I wrote recently about why I (and many others) love our microwaves, and also about how we’ve been getting on with our new Heston for Sage Quick Touch.

To put it through it’s paces, we’ve not only been defrosting, softening, melting, reheating, sterilising, steaming… we’ve been pushing it a little further and seeing how else we can use it. These fabulously easy microwave salted caramels can certainly be made on the stove, but we found the microwave method very quick and straightforward and they turned out absolutely perfectly.

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The recipe I’ve used is adapted from a number of American ones I found on the web; I’ve amended the amounts, partly because of what I had available in the stock cupboard and partly because I prefer to work in (metric) weight measurements rather than (cup) volume ones. One of the sugars this recipe calls for is corn syrup, which is far more prevalent in the US than here in the UK. From what I’ve read, I think the inverted sugar helps to form a smooth and glossy finish.

I had some corn syrup that I bought recently in the US so I didn’t need to substitute, however as corn syrup is difficult to find in the UK, my understanding is that you can substitute glucose syrup (which can be made from corn, potatoes, wheat or even rice) – this is sometimes labelled as liquid glucose or confectioner’s syrup.

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The thermospatula!

Some recipes advise cooking until the caramel reaches soft ball stage, which means the caramel solidifies into a coherent ball when a spoonful is dropped into cold water. I find that really difficult to judge, so I prefer to use a thermometer to make sure the mixture gets hot enough. For the last few months, I’ve been using my new thermospatula from Lakeland – it’s much easier than using my old traditional metal jam thermometer clipped to the side of the pan which made it difficult to stir – now the stirring spoon is the thermometer!)

This recipe produces a soft chewy caramel with a delicious buttery flavour. I’ll be a little more generous when I sprinkle sea salt on top next time, as the crunch and flavour of those little white flakes is gorgeous.

Easy Microwave Salted Caramels

Makes approximately 50

Ingredients

For the caramel:
Butter for greasing
120 grams butter
180 grams light corn syrup (or glucose syrup)
200 grams Demerara sugar or light brown sugar*
200 ml condensed milk
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or 0.5 tsp vanilla extract)
For sprinkling:
2-3 generous pinches sea salt

* You can substitute regular (white) sugar if you don’t have light brown.

Note: Since this recipe is for salted caramels, I went ahead and used lightly salted butter as that’s what we always have in our fridge. Use unsalted if you prefer.

Note: Make sure the bowl you use is heatproof to a high temperature (we used Pyrex). The mixture boils and expands enormously during cooking so the bowl also needs to be at least three or four times as large as the initial volume of all the ingredients.

Method

  • Grease a baking dish or roasting pan with butter and set aside.
  • In a large heatproof mixing bowl, melt the butter, then add all the other caramel ingredients and mix well.
  • Microwave on full power until mixture reaches a temperature of 115 °C (240 °F). We started checking after 5 minutes and returned the bowl to cook further in 30 second bursts. Full power on our microwave is 1100 watts, and our mixture took 7.5 minutes. If your microwave is less powerful, you may need to cook for a few more minutes. The mixture will start boiling and expanding long before it is ready; you need to keep cooking until you reach temperature or your caramel won’t set when it cools back down.
  • Once it’s ready, pour into prepared baking dish. It should naturally spread out such that the surface is flat.
  • After it’s cooled for a couple of minutes, sprinkle sea salt generously across the surface.
  • Leave to cool for at least an hour.
  • Use a sharp knife to cut into squares or rectangles and wrap individually in squares of parchment paper.
  • Store in the fridge, especially in warm weather.

If you try this recipe, please come back and let me know how you got on. I’d love to hear from you!

Kavey Eats received a Quick Touch microwave and a thermospatula for review. The Lakeland link is an affiliate link, please see sidebar for more information.

 

In my recent post about The Wild Meat Company’s pheasant and partridge, I mentioned the first recipe we made on receipt of my big box of game birds. A twitter friend kindly shared her recipe for pheasant, and I filled in the details by thinking about other one pot braises I’ve cooked in the past. My pheasants were delivered ready for the oven – hung, plucked, gutted – so nothing to do on that front, much to my relief.

Braising the pheasant in cider helped keep the meat moist – pheasant is a fairly lean bird and prone to dry out easily – and the apples broke down and contributed to a tasty sauce for the mash.

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Cider-Braised Pheasant with Shallots, Apples & Thyme

Serves 2

Ingredients
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 small or 1 large pheasant, oven-ready *
75 grams pancetta or bacon, cubed
8-10 small shallots or 4-5 large ones halved, peeled
300 grams cooking apple, peeled, cored and sliced ~
500 ml dry cider
Small sprig fresh thyme or generous half teaspoon dried

Optional: buttery mashed potato, to serve

* My pheasant was about 900 grams, so enough to serve 2. If your birds are smaller, use 1 per person.
~ We used a lot of apple as we had a 300 gram bag of prepped apple in the freezer. Use less if you prefer.

