Monday, 28 December 2009

The Great Day Dawns!

By the time you read this, dear readers, the wedding cake will have arrived at its destination and the wedding celebrations will have begun.

It's been a real challenge to produce a cake good enough for my son's wedding, I hope that I've managed to make the best cake that my skills will allow. The hardest part of all, of course, is the icing as its on show, and this was also the most traumatic part of the preparations. All the cake lacks in these photos is the Bride and Groom topper that my niece, O has made and will be bringing along on the great day - more photos to follow.


So raise a glass of your favourite tipple (mine's champagne) and wish G & K a joyful and fulfilling life together - good health and happiness!

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Christmas Cheer!

The Handyman and I have had a lovely Christmas with our family - we hope that each and everyone of you has had an equally enjoyable festive season. So lovely to spend time together, chatting, feasting and playing. Here's to a successful and joyful 2010!

No recipes today, just a few Christmas images...




Twinkling Christmas cake!



Deck the halls and the tree of course!



A family feast...


Monday, 14 December 2009

Wedding Cake Trimmings

When marzipaning the wedding cake I had to level the tops of each tier and consequently ended up with a box of rich trimmings.














This was my first chance to taste the cake and the Handyman hastily volunteered to become taster-in-chief, and the result...

a delicious, rich, moist, fruity, boozy...10/10!

I managed to stop him eating his way through the boxful in time to make a very festive version of a bread and butter pudding...any rich fruit cake will provide the base for this most delicious pudding, so Christmas cake leftovers, even slices of Christmas pudding would fit the bill.














Festive Cake Pudding

Serves 4
Ingredients
Enough wedding cake pieces to two thirds fill a deep 7" pie dish
6 fl ozs doouble cream
6 fl ozs milk
2 large eggs
1 tblsp golden castor sugar
few drops vanilla essence
1 dessertspoon golden granulated sugar

Method
Put the wedding cake pieces into the pie dish. Then put the milk and cream into a small saucepan and heat gently.

Meanwhile using a fork gently beat the eggs, castor sugar and vanilla essence together in a bowl. When the milk is hot, but not boiling, remove it from the heat and add to the egg mixture stirring to combine.

Place the pie dish on a baking tray and pour the milk and egg mixture (the custard) over the cake - the mixture will be very liquid and will fill the pie dish. Leave to stand for 10 mins to allow the cake to absorb some of the custard mixture.

Sprinkle the golden granulated sugar over the top of the pudding and carefully place in the preheated oven at 180C for 30 minutes. The pudding should be golden on top and just set. Serve whilst still warm with double cream poured over the top - yummee!

Friday, 11 December 2009

Happy Birthday Dear GW

Happy birthday to my elder son, GW! A bit awkward to have a birthday in December, it can be in danger of being overshadowed by the Christmas celebrations. However we ensure that no sign of Christmas is visible in or around the house until after the 8th of December, so no tree, no lights and definately no birthday presents wrapped in Christmas paper! This has been the rule since GW was born thirty-one years ago - where has the time gone!

GW doesn't live locally so a birthday cake for him is out of the question and he doesn't have that much of a sweet tooth, so I'll be making his favourite dessert when he visits us over the Christmas period - apple pie. Here's a favourite recipe...

Festive Apple Pie

Ingredients
For the Pastry
4 ozs butter, cold and diced
7 ozs plain flour
1 tblsp icing sugar
zest of 1 orange
1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tblsp orange juice and 1 tblsp very cold water

For the Filling
4 large HG cooking apples, peeled, cored and sliced
2 HG eating apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1 tblsp cornflour
1 tblsp soft brown sugar
1 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
grating of nutmeg

Method
Place all the ingredients for the pastry, except the egg yolk mixture, in a food processor. Pulse until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Gradually add the egg mixture and process until the dough just comes together. Remove from the processor and form into a ball, cover with clingfilm and place in the fridge for at least 30 mins but no longer then a couple of hours.

Meanwhile prepare the apples and place in a bowl of water with a good squeeze of lemon juice to keep them from going brown.

Then roll out the pastry between 2 sheets of clingfilm so that it is large enough to line a deep 7" pie dish and fold over the top of the apple filling. Place the pastry in the lightly greased pie dish with the excess overlapping the sides of the dish.

Drain the apples and place them in the pie dish in layers, sprinkling some of the cornflour, sugar and spices between each layer of fruit. Finally pull the pastry over the top of the apples so that they are covered leaving a gap in the middle for the steam to escape. Don't worry if the finished result looks a little untidy, it will look scrumptious when it is baked.

Brush the pastry with a little beaten egg or milk and place in the oven at 190C for about 30-40 mins until the pastry is golden. Serve warm with custard or, as it's Christmas, cider cream.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Warming Winter Casserole

Returning from the kitchen garden this morning with cold hands and a selection of root vegetables my thoughts turned to the lovely stewing beef I had in the 'fridge. Beautiful beef marbled with just enough fat to make it tasty and moist from our very local butcher, fresh as the morning root vegetables, and the prospect of a chilly Winter's evening can mean only one thing - a heart-warming beef casserole served with creamed celeriac and potatoes and buttered cabbage.

As this recipe is slow cooked over many hours you can (and should) use cheaper cuts of meat - ask your butcher for some recommendations.














Winter Beef Casserole

Serves 4
Ingredients
1lb stewing beef
2 ozs plain flour
1 tsp mustard powder
1/2 tsp Spanish paprika
salt and pepper
1 large onion, chopped
2 HG garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 HG leek, washed and sliced
6 small HG turnips, washed, peeled and cut into chunks (or left whole if very small)
About a quarter of a large HG celeriac, diced (the remainder of the celeriac will be used along with some potatoes to make a creamed celeriac and potato side dish)
15 fl ozs beef stock
5 fl ozs red wine
1 tblsp Worcestershire sauce

Method
Heat some rapeseed oil in a large frying pan add the onions, leek and garlic and fry gently until softened, not browned. Add the turnips and celeriac and heat through.

Meanwhile mix the flour, mustard powder, paprika, salt and pepper in a bowl. Add the chunks of beef and cover in the flour, stack on a plate ready to cook.

Remove the vegetables from the pan and place in the slow cooker pot. Add more oil to the frying pan and brown the meat in batches, adding the beef to the slow cooker as each batch is browned.

When all the beef has been browned add the red wine to the frying pan and bring to the boil. Boil vigorously until the alcohol has boiled off (you can tell by the smell of the boiling liquid). Add the beef stock and Worcestershire sauce to the wine and bring back to the boil.

Add the liquid and 3 bay leaves to the slow cooker ensuring that the beef and vegetables are covered by the stock, if necessary adding some water.

