Thursday, 30 August 2012

random recipes #19 round-up

... did I scare some of you away..? Did you think it would be all butterflies and bows..? well, yes and no... but you did me proud this month... you little random recipes rascals...

check out the round-up after the jump

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

spatchcock chicken with apple jelly and honey marinade

... isn't it funny how we're influenced by the little things in life... I went to the Alford Festival today, it's an annual festival of folk music and craft that has come on leaps and bounds since we first attended over 15 years ago... i've mentioned this many times before but many of the small towns in the UK are dying a death, with the locals happy to shop in the big out-of-town supermarkets they have to try really hard to pull in the crowds and these big festivals are exactly what we need to promote the excellent local talent... The Alford Festival has also always traditionally been the focus for many Morris Dancers who are so wonderfully creative with the costumes and dances, it's days like this that really do make you realise just how bucolic our life is here in the middle of nowhere...

... alongside the usual mix of arts and crafts stalls there was a delightful little stall selling local honey's and jams and i'd been thinking about a marinade for the chicken I was planning to cook when I found a little jar of mulled apple jelly and I just knew I had to use it today... I have also been sent 3 little jars of New Zealand Honey as a thank you for writing these recent posts and a pot of Beech Forest Honeydew was something i'd not tried before... it's hard to describe the taste but it has a lot of citrus notes in it along with something that smells a little medicinal in a eucalyptus kind of way... anyway I thought it would compliment the apple jelly and add a wonderfully sweet tone to the chicken...

spatchcock chicken with apple jelly and honey marinade
... i've seen quite a few spatchcock chicken's on the interweb recently and my good friend Jenny is also an advocate for the butterflying of chicken but I realise that I've never actually done it myself... it happens to be a great way to barbecue chicken as well as grill or bake and not only greatly reduces the cooking time but also cooks a whole bird more evenly due to the flatness... it is very simple to do and I found a really good video here...

1 chicken
2 cloves of garlic - crushed
1 teaspoon runny honey
2 tablespoons apple jelly
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon English mustard powder
a handful of fresh lemon thyme

- mix well all the marinade ingredients in a bowl

- spatchcock your chicken and then lay it in an oven-proof dish

- pour the marinade all over and rub it well into both sides of the chicken, then skewer the chicken with two skewers in a X shape driving the skewer through the thigh meat and on into the breast and out the other side, this will help keep it flat whilst grilling or baking, wrap in cling-film and marinade in the fridge for at least an hour

- remove the cling-film, replace with foil and place the chicken in a warm oven, roughly 170C for 45 mins... the foil is there because of the high sugar content of the marinade which you don't want to burn... turn the chicken over after 30 mins, then back again after 45 mins when you can remove the foil and let it turn golden and crisp up a little

eat and of course, enjoy!

Sunday, 26 August 2012

stuffed marrow with fennel, pine nuts and capricorn goats cheese served with tzatziki

... marrow... the eeyore of the vegetable world...

... it's just such an odd vegetable... like a giant, tasteless sponge... i'm not trying to be difficult - I have tried it many times in many ways but it really doesn't do anything for me... but I do love courgettes and courgettes do very well with bucket loads of butter and black pepper so with a little butter and pepper love i've hopefully developed a tasty way to cook your marrow...

... my neighbours gave me 3 courgette and one marrow plant earlier this year and I planted out the courgettes with joy... I didn't bother with the marrow until The Viking persuaded me to do something with it as it was looking very forlorn in its little pot... and so out it went into a neglected corner of the garden and so far it's done exactly what I thought it would do... it's produced one miserable, medium sized vegetable...

stuffed marrow with fennel, pine nuts and capricorn goats cheese served with tzatziki
the lovely, soft-tummied Ethel sent me some more of her wonderful Somerset Goats Cheese recently as part of her #CapricornChallenge and I thought the wonderful creamy tang of the cheese mixed with some cous-cous and a few caramelised onions an fennel would work a treat stuffed into the marrow and then gently baked... the trick to getting the marrow tasting really wonderful is to cook it slightly in a vegetable stock first, this also helps speed up the baking process and leaves you with a mouth-watering marrow...

for the stuffed marrow
1 marrow
1 large onion - very finely chopped
1/2 fennel - very finely chopped
2 garlic cloves - crushed
fresh herbs of your choice
4 medium mushrooms - finely chopped
2 medium tomatoes - finely chopped
a large handful of torn fresh basil
1 packet of Cous Cous - I've used the Ainsley Harriott Spice Sensation cous cous
1 packet of Capricorn Goats Cheese
a handful of pine nuts
100g strong cheddar - grated
1 lt of vegetable stock

for the tzatziki
4 tablespoons greek yoghurt
1 quarter regular cucumber - diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
the juice of half a lemon
1 garlic clove - crushed

- take your marrow and halve it long-ways, scoop out the seeds and then scoop out a little of the flesh - keep the flesh for cooking with but throw away the seeds. Slice a little edge off the bottom so that the marrow can sit neatly on a baking tray without rolling over.

