Sunday, 8 March 2015

Marmalade tea bread

I was lucky enough to be given a jar of home made marmalade by a friend - proper, chunky, dark, slightly bitter marmalade. In a moment of need the other week I stole a proportion of the jam (leaving the peel) for the filling in a chocolate orange cake (4-egg sponge with 3tbsp cocoa + microplaned orange zest). This left me with marmalade too chunky to spread on toast, but I had another use in mind.

I made a dairy free tea bread for a Christmas hamper, which included a couple of tbsp of marmalade in the recipe. At the time I used apricot jam but now I had lovely chunky marmalade to use. It's a winner :)

Original recipe (Nigella forums)

8oz self-raising flour
4oz sugar
8oz mixed fruit soaked in 1 cup cold black tea
1 egg

How easy is that?!

I doubled it, but omitted the sugar and put more marmalade in (last time I made it I forgot the sugar, oops, and it was perfectly edible). I don't think the quantity matters but there was about a third of a 1lb jar (for 2 loaves, remember). I soaked my fruit for ages (over 24hrs) due to general disorganisation, and then when it came to cake-making I mixed the marmalade and my 2 (beaten) eggs into the fruit/tea. I sifted the flour with some mixed spice, then poured the wet mix over it and stirred well (I kept finding pockets of flour but this would be easier if only making a single quantity).

Divided between 2 loaf tins, it took an hour at 170°C (fan) to cook to a nice moist-but-done consistency. It's lovely, and the marmalade really comes through.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Veggie lasagne invention

I get a bit fed up of the same old same old tomatoes-onions-courgettes-peppers-mushrooms mix; we use it as a base for everything from sausage casserole to chilli to pasta sauce. So that, plus the desire for another veggie dish on the menu this week, and some stuff to use up, led to squash & chickpea lasagne.

2 onions
oil for frying
1 pepito squash (smaller than butternut, but use whatever you have)
1 tin chopped tomatoes
2 tins chickpeas
1 stock cube
6 lasagne sheets
45g butter
45g plain flour
milk to make your desired consistency of sauce
salt, pepper, dried oregano, mustard powder, ground cumin & coriander to taste

Peel and process the squash - I used a coarse grater blade on a food processor but finely chopping would also work, as would pre-cooking it (halve, rub with oil, bake at 150-180°C until soft, then cool and coarsely chop).
Make up the stock and whizz with the tomatoes until smooth.
Drain and rinse the chickpeas.
Finely chop the onions and fry gently in oil with cumin and coriander until translucent. Add the chickpeas and squash, then the tomatoes and stock, oregano, and a bit more water if needed to cover. Simmer until the squash is falling apart and the chickpeas are a bit more tender, maybe 20 minutes. Season to taste and then mash a little bit with a potato masher to get a thick, soupy consistency with some whole and some smashed chickpeas.
While simmering, get a head start on the white sauce (melt the butter, fry the flour and spices (cumin, coriander, mustard) for a few mins, then add milk gradually, stirring well each time, to get the consistency of sauce you want).
Layer the squash mix, white sauce and lasagne in a dish and finish with a sprinkle of grated cheese. Bake for the time indicated on the lasagne packet.

The adult contingent in the house loved this. The toddler contingent wouldn't touch it with a barge pole, but I refuse to class that as a "didn't like".

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Porotos granados (squash & bean stew)

This is one from HFW's Veg Every Day! book that for some reason I didn't blog before. It's become a bit of a favourite - a good tasty one-pot meal and a nice veggie recipe to add into our rotation.

The recipe is online here but essentially it's a stew of squash, green beans, sweetcorn and tinned beans (we usually use black-eyed or pinto but any will do), in an onion, garlic and stock base, with smoked paprika and oregano plus a bay leaf. My only amendment to the recipe is the usual pre-cooking of the peeled and chopped squash (I microwave it on high for 8-9 minutes while I do the onions and garlic) which ensures it's nice and soft in a reasonable cooking time on the hob. Nothing worse than being all ready for a comforting stew and finding hard chunks of squash that need more cooking :(

I find it really benefits from plenty of herbs and black pepper, but the combination of soft squash and beans, and crunchy greens and sweetcorn, is great. It's a good winter warmer and goes well with dumplings on top!

