Monday, 23 May 2016

chorizo, manchego and oregano tortas bread

... as the name of this post suggest I have been inspired by the fact that The Viking and I are off on a little Spanish break to our favourite Mediterranean island of Mallorca.  I've written many times of our love of this beautiful island and if you've been reading this blog for a few years you'll know why I am so excited about this trip... the food... the sunshine... the laid-back Spanish hospitality... and most importantly the relaxation.  We both need to recharge and oh basically sleep for 7 days straight.  We've found an adorable hotel in the old town of Pollensa called Posada de Lluc and if you ever find yourselves in that part of the world I highly recommend as many nights as you can afford in the company of Joana and her family.  This tiny little 8 bedroomed hotel is a converted old town house in the heart of the old town, moments from the lively town square with its unique bars and divine restaurants.  It feels like you're staying in the owners home and the rustic breakfast served every morning in the relaxed dining room really seals the feeling of family atmosphere.  A teeny pool is perfect for cooling off during the hot days and gives you the perfect excuse not to have to worry about doing anything should you not feel like exploring the  many galleries and shops in narrow streets of town or take a drive up the nearby Tramuntana hills for the breathtaking views or cycling down to the coast for a dip in the sea... can you picture me there... here's something Spanish to get me into the mood...

chorizo, manchego and oregano tortas bread
I rarely make flavoured breads as I bake so much bread for general eating and we prefer a simple bread so that we can make the filling special... plus it's quite rare for me to make a bread with any kind of meat in it as this means the vegetarian Viking can't partake which makes this a bread for a very special occasion or a special treat just for me.  In this case it was a length of spanish sausage that needed eating that inspired me, plus the incredible abundance of fresh herbs growing so beautifully in the cottage garden that needed a home.  I adore oregano as a herb but use it so much less than rosemary or thyme.  I find it quite astringent but when paired with the strong flavour of the chorizo it copes brilliantly well and of course it is a classic scent of the Mediterranean island of Mallorca so the aroma whilst it's baking takes me there in an instant.  The manchego adds a little cheesy luxury but if you can't find any, a strong cheddar or parmesan would work just as well. The tortas bread is a kind of flat bread which has more in common with a focaccia than a pitta.

300g strong white bread flour
200g eight grain wholemeal bread flour
2 teaspoons dried active yeast
350ml water
2 tablespoons tomato ketchup
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
3 inches of chorizo - finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano (or 2 teaspoons dried)
80g strong cheese - finely grated
a little extra flour
2 teaspoons smoked paprika

i'm using my lovely smeg stand mixer with its clever dough hook... this means that the kneading time is increased but the recipe and method are the same and you can see the results speak for themselves...

if you're using a stand mixer, place all the ingredients, except the cheese, into the mixer bowl, drop the hook into the mix and turn on low for 6 mins, then add most of the the cheese, (leaving behind a little to sprinkle on top during the baking,) and turn up the speed for a final 6 mins

if you're hand-kneading, place all the ingredients, into the mixer bowl and bring together with a rubber spatula, then tip out onto a well oiled work surface and knead well for 10 minutes

oil a large bowl, place the kneaded dough into the bowl, cover with cling film and set aside for at least an hour or until the dough has proven till double the size

once the bread has risen, turn the oven to 200C and place an oven proof dish on the bottom shelf

oil well the base and sides of a shallow roasting tin - i've used my roast potato roasting tin which measures 20cm x 30cm x 6cm deep

knock back the dough and place it into the roasting tin and push it into the four corners, spreading the dough out as you go... it will take a little teasing and you may not make it all the way to the corners before it springs back but this is normal.  Once it's stretched as far as it will go, cover with the cling film and set aside for 30 mins

place a tablespoon flour, a little paprika, a little chopped fresh oregano and the remaining grated cheese into a bowl and mix together and sprinkle this over the top of the bread and then poke a finger randomly into the surface of the bread to make some indentations.

open the hot oven and pour some cold water into the oven-proof dish you've placed at the bottom to create some steam... place the bread into the oven and bake at 200C for 10 mins and then turn down the oven to 170C for 15 mins

remove from oven and set aside on a wire rack to cool

eat and of course, enjoy!

