Sunday, 30 August 2009

The best blueberry muffin recipe?

This might just be the most delicious blueberry muffin recipe around. It's from Ottolenghi the cookbook. If you haven't seen this cookbook it is definitely worth a read. The baking section alone is fantastic but there are also lots of delicious sounding/looking vegetable, meat and fish dishes. This is the first recipe I have tried from the book and it was a difficult choice picking which one to try first. The pictures throughout the book are absolutely stunning and will have your mouth watering. My copy at the moment is from my local library but it is definitely going on my wish list of books I want to own.

I baked these the other day and they are simply delicious. They taste of blueberries, lemon and a hint of apple and they have a delicious crumble topping. Like all muffin recipes they are simple to make. The trick is to keep stirring to a minimum when mixing the wet and dry ingredients together. There should still be some unmixed lumps. The recipe says it should make 10-12 muffins. I ran out of muffin cases after making 6 and the mixture went on to make a further 18! mini muffins. I think even if I hadn't run out of muffin cases it would have made a few more than 12.

Blueberry crumble muffins
Ottolenghi the cookbook

300g plain flour
100g caster sugar
200g cold butter, cut into small cubes

  1. Put the flour, sugar and butter in a bowl and mix with your hands to work into a uniform breadcrumb consistency. Make sure there are no lumps of butter left.
  2. Transfer to a plastic container. It will keep it the fridge for up to 5 days or for ages in the freezer.

Blueberry crumble muffins
Makes 10-12

540g plain flour
5 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 free-range eggs
340g caster sugar
140g unsalted butter, melted
380ml milk
grated zest of 1 lemon
1 Granny Smith apple (unpeeled), cut into 1cm dice
200g fresh blueberries, plus a few extra for the topping.
1/2 quantity of crumble

  1. Preheat the oven to 170C/Gas mark 3. Line a muffin tray with paper cases.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, lightly whisk together the eggs, sugar and melted butter (make sure it is not too hot). Whisk in the milk and lemon zest, then gently fold in the fruit.
  3. Add the sifted dry ingredients and fold together very gently. Make sure you stir just enough to combine; it should remain lumpy and rough.
  4. Spoon the mixture into muffin cases to fill them up. Generously cover with the crumble topping to form small domes over the batter, then dot with a few extra blueberries. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the centre of a muffin comes out clean. Take out of the tins while still warm.


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Friday, 28 August 2009

Fresh from the oven - English muffins

This months fresh from the oven challenge was hosted by myself. I bought the River Cottage handbook Bread by Daniel Stevens (published by Bloomsbury) a month or so back and decided I wanted to do a challenge from there. I thought it might be nice to do something other than a loaf so I have picked English Muffins. I love English muffins toasted and buttered for breakfast and buy them regularly but I have heard they are even better when homemade. I have attempted English muffins once before and the results were not good - most were burnt on the outside and doughy in the middle. I suspected I had the heat on too high but they showed promise so I thought I would try again and what better way to do that than through this baking challenge where we can all help each other out and ask for advice.I really enjoyed this challenge. The recipe was easy to follow and the resulting muffins were delicious. Much better than my first attempt!

This dough is soft so you may prefer to use a mixer if you have one.

English Muffins

Makes 9
500g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
5g powdered dried yeast
10g fine salt
325ml warm water

A drizzle of sunflower oil, plus extra for coating
A handful of semolina flour, for coating

To knead by hand: mix the flour, yeast, salt and water in a bowl to form a sticky dough. Add the oil, mix it in, then turn the dough out on to a clean work surface. Knead until smooth and silky.

Or, to use a food mixer: fit the dough hook and add the flour, yeast, salt and water to the mixer bowl. Mix on low speed until combined, then add the oil and leave to knead for 10 minutes, until smooth and silky.

Shape the dough into a round, coat with a little extra oil and place in a clean bowl. Leave to rise, covered with a plastic bag until doubled in size.

Tip the dough out on to the work surface and press all over to deflate. Divide into 9 pieces, shape each into a round and flatten to about 1-2cm. Dust them all over with semolina flour; this gives a lovely texture to the crust. Leave to prove on a linen cloth or wooden board, covered with a plastic bag, until doubled in size.
Heat a couple of large heavy-based frying pans over a medium heat. Lay the muffins in the pans and cook for a minute or so, then turn them over gently. Cook slowly for a further 10 minutes, turning every now and then. You may need to adjust the heat if they are colouring too fast, or not fast enough. Alternatively, if you are using an Aga, cook the muffins directly on the warm plate for up to 15 minutes, give them a quick blast on the hot side at the end, if you think they need it. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Fresh from the oven - Baking one loaf at a time.

