Category Archives: baking

The Christmas countdown: Pudding series #2..triple chocolate and brandy

IMG_6751[1]

If you are all about the chocolate, but like the idea of Christmas pudding you can always opt for this ‘fake’ version that includes not one, not two, but three different types of chocolate! It has the rich density of a Christmas pud but without the fruit and are like a cross between a cake, a brownie and a muffin.

They are also quick, straight forward, no fuss and very popular. I prefer to make individual puddings that are generous enough for two (or one person with a very sweet tooth and plenty of room!!)

 

On this occasion I made loads as they also make very nice presents!

Double chocolate chip ‘fake’ Christmas pudding (Makes one 17cm cake, or six very generous ‘puddings’)
150g plain chocolate broken into squares
175g muscovado sugar
120ml double cream
75g butter softened
3 eggs beaten
25g cocoa powder
150g plain flour
100g breadcrumbs
150g white chocolate chips
100g milk chocolate chips
100g mixed peel
Brandy
Grease and line a 17cm cake tin with baking parchment, or grease individual large muffin tins.
In a small pan melt the plain chocolate with the cream and half of the sugar. Beat the remaining sugar, eggs, butter, cocoa and flour until smooth. Stir in the breadcrumbs and chocolate mixture then add the chocolate chips and mixed peel. Stir well. Spoon the mixture into the cake tin (or tins) and bake in a medium oven (180 degrees C / gas mark 4) for 45 minutes. Serve hot with cream or brandy butter.

IMG_6744[1]

Leave a comment

Filed under baking, cakes & Baking, chocolate, Christmas, home cooking, Recipes

The Christmas countdown: Pudding series #1 Date and pecan with salted caramel sauce

christmas food 2014 016
See! It’s not all bah humbug. And so begins a Christmas countdown of my favourite alternative Christmas puddings, especially for those that loathe the traditional, dense fruity stuff.  According to Unilever and Love Food Hate Waste 5 million Christmas puddings get thrown away every year, I’m not sure if this is through over consumption and over enthusiastic purchasing or just because there are a lot of people who don’t like the stuff. Instead why not try something different?

There are plenty of alternatives to Christmas pud that are cheap, easy to make, have as much wow factors as a blazing steamed pudding and will bring many more gasps of appreciation.

To begin this brief, last-minute series one of my all time favourite desserts. Sticky toffee pudding with a twist, and a handful off chopped pecan nuts, a bit of spice and a salted caramel sauce with vanilla salt and there you have it, perfection in a dish.

Sticky date and pecan pudding with salted caramel sauce (makes 6 to 7 puddings, depending on the size of your dishes)

270g dates
50g pecan nuts (chopped)
half a teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
150g unsalted butter
185g self-raising flour
125g soft brown sugar
2 eggs
200g golden granulated sugar
120ml double cream
Vanilla sea salt

Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/180 degrees C. Grease six muffin holes or individual tins.
Place the dates and 250ml water in a saucepan. Bring to the boil then remove from the heat and add the bicarbonate of soda. Add 60g of the butter and stir until melted.

When you add the bicarbonate of soda the pan will fizz. The addition helps soften and 'break down' the dates which may remain a litle hard otherwise

When you add the bicarbonate of soda the pan will fizz. The addition helps soften and ‘break down’ the dates which may remain a litle hard otherwise

Sift the flour into a large bowl, then add 125g of the sugar and stir well. Add the date mixture and egg and stir well. In the bottom the dishes add enough pecan nuts to make a pattern then spoon over the batter and bake for 20 minutes.
christmas food 2014 007
christmas food 2014 009
christmas food 2014 011
For the caramel sauce place the granulated sugar in a heavy based saucepan and cook over a medium heat stirring constantly until it turns into a thick amber coloured liquid. Once you reach this point all the sugar should have melted so you can stir in the remaining 90g of butter, still stirring constantly. Then trickle in the cream whisking as you do. The mixture will spit and bubble rapidly. Boil for 1 minute, it will rise in the pan as it does so make sure it doesn’t boil over. Stir in a teaspoon of vanilla salt and allow to cool slightly.

Leave a comment

Filed under baking, cakes & Baking, Christmas, Christmas menu's, home cooking, Recipes

Recipe for home-made granola (its not just for breakfast!)

