Saturday, 22 October 2016

pumpkin and cinnamon mini pumpkin buns

... so this week i've been mainly sick with a proper cold.  It's lasted all week but I think it's been lurking in the background for a while.  I'm hoping that this is my big flu of the season and that I won't suffer again, which would be nice but who can say these days?  I seem to spend a ridiculous amount of time on the tube which i'm convinced is just a giant cylindrical carrier for germ incubation.  What we all really need is a decent drop in temperature so that all the bugs are knocked out but that too seems less and less likely to happen now that our winters are so mild.  I'm also in particularly annoying amounts of pain because i've had to fly up and back to Edinburgh for the day which of course means a lot of air-pressure changes and anyone who's ever had blocked sinuses will know that this is not pleasant... so yes, this man has the flu and i'm being a proper grump about it.  In other news, I have the pleasure to have been asked to judge one of the categories in the Lincolnshire Life, 2016 Taste of Excellence Awards.  It's for Chef of the Year.  Four chefs from four top Lincolnshire restaurants and each will prepare a 3 course meal for us to judge, very much in the style of the Great British Menu.  The judges have the terrible task of having to eat all the food and then decide which meal was the best.  It's all done 'blind' so we don't know who the chefs are which makes it all the more exciting!  I've got to say that not only am I really looking forward to the food - I mean i'd have to be dead inside not to enjoy myself... but I also feel that it's a wonderful privilege to have been asked whilst also laying quite a big responsibility at my door.  For the winner it means recognition of a year of incredible cooking in what can often be an incredibly stressful environment.  These chefs have a passion for their craft and their food celebrates the best that they and the county has to offer.  I am very excited!  The awards night itself will take place on the 3rd November at the wonderful Oaklands Hall Hotel in Laceby and I shall report back on the whole evening later in November.

pumpkin and cinnamon mini pumpkin buns
things have been so bonkers round here lately that I hadn't even had time to think about my favourite ever festival of Halloween!  I'm not even sure i'm going to have the time to celebrate this year but I have a cluster of previous recipes to look back on plus there's just so much out there on the internet... of course I simply don't have times to make everything i'd like to make but these cute little pumpkin breads really caught my eye, so i've adapted them a little and am sharing them here with you.  They're so easy to make and perfect to snack on during those chilly autumn evenings... i've made them sweet and gloriously scented with cinnamon but they could easily work without the sugar as savoury breads to dip into a warm roasted pumpkin soup.

for the breads

7g packet (1 heaped teaspoon) instant fast action yeast
1/2 pint or 245ml milk - heated and then cooled
50g granulated sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
115g pumpkin puree 
1 large egg
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons cinnamon
500g plain flour
pecan halves for the stalks
1 large free-range egg for the glaze

in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, stir the yeast, milk, sugar, butter, pumpkin, one egg, and salt until well combined. Gradually add the flour and knead on medium-low speed until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl - roughly 5 mins then turn off the mixer and let the dough rest for 3 to 5 minutes.

continue to knead the dough on medium-low speed for another 5 minutes, or until the dough is soft and smooth. If it seems too sticky, add more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time.

transfer the dough to a large greased bowl. Cover the bowl with cling film and let the dough rise until doubled in size, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

punch the dough down and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough into 15 equal pieces and shape into balls. Use the palm of your hand to flatten each ball slightly.

using a sharp knife, cut 8 slices around each ball, (think of each cut as North, South, East and West etc - being careful not to slice all the way into the centre, to make the pumpkin shape.) Cover and let rise until doubled in size, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

preheat the oven to 190C.

use your finger or the tip of a wooden spoon to poke an indentation in the center of each roll to create a space for the “stem.” In a small bowl beat the remaining egg with 2 teaspoons of water and brush all over the rolls. Bake the rolls for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown then remove from the oven and set aside to cool.  Place a sliced pecan piece into the indentation of each roll.