Fresh from the oven is a monthly bread baking group started by Brooke and now handed over (Brooke's first baby is due next month - good luck Brooke) to myself and Jules. Challenges are announced on our private blog on the first of each month and then on the 28th of the month each member posts their bread on their blogs. Why not follow us on twitter, view our public blog which showcases all our efforts or email us to join at freshfromtheoven AT hotmail DOT co DOT uk.

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Thursday, 27 August 2009

Daring Bakers August - Dobos Torte

The August 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Angela of A Spoonful of Sugar and Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella. They chose the spectacular Dobos Torte based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers' cookbook Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Caffés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.
A spoonful of sugar was one of the first blogs I regularly read before I started my own earlier this year. I even emailed Angela for advice before I set up this blog and she was kind enough to reply. So I was keen to see what recipe she had chosen for us. I knew it would be a good one and I knew it would be daring.

August 1st came round and I checked the forum excited to see what she had picked. My first thoughts on seeing the recipe and the pictures was wow, the cake looked amazing and sounded delicious. Then I read the recipe and looked at the cake again and started to feel a little intimated by all the steps and the immaculate presentation of the cakes. Whilst reading other peoples comments I knew I wasn't alone in thinking these thoughts but then we did sign up for a challenge when we joined the group.

The Dobos Torta is a five-layer sponge cake, filled with a rich chocolate buttercream and topped with thin wedges of caramel. (You may come across recipes which have anywhere between six and 12 layers of cake; there are numerous family variations!) It was invented in 1885 by József C. Dobos, a Hungarian baker, and it rapidly became famous throughout Europe for both its extraordinary taste and its keeping properties. The recipe was a secret until Dobos retired in 1906 and gave the recipe to the Budapest Confectioners' and Gingerbread Makers' Chamber of Industry, providing that every member of the chamber can use it freely.

I have copied the original recipe across and included my pictures throughout. I didn't use the buttercream recipe here as I wanted my boyfriend's sister who is pregnant to be able to eat it. Instead I made a chocolate ganache with 200g dark chocolate and 200ml cream. Added a portion or this to a basic butter and icing sugar butter cream and used this to sandwich the layers together and then coated the whole cake in the chocolate ganache. My caramel layer didn't turn out as it should of done. It smelt like it was burning so I took it off the heat and poured it over the cake layer, only to find it wasn't caramelised at all. However it did give the cake wedges on the top a delicious taste, even if it didn't look as impressive as it should. The "caramel" layer was at least edible. Some comments on the forum said that this layer was inedible and had to be removed. I was a little disappoint with the look of the cake but once I cut in to it and saw all the layers and once we all tasted it it didn't matter about the poor "caramel" layer.All in all I enjoyed baking this cake and we all enjoyed eating it. It was quiet rich but tasted fantastic. Would I make it again? Probably but not for a little while and I might not bother with the caramel layer.


  • 2 baking sheets
  • 9” (23cm) springform tin and 8” cake tin, for templates
  • mixing bowls (1 medium, 1 large)
  • a sieve
  • a double boiler (a large saucepan plus a large heat-proof mixing bowl which fits snugly over the top of the pan)
  • a small saucepan
  • a whisk (you could use a balloon whisk for the entire cake, but an electric hand whisk or stand mixer will make life much easier)
  • metal offset spatula
  • sharp knife
  • a 7 1/2” cardboard cake round, or just build cake on the base of a sprinfrom tin.
  • piping bag and tip, optional

Prep times

  • Sponge layers 20 mins prep, 40 mins cooking total if baking each layer individually.
  • Buttercream: 20 mins cooking. Cooling time for buttercream: about 1 hour plus 10 minutes after this to beat and divide.
  • Caramel layer: 10-15 minutes.
  • Assembly of whole cake: 20 minutes
Sponge cake layers
  • 6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
  • 1 1/3 cups (162g) confectioner's (icing) sugar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (112g) sifted cake flour (SUBSTITUTE 95g plain flour + 17g cornflour (cornstarch) sifted together)
  • pinch of salt
Directions for the sponge layers:

NB. The sponge layers can be prepared in advance and stored interleaved with parchment and well-wrapped in the fridge overnight.

