Filed under: Baking, cakes, Christmas, comfort Food, Recipes, Seasonal Fun etc, slow cooking
Yes it’s true the count down to Christmas baking has started. First on the list is the all important rich, fruity and of course boozey cake. I’m making the tried and tested cake that I did last year but I’ve altered the fruit slightly as I picked up some bargains while I was out and about.
First was £1 Land, 2 large bags of cranberries for well a £1 and from Julian Graves 2 1kg bags of fruit compote for £3.
I’m not a big raisin/current fan so these were perfect. I think the dried pear in the compote mix will add texture and keep it moist as well.
So I’ve dusted down the bottle of booze, as you will see there is quite a bit in the pre soaking liquid and chopped my fruit ready to begin. I have 9 weeks until I’m decorating the cakes. I’ve left it a little late this year but I’m sure it’s going to go to plan.
Here is the slightly altered recipe for this years cake or you can also go see what I did last year and my attempt to cover with marzipan and icing. The aweful Christmas ribbon covers a multitude of sins.
As you can see decorating isn’t my strong point. But hay at least I try, it’s made with love at least and tastes dam good too. Happy Baking !!
Ingredients for pre-soaking
3 tbsp rum
3 tbsp brandy
3 tbsp cherry bandy
3 tbsp port
3 tbsp water
1 1/2 tsp bitters
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 heap tbsp molasses or dark brown sugar
4oz dates roughly chopped
6oz dried cranberries
4oz glace cherries chopped
50g mixed chopped nuts
For the cake
250g self-raising flour
250g demerara sugar
250g butter, at room temp
5 free range eggs
One week before you intend to bake the cake, measure out the rum, brandy, cherry brandy, port, bitters and 3 tablespoons water into a large saucepan. Then add the rest of the pre-soaking ingredients, ticking them with a pencil as you go to make sure nothing gets left out. Now stir and bring the mixture up to simmering point, then, keeping the heat low, simmer very gently for 5 minutes. Place the fruit, nut and booze mix in a bowl and cover and leave it in the fridge for seven days, shaking or stirring it around everyday.
Line and grease with baking parchment a 20cm/8inch square cake tin or a 23cm very deep round cake tin.
When you’re ready to bake the cake, pre-heat the oven to gas mark 1, 275°F (140°C). All you do is measure out the flour, sugar and softened butter into a very large mixing bowl, then add the eggs and either whisk or beat with a wooden spoon until everything is blended. Now gradually fold in the fruit mixture until it’s all evenly distributed. Then spoon the mixture into the prepared tin, levelling the surface with the back of the spoon. Bake the cake in the centre of the oven for 3 hours without opening the door, then cover the cake with a double thickness of silicone paper and continue to bake it for a further hour or until the centre feels springy when lightly touched.
Cool the cake for 45 minutes in the tin, then remove it to a wire rack to finish cooling. When it’s completely cold, wrap in double silicone paper and then foil and store in an airtight container. This is very important that the lid fits tight and the double layer of grease proof paper covers the cake as this will keep the cake moist and reduce the amount of alcohol evaporating off.
I did triple cover my cakes and this kept the brandy in very well. No dry cake in my house!
Filed under: comfort Food, garlic, Gluten Free Friendly, Healthy, Lunch Ideas, Random ramblings, Soups, Veggie
With Friday coming closer with a new veg box delivery from Beanies on the horizon, I scanned my books for inspiration. I reached for my [errr, My! - Paul] Thomasina Miers, Mexican Food Made Simple to get some inspiration. The book fell open at soups, strange choice for a hot summer day but a refreshing soup may work. She has a recipe for Minty Courgette soup which this is slightly based on, I didn’t have everything required so I added a few bits and pieces to use them up and pad this out.
If you have read any of my other posts or met me, you know I kind of read recipes, tweak them and alter as I go along. It’s a great skill I have but really annoying at the same time. I’m an instinctive cook – this sounds big headed/pretentious but it’s how I’m wired. The only time I follow a recipe to the letter is baking as that is a science.
This soup, like many are quick and easy to do, it’s light and refreshing as well so great for lunch or for a summers evening.
Right, on with the soup made from bits and bobs from the fridge…….
2 courgettes, sliced
3 sticks of celery, sliced
4-5 pak choi stalks and leaves, roughly chopped
4 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
1 chile de arbol or dried chilli
Heat 2 tablespoon of veg oil, cook the garlic, chilli and celery for a min or 2, but don’t colour.
Add the courgettes and on a low heat cook the veg for 15mins, add salt and pepper to help release the water from the veg.
Add the pak choi and water and cook for a further 15 mins until all is soft and tender.
Blend the soup and check the seasoning, I added a squeeze of lemon juice and more ground black pepper at this point.
The soup should be a fabulous green colour.