... a note after baking... they're actually not as sweet as you'd expect... I reckon they'd taste divine, warm out of the oven or freshly toasted with marmalade or jam...

eat and of course, enjoy!

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

english strong breakfast tea, tear and share sticky buns - and a twinings tea giveaway!

... is there anything better than a cup of tea... quite frankly I think not.  Whilst The Viking is a coffee fan (and when I say fan, I mean more of an addict,) I am most definitely a cup of tea person.  For me it goes all the way back to childhood, being at home with the family and I guess mum being a good northern lass, it seems that all of the worlds problems were solved with a decent cuppa.  Of course with my mum it couldn't be any old cup of tea it would always have to be the real deal, tea-leaves, the whole ritual from warming the pot to the fine china mugs and this was for all eventualities not just special occasions.  I even remember writing a very important essay when I was about 10 years old on the origins of tea, it had hand-drawn pictures and everything!  I start my mornings with a very strong cup of tea, with milk, no sugar and it's only when that cup is finished that the day can properly start.  So it's a good thing that the folk at Twinings have been kind enough to share with me two of their most wonderful teas, the English Strong Breakfast and the Earl Grey, both of which happen to be my favourites and with Twinings you know you're getting a beautiful cup of tea because they are a quality tea brand with over 300 years of experience so you can really taste the care and attention that goes into every cup!

I can't eat cake without cup of tea.  This may sound like a very British thing to do but somehow it doesn't seem right... it makes the cake taste better, like a warm hug on a cold night... and we're a fussy lot us Brits, we like our cakes just right and much like baking a cake, making tea is a step by step, complex process but then this is what helps deliver such a great cup.  The brilliant thing is that i've been encouraged by Twinings to use their tea in my recipes, so it's like the ultimate double whammy - tea and cake in one!  I've made two glorious bakes, one with the Earl Grey which I shall share in another post but for this post i've used the English Strong Breakfast.  Strong by name, strong by nature.  Bold and full of flavour. The Twinings Master Blenders have travelled the world to find the perfect balance of leaves from the best tea gardens in Assam, Africa and Sri Lanka. Of these, the African teas grown to the East of the Great Rift Valley make it particularly special. East of the rift, African teas get the perfect amount of sun and rain. They add a real brightness and character to this blend.  For a bold lively taste - the perfect cup if you like your breakfast tea a little stronger like me!

english strong breakfast tea, tear and share sticky buns
this recipe may seem a little simple but I wanted to keep it that way so that you could really taste the tea... so i've eliminated any spices and kept the flavours clean and it's worked really well... the sultanas have a good hour to really soak up the tea and they add moisture, flavour and plumpness to the buns, each one bursting with a wonderful tea taste...  and to top it all off i've even used milk in the icing so these buns really are like a classic cup of tea...

for the sticky buns
500g strong white bread flour
250ml luke warm water
100ml milk
7g (1 teaspoon) fast action yeast
7g (1 teaspoon) salt - I use regular table salt for bread baking
1 tablespoon melted butter

for the filling
2 twinning english strong breakfast tea teabags
100ml boiling water
100g sultanas
100g almonds - roughly crushed
100g hazelnuts- roughly crushed
100g dark brown sugar

for the glaze
150g icing sugar
2 or 3 tablespoons milk

place all the sticky bun ingredients into a large bowl and bring together with a rubber spatula until roughly combined then tippet onto a lightly flour-dusted surface and knead well for 10 minutes - this can be done easily in a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment for 15 minutes

once beautifully glossy, place into a week oiled bowl, cover tightly with clingfilm and set aside for the first prove during which it should double in size - roughly one hour.

