Sunday, 1 March 2015

simply eggcellent - new bloggers link up!

... I love eggs.  One of my favourite simple pleasures is a fried egg on toast, the white a little crispy at the edges and the yolk firm yet just runny enough to ooze its golden gloriousness all over the buttered toast and probably my chin.  The poor egg had a bad rap for a few years back in the dark days of Edwina Curry and the 80's health freaks but much like butter we now know that eggs, like all food eaten in moderation, are good for you.  Eggs are one of the most nutritious foods money can buy - they are a natural source of many nutrients including high quality protein, vitamins and minerals, plus a medium egg contains less than 70 calories which is a win win if you ask me.  Eggs are naturally rich in vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B12, vitamin D, selenium and iodine. They also contain vitamin A and a number of other B vitamins including folate, biotin, pantothenic acid and choline, and essential minerals and trace elements, including phosphorus.  We've been eating them since before chickens were domesticated and are in fact a symbol for life, renewal and energy.

lemon drizzle loaf cake

... as well as the classic fried, scrambled, poached, boiled, hard-boiled and griddled, as every cook knows they are also a wonderful ingredient in so many different and varied dishes, from cakes to quiches, from bread to the classic fiorentina pizza... there are very few dishes where the eggs is not only welcome but a very much needed ingredient and so this is why I thought we should celebrate the humble egg in all its glory!

egg and kale breakfast muffins

how to take part in the simply eggcellent bloggers link-up

it's really easy to take part; all you have to do is create a beautiful recipe using free-range eggs, post it up on your blog and then link back to this post... please include my simply eggcellent badge in the post to help spread the word and use the linky tool below so that I know you've taken part.

I will collate all the posts at the end of every month and produce a special round-up of entries... I may chose to theme the challenge once in a while depending on the time of year and my mood but for March I simply want to celebrate the brilliant egg and all it brings to our lives... maybe we can even teach a thing or two to those egg phobic fools out there!

feel free to tweet and instagram me your pictures using the #simplyeggcellent hashtag and I will retweet and like all those I see... you can find me on social media @belleaukitchen

i'm happy to take previously posted recipes but you'll need to go back to the post and adapt it to link back to this post and include the simply eggcellent logo

roast tomato quiche

frangipane tart

eat and of course, enjoy!

Thursday, 19 February 2015

toasted tea cakes

... it seems that London has turned into a quagmire of excitable children and very bemused and tired looking parents being hauled around the city.  The half-term holidays in the UK seems to produce this panic-inducing disease of madness that descends on a city that is just working out its routine after the Christmas break.  Those frenetic but free-flowing streams of determined commuters have been disrupted by the giant pebble of kids and no body is happy... during any other week in the year I can drag my tired arse up from the tube station, along St Martin's Lane, into my favourite coffee shop and on auto-pilot make my way to my desk, gently readying myself for the day ahead.  Not this week.  This week I've had to fight from way too early for any normal kid to be in town until way too late for sensible parents to allow their kids in town... it must stop now.

toasted tea cakes
there's something about the aroma of cinnamon and candied fruit baking in the oven that not only makes the whole house smell incredible but that is also so utterly reminiscent of Easter even though you get the same sweet scents at Christmas too... and that scent seems to be everywhere right now so that every corner you turn you're tempted by the thoughts of toasted goodness.  It is quite remarkable we make it home without putting on stupid amounts of weight.  Of course toasted tea cakes are not exclusive to Easter, they're a tearoom staple up and down the country taking the place of the scone during colder months which, if you ask me, is a wondrous thing...

