Kitchen disaster

Brandy snaps

brandy snaps 1

Brandy snaps were my mother-in-law’s absolute favourite. So eager to please (in the early stages of my relationship with Ben) I attempted to make her some as a birthday gift. After several angry hours in the kitchen and lots of wasted ingredients I ended up with THREE that were just about presentable.

I then swore that I would never, ever make them again. But that was 10 years ago now.

On another, but relevant note (bear with me here), I am having a year of rereading. This is a brilliant experience which I would definitely recommend. In many cases I am enjoying my favourite books even more the second time around. And as the books are a stable, unchanging thing, this is highlighting to me just how much I’ve changed. I am rereading the books through older, more experienced and perhaps wiser eyes.

My experience with trying to make brandy snaps again after 10 years is similar. The memory of failure has nagged at me for all these years but this time around they came out just fine with a minimum of stress and I wondered what an earth all the fuss had been about. The thing is, it’s not the recipe that’s changed – it’s me. I’m definitely now more patient (which probably goes hand in hand with being a mother). I also now except advice and don’t assume I know it all already.

Plus, the amazing teaching tool that is YouTube didn’t exist all those years ago (if my instructions below are in anyway unclear I recommend watching Mary Berry’s YouTube video).

Mary Berry’s brandy snaps

Makes 8-12

  • 50g of butter
  • 50g of demerara sugar
  • 50g of golden syrup
  • 50g of flour
  • ½ a teaspoon of lemon juice
  • ½ a teaspoon of powdered ginger

Put the butter, sugar and syrup into a small saucepan and heat very, very slowly, stirring regularly until all the ingredients are melted. Take your time here and make sure that all the sugar has dissolved and is not grainy. It will take around 10-15 minutes (put your patient head on). Leave to cool a little (for around 5 minutes).

Measure out the flour and ginger and sieve into the saucepan once the butter/sugar/syrup mix has cooled.

Give everything a good stir and add the lemon juice. The mixture should now be smooth and glossy.

Take a flat baking tray and line with some baking parchment. Dollop a teaspoon of the mix onto the baking tray. Leave plenty of space between each dollop as they will spread out massively. I recommend 4 to each sheet and doing them in batches.

Place in an oven preheated to 160oC fan to bake. They will take around 10 – 15 minutes but start watching after 8. They should spread out and turn lacy and a nice deep golden colour.

Take them out of the oven and leave to cool for a few minutes. You will not be able to shape them straight from the oven as they will still be too runny.

When just firm enough, use a palette knife to carefully lift each brandy snap off the baking sheet. Then curl around a well-greased wooden spoon to shape. You can also make baskets by placing them over the bottom of a glass.

Leave to cool completely and go rock hard and then keep in an air tight container.

I prefer them unfilled but you can fill them with whipped cream if you like (you will need a piping bag and nozzle for this). Or cheat and use squirty cream. But don’t fill them until you are ready to eat or they will go soft.

A setback and a recipe for Harissa

Harissa paste

In my last post I vowed to be more adventurous in the kitchen and to try a brand new recipe every week. But in doing this I forgot what a frustrating process it can be when recipes just don’t work. As an example, this week I earmarked Yotam Ottolenghi’s braised cabbage with miso where you cook a small white cabbage for four hours and apparently create some kind of heaven. I set to it, very smug because I was destined to fulfil two of my New Year’s resolutions in one fell swoop (new, interesting recipe, eat more greens).

But the result was disastrous, just a shrivelled, brown, acrid mess that could barely be identified as cabbage. I was gutted, I followed the recipe precisely but my greens were inedible and I had to have a beer to sooth the disappointment (thus breaking my ‘cut down on alcohol’ resolution).

I’m not going to give up just yet though because you do have to try new things. If you don’t life becomes turgid and boring and you turn into one of those households who eat the same meals on the same day every week (baked potatoes on a Monday, sausages on a Tuesday, fish on a Friday etc etc) which is akin to counting down the hours until death in my opinion.

To make up for it I did have some success with a lamb and apricot tagine from Lindsay Bareham’s ‘Just One Pot’ but I need to tinker with the recipe before I can confidently post it on this blog. I’m also going to try a Nigel Slater version in the next couple of weeks.

I did however make my own harissa paste for the tagine and it was delicious. I was unable to find any in Tesco so I trawled through my recipe books and found this recipe in Rick Stein’s ‘Seafood lovers’ guide’.

PS. The red blobs in the photo above are the harissa paste.

Harissa paste (from Rick Stein’s ‘Seafood lovers’ guide)

Makes enough to fill a small 150g jar

  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of tomato puree
  • 1 teaspoon of ground coriander
  • 2 red chillies, roughly chopped, seeds removed
  • A pinch of saffron strands
  • ¼ of a teaspoon of cayenne pepper
  • ¼ of a teaspoon of salt

Cut the red pepper in half, remove the stalk and seeds, and place under a hot grill until the skin turns black (this should take somewhere between 5 and 10 minutes). Once the pepper is cool enough to handle peel off the skin and roughly chop.

Put the pepper into a food processor with all the other ingredients and blitz until you have a smooth paste.

You can keep the paste in a sterilised jar in the fridge covered with a thin layer of olive oil for several weeks.

Use to finish off your tagine – recipe coming soon.