- simmer some water in a large pan, add some stock and gently lower the marrow halves into it - let them bubble away till the marrow is just beginning to soften - about 5 mins, take out of the water, drain and set aside on the baking tray

- dry fry the pine nuts - then set aside

- saute the onions, garlic, herbs and fennel in a little butter and olive oil until soft, then chuck in the mushrooms and marrow flesh and soften, then chuck in the tomatoes and half the basil and let it bubble away gently for 20 mins

- prepare your couscous and when ready tip this along with the pine nuts and the rest of the basil into the pan with the vegetables and mix it up, take it off the heat and crumble in the goats cheese and cheddar, stirring until combined

- spoon the mixture into the marrow halves, drizzle with olive oil and bake in the oven on 170C for about 20 mins or until its all golden and bubbling and the marrow is beginning to crisp at the edges

- to make the tzatziki simply combine the ingredients and season to taste

eat and of course, enjoy!

Friday, 24 August 2012

orange and yogurt poppyseed cupcakes

... I just can't help my sweet tooth and i'm trying this daft 5:2 diet that seems to be the latest fad, where you eat normally for 5 days a week and then fast on 600 calories only for the other 2 days but i'm not entirely convinced that cake comes in to either of those days... shame really... I used to have much stronger self control but I guess that must go with age too... and you know me, if I don't see result instantly I get bored very quickly...

... i've never really had huge success with pretty little cupcakes and again, I think this is all about patience and self-control... one just assumes that because they're so easy to make it stands to reason they'd always be successful... which we all know is not the case but today I had a little time and so using my trusted 'weigh the eggs' method I casually made these cupcakes... the added extras are my own invention which I very carefully included, step by step so that I could keep a check on the consistency and I did the same for the icing which I wanted to be thick enough to hold its shape but still include the yoghurt and honey... and I must say i'm very pleased with the results... and if you don't want to indulge in the icing the cupcakes are divine without...

orange and yogurt poppyseed cupcakes with orange blossom honey and yogurt buttercream icing
using yogurt in cupcakes is a revelation to me as they make them so light and fluffy, it works really well in the icing too as it reduces that over-sickly sweet sugary taste just a little... as you know by now i'm really not a master icer but I think this little sugar-gem technique works rather well and creates a simple yet pleasing effect... these cupcakes are regular muffin-sized and I got 16 out of the mix... you'll get a lot more using smaller cupcake cases...

for the cupcakes
2 large free-range eggs
6oz caster sugar
5oz butter
6oz self-raising flour
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
the zest of one orange
a dash of orange essence
a sprinkling of poppyseeds

for the icing
150g of butter
300g icing sugar
2 tablespoons yogurt
1 tablespoon orange blossom honey
the juice of one orange

- in a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar till pale and fluffy

- beat in one egg and one tablespoon of yogurt followed by half the flour which you should sieve in then stir till combined

- beat in the other egg along with the other tablespoon of yogurt, the rest of the flour, the orange zest, orange essence and poppy seeds - mix till thoroughly combined

- spoon into as many cupcake cases as they will fill to 3/4 full then bake on 160C till golden and risen

- in a large bowl, cream together the butter, honey and half the sugar then mix in the remaining icing ingredients until thick and creamy, add more icing sugar to reach the desired thickness for piping then refrigerate until ready to pipe

- pipe onto the cupcakes in a gay fashion and then stuff in your face...

eat and of course, enjoy!

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

BBQ chicken thigh curry with yoghurt and Ainsley Harriott's Cous Cous

... now that all the brou-ha-ha from the Village Show has died down I thought I ought to get back to some proper cooking and with this mini heatwave upon us there really is nothing better than a little barbecue... which I managed to find at the back of the shed... finally...

... this is a very simple dish that my mum used to knock out at every barbecue back when I was a young man... it is impressive in both its simplicity and it's flavour and works well with fish as well as chicken... in fact I was down in London visiting mum this week and she managed to find the original recipe she'd cut out from a magazine back in 1987 which was for curried yoghurt and salmon... how '80's is that...?

BBQ chicken thigh curry with yoghurt and Ainsley Harriott's Cous Cous
... the yoghurt tenderises the chicken in ways that you will not imagine... and the Indian spices are quite mellow which I think works beautifully on the barbie... i'm using some individual spices and some garam masala to create my curry mix but I know that if mum makes this now she simply uses a pre-mixed curry powder and it really tastes just as good... and of course it really works perfectly with the Ainsley Harriott Cous Cous which, like the chicken, couldn't be quicker to prepare...

