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Monday, 31 December 2007

2-way parsnip

The Christmas Cooking Frenzy has put me off the kitchen for the last few days, but today I feel like I'm back on board.
In our fridge there's an obscene amount of parsnips that needs addressing, due to a Christmas Shopping Frenzy miscommunication. Roasting them is not an option as I have absolutely done my dash with roasted parsnips (at least for the next few weeks anyway).
I have been loosely inspired by the format of the 2-way Peking Duck - where the skin and top layer of meat is served with the pancakes etc, then the rest of carcass taken back to the kitchen to make soup.
My 2-way parsnip consists of chips (like the Tyrrells ones) and a spicy soup.

What you need
10 Parsnips, peeled
sea salt
black pepper in a grinder
sunflower oil
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1 small brown onion, diced
1 tablespoon marigold swiss vegetable organic bouillon powder
Pastry brush
fresh coriander

Parsnip chips
Preheat oven to 200c
Using a vegetable peeler, work your way around the fat end of the peeled parsnip taking off about 3-4 slivers at a time. Repeat with the other parsnips.Brush some sunflower oil then grind some black pepper onto a metal baking tray, evenly lay the strips down flat, lightly brush with some more oil and season again with a little bit more pepper and salt. Bake in the oven for around 8 minutes on the top shelf, give them a toss at around 5 minutes with a spatula and return to the oven. When golden remove from oven and cool on some paper towel.

Parsnip soup
Chop what's left of the parsnips into 2-3 cm chunks. Put a full kettle on the boil. Heat a few tablespoons of sunflower oil in a big saucepan over medium heat then fry the onion, curry powder and cumin - when the aroma begins come out of the spices throw in the parsnip chunks and fry for a few minutes, add enough boiling water from the kettle to cover the parsnips. Add stock powder and stir. Bring to boil, cover and turn flame to low. When the parsnips are soft, then blend in the food processor until smooth and serve with some chopped fresh coriander.

Now what I need is ideas on how to cook the 500 brussel sprouts sitting in the fridge.
Happy New Year!

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

bringing home the baked goods

A couple of weeks ago I brought a tray of cupcakes to work. It just so happened that a fellow inmate, Stef D, had baked some muffins on the same day. Naturally, we challenged each other to a bake-off. It took place on Monday and was a joy to behold; a bundle of cooks produced so many baked goods people were getting high on the sugar fumes alone. From Swedish Macaroons and rude gingerbread bodies to mince pies and five types of brownies, the spread was amazing.

My hands down favourite sweet was Stef's version of this Choc-hazelnut Meringue Cake from the BBC's Olive Magazine. Include it in your festive spread on Christmas day (alongside Chew's Leek and Sweet Potato Roulade of course) and the folks will adore you. I took a punt with a few recipes I hadn't tried before, including these nutty Russian balls I nicked from Smitten Kitchen. I used a combination of pecans, hazelnuts and almonds and added a little sweetened condensed milk to the dough because I found it quite dry. The result was a very tasty treat for nut freaks.

With so many sweet nibbles on the bake-off table, we raised over a hundred quid in donations for the homelessness charity, Crisis. Job well done.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

A peculiar panettone

A couple of weeks ago I read an inspiring article in one of the weekend broadsheet magazines about an Italian family dedicated to pumping out panettone. (From memory it was the Saturday Telegraph.) Given panettone is an increasingly favoured festive cake in our house, I salivated as they spoke lovingly of the Casa Corsini mother yeast and the 24 hour hand-to-hand baking process, culminating in a hand tied ribbon around the hand wrapped doughy bundle. Oh the love.

It just so happened this particular panettone is sold in Waitrose so I duly bought one when I saw it in the aisle the other night. It set me back a fiver and tasted alright, though it didn't blow my mind.

So anyway, last night I was reading the Guardian's G2 in bed, paying particular interest to a Cheats' Christmas review of all the supermarket food that may or may not pass for homemade on your table, and they mentioned a Casa Cortini panettone from Waitrose, quietly bagging the crap out of it. A little bit surprised that one broadsheet elevated this particular panettone to the heavens while another dropped it in hades, I went looking for the original article (and the home page for this age old family bread business). Which was when I noticed the spelling discrepancy between the Tele and the G2.

After a fruitless web search I was reminded why I never became a hack in the first place and, frankly, that this story has no point. That said, the panettone IS the cake for christmas this year. I read it in a magazine.

