Gastrobabble

A quest for gastro-liberation, an excuse to buy more cookbooks…


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Roll up, roll up

Come and see the incredible, marvellous, splendiferous Swiss roller!

Up until a few months ago, I’d never attempted a Swiss roll and since then, I’ve been churning them out like there’s no tomorrow. Not only are they incredibly simple to make, they’re also the kind of thing that you can whip up at a moment’s notice because barring the cream, you’ll have all the ingredients in your well-stocked pantry already (see how I always think the best of you, gentle readers?)

I started out using the Peyton & Byrne recipe which advocates a separated egg approach with the dry ingredients mixed in with yolks whilst the whites are beaten until fluffy. In theory this should yield a nice fluffy sponge but the dry ingredient and yolk mixture always turned out grainy for me and then made the whole thing lumpy. Having never made a Swiss roll before I dubiously carried on despite my reservations. Since then, I’ve adopted the Delia recipe which goes for beaten whole eggs which produces a lovely even and fluffy sponge.

STOP. Filling time. Apart from the traditional jam and Chantilly cream combinations, I have been merrily recreating chocolate bars in Swiss roll form. Substituting 25g of cocoa for the flour will give you a chocolate sponge instead and then the Swiss roll world is your lederhosen. Or something.

Snickers Swiss roll
Chocolate Swiss roll sponge with dulce de leche, salted peanuts and whipped cream. The dulce de leche is one can of condensed milk, emptied into a shallow ovenproof dish which is then place in a larger roasting tray and filled halfway with boiling water. Cover firmly with foil and roast for an hour on gas mark 4. After an hour it should be a light golden colour but if you prefer your dulce de leche smokier, leave it in until it darkens further. I also like to add a generous pinch of smoked sea salt but then I am a salt fiend.

After Eight Swiss roll
Chocolate sponge filled with whipped cream, carefully tinted with green gel colouring (the merest hint to give it that kitschy mint-choc-chip neon pastel colour) and flavoured with peppermint extract (I’m a fan of Sainsbury’s American peppermint extract which is lovely and clean tasting). Add in shards of chopped dark chocolate for taste and texture.

Jaffa Cake Swiss roll
A plain Swiss roll sponge with whipped cream flavoured with the zest of an orange and finely chopped dark chocolate. Decorate with melted chocolate to replicate the crunch of chocolate through to sponge that you get with a real Jaffa Cake.

Bounty Swiss roll
Chocolate Swiss roll with whipped cream flavoured with coconut extract (available from Jane Asher’s Sugarcraft shop) and dessicated coconut.

A few things on the art of rolling: once your sponge is out of the oven, let it cool for 5 minutes and then unmould onto a chopping board covered in clingfilm. Use the clingfilm to roll up the sponge firmly into a roll. Let it cool in the clingfilm and then you’ll be able to easily roll it up once filled because it will have cooled in the distinctive spiral you need for a Swiss roll. Also sponges can be baked, rolled and frozen so they’re perfect for making in advance.


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From slow to fast now, like a gastronomic foxtrot. Weeknight dinners which are fuelled by the need to feed your dearest ones quickly whilst getting drowsy on sloe gin and strawberries should be the kind of thing that you construct whilst blathering away at the kitchen counter. This was inspired by a BBC Good Food recipe.

Having a two-week old aubergine in my fridge instead of a jar of roasted aubergine deterred me not. Pierce your aubergine and char it on an open flame on your cooker. Once the flesh is soft and gives to a gentle poke of the finger, peel off the blistered skin and mash the flesh with two teaspoons of tahini; the juice of half a lemon; a scant teaspoon of dried chilli flakes; and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Mix in 75g of crumbled feta and a handful of chopped mint. On two toasted wholemeal pittas, scrape on a coating of tomato purée before topping with the aubergine and feta mix. Crumble on some more feta before grilling on a medium heat for 10 minutes. Drizzle with olive oil and top with basil before serving. By then it’ll be time to top up your gin and scarf down your pitta pizza whilst not skipping a beat in conversation. Good work.