Monday, 28 February 2011

Fresh From The Oven 4 - Feb 2011 - Braided Challah Bread.

Dom from Belleau Kitchen hosted this month's Fresh From The Oven challenge.
He challenged us to make a traditional Jewish challah bread.

I was delighted as I really like the look of braided breads and Dom had very helpfully produced a series of step-by-step photos to show us how to do it.

This loaf was huge and, unfortunately, the edges burned a little by the time it was cooked through, however it tasted wonderful.  Just how freshly baked loaf should taste.  I served it as part of the buffet table at Adam's birthday party and it was eaten up very quickly - I should have made two!

I will definitely be making this bread more often.  A very versatile loaf and easy to make.  I particularly like braiding it!  Next time I will go for a beautiful golden finish.

Here is Dom's recipe and his photos for how to do the braiding.

Recipe - 

Braided Challah Bread

1 sachet easy blend dried yeast
1tsp clear honey
8fl oz lukewarm milk
50g melted butter
16oz plain flour
1 tsp salt
2 eggs lightly beaten - in separate bowls - one for the mix and one for glazing
Poppy seed or sesame seeds (optional)

Combine the yeast, honey, milk and butter, stir and leave for 15mins to dissolve

In a large bowl, mix together the flour and salt.  Make a well in the centre and add the yeast mixture and one of the beaten eggs.  Stir to make a dough. (It will be very sticky and will definitely need extra flour for kneading)

Knead till smooth and elastic (a good 15 mins) then transfer to a clean bowl, cover and leave to prove for 1 1/2 hours.

Grease a baking sheet. Knock back the dough and divide into 3 equal pieces.  Roll to shape each piece into a long strip for plaiting.

Lay 2 of the strips over the third to make a star shape and plait from the centre, tucking the ends under.  Do this on the baking sheet, then cover with a tea towel and leave to rise for 30 mins.

Brush with egg and bake in a hot oven at 190 for 35 - 40 mins or until golden and sounds hollow if you tap it.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Daring Bakers' Challenge No. 4 - Feb 2011 - Mocha Panna Cotta and Florentine Cookies.

The February 2011 Daring Bakers' Challenge was hosted by Mallory from A Sofa In The Kitchen.  She chose to challenge everyone to make Panna Cotta from a Giada De Laurentiis recipe and Nestle Florentine Cookies.

I loved these recipes.  The Panna Cotta was much easier to make than I imagined and turned out really well although I cheated and did it in a glass instead of a mould - I'll need to attempt that part of the challenge next time.  I made the chocolate panna cotta and married it with a coffee gelee.  I would love to make the vanilla panna cotta with a fruit gelee but my fruit-phobic husband wouldn't have helped me eat it so I'll have to keep that for some time I am having friends round.

The cookies were really tasty too.  They spread a LOT in the baking tin but are very tasty.

Chocolate Panna Cotta.
(recipe adapted from Bon Appetit)

Ingredients - 
240ml whole milk
1 tbsp (7g) unflavoured, powdered gelatine
480ml double cream
115g sugar
145g plain chocolate
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Method - 
1. Pour milk into a small bowl, sprinkle gelatine over the top, set aside for 2-5 mins.
2. Place a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir in cream, sugar and vanilla.  Bring to a low boil.
3. Add chocolate and whisk until melted.  Whisk the milk/gelatine mixture into chocolate cream mixture. Whisk until gelatine has dissolved.
4. Transfer to ramekins or nice glasses for serving.
5. Cover and chill at least 8 hours, or overnight.

Coffee Gelee.
(recipe adapted from Gourmet Magazine) 

Ingredients - 
480 ml good quality brewed coffee
60 ml hot water and 2 tbsp cold water
115g granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp (3 1/2 g) unflavoured, powdered gelatine
2 tsp vanilla extract

Method - 
1. Place sugar and hot water in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil, stir until the sugar has dissolved.
2. Sprinkle gelatine over 2 tbsp cold water and let it soften for 2 mins or so.
3. Stir the coffee, sugar, hot water and vanilla into a small metal bowl, add gelatine mixture and stir well until gelatine has dissolved.  
4. If pouring over Panna Cotta, leave to cool to room temperature first or it will melt the panna cotta.

