Thursday, November 28, 2013

Review: Heston's Christmas Puddings with hidden clementine

So, for something different I decided to review one of Heston's supermarket Christmas offerings.

I decided to try the smaller Christmas pudding with the hidden clementine. This is because I didn't want a full sized pudding with only two of us eating it and and because I wasn't impressed by the idea of pine-scented fruit mince pies.

The whole "pine scented=Christmas" just doesn't work for me. I suspect because since I've never had a "real" tree (too expensive, messy and really, just too hot) I associate pine scented with cleaning products.

So the pricey tiny pudding it was.

I know from over at my fellow Heston blogger, In Search of Heston,  that Heston has a whole range of branded food. We only get the fruit mince pies and Christmas puds - I suspect the rather long shipping journey may be to blame.

So it's pretty much a heat and eat thing. Steam it.
Sauna away my little lovely...

After steaming the requisite 40 minutes or so.. you tear off the foil and plate it up.
Looks nice on the plate though...It's around the size of a smallish orange.
 And cut into the two serves. You can see the slightly squished clementine in the middle. I consider squishing the clementine unavoidable since the outside is soft, but the clementine more firm.


Now, to be fair I have to give a context. Every year sometime between August and October, I make Christmas puddings from scratch.  I use (and highly recommend) Stephanie Alexander's recipe from The Cook's Companion. My current pair of puddings is happily macerating in the back of my fridge as I type, preparing for Christmas.
If you're not familiar with this tome, check it out. It was originally released in a smaller volume against the author's larger intent because the book people didn't believe anyone would buy a cookbook that resembled a doorstop. They were wrong. It sold out. A lot. So they bought out the bigger edition shown above. I only have the original, but it is an excellent resource on how to cook a wide variety of foods. It is probably the best Australian cookbook I own. (And competes for the best, period.)

So anyway. I suppose I am - albeit in a somewhat circuitous way - suggesting that I have a pretty high standard for Christmas puddings.
  • Heston's pudding is a nice pudding, but not earth shattering. 
  • If you are used to the typical dry, cake-masquerading-as-pudding you'd probably think this was excellent. 
  • Also, I felt like the clementine just wasn't worth including on a flavour basis. Unless you like glace fruit a lot. I felt like I wanted more pudding in my pudding.
  • It was however, nicely moist with good overall flavours.
  • And I think for a bought one, it's pretty good.
When I went back more recently, they'd sold out so I gather they are very popular - and it's not like they can easily get back stock. In summary, if you are going to buy a supermarket pudding and not make one, or get one of those artisan-style ones, this (or the larger orange one) would probably be a good choice.

(And given I also make fruit mince pies each year, I don't think I'll be rushing to get those pine dusted ones...)

Next time: Back the to usual programming, promise. Summer is here and I think I might try that banana Eton mess!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Heston Blumenthals's Chocolate Truffles

So this is a lazy, getting-back-into-it post. Home life has been a tad busy, so not a lot of dinner-partying going on.

But then I had a birthday to go to - an excellent day to make something.

I went easy on myself, and selected Heston's Chocolate Truffles recipe.

You can see a copy of it here, on the SBS website. It's also found (in a flavoured version) in
Heston at Home. He also makes them on the associated How to Cook Like Heston TV show.

Really, they are dreadfully easy. Make ganache. Roll it into balls and coat in something. See? Two steps. Painfully straightforward. 

But the real question is... does it live up to the promise?


  1. Heat up the cream and melt chocolate (separately)
  2. Mix together
  3. Chill
  4. Roll into balls, roll balls in chosen outer layer.

I decided to do two flavours - one, the as-written salted dark chocolate and a straight milk chocolate version. I was tempted by the rosemary and bay flavoured ones in the book, but as these were a gift and for a party, I decided to play safe. Or so I thought.

Here is everything for both the milk chocolate/hazelnut meal version and the dark chocolate/cocoa rolled versions.

Heat up the cream

So I was doing the one from the website, so no extra flavouring or infusion necessary.
The heated cream has a teaspoon of salt added. (I omitted this for the milk chocolate version)

 Melt the chocolate

Admission: I melt my chocolate in the microwave in 30 second increments, stirring each 30 seconds. Easy, quick and I've never had it seize due to steam (unlike the water bowl method).  (If you're curious - 300g? around 1:30 or so.)

 Mix the cream into the melted chocolate in batches.
 Okay, all ready to go into the lined container. My lasagne pan was near-perfect size.

 Then I repeated that for the milk chocolate minus the salt.

Then they sit on the bench to cool down. Then into the fridge (in my case overnight - its four hours on the bench then six in the fridge, in theory).
 Okay, all chilled. This is the dark chocolate - it was too hard to work straight from the fridge, so I left it to warm up a little.
 And did the milk chocolate instead. This was noticeably softer. I think I would probably drop the amount of cream in a milk chocolate version in future to maybe 200-250g instead of 300g
Then just scoop balls of ganache, and then roll them in your outer layer - for the milk chocolate version I used ground hazelnuts.

