Monday, 20 June 2016

Quick Lemon Sorbet in an Ice Bowl

Regular readers of the blog know that I spend two weekends a year working in the Artistes' Tent at Stour Music Festival (a wonderful Baroque/Early Music Festival in a semi-disused church in Boughton Aluph, Kent).  Over that time, we feed hordes of hungry singers and musicians, plus all the volunteer helpers.   This was my first year on my own, and the stakes were high - the wonderful Jo has been Queen of Puddings for 55 years, so standards must not be allowed to slip!   This first weekend is a time for new puddings and experiments, as well as the classic Stour favourites (if you click on the "labels" section of the blog, there is a tag for "Stour Festival Puddings") - you can see some of the rest of them in the background of the photo.

I was challenged to produce frozen flowers in some form...  so I made an ice bowl with garden flowers, plus a lemon sorbet.   Can't think why I've not blogged a lemon sorbet before, but it's so easy!!!!   You don't really need an ice cream maker, just time.   The recipe below is the simplest going, but you could add egg white to give it a bit more smoothness.  I didn't - having used 18 egg whites already in several other guises, there were simply none left.

Lemon Sorbet in an Ice Bowl
Quick Lemon Sorbet

10 large lemons, zest and juice
Equal weights sugar and water - I used 20oz to 20floz/500g to 500ml 

First make the stock syrup by putting the water and sugar into a pan, stirring gently, heating until the sugar has dissolved.  Simmer for 5 minutes, remove the saucepan from the heat and leave it to cool entirely (you can put it in the freezer!).   This keeps for weeks, so you could make double quantity and put half in the fridge for another time.

Add the juice and zest to the mixture, stir well and churn the mixture in an ice cream maker (this quantity took two goes).   Alternatively, freeze in a shallow container in the freezer, breaking it up with a fork every half hour or so to stop large crystals from forming.   

This makes enough to fill a 2 litre tub.  It is best served slightly less than rock hard - easy in a hot tent!    

To make it more like a sherbet, add 2 egg whites to the ice cream maker, or whisk the whites and fold them into the mix if you are open freezing it.

Ice Bowl
2 bowls
parcel tape and a couple of heavy tins 
cooled boiled water/mineral water (this helps keep the ice clear)

Choose two bowls with a similar shape - do I have to tell you to have one smaller than the other?  Thought not!  Pick pretty flowers.  Pour some water into the larger bowl, add some of the flowers.  Place the smaller bowl on top.  Push the rest of the flowers in round the edges, adding more water.  The second bowl will rise, so put the tins into it before strapping the parcel tape across the top to keep the second bowl level with the first and in the centre.   Fill up with the water - you might need to check the tape - and add another food tin.    Freeze overnight until solid.

To use - allow the bowl to defrost just a little before unmoulding it and adding the sorbet.  It will be a wonderful centrepiece - some people commented on how pretty the flowers were as they appeared as the ice melted.   Just make sure that the ice bowl is in a container that can hold the inevitable meltwater!  


Monday, 13 June 2016

Elderflower and Strawberry Swiss Roll

Inspired by the wonderful Xanthe Clay's picnic feast in a recent Saturday Telegraph, I thought I'd bring a bit of the magic of elderflowers and fresh jam into a Swiss Roll.  At the same time, gluten free was also part of the brief, to see if the roll could stand up to such treatment.   Lacking strawberry jam, I poached some strawberries in elderflower cordial (home made, of course), and whipped the mixture through the fresh cream.    Success!   Yes, it did crack a little, which is not surprising, as gluten free flour gives a different crumb to standard white flour.  I did add a little Xanthan gum (Wow - two Xs in one paragraph!) to keep it all together.  

Here is the luscious result, together with one of my elderflower heads - yes, they are pink... Try to make this with real cordial, it is just so good!   Here's the recipe:

Elderflower and Strawberry Swiss Roll
Elderflower and Strawberry Swiss Roll

3 eggs
4oz/110g caster sugar
4oz/110g plain flour (or rice flour with ¼ tsp Xanthan Gum)
1tbsp hot water

caster sugar
1lb/350g strawberries, half for decoration
Elderflower cordial
½ pint (200ml) double cream

Pre-heat oven to 220 deg C, and line a baking tray/Swiss roll tin with baking parchment.   The tin should be approx the size of a piece of A4 paper or slightly larger.  Snip the the baking parchment diagonally into the corners of the tin – this helps the parchment mould into the tin better and gives a better shape to the roll. 

Whisk the eggs and sugar, hard, for at least 5-8 minutes (preferably in a Kenwood/Kitchen Aid mixer to save your arms!).   The mixture should be really light but stiff enough to keep the impression of the whisk for a few seconds when it has been removed.  

Sift half the flour over the mixture and fold it in, then add the remaining flour and the tablespoon of hot water.    Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 7-9 minutes until it is well risen and pale gold.  

While it is baking, wring a tea towel out in hot water, put it onto the work surface and put a piece of baking parchment on top, sprinkling caster sugar over it. 

Turn the cake onto the paper, and peel off the baking parchment (if it doesn’t come off easily, tear a strip off at a time).    Cut the crusts off with a knife.    When it is cool, you can fill it as described below.   Roll up, using the paper to help you.   Transfer (carefully!) to a plate, dredge with sugar and decorate with strawberries and fresh elderflowers.

To make the “jam”, quarter half a 350g/1lb punnet of strawberries, and put into a small pan.  Nearly cover with neat elderflower cordial, add 2 tbsps water, bring to under the boil and simmer for a bit.  Take out the strawberries and put them onto a metal plate to cool as quickly as possible.  Boil the syrup for a minute or so to thicken/reduce it, then cool it too.   Whip the cream to soft peaks, add the syrup and strawberries and spread it all over the inside of the roll.   Roll up …. Roll up… eat!   

Friday, 3 June 2016

Triple Chocolate Brownies

I have yet to find someone who doesn’t like brownies!  I adore them, when properly made, not cakey, but chewy, with lots and lots of chocolate.   Seeking to improve on perfection, I tried adding even more chocolate (and this batch was also done with rice flour for a gluten-free treat), and tested the results, first on the Army, and then on my builder, who doesn’t eat sweet things.  Well…  it has to be said that my builder is now converted to Triple Chocolate Brownies – you see, I said I had yet to find someone who didn’t like them!

Triple Chocolate Brownies
Triple Chocolate Brownies

4oz/100g plain chocolate
5oz/150g butter
4 ½ oz/125g plain flour (or rice flour)
½ oz/15g cocoa powder
10 ½ oz/300g soft muscovado sugar 
1 pinch salt
2 eggs
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla essence
2oz/50g dark chocolate chunks
4oz/100g chopped pecans/walnuts

Preheat oven to 180 deg C, and line a baking tin 9 x 12” with non-stick baking parchment. 

Melt the chocolate and butter in the microwave, stir the 4oz/100g chocolate into the butter so it all mixes together (it is better to under-heat the chocolate and stir out the lumps using the residual heat in the butter).  

Sieve the flour, cocoa and baking powder together.    In a separate large bowl, beat the eggs, adding the sugar and vanilla.  Mix until just combined (this gives the best brownie texture – ie, not beaten to death).   Fold the melted chocolate into the beaten egg mix, then add the flour, chocolate chunks and nuts.  

Spread into the tin and cook for up to 25 minutes – the mixture will rise in the tin, but it is better that it is undercooked rather than solid.    Cut into bars or squares when cool, if you can wait that long! 

This is a fabulous easy pudding – just warm the brownies gently and then serve topped with a generous scoop of home made vanilla ice cream, and some fresh fruit or fruit compĂ´te.