Better than turkey

A long afternoon of farting into couch cushions is as much a part of Christmas as carol singing and mistletoe. So if you want to cut down on your emissions this year, do away with the traditional Nut Roast and try this festive recipe instead.
This roulade is for those who don't mind a little lacto-ovo action and it's a little complicated to make, but the vegetarian at your Christmas table will love you for it.
In past years, I have followed this ABC Delicious magazine recipe word for word. This year I’m feeling pretty confident and I’m going to add a few yule tide-esque trimmings of my own - and I’m trialling it before the big day next week so I don’t poison my boyfriend’s family.


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 leek, finely chopped
60g butter
1/3 cup plain flour
300 ml soy milk (or cow's milk if you prefer it)
4 eggs, separated
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Sweet potato filling
500g sweet potatoes, peeled, chopped
15g butter
100ml light cream or 2 tablespoons Tofutti cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
handful of roughly chopped walnuts

Chestnut cranberry stuffing

30g unsalted butter
1 brown onion, finely diced
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 cup fresh brown breadcrumbs
1/2 cup chopped and peeled whole roasted chestnuts (I used the vacuum-pack sealed Merchant Gourmet ones)
a child's handful of chopped fresh sage
a child's handful chopped flat leaf parsley
a few sprigs of thyme, with stalks removed

1. The night before, place cranberries in a bowl and cover with port - set aside.

2. Preheat oven to 180°C.

3. Grease and line a Swiss roll pan (I used one that was about 33x22 - but if you have one about 39x26 - it would be better)

To make roulade, heat the oil in a frying pan over low-medium heat.

5. Add the leek and cook gently for five minutes until soft.

6. In a saucepan, heat butter. When it has melted, add the flour and cook 1 - 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the milk, a little at a time, whisking until milk is combined and sauce has thickened. Remove from heat, beat in egg yolks one at a time, then season with salt and pepper.

7. In a clean bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. Add 1/4 of the egg whites to the mixture in the saucepan and mix lightly. Fold in leeks and cheddar until just combined then gently fold in remaining egg whites, being careful not to lose all the air you've put into the eggs.

8. Pour into the prepared Swiss roll pan and bake in oven for 20-25 minutes or until puffed and golden.

For the filling, steam or microwave sweet potato until tender. Drain and mash with butter, cream and nutmeg. Season to taste and set aside.

10. To make stuffing, melt butter in frying pan over medium heat. Add onion, cook for five minutes or until soft. Add garlic, cranberries and breadcrumbs and cook for further 3 - 4 minutes. Stir in herbs and season with salt and pepper.When roulade is cooked, place clean tea towel on the workbench and sprinkle with Parmesan. Turn the roulade out onto the tea towel and peel off baking paper. Allow to cool for 2 minutes, then spread the sweet potato over the roulade except for 2 inches across the far edge. Distribute walnuts evenly over the surface.

11. Sprinkle the stuffing over the sweet potato putting most of it on the edge closer to you, then (this bit is a little tricky...) using the edge of the tea towel, carefully roll up the roulade like a sushi roll, finishing with the seam down. This takes a little practice so don't worry if it cracks or isn't perfect - it's not worth razzing out over.

12. Using the tea towel and a spatula, carefully transfer it back onto the Swiss roll pan (you may need the help of a trusty assistant) and bake at 180 for about 15 minutes

13. Slice and serve warm with all the Christmas sides.

You can make this the day before. Wrap in tin foil and heat through when needed. You may want to make an extra one because in my experience, meat-eaters have finished this off leaving me without seconds.

Happy Christmas!!

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Eggs in purgatory ... tagine style

Eggs, tomatoes and smoked paprika all cooked in my latest kitchen acquisition, the tagine.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Stew it over

Life can get pretty busy, which leaves little time for the kitchen. Just look at the cooking section in any bookstore and it's all express this, fast that.
In this day and age it is difficult to dedicate yourself to proper slow cooking. Preparation times are shorter, most people would rather reach for the freezer drawer than sit around shelling peas, and just check out how large the pre-cut vegetable section is at supermarket.
The kind of cooking that takes patience, and forces you to come into line with the seasons, is rare. When I begin to feel a proper chill in the air I know it's chestnut time, and this means I can make one of my favourite family recipes of all time... Chestnut and shittake mushroom stew.

