Wednesday, 28 September 2016

shortbread biscuits with chocolate, mixed seeds and fruit

... a couple of weeks back Niamh from Eat Like A Girl, Kate from Veggie Desserts, Helen from Food Stories and myself took part in a couple of brilliant live Tribes To Table cooking events for Leisure Range Cookers.  They split us into cooking tribes and we each whipped up a dish based on these tribes in front of a live audience of media and The Guardian newspaper readers.  We each used a different range cooker from the collection so the audience could also see how well the products worked. As you know from previous posts, I baked my sugar-free banana and fennel seed brownies.  Niamh was the head of the Fish Tribe and she cooked the most incredible razor clams and oysters under a silky bed of motoyaki mayonnaise.  I adore shell-fish and razor clams are one of my favourites so this was a huge treat for me... as head of the Vegetable Tribe, Kate baked us a beetroot pizza with beet leaf pesto.  Kate is keen for us to use the veg from 'root to tip' and this was a really tasty and very colourful example of how to do that... and then finally Helen, as head of the Meat Tribe, made a rather fabulous shawarma spiced lamb, influenced by her travels to the middle east.  This really was a 'main event' dish and I loved that it was served with pitta bread and yoghurt as it made it all feel very hands on, which when eating is my favourite way!

clockwise from top left; Helen's lamb, Niamh's shellfish, my brownies and Kate's pizza

It was a fun couple of days and whilst I'm always a little nervous about cooking live in front of an audience, once I got into my stride I really enjoyed myself.  Each demo ended with a glorious sit-down meal where we feasted on the food we'd just cooked, which was both excellent for its indulgence but also a little scary as the good people of the media tucked into our cooking... it seems everyone departed with smiles on their faces and of course I got to spend time with some of my favourite bloggers and eat their food of course!

the gang introduce themselves

the tribes busy at work

our delicious meal

shortbread biscuits with chocolate, mixed seeds and fruit
there are times when a fast cookie is the only way to happiness... it doesn't have to be a thing of beauty but of course the eyes being the gateway to the brain, it helps.  These shortbread biscuits are ideal to satisfy a sweet craving and whilst all that butter and sugar is devastating for the calorie counter you're really only going to have one or two right plus the fruity and mixed seed topping has the appearance of a healthy snack so you can always fool yourself into thinking these are good for you!  I adore shortbread and there are many recipes out there that include all kinds of bizarre ingredients but for me, these are the classics.  They're excessively crumbly and beautifully moreish, even if, like The Viking, you brush the topping off to get to the main event... the fool.

225g unsalted butter - room temperature
110g caster sugar
225g plain flour
110g cornflour
a pinch of salt

1 packet of mixed fruit and seeds
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 tablespoon icing sugar
a little milk to mix

line a large tray with parchment paper - i squished all my biscuits onto one tray because i'm lazy and don't care about perfectly round cookies but if you care then use two trays

place the butter and sugar into a large bowl and cream together until light and fluffy... I used my glorious meg stand mixer but an electric hand-held whisk or even a wooden spoon would work.

sift the flour and cornflour into the bowl, add the salt and mix together until smoothly combined. bring together into a ball and set aside

stretch out a large piece of clingfilm and lay the shortbread dough onto it, gently pulling it out into a sausage shape... roll the cling film around it and then roll the sausage out to your desired thickness... I like my biscuits nice and fat, so my sausage was quite thick but feel free to go as thin as you like... wrap tightly and pop in the fridge for 30 mins for it to harden

when you're ready to bake, pre-heat the oven to 170C, unwrap the sausage from the clingfilm and slice it into biscuits, lay these out onto the baking tray and sprinkle with your selection of chopped nuts, seeds and dried fruit and bake for 15 to 20 minutes until just beginning to turn golden, then set aside on a wire rack to cool

to make the chocolate drizzle, simply add a dash of milk or water to the cocoa powder and icing sugar and gently stir to combine into a thick paste... then thin down slowly with more milk to reach the desired consistency

eat and of course, enjoy!