... I have of course, done some veggie skewers for The Viking using mushrooms, red peppers and veggie sausages which i've cut into chunks and marinated for the same time as the chicken...

a selection of chicken portions
1 pot of greek yoghurt
1 tablespoon honey (i'm using some of that lovely thyme honey from the New Zealand Honey Co.)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds - crushed
1 teaspoon coriander seeds - crushed
2 teaspoon garam masala
4 spring onions - finely chopped

- dry fry the crushed cumin and coriander for about 4 minutes or so and then set aside to cool

- mix all the spices with the yogurt and honey and then add the chopped spring onions and the chicken (or veggies if using) and mix well

- cover and let it all marinade for at least an hour in the fridge, if not 4 hours)

- when ready to grill, remove the chicken from the bowl and let any excess yoghurt drip off

- grill on a hot barbecue or bake in a very hot oven and make sure the chicken is thoroughly cooked through before eating... we had ours with the lemon, mint and parsley cous cous and the sundried tomato and garlic cous cous... heaven!

... whilst we're talking about Ainsley Harriot, I have some very exciting news... I have been invited to take part in an exclusive competition... I get to spend the day, along with four other lucky bloggers, cooking with Ainsley in London... the day will be full of trials and no doubt tribulations and will be filmed... this film will then go onto the Ainsley Harriot facebook page where their followers will pick one very lucky person to win a culinary trip of a lifetime to a secret destination somewhere in the world to discover more about the special ingredients that will go into the next Ainsley Harriott Soup Cup... as you can imagine I am exceptionally excited and feel totally privileged to have been asked to be one of the five... I will of course be asking you for your votes in the weeks to come and will write a post on my day with Ainsley and update you on progress... how exciting!!

eat and of course, enjoy!

Monday, 20 August 2012

deep-filled cherry pie with a chocolate shortcrust lattice top

... it took me four years to reach gold with my scones at The Aby Village Show... with much in-fighting and back-stabbing and many a jovial dig at the wonderful Elaine... who didn't even hit the scone medals board this year, I may add... I finally did it...

... my cherry pie however is a different story... I placed third... out of three entries... and whilst I feel a little like Tom Daley who was rightly ecstatic with his bronze medal, I also feel that those delightful ladies from the WI really need to fucking lighten up a bit... I mean come ON... look at the beauty... look at the perfect lattice work... the divine chocolate pastry... the deep, deep filling of cherries, sultanas and candied fruit... the way I look at it is that it must have stumped them a little... they have their rules... pies should be less deeply filled... a fruit pie is a fruit pie, whereas a lattice pie is something else... and chocolate pastry... well...

... to be fair I actually like the rules... we all need boundaries and regulations and if we can't excel in these simple things then how can we move on to be more creative... much like Picasso who excelled at fine art before he turned to cubism, I guess I need to go back to the drawing board... we have asked the powers that be to give us creative types our own 'anything goes' category for next year... I guess it all depends on who the judges are...

deep-filled cherry pie with a chocolate shortcrust lattice top
of course the real person I have to blame for my third place ranking is Janice from Farmersgirl Kitchen who chose cherries as this months we should cocoa theme as she is guest hosting for Choclette from Chocolate Log Blog who owns the concept that tortures us every 30 odd days... yes, blame Janice as it was for her that I decided to go so avant guard for this fruit pie entry...

for the filling
500g of fresh, frozen or tinned cherries - de-seeded
a large handful of sultanas and candied fruit (this was left-over from Christmas)
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger

for the chocolate shortcrust
250g plain flour
100g butter
1 heaped tablespoon cocoa powder
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1 egg
a little milk to bind

- stone the cherries and then with what look like blood-stained hands, place all the filling ingredients into a bowl and stir - set aside whilst you make the pastry

- combine all the pastry ingredients to form a dough and then refrigerate for at least an hour

- halve the pastry and place one half back in the fridge - on a floured surface roll out one half of the pastry and line your pie dish then fill the pie with the cherry mix

- now roll out the pastry for the lattice top and cut into strips - I watched this excellent, if cheesy, video but it really is very easy to do...

- brush with a milk and egg wash and sprinkle with sugar - bake for 30 mins of 160C

eat and of course, enjoy!

Saturday, 18 August 2012

it's competition time...

