Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Clandestine Cake Club - Olde Sweet Shop

Well, this is almost a month late, but the most recent Clandestine Cake Club I attended was themed 'Ye Olde Sweet Shop'. You can see Sharon's post with all the attending cakes here. My contribution was a Strawberry marshmallow cheesecake. I wanted to make something that included sweets and used sweets as decoration on top, and I'm really happy with the result - this would be fantastic for a kid's party (perhaps in green!) and what you can't tell from the picture is how light this was - definitely light enough (and tasty enough!) to go back for seconds. I based the recipe on my memories of a pudding called pink fluff (most people know this under a variety of names!), which involves mixing jelly and Ideal milk, beating until it's really fluffy, then allowing it to set. This is the same thing, only without the bubbles.

This is a real show-stopper of a cake - and the only limitation with decorations is your imagination (and how well stocked your sweet shop is!)
Ingredients :

200g digestive biscuits (crushed)
100g butter

2/3 packets jelly (pick your flavour/colour!)
500ml greek yogurt
Packet mini-marshmallows (optional)
Sweets to decorate

Melt the butter and mix with the biscuits. Press into the bottom of a deep loose bottomed / springformed tin.

Make up 2 packets of jelly using about 1/3 volume of boiling water specified. Allow to cool a bit (catch it before it sets) and then make up to the full volume with yogurt. Mix in the marshmallows (if you are using them), pour into the tin on top of the base and allow to set. 

Once the yogurt layer has set, make up the remaining jelly using water, allow to cool until just before setting (you don't want to pour it onto the previous layer until it's quite cool otherwise you can melt the yogurt layer a bit). Pour it gently onto the previous layer, and position your sweets in the layer, or wait till it's set and position them on top (I used white chocolate buttons and waited till the layer was almost set and just pushed them in gently so the were slightly immersed, but not completely.)

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Venison Soup with Bilberry Relish

Everything seems upside down this week - after a long spell at work with irregular breaks, I don't know what day it is - I'm assuming it's a Tuesday because I'm making soup.  Also, it really feels like autumn is just around the corner - where has the summer gone?  As such, I'm making a sort of autumnal game soup this week.  It also features a tangy and fruity bilberry relish, but you could use red or black currants if you don't have bilberries.

The ingredients for this soup came from a variety of sources.  The venison mince came from a stall at Kirkstall Deli Market, the Bilberries were picked on The Chevin, shallots from a friend's garden, onions, celery and carrots from a veg box and the stock from Essential Cuisine (okay - they sent me a few trial pots after reading the blog, which are rather brilliant and you can get you hands on them from their website)

As a measure of how my brain has seemingly stopped functioning, I had made some stock from scratch to use in this soup before a) I remembered the stock I was sent, and b) I made chicken stock when this soup needed Beef stock...  Maybe I should just go back to bed and wake up when my head is back to normal eh?

Recipe after the jump...

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Spicy Cauliflower and Chard Soup

 After the craziness of the Olympic Food Challenge, normal service resumes now (although I know it's not Tuesday, but hey, I have made soup).  We have been, for the last few weeks, getting a veg box every week, and so for the next few weeks, I'll be making some random soups, based on whatever comes in the box on a Thursday.

After the random allocation of countries in the Olympic Food Challenge, I like the idea of this.  Also, I was running out of inspiration for new soups every week.  Now I have all the ingredients I need quite literally on my doorstep.

Today's soup is a bit healthy as I've been working odd hours and days this week, eating junk food and generally feeling a bit run down - hopefully all the vegetables will perk me up as I'm working until Sunday (today is my only day off - hence the non-Tuesday soup)

When I blended it all together, I was vaguelly horrifed as it appeared at first glance that I had made piccalilli soup - and I hate piccalilli.  However, after the chard and coconut milk was added, it no longer looked like piccalilli, and definately didn't taste anything like piccalilli. (Did I mention I can't stand the stuff?)