1. When choosing your chestnuts go for shiny ones that are heavy for their weight and don't yield when given a good squeeze. There is nothing worse than getting a bad batch. Once picked, they disintegrate quickly so peel them soon after purchase or store them in the fridge to prolong freshness.
2. Chestnuts are a royal pain in the arse to peel. I usually enjoy this dish whilst nursing scorched thumbs, but it's worth it.
3. NEVER attempt to peel chestnuts in a hurry, it will result in a great deal of cursing and swearing. Put on your favourite podcast and it will soon become a pleasure, not a chore (I did mine whilst bopping along to Diddy Wah's 1977 mixtape)
4. The peeled nuts can be stored in the freezer for when you need them.


What you need
1 small can of chinese water chestnuts, drained and chopped in thirds
2 big handfuls of dried shittake mushrooms
2 big handfuls of chestnuts
dark mushroom soy sauce
1 tablespoon of marigold vegetable bouillon powder
2-3 star anise pods
1 teaspoon of 5 spice power
sesame oil
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon cornflower mixed with a little cold water

The do
THE DAY BEFORE: Place the mushrooms in a bowl and cover with boiling water. They will float, so put a small plate over the top to keep them submerged.

With a small sharp knife, very carefully score a deep cross into one side of each chestnut. Throw three at a time into a small saucepan of simmering water for around 10-15 minutes, fish them out with a slotted spoon and throw another three (or more if you are a fast peeler) into the water.
Peel away the tough brown shell and downy inner skin, this is easy if done while the nut is still hot or warm. If they are left to cool down you will find it extremely difficult. Repeat. When the nuts are all done, drain the mushroom water into a jug. Trim the stems off and cut into two. Put a big heavy saucepan on medium heat and throw in a few lugs of oil.
Fry the garlic, 5 spice, water chestnuts, chestnuts, mushrooms then after a minute add a lug of mushroom soy. Fry for a few more minutes then add the mushroom water, stock powder and star anise. The liquid should just cover the ingredients, if not, top up with boiling water. Bring to boil, then simmer with the lid on until chestnuts are soft, stir gently every now and then, taking care not to break up the chestnuts. Taste, and add salt and pepper if needed.
Add cornflower mixture, stir, and simmer with the lid off for another 10 minutes.
Fish out the star anise, drizzle sesame oil over the top and serve with brown rice and steamed pak choy or bok choy.

* Any Chinese grocer should have all the ingredients for this dish. I was recently overjoyed at discovering Thai-An Grocery in Chapel market, near Angel station. It sure beats pack-horsing all my goodies on the bus from Chinatown.

Monday, 10 December 2007

part two: the Tim Tam travesty

Holy crap, it's an international phenomenon. After reading of Adam's Kit Kat malfunction here on Lily & Chew, LC sent us news of a similar state of affairs in Melbourne. This time it appears workers at the Arnott's factory have been struggling to hit their Tim Tam moulds. (No, the obvious similarities in the aliterative word patterns of the two biscuit treats in question have not been lost on us.)

It is worth stating for readers unfamiliar with the Tim Tam that 35 million packets of this tasty chocolatey biscuit treat are sold in Australia annually -- that's nearly two packets per Australian. According to Wikipedia, the biscuit was named after the winning horse in the 1958 Kentucky Derby. While there have been many variations produced since the first Tim Tam was sold in 1964, the basic formula of a cream centre sandwiched between two biscuits and smothered in chocolate has remained constant. Until recently, that is.

Earlier this year, LC's regular Friday afternoon tea fell to pieces as she tucked into her beloved Tim Tams with her work mates at SB only to find something quite unexpected. Here is the account posted to Arnott's of what followed:

Good aftenoon,

I never thought I would see the day that I'd find reason to compose this feedback to you over a Tim Tam, however...

At our workplace, we have just bought and gleefully begun consuming our beloved Friday afternoon Tim Tam fix. To our surprise, we've found several of the TTs to be without their cream centres!

These biscuits did seem to have a slightly different external appearance ... then once bitten in to there was a slight hollow where the cream normally is, and just, really, biscuit-on-biscuit action.

This particularly caused tears for one team member who broke a week-long wheat-free existence, for the love of the Tim Tam. She's a trifle upset that she'd lost her healthy high ground for little more than the wheat based portion of the TT, if you follow our drift!

I'm sure you can understand our compulsion to inform you of this immediately. After all, if we can't rely on Tim Tams in this world, I ask you - what is there left?

Here's the kicker. For their troubles, the gang at SB were sent $5... redeemable as a Coles voucher! That is TIGHT (about £2.20 worth of groceries at Tesco.) Thankfully, there was a special on Tim Tams in Coles Richmond that week so they were able to buy two replacement packets with their coupon.