meanwhile place the sultanas into a bowl along with the teabags and cover with boiling water and let this steep for at least an hour

pre-heat the oven to 200C, oil and line a 22cm loose-bottomed cake tin

place a large rectangle of greaseproof paper on your work surface and lightly rub an oiled hand over it, then tip you proven dough onto the paper and gently tease the dough into a rough rectangle shape.  your should be able to get it easily to 30cm x 15cm

sprinkle this surface with dark brown sugar, followed by the sultanas and crushed nuts ensuring you have an even coverage all over the dough

carefully,using the greased proofed paper as leverage, roll up the dough from the long edge... I find it easier to roll backwards away from myself then cut the long sausage into 6 even rings, placing each one into your cake tin to create a pretty flower shape with one ring in the centre and the other five evenly around it - cover with cling film and set aside for 30 mins to prove

bake for 10 minutes on 200C followed by 25 minutes on 180C or until beautifully golden, once it's out of the oven brush with a little honey and let it cool completely in the tin

to make the icing simply whisk the milk into the sugar... you want a thick paste that can be literally drizzled all over the bread.

... excitingly this post doesn't just end with me eating cake and gloating about tea... no, you guys get the chance to win some lovely Twinings tea too... I have 1 box of Earl Grey with 100 tea bags, 1 box of Spicy Chai with 20 envelopes and 1 box of English Strong Breakfast with 80 tea bags to give away to one lucky Belleau Kitchen reader.  All you have to do is answer the simple question given in the little widget below...
a Rafflecopter giveaway
eat and of course, enjoy!

Sunday, 16 October 2016

beef and venison meatballs with slow-cooked chilli tomato sauce

... lovely long and slow weekend back at the cottage. So far it's rained all weekend but sometimes I really love this. It somehow forces us to stay in and unwind ( i mean I know that we could go out but it's raining...) and relax. It's like mother nature has written us a sick note to give to the gym and gardening and all our other chores. Still busy cooking and writing but I'm currently finding this less of a chore and more relaxing as I potter around the kitchen baking and making notes.  The Viking and I are currently addicted to playing scrabble so any excuse to sit down and play is alright by me... do we sounds like a couple of old fuddy-duddies?  Am I not painting the picture of the cool, modern couple that you've come to expect of us?  Well I think many people would be disappointed if they came to visit and expected us to be in full 'London' mode all the time, ready to entertain with a cocktail shaker in hand.  It's quite the opposite and we're quite thankful for that because I think we'd potentially explode if we had to be 'on' all the time.  Yesterday for instance, I cooked a little and The Viking watched the motorbike racing... we lit the fire in the evening and ate too much cake, oh and I think there may have been a bath involved at some point.  When I get back to London next week my work-colleagues will ask me what I did this weekend and i'll say something flippant like 'nothing much, very relaxing' and the truth of the matter is that that's exactly what we did... nothing much... and I love it.

beef and venison meatballs with slow-cooked chilli tomato sauce
the good people at smeg are spreading the love again and have sent me the most wonderful multi-food grinder attachment for my stand mixer... now as you know, we're not massive meat eaters here at Belleau Cottage and i'm also not the biggest gadget fan but you all know how much i've fallen in love with my stand mixer so any excuse to get it out and have a play is alright by me, plus on further reading I can pretty much grind anything with this beauty from nuts to vegetables so i'm seeing a lot of terrines and pates coming up in our lives.. particularly with the big C coming I can see this getting a lot of use.  The grinder fits simply and cleverly onto the front nose of my stand mixer into a little slot I didn't even know existed until yesterday.  It has 3 different gradients for grinding and even has a sausage nozzle so I can make my own sausages which is rather exciting plus it all packs down into a handy and tidy little box for storage... essentially I am expecting great things, so you should too! 