Friday, 20 May 2016

sugar-free, gluten-free, dairy-free honey, polenta, coconut and apple puree cake

... what a lot of people don't realise about sugar is that it's not just sweetness that it adds to a cake but structure too.  The sugar granules hold onto the other flour and egg molecules and create the spongy texture that we know and love in a cake so when we mess with this special kind of craft we're essentially no longer making cake and as we know from previous sugar-free adventures, what we end up with is a whole lot of dog-food.  There are of course ways to overcome this and this usually involves using larger grained flours and flour alternatives such as ground almonds, polenta and coconut.  It works surprisingly well and ensures you don't get what could end up being a sweet frittata... which is what nobody wants.  Of course, what I love about this cake the most is its stunning colour and the intense aroma of honey and olive oil... it's as though summer has been delivered on the back of a honey-bee and I adore it.  Well ok, I like it a normal amount.  Let's face it, the cake tasted nice but nowhere near as lovely as butter and sugar and that my friends is the gospel...

sugar-free gluten-free, dairy-free honey, polenta, coconut and apple puree cake
more sugar-free exploits and this is more like it... if truth be told, what we have here is simply a twist on a classic gluten-free polenta cake but with the apple puree and honey for sweetness.  The addition of honey came to me at the last moment as the cake was hot out of the oven and it looked so perfectly golden that I wanted to give is a bath of glossy, silky something and honey came to mind.  Now of course this really isn't a sugar-free cake.  It's a refined sugar-free cake and relies heavily on the natural sugars found in the apple puree and honey but let me tell you, it tasted glorious and the texture was a million times better than the monstrosity that was the chocolate beetroot cake I posted about earlier in the week.  This one is most definitely and winner, easy to bake and a cake I will without doubt make again.  I happened to use a very strong tasting extra-virgin olive oil and it is a very strong flavour here but I actually adore this and it works very well with the apple puree but you may want to tone down this slightly by using a regular olive oil.

for the cake
160ml good quality extra virgin olive oil
150g apple puree
100g ground almonds
100g polenta
100g desiccated coconut (sugar-free)
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
3 large free-range eggs
3 or 4 tablespoons runny local honey

oil and line the base and sides of a 20cm loose-bottomed cake tin with baking parchment and pre-heat the oven to 180°C

in a large bowl beat the oil and apple puree with an electric whisk for roughly 5 mins - I did this in my trusty and gorgeous smeg stand-mixer

mix together the almonds, polenta, coconut and baking powder, and beat some of this into the oil-apple mixture, followed by 1 egg, then alternate dry ingredients and eggs, beating all the while.

the mixture will be considerable runnier than your average cake batter but don't panic, the structure is all there so pour it into your prepared tin and bake in the oven for about 30 - 40 minutes

the cake is cooked if a skewer comes out cleanish and the edges of the cake begin to shrink away from the sides of the tin.

remove from the oven to a wire cooling rack, but leave in its tin and prick all over with a skewer and pour the runny honey all over and let it cool entirely in the cake tin

once cooled, remove from the tin and serve.  It should stay fresh for about 3 days.

eat and of course, enjoy!

