Thursday, 30 May 2013

random recipes #28 round-up - bread

... what's really impressed me this month is the effort that you've all gone to just to bake some bread.  Many of you said that it was a first attempt whilst a few of you were glad of the excuse to get back into the bread baking again and i'm really pleased and a little chuffed because bread baking is not an instant hit type of food, so I always knew this months challenge would be a sticky one... makes me feel all warm inside that so many of you took part... thank you...

enough gushing and let's start with my own offering on the very first day of the challenge and this delightfully playful challa in a cake tin taken from the brilliant Bread by Liz Herbert

just take a look at all your amazing entries after the jump...

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

oven baked, tomato soup risotto

... there was a moment over the last week, stuck in hospital with the feeling of a wrongly convicted felon, that I seriously considered never eating again... my stomach was in indescribable pain, I had no appetite and the very thought of food made me sick to the teeth... and hospitals kind of smell like school canteens for most of the day, which really didn't help... I think I ate one meal over the seven days during my incarceration - it was a strange, grey version of fish and chips I hadn't seen since I was seven... to be fair there was nothing wrong with it.  I simply didn't want to eat it.  I didn't want to be in hospital and I didn't want to be sick... luckily The Viking, like a knight in shining armour, came and rescued me yesterday and brought me home... I need a little rest and recuperation but I can already feel my body is on the mend...

... I consider myself to be quite a healthy eater... a hearty eater yes but it's all good, fresh ingredients that I cook myself.  Very little is processed or packaged and whilst I may appear to eat cake every other day this is simply for the purposes of the blog... very little is actually consumed by me.  Having said all that, clearly there was something wrong and it's something I'm planning to fix.  I don't fully yet have my appetite back, my stomach doesn't seem to have the stomach for it but i'm following the rules of my doctors and dietitian and with a few days of liquid only just past, followed by a couple of days of 'soft' food, i'll soon be introducing roughage and fibre back into my meals.  It's an exciting time in belleau kitchen... to actually have a plan of action food-wise... and I hope you'll come on the journey with me...

oven-baked, tomato soup risotto
so the 'soft' food part of the diet is just to introduce food back into the system... 'bowels, meet oven-baked risotto'... anything that looks like baby-food once it's cooked constitutes as soft food, so mashed potato, steamed fish, pasta, dairy products... all fine for the next couple of days... doesn't mean it has to be completely tasteless though and so when the lovely Jane from Onions and Paper suggested an oven-baked risotto I just knew it was the right thing to do... I can bung it in the oven and let it do it's magic without having to stress over the stove... perfect... although didn't exactly know what my partner ingredient would be until I had a little flash of inspiration whilst supping a bowl of my favourite tomato soup for lunch... it's probably not an original idea but it has comfort food written all over it and it tastes beyond incredible... plus, how could I not be cheered up by this bowl of orange fabulousness!

1 medium onion - very finely chopped
500g risotto rice
1 glass white wine
1 pint veg stock
1 tin of Heinz tomato soup
100g grated parmesan or vegetarian alternative
a little extra virgin olive oil

using a little oil in a large pan (that has a lid) gently sweat the onions until very soft, then throw in the rice and stir together.  Next pour in the wine and let it bubble for at least 5 minutes so that the alcohol burns off

pour in the stock and the tomato soup, place the lid on and pop it in an oven on 150C for 25 mins until the moisture is soaked up and the rice is perfectly el dente.

stir in the cheese, sprinkle with some fresh oregano and serve

eat and of course, enjoy!

Thursday, 23 May 2013

prunes and jelly babies

... it's hard to believe that it was only on Sunday, when I published my cinnamon and chocolate nut bread, that I promised myself some well deserved rest and relaxation... so who'd have thought i'd have ended up in hospital for four days with suspected kidney stones, an infected urinary tract and diverticulitis...

... now I know boys and girls that these are things we really don't need to discuss on a food blog but through excessive boredom it has come to this i'm afraid.  It all started last week in fact when I had the most excruciating pain in my tummy.  I knew the stress had hit me hard and it probably didn't help that I was in the middle of this stupid 5:2 Diet but as I writhed around in pain on a hotel bed for 4 hours I wouldn't have been surprised if an alien burst out of my gut... at least it would have given me blessed relief... The show must go on as they say and I continued on like a brave little soldier through the cramping and hot sweats until the show was over and I could finally collapse in a heap at my brothers house... they very kindly called out a doctor who insisted I come directly to the nearest A&E and get sorted... I think he too suspected alien rupture but didn't want to admit it...

