12 April 2011

Homemade butter

You read that right: homemade butter. No, I didn't spend hours churning it in a wooden tub (though some part of me loves the Little House on the Prairie fantasy of doing just that, on a porch, wearing a bonnet). Since introducing the mini food processor into the kitchen, I have been searching for recipes to try. I have read from various blogs over the past two years about people making their own butter and how it was out-of-this-world amazing. Now that I have the right equipment, I can finally find out if they are right!

The first thing to know about butter is that you have to have really high fat cream for it to work, because butter is essentially the fat of milk. That little nugget made me stop and think about butter in a new light! I tried this first with whole milk for some reason and it hardly produced any butter. So if you can get heavy or double cream you will get a fair amount of butter.

I poured the double cream into the food processor and whirled it around for a while. When I stopped after a minute or so, it looked like I had just whipped the cream a lot. This was not encouraging and I was beginning to be doubtful about this experimental project.

I kept going, trudging through my doubts and then something amazing happened. All of a sudden, in a flash, bam!

The butter and leftover milk (buttermilk) split. I scooped out the buttery bits into a bowl and could tell that they needed some pressing. I think technically to get the best butter you are supposed to put the butter into cheesecloth and press all of the excess milk out. I do not have cheesecloth (yet) and so just ended up pressing the butter in a bowl with the back of my spoon.

It worked pretty well and I even managed to press some of the butter into a pretty mold.

The consistency and taste was definitely like butter, but more creamy. Next time, I will try adding a smidgen of salt as well.

There is some small portion of me that absolutely loves making foods that normally are in a convenient form these days, like butter. I think it is satisfying knowing how easy it is to make good, wholesome food to eat and share with those you love. (Also, if Armageddon ever happens, I will be set.) It's also just plain fun to create food that you get to enjoy afterwards. Perhaps it is because work is a little slow just now that I have been thinking that to cook and bake and make staples like butter every day would be grand. It might get old after a while but right now I am pondering this thought.

9 April 2011

Red pepper sauce over pasta

I would like to introduce you to a new member of the kitchen family here:

It's only a mini food processor but boy, does it do a great job! I have made two batches of humus (which my Greek husband didn't know you could make yourself) and am dreaming of homemade pesto later this summer. That would imply I need to plant lots of basil and tame the wild garden where the fox currently lives...

In the meantime, I tried a new recipe from the Pioneer Woman to make a red pepper sauce to serve over pasta. You should go to her site (if you don't already read it) and check this recipe out for a pretty quick and scrumptious meal. You roast the red peppers and process them with some garlic and olive oil into a thick paste. Then you throw this in with some sauteed onions and cream, and I added a bit of parmesan as well to give the sauce more depth as I didn't add the pine nuts into the paste.

This was amazing with a side of garlic toast and a much more subtle taste than a traditional red sauce.

I can foresee lots more fun dishes using the food processor!

7 April 2011

Spring- a time for some new flavours!

So after almost a four month hiatus, I'm back! A and I were married (!) at the beginning of March and wedding things took all of my time, thoughts and energy for three months. I had no spare thoughts for fun and interesting meals and stuck with the same easy and fast meals of pasta with veggies, lots of simple bean dishes and the old standby of sausages and mash. My baking was mostly taken up with making 440 miniature scones for the wedding reception (which went down a storm). I was in a cooking rut!

Now with a bit more time on my hands and the craving for something different, I will be branching out once more. Spring means new vegetables are coming into season and with it brings all sorts of flavours and possibilities in the kitchen.

I may have mentioned that certain foods in London are more scarce than in the US for reasons of food imports, EU laws and cultural influences to name a few. Like Mountain Dew (the real type, not the energy drink stuff they are marketing as an energy drink here), and peanut butter. And black beans.

Oh, sure, you can find black beans in certain areas of London with ease (not where I now live) and at the larger grocery stores (not on my way home from work). I have been searching for black beans for a week now to make black bean burritos until I finally had to make a special stop this evening at the local, upmarket food store. I proceeded to spend half an hour browsing and drooling, picking up things I did not need but might use very soon, and leaving with much more than just black beans. Nevertheless, last night I made black bean burritos!

Firstly, I boiled the dried black beans in water for 40-45 minutes if pre-soaked. If you are using the canned version, simply heat the cooked black beans in a saucepan with the seasoning and serve. I added some salt, garlic powder, cumin, chili powder and salsa to the beans to give them a depth of flavour.

You can also serve these with rice, seasoned with lime juice and zest, but of course I got home to find I had no rice. Black beans it is!

That's the cooking part done; the rest is chopping and assembly of your favourite toppings for a burrito. I like some cheddar, more salsa, lettuce, tomatoes and heapings of sour cream. I can also be persuaded to add guacamole if the mood strikes me, but add whatever you want!

Mmmm, these were the flavours I was craving.