazing. Not at all dry, partly due to the butter things were cooked in. The powders exploded flavour, well part from the parsley but even that added colour. All together the flavours worked fabulously and it got a very good reception from Tom, once he got over the fish bone he is jinked to find however hard I try!!

I really recommend trying this it is worth the faff of making the powders and they in themselves are an interesting experiment.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Weekly menu 6th to 10th July 2009

I missed last week and i can't even remember why! This week's gluten free menu swap is being hosted by Gluten Free Goodness and she has picked garlic for the ingredient of the week. Fine by me we use it every week in fact pretty much everyday. In fact I have just been given some fresh garlic and some garlic flower heads or rather bulblet clusters which you can see in the photo above. One of my neighbouring plot-holders showed me round his plot and get me a bunch of things to try including the garlic. He said it was Greek garlic and differed from normal garlic because it had these flower heads. Having looked things up a bit i think it is a form of hardnecked garlic because a) it has a hard stem and b) they have flower-heads that the more common softneck ones don't but soft neck store better which means I have to eat these ones... oh the hardship :) Next year I plan to grow a variety of types of garlic..

He also gave me globe artichokes which I love and some very fine potatoes. We also have had some great early potatoes so this week is probably rather full of them.

Monday - Globe artichokes with butter or possibly some other sauce.. i suppose I might have to make something else as not everyone likes them as much as me!

Tuesday - new potato salad with omelet for me and left over sausage rolls and cooked sausages for gluten eaters. (lady Christl potatoes)

Wednesday - oven roasted chops with diced, roasted potatoes with garlic. ( Red Duke of York Potatoes)

Thursday - Some sort of veggy quiche as I want to try a new pastry recipe.

Friday - Fish of some sort depends on what is available and the vegs we get.

Baking - Probably some muffins, maybe some gooseberry curd tarts as I quite fancy that idea.

From the allotment -
salad greens
last few blackcurrants
white currants
josha berries
possibly a few raspberries
possibly the first few courgettes by the end of the week.