Sunday, 24 July 2016

bramley apple, pernod and maple syrup summer pudding

... well yes, the summer has finally arrived and these past four days have been beautiful... oh yes folks, didn't anyone tell you that summer in the UK only lasts for four days, probably in July but could actually be in September or in fact could even be in May.  Everyone goes crazy; barbecues are lit, picnic rugs are found and rescued from the deepest recesses under the bed and the cobwebs are (literally here folks) dusted off the sun loungers... it all gets thrown onto the lawn or into the nearest park and we celebrate until we're inebriated after which we can all pull our winter wardrobe back on and relax into the steady decline that is autumn...  So yes, maybe I am a little sarcastic here but after my short trip to Ibiza where we had 5 solid days of sun, which had been receded by weeks of solid sun and will no doubt be followed by weeks more of solid sun, i'm afraid the 'it's hotter in the UK today that it is in Ibiza' line just doesn't cut the mustard thank you very much and you can all jolly well bugger off.  One day does not a summer make.  It does make for nice apples however and the Bramleys are in particularly good form...

bramley apple, pernod and maple syrup summer pudding
it being July makes it my turn out of the four Bramley Ambassadors to make a Bramley Apple dish and because it's the 'height' of summer I thought i'd go for a classic summer pudding but with a twist. The Bramley is most definitely the star of the show here but both the gloriously deep and rich maple syrup along with the fiery undertones of the aniseed pernod compliment them wonderfully.  It's like a rich apple pie plus the little dash of pernod soaked into the bread makes for a sinfully grownup pudding. The natural firm texture of the apples is perfect here as they break down a little but still keep their bite... i've added some sultana's for some different texture but I also like it pure, it's entirely up to you...

This recipe is part of a campaign that i've been working on since the end of last year, posting recipes with different themes along with other food bloggers. I kicked off the campaign in October with a divine Apple and Sausage Pie recipe for Bramley Apple Pie Week and then in January I made the most incredible Apple and Parsnip Soup followed by Roast Sausages with Bramley Apple Cheddar Mash in April

a few slices of thick cut white bread - crusts removed
400g bramley apples (roughly 3 apples) - peel and roughly chopped into large chunks
a hand full of sultanas
2 or 3 tablespoons manly syrup - depending on taste
2 tablespoons pernod
2 teaspoon red wine vinegar

i'm using a 15cm round pudding basin

use a little butter to grease your pudding basin then take the slices of bread and patchwork them into the basin... I usually cut a circle for the base and then triangles for the sides, fitting in pieces where there are patches... make sure you leave enough bread for a lid

in a pan add the apples, sultanas pernod, maple syrup and vinegar and gently heat... you want it to heat through for a few minutes so the whole thing is gently bubbling but so that the apple doesn't lose it's texture

pour the fruit into the pudding, place the lid on top and then place a small plate on top of the pudding - small enough so that it touches the pudding, then place something heavy on top and pop it in the fridge for at least 24 hours

once you're ready to serve turn the pudding upside down and tap it on top... sometimes the pudding drops out easily but on occasion the butter used to line the dish solidifies and you may have to wait a while for it to melt and release the pudding

if you have any Bramley recipes or are looking for further inspiration try the Bramley Apple instagram or Facebook feeds as they're a wealth of fabulous information and lovely photo's... and don't forget, if you share your recipes and photo's then use #LoveEnglishBramley

serve with even more maple syrup, eat and of course, enjoy!


Thursday, 14 July 2016

cherry brandy sponge cake with chocolate ganache and cherry brandy cream

... so we're off to Ibiza for the weekend.  It's a little bit of a work and holiday all rolled into one and whilst I am of course looking forward to a little sun and warmth I am a little petrified about the level of alcohol consumption that's about to take place... you see we are joining our favourite clients for their annual sales meeting and these lovely people are young and know how to have a lot of fun.  I've never been to Ibiza before, preferring the more sedate and reclusive vibes of our little old town in Mallorca but of course I grew up in the 80's and fully understand the lure of the party island of Ibiza... I just never made it there. In a past life The Viking was a club promoter, working with some of the coolest club creatures in town.  It was very hedonistic and lasted for a glorious decade before we moved into the even more creative arena of event production but because of the pressure of promoting other people's Saturday nights we always made sure that when we went on holidays we went somewhere as far away from this as we could.  Many people couldn't understand why we didn't do the clubbing holiday thing but we were happy to leave it all behind and find a mountain to climb... Anyway, I'm sure it will be fun but just in case I don't resurface until the end of next week here's something sweet to sink your teeth into...