Cook in the slow cooker on a medium setting for about 6-8 hours. Alternatively you can cook in a conventional oven on a low setting 140C for about 3 hours. Check the level of the liquid in the dish throughout the cooking time.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Wedding Cake Marzipan

It's almost time to tackle the next stage of the wedding cake challenge - marzipan.

I've opted for a white marzipan rather than the usual golden colour and I am reading through the application techniques on various websites - can you tell I'm a bit nervous about this? After all it's only my elder son's and future DIL's wedding cake - arrgh! Wonder how they would feel about standing in front of it and obscuring it from view for the cutting the cake photos?

I may or may not post a photograph when I've finished the marzipaning - let's see how traumatised I am by the time I've completed this stage. Heaven knows how I'll get through the icing challenge - more on that in December.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Remember, remember...

the fifth of November
gunpowder, treason and plot.


Or in this case the 6th of November...we have set the bonfire, placed lighting around the garden and prepared the food:
  1. Carrot and Butternut Squash Soup
  2. Vegetarian and Sausage Rolls with Chutneys
  3. Spicy Bread and Apple Pudding with Custard or Cream
All that's left to do is make the warming Winter Punch to welcome our guests...whilst the Handyman gets the bonfire going.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Favourite Food and Future Happiness

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending my future daughter-in-law's 'hen' party with my sister JA. It was organised by her Mum at a spa hotel and the theme, as it was Halloween, was Kinky Witches - hence the witches' hats in the photograph. The location, treatments, facilities, food and company were excellent and a good time was had by all - and everyone made it to breakfast the next day!















As part of the event K was asked to answer some Mr & Mrs type questions, one of which was about G's favourite food; a question which K answered immediately and correctly and an answer that reminded me of when G was a little lad...aah!

So here follows a simple supper dish that is one of the keys to my son's heart...

My Granny Bet's Macaroni Cheese
Serves 2-3
Ingredients
6 ozs pasta - macaroni or penne
salt
3 pts boiling water

3/4 pt semi-skimmed milk
2 rounded tbsp plain flour
1 level tsp mustard powder
salt and pepper
6 ozs strong Cheddar cheese, grated

Optional Extras - not part of the original recipe
2-3 rashers smoked back bacon, cut into small pieces
2 large mushrooms, sliced

Method
Bring the water to a rolling boil in a large saucepan then add the salt and the pasta. Stir the pasta into the water and bring back to a fast boil and cook for 10 minutes. Drain the pasta and run under cold water. Put the pasta to one side and make the cheese sauce.

Whilst the pasta is cooking, fry the bacon until golden. Then add the mushrooms and fry until cooked. Drain and set to one side.

Put the flour, mustard powder and salt and pepper into a saucepan. Add enough milk to make a smooth paste. Add the remaining milk gradually, ensuring that the sauce remain free of lumps. Put the pan on to the heat and bring to the boil stirring continuously. Once boiling reduce the heat and leave to simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the sauce from the heat and add about 4 ozs of the grated cheese, stir into the sauce.

Add the pasta and, if using, the bacon and mushroom mix, to the sauce and stir well to ensure all the pasta is covered with the lovely sauce. Pour into a pie dish and sprinkle with the remaining Cheddar. Bake at 200C for about 20 minutes or until the sauce bubbles and the cheese on the top is nicely browned. Serve with a fresh green salad and some garlic bread.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Aunt Nancy's Fruit Loaf

Love of cooking and baking runs through the female line of our family and my sister is no exception. JA and her family are vegetarians and the food they cook and eat is fantastic and has inspired me over the years to cook more and more vegetarian meals, some of which I'll publish in future posts.

JA and I love to share recipes for savoury and sweet dishes and as I'm off to spend the weekend with her I thought I'd bake and take one of the family's traditional recipes.




Aunt Nancy's Fruit Loaf
Ingredients
4 ozs butter or soft margarine
4 ozs sultanas
4 ozs raisins
5 fl ozs water
8 ozs SR flour
2 level tsps bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp mixed spice
4 ozs unrefined castor sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Method
Melt the butter in a saucepan. To the melted butter, add the fruit and water. Bring to the boil and bubble gently for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile grease and line a 2lb loaf tin. Then sieve the flour, bicarbonate of soda and spices into a mixing bowl. Add the sugar and the melted butter and fruit mixture and mix well. Finally, add the beaten eggs and mix until all the ingredients are well combined.

Put the mixture into the prepared loaf tin and bake at 180C for 45 minutes check the cake after 30 minutes, If the cake begins to over brown cover top of the loaf tin loosely with cooking foil). Then reduce the heat to 150C and bake for a further 15 minutes. Test with a skewer to ensure that cake is baked and then remove from tin and place on a wire rack to cool.

Variations
This fruit loaf is lovely either on its own or spread with a little butter. The original recipe did not contain the spices - that's my enhancement. I replace the water either with half water and half orange juice or completely replace the water with HG pressed apple juice.

I've even, in the depths of Winter, replaced the water with Guinness and increased the spices to 1 tsp of each for a Christmassy feel - then you might like to try a generous slice covered in creamy homemade custard - yummee!

Sunday, 25 October 2009

The Humble Carrot

Lots of lovely crisp carrots on offer at the local market, irresistible! The humble carrot sits alongside the onion as one of the vegetables I most often use. I love the bright orange colour that they add to any dish but I especially like them in soups.

I've added the contents of this bag to butternut squash soup, a couple of casseroles, basic tomato sauce and as the main part of the recipe below: a variation on carrot and coriander soup.

















Carrot Soup with Coriander
Serves 6
Ingredients
1 large onion, diced
6 large carrots, 4 peeled and diced and 2 peeled and coarsely grated
2 sticks of celery, chopped
1 tbsp sunflower oil
1 tbsp dried coriander (the green herb)
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tin chopped tomatoes or 4 large fresh tomatoes, skinned and chopped
3 ozs orange lentils
2 pts vegetable or chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste

Method
Heat the oil in a large soup pot. Add the onion and celery and cook gently for 5-10 mins until the onions are soft but not coloured.

Add the coriander powder and cook for a further 2 mins. Then add all of the carrots, the chopped tomatoes and the dried coriander. Stir well and add the lentils and the stock.

Bring to a gentle boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for 30-40 mins, stirring ocassionally. Serve in bowls with warmed ciabatta.

You can liquidise this soup if you prefer a smooth version. On this ocassion I enjoyed the tender bite of the carrot and celery.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Cook Book Browsing

When the evenings draw in and we turn the clocks back my thoughts turn to more time in the kitchen and recipes old and new.

