Thursday, 4 August 2011

Happy Holidays!

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside......!
Thanks to the heavens that it's warm this week and I can feel like it's the summer holidays.  I was worried for a moment that we were to have a repeat of last year with wet, cold and wind being the main characters....

Today (1st Aug)  is the ancient Pagan celebration of Lammas, which was originally celebrated at the time of the first harvest on the 1st of August.  Bake some bread today and light a fire in celebration of the harvest.  Be grateful for the earth and her abundance!

Went camping this week to a lovely campsite in the Witterings (near Chichester), called Stubcroft Farm.  Very low key, clean and full of eco ideas, my children had a ball cycling round and round and round and staying up late, and I had a ball with lovely friends and baking Orange Muffins in the embers, Mushroom Risotto for tea and Wheat-free Pancakes for brekkie.  The Orange Muffins were from The Cool Camping Cookbook, a must for all adventurous and easily bored cooks!  Check it out

Hope everyone has a lovely time wherever they are!  Get some fresh air and sunshine - they really do make the world go round!

Easy Bread

500g strong bread flour (or spelt)
35g butter
10g fast acting yeast
10g sea salt
300ml (approx) hand hot water

Preheat the oven to 210 degrees C/gas mark 8.  Mix all the ingredients together to form a dough, then keep pushing and folding until it feels springy and silky.  Place in a bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to rise for an hour, then gently form it into the shape you want.  For a basic round loaf, knead gently to retain all the gas and fold the edges underneath to form a ball, slightly stretched over the top.  Sprinkle with flour and leave to rise for another 20 minutes.  Slash across the top four or five times, then bake for 30 minutes.

Orange Baked Muffins (Serves 6)

6 oranges
100g plain flour
80g butter
1 egg
80g brown sugar
80ml milk
2 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp cocoa powder

Cut the top of the oranges and scoop out the insides, until a shell is left (easy with a teaspoon).
Make the muffin mix by mixing all the ingredients together, whisking to mix thoroughly.  Pour the mixture into the empty shells, to about half full.  Wrap well with tinfoil.

Place the oranges on the embers of the fire and leave for about 20 minutes.  Or we also cooked them on the grill but they take a bit longer.  You can check they are cooked when they are puffing over the top of the orange.  Delicious!!  (I took the dry mixture in a sealed plastic bag and just added the wet stuff when we were going to cook)

Mushroom Risotto

A knob of butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, sliced
250g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
a small handful of dried, wild mushrooms
250g risotto rice
100ml white wine
200ml vegetable stock
a handful of fresh herbs, roughly chopped
Another knob of butter
a good grating of Parmesan cheese (about 4-5 tbsp)
Salt and pepper to season

Cook the onion and garlic in the butter until golden.  Add the mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes.  Add the rice and stir to coat all the grains.  Pour in the wine and stir every few minutes until the liquid is nearly absorbed.  Add half the stock and stir occasionally until absorbed, then add the rest of the stock and repeat.  When nearly all the liquid has gone, add the herbs, butter, Parmesan and season well.  Taste, beat vigorously and serve with more Parmesan.

Wheat-free pancakes

200g wheat free flour mixture
Wheat free baking powder
1 tbsp sugar
1 egg
About 150ml milk to mix
Butter for cooking

Heat a frying pan on a moderate heat.  Tip the flour and baking powder into a bowl.  Make a well in the centre and crack in the egg.  Add half the milk and whisk, adding the rest of the milk until you get a stiff batter.  Add a knob of butter to the pan, swirl around, then add large tablespoons of the batter with a little space in between.  Cook until holes appear on the surface, flip and cook for another 2 minutes.
Serve with blueberries, maple or agave syrup and butter.

What I have been cooking:

Tuna melts:  paninis split open, covered with tuna/mayonnaise/mozzarella/seasoning and toasted, then closed up and toasted briefly on each side.
Orzo with vegetables and Halloumi: cook Orzo (rice shaped pasta) according to the packet.  Meanwhile, fry a chopped onion with garlic in olive oil then add mixed fresh herbs and cubed halloumi.  Add two chopped tomatoes and 2 tbs sun dried tomato paste and season well.  Toss with the pasta and serve
Pasta pomodoro: Cook some spaghetti, meanwhile fry a chopped onion and a clove of garlic in olive oil, tip in a little red wine if you have it, a tin of chopped tomatoes and a sprig of basil.  Season well and bubble until the spaghetti is cooked, then serve with Parmesan grated on top.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Prawns and Chilli

Hi all, hope you're enjoying the balmy weather.  Bob and I are busy finishing the hard-landscaping of our garden - I am much fitter than I was before!  He starts a new contract on Monday (hooray) so we have to get it finished.......
I have been thinking about my cookbook and I really want to get it finished and published.  If I'm going to do it myself then I have to start cooking some of the dishes and taking decent photos of the results.  I much prefer to have a picture to refer to; to have some idea of the looks of the end result!

