Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Taking (or giving) the biscuit

Biscuits are easy to make but also easy to jazz up into nice gifts. My favourites come from Holly Bell, on Recipes From A Normal Mum:

St Clement's Shortbread Stars - Super easy, and look very classy if you can manage to keep small hands away from the decorating. Of course, the splodges-and-sprinkles look is also great, especially for teacher and grandparent gifts...

Cut Out Vanilla Biscuits - the best for fiddly cutters.

Lemon Animal Biscuits - For playdough-style moulding rather than cutters.

I've previously done Nigella's Christmas Spice Cookies and they are good too.

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Ikea meatball sauce

...allegedly (recipe here)

This was too thick. It's basically a white sauce made with cream and stock instead of milk. Pretty tasty, but another time I would make the usual white sauce with milk and a stock cube. Could benefit from mushroom stock, finely chopped mushrooms and maybe capers or gherkins.

Saturday, 16 December 2017

The perfect tiramisu?

Taken from a Guardian article.

I made 1.5 times the quantity for a big-ish gathering, and there was definitely not as much as I expected, but then again it's quite rich. I put a quarter to a third of the mix in a separate dish (2 layers) without alcohol. In the one with alcohol, I used Kahlua as I didn't have the specified booze.

 Things I might change next time:

- make the yolk mix and then do the whites. The whites wept a bit when they were left and I think they weren't as fluffy after waiting.
- make sure the sponges are well soaked (and boozy!) without being soggy. There were dry bits.

On the mascarpone lid, there was an alternative recipe involving mixing pre-made custard with mascarpone... might try that another time!

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Butternut squash casserole

An inevitably-tweaked BBC Good Food recipe. Ripe for slow cooker conversion but haven't done it yet - although it's so easy, as long as you have 30 minutes to really let it simmer it will be fine.

2 onions
1 clove garlic
500g each butternut squash and sweet potato (peeled, chopped, and handily frozen by Tesco...)
1 jar roasted red peppers (I buy them from the World Foods aisle where they are cheaper)
2 tins chopped tomatoes
1 tin chick peas
ground cumin
freshly ground cumin seeds
1 stock cube of your choice made up with about 100ml water

Chop the onion and fry along with the spices until translucent. Chuck in the peppers (chopped), squash and sweet potato, chick peas, tomatoes and stock then simmer until the squash and potato are soft.

Optionally, serve with grated cheese, fresh coriander, plain yogurt, and cous cous. But it's fine as a one pot.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Pork casserole

Didn't do this in the slow cooker but I think it is ripe for conversion to do so. One from Holly Bell's fab blog, it got the thumbs up in this house.

Lean pork shoulder (350g) browned in flour, an onion and a stick of celery chopped and softened along with a couple of carrots, sage and black pepper, chucked in a pot with a chunked bramley (or maybe two if smaller), a couple of bay leaves and pork stock (350ml) to round it out. I also popped in some chestnut mushrooms. An hour at 160°C (fan) did the trick.

Served it just with kale and courgette that we had knocking about and needed finishing. The kale worked especially well with the zingy sauce. There was a lot of liquid so at the end I also put in some leftover mash we had, which helped a bit. I think next time I'd put dumplings on the top, maybe made with a dab of wholegrain mustard, or serve with mustard mash. Savoy cabbage would be another good accompaniment.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Bonfire beauties

We had a really lovely bonfire party at friends' yesterday, lots of sharing dishes and cakes. Here's one recipe from me, and two from others that I tried on the night and loved.

Bonfire cupcakes (makes 24)

I made a standard 4-egg chocolate sponge mix (sub out 30g flour for cocoa powder). For me, this made 24 cupcakes with about 40g raw mix. I made them in muffin cases so there was a bit of freeboard, and they baked in about 20 minutes at 160°C (fan).

Once cooled:

Paint the top with marmalade and roll in, or sprinkle on, any chocolate/dark sprinkles, especially around the edge.

Pipe in a 'fire' of buttercream. I made one with 250g butter, 350g icing sugar, and milk to loosen (turned out there was about 20-25% too much for what I needed, but I don't like over-frosted cakes). I coloured it red, orange and yellow in three batches with gel colour, and placed it in the piping bag by alternating spoonfuls.
Add chocolate sticks for "wood" - I used posh Elizabeth Shaw things due to a lack of choice but Matchmakers would be ideal. There are 24 in a box and I had 2 boxes, so each cake got 6 bits. However, the sticks needed to be shorter than I first thought to look good (too-tall pyramid fires look silly) so I have a pot of snapped off ends to eat...
For a final touch I added two mini marshmallows on a cocktail stick to each :)

The other recipes I want to record before I lose them...

