Sunday, 30 March 2014

Marmalade Soufflé with a White Chocolate and Vanilla Sauce

This week I was presented with a lovely and unexpected gift, a large pot of home made marmalade. The kindness and thoughtfulness of someone to think that I may enjoy it and to say thank you made my day. There is something special about a gift that has been made by someone rather than being bought. Perhaps it is the added thoughtfulness and the appreciation that someone has taken the time out of their lives to make something and then offer it as a gift. I am fully aware the pot of marmalade was not made solely for me and that the person probably had some excess to demand but the fact that they thought I might like to have it is good enough for me.
I feel very much the same way about cooking for people and eating food that has been made by other people. It is not only the food itself but the time and dedication that someone has spent to serve up an amazing dish that I really appreciate as well as the food.
Back to the marmalade, I was reliably informed that it was made with the finest Seville oranges and it tasted fantastic! A perfectly balanced bittersweet taste with lovely shredded bits of orange peel, delicious! 
So thanks to this lovely gift it has inspired this recipe which tackles the mystical world of soufflés! This soufflé is delicious and a real showstopper with the added bonus of being straight forward, no really it is! I've paired it with an easy white chocolate and vanilla sauce which I think complements the bittersweetness of the marmalade in the soufflé. If like me you don't have a pot of home made marmalade knocking around or are not planning to make your own then I urge you to buy really good marmalade with shredded pieces of orange in it to provide some texture in the soufflé. 

Marmalade Soufflé - Makes enough for 4 soufflés
  • a little softened butter
  • 75g Caster sugar, plus some additional caster sugar to coat the ramekins
  • 200g Marmalade
  • 2 teaspoons of plain flour
  • 7 egg whites
  • a little icing sugar
White Chocolate and Vanilla Sauce - makes plenty
  • 300ml of double cream
  • 150g of Green and Blacks white cooking chocolate (Cheat Alert! - this a great product as it already contains Madagascan vanilla), brake into small pieces 
Preheat an oven to 200 degrees centigrade/gas mark 6. Firstly brush/rub the insides of four ramekins with the softened butter making sure all surfaces are covered. I like to use some greaseproof paper to rub the butter around the ramekins and then spread the butter in an upward direction from the base to the rim, almost creating a track for the soufflé to follow. Next add a little caster sugar to each ramekin and coat the insides with the sugar which will stick to the butter this will help the soufflé to rise. Rotate the ramekins so that all the buttered surfaces are covered with the sugar, tip out the excess sugar and set aside in a cool area or pop them in the fridge.
Place the marmalade into a large bowl and mix with the flour until combined. Next beat the egg whites with 75g of the caster sugar in a large clean bowl until they form semi firm peaks. I like to use an electric whisk for most of this stage and then switch to a hand whisk to have complete control on being able to judge when the right consistency has been reached. I do this  as it is easy to over whisk the egg whites which causes it to collapse and as a result your soufflé will not rise.
Combine the egg whites with the marmalade and flour mixture being sure to fold the ingredients together to prevent knocking all the air out of the egg whites which again will lead to the soufflé not rising.
Divide the above mixture into the ramekins and smooth the surface so it is flush with the edges then ease the mixture away from the edge of the ramekin using the tip of your thumb or a tip of a knife creating a kind of boundary. This will help the soufflé to rise and create the characteristic soufflé appearance.
Place on a baking tray and bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes making sure not to open the oven door during cooking (even and constant temperature is essential) and if possible keep an eye on them (I appreciate that not everyone will have an oven that has a see though front and in which case I would cook for 12 minutes then have a cheeky look). Ideally you want the soufflé to have risen and the top to have formed a thin 'crust'.
While the soufflés are cooking and if you can bear to pull yourself away from looking through the oven door, start to make the sauce. Simply place all the ingredients into a pan over a low heat until all the chocolate has melted making sure that it doesn't 'catch' on the bottom of the pan. Transfer the thick speckled sauce to a small jug.
Remove the soufflés from the oven, dust with a little icing sugar and serve immediately! As for the sauce, create a hole in the top of the soufflé and pour away!