Well hello home-made granola, where have you been all my life! (and why have I never made you before)? It really couldn’t be easier.

I guess out of laziness I’ve always bought packs of granola, not imagining home-made would be any better than some of the good brands out there on sale. How wrong I was. Now I have to say, I do love Dorset Cereals granola, but now I’ve discovered home-made is on another level. Not only is it healthier (you can control the sugar content) but you can add whatever you like to the recipe, if you prefer certain nuts then just add more of them. I’ve tried to introduce more seeds, nuts and dried fruit to my diet recently so my recipe had a generous addition of sesame and pumpkin seeds, almonds, hazelnuts and pecans which are my favourites. They are a great source of fibre, contain omega 3 (healthy fats) and are reputedly good for reducing inflammation and preventing the onset of type 2 diabetes. Instead of butter, sugar or golden syrup I used agave and maple syrup, plus a bit of local honey and some nut oil.

What I love about this granola is that you don’t just have to eat it for breakfast. It’s true to say I usually start my day with granola. Just a handful sprinkled on Rachel’s organic vanilla yogurt with some fresh or dried fruit sets me up nicely, but I also discovered that it’s just as nice as a quick and attractive dessert requiring minimal effort. Another brilliant thing is that once you’ve made a big batch of granola it keeps for a while (probably around 4 weeks) as long as you store it in a sealed airtight tub. But if my kid is anything to go by though it wont last that long. He’s not usually a cereal fan but couldn’t get enough of this!

food 008

Layer chopped kiwi fruit, fresh chopped pineapple and banana, with Rachel’s organic Mango yogurt and home-made granola for a healthy tropical dessert.

Home-made granola:

300g of rolled or jumbo oats

50g sunflower or pumpkin (or a mix of both) seeds

50g sesame seeds

1 tablespoon flax-seed

150g mixed nuts (flaked almonds, pecans, hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews) chopped

1 large tablespoon nut oil

60ml agave syrup

60ml maple syrup

2 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon good quality vanilla extract

25g desiccated coconut

50 to 100g dried fruit

Preheat the oven to gas mark 2/150 degrees C.

Mix the wet ingredients (oil, syrup/honey and vanilla) in a large bowl. Add the dry ingredients (except the fruit and coconut) and mix well ensuring that it is all coated (you may have to add a little more honey or syrup if it looks too dry). Spread the mixture out fairly thinly on either one large or two smaller baking sheets. Bake for about 15 minutes before checking and giving it a bit of stir to make sure of an even bake. give it another 5 minutes then add the coconut. Bake for another 15 to 20 minutes keeping an eye on it and stirring a bit if necessary. Once it is a lovely golden brown remove from the oven and allow to cool. Break up any really big chunks and store in an airtight container.

Lovely golden granola

Lovely golden granola

Leave a comment

Filed under baking, family budget cooking, home cooking, Recipes

Recipe: easy feta, potato and rosemary bread

bread 011

My life seems to consist of quick meals…quick pasta, quick noodles, quick risotto and this feta, potato and rosemary bread requires no bread flour or yeast, no lengthy kneading or resting and is extremely quick to chuck together.  I’d hate to buck the trend!

I found the basis for this in a magazine years ago, I think it was a Delia Smith recipe, but I have since tinkered with the ingredients trying different combinations to see what works best. I like to use goats cheese,  a good artisan Cheshire or even mozzarella (which is a bit soft, but the kids love that stringy-cheese effect) red onion goes well, spring onions, finely shredded leek or lots of fresh herbs. Have an experiment!

Whatever you choose to add the process is the same, you literally just shove all the ingredients in a big bowl, add an egg and milk, mix and bake it.

For bread purists this is more akin to a savoury tea bread than a traditional loaf. I make mine with self-raising flour, some good feta cheese (I used a local goats milk feta from Y Cwt Caws) fresh rosemary from the garden and a large grated Blue Danube potato so its stuffed full of tasty ingredients.

I ate my freshly baked bread with a creamy tomato and basil soup made with the first crops of Isle of Wight tomatoes which are just now becoming available. I warn you though its seriously addictive and once you start you wont be able to stop pulling or slicing little bits off and nibbling, convincing yourself that you can get away with just one more piece, until all of a sudden you’ve eaten the whole lot. Oh well, its full of good things so why not!