  Rolled in hazelnut and looking pretty.

Then did the same for cocoa for the dark chocolate ones. I really wish I had a melon baller - I suspect this would have been much easier.I ended up using my round spoon measures in the main, it gave a nice shape and size without a lot of handling. Rolling them in my hands was messy and not worth it.

 Finished dark chocolate ones..
 But don't do this if you want a clean bench! Even when it's good, it's pretty messy.

End result:
Gift all ready, with extras to share at the party.

Lessons learned:

  • Buy a $2 melon baller.
  • Milk chocolate behaves slightly differently to dark, so reduce the cream proportion.

Guest opinions 

Interestingly (to me) I think I had the strongest reaction to a Heston dish to date .. (maybe everyone has been too polite previously?)  One guest tried the salted dark chocolate one and loudly proclaimed, "Oh God, that's disgusting! All I can taste is salt! .... I'd rather it was bitter!" To be fair, the poor guy didn't know I'd made them. In his (possible?) defence.. I do think that 1 teaspoon of salt was too much - I didn't find it overpowering but you could probably dial it back to 1/2 a teaspoon and still get the effect.

That said, several other guests liked them as they were - and a few noted that it was  just so unexpected - not bad but not what they were expecting (you get kind of used to that sort of thing for Heston I think...)

I think the dutch cocoa (which is what I generally use) possibly added to the contrast being fairly bitter in itself. (The cocoa "has a real kick", one guest noted)

The milk chocolate ones were a very popular (though a little too soft to my mind) and so probably a safer bet for a more "generic" / unadventurous palette. 

I'm tempted to try a slightly-less salty version so the salted flavour is less pronounced, or perhaps one of the flavoured versions. They are pretty easy to whip up - maybe I'll just consider it next time I have leftover ganache from icing a cake. 

(Since I largely use ganache for cake icing, eating balls of it rolled in nuts etc. felt very decadent.)

Next: Not sure, next weekend I need to make Christmas puddings, so no Heston here - just Stephanie Alexander!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Essential Flourless Mustard Sauce (recipe from Masterchef Australia)

So this recipe comes courtesy of Heston Blumenthal’s relatively recent appearance on Masterchef Australia. I don’t usually watch MasterChef. I find the competitive-but-not-seemingly-fair reality TV nature of it all bugs me. But then they had “Heston week” so I (of course) watched that.
The recipe is available here.

Heston talks in various places about using agar agar as a thickening agent rather than flour, so that you get a “cleaner” flavour. This recipe is one he demonstrated on the show, so I thought I’d give it a try with our roast chicken dinner this week.


1.       Reduce wine
2.       Cook in the other liquids
3.       Add the agar agar and cook
4.       Mix through the mustards & herbs, blend
5.       Heat & serve
(Very simple as far as these things go).

Reduce the wine

Now previously, I’ve commented on not finding it easy to tell when you have reduced your liquid sufficiently – like in this case, to reduce it to one third. This time I came up with a good solution. (And if anyone is thinking “well, obviously…” I apologise, but I can’t be the only person who didn’t think of this straight off). Once you pour in the liquid, measure the depth with something – I used a fork. Take note of the depth. 
Then, once you reduce it, you now have something to compare it against by dipping it in again. Easy. (Note the slightly more yellow colour of the reduced liquid. Because otherwise, you see, these photos look identical. They aren't. You'll have to just trust me.)

Cook in the other liquids

In goes the chicken stock…
And the milk and cream.
That gets boiled for 10 minutes.

Add the agar agar

Then the agar agar gets added, and whisked in.
Then simmered for 4 minutes, and left to cool slightly.

Then, blended with a stick blender to ensure there aren’t any lumps of agar agar in the sauce. Even though mine didn’t seem to have any lumps, it did still seem to improve the silkiness. 

Add the mustard & herbs

In goes the mustards, and the herbs. Smells pretty good. But seems fairly thick. White sauce thick, so probably OK, I think...

Then, heat and serve!


So the taste was fine. And when the sauce was piping hot, it was OK, if a little thick.
But. Once the sauce hit anything cool (like say, the dinner plate) or when it cooled off (like when you were half way through eating) it turned to jelly.
Cold, creamy mustard flavoured jelly. It didn’t taste bad, it was just too odd – off putting to eat and too thick.

I leaves me wondering if either :
a) my agar agar is unusually strong? (I’ve looked online, and there is nothing to suggest that agar agar varies in strength), or
b) Heston simply includes way too much agar agar in his dishes.

This is the second time I’ve felt that the agar agar thickening was too strong – I found the same issue with the beetroot lollies. (insert link).


The flavour was nice enough, but the very thick & jellied result on cooling was off putting – unpleasantly so. I am considering trying this again with ¼ the recommended agar agar. Or, possibly, borrowing some agar agar off a friend (different brand) and then doing a test with equivalent amounts in liquid to check the result.