... it's now Thursday, I think... you know how the days seem to meld into one when morphine and the sound of ripping velcro are your only friend... i've tried hard to pay attention but the results of the multiple x-rays, CT scans, dye-drinking, enemas and an un-considerable amount of both hot and not hot doctors with their fingers up my arse seems to be that I have a bad case of diverticulitis... apparently not that un-common, something I find hard to believe... and that I need to stay in hospital and be drip-fed meds until I stabilise... which could be tomorrow or Saturday, i'm hoping... and believe me whilst the staff here at Whipps Cross University Hospital have been delightful there are only 2 or 3 ways to pull off a backless hospital gown and I am neither Angelina Jolie nor Bianca Jagger, plus i'm beginning to be aware of my own smell, which is not pretty...

... as you can imagine this whole incident has thrown in to light my eating habits which I thought included all kinds of healthy and varied foods and yes whilst there are many cakes in there too I still eat a huge amount of fresh vegetables and fruit... my doctor also hinted at the fact that my recent stint on the 5:2 diet may have shocked my body into its constipated state... what I do know is that for a while at least I need to eat more fibre, ... prunes... bran... kiwi fruit... so expect to come on a little food journey with me over the next few weeks and maybe we'll learn something together...

eat and of course, enjoy!... by the way, the jelly babies were brought to me by The Viking to make me a happy bunny.... and i'd just like to say thank you to my lovely brother and his family who have been amazingly supportive and very generous with their prune shopping...

Sunday, 19 May 2013

cinnamon and chocolate nut bread

... well it's been an insanely long week but Mums Show Live has finally come to an end... it was an incredible show and even though attendance figures were a little less than we'd have hoped for I feel very proud of the work I put in to the amazing theatres.  We had some very diverse topics from My Kids Got Talent, about how to spot potential in your child, with the amazing Carrie Grant, to Kids Nutrition, with our very own Karen from Lavender and Lovage sitting on the panel... I also met some other lovely parenting bloggers such as Helen from Actually Mummy and Chris from Thinly Spread... everyone has been so supportive and we're hoping for bigger and better things next year... you can imagine i'm now a little broken but I thought i'd share a little recipe with you before I take to my bed for the next week... I’ve been experimenting a lot with different breads recently as I’m very keen to encourage people to bake their own and with the current trend for make-do-and-mend and home-baking so popular right now I want to show how easy and satisfying it is.  As you know I'm going to be demo-cooking at the amazing Lincolnshire Show this year on the 19th and 20th June and I’ve taken it on myself to do some live bread making during my demo, I realise that I’m my own worse enemy but I figure that if I can do it live, in front of a crowd then anyone can do it in the safety of their own home.

Bread of course comes in many varieties and styles, different flours, liquids and fats can be used let alone the different types of yeast.  You can incorporate all kinds of ingredients and create both savoury and sweet breads too but it’s perfecting that initial basic loaf that will give you the confidence to be experimental... this semi-sweet loaf, made using the ‘low-knead’ method and baked in a cake tin, was simply inspired by what I had a lot of in my larder and the fact that I had friends coming round for tea and needed something relatively fast but impressive to serve.

Cinnamon and chocolate nut bread with an orange sherbet icing.
Remember that like cakes, with bread you must follow the initial recipe and method to the letter, its only with the added ingredients that you can get creative.

For the bread
300g strong white bread flour
100g strong wholemeal flour
50g light brown sugar
1 teaspoon fast action dried yeast
300ml milk
50g butter – melted
1 egg – beaten
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoon cocoa powder
a tablespoon of runny honey
a handful of chopped nuts
the zest of one orange
a little sunflower oil for kneading

for the orange sherbet icing
300g icing sugar
the juice of one orange
you will need a deep, loose-bottomed 12inch cake tin – lightly oiled

Place the flours, yeast, salt, sugar, cinnamon and cocoa powder in a large bowl and mix together then pour over the milk, melted butter and beaten egg and bring together with a spatula until you have a shaggy mess – cover with clingfilm and set aside for 10 minutes

After 10 mins lightly oil your work surface and pour the dough onto it.  Wipe out the inside of your bowl and pour in a little oil and wipe around with your hand.  Using your oiled hand, knead the dough for 10 second then place it back into the bowl and cover for another 10 minutes. 

