31 October 2010

Birthday Tea recipes : Cheese Scones

This is episode 1 of the baking fest that was son's High Tea in honour of his 12th birthday.  Pretty much everything on the table (except barring perhaps the Salad!) was his own choice and was very well received by all who attended.

L-R starting from the back :
Home made white bread egg mayonnaise sandwiches, brown bread ham
& mustard sandwiches.  Mixed salad with avocado. Sausage rolls.
Home-made Tuna & cheese flan, home-made Quiche Lorraine.
Crisps, coleslaw, feta cheese & olives.
Home-made cheese scones, tomatoes & cucumber, pickled beetroot.
I was quite pleased that there was a certain amount left over, as everyone seemed to be tucking in and hopefully nobody went home hungry.  I know that, following birthday cake, popcorn and a huge amount of sweeties eaten while we were watching a film, the birthday boy and his cousin (who was stopping for sleepover) certainly didn't go to bed anywhere close to hungry.  Of course, we may have overdone the sugar, considering they only slept for 3 hours ....

So, back to the job at hand.



CHEESE SCONES (makes 8 scones)

Ingredients :

200g/7 oz self raising flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp mustard powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper or paprika
40g/1 1/2 oz butter
80g/2 oz grated strong Cheddar cheese
10g  Finely grated parmesan
100ml (3 1/2 fl oz) milk


Method :

1. Heat oven to 220 degrees C (200 fan) / gas mark 7 and lightly grease a baking tray.

2. Sift flour, mustard powder, cayenne pepper and salt into a mixing bowl.

3. Cut the butter into small pieces and add to flour.

4. Rub the butter into the flour with fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in grated cheeses.

5. Add the milk gradually, stirring well with a knife until the mixture begins to stick together.

6. With your hands, knead the mixture gently to form a soft smooth dough.

7. On a floured surface flatten or roll the dough to about 2 to 3cm
thick round (you should end up with 8 scones).


8. Use a 5cm round cutter to cut out individual scones.

9. Place scones on the greased baking tray. Brush with milk and sprinkle
some extra cheese on top.


10. Cook for about 10-15 mins until golden. Cool slightly before serving.

11. Scoff.  :)

One for Halloween - Witches' Broomsticks!


Well I couldn't let Halloween go by without at least a cursory nod towards it, now could I?

These clever little biscuits are loved by children of all ages, not least because they contain peanut butter.  They are a little bit fiddly to create, but if you've got a garlic press, making the brush part becomes a whole lot easier.  Oh, and I'd definitely use a hand whisk!

With thanks to DesertWind in the USA, who introduced me to the recipe.

WITCHES' BROOMSTICKS (biscuits)  makes approx 16

Ingredients :

1 cup self-raising flour
a quarter tsp baking powder
1 cup smooth peanut butter
a quarter cup butter or baking margarine
a half cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
16 pretzel rods

Method :

1.  Preheat oven to 190 deg C (fan).

2.  Combine flour and baking powder in a medium bowl.

3.  In a separate bowl, beat peanut butter, butter and brown sugar until creamy.  Add the egg and egg yolk.

4.  Gradually add flour mixture, beating until blended.

5.  Separate small balls of dough and pass each ball through a garlic press, to make the bristles of the broom.

6.  Gather enough "bristles" together, carefully so as to not disturb the "bristle" effect, and press together one end around a pretzel stick.

7.  Make each broom directly on the baking sheet, then bake for 12 minutes or until brown.  Do not disturb them until cool, then very gently tease them from the baking sheet.

You can either ice them, or leave them natural.

Be prepared for them to disappear very quickly.

27 October 2010

Avocado Pie - sweet green loveliness

I was intrigued, upon looking through the Avocado cook book "Around The World - Chilean Hass Avocados", to see a recipe for a sweet Avocado pie.

Now never having eaten avocado in a sweet context, I couldn't really see how things could add up to something nice, let alone something as simply gorgeous as the end result.

However, as I'd been given the gift of six Hass Avocados with which to have a go at some of the recipes in the book, nothing ventured was nothing gained and I cautiously put the recipe together.

Now, should you ever find yourself a recipient of one of these cook books, it is worth noting that the recipe for Avocado Pie is eccentric in the extreme, as it refers to 2 limes in the ingredients, then doesn't refer to them at all in the method!  It also gives no indication as to how you include the butter with the biscuit crumbs, but having made many a biscuit base in the past, this wasn't a problem for me.  I simply microwaved the butter and poured it into the food processor, gave it all a quick whizz and it was done.  Other evidence of such eccentricity is the over-estimation on the biscuit base (considering the recipe claims to serve 4, mine came out way too much for an 8 inch pie dish), and no indication whatsoever of what size of tin of condensed milk to use.  I used a medium tin and then didn't use it all.

So, what you have here is my version of the recipe, which turned out to be a simply delicious, creamy, citrussy, green treat.

AVOCADO PIE (serves 6)

Ingredients :

Cake base (for an 8 inch dish) :
150g digestive biscuits
100g butter

Filling :
2 ripe Hass avocados, skinned and in pieces
1 lemon, zest and juice
2 limes, zest and juice of one and zest of the other
1 397g can of condensed milk - use around three-quarters thereof.

Method :

1.  Prepare the pie base by crushing the biscuits in a food processor, then microwave the butter until it is liquid and add to the crumbs, blending to combine.

2.  Pour mixture into the dish and press with fingers to form a crust.  Set aside in the fridge to cool and solidify.

3.  Prepare the filling by adding to a blender the juice and zest of the lemon, plus the juice and zest of one lime, the condensed milk and lastly - to prevent any oxidisation of the avocado - the avocado pieces.

4.  Blend until smooth and even.

5.  Cover base with the cream and refrigerate for 2 hours.

6.  Decorate with the zest of the remaining lime.

24 October 2010

Home made pickled onions - whoop!

Our very good friends Laura & David recently let us have a collection of french kilner-style jars along with a monumental jam boiler.