Method

  • Choose an stove and oven-proof casserole dish large enough for your pheasant(s), the shallots and apples and a good amount of liquid.
  • On the stove top, heat vegetable oil in your casserole dish and brown the pheasant(s) on all sides. A pair of rubber-tipped tongs is useful for this. Once browned, remove the pheasant(s) from the pot and set aside.
  • Preheat oven to 180 °C (fan).
  • Add the pancetta or bacon to the pot and cook for a couple of minutes, then add the shallots and cook on a high heat until they take on a little colour. Stir regularly so the shallots colour rather than catch.
  • Push the shallots and bacon to the edges to make space, then add the pheasant(s) back to the pot, breast side down. Spread the cooking apples around (and between, if cooking two birds) and throw in the thyme. Pour cider to at least half way up the bird(s). If you’re using a smaller pot you may not need the full 500 ml.

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  • Cook on the stove for a further minute or two, until the liquid just starts to simmer, then put a lid onto the casserole dish and transfer to the oven.
  • Bake for 1 hour.
  • Remove from the oven and carefully lift pheasant(s) onto a warm plate to rest. Return the casserole dish to the stove and cook for a minute or two to reduce the sauce.

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  • As we were sharing one pheasant between two, I used our kitchen scissors to cut the bird in half. Serve with mash and sauce.

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As you can see, this isn’t the most elegant looking plate, but it was certainly a tasty and warming meal. Perfect for this cold winter weather.

If you haven’t already, take a moment to enter my competition to win a Poachers Delight Game Birds Box of your own, courtesy of The Wild Meat Company.

More pheasant recipes to whet the appetite:

Kavey Eats received a sample box from the Wild Meat Company. Thank you to Melanie for the recipe idea.

 

A lot of foodies scorn microwaves. They proudly announce that they don’t, and never would, have one in their kitchen and I can’t help but wonder if they imagine all those who have one subsist on microwave ready meals and reheated takeaways. I always feel a little sorry for them, honestly; their conviction that real foodies never microwave means they miss out on one of the great modern tools of the domestic kitchen.

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My latest microwave experiment, I’ll be sharing the recipe soon

Even before you consider recipes that can be made in the microwave, there are many little heating tasks at which they excel:

  • Melting butter
  • Melting chocolate without a bain marie
  • Poaching eggs
  • Steaming vegetables
  • Cooking rice
  • Reheating dishes that would tend to dry out in the oven or overly reduce on the stove top
  • Briefly heating a lemon or lime before juicing (to make it easier to juice)
  • Heating a mug of milk for a quick latte or hot chocolate
  • Decrystallising honey
  • Sterilising kitchen washcloths and sponges
  • Heating wheat packs for muscle pain relief

I’ve also heard of people using a microwave to speed proof yeasted doughs, to roast a head of garlic and to par cook jacket potatoes before finishing them in the oven. The latter we now cook in the slow cooker, and I’m yet to try the first two; let me know if you have!

It won’t surprise you to learn that I’ve always had a microwave. My parents had one through most of my childhood, they kindly bought me a small, cheap one for my student house when I was at uni, and Pete and I have had one in our kitchen for the last two decades.

Last year, I reviewed a couple of appliances designed by Heston for Sage, including my lovely Smartscoop ice cream machine (review post here).

This month I’ve been putting my Heston for Sage Quick Touch microwave to the test.

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  • Because the water content in different foods varies so wildly, it can be tricky to guestimate how long different foods need in the microwave; chocolate contains only 3% water whereas most vegetables contain 95%!. Sensors in the Quick Touch microwave sense the amount of humidity released from food and automatically adjust the power level and the cooking time accordingly.
  • There is a shortcut panel (of pre-sets) for common tasks such as melting chocolate, softening butter and heating baked beans (a personal favourite of Heston’s, apparently) – all you need to do is input the weight and touch the relevant button.
  • Of course, the Quick Touch has normal microwave functions as well – you can manually input your power (with 10 levels from 10% to 100%) and the amount of time. The maximum power is 1100 watts so it’s pretty versatile. (Older consumer microwaves often topped out at 800 watts).
  • Pete’s a big fan of the fact that the timer defaults to 30 seconds and if you don’t press any other button or enter a time, will simply start at full power as soon as you close the door. There’s also a cute A Bit More button when something is nearly done but not quite.
  • So far, we’ve been very impressed with the melting butter, melting chocolate and sensor cook functions – perfectly cooked carrots and broccoli courtesy of the latter.
  • Reheating leftovers works fine, as do all the other regular tasks I listed above. Heating seems to be even throughout a plate of food, rather than spots of scalding hot and still cold.
  • It’s a heavy beast, so best for kitchens where it won’t need to be moved regularly.
  • The price tag (around £250-270 depending on retailer) is high, especially as this microwave doesn’t have convection cooking or grilling functionality.

By the way, if you caught a glimpse of the green writing on the front of the freezer in one of the images above, you may be interested in my post on how to organise the contents of a large freezer.

I’ve also been talking to other food bloggers and writers about how they use their microwaves.

Celia Brooks, cook and cookery book author, loves her microwave. She reminds us that “it’s not an oven but a tool to vibrate water molecules” and is therefore “especially good for veggies” with their high water content. As Celia’s main food group is vegetables, it’s an essential tool in her kitchen. She loves to steam vegetables in it, and she cooks aubergine chunks or slices with a little salt before adding them to a ratatouille or moussaka – they absorb less oil if cooked a little first. She likes to “fill flat mushroom caps with cream cheese and herbs”; cooking these in the microwave forms “a luscious sauce”. She also warms milk, makes porridge and heats single portions of dishes like lasagne, for which heating the regular oven would be wasteful.

