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 180ÂșC. 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.