Tuesday, 25 August 2015

sun-dried tomato, honey, walnut and rosemary bread

... The Viking and I spent the weekend in London this last weekend.  The weather was incredibly hit and miss swinging from scorching hot to torrential downpours. We managed to avoid the worst of the rain and found ourselves walking along the Southbank from Waterloo to Tower Bridge.  It's one of those tourist walks that you tend to avoid at the weekends as a Londoner because it's inevitably crowded and the food offerings along the way are horrendously expensive but we paced ourselves and ignored the massing throng and had a lovely time.  We didn't eat this time, learning from past experience and instead ended the journey in the supermarket purchasing naughty things for a picnic at home, like crisps and cheap bread to make un-healthy but delicious crisp sandwiches, telling ourselves that the 8 mile walk would allow us this naughty feast and ignoring the fact that the whipped ice cream and pint of cider we purchased en route would have cancelled out any calorie burning the walk had already done... oh well, you've got to live a little right?

sun-dried tomato, honey, walnut and rosemary bread
this is another of my entries for this years Aby Village Show.  It's my classic low-knead bread with some added gorgeousness.  This is what I adore about this recipe.  It's so adaptable and ultimately so easy to make that you really can throw in any ingredients you happen to have around.  The category for the bread was a 'speciality loaf' and rather than go for a classic ciabatta or baguette I wanted to create something a little special.  I also know that my low-knead method is failsafe so I was assured of a decent loaf.  The only trouble I had was deciding how to present it so I made enough dough to make two loaves and then presented them in two different ways, one as a classic round, free form 'cottage loaf' with slashes and a flour top and the other formed in a cake tin as separate rolls formed together like a flower... either way they were both glorious loaves.  The classic loaf didn't place at all and the cake-tin loaf came third... what can I say... perhaps you should be the judge and make this for yourself...

I created a brilliant photographic step-by-step for my low-knead loaf on the blog and here's the recipe for this one:

600g strong white bread flour
200g rye flour or wholemeal rye flour as it is sometimes known
3 teaspoons fact action dried yeast
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon runny honey
600 ml water
olive oil to knead
100g chopped walnuts
50g sun-dried tomatoes - finely chopped
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary - chopped
extra honey for glazing

place all the dry ingredients into a bowl, along with the tablespoon of honey and stir together, then add the water and bring together with a rubber spatula until you have a sticky shaggy mess - cover with a tea towel and set aside for 10 minutes

after 10 minutes, drizzle a little oil onto your work surface, rub around with your hand and then using your oiled hand lift the shaggy mess from the bowl and place it onto your oiled surface

drizzle a little more oil into the bowl and rub this around the inside of the bowl with your oiled hand and set aside

now knead the dough 10 times and then place it back into the oiled bowl, covered with a tea towel, for another 10 minutes

repeat this 2 more times, each time you will feel the dough getting softer and silkier and it will begin the expand and swell too

after the last time, place the dough back into the bowl and stretch cling film over the top of the bowl and set aside for at least an hour or until the dough has doubled in size

after an hour pre-heat your oven to 220C or as hot as it will go and place an oven proof pan in the bottom of the oven

prepare one baking tray with some well floured parchment paper and line a loose-bottomed cake tin with parchment on the bottom and sides.

oil your work surface and then scoop out the risen dough onto the oil, you want to knock it back with your knuckles and fold it over envelope-style a few times and then, if making two loaves, cut it in half.  Flatten each half slightly and place your ingredients on top and begin the fold the dough over and incorporate them into the dough

Now it's time to shape each half into the shape of your choice;  If you're going for a classic ball shape simply mould the dough into a round and place it onto your baking tray.  If you're after the cake-flower shape then cut the dough into 6 even pieces and roll each piece into a ball.  Place one ball into the centre of the cake tin and place the other balls around it to form a flower.  Cover both loaves with oiled clingfilm or place them in a plastic bag, then set aside for 30 minutes as they prove.

once you're ready to bake and your oven is extra hot, spritz the round loaf with water, then sprinkle on a little rye flour and rub gently with your hand.  Slash the top three times with a sharp knife.

Quickly open the oven and pour a little cold water into the tray in the oven and then place in the loaves and bake in the oven for 10 minutes on 220C followed by 20 minutes on 180C.  They will be done when they are risen and golden and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom

When they come out of the oven, place the floured round loaf to one side on a wire rack.  To glaze the cake-flower loaf, simply brush it with honey and then set aside to cool

i'm linking up these loaves to Bready Steady Go created by Jen from Jen's Food and Michelle from Utterly Scrummy 

sorry there's no pics of a cut slice but I had to submit them to the show un-cut and then I sold them at the end for charity...

eat and of course, enjoy!