Sunday, 25 September 2016

tenderstem and mushroom pie with lincolnshire poacher cheese sauce and spinach lattice pastry

... back to the cottage after our lovely holiday and it seems that the harvest is almost over!  The seasons have swung their pendulum once more and we gradually drift into autumn.  I am of course a huge fan of autumn so this is not a problem for me at all but it's always a shock to come home to find the golden fields gone and now furrowed with dark brown tracks, although what a lot of people don't realise is that many of them have already been sown with next years crop and before long they will be green again with tender shoots.  The Viking and I celebrated our joint birthdays yesterday by chilling out at home and soaking in the garden and surrounding fields, it's like recharging the batteries, even though we've just had a holiday we were rushing around frantically absorbing the culture and so nothing beats coming home... we like to sit on the bench outside the front door, which overlooks the countryside... it's like watching a movie of the changing seasons.  Last year we managed to sit outside every Sunday until November without the need of coats as it was so mild... I wonder what date we'll reach this year?

as you know, I have a huge love for locally and seasonally grown produce and so when the good folk at tenderstem got in touch to ask me to help celebrate the tenderstem growing season, which is from June to November, I jumped at the chance to show off a little Lincolnshire produce.  Tenderstem are a relatively new development on the vegetable scene, created in Japan using traditional plant-breeding techniques they are a cross between broccoli and chinese kale... they have a light and sweet broccoli flavour that is not too overpowering and as the name suggests you can eat the whole stem which is brilliant as we all hate food waste and need more green stuff in our lives.  We grown plenty of tenderstem here in Lincolnshire and in fact all over the UK and to celebrate, tenderstem have launched an interactive map which allows you to find out more about where tenderstem is sown, grown, served and celebrated... from finding farmers who harvest it in the UK and recipes from bloggers such as myself who love cooking with it, to restaurants in the local area who serve tenderstem as part of their menu.... all you have to do is enter your city or postcode to get started... well worth the visit.

tenderstem and mushroom pie with lincolnshire poacher cheese sauce and spinach pastry   
the Lincolnshire Poacher cheese is really rather wonderful... I've written about it many a time on this blog but if you haven't tried it do hunt it down.  In the UK it can be found at any reputable cheese shop but further afield you might want to try ordering it on-line from our local cheese shop who will deliver worldwide.  It's made on a farm all but 2 fields away so it couldn't get more local and I adore it.  It has the taste of a strong cheddar with parmesan overtones.  I use it regularly as a parmesan replacement... it makes a knock-out cheesy sauce and works beautifully with vegetables and pasta...

i've gone for the green shortcrust for two reasons... firstly I think the green pastry is beautiful and the colour enhances the treat inside and also tastes great but I was also influences heavily by the adorable Kate from Veggie Desserts with whom I worked on the recent Leisure Cooker Tribes To Table event and who made the most glorious and bright purple beetroot pizza.  Her brightly coloured vegetable cakes, pastries and breads are such incredible fun and so I was keen to have a go and this seemed like the perfect dish!... plus the aroma of baked spinach in the pastry is quite quite divine!

for the pastry
250g plain flour - i'm using a local flour milled at the beautiful Alford Windmill
75g cold butter - cut into small pieces
a pinch of salt
100g fresh spinach leaves
2 stalks of tenderstem broccoli
a splash of water

for the cheese sauce
40g butter
40g plain flour
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 pint of milk or 1/2 pint of milk and 1/2 pint stock
75g Lincolnshire Poacher cheese (or a strong cheddar)

for the filling
4 large flat mushrooms (field or portobello) - halved and then thickly sliced
1 sprig of rosemary
1 prig of thyme
fresh chives
2 packs (240g) tenderstem - roughly chopped
salt and pepper
olive oil and butter

to make the pastry, start with the 'green' element which is the spinach and tenderstem which you should place in a large pan with a lid, add a little sprinkling of water and season well, then gently heat until the spinach and tenterstem are soft, then whizz them to a pulp with a stick blender - set aside

sieve the flour into a large bowl, add the butter and rub it into the flour, raising your hands high as you do to allow plenty of air to get into the flour until you have a rough breadcrumb texture

