Archive for January, 2010

Fudge is delicious but it takes forever, right? Wrong! Not when it’s done the Nigella Express way.

Nigella’s Chocolate Pistachio Fudge
from Nigella Express

12 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1 14-oz can condensed milk
pinch of salt
1 cup shelled pistachios
2 Tbsp butter

Melt the chocolate, condensed milk, butter, and salt in a large, heavy-bottomed pan over low heat.

Put the shelled pistachios in a freezer bag and bash them mercilessly until broken up into both big and little pieces. To prevent turning some to dust and leaving others intact, move the bag around as you bash and pause occasionally to see if any are escaping altogether; go after these ones personally with the quick rap from the smaller handle-end of your rolling pin.

Add the nuts to the melted chocolate and condensed milk mixture and stir very well to mix.

Pour in to a 9×9 or 8×8 square aluminum foil pan, smoothing the top. Nigella says use a 9×9 but I misremembered when I was at the store and bought an 8×8 pan. This worked out quite well, as the recipe should yield about 64 pieces, and from an 8×8 pan that’s 1-inch squares and easy to cut. As it was, I cut 2×2 squares and then cut each of those in quarters as I plated and served them. I am pretty sure I was able to get 64 1×1 squares from this approach, even if Jim did sneak some of the larger pieces whole before I could cut them. I’m pretty sure my strategy is sound.

Let the fudge cool, and then refrigerate until set. Once cut, you can keep it (for as long as it lasts!) in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer. No need to thaw, just take out and eat right away.


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Crab Cakes

What do you do when you have so much leftover mashed potato that you’re pretty sure you’re set til Judgement Day?

You make crab cakes, that’s what you do.

The obvious answer to my leftovers dilemma was shepherd’s pie, but I was looking for something new but simple. I scoured the internet looking for a crab or fish cakes recipe that involved cold homemade mashed potato as a main binding ingredient, in order to make a dent in the extra that we made the night before. I came up with many recipes with various types and amounts of fish (usually flaky white fish such as cod or bass) or crab for protein, and various proportions of fish-to-potato, although the most common proportion I found was equal parts protein to potato. The crab cake recipe I eventually went with is simple, straightforward, and if you have the mashed potato you probably have all the ingredients on hand except for the crab, unless you either have a very well-stocked pantry or have planned well in advance for this dish (which is what I will do the next time around).

UK-Style Crab Cakes (Croquettes)

8 oz mixed crabmeat
8 oz cooked mashed potato*
2 oz (1/4 c.) plain dry bread crumbs
1 oz oatmeal, NOT instant
2 beaten eggs, separated
1/2 small onion, finely minced
1 Tbsp fresh chopped parsley
1 Tbsp lemon juice
pinch of cayenne pepper**
salt and pepper
oil for frying***

*We theorize that thicker mashed potato is better than mash that has been thinned out too much by milk, cream, or butter; it should be a better binder for the cakes. Ours didn’t hold up to a lot of handling or keep their shape particularly well. Jim likes thinner mash so he got a little carried away when he was making them. Next time we’ll plan ahead by either making thicker potatoes, or by setting aside potato for this recipe before continuing to make regular, creamier mash.
**Not having cayenne pepper on hand, I substituted a bit of chile powder and a fair amount of paprika.
***We used grapeseed oil as suggested by Nigella for the goujons of sole, as it has a high smoke point and can be gotten up to a good temperature for pan-frying without burning. Also, grapeseed oil has an almost non-taste and makes for light, non-greasy frying with extreme crunchy texture.

In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine the crabmeat, mash, parsley, onion, lemon juice, cayenne (or other spices), and salt and pepper to taste. Add one of the beaten eggs and mix well until the ingredients are bound.

I find that it helped at this point to refrigerate the mixture for a while to help it firm up. Give it another good mix before shaping the cakes.

Meanwhile, mix the bread crumbs and oatmeal in one shallow bowl or dish (seasoned with some freshly ground black pepper if you like), and have the second beaten egg in another shallow bowl or dish. We had a good assembly line set up on the countertop: the bowl of crab mixture, the egg, the bread crumbs/oatmeal mixture, then a clean plate for placing the formed cakes.

Flour your hands and make 8 or 9 crab cakes from the mixture. Dip each cake in the beaten egg, then in the bread crumbs/oatmeal mix, then arrange on the clean plate. I found that again I benefitted from putting the plate of formed cakes in the freezer for a few minutes while the oil heated up, to firm them up.

Heat the oil and gently fry the crab cakes, turning once, until they are brown on both sides.

Serve hot with a green salad or other sides. We had a Caesar salad. I also made Jamie Oliver’s marie rose sauce (from his recipe for prawns with old-school marie rose, which I made back in August) as a condiment, with the addition of a few drops of Tabasco — not too much since I didn’t want to overpower the flavor of the crab cakes, but just enough to add a bit of zing — for a twist.

These reheat fantastically for the next day’s lunch at one minute in the microwave.

photo by Rachel

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Alice White Lexia

Lexia wine is a muscat-like sweet wine from Australia. The tasting notes for the Lexia are “A delicious white wine with fragrant apricot, orange blossom and lilac aromas and round, pleasingly sweet, mango and melon flavors balanced by a crisp, refreshing finish.”

I never thought we’d find one, but we’ve come across a self-described sweet wine that even Jim doesn’t like. The mango-like sweetness is very strong, but the finish is not all that complex — the flavor just sort of cuts off at the end of the taste, which is what I find disappointing. This could also be contributing to Jim’s impression that the wine is “too” sweet, since there are no underlying, complex flavors in the flavor profile. Except maybe a little chemical twinge at the very end of the sweetness. I don’t mind trying it, and I don’t even think I would mind it occasionally if paired with food, particularly spicy Asian and Indian cuisine, but it definitely isn’t going to be our regular, every-day, house wine.

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