Monday, 10 December 2012

Cooking update / reviews – following on from ‘Cooking Up a Storm’

I’ve now managed to try a few new recipes and have also had a tasting session with the ones a made a couple of weeks ago. So here’s an update so far.

Salted caramel lollipops
After the first batch, I bought some silicone moulds which worked really well. The lollies remained very sticky though and disintegrated quickly – I left some covered up on a plate overnight and they melted into goo! After lots of experiments, I have finally got a system that works, so to save you the trouble:
Invest in silicone chocolate moulds (I got mine for a couple of pounds from ebay)
Also, get some plastic lolly sticks and proper sweet bags – it makes things much easier in the long run.
Put any flavourings straight into the moulds and pour the caramel on top. Chopped nuts work really well, as
does small pieces of candied ginger.
Do bother to add the salt, it adds to the flavour.

Melt the sugar as before, then use two teaspoons to fill the moulds (much less waste than pouring).
Give them a minute or two to start setting, then put in lolly sticks once the caramel is tacky but not hard.
Let them set fully, then pop them out of the moulds. They will be sticky and will disintegrate if you leave them out – I tried dusting some with icing sugar, DON’T do the same, it makes them melt more quickly!
Either put them straight into sweet bags and keep in the fridge, or dip them in melted chocolate and leave to harden on greaseproof paper before putting them into the sweet bags.
Tie the bags with a paper twist (I got some lovely glittery red ones) and keep somewhere cool.

Verdict: Despite all the messing about, once I’d figured out the best way to make them, it was quick and easy. I’ve been making loads of batches because it’s just a case of putting sugar in a saucepan and melting it – easy to have some cooking away while I’m making dinner.

Apple and Cranberry Chutney

1 kg cooking apples, peeled and chopped
500g eating apples, peeled and chopped
450g red onions, peeled and sliced
50g root ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 tsp black peppercorns
500g sugar
250ml cider vinegar
500g cranberries (fresh or frozen)

Put everything except the cranberries in a large saucepan and bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer uncovered for about an hour until the apples are tender and there is no watery vinegar left. (If there is still a lot of watery juice left after more than an hour, you can strain the mixture and discard the juice).

Add the cranberries and cook for a further 10 minutes until the cranberries have softened but not turned to mush. Spoon into sterilised jars and keep somewhere dark and cool for a couple of weeks before opening. Will last about 6 months unopened. Keep in the fridge once opened and eat within a month. Makes about 3 - 4 jars.

Verdict: I was really impressed with this recipe. I’m not a fan of chutneys, but even I loved this one. It’s especially good with cheese or cold meat. I was just going to make one batch as presents but I’ve ended up making several so I can keep some. Easy to make as well, I’m always a fan of recipes that involve sticking everything in a saucepan and leaving it alone!

Cranberry-Orange Vodka
Bottle of cheap vodka
250g cranberries
Zest of two oranges
175g sugar

Put the cranberries into a bowl and stab them with a fork. Put everything into wide necked, sterilised jars. Seal and shake. Leave somewhere cool and dark for a couple of weeks, shaking occasionally to ensure the sugar dissolves. Strain through muslin and put into bottles. Leave for another couple of weeks before drinking. Will keep almost forever in the freezer if you can keep your hands off it!

Verdict: Another very simple and really impressive recipe. I don’t really drink but I could happily polish off some of this. The cranberries turn the vodka a very festive red and you get a great orange hit as an aftertaste. This was very popular with everyone!

Stilton-apricot pots
300g stilton
100g butter
40g chopped walnuts
25g dried apricots, chopped

Beat the butter until soft (easiest in a mixer), then crumble in the stilton and mix well. Pack into ramekins, leaving space to add the topping. Mix the walnuts and the apricots, sprinkle over the stilton and press down. Cover with cling film and either eat within a week or freeze for up to a month. Makes 2 – 3 ramekins.

Verdict: Gorgeous! The addition of the butter makes the stilton milder and beautifully creamy, and even if you aren’t keen on walnuts, try it anyway – you don’t taste them, they just contribute to the texture and the depth of flavour. I am definitely making this again; it’s really good on crackers or crusty bread.

Nutty Chocolate Fudge
The BEST fudge recipe in the world! I’ve tried about 20 recipes for fudge and this one is by far the easiest to make and the nicest.
150ml / 1/4 pint of evaporated milk
350g / 12 oz sugar
large pinch of salt
50g / 2 oz chopped nuts
350g / 12 oz plain chocolate chips or chopped plain chocolate

Put evaporated milk, salt and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to the boil while stirring constantly. Lower the heat and simmer gently, stirring, for about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the chocolate and the nuts. Keep stirring until the chocolate has melted. Pour into the tin, even it out, and leave to set. Once set, cut into squares, store in an airtight container (separating the layers with greaseproof paper) and try not to eat it all in one sitting!

Verdict: I make this recipe every Christmas, I absolutely love it and so do my friends and family. Rich, chocolatey and delicious. I’d make it every week if it wasn’t so fattening!

Taste reviews

Ginger syrup:
This was lovely mixed with lemonade and it’s supposed to be good for colds too!

Candied ginger:
Nice to nibble but very strong in flavour; try using it in ginger cookies or fruit crisps instead, or adding it to anything you would use mixed peel in.

Smoky Paprika Peppers:
Don’t bother. They looked fabulous but no one was keen on them. They had a rather odd taste and we ended up throwing them out. A lot of work for a poor return.

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