50th Edition Parmesan Biscuits

Parmesan Cheese Sablés

To make about 25, using a 10cm shaped cutters

This is a foolproof cheese biscuit recipe. I made these with 5 and 0 cutters to celebrate the 50th edition of http://www.housing-technology.com at our 7th Annual Conference. I made loads but should have made more as they were quite popular. I also made ’21’ shapes for our son Tom’s recent birthday celebration and also ’18’ shapes for my niece Ellen’s birthday too. Lots of celebrations chez Grant at the moment.

These little biscuits are great with Champagne and I also love them with a good dry Martini http://cookupaparty.co.uk/how-to-make-the-perfect-martini.

 RECIPE

100g plain flour

Pinch each of salt, black pepper and cayenne

1/2 tsp dry mustard powder

90g unsalted butter

90g grated Parmesan or Grana Padano

1 egg beaten to glaze Small handful of poppy seeds or sesame seeds

 Method

1. Sift flour into a bowl or food processor and add the salt, pepper, cayenne and mustard powder.

2. Add the butter and rub in or blend until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.

3. Add the cheese and mix the dough together until smooth. If should be soft and pliable.

4. Chill for 30 minutes, and then turn out onto a floured surface.

5. Pre-heat the oven to 190C/385F/Gas 5. Gently roll out to a thickness of 1cm. Using a round or heart-shaped cutter, press out the shapes and brush with the egg glaze.

6. Sprinkle with poppy seeds or sesame seeds and place on a flat baking sheet. Bake for approx 12-15 minutes until the biscuits are golden brown, and cool on a wire rack

Mussels with garlic and parsley

A very healthy and satisfying supper with fresh crusty bread to mop up the tasty juices. You will need a large pan with a tightly fitting lid to contain the mussels.

INGREDIENTS

  • I bag fresh mussels
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 150ml/5¼fl oz white wine
  • 150ml/5¼fl oz double cream
  • small bunch flatleaf parsley, chopped

METHOD

1. First give your mussels a good clean. Wash in lots of cold water before tackling the ‘beards’. To remove the stringy bears, give them a good tug and wiggle from side to side until they come away from the mussel.

2. Discard any broken mussels or those which are open and won’t shut tight when you tap them.

3. When this has been done leave to one side while you heat the olive oil and gently sweat the onion in a large pan. When it is softened, add the garlic and cook for a further few minutes.

4. Add the white wine and allow it to come to the boil. As soon as this happens, throw in the mussels and turn down the heat.

5. Put a lid on the pan and let the mussels steam for 4-5 minutes until all the mussels are wide open. Stir from time to time to distribute the heat.

6. Add the cream and cook for another minute or so, then season with salt and pepper and scatter over the chopped parsley.

7. Serve immediately, discarding any mussels which haven’t opened.

Valentine’s Day Cheese Hearts

Parmesan cheese hearts for Valentine's Day
Parmesan cheese hearts for Valentine’s Day

Parmesan Cheese Sablés

To make about 30, using a 5cm round cutter, slightly less using a heart shaped cutter

These are extremely easy to make, and well worth the effort. It takes no time to make a large batch and keep in the deep freeze until needed. They are perfect with pre-dinner drinks.For a Valentine’s Day celebration, cut the cheese pastry into heart shapes. These are the ideal nibble to go with Champagne, so they make the perfect wedding canapé. I also love them with a good dry Martini http://cookupaparty.co.uk/how-to-make-the-perfect-martini. Bliss. Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

100g plain flour

Pinch each of salt, black pepper and cayenne

1/2 tsp dry mustard powder

90g unsalted butter

90g grated Parmesan or Grana Padano

1 egg beaten to glaze Small handful of poppy seeds or sesame seeds

 Method

1. Sift flour into a bowl or food processor and add the salt, pepper, cayenne and mustard powder.

2. Add the butter and rub in or blend until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.

3. Add the cheese and mix the dough together until smooth. If should be soft and pliable.

4. Chill for 30 minutes, and then turn out onto a floured surface.

5. Pre-heat the oven to 190C/385F/Gas 5. Gently roll out to a thickness of 1cm. Using a round or heart-shaped cutter, press out the shapes and brush with the egg glaze.