Enjoy!

bread 013

half an hour later that’s all that was left!

Feta, potato and rosemary bread:

120g semi-hard cheese (feta, goats cheese, artisan Cheshire, even mozzarella) rind removed (if it has one) and chopped into small cubes.

a small red onion finely chopped, or thinly sliced (or half a dozen spring onions) or a bunch of leafy green mixed herbs like wild garlic, chives, chervil, parsley (if you do this leave out the rosemary)

1 medium/large potato peeled, washed and grated

a couple of sprigs of fresh rosemary leaves removed from the stalk

180g self-raising flour (I use Shipton Mill)

a teaspoon of salt (Halen Mon)

1 teaspoon smoked or unsmoked paprika (optional)

1 large egg mixed with about 3 tablespoons milk and a teaspoon of whole grain mustard

In a large bowl mix the flour, salt and paprika. Add the grated potato, onion or herbs, and cheese and mix with a flat palette knife until combined. Add the milk and egg mixture and keep mixing until it comes together. Form into a loaf shape with your hands and transfer to a greased baking sheet.

Sprinkle a little flour and some finely chopped rosemary leaves over the top and bake in a preheated oven, gas mark 5/190 degrees C for about 45 mins until golden brown.

Leave a comment

Filed under baking, British food, family budget cooking, home cooking, Recipes

Recipe: My version of Moro’s chocolate and apricot tart

2013-04-12 21.49.05

This recipe was inspired by my recent trip to Moro. No hold on a sec, that’s not entirely honest; inspired isn’t really the right word. Perhaps spurred on is more accurate, or maybe challenged…anyway, let me elaborate.

While I was in London I celebrated my birthday with dinner at said restaurant. As it was my birthday I was strictly banned from

a/ making notes

b/ taking pictures

My family hate me photographing their food or ‘working’ while socializing with them. The teen even exclaimed once that she wanted to ‘copyright’ her dinner so I didn’t photograph it. So this said I have no photographs of Moro, but I have a lot of good memories of the tastes, textures and combinations of flavours served to me on the night. The food was truly delicious and well worth the trip up to Exmouth market, but there was one thing that sadly failed to hit the spot; their chocolate and apricot tart.

Now I’ve read a few reviews and people have raved about it, but none of the four of us were convinced….in fact none of us even liked it! There was barely a hint of apricot and the chocolate was so dark and strong it was overpowering. It simply lacked any depth to the flavours.

I came home and thought about it a bit, strangely unsettled that something using chocolate didn’t work! So I decided to experiment a bit.

The Moro tart uses an apricot paste called amradeen, widely available in Lebanese shops, but not here in North Wales so I substituted it for organic dark apricots, doubling the measure for a stronger richer taste.

To the chocolate mixture I also added 2 tablespoons double cream, which I think lightened and balanced the flavours….More apologies for the shoddy pictures. I now have a new camera so I’m hoping my images will be a tad better from now on (hooray!!)

Sweet pastry:

140g plain flour
30g icing sugar
75g butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg yolk

Apricot paste:

180g amradeen or 400g organic apricots

6 tablespoons of water

juice of one small lemon

Chocolate:

One bar of Divine or other good quality chocolate (about 100g, but no more than 150g) at least 70% cocoa

2 eggs yolks

100g unsalted butter

60g caster sugar

2 tablespoons double cream

Sift together the flour and icing sugar and rub in the butter until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk and a drop of icy cold water and bring together until it forma a ball. Wrap in cling film and allow it to rest in the fridge for about half an hour. Roll out to fit an eight inch tart tin, prick the bottom lightly and line with baking paper. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes at 200 degrees, gas mark….after 10 mins remove the baking paper and cook for another 5 minutes until the base is ‘set’…i.e. firm but not turning brown. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

Chop the apricots roughly and put in a pan with the water and lemon juice. Simmer for about five minutes or so then turn off the heat and allow to plump up and soften. Tip the lot into a blender and puree until smooth.  Spread the paste on the cool tart shell and leave to set for 10 mins or so while you prepare the chocolate mixture.

