DIY Nut butters

Nut butter I absolutely refuse to buy nut butters from shops now that I know how easy it is to make my own without all that extra processed crap in it. I like to do this with any left over baking nuts I have. I’m using ground almonds here, but you can apply this to cashews, walnuts, desiccated coconut…mmmm…

Almond butter:
100 g approx. ground almonds
a pinch of sea salt flakes

Just look at that ingredient list! Two! I mean, if you’re being fancy sure you can probably add honey or maple syrup and cinnamon…but you know: Keep it simple stupid (for now anyway).

Get your oven to 170°C, line a baking tray with some parchment and spread the nuts evenly exposing as much of them to the heat of the oven. Pop them in for about 10 minutes and keep checking to make sure they don’t burn. Remove from oven and let them cool to room temperature.

Now whack the nuts and the pinch of salt into a food processor and blendity blend blend. Ground almonds and desiccated coconut take literally a couple of minutes to turn into the gooey loveliness, you can even use a hand blender I’ve found. You might need to use a rubber spatula occasionally to *scrape* *blend* *scrape* *blend*. For larger bits of nuts you’ll need a stronger food processor, but don’t doubt the process! Give your nuts at least 10 minutes and I promise they’ll go from chopped nuts to the magical joy of blended deliciousness.

Limoncello

Homemade Limoncello

It’s Christmas time! My second favourite time of the year to Chinese New Year mostly because of all the special food you get to make and eat. I’m about to churn out a lot of goodies for several parties and here’s just one thing on the menu which is dead easy to make in advance. What a beautiful alcoholic lemony snow globe.

Limoncello:
500 ml vodka
500 ml vanilla vodka
Zest of 6 unwaxed lemons
500 g caster sugar
200 ml water

Decant the vodka into a large container or bottle. Zest the lemons and mix the zest into the vodka.

Use a funnel and get the sugar into the vodka. Leave for a week while turning and mixing it up occasionally. After a week, sieve off the zest and decant your limoncello back into bottles. It’s at this point you can add the water if the mixture is too thick. Finally add a twirl of lemon zest as decoration. This will only get better with age and I’m meant to leave it for another week. But by golly it’s already so damn tasty, I don’t know how to resist!

Salted Caramel Sauce

salted caramel sauce

Good grief. Do you know what I realised? Minikin Kitchen is 1 year old today! It’s been an interesting experiment into cooking and blogging. I just discovered a recipe of mine doing the rounds on Pinterest which is rather exciting. As I started this thing on Halloween and I’m prepping some treats for a Halloween party tomorrow, I thought I’d post something that I just knocked up. Be warned this stuff is way too ‘I’ll just dip my pinky into it’ addictive and anyone *anyone* who tells you they don’t like salted caramel is a bloody liar.

Salted Caramel:
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
110g butter
1/2 cup double cream
1 tbsp sea salt flakes

On medium to high heat, get a heavy bottomed stove on and melt your sugar. With a metal spoon, only stir the sugar occasionally to help it all dissolve evenly. If you want to use a sugar thermometer, you want this to reach 175°C but I have to admit, I kinda eyeballed this. You want it a rich golden brown colour and basically don’t want it to burn. Once it reaches the desired temp, add the butter and double cream and stir well. Now add the salt and set this aside to cool.

The temperature of the sugar really dictates the viscosity of this sauce, you’ll notice I’ve made a bit on the fudgy side, but if you want a runnier constancy add more double cream. I basically add this to most things. I drizzle it over yogurt, ice cream, pancakes, filled macarons with it…I even put it in the freezer to firm up and rolled little salt caramel balls and stuffed them in homemade chocolate truffles (stroke of genius if I do say so myself).

Addictive and indulgent. A fitting birthday post.

Vietnamese Grilled Aubergine with Nouc Cham Sauce

vietnamese grilled aubergineIt’s been too hot in my flat. So all I want to cook of late is dips, salads and wraps. Oh Vietnamese food, you have so many dishes I adore under this category…

Aubergines are in season and this dish is one of my favourite and simplest dishes to rustle up with said veg. But mostly its the delicious nouc cham that I love, so crack open an empty jam jar and make a load of this addictive sauce.

Nouc Cham Sauce:
100 ml fish sauce
100 ml of water
125 g brown sugar
4 cloves of garlic - minced
4 bird's eye chillies - deseeded and finely chopped
Juice of 1 lime
1 carrot - finely shredded

Mix up the fish sauce, sugar and water. Add to this the garlic, chilli, lime juice and shredded carrot. Thoroughly stir it all up and keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to use.

Now you’re ready to grill your aubergine.

Grilled  Aubergine:
1 large aubergine
3 tbsp nouc cham sauce
Handful of peanuts - toasted
1 tbsp spring onions - finely chopped
Some coriander to garnish

Get the grill on high. Pierce your aubergine near the leafy bits a could of time to stop the Exploding Aubergine from happening (this has happened to me twice…I had to scrape the oven clean of the perfectly cooked bits of veggie shrapnel). Put the whole aubergine in whole and just keep an eye on it, turn it ever so often and the skin doesn’t burn beyond the nice charred flavour. Depending on your oven and grill it should take about 20-40 minutes. If you want to can oven roast it first at around 200°C then finish it off on the grill. Once it soft and sagging you’re ready!

