Thursday, 28 July 2011

Love Buns with White Chocolate Buttercream

Is this the most ludicrous title on the blog so far? I do apologise. But it's Nigella's fault, honestly. Really, with a title like that, who else would have invented this recipe? At least she doesn't refer to these as "a voluptuous inner thigh wobble" or "rosy-nippled", which she genuinely does for some of her other recipes. Really Nigella, just control yourself, will you? Incidentally, I've just realized that this post is going to attract a whole new kind of Google searcher to the blog. Hmm.

Anyway, name aside, these are charming little cakes - very light, fluffy and delicate, a good alternative to normal fairy cakes. The recipe comes from Feast (in the Valentine's Day chapter, natch). Nigella recommends a meringue-y topping, or recommends a blob of jam and swirl of whipped cream if you can't be bothered with all that faff. I disregarded both suggestions. I know, so rebellious!

The reason for such a greedy mid-week treat was very prosaic and boringly thrifty. The Dine at Mine household has just sold its flat, so the time is looming when we will need to move out. Rather than tackling any of the important bits like packing up all our books, chucking out decrepit old furniture or, oh yes, finding a new home, we have chosen to concentrate our energies on using up food from the freezer. Well, that's important too.

This white chocolate buttercream was left over from our wedding cake extravaganza (see the cake here, here and here, and more left over icing used here). We'd chucked it in the freezer to use up another time and as the freezer gradually emptied, the lumpy bag of icing needed to find a good home. 

Incidentally, I wasn't sure if the icing would freeze well at all, but it survived its ordeal totally unscathed, just as delicious as the day it was made and with texture unimpaired. And because we'd frozen it in a plastic bag, once it had thawed I was able to just snip the corner off the bag and use it as a piping bag! Yes, I was very proud of myself when I thought of that. 

In true Nigella style these were very quick and easy, all whizzed up in the food processor and done and dusted in about half an hour. I didn't want to be too greedy so just did half quantities of the cakes, but that meant I ended up with insane, Hummingbird Bakery-style quantities of icing on each one. Delicious, but the weight of the icing has started to squish the fluffy little cakes slightly, so we'll need to be quick...which I'm sure won't be a problem. As the actress said to the bishop. Sorry, sorry, I'm ashamed of myself - Nigella is a bad influence!

Nigella's Love Buns
Recipe available here
My half quantities to make 6 buns

- 62g butter at room temperature
- 62g caster sugar (as always, I used vanilla sugar)
- 62g plain flour
- 1 egg
- 1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- teaspoon of baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
- 2 tablespoons of milk

Preheat the oven to 200C and line a fairy cake tin with little paper cases. Put everything except the milk in a food processor and whiz until smoothly combined, then add the milk and zizz again until you have what Nigella calls "a smooth dropping consistency". Divide among your paper cases and bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden and well risen.

As discussed above, I iced the cakes with some leftover white chocolate icing from our wedding cake extravaganza but for Nigella's meringue-y topping, see the link to her website above. And enjoy!

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Southern Barbecued Pork Belly

We often have a debate in the Dine at Mine household about who is going to write up the blog post for any recipe that we have tried. As loyal readers will have seen, it is Miss Dine at Mine who ends up authoring most of the posts, with the guest blogger Greedy Gusto only making the occasional contribution. This is not, as some readers have suggested, because Greedy Gusto's enormous stomach prevents him from pulling the chair close enough to the desk to reach the computer keyboard; or because the wireless keyboard that was purchased to solve this former problem has been permanently incapacitated by the endless precipitation of doughnut crumbs and Coke spray from Greedy Gusto's monotonously masticating mouth.

 No, it is simply because Greedy Gusto generally has more interest in eating the food (of course) and taking the photos of the food, than writing it up. There have been occasions when Greedy Gusto found a recipe that was so deliciously simple that he had to share it with the world (who could forget the Royal Wedding shortbread or flapjacks?). But he's been waiting a while for a recipe to come along that so inspired him with the greed of its flavour, of its taste, even of its looks, that he has been forced to go out and buy a new keyboard and write it up on the world wide web for all to see. Ladies and Gentlemen, the wait is over, and I give you... Southern Barbecued Pork Belly.

