Sinfully simple snacks.

It was with some surprise that I finished reading The Picture of Dorian Gray and looked around for something to do.  The story ends rather abruptly, so I wasn’t expecting to be staring at the clock and wondering when my family would be back to break the silence.  The back of my edition is full of notes and reviews from Oscar Wilde’s contemporaries which makes the book look longer than it actually is, hence my surprise at the sudden end to this tale of youthful vanity and sin.  What I needed now was a snack that was quick to make.

Dorian Gray is a young man who wishes that all of his vices are passed onto a portrait of himself rather than his handsome face.  Over time, each of his sinful acts mar the portrait and age it beyond recognition while Dorian himself remains beautiful for all to see and envy.

In the same situation, I think my portrait would be a bloated chap with a chocolate milk moustache, cake crumbs on his chest and buttery fingers clasping a cheese and ham toastie.  It would be a truly grotesque display of gluttony that I’d hide away in the attic lest anyone should see my greedy soul laid bare on the canvas.

Back in my 21st Century kitchen, I was already throwing ingredients onto the worktop and keeping an eye on the clock.  There was just enough time to get some Cheddar and Parmesan biscuits into the oven and tidy up before my little boy burst into the room and cooking became a real challenge.

These little, cheesy biscuits are so easy to make and would work with different cheese and even a selection of herbs.  Try them when you feel like baking, but don’t want anything complicated or messy.  They’re small too, so you don’t need to worry about your portrait becoming hideous after you’ve eaten a few!

Cheddar & Parmesan biscuits

100g plain flour

85g mature Cheddar (finely grated)

50g butter

40g Parmesan cheese (finely grated)

2 egg yolks

2 tblspoons double cream

1 tspoon dried oregano

sea salt

1 egg yolk (beaten for the glaze)

In a medium bowl, stir together the butter, flour, two egg yolks, oregano and all of the cheese.  Season with a few good pinches of sea salt.  The mixture should come to a stiff dough.  Add the double cream and work the mixture gently with your hands.

Wrap the ball in clingfilm and refrigerate it for half an hour.  Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface until it is about half a centimetre thick.  Use a small cutter to make little discs and place them on a tray lined with baking paper.  Add some beaten egg yolk to the top of each disc using a pastry brush.  This will give the biscuits a lovely glaze.

They need to go into the middle of a pre heated oven at 180C for about fifteen minutes.  Keep checking them.  They’re ready when slightly risen and a beautiful, shiny, golden colour.

 

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A dip for all seasons.

My love for dips is no secret.  I’m not sure why I can’t resist them, but make no mistake; when there are dips around, I’ll be close by.

Garlic and onion, sweet mustard, sour cream and chive, sweet chilli, satay, tzatziki, taramasalata, baba ganoush…the list goes on.  I’m happy dipping bread and all kinds of things until there’s an empty bowl.

Last week I shared my recipe for a rich beef mole and admitted that I used it as a dip for my tortilla chips.  I just couldn’t help it to be honest.  I’m doing my best to cut down on the nacho action, but as a final word on the subject, I’ve decided to share a recipe of mine for chili cheese dip.  The world is full of wonderful versions of this, but I like mine because it’s creamy, really cheesy and open to the addition of other ingredients if it takes my fancy.  In the height of summer, or the depths of winter, this dip will see you through.

Once you’ve tried this, you won’t make chili cheese dip any other way!  Enjoy.

Dimitri’s chilli cheese dip

5 tblspoons double cream

1 red onion (finely chopped)

1 medium red chili (quartered, then sliced)

55g mature Cheddar cheese (finely grated)

2 tspoons olive oil

1 tspoon smoked paprika

sea salt (optional)

I made this dip in a milk pan.  It was the perfect size for a small bowl of dip, but you can increase the amounts and make the dip in a large pan if necessary.

Begin by cooking the red onion in the olive oil on the lowest heat until it is beginning to caramelise.  This brings out the sweetness of the onion.  Add the chilli and give it a good stir.  Cook it for a further two minutes and stir to stop the onion from burning.

Pour in the double cream and stir.  Add the smoked paprika.  Tip the Cheddar in and stir thoroughly until completely melted.  Keep stirring until the dip is nice and thick.  Taste it.  If it needs a little salt to bring the flavours out, add some a little at a time and keep tasting as you do so.

That’s it! Done!  You could do lots with this basic recipe.  Add more chili, throw in some jalapenos, use different cheese, mix in some chopped Chorizo with the onion, add roasted garlic or stir in fresh coriander at the end of cooking.  Just make sure you have plenty of stuff to dip in because this is delicious!

Beef mole. No, really!

It’s funny what you can end up cooking when you’re looking for inspiration.  What began as a search for a fun chocolate recipe ended as a mini voyage into one of my favourite cuisines; Mexican!

