Monday, 16 May 2011

Rhubarb Eton Mess

I made this for pudding on Sunday to follow roast chicken with green garlic and herb stuffing and a big pile of spring veg. I'll blog my lazy stuffing recipe at a later date but the pudding was a triumph so here is the recipe.

Rhubarb Eton Mess

Pick a good armful of rhubarb (or one of those packs from the supermarket) and cut into cubes. Sprinkle over a couple of tablespoons of sugar and roast in a hottish oven (Gas mark 5/375 degrees F/190 degrees C) until the rhubarb is soft and surrounded by syrupy juices. Leave to cool completely.

Whip 300ml double cream with the grated zest of an orange and a tablespoon of icing sugar until stiff. Resist diving into it face first (maybe try just a little... mmm.)

Break up five or six shop-bought meringue nests (or home made if you've got them) and make sure you've got a big pot (450g) of Yeo Valley strawberry yoghurt.

Put everything in the fridge until just before you are ready to serve (except the meringue nests, of course!)

Just before serving reserve a spoonful or two of the rhubarb and combine everything else in a big bowl. Don't over mix, you want a nice melding of flavours not all churned up like cement. Spoon the saved rhubarb over the top and serve.

This served six greedy people (two children, four adults) and all of the adults had thirds (having begun with "oh, just a little" we ended up with an unseemly fight over who was to lick the serving spoon).

The suggestion was made that it could be improved with the addition of crumble, either as crumbled digestive biscuits or hob nobs but I have the rest of the cream, loads of rhubarb and another pot of yoghurt in the fridge so I plan to make another batch with the addition of a home made crumble.

Rhubarb Crumble Eton Mess

Follow recipe as above but also prepare a crumble at the same time you roast the rhubarb.

Rub together 75g plain flour, 50g butter and 50g soft brown sugar, add a little ginger if you like. Spread onto a baking tin and bake at gas mark 5 (375 degrees F/190 degrees C) for ten minutes. Leave to cool and then break up and fold into the Eton Mess just before serving.

Battenburg cake

In other news I found a packet of marzipan in the cupboard and finally achieved my ambition to make a Battenburg. Not difficult, more a feat of assembly than culinary skill, but fun to do. It was a nice addition to our Eurovision Song Contest TV picnic and it tasted delicious. I used the recipe from Lorraine Pascale's Baking Made Easy.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Chocolate spice cupcake

This little beauty is a chocolate spice cupcake. It is a thing of gorgeousness yet its looks do not even begin to describe the delight of its taste.

It's also a bone of contention. This cupcake was made by my dear husband from his family's secret recipe (for a larger cake) that he has tweaked to produce these marvels.

I accepted, during the years we were together before we married, that I was not able to have the recipe. Then we married, in 1998, and still the recipe was not forthcoming. I had his children. Still no recipe. They're now nine and seven. Still no recipe, although he has hinted that he will pass it on to his daughters. One day.

Me? Frustrated. Furious (and curious).

I have observed the baking process. It involves many processes, the separating of eggs, the mixing up of three different mixes which are combined at the last minute. It involves the careful incorporation of air, the melting of chocolate. I know what goes in but not the order. It's that which is vital.

The recipe is written in longhand in a little black book which is kept hidden from curious wives. Except last week when it lay, alluringly open, on the worktop. I considered theft. I considered this blog and the posting herein of said recipe.

Then I considered the consequences.

I quietly ate my cupcake. Well, three. Maybe one day I will get that recipe.


Friday, 11 March 2011

Cookies and Cream Brownies

These brownies were almost impossible for me to photograph. I baked them - they vanished.

They are inspired by Lorraine Pascale's recipe in her lovely book Baking Made Easy crossed with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's ultimate double chocolate brownies from The River Cottage Year.

What you do is cream 125g soft butter with 200g caster sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in two eggs and 50g cocoa powder.

This is where my recipe diverts with Hugh's. He melts 100g good chocolate with two tablespoons of warm milk and beats that in. I opened my chocolate cupboard and found that I had fed the cooking chocolate to the children in the form of a fondue and all that was left was a bar of Green and Black's sublime 85% plain chocolate. Now that is officially The Best Chocolate in The World and no way was I going to put 100g of it into brownies. Instead I meanly broke off a few squares (having tested it first, just to check) and I melted it with the milk and a good dollop of Tesco Value chocolate spread.

How big is a good dollop? Ah ha. I used a dessert spoon and I scooped with enthusiasm. Having cooked the brownies I can confirm it adds a certain wonderful fudginess, so don't hold back. Pause to lick the chocolate spread spoon.

