Sunday, 1 December 2013

How Did That Happen?

I know that time passes more quickly than we think (and probably faster still the older we get) but I can't believe that it's been 15 months since my last post on Holly Grove Kitchen. 

The Handyman and I haven't been idle in that period, in fact, we've completely redesigned and rebuilt our kitchen!  It's a project that's been years in the planning and over a year in the final execution...some of the structural work was completed 3 years ago.  So was it worth the time, effort and sleepless nights? 

Absolutely!  I really do have the kitchen of my dreams; my photos don't do it justice, but hopefully give a feel for where we started and what we've achieved.

The Handyman has made a stunning job of getting the structural work  spot on whilst I agonised over design: style of cabinets, colour, materials, taps, sinks, worktops etc, etc.  So much choice and so many possible combinations.  But, at last, here I sit at the table in my favourite room in the house writing a post I've been anticipating since I started this blog.

So now I'm back with lots of cooking and baking ideas to try out in my special space and to include in future posts, hopefully you'll rediscover Holly Grove Kitchen with me!

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Apples in Autumn

I've just checked the date of my last posted recipe and can't believe that it was in February!  Now I know that I usually go a bit quiet on my kitchen blog through the summer months but I can't use the garden and summer sun as my excuses this year.  The summer has been dreadful and the garden has not drawn me in this season; so no excuses, just life!

So what's brought on this return to the kitchen; well, a belated birthday present, a few ripening apples on the trees and a(nother) dull and drizzly Sunday encouraged me to get the baking ingredients out.

From my new addition to the cookery bookshelf; Cake Days from the Hummingbird Bakery...

bit more cake than biscuit, but delicious none the less!
Apple and Oatmeal Cookies
135g unsalted butter
80g caster sugar
80g light soft brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2tsp vanila essence
190g plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 small or 1 large apple (I used 1 Cox's Orange Pippin from our tree in the garden)
60g rolled oats

Preheat oven to 170C; gas mark 3 and line 2 baking sheets with baking parchment.

Cream the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy, then beat in the egg and vanilla essence.  Sift together the dry ingredients and then add in 2 batches to the creamed mixture mixing thoroughly.

Peel and finely grate the apples and squeeze all of the liquid out of them and discard the liquid.  Add theoats and 60g of the grated apple to the cookie dough and mix together by hand.

Break of pieces of the dough (about 2 tablespoons in size) and roll into balls.  Place the balls about 3" apart on the baking trays.  Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes until light golden brown.  Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 10 minutes on the baking trays and then move to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Leeks Glorious Leeks

We're approaching the end of the season for that luscious member of the allium family, the leek.  When teamed with onion, carrot, parsnip and celery it makes a warming winter soup or combine it with a rich cheese sauce and bake in the oven for a tasty supper or side dish.

With these ideas in mind, yesterday I bought a large bag of smallish leeks.  I find them almost impossible to resist.  At the same time I bought one of the gardening magazines that I enjoy and free with it was a new cooking magazine, Great British Food. 

This magazine was a real bonus, filled with interesting articles as well as recipes.  Many of the recipes were vegetarian which is refreshing and adds to the usual meatfest of most magazines.  I wonder if this will be a regular feature of the publication?

luscious leeks
One of the recipes featured was a Leek and Ricotta Tart.  By chance, or happenstance, I had put a tub of ricotta in my shopping trolley, so guess what we're having for tea tonight.

There was also a recipe for Chocolate and Walnut Brownies which are cooling in the baking tin as we speak - more of these in a later post perhaps.

For now let's focus on the leeks...

rustic tart awaiting baking
Leek and Ricotta Tart
Serves 4
90g butter, cubed
175g plain flour
pinch of salt
3 tbsp cold water

6 small or 4 large leeks, washed and roughly sliced
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
250g tub ricotta
2 tbsp toasted pine nuts
3 tbsp raisins, softened in warm water
1 egg
sat and black pepper to taste

Use the first 4 ingredients to make your pastry.  Wrap in clingfilm and leave to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Put the leeks into a steamer and steam for 10 minutes.  Heat the oil in a large frying pan and add the garlic and leeks and cook for 5 minutes over a medium/low heat.