Florentine Cookies.
(adapted from the cookbook "Nestle Classic recipes") 

Ingredients - 
150g unsalted butter
160g quick oats
230g granulated sugar
95g plain flour (I added some extra to subsequent batches which made the hold their shape a little better while baking)
60ml golden syrup
60ml whole milk
1tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
250g dark chocolate

Method - 
1. Preheat oven to 375F/190C/GM5.  Prepare your baking sheet with silpat or parchment paper.
2. Melt butter.
3. To the melted butter, add oats, sugar, flour, syrup, milk, vanilla and salt. Mix well.
4. Drop a tbsp full, three inches apart, onto your prepared baking sheet.  Flatten slightly with the back of your spoon.
5. Bake for 6-8 mins until the cookies are golden brown.  Cool completely on the baking sheets.
6. Melt your chocolate.
7. Spread a tbsp of chocolate on the bottom of your cookie, sandwiching another atop the chocolate.  Or you can choose not to sandwich them but simply drizzle the chocolate over the tops.

Join the Daring Bakers here

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

The Cake Slice Bakers - Challenge 5 - February 2011 - Coffee - Dime Bar Cake.

My version of this wasn't very successful.

It did not look pretty, the crunch topping sank into the cake and more or less disappeared and my husband's verdict was, "you've made better cakes".

It tasted fine but nothing amazing.  I should maybe try again to see if I can get the proper effect of the dime bar crunch on top but, actually, I don't think I will bother.

I'm not going to bother putting the recipe up.  

However, others in the Cake Slice Bakers did better jobs so click on the link to have a look at their versions of this cake - Cake Slice Blogroll.

And have a look at Apple & Spice to see how the cake should have looked!

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Turkish Delight.

Well, while I was at dog training last night, Steve and the boys made Turkish Delight for me for Valentine's.  Lovely.  

Steve got the recipe and idea from The Guardian.  He had meant to make me rose ones but couldn't find rosewater anywhere.  He tells me that apart from weighing out the ingredients, the boys did it all!

I love Turkish Delight and it was such a great surprise to come home to.

Monday, 14 February 2011

The Daring Cooks' Challenge No. 4 - Feb 2011 - Hiyashi Soba and Tempura.

The February 2011 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by Lisa of Blueberry Girl. She challenged Daring Cooks to make Hiyashi Soba and Tempura. She has various sources for her challenge including,, and

I have to say we love Japanese food in this house so I couldn't wait to get stuck in with this one.  My tempura wasn't as light and crisp as I would have liked - probably the oil wasn't hot enough or the batter cold enough.  I also made the spicy dipping sauce just a little too spicy for Steve and myself - oops.  Enjoyed the challenge immensely - especially the little tips I picked up here and there - like how to make the Japanese omelette.

Soba Noodles:
 2 quarts (2 Liters) water + 1 cup cold water, separate
12 oz (340 g) dried soba (buckwheat) noodles (or any Asian thin noodle)
Cooking the noodles:
1.              Heat 2 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot over high heat. Add the noodles a small bundle at a time, stirring gently to separate. When the water returns to a full boil, add 1 cup of cold water. Repeat this twice. When the water returns to a full boil, check the noodles for doneness. You want to cook them until they are firm-tender. Do not overcook them.
2.              Drain the noodles in a colander and rinse well under cold running water until the noodles are cool. This not only stops the cooking process, but also removes the starch from the noodles. This is an essential part of soba noodle making. Once the noodles are cool, drain them and cover them with a damp kitchen towel and set them aside allowing them to cool completely.

Mentsuyu - Traditional dipping sauce:
 2 cups (480ml) Kombu and Katsuobushi dashi or a basic vegetable stock;
1/3 cup (80 ml) soy sauce; 
1/3 cup (80 ml) mirin (sweet rice wine)
1.              Put mirin in a sauce pan and heat gently. Add soy sauce and dashi soup stock in the pan and bring to a boil. Take off the heat and cool. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Spicy Dipping Sauce:
¾ cup 70gm/2½ oz spring onions, finely chopped;
3 tablespoons (45 ml) soy sauce;
2 tablespoons (30 ml) rice vinegar;
½ teaspoon (2½ ml) (4 gm) (0.16 oz) granulated sugar;
¼ teaspoon (1¼ ml) (1/8 gm) (0.005 oz) English mustard powder;
1 tablespoon (15 ml) grape-seed oil or vegetable oil;
1 tablespoon (15 ml) sesame oil; Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste - roughly 1/3 a teaspoon of each.
1. Shake all the ingredients together in a covered container. Once the salt has dissolved, add and shake in 2 tablespoons of water and season again if needed.
Common Hiyashi Soba Toppings:
                Thin omelet strips *
                Boiled chicken breasts
                Boiled bean sprouts
                Toasted nori (Dried Seaweed)
                Green onions
                Wasabi powder
                Finely grated daikon (Japanese radish)