We've had pork belly before, and we've roasted it slowly in the oven for a few hours, and it's been delicious. Lovely crackling on top, tender meat in the middle - it's hard to imagine doing anything better with the humble pork belly. So when Miss Dine at Mine suggested that we try Jamie Oliver's Southern Barbecued Pork Belly, I was distinctly dubious. Mostly because it involved cutting off the top layer of skin, so there would be no crackling! We found this recipe on his website, and I'm afraid I don't know which book it's from, but I'm guessing it's not from his 30 Minute Meals (given that it takes 2 hours in the oven).

Despite my concerns, as soon as we'd covered the pork belly in the spices, I could tell this was going to be special. It already looked and smelled delicious. When it came out of the oven, it looked and smelled even better. We tried a crispy morsel of pork that had been left behind at the bottom of the roasting tray, and the spice mix had infused it brilliantly. It was a bite of pork belly heaven. The rest of the meat was delicious; yes, a bit fatty (we didn't eat the main strands of fat that ran through the belly). But absolutely, completely delicious. On the "shall we make this recipe again?" test: an unequivocal yes! I mean, just look at the delicious photos. I'd better stop typing quickly before I drool over the new keyboard...

Southern Barbecued Pork Belly
From Jamie Oliver, recipe available here
Serves 6 to 8

- a handful of fresh bay leaves
- 2 teaspoons rock salt
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 3 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2kg pork belly in one piece, the best quality you can afford, skin removed
- olive oil

Preheat your oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas 4.

Bash the bay leaves and salt in a pestle and mortar until the leaves disintegrate and the salt turns green. We only had dried bay leaves, so we in fact just cut them up and added a bit of water to get the mixture going. 
Pick out any strands then add the rest of the spices and pepper and mix well.

Rub the spice mix with a little olive oil all over the pork - as you can see from the penultimate photo above, it'll look delicious. Transfer to a snug-fitting roasting tray and cover the tray tightly with foil. Cook in the preheated oven for 2 hours.

Jamie Oliver also says to light your barbecue after the pork has had 1 hour in the oven. We didn't do this, but if you have a barbecue and want to do the recipe properly, then it's time to get out the firelighters.

After 2 hours, lift the pork out of the roasting tray with tongs and drop it straight on to the barbie. It will crackle and drip fat on to the coals so don’t worry if you see a few flames. Turn the pork over and move it around the grill now and then for 10 to 15 minutes to crisp up the surface. Or... if you're not using the barbecue, just turn up the oven to crisp it all up for a few minutes. I wouldn't recommend putting it under the grill in the oven unless you want to test a) the smoke detector in your kitchen and b) the cleaning power of your oven cleaner.

Serve in thick slices. Greedily.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Flourless Chocolate Cake

Do you remember Sophie Dahl's TV show last year? All cutesy illustrations and tinkly music in an amazing kitchen, accessorized with so much "vintage chic", it was as if a stylist had exploded all over it. No one needs that many little jugs of peonies and artfully distressed, pastel-coloured ladles. The producers also seemed to have enforced a "food by mood" theme which seemed to embarrass poor Sophie, who kept having to witter on a bit about "feeling selfish" or "nostalgic" or whatever, when she could perfectly easily have just said "here is some yummy food I like. Look, here's a pie". 

But she was very beautiful and nicely dressed, and I quite liked it. Although it was the girliest programme I have ever seen, it was undemanding, and pretty to look at, and a nice way to spend half an hour on a cold, rainy weeknight. Plus, her food actually looked really tasty - just the kind of thing I like, and faintly health-conscious while still suggesting you eat toffee apple and pear crumble. Which I really want to do. 

This recipe came from her "celebration" episode and I tried it when faced with feeding a coeliac last year. No matter how winsome and coquettish Sophie may be, this proved that she knows good cake. It's really simple, absolutely luscious and because you serve it cold from the fridge, it's perfect for easy entertaining. A bit of faff the day before, but a perfect pudding without any last minute prep or cooking. I approve. Of course, the reason it's so easy and delicious is because it's heart-stoppingly unhealthy, but we can't have everything.