Next beat the chocolate or the choc-spread mix into the butter, sugar, eggs and cocoa, fold in 75g of self-raising flour and then add a 154g packet of Oreo cookies broken into at least quarters. Spread the mixture into your brownie tin (approximately 15cm x 25cm) lined with baking parchment.

Bake at Gas mark 3/170 degrees C until nearly cooked - a skewer inserted into the middle will come out slightly sticky. Actually I overcooked the ones in the picture a little, but the chocolate spread kept them delightfully gooey.

Pile on a plate and watch them disappear!

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Simple pleasures: Welsh cakes

This post is for Sticky Fingers The Gallery and this week's theme is simple pleasures. Yesterday was St David's Day and, as my two traditionally dressed Welsh ladies hurtled off to school, they ordered reminded me that I usually make Welsh cakes.
Yummy Welsh cakes.
Then the day ambled off like days do and I did other things. At 2.15pm I remembered the Welsh cakes - half an hour before the school run. Fortunately being a simple sort of pleasure they are quick to make. Cheap too. I learned to make them by watching the ladies cooking them in Swansea market - the secret is to cook them just enough. Too long and they'll be dry in the middle.

All you do is rub 125g of butter into 250g of self-raising flour, stir in 75g caster sugar, 100g of sultanas and half a teaspoon of all spice and then mix in a large beaten egg and enough milk to make a soft dough. Roll out as you would for scones - they should be about a centimetre thick - and cut out. I use a 6.5cm fluted cutter.

Pop them on to a preheated griddle (or frying pan - no fat) and cook on each side until golden brown and still slightly soft in the centre. Sprinkle with more golden caster sugar and serve warm with a cup of tea. Blasus!

Sizzling gently on the griddle.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Naan bread

I mentioned on my other blog about running out of LPG and necessity being the mother of invention so last night I was still without a cooker. As supper time approached and I had left over dahl from the night before, I looked at the fire and contemplated the idea of cooking naan bread on it somehow. The germ of the idea had been sown by Chris Stovell of Home Thoughts Weekly who had suggested that the sloping lid of her wood burner would be possible for such a thing.

I consulted the internet for a recipe, read several and then made up my own. Cooking methods varied from frying to grilling. I think authentic naan is slapped on the inside of a melting hot tandoor oven and if my ship ever comes in I'm buying one of these. My sister-in-law used to live in a flat in High Wycombe and my big memory of visiting her in that flat is of the tantalising smell in the evenings of all the tandoors being fired up in neighbouring homes. The aroma of the spices, curried meat and bread carried on the warm evening air was mouth-wateringly delicious.

I used my trusty Kenwood for the mixing of the dough which was my basic foolproof white bread but with slight variations. It's about three cups of strong white bread flour, a good heaped teaspoon of dried quick mix yeast, a teaspoon of salt, two tablespoons of plain yoghurt, a shy teaspoon of sugar, a handful of black onion seeds and enough warm milk (about two thirds of a cup) to make a soft dough. Knead for five minutes until smooth and then leave to rise in a warm place.

I then divided it into eight pieces, rolled them out into rough ovals and started them cooking on my cast iron griddle on top of the wood burner.

Four little naans in a row.
 It was hot but not nearly hot enough so (bearing in mind past experience of cooking flat breads, roti and chapattis) I grabbed the toasting fork, opened the wood burner and held the naan inside over the hot coals.

It immediately fluffed and puffed up into a very authentic looking naan bread. I was so surprised I nearly dropped it. I puled it out, ripped it open and tried it. Delicious, fluffy and unmistakably naan.

If you look closely at the one at the front on the left you can see the shape of the toasting fork.
I carried on with the other seven by which time my face was nearly melting from the heat and the dining room was like the inside of a pizza oven. Brian was stripping off layers of clothes (we're unaccustomed to warmth) and repeatedly mentioning that he was hungry (the house was full of the smell of naan bread).

It was delicious, everybody loved it and from now on I won't be buying any more naan bread. Who would have thought it could be this much fun to make? Like most other things it's nicer homemade and freshly baked too. I think I'll probably start it off on top of the stove though, I couldn't quite get the griddle hot enough on top of the wood burner, but I can see me fluffing it up on the toasting fork again - I think it was the aroma of wood smoke that really nailed the flavour.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Pesto pizza rolls

These were very much inspired by the Snazzy Pizza Rolls entered into English Mum's Fresh Bread Bake-off by Arlene of The Fuzzy Times. I also made Gluttony For Beginners' dough balls, but those got eaten before I could take their picture.

Anyway this is my take on the pizza rolls thing. Not quite the same as the snazzy ones - these are more like the ones made (I think) by Tana Ramsay and they're basically just a Chelsea bun with a savoury filling.

