Freaky Freekeh & A Dessert Invention

This week saw the arrival of some new cookery books, Pitt Cue Co, based on an up and coming restaurant in Soho, London, and focussing on barbecue, My Vietnamese Kitchen by Uyen Luu and Dos Caminos, Mexican Street Food by Ivy Stark and Joanna Pruess. Flicking through the pages has whet the appetite even more to experiment with different textures and flavours.

So into the kitchen and this week we are going to be trying some new grains, Freekeh (or farik)  and Mograbieh. Freekeh is a green wheat that is roasted and Mograbieh, a giant cous cous that has a soft chewy texture.

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Both are available in the UK from Ottolenghi’s online store and are being served as an accompaniment to Lamb Shanks, slowed cooked in Vegetable stock with Shallots, Aleppo Pepper,  Allspice, Bay Leaves, Coriander Seeds, Garlic, Ginger, Almonds, pine nuts, Coriander, Pomegranate Molasses and Barberries.

The recipe is a subtle variation on Bethany Kehdy’s Freekeh with Lamb & Rhubarb, in her fantastic book ‘The Jewelled Kitchen’. I could not get any fresh Rhubarb so substituted dried Barberries which I had in the store cupboard.

Lamb Shanks

The process is quite straight forward, rub Lamb with Aleppo Pepper, Allspice, Salt & Pepper, brown some button onions or shallots, remove from pan, add lamb, brown all over, remove from pan, add spices and cook till the aroma fills the room, add the lamb and onions back and Vegetable stock, cover and cook long and slow.

cooked shanks

I cooked mine at 130 degrees for 4 1/2 hours.  The Freekeh is boiled in stock for about 45 minutes, it has a delicious nutty texture when cooked and is completely different from any other grain I have tasted. The Mograbhieh is steamed initially for about 30 minutes and then simmered in stock and a tablespoon of pomegranate molasses. The Mograbhieh and Barberries were to provide the sour note that the rhubarb would have provided, along with some different textures.

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The dish is finished with some toasted Pine Nuts, Almonds and fresh Coriander, it was awesome, the boss loved it a lot as it tasted so different from anything either of us has eaten before.  Its not a difficult dish to prepare, the ingredients are available from Ottolenghi’s and Steenbergs, go buy Bethany’s book and create some masterpieces to set your taste buds on fire..

Christmas Dessert No.1

Dessert No

I have been set a challenge by the boss, create some desserts of your own for Christmas! Not one to turn such challenges down here is my 1st attempt, Its Mango with Lime, Cardamom Panna Cotta, Pistachio Dust and Super Short Shortbread!

Its relatively easy to make and I can honestly say, its original as anything can be these days. A couple of you that know me have asked why I don’t publish prescriptive detailed ingredient lists, this is mostly due to copyright infringement, and the fact I am trying to encourage people to have a go, like many other food bloggers.  As this is my invention, I will list the Ingredients and process.

You will need.

  • 1 Can Mango (I could not get fresh at the time, the supermarket had sold out)
  • 1/2 Cup Pistachios, ground in a blender
  • 330 ml Double Cream
  • 2 Sheets Gelatine
  • 200 grm Plain Flour
  • 170 grm unsalted butter
  • 140 grm Castor Sugar (Mine is infused with Vanilla pods and a Jar is always in the cupboard)
  • 1 Lime
  • Maldon Sea Salt
  • 12 cardamom pods

To make the Mango base

1. Put 4 Martini Glasses in the fridge to cool down

2. Put the Mango in  a saucepan with Half a Squeezed Lime and the Zest.

3.  Add a couple of good tablespoons of water and bring to a gentle heat.

4. After approximately 15 minutes, using a hand blender puree till smooth.

5. Add 1/2 sheet of Gelatine, soaked in cold water and squeesed.

6. Split the puree across the 4 Martini glasses, put a 5 mm layer of Pistachio dust in each glass and put back in the fridge. It should look something like this.

stage 1

To make the Panna Cotta

1. Pound the Cardamom in a pestle & mortar and add to the Cream to infuse for at least an hour.

2. Put 1 1/2 sheets of Gelatine in cold water.

3. Strain the cream after an hour and put into a saucepan with 55 grm of castor sugar and bring to the boil, remove from heat.