Combine the chocolate and butter in a heat proof bowl and either melt in the bottom of the warm oven or if you want to do it the ‘conventional’ way make a bain marie by putting the bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water. While it’s melting, whisk the eggs and sugar together until light, and then fold into the slightly cooled chocolate mixture along with the double cream. Spoon over the apricot tart, and bake in the oven for 25 mins, at 180 degrees. Remove from the oven while it still has a slight wobble to it, it will finish setting as it stands and cools.

2013-04-12 20.52.55

Serve with whipped cream, or creme fraiche

1 Comment

Filed under baking, chocolate, home cooking, in the press, London Restaurants, middle eastern food, Recipes

My favourite Irish stew recipe for St. Patricks Day

DSC02491

Like all good stews this simple Irish stew is warming, comforting, hearty, cheap and leaves you feeling extremely cheerful.

I will be celebrating St. Patrick’s Day on Sunday along with every other person of Irish descent and ancestry! I have an Irish father….and of course my husband is a full-blown Paddy so we will be sporting our green shirts, having a wee drink and eating this as we attempt to ignore our Welsh neighbours celebrating winning the Rugby 6 Nations (I know that is a little pre-emptive…but its a sea of red round here and expectation is high!)

I’d also recommend mutton, a much overlooked meat it produces a deeper richer flavour when cooked slowly and gently.

Irish stew

2 tbsp sunflower oil

50g  butter

1.5k mutton, whole on the bone

500g diced onion

2 sticks of celery

500g peeled chopped carrots

500g peeled sliced potatoes (keep them quite chunky)

Bouquet garni with a couple of bay leaves, a sprig of rosemary and a good sprig of thyme tied together.

Two good handfuls of pearl barley

1 pint lamb or chicken stock or just water.

Chopped flat leaf parsley

Heat the oil and half the butter in a large pan. When hot add the mutton and brown well. Spoon out and put to one side. Add the rest of the butter, diced celery, carrot and onion and sweat gently for about 10 minutes.  Add the bouquet garni and continue cooking for a minute or so. In the pan add a layer of potatoes, then a layer of meat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Repeat the layers finishing with a layer of potato.

Throw in the barley then pour over the stock or water. Slap on a lid and allow it to cook gently for about two and a half hours.

When the meat is very tender and the sauce rich and slightly reduced remove the mutton and place on a chopping board taking care not to lose any sauce. Cut the meat from the bone in hefty chunks and return to the saucepan. Add a good handful of chopped parsley and serve in big bowls.

PS. for a treat you could make Nigellas Guiness cake and my version of Irish Mule.…both are very good

Leave a comment

Filed under baking, family budget cooking, Food in Ireland, home cooking, Recipes, seasonal food

An Indian supper and recipe for Cardamom, orange and cinnamon custard tart

2007-05-05 05.00.34

Its been a while since we’ve held a supper club. For one reason or another I had to cancel those scheduled for October through to January (some due to low numbers but also due to weddings, festivals and pop-up events going on). I suppose in a way a change is as good as a rest. We needed a little break. It’s hard running a supper club in a family home and when at Christmas we transformed our living room back to normal the kids breathed a sigh of relief at having their ‘home back’.

It also gave us the opportunity to have a look at feedback from earlier guests. We’ve changed and experimented quite a bit since 2009, starting out with single tables, increasing our capacity to accommodate a dozen, moving to a more communal and interactive approach with one large table, increasing prices and taking on extra staff.

Comments such as …“the food is divine” are thankfully unanimous and overall we’ve had few criticisms. One thing people do say is that

“there is just too much food….I would prefer to pay less and have a smaller amount to eat”

or “I would come, but dates don’t coincide and the cost makes it prohibitive”

Clearly prices became an issue as well as unpredictable dates and the amount of food being served. So after our little break we relaunched; with a pared down menu of 3 courses plus coffee, a lower price of £25 a head, a smaller group of people and a regular last Saturday of the month slot. Clearly this has paid off. Our first supper of the year drew a full house, and we came back relaxed, calm and raring to go.