Helen Best-Shaw, food blogger and recipe developer, mainly uses hers for reheating, defrosting and cooking vegetables and grains. She says she nearly always cooks brown rice in it, which is “perfectly cooked in 14 minutes”. She also partially cooks baked potatoes before finishing in the oven.

Urvashi Roe, food blogger and baker, uses her most days, mainly for defrosting and reheating. She also uses it to melt chocolate, and for “emergency baking” when she has chocolate cake cravings. She finds it particularly useful on days she’s running late, needs to feed the children and can simply take a batch-cooked soup or dhal out of the freezer, defrost, heat and serve.

MiMi Aye, food blogger and cookery book author, loves the convenience of her microwave. She uses it to heat leftovers, cook vegetables like courgettes, warm soup and baked beans, cook ready meals and make microwave popcorn. Like Urvashi, she likes batch cooking meals and freezing them in portions. She reminds me that the microwave is also the easiest way to sterilise baby bottles. And she sent me this rather mesmerising video of blowing up Peeps (American marshmallow birds) in the microwave!

Alicia Fourie, food blogger and keen cook, uses her microwave for warming milk and reheating leftovers. She also loves it for cooking asparagus and corn on the cob, finding it “much easier than boiling” and less faff than lighting the barbecue.

Miss South, food blogger and cookery book author, originally got a microwave because, although she’s a “freezer fiend”, she lacks the organisation to take things out in time to defrost. She also loves using it to cut down on cooking times, pointing out that “microwaving takes less time and costs less than turning [her] electric cooker”. These days, she also uses the microwave to back up her slow cooker, by “batch cooking 3-4 portions of something lovely” and freezing the rest; being able to defrost and blast these home made ready meals in the microwave stops her “tiring of staples” and is also a boon when she’s ill or really busy. She is also a fan of microwaveable rice, which she pimps into fried rice with the addition of frozen peas and an egg.

Of course, a microwave isn’t a substitute for other cooking appliances. I love my gas stove top and electric oven and I regularly use my slow cooker, sous vide cooker and power blender (which can cook soups and custards).

The key is to understand a microwave’s strengths  and put it to use accordingly.

Do you have a microwave? How do you use it? And what’s the one thing you use it for that you’d hate to do without?

Kavey Eats received a Quick Touch microwave for review. Lakeland links are affiliate links, please see sidebar for more information.

 

This month’s Bloggers Scream for Ice Cream was a joint challenge hosted by me and Choclette – BSFIC meets We Should Cocoa. We asked you to give us your chocolatey frozen treats and you obliged!

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Image via Big Spud, provided by Waitrose

First up is this rather impressive Chocolate Passionfruit Baked Alaska from Gary at Big Spud. Using passion fruit to cut through the rich flavour of chocolate makes perfect sense.

Elizabeth

Next, Elizabeth over at Law Student Cookbook combines a classic pairing in her Chocolate Hazelnut Ice Cream. She used roasted hazelnuts to provide both flavour and crunch.

frozen creme fraiche brownie custard

Hannah at Honey & Dough made this lovely Frozen Creme Fraiche Brownie Custard. I love the idea of big chunks of chewy chocolate brownie mixed into the ice cream base, and creme fraiche surely gives a gorgeous tang!

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Janice at Farmersgirl Kitchen took inspiration from ingredients she found in her freezer, to make this White Chocolate Eton Mess Ice Cream. Love the dainty tea cup!

Chocolate Ice Pops

Fellow host Choclette made these delicious Chocolate Ice Pops – chocolate ice cream in a coat of melted chocolate. Using good quality chocolate makes all the difference in recipes like this.

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Jo of Jos Kitchen made triple sure to get chocolate into her recipe with these Triple Chocolate Ice Cream Sandwiches. To a Jamie Oliver chocolate ice cream recipe, she added chocolate chips, and sandwiched the resulting ice cream between chocolate digestive biscuits.

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I’d never even heard of cake batter ice cream till I read Julia’s post on Something Missing but apparently it’s a thing in San Francisco. Julia used vanilla cake mix along with chocolate chips and folded the mixture into an Italian meringue to create her No Churn Birthday Cake Ice Cream.

violet crumble ice cream in bowl

Johanna at the Green Gourmet Giraffe Blog made an amazing sounding Violet Crumble Ice Cream as part of her Australia Day celebrations – the ice cream includes broken up pieces of Violet Crumble, an Aussie chocolate-covered honeycomb bar stirred into a no churn condensed milk and cream base.

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My own entry tastes way better than the photograph might look – it’s an incredibly Rich, Dark & Dense Chocolate Ice Cream. I adapted a recipe I’d made previously on the stove to do the whole thing in my power blender, which worked really well. This mixture would make absolutely killer chocolate ice lollies aka fudgesicles.

Thank you everyone for joining us for our WeShouldBSFIC Mashup!

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I’ll post a theme for January’s BSFIC soon.

 

My initial plan, when Choclette and I set our joint #WeShouldBSFIC challenge for January, was an ice cream sandwich. I wanted to make chewy chocolate chip cookies and sandwich white chocolate vanilla ice cream between them. But every time I started scribbling potential recipe notes, my thoughts turned instead to a chocolate ice cream recipe I shared back in the summer of 2012; a rich, dense and wonderfully dark chocolate ice cream. I still remember the richness of that ice cream!