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

sugar-free beetroot and chocolate cake with an avocado banana chocolate frosting

... do you remember when Blue Peter used to bake a cake for their cats and dogs birthdays?  I always thought the cakes looked so good but of course they were just made of dog food covered with some kind of cream cheese frosting... so my sugar-free baking exploits started this last weekend and let's just say it was very hit and miss.  It's a lot of faff and you've got to be either totally allergic to stuff (and I mean to the point of death) or super-dedicated to want it to work because the results aren't pretty, no matter what anyone will tell you.  It's not worth it.  Genuinely I would rather eat a lifetime of proper sugar and butter and go to an early grave than to have to force myself through this shit again.  Now of course I may be over-reacting slightly because i've tried baking a lot of gluten-free and dairy-free stuff recently and really enjoyed it.... and yes, I do have an adverse reaction to fads of the Deliciously Ella kind but I baked three sugar-free cakes over the course of the weekend; one of which was inedible - see below, one of which was passable and one of which was delicious but very worthy and looked like dog food so i'm not sure it was worth the effort..  I prepped way ahead of time and purchased a whole bunch of cool-sounding ingredients such as apple puree and raw cacao, which I am sure I will put to good use but either i've got a long way to go in this sugar-free game or i'm just not cut out for it... or maybe I'm one of the unlucky ones who can clearly see that the Emperor is not wearing any clothes...

sugar-free beetroot and chocolate cake with an avocado chocolate frosting
my heart sinks... I really wanted this to be the cake that revolutionises my sugar-free world.  It's a Deliciously Ella recipe for goodness sake and OK, I adapted it a little here and there but essentially it's the same and isn't she supposed to be the uber-millennial who has her vegan, sugar-free finger on the pulse of everything that is healthy eating?  So my thinking is three-fold... a) i've got the recipe completely wrong and actually it's a very nice cake, b) it's a disgusting cake but nobody has ever actually said no to Miss Ella because she surrounds herself with yes-men and c) because they've grown up in this intolerance tolerent world these poor millennials haven't actually every tasted real cake with real ingredients and therefore have no idea what good cake actually tastes like so for them, this vile textured creature is delicious... who the fuck knows?  I certainly won't be making it again or pretending that the avocado frosting was a fucking revelation because it was nasty...

... but because you ask so nicely, here's the recipe...

for the cake
250g beetroot   - peeled and boiled
200g ground almonds
200g wholemeal self-raising flour
350g apple purée
300ml maple syrup or agave
6 tbsp raw cacao powder

for the frosting
1 x large, very ripe avocado
1 x small ripe banana
4 tablespoons raw cacao powder
3 tablespoons maple syrup

preheat oven to 190C or 170C fan and grease and line a 22cm cake tin with vegetable oil

precious Ella suggests steaming your beetroot but if you don't have a spare year then either peel and boil it or buy it pre-cooked (not pickled!) Allow it to cool, place it in a large bowl and blend till smooth - this takes seconds in a food processor or with a stick blender.

add the purée to a mixing bowl with all the other cake ingredients and mix well until smooth, then pour into your prepared tin and bake for about 20 minutes until you can pull a knife out of the centre totally clean. (Ella's recipe says 20 minutes but mine took at least 40 minutes before the skewer came out clean.  Set aside to cool whilst you make the frosting

peel and stone the avocado and place this along with the peeled banana into a large bowl - add the cacao powder and maple syrup and whizz the whole lot up with a stick blender (again this can also be achieved in a food processor) - add a little water if it's too thick, then taste and up the maple syrup if you feel it's not sweet enough

spread it all over the top of the cake once it's cooled

eat and of course, enjoy!

Saturday, 14 May 2016

chorizo and broad bean chicken thighs

... we're back at the cottage after two long weeks and it's quite incredible how much the garden has changed.  I always find that this time of year nature is at its most powerful.  The Viking spends most of the daylight hours amongst the new growth, endlessly shifting plants and cursing the rabbits and slugs whilst I wave wistfully at him from the comfort of the kitchen window like a plaintive wartime housewife, a perpetual smile on my face whilst I beat eggs is a fugue of flour... but having not been here for just two weeks I can see why he's so keen to tame it - and he's designed a 'country cottage' style garden anyway so there's an element of wildness in its nature but this is quite something.  The wild campions are in full bloom, their pink hue shouting brightly amongst a sea of green... the darker aster creating and underscore of cerise whilst in the hedges the clematis produces a pale pink and muddy green backdrop to the whole picture.  It is utterly divine and I feel honoured that The Viking has worked so tirelessly to create this masterpiece.

chorizo and broad bean chicken thighs
a classic Belleau Kitchen dish which hasn't been made it quite a while... the chorizo compliments the richness of the chicken thighs so well and it also flavours the whole dish so piquantly that you really have to add very little else to make an outstanding dish.  To be honest, if there are two of you eating tonight you could have this into the oven in under 10 minutes and served in just over an hour and a half with very little hassle which I think is quite something seeing how incredibly complex it tastes.