... as long-time readers will know, this weekend marks the annual Aby Village Show... it's the time when all the locals gather to show off their prowess in the kitchen and garden as well as photography and needlecraft... it's a time for us all to gather as a community with fingers crossed and breath bated waiting to find out who's scones have favoured the judges this year... who's victoria sponge has risen to perfection and who's fruit pie has ticked the right boxes... and you may say, 'well Mr Franks, you're sure to walk away with the gold medals... we love your cooking and your cakes are excellent' but what none of you realise is that the judges of these kinds of village shows are not looking for creativity or flair... they are looking for perfection... with rules... rules that I am not very good at following... rules laid down by the coven of witches known in this country as..... The Women's Institute...

... scones have to be a certain size (believe me... I have fallen foul of this one before)... victoria sponges must be made with three eggs, just jam filling and no cream (and not four like this...) and a small loaf must be small and you must understand what this means...

... I was actually at a wedding last year so I couldn't enter or enjoy the genial ribbing we all give each other after the judges have given their decisions and the items are all put up for one of the most raucous auctions you'll ever attend... so this year i'm planning on going out guns blazing and entering quite a few items...

4 scones - recipe can be found here...

4 cheese scones - recipe can be found here...

a deep-filled cherry pie with a chocolate lattice pastry top - this is my we should cocoa entry this month and I will post a full recipe later next week...

a small loaf - recipe can be found here...

a victoria sponge made with three eggs - recipe can not be found here...

6 biscuits - I went for gingernuts which are sublime!

it is now Saturday morning and after a full day and half a morning of baking I have been down to the village hall and submitted my bakes... by the time you've read this I will probably be biting my nails in anticipation of a result... I will update this post this afternoon when I return from the brou-ha-ha...

... well... not a bad haul after-all... First Prize with my cheese scones (about time I bloody won the scone prize)... First Prize with the bread... and Third Prize for the Cherry Pie, which if you ask me is a fix... that pie is clearly a winner!... Vic Sponge and Biscuits didn't even hit the scoreboard although i'm not really surprised about the Vic Sponge as it was a little dark around the edges... what a day!

eat and of course, enjoy!

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

a christening cake

... lincolnshire bloggers are a rare breed... there's Gary up to the north of the county and Em over to the west but like the proverbial london buses there are four in a very tight cluster just south of Louth... if you like to read about adventures in the kitchen there's me, of course... who could forget?... if beauty with words is your thing then The Viking may be the one... if you like something left-field... and I'm talking WAY over to the left... there's The Owl Wood... and then in a comfy corner of a sleepy village there's the rather wonderful and fiercely scone-competitive Elaine from The Pear Tree Log...

... Elaine celebrated the christening of her grand-daughter Francesca Esme Clarkson in style on Sunday with a garden party... it was like something out of a thoroughly old-fashioned British novel set sometime between the wars... the weather was fine, the lawn was green, an old-fashioned gramophone played scratchy records and the food was sublime with a hunk of ham, freshly baked bread, wedges of Lincolnshire Poacher and lashings of scones and strawberry jam ... and of course I wanted to contribute in my own special way...

blackcurrant ripple christening cake

whilst I realise that 'pink for girls' is not particularly politically correct I really couldn't help myself... the food colouring was calling to me and I had a splash of inspiration about the rippled icing from Great British Bake Off hero Edd Kimber's brilliant The Boy Who Bakes cook book... he recreates the raspberry ripple with a fresh cream icing but I only had a block of butter and blackcurrant jam in the fridge and so the blackcurrant ripple cake was born...

for the sponge
i created a classic victoria sponge with the 'weigh the eggs' method but added a dash of food colouring in the final whisk... as you can see I decided to trim the edges of the cooked cake as they came out a dark pink colour that wasn't particularly inspiring... the recipe for my victoria sponge can be found here

for the butter cream ripple icing
200g butter - room temperature
250g icing sugar
a little milk
2 tablespoons blackcurrant jam

- whisk the butter into a frenzy then gradually add the icing sugar till you have a nice, thick consistency

- add one tablespoon of blackcurrant jam and whisk in

- add a little milk in needed to make the consistency spreadable and use half to sandwich the cake and with the other half, spread on top in a circular motion and then take the remaining jam and, using a knife, swirl it in to create the ripple effect

eat and of course, enjoy!

Monday, 13 August 2012

lamb tagine with prunes and Ainsley Harriott's Moroccan Medley Cous Cous

... well, the sunshine finally came out didn't it and boy what a scorcher of a weekend...?

... it's days like this that childhood memories are made... running barefoot in the garden as you jump, screaming over the sprinkler... catching butterflies in your hands and then setting them free on the wind, like captured fairies... finding funny shaped animals in the stray cloud that passes over head... paddling in the stream and laughing at the trout as they shoot from under your feet... racing home-made margarine-tub sailboats down the river... it sounds like the ultimate bucolic dream doesn't it but actually we did all these things this weekend as the sun blazed down on belleau cottage... and all this whilst the heady aroma of a moroccan lamb tagine filled the air as it baked slowly in the oven...

