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!

Saturday, 23 April 2016

baked field mushrooms with caramelised onions, kale and nettle

... this week has passed in a bit of a blur.  I remember Sunday night dragging its heels kicking and screaming into Monday morning and thinking that the lead weight of days would never pass quick enough no matter how busy we are and the next minute it's Saturday morning and i've got a stinking cold.  I love being busy but it seems to be a bitter punishment to have survived the week with this gift.  To be fair it means I get the day to stay in bed and rest which is no doubt what the body is really saying and the weather outside looks pretty gloomy from where i'm lying and it gives me time to think about food.  I've been laying here thinking about what I could eat if I could eat anything in the world right now without consequence and I think the cold has infected my brain because all I can think of is doughnuts and to be honest i'm not really a doughnut fan... oh don't get me wrong, I wouldn't kick one out of bed for farting but i'm not dragging myself down to the shops for one and I am most certainly not baking my own.  What I really need is chicken soup with kneidlach dumplings which is pretty appropriate seeing that it's the start of passover this week and traditional food like this is exactly what I should be eating... maybe this cold is someones gods what of reminding me of tradition and to probably give my mother a call...

baked field mushrooms with caramelised onions, kale and nettle
this has to be one of my favourite easy Spring meals... when the nettles are really young they have such a wonderful sweetness to them that works so beautifully with the deep flavour of the field mushroom.  Pick them with care, using rubber gloves and a large open bowl and take only the top four sets of leaves. If you're not convinced you can replace with spinach but nettles are everywhere and eating them is the best way to keep them under control.  Try and find nettles out in a field or from somewhere rural rather than on a roadside where they may have been pee'd on by a dog or had a lot a traffic Wash them carefully These mushrooms are also a really easy meal to make and works well as both a hearty main meal for a vegetarian or a great starter.

2 large onions - thinly sliced
1 teaspoon sugar
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
a small dash of white wine
4 x large flat or field or portobello mushrooms
100g fresh kale
100g freshly picked and washed nettle tops

pre-heat the oven to 180C

place the mushrooms into a large oven-proof dish, drizzle liberally with olive oil and sprinkle with freshly torn rosemary and place in the oven for 15 minutes

meanwhile place a small but deep frying pan on the hob and heat it gently, then add some butter and olive oil and once they've melted add the onions, stir well add the sugar, thyme and seasoning and let them sweat for a good 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure they don't stick.

after 30 mins they should be nicely golden, so turn up the heat and pour in a dash or two of white wine and let it bubble away, then turn down the heat to low and lay the kale and nettles on top and let them gently wilt for 5 minutes, then remove from the heat and set aside.

pull the mushrooms from the oven and cover each mushroom with a mix of kale and nettles and then top with onions - you could add a little blue cheese at this stage or some walnuts perhaps and then pop them back in the oven for a final 10 minutes

eat and of course, enjoy!

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

apple, vanilla and cinnamon layer cake with a salted vanilla buttercream icing

... so I didn't sleep a wink last night.  It may have been the bottle of wine (or two) but I think it's the fact that i'm reading an incredibly intense bit of time-travel sci-fi at the moment and I can't seem to put it down.  I absolutely love finding a good book and I think I slip into a bit of a zombie coma when I get into the reading mood.  This weekend it's quite possible that 8 hours went by on Saturday when I did nothing but read and doze a little in front of the fire.  This sounds idyllic and it really was but the issue is that even when I put the book down i'm still completely absorbed in that world... and of course now i'm obsessed with finding a time portal and the back of the larder that will take me to some wonderful 1950's diner where Root Beer tasted incredible and apple cake was apple cake!

apple, vanilla and cinnamon layer cake with a salted vanilla buttercream icing
oh my word this cake is good... it feels entirely the wrong season for such 'warm' flavours but in fact the tart apples along with the vanilla buttercream make this quite fresh and anyway, this sunshine will no doubt pass in the wink of a bats eye so a scrumptious and hearty apply cake is nothing but a good thing.  The Viking suggested this cake was more pudding than cake and it's true, there's something very squidgy and pudding-like about it... you have to watch the baking very closely as it browns easily but you also don't want it to be too raw.  Mine was just on the edge.  The apples still have bite and the cake was just baked - a few seconds less and it would have been goo.  Don't get me wrong, this is not a bad thing... cinnamon, vanilla and apple goo 'aint so bad.  I also only had salted butter for the buttercream icing but this has, in my opinion, only made everything pop but feel free to use unsalted butter although I warn you, the cake is very sweet so the salt can only but help...

