Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Scandi Style: Beetroot Orzotto

I am going through a mini-obsession with everything Scandinavian at the moment.  It started when I first bought the Scandilicious book and saw Signe Johansen demonstrating some beautifully simple Scandi dishes.  Other signs were an addiction to Scandi crime drama, lusting after stylish Scandi design, cravings for dill and meatballs, buying the Moomins cookbook - yep it's definitely become an obsession.  So I was super happy to get a place for the Scandi menu at the last My Home Supper, before it goes on a brief hiatus whilst Aoife works on some new exciting projects.  The menu was pretty much perfect - the highlights for me were the veal and pork meatballs with cowberry compote, homemade sloe berry gin and prosecco, freshly baked caraway seed bread and all the fresh flavours of beetroot, fennel, celeriac and dill (you can get the full run down of the menu here).  My Home Supper is always such a fun evening, Aoife and Damian are the most welcoming of hosts and I couldn't imagine anyone not loving the food and atmosphere there. 

After this feast, I wanted to make something Scandi inspired and found this lovely recipe for beetroot orzotto on the rather beautiful Scandi Foodie blog - which is, as you'd expect, beautifully designed and has a huge amount of gorgeous fresh recipes.  I love beetroot and this simple dish combines it with barley, rosemary and green garlic.  It is perfect for the semi-wintry weather we're having here in Scotland and it's versatile too - it's a great side dish or add a poached egg or some goats cheese on top and you have a really nice meal.  I've been having my orzotto for my work lunch and eating it with my munchy seeds, it goes down a treat.  It also looks very pretty on a plate!

Beetroot Orzotto
From Scandi Foodie blog
(serves 4-6)

4 small/medium sized beets
1 1/2 cups pearl barley
2 green garlics, finely chopped (using regular garlic is fine, I used wild garlic)
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 to 1 1/2 litres hot vegetable stock
freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon walnut oil (I used ground nut oil)

1. Wash the beets and cut out the leaves leaving a small stalk attached. Place the beets in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to boil, then let simmer for 30-40 minutes or until fully tender. Drain, slip off the skins and mash into a purée.
2. While the beets are cooking, start cooking the barley. There are a couple of ways to go about this. You could either sauté the green garlic, rosemary and pearl barley in some olive oil for a few minutes, then add stock OR just add the stock, pearl barley, garlic and rosemary into a large pan and bring to boil. Keep adding stock if necessary until the barley is fully cooked. This will take about 40 minutes.
3. Add the mashed beets, olive oil and walnut oil into the barley and season with freshly ground black pepper. Simmer for a few minutes or just let it sit, covered, for 10 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Super Sweets: Raspberry Marshmallows

Raspberry and Orange sherbet marshmallows at Tealicious
Photo by Wendy Paterson

I made some raspberry and orange sherbet marshmallows for Tealicious as part of our retro sweeties menu and they were delightful. Marshmallows seem like the type of sweet that would be impossible to create yourself, but it is indeed possible and homemade ones taste a lot better than the ones you get in the shops (see Burgh Bakes as a prime example of homemade marshmallow goodness). These puffy little fellows are not the product of witchcraft, just old fashioned elbow grease and they're fun to make at home - you can make different flavours and colours (see below for some flavour options), cover them in sprinkles, fresh fruit or herbs and pipe or cut them into different shapes. They are relatively straightforward to make - however, before you even begin to consider this, you need to a) make sure you have the right equipment and b) make sure you are super prepared to grease everything up because boy are they sticky! The sugar syrup will stick to everything, the marshmallow batter is even stickier and once they’re set – you better believe they’re still sticky. Some recipes require egg whites, but I use Bea Vo’s recipe from her awesome afternoon tea book Tea With Bea, which is a relatively simple method where golden syrup infused sugar syrup is mixed at high speed into some gelatine. That is essentially the process, but obviously there are steps you need to follow stringently.

Firstly, I would say do not go ahead and make these unless you at least have a handheld electric mixer.  Ideally you want a stand mixer as there is a very hot batter being whipped at high speed for about 10 minutes, if not more.  If you only have an electric mixer you’ll need a helper to pour the sugar syrup into bowl whilst you whisk at the highest speed like buggery – it might even be an idea to wear rubber gloves in case some of the mix splashes.  Secondly I would strongly recommend you use a sugar thermometer to ensure that the syrup gets to the correct ‘firm ball’ stage (120º C) unless you're experienced enough with making sugar syrup to know when it reaches this stage (it usually takes around 10 minutes).  Once the two mixes combine, the recipe says to mix until 'bubble gum like strands' appear.  All I can say about that is, you'll know what this is when you see it.  It'll look like a stiff meringue mix but you'll need to go slightly beyond this stage until the mix actually appears slightly rubbery. If you're not sure, my advice is to keep going.

I can't emphasise enough how helpful it is to grease everything that might come into contact with the marshmallow batter - I have a baking spray that I even spray the sides of my mixing bowl and saucepan with, but just a bit of oil rubbed around the sides should do the trick.

Vanilla Marshmallows (from Tea with Bea)

20g powdered gelatine
120ml cold water
440g caster sugar
200ml water
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
cooking spray, for the baking pan (and everything else the marshmallow touches!)
cornflour/icing sugar for coating
brownie/baking pan, 30cm x 20cm x 5cm (or two regular brownie pans), lined with parchment or cling film


1. Put the gelatine and the 120ml cold water in large mixing bowl and stir. Let sit and allow the gelatine to swell or 'bloom'.
2. Put the sugar, golden syrup and the 200ml  water in a large saucepan and stir to combine.  Brush the insides of the saucepan with clea water to dislodge any stray grains of sugar.  Bring to a boil, add a sugar thermometer and keep cooking to bring to firm ball stage, 120º C/248º F.
3. Whisking at maximum in a stand mixer or an electric whisk, slowly add the sugar syrup to the gelatine mixture.  Whisk thoroughly until thick, bubble gum-like strands form (approxiately 8-10 minutes).  Stir in the vanilla extract. 
4. Before pouring into the tin, spray everything with cooking spray including spatulas, spoons, hands, tins - everything!
5. Spoon the mixture into the prepared brownie pan and spread eenly.  Sift some icing sugar over the top and let rest for 2 hours.
6. Using a greased knife, cut the marshmallows into cubes and toss into a plateful of icing sugar. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Raspberry: reduce the cold water to 60ml for adding to gelatine. Fold in 60ml raspberry coulis until streaky. Continue recipe as above, after pouring batter into tin, add some fresh raspberries and then sift icing sugar over the top.  
Baileys: replace the vanilla extract with a shot of Baileys (or more to taste).
Other fruit variations: replace the vanilla extract with fruit juice or cordial, or fruit coulis. 
Orange sherbet: replace the vanilla with orange oil and sprinkle the batter with orange sherbet instead of icing sugar.