31 Dec 2013

Easy Recipe: Smoked Haddock and Spinach

Why I won't be dieting this year.......In my house we couldn't possibly think about cutting back on sugary foods until the end of January. We've got a stash of Christmas cake, meringue nests, chocolates, biscuits and lots of other wonderful goodies to get through and as I type this blog post I'm enjoying a bag of Galaxy Minstrels, delicious they are too.

I've just come across a recipe which uses ¼ of a banana, what's going on here, what am I supposed to do with the remainder if I was to embark on a serious New Year diet.  We don't do diets in my house but try to cut back on sugary treats, eat more soup and generally serve up smaller portions.  I went on a low fat diet many years ago and craved fish and chips on a daily basis, I'm now convinced that the no-diet diet is the only one that works.

A friend has enthusiastically thrown herself into every diet known to man but as usual she is now back to her normal weight plus a few pounds more thanks to the diets that don't work. Her venue for the group dieters was opposite an Indian Restaurant and after the dieters group hug she went straight over the road for a meal.  She was also buying ready made dieters meals.  She brought a friend along to one of our lunch get togethers and said friend counted points all throughout the meal - annoying.

Apparently most diets only last for 24 hours and some dieters fail because they go out for meals with friends who aren't on a diet.  I find it's dieters who spoil meals for those of us who don't do silly diets. The only sensible diet aid I have ever come across is a diet plate which helps with portion control for those with no control.  In my house we bought smaller dinner plates years ago and practice portion control. Make a cake, slice into portions and freeze, we don't eat the lot in one go......

I'm a huge fan of smoked haddock and this recipe can be made in a microwave safe dish in just 8 minutes or if you have a steam oven it cooks successfully too.  The creme fraiche and cheese turns into a cheesy sauce and for a minimum of effort here is a delicious meal. All you need is a small bag of fresh spinach, top with a piece of smoked haddock, spread a few tablespoons of low fat creme fraiche on top, sprinkle over mature grated Cheddar cheese, top with slices of spring onions and grind over lots of fresh ground pepper.  Serve with poached egg, new potatoes and garden peas.

The perfect healthy midweek meal

22 Dec 2013

Individual Raspberry Trifle

I turned to a Delia Smith recipe for my traditional trifle, sponge soaked in sherry, raspberries, homemade custard, whipped cream and I topped it with some chopped pistachios.

Huge bowls of trifle look amazing and have the wow factor but occasionally I like to make individual trifle.

A fellow food blogger has a wonderful Nigella recipe on her site, chocolate cherry trifle, should you need more trifle inspiration....

Back soon!

17 Dec 2013

Last Minute Christmas Puddings - Recipe

I didn't make Christmas pudding last year and thought for a change I'd take the easy route and buy one, that didn't go too well because we didn't like it.  I wasn't sure I wanted the usual traditional pudding and these are light and full of Christmas flavours.  They don't need maturing and freeze well too.

I managed to get eight individual puddings and two smaller dariole moulds from the mixture.  I use non- stick aluminium BacoFoil to cover the basins, it doesn't stick to the mixture and there is no need to use greaseproof paper and a layer of foil to cover the tins.

Making individual puddings is a great time saver and they only take 45 minutes to cook.

Makes approximately 8 puddings.

You will need:  8 small pudding basins

75g softened butter
450g mixed dried fruit
1 small cooking apple
finely grated rind and juice of 1 orange
50ml brandy
100g soft brown sugar
2 eggs
100g self-raising flour
40g fresh white breadcrumbs

1. Grease the tins with Cake Release Spray, or if using butter to grease, line the base of the basin with a round of greased greaseproof paper.
2. Peel, core and chop the apple into small pieces.  To a bowl add the chopped apple, mixed fruit and orange juice.  Add the brandy and leave for an hour.
3. Put the butter, sugar and grated orange rind into a bowl and whisk until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs and fold in the flour.
4. Sift the flour and mixed spice, add to the bowl along with the breadcrumbs and fold into the cake batter. Add the bowl of marinated fruits and their liquid to the mix and stir to combine.
5. Spoon into the pudding basins.  Cover with a square of non-stick BacoFoil which has been pleated in the middle, press down firmly around the rim of the pudding basins.
6. Steam for 45 minutes to 1 hour.  Remove the papers and turn out onto clingwrap.
7. To reheat:  Microwave for 20 seconds on high on a microwave proof dish.

