Monday, 25 June 2007

SHF #32 the sweetest thing…

“So, I ask you. What is your favourite, most craved dessert? What do you want when you are on a diet or when you've been away from home for a long time? What dessert always catches your eye on a menu in a restaurant and you've had it made by a thousand different people but never made it yourself? I want to know. I want you to make it for SHF this month.”

This month’s Sugar High Friday, hosted by the one and only Domestic Goddess Jennifer, is all about cravings. When I hear the word cravings, I immediately think of chocolate. Can’t help it, I am Belgian after all. However, Jennifer also writes ‘what dessert always catches your eye on a menu in a restaurant and you’ve had it made by a thousand different people but never made it yourself?’. And for me that would be, without a doubt, passionfruit soufflé. Now, this might well cost me my Belgian citizenship, but I would happily forego chocolate for anything passionfruit and passionfruit soufflé in particular. I can’t exactly say I’ve had this soufflé made by ‘a thousand different people’ – two would be more like it, but oh those two times were memorable.

The very first time I had a passionfruit soufflé, was when S and I were celebrating our 8th anniversary by treating ourselves to dinner at Le Gavroche. After our incredibly indulgent meal I of course went straight for the most chocolatey dessert on the menu, but S ordered, you guessed it, a passionfruit soufflé. Which he allowed me to try. And I was in heaven. And in luck. Because after polishing off my own dessert and ogling S’s dessert, he declared he was completely full and couldn’t eat another bite. So we switched plates, during which operation Mr Roux came out of his kitchen and asked us if there was a problem. I was completely star-struck – not to mention surprised. In this day and age, a famous chef, being there in his own restaurant. And actually cooking in the kitchen! But then he is a real chef’s chef, and not a businessman/celebrity/entrepreneur kind of chef. I managed to stammer something more or less coherent about the absolutely amazing food, his cookbook, and that I loved my own dessert very much but couldn’t help eating S’s dessert as well. Or something to that effect. My second passionfruit soufflé experience was of course the perfect ending to that wonderful dinner S and I had with friends in Brisbane I wrote about here.

So, telling Jennifer about my `sweetest thing´, that was the easy bit. But now she wanted me to make this as well? Didn´t she know that my two previous attempts at soufflé had disastrous results – one involving a hot water bath, the other one especially bought Le Creuset ramekins (I think they are too thick to evenly distribute the oven heat)? And didn’t she know my oven doesn’t work properly, the oven temperature is nowhere near accurate and the oven door doesn’t have a window? I was afraid, very afraid. But I would not let myself be beaten – I’m way too stubborn to give up that easily. I bought myself two new ramekins, found myself a recipe on the internet and set to work. First things first, and in this case that was setting up the camera and styling the whole thing, since soufflé starts to deflate the moment it comes out of the oven. Playing around with the camera, light, angle, set up, props etc. took the best part of an hour, and I hadn’t even started baking yet.

Getting the soufflé together was easy enough, but putting it into the oven and not knowing what went on behind that window-less oven door was ever so slightly unnerving. It must have been my lucky day though, because when I opened my oven door eight minutes later I looked at two beautifully risen soufflés. A quick dusting with icing sugar and a few quick snaps, and S and I delved into our little ramekins filled with passionfruity fluffyness. It was every bit as good as I remembered from the first two occasions, and tasted even better because I'd made it myself. Yay! Another thing conquered! Maybe puff pastry next? The rest of the day I could be seen walking around the house with a big idiotic grin on my face, occasionally shouting out 'I made soufflé!' but luckily that’s something only S had to endure.

Note: the recipe made enough for four portions and my ramekins were on the small side, so I had quite a bit leftover batter, which I used to experiment a bit. I tried little fluffy pancakes, scrambled eggs slash soufflé-omelette and crepes. None of the results were photogenic or blog-worthy, but encouraging nonetheless, not to mention rather tasty.

Sunday, 24 June 2007

my granny rocks!

She makes the best rice pudding ever. I put in my order with her three weeks ago, well in time for my quick weekend trip to Belgium.

After spending Friday night and Saturday morning in Brussels to catch up with my bestest friend A whom I hadn´t seen for ages (this catching up included a really good dark beer and a sweet breakfast of Portuguese pastries at Pastelaria Garcia), and a rainy Saturday afternoon of shopping in Antwerp and catching up with my mum, mum and I headed straight to my granny´s flat, where three lovely plates of rice pudding and freshly brewed coffee were awaiting us.

I have not yet managed to get a proper recipe out of my gran, but I do know she adds a good knob of butter to the milk and rice, doesn´t sweeten it at all (the sugar goes on top) and puts in a good spoonful of saffron threads, all of which results in heaven on a plate.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

a lovely green salad for HOTM #4

Because a girl can’t live on chocolate alone, right? And because green is my favourite colour. Even though I’m always posting sweet things, I love my vegetables. Except beetroot. And Brussels sprouts. And come to think of it, I’m not keen on red cabbage either. But these aside, I really really really love vegetables. So much so that I often get asked whether I’m a) on a diet or b) a vegetarian. The answers to these questions are no, and no. I just love vegetables. Simple as that.