I've been sent quite a bit of glorious vanilla paste and extract from the lovely people at Nielsen-Massey for no other reason than their product is sublime and vanilla rocks!

225g butter - room temperature
225g sugar
3 large free-range eggs
125g self-raising flour
100g ground almonds
3 Bramley apples - peeled, cored and diced
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
a little milk to slacken

for the butter cream
100g salted butter
200g icing sugar - I used a Billingtons Golden Icing Sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

grease and line 2 x 20cm loose bottom cake tins and pre-heat the oven to 170C fan

mix the flour, ground almonds and cinnamon in a bowl and set aside

in another large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together for at least 5 mins until it is pale and fluffy and smooth, then beat in one egg, followed by a third of the flour mix, then the second egg, followed by another third of the flour mix, then add the vanilla bean paste, the last egg and remaining flour and beat together till smooth... add a little milk to slacken and then add all the apples - it's a LOT of apples and the mixture will feel thick and impossible to stir but this is how it should be

divide evenly between the two cake tins and bake for 20 mins or until golden and risen - then set aside until cool

to make the buttercream simply beat the butter for 5 mins in a large bowl then carefully add the icing sugar and vanilla paste and stir together to form a smooth icing - you may need to add a drop or two of cold water to get the mix going

slather one half of the cooled cakes with the frosting and sandwich together -lafter this non extravagant decoration leave it plain as it's all it needs!

eat and of course, enjoy!

Saturday, 16 April 2016

roast sausages with bramley apple cheddar mash

... much like our meals I think most of us are the same way about our clothes... we have have those special, spicy numbers that we pull out for special occasions.  They make us feel good and it's always fun to show off just a little but for the every day we have it all pretty much uniform and comfortable.  I've found this has become even more obvious the older i've become.  Don't get me wrong, I still like to think myself as a little bit edgy and I do try to stay on trend but I most definitely have a uniform, particularly in the colder months.  I favour the smart-casual look of a V-neck fine-knit with jeans and trainers and I pretty much own this combination in every colour available.  Since working with my personal trainer i've felt more confident about my body and have ventured, albeit very tentatively into a slightly different look.  The general observer probably wouldn't notice anything because the colours are the same but the long-sleeve fine-kits have been replaced by a short-sleeved fine-knit with a collar.  I know.  Really breaking the fashion windows with this one.  The thing is, anyone with a lack of body confidence will tell you that even the smallest change to the routine is a bigger leap than most people can imagine. This probably all sounds very vain but I work in an industry surrounded by young millennial types and whilst this keeps me young in mind I do feel like I don't want to alienate myself from them too far by looking like someones strange gay granddad...

roast sausages with bramley apple cheddar mash
even though it's officially Spring and we should all be eating salads and cucumber sandwiches if you care to look out of the window you'll find this is very much comfort food, in-front-of-the-fire, type weather... I love roasting sausages, it's my absolute favourite and in my humble opinion, best way to cook them as they stay firm and cook evenly and because they're sitting there in their own fat they always come out nice and juicy... and of course nothing goes better with a rich pork sausage than a creamy mash.  This mash has the added bite of the picante Bramley Apple.  The Bramley is the perfect bedfellow for any rich meat such as pork or duck and works really well with strong cheeses too so i've added a little extra mature cheddar into the mash.  We've been growing and eating the Bramley exclusively in the UK for over 200 years and because it contains a higher acid content and lower sugar levels than most other apples it produces a stronger, tangier taste that retains its flavour when cooked.  It also has that wonderful 'melt in the mouth' texture which is truly unique to the Bramley.

This recipe is part of a campaign that i've been working on since the end of last year, posting recipes with different themes along with other food bloggers.  I kicked off the campaign in October with a divine Apple and Sausage Pie recipe for Bramley Apple Pie Week and then in January I made the most incredible Apple and Parsnip Soup.  The theme for April, as the recipe in todays post suggests, is roasts.

