Heirloom Tomato and Fennel Foccacia

The Brit & The Baker

I'm back. After nearly 6 months of sporadic travel for weddings and holidays, baking classes on the weekends, and figuring out what my next job would be after my boss retired, I'm finally ready to come back and share some amazing recipes way more often.

The Brit & The Baker

This focaccia is delicious and very simple. The most important thing I've learned about bread making is PATIENCE. Between the proofing and the baking, you really just need to follow directions and not rush through any of the steps. My lovely friend Chloe suggested that I make a focaccia, which I've never tried to make before but now I've made it twice since. Chloe used some of the leftovers to make a panzanella which I might try next time I bake this.

Baking bread can seem really intimidating. The first time I tried making bread it turned out like a hockey puck. It was so dense and tough, I had no idea what I was doing and I didn't really follow directions. Make sure you allow the bread to proof twice, once after you initially mix and kneed the dough and once after you have put the dough into your baking tray. Read all of the instructions thoroughly before you begin.

The Brit & The Baker
The Brit & The Baker
The Brit & The Baker
The Brit & The Baker
The Brit & The Baker
The Brit & The Baker
The Brit & The Baker

Bread:

  • 325 ml of warm water
  • 7 g of instant yeast (equal to 1 packet)
  • 500 g of flour (bread flour is preferred)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • pinch of sugar
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 1-2 tbsp cornmeal or polenta to dust your baking tray

For the topping:

  • 1/4 of a red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 of a fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • 1 heirloom tomato, thinly sliced
  • 1 sprig of rosemary, chopped
  • 1 sprig of thyme, chopped
  • 1 tsp olive oil for sauteing the veggies
  • 1 tbsp olive oil for drizzling on the baked bread
  • pinch of crunchy sea salt such as Maldon

In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in warm water. Pour the flour, salt, sugar and 1 tbsp of olive oil into the yeast mixture and stir. Bring the dough together with a spoon or a spatula. Once the dough has come together, turn it out onto a well floured surface and knead for 10 minutes (really do the full 10). You should be tired and the dough should be smooth when it is ready. Place the dough in a large bowl that has been sprayed with cooking spray or well oiled with olive oil. Add a splash of olive oil over the dough and cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

With the oven turned OFF, place a bowl of hot water at the bottom of your oven. The steam will help the dough rise. Place the bowl of dough on a rack in the oven and allow to proof for 40 minutes. In the meantime, slice the fennel and red onion. Chop rosemary and thyme. Saute the onions and fennel with olive oil, a pinch of salt, rosemary and thyme, just until the onion has become translucent. Set aside to cool. Slice the heirloom tomato.

Dust a sheet pan with a good sprinkle of cornmeal or polenta. After the 40 minute proofing time, pat the dough down into your bowl to release some of the air and then stretch into a rectangle and place on your sheet pan. Poke your fingers along the top of the bread to create dimples all throughout the top of the dough. Drizzle olive oil over the top of the dough and then place your fennel and red onion mixture over the top of the dough. Then top with your sliced tomatoes. Sprinkle with salt.

Allow the dough to proof one last time in the oven, (turned OFF) with a new bowl of hot water at the base of the oven for 45 minutes. After the dough has risen, remove it and the bowl of warm water from the oven. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and bake for 20-30 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the bread reaches 200 degrees in the center of the pan.

When the bread has finished baking, drizzle a small amount of olive oil over the top once more. Wait until the bread has cooled to slice. Enjoy!

The Brit & The Baker
The Brit & The Baker

Fig & Lavender Frangipane

Fig & Lavender Frangipane
Fig & Lavender Frangipane
Fig & Lavender Frangipane
Fig & Lavender Frangipane
Fig & Lavender Frangipane
Fig & Lavender Frangipane
Fig & Lavender Frangipane

Matt's mum, Sue, introduced me to frangipane earlier this year when she sent me pictures of one she made. It was something I was curious about because I had never seen or tasted one before. It's hard to explain a frangipane if you've never had one. The best way to describe it would be: it is a slightly sweet pastry crust with fruit and an almond-y/marzipan-y filling. The filling is a paste or cream made with ground almonds, butter, sugar and eggs. If you like almonds you will love this tart.