I learnt to make these glorious meatballs - or Polpette as they're known in their Italian homeland from Florence Knight, the head chef at Polpo and they really are the best meatballs i've ever eaten.  The mixture of meats - you can use sausage meat instead of venison if you can't find any - gives them a great fat to meat ratio and the milk-soaked bread makes them so unbelievably soft in the mouth that each bite is like eating a little fluffy cloud of meaty heaven.  Great fun for kids to make too... i've only used half the mixture here for my meatballs and frozen the other half to use in a stuffing for Christmas.  For the slow-cooked tomato sauce - which i've adapted from a recipe also given to me by an Italian, well a Sicilian to be precise - it really does get better and better every hour after the atoll 'must-have' 2 hours shown here.  I realise it seems like a log time but boy it's worth it.  I'm yet to make this in the slow cooker and as I type this i'm kicking myself for not doing that yesterday as I think 6 hours on low in the slow-cooker would make this utterly incredible...

for the chilli tomato sauce
this sauce needs a minimum of two hours, longer if possible
2 medium onions - finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic - crushed
2 teaspoons dried chilli flakes (more or less to your taste)
butter and olive oil
2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
1 x tin's worth of half white wine, half stock or water
rosemary, thyme and oregano

for the meatballs - makes 35 small meatballs
1 medium onion - finely chopped
1 clove of garlic - crushed
2 teaspoons oregano
250g venison - ground unless you have a grinder
450g chuck steak - ground unless you have a grinder
half a loaf of basic white bread - crusts removed and roughly torn
a dash of milk
olive oil

to start with we're going to caramelise the onions for both the tomato sauce and the meatballs so use all three onions and all the cloves of garlic at the same time... add them to a large hot pan with olive oil and a little butter and gently saute them for about 20 mins on a medium heat, with a pinch or two of sugar and some chopped fresh herbs... keep your eye on them, they want a little golden colour but you don't want them to stick...

once they're done spoon out about a third and set aside, then add the tinned tomatoes, wine and stock to the remaining onions, turn the heat to it's very lowest and let them plop away gently for at least 2 hours if not longer.

grind your meats, add plenty of salt and pepper and set aside.

place the bread in a large bowl add the milk and stir until it's all absorbed... next add the rest of the ingredients and the onions and get your hands stuck in and bring at all together ensuring it's well mixed

prepare a baking tray with foil, then pour some oil onto your hands and form little meatballs from the meat mixture, you want them the size of a large marble... lay them out evenly on the baking tray and then bake in the oven on 180C for 20 mins or until golden and gorgeous

add them to the sauce before serving either as they are or with some pasta or rice

it's been ages since i've submitted any entries to any blogger link-ups but I love the community and feel like I should highlight the hard work that my favourite bloggers do to bring us all together to for this post i'm submitting my tomato sauce to the brilliant Slow Cooked Challenge hosted alternatively each month by Farmersgirl Kitchen and Baking Queen and celebrates all things slow-cooked

eat and of course, enjoy!

Friday, 14 October 2016

focaccia and mushroom 'bread and butter pudding'

... so even though we're busy at work, we're trying really hard to come back home to the cottage as much as we can.  This usually means late on a Friday or if we're really lucky then a Thursday night but it doesn't always work this way.  I'm not complaining of course it's just that it means I spend much of my weekend cooking and developing recipes for the blog so that I have enough posts to go out during the week.  I love being at home in the kitchen and even in these older months it's the best place to be in the house as inevitably the oven is always on keeping me in and cosy... but if course time is scarce so, dear reader, you find me tonight as I write this blog post from the car.  Don't panic - The Viking is doing the driving as I bash away at the keyboards, cursing at my dodgy 4G connection from my tethered iPhone.  It's so funny, I feel that i'm at the age where i've always been at the forefront of technology; we were the first in the school to be taught how to use computers back in the 80's, the first to get an email address and the first, albeit reluctantly to get a mobile phone and I think I was an early adopter when it came to blogging so I find it quite frustrating that mobile wifi technology isn't a little further on than it is... I know, I know, I shouldn't complain, the technology is really quite astounding, I mean come on, I'm blogging from the car for goodness sake but I guess my patience is stretched and I want it all to go a little faster so that I can go a little slower when I get home...