Meanwhile mix together the ricotta, pine nuts, raisins (without the liquid) and egg in a large bowl then add the cooked leek and garlic and stir through.  Set aside to cool.

Roll out the pastry and fit into a 20cm round baking tin, allowing the pastry to drape over the sides.  Prick the base of the pastry all over with a fork and then line with baking parchment and fill with ceramic beans.  Bake blind at 190C for 15 minutes.  Remove the pastry case from the oven and lift out the parchment and beans.  Return the pastry case to the oven for 5 minutes.

If you are cooking immediately, add the leek and ricotta mixture to the pastry case, level the top and return to the oven for another 30 minutes until the tart has risen and is golden.

Should you wish to bake the tart later then allow the pastry case to cool and assemble and bake at 190C as above - I'd only delay baking for a couple of hours.

Serve warm from the oven with saute potatoes and a nice salad.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

If Chocolate be the Food of Love

So...Valentine's day is here and what could be better than a chocolate pudding, only a pudding with chocolate, fudge and banana!  Being a celebration in February, pudding rather than dessert is the thing, served with a rich chocolate sauce.

roses are red...always

Banana Chocolate Fudge Pudding
2 ripe bananas
75g caster sugar
75g butter
200g self-raising flour
4 tbsp milk
1 egg
2 tbsp plain chocolate chips
2 tbsp fudge pieces

Place all ingredients except chocolate and fudge pieces in a food processor.  Process until a smooth batter is achieved.  Add the chocolate and fudge pieces and stir through the cake mixture.

Put the mixture into a lightly greased 1 litre pudding basin.  Cover the top of the pudding mix with a circle of lightly oiled greaseproof paper, then cover the basin with a double layer of kitchen foil.  Place the pudding basin in a steamer and steam for 2 hours.  Remember to check the water every  half hour and top up as necessary.

When the pudding is ready run a palette knife around the top of the bowl and turn the pudding out on to a warm serving dish.  Serve with Rich Chocolate sauce.

love at first spoonful...hmm!

Rich Chocolate Sauce
115g caster sugar
4 tbsp cold water
175g plain chocolate broken into pieces
30ml unsalted butter
30ml Tia Maria or brandy

Put the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved.  Add the chocolate pieces a few at a time and stir until melted.  Once all the chocolate has been added, now add the butter and stir through until melted.  Do not allow the sauce to boil.  Finally stir in the Tia Maria or brandy and put sauce into a warmed jug and serve with the Banana Chocolate Fudge Pudding.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

You Say Raisins, I Say Sultanas

I've been out and about this morning leaving me little time to conjure up a cake for the empty tin before I settle down in front of the fire to watch the Six Nations Rugby Union - I love it!

Usually I'd rustle up either Aunt Nancy's Fruit Loaf or Crunchy Lemon Squares, but I fancied a change.  After leafing through a couple of baking books I found a Rum and Raisin cake that looked simple and quick to make.  The only trouble being that I didn't have enough raisins or any rum!  So substituting sultanas for raisins and apple liqueur for the rum, here we have it...

oh, is that sunken fruit I see?
Sultana and Apple Liqueur Cake
155g sultanas
3 tbsp apple liqueur
185g self-raising flour
150g unsalted butter, cubed
140g soft brown sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten

Put the sultanas and the liqueur in a bowl and leave to marinate for 10 minutes.  Meanwhile melt the butter and sugar together in a small saucepan until the sugar has dissolved - keep a close eye on this and stir frequently.

Sieve the flour into a bowl.  Add the melted sugar mixture to the dried fruit and then add to the flour with the eggs and mix together.  take care not to over beat the mixture.

Pour the mixture into a greased and lined 20cm cake tin and place in oven preheated to 180C for 40 minutes.  Turn cake out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

I've decided to drizzle a little plain icing over the top of the cake, can't wait for it to cool so that I can taste the finished results.

Note: You could, of course, turn this back into a rum and raisin cake by replacing  same quantities of the sultanas and apple liqueur.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Waste Not Want Not

Like most of my generation I was brought up to make good use of leftovers, I think that my Mum who had been a child during the second world war grew up valuing food and never taking it for granted.  One of my favourite tricks is to turn leftover casseroles or curries into pasties.