Fig & Lavender Frangipane
Fig & Lavender Frangipane
Fig & Lavender Frangipane

Sue gave me Mary Berry's Classic Baking book last year and I've found it to be an amazing book with simple and delicious recipes for things you wouldn't normally find in the US. Mary Berry has a great recipe for an apricot frangipane. My recipe is adapted from hers which can be found here.  I wanted to use figs and lavender because they looked so fresh and smelled so fragrant at the farmer's market, I couldn't resist. This makes a great dessert or little snack to have with your tea. 

Matt and I leave for England on Friday morning for about a week. Matt's childhood friend is getting married!!!! I'm excited to see Matt's friends and family and for all of the new inspiration I'll have from our trip.

For the pastry

  • 175g (6oz) plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 75g (3oz) cold butter
  • 25g (1oz) sugar
  • 1 egg

For the almond custard

  • 75g (3oz) butter
  • 75g (3oz) sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 75g (3oz) ground almonds
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 6-7 fresh figs
  • 1/2 tsp lavender flowers

For the glaze

  • 125g (4 1/2 oz) powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp water 

Preheat the oven to 375F. Place a sheet pan in the middle of the oven. Dig up your 8inch loose-bottomed tart pan. To make the pastry, mix the flour and butter in a food processor until they resemble breadcrumbs. Add the sugar and pulse again. Then add the egg and 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of water. Pulse until the dough starts to form a ball. Wrap the dough in some plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to rest for 10-20 minutes.

To make the frangipane filling place the butter, sugar and lavender in the food processor (no need to wash it out first) and blend until creamy. Then add the eggs, the ground almonds and the almond extract. Blend until everything is incorporated. 

Remove your dough from the refrigerator. Flour your counter or pastry board very well. This dough will easily stick to everything. Roll the dough until it's about 2mm thick. Gently, and loosely, roll the pastry onto your rolling pin and drape the dough over your tart pan. Press the dough along the sides and bottom and remove any excess coming off the sides of the pan. Prick the bottom of the dough with a fork and arrange your fig pieces in any pattern that you like. Then pour the frangipane mixture on top.

Place the tart on top of the hot baking sheet in the oven. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until the pastry is crisp and the tart is golden brown. To make the glaze, mix together the powdered sugar and 2 tsp of water. Use a spoon to drizzle the icing over the tart. Remove the tart from the tin and transfer to a serving place. Slice and serve warm or cold with tea.

 

Cuban Sandwich

Cuban Sandwich
Cuban Bread from Porto's Bakery

"It's all about the BREAD," my Dad says about Cuban sandwiches. He is a real critic and connoisseur of the sandwich. People like to use French bread or sourdough but then it's not a real Cubano. My parents are in Michigan so I didn't get to spend Father's Day with them. In honor of my Dad, I made his favorite sandwich (extra mustard), with REAL Cuban bread from Porto's Bakery. Cuban bread melts in your mouth. It's so fluffy on the inside and has a delicate crispy crust on the outside. The crumbs get everywhere when you eat it.  

Cuban Bread from Porto's Bakery
Roasted Pork Loin

My brother and my cousin came over to share the sandwiches and to celebrate our dads. I crazily bought 2 loaves of bread thinking I was feeding an army. We only used one loaf but we assembled the sandwiches in two rounds. The first round had mustard and cheese only on one side with all of the other fillings. The sandwiches looked nice and tasted great but for the second round, they were fully loaded and tasted even better. They had mustard on both sides (just how my dad likes it!), cheese on both sides and packed with more ham than the first. They definitely didn't look pretty but they tasted great. I'm sure you can tell from the photos which sandwich is which.

I wish my parents could have been in town this weekend.  I'll definitely be making Cuban sandwiches the next time they are in LA. My Dad would have loved these. I can just picture him now, with a big grin on his face while he adds extra mustard to his sandwich.

Happy Father's Day, Dad!!!

Cuban Sandwich

Ingredients

  • 1 loaf of Cuban bread
  • 1 1/4 pound of good quality ham, thinly sliced
  • 1 roasted pork tenderloin, seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic powder and oregano, thinly sliced
  • 6-10 slices of Swiss cheese
  • Dill Pickles, thinly sliced 
  • Mustard
  • Butter

Preheat the oven to 450F. Season the pork loin with salt, pepper, dried oregano and garlic powder. Sear on all sides then place in the oven for 20-30 minutes. When the tenderloin juices run clear and there is very little pink left in the thickest part of the meat remove from the oven. Allow the meat to rest for 10 minutes then thinly slice.