Having the jars has meant that one of hubby's long-standing wants has been satisfied - that of making his own pickled onions.

Having accumulated the acquired wisdom of various websites, together with the small amount of ingredients required, he set to.  The vinegar quantities are a bit of an experiment, as the total quantity needs to be 1 litre but we were keen to achieve the dark brown and flavour that the balsamic brings.  Equally, the spice is completely up to you!



PICKLED ONIONS (makes two 750 ml jars)

Ingredients :

1kg pickling onions
50g salt
900ml pickling vinegar
100ml balsamic vinegar
180g sugar
half a tsp peppercorns
half a tsp coriander seed
a chilli

Method :

1.  Top and tail the onions.

2.  Blanche them in boiling water, with the skins on, for 20 secs.

3.  Put onions into cold water to stop them cooking & peel them under the water to prevent oxidisation and toughening.

4.  Drain the onions and place into a bowl, then sprinkle with 50g salt, cover and leave overnight.

5.  Be amazed at the amount of water that has come from the onions, drain them and thoroughly rinse under cold water and put to dry on kitchen paper.

6.  In a saucepan, combine the pickling vinegar, balsamic vinegar and sugar.  Bring to the boil and turn off the heat, allowing the mixture to cool slightly.

7.  Place onions into clean sterilized jars with peppercorns, coriander seed, a chilli and anything else you like.

8.  Pour in vinegar to the top of the jar to cover the onions, seal and leave for at least 1 week, but they get better the longer you leave them.

Roll on Christmas! 

Halloween Lanterns - I won!

Looks a bit fearsome, doesn't he?

Well, he's made to fly up in the air with a tealight-style candle underneath him providing the uplift, so he needs to have a big obvious face otherwise nobody will know what he's all about!

I am incredibly excited to say that I won four of these fun fellows on Whimsical Wife's blog.  Thanks go to Whimsical Wife for running the competition and Pedlars, who provided the prizes.

Now all we've got to do, is to work out which high point (there are quite a few around here) to go to from which to set them free on Halloween!  It's also son's birthday that very day, so it's great to have something else that's fun to do, to add to the celebrations. :)

23 October 2010

Guest Blogger : Chillibob on the "Perfect Loaf"

Here it is, a little later than advertised due to unforseen busy-ness, the recipe for what I consider the perfect homebaked white loaf.

People will differ greatly on what makes a loaf of bread perfect.  For me though, the bread has to taste nice, have a thin, soft crust that makes it easy to slice and ideal for sandwiches and a tender crumb with a well risen, open texture.

Naturally, the perfect white loaf must also produce great toast too!

Some may prefer the more traditional white loaf with a crisper, harder crust and a more robust crumb but I'd highly recommend that you give this recipe a try at least once for a bit of a change.

This recipe differs slightly from the norm with the inclusion of a small amount of self raising flour, which helps to produce a lovely tender crumb.  Another difference is the relatively low cooking temperature which, in addition to the butter, makes for a crust which softens on cooling.  Both of these ideas come from my research of japanese and indonesian baking techniques.

So, without further ado, here's the recipe :

CHILLIBOB'S PERFECT WHITE LOAF

Ingredients :

470g Strong bread flour
30g Self raising flour
15g fresh yeast or one 7g sachet of fast acting dried yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
100ml semi skimmed milk
200ml warmed water
25g butter, cubed,  at room temperature


Method :

1.  Mix the milk and warmed water in a jug and stir in the sugar.  The end temperature of the liquid should be just above blood temperature.  Stir in the yeast until dissolved and set aside until it forms a nice 'head'.  Dried yeast can also be used but I find fresh yeast has a superior flavour.

2.  In a large bowl, mix the two flours and the salt and drop the butter cubes in.  Pour in the yeast liquid and mix to a soft dough before kneading for ten minutes on a floured surface.  I use a Kenwood Chef with a dough hook for this which produces consistently lovely dough.

3. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, cover with oiled clingfilm and leave to rise for an hour or so in a warm place or until it has more than doubled in size.

4.  After rising, knock back the dough and knead for a further five minutes before forming into an oblong and placing into a buttered (or oiled) loaf tin to rise for another 30 - 40 minutes.  In order to prevent a crust from forming, I put my loaf tin in a very large bowl and cover with clingfilm.

5. Place the loaf into the oven, preheated to 180 degrees C (170 for a fan oven) and bake for 35 minutes.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool, during which time the crust will soften.

Plum & Fig Jam ..... Naan Bread

Not both on the same plate - although I don't see why it can't be done, with the right ingredients in either!


The Plum & Fig Jam came about because of a gift of six figs from Willie - who comments on the blog regularly - and a lack of opportunity to use them in a dessert before they became too ripe to use.

I wanted the jam to have a good colour and had three plums which had seen better days, so combined the two fruits.

Here you see it adorning a little bowl of natural yoghurt - a princely dessert, prepared at a moment's notice.  We've since found that it is exceptionally good on Cornish Ice Cream, too!

Now next, we have hubby's second go at Naan Bread.  This one, instead of having cumin seeds in the dough, had Kalonji (also known as Nigella or black onion seeds) in the dough.  The Kalonji gave the dough a really authentic flavour and these were by far the best Naan he's produced yet.

I think we're both agreed that they could have done with a little more colour from an aesthetic point of view, but they didn't appear to lose anything by way of flavour.

Their soft fluffiness is infinitely preferable to the hard, dry old things you get in the supermarket.

The black pudding experience continues!

Bacon, black pudding, mushrooms, poached egg and
sausages all served with hubby's perfect bread.
Now that's what I call lunch!
We found ourselves on the Ashley Road in Poole today and, while I went to the Library (bringing home Silvana Rowe's "Feasts" and Adam Byatt's "How to eat in"), Hubby managed to pick up some mushrooms, sausages and more black pudding - this time from the butcher's.

With the bacon that was surplus to requirements and in the fridge already, this all equated to a superlative lunch!