... the lovely people at Ainsley Harriott Foods sent me a fabulous hamper stuffed to the gils with ingredients for the perfect summer meals to eat along with his new range of cous-cous... the range includes some interesting and innovative flavour combinations such as sundried tomato and garlic cous-cous, wild mushroom cous-cous and my favourite, lemon mint and parsley cous-cous... the range is fully vegetarian, ready in just 5 minutes and free from nasty little things such as artificial flavours or preservatives... i'm not really a huge cous-cous eater but these are very pleasing and really do go very well with a huge range of different meals...

lamb tagine with Ainsley Harriott Moroccan Medley Cous Cous
... the people at Ainsley Harriot Foods are keen to promote the #AinsleyBBQ experience but i've had a bit of a barbecue fail this summer so i'm starting with this wonderfully rich stew that tastes like summer in a bowl... I will eventually get round to purchasing a new BBQ and when i do I have a wonderful chicken thigh recipe, naturally, to share with you... i've also made a veggie version of this dish which I make alongside the meat one, doubling the recipe... I used some Quorn chicken fillets cut into wedges and potatoes which I treated in exactly the same way as the lamb...

1 kg of lamb shoulder - diced
2 large onions  finely chopped
4 large garlic cloves - crushed
2 tsp tumeric
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp ground cumin
1 400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 pint (1/2 lt) veggie stock
a handful of sultanas
a handful of chopped dried apricots or pruned
a handful of almond slithers
2 tsp honey
fresh mint and coriander

- set the oven to 160C and warm some olive oil in a large casserole dish

- add the meat (or quorn and potatoes) in batches and brown then set aside

- saute the onions and garlic then after about 6 mins throw in the spices and toss them around until the onions are coated and starting to soften

- throw the rest of the ingredients, along with the lamb back into the dish, cover and place in the oven for two and a half hours until the meat is gloriously succulent

- after it comes out of the oven take out the meat and place the dish back on a high heat to reduce the stock for about 5 mins of rigorous boil, once nice and thick pour it lovingly over the meat and cous-cous, sprinkle with fresh chopped mint and coriander and then sit back in the evening sunshine and enjoy!

Saturday, 11 August 2012

cheese and apple tartlets

... many a time I have heard story of an aunt or grandmother who used to bake cheese into the crust of an apple pie... the idea is that the tart-sweetness of the apple is complimented so beautifully by the strength of the cheese and as the apple caramelises slightly in the cooking process it becomes like the sweet pickle that one may associate more with cheese than these lovely little tartlets...

... the recipe come from my random recipes choice for this month which is the most excellent Apple Source Book by Sue Clifford and Angela King... i've had the book out on my kitchen table since I selected it last week and have been flicking through it on a regular basis... it's a great book, full of wit and wisdom about the humble apple... there are no pictures but does include some delightfully naive sketches and evocative lino-prints... the book is really a bible of the apple, from varieties, through growing to of course, eating and is packed with excellent recipes from many great chefs, farmers and growers... I think the book will remain on my table until September and October when the local apples really come into their own...

cheese and apple tartlets
it's a dead easy recipe this and sometimes one doesn't tend to bother with the really easy ones but I think these little apple tarts could be eaten on so many occasions and they take minutes to make that it would be a sin not to have them on stand-by as a kitchen favourite...

for the shortcrust pastry
6oz plain flour
2oz butter
1oz strong cheddar or lincolnshire poacher - grated
a pinch of salt
cold water to mix

for the tarts
4 eating apples - finely chopped - any will do but something nice and crisp and a little tart such as braeburn
Lincolnshire Poacher cheese - grated

- mix the pastry ingredients together into a ball, wrap in cling-film and pop in the fridge for 30 mins

- roll out the pastry and line your mini tart tin

- add the apples, sprinkle each one with a little sugar and bake on 200C for 10 minutes

- remove from the oven, sprinkle with grated cheese and pop them back into the oven until the cheese has melted and the pastry is crispy

... as well as being my random recipes selection I am entering them into this months Tea Time Treats, hosted so sensationally on alternate months by Kate from What Kate Baked and Karen from Lavender and Lovage... the theme for this month is Picnic Pies but tarts and quiches are more than acceptable and I think this little tartlets are perfect for a posh picnic...

... I tried them both piping hot direct from the oven and a little cooler a while later and they were an incredibly intense sweet/savoury heaven...

eat and of course, enjoy!

Thursday, 9 August 2012

purple gooseberry, lemon and rhubarb cake - an alphabake

... now I realise that this may seem like the most tenuous link ever but I did, honestly have the alphabakes challenge in mind when I made this cake... let me explain... the alphabakes challenge, hosted alternatively by Ros from The More Than Occasional Baker and Caroline from Caroline Makes has the letter T as it's theme this month... as you can imagine it's a wonderfully easy one... T for Traybake... T for Tart Tatin... T for Trifle... T for Tiramisu... you get the idea... but as is typical of me i've gone slightly left of field...