Turn the oven down to 375F. Assemble your sandwich with mustard (on both sides if you'd like, the way my Dad does it) then add the pickles, ham, sliced pork and top with Swiss cheese. Slather butter on the outside of the top and bottom pieces of the bread. Place in the oven on a sheet pan, top the sandwich with another sheet pan and then place a very heavy cast iron skillet on top to flatten the sandwich. Allow to cook until the cheese looks melted and the sandwich has been sufficiently smushed, about 10-15 minutes. Slice diagonally and serve with a cold beer and extra mustard on the side. 

Tomato and Toasted Fennel Seed Jam

Tomato and Toasted Fennel Seed Jam
Tomato and Toasted Fennel Seed Jam

This jam is just the right amount of sweet. Slathered on a piece of buttered toast, it makes a perfect breakfast or snack. The bread is very important, the crunchier the better. I used an olive loaf from this amazing bakery in our neighborhood, Bread Lounge. Right now Matt and I are eating gluten free but I just couldn't help myself this weekend. It all started with breakfast at another neighborhood spot on Saturday. I had gluten free toast with a poached egg and cherry tomatoes on the side. It was a nice and simple little breakfast but I found myself wanting more tomato flavor. What better way to incorporate more tomatoes than slathering them on a piece of buttered toast? I was on a mission. Off to the Hollywood Farmers' Market we went, searching for the most ripe grape tomatoes we could find. Then we picked up the olive loaf at Bread Lounge and the Tomato and Toasted Fennel Seed Jam was born. (Bye-bye gluten free diet for the day...and maybe the day after!) 

Tomato and Toasted Fennel Seed Jam
Tomato and Toasted Fennel Seed Jam
Tomato and Toasted Fennel Seed Jam
Tomato and Toasted Fennel Seed Jam
Tomato and Toasted Fennel Seed Jam
Tomato and Toasted Fennel Seed Jam
Tomato and Toasted Fennel Seed Jam
Tomato and Toasted Fennel Seed Jam
Tomato and Toasted Fennel Seed Jam
Tomato and Toasted Fennel Seed Jam
Tomato and Toasted Fennel Seed Jam

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of ripe grape tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small shallot
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 tsp toasted fennel seeds
  • fresh chives (optional) 

Toast the fennel seeds in a dry pan for 2-5 minutes, until fragrant, remove them from the pan and set aside. In the same pan, char the tomatoes without oil on medium high heat. This should take about 10 minutes to get some good color on them. When the skins start to crack, add the olive oil and chopped shallot to the tomatoes. Smash the tomatoes in the pan and allow them to release all of their juices. Add the toasted fennel seeds, sugar and salt. Allow to cook for 20-25 minutes so the juices reduce and concentrate the flavor. When the mixture no longer tastes like raw tomatoes, blitz in a food processor until creamy. This jam can be served warm or cold. Slather on a piece of buttered toast and sprinkle chopped chives. Fried egg optional :)

Pistachio Coconut Flan

Pistachio Coconut Flan
Pistachio Coconut Flan

Happy (early) Mother's Day to my mom, my abuela, my aunts, Matt's mum, and all of the moms out there! My parents are having a big Mother's Day brunch with all of my family this weekend in Michigan and I'm bummed I'll be missing out. I'm sure there will be an amazing flan.

Flan is eaten at almost every gathering in my family. It reminds me of my childhood and all of the summer pig roasts my aunt would host, Christmas eve parties, Cuban domino gatherings at my abuela's, Thanksgiving at my parents house, and random family dinners. This recipe was my abuela's, then my mom tweaked it and now I've added a little something of my own to it as well. Either you love flan, you hate it, or you've never tried it. Regardless of what category you fall into, you should try this one. This flan is silky smooth and as the flan bakes, all of the little pistachio and coconut bits rise to the top of the pan creating a little crust. This layer ends up on the bottom of the flan once you've flipped it onto your serving plate. Once you top the silky flan with the contrasting crispy texture from the toasted coconut and crushed pistachios, you have the perfect mixture of custard and crunch. 

