Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Stollen spirals and other festive gift goodies

Stollen spirals - really just festive Chelsea buns I guess...

BBC Good Food recipe

Take 1 (test run, not a gift):

All went fine except I crammed too many in the tin and the middle ones were too doughy. Next time space them out better/use more tins. Also use more fruit, and slice the marzipan rather than using a big wodge in the middle.

Take 2:

Made these dairy free by subbing in coconut oil for butter, and soya milk for the milk. Not a deliberate choice, just what I had in the house to make them for a dairy-intolerant recipient. Also made the changes as above, and happened to use more sultanas and cranberries, no mixed peel, no nuts, and no icing, purely for time reasons. They fit perfectly, with room to expand, at 12 to my big roasting tin, with the remainder (I hesitate to say rejects) in a smaller tin. The 12 were frozen as soon as they were cool, defrosted in the car while travelling, reheated in a low oven for half an hour or so, and hoovered up in no time, so this recipe is definitely a keeper!

Take 3:

Easterised as follows: soak the fruit (a sultana/cranberry/cherry mix) in a mix of tea and amaretto; sprinkle it in the buns along with grated marzipan and dark chocolate chips. Serve warm so the marzipan and chocolate are a bit gooey.

German cinnamon star biscuits

Outdoor Chics recipe

These went OK but cooked too quickly in my oven at 200°C, so were a bit toasty. They have a chewy macaroony texture. I put allspice in the icing, as I'd run out of cinnamon, and some lemon zest. The icing was very sticky to apply, and I also found the mixture a bit crumbly and liable to get stuck in the points of the star cutter,

Nigella's bar nuts


Sweet, salty, spicy, herby roasted nuts. Yum. Again, made with coconut oil not butter - no difference.

Ginger cupcakes

A Jamie Oliver recipe

I was a bit worried by the amount of oil in these but they didn't come out greasy at all. Would be good with some sort of spicy dark chocolate topping.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

The best squash lasagne?

The original recipe comes from Serious Eats, a food site I enjoy but which is US-based and it does show - like in this recipe, which I think is a bit too rich. So while it's badged as the best, I'm not so sure.

The lasagne consists of layers of a cheese sauce, creamy buttery squash puree, and sauteed squash with apple. As well as the overwhelming use of butter, cream cheese and Gruyere, the proportions of each layer seem off. There was lots of cheese sauce (which was quite thin), not so much squash puree (which was not as smooth as I'd like), and the sauteed squash and apple was more like a garnish. So while I'd try it again, I'd modify it as follows:

- make my usual cheese sauce (more butter/flour to milk, and some mustard powder for zip). ditch or reduce the garlic, which was a bit overpowering.
- roast more squash, for longer.
- try and find pumpkin or kabocha, as I could only get butternut this time and it is more solid.
- make the pumpkin puree less creamy and rich, perhaps by adding more (bramley?) apple in there, maybe a splash of cider vinegar, and skipping some or all of the cream cheese/butter.
- have more of the chopped apple and squash.
- add variety and boost the veg count by adding cooked leeks, or or add protein in the form of canellini or butter beans.
- less cheese on top, maybe some breadcrumbs with the remaining cheese.

So, worth another try, but more work needed to achieve "the best" I think.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Supersize sausage casserole

A bit like the chilli from a couple of years ago, just for the record here is our recipe for sausage casserole, served at the WYC quiz and supper.

Serves 36 in total (same base for veggie and meat - just vary the sausages and stock). Around £2 a head, made with good quality sausages (50p each) and with plenty of bread to mop up.

2.5kg onions
2kg courgettes
1kg carrots
2kg peppers (mixed)
1.3kg mushrooms (a wholesale box)
12 x 400g tins tomatoes
6 x 400g tins borlotti beans
seasoning to taste - we used 3 stock cubes, smoked paprika, mixed herbs, marmite, wholegrain mustard
72 sausages (we had 60 pork and 12 Quorn Cumberland-style)
Cornflour to thicken.

While cooking the veg as below, cook the sausages in the oven until browned. Allow to cool and then cut into 3 or 4 pieces each. It is fine to be a little pink in the centre as they are going to get cooked again in the casserole,
Chop the onions and cook slowly in a little oil plus paprika and herbs, until they start to turn translucent.
Chop and add the courgettes - they can be quite chunky as they'll get a long cooking time.
Grate the carrots and add to the onions and courgettes. Cover so that the steam condenses back into the pan.
Chop the peppers, again chunky, and add them to the mix.
Cook the mushrooms separately: layer them in a pan with a sprinkling of salt or 2 or 3 times, add a splash of water then cover and simmer until the mushroom shrink and lose water.
Add the mushrooms, with a slotted spoon, to the vegetables, and then add the tomatoes.