To go with this soup, I served a large blob of the pesto in the middle of the soup. The mint works really well with the soup, and makes it a bit zesty.
It’s minty as we have no basil in. I used panko in the pesto to help bulk it out, but also once swirled into the soup this helps thicken it slightly too.
10g mint leaves
15 skinned almonds
1 heaped table spoon of panko breadcrumbs
1 clove garlic
dash of lemon juice
drizzle of olive oil, say 5 to 8 tablespoons
Blitz the above until pesto is made.
Filed under: comfort Food, garlic, Healthy, Pastry, Picnics, puff, quick tea, Random ramblings, Recipes, tart, Veggie
My brother had given me a huge courgette which was looking more marrow like so it needed to used. I hadn’t got much time on my hands so I thought: summer tart. I reached towards the freezer for the ready roll puff pastry to quickly defrost. I know people can be snobby about it but you know what, it’s a great stand by to have in the freezer and TV chefs use it. Sometimes making your own rough puff is all well and good but ready rolled has its place and it’s in the freezer for this kind of use.
I’ve seen versions of this tart on other websites and I think they used feta and pine nuts and other bits but we had mozzarella in and really how bad can it be: courgette, mozzarella and pesto -it’s an Italian classic combo.
This tart is a very much fling it together with what you have in thing. You could slice tomatoes thickly and them grind lots of s&p over them or use antipasto from jars, we have some artichokes that would have worked well, but as I said this courgette needed eating so that’s what we had.
This is what I did…..
1 courgette – sliced and salted to remove excess water
1 jar of pesto or make your own (time and ingredients permitting )
ready rolled puff pastry
While the pastry is defrosting, slice and salt the courgettes. Set aside for 10/15 mins, then rinse, rinse again and 1 more time rinse. You don’t want salty courgettes.
Roll out the pastry onto a baking sheet. Score a border round the pastry, about 1 cm round then spread pesto in the center.(careful not to go over the scored edge.
Do rows of cheese then sliced courgette to cover the pesto. Give a generous grind of black pepper over the top.
Bake in a preheated over at about 150/180 degrees C for 15/20 mins until the pastry is cooked and golden and the cheese has melted and is bubbly.
To accompany the tart I made a couple of salads. I have to say I hate boring salads, you know the ones which have a bit of cucumber, iceberg lettuce, some sliced tomato and possibly cress. I remember having egg salad once which was the latter plus a boiled egg. Now, to me a salad should be exciting, vibrant, seasonal and tickle the taste buds. These are 2 of my favourite salads. Great at BBQ’s, picnics or just as an accompaniment. They are easy and quick which is a bonus. They can be easily increased in size to accommodate large numbers of guests too.
Beetroot and wasabi salad
I love beetroot! I roast it, soup it, mash it, bake it, cake it, boil it and pickle it.
It’s a very versatile vegetable as you can see. Fresh is best but we didn’t have any in but we did have some vac packed so on on, you can’t be perfect always.
If we did have fresh in I would have boiled it before continuing.
3 medium beetroots – chopped up chunky
1 inch worm of wasabi paste – more if you like a big kick
3 or 4 table spoons mayo or creme fraiche or half and half
splash of lemon juice
2 cloves garlic finely chopped/minced
In a large bowl combine the mayo, wasabi, lemon juice and garlic.
Once combined and the wasabi is mixed in well add the beets.
Stir and coat the beets in the creamy dressing.
Everything will be pink, spicy and lovely
Double check, it may need a little s&p
Broad bean, mint and Feta Salad
I’ve been given a huge bag of broad beans. I have to say again it’s another of my favourite legumes. I love the large pods and the furry beds the beans sit in until you pop them out. It really annoys me that you can get a huge bag and once you have podded them you only have a small bowl. It’s annoying that it’s a 2 pod process. Once podded and blanched you have to pop them out of their grey coat. When I do this I just hear Nigella Lawson say ‘look at these emerald jewels’ which keeps me popping them. This is such a simple recipe.
I love the contrast of the salty cheese with the sweet and earthy beans.
Broad beans – I’m not sure on the quantity but lots, say a good carrier bag full.
Half a packet of feta cheese, diced
10 mint leaves, finely chopped.
Pod, cook and submerge the beans in ice water. Once cold remove from their grey coats and set aside.
Dice the feta and add to the broad beans.
Finely chop the mint leaves, add to the mint and beans and toss together.
Drizzle with a little olive oil and grind a good amount of black pepper over the lot.
Filed under: Beef, comfort Food, Forgotten cuts of meats, garlic, Meat, Random ramblings, Recipes, slow cooking
I’ve been trying to get my cooking mojo back, so I thought I’d spend some well earned me time in the kitchen.