Try these dishes, fairly quick and lovely, they can be knocked up in less than half an hour - and I can spend more time laying bricks.........

Prawn and Chilli Linguine  (serves 4)

4 tbsp olive oil
2 red chillies, seeds removed (or half a tsp of dried chilli flakes)
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
400g linguine
12 large raw prawns (or a packet of defrosted smaller ones)
a knob of butter
2 large handfuls of rocket
the juice of 1 lemon

Cook the pasta in boiling, salted water until al dente (usually about 10 minutes).

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil over a fairly high heat.  Fry the chilli and the garlic for 30 seconds, take care not to burn the garlic.  Add the prawns and cook for 2  minutes.  Reduce the heat to medium and add the butter, a handful of rocket and the lemon juice.  Toss the mixture through the drained pasta.

Serve garnished with the extra rocket.

Apple Pie

I find measuring for pastry easier in Imperial, but just remember 'half fat to flour', or twice the flour to the weight of fat!

6 eating apples, peeled, cored and sliced
12oz plain flour
6oz cold butter
3 tbsp caster sugar, plus a little for sprinkling
1 egg yolk, plus 1 egg for glazing
2-3 tbsp cold water
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C/gas mark 7.  Heat a saucepan with a splash of water in it.  Add the sliced apples and cook gently, stirring occasionally, while you make the pastry.
Process together the flour, butter and caster sugar until smooth (or rub it in with your fingers).  Add the egg yolk and 2 tbsp water.  Process again until the pastry comes together.  You may need to add a little more water if it looks too crumbly.  Cut into 2 unequal halves (1 for the top and 1 for the bottom).  Roll out the larger half to the size of your pie dish.  Line the dish with the pastry and trim around the edge with a sharp knife.  Roll the other half and leave on the side.  Add 3 tbsp sugar and the cinnamon to the apples, then tip into the pastry case.  Wet the edges of the pastry and put the top on, trimming around the edge as before.  Make a small hole in the centre of the pie, brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with a little caster sugar.  Bake for about 30 minutes until golden brown and looking delicious!

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Cheesy Muffins!

Okay, okay, I went on holiday alright?!  I just couldn't find the time to update the blog in time, sorry!
Here is the promised Cheesy Muffin recipe which is so ludicrously easy that I reckon you might not believe me!  Make sure you grease the tin well.

Cooked some pasta for lunch today.  I read somewhere that cabbage stalks sprout again if they are left in the ground, so I tried it this winter.  And sure enough, little shoots appeared in January and have grown bigger and bigger!  I did the same with my broccoli because I couldn't bear the thought that all that energy went into producing one little broccoli flower.  On my return from holiday, what do I find but a mass of small shoots (perhaps that is what purple sprouting broccoli really is?) so I picked them all today, cabbage and broccoli,  and cooked them in the pasta water for lunch, yum!

I am always looking for a really good cake recipe, moist sponge, fudgy chocolate topping.  So here is my latest version, which is really rather moreish, I must say!  I cooked mine in a rectangular tin and sliced it in half to make a square cake, but I have given the instructions to make a traditional round one.

Have fun in the sun!

Cheesy Muffins

2 cups grated strong Cheddar
2 cups self-raising flour
2 cups milk
mixed herbs, paprika, fried onions and bacon

Yup, that's it!!  Mix everything together until well combined, adding onions or bacon if you like, and spoon into a 12 hole well-greased muffin tin.  Top with a little more cheese and some herbs or paprika and bake at 200 degrees C for about 15 minutes.

Broccoli, Pine Nut and Sultana Pasta   Serves 4

400g pasta (whatever shape you have to hand)
4 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, sliced thinly
3 tbsp sultanas
4 tbsp pine nuts
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 anchovy fillets, snipped into small pieces
A large handful of sprouting broccoli (and cabbage), cut into bite-sized pieces

Put a frying pan on a medium heat.  Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook the pasta as per the packet.  Set the timer for 4 minutes before the end of the cooking time.
Meanwhile, fry the onion in the oil until soft.  Add the sultanas, pine-nuts, garlic and anchovy pieces.  Cook, stirring occasionally, unitl everything is golden and the anchovies have melted away.  Season well with salt and pepper.
When the timer goes, drop the broccoli in with the pasta to cook for 4 minutes.

