Yummy double chocolate chip cookies!!!

I recently received another Rachel Allen cookbook for my birthday!  I really like her cookbooks because the recipes are straightforward and I usually have the ingredients.  On top of that she typically has something interesting like ‘meal planning’, ‘storing’, ‘freezing’, ‘store cupboard’ et cetera in the beginning or back of the books which can be very handy!  In some of my older blogs I have written about her recipes and books and my admiration for both.

So in this current book – Everyday Kitchen – I found this gem of a recipe.  Double Chocolate Chip cookies – yummy!

According to Wikipedia the inventor of the Chocolate Chip Cookie was a woman called Ruth Graves Wakefield. She worked as a dietician during the 1920’s and with her husband, Kenneth, they bought a tourist lodge (the Toll House Inn) in 1930 in the town of Whitman, Massachusetts in Plymouth County, America.  Historically passengers had paid toll here, changed horses and ate home-cooked meals.  The Wakefields opened the Toll House Inn and Ruth cooked all the food and desserts for which she became famous!  She invented chocolate chip cookies around 1938 deliberately because she was always serving a butterscotch nut cookie and wanted to try something different.  So this chocolate chip cookie became the Toll House cookie.  Eventually she gave Nestlé the right to use her cookie recipe and the Toll House name.  Hopefully they gave her some free chocolate!

DSCN8063 DSCN8064

Here is Rachel Allen’s recipe.

Double Chocolate Chip Cookie (20 large cookies)

225g butter, softened

325g caster sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

225g plain flour

75g cocoa powder

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

¼ tsp salt

175g dark chocolate (55-70% cocoa solids), chopped into small pieces or dark chocolate chips.

  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (350 F, Gas mark 4). Line three baking sheets with baking parchment.
  • Place the butter in a large bowl and beat until very soft.
  • Add the sugar and beat until mixture is pale and fluffy.
  • Crack in one egg at a time, beating between each addition, and then add the vanilla extract.
  • Sift in the flour, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt, then add the chocolate pieces/chips and fold in to combine.
  • With wet hands, form the dough into balls each the size of a golf ball (or use two soup spoons to scoop up and shape the dough).
  • Arrange on the baking sheets, placing 6 – 7 balls of dough on each sheet and leaving space for the cookies to spread.
  • Bake for 10-14 minutes or until the cookies look slightly cracked on top.
  • Take out of the oven and allow cooling for a few minutes, and then placing on a wire rack to cool down completely.
  • Delicious!

Slán

PIzzA homemade piZZa

I don’t know anybody who doesn’t like pizza, who has a pizza-aversion so to speak.  I suppose it is a pretty easy food to love because it is so versatile and can be so delicious and even healthy!

The origins of the pizza is not as straightforward like we would like it to be – it all came from Italy.  No.  Apparently foods similar to the humble pizza have been prepared since the Neolithic age (last part of the Stone Age) and in different countries.    There is  the Greeks’  flatbread consisting of  large round and flat breads covered with some oil, salt and herbs.  Then the focaccia, the pita bread, the paratha (Indian), the naan (Asian), the roti, the rieska (Finnish) and many more!  And throughout Europe there was also the flat pastry with cheese, vegetables and seasoning such as the Flammkuchen, the Zwiebelkuchen and the lovely quiche which I have already written about in a previous blog.

In some parts of Italy a flatbread was referred to as a pizza and was known as the dish for poor people and not considered a kitchen recipe for a long time.  Only later – in the 19th century – oil, tomatoes and cheese were added.  Interesting though was that the dish was sweet, not savoury, to start with!

A bit tired of the bought-type pizzas we recently followed one of Rachel Allen’s recipes for Homemade Pizzas and it was a huge success I might add.  Not only was everyone making his or her own pizza, but it was a very sociable evening in the kitchen with  lots of fun and laughter.

Her basic recipe for pizza dough makes about six pizzas.  I doubled the recipe and that worked out fine.  This is the basic recipe:

350g strong white flour

1 tsp salt

2 tsp caster sugar

50g butter

1 x 7g sachet fast-acting yeast

2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for brushing

175 – 200 ml lukewarm water

Plain flour, semolina or fine polenta for dusting

–          Place the flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl.  Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs, add the yeast and mix together.  Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, add the oil and most of the water and mix to a loose dough.  Add more water or flour if needed.

–          Transfer the dough from the bowl to a lightly floured work surface, cover with a clean tea towel and allow to rest for 5 minutes.

–          Uncover and knead the dough for 10 minutes or until it feels smooth and slightly springy.  You can also do this in an electric food mixer with the dough hook attachment for half the time.  Let the dough relax again for a few minutes, covered with the tea towel.

–          Shape the dough into six equally sized balls, each weighing about 110g.  Lightly brush the dough balls with olive oil.

–          Cover the oiled dough with cling film and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.  The dough will be easier to handle when cold but it can also be used immediately.