4 chicken thighs - bone in and skin on
roughly 4 inches of chorizo - thickly sliced
150g broad beans - I used freshly frozen
1/2 a large onion - cut into wedges
1 large stick of celery - roughly chopped
4 large chestnut mushrooms - quartered
a sprig of lemon thyme and a sprig of oregano
salt and pepper
1 large glass of white wine

pre-heat the oven to 180C

place all the veg into the bottom of a small casserole dish, scatter the cut chorizo on top.  Next, tear the herbs over the veg and lay the chicken thighs on top, skin side up.  Season well with salt and pepper and pour over the white wine

place the lid on and bake for 40 minutes, then remove the lid and turn the chicken thighs over and bake for a further 20 minutes, then turn the chicken thighs back to skin side up and bake for a final 10 minutes until they are crispy and golden.  Take the dish out of the oven and pop the lid back on for 5 mins until you serve

eat and of course enjoy!

Monday, 9 May 2016

lemon polenta olive oil cake

... so, sunshine and heat here in the UK.  Who'd a thunk it? Well of course we do get some glorious weather here on occasion but this week was as though someone suddenly remembered to turn the light on... or that there was indeed a light and oh, what does this button do?  Well blow me, it make it bright and sunny and we needn't have been clamouring around in the cold and damp for the past month.  I love the British weather but sometimes it would be nice to have a consistent stretch of the same weather for a couple of weeks so that at least we could plan barbecues or picnics in the park instead of having to rush around like lunatics at the last minute purchasing nasty bits of meat and cheap sausages and chucking them onto too hot coals... and then just as we're getting the hang of it the weather changes and it all gets put away for another week or two until the next bout of sunshine deigns to give us a little bit of hope.  In other news, my personal trainer and I have 'decided' that I should give up sugar for a month.  Obviously this has been a bit of a shock to me and I had to sit down for a while to recover.  The idea is that I can eat natural sugars in fruit but not regular sugar or honey.  It also means no alcohol.  I'm on day one and i'm already craving a glass of wine... here's the last cake I made as a tribute to the month...

lemon polenta olive oil cake
this cake is basically sunshine on a plate... it sings with the zesty freshness of lemons and sugar and is the most wonderful golden yellow colour from the polenta.  Some people aren't crazy about the texture of the polenta as it has a definite bite to it but I love this added crunch as it's really not expected in a cake and the whole thing is still incredibly light and of course gluten-free and dairy-free which is a double win for many.  The cake works very well left entirely plain but the strawberries dipped in milk chocolate added a little something else to the proceedings which I was very happy with.

for the cake
160ml good quality extra virgin olive oil
200g caster sugar
100g ground almonds
100g polenta
100g gluten free flour mix by Dove's Farm (or you could use just increase the polenta and ground almonds)
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
3 large free-range eggs
zest of 2 lemons (save juice for syrup)

for the syrup
juice of 1 lemon
50 grams icing sugar

grease and line the base and sides of a 22cm springform cake tin with baking parchment and pre-heat the oven to 180°C

in a large bowl beat the oil and sugar with an electric whisk until pale and frothy - roughly 5 mins

mix together the almonds, flour and baking powder, and beat some of this into the butter-sugar mixture, followed by 1 egg, then alternate dry ingredients and eggs, beating all the while.

finally, beat in the lemon zest and scrape the mixture into your prepared tin and bake in the oven for about 30 - 40 minutes

the cake is cooked if a skewer comes out cleanish and the edges of the cake begin to shrink away from the sides of the tin.

remove from the oven to a wire cooling rack, but leave in its tin and prick all over with a skewer

make the syrup by boiling together the lemon juice and icing sugar in a smallish saucepan or microwave and then pour the warm syrup over the cake.

leave to cool before taking it out of its tin

eat and of course, enjoy!

