Monthly Archives: January 2011

Bulgur pilaf

I am always on the lookout for recipes I can have for dinner and that will make a nice easy lunch the next day. This one is really up there with the best. It’s totally scrummy, quick to make (and dead easy too), can be eaten warm or cold, has straightforward ingredients I’d probably have in the house most of the time, AND to top it all off, it’s one-pot. Seeing as I stick my saucepans in the dishwasher anyway, there is minimal washing up. Bonus.

I got this recipe from the Sainsbury’s magazine. I started to tear out the pages of recipes I’d like to try, then realised I was going to end up with a stack of torn-out pages taller than the remainder of the magazine, so I stopped. Though they present it as a tasty comfort-food dinner (which it certainly could be), you could also have it as a side salad. I expect if you brought it round to a friend’s BBQ come summer they would invite you again.

Serves 2

1 small red onion, or half a red onion
1 clove of garlic
1/2 tsp each cinnamon and cumin seeds
90g bulgur wheat
175ml vegetable stock or hot water
1 red pepper (Sainsbury’s have you using roasted ones from a jar, but it’s really no extra hassle to do this yourself)
1/2 a 400g tin of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
a little olive oil
feta cheese, chopped (use however much feels right)

1. Preheat oven to 200C. Slice the pepper and drizzle with olive oil, put in to roast
2. Meanwhile, heat a little more olive oil in a saucepan. Finely chop the red onion and fry over a medium-low heat until soft
3. Crush the garlic and stir in with the spices and bulgur wheat, then cook for 1-2 minutes
4. Add the stock, stir, and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce to a simmer for 6-8 minutes, until all the water is absorbed. Remove from the heat and whack the chickpeas in on top, without stirring. Leave for 15 minutes.
5. Take out your roasted pepper, which should now be soft. Add to the saucepan and stir
6. Dish up and sprinkle the chopped feta on top

Recipe notes

  • The original recipe has dill, parsley and mint to scatter on the top when you serve. I am not a huge fan of mint, and didn’t have these anyway. I scattered a little thyme on top just so it would look nice, and it tasted great
  • I would definitely make this again just to bring to work for lunch, as it was so easy. I had quite a large portion for my dinner and still had a decent amount for lunch the next day, so I think you could easily get 3 lunch-sized portions. Your colleagues will be jealous

Hummingbird chocolate brownies

I have been searching long and hard for the perfect brownie recipe. I feel that with these brownies, made following the Hummingbird Bakery’s recipe (with only a couple of minor adaptations), I have come very close to finding it. At least, the fact that I ate three the day I made them, and three the day after, and two the day after that is a pretty good indication of how good these are. I only got one picture, when I’d just cut them up, as after that I found it preferable to eat them than photograph them.

200g dark chocolate
175g butter
150g soft brown sugar
175g caster sugar
130g plain flour
3 medium eggs

9 x 13 inch baking pan

Makes 20

1. Preheat the oven to 170C; grease the baking tray
2. Break up the chocolate into a large bowl, then melt with the butter (it’s ok to use the microwave… I promise. Just check it often, stir it and when it’s almost done take it out to finish itself off)
3. Add the sugars and stir until well-incorporated, then do the same with the flour.
4. Beat in the eggs
5. Pour  into the prepared tray and bake for 30-35 minutes, until it’s cracked on top and comes away from the edges of the tray. The middle should still be soft
6. Cool and cut into slices. This will be easier the longer you leave to cool, though I do understand that sometimes temptation is hard to resist. However, while they are cooling you can do other productive activities such as drying your laundry, or teaching your cat to do it for you (she hasn’t quite yet learnt the distinction between helping and hindering, but she’ll get it one day!)

Recipe notes:

  • You’re meant to use unsalted butter, but I used salted, and probably would have done even if I had had unsalted, as a little salt enhances chocolate anyway
  • The original recipe has all caster sugar, but I swapped some out for light brown soft sugar, as when I make blondies I use soft sugar and it gives them a lovely taste and gooeyness
  • I drizzled some of my dulce de leche on the top before baking, but I don’t think it  did much. You couldn’t really taste it, anyway
  • I already said how good these were. I could probably eat a whole tray of them in one sitting – this recipe is definitely a keeper, though I may try some more tweaks such as using even more soft sugar and less caster sugar. Any excuse to make them again!

Dulce de leche

Last week I made dulce de leche. We had a fair bit of milk that was on the point of going bad, and what better way to use it than to add sugar and turn it into dulce?