Make up 3 stock cubes with just enough mushroom water to dissolve (discard the rest), and also stir in a spoonful or two of marmite and a good dollop of mustard before mixing the whole lot into the casserole. Taste, and adjust as needed. We used 2 pork stock cubes (Knorr ones are really nice and smoky tasting) and one veggie one, and so here we started to keep the two casseroles separate.

Add the beans. Simmer for a while and then use some of the tomato/vegetable liquid to make up cornflour (mix to a paste with cold water, then add hot liquid, mix well and return to the pan, stirring thoroughly. We perhaps used 5-6 tbsp or a bit more, between the whole lot).
Add the sausages and simmer until they are thoroughly cooked.
Serve with crusty bread and butter. We allowed one 400g bloomer for 6 people (cut into 12 chunks), but could have got away with one per 7 people and still had some left.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Avocado and quinoa salad

From Prima, of all places, this is a filling and interesting recipe, perfect for lunch.

Avocado, quinoa, bean and goat's cheese salad

It takes a pack of Merchant Gourmet red and white pre-cooked quinoa, and adds two avocados, fresh beans, and cheese, dressed with oil and lemon juice plus fresh parsley.

I swapped in edamame beans for the listed broad beans, because life's too short to pod broad beans and I can get shelled edamames in the freezer section...  I also used a log-style goat's cheese but next time might use the crumbly feta-style one (I'm not sure what "semi-soft" means here). I omitted the red onion as I hate raw onion in salads, but next time I might try them pickled.

The pre-packed quinoa was OK but a bit bouncy - I prefer the softer texture when it's freshly cooked, but I literally just took the grains out of the packet so perhaps they are better when heated. But essentially this was a very easy and satisfying recipe.

Spicy mango chicken tray bake

A good one-pot, oven-cooked dinner here: mango chicken, bean and rice bake, from BBC Good Food. For once, I don't have any major additions or suggestions!

Marinade: whizz up 4-5 spring onions, 2 large garlic cloves, a thumb of peeled ginger root, a deseeded chilli (optional), stalks of a small bunch of coriander, 1.5 tbsp allspice, juice and zest of a lime, and 2 tbsp oil.

Use this to marinate 8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs for an hour or more (or go skin-on, bone-in for more flavour but more fat).

Place 240g rice (I used brown) and a rinsed can of kidney beans in an ovenproof dish, add a peeled and chopped mango, and lay the chicken on top. Make 500ml stock (I used 2 cubes, chicken + ham), use it to gather any remaining marinade (especially if you used a bag rather than a dish), and pour it over in between the chicken. I also added the pulpy scrapings from the inside of the mango peel, so as not to waste any!

Cover the dish with foil, tightly, and bake for 30 mins at 180°C. Then uncover, spoon mango chutney (amount to taste) over the chicken, and bake uncovered for another 40 mins at 200°C. Scatter with the coriander leaves to serve.

Delicious and filling! We served it with peas for some extra veg. As I said, no major changes, but next time I might try it with black beans instead of kidney, and some coconut milk replacing some of the stock. I omitted the chilli as I didn't have one, so would try it with that next time.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Cocktail party

OK, so it's more cake really. But cocktail themed cake! For my last Harmummies (boo!) I was on cake duty, and felt like going to town. It's five o'clock somewhere, right?

Cake 1: Gin and Tonic (alcoholic)

Hilariously I found this recipe on a blog called "days out with the kids". However, this particular version seems to have originated with Pudding Lane blog and was featured in the London Metro just yesterday. Harmummies, cutting edge as ever.

The recipe is a 4-egg sponge (4 large eggs plus their weight in each of self raising flour, butter and caster sugar), with the cheeky addition of four (FOUR) shots of mother's ruin, the zest of two lemons and the juice of one. I don't think it really matters how you make the sponge (creaming method or all in one) as it gets a bit sloppy with the extra liquid anyway. I like to cream the zest in with the butter and sugar so it is well distributed.
Zest note: since I bought a microplane grater I do loads more citrusy cakes. It's so much easier. But if you have to do it on a punched-hole grater, know that pressing chilled butter on to the surface gets all the lovely zest off without lacerating yourself.
The cake baked for around an hour at 170°C (fan oven) in a lined 1kg loaf tin. (Handy tip - a 1kg tin holds about 1.5L of water, if you're not sure what you have.) It was a BIG cake and filled the tin when cooked (checked by the skewer test). It made 12 generous slices!

While the cake bakes, mix together the juice of the other lemon, four more shots of gin, a splash of tonic (careful now) and 150g granulated sugar. Do the usual lemon drizzle thing of letting the baked cake cool a weeny bit then pricking the top and drizzling the liquid over to soak in and leave a sugary crust behind.

