Wednesday, 23 April 2014

mini lemon bundt cakes with pineapple, lemongrass and ginger jam

... another long weekend has come and gone and for those of us who work a regular week the Easter bank holiday four-day weekend is both a blessing and a curse.  A time to recharge those batteries and luxuriate in two, four-day weeks and yet berate the powers that be who forget that deadlines are still deadlines regardless of a man who may or may not have risen two-thousand or so years ago... I love that when we get back to London after such a break you can see the look of shell-shocked horror on the faces of those who have either enjoyed themselves too much chocolate and wine or the exhausted millions whos kids have finally gone back to school and finally given them the break they deserve only to realise that that break means going back to work... cheer up sunshine, it may never happen...

pineapple, lemongrass and ginger jam
when the incomparable Karen from Lavender and Lovage suggested Jams, Preserves and Curds as the theme for this months tea time treats I was a little taken a back... if you know me at all you'll know that I don't really do preserves... I think i've made only 3 on my blog over the past 4 years and that was only because i'd been sent some lovely pots by the good people at quickjars... but then I remembered that the delightful Shelina Permalloo used the steam blender to create a kind of instant pineapple jam at the hotpoint event I recently attended and I thought that this would make an excellent addition to the challenge...

these mini lemon bundt cakes are just an excuse to create a vehicle to serve the jam upon... you could use toast but you'd be bonkers...

obviously i'm using my steam blender but you could easily make this in a regular pan... it wont quite be jam but it'll be good enough and bloody tasty regardless...

for the jam
1 medium pineapple - peeled, de-eyed and cut into small chunks
1 inch of thick ginger - peeled and diced
1 medium apple - cored and diced
1 stick of lemongrass - snapped in three places but kept together
3 tablespoons demerara sugar
a dash of cinnamon

place all the ingredients into the steam blender, fill the water reservoir and set the steamer to steam for 15 minutes

once steamed, let it sit for a few minutes, remove the stick of lemongrass and then blend on pulse... you want it a little chunky, not too smooth.  If making this in a pan you could use a hand blender to achieve the same results

for the bundt cakes - (lidl are currently selling these adorable mini bundt moulds)

6oz sugar
4oz butter or margarine (mum always uses margarine so if you want her classic taste then I would too..)
2 eggs
6oz self raising flour
4 tablespoons milk
grated rind of 2 lemons

for the topping
1 1/2oz sugar
the juice of one lemon

pre-heat the oven to 180C, grease and line a large loaf tin or use the silicone moulds

in a large bowl cream the margarine and sugar until light and fluffy then add the eggs and a little flour and beat in.  Then add the remaining flour and milk and beat in followed by the lemon rind.

spoon into the loaf tin or bundt moulds and bake for 25 mins on 180C

the moment it comes out of the oven pour the warm lemon juice over the top and sprinkle with a little sugar - the sugar becomes the most wonderfully intense lemon sherbet topping which is simply fabulous! 

eat and of course, enjoy!

Monday, 21 April 2014

avocado and roast beetroot salad of the things I love about the random recipes food challenge is not just the discovery of a new dish or revisiting an old book that you'd perhaps forgotten about but rather the chance introduction to trying something you already love, in a new way.  We all get into habits and routines but as any good cook will tell you, knowledge about food is often passed on from discovery... be it from a friend or colleague or a book and it's that simple spark of fact, that little pearl of wisdom that can transform a good dish into a great dish.

... all my life i've hated beetroot, that nasty pickled stuff you were forced to eat on a salad as a child but when I discovered that they came raw, in bunches and you could roast them like a potato which would bring out a rich, earthy quality well, I fell instantly in love and have been roasting them to my delight ever since but upon reading the recipe for Avocado and Beet Salad on page 66 of Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, who suggests sprinkling the zest of an orange over the roasted beetroots, it's like i've fallen in love all over again...

avocado and roast beetroot salad
there really is very little to this salad but i'm so glad I picked it for this month's challenge which I am running in conjunction with the AlphaBakes challenge, hosted by Caroline from Caroline Makes and Ros from The More Than Occasional Baker... this month's letter is A and so I randomly selected a recipe under the A index in the back of the book... you still have until April 26th to get your recipes in to the challenge, the rules of which can be found here.

