The Encyclopedia of Herbs, Spices, & Flavorings

24 05 2012

Hi Chums,

It has been rather a while since I last recommended a book to the World at large ,that would be you lot by the way.

In the main this is because I have been far too busy working on my own cookery book which will be launching rather soon. Hint Hint…

As such it is rather fitting that the book I am all in a lather about is one that dovetails nicely with my own.
The Encyclopedia of Herbs, Spices, & Flavorings 

The Encyclopedia of Herbs, Spices, & Flavorings

Here is what those nice chaps over at Amazon have to say about it:

“An illustrated sourcebook to these all-important cooking ingredients includes information on more than two hundred herbs, spices, essences, edible flowers and leaves, aromatics, vinegars, oils, teas, and coffees”

I on the other hand will stick to simply issuing an instruction –

IF YOU COOK  AND DON’T OWN A COPY GO AND BUY ONE. NOW.

Not quite Wordsworth but hopefully the point comes across. I very rarely encounter anything that I look at and think wow this is something which everyone should own. However on this occasion I really am that impressed.

Not only are they lots of high quality pictures, excellent descriptions of various herbs, spices and flavourings and their uses but there are also over 200 recipes so you can leap straight in and start applying all this new-found knowledge.

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The most expensive ingredients in the World

14 05 2012

After my recent move into the new house some people have started to wonder whether I haven’t developed ideas above my station.

Well just to cast aside all doubt here is a quick round-up of some of the most expensive ingredients in the World…

Saffron – $1,000/lb

A classic contender for World’s most expensive ingredient. Saffron is the dried stigma of the cunningly named “Saffron Crocus” or Crocus sativus to give it’s proper name.

For anyone who is wondering why some dried pieces of a flower are so expensive have a look below at what wikipedia has to say…

“To glean an amount of dry saffron weighing 1 lb (450 g) is to harvest 50,000–75,000 flowers, the equivalent of an association football pitch‘s area of cultivation; 110,000–170,000 flowers or two football fields are needed to gross one kilogram. Forty hours of labour are needed to pick 150,000 flowers. Stigmas are dried quickly upon extraction and (preferably) sealed in airtight containers.

Saffron prices at wholesale and retail rates range from US$500 to US$5,000 per pound, or US$1,100–11,000/kg, equivalent to £2,500/€3,500 per pound or £5,500/€7,500 per kilogram. The price in Canada recently rose to CAD 18,000 per kilogram. In Western countries, the average retail price is $1,000/£500/€700 per pound, or US$2,200/£1,100/€1,550 per kilogram. A pound contains between 70,000 and 200,000 threads.”

White Truffles: $ 14,000/kg

Another long time heavy weight of the culinary World, white truffles have long been sought after by discerning gourmets for their earthy taste and pungent fragrance.

Native to the Piedmont region of Northern Italy although they can also be found in parts of Croatia. White truffles are the rarest and most costly of all the various species of truffle and as such carry the biggest price tag, the highest price ever paid for a single truffle was set in December 2007, when Macau casino owner Stanley Ho paid 330,000 USD (£165,000) for a specimen weighing 1.5 kilograms (3.3 lb), discovered by Luciano Savini and his dog Rocco.

Bit different from paying 99 pence for a kilo of button mushrooms in Tesco!

Edible gold: $90-100/gram

Though gold has no nutritional value, 24k gold is perfectly edible and adds a luxurious and beautiful decoration to dishes and drinks.

Edible gold leaf is popular in cake decorating and for adding a bit of flair to certain cocktails. The metal apparently passes directly through the body unaltered, not sure I would want to try and retrieve it though!

 Ass (Donkey) Cheese $700/lb.

Home to 100 Balkan donkeys, the Zasavica Special Nature Reserve along the Zasavica River produces a smoked donkey’s milk cheese that they call “Pule.”

They justify the obscene price of the cheese by quoting the rarity and  value of the milk used…Not sure I would want ass milk either to be quite honest!

 

 Hop Shoots $1300/lb

Hop shoots are funnily enough the young shoots of the hop bine, yes bine not vine.

Hop shoots are only available between January and mid April. Because of the short period of availability, labour intensive cultivation and low yields hop shoots often rank as the most expensive vegetable in the World!

