How do you like the moody picture? My daughter got a camera for her birthday and is taking some beautiful pictures. We haven't set up an area for photography so have to use the available light in the kitchen. The overhead lights make everything look awful so we are taking pictures by the window. It was gloomy and wet yesterday so not much natural light but I think it makes a lovely, romantic picture.
Anyway to matters food. I thought I would start the run up to Valentine's Day with a family favourite recipe and share one of my romantic culinary tips. Well its a fancy chip really but makes it look as though you've gone to some trouble even if you've forgotten to buy a card which I frequently do.
Making a special dinner can take a fair bit of time which is OK at the weekend but Valentine's falls on a Tuesday this year and if you are heading home from work or busy organising the children it doesn't give you much time to make a gorgeous meal. So this prepare ahead dessert is perfect, make it the day before and chill overnight then all you have to do is finish off the caramel topping an hour or so before serving.
If you have time make a batch of caramel and whizz it up to make a powder, it keeps very well in a dry jar, just spoon it on top of your baked creams and grill or blow torch it caramelizes very quickly but if you don't have any just use caster sugar.
I like to serve small hazelnut shortbread biscuits with the brulees, make lots so some can go into the biscuit tin. They melt in the mouth and are delicious.
So that's pudding sorted, so what about the main? Well opt for something simple. Apologies to all vegetarians but there is nothing quite like a good steak and chips.
This is how I used to make it special when my husband and I were first together, heart shaped chips! I know that sounds soppy but they do look as though you have put some effort into it, especially if you don't have a heart shaped cutter, which I didn't then, I do now and it makes life easier and the chips neater. Twice cooked chips are great so pre-fry them the night before and finish them off while the steak is cooking. (Sorry the pictures look a little dark but there was no time for messing about we were all hungry!)
Add some fried onion, a green salad and a large glass of wine and there you have it a delicious dinner in no time and loads of brownie points.
I will be sharing some other Valentine's Day recipes over the next couple of weeks so keep an eye out for some delicious romantic, bakes.
Hazlenut Shortbread Biscuits
Makes approx. 30 hearts 6cm wide
Total time inc. chilling 45 minutes
40g Hazlenuts (it doesn’t matter if the skins are on)
200g Plain flour
175g Salted Butter
50g Caster Sugar plus extra for coating
1tsp Vanilla Extract
Heart shaped cutter and two greased baking sheets
Preheat oven to 150C (Fan) or 170C (Conventional)
Place hazelnuts and sugar in food processor and blitz until quite fine. If your processor can’t cope with small amounts add the flours they should whizz up just fine.
Add the butter and vanilla and continue to process until it is beginning to form clumps. Tip onto a lightly floured surface and bring together into a smooth dough. You will not need any liquid and don’t overwork it.
Roll out to approx. ½ cm thick and cut out hearts. Bringing trimmings together and re-rolling. I can’t bear to waste the bits.
Place on prepared baking sheets. Prick a couple of times with a fork and chill for 20 minutes.
Place in preheated oven and bake for approx. 20 minutes until lightly coloured. It took a little longer in one of my ovens so check every 5 minutes.
Remove from oven and sprinkle with caster sugar while still warm. Leave to cool completely on baking tray then store in an airtight container.
White Chocolate and Raspberry Crème Brulee
Active Time including chilling 6 hours
300ml Double Cream
60g White Chocolate
3 Egg yolks
1 tbs Caster Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
100g Raspberries (fresh of frozen)
2 tbs Icing sugar
Extra caster sugar for caramel topping
4 ramekin dishes
Preheat oven to 140C (Fan), 160C (Conventional)
Put cream and white chocolate in a small saucepan and heat very gently until the chocolate has melted, stirring occasionally. Set aside to cool.
Beat together caster sugar, yolks and vanilla
Stir in cream mixture and strain into a jug.
Mix raspberries with the icing sugar, breaking them up slightly and divide mixture between the ramekins. If the raspberries are frozen break them up before you add the sugar then coat them in the icing sugar. You can bake the custards when the raspberries are frozen they just take longer to set.
Gently pour the cream mixture over the raspberries. Place the ramekins in the roasting tin, pour boiling water into the tin half way up the sides of the ramekins.
Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes until mixture is just set but the centre is wobbly but not liquid.
Remove from oven and allow to cool, then chill for at least 4 hours.
When you are ready to serve sprinkle the tops with caster sugar or powdered caramel (see below) and place under a hot grill or blowtorch until sugar is melted and golden. Allow caramel to harden. Chill for 30 minutes so the custard firms up again.
Serve with shortbread hearts.
POWDERED CARAMEL TOPPING
I find that caster sugar can take a while to caramelize nicely so I make caramel powder and keep it in a jar until needed.
Put approx. 100g caster sugar in a small steel saucepan and heat gently, do not add water
Once it has started to melt then keep stirring until a soft golden caramel colour. (NB you can stir caramel if it doesn’t have water in it).
Pour onto a baking sheet lined with baking parchment and allow to cool completely.
Blitz in a food processor until a fine powder and store until needed.
(Mary Berry tip to me in the tent was to use a steel pan, caramel is very temperamental in a non-stick saucepan. )