Friday, 18 April 2014

easter bread

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

creme egg chocolate loaf cake

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

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

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

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

pre-heat the oven to 170C

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

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

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

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

eat and of course, enjoy!

Monday, 14 April 2014

baked haddock with wild garlic and pea puree

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

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

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

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

pre-heat the oven to 1890C

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

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

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

eat and of course, enjoy!

Saturday, 12 April 2014

mini creme egg easter bundt cakes

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

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

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

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

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

pre-heat the oven to 170C

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

... eat and of course, enjoy!

Thursday, 10 April 2014

watercress and turnip soup

... a little radio silence this week due to the fact that we've been busy launching a brand new product for Benefit Cosmetics.  Yesterday's event in London was the culmination of months of hard but hugely enjoyable work for a brilliant new client and the start of an amazing few more months full of all kinds of crazy events up and down the country for the brand - so once again I find myself apologising for a little sporadic posting from me over the coming weeks... I promise to keep you updated of what's happening and i'll try and keep it interesting and irreverent as always... and there will be some brilliant pictures from all the events over on The Persuaders website...

watercress and turnip soup
more soup for you today by way of my snazzy new hotpoint steam blender... this soup is pure comfort food for me, the aroma of it cooking is enough to take me back to childhood Sunday's at Grandma Sylvia's house.  As a family we would converge en-masse to Chigwell in east London almost every Sunday throughout our formative years, all the cousins romping around their apartment whilst the parents did grown-up stuff and grandma worked tirelessly in the kitchen to prepare an incredible meal.  Usually a roast of some kind, be it chicken or beef, always preceded by soup and there were a few variations from the carrot and orange to the mixed vegetable but a firm favourite and most common was the watercress and turnip... turnips really don't get used very much any more but they are an inexpensive and vercitile vegetable that soak up other flavours really well and blend to silky smooth consistency... grandma always told me not to make this soup as watercress was so expensive but with turnips so cheap and the final flavours so gorgeous it's a crying shame not to...

below are the instructions for using the steam blender but for the regular cooking method try this previous post from 2011 

1 medium onion - peeled and diced
8 medium turnips - peeled and diced
200g bags of watercress
1 pint good quality vegetable stock
a little blue cheese and some fresh coriander to taste

put all the veg into the steam blender and place the lid on tightly

ensure the water reservoir is full and switch the blender on to steam for 10 minutes.  After this time, pour in the stock using the little removable cap and then steam again for a further 6 minutes before blending into a thick luscious soup

crumble on some blue cheese and a little torn coriander to serve

this is my entry to the brilliant and long-running No Croutons Required bloggers challenge hosted by Jacqueline over at Tinned Tomatoes

eat and of course, enjoy!

Monday, 7 April 2014

lemon sencha green tea and marmalade cake

... recently I attended a wonderful breakfast within the walls of the beautiful Fortnum and Mason store in London.  The breakfast was a celebration of marmalade and was an opportunity to meet the winners of The World's Original Marmalade Awards.  The Marmalade Breakfast is a yearly event at Fortnum and Mason and I felt very privalidged to be invited and the breakfast itself was an incredible three courses of marmalade inspired golden goodness.  I like marmalade but I wouldn't consider myself a connesiuer and if i'm honest I really thought marmalade was marmalade... boy was I wrong and surrounded by people who were keen to explain why.

not only did we sample marmalade from all across the globe, including a 3 layered Korean marmalade but we also sampled a teeny amount of the worlds most expensive marmalade which had slithers of real gold in it but for me the highlight of the whole morning was meeting a real childhood hero, the amazing Michael Bond.  Yes, in a stroke of pure genius, the organisers of the event invited the creator of Paddington Bear - lost peruvian mammal and lover of marmalade sandwiches...

lemon sencha green tea and marmalade cake
on departure from the breakfast all the guests were handed a goody-bag containing two jars of the divine golden jelly... a jar of Jane's Marmalade - made by Jane Hasell-McCosh founder of the World's Marmalade Festival and Awards at Dalemain Mansion in Cumbria, which was sweet and light and a classic Fortnum and Mason Full Bodied, thick cut vintage marmalade which was tarter and more treacle-like... perfect for baking into a cake...

