Wednesday, 3 September 2014

beetroot, cheddar and pecan bread



... and just as autumn took its grip on the UK, we turned into September and the sun came out again like it was summer... in fact i'm sitting here writing this post in my shorts, my legs desperately clinging on to the last vestiges of an Italian tan as I moisturise furiously - now there's an image for you.  I'm not sure quite how short lived it will be - the good weather, not my shorts which are short enough, so it's best that we make the most of it whilst it's here and autumn finally slams its fist down on the year.  You won't hate me will you if I tell you that The Viking and I are planning another little getaway for our birthday on the 24th... I know that it will mean my 3rd holiday of the summer but we've been busy boys and it looks as though we have a busy few winter months ahead so we're going away.  Not sure where yet.  Any recommendations gladly accepted.  Obviously somewhere with fabulous food and amazing weather is a plus... in the meantime here's some pretty pink bread...


beetroot, cheddar and pecan bread
i'd seen quite a few beetroot breads on the internet recently.  I was particularly inspired by Karen's Beetroot and Walnut Rolls and Lucy's Beetroot Loaf, so when it came to using up a bunch of ageing beetroot that had been languishing in the back of the fridge for quite some time I thought i'd have to give beetroot bread a go... plus was really intrigued to see if the colour would stay bright and vividly pink.  I've included a really strong but glorious cheddar and some pecans that have been in my larder since Christmas and the combination is exceptional... to be honest you can't really taste the beetroot and my colour is more orangey pink that hot pink like Lucy's but I doubled my bread recipe without increasing the beetroot amount so I knew the colour wouldn't be quite so intense... the bread also toasts beautifully, so i'm more than happy...

... again i've used my low-knead method.  The dough is very wet but have patience and stick to the low-knead technique and you'll be fine.  I've added a 4th knead to my usual 3 kneads as I think the dough benefits from this, plus the first rising time is way over 2 hours so be patient.

makes 2 loaves of any shape:

500g raw beetroot - peeled
800g strong white bread flour
2 teaspoons fast active dried yeast
2 teaspoon salt (not table)
100g strong cheddar - finely grated
50g pecan nuts - roughly crumbled as you add
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
400ml tap/beetroot juice water - you may need less, you may need more depending on how wet your beetroot is

extra virgin olive oil

scrunch some parchment then line your loaf tin or baking tray... saves heaps of time!

cut your beetroot into cubes and boil until tender and set aside to cool, reserve the water, then blend the beetroot into a pulp with a stick blender

place all the ingredients except for the oil, in a large bowl and bring together with a rubber spatula, it will be very wet but once combined set aside, cover with a tea towel and leave for 10 mins for the yeast to do its magic.

decide which hand you will knead with and which hand you will keep oil free... I use my right hand to knead... spill a little oil on your work surface, spread it around with the flat of your hand and then using your oiled hand grab the dough from the bowl and place it on the oil. Then swiftly drizzle a little oil into the bowl and wipe around using your oiled hand.

now turn to the dough and give it 8 'kneads'. This should take no longer than 30 seconds and you should already be able to feel the softness and air in the dough. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with a towel and set aside for 10 mins.

repeat 3 more times then cover the bowl with cling film and let the dough rise for at least an hour or until doubled in size

once doubled oil your work surface with your hand again and punch the dough into an oval on it, then starting at one end, roll the dough tightly into a sausage, tuck in the ends and plop into your prepped loaf tin. Pre heat your oven to 200C and set aside for 30 mins till risen.

Place the tin in the oven and bake for 10 mins then turn down the heat to 180c and bake for a further 20 mins. Remove loaf from tin then bake on the naked oven shelf for five more mins.

Set aside till completely cooled


eat and of course, enjoy!

Monday, 1 September 2014

random recipes #43 - random recipes - lavender sugar swiss roll with strawberries and cream



... on occasion, when i'm luck enough to find myself a quiet and rainy Sunday afternoon and there's nothing much happening I like to play a little game I call random recipes... sometimes I pull all my favourite books off the shelves and sit on the floor surrounded by them.  I close my eyes, lift up my arm, point my finger and let it land randomly on one of the books...  I then pick up that book and let it fall open it at a random page... sometimes I will look at the recipe and think euch, there's no way i'd ever eat that and then I pick again but more often than not I will cook what I find on that page and I like to try my hardest to follow the recipe and the method to the letter, even if it's a dish I may have cooked before, my way, just to see what it is that makes this particular recipe tick...

