The previous couple of weeks has seen me spending a large amount of time on courses and work related activities. However, I’ve managed to squeeze in some baking for various occasions, some slow cooked ribs to share with friends and a lovely visit to a hidden gem in Broadstairs.
For now the garden and seedling seem to be taking care of themselves, whilst there’s still a lot of work to do there’s less that needs large amounts of attention. Next week, in April, I’ll start planting some more seedlings, will move those outgrowing their seed trays and will plant the early potatoes and keep my fingers crossed that the frosts have all passed. Last week Nick and I went to Broadstairs with my parents, to the catering college that my dad used to attend. We had a truly stunning three course meal, made and served (silver service) by the students of the college. The range of food on offer was good, the flavour combinations and execution of the cooking itself was brilliant, and even more so considering it was prepared by student chefs. And at £11.75 each, for three courses plus (very reasonably priced) drinks it’s somewhere we’d all go back to in an instant. The only disappointment was that I was too full to even consider popping into Morelli’s for ice cream afterwards. Morelli’s is an ice cream shop that has featured in the Observer Food Monthly magazine and supplies to Harrods, if you’re ever in Broadstairs then it’s well worth a visit.
Food wise this week has been mainly about two things, baking and ribs. I’ve made a selection of macarons for Mother’s Day and a hen party I went to, caramelised onion and goat’s cheese tart, lemon meringue pie and some hearty beef ribs, slow cooked of course. Whilst I do have some cooking ability, the food I’ve made recently has not been difficult; the recipes are very simple and easy to follow. There are of course places where you can go wrong, but if you follow the recipe the on the whole you’ll get some good results.
I made lemon macarons for Mother’s Day this year and they went down a treat. They don’t last that long but as long as there are people you can share them with, they don’t need to last long. Macarons are one of those cool sweets that appear very difficult to make, but with four ingredients plus filling they’re not that hard at all. There are a few rules and secrets I’ve picked up and always follow, and they seem to come out consistently well. I also made salted caramel macarons, which follow the same shell recipe as the lemon ones (substitute or avoid the colouring) but have a different filling, which I’ll include at the bottom.
For the shells
125g icing sugar (sifted)
125g ground almonds (weigh after sifting and remove anything that’s left)
100g egg whites (around three eggs but weigh them out and get 100g)
110g caster sugar (sifted)
Yellow food colouring
For the filling
100g caster sugar
3 egg yolks
2 lemons (juice and zest)
150g unsalted butter
In a large clean bowl, sift together the ground almonds and icing sugar, making sure that any large pieces of almond are removed and the weight is correct after sifting.
In a separate bowl (that of a mixer or one you can whisk the egg whites in), weigh out the egg whites and whisk to a stiff peak. Gradually add the caster sugar a tablespoon at a time, making sure it’s incorporated before adding the next one.
Once fully combined, add a couple of drops of yellow food colouring and whisk to combine. A bit at a time (I add mine in four lots) pour in the almond/icing sugar mixture and fold in with a spatula or metal spoon. Make sure it’s all mixed together thoroughly, but do this gently so as not to knock the air out of the meringue.
Pipe the macarons onto a lined and well-greased baking sheet, so they are about the size of a 50p (about an inch) each. Once they’re all piped, give the baking sheets a couple of hard whacks onto the surface, then leave for about 2hrs (possibly longer) until they have formed a crust.
Bake at 160°c for 11min, then carefully remove from the baking sheet and put onto a wire rack to cool completely.
To make the lemon curd filling, put the caster sugar and eggs into a glass bowl and beat together, then add the lemon zest and juice and the butter, cut into cubes. Place this over a saucepan of just simmering water and leave for about 40min stirring occasionally. It doesn’t need too much attention but make sure that the water isn’t too hot, otherwise you’ll have scrambled egg. Once it’s thickened, remove from the heat and allow to cool.
Pipe the cool lemon curd onto one half of the macaron shells and top with another.
Salted Caramel Filling
75g caster sugar
75g light muscovado sugar
100ml double cream
Sea salt flakes
Put the caster sugar and a tbsp. of water into a saucepan and on a medium heat, heat slowly until it forms a golden caramel colour. Remove from the heat and add the other ingredients (apart from the sea salt), then return to the heat and boil for 2-3min. Add the sea salt flakes and allow to cool. Pipe into the macaron shells and sandwich together.
*Call for help*!
If anyone out there has an induction hob and has made either a dry or wet caramel, please let me know how you do it. The caramel I made for this recipe took me around 40min to make. I used to have a gas hob and if I left caster sugar on there for 40min I could kiss goodbye to the saucepan afterwards. No idea what I’m doing wrong but happy to listen to any advice, please comment at the bottom of this blog.
The lemon curd I made for the macarons turned out to be an industrial amount, so with the leftovers I made a lemon meringue pie.
