Back in the autumn, a very kind work colleague gave me a whole heap of apples from her family home to bake and cook with. I used some of them to make the Tarte Aux Pommes, some to try out the apple cake in Catherine Fulvio's book and the remainder I used to make this apple butter and some apple and ginger jam.
I've found that apple butter is perfect to have on hand as a gift when visiting, as not only is it delicious and a little unusual but it is also vegetariain and vegan friendly.
Just a final note to say that though I've marked that you wait 10 days from making the butter before eating it, you don't have to do this, you could eat the apple butter as soon as it's cool, but this wait does allow the flavours to mellow and mature.
This recipe comes from Mary Norwak's The Book of Preserves which I picked up for 50 cent at our Community Fair in work last year. It's a great book with unusual flavour combinations and really useful advice regarding bottling and jarring. So if you're interested in home preserves and you see a copy of this book, get it!
First up I'm going to run through steralising the jam jars as this needs to be done at some stage during the process so that they're ready when the apple butter is ready to jar.
Scrub your jam jars in warm soapy water and rinse thoroughly. Place the wet, clean jam jars on an oven tray and place in the oven at a temp of between 50 - 100°C until you're ready to use them. Personally I do mine at the beginning and leave them in the oven, then I don't need to remember do it later on. Don't forget to wash the lids too!
Peel the apples and coarsely chop them.
Place the chopped apples into a large saucepan and add the water and cider.
Cook the apples and liquids over a low heat until the apples get very soft.
Once the apples are really soft, use the blender on them to make a purée. Make sure you get get it as smooth as possible.
Now comes the slightly tricky bit; weigh the purée and for each 450g of purée measure out 350g of brown sugar. Leave the sugar to one side for the moment.
Pour the apple purée back into the pot and cook on a low heat for about 30 - 40 mins until it has thickened up and coats a wooden spoon.
Add the sugar and stir through. The butter will dramatically change colour at this point, which can be a little bit of surprise, but now that you know, you will be prepared!
Add the spices; cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.
Stir the mixture until the sugar dissolves. Leave to simmer, stirring occasionally until all the liquid has evaporated and mixture is thick and sticky.
When the mixture is ready, ladle it into your pre-prepared sterile jars.
Wipe the rim of the jars clean with a damp cloth and screw on the lid. repeat until you run out of mixture and jars.
I'm finally getting around to writing about my lovely evening in Salon des Saveurs with a group of food bloggers that happened back in November. Apart from the delicious food, my abiding memory of the evening was just how cold it was, there was a bitter wind blowing as I hurried from the Luas on Stephen's Green to the restaurant on Aungier's Street.
We got a brief overview of our menu for the evening from the head chef; Matthew and we were also informed that we would be getting a matched glass of wine with each course. So began what became an evening of epic eating.
Our first course was a parsnip soup that had been flavoured with vanilla and was served with a langoustine. The soup was incredibly delicate in flavour and the amount that we had been given was just right, as I could imagine being irritated by the slight sweetness from the vanilla in a bigger serving. The langoustine was perfectly cooked and had been flavoured with truffle, which, to me, was a lovely finish to the first dish of the evening. Our matching wine for this course was a 2009 Lugana from Lake Gardia.
The second course of the evening was an incredibly rich, cured terrine of foie gras stuffed with oxtail. This came with all sorts of different things on the plate, apricot, grape, fried baby spinach and hazelnut aioli. The terrine melted in the mouth and really came to life when you added some of the accoutrements. I happily admit that I am a foie gras fiend and this dish was one of the best foie gras dishes I have ever had. The matching wine with this course was a 2007 Sauvignon Gewürztraminer from Alsace.
Our third course was a little hit and miss in my opinion. It was an asparagus risotto that was served with a confit of duck and arbafura broth. The risotto was delicious; it was everything you want a risotto to be, creamy and delicately flavoured with asparagus. The duck confit was also lovely, on its own, however, I felt that the confit overpowered the risotto so that the asparagus flavour was lost. The wine with this course was a 2009 Viognier from Vin de Pays.