500g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
1 teaspoon salt
60g caster sugar
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 sachet fast action dried yeast
50g unsalted butter - room temp
300ml water
200g mixed fried fruit and peel
1 beaten egg for glazing

line 2 baking trays with baking parchment.

put the flour into a large bowl and add the salt, sugar and mixed spice along with the yeast.

add the butter and just over half the water and bring the mixture together with your hand or a rubber spatula, add a little more of the water as you go, you should be able to clean the bowl with the ball of dough.  It's possible you may use all the water or just the first added amount - you want dough that is soft, but not soggy.

pour a little vegetable oil on your work surface and then tip the dough onto it and knead for 8 minutes or so until the dough is soft and silky. 

put it back into the lightly oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel and let it rise for at least an hour till doubled in size.  You can leave it longer if you need to.

tip the mixed fruit on top of the risen dough in the bowl and start working them into it. After a minute or two, tip the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until the fruit is thoroughly mixed in.

divide the dough into 8 pieces. Shape each into a ball then flatten with your hand and brush the teacakes with the beaten egg.  Place them onto the baking trays, cover in some lightly oiled cling film and let them rest and rise for another half an hour whilst you pre-heat your oven to 200C

bake for 10-15 minutes until risen and golden and then cool on a wire rack

these are amazing eaten warm from the oven but of course they simply have to be toasted the next day and slathered with plenty of butter

as these gorgeous beauties are toasted I am entering them into this months Tea Time Treats linky party hosted so skilfully by Karen from Lavender and Lovage

eat and course, enjoy!

Monday, 16 February 2015

two ingredient nutribullet banana pancakes

... with all the commercialisation around Shrove Tuesday it's hard to remember that we celebrate Pancake Day and Mardis Gras (Fat Tuesday) for a reason... with Wednesday being the start of Lent, the day is all about one final indulgence in everything that's bad for us and a chance to clean our 'houses' of those things that will tempt us.  In the Jewish faith the festival of Passover, a little later in the Spring, also has a similar cleansing theme and I guess at one time in history when supermarkets and refrigeration didn't exist it all made sense.  As it happens it's actually a great excuse for a Spring clean and to use up any ingredients that may soon be going out of date.  I know that i'm such an ingredient hoarder and there's always the odd random packet of something left-over from Christmas that could easily make its way into a cake or pudding without killing anyone!

two ingredient nutribullet banana pancakes
TWO ingredients... no way!... yes way... You know when you see those dreadful 'you won't believe...' links on Facebook or youtube and invariably you never do believe because they're just a load of rubbish.  Well last week I clicked on a link that was titled 'pancakes with only two ingredients'... it wasn't the title that hooked me it was the fact that the image frozen in the picture was of a nutribullet and seeing that The Viking and I had just invested in one I was very intrigued.  With just two ingredients and no flour these are quite literally the easiest and healthiest pancakes ever and they are also supremely delicious as well as being naturally gluten-free.  The banana adds a natural sweetness so you don't even need to add sugar but let's face it, pancakes are really just a vehicle for maple syrup and butter so feel free to go crazy with the toppings.  I honestly can't recommend you trying these pancakes enough...

a nutribullet is great here but you could easily use a blender or a stick blender to the same effect

1 ripe banana - peeled
2 large free-range eggs

place the banana in the cup of the nutribullet or blender, crack in two whole eggs and blend for at least a minute

heat a little butter or oil in a pan and fry as you would a regular pancake... you can make these pancakes thin but they work really well like a thick American pancake...

as these pancakes are all about using up out of date ingredients i'm entering them into the brilliant No Food Waste bloggers challenge hosted by Elizabeth from Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary... they will also be going over to the Treat Petite bloggers challenge hosted alternately by Stuart at the CakeyBoi and Kat at The Baking Explorer

eat and of course enjoy!

Friday, 13 February 2015

slow-cooker brisket with caramelised onions

... earlier this week I was called up by BBC Radio Lincolnshire as their local food expert to discuss the great butter debate.  This week it was revealed by 'scientists' that perhaps the advice we were given in the 70's and 80's not to eat saturated fats was based on shaky evidence. As you can imagine I have quite strong views on the matter and I think I expressed myself eloquently on the radio.  As always I truly believe that 'everything in moderation' is the best advice but sadly it remains quite a wishy-washy statement and whilst we're the first to rise in uproar when we're spoken down to, we do on the whole, like to be told what to eat.  We like our elders to point at the devil and say no.  It makes choices easier for us and also helps us point the blame when we're wrong when in truth we should suck it up and take responsibility for what we put in our mouths.