... I was a little bored yesterday and decided that cake baking was simply the only thing to do and sometimes I like to just open the cupboard, then open the fridge and take my influence by stealth... sadly the fridge was pretty bare, one duck egg, one hens egg and a little butter... and the baking cupboard is in desperate need of a re-stock since I had a clear-out at the weekend... 4 year-old jellied orange slices lurking in a dark corner could perhaps be thrown out... so I only had a small bag of flour to work with...

... however, I suddenly remembered i'd asked my dear neighbour Tracey to pick my ripening purple gooseberries whilst I was away in Spain, which she did and placed in her freezer... so I let myself in to her home, took my gooseberries and helped myself to a couple of stalks of rhubarb whilst I was there... I realise this makes me sound like a total thief but we do have an understanding... I raid her larder in return for cake...

purple gooseberry, lemon and rhubarb cake
and so on to my cake and the letter T... you see I think that with the gooseberries, the rhubarb and the lemon honey this is a tart cake... that's tart with the letter T

500g raw fruit (you can use any fruit, chopped small or if berries, left whole, fresh or frozen)
175g sugar
175g butter
250g self raising flour
1 duck egg
1 hens egg
a little milk to slacken 
the grated rind of one lemon
1 teaspoon cinnamon 

- pre-heat the oven to 170C and grease and line a loose-bottomed springform tin

- cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy

- add one egg and beat in in

- sieve in half the flour and beat in

- add the other egg then the rest of the flour, the lemon rind and cinnamon and beat in

- add the fruit and combine (it will be really thick, so add a little milm to slacken)

- pour into the cake tin and bake for 40 mins or until risen and golden

eat and of course, enjoy!

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

thyme honey loaf with fresh thyme and poppy seeds

... honey is always glorious baked into bread... not just for that delicious sweetness that is sealed in but also for that mouth-watering aroma that fills the house when it's baking... it's that almost-burnt sugar scent that permeates every corner of the kitchen that makes it worth it...

... i'm using the thyme honey I used with the welsh lamb that was sent to me by the New Zealand Honey Co as, whilst I want the sweetness, I still want the final loaf to be a savoury item and so the thyme infused into the honey adds a lovely herby kick... the added fresh thyme enhances those flavours beautifully into a very delightful loaf... this bread was incredible toasted as it really intensified the thyme honey and was very good with a nice strong cheddar cheese...

thyme honey loaf with fresh thyme and poppy seeds
I try and make 2 loaves every Friday if I can, simply doubling the recipe and then splitting the dough after its first rise... its at this point that I add any extra ingredients, usually keeping one plain and simple and experimenting with the other... the recipe below is for two medium loaves and shows this adding of the extra ingredients... the warm weather we've been having recently has been superb for making bread as I haven't had to place the dough in the airing cupboard, a warm corner of the kitchen seems to work just fine.

800g strong white bread flour
2 teaspoons of active dried yeast
2 large teaspoons of sea salt
600ml warm water
olive oil for kneading

2 tablespoons honey
a handful of fresh thyme
a sprinkling of poppy seeds
extra honey for glazing

- place all the bread ingredients in a very large bowl and bring together with a rubber spatula until it becomes a sticky shaggy dough, cover with a tea towel and leave for 10 minutes

- pour some oil onto your work surface and scoop the dough onto the oil, quickly oil the inside of the bowl

- knead the dough for 8 turns only - thats 'stretch and knead and turn, stretch and knead and turn' place back in the bowl and cover with the tea towel for 10 minutes - the dough should already be softer than you would imagine and you'll be able to see big air pockets forming

- repeat the process 3 more times then cover and leave to double in size for at least and hour

- you should have a nicely risen soft dough at this stage which you need to cut into two pieces

- oil your work surface again and place one of the pieces onto the oil and pat into an oval shape, starting at one end roll the dough up tightly, tuck the ends in and place into an oiled loaf tin - set aside to rise for at least 45 mins

- with the second bit of dough you can either gently knead the ingredients in and then form into a loaf or, as I did with the remaining ingredients, pat out into the oval shape, drizzle liberally with honey, sprinkle with fresh thyme and then roll up into a loaf

- bake on 190C for 30-40 mins or until golden and gorgeous

- once cooled, paint with a little honey and sprinkle with poppy seeds

i'm entering this loaf into the Herbs on a Saturday challenge hosted by Karen from Lavender and Lovage which is a great challenge, encouraging us all to use our herbs more creatively... and I thought i'd take this chance to show you my little 'herb garden' which is essentially 7 pots sitting outside my back door so that, should the weather be chucking it down, I can literally lean out and grab a handfull... I have all the classics including rosemary, thyme, lemon thyme, marjoram, chives and mint as well as a large strawberry plant and a curry plant... it does me very well and I love the incredible aroma it gives off as I brush past it in the mornings...

eat and of course, enjoy!

