Friday, April 29, 2011

The Royal Wedding Dinner Menu

Steak with whisky? Lamb and mint sauce? Banana pudding? Or completely Vegan? The menu for the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton is a closely guarded state secret, but one thing is assured, it will be very British. "We wouldn't really go into any of the specifics for the big day but we always concentrate on showing off the best of British produce, so your bets are safe on that," said Mark Flanagan, chief chef for Queen Elizabeth II. Over 300 guests have been invited to the evening meal and dance to be hosted by Prince Charles on the evening of April 29, hours after the couple wed at London's Westminster Abbey.

While there's been no official word on the menu, it may be not too hard to guess what the royals might be eating, after all, many of the dishes have been on the menu for hundreds of years. Legend has it, for example, that the Queen only allows one cake to be made at Buckingham palace, a rich chocolate sponge and ganache recipe that dates back to Queen Victoria. And speculation is that, given young William's fondness for eating out, a celebrity chef might be making an appearance. But, according to the man who cooked for William growing up, it isn't likely the young prince and his bride will be serving guests many trendy menu items.

Chef Darren McGrady was a chef at Buckingham Palace for 11 years before he became Diana's private chef in Kensington after she split from Charles."I think they'll have as the first course some sort of salad with a terrine. I know that one of the most popular is the Gleneagles Pate, which is like a terrine of smoked trout, smoked salmon and smoked mackerel pate".

Gleneagles Paté

"For the entree, I would see Gaelic Steaks, Tenderloin Steaks in a Whisky Mushroom Sauce, or an Organic Lamb from Highgrove", the farm of Prince Charles.

Beef Tenderloin with a Whiskey Mushroom Sauce

In 1986, a Rack of Lamb with Mint Sauce was cooked up for the wedding of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson. McGrady, who has also been personal chef to the queen, speculated on "a Banana Flan, a sort of sugar paste and creme patissiere inside with sliced bananas and apricot jelly" for dessert. "When I cooked for Prince William, his favourite dessert was banana flan," recalled McGrady. "Whenever he came over at weekends, he would ask for banana flan. The queen likes it, and he still does."

Banana Flan

The unmissable "fruitcake" will then follow. Steaks, fruitcake, tea biscuits: the meal will be as British as possible, admitted Darren McGrady. However, according to a report that came out on April Fool's day, it's quite possible that the menu could be entirely vegan, following the Queen's review of the multi-cultural nature of the Royal Wedding guest list. Because there are so many guests from different cultures with different religious and ethical dietary requirements, the most sensible solution is to go totally plant based to avoid diplomatic embarrassment with a Hindu dignitary eating beef or a Muslim Sultan eating pork. So the Queen's head chef, Mark Flanagan, is now working on a 100% vegan royal wedding menu but still with a 'best of British' theme. But as Chef Flanagan admits, the menu has still not been set, and could change at anytime. One thing is for sure, Flanagan and his staff are determined that every mouth-watering morsel will be perfect for the future King of England and his new bride — the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge!

Gleneagles Pate
Makes 8 to 10 servings

2 pounds smoked salmon, thinly sliced and divided
1 pound smoked trout
6 sticks (1 1/2 pounds) unsalted butter, softened and divided
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh dill
1 tsp lemon juice
1 pound smoked mackerel
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh chives

Line a 1-pound loaf tin or pâté terrine with plastic wrap, overlapping the sides. Take half of the smoked salmon and line the sides and bottom of the loaf tin. Overlap the top edge by about 2 inches so that the salmon will fold over and cover the filling once it is in place.

Remove and discard the skin from the smoked trout, and then place the trout in a food processor and chop finely; add 2 sticks (1/2 pound) of the butter to the processor. Blend again until smooth and add the chopped dill and lemon juice. Carefully spread the trout mixture into the loaf tin on top of the smoked salmon and smooth the top. Place the loaf tin in the freezer for 10 minutes while you prepare the second layer.

Clean the food processor bowl. Remove and discard the skin from the mackerel, and place the mackerel into the food processor; chop finely. Add 2 sticks butter and blend until smooth. Take the loaf tin from the freezer, and spread the mackerel mixture smoothly on top of the trout layer without disturbing the trout layer. Place the loaf tin in the freezer for 10 minutes while you prepare the third layer.

