Monthly Archives: August 2013

Ottolenghi’s Toffee Brownies

I’ve just made banana bread. Again. Seriously, I’ll be making it after I’m dead. I must get better at banana management.

Ottolenghi once more, but this time I’m not arsing about with vegetables or herbs or anything insane like that. I’ve traditionally struggled with making brownies, the boyfriend’s most common comment being, ‘they’re a bit dry’. His final words before being beaten to death with a brownie tin, obviously.

So I thought I’d try an Ottolenghi version, counting on the fact it’d be (i) a faff, (ii) involve lots of ingredients, and (iii) expensive to make so if I messed it up I could feel properly guilty.

The bastard things came out delicious so I’m likely stuck making them again. And again. Rather like banana bread, albeit less prosaic and much more dangerous to the cook.  More on that in a short bit.

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Preheat your oven to 170C or gas mark 3. Actually you’re supposed to do that after you’ve made the toffee but I’m giving you the preheat instruction now cause I’ll forget later.

Gather:-

200g unsalted butter with a bit extra for greasing

280g plain flour

1/2 teaspoon salt (I did not use)

300g dark chocolate (I used Lindt 85%)

2 free-range eggs.  It’ll blatantly not work if your eggs are not free range.  Mine were free range, so there you go. Evidence.

220g caster sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

140g apricot, banana or raspberry jam.  BANANA JAM?  I don’t think so.  Either way, I used no jam at all.

For the butter toffee:

15g unsalted butter with a bit more, melted, for greasing

75g caster sugar

(I must admit here to shitting up the amounts and accidentally tripling the amount of butter I put in, so had to put triple the sugar, and so made a ton of toffee I didn’t need. Don’t do that).

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Brush an oven tray with some melted butter and set aside.

In a heavy-based saucepan (and please use a biggish one, as you’ll be needing to undertake some kind of beating of the boiling hot mix and a small saucepan, as I discovered, will be unable to contain the BASTARDING HOT MELTED SUGAR OW OW OW OW) put the butter and sugar for the toffee and place over a medium heat.  Stir it pretty constantly with a wooden spoon.

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You’re to wait until it turns a ‘dark caramelly’ colour and you’re not to worry if it looks like splitting, as it has begun to do in the above photo.  Yotam, our friend, says that if you stir vigorously it’ll come back together.  When I stirred my triple-sized amount in my small saucepan I just got really hot stuff all over the stove, my shirt, my arms and the floor.

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When it gets to something approximating the above colour, pour out onto your buttered tray and let set. It ideally won’t be as thick as I’ve managed. I really cocked the whole toffee thing up.

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Brush your brownie pan (I used a 22cm square pan) and line it.

Ottolenghi wants you to melt your butter and sugar in a bowl over some water. I did mine in a microwave. Just don’t let it boil or anything like that.  Whichever way you choose, melt the butter and chocolate together.

In another bowl you kind of lightly whisk together the eggs, sugar and vanilla until just combined.  The Big O says for a few seconds only.  Fold in the melted chocolate and butter, and then the flour.

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Having broken up your toffee into small bits (I threw mine in a freezer bag and went all crazy-lady on it with a rolling pin), chuck that in, too.

Fold the mix together till combined.

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Into your tin and into the oven for between 20-25 mins.  Ottolenghi says drop jam in spoonfuls into the mix and swirl with a knife before going in the oven. I did not do that.

Mine took just short of 20 mins.  Better underdone than over, innit.  You want a skewer to come out with wet crumbs. Dry crumbs = you have royally effed up.

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The dog with her favourite toy.  Have I used this pic before?  I don’t remember and I cannot be bothered to check.  Peter Rabbit freaks me out.  Look at his face.  LOOK AT IT.

I believe he animates at night, when we are all asleep, and roams the house eating the stuffing out of the other toys.

Brownies out when done, let cool in the tin. Cut.  EAT.  EAT IT ALL.  We have two pieces left. Tonight they die.