Sophie covered it in crème fraiche and great swags of colour-themed berries, but with the zeal of a convert I couldn't think of any better accompaniment than pears. Specifically the vanilla-roasted pears I've made before, which I cooked at the same time as the cake on the preceding evening and just warmed up at the last minute. And because we're greedy, we also had vanilla ice cream and hot chocolate sauce. Frankly, it seemed a bit late to be thinkinng about healthiness at that point.  

We served this after our burger extravaganza and it seemed to go down pretty well with our meat-stuffed guests - although by that point I think we'd just battered them into submission with booze. But even stone cold sober, this is a winner - not just for gluten-free diners, but anyone who likes fudgy, melting chocolate squidge. Which is surely everyone, no?

So no matter how girlish and twee Sophie Dahl's programme may have been, don't let it put you off - this recipe really is a winner. I've got my eye on her borscht with vodka as well. Now that pears are a part of my life, I've still got to work on Operation Beetroot. But for now, there's left over chocolate cake that is calling my name. I suspect that there might not be any left by tomorrow. 

Flourless Chocolate Cake
From Sophie Dahl's tv show, recipe available here
- 300g of dark chocolate, broken into bits
- 225g caster sugar (I tend to use vanilla sugar if I have it)
- 180ml boiling water
- 225g salted butter
- 6 eggs, separated
- a teaspoon of instant coffee powder if you have it, not if you don't
- 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract, or one of vanilla bean paste

Preheat the oven to 180C and line a cake tin with parchment. Blitz the chocolate and sugar together in a food processor until you have a fine powder, then add the water,  butter, egg yolks, coffee, and vanilla and whiz until it's all combined.
Whisk the egg whites in a bowl until stiff peaks, then fold them into the chocolate gloop with a metal spoon. Pour this into the cake tin (it'll be very runny) and bake for 45-55 minutes, or until a skewer in the middle comes out clean. Mine took a bit longer, so I think the top went a bit darker than is ideal - it still tasted good though so no problem.

Let it cool in the tin, then keep in the fridge until serving for pure fudginess. BE WARNED that it's incredibly difficult to get out of the tin without falling apart - I didn't manage it either time, so just be prepared to squidge it back together or cover up any cracks with cream or icing sugar. Serve with creme fraiche and berries (Sophie's way) or roasted pears, ice cream and chocolate sauce (my way). Either way, it'll be good.  

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Beef Burgers with Sweet Potato Chips

Right. I've decided I'm not going to whinge about the weather any more. It's boring, it's repetitive, and it's just playing into the hands of my friends emailing from the US about their bloody heat wave, all 35 degrees, "gosh I need an iced coffee and it's only 6 in the morning", "ice cream is the only acceptable food". Hi Hermione and Anna! Glad to hear you're having such a good time!

So yes, it's been raining a lot, and it was a wee bit miserable but let's put a bit of a brave face on, shall we? The rain has stopped now! In the Dine at Mine household, we're celebrating with a barbecue and a Pimm's. Granted, they'll both have to be enjoyed inside, but when your Pimm's is mixed with champagne you can't really complain too much. Besides, I think the hot, sunny weather is just waiting until we buy a house, complete with garden, and get a chance to play with all our new garden furniture. I know this explanation may seem a bit solipsistic - sucks for everyone else who already has a garden - but it makes me feel better and inspires hopes of a glorious September. It could still happen! Don't give up!

Our inside barbecue started with the afore-mentioned Pimms Royale and continued with a massive burger served with all the toppings, and with sweet potato chips, corn on the cob and a bit of token salad on the side. It may not have been elegant, but it was an immensely yummy meal and, I have to admit, much more comfortable to eat inside at a table than outside on a nobbly bit of grass. As for the burgers themselves, a couple of years ago we were generously given a super-duper American Barbecue book with a recipe for burgers (which we've used before), but it consists purely of shaping mince into a burger shape. No seasonings, no additional flavours, just meat. We've done it, and it's nice, but without the benefit of coals and smoke we thought that our meat would need a bit of help.