Recipe after the jump >>

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Ceviche - Olympic Food Challenge : Panama

A man, a plan, a canal – Panama! And so we reach the end, the final dish, and like Usain Bolt, this one is a sharp lunge towards the finish line!  Panama had lots of dishes to choose from when I went a-looking, and like a lot of South and Central American countries, there was a preponderance of beef (There's a band name if ever I heard one...) but looking back on the dishes I had already cooked there was a paucity of fish (that will be Preponderance of Beef's first album...) so I plumped for this dish.

Someone asked me the other day how I got into cooking.  Thinking back, I was a pretty terrible cook for the first 25 years of my life - tinned curries, stews and cheap burgers were the order of the day; and then a few of my friends and I decided to do 'Gourmet Night' once a month and push the boat out, cook-wise.  It was great and I cooked more interesting dishes than I had ever done, caught the bug and now here I am, a moderatly amusing food blogger with a black pudding and dumpling obsession

But what does this have to to with the Olympic Food Challenge, I hear you yawn... Well, when I was doing Gourmet Night, there were two notable failures - one, the Sticky Toffee Pudding disaster, has gone down in history (n.b. Sticky Toffee Pudding needs flour in it, or it resembles brown snot; admittedly tasty brown snot, but it looks awful nonetheless)

The other disaster was ceviche, which was made with frozen cod and had the texture of boot leather soaked in lime juice.  And yet here I was again, about to attempt the same dish and make it look (and taste) impressive as befits the last entry into the Olympic Food Challenge.  And guess what, it was rather nice this time!  Having fresh fish is the key it seems, but the length of time you marinade it for is up to you.  Some recipes suggest as little as 2 hours, whilst we did it overnight with good results.

Sidvudvu - Olympic Food Challenge : Swaziland

At least one member of Team Soup is from South Africa, which made finding a dish to cook from Swaziland (A tiny little country that borders SA, also birthplace to Richard E Grant, if memory serves) a bit difficult.  Every website we looked at for inspiration, I was informed that all the nice-looking dishes were South African.  Grrr, I gritted my teeth and pressed on.

Pretty much every African country seems to have a version of this dish - made with maize or other starchy floury thing, which can be prepared in a number of ways, from a soupy paste through to a solid dumpling to accompany other things.  I held off making any of these as they looked, well, a bit boring.  But as the Olympic Food Challenge barrelled to a close (One more dish to go after this one...) I finally gave in and made Sidvudvu, which we served with, ummm, boerwors (Yes, I know this is South African, but my search for Impala steaks bore no fruit, so to speak...)

Also on the sadly non-authentic side is the sour cream, which I am reliably informed should really be something called amaas, a fermented milk product.  I hope you will forgive these small inaccuracies as it's been a long 19 days and I am now hallucinating foods of the world...

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Dim Sum - Olympic Food Challenge : Hong Kong

Like many other entries in my trip around the culinary world, Hong Kong has such a mixed bag of influences that it has been difficult to pin down a dish and say 'this represents Hong Kong like Yorkshire Puddings represent Yorkshire'  Cantonese, western and other Asian styles mix together to form a melting pot of food, as you would expect from a region famous for its trading and port city. (ooh, I came over all 'rough guide' there, didn't I?)

To fully appreciate this meal, one has to picture themselves standing in a neon-lit, Blade Runner-esque street in the rain, eating Hong Kong street food from a vendor with a cart and a plastic umbrella, surrounded by sky-scrapers in a city perched between mountains and the sea. We did a mix of dim sum, sometimes referred to as Cantonese Tapas (As I'm not wikipediea, I refuse to cite any sources so you will just have to take my word for all of the above) as it is said that the best dim sum is served in Honk Kong, rather than mainland China.

A trip to the same supermarket that yielded Duck's tongue also provided us with wonton and dumpling wrappers, some straw mushrooms and char sui sauce.  I wanted to do steamed chicken's feet as well, but the store was fresh out (Much to Mrs Soup's joy, I suspect...)

At this year's Olympics, Hong Kong won a Bronze in the Women's Keirin, where she was beaten to the gold by the nation's sweetheart Victoria Pendleton

Friday, 10 August 2012

Deep Fried Duck Tongue - Olympic Food Challenge : China

 I've become aware, as I have been doing the Olympic Food Challenge, that I could have been a bit more adventurous in my choice of dishes for some countries, and in others maybe tried to find a few more strange and exciting ingredients.  So as today's meal rolled round, I knew that it was time to push the boat out a bit.