Like many no-churn recipes, it has a base of condensed milk and double cream (plus regular milk). Unlike most no-churn recipes, it’s not simply a case of folding together whipped condensed milk and cream, adding flavouring and popping into the freezer. It needs the milks and cream to be boiled, the chocolate (and other flavourings) to be melted and thoroughly mixed in, and then a flour thickener added before the mixture is cooked further until it’s so thick you can only just pour it from the pan to a plastic box.

I was keen to see if I could adapt the recipe to make it in my Froothie Optimum 9400. This power blender has such a jet engine of a motor that it not only blends but heats too – there’s no heating element but the friction of the blades at top speed will generate enough heat to make your mixture piping hot. Having already made an ice cream custard base in the Optimum 9400, for my silky smooth white chocolate vanilla ice cream, I was hopeful my adaptation would work.

When I took the ice cream out of the freezer,  I belatedly remembered how dense this ice cream is and how hard it is to scoop. We ended up popping the entire block out of the plastic box and cutting a slice off the end with a knife. It doesn’t look pretty, as the photographed side shows where it slid out of the box and the other side looked even stranger, from where the knife pushed through it.

That’s when I realised this recipe would  be utterly perfect for individual chocolate ice cream lollies, or fudgesicles as Americans call them. As soon as you cut into the ice cream with a spoon, it reveals it’s beautiful smooth texture, utterly silky in the mouth and with a hint of chewiness that reminds of the wonderful mastic ice creams of the Middle East. I took a bite straight out of the slice and oh yes indeed, this would be perfect on a lolly stick! Too bad I didn’t think of that 24 hours ago!

So please use your imagination to see past my appalling photo and trust me when I tell you that you should give this recipe a try.

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Rich, Dense & Dark Chocolate Ice Cream | Made in a Power Blender

Ingredients
200 grams sweetened condensed milk
100 grams whole milk
100 grams double cream
100 grams very dark chocolate, grated or finely chopped*
0.5 scant teaspoon instant coffee granules or powder
1 scant teaspoon vanilla bean paste or extract
Small pinch fine sea salt
1 tablespoon plain flour
1 tablespoon cold water

* Note: To save on washing up, use your power blender to “grate” the chocolate, then pour/ scrape it out of the jug and set it aside.

Method

  • Into the jug, pour the condensed milk, whole milk and double cream. Blend on high power until the mixture is steaming hot.
  • Add the chocolate, instant coffee, vanilla bean paste and salt. Blend on high power again until the chocolate melts and is fully mixed into the cream and milk.
  • In a small bowl, mix the flour and water into a smooth paste, then add to the blender.
  • Blend on high power for 4-5 minutes. The mixture should be thick and glossy.
  • Pour / scrape into a shallow freezer container, or better still, into individual lolly moulds or small paper cups, with lolly sticks inserted.
  • Transfer to the freezer overnight or until solid.
  • To serve, take out of the freezer 10 minutes ahead of scooping (or slicing).

This is my entry for the joint Bloggers Scream for Ice Cream and We Should Cocoa challenge, hosted by myself and Choclette.

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As I’ve mentioned before, I was given my Optimum 9400 along with the opportunity to be an ambassador for the Australian brand, as it breaks into the UK market. Hand on hearts, Pete and I have been enormously impressed with the blender, especially given the price when you compare it to market leaders like Vitamix; (you can read a comparison of the two, here). We’ve made super quick frozen fruit sorbets, delicious vegetable soups (which are blended and heated so quickly that they retain the fresh taste of the vegetables, an unexpected bonus), quick custards (both to enjoy as they are and freeze into ice cream), and we’ve also used it to grate, puree and blend. And yet we’re only at the start of our learning about all that it can do. I’ll continue to share my favourite Optimum 9400 recipes with you here on Kavey Eats. You can access them all via my Froothie tag.

Like this recipe? Here are a few more power blender recipes from fellow bloggers that caught my eye:

Kavey Eats received a review Optimum 9400 power blender from Froothie. Please see the right side bar for a special offer on buying the Optimum with an extended warranty via my affiliate link.

 

I visited Colombia about thirty years ago on a family holiday that also took us to Brazil, Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador. Though I still have memories of Bogotá – I remember the statue of Simon Bolivar in Plaza de Bolivar, the flamboyant Iglesia del Carmen and being driven around the old town areas – there’s a gap when it comes to remembering the food.

Luckily, Proexport Colombia recently invited me to attend a Colombian Cooking Masterclass in the Ambassador’s beautiful residence in Chester Square.

We spent a happy hour in the small basement kitchen, where renowned Colombian chefs Juanita Umaña and Diana García talked to us about ingredients and demonstrated several dishes, inviting us to touch, smell, taste and to get involved. We ate Colombian specialities straight out of the fryer and scribbled down tips and tricks before taking our seats in the ambassador’s dining room for a multi-course feast.

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The snacks we made with Juanita and Diana both featured yuca (manioc) flour. Pasteles de yuca croquettes stuffed with a spicy beef and egg mixture. Arepas (corn cakes) were double-fried – dough was rolled out, cut into discs, fried for a few minutes, then a slit carefully so that an egg could be dropped inside before being fried again. Arepas are most commonly made quite large, but Juanita and Diana made individual ones using quails eggs before creating a larger one with a hen egg.