I made mine in a combination steam oven.

15 Dec 2013

Mini Stollen

We never bought stollen when I was a child, growing up or when I was a young adult.  I'm not sure I even knew what it was, maybe it was something only posh people were aware of and ate at Christmas time. I lived in a small market town and maybe it had yet to make its way to us. I can remember the first time I ever ate it, the slices came from M&S and were totally delicious, I love the soft icing sugar they are topped with.  I also remember buying stollen that weighed as much as a house brick.....

For the last few years I've made my own and whether you use a bread machine or a food mixer to make the dough, it's best to incorporate the cherries by hand otherwise the dough will be turn pink. I've always made one huge stollen but this time I used a different recipe and made mini ones.

Mini versions are fine but we missed our usual huge slab of cut stollen. They can be frozen but without the delicious melted butter and icing sugar topping.

I used a warming draw to rise the dough and a combination steam oven to refresh the stollen after defrosting at room temperature.  They only took 8 minutes to refresh and crisp up.  Combination steam ovens are a fabulous piece of kitchen kit and so versatile too.

The recipe is on the BBC Food website, they are easy to make and delicious, the dough has a lovely soft crumb but need lots more dried fruit, using the almonds didn't appeal so these were left out of the mix.

7 Dec 2013

Iced Holly Christmas Cake

This years cake was inspired by the ribbon I purchased on a Christmas stall. As usual I had no idea how I was going to decorate the cake. Unlike lots of avid cake decorators, I don't sit down and draw out a design but wait for some inspiration to rain down on me.  Hubby often asks how I am going to decorate the cake and more often than not, I am clueless until the last minute.

I made my usual cake recipe and this year chose to ice the cake in ivory sugarpaste. The holly leaves are cut out and left to dry over night on crumpled up tin foil. I then brushed the leaves with gold lustre, wet the edges of the leaves and sprinkled over some disco edible glitter. The holly berries are moistened and rolled in red glitter.

All so very easy and achievable too. Sometimes with cake decorations less is more and the photograph doesn't really do the cake justice.

Tip:  Using a silicone mat (I bought mine from Lidl) helps when rolling out sugarpaste it doesn't stick so easily. I use cornflour to lightly dust the silicone mat and rolling pin instead of icing sugar.  The reasoning is that using icing sugar dries out the sugarpaste.  Also a shiny surface is easily achieved with cornflour.

4 Dec 2013

Meringue Topped Mince Pies and Mini Mince Pies with Lids - Recipe

We ate all the crumble topped mince pies and because I've got lot's of mincemeat to use up I decided to rustle up these little beauties.

A cloud of crispy meringue
If there was a popularity contest for mince pies these would come third - first place is given to the crumble topped mince pies, second place to mini mince pies with a pastry lid and third place goes to meringue topped mince pies.

Mini Mince Pies with lids

I always use Delia's mincemeat recipe (it doesn't boil over) and if there is any left it keeps well.

You will need: 12 cup bun tin, greased and mincemeat

Recipe: for Meringue Topped mince pies or use the sweet pastry to make mini mince pies with lids.

For the sweet pastry:
225g plain flour, 115g butter, 50g lard, 25g icing sugar, 1 egg

1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Sift flour into a bowl add the butter and lard. Rub the fat into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the icing sugar and then the beaten egg. Bring together to form a smooth dough. Place in plastic bag and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
2. Roll out just over half the pastry to 3mm thickness and cut out circles large enough to fit the base of the tart tins.
3. Place a dessert spoon of mincemeat into each pastry base.

