Back when I started this blog, one of the first posts I made was for Pulled Pork. Not saying I’m a trendsetter, but it would seem that the rest of the UK has now caught up and Pulled Pork is everywhere: in sandwiches, on burgers, in supermarket ready meals… This last would no doubt have the American devotees of barbecue staggering around clutching their chests at the heresy and I’m not really going to improve things by this post, because once again, I’m employing a slow-cooker rather than the traditional aromatically wood-fired barbecue.
I hadn’t actually planned this as a post at all, but in the true spirit of That’ll Do Cookery™ what I ended up throwing together was so simple and so delicious, I thought you might all enjoy. I recently bagged a couple of beef brisket joints at a bargain price, not remembering that the freezer was full, so when I got home, I had to do something with them immediately, and this is the result.
There’s a little bit of work once the meat is cooked if, like me, you prefer your pulled beef very lean, but it is so fall-apart tender, this is merely the work of moments. The 8 hour cooking time makes this a delicious meal to come home to, if you switch it on in the morning. Alternatively, cook it overnight and shred the meat in the morning, and portion it into freezer bags for fast meal solutions at short notice.
Barbecue Pulled Beef
Beef Brisket that will fit in your slow cooker – I used 2 x 1.5kg joints
300ml Barbecue Sauce
1 beef stock cube – I like the jelly-style ones
500ml tomato passata or chopped tomatoes, pureed
- Using a pastry brush, generously ‘paint’ your brisket all over with the barbecue sauce. Put the meat into the slow cooker.
- Add any remaining barbecue sauce, the stock cube and the pureed tomatoes.
- Add sufficient water to just cover the meat.
- Cook on ‘Low’ for 8 hours.
- Lift the joint(s) from the sauce and allow to cool a little. Shred the meat, either by hand or with two forks, removing all fat and connective tissue.
- [Optional] Chill the sauce and skim off the solidified fat.
- When ready to serve, warm the sauce and taste. Adjust the flavour to your own personal taste, if necessary, with pepper, salt, more barbecue sauce, Worcester sauce, hot sauce, etc.
- Return the meat to the sauce and heat thoroughly before serving.
Hope you’ve been good, because here’s a real treat for you – and with no butter AND a hefty wodge of fruit, it’s practically health food!
The secret is prunes – no, wait! Stop! Come back! It’s good, I promise you! Look, it has chocolate and alcohol in it too! *waggles bottle enticingly*
This is similar to the Luxury Brownies of before Christmas, but instead of butter, we have a puree of prunes which not only pairs fantastically with chocolate, it also adds a delicious Squidginess™ to each mouthful, and with a baking time of just 20 minutes, it can be whipped up in a flash.
I’ve soaked the fruit in alcohol to add moisture, but you can just as easily use fruit juice – I suggest orange.
Fat-free Truffle Cake
200g of ready-to-eat prunes
150ml port/madeira/rum/fruit juice
150g 60% dark chocolate
4 large eggs, separated
100 grams of sugar
100 grams of flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
50g 60% dark chocolate
50ml port/madeira/rum/fruit juice
cocoa powder for dusting
- Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
- Grease and line a 24cm spring-form tin. Alternatively, this quantity will make 12 cupcake-sized servings. NB If you’re wanting to garnish each individual cake with a prune, you’re gonna need to soak more prunes!
- Put the prunes into a small saucepan. Check that the stones have been removed – I always find 1 or 2 that have been missed, even if the bag says they’re pitted. Add your liquid of choice, bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Cover and set aside.
- Melt the chocolate over a water bath or in the microwave.. Separate the eggs and stir the yolks into the melted chocolate. Be careful, because the yolks will cook if the chocolate is too hot.
- Pick out 6 prunes for decoration, then puree the rest with their soaking liquid and stir into the chocolate. I fine a stick blender is best for this, as the puree gets really smooth – the small quantity of fruit makes a food processor unsuitable for this task.
- Sift together the flour, salt and baking powder.