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For lunch we were served a variety of dishes, all traditional favourites in Colombia. My fellow diners were particularly taken with the Ajiaco Santafereño (chicken and potato soup) but my favourites were the mixed seafood en leche de coco (in coconut milk), the Posta Negra Cartagenera (Cartagena braised beef), the dulce de leche crème brûlée and the sandwich of Oblea wafers and dulce de leche.

Recipe: Posta Negra Cartagenera (Cartagena Braised Beef)

Serves 6

Ingredients
Posta

1 tail of rump or rump tip of 3lb with its fat
1.5 teaspoon salt
0.5 teaspoon pepper
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon vinegar or 2 tablespoons bitter orange juice
Braising Liquid
3 tablespoons oil
4 sweet chili peppers, seeded and chopped
3 white onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3 tomatoes, chopped
Salt to taste

Method

  • Place the meat in a bowl or pan and marinate with salt, pepper, garlic and vinegar or bitter orange juice. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours.
  • Remove the meat from the refrigerator. Heat the oil in a pot over high heat and brown the meat on all sides, starting with the fat, until obtaining a dark caramel colour all over.
  • Add sweet chili peppers, onion, and garlic and sauté for 2 minutes.
  • Add tomatoes and pour in enough hot water to cover a third of the meat.
  • Braise for 45 minutes over medium heat to medium doneness. If you want it done more, place in a 350° F (180 °C) oven for 40 minutes more, or depending on your preference.
  • Remove the meat from the pot and let sit for some minutes.
  • Cut it in thin slices.
  • Adjust seasoning. If the sauce formed in the pot has dried out, add some hot water and reduce a bit, for all the flavours to integrate and obtain a nice gravy.
  • Serve the meat with its gravy, fried coconut rice and salad on the side.

 

Kavey Eats was a guest of Proexport Colombia. The recipe for Cartagena Braised Beef, published with permission, is from Colombia Cocina de Regiones, edited and published by MNR Comunicaciones y Ediciones, an authoritative book on the recipes of Colombia, with contributions from Juanita Umaña and Diana García.

 

One of the many things I enjoy about blogging is the social aspect – forging friendships with fellow bloggers, talking online, meeting in person. And when good things happen for the friends one has made, it’s really wonderful to be able to share the news.

Miss South, one half of North South Food, is not only a fellow food lover and inventive cook but she is also a very talented and articulate writer. Her posts on cooking on a budget, and the realities of living on the poverty line should be taken as a wake up call not only by politicians who are wildly out of touch, but also by food celebrities who mean well but haven’t got a clue either. For more about Miss South, read my recent Meet The Blogger interview with her, here.

The good news I wanted to share is to spread the word about Miss South’s latest book, one that I’ve been really excited about seeing in print. It’s called Slow Cooked and has over 200 recipes to make in a slow cooker.

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Back when Miss South was recipe testing, I was quick to step forward and delighted to volunteer my services in helping her with some of the Indian recipes. Some tips gleaned from my mum about making your own garam masala made it into the book, as did the method I recommended for making keema. It’s a lovely feeling to contribute, even in such a tiny way, to someone’s book – I know it was a project that Miss South poured vast energy and effort into and the result is a super resource.

Using a slow cooker is a boon for many cooks. It’s great for those evenings when you’re so hungry by the time you get home you just want to walk in to something delicious, hot and ready to eat. A little prep in the morning, or the night before, and that’s exactly what a slow cooker can give you. It’s also a very economical way of cooking, using far less energy over several hours than a conventional oven or stovetop for a few. And if you are cooking in limited kitchen space (or perhaps no kitchen at all), it can be a lifesaver.

Of course, cooking in a slow cooker is not the same as cooking in an oven or on the stove. For those who’ve made slow-cooked stews or casseroles before, their first experiences cooking with a slow cooker can be disappointing. Food tastes bland and watery and it’s easy to give up.

One of the best aspects of the book is the excellent and detailed introduction Miss South gives to cooking in a slow cooker, spelling out the adaptations you need to make to ensure that you achieve great flavours when cooking this way. It’s immediately clear that Miss South has used her slow cookers (she has various models in different sizes) a lot and in this book she passes on all the tips she’s learned along the way. After the introduction, dive in to a fabulous range of slow cooker recipes, ranging from hearty meat stews to fish and vegetable dishes, soups and curries. There are even chapters on preserves and other pantry staples, cakes and breads and puddings.

Most recipes don’t have accompanying photos, but a good selection of dishes are showcased just inside the front cover. Usually, I’m a fan of having an image of every recipe so I can see what it should look like but most of the dishes in the book are classics that most of us are familiar with, so I find that I don’t actually miss them in this book. What I’m more interested in are the adapted versions that allow me to make all these recipes in my trusty slow cooker.

Not every recipe is to my taste – I was disappointed by the butternut squash curry which needs more spice, more punch, more flavour. But there are many recipes which more than make up for that one, such as the fantastic carbonnade, Miss South’s slow cooker adaptation of a Belgian beef stew made with beer, onions and mustard. I particularly love the mustard toasted baguette on top, though do note you’ll need use of a grill to toast the slices before sitting them atop the stew.

