Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Nigella's Mother's Praised Chicken + Question #1

The reality is: we need to eat to live. But the truth is food is often more than just a meal. Food has many functions and only one of them is to fulfil our basic need for sustenance to keep us alive.

Food brings people together and through our every sense, the taste, feel, smell and sight, food also has the ability to occupy the realm of metaphor... how food is able to trigger certain emotions and memories from our lives; whether it's a happy or a tragic story from many years ago, or perhaps, a memorable date just last week. Through consumption food 'transports' us back to those 'places'...

That's a snippet from my currently-in-progress dissertation for my postgraduate course in media and cultural studies. At the beginning of this year, when I started thinking about a topic for my dissertation, I know it needs to be something that'll interest me for certain period of time. Even though there are few other subjects I'm very much interested in, I think it makes sense that I chose to write about food... I think of food all day, then I dream about it all night...

Over the next few weeks, as part of my research, I'll be posting series of food related questions and I need your help... I feel like I should post one of those uncle Sam's 'I want You' poster... If only I know how to create one... Anyway, the question is nothing trivial, there's no right or wrong, I just would so much love to read your story...

Question number one is quite broad, "What is your earliest memory of food?", it can be anything from the food you fondly remember eating as a child; one of the first things you're allowed to cook; you know, the sort of food that takes you back to that memory every time you eat that food...

If you wish to share your experience, and I thank you, you can do it by leaving comments below or by e-mailing me (you can find the address on my profile page), or if you posted something similar before on your blog, please do send me the link. But, please... don't feel like you have to do this... only if you wish.

Yesterday I cooked Nigella's mother's praised chicken. "This may well be - indeed is - the smell, the taste, the dish that "says" family to me and my siblings, and brings our long-absent mother back to the kitchen and the table with us" describes Nigella. The chicken was tender and the broth was flavourful... served over basmati rice and good dollop of English mustard.

Strangely, for me, one of the dishes I very much remember eating when I was a kid is also my mom's chicken soup. My mom's soup is just chicken, broth, garlic, onion and goji berries... nothing as fancy as Nigella's but yet it's delicious and just smelling the soup simmering on the stove is at once comforting...

Anyway, the suitcase is packed and I am ready to go... Off to the airport... X

My Mother's Praised Chicken
Recipe by Nigella Lawson
For list of ingredients and instructions, click here.
If you want to watch the video, click here.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Almond and Orange Blossom Cake

I have had an amazing time in Paris. I am back now and have less than 48 hours to unpack, repack, work, attend lecture, shop for bits and pieces before my next flight to Indonesia. I will tell you all about my trip later. I promise. I've also seen many delicious entries from the past few days... yummy cakes, grills, cocktails... I cannot wait to have a proper read this evening.

Before I leave though, there are a couple of things I want to post. The first one is my entry for this month's random recipe challenge. The theme this month is about your new cookbook. So this is how it works: get your latest cookbook you bought or received as a gift, open the page at random and cook the recipe on that page.

My newest cookbook is Nigella's How to Eat: The Pleasures and Principle of Good Food. I've been hinting this book many times for birthday, Christmas, Chinese new year, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, etc... but my friends have some fantastic selective hearing. I couldn't wait any longer and last week I ordered the book from amazon, and now my Nigella cookbooks collection is complete.

When I opened the book at random, I had two options: stem-ginger gingerbread, which sounds absolutely delicious, but perhaps too wintry... and the other one is almond and orange blossom cake and since the days been rather sunny and warm, I had to go with this one. Nigella also says that this is the summer version of the sticky gingerbread... perfect!

This simple golden yellow cake is so wonderfully moist and fragrant... It's summer that you can eat. Enjoy in the afternoon, hopefully on a sunny day with (iced) tea.