On Thursday I received a new cook book in the post
- gorgeous christmas by Annie Bell. Yesterday I eventually found the time to browse through the recipes, lots of inspiration! This put me in the mood for more food mooching and I settled down on the sofa with a stack of cookery books and a cup of coffee. A lovely way to spend an afternoon and a reminder of some of my favourite recipes.















Here's one of Delia Smith's from her Christmas cookbook, one of my most used books, and a recipe that I make time and time again at Christmas and for other friends and family get-togethers. These little vegetarian 'sausage' rolls make good bite sized nibbles (well 2-bite sized) and it's fun to make your own pastry for a change rather than using shop bought.

I have experimented with different cheeses in this recipe and mixes of cheeses - Cheddar with some Parmesan tastes good. I have also replaced the double cream with creme fraiche. Have a go and let me know what you find most delicious.

Vegetarian 'Sausage' Rolls
Makes 36
For the quick flaky pastry
8ozs plain flour
6ozs butter
pinch of salt
cold water for mixing

For the filling
10ozs fresh breadcrumbs
8ozs mature Cheddar cheese, grated
1 large onion, peeled and grated
3 tbsps thick double cream
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tbsp chopped fresh herbs (chives, parsley, thyme etc)
2tsps mustard powder
pinch of cayenne pepper
salt and pepper

1 large egg, beaten - for sealing and brushing pastry
3 lightly greased baking sheets
Preheat the oven to 220C, gas mark 7

Make the pastry as follows:
The butter needs to be rock hard for this pastry, so once you've weighed out the required amount wrap it in foil and place in the freezer for 30 mins.

Sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Grate the butter using a coarse grater into the middle of the flour. Take a palette knife and mix the butter into the flour. Don't use your hands or you'll warm up the butter and don't use a food processor or you'll end up with shortcrust pastry.

Coat all the pieces of the butter with the flour until the mixture is crumbly. Add enough water to form a dough that leaves the bowl clean, bringing it all gently together with your hands. Place the dough in a polythene bag and rest it in the fridge for 30 mins.

For the filling, place all the filling ingredients in a bowl and mix together thoroughly.

To make the 'sausage' rolls, divide the pastry into 3 pieces. Then with each piece roll out the pastry as thinly as you can. Take one third of the filling and form this into a long sausage the same length as the pastry strip. Place the 'sausage' in the middle of the pastry, brush with a little beaten egg along one edge of the pastry, then fold the pastry over the filling and seal. Turn the whole thing over onto the sealed edge, press lightly and cut into individual pieces about 2 inches long. Snip 3 v-shapes in the top of each roll with a pair of scissors and brush with beaten egg. Repeat for the remaining 2 portions of pastry and filling.

You can freeze the rolls at this point - make sure you defrost them thoroughly before baking. To bake, place the rolls on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 20-25 mins. Serve warm or cold with pickles and chutneys.

If you'd rather have 'real' sausage rolls then substitute the vegetarian filling ingredients with 1lb pork sausagemeat - I use good butcher's sausages and remove the skins - and 1 tsp of dried sage. Both versions have proven successful with HG family and friends.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Bonfire Pudding

I've found a recipe for our Bonfire party pudding. Bonfire night requires warming, comforting and tasty food to stave off the cold November air and what better than a pudding made with autumn harvested apples. Add seasonal mixed dried fruits, some mixed spice and a spoonful or two of yummy, yellow custard...need I say more?

Spicy Bread and Apple Pudding

Ingredients
8ozs wholemeal bread, crusts removed
10fl ozs milk
grated rind of 1 lemon
grated rind of 1 orange
2 apples, peeled, cored and grated
2ozs butter, melted
2ozs soft brown sugar
2tblsp mixed spice
6ozs mixed dried fruit

Break the bread into bite sized pieces place in a bowl with the milk and soak for 30 mins.

When the bread has absorbed the milk add all the remaining ingredients and mix well to combine all the ingredients.

Lightly grease a pie dish and Place the bread and fruit mixture into a lightly greased pie dish and press down lightly, smoothing the top. Put into an oven preheated to 180C for 1 hour.

Remove from the oven and serve warm with homemade custard.

This pudding can also be eaten cold as a cake or with ice cream.

Bonfire Night Rehearsal

We've invited a few friends around for a Bonfire and Fireworks evening in 2 weeks time. We held a party like this a couple of years ago and had a lovely evening with a roaring bonfire, extravagant fireworks (provided by our good friends S and M) and warming food. This year's plans are to have the bonfire and fireworks as before supplimented by the christening of our newly constructed outside fireplace and a log fire.

Foodwise I'm going to provide a warming soup with crusty bread, homemade vegetarian and sausage rolls with assorted chutneys and pickles (see previous posts) and a pudding, yet to be decided on. I tried out the soup recipe last week and took samples to my son M's family - they loved it and A requested the recipe...so here you have it...

Butternut and Carrot Soup
Ingredients
1 small-medium HG butternut squash, peeled and chopped into chunks
4 large carrots - 2 peeled and diced and 2 peeled and grated
1 large onion, peeled and diced
1 tbsp vegetable or sunflower oil
1 tsp ground cumin
half a nutmeg, grated
1 tin chopped tomatoes or 4 fresh tomatoes peeled and chopped
2 pts vegetable or chicken stock
2 ozs lentils
salt and pepper to taste

Method
Put the onion and oil into a large pan and cook gently until the onion has softened. Add the diced carrots and the squash and cook gently for 5 mins with the lid on, stirring occasionally. Add the grated carrot and the cumin and nutmeg and stir to combine all ingredients. Then add the chopped tomatoes and stock. Bring to a gentle boil and then simmer for 1 hour.

Remove the pot from the heat and, using a hand blender, blend the soup in the pot. Do this very carefully as the soup will be very hot. Add the lentils to the blended soup and stir well. return to the heat and simmer for another 30 mins to cook the lentils. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with warm, crusty bread rolls.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Easiest Chocolate Cake Ever

I have a great recipe that impresses all those chocolate cake lovers amongst us and the best thing about it is that it's sooooo easy. I've been making this recipe since I first started baking whilst at home with my two little boys about 30 years ago (is it really 30 years? it feels like yesterday).

Anyway, the cake became my signature dish, and my BIL JC's favourite cake. The recipe made an appearance in my sister J's handmade and bound family cookbook - a limited edition of 5. Made for birthday's, family gatherings and just for us, I've lost count of the number of times this cake has been baked in my kitchens over the years and to date it's been a success every time - now that is tempting fate! So here's the recipe...


Easiest (and Best) Chocolate Cake Ever
Ingredients
For the cake
4ozs golden castor sugar
4ozs softened butter or soft margarine
4ozs self raising flour
1tsp baking powder
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1oz cocoa mixed to a paste with 2 tbsps hot water

For the icing
2ozs butter
1 tbsp cocoa
2tbsps hot water
10ozs icing sugar, sieved

Method
Set the oven to 180C and grease and line an 8" cake tin (or 2 x 7" sandwich tins).