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

wild garlic and asparagus quiche with chive and cheddar pastry

... if you live rurally outside London you will know that the garden centre is the social hub of the wider community... it is the epicentre of rural life and most garden centres are to us what shopping malls are to the urbanite... a place to purchase plants yes but oh so much more.  There are two garden centres not far from Belleau in opposing directions; one is part of a small but nationwide chain, the other is an independent but nevertheless quite established establishment.  The one that is part of a nationwide chain is very nice - the prices are lower and there is a lot to offer.  As well as plants is has tools, sheds, garden furniture, pet goods, indoor plants and a wide array of nick-knacks such as stationary, cards, candles etc - it also has a decent cafe.  It's popular and it's all very nice.  The independent garden centre is like stepping into another world.  If it belongs outside, or is outside adjacent then this garden centre stocks it... and more.  Plants yes but it's like walking through a magical kingdom of stuff to do at the weekend... live fish, furniture - both indoor and out, clothing, jewellery, pet-goods, an amazing kitchenware department and at Christmas it has the most outrageous display of lighting, decorations and stuffed polar bears you can imagine.  You could easily take the kids here for the day out! There's a maze, trampoline park and 2 cafes. They even have an animatronic dinosaur exhibit which is relatively believable if not a little dusty... The Viking and I visited at the weekend to purchase some plant or other but of course two hours later and we left with random goodies for the cottage... and of course everyone and their mothers are there, literally it seems like families come and try and lose their relatives amongst the displays of realistic animal statues... 10ft stone gorilla anyone?

wild garlic and asparagus quiche with chive and cheddar pastry
another favourite for this time of year, the asparagus and wild garlic just work so well together and with the richness of the added mushrooms this is one hell of a quiche... we're lucky enough to have a very large valley in a secret corner of the countryside that is awash with wild garlic.  It's quite phenomenal and so I have no qualms about pilfering a handful but please do try and get permission from the landowner if you can and don't take any more than you need.  I've chopped fresh chives into my cheddar shortcrust and it's worked superbly well... and definite pastry favourite.  This quick was served for brunch as well as a quick grab breakfast over the weekend.

for the pastry
250g plain flour
100g butter
50g finely grated strong cheddar cheese
3 chive leaves - finely chopped
water to mix

for the filling
2 large portobello or mushrooms - halved and then thickly sliced
150g wild garlic - stalks chopped
butter and olive oil
6 or 7 asparagus spears
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon of fresh lemon or regular thyme
salt and pepper
4 eggs - beaten
150ml single cream
100ml soured cream (or cottage cheese / creme fraiche)

i'm using a 25cm, 3cm deep fluted tin with a loose bottom which i've greased well

pre-heat the oven to 150C fan

start with the pastry by rubbing the butter into the flour in a large bowl until you have something resembling breadcrumbs, stir in the grated cheddar  and chopped chives then add a tablespoon or two of cold water and bring together into a dough with your hands, you may need to add a little more water to create the dough but you will feel how 'short' the pastry is.  Flatten out the ball slightly, wrap in cling film and pop in the fridge for at least 30 minutes

in a large pan gently melt a generous amount of butter with a little olive oil and throw in the mushrooms - without wanting to teach you to such eggs, here's a little mushroom frying tutorial - first have the heat low, add your mushrooms to the pan and shimmy them around until they're well coated in oil and butter, then leave them alone for as long as possible - on a low heat we're talking 10 minutes.  They should now be soft, so shimmy them around, add the herbs, a little salt and more black pepper than you think you should and turn up the heat... you now want the mushrooms to go a little golden but not burn so i'd say a further 6 minutes till you have the desired colour - halfway through this, add the asparagus to the top of the mushrooms and pop the lid on to let them steam for about 5 mins, then add the wild garlic, lid back on and  let it soften as the mushrooms cook - turn the heat off and let the pan cool on the hob

