Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Mascarpone and almonds ice cream

I keep on making ice cream. I guess it is my way of trying to extend a bit the summer feeling. I cannot get used to these rainy, cold days and gray days in August. Weather has been terrible this summer in here. I guess by now I should have got used to the fact that here weather can only be one of two: bad or worse. So, it really makes no sense at all talk about the weather. But it is not a rhetorical resource at all. Here it is a real topic for conversation. These cold temperature and dark skies make it really difficult to think of summer. And when you receive the occasional out of office autoreply  at work, with someone’s message explaining she is on summer holidays, it feels really strange. It feels kind of out of place.

So occasionally I decide to do some ice cream. I prepare it not because a hot summer day asks for a refreshing and frozen dessert.  Right now, I need to remind myself that no matter how cold it is outside,  at the end of a great  meal, an ice cream will always be a perfect dessert.

This ice cream is just a slight variation on one of the easiest ice creams I've ever done. I had done it several times before. And when I invited some friends over for dinner, I thought I could prepare this ice cream some days in advance. If I felt like preparing something else, this delicate and neutral ice cream flavor would work perfectly. If served alone, the almonds would  provide a lovely  crunch to it so that it is not bland at all. Besides, you can prepare it in a moment, and the result are oh so good. Will you also try it?


Mascarpone cheese and almonds ice cream

Ingredients
250 grams of mascarpone cheese
100 grams of sugar
100 ml whipping cream
juice of 1 lemon
50 grams of toasted almonds, (flakes or coarsely ground)


Directions
To make the ice cream, put the cheese, sugar and  lemon juice in a bowl and mix well. Add the cream and mix again. Finish by adding the almonds, trying to keep them well distributed. Put in the freezer (or ice cream) at least 6 hours before serving, preferably overnight.


Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Wholewheat beer bread




I grew up listening my granny´s stories about her youth and how she would go to bake her own bread to the wood oven at the village´s baker. She talked of a time that was too far away from me. It sounded like sci-fi. When you are a kid, it is just impossible to simply image the world existed before you were born. So, the world before my own mum was born was absolutely inconceivable.
Those stories from my grandma on her going to the baker’s to bake the bread that she knead at home, once a week, and how it kept perfectly fresh and lasted for a week, until her new baking trip, all those seemed to me made up stories.
Many years had to go by for me to remember all these. And now, I remember all of these every time I do homemade bread. I remember her, so hugely smiling, so funny, and her amazing sense of humor, in her immense kitchen, in where for years there was a wooden stove that only she managed to properly control.

Making bread at home is something everyone should try, even if you do not have any childhood memory connected to it at all. Because once you try to do your own bread at home you will repeat. It is one of the most rewarding experiences in the kitchen, no matter what is your level of expertise. You only need really simple ingredients, a bit of time and a hot oven to convince yourself that you make a proper loaf at home. 



Wholewheat beer bread (makes a large loaf)
Ingredients
250 g wholemeal flour
250 g strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
10 g salt
10 g dried active yeast (20 fresh baker yeast)
30 g butter, softened
300 ml good beer
 

Directions 

Put the yeast into the beer and let aside for 10-15 minutes, until bubbly and frothy. Put all the ingredients into a bowl and mix until all the flour has been picked up. Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes until the dough is smooth. Let it rest in the bowl for 1 hour.
Line a baking tray. Tip the dough out onto your floured surface and shape into a ball, then flatten out with your hands and cut diagonal lines across the top. Put the dough on the baking tray and leave to rise for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven 200ยบ. Bake the loaf for 30 minutes until golden brown, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Beef fillet with red wine sauce




Yeah, guys, I should admit that I love cooking with wine. I like it so much that, from time to time, I even put it in the food! 
Well, one of the most relaxing moments of the week is usually Saturday evening when I can take my time to actually enjoy cooking a great meal. I do the cooking at home, every day. And week nights are under so much pressure that it is something totally different. On Saturdays, I would take my time to really enjoy the process. I usually would do something a bit more special than during the week, and most probably, when the kitchen starts to smell deliciously my husband would come over to investigate what's for dinner, pour a glass of wine for me, then another for himself, and prepare some olives, anchovies, cheese, or any small bite to go with the wine while I finish cooking the meal. 
We have grown fond of that habit since we moved to the house where we live now. The kitchen has a central island with high chairs perfect for him to sit while I cook. After a week fast paced, and most probably a Saturday also fully packed of activities, this is our little moment to talk, relax, and usually have quite some fun. It is one of those strange moments when the kids are not around, and we have a bit of time to just be together, talk and do things without pressure. As the meal progresses he would start to set the table, slice some bread, prepare the drinks.
So, on Saturday evenings it is not only that I enjoy cooking. I really enjoy that time, I enjoy the wine, I enjoy the company. And I enjoy then a large meal, with an even longer after dinner conversation.
This recipe is one that I would as a bit of a treat, and it actually does not require that much effort. The result is amazing, in any case. 
It is, besides, a classic of Spanish cooking. If there is a book that you can find in any Spanish kitchen it is probably “1080 recetas de cocina”, from Simone Ortega. It is a classic everyday's cooking book from the 70’s that is periodically re printed, as it is so popular. (I guess you can say she would be our Julia Child, although without all the TV fuss). However, the book has never been published with photos. I find it very odd, but the owner of the copyright seems to think that the project would end up in such an expensive book that it would not be a best seller any more. Anyway, a group of food bloggers in Spain started a while ago a project to recreate the recipes and photograph them. I was lucky to be in that project with a really talented bunch of people. You can have a look at the whole project in here. Of course, we were prevented from publishing the recipes, as they belong to the copyright’s holders (although they graciously used our photos to create their own pinterest boardwith them). So, today I am not publishing the original Simone’s Ortega recipe, but my way of preparing her steaks with red wine sauce.
This is a wonderful way to prepare any good cut of meat. But the sauce itself is absolutely divine, and once you have tried it you will want to put it in every dish.
So, open your bottle of wine, and please, always, always, always use a good wine to cook. Wouldn’t you use the best food? The same with the wine. You might ruin a sauce with a good wine, but you will never ever make a good sauce from a bad wine, the same that bad meat will not improve with a good cooking. So, next time you put wine into your food, please, remember this. In the meanwhile, enjoy this little wonder.

 Beef fillet with red wine sauce

Ingredients (for 2)
2 large and thick fillet steak per person
60 ml Olive oil
2 shallots
375 ml good red wine
45 ml double cream
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper


Directions
Put the oil on a pan with the olive oil, once hot but not smoking, fry the steaks, one at the time, to taste. You would need aprox. 5 minutes per side. Season in the pan, and put them into the serving plate. Reserve, keeping it warm. 
Dice the shallots and cook them in the same pan where you fried the meat, so that you incorporate those meat juices into the sauce. Cook them at medium heat for about 5 minutes, moving from time to time. Add the wine (the better the wine, the tastier your sauce) and let it cook slowly at low heat for about 8-10 minutes, until reduced. Add the cooking cream, give it a stir, with care of not getting to the boil, and serve with the steak cut into thick (3-4cm) stripes.