Sunday, December 9, 2012

Best of British: Crab, Leek and Whisky Soup

Best of British  Grand Final Blog Challenge

Northumberland Crab, Leek and Whisky Soup
served with a seeded soda bread and a wee dram of Bunnahabhain

I am pinning this dish to Northumberland because that is where, many years ago, I ate crab and whisky soup in the Jolly Fisherman inn, in the Northumberland fishing village of Craster. It was a typical cold north east day and a tot of whisky in the soup lifted it perfectly. The Northumberland coast is really quite beautiful and this soup will always remind me of time spent there.

I have noticed a lot more interest recently in matching whisky with food, and in particular have noticed a dish where whisky butter is served with lobster. Often quite a peaty whisky is chosen which I would have been very shy of combining with a delicate shellfish. There are some very easy to follow guidelines on which foods to match with whisky on the ever-reliable Matching Food with Wine site from  Fiona Beckett. I was inspired to pair my soup with a 12 year old  Bunnahabhain, an Islay whisky.

Crab is a lifelong love for me, and I have been fortunate to never be far from its source. As a child my mother's family in Norfolk would often treat us to Cromer crab on our summer visits, and there were numerous childhood holidays down to the Devon coast. I spent many years in the North East of England where of course I found this soup, and also have happy memories of eating crab sandwiches at Pittenweem in Scotland.

I now live in the West Country where beautiful fresh crab is abundant, so long as you shop carefully. I have most recently relied on the fantastic services of Martin's Seafresh. The beauty pictured below arrived,  literally sea-fresh, from their business in Cornwall and had been expertly picked and presented, with no wayward fragments of shell. 

A well-picked and superbly fresh crab meant that all the hard work had been done for me. All I had to do was make a good stock, bake up some soda bread and assemble the soup.

You will need:

1 medium to large picked crab, brown and white meat
15g butter 
3-4 leeks
1 medium potato
about 1 pt fish Stock (see below)
small pot of whipping or double cream
small measure of Islay whisky or a whisky of your choice
pinch of paprika/cayenne pepper for garnish but omit if your spices are not very fresh.

Bread to serve

For the fish stock:

Cook gently for 20-30 minutes any or all of the following:
Leek trimmings from 2-3 medium leeks, 1 peeled chopped carrot, 1 rib celery, crab shell, any prawn shells you have available, whole black pepper, parsley stalks, water to cover, about 1 pint in my case. Once cooked, strain through a fine-mesh sieve. You could do this stage ahead.

For the Soup:

  1. Gently sweat the chopped white parts of 3 small-medium leeks in a knob of butter.
  2. Once softened add 1 medium potato, peeled and diced, and gently sweat with the leeks for about 5 minutes; do not allow to brown.
  3. Add the stock to the leeks and potato and simmer gently until the leeks and potato are soft.
  4. Using a stick blender puree the soup.
  5. Now if you are going for 'fine dining' push the soup through a fine sieve to remove any coarse parts of leek that may remain. This is not essential!
  6. Gently stir some of the brown crab meat into the soup. This is very much a 'to taste' stage. Brown crab meat can be strongly flavoured or you may not like the flavour yourself. I am in the like camp, and I was lucky to have been sent some  beautifully sweet crab so I added several spoonfuls but tasted all the way.
  7. Now stir in the cream, again to taste, I add just enough to get a slightly more silken texture but not so much that the fresh flavour of the crab becomes muted.
Small break in the soup production while you whip up the seedy soda scones or pop some other suitable bread into a hot oven to refresh it. Once the bread is ready:
  • Warm the soup through and stir in the white crab meat reserving a dessert spoonful to garnish each bowl.
  • Keeping the soup at serving temperature but definitely not allowing it to boil, slowly add some whisky. This is the magic; you do not need very much, just enough to 'warm' the flavours, like a hint of sea breeze. Taste as you add.
  • Now quickly check the final seasoning, pour the soup into warmed bowls, place a spoonful of reserved white crab meat in the centre and very lightly dust with cayenne/red pepper flakes to garnish.
  •  Serve with your lovely hot bread and a small tot of whisky on the side which I would dilute with enough water to bring the whisky to roughly wine strength of alcohol. 

