Sunday, 30 December 2012

Late, Late, Late for a Very Important Date...

Eeeek - I think I am too late for Random Recipes No. 23.  I have never missed a Random Recipe since it started so I am going to beg Dom to slip this one onto the end. I made the recipe ages ago but work has been hectic and then we have had two Christmas days and then my sister-in-law's wedding so I apologise for being so tardy but couldn't be helped.

This time, we had to choose a random recipe from the books we received as gifts last Christmas.  I admit, I didn't choose entirely randomly.  I received The Flavour Thesaurus from my lovely husband and had never cooked a single thing from it yet although I have enjoyed reading it so I decided that I would pick this book and then randomly select a page from it.

It fell open at a butternut squash entry and the first suggestion to catch my eye was for the combination of butternut squash and bacon. Mmmmmmmm.  I didn't need convincing that they would go well together.

I made the suggested butternut squash and bacon cakes with lime mayonnaise. They didn't hold together all that well so didn't look particularly presentable, however, they tasted great and we all gobbled them up.  Perfect comfort food for this time of year.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Surprise Ingredient Swap.

You may notice that I missed the "seasonal" bit off the title.  That is because I completely forgot about it when I was choosing my secret ingredient to send to Dom and he admitted on Twitter that he had forgotten too.  No matter - the Lincolnshire relish he sent me was perfect for making a lovely warming comfort food dish perfect for this time of year so I think we managed to stick to the loose theme Ruth had set.

I sent Dom some cocoa nibs as I had never used them and was intrigued to know what one would do with them.  Dom, of course, didn't disappoint and he made some gorgeous rose tea and cocoa nibs cupcakes.  Perfect for afternoon tea - very sophisticated!

Dom sent me some Lincolnshire relish.  I believe this has recently been developed in Lincolnshire (doh!) and is thought to go particularly well with the region's sausages.  The ingredients are vinegar, grapefruit, molasses, onion, orange, dates, honey and spices and, as you would imagine, it does taste very fruity but with a lovely piquancy.  Not too dissimilar to HP sauce actually but a bit fruitier. I usually think of a relish as something quite thick and chunky more like a chutney but this is actually very thin and liquidy. 

Inspired by Christmas dinner pinwheels made by @psychtwin (Tom) at our latest Pinnies And Petticoats baking club meet (yet to be blogged - I'm a bit behind), I decided immediately I would make some kind of savoury pinwheel.  I really felt that the fruity sauce would go best with lamb and I decided I wanted to include mashed tatties, neeps (swede) and carrots to the pinwheels to make them into a complete meal in the same vein as Tom's Christmas creations.

However, I quickly came to realise that I wanted my lamb mince to be fairly juicy and saucy and realised I would never manage to make a pinwheel so I opted instead just to do a big rolled pie, bake it and then slice it.  I'm going to try to do the Christmas dinner pinwheels for a party in December so I'll let you know how that goes.

This meal was great.  The fruity sauce did indeed give an amazing flavour to the lamb mince and the sweetness was echoed by the carrots and neep.  I cheated and used pre-rolled puff pastry but I make no apologies for this.  I'd like to try the relish again to make an onion gravy to go with sausages - mmmmm.  Thanks very much Dom for a very good ingredient.  

Here's the recipe - Serves 4.

Ingredients - 

1 pack of pre-rolled puff pastry

1 tbsp vegetable oil
500g lamb mince
1 onion, peeled and diced
1 bottle of Lincolnshire relish (150g) or you could use stock instead with or without your choice of flavouring - English mustard or mint sauce would work well.
100mls water
2tsp cornflour or Bisto original gravy powder

A quarter of a neep (swede), peeled and cut into large dice
2 large carrots, scrubbed or peeled and sliced
6 medium potatoes, peeled and halved
4 tbsp butter

