Saturday, June 30, 2012

Lomo Saltado

As regular readers of the blog may well know, I'm a little bit obsessed with Peruvian food. I lived there for six months and the Peruvians were so passionate about food and so proud of every single one of their traditional dishes. It definitely rubbed off on me.

The great thing about many Peruvian dishes is that they do not mess about when it comes to carbs. Most of them come with at least two portions of carbs. Potatoes and pasta on one plate? Perfectly acceptable. While living in Peru one of my favourites of the two-carb wonders was Lomo Saltado. Lomo Saltado is served with possibly my favourite carbs - white rice and chips. The rice always seems to be served in the cheesiest fashion possible - turned out of a ramekin. The chips are covered in the most delicious, rich meaty sauce comprising chopped steak, tomatoes and red onions.

Obviously I couldn't really eat Lomo Saltado while in Peru due to the fact that it is full of steak. Being the worst veggie ever, the canteen at my school knew that I would happily eat a plate of Lomo Saltado with the steak bits removed, in fact that was one of my favrourite lunches.

When visiting, Bailey thoroughly enjoyed a few Lomo Saltados too, the best one being at El Bolivariano near my house in Pueblo Libre where we had the most lovely Friday nigh meal just the two of us. One night Bailey and I tried to cook up a veggie Lomo Saltado for my housemates using mushrooms instead of meat which turned out pretty good. However since returning to England, we've made this using Quorn quite a few times and it turns out very nice. I'm sure not as nice as the real thing, but still nice, particularly since we started adding a tablespoon of Maggi to the sauce to make it a bit meatier.

The Lomo Saltado we made the other day turned out very lovely - probably the best we've made yet. However, the only problem was our coriander plant had died a death without us knowing so unfortunately it didn't have as many lovely coriander bits in and didn't look as pretty as it does when there are flecks of green in it. Still no matter how your Lomo Saltado turns out, there are few things in life as tasty as a Lomo Saltado soaked chip...

3 small red onions
2 cloves garlic
4 tomatoes
6 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp Maggi
1 tbsp aji amarillo paste
2 steaks (we used Quorn Peppered Steaks!)
A handful of fresh coriander leaves

To serve:
Fat chips, cooked in your favourite way
White rice, cooked in your favourite way

Place a large frying pan or wok over a medium heat. Slice the onions and chop the garlic before adding to the pan and leaving to get a bit of colour.

Meanwhile, slice the tomatoes before adding them to the pan too.

Chop the 'steak' into strips. Then add to the pan with the soy sauce, Maggi and aji amarillo, stir well and reduce the heat to low. Cover the pan with a lid and leave to cook until everything is soft and cooked through but not mushy.

Meanwhile, get your rice and chips ready to serve. Make a nice big pile of chips on one half of the plate and fill a ramekin with rice before turning out onto a plate - super cheesy but I wouldn't see it served any other way!

Remove the lomo saltado from the heat. Chop up the coriander and sprinkle in and stir. Then, spoon the lomo saltado onto the chips.

Sprinkle with a little more coriander then serve and enjoy! Mmm, two carb juicy chippy goodness.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Crema Catalana

The other week we were making a variety of tapas dishes for our friends Hannah, Gray, Kat and Rob. We decided to do a Crema Catalana for pudding.

I'd never made Crema Catalana before but it was very easy indeed and I will definitely be making it again. However I think we really need to either get ourselves a nice blow torch to do the sugar burning or put the cremas under the grill in advance then cool before serving. They were too hot!

Still, we enjoyed the flavours and it was a nice light dessert. Good old Spanish food!!!

200g sugar
4 egg yolks
1 tbsp cornflour
1 cinnamon stick
The rind of 1 lemon
240ml milk
Extra sugar for sprinkling

Pop the sugar into a bowl. Add the egg yolks one at a time and whisk thoroughly. Whisk in the cornflour before adding the cinnamon stick and lemon rind.

