Friday, 29 April 2011

the easiest chocolate cake in the world - we should cocoa

perfect cake for a Royal Wedding eh?

so this is quite literally the easiest chocolate cake ever made... i promise you, other than the hour it takes to bake in the oven and the decoration (your choice... you don't have to decorate, you could just eat whilst its still warm...) it takes about 3 minutes from counter top to oven... and I invented it!

... as you know I've been baking cakes for the Gunby Hall tea room and I've been looking for a way to reduce my baking time, without compromising on taste and I've been messing around with different recipes and after much tasting and baking I think I've finally discovered the way to do it... this cake is kind of like an 'all-in-one' sponge with some added pizzaz in the form of some luxury chocolate spread... I've also included a layer of home-made marzipan, just this once, so that i can submit it for the we should cocoa challenge, although I quite like this marzipan layer, we'll have to see how it goes down at the tea room...

Easy Chocolate Cake with a Marzipan layer 

first make the marzipan as it needs to sit in the fridge for an hour or two before using...

200g ground almonds
200g golden caster sugar
1 egg - beaten
1 teaspoon almond essence

mix the almonds and sugar, then add the beaten egg and almond essence and fork it through until it comes together, then get your hands in and knead it into a ball.  wrap it in cling film and pop it in the fridge for at least an hour.

next make the cake... are you ready... this is going to be fast!

175g margarine
175g sugar
3 eggs
200g self raising flour
1tsp baking powder
2tsp cinnamon
4tbs milk
4tbs luxury chocolate spread (you could use Nutella)

- quite literally bung it all into a bowl and whisk it into a frenzy for about 2 minutes.  pour it into a prepared cake tin (i used a 22cm round) and bake for 1hr on 160C

- once it's cooled you can decorate it... obviously I've layered the centre with a spreading of icing and Marzipan, but you can do as you wish

- I've iced it with this icing, to which I've added 3 teaspoons of cocoa powder

eat and of course, enjoy!

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Gunby Orchard Apple Cake

ahhhh... the whole house smells of baking apples, cinnamon and sugar... it's one of those warm, comforting but distinctly Autumnal smells that every country cottage owner desires and every city dweller imagines that every country cottage smells of... I even have one of those smelly candles called, 'apple cake' I think, which mimics this exact smell... it's truly delightful but edging just ever-so-slightly over into nauseous!

As part of my on-going Gunby Hall baking sessions I have been given a 2 huge crates of apples from last season... they've been stored in the dark, in an 18th Century apple store on layered wooden racks and so whilst they're very clearly on their last legs, they are still packed with flavour and very moist... I love the fact that this is how we would have stored and eaten apples year round back in the 18th Century, rather than the dreadful 21st Century, chemically enhanced / frozen apples we get shipped to this country from as far and wide as New Zealand of all places...!  This is one of those times when the advancement in science and technology just doesn't make sense...

anyway, it leaves me with a glut of apples and little time to do stuff with them... I have pureed a lot of them but many I have baked into a few of these incredible cakes, the recipe for which my mum has kept stashed in her recipe collection for years... I urge you to bake it, it's so easy to make and tastes divine... you will never look back.

Gunby Orchard Apple Cake TM

1lb apples - peeled and diced
6oz Sugar (i used light brown sugar)
6oz softened butter or margarine at room temp
2 eggs - beaten
2 tablespoons milk
9oz self raising flour
a handful of saltanas
1 teaspoon cinnamon

- cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, sprinkle in the cinnamon

- add one egg and whisk it into the batter, then add half the flour and whisk again, repeat with the other egg and the remainder of the flour

- add the milk to slacken the batter slightly.

- fold in the saltanas and the apple chunks

- pour in to a greased and lined caked tin... I used a 9inch square but any shape will work.

- line the top of the cake with finely sliced apple segments and brush with melted honey.

- bake for 45 minutes at 170C

This cake batter works equally well used in muffin cases (obviously the baking time is less) but it also works using stewed fruit (I did it with stewed apples and rhubarb.)

eat and of course, enjoy!

Monday, 25 April 2011


this unseasonal warmth has done some bizarre things to the flora and fauna of the Lincolnshire wolds... we have bluebells still opening whilst the delphiniums are beginning to stretch and turn pink, two flowers which never usually see each other bloom!... the swallows are many and nesting early, they fill the sky, busy with their mid-air insect catching... and boy do we need them as the flies and mosquito's are already making a nuisance of themselves... and then there are the veg... everything seems to be bursting at the seams... like one of those time-lapse films, only happening in real time as they expand and shoot before our eyes.