salt and pepper 
beaten egg or milk to glaze pastry

Method - 

1. In a large, heavy bottomed pan, heat the oil over a gentle heat. Add the onion and cook gently for a few minutes.
2. Add the mince to the onion and cook until browned.
3. Add the Lincolnshire relish and the water and allow to simmer gently for 20 mins.
4. Meanwhile, put potatoes into a medium saucepan of boiling, salted water and simmer for 10 mins until soft to the point of a knife.
5. Put the carrots and neep into another medium saucepan of boiling, salted water and simmer for 10 mins until soft to the point of a knife.
6. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/GM6.
7. Drain the potatoes and mash with 2 tbsp of butter. Season with salt and pepper. Leave aside.
8. Drain and mash the carrots and neep together with the remaining butter. Season with salt and plenty of pepper. (Neep loves lots of pepper). Leave to cool.
9. Add the cornflour or gravy powder to the mince and keep stirring until the liquid has thickened then let cook for another few minutes then turn off the heat and leave to cool.
10. Lightly grease an oven tray and remove the pastry from the packaging and unroll.
11. Spread the mashed potato over the pastry leaving 1cm clear on one of the shorter edges.
12. Spread the mashed neep/carrots over the top of the potato.
13. Spread the layer of mince on top of the neep/carrot layer.
14. Brush a little of the milk or beaten egg on the uncovered edge of pastry and roll up from the opposite end.  Seal the parcel.  Place on the baking tray.
15. Brush the pastry with milk or egg to glaze then put in the oven and cook for 20-25 minutes untilt the pastry is golden brown.
16. Slice and serve.

Thank you very much to Ruth from Makey Cakey for another fun ingredient swap.  There really is nothing better than getting parcels with foodie gifts inside! And thanks to Dom for a brilliant and challenging ingredient. It was lovely to make something savoury this time.  

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Very Quick, Easy, Family Meal - Pea Pasta.

This is my 22nd random recipe challenge. (Dom from Belleau Kitchen challenges us each month to choose a recipe at random from our cookbooks to try.)  I was lucky to get a lovely quick and easy recipe that went down well with the family.  

If the kids ask what's for tea and I reply "pasta", I get lots of "yay"s.  Their favourite meal is actually one of our quick, shoved together concoctions from the storecupboard - chickpea pasta.  To make this, we cook some wholemeal pasta in boiling water, and while that's cooking, slice some garlic and heat it gently in a good slug of olive oil then add a drained tin of chickpeas to heat through too.  Mix the pasta into the other ingredients and sprinkle on a heap of grated parmesan.  Simple, eh?  That's what we do often on the nights I am working, we just don't have time to cook properly, or we haven't been shopping for any fresh ingredients.  Lazy meal but perfectly nutritious.

This recipe is really very similar.  I chose it randomly from Real Fast Food by Nigel Slater.  I recommend getting a copy of this book if you need to do quick, easy meals from time to time.  It is just full of ideas and suggestions for things to plonk together but with loads of variations and a whole heap of inspiration.  If you feel a little intimidated by the rather high class "leftovers" Nigel seems to have in his cupboards and fridge in the last couple of TV series, don't worry - as this recipe shows, so much of what is in this book is just really normal, accessible ingredients.

The front of the book states that there are 350 recipes all of which take less than 30 mins to make.  I have had this book for years and have made loads from it and been inspired by it so many times.  Perfect for busy families.  And it was published in 1992 - long before Jamie Oliver's fast food versions. My copy is a rather battered and grease spattered paperback and there are no photos in the book.  It's a book for using, not for sitting prettily on the coffee table.

So, onto the recipe.  Basically, cook your pasta.  Pour some olive oil into a pan, add some frozen peas, finely sliced onion and some mint.  Heat gently for 10 mins then mix into the pasta.

Gives us an alternative to our chickpea version and the kids loved it nearly as much.  It's their second favourite pasta dish.  

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Shoo-Fly Cake - Cake Slice Bakers 18.

This is the new book for The Cake Slice Bakers.  We will be baking from this book for the next twelve months.  Doesn't it look pretty?  I have high hopes...

Our first bake from the book was the Shoo-Fly Cake.  This is a treacle cake with a crumb topping apparently named after Shoo-Fly pie which had a sticky topping which would attract the flies as it cooled.  

I was rather underwhelmed with this cake, unfortunately.  Firstly, I made it for Dad's birthday and it just looked plain ugly so that was disappointing.  Secondly, the flavour was okay but nothing very exciting and it doesn't have the lovely stickiness I would expect from a dense treacle cake.

I won't be making it again.
Onwards and upwards - I'm hoping the next bake from the book will be an improvement. 

If you want to see some other opinions of this cake - have a look at The Cake Slice Blogroll.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Loadsa Dough!

Just look at those gorgeous bakers and their amazing baps!