Clean the food processor bowl once again and place the remaining smoked salmon into the food processor and chop finely. Add the remaining 2 sticks of butter and the chives to the processor, and blend again until smooth. Remove the loaf tin from the freezer, and spread the smoked salmon on top of the mackerel. Smooth the top.

Fold the overlapping pieces of smoked salmon over the top layer of the salmon spread. Cover the top with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight, or for at least 4 hours, until firm.

Remove the loaf tin from the refrigerator, and lift off the top plastic wrap. Invert the terrine onto a cutting board and remove the loaf tin and additional plastic wrap. Slice the terrine into 1-inch slices. Serve on salad leaves as an appetizer or slice the terrine into fingers and serve on crackers as a canapé.

Banana Flan
Serves 6

4 ripe bananas
½ cup apricot jelly

For the filling:
5 egg yolks
1 egg
1 ½ cups milk
½ cup heavy cream
¾  cup granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
¼ cup of cornstarch
pinch of salt
1 tbsp unsalted butter, softened

For the pastry:
6 ounces sugar
14 ounces butter
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 lb all purpose flour

To prepare the pastry: In a food processor add the sugar, butter, egg and vanilla paste. Pulse until smooth and then add the flour. Tip out onto a floured surface and mix to form a smooth dough. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Roll out the pastry to about ¼ inch thick and line a 9 inch flan ring. Refrigerate for about 45 minutes. Blind bake using baking beans to hold the shape of the paste until the pastry shell is firm and golden brown. Remove from the oven, remove the baking beans and set aside.

To prepare the filling: In a heavy saucepan bring the milk and cream to the boil. Put the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl and whisk together.

Pour the milk over the egg mixture and whisk and when the milk is incorporated pour the whole contents of the bowl back into the pan and return to the heat. Continue whisking the pastry cream until it thickens (about 4 minutes) and then remove from the heat and spoon into the baked pastry shell.

Slice the bananas into ¼ inch discs and arrange neatly on top of the warm filling. Bring the apricot jelly to a boil in a small pan and brush over the top of the bananas.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Royal Wedding: William's Chocolate Biscuit Cake

The lid has finally been lifted on what Prince William and Kate Middleton have planned for their Royal Wedding — the couple announced that they will be having more than one wedding cake, they’ll be eating two. Celebrity cake designer, Fiona Cairns has been commissioned to create the main cake, which is a multi-tiered traditional fruit cake. The second cake is less formal. It’s a Chocolate Biscuit Cake which is said to be Prince William’s childhood favourite. However, Princess Diana's personal chef Darren McGrady has announced that he holds the key to Prince William's Royal Wedding cake recipe. When many are speculating about the ingredients of Chocolate Biscuit Cake, McGrady offers the true recipe in his cookbook 'Eating Royally'. 

Darren McGrady's cookbook 'Eating Royally'

"I was thrilled to learn that Prince William had chosen the Chocolate Biscuit Cake recipe from my book Eating Royally: Recipes and Remembrances from a Palace Kitchen, for his wedding cake because it is also his grandmother's favorite cake," says McGrady.  "I used to prepare it for both of them when they had tea together. The Queen would request the cake in the menu book for Sunday tea when she knew her grandson William would be joining her from Eton." 

Chef Darren McGrady

William asked British biscuit maker McVitie’s, who have made several wedding cakes for the royal family before, to produce the cake according to a special recipe from the kitchen at Buckingham Palace, containing Rich Tea biscuits and dark chocolate. The mixture is set in the freezer rather than baked and will use a whopping 1,700 biscuits and nearly 40lb of chocolate.

Cake Design and Development Head Chef Paul Courtney 
tastes a trial biscuit cake at the McVitie's factory, which is being made 
as an alternative royal wedding cake

The cake for the reception will consist of 1,700 biscuits and nearly 40 lbs. of chocolate. McVitie's has been given the recipe for the concoction, although there are some mysteries associated with the royal version. "It has a couple of secret ingredients we can’t tell you about but it will have dark chocolate, to give it a really nice flavor, and use Rich Tea biscuits that will be broken up," according to Paul Courtney, McVite's development head chef. "It will be decorated with chocolate display work which will be contemporary, modern and elegant. The company will be serving "a few hundred" slices for the party guests at the Royal Wedding Reception. 