My mum changed from butter to margarine in the 70's and has stuck to it ever since, it's what she prefers and my family are perfectly healthy and growing old nicely thank you.  That said, I much prefer to cook with butter, as most of my recipes will show, I use it to make cakes and use it with olive oil when sautéing onions for soups and stews and particularly on a Sunday morning when making scrambled eggs... but again, i'm not eating it with a spoon out of the packet so I think i'll be OK.  The thing is, we all know what makes us fat, it's not the government or big corporations selling us rubbish, it's the bad rubbish we choose to put in our mouths...

slow-cooker brisket with caramelised onions
this really is as simple and as good as it sounds. Brisket always reminds me of my mum, it being one of her favourite joints of beef to cook when the family or large groups of people came round and so I am cooking it for her for Mother’s Day. Many people are quite snobbish about cuts of beef but I have to say that the brisket, nicely marbled with fat and packed with flavor, is my absolute favourite, so much so that it’s actually more of a treat for me than the posh cuts and I think my mum has always felt the same ...

your slow-cooker may be a different size to mine so use these measurements as a guide… to be honest it doesn’t hugely matter as long as you follow the rough idea of the ingredients. The slow cooker and the brisket are very forgiving… oh and if you still don’t have a slow-cooker then feel free to roast this in an oven in a large casserole dish covered tightly with foil and a tight fitting lid on 150C for 4 hours until tender

this recipe is adapted from a recipe I found on the brilliant site

2kg beef brisket joint (look for one with plenty of marbling and fat)
2 large onions – peeled and sliced into large half-moons
butter and olive oil
salt and pepper
fresh thyme
3 large garlic cloves
2 pints good quality stock (I used vegetable stock)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

in a large, heavy bottomed pan heat some olive oil and butter and add the onions. Add some fresh thyme, season well, stir and let them sweat through for about 20 minutes until they become a light golden brown. You will need to stir them often to stop them sticking. – remove the onions from the pan and place them into the slow-cooker. Place the pan back on the heat

turn up the heat under the pan, throw in a little more olive oil and brown the brisket all over until you get a nice rich, toasty colour. Place the brisket into the slow-cooker with the onions and pour over the stock, soy sauce and vinegar and throw in the garlic cloves

cook on low for 8 hours. Once done, remove the brisket from the slow-cooker and set aside, wrapped in foil for 20 mins to rest. The sauce in the pan will make a perfect gravy. I like to serve my brisket traditionally, sliced with roasted veg but it falls apart like soft butter so could easily be served torn like pulled pork and eaten in a pitta...

as always this gorgeous dish is going off to the brilliant slow-cooked challenge hosted as always by the splendiferous Janice from Farmersgirl Kitchen... it's an open theme this month so hopefully i've hit the nail on the head and Janice will forgive me for my past discretions...

eat and of course, enjoy

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

chocolate-box brownies

... The Viking and I don't celebrate Valentines Day.  This may sound cheesy but we don't need that one day of commercialised declaration when we have all three hundred and sixty five... I'm not really a huge fan of posting Valentines recipes if i'm honest but I realise that many people are and it's nice to be nice and maybe inspire someone to make these for someone else.  When we were kids Valentines Day was all about secret love, cards were posted and signed anonymously and that was the big thing... now it seems everyone openly declares love and the magic is gone.  We even had a special post-box at school (I think this was also the 'letters to Father Christmas' post-box) where all the girls would gleefully and openly post their letters and all the boys secretly snuck up to and posted when no-one was looking, the day was fraught with prepubescent love and the following day was a litany of who sent cards to whom and which of the school studs got-off with the popular girl on the swings in the park on the way home from school... oh those were the days and thank fuck they're over...

chocolate-box brownies
much like my christmas cake brownies these brownies have left-overs at their heart.  You know that box of chocolates you've just purchased for you loved-one (or just received if you're really lucky..) well these brownies make use of the last few that either you're completely sick of or don't like. This is my go-to absolute favourite brownie recipe.  I've looked back on my blog to see where it came from but I seem to tweak it each time so I really can't fid the source... anyway, they are so good.  Perfectly fudge and intensely chocolatey.  One is more than enough. But do remember, these brownies are for making on any other day of the year... do not make them on valentines day, they will taste bitter...