Note, Miss South isn’t as greedy as Pete and I – she lists the recipe as serving 4-6 with leftovers whereas I’d say it serves 4 with none leftover.

Miss South’s Carbonnade

Serves 4

Ingredients
500 grams stewing steak or beef brisket, cubed
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons plain flour
2 onions (preferably caramelised, recipe provided in the book)
1 carrot, diced
2  large flat mushrooms, sliced
1 heaped teaspoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
350 ml ale or stout
4 tablespoons wholegrain mustard
1 tablespoon room-temperature butter
1 demi baguette
chopped fresh parsley, to serve

Method

  • Place the beef, mustard powder, salt, pepper and flour into the slow cooker, toss well to coat the meat. Add onions, carrot and mushrooms and onions (we used raw), then sugar, vinegar, bay leaf, thyme, beer and half the wholegrain mustard. The meat should be about two-thirds submerged by the liquid.

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  • Give a stir, to mix in the mustard, then put on the lid and cook on low for 6 hours.

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  • After 6 hours, beat together the butter and remaining wholegrain mustard, 6 six thick slices from the baguette and spread the mustard butter on one side. Toast under a grill (butter side up) until the edges start to crisp and the mustard butter darkens.
  • Transfer the mustard toasts to the slow cooker, setting them gently onto the stew and pressing down just a little so the gravy soaks into their bases.
  • Replace the lid and cook for another 2 hours.

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COMPETITION

I have 5 copies of Miss South’s Slow Cooked to giveaway to Kavey Eats readers! Prizes include delivery within the UK.

HOW TO ENTER

You can enter the competition in 3 ways – the more ways you enter, the higher your chances of winning:

Entry 1 – Blog Comment
Leave a comment below, telling me about your favourite slow cooked dish.

Entry 2 – Twitter
Follow @Kavey on Twitter. Existing followers are, of course, welcome to enter! Then tweet the (exact) sentence below.
I’d love to win a copy of @northsouthfood’s Slow Cooked from @EburyPublishing and Kavey Eats! http://goo.gl/Ny79Lh #KaveyEatsSlowCooked
(Do not add my twitter handle into the tweet; I track entries using the competition hash tag. And please don’t leave a blog comment about your tweet either, thanks!)

Entry 3 – Instagram
Share an image of your slow cooker (empty or full) via your Instagram feed. In the caption, tell me about your favourite slow cooked dish. Make sure you include my username @Kaveyf and the hashtag #KaveyEatsSlowCooked.

RULES & DETAILS

  • The deadline for entries is midnight GMT Friday 21st November, 2014.
  • Kavey Eats reserves the right to alter the closing date of the competition. Changes to the closing date, if they occur, will be shown on this page.
  • The 5 winners will be selected from all valid entries using a random number generator. The first name selected will win the first prize. The second name selected will win the second prize.
  • Entry instructions form part of the terms and conditions.
  • Where prizes are to be provided by a third party, Kavey Eats accepts no responsibility for the acts or defaults of that third party.
  • Each prize is a copy of Miss South’s Slow Cooked, published by Ebury Press. Free delivery within the UK is included.
  • The prizes cannot be redeemed for a cash value.
  • The prizes are offered and provided by Ebury Press, Random House.
  • One blog entry per person only. One Twitter entry per person only. One Instagram entry per person only. You may enter all three ways but you do not have to do so for your entries to be valid.
  • For Twitter entries, winners must be following @Kavey at the time of notification. For Instagram entries, winners must be following @Kaveyf at the time of notification. Blog comment entries must provide a valid email address for contacting the winner.
  • The winners will be notified by email, Twitter or Instagram so please make sure you check your accounts for the notification message. If no response is received from a winner within 7 days of notification, the prize will be forfeit and a new winner will be picked and contacted.

Kavey Eats received a review copy from Random House.
Slow Cooked is published by Ebury Press and currently available on Amazon for £13.48 (RRP £14.99).

The five winners are @DwarfHammyMum @ali991 (twitter entries), Sue Turner-Smith, Snigda, Christy Beckett (blog entries).

 

I don’t usually make Halloween dishes.

But I had a crate full of home-grown butternut squash in my kitchen when a friend of mine gave me a block of his home-made black garlic cheese. The handover, in a central London coffee shop, probably looked like an illicit drug tryst – the cheese resembled a very large block of resin – but cheese is my drug of choice these days!

Immediately, the orange and black colours of Halloween popped into my mind and I decided to adapt the recipe for ever popular Pete’s Cheesey Potato Bake into a Butternut Squash, Black Garlic & Blue Cheese Bake. (I added blue cheese to the black garlic cheese to give a more salty kick).

Of course, few of us make cheese from scratch at home but there are many recipes on the web that show you how to make American processed cheese slices from a combination of regular cheese, dry milk powder, milk and gelatin. I can’t give away my friend’s confidential recipe for his black garlic cheese, but you could experiment with the addition of black garlic to one of these recipes.

Because I liked the idea of the orange and black appearance, we layered the blue cheese below and the butternut squash and black garlic cheese on top, but if you use regular cheeses, you can mix all the ingredients together in the dish.