Delicious, rich-tasting, barbecue-y vegan baked beans from A Virtual Vegan. (Advice is to omit the vinegar.)

Awesome autumn squashage rolls (vegetarian) from my friend Flo:

"I roasted 4kg of squash, then puréed about 3/4, and chopped the other 1/4. I mixed that with 500g marscapone, 2 onions sauteed in butter with 16 cloves of garlic and a bunch of fine chopped sage, and 4 eggs. That made a sausage meat replacement to make rolls with - I used 2kg of all-butter puff pastry. You could probably make a bit less!"

More slow stuff

Mixed bean chilli - left to bubble while we were out trick-or-treating.

I did my usual basic recipe (onions, courgettes, peppers, tinned tomatoes, sweetcorn, chilli powder, and whatever beans I can lay my hands on - kidney, blackeye, canellini, black in this case). Hard to reduce the liquid when there's no added water, and indeed this came out a bit soupy. Next time I think I will bung some red lentils in to thicken.

Slow cooker lamb curry (BBC Good Food)

Oddly this said to put everything in the slow cooker pot and refrigerate overnight. I didn't read that in time, but I don't have room in my fridge anyway, so I skipped that stage. It didn't seem to matter. I also used korma paste as that's what we had. The kale was OK but left a bit of a cabbagey aroma while cooking so I might consider a switch next time, maybe mushrooms for bulk and spinach for greens. And, ironically given the above, I forgot the lentils and it was again a bit soupy. But that meant plenty of sauce for naan breads to soak up :)

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Slowly does it

Autumn is upon us. I bought a slow cooker. These two things are not unrelated.

First efforts were:

River Cottage North African squash & chickpea stew

Winner! Does what it says on the tin. Squash, chickpeas, red lentils, warming spices, and the usual suspects of tomato, onion, garlic, celery, stock, herbs. This was very good, end result was a lovely consistency with the lentils and some but not all of the squash broken down - that's what you get with a bag of inconsistently-sized frozen chunks (I hate peeling the buggers). I can't fully comment on the taste due to a ridiculous cold, but family consensus was that it was good. My only quibble is that in no way, shape or form does this serve six, unless they are six fussy four year olds. Chuck in the whole 500g of squash and another tin of chickpeas and you might get close. Don't forget to reduce the liquid by a third or so to make this in the slow cooker (3-4 hours on high was plenty for us).

BBC Good Food slow cooker Spanish chicken

Has potential. Tasted good (as much as I could tell - see above) but way too much liquid, and this recipe is designed for slow cooking so I didn't reduce it. Still, tasty soup for lunch tomorrow! I didn't put enough peppers in, so would fix that next time. I did cook the onions in the slow cooker pan first, with smoked and regular paprika, which boosted the flavour. Could consider putting potatoes in this to thicken it, but we had ours with paprika roasties and the texture contrast was good. Maybe put canellini beans in the stew? Hmmm...

Version 2: Made in cast iron casserole dish.
I used: an onion, an end (finger length) of chorizo, 6 skinless, bone-in thighs of varying sizes, a can of canellini beans, 2 peppers, a mug of stock made with a Knorr pork cube (nice smoky taste), smoked and normal paprika, thyme, and some Sacla sun-dried tomato paste. No wine.
Slowly cook the onion and the chorizo (sliced not chunked this time) with plenty of paprika and some thyme and black pepper, adding some pork stock to loosen if needed. Remove from pan. Brown the chicken, in batches, and remove from pan. Soften the peppers in the residue from the meat and onions, then put everything back in the pan with olives and a tin of rinsed canellini beans. Add the stock and 3-4 good spoonfuls of the sundried tomato paste. I then cooked at 140°C (fan) for 2 hours and it was perfect. We had it with plain boiled potatoes.

More trials (hopefully not many tribulations) to come...