cherry brandy sponge cake with chocolate ganache and cherry brandy cream
after all my sugar-free and clean baking recently I really need to dip into something a little bit naughty and the cherries are absolutely stunning at the moment, sweet and sharp and fat and juicy and so dark they bleed the most gloriously gory blood red and stain everything.  You do't really need the cherry brandy in this but i've used just a drop and just a drop lifts the whole cherry taste to somewhere rather special and if you're going to eat this much butter and sugar then why not make it extra special.  What I love most about this cake is that it looks so wonderful but really it's such a basic layer cake with some nice ingredients in the sponge mix to add a little flair to the cherry taste.  If I made it again i'd spread a little cherry jam on both layers before adding the cream to add a little more moisture to the whole thing... but other than that it was pretty near perfect.

for the cake
250g sugar
250g butter
3 large free-range eggs
200g Homepride self-raising flour
50g ground almonds
the finely grated zest of one orange
1 tablespoon cherry brandy or kirsch

for the filling
400ml double cream
1 tablespoon cherry brandy or kirsch
a large punnet of cherries - halves and pitted - reserve 8 whole with stalks for the top

for the cherry brandy ganache
100ml double cream
100g dark chocolate
2 tablespoons cherry brandy or kirsch

pre-heat the oven to 170C and great and line 2 20cm loose-bottomed cake tins and then dust the inside edges with ground almonds

measure out the flour and ground almonds, mix together and set aside

in a large bowl or a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until beautifully light and creamy, then add 1 egg and beat in followed by a third of the flour mix, then the next egg, beat in and another third of the flour mix, then add the orange zest and cherry brandy followed by the final egg and remaining flour and beat together until you have a soft dropping batter mix (a little drop of milk will help slacken if it's too thick

divide evenly between the two cake tins and bake on the middle shelf for 20 mins or until golden and risen and a skewer inserted comes out clean - set aside to cool completely

make the ganache by heating the cream and cherry brandy in a pan then once it's pipping hot but not boiling take it off the heat and add the chocolate.  Stir until it has melted then set aside

beat the cream until thick and then fold in the cherry brandy

assemble the cake by spreading some cherry jam onto the top of the first layer, followed by the cream, place the cut cherries on top, then spread a little jam on the underside of the top layer and carefully place it on top

spread the thickening ganache onto the top of the cake - don't be afraid to let a little dribble down the sides - then add the whole cherries with stalks on top

eat and of course, enjoy!

Sunday, 10 July 2016

green bean and chickpea coconut curry

... isn't it funny how we favour certain vegetables and that they seem to become fridge staples because we know they work so well and that everyone in the family will eat them?  I'm lucky because I don't have any kids around to grumble about eating greens and with The Viking being a vegetarian he's a massive vegetable fan, whatever it is... looking back on recipes here on Belleau Kitchen I notice that I have a thing for green beans.  They seems to be in nearly every savoury dish I make.  No exaggeration.  I think my love for them stems from the fact that my mum used to serve them a lot in meals when we were kids and I used to help her top and tail them, preparing them for the pot.  They're a simple sweet vegetable, available all year round thanks to some very clever farmers in kenya and I think they work really well in both winter dishes such a stews, summer dishes such as salads and of course curries like this lovely little recipe...

green bean and chickpea coconut curry
I do love a creamy coconut curry... knocked together with lazy abandon on a Sunday afternoon with the veg you have left-over in the fridge and a tin of chickpeas.  The inspiration for chickpeas, which in fact I rarely use, came from my adorable friend and London neighbour Jenny who made me the most inventive coconut chickpea curry last week.  It was so simple and yet so packed with flavour I just had to make myself a version.  Chickpeas are so perfect here as they're quite filling and add a bite to the rest of the dish which is quite soft.  I absolve the fact that because you're cooking them in the curry you don't actually need any rice or carb to eat with this so it's a really simple one-pot meal too.  Perfect for any time of year but always nice when the 'summer' sun is high in the sky and you can dine al-fresco...

