Monday, 18 March 2013

Chorizo and rosemary baked beans with a poached egg and rocket

For this weeks blog post a few of us on Twitter decided that we would set a topic and all cook and blog something along those lines. As someone who mostly cooks and blogs alone I relished the chance to do something interactive with other foodies. However, for the first time since starting the blog I felt a sense of pressure to perform, so hopefully this post will be good enough! It’s been really good fun though and I can’t wait to see what everyone else has come up with. 

The topic for this week was brunch. This suited me fine, although I don’t eat brunch too often so it was a challenge to try and think of interesting things to come up with in such a broad category. Over the past week or so my mind has been racing with loads of different ideas, with some sounding pretty wacky and others frankly disgusting. In the end I’m almost sad to say that I went for something pretty safe, but I think equally delicious; good old baked beans. My version lifts the simple tinned version to a new dimension, with the chorizo, paprika and rosemary giving the finished dish a brilliant depth of flavour. 

I think I’m the only person I know who really dislikes Heinz baked beans. I find them too sweet and tangy to the point where they overpower any dish that they’re with. With this recipe the finishing touches are what really make the beans special. Some tinned beans cooked with onions and tomatoes would normally be quite bland, but the addition of the treacle, salt and vinegar at the end of the cooking transforms it into something really tasty. This is what I can never understand when talking to people that don’t eat salt; the difference it makes in the taste of food is staggering. 

This is a really simple dish to make, and once you try it you’ll make it again and again. The only thing that it needs is patience with the slow and gentle cooking, firstly with the onions and then with the beans. I have used tinned pulses in this recipe for ease, but you can use dried beans that have been soaked overnight if you have them.

It’s worth making a big batch as it keeps well for quite a few days, and like any stew or curry will get better with time.

Serves 6-8


For the beans:

50g butter
4 red onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tbsp fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
1 medium red chilli, finely chopped
110g good chorizo, skinned and cut into 1cm pieces
1 heaped tbsp hot smoked paprika
4 tins cannellini beans, juice retained from 2 of the tins
2 tins butter beans
2 tins chopped tomatoes
2 bay leaves
1 large tbsp black treacle
Splash of white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper

For the poached eggs:

1 large egg per person
Splash of white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper

To finish:

Small handful of rocket leaves
Parmesan cheese
Slices of good quality toasted bread
Olive oil

Heat up a large, high sided frying pan or skillet on a low heat and add the butter. When melted add the onions, garlic, chilli, rosemary and paprika and cook slowly until very soft, about 20-30 minutes. Add the chopped chorizo pieces and fry for another 5 or so minutes, or until softened and the oils have been released into the onions. 

Pour in both types of beans and the retained liquid, the chopped tomatoes and bay leaves. Stir gently and bring to the boil, then turn right down to a low heat and simmer uncovered for an hour. Be careful to only stir every so often and not to vigorously to keep the beans as intact as possible. 

When the beans are nearly done put a large saucepan of salted water on to boil.

After an hour the beans should have thickened a little and darkened in colour slightly. Season well and add the treacle and vinegar, folding into the sauce. Cook for another couple of minutes then taste; you want to find the perfect balance between sweet, salty and sharp. Adjust as needed and take off the heat. 

When the water is boiling add the splash of white wine vinegar and reduce to a gentle simmer. Very carefully crack the eggs with a knife and break very close to the surface of the water. Cook for two minutes then check by lifting with a slotted spoon and touching the yolks. If they aren’t quite done then drop back into the water for another 30 seconds. 

While the eggs are cooking get the bread toasting and buttered ready to serve.

To plate up spoon some of the beans into a shallow bowl and position the poached egg in the middle. Top with a few rocket leaves, sprinkle over some grated parmesan and drizzle over a little olive oil. Serve with the hot buttery toast and dig in.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Salted caramel and buttermilk creme caramels

I’ve been trying to get back into making puddings recently, as more and more I’ve started to find myself spending ages concentrating on a nice savoury dish and totally overlooking anything to eat afterwards. I have to admit that I haven’t got much of a sweet tooth, and would always choose a starter and main or a cheese option to follow, but I do sometimes find myself craving a dessert. So instead of relying on that bar of chocolate lurking in the cupboard I thought it was about time I tried to make something for myself. 

I hadn’t thought about making creme caramels until very recently. They seem to get totally overshadowed by the more glamorous and popular creme brulees, but there’s something about the soft silkiness of the caramel that is just to die for. I had always thought that they were quite difficult to make, but after doing some research and practicing I was amazed at how easy they are. I’ve since made them for dinner parties, where you can make them quickly and have them sitting in the fridge until needed. Their clean flavour and light texture make them a great end to a meal. 

As with any baking, it’s important to stick to measurements and practice really makes perfect. The most important things with this recipe is not to overcook the caramel and the custard. When cooking the caramel, you need to find the perfect balance between being golden enough to maximise flavour but not dark enough to burn and be bitter. You need to watch over it all the time so you can catch it at just the right moment. With the custard, the key is to cook it gently so that it doesn’t scramble and ruin the texture.

For this post I’ve used the brilliant Dan Lepard’s recipe for inspiration and guideline amounts. Every baking enthusiast should grab a copy of Short and Sweet; it really is a bible. I’ve put a twist on his recipe by making a salted caramel and using buttermilk to make the custard slightly sourer with a lighter taste. The joy of these recipes is once you have the basic technique nailed you can experiment to create your own version. 

Makes 6-8 using mini loaf tins


For the caramel:

Caster sugar
A good pinch of salt

For the custard:

100g caster sugar
6 medium eggs
1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped out
300ml whole milk
200ml buttermilk
50ml double cream

To make the caramel, pour caster sugar into each loaf tin until just under a centimetre deep then pour it all into a small saucepan. Add a small amount of water and put on a medium heat. Cook until the caramel is bubbling away and starting to turn a deep red/brown colour, then sprinkle with the salt. Do not stir with a spoon at any point as the caramel may crystalise, just gently swirl the pan. As soon as the caramel is the right colour pour equally into each tin and tip around to make sure that the bottoms are covered. Set aside while you make the custard.

Pre-heat the oven to 140ÂșC (fan).

Make the custard by mixing the eggs, vanilla seeds and sugar in a large bowl until combined but not frothy. Beat in the milk, buttermilk and double cream then tip into a medium saucepan. Cook on a low-medium heat, whisking frequently, until the mixture is only just hot to the touch. Carefully pour the custard into the caramel lined tins, leaving a lip of about a centimetre. Place the tins into a deep oven dish and create a bain marie by pouring boiling water around the outside. 

Cook for 18 minutes before checking, they should only have a tiny wobble in the middle. If they are too wobbly pop them back in for another minute or two. Once cooked, allow to cool then refrigerate for at least four hours.

To serve, carefully cut around the edge of the tins with a sharp knife and tip quickly onto a plate. A blowtorch can be handy to quickly flash around the outside if they don’t come out straight away.