Oh, and I am filled with poached egg success, having produced two perfectly poached little beauties. 

It was Son's first go at Black Pudding (coming to the stuff rather more quickly than either his father or myself) and he declared it - after quiet consideration whilst chewing thoughtfully - as "nice!".  He said it was rather like the sausage from a bought sausage roll, except without the pepper - which I think describes it rather well.

Of course, he'd be rather better able to converse, if he wouldn't put quite so much in his mouth at one time - and maybe wearing a t-shirt to the table would be a good idea?  *sigh*  Kids, eh ....

22 October 2010

Today has been a "taste revelation"

Today, started out being a fairly ordinary Friday.  Being Friday, it meant we would be doing the shopping for the weekend - which involves getting all the fresh vegetables and such items as we forgot on Tuesday, or such items which might have gone off by the weekend - such as cream.

We try to maximise our route, in order to minimise the petrol expended - not because of any green intentions (although they would be there, if our first priority were different) - but because of cost.  It's unfortunate that we have a lovely car, but can't afford to take it anywhere except those places that are absolutely necessary.

Ordinarily, we would have done the shopping list last night and having dropped son at school would have fought our way through the rush hour traffic to the supermarket.  However, as we lay our heads down last night it dawned on us that we were shopping list-less, which is a calamity of momentous proportions.  We just cannnot shop without a shopping list, because a) we'd never remember everything and b) we'd wind up with loads of superfluous shopping that'd cost a fortune.  As neither of us could bear the idea of putting the light back on and getting the notebook out, we had to return home following dropping son off at school.

There is a bright side to doing that, as it means we get to eat breakfast before shopping - which is a very good thing both from the aforesaid superfluous shopping point of view and the point of view that hubby is a diabetic.  Ordinarily he wolfs a banana on the way to the Supermarket, but I can't help thinking that's not the best way!

Not my photograph, I was too keen to eat it!
We had planned to go to the butchers' first, then the doctors' (to drop off a repeat prescription for me) and onwards to Asda in Bournemouth.  All these places were en route, so it was fine in that we'd done our best to maximise the extra petrol.  However, just as we were getting into the car, it dawned on me as to how we were going to pay for the Black Pudding we were planning to get from the butcher.  Hubby had the princely sum of 60p cash on him and I had the debit card.  It didn't seem right to ask the butcher to take payment from a debit card for less than £1-worth of Black Pudding, so we abandoned thoughts of the butcher and continued on.  You see, taking £10 out of the hole-in-the-wall just meant we'd spend the remaining £9 on fripperies such as sweets, which we can't afford to do either in calories or in cash, so we were stuck.

Neither of us had ever sampled Black Pudding and I was particularly keen to have a go at it.  You see, it annoyed the heck out of me when (for instance) I'd see it used on programmes like MasterChef and I'd be unable to place the flavour in my mind.  The scallop, yes, pea puree, yep, black pudding - ~shrug~ - no idea.  So annoying!  Hubby was rather less keen, as indeed I was up until around six months ago, as he was still put off by it's ingredients.  However, he was quite prepared to have a taste of mine - so that was why we were on the trail of it today.

We're regular customers in Asda these days and because I have to stop and pick up an electric buggy for the disabled, we've got to know the security staff, the Greeters and some of the checkout ladies so it's always quite nice and friendly there.

Part-way round, we're in the sausage aisle when suddenly hubby comes over all thoughtful and says "hang on a minute" and disappears, leaving me (sat in an electric buggy) with the trolley, in one of the busiest aisles of the shop - taking up all the space.  Cue the next couple of minutes (which felt like about a week) while people took it in turns to swerve around me and - thank goodness - nobody wanted to get to the sausages I was blocking access to.  He came back, looking pleased with himself and clutching a piece of Black Pudding which he'd found on the Deli counter.  LOL  Bless!

So when we got home, as it was lunchtime, it seemed only right to sample the hard-won wares.

Not my photograph - but it looked like these, honest!
I made some toast, cooked the black pudding and a vine tomato.  I then had a brainwave and decided to add an egg to the dish.  After some consideration as to what type of method of cooking for the egg, I decided to go all out and try poaching the egg in water (as opposed to in a poaching pan).  Now this I had never tried before, either.  However we'd just bought some white wine vinegar, so never had the time been more ripe!

Honest guv, that egg came out perfectly.  Hubby reckons it's all the years of stored up knowledge from watching it being done so often on the t.v., meant I had no difficulty with it.  For me, I reckoned that if Monica (Michel Roux's right hand woman) can do it, so can I.  *chuckle*

As for the Black Pudding, well, it was truly delicious.  My only stumbling block with it was the texture, as it was softer than I'd thought it would be.  However, perhaps I didn't try the best example of the type - and I'm still quite keen to try some from our local butcher.  When and if I've got a £1 coin.  *grin*

19 October 2010

The Perfect Loaf

Hubby has been on the trail of The Perfect Loaf, ever since we got our new Kenwood Chef.

So, I would like to unveil .....


ta-daaaaaa!!  The (currently) "Perfect Loaf".   Isn't it a beauty?

For us, the perfect loaf needs to be light crusted, as heavy crusts can often result in rock-hard toast.  Isn't this one just the most perfect golden colour?

The "crumb" (or for us newbies to bread - the white, inside bit) should be springy - but without being chewy, soft-textured - but without being too doughy, moist but not too moist - as we want it to double up as brilliant toast.

This loaf (of which he is keeping the recipe quite firmly under his hat) fits all those criteria and is, quite simply, the Perfect Loaf.

For now.  LOL

"Around the world - Chilean Hass Avocados" cookbook

Well goodness me, but that was a surprise!

We'd just got back from shopping, when there was an extremely loud hammer on the door and the dogs went bonkers, barking like mad.  I went to see if we were being raided by the police (which is what it sounded like) and there was our postman, proferring a brown cardboard box at me.  ~shrug~

Whatever could it be?  I wasn't expecting anything - and that always makes it all the more interesting.  Opening the box, there, nestled in a comfy bed of bubble wrap, was this :


"Around the world - Chilean Hass Avocados", from The Chilean Hass Avocado Cook Book Collection.  How exciting!