1 large avocados
1 bunch of raw beetroot - unpeeled
olive oil
salt and pepper
the zest of one orange
a dash of cider vinegar
a bag of mixed salad leaves to garnish

trim the beetroot and cut into quarters, place on a baking tray and drizzle with plenty of olive oil and season well - roast on 130C for 40 mins, then turn off the oven and leave to cool - set aside till ready to use, they will keep in the fridge for about 3 days

open a bag of salad and place onto a large flat bowl

cut up an avocado and lay it out onto the salad, followed by pieces of the roasted beetroot

sprinkle with more salt, grate over some orange zest and drizzle over a little cider vinegar and plenty of olive oil

eat and of course, enjoy!

Sunday, 20 April 2014

sous vide lamb chops

... one of the things about living with a vegetarian is that I tend not to experiment too much with meat.  You'd have to have been living under a rock these past five years to not know that there's been a popular rise in meat... of course meat has always been popular but recently the meat movement has grown exponentially with the humble burger now reaching cult status globally it seems that every kind of meat, from pulled pork to ox cheeks, we're all eating all kinds of meat... I caught up with dear friends Rachel and Laurence last week and they were enthusing about cooking different kinds of dishes and experimenting together and it made me think that The Viking and I simply don't do this and because meat is relatively expensive I tend not to experiment on stuff when i'm only cooking for myself...

... so with Easter just a few days off I thought about a simple lamb dish that could deliver on taste and creativity but not break the bank or leave me having to cook for the masses either... these rather special lamb chops were the perfect answer...

sous vide lamb chops with lemon and garlic mustard and honey cider vinegar
i'm taking part in the Maille Culinary Challenge, using ingredients from their new on-line boutique... I chose the mustard with garlic and citron along with the cider vinegar with honey and I think both will beautifully compliment the lamb... i've also reluctantly taken the sous vide out of the back of the cupboard.  I suppose i give the beast a bit of a bum rap and should treat it with more love as it does produce some incredibly tender meat...

6 lamb chops
roughly 12 new potatoes - cut in half
1 pot maille garlic and citron mustard
4 tablespoons maille cider vinegar with honey
salt and pepper
rosemary and lemon thyme
olive oil

if you're using a sous vide then fill the bath with water and set the temperature to 56C

place all the condiments, fresh herbs and salt and pepper into the bowl and throw in the potatoes, stir them around with your hands and then place them into one of the vacuum bags, flatten them out and use the vacuum sealer to vacuum and seal the bag

then throw the lamb into the bowl with what's left of the marinade and mix them around and again, place them into one of the vacuum bags, flatten them out and use the vacuum sealer to vacuum and seal the bag

place the bags into the sous vide and set the timer for an hour, at which point you need to remove the potato bag and set aside, then set the timer for another 2 hours for the lamb

15 mins before they lamb is ready, turn you oven on to 200C

once the lamb is ready, take it out and place it into a baking tray with the potatoes and roast for 15 mins or until they're both beautifully crisp and golden

if you're using a traditional oven I would suggest you can achieve similar results doing a long slow roast at 100C, ensuring you cover the lamb and potatoes tightly in foil, then turn the oven up to 200C and take the foil off for the last 30 mins

eat and of course, enjoy!

Friday, 18 April 2014

easter bread

... ahhh the long weekend - like sinking into a hot bath, I really want to take this one nice and slow.  Make sure the temperature is perfectly just on the too-hot side and luxuriate in its extravagance knowing full well I should have taken a shower... the fact that I woke up at 6:45am this morning, bright eyed and bushy tailed and shuffled downstairs to make bread should be an indicator to you all that that bath is going tepid pretty damn quick.  I guess it's the age-old problem of desperately wanting to be able to flick a switch and fall into 'relax' mode when the truth is my body is still working on overload.  Still, there are three more days and I should stop bitching and start eating...

easter bread
it seems there are many traditions across the world for celebrating Easter with some form of sweet bread.  From the humble Hot Cross Bun with its dough cross on top to the twisted and braided Italian Easter Bread complete with coloured eggs nestled in its rings, it seems that symbolism finds its way into food on the most holiest of festivals... this is my take on a sweet eggy fruit-bread for the festivities, it has the lightness of a brioche or panettone but has a more cakey quality from the eggs and sugar.  It's also perfectly pretty for the Easter table.

