Friday, March 22, 2013

Cookbook Challenge #6 - Jamie Oliver’s Great Britain

My most recent challenge has a bit of a twist, a Jamie Oliver “twist”, that is!

Sur La Table is a high end national cookery supply store. They offer you everything from a $5 metal spatula to a $5,500 home coffee “center”. Along with their vast array of products, they offer classes
on all types of cooking, from entertaining to honing your knife skills to the finer points of cooking a soufflé. In short, think Williams-Sonoma meets Bed, Bath & Beyond and together, they have a classy love child who is dating Michael’s Arts & Crafts store.

Every once in awhile, I look over the listings at Sur La Table and other cooking schools and venues in the area to see if anything looks interesting. With this challenge I’ve given myself, there was a class that I just couldn’t pass up - “Great Food Inspired by Jamie Oliver”.

The class highlights recipes from Jamie Oliver’s Great Britain and takes you step by step to make a full meal in just about 2 hours. Here was the menu: Apple and Watercress Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing and Crushed Walnuts – Sizzling Lamb Lollipops – Crispy Roasted Fishcakes Wrapped in Bacon – Citrus Cheesecake Possets. And the kicker?  For the cost of the class you get a copy of the cookbook too!! How perfect is that? Never one to have fun alone if I could add a friend, I asked my sister to join me and we set off last Wednesday for a night of handmade British faire and maybe a new skill or two.

With cups of black tea in our hands and every kitchen instrument you could imagine at our fingertips, we set off to make the delectables on the menu. The class was amazing (see all my pictures below), the food was off the charts and the company was great. It was totally worth it and I can’t wait to sign up for the next one! Our instructor, Joel, said I could share with you my favorite recipe of the night, the Crispy Roasted Fishcakes Wrapped in Bacon.

Crispy Roasted Fishcakes Wrapped in Bacon

Preface from Jamie to the Sur La Table students: There are a few steps to make these fishcakes, but each step is dead easy and so worth it, because the end result just seems to make people happy (note from Heidi - H*ll’s yeah! And I’m not even a fish person, really). I think you have to accept that sometimes in life even something humble, like a fishcake, requires effort. The reaction to these fishcakes has been amazing, and interestingly, whenever homemade fishcakes are on a restaurant menu, they always sell. The difference with making your own is that you get flavors and texture suited to your own particular tastes. So I’ll happily give this recipe to you, knowing that a kid could make them... mine have, with a little help.

2 Small Leeks
A knob of butter*
1 whole nutmeg for grating
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 lb Yukon Gold potatoes
3 large free-range eggs
8 ounces smoked salmon, smoked trout or (even better!) a mixture of the two, roughly chopped**
2 fresh lemons
6 sprigs of fresh flat-leaf parsley picked and finely chopped
A few handfuls of all-purpose flour
6 slices of white bread, crusts removed
1 dried red chile
Olive oil
6 slices (rashers) of quality bacon
Watercress to serve

Heidi’s notes:
* Knob equals 2-3 Tablespoons, usually
** We used smoked white fish and it was very yummy!

Top and tail the leeks, then peel back the tough outer green leaves. Cut them lengthways, wash under the tap and finely slice. Put them into a large pan on medium heat with a knob of butter and a few scrapings of nutmeg, and season with salt and pepper. Cook gently with the lid on for around 25 minutes, or until softened, then take the pan off the heat and leave to cook.

While your leeks are cooking, peel the potatoes, halve or quarter them depending on their size and whack them into a pan of salted boiling water for about 15 minutes, or until cooked through and mashable. Drain them, then return them to the saucepan, smash them up so the mixture is smooth but also has chunks, and put to one side to cool down a bit. Crack eggs into a wide, shallow bowl, then carefully remove one of the yolks and stir into the potato mixture, followed by the sweet leeks and smoked fish. Add the zest of 1 whole lemon and the juice of half, and two-thirds of the parsley. Leave to one side.

Whisk up the eggs remaining in the bowl and tip into a shallow dish. Put a few handfuls of flour on a plate. Pulse the bread and chile in a food processor with a tiny swig of olive oil until you have coarse breadcrumbs, then stir in the remaining parsley and tip the crumbs on to another plate. Divide your fishcake mix into 6 little balls. Dust each one in flour, shaking off the excess, then dip them into the egg until completely coated. Let the excess drip off, them move them to the tray of flavored breadcrumbs. Wash your hands, and spend a bit of time patting, shaping and hugging them into nice-looking patties around 3/4-inch thick. Cover and leave in the fridge until you’re ready to cook them.