Now I love Avocados, as does hubby.  Son hasn't yet come around to their texture, although the flavour is okay so long as it's involved in Marie Rose sauce and prawns.  He'll get there, give him time!

Looking through the book, there are some yummy looking recipes (like Crab & Salmon Terrine with Avocado, and Lamb Chops with Pea, Mint & Avocado salad) and some recipes that appear to just involve slicing the avocado and putting it on top of, or beside, the main dish (such as Colombian Potato Soup, where the avocado is simply garnish). 

However, as often happens with any cook book, there are a couple of recipes that intrigue, such as the Avocado pie, which together with a biscuit base, lemon and lime, results in a sweet pie that looks rather like a Key Lime Pie.

So thank you, whoever sent it to me - it's very welcome and most interesting.

Now the only problem is that - at the moment, at any rate - we can't afford to buy Avocados!   Anybody want to send me some, so that I can play with the book?  LOL

What do you do with the other half of a roast chicken? Why, Chicken Supreme, of course!

Chicken Supreme : with black pepper added by me!
Be careful with salt, as the soup can be quite salty already.
We'd managed to find a lovely big fat chicken for dinner last Sunday and very nice it was too.  Apart from a bit of deliberation over whether you could cook Yorkshire Puddings in silicon muffin "tins" (which we decided, on balance, we'd have a go at - but not this time), it all went to plan.  Nothing glamorous, just a nicely roasted chicken with Bay leaves in the cavity and fresh Rosemary (both from the bushes in the front garden) sprinkled over, with salt & pepper.

That left us with half a chicken looking for a job to do.  Our normal use for half a roast chicken is to curry it, but we had a tin of condensed mushroom soup in the cupboard - which just yelled "Chicken Supreme" at me.

Because we'd had roast potatoes the day before, that rendered potatoes off the list, so we went with just plain white rice as an accompaniment.  I'd been looking forward to it for days, and my keen anticipation was very well rewarded as it was delicious!

It was hubby's day to cook, and here's how he did it :

CHICKEN SUPREME (serves 3)

Ingredients :

an onion, diced fine
a clove of garlic, chopped fine
olive oil
small can of sweetcorn
1 can of condensed cream of mushroom soup
200ml water
worcestershire sauce
half a cooked roast chicken, taken from the bone and diced
3-4 sprigs of parsley, chopped fine

Method :

1.  Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the onion & garlic gently until soft and just beginning to colour.

2.  Add the soup, water, sweetcorn and a splash of worcestershire sauce and mix well to combine.  Once up to temperature,

3.  Add the chicken and mix through gently, so as not to encourage the pieces to break up.  Allow the chicken to heat through.

4.  To serve, stir through half the parsley and sprinkle the remaining half over.

Serve with : carrots & white rice.

17 October 2010

Sausage Goulash

Hubby managed to pick up a pack of 12 speciality chipolatas for the price of an ordinary pack of sausages, the other day.  Although there were 12 in the pack, I felt they were a bit on the teensy side to be treated as just plain old sausages to be had with mash or suchlike, so began looking for a casserole-type dish to use them in.

I turned up a recipe for Sausage Goulash, which looked like it would have good results.  Indeed, it would have done, had it not have been for the accidental heavy hand with the crushed chillies and the quantity of paprika, which to hubby's taste was rather too strong.

Still, I enjoyed both the paprika and the chillies!  However, because I know that I'm currently going through a chilli-phase, I've re-written the recipe for another go at it, this time adjusting the quantities a tad.  Oh, and I'll try not to have a nerve jump in my hand right at the moment I'm shaking out a half a teaspoon of crushed chillies, next time.  LOL 

Incidentally, it would be easy for it to stretch to feed more people simply by including more vegetables in the mix.  Potato, sweet potato, parsnip, swede, peas, sweetcorn, green beans - all these would go very nicely.

SAUSAGE GOULASH (serves 3)

Ingredients

1 pack of sausages
2 onions, sliced thinly
2 cloves of garlic, grated or chopped
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp tomato ketchup
2 bay leaves (optional, depending on how herby the sausages are)
1 heaped tsp Paprika
1 tsp Smoked Paprika
half a tsp dried chilli flakes
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
4-5 mushrooms, quartered
1 small can kidney beans
1 small can chick peas or cannelini beans
600ml chicken stock
1 tbsp Balsamic vinegar
Plain yoghurt to garnish

Method

1.  Brown the sausages in a deep saucepan, then set aside.

2.  Fry sliced onions and garlic gently until golden, but not caramelised.

3.  Add paprika and stock.

4.  Add carrots, chick peas and beans, bay leaves, tomato puree & tomato ketchup and mushrooms.

5.  Return the sausages to the pan and simmer until the carrots are tender.

6.  Add the balsamic vinegar and simmer for 15 minutes more.

7.  To serve, decant into warmed bowls and add a generous blob of natural yoghurt on top.  If you really want to show off, add a sprinkling of chopped parsley.

Serve with crusty bread.

Look what we've got!

Such treasure!  A Kenwood Chef - at last!
I don't know how long we have lusted after a Kenwood Chef.  Well, we've been together for nearly 13 years, so it's probably about that long.  Now, thanks to our friends Laura and David deciding to have a turnout of their kitchen, we are the proud owners of a beautiful shiny as-new Kenwood Chef.

Hubby is terribly excited, as the Kenwood came with a dough hook.  Well you know what an artisan baker he is - although I'm not sure artisan bakers are supposed to use things like Kenwood Chefs, aren't they supposed to sweat as they mix things by hand?  LOL  Anyway, we'll forgive him that, as anything that makes life a teensy bit easier has got to be a good thing.

You'll see above his first loaf of bread, made using the Kenwood.  He was so proud.  Now, I think we're on to loaf three or four of various incarnations of bread, in the search for the perfect "everyday" loaf.