This is my entry for the December, Grand Final, of the Best of British blogging challenges organised by Fiona of London Unattached. The challenges have been great fun so many thanks to Fiona and the sponsors The Face of New World.

Best of British

Sunday, November 25, 2012

We Should Cocoa: Milk Chocolate Hazelnut Bun Rounds

I had been prevaricating over just what to bake up for the November We Should Cocoa challenge and as this weekend is the last before the deadline it was time to knuckle down. The host for this month's challenge is Nazima of Franglais Kitchen and the guest ingredient for this month is bread; so a bit of a workout was in order and perhaps that is why I had been putting it off.

I love the flavour combination of milk chocolate and hazelnut but have never quite fallen for the allure of Nutella. I had been thinking along the lines of making a loaf with chunks of chocolate and chopped hazelnuts when I came across this wonderful 250g Ritter bar of Hazelnut Milk Chocolate.

Well it fair jumped into my basket. I felt instant relief at knowing there would be no tricky roasting of hazelnuts which sneakily turn much darker brown on the inside before they are nicely brown on the outside, and no messy rubbing outer skins into a tea towel that never seems to get more than half the husks off anyway.

I chose to make a quite plain bread dough and as I am trying to learn how to work with much wetter doughs than are common in domestic baking books I went for 350g of strong white flour, 150g rye flour and 300g water, 1 egg, 50g butter, 50g sugar and a small tsp. of salt. Sadly it did not quite work and there was a hint of gumminess to the finished crumb even though it had kneaded up quite well and had risen without collapsing.

I made a sort of tear apart round based on 75g balls of dough, each rolled out flat and filled with 15g of chopped chocolate and hazelnut bar and then formed back into a dough ball and placed in a round deep tray.

The buns were left to prove and then washed with egg glaze. I baked the bun rounds at 180c and pulled the trays out to re-glaze after about 15 minutes. After another 5 minutes @ 180c the 

base of the bun rounds had still not fully baked so I had to tip the rounds out and bake them without the tins for a further 5 minutes before taking out to cool on a rack.

Finally; here is a bun cut in half to reveal the chocolate hazelnut centre. The crust is nice and thin and the filling plentiful, I just need to work on the crumb texture a bit more.

If you want to make your own and you have a favourite sweet dough recipe then I would just follow that but scale back a bit if it uses much more than 500g of flour. Or of course buy more chocolate so you can still put in a good proportion of filling per bun.

These make a really good weekend breakfast bread or mid morning snack and you could almost convince yourself you were eating a very healthy pain chocolat.

The We Should Cocoa Challenges are run by Chocolate Teapot and Chocolate Log Blog and a round up will appear on Franglais Kitchen's blog by the end of the month.

Monday, October 22, 2012

We Should Cocoa - Pumpkin

So this is what I made for the October 'We Should Cocoa' challenge:

Not very pretty, and not obviously anything to do with chocolate but I went for Roasted Pumpkin with Mole Sauce. I dressed it up a bit with some chopped fresh tomatoes and a poached egg dusted with mild chilli flakes.

I chose the savoury route as I am not very fond of pumpkin in sweet dishes and could not think of anything sweet with pumpkin and chocolate that I was inspired by.

I have been growing chillies at home this year and they have been my only 'glut' so I was keen to get using them. They are also far hotter than I was anticipating so I cannot use them in large amounts at a time.

I picked the larger ones earlier as the plants were all getting quite ragged. The picked chillies are holding up well just kept like fruit in a bowl and I am going to try and dry some of them too.

The smaller size chillis are still surviving in my unheated conservatory but I think I will need to pick them soon.

My mole sauce was based on a recipe I found on the David Lebovitz web site for Chocolate Mole. He serves the sauce with meat or chicken but it worked very well with the chunks of roasted pumpkin.

I substituted my fresh chillies for the dried poblanos he calls for, and used ground almonds as the thickener. I skipped the dried fruit as I felt it was going to be sweet enough and I don't have unsweetened chocolate but I do have a 90% dark so that was close enough. The colour does change to a bit of a muddy hue once the chocolate is added which was a little off putting but the flavour was very deep and rich.