Meringue Topping
2 egg whites
100g golden caster sugar

1. Whisk 2 egg whites to the soft peak stage. Gradually whisk in 100g caster sugar teaspoon by teaspoon until the meringue is stiff and glossy.
2. Place blobs of meringue on top of the mince meat and bake for 20 minutes, until pale golden. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the Mini Mince Pies - follow the sweet pastry recipe and cut out lids to fit the tops of the mince pies. Place a dessert spoon of mincemeat into each pastry base.  Wet the lids and press on to the sides of the pastry bases. Cut twice into each pastry lid and place the tray in the fridge for 30 minutes. Bake for 20 minutes.  When they come out of the oven sprinkle with plenty of caster sugar. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes and then remove the pies to a wire rack. They will freeze successfully.

29 Nov 2013

Crumble Topped Mince Pies - Recipe

We've eaten all the mince pies
 so I guess I'll just have to make some more!
I love mince pies and I love crumble too and these pies are perfect.  They can be eaten on their own, and are delicious warm, but work well with either cream or ice cream.

Delia's mincemeat recipe never lets me down and I make this every year because it isn't too sweet and it never boils over the sides of the pies. I always leave out the peel and almonds though. The sweet pastry is easily made in a food processor.

Fresh from the oven

I only used half the pastry and froze the remainder.  There will also be some crumble left, this too will freeze.

You will need: 12 cup bun tin, greased and mincemeat

Makes: 12 mince pies

For the sweet pastry:

225g plain flour, 115g butter, 50g lard, 25g icing sugar, 1 egg  

1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Sift flour into a bowl add the butter and lard. Rub the fat into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the icing sugar and then the beaten egg. Bring together to form a smooth dough. Place in plastic bag and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
2. Roll out just over half the pastry to 3mm thickness and cut out circles large enough to fit the base of the tart tins.
3. Place a dessert spoon of mincemeat into each pastry base.

For the crumble topping:

150g fridge cold butter, 150g self raising flour, 75g demerara sugar, flaked almonds

1. Cube the butter and rub into the self raising flour until large flakes are formed.  Add the demerara sugar and stir.
2. Top the mincemeat with crumble and scatter over a few flaked almonds.
3. Place in the oven for 20 minutes until the crumble is golden.
4. Leave in the tin to cool for 10 minutes and then remove and place on a cooling rack.

20 Nov 2013

Mary Berry's Whole Orange Spice Cake

Whole Orange Spice Cake
I took this recipe from Mary Berry's Christmas Collection cookery book which I've had since it first came out in 2006, although there is now an updated version.

It's an easy cake to make but one which requires using a food processor.  My small processor just coped with the amount of batter mix.
The skin was too thick and my orange had to be cooked for an hour or so
The orange should be a thin skinned variety otherwise it won't cook down enough in 20 minutes and will process into hard chunks of orange.

It's a huge cake, well it is for 2 people, I think it will feed 12 easily and because it freezes well without the icing sugar topping, it makes a very inexpensive cake to feed a crowd over Christmas and New Year. If I made the cake again I'd definitely make some type of orange topping rather than the dusting of icing sugar. The cake is very light and moist and I served my cake with double cream.

The star template is reusable and came in an assorted pack from Lidl.

I line the base and sides of my sandwich tins
 to ensure the cake doesn't stick to the tin
The recipe can be found on the Mary Berry website.

9 Nov 2013

Red Onion Focaccia

I'm now getting to grips with the new cooking facility in my kitchen, although the kitchen still isn't finished.....hopefully it will be before Christmas. The glass man has now installed the splash backs, hubby has completed the bespoke task lighting - the electrician is to return to do a few finishing touches and the fitter has a couple of items to complete......it isn't a huge kitchen and it has taken far too long but I'm really happy with my choices.

I decided to have an oven stack which includes a combination steam oven, an all singing all dancing main oven and a warming draw. The combination steam oven is a gem - it cooks and reheats effortlessly.  It does take some getting used to and you have to be careful not to get burnt when the steam is released from the oven door.  I'm still in the learning process but it's great to have some new kitchen toys.

Proving dough in the steam oven is successful, the dough doesn't form a skin and it proves without covering. The bread is cooked on a special setting which uses the fan and also injects steam.