... this Sunday I chose page 137 from the WI's Cakes by Liz Herbert, funnily enough it's my most used random recipes cook book but it's a pretty fail-safe baking book and always nice to turn to for a classic bake...


lavender sugar swiss roll with strawberries and cream
i've made many a roulade in my day but the method for making a swiss roll is quite different and i'd seen the 'roll when it's still warm' method on GBBO and had really wanted to try it so this was an ideal random recipes to chose... if i'm honest I was a little disappointed with the sponge.  I was expecting it to be exceptionally light and fluffy and even though it tasted great the sponge was quite tough and i'm at a loss to know what it was that made it this way as I followed the recipe and the method to a 't'...

for the sponge:
115g caster sugar, plus extra for dusting
3 heads of lavender flowers - fresh or dried
3 large free-range eggs
115g plain flour
1 tablespoon boiled water

for the filling:
225g fresh strawberries
2 tablespoons icing sugar
150ml double cream
a few drops vanilla essence

grease and line a classic swiss-roll tin and pre-heat the oven to 180C, prepare a large sheet of greaseproof paper on your work surface and sprinkle liberally with some of the lavender sugar

you'll need to place the heads of lavender in the sugar and wrap tightly in cling film a least 24hrs prior to making this recipe

in a large bowl placed over a pan of hot water (not boiling) beat the sugar and eggs for 10 minutes until they are thick and creamy, remove from the pan and fold in the flour very gently so that you don't lose any air.

pour the batter gently into the swiss roll tin, spread out and bake for 8 minutes

once it's out of the oven, turn the tin over onto the greaseproof paper, remove the lining paper from the tin, trim the ends and place another sheet of paper on top of the sponge and roll the sponge up tightly from the short end and set it aside to cool.

in a large bowl, whip the cream and sugar, then add the strawberries and vanilla and whip again, break the strawberries

once the sponge is cool, gently unroll it and slather it generously with the whipped cream and re-roll it nice and tightly


...if you'd like to play along with random recipes this month then here are the rules:


1. randomly select any book from your collection, how you do this is up to you... I like to number my books and then use a random number generator.

2. take that book and open it at a totally random page. 

3. create the exact recipe on this page and don't cheat... do it with a friend in the room who will make you stick to it... it's a challenge after all and you're only cheating yourself... this is specifically designed to take you out of your comfort zone...!

4. you may change the recipe for dietary, monetary or seasonal availability reasons only.

5. post it up on your blog, with a link to this page and then email me a link to your post so I know you've joined in, you can also attach the random recipes challenge badge to show people you're taking part.

6. tweet your entry including the hashtag #randomrecipes and I will retweet all I see

7. challenge deadline is Sept 28th and I will post the round-up on Sep 29th



eat and of course, enjoy!

Saturday, 30 August 2014

random recipes #42 round-up - bloggers scream for ice cream



... I know.  I know.  I've been pushing you an awful lot lately but the whole point of random recipes is to take us out of our comfort zones and make us more aware of all the incredible recipes hidden within those cookbooks we cherish.  This month was all about ice cream and frozen desserts.  It's a tough one at the best of times so I hugely appreciate those that found the time between holidays, this lousy autumnal weather and getting the kids back to school in one piece to make an entry.  I hope you're all still enjoying the challenge and I promise that next month I will take it easier on you, just a little bit...