1 medium onion - finely chopped
1/2 fennel bulb - finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic - peeled and finely sliced
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
2 crushed cardamon seeds
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 large carrot - peeled and sliced
a large handful of green beans - topped and tailed and cut in halves
a handful of tenderstem broccoli - cut into large chunks
1 400ml can of chickpeas - rinsed well
1 400ml can of coconut milk
2 tablespoons ground almonds
seasoning and olive oil

gently heat a little butter and olive oil in a large pan with lid, throw in the onion and fennel and let it sweat for 5 mins without browning, then when the onion is beginning to soften, add the garlic and all the spices and stir around and let is sweat again for another 5 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the spices are nutty and dark brown

add the carrots, broccoli and green beans and pop the lid on and let them sweat for about 5 mins, then add the coconut milk and chickpeas and let the whole thing bubble away gently for no less than 30 minutes, longer if you have it, stirring in the ground almonds 15 minutes before serving

eat and of course, enjoy!

Thursday, 7 July 2016

poppyseed and fennel seed crackers

... it's funny having lived most of my life in London but never having gone to Wimbledon to watch the tennis.  It seems like one of those British institutions that simply must be done in ones life and thanks to an adorable client The Viking and I got ourselves centre court tickets to watch the women's semi-finals today.  It was quite thrilling as we got to watch both Williams sisters in action, although the first match was over in moments with a win from Serena and the second wasn't too sloppy either although Venus was beaten by Angelique Kerber in a ferociously fast set of games.  It's an incredible atmosphere and you're surrounded by the hoi polloi of the tennis world who all look like they wouldn't say boo to a goose but get quite excitable you can't help but be swept up by the whole thing. It was a great privilege and one that neither of us can see ourselves repeating in the near future so we do count ourselves very lucky... of course I was also there for the Pimm's (which came on tap) and of course the strawberries and cream.  Apparently there are swathes of fields in Kent where they grow special strawberries just for the Wimbledon fortnight and I have to say they tasted rather lovely but of course it's the 'being there' that I'm sure adds to the flavour.  Centre Court tickets are expensive but you can gain entry to the grounds for a much more reasonable price and watch all the big matches on a big screen on 'Murray Mound' where you really do feel part of the action and atmosphere. A thoroughly wonderful and very British day out which i'd highly recommend...

poppyseed and fennel seed crackers
for the life of me i'd never thought of making my own crackers which is utterly insane as we get through a huge amount of cheese in this household and the cracker is the ultimate vehicle to get said cheese into ones gob... well actually the hand is probably the best vehicle for getting the cheese into ones gob but when i'm not scarfing handfuls of cheese late in the evening i'm in need of an elegant cracker that whilst has a wonderful crunch and flavour it's subtle enough not to overwhelm the cheese itself and get too carried away with it's own personality.  These little beauties are really easy to make and i'm sure you could get quite inventive with the seasoning but remember to keep it simple and elegant...

300g homepride plain flour, plus extra for rolling
2 teaspoons baking powder
85g butter
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
2 teaspoons poppy seeds

pre-heat the oven to 160C fan and line a baking sheet with parchment.

place the flour, baking powder, butter, fennel and poppy seeds with ½ a teaspoon of salt in a food processor and whizz for a minute until the butter is completely mixed with the flour. Add 100ml water and pulse until the mixture comes together to a firm dough

roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface as thinly as you can and then cut into shapes... you could use a round scone cutter but I used a clever fluted cutting wheel to create my shapes which all ended up a little different sized but I felt this added to their home-made look... space them out on the backing sheet and prick all over with a fork

bake for 15 - 20 mins until the biscuits feel dry and sandy with a slightly golden colour around the edges - they may still feel soft but will harden up when cooling. Cool on the baking sheet.

i've had them in an air-tight container for the past two weeks and they're still nicely crunchy and very tasty

eat and of course, enjoy!