Our trip to Gunby Hall yesterday took us on a tour of their extensive gardens, part of which are turned over to vegetable and fruit growing and it was with much envy that I spied their asparagus, already shooting healthily out of the not particularly glamorous pile of manure... a whole bed of asparagus...

...but when I turned up this morning to deliver my cakes, lovely Gareth handed me an armful of the stuff... enough asparagus to feed a small platoon...bless him.

Like rhubarb, the humble asparagus has many applications in the kitchen, from the simple steamed and served with melting garlic butter... to the pretentious, wrapped in Parma ham and baked with an egg... and other than the rather obvious perfume of it's after effects, it is a pleasant and delicate little vegetable, more than welcome at this time of year.

... today I've made two classics... an soup and a quiche... using the same base for both, which both saved time and pans!

Spring Green Soup with Asparagus

This soup essentially uses any green veg that you may have lying around but it's not an old veg soup, these should be fresh Spring green veg bursting with flavour... and the soup shouldn't be over cooked, just simmered gently and then blitzed to combined the flavours and served immediately...

6 large spring onions - finely sliced
half a large leek - finely chopped
2 bunches (roughly 20 stalks) of asparagus (chopped)
a handful of fine green beans - finely chopped
a handful of baby spinach
a handful of garden peas

- in a heavy pan melt some butter and olive oil and on a medium heat add the onions, leeks, asparagus and beans and let them saute a little before placing the lid on, turning down the heat and let them sweat for 8 minutes or so until tender

- season and then, when soft remove about 1 third of the vegetables and set aside for the quiche

- now, add the spinach and peas and combine before pouring over a pint and a half of vegetable stock.

- let it simmer gently for 10 minutes and then blitz with a hand-held and serve in small cups with a dash of cream.

Asparagus Quiche

as mentioned, this uses the base vegetables from the soup so you can make it at the same time with very little effort... I was also given 6 fresh hens eggs from a my good friend Judy in the village, 3 of which have gone into this, giving it the most delightful yellow colour... so it's been a good day for free trade!

- you'll need a plain shortcrust pastry for this... you'll find a simple recipe for it here

- you'll also need the sauteed veg you've set aside from the soup but you could simply start from scratch, this goes first onto the base of the pre-baked pastry case

- added to this you'll need 1 extra bunch of asparagus and 8 or 10 fine green beans and a handful of garden peas all of which you gently steam until just tender

- for the filling I used 3 large eggs and a cup of double cream, which you whisk together with seasoning and pour into the pre-baked pastry case, then arrange the long stems of the asparagus and beans on top, sinking them gently into the mixture before baking on 180 for 30 minutes or until golden.

... oh and just an update on my cakes for Gunby Hall campaign... I have another order for this coming weekend, double the amount from last weekend!... i'm gonna be busy!

eat and of course, enjoy!

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Cakes for Gunby Hall

i've been baking cakes all day... Belleau Kitchen is like a little old-fashioned work-house...

... Gunby Hall is a Grade 1 listed, 18th Century country house near Spilsby in Lincolnshire... it's one of those magical country houses where you could imagine seeing a character from a Bronte novel swishing along the manicured lawns or disappearing behind a topiary hedge, fluttering a lace fan and giggling softly... it was once the seat of Sir William Massingberd and more recently the home of Jack and Betty, the dear sweet old couple who now live in our little village after they found it too much to care for such a vast estate.

... the house belongs to the National Trust and a few months ago its tenancy became available once more...

...yesterday The Viking and I met with the new tenants to talk about helping them with their plans to utilise the estate for events such as weddings, concerts and themed parties... it could be a brilliant new venture for The Viking and I, allowing us to use our 14 years knowledge in the event production world whilst combining it with our obvious love for Lincolnshire and its beautiful countryside...