Prince Williams Chocolate Biscuit Cake
Serves 8-10
Recipe courtesy of Darren McGrady 'Eating Royally'

1/2 tsp butter, for greasing pan
8 ounces 'McVities' rich tea or 'Digestive' biscuits
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 ounces good dark chocolate
1 egg, beaten
8 ounces good dark chocolate, for icing
1 ounce good white chocolate, for decoration

Optional (my suggestion):
2oz whole walnuts
2oz sultanas
2oz maraschino cherries

Lightly grease a small 6" x 2 1/2" cake ring with 1/2 teaspoon butter, and place on a parchment-lined tray. Break each of the biscuits into almond-sized pieces by hand and set aside. Cream the butter and sugar in a bowl until the mixture is a light lemon colour.

Melt the 4 ounces of dark chocolate in a double boiler. Add the butter and sugar mixture to the chocolate, stirring constantly. Add the egg and continue stirring. Fold in the biscuit pieces until they are all coated with the chocolate mixture.

Add the walnuts, sultanas and cherries for a fuller flavoured cake, if you desire.

Spoon the chocolate biscuit mixture into the prepared cake ring. Try to fill all of the gaps on the bottom of the ring, because this will be the top when it is unmolded. Chill the cake in the refrigerator for at least three hours.

Remove the cake from the refrigerator, and let it stand while you melt the 8 ounces of dark chocolate for icing. Slide the ring off the cake and turn the cake upside down onto a cooling rack. 

Pour 8 ounces of melted dark chocolate over the cake, and smooth the tope and sides using a butter knife or offset spatula. Allow the chocolate icing to set at room temperature. Carefully run a knife around the bottom of the cake where it has stuck to the cooling rack, and transfer the cake to a cake dish. Melt the white chocolate and drizzle on top of the cake in a decorative pattern.

Serve chilled.

Princess Diana'a Bread Butter Pudding
Makes 8 servings

12 slices of white bread (8 into triangles, 4 into cubes)
4 oz softened unsalted butter
9 egg yolks
5 oz caster sugar
1 vanilla pod
5 fl oz milk
15 fl oz double cream
3 oz raisins
3 oz flaked almonds (toasted)
4 tablespoons of Amaretto or Cointreau
1 oz extra caster sugar (for the top of the pudding)
1 teaspoon of Icing sugar

Soak the raisins the night before in the Amaretto and cover with cling film. Leave at room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 350degrees.

Grease a 3 pint dish with butter.

Remove the crusts and butter the bread.

Whisk the egg yolks and the 6 oz caster suger in a bowl together.

Split the vanilla pod and put in a pan with the milk and cream, then bring to a simmer and pour onto the egg yolks, stirring all the time.

Remove the vanilla pod, scraping the seeds into the custard and discard the pod.

Cut a quarter of the bread into 1/2 inch cubes and place in the bottom of the dish. Then top with the raisins adding the juices too. Finish with the remaining bread cut into triangles and arranged on top of the fruit.

Pour the warm egg mixture over the bread making sure all of the bread is coated.

Leave to soak into the bread for 20 minutes.

Place in the oven in a roasting tray 3/4 full of hot water. Cook for about 30 minutes. It will only set like custard because of using egg yolks and no whites.

Remove from the oven and roasting tray and sprinkle with the extra sugar. Then put under the grill until the sugar starts to caramelize.

Sprinkle with the toasted flaked Almonds and dust with icing sugar.

The pudding is now ready to serve. I usually serve it just warm with homemade cinnamon or lavender ice cream and a compote of berries – and lots of heavy cream of course.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Royal Wedding Cake: Fiona Cairns

Prince William and Kate Middleton, who each are known for their sweet tooth, have chosen Leicestershire baker Fiona Cairns to bake their wedding cake. The royal couple chose Cairns for her use of traditional British ingredients and creative style. Fiona says the cake is a traditional wedding fruit cake with a modern twist! There will be lots of lattice & scroll work and she has been given a list of 16 flowers to incorporate into the cake in one way or another. 

The final Wedding Cake delivered to Buckingham Palace

The finished cake will of course be multi-tiered, with a simply but stylish white and cream scheme. Fiona sums the cake up as being traditional, delicate, modern with a vintage element. The cake will also be decorated with the couple's new cipher, most likely made up of their initials, which will be unveiled for the first time on the big day. 