I have to admit, that all I've done with it (so far) is make a smoothie - but what a smoothie!  I've always wanted to be able to add ice cubes to a smoothie - and ice cubes are definitely more than my little stick blender could cope with.  The Kenwood, however, just munched it's powerful way through them.

My smoothie was made with an enormous Cox's apple, three red plums, a banana, three dessertspoonfuls of plain live yoghurt, around 200ml of apple juice and three ice cubes.  Whizz it all up and it makes enough for two smoothies that will wake up the most jaded of taste buds!

12 October 2010

Doughballs!

That hubby of mine is a sneaky baker!  We had frozen supermarket pizza for dinner tonight (special offer, so cheap as chips) and to cheer the whole thing up, he went and made us some garlic & parsley doughballs.  :-)


DoughBalls!  Makes 18

For the dough :

    * 250g strong white flour
    * 1 teaspoons of dried yeast (or 1 sachet)
    * 1 teaspoons of salt
    * 1 tablespoons of olive oil
    * 1 teaspoons of honey
    * 150mls of warm water

Place the flour and salt in a large bowl and mix roughly with your hand.   Put the yeast and honey in to a jug and pour in warm water to bring it to 150mls.  Leave until yeast froths (5-10mins).   Make a well in the flour and pour in the oil and the water.  Using your hand mix the dough until it forms a soft rough ball.

Sprinkle some flour on a clean surface and then knead the ball of dough for at least 10 minutes until the dough becomes elastic and smooth.  Place the dough back in the bowl, cover with oiled clingfilm and leave in a draught free place for a couple of hours to rise.

For the garlic butter

    * 2 cloves of fresh garlic
    * 60g soft unsalted butter
    * 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley
    * pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 220ºC. Shape the dough in to small round balls – approximately the size of a large marble.  Place them in a lightly buttered tray, spaced evenly apart with enough room to rise.

Leave the dough to rest for approx. 15 minutes.

Using a pestle and mortar crush the garlic together with a pinch of salt to make a paste. Add in the butter and parsley and mix well.

Place the dough balls in the oven and bake for 10 minutes until lightly golden.  Remove them from the oven and use a knife to plaster the garlic butter over the tops of the dough balls.  It is a good idea at this stage to use a baking tray or tin foil under the doughball tray to avoid garlic butter seeping on to the bottom of your oven as it melts. Place the tin back the oven and after 3 minutes remove the tray from the oven, seperate the dough balls from each other and roll them around in the garlic butter on the bottom of the tray.  Empty on to a warmed bowl or plate and allow to cool only slightly before eating.


Fattening as all heck - but delicious!

Naan bread

We had a curry down on the menu list for one day last week, which hubby was cooking.


However, when he dished up, he had a surprise for us in that he'd made his own naan bread - and completely gorgeous they were too!


I was amazed at how light and fluffy they were inside, just like a gorgeous little flat cloud on which you could scoop up your curry.  Absolutely top-notch.


He'd flavoured ours with Cumin seeds as opposed to the Nigella seeds, as we didn't have any of the latter.  However, the cumin did the job admirably.




NAAN BREAD


1 tsp dried active yeast
1 tsp sugar
200g/7oz plain flour
pinch black onion seeds (nigella seeds)
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
1 tbsp vegetable oil
 2 tbsp plain yoghurt
2 tbsp milk

Method

1.  Preheat the oven to 140C/275F/Gas 1.
2.  In a small bowl, mix the yeast with one tablespoon of warm water. Stir in the sugar and leave it in a warm place for five minutes until the yeast is covered with froth.
3.  Meanwhile, mix together the flour, onion seeds, salt and baking powder. Stir in the oil, yoghurt and milk, then stir in the activated yeast mixture.
4.  To knead the dough, clench your hand into a fist, wet your knuckles with a little water, then press them repeatedly into the dough. Continue pressing and kneading until you have a soft, pliable dough. It should take about ten minutes.
5.  Place the dough in a mixing bowl, cover it with cling film and leave it in a warm place to rise for 10-15 minutes.
6.  Divide the dough into four balls and place on a floured surface or board. Roll each into a long oval shape about 0.5cm/¼in thick. Don't roll them out too thinly or they'll turn out like crisps.
7.  Place them on a greased baking tray and put them in the centre of the oven for 10-15 minutes. They are ready when they have puffed up a little. They should be soft and crumbly, not chewy.
Serve fresh from the oven.

10 October 2010

Ottolenghi to the rescue! Kosheri & spicy minced beef.


Kosheri on the right, Spicy minced beef on the left
We are currently going through a period of extreme financial embarrassment (least said, soonest mended) and have been making meals out of very little.  For instance, this last week, our total groceries bill came to just short of £45 - which I think is something of a record.
On the menu list for the Saturday, was entered "Rice & stuff".  Now this is the name of a moveable recipe which, in our house, can mean absolutely anything - it's one stipulation is that it has to involve rice.  I had been pondering over this "Rice & stuff" as to what kind of "stuff" I could utilise.  I knew we had a pack of minced beef in the freezer for use in this dish, but what form it would take thereafter was in the lap of the gods.

A few days into this pondering, I suddenly remembered a recipe I'd seen in the Ottolenghi book "The Cookbook", which I had borrowed from the Library.  To the best of my recollection, it involved rice (tick), lentils (tick), vermicelli noodles (hmmn, no vermicelli in the cupboard, but I did have egg noodles) and spices, all of which I had in stock.  So I looked it up.  "Kosheri" is, apparently, an Arabian street vendor dish.  Well, that suited the lack of vermicelli, as I reckoned that if street vendors made it they probably didn't go off down to their local deli for noodles.  Kosheri is traditionally served with a spicy tomato sauce, which got me to thinking regarding the minced beef.  If I could make a spicy tomato-based minced beef, that might go quite nicely.

Well, it did.  I have blogged the minced beef recipe here.