... the great thing about it is that we could get to build a new business from the ground up, designing event packages, photographing brochures, building a website, sourcing local suppliers, all this and working alongside some lovely new friends...

banana loaf with cream cheese icing

... of course I couldn't help also thinking about the on-site tea room and providing them with some of my cakes, so I took some samples with me, just in case I could tempt them.  I made a banana and walnut loaf, a carrot cake and some rhubarb muffins topped with white chocolate... and this morning I got a text asking me to provide cakes for the next few days...

carrot cake muffins

carrot cake

...i'm pretty knackered now but rather pleased with the results... I've added 2 chocolate cakes into the mix as well as some carrot cake muffins, so there's lots on offer... i'll let you know how they sell.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Parsnips Molly Parkin - A Random Recipe

I have absolutely no idea why this dish is named after this flamboyant 60's journalist, perhaps it was her favourite dish... perhaps someone thought it looked a little like her... or perhaps this was the dish she was famous for making at parties..? whatever the reason, this recipe, taken from the 1980's book entitled Cook for Hire by Michelle Berriedale-Johnson is rather an odd one for a book which is supposed to suggest dishes that are good for parties and functions... I just can't imagine serving this at a wedding, bar mitzvah or corporate presentation... but then this was the 80's and they did things very differently then... I suppose parsnips were the height of fashion back in the day...?

... and i'm bloody lucky they were because without them I could have ended up with one of the other really odd recipes from this book, which I had to buy for a 'Cooking for Cash' course I did back in the early 90's... recipes such as Puton of Pigeons... or Sherried Potatoes... or Turkish Prawn Pilaff... or even Beef, Mushroom and Aspic Mould... anyone?

... but hey, this is Random Recipes and this was my first ever cook book... so there you go...

Parsnips Molly Parkin

1 large parsnip - sliced very thinly
3 medium tomatoes - sliced (I used cherry tomatoes which I simply halved)
12oz grated strong cheddar cheese
1 pint double cream
a few pinches of sugar (each layer)
salt and pepper
fresh rosemary

- heat some oil and butter in a pan and gently saute the parsnips till golden on both sides

- layer them along with the tomatoes, cream and grated cheese into a casserole dish, sprinkling herbs and salt and pepper with each layer, the top layer should be grated cheese

- roast in a hot oven for 40 - 50 minutes until golden

don't forget you have until the end of the month to submit your entries... I've already had quite a few and it's been a bit of a roller coaster memory ride for many of you.

eat and of course, enjoy!

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

hot and cross buns on the BBC

this year, the powers-that-be have outdone themselves lobotomising the nation by making some royal bloke marry some upper-middle class commoner (there's an oxymoron if ever there was one...) and thought that if they plan the wedding for the week after Easter and give us all the day off, creating some kind of 12 days of mind-numbing madness, we just might forget that we're still in the middle of one of the worst recessions in world history... and we won't notice the fact that there's billions being spent on a party that none of us can go to...

... quite literally the words 'let them eat cake' have never rang so true...

dont get me wrong, I will be spending the next week with my feet well and truly up, enjoying the chance to re-charge and spend time in the kitchen and I think i'm going to try out a few recipes i've never made before, starting with these Hot Cross Buns...

... in the meantime I have been asked to go in and talk about my blog on BBC Radio Lincolnshire, which I am doing tomorrow morning (Thursday) at 10am.  You can listen to me live over the internet if you go here or listen again all week if you miss it, on the BBC iPlayer... I will be taking my buns in to feed them!

Hot Cross Buns

I've made these for this months the Fresh From the Oven challenge which has been set by Sarah from Simply Cooked.

For the buns:
625g strong white bread flour
1 tsp salt
2tsp ground mixed spice
45g unsalted butter
85g sugar
zest of 1 lemon
11/2 tsp fast action dried yeast
1 large egg
10fl oz tepid milk
4oz dried fruit

For the cross:
2tbsp plain flour
2tbsp water
1 tbsp golden syrup or honey - heated

- mix the flour, salt and mixed spice in a large bowl, rub the butter in, then add the sugar, lemon zest and yeast.

- beat the egg, add it to the tepid milk (microwave) and then add this to the flour mixture, bring it all together to form a soft, pliable dough

- turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead lightly, sprinkling the mixed fruit in to the dough in batches, work for 5 minutes or until smooth and elastic.

- place the dough in a large oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel and put it somewhere warm for one hour to prove

- after an hour, knock back the dough, knead for a minute or two and then back into the bowl and warm place for a further 30 minutes.

- once it's doubled in size, turn it out onto a floured surface and divide into 12, roll into balls, flatten slightly into a bun shape and place these on a lined baking tray

- get a large plastic bag and place the buns and tray into the bag, tie the end so no air can get in and leave them to rise once more for a further 40 minutes.