Instructions aren't included below for making the focaccia in a combination steam oven.

You will need:
450g strong white flour
2 teaspoons salt
7g easy blend dried yeast
4 tablespoons olive oil
350ml tepid water

For the topping:
2 tablespoons olive oil
285g red onions
2 cloves garlic, crushed
sea salt

1. Slice the red onions.  Put the two tablespoons of oil into a pan and add the onions. Dampen a round piece of greaseproof paper and place on top of the onions. Leave to cook gently for 10 minutes.
2. Remove the greaseproof paper and add the crushed garlic, stir and cook for a minute. Remove the onions from the pan and transfer to a plate to cool.
3. Place the flour into a mixing bowl, add the yeast to one side of the bowl and the salt to the other ensuring the yeast and salt do not come into contact with each other.  Add the olive oil and 350ml tepid water, mix to a soft dough.
4. Knead for 10 minutes by hand or 6 minutes in a food mixer.
5. Place the dough into an oiled bowl and turn to coat in the oil. Cover the bowl with clingwrap and leave to rise for about 1 hour in a warm place.
6. Line a 25cmx30cm baking tray with baking parchment and oil lightly. Remove the risen dough and place in the roasting tin, stretching to fit.  Cover with oiled clingwrap and leave the dough to rise at room temperature until doubled in size.
7. Preheat the oven to 200ºC.
8. Dip the fingertips in flour and press down into the dough.
9. Top the dough with the cooled onions. Sprinkle over the sea salt, if using. Bake for 35 minutes until golden brown.  Drizzle over more olive whilst warm.

4 Nov 2013

Individual Jumbleberry Crumbles

Individual berry crumbles
I love a good homely crumble and every now and again I like to use individual ramekins instead of making one large pud. This is a very quick pudding - the crumble mix is stashed away in the freezer, the same for the berries, which are fruits from my garden.  I used a mixture of redcurrants, we had loads this year and the birds actually left some for us, only a few blueberries though because the birds ate most of them and strawberries which I froze and aren't any good once thawed because they turn into mush and need to go into some sort of pie or crumble.

We ate ours with a scoop of ice cream, double cream is good too. Hubby doesn't manage to get his beloved Birds custard when I make crumble in ramekins......he really likes custard and pudding and not the other way round.  Sometimes though I could fall out with Birds custard, I really could.

This is an adapted recipe based on Nigella's Jumbleberry Crumbles.

100 grams Self-raising flour
50 grams cold butter (cut into small cubes)
3 tablespoons demerara sugar
100 grams frozen berries
1 teaspoon cornflour
2 teaspoons sugar

You will need: four ovenproof ramekins

1. Put the flour into a bowl with the cubes of butter. Using a large fork mash the butter against the sides of the bowl and into the flour.  This will produce a clumpy crumble. Now mix in the sugar.
2. Preheat the oven to 220°C.  Place the frozen fruit in the ramekins and sprinkle the cornflour and sugar over the top.
3. Top each ramekin with crumble mix, sit the ramekins on a tray and bake for 20 minutes until the filling is bubbling round the sides.

25 Oct 2013

Boozy Bread and Butter Pudding

I'm back from my annual holiday - I've missed National Baking Week and National Chocolate Week. No worries, I'm here to support National Bread and Butter Pudding Week......

My husband loves bread and butter pudding - there must be at least five other recipes on my blog!

Bread and Butter Pudding is one of our Great British puddings and there are many, many variations. This pudding has a thin layer of brandy soaked sultanas scattered over the base of the dish.  Unlike the majority of bread and butter puddings there is only a small amount of bread and lots of custard.

You will need: 50g sultanas soaked in a tablespoon of Brandy, 2 slices of white farmhouse bread, softened butter, 3 eggs, 50g caster sugar, ½ tsp vanilla extract or a vanilla pod, 0.5 litres milk.

Preheat the oven to 160ºC. Grease an ovenproof dish.