- Whisk the egg whites until frothy, then gradually add the sugar a little at a time. Whisk to soft peaks.
- Add the whisked eggwhites to the chocolate mix and incorporate fully. This is best done by adding 1/3 of the whites and STIRRING gently with a WHISK. This is better at retaining the volume of the whipped whites than the cutting motion of a spoon using the ‘folding’ technique. The first third will necessarily sacrifice volume, as it will initially be difficult to incorporate the thick chocolate mixture, but the next two additions will stay beautifully billowy.
- Add the flour mixture using the same method – slowly stirring with your whisk until fully incorporated.
- Spoon your mixture into your tin of choice and smooth the top. There’s little rising during cooking, so try and make the surface as level as possible without actually deflating the mixture.
- Bake for 20 minutes if making a single, large cake, 16-18 minutes if making cupcakes.
- Allow to cool in the tins for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- When cold, wrap in cling-film and leave at room temperature overnight. This resting will allow all the flavours to mingle and for the prunes to work their magic on the texture. There’s nothing WRONG with eating it immediately, it’s just better if you can wait.
- To serve:
- Boil the milk and pour over the chocolate. Leave for a few minutes to allow the chocolate to melt. If it’s not full melted, zap in the microwave for 20-30 seconds to help it along.
- Stir in the alcohol/fruit juice.
- Dust the top of the cake with unsweetened cocoa powder.
- Add the reserved prunes, one per slice – or per cake.
- Drizzle the sauce over the cake, or serve alongside each slice for people to help themselves.
It’s that time of year again, where heart-shaped food is everywhere, and this dessert suggestion is no different. Valentines Day falls on a Saturday this year, so I’ve gone for simplicity in that there’s no actual baking involved, thereby freeing up the rest of the day for a constant stream of romantic gestures. It’s also not the original recipe I had planned for you, but that other one, although unusual, simple and delicious, delicately plucked from the fading pages of a centuries old manuscript…. involved peeling 20 grapes and who needs that kind of stress on the weekend???
This is basically a refrigerator cake with a posh frock on, where frock = booze, although you can use orange juice/zest if you prefer. A quick dip in some melted chocolate, a sprinkling of freeze-dried strawberry powder and it looks quite the picture of elegance.
This quantity makes two, admittedly quite thick, hearts. I initially made them thinner, but promptly got into all sorts of bother/mess trying to dip the tops and bottoms in the chocolate and still keeping them looking neat and well finished. So for ease of dipping, I’d recommend making just two – after all, you don’t have to eat ALL of it in one go and a Valentine token for your beloved isn’t supposed to require a batch bake!
You won’t need all of the chocolate, but using this amount makes dipping easier. You can keep any excess for use in other recipes.
125g Rich Tea biscuits (about half a packet)
30g softened butter
30g caster sugar
15g cocoa powder
60g dark fruit conserve or jam – cherry, raspberry, damson, etc.
2tbs port, fruit liqueur, or zest/juice of an orange
200g dark (60% cocoa) chocolate
20g vegetable oil
freeze-dried fruit powder
- Break the biscuits into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles crumbs. Because that’s exactly what it will be. Tip into a bowl.
- Add the rest of the ingredients and either mix by hand, with a spoon, or with a stand mixer fitted with the standard paddle.
- It should come together quite easily, and hold together when pressed. Tip out onto a silicone mat (it will be rather sticky).
- The easiest way to form the hearts is to divide the mixture into two and press it into a heart-shaped biscuit cutter.
- Once the mixture is packed tightly, a gentle press will ease it out of the mould.
- Carefully wrap the two hearts in cling film and place in the freezer for at least an hour, or overnight, whichever is most convenient.
- Break the chocolate into a bowl and melt, either over hot water or in the microwave in 1 minute bursts, stirring after each minute.
- Add the oil and stir thoroughly.
- Remove the frozen hearts from the freezer and unwrap. Lay a sheet of baking parchment or silicone baking sheet next to the bowl of chocolate for putting the hearts on, to set.