A couple of notes on the recipe itself - firstly regarding the lentils.  I used dried lentils and put them on to cook as it said in the recipe, to boil for 25 mins.  Then it occurred to me to check the cooking time on the bag.  Which said "soak for min. 12 hrs".  Yikes!  Well, I couldn't do anything about that now, so continued with the cooking.  I tested them at around 15 minutes and they were becoming softened, so put my trust in Ottolenghi's recipe and continued.  Suffice to say, they didn't need the 12hrs soaking.  For sure, if they had have been soaked, they'd have needed far less cooking - so that's something to bear in mind for the future.

Secondly, where the chicken stock was concerned, I used a chicken stock cube.  However, having watched Masterchef far too many times and consequently having had the words "get lots of flavour into your food" drummed in, I had an idea which turned out to be a blinder.  I keep a dripping cup in the fridge.  Whenever I roast a joint, I tip the fat into the dripping cup and use it for my roast potatoes, next time.  Inevitably, I also get a layer of jelly in the dripping cup.  Now I know that this jelly is like concentrated chicken (as that's the meat we predominantly roast) stock.  So I included a tablespoonful of it in the stock - which upped the chickeny flavour by a measure of many.  Well worth doing, I'd say!



NOTE : Here's a picture of our second go at Kosheri, this time accompanied by some spicy lamb mince.  Just as good!

KOSHERI (feeds 4)

Ingredients :

150g green lentils, unsoaked
200g basmati rice
40g unsalted butter
50g vermicelli noodles (I used egg noodles)
400ml chicken stock
half tsp grated nutmeg
one and a half tsp ground cinnamon
one tsp salt
half a tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp olive oil
2 onions, halved and thinly sliced.

Method :

1.  Place the lentils in a large sieve and wash them under cold running water.  Transfer to a large saucepan, cover with plenty of cold salted water and bring to the boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for 25 minutes.  The lentils should be tender but not mushy.  Drain in a colander and leave to one side to keep warm.

2.  Heat the oil in a large frying pan, add the onions and sauté over medium heat for around 20 minutes until dark brown.  Transfer to kitchen paper to drain and keep warm.

3.  Rinse the rice and drain well.  Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat.  Add the raw vermicelli or noodles, stir and continue frying and stirring until they turn golden brown.  Add the drained rice and mix well until it is coated in the butter.  Now add the stock (with or without the chicken jelly included), nutmeg, cinnamon and pepper.

4.  Stirring all the time to prevent the rice sticking, bring to the boil, cover and reduce the heat to a minimum and simmer for 12 mins.  Turn off the heat, remove the lid, cover the pan with a clean tea towel and put the lid back on.  Leave like that for around 5 minutes, which helps to make the rice light and fluffy.

5.  To serve, lightly break up the rice with a fork and add the lentils & most of the onions, taste for seasoning and adjust accordingly.  Top the rice with the remaining onions.




My Spicy Minced Beef recipe

Spicy minced beef on the left, Kosheri on the right
Continuing the post regarding the Kosheri, here is the recipe for the Spicy Minced Beef that went so well with it.

SPICY MINCED BEEF (feeds 3)

Ingredients :

400g minced beef
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tsp grated ginger
1.5 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground cinnamon
half a tsp ground coriander
half a tsp ground turmeric
half a tsp chilli flakes
1 beef oxo cube (or any beef stock cube)
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp tomato ketchup
black pepper
boiling water

Method :

1.     Fry off the mince until browned, then remove all the fat (and give it to the dog, if you've got one!).  Add the onion, garlic and ginger and continue to fry until the underside of the mince layer has caramelised then turn and fry again.  Do this for some 3-4 turns, until a good quantity of caramelised meat is evident.

2.     Add the cumin, cinnamon, coriander, turmeric, chilli flakes, oxo cube (crumbled), tomato puree, tomato ketchup & pepper, stir to combine, then add sufficient water to cover the meat and stir well to combine.

3.   Bring to the boil, then simmer for 25-30 mins to reduce and let the flavours mingle.

Serve - goes well with Kosheri, recipe can be found here.

9 October 2010

Welcome to all of you!



The blog has been running for a few weeks now, and I just wanted to say an offical hello and a warm welcome, to everyone who has come here.


I just couldn't believe my eyes, when I looked at my stats to see where you folk were coming from!

Needless to say, the U.K. is a given, followed by the U.S.A. and Canada, however then I've had visitors from Australia, the Ukraine, Ghana, Netherlands, New Zealand (hiya Liz! lol), Russia and Germany.  Wow!

I'm very glad to have you visit and hope something on this blog has left you feeling a little like this : 

Bournemouth Echo "Taste" blog posting : Eggs & Pies


I won't bother putting the blog post here in all it's glory, as it is basically a re-run of the post about the Chicken & Sweetcorn Pie, and the Fried Eggs for breakfast.

However, if you are interested in seeing it, it is available here.

I didn't want to bore you all to tears with the same old pieces!

3 October 2010

Breakfast : Fried Egg on Toast

Fried egg on toast is one of my favourite breakfasts.  Most especially, when we have just taken delivery of six eggs from Lozzie Cousins' back garden hens.  :)  I like to think I've got the preparation and eating of one fried egg on two slices of toast, down to a fine art.



First, you take your egg pan - just suitable for one egg (some may call it a blini pan, lol) and thanks go to Jane for it - and add a teaspoon of olive oil, then put it on a medium heat.

Then, you put two slices of bread in the toaster, get out your plate, a knife and fork and whichever smudge or butter you're going to be using on the toast.

Next, take an egg and crack it into the pan - and leave it to cook.

You may even have time for a short sit down while you wait for the toast to cook.

Once the toast is cooked, butter it, then cut it in half, then each half into three.  Place them on the plate with one slice re-assembled and a half of the other slice on each side.

Move everything to the cooker, where you add freshly ground sea salt and pepper to the toast.  This is most important!

When your egg starts to shout (i.e. the hot air escapes from underneath the white), it's done.  Tip onto the seasoned toast, and add a grind of salt & pepper to the egg.