So we adapted the burger recipe from one found in the Waitrose mag, leaving out their suggested chopped, fried onion and cutting down on the breadcrumbs, but including the seasonings, squeeze of ketchup and an egg to bind. Cooked on a griddle for those all-important crunchy bits, these were accompanied by a full burger board of fluffy, floury rolls; fried onion rings; slices of extra-mature cheddar; lots of gherkin (even if I'm the only one who likes it); sliced beef tomato; lettuce; mustard; mayo; ketchup. YUM. No pictures of the finished article I'm afraid, we were too busy scoffing them, but you can take my word for it that they were good. Regardless of the temperature and precipitation we had a lovely barbecue and, even more importantly, didn't have to traipse back inside to get a drink, or go to the loo, or wash the gherkin brine off our hands. See? There is an upside to our terrible weather! As long as we get a good dose of sunshine in September. I'm warning you, British weather gods, you're on borrowed time.

Barbecue (-ish) Burgers
Adapted from Waitrose Food Illustrated
Serves 6
- 1kg of very nice quality beef mince
- an egg
- salt and pepper
- good squeeze of ketchup
- a dessertspoonful of breadcrumbs
- a tablespoonful of dried oregano
Simply mix, form into six burgers and leave in the fridge until you're ready to cook. Get a griddle really hot, rub oil over the outside of the burgers and give them 4 minutes a side, or until browned and sizzling. Serve with all the toppings, clearly, and don't worry about looking unattractive while you eat them. 

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Sticky Mirin Salmon

I think my least appealing character trait is that I am stingy. Any readers who know me personally, please do not take this opportunity to point out my other flaws in the comments. But yes, stingy - tight, cheap, skinflint and miserly. It’s deeply, deeply unattractive and I’m ashamed of it but it’s hard-wired in me and always has been. I’d blame it on genetics, but my sister is the exact opposite, and although I admire her ability to blithely spend more in a day than I do in a month, I know that the same behaviour from me would bring on cold sweats and panicky nightmares.

I should point out that my stinginess is strictly limited. I’m not stingy about the big things – I don’t regret a single penny of the money we spent on the wedding or the honeymoon, or for that matter the staggeringly vast pile of cash we’re hoping to spend on a house. Nor do I begrudge any money spent on other people. Rounds of drinks, Christmas presents, birthday dinners, surprise gifts – I love spending my hard-earned money on any and all of these. Nothing makes me happier than being generous, even lavish, to the people I love, and those moments of pure pleasure make the endless hours in the office worthwhile.

No, I’m stingy on a small-scale, personal level. I’m stingy about buying things for myself. For example, I love reading magazines, but I can never quite bring myself to buy them because it seems like a waste of money. Buying a daily coffee seems hugely extravagant. Treating myself to a pretty pair of earrings? Only if they’re on the sale rail, and I will still feel guilty. Don’t even get me started on the price of clothes. There’s a reason why almost all my wardrobe comes from H&M.

I do know how pathetic and ridiculous this is, and I’m trying to get better. But I find it so difficult to shift my default position from “save" to "spend”. Almost every decision I make on a day to day basis – which shampoo to buy, where to go for lunch, what to put on the Ocado order – includes cost as a factor. I wish it weren’t the case, but it’s true. I recently shared a cab with my sister as far as her train station. When I got out with her, planning to take the tube the rest of the way, she said “why don’t you just stay in the taxi? It’ll only be another tenner or so to get you home”. My brain’s response? DOES NOT COMPUTE. I would never, in a million years, have thought of taking a taxi home on my own, unless it was a) past tube time, b) I had a very heavy suitcase. I wish I could just swan around town in taxis – I love taking taxis! – but it never occurs to me to do it. I’m just too tight.

Anyway, salmon fillets are expensive so we don’t tend to have them that much. Even though we both love them. We could probably buy more if we got the crappily-farmed cruelty version but we’re all ethical consumers now so that’s off the menu. But these super-quality wild organic fillets were on offer in Waitrose and whatever the quality of your salmon, this is an absolutely delicious way to cook it.