add two tablespoons of the green vegetable puree and using one hand shaped like a claw begin to stir the flour and butter together, it should start to come together into a dough but you may need to add a dash more of the puree to bind it together, knead it well so that the green is evenly distributed but fast as you don't want the flour to be tough

once the dough is formed, tip it out onto some cling film, pat it out into a flattish disk, wrap it up and pop it in the fridge for 30 mins

pre-heat the oven to 170C and butter a 20cm round pie-dish

to make the pie, gently heat some olive oil and a little butter in a large pan, then pop in the mushrooms and fresh herbs, stir and pop on the lid for 6 minutes.. the large mushrooms should release all their water and soften quickly, then remove the lid, turn up the heat a little add some salt and plenty of black pepper and saute until the mushrooms take on the lovely golden colour

add the chopped tenderstem on top of the mushrooms in the pan, pop the lid back on, turn the heat to it's lowest and let the tenderstem gently heat through for 6 minutes - you really don'tt need to cook them for very long as they are so tender and the crunch of the vegetables add a great texture -  then turn the heat off and set aside until you've made the cheese sauce

make the cheese sauce by melting the butter gently in a small pan, once melted, remove from the heat and stir in the flour into a smooth but thick paste then add a dash of the milk/stock and stir into a paste.

place the pan back on a gentle heat and slowly add a little milk at a time, stirring well between additions... if it looks like it may become lumpy take the pan off the heat and stir until smooth.  Continue this way until all the milk is gone and you have a nicely thick sauce - let it bubble away very gently on the heat for 10 minutes, stirring regularly.  Stir in the grated cheese and mustard powder and set aside

place the mushrooms and tenderstem into the pie dish, then pour the cheese sauce over the vegetables  and set aside to cool for at least 15 minutes before you attempt the lattice pastry crust

roll out the pastry into a large oblong and then cut it into 6 long strips and 8 shorter strips (this is just a guide...)

lay the long strips lengthways along pie dish, with gaps in between, then take one shorter strip and, starting from one edge of the pie dish, weave it over and under each long strip... continue this way until all your pastry strips are woven.  I like it looking quite rough and ready but feel free to trim to make it nice and neat

brush with a little beaten egg before baking for 25 mins or until the pastry is golden crisp

eat and of course, enjoy!

Friday, 16 September 2016

upside down victoria plum victoria sponge with salted maple syrup buttercream

... so we stole a few days this week and ran away to Mallorca... (am posting this today from a shady bench on a roof overlooking the old town of Pollenca...) it was a case of 'check the upcoming work diary and really there isn't a gap again till next Spring so let's throw caution to the wind and run away to the sun for a week.'  It just so happens that there was a heatwave in the UK this week but I find that a poor excuse for not going away... would you rather be stuck in an office or by a pool?  I rest my case.  To be fair, The Viking and I are really bad at 'relaxing by the pool'... neither of us understand how to do this very well although we both understand the need for doing it.  I get twitchy legs after about 20 minutes and The Viking gets grumpy if he's not exploring a local church or driving us up a precarious road which overhangs the side of a goat-strewn mountain but I guess our way to un-wind is by not relaxing by the pool.  Not that we even have a pool - because it was all so last-minute, our usual choice of little hotel was unavailable to us so we took the plunge into a rental house and i'm so glad we did.  We found the most charming old town house that from the outside looks like it could be no bigger than a one-roomed shack but inside unfolds itself, tardis-like, room by glorious room.  It has a central courtyard and a roof terrace and the most adorable little kitchen which has meant I can spend time at the local farmers market and make purchases and then actually cook with them - oh the plums!... which as you can imagine is really rather special.  The house is situated in the heart of the town and is surrounded by ancient narrow streets with so much character and charm and of course, so much to explore...

upside down victoria plum victoria sponge
this is undoubtably my favourite time of year... well actually it's a little early, I adore the autumn for all it's chilly mornings, tangerine tinged sunlight and orange-brown blanket of leaves but the moment September hits, I get that feeling in the air and it tingles all over.  The first signal that this change is on its way is the arrival of the victoria plum, the classic British seasonal stoned fruit.  If you're lucky and have your own tree, or access to a plum tree then you'll have experienced one of the greatest tastes in the world, that of a sun-warmed, dusty hued, tree-fresh, victoria plum.  For those unfamiliar, what can I tell you about the taste?  Well if I tell you it tastes of plum, this may not seem very helpful but so many so-called plums taste of absolutely nothing but sharpness and flesh but a freshly picked British plum has no rival...

