Mutant Easter Eggs

So I was never going to make actual Easter eggs, what with all that tempering and moulding and such. But chocolate is definitely in order and there’s nothing like getting covered in it on a Good Friday morning, enrobing honeycomb.

This latest book, Sharing Plates, from Luke Mangan landed last week and I’ll write more about it in May when it’s published and the embargo’s lifted.

He suggests sprinkling the chocolate with sea salt but I had some of that Olsson’s smoked salt which I used instead (when too much smoke is never enough etc). I love that these will store happily in the freezer and can be served straight from there with a shattering crunch.

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Salted chocolate honeycomb

cooking oil or spray for greasing
125g liquid glucose
360g caster sugar
3 tablesp honey
15g carb soda
250g dark chocolate
sea salt for sprinkling

Line a heatproof tray with baking paper and lightly oil it

Place the glucose, sugar, honey and 75ml water in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the sugar has dissolved, then cook until the mixture turns a deep caramel colour.

Remove from the heat and leave to stand for 2 minutes before whisking in the carb soda. Whisk just enough to incorporate it into the caramel, ensuring not to overdo it or the honeycomb will collapse.

Pour onto the prepared tray and leave at room temperature for about 1 hour to cool.

Once the honeycomb has set, break it into bite sized pieces and set them on a wire rack over a tray. (Mine are only bite sized if you have a massive gob)

Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Remover from the heat, dip the honeycomb pieces into the melted chocolate and place on the rack.

Sprinkle with sea salt and allow the chocolate to set. Store in the freezer until required.

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Miso roasted everything

Further to my little rave about Peter Gordon’s Savour cookbook, I thought I’d share with you his miso roasted eggplant / aubergine recipe. Although he makes it as part of an elaborate salad with Medjool dates, feta and crisp buckwheat I like it enough to make it as a simple side dish. And the really good thing about it is it’s ridiculously easy and works just as well on other vegetables. I roasted thick sweet potato slices with the same coating to serve with roast chicken the other night and it was the bomb – even the leftovers, cold from the fridge, were fab. So here you go miso lovers, get onto this.

3 tablesp white miso
3 tablesp mirin
2 tablesp light olive or other bland oil
2 tablesp sesame oil
sesame seeds
2 eggplants / aubergines, stems trimmed, each cut lengthways into six wedges OR
700g sweet potatoes thickly sliced or cut into 3cm chunks

Preheat the oven to 180 C. Mix the miso paste with the mirin to loosen it, then stir in the oils. Brush the mixture on the cut  surfaces of the chosen vegetable and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 20-30 minutes. The eggplant is cooked when you can squeeze it with little resistance. If you’re using sweet potatoes, poke with a skewer to check for tenderness.

I reckon this coating would be great on ordinary potatoes, pumpkin or even asparagus. Let me know if you try it or think there’s anything else that might happily roast in it.

Salads as art

I’ve been reviewing salad cookbooks for The Real Review and Savour, Salads for all Seasons from chef, Peter Gordon has me entranced.

Let’s get one thing straight: these are no ordinary salads. They’re imaginative with a keen eye on texture and punchy flavours but, hey, Yotam Ottolenghi and Karen Martini have been flying those flags for years. These ones are different.

Gordon’s efforts at first, and even subsequent, glances might seem like a bit of a palaver. Only the first chapter, Simple Salads, actually is. And although these ones are straightforward, they’re never boring. Here he does a red salad with grilled red capsicum, radicchio, tomatoes, beetroot and pomegranate and sesame seeds all dressed with a tangy, chili-spiked vinaigrette. That pushes all kinds of buttons, right there.

The rest of the book is all multi-staged extravaganzas divided into chapters including cheese, seafood, grains, poultry and meat. There are so many upsides to these though; with many of them, you probably won’t need to serve anything else, they’re very forgiving of omissions and substitutions and they teach you little tricks that you can apply to other, more simple affairs.

Last week I did a killer miso-baked aubergine salad with dates, feta and tahini yoghurt but didn’t bother with the crisp buckwheat topping because I couldn’t be bothered and it still had crunch from pine nuts. Not only did my quicker version work a treat, it introduced me to his miso-baked aubergine which I’ll do again just as a side.

The other hit was Puy lentils with quinoa, pomegranate-roasted grapes and tomatoes with chili, mint and basil. I won’t waste your time telling you how to cook lentils and quinoa because the genius of this recipe is the roasted grapes and tomatoes spooned on top of everything with their juices at the end.

Here’s how you make them:

Preheat the oven to 170 C.

Put 200g of a mixture of black and green grapes and 200g cherry tomatoes, a finely sliced eschallot, 1/2 a finely chopped red chili with seeds, 2 tablesp pomegranate molasses and 4 tablesp good olive oil in a roasting dish.

Stir to mix everything together then roast for about 30 minutes or more until caramelised, the skins have split and everything’s nicely juicy.

Utterly delicious on their own, this sweet, tangy combination that pops like bubble wrap would be great spooned over loads of things, not least, say, grilled haloumi. Or mixed through chick peas. I’d love to hear how you’d use this mix via the comments section below.

Peter Gordon is known for his mastery of ‘fusion’ cooking which can be a dangerous notion in the wrong hands. Relax, his are the right ones.