All toppings should be julienne, finely diced or grated. Prepare and refrigerate covered until needed.
Traditionally soba is served on a bamboo basket tray, but if you don’t have these, you can simply serve them on a plate or in a bowl. Divide up the noodles, laying them on your serving dishes. Sprinkle each one with nori. In small side bowl or cup, place 1/2 cup (120 ml) of dipping sauce into each. In separate small side dishes, serve each person a small amount of wasabi, grated daikon, and green onions.
The noodles are eaten by sprinkling the desired garnishes into the dipping sauce and eating the noodles by first dipping them into the sauce. Feel free to slurp away! Oishii!
Recipes courtesy of pink bites and itsy bitsy foodies
Serves 4

1 egg yolk from a large egg;
1 cup (240 ml) iced water;
½ cup (120 ml) (70 gm) (2½ oz) plain (all purpose) flour, plus extra for dredging;
½ cup (120 ml) (70 gm) (2½ oz) cornflour (also called cornstarch);
½ teaspoon (2½ ml) (2½ gm) (0.09 oz) baking powder;
oil, for deep frying preferably vegetable;
ice water bath, for the tempura batter (a larger bowl than what will be used for the tempura should be used. Fill the large bowl with ice and some water, set aside)
Very cold vegetables and seafood of your choice ie:
                Sweet potato, peeled, thinly sliced, blanched
                Carrot, peeled, thinly sliced diagonally
                Pumpkin, peeled, seeds removed, thinly sliced blanched
                Green beans, trimmed
                Green bell pepper/capsicum, seeds removed, cut into 2cm (¾ inch)-wide strips
                Assorted fresh mushrooms
                Eggplant cut into strips
                Onions sliced

1.              Place the iced water into a mixing bowl. Lightly beat the egg yolk and gradually pour into the iced water, stirring (preferably with chopsticks) and blending well. Add flours and baking powder all at once, stroke a few times with chopsticks until the ingredients are loosely combined. The batter should be runny and lumpy. Place the bowl of batter in an ice water bath to keep it cold while you are frying the tempura. The batter as well as the vegetables and seafood have to be very cold. The temperature shock between the hot oil and the cold veggies help create a crispy tempura.

2.              Heat the oil in a large pan or a wok. For vegetables, the oil should be 320°F/160°C; for seafood it should be 340°F/170°C. It is more difficult to maintain a steady temperature and produce consistent tempura if you don’t have a thermometer, but it can be done. You can test the oil by dropping a piece of batter into the hot oil. If it sinks a little bit and then immediately rises to the top, the oil is ready.

3.              Start with the vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, that won’t leave a strong odor in the oil. Dip them in a shallow bowl of flour to lightly coat them and then dip them into the batter. Slide them into the hot oil, deep frying only a couple of pieces at a time so that the temperature of the oil does not drop.

4.              Place finished tempura pieces on a wire rack so that excess oil can drip off. Continue frying the other items, frequently scooping out any bits of batter to keep the oil clean and prevent the oil (and the remaining tempura) from getting a burned flavor. Serve immediately for the best flavor, but they can also be eaten cold.

* Japanese thin omelette (usuyaki tamago) from Just Hungry
1 egg
1 Tbs. water or dashi stock
1 tsp. sugar
dash of salt
1 tsp. cornstarch or potato starch (_katakuriko_), dissolved in 1 Tbs. water - optional
peanut oil or similar flavorless oil for cooking

Beat the egg and water or dashi together. Add the sugar and salt and beat until dissolved. The cornstarch is optional, but it does add some more strength and stability of the thin egg. You may want to use cornstarch when you are making usuyakitamago for wrapping something in.
To ensure a very smooth egg batter, strain the beaten egg mixture through a sieve or a large-mesh tea strainer.

Heat up a nonstick frying pan over a low-medium heat and coat with a little oil: Pour some into the pan, then use a paper towel to spread it around and wipe up any excess oil.

Add a little of the egg mixture (ho much depends on the size of your frying pan, but for a small 18cm/6 inch pan allow about 1/8th cup) and rapidly swirl it around until it just coats the bottom.

