It took me a long time to finally sit down and write a post about the dinner Rollo and I made together on our anniversary. It was partly from laziness and partly from busy schedules. To be fair, Rollo did his part of this post in one afternoon while mine shamefully took way longer than that. our dinner was perfect to say the least. Learning from past experiences, we both were able to work seamlessly in our small kitchen without much conflict. In past dinners, we found it quite hard to do multiple things without bumping into each other and eventually getting on each other’s nerves. This dinner, however, we had a really good flow and communicated much better. I guess it’s a testament to our relationship and how much we’ve grown in the past two years we’ve been together.
Initially, we wanted to create another 4 course dinner. However, in the end, we decide on doing something less rigid and have food that we both enjoy greatly yet wouldn’t normally eat. It’s funny that Rollo was the one to suggest a cheeseboard. When I first met the guy, Rollo wasn’t a big fan of cheeses. Oh how times have changed! So when he mentioned it, how can I turn it down?
Of course, us being us, your everyday run of the mill cheeseboard wouldn’t be enough. No, we’d decided we’d make our own accompaniments. I knew I wanted to try to make sourdough with a split base of spelt flour, whole wheat and white flour. For some reason, I decided our 2nd anniversary dinner would be the best time to experiment on it. I’m just glad to see that the sourdough came out nicely! The spelt flour with lower gluten definitely contribute to the bread not rising as much, however, it gives a slight nutty flavour. Combined with the tang of the sourdough yeast, it gives a rich depth. The crust could’ve used more browning, but all in all, I was surprised how well it turned out. I attempted to make some crispbread with leftover spelt flour I had but they didn’t turn out that well. Not wanting it to go to waste, we did end up eating it. The only problem with the crispbread was that it didn’t stay flat, instead, it resembled a puffy pita bread, just super crispy. Rollo had his own idea on what relish he wanted to serve with the cheese and I had my own idea. So in the end, we made two condiments, a plum relish and onion chutney (Recipes down below). We also had some homemade pickled chillies, olives and sliced pickles to serve (not pictured).
Since we thought a massive cheeseboard is not enough, we thought of an appetizer and dessert to go along with it. Now, the whole dinner isn’t as cohesive as usual dinners we have. There wasn’t a specific cuisine or anything. Rather, it revolved around things we love. So for our appetizer, Rollo proposed on using beetroots, since they’re currently in season. We made a similar dish when his dad visited earlier this year, but it wasn’t that successful. This time however, Rollo nailed it. I also proposed the idea of a cured egg yolk grated on top of the beetroots. Not only does it provide contrasting colour, it gives a unique element to the dish. It tasted earthy and salty, rich of flavour without being too heavy on the tongue. Cured egg yolks are apparently very simple to make that I don’t know why I haven’t tried it earlier. For dessert, Rollo left it to me, the baker in the relationship. We told ourselves we didn’t want anything rich or heavy and yet end up with making a form of cinnamon rolls. Guess we love our baked goods a bit too much. I’m not complaining. We did have to take an hour break between dinner and dessert because we were too full, but we did end up eating it. Rollo did contribute to the creation of the rolls. We bought a raspberry chocolate stout and he brought up of having similar flavours in the rolls. The meal with exception of the raspberry chocolate roll was paired with a bottle of Shiraz. It’s Shiraz made from the Sula Vineyards in India. Who knew India was a wine producing region? Personally, this was my first encounter with Indian wine. This wine was really good for its price (~£13). Full bodied with rich flavours of spices and dark fruits, having hints of leather and even eucalyptus. It was able to stood up to the most funky cheese on our board.
Unlike most people, Rollo and I made our own anniversary dinner. Honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. For me, it beats having to dress up and go to a fancy restaurant with overpriced food and drinks. For half the cost, we were able to eat to our heat desires and ensure that all the food were up to our taste and liking. This is definitely not your average weeknight dinner and I can’t see a lot of people attempting it to be honest. But for those who’s curious, or brave enough to attempt, most of the recipes are available below. Though everything don’t have to be made in one night. I recommend making the onion chutney or plum relish. It’s easy to make and taste infinitely better than prepackaged chutneys you’d buy in the supermarket. It makes a great condiment on sandwiches if you don’t plan on a cheeseboard. The beetroot tartar & cured egg yolk is a dish to cook that’ll impress. It has a high visual impact and complex taste yet doesn’t require a million ingredients or steps. The raspberry chocolate roll is a great thing to bake when you find yourself free one afternoon. It’s best eaten the same day whilst warm out of the oven, but still amazing the next day for breakfast with coffee or tea.