Pistachio Coconut Flan
Pistachio Coconut Flan

My mom's all time favorite flavor, besides chocolate, comes from pistachios. She lovessss to crack pistachios in the shells and pistachio ice cream. She also loves coconut and I happen to think that pistachios and coconut taste delicious together. Here's to you, mom!

Pistachio Coconut Flan
Pistachio Coconut Flan
Pistachio Coconut Flan

Flan Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup shelled pistachios
  • 1/3 cup finely shredded coconut
  • 5 whole eggs
  • 14 oz of condensed milk
  • 12 oz of evaporated milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla 
  • 1/4 tsp salt 
  • toasted coconut shavings, for garnish (THESE are amazing)
  • crushed pistachios, for garnish

Caramel Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
     

Preheat the oven to 325F. Prepare the caramel by adding 1/4 cup water to 3/4 cups of sugar in a small saucepan over medium to low heat.  Do not stir with a spoon, just swirl the pan around. Let it simmer and bubble. When sugar starts to thicken and turn an amber color, remove from heat, being very careful not to get burned with any splattering that may occur. Coat a loaf pan or mold by slowly pouring the caramel and turning the pan to swirl the caramel around the sides and bottom. Be careful, as the caramel is extremely hot. The caramel will solidify as it coats the bottom and sides of the mold.

In a food processor (or blender) pulse the pistachios and coconut until they become a wet sand texture. To the food processor with the nuts and coconut, add the eggs, condensed milk, evaporated milk, salt and vanilla. Blend until mixture is well combined but not too bubbly. 

Skim the foamy bubbles from the top of the mixture and gently pour into the caramel coated mold. If you get some of the pistachio and coconut bits as you skim the mixture, strain out the bubbles and add the nuts and coconut back to your mixture. Skimming the bubbles will keep the flan silky when it comes out of the oven instead of looking curdled once you cut into it. 

Place a dish towel on the bottom of a deep baking dish (not under) then place the mold on top of the towel, this will keep the mold from moving around when you put it in the oven as well as diffuse some of the heat from the delicate flan mixture as it bakes. Fill the baking dish with warm tap water up to half of the mold (this is called a Bain-Marie or baño Maria). The towel will not burn in the oven because it will be soaked in water.

Bake for about 1 hour and 10-20 minutes in the middle rack. The flan is ready if you can insert a toothpick in the middle and only a little gel-like coating is left on the toothpick when removed. If the toothpick comes out looking wet the flan needs more time. Carefully remove the flan when ready and allow to cool on the counter in the baking pan with the hot water.

 When completely cooled (otherwise it will crack) place serving dish flat against the top of the mold and turn it upside down in a fast motion. Chill in the refrigerator for about 1 hour. Top with toasted shaved coconut and crushed pistachios, slice and serve! 

 

Spring Rabbit Soup

Spring Rabbit Soup
Spring Rabbit Soup
Spring Rabbit Soup
Spring Rabbit Soup

Please try to have an open mind. The thought of cooking rabbit scared me, it might really scare you too, but trust me. I was also skeptical at first, but with a little convincing from Matt and the butcher, we were cooking something foreign to both of us and it turned out absolutely delicious. 

Grand Central Market opened in downtown LA in 1917 and is one of the country's oldest and largest public market places. It has evolved over the last 98 years with downtown LA's ever changing neighborhood. Up until the last few years, the stalls consisted mostly of Mexican vendors. Historically, waves of delis, produce vendors, flower shops and fish mongers have appeared and disappeared. The market is a bustling and crowded space with aromas of stewed meats, baked goods, and fresh produce in the air. You can find everything from pizzas to papusas, to oysters and dried chilies and everything in between. The last couple of years have brought new vendors like the amazing Horse Thief BBQ, a breakfast stall called Eggslut, and my favorite butcher, Belcampo Meat Co.