Place all the ingredients for the cake in a food processor (or large bowl and mix with electric hand mixer) and thoroughly combine. Put the cake mixture into the prepared cake tin(s). Bake in the oven for 30 minutes (or 25 minutes if using the 7" tins). Check the cake is baked by pressing lightly in the middle, the cake should spring back. Remove from the tin(s) and cool on a wire rack.

To make the fudge filling and topping, put the butter and cocoa in a large saucepan on a gentle heat until the butter has melted and the cocoa is combined with it. Remove from the heat and add 2 tbsp of hot (not boiling) water to the pan with a little of the icing sugar and beat together (I do this by hand with a wooden spoon, though you could use an electric mixer). Continue to add the icing sugar, beating together vigourously between each addition.

When the cake is cool cut it through the middle to make two cakes (no need to do this if you've used the 7" tins as you already have two cakes) and sandwich together with about two thirds of the fudge icing. Put the remaining icing on the top of the cake and spread over evenly using a palette knife. To make a smooth finish, wet the palette knife with cold water as you spread the icing.

The cake will keep for a few days in an airtight cake tin, that's if you can resist eating all of it at one sitting! As you can see from the photograph we're not very good at resisting.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

More Wedding Cake News

Two more wedding cake tiers made yesterday, both 6" cakes and baked in the Aga Rayburn, one for the second tier of the wedding cake and the other as an additional cake to ensure that we have enough to let all the wedding guests have a piece. Time now to source the icing materials...

Monday, 28 September 2009

Wedding Cake Update


Just a quick update on the cake's progress...after 6 hours in the oven and cooling overnight - it didn't come out of the oven until 8pm - I pricked over the top of the cake and spooned over 2 tablespoons of brandy, letting it soak into the cake. It was then wrapped in two layers of greaseproof paper and two layers of foil and stored in a container in the larder to mature...only two more cakes to make next week and then I can start looking for the icing materials...phew!

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Wedding Cake

My elder son and his fiancee have set their wedding date for late December and part of my contribution to the event is the wedding cake. So, after much trepidation - how on earth will I ice and decorate this cake! - consideration - what size of cake? how many tiers? - and preparation - gather together all the ingredients, ensure I have the right size cake tins - I'm ready to make a start.

Again, Good Housekeeping Cookery Book has come to the rescue with quantities of ingredients for various sizes of cake and advice on what sizes to combine in tiers. I'm going to make a two tier round cake, 10" and 6" with a second 6" cake in reserve to produce extra portions as required. I've used my Christmas cake recipe as that's tried and tested and beautifully rich and the Handyman assures me that it is fruity and delicious. I'll leave the nuts out of the 6" cakes to cater for anyone with a nut allergy or who simply doesn't like nuts.

Today I've begun with the largest tier. The first thing to do was prepare the baking tin by lining it with 2 layers of greaseproof paper and placing a double band of newspaper lined with greaseproof paper around the tin. It really should be brown paper round the tin but my preparation went astray here and I forgot to buy some...oops!

Next thing to do is measure out all the ingredients (I've given the quantities for the 10" cake with the quantities for the 6" cake in brackets) starting with the fruit and nuts:

1lb 12oz (8oz) currants
13oz (4oz) sultanas
13oz (4oz) raisins
9oz (2oz) glace cherries
(washed, dried and quarter
ed)
5oz (1oz) mixed peel
5oz (1oz) flaked almonds

Then weigh the butter, sugar and lemon rind into a bowl:

1lb 2oz (5oz) softened butter
1lb 2oz (5oz) golden castor sugar
lemon rind, a little

and sieve the flour and spices into another bowl:

1lb 5oz (6oz) plain flour
1 level tsp (quarter level tsp) mixed spice
1 level tsp (quarter level tsp) cinnamon

finally beat the eggs together in another bowl and measure out the brandy into a cup:

9 (2½) large eggs
3 tbsp (1 tbsp) brandy

Now the fun begins...

Cream together the butter, sugar and lemon rind until light and fluffy. Add the beaten eggs a little at a time, beating well between each addition of egg. Gradually fold in the flour with a metal spoon, then fold in the brandy. Finally fold in the fruit and nuts.


I had to use my preserving pan to fit all the butter mixture, flour and fruit in. I also used by food processor to cream the butter and sugar together in batches and then mixed in the eggs using an electric whisk. The folding in of the flour and fruit I did by hand and it has done wonders for the muscle tone in my upper arms! A final stir of the cake for luck using a wooden spoon bought by G as a gift for Mum from a school trip to Wales many moons ago, lots of memories and love in this cake.

When everything is thoroughly mixed together, spoon the cake mixture into the prepared tin making sure that there are no air pockets and make a slight hollow in the centre to ensure an even top when cooked.

Place in a preheated oven 150C for 6hrs (2½-3hrs)until a fine skewer in the centre comes out clean. Cover the top of the cake with greaseproof paper after 1½ hrs and for the 10" cake reduce the heat of the oven to 130C after 4 hrs. When cooked leave to cool in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack. Wrap the cool cake in a double thickness of greaseproof paper and place upside down in an airtight tin. Cover the tin with foil to store.

All that's left to do now is wash up and wait 6 hours to see the results!


As for the icing and decoration, well I'll be building myself up to that over the coming weeks and have engaged the help and artistic talents of my niece, O. No doubt I'll provide further news on progress in later posts - wish me luck!

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Crab Apples and Mint

So hedgrow crab apples and loads of garden mint - makes Apple Mint Jelly. As it was such a pretty September day I took the apples, chopping board, knife and pot outdoors to prepare the apples for the jelly. A mixture of hedgrow apples and crab apples from our two small trees.

The mint for the recipe is Holly Grove Apple Mint, soft, almost furry, very minty leaves...here's the recipe...

Apple Mint Jelly
Makes about 2-3lbs
Ingredients
2lbs 8ozs crab apples, washed and
chopped
1pt water with 1 tbsp lemon juice added
1pt distilled vinegar
3 sprigs HG apple mint leaves


1lb 8ozs granulated sugar
3tbsp HG apple mint, chopped
green food colouring, optional

Method
Put the prepared apples, sprigs of mint and the water in a large pan. Bring to the boil then reduce heat, simmer for about 40 minutes until the apples are very soft and pulpy, stirring occasionally. Add the vinegar and bring back to the boil. Boil gently for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and place apple mixture in
a jelly bag and strain overnight. Do not squeeze the jelly bag or your jelly will end up cloudy.

