Hello & welcome to my Blog.
I came up with the idea of this blog as I had been writing a cookery book for my Children after my eldest Son Simon left home and would ring me for all his favourite recipes. I thought that this way it would be easier to update & where ever they were they could cook their favourite recipes. This blog is that index card box of scribbled recipes, torn out recipes from magazines, lost somewhere in the house, all brought neatly together in one place.
What I didn't expect was the thousands of people that have looked at it since its creation, from all over the World, I have even created a Facebook fanpage so that I can chat to fellow foodies who have enjoyed the blog!
I really hope you enjoy the recipes, please feel free to post comments or recipes and I just want you to know that all recipes have been cooked time & time again by myself and all photographs, where possible, have been taken by me of the food that I have cooked.
I apologise in advance for any spelling mistakes or grammatical errors, I bake better than I write.
Thursday, 7 June 2012
I was recently asked by the lovely Nikki at Butterfly Lane to write a guest post for her blog, now this is all new to me and I had no clue where to start or how to do it, but felt very honoured to be asked and once I had got my head around the geek side of doing it, I had a ball writing a piece for someone else's blog.
Please click on the links below for Nikki's gorgeous and inspiring blog and my guest post, hope you enjoy it.
Elderflower Panna Cotta
3 sheets of gelatine
2oz caster sugar
100ml elderflower cordial
300ml double cream
Heat the milk and cream through gently but don't let boil.
Add the sugar and stir until the sugar has dissolved.
Soak the gelatine in warm water for a few minutes.
Take the cream mixture off the heat and stir in the gelatine until it has completely melted. Add the elderflower cordial, stir and pour into six ramekins or moulds. Place in the fridge to set for a 3-4hrs it can easily be over night if you want to get ahead.
To release from the moulds dip them into warm water for a few seconds or run a pallet knife around the edge. Serve with soft fruit. Gooseberries are a great with elderflower.
Monday, 4 June 2012
As a keen baker and cook I think I would be horrified if I counted up the amount of eggs I use in a year, I know it would be 100's, if you think about it, nearly everything we bake has eggs in it in some form, it may be the whole eggs in cakes, the yolks for a sabayon, or just the white's for a meringue, but do we ever stop to think about where our eggs come from, the quality of the eggs, or the quality of life the chicken had that laid the egg, or is it just down to cost! Like anything, don't we get what we pay for and isn't it better to pay a little extra for an egg that has been laid by a healthy chicken and will be of an assured quality.
But, how on earth do we find out what quality of eggs we are buying, well I decided to do a little research and found the following information on the Freedom Food website.
The site says that on average we eat an estimated 186 eggs each a year, in a household like ours where everything is baked and cooked from fresh this number must be much higher, so how do I know which eggs to buy.
Freedom Food advises that all boxes of eggs in this country must have a method of production clearly stated for the consumer to see, this is shown by a number on the egg box, from 0 to 3, this should show you if the eggs were laid by chicken's in cages, a barn, free-range or organic, but this is where it gets a little confusing, what do these terms all mean.
0 = organic, hen's are raised in a free-range environment, but soil health and biodiversity is also involved.
1 = free-range, similar to barn kept chickens, but they have pop holes so the chickens can go outside, they have shade, shelter and the EU have legislation with regards to stocking density, 2500 hens per hectare, the RSPC requires that is should be only 2000 birds per hectare.
2 = barn, hen's can roam freely inside, they can roost on perches, have space to stretch their wings, they have nest boxes and floor litter to scratch in.
3 = caged, conventional cages are made out of thin wire with a sloping mess floor, these are normally stacked up high and they measure about 50 x 55cm and houses five birds. There are EU legislations, but there are many welfare problems concerning the birds, damaged feet/claws, fragile bones, broken bones, frustration and aggression, so not a great life.
So, if your box of eggs isn't labelled with 'free-range' or 'barn', then they are more than likely to of been laid by caged birds.
Many of us think that by just seeing the British lion stamp on our eggs, this automatically means the eggs are of a good quality or from free-range hen's, but I am afraid that this is not the case, the British lion mark only guarantees that the eggs are British-laid and have been vaccinated against salmonella, this does also however apply to caged hen's as well and therefore is no guarantee of the chickens health or quality of life!
So next time you crack an egg to bake something yummy, please give a little thought to where the egg has come from and the quality of life the chicken may of had, we can all do our little bit.
If you need anymore information, not just on eggs but about any other Freedom Food, please check out their website, there is also some great recipes on there, so well worth a look.
So here is a gorgeous recipe which sums up Summer and of course uses eggs!
