Addiction: Cheese biscuits

How much is your biscuit addiction costing you?

Well, I’m glad you asked because when I was younger, my brothers’ and my biscuit addiction was costing my Mum a packet. Many years ago, Mum, always a lover of fine food, discovered these wonderfully addictive cheese biscuits. Mum would regularly buy them at the ridiculous price of $8 to have with a glass of wine with Dad or when friends came over. Then one fateful day, as I reached for the Arrnott’s BBQ Shapes I accidentally put my paws on the infamous cheese biscuits. From that day on, I was addicted. At $8 a pack (well that’s what mum always told me the price was), as a 16-year-old, I had myself (well, actually, my parents) a costly addiction. You see, there were only a handful of biscuits in each pack so before the three hungry teenagers had even began to whet their appetite, the pack was gone. My brothers and I would be turning our noses up at the prospect of eating Arnott’s Shapes. As you can imagine this caused Mum a considerable amount of annoyance. When she’s standing there at the end of the day, wine in hand, and wanting one of the biscuits she’s bought from a specialty food store three suburbs away and there are none left because of her greedy teenagers, she needed a solution. Fast.

I don’t know how Mum did it but she invented/stole/sourced from somewhere the mysterious recipe (and it certainly wasn’t from the shop… why would they voluntarily cut their profit margins and lose one of their best customers?).
Here, I present to you, the recipe.

Recipe:
125gms blue cheese
250gms butter
2 cups grated parmesan
2 cups cheddar
2 tablsp lemon juice
2 cups plain flour
4 tablsp S R flour
2 tsp curry powder

Combine all together (mix with hands) and roll into long sausages (say 4). Wrap in cling wrap and put in freezer.

Remove, thaw, slice into 1 cm discs.  Cook on a baking tray in a hot oven for about 15 mins until lightly brown and smelling good and cheesie (ensure you leave a few cms space for the biscuits to spread). This recipe makes a lot so you can keep some ‘sausages’ for later.

Enjoy. And happy saving.

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Infusion of rosewater

On our previous trip to Paris, we found this little cafe near Montmartre and stopped for a coffee as we needed a break from the freezing cold. For those who know me, I have a weakness for pistachios. Pistachio ice-cream, pistachio macaroons, pistachio biccies… My eyes would never let me veer away from pistachio once it catches my eye on the dessert counter. This time, it was a pistachio and rosewater cake. Mmmm… Quite an interesting combination and one that I have never come across. I did have a moment of doubt – Rosewater reminded me of this pastel pink drink back in Asia called Bandung. I never liked that sweet and fake coloured drink BUT as you know, my pistachio love took over and I HAD to try the cake.

The next thing you know, the dude and I were vying for the last crumbs of this moist and fragrant cake. The combination of flavours was perfect. We were in love.

It was decided that we had to make this cake in London. We thought it would be hard to find rosewater but it was easily found at a local offy (off-license). This recipe was found on the internet and the cake was a huge success. Terribly easy to make and delicious to taste! A must-try!

Recipe:
Lime Yoghurt Cake with Rosewater and Pistachios
(adapted from a recipe by Rachel Allen)

For the cake
225g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 pinch of salt
75g ground almonds
100g caster sugar
2 eggs
1 generous tbsp or 50g runny honey
250ml natural yoghurt
150ml sunflower/ vegetable oil
finely grated zest from 1 lime

For the syrup
150ml water
100g caster sugar
Juice from 1 lime
1 tsp rose water

To start, preheat the oven to 180 deg celsius. Line the base of a 22cm spring-form/ loose-bottomed cake tin with greaseproof paper. (We used just a 22cm cake tin)
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl and stir in the ground almonds and caster sugar.
Then mix the wet ingredient together – eggs, honey, yoghurt, sunflower oil and lime zest together in a medium sized bowl until smooth.

Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and slowly pour in the wet ingredients, bringing them together with a whisk until they are just combined. Add some chopped pistachios to the mixture if you like some additional texture.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the oven for 50mins or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for about 20mins.

To make the syrup, boil the water and sugar for about 5 minutes until it is reduced by half. Add the lime juice and boil for a further 2 minutes, then cool. Add rose water to taste. (Note: rosewater is quite strong so just start off with about 1 teaspoon).