There you have it, my take on a marmalade soufflé. I dare say that this would follow the beef Wellington recipe perfectly! Enjoy and please get in contact via if you have any questions or feedback.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

My Beef 'Wellington' with Purple Sprouting Broccoli

Some years ago when Mrs Clonc and I were courting, I whisked her away to London for a weekend. We booked a lovely little hotel just near Earls Court but as we did not know the area very well and  iphones were still not about (I know its hard to imagine a time with out them) we spoke to an actual person at the hotel who directed us to what is now a restaurant I hold in very high regard. Not because it is the height of gastronomy but because although the food was good and the atmosphere convivial but because it holds a lot of good memories for me. I believe when it comes to forming a lasting 'food memory' there are so many factors that contribute to it and for me it was a combination of good food, good service and even better company. I believe your mood has a big influence on your enjoyment of food or dining out. If you have the predisposition to criticise everything and are not 'in a good place' then you will not enjoy the experience or the food. If however you are relaxed and open to trying a new place to eat or a new type of food then good 'food memories' are waiting to be made! I know we can all recount that meal or restaurant we rave to friends and family about but when you think about it there is so much more that contributed to that 'food memory' than just the food. 
The restaurant in question is The Little French Restaurant in Earls Court, London. It's a lovely small place tucked away just off the high street with the most reasonably priced menu in London in my opinion. The stand out dish on the menu for me has inspired this recipe. 
I've called it a 'Wellington' for the sake of brevity but in actuality it is a lovely braised blade of beef wrapped in puff pastry served with a sauce made from the cooking liquor and accompanied by the bang in season purple sprouting broccoli that is as delightful to eat as it is to look at. I've used a cut of beef here called blade of beef or feather blade of beef, its a more unusual cut but this is reflected in the very reasonable price and that it needs to be cooked long and slow and is delicious. The recipe is for two people but can easily be scaled up for more people and can be preprepared for a dinner party for instance. 

My Beef 'Wellington' with Purple Spouting Broccoli - Makes two individual 'Wellingtons'
  • 1 blade of beef trimmed of all fat and sinew and cut into 2 portions width ways
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 2 celery sticks, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 sprig of thyme
  • 1 sprig of rosemary 
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Plain flour to coat the beef 
  • Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper to season
  • Olive oil to cook with 
  • 600ml fresh beef stock (you can use a stock cube if you wish)
  • 300ml red wine - I used a decent Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 1 pack of 320g ready to use puff pastry sheet
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 100g of purple spouting broccoli 
  • 1 knob of butter

Preheat the oven to 150 degrees centigrade/gas mark 2 (I know this sounds low but trust me on this). Firstly start by seasoning the plain flour with salt and pepper, you need just enough flour to cover a large dish. Then add the beef to the dish and coat with the seasoned flour, dust off any excess. The aim of this is to give a nice colour and crust to the beef when it is being sealed/browned but also has the added benefit of helping to thicken the resultant sauce.
Heat a good glug of olive oil in an oven proof casserole dish or pan on the hob until almost smoking hot (you can do this in a frying pan if you wish then transfer to an over proof dish) then add the beef and colour until golden brown on all sides to seal the meat. At this point I remove the beef from the pan and turn down the heat slightly then add the prepared vegetables and cook until softened and starting to pick up some colour. I next add the herbs and the sealed beef back to the pan, turn up the heat and add the wine to deglaze the pan. Cook for a few minutes to burn of the alcohol then add the beef stock, you need enough liquid to cover the beef add a little water if you have to. Pop a lid on the pan and transfer to the oven and cook long and slow for 3 hours. After this remove the beef from the pan and set aside and allow to cool fully, the beef should be very tender. Strain the cooking liquor  with a sieve over a new pan to separate the vegetables and herbs from the liquid, this will form the sauce to serve with the beef.
Roll out the puff pastry onto a lightly floured surface and cut into 4 equal squares, place each portion of beef into a square of pastry (be sure that the beef has cooled down completely) then with the beaten egg wash the edges to help seal the pastry. Place another square of pastry on top of the beef and seal the edges by pressing together to form a parcel. Trim away the excess pastry from around the beef and here I used fork to press down and further seal the edges (at this point it looks like a giant ravioli!). Egg wash the whole thing, place on a lightly floured baking tray and place back into a slightly hotter oven (200 degrees/gas mark 6) for 30 mins or until the pastry is golden brown. Remove and set aside on a cooling rack to rest. 
In the mean time the sauce can be made by reducing the cooking liquor on a medium heat, you want to reduce the volume of liquid until its coats the back of a spoon and has thickened. Taste and season accordingly, I like to finish the sauce with a knob of butter for a glossy appearance.
For the purple sprouting broccoli simply just bring to the boil in a pan of salted water for couple of minutes or until tender, drain and its ready to serve (you can return it to a frying pan to sauté with some butter but that is up to you).
To serve add a generous ladle full of the sauce to a warmed plate as a base, place the 'Wellington' on top, accompany with the purple sprouting broccoli in a separate serving dish and some extra sauce in a jug. 
This dish is lovely, beautiful puff pastry that gives way to meltingly soft beef and a rich sauce. The broccoli provides a shot of colour and a nice contrast in flavour to the richness of the dish.
For me this dish is enough on its own as a main course but if you wish some lovely mash would go well with it.