The fourth course arrived and by now my eyes were starting to glaze over with all the food being put in front of me. This course consisted of a daube of beef, which melted in my mouth, and was served with a celeriac mousseline, little pearl onions, carrots, a parsley hollandaise and the most delicious reduction. This piece of meat looked like it was going to be hard work to cut but then I put my fork to it and it all just fell away. It was delicious. It was just a pity that this was the fourth dish we'd had, as I just couldn't finish it. The wine for this course was a Syrah Monastrell from Jumilla, Spain.
The final course of the evening was tasting of desserts and consisted of five different dishes: a chocolate brûlée, a spoon of lemon ice cream, a mini strawberry and rhubarb crumble, a square of ice lemon soufflé and a piece of spiced lemon cake. I'm afraid my picture is missing the ice lemon soufflé as I ate it before I remembered to photograph it! Personally I didn't like the chocolate brûlée or the lemon ice cream, as they were a bit too sweet for me, in fact the ice cream tasted just like lemon bonbons. I liked the strawberry and rhubarb crumble and the spiced lemon cake, but my favourite dessert was definitely the ice lemon soufflé and I could have eaten a lot more of that. On the whole I found the desserts a little disappointing when compared to the other courses, they were definitely the weakest part of the evening, which was a pity. There was a choice of two wines to go with dessert, a Coteaux du Layon from the Loire Valley and a Prosecco di Valdobbiadene from Italy. I choose the Coteaux du Layon but also got to taste the Prosecco of one of the other diners.
All in all it was a great evening and the food was delicious. I would definitely recommend it to people to visit. The only caveat that I would make would be that as Salon des Saveurs works with a series of set tasting menus, the whole table must order the same thing. This is fine if you are dining out as a couple or a small group, but I think it might be a little annoying if you were a group of six, if only in terms of coming to an agreement on what to have!
On the other hand the prices are very reasonable for a five course meal ranging from €29 to €59 a head. You can also add a glass of matched wine with each course for an additional charge. If you're feeling very extravagant or hungry there's an eight course menu for €79 available too along with an à la carte menu.
I will probably be back with the Beau in tow, if only to have another go at that daube of beef.
This was going to be my entry for our April cookalong, which had the theme of chocolate. However, as I have been a little late in getting the post up, it won't be being judged by the lovely people at Eat Magazine.
I decided to make these delicious little chocolate pots after spotting the recipe in the latest addition to my cook book collection: The Flavour Thesaurus. This is an amazing book that lists various food together into flavour types and then lists which flavours pair well together and why.
"A backdrop of dark chocolate shows off rosemary's cool, evergreen flavours. If this recalls the lovely combination of Chocolate & Cardamom (see page 14), that's because the dominant flavour compound in both rosemary and cardamom is cineole, common to bay leaf too (think how all three make great milk-based desserts). Cineole has woody eucalyptus, slightly minty notes. In rosemary, these are joined by peppery, camphorous characters, while cardamom takes it in a more citrusy, floral direction -- you might say chocolate with rosemary is a wintry alternative to chocolate and cardamom."
After reading that paragraph I knew I had to try them as I would never have thought to pair chocolate and rosemary together previously. They are incredibly delicious, the rosemary takes away the cloyingness that you can sometimes get with chocolate.
This recipe is relatively straight forward but there is a point at which is can all go horribly wrong, but fear not, as I shall include troubleshooting instructions for you should this happen.
Cut your lemon in half and squeeze out the juice of one half. Measure out the sugar into a heavy bottomed pot and pour in the lemon juice.
Add the wine and put over a low heat, stirring occsionally until all the sugar has dissolved.
While the sugar is dissolving it is time to prepare the chocolate. The chocolate needs to be grated so that it will melt quickly into the mixture later.
When the sugar has all dissolved, carefully pour in the double cream.
Now comes the important part; you need to stir the double cream mixture constantly over a gentle heat until it thickens, which will take about 20 mins. Do not let the mixture boil!