  1. Position the racks in the top and centre thirds of the oven and heat to 400F (200C).
  2. Cut six pieces of parchment paper to fit the baking sheets. Using the bottom of a 9" (23cm) springform tin as a template and a dark pencil or a pen, trace a circle on each of the papers, and turn them over (the circle should be visible from the other side, so that the graphite or ink doesn't touch the cake batter.)
  3. Beat the egg yolks, 2/3 cup (81g) of the confectioner's (icing) sugar, and the vanilla in a medium bowl with a mixer on high speed until the mixture is thick, pale yellow and forms a thick ribbon when the beaters are lifted a few inches above the batter, about 3 minutes. (You can do this step with a balloon whisk if you don't have a mixer.)
  4. In another bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the remaining 2/3 cup (81g) of confectioner's (icing)sugar until the whites form stiff, shiny peaks. Using a large rubber spatula, stir about 1/4 of the beaten whites into the egg yolk mixture, then fold in the remainder, leaving a few wisps of white visible. Combine the flour and salt. Sift half the flour over the eggs, and fold in; repeat with the remaining flour.
  5. Line one of the baking sheets with a circle-marked paper. Using a small offset spatula, spread about 3/4cup of the batter in an even layer, filling in the traced circle on one baking sheet. Bake on the top rack for 5 minutes, until the cake springs back when pressed gently in the centre and the edges are lightly browned. While this cake bakes, repeat the process on the other baking sheet, placing it on the centre rack. When the first cake is done, move the second cake to the top rack. Invert the first cake onto a flat surface and carefully peel off the paper. Slide the cake layer back onto the paper and let stand until cool. Rinse the baking sheet under cold running water to cool, and dry it before lining with another parchment. Continue with the remaining papers and batter to make a total of six layers. Completely cool the layers. Using an 8" springform pan bottom or plate as a template, trim each cake layer into a neat round. (A small serrated knife is best for this task.)

Chocolate Buttercream

  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (200g) caster (ultrafine or superfine white) sugar
  • 4oz (110g) bakers chocolate or your favourite dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons (250g) unsalted butter, at room temperature.
Directions for the chocolate buttercream:

NB. This can be prepared in advance and kept chilled until required.

  1. Prepare a double-boiler: quarter-fill a large saucepan with water and bring it to a boil.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs with the sugar until pale and thickened, about five minutes. You can use a balloon whisk or electric hand mixer for this.
  3. Fit bowl over the boiling water in the saucepan (water should not touch bowl) and lower the heat to a brisk simmer. Cook the egg mixture, whisking constantly, for 2-3 minutes until you see it starting to thicken a bit. Whisk in the finely chopped chocolate and cook, stirring, for a further 2-3 minutes.
  4. Scrape the chocolate mixture into a medium bowl and leave to cool to room temperature. It should be quite thick and sticky in consistency.
  5. When cool, beat in the soft butter, a small piece (about 2 tablespoons/30g) at a time. An electric hand mixer is great here, but it is possible to beat the butter in with a spatula if it is soft enough. You should end up with a thick, velvety chocolate buttercream. Chill while you make the caramel topping.

Lorraine's note: If you're in Winter just now your butter might not soften enough at room temperature, which leads to lumps forming in the buttercream. Male sure the butter is of a very soft texture I.e. running a knife through it will provide little resistance, before you try to beat it into the chocolate mixture. Also, if you beat the butter in while the chocolate mixture is hot you'll end up with more of a ganache than a buttercream!

Caramel topping

  • 1 cup (200g) caster (superfine or ultrafine white) sugar
  • 12 tablespoons (180 ml) water
  • 8 teaspoons (40 ml) lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon neutral oil (e.g. grapeseed, rice bran, sunflower)
Directions for the caramel topping:
  1. Choose the best-looking cake layer for the caramel top. To make the caramel topping: Line a jellyroll pan with parchment paper and butter the paper. Place the reserved cake layer on the paper. Score the cake into 12 equal wedges. Lightly oil a thin, sharp knife and an offset metal spatula.
  2. Stir the sugar, water and lemon juice in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over a medium heat, stirring often to dissolve the sugar. Once dissolved into a smooth syrup, turn the heat up to high and boil without stirring, swirling the pan by the handle occasionally and washing down any sugar crystals on the sides of the pan with a wet brush until the syrup has turned into an amber-coloured caramel.
  3. The top layer is perhaps the hardest part of the whole cake so make sure you have a oiled, hot offset spatula ready. I also find it helps if the cake layer hasn't just been taken out of the refrigerator. I made mine ahead of time and the cake layer was cold and the toffee set very, very quickly—too quickly for me to spread it. Immediately pour all of the hot caramel over the cake layer. You will have some leftover most probably but more is better than less and you can always make nice toffee pattern using the extra to decorate. Using the offset spatula, quickly spread the caramel evenly to the edge of the cake layer. Let cool until beginning to set, about 30 seconds. Using the tip of the hot oiled knife (keep re-oiling this with a pastry brush between cutting), cut through the scored marks to divide the caramel layer into 12 equal wedges. Cool another minute or so, then use the edge of the knife to completely cut and separate the wedges using one firm slice movement (rather than rocking back and forth which may produce toffee strands). Cool completely.