First you need a bread dough. I tend to make mine intuitively - I have a plastic cup measure and I use two of those of strong bread flour, a teaspoon of quick mix yeast, a teaspoon of salt, a glug of olive oil (in this case a nice basil favoured one) and enough warm water to make a soft dough. I added a teaspoonful of dried herbes de Provence too for extra flavour. You could use some left over pizza dough or my focaccia dough would work just as well (but would make a bit more than this, perhaps).

Once that is kneaded and risen you need to roll it out into a large rectangle. I then spread mine with a whole tub of fresh pesto (in lieu of tomato sauce which makes me itch), some ham and emmental cheese (because that's what I had to hand).

It will then look something like this:

Next roll it up from the nearest long side into a long sausage shape (or start and then let your nine-year-old daughter take over):

Next cut it up into rounds. The knife flattens the circles, so squeeze them back into shape again. Tuck them into a suitably sized tin so they are snuggled up close enough to hold a conversation:

Leave to rise again for a little while longer (while the oven heats up to Gas Mark 6) then bake them until golden brown and sizzling:

Serve warm as a tear and share bread. Delicious!

Monday, 14 February 2011

Delia: Not just for Christmas

Boxing Day pie - on Valentine's Day
It was the usual scenario - Monday's fridge was full of little bowls of cling-film wrapped leftovers from the Sunday roast.

"Could you make a Boxing Day pie?" asked H9 as I pondered possibilities.

Of course I could! Boxing Day pie is an institution in this household. I make it every year with the leftovers from Christmas Day. It is, to all intents and purposes, the Turkey Flan with Leeks and Cheese from page 214 of my very battered and adored copy of Delia's Christmas. My children have always called it Boxing Day pie because we don't have turkey at Christmas - usually a big chicken (or two) or one year a big salmon.

Why not make it on Valentine's Day? We all love it after all!

It's basically this. First you make a cheese pastry (175g self-raising flour, 75g butter, 50g cheddar, mustard, salt and pepper, water) which Delia rubs in and grates but I just blitz in a food processor. Line a 25cm quiche tin with the pastry and bake for 15 minutes at Gas mark 5/190 degrees C. I prop up the sides of the pie with foil and prick the base with a fork.

Into that you pile some leeks (cooked in butter on Boxing Day) or whatever green veg you have left over (I used steamed Cornish greens), bits of sliced chicken, leftover roast vegetables and about 400ml of thick Bechamel sauce to which you have added some grated cheddar and a beaten egg. Sprinkle cheese over that and bake again for 25 to 30 minutes.

It's lovely eaten warm or cold and is, to quote H9 "basically just a roast dinner in a pie".


A new Delia recipe wandered into my repertoire on Sunday, this time into the pudding department and from her recently refurbished Frugal Food book. I'm a big fan of bread and butter pudding (a good way to use up excess eggs from our enthusiastic hens).

This B&B pud is a layer of buttered wholemeal bread triangles on the base (butter side down), a layer of apple slices (I smugly used spiced ones I'd bottled last autumn - otherwise cook apple slices until soft in a little butter), then another layer of buttered bread triangles (butter side up). Dredge with soft brown or demerara sugar and cinnamon, then pour over 275ml of semi skimmed milk mixed with two beaten eggs. Leave to soak for a while and then dot with butter and bake at Gas Mark 4/180 degrees C until golden brown. Serve with vanilla ice cream or single cream.

It was delicious with a lovely custardy-appley flavour and golden crunchy spicy top. No picture because once it was cooked, we ate it!

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

How to bake focaccia

Englishmum is running another bake-off and this time it's bread. How could I resist! Bread is one of the reasons this blog is called what it is and it is very much a game you can eat. It's so simple, quick and foolproof and is one of the things I make most often - either on my own or with my children helping. I'm a bit of a bread obsessive - I even have a paving slab to put in my oven to bake loaves and pizzas on.

My great-grandfather was a baker - family legend has it that he delivered bread to Sudeley Castle, near Winchcombe in the Cotswolds in the latter part of the 19th century and he is buried in the churchyard near the castle.

Focaccia is my favourite bread to bake to go with homemade soup. It's a simple, easy and quick bread and you can get on with making the soup while the bread rises. I love the way the olive oil pools deliciously in the indentations and mixes with the salt to form a lovely crispy crust flavoured with the spikes of rosemary.

500g bread flour
1 tsp salt
5g quick mix yeast
325ml warm water
olive oil

Mix all of the ingredients in a mixer with a dough hook or knead together until smooth - adding a good big glug of extra virgin olive oil. This dough is quite soft, so kneading it is easier with a mixer.