185g butter
185g good quality dark chocolate - at least 70% cocoa solids
3 large eggs
275g golden caster sugar
85g plain flour
a pinch of salt
40g cocoa powder
a handful of chocolate box chocolates

grease and line a 20cm square brownie pan, pre-heat the oven to 160C

in a pan gently melt the butter and chocolate - do this over a really low heat and stir regularly - take it off the heat before it's fully melted and set aside to cool, stirring again as it melts

in a large bowl beat the eggs and sugar with an electric mix for about 6 minutes until it doubles in volume and becomes pale, light and airy then pour in the melted and cooled chocolate and gently fold in until it's fully combined

sieve in the flour, salt and cocoa and again, gently fold in, and pour the mixture into your brownie pan.

disperse your chocolate box chocolates evenly over the brownie (so that there would be at east one per cut brownie) and push them into the mixture

bake on 160C for 25 mins then remove from the oven and let it cool in the tin - cut into squares or cut out heart shapes and serve

I am entering these brownies into the we should cocoa bloggers challenge.  Founded by Chocolette from the Chocolate Log Blog and hosted this month by Katie from Recipe for Perfection... the theme being brownies...

I am also entering the brownies into the AlphaBakes bloggers challenge hosted by Carline from Caroline Makes and Ros from The More Than Occasional Baker... the letter this month is V for Valentines

ignore the naysayers who tell you you've wasted so much brownie by cutting out the heart-shapes (which you know will be put to very good use) and eat and of course, enjoy!

Friday, 6 February 2015

spinach and broccoli paella - £50 ebookers voucher giveaway!

... I think many of us are creatures of habit when it comes to holidays.  I've always liked to think of myself as the adventurous sort - I have visions of a ramshackle bus on a dirt road in South America with a chicken as my travelling companion -  but alas when push comes to shove I think I'm less 'bus full of chickens' and 'chicken in a basket'.  The thing is, if you're going to spend your hard-earned cash on two weeks in the sun there's a big part of me that wants some guarantees such as sunshine, a comfortable bed and a warm ocean to dip into.  I'm lucky because since I was a young boy my family have had a home on the Spanish island of Mallorca.  Regular readers of this blog will know all about my love for this very special place and the inspiration it has brought to my cooking.  I love the fact that we have so many different cuisines from so many countries so close to the UK and travel is so simple and really quite inexpensive now there is very little reason not to get away and stuff your face...

wether you're feeling adventurous or in need of guaranteed sunshine the good people at ebookers have given me £50 worth of Bonus+ points to give to one lucky Belleau Kitchen reader... the Bonus+ points can be put towards booking flights and hotels through  ebookers are the first online travel agent to develop allow customers to earn rewards on flights, hotels and packaged trips all in one place with both business and leisure travellers being rewarded with meaningful discounts, bonuses and exclusive added value services. All you have to do is answer the simple question in the nifty rafflecopter thingy below...

spinach and broccoli paella
I adore a good paella and even though it's something of a dirty word when you're on a Spanish holiday you need to get over the naffness of it all and go ahead and order one... the issue I have of course is that The Viking is a vegetarian and there are very few places I can find that will make a good quality vegetarian paella so it's nice to try and develop something that has all the wonderful flavours of a traditional paella but without the meat...

i've used traditional paella rice which is slightly different to risotto rice and if you can find it then do but risotto rice will work here.