Having visited a rather amazing Chinese restaurant in Leeds called Red Chili, I couldn't help but stuff my face with as many dishes as I could that I hadn't tried before, including eel, tripe, heart and tongue.  I would have gone for the frogs legs and crystallised pig's uterus as well, but the horrified faces of the people I was meant to be sharing the banquet with told me it was time to stop.

I love the fact that Chinese cuisine uses all sorts of bits of animals that we would throw away - when I was buying the tongues for this dish, I mistakenly picked up a packet of pig's tendons instead (Come to think of it - I may go back and try those later...)  - and duck's tongues are no exception - they are a strange thing to eat, not least as they have a little bone running through the middle of them, and have a creamy, fatty texture to them.

A quick straw poll of of consumers that tried the tongue (me & Mrs Soup) was that it tasted lovely but looked  like something from the film 'Alien'... (Also, please do not google anything to do with the sex lives of ducks 0 they are perverts.... just sayin'...)

On a more olympic related not - China have won all the medals that are not in the posession of the US or UK teams.  They are quite good at this whole sports malarkey...

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Goat Curry - Olympic Food Challenge : The Bahamas

When I found out we had drawn The Bahamas in the in the Challenge, I knew that I had to a) Do a curry, and b) use Goat as it's something else that I've never eaten before, and it seems like this journey around the world in 19 meals is all about trying new things, so I thought 'why not' and set off (Yet again) to Leeds market.  In fact I think the Olympic Food Challenge should be sponsored by Leeds Market as I know I'm not the only blogger who has found obscure or strange ingredients amongst it's stalls.  Leeds Market - the hungry and adventurous bloggers of Yorkshire salute you and your endless supply of goodies

Goat meat, as it turns out, didn't really taste that much different from the mutton I had a few days ago, but perhaps the subtleties of its flavour were lost amongst the other flavours of this spicy curry, which as I was eating it, all I could think about was Bureaucrat Hermes Conrad from Futurama "I call this my Jamaican Drain-o"*

*Geography note : Jamaica and The Bahamas = 2 completely different places...

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Lamb Chektyrma - Olympic Food Challenge : Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan was a bit of a challenge.  But then It's not called the Olympic Food CHALLENGE for nothing, I guess!  As with so many other places on the globe, country boundaries seem to be rather arbitary lines that don't represent the cultures that they are meant to define.  As such, whole areas claim very similar dishes as their own.  This seems to be very much the case with Turkmenistan which shares cusines with many of it's surrounding countries.

Is this a traditional Turkmenian dish?  I hope so, but if there happens to be any Turkmenians reading, you will let me know, won't you?

Anyway, this soup was rather amazing, light and summery, which was a surprise as cooking it involved no finesse, just boiling the hell out of some lamb until it surrendered...

Monday, 6 August 2012

FaiKakai and Mango Pineapple Sorbet - Olympic Food Challenge : Tonga

Tonga is today's stop on the Olympic Food Challenge and, ummm, this was a bit of a distaster...  "What on earth could go wrong?" you ask  "After all, it's dumplings and we know you are crazy about dumplings Dan".  Well, a lot of things, it turns out - the sauce turned into toffee and set like concrete - and I have a slight phobia about toffee after losing teeth to the awful stuff.  Also, the dumplings more or less disintegrated in the pan, leaving a gooey, sludgy mess, over which I tried to pur the aforementioned sauce.

Now the kitchen is strewn with plates, dishes and pans that are glued together with toffee, and I am a bit cross for messing things up.  Bah!

Still - the sorbet was amazing..

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Chicken Lap Lap - Olympic Food Challenge : Cook Islands

Today's dish is Chicken Lap Lap, which involved a few new experiences and ingredients for me.  Not least amongst these was using Taro.  Not even knowing what it actually looked like, we were quickly educated by a lovely man in Leeds Market and left with one huge vegetable.

The same trip also provided us with banana leaves , which again, I'd never used.  This was in some small way a voyage of discovery - which is appropriate in a number of ways, not least that the Cook Islands are named for Captain Cook, who planted a flag there and named them, erm, The Hervey Islands...