Shape into a ball, put into the bowl and leave to rise in a warm place for about half an hour.

Then knead briefly and press into a baking tray - I use my brownie/flapjack tray. Push it out into a rough rectangular shape, cover with oiled cling film and leave to rise again until puffed up. Turn your oven on to its hottest setting.

Use your fingers to push indentations in the dough - as many as you like. Then drizzle olive oil into the indentations. Scatter over sea salt and rosemary - chopped if you wish - then put into the oven for ten minutes. After 10 minutes turn the oven down to Gas Mark 6/200 degrees C until the focaccia sounds hollow when you tap it.

I normally cut it into fat fingers to serve.

Press your fingers in to make indentations, drizzle over olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and rosemary.
Bake until golden and aromatic. It should sound hollow when tapped.
The salt and oil give it a lovely crispy crust.
I usually cut it into fat fingers to serve.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Roast chicken and stuffing

Roast chicken and stuffing is possibly the best example - in this kitchen anyway - of KISS (keep it simple stupid).

You see my Other Half was pretty convinced that only Paxo could make good stuffing for roasted birds. So on Christmas Day, much against my better judgement, we had a packet stuffing to please He Who Would Like to Be Obeyed. It was okay but it didn't please the smaller more demanding palate (ie my eldest daughter) who, for her ninth birthday, insisted I make home made stuffing for her roast chicken.

I love a good stuffing (stop giggling at the back...) and I'm a big fan of Delia's chunky American style Christmas turkey stuffing and her chestnut stuffing. OH (foolishly) dislikes both. Actually it's not really a dislike, they just disappoint him, which is possibly worse.

So for Sunday's birthday lunch it was back to the drawing board. I consulted Delia, Tana, Gordon, Nigel, Nigella, Sarah Raven and (finally) Rachel Allen. In her Home Cooking book she has a simple sage and onion stuffing with variations.

"Oooh chorizo stuffing," I said to the OH, thinking of the lovely garlicky paprika aroma that would bring to the roasted result.

"No," said OH.

"Smoky bacon?"



So I applied the KISS principle. Straightforward sage, onion and breadcrumbs stuffing.

I followed Rachel's recipe which was to soften a chopped onion and a clove of garlic in a big lump of butter and a glug of olive oil and mix that with 100g of white breadcrumbs and come chopped sage and thyme from the garden. I put the result into a bowl and looked at it alongside my 2.4kg chicken. It looked insufficient.

So, dredging up long-lost memories of family roast dinners and the things my mother used to make, I remembered her method which was to chuck everything - slices of bread, onion, herbs, butter, sea salt, pepper - into her Kenwood blender and blitz. I used my food processor and the result was a pleasing stuffing mix which clumped nicely together.

I made pockets in the bird's breast and tucked most of the stuffing in there and the neck and there was still more, so I popped a fist-sized amount into the bird's cavity. (Writing all this seems a little like writing culinary porn...)

I roasted the bird (two hours, gas mark 5) and the result? Fabulous. A huge hit with everyone and decreed 'nearly' as good as school's* by the birthday girl.

So another kitchen lesson learned. KISS applies to stuffing birds too and (probably, but don't tell her...) mother knows best.

*School dinners set a very high standard here (Jamie take note).

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Passion fruit curd marbled frangipane muffins

These are delicious muffins. They're based on Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's recipe from River Cottage Everyday (which I highly recommend - full of good stuff).

They don't rise quite like an ordinary muffin due to the ground almonds but are sweet and delicious and perfect for Sunday breakfast (which is always pancakes or muffins) or for a post-run treat.

Recipe makes 12 big muffins.

Line a muffin tin with cases and put the oven on to Gas mark 4/180 degrees C.

In a large bowl mix 100g ground almonds, 125g plain flour, 2 tsp baking powder and 100g caster sugar. Whisk with a fork to combine well and add air.

In a glass jug measure out 125ml plain yoghurt, top up to the 250ml mark with whole milk, beat in an egg and add 75g of melted and slightly cooled butter.

Quickly combine the wet and dry ingredients and put a spoonful into each case, only half filling them.

Next add a spoonful of passion fruit curd to each muffin case (if you've got a big sister who has given you a lovely pot of home made passion fruit curd for Christmas. If not use lemon curd or chocolate hazelnut spread). Top up each case with the rest of the mixture. Then use a skewer to quickly marble the mixture.

Pop in the oven for half an hour until golden brown. Eat while still warm.

Notes: If you haven't got enough (or any) ground almonds, use plain flour instead, and if you adore a really marzipanny flavour add a few drops of almond extract.