focaccia and mushroom 'bread and butter pudding'
you know sometimes you just need comfort food and nothing else will do plus it has to be tasty and it has to be fast, well this is it... kind of.  Of course the making of the focaccia isn't quick but you can cut this hand-made step out really easily by picking some up in a store but everything else is pretty damn simple to drag together... i'm even using gravy powder here folks... proper comfort food!  There is a story behind this dish that i'd better explain just in case you think i've gone completely mad.  So I got back to the cottage last Friday and I was desperate to bake some bread.  We wanted fresh bread for breakfast the next morning and in my haste to bake I made the choice to not worry that I didn't have enough yeast for one loaf, let alone two.  I thought i'd get away with it but actually the final prove didn't work too well, so I made focaccia.  It was OK but a little too doughy and so The Viking suggested I make a savoury bread and butter pudding with gravy instead of custard... such a simple idea... such an obvious suggestion... damn him for his northern upbringing and the idea that bread and gravy could be better than anything in the world!  The Viking would have been happy with just that but I thought it would benefit from the inclusion of some saluted onions and mushrooms to make it into something more than a side-dish...

for the focaccia
makes 2 focaccia loaves in two 30cm x 20cm baking trays

800g strong white bread flour
650 ml water
2 teaspoons easy bake yeast
2 teaspoons salt
plenty of extra virgin olive oil
2 or 3 large sprigs of rosemary
plenty of sea salt or kosher salt flakes
for the rest of the dish
3/4 litre good quality gravy - I used half Caramelised Onion Gravy Powder and half Marigold Bouillon
1 glass white wine
150g button mushrooms
1 medium onion - finely chopped
1 celery - finely chopped
2 twigs of fresh rosemary

start with the focaccia - place the flour, yeast and salt into a very large ceramic bowl and then pour over the water and bring it all together with a rubber spatula until you have a sticky mess - clean the spatula as you'll need it again shortly, then cover the bowl with a tea towel and set aside for 10 minutes

drizzle a generous amount of oil onto your work surface and spread it around with your hand, then with the oiled hand remove the dough from the bowl and place it onto the oiled surface, use the spatula to scrape out the bowl. Take some oil and drizzle into the bowl and wipe around the inside of the bowl. Now knead the dough 8 times then place back into the bowl, cover with a tea towel.

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

oil your surface one final time and remove the dough from the bowl and punch it down, fold it over itself and punch down again, turn one quarter, fold and punch, repeat twice more and set aside

sprinkle some olive oil into both baking trays and spread around with your hands, now cut the dough in half and place each half into one of the baking trays and push it out to the edges... it won't fully cooperate but play with it quite freely and it will stretch, then set aside for 30 mins and during this time it will fill the trays and rise a little

oil your finger and push regular indents into the dough, then take a small sprig of rosemary and place it into each hole

bake on 190C for 20 mins or until it starts to turn golden then remove from the oven and generously drizzle the top of each focaccia with more olive oil and then sprinkle with salt... you can be as generous as you like here, I like it very salty.

allow the focaccia to cool completely before slicing thickly and laying into an oven proof dish

meanwhile, heat a large pan and melt some butter and olive oil and gently saute the onions and celery until soft then add the mushrooms and fresh rosemary and plenty of pepper for roughly 10 minutes until the mushrooms are soft and have golden edges, turn up the heat and add the gravy, stock and wine to the pan, stir and let it bubble away for five minutes

carefully pour the gravy all over the cut focaccia, cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes on 170C, then take the foil off and bake for a further 10 minutes

serve immediately with peas and carrots then eat and of course, enjoy!

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

apple, almond and ginger lattice tart

... so I was in the little village of Laceby a few weeks back having our Mini serviced and I was approached by a chap who'd clearly come out of the service yard. He told me that he and his wife were very disappointed that I wasn't at the Lincolnshire Food & Gift Fair last year as they'd turned up especially to see me. It's hard to know what to say in situations like this - I love what I do and writing a blog is a platform that by its very nature is out in the public domain, but there's an element of anonymity provided by the internet. When it comes to food-demoing you're very much out there. People can see who you are, how you work and, most importantly, can actually taste your food then and there. Of course this doesn't really worry me as I really enjoy the live aspect of it all and it really thrills me when people feed-back that they've looked forward to me being somewhere or that they've gone away and cooked my food is always surprising and rather humbling.