I had quite a lot of mole sauce and roasted pumpkin left over so did another version a day later with melted cheese, yoghurt and lime but I preferred the first version.

The We Should Cocoa Challenge is hosted by Chocolate Teapot  and Choclette, and the October challenge is being guest hosted by Hungry Hinny, a round up of this challenge will appear on their blogs at the end of the month.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Best of British - Dorset

This month the Best of British challenge moves to Dorset and is hosted by  Lavender and Lovage where the challenge is introduced with lots of inspiration for foods that are good in Dorset. I chose to base my dish on ingredients from Dorset rather than a traditional Dorset dish and so I have found some Dorset beer and bacon with which to put together a dressed up meal of Dorset Rarebit, bacon and mushrooms. A perfect autumn lunch. 

There is a fascinating review of what makes a perfect rarebit which appeared as part of a series on 'perfect' renditions of favourite foods in the Guardian paper. Their recipe calls for stout and Lancashire cheese but I was very happy with my substitutions of Hall and Woodhouse brewery Badger Champion ale and a Somerset cheddar. I ventured as close to the Dorset border as I could with my choice of cheese, based on what I could actually buy easily, and the Wookey Hole cheddar worked really well.

I based my recipe loosely on the one at the end of the Guardian article. The topping is made up as  a sort of sauce out of the beer, mustard, cheese, egg and butter which is poured over the bread and toasted until golden.  I only had whole grain mustard and not mustard powder so I used that and I used more Champion ale and less butter than the Guardian recipe calls for. I guess I need to polish my technique a little as my 'sauce' was actually rather separated and lumpy when it went onto the muffin but once it was all bubbled up and toasted it looked rather moreish and made a perfect lunch with some Dorset Denhay dry cured bacon and fried chestnut mushrooms. The remainder of the Champion made a perfect accompaniment. Cheers!

New World Appliances are sponsoring this challenge in conjunction with Fiona from London Unattached. The full round up will appear both there and on Lavender and Lovage's blog soon after the 5th November. If you have a favourite Dorset recipe do join in.

best of british London

Monday, September 24, 2012

We Should Cocoa Challenge - inspired by Kir Royale

This month's We Should Cocoa challenge was to conjure up a chocolate dish that had been inspired by a cocktail.

Well after much procrastination and initial thoughts about eggnog cupcakes I decided to take my inspiration from the Kir Royal drink of cassis and champagne. 

I have attempted to morph this famous french tipple into a cake by making a swiss roll and filling it with home made blackcurrant jelly and a marc de champagne white chocolate ganache.

I have never yet made a good swiss roll sponge and today was no exception. They always end up with a grainy texture. I even whisked this one over a bain-marie in the hope that this would produce a more homogeneous batter but no, once again the sponge came out a little too coarse and grainy. Just as well then that I had a good thick layer of blackcurrant jelly and champange ganache to distract from the texture. If anyone can offer an explanation for the grainyness I would be very grateful.

I was quite pleased with the flavour though, particularly the wonderful intensity of the blackcurrant layer, and after allowing the ganache to set the roll was producing far neater slices when cut.

The swiss roll recipe was the usual ratios of 1 egg to 1oz of flour and 1oz of caster sugar with a few tabs of hot water and I used a 3 egg mix.

The blackcurrant jelly was made from home grown blackcurrants that had been simmered until soft and then sieved to remove the pips before adding just enough sugar to get a soft set gel when boiled.

The ganache was a tinker as you go along affair but the ingredients were white chocolate, butter, marc de champagne and a little hot water. I wanted a relatively soft ganache and not too rich hence adding water instead of cream.

I am submitting this to the organisers of the We Should Cocoa challenge Chocolate Teapot and  Chocolate Log Blog

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Random Recipes - Rock Cakes

This month the Random Recipe Challenge teams up with Tea Time Treats so we are looking for a randomly selected tea time treat. The instruction to 'select a book or collection of books that best represent what YOU think of as tea time food' was the hardest part for me.