I loosely followed Alton Brown’s recipe , but I had no vanilla so had to skip that. It still tasted damn good. I also switched to metric because I don’t have anything to measure a quart with (nor, most likely, will I ever).

You will need:
950ml milk
1.5 cups sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
An evening

What to do:
1. Mix together the milk and sugar in a saucepan
2. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved
3.  Add the baking soda and stir to combine, then turn the heat down to very low (so it is barely simmering) and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally but ignoring the foam that will appear on top
4.  Carry on until it has turned a dark caramel colour and has reduced to about 1 cup – this can take up to (or longer than…) 3 hours
5. Strain through a seive into a sterile jar, then store in the fridge – it will keep for a month.

Recipe notes
I think I should have used a smaller saucepan (and thus, smaller hob ring) as I’m fairly sure mine was cooking too hot. However, it did take absolutely ages, to the point where I was checking on it every half an hour, then I left it a little TOO long and I think it overcooked. Definitely better to cook colder, longer I think. Also straining it made a massive sticky mess, though having said that I would make it again (bearing in mind the above points) as it was most yummy – on ice cream, in baked goods, licked off the end of a sneakily-dipped finger…


Crème brûlée

Henry got me a chef’s blowtorch for Christmas (after my oh-so-subtle hint of “I love chef’s blowtorches. I wish I had a chef’s blowtorch. I hear you can buy chef’s blowtorches in Kitchens for £15.95”) so naturally my first new recipe had to be crème brûlée.

All the recipes I looked at seemed to be pretty similar. I adapted this one from Simon Rimmer’s ‘Original crème brûlée’ recipe on the BBC.

250ml double cream
3 egg yolks (use the whites to make macaroons, nom)
50g caster sugar, plus extra for the topping
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

4 ramekins, a deep baking tray for a bain marie, a chef’s blowtorch.

What to do:
1. Preheat oven to 140C (fan) or 150C (regular)2. Bring the cream to a boil in a saucepan, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes
3. Meanwhile, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl, and boil the kettle
4. When the 5 minutes is up, add the vanilla to the cream, then pour the hot cream over the egg yolks/sugar, whisking as you go. Keep whisking until the mixture thickens – this means the egg yolks are cooking and you are on track to set puddings
5.  Put the ramekins into the baking tray. Divide the mixture equally between them, then pour in hot water until it comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins
6. Put the bain-marie into the middle of your oven and cook for 25-30 minutes, until the custards are set but still slightly wobbly in the middle
7.  Take the ramekins out of the bain-marie and cool at room temperature
8. Before serving, sprinkle the tops with sugar and  caramelise with the blowtorch

Recipe notes
* Our oven cooks hot, so I reduced the cooking time from the original 40-45 minutes to 30, but I’d say they could have done with a little less time
* I found the best results for the crunchy topping were when I used about 1/2 tsp sugar and caramelised this, then added another 1/2 tsp in a second layer and blasted again

Aside from being maybe a teeny bit too set around the edges, and my clumsy work with the blowtorch, I was very pleased with how these turned out. Now I have the basic recipe I will definitely be experimenting!

Happy 2011

I always make a point of making New Year’s resolutions. I love New Year’s. I don’t know why but to me it feels like a fresh start with a new year. To me it seems like with the rolling around of the calendar you are given a whole year in which you can do anything, fresh and new. Anything which may have frustrated you or held you back in the year past doesn’t apply any more.

My resolutions are:
– To play with Betty more, as I’m sure she appreciates it
– To improve at roller derby, by doing one thing each day that will help me improve (e.g. 10 squats, 10 sit ups, going to practice, etc)
– To do fewer chores (yes, fewer…) by getting Henry to help out more
– To keep my desk at work tidier
– To only have one tea with sugar in it a day (for the others, I can drink something else or go without sugar)

This may seem like an overload but the more you try, the more you can achieve. So I aim high!

I have to say though, while I think all of the above are worthwhile, none of them really excited me that much. So when my older sister told me that her resolution was to try one new recipe a week, of course I had to do the sisterly thing and steal it for my own. Chuck in a bit of healthy oneup-sister-ship and I decided to dust off the blog and blog my recipes too, with photos and my thoughts on the recipes. This way, I will be more likely to stick to it, I can share the recipes and the results, and I will hopefully discover some tasty things along the way.

So, with new camera and freshly-pilfered resolution in hand, it’s time to get cooking!