Friday, 9 January 2015

A Friday cheer-me-up pudding

The weathers dreadful, the sky somehow feels way too low to be comfortable, and the news coming out of France over the last 48 hours is frankly appalling. Its difficult to know how to make anything better today. And so I do the thing I feel like I am best at, I cook. It helps, if only a little. Very few words are forthcoming, the wind has turned my brain to utter mush. I have nothing sensible or profound to say about food or life or terrorism or politics that will be helpful so I don't intend to try.

So just a straightforward recipe from my archive - a simple Eve's Pudding. Something I know is a comfort pud for me, and maybe for others. Its super easy, its got plenty fruit in it so may just count as one of your 5-a-day, but it will be eaten tonight (on the sofa, in front of the fire) with a puddle of full fat bring-it-on double cream. Never has a January day felt like it needed it more.

[taken from A Good Egg]

For the sponge
120g golden caster sugar 120g unsalted butter 120g self-raising flour
2 eggs

3 tbsp milk
1 tbsp Demerara sugar (optional, but gives a lovely, slightly crunchy top)
For the filling
800g Bramley apples (about 3–4 medium) 50g golden caster sugar
1/2 lemon
A little butter, for greasing

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas 4. Lightly grease an ovenproof dish. Peel and core the apples, then slice thinly, no thicker than a pound coin. Scatter half in an even layer over the base of the dish. Sprinkle over about half the sugar and squeeze over a little lemon juice.
Add the remaining apple, the rest of sugar and another squeeze of lemon. Set aside while you make the sponge. The sponge couldn’t be easier. Simply put all the ingredients (except the Demerara sugar) into a food processor and whizz until evenly combined. An electric whisk or food mixer would be a good alternative. You are looking for a batter that drops easily from a spoon. Spread the batter evenly over the apples and sprinkle over the Demerara sugar.
Bake for around 45 minutes until deep golden brown. Pierce with a skewer to test. The apple should be soft and the cake cooked. Best served warm rather than hot, with cream or custard. 

Thursday, 17 July 2014

A summer spent outside & a shit-hot paella recipe!

For the last few months I've been plugging away on a new book project. Possibly my most exciting, and definitely most adventurous, book yet - EATING OUT (working title) is a celebration of food in the fresh air. My starting point for the books' pitch was simply this; pause for a minute, and think of the most memorable meals you have eaten in your life. Quite a few of them been outside? Yeah, thought so.

So, EATING OUT the book was born. The true joys of al fresco munching are not necessarily about the food, (although in my world, the tucker is always dead central), they are about the space you're in, the air you're breathing, the friends, human or canine, that you are with. The time and the place maketh the memory.

I'm having the best time ever - every weekend me and my family spark up the fire - quite often in the garden or on some campsite or beach somewhere. And I cook, and they cook with me. Or they gather firewood and pick wild garlic, and get muddy. Muddy kids are happy kids. Sometimes they try to sneak back inside to the TV and the kindle. They can usually be lured back out with the promise of marshmallow toasting. On Monday mornings my clothes smell pleasingly like a woodsman.

So, I may be the worlds worst ever blogger - frankly I'm having too much fun to blog - but by way of small apology, here is one of the recipes that will be in book - a steaming paella, cooked with charcoal and driftwood, on the beach a couple of weeks ago.

Photo credits go to the lovely, and ever patient, Jason Ingram whom I'm very proud to be working with again on this project. Jason worked with me on two of my previous books (Marshmallow Magic & A Good Egg).

Driftwood baked paella with samphire, chorizo, chicken & prawns
In in Spain, genuine paella is always cooked over a open wood fire and is always eaten outside. So, is there are more perfect celebratory dish to make on a beach camping trip? I think not. This version has samphire, for me the thin green strands are the very essence of the sea and add a really pleasing salty crunch. Replace with 2 handfuls frozen peas if you prefer, just chuck them in a food bag when you leave home, where they will keep happily for a few days in a cool box. 

Serves 4

3 red peppers, roughly chopped
3 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, roughly chopped
1 x 225g chorizo ring, sliced into 1cm discs
4 large chicken thighs, skin on, bone in
3 cloves garlic, chopped
A big handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
A generous pinch of saffron threads
250g paella rice (half a pack)
A large glass white wine (250ml)
2 cups water (500ml)
about 240g raw king prawns, shelled
100g samphire
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
A small bunch of flatleaf parsley, chopped 
Lemon, cut into wedges 

I cook this dish with my portable fire pit, with the tripod and grill hung over it - its a splendid looking beast, isn't it?

Once your fire is ready to cook, set a large (about 30cm) deep frying pan on the grill and add the olive oil, peppers, onions and chorizo. Cook, stirring occasionally for about 20 minutes, over a medium heat, until they are softening and starting to colour a little. Next, part a hole in the veg to reveal the bare pan and put in a chicken thigh, skin side down. Repeat with the other 3 chicken thighs, making sure the skin is in contact with the pan so that it colours nicely. Let it fry for another 20 minutes or so, shaking the pan gently from time to time to make sure the chicken isn’t sticking. After this time the onions and peppers will be beautifully soft and the chicken crisp on the skin side. 

Add the tomatoes, garlic and saffron, stirring through the vegetables and fry for about 5 minutes or until the tomatoes are collapsing. Pour in the wine, and simmer for another 5 minutes, before crumbling in the stock cube and stirring really well to break it up. Add the rice and season well with salt and pepper, mixing it all around thoroughly, and turning the chicken skin side up. Stir in 2 cups (500ml) of water, cold is fine, and push the rice under the liquid. Cover the pan with foil, using tongs to press it around the outside. Leave to simmer over the fire for about 25 minutes, giving the pan a little shake from side to side to check its not sticking, but don’t worry too much, a bit of stuck on rice is the best part of this dish! Remove the foil, scatter over the samphire and prawns, recover and let them cook in the steam for 10 minutes, when the prawns are completely pink all the way through they are done.

Scatter over the parsley, and spoon onto plates, giving everyone a lemon quarter to squeeze over.