The other bloggers taking part in the campaign are Maison CupcakeLavender and LovageA Mummy TooLittle Miss Katy and Chelsea Mama and we've been given 3 months each during the forthcoming year, with Sarah from Maison Cupcake and I posting recipes in the same months so hopefully we'll be showing you how to use the wonderful Bramley in a glut of creative ways, so please do look out for our posts.

6 glorious pork sausages - I've used some award-winners from Aldi or you could try Pork and Bramley sausages!
1kg potatoes  - peeled and cut into chunks
100g strong cheddar
4 large bramley apples - peeled, cored and diced
fresh thyme
salt and pepper

pre-heat the oven to 160C - you'll need three oven-proof dishes

place the sausages in one of the oven proof dishes and pop them into the oven - they don't need any additional oil or fats - bake them for 30 mins, turning them occasionally - until they're done to a colour you like

meanwhile, place the peeled, cored and diced apples into another oven-proof dish along with a sprinkling of fresh thyme, salt and pepper and some nobs of butter and roast for 15 minutes until soft - then mash with a fork and set aside

place the potatoes into boiling water and boil until soft - drain well and place back onto a very low heat and let them dry out before mashing with plenty of butter and olive oil

place the mashed potatoes into a large bowl, grate over the cheese, add a few spoonfuls of the mashed apples and stir it all together with a wooden spoon - taste it and add a little more of the apples if you like it a little sharper - then spoon the mash into a final oven-proof dish and let it roast a little for about 15 minutes before serving

serve it all with an onion gravy of course!

if you have any Bramley recipes or are looking for further inspiration try the Bramley Apple instagram or Facebook feeds as they're a wealth of fabulous information and lovely photo's... and don't forget to use #LoveBramley

eat and of course, enjoy!

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

slow-cooked mushroom hot pot

... I love this time of year when the weather isn't quite ready to make a commitment yet.  Particularly here in the UK we've had some amazing Mays so we know it's building up to something but it's still a little bit down in the dumps... today for instance it has been glorious.  An early morning start with the trainer in the park was like being bathed in light and warmth and then the walk to the station had me smiling at the cherry blossom bursting on the trees but the weather map says it's going to be rainy and cold again tomorrow.  Not entirely sure why this makes me so happy.  I feel like the weather is like my generic setting for m mood... changeable.  I guess it means we're not quite there yet with summer food either.  We can still make all my favourite foods with it being a little odd, so those gorgeous  one-pot meals like soups and stews are still being made and there's still a few meals left where we don't have to think about our bikini bodies just yet...

slow-cooked mushroom hot pot
a couple of months ago I spent a glorious day with smeg and the lovely and very talented Mr Kerridge. One of the dishes that had a lasting memory was perhaps the most simple, an onion and potato hot pot. The dish was thick with sliced potatoes with an unctuous and deeply rich onion layer which had been slow-cooked in the oven for a few hours on a very low heat and you could taste the glory of all this slow cooking.  The origin of the dish, Tom told us, was that in many towns across Europe back before people had kitchens in their own homes, they would take large earthenware dishes to their local baker who's ovens were always on overnight and slow-cook meals.  Very often they were hot-pot style dishes made with root vegetables and stock or tough, cheaper cuts of meat.  One can only imagine how glorious they tasted. Each town and region would of course have their own local style of dish.  I love this idea and wish we still had this type of communal cooking that brought people together... my dish really needed a few hours more in the oven and a thicker layer of potato to really work but I gave it a good 3 hours on 120C and it tasted phenomenal which I guess is the point.  I love that with dishes like this you can make them at any time of the day, bung them in the oven and walk away, safe in the knowledge that you will have a good, hearty meal in the evening... it's also wonderful if you live in a cottage with no central heating and spend a lot of time in the kitchen - it's a dish that will keep you warm in more ways than one!

