Homemade Shortcrust Pastry

12 01 2011

Shop bought pastry is a little bit of a Godsend, especially for the really time-consuming pastries such as filo or puff pastry.

There are some times though when shop bought pastry just wont cut it, shortcrust pastry is one of these exceptions. Not only is shortcrust pastry quick and easy to make but the difference in cost and quality is really quite noticeable.

I prefer to make my pastry well in advance, often the day before, and leave it in the fridge to set. It just ends up being so much better both in terms of taste and texture.

The trick to making great shortcrust pastry is to keep it cold and to try to handle it as little as possible. A marble board is great for working with pastry, you can help keep it cooler for longer and there is less chance of the dough sticking to the board.

Ingredients:

200g Plain flour

100g unsalted butter – cubed

1/2 tsp salt

1 mid-sized egg

 

Method:

Mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl and rub the butter in with your fingertips until you have a crumb-like consistency.

Slowly add in half of the beaten egg and continue to mix by hand until it comes together, you can add more egg if need be.

Once the pastry has come together flatten it out into disc about an inch thick, place in a plastic bag and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

 





Darth Naga Vs. Naga Viper

12 01 2011

I wrote a post a while back mentioning that there is a new contender to the throne of the world’s hottest chilli – click here to read

There are several chillies that look like they are going to beat the current official holder, the Bhut Jolokia, but the Naga Viper which has been grown and developed her in good old blighty looks like it is going to leave them all dead in the water.

I have placed my order for some Naga Viper seeds so that I can start growing my own little atomic morsels but in the meanwhile I have to sate my appetite by watching others suffer instead.

So here is a video of Darth Naga chowing down on a Naga Viper – those of you of a sensitive nature might want to look away…





Beer of the year 2010

10 01 2011

You might not have noticed but 2010 is dead and gone.

Whilst I don’t believe in New Years resolutions or anything that daft I do like to take the new year as an opportunity to look back over the previous one and take stock.

One thing that really stuck out for me whilst I was looking back over 2010 was the sheer number of different beers that crossed my path during the past 12 months, from old friends like Theakston’s Old Peculier to new encounters like Sharp’s Cornish Coaster I have sampled a huge variety of beers, even if I haven’t managed to get all of the reviews up yet!

I spent an enjoyable half hour or so considering this selection and there were a couple of beers that stood out for me as being real gems that deserved to be shouted about.

So with no further delay here are my personal picks for Beer of the year 2010

Beer of the Year 2010:

Great Oakley Gobble


 

Best Stout or Porter:

Maldon Oyster Stout

 

It was so tough for me to pick just two beers as I have tasted some really fine examples of the brewers art this past year and could have quite easily come up with a list of beers as long as my arm.

They haven’t all been good beers though and whilst I was happily day dreaming of beers gone by there were one or two horrors that had me shuddering at the thought.

So here we have a new category, one which no brewer should ever hope to end up…

Worst Beer of 2010:

Rocking Rudolph







Mad Dog Inferno Hot Sauce 1999 reserve edition

10 01 2011

Mad Dog Inferno Hot Sauce 1999 reserve edition

 

“One drop and you’ll wonder what hit you. Raging with fire, this sauce will blow your mind!  Watch out, it bites back. This sauce is very hot, use it at your own risk!”

I have heard good things about this hot sauce from Ashley Food Company for a number of years and have been very impressed by some of their other hotter sauces but I had never gotten  around to actually sampling this for myself,  well that all changed recently; I found the sauce on sale over at scorchio.co.uk and decided to pop it into my cart along with my other purchases.

This sauce was initially produced by Ashley Food Company in 1999 as an extract enhanced version of their Mad Dog Inferno hot sauce, the original sauce had clocked in at around  80,000 Scoville and the new edition took a hefty leap to 150,000 – not too shabby but certainly not up to the ridiculous levels of heat they are hitting in some of their newer sauces –  Mad Dog’s Revenge stands out as one particular example.

Ingredients: Red Wine Vinegar, Unsulphured Molasses, Peppers Extract, Garlic, Jalapeno Peppers, Onion, Habanero Chile Extract, Clove, Herbs and Spices.

Smell:

On opening the bottle up the first thing I did was have a good old sniff to see what we had going on, I could pickup the sweetness from the molasses, a slightly burnt chemical smell from the extract and a whiff of the jalapeno chillies coming through in the background.

Appearance:

The first thing I thought of on looking at the sauce was that it really strongly resembled a thick “brown sauce” (steak sauce for my colonial cousins) with a very smooth consistency. It wasn’t untill I poured the sauce that I realised just how thick this is, I had shaken the sauce quite vigorously before opening it and still had to give the base of the bottle a couple of hefty whacks before I saw any movement.

Taste:

I tried the sauce straight up off of a spoon and was pleasantly surprised, the extract flavour that was quite prominent in the aroma was well hidden in the background and instead the taste of the peppers, spices and molasses came to the fore along with a general richness and a bit of fruitiness, it was actually not dissimilar to a hot Worchestershire sauce and straight away I was considering what foods to try this with.

Seeing as the post had arrived early this particular day I decided to add a good dousing of the sauce to a bacon sandwich for a bit of breakfast

Well I will go out on a limb here and say that this was one of the best bacon sandwiches of my life, I love hot sauce on my butties at the best of times but the Mad Dog Inferno took it to another level, not only was there a nice bit of heat but the fruity spiciness couple with the sweetness of the molasses really cut through the fattiness of the bacon and gave it an extra dimension.

Later on in the day I had a reasonable dollop of sauce on top of some mashed potatoes and ended up with the same grin I had worn that morning, the flavour of the sauce is excellent but at no point was it overwhelming, it accented the food rather than stealing the show all together.

Heat:

There is a nice level of heat to this particular sauce and if I didn’t know that the sauce is supposed to be around the 150,000 SHU mark I would possibly have said it was quite a bit hotter, maybe closer to the 250K mark.

The heat builds up slowly with this sauce, so much so that initially you could be mistaken for thinking you were not eating a hot sauce at all!

When the heat does finally arrive though there is a nice burn at the back of the mouth which continues to intensify for around 30 seconds or so before dropping away to a lingering warmth.

I would say that this had a nice middle of the road level of heat to it,  hardcore chilli fans will be able to handle it with ease whilst still getting a nice bit of warmth but tabasco lovers beware, this will have you reaching for the milk in no time.

Whilst this wont be going down in history as one of my favourite sauces I did like the flavour and would recommend it as a fiery alternative to using brown sauce.

Heat 3/5

Overall 4/5

You can purchase Mad Dog Inferno Hot Sauce 1999 Reserve Edition from www.scorchio.co.uk




Quick prawn curry

5 01 2011

 This prawn(shrimp) curry is so quick and easy that there would be literally no point in calling up the curry house for a takeaway.

 Assuming you had your rice on to boil before you started making the curry you could have a delicious easy meal on your table in far less than fifteen minutes!

 This curry would be great with a simple carrot salad and maybe some nice hot naan bread.

  

Ingredients:

1 medium red onion
1 clove of garlic
400 g peeled cooked prawns
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp chilli powder
400g pot natural yoghurt
1 medium red chilli
Chopped coriander to serve (optional)
 

Method:

Heat some vegetable oil in a pan and fry the onion and garlic for around 5 minutes until soft and golden.

Add the tomato paste, spices and yoghurt, stir and simmer for around 5 minutes.

Add the cooked  prawns and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes

Serve the curry over boiled rice with a few coriander leaves and slices of red chilli sprinkled on top.





Bateman’s XXXB

3 01 2011

Batemans is an independent brewery from Wainfleet in Lincolnshire; the Bateman family have been operating the brewery on a pretty much continual basis since  1874 and along the way have turned out some cracking beers and picked up rather a lot of awards – the most recent of these being “Best Regional Brewer” at the Publican Awards 2010.

XXXB is their 4.8% premium bitter and has previously been voted as being one of the top 50 beers in the world.

I have sampled XXXB on a number of occasions over the past few years, both on tap and most recently bottled as part of a deal from our local off licence – all Batemans beers €2.00 a bottle, a real bargain by Irish standards!

XXXB pours to a nice clear coppery finish with a mid-sized head that lasted reasonably well with a fair amount of lacing.

The initial aroma that I picked up was that of a slightly bitter  black tea with some citrus and a bit of sweetness coming in afterwards  – possibly toffee.

On drinking this beer the first thing I noticed was that there is very little sweetness to it, the citrus comes through quite clearly along with a slight nuttiness and some biscuity richness from the malts.

There is a lot of bitterness present through out along with the slight taste of black tea, this with the slight element of citrus makes for a very refreshing pint although some might find it a touch sour towards the finish.

The body is reasonably light but the carbonation is spot on resulting in a very pleasant mouthfeel overall.

In my opinion XXXB is better than average but there is certainly room for improvement.

4/5








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