Sunday, 15 January 2017

Dairy free Christmas goodies

This year:

First up, stollen spirals as before. Lovely and light - I did the second prove in the oven on ultra low.

Gingerdoodle surprise muffins  - these were supposed to be Snickerdoodle Biscoff sandwich cookies, but I think the Vitalite sub for butter was the culprit. I made the mix largely as per the recipe (apart from the butter switch, using 3 very small 50g eggs instead of 2 large 75g, and adding some ground ginger because I was worried it would be bland), but it was cake-batter-like in texture. "Roll into balls and in the sugar and cinnamon" - pa ha ha ha. Out came the muffin cases (just 11 left in the pack, of course) and in went the mix. There was TONS. Given it supposedly makes 24 cookies, and I made 11 very generous muffins and a cupcake, I'm wondering what happened.

Anyway, I put the mix in the cases, sprinkled with a mix of granulated and demerara sugar plus cinnamon, and baked for ~35 mins at 170°C fan. They went a bit volcanic (the sugar sprinkle was widely spread!) but stayed in the cases and had a nice texture, close but light. When cool I cut an inverted cone out of the top, removed some of the cake, and filled with Biscoff spread slackened with soya milk. I omitted the sugar as it sounded far too sweet but I think another time I should re-add some, or use maple syrup in the soya.

"Healthy" 4-ingredient vegan fudge. With peanut butter, coconut oil, maple syrup and peanuts as the ingredients you can take the healthy label with a pinch of unhealthy salt. This came together quickly and seemed to last fine in the freezer. Tastes of the pan scrapings were yummy, approximating fudge to a fair extent. I made it in silicon cups and gave them with the gift!

Cherry chocolate coconut flapjacks. A straight sub of coconut oil for the butter this time, and again weirdness. When I melt and bubble the butter and sugar it goes treacly and beautiful. With the coconut oil I had a sublayer of treacly sugar, and a stubbornly separate layer of fat, no matter how much I mixed. This made for quite a dry flapjack and I had to try rescuing it with more syrup and some vitalite (as I'd used all my coconut oil). Adding cherries and dessicated coconut, and topping with generous drizzles of dark chocolate, sorted it. You have to cut it when cold, but refrigerating it makes it brick-like.

Finally, Chef John's Bacon Jam. I have wanted to try making bacon jam for a while, and went for this recipe. The one I really wanted was from Time To Cook, the blog by Mary-Anne Boermans who is one of my favourite ever Bake Off contestants. However, I couldn't really justify buying kecap manis and gentleman's relish for one recipe, so chose the simpler version. It seemed to work, despite me halving the bacon and onions and then forgetting to halve everything else. Lessons learned: cut the onions smaller, fry the bacon until crisp but not hard, and chucking in piri-piri seasoning (because it's easier than faffing with spices) works but... hooo-eeee, go easy on it! Subbing white wine vinegar for the sherry vinegar worked fine, and a splash of maple syrup was also a good addition. Getting really good bacon from the butcher is a must - I used streaky, because it's an American recipe and that's all they know. I realised I forgot the final olive oil - maybe this avoids the issue of the bacon fat going white in the fridge?

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Meat-free shepherd's pie

Shepherdess pie? No idea. Yummy, though.

Made it up myself but it turned out to be kind of similar to BBC Good Food's version. A good user-upper recipe. Properly vegetarian if you use the right cheese, stock, and an alternative to worcester sauce (marmite?).

1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, smashed
1-2 large handfuls mushrooms, chopped to a mix of sizes
a few going-soft cherry tomatoes (optional)
stick of slightly limp celery* (optional)
2-3 carrots,* diced large
1 tin green lentils, drained
handful frozen peas
2 med-large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
grated cheese, amount to taste (I used mature cheddar)
1-2 tsp dried cumin
salt to taste
1 tsp dried thyme
stock cube of choice
worcester sauce

* rescue soft celery and carrots in cold water overnight (I stand mine in a pint glass in the fridge door, and try not to pour them on my cereal in the morning...)

Soften onion, celery, garlic with thyme and tomatoes, covered to retain moisture. After ~5 mins add the carrot and lentils, and leave covered to cook until the carrot is just starting to soften.
In a separate pan, cook the sweet potato for ~15 mins until soft and mashable.
In another separate pan, cook the mushrooms with the stock cube (crumbled/chopped) and a splash of worcester sauce. Cover them and cook until they shrink and yield their liquid. Add the mushrooms and liquid along with the peas to the onion mixture and leave to simmer while you mash the sweet potatoes with salt and cumin. Layer the lentil mix and the mash in an oven dish, top with grated cheese, and cook for 20 mins at 180°C.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Cherry & almond cake

A simple cake that has gone down well at recent bake sales! Much abridged recipe for reference.

4 med/large eggs & the same weight (~250g) in each of caster sugar, self raising flour and butter
1 tsp baking powder
50g ground almonds
vanilla essence
1 tub glace cherries
cherry or other jam
~6-10 tbsp icing sugar
handful flaked almonds

Set the oven to 180°C / 160°C fan, and grease and line a 20cm round tin.