- Dip the top of each heart into the melted chocolate about 1cm. Lift it out and turn it on its side, letting the excess chocolate run off the side, leaving the surface smooth and even. When it has stopped dripping, turn the heart upright and set onto the baking parchment. The coldness of the biscuits will cause the chocolate to set within a minute.
- When firm, carefully lift the hearts, keeping your fingers away from the chocolate top, to avoid smudging. Dip the bases. Set aside to cool completely.
- Decorate with freeze-dried powder sprinkled inside a mini heart-shaped cutter, or make a ribbon by laying two sheets of paper across the chocolate heart and sprinkle the fruit powder between. Carefully remove the sheets and shake the excess powder back into the sachet.
Here is your 2014 Festive Food Ready Reference page for all your holiday menus!
Click on the text to go to the recipe page.
I hope you all have a fab time and let’s meet up again in 2015 to do it all over again!
Nibbles & Starters
Breads & Side Dishes
Boxing Day Buffet
Back in the summer, my daughter’s class at school chose a mini project on Brazil, and I was asked if I could bring in some food for them to taste.
Of all the dishes I prepared, Brigadeiros were naturally the overwhelming favourite. However, these little cheese breads were also a great hit, with many pupils coming back for seconds and thirds.
In essence, they are a Brazilian version of Gougères, but differ in that they are made with gluten-free tapioca flour. If you’re at all apprehensive about tackling Gougères or even choux paste in general, then these little cheese breads – or pão de queijo to give them their proper name – are an ideal place to start.
They don’t require as much cooking as Gougères, and since there is no gluten to develop, the mixture is much more straight forward. The crisp outsides contrast deliciously well with the soft, stretchy insides (the stretch being provided by the cheese).
I’ve baked mine a little longer than is traditional, because I do love some crunch, but you can take them out earlier if you prefer them pale and interesting. I’ve also baked them in mini-muffin tins to give them a nice shape – gluten free bakes generally need a little help to ‘get it together’.
These are delicious straight from the oven, but will also keep a few days in an airtight container. Warm in a gentle (150°C, 130°C Fan) oven for 10 minutes.
I bought my tapioca flour here
Brazilian Cheese Bread
Makes approx. 24 mini-muffin-sized breads.
125ml whole milk
60ml vegetable oil
½ teaspoon salt
140g tapioca flour
1 large egg
extra egg-whites (maybe)
125g strong cheddar or fresh Parmesan – grated
- Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
- Heat the milk, oil and salt in a pan until just below boiling.
- Remove from the heat and add the tapioca flour.
- Stir vigorously until no dry flour is visible.
- Tip the paste into a bowl and beat with a mixer (stand or hand) until cooled enough that no steam is visible rising from the bowl.
- Add the egg and beat thoroughly until fully combined.
- If the mixture seems a little tight, add a little extra egg white. It’s better for the dough to be a little too soft than too firm.
- Add the cheese and mix thoroughly.
- Grease a mini muffin tin.
- Use an ice-cream scoop to portion out the dough into the prepared mini-muffin tin. Don’t fill the cups more than 2/3 full.
- Bake for 10 minutes, then turn the heat down to 180°C, 160°C Fan for a further 15-20 minutes.
- Cool on a wire rack.
If you were wanting to pick a recipe to illustrate the diversity and imagination available in the culinary world, you could do worse than pick an apple tart. Such simple ingredients, such a basic concept – pastry case, apples, sugar – but the sheer variety of interpretation is exhilarating.
At the most basic level, it can comprise a sheet of pastry folded around a mound of peeled and sliced apples, tossed in sugar, and at the elegant end of the spectrum, we have the beautiful Tarte Tatin of M.Philippe Conticini (La Pâtisserie des Rêves ) seen below – 2mm-thin ribbons of apple slowly baked into a soft confit and presented on caramel puff pastry with a hazelnut streusel.
