Thursday, 28 June 2012

Reza's Indian Spice

I'd like to introduce you to a new contender for my 'favourite cookbook of all time' award. It's a keeper. It's going to be adorned with sauce splatters, anointed with oil smears, christened with overkeen garlicky fingers and placed in pride of place on my shelf before the summer is out.

When I first picked up my copy of Reza's Indian Spice, kindly sent to me to review by Quadrille Books, I flicked through the pages briefly. I'm pretty good at surmising from the quickest of flicks whether I'm going to be interested in a new cookbook or not. There are several factors that contribute to this:

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Alphonso mango, coconut & cardamom cheesecake

OK, so I'm kind of cheating with this one. In that I posted this recipe already, approximately a year ago. But a) I felt it was only fair that it had another moment in the limelight, as it's so damn good, and b) my photography has improved slightly since then, so I wanted to do the cheesecake its full justice by taking half-decent photos of it. Actually, they're kind of odd photos, because I took them al fresco, so the sunlight is doing weird things with shadows and exposure. However, I quite like them because they remind me that today was beautiful and sunny in the afternoon, so I could actually take a cake outside. Had I tried to shoot these photos approximately four hours earlier, the cheesecake would have been swept away by what was pretty much a monsoon, engulfing Cambridge for an hour this morning, soaking me to the skin and forcing me to take refuge in Marks & Spencer. What a hardship.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Granny's shortbread

"Granny made some shortbread for you."

Six simple words, yet the joy they promise is boundless. I lift the lid of the gaudy plastic ice-cream tub, so incongruously matched to its sublime contents. I pull back the corner of the kitchen paper to reveal wedges of golden, burnished biscuit, thickly dusted with a snowy layer of sugar. I inhale the sweet, musty fragrance of butter, flour and sugar, picking at a stray crumb before extracting my chosen piece, always going for the largest in the box despite knowing it's inevitable I'll come back for a second. And a third.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Banana and brazil nut blondies

Ah, the overripe banana. Has there ever been a foodstuff so divisive? On the one hand, it repulses and horrifies, with its festering, milky innards and dark, wrinkled exterior. On the other, it lends a fabulous moisture and sweet banana fragrance to all sorts of baked goods, improving with flavour the longer it is left to liquefy in its skin.

Maybe not as divisive as some other foods - foie gras, battery chicken, rabbit, and those horrible Chinese dishes that involve eating pieces off the animal while it's still alive - but still a subject of contention, I am sure. I know of many people who simply cannot abide an overripe banana, for whom the thought of peeling back that leathery brown skin to reveal the grisly mush within is tantamount to a nightmare.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Duck with chocolate and marsala

If it's possible for food to be sexy - and of course I believe it is, otherwise my life as a food blogger and aspiring food journalist would be very barren indeed - then this dish might just be the epitome of blushing, pulse-quickening, supple-fleshed sexuality. 

Think tender, succulent, meaty duck legs, smothered in a powerfully rich and complex sauce. It's glossy and dark with molten chocolate, enriched with the creamy bite of toasted pine nuts, sweet and juicy with plump raisins and laced with alcohol. It dribbles seductively off the spoon over the crispy skin of the duck, a dark and dramatic waterfall leaving sweet-savoury nuggets of powerful flavour in its wake.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Quince and marzipan cake

I have a culinary conundrum for you. It's one I've been pondering for a long time now, often while daydreaming in the swimming pool or on my bike. Yes, I know that's a bit dangerous.

Why is it that some flavours taste more of themselves than the actual ingredient they have derived from?

That probably doesn't make any sense. Let's take an example. Marzipan.