My in laws for my birthday (this isn’t til September but they were a bargain) have bought me some vintage Avery scales. They are the ones you use to get in groucers/sweet shops, before electirc ones took over. The are huge, heavy and take up lots of space. They are practical, retro and I love them.We got them from Ebay so Paul went and picked them up from Tipton and I started the 2 day process of making dinner.
This recipe isn’t for the person who likes quick results or hates spending time in the kitchen. You need to do a little bit of planning, have a little bit of patience and a lot of time.
I think you could do this in the slow cooker, if you do, let me know how it goes.
The cheeks are an under rated cut of meat, cheap as chips too. I purchased mine from Castle Market from Buntings and Sons, which is actually Batty’s of Woodseats (it’s 2 brothers that run the shops). They just haven’t changed the sign down at the markets. The cheeks are very cheap to buy but you need to ask for them, as there isn’t much call for them, unless like me you enjoy using the not so very glamorous cuts. I have a pair of pigs chaps in the freezer they cost me a £1, the best day to get them is Tuesday when the pig delivery comes in. This is when you will see true skill being shown as they wield their knives removing flesh from bone in a matter of moments. Unfortunately supermarkets don’t sell these but then again I rather like going to speak to my butcher to see what bargains, advice and treats I can pick up from them.
I bought 4 prepared cheeks (I did double check they had been removed from the face and bones of the cow, I didn’t want any surprises when opening my bag). These cost me about £3. This is masses of meat. It weighed about 3lbs, I stupidly didn’t weigh it, but when you get yours ask for 4 cheeks. The cheeks have worked hard so will need a lot of long braising to result in tender meat for this dish.
To make the ragu, marinade the meat the day before cooking. If you read this and aren’t put off continue reading. The marinade is vital to help tenderise the meat and to add flavour to the ragu.
1 bottle of red wine, I used a Chillian Merlot, a Rioja would be good too.
2 large onions sliced
4 sticks of celery sliced
2 carrots diced
3 cloves of garlic, bashed
3 bay leaves
piece of cinnamon bark
Try to remove the sinew from the cheek, if not this can be removed later at the shredding stage.
Place all the above in a large bowl and make sure the cheeks are submerged under the wine. Place in the fridge and forget about until tomorrow.
The next day
Your meat has had about about 12/18 hours marinading. Do not exceed 24 as the wine will totally take over the flavour of the meat.
Pre heat the oven to about 125 degrees C.
Take the meat out of the marinade and pat dry.
Pour the marinade through a sieve but keep the liquid. (The slightly annoying bit) Pick out the 8 peppercorns from the veg and discard them. You only use half the marinading liquid. Place the unused liquid into freezer ice cube bags for use at a later date to pep up a sauce or gravy.
In a large heavy bottomed pan, pour 2 tablespoons of veg oil and heat up, then seal the meat in batches, so you don’t overcrowd them in the pan. Once sealed put the meat to one side.
In the same pan that you sealed the meat in, de-glaze the pan with the marinade, veg and herbs for 5 mins. This will soften the onions and other ingredients and help get any of the sticky nice-ness that may have stuck to the pan from sealing the meat.
Once softened, add a large tablespoon of tomato puree and stir in to coat the veg, then pour in the half the reserved red wine marinade, a can of chopped tomatoes and 2 cans of water .
Place the cheeks under the cooking liquid. Then place the heavy cassarole pan with its lid on in the oven.
After an hour, check the meat and liquid, give a little stir and make sure the meat is covered by liquid.
Cook for a further 1 & a half hours. Check the meat again and add another tomato can of water and again make sure the the meat is submerged. Cook for a further 20 mins.
Remove the meat and shred the meat with 2 forks, not too fine as you want some texture (see picture). Any large pieces of sinew that you were unable to remove earlier will fall off the meat and can be discarded.
Add 20 mushrooms – whole if small or halved if large, to the sauce. Add the meat back to the sauce and stir. Cook for a further 20/30 mins at 150 degree C.
While the sauce is finishing I made gnocchi. I wanted something to go with the sauce. I’d never made it before so thought I’d give it a bash.
I used Silvana Franco’s recipe which was on BBC Food website. I love her recipes, they are simple and easy. From the veg delivery we received from Beanies we got a packet of basil. I didn’t want to just make pesto, that’s my kind of default recipe so was happy to spot this recipe online. It makes loads, so we have plenty now for the freezer.
- For the basil gnocchi
- 500g/1lb 2oz waxy potatoes, peeled and diced
- 15g/½oz fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
- 200g/7oz plain flour
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Boil the potatoes until tender and then drain.
- Mash the potatoes until they are smooth. Use a ricer if needs be. But the mash must be smooth.
- Put the mash in a bowl and mix in the basil and beat in the flour, s&p.
- Once all is combined, knead the mix until smooth.