Many people ask me if I make two meals, one for me and

a large selection of potatoes - this really depends on the size of your dish and what you have in the kitchen... I used a bag of new potatoes that needed finishing off but any good quality white potato will work.
2 large onions - finely sliced
3 large flat mushrooms - thickly sliced
2 carrots - sliced
2 sticks of celery - thickly sliced
1/2 litre of stock made up of half white wine and half vegetable stock
butter and olive oil
fresh herbs such as thyme and rosemary

use a large oven-proof dish with a lid or have plenty of foil to hand and pre-heat the oven to 120C

start with the onions on the bottom and layer the vegetables into the dish, seasoning well with salt, pepper and fresh herbs as well as a drizzle of olive oil between each layer

layer the potatoes on top - you want at least 3 layers of potato with plenty of nobs of butter between each layer - season well and then pour over the stock, then cover or wrap tightly with foil and bake in the oven for at least 3 hours if not longer

remove the foil, turn up the heat and let the potatoes brown for 15 minutes before serving

i'm linking this to the Slow Cooked Challenge hosted by Farmersgirl Kitchen and Baking Queen 74

eat and of course, enjoy!

Saturday, 9 April 2016

rhubarb and raspberry balsamic pie

...a return home to the cottage after 14 days and what a change... the weather may still be damp and cold but the lambs are frolicking in the fields which is quite joyous as, let’s face it, it’s been a miserable start to the year.  There's a bench outside the front door at Belleau Cottage which has killer views over the Lincolnshire countryside.  We can see across the pasture to the chalk stream and beyond to the fields of rape and into the village of Aby and the Railway Tavern pub.  A little copse of trees masks the view to the left so that, if you sit for long enough, you're never quite sure what's going to come walking into the picture... and Belleau itself rises away to the right as the road that comes into the village winds its way up the hill framing the picture perfectly.  Every year we push the boundaries of weather as early and late as we can by forcing ourselves, each morning, to sit out there with our coffees... even if we have to wrap up in coats and hats we don’t mind, it’s all about getting those much needed vitamin D rays... so if you find yourselves walking through the Lincolnshire countryside and come across two chaps sitting on a bench and smiling at the sun, do say hello and then meander on your way so as not to spoil the view for too long...

rhubarb and raspberry balsamic pie
when the weather is truly miserable and the bench is simply no place to go, then we get our sunshine from food... this rhubarb pie makes me think of laying out the picnic rug and sipping proseco on the lawn with a slice of something sweet.  I adore its fresh pink hues and sharp sweetness.  The balsamic sets the tartness of the fruit off perfectly and allows you to add spoonfuls of sugar without going too sweet.  It also feels somewhat more mature than a regular pie even if that Barbie-pink hue doesn't look it!  I eat this pie fridge-cold with cream because I know how to eat pie but of course if you have to you can eat it warm from the oven with ice cream or even custard if you're mad...

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
500g rhubarb – cut into large chunks
250g fresh raspberries
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
4 tablespoons caster sugar

grease well a 20cm fluted, loose-bottomed flan or tart tin

start with the pastry - sift the flour, baking powder and sugar into a bowl, add the butter and rub until it resembles breadcrumbs - add the cream cheese, ground almonds and egg yolk, take a knife and mix until it comes together into a dough, you may need to add a little milk here, as I did. - chill the dough for at least 30 mins

meanwhile place the raspberries, rhubarb, sugar and balsamic in a large bowl, stir around and let it mascerate whilst the dough chills

pre-heat your oven to 170C

once chilled, take one third of the pastry and set aside whilst you roll out the remaining on a very well-floured surface - I am very generous with the flour on the top and underneath this particular pastry - and then roll out (I adore this pastry nice and thick)

lay the pastry into the case and gently tease it into the fluted sides and press down then trim the edges

pour in the rhubarb and raspberry filling and push down – it will seem very full.

roll out the remaining flour and cut into strips – I use a pretty fluted pastry cutter but plan strips would work – then carefully lattice your pie top by weaving the strips over and under each other.

bake for 30 mins until the pastry is golden and the interior begins to soften then let it cool entirely and eat is chilled with pouring cream!

i'm linking this pie to Tea Time Treats hosted by Lavender and Lovage which has the theme of local and regional treats... with both my rhubarb and raspberries fresh from the Lincolnshire fields I could not get any more local!

eat and of course, enjoy!



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