What better way to ward off the February blues than a sumptuous Indian supper. It was a particularly cold day beginning with a fine white covering of snow on the ground. I stoked up the wood burning stove and worried as flakes continued to flutter through the air throughout the day, mostly fine, but turning to swirling flurries as the day wore on and the time grew closer for our guests to arrive.

I heard my ten-year old shout from the lounge upstairs “are you looking for supper club cos it’s here” and six out of breath people (two worryingly clutching asthma inhalers and two in skyscraper heals) stumbled into the house.  Usually on my emails I tell people to beware of the uphill walk to my house…this time I’d forgotten, I presumed everyone knew where I was by now, clearly not!

It turned out that one of the women whose ankles I almost wrecked was Welsh up and coming pop-singer Sarah Wynn who has supported the likes of Emma Bunton, Liberty X, Blazin Squad and Bill Wyman.  The crowd also included street food vendors Providero who brought me a lovely present of some of their coffee (we had it for breakfast the next morning and it was truly delicious!).

2007-05-05 08.53.34

My menu

Spring onion and coriander bhajis

Vegetarian samosas

Yogurt, mint and cucumber raitha, tamarind and mint chutney, sweet and sour tomato relish and onion, coriander and lime salad

Parsi lamb curry

White bean and curry leaf with coconut

Maharashtran rice

Orange and cinnamon tart with a crisp cardamom base

Almond/pistachio ice cream

blackberry and rose coulis

Coffee / chai and cardamom chilli chocolate truffles

With seasonal local produce on the low side I did the best I could. U used parsley and mint from a friends polytunnel, onions from a local farm. Welsh butter (Calon Wen), yogurt (Rachel’s Dairy) and cream in my dessert and of course Welsh lamb for the curry.

I tinkered with a Anjum Anand recipe for Maharashtran rice as it went so well with the Parsi curry. I’m afraid I I’m sworn to secrecy over the Parsi curry recipe. The recipe came from Shazneen a band manager and festival organiser in India, she spent six months in the UK working with the Green Man festival team (which is how we became friends) and before heading back home came to stay in Wales for a week. The curry is a traditional dish made according to her mothers special recipe. She graciously cooked curry for us all then shared the recipe telling me there was NO WAY I was allowed to blog it. Don’t worry Shaz, your secret is safe with me!

2007-05-05 06.04.53

crispy vegetable samosa

2007-05-05 06.04.32

spring onion and herb bhajis with the mint and cucumber raitha

2007-05-05 04.48.09

sweet and sour tomato relish, onion, coriander and lime, yogurt with mint and cucumber and tamarind and mint

2007-05-05 06.30.20

Vegetarian option: Maharashtran rice, white bean and curry leaf with coconut and a red onion, coriander and lime salad

As for dessert, I’d intended to make a rhubarb and rose tart, with a cardamom pastry but clearly February is too early for even forced rhubarb in Wales so I made a last-minute change, which became a fab accidental recipe hit.

2007-05-05 00.25.57

Pastry flecked with cardamom

Orange and cinnamon tart with a crisp cardamom base:

Preheat the oven to gas mark 4 / 180 degrees C

To make a 12-inch tart case you will need:-

250g organic plain flour, Shipton Mill is the best

50g icing sugar, sifted

125 g Calon Wen butter

zest of a small lemon

8 cardamom pods crushed and the seeds ground well in a pestle and mortar

1 large free-range egg, beaten

small drop of milk

Sieve the flour into a bowl and cut the cubes of butter into it. Sieve the icing sugar over the top then rub the butter into the flour and sugar until you end up with a fine, crumbly mixture. Add the lemon zest and cardamom seeds.Add the egg and a small splash of milk and gently work it all together until you have a ball of dough. Don’t over handle it, simply flour it lightly and wrap it in clingfilm. Put into the fridge to rest for at least half an hour.Roll out to fit into a loose bottomed tart tin. Cover with a piece of baking paper and fill the tart case with baking beans. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove the case from the oven and take out the baking paper and beans before returning to the oven for another 10 minutes so the base can firm up; it needs to set properly, just beginning to turn light brown so that the filling does not soak in.
For the custard filling:
6 egg yolks
1 teaspoon cornflour
1 pint single cream
4oz caster sugar
rind and juice of 1 orange
quarter of a teaspoon cinnamonPut the single cream in a heavy bottomed saucepan to heat over a lowish gas. In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, cornflour and caster sugar. Add the orange rind and juice and cinnamon. as the cream comes up to the boil remove from the heat and pour over the egg mixture whisking continuously. Return the mixture to a clean pan and heat gently stirring all the time until it begins to thicken slightly.