Angela's note: I recommend cutting, rather than scoring, the cake layer into wedges before covering in caramel (reform them into a round). If you have an 8” silicon round form, then I highly recommend placing the wedges in that for easy removal later and it also ensures that the caramel stays on the cake layer. Once set, use a very sharp knife to separate the wedges.

Assembling the Dobos

  1. Divide the buttercream into six equal parts.
  2. Place a dab of chocolate buttercream on the middle of a 7 1/2” cardboard round and top with one cake layer. Spread the layer with one part of the chocolate icing. Repeat with 4 more cake layers. Spread the remaining icing on the sides of the cake.
  3. Optional: press the finely chopped hazelnuts onto the sides of the cake.
  4. Propping a hazelnut under each wedge so that it sits at an angle, arrange the wedges on top of the cake in a spoke pattern. If you have any leftover buttercream, you can pipe rosettes under each hazelnut or a large rosette in the centre of the cake. Refrigerate the cake under a cake dome until the icing is set, about 2 hours. Let slices come to room temperature for the best possible flavour.

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Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Garlic butter

Last week I was asked to come up with a recipe using Kerrymaid garlic butter which is new to the market. Easy I thought, who doesn't like garlic butter? I personally love the smell of just baked garlic bread and it tastes delicious too. I sometimes make my own garlic butter (its simple to make and freezes well), sometimes I cheat and buy it and sometimes I use an extra virgin olive oil with garlic (a great store cupboard cheat to have a round).

So I started to think up ideas for a recipe using Kerrymaid garlic butter. Garlic bread - too simple and obvious! (I've included a recipe and pictures any way at the end), or what about rubbing it under the skin of a chicken before roasting it (again possible too simple as a recipe but I bet it would be delicious). Finally I decided on using it to flavour and cook mushrooms to combine with spaghetti. This is a dish based on a recipe for pasta with portobello mushrooms and mascapone I made earlier in the year. I adapted the recipe not long after I blogged it to make it healthier, so I omitted the mascapone and played around with the flavours a bit. I usually cook the mushrooms in olive oil with a couple of cloves of garlic but garlic butter works well as a bit of a cheat. I also think that mushrooms cooked in this way would make a delicious topping for bruschetta.

Spaghetti with mushrooms cooked with garlic, lemon and thyme
Serves 2

200g mushrooms (I use portobello or chestnut but I imagine other varieties would work too), sliced
200g dried spaghetti
Dried thyme (fresh would have been good but I didn't have any).
1-2 sachets of Kerrymaid garlic butter, (plus a splash of olive oil to stop the butter burning)
good splash of white wine
Salt and pepper
zest and juice of half a lemon
Parmesan to serve

Tip: Use a soft toothbrush to brush away any dirt from the mushrooms before slicing them.

  • Put a large pan of water on to boil and once it reaches a fast boil add your pasta.
  • Meanwhile heat the butter with a splash of olive oil in a large frying pan, sprinkle in a good pinch of dried thyme and the lemon zest.
  • Once the frying pan is hot (I cook mushrooms on a high heat so they don't release all their water) add the mushrooms, stir frequently.
  • Add a good splash of white wine to the mushrooms shortly after adding them to the pan.
  • Once the pasta is almost cooked, add the lemon juice to the mushrooms, stir to mix well and season to taste. Then add the pasta to the frying pan.
  • Stir to coat the pasta well in the sauce and add pasta water as required to form the desired consistency.Cook for a couple of minutes so the pasta absorbs the flavours.
  • Serve with grated Parmesan on top.

Garlic bread

I made a simple white bread dough:
250g white bread flour
3g dried yeast
4g salt
about half a tablespoon of olive oil
160ml warm water.

Mixed and kneaded it (for 5 minutes) in my KitchenAid and then left it to rise until doubled in size.
I then halved the dough, made each piece in to an oval shape, pricked all over with a folk and then topped with a couple of knobs of garlic butter on each. Bake for 15 minutes (or until golden) in a 200C oven.
Eat whilst still warm.