Fiona Cairns is also a celebrated cookbook author

Prince Charles' godson and Camilla's son Tom Parker Bowles, who is a food writer, editor and author, says, "Fiona Cairns makes cakes that taste superb and look amazing. They’re handmade and elegantly decorated". At her bakery in Leicestershire, Cairns explained that each of the tiers of icing-covered, brandy-flavored fruitcake will have a different theme. Detailed piping is being used to make 3-D scrollwork, flowers, leaves and other decorative touches, while the flowers of the four corners of the U.K. will be represented by the English rose, Scottish thistle, Welsh daffodil and Irish shamrock. 

Cairns sent samples of different fruit cakes to William and Kate, who chose their favorite, and she has now started baking to allow the cakes the necessary four weeks to mature. Mrs Cairns added: "I can’t tell you exactly the recipe, but the brandy is very important. We always soak our fruits overnight to plump them up. This is exactly the same method you would use at home if you were making a fruit cake – we just use bigger batches." Trained as a graphic designer and as a pastry chef, Cairns started her business from her kitchen 25 years ago, and now produces over 750,000 cakes a year for clients including Harrods, Selfridges, Fortnum & Mason and Sainsbury's. She has made cakes for celebrities including Bono and Sinead O'Connor, and supplies Sir Paul McCartney with a specially commissioned Christmas cake every year. In addition, the couple have also asked McVitie's Cake Company to create a chocolate biscuit cake for the reception at Buckingham Palace. 

Fiona Cairns Pansy Wreath Cake
Serves 6

This lemon cake is so summery with its circlet of violas and pansies. In spring it would look equally pretty decorated with crystallised primulas, says Fiona Cairns.

175g unsalted butter, softened, plus more for the tin
175g self-raising flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten

175g golden caster sugar
the zest, finely grated, and juice of
1 large unwaxed lemon

For the topping:
the juice of 1 large lemon
100g white granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4. Lightly butter an 18cm, 7.5cm deep, round springform tin and line the base and sides with baking parchment. Sift the flour with a pinch of salt into a bowl and set aside.
Melt the butter in a small pan and set aside to cool slightly. Using an electric whisk or mixer, beat the eggs and sugar together until very light and fluffy (about five minutes). Blend in the melted butter; then very gently fold in the flour and zest. Finally, slowly fold in the juice.
Pour the batter into the tin and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the cake springs back to the touch, or a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Meanwhile, make the crunchy topping by mixing the juice and sugar together. Immediately the cake comes from the oven, prick tiny holes all over it with a fine skewer or cocktail stick. Pour the lemon syrup evenly all over the surface. Leave to cool completely in the tin.

To decorate:
150g icing sugar, sifted
purple food colour
20-25 crystallised small violas and pansies (see recipe below)
50g bag white royal icing

Place the cake upside down on your serving plate or cake stand. Tip the icing sugar into a small bowl and add 1½-2 tablespoons of water and a tiny amount of purple food colour. The icing should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Spoon it over the cake and allow it to drizzle down the sides. Arrange the violas and pansies in a circle, using the royal icing to affix them, if you like, then place a few in the middle of the cake. It’s as simple as that.

Crystallized Flowers

Makes as many as you want. These should keep for up to a week in a dry place. Use unsprayed flowers that are completely dry.

egg white, lightly whisked
white caster sugar
edible flowers and leaves, such as whole roses or rose petals, violas, pansies, violets, mimosa, cowslips, pinks, primroses, lavender, sweet geranium leaves, mint leaves
a small paintbrush
florist’s wire (optional)

Line a baking sheet with parchment. Place the egg white in a bowl and the sugar in another. Hold the flower, petal or leaf at the base and paint with egg, ensuring you cover every fold. Gently sprinkle on the sugar, again making sure every surface is covered, then shake off the excess. If crystallising whole roses, push a fine florist’s wire through the base of the bloom then hook the wire over a tall glass. Leave overnight in a dry, warm place. The flower will dry while hanging. Lay petals or leaves on the lined sheet and leave overnight in a dry, warm place (an airing cupboard is ideal). They will harden in a few hours, becoming brittle. Store in an airtight container, lined and interleaved with baking parchment. They are very fragile, so make only a couple of layers.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Royal Wedding: Canapé & Champagne Reception

Much like the design of the bridal gown, the menu for Prince William and Kate Middleton's buffet-style wedding breakfast and details of Prince Charles' evening reception for 300, remain top secret. But Mark Flanagan, the Queen's head chef, has given a tantalising taste of what the newlyweds and their guests will be nibbling on at Buckingham Palace following the royal nuptials on April 29. The 600 guests invited back to Buckingham Palace after the royal wedding are expected to devour almost 10,000 canapes at the lunchtime reception hosted by Queen Elizabeth II, in the palace's spectacular state rooms.