From left to right - me, the rather talented Janice from Farmersgirl Kitchen, and the amazing Jacqueline from Tinned Tomatoes

Last Saturday we all met in Freuchie for a day of baking bread with Colin from Bread In Fife

We did the Mediterranean Breads and I must say I had a brilliant day.  Colin runs the courses from his own spacious kitchen.  I just felt that it was such a lovely relaxed experience - very homely - and only the four of us leisurely baking bread with lots of breaks for cups of tea and to eat what we had made.

We made a LOT and got many useful tips and ideas from Colin.  We had all made plenty of bread before and still gained plenty but I know that Colin's course would be excellent for beginners too.  He has a range of courses such as rich breads or sourdough or essential breads.

We started the day by making breadsticks - nice thick ones - chewy in the middle and crispy on the outside.

We then made pretty fougasse.

As Colin said, this was really just an exercise in shaping the breads as the dough itself was fairly uninspiring. Would go well with a flavoursome soup though.  I was reminded of my first time making fougasse which I outline in this post - you can either have the pretty shape or you can have lots of interesting fillings.  I have yet to master doing both but I might try again and see if I can find a compromise. 

We then made our olive oil dough for the paninis and focaccia.  Colin gave us a display of his encyclopaedic knowledge and displayed many different kneading techniques and who they were attributed to.  We had plenty of time to practice different ones and find what suited us best and Colin was able to watch what we were doing and chip in with advice.  I think I have found my own kneading style but whether I use it or whether I stick with my trusty technique of using the Kenwood Chef remains to be seen!

Colin finished off with a demonstration of pizzas.  He made a savoury one and a sweet one.  The sweet pizza was my favourite thing of the day - he spread some thinned apricot jam onto the dough then added some sliced apples.  It was beautiful.  I know the boys will absolutely love having pizza for dessert so I'll be making this again next week.  I then plan to experiment.  I want to do a banana one and all sorts of pizzas for pudding.   

  We rounded off the day by sitting round to share our pizzas with some salad.

A hugely enjoyable day with great company and a bounty of bakes to take home.

I would thoroughly recommend Colin's classes to anyone near enough for a day trip.  As usual, I paid for the day myself so there is nothing influencing my recommendation. 

Here is the Bread In Fife website if you are interested and Colin does gift vouchers if you are looking for a Christmas gift. 

Monday, 29 October 2012

Pinnies And Petticoats Do Halloween.

The second night of the Aberdeen Baking Club - Pinnies and Petticoats at Tiger Tiger was a Halloween themed one.  

As a Mum of wee-ish ones and a huge fan of owls, I went with baking these Halloween Hoot Owl Cookies from Time To Cook - the blog by Mary-Anne Boermans, finalist from the 2011 Great British Bake Off.  She gives the full recipe and a link to the lady who came up with it. 

I just love these biscuits because they look so cute, are fairly simple to make and go well with a cup of tea.  I think they make a fine change to some of my over-the-top baking too.

I tried them out for Pinnies and Petticoats and when they were a success I repeated them for this weekend's Halloween party.  The party was for lots of little ones from a few weeks old up to 5 years so I felt the not-scary-at-all-but-still-Halloweeny owl biscuits would work well.  And the best bit?  My very own 5 year old loved them and helped me make them all.  We had a rather good team-working system running.  I cut the discs of dough and he put in the eyes and beaks.

And here is a picture of my boys in this year's costumes.  Adam is a dragon (I got the costume from etsy - from this store) and Rufus is a spider's web (which I fashioned myself - I'm not very crafty!). 

But, back to the point of this post which is to talk about Pinnies and Petticoats. It was a great success.  I was so impressed with the array of baking we had.  Our numbers had swelled somewhat from the 8 we had at the first one.  I was telling people we had about 30 people there but I see Foodie Quine has put the number at just over 20 and she is more likely to have counted properly. 

I was unable to taste everything but I did get to try loads of amazing bakes and I managed to get photos of a few of them.  Check them out!

And that's just a fraction of what was actually there for us to sample.

If you are in the Aberdeen area and would like to come along, our next one will be held on Friday 16th November at 7pm at Tiger Tiger.
This will be our Christmas event so bring a festive bake and a Tupperware box for taking home some samples!

You can see my post to the first ever Pinnies and Petticoats here and you can find the Facebook page here

Sunday, 28 October 2012

What Can I Do With Maize-Meal?

What can I do with maize-meal?  Well, that's a good question!