The following morning measure the liquid and put into a large pan and discard the pulp. Add 1lb of sugar to each pint of liquid. Bring to the boil stirring continuously to dissolve the sugar. Boil rapidly for 10 minutes and test temperature - when it reaches 221F the jelly h
as reached setting point. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Remove the scum from the jelly with a slotted spoon, stir in the chopped mint (a quarter teaspoon of green colouring may be added at this point) then leave to cool for about 5 minutes. Stir the jelly to disperse the mint and then pour into warmed, sterilised jars. Seal and label.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Forbidden Fruit

The countryside in this part of the world is lovely, a fact that we sometimes lose sight of being surrounded by this natural beauty all the time. It's not picture postcard lovely, much more real and rural than that. After our three hour walk through the countryside the Handyman and I returned to Holly Grove for a cup of tea and the last two pieces of Aunt N's fruit cake.

This prompted me to restock the cake tin with a variation on a carrot cake us
ing more HG apples:















Forbidden Fruit Cake
Ingredients
8 ozs soft tub margarine or softened butter
8 ozs soft light brown sugar

4 eggs, beaten
8 ozs plain wholemeal flour
2 level tsps baking powder

1 tsp mixed spice
12 ozs HG apples, peeled and coarsely grated
finely grated rind and juice of 1 large lemon
5 ozs walnut pieces, chopped

3 ozs full fat soft cheese
2 ozs icing sugar

Method
Cream the fat and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs a little at a time beating until combined. Sieve together the flour, baking powder and mixed spice. Fold the flour into the creamed mixture. Add the apples, lemon rind and 1 tbp of the lemon juice and mix well. Add 4 ozs of the chopped walnut pieces (reserving the remaining 1 oz for the topping) and fold in gently.

Place the mixture in an 8" greased and lined cake tin and put into a preheated oven at 180C for 1 hour and 30 minutes. Cover the top of the cake with a piece of greased greaseproof paper after about 1 hour to prevent the top becoming too brown.

Meanwhile make the topping by beating together the cream cheese, icing sugar and the remaining lemon juice.

Allow the cake to cool and cover the top with the cream cheese topping and sprinkle over the remaining chopped nuts.

...and the forbidden fruit of the title...well, think of the Garden of Eden and living at Holly Grove is pretty close and we have the apple trees too!

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Marrow and Cheese Supper Dish

I've been searching for courgette/marrow recipes since discovering my giant courgettes a few days ago. Now, I could make more chutney or jam but I'm running out of jars and still have the damsons and apples to preserve, so Nigel Slater to the rescue! I've found a recipe for Courgette and Lancashire Cheese Crumble that will use up about a half of one of my marrow and provide us with a tasty autumnal supper.

In Nigel's the 'kitchen diaries' cookbook he makes his version on the 23rd of September and, as the recipe title says, uses Lancashire cheese with rosemary as the herb. I'm making my version on the 8th of September and using a strong Cheddar cheese and sage for the herb...good idea to adapt the recipe? Time and tasting will tell. So here's my version of Nigel's crumble...















Marrow and Cheddar Cheese Crumble

Makes 4 hearty helpings
Ingredients
For the tasty base

1 thick slice butter
1 onion, coarsely chopped
1 leek, sliced
1 tbsp HG sage leaves, finely chopped
4 small HG potatoes, scrubbed and cut into cubes
2 lbs HG marrow, skinned, deseeded and cut into cubes
150 ml vegetable stock
3 ozs Cheddar cheese, grated

For the crumble
4 ozs tomato ciabatta (or other bread)
3 ozs hazelnuts
1 tbsp HG sage leaves
2 ozs Cheddar cheese

Method
Melt the butter in a heavy based pan. Add the leek and onion and cook gently until softened. Add the chopped sage and the potatoes, stir well and then place a lid on the pan and cook gently for about 10 minutes. Add the marrow and cook for a further few minutes, then add the vegetable and replacing the lid cook again for about 5 minutes. Place the contents of the pan into a casserole dish.

Meanwhile prepare the crumble topping. Put the bread into a food processor and grind until coarse breadcrumbs, then add the walnuts and the sage leaves and chop until combined with the breadcrumbs. Finally add the Cheedar in small chunks and combine again. You now have your crumble topping.

Sprinkle the grated cheese over the top of the marrow mixture and then cover with the crumble mixture. Place in a pre-heated oven 180C for 35-40 minutes until the top is crisp and golden. Serve with salad and crusty bread to soak up the lovely juices.

The verdict from the Handyman is 'delicious! more please!'

Monday, 7 September 2009

Damsons for Jam

We have a number of damson trees in the hedgrows at Holly Grove. The first year at HG I picked the damsons too early, though I did make some good damson cheese with them, and last year we had no damsons at all, I put that down to a very wet and windy April. This year we have a fantastic crop and I've resisted picking them until they are fully ripe.















The Handyman has been keeping an eye on them for ripeness and with the news that they were ready, yesterday morning I selected the first batch to make some damson jam. A
simple jam recipe, the hardest part is extracting the stones from the jam before potting. And this morning I was rewarded with Holly Grove Damson Jam on my toast - it had set beautifully and retained the sharpness of the fruit - lovely!















Holly Grove Damson Jam

Makes about 5lbs
Ingredients
2lbs 8ozs HG damsons
3lbs granulated sugar
15 fl ozs water

Method
Wash the damsons and place them in a preserving pan with the water. Bring to the boil and then simmer gently for about 30 minutes or until the fruit is soft and liquid has reduced. Remove from the heat and add the sugar, stirring until dissolved.

Return the pan to the heat and bring to the boil. Boil rapidly, stirring frequently, for about 10-15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and test using a sugar thermometer - when a temperature of 221F is reached the jam is ready. Remove from the heat and leave to cool for 15 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon remove the stones from the jam and then pour into warmed, sterilised jars. Cover and label and store in a cool, dark place.

Friday, 4 September 2009

More Marrow (and Apple) Magic

Marrow from the greenhouse and apples off the tree, add time to prepare and a little care and you have Marrow and Apple Chutney. This is a recipe from one of my Mum's cookbooks - Good Housekeeping 1985 edition. I love using my Mum's books and finding her scraps of paper marking the pages of her favourite recipes or a new one she wanted to try - I've inherited the practice, lots of paper markers in my cookery books, and a new one now marking this recipe:


Marrow and Apple Chutney
Makes 6lbs

Ingredients

4lbs marrow, peeled and cut into chunks
3ozs salt
2lbs HG apples, peeled, core and chopped
1lb HG onions, chopped
1lb soft brown sugar

2pts distilled vinegar
1 level tsp ground ginger

½oz pickling spice 

Method
Put the chopped marrow pieces in a large bowl layered with the salt and leave overnight. This will draw out the excess liquid from the marrow. Next day rinse the marrow pieces and drain off the water and place them in a preserving pan.