The White Drawing Room, the grandest of the State Rooms overlooking the garden. 
A secret door leading to private rooms allows for a discreet Royal entrance.

Chef Flanagan has revealed that he and his 21-strong team, who produce 550 meals a day when the Queen is in residence, will use the event to showcase meat, game, vegetables and fruit from the monarch's estates. "We wouldn’t really go into any of the specifics for the big day, but we always concentrate on showing off the best of British produce," Mr Flanagan has confirmed. The canapés will be served with flutes of champagne as the guests start arriving at 12:30pm. William and his bride will mingle at the reception until 1:30pm, when they will break off to make an appearance on the balcony.

The Queen's Head Chef, Mark Flanagan

In the basement of Buckingham Palace, a team of 21 chefs will prepare the nearly 10,000 bite size canapes for the 600 guests that have invited to the reception. That's about 16 canapes each. The Royal Chef, Mark Flanagan says, "Any canape event is about fine detail at the last minute. There's a lot of preparation but there's lots that we would like to do earlier that we really can't do until we see the guests coming into the room. "It will be about double checking, triple checking and checking again and making sure that we've got everything in the right places." There will be 10 or 12 savory varieties and five or six sweet ones. Some will be hot, some will be cold, and all have been personally approved by Kate and William.

Sous chef Mark Stewart prepares a tray of Mini Yorkshire Puddings 
with Roast Beef and Horse Radish Cream 

The canapes will be laid out on trays and carried from the kitchens in the basement to the magnificent state rooms in the west wing overlooking the garden. Guests will be served Hugot & Clement truffle champagne, from a 1687 recipe, as a team of 60 hospitality staff wait on them attentively. Chef Flanagan says he and his 21-strong team at Buckingham Palace are excited about treating the 600 guests to canapés made from the best of British produce. 

Royal Chef Mark Flanagan prepares Bubble & Squeak Confit with Shoulder of Lamb

Cornish Crab & Apple on Lemon Blinis

Quails Eggs

Wilted Spring Onion & Watercress Mini Quiche

Mini Yorkshire Puddings with Roast Beef & Horseradish Cream

Handmade White Candies

He's keeping mum on the full menu for April 29, but the selection of canapés could include Smoked Salmon on a Beetroot Blini, Confit Duck-leg Terrine with Smoked Duck and Pear Chutney, Quails’ Eggs with Celery Salt, and Ragstone Goats Cheese with Caramelized Walnuts and Parmesan Crisp. Modern twists on old favourites, including Mini Roast Beef and Yorkshire Puddings and Bubble and Squeak Confits, and the very popular Croque-Monsieur, have also previously been served. The sweets may include Dark, Milk and White Truffles, Blood Orange Pate de Fruit and Raspberry Financiers. The whole day takes months of organising. "We start planning generally for events as far out as six months", explained Edward Griffiths, deputy master of the Royal Household. 

Smoked Salmon on Beetroot Blinis

For the blinis:
7 oz warm milk
3 oz melted butter plus extra butter for the pan
1 tsp yeast
2 large eggs
6 oz flour
1 small raw beetroot, finely grated
2 tsp grain mustard or a little freshly grated horseradish

To serve:
14 oz smoked salmon, cut into strips
7 oz crème fraiche
fresh dill or baby pea shoots

In a large bowl, mix the milk, butter, yeast and eggs. Beat the flour and half a teaspoon of salt, to make a smooth batter, then stir in the beetroot and mustard or horseradish.

Cover and leave at room temperature for an hour, until the mixture has risen.
Heat large non-stick pan and add a teaspoonful of butter. When the butter is sizzling, drop teaspoonfuls of the blini mixture into the pan. Cook until little bubbles form on the surface then turn and cook on the other side. Repeat with the rest of the mixture. For ultra-perfect canapés, cook large blinis and cut out circles with a cookie cutter.

