Sunday, 29 January 2012

Rhubarb crème brûlée

Rhubarb crème brûlée.

By Jules

March is a tricky month for the foodie. Trapped in 'The Hungry Gap'; the time of year when fresh fruit and veg are thin on the ground, the seasonal chef is found scratching her head, scouring the store cupboard for ingredients. Cue the arrival of robust rhubarb - the bright pink stems shoot through the hard earth to brighten up these bleak winter days.

And with the arrival of rhubarb comes the inevitable craving for custard. This Christmas, the new toy in the Keston Kitchen was a a chef's blow torch. It didn't take long to conclude that this very British flavour combination could add a twist to an old French classic. The divine Creme Brulee (a posh name for egg custard with a crunchy sugar crust) is fun to make and even more fun to eat: firing the sugar then tap taping the crust with the back of your spoon to delve into the cool creamy custard. The hit of tangy pink rhubarb is the surprise hiding beneath.

This recipe requires a bit of patience and attention. I know to my cost that the cream can quickly bubble over and, if it is too hot when you add it to the egg, it will have a curdly consistency rather than the longed-for creaminess. But the treat is worth it in the end. And if you don't have a blow torch, you can get similar results by putting the custards under a very hot grill to burn the sugar crust.

What better way

to spend a cold winter's day

than making creamy and delicious

rhubarb creme brulee?


4 stems of rhubarb, cut into 1cm slices.

4 egg yolks

450 ml double cream

10 tablespoons caster sugar

1 vanilla pod (sliced lengthways and seeds scraped out)

4 large ramekins or 6 smaller ones.

Preheat the oven to 180C and put the rhubarb in the roasting tin and sprinkle over 4 tablespoons of the sugar to coat. Roast until soft (20-30 mins). Divide between the ramekins and chill.

Whisk 4 tablespoons of sugar and egg yolks together until pale.

Heat the cream and vanilla seeds over a medium heat until the cream bubbles at the edges. Be careful not to overheat!

Gently pour the warm cream into the egg mixture whisking until smooth. Pour back into the saucepan and stir over a low heat for 20 mins until the custard is thick. This needs patience and attention - you don't want the cream to boil over or burn.

Pour into the ramekins and chill for 6 hours or overnight.

Sprinkle the remainder of the sugar over the custards and - the fun bit - fire with a chef's blow torch.

Alternatively place under a very hot grill until glazed. Allow the crust to cool and harden for a moment then serve to your guests who are eagerly waiting to get cracking.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Russian Tea Cakes

Russian Tea Cakes by Charlotte

I recently discovered Russian Tea Cakes at Rosalind's Kitchen and I now seem to be slightly addicted...

An interesting take on a very English recipe - shortbread. These sweet icing sugar coated bombs are referred to as Russian tea cakes or Mexican wedding cakes. It appears that although 'tea cake' comes from the British tradition of enjoying baked goods served with afternoon tea, these particular treats were served with tea in Russia in the 18th century and later became part of wedding ceremonies in the US and Mexico.

The tea cakes consist of a simple shortbread recipe of butter, sugar and flour, mixed with finely chopped nuts, which are rolled in icing sugar once baked. Sampling has resulted in much joy and excitement as well as icing sugar all over the face, hands and clothes of the sampler - not a problem as everyone else tasting will also be coated a fine layer of the white stuff.

225g butter
60g icing sugar
half a vanilla pod
250g plain flour
75g walnuts or pistachios, very finely chopped

- Mix together the butter and sugar, then add in the vanilla.
- Stir in the flour and a pinch of salt, then add in the nuts and mix well.
- Put the dough in the fridge to cool, I left mine for 30 minutes.
- Heat the oven to 180C.
- Roll the dough into 1 inch balls and put them on a baking tray. Bake for 10-12 minutes so that they are firm but not brown.
- Let the cooked tea cakes cool slightly and then roll them in icing sugar while they are still warm. When they are completely cool roll them in more icing sugar.

Enjoy with a good coffee.

Seared Sesame Tuna

By Ceri

There are many good things about living at Keston Road. One of my favourites of the plethora of brilliant things to choose from is the Keston Birthday Dinner. This is a dinner where each of the 3 housemates who are not celebrating turning a whole year older takes a course each and a stunning 3 courser is produced. Since September, we have seen in 4 landmark birthdays as we have all turned 30. Boats have been pushed out, pink fizz has been drunk, heels have been worn, parties have been raucously owned and most importantly some truly delicious food has been eaten. I have said to the girls that when (if) we ever move out of our lovely South East London home, we have to recreate these dinners wherever we are- which means we are in for at least another 30 years of Happy Birthday Feasting... Hooray!

My favourite of my recent contributions has been the seared sesame tuna sashimi I made as a starter last week for Jules who is the most recent of the Keston ladies to mark her 3rd decade of fabulousness. I have totally fallen in love with Japanese food, particularly Sashimi and have been wanting to have a go at this for a while. I had it in my head what I wanted to make, did a little bit of digging around for recipes and came up with the below. Rachie followed suite and prepared a beautiful asian inspired duck and noodle recipe and Charlotte finished off with calvados flavoured rice brulee. It was a total birthday win of a meal.

