Sunday, 28 September 2014

White Chocolate Cheesecake with Coole Swan

Cooleswan, white chocolate cheesecake on a dark chocolate base, blackberry coulis

I have a friend who has lately taken to emptying her drinks cabinet and giving me what she doesn't like. One evening she was coming over for dinner and arrived with a big bottle of Coole Swan liqueur. I poured some into a smaller bottle and gave the rest back to her.

I'm not a fan of Bailey's or sweet liqueurs but they can be great in recipes.  I Googled a few recipes and patched one together.

It can be "deconstructed" or served traditionally and the coulis changed to suit the fruit in season.  It's really, really easy to make and sets quickly.

Deconstructed white chocolate cheesecake with amaretti biscuits & blackberry coulis

The basic recipe is:

For the base
12 digestive biscuits crushed (200g approx)
100g melted butter
1 heaped tablespoon cocoa powder if you want chocolate base

Mix the crushed biscuits and melted butter, add the cocoa if required. Press into a 20cm tin with a removable base and chill. 

1 pack of marscapone (250g)
200 ml of whipped cream
200g melted white chocolate
4 tablespoons of Coole Swan

Whisk the marscapone, fold in the whipped cream, Stir in the melted chocolate. Spread evenly over base and chill.

For the coulis
200g seasonal fruit
75g sugar

Heat the fruit and sugar. Cool and push through a sieve to remove "bits".

Amaretti biscuits
100g ground almonds
100g caster sugar
1 egg white whisked
1 tbsp amaretto

Whisk the egg whites and fold in the almonds and sugar. Finally add the amaretto. Drop onto a lined tray and bake for 10-15 minutes at 180 deg.

Cooleswan white chocolate cheesecake with cherry compote

 Luscious, laden with calories but oh so good.

@foodborn #foodborn

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Fig and Apple Compote

Fig and apple compote
On a recent trip to visit some friends, I came home with bags of autumn bounty. They have a ruin nearby with a walled garden overflowing with fruit trees. Figs, apples and Spanish chesnuts. We couldn't reach the chesnuts and the figs were still a bit unripe. The apple varieties included what appeared to be a cider apple variety. It was quite bitter but just about edible. Somewhere mid-way between cooker and eater.

The figs ripened slightly in a fruit bowl but some started to get a bit whiskery. It was better to use them up quickly, so I came up with this idea.

Fig and Apple Compote
150g figs chopped up
250g of a tart apple variety chopped
100g organic sugar

Soften the apple and fig with a splash of water to stop the mixture catching on the base of a (heavy based) saucepan. Add the sugar and simmer for about half an hour until the mixture is rich and pulpy.

Cool and pour into a clean container.

Serving Suggestions
With ice cream, custard or Greek yoghurt 
With porridge for breakfast
Or just enjoyed on it's own.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Copper and Spice and All Things Nice

Many years ago I lived in Lancaster in England amongst a large Asian community. Our corner shop was a cornucopia of spices and strangely shaped vegetables and the patron, a turboned, smiley man always bemused by my picking stuff up, sniffing it and asking questions. I used stock up on spice any time I was returning home to my mother. At that time here, spices were very difficult to find and were very expensive.

I have a vivid memory of walking through Lancaster one day and smelling a glorious smell of curry. I looked around to see if a new restaurant had opened, but there was none. I was puzzled but then I realised a few Indian women in colourful saris had walked past and the smell was from them. Another day we were having a picnic with our two small children in a local park when we walked past a large extended Asian family sitting on rugs. An array of bowls of curries, rice dishes, naan bread was something to behold. Our dried up sliced pan sandwiches paled in comparison.

When I was having my daughter I used get longings for an "Indian". I remember my ex telling me that we had to cut back on takeaways as we were spending a fortune we could ill afford. The grand total of £7. I don't remember if that was each or for both of us. But it was expensive as we used go to one of the best Indian restaurants in the city.

When I returned to Ireland what was offered up was muck by comparison and rapidly turned me off Indian food for years. I couldn't bear the luridly coloured, overwhelmingly spiced dishes with an oil slick across the top for effect.

Then the same daughter who was intravenously fed Indian food decided to go to university in Manchester. If I say "The Curry Mile" you probably get my drift. My love affair had begun all over again.