Keep warm, covered with foil, in a low oven. Serve topped with a tiny dollop of sour cream, a curl of smoked salmon and a frond of dill or baby pea shoots.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Stratton Holland's Seville Orange Marmalade

Stratton Holland makes the best Orange Marmalade I've ever tasted. It's dark, robust, full flavoured and as Stratton quips, "It's cheeky!" Making jam and marmalade is a labour of love, but like all marmalade enthusiasts, purchasing the golden elixir off the shelf just isn't an option. "You can't buy decent marmalade, so you have to make it yourself." And that's exactly what Stratton has been doing every January for over thirty years. Each winter he searches out the elusive bumpy-skinned Seville Oranges that, due to their short growing season, are only available in shops for a limited time — if you blink, they're gone! Distinct from regular oranges, the high prized wonders originated in China and India more than 3000 years ago, and were later bought to Europe by Arab traders, and established in Andalucia around Seville, hence their name. 

Knobby aromatic seville oranges

Not surprisingly, there are dedicated Marmalade enthusiasts everywhere. In fact, each February at Dalemain House in Britain's Lake District, amateur and professional marmalade lovers from around the world enter to compete in the World’s Original Marmalade Awards & Festival, where a jar of home-made marmalade is awarded 1st prize for categories such as thin cut Seville Orange Marmalade, dark & chunky or even Clergy-made Marmalade! The winner also has the honour of being stocked by Fortnum & Mason, a staunch supporter and sponsor of the awards. This year over 1,100 jars were judged from submissions as far as Japan, Australia and the British Virgin Islands, with the 2011 'Best of Show' award for the citrusy confection going to Lord Henley, using a traditional orange recipe of his mothers.

The closing dates for next year's submissions for the World's Best Marmalade is February 19 and I'm hoping that Stratton decides to enter his famous Seville Orange Marmalade for 2012, and give Lord Henley a run for his title!

Stratton's famous homemade Seville Orange Marmalade

Stratton's Famous Seville Orange Marmalade
Makes about 6 pots

3 lb seville oranges
2 lemons
2 pints water
3 lb sugar

1 piece of cheesecloth, about 18" round
Large heavy bottomed saucepan
10 canning jars

In a large pot of boiling water, soften oranges for 10 minutes and lemons for 15 minutes. Remove the fruit, retaining 2 pints of the water for the recipe.

Cut the oranges and lemons in halves, and juice them one by one, adding the juice to the 2 pints of water. As you juice the oranges and lemons, save the pips and put them aside in a separate cheesecloth-lined bowl. The seeds and membrane will be used for making pectin.

Using a sharp knife, slice the orange and lemon halves into thin strips, paring off all of the pith, and add this pith to the bowl of pips. Place the orange and lemon peel strips in a blender with a little water, and process to desired consistency. The smaller the pieces, the finer the marmalade.

Put the ground peel and reserved water in a large thick-bottomed saucepan. Remove the cheesecloth, with all of the pith and pips, and tie it up tightly with string. Place the bag in the saucepan and secure the string to one of the handles. As the mixture cooks, the pectin from the pith and pips will be extracted into the marmalade.

Heat the mixture. Add the sugar and stirring slowly, bring to a boil. Then simmer until it sets, about 2 1/2 hours, during which time the marmalade will reduce and the flavours will intensify. To test that the marmalade is set, pour a little bit onto a chilled plate and if it wrinkles up, it's done. If it doesn't, continue cooking until it's ready.

Once the marmalade is set, let the mixture cool slightly then remove the cheesecloth bag and squeeze it repeatedly to release all of the pectin-rich liquid, and add to the orange marmalade.

To store the marmalade, ladle the mixture into sterilized jam jars. Enjoy!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Profiteroles with Chocolate Sauce

Everyone loves profiteroles. A classic french dessert made using warm choux pastry, these light and delicate little pastry puffs are filled with fresh cream, custard or ice cream and traditionally covered with a lovely warm chocolate sauce. Profiteroles can also be grouped together to create a spectacular Croquembouche, which is made by stacking cream puffs together in a tall cone shaped pyramid and bound together with sticky toffee. French pastry chef Antoine Careme is credited with creating the first Croquembouche in the late 1700s, however cream puffs had been on the scene long before. 

And no wonder, profiteroles are incredibly easy to make, require few ingredients and can be made ahead of time. Butter, water and sugar are cooked over a gentle heat with some flour and salt, until a smooth paste is formed, after which the mixture is left to cool slightly until the eggs are added, and then the 'choux' is dropped, or piped, onto a baking sheet and baked. Once cool, the puffs are filled with cream and drizzled with warm chocolate sauce. The only real challenge is eating profiteroles without getting cream and chocolate everywhere, but that's most of the fun!