Finally, add the milk and mix well before transferring to a saucepan.

Place the saucepan over a low heat and cook slowly, stirring constantly, until just thickened - it will look pretty much like custard. Remove from the heat.

Remove the cinnamon stick from the crema and ladle the mixture into ramekins.

Put the ramekins in the fridge for at least a couple of hours, or until ready to serve. When you get to serving time, sprinkle the tops of the cremas with a teaspoon or two of sugar and heat up the grill (better if you have a blow torch, we don't!)

Place the ramekins under the grill until the sugar on top of the cremas starts to brown. Remove from the heat and chill again before serving.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Beans with Clams

During my half term holidays we had the lovely Kate and Danny round to our house for a spot of midweek dinner.

We decided to do a three-course meal from the amazing Ferran Adria Family Meal cookbook that Bailey bought me for Christmas. It really is a lovely and unusual book which contains the simple, hearty recipes that the staff at elBulli used to eat before dinner service. We decided to use 'Meal 4' which consisted of Beans with Clams for starter, Salt Cod and Vegetable Stew for main and Baked Apples for pudding. Nice and healthy easy Spanish food! The Beans with Clams was our favourite of the three - simple but packed with flavour and the clams were scrumptious!

As with many of the recipes in The Family Meal, it's a very simple dish but which requires you to make some basic Catalan / Spanish sauces and condiments in advance to go into the dish. We were really excited to make the Sofrito and Picada for the Beans with Clams that morning and the book does suggest you make plenty then freeze the leftovers. We had some Sofrito leftover which we used the next day to help make some mean Patatas Bravas.


For the Sofrito
1 garlic clove
2 tsp olive oil
300g onions
1 pinch dried thyme
1 pinch dried rosemary
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 tbsp passata
1 pinch salt
400g clams

For the Picada
0.5g saffron threads
25g fresh parsley
1 garlic clove
40ml olive oil
35g hazelnuts

For the Beans with Clams
400g clams
4 tsp Sofrito
600g cannellini beans
800ml fish stock
4 tsp Picada

Start by making the Sofrito and the Picada. For the Sofrito, put the garlic into a tall jar and blend it up. Heat the oil in a pan over a medium heat and add the blended garlic, frying until brown.

Meanwhile, add the onion to the jar and also blend this. Warning, this kills your poor eyes! Add to the pan with the garlic.

Lower the heat, add the dried herbs and bayleaves and continue to fry, stirring as it cooks. Then, add four fifths of the tomatoes and cook for 30 minutes. Then, add the rest of the tomatoes and cook for another 30 minutes before seasoning with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl until you're making the soup.

Next make the Picada. Wrap the saffron threads in an alluminium foil parcel and toast in a hot frying pan for a few seconds, make sure they don't get burnt. Peel the garlic clove and put into a small bowl with the parsley. Add the toasted saffron threads and oil to the bowl. Using a hand blender, make a coarse paste before adding the hazelnuts and blend those up too.

We were instructed by the lovely guys at Out of the Blue where we bought our clams to keep the clams in the fridge wrapped up in a damp tea towel in ice water. One hour before you start to make your soup, put the clams in a bowl and cover with salted water. Apparently this makes them get rid of any sand. Clever!

In a large soup pan, heat the Sofrito over a medium heat. 

Add the beans and fish stock to the pan and simmer for 15 minutes. Then, add the Picada.

Drain the clams and add to the broth, cooking for three minutes. Discard any clams that are shut. Season before serving. We served with some rustic wholemeal bread. Delish!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Twist on a Black Forest Gateau

Earlier this month I entered a competition called The Great British Cake Off at the Great British Food Festival in Warrington. The category I decided to enter was 'Twist on a Classic'. After giving it absolutely loads of thought I decided to do a twist on a black forest gateau as I had been really looking for an excuse to make this undervalued retro cake for aaaaages.