–          Preheat the oven to 230 degrees Celsius (450F), Gas mark 8.

–          Place 1 or 2 baking sheets in the oven to heat up.

–          On a floured work surface, roll each dough ball out to a disc about 25cm in diameter.  Place each pizza base on a cold baking sheet (with no edges so that the pizza can slide off) that has been dusted with flour, semolina or fine polenta to prevent it from sticking.

–          Spread the tomato sauce on and scatter with your own toppings (see below).

–          Slide each pizza off the cool baking sheet onto a hot sheet in the oven and cook for about 5-10minutes, depending on the thickness of the pizza and heat of the oven.  The pizza need to be golden underneath and bubbling on top.

–          Enjoy!

pizza3

Toppings we used:

–          Tomato puree as a base or you can make your own tomato sauce with tomatoes and garlic or onions.

–          Chorizo or any salami thinly sliced

–          Mozzarella cheese mixed with cheddar or Gruyere or on its own

–          Pesto

–          Basil leaves

–          Cherry tomatoes cut into half

–          Pieces of ham

–          Spices and herbs

 

Our youngest had an interesting take on his pizza.  He would spread tomato puree as the base, add some slices of chorizo and top it with….wait for it….syrup!  So maybe the sweet idea of the pizza isn’t so bizarre after all.

Slán

pizza2pizza1

food glorious food!

I am a bit of a foodie.   Not a professional foodie.  I just love food and cooking in general.  I am not an excellent cook by any means, but I love trying new flavours or new ways to cook something. Sometimes the new ways work, other times it doesn’t and it becomes chicken-food!

I remember as a child how my mom would always welcome us in the kitchen.  She gave us freedom in the kitchen to explore. From a young age we were encouraged to help in the kitchen and then to bake and cook ourselves.

These day with my own children, I think ‘my poor mom’.  She had five children and everyone (as far as I can remember) enjoyed to cook or bake.  I am sure she just walked out of the kitchen when we started – to not correct us or to not look at the mess we were planning to make.  But there was always the one RULE.  We were allowed to bake or cook, as long as we cleaned the kitchen afterwards.  That worked I suppose!

I remember making fudge and even marshmallows or turkish delight and the disappointment of it staying at the toffee stage, not setting or becoming too crumbly… but if it wasn’t myself there was always a sweet tooth who didn’t mind finishing the not-so-perfect treat.

My mom herself made delicious meals as well as wonderful tasty cakes and cookies and I definitely learnt a lot from her.  Also not to follow the recipe too closely but to use your own imagination a bit, or if you don’t have some ingredient, you substitute.  I still sometimes send her a text to ask her for the right substitute in a certain recipe.

I think that’s the great thing about cooking, you learn lots of little tips from people who have been passing it along over decades.

I sometimes just read cook books because of the ideas you get to try something new.  Recently I got this wonderful recipe book by Rachel Allen (yes, have mentioned her before) and there are so many what I call ‘normal’ recipes.  By this I mean you can just cook what you have in the kitchen tonight, you don’t have to first do a whole shopping in a specialised deli section of your grocery store….  Like I tried pork with garam masala – Indian or Arabian spices.  The great thing is, in this cookbook she explains how to make your own garam masala.  I suppose to google might also work…

Oh well, I love books as well.  But that is another day’s work!

Slán

Another take on pea soup…..

Although I grew up in South Africa, my upbringing was Dutch because we are originally from the Netherlands.  One great meal my mom often made – especially on a cold day – was Erwtensoep or snert, which is the Dutch version of Pea Soup.  It is a thick stew of green split peas, some vegetables and slices of rookworst (Dutch smoked sausage) are added a few minutes before serving it with thick bread, preferably rye bread.   I would say this  substantial meal, traditionally eaten during the winter is symbolic of Dutch cuisine.

So the other day I was paging through a Rachel Allen recipe book I got for my birthday and low and behold there was a take on the pea soup.  I suppose it is not so surprising because after all there are so many takes on pea soup!  This one is lighter and is made from frozen peas.  You cannot compare it to the Dutch original and I am not trying to do it, but to make a quick (she says five minutes) soup for an emergency starter or quick lunch – golden opportunity!

So here is the recipe:

500ml vegetable/chicken stock

200 g frozen peas

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely grated

2 spring onions, trimmed and sliced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

100 ml single or regular cream

3 tsp chopped tarragon (I couldn’t find the fresh one, so I used the dried herb)

–          Put the stock, frozen peas, garlic and spring onions into a large saucepan on a high heat, season with salt and pepper and bring to the boil.

–          Add the cream and tarragon and liquidize in a blender or using a hand-held blender.  Pour the soup into the saucepan and heat through on the hob.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with crusty bread.

I have made it into a full meal by adding more peas to make it thicker as well as crispy bacon and grated cheese.  And I suppose croutons might work as well!  It is delicious.

Happy cooking.

Slán