Repeat this, low-knead a total of 3 times then cover with cling film and leave for at least an hour to prove or until doubled in size.

After the bread has proved tip it out onto a lightly oiled surface and pat it out with your fist into an oblong shape, then sprinkle on the nuts and orange zest and pour over the honey, then rollup the dough into a sausage shape.

Cut the sausage into 7 equal pieces and place them into the cake tin with one in the centre and the other pieces around it like a flower, cover with cling film and let this prove again for at least 30 mins whilst you pre-heat the oven to 190C

Once the bread has risen again, bake it in the oven for at least 30 minutes or until it is a dark golden brown

To make the sherbet icing simple squeeze the orange juice into a bowl with the icing sugar and stir, this can then be drizzled onto the bread once it’s cooled.

Eat and of course, enjoy!

Monday, 13 May 2013

foragers quiche

... i'm more than a little chuffed to announce that i'll be demo-cooking at this years Lincolnshire Show... this is the big one folks... for all the demo-cooking that i've done before has led me to this, the grand-daddy of all fairs, markets and shows in the county, this is the county show to be at.  The Lincolnshire Show is one of the UK's biggest county shows, it's heritage dating back to 1868, as popular for its displays of agricultural farm equipment and animals as its incredible stalls celebrating everything from Lincolnshire cheeses to local fashion designers and crafters.  As you can imagine the highlight for me every year is the Food Court and this is the place i'll be calling home for the 19th and 20th June...

...I reviewed the show last year so for me to actually be a part of the proceedings is an amazingly proud moment in my food life and to be counted amongst other local chefs such as Rachel Green and the Fanny to my Jonny, Amy Claridge also appearing in the Demonstration Kitchen just makes it all the more exciting and a little nerve wracking!... i've decided to make a foragers quiche using locally foraged vegetables, alongside local cheeses, eggs, flour and cream of course but as well as the quiche, in some moment of madness decision making, i'll also be showing the good folk of Lincolnshire my low-knead bread baking to try and encourage people to get bake their own...

wild garlic and nettle quiche with a lincolnshire poacher and ground elder pastry crust
this is a version of the quiche i'll be making - obviously by the end of June the wild garlic will be gone - but a visit to our local bluebell wood today to forage for wild garlic inspired me to use it in the quiche... if you've not used wild garlic before I urge you to hunt some down, even if it's not so wild, as it has the most incredible deep and sweet garlic flavour without being overbearing as garlic can often be... a word of waring though - if you do find a patch of wild garlic make sure you don't over pick from it... leave plenty in the site you found it, a little wild garlic will go a long way and you want to leave some behind for mother nature... as for the nettle and ground elder... feel free to go as crazy as you like but remember not to forage close to the side of a busy road or where you know dogs have been...

for the pastry
8oz flour
3oz butter
1oz lincolnshire poacher - finely grated
a handful of ground elder - finely chopped

for the quiche filling
a bunch of wild garlic - washed and spun dry
roughly 10 heads of nettle (just the top four leaves picked wearing rubber gloves!)
5 whole lengths of spring onion - finely sliced
half a bulb of fennel - finely sliced
4 eggs
300ml single cream
100ml soured cream
salt and pepper
butter and olive oil

start with the pastry by crumbling the butter into the flour in a large bowl with your finger tips - be light and quick - then add the cheese and ground elder and stir, then add a little cold water and bring it together into a dough with your hands.  Pat it out, wrap it in cling film and then pop it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

in a large pan that has a lid add a little olive oil and garlic and saute the onions and fennel gently for about 10 minutes until they're soft, then turn off the heat add the wild garlic and nettles, add a little salt and pepper then pop the lid on and let them sweat until they're soft, this should take about 5 minutes.

once the pastry has been chilled for 30 minutes roll it out on a floured surface and line your quiche dish or fluted tin.  Cover with some scrunched up baking parchment and some baking beans and bake the pastry on 160C for about 15 minutes, then remove the beans brush the pastry with a little beaten egg and bake again for a further 5 mins until golden... this method with insure you never have a soggy bottom!

the baked pastry case with no soggy bottom!

in a large bowl beat the 4 eggs with the creams, season and then add the soft vegetables and stir before pouring into the pastry case.  Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes or until golden and risen

eat and of course enjoy!