- pre-heat the oven to 240c

- now make the topping by combining the water and flour until you have a thick paste

- once the buns are ready, pour the topping into a piping bag and pie crosses onto each bun and then bake for 8-12 minutes until dark golden.

- the moment they are out of the oven, brush them wit the golden syrup which you have heated gently in the microwave.

eat and of course, enjoy!

Monday, 18 April 2011


it's rhubarb season again... it's Spring... the birds are singing... the lambs are leaping... the bees are busy... an empty egg-shell has been found under the cherry blossom tree... I can start thieving giant rhubarb stalks from the neighbour again... all is good in the world!

... i've just been on the radio, on the lovely Vanessa Kimbell's BBC Northamptonshire show, I called in to speak to Douglas Blyde... brilliant food writer and reviewer... I wanted to ask him a few tips on food writing but of course I ended up talking about me and my food blog... we got around to talking about what's in season and of course the humble rhubarb was the star of the show... there's just so much you can do with it, both sweet, such as this divine baked Rhubarb and Almond Pudding and savoury, like this extraordinary Rhubarb Chicken... I also love simply roasting it with sugar and orange blossom honey... but one of my favourites is Rhubarb Curd, it's fantastic for making these cheeky Rhubarb Shortbread Bars but also makes a wonderful Rhubarb, Ginger and Honey Ice Cream... well, the sun has been shining all weekend, so it must be ice cream time right?

simply roasted with sugar and orange blossom honey

First we have to make our curd... now, i've cheated ever so slightly with the colour here as I prefer a deep pink and my rhubarb was quite green inside but if you're purchasing rhubarb in the shops the stalks you buy are usually much pinker anyway so you shouldn't need the food colouring...

Rhubarb Curd
400g rhubarb - cut into chunks
55g sugar (I like mine quite sharp but you can add more to taste)

6 egg yolks
150g sugar
a pinch of salt
50g unsalted butter - cubed
the zest of 1 lemon

- sprinkle the rhubarb with sugar, place it in a pan and let it sit for 10 minutes

- add a splash of water and heat the rhubarb gently until soft and there are no more chunks, then set aside to cool then whizz the rhubarb up with a hand held blender until pureed

- next, in a double boiler ( a bowl over boiling water) whisk the egg yolks, sugar and salt until warm, go steady and make sure the water doesn't touch the bottom of the bowl or the eggs will curdle.

- add a cup of the pureed rhubarb and lemon zest and continue to stir... add more rhubarb until the desired texture and colour is reached, finally add the butter and stir until glossy

curd on the left, puree on the right

... now making the ice cream is easy, you can simply place the curd into an ice cream maker and just use this, or you can add any number of things such as cream, crystalized ginger, honey, chocolate chunks... anything really... if you don't have an ice cream maker, simply pour it into a plastic container and freeze, take it out and stir it every 3 hours or so... and you should have some curd and puree left over which you can keep in the fridge for up to a week to use in any number of ways.

... now, before you go, i'd like to take a moment to introduce a new blog to you... Belleau Cottage... i'm a little bit biased but after many months of nagging and encouragement I have finally got The Viking to start his blog... it's called Belleau Cottage - Rural Therapy and I suppose it's partly about his love of the garden and part biography but it's also a way for him to channel his thoughts and feelings about this crazy world. His writing style is excellent... very floral (excuse the pun) and a joy to read... but bear with him, he's just starting and on occasion it may seem as though he's ranting about the madness of it all, but I can promise you some wonderful gems and some delightful photography... plus you get the added bonus of seeing where we live and our wonderful surroundings here in the Lincolnshire Wolds!

eat and of course, enjoy!

Friday, 15 April 2011

Spring Minestrone Soup - No Croutons Required

I love a bloggers challenge which fits perfectly into my lifestyle, something that's not so much a challenge as a happy coincident as I'm cooking it anyway, so when I finally decided that April would be the month that I join the brilliant No Croutons Required challenge, hosted by Jacqueline at Tinned Tomatoes, it was with a flash of brilliance that I realised the theme for me was kismet...

... I mean, for a start I should have been doing this challenge a long time ago... firstly it's a very long running challenge, already in it's third year, which is a good enough reason to jump on the bandwagon... secondly I love making soup, always have, it's been a basic staple that my friends know me for... always reliable that Dom should make a big bowl of tasty soup...