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Butternut Squash, Black Garlic & Blue Cheese Bake

Serves 2

Ingredients

1 medium butternut squash
100 grams black garlic cheese
200 grams strong blue cheese (we used Stilton)

Method

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  • Peel the butternut squash, halve and scrape out the seeds and pulp from the centre. Cube the flesh and add to a pan.

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  • Parboil the squash by bringing the water to the boil and let the squash cook for a further five minutes, remove from the heat and set aside.
  • Preheat the oven to 180 C (fan).
  • Chop the blue cheese into small pieces and scatter along the bottom of two individual baking dishes (or one larger dish).

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  • Spread the squash over the top.
  • Cube the black garlic cheese, and scatter over the squash.

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  • Bake for about 40 minutes, until the squash is cooked through and the cheese on top has melted.
  • Serve hot.

Of course, if you don’t have black garlic cheese (and don’t fancy making your own) you can enjoy the delicious combination of sweet butternut squash and salty cheese with any combination of cheeses you like.

Other winter squash / pumpkin ideas:

I’m also entering this post into the following blog challenges: Shaheen’s Vegetable Palette, Ren’s Simple and in Season, Hannah’s Credit Crunch Munch by Helen and Camilla), Emily’s Extra Veg (founded by Helen and Michelle), Nayna’s Let’s Cook for Halloween, Vohn’s No Waste Food Challenge (founded by Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary) and Sarah and Katie’s Speedy Suppers (though I’m bending the rules a touch on cooking time, the prep is so quick and easy, I hope they won’t mind).

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Icelanders love their hot dogs! Who knew?

Well, anyone who’s spent any time in Iceland, that’s who; recommendations to seek out Icelandic pylsa abound and I’m adding one more to the pile!

An Icelandic pylsa is much like a hot dog anywhere in the world… with a few little touches that make it a little different. Firstly, if you order your hot dog með öllu (with everything) you’ll get crispy fried onions – usually the kind you can buy ready made from the supermarket – and finely diced crunchy raw onions, both spread along the roll underneath the frankfurter. You can skip the raw onions if you must by ordering með öllu nema hráum (with everything except raw) but why would you? On top you’ll get ketchup and mustard, as you might expect, plus another condiment you might not; remúlaði. Remoulade is a mayonnaise-based sauce most commonly served with fish but in Iceland (and Denmark too) it’s become a key hot dog condiment as well.

The most famous hot dog vendor in Iceland is probably Baejarins Beztu Pylsur, sold out of two mobile vans in Reykjavik. Their sausages are made by Sláturfélag Suðurlands, a food-producing cooperative owned by farmers from southern and western regions of Iceland. I’m curious as to why these are named vinarpylsa, which I think translates to ’friend sausages’. Anyone?

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I liked my Baejarins Beztu Pylsur hot dog a lot but personally I was just as happy with the hot dogs I ate elsewhere in Iceland at tourist sites and in petrol station restaurants. My favourite was the bacon-wrapped example from an Olis petrol station’s Grill 66 fast food restaurant.

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The remoulade served with hot dogs in Iceland is pale yellow but my recipe (below) is green as I’ve upped the quantity of parsley. I’ve also skipped the mustard since mustard is one of the other condiments to be squirted on anyway. By all means, adjust your remoulade recipe to better match the Icelandic style.

Icelandic Bacon-Wrapped Hot Dog

Ingredients per hot dog
1 frankfurter sausage
1 rasher of streaky bacon, smoked or unsmoked
1 hot dog bun
(Optional) 1-2 tablespoons finely diced raw white onion
1-2 tablespoons crispy fried onions
Squirt of ketchup
Squirt of sweet mustard
Squirt of remoulade sauce (see below)

  • Wrap a rasher of streaky bacon around each frankfurter. Fry gently in a pan until the bacon is cooked and has taken on a little colour.
  • Slice the hotdog bun from the top, without cutting all the way through.
  • Open the bun and add a layer of raw onion (if using) and a layer of crispy onion.
  • Top with the bacon-wrapped frankfurter.
  • Add ketchup, sweet mustard and remoulade over the top and serve immediately.
    Tip: I spooned some remoulade into a freezer bag and snipped off a tiny corner, in an attempt to make it easier to pipe, but I still made quite a mess. If you have an empty nozzled squeezy bottle, that would be perfect.

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Icelandic Remoulade Sauce

Makes a small jar, can be stored in the fridge for a couple of weeks.

Ingredients
120 ml mayo
2-3 tablespoons flat parsley leaves
2 medium spring onions
2 medium pickled gherkins
1 tablespoon pickled gherkin brine or cider vinegar
Optional: 1 tablespoon anchovy paste
Optional: 1 teaspoon mustard

  • Place all the ingredients in a food processor or a grinder that can handle wet ingredients.
  • Blend until smooth.

Of course, there’s more to Icelandic cuisine than hot dogs. I’ll be sharing more from our trip soon!

 

This ice cream is very much inspired by a recipe from The Bojon Gourmet, a blog I discovered via Pinterest. It caught my eye when I was looking for ideas on new ways to put some of our enormous apple harvest to good use. I replaced Alanna’s cream base with a rich and very sweet custard base and roasted my apples until the sugars not only caramelised, but the edges caught and blackened to add texture and a touch of bitterness. I didn’t include a crumble as it tends not to stay crisp for long and our ice creams usually last at least a few weeks in the freezer. That said, this one’s disappearing fast!