Profiteroles with Chocolate Sauce
Makes 20-24

7 oz cold water
½ tsp sugar
3 oz unsalted butter
pinch salt
4 oz plain flour
4 medium eggs, beaten

For the cream filling:
2 1/2 cups double cream
1 tbsp icing sugar

For the chocolate sauce:
½ oz butter
1 tsp vanilla
4 tbsp water
6 oz good quality milk or dark chocolate, broken into pieces

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

To make the pastry, place the butter, water and sugar into a large saucepan.
Place over a low heat to melt the butter. Increase the heat and add the flour and salt. Remove from the heat and quickly beat the mixture until it forms a smooth paste, stirring continuously. Once the paste curls away from the side of the pan, transfer the mixture into a large bowl and leave to cool for 10-15 minutes.

Beat in the eggs, a little at a time, stirring vigorously until the paste is smooth and glossy. Continue adding the egg until you have a soft dropping consistency. It may not be necessary to add all the egg. The mixture will be shiny and smooth and will fall reluctantly from a spoon if it is given a sharp jerk.

Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Dip a teaspoon into some warm water and spoon out a teaspoon of the profiterole mixture. Rub the top of the mixture with a wet finger and spoon on to the baking tray. This ensures a crisper topping.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown, if too pale they will become soggy when cool.

Remove from the oven and prick the base of each profiterole. Place onto the baking tray with the hole facing upwards and return to the oven for 5 minutes. The warm air from the oven helps to dry the middle of the profiteroles.

Prepare the filling: lightly whip the cream and icing sugar until soft peaks form. Do not overwhip. When the profiteroles are cold, cut them in half and using a piping bag with a plain nozzle, pipe the cream into the middles. Alternatively, 
you may also enjoy filling them with small scoops of vanilla ice cream.

Prepare the chocolate sauce: melt the chocolate with the water, butter and vanilla over a pan of boiling water. Stir without boiling until smooth and shiny.

Arrange the profiteroles as you wish on a lovely serving dish and pour or drizzle the hot sauce over top. If you're feeling courageous, you can try and build a pyramid for a true Croquembouche. Profiteroles can be enjoyed either warm or cold, but are best served the day they're made.

COOK'S NOTE: For éclairs, instead of making ball shapes, pipe long 3-4" lines and follow the same filling procedure as for profiteroles. As an hors d'oeuvre you could also substitute the classic sweet filling for a savoury one, like Salmon mousse with tiny slices of smoked salmon wedged inside, chicken with mushroom sauce...

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Crab and Spinach Spring Rolls

Spring rolls are the chameleon of Asian cuisine. Crispy, crunchy and enormously satisfying, they make great appetizers and are surprisingly easy to prepare. They can be made using all kinds of ingredients, such as fresh vegetables, chicken, pork, shrimp and seafood — or even grilled bananas garnished with chocolate sauce! The possibilities are endless. 

Brimming with with flavour, this recipe for Crab and Spinach Spring Rolls is a new variation on the traditional Asian classic. Lovely served on their own with cocktails, or as an inspired first course with microgreens and shaved peppers, they can also be served alongside a hot bowl of Curried Sweet Potato and Coconut Soup, a wonderfully fragrant and velvety smooth soup that was featured on yesterday's blog. Traditionally served around Chinese New Year, known as the Spring Festival, these Crab and Spinach Spring Rolls are a popular appetizer and delicious anytime of the year.

Fresh crab from a Luang Prabang market in Laos

Crab and Spinach Springrolls
Makes 8 rolls

1 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tsp Dijon mustard
8 oz. fresh or canned crabmeat
1 tbsp cilantro
4 oz. fresh spinach, wilted and chopped
8 springroll wrappers
1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tsp water
sunflower oil
salt and white pepper

Place the mayonnaisein a
small bowl and beat in the mustard. Finely flake the crabmeat with a fork, removing any pieces of shell or cartilage as you go, then add to the mustard mayonnaise mixture. Add the cilantro and chopped spinach. Stir well to combine and season to taste.

Place a spring roll wrapper at an angle on a chopping board so that one of the corners points towards you. Brush around the edges with egg wash and then spoon about a tablespoon of the crab filling in a line near the top corner. Fold over to enclose and then roll it towards you a little. Fold in the sides and continue to roll up into a nice cylinder shape. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and repeat with the remaining ingredients until you have eight spring rolls in total. Lightly brush with the remaining egg wash and chill for 30 minutes.