 

 





Lancashire Cheese & Onion Tart with Black Pudding and Bacon

7 05 2012

 Back when I was at school it was obligatory to study home economics and if I am really honest it was great fun and I really learnt a lot.

One of the recipes that always sticks out in my mind is Lancashire cheese and onion tart, I can remember vividly the excitement at pulling it out of the oven, tucking into a big savoury slice and then taking the rest home to Mum and Dad.

Well that is nearly 20 years ago now and over time I have refined that original recipe quite a bit, the bacon was an obvious addition and sprang from using up leftover rashers, the black pudding however had a little more thought behind it.

Ingredients:

  • 250g plain flour
  • 160g butter
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 egg yolks to glaze
  • 400g black pudding
  • 10 rashers of smoke bacon
  • 2 large onions
  • 350g Lancashire cheese
  • 300ml double cream
  • 200ml milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • Chopped thyme
  • Black pepper

Method:

In a food processor blend the flour, butter and salt until the mix resembles breadcrumbs. Add the water and egg. Mix until it becomes a dough. Wrap in cling film and rest in the fridge for at least 1 hour.

Roll the pastry into a greased tart ring 28cmx 4cm and blind bake for 20-25 minutes at 180°C . Take out your baking beans and bake for a further 5 minutes for a golden brown base. Brush with egg yolk.

Fry off your bacon until cooked and your onions until softened and lightly brown

 Mix together the cream, milk, eggs, yolk, black pepper,onions, thyme and half of the cheese

Pulse the black pudding in a food processor until you have a paste.

Roll the black pudding paste out between two layers of cling film so that you have a sort of black pudding patty which will cover the base of the tart

Pop your black pudding onto the pastry and cover with a layer of bacon

Spoon over the cream, cheese and onion mixture and sprinkle over the rest of the cheese and add a few slice of tomato if you want to.

Bake in a pre heated oven 180°C for around 40 minutes until set. You can then finish it off for 5 minutes or so under a hot grill to crisp up the cheese.





Stuffed Jalapenos

29 07 2011


Stuffed japaleños are great for parties and picnics. I like these stuffed jalapeños instead of cheese and crackers they are just a much more manly hors d’oeuvres.

Ingredients

  • 12 large jalapenos /poblanos halved and deseeded
  • 8 oz. soft cream cheese
  • 8 oz. grated cheddar cheese
  • 6 rashers of  smoked back bacon

Directions

Preheat oven to 180 degrees.

Halve and deseed the  jalapeños.

In a bowl, mix together the cream cheese and Cheddar cheese.

Chop the bacon in to small pieces (bacon lardons work perfectly for this) and mix in with the cheese.

Stuff the bacon and cheese mix into the peppers and dust with a little chilli powder

Arrange jalapeños in a single layer on a lightly greased medium-sized baking sheet. Bake for about 30 minutes, but cooking time can vary, so keep an eye on it. When the cheese is brown and bubbling the jalapeños are done.





Yeast free garlic and coriander Naan Bread

8 06 2011

 I love bread…it really is one of my biggest weaknesses as a semi- healthy human although now that I think about it drinking and smoking are probably bigger weaknesses but anyway back to the bread.

 Regular readers will possibly have spotted that as well as having a love of bread I also have a little bit of a thing for Indian food in general and curry in particular.  For me no Indian meal is truly complete without some bread to go with it; be it a chapati or a puri or naan.

 As with most things I have over the years given up completely on finding any shop bought Naan bread that tastes even remotely like food and have just started making my own, not only do these Naan taste better than the shop bought variety they are healthier as well.

If you just want to have a plain naan then you can omit the topping before you bake.

Ingredients:

250g/9oz plain flour

2 tsp sugar

½ tsp salt

½ tsp baking powder

110-130ml/3½-4½fl oz milk

2 tbsp vegetable oil, plus extra for greasing

For the topping

chopped garlic and fresh coriander

1 tbsp butter, melted, to serve

Method:

For the dough, sift the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder into a bowl. In another bowl, mix together the milk and oil.

Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and pour in the liquid mixture. Slowly mix together the dough by working from the centre and incorporating the flour from the edges of the ‘well’, to make a smooth, soft dough. Knead well for 8-10 minutes, adding a little flour if the dough is too sticky.