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Thursday, 20 August 2009

Cookbook review - Cake chic, Peggy Porschen

This beautiful book by Peggy Porschen will be equally as at home on your coffee table as it is in the kitchen, perhaps even more so. It is full of stunning cakes and exquisite cookies that I can only dream of one day being able to recreate. From cookies shaped and decorated like little black dresses and ballet pumps to three tier cakes decorated in various styles. There are even cakes decorated to look like handbags and hat boxes. It is a sophisticated, girly book that I love to pick up and browse through.Peggy Porschen has had two highly successful books before this - Pretty party cakes and Romantic cakes. She has made cakes for the likes of Madonna, Stella McCartney and Sir Anthony Hopkins. She also supplies Fortnum and Mason with seasonal ranges of decorated cookies and cakes.

Cake chic is a collection of recipes and step by step cake decorating instructions with lots of gorgeous pictures. As well as designs for decorating cookies, mini cakes (including cup cakes) and large cakes there is a very useful chapter on the basics. This section goes through the basic tools required (a fairly extensive list actually), recipes for cakes, cookie, icings and frostings and tutorials on how to layer cakes, cover cake boards and piping techniques amongst other things. Although I don't feel experienced/talented enough to attempt any of these stunning designs I will be trying out the cake/cookie recipes and using the basics section to learn how to marble cakes, dip cup cakes and learn basic piping techniques.

Perhaps one day I will be brave enough to attempt some of the simpler designs in this book but I'm not sure I would be able to do them justice. For now I will be happy admiring the cakes and using the basics section as a resource when baking.

Further information:
Cake chic, Peggy Porschen
Published by Quadrille publishing in 2009.
Hardback, full colour illustrations, 144 pages.
ISBN 978 184400 710 3
Price £20
Available to buy now.

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Monday, 17 August 2009

Cookbook review - The Eagle cookbook - David Eyre & The Eagle chefs

I'm going to start this review being totally honest with you:

  • I've never eaten at The Eagle,
  • Up until hearing about this book on Twitter I wasn't even aware of this gastropub,
  • I haven't seen the original recipe book (which this new book is an update and redesign of) - Big flavours and rough edges,
  • I received this book free in order to review it from Absolute Press.
So for those of you like me that aren't aware of The Eagle, it is a gastropub in Farringdon London which was taken over by chefs David Eyre and Michael Belben in 1991. This was the first gastropub, revolutionising the way we British eat out. Since then gastropubs have sprung up all over the country, offering great quality food in a relaxed environment.

Anyway on to the cookbook. There are chapters on:
  • soups (including Andalucian garlic soup with soft boiled egg and spicy mussel soup),
  • salads (roasted pumpkin and red onion salad and Spanish roast vegetable salad),
  • meals on toast (bruschetta),
  • eggs for dinner,
  • pasta (penne with sausage, tomato and sage and egg fettuccine with ricotta, peas and smoked pancetta),
  • rice (risottos and paellas),
  • fish (Baked sea bass with tomatoes),
  • meat (grilled leg of venison and braised garlic chicken)
  • and side dishes (Sicillian aubergine relish and celeriac mash)

Each chapter includes an introduction to the chapter including such topics as what to pair fish with, grilling and roasting meat and a particularly good page on risotto law and rules. I especially like the way each recipe has a short introductory paragraph or two including a description of the flavours or the look of the dish, its origin and helpful hints and tips. Beautiful photographs are used throughout the book, not only to illustrate the mouthwatering, delicious looking food but also of The Eagle pub. I loved the writing style and the layout of the book as well. I may have only cooked one recipe from the book so far but I have read much more of the book and learnt alot.

On my first flick through of the book I thought the recipes were going to be complex, the types of recipes that are great to cook when you want to impress but not much good for everyday cooking. Although these recipes look and sound like they would certainly impress, on closer inspection many of them are not as complicated as I imagined. There is a good mixture of relatively simple dishes (some quick, some not so quick) and some that are a bit more complicated but the emphasis of the book is very much on using good quality ingredients, maximising the flavours and cooking great food in a relatively simple manner. I tried out one recipe from the book which with the permission of the publishers I have included below. It was simple, quick and tasty. I will definitely cooking this recipe again and I am already looking forward to trying out more recipes from the book. In particular I can see myself trying out some of the pasta dishes, the soups and stews in the autumn/winter and the next time I do want to cook something a bit special this will be the first book off the shelf.Grilled chicken breasts with oregano, lemon and black pepper
David Eyre

Serves 4
4 large free range chicken breasts
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh oregano (or marjoram) - you could use dried for a different result, but use less than half the quantity
3 tbsp olive oil
1 small dried chilli, crushed
More freshly ground black pepper than you would expect - about 1 level tablespoon
2 lemons
Sea salt