This dinner made me realise how much Rollo’s and my cooking has progressed in the past year alone. We are infinitely better cooks than when we first came to university and my love for breads have pushed me to make my own breads, each one better than the last. I can’t wait to see how much more we’ll progress throughout this year and the next.
Beetroot Tartar & Cured Egg Yolk
In cooking I’m always curious to try to subvert expectations and elevate simple ingredients. This dish is certainly about both. The idea of doing a ‘tartar’ with beetroot had been in my mind for a long time, and I had tried to do something in the vein before, with little success. Here, the key is having a very flavourful broth to cook the beetroot in, and then using a food processor to grind it quite small.
The idea of using a cured egg yolk came to me when I was thinking what to serve with the tartar. It accomplishes two things, in my mind. It subverts the traditional serving of a beef tartar with a raw egg yolk, and adds an umami punch. We used juniper and sage in the curing salt, and the result was a beautiful rich umami flavour.
Beetroot Tartar (Serves two as an appetizer)
- 1 tsp oil or butter
- 1 large white onion, cut into quarters
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 5l of stock (chicken/vegetable)
- Bay leaf
- Kosher/table salt
- 2 Large beetroots, or about one per person
- Cured egg yolk (recipe below)
- Squeeze of lemon juice
- Heat some oil or butter in a large stock pot over medium high heat. Use ¾ of the onions and slice them into smaller pieces. Reserve the remaining ¼ onion.
- Stir in ¾ of the onions and garlic into the pan. Stir often until lightly browned.
- Add in the stock and bay leaf.
- Cut a bit from the top and bottom of the beetroot before peeling and quartering them.
- Make sure your stock is generously salted with kosher salt, and once boiling, add in the beetroots.
- Let cook 2/3rds way through, about 15-20 minutes, and take out to cool.
- Combine the 2/3rds cooked beetroots, the last quarter of the raw onion and about a tablespoon of the boiling liquid in a food processor and gently blitz.
- Taste, add some of the curing salt if required, and blitz again. Only process until the size of lentils, or larger if preferred.
- Let cool and serve with finely grated cured egg yolk and a squeeze of lemon juice.
Cured Egg Yolk
- 150g kosher salt
- 100g granulated sugar
- 2-3 tsp. juniper berries, finely grinded*
- 1-2 tsp. dried sage*
- 3-5 egg yolks
(*note: feel free to use a different mix of spices in substitute of juniper berries and sage. For example, fresh herbs, bay leaves, citrus zest, etc.)
- Mix salt, sugar, juniper and sage in a mixing bowl with a spoon or whisk to evenly distribute.
- Spread out half of the curing mixture in a baking dish (ideally 8×8”, don’t use the big casserole dishes or you might have to double the recipe)
- Using the back of a tablespoon, create depressions in salt mixture for the number of egg yolks you have. Be sure to give them enough space in between.
- Carefully place an egg yolk in each depression.
- Sprinkle the egg yolks with more curing mixture over yolks. You want to coat the yolks so they’re covered entirely with the mixture. Depending on your baking dish, you might have some salt leftover. Store any leftover curing mixture in a lidded jar and you can use it to season your dishes or for the next time you make more cured yolks.
- Tightly wrap the dish with plastic.
- Keep in the fridge untouched for a minimum of 2 days up to 4 days.
- When ready, preheat oven to 150°.
- Take the dish out of the fridge and carefully take the yolks out.
- Brush the curing mixture off each yolk, then carefully rinse under cold water to remove any remaining salt. Gently pat dry with kitchen towel.
- Grease a wire rack with oil and place the yolks on rack.
- Carefully place the rack inside the oven and let the yolks dehydrate until it’s more firm, about 1–1 ½ hours. Flip it over several times throughout this process.
- Take it out and let cool.
- Once cooled, you can use it to grate over your food (the beetroot tartar, salads, soups, pastas, anything really!)
- Store them in an airtight container in the fridge. They should be fine to use for up to 3 weeks.
Blue Stilton – Colston Basset
When we had a taste of this in the cheese shop, we thought it was amazing! It’s very strong blue cheese at the same time smooth and creamy. However, once we ate it together with everything else on the cheeseboard, it was too strong it didn’t really match with any of the accompaniments and overwhelmed the other cheese. We ended up not really eating much of it. Though I feel this would be great made into blue cheese butter and basted on steaks.