Usually I make shortcrust pastry for these or cheat by using shop bought puff pastry but today I was inspired to make my own rough puff pastry; less labour intensive than homemade puff pastry but a bit more work than a shortcrust which I normally whizz up in the food processor.

I love the crispy pastry against the softer texture of the casserole or curry filling.  Served with saute potatoes and a crisp salad it makes a great mid-week meal.

Rough Puff Pastry
Enough for 2 large pasties
150g plain flour
pinch of salt
75g unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
chilled water to mix

Mix the flour and salt in a bowl and add the cubes of butter.  Gently mix with your hands ensuring that the butter is covered in flour.  Add enough water to bring the mixture together into firm dough.

On a well-floured board bring the dough together into a rectangular shape.  Roll out the rectangle to about 1cm thickness then fold the top third of the pastry towards you and the bottom third up over the top.  Turn 90 degrees and repeat the rolling and folding.  Do this another 4 times i.e. 6 times in total.  Wrap the pastry in clingfilm and place in the fridge for 30-60 minutes.

ready to roll

After the resting period take the pastry out of the fridge and roll it out to about 3mm thickness.  Cut out two 20cm circles (I use a side plate for this).

ready to cut

Put your filling of choice onto one half of one the circle, leaving about 2cm around the edge.  Brush the edge with water and bring the other half of the circle over the top of the filling to form a pasty shape,  Pinch the edges together to form a good seal and repeat with the other circle of pastry.

ready to bake

Place the pasties on a baking sheet covered with silicon paper and brush with a little egg yolk or milk, then bake in the oven at 190C for about 30 minutes.

Note: 20cm circles make large pasties so if you're serving children or having the pasties for lunch you could cut smaller circles, say 12-15 cm in diameter, making more pasties with the same amount of casserole or curry. The pasties can be eaten cold as well as hot from the oven making smaller versions ideal for summer picnics.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Thinking Time

I often find myself either in the garden or the kitchen when I have a decision to make and today is no different.  Two months ago I took the decision to leave behind a career of 17 years with the same company - time to move on and I haven't regretted my decision.  Now I have the offer of two new jobs to consider, so, as it's too cold for me in the garden it must be the kitchen for pondering my choices...

...and whilst in the kitchen what better than a bit of baking.  It relaxes me and allows thoughts to mull around in my head.   And the resulting cake will ensure that I take some time to sit with a coffee and do some more thinking.

So what's a tempting about some ginger slices or little jammy oat squares or how about both!  These little bakes make a good addition to a lunch box (for the Handyman) or to morning coffee (for me).  So two recipes today, starting with...

crunchy and plummy

Jammy Oat Squares
3 ozs soft brown sugar
5 ozs self-raising flour
8 ozs oats
4 ozs butter
10 ozs jam (I used Holly Grove Victoria plum jam)

In a large bowl rub the butter into the flour and oats until you have a mix like fine breadcrumbs - don't do  this in a food processor as it will chop up the oats.  Add the sugar mix thoroughly.  Add 2tbsp cold water and mix together.  Press half of the mixture (it will be very crumbly) into an 8" x 12" baking tin.  Spread the jam evenly over the base.  Now cover with remaining oat mixture, pressing down evenly and gently.

Bake at 200C for 25 minutes.  Allow to cool in the tin then cut into squares.  Store in an airtight tin.

...followed by...

soft and sweet

Sesame and Ginger Slice
4.5 ozs plain flour
half a tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground ginger
quarter tsp mixed spice
2 eggs
5 ozs soft brown sugar
4.5 ozs unsalted butter, melted
2 ozs chopped crystallised ginger (I used stem ginger as I didn't have any crystallised)
2 ozs of sesame seeds, toasted

Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger, mixed spice together, add quarter tsp salt.  Beat together the eggs and brown sugar until thick and creamy.  Add the melted butter to the egg mixture, then gently fold in the flour mixture.  Add the crystallised ginger and 1 oz of the sesame seeds and mix together gently.

Put the mixture into greased and lined 8" x 12" baking tray, sprinkle over the remaining sesame seeds.  Bake at 180C for 20 minutes.  Leave in the tin for 10 minutes then lift out and finish cooling on a wire rack.  Cut into squares to serve.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Fresh Herbs in February?