Saturday, 22 August 2015

orange blossom chocolate creams

... this week has been one of those weeks that i'd rather leave behind in the dark corner of a dusty cupboard in the attic of a haunted house somewhere that I know i'd never be able to find again.  It's been incredibly relentless at work.  So much so that The Viking and I had to cancel a bloggers trip to the RNLI Riggers Restaurant in Poole in Dorset that I was very excited about and if you know me, you know that I would quite literally move mountains for a free meal!... one of those weeks where the emails have been so relentless that the moment I clear them another 50 come pouring in that demand attention.  I mustn't complain because I actually love the work but sometimes you just want to shut the computer and run for the hills... which is why i'm leaving it short and sweet today...

orange blossom chocolate creams
I think orange and chocolate is my most favourite chocolate pairing.  I've written before about how, when visiting us in London my grandma Jennie would always bring my brother and I a Terry's Chocolate Orange as a gift.  It sounds like such a small gesture now but my grandpa Henry had a greengrocers warehouse in Hull and when they came to visit us in London grandpa would bring those wonderful long trays of fruit, each orange or apple wrapped in tissue paper and sealed with a sticker... so when grandma presented us with chocolate oranges, wrapped in their foil wrappers it felt like we were in on a secret joke just between us.  These delightful orange blossom chocolate creams were made for the recent local village show in which they achieved first place.  They are a breeze to make and are an adaptation of the classic peppermint cream.  The solid fondant part has a wonderful sharp zing whilst the dark orange chocolate has a sophisticated edge. They are ridiculously sweet, so one only and you've had your chocolate orange fill...

1 large free-range egg white
½ the juice of a lemon
1 teaspoon orange blossom water - I used the Nielson-Massey Orange Blossom Water
425g icing sugar, plus extra for dusting
175g dark orange chocolate - I used the Co-Operative Truly Irresistible Fairtrade Ghanaian Dark Chocolate with Spices and Orange Oil which is stunning

whisk the egg white in a bowl until stiff peaks form when the whisk is removed. Slowly stir in the lemon juice, orange blossom and icing sugar to a stiff paste. (I used a rubber spatula to do this.)

tip the mixture onto a work surface dusted liberally with icing sugar and roll out thinly.

use a 5cm cutter to cut out circles and place them onto a lined baking tray. Chill in the fridge for 1-2 hours, or until the mixture has set.

meanwhile, melt the chocolate (i do this on a medium setting in the microwave in short bursts.)

dip each orange blossom cream into the melted chocolate and set aside on a baking tray. Chill until set.

i'm linking these little sweets into the treat petite bloggers link-up hosted by Kat The Baking Explorer and Stuart the Cakeboi which has the theme of #GBBO... yes, unless you've been living under a rock cake for the past 3 weeks you'll know that the Great British Bake-Off is back on the TV... and these orange creams remind me of a 'sweets and candy week' they had back in season 2...

eat and of course, enjoy!

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

habas con jamon

... it's not even half way through August yet and it feels like the summer is over.  They're talking about 'back to school' and 'autumnal fashion' on the TV and in magazines and I had one of those 'tucked-up-by-the-fireside' feelings over the weekend that I just couldn't shake.  Now don't get me wrong, I'm a huge fan of the autumn.  It is by far my favourite season but even I don't want to say goodbye to the summer just yet.  As far as i'm concerned the summer isn't officially over until the 25th September, the day after my birthday.  I know that's quite late but as a kid I remember glorious sunny summers-day birthdays... although my mum now tells me that she always tried to squeeze my birthday parties in before we returned to school in early September so it's quite possible that i have a twisted view of childhood sunshine...

habas con jamon #MyHolidayDish
i'm working with the good people at James Villas Holidays to bring to life the nations favourite holiday destination dishes... us Brits love our European holidays and Cyprus, Italy, Greece and Spain rank amongst our top places to visit.  As you'll know, I love Mallorca and always come back inspired by my holidays, often cooking dishes based on my trips.  I do love Spain as a destination and we have friends who have a beautiful home near Almeria on the mainland in Spain and have often visited and come home with plans to recreate some of their wonderful local tapas dishes.  As we all know the Spanish have a huge passion for food but sometimes it's not so easy to make those dishes when you get home... this classic and very simple Almerian dish of broad beans with Serrano ham could have been lifted directly from the narrow streets of the ancient city... it took me right back and makes me pang for another little trip to the sunshine...