Preheat the oven and a large baking sheet to 425-degrees, with an oven rack positioned towards the top.

Lay the bacon rashers out side by side on a board and lay a sheet of plastic wrap over them. Using a rolling pin or a wine bottle to roll and stretch the rashers out a little bit lengthways so they’re longer and thinner (sounds cheffy, but it’s dead simple). Wrap one rasher around the circumference of each fishcake and secure with a cocktail stick. Place the fishcakes on the hot baking sheet and roast in the oven for around 30 minutes, or until golden and crispy. Serve hot from the oven, with some lemony dressed watercress and a few wedges of lemon for squeezing over.

Make 6 cakes


Highlights from the rest of the class:

My sister, Heather, psyched to start the class.

First Course:  Apple and Watercress Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing and Crushed Walnuts

Second Course: Crispy Roasted Fishcakes Wrapped in Bacon (see above)

Third Course: Sizzling Lamb Lollipops

Our instructor, Joel, with Heather and I getting ready to lolli some lamb...
(wait, that doesn't sound right...)

Here are the ingredients for the lamb lollipops and the three "dips".
We had a nice looking workstation, didn't we?

Lamb chops marinaded and into the hot pan!

Our workstation-mates, Inhwa and Hyokon, with Heather getting instructions on how NOT to get hot oil on yourself when you put a lamb chop into a hot pan.

Lamb lollipops on a bed of rice seasoned with herbs de Provence with trhee dipping sauces, a homemade taziki, a spicy salsa and a nut mix of crushed pistachios and blanched almonds.

How good does that lamb lollipop look?

Pudding Course: Citrus Cheesecake Possets

It's a very decieving name, bordering on lying - as there is no cheese in this cheesecake!  The citrus thickens the cream to make a cheesecake like consistency.

Three hands make light work of juicing an orange and a lemon

Graham cracker and almond "crust" with the vanilla citrus cream on top

The best part - someone else cleans the kitchen for you!!!

If you think that a class at Sur La Table looks fun, you can see if there is a location near you and what classes they are offering by visiting

Our class was at the Hell's Kitchen location in New York City.


Friday, March 15, 2013

Nigella Lawson's Chocolate Guinness Cake for St. Patrick's Day

My husband is Irish-American. 100% Irish on both sides, so as you can imagine, Saint Patrick's Day is an official holiday in our house. Now, we aren't the green beer and pot of gold Irish, we are the corned beef and shepherd's pie dinner at home type. There must be good beer, of course, but we make sure it's Guinness and Smithwicks with a round of Irish Coffee and Bushmills for an aperitif.

Since I first picked up Nigella Lawson's Feast in 2004, I have been making the Chocolate Guinness Cake religiously in celebration of the Irish Saint’s holiday. My husband and I starting dating again in 2005 (a story for another time), but I have been an avid Guinness drinker since 1997. The glorious elixir which a friend of mine dubbed "steak in a can" has been my beer of choice since I first tasted it when I studied in London for a summer. Chocolate Guinness cake is the perfect combination of chocolate and malt without being too sweet. The addition of a tangy sour cream icing balances cake and stout.

Now, I could have left out the fact that I have made this before (If you were to pick up my copy of Feast, it would open itself to the Chocolate Guinness Cake page) and make this a cookbook challenge post, but I just couldn't lie to you. Try it and you will want to add this recipe to your annual to do list!

Chocolate Guinness Cake
Adapted from Feast by Nigella Lawson

2 cups flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup Guinness stout beer
1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons butter, cut into chunks
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup sour cream
2 eggs
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1 batch Cream Cheese Icing (recipe below)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease 9" springform pan or grease and line the bottom of two 8" round pans with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl sift flour and baking soda together. Set aside.

In a large saucepan, mix butter and Guinness. Once butter is melted, whisk in sugar and cocoa powder. Turn off heat and set aside to cool slightly.

In a large bowl whisk together sour cream, eggs and vanilla. Whisk in cooled Guinness mixture. Slowly mix in flour mixture until everything is incorporated.

Pour into prepared pan(s). Bake for 45-60 minutes for the springform pan or 35-45 minutes for the two 8" pans or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Do not over bake.

Cool completely. Ice with cream cheese icing (below) to look like a foaming stout pint of Guinness, pun intended.

Serves 10-12

Cream Cheese Icing
8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 cup heavy cream

In a mixer, cream the cream cheese until smooth. Slowly add 1/2 powdered sugar then half the heavy cream. Mix until smooth. Add remaining powdered sugar and then heavy cream and continue to mix until smooth and spreadable.

