Tuesday, 24 November 2015

banana and chocolate soufflé pudding

... I am quite literally itching for Christmas.  I can't help it.  I think having spent the weekend at the cottage and popping to the local garden centre which has the most ridiculous display of Christmas decorations is what finally did it for me but I'm feeling so festive I was almost tempted to put our decorations up too. We've never put up decs earlier than the 1st December and I don't think I ever could but I must admit that I may have lit a scented candle with the aroma of spiced apples which has tipped me over the edge.  It's as though the warm weather that finally just ended had been dragging on for so long that this sudden cold snap has flicked the Christmas switch inside many of us and now we're running around like over-excited elves waiting for Santa to hand out the toy list.  It's addictive too.  Even The Viking who is a stalwart when it comes to dates and traditions has been softening to the idea of Christmas at the cottage... we've been trying really hard to be good when it comes to indulgence.  No naughty treats this month - you'll have noticed a distinct lack of sweet things on the blog - so I was quite surprised when he'd ordered us two mini mince pies at our visit to the garden centre tea room.  Talking of no treats, let's make pudding...

banana and chocolate soufflé pudding
not just a pudding and not quite a soufflé, this delightful little dessert is unbelievably simple to knock out, looks quite impressive and tastes phenomenal... there is very little more you could ask for in a pudding... t's almost healthy... or maybe i've gone too far... This months brilliant bloggers challenge We Should Cocoa - hosted by Choclette from Tin and Thyme, has the theme of bananas.  I have very rarely missed entering this challenge so i've been buying bananas for the last couple of weeks just to make sure I had them in the house and I always have cocoa somewhere in the cupboard but with the combination of not being around this month and my mind being completely blank I thought I was going to have to sit this one out until I lazily googled 'bananas and cocoa' and came up with this little gem adapted from the BBC Good Food website.

1 large very ripe banana
3 tablespoons dark cocoa powder
2 large eggs - separated
3 tablespoons caster sugar

i've used one small oven-proof dish but this would work using three ramekins which you need to butter and then dust with caster sugar

in a bowl mash the bananas with the egg yolks and cocoa powder until they are blended - I used a fork but this could be done in a blender of with a stick blender

in another bowl, beat the egg whites and the sugar until stiff and glossy and then gently fold this into the banana mixture

pour into the prepared dishes and bake for 10 minutes until risen and 'just-firm' to the touch with a slight wobble

eat and of course, enjoy!

Sunday, 22 November 2015

slow-cooker spinach, rocket, watercress and ricotta lasagne

...FINALLY winter is here, although if the weather reports are to be believed this sudden cold snap (and boy is it cold) will only last a short while before the more normal Spring-like temperatures return as hurricane after hurricane lashes the British Isles throwing the warmer air from the Atlantic our way.  Writing that sentence feels totally alien to me, sitting here in my thick jumper, with the fire lit and icy fingers of frost lace the windows but it really does seem as though the weather patterns have made it clear that they've changed for good and milder winters in the UK will become the norm.  It makes me wonder how this will effect our crops and cattle... will they notice?  Will we have to adjust the types of crops we grow and will some types of vegetables slowly die-out?  It will be interesting to see if we sluggishly accept the change or adapt quickly and embrace the potential it may bring... I'm hoping this is all just a blip in the cycle of life and that today's frost will finally kill off the hoards of flies and rodents before the UK becomes like a biblical version of Egypt... and our year will return to some kind of normality... but I very much doubt it...

slow-cooker spinach, rocket, watercress and ricotta lasagne
well I have to say that i'm genuinely impressed with this... it's incredibly easy to make as there's no pre-cooking so it's basically an assembly job and it has come out beautifully cooked and of course most importantly it's bloody tasty.  I'm a little relieved because my last couple of attempts at vegetarian slow-cooker cooking were a little bit of a let down - a lot of prep and ingredients and only so-so delivery.  My slow-cooker lasagna recipe is an amalgam of a few I found on-line and it was only because the devilishly clever google brought up the word lasagne as I plugged in my search.

As you can tell from my recipe list i'm using all pre-made shop-bought sauces and i've also used a bag of fresh salad mixes which have worked a dream and have all gone together to make the most wonderful and simple meals...

