Monday, 19 November 2012

Apple, Carrot, Almond and Sultana Shortbread

Catchy eh? When I went on Tastespotting recently, almost every other photo was an apple recipe. Particularly apple pie. Apple Crumble Bars, Blackberry Apple Tarts, Mini Apple Hand Pies, Apple Cake with Salted Caramel Icing…it went on and on. I took this as a clear (and hunger-inducing) sign to get baking and I have been – baked apples, stewed apples, apple crumb bars have all been made and thoroughly enjoyed, but for one reason and another not blogged. So it was out to the garden to pick some final rosy red apples, then back to the kitchen to continue on this Autumn baking bandwagon and finally get something appley on the blog.DSCF9170The name sounds overwhelming for what is an normally a very simple biscuit, but for some reason it works. It started off as Apple and Carrot shortbread, a Tamasin Day-Lewis recipe. I chucked in a handful of sultanas as I love the texture they bring to anything, and they emulated the flavours of carrot cake. I could have left it there, but when I tasted it they actual biscuit dough tasted quite bland –  perhaps as a result of the savoury carrot and relatively small quantity of sugar – and we didn’t have any vanilla, so in went the almond.DSCF9171My parents were quite snooty about these when I told them (me: I’ve made apple and carrot shortbread. My Dad: …was that a mistake?) but don’t be like them! I couldn’t really taste the carrot, and I think the apple just added extra sweetness and texture. Plus I like to think that the added fruit and veg makes these cookies ‘healthy’, meaning you can eat more! Enjoy :)

Apple, Carrot, Almond and Sultana Shortbread, adapted from Tamasin Day-Lewis

200g wholemeal flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
150g unsalted butter, room temperature
100g light brown sugar
50g carrot, grated (about 2 small carrots)
1 small apple, grated
1/2 tsp. almond extract
75g sultanas

1. Preheat the oven to 180’C or 350F. Sift the semolina, flour, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl, and set aside.

2. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Stir in the carrot, apple, almond extract and sultanas.

3. Add the the flour mixture into the butter mixture and stir until a dough forms and brings everything together. Wrap the dough in cling film and refrigerate for at least thirty minutes.

4. Roll the dough out onto a lightly floured surface to around 1cm thick. Stamp out shortbread biscuits, then place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies start to brown just a bit.

Makes about 20 cookies, depending on the size of your cutter.DSCF9169

Friday, 9 November 2012

Ruby Red Amaretti Crumble

Quite a fancy name for a crumble, but then it is a Nigella recipe and she is famed for her choices of phrase: chocolate digestives are crushed ‘until they look like dark Mexican mud’, chocolate cake is ‘a confection to exult in, not to regret’ and about peanut butter she says ‘Why, I feel the urge to just rub it all over my body!’ So in retrospect, she went pretty easy on this dish. Plus, this is so good it deserves a glamorous title. In essence, its a Plum, Orange and Amaretti Crumble but its probably the best crumble I’ve ever tried. Apple Crumble is good, the deep purple of Apple and Blackberry even better. Peach is nice in the summer and Pineapple for something a little bit different. But trust me, none are as good as this!DSC_0214The changes that make it stand out are small but effective. The plums are cooked lightly first in a bit of sugar, orange juice and zest to give it a little brightness, make the whole thing smell gorgeous and infuse it with orange. Crushed amaretti crumbs are sprinkled over the plums once they’re in the dish, and then a whole heap more are stirred into the crumble mixture. The combination works so well and smells absolutely intoxicating! We made another one for a friend shortly after ours was all gone, and it proved very tricky to give it away without diving in. With heaps of cream, a rainy evening and the finale of Downton Abbey this crumble made the perfect Sunday night. You can find the recipe here (as well as watch Nigella make it in her classic style) – try it and you might become like my family, planning to add amaretti to every single crumble in the future. Enjoy!DSC_0225

An Edible Mosaic's Virtual Book Launch Party

I’m so excited to be part of this online event, a virtual book launch for the wonderful Faith of the blog An Edible Mosaic and her new debut cook book, An Edible Mosaic: Middle Eastern Fare with Extraordinary Flair. Middle Eastern cuisine is one I have very much enjoyed eating, but am yet to do much cooking of, and so I’m sure the 100+ recipes (mainly from the Levant) in the book will be fascinating and keep me busy for a long time! I always enjoy reading Faith’s blog and learning about new recipes and flavours, so I’m sure the book would be great, and the photos I’ve seen show its a pretty stunning one too. Can’t wait to get it and start experimenting. The recipe Faith chose for us all to make for the virtual book launch event was Saffron Rice with Golden Sultanas and Pine Nuts which I thought was a clever idea as then everybody can twist it up to suit them and pair it with a million different dishes. I skipped the golden sultanas, simply because I didn’t have any in the house, and my family had the dish with Green Chicken Curry. I know blending these dishes is quite unusual, not exactly a traditional combination, but they still both tasted good! I don’t think my photos of the rice could really do it justice, a sit was a classic dark November evening and my hungry family ate super quickly, so I’ll use the lovely one from the book:Saffron Rice with Golden Raisins and Pine NutsAs I expected, the rice was very tasty. I don’t often make interesting side dishes, sticking to plain rice and simple vegetables, so it was fun to make something a little bit different and more complex as an accompaniment.  I loved the deep nuttiness of the toasted pine nuts against the sweet onion and soft rice and this combination is definitely something I’ll remember in the future as it was so simple but effective. I definitely recommend heading over to the book launch to see what everybody did with recipe, and if you’d also like to learn more about Middle Eastern cooking the book is available on Amazon. I’ll leave you with the recipe…

Saffron Rice with Golden Raisins and Pine Nuts


Recipe courtesy of An Edible Mosaic: Middle Eastern Fare with Extraordinary Flair by Faith Gorsky (Tuttle Publishing; Nov. 2012); reprinted with permission.

Serves 4 to 6

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 20 minutes, plus 15 minutes to let the rice sit after cooking

1½ cups (325 g) basmati rice, rinsed
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons pine nuts
1 onion, finely diced
4 tablespoons sultanas (golden raisins)
1¾ cups (425 ml) boiling water
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon saffron threads (or ½ teaspoon turmeric)

1. Soak the rice in tepid water for 10 minutes; drain. While the rice is soaking, put half a kettle of water on to boil.

2. Add the oil to a medium, thick-bottomed lidded saucepan over medium heat. Add the pine nuts and cook until golden brown, about 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Transfer the pine nuts to a small bowl and set aside.

3. Add the onion to the saucepan you cooked the pine nuts in, and cook until softened and just starting to brown, about 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the rice and cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the sultanas, boiling water, salt, and saffron (or turmeric), turn the heat up to high, and bring it to a rolling boil.

4. Give the rice a stir, then cover the saucepan, turn the heat down to very low, and cook until tender, about 10 minutes (do not open the lid during this time). Turn the heat off and let the rice sit (covered) 15 minutes, then fluff with a fork.

5. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle the toasted pine nuts on top; serve.