the recipe is inspired by one from chef and food writer Jo Pratt... i've adapted it slightly to make it more of a main dish but you can follow her recipe and see her cook it in this little film

1.5kg fresh broad beans, shelled (I used tinned board beans.  They were actually delicious ones, in water, which I purchased from our local co-operative store.  I actually couldn't find any fresh broad beans... it seems we grow tonnes of it in the fields around my house but try and buy it locally!)
4 tbsp Spanish Olive oil
1 Small onion, finely chopped
4 Cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
100g Sliced Serrano ham, torn into small strips
Small glass of dry white wine (about 125ml)
Small handful chopped mint
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 packet of mixed watercress, rocket and spinach salad leaves

bring a pan of salted water to the boil and cook the broad beans for 1-2 minutes until just tender. Drain and refresh under cold water. Once they are cool enough, remove the outer skins, revealing the bright green beans inside. If the beans are particularly small and young they can be left as they are.

pour the olive oil in a wide pan or frying pan and place over a low-medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and gently cook for about 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned. Add the ham and cook gently for 1-2 minutes.

increase the heat to high. Add the wine, bring to the boil and cook until it has reduced by about half. Add the beans, reduce the heat to low and cook for 1 minute to completely heat through before seasoning with salt and pepper and stirring in the mint and salad leaves

i'm linking this stunning recipe to Karen from Lavender and Lovage and her summer holiday themed Tea Time Treats... because we grow so much broad bean here in Lincolnshire i'm also linking it to Elizabeth at Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary and her Shop Local link-up and it's also being linked to the brilliant Credit Crunch Munch founded by Camilla from Fab Food 4 All and hosted this month by Charlene from Food Glorious Food

eat and of course, enjoy!

Sunday, 16 August 2015

beetroot and tumbling chocolate bundt - a showstopper cake for the chocoholic

... or 'escape from chocolate mountain' - as The Viking likes to call it!

never mind the Great British Bake Off, this weekend marks the return of the Aby Village Show and the annual baking, crafting and gardening shenanigans of the local hoodlums... oh they may look like ordinary, innocent village folk but they are fiercely competitive with an evil streak for not taking any prisoners when it comes to dishing out sympathy.  You're either a winner or you may as well climb back into your hole... Oh yes, it all has the dusted sheen of your average country village fete with the bunting and the little white-haired old ladies who wouldn't harm a fly but believe me when i say that beneath the surface lies evil.  True, proper, jam-covered evil...

I baked all day yesterday; this cake, a lemon curd swiss roll, a speciality bread with sun-dried tomatoes and walnuts and some orange blossom chocolate creams all of which I will share with you over the next few days... but as for now, i'm up early and off to lay out my entries in the village hall.  I will update this post with the results later this afternoon...

sun-dried tomato, walnut, honey and rosemary loaf

lemon curd cream Swiss Roll

orange blossom chocolate creams

beetroot and tumbling chocolate bundt - a showstopper cake for the chocoholic
as I outlined last month here on the blog, the categories for this years show have been changed to much chagrin amongst the baking cognoscente of Belleau and Aby but one of the bakes has the heading of 'a showstopper cake for the chocoholic' and I really couldn't resist.  Now, if you know me, I'm not really one for the stopping of the show and I prefer a plain, what-you-see-is-what-you-get the of cake but i'm always up for the competition so i've turned my hand to this little number.  The basic bundt is a recipe i've made before here in the blog but I loved the idea

for the cake
250g plain chocolate broken up
3 large free range eggs
200g light muscovado sugar
100ml sunflower oil
1tsp vanilla extract
100g self raising flour
1/2 tsp bicarb
1/2 tsp baking powder
50g ground almonds
200g raw beetroot - finely grated
50g cox's apples - finely grated

for the icing
100g icing sugar
100g cream cheese
beetroot juice (left over from above)
50g dark chocolate - melted

a selection of chocolates for tumbling

- melt the chocolate (i did it in a microwave but a double boiler is the traditional way)

- whisk together the egg, sugar and oil until smooth and creamy, stir in the vanilla extract then fold in the flour, bicarb, baking powder and ground almonds

- grate the raw beetroot and apple, squeeze out most of the liquid (set aside for the icing) and fold it into the cake mix along with the cooled melted chocolate

- pour the mixture into your cake tin (I used my 25cm round bundt tin) and bake on 170 for 40 mins - 1hr.