Wash and dry the chicken breasts. Mix with the oreagano, oil, chilli, black pepper and grated zest of one of the lemons and leave to marinate whilst the grill heats up or the charcoal dies down to an even medium heat.
when ready to cook, salt the chicken and squeeze one of the lemons all over them.
Cook the breasts, turning them 90 degrees once on each side, then remove from the heat.
Squeeze the juice of the other lemon over them, sprinkle with a little more olive oil and leave to rest for a moment. If you happen to have some truffle oil, now is the time to make good use of it.
Serve with a mixed leaf salad containing chives, parsley and spring onions.

My version:
I used dried oregano and didn't use any truffle oil. I cooked mine on a griddle pan after leaving the chicken to marinade for about one hour (there was no length of time specified in the recipe so I don't know if this was too long or too short). I served mine with new potatoes, griddled courgettes and oyster mushrooms.

Thank you to Absolute Press for sending me a review copy of this fantastic book.

Further information:
The Eagle cookbook - David Eyre & The Eagle chefs.
Published by Absolute Press in 2009.
Hardback, full colour illustrations, 192 pages.
ISBN 9781906650056
Price £20
Available to buy now.

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Friday, 14 August 2009

Daring Cooks - Rice with mushrooms, cuttlefish and artichokes

This months Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Olga from Las Cosas de Olga and Olga’s Recipes. She chosen a delicious Spanish recipe, Rice with mushrooms, cuttlefish and artichokes by José Andrés, one of the most important Spanish Chefs at the moment. The recipe is from his US TV show Made in Spain. To watch how Jose Andres cooks this dish click here for a utube video.

After missing last months Daring Cooks challenge I was looking forward to finding out this months challenge. Initially I was not looking forward to the recipe but I decided to substitute the cuttlefish for chicken and give it a go anyway. During July I didn't spend all that much time in my kitchen so this was the first time in a while I got back in the kitchen and cooked something that wasn't familiar, quick or simple. Once I started to cook I started to realise just how much I had missed the relaxation and enjoyment I get from cooking. Since this is supposed to be a challenge I decided to try the Allioli using the traditional method. It was a complete disaster to say the least! But not one to give up I started again and made it following the modern method which worked well. However neither me or my boyfriend like the taste of raw garlic so we didn't really enjoy the alloli however I'm glad we gave it a try.

I really enjoyed cooking this recipe and the resulting dish was absolutly deliscious and very flavourful. I'm really glad I joined the Daring Cooks as otherwise I would have never cooked this dish. I froze the left over sofregit so in a few weeks I can cook this dish again and it will only take half the time! However I can definately see myself cooking the whole recipe from scratch again (without the allioli) and even looking up further recipes from Made in Spain. Thanks again Olga for chosing this recipe and hosting this months challenge.

Rice with mushrooms, cuttlefish (or chicken in my case!) and artichokes
Cooking time: 45 minutes

serves 4
  • 4 Artichokes (you can use jarred or freezed if fresh are not available)
  • 12 Mushrooms (button or Portobello)
  • 1 or 2 Bay leaves (optional but highly recommended)
  • 1 glass of white wine
  • 2 Cuttlefish (you can use freezed cuttlefish or squid if you don’t find it fresh). I substituted this with chicken breasts.
  • “Sofregit” (see recipe below)
  • 300 gr (2 cups) Short grain rice (Spanish types Calasparra or Montsant are preferred, but you can choose any other short grain. This kind of rice absorbs flavor very well) – about 75 gr per person ( ½ cup per person) Please read this for more info on suitable rices.
  • Water or Fish Stock (use 1 ½ cup of liquid per ½ cup of rice)
  • saffron threads (if you can’t find it or afford to buy it, you can substitute it for turmeric or yellow coloring powder)
  • Allioli (olive oil and garlic sauce, similar to mayonnaise sauce) - optional