1. Soak the sultanas in the brandy. Butter the bread, remove the crusts and cut into triangles. Scatter the sultanas over the base of the dish. Arrange the bread in overlapping slices in the dish.
2. Whisk the eggs, sugar and vanilla extract together. In a small pan warm the milk and pour onto the eggs whilst whisking.
3. Pour the egg mixture through a fine sieve onto the bread.
4. Take a roasting tray and fill half way with hot water, place the dish onto the tray and cook for 45 minutes or until cooked.
5. Dust with icing sugar and carefully caramelise with a blow torch.

9 Oct 2013

Mince Beef and Stilton Mini Pies - Recipe

I'm originally from Stilton Cheese country and these mini pies are a reminder of the shires.

When I made my cottage pie I used just half the meat mixture and with the remainder I made these mini pies. Bought shortcrust was used to make the pies on this occasion - and why not! I made one cottage pie and eight mini pies from just 500g of 10% fat Aberdeen Angus mince beef.

Packed full of flavour

To make 8 mini pies all you need is a 12 cup muffin tin - I used a loose base 12 cup individual mini sandwich tin from Lakeland - removing the pies is much easier than using a normal muffin tin.

1. 500g pack of shortcrust pastry.
2. Spray the tray with oil.
3. Roll out the pastry and with the plain side of a 11cm cutter stamp out 8 circles to line the tins. Fill the pastry cases to the top with the cooked mince beef mixture and press down with a spoon.  Top with a cube of Stilton cheese.
4. Roll out the remaining pastry and with the plain side of a 8cm cutter stamp out 8 lids. Beat an egg and brush the underside of the pastry lid with egg and press down on to the edges of the pastry bases. Pinch the edges of the pastry together. Brush the lids with beaten egg and make a large hole in the lids for the steam to escape. Place the tray in the fridge and leave to chill for 30 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Cook for 40 minutes until golden.

4 Oct 2013

Baked Apples - Recipe

Baked Apples
Bramley apples are perfect for baking and if you take them out of the oven at exactly the right time the apple within will be lovely and fluffy. They are filled with layers of butter, brown sugar and dried fruits, it's as simple as that.  Cinnamon mixed in with the layers would be good too.

My hubby insists on having his baked apples floating in Birds custard and why not!  I'm not sure they would go with posh custard, creme fraiche or cream.  Ice cream would be good though for that hot and cold pudding combination.

We never hear the words ‘let’s have Baked Apple and custard tonight’. This retro recipe appears to have been written out of the majority of recipe books, although Nigel Slater has written a recipe for this in his books.…..it's delicious.

You will need:

For each Bramley cooking apple:

Butter, mixed dried fruit, dark brown sugar.

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Remove the apple core with an apple corer. Score each cooking apple round the middle, going quite deep into the apple.
2. Put the apples into a baking dish, using the handle of a teaspoon fill the centres with butter, dried fruit, and sugar – repeat the layers until the apple cavity is filled to the top. Top each apple with a cube of butter as the last layer.
3. Add a few tablespoons of water to the dish and place in the oven to bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

2 Oct 2013

Cottage Pie with Roasted Vine Cherry Tomatoes - Recipe

Comfort food
Easy midweek family meals, made from a few quality ingredients, inexpensive and cooked from scratch - that's why we love cottage pie.

I'm a bit of a cheat when it comes to chopping vegetables into small pieces and use my trusted kitchen gadget. I like the way it effortlessly cuts the vegetables into precise cubes - it doesn't take much to please me. I thought it would be one of those gadgets which remained at the back of the cupboard collecting dust but it does get used on a fairly regular basis. My knife skills aren't the best and when I went on a course at the local college the lecturer always said I cut vegetables like a housewife which used to make me laugh, although he did have a point!