- once out of the oven and cooled you can ice to your fancy... i've simply used the beetroot juice beaten with some icing sugar and cream cheese to create this simple yet eye-popping icing... then i've taken advantage of the hole in the centre of the bundt to create a vessel for the mixed chocolates which i've let tumble gently down the sides of the bunt... 

...well... it didn't go quite according to plan.  yes, I won first for my chocolate orange creams, yes I won second for my lemon curd cream Swiss Roll and yes I won third for my bread but this beetroot and chocolate beauty failed to even place anywhere... I am at a loss and in need of therapy.  I may not speak for a month...

eat and of course, enjoy!

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

summer berry burst cake

... The Viking and I were in Dublin once again this past weekend.  We're fortunate enough that our work takes us to some lovely places and we get to experience these cities in quite a unique way.  We have all the benefits of being tourists but without the crowds and because we're usually working on some strange event in an unusual venue we get to see the insides of buildings that many people don't get the chance to visit and we meet real locals who have an insiders knowledge of the city.  Inevitably we are hosted by our lovely clients who know so much about the city, such as where to eat - we had some amazingly good food... and of course where to drink... there was a lot of drinking this weekend.  It even got to the point on Sunday night when I actually had to excuse myself at 11:30pm to go to bed... i think I must be getting old...

summer berry burst cake
this is one of those cakes where you know you want to bake something sweet but you're not surfier you can endure the faff of baking something elegant with frosting and layers but you still want that baked buttery, fruity taste... it's so simple and will take any selection of fruits.  This one is packed so full of fruits that it's so incurably moist but I love my cakes like this - all puddingy and gooey... I had raspberries, blueberries and blackberries in the fridge and I threw in a handful of each and i've tried to be more precise with the measurements below but life is one big experiments so don't sue me if your try this and it comes out too juicy!

i've used a classic 'weigh-the-eggs' baking method here but you could use your favourite classic sponge recipe and then add the fruits at the last stage... the weigh-the-eggs method is very simple and as the name suggests you start the process by weighing the three eggs in their shells and whatever this weight is, you then measure out the same weight of butter, sugar and flour.  I have given you the ingredients list and weights below but of course your three eggs will weigh slightly differently to mine so best use your weights not mine...

3 large free-range eggs
230g butter
230g sugar
230g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
50g raspberries
50g blackberries
50g blueberries
a little milk to slacken

grease and line your cake tin... I used a 2cm square tin... and pre-heat your oven to 170C

sieve the baking powder into the flour

in a large bowl, use an electric whisk to cream the sugar and butter for at least 4 minutes until the mixture is pale and fluffy then add 1 egg and whisk in followed by a third of the flour mixture, then whisk in the next egg followed by another third of the flour and then the final egg is whisked in followed by the remaining flour.

next whisk in the vanilla and 2 or 3 tablespoons of milk

then, tip in your fruit and plunge the electric whisk into the batter and let it spin a few times... it will pulverise the fruit and mix it in at the same time

pour the batter into the tin and bake for 30 minutes or until golden and risen and a skewer inserted comes out clean - set aside to cool on a wire rack.

you can decorate it will all kinds of icing but quite frankly I love it like this, nice and plain and juicy with its own fruit!

i'm linking this cake to the Great British Blackberry Round-Up which is a celebration of the humble blackberry hosted by Janice from Farmergirl Kitchen and Karen from Lavender and Lovage... it's a great place to share and be inspired by lots of wonderful blackberry recipes...

eat and of course, enjoy!

Saturday, 8 August 2015

trout, avocado and spinach souffle

... sometimes i've worked so flat out during the week that I spend the whole of Saturday laying in or on the bed watching TV... this is an entirely guilt-free activity but it's taken a good few years of adult life for me to become totally happy with it.  I know I work hard and sometimes this includes both weekdays and weekends but my free weekends are precious to me, so to seemingly waste one of those days is akin to sinning... but now that i've realised that there is no such thing as a work/life balance i've made peace with the fact that sometimes I am allowed to be a slob. My favourite thing is to find a properly tacky TV show that's a few years old and then watch 3 or 4 seasons in a row, only moving to fuel the body and poo.  Of course, me being an international food blogger and all my 'fuelling' is usually slightly more elevated than cheese on toast... but only just...

trout, avocado and spinach souffle
I think this is less a souffle and more a baked omelette or crustless quiche but I think souffle sounds a little more snazzy if you know what I mean.  If i'm honest I did have all intention to attempt a proper souffle but quite frankly I couldn't be bothered and all I had in the fridge was cottage cheese and some delicious TOTAL Greek yoghurt so it is what it is.   I love this dish.  It's so easy to throw together and it's packed with all the wonderfully healthy, protein-heavy things I love... and if you're turning your nose up to baked avocado then think again.  There's something wonderful that happens to the humble avocado when it's baked.  It becomes extra creamy and wonderfully smooth and it just works so well here.  Potentially some spring onions could have added a little crunch but I didn't have any in the house so i've kept it properly simple.