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Kit Kat Freak

It's amazing, you can live with someone for years, you think you know everything there is to know about them and then, boom, like a bolt out of the blue you discover they've had a favourite lunch snack all their life and you had no idea. This happened recently when adam came home from work one day banging on and on about a run in with a crazy Kit Kat. I can't possibly do the story that followed justice so I'll let him explain what happened...

I love Kit Kats and I have one as an after lunch snack pretty much everyday. This is in neat harmony with the history of the bar which, according to Wikipedia, "...was developed after a worker at the Rowntree's factory in York put a suggestion in the suggestion box for a snack that a 'man could have in his lunch box for work'." The real coincidence is that Kit Kats take their name from an 18th century literary club, the Kit-Cat Club, named after Christopher Catling the keeper of the pie-house in Shire Lane, by Temple Bar, where the club originally met. Where I buy my Kit Kats is freakishly close to being in that exact location. However, even knowing these facts couldn't have prepared me for what I experienced when I bit into a Kit Kat a couple of weeks ago on an otherwise normal day. Expecting the usual crunch of chocolate covered wafer, I was stunned when I realised that in my mouth, and in my hand, was a bar of solid chocolate.

With a telephone right in front of me, and vague tales of boxes of product being delivered as compensation floating around my head, there was only one thing to do. I called Nestle to complain. If I'd wanted a plain chocolate bar I would have bought one after all, and not one made of Kit Kat chocolate. The man I spoke with was very affable and he explained to me that I probably had no idea of the scale of the production of Kit Kats. Being that they are the UK's number one chocolate bar and number one biscuit, he was probably right. I confess, I'd never put much thought to it. Apparently, giant sheets of wafer drop into a mould which is then filled with liquid chocolate. Occasionally the wafer doesn't land exactly in the correct spot and some areas of the mould gets filled entirely with chocolate, which must be what happened to mine. It is the job of workers at the factory to spot this and make sure any mutant Kit Kats get destroyed. After quizzing me for some numbers on the wrapper, he said he'd send me a cheque. A few days later I was bemused when a cheque arrived in the post, for £3!

Kit Kat Letter

£3 is not quite as good as a big box of Kit Kats but, hell, it's better than a kick in the teeth.

Kit Kat Cheque

If you have time, check out the Kit Kat Palace to find out all the crazy Kit Kat flavours they have in Japan. Anyone for Green Tea Kit Kats?

Saturday, 1 December 2007

blueberry and rose, gimme some of those

There is no humanity. On Saturday Australia's future was full of promise. This week I discover Bindi Irwin has released a rap song. I cry for our fair land, I really do. Closer to home, I suffered my own personal setback last weekend after a footpath flew into my face and took out my chin. The damage: a couple of hours in A&E and three stitches. Klutz. Desperately in need of fluffy loveliness, I duly baked a batch of blueberry and lemon cakes with rose icing.

The base recipe for this is lifted from the Guardian Guide to Baking. They call it 'the easiest cake in the world', totally ludicrous if you are familiar with my nan's Frankie's Cake, which I doubt, so believe me when I tell you it has nothing as fancy as sour cream or even butter in it. Incidentally, if the amount of butter in this recipe freaks you out, when I plumped the quantities with blueberries it made me a decent sized cake (18 cm round) as well as eight cupcakes. (The recipe recommends a 20cm round tin.) So unless you are planning on a heaving solo face stuffing, a lot of butter goes a long way.

What you need for a blueberry and lemon split-chin-on-the-mend cake
200g unsalted butter, softened
250g caster sugar
2 large eggs
200g sour cream
300g plain flour
3 level tsp baking powder
grated peel of one lemon
one tub of blueberries
Squeeze of lemon juice

And for the rose petal icing
50g icing sugar
100g cream cheese
rose essence
A little butter
candied rose petals and sparkly pink bits for decorating
Squeeze of lemon juice

Making it
Butter and line the base of your tin with non-stick baking paper. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then add the lemon rind and eggs, one at a time, and beat well till combined. Beat the sour cream and lemon juice into the mixture then sift in the flour and baking powder and beat it through. When it's all mixed, fold in the blueberries.

Spoon the mixture into the tin or cupcake tray, heat the oven to 180C (160C fan-assisted) and bake for 45 minutes to an hour (15-20 mins for cupcakes) or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Cool the cake while you make the icing. Beat the cream cheese, icing sugar, squeeze of citrus, a few drops of rose essence and butter together (it may help to sit the bowl over hot water so everything mixes properly) till smooth. Slide over your cooled cake and sprinkle with lovely bits. Best served with fresh peppermint tea and a peachy grin.