Fresh herbs; the No Croutons Required February challenge!  Well now that is a challenge, especially as following a very mild winter so far February has begun with temperatures well below zero; so no herbs in the garden and I don't grow pots in the house, I've never faired very well with houseplants of any description.

So what fresh herbs can I find in the supermarket that don't look soft and flimsy,? Not much choice I'm afraid but Jacqueline at Tinned Tomatoes has laid down the gauntlet and I'm prepared to pick it up!

Given the drop in temperature I'm going for a soup rather than a salad option; so after sitting down with the cookbooks for a couple of hours I think I've found the answer in the latest addition to my library.  As you may have realised I'm a big Hugh FW fan, I find his recipes very achievable and above all really tasty.  After browsing through his latest offering River Cottage Veg Everyday whilst visiting J last weekend I was impressed enough to place an order for my copy.

dressed with mint and rapeseed oil
The soup recipe that I decided to try is Pea and Parsley Soup.  Two herbs make a very significant contribution to this light and fresh flavoured dish: flat leaved parsley and thyme.  The other ingredients being peas, onion, vegetable stock and mint.

Just noticed that other than the honour of winning this month's NCR challenge there promises to be a copy of River Cottage Herbs as a prize - could it be fate?

Pea and Parsley Soup
Makes about 6 - 8 servings
Heat about 2tbs rapeseed oil and 20g unsalted butter in a saucepan.  When the butter has melted add the finely chopped onion and about 3tbsp of chopped fresh thyme.  Cook gently until the onion is transluscent.

Add 500g frozen peas, 20g chopped flatleaf parsley and 1 litre vegetable stock.  Bring to the boil then simmer gently for about 15-20 minutes until the peas are very soft.

Blend the soup until very smooth.  Serve with a scatter of chopped mint and a drizzle of rapeseed oil.

This soup could also be served cold in summer.

Note: I think I would make a couple of small changes to the recipe when I repeat it by increasing the amount of parsley and adding a little garlic; other than that it's perfect!

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

The Ubiquitous Onion

Sometimes it seems that every savoury dish I cook includes onions; I must go through pounds and pounds of onions in a year but they are almost always the supporting act and seldom the star.  I recently found a recipe where the humble onion is truly in the spotlight. 

A savoury tart made with lots of onions, puff pastry and leftover cheese.  Easily made, deliciously tasty, a lovely supper with a crispy salad or cut into small squares and served as a canape.  However you choose to eat it you'll not be disappointed.

Caramelised Onion Tart with Stilton and Parmesan
Serves 4 as a main course or 12 canapes
2 tbsp olive oil
2-3 large onion, peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch thick slices
2 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced (optional)
1-2 tbsp onion marmalade (optional)
1 tbsp soft brown sugar
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

8 ozs ready made puff pastry
2-3 ozs Stilton, diced
2 ozs Parmesan, grated
half tsp fennel seeds, crushed

Heat the oil in a large saucepan.  Add the onions and garlic and cook over a medium heat until softened and starting to brown.  Add the sugar, vinegar, onion marmalade (if using) and salt and pepper.

Reduce heat and cook gently, uncovered, for about 25 minutes until caramelised.  If the onion mix looks like it is drying out add a little water.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, roll out the pastry into rectangle about 10 by 14 inches and place on a baking tray covered with baking parchment.  Prick the pastry all over with a fork.  Now spread the onion mixture over the pastry, sprinkle over the cubes of Stilton and then the grated Parmesan and finally sprinkle over the crushed fennel seeds.

Bake in a preheated oven at 200C for 20 minutes until the cheese has melted and the pastry risen.  Serve with a simple crisp salad for a light supper or cut into small squares and serve as canapes.

Note: the original recipe called for gorgonzola and brie as the cheeses.  Any two cheeses that combine well could be used.  I also added garlic and onion marmalade to the original recipe, so these could be left out.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Scottish Oats

Perhaps it was my fix of haggis last night that did it; this morning I woke up with thoughts of a healthy, hearty breakfast and what better than another Scottish dish...porridge!

from this...

to just 3 minutes

To my basic bowl of this satisfying grain (made with half cup of oats and one cup of semi-skimmed milk) I added a sliced banana and some lovely runny honey...delicious and from jar to bowl in only 3 minutes!
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