I saw a photograph of this pastry several years ago and actually had a go at re-creating it, painstakingly cutting apples into wafer-thin slices by hand, long before I discovered how it was actually achieved. Monsieur Conticini employs the use of a very swish piece of equipment called a Turning Slicer. An apple is inserted horizontally and, whilst similar to the more familiar apple peeler gadgets, in this utensil the blade is closer to a razor, and cuts a continual ribbon of translucent apple flesh as the fruit is rotated in front of the cutting blade.
Originally created in Japan for use with firm vegetables such as daikon, and offering fabulous possibilities for different uses, apart from not having the space to home it, the hefty price tag of $350-$700 puts it firmly beyond my pocket.
If we dial back a bit along the apple tart continuum from the elegance of Monsieur Conticini’s creation, we would come to a place into which the Transylvanian Apple Tart would slot very well. Its still very much recognisable as an apple tart, but with a few tweaks and additions to make it intriguing:
- The use of a raising agent in the pastry – after baking, it’s closer to a shortcake than a pastry and wonderfully light and crumbly.
- The addition of an unusual dried fruit – in this case, chopped prunes. Admittedly, it might not be prunes at all, I suspect it having got a little scrambled in translation, but prunes is what I used and very delicious it turned out, so I’m going to run with it.
- The buttery custard that brings everything together – added after the tart is mostly baked, when the majority of the fruit juice has evaporated during cooking, it adds a richness to the filling without causing a dreaded soggy bottom pastry.
- The generous slosh of alcohol – rum!
I found this recipe on several Russian blogs, and it appears to have originated from a book called ‘Bakery’ by Ursula Gruninger. I’ve not managed to track down an English language copy, but on the basis of this recipe, I’m keeping an eye out!
Transylvanian Apple Tart
Makes 1 x 24cm tart
750g Bramley apples – 3 large
50g chopped prunes
4-5tbs caster sugar
5tbs dark rum
- Peel, core and slice the apples.
- Put the apples and the res of the ingredients into a pan and toss to coat.
- Cover and heat gently until the apples start to soften.
- Remove from the heat, stir again, cover and set aside to cool.
180g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
90g unsalted butter
- Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
- When the apples have cooled, put all the pastry ingredients into a food processor and blitz to breadcrumbs.
- Grease and line a 24cm tart tin or spring-form pan with baking parchment.
- Tip the mixture into the prepared tin and press lightly into the bottom and sides. The sides should stand about 4cm high.
- Add the cooled apple filling and smooth.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes.
30g unsalted butter – softened
40g caster sugar
2 large eggs
- While the tart is baking, whisk the above ingredients together.
- Remove the tart from the oven and pour over the custard mixture. Jiggle the tin a little to make sure all the spaces are filled.
- Return the tart to the oven for a further 10 minutes until the custard is golden brown and just set.
- Remove the tart from the oven and sprinkle whilst hot with a further 2-3tbs rum.
- Allow to cool in the tin for 15 minutes, then remove from the tin and cool fully on a wire rack.
- Delicious? You can COUNT on it! Ah-Ah-Ahhh!
Well, Christmas is fast approaching, and so I thought a festive recipe was in order, and this one is fantastic!
It’s an alternative to mince pie. *pauses for the gasps of shock and horror*
Now, I love mince pies (see Exhibit A and Exhibit B ), but I also don’t have a very sweet tooth, and if you’ve had an extended social life in the run-up to the big day, and have sampled nothing but mince pies throughout December (sidebar: where do all the other bakes go in December? Are they on holiday? Sometimes it seems you can’t even turn around in December without bumping into a plate of mince pies!), by the time you get to the 25th, what with the Christmas Cake and Christmas Pudding, you can be all mince-pied out.
