Tag Archives: Halen Mon salt

Recipe: easy feta, potato and rosemary bread

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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!


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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.

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Ginger, orange blossom and vanilla salt cookies

Excited and inspired by my delivery of Steenbergs Organic Fairtrade spices and sad that we had no sweet treats in the cupboard, I was overcome with an urge to bake. Immediately. No hanging around.

There is just something about the prospect of using high quality ingredients that perhaps inspires more than the average brand. The packaging of Steenbergs products is he first thing to catch the eye. The beautifully labelled little jars just make you want to open them up there and then to see what is inside. In my package were an array of ingredients supplied for my Conwy Feast demonstration next Saturday, but being a bit of a child I couldn’t resist having a sneak preview. First I opened the ginger, where you could actually see proper strands, not a mixture that resembled floor sweepings, next came the rose petals, their fragrant aroma filled my nostrils and I imagined other dishes (recipe’s to come another time) but it was the delicate aromatic jar of dried orange blossom that sucked me in. Hmm I wondered, ginger and orange blossom…with just a hint of Halen Mon vanilla salt…and so this cookie was born.

I say cookie, but its more of a ginger snap and is the perfect accompaniment to a nice cup of tea or coffee at three in the afternoon when lunch has worn off and a sugar hit is needed….Ok I should have some fruit, but these salty-sweet, gingery snacks (with the merest hint of orange) tick all the boxes. They are so moorish I dare you not to have more than one!

For the cookies you will need:

150g golden syrup, 120g butter, 350g plain flour (Doves Farm or Shipton Mill is best), 275g golden castor sugar, 2 heaped teaspoons of Steenbergs powdered ginger, 1 teaspoon of bicarb of soda, 1 teaspoon of Steenbergs dried orange blossom, 1 beaten egg  and a good pinch of Halen Mon vanilla salt.

Preheat the oven to gas mark 4, 180 degrees C. Grease a couple of baking sheets as you will need plenty of room for the cookies to expand as they cook.

Melt the syrup and butter in a small saucepan. While this is doing mix the flour, sugar, salt, ginger, bicarb of soda and orange blossom in a large mixing bowl. Add the beaten egg and syrup mixture and mix well. You should have a smooth dough. Roll teaspoons of the dough into balls between your hands and place on the baking sheets, well spaced to allow for spreading during cooking. Bake for about 15 minutes until golden brown. Leave to completely cool on the baking sheet then remove and store in an airtight tin.



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Autumn pear tatin with vanilla salted caramel and Calvados cream

I’m a great lover of a good tatin and I’ve made this version a couple of times now since I discovered how well pear and salted caramel go together. It certainly went down a storm at the last two supper clubs and so, just to make sure it really was as good as I thought it was the first and second time round, I will be making it again at the Conwy Feast later this month while our British pears are in abundance.

I reckon I make mean savoury and sweet versions of the tatin and I’m always slightly amazed and quite impressed when I turn them out of the tin looking decorative, with their eye-catching swirl of fruit still in the same place that I set it!

I think a tatin looks much more spectacular than a Quiche or tart especially when their hidden fruity secrets are dramatically upturned and revealed. The gorgeous caramelised glistening top, with the soft fruit neatly laid out on the light crisp base is simple, but stunning. But I think a lot of people are a little scared of making tatin’s because they think they are tricky to pull off; it’s the whole idea that you have to turn something over quickly without dropping it that sounds terrifying in a lot of recipe books. They tell you to have ‘courage’ but I think that’s a bit over dramatic. Actually a tatin is deceptively simple to make; all you really need is a good pan that can go on the hob and then in the oven and a sheet of ready-made all butter puff pastry.

As aI was making this for a supper club dessert I didn’t cheat. I took a leaf out of Nigella’s book and made mine with a Danish pastry base. A little more effort, but oh so worth it. The light, spongy buttery base seems to soak up the juices beautifully. It’s not as crisp as one made with puff pastry, but it holds its form and the fruit on top perfectly.

Using pears instead of apples needed a little tweaking. The first tatin looked beautiful and contained more pear, but for the second I cut thinner slices. One word of advice from a diner was to make the pear slices chunky as the thin slices were lost in the vanilla salted caramel. Point duly noted.

Salted caramel has really grown in popularity over the last couple of years and what was once a well-kept cheffy secret, is now on the menu all over the place, from Haagen Daz ice cream, to Starbucks salt caramel hot chocolate. I was dubious for a while and not really sure I would like it…in much the same way as I didn’t quite trust the weirdly exotic salts I’d seen on the shelves of posh deli’s and over at Halen Mon, my regular local salt supplier. I felt slightly intimidated by them, as though I should really know what to do with them, but didn’t, so I shunned them. That is until I tried salted caramel ice cream.

That was it; unsure no longer I went from smitten to obsessed in a matter of weeks. I’d always half fancied trying the vanilla salt I’d seen at Halen Mon, but wasn’t sure how or where to use it. The scent had absolutely intoxicated me, so as my salted caramel obsession grew I finally knew what I would do with it.

vanilla salt

And that was how my pear and vanilla salted caramel experiment began, although I don’t think that is where it will end. I still think I’m being a little cautious with the salt. I haven’t quite found the freedom to be really brave yet, but I’m sure I will get there soon and there are plenty of other combinations I can come up with…. hmm hold on, I’m thinking chocolate…smoked salt…caramel…you see an idea is forming already.