Also bookmarking/highlighting this page of useful slow cooker conversion tips.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Gooseberry yogurt cake

Having been given some delicious home grown gooseberries, I wanted to find a new recipe to do them justice. I've previously made a meringue pie but I didn't need a dessert this week, just cake. I settled for an old Tesco recipe, summarised as:

Beat together 75g butter/marg, 75g natural yogurt, 125g caster sugar, and 2 eggs. Fold in 150g self-raising flour. Bake in a lined 20cm tin at 180°C / 170°C fan for 20 minutes. 
Meanwhile, melt 25g butter and 4tbsp golden syrup, and cook 300g gooseberries (topped and tailed) in it for a few minutes to soften. 
Spoon the gooseberries over the cake and bake for another 30 minutes.

The end result was tasty and had a soft, slightly dense madeira-like texture. I added a drop or two of almond essence for interest, which worked well with the fruit, and also did my usual trick of a half teaspoon of baking powder in with the SRF. It's not a very tall cake and I could be tempted to double the cake recipe and make another one (without the fruit on top) and sandwich them together with gooseberry jam or lemon curd.

My one issue is with the gooseberries - there was a significant amount of liquid in the pan, and I didn't dare pour all of it on the cake. As it was, some liquid still came through the loose-bottomed tin and leaked onto the oven shelf below. So there is now some gooseberry sauce in the fridge :) I am tempted to just cook the gooseberries with a little sugar next time, no syrup or butter.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Pulled pork with carrot salad

A slow cooked shoulder of pork with a honey-chipotle marinade (BBC Good Food) - 75g ketchup, 2tbsp each of honey and chipotle paste, and 1tbsp red wine vinegar. Marinate a 1.2-1.5kg pork shoulder for 2 hours to 2 days, then cook at 140°C (fan) for 4 hours - place the pork and any leftover marinade in a pan with 100ml water and cover with a well-fitting foil tent. At the end of 4 hours, remove the foil and crank up to 180°C for 30 mins to brown the outside.

Worked fine but would have liked a stronger flavour (marinated for 24h) - next time, add more chipotle. When removing the foil I saved the juices and then poured these on the pork after it was shredded.

We had this with steamed new potatoes and a carrot salad with a lemon dressing:

olive oil to taste
juice 1/2 lemon
zest 1 lemon
1/4 to 1/2 tsp harissa
1/2 tsp each coriander, cumin, sumac
maple syrup or honey if the lemon is a bit too much

Salad: 3 large grated carrots, 1 preserved lemon chopped small, 4 shredded mint leaves, half a bag of mixed leaves inc. rocket.

The dressing went down really well so next time I would use the whole lemon and multiply up accordingly!

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Amatriciana chicken traybake

Nice easy dinner party recipe from BBC Good Food. The potatoes were a bit undercooked, which is odd as we cook new potatoes in the oven for a similar time when we do a roast and they are browned, soft inside and perfect... next time cook them in their own tray perhaps.

Top tips:

  • Don't forget to add the bacon lardons (d'oh)
  • Add some chopped red and yellow peppers to up the veg count, and use some multicoloured tomatoes for extra colour
  • Slash and marinade the chicken thighs (or use leg quarters), and make sure the marinade is nicely garlicky
  • Add some olives right at the end

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Orange, cardamom and almond cake

A Waitrose recipe. Odd that it doesn't mention dates in the title, since there's a whole pack in there, but it's a very tasty cake, if slightly solid thanks to the spelt flour. You definitely need the orange, in fact increase it a little if you can, as the zing is needed to lighten up both the texture and the rich taste of the dates. Be warned that this is a low and slow bake, not a cake to whip up in a hurry! 

Grated zest and juice of 1 large orange
250g dried pitted dates, chopped
250g butter (or dairy free equivalent)
175g light muscovado sugar
4 large eggs
250g spelt flour
1 tsp bicarbonate soda
10 cardamom pods, seeds removed and crushed
100g ground almonds

Oven to 140°C. 20-21cm tin, greased and lined.

Heat dates with orange juice and zest for 2-3 minutes to soften, then cool. Cream butter and sugar, add eggs one at a time, then fold in flour, bicarb, cardamom, almonds, and a pinch of salt. Stir in the date mixture, spoon into the tin and level the surface. Bake 1h20-1h40 until it passes the skewer test, and remove from the tin after 30 mins cooling. Optionally, decorate with water icing (or icing sugar mixed with orange juice).

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?