1 x 500g pasata (I used one of those large glass jars)
1 x 250g tub of supermarket brand tomato and garlic pasta sauce (the type they sell with the fresh pasta)
1 x 250ml tub of cottage cheese
1 x 150g Boursin Garlic and Herb cheese
1 x 250g tub of ricotta cheese
2 x 125g bags of fresh mozzarella
1 x 120g bag of mixed salad leaves (spinach, watercress and rocket)
roughly 10 sheets of dry - no pre-cook lasagne sheets
fresh basil leaves

mix together your two tomato sauces in one bowl and in another bow, mix together the cottage cheese, ricotta cheese and boursin

rub a little olive oil on the inside of your slow cooker and then spoon enough tomato sauce in to cover the bottom.

lay over this enough sheets of lasagna to roughly cover the sauce, you will need to do a bit of a jigsaw job with the sheets but don't worry about how it looks, nobody will see this

then carefully spread over a couple of tablespoons of the cheese mix followed by a handful of the mixed salad leaves which you can scatter across the top with some torn basil and mozzarella thrown over too

then it's a case of simply repeating the layers until you reach the top of the slow-cooker at which point you should try and end with the cheese and a scattering of fresh basil and mozzarella

place the lid on and cook on high for 3 hours

then turn the slow cooker off - and here's the important part - leave the lasagna to sit for at least 30 mins before serving as the whole pot will be very liquid and the dish needs time to allow the pasta to fully absorb the juices - after which time it should be able to be served like a regular lasagna.

I'm linking this recipe up to the slow cooked challenge hosted by Janice from Farmersgirl Kitchen and Lucy the Baking Queen which has a vegetarian theme this month

eat and of course, enjoy!

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

gluten-free apple and medjool date cake

... this week has been stupidly busy and it's only Wednesday.  As you can imagine the run up to the festive period is one of our busiest at The Persuaders but it always astounds me how everyone seems to want all their events on the same day... well I guess there are only so many days until everyone disappears for Christmas and there's lots to do... it's a lot of early mornings and late nights.  Last night I found myself leaving town in a cab very late and I was busy scrolling through emails on my iPhone and it wasn't until we stopped at roadworks and I looked up into the street that I realised Christmas had well and truly arrived in town.  As you know, I have a love/hate relationship with London but one of the times that I think it looks its best is when it's dressed for Christmas.  I'm not a fan of the big corporate lights on Oxford Street and Regent Street but there are so many smaller shopping streets and arcades that really put on the most incredible displays.  Some little streets such as Carnaby Street and St Christopher's Place always put a very creative and contemporary spin on their lights whilst posher streets like Old Bond Street and Saville Row look like something out of a Victorian fairytale... and then of course there's the shop windows... but I think potentially that may be a whole other post...

gluten-free apple and date cake
I made this apple and date cake a few months back when my sister Matti was staying with me and I was playing around with gluten free recipes... I wasn't so sure about this cake even though it went down really well.  I guess you could call it robust.  It's packed with flavour and has all the ingredients but for me it lacked a certain something naughty... i've never really been one for virtuous cakes, I can't really see the point and quite frankly if someone describes your food as 'interesting' then I think we all know what they mean...

... the edges of the cake look very dark but I would say it came out of the oven a dark golden brown rather than the black in the photograph...

225 g butter , room temperature, cut into cubes, plus extra for greasing
450 g bramley apples, roughly chopped
200 g medjool dates
100 g raisins
4 large free-range eggs, beaten
150 g gluten-free white bread flour, plus a teaspoon extra
100 g ground almonds
1 1/2 tbsp gluten-free baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
a good grating of nutmeg
2 tbsp pine nuts
2 tbsp demerara sugar

preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4. Grease the base of a round 23cm cake tin and line with greaseproof paper. Place the apples in a food processor with the dates, butter and half the raisins and blitz until combined. Using a spatula, scrape into a bowl and mix in a third of the beaten eggs.

in a separate bowl combine the flour, almonds, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Add a third to the apple mixture and combine, then continue adding and combining the egg and flour mixtures in alternating batches until all mixed together. Finish by folding through the remaining raisins then pour into the prepared cake tin.

combine the pine nuts, demerara sugar and extra teaspoon of gluten-free flour in a bowl and scatter over the cake mixture. Bake for 50–60 minutes, until golden and cooked through. Leave the cake to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

i'm linking this cake up to the brilliant AlphaBakes challenge which is celebrating the letter M and one of my star ingredients is medjool dates.  AlphaBakes is co-hosted by Ros from More Than The Occasional Baker and Caroline from Caroline Makes 

eat and of course, enjoy!