As a side note, I have adapted the Guinness Cake recipe in more recent years by using Jameson Buttercream Icing and Bailey's Ganache instead of the cream-cheese icing to become what I have come to call St. Patrick's Day Cupcakes (also known as the Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes). But... I have to save something for St. Patrick's Day next year! 


Thursday, March 7, 2013

Cookbook Challenge #5 - Cakes Winning Recipes

This past weekend I hosted Ladies Night for the first time in my apartment. Ladies Night is a night once a month that the local ladies in my husbands family get together (sans kids and husbands) to eat appetizers, munch on desserts and chew on good conversation. Sometimes the cards come out or the quarters are pulled out for a fun game of Left, Right, Center.

We have been holding Ladies Nights as regularly as schedules allow for over 3 years. I previously lived just a little too far away to host at my house, but since I moved back to Queens, I've been close enough to host, but of course, it's taken me a year to do it.

Though I haven't hosted at my home to date, I am pretty regular in bringing a goodie or two. A the host for this month that doubled the pressure to make something yummy to share. With the help of my niece, who, much to her chagrin, is not old enough to be part yet, I made a few simple homemade goodies. We made fruit salsa with cinnamon chips my sister in law found on Pinterest (link) and, this week's cookbook challenge recipe, Blueberry Crumb Cake.

 Blueberry Crumb Cake
Adapted from Cakes Winning Recipes by Favorite Brand Name Recipe

2 cups flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder (yes, Tablespoon)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup milk
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), melted
2 eggs, beaten
2 Tablespoons lemon juice*
2 cups fresh blueberries**
Crumb topping (see recipe below)

* to use fresh juice, use the juice of 1 lemon.
** 2 cups frozen blueberries (thawed and drained) can also be used.

Prepare crumb topping and set aside.

Pre-heat oven to 375 F. Grease 13" X 9" baking dish.

Sift flour, baking powder, salt, and baking powder into a large mixing bowl. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together butter, sugar, milk, eggs and lemon juice. Pour wet mixture into the dry and mix until combined, being careful not to over mix it.

Pour batter into the baking dish. Sprinkle blueberries over the batter then sprinkle crumb topping over blueberries.

Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. If there is still a little giggle to the batter, no worries. As long as the toothpick comes out clean the cake will set as it cools, making a nice sponge. Do not overbake.

Serves 12-16

I mixed my blueberries in, DON'T do that - they all fall to the bottom.    

Crumb Topping Recipe

1/2 cup flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup walnuts, chopped (pecans can be used too)

In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients until mixture resembles coarse sand.

Excuse the blue color - that's my light in my kitchen.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Snack Works Recipe Rumble

It was another crazy Thursday in NYC. If you follow me on Instagram, you can see that I spent the day at a recipe contest.

The contest, called the Snack Works Recipe Rumble, was held at the Digitas, advertising agency that handles the account for the Mondelēz International Corporate (Snack Works parent company) and was open to agency employees and their friends. Thanks to my good friend, Cat, I was able to participate.

The rules of the contest were that you had to use at least two of the Snack Work products for an original recipe.  They would be judged and winners would walk away with a variety of prizes.  It sounded like so much fun, I just had to be part!

My recipe was for Premium Chocolate Toffee.  I didn't win, but I had a great time trying.  All the recipes were amazing and incredibly creative!  I'm so glad I got to be part of it.

I'm not going to share the recipe here (I'm going to link to it once it's on their website), but I would like to share some photos from yesterdays festivities.

I used four Snack Works products - Premium Saltine Crackers, Toberlone White, Green & Black's Organic Milk, and Milka Dark Chocolate Confections.

So, from this...

 ... to this!

 Simple, but this was my presentation for judging.

 This was Cat's submission - a wonderful orange, ginger, and chocolate biscuit. She served each judge a cup of STRONG coffee to complement the dense treat.

 All the recipe contestants were whittled down to 6 finalists.  During a final judging ceremony, Digitas set up a bar with three special drinks, each of which had to include a Snack Works product.

This was a Swedish Fish Martini - sweet & pretty much ALL Vodka.

This was a Whiskey Sour Patch Kid - sweet and tart with a bit of a burn, but in a good way.

 And the dessert of the drink world, a Chocolate Martini - cool and creamy with a kick.

Though we didn't win and prizes, after the party, there was nothing left but the porcelain.


Snowman Pancakes - Simple and Fun!

photo: Non-Foodie Foodie Over the summer we traveled the Ohio River Valley visiting family. One of our stops was to visit my Aunt Cathy...