Tip- You need your tuna to be as fresh as is possible and best to buy from a fishmonger on the day you are planning to make it if at all possible. Raw tuna is completely safe to eat, but the fresher the better for taste and texture. We have the totally wonderful Moxon's on Lordship Lane near us, which has other interesting things to go in for besides the wonderfully fresh produce (attractive fishmongers, who knew?!).

Seared Sesame Tuna
Serves 2

1/3 cucumber, seeded and cut into strips

4 spring onions, shredded lengthways

A handful of coriander leaves

2 very lean tuna steaks, thick cut, marinated in 2 tbsp soy sauce mixed with 1 tbsp runny honey for 10 mins. You can also buy a larger cut of tuna from the fishmongers. I'd recommend more toward the tail end as it's easier to manage.

2 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted

Dipping Sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp sesame oil

1 lime, juiced, lime zest

1 red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped.

First of all, combine all the ingredients for the sauce in a bowl or jam jar, give it a stir and set to one side. It helps to do this first so the flavours infuse.

1. Sear the tuna in a hot pan for 20 seconds each side then roll in sesame seeds and leave for 5 minutes. I used a griddle pan for this, but a large frying pan will be fine. Get the pan nice and hot before you put the tuna on it.

2. Mix the spring onion, coriander and cucumber and get them ready on a plate.

3. Slice the steak into strips.

4. Serve on a pile of leaves and serve small dishes of of dipping sauce. I also made a quick dressing for the salad and cucumber mix. Add 2 tbsp of olive oil, 1 tbsp of sesame oil 1 teaspoon of honey, juice and zest of 1 small lime into an empty jam jar. Season, give it a good shake and
put a little over the salads.

5. Serve with slices of fresh lime and a big fat HAPPY BIRTHDAY JULES you wonderful brilliant lady, you. :) xx

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Chicken Chilli Soup

Chicken Chilli Soup by Charlotte

Did you have roast chicken at the weekend and do you have a small amount of chicken and perhaps some gravy left over? I did and I do. In the fridge I also have some small bits of fennel that are way past their heyday, one lonely mushroom, white wine left over from New Year and full cream milk that is not allowed near my tea cup but could work in a post work, post run chicken soup...

Ingredients (a rough guide)
Butter and olive oil
1 small onion, diced
Half a chilli, deseeded and thinly sliced
1 old mushroom, roughly chopped
Fennel bits from bottom of fridge drawer, diced (optional)
Dash of white wine
1 leek, roughly chopped
2 large potatoes, peeled and chopped
Leftover chicken gravy (enhanced with veg stock to make about 450ml)
Cooked leftover chicken
Handful of parsley (with stalks) roughly chopped
Splash of full cream milk
Salt and pepper

Here's what I did
- Heat
a small amount of butter and oil and add the onion, chilli, mushroom and fennel. Cook for 7-8 minutes and then pour in some white wine, cook for a further 5 minutes.
- Add the leeks, potatoes and gravy/veg stock to the pan and cook on a low heat for approx 25 minutes with a lid on. Add more water if you need to.
- Add the cooked chicken to the saucepan, heat through and continue to simmer the soup for 10 minutes.
- Stir in the parsley and remove from the heat to blend the soup. My blender gave up have way through its job so we ended up with a chunky soup that was still nice and thick thanks to the starchy potatoes.
- Put the soup back on a low heat, stir in a splash of milk and season to taste.
- Serve hot and enjoy.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Parsnip and Ginger Soup

Happy New Year! Apologies that it has been somewhat quiet on the Keston Kitchen front in recent weeks. One of our New Year resolutions is definitely to be more active on the blog and keep you up to date with what is cooking in our kitchen.

For our first post Christmas post I thought I would choose a recipe that should help combat the January blues. The ginger in the soup gives it a kick that feels like it is banishing any hint of a cough or sneeze as you consume it.
It is a simple and cheap recipe to make and it provides you with a healthy and hearty supper which definitely won't break any of you New Year resolutions (unless you have given up parsnips of course)!
This soup is based on a recipe taken from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's new vegetarian cook book which I was lucky enough to get for my birthday.

Serves 3-4 people

Glug of olive oil
Chunk of butter (about 1 tbsp)
2 small onions finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic crushed
1-2 inch piece of fresh root ginger, peeled and finely chopped (add more or less depending on how fiery you would like it to be)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
6 parsnips (about 500g) peeled and cut into small chunks
600ml vegetable stock (add 3tsp of Marigold Bouillon to some boiling water or use homemade stock)
200ml whole milk
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Coriander leaves and/or a drizzle of natural yogurt to garnish

Heat the olive oil and butter in a large sauce pan and cook the onion for about 10 minutes until soft and translucent but not browned. Then add the garlic, fresh ginger, cumin and cayenne, stir in. Add the chopped parsnips to the pan before adding the hot veg stock, milk and a seasoning of salt and pepper. Once simmering, cover the pan with a lid but leave a small gap to stop the pot boiling over.
After simmering for 20-30 minutes use a hand blender to puree the soup in the pan or allow it to cool a little and transfer it to a food processor until smooth. Heat the soup up again before serving. Trickle some natural yogurt over each bowl full and add a few coriander leaves if you have them, then enjoy with a hunk of crusty bread on the side.

Best served on a weekday evening to housemates who have just returned from a run/swim/which ever sport they have embraced for their January health kick.

Rachael x