Anyway, the Cook Islands are kinda special to me as the aforementioned Capn' is my Dad's hero, and also, the starting point of his historic journey was, of course, Whitby, which is the informal spiritual home of the Soup family (in that we went there on holiday every year when I was a sproglet)

Anyway, without further rambling - Chicken Lap Lap

Saturday, 4 August 2012

San Bei Ji (3 Cup Chicken) - Olympic Food Challenge : Taiwan

As if to illustrate how fraught this whole Olympics malarkey is, and how diplomatic one has to be when putting your words up on t'interweb where anyone can see them, my initian post about the Olympic Food Challenge (Back when it seemed like a good idea and before I started hallucinating flags and endless combinations of stews, soups and ingredients) someone got in touch to a) find out what dish I would be doing when I reached Chinese Taipei, and b) tell me that no matter what the Chinese or the IOC may think, there is no such place as Chinese Taipei, but Taiwan is doing just fine thank you.*
Well, who was I to argue, as said person (hello, if you're reading this btw) lived in Taiwan.  I only hope that they think I've done this dish justice, as it is said that "A restaurant that cannot cook Sanbeiji is not a true Taiwanese restaurant." Oh, I also tried making some little (and not strictly accurate) crisps from the skin of the chicken, but the less said about them, the better...
*If the Chinese Authorities are reading this, ummm, sorry...

Friday, 3 August 2012

Daraba - Olympic Food Challenge : Chad

Today we hit Chad.  Not the South African Swimmer Chad le Clos (His Dad was brilliant, wasn't he?) and not a hanging chad (whatever they are) but the central African country.  Chad have never won a medal in the Olympics and have sent 3 athletes to London.  One of them is competing in the Men's 100m.  Could he upset Mr Bolt?  We'll have to keep our eyes peeled and find out...

Another country, another stew!  This one however is missing one ingredient that I usually insist on in ever meal - MEAT!!!  However, the addition of peanut butter makes it a wonderful, savoury dish.  Simple and healthy, but also cheap, which has proved to be important as  we cross the halfway point in the Olympic Food Challenge, where weird and wonderful ingredients are king and pockets need to be deep (Not complaining by the way - I'm loving trying new and unusual things...)

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Tongabezi Chicken Curry - Olympic Food Challenge : Zambia

The nation of Zambia is the next country we have been sampling the cuisine of.  Zambia have won a grand total of 2 medals in their Olympic history, and this year they have 8 competitors in 4 sports, all hoping to live up to the glory of Samual Matate in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, who won a sliver in the 400 meters hurdles.  As always, check out the wikipedia page to see if they have added to this total by clicking here...

This African curry is a much lighter and fresher affair than Indian curries, more akin to a Thai curry in some respects, and the fried sweet potatoes were a wonderful accompaniment.  I could have just eaten a plate of those on their own...  I served it with some fresh wilted spinach in lieu of some greens, mainly because we had just had some delivered as part of our weekly vegetable box, so that part of the dish is not necessarily accurate...

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Ojingeogul (Squid Soup) - Olympic Food Challange : South Korea

Blimey! Hasn't today been exciting for Team GB? Two golds and a bronze to add to the nation's mantelpiece!

Today on the Olympic Food challenge, we reach South Korea (And I'm really glad I didn't get North Korea, although Glorious Leader Kim Jong-Il did have a fondness for lobster, or so I'm told...)

South Korea have won plenty of medals in their time at the Olympics - 215 in fact - which a high percentage of those in the archery, which makes them the 17th most successful nation in the history of the games, but remember, it's not the winning, it's the taking part (In which case, why don't they just give everyone a gold medal and be done with it?)  This year they will be fielding 245 Olympians in 22 sports.  As always, you can follow their progress here

I love me some squid, as I think I've mentioned before - when purchasing some, the fishmonger once asked if we wanted the tentacles, to which both Mrs Soup and I let out a child-like giggle of glee.  Tentacles - brilliant...

Today's new ingredient was Mooli - the radish used in this soup, which I've eaten but never cooked with before, so this was another new chapter in my culinary education...