Now add a sprig of rosemary to the cream mixture and stir in the grated chocolate.
Bring the mixture to the boil and stir until the chocolate has completely melted. Once melted, reduce the heat and simmer the mixture for 20 mins until rich and dark.
Allow the mixture to cool. Once cool you face the moment of truth, seeing whether your mixture has split or not. You will know if it has split if there is a visible layer of fat sitting on the top of the chocolate mixture when it cools. This is easily fixed by using an electric hand whisk on the mixture for 3 - 5 mins until the fat is completely reincorporated into the chocolate mixture. This whisking can be done after the following step.
When the chocolate mixture is cool, strain it through a sieve into a bowl. This is to remove the rosemary stalk from the mixture.
Set out your little ramekins and divide the mixture into them. This mixture should fill between 8 and 10 dishes depending on their size.
Cover each ramekin with a small square of cling film and put into the fridge to set.
The pots should be set after about 2 hours. Eat and enjoy! These keep for at least a week in the fridge, I can't tell you if they keep any longer as there were none left then.
Tomorrow is Mother's Day and what better way to make your mum smile than to bake her a delicious cake?
This cake recipe came about when I had oranges leftover from making marmalade and my mum had received a large number of carrots in her weekly veg box. The cake recipe itself is loosely based on this Rachel Allen Carrot Cake and the icing is Nigella's from her Guinness Chocolate Cake recipe in feast, but orangified.
This cake is perfect for mums as it's vaguely healthy sounding so they can indulge without guilt. Plus, my mum loves it and what greater accolade do you need than that?
The first thing that has to be done is to line your cake tin with the baking parchment so that the cake won't stick to it while cooking.
Put your cake tin onto the baking parchment and draw around it with a pen or pencil. Cut out the circle and leave to one side.
Cut a strip of parchment that will fit around the interior of the tin and snip into one long side of the paper at regular itervals to a depth of about 2 cm to create a fringe. This will help the paper sit better in the tin.
Grease the tin with an old butter wrapper or a bit of parchment with butter/marg on it and add the long fringed piece of paper to the tin. Add the circle of parchment to the bottom and you're done. Leave the tin to one side till later.
It's best to do all your grating first to get it out of the way. Grate the carrots, I found that 5 medium carrrots gave me 250g when grated. Remove the zest from one the oranges with a fine grater or zester and then juice the orange. Keep everything in easy grabbing distance for the next bit.
Preheat the oven to 150°C. Break the eggs into the bowl and add the sugar and oil.
Whisk the ingredients together until you have a smooth batter.
Add the carrots and stir through.
Add the nuts, raisins and orange zest.
Mix thoroughly and add the flour and bicarbonate of soda.
This is also the point to add the spices; cinnamon, mixed spice and nutmeg.
Carefully fold in all the dry ingredients and ensure that there are no lumpy bits. Last ingredient to be mixed in is a tablespoon of the orange juice.
Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin and place in the oven for 1 - 1¼ hours until a skewer comes out clean.
While the cake is cooking, make up the cream cheese icing.
Zest and juice the remaining orange and put to one side for the moment.
Put the cream cheese into a bowl and whisk until smooth.
Sieve the icing into the bowl and whisk into the cream cheese.
Pour in the cream and whisk into the cream cheese and icing sugar mixture. You will need to whip the icing for at least 2 -3 mins at this point until the it is quite stiff in texture.
Add the orange zest and 3 tablespoons juice. Once again whisk everything up until smooth and orangey tasting.
When everythings mixed together, again until quite stiff in texture, put the mixture into the fridge until it's needed. It is very important that the icing go into the fridge for at least 30 mins before use, as it helps to stiffen and set the mixture, making it easier to handle.
By now the cake should be finished baking. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in its tin for about 5 mins. When the cake is a little cooler, take it out of the tin, remove the baking parchment, and leave to cool on the wire rack.
When the cake is cool, put on a fancy plate and ice, using the cream cheese icing in the fridge.
Decorate the cake with slices of orange and serve to your very impressed mother.