Has anyone else had issues with using agar agar as specified in a Heston dish? I’d love to know if you have used it either way.

Next: Not sure! Don't have any plans for once... Suggestions?

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Winter Feast, Dessert: Lardy cake

So I am recounting my Winter Feast adventures. We had:
·     Pumpkin soup
·     Fish pie with Sand and Sea topping
·     Lardy cake

Dessert. Ever since I saw the picture in Heston Blumenthal at Home, I realised that this would be perfect for a winter’s dinner. Butterscotch paired with warm fruit and sweet bread. Heston claims that this is a highly traditional dish, but it seems not one that really made it to the colonies (unlike many others, like Plum Pudding for Christmas, or trifle.) So, prior to this, I’d not ever eaten a Lardy cake. Or, as my daughter kept thinking it was called, a la-di-dah cake. Which is kind of funny, since that really is everything this dessert isn’t.

The ‘cake’ (though I think of more as a sweet bread) had three components – the bread, the filling and the butterscotch sauce. I feel that making this is very similar to making a combination of cinnamon scrolls, fruit mince pies and Christmas pudding. Nothing super challenging.



  1. Make the bread
  2. Make the filling
  3. Assemble and bake
  4. Make the sauce
  5. Pan fry and Serve
Really, its fairly straightforward. But then, in comparison to that fish pie, maybe everything is straight forward.


Make the bread

You mix up the flour and water, then let it rest for 30 minutes. Given there is no yeast in it here, I have no idea what this step does beyond making wet flour. (I regularly make pizza dough, which doesn’t need this, so if you know why you do this, please leave a comment. Is it a bread-making thing?)
Then the yeast, salt and a tiny bit of lard get added in and mixed well. It gets popped into a bowl, and left to rise. This give you… puffy dough.


Make the filling

This step reminds me rather a lot of making fruit mince pies. (Which I do every year. Bought ones are always too sweet, and mealy). Lots of fruit gets cooked with cognac until all the cognac is pretty much gone.
Then you cream butter and sugar, add in the lard and golden syrup. Once that’s all mixed up the fruit goes in. (Now it really reminds me of Christmas pudding mix. Speaking of which I need to make them for Christmas!)


Assemble and bake

Roll out your dough as if you’re making cinnamon scrolls (i.e. a nice even rectangular shape.)
Spread over the fruit mix, leaving an end bit to stick.
Roll it up into a nicely perfect tube of fattening soused fruit. Or, as in my case, struggle to get it to roll nicely due to the filling being a natural lubricant, and realise your rectangle was more a trapezoid. Apparently. More simply put, you are supposed to tightly roll it. I found this very difficult, because the dough is very soft, and the fruit mix very slippery, and thereby resists you doing anything “tightly” with it. This means it was more flattened than nicely circular, and I can’t see how it would stay nicely rounded like in the picture anyway. Not having made this dish before, I don’t know how soft or hard the dough should have been  but was concerned about adding more flour in case it became tough. It wasn’t sticky or anything, just.. well, doughy.
So that gets put on a tray and left to puff up and get fatter. Which it did.
Then it goes into the oven while you make the sauce. Periodically, you ladle over the melted lard/fruit mix.


Making the sauce

So it’s butterscotch. Which is kind of what happens when you make caramel and add butter to it. That is, its sugar plus butter, rather than just the molten sugar. This one also has cream and golden syrup. 
You whisk it…
Then heat it up to soft crack stage. (i.e. Before it becomes toffee).

Finishing the cake

So the cake comes out of the oven. 
And get placed upside down to cool. Disappointingly, because the top of the cake was quite hard/firm and the bottom quite soft (but cooked) it cracked, thereby removing any elegance possibly promised. Cooking also seemed to make it even more likely to fall apart than it was before I cooked it. Messy.

Pan fry and serve.

So when you are ready to serve it, you cut slices, then pan fry these in butter to heat them up and serve with the warmed butterscotch sauce. I was so busy getting them sliced and pan fried, I totally forgot to take a picture til quite a bit later…
As you might be able to see under the pile of ice cream, the shape didn’t hold, instead of nice rounds they were more like a flattened shape.
But more importantly, taste:  the lardy cake was okay, but not really anything more than that. The butterscotch sauce was nice and I’d make again, but the cake was pretty disappointing. It’s possible that the fault was the not-tightly rolled shape, but I’m not convinced.


Lessons learned:

  • Butterscotch sauce is a winter popularity winner.

 Guest opinions:

Guests enjoyed it, but nowhere near as much as other dishes. It was nice, fruity, and good for winter and they loved the butterscotch sauce.



Disappointing, but not bad. To be honest, there are many other desserts with equal or less effort I’d make again before bothering with this. Perhaps its just that I wasn’t aware of what it should be like and so was underwhelmed.

Next: Mustard sauce, courtesy of Heston’s recent appearances on Masterchef Australia.