Saturday, 18 January 2014

Crumbly Ginger Shortbreads

Who doesn't like biscuits?  Crumbly ginger biscuits are my current favourite especially when they are made with preserved stem ginger. These aren't the traditional gingernuts but something different as they arfe light and buttery with a hint of ginger in the shortbread and a punch of it in the chunks of stem ginger.

You will have all of the ingredients in your store cupboard so let's get on.

To make approx 12 biscuits.

110g butter
70g castor sugar
1 large egg yolk
200g plain flour
pinch of salt
1 tsp ginger powder
80g chunked preserved stem ginger

Heat the oven to 180C.

Cream the butter and sugar. Doesn't need to be too light. Beat in the egg yolk.
Mix in the chopped stem ginger.
Gradually add the flour, salt and ginger powder and mix until the mixture all comes together in a firm lump.
Roll into a log shape about the size that you want your finished biscuits. About 6cm is good. Wrap and chill in the fridge for about half an hour.
Remove from the fridge and slice into medallion shaped biscuits. They should be about 1 cm thick.
Place on a baking sheet and cook for about 20 minutes. Check on the cooking as not every oven is the same. You will want them a light golden brown.
Cool until they become crisp and enjoy with a nice cup of tea. What else?

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Lasagne al Forno

Yesterday my brother phoned me and asked me where he could find my recipe for lasagne. He pointed out that there wasn't one on my blog. A big omission in hie eyes. Thinking about it, I suppose that lasagne has been done so much that I didn't feel the need to add a recipe here. However, to keep my brother happy, here's a recipe for lasagne with a few tips from a Bolognese lady that I used to work with.

I'll start with the Ragu alla Bolognese.

For the sugo or ragu as it is called in Bologna.

500g of mince meat. A mixture of pork and beef mince is the best option and the one most used in Italy.  Keep it as one lump. You'll see why later. The meat should not be too lean or it will be dry.
100 g pancetta, or failing that, chopped bacon.
1 large onion, finely diced
1 stalk of celery, finely diced
1 medium carrot, finely diced
1 tablespoon of butter
1 clove or garlic
1 glass of red wine
1 stock cube
1 - 2 tablespoons of tomato puree this will depend on how red you like your sauce.
A bouquet garni. Make sure that it is tied up so that the rosemary does not come apart and end up in the sauce. You only want the flavour.
Either water or milk to add to the mixture
a good glug of oil for frying

What you do

Put the oil in a heavy pan and heat up until just beginning to smoke. Add the meat in one flattish lump. Do not break up or move around. Allow it to brown on one side and when it has done this, use a meat slice to flip it over so that it can brown on the other side. The browning of the meat in this way stops the eventual sugo from being un unappetising grey.

While the meat is browning, you can heat the butter and fry the diced veg, except the garlic in a separate pan. Cook until soft and put aside until you need it. Add the diced garlic now.

Add the tomato puree to the meat and begin to break it up. Fry until it is all brown. Cooking the concentrate this way sweetens it and makes the sauce taste better. The pan should be fairly hot at this point so now add the wine to the meat and bring it back to the boil so that the alcohol boils off and you are left with the flavour of the wine rather than the raw taste of the alcohol.

Add the cooked veg to the pan and top up with water or milk. The liquid should cover the meat by about an inch. It will probablt be about 1 litre. It may seem like a lot, but this should cook long and slow and much of the liquid will boil off. Put on a low heat for about an hour and a half. Check from lime to time to give it a stir and to make sure that the liquid has not boiled away. Do not cover as you want the liquid to evaporate.

If you want a good sauce, then it needs to cook for at least and hour and a half. After that you cana decide if it is dense enough or if it needs to have a little stock added to it.

When you are happy with your sauce add the stock cube and salt and pepper as necessary.