Place the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with a damp tea-towel and leave in a warm place for 10-15 minutes. Form the dough into five balls.

Preheat the grill to medium and place a heavy baking sheet on the upper shelf of the grill to heat.

Roll the dough balls out quite thinly, ideally in a teardrop shape, but really this is just aesthetic.

Scatter your coriander and garlic (or anything else you fancy) over the top of your naan and press into the surface of the dough.

Place the naans onto the hot baking sheet and grill for just 1-2 minutes, or until lightly browned. Brush with butter and serve hot.





Prawn and coriander wanton rolls with sweet chilli sauce

29 03 2011

These prawn and coriander wanton rolls are deceptively simple to make but your guests will think you have been slaving in the kitchen for hours on end.

The trick to keeping this simple is to buy the wanton wrappers as opposed to struggling along making your own, there are very few things that really aren’t worth the effort of making myself but these pretty much top that list.

This recipe works best if you get decent sized prawns such as king prawns or tiger prawns but if you can only find the tiny ones than you can always mince them and mix the coriander into the mixture.

 

Ingredients:

1 pack of wanton wrappers

1lb king pranws/tiger prawns

Bunch of coriander

1 red bell pepper

2 eggs

Salt and pepper

Method:

Shell and clean the prawns before butterflying them down the centre, place the prawns to one side and season with a small pinch of salt and black pepper

Beat together the 2 eggs with about 1 tsp of milk to form an egg wash

Place 1 piece of prawn and 1 coriander leaf onto the center of each wanton wrapper, I like to add a slice of chilli to each wrapper as well but this is completely optional.

Brush the edges of the wanton wrapper with the egg wash and either roll up or fold into little triangles.

Fry in hot oil until the wanton wrappers are golden brown and crispy -about 2 or 3 minutes, drain on kitchen paper and serve whilst piping hot.

 

Sweet Chilli Dipping Sauce:

There are plenty of good quality sweet chilli sauces that you can buy from the supermarket these days however I still prefer to make my own.

Ingredients:

4 serrano chillies, minced

4 Thai (birds eye) chillies, finely chopped

1 cup Sugar

1/2 cup Water

1/2 cup Rice vinegar

2 tablespoons Finely Minced Garlic

1/2 teaspoon Sweet paprika

1 teaspoon Salt

1 tablespoon Thai fish sauce

1 tablespoon Fresh lime or lemon juice

Method:
Remove stems from peppers and prepare as specified either mincing or chopping

In a small, heavy saucepan, combine the chillies, sugar, water, vinegar, garlic, paprika and salt. Bring to a rolling boil over medium heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar and salt and reduce the heat to low.

Simmer until the liquid reduces slightly and thickens to a light syrup. Remove from the heat and stir in the fish sauce and lime or lemon juice. If you want a thicker sauce still you can stir in a 1/2 teaspoon of flour mixed in with some water towards the end of the simmer. Cool to room temperature before serving. Transfer the cooled sauce to a tightly sealed jar and store at room temperature for 2 to 3 days.





Cheesy Megadeath Wings

3 02 2011

 With my love of all things hot and spicy chicken wings are the perfect vehicle for trying out sauces and just generally making a mess of myself.

 I found a recipe a while back for garlic and cheese wings and really liked the flavour that the parmesan gave, as such next time I was knocking up a batch of hot wings I decided to drop some in…. Let me just say I am never going back to regular hot wings.

It might sound like a  weird combination but try them I guarantee you wont be let down.

If you find Blair’s Megadeath to be a bit hot for your tastes then you can always go with something a little milder, I would stay away from anything with extract though, unless you like your wings to have that odd chemical taste to them.

Ingredients:

4 lbs chicken wings, halved

1 bottle of Blair’s Megadeath

1/4 lb melted butter

250g parmesan cheese

Method:

Deep fry the chicken wings until they are golden and slightly crisp, set aside on a piece of kitchen paper to absorb any excess oil.

Melt the butter and mix in the parmesan cheese and the bottle of Megadeath sauce ensuring that everything is well combined.

Coat all of the wings liberally with the cheesy Megadeath sauce and serve on a bed of crisp lettuce with soem blue cheese dressing and a good beer.








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