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Reet good Yorkshires

By gum, and all that jazz.

Recording for my own reference before I forget, since they've never been quite this good before...

2 eggs
70g plain flour
100ml milk
salt & pepper
fat for cooking (I used Trex)

Beat the eggs and flour together with a whisk until smooth. Mix the milk in, in three or four goes, combining it well each time and adding seasoning on the last one, then give it a good old beat to get some air in. Leave to stand while you sort out the tin.

With the oven already cooking the beef (mine was at 170-180°C), place a dot of Trex in 8 holes of a muffin pan. (Dot = chickpea size or a bit bigger, although surely no true Yorkshireman would fart about with such airy fairy rabbit food.) Give the pan a good 15 minutes or more to heat up - I put the pan on the top and moved the meat and roasties to the bottom shelf.

20-25 minutes before you want to serve your roast dinner, quickly whip out the pan, add the batter mix to the eight holes (get the right eight!) and return to the oven. After this, open the door as little as possible - I had to open once to get the meat out to rest. Watch and wait. If they don't rise after all that, don't blame me! These ones did receive genuine Yorkshire approval.

Monday, 29 December 2014

Banana muffins

Here's one from the Moosewood desserts book, called into action to deal with a glut of ripe bananas. It turned out really well, especially given that it received help from a nearly-2-year-old in the making.

I used the cup measurements but have given a conversion to weight (untested) from a website.

2 cups plain flour (280g)
1 tsp each of baking powder and bicarb
pinch of salt

3 ripe bananas, well mashed
1 cup packed brown sugar (170g) (I used a mix of light and dark, and would try reducing a little next time)
0.5 cups vegetable oil (110ml)
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla

~0.5 cups (80g) each of dark choc chips and dried apricots  - could also try chopped nuts, sultanas, coconut...

Preheat oven to 180°C (fan) and line a 12-hole muffin tin with cases.

Sieve the flour, raising agents and salt together. Mix the bananas, eggs, oil and vanilla using an electric mixer. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet until just combined, then stir in the additions. Quickly spoon into the muffin cases (they will be quite full) and bake for 20-25 minutes.

The muffins rise beautifully with nicely cracked tops, and are really light and tasty, although quite sweet so I think they could stand a little less sugar. Choc chips and apricots work well but the variations are pretty endless!

Monday, 22 December 2014

Khoreshteh Fesenjan (Persian chicken & walnut stew)

I made this for a friend's themed party - it peeked out of the November 2013 edition of BBC Good Food I was browsing just a day or two before the invitation arrived, so I took that as a good omen!

This is an easy dish, utterly unlike anything I have cooked before, and it turned out well. I think it works best as part of a bigger spread as it's too rich on its own. Essentially it's chicken thighs and browned onion simmered in a sauce made of walnuts, water and pomegranate molasses. It needs little prep and a long cooking time, and tastes best if left overnight.

8 skinless chicken thighs (I used thigh fillets and diced them, to make it more of a sharing dish)
1 large onion, chopped
Olive oil for browning

1 tbsp flour
550g walnuts, finely chopped/ground in a food processor
300ml pomegranate molasses (= 2 x 210g bottles from Waitrose)
1.2 litres cold water

to serve: pomegranate seeds, chopped walnuts, parsley

Brown the flour slightly in a dry (large) pan, then add the walnuts and toast gently, stirring often so they don't burn (this is important!). Add the water, stir well, bring to the boil, then simmer for 1hr. (I wondered whether in future I might toast the walnut halves before whizzing them, as it was hard to stir such a large volume of ground nuts.)

