Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Sprout & pomegranate pilaff

Sprout & Pomegranate Pilaff
I am not a sprout lover.  Over-boiled, cabbagey, dull little bullets are really not my thing, but a bag of them turned up in my vegetable box this week and I was determined to make something tasty with them.

The internet yielded some interesting recipes, all claiming to convert sprout-haters to sprout-o-philes in the blink of an eye.  Heidi Swanson's recipe involved both frying and cheese, which seemed like it could be promising.  I decided to fry off the sprouts til golden as Heidi does, and then add soy sauce to the hot pan, giving a salty intensity to the earthy veg.  I then stirred them through a simple rice pilaff with some pomegranate seeds for juice and colour.  A hefty dusting with grated parmesan and I was converted. 

Sprout & pomegranate pilaff (serves 1)


12 small sprouts, washed, ends trimmed and any grotty outer leaves removed
1 tbsp olive oil
65ml brown rice, measured in a jug or cup (I like Tilda wholegrain Basmati)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
130ml stock
1 tbsp soy sauce
A handful of pomegranate seeds
Grated parmesan, to taste


1. Halve the sprouts and toss in the olive oil.
2. Heat the vegetable oil in a large saucepan.  When hot, add the rice and stir around until you start to hear it pop.
3. Add the stock to the rice.  Bring up to a simmer, cover the saucepan with a teatowel and then the lid.  Cook for 15mins without opening the lid to peek!  If lots of steam is coming out, turn the heat down.
4. Heat a frying pan and when hot, add the oiled sprout halves to the pan, flat side down.  Put a lid over the frying pan so that the sprouts steam in their own juices for around 5 minutses.
5. Once the sprouts are steamed, take the lid off the frying pan and stir them around to get some browned crispiness on the rounded sides too.  Splash over the soy sauce.  Leave to rest in the hot pan until the rice is cooked.
6. Stir the sprouts and pomegranate seeds through the rice.  Season and add parmesan.

It also occurred to me that this might be nice with walnuts or toasted pine nuts sprinkled through.  Who knew sprouts could be so tasty?  Sign me up to Sprout-a-holics Anonymous!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

How to make the perfect meringue

What makes a perfect meringue?  In my view, it's a light crispy shell leading to a chewy, teeth-sticking interior.  If it can look pretty too, then that's a bonus.  Meringues are great for pavlovas, or just to ladle fruit over, and are the perfect way to use up any left over egg whites that you might have hanging around after making custard or mayonnaise from the yolks.

Meringues are not difficult to make and these home made beauties knock spots off those miserable little nests that you get from the supermarket.  Here are my top three tips for getting perfect meringues.

1.  Weigh your egg whites.  Eggs are all different sizes so it's best to go by weight rather than number. 

2. Leave the oven door ajar.  With electric ovens, moisture can build up inside and stop your meringues from drying out beautifully.  Bea (from Bea's of Bloomsbury) says the best way to get a professional finish at home is to wedge your oven door ajar with a wooden spoon.

3. Give it time.  The best meringues are cooked long and slow, on a low heat.
Gooey meringues

Meringues (makes two large meringues)

I go by the Ottolenghi method of heating the sugar in the oven first.  It's easy to scale this recipe up or down as required, just weigh your egg whites and use double the amount of caster sugar.  Some people like to add vinegar or cornflour, but I don't find it necessary.


60g egg whites (approx 2 egg whites)
120g caster sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 200c.
2. Line a baking tray with baking parchment and spread the sugar evenly on it.
3. Put the sugar in the oven for 7-8 minutes, until it just starts to melt around the edges.
4. When the sugar is almost ready, put the egg whites into a food mixer and whisk until they start to get frothy. 
5. Slowly add the hot sugar to the egg whites.  Put the mixer speed to the max and let it whisk until cool.  This takes about 10 minutes and when it's ready the mixture should hold stiff peaks.  Meanwhile, turn the oven down to 110c.
6. Shape the semi-cooked meringues into large balls on another tray lined with baking parchment.  I did this with two large spoons.
7. Pop into the oven for 2 hours.

This is the recipe for a plain meringue, but why stop there?  You could swirl in a fruit coulis before baking, roll the meringues in crushed nuts or stir in some rosewater.  These meringues will last a couple of days in an airtight container.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Cooking live at the Good Food Show

The view from the stage
The view from the stage

I trekked up to Birmingham for the Good Food Show last week, and spent the morning navigating the hungry hordes before having a delicious three course VIP lunch with the Miele crowd.  After a quick meet and greet with the Hairy Bikers, we were whisked off for a cookery experience with Mark Lloyd, head chef at The Cleave Inn.  What Miele had neglected to tell us was that the "experience" would be on stage in front of a live audience!  We put on our best smiles and headed for the stage.

The lady from Miele gives a helping hand to Rejina and me

We cooked a delicious venision toad (or should that be bambi?) in the hole,with chilli onion jam and steamed broccoli. It was a great opportunity to try out the Miele kit and razor sharp Kin knives.  We then sat down to lunch number two.  Gastrogeek and I began to wish we hadn't tucked in quite so greedily to dessert earlier...

Toad in the hole
The finished product

If you want to try one of Miele's cookery experiences for yourself, they have very generously donated two tickets to the Blaggers' Banquet auction, so get over there and get bidding!

Finally, we were treated to one of Gordon Ramsay's performances in the Supertheatre, full of the usual bravado and a rather tasty looking butterscotch & apple dessert made by Mark Sargeant.  This time two years ago I was telling you about Tearamisu inspired by Gordon at the GFS.

Then it was just a last round of the show stalls before making the drive home.  Best buy of the day was Sheep Dip whisky from The Spencerfield Spirit Company.  I was originally tempted to the stand by their Pig's Nose whisky, but was persuaded by the lovely Alex Nichol that my hubby would probably prefer Sheep Dip, given his taste for the peatier end of the scale.  The name comes from the sheep dip barrels that farmers used to hide their moonshine whisky in.

All in all, a great day out, although do try to go on a weekday as even on a Thursday the ravenous crowds were heaving!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Hot Boozy Chocolate - domestic sluttery guest post

I am a huge Domestic Sluttery fan, so when they asked me for a guest post I couldn't resist.  Especially as it gave me the chance to develop (or should I say devour) a deliciously boozy hot choco-cocktail!