Drain the pasta and broccoli water into a large serving dish (to warm the dish).  Tip all but 3 tbsp of the water out of the serving dish and add the pasta, broccoli and the sauce ingredients.  Mix together thoroughly and taste for seasoning.  Enjoy!

Sticky Chocolate Sponge with Fudge Topping

250g soft butter or margarine
250g caster sugar
250g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
3 tbsp cocoa, mixed with 5 tbs milk
4 eggs

Whizz all the ingredients in a processor or with an electric mixer until combined.  Pour into two greased and lined 7cm sponge tins and bake for 30 minutes at 180 degrees C.   Cool.

Whizz together 300g icing sugar, 100g soft butter, 40ml milk and 40g cocoa powder.  Spread a third of the mixture over one cake, place the other cake on top and spread the rest of the icing over the top and sides.  Decorate with little Easter eggs!

Aren't I lucky.... this is where I have been for the week!!

Saturday, 26 March 2011

What's been going on?

Hi all,
Sorry I've been offline for soooo long!  And thanks to my friends for nagging me to start up again!
Well, you'll be pleased to know that I am in the final stages of editing my cookbook, and then I can send some chapters to some hand-picked and unsuspecting publishers!  I am also thinking about self-publishing so don't be surprised when you hear about a strange woman knocking on doors in Dorking trying to flog cookbooks..........
It's been a tough few months with the building of my beautiful extension (what a bedroom!) and Bob's dad passing over in October and then a very, very DULL winter.  Thank goodness for the sunshine, spring is here at last!

I have been increasingly drawn to raw food.  That is, food that hasn't had its nutrients stripped through heating, and I have found a wonderful author, Ani Phyo, who make the most delicious desserts (my passion after all!) which might sound a little weird if you're used to baking like me, but are amazing.  Just suspend your disbelief for a moment and make the Blueberry Cobbler!  Check out her book, 'Ani's raw food kitchen' on her website
I also am increasingly aware of food allergies in people, and especially children.  I have just been reading a blog by a mum from the US, Kelly Rudnicki,  whose children have multiple allergies.  She speaks of the hypocrisy involved even though differences are supposed to be tolerated and we are meant to be increasingly enlightened.  These differences mean people's lives.  Anyway, her blog is a good read and she has lots of recipe ideas for dairy, egg, nut free cooking.

I have also been cooking lots from Jamie's new book, 30 Minute Meals.  Now, a lot of people scoff because some of his meals have taken them longer than 30 minutes.  But I say his meals are delightful, delicious and as he already has Saintly Status, get over yourselves and try some of his ideas!!
Have fun this week!

Summer Berry Cobbler (serves 16)
This is like an upside down crumble and very lovely.  Stuffed full of antioxidants to help protect from cancer and heart disease.

1 cup pumpkin seeds, dry
1 cup almonds, dry
3/4 tsp sea salt
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup pitted dates

Whizz all but the dates in a processor.  Add the dates until the mixture becomes doughy enough to press gently into a small pie dish.

1 cup blueberries
1/2 cup pitted dates
1/4 cup water, as needed

Blend the these with a little water until it becomes a thick, syrupy texture. 
To serve, pour the berry syrup over the crust and top with 1 1/2 cups of blueberries.  Will keep for two days in the fridge.

Cauliflower Cheese Macaroni
My book already falls open at this page - enjoy!

Hmm, don't have a picture, so take a look at some cheesy muffins instead!  Recipe next week!

1 large head of cauliflower
500g dried macaroni
250g mature Cheddar cheese, grated
4 thick slices of country bread
a few sprigs of fresh rosemary
2 cloves garlic, crushed
250g tub of creme fraiche
Parmesan cheese to serve

Boil the kettle.  Trim the cauliflower of the tatty leaves and the tough inner stalk, then quarter the head.  Put in a large saucepan, core down, with the pasta on a high heat.  Cover with boiling water, season with salt and cook according to the macaroni instructions.
Meanwhile, Process the bread, rosemary, ground pepper and a good drizzle of olive oil until you have a coarse breadcrumb consistency.
Drain the pasta , keeping 400ml of the water.  Tip the pasta and cauliflower into a roasting tray.  Add the crushed garlic to the reserved water and mix in the Cheddar, creme fraiche and season.  Mix well, breaking up the cauliflower as you go.   Sprinkle over the breadcrumbs and bake in a hot oven for about 12 minutes, or until bubbling.
Serve with some salad, with this dressing:

a small bunch of basil
1/2 a 30g tin anchovies (you can't taste them!)
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp natural yoghurt
3 tbsp red wine vinegar

Have fun this weekend!