1 onion - finely chopped
1 medium carrot - finely chopped
2 sticks of celery - finely chopped
2 garlic cloves - crushed
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
150g button mushrooms - halved
fresh thyme
fresh coriander
250g paella rice
1 glass white wine
600ml good quality vegetable stock
1 head of broccoli
250g bag of baby spinach leaves
a large handful of frozen peas

if you have or can find a large paella pan then go for it but if not a large shallow casserole pan with a lid, like the one i've used, will work really well

place the pan on a mid heat and heat up some butter and olive oil, add the carrots, celery and onion and let them sweat for about 5 minutes, then add the smoke paprika, stir and let it cook off for another 3 minutes, then add the garlic, thyme and mushrooms and again let it cook off for another 3 minutes, place the lid on and let is cook gently for 5 mins until all the veg is soft

add the rice, stir then add the wine and let it sit for a moment whilst it bubbles away, then add the stock, tun down the heat, place the lid on and let it cook gently for 10 minutes

take the lid off, add the broccoli, place the lid on and let it steam for another 10 mins, then add the peas, stir in, then add the spinach, place the lid on for a further 5 mins whilst the spinach wilts.

take the lid off, stir it all together, turn up the heat and add a couple of gluggs of olive oil and let it really pick up heat... you want that patina of darkly golden rice on the bottom to get an authentic paella taste... then once you're happy, serve...

a Rafflecopter giveaway

eat and of course, enjoy!

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

coconut and lime cake with a rum toffee sauce

... do any of my other blogger-friends out there suffer from blogger food-lag?  This is the lag between making the food and eating the food... sometimes this can be a stressed 30 seconds whilst your very patient friends and family are waiting for food whilst you photograph stuff and at other times it can be a matter of days from the bake to the photograph... there are just so many variables that non-bloggers don't quite understand.  Take this cake for instance.  I baked it on a very lazy Saturday evening and the aroma in the kitchen was incredibly intense and probably not very wise just before going to bed... the cake then spent most of Sunday on the cooling rack as I was sick in bed and just couldn't bring myself to dress and photograph it... then on Monday it went into an air-tight container as I spent the day at work... and it wasn't until Monday night that it was finished but of course I couldn't photograph it until this morning as the light was better, which meant it didn't actually get eaten until Tuesday lunchtime... I'm told it was delicious but I doubt it was as good as it could have been on Sunday morning.  At least it looks pretty...

coconut and lime cake with a rum toffee sauce
i've made this cake specifically for JP at the office... he's cake-crazy and has been pestering for cake for months and this is the only way to shut him up.  I'm not entirely sure why I went for a rum and coconut cake but we were talking about his caribbean heritage and I think this must have inspired me.  JP also told me that his favourite cake was a simple Victoria Sponge so I wanted to make something that was simple and followed the tradition of that classic cake.  It's been an absolute age since i've baked a proper cake so it was a nice one to make, with a classic sponge mix and some added naughtiness for good measure...

for the cake
200g butter - at room temperature
200g sugar
3 large free-range eggs
200g self-raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons desiccated coconut
2 tablespoons rum
the zest of one lime - finely grated
a little milk to slacken

for the lime buttercream icing
600g icing sugar
300g butter - softened
the grated zest of 1 lime
desiccated coconut for dressing

for the rum toffee sauce
300ml pot of double cream
90g butter
100g dark muscavado sugar
1 tablespoon rum

pre-heat the oven to 170C and grease and line a 20cm loose bottom cake tin

sift the flour and baking powder together

in a large bowl cream the butter and sugar with a wooden spoon or a hand-held blender, until light and pale and fluffy

 add one egg, beat well in, followed by 1/3 of the flour, then repeat with the remaining eggs and flour

fold in the rum, lime zest and desiccated coconut

you may need to beet in a little milk to slacken the mixture, it should be thick but should drop off the spoon

pour into you cake tin and bake for 40 mins or until golden and risen and a skewer inserted comes out clean - set aside to cool on a wire rack for 5 mins then remove from the tin and allow to cool completely

make the butter cream by beating the butter until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes) and then gently add half the icing sugar and beat in, then add the run and lime zest and beat in the remaining icing sugar until you have a thick and light buttercream icing - you may need to add a little more sugar if it's not thick enough

carefully cut the sponge in half and spread half the buttercream onto the bottom layer, sprinkle with a little coconut and place the top layer on top, then spread the remaining buttercream on top and sprinkle with coconut

make the rum toffee sauce by melting the ingredients in a pan - let it bubble away until it turns a nice dark brown then let it cool... as it cools it will thicken, so let it cool completely before drizzling all over the cake in a pornographic way...

eat and of course, enjoy!



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