There you have it folks, one of my favourite 'food memories'! Enjoy and please have a go at making it. Until next time.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

The Discovery - Review

Set in a rather functional looking building in this unassuming part of town, The Discovery in Cyncoed is the newest offering from the Knife and Fork stable and after a 'Conway' style makeover has opened its doors to the public last weekend.
We visited on their opening day for lunch, on entering the building we were greeted by a large dining room decked out in an eclectic but contemporary style with the main bar at one end. In addition to the main dinning area there is a bar with more tables to the back of the building which opens out onto a good sized beer garden which looked fantastic in the sunny weather last weekend and is sure to be a firm favourite for locals if this weather continues. Its fair to say that this place is big but some how manages to still retain the feel of intimacy especially in the main dining area. 
So onto the this point you maybe wondering where the photos are? The truth is the food looked so good and I was so hungry I forgot to take any and by the time I realised the plate of food had practically been devoured! Also the photos I did take were rather poor and I did feel a bit self conscious of taking photos of the food with other people around. I'm unsure where I stand on the point of taking photos of food you are about to eat in a restaurant. I understand that the presentation of some plates of food is worth keeping an image of to share with your friends and family but also there is something to be said about just putting the camera phone/camera away and enjoying the experience. All I know is that I'm more likely to try a restaurant based on someone's account of the food rather than a picture of it. I did however work up the courage to take a snap of the menu which is on blackboards keeping in trend with the other stable mates and has some cracking dishes on it.
No one else I was dining with wanted a starter but I couldn't resist the Crispy aromatic duck egg, shitake mushroom with wild garlic purée and onion ash. Seriously how could you say no to that? A crispy edible shell around a soft boiled duck egg on a wild garlic base and a trail of onion ash. Truly delicious and delivering on all levels, taste, texture, smell and excitement!
For mains, two of  my dining partners had fish and chips which they seemed to be delighted with and Mrs Clonc had the Salmon and local nettle cake with horseradish crème fraiche which she enjoyed but what the local nettle brought to the dish was not apparent, at least not to Mrs Clonc that is. I had a beautifully cooked roast fillet of Ling, accompanied by a mushroom duxcelle and a rather interesting if a little heavy potato and cabbage cake.
To finish we shared a couple of desserts the Snickers tart, caramel ice cream with peanut brittle which I did not try but by all accounts was delicious judging by the mmmm.... sounds coming from that side of the table. I ordered the raspberry ripple baked Alaska with raspberry mouse and red wine caramel. In a word, heavenly,  if you have never tried a baked Alaska then this will blow your mind (well maybe not blow your mind but you certainly will not be disappointed!). Soft gooey meringue lightly blow torched giving way to raspberry ripple ice cream on a sponge base. Brilliant! Weirdly for me it brought back memories of 'Mr Whippy' ice cream drenched in raspberry sauce that then proceeded to drip all down your hand.
The wine menu is as good as you would expect from this class act with a decent selection of styles and price options, they also serve a well chosen selection of craft ales.
The bill for four of us with four soft drinks and a beer came to £62.65
The verdict is that as soon as we had left I was planning my return. I think this place is a real gem and definitely urge you to make that Discovery for yourself.