Rest the tart tin on a baking tray (just in case it leaks) and pour the mixture into the case. Return to the oven where it needs to bake for about 30 to 40 minutes, or until it is puffy and slightly risen in the centre and beginning to turn a lovely golden brown.

Serve with fresh fruit, a coulis and some ice cream

2007-05-05 02.05.34

2007-05-05 07.21.41

2007-05-05 05.00.25

Roaring fire in the inglenook, table set for dinner…that’s our supper club 🙂

Leave a comment

Filed under baking, cakes & Baking, home cooking, Indian cooking, living room restaurant, Recipes, secret supper, Uncategorized, underground restaurant

Recipe: Easy, home-made lasagne (no added horse)

DSC02421

If you can bear with my quick tirade about supermarkets and processed food, you will come to my really straightforward lasagne recipe. Stick with it, its worth it!

And I must have a rant because all I’ve heard this week are exclamations of horror about the discovery of horse DNA in pre-packaged and ready-made beef products (lasagne being one with the highest profile) and pig DNA where it really shouldn’t be. Who knows what’s next…actually I don’t even want to consider, but nothing would surprise me.

Don’t you think it’s about time we took a long hard look at ourselves and the crap we buy?….and I ask when exactly did we stop cooking real food at home?

As I child there wasn’t the vast array of  ‘convenience’ foods on the market. We didn’t have huge supermarket monopolies undercutting shops on the high street, telling us to trust them with their ready-made dishes and we didn’t have it forced in our face that we were too busy to cook. I look at the shelves of any supermarket and I’m ashamed at the gluttony and waste of this country.

In my butchers view there is plenty of good meat on the market…but not enough cheap meat to satisfy the demands of the meat industry. Supermarket own brands and other cheaper brands don’t use good meat. They go for the cheapest possible option. Why would anyone want to settle for that? People eat this rubbish because they live in ignorance about what goes into their food…they arev told its OK and believe unquestioningly. I think its time to open our eyes and ask questions….do we really need supersized Tesco’s with its racks of prepacked food and are we really happier now that we have supermarket ‘convenience’ and no longer have to nip into town to the butcher and greengrocer to shop?

Actually no. I’d rather travel to four different shops, where the sales staff are friendly, knowledgeable and interested, know the provenance of the food they sell, know you by name and what you like and have a chat about the family,  than have to face a half asleep teenager that can’t look you in the eye and that doesn’t know an Avocado from an artichoke.

So why don’t people cook? I could offer many reasons but then my rant would go on forever. I learned to cook in domestic science (and then Home Economics) lessons at school, but even then was already familiar with fresh food made at home. My mother cooked lasagne back in the early 80’s. Revolutionary almost for the time, but it was probably one of the first dishes I learned to make without a recipe. So simple that at eighteen I was making it at home and I reckon my ten-year old would have a fair stab at it today!

So, lets leave the packet food alone. Cooking is not hard…no really, it isn’t. Even if you don’t think you can cook I’m sure everyone can master six or seven dishes that can feed the family…..and here is a really easy lasagne to get you started.

DSC02420

Fry onion, carrot and best quality beef to make a ragut

Lasagne:

1 pack of fresh or precooked lasagne sheets

500g beef mince (I used Welsh black beef from Beef Direct who sell at my local farmers market….it cost me £3.50 and tasted superb)

1 large onion chopped

2 small carrots grated or chopped small

2 cloves garlic crushed or chopped

1 bay leaf

1 tin chopped tomatoes

half a pint beef stock

a sprinkle of dried oregano

salt and pepper

50g butter

2 tablespoons plain flour

generous half a pint of milk

salt, pepper and grated nutmeg

Grated parmesan to cover the top

Preheat the oven to gas mark 5, 190 degrees C

Finely chop the onion and either grate or finely chop the carrot. Put about a tablespoon olive oil in a pan and heat gently. Add onions and carrot and fry gently (without browning) for about 10 minutes. Turn the heat up to medium and add the mince. Continue to fry, breaking up the mince with a wooden spoon, until nicely browned. Add garlic, a teaspoon of dried oregano (everyone seems to have a small selection of dried herbs in their house) and one bay leaf. Give everything a good stir then the tin of tomatoes, fresh beef stock (or made with a couple of good quality stock cubes…Kallo is a good make) and a sprinkle of seas salt (Halen Mon for me!!) and pepper.