Disappear back to the computer, where you'll be able to eat said egg with one hand, whilst the other one controls your mouse.

Simples!  LOL

2 October 2010

Chicken & Sweetcorn Pie

I am really quite proud of this pie, so please be gentle with me when you comment.  *chuckle*  Oh, and please do comment - on any of the posts on the blog.  I welcome all thoughts and questions!

Having re-discovered by pastry-making muse, I have been as keen as anything to practice the skill before it disappears again.  *chuckle*  Hence, I thought I'd have a go at my - then - nirvana of pastry creations - the "top and bottom" pie.  Having done that, I've now got a different nirvana - but enough of that.

So, with planning beforehand, I made the pastry on Saturday and kept it in the fridge until Sunday.  Being disabled, it helps to not have to go through the pastry preparation/washing up cycle as well as the pie creation cycle, all in one go.  However, I do think that it helps the pastry in some way to sit quietly in the fridge for a while.

I have to admit that I cheated on the pie filling and used a tin of Campbell's Condensed Chicken & White Wine soup for the sauce, but hopefully I'll be forgiven!

CHICKEN & SWEETCORN PIE

Ingredients

For the pastry :
280g plain flour
half a teaspoon of baking powder
quarter of a teaspoon of salt
85g salted butter
85g lard
small amount of water

For the filling :
400g chicken breast, skinless and cut into smallish dice
1 tbsp oil
1 shallot, diced small
1 garlic clove, chopped
half a pre-cooked cob of sweetcorn niblets
2 bay leaves
1 tin Campbell's condensed Chicken & White Wine soup
small amount of milk.

Method

1.  Firstly make the pastry.  I think it helps to make it the day before, but it's up to you.  Into a food processor, put the flour, salt, baking powder, butter and lard.  Blitz until the fat has all disappeared into the flour mixture.

2. Then add approx 2 tablespoons of cold water and blitz again, to bring together into a dough.  Add a little more water if your pastry refuses to come together.  Then either turn out onto some cling film and refrigerate, or cut into half and roll out one half for the base of the pie dish.  Place the other half back in the fridge to keep cool.

3.  Lay your pastry into the pie dish, allowing some to overhang - which prevents the pastry shrinking and means you will be left with a good edge upon which to stick the top layer of pastry.  Cover with baking parchment, then add baking beans and put into a pre-heated oven at around 190deg for 25-30 mins.

4.  In the meantime, add the oil and shallots to a deep frying pan and sweat off until the shallots are transparent.  For the last couple of minutes of cooking time, add the garlic and continue to cook.


5.  Add the chicken to the pan, increase the heat and cook until the outside of the chicken has a touch of golden colour.

6.  Add the sweetcorn niblets and the tin of soup.  Let the soup down with 2-3 tablespoons of milk until your preferred consistency is met.

7.  Once the pastry base is cooked, remove from the oven, remove the baking paper and beans and set aside to cool slightly.


8.  Once the filling is complete, add to the pastry base.


9.  Roll out your top layer of pastry, to a size that is just bigger than your pie dish.  Lightly brush the edges of the filled pie with milk, then lay the pastry top over the pie and pinch the edges to secure it.  Cut off any excess pastry, then cut a hole in the middle for any steam to escape.  Glaze with either some beaten egg or milk, sprinkle with freshly ground pepper and place into the oven at 190deg C (fan) for 30-45 minutes or until the pastry is looking suitably golden.  It is a good idea to put the pie onto a baking tray, just in case the sauce overflows.  It's far easier to remove it from a baking tray, than it is from the bottom of the oven!

Serve.  :)

Foraged chestnuts


Hubby picked up a whole load of lovely sweet chestnuts from a tree beside the car park we use for school pick-ups/drop-offs.

I've spent an entire evening shucking roasted chestnuts, then grinding them down.  They're now in the freezer awaiting use in some pastry.  I've yet to decide what sort of tart to use the pastry in, but fingers crossed that when I do, they'll come out of the freezer as deliciously nutty as they went in!

It's all an experiment, but this is the thing with foraging - you pick up a glut of something, then need to establish ways of using this free bounty before it goes off!

For further foraging information and site news, go to Hubby's site at http://ukforage.blogspot.com/

A trifling challenge!

Hubby issued me with a challenge - to make a box of Bird's Trifle and make it so that it was palatable.

Well, I'm not sure that the end result was as tidy as it was meant to be, but it was certainly palatable!

Inside the box, you find sachets each of custard powder, dream topping and jelly crystals, plus a bag of four trifle sponges and a leetle bag of chocolate sprinkles.  The chocolate sprinkles made me smile, although I was a teensy bit disappointed that they weren't multicoloured.

So, "to horse!" she cried.

Stage 1 is to make the custard.  Which involves a saucepan, a bowl and a measuring jug.

Stage 2 is to make the jelly.  Which involves a bowl and a measuring jug.  Cue 1st lot of washing up.

Stage 3 is to combine the trifle sponges with some fruit from a tin I'd magicked out of the cupboard, and the jelly.  Cue washing up no. 2 as the bowl I'd chosen wasn't big enough.

Stage 4 is to add the custard layer, having let it cool.  Oh, and wash up the saucepan.

Stage 5 is to whip up the dream topping and add that to the cooled custard layer.  I was getting fed up with the washing up by now, but thankfully, all was done bar the sprinkles - which had to be added moments before serving.

Now I love trifle, but :

a) I got SO fed up with washing up utensils;
b) it took so flipping long!
c) the jelly crystals are about as pernickety as the old lady down the road who hates kids playing outside her house and degenerated into water at the slightest opportunity.


As you will see from the picture above, I attempted to cheer the whole sorry combination up by including a tin of tropical fruit salad in the mix.  Well, it made it a bit more interesting and added some sorely needed texture.  Still, it did us for dessert for two days.  Two long, long days .... lol

Fruit Scones

As we're a bit limited on culinary options at the moment, my mind - in the shape of a large question mark - wanders into the storecupboard, to see if anything in there strikes me as a possibility.