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Jam Drops

Jam Drops are stuff of my childhood, a recurring theme for the baked goods appearing on this blog, really.  My gran, as would be expected, makes the best ones, but the other day I craved them, after probably ten years not having even a whiff of one, and made Donna Hay’s version.  They were ok.  I will have to get Nana’s recipe off her when I go home in September.

Go home with a 4 month old on a long-haul flight, the boyfriend being left in London to sit in his pants, eating pizza and playing Skyrim no doubt.  Can’t wait for that long haul, where I’ll not be able to rely on my friend Temazepam (not sure it’d be looked kindly upon to be unconscious, drooling and drugged whilst having care of an infant, which seems unfair. On me.).

Right. Jam Drops. Preheat your oven to 350F or 175C.

Gather:-

6 oz/170g butter, softened
1 cup caster sugar
1 egg
2 cups plain flour – Donna Hay says sifted, I say don’t be ridiculous.
1/2 tsp baking powder
Jam  to decorate – raspberry is best.

I say that, but:-

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I believe the proper name for the above stuff is Speculoos which puts me in mind of an unusual shop selling eye glasses and gynaecological equipment but what do I know. Anyway it’s now freely available at Sainsbury’s and I know a few people who rave about it. Figured I’d give it a try and maybe replace the jam with some of it on the bikkies.

It’s weird. The caramelised biscuits, as biscuits, are delicious. The spread is weird. It tastes EXACTLY like the biscuits but it has a peanut butter texture. It made my tiny mind hurt. I needed some time and several tastings to figure it out.

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Throw the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer (or a bowl and use handbeaters) and beat until light and creamy

Add the egg and beat well.  Beat it like Michael Jackson without the crotch grabs.

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As you can see, whilst I waited for the egg and sugar mix to get creamy I continued to taste-test the new stuff.  Still weird.

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Then with a spoon stir through the flour and baking powder and mix to a dough.  I used  a spatula for that bit.

Donna Hay says to roll 2 tsp of the mixture into balls.  I’m pretty sure I did that and only made about 22 biscuits, her recipe says it makes 60. Fair old difference, there.  Maybe 1 tspn of mix would be better as mine definitely turned out bigger than my Nan’s.

Place on a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper, allowing room for the biscuits to spread, and flatten slightly – I actually rolled them and then flattened them between my palms before sticking on the tray.

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You need to make holes for the jam, man.  Nana’s trick is to use the end of a wooden spoon. Is good trick. She is a good and clever Nana.

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Fill the depressions (sad, sad holes they are) with jam or your filling of choice. I’d definitely recommend jam.

Into the oven for about ten mins or so, till they start to go golden.

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You can tell that both the dog and NewHuman are really enjoying this. The boyfriend and I enjoyed it more.

Right, take the biscuits out of the oven and cool on racks. Do NOT try to eat them hot. Not unless a mouth full of blisters is a fun thing for you.  Hot jam is hot.

These are too big.  Despite their giantness they are excellent with coffee.

Enjoy. And enjoy this remarkably swear-free post. No idea what’s gotten into me.

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A Way With Sea Bass

The boyfriend gets home every night. He requires feeding every night. Today he was fed sea bass. I went out today to get mussels but as I’m an idiot I didn’t know that there was a mussel season and it doesn’t start again till November.  Far as I know you can get mussels at that weird restaurant, Belgo, every day of the year.

Anyway. Sea bass.

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Catch two seabass. I recommend your local fishmonger.

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Stick the oven on to preheat to 200C or so.

On a baking tray, lay out a sliced onion and some lemon slices, resting gently on some veg oil like wine on my soul.

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Remember those sea bass?

OFF WITH THEIR HEADS.

Trim the gill bits, too. And the fins, if your local fishmonger hasn’t already.
Rinse, under the tap, to get rid of any remaining blood and signs of struggle.

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Make some slices in the flesh on both sides. Not down to the bone, mind.

Fill the cavity with dill and lemon, and, not pictured here, a squish or two of butter.  If you like you can squish some more butter into the sliced bits of flesh.