Cook on low heat just until the egg is set - this should only take a minute or so. It’s done when the edges are dry and the top is just about cooked.

Loosen up the edges with a spatula, then flip the pan upside down onto a plate - the omelette should flop out, like a crepe. Let cool.

You should get about 3 usuyaki tamago per egg. If you find the pan is getting too hot and the egg is browning too much, cool off the pan by pressing it lightly on a folded moistened kitchen towel.

To use as garnish, fold 1 or 2 usuyaki tamago over into thirds, and cut into thin strips or julienne with a sharp knife. This is called kinshi tamago, scattered on the top of sushi, noodles, and so on.

Have a look at the daring cooks' blogroll to see other versions of this dish.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Pappardelle With Chestnuts and Pancetta.

I made this a few weeks ago.  I had been clearing out my kitchen cupboard and found a vacuum pack of chestnuts left over from Christmas.  Coincidentally, the following day I found this recipe ripped out of The Guardian Weekend, 4th Dec 2010.  Perfect.

Ingredients - 
750g pappardelle (I had to use tagliatelle as Tesco didn't have pappardelle for some reason.)
2 tsp garlic-infused oil (I didn't have this and as I was aiming to clear out the cupboards, not clutter them more, I just added some sliced garlic to olive oil.)
400g cubed pancetta
50g butter, plus more for serving
250g vac-packed cooked chestnuts
80ml dry marsala
125ml pasta cooking water
3 tbsp finely sliced chives
3 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley

Method - 
1. Cook the pasta.
2. Meanwhile, in large casserole or wok, warm the garlic oil, tip in the pancetta and cook over high heat until bronzed and crisp.
3. Add the butter and, once melted, tumble in the chestnuts.  Use a wooden spoon to squish them down, so each chestnut crumbles into a good four pieces, stir, add the marsala and let it bubble up.
4. Remove 125ml of the pasta water and tip into the chestnut pan.  Stir and let it bubble a little.
5. Drain the pasta when cooked but still with a bit of bite to it, and add to the sauce, with just under half the chives and parsley and some butter.  Mix gently but firmly, so the ingredients are well dispersed and the light sauce clings gently to the thick ribbons.
6. Sprinkle with the remaining herbs on serving.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Belleau Kitchen Random Recipe Challenge 1 - A Perfect Date Night.

Dom at Belleau Kitchen has started a new challenge this month - see here if you fancy joining in.  

I wasn't going to join any more challenges as I do four in a month as it is but this one is perfect and is also nice and relaxed - no pressure to do anything - just join in as and when you like.

But the best thing about this challenge is that Steve is going to join me doing this one.  It's always lovely having company and, of course, spending time with my husband.

The idea is that you find a random recipe among all the recipes in all the cook books that you already own.  I, for one, constantly have that guilt that I still buy more cookbooks even though I haven't made a fraction of the things in the books I already own.  So, this challenge is going to give me the clear conscience which will allow me to buy more books!  Well, I'll try not to for a while yet.  Especially as we are moving house in a few months and we have far too much junk to transport as it is!

Anyway, Steve and I have date night every Saturday when the kids are in bed.  Yes, one of those date nights at home.  We usually watch a film, play a game, chat over a few drinks, whatever - as long as we spend the time together.

This date night we decided we would spend time together in the kitchen, each of us making our random recipe for the challenge.

Steve chose my recipe first.  He shut his eyes, pulled a book from the shelves, opened it a random page and there we are - chicken liver pate!  The book was 'I Love Food' by Clare MacPherson-Grant Russell. I got it for my Christmas so have only made three recipes from it so far.  I have never made chicken liver pate in my life as I don't have a food processor.  But after reading the recipe closely I discovered that it is a rough pate and no processor is required.  If it weren't for this challenge I would have continued to skim over this recipe and would have never made it!  It is such a quick and easy recipe - so simple - doesn't even feel like work at all.  It has prunes in it which give a lovely sweetness to balance the rich livers.  This pate is indulgent and deceptively easy to make - I know I will make this a lot now that I have tried it.

I then chose Steve's recipe and I ended up choosing his favourite cookbook - Moro.  But not a problem - I LOVE everything he makes from this book.  The recipe was Tortillitas de Camarones - prawn tortillitas.  These looked like a gorgeous little nibble and turned out to be ideal for date night.  This date night also happened to be Steve's birthday so we opened a bottle of Prosecco which we sipped while cooking and these tortillitas accompanied the last few glasses perfectly.
Again, these probably would never have been made otherwise.  Steve doesn't get a lot of time to cook - just at the weekends and he does look through the books for something to make but will go for a meal dish with lots of veggies so his wife doesn't nag at him for not feeding the kids enough good stuff.  So, we probably wouldn't have ever bothered to make these wee snacks before.  He'll definitely be making them again though - we both loved them!