Belcampo has another location in Santa Monica and a few in Northern California. They have the most beautiful cuts of humanely raised meats and also a little bar where they serve food. Matt and I like to shop there on the weekends for our Sunday dinners. After we purchase the meat, we stop by all of the produce vendors for fresh veggies. We usually end up picking a meat we've cooked many times before, like a roast or lamb shanks. This time I was ready to buy a flank steak for the grill to serve with chimichurri sauce, white rice and plantains (just like how my mom makes it). All of a sudden, rabbit caught Matt's eye. Neither of us have eaten a lot of rabbit (I think I've only had it once) and Matt was excited to experiment. I was skeptical but the next thing I knew, the butcher was grabbing us a whole rabbit and breaking it down into smaller pieces. He let us know that braising low and slow would be the perfect way to cook it. He was right.

My brother decided to join us for dinner. He's not afraid of a little rabbit, or any other type of food for that matter. We all couldn't wait for the soup to finish cooking. We kept tasting the broth to get the seasoning just right. When we were finally able to eat Matt kept saying it tasted like "fancy chicken."  The entire pot was almost finished by just the three of us. It was tender, juicy and falling off the bone. I couldn't have been happier with how the whole thing turned out. We set out to make a stew but luckily ended up with a loose broth that was refreshingly light and perfect for spring weather.

If the thought of rabbit terrifies you, please feel free to substitute the rabbit for chicken thighs. But I must admit, the rabbit was so delicious, I'm glad Matt pushed me to try something new. You should too.

Grand Central Market
Grand Central Market
Belcampo Meat Co
Belcampo Meat Co

Ingredients

  • 1 whole rabbit, cut into pieces by the butcher
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 stalk of celery
  • 3 spring onions (these are bigger than green onions)
  • 2 medium rutabagas (you can use potatoes if you can't find these)
  • 10 small turnips, pealed and quartered
  • leaves from 15 stalks of thyme
  • 1/2 bottle white wine
  • 4 tbsp flour
  • 10 cups of chicken broth 
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg 
  • 1 1/2 cup fresh snap peas
  • tarragon, to garnish
  • chives, to garnish
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
     

Preheat the oven to 300F. Peal and dice your carrots and rutabagas into cubes. Peal and quarter your turnips. Chop the celery and white parts of your spring onions. Reserve the green parts for when the soup is complete. Set all of the veggies aside. 

Season the pieces of rabbit with salt. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a dutch oven. In batches, sear the pieces of rabbit on all sides. Remove rabbit from the pan and set aside. Add a little olive oil to the pan then add the whites to your spring onions, carrots, celery, rutabagas, turnips and thyme. Season the mixture with salt and pepper. Cook until the onions look translucent, about 8 minutes.

Add chicken stock to the pot, half the bottle of white wine, flour, nutmeg and Worcestershire sauce. Bring to a boil then simmer for about 10 minutes to mellow the wine flavor. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the rabbit back to the pot and place in the oven for 2 hrs and 15-30 minutes, until the rabbit is tender and falling off the bone. Add the snap peas and green parts of the spring onions when you feel like there are only 10 minutes left to cook so the color stays a vibrant green and so the snap peas have some crunch to them. Serve with lemon wedges and toasted buttered french bread on the side. 

Mojito Cake

Mojito Cake

Rum cakes are a favorite in my family and they can always be found on our table at Christmas. They are usually decorated with piped whipped cream, maraschino cherries, peeled grapes, and dusted in powdered sugar. They can be made to look like Christmas wreaths and they almost always have nuts. This recipe is inspired by my mom, who absolutely loves rum cakes. This is one of the baked goods I remember her making the most when I was a kid. The rum flavor didn't really appeal to me back then so I always avoided it. What a shame.

I wanted to add a little twist to the traditional rum cake so I added the ingredients you would find in a Cuban cocktail, the Mojito. This drink is made with rum, mint, club soda, sugar and lime juice.  Even if you don't like rum cakes you should give this a try. The cake portion of the recipe does not taste boozy once it's been baked. The glaze tastes a little rumy but you could always substitute water for rum if you don't like the taste of alcohol in your food. Matt prefers this cake without the glaze, and it is certainly moist enough without the glaze if you want to skip that part all together.

There's something about the very bottom of this cake, the part that you slice off so it will sit flat on the cooling rack, that just tastes incredible. Trust me, it's the best part.