3 oz castor sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/4 to 1/2 oz lavender flowers (I use a 1/4oz but it will depend on the strength of your lavender and please make sure it is culinary lavender that you are using)
1/2 pint milk
4 egg yolks
and another 2 oz. castor sugar
1/2 pint double cream
In a saucepan dissolve 3 oz of castor sugar in the 2 tablespoons of water, with the lavender flowers, and then cook to a caramel. Add the milk to this, then stir until caramel dissolves into the milk. Leave to infuse for 1/2 hour or so.
Meanwhile, in a mixer or with a hand whisk, whisk the egg yolks with castor sugar until thick and creamy, then strain the lavender milk onto this. Then put it all back into the saucepan and heat slowly, to make a custard which will coat back of wooden spoon - don't let it boil.
Leave to cool.
Whip double cream lightly, then fold into the cold custard. Put into a suitable container and freeze.
Food brings people together! Fact! I know I am always banging on about this, but it worries me that fewer and fewer people make the time to cook good food and then take the time to sit down together to eat as a family or with friends.
The food doesn't have to be fancy, it doesn't matter if your not a very cook or even if you just order in, what is important is sitting round the table, talking, laughing and listening to each other.
We eat together pretty much ever day as a family, even when it is just me and Hubby at home, we still bother to set the table and we sit over a glass or two of wine and we talk. There is so little communication done face to face now, we all talk to our friends and loved ones via Facebook, Twitter, Email and Text, but you can not beat good old fashioned nattering.
One of our favourite things to do as a family at the weekend is to make pizza, I make the dough, every one of us gathers round to design and top our pizza's with our chosen toppings and Hubby bakes them.
I think you can tell a lot about a person by the way they top their pizza, Luca always makes a smiley face on his, just like him, happy and smiley. Hubby always goes for heaps of toppings, piling up the flavours and always adds something hot and spicy. Me, well like I do everything in life, my pizza is well thought out, looks nice and is always neat, tidy and symmetrical, anal, just like me, LOL !
I remember Jasmine making pizza's for us, she would always use her homemade passata, something I hope to do this summer if all goes well with our tomatoes in the greenhouse!
So how ever you like yours, why not knock up some dough, cover your table with bowls and bowls of lots of yummy toppings and get family and friends together and have some fun.
Makes 6 - 8 medium-sized pizza's or 4 really big ones
800g strong white bread flour
200g fine ground semolina
1 level teaspoon fine sea salt
2 x 7g sachets of dried yeast
1 tablespoon golden caster sugar
650ml lukewarm water
The recipe suggest's that you pile the flours and the salt on to a clean surface and make a 7 inch well in the centre. Add your yeast and sugar to the tepid water, mix it up with a fork and leave for a few minutes, then pour into the well. Using a fork and a circular movement, slowly bring in the flour from the inner edge and mix into the water. It will look like stodgy porridge - continue to mix, bringing in all of the flour. When the dough comes together and becomes too hard to mix with your fork, flour your hands and begin to pat into a ball. Knead the dough by rolling it backwards and forwards, using your left hand to stretch the dough towards you and the right hand to push the dough way from you at the same time. Repeat this for 10 minutes until you have a smooth springy soft dough.
However, if you don't feel brave enough to do this, or fancy the mess, if you have a mixer with a dough hook, put your flours and salt into the bowl, make a well in the middle, turn on the machine and slowly add the yeast, sugar and tepid water that you have prepared as above. When the mixture comes to a nice dough you can either let the machine do all the work and leave it kneading, or I like to let the machine do the first 5 minutes on a slow setting and then I finish the last five minutes by hand, that way you can tell when your dough is ready.
When your dough is ready, put it into a bowl and flour the top of your dough, cover it with clingfilm and let it rest for at least 15 minutes at room temperature. This will make it easier to roll it thinly. Now divide the dough int as many balls as you want to make pizza's.
Its a good idea to roll your pizza's out 15 to 30 minutes before you start to cook them. If you want to work more in advance, its better to keep the dough in clingfilm in the fridge rather than rather than having rolled-out pizza dough left on the side for hours drying out. We like to use our's fresh, but eiher way they will be yummy.
Take a piece of the dough, dust your work surface and the dough with a little flour, roll it out into a rough circle about 1/4 inch thick. Tear off an appropriately sized piece of tinfoil, rub it with olive oil, dust it well with flour flour and place the pizza base on top. Continue doing the same with the other pieces and then, if you dust them with a little flour, you can pile them un into a stack, cover then with clingfilm an put them into the fridge (we don't bother with this, by this point Hubby has put a layer of passata on each one and we are all gathered round designing our toppings).
When you are ready to cook them, preheat the oven to 250c, 500f, gas 9.
At this stage you can apply your toppings. Remember: less is more, a lesson certain members of my family could do with learning, you don't want a soggy pizza! When you are all topped and ready to go, place the pizza with the foil onto the bottom shelf of your oven, cook for 7 to 10 minutes, until the pizza's are golden and crispy.