I was looking for some ideas for a recipe that made use of what I already had in the cupboard and I specifically wanted to use some dark chocolate that’s been looking at me for a few weeks now.  Before I knew it, I was reading about mole and beginning to feel inspired.  In Central America, a mole is a thick, often spicy sauce made with numerous ingredients that can include chillies and dark chocolate.  There seemed to be a handful of variations and each of them sounded delightful.  Being a nacho fiend, I was beginning to see a serious dipping opportunity.

Having made the decision to use only what I had in the cupboards and fridge, the mole I made included minced beef.  Mole is especially popular because of its complex flavours and satisfying kick.  I couldn’t wait to experiment with it.  What ensued was an attack on my cupboards as the ingredient list grew and grew.  As always, I’m conscious that the recipe I’m sharing with you today is not necessarily a traditional mole, but one that I came up with over the course of a very hot afternoon.  With that in mind, some of the ingredients may alarm you, but trust me when I say, the taste is not disappointing!  I managed to surprise myself and I hope this recipe surprises you too.

This is one recipe that I’ll be making for years to come and I suspect that I’ll be trying other moles using chicken, pork and all kinds of chilies.  The sauce itself is more like a chilli con carne in consistency and I’m not saying that it can compete with an authentic Oaxacan mole.  It is however, fun to make, delicious and open to all kinds of adaptions.  Get ready then, for something different, something that I wasn’t expecting.  Is it a chocolate recipe?  Well, not exactly, but I hope you love it as much as I do!

Beef mole

400g chopped tomatoes

250g minced beef

200g tinned kidney beans

2 onions (quartered)

2 Chipotles (soaked in water)

1 red pepper (roughly chopped)

4 garlic cloves

1 medium red chili (roughly chopped)

35g dark chocolate

1 tblspoon smoked paprika

2 tspoons coriander seeds

2 tspoons chili flakes

1 tspoon ground allspice powder

1 tspoon garlic salt

1 tspoon dried oregano

2 tspoons mint sauce

1 and a half tablespoons peanut butter

black pepper

1 tbslpoon sunflower oil

olive oil

sea salt

I began by browning the beef mince with plenty of black pepper in a little olive oil and then setting it aside.

Next, I gently toasted the coriander seeds in a dry pan until they began to release their flavour.  I added them to a container with every ingredient except for the beef, Chipotles, kidney beans, chocolate and sea salt.  Using a handblender, I made a puree and then heated it in a heavy based pot for about twenty minutes on a low heat.  During this time, I added the Chipotles and the water they’d been soaking in, the kidney beans and all of the beef.  I also grated the dark chocolate into the mole and stirred it occasionally so that the sauce didn’t stick.  I removed the Chipotles when the sauce was cooked.

Once the mole was thick, I tasted it and seasoned it with sea salt.  I wanted to use the mole as a dip, so I didn’t add too much salt- my tortillas are already salted.  This mole is not very spicy, but you could add more chilies if you want a real kick.  This has just enough fire to make it fun.  Let me know if you make it.  I’d love to hear what you think!

Cheddar and broccoli soup.

The thing about food blogging, is that you need to make things every week.  It’s fun!  It can also be frustrating when the food you make doesn’t turn out the way you wanted it to and there’s an empty screen waiting for a blog post.

In the last couple of weeks I’ve made a gorgeous almond and apricot stuffing for pork that tasted beautiful, but frankly, would kill my blog if I photographed it; a loaf of banana bread that tasted so good when toasted and smothered in Nutella that it was gone before I could get a shot of it; and then there was a baba ganoush that tasted okay, but was not really as delicious as baba ganoush can be.  Yes, writing a food blog can be frustrating.  I may just start reviewing movies instead.

To cheer myself up, I made a favourite soup of mine this weekend.  It’s not as naughty as you might expect from me, but you can double the cheese content if you like and even add a splash of double cream to make it more indulgent.  Either way, it’s a nice little soup to push you on until I post something more sugary.  Aah, it’s good to be back.  I missed ya!

Cheddar and broccoli soup.

1 broccoli stalk

100g mature Cheddar

Vegetable stock

 2 large potatoes

salt pepper

I cut off the brocoli florets and boiled them in water until tender.  I peeled and cubed the potatoes and boiled them until soft (just over ten minutes) in salted water and then drained them.

I placed the vegetables (and the water in which I’d cooked the broccoli) in a large pot and poured in enough vegetable stock to cover them.  I brought the stock to the boil and then took the pot of the heat.  Allowing the stock to cool made it safer to blend up the soup using a hand blender.  Once this was done, I grated the Cheddar into the soup and stirred it until completely melted.

Finally, I tasted the soup and seasoned it with plenty of sea salt and some black pepper.  It’s tastes delicious served with extra grated cheese and some crusty bread!

Tip:  Adding the broccoli water helps retain the nutrients lost through cooking.  Discard the water that you cooked the potatoes in because it often contains impurities and starch and doesn’t taste particularly nice.