Sunday, September 14, 2014

My favourite thing - Sunday roast

If you were to ask me what my absolute favourite meal was I would have to answer, roast lamb, with crispy roast potatoes, gravy and a pile of vegetables.  As I will soon be leaving home I am using my last few weeks here as a chance to learn some more useful skills from my mum and, of course, this includes cooking a roast dinner from scratch.

I chose to roast a leg of lamb as it's one of my favourite joints of meat.  The first thing you have to do is prepare the meat, cut away any excess fat and gristle from the edges of the meat.  Then score the meat, season with salt and pepper and stuff the slits with sprigs of fresh rosemary.  By wedging the rosemary into the slits the meat will take on its great taste, something which is often lost if you just sprinkle it on top.

The prepared lamb
Roasting times will vary depending on the size of the joint and you will need to allow some extra time if you aren't keen on eating your meat rare.  While the lamb was in the oven I prepared the vegetables.  I chopped up the potatoes into quarters before parboiling them for ten minutes.  I then roasted them in lard on the highest shelf in the oven for 55 minutes.  I also boiled some carrots, beans and broccoli.

Prepare the veg
When it came time to check the lamb I stuck a long skewer into the centre and removed it to check the colour of the juices.  They shouldn't be too bloody, but if you don't like your meat rare/pink then you should make sure they run clear.  Once I was happy with the way the lamb was cooked I removed it from the oven, covered it with tin foil and left it to relax for about fifteen minutes.

The roasted lamb
To make sure your potatoes roast nicely you'll need to remove them from the oven halfway through cooking and use a spoon to turn them over so that they crisp up on both sides.

Nothing beats crispy roast potatoes
While the meat is relaxing you should have enough time to make some gravy.  I made a red wine gravy which was really tasty and made a nice change from your everyday gravy.  Use equal amounts of butter and plain flour to make a roux - melt the butter in a pan over a medium heat then vigorously mix in the flour until you have a smooth paste.  Very gradually add some stock, stirring constantly to prevent the gravy from going lumpy until you have enough.  I then added some red wine, some of the meat juices from the roasting tin and seasoning to taste and left it to simmer for ten minutes or so in order to let it reduce and thicken.  Stir occasionally to stop it from forming a skin or sticking to the bottom of the pan.  Once the veg is ready all that's left to do is carve the meat and serve!

Heaven on a plate
A roast dinner may seem like a lot of effort, but with planning and practice it really isn't as hard as you think.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Foodie Film Friday - The Hundred-Foot Journey

This week's foodie film Friday is actually about a film I went to see only last week and is still on in cinemas.  After seeing a trailer for 'The Hundred-Foot Journey' I decided that it was definitely a film for me.  Just a warning that this review does contain some spoilers.

While it is a very enjoyable film, featuring some great food, I wouldn't go with high expectations as it is fundamentally a romance film with a rather predictable plot.

The Hundred-Foot Journey - film cover

The film is based on an Indian family who set up a typical indian restaurant in a provincial French town right opposite a Michelin-starred restaurant.  This leads to some fierce competition and a Romeo and Juliet-esque relationship.  The cliché romance and poor French accents aside, I really loved this film for the food, from the sea urchins at the Indian market in the initial scene to the French markets later on, with their stalls piled high with fish and mushrooms, including my personal favourite - chanterelles.

My favourite scene in this film has to be the one in which Hassan and Madame Mallory make an omelette with an Indian twist.  I love how something as simple as an omelette can be made into a tasty delight by adding a few carefully selected ingredients.  It's one of my go-to dishes when I'm hungry and want something quick to make and is a great way of using up leftovers.

You should definitely eat before going to see this film, as even on a full stomach you will find some of the scenes make your mouth water.  It's a shame about the predictability of the storyline, but what the film lacks in plot it more than makes up for in food and beautiful scenery.

I would give this film an overall rating of 3/5 - it was a lovely, light-hearted film
As for how serious the film was I'd give it a 3/5 (where 1 is serious and 5 is lighthearted) - although it was fundamentally a rom com there were some more serious elements highlighting the importance of keeping in touch with reality and your roots, an important message in my opinion.
This film scores a 3/5 for food content as it features a lot, but is not always the main focus of the film.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Truly Scrumptious

Just because I haven't been blogging much recently does not mean I haven't been cooking!  Yesterday was no exception.  I decided to do a spot of baking and finally got round to making macaroons, something which I have been wanting to try for ages.

My first macaroons
Having never made macaroons before I decided to keep it relatively simple, choosing this recipe for chocolate and raspberry flavoured ones.  In general it was easy to follow, however it was a little tricky in places as, this being my first attempt, I was not sure how thick the almond and sugar paste should be, nor what a macaroon looked like when it was ready to come out the oven.  So with a little bit of estimating and educated guessing I produced my first ever batch of macaroons.

I actually weighed out all my ingredients in advance, something which I often don't do, so that I knew I had everything ready to go.  Sieving almonds and icing sugar is easier said than done, although the point is to get rid of any bits of almond which are too large.  I managed not to burn my simple syrup and the meringue looked as it should.

When it comes to food colouring I will have to do a little more reading.  The recipe recommended 1/2 teaspoon of red food colouring which was certainly not enough to produce the bright colours shown in the picture.  A lot more would have been needed to get anywhere near that colour, however I'm not sure what effect that quantity of liquid would have on the mixture.

Folding the meringue into the almond paste was tricky as it took longer than I expected owing to the consistency of the paste (I may have needed to make it a little runnier by adding more egg whites) but it seemed to work out fine.

The meringue and almond paste mixture
Next came the fun part - piping the macaroons!  It is very difficult to pipe a circle just two and a half centimetres in diameter so some of my macaroons ended up being a little larger than planned but I don't think it mattered, I just made slightly fewer than the recipe suggested.

Before baking
They need to be left for half an hour so that a skin forms on the macaroons before they are baked in the oven for 14 minutes.  After taking them out I would definitely recommend leaving them to cool before using a knife to scrape them off the tray as hopefully they will crumble less.

Fresh out the oven
In the meantime I set about making a ganache.  Now, for my birthday I was going to post about a lovely cake I made with a ganache coating, but my ganache failed not once, but twice and while delicious it was not blog-worthy, so that was the end of that idea.  Fortunately I was able to produce a lovely ganache yesterday simply by using a chocolate with a lower cocoa content.  Previously I had used Lindt 80% dark chocolate which hadn't melted properly and caused the ganache to split and go lumpy.  This time I used Sainsbury's 53% dark baking chocolate and the ganache turned out perfectly!

The ganache
I needed less ganache and more jam than the recipe called for but that really wasn't a problem.  I got the piping bag out again and piped generous amounts of ganache around the edge of the macaroons and went back filling in the centres with raspberry jam.  If you want your macaroons to have a stronger taste then I would recommend adding some flavouring along with your food colouring, although not too much as you do still want to be able to taste the almonds.

Pipe a ring of ganache
Fill with jam
All that was left to do was sandwich the macaroons together.  I can confirm that macaroons are definitely best enjoyed fresh!