The Discovery, Celyn Avenue, Lakeside, Cyncoed, Cardiff, CF32 6FH
T: 02920 755 015

Monday, 3 March 2014

Banana Tarte Tatin with Coffee and Amaretto Ice Cream

The 24th of February to the 9th of March marks Fairtrade Fortnight the aim of which is to highlight the good work that Fairtrade do but also to inform and bring to attention the work still required to be done. Fairtrade stands for better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability, and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world. More information about Fairtrade and what they do can be found on their website which I urge you all to have a look at. 
With this in mind I decided to make something where the main ingredient was Fairtrade. I chose to use a fruit which is one of the most bought and consumed in the UK. The banana of course! Thanks to Fairtrade 1 in 3 bananas in the UK are now Fairtrade but more work is required to ensure farmers are paid fairly for their produce and this is really at the heart of this years Fairtrade Fortnight. If you feel like you want to support the cause then there is a petition you can sign via their website to ask the UK government to look into the issue of unfair supermarket pricing practices. The coffee I will be using for this recipe is also Fairtrade.
The other reason for deciding to make this decadent dish was to try and bring some much needed warmth and sunshine to what has been a bit of a washout for the start of the year. So what better than a tropical take on a French classic accompanied by a super easy 'no churn' ice cream?(Some actual sunshine might also be quite nice, I presume will be the majority response). This fantastic dessert I'm afraid is not of my invention but the recipes I have used have been slightly adapted for my needs. The tarte tatin is from the great baking Silverback that is Paul Hollywood from his Pies & Puds show and the ice cream recipe is a Nigella special from her Nigellissima cook book.

Banana Tarte Tatin - makes a fantastic dessert for 6 people

  • 100g Caster Sugar
  • 25g Butter
  • 8 Fairtrade bananas (approximately) - peeled and cut into 4cm-5cm chunks
  • 320g ready to use puff pastry sheet
  • 1 egg, beaten 
Coffee and Amaretto Ice cream - easily makes enough for 6 people
  • half a 397g can of condensed milk  
  • 600ml of double cream
  • 2 tablespoons of Fairtrade instant coffee
  • 2 tablespoons of Amaretto

Firstly the ice cream, you'll have to start this the day before you want to serve it, whisk all the ingredients together until soft peaks start to form and all the coffee granules have blended into the mixture. Then pour into an air tight container and freeze over night. Delicious home made ice cream just like that! I've used Amaretto in this recipe but a dark Rum would be great to use and would reinforce that tropical flavour.
Now for the main event, preheat the oven to 200 degrees centigrade/gas mark 6. Place the caster sugar into a 28cm non-stick ovenproof frying pan over a medium heat. A slightly smaller similar frying pan will be fine as long as it can be used in the oven.  Once the sugar has dissolved and started to turn into a golden brown colour, remove from the heat and stir in the butter. You now have your caramel base.
Sit the banana chunks upright in the caramel, packing them close together and trying not to leave any gaps.
Next remove the puff pastry from the fridge and roll out on a lightly floured surface. Cut to size so that it fits over the bananas with some excess to form a crust. Using a plate of a similar size to the pan as a template works well for this. Cover the bananas with the puff pastry and tuck in any excess around the edges. Brush with the beaten egg to glaze the pastry.
Next place the pan in the oven  a bake for 30 mins or until the pastry is golden in colour. Ok, now for the tricky bit! Invert a plate/serving board over the pan and turn out the tarte tatin, watch out for very hot caramel! Then stand back and admire your good work. 
Let the tarte tatin cool slightly then divide and serve with a couple of scoops of the ice cream.
This is a fantastic dessert and would make a show stopping end to a dinner party or for a special occasion it is definitely worth a try!
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