Serve with a crispy green salad, a beer or a glass of wine and have fun.
It is also a great way to use up the left overs in your fridge, those last few mushrooms, that one green pepper, all those little bits of left over cheese's that you keep meaning to use up, bung them all on your pizza !
Friday, 1 June 2012
It's the start of half-term and as usual I am in the kitchen preparing pancakes for brunch for my brood, its a tradition in our family and one that, however old the Children become, a tradition they still love and always ask for. Watching Luca licking the bowl of a Victoria sponge batter that I have just baked, got me to thinking about Children, the memories we have of our childhood and how they are created. Recently one of Luca's friends was here when I was baking a chocolate torte for dessert and I offered him & Luca the bowl, he replied, 'I don't like licking the bowl'! Was this just personal preference, or did his Mother just not bake and he had never tried it, I didn't push it, but I do love the memories that food and food preparation have created over the years for my Family.
Now anyone that knows me will know that I am not a Royalist and as a family we do not have any jubilee plans, but I do remember celebrating the Queen's Silver Jubilee and my primary school being invited to a street party at Knep Castle and dancing around the May Pole. Were Summers really longer, hotter, I don't know, but I hope when my children grow up they will look back and have fond memories.
My idea of a good Jubilee celebration would be a yummy afternoon tea, gorgeous garden setting, pretty bunting blowing lazily in the breeze, tiny sandwiches with the crust cut off, scones dripping in cream and homemade jam and of course a Victoria sponge cake, so if this has inspired you and you feel the urge to bake this Jubilee weekend I have put together below a few of my favourite afternoon tea bakes.
Long live the Queen.
225g self-raising flour
75g butter, chilled, cut in small pieces
50g Vanilla Sugar (You could use ordinary caster sugar, but as a Prepped fan, I now have a selection of flavoured sugars ready at hand)
¼ tsp salt
125ml buttermilk ( ordinary milk will do, I used ordinary milk & they were still divine)
3–4 tbsp milk ( I didn't add this, the dough was just perfect without it, if I had used buttermilk, then maybe I may of needed to add it)
Extra flour, for dusting
Vanilla Sugar, for sprinkling
1 egg, beaten, for the glaze
Preheat the oven to 180˚C/gas mark 4.
Put the flour, butter, salt and sugar into a bowl. Mix well. Make a well in the centre and add the buttermilk. Bring the mixture together to form a dough. If the dough seems a bit too dry, add a little more buttermilk, a teaspoon at a time. Being the cheat that I am, I did all this in my Artisan!
Turn out onto a floured work surface and use your hands to form a 2.5cm round. Cut out shapes from this, depending on your preference, and put them on a baking tray. I rolled mine out with a rolling pin to 2.5cm and then used a heart cutter, they looked so cute.
Glaze the scones with the beaten egg and bake for 18–20 minutes and sprinkle with sugar.
Cool on a wire rack. If you want to freeze these scones do so as soon as they are cool.
Enjoy the same day, they are so much nicer fresh. You can freeze them when they have cooled, but I love mine warm from the oven dripping with butter in the colder months and this time of the year they are just perfect with strawberries and cream.
Jubilee Celebration Gateau
Serves 6 - 8
1 large ready-made flan case
750ml double cream
100g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod, seeds only
1 shot of Drambuie (this is what James Martin suggests, I always use Marsala)
200ml ready-made custard
1 punnet of small stawberries
1 1/2 punnets of large strawberries (again this is what Mr Martin suggests, I usually need far less)
1 punnet of mixed berries of your choice
50g icing sugar
fresh mint sprigs
Using a 20 - 25cm stainless steel ring, cut out the centre of the flan with a sharp knife, slice the disc in half through the middle so that you end up with two thin discs. This is fairly tricky and you do require a little patience or as in my case as I lack this quality get my lovely Hubby to do this for me.
Whip the double cream with 25g of the caster sugar, the vanilla seeds and a shot of booze of your choice, in my case Marsala, to a thick peak consistency. Fold in the custard, then chill in the fridge.
Set aside 10 whole, small strawberries for the garnish. Cut the green top from all the remaining strawberries and cut them in half lengthways.
Ok if you happen to have James Martins book Desserts, you will at this point realise that he has made a huge cock up as at no point does he mention what one does with the sponges that you cut in half earlier. Lucky for me I have actually seen him make this on his show Sweet Baby James and also it is fairly self explanatory, you take one of the sponges and place it at the bottom of the ring.
Then line the ring with the largest strawberry halves, cut side against the ring. You won't need all of the strawberries so save the remainder for the topping. Place the whipped cream in the ring and gently spread to the edges. Add the rest of the strawberries and smooth the top. Now again I am not sure that I agree with Mr Martin here (Sorry James & yes I know you look very like my Husband) but it doesn't seem to work that well. So either you can follow the recipe or cut the strawberries smaller or even chop them up smaller and add them to the cream mix, trial and error really, see what works best for you.
