martes, 21 de diciembre de 2010

To fly or not to fly

Every year is the same. I say to myself: "This year you are going to start the Christmas shopping early, in October, or at least star planning what to buy, to who, where, when and were to fly from for spending Christmas in Spain. At the end, everything falls into pieces, my and my plan is ruined because there is always something else, and I rely on the "Mañana, mañana". And, as always, every year, I´m in a hurry, rushing in the shops, sliding in the shopping centres, gasping for air in between (unless I do it all online) and swearing myself that I will NEVER be back to Oxford St on a Saturday in Christmas time (and going back to Oxford St on a saturday in Christmas time) To be honest, I get carried away when I see the Christmas decoration already in early October and I let myself go...At the end, I panic, and everybody ends up with gift vouchers.

So, I have almost everything ready, presents and vouchers, my packed edible Christmas presents ready to pack and the luggage almost almost done. And suddenly we get an incredible, inconvenient and heavy snowfall, and all our plans are on standby. And we are lucky, thousands had their flights canceled and there is chaos everywhere (transport wise) People end up sleeping on the floor of the terminal at Heathrow, the queue at St Pancras station is huge, even the tube has troubles, so, I´m not going out and I keep my fingers crossed for my flight next week, maybe the snow will melt by then. And all this introduction is because I am presenting today my Christmas post. Its a gingerbread cake with cranberries, of course, perfect if you are sick and tired of the traditional Christmas pudding. This gingerbread is not very sweet,and is quite light actually. The icing is sweet enough...I would like to take this opportunity to show off my new dish, which I got as a present over the last days, thank you Girls!

It´s a variation on Dan Lepard´s ginger cake. He really is amazing and we all can enjoy his talent in his lovely books. A well known baker and a food writer for The Guardian (this recipe comes from there) and I have adapted it to become a little more festive. The treacle is an important ingredient but you can use golden syrup, or honey instead. I used fondant icing sugar for the icing, because is a mix that has solid glucose in it and it becomes shiny and spreadable very easily. You can use normal icing sugar if you cant find it. I want to thank everybody who steps here and post their comments, and I wish you all a lovely Christmas, and and may the new year is full of smiles for everyone. Merry Christmas!

50g unsalted butter
100g black treacle
75g muscovado sugar
2 medium eggs
25ml sunflower oil
75ml blended or single malt whisky
50g fresh cranberries
175g plain flour
1½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
3 tsp ground ginger
3¼ tsp mixed spice
6 tablespoons apricot glaze

225g fondant icing sugar
6 or 7 tablespoons water

For the candied cranberrries:
1 egg white
10 fresh cranberrries
100g caster sugar

Line the base and sides of a 17cm loaf tin or similar with nonstick paper, and heat the oven to 180C (160C fan-assisted)/350F/gas mark 4. Melt the butter, remove from the heat and stir in the treacle and sugar until any lumps soften. Beat in the eggs until mixed through evenly, then do the same with the oil and whisky.

Sift into the mix the flour, bicarbonate of soda and three teaspoons each of ground ginger and mixed spice, and beat in well. Add the cranberries, mix well and spoon the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted pulls out clean.
Leave to cool in the tin.

For the candied cranberries, lightly beat the egg white and soak the cranberries in it, remove the excess and coat them in the sugar. Leave to dry a bit.

For the icing, first heat the apricot glaze in the microwave and spread the surface of the cold cake with it, then, mix the fondant icing sugar with the water until it becomes spreadable, and quickly spread this over the cake. Decorate with the candied cranberries and some holly leaves. For a nice looking serving plate, sprinkle with mixed spice. Enjoy the evocative smell!

jueves, 2 de diciembre de 2010

Caponata Charlotte for you, for me, but not for "Him"

OK, I admit it. Cooking for a vegetarian can be a little tricky sometimes, and it can become sort of a challenge, a quest. I don't know about the rest of the vegetarians, but "mine" is a bit special when it comes to vegetables. so, sometimes the challenge becomes an odyssey. I must confess that I totally used to rely on mushrooms to feed him, but that has changed as well, so, no more mushrooms from now on. Because of this, every time I find a lovely mouthwatering vegetarian recipe I try it, I observe and make up my mind. This is: I try it by cooking it for him, I observe him whilst eating it and depending on his reaction when tasting it, I make up my mind, so the recipe can be made again and again, or otherwise it's sent to the recycle bin. My post today is one of those mouthwatering ones, a caponata Charlotte with goats cheese, the star ingredient is the lovely aubergine, which is the reason why I never thought of cooking it for "Him", but when I saw the skilled Paul Gayler cooking it on tv, it was love at first sight. I had to cook this, even when I knew that my vegetarian wouldn't even smell it!                                                                                                                                                                                          

So, that's life! My post today is the ideal main course for a vegetarian, but not for mine. It's full of flavour with a huge mix of ingredients. Aubergine is the main one, for sure, but the goats cheese combines everything so elegantly that you can tell it comes from a 5 star restaurant, like the one that Paul Gayler is the head chef, the Lanesborough in Hyde Park, from where he has worked hard to become one of the most talented chefs in the UK. His gastronomic delicacies are an inspiration for every food lover, vegetarian or non vegetarian. And if you don't believe me, have a look at any of his amazing books.


2 medium aubergines
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 red pepper, finely chopped
1 yellow pepper, finely chopped
1 celery stick, finely chopped
1 small courgette, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves
3 or 4 slices dried apple, chopped
6 dried apricots, chopped
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
50 g sultanas
50g toasted pine nuts
Fresh thyme
2 tomatoes
4 individual goats cheeses
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Soak the sultanas in the rum for a while, set aside. Turn the oven on and set the temperature to 180. Wash and cut an aubergine and a half, reserve the other half for the filling and slice the rest with the skin on, cut it in half and again into thin slices, lay them in a baking tray and brush them with olive oil, season with salt and pepper an bake for 10 minutes. Grease 4 individual ramekins.

For the caponata:

Crush one garlic clove and puree it with some salt with the back of the knife. Fry the onion and garlic in olive oil and cook for 2 minutes, add the rest of the vegetables and cook for 5 minutes. Add the dried fruit, cook for 2 more minutes. Add a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and maple syrup, and finally the sultanas and the pine nuts.
For the sauce:

Cut the tomato and blend it, place it in a saucepan and add the garlic clove and some fresh thyme and cook for five minutes, drain it and add some olive oil.

Line the ramekins with the slices of the aubergine making sure that they overlap. This prevents the filling to ooze out and the final presentation is beautiful. Place a couple of spoonfuls of the caponata and place them in the base of the ramekin, add the slice of cheese, (you can use mozzarella if goats cheese is not your cup of tea), and then top with more caponata, pushing down all the time. Fold over the aubergine and secure the filling. Push down again, and place the ramekins in the oven for 10-12 minutes. To serve, demold it and place on a plate, drizzle the dressing around it and decorate with tomato cubes and deep fried aubergine skin.