Couple that with a Tweet from Dan Lepard regarding scones, and there you are.

After exhaustive research, a.k.a. around half an hour or so of looking at various recipes, I chose a recipe which intrigued me for it's use of yoghurt in the scone dough.

Everything went rather well, apart from a moment when I paused to yell at son for climbing all over my head whilst trying to get his lunch instead of just waiting *sigh*, but once I got going it all came together fairly easily.

FRUIT SCONES

Ingredients

350g self-raising flour
quarter of a teaspoon of salt
1 tsp baking powder
90g cold butter, cut into cubes
4 tbsp demerara sugar
100g sultanas
150g natural full-fat yoghurt
4 tbsp full-fat milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
milk to glaze

Method

1.  Cut a piece of baking paper to fit your baking sheet, then place just the sheet in the oven to heat up at 200deg C fan/220deg C/gas7.

2.  Put the flour, salt, butter and baking powder into a food processor and whizz until the butter disappears.  Add the sugar and give it a second's whizz to combine, then tip into a large bowl, stir in the fruit and make a well in the middle.

3.  In the microwave or a saucepan, warm the yoghurt, milk and vanilla together.  It should be hot and may well go slightly lumpy but tip into the bowl anyway and mix well (first with a knife, then with fingers) to combine with the flour/fruit mixture.


4.  Once the dough has all come together, give it a couple of folds to make sure it's smooth, then tip onto a sheet of cling film, flatten to around 1.5cm and begin cutting the scones out.  Repeat by pressing the dough together and cutting again, until you are left with a scrap which can be formed by hand.

5.  Quickly, remove the baking sheet from the oven, place the baking paper on board, then the scones on top of that.

5.  Glaze the tops of each scone with some milk and place in the oven to bake for 12 minutes or so, until risen and golden.


Then, it's just a matter of keeping the children at bay until you want to eat them!

Money -v- Health

How do you write a food blog, when you've not had any "interesting" dinners to write about?


That was the quandary which beset me this morning.  You see, thanks to my having taken a day off sick in the last couple of weeks, my wages were reduced because I don't get sick pay.  Add to that several other factors like new school items, new car items, approaching birthdays etc. and we find ourselves temporarily completely strapped for cash.


Our menu list, this week, has consisted of :


Tuesday : Cornish Pasties, potato waffles and baked beans.

The pasties were the supermarket's own, because you just can't produce home made for the same price as the supermarket.  When you're buying for price, not for quality, these things make a huge difference.  The waffles we had already in the freezer, so no expense there - and the same with the baked beans, which are a storecupboard staple.

Wednesday : Pasta Bolognese

Good old Bolly.  What would we do without it?  To make things marginally more interesting, we tried the "cooking in the oven, on low, for 2 hours" (the sauce, not the pasta!) approach.  Hubby was cooking, but he reported back that it simply made the sauce watery.  Apparently he had to put it back into the deep frying pan and reduce it like heck, to make it palatable.  I have a feeling that perhaps we had it on too low, as it tasted good for it's long slow cooking and so would be worth doing again - but at a temperature high enough to burn off the water instead of it accumulating in the sauce.

The good thing, price-wise, about Pasta Bolognese is that a) we could use whatever pasta we had leftover in the cupboard (a mix of Fusilli and Penne, as it turned out) and it requires little more than an onion, some garlic and a few tomatoes in the way of fresh veg.  Unfortunately, fresh veg for every meal is what totes the price up.

Thursday : Pizza

This was of necessity, as we had to attend son's Parents Evening at school (where he's doing fantastically well, thank you for asking) and would be back too late to start cooking in a big way.  We had Asda's new "Loaded" frozen pizzas and very nice they were too.  Hubby and I always cheer ours up with the addition of snipped chilli and a little extra cheese for all three, but the basic pizza (triple pepperoni) was a marked step up from their bog-standard pizzas, which have deteriorated to the point where we can't face them any longer.


Friday : Sausage Casserole

At last, we're coming into the land of vegetables.  Hubby was cooking again, as he had an idea he wanted to explore, involving half a bottle of red wine.  Apparently it didn't quite come off as he had planned, but as I didn't know what he was planning, it seemed a very tasty and creditable sausage casserole, using swede and carrot and accompanied by some green peas.  Gosh, but it was good to see something green on the plate!

Saturday : Tuna Pasta Bake

This is again a strategic choice, as son often has friends who want to stay over for tea and so gain a bit longer to play.  Good old tuna pasta bake is usually accepted by everyone and also doesn't require the addition of fresh veg, which keeps the price down.  Again.

Sunday : Cottage Pie with carrots, broccoli and green beans with Rhubarb crumble for dessert.

At last, some proper vegetables, to prevent us all getting scurvy.  LOL  In truth, all this meal requires for us to buy is the mince, potatoes and broccoli as everything else we either had frozen (beans), in the fridge (carrots) or as a storecupboard ingredient.  The rhubarb would have come from Ruby - the plant in the garden - but for a friend supplying us with some from their giant plant!


Monday : Sausages, hash browns and baked beans.

Oh dear.  Well, we're shopping again tomorrow - which is about all that can be said for this meal, except for the fact that it only cost us the price of the sausages, as we had everything else in already.

We budgeted £60 for the entire week's shopping and came in under budget - not by much, but every little helps.  I can't help feeling that we under-achieved somewhat where the style and quality of the meals was concerned and that perhaps we could have done better where the inclusion of vegetables, and the exclusion of high-fat products like the pasties, were concerned.  However, it looks like we're all going to get fed - and that's something that was looking dodgy there, at one point!

We've got another week of super-austerity to get through before we can begin look at things other than sausages and mince.  I suspect we may very well be thoroughly fed up with both these things, by then.  However, I shall investigate options and recipes for the future, for when this situation attacks us again - as I am sure it will, if the current Government has anything to do with it!
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