When ready to serve, pour enough of the oil into a deep-sided pan to a depth of 2-3" and heat until a small piece of white bread turns golden brown in about 30 seconds. Deep-fry the spring rolls for 3-4 minutes or until crisp on all sides and lightly golden. Drain well on kitchen paper. Using a sharp knife, slice each roll in half on a diagonal and set on a serving plate with a garnish of baby greens and a drizzle of hot chili sauce. Serve hot with the Curried Sweet Potato Leek and Coconut Soup. And for dessert...

Banana Chocolate Spring Rolls
Serves 8

8 large 7" square spring roll wrappers
4 small ripe bananas
1 cup brown sugar
sunflower oil

Peel and slice the bananas in half lengthwise, then crosswise into fourths. Place on piece of banana diagonally across the corner of a spring roll wrapper and sprinkle with brown sugar to taste. Roll from the corner to the centre, then fold top and bottom corners in, and continue rolling. Dip your fingers in water and brush the last edge to seal. Repeat with the remaining banana pieces.

When ready to serve, pour enough of the oil into a deep-sided pan to a depth of 2-3" and heat until a small piece of white bread turns golden brown in about 30 seconds. Deep-fry a few of the the spring rolls at a time for about 3-4 minutes or until crisp on all sides and evenly golden. Drain well on kitchen paper. Serve hot or cold garnished with some chocolate sauce or whipped cream. OMG — they are mouth wateringly delicious!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Curried Sweet Potato and Coconut Soup

This flavourful Curried Sweet Potato & Coconut Soup is a delightful variation on the classic Potato Leek Soup, or Vichyssoise. A wonderfully exotic and fragrant twist on the traditional favourite, this recipe uses coconut milk rather than whipping cream, which lends a light and healthy asian flavour to this brightly coloured all-weather soup. A nutritional superstar, sweet potatoes are excellent for you. Chocked full of vitamins, iron, calcium and dietary fibre, they are also delicious, and create a rich and satisfying, silky smooth starter to any meal.  

As they cook, the sweet potatoes, leeks and celery become infused with an aromatic blend of curry powder, cinnamon and ginger, creating a fragrant aroma throughout the kitchen. The mixture then simmers with chicken stock and coconut milk until the potatoes become soft. Blended to a delicious velvety consistency, the soup is then garnished with a drizzle of coconut cream, a grating of nutmeg and flurry of chives. This recipe for Curried Sweet Potato & Coconut Soup is easy to make and unbelievably good anytime of the year, both hot or cold. Served with a platter of Crabmeat and Spinach Springrolls, you've got the beginnings of a true Indonesian feast! 

Curried Sweet Potato & Coconut Soup

Serves 8

2 large sweet potatoes
2 leeks, white and light green bulb only, thinly sliced
1 can coconut milk
4 cups chicken stock
2 celery stalks
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
salt and white pepper to taste
3 tbsp olive oil

fresh scallions, chopped, for garnish
freshly grated nutmeg, for garnish

Clean and thinly slice the white part of the leek. Cut the sweet potatoes into cubes and chop the celery. In a saucepan heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil and add the leek, celery, garlic and ginger. Sauté until fragrant and the leek is getting soft, then add the curry powder and cinnamon and sauté a few more minutes. Add the sweet potatoes and stock, and bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes until potatoes are soft. Blend with either immersion blender or in a standing blender until smooth. Add the coconut milk and more stock until the soup gets to desired consistency; heat through. Garnish with some coconut cream, chives and a grating of nutmeg. Serve hot.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Jean's Luscious Lemon Squares

My friend Jean is the best baker I know. Approaching 92 she's had a few years to get it right. Her appetizer and dessert recipes are exceptional. One of my favourite desserts that she makes are her Lemon Squares. They're like a burst of sunshine, a little sweet but enough lemon juice to make your cheeks pucker.

Jean's Lemon Squares
Makes about 20


½ cup unsalted butter
¼ cup icing sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
½ tsp salt

2 large eggs, beaten
1 cup white sugar
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 lemon, juice and zest

Preheat oven to 350°F. To make the pastry: blend the first four ingredients together and pat into a buttered 8” square baking dish. Bake for 20 minutes or until the pastry becomes a creamy color. To make the topping: In a medium size bowl, add all of the topping ingredients together and mix to combine. Pour the mixture over the baked base and bake 15-20 minutes, or until set. While warm, dust the top with icing sugar. To serve, cut into squares.