So the point to this all is, is that I'm back at the show and demo-cooking in The Lincolnshire Kitchen, which is very exciting. I love this show! It celebrates everything I love about gifting; firstly, there's my love for Christmas itself. It's quite simply my favourite time of year - there's just so much joy around. Time for family and friends and eating wonderful food and the Lincolnshire Food & Gift Fair really reflects this.. I mean, two halls filled with Christmas! Secondly is all the artisan producers creating beautiful things that clearly show the love in the making and therefore make the gift all the more special. The fair brings all these brilliant people together under one roof, from cheese makers to candle makers and everything in between.

As one of the demo-cooks I'm also really privileged as we get to cook with some of the gorgeous produce. I know I have my eye on some very scrumptious looking festive mincemeat from Saints and Sinners Preserves to use in the special frangipane mince pie tarts I'll be making. Last time I was there I made my Christmas Cake Brownies, which went down really well but they're a breeze to make and I always like to challenge myself - especially when I'm in front of a live audience. This year's recipe is a twist on the classic mince pie, jazzing it up a little with a very special shortcrust pastry which I will be latticing on top of the tart so if you've ever wondered how to create that lovely lattice look, or just want to come along to see me making a mess of things, then do feel free to pop along... the show is at the beautiful Lincoln Show Ground and is on the 26th and 27th November... now, talking of lattice...

apple, almond and ginger lattice tart
so this divine little pie is more like my mums apple strudel than an actual apple pie as you're using grated apple mixed with sultanas and almond flakes that are baked from raw so they don't become the delicious but gloopy mess inside your traditional apple pie.  In fact everything about this tart reminds me of mums cooking... she makes these little strudel pastry whirl biscuits when she has leftover pastry that use the same ingredients in the same way and they're completely addictive.  I'm also using my favourite and now go-to almond shortcrust pastry which is quite frankly the best sweet shortcrust pastry on the planet.  Part pastry, part marzipan it's so simple to make and yet so heavenly, I implore you to make it.  This pie makes for a lovely way to use up all the windfall apples around at the moment as the apples you use here really don't need to be pretty but I would implore you to use eating apples rather than cooking apples as they don't get much more than a sprinkling of sugar so a tart cooking apple would be a bit too sharp.  A note re the lattice-work... I find latticing really easy, particularly on un-cooked pies where there's no hot filling to melt the pastry.  The trick is a patient and steady hand and lots of extra pastry... don't scrimp on the pastry at all, you have enough here for a 20cm round pie tin or an oblong tin like i've used here, with plenty of pastry to spare... you'll also find that a fluted pastry wheel makes everything look a lot cleverer than it really is, however if you're still flummoxed then try this terribly cheesy video on how to...

for the almond and cream cheese pastry
300g plain flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
112g caster sugar
150g unsalted butter
100g full fat cream cheese (I used cottage cheese which was excellent)
75g ground almonds
1 egg yolk a little milk to bind
for the filling
3 or 4 medium eating apples - medium grated (I kept the skin on)
100g sultanas
75g almond flakes
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 tablespoons golden caster sugar
1 tablespoon blackcurrant jam

i'm using a 22cm long and 7cm wide fluted oblong loose-bottomed tart tin which i've liberally buttered and pre-heated the oven to 170C

make your pastry by adding the flour, ground almonds, sugar and butter into a bowl and rubbing it together with your fingertips until you have a breadcrumb texture, then add the cream cheese, egg yolk and a little drop of milk and get your hand in like a claw and bring the pastry together into a ball of dough.  Flatten it out into a thick disk and wrap in cling film.  Refrigerate for 30 mins

after 30 minutes take the dough out of the fridge and divide it into two even portions, placing one portion back into the fridge whilst you roll out the first portion on a well floured surface... I like my pastry a medium thickness and because this pastry is so damn good you want it to be quite thick!