... this month, the challenge was based on old NCR themes from our birthday months over the past 3 years.  Mine being September I got Mediterranean Soup and, finally getting to my point,  as it happens I had bought all the ingredients for a Minestrone... genius!

Spring Minestrone

I've made this a little fresher and more Spring-like by including some lovely freshly frozen peas but really you can put in whatever you like, veg that are in season is good, as long as there's lots of them, minestrone means 'the one with many ingredients' so go crazy!

if you can make this in the morning and then serve it in the evening you'll have more flavour in the soup on that second re-heat.

1 onion - chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped finely with salt and rosemary
2 stalks celery - chopped
2 medium carrots - chopped
1 courgette - chopped
a handful of fine beans - chopped
1 tin chopped tomatoes
a handful of teeny pasta shells
a handful of frozen peas
half a small savoy cabbage - chopped
2 pints of good vegetable stock

- couldn't be simpler really... in a big heavy pan saute the onions then garlic, celery and carrots until tender, then add the rest of the veg except for the peas and cabbage and sweat with the lid on for 5-8 minutes)

- add the tomatoes, then the stock and finally the pasta, peas and cabbage and let it simmer gently for 20 minutes.

- serve with a strong grated cheese

eat and of course, enjoy!

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

a right proper loaf...

as you all know, I had a complete disaster with my sourdough baking last weekend... but did I give up..? hell no!...  I have been feeding my sourdough pet for nearly six months now and whilst i've been really happy with the results I have never really reached that sourdough loaf nirvana...

... I wanted that classic, chewy, crispy loaf, full of air holes and intense sour flavour...

... well i've been scouring books and of course, the net and there are a lot of varying recipes out there, it's a mad crazy sourdough world out there, one that I don't think i'll ever truly get to grips with but I do know that my sourdough starter, which has grown in the clear fresh air of the Lincolnshire Wolds is a very good quality sourdough, so there should be no reason why I can't achieve the loaf i'm after, it's just about finding that recipe... and that's where the wonderful Luc Martin comes in.  Luc's blog is an excellent example of a truly dedicated lover of food... from curing and hanging his own pancetta to making his own puff pastry (which is pure dedication to the cause if you ask me...)

... anyway, Luc uses the same sourdough starter recipe as me, however his final bread recipe is very different... as you'll see...

Sourdough Loaf

This recipe takes a good 36 hours from start to finish so don't expect fresh baked bread for breakfast. need to start by making a sourdough sponge

200g sourdough starter
200g strong white flour
200g water

- place the ingredients in a bowl and mix it all up thoroughly making sure you have no lumps, cover and place in a dry place and leave overnight until frothy and risen.

250g - 300g strong white flour (exact measurements will depend on the moistness of your sponge, so add it in portions)
12g sea salt (not added until the final 2 mins of kneading)

and yes friends, that's it... no butter, no oil, no sugar.... just good old flour and salt!

- pour the flour and sponge into the bowl of a mixer and mix on the machines lowest setting for 18 minutes. this should give the dough a smooth and very elastic feel

- let the dough sit in a bowl and rest for around 2 hours for it to do its magic whilst rising

- after 2 hours gently ease the dough out onto a floured surface and form into your loaf.  Be gentle with the dough during this stage and some that amazing air from the rising will stay in the final loaf, giving you the much desired air bubbles... I'm following Luc's advice and going for a baguette, using this video as guidance.

- once you've shaped your loaf cover with a damp cloth or loosely with a sheet of plastic and let it rise for a further 2-3 hours or until doubled in size

- to bake, heat the oven to its highest setting and place a pan of water on the bottom shelf to get it nice and steamy inside.  Now spray or dampen the loaf with water, this will give the bread that classic crunchy blistering crust.

- now, as quick as you can place the tray in the oven and close the door so as not too lose too much steam. Set a timer for 11 minutes (this is the specific time for Luc's oven, you may have to adjust accordingly... I went 12 minutes)

- after this time, take the tray of water out of the oven and lower the temp to 180 and set another timer for 11 minutes.  when this time is done, take the tray out, take the loaves off the the tray and place them upside down, directly on the oven rack and bake for another 12-13 minutes until the underside is as well coloured and crisp as the top.

- remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

and so, yes, they're not as golden brown as Luc's and they don't have that true sourdough holey texture but they are amazing in both taste and crunch... i've not quite got there yet but this is a first very good step and i'm really really happy!

eat and of course, enjoy!