Monday, 16 November 2015

hotel chocolate cookie caramel festive wreath - giveaway

... the thing is, this Christmas lark is coming at you whether you like it or not. They say that it comes earlier every year and I do have to admit that this year, it seems to have swung around again very fast but quite frankly I love it. Despite this unseasonably warm weather we're having I already have that tingly feeling in my bones about locking down for Christmas.  Last year we left these shores for sunnier climes and whilst both The Viking and I had a hugely enjoyable time we both had to admit to ourselves is that we really missed Christmas.  As you can imagine the cottage is festooned with decorations - all supremely tasteful of course - and the food and wine don't really stop flowing... well it's mainly cheese but you get the idea.  With the year we've had I am looking forward to settling down in front of the fire and not moving for three weeks...

the hotel chocolate cookie caramel festive wreath is one massive chunk of chocolate... when I first opened the package when it had arrived through the post I was a little disappointed at how small it seemed.  I think I have chocolate dysmorphia though because this is a weighty piece of divine deliciousness.  It's so thick you actually have to put a considerable amount of effort into cutting it up and I truly believe that if you have to strain to cut a chunk of chocolate then you know you're getting your moneys worth! It's actually 450g of gorgeousness. Inspired by a festive christmas wreath and crafted from delicious 50% milk chocolate. The wreath is generously studded with nibbly cocoa biscuits, shortbread biscuits and crisp caramelised Florentine squares... even The Viking who's not usually a chocolate fan was pretty much smitten with this beauty.  It's perfect for Christmas, great for sharing or gifting or just keeping for yourself and eating secretly every time you go upstairs...

the good people at hotel chocolate have very kindly given me a wreath to giveaway to one lucky Belleau Kitchen reader, all you have to do to enter is fill in the clever little raflecopter gadget thing below and then sit back and wait for Christmas...

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, 13 November 2015

ginger roast Lincolnshire pork belly

... last night I was honoured to host the Lincolnshire Life Magazine, Taste of Excellence Food and Drink Awards, held at the lovely Oaklands Hall Hotel, here in the Lincolnshire Wolds.  The awards, which are in their 19th year, celebrate the food produced in this great county and honour the chefs, makers and proprietors who love this food and who have created businesses based on their passion for it.  Whilst i've done plenty of cookery demo's and of course I love the sound of my own voice, i've never actually done anything quite like this before and so I was quite nervous... I guess the fact that I was also standing in front of a room full of nearly 200 people who I have the utmost respect for also made it all a little more daunting but once I downed a swift strong one I delivered an amusing little introduction, which seemed to raise a titter from a table or two so I think it all went quite well.  It's so funny how intensely focussed I became prior to the moment itself and then once I was up there chatting away, it all felt perfectly normal, like I was in a room full of friends and family.

Awards dinners can be quite lengthy and stuffy affairs but last night was a really fun evening, full of atmosphere and very jolly people... the food was outstanding, quite how chef Steven Bennet managed to deliver such an incredible quality of food to the tables without a single grumble I will never know but i'm just glad I could sit and enjoy the meal and celebrate the best bit of living in Lincolnshire... the food!

ginger roast Lincolnshire pork belly
of course the pork belly doesn't have to come from Lincolnshire but if you have a wonderful local farmer who will deliver free-range, organic, home-reared meat products to your door then feel free to use them... this pork belly comes from the lovely Jo and Fred who run a small-holding called Claythorpe Livestock, who i've championed before on this blog and it really is very good quality meat.  As you know, I don't eat or cook a huge amount of meat but when I do I like to ensure that it's the best quality meat I can find, preferably locally sourced and it doesn't get more local that the stuff roaming around in the fields outside my window... This recipe is unbelievably simple but will produce a guaranteed outstanding crackling, which is what we're all about right?

serves 2 to 4 depending on how much of a fat bastard you are...

1 800g piece of pork belly -well scored (you need a really sharp knife to do this so if you can ask your butcher to do it then you're winning)
3 tablespoons sea salt flakes
1 large piece of fresh ginger - at least 4 inches long - peeled and cut into smaller chunks
5 or 6 medium roasting potatoes - peeled and chopped
2 large carrots - peeled and chopped
a large sprig of fresh thyme
1 large glass of white wine

pre-heat your oven to 220C if it goes that high

ensure the pork belly skin is very dry - I do this by patting it with a couple of sheets of absorbent paper towels and then leaving them on top for 15 minutes but I have heard tell of people using a hair-dryer, which i'm not adverse to.

