Friday, 5 June 2009

Disaster follows disaster

Hmmm...I had hoped to post some delicious recipes here, but instead all I can do is report that I have had a number of culinary disasters lately. Now, I'm not saying that my food is restaurant-worthy on a daily, or even monthly basis, although occassionally I do get it really right. But, I generally manage to make edible and even quite tasty food. Except lately - three disasters in two weeks - that's more than my total number of absolute culinary disasters over the last five or six years! Although I experiment occassionally when cooking for myself and my husband, when we have guests over I tend to stick to five or so dishes that I know taste good. Last week, though, when a good friend was coming to stay the night, I decided I was bored with those stand-by dishes and wanted to try something different...

One night, as I was flicking through a very lovely recipe book, given to me by my even more lovely mother-in-law (I mean that quite seriously - I get on very well with her) I found a very simple and yummy looking recipe for beef in red wine. Now, my husband could probably have told me in advance that it wasn't going to work, because I was actually going to try follow the recipe (as opposed to just being inspired and then doing it my own way). I decided, just to be on the safe side, to do a trial run the night before our friend was due to arrive, and, in hindsight, I should have guessed it was not a good recipe to follow when it asked for a whole bottle of wine for a dish with less than 700g of beef. After marinading it all day, as instructed, and then cooking it for two hours in the oven with the marinade, as instructed, the alcohol was far from being cooked off and the sauce was runny and bitter. To make matters worse, I dedided to deal with my lumpy mashed potatoes, to which I'd added too much liquid, by taking my blender to them - they result was most akin, in texture and probably also in taste, to wallpaper paste. Not wanting to waste precious food (we are in a recession you know, and I didn't feel like making anything else by then), my husband and I bravely sat down to and finished this meal. I think it must be the only beef-based meal my husband has ever had which he would happily have swapped for a plate of soggy cabbage (although he didn't tell me that - I'm just guessing here...).

As you can imagine, this was followed by a day of crisis - I'd bought beef and wine and garlic and potatoes specially for the meal the next night, but had no idea what to do with them as I did not want a repeat of this disaster. Thankfully I managed to work out a stew-type thing which did what I should have done in the first place - used the recipe for inspiration rather than instruction, that actually worked out quite well. Recipe to follow when I make it next (and gather together ingredient quantities etc).

The next disaster started out in my mind as a beautiful, light, summery marble cake, with pretty pink swirls of strawberry inter-lacing with swirls of creamy vanilla. Initially it seemed so promising - here is a picture of it right before putting it into the oven...
By the time it came out of the oven though, it was terrible. It tasted horrible and somehow the pink part had completely disappeared, leaving just a white-ish cake with no obvious distinction between the vanilla and strawberry parts. Now what I'd like to know is where did the pink food colouring go? How could it be there one moment and gone the next? If anyone knows, please let me know. I assume it's got something to do with the heat of the oven - that's all I can think of. Anyway, this was a productive failure. I have no photo of the final product - I was in too much despair to think of pictures by then. I learnt a number of things from this:
1. Strawberry essence is not good for cakes - tastes completely wrong. Next time I'll try figure something out with strawberries themselves.
2. Pink food colouring can disappear in the oven.
3. The yoghurt icing I made for this does not work. I still like the idea of yoghurt icing - with a bit of a tang from the yoghurt, but currently have no idea how to achieve this mental taste in real life.

The final disaster happened last night. We decided to have toad-in-the-hole, which I thought I'd follow up with a pudding along the same lines as toad-in-the-hole, using caramelised apples in the batter. I decided, just to see, what would happen if I used pancake batter instead of toad-in-the-hole batter, and I can tell you now, it doesn't work. It came out of the oven uncooked and stodgy and horrible, except for the bit right on the top, which was lovely. I won't be trying that again.

But, just so you don't think I'm a complete kitchen disaster, here's a little peek at some chocolate cake I made a couple of week's ago for my sister (sorry, this is not the best photo).......this was actually quite tasty, and, along with some cupcakes I made last week, even inspired her to make a lemon drizzle cake. Unfortunately, I've not tasted it, but I believe it was scrumptious.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Frozen Raspberry Yoghurt

A few days ago I mentioned that I would be posting a recipe for frozen raspberry yoghurt. Unfortunately, I don’t have many pictures to illustrate this, but here you go. Its very easy – try it today!IMG_4032 You will need:

1/2 cup orange juice

9-11 dessertspoons of white sugar (less sugar for more tart yoghurt, more for sweet – I used 11 this time, but will probably use 10 next time I make it)

A 350g pack of frozen raspberries (available in the freezer section of large supermarkets)

1 1/2 cups Greek yoghurt


1. Heat half a cup of orange juice and the sugar over a low heat until all the sugar is dissolved.

2. Add the frozen raspberries (don’t worry about defrosting them first – I used them from frozen) to the orange juice and sugar.

3. Bring orange juice/sugar/raspberry mixture to the boil and then let it simmer for about 20 minutes over a medium heat until it has reduced to about half and is becoming quite syrupy/jam-like.

4. Pour the raspberry mixture into a clean bowl and set it aside to cool. I didn’t strain it to remove the seeds as I wanted it to have a bit texture – I’m not sure how it would work if you did remove the seeds.

5. When the raspberry mixture has cooled completely, add one and a half cups of Greek yoghurt to the bowl and beat until completely mixed together (I used an electric beater for this – much easier than by hand).

6. Pour into a shallow container and place, uncovered, in the freezer. After about 4 hours, beat gently with a fork to break up ice crystals and then place back in freezer for a few hours.

7. Eat!

Note – this doesn’t freeze solid, but to a sort of creamy consistency. Mine was fine when kept uncovered in the freezer for a few days. I can’t comment about after then – it was finished pretty quickly!