Thursday, 26 January 2012

Fried sprats

Little silver sprats are a wonderful thing. They are cheap (under £2 a kilo), tasty and as you eat the whole fish (more or less), full of goodness.
If your sprats are small, you can coat and fry them as they come. With larger ones, remove the intestines and my daughter insists that hers have the head removed. So it's up to you and how much time you have how much you prepare the fish.
Either way, give them a good wash and them dry them gently, as much as possible. I use a clean kitchen towel to pat them with after shaking them off in a sieve. Put some rice flour into a plastic bag with some salt and pepper. Add the sprats and shake to coat them. Heat some butter in a large frying pan and fry the sprats in batches, 2 minutes on each side, until they're golden and crispy.

Serve with butter sauce, garlic mayonnaise, ketchup, salad... what ever takes your fancy.

Butter Sauce

This recipe is really useful. It goes well with so many different things and is rich and delicious. I had it for lunch today over green beans and a poached egg. I tried Heston Blumenthal's method for making the egg and I'm impressed. Came out perfectly - the white soft but totally set and the yolk runny.
This sauce also works well over fried sprats (or tinned sardines), chicken, hard boiled eggs... what ever you have handy.

1 egg yolk
2 tbsp butter
1/4 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp white wine vinegar

Put all the ingredients into a bowl over a pan of hot, steaming water. If you have a very thick bottomed pan you might just get away with making it straight in there (I have one that works) but it is much less likely to scramble over an indirect heat. Keep stirring while the butter melts and then until it begins to thicken. Serve immediatly.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Water kefir

I've been regularly making dairy kefir for a long time and made some non dairy kefirs using the grains. But last year I was given some water kefir crystals and they've been great! I tend to mostly use them in the summer to make cool fizzy drinks to go with the evening meal. And in cooler weather I have successfully frozen them. As these drinks are fermented you might want to give them a taste before serving them to children as they may become slightly alcoholic. Mine have not done that so far but if they do you can try reducing the sugar and the number of grains.

The basic recipe that I use is 1/2 cup of sugar, 6 cups of water, 1 cup of water kefir grains, 1 tbsp lemon juice and some dried fruit, generally a fig or a tbsp of raisins. I brew this in a big glass jar for 24 hours in a warm spot in my kitchen. Then I strain off the kefir grains and remove the fruit and transfer the liquid to another big glass jar to flavour it. The grains go back into the first jar with fresh fruit and sugar water. If you find your end result is too sweet then try either reducing the amount of sugar you start the liquid with or brew it for longer (or both). As all kefir colonies will work differently you will need to experiment a little. So think of these recipes as a starting point for your own kitchen science experiments!

Rosehip and hibiscus
This pink drink is my daughter's favorite. I think more due to the colour than anything else!
6 cups basic kefir liquid
1 tbsp dried hibiscus petals
1 tbsp dried rosehips (or 6-8 fresh rosehips if you have them)

Add the dried herbs to the liquid. If using fresh rosehips, mince them slightly. Allow to brew for a further 24 hours in a warm, preferably dark spot before straining out the herbs. Bottle into seal able bottles (I use ones with a wired cap rather than screw tops to help prevent explosions with very fizzy batches) then drink after a further 24 hours.

Lime and mint
6 cups basic kefir liquid
2 tbsp fresh mint leaves
2 tbsp lime juice
1 slice of lime

I like to use lime juice in place of lemon juice when making the basic kefir for this recipe but you don't have to. Add the mint leaves and lime juice to the kefir water and brews as for the previous recipe. This is also very tasty with basil in place of the mint.

Ginger Beer
For this recipe I make a slightly different kefir water. It does leave your kefir grains with a brown tinge but this will do them no harm and will soon disappear.
6 cups water (5 cups cold, one cup hot)
1 cup kefir grains
1 tsp treacle
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 dried fig
1-2 cubic inches fresh ginger root

Dissolve the treacle in the hot water then add to the cold. Add the kefir grains, sugar, fig, lemon juice, baking soda and sugar. Allow to brew for 24 hours then remove the kefir grains and fig. Peel the ginger then either slice and add to the kefir water, or you can grate it and crush with some sugar to remove the juice then add that. When I'm making this for kids I tend to slice the ginger. Personally I like my ginger beer hot so I use plenty of ginger, grate and add the juice then put the grated ginger in a cloth infusing bag and add that to the jar. Just to get all the flavour possible! I also sometimes add a couple of cloves, a small piece of cinnamon stick and some black peppercorns. Allow to brew again for 24 hours before straining and bottling. I find that brews with ginger in tend to be more fizzy so open bottle with extreme caution!