Add the apples, onions, sugar, vinegar, ginger and spices. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer gently, uncovered, for about 2 hours, stirring from time to time, until the chutney becomes thick with no excess liquid.

Pour into warmed, sterilised jars and seal immediately. Label when cool and store in a cool, dark place for 1-2 months before using.

Pickling Spice

Pickling spice is a mixture of various spices to be added to the vinegar when making pickles and chutneys. Black peppercorns, red chillies, allspice, cloves, ginger, mustard seed, fennel seed, cardamom may be included. Here's a mix for pickling spice that can be varied according to your taste:

Ingredients
1 level tbsp mustard seed
1 level tbsp whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick, broken in 2 pieces
4 cardamom pods
6 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf, crumbled

Method
Mix all the ingredients together and store in an airtight jar in a cool dark place (not the fridge). Will keep for up to one month. Weigh out the required amount for your recipe and tie in a muslin bag to use.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Marrow Magic

What to do with a 9lbs 3ozs marrow? Two recipes come to mind: a lovely Warming Marrow soup that I first experimented with a few years ago when I went on holiday leaving a few courgettes and came home to a rather large couple of marrows - though nothing on the scale of this beauty.

And then, how about a Marrow and Apple chutney - using up some more HG apples and most of this large marrow. Firs
t thing to do with the marrow is peel, deseed and chop it into chunks - no mean feat, the skin was very thick and the flesh dense, so it took all of my muscle to cut through the marrow and then skin it. When I'd finally finished I had 5½lbs of marrow flesh - the skin was consigned to the compost heap and some of the seeds saved to be dried out for planting next Spring.

I put 4lbs of the marrow into large bowl layered with 3ozs rock salt, cove
red with clingfilm and left overnight to remove excess water - this marrow will be used in a Marrow and Apple chutney recipe - look out for a future post.

The remainder of the marrow - 1½lbs - was used for the Warming Marrow soup. A delicious soup that freezes well, so make more than you need and you'll have a taste of late Summer well into the Autumn - here's the recipe:

Warming Marrow Soup
Mkes 8-10 servings

Ingredients

1½lbs HG marrow, cut into chunks

1 large onion, chopped (or 2 small HG onions, chopped)
2 large HG carrots, diced
1 leek, sliced
a handful of HG runner beans, sliced
3 small HG garlic cloves, crushed
good glug of sunflower oil
1 tbsp cumin powder
salt and freshly ground black pepper

2½pts vegetable stock or water
hot chilli sauce,
to taste

Method

Place marrow, onion, leek, carrots, runner beans and crushed garlic in a large soup pot. Add a goodglug of sunflower oil and stir. Place over a medium heat with the lid on the pan. Cook gently for about 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the cumin powder, salt and pepper and stir to mix through the vegetables. Add the vegetable stock or water and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down to achieve a slow simmer and let the soup cook for about 1 hour - a longer cooking time is better than a shorter time. When all the vegetables are soft blitz with a hand held blender - I prefer a little texture left in the soup, though it is equally nice if made very smooth - then add some hot chilli sauce, tasting as you go until it is hot enough for your palate. Serve with crusty bread.

I've just added some caulifower florets and a couple of HG potatoes cut into chunks to the soup to provide a more substantial supper for the Hndyman and me this evening. We'll be eating late - soup and pudding evening - Warming Marrow Soup followed by Apple and Blueberry Crumble with Custard - yummee!

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Hedgerow Bounty

I walked through the lanes near Holly Grove yesterday morning scouting for blackberries. Such a slowpaced and pleasant activity, scanning the hedges for the beautiful black jewels, a lovely way to spend a late August morning. Time to let thoughts drift and allow eyes and ears to contemplate the diversity of an English hedgrow and its wildlife. The hedgrows surrounding our garden are made up of holly covered in green berries, hawthorn with its red berries, ivy, damson, hazel, dog rose, honeysuckle, sycamore and brambles.

So, after an hour or two of forraging I returned to the HG kitchen with one and a quarter pounds of hedgrow blackberries - so what to do with them...blackberry and apple cheese. Fruit cheeses are firm and can be cut into wedges or slices. Best served as an accompaniment to cold meats or dairy cheeses, or cut into slices and dredged in sugar and served as a sweetmeat.

So with the apples on one of the trees ready to pick I gathered the last of the red and white currents to augment the blackberries and set off to make:

Blackberry and Apple Cheese
Makes about 2lbs
Ingredients
2lbs blackberries (I used 1lb 4ozs blackberries and 12ozs red and white currents)
1lb apples, cut into chunks with skin and core intact
grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
1lb 12 ozs granulated sugar, warmed

Method
Put all the fruit and the lemon rind and juice in a preserving pan and pour in enough water to come half way up the fruit. Bring to the boil, then uncover and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the fruit is very soft.

Leave the fruit to cool slightly, then press the mixture through a sieve into a bowl, using the back of a spoon. Measure the puree into the cleaned preserving pan adding 14ozs sugar for every 1 pint of puree.

Gently heat the puree, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat slightly and cook for around 50 minutes, stirring frequently, until very thick - you should be able to see the base of the pan when a wooden spoon is drawn through the mixture.

Spoon the blackberry and apple cheese into warmed, sterilised jars. Seal and label the jars, then store in a cool, dark place for 2-3 months to dry out slightly.

Monday, 31 August 2009

Tomato and Apple Chutney

The Holly Grove tomato harvest is in and another use for the apple glut - Tomato and Apple chutney. I know, another chutney recipe, but it's that time of year and I need to do something with all this produce.


Most of these chutneys and jams I'll give to friends and colleagues, a few jars will make their way into Christmas hampers for neighbours and the rest the Handyman and I will munch our way through between Bonfire Night and next Summer. The most important thing is that I love making preserves...seeing lots of lovely fruit and vegetables turned into pretty jars of colourful and tasty goodness - no artificial preservatives, colours or other chemicals, just good HG produce, sugar and vinegar and...a great sense of satisfaction.


This is a dark and rich chutney, a spoonful of this on top of a baked potato filled with a mature Cheddar cheese - food heaven!