A few months ago I was invited to a tasting menu in an Indian restaurant nearby. I was curious as unlike a lot of restaurants round about, it had stood the test of time (quite a feat in recent times) so it must be doing something right. The food was delicious and the spicing very well-balanced, but what stood out for me was the presentation. It was delicate and beautifully judged. We had matching wines by Wines Direct and as the representative from WD was at our table we got well-filled glasses. I was so disappointed not to be able to take photos as I had brought my camera but it was really dark and a flash would have ruined the shots.

I had been trying to get back for a meal for ages but every time we organised to go something happened. Last night we finally made it. We had the early bird. It was really good value for money, €60 a couple, for three courses and a bottle of wine. So often the wine in these sort of offers is plonk but this one was anything but. It was a crisp but delicately fruity Sauvignon blanc.

We were sent out a delicate amuse bouche, pretty as a picture. Please excuse the quality of the photos as the light was rapidly fading and were taken with my phone.

It was a fish croquet with a coconut topping and a mint and coriander purée. It certainly amused my bouche!

I went for the samosa to start. Deliciously hot and spicy. No holds barred and stuffed with filling. An accompaniment of chickpeas was served cold. I would have preferred it warmed but that's just me. I loved the presentation here too.

My friend had the keema kebab with fenugreek, cardamon and cottage cheese dip. We both loved this lean and delicately spiced lamb.

For mains, which I could not photograph as it had got dark, I had lamb rogan josh. This is my indicator test for the quality of ingredients used in an Asian restaurant. Usually the lamb is mutton and it is too strongly flavoured, tough, grizzly and fatty. Here it was anything but. I loved it and the sauce which, while tomatoey was not oily or over flavoured.  My friend had the prawn Himalyan curry which she asked for mild. I tasted one of the king prawns. Not tough or overcooked and the sauce was mild and lightly creamy. Their sea food supplier here is Connolly's Fish Shop in the town, to my mind one of the best fish shops in the country and his prawns are always fresh. 

I asked for a coffee to finish as I was much too full for dessert. The coffee machine was out of order (as was the card machine which necessitated a mad dash to the cash machine up the road for my friend). I settled for a tea and my friend had Burke's farm ice cream which she said was just right to finish a great meal.

There is a reason Copper and Spice has stood the test of time. I just wish it wasn't so dark inside and I could take photos to do it justice.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Blackberry and Elderberry Jelly

I was determined to have a lazy Sunday recently and not spend it in a whirlwind of cooking, baking, cleaning, listening to Lyric Fm and trying to read Saturday's paper. I decided to go for a walk instead with the dogs and just happened to look up.

I mean what do you do? Leave all those luscious black elderberries for the birds not to mention probably the best crop of blackberries for the second year in a row?

So out came my plastic bag and I started picking. I always have a bag in my pocket these days. Not for the dogs but for what I might find out and about.

I picked just over 900g of blackberries and 100g of elderberries, as once you strip the actual berries off you don't have very much weight.

So to the jelly.

I bought this jam pot in Aldi recently. I sometimes think I am mad with the stuff I buy in there. But this is absolutely fantastic. It has a very heavy bottom which allows you to have the heat really low and it keeps bubbling away. It is also really well designed for lifting and pouring. And best of all it was only €25!

My recipe
900g blackberries
100g elderberries
150ml water
Juice of one lemon
1 tart apple (I used a cider apple variety which is midway between a cooker and an eater)

Put everything in the pot except the sugar. Simmer until everything is pulpy and soft. It took over an hour. Use a potato masher and give the whole thing a good mash.

Allow it to cool slightly and then pour into a sieve lined with muslin over a clean basin and leave to sit overnight. Don't push the juice through or your jelly will be cloudy. Allow the weight and gravity to do the work. 

Next day measure the juice. I had just under 600ml. I added 350g sugar and stirred and simmered it until it was dissolved. When it reaches setting point, 105 deg, on a jam thermometer turn off the heat. Alternatively test for a set after about 15 minutes by spooning some onto a small plate and putting on your kitchen window or in your fridge for a few minutes.  Then run your finger through and if it wrinkles, it's set. Turn off the heat under your pot while you do this.

Allow to cool for about 10 minutes and pour carefully into warmed, sterilised jam jars. 

When completely cold, put lids on tightly. 

I used a lot less sugar than normally advised in similar recipes so this would be good with cheese, in gravies/sauces or on bread.

Note: You do not need to follow the above quantities. If you have more elderberries that is fine. What is important that when you measure the syrup produced you add at least half the quantity in sugar for it to set.