Friday, February 27, 2015

Food to fall in love with

Well, better late than never!  Everyone has their Valentine's traditions, mine involve a quiet night in, a nice bottle of wine and a home-cooked dinner.  Having saved a bit of money I decided to splash out on the food this year (although it was still a lot cheaper than eating out in a restaurant).  So here's my recipe for a wonderful Valentine's Day meal, food to really fall in love with.

I've gone for a classic surf  'n' turf dish - rump steak with seared scallops with a rich Champagne butter sauce, prosciutto-wrapped asparagus and sweet potato wedges.

Surf  'n' Turf
I went shopping a couple of days early this year to make sure I could get all the ingredients I needed for my meal so that I wouldn't have to panic-buy anything on the day.

The ingredients
 This recipe took a lot of planning because of all the different components so in the afternoon I sat down with a lovely glass of bubbles to write down everything that needed doing and to work out timings.

Recipe planning
I raided my wine stash for Valentine's Day this year and found some great goodies.  Because a romantic evening wouldn't be complete without some bubbles I got out a bottle of Bouvet-Ladubay Saumur Demi-Sec.  I love anything sweet so this was perfect! It's a sparkling wine from the Loire made with Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay in the traditional method - basically it's made in the same way as Champagne just using slightly different grapes and in a different region.  And for the finishing touch I added a strawberry to the glass.

On to the cooking!  For two generous portions you will need:

  • some olive oil for frying
  • 2 sweet potatoes
  • some rosemary (fresh is better but dried works too)
  • salt and pepper for seasoning
  • 12 asparagus spears
  • 6 slices of prosciutto
  • 2 steaks (I went for rump)
  • 8 scallops (frozen work as well as fresh - just remember to defrost them)
  • 80ml of Champagne/fizz
  • lemon juice
  • a small onion/a couple of shallots
  • 3 tbsps butter
This takes about an hour to prepare and cook.

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6/200 degrees C.  I started by washing the sweet potatoes, making sure to get all the dirt off as I wasn't going to peel them.  Then I chopped them into wedges before putting them in an oven-proof dish, tossing them in about tbsps of olive oil and seasoning them with plenty of salt, pepper and rosemary.  I used dried rosemary but fresh would be better (use about 3 generous sprigs).  40 minutes before serving pop the wedges into the oven (don't forget to turn them every 15 minutes or so).

Sweet potato wedges - ready for the oven
I used the next few minutes to finish off some preparation (measuring out the fizz and the butter, juicing the lemon and dicing the onion).  Now on to the asparagus.  Once it's washed, cut each of the 6 slices of prosciutto in half so you have 12 strips.  Place a prosciutto slip onto a chopping board at a 45 degree angle.  Place the end of an asparagus spear onto one end of the prosciutto and roll it up.

12 perfect bacon-wrapped asparagus spears
The last 15 minutes are the most hectic.  Fry the onion, add the Champagne and about 1 1/2 tsps lemon juice and boil for 3 minutes to reduce it down to around 2 tbsps of liquid.  Remove the pan from the heat and add the butter, whisking constantly until the butter is incorporated.  Set to one side.

Reduce the sauce
Now fry the asparagus - it should only need 1-2 minutes on each side.  Just keep rotating them so they cook through evenly.  Set to one side.

Fry the asparagus to brown the prosciutto
Season the scallops and using the same pan fry them, once again just a couple of minutes on each side.  At the same time use a griddle pan (or a George Foreman grill) to cook the steaks, they won't need long especially if you like them rare.

Fry the scallops
 Now all you need to do is plate everything up and enjoy! You can also garnish the dish with some parsley if you fancy giving it some extra colour.

We enjoyed this meal with a gorgeous white Burgundy, Bourgogne Les Setilles Oliver Leflaive 2011.  The richness of the wine matched the dish perfectly.  I'm not normally a huge fan of oaked Chardonnays but this one wasn't too heavily oaked and I really enjoyed it as a result.

There you have it, my perfect Valentine's Day meal.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

A little crumb of heaven

Back in December, for no reason in particular, I decided to do a bit more baking.  I am very fond of apple cakes and having never made one myself, I decided it was high time I did.

apple and cinnamon cake with maple cream cheese frosting
I found the recipe for this lovely cake on a blog called 'Drizzle and Dip', needless to say I found the promise of a maple cream cheese frosting particularly enticing!

My initial mistake was to buy way cooking apples!  The recipe called for four apples but I mistakenly bought cooking apples and I ended up barely using one of them.  Oops.

Dice the apple
After dicing the apple I whipped up a cake batter mixing plain flour, some cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, sunflower oil, caster sugar, vanilla extract, eggs and lemon zest.  Once the ingredients were combined I folded in the diced apple.  I could actually have added a little more but I erred on the side of caution!

The recipe says it needs between an 75 and 90 minutes in the oven but I would suggest baking it for fifty minutes then testing it with a skewer.  If it comes out clean then remove the cake from the oven as you'll burn the bottom and it will go really dry if you leave it in for the full time.

Let the cake cool
Don't try putting the frosting on until the cake is cool as it's a mixture of butter, muscavado sugar, maple syrup and cream cheese which is quite runny.  I'd definitely advise using an electric mixer to beat the icing together, I didn't have one and although it came out nicely my arm ached for quite a while afterwards!

I cut the cake in half and put about a third of the frosting in the centre and the rest on top.  If you want to put more in the middle I'd suggest making extra as you want enough for a nice even layer on top.  Leave the icing to set before dusting with icing sugar (or a little more cinnamon).

If you want to make this rich dessert even more decadent you could have it with some dessert wine.  I had it with some Maury Solera 1928, a deep, rich dessert wine with lovely nutty flavours.  That said, this is a delicious treat in its own right!