carefully line your fluted tart tin insuring your gently press the pastry into the fluted sides - trim the edges with a knife

take the jam and spread it evenly onto the raw pastry in the tart tin followed by half the grated apple which you want to spread out so it roughly covers the jam, then sprinkle on half the sultanas and half the almonds followed by 1 teaspoon of ground ginger and 1 tablespoon of golden caster sugar

create a second layer with the remaining grated apple, sultanas, almonds, ground ginger and sugar then set aside whilst you roll out the remaining pastry

roll out the pastry into a shape that completely covers your tart, then using a knife or a fluted pastry cutter cut the pastry into even strips roughly 2cm wide.

using alternate trips lay them across the tart with spaces in between... I like to lay them in a diagonal diamond pattern with large gaps in between as I like to see the tart filling underneath... do not press down the edges

once these are all laid down, take one of the remaining strips and begin to weave it in the opposite direction going under and over each strip as you pass it. Continue this way until all the strips are used and you have an even lattice pattern... then push down the edges into the edges of the pastry and trim as you go

brush the top of the tart with beaten egg and sprinkle with a little cater sugar and then bake for 30 minutes or until the pastry is a rich golden brown

eat and of course, enjoy!

Saturday, 8 October 2016

lincolnshire sausage stew with butter beans and herb dumplings

... isn't it funny how your body tells you what it wants to eat?  As a food blogger I get into bit of a rut sometimes and this can be frustrating but with the change of season comes a fresh approach to the food on my plate and yesterday as I trawled around the supermarket it was a though I was guided by some mysterious internal force to the root vegetables and fatty meats.  I adore the spiciness of a good quality Lincolnshire sausage and they go so well with root veg such as swede, carrots and potatoes that take on all those spices... I barely had to think about which dishes were going to be made, I simply knew there'd be a stew, there'd be soup and there would be chicken thighs - although to be fair there are always chicken thighs.  Recently we've not had much time to plan meals so we've been grabbing the basics and then hoping for the best when we get home in the evenings but this weekend I was desperate to plan the eating and make something wholesome and earthy and a worthy welcome to autumn.  I wanted a meal in a pot that would stave off the cold as well as the hunger although as it happens the weather still hasn't really turned bleak just yet so we're pretending it's chilly out there as we tuck into this little taste of the season ahead...

lincolnshire sausage stew with butter beans and herb dumplings
this is a classic Belleau Kitchen favourite and it came out beautifully... can there be anything better than some gorgeous root vegetables, local lincolnshire sausages and wonderful butterbeans which make the whole pot so creamy... but of course the star of the show here are the herby dumplings which soak up all the wonderful sausage gravy and make this a complete one-pot meal, perfect for autumn nights and chilly Sunday lunches.  The whole dish a surprisingly easy and quick to put together but of course the slow cooking time creates a wonderfully rich and warming dish.  I love my dumplings big and fluffy and just a little crispy on top which is why I suggest removing the lid for the last few minutes but if you're not a fan, feel free to leave the lid on...

for the stew
4 lincolnshire sausages - each one cut into 4
120g button mushrooms - halved
half a bulb of fennel - chopped
1 medium carrot - chopped
2 stalks of celery - chopped
150g cabbage - finely shredded
300g tin of butter beans - drained and rinsed
100ml white wine
1 pint of good quality vegetable stock with 4 teaspoons Bisto caramelised onion gravy powder
olive oil and butter
salt and pepper

for the dumplings
50g vegetarian suet or cold grated butter
75g self raising flour
100ml cold water
1 twig rosemary
1 twig thyme
3 shoots of chives

you'll need a medium-sized casserole dish with a lid

pre-heat the oven to 160C

start by heating the casserole dish on the hob, melting a little butter and olive oil as you do.  Add the sausages and mushrooms and let them both gain a little colour, turning them frequently... this should take roughly 15 minutes, then carefully remove them from the pot with a slotted spoon, leaving a little fat behind.