Simmer until the sauce has reduced to a lovely rich thick consistency. At this stage you can use the sauce just as a bolognaise sauce with spaghetti.

To make the white sauce (bechamel) melt the butter in a small saucepan then stir in the flour. Cook for a minute then remove from the heat and slowly stir or whisk in the milk. Once you have a smooth sauce return to a low heat and stir continuously until it thickens. Season with salt and pepper and a grate in some nutmeg.

To assemble: Spoon a third of the meat sauce over the bottom of a large shallow oven dish (about 30cm square), cover with a layer of the lasagne sheets and a couple of spoons of the bechamel sauce.  Repeat the layers with a third of the sauce, a layer of lasagne and two more spoonfuls of bechamel. Finish with the rest of the meat sauce, a layer of lasagne and top with the bechamel. Cover the top with grated parmesan and bake in the oven for about 40 minutes or until golden brown and bubbling and a knife penetrates easily.

2 Comments

Filed under baking, family budget cooking, home cooking, Italian food, local produce, Organic meat, Recipes, Uncategorized

Recipe: really easy, multi-purpose, egg free cheesecake

2012-10-20 16.22.25

This easy egg free cheesecake recipe came about while planning a wedding menu. I tend to design my menu’s with the person I’m cooking for, tossing ideas too and fro until we reach a final decision. For one couple cheesecake was their ‘must have’ dessert,  but endlessly worried because a couple of guests couldn’t have eggs and thought that cheesecake automatically included them. They naturally wanted them to enjoy everything on offer and so I assured them it was possible to have egg free cheesecake.

Hmmmm. I’d never actually made an egg-free cheesecake at this point, so having said it would be no problem I set off to do a bit of research and testing.

Mercifully I discovered that there are lots of cheesecake recipes out there, even egg free cheesecakes, so I didn’t see any point in totally reinventing the wheel. I looked at a couple, tweaked and modified them, and finally came up with a winning formula. I tried and tested different combinations of flavours and ingredients until settling on this quick and simple, hugely adaptable recipe that makes the perfect base for a whole host of flavours and toppings, depending on what you fancy and what is in season.

Cooking for large parties and buffets demands a degree of simplicity, especially as the dish has to appeal to up to 150 people!! My tip then is to keep things simple; go with maybe two or three flavourings such as, strawberry and vanilla, apple and blackberry compote, vanilla with blackcurrant and cinnamon compote, rhubarb and ginger. You could also give it a little kick by pairing with booze; a nice complimentary liqueur enhances whichever fruit you have used…raspberry and Framboise, or as with my last variation Morello cherry and Kirsch, finished with stemmed fresh cherries it almost created a sort of ‘black forest’ cheesecake. You can even try adding fragrant petals such as orange blossom or rose as a flavouring or decoration. If a fruit version doesn’t tempt the taste buds how about chocolate and vanilla, with some salted caramel swirled into it and decorated with chocolate dipped strawberries?….Really the list is endless. Once you begin to think about it tis easy to get carried away!!

You could also experiment with the biscuit base. Digestives are the common choice, but how about substituting with ginger biscuits, a rhubarb cheesecake mixture, decorated with a sprinkle of rose petals, or perhaps crunchy butter biscuits, almond ratafias…..as long as they have a good crunch they should work ok.

Egg-free cheesecake recipe (makes one large party size 28cm cheesecake…or two smaller cheesecakes)

300g crunchy biscuits…degestives are the conventional choice…but experiment)

150g very lightly salted butter…I use Calon Wen

700g cream cheese

150g icing sugar

300ml double cream or creme fraiche

1 jar of Morello cherries (drained…reserving a tablespoon of the juice)

1 tablespoon Kirsch

fresh cherries or rose petals to decorate

(NB: In the picture above I used 350g chopped strawberries, 1 generous teaspoon good quality vanilla extract and finished it with strawberries dipped in caster sugar.)