Tomato and Apple Chutney

Makes about 5lbs

Ingredients
3lbs HG tomatoes, peeled and chopped
3lbs HG apples, peeled, cored and chopped
2 large onions (or 4 small HG onions), chopped
2 HG garlic cloves, crushed
9ozs pitted dates, chopped
2 red peppers, seeds removed and cut into chunky pieces
2 dried red chillies
1tbsp black peppercorns
4 cardamom pods
1 tbsp coriander seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp sea salt
1 pint distilled malt vinegar
2lbs 4ozs granulated sugar (I used unrefined granulated)

Method
Put the prepared tomatoes, apples, dates, onion and garlic into a preserving pan. Slit the chillies lengthwise and add to the pan. Put the peppercorns and remaining spices into a grinder (or mortar and grind with a pestle, if you need the exercise) and roughly crush. Add the spices and salt to the pan.

Pour in the vinegar and the sugar and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the red pepper and cook for a further 30 minutes - you may need to turn the heat up to reach a faster simmer - stir more frequently as the chutney becomes thick and pulpy.

Spoon the chutney into warmed, sterilised jars. Seal the jars , label and store in a cool, dark place. The chutney will be ready to eat in 1 to 2 months time.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Plums Galore!

The Handyman spent a precarious hour plucking fruit from our knarled old plum tree. When we first came to Holly Grove we almost cut it down as we thought by the state of the trunk that it was diseased or dead or both. Thanksfully we were distracted by everything else that needed attention and left the plum tree alone.

Low and behold our first August here the tree provided a bumper crop of delicious and juicy Victoria plums (at least we think they are Victorias?). This year the wee tree has worked its magic again and I've had a tub of plums to preserve.

I've made about 7lbs of jam, 3lbs of hot plum chutney and 3lbs of stewed plums for the freezer; plus we've eaten rather a lot of fresh plums over the past week, oh, and a plum custard tart - yummy!

So here follows the recipe for Hot Plum Chutney:


Makes 3lbs

Ingredients
2lbs HG plums, halved and stoned
1 HG onion, finely chopped

3 inch piece fesh root ginger, peeled and grated
3 whole star anise
12 fl ozs white wine vinegar
8ozs soft light brown sugar
5 celery stick, thinly sliced

3 green chillies, seeded and finely sliced
2 HG garlic cloves, crushed

Method
Put the plums, onion, ginger and star anise in a preserving pan ans pour over half the white wine vinegar. Bring to the boil then simmer gently over a low heat forabout 30 minutes, or until the plums have softened.

Stir the remaining white wine vinegar, sugar, sliced celery, chillies and crushed garlic into the plum mixture. Cook very gently over a low heat, stirring until the sugar has completely dissolved.

Bring the mixture to the boil then simmer for about 45 minutes, or until thick with no excess liquid. Stir frequently as the mixture thickens to prevent it sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Spoon the chutney into warmed and sterlised jars. Cover with greasproof circles and seal immediately. Store the chutney in a cool, dark place and allow to mature for at least one month - use within 2 years.

Delicious with cold cuts and cheeses on Boxing Day - if you can resist temptation for that long!

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Busy in the Kitchen

Well, it's a lovely sunshiny day outside but I am too busy in the kitchen to venture into the garden. Little JM's birthday party tomorrow so I'm making a few things as my contribution to the event. Homemade vegetarian 'sausage' rolls from Delia's Christmas cookbook, some little bite-sized iced fairy cakes and a couple of cheesecakes from a Nigel Slater recipe and of course the Cheese Fingers recipe from a previous post.

I have made the strawberry cheesecake a few times, on each occasion it was well received. The most traumatic part of the making is removing the cheesecake from the baking tin, the 'baking' of the cake is by far the easiest part, so here's Nigel's recipe with my variation at the end.

Strawberry Mascarpone Tart

Ingredients
For the biscuit base
75g/3oz butter
250g/9oz almond, orange or sweet oat biscuits


For the filling
1 large free-range egg, separated
1 tbsp caster sugar
250g/9oz mascarpone cheese
2 drops vanilla essence
250g/9oz fresh strawberries, hulled, thinly sliced

Method
1.For the crumb case, melt the butter in a small saucepan.
2. Place the biscuits in a food processor and process to fine crumbs (alternatively, place in a plastic bag and bash with a rolling pin, taking care not to split the bag).
3. Mix the crumbs thoroughly with the melted butter and spoon into a 25cm/10in diameter loose-bottomed flan tin. Press the crumbs firmly over the base and up the sides of the tin to cover completely. Transfer to the fridge to chill until firm.
4. For the filling, place the egg yolk into a bowl with the caster sugar and whisk together.
5. Add the mascarpone and beat until thoroughly combined. Stir in the vanilla essence.
6. In a separate bowl, beat the egg white with a clean whisk until stiff peaks form when the whisk is removed from the bowl. Gently fold the egg white into the mascarpone mixture.
7. Remove the biscuit case from the fridge. Spoon the mascarpone mixture into the biscuit case and gently smooth the top with a spatula. Arrange the sliced strawberries on top of the mascarpone.
8. Transfer to the fridge and chill. Remove the tart from the fridge 20 minutes before serving

Variation: Mandarin Mascarpone Tart - Use tinned mandarin orange segments in place of the strawberries and add a little orange zest to the mascarpone mixture in place of the vanilla extract. I also added 2 heaped tablespoons of thick double cream to the mascarpone mixture for an even more decadent treat!

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Party Fare

My adorable grandson JM has his first birthday in a few days time and he and I are looking through recipe books for some ideas for his party food - nothing grand, just traditional children's party fare. In our search we've come across one of the first cookery books added to my library - Make More of Milk from the Scottish Milk Marketing Board circa 1975. Not the greatest of books but interesting as it seems to be of its era, and really quite 'Scottish' e.g. spring onions referred to as cyboes, oh and one of the oft-used ingredients in the desserts is 'Angel Delight'.















Anyway a couple of ideas from within it for JM's party including:


Cheese Fingers
Makes 10-12 fingers
Ingredients
185g puff pastry (the ready made fresh or frozen will be fine)
50g Cheddar cheese, grated
25g unsalted butter, melted
1 egg, lightly beaten
salt and pepper
a little milk for brushing the pastry

Method
Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 7/220C. Roll out pastry and divide into two squares. Lay one square on a lightly greased baking sheet.

Mix the cheese, melted butter, and and seasoning for the filling and spread evenly on the pastry leaving about 1cm around the edge clear of filling. Wet the edges and lay the second pastry square on top pressing down the edges to seal. Brush lightly with milk and place in the centre of the pre-heated oven for 20 to 30 minutes until golden brown.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before cutting into fingers. The fingers may be served warm or cold.

You can vary the filling by adding 2 chopped or sliced hard boiled eggs or a can of flaked tuna or in fact anything you might like to eat sandwiched in puff pastry - let your imagination run riot!

Friday, 14 August 2009

Technical Hitch

I've been off-line for about a week, problems with the PC which the Handyman is addressing - bless him for his many and varied skills! So no photos on this blog at the moment but some to follow soon...in the meantime you'll just have to use your imagination...