My inspiration for this salad came from, ahem, a pre-packed M&S salad that contains edamame beans, rucola, sugar snaps and comes with a sweet chilli dressing. In my defence, it’s natural ingredients only and no colourants or preservatives. This salad is of course incredibly easy to make yourself (not to mention quite a bit cheaper than the shop-bought one) so that’s exactly what I’ve been doing recently.

I’m not adding a recipe, since it’s not rocket science. Just throw in whatever greens you have on hand – I’ve used peas, sugar snaps, French beans, asparagus, broad beans and soy beans in all possible combinations – and steam, grill or cook the greens to your liking. For the version I made yesterday I used asparagus (desperately hanging on to the very last ones of the season), broad beans and soy beans, which I boiled (afterwards I used the cooking liquid to make a vegetable soup) and dressed with a drizzle of olive oil, a twist of black pepper, a handful of parsley and some feta cheese crumbled over the top.

This salad tastes lovely all by itself, but it would go equally well as a side dish with grilled chicken or tuna, with bits of bacon in it (because according to some people everything tastes better with bacon and some people are absolutely right), perhaps with a nice lamb chop and roast baby potatoes, or whichever way you fancy. Just make sure you do eat this salad – it’s summery, yummy, crisp, healthy. And green.

This is my entry for Heart of the Matter #4: vegetables. The roundup will be posted on Joanna’s food and eating for life.

Monday, 18 June 2007

cookies for S*

* I was going to title this post ‘my name is Inne and I’m a chocoholic’ but I baked these cookies especially for S and I only ate the sorry unsightly one anyway. Plus another one, to make sure it tasted the same as the first one. And then a few more the next day, to see how the flavours had developed. Strictly for quality control purposes, really. Really!

Saturday I baked S a batch of choc chip cookies. Nothing fancy, just butter, sugar, flour and chocolate. Lots of chocolate. As I’ve mentioned before, S is very much a chocolate and vanilla kind of guy, and I thought he could do with a batch of these cookies to offset all the non-chocolate and vanilla things I make him eat so regularly.

There’s really not much to say about these cookies, except that they are extremely chocolate-y and also rather butter-y, with a crisp bite and large crumb. And they tasted even more chocolate-y the next day.

I was of course tempted to add cardamom to the cookie dough, or coffee, or maybe even some chilli flakes, but I successfully restrained myself. These cookies were for S after all. And based on the fact I saw him sneaking towards the cookie jar quite a few times and saying ‘mmmm, yummy’, licking his lips and patting his belly, methinks he liked them. Which is a good thing, because I’ve got lots of non-chocolate and vanilla recipes lined up for the next few weeks.

Very chocolate-y choc chip cookies
I searched the internet for a generic cookie recipe, tweaked it substantially and added tons of chocolate to it

100g unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
pinch of salt
½ cup chocolate (I used a mix of cocoa nibs, plain, milk and white, which I chopped into chunks myself)

cream butter and sugar together. Add salt, flour and cocoa powder and mix until the dough resembles bread crumbs/pebbles. Add the chocolate chips and shape into a log with your hands. Wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for at least one hour. Heat oven to 160˚C, cut log into discs and bake for about 15 minutes. Transfer to wire rack to cool. Enjoy.

Sunday, 10 June 2007

weekend shenanigans

No, I haven’t forgotton my little blog. Or the location of my kitchen. I have been rather busy though. Last Saturday S and I drove to Wiltshire for a friends’ wedding; beautiful countryside, cosy B&B, lovely ceremony and fun party. And while we were out there – we hardly ever manage to get out of London – we visited Stonehenge the day after the wedding and arrived back home in London Sunday evening. And that was the entire weekend gone, without so much as boiling water or toasting a slice of bread. Let alone making gourmet treats.

This weekend has also flown past, again without any baking. Renovating a house is hard work, not to speak of all the dust it generates and thus the amount of cleaning required. (which is totally pointless, because the dust is everywhere and settles back on the furniture as soon as you finish cleaning). Add grocery shopping and laundry to the DIY and cleaning, and that’s another bakeless weekend gone.

I would like to say thank you to everyone who has left any comments on my blog so far – it keeps on surprising me that people I don’t know actually read my ramblings. I never know whether or not I should answer each comment individually – if I do it might seem as if I’m trying to bump up my comment count, but if I don’t I might come across as rude?

So, thank you everyone for reading my blog and leaving comments. Due to a lack of baking pictures, here’s a nice picture of Stonehenge (taken by S). And I’ll be back soon with more baking – I’ve already got a few ideas for the next Sugar High Friday and July’s Monthly Mingle. But right now I’m going to scrub the paint off my arms, rinse the sanding dust out of my hair and enjoy a nice cold Cosmopolitan.