Place the aubergine on a dish and slice it open. Add to this the nouc cham sauce, the toasted peanuts, coriander and spring onions.

Basic Tomato Sauce

I go to Polpo. A lot. I like the chilled atmosphere and nice little martini bar downstairs. I love their little sharable dishes and tiny tumblers to drink wine and espressos out of…but mostly I like the small proportions because I get to eat more things. Anyway, they have a cookbook now and as well as giving away their secrets, it’s beautifully bound, filled with great pics and is fun to read. They have a good Basic Tomato Sauce recipe in it. Do you by a bottle of tomato sauce for your pasta? Why do you do that? This is much, much nicer. I’ve reduced the final amount, added booze, and more spices to this. But that’s what a good basic recipe should be: adaptable. Make this on a lazy Sunday and enjoy it throughout the week. Makes just under a litre.

Basic Tomato Sauce:
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 onion - finely chopped
1 garlic clove - crushed
1/2 tbsp salt - scant
A good cracking of black pepper
1 small red chilli - deseeded and finely chopped
A pinch of chilli flakes
375g fresh tomatoes - really ripe and sweet
1.5 tins/cartons of crushed  tomato - about 600g
1 small handful of oregano - fresh or 1 tbsp dried
1 bay leaf
A good glug of red wine
A bit of sugar - if you want, I didn't add this

Sauce pan on stove at medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil. When at heat add your garlic, onion, chilli (fresh and dried), bay leaf, black pepper and dried oregano if you’re not using fresh. Stir and sweat ’em out. When the onions are glossy and translucent, get your fresh tomatoes in with the other tablespoon of oil. Cook for 15 mins.

Now add the crushed tomatoes and glug that wine in. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, lid on, leave for an hour. In the final moments, if you’re using fresh oregano (I mean, how hard is this stuff to find? Grow some in a kitchen pot for a constant supply), roughly chop it up and stir it all in. Taste. Adjust seasoning. Add a bit of sugar if your tomatoes aren’t sweet enough.

Pan off heat. Transfer into a blender or use a stick blender to whiz it all up. Done! You can strain this mixture further and add a bit more water to make a pasata if you fancy it.

Homemade yogurt: a cultured endeavour

I’ve recently decided to get Abel & Cole to deliver a small exotic veg box to me once a week. Their service is great and it has really got me out of a slump in terms of the total lack of inspiration I get whenever I walk into my local Tesco Express. I always have such high hopes when I walk into that Tesco, maybe I’ll get inspired and whip up something amazing. But after doing my zombie rounds, I always end up with a box of eggs; a courgette; some beetroot; and cherry tomatoes…without fail. So upon the arrival of my maiden veg box, brimming with fresh shiitake mushrooms; curly leaf kale; purple carrots; and rainbow chard…I could have cried tears of joy. What’s more amazing is that as well as getting a box of organic exotic veg – every other week I get something free. One week I got orange juice the next a litre of semi skimmed milk.

It is this bottle of milk that this post shall focus on. As much I have every intention to finish a litre of milk, I simply don’t eat enough cereal or drink enough tea to justify this amount of milk without it going off. And sad to say, I have in the past let a perfectly good amount of milk go off and had to lumpily pour it down the sink. So the other day when I checked the fridge and saw this gratis and completely unopened bottle of milk about to turn – I decided to do something about it.

Things you'll need to make yogurt:
1 litre of milk - any type is fine
2-3 tbsp plain yogurt with live cultures - your starter
large pot to heat milk - or slow cooker
sugar or jam thermometer
glass bowl big enough for your milk
whisk
sieve
Jam jars or a big enough glass container for your yogurt

So first you want to pasteurise your milk. Get it in a pot on your stove and heat it ever so slowly (to avoid burny milk) to 82°C – I actually did this in my slow cooker. Once it reaches that temp remove from heat and let it cool to 43°C. While cooling, put your jams jars in the sink and submerge them in hot water. Basically you don’t want cold jam jars for when you transfer your milk and yogurt mixture. Hot liquid and jars: friendly bacteria sexy times. Pour hot water into your glass bowl now too, you’ll need it for the next step.

When your milk has cooled enough get that hot water out of your bowl and pour your milk in. Add those tablespoons of yogurt starter and whisk up a bacillus party! When mixed thoroughly get your jam jars outta the sink and decant the milk mixture in through a sieve. Now place those jars in a warm place and don’t touch them for 8-12 hours – your bacteria like a bit of calm so they don’t die but multiply…I’m sure there’s a rap lyric in there somewhere…oh! Haha, brilliant. Pinoy hip hop. God, I love the internet. I’m just going to go ahead and let that play in the background while I continue to write this…Anyway, I put my yogurt vessel in the oven with the light on overnight.

The next day you should have made beautifully set yogurt! Now put it in the fridge until it’s cooled and ready for you to eat.

I was surprised at how light and creamy mine turned out. The yogurt I used as my starter was quite sharp and I sort of expected it to cultivate a similar flavour. Nope. I served my first ever batch of yogurt with mixed berries, some shredded basil and a drizzle of honey. Delish. If you want a Greek style thicker set yogurt, strain your yogurt over some muslin cloth and sieve for 2-3 hours in the fridge. Also, it turns out that the good bacteria doesn’t denature when you freeze it, so when you’re almost done eating don’t forget to put a few tablespoons in the freezer so you can use your own starter next time. Happy cultivating.

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