Dom from Belleau Kitchen challenged us this month to rummage in our kitchen cupboards for a poor forgotten or neglected ingredient and to make something with it.

Well, believe me, I have many items I could have chosen for this challenge.  The one I chose, though, was the bag of maize meal.  A friend had picked it up for me when I had been struggling to get hold of polenta at one point thinking it might do a similar job.  I had managed to find polenta by this time, though, and so the maize meal has languished on my shelf.

I didn't think it would be difficult to find recipes to use it up - my old friend Google always comes up trumps.  And, it did again this time. I got lots of links to South African blogs or recipes and thought I had lots to choose from.  Unfortunately, though, when I started to read the recipes in more detail I kept finding glaring omissions.  Ingredients not listed in the ingredients lists kept popping up in the methods with no information to quantities.  In fact, this seeming mistake seemed to happen so many times from different sources that I am now wondering if recipes are written differently in South Africa.  Can anyone enlighten me?  Am I supposed to have some basic knowledge and assume that if a recipe doesn't list eggs or rising agents or sometimes completely different ingredients, they are there anyway and I should know how much to add?

Anyway, undeterred I thought I would use the titles of the recipes but just make up my own ingredients and methods and so I did.

First up is maize meal porridge.

This was okay and did me my breakfast for a couple of days.  However, I wasn't excited about it and prefer my nice Scottish oat porridge so I won't be making this again.  I decided to add cocoa powder to make a chocolatey version as the maize-meal has a pretty cardboardy taste on its own and I served it with bananas and cold milk.

Here's the recipe to serve 2 with big portions or 4 with small portions.  I recommend small portions!

Ingredients - 
80g maize-meal
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tbsp light brown muscovado
2 tsp cinnamon
650mls water
pinch salt

Method - 
Pop all the ingredients into a large saucepan, mix well.  Simmer, stirring occasionally for about 20 minutes.

As an aside to this post, I can recommend a tastier porridge.  While making Dan Lepard's Rye Apple cake, I kept eating the uncooked batter and thinking it was like a lovely spiced rye porridge so I decided to look and see if there were any recipes for porridge made with rye flour. I found this recipe for whipped berry rye porridge from Scandi Foodie.  It was lovely and obviously very healthy. 

So, moving on from breakfast to a main meal, I decided my next project would be for maize-meal pancakes.  This is based on recipes I found for fried maize-meal bread which seems to be served as an accompaniment to stews.  We were having Tinned Tomatoes' Jacqueline's braised lentils for tea and these actually went very well with it. The lentils dish was lovely - very comforting and satisfying - I recommend it and will be having it again. Another great way to get loads of fibre into the kids.  We also had some leftover meatballs so we served those alongside - sorry Jacqueline. 

Here's the recipe for the pancakes - 

Ingredients - 
120g maize-meal
120g plain flour (or what I did was 60g plain and 60g spelt flour just to keep the fibre levels up a bit more)
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
2 eggs, beaten
250ml milk
2tsp oil

Method - 
Beat together all the ingredients. Grease a frying pan with a little oil and heat over a moderate heat.  Drop tablespoons of batter onto the pan when hot.  Fry for about 1 minute or until bubbles form on the surface then flip over and fry the other side.  Serve warm with a comforting stew.

And now onto my final maize-meal recipe for pudding.  These are wee chocolate puddings and are inspired by a recipe from Shona's Kitchen - a blog with lots of South African recipes. They have a prune in the middle of each cake which gave me a bit of a double whammy as it used up a tin of prunes I found in the cupboard too.  And prunes are good for fibre - am I preaching too much? I served these with custard but I appear to have forgotten to photograph them when served so here they are still in the tin.

My recipe here - 

Ingredients - 
230g maize-meal 
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
115g caster sugar
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1tsp vanilla extract
500ml single cream
250ml milk
12 prunes

Method - 
1. Preheat oven to 180C.
2. Mix together all the ingredients except prunes and combine well.
3. Pour mixture into 12 muffin cases.
4. Add a prune to each one.
5. Bake for 30 mins until set.
6. Serve hot with custard. 

And yes, I finished the whole bag of maize-meal with these three recipes. I am unlikely to buy it again but if I ever find myself with some, I'm going to go with the pancakes as my favourite way of using it up.  I would be fascinated to hear if anyone else has any maize-meal recipes - please let me know in the comments.