6. Sprinkle with poppy seeds or sesame seeds and place on a flat baking sheet. Bake for approx 12-15 minutes until the biscuits are golden brown, and cool on a wire rack

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Rosemary Focaccia

Rosemary Focaccia 

This is a very easy bread to make and is ideal party food. Serve with some good quality Italian meats and cheeses as party grazing food. You can get lovely Bresaola beautifully sliced from http://www.vallebona.co.uk . It is also very good with a substantial home made soup for weekend lunch or supper. The dough is wetter than your usual loaf, so add the water gradually if making by hand. You can also use the food processor for mixing and for the first rise. See Tips, below. Happy Baking!

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Ingredients

500g/1lb 2oz strong white bread flour

2 tsp salt

2 sachets dried easy blend yeast

2 tbsp olive oil

400ml/14fl oz cold water

olive oil, for drizzling

sea salt crystals

fresh rosemary

Equipment – I use a  23 x 33cm (9″ x 13″) Swiss roll tin for my loaves. It needs to be at least 2cm deep.

Method

  1. Place the flour, salt, yeast, olive oil and 300ml/10½fl oz of the water into a large bowl. Gently stir with your hand or a wooden spoon to form a dough then knead the dough in the bowl for five minutes, gradually adding the remaining water.
  2. Stretch the dough by hand in the bowl, tuck the sides into the centre for about five minutes.
  3. Tip the dough onto an oiled work surface and continue kneading for five more minutes. Return the dough to the bowl, cover and leave to rise until doubled in size. This would normally take an hour in a warm place, or longer if you put it a cold area.
  4. Tip the dough out of the bowl and spread onto the baking sheet, pushing to the corners, then leave to prove for one hour.
  5. Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7. Press your fingers into the dough to create little hollows. Drizzle the loaves with oil, sprinkle with the sea salt crystals, and put small sprigs of rosemary into the holes you have created. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes.

TIPS:

  • I find half a loaf does a dinner party for six, so I cut it in half and freeze half of the loaf for another time.
  • It is quite a wet dough, so if you have a Magimix or food processor, you can make the dough in the bowl with the dough blade. Whizz for about a minute. Switch off and leave the dough to rise for an hour in the bowl. Then once it has rise to twice it’s size, whizz again with the dough blade for another minute or so to “knock down”. Once the dough has been knocked back, you can tip it into the baking tin to rise again. Continue as per the recipe above.

 

Hollywood Glamour cocktails

I devised a couple of new cocktails for the recent Hollywood Christmas Party. The White Liz was named for the hostess who loved it as it is stylish, tasty and packs a punch! The quantities are per cocktail and both designed to be served in a martini glass. Quantities for larger numbers are given on my White Christmas Cocktail post  http://cookupaparty.co.uk/white-christmas-cocktails/

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THE WHITE LIZ

2oz Gin

1oz Cointreau

1/4 oz Velvet Falernum

1/4 oz lime juice

1 x fresh lime leaf finely chopped

Mix in chilled cocktail shaker with finely chopped lime leaves and crushed ice. Shake and serve in a Martini glass.

Garnish – glace cherry on cocktail stick

 

THE RED CARPET

This is a beautiful raspberry red colour and dangerously delicious!

2oz White rum

1oz raspberry puree

1/4 oz lemon juice

1/4 oz raspberry liqueur

Fresh lime for garnish

Mix in a cocktail shaker with crushed ice. Shake and pour into a Martini glass

Garnish – thin slice of lime on side of the glass

Bars Open!

 

Is your daily loaf making you ill?

What exactly is in our bread?

Surely we should be able to buy a loaf of bread and believe that it is a simple and necessary food. However many of us are turning away from bread due to bloating, feelings of lethargy and a general belief that carbs are bad for you. On the other hand, as a staple, bread should be the staff of life. Shouldn’t it? Unless we have the facts presented to us it is difficult to make a judgement.

The Real Bread Campaign exists to raise awareness as to what actually goes on in the bread making industry and to promote independent bakers. The Real Bread Campaign is part of the charity Sustain, the alliance for better food and farming and much of their work is raising awareness.