I loved the idea of taking the classic Victoria Sponge and making her a little special with these glorious bejewelled fruit.  I was inspired by an instagram photo of a similar cake by 2012 GBBO winner John Waite - who I think has become a seriously talented baker.  The salted maple syrup buttercream is just an indulgence I dreamt up all on my own but boy does it shine here in this little cake.

i'm using my two 18cm loose-bottomed cake tins which i've greased and lined and placed onto a baking tray before they go into the oven.  The oven has been pre-heated to 170C

for the sponges
250g butter
250g golden lavender sugar
4 large free-range eggs
150g self-raising flour
100g ground almonds
1 teaspoon vanilla
5 victoria plums - stoned and roughly sliced
a little blackcurrant jam

for the salted maple syrup buttercream
150g butter
300g icing sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 teaspoons maldon salt

butter and line the base and sides of your tins then butter the base on top of the lining generously with butter and sprinkle with granulated sugar

lay the sliced plums into the base of the cake tin - you can get creative with concentric rings but I really like this no-nonesense rough n ready look

mix together the flour and ground almonds and set aside

in a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then beat in one egg followed by one third of the flour, then beat in the second egg and another third of flour followed by beating in the third and fourth eggs and the remaining flour.  I always add a dash of milk and the vanilla extract at this stage which I beat in

divide the batter in two and gently spoon into the cake tins on top of the fruit and spread out carefully with a pallet knife... and bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes depending on your oven but check that it no longer wobbles before removing onto a wire rack to cool for at least 15 minutes...

gently flip the cake tins over and remove the tin and base very carefully then allow the cakes to cool completely on the wire rack

to make the buttercream, beat the butter until it's really pale and soft, then gently beat in the icing sugar until the buttercream is really stiff, then pour in a little maple syrup at a time until the buttercream loosens to a consistency you desire, then throw in the salt - I love to feel the flakes as i'm eating it but you make want to add the salt earlier in the process so that it dissolves

to assemble the cake, spread the first layer with a little jam and a good portion of the buttercream before sandwiching the other cake on top... serve with tea

eat and of course, enjoy!

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

the ultimate sugar-free brownies - join my baking tribe

this glorious photo was taken by Uyen Luu as part of the #TribesToTable campaign

... if you've been following my blog over the past few months you'll know i've been developing some sugar-free recipes but you may not know the reason why.  Well, i've been working closely with the good people at Leisure Cookers to who have invited me to become an ambassador for their #TribesToTable campaign... the Tribes are a celebration of cooking and no matter what you love to cook, be it a meat lover, a fish lover or a veg lover, there's a tribe for you. I have the honour of being the chief of the Baking Tribe... as you know I love all kinds of cooking but it has to be said, I adore baking.  Baking is my comfort place, it's what I do to relax, whether it's bread and pastry or cakes and  puddings, I feel i've make it home when there's something baking in my lovely Leisure oven... and with the brilliant Great british Bake-Off back on our screens, i'm sure you'll agree, the whole nation is pretty much baking mad, so here's to the best Tribe of all...

me in the kitchen with my wonderful new Leisure Range Cooker
photo by David Severn

... I was asked to develop a recipe based on a particular trend in baking and I think you'll agree, whether you love it or hate it the whole 'sugar-free' or 'clean baking' trend is pretty massive right now.  Now of course I love sugar and don't have an issue with eating sugar but I know many people who cannot eat it for dietary reasons and whilst i've had a few hits and rather a few misses over the past few months, the best thing i've found about this trend is that it's opened a world of sugar alternatives that I have never explored.  It's made me think so much more about what I put into my body and i've found that balanced along with a healthy smattering of regular sugar treats, some sugar-free bakes can  be divinely delicious, inventive and horizon expanding.  Some of the alternative sugar ingredients I use are very basic such as honey, madly syrup and fruit, whilst others are a little more obscure such as coconut sugar and apple puree but the brilliant thing is that it's made me sit up and take notice and push my love for baking into directions i'd never thought i'd go...