Season, both sides.

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Lay the fish down, reverentially, on the oven tray.

Into the oven for about 30 mins.

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Haven’t seen the dog seem this pissed off for a long time. She is wearing the cone of shame for several more days yet, and is also not allowed off the lead. I fear for her mental health and, going by this hate-face, for my own personal safety.

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Whilst the fish is cooking get out the cucumber and potato salads you’d prepared earlier, for you are domestic queen.

You could also, as I did whilst waiting for the fish to cook, bring in the washing, feed the dog, send an email and do some washing up.

Serve. Eat.  Some white wine is nice with this. We ate it whilst watching Nigel Slater make meringues. It didn’t make me want meringues.

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Nigella’s Banana & Butterscotch Muffins

So, I’ve a new toy.  It’s in pistachio green and cost a ridiculous amount of money, so me and the boyfriend’s probationary status as wankers has now come to fruition and we are, indeed, Wankers with a capital W. Either way, it’s a pretty thing and I’ve had it at home a week, nearly, and not yet tried it.

See below.

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I believe most people get them in a nice bright red or shiny black. That’s probably for a very good reason. Nevertheless, pistachio green it is.  Tones in nicely with our bathroom, arguably, which is a shame as they will never be introduced.

I’ve a terrible habit of buying bananas and then not eating them in time. I can only eat bananas when they’ve just, very just, tipped over the edge into ripeness.  Any hint of odour and I can’t bear them, except in cooking. It’s the reason the boyfriend’s office is plagued with banana breads issued from my kitchen. I’ve had some black-toned bananas sitting about for days now and couldn’t face making my millionth banana bread (it’s such a milestone, a million, and I’ve not the energy for a party) so looked about for an alternative.

The below would do. The banana makes them nice and moist, really, almost like they’re undercooked.  They’re not, of course.  And poor Nigella, going through her tough times, I think she’d be happy to know her recipe was the final resting place for a few bananas otherwise bound for the bin.

I’m typing this as the boyfriend walks NewHuman and the dog around the neighbourhood, and I am accompanied by the soundtrack of our new neighbours’ child. A Massive Whinger, would be the official description. They are a noisy bunch. I’m afraid I’ve rather taken against them.  They shall not receive a single crumb of muffin.  It’d been quiet the last couple of days so I’d hoped they were away on holidays.  I was wrong.

I’m also typing this half-pissed, AGAIN, after another pub lunch with friends.

Being half-pissed is heaps good.

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Preheat your oven to 200C or Gas Mark 6.

Gather:-

3 very ripe bananas

125ml vegetable oil. I used canola, which isn’t strictly vegetable, but it was fine. Tasteless, basically, is what you’re after.

2 large eggs

250g plain flour

100g caster sugar

1/2 teaspoon bicarb soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

150g butterscotch chips (which I have been desperate to get rid of) but anything else would do – white chocolate or dark, even blueberries would be nice

I’ll just alert you now to the fact I doubled the amounts so be not alarmed at the vast quantities displayed in the following photos.

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Mash your bananas.  They’ll look like sick.

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Put your oil and eggs in a thing and lightly whisk.  The eggs will float, menacingly, in the oil like sentient orbs.

Whisk together your flour, bicarb, baking powder and sugar, then add the oily eggy mix.  Blend.

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Then add your chips and banana.

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Mix nicely.  It’s a rather wet mix for muffins, but NIgella knows best.

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Distribute in muffin cases, even quantities, and into the oven for about 20 mins or until done.  I over-filled, a bit.

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This is the dog, stoned, after a heinous operation to remove her dew claws, cause of much ripping and pain. Anyway, the Cone of Shame is part of her life for another week yet. She is displeased.

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In other news, Fat Elvis lives.

Anyway, remove said muffins from the oven and let cool a little.

Eat. Enjoy.  They’re not OTT banana-y, it kind of more makes the mix very moist and delivers a hint of banana-ness.  Sweet, obv.

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