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Cheer up Rowley… it’s already happened - food writing course Part 2

so, part two of our day of food writing and we’ve been relocated to Le Café Anglais in Bayswater for lunch and further discussion with Rowley Leigh, the English Literary teacher of British chef’s… to say there is a stark contrast between this morning and this afternoon’s sessions is an understatement of the highest order… but this is not necessarily a bad thing… as I think what I’ve learnt today is that we are without doubt ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’ and however much we harp on about the Giles Corens and AA Gill’s of the world… they were NOT the first and most definitely wont be the last…

… without the prosaic bitchiness of Elizabeth David or the acerbic wit of Jonathan Meades we wouldn’t have Jay Rayner and his colic bitterness…

and it seems that dear Mr Leigh may have left a part of his heart back in that past where prose and punctuation were once, more important than speed and exposure… sensuality over sensationalism

the highlight of lunch, parmesan custard with anchovy toast

don’t get me wrong… in the words of Rowely Leigh… ‘our scallops were good’ but a little like the milk served with our after dinner coffee, perhaps Rowley has curdled…

… he met us at the door in his friendly grandfatherly fashion and sat with us through lunch… talked with us about his business, his cooking, his thoughts on the modern style of food writing ...but I think perhaps I put up the defences because when I talked about being passionate about food, he told me he didn’t believe in passion…that 'passion' was a word too over-used it had no meaning... I discussed the growth and trend in locally sourced British produce, the stuff I am surrounded by at home, but he told me he didn’t really think there was very much in it and that we’re not the great producers we claim to be… it upset me a little and I didn’t know where to look… 

... it was as though he’d given up… 

... and the shame of it was, that after lunch he read a series of reviews to us with such a beautiful voice and such obvious love for not only his craft but also the English language that it reminded me of glorious childhood days at my own grandfathers house where he would read Hans Christian Anderson to me and comfort me with love and care and… passion.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Yotam's Jam - Food Writing Course, Part 1

The thing is… all I can think about is the jam…

let me explain…. I have an old friend who I see perhaps twice a year (you know the way it is… love them dearly…should see more of them but you have a family, they have a family… we’ve all forgotten how to use a phone…) and on the last occasion we met, conversation got around to my food blog, as it inevitably always does, and he suddenly exclaimed that he’d been looking for the perfect person to pass on a place he had on a Guardian Masterclass, and that due to forgetting it was his own birthday and would be in Berlin, he couldn’t attend.

The masterclass was a day of food writing with Rowley Leigh and Yotam Ottolenghi

… I’ll let that hover in the air a little bit shall I?... yes… I get to spend a day talking about food and food writing with THE Ottolenghi… you can imagine how my jaw hit the ground and how I swooped in for the kill and took the place on the course…

… and so here I am, writing to you LIVE from the masterclass, struggling to think about what to write because all I can think about is the jam we had this morning at the start of the course whilst we sat in Ottolenghi in Islington.

…and the reason?… well, it was banana jam… yes… banana… jam… and it was damn fine… sweet, a little sickly… and although I would definitely consider the banana to be very definitely a breakfast fruit, it was still such an unexpected thing to be spreading on my toast.

I hardly consider myself provincial but until this morning I had not only never eaten the stuff but I’d never heard of it either… who said you could put banana in jam?... I suppose thinking about it now it makes total sense… you’d make jam from your own plentiful and local fruit… hence we Brits make plenty of berry based jams from the summer glut and one assumes that it warmer climes they make jam from the more exotically available…. Breadfruit  jam anyone?

hard at work writing...

Anyway, the best bit of this whole thing is that Yotam himself leaned over the table and told me his secret recipe and with his kind permission (I’m about to ask..) I will repeat it for you here…

... well actually this is really mean of me but you're going to have to wait for the recipe because I want to make it and then post it but I also wanted to get this post off about my exciting day... so jam will come soon...

... part two of the writing course, tomorrow!