Nigella’s Danish Pastry recipe says that for enough Danish pastry to make two 22 cm tatin’s you will need:

60ml warm water

125ml of milk at room

1 egg

350g strong white flour (I use Shipton Mill)

1 sachet easy blend yeast

1 teaspoon salt

25g caster sugar

250g unsalted Calon Wen or Rachel’s dairy butter straight from the fridge and cut into slices

Mix the water, milk and egg in a jug.

Make this the day before you want to make your tatin. Add the flour, salt, sugar and yeast to the bowl of a food processor (this really is the quickest and easiest way to do it) and whizz round briefly to mix. Add the butter and pulse. You want to still be able to see big chunks of butter (about 1 cm big). Turn the mixture into a large bowl and with your hands or a plastic spatula add the milk and egg mixture. Dont over do it. You will be left with quite a gooey mixture with chucks of butter visible. Cover with cling film and put in the fridge over night.

The next day take it out of the fridge and allow to warm at room temperature for a while. The lightly flour a large surface and roll out into a large square (about 50 x 50cm). Fold into three like a business letter and rotate the closed fold until it is on your left…like the spine of a book. Roll out again and repeat the same process two more times. You may not need all of this dough depending on how big or how many tatins you are making, but the dough will keep for up to four days in the fridge or you can freeze it for another day.

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 / 200 degrees C.

In your tatin pan melt 100g unsalted butter and 150g sugar. I’ve used both caster and granulated sugar and I’m not sure which one works best. Perhaps granulated gets a better caramel. You can try experimenting and see what you think. Cook, stirring occasionally, until it turns a beautiful bronzy caramel colour then remove from the heat and put to the side to cool. There was a little extra butter floating on mine so I gently poured this off.

Having never used the vanilla salt before I read a few online recipes and decided the simplest way was just to sprinkle a bit over the top of the caramel before I added the pears. I didn’t want to over do it so I erred on the side of caution and probably only used about a quarter of a teaspoon. I could have added more and will do next time.

Take as many pears as you need to cover the base of your tatin dish. I used about 5 for my large one, but really needed to use 6. They need to be fairly thickly sliced and packed tightly to form a circular wheel around the dish.. My pears were quite small so I did made an inner and outer circle.

Finally lay your sheet of rolled out pastry over the top of the dish cutting to shape and tucking in well around the edges to enclose the fruit. You can save the off cuts for something else (Danish pastries?).

Bake in the oven for about 20 to 30 minutes or until the pastry is golden and crisp and there are beautiful bubbles of caramel syrup visible around the sides. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for about five or ten minutes, then wearing oven gloves place a large plate over the top of the pan and swiftly invert. You shouldn’t have any problems with sticking and the tatin should just drop on to the plate with ease. Remove the pan and admire with awe. (If by any chance any of the fruit has stayed stuck to the bottom of the pan just pick it off and lay back in its place on the tatin. This is not a precious or pretentious desert and it doesn’t mind being adjusted and stuck back together a bit).

To serve:

Whip a carton of organic double cream with a tablespoon of icing sugar until quite thick and stiff. Stir in a tablespoon (or two) of Calvados brandy and serve a bit dollop with the tatin.


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It’s those simple things…

A simple supper

I can cook up the most extravagant, adventurous feast, using every exotic ingredient known to create something really special for supper club and dinner guests.  I take my time, take extra care to produce something that looks as beautiful as it tastes and really give it my all. I love doing this. I love experimenting and trying out new things, but there are times when less is definitely more. Sometimes its the simplest of things that leave a lasting  impression. No fuss, complex dressings, drizzled sauces or coulis, just fantastic fresh unadulterated food.

A MASSIVE (half eaten) Manchego from Spain...yum with some home-made onion relish

As I lazed in the sun on Sunday afternoon, with a Tanquaray and Tonic clutched in my hand, it was simplicity that I craved. The lingering heat and appearance of some fiery Welsh sun shine inspired a supper with a distinctly Mediterranean feel…. some Spanish Manchego brought back as a thank you present by friends whose boat we looked after while they were away, some seriously strong black bomber left over from Saturday’s produce market; home-made onion marmalade and beetroot relish, new potatoes with lashings of butter and mint, herb-marinated mozzarella and tomatoes and a hearty salad of lettuce from the garden, cucumber, olives, very lightly steamed mangetout from the weekly veg box, crisp chorizo and a good glug of Welsh Rapeseed oil.

The food disappeared in no time and even the little-un steamed in for more. At the end of supper I was about as satiated and happy as I would have been if I’d eaten something more elaborate.

Marinated mozzarella and tomato: An Ottolenghi inspired favourite (serves 2-3)

250g good buffalo mozzarella

A couple of large ripe local tomatoes

half a teaspoon fennel seeds, zest of a lemon or a teaspoon of white wine vinegar , small handful of shredded basil leaves, 2 teaspoons fresh oregano leaves, 2 tablespoons Welsh Rapeseed oil 1 crushed clove of garlic and a pinch of Halen Mon salt and black pepper.

Dry roast the fennel seeds until they begin to pop. Transfer to a pestle and mortar and grind roughly. Place in a bowl with the other ingredients. toss the sliced or roughly torn mozzarella with the marinade and leave for 10 minutes or so, Serve with sliced or wedges of tomatoes as a starter or part of a cold supper.

mmmmmm....dinner 🙂

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