Also, sometimes you find yourself fancying something a little savoury at the end of a meal, and this is why this recipe is perfect on so many levels. It’s simple and straightforward – just two main ingredients of fresh cranberries and juicy raisins. The raisins take the edge off the sometimes eye-popping sharpness of the cranberries and the little dash of vanilla also gives the aroma of sweetness, so only the merest sprinkle of sugar is required. It’s festively reminiscent enough of a mince pie to deserve a place on the table, its fresh-tasting, palate-cleansing, sweet but not too sweet, can be served hot or cold, but AlWAYS with a slice of cheese. I’m thinking some vintage cheddar, crumbly white Cheshire or even one of the fruited cheeses – white Stilton and apricot anyone? What’s not to love about this tart!?
It is a traditional (Welsh) border tart, ideal for Christmas – just look at that glorious colour! – and because the original recipe didn’t specify any particular pastry, I’m taking the opportunity to offer for your delectation and amusement, a new pastry recipe! Yes, I know I’ve been saying lately how much I love the cornflour pastry – and I really do, both sweet and savoury versions – but I can’t resist something that has the potential to add a new arrow to my quiver, as it were, and in this case, I’m really glad that I did.
It’s Eliza Acton’s cream pastry and it has my seal of approval for several reasons:
- Simplicity – in its basic form, it can be whisked together with just two ingredients.
- Taste – when baked, it is crisp and dry, without any hint of greasiness or stodginess.
- It can be enriched with butter, but at a ratio of just 1/4 fat-to-flour, it is not as indulgent as it tastes. When enriched with butter, the texture is moving towards the flakiness of flaky pastry, yet with the ‘dryness’ and crispness of the cornflour pastry – Nom!
- And on the practical side, it handles and rolls really nicely.
You can, of course, use your own favourite pastry instead.
Radnor Cranberry Tart
Eliza Acton’s Cream Pastry
This quantity makes enough for a 20cm pie.
225g plain flour
300-450ml double cream
- Put the flour and salt into the bowl of a food processor.
- With the motor running, gradually add in the cream, a little at a time, until the mixture comes together.
- Tip the mixture out and knead until smooth.
- Roll out the pastry into a long rectangle.
- Using the same method as for Flaky Pastry, dot over half the butter.
- Fold the ends over, turn the pastry 90 degrees and repeat.
- Roll out one last time, and fold the ends inwards.
- Wrap in plastic and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
- Make the filling (see below).
- Remove the pastry from the fridge and cut into 2 pieces (2/3 + 1/3 is about right).
- Roll out the large piece and use it to line a greased, 20cm loose bottomed tart tin. Ease the pastry into the sides, rather than just stretching it by pressing down too hard. Leave the excess hanging over the edge of the tin.
- Roll out the smaller piece of pastry to make the lid, and lay it onto a cutting board.
- Chill both pieces of pastry in the fridge for 20 minutes. This will make sure it is relaxed and less prone to shrinkage in the oven.
- By this time, the filling should be cool enough to use.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
- Remove the two lots of pastry from the fridge.
- Fill the lined tin with the cooled filling and smooth over.
- Using a pastry brush, wet the edges of the pastry, then lay the lid across the top and press the edges together.
- Trim off the excess using the back of a knife.
- Crimp the edges to your liking – I used the tines of a fork to make for a good seal.
- Brush the surface of the tart with milk and sprinkle with caster sugar.
- Cut a steam vent in the middle of the pastry lid using a sharp knife.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes until the pastry is crisp and golden brown.
- Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the tin, then remove to a wire rack to cool, if not serving warm.
- Serve with a nice wedge of cheese.
450g fresh cranberries
60ml cold water
0.5tsp vanilla extract
- Rinse the cranberries and put them in a pan with the raisins, sugar and water.
- Cover and warm on a low heat until the mixture comes to the boil and you can hear the cranberries starting to pop.
- Simmer for just five minutes, then turn off the heat.
- Taste to make sure of the sweetness, but remember, this is not supposed to be a really sweet tart, however, it shouldn’t be too sour either. If you think it needs a little more sugar, add it by all means.
- Stir in the vanilla and leave to cool.