Saturday, 2 July 2016

sugar-free brownie heaven

... so I thought i'd pick up the sugar-free baton again now that we're getting closer to my very exciting collaboration with Leisure Range Cookers - more on that later in the summer but  I need to get into practice and there's nothing I love better than spending the weekend pottering in the kitchen, testing recipes and trying new ingredients.  If i'm honest, when I started trying our sugar-free recipes I really wasn't convinced i'd last and anyone who can recall the rancid sugar-free chocolate cake I made a month or so back will probably be aghast that i'm even attempting this trend again but here I am and having done much more research and quite a bit of purchasing I've found two recipes which i've adapted that I am supremely pleased with...

...the first is a basic brownie recipe by the delightful John Whaite, he of Great British Bake-Off fame.  It uses divinely sweet medjool dates to replace the sugar and a banana for extra sweetness.  I've added the fennel seeds for a sophisticated aniseed hit along with some almonds and ground almonds for some crunch.  It's not 100% what you'd call a 'clean' cake because it uses butter but let's face it, a brownies true purpose in life, its foundation if you will, is butter so I have to forgive this recipe and they really did taste wonderful...

... the second brownie recipe is by my new favourite chef turned food-writer Henrietta Inman who's brilliant book Clean Cakes has been a revelation to me.  It doesn't condescend and explains things in a clearly considered way.  It is very worthy but unlike the Deliciously Ella's of this world, Henrietta's work comes from years of experience as a pastry chef so you get the impression that she knows what this shit is supposed to taste like and not replacing sugar with brick dust.  I've messed around with the original recipe slightly, adding desiccated coconut and banana again which I think has made them a little less rich. There are a LOT of ingredients i've had to purchase just to even try the most basic of recipes so it is more complicated and probably unlikely that you'd have this stuff in your average store cupboard but again the results were pretty phenomenal, if a little less traditional tasting...

sugar-free date, almond, fennel seed and banana brownies
it’s undeniable that sugar-free baking can sometimes be a little complex with lots of ingredients needed to enhance the texture and flavours that you lose from not using refined sugar. It’s not that those ingredients are rare it’s just that they’re not your usual ‘store cupboard’ regulars and so I was keen to go back to basics with this recipe and try and knock-out something that was pretty simple to do, had mostly ingredients that you’d be likely to have in your cupboards already but that was still sugar-free and of course ultimately tasty. These brownies really hit the spot and not only are the divine but they are super-easy to make!

200g pitted medjool dates - chopped
100ml boiling water
1 very ripe banana - mashed
50g wholemeal rye flour
25g ground almonds
75g unsweetened cocoa powder (or raw cocoa powder)
130g unsalted butter, melted
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
2 large free-range eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
100g almonds – roughly chopped

preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas mark 4. Grease and line the base and sides of a 20cm square cake tin

place the chopped dates in a bowl and pour over the boiling water and leave to soak for about 15 minutes

gently melt the butter in a small pan along with the fennel seeds so they infuse into the butter

after 15 minutes, spoon the dates into a blender or food processor along with the banana and blitz until they are shredded, then pour in the melted butter and fennel seeds and add the rest of the ingredients, except for the chopped almonds and blitz again until you have a thick glossy paste

stir in 2/3’rds of the chopped almonds and then spoon the mixture into the brownie tin and sprinkle the remaining almonds on top

bake for 15 – 20 minutes until the top is firm to the touch – set aside on a wire rack to cool completely in its tin, then cut into squares
chocolate, coconut and banana truffle brownies
these are very special and you can tell by the way Henrietta writes about them that they're going to be special so I was very excited about making them... of course I wanted to compare them to the less complicated versions above but I also used ingredients I already had and added a few of my own and as I say above the results really are rather wonderful and with their fudgey richness a complete contract to the others which makes me more than happy...