me in the kitchen prepping the brownies
photo by David Severn

... the whole Tribe activity will culminate in two very exciting Tribe to Table events tomorrow and Friday, a media event and a Guardian Readers event,  where i'll be cooking my brownies along with the other Tribe chiefs; Kate from Veggie Desserts who's our Veg Lover, Niamh from Eat like a Girl who's the head of the Fish Tribe and Helen from Food Stories who's the Meat Lover.  I cannot wait to get stuck in and talk about my passion for baking!

          this glorious photo was taken by Uyen Luu as part of the #LeisureTribes campaign

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

me in the kitchen with my wonderful new Leisure Range Cooker
photo by David Severn

eat and of course, enjoy and please check out my instagram and Facebook feeds for updates on the TribesToTable events

Sunday, 4 September 2016

potato and cavolo nero frittata

... I love my real job, honestly I do.  OK, I may moan about it quite a bit but it's not all bad running a creative agency in the heart of London and we at The Persuaders do get up to some exciting things once in a while... these past few weeks we've actually been working on a very exciting project and something a little different to our usual thing... we've spent the past 5 weeks designing and building FriendsFest.  As the name suggests it is a festival dedicated to 90's TV show Friends.  We've recreated Monica and Rachel's apartment, a full-size Central Perk, the Title Sequence where you can frolic on the infamous orange sofa in front of the fountain and we've even created a few extra little bits such as the front door of the Little Chapel of Love in Vegas where Ross and Rachel got married!  Now of course i'm young enough to remember the very first episode of Friends being broadcast on UK television back in the early nineties and i've always loved the show (it is on TV pretty much 24/7 these days) but the fans who have been turning up are from all ages and from all over the globe.  It's quite a phenomenon and one which we really weren't expecting even though the box office began to sell out in under a week... and the stuff these guys remember is astounding so we've had to be really detail-heavy in all the work we've faithfully reproduced.  It's been a labour of love but we're quite proud of the results and it's not over yet either as the whole festival tours around the UK for the next 6 weeks!

... frustratingly for many fans, the tickets (all 60, 000 of them) have entirely sold out for all venues but we will be returning with an even bigger and better festival next year... and there's even a rumour we'll be doing a special Christmas tour in December so watch this space for more info...

... in the meantime it's back to reality and some rather delightful oven-baked goodies...

potato and cavolo nero frittata
more lovely ingredients from my rather wonderful #OrganicUnboxed delivery, it's quite incredible how much variety there is in the world of British organic food, I will have meals for weeks...

... there seems to be not much between the frittata and the spanish tortilla other than the frittata is baked in the oven rather than fried in a pan on the hob and is therefore is a little more hands-free although to be honest there's very little in it and I quite like the control I have over the pan... however, for the sake of a little variety I've gone for the oven-baked version here.  I'm absolutely crazy in love with cavolo nero.  It is essentially a type of kale from Tuscany... or Tuscan Kale if you will and has the most wonderful dark dark green colour and tastes like a very rich and deep cabbage.  When it's available and in-sotre I always purchase and put it into as many things as I can from soups and stews to risottos and this wonderful frittata along with some divine organic potatoes... the pre-roasting of the potatoes and onions really adds another dimension to the dish and a little extra texture too... if your guests have the patience it makes for an excellent Sunday brunch which is ready to serve in just under an hour but it is also divine served cold with salad and will keep for 2 days in the fridge...

400g organic potatoes - un-peeled and thickly sliced
1 large organic white onion - finely sliced
5 or 6 stalks of cavolo nero - sliced in a frivolous fashion
150ml extra-virgin olive oil and a large nob of butter
a sprig of fresh thyme
6 large free-range eggs

for the above ingredients I am using a 25cm deep round casserole dish with a lid

pre-heat the oven to 180C, add the onions and potatoes to the dish along with the oil, butter and herbs and plenty of salt and pepper and stir around, place the lid on and roast for 15 minutes, then take the lid off and roast for 15 minutes more until the potatoes begin the turn golden and crispy, then add the chopped kale and pop the lid back on for a further 10 minutes

meanwhile, in a large bowl, beat together the 6 large eggs with a little milk and some salt and pepper, then take the roasted veg out of the oven and pour it all into the eggs, stir them all together and then pour the whole lot back into the dish

pop the dish back into the oven and bake without the lid for roughly 10 minutes, although you should keep and eye on it and take it out once it begins to fluff up and turn golden brown

let it sit for a few moments before serving

eat and of course, enjoy!