Friday, 10 May 2013

Cho drinking gazpacho - a cho-tastic Mums Show Live giveaway!

... being a creative type can have it's hazards... one moment you're working your nuts off, throwing glitter at a supermodel in some insanely expensive house in the Hollywood Hills with barely a moment to breathe... and the next you can be up to your eyeballs in debt frantically rocking naked in the corner of a dimly lit room wondering where your next pay cheque is going to come from... it is a slightly frenetic life that I wouldn't give up for anything, however much you may hear me complain...

... but sometimes when the lows are really low you do start to plan your escape... wild ideas come to you in the dead of night, most have very little chance of ever reaching fruition but when one of them does, you just know it's going to get you out of the doldrums... The Viking and I are very lucky at the moment because The Persuaders is going really well and added to this we're hoping that Mums Show Live, the new and only show for parents of school-aged kids, happening at Alexandra Palace next week from 16th to 19th May, will be another step in the right direction... and so when our very good friends Adam and Karen told us about their new food venture Cho an 'on-the-go' drinking gazpacho, we were equally excited and intrigued by their new food idea...

Adam and Karen hard at work!

... Adam and Karen have been working in the same industry as us for years and have had the same hits and misses as the best of us so when they turned their love of food and passion for all things Spanish into Cho - an innovative new drinking gazpacho with 4 incredible flavours we knew they were onto a winner... of course the proof, as they say, is in the pudding and with Cho, boy is it ever!...

the four intriguing Cho flavours are 

Clasico Tomato & Peppers 
a classic blend of organic tomatoes, green and red peppers, olive oil and garlic - this is the true taste of gazpacho, a must for any tomato lover.

Almond & Raspberry
the Spanish call gazpacho with almonds Ajoblanco and this is a twist on that beautiful idea with more than a kick of raspberries, this is a very summery drink.

Beetroot and Apple
this one is my favourite and I feel it is a very mature drink, it is also blended with Greek yoghurt for an extra creaminess, it is quite literally heaven in a bottle

Tomato & Strawberry
this one is delightful and apparently a hit with the kids too, the strawberry is an unexpected and delicious bed-fellow for the tomato!

As a food lover myself I know that gazpacho tends to be one of those 'marmite' foods... for as many people love it as hate it but I have to say that this is such an innovative idea and one that I know will take my dear friends on an incredible culinary journey... and they've spent many a sleepless hour creating this beautiful drink... working with Michelin starred chef Alejandro Sanchez on developing the recipes so that each flavour combination is sublimely beautiful, plus all the product is lovingly and authentically made by small producers in the heart of Andalucia... they already have orders from some very swanky shops and the product is also available to order on their website where you can read more about their brilliant culinary journey...

and now to the brilliant giveaway... we are proud to announce that Cho will be exhibiting at Mums Show Live next week and to celebrate this union of creativity I am giving away 4 pairs of tickets to the show to 4 lucky winners, each winner will also receive an incredible 12 bottle case of mixed flavours of Cho!...

... all you have to do to enter is fill in the wonderful rafflecopter thingy below and tell us which flavour you think sounds the most delicious... the winners will be announced on Wed 18th May - good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, 9 May 2013

a simple summer salad

... we're a funny lot us Brits aren't we?  The merest hint of summer sunshine and we're out in our droves... blocking country lanes... filling up beaches... dining al fresco along the banks of the river... it's as though the British have an internal alarm that rings in the depths of our minds - 'get thee out unto the roads and find your corner of the sunshine'... we know that unlike many of our international friends, if we don't make the most of it, even if it's only for just one beautiful weekend, we may not see it again for another month... it's even worth sitting in a traffic jam for 4 hours just to make it to that special chip-shop by the coast.. just to say we've had a summer...