Ladies Who Lunch

My friend and colleague, G, came over for lunch last Friday. Her first visit to HG, so I thought I'd make use of some kitchen garden produce to provide us with a light but lovely lunch.
We started with Carrot and Coriander soup then followed up with Roasted Beetroot and Stilton salad with locally made crusty brown bread. The salad was simple to make, especially as I had prepared the beetroot the previous evening, and just right for an August lunch.

When trimming the beetroot for cooking twist the leafy stalks off rather than cutting them. This will ensure that you don't damage the skin of the beetroot and they don't 'bleed' into the water whilst cooking. I wash the beetroot thoroughly and leave the long tail of the root in place whilst cooking (for the same reason as twisting the stalks), then remove it with the skin once the beetroot is cooked and cool enough to handle. You do end up with pretty pink fingers, but by the time you've washed up the cooking pot (no dishwasher in this house) your hand-colour will have returned to normal.

So here's the way to make enough for two...

Roasted Beetroot and Stilton Salad
Ingredients
I bunch freshly pulled HG beetroot, about 300g

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp
crème fraiche
1 tbsp white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon creamed horseradish sauce (I added a bit more after tasting)
salad leaves - whatever you've got in the fridge or in the garden
75g Stilton cheese, crumbled

Method
Preheat the oven to gas mark 7, 220
oC. In a pan, cover the beetroot in cold water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, then drain and peel the beetroot. Toss the beetroot in 1 tbsp of olive oil and season.

Place the beetroot in a small roasting tin and cook in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, make the dressing: whisk together the remaining olive oil, crème fraiche, wine vinegar and horseradish. Season to taste. This makes about twice the amount of dressing you will need for two people - so you can reserve some of the dressing for use next day. (I added the left over dressing to a couscous salad next day - delicious!)

Toss the salad leaves and crumbled Stilton in the dressing. Arrange salad on 2 serving plates.

Remove the beetroot from the oven and cut into wedges/quarters. Arrange the beetroot on top of the salad, drizzle with a little more of the dressing and serve with brown crusty bread. (You can use the beetroot cold, as I did, having prepared it beforehand. Whatever you do don't use pickled beetroot).

G and I had a lovely afternoon, the weather was kind to us and we spent the whole time in the garden, much more like a Summer event. I'm sure sitting in the sunshine in the garden with the bees buzzing away contentedly made the food taste even better. Good food, good company and sunshine - what more could, or should, a person ask for!

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Tomatoes and Herbs

I was searching for inspiration tonight to use some pepperoni sausages bought on impulse at the weekend. I also had a craving to eat pasta, so the following recipe was the result. A simple and tasty meal for two...


Pasta Bake with Pepperoni, HG Tomatoes and HG Garden Herbs

(other tomatoes and herbs may be used but I can't guarantee the flavour!)
Ingredients
100g pasta (penne or similar)
75g pancetta, cubed
80g pepperoni or other spicy sausage, cut into chunky slices
400g chopped, deseeded and skinned HG tomatoes (or tinned chopped tomatoes)
1 generous tablespoon HG parsley, finely chopped
1 generous teaspoon HG rosemary, finely chopped
Pinch of crushed chillies
1/3 cup double cream
25g fresh breadcrumbs
4 tablespoons parmesan, grated

Method
Dry fry the pancetta and pepperoni until the pancetta is quite crisp (a pinch of crushed chillies may be added at this point). Remove the pancetta and pepperoni from the pan and pour away the oil. Add the tomatoes, parsley and rosemary to the pan and simmer for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile cook the pasta in boiling water for 7 minutes.

Add the cream to the tomato and stir well to combine. Add the pancetta and pepperoni to the tomato sauce and simmer for 3-4 minutes to slightly reduce the sauce. Add the drained
pasta to the sauce and mix well.

Pour the pasta mixture into a ovenproof dish (lasagne or gratin dish). Cover with the breadcrumbs and then with the grated parmesan. Place under a preheated grill for 5 minutes until parmesan is golden.

Serve with a green salad and garlic bread - yum, yum!

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Carrot and Coriander Soup

August and the weather is the same as most of July; wet and too cool for summer. So thoughts turn from gardening to cooking and what to do with the carrot crop.

My coriander didn't fair too well this year so I bought a bunch from our local market and with the Holly Grove carrots and tomatoes I thought a Carrot and Coriander soup would fit the bill.















Carrot and Coriander Soup
Ingredients

1 large onion, sliced
1 tablespoon vegetable or rapeseed oil
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1lb HG carrots, sliced
8ozs HG ripe tomatoes, peeled, deseeded and chopped (or a tin of chopped tomatoes)
2 pints vegetable stock
1 large bunch of fresh coriander, finely chopped (unfortunately not HG)
Several shakes of Tabasco sauce
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method
Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the onion and fry gently to soften, do not allow to brown. This will take about 5-10 minutes. Add the coriander powder to the onion and heat through. Transfer the onion mix to a soup pot and add the carrots, tomatoes and vegetable stock. Bring to a simmer and cook until the carrots are tender, about 30-40 minutes.

Remove the soup from the heat and liquidise. Return soup to pot and add Tabasco sauce, salt, pepper and the chopped coriander, reserving a little for a garnish. Heat through and then serve in bowls topped with a swirl of Greek yoghurt and a sprinkling of the reserved chopped coriander and good crusty brown bread. Enjoy!

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Rhubarb Ginger Muffins

Today just became a baking day...comforting to be in the kitchen when the weather isn't fine enough for the jobs I have to do in the garden. I found this recipe in one of J's cookery books when I visited last weekend and it gives me a chance to use some HG rhubarb in a slightly different way from the usual pies and crumbles. The muffins turned out light and retained some of the rhubarb's tartness alongside the ginger spice - give them a try and you won't be disappointed.















Rhubarb and Ginger Muffins
Ingredients

300g self-raising flour

2 tsps ground ginger
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt
140g castor sugar

150g fresh rhubarb, finely diced


1 egg, lightly beaten
150ml semi-skimmed milk
150ml crème fraiche
4 tblsps vegetable oil
1 tblsp demerara sugar

Method
Heat the oven to
gas mark 5/190oC/375oF/fan oven 170oC. Line a muffin tin with 12 paper muffin cases. Mix together all of the dry ingredients (except the demerara sugar) in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the diced rhubarb.

In a separate bowl mix together the egg, milk, crème fraiche and vegetable oil. Add this to the bowl of dry ingredients and mix briefly until just combined. Spoon the batter into the muffin cases and sprinkle with the demerara sugar. Bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes until well risen and golden. Cool in the muffin tin for 5 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack.

These muffins freeze well for up to one month.
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