Almond and Orange Blossom Cake
Recipe by Nigella Lawson
Serves 8

225  g soft unsalted buter
225 g caster sugar
4 eggs
50 g plain flour, preferably Italian 00
180 g ground almonds
1 scant teaspoon almond essence
zest of 1 medium orange
juice of 1/2 medium orange
2 tablespoons orange-flower water

Grease a 21 cm spring-release cake tin (you may also use a 23 cm one, but no bigger than that) and then line with greaseproof paper. Preheat the oven to 180 C.

Cream together the butter and sugar until almost white. It's easier if you have a free-standing mixer. I don't... Handheld mixer works just fine. Beat the eggs gradually, one at a time and with each addition, sprinkle on some flour. When all the eggs and flour have been incorporated, gently stir in the ground almonds, then the almond essence, grated orange zest, orange juice and orange-flower water.

Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake for about 1 hour. After about 40 minutes, you may well find you have to cover it, loosely with foil; you don't want the top of the cake to burn. The cake is ready when the top is firm and a skewer, inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Take it out and let stand for 5 minutes or so in the tin. Then turn it out to a wire rack and leave till cool. Wrap it well in foil and leave for a day or two. Push some icing sugar through a fine sieve over the cake when serving.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Chocolate Beetroot Cake

On Fridays, I often bring home-made treats to work. However, for the past few weeks I haven't been bringing anything for no reason. Last Friday, I came to the office a bit late because I had a meeting somewhere else in the morning. But rumour had it that I have been baking. When I finally got to the office, guess what, there's no cake...

People were disappointed and I was given this look of disgust by several colleagues. I am also apparently blamed for staff's malnutrition problem and I have no right to appeal against this case. If they think they can get me into playing the guilt game, well, they succeed.

I bought some beetroot over the weekend. To be honest, I just need one beetroot, but ended up buying the bunch. Have I told you I had a problem with self-control? Anyway, that's a different subject to discuss.

With the leftover beetroot, I baked this chocolate beetroot cake. Strange that with the amount of beetroot going in the cake, you can't really taste it, but it blends beautifully with the cocoa and somehow keeps this rich chocolate cake wonderfully moist.

The recipe below calls for 28 cm cake tin, I don't have one, so I used one of those disposable square tin instead. Worked just fine. I brought the cake to the office and everyone's happy...

I am off to London tomorrow then Paris the next day until the weekend. Have a great week ahead! I know I will.

Chocolate Beetroot cake
Recipe from Canteen - Great British Food
Makes a 28 cm cake

4 eggs
230 g caster sugar
350 g cooked beetroot, peeled
165 ml sunflower oil
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
150 g plain white flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
40 g cocoa powder, plus extra for dusting
200 g white chocolate chunks
butter, for greasing

Preheat the oven to 160 C. Whisk together the eggs and sugar with an electric mixer until pale and thick. In a food processor, blend the beetroot with the oil and vanilla extract until smooth. Sift the flour, salt, baking powder and cocoa powder into a bowl.

Whisk the beetroot into the egg and sugar mix, then gently fold the sifted dry ingredients. Mix in the white chocolate. Butter a 28 cm cake tin with a removable bottom and line the bottom and side with baking parchment. Pour in the cake mixture and bake for 40 - 50 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Allow to cool. When cold, remove the cake from then tin and dust the top with cocoa powder.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Venetian Carrot Cake

I invited my friends Janet and Ian last weekend for dinner and there's no way I let them leave without a slice of cake or two, and the cake in question is this Venetian carrot cake...

I adore carrot cake. Carrots are naturally sweet and since they contain significant amount of vitamin A, this cake is health cake, really, and is good for all of us. The topping is different to the original recipe, but this was not intentional. I thought I already bought some pine nuts, but... when I got home from the store, what I had was flaked almonds, not pine nuts!! Never mind, it's still delicious. You've got to have it with the rum flavoured mascarpone cream.... It's so, so good.

Oh, the cake is gluten-free and dairy-free if you must know.

Venetian Carrot Cake
Recipe by Nigella Lawson
For list of ingredients and instructions, click here.
To watch the video, click here.