You will need:

1 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion
1 celery stalk
1 carrot
750g lean mince beef
2 tsp plain flour
300ml beef stock
1 tablespoon tomato puree
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves

For the potato topping:

750g potatoes
30g butter
Vine cherry tomatoes

1. Finely chop the onion, celery and carrot. To a large pan add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and cook the vegetables until the onion becomes translucent and the vegetables begin to soften. Add the mince beef and cook for 5 minutes, add the tomato puree and cook for a couple more minutes, stirring to break up the mince.
2. Stir in the flour and cook for a couple of minutes, add the stock, Worcestershire Sauce, salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to the boil. Cover the pan and simmer for 45 minutes. Pour into a large casserole dish and cool.
3. Cook the potatoes, drain, add the butter to the pan and mash until smooth. Season.
4. Place dollops of potato onto the mince mixture and spread out to the edges. Place the vine cherry tomatoes on top.
5. Preheat the oven to 180oC and cook for 30 minutes until bubbling and brown.

27 Sept 2013

Apricot Couronne - The Great British Bake Off

Apricot Couronne
Last weekend, before the 'Sweet Dough Week' was on television,  I had a go at making the Apricot Couronne by Paul Hollywood.

At least I had the full instructions in front of me, unlike the contestants who have to work through a few scant notes and are seriously under pressure.

I gave myself three hours to make the bread and it was ample time to make, prove, bake and decorate. When I placed my buttery filling of apricots, raisins and walnuts onto the dough and rolled it up like a swiss roll the dough seemed to stretch and have a mind all of it's own. Another observation, I didn't allow a large enough centre, although in the photograph it looks as though there isn't a gap in the centre, I'm pleased to say that there is! The icing was a little runny, it's drizzled over the couronne whilst it's warm and this makes the icing lovely and crunchy.

The couronne is fairly easy to make and would be a fabulous bake for the Christmas season.  It's rich, sticky, tender and delicious.  The bread kept happily for a couple of days under clingwrap.

To sum up, it took three hours to make, we ate it three times a day (well there were only two of us to get through it) and it took us three days to polish it all off!  Although I say it myself, I was quite pleased with my first attempt at making this recipe......

The recipe can be found on the BBC Food website.

21 Sept 2013

Individual Pineapple Tart Tatin - Recipe

Pineapple Tart Tatin made with fresh pineapple
Today we have had glorious weather and it's looking like we are going to get some more late summer sunshine. Hubby happily cooked a barbecue and I made these lovely fresh pineapple tart tatin for dessert. They are delicious served with ice cream for that lovely hot/cold dessert which always works so well.

Sometimes caramel can be a pain to make and for reasons unknown won't play and I managed to get toffee instead which is no bad thing because my husband loved it.  I find the best way to make caramel is to use a small saucepan, which I forgot to do, and used a frying pan which seemed to give problems.

The pineapple rings sitting on top of the set caramel
The 'what's that' in the top right of the photograph is my clever apple corer, which is a great kitchen gadget and I've had this for many years, it's very useful for taking the cores out of pineapples too.

It's best to make a few slits in the pastry lids
My caramel and pineapple tried to burst out of the tins whilst cooking and next time I'm going to make some slits in the pastry.

I hope you have a go at making this delicious dessert.......

Serves:  4 people:

You will need:  4 x deep individual tart tins

4 x 2cm slices of ripe pineapple
50g caster sugar
cube of butter
4tsp rum
375g puff pastry

1.   Roll out the pastry - cut out four circles slightly larger than the tops of the tart tins.
2.   Remove the core from the centre of the pineapple slices, this is easily done with an apple corer.
3.   Take a small saucepan and add the sugar to the pan.  Set over a medium heat until it turns golden brown, add the butter, let it melt and bubble.
4.   Pour into the four tins and place in the fridge until set.
5.   Take a pineapple ring and place on the top of the caramel.
6.   Spoon a teaspoon of rum into the centre of each pineapple ring.
7.   Take a pastry lid and place over the pineapple and with the help of the handle of a teaspoon, tuck the pastry edges in to encase the pineapple.  Make a few slits in the pastry lids.  Place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
8.   Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200oC.
9.   Place the tarts onto a baking tray and place in the oven for 25 minutes or until golden.
10. Leave to cool for 15 minutes.  Run a knife round the tins and place a plate over the tin and turn upside down.  Beware the caramel can still be hot and it is safest to use a tea towel to help you remove the tins.
11. Serve with ice cream.