4. Squeeze the Gelatine, add to Cream and stir.

5. Put the saucepan in a larger pan with some cold water and continue to stir to cool the cream, about 5 minutes and then transfer the cream to a pouring jug.

6. Take each glass and VERY slowly pour in the cream mixture, taking care not to dislodge the Pistachio too much, and then return to the fridge for at least two hours.

To make the Super Short Shortbread

1. Stick a block of butter in the freezer for about an hour to harden.

2. Sift Flour, grate in Zest of 1/2 Lime 75 grm Sugar and mix, put in fridge.

3. After an hour, grate the Butter into the Flour mixing gentle as you go, the gentle squeeze the butter and flour bringing it together into a dough, press gentle into a baking tray, it should look like this after 40 minutes at 140 deg (fan), and a dusting of castor sugar.

short bread

Leave the short bread to cool for a couple of minutes, then take a sharp knife and cut into pieces whilst in the tin, and leave to cool for a couple of hours before carefully removing. Don’t be tempted to try some at this stage, honestly it will all be gone before you can serve with the rest of the dish its so tasty. I made a variation of this the other day, with Pistachio Nuts and Lime Zest, slightly less butter and cut into biscuit rounds, also worth a go.

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So here is dessert No.1 Mango, Lime, Pistachio with Cardamom Panna Cotta and Super Short Shortbread, what’s really strange and unusual when you combine the layers, is that there is a distinct taste of Mint, quite unusual and I guess a combination of the different ingredients.

Till next time, happy cooking.

A Brownie or not – You decide!

I’m very fortunate to have a great team supporting me at work, doing admin booking hotels and flights as I travel up and down the country. With this in mind, and as a way of saying thank-you I decided to bake them something nice, so what to cook.

I remember watching Willie Harcourt-Cooze on television in 2008, when the series ‘Willy Wonka’s  Chocolate Factory’ appeared on Channel 4, and told his story of buying a chocolate plantation, setting up a processing factory in the UK, and persuading Waitrose to range his specialist chocolate. I have used ‘Willie’s Cacao’ several times, its fantastic chocolate for cooking and was going to be the star ingredient in my treat for the team. I purchased his first book around that time, it has some great recipes in it including one for brownies. My attempt is a variation on his recipe with some subtle changes, so read on to see what I did..

As your saw from the heading picture this is not a slimming treat, Organic Unsalted Butter, Unrefined Golden Sugar and lots of eggs being needed, but I was determined to include one of the ‘5 a day’ so fresh Raspberries were going to be a hidden surprise.

Before starting gather all the ingredients, a habit I have got into as it makes cooking so much easier. Switch the oven on and set to 175deg (fan),  then line a 20cm x 20cm square baking tin with butter and parchment paper, this makes removing the final brownie so much easier.

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250g of Willie’s Drop’s are placed into a bowl over simmering water with 300g of unsalted butter and slowly melted, you can see the glossy mixture in the picture above, silky smooth and decadent. I used the 71% Sambirano Single Estate Madagascan which is beautiful and readily available.

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6 Eggs and 3 Yolks were added to 300g of Golden Caster Sugar and processed by the trusty Kenwood Chef using the Balloon Whisk attachment. I set the beast going at full speed to create a very light, pale and airy mixture, this helps to lighten the final brownie, it took about 6-8 minutes and significantly increased the volume of the mixture.

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With the Chocolate/Butter mix melted and combined, add to the Egg/Sugar mixture and gently fold in 100g of Plain Flour, this is more than the original recipe as is the extra Egg Yolk. You should end up with a smooth batter like the picture above. The next stage is to pour in about 1cm’s worth of mixture to cover the base of the tin, then place the Raspberries  as seen in the following picture.

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Pour the remaining mixture gently into the tin, the mixture can dislodge the fruit so go slowly, then add more raspberries pushing them into the mixture so that they are just below the surface of the batter mix.

The Brownie/Cake mixture needs baking for about 30 minutes, then remove from the over and LEAVE IT ALONE TO COOL DOWN SLOWLY……..  If you don’t do this, when you try and remove from the tin, you will end up with  mess.

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When the Brownie has cooled down, you can remove from the baking tin by gently lifting by the parchment paper, then dust with Icing sugar.

It was absolutely delicious, quite light and moist for a Brownie, I think its more cake like but the team loved it, as did several other people who where in the office at the time.

If you like chocolate, you should have a go at this, its quick to make and just scrummy……. Enjoy