Serendipity struck when making the custard ice cream base: I decided to use up 75 grams of sugar mix leftover from a recent apple pie making session. The leftover sugar had a little cinnamon and plain flour mixed into it (for thickening the pie filling) and I topped it up with an additional 25 grams of plain sugar. I blended and cooked my custard using my wonderful Froothie Optimum 9400 power blender, and found that the inclusion of the flour resulted in a beautifully smooth and thick custard.

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Burnt Apple & Bourbon Ice Cream

Ingredients
For the roasted apple

2 medium apples, peeled, cored and diced
2 tablespoons bourbon whiskey
100 grams light brown sugar (I use Billington’s sugars)
0.5 teaspoon cinnamon
0.5 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of allspice
For the ice cream base
250 ml double cream
150 ml full fat milk
100 grams sugar
1 pinch salt
3 large egg yolks
0.5 teaspoon cinnamon
Optional: 1 tablespoon plain white flour
To make the ice cream
Custard
2 tablespoons bourbon
Roasted apple mixture

Method

For the roasted apple:

  • Preheat the oven to 200 °C.
  • Toss all the ingredients together to combine and transfer to a small roasting dish. Roast for about 45 minutes, checking on progress once or twice during the cooking time. If the apples are not yet caramelised, with a little charring on some edges, roast for longer until they’re ready.
  • Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. These can be made the day before churning the ice cream and stored in the fridge until needed.

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For the ice cream base:

  • I combined all the ingredients and used my power blender to both mix and cook the custard for several minutes. The speed of the powerful blades generates enough heat to cook the custard while continuing to mix it so that nothing catches. No burnt bits, no lumps and very quick.
  • Alternatively, you can make your custard the traditional way by gently heating cream, milk and half the sugar in a pan until it reaches boiling, then removing from the heat. Meanwhile beat the remaining sugar and egg yolks together in a large bowl. Slowly pour the hot cream and milk over the eggs, whisking continuously, and then pour the combined mixture back into the pan and cook until it thickens. Make sure you stir continuously so that the custard doesn’t catch and burn.
  • Once cooked, set aside to cool. The custard can be made the day before churning the ice cream and stored in the fridge until needed.

To make the ice cream:

  • Add two tablespoons of bourbon to the custard base and mix well.
  • Add the roasted apple mixture. Alanna puréed some of hers and adds the rest whole, but I decided to leave all of it whole. I added only three quarters of the mixture as I thought it would be too much but in retrospect I could certainly have all of it.
  • Churn in an ice cream machine until ready.

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With the fruit, bourbon and spices this ice cream is very reminiscent of mince pies and Christmas pudding.

The Smart Scoop: Sage by Heston Blumenthal

For the last couple of years I’ve been using a Gaggia ice cream machine. I’ve been happy enough with the results, but have sometimes wished it would churn the ice cream till it was just a little more solid. I have worked around this by transferring the finished ice cream to a freezer container and popping into the freezer to solidify further.

When I heard that the Sage by Heston Blumenthal range of appliances included an ice cream machine, called the Smart Scoop, I was intrigued by some of the extra features it offers over my Gaggia. It’s also a good looking machine with its handsome brushed stainless steel surface.

Instead of just having a timer function that switches off when the time is up, the Smart Scoop offers a range of settings from sorbet through frozen yogurt and gelato to ice cream. Once you’ve chosen the texture you’re aiming for the ice cream maker starts freezing and churning. It automatically senses how hard the mixture is so it can alert you when it’s ready. Alterrnatively, you can use manual mode to freeze and churn for a set time according to your own recipes.

There’s an alarm to alert me when the ice cream is ready. I can adjust the volume (or set it to mute) and I can choose between a regular beeper and an ice cream van-style musical tune.

The Smart Scoop also has a function to keep the finished ice cream (or sorbet) at your chosen consistency for up to three hours so I don’t need to come running the moment the alarm goes off.

With our Gaggia, I always have to stay close, especially as the machine comes to the end of it’s timer run. Sometimes the ice cream isn’t finished and I have to turn the dial again to give it more time. Sometimes the motor starts to strain as the ice cream becomes too solid for the machine to churn any further and the paddle stops rotating; then it’s a case of having to switch the machine off quickly and transfer the ice cream into another container to pop into the freezer. The Smart Scoop solves both of these problems.

Niggles?

I wish the Smart Scoop ice cream bowl was dishwasher safe; this seems to me to be an oversight for the modern kitchen.

And of course, like most ice cream machines with integrated freezing unit, it’s large and very heavy. This, of course, is the same for all the models that I’ve come across.

Overall?

I’m really happy with it and shall be sharing many more sorbet, froyo and ice cream recipes to come.

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Other ideas to make the most of apple season:

And if you’re interested in the history of apples, read my post about a Visit to the National Fruit Collections at Brogdale.

This ice cream is my entry into the September / October #BSFIC challenge, Anything Goes.

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Kavey Eats received a review machine from Sage by Heston Blumenthal and an Optimum 9400 blender from Froothie. All opinions are my own. Please see the right side bar for a special offer on buying the Froothie Optimum 9400 with an extended warranty via my affiliate link.

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