The nasty bits

The campaign has deep concerns about additives. They believe that people should be aware of the possible side effects from the long list of permitted additives allowed in bread. The Food Intolerance Network claims of propionates (an additive commonly found in packaged bread) that: “Reactions can be anything from the usual range of food intolerance symptoms: migraine and headaches; gastro-intestinal symptoms including stomach aches, irritable bowel, diarrhoea, urinary urgency, bedwetting; eczema and other itchy skin rashes; nasal congestion (stuffy or runny nose); depression, unexplained tiredness, impairment of memory and concentration, speech delay; tachycardia (fast heart beat); growing pains, loud voice (no volume control); irritability, restlessness, inattention, difficulty settling to sleep, night waking and night terrors.”  That might well make you think again when snatching a loaf of pre-packed bread from the shelf. Propionates (E280) are just some of the permitted additives.

The Real Bread Campaign produced a thorough report which took nine months to complete. In “Are Supermarket Bloomers Pants?” they contacted six major supermarkets to get them to come clean about what is in their so-called fresh baked bread. As you can imagine where they got a reply, it was not as full or informative as they would have wished for.

The Real Bread Campaign also state, “It should be noted that loaves, dough or flour imported from or via other EU or EEA member states is not subject to UK regulation.” So there is even less control on what goes into our food, which is particularly concerning when we have limited supplies of flour in the UK, due to the poor harvests caused by extreme weather conditions. The expensive so-called artisanal bread sold in supermarkets is often no more than an expensive rip off. The Real Bread Campaign is asking supermarkets to “stop using ‘artisan’ and similar terms for any bakery products that have not been made from scratch using all natural ingredients and traditional techniques by trained and experienced craft bakers”. What most people don’t realise is that they are not safe spending extra on bread that looks fairly rustic; they still contain the dreaded flour improver, or flour treatment. These are additives combined to improve baking functionality. Flour treatment agents are used to increase the speed of dough rising, which makes more bread, therefore more profit. A proper artisan baker will not use these, allowing their breads to rise naturally. It is commonly believed that this quick rise is the cause of the unpleasant bloating that can occur after eating bread.

Fight back

With this information, would you now think twice about spending your hard earned dough on what is essentially a big con? To make some small protest, seek out your local baker, making bread in the traditional way. Or bake your own. There is nothing more blissful than creating your own bread, either by hand or in a bread-making machine. Choose your flour carefully; many well known brands contain imported flour which is not subject to UK regulations. Doves Farm organic flours and some of the smaller mills produce good quality flour. Just remember to check the label. Bread making is surprisingly easy and the actual making process takes about 10 minutes; it is the proving (or rising) that takes the time and this can be fitted in around other activities. If enough people take up a stance on this, perhaps we can get more accountability for what goes into our bread. See my recipes for a simple way to make your own. The Weekend Loaf is an easy way to make bread for the weekend, cutting down on waiting for it to prove by a slow rise in the fridge overnight. For a really tasty and healthy loaf check out my Spelt Bread. Happy Baking!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Foolproof Chocolate Mousse Recipe

Chocolate Mousse close up of chocolate mousseA classic, no frills, chocolate mousse recipe. It is worth seeking out some unusual little glass pots to serve this in. I often use plain glass tea light holders which hold slightly less mixture, stretching the recipe to feed eight.

Quantities for 6

Ingredients

110g good quality dark chocolate, or a mix of dark and milk if serving to family

4 Tablespoons of icing sugar, sieved

4 medium eggs

4 Tablespoons of double cream

 

Method

  1. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of hot water
  2. Separate the eggs and whisk the whites until stiff
  3. In a mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks with the icing sugar until foamy
  4. Add the double cream and mix in thoroughly
  5. Pour in the chocolate and give the mixture a good whisk for 2-3 minutes
  6. Carefully fold in the egg whites and pour into a serving dish or into your prettiest individual dishes
  7. Refrigerate for a minimum of three hours before serving
  8. Decorate with tiny white chocolate stars and edible glitter -as above