... like a lot of us I also tend to bring the summer out in my food... if I can't make it to the beach then i'll damn well have a plate full of holiday... I was lucky enough to have been sent a selection of world-famous Iberian ham from Jamoteca and Joselito.  I actually squealed with delight as I opened the box of goodies that contained a packet of Joselito Gran Reserva Ham, cured for a minimum of 36 months, a packet of Joselito Chorizo, Joselito Gran Reserva Paleta and also some Joselito Salchichon... in all honesty I ripped open the Gran Reserva Ham without ceremony and i'm so glad I did, it was unbelievably good with a deep and sweet oaky quality that instantly took me back to Majorcan nights sitting by the Med... there's a very good reason why it's called 'the best ham in the world'

asparagus and green bean salad
you know that summer's well and truly on it's way when the British asparagus arrives in the shops... it's almost painful to think that most of supermarkets are still stocking the stuff that comes from Peru when we should all really learn to love the stuff when it's available here... and it's damn fine stuff and more than worth the wait... this salad is dressed very simply with some stunningly sweet balsamic vinegar sent to me as part of my recent rediscover italy delivery and i've served it very simply with some of the beautiful Gran Reserva Paleta... summer in an instant!

1 bunch of British asparagus
a handful of fine green beans
1 round lettuce - roughly torn
1 bunch of rocket
1 ball of fresh mozzarella
10 radish - thinly sliced
15 baby plum tomatoes - halved
olive oil
kosher salt
balsamic vinegar

very easy all this... place the asparagus and beans into boiling water and simmer gently for 5 mins until just tender

rip up everything else and place it into a bowl and once the vegetables are ready drain them douse them in olive oil and layer them onto the salad... drizzle with plenty of balsamic and serve!

fortunately for everyone, jamoteca hams can be purchased on-line wherever you are in the world it seems...

eat and of course, enjoy!

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

almond and chocolate marble cake

... when I was a teenager I was madly in love with a young lady called Natasha.  It was quite an intense, four year relationship that unfortunately but inevitably ended badly... we met recently and healed some of the wounds having realised that twenty five years, marriages and children do a lot to smooth the pain away but I don't think anyone really forgets their first true love.  There are many things I remember about Natasha but one thing that I often recall is her mothers incredible marble cake.  Her mother, who sadly passed away a few years ago was, from what i can remember (or my stomach can at least) a very good cook, in a very traditional 'mum' kind of way and her marble cake was pretty exceptional.  It was a tall slab of cake that I had to stretch my mouth to eat... how can that be bad... I only hope that Tasha has the recipe... this is not it but it brings back memories of my teenage years and that can, on occasion, be a good thing...

almond and chocolate marble cake
you know sometimes when you're thinking about making a cake and you just want something that is simple and sweet and not over-fancy with all that sickly cream and icing... well this is that cake... its simplicity is its beauty.  The sides and edges burnt a little in the oven as I was playing it all by ear but with a little trimming and a dusting of icing sugar you'd never know...

these ingredients make a very tall 12 inch cake
5 goose eggs (6 regular hens eggs)
250g self-raising flour
150g ground almonds
400g butter
400g sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons cocoa powder

pre-heat the oven to 170C and grease and line a 12 inch, loose-bottomed, deep caked tin

weigh the flour in with the ground almonds

this next stage can all be done by hand or with an electric mixer, the choice is yours... my choice was a large bowl and a wooden spoon... in a very large bowl cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, then add two eggs and vanilla extract and beat in followed by a third of the flour/almond mix which you beat in... continue this way (eggs followed by flour) until it's all gone... you should have a thick batter

take half out and place in it's own bowl to which you add the cocoa powder and beat in

spoon alternate blobs of each coloured batter into the cake tin and then when it's all in take a knife or a bamboo skewer and swirl the batter around... don't be too careful here, you really can't go wrong, it's supposed to look like a royal mess...

bake for 45 mins or until it's golden and risen and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean

once it's cooled, sprinkle with icing sugar before serving

eat and of course, enjoy!