Monday, 6 August 2012

... some local news

... as you all know by now I am a massive local produce champion... as well as writing my Food Heroes articles for Lincolnshire Life Magazine and Good Taste Magazine I regularly feature local produce and producers here on my blog and this has recently come to the attention of a couple of event organisers who have invited me to do some 'demo cooking' at their events...

... as you can imagine this is a very exciting opportunity for me because not only will I be able to create some interesting dishes using other local producers product showing at these events but I also get to show-off myself a little too... and you all know how much I hate that!

... on October 6th I will be cooking at the Market Rasen Mr Big Market.  Market Rasen is a delightful market town situated about 15 miles from my home in the middle of the county over towards Lincoln... whilst it is a traditional and very pretty, old English town... it has suffered in recent years due, not only to the financial crisis but also to the increased popularity of the larger out-of-town supermarkets whose presence can dominate and decimate a small town like this, as well as, it has to be said, the lazy attitude of town locals and officials who care little about their own communities... sadly there are many towns in the same situation up and down the UK but help is at hand as Market Rasen has recently become one of the 'Portas Pilot Towns'... for those of you not in the know, Mary Portas is an inspirational British champion who has been working effortlessly to encourage industry back into Britain and make Britain's towns and high streets great again... you can read about it here... I feel very privileged to be part of this new enterprise and hope to bring something exciting to encourage locals to come and have a fun day out... I plan to create some fun and easy dishes using product that visitors can go and buy then and there...

... and then on November 24th and 25th I will be demo-cooking at the Lincolnshire Christmas Food and Gift Fair held at the fabulous new events centre at the Lincolnshire Showground in Lincoln... again, this event is a great showcase for all that is excellent about this fair county of ours with producers from all over the county showing not only the wonderful food but some brilliant home-made gifts too... again I am thrilled to be taking part and also a little nervous if i'm honest... all those people, watching me cook... hanging on my every word... and then eating my food... oh go on then, i'm gonna LOVE it!!

... if you can make it over to Lincolnshire for any of these events it would, of course, be lovely to see you... but assuming you can't, do wish me luck... and i'll be bringing you my menu ideas as we progress towards the big dates...

eat and of course, enjoy!

Saturday, 4 August 2012

manuka honey and root ginger blondies with pistachio nuts

... for one of the worst recessions and financial crises in world history The Viking and I are actually quite busy at the moment... work in London has picked up quite a bit with a couple of exciting product launches in September and October and our summer Thursday's filled with a live chat show at The Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park it's all moving along nicely... we're up and down the motorway quite a bit but I really shouldn't complain... it's better than sitting and watching the sunshine come and go...

... plus I still have just enough time to eat and I have this stunning pot of manuka honey with root ginger sitting on my kitchen shelf, sent to me by the very lovely folk over at the New Zealand Honey Co and i've been pouring through the cookbooks trying to find a recipe but there was really nothing that I wanted to do... as with the manuka honey with lemon I wanted to create something that really holds the flavour of the honey without masking it with too much fuss and nonsense and so I thought a simple tray bake using the honey instead of sugar... i've included some yummy crystalised ginger which really brings out the ginger in the honey and i've added some whole pistachios as I think they add a little eastern promise to the whole thing...

manuka honey and root ginger blondies with pistachio nuts
i'm not sure these can be truly called blondies as I forgot to add the white chocolate in the cake batter, so as you can see i've drizzled it on top... they do have that intense buttery aroma that you only get with blondies and I have to say they taste absolutely stunning... so as far as i'm concerned they'll keep their name...

300g manuka honey with root ginger (that's nearly a whole pot folks!)
6 oz plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 large duck egg
200g butter
1 tablespoon crystalised ginger
1 tablespoon pistachio nuts
50g white chocolate chunks

- pre-heat the oven to 170C and line a 20cm x 2cm square cake tin with foil

- cream the butter and honey with a wooden spoon until pale and creamy

- add the egg and beat in

- add the flour and baking powder and beat in

- add the ginger and nuts and mix in

- pour into the tin and bake for 30 mins or until golden

- heat the chocolate in the microwave and drizzle all over for an eclectic pollock inspired look

the New Zealand Honey Co honeys can be purchased pretty much all over the world and at ASDA, MORRISONS and Waitrose in the UK

eat and of course, enjoy!