2 large free-range eggs
100ml cottage cheese
100ml TOTAL Greek Yoghurt
2 fillets of trout or salmon - these can be pre-cooked or raw
1 avocado - peeled and chopped
50g strong cheddar - grated
a large handful of spinach
salt and pepper

pre-heat the oven to 180C and butter an oven-proof dish

in a  small pan add a drop of water, the spinach and a large dollop of butter, season well with pepper and salt, place the lid on and let it steam on a low heat until the butter melts and the spinach is soft - set aside.

in a large bowl beat the eggs, then add the cottage cheese and yoghurt and salt and pepper and stir in, then add the cheddar, avocado, fish and spinach and stir it all together trying to leave the fish in large flakes

pour into the buttered oven-proof dish and bake for 20 minutes or until it's all golden and risen and glorious.

i'm linking this glorious egg dish to my Simply Eggcellent link-up which is celebrating the theme of anything goes this month

eat and of course, enjoy!

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

honey and ginger mojito

... it's midweek... it's August and that means it's time for cocktails.  I am a huge cocktail fan and would much rather wait for a cocktail than a glass of wine or a beer, particularly if it's made really well by someone who knows what they're doing and has an understanding of the alchemy involved... if i'm honest i'd prefer and vodka, lime and soda than a bad cocktail but with years of experience in London life and cocktail drinking I now have my favourite places to drink and these don't always involve anywhere too fancy either.  The Viking and I have a favourite haunt called Cafe Pacifico which was one of the first Mexican restaurants in London.  The food is actually pretty dreadful but they have a long bar - I love nothing more than sitting at a bar - and they make a mean margarita.  At the other end of scale I adore the American Bar at The Savoy.  I go very rarely but when I do it's a proper treat.  Not only does the room look spectacular in all its Art Deco glory but the very charming Eric knows his way around a vintage martini glass and delivers each cocktail with such well deserved pride you almost feel happy paying the heart-stopping prices... I think for tonight we'll go for that margarita!

honey and ginger mojito
I find that the key to making good cocktails is to have some basic ingredients and equipment items in your store cupboard just like you do with your everyday cooking... much like whipping up a homemade curry, it only becomes a faff when you don't have easy access to the spices but once you've got them they're the kind of things that can stay in your drinks cabinet (or overcrowded shelf in our case) and can easily be pulled out when you need them... and they really do make all the difference.  As well as the obvious such as a cocktail shaker, a muddler and a bar spoon you will also need something sweet, something sour and something strong... a good quality sugar syrup is essential... this doesn't have to be a fancy shop-bought product, it could be maple syrup, honey or simply 2 parts sugar dissolved into 1 part water.  Lemons or limes for the sour and of course a nice dash of something alcoholic works well in most cocktails... oh and a good supply of ice!

thankfully our good friends at thebar.com have created their Shake It Up campaign to get the nation to think of cocktails as an easy and viable option at all kinds of parties this summer and a great alternative to just 'beer or wine'... there are some gorgeous recipes and videos on their website and they've asked me to share one with you so here's my riff on the classic Mojito using two of my favourite ingredients; honey and ginger!

per glass:
50ml captain morgan original spiced gold
half a lime cut into wedges
2 teaspoons honey
100ml ginger beer
1 sprig mint (a few leaves)
1/2 thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger - peeled
plenty of crushed ice (which I created in my nutribullet)

you will need a tall glass or jam jar, something to bash the mint and ginger with such as a muddler or pestle and a long spoon for twizzling

place the mint, 3 wedges of lime, honey and ginger in the bottom of the glass and bash with your muddler until the lime is crushed and the ginger is bruised

add the rum and bash it all together again then add the ice and top with ginger beer... use the long spoon to twizzle the ingredients together

serve with a fresh wedge of lime and a garnish of mint

drink and of course, enjoy!



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