Moliterno al Tartufo
Where do I start? I LOVE truffles. The strong the truffle taste and scent, the more I love it. I’ve had black truffle Brie a while ago but that was nothing compared to this cheese. We didn’t get much of it (only a mere 30g!) since it was quite pricey and Rollo hates truffle and didn’t eat it at all. Well, he’s missing out. This was by far my favourite cheese in the board. The truffle seemed to permeate through every crevice of this cheese giving a rich, earthy, umami flavour. It went surprisingly well with the plum relish (recipe below) though it’s best enjoy on its own.
Tomme de Savoie
This cheese had a really thick grey-ish rind. It’s a semi hard yet creamy cheese. There’s a touch of musty earthy flavour which really complements the nutty sweetness. I think we finished it quite quickly considering it went well with everything on the board. My personal favourite was to eat it with the black charcoal oat cakes and plum relish.
This cheese surprised me. I didn’t think I’d like it as much as I did. I was never a fan of smoky cheeses, always finding them too smokey that the character of the cheese gets lost. However, this cheese had the perfect balance of smokiness, saltiness and creaminess. The woody oak notes is actually quite mild. Due to using whisky barrel shavings, the cheese has a complex flavour. It almost taste like really good smoked ham/bacon. It was like a very fancy ham and cheese lunchable when I topped my oat cake with this cheese and Napoli Salami. Amazing!
This was the only cheese we didn’t get at the cheese shop. When we were doing our shopping at Morrisons, we saw this at the deli section and thought, why not? This cheese was so much milder in flavour and less evasive than the others that it acted like a palate cleanser. We didn’t mind though, we still ate all of it.
Onion Ale Chutney
It’s no secret how much I love onions and I can’t think of the last time I cooked a dish without it. I’m glad that Rollo loves onions almost as much as me. So it was natural of me to think of ways to incorporate onions in this epic cheeseboard of ours. I played with the idea of making my own pickled onions but wasn’t married to the idea. Then the idea of a chutney popped to my mind and after consulting with Rollo, it was settled. We enjoyed an onion le chutney from our favourite neighbourhood bar and tried to replicate it. Ours is not as sweet but taste just as delicious. This went great with the smoky Auld Reekie. I even used the leftover chutney and cheese to make an amazing grilled cheese toastie the next day!
- 3 medium onions, sliced
- 1 tbsp. oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tomato, diced
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup vinegar (distilled white/cider/red wine)
- Zest of ½ lemon
- Dash of cinnamon and chili powder
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 star anise
- ½ cup beer (ideally an amber ale)
- Salt to taste
- Crack of black pepper
- Heat oil in a small sauce pan on medium high heat. When hot, add in the onions. Stirring once in a while, let the onions slowly caramelized. Lower the heat if needed to. This can roughly take anywhere from 5-15 minutes depending how much you want it caramelized before adding everything else.
- Add the garlic and cook for a minute before adding the diced tomato. Sprinkle a bit of salt at this stage. Wait till the tomatoes soften before adding the sugar and vinegar. Let it boil before lowering the heat and letting it simmer.
- Add the lemon zest, cinnamon, chili powder, bay lead and star anise into the sauce pan as the chutney simmers.
- Add half the beer once half the liquid in the pot has reduced. Let the mixture reduce by half again before adding the last half. Simmer continuously until most of the liquid has reduced down to your likeness. Taste at this point and add salt to taste and adjust if required. Add more sugar if you want it sweeter or add more vinegar if you’d like more of a tang.
- Optional: Blitz the chutney briefly in a food processor if you’d prefer it smoother, or keep it chunky instead.
- Let cool before serving. Great on a cheese board or on a sandwich.
Often in cooking one has to deal with idiosyncratic stuff that forces one to improvise on the spot – and being able to improvise in that spot is sometimes tough but often gratifying. We were originally planning for this relish to be based off cherries, with strong sour and fruity punch. When we’re doing our shopping, cherries, nearing the end of their season and being quite fragile, looked dire, so we were forced to improvise. Enter some beautiful in-season plums and we were on a good track again. This would go with nearly anything that needs a tart side, and worked stellar with some of punchier cheeses on our charcuterie.
- 4 medium red plums
- ½ white onion, finely diced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tbsp. honey
- 2 tsp wholegrain mustard
- 1 tsp oil or butter
- 2 cups water/stock
- Salt to taste
- Heat the oil/butter in a sauce pot over medium high heat.