100g raw virgin coconut oil
150g raw cocoa powder
250g coconut sugar
1teaspoon sea salt flakes
4 large free-range eggs - beaten 
1 ripe banana - mashed
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
80g brown teff flour
50g desiccated coconut
50g coconut flakes
100g pecans - roughly chopped

preheat the oven to 170C and grease and line a 30cm x 20cm brownie tin

add the sugar, salt, flour, half the pecans and desiccated coconut to a large bowl and stir together

in a small pan over a very low heat, melt the coconut oil then add the cocoa powder and stir in until you have a glorious shiny liquid, then pour this over the coconut sugar and flour mix until combined then add the beaten eggs, vanilla and banana and stir vigorously together

pour into the brownie tin and sprinkle over the remaining pecans and the coconut flakes

bake for 15 to 20 minutes until the flakes are toasted and a skewer inserted comes out clean then cool on a wire rack.  serve in small slices as this is very very rich...

i'm entering these chocolate brownies into the brilliant we should cocoa link-up which has been so expertly hosted by Choclette from Tin and Thyme over the years that it's become something of a bloggers institution and I encourage you all to take part if you can, particularly this month as the theme is the very free and easy 'anything goes'

some other glorious brownie recipes:

raspberry fudge brownies by Tin and Thyme

salted chocolate brownies by Lavender and Lovage

nutella brownies by My Kitchen in the Rockies

eat and of course, enjoy!

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

frozen raspberry cake there you go... The discontented voices were listened to by the lowest dregs of humanity who took their discontent and fed them lies and then rose to victory on the hot air of right-wing phobia-ism. As a result the world became a smaller, fractured place... It's happened before and it will happen again.  On the surface, the world seems like such a liberal place but as it gently swings to the right I fear for those of us sensible enough to see how good humanity can be. There's so much that I want to write about fear and hatred but I also realise that this food blog is not the place to do that, so i'll leave it well alone and concentrate on something British that we can be proud of... British Flour...

... Homepride have been making flour using 100% British wheat since the 1920's. It's become an iconic brand in the UK - their website has an excellent page about their history with some wonderful retro advertising - and those of us young enough will remember the little character Fred,  introduced in the 60's, with his traditionally British bowler hat.  I seem re-call that my grandma had a set of Fred salt and pepper shakers and my mum had a pair of stripy Homepride flour caddies.  These little bits of merchandising, now commonplace with big corporate brands, were an innovation back then and have formed a special part of many of our childhood memories of home and kitchen and good cooking.  So when dear Fred personally asked me to become one of his special Homepride Bakers I jumped at the chance.  He's actually sent me a years supply of self-raising and plan flour - which, let me tell you, as a regular baker of both cakes and pastries, is quite a big deal - and I will proudly use it.  I can also exclusively reveal that they will be releasing their first strong white bread flour onto the market this year, a product that I have been trialling for them with a comparison test that I will be publishing on my blog at some point over the summer.

It's funny because i'm not really a brand fanatic but I am very loyal.  I guess it may be because I work in the marketing industry and have an understanding of how these things work but, with store-cupboard basics like flour, I would normally go for price over a brand name and it has to be said, there's very little in it when it comes to basic flour but I think it's lovely to be working with such a nice British company and there's no doubt that the quality and performance of this flour is just how I like it... practically perfect.

frozen raspberry cake
so when I first posted photo's of this on social media under the name 'frozen raspberry cake' I had a couple of queries asking me how it could be a cake and frozen at the same time, or questioning the name i'd given it and instead suggesting the name raspberry ice-cream cake but, as is usually the case with 'new media' it was simply a misunderstanding of sentence structure and which word to stress.  For you see it twas my raspberries what were frozen and not the cake.  They came from the freezer and into the cake without a defrost... and yes, they almost froze the cake into the bowl of the stand mixer and we nearly had raspberry cake batter ice-cream but it all seemed to work out rather wonderfully in the end...