- Turn out on to a floured surface and cut pieces and roll out long sausage shapes about 1cm (0.5in) thick. Cut the sausages into pieces 2.5cm(1in) long.
- Gently cook the gnocchi in a pan of simmering salted water for a minute or two until they rise to the surface. Scoop them out as they rise.
- We had about 15 pieces of gnocchi and 1 ladel of the ragu. The ragu is very rich so you don’t need much. The gnocchi is very light but starchy so again you don’t need much.
- It’s quite a lot of cooking and processes to produce this but it is well worth it. So who’s coming round for tea? We have loads of food, the freezer is now full.
Filed under: Deliveries, garlic, Gluten Free Friendly, Healthy, Random ramblings, Recipes, Veggie
Hello one and all. Its been a while since I’ve written anything, but upon receiving my veg box and discovering 2 cucumbers it got me thinking what can I do with these? Of course slicing them and flinging them in a salad is all fine and dandy, but that’s really not me.
I had a look on the world wide web and that offered me pickled recipes, one or two muddled cocktails where you mashed the cucumber to release the cooling, refreshing juices to mix with either gin or vodka with a dash of this and a dash of that but…then I stumbled across a spicy stir fry recipe.
I’ve never used a cucumber like an an actual vegetable like a courgette or marrow. Technically that’s what it is, so in for a penny, in for a pound, I grabbed my cucumber with gusto and this is what I did……..
2 medium cucumbers – topped and tailed, sliced in half and seeds scooped out.
1 small red onion, roughly chopped
1 carrot – sliced
5 runner beans – cut into bite size pieces (grown in my garden, optional)
5 stalks from a pak choi – leaves roughly chopped and washed, stalks sliced
2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
1 inch of ginger grated
2 pinches of chilli flakes
dash or 2 of shaoxing cooking wine
dash of light soy sauce
1 tsp of sweet chilli paste (see picture for make, available from Chinese supermarkets)
Once the seeds have been scooped out of the cucumbers, cut into 1 inch pieces, place in a colander, liberally cover with salt and set aside for 20/30 mins to draw the water out.
While the cucumber’s releasing its juices chop the other ingredients.
In a hot wok heat a tablespoon of veg oil, then quickly sizzle the onions, garlic, ginger and chilli flakes, cook for a minute or so then add the sliced carrots.
After a min or 2 add the beans and the pak choi stalks.
While these are frying wash the cucumber pieces thoroughly to remove the saltiness and drain well.
Add the cucumbers and the chilli paste, soy and cooking wine. Cook for a few mins then add the Pak choi leaves.
Once the leaves have wilted serve.
We had smoked mackerel pieces and noodles with the veg. The smokiness worked really well with the cucumber. I didn’t wash the cucumbers well enough so they had a salty zing still.
I think a tea spoon of sugar would have worked well in the sauce that coated the veg.
The salting of the cucumber really helped the veg to hold it’s shape and become very firm.
You will notice i don’t peel much, this is because A, I am lazy and B, life is too short. Just give the veg a good wash and all will be grand. Really, what’s the worst that can happen?
Filed under: Random ramblings
Hello, so it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything ,but I’m getting on track.
Items to come are Pancake day, Ash Wednesday stew, beer, taximdermy , ice cream sundaes in Windermere and Morecambe, charity cake and tea day and my marmalade making mayhem. As well as my paneer that was just for fun and trying to create a tasty curry without reaching for the take away menu.
TTFN Di xx
Filed under: bacon, comfort Food, Lunch Ideas, Meat, Picnics, Random ramblings, Recipes, Sausages, Stuffing
I’ve just rustled up a spot of meat loaf but given it a gala pie tweak by putting egg in the middle so every slice gets some. This is going to be thinnishly sliced to put on sandwiches for lunch or can be served thickly with salad at a picnic or with a ratatouille style sauce for tea.
250g sausage meat
85g packet of stuffing (I used sage and onion)
3 tbsp sliced almonds
12 dried apricots, chopped
8-10 slices of bacon
3 soft boiled eggs
1 onion, chopped
3 sticks of celery finely sliced
Soften the onions and celery in a little oil, but don’t colour. Once soft set aside to cool.
Soft boil the eggs. Once boiled peel and set aside.
Line a bread tin with the bacon.
In a bowl combine the cooled onion and celery mix, sauage meat, stuffing, fruit and nuts.
Once combined, put half the mix and put a layer at the bottom of the lined bread tin.
Place the eggs in nose to tail, then place the remaining meat mix in, to encase the eggs.
Place the bread tin in the middle of a pre heated oven at 200 degrees C and cook for 30mins, then test to see if it is cooked. At this point I turned out the loaf onto a baking sheet and bake for a further 30mins.
Allow to cool slightly before slicing.