Thursday, 1 September 2016

raspberry and chocolate yoghurt ganache shortbread #OrganicUnboxed

... i'm a big fan of organic.  I think the maths are really easy.  If great tasting food, high animal welfare standards and an improvement in environmental conditions are things you're concerned about then there's no argument.  I'm not suggesting a change overnight and i'm not saying that I live an exclusive organic life, because I really don't but over the years, as organic farming has grown in popularity and prices have come down, i've made more and more organic choices particularly when it comes to livestock welfare and would almost always go without milk unless I know it's been organically produced...

... there was once a time when organic food production was seen as a bit of a joke but we now know the facts that organic crops are exposed to fewer pesticides, organic livestock (chicken, beef, lamb, pork etc.) are truly free range, meaning they have more space to roam and enjoy high welfare standards. Organic dairy cows are free range and pasture fed which really comes through in the taste plus, organic farming is great for farmers and more environmentally friendly... and if these aren't reason enough, recent research has also shown that organic crops are up to 60% higher in a number of key antioxidants[1] and that both organic milk and meat contain around 50% more beneficial omega-3 fatty acids[2]


the good people at Organic Food UK have created the brilliant #OrganicUnboxed campaign and i've been lucky enough to have been sent one of their mystery boxes to cook from... i've even made my own unboxing film to show you the box and it's wonderful contents... i've actually already made 5 incredible dishes with some of the contents, which I will share with you throughout September and I still have quite a long way to go to get through it all, so I'll hope you join me exploring this wonderfully tasty and easy world of organic food!

raspberry and chocolate yoghurt ganache shortbread
shortbread is just so easy to make and so basic that I often forget to make it and it slips just how phenomenally tasty it is... there's not much not to lie, butter, sugar and flour but when it's this simple i always think it's important that those three ingredients be the best they can be and of course the organic produce i'm using is spectacularly good. The Seed and Bean Fennel chocolate is a new find for me and I almost feel as though it's been made specifically with me and my love of fennel in mind... the fennel is very subtle but glorious none the less.  I've used the Yeo Valley plan yoghurt to make the chocolate ganache which adds a thrilling sourness to the chocolate and offsets the ridiculously sweet shortbread and jam perfectly and of course the stunning Hargrove Fruit raspberries are like little jewels of sweet and sharp sitting on top... a very fancy shortbread but perfectly fitting to this wonderfully mysterious Organic Unboxed experience...

125g Yeo Valley organic butter
55g organic caster sugar
180g Dove's Farm organic plain flour
4 tablespoons Daylesford organic raspberry jam
1 bar (85g) Seed and Bean Fennel organic dark chocolate
4 tablespoons Yeo Valley plain organic yoghurt

pre-heat the oven to 190C and grease and line a 20cm square cake tin

in a large bowl, beat the butter and the sugar together until smooth then gently stir in the flour until you get a smooth paste

tip the paste into your prepared tin and push down and smooth out and then chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.

bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until pale golden-brown. Set aside to cool on a wire rack but before it's completely cool, spoon the raspberry jam on top and spread it our evenly

whilst it's cooling, gently heat the yoghurt and chocolate in a pan, as it begins to heat up, take it off the heat and let the chocolate melt into the warm yoghurt, stirring occasionally until you have a thick dark ganache

pour the ganache over the raspberry jam on the shortbread and carefully spread it out, then place your raspberries on top - chill in the fridge for at least an hour before cutting into squares and serving

eat and of course, enjoy!