It’s one of Nigella’s winners (not like the loopy Cottage Cheese pancakes) and just requires a few minutes’ marinating, a few minutes’ frying, then a whole meal of wonderment that you've created something so stickily, toothsomely, tangily delicious. It tastes so much more than it is, like something you'd get at a posh restaurant like Nobu or somewhere like that. Only so much cheaper! And with very little faff, honestly. The only downside is that you have to do the washing up. What do you mean, in that case I should just go to Nobu? I'm not made of money, you know. 

Sticky Mirin Salmon
From Nigella
Serves 2

- 30ml mirin
- 25g light brown sugar
- 30ml soy sauce
- 2 salmon fillets
- a tablespoon of rice vinegar (15 ml)
- a spring onion, shredded into long, thin strips as if you're having crispy duck pancakes

Mix the mirin, sugar and soy sauce in a shallow bowl, and marinate the fish for a few minutes on each side. To be exact, Nigella says 3 minutes on the first side and 2 minutes on the second, but I don't think the world will end if you're not so exact. Preheat a non-stick frying pan while your fish is marinating.

Add the fish to the hot dry pan and cook for around 4 minutes on the first side (Nigella says 2, but ours were quite thick), then flip it over, chuck in the rest of the marinade and give it another couple of minutes. Remove the fish to a plate, add the rice vinegar and stir it through, then pour the sauce over the fish and top with the shredded spring onion. While you eat, think how much money you're saving by not going to Nobu.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Garlic Bread

I'm afraid this barely counts as a recipe today. It's more of a serving suggestion. What can I say? This grisly weather (yup, still complaining about it) is driving me to lazy, stodgy comfort food. With some ciabatta nearing the end of its life, there was nothing for it but to make garlic bread. Oozy, anti-social, low-rent but oh-so-delicious garlic bread.

Like any other greedy person with an overactive appetite and an eternal enthusiasm for farmers' markets, I can enthuse for hours about artisan cheese, peasant-cured ham and so on. But we all have weaknesses for the trashy, transfatty foods of our childhoods. Some people like pop-tarts, others go weak at the knees for Monster Munch. Angel Delight can send some people into raptures, while others would be perfectly happy dining off nothing but potato waffles and Alphabetti Spaghetti. Fat wedges of drippingly greasy Domino's pizza; neon-orange sweet and sour chicken with astringent chunks of pineapple and sticky lumps of batter; Neapolitan blocks of easy-scoop brown, yellow and pink frozen froth. There's no shame in admitting any of this.

I have a devastating weakness for cheap garlic bread. The type you get in a plastic wrapper from the supermarket, or as a side dish at an old-fashioned pub to go with lasagne and chips. Made with bright yellow margarine (not butter), a few half-hearted flecks of green and a pallid, flabby-looking baguette, once cooked you get a greasy, crunchy carapace covering pure fatty squish. I love it. I know it's anti-social, and I know it leaves you garlicky for hours, but I can't help it. My mouth is watering even now.

So when we needed to use up a left over ciabatta to accompany some bean chilli, I couldn't resist garlickifying it. The method came from Jamie Oliver's 30 Minute Meals, and I was enticed by the idea that the olive oil he uses was less unhealthy than butter. Don't tell me if that's wrong, I've eaten it all now. Anyway, I can't lie - the oil is less tasty than butter. The garlic bread is still good, but I mourned the lack of butter. Or rather, super-cheap margarine.

Anyway, still very simple, very quick and almost as nice as the trashy version. Well, obviously not quite as nice (in the same way as home made breaded chicken goujons might be good, but aren't chicken dippers and shouldn't try to be). But still crunchy, moreish and viciously garlicky. Good thing we don't have to worry about being antisocial any more.

Garlic Bread
From Jamie Oliver's 30 Minute Meals
- 1 ciabatta loaf
- 3 or 4 cloves of garlic
- olive oil
- a bunch of fresh parsley
Preheat the oven to around 200C. Cut slits into the bread around 3/4 of the way through, at 2cm intervals. 

Scrunch a large piece of greaseproof paper or baking parchment under the tap until it's good and wet, then flatten out. Snip the parsley, crush the garlic, drizzle a generous sloop of olive oil and sprinkle some salt and pepper all onto this wet paper. Then put the loaf on top and rub it around, getting the flavourings into every slice.