Mojito Cake
Mojito Cake
Mojito Cake
Mojito Cake
Mojito Cake
Mojito cake ingredients

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • juice and zest of two limes
  • 10 fresh mint leaves, chopped finely
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temp, plus more for pan
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup white rum

For the glaze

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp white rum (optional - you can substitute with water here)
  • juice from 1/2 lime

Preheat the oven to 325F. Butter and flour a nonstick Bundt pan and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, lime zest, mint, baking soda and salt, set aside. Using a stand or electric mixer, cream the softened butter and sugar together until well combined. Add eggs one at a time to the mixture then the vanilla and lime juice. Beat in the mixer for 4-5 minutes, until the mixture no longer looks grainy. 

In a separate bowl, stir the rum and sour cream together. With the mixer on low, alternately add flour mixture in three parts and sour cream/rum mixture in two to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Mix just until incorporated, otherwise your batter will be over mixed and your cake will be tough. Pour mixture into the floured Bundt pan and bake for 1 hour and 20-30 minutes or until you can insert a toothpick in the center of the cake that comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool for about 10 minutes and gently invert the cake onto a wire rack to finish cooling. Gently prick all over with a skewer or fork so it can absorb some of the glaze.

To make the glaze, heat the powdered sugar and rum to dissolve the sugar and tame the rum flavor a bit. Remove from the heat, add the lime juice and allow to cool slightly. Drizzle the glaze over the cake, garnish with mint leaves and lime zest and serve. 

Chocolate Raspberry Pavlova

Pavlova

I watched Nigella make this on one of her old shows that the Cooking Channel still airs. It is such an impressive and beautiful dessert and is so simple to make. Matt was having a client over for dinner and he made his famous lasagna - everything, from the sauce to the pasta, is made from scratch. I wanted to make something light to end the meal and a pavlova was the perfect way to do it. Nigella's chocolate version is so great because it doesn't really taste like meringue, yet it's still perfectly light like a meringue. The outside is crisp and the inside is fudgey like a flourless chocolate cake. Although this dessert is topped with whipped cream, somehow it still tastes amazingly light.

Pavlova2

Ingredients

  • 6 egg whites
  • 300g sugar
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 50g chopped semi sweet chocolate, plus extra for shaving on top
  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream
  • 1 container of raspberries
  • edible flowers (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350F. Beat the egg whites until peaks form, doing this in a stand mixer or with a hand mixer makes it easier. Then slowly add the sugar a spoonful at a time until the mixture is stiff and shiny. Sift the cocoa powder on top of the mixture and add the vinegar and chopped chocolate. Gently fold the mixture together until well combined. It should be a light brown color with no white or brown streaks. Trace a 9 inch cake pan onto a piece of parchment paper. Mound the meringue onto the paper and smooth the sides and top.

Place in the oven, then immediately turn the temperature down to 300F and cook for about 1 hour and 15 minutes. When it's ready it should look dry and crisp around the edges but the middle will look fudgey with cracks all around. Turn the oven off and let the meringue disc cool completely before taking it out of the oven. Your whole kitchen will smell like hot chocolate.

When you are ready to serve, carefully move the meringue disc onto a cake stand or plate. Whip the cream until it is thick. Top the meringue with the whipped cream, berries and flowers. Shave chocolate over the top and serve!

Shepherd's Pie

Shepherdspie

Last time we were in England I watched one of Jamie Oliver's shows where he made this recipe that I could not stop thinking about. It was hard to find online so I had to wing it (I did eventually find it here - my recipe is adapted from his). It made me see Shepherd's Pie a whole new way. Instead of using minced lamb, it used bone-in lamb shoulder (I used the shanks because they are my favorite) slow roasted for a few hours. Jamie made a crust from the mashed potatoes for the bottom and top so it looked like a real pie. He explained that shepherd's pie was originally made this way. If  you don't like that much mash just half the potato portion of the recipe. My photo above actually has mash on the top and bottom but there was so much lamb spilling out it covered the bottom layer of mash.

Shepherd's Pie is perfect for a Sunday dinner. Matt loves it so much he will eat it every night the rest of the week until it's gone. This is a hearty and comforting dish, perfect for a cold winter night.