  1. Cut the cuttlefish in little strips (or dice the chicken).
  2. Add 1 or 2 tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan and put the cuttlefish (or chicken) in the pan.
  3. If you use fresh artichokes, clean them and cut in eights.
  4. Clean the mushrooms and cut them in fourths.
  5. Add a bay leaf to the chicken and add also the artichokes and the mushrooms.
  6. Sauté until you get a golden color in the artichokes.
  7. Put a touch of white wine so all the solids in the bottom of the get mixed, getting a more flavorful dish.
  8. Add a couple or three tablespoons of sofregit and mix to make sure everything gets impregnated with the sofregit.
  9. Add all the liquid and bring it to boil.
  10. Add all the rice. Let boil for about 5 minutes in heavy heat.
  11. Add some saffron thread to enrich the dish with its flavor and color. Stir a little bit so the rice and the other ingredients get the entire flavor. If you’re using turmeric or yellow coloring, use only 1/4 teaspoon.
  12. Turn to low heat and boil for another 8 minutes (or until rice is a little softer than “al dente”)
  13. Put the pan away from heat and let the rice stand a couple of minutes.
Sofregit (a well cooked and fragrant sauce made of olive oil, tomatoes, garlic and onions, and may at times different vegetables such as peppers or mushrooms)

Cooking time: aprox. 1 hour


  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 5 big red ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 small onions, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped (optional)
  • 4 or 5 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 cup of button or Portobello mushrooms, chopped (optional)
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • Salt
  • Touch of ground cumin
  • Touch of dried oregano


  1. Put all the ingredients together in a frying pan and sauté slowly until all vegetables are soft.
  2. Taste and salt if necessary (maybe it’s not!)

Allioli is the optional part of the recipe. You must choose one of the two recipes given, even though I highly recommend you to try traditional one. Allioli is served together with the rice and it gives a very nice taste

Allioli (Traditional recipe)
Cooking time: 20 min aprox.

  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • Pinch of salt
  • Fresh lemon juice (some drops)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil (Spanish preferred but not essential)


  1. Place the garlic in a mortar along with the salt.
  2. Using a pestle, smash the garlic cloves to a smooth paste. (The salt stops the garlic from slipping at the bottom of the mortar as you pound it down.)
  3. Add the lemon juice to the garlic.
  4. Drop by drop; pour the olive oil into the mortar slowly as you continue to crush the paste with your pestle.
  5. Keep turning your pestle in a slow, continuous circular motion in the mortar. The drip needs to be slow and steady. Make sure the paste soaks up the olive oil as you go.
  6. Keep adding the oil, drop by drop, until you have the consistency of a very thick mayonnaise. If your allioli gets too dense, add water to thin it out. This takes time—around 20 minutes of slow motion around the mortar—to create a dense, rich sauce.

José's tips for traditional recipe: It's hard to think that, when you start crushing the garlic, it will ever turn into something as dense and smooth as allioli. But don't give up. It's worth the extra time and effort to see the oil and garlic come together before your eyes. Just make sure you're adding the olive oil slowly, drop by drop. Keep moving the pestle around the mortar in a circular motion and keep dreaming of the thick, creamy sauce at the end of it all.

Allioli a la moderna (Modern recipe)
Cooking time: 3-4 minutes

  • 1 small egg
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil (as above, Spanish oil is highly recommended)
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 1 Tbs. Spanish Sherry vinegar or lemon juice (if Sherry vinegar is not available, use can use cider or white vinegar)
  • Salt to taste


  1. Break the egg into a mixing bowl.
  2. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and the garlic cloves, along with the vinegar or lemon juice.
  3. Using a hand blender, start mixing at high speed until the garlic is fully pureed into a loose paste.
  4. Little by little, add what's left of the olive oil as you continue blending.
  5. If the mixture appears too thick as you begin pouring the oil, add 1 teaspoon of water to loosen the sauce.
  6. Continue adding the oil and blending until you have a rich, creamy allioli.
  7. The sauce will be a lovely yellow color.
  8. Add salt to taste.

José's tips for modern recipe:
(1) If you do not have access to a hand blender, you can use a hand mixer (the kind with the two beaters) or a food processor. If you use a food processor, you must double the recipe or the amount will be too little for the blades to catch and emulsify.
(2) What happens if the oil and egg separate? Don't throw it out. You can do two things. One is to whisk it and use it as a side sauce for a fish or vegetable. But if you want to rescue the allioli, take 1 tablespoon of lukewarm water in another beaker and start adding to the mix little by little. Blend it again until you create the creamy sauce you wanted.

Olga’s Tips:
(1) In Spain, rice is not stired as often as it is when cooking Italian risotto. You must stir it once or twice maximum. This tip is valid for all Spanish rice dishes like paella, arròs negre, arròs a banda…
(2) When cooking the alternative style you can change the cuttlefish or squid for diced potato.
(3) If you can’t find cuttlefish or squid, or you’re not able to eat them because of allergies, you can try to substitute them for chicken or vegetables at your choice.
(4) Sofregit can be done in advance. You can keep it in the fridge or even freeze it.
(5) For more information on how to clean and remove the heart of artichokes, please watch this video
(6) For more information on how to clean and remove the heart of artichokes, please watch this video
(7) To tone down the taste when you do it by hand in a mortar, then add an egg yolk. If you want to tone it down in the alternative way use milk or soy milk. Anyway, the best alternative way is the original oil and garlic alone.
(8) Allioli must be consumed during the preparation day and preserved in the fridge before using it.
(9) For help on conversion on metric to imperial, visit this page.