Wrap the paper around the bread and bake in the oven for 15 minutes, or until golden and crunchy. Eat and think about which other trashy foods you like. Any takers for kebab van chips, cheese and beans?

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Cinnamon Buns

It's amazing how much free time you have when you're no longer planning a wedding. We took the easy route whenever possible, tossed out as many useless wedding traditions as possible with blithe abandon, and actively scorned anything that seemed complicated or faffy. Favours? Load of nonsense! Cars? Pah! Receiving line? No, no, no, no, no. 

But despite our efforts to streamline and simplify, we still ended up having to do wedding stuff all the bloody time. There were invitations to design, print, write, envelope and post. Speeches to write and practice, table plans to draw up, print and frame, veils to make, ties to buy, wedding gift lists to compile. 

Seating plans to puzzle over, menus to post, compile and check, first dance music to decide and oh so many contracts to sign. Not to mention all the endless hours of online research and general faffing. Honestly, it's a wonder we got anything else done last year.

I'm not whingeing, and it was all completely worth it for our golden, glorious day. But it means that now, in the bright sunny uplands of married life, we find ourselves with all this time on our hands and no real idea what to do with it. It feels wrong to spend a weekday evening curled up watching a film, or reading a book. 

Aren't we meant to be checking an RSVP list or trying to learn Italian (another job we gave ourselves before the honeymoon)? Aren't there books to trawl for ceremony readings or organ music to listen to? For the love of god, who is taking care of the confetti?

Then you catch yourself and realize that it's all over now. We're free! We've done it! And you go back to watching telly, or having a bath, or painting your nails a defiantly unbridal colour (currently: glittery gold). Or you spend a few hours making Nigella's Norwegian Cinnamon Buns.

These have been calling me ever since I got How to be a Domestic Goddess and I'm glad to say that they didn't disappoint. The sheer pride in making something that looks so proper - and tastes like you could have bought it from a shop! - is overwhelming. And yes, it would probably be quicker and cheaper just to buy it from the shop, but then you wouldn't have the smug glow of self-satisfaction at your achievement. Smug, cinnamon-scented satisfaction. 

They are undeniably faffy - as is anything that requires you to knead, leave to rise, contort into rolls and leave to rise again. I think that's just my objection to cooking with yeast, full stop. Honestly, that's why the only bread I regularly make doesn't need kneading (try saying that ten times, fast).

But oh my god, these are so good. Really light and fluffy, with a burnished, crunchy top and soft, buttery, sweet inside. Whether warm from the oven, cold and buttered, these are definitely worth the faff. On a cold winter's day, when all you want is an excuse to stay inside and turn on the oven, these will be absolutely perfect. I also want to try varying the filling - I think mincemeat would be amazing. 

But even on a cold, wet day in midsummer (yes, I'm still grumpy about the weather), these are a wonderful and worthy use of your time. For everyone except couples planning a wedding. Come on, haven't you got venues to be visiting?

Nigella's Norwegian Cinnamon Buns
From How to be a Domestic Goddess
Makes around 20

For the dough
- 600g plain flour - and be prepared to add up to 200g more
- 100g caster sugar
- half a teaspoon of salt
- 21g, or 3 sachets of easy blend yeast
- 100g butter
- 400ml milk
- 2 eggs

For the filling
- 150g soft, unsalted butter
- 150g caster sugar
- One and half teaspoons of ground cinnamon
- 1 egg, beaten, for the glaze

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, salt and yeast. Melt the butter, beat in the milk and eggs, then stir the whole lot in with the dry ingredients. Knead it either with a dough hook or your hands, until you've got a dough which Nigella says is "smooth and shiny". I found that her measurements left me with an impossibly wet and sticky dough, so I added quite a bit more flour until I had something I could form into a ball. Did I do it wrong?  Or is it another attack of Nigella's wonky-recipe-itis?

Anyway, transfer your ball of dough to an oiled bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave to rise for about half an hour. In the meantime, mix together the butter, sugar and cinnamon for the filling, and line a big tray with baking parchment - I didn't have one big enough, so used two normal cake tins. Preheat the oven to 200C. 