Sunday, 5 May 2013


meat stew on the left, veggie sausage stew on the right

... simple is the word this weekend and that means large pots of slow-cooked stew for you see whilst the days may be gloriously sunny the nights still have a chill in the air and it's nice to have a bowl of glorious stew bubbling away... for the aroma alone... and it means I basically don't have to cook again till Tuesday which is always a bonus in my book...

... I very rarely buy stewing steak, it's just something I tend not to purchase but I was sent some a while back as part of the fabulous Farmison delivery I received and as winter passed into Spring my plans for the meat seemed to slip away until I realised that I was kidding myself making excuses not to make a stew... a stew is good any time of the year and I had enough meat to use half of it for this and half of it on the barbecue when the summer properly kicks in next month... so stew it is...

veggie sausage stew

beef stew with charlotte potatoes
it almost feels like a cheat to be giving you this recipe as it basically calls for you to bung it all into a pot and slow-cook it for 6 hours but there's a little prep work for the meat and I guess this wouldn't be a recipe blog without a recipe, so here goes... and don't think I neglected the viking either... so simple is this stew that as long as you use a nice robust veggie sausage such as the type made by Cauldron then you can follow the below recipe to the letter simply substituting the meat...

good enough to serve 2 hungry people:
500g stewing steak or 6 veggie sausages - cut into large chunks
4 tablespoons plain flour - seasoned with salt and pepper
a little butter and olive oil
1 medium onion - roughly chopped
2 sticks of celery - roughly chopped
roughy 10 charlotte potatoes cut in half
1 large carrot - roughly chopped
5 garlic cloves - un-peeled
1/2 bulb of fennel - roughly chopped
5 medium mushrooms - quartered
half a glass of white wine
1 large glass of red wine
1 pint of good veg stock
a few sprigs or fresh rosemary and thyme

you'll need a large pan with a lid that can be used on the hob or in the oven

season the flour then roll the meat or veggie sausages in the flour... I actually had a little flour left in a bag and simply threw the meat in a shook it up

place the pan on a medium heat add some oil and brown the meat or veggie sausages in batches until golden, then set aside

turn the heat up on the pan and throw in the white wine to deglaze the pan, then pop in some butter and the fresh herbs, and once the wine is almost gone turn down the heat and throw in all the vegetables and shimmy them around for about 5 mins.  Pop the meat or veggie sausages in, give it a stir and then fill the pan up with the red wine and the stock

pop the lid on (you may need a layer of foil if your lid does not fit tightly) and place in the oven on 100C for 6 hours

half an hour before you're ready to serve remove the lid (and foil if using) and turn the heat up to 200C and let the gravy bubble away for 20 mins or so to reduce it slightly... serve with a chunk of freshly baked bread

eat and of course, enjoy!

Friday, 3 May 2013

the best friggin' chocolate chip cookies ever made...

... if Spring could be captured in just one day, this would be that day... it's warm, it's very sunny and bright, the odd stray bee is wafting into the house, caught on a gentle breeze and that slightly fuggy aroma of freshly cut lawn is in the air.  There are a pair of big fat wood pigeons who both fly down and land on the bird table to preen each other... I feel that watching their courtship is tantamount to watching avian porn but I let it slide because they're clearly happy and prepping for new life.  We also have a very brave pair of blackbirds who are well in to constructing what seems to be a whole apartment block with the amount of twigs and feathers they're collecting... the male comes right up close to our large garden doors, even when they're open, it's as though he's looking to see if we have any better construction materials inside than he'd find on his regular haunts... it's all happening chez belleau, I can tell you...

chocolate chip cookies
do you ever use google for inspiration?  Sometimes i'll just write whole sentences in there to see what comes up and yesterday morning was no exception when the thought struck me to make chocolate chip cookies for this months teat time treats bloggers challenge.  I simply typed in 'the best cookies in the world' and this is what came up... talk about your top notch SEO baby!

The tea time treats challenge was founded by the lovely Karen from Lavender and Lovage and the delightful Kate from What Kate Baked.

this recipe is slightly adapted from the awesome Parents Need to Eat Too blog written by Debbie Koenig.  Debbie is the one who painstakingly slaved over a hot cookie to come to this incredible recipe.  The only credit I take for these are that I've made them too and am sharing them with you, you lucky people, for they are truly the best friggin' chocolate chip cookies ever made...