I had to think long and hard about what the 'twist' was going to be. I initially wanted to do a lemony white chocolate raspberry version but initial taste tests suggested this was going to be the most gross cake ever. So in the end my fate was decided when Bailey came home with a bottle of Chambord Black Raspberry Liqueur and I decided to do a Raspberry Black Forest Gateau.

Making the cake was lots of fun and it wasn't rushed at all as I was on my half term holidays so I very much enjoyed the bake. I took it very slowly and made sure everything was done properly and I was quite pleased with how my sponges turned out - lovely and flat and even. It was also the yummiest cake batter ever!

I was pretty proud of myself for trying out for the first time some tempered chocolate, as inspired by our lesson from the Pastry King and as per usual when trying out a new technique, this was no where near as difficult as I'd anticipated. As a guide I used The Guardian's How and Why to Temper Chocolate article and had of course gone for the category entitled 'The Microwave method for people with jobs, children, pets, friends, or a train to catch'. If the microwave is good enough for the Pastry King, it's good enough for me. Anyway these turned out ACE, and I will definitely be tempering chocolate again.

So I was feeling quite smug thinking my cake was the absolute cat's pyjamas, but I soon realised things weren't going to quite go to plan. Firstly, how on earth was I going to get such a tall cake all the way to Warrington in one piece?

Well the answer to that is, I wasn't. I was going to have to take it in two parts then assemble the cake on arrival. Not easy when you've got sponges soaked in a load of liqueur.

So I went off with the top part of my cake - with first layer of tempered chocolate attached - in one box and bottom part of cake in another box and I brought with me the second layer of tempered chocolate and my icing piper thingy. This would prove problematic at the food festival as my cake was nigh on impossible to get out of the box without it falling apart. Oh, and then my extra tempered chocolate bits melted. Hence the reason it only had the tempered chocolate around the top and ended up looking like some kind of insane crown.

Oh well it was a learning curve! I had loads of fun making this cake and taking part in the competition. I was quite happy with how the cake came out overall and I have to say I won a prize not to be sniffed at - third place! I was super happy and really enjoyed the bottle of bubbly I was given. Roll on next competition!


For the icing and filling
2 large punnets raspberries
200ml Chambord
600ml double cream
400g dark chocolate

For the cake
340g golden caster sugar
340g butter
6 eggs
240g self- raising flour
100g cocoa powder

Temper the chocolate the night before. Cover a board with cling film. Pop 200g of the chocolate in the microwave until almost melted with a few unmelted bits in. Stir well until completely smooth. Using a spoon, put thick 'smears' of melted chocolate on the board. Put in the fridge to cool.

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C. Soak the raspberries in the Chambord. Grease and line 3 small cake tins with greaseproof paper. Place the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and cream together.

Add the eggs one at a time and stir well.

Sift in the flour and combine.

Sift in the cocoa powder and stir well until you have a nice smooth batter.

Spoon the cake mixture into the tins and use a spoon to make sure the surface of the batters are nice and flat and even.

Bake the cakes for around 30 minutes until the sponges are nicely baked and a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for five minutes before putting on a wire rack to cool.

Heat the 200ml of the double cream in a pan.

Add the rest of the chocolate to the pan and stir until melted. Place in the fridge to cool.

Meanwhile, separate the raspberries and the Chambord. Soak each sponge in the Chambord.

Whip up the remaining double cream until stiff. Spread the first sponge with a thin layer of chocolate icing.

Spread the sponge carefully with the whipped cream.

Top neatly with raspberries.

Take the next sponge and put a little bit of cream on the bottom so that it sticks to the raspberries underneath.

Place on top of the sponge you've just decorated.

Repeat the process and top the second sponge with chocolate icing, cream and raspberries. Pop the last sponge on top and neatly cover in a thicker layer of the chocolate icing. Load some chocolate icing into a piping bag and pipe some pretty little bits of chocolate icing around the edges of the cake. Use the chocolate icing to stick the tempered chocolate all around the cake (don't let them melt before you finish doing this like I did!) then serve!


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