... so here are your wonderful entries...

let's start with my blog sister Kavey from Kavey Eats and her White Chocolate Vanilla Ice Cream randomly selected (after 2 selection fails) from Divine Heavenly Chocolate Recipes with a Heart by Linda Collister


next up is secret bed-reading Craig from The Usual Saucepans and this rather naughty looking Caramel Ice Cream Chocolate Crispy Cake randomly selected from Kitchen Hero by Donal Skehan


dear sweet Choclette from the Chocolate Log Blog came up trumps with this very tempting Chocolate Lavender Parfait randomly selected from Ultimate - The Green and Blacks New Collection which she selected very cleverly via Eat Your Books


here's Alicia from Foodycat and a very stylish Glace a l'abricot that was randomly selected from French Provincial Cooking by Elizabeth David... we're lucky she didn't go for her first random selection of Iced Ham Mousse!


next up is little old me from Belleau Kitchen with this bloody gorgeous Salted Caramel Custard Ice Cream taken from a recipe found randomly in Dessert Island Dishes by Maldon


here the gluten-free entry from Kate the Gluten Free Alchemist with a wonderful no churn Rhubarb Ice Cream randomly selected from The Baking Beauties


you may have to sit down for this next one as it's an actual successful entry from Jane from Onions and Paper with a glorious sounding G&T Slush Puppy taken from the BBC's Good Food - Food That Does You Good


next along the ice-cream wagon is Laura from Law Students Cook Book and a delightful Strawberry Ice Cream taken from the kings of all things frozen Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream and Dessert Book


next up is Corina from the brilliant Searching for Spice and a mistake ice cream that turned into a miraculous Chocolate Ice Cream Mousse, randomly selected from Eggs by Michel Roux



and finally this month it's the always gorgeous Karen from Lavender and Lovage and an extremely tempting Hot Fudge Sundae randomly selected from Delia Smith's Summer Collection... she also has an amazing ice-cream maker giveaway on her blog, so I would pop over there and name your favourite flavour!


and that my friends, is that... as always, we appreciate your glorious entries so do play along next month if you can, I promise you an easy ride in September...


Thursday, 28 August 2014

golden raspberry and apple crumble



... as regular readers of this blog will know, I am lucky enough to live in a charming village with neighbours who have become good friends.  We rely on each other for support when a cup of tea and a shoulder is needed, when a dog is stuck in and needs a walk, when bicycle tyre is flat and only an electrical pump will do or even when a harvest of golden raspberries needs turning into a crumble... it seems that i've most definitely become that guy that people turn to when they need something baking... got a glut of apples, give them to Dom... it's been known for us to come home and there be a bag filled with produce hanging on the door-handle.  No note, no-one to explain from whence it came.  of course i'm not complaining, bring it on I say, so it was very sweet when my neighbours grandchild Lydia turned up the other day with a bright pink sandcastle bucket filled with golden raspberries with the strict instructions to 'make a crumble'...


golden raspberry and apple crumble
I think that the good people at Linwoods sent me a selection of their flaxseed mixes way back at the beginning of the year and it took me ages to think how I would use any of them in my food... i'm just not the 'sprinkle it in' kind of guy... but over the course of the last few months i've been using the flaxseed, cocoa and berries mix more and more in things i've been baking.  There's something wonderful about the combination of sweet cocoa, sour berries and flax that works so very well in a lot of dishes, particularly fabulous mixed into a crumble topping...

for the crumble
225g plain or wholewheat flour
75g butter - I used salted but unsalted would be best
100g soft brown sugar
100g Linwoods flaxseed, cocoa and berries mix - or any other grains, nuts, seeds and cocoa powder

for the filling
a bucket full of golden raspberries
3 medium tart apples - cut into chunks
3 or 4 tablespoons of soft brown sugar

pre-heat the oven to 170C

i'm a firm believer in not cooking the fruit first, particularly when it comes to berries such as raspberries as they simply turn to mush, plus I like my fruit with a little bite in it

I foolishly didn't weigh the raspberries but there was enough to fill the bottom of my ceramic dish.  Don't wash them either.  Make sure they're clean and dust off any little critters or mud - the whole dish is going to be blasted in an oven for 30 minutes so there's unlikely to be much left in the way of bug-life

lay the cut apple pieces randomly on top and then sprinkle the whole lot with sugar.  I use only a little sugar as I like it nice and tart as I like the cream that i'm going to pour all over it do the work... set aside

put the flour and butter into a large bowl and rub together with your fingertips until you have a crumbly texture, add the rest of the ingredients and mix together

sprinkle the crumble on top of the fruit and press down firmly, then gently run a fork across the top

bake for 30 mins until golden and serve


... as you can see from the pictures, i've left my crumble unadorned ready for the topping of your choice... so how do you eat yours?  Purists would say piping hot, dripping in custard but I love mine ice-cold from the fridge, drenched in cream... heavenly!

eat and of course, enjoy!