Now, the only problem is that I will have to type out two recipes.  I wonder if I can persuade him to guest post on here and write out his own challenge next month?!?

Rough Chicken Liver Pate (from 'I Love Food' by Clare MacPherson-Grant Russell).

Ingredients - 
(I doubled the recipe.  We had one dish for lunch the following day with crusty bread, oatcakes and salad. I have another dish which I will serve to the girls when they come over for book group.)
8 oz (225g) chicken livers
4 rashers streaky bacon (grilled)
2 finely chopped onions
8 prunes, stoned
5 oz (125g) butter
Salt and pepper

Method - 
1. Fry onions and chicken livers in butter.
2. Add stoned prunes, chopped grilled bacon and seasoning.
3. Mash roughly with a fork and place in a pate dish.
4. Leave in fridge to set for at least 2 hours.
5. Cover with melted butter and cool.
6. Serve with hot French bread.

Tortillitas de Camarones (from 'Moro' by Sam and Sam Clark).

Ingredients - 
200g peeled brown shrimps, or 300g prawns in their shells, peeled and thinly sliced (we just used peeled, cooked prawns)
approx 200ml olive oil for shallow-frying
1 lemon, quartered

For the batter - 
55g chickpea or gram flour
130ml soda water or water
1/3 teaspoon sweet smoked Spanish paprika
a pinch of bicarbonate soda
sea salt

Method - 
1. To make the batter, sift the flour into a bowl and slowly add the soda water, mixing in with your fingertips or a wooden spoon, trying to avoid lumps forming.  The batter should have the consistency of something between single and double cream.
2. Add the paprika, bicarb and salt to taste.  Chill the batter, covered, for at least 20 mins.
3. When ready to eat, stir your shrimps or prawns into the batter.  Pour enough oil into a large frying pan to cover the bottom liberally.  Heat the oil to a medium to high temperature for about 3 mins.  Now with a dessertspoon scoop up a heaped spoonful of the mixture, carefully pour it into the oil and gently and quickly spread it out with the back of the spoon.
4. Create two or three more tortillitas (depending on the size of the pan) in exactly the same way.
5. When your first batch reaches a beautiful light brown colour, carefully turn over using a metal spatula and fork.  Finish cooking the other side.  
6. Do this with all the mixture, lifting each tortillita out onto kitchen paper when ready. Serve immediately with some lemon on the side.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Cake Pops 3 - Lions.

Adam just turned 4 and we had a big party for him and his friends who all turn 4 around the same time.  It was a jungle themed party which gave me the perfect excuse to make the lion cake pops from Bakerella's book.  

I still can't coat the cake pops perfectly like Bakerella's pictures but I was still delighted by how they came out and the kids all seemed to love them.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Cute Food For Kids.

You may already know about this blog but I only found it recently - Cute Food For Kids.
Tiffany makes lots of fun food for her children.  Now, usually I would say I am not the kind of patient Mummy who would bother to make fun lunches for the boys - I just expect them to eat what they are given.  But, as they get a bit older and better behaved, days at home aren't quite as chaotic and stressful as they were and I found myself having the time and patience to try out a couple of Tiffany's ideas this week.

And, would you believe, I really enjoyed it.  Just a little bit of silliness to cheer up the day.

And, of course, I don't think the children should get all the fun - I made myself exactly the same as they had!

The bears are egg fried rice.  I fried some onion, then added a couple of beaten eggs.  I then threw in pre-cooked brown long grain rice while the egg was still quite runny.  I used a cooking ring to make the shapes on the plate.  Two chunks of apple for ears, olives for eyes and nose and tomato ketchup to make the mouth.  Served with some peas.  Boys loved it.

The houses are just peanut butter sandwiches and I faffed around with some cutters and peppers and fruit to make the shapes and things.  I first thought they were a bit much and I should have left the houses plain and simple but the boys were very enthusiastic about the pepper dragonfly and butterfly and the melon duck!

I'll be following the Cute Food For Kids blog for more inspiration.  Just as an every now and then treat.  Most days they'll still get a boring plate of soup or whatever is left over form the night before.