enough for one large plaited ring and 2 smaller rings - using the low-knead method
600g strong white bread flour
200g white seeded flour
2 teaspoons quick action yeast
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons sugar
400ml water
150ml milk
2 eggs - beaten
a handful of sultanas
a dash of mixed spice

for the glaze
golden syrup or honey
a teaspoon or two of coloured sprinkles

throw all the bread ingredients into a very large bowl, bring together with a rubber spatula, cover with a tea towel and set aside for ten minutes whilst you make a cup of tea

oil your work surface, remove the sticky dough from the bowl, oil the bowl and wipe it with your hand, then with your oily hand, knead the dough 8 times, place the dough back in the bowl, cover with a tea towel and set aside for 10 minutes

repeat twice more then cover the bowl with cling film and set aside for an hour or until the dough has doubled in size

preheat the oven to 200C and prep two baking trays with parchment paper

oil your work surface and knead the dough, punching it had and folding it over a few time, then divide in two, set one piece aside

divide one piece of dough into two and roll into sausage shapes, twist the two lengths of dough together and create a ring - set aside on a baking tray.

with the second piece of dough, divide into 4 and make two smaller rings and place on another baking tray

bake on 200C for 10 mins then reduce the heat to 180 for a further 20 mins then remove from the oven and lay on a wire rack to cool

gently warm a little golden syrup or honey, then brush onto the bread whilst the loaves are still warm... shower with multi-coloured sprinkles

eat and of course, enjoy and a happy Easter to one and all!

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

creme egg chocolate loaf cake

... the weather has been joyous in the UK these past few days and everyone seems to be in a good mood, it's quite incredible how the sunshine can bring out the best in people although quite frankly i've never seen London so jam-packed with tourists meandering around, always going both somewhere and nowhere at the same time... to be honest, I wish it were me... but thank the lord (quite literally) for this four day week, both a blessing and a curse in equal measure. Of course it's lovely to have an extended break but what it really means for us is that deadlines are squeezed and pressures boil over a little.  We are quite literally running around like lambs to slaughter this week and no doubt next... Easter pun fully intended...

creme egg chocolate loaf cake
just one last cheeky little creme egg post before Easter and this is really just a 'left-over' batter recipe but I got slightly over-eggcited when I thought about this loaf cake.  I was inspired by Karen from Lavender and Lovage who made a classic savoury pie with an egg in the middle, which should kind of look like this... i thought it would be fun to try a sweet version using creme eggs of course.  I simply used the remainder of the batter from the mini creme egg bundt cakes and then laid the mini eggs end to end inside.  It worked well although the white creme centre seemed to melt into the sponge mix but it's a cute little simple cake with one last surprise for those still on an egg hunt...

for the cake
3 large free range eggs
225g sugar
225g butter
225g self-raising flour
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 regular creme egg - finely chopped
a little cococa powder for dusting
5 or six mini creme eggs

you will need a medium 1lt loaf tin, greased and lined

pre-heat the oven to 170C

in a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then add the eggs and beat in followed by the flour and cocoa and beat in, then add the chopped creme egg, vanilla and a little milk to slacken and stir in

spoon 2/3rd of the batter into the tin and even out with a knife then lay the eggs end to end down the middle of the batter.  

bake for 20-25 mins until risen and a skewer inserted comes out clean - set aside to cool

dust with cocoa powder and then serve in thick slices with a cup of tea

eat and of course, enjoy!

Monday, 14 April 2014

baked haddock with wild garlic and pea puree

... up until a couple of years ago I could only find one teeny patch of wild garlic in the local bluebell woods, it was so lonely and sorrowful that I felt guilty plucking it from the ground and would only cut a few precious leaves from the plant but then one day The Viking came rushing in from a leisurely drive through the country lanes exclaiming that he'd found a huge patch of the stuff flowing freely along a local bank of roadside trees.  I was a little sceptical at first and I remember it being quite late in the season but we went off to investigate none the less and not only had he discovered a crop of the beautiful stuff but it turned out to be far more expansive growth than at first he thought... I knew we were in the right place yards before we parked as the fug of garlic wafted into the open car windows and there, running up the banks of a little wood on both sides of the road must be at least an acre of wild garlic... so much of the stuff in fact that I could have quite easily gone wild garlic mad.  Luckily we live quite remotely and it's likely this patch of glorious green will remain untouched each spring for many years to come but if you ever visit this part of the world and the right time of the year I may just share my secret location with you...