Once the dough has risen, Nigella says to use a third of it to make a base layer in the tin, and make the rest into the rolls. I did this, but I don't really get the point of it - it just made the rolls harder to separate once cooked, and gave a boring uncinnamoned base to each roll. Next time, I'll just use all the dough for the next step- roll it on a floured surface into a long rectangle (about 50cm by 25cm with 2/3 of the dough, so make it bigger if you do the whole lot). 

Spread over the filling in an even layer and roll the buttery, sugary rectangle into a very long sausage shape, then cut into 2cm-thick slices and arrange in a lined tray, cut sides up. They'll swell up again so it's not a problem if there are gaps. Cutting them is tricky as they squish all over the place, but just do the best you can and use a sharp knife. Brush them thoroughly with beaten egg then leave to puff up again for about 15 minutes.

Bake for 20-25 minutes and beware that they don't burn on top - Nigella says that they might "catch", but mine started to look pretty dark so I covered them with a loose layer of foil after about 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool, then pull them off and scoff. See, I told you they were worth it!

Friday, 15 July 2011

Caramelised Onion, Thyme and Cheddar Pie

I just can't get to grips with this weather at all. After shivering through Monday-Wednesday this week with bare legs, counting my way through the day on my successive layers of goose pimples, I surrendered and wore tights on Thursday. And was baking hot.

After a few days of over-optimistic salads and fruit (when a hearty stew and a blanket of mashed potato would have been more appropriate), I decided to try Nigella's version of an onion tarte tatin for lunch. She says that it's appropriate "when it's dark early and I'm tired". Sounded perfect, I thought! That'll keep the chills at bay!

Cue sun, birdsong and balmy breezes. Accompanying my lovely-but-undeniably-stodgy caramelised onion, thyme and cheddar pie. Oh well, can't win them all. 

This took a little bit of time to put together - slow-cooking the onions, making the scone dough - but none of it was at all difficult and the end result was definitely a success. The onions are sweet and buttery, scented with thyme and adorning a crust that's squidgy in the middle, crunchy on the edge. Incidentally, I faint-heartedly refused to include the full amount of cheese and it really did need the full amount. Note to self, never skimp on cheese. I also now see that I got the recipe totally wrong, and I was meant to add 2/3 of the cheese into the scone dough. Ahem. Second note to self, read recipe properly.

Despite the cheese debacle, this made a lovely vegetarian lunch with a bit of salad on the side. Well, lovely but autumnal. I might even go so far as to say wintry. I will definitely be returning to this recipe, but maybe when the weather is slightly less summery, and more English-summery. Judging by the rain-sodden forecast for this weekend, I'd say the pie is looking pretty perfect for tomorrow.

Caramelised Onion and Cheddar Pie
Adapted from Nigella's Supper Onion Pie in How to be a Domestic Goddess
Serves 6-8

- 6 small red onions
- butter and olive oil, salt and pepper
- some fresh or dried thyme, about half a teaspoon
- 150g cheddar (I only used about 100g and couldn't really taste it. Forget your arteries, go for the full amount!)
- 250g plain flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 100ml milk
- 40g butter, melted
- 1 teaspoon of mustard (she says English, I only had Dijon)
- 1 large egg, beaten

Cut the onions into eight segments each and cook gently over a medium heat in the butter and oil for around half an hour, stirring regularly until they're soft with dark golden edges. Add the salt, pepper and thyme and turn into a 24cm pie dish - she said to butter it but I forgot, and mine still turned out ok. Scatter over a third of the cheese. As already mentioned, I seem to have lost the ability to read and just scattered all the cheese over at this point. Do as I say, not as I did!

Preheat the oven to 200C. Stir together the flour, baking powder, salt and remaining cheese (no comment) in a bowl, and mix the milk, melted butter, mustard and egg in a separate bowl or jug. Combine, stir to a sticky dough and tip it out onto a floured surface so that you can form it into a circle the size of the pie dish. Plonk on top of the onions, press down the edges, and put in the oven for 15 minutes at 200C, then 10 minutes at 180C. 

When it's golden on top and looks crunchy, take it out and let it stand for a couple of minutes. Then hold a big plate over the top, take a deep breath and flip it over. A few bits of onion may loiter in the dish but just drop them on top of the pie and enjoy.

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