15 Sept 2013

Fresh Berry Scones - Great British Bake Off Everyday

The crunchy demerara topping on the lid is the best part of the scones
 and I eat the lid first!
I have a passion for scones but so much the better if berries are incorporated into them. Blueberry scones are my favourite but here we have both blueberries and raspberries.  The beauty about these scones is they bypass the usual jam then cream or cream and then jam debate that goes on and on...... My scone recipe is from The Great British Bake Off Everyday cookery book.

All they need is a dollop of cream
The book is full to the brim with very tempting cakes, bread and bakes - I was spoilt for choice. I've been baking quite a lot recently, in fact more than I intended to. I'm still getting to know my new oven and it's a good excuse to bake, bake, bake.

My kitchen posting has had to be delayed - the work seems to just go on and on and on. Everything seems to take ages, electricians coming and going, the fitter still doing small bits and pieces and then there is the glass man who has ordered the glass but this takes a few weeks to be made and then he has to come and fit.  Guess what, after the glass has been fitted the electricians have to come back to fit new socket covers and then the installer has to come back to do a few more bits and pieces........Shoo workmen, shoo........

There are still fresh berries on the shelves and using frozen for the scones unfortunately won't work because the frozen fruit will release too much liquid whilst the scones are baking.

I had some buttermilk left over from the Blackberry Buttermilk Sponge and used it to make the scones. If you can't locate any buttermilk here is a way of making your own: take 250ml milk (not semi), pour onto 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and leave to stand at room temperature for approximately 10 minutes.  If you have any blackberries left over from making the sponge I think I would be tempted to use these in the scones.  The scones freeze perfectly too, defrost and warm on the defrost setting of the microwave to refresh.

The Great British Bake Off is must watch TV and I for one find myself sitting in front of the TV every week watching, hubby knows he can't get any sense out of me whilst it's on, and now he watches too, eating one of my warm comforting fresh berry scones of course!

7 Sept 2013

Blackberry Buttermilk Sponge

The sponge has a lovely crunchy demerara sugar topping
This easy to make blackberry buttermilk sponge has a lovely tender crumb and if you can get hedgerow blackberries the cake will taste even better. My blackberries came from the supermarket, they were absolutely fine (but make sure they aren't dessert blackberries) or raspberries would be good to use too. The sponge is best served warm and can be reheated gently in the microwave.

I know sometimes it's not convenient to buy buttermilk and a buttermilk substitute can be made by taking 250ml milk (not semi-skimmed) and pouring onto 1 tablespoon of either white wine vinegar or lemon juice and leave to stand at room temperature for 10 minutes.

Recipe is from The Great British Bake Off Everyday cookbook and they recommend serving the sponge with Hot Berry Sauce (recipe in the book). The cake is quite sweet and I think the berry sauce would counteract the sweetness. I served my cake with a dollop of cream.

22 Aug 2013

Roasted Vegetable Lasagne

I enjoy vegetarian meals, and whilst I eat meat, it's great to have meatless days too.  I am a very fussy meat eater - for instance I will only buy sausages from my trusted butcher, I'd never eat a burger unless I make it myself, likewise with bolognese sauce, who knows what's hidden in that innocent looking sauce. I would never buy a sandwich which contains meat of any description.....yes I'm a very, very fussy meat eater.

The lasagne recipe is from BBC GoodFood website, I made a few substitutions, I'm not too keen on aubergines and used a couple of courgettes, red onions, yellow and red pepper and sliced chestnut mushrooms. Everything in the recipe is made from scratch including the tomato sauce, it's best to be prepared to spend quite some time in the kitchen but the result is worth it.  I served mine with a leafy salad and sundried tomato flatbread.

The original recipe includes a white sauce but I think a cheese sauce would have worked well. Have you made a sauce which tastes of flour?  Step by step instructions from WikiHow - show how to make a white/cheese sauce and how to avoid this problem.

17 Aug 2013

Raspberry, Chocolate and Almond Cake

It made a welcome change to make a cake that isn't either filled or covered in buttercream but we did serve the cake warm with double cream poured over, and very nice it was too.