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Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Summer days - Homemade lemonade

So the sun finally showed its face in the UK for a couple of days this weekend. In honour of the glorious weather, I decided to make a bottle of lemonade. I have always preferred traditional, cloudy lemonade, enjoying the real lemony flavour but this is the first time I made it myself. It won't be the last time though as it is really simple and tastes far better than shop bought versions. I used a recipe I had torn out of one of the supermarket magazines but I'm not sure which one.
To make the most of the great weather we went walking on Saturday in Dovedale again. It's a really nice area for walking (although a little over crowded on a hot, August weekend) and they sell great ice cream which I have previously wrote about but tasted even better on a hot day, after a long walk. On Sunday we finished off the lemonade sat in the garden reading. I have a selection of review copies of cookbooks that are being released in August/September to tell you about in the next couple of weeks so I enjoyed a lazy Sunday flicking through these gorgeous books deciding which recipes to try and what to tell you all about them. Expect the first review in the next few days of The Eagle Cookbook by David Eyre Published by Absolute press. I cooked a delicious chicken recipe form this book on Sunday evening so expect to hear all about it and the rest of the book in the next few days.

Homemade lemonade
Makes around 1 litre

6 lemons
150g granulated sugar
1 litre water

To serve
Sparkling water

  1. Peel the skin off the lemons and place in a large pan, taking care not to take any of the bitter white pith off with it.
  2. Squeeze the juice of all 6 lemons into the pan and add the water and the sugar.
  3. Heat gently, stirring until the sugar dissolves, then turn up the heat and bring to the boil. Allow to boil fairly rapidly for 10 minutes. Take off the heat and allow to cool.
  4. Strain through a fine mesh sieve and pour into bottles. Seal and store in the fridge until ready to serve, preferably within 24 hours.
  5. To serve, half fill a glass with lemonade and top up with sparkling water and add some ice cubes.

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Monday, 3 August 2009


Whilst on holiday in Anglesey we visited The Anglesey Jam Factory, a traditional Welsh farmhouse producing and selling a wide range of preserves, marmalades and chutneys, as well as stocking Anglesey honey. We were particularly drawn to the jams as they sounded delicious and a bit different from the normal flavours. There was Blackcurrant preserve with Black Mountain Liqueur, Apricot preserve with Amaretto and Rhubarb preserve with crushed ginger and Cointreau; to name just a few. We finally settled on a jar of Morello cherry preserve with kirsch to purchase and take home with us. If your ever in the area it is well worth a visit.

My boyfriend is the jam fan in our house. He loves it spread on toast for breakfast but for me toast is for spreading marmite on or just simply butter. This jam sounded too delicious for me to miss out on, so I decided to bake some scones to spread it on. I wanted to keep the flavour of the scones simple so that the flavours of the jam would really be able to shine so I didn't put any dried fruits in these ones. I originally found a Nigel Slater recipe in a back issue of Sainsbury's magazine but it required buttermilk or milk & natural yogurt neither of which were currently in my fridge. In the end I found a recipe in Farmer's Market cookbook by Ysanne Spevack. I modified the recipe as it had no sugar in it and I was a little concerned they maybe too plain so I added 25g caster sugar (the quantity Nigel Slater used for the same weight of flour). The resulting scones had a good texture and worked really well with the jam. The jam was the real star of the show it was really delicious. I can see me making another batch of scones just so I can have more of this jam!
Makes about 10 scones

225g plain flour
1 tbsp baking powder
50g butter, diced
1 egg, beaten
75ml milk

  • Preheat the oven to 200C/425F/Gas7.
  • Sift the flour and baking powder together, then rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  • Make a well in the centre and pour in the egg and milk.
  • Mix with a fork or butter knife to form a soft dough.
  • Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead very lightly until smooth.
  • Roll out the dough to about 2cm thickness and cut out as many scones as you can.
  • Roll all the trimmings together and roll to 2cm thickness and cut out a couple more scones. Repeat until all the dough is used.
  • Place on a baking tray and bake for 10-12 minutes until pale and risen.
  • Serve slightly warm.


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