Friday, 26 August 2016

chipotle roasted chicken and vegetable wrap bake

... ever since I visited my friend Shannon in Pamona, Southern California, way back when we were both younger than we can remember I've had a thing for Mexican food.  Back then it really wasn't a big deal in the UK, there was perhaps one, not so good Mexican restaurant that was more 'Tex-Mex' than it was authentic as the true trend for Mexican food really didn't start till about a decade ago.  We're now spoiled for choice but for the true taste of chipotle you had to pack your bags to travel.  We ate at a stunning Mexican restaurant and i'm not sure if it was the incredible guacamole that the waiters made fresh at our table or the dozens of rather potent margaritas that did it for me but I fell in love hard and have never looked back.  Surprisingly I don't make it at home that often, even though The Viking also loves a hot and spicy fajita as much as I but now that i've had a play with these wraps I'm definitely going to explore a little Mexican home-cooking further...

Mission Deli wraps can be used in so many different ways other than the classic 'wrap n roll' and because they're super soft they're easier to fold and hold fillings better... which of course means you can get more creative with them!  I've loved working in collaboration with Mission Deli because it means i've been able to discover fun ways to use their wraps... I love using them for an extra thin pizza base when i'm feeling super-lazy and they also make incredible cheese and ham toasties (although don't tell bread or it will get hugely jealous...) and i'm even planning a sweet 'wrap and butter' pudding for later in the week... so watch this space...

chipotle roasted chicken and vegetable deli wrap bake
this is such a simple recipe and although it's quite time consuming, it's all done in the oven and so you can prepare it slowly over the long weekend and build it all together just before you plan to eat... it can be made ahead of time and heated when you're ready or even frozen before the final bake.  I've roasted a whole chicken but don't feel you need to do it this way, you could simply use chicken portions or even buy pre-cooked chicken to shred.  I've also prepared my own chipotle spice mix but again feel free to use a pre-mix here as the results will be just as phenomenal...

serves 6

for the chipotle seasoning:
a packed of pre-mixed chipotle spice or...
1 teaspoon ground chipotle chilli
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 teaspoon smoked paprika
black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
plenty of olive oil

1 yellow pepper - sliced
1 red pepper - sliced
2 large flat mushrooms - thickly sliced
1 large white onion - thickly sliced
1/2 cauliflower - roughly sliced
1 courgette - chopped into thick batons

1 whole chicken (or chicken portions)
1 onion - quartered
1 lime - quartered

6 misson deli wraps
100g strong cheese - grated (I used cheddar)
4 tablespoons sour cream
fresh chives - chopped
fresh tomatoes - chopped

pre-heat the oven to 180C and have handy 2 roasting tins - one for the chicken and one for the vegetables

lay the chicken into the roasting tray, stuff with the onion, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of the chipotle spice mix and rub it all over.  Lay the lime quarters around the chicken - cover tightly with foil and roast for an hour, then remove the foil, turn the chicken over and roast for 30mins, then turn the chicken back over and roast for a final 30 mins till golden brown - set aside to cool covered in foil... once cool, rip apart and shred in a bowl

meanwhile treat the vegetables in the same way - spread them out onto a large roasting tin, drizzle with plenty of olive oil and then sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of the chipotle seasoning and plenty of salt and pepper, then get stuck in with your hands and mix the whole lot together coating the veg well with the seasoning, cover with foil and roast for 30 mins, then without the foil for a further 30mins or until soft and beginning to char a little at the edges - set aside to cool

lay out your first wrap and spread a healthy spoonful of sour cream on top, then a little of the shredded chicken and a little of the spicy vegetables, then sprinkle generously with the grated cheese and roll tightly before cutting into five even pieces which you should lay vertically in an oven-proof dish... continue this way until the oven dish is full... I used half the chicken and 6 wraps

sprinkle the whole bake with a little more cheese and then bake on 160C until golden and sizzling... serve with a little more sour cream and some fresh tomatoes and cut chives sprinkled on top

the good folk from Mission Deli Wraps want to challenge people to think beyond simply putting fillings inside a wrap so I encourage you all to get creative and as innovative as you wish and then share your #WrapHacks on their Facebook page to be in the chance of winning a pack of wheat and white wraps!

eat and of course, enjoy!



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