Lemon Meringue Pie
100g plain flour
50g unsalted butter
40g caster sugar
2 egg yolks
Water to bind
2 egg whites
80g caster sugar
Blitz the flour, butter, egg yolks and sugar together in a food processor to form a breadcrumb like mixture, then add a little water to bind it together. Remove and wrap in cling film, then rest in the fridge for about 30min.
Roll out fairly thinly and put into a greased tart tin (I used two small tins, about 10cm in diameter). Be a little careful as the pastry is very crumbly so breaks easily, however if it does crack, patch it up with a little extra pastry. Push into the edges of the tin using a ball made from a little of the leftover pastry. Trim the edges then bake blind for 15min, then remove the beans and bake for a further 5min, both at 180°c.
Allow the cases to cool a little, and in this time make the meringue by whisking the egg whites to stiff peaks, then gradually (a tbsp. at a time) add the caster sugar in, making sure it’s fully combined and glossy.
Fill the pastry case with the leftover lemon curd (or make it using the macaron lemon curd recipe above), then top with the meringue. Either use a cook’s blowtorch to brown the meringue or bake in the oven at 180°c for 15min or until golden brown on top.
Now from the sweet treats onto the savoury. Ribs are a very cheap cut of meat and if you’re a meat eater you’ve probably had some pretty tasty ones in restaurants or from packets in supermarkets. It’s fair to say they do take some time, but the results at the end of it are amazing and contain only what you put into the sauce – no artificial flavours if you don’t want them. The recipe I found (as usual for me) is from Jamie Oliver – he seems to do slow cooked meats incredibly well and really packs in the flavour.
Beef Short Ribs with Sticky BBQ Sauce
Beef ribs – we know our butcher pretty well and asked for beef ribs and got enough to feed two. They looked really big to start off with, but shrink a lot so be careful of this when buying them.
180ml tomato ketchup
4tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1tsp English mustard
4tsps malt vinegar
4tsps golden syrup
Drizzle a little olive oil onto the ribs and rub in, then cover with salt and pepper to taste. Put the ribs into a roasting tray and double cover with tin foil. Put into a pre-heated oven at 100°c and leave for 8hrs.
Go off and enjoy your day
Come back in the evening and make the sauce by combining all the ingredients in a saucepan and bringing to the boil. Simmer for 10-20min until the sauce becomes thick and glazy. Remove the ribs from the oven and take off the tin foil, transfer them to a baking tray and cover with the sauce. Put the fat that’s come off the ribs into a jar or cup and leave to cool then put in the fridge. It’ll come in very handy for roast potatoes. Put the ribs back into the oven at 150°c for about 40min.
In this time, make whatever you want to go with it – I made chips and sweetcorn. With the sweetcorn, get a couple of pieces of tin foil, big enough to wrap each cob in and smother a little butter over, then season the butter. Place the sweetcorn on the butter and wrap up into parcels. Put into the oven with the ribs for about 40min too. Open to check they’re done and if not, return to the oven for a little while – the ribs can cope with an extra 10min; they’ve been in there all day. Peel and cut the chips, then boil for 10min. Drain and leave to cool slightly. Fry in small batches for 3min, then drain again, then fry for 1min to crisp up before serving. Remove the bones from the ribs (they’ll just fall out without trying too much) and serve by pulling pieces off and plating with your side dishes.
The last recipe I’m going to include this week is for a caramelised onion and goat’s cheese tart. I was invited to a hen party and following a fab treasure hunt we had afternoon tea, for which we were all asked to bring something. I made salted caramel macarons, as they always go down well, and a caramelised onion and goat’s cheese tart. I knew there would be a couple of vegetarians there and it’s a nice light tart anyway, something that a non-veggie can enjoy. I was so surprised and pleased that the guests enjoyed it so much, that I’m going to include it on here too.
Caramelised Onion and Goat’s Cheese Tart
100g plain flour
50g unsalted butter
Tbsp or two of water
2 red onions
1 white onion
2tbsp balsamic vinegar
2-3 sprigs of thyme
1tbsp dark muscavado or dark soft brown sugar
100g goats cheese
200ml double cream
Seasoning to taste
Mix together in a food processor the plain flour and butter until it looks like breadcrumbs and add enough water to bind. Take out and form into a ball, wrap in cling film and put in the fridge to rest for 30min.
Roll out the pastry and line a greased 25cm flan tin. Bake blind for 15min then remove the beans and bake for 5min more at 180°c.
In the meantime, slice the red onions and finely chop the white onion then fry for about 10min in a little oil or butter until caramelised on a medium to high heat.
Add the thyme, balsamic vinegar and brown sugar and cook for a further 5-10min on a medium heat, add a little water if it gets too dry.
Put these in the baked tart case then add the goats cheese crumbled over the top. Whisk the eggs and cream together in a bowl and add seasoning to taste. Pour this over the top and add a little more thyme then bake for 30min at 150°c
Leave to cool a little then serve