I used 2 x 22cm loose-bottomed cake tins which I greased, lined with parchment and then lightly dusted with the flour and ground almond mix

300g butter - at room temperature
300g sugar
4 large free-range eggs
250g Homepride self-raising flour
50g ground almonds
100g frozen raspberries
1/2 teaspoon rose water - Neilsen-Massey make a nice one

pre-heat the oven to 170C fan

stir the flour and ground almonds together in a bowl and set aside

in a large bowl, cream together the sugar and butter until pale and fluffy - a stand mixer will take 4 minutes and a hand-held mixer roughly 5 mins or a wooden spoon 10 minutes.

beat in one egg followed by 1/4 of the flour and ground almond mix, then beat in 2 eggs and 3/4 of the remaining flour, then add the rose water, final egg and remaining flower and beat together until you have a thick batter

add the frozen raspberries and vigorously beat in (with the stand mixer on high) for a minute until the raspberries break up and the batter begins to thicken like an ice-cream

divide the batter into the two prepared baking tins and spread down with a pallet knife... the batter will be stiff but keep going until they are even and flat

bake for 40 minutes or until they are risen and golden and firm but spongey to the touch - set aside to cool in their tins

to dress the cake I used 300ml double cream that I whipped to the very thick stage and then covered each layer in cream and more whole raspberries

eat and of course, enjoy!

Saturday, 25 June 2016

salmon with mint, avocado and a fried egg

... despite the fact that most of the counties voting opinions differ from mine, there are still some wonderful things to be said about Lincolnshire and of course one of them is the food and fresh produce. From the fresh crops in the green fields and the incredible cheese produced on dairy farms,  to the succulent fish in the North Sea there's a lot of beautiful and very tasty stuff that we have to offer and as you know from the many ramblings on this blog I am proud of those producers who work tirelessly to create tasty, local food for our dinner plates.  One such company is the Big Fish Brand who have developed a lovely range of poach-in-the-bag salmon and fishcakes and I was lucky enough to be sent a selection to try...

... the BigFish Brand seafood dishes are made from responsibly sourced atlantic salmon and prepared with pride by JCS Fish in Grimsby. Their heritage dates back nearly 100 years to Jack Carlisle Smith, an early pioneer of Grimsby's once thriving seafood industry and they have combined their experience and traditional skills with modern technology to develop this range.

Of course the concept of 'poach-in-the-bag' is not new but it seems to have fallen out of favour of late for ill-conceived 'fresh' produce under the presumption that fresh is best when in reality, whilst fresh food may be the nicest way to eat your food it is by no means the tastiest, or healthiest and it's most certainly not the most convenient.  Plus for many, fish can be off-putting because of the misconception that it's fiddly to cook or smelly.  Well these little bags of loveliness do away with all that.  They can be cooked direct from the freezer or defrosted and can be poached or microwaved in their bags or oven-baked in foil.  The poach-in-the-bag method is great if you want a quick and tasty meal in 15 minutes and the bag reduces any nasty fishy whiffs - not that i've ever been bothered by this but some people are a little odd...

The range comes pre-marinated in a selection of contemporary and classic flavours and I tried the sweet chilli and the garden mint which were both very good.  The fish was succulent and perfectly pink and the marinades weren't overwhelming as many sauces can be, they simply complimented the salmon perfectly.

salmon with mint, avocado and a fried egg
i'm on a bit of a high-protein binge at the moment and having just come back from the gym I wanted something tasty but simple to prepare and most importantly I had those crazy post-workout cravings so I needed to eat something quickly.  This dish of 'poach-in-the-bag' salmon along with the ripe avocado and a cheeky fried egg satisfied me entirely... and made a nice change from the regular avocado on toast. The fish takes 15 minutes to poach from frozen which gave me enough time to gently fry my egg in a little butter and olive oil and slice some avocado on top.  I love my fried eggs solid but with a little runniness left in the yolk and I do this my frying it slowly and then taking it off the heat when it looks ready so that it retains the heat of the pan but the yolk stops cooking... utterly divine!

Big Fish Brand salmon packs are available in good farm shops and on-line at ocado

eat and of course, enjoy!



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