Monday, February 20, 2006

Lots of rich food

Sun 19 Feb 2006

The eating of the great chicken gratin was preceded by making the patatas bravas, the original recipe for which you’ll find in the February Australian Gourmet Traveller. The major modification we made was the omission of the white wine from the spicy tomato sauce (absence of wine in house and presence of monstrous hangover driving this decision).

So – heat some olive oil in a pan and add an onion and three cloves of garlic, all finely chopped. Sweat this down and then add a tin of chopped tomatoes, some crushed chilli and a bay leaf. Let this cook down.

For the potatoes, peel and chop your potatoes into little cubes. Heat some olive oil in a pan and add the potato pieces. Cook this, turning over the pieces of potato until done.

Serve the potatoes with the spicy sauce.

The patatas bravas and sauce were delicious but I did find the chicken gratin something of a disappointment. The cheese sauce totally overwhelmed and swamped everything else. In some respects I thought the sauce could have done without the addition of the mustard. Perhaps it would have been better to use a basic tomato sauce, as above, as the base sauce and just have the cheese sauce on top. Because the dish contains both leeks and spinach you are unlikely to be serving a plethora of additional vegetables with this which means you have even less to cut through the cheese sauce. There are lots of ways you could muck around with this dish to make it a lot lot better: I’d be tempted to serve the leeks in the cheese sauce by themselves and do something completely different with the chicken and spinach.

So, after pushing my chicken around my plate and dissecting what exactly I thought was wrong with it Andy announced that he liked it. I certainly won’t be making it in this form again … though I did like the cheese sauce and I don’t think it would take a lot to strike a better balance between the richness of the sauce and what should be the clean lines of the chicken & spinach.

Sat 18 Feb 2006

Some happy baking today! I love making cakes so any excuse is always welcome – and I was taking some afternoon tea with me on a visit to an elderly relative.

The inspiration for this came from the current Sainsbury’s magazine, and the result was a fab, sticky, super rich little number. Of course, personally I don’t think you can go wrong if you’re making something with dates and coffee …

So … take 375 grams of roughly chopped dates and soak in 310 mL of boiling water. The recipe calls for adding a teaspoon of instant coffee granules but in future I’ll be using 310 mL of freshly brewed coffee. I also added a teaspoon of baking powder. Mix it all up and let sit.

In your food processor mix up 75 gm of butter, 225 gm caster sugar, 1 egg and a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Add dates and their liquid and 275 gm of plain flour, a pinch of salt and a teaspoon and a half of baking powder. Whizzy up and then add 100 g of pecan nuts. My food processor is a bit of a machine – although I’d chopped the dates first I didn’t chop the nuts and it wasn’t a problem – work out if you want discernible nuts and dates and go from there.

I’d lined my roasting dish with tin foil and tipped the mixture in and baked in an oven preheated to 190C for probably about 45 minutes. You want the top to be firm, you want it risen and you want the skewer to come out clean. Allow it to cool in the tin.

I was a wee bit pressed for time so I tipped it out onto a rack and iced it with some (real) coffee icing (melt some butter in a pan, take the pan off the heat, add icing sugar and coffee until you have enough icing). Cut it up into little squares and job’s a good’un! Scoff with a good cup of coffee!

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