Make the sponge (butter, sugar, eggs, flour, baking powder) by creaming or all-in-one. Add 50g ground almonds to the mix, and a few drops of almond essence, and mix well.

From a tub of glace cherries, save 4-6 good ones. Chop the rest in half and rinse off the sugar syrup. Dry them on kitchen towel and coat in flour before stirring gently into the cake mix. This means they won't sink :)

Spoon the mixture into the tin and bake for 45-55 minutes or until cooked according to the skewer test. You might also put slightly less in the tin and make a couple of small cupcakes with the rest, to appease small helpers who aren't allowed a slice of the finished object.

When cool, cut in half horizontally and sandwich with cherry jam or another of your choice.

To decorate, mix icing sugar with water to a thick but dribble-able consistency and decorate the top however you wish, all over or arty squiggles etc. Toast some flaked almonds and scatter on top, then finish with the cherries, halved and distributed as you wish (depends if you are aiming for 12 polite slices or 8 more generous ones!). Sacrificing one or two of these cherries for the optional cupcakes may help avert tantrums.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Lentil and spinach curry

An easy weeknight veggie recipe from Prima. This was really tasty and very simple. My modified version used no chilli, and no stock as the tinned lentils were already cooked and needed no extra liquid. Even without it, the curry was quite soupy.

Fry a chopped onion until translucent, and add 3-4 tbsp (or to taste) of curry paste and a little water. This time I used Patak's Rogan Josh. Tip in 2 drained tins of green lentils and one of tomatoes, plus a small tin of coconut cream/milk (I used cream) and simmer while you cook the rice. With about 5-10 mins left, drop in several blocks of frozen spinach (I used about 7 since that's what was left in the bag!) and cook until defrosted and heated through. This made 4 polite portions or 3 hearty ones.

Next time I'd add a load of finely chopped mushrooms with the onion, to bulk out the curry and add a different texture. Definitely one to cook again.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Pork & leek lasagne with lighter cheese sauce

Lasagne is a favourite around here, but I can't deny that 'proper' (white sauce-based) cheese sauce is a bit heavy and rich at times. This recipe tries out a variation using cottage cheese. It's not a substitute, as in nobody would confuse the two, but it's a decent variation.

700g pork shoulder steaks, chopped into small pieces (I prefer this to mince)
2 red onions, chopped
2 leeks, finely chopped
200-300g mushrooms, finely chopped
stock cube (I used Knorr ham)
dried thyme, sage, and freshly ground black pepper
splash of balsamic vinegar
splash of oil

500g plain cottage cheese (I used full fat)
2 eggs, separated

To construct:
lasagne sheets
50g grated cheese

Cook the onion gently in the oil with the balsamic until translucent. Add the leeks and mushrooms, cook for a few minutes, then add the stock. Cook down until just softening.

Meanwhile, brown the pork in a separate pan, with the thyme and sage and black pepper. Once browned, combine with the vegetable mix, adding any juices.

Blend the cottage cheese with the egg yolks until smooth. Whisk the whites and fold them in (souffle style).

Construct the lasagne as you like (for me this made 3 layers of filling-pasta-sauce, with cheese on top). Cook at 160 for 30-40 minutes.

Verdict - pretty tasty. I will investigate ramping up the flavour of the cheese sauce, perhaps some mustard would give it a punch. I'd also consider separating the veg from the inevitable juices, and then thickening them separately with some cornflour before adding back.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Moroccan potato bake

This recipe came via Tinned Tomatoes, although is not original to that blog. It fulfilled both a need for an easy extra meal this week (menu planing fail) and more veggie meals. I liked it and would make it again!

My tweaked version:

Cook 750g potatoes in vegetable stock to the just-cooked point. I used charlotte as they are my favourite combination of flavour and texture. When you drain them, save some of the stock!

Chop a red onion and 2 cloves garlic. Soften in a pan with oil first, then a splash of stock and the spices (to taste: smoked paprika, cumin, ginger, sumac) plus tomato puree, a chopped preserved lemon, and white wine or cider vinegar. Also add chopped jarred (roasted and skinned) red peppers and peas. Simmer for a few minutes then add the potatoes and reserved stock, and bash around a bit so they start to break and add thickness to the sauce. Simmer further to the desired consistency.

The main edits I made were to use a whole onion (nobody needs half an onion hanging about), add sumac for a bit of extra zing, and peas for colour and extra veg. It could do with some protein so next time I'd add chickpeas, or chicken or sausage if I didn't want it to be veggie. But the lemon, vinegar and sumac made for a different-tasting dish and that was the best bit.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Pear and ginger upside down cake

An Asda recipe. A 2-egg sponge with ground cinnamon and ginger and chopped ginger in syrup, and 6 pear halves on the bottom with a butter/sugar mix to caramelise.

I used dark brown sugar, not light, as I didn't have any light. I added some of the syrup from the jar to the butter/sugar mix for the top. I also made a mess in the oven because I used a springform/loose bottomed tin, and the butter/sugar leaked out. Sigh.

Might be better with a 3-egg mix to give more depth over/under the pears. Something like this yogurt cake could also be interesting (with added spice).