- When oil is hot, stir in the minced garlic and diced onion.
- After translucent, about 5 minutes, add honey and let caramelize on medium heat until browned.
- Meanwhile, de-stone the plums by cutting around the plum and twisting the sides, and cut into small ½ inch cubes.
- Add the plums to the pot along with stock or water to cover. Add in the mustard and give it a good stir.
- Let cook on medium-low heat until the plums have dissolved and the relish has reduced – it should have a slightly jammy texture. Add in the black pepper and salt to taste.
- Cool and serve warm or at room temperature. It can be stored in the refrigerator for 3 days.
Chocolate Raspberry Roll
Rollo and I already knew what we wanted to have with dessert; Wild Beer’s Jambo, a raspberry stout that was recently released. So then we started to think on what dessert would go well with the beer. I knew I didn’t want any cake, or some elaborate dessert that takes way too long to plate and not worth the effort. Rollo suggested some sort of chocolate raspberry roll. I’ve baked so many rolls over the past year alone, I’ve already got the dough down. I used my Butterkaka dough with the addition of spelt flour. I might as well recycle another recipe and used the chocolate filling from my chocolate babka recipe. I was wary of adding fresh raspberries to the dough as they can seep out liquid. Though after reading articles online, I sprinkled in some corn starch and it seemed to do the trick. It’s so weird how the roll taste exactly like the stout! Both are equally delicious. I love how the rich chocolate filling is counteract by the tart raspberries. We finished the bun was so quick with the bottle of stout following soon after.
- 5g easy bake yeast (1.5 tsp)
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 35g sugar (~3 tbsp)
- 105g plain flour
- 105g spelt flour
- 35g butter, softened & cut into cubes
- 120ml milk
- 65g dark chocolate (~3/8 cup chocolate chips)
- 55g unsalted butter (¼ cup)
- 30g powdered sugar (¼ cup)
- 30g brown sugar (~1 tbsp)
- 15g cocoa powder (2 tbsp.)
- Handful of raspberries (roughly ¾ – 1 cup)
- 1 tsp. corn starch
- 1 tbsp. granulated sugar
- 1 egg
- Splash of milk
- Dough: In a big bowl, mix both flours, yeast, sugar and salt.
- In a small saucepan on stove or bowl to microwave, heat milk until lukewarm (~37C)
- Drop butter into bowl of flour and rub it in with your fingers. It should resemble coarse breadcrumbs and no big lumps of butter remain.
- Little by little, add the warm milk in. Continue to mix with your hand or wooden spoon until a shaggy dough form.
- Roll it out on a lightly floured surface. It’s okay if its a bit wet as it’ll get less wet as you knead.
- Knead for 10 minutes until it forms a smooth ball and no longer sticks. Add a tablespoon of flour at a time if you feel it’s still too wet.
- Place it back in a bowl and cover to leave to rest for 1.5 hours until doubled.
- Chocolate Filling: Meanwhile, make chocolate filling by melting the dark chocolate and butter together, either in the microwave or a heatproof bowl over a simmering pot of water (I used the latter). Take it off the heat and mix in sugars and cocoa powder. It should have a similar consistency to Nutella. Set aside until needed.
- Raspberry Topping: Roughly chop/halved the raspberries. Toss in the corn starch and sugar and set aside.
- Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface. With a rolling pin, roll it to a thin rectangle, around 1/4–1/2 inch thick.
- Spread the chocolate filling over the dough. Use a spatula or palate knife to even it out. Sprinkle the raspberry pieces on the surface, try not to get any liquid that might’ve seeped out into the roll.
- Roll up dough tightly from one long side. Cut into 6 rolls.
- Line or grease an oven proof pan or cake pan (around 9 inches wide).
- Put 6 buns on the pan, making sure to not to overcrowd. You’d want a bit of space in between as they expand more in the second rising.
- Cover pan with kitchen towel and let rise for 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 200C
- Whisk the egg in a small bowl and add a splash of milk. Brush the buns with the egg mixture
- Bake the buns in the oven until golden brown, about 30 minutes. If the tops are browning too much, lower heat to around 180C.
- Remove from the oven and let cool under a clean kitchen towel. They’re best eaten the same day, but they’re also quite delicious the next. Keep refrigerated and reheat in oven at 170C for 5-8 minutes.