Grease a loose bottomed 28cm cake tin or flan tin (or two 15cm) and line with a circle of non-stick baking parchment.

Put the biscuits into a large clean bag and crush with a rolling pin…try not to trap any air in the bag or it will explode and there will be crumbs everywhere! Make sure there are no large bits, you want fine crumbs but not powder. Tip into a bowl

Melt the butter in a small pan then pour over the crumbs in the bowl. Mix well then press into the cake tin to make a tight even layer. refrigerate for about an hour or so.

In a clean bowl whisk together the cream cheese, cream, sugar and liquids (vanilla, alcohol, cherry juice or whatever liquid you are using).  With a large spoon or plastic spatula fold in the fruit or other ingredients gently swirling into the cheese mixture.  Be careful not to break the fruit up and over mix, you really need a light hand.

Spoon the mixture over the biscuit base and smooth the top. Place in the fridge again for at least a couple of hours.

To serve loosen the cake tin base and gently ease out. Carefully remove the baking parchment and slide out on to a serving plate. Decorate with a sprinkling of petals….or fresh fruit

1 Comment

Filed under baking, cakes & Baking, family budget cooking, home cooking, Recipes, seasonal food

Whisky and orange crepes….perfect for a snowy day

So, I’m snowed in. It’s a reasonably common occurrence where I live as I’m up on higher ground. Whilst those in Bangor city wonder what all the fuss is about, my village just a few miles outside is hit by snowmageddon! Abandoned cars, icy roads and snow drifts render some parts of the village inaccessible (including my street) but the fun we have tobogganing makes up for it. We all love a ‘snow day’!

DSC02363

DSC02364

DSC02367

DSC02368

DSC02371

DSC02373

DSC02374

So of course I did the only thing a girl could do. I panic bought whisky and ginger wine to make whisky macs, drank Bailey’s hot chocolate with whipped cream, enjoyed a snowy walk or two and tried not to fall over on the ice. Sledging was unfortunately out of the question what with my back being bad and all, but I made up for it with some dedicated ‘apres ski’.

With food running slightly short in the house (yep, bought plenty of booze, but nothing of much use other than that) we resorted to split pea soup (at least I’d made it with proper fresh chicken stock and topped with crispy bacon) and a wonderfully indulgent creation of whisky and orange pancakes. Made in the same way as crepe suzette, the retro classic french dessert, but with whisky and not Grand Marnier and using a couple of the 15 kilos of Seville oranges from the load delivered on Thursday. They were a massive hit. Using the Seville’s with a couple of lemons produced a sharper citrussy sauce, but I liked that sweet and sour effect. Just like squeezing lemon juice on your pancakes.

Whisky and orange crepes:

To make 8 crepes:

120g plain flour

pinch of sea salt

2 large eggs

half a pint (275ml) milk

oil for cooking

For the sauce:

zest of one orange and one lemon

juice of one lemon and three oranges..I used Seville but you can use any juicy orange.

90g butter

120g caster sugar

100ml whisky

Sift flour and salt into a large bowl. Add eggs and milk and whisk together to make a smooth, lump free batter.

Heat a small flat-bottomed pan. Add a trickle of oil and swirl it around the bottom of the pan. When it is really hot and just beginning to smoke a little add some of the batter. Quickly swirl this around the pan to coat the bottom. Cook until it looks golden brown and then flip it over to cook on the other side. Remove the crepe on to a plate and repeat the process until you have used all the mixture.

In another pan, this time larger melt the butter. Stir in the sugar and simmer together for a few minutes until it just starts to change colour. Immediately add orange and lemon juice and zest and simmer for a couple more minutes. Add whisky and then start to add one pancake at a time folding into quarters, they should all be able to fit snugly into one pan. Allow to bubble gently for a few minutes so they soak up the sauce

DSC02377

You can serve these with cream or ice cream, but they really don’t need anything else but the rich, sticky sweet-sour sauce. True comfort food!

DSC02378

 

1 Comment

Filed under baking, family budget cooking, home cooking, photography, Recipes