place the salt into bowl and add half the fresh thyme leaves and stir together

place the veg, ginger and remaining thyme into a large roasting tin and lay your pork belly on top and then rub the salt/thyme mix into the skin, leaving a thick crust of salt on top.  Place the dish into the hot oven for an hour.

remove from the oven and spoon off the salt... the potatoes and carrots will have turned very black but this is fine, they're not really there for the eating although I do love them like this.  I remove them at this stage but you can keep them in the tray for the remainder of the cooking time if you want.

sprinkle a teeny bit of salt over the pork belly and then pour in the wine around the meat being careful not to touch the skin and place the whole dish back in the oven, reduce the heat to 150C and cook for another hour... remember to set aside for 15 minutes or so before serving, which gives you enough time to steam some vegetables should you feel that way inclined

i'm linking this divine pork belly to shop local hosted by Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary which encourages us to buy from local shops and producers

eat and of course, enjoy!

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

apple and sultana strudel biscuits

... last Monday I did a little bit of filming for Taste Kitchen, a series of little shorts that can be found on the Aldi website.  The theme for one of the films was celebrating European Christmas Markets and whilst I was looking through my blog for recipes and inspiration I came across an old recipe for mums apple strudel cinnamon biscuits which I thought would be perfect for that pre-christmas, warming, spicy tastes and aromas of the markets that I love... we have a growing and really lovely Christmas market close to our home in the town of Louth.  It started as quite a small affair a few years ago, taking over the town square but now there are stalls running down most of the main roads and they even have a stage with choirs singing carols.  Louth is such a beautiful old town with its Georgian and Victorian architecture, walking around the town is like walking through an old Dickens novel and particularly so at Christmas with its traditional street lights and Christmas trees.  One of the highlights of the market is a visit by Father Christmas himself as well as a local St Bernard breeder who dresses his adorable dogs up in christmas gear and walks them around to meet people.  I remember the year there was a new litter of fluff-balls and I have to say the combination of christmas magic and big fluffy puppies was potentially one of the cutest things i've ever seen.  The food at the market is pretty special too.  All the local producers take a stall so there's a wide variety of treats on offer plus there's always a few inspirational independent bakers and makers of the finest treats.  This years Louth Christmas Craft Market is on November 29th and I cannot wait for a bit of christmas cheer.

St James' Church 'Louth in the Snow' by Paul Thompson Photography

apple and sultana strudel biscuits
these are quite frankly the easiest things to make in the world and my mum would normally knock them up when she's got any left-over pastry, which sometimes I think she engineers just so she can make these little beauties... they're sticky and sweet but the grated apple adds just that touch of sharpness that rounds them off beautifully... you can whip up a batch of these in mere minutes but I warn you, they'll be gone just as quickly.  They make an excellent gift if you're off doing the rounds prior to Christmas and they won't set you back much more than an old penny or two... oh just go and make them already!

for the sweet shortcrust pastry
200g plain flour
100g ground almonds
185g butter - room temperature
2 tablespoons golden caster sugar
cold water (roughly 4 tablespoons)

for the filling
2 local apples of any variety - finely grated
100g sultanas
a handful of almond slithers
2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 or 3 tablespoons of jam or marmalade of your choice

makes roughly 20 strudel biscuits

start with the pastry by tipping the flour and ground almonds into a large bowl and rubbing in the butter with your fingers.  Keep them light and quick to ensure there's plenty of air, then once you have the consistency of breadcrumbs stir in the sugar.

add the water and using a knife, stir together.  Once it starts to form a ball, get in with you hands and bring it all together to form a solid ball

pat the pastry out to a thick flat disk and wrap in clingfilm, then pop in the fridge for at least half an hour

once you're ready to make the strudel, turn the oven on to 160C and prepare two baking sheets with parchment or greaseproof paper

divide your pastry into two and place one back in the fridge, then flour your work surface liberally and roll out the pastry to as thin as you dare, trying to keep it in a rough oblong shape - this really doesn't matter too much as the little biscuits should have a rough and ready look to them.  Ensure the pastry is loose underneath before you start to add the toppings

spread 2 tablespoons of jam or marmalade onto the pastry, trying to go as close to the edges as possible, then evenly spread out the grated apple, sultanas and sprinkle on the almond slithers and cinnamon

carefully roll up the pastry, starting from the edge nearest you... try and roll it as tight as possible but again this isn't a huge issue... then cut the sausage shape into biscuits roughly 1 and 1/2 inches wide and place them on the baking sheet with a gap between each one