Meanwhile, season and brown the chicken and set aside. Slowly cook the onion in the remaining oil/chicken juices, then add chicken and onions to the main pan once the hour is up on the walnut sauce. Also add the pomegranate molasses. Simmer on a low heat for 2 hours, stirring occasionally (I'd uncover for the last hour if it hasn't thickened much). Serve over basmati rice or with flatbread, plus a nice crunchy salad - the BBCGF feature recommends tomato, cucumber, red onion and more pomegranate seeds, plus a dressing of lemon juice, sumac, mint and dill.

I was surprised there was no other spice or seasoning apart from what's put on the chicken, but it works fine. The pomegranate molasses is a nice blend of sweet and sharp, and rounds out what tasted like a worryingly thin walnut sauce. It did become much darker and richer over time, so definitely plan to make it ahead.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Just Pootling around

The current obsession of our resident Small Person is Q Pootle 5. I don't mind this one bit, since the series is charming, funny, and generally utterly brilliant, and I hope it stays a favourite in the long term.

In the medium term comes Small Person's birthday. She'll only be 2, so it won't be a full-on party, but I suspect there will be a Pootle cake or similar to share with a few friends. During the (many, many) times we have watched the programme, I've spotted all kinds of food that the gang from Okidoki like to make and share with each other, and I wondered if there was scope for Pootle-themed party food. Of course there is :)

Top of the bill has to be Astro Cake (renamed Comet Cake), which was made by Oopsy with (no) help from Pootle - a three-layer sponge sandwiched with jam and topped with icing, chocolate moons, jelly stars, sprinkles, and a shooting star on a stick. Another cakey option is the chocolate cake Stella makes for Ray on bath days, but frankly Astro Cake has the wow factor here. It should be easy enough to recreate if you can only find the right toppings! I think I am definitely up for this one.

Making regular appearances are Oopsy's Crackle Cakes. I like to think of these as chocolate crispie cakes, maybe with a dash of popping candy for real crackle, topped with white chocolate and a cherry. Small Person and I have actually just made something very similar for Daddy's birthday...

Sunwiches have to be a party staple, especially as they are so flexible. Jam (as found by the treasure map) and cheese have both cropped up, in fact I think Oopsy names several cheeses in her skipping rhyme. Perhaps Bud-D's boiled eggs could provide another filling (presumably with moon mayo). But really you could have almost anything with a suitably space-y name.

You can't forget Groobie's favourite, sausages. Maybe not with gravy, peas, parsnips, cheese, or onion rings, but sticky mini sausages on good old fashioned cocktail sticks would surely be a winner. Another option could be Mouldy Meteors - mini meatballs made with the addition of some sort of green veg for the 'mould' (edging towards Halloween there...), or for a meat-free option maybe mini felafel with herbs in.

Wobblyfruit would be awesome too - orange jelly would do the trick. And what else would you serve it with but Cosmic Whipple Ripple ice cream? Swirling together a couple of different ice cream colours/flavours with fruit sauce or sweeties would be one way to do it.

It's not all sweets and treats, there's healthy options too. Fruit and veg make various appearances, from Ray's favourite Tangle Berries (when not being used for Groobie's special... eyebrow shampoo... *cough*) to Stella's Moon Marrows, Evenfruit, and the suspiciously rhubarb-like Lunar Sticks that nearly left Oopsy stranded on Bockety Moon. I reckon you could at least have a platter of veg sticks from Stella's patch on your party table, but you'd have to come up with good names for them all :)

And of course, we need something to drink. What else but a selection of smoothies? Combinations of fruits and yogurt, maybe some sparkling water for proper astro-fizziness, and you're all set. Oh for a magic smoothie machine like Groobie's that can dispense whatever you wish for!

I'll be keeping an eye out for other ideas as the day approaches, but to be honest I think a full-on Pootle Party would suit an older child better. So let's just hope the Okidoki addiction lasts a while longer :)