Sunday, 24 August 2014

stuffed courgettes with gressingham duck ragu




... as I said when I slow roasted duck last week, i've always wanted to make duck ragu... it's just one of those things i'd seen either on a menu or on a blog or in cook book and it must have lodged itself into the deepest corners of my memory... it's one of those dishes where you just know the richness of the duck will work so wonderfully with the acid of the tomato sauce.  I'm also using some rather wonderful Stella Artois Raspberry Cidre in the ragu sauce as the tartness of the apples and berries will marry so perfectly with the duck... I think the whole thing combined makes for an incredibly summery dish that is surprisingly warming and rich for this time of year... it's raining like a bastard today anyway so it's an ideal dish for hanging around at home for...

... as I always try to do, i've made a veggie version of this dish so that The Viking can join in too.  As you don't add the duck until the end I was able to take out half the sauce and set it aside before adding the duck, I placed a couple of nobs of butter on each of the courgettes before roasting just to add a little much needed fat and they tasted perfect...


stuffed courgettes with gressingham duck ragu 
there seems to be an incredible glut of courgettes this year, not entirely sure what it is with this years harvest but the combination of a very wet early summer followed by these recent weeks of warm sunshine has meant for a wonderful abundance of them, so I’ve taken advantage of this and created an unusual way to serve the ragu… it's so unbelievably simple and is a nice alternative to serving the ragu with pasta... I hope you like it.

for the slow roast duck
1 large whole Gressingham duck
2 large tablespoons of smoked maldon sea salt flakes
4 or 5 twigs of thyme or lemon thyme if you can get it
1 large carrot - roughly chopped

for the ragu sauce
2 large onions – finely chopped
1 large fennel bulb – finely chopped
1 large carrot – finely chopped
4 large courgettes – sliced lengthways with the middle scooped out
2  x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
a selection of fresh herbs – I used 1 twig of rosemary , 2 twigs of thyme and a bunch of oregano
150ml of raspberry cidre – Stella Artois make a good one
150ml good quality vegetable stock
olive oil and butter
100g strong cheddar cheese – grated

pre-heat the oven to 180C

place the carrots and the duck giblets into the bottom of a large oven-proof roasting tin and lay the duck, breast-side up, on top

rub half the salt onto the breast skin and stuff the inside with the thyme, then turn the duck over and rub the underside with salt

place in the oven, breast-side down for one hour, then carefully turn the duck over and roast for a second hour until gorgeously dark golden brown - set aside uncovered for 10 minutes before consuming but don’t forget to leave half the bird for your ragu

using two forks, finely shred the left-over duck and set aside

now you can make the ragu… in a large casserole dish or deep-sided pan, gently heat a little olive oil and butter and then throw in the onions and let them caramelize for a good 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

next add the carrots, courgettes and fennel alongwith the fresh herbs and let them saute for 5 minutes or so, then place the lid on, turn the heat very low and let them sweat for a further 5 to 8 minutes until all the veg is soft

add the rest of the ingredients, stir it all together and with the lid off let it simmer on the lowest heat for at least an hour or until the liquid has reduced by half – if you're making a veggie version of this dish, now is the time to take out half the ragu, stir in a large handful of grated cheese and set it aside...

add the shredded duck to the remaining half and simmer again for another 20 minutes, then add half the grated cheese and stir well in

pre-heat the oven to 170c and line a roasting tin with parchment paper.

lay the hollowed out courgettes skin side down in the roasting tins, drizzle with a little olive oil and season well with salt and pepper

stuff them liberally with the duck ragu and bake them in the oven for 20 minutes, after which time, sprinkle on the remaining cheese and bake again for another 10 mins


the veggie version looks just as beautiful and tastes incredible too!

i'm proud to say that I developed this recipe for the good people at Gressingham and a version of this recipe appears on the Gressingam website

eat and of course, enjoy!



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