repeat with the second piece of pastry, then brush the top of each one with an egg wash and then bake for at least 20 minutes or until golden and sticky... allow to cool on a rack before scoffing

these lovely petite autumnal biscuits are being linked up to treat petite hosted by Cakeyboi and The Baking Explorer

i'm also linking to credit crunch munch founded by Fab Food 4 All and Fuss Free Flavours and hosted this month by Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary, because this little biscuits are superbly cheap and cheerful

because i'm using left-over pastry i'm linking this recipe to the brilliant no waste food challenge founded by Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary and hosted this month by It's Not Easy Being Greedy

of course this being my mums recipe i'm linking it to inheritance recipes hosted by Coffee and Vanilla and Pebble Soup

eat and of course, enjoy!

Monday, 9 November 2015

5 strand wholewheat challah bread

... they say that to bake a successful loaf you need to be in a good mood or your negativity will be transmitted into the dough... i've not experienced this myself but I do know that I was in a foul mood this weekend when I baked this particular loaf and i'm very pleased with the results so i'm not entirely sure I agree.  Perhaps it was my aggression that I took out on the dough that made it rise so well or perhaps it was the salty tears that added that extra something, who knows?  It is true that I need to be in the right mood for cooking and being a food blogger it's lucky that i'm more often than not in that mood but seeing that I have quite a changeable temperament on an hourly basis it is a wonder I get anything done...

5 strand wholewheat challah bread
challah is a traditional jewish bread made for eating on the sabbath.  It's a slightly sweet bread made with eggs that is very similar in taste and texture to brioche although it is eaten mainly as a savoury bread... tradition would dictate that 2 loaves were baked, one for eating on the Friday evening and the other for the Saturday as the sabbath doesn't actually end until after sundown on the Saturday night and the law tells us that we're not supposed to 'work' on the sabbath, which includes baking bread.  I guess the inclusion of honey and eggs into the bread guarantees a longer shelf life for the loaves.  The recipe below is easily enough for two loaves but if you want to impress with a bit of a centrepiece bread then go for one large 5 strand loaf, it's surprisingly easy to do yet looks complicated enough to elicit a few wows from the crowd...

this recipe calls for the bread to rest in the fridge overnight.  I'm not entirely sure why and I haven't made it without the fridge rest so I don't know if it makes a difference but what it does mean

300g strong white bread flour
400g wholewheat bread flour
1 and a 1/2 teaspoons salt
80g unsalted butter
2 generous teaspoons of honey
2 teaspoons fast action dried yeast
3 large eggs - beaten
8ft oz warm milk
1 egg beaten for the glaze

place the flour and salt in a large ceramic bowl and rub in the butter, then stir in the yeast and the salt

place the honey into the milk and warm it gently, then pour this and the beaten egg to the flour

using a rubber spatula, bring it together until a dough forms, then turn it our onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes until soft. It will be very sticky at first but a little flour sprinkled on your work surface will help.  Oil the bowl.

place the kneaded dough back into the oiled bowl, cover with cling film and let it rise until doubled in size, which should be roughly an hour.

knead again for 5 minutes, then place it back in the bowl and let it rise again, till doubled

once risen, remove from the bowl and gently roll out into one long fat sausage and divide into 5 equal portions... I weighed each of my portions and they were roughly 250g each.

to create the 5 plait loaf is pretty easy but worth watching this video first...

gently roll each portion into a long sausage shape and connect them all at one end.  Fan them out into the 5 strands with an obvious gap between the second and third strand so you have 2 strands to the left and 3 strands to the right.  This two/three split is the key as you pass the furthest strand on the right (where you've got 3 strands) over into the gap and push left slightly so you now have 3 strands to the left and 2 strands to the right.  Now you repeat the process from the left, passing the furthest strand on the left over towards the gap in the middle and scoot it to the right so you're back to the original pattern of 3 strands on the right and 2 on the left.

repeat until there's no dough left and tuck the ends under until you have a neat loaf, then carefully tip and roll onto your baking tray

brush with beaten egg and refrigerate over night then in the morning, brush with egg again and bake on 190c for 15-20 minutes until golden and risen... if your loaf is anything like mine it will be very long and slightly too long for the oven, so watch it as it will burn where it touches the oven...

i'm linking this eggy bread to this months Simply Eggcellent which has the theme of Breads, Pastries and Eggy Puddings

i'm also linking it to Bready Steady Go hosted by Michelle from Utterly Scrummy and Jen from Jen's Food

eat and of course, enjoy!



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