For the lamb filling

  • 4 lbs bone-in lamb shanks
  • olive oil
  • 4 red onions
  • 4 carrots
  • 4 stalks of celery
  • 4 tomatoes
  • 2 heads of garlic
  • 1 medium rutabaga (optional)
  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 2 heaping tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce

For the potatoes

  • 6 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 4 oz cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs 
  • salt and pepper

For the gravy

  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 3 cups strained lamb drippings from roasting the lamb (you can combine chicken broth with the drippings to equal 3 cups liquid)

Preheat the oven to 325F. Rub the shanks with olive oil and a good pinch of salt. Place the shanks in a dutch oven or heavy bottomed pan with 4 cups of chicken broth, 1 red onion, 1 stalk of celery, 1 carrot, 4 tomatoes, 1 head of garlic sliced horizontally (unpeeled, you will strain this out later) and one sprig of rosemary. Roast for 4 hours.

When the meat is tender and falling off the bone, strain the liquid and reserve for the gravy and the filling. After the meat has cooled, shred from the bone and set aside. Chop the remaining onion, celery, carrot, garlic and rosemary and the peeled rutabaga and saute in the roasting pan with 1 tablespoon of olive oil until slightly caramelized, about 10 minutes. Stir in the flour and shredded lamb. Pour in 3 cups of the lamb drippings (what's left will be for the gravy), 3 cups of chicken stock and the Worcestershire sauce. Bring to a boil, then put the lid on and reduce the heat to a gentle simmer for about 40 minutes, or until you've got a loose, stew-like consistency. Stir occasionally. 

Peel and quarter the potatoes and add them to boiling water until you can put a fork through them easily, about 10-12 minutes. Strain and add the butter, the milk, salt to taste and mash well. If you have a stand mixer you can use it here to take away all of the hard work of mashing by hand. Add more butter or milk to your desired consistency. Preheat the oven to 400F.

In a casserole dish, press the mashed potatoes a handful at a time onto the bottom and the sides of the dish. When the bottom and sides are fully covered, about 1/2 inch thick, use a slotted spoon to carefully spoon your lamb mixture on top of the mashed potatoes then cover the lamb mixture with the remaining mashed potatoes. Cover with grated cheese and bread crumbs and bake for 1 hour or until crisp and golden.

When the pie is done, allow to cool for 20 minutes while you make the gravy. To make the gravy, heat 3 tbsp of butter with the flour and stir over medium heat to toast. Don't step away because it can burn very quickly. When it starts to get golden and smells nutty whisk in your lamb dripping/chicken broth. Whisk until you have a smooth semi thick gravy, add a little flour or liquid to your desired thickness.

Slice the pie and top with gravy. Ketchup optional :)

Yorkshire Pudding

Yorkshirepuds

In the UK, puddings are both savory and sweet dishes or it can refer to the dessert course. What Americans know pudding to be is actually called a custard or a curd in the United Kingdom. A Yorkshire pud is like a popover. But better.

If you are familiar with Yorkshire pudding, contrary to popular belief, these little puds are not meant to be an accompaniment to a meal. They are a starter, served with a heaping scoop of gravy. If you are going to make these you have to dedicate the entire oven to them at 400F for about 20 minutes and you CANNOT open the oven to check on them. Matt learned this the hard way last Thanksgiving. We had the turkey roasting, the stuffing was being warmed up, and it felt like those little puddings were taking forever to rise. The bottoms ended up burning and the tops came out a puffy golden brown. They still tasted good but they weren't quite right.

Yorkshirepuds2

Ingredients

  • 4 large eggs
  • 200ml milk
  • 200g flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • vegetable or grape seed or sunflower oil, or any other oil with a high smoke point

Preheat the oven to 400F. Pour the eggs and milk into a large mixing bowl, add a pinch of salt and whisk until thoroughly combined. Gradually sift flour into the egg and milk mixture then whisk thoroughly until the flour is well combined. The batter should resemble a thick cream. Leave the batter to rest in the kitchen for a minimum of 30 minutes.

Add 1/2 teaspoon oil into each muffin compartment. Preheat the oiled muffin tin without the  pudding mixture for 15 minutes. Carefully remove the tray from the oven when the oil is very hot. Quickly give the batter another whisk and add into each muffin compartment, filling about two thirds of the way. Get it back into the oven as fast and as carefully as you can because the hot oil is crucial to the rise in the pudding.  Repeat until you have used all of the batter. Serve right out of the oven with a big scoop of gravy.