baked haddock with wild garlic and pea puree
if you're unlucky enough to follow me on instagram or twitter you'll know that I recently had the honour of attending a Norwegian Sea Food 8 course meal celebrating the end of the skrei season... if cooked with this wonderful fish before but I was inspired by the wonderful cooking of Simon Hulstone, the chef cooking for us at the skrei dinner, to create this dish of fish served with a puree of wild garlic and peas... the puree is outstandingly divine and I could eat it by the spoonful and it makes me feel very close to nature that both the peas and wild garlic and from fields around belleau cottage...

for the wild garlic puree
3 or 4 bunches of wild garlic - roughly 100g
80g frozen peas
a little butter and seasoning

for the haddock
2 smoked haddock fillets
half a fennel bulb - thickly sliced
plenty of butter
a sprig or two of lemon thyme
salt and pepper

pre-heat the oven to 1890C

place the haddock, fennel, thyme and plenty of knobs of butters into an oven-proof dish, season well and cover with foil.  when the oven is up to temperature bake for roughly 8 mins then remove the foil baste the fish with the juices and then bake for a further couple of minutes

steam the peas and wild garlic for roughly 6 minutes until very tender - set aside in a large bowl with a large knob of butter and season well - blitz with a hand-blender

as you can see i've served these with some mini roasties but feel free to serve with anything that pleases your fancy...

eat and of course, enjoy!

Saturday, 12 April 2014

mini creme egg easter bundt cakes

... with Easter fast approaching I thought I ought to get into the spirit and turn my hand to some seasonal baking.  There seem to be hundreds of Cadbury Creme Egg recipes out there this year more than any year before so naturally I jumped onto that bandwagon to have a go.  I have to admit that I have always been a massive creme egg fan... I love the gooey, sickly sweet centre, the classic cadbury's thick milk chocolate but most of all I love the way that, true to one of their older advertising campaigns, there are a multitude of options for eating them... do you go for the breaking in half and then eat each section, or cut the top off with your teeth and then suck out the creamy middle, or how about the nibbling away the chocolate till all you have left in the gooey centre... never has there been such joy from one confection.

mini creme egg easter bundt cakes
I arrived home last night from another manic week in the big smoke to find a little box of mini silicone bundt moulds that my dear sweet neighbour Tracey had left for me.  Tracey is one of those magpie type people, she's attracted to anything a little unusual and if something catches her eye that she thinks may be relevant to someone she loves she'll pick it up and deliver it.  These little bundt moulds are adorable and they produce the cutest little cakes perfect for sharing... the sponge mix is a classic 3 egg sponge and I had plenty left over to make a mini chocolate loaf cake which i'll share with you later in the week... you could also use the mixture in cupcakes or a regular cake tin...

for the cake
3 large free range eggs
225g sugar
225g butter
225g self-raising flour
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 regular creme egg - finely chopped

for the topping
6 mini creme eggs
150g milk chocolate
2 teaspoons cocoa powder
extra chocolate for grating

you will need 12 mini bundt cake moulds or 12 cupcake cups or one 20cm loose-bottomed cake tin

pre-heat the oven to 170C

in a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then add the eggs and beat in followed by the flour and cocoa and beat in, then add the chopped creme egg, vanilla and a little milk to slacken and stir in

spoon the batter into the moulds and press down and even out with a knife... you want to fill them fully even though they'll expand in the oven you want this to happen so that you have a thick base to take the chocolate

bake for 20-25 mins until risen and a skewer inserted comes out clean - set aside to cool

make the topping by gently melting the chocolate either over a bain-marie or in the microwave, then add the cocoa powder and mix thoroughly

cut the risen bits off the base of the bundts so they have a thick and flat base, then fill the holes with the chocolate sauce so that it dribbles down the side like a volcano... grate some chocolate over the top and decorate with a mini creme egg on each one

I am of course entering these little marvels into this months we should cocoa challenge, founded by Choclette from the sublime Chocolate Log Blog and hosted this month by Rachel Cotterill... the theme this month being Easter.

believe it or not but I wasn't sent any creme eggs by anyone, I bough them myself... I genuinely love them... for some more of my favourite creme egginess check out these recipes by Karen from Lavender and Lovage, Ren Behan and Choclette from Chocolate Log Blog

... eat and of course, enjoy!



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