now your pastry should be ready, roll it out and line your greased quiche pan. Scrunch up some baking parchment to make it pliable, then flatten it out and then lay this into the pastry case and pour some baking beans on top. Blind bake for 15 minutes on 150C

after 15 mins, remove the pastry and carefully lift out the beans - place the pastry back in the oven for another 5 mins to allow the base to turn golden

once your pastry is pale gold, take it out of the oven and set aside whilst you beat the eggs into the creams - season well.

carefully tip the mushroom, asparagus and wild garlic into the pastry case - I do this by hand to get an even arrangement and the mushrooms are usually cooler by this time, finally pour the cream egg mix all over and  bake on 160C for about 15-20 minutes until golden and risen, set aside on a wire rack to cool.  The quiche should easily slide out of the tin.

eat and of course, enjoy!

Sunday, 1 May 2016

lemon zest scones

... having had a little break from blogging over the past few weeks, dipping in and out when i've had a moment has actually built a little confusion in my mind... whilst it's given me the physical time to work on other projects it hasn't actually helped with my mental state, in fact you could say that it's made it all the more worse.  This time away from the constant writing and tweeting, commenting and taking photo's has only gone to highlight the pressure  and now that I have a few days ahead of me, overtime I pick up my computer to blog I just fill with dread and I pull away.  Worst of all is that I seem to have lost my love for the food, which I thought would never happen.  I swipe though instagram with no emotion, occasionally seeing things that look nice but I think it's the volume of everything that just makes me so bored with it all.  I feel as though there's nothing special out there any more, or at least nothing special to me.  I guess that i've slipped into a very negative state of mind and i'm hoping it will pass.  I have been here before and my learnings from last time is not to make dramatic statements about quitting blogging and instead, understand that it will pass and my passion will come back.  Until then, the sun came out yesterday and it actually felt like Spring was on the way.  So I made some scones...

lemon zest scones
every scone season I like to try a new recipe... I will always return to my favourite Delia Smith classic scone recipe but after years of sticking with the same I began to branch out a few years back with interesting results...and there are so many recipes out there from the aforementioned Delia to Paul Hollywood to Bea's of Bloomsbury to the classic Cornish Scone... it seems i've made them all and as I always say, the humble scone is a basic thing which is essentially just a vehicle for cream and jam and so however it's made, as long as it does its delivery job from plate to mouth without crumbling in the hand then it's a job well done.  The ones i'm sharing here today are a new Mary Berry recipe and to be frank I didn't like them.  They were very heavy and far too doughy. Their only saving grace was the fresh zing from the lemon set which I added myself.  Saying that, they rose well in the oven and their colour was delightful but I shall not be making this particular recipe again...

450g self-raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
75g butter
50g caster sugar
the grated zest of one lemon
2 large free-range eggs
225ml milk

pre-heat the oven to 220C and line a baking tray with parchment

put the flour and baking powder into a bowl, add the butter and rub-in to create breadcrumbs... stir in the sugar and the lemon zest

beat the eggs together and add these to the milk, stir together and then mix this into the flour (leaving just a small amount aside to glaze with later)... I use a knife to do this as it cuts through the dough... once the dough starts to form into a solid ball bring together with your hands

pop out onto a floured board and pat out to a thickness of about 2cm, using a 2inch pastry cutter, cut out as many scones, in which ever size you desire and re-shape the dough until you've used it all up... the trick is not to twist the cutter as you dig it into the dough as this will effect the rise and create a lop-sided scone...then brush just the top with the remaining beaten egg / milk mix

bake for 15 mins until golden and risen then set aside to cool

slather with cream and jam, eat and of course, enjoy!



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