190g self-raising flour (or 190g plain flour and 1/2 a teaspoon of baking powder)
1/2 a teaspoon of salt
115g butter
125g light brown sugar
125g regular sugar
1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg - lightly beaten
100g dark chocolate chunks

in a large bowl cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy... as you know I like to do this by hand with a wooden spoon which can take up to 6 mins but it can be done the modern way with an electric mixer much faster

add the beaten egg and vanilla and mix in until incorporated then add half the flour and beat in followed by the rest of the flour, the salt and the chocolate chips.  Beat in until fully combined.

tip the dough out out onto a large piece of cling film and roll out until you have a large sausage shape roughly 14 inches long, wrap in the film and pop in the fridge for at least an hour if not overnight or even, as the original method says, 24-36 hours.

once thoroughly chilled unwrap and cut into slices - you should get 24 out of the roll - and lay onto a baking sheet or two.  Bake on 170C for 15 mins or until golden.  They will still feel soft after this time but you should take them out of the oven and lay them onto a cooling rack.  They will be fully ready to consume after 20 minutes at which point your heart will melt...

for the original US measurements and a rather more detailed method pop over the Debbie's blog here.

eat and of course, enjoy!

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

random recipes #28 - bread

... I was in the kitchen on Friday evening with a packet of very strong white bread flour and some fast action yeast at the ready, entirely prepared to make my usual low-knead loaves for the weekend consumption when the thought struck me to make something a little different... don't get me wrong, I love making this bread.... it's so easy and never fails me... but a change is as good as a rest and so I reached for all my bread baking books and then a thought struck me - why not chose the book and recipe randomly - this way I can both fulfil my need for something new whilst also giving me the theme for this months random recipes...

... i'm a massive advocate for home-baked bread and with the wonderful Paul Hollywood's inspiring Bread TV show coming to an end I am keen to pass my love for the stuff on to you lot and I think there is no better way to do this than via a challenge like random recipes where the choice is taken out of your hands... and yes I know that the thought of baking bread can be daunting but really it's all about confidence and following a recipe... and a word of warning here, if you're a novice you really MUST follow the recipe and the instructions to the letter with bread... I have come a cropper many times (including during this bake in fact) thinking I could go my own way... stick to what's written down and you'll be absolutely fine, I promise you...

challah in a cake tin
I came unstuck here as I used my low-knead method with someone else's recipe and whilst the bread itself tasted divine, the dough was too soft to hold the plaits so I have to pop it into a cake tin instead... my recipe was taken from the excellent Bread by Liz Herbert, a book I've cooked from many times with very few issues...

350g strong white bread flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
40g unsalted butter
25g sugar
1 teaspoon fast action yeast
2 medium eggs, beaten
125ml warm semi-skimmed milk

in a large bowl lightly rub the butter into the flour, then add the salt and sugar

combine the yeast with the milk and beaten egg and let it dissolve for a minute or two then pour it into the flour mixture, bring it all together to form a dough

tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for roughly 10 minutes or until it becomes soft, then place it back into the bowl, cover with cling film and let it rise for an hour in a warm place

after an hour, knock it back by punching it with you fist, then pour it out onto a floured surface and divide it evenly into 8 balls

place each ball into a lightly oiled cake tin with one in the centre and the remaining seven around it, stretch the cling film back over the top of the tin and set aside to rise again for 30 mins

bake in a hot oven (190C ) for 25 to 30 mins until golden and risen, you may want to tip the bread out of the cake tin and place it back in the oven for another five minutes to firm up the underneath... the bread should have a nice hollow sound when tapped on the bottom

and so here's what you need to do

1 - gather all your bread baking books (or bread sections of books) together
2 - randomly select one book, then open that book at a random page
3 - cook the exact recipe on that page (dietary restrictions / availability / affordability taken into consideration) don't cheat - you're only cheating yourself!
4 - post about your recipe on your blog, linking back to my blog, including the random recipes logo
5 - email me the link to your post to dominic at belleaukitchen dot co dot uk
6 - tweet me @belleakitchen including the hashtag #randomrecipes and i'll retweet all I see.
7 - entry deadline will be Wed 29th May

well go on then, what are you waiting for.. get random recipes bread baking!



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