With a fine skewer, make holes on top of the warm cake and spoon the syrup all over the top. Scatter the pistachios over and leave to settle for 1 hour (i.e. if you can wait!)

Serve with cream, natural yoghurt and even berries. It is quite a moist cake and keeps well in the fridge for a few days.

Side note*: Toast the pistachios before hand for a crunch in the nuts!

An attempt – Squid Ink Risotto

I can’t remember a time when I’ve enjoyed learning quite so much.  I certainly didn’t listen as intently in chemistry lectures at uni, nor English classes back at school…  Sadly my six-week cooking course at Little Portland Cooking School has come to an end.  Those three hours every Tuesday night were fabulous.  We covered meat and poultry, bread, fish and shellfish, cakes, sauces and pastry.   It was a small class with only seven students, and our lovely teacher taught us as much as he could within the short time frame.  I’m sure I’ve opened a can of worms as for every new skill I’ve picked up, my thirst for more is bigger than ever.  

As one of my favourite classes was the fish and shellfish class, last weekend I embarked on a squid ink risotto.  Having leant how to prepare squid in class, I was filled with enthusiasm for purchasing whole squids and spending the afternoon getting my hands dirty… It’s strangely therapeutic pulling out the slippery tentacles, removing the quill, detaching the wings, chopping out the guts and extracting the sac of black ink.  Sounds gross, I know… But trust me, it’s fun! 

I was left deflated when, after visiting three fishmongers, I could only find prepared squid.  And squid ink in packets.  Devastating.  Nonetheless, I purchased the prepared squid and continued on my merry way…

As a general rule, there are two ways to cook squid.  Either flash fry (literally for only a minute or so) or slow-cook for over an hour.  Anything longer than a few minutes but less than an hour results in tough squid.  This dish called for the slow-cooking technique and the results were sublime.  The squid was tender and plump, with not a hint of chewiness.  Having been cooked for 90 minutes in white wine, a multitude of herbs, tomato and squid ink there was an incredible depth of flavour.  I was surprised how rich a seafood risotto could be.  Not only does squid ink provide the wow-factor of turning the dish black, it gives a very unique taste which can best be described as salty/briny. 

Recipe (adapted from Harry’s Bar Cookbook)

Squid cooked in squid ink:
675g cleaned squid
100mL olive oil
1 large piece of celery, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove, chopped
4 big tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
400mL dry white wine
125g fresh herbs (basil, parsley, oregano and thyme)
Salt and pepper
3 sachets of squid ink (approximately 12g worth)

Risotto:
1 small onion, finely diced
300g Arborio rice
1.25L chicken stock, heated
Squid cooked in squid ink
45g unsalted butter
Splash of white wine
150g parmesan, grated
Salt and pepper to taste
Parsley to garnish

Method:

Squid cooked in squid ink:

Cut the squid into small pieces (2-3cm each).  Set aside.  Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat.  Add the celery, onion and garlic and cook until golden (not brown). 

Add the tomatoes and cook for 3 minutes. 

Turn the heat to high and add the squid.  Stir and cook evenly for a few minutes.  Then add the wine and herbs and bring to the boil.   

Add the squid ink, season with salt and pepper, and reduce the heat to low.  Partially cover and cook for 90 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Risotto:

Cut 25g of the butter into small cubes and keep chilled in the fridge.  In a large pan heat the remaining butter over medium heat.  Once foaming, add the onion and cook until soft but not browned.  Add the rice, stirring for a minute until lightly toasted.  Add the white wine, stirring continuously. 

Turn the heat to low and add one ladle of stock.  Stir constantly.  When the liquid has been absorbed, add another ladle of stock and the squid cooked in squid ink.  Cook until most of the liquid has been absorbed.  Then add another ladle of stock.  Continue to add a ladle of stock each time the liquid has been absorbed.  When the rice is soft but al dente, and the liquid has been absorbed, turn off the heat.  Quickly stir the chilled butter into the rice.  Then stir in 2/3 of the parmesan. 

Season to taste.  Sprinkle each bowl with the remaining parmesan and some chopped parsley.