Because I can't leave anything alone, I also candied a third lemon to decorate the top: bring 150g caster sugar and 175ml water (ish...) to a simmer. Add a thinly sliced lemon. Simmer for 5-10 mins or until the pith is going translucent. Keep the resulting lemony syrup for, er, cocktails I guess ;)

Cake 2: Pina colada traybake (non-acoholic, dairy free (cake only))

This was inspired by a gift of pina colada curd. I said this was alcohol free, and inadvertently lied, not realising that said curd contains coconut liqueur. I'm not aware it was a problem for anyone this time, but it's a lesson to check carefully! It is indeed dairy free, excluding the topping.

The cake was a fat-free pineapple sponge. This uses a large tin of pineapple in juice, blended, to add moisture - it certainly did, and even using less pineapple than stated the batter was extremely liquid. It may be because I used a tin of cheap (well, Waitrose essentials ;) pineapple which was more juice than fruit, so I'd say try something nicer next time and even consider losing some juice. I also cut the sugar down from a whopping 400g (!) to 250g and it was fine.

Sieve 250g plain flour with 2 tsp bicarb and mix in 250g caster sugar. Beat 2 large eggs with a teaspoon of vanilla. Blitz a large tin (~450g total weight) of pineapple in juice until fairly smooth. Mix everything together just until all the dry flour has gone, pour into a lined tin, and bake immediately* (170°C fan) for about 45-55 minutes until it passes the skewer test. The recipe says a 20 x 30 cm tin, I used 20 x 20 cm without a problem except I had to bake it longer.

*Actually, I didn't bake immediately, but blobbed in teaspoonfuls of the curd. I hoped it would kind of remain suspended in the cake as it baked, but it sank. Still tasted good, but I think that particular idea would be better with a normal sponge mix to be honest.

Unwrap the cake before it gets cold (but after it has firmed up a bit) as greaseproof paper will stick to this like anything. This edition was a very moist, pudding-y texture, which was not quite what I expected but worked well enough with the topping.

For the topping I mixed about 175g of mascarpone plus the creamiest few spoonfuls from the top of a small tin of coconut cream (do not shake it!!) and icing sugar to taste, then desiccated coconut on top. I am rubbish with coconut cream/creamed coconut and I should have got the latter (firmer) as my topping was a bit gooey.

Cake 3: Margarita whoopie pies (alcohol free)

See? More citrus.

I used a Dr Oetker recipe for the cakes, subbing plain yogurt for the buttermilk they used, and adding the zest of a lime. So that's 125g caster sugar and the lime zest creamed with 200g soft butter and a large egg, then sifted plain flour (450g) and bicarb (1/4 tsp) mixed in gradually, plus enough yogurt to make a stiff but smooth batter. I suspect it needs to be stiff  in order to not spread too much when baked freeform. The resulting texture was a bit scone-like.

The recipe says to portion out the mix with a 2" ice cream scoop, but I just eyeballed it (well, they were probably more ping pong ball size than eyeball, flattened and then smoothed with wet fingers). The mix made 18 or 20 cakes. They baked at 180°C (fan) for about 15 minutes but were slow to get any colour. Maybe due to the low sugar content? I might milk-wash them next time.

Once cool, these were drizzled with lime icing (icing sugar and lime juice plus a dot of green colouring, to a firm but pipe-able consistency - start very sparingly with the juice as you don't need much at all). They were then given a touch of salt before the icing dried, and sandwiched together with lime buttercream (75 butter, 175g sifted icing sugar, zest of a lime, pinch of salt).

Not for one second are these delicate cakes. They are like the galumphing great country cousins of dainty Parisian macarons. But, hey, they all disappeared :)

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 Seville 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 - tea bread.

Original recipe (Nigella forums)

8oz self-raising flour
4oz sugar (I used brown)
8oz mixed fruit soaked in 1 cup cold black tea
1 egg
2 tbsp marmalade

Super easy!

It's possible to reduce the sugar and put more marmalade in (last time I made it I forgot the sugar entirely, oops, and it was perfectly edible). I soak my fruit for a good 3hrs or more so it's really plump, and I've found a combination of 5-6oz traditional mixed dried fruit plus 2-3oz cranberries works really well.

When it came to cake-making I mixed the marmalade and my beaten egg into the fruit/tea, then poured the wet mix over the sifted flour and stirred well. You can add a bit of mixed spice if you like.

In a loaf tin, it takes an hour at 170°C (fan) to cook to a nice moist-but-done consistency. Perfect sliced and spread with butter! The same mix makes 12 muffins, but make sure the pan is well greased and floured. Possibly about 20-25 mins for muffins to cook but I forgot to time it - just use the skewer test!

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.