Now at this point Mr Martin tells you to lift the cake to a plate and remove the ring and if you had been following his recipe you would now have a big mess all over your kitchen. I advise that you build it on the plate you wish to serve it on right from the start.
Then, again Mr Martin misses this bit of the instructions, but you now place the last piece of sponge on top of your cake and I highly recommend placing it in the fridge to set.
Once set you can decorate it how you wish, I have made this gateau three times now and have decorated it differently each time. Again my wonderful Hubby has a helping hand as like his look a like he also loves to spin sugar, so very often this will be served with some of his handy work.
Please note if allowing your Hubby or significant other to do this, I advised sending them outside at this point as men tend to be rather messy creatures and given hot sugar syrup is a recipe for disaster !!! You have been warned.
Anyway, place the remaining caster sugar into a very clean pan and heat gently until it caramelizes, then remove from the heat and leave to cool slightly, James again does not tell you what to do with the pan of molten sugar but it is to be spun to decorate the top of the cake, its messy & tricky & can be missed out as there are so many other ways you can decorate this cake, but if you fancy a go, here are the instructions.
To spin the sugar, take a whisk with the bottom snipped off with pliers, so that you have a whisk that is simply a handle with spikes. Alternatively you can take two forks placed back to back and hold tightly. Dip the whisk into the syrup and flick the whisk back and forth over a broom handle or rolling pin to create long hair like strands. Next gather up the strands of spun sugar and create your shape by simply moulding the strands in your hands.
Next dredge the top of your cake thickly with a coating of icing and take a metal skewer that has been heated until red hot and score the top of the gateau in lines (again best done outside if possible as we set the fire alarm off when we did this), to create a diamond pattern. Dress the top with the remaining strawberries and the berries and garnish with a fresh sprig of mint.
Jubilee Victoria Sponge
175g English butter
175g caster sugar
3 eggs, beaten
175g self-raising flour
30ml jam (flavour of your choice, but strawberry or raspberry is more traditional)
caster sugar to dredge
Butter two 7 inch sandwich tins and line the base of each with a round of buttered greaseproof paper.
Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs a little at a time, beating well after each addition. Fold in half the flour, using a metal spoon, then fold in the rest.
I always sieve the flour and I must admit that I don't fold the flour in, I just gentle mix it in using the Artisan.
Place half the mixture into each tin and level gently with a spatula or knife.
Bake in a preheated oven at 190c, 375f, gas 5 for about 20 minutes, until they are well risen, lightly golden and coming away from the sides. This will depend obviously on what kind of tin you are using, or if you are making fairy cakes. Just keep an eye on it.
A good test is, if you touch the sponge gently it should bounce bake.
Turn out and cool on a wire rack.
Once cool and if you are making a Victorial Sponge, sandwich the two halves together with a layer of jam and sprinkle the top with caster sugar.
You are now ready for afternoon tea, so invite the girls round and get that kettle on.
The sponge pictured was made as above, but just baked in a ring mould, filled with fresh cream whipped with a little icing sugar to sweeten and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla essence and just topped with fresh strawberries. Quick, simple, dessert made for dinner.
Add the finely grated rind of one orange or lemon to the mixture. Sandwich the cakes together with orange or lemon butter frosting and use some juice from the fruit to make a glace icing.
A fun idea would to make the ring mould sponge, drizzle with glace icing, cover in glitter and sprinkles and fill the centre of the cake with dolly mixtures, the kids would love it.
I could go on, but I know you will all come up with your own lovely creations.
1kg rhubarb , weighed after trimming, cut into 3cm chunks
1kg jam sugar (or 1kg caster sugar plus 1 x 8g sachet pectin - we used Tate & Lyle)
2 vanilla pods , halved lengthways
juice 1 lemon
Put a small plate in the freezer. Put the rhubarb into a preserving pan or your largest saucepan with the sugar and halved vanilla pods. Heat gently, stirring, until all the sugar has dissolved, then squeeze in the lemon juice and increase the heat.
Boil for about 10 mins, skimming off the scum as you go (the fruit should be soft). Test for setting point by spooning a little onto your chilled plate. After 1-2 mins, push your finger through the jam - if the surface wrinkles it is ready, if not, keep cooking for 2-min intervals, testing in between. (Or if you have a sugar thermometer it should reach 105C)
Once the jam is ready, let it cool for about 15 mins before ladling into warm sterilised jars and sealing. Will keep for 6 months in a cool, dark place.
What ever you decide to do this weekend I hope you all have a really lovely time and create lots and lots of happy memories.