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

wild garlic and mushroom quiche

I'm very lucky to live close to a few small woodland areas where, in the late Spring, wild garlic grows in abundance... wild garlic (or ramsons to give it it's general name) is good stuff... if you haven't tried it I urge you to go and hunt some down... it has that earthy, heady aroma of garlic but none of the pungent nasty bitterness in the taste... part of the allium family, it's like garlics cool, hip, mellow cousin... 'slightly stoned garlic' is what they should call it!

you can treat it just like spinach and it works really well in salads, as a pesto, steamed, in soups, in omelettes or as I've done here, in a quiche... the lovely Kavey makes a kind of pesto puree with hers and then freezes it in ice cubes so that she can use it all year round... and best of all it's free!

wild garlic and mushroom quiche

for the pastry
8oz plain flour (i used 4oz white and 4oz wholemeal)
4oz butter or margarine (i've been using Flora White, which has the texture and cooking quality of lard but none of the nasty fat or animal derivatives)
1 tsp salt
cold water to mix

for the filling
a large handful of freshly picked wild garlic leaves
a bunch of spring onions (about 8) - finely chopped
1 large leek - finely sliced and chopped
a dozen chestnut mushrooms - finely sliced
300ml double cream
150g cream cheese (I had this left over from my cake icing - you could use cottage cheese or sour cream)
4 eggs

- first make the pastry by crumbling the butter into the salted flour and then adding the water to bring the dough together - pop it into the fridge for 30 minutes

- in plenty of butter and olive oil, saute the onions and leeks until soft and then add the mushrooms and again saute until soft and slightly browned, plenty of salt and pepper, turn the heat off, place the washed wild garlic into the pan and place the lid on and let it wilt until soft - just like spinach.

- roll out the pastry, line your quiche tin and blind bake until golden. (about 20 minutes on 180)

- whisk the eggs, add the cream and cream cheese and whisk again

- once the pastry is cooked, tip in the sauted filling mixture, spread it out on the base and pour on the egg and cream mix

- bake in a hot oven (190) for 25 - 30 minutes until golden and risen

eat and of course, enjoy!

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Random Recipe 3... my first ever book... and it's prize time!

In a continuing celebration of my 1st Year Blog Birthday this month's Random Recipe is a simple one... go back to your first ever cook book.  Wether it be the first one you were given as a gift or bought for yourself or had handed down from a relative... it has to be that very first book.... and it's from this book that you should randomly select a recipe.

Go on... go and do it NOW!... and no bloody cheating!

Should be interesting for those of us who can't remember that far back... for me it's either a toss up between Delia Smith's Complete Cookery Course or Cook for Hire by Michelle Berriedale-Johnson (you can tell I had plans for world domination even back in the 80's!)... and whilst i'd love to choose something from Delia's book I think if i'm truly honest with myself my first book really was Cook for Hire... should make for some interesting blogging...

now for an extra special treat and to celebrate my 1st Year as a blogger my good friend Lee at Pan Macmillan has given me a special preview copy of the stunning Geometry of Pasta by Jacob Kenedy and Caz Hildebrand to give away to the best entry for this months Random Recipe...

... quite how we're going to choose a winner i'm not sure at this stage, I assume we'll go for the old faithful random number generator... but there might be some nostalgia points somewhere in there too!... and don't worry, this prize is up for grabs wherever you are in the world!

good luck and happy memories!

Saturday, 2 April 2011

a big cake for little old me

I thought i'd celebrate my 1st year as a blogger in style by baking myself a big fat cake.  I'm not really very good at creating those multi-layered, perfectly iced cakes that you drool over lustfully on blogs such as Chocolate Teapot or The Art of Being Perfect.  I'm more of a banana loaf kinda guy, but I wanted to at least give it a go, to make something a little special just for me...

... and that meant following a recipe to the letter, which if you know anything about me, I simply cannot do, however good my intentions are.  I even prepare both mentally and physically for the baking; setting out ingredients, making sure I have the correct utensils and equipment... but it just never comes off perfectly... i think it's all about patience... which I have very little time for!

for instance, this is supposed to be a 4 layered red velvet cake...and have used a whole bottle of red food colouring but it still came out brown... (probably too much cocoa) and I only had one 9 inch cake tin, so I baked it all as one and then sliced it into 3 layers... but I managed to go for the full effect (details below) and am quite impresses by my own icing... and this is THE most delicious cream cheese frosting... I emplore you to try it!

brown velvet layered cake with strawberries and bananas

for the cake
250g sifted flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
113g butter at room temp
300g granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
240ml buttermilk
2 tablespoons red food colouring
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon bicarb of soda
1 banana - sliced
6 strawberries - sliced

for the cream cheese frosting
227g cream cheese at room temp
227g mascarpone
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
115g icing sugar
360ml whipping cream or double cream

- pre-heat the oven to 175c and butter and line 2 - 9inch cake tins

- in a mixing bowl sift together the flour, salt and cocoa powder then set aside

- in another bowl beat the butter until soft and then add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy (you can use a hand mixer or a KitchenAid or Kenwood mixer if you have one... which I don't... something I have to live with ok...)