Thursday, 2 August 2012

welsh lamb with thyme honey

... as many food bloggers will know, on occasion we get sent one or two rather dubious products to trial... this can sometimes be an awkward thing as I do like to be honest and I also have a policy that I must be able to cook with the product in order for me to review it... I hate to sound ungrateful because really i'm not... but I guess these odd items make the good things I get sent even more special... and you see i've been very fortunate to receive what I would consider two incredibly high quality products to review... both the Welsh Lamb, sent to me by the lovely people at Meat Promotion Wales and the Thyme Honey, sent to me by the delicious New Zealand Honey Co are both exceptional products and I feel proud and privileged to have them in my kitchen and cook with them...

... my only gripe... and it is a teeny weeny one... is that it is a little odd to be sent products that I can purchase on my doorstep... I mean, there are lambs in the field opposite my front door for goodness sake and honey bees producing local honey in hives not 400 yards down the road... that being said, both products are of such high quality and produced ethically by local producers that it seems unfair for them not to benefit from promotion and purchase by people who care about the authenticity and heritage of their food...

... the folks over at Welsh Lamb are keen for me to promote the use of lamb as a barbecue meat and I do love the idea of a wonderful slow roast on hot coals but both our ridiculous British weather and my lack of said barbecue (i'm sure I had one in the garden shed but can I find it...?) means I am oven roasting it direct onto a metal rack... the prep and process is identical anyway it's just that the oven version lacks that smokey charcoal something...

welsh lamb with honey and thyme
the thyme honey is simply heavenly... I have been sent three stunning honey's by the New Zealand Honey Co but the moment I saw and tasted the thyme honey I knew it would be perfect with lamb... and this recipe is just so simple it brings out the flavour of the meat so gloriously I am actually watering at the mouth as I type...

1 leg of lamb - boned and butterflied
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
2 tablespoons Thyme Honey
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
2 garlic cloves - peeled and crushed
a bunch of fresh thyme

you can get your lamb boned and butterflied by your friendly neighbourhood butcher or suck it up like me and try yourself... instructions are here... with a sharp knife it was surprisingly quick and easy plus you then get the opportunity to make the most incredible roast lamb stock and even your own lard if you're that way inclined...

- once butterflied, mix all the ingredients well and pour over the lamb, wrap in cling-film and refridgerate for at least and hour... the leg of lamb i'd been sent was huge so I actually halved it at this stage into two smaller butterflies and have frozen one of the portions for something exciting on another sunny day...

- once ready to cook use a couple of metal skewers through the meat to hold the butterfly shape and ease the handling

- if barbecuing you really need one of those barbecues with a lid - heat your coals and let them go to grey before you chuck the lamb on, close the lid and leave it for 30 - 40 minutes

- if roasting, pre-heat the oven to 190C then place the lamb directly onto the oven shelf with a drip-tray beneath to catch all the lovely juices... again it should take roughly 30 - 40 minutes but it really does depend on how you like your lamb cooked and I like mine a little on the pink side so 30 minutes did me fine... I served this with a wonderful green garden salad of my own broad beans and courgettes... divine!

eat and of course, enjoy!

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

random recipes #19 - let's start at the very beginning

...a very good place to start... especially if you're a random recipes virgin and there were many of you last month who i'm sure thought that this was an easy ride... well as many of my past victims challenge entries will tell you - random recipes takes no prisoners!

... as last months mega round-up demonstrates, the very reason I started this challenge was to encourage you to use those recipe books... see them in a new light... find out why they're so damn popular... ensure they don't become a dusty, neglected relic... and the way we do that is by playing random recipes...

the rules
1 - number your books/place them in a pile/throw them in the air
2 - randomly select a cook book
3 - open the cook book to a random page
4 - cook the exact recipe on that page... do NOT cheat... you are only cheating yourself
5 - you may adapt the recipe for health/dietary/product availability purposes only
6 - post the recipe on your blog linking back to me and my blog
7 - include the random recipes badge in the post
8 - email the post to me at dom (at) belleaukitchen (dot) co (dot) uk
9 - challenge deadline is August 29th

... I did a random shuffle on the floor and selected quite an odd but lovely little book called The Apple Source Book by Sue Clifford and Angela King... i've had the book since I worked at the National Trust property and came home with a bucket-load of apples everyday throughout the autumn... it has some really special recipes in it and covers the hundreds of varieties of apple... and on page 74 where the book fell open was a recipe for the rather wonderful sounding Cheese and Apple Tartlets... the recipe is actually developed by a couple who own a farm in Lincolnshire!... its as though this book was calling to me...

... I shall make the recipe later in the month with a local cheese... now off you pop and go select your random recipe... if you do it now you can plan it into your month... x



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