A note on opening bottles.
As water kefir is a live drink the results can be quite varied. Some batches are more tingly than fizzy. Others are... enthusiastic! So I always open the first bottle of any batch over the sink. I also cover the top of the bottle with a tea towel to help stop truly over excited batches from decorating the ceiling. That only tends to happen in the height of summer when I've forgotten about a bottle for a few days, but be aware it can happen!

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

How to take high vitamin butter oil (chocolate truffles)

Every morning I torture my children with a dose of fermented cod liver oil and a dose of high vitamin butter oil. Why? Not (as my children occasionally wonder) because I hate them and want to make them sad. But for the fat-soluble vitamins that modern diets tend to be deficient in. More information can be found here.
My little troupers will take their cod liver oil (or skate liver oil as they currently have) without too much moaning, as long as it is orange flavoured and they have some milk or kefir to chase it with. Bless their little hearts! But the butter oil is another matter, one that I am inclined to agree on. None of us like the taste and as it's more solid we find it much harder to take. So yesterday I made some small chocolates containing a little butter oil and they are now clamouring for more! Each chocolate contains about a sixth of a teaspoon the way I made them. I might be a little braver and add some more butter oil next time but as it's so expensive and we do eat plenty of grass fed butter, I'm happy with this dose! How much is in each of your chocolates will depend on how big you make them but if you count up at the end it isn't too hard to work out. I made mine in a silicon ice cube tray, but this isn't necessary. Just easier!

Nutty Chocolates (with sneaky butter oil)
80g dark chocolate (I used one with 75% cocoa solids)
3 heaped tsps nut butter
3 tsp butter oil
1 tsp butter
In a small saucepan, heat some water to the boil. Put the chocolate, nut butter and butter into a bowl that will fit over the pan without touching the water. Turn off the heat under the pan and put the bowl over the pan to melt the chocolate. When it's melted take it off the pan. Add the butter oil and stir to mix. If you are using a silicon ice cube tray you can now put the chocolate mixture into that and then chill to set. If not, put the bowl of chocolate mixture into the fridge for 2 hours. After that, use two teaspoons to take out some of the mixture and quickly roll into balls. I find it helps to wash your hands in cold water before doing this to chill them. You can then roll the balls in some cocoa powder or shredded coconut if you like. Chill again until they're solid. This made 18 chocolates when I did it.

Black Pepper chocolates (with sneaky butter oil)
80g dark chocolate
1 tsp black peppercorns
2 tbsp cream
Tiny pinch of salt
1 tsp butter
1 1/2 tsp butter oil

Crush the peppercorns slightly then add to the cream. Leave for 2 hours to allow the pepper flavour to infuse. If you like you can then strain out the corns, or if you are living with a total pepper freak like I am, you can leave them in. As for the previous recipe, melt the chocolate, butter and cream gently over a steaming pan. Then remove from the heat and stir through the butter oil. Form into cubes or balls as above. This recipe made 9 servings for me.

This recipe could be adapted to all kinds of flavours. You could infuse the cream with basil, along with the pepper, use mint, chili, orange zest... whatever flavour of chocolate takes your fancy. The scent of butter oil is still there while warm but when cooled I found it was nicely hidden.

Edit. My pepper fanatic partner thinks that the pepper chocolates could use even more pepper! So if you want them hot you may want more than a tsp.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Gluten free chocolate brownies

We were in need of some chocolate a few nights ago so I decided to improvise a chocolate brownie. And as luck would have it it came out really well! This isn't sugar free (still working on getting the texture right without sugar) but it is very tasty.

4 eggs
170g melted butter or coconut oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup vanilla flavour whey protein powder
1/2 cup ground blanched almonds
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup dried milk powder (because I ran out of sugar!)
1 tsp baking powder (gluten free)

Mix together the eggs, vanilla extract and sugar. Sift in the dry ingredients and add the melted butter. Stir only as much as it takes to just get everything mixed together (no more than 50 times) then pour into a greased and lined baking tin. Bake at 170oC until it's just set in the centre. Takes about 12 minutes in my hyperactive fan oven. Take it out of the oven and cool in the tin. Try to wait until it won't burn you before eating it...