... you don't need to add the green tea but this lemon sencha tea adds another citrus level to the cake which I love.

you will need a 20cm loose-bottomed tin, greased and lined

for the cake
3 large free-range eggs
170g caster sugar
210g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 large tablespoons thick cut marmalade
1/4 cup of lemon sencha green tea

for the filling
2 tablespoons marmalade
whipping cream - thickly whipped

in a large bowl beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy then add the marmalade and beat in again, next add the eggs and beat in followed by the flour and baking powder which you should mix together and sieve in.

beat together and then add the tea and beat in again

pour into your tin and bake on 180C for 35-40 mins until golden and risen and a skewer inserted comes out clean... marmalade tends to blacken very quickly so watch the cake, you may need to trim it slightly to remove the black edges - set aside to cool

beat the cream till thick and then carefully cut the cake in half - slather the cut surface in marmalade and spread with the whipped cream before placing the other half back on top and dust with icing sugar and a little grated orange rind

this cake is about to be consumed by my friends at work... not me.

eat and of course, enjoy!

Saturday, 5 April 2014

roast tomato and goats cheese salad with maldon smoked salt and kiwi fruit

... this no cake eating lark is hard but i'm trying my best to ignore the cravings and make some wonderfully tasty and colourful dishes reasoning that the more colourful the plate the sweeter it looks but i'm barely kidding myself so I don't expect any of you out there to take any of this too seriously and with messages from the government continuing to insist we eat more fruit and vegetables (why is it never more cake?) we all ought to be piling on the salads rather than the pounds...

... my dear friend Kavey ran a little questionnaire on her blog last week asking people if they were regular eaters of ready-meals, you must pop over and have a read because some of the answers are fascinating... there's no judging going on, it's not mumsnet but it made me think about our own eating habits and the fact that whilst there's no doubt we eat a lot of food, if we're not eating out we tend to stick to salads in the evenings and this can become a little dull.  This roast tomato salad is a refreshing change from the run of the mill but is still very simple to knock together, you can roast the tomatoes in advance and the juice from the tomatoes roasting with the olive oil and balsamic make an instant dressing...

roast tomato and goats cheese salad with maldon smoked sea salt and kiwi fruit
the good people at maldon are running a little social media competition called #flavoursofspring encouraging people to use their delightful products and get creative with fresh ingredients... the comeptition actually ends on Monday and i've been so busy I almost didn't have time to enter but when I threw this salad together I grabbed by box of maldon smoked sea salt flakes and thre a pinch or two into the tomatoes as they were roasting and i'm so glad I did... the smokiness is quite subtle but it adds something entirely different to the salad, which i've made many times before, and it's lovely to discover that adding just a pinch of something to a dish can change it so deliciously...

2 long vines of cherry or baby tomatoes
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
maldon smoked sea salt flakes
2 stalks of fresh rosemary
a selection of salad leaves - i used a mixed bag of baby leaves and some red cos
a handful of pumpkin seeds
100g soft goats cheese or cream cheese
1 kiwi fruit - peeled and sliced
1 half a fennel bulb - thinly sliced

place the tomatoes and rosemary into an oven-proof dish, drizzle liberally with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with a pinch of salt - roast on 160C for 1 hour then either set aside to cool and use or let it cool and pop it in the fridge

cut and wash your salad and place it in a bowl with the pumpkin seeds, sliced fennel and kiwi fruit then crumble the goats cheese on top

pull the tomatoes off the vine and pop them over the salad, then drizzle with the still warm juices and then mix the whole lot together letting the warm juices melt the goats cheese and crush the tomatoes

serve immediately

you still have time to enter the maldon #flavoursofspring competition this weekend.  All you have to do is blog about your favourite flavour of spring and then tweet the recipe using the #flavoursofspring hashtag... the winning entry will be picked by those clever folk at maldon and the winner will get a weekend for two at River Cottage!

eat and of course, enjoy!



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