Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Bank holiday pancakes

This past weekend was the Easter bank holiday, which means you get the Friday and the following Monday off if you live in the UK. I decided to cook up a batch of these pancakes to mark the occasion. They evoke lots of memories for me -- of Sunday breakfasts with my family, of indulgent Saturday mornings with Kelsie at the Red Hook Diner, and of holiday weekends of course!
I like to serve these the same exact way every time -- with a nice knob of butter, warmed maple syrup drizzled on top, and a few rashers of smoked bacon.

Bank Holiday Pancakes
Note: i've included USA measures as well
1 banana
80g plain flour (1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp)
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
40g cornmeal (1/3 cup)
170ml milk (3/4 cup)
1 egg

  1. Whizz together all the ingredients with a hand blender

  2. Heat a non-stick frying pan and melt a knob of butter. Pour a ladleful (about 1/3 cup) of batter in the centre and leave for a few minutes until bubbles start to appear on the surface. Flip the pancake and cook the other side for another minute or so.

  3. Tips: I usually keep the oven on low (about 140C) and put the finished pancakes in a dish in there while i'm cooking off the rest. I also fry the bacon and heat the maple syrup in a bowl of hot water during all of this. When there are only about 2 pancakes left to cook i put the plates in the oven to heat up.

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Film projects and dinner with Erick at Cafe Mao

Our friend Erick just returned from a 2-week holiday in South Africa. We thought it would be nice to catch up on his adventures over a meal at Cafe Mao in Merchant City. We decided to meet up on Wednesday. Unfortunately, Wednesday is content-refresh day at WeeWorld, where i work, and there were some last minute glitches. I was late getting to the restaurant which meant i missed most of the catch-up. Apparently there were tales of shark baiting and over the top wine tasting at some local vineyards. By the time i got there Kelsie and Erick had finished their cocktails. I caught up with a Mao-Mao cocktail which had a nice kick.

Conversation moved on to Kelsie's latest film project for her course at SAE. The film, Sofa Stories is a 5-minute scene written by Erick, directed, filmed and edited by Kelsie, and starring our two friends Sally and Lorna. I got to help out with sound and food of course.

Kelsie's next project will be another Erick Ullrich script. And the rest of the evening was spent discussing logistics and the screenplay. Let's just say that Erick left the restaurant with an assignment to finish the script!

Cafe Mao was a great place to have our catch-up with Erick. It was still early in the week so the place wasn't full. We order three different starters: Roast pumpkin spring rolls, Chilli squid and Chicken satays. All of them were tasty and the only downside was the wilted herbs and lettuce that came with the spring rolls. The mains were a disappointment. Erick and Kelsie both ordered the Chilli Lime Beef and I ordered the Chilli Plum Duck. Both dishes were overpowered by their sauces, and to be honest they were hard to tell apart. See for yourself below:

Our general consensus is that we'll probably not go back for a dinner, but would consider Cafe Mao again for drinks and starters.

CAFE MAO / 84 Brunswick Street, Merchant City, Glasgow, G1 1ZZ / 0141 564 5161

Saturday, 1 March 2008

Custard Adventures with Eve, Curt, and Grace

This week we had our friend Curt over for dinner. Curt is here in Glasgow for two weeks and I figured he'd want a break from hotel/restaurant food or whatever it is that you eat when you travel for work. So for this occasion I planned a nice home-cooked meal of Clapshot Shepherd's Pie and Eve's Pudding. Kelsie raised her eyebrows when I told her the menu choice, but Curt was happy with it. Turns out his husband David makes Shepherd's Pie all the time. According to Curt, this one was pretty damn fine so I'm including the recipe here for David to try out when Curt is back in their love nest.

For dessert I finally got to try out a recipe for Eve's Pudding that I've been eyeing. It's pretty easy to do -- just apples topped with a sponge. The tricky bit is the custard that you're meant to serve it with. I have some kind of mental block about custard and tonite was no different.

The first time I made custard was at my first job as a commis chef. On that occasion I overtempered the eggs and they turned into a mass of vanilla flavoured scrambled eggs. I tried it again this past Christmas when I was making a Sherry Trifle. That time I was so paranoid about overtempering that I didn't cook them enough. The custard was runny and never thickened.

So you can imagine the trepidation I felt this time! This custard turned out a lot better than my previous attempts. It wasn't that thick but further research reassures me that my custard met all the requirements. Next time I'll try it with cream instead of milk to see how that makes a difference.

Clapshot Shepherd's Pie serves 4
(recipe from Sue Lawrence's Scottish Kitchen by Sue Lawrence)
for David
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
450g beef mince
2 tsp plain flour
150 ml hot beef stock
1 Tbsp tomato puree
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp finely chopped parsley
salt and pepper
400g potatoes, peeled and chopped
400g turnip, peeled and chopped
40g butter
1 Tbsp finely chopped chives

  1. Heat oil in pan, cook onion for 10 minutes, then increase heat and add mince. Brown all over. Sprinkle with flour and add hot stock. Bring to boil and add tomato puree, Worcestershire sauce and parsley and season with salt and pepper. Stir, cover and cook for 15 minutes.

  2. Preheat oven to 180c

  3. For topping, boil potatoes and turnip until tender, then drain well. Mash with butter then add chives and season with salt and pepper to taste.

  4. Spoon over mince and bake 35-40 minutes.

Eve's Pudding
(recipe from Olive Magazine March 2008)

600g cooking apples, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
75g light muscovado sugar
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
100g butter
100g caster sugar, plus extra for dusting
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
100g self-raising flour

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Put the apples in a large bowl with the sugar, lemon zest and juice and the cinnamon. Transfer to a round, 2-litre ovenproof dish and set aside until needed.

  2. Beat the buitter and caster sugar in a bowl until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, mixing after each addition. MIx in the vanilla, then sift in the flour and gently mix to make a dropping consistency.

  3. Spread the mixture over the apples and bake for 40 minutes or until the topping cooked through and golden. Sprinkle with extra vaster sugar and serve with custard.

CRÈME ANGLAISE (Custard)Makes 290ml

290ml milk
1 vanilla pod, split lengthways, or a few drops of vanilla essence
2-3 egg yolks
2-3 Tbsp caster sugar

  1. Heat the milk and vanilla pod, if using, until steaming. Leave to stand for 20 minutes to allow the flavours to infuse, then scrape the seeds from the vanilla pod and stir into the milk

  2. Beat the egg yolks in a bowl with the sugar. Pour the milk slowly on to the eggs in a thin stream, stirring constantly. Rinse out the pan to remove the coagulated milk proteins, then return the milk to the pan.

  3. Stir over a medium-low heat until the mixture thickens sufficiently to coat the back of a spoon (when the custard starts to steam it is almost cooked). Do not boil or the egg will coagulate into lumps.

  4. Strain into a chilled bowl to remove any fragments of cooked egg and stir from time to time to help the custard cool quickly and prevent it from cooking further or forming a skin. Add the vanilla essence if using.

The finished product: