Niamh Doherty

Archive for the ‘Comfort Food’ Category

Nutella Cheesecake

In Chocolate, Comfort Food, Dessert on January 28, 2013 at 17:52

NUTELLA CHEESECAKE

Once again, I’ve been neglecting my blog, and my readers, if there are any left. Consider this recipe a culinary white flag, and accept my apologies. Today’s nugget of deliciousness comes to you courtesy of the inimitable Nigella Lawson, and is featured in her newest book, Nigellissima. I caught the Christmas episode of the TV series cacompanying the book, in which she suggested serving this cheesecake as part of an Italian-inspired feast, and I was smitten. I adore hazelnuts and am obsessed with chocolate; in short, I had to make this.

Many people presume that making a cheesecake is a daunting affair involving waterbaths, dangerously liquid fillings and all manner of kitchen trickery, but this honestly couldn’t be easier. There is no baking involved – you simply throw the ingredients for the base into a food processor before nonchalantly pressing it into a tin and dolloping a cream-cheese and Nutella mixture on top. Honestly, the hardest part is coaxing the surprisingly semi-solid Nutella out of the jar. Well, that, and not eating the whole thing yourself…

I knew once I’d licked the filling off the beaters while making this that I was onto a winner, but to say it went down a treat at a recent get-together is an understatement. We didn’t bother with bowls but, rather primitively, attacked the unmoulded cake with spoons. Every time I walked past it in the kitchen another chunk had gone missing, and I was on the receiving end of an irate text from my friend’s husband the next day when he realised I’d taken the leftovers home with me.

Nigella instructs us to make the base in a food processor, but if you don’t have one – like me – don’t let that stop you. Simply melt the butter and 25g of Nutella together, and mix with the biscuits which you’ve crushed manually in a plastic bag – I like to use a large tin of tomatoes for the job, it’s wonderfully cathartic – before pressing into your tin and proceeding as normal. You can, of course, toast and chop your hazelnuts yourself, but seeing as Tesco have done all the hard work for you why not take advantage of it? You will be appalled at the amount of Nutella and cream cheese that goes into this, but life, as they say, is for living, and a small slice won’t kill you. It’s best served with a blob of whipped cream and a large dollop of self-control.

Nutella Cheesecake – serves 1-12

Ingredients: 

  • 250g digestive biscuits
  • 75g soft butter
  • 400g Nutella (at room temperature)
  • 500g cream cheese (at room temperature)
  • 100g hazelnuts (toasted and chopped – as discussed you can buy them already toasted and chopped)
  • 60g icing sugar

Method:

1. Break the digestives into the bowl of a  food processor, add the soft butter and a tablespoon of Nutella. Process until it starts to clump together. Add 25g of the hazelnuts and continue to pulse until the mixture resembles damp sand.

OR

Melt the butter and a tablespoon of Nutella together. Bash the biscuits in a clear plastic food bag with a rolling pin/tin of beans or tomatoes/your own crushing self-doubt until you have uniform crumbs. Add 25g of the hazelnuts into the biscuits and then stir in the melted butter/Nutella until it is thoroughly and evenly distributed.

2. Tip your biscuit mixture into a 23cm round springform tin and press down, using either your fingers or the back of a spoon. Put the tin in the fridge to chill while you make the topping.

3. For the topping, beat the cream cheese and sieved icing sugar together until smooth. Add the remaining Nutella and mix until combined.

4. Take the tin out of the fridge and dollop the Nutella mixture on top of the base. Spread evenly and top with the chopped, toasted hazelnuts. Put the finished cheesecake back in the fridge for 4 hours, or overnight.

Note: This is best served straight from the fridge as it will be easier to cut. I didn’t get to snap a photo of my own cheesecake so the picture above is from Nigella’s website. Credit is due to her photographer and most certainly not to me.

Spicy Vegetarian Chili

In Comfort Food, Supper on May 22, 2012 at 21:29

I’m of the firm belief that everyone needs a good chili recipe up their sleeve. Cheap, quick, easy – and with a healthy dose of spice – what could be better? The fact that this chili is loaded with vegetables and beans means that it is very nutritious indeed; the culinary version of a 5k run, allowing you to feel smugly virtuous about doing something that’s good for yourself as you spoon a second helping into your bowl. I’ll gloss over the fact that I tend to top mine with dollops of deliciously fatty sour cream, sharp cheddar cheese and crushed-up salty tortilla chips…a girl’s gotta have something, right?

I spied this particular recipe on Joy the Baker’s site, and quickly bookmarked it. Its first outing a couple of weeks later was when I made it for a vegetarian friend, in a fit of  carniverous, what-am-I-supposed-to-feed-you-people desperation. Halfway through making it I realised that perhaps serving an allegedly spicy chili that I hadn’t even road-tested to a new friend whose Dad was Mexican and therefore – in my mind at least – had been chowing  down on jalapeno peppers since infancy probably wasn’t such a good idea. In any event, she declared it to be delicious as she blithely spooned away, my brothers fanning their mouths in unison. If that’s not a gold star for this recipe, I don’t know what is.

As usual, because I can’t leave well enough alone, I’ve meddled with this recipe. I don’t add stock, or frozen corn (I like corn on the cob, but not frozen/canned corn as a vegetable. Hey, I’m complex), and sub cannellini beans for the chickpeas. I also use hot chili powder, and if I can’t find steak seasoning I just add rock salt, freshly ground black pepper and dried chili flakes. The original recipe is here if you want to give it a go – if not, my altered version is set out below. I like it quite spicy, but feel free to use milder chili powder/barbecue sauce if you’re a bit of a spice wimp, as I once was.

The original version claims to feed eight people, but three friends and I scarfed the whole pot down on Friday night, so I would say it feeds four to six, depending on who you’re feeding and their levels of greed. Like all spicy, stew-y dishes, this only gets better the longer it sits, and is glorious reheated the next day (and the next, and the next…), smeared onto a tortilla wrap with guacamole, sour cream and cheddar cheese, or plonked on top of a baked potato. If you’ve got a large enough pot you can also make double the recipe and freeze it for a later date. Just make it, I beg you – you won’t regret it.

Spicy Vegetarian Chili – serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

1 red pepper, diced

1 green/yellow pepper, diced

1 courgette, diced

3 small cloves of garlic, diced

1 cup beer (or vegetable stock if you like)

3 heaping tablespoons steak seasoning (or a mix of rock salt, black pepper and chili flakes if you’re stuck)

1 tablespoon of hot chili powder

1 tablespoon cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1/3 cup barbecue sauce (I use the Reggae Reggae jerk/barbecue sauce)

1 x can black beans, rinsed

1 x  can kidney beans, rinsed

1 x can cannellini beans, rinsed

2 x can chopped tomatoes

Method:

1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil.  Add the onions and saute until translucent and slightly browned.  Add the peppers and courgette and cook for four or five minutes, until they begin to soften.

2. Add garlic and all of the spices to the vegetables.  Cook for two minutes.

3. Deglaze the pan by adding a cup of beer or stock to the pot. Stir and scrape the bits off the bottom of the pot.  Once the beer has stopped sizzling, add the barbecue sauce, beans and diced tomatoes.  Bring to a low boil and cook for about 15 minutes.

4. Serve in a bowl, topped with sour cream, grated cheddar cheese, and salted tortilla chips. Keeps for about 6 days, if you can resist its siren call for that long.

(The image below is care of Penzeys Spices – my phone wasn’t playing ball and refused to upload the picture I wanted. Curse you, technology…)

Sweet Potato, Ginger and Coconut Soup for a So-Called Summer’s Day

In Comfort Food, Life, Lunch, Soup, Supper on May 14, 2012 at 20:48

I haven’t blogged in 18 months. Yowza. It sounds a lot longer than it feels. In any event, I don’t think anyone missed me, so I’m going to brush off my absence with a simple explanation –  some shit happened and I didn’t feel like blogging anymore, but now I do. Let’s get on with it, shall we?

It’s finally summer in Ireland – at least, according to the calendar. Yesterday was gorgeous, with an expanse of blue skies, cotton-wool clouds, and a breeze that would cut you in two. It was far too nice to sit around at home, so I took advantage of the fine weather and went adventuring around Co. Wexford with a friend of mine. We visited Hook Head Lighthouse and Duncannon Fort, built in 1588 by the British in anticipation of an attack by the Spanish Armada. Unlike your ordinary common or garden tourists, we got our hands on a set of keys and were able to go down into the dungeons which were properly creepy. I distracted myself from the gloom by taking some photos – I recently discovered Instagram and I. Am. OBSESSED. Here’s a shot of the fort itself:

All this exploring and running from the supposed spirits of Croppy Boys past worked up quite an appetite, so we sauntered down the road to the Sandy Dock Cafe for a delicious lunch. One of the daily soup specials caught my eye – Sweet Potato, Ginger and Coconut. I LOVE sweet potato, and it’s rare to see something so “daring” on the menu of a small Irish country cafe, so I was doubly intrigued. Unfortunately, I was too hungry to just have soup for lunch, and instead resolved to try it myself at home.

I’m going to annoy you all by saying that I don’t really have a recipe for this. I had a general idea of how I would go about making this tasty soup, and consulted a couple of online resources to make sure I was on the right track. Anna Olson’s recipe was more or less what I was going for, so I forged ahead. If you’d like a definitive recipe, feel free to use hers, but rest assured that my free-form effort turned out beautifully. The soup is silky smooth, with subtle warmth from the ginger and a luxurious feel thanks to the coconut milk. I divvied my soup up into freezable portions, and added the lime once I’d reheated it for some extra zing, topping with natural yoghurt and a sprinkling of chili flakes. Just the thing to warm your soul after a bracing walk, at any time of the year.

Sweet Potato, Ginger and Coconut Soup – Serves 4

Ingredients:

Glug of olive oil

1 onion, peeled and chopped

2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

2 tbsps grated fresh ginger (I just grated the ginger over the pot until I got what I thought was 2 tbps because I’m lazy)

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced

1 can of coconut milk (I used reduced-fat which is thinner – if you use full-fat you may need to use more stock)

2 cups of vegetable stock (be prepared to add more to thin it out if necessary)

Salt, pepper and lime juice to taste; natural yoghurt and red chili flakes to serve.

Method:

1. Heat up the oil  in a saucepan and, when hot, add the onion. Gently cook until soft. Add the garlic and ginger and stir until fragrant.

2. Tip in the diced sweet potatoes and add the coconut milk and stock – just enough to cover the vegetables. Put the lid on and simmer for about 25 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are tender to the point of a knife.

3. Take the soup off the heat and blitz with a hand blender. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If you feel that the soup is too thick, you can add more stock to thin it out at this stage.

4. If adding the lime juice before serving, I would add the juice of one lime and mix well. You can add more if you wish. Personally, I prefer to spritz it over before serving.

This soup freezes well, so it’s just as easy to make double the amount for chilly days when you need something warm and comforting. Serve with crusty bread and enjoy.

Apple and Cinnamon Muffins, for a Cold and Wintry Day

In Baking, Comfort Food on November 27, 2010 at 16:46

Is there anyone still out there? 

*Silence*

Honestly, I’m not surprised. If my blog was a boyfriend, it would have broken up with me by now. Things have been manic recently, and once again, at the start of November, I found myself staring down the barrel of two jam-packed months. Being busy is great, but I was starting to long for some time off before December hit and things got even busier. As the old saying goes, be careful what you wish for – my great plans for a trip to Ikea this morning skidded to a halt when I woke up to this:

 Snow. In Waterford. IN NOVEMBER! It doesn’t look terribly impressive in the above photos, but it got even heavier as the morning went on – big fat flakes falling with happy abandon. I called off my trip in favour of a cosy-pyjama-clad, kitchen-ensconced day at home, and so far I’ve done more baking in a few short hours than I have in the previous couple of weeks.

One of my recent cookbook acquisitions is Kitchen, the new tome from Nigella Lawson. I’ve only had a chance to quickly flick through it, but her recipe for apple cinnamon muffins caught my eye. They’re, helpfully, located in the section on using up leftovers, and as I had two unused cooking apples from making a batch of mincemeat a couple of weeks ago which eyed me reproachfully every time I entered the kitchen, I decided to give them a go.