- beat in the eggs, one at a time, then add the vanilla extract and beat until combined

- in a measuring cup whisk the buttermilk with the red food colouring, now with the mixer on a low speed alternately add the flour mixture and buttermilk to the fluffed up butter and sugar.

- in a small cup combine the vinegar and bicarb, allow it to fizz and add it directly to the cake batter and quickly fold it in.

- divide the batter evenly between the two cake tins and bake for approx 25-30 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.  It should be firm to the touch.

- cool the cakes in their pans for 10 minutes, then turn them out onto a wire rack and cool completely.  then transfer them to the fridge overnight.  This process will make them easier to cut and decorate.

- the next day, make the frosting by mixing the cream cheeses together until smooth, add the vanilla and sugar, gently mix again and then add the whipping cream and whip the whole lot together until thick

- now, slice the two cakes into two layers each so that you have 4 layers and sandwich the layers together with a small amount of the frosting.

- use the rest of the frosting to ice the outside of the cake.

stage 1: slice the cake into layers

stage 2: add the frosting and then the sliced bananas

stage 3: another layer and some sliced strawberries

stage 4: top layer

stage 5: a 'crumb' coating, then into the fridge for an hour

stage 6: the final layer of frosting and edged with coconut

Belleau Kitchen - 1 Year Old Today

well well well, can you believe it...?  A whole year... and i've got to say it's been one of the best years of my life... I am so happy to have started blogging, it's been such a brilliant experience... I've done so much and met so many wonderful people... i've been on TV... i've been to the best supperclubs... i've tried out for The Great British Bake-Off... I started a sourdough... I started my own bloggers challenge... all this and I still haven't managed gold at the Aby Village Show!

and I get to share this exciting passion with all of you... and it really is a passion... for what else would you stay up till 1am catching up and writing new posts, designing meals and reading recipes... and I am truly humbled by all the lovely people who bother to follow my ramblings and attempts at world domination... it has been a brilliant time!

I have a few little posts planned over the next few days but in honour of celebrating my year of blogging I give you my first ever post... it's pretty basic but is there better place to start than with a loaf of bread...?

My First Loaf

Friday 2nd April 2010 and it's Good Friday.

A perfect long weekend to bake.

So as an intro to my kitchen I decided to bake a plaited loaf, something i've never done before... sure i've got a breadmaker and it makes amazing bread, but to truly christen the blog and the start of this new venture I thought i'd go for something i've never done!

I bought the flour from our local windmill, it's organic and ground on site, not 4 miles from my kitchen!

Here's the recipe and photo's of the result:
Preparation: 35 minutes, plus rising. Cooking: 34-40 minutes
Makes 1 loaf
15g butter
290ml milk
15g fresh yeast
1 teaspoon caster sugar
450g strong white flour
1 medium egg beaten
milk to glaze

- melt the butter in the milk in a small pan. Cool until tepid. Cream the yeast and sugar together in a small bowl

- sift the flour into a large bowl with 1 teaspoon of salt and make a well in the centre. Mix together the butter, milk, egg and yeast and pour into the well. Quickly mix together to form a soft but not too sticky dough.

- turn on to a lightly floured worktop and knead for 10-15 minutes until smooth and elastic. Put into a clean, very lightly oiled bowl and cover with a tea towel. Leave in a warm place for about 1 hour until doubled in size.

- Heat the oven to 200C (180C fan oven) gas mark 6. Divide the dough into three pieces. Knead, then roll each piece into a sausage shape about 10cm long

- Put two pieces parallel to each other and the third across, threading it under the left hand piece and over the right-hand. Starting from the middle, plait one end, then turn over and plait the other end. Tuck in the ends and put on a lightly greased baking sheet. Cover and leave to rise for 15 minutes.

- Brush with milk and bake for 25 minutes until the loaf is golden and sounds hollow when tapped on the base. Cool on a wire rack.

If you can't get hold of fresh yeast use 2 teaspoons of fast action dried yeast and stir into the flour before adding liquid.

oh and i's just like to wish Kavey from Kavey Eats a very happy 2nd Blog Birthday today... be fabulous darling!

eat and of course, enjoy!



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