Chocolate and raspberries go really well together, the cake will keep covered for a few days in the fridge. It slices well and will freeze too.

The cake testers gave this one the thumbs up.......

I'll let you take a peek behind the curtains of Kitchen Delights new kitchen sometime in September, the finishing touches are taking longer than we anticipated.

In the meantime to make this delicious cake -

You will need:

150g unsalted butter
150g caster sugar
2 large eggs
150g self-raising flour
50ml milk
150g ground almonds
135g dark chocolate chips
150g frozen raspberries
25g flaked almonds
Icing sugar
Double cream to serve

1. Grease and line a 20cm springform cake tin.
2. Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
3. Beat the caster sugar and butter together until it is a light and fluffy consistency.
4. Add the eggs, one at a time and add a tablespoon of flour with the last egg, beating well.  Add the milk and keep on beating.
5. Sieve the flour over the egg mixture and fold in.  Add the ground almonds and chocolate chips and fold these in to the batter.  Now carefully fold in the frozen raspberries.
6. Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and sprinkle over the flaked almonds.
7. Bake for 60 minutes or until cooked through.  Cool and then release the tin and leave on a wire rack to cool completely.
8. Sieve the icing sugar and dust over the cake.
9. Best served with cream.

12 Aug 2013

Raspberry and Cream Pavlova Crown

This was our dessert after a lovely barbecue last night and was a great way to end the barbie. To give the outside edge of the pavlova some character I went round the edge with my thumb and turned some of the meringue casing over to the inside.  The filling is whipped cream and a small pot of thick yogurt mixed together and flavoured with a little vanilla extract, decorate the top with raspberries and a dusting of icing sugar to produce the raspberry and cream crown.

This was the perfect dessert to end our barbecue - I've adapted the recipe from the book which came with my new cooker. I thought I had better get busy practicing using the new oven, I have a couple of books to review and a husband to feed - the pressure is on.

Line a large baking tin with parchment paper.

For the pavlova:
4 large egg whites
250g golden caster sugar
2 tsp cornflour
½ tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
2. In a large bowl whisk the egg whites to the soft peak stage, add the caster sugar a teaspoon at a time whisking well all the time until the thick glossy stage is reached, about 10 minutes.  Whisk in the cornflour, white wine vinegar and the vanilla extract. Dollop the meringue into a 20cm circle and smooth the edges of the pavlova.
3. Turn the oven down to 150ºC and bake for 1¼ hours. Turn the oven off and leave overnight in the oven to dry out.

To decorate:
Small pot of double cream
Small pot of thick natural yogurt
1 tsp vanilla extract

1.  Whisk the double cream until the floppy stage has been reached now whisk in the yogurt and the vanilla extract.

10 Aug 2013

Banana Bread - Nigella Lawson Recipe

After cooling cover in cling wrap and place the cake in the fridge,
 slice and open freeze
Good news! I now have a working kitchen, now for the bad news, the kitchen is still to be finished. There is decorating taking place by my husband, a few more electrics to be fitted and various other bits and pieces.

I'm very pleased with the refit, it hasn't been fun being without a kitchen for a couple of weeks or so. I haven't a clue where anything is kept and I'm basically messing about all the time looking for stuff or moving things to another place.

The cooker is taking some getting used to but to be fair I haven't had much time to road test and get to know it.

Fresh from the oven
I thought I would treat my husband to one of his favourite cakes and make this lovely banana bread recipe by Nigella Lawson from 'How to be a Domestic Goddess'. I love the walnuts in the recipe, the heady vanilla extract and the rum soaked sultanas. Those forgotten black bananas in the fruit bowl are best for this to give the cake a light texture.

I've made this cake many times over the years and I definitely prefer to overcook the cake slightly to produce a crust which then softens as the cake becomes sticky. The perfect cake for slicing, lunch boxes and picnics.  This is quite a large loaf cake and I like to slice it and open freeze for another day - the cake is too large for us to get through and I've got my waistline to think of!

The banana bread recipe can be found on Nigella's website.