add the carrots, celery and fennel and let them sweat and soften for 10 minutes, adding some fresh herbs and plenty of salt and pepper, then add the sausages and mushrooms back into the pot along with the butterbeans, wine and stock, let it simmer for a few minutes before adding the shredded cabbage.  Place the lid on and pop it into the oven for and hour and a half, whilst you make the dumplings.

place all the dumpling ingredients into a bowl along with the water and bring it all together with your hand, keeping your fingers light and swift... form them into 6 similarly sized balls and set aside

after an hour and a half, carefully remove the pot from the oven, take off the lid and add the dumplings onto the top of the stew, replace the lid and pop the dish back into the oven for 20 minutes, then take the lid off the pot, turn the oven up to 180C and let the stew and dumplings bubble away for a further 10 minutes

remove from the oven and let the dish settle for 5 mins before serving

eat and of course enjoy!

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

salted cinnamon and honey swirl marble cake

... this week has been one of those glorious 'end-of-summer but 'start-of-autumn' weather weeks where the sun and warmth has clung on but you can just feel the chill in the air and the promise of those cool, crips days and fire-side nights. Regular readers of my blog will know that i'm a huge fan of autumn.  There's just so much to love, what with the changing colours in the leaves, frosty mornings, warming stews and soups and of course Halloween... all followed by the dream of Christmas to come.  It's a food-lovers dream with so many events for eating plus I get so bored so quickly of salads and barbecues during the summer that I relish all the long, slow cooked dishes filling the house with the aroma of home.  I get such a thrill from the little things too, like walking into our local pub having braced the shocking cold winds off lake Belleau and there's a roaring fire to snuggle up in front of with a pint... or sitting on the bench outside the cottage in the crisp early mornings, wrapped in a blanket with a hot cup of tea in my hands... or collecting wood at the local farm, knowing that a mornings effort will mean a toasty home for a month... or baking a beautiful honey cake...

salted cinnamon and honey swirl marble cake
this is one of those cakes that tastes of autumn... it has all that cinnamon and sweetness and reminds me a little of pumpkins and cool October mornings.  It works on so many levels as it has an incredible sweetness to it but the salty swirl takes the edge off somewhat plus i'm loving the twist to the more traditional salted caramel as I think honey has a much more earthy flavour.  It's a breeze to make even though it seems a bit fiddly.  It will also make your kitchen smell incredible and those notes of warm cinnamon waft through your home. I made the cake on a whim, without much planning and I wish i'd added the swirly syrup in layers rather than just on top but it tasted phenomenal nonetheless, a lesson learnt for next time...

for the marble cake sponge
210g butter - room temperature
210g golden caster sugar
3 large free-range eggs
210g self-raising Homepride flour
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
3 teaspoons cinnamon

for the syrup
100g butter
100g honey
100g dark brown muscovado sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 large pinches of seas salt flakes

pre-heat the oven to 170C and grease and line a 2lb loaf tin

start with the syrup by placing the butter, sugar, salt, cinnamon and honey into a small pan and gently heat until just melted, then take off the heat and stir together - set aside

in a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, this can be done easily in a stand mixer, using a hand blender or with a wooden spoon

add one egg and one third of the flour and beat in, followed by the remaining eggs and flour and beat in, beating in the vanilla essence at the end

take a small bowl and scoop out one third of the cake batter and fold in the cinnamon

take the non-cinnamon cake batter and dollop 3 or spoonfuls into the loaf tin in random places with gaps in between, then fill these gaps with spoonfuls of the cinnamon batter to create a rough layer of cake batter - next, randomly drizzle in half the syrup across this layer.  Make a second layer of cake batter and syrup in the same way, which should use up all the remaining batter and syrup

take a skewer and run this through the cake batter in a random swirling pattern until it is all combined (two passes through the cake should do it)

bake the cake for 30 - 40 minutes until risen and golden then set aside to cool on a wire rack

eat and of course, enjoy!



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