They turned out gorgeously, and are, I think, better when made with cooking apples as opposed to eating, as these muffins are quite sweet, and the tartness of the cooking apple gives your tastebuds a welcome reprieve. I would also say be careful when measuring out the honey; I think I used slightly too much here, and next time I’ll reduce the amount of sugar in the topping. That’s just me though – although I have a sweet tooth, I don’t like things that are overpoweringly sweet, so they may taste just fine to anyone else.  My efforts at this recipe are not the most attractive-looking either – I gave them their requisite 20 minutes in the oven, at which point they were perfectly puffed-up and golden, but still seemed a little undercooked. I baked them for another five minutes, and they came out slightly overdone. Oh well, not to worry, they still tasted delicious; I broke off a piece to try it and ended up scoffing the whole thing in seconds. The yoghurt and oil make these beautifully moist, the apples add a lovely tartness, and the toasted almonds in the topping are divine. Make them, and savour their still-warm-from-the-oven flavour with a cup of tea or coffee. You’ll love them!

Apple and Cinnamon Muffins, taken from Kitchen, by Nigella Lawson

Makes 12 muffins

Ingredients:

2 eating apples or 1 large cooking apple, peeled and cut into small dice

250g plain flour or spelt flour

2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp ground cinnamon

125g light brown sugar, plus 4 tsp for topping

125ml honey

60ml runny natural yoghurt

125ml flavourless vegetable oil

2 eggs

75g whole almonds, skin on

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celcius and line a 12-hold muffin tin with papers.

2. Measure the flour, baking powder and 1 tsp cinnamon into a bowl.

3. Whisk together the 125g brown sugar, honey, oil and eggs in a bowl – or, as I prefer, a jug, for ease of pouring.

4. Chop the almonds roughly and add half of them to the flour. Keep the other half aside, and to them add the second teaspoon of ground cinnamon and 4 tsp of brown sugar. This will be the topping for your muffins.

5. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry. Add the chopped apple and stir to combine. As with all muffin batters, don’t overmix – the lumpier and heavier the batter, the lighter the finished muffin will be.

6. Spoon the batter into the muffin papers and sprinkle with the topping.

7. Put into the oven and bake for 20 minutes, by which time the muffins should have risen, and become beautifully golden.

8. Remove from oven and allow to stand for 5 minutes, before taking them out of the pan and devouring with unapologetic greed.

A Comforting Apple and Blackberry Crumble

In Autumn, Baking, Comfort Food, Dessert on October 10, 2010 at 21:45

When the evenings get shorter and the temperatures start to drop, my thoughts turn to woolly jumpers, crackling fires, snuggling down under a cosy blanket with a good book, and I crave hearty food like rib-sticking stews, luscious, gravy-filled pies, and warm, comforting fruit crumbles. This apple and blackberry crumble is one such dish, with the sweet and crunchy topping revealing a bed of soft and delicious fruit. Apple and blackberry is a classic autumnal combination, and one that I’m more than happy to indulge in while both fruits are at their best.

The original recipe calls for cooking apples, but I used regular eating apples and cut out most of the sugar. Normally, I would add cinnamon to an apple crumble, but omitted it here as the blackberries added more than enough extra flavour. This makes a lovely ending to a autumnal Sunday lunch when served, still warm, with vanilla ice-cream, softly-whipped cream, or a blob of crème fraiche…woolly jumper and crackling fire optional.

Apple and Blackberry Crumble (taken from Rachel’s Favourite Food, by Rachel Allen)

Serves 6

Ingredients:

3-4 large cooking apples (or 4-5 eating apples), peeled, cored and cut into large chunks

1 tbsp water

2-3 tbsp sugar (you can cut this down to about 1/2 tbsp of sugar if using eating apples)

225g blackberries (frozen is fine)

For the crumble:

175g plain white flour

75g cold butter, cut into chunks

75g demerara sugar

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celcius. Put the apple chunks, water and sugar into a saucepan over a low heat and cook until the apples are soft and pulpy – about 10 minutes. If using eating apples, they won’t break down as much, so cook them until they are soft to the point of a knife. While the apples are cooking, stir every minute or so to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Taste and add more sugar if needed, before transferring to a pie dish (or to several small ramekins) to cool slightly. Pop the blackberries onto the cooked apple at this point.

2. To make the crumble, rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Don’t rub it in too much however, as the crumble won’t be crunchy if you do. Add the sugar into the crumble topping and mix. Sprinkle the crumble mixture on top of the apple and blackberries.

3. Bake for 15 minutes for small crumbles, or 30-45 minutes for larger crumbles. Remove from the oven when the crumble is cooked and golden. Serve whilst still warm, with cream, vanilla ice-cream or crème fraiche.