I have a very constrained idea of what counts as a Tea Time food largely influenced by early childhood tea time memories. At home tea was the early evening meal we would eat on a Saturday and Sunday. Often a very plain salad, think limp lettuce and tinned ham, with bread and butter followed by bread and jam and a plain cake and of course pots of tea. 

Then there was the charming afternoon tea served at a local bakery/cafe, Peter's where delicate cream cakes would be presented on a tiered cake plate along with fine leaf tea served in traditional cups. Visits here were a great treat. You can read some lovely recollections of Peter's Bakery here at the Baker's daughter.

So my solution to making the random choice was to get out my box of recipe clippings and select a good handful that for me were tea time treats (sausage rolls, pork pies, scones, gingerbread, sponge cake...)  and then to ask my other half to give me a number and we ended up with Rock Cakes:

To make 12

  • 200g self raising flour
  • pinch salt
  • scant half tsp mixed spice
  • 75g butter
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 80g mixed dried fruit
  • 1 standard egg
  • few tbs milk
  • demerara sugar to sprinkle

  1. Set Oven to 200C Gas 6
  2. Sieve flour, salt and spice into a bowl
  3. Rub in the butter to resemble fine crumbs
  4. stir in the sugar and dried fruit
  5. Stir in the egg a 1 or 2 tablespoons of milk to get a stiff rough textured dough
  6. Divide into 12 portions onto a greased or lined baking sheet
  7. Using a fork lightly rough the outside of each bun and sprinkle with the demerara sugar
  8. Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown.

Absolutely delicious whilst still just warm.

This recipe is being submitted for the September 2012  Random recipe #20 Challenge. There will be a full round up at the end of the month over at Dom's website so do look back Here, or take a look at Lavender and Lovage or What Kate Baked

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Best of British - London

This month the Best of British blog challenge is being hosted by Fiona of London Unattached and of course the area is London.

Not an easy one; and whilst I cannot pretend that my chosen subject of pigeons 'shows the best of London' the pigeon is certainly a lasting image for myself and many other visitors. The pigeon must be a good 'wooer' as so many people want to feed them resulting in no feeding signs appearing in multi lingual form.

So I have found my London icon but what to do with it? I was all set for a traditional rare cooked roast until the charming butcher I collected the birds from at Piper's Farm, Exeter proposed his favourite pigeon dish of a braised pigeon pie. The idea did not sink in until I sat down for lunch an hour later. Perhaps the morning coffee from the wonderful Exploding Bakery had finally woken me up but now Pigeon Pie and Mash were on the menu.

Pipers Farm Shop had some very fine looking meat on display and I was delighted to see how the birds I was buying were wrapped and tied up so elegantly, for a moment I felt I could have been in France.

So I braised the birds gently with some wine and herbs; pulled the meat off the carcass and then used the braising juices to make a well flavoured gravy along with some mushrooms, bacon, carrot and onion. I like my pies to be quite plain so I just made up a shortcrust pastry top.
Here is the pie about to go into the oven:

And here it is freshly out of the oven:

For a London challenge it had to be served with mashed potato and some rather fine carrots from my veg box. Not a pretty dish but a very tasty one.

For the round up of the Best of British London Challenge see The Face of New World at the end of September or London Unattached blog site. 

best of british London

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

POLPO Cookbook - A Journey

A few weeks ago I was the lucky winner of a copy of the Polpo cookbook. The prize came from a draw run by Fiona Beckett, author of the wonderful Matching Food and Wine website, and wine writer for the Guardian. Fiona's website is a treasure trove of information and some cracking competitions too.

The Polpo book is subtitled 'A Venetian Cookbook (of Sorts)' which had me intrigued as  I know nothing of Venetian food other than what I have seen on various TV programs. The story of the author's love for Venice and its food and their ultimate opening of a Venetian restaurant,  Polpo (now more than one) in London was truly engaging.

I totally respect chefs who write accessible cookbooks and I have a lot of chefs' books on my shelves that I cook from, but I am in no doubt that in many cases if they were to write out all of the instructions for one of their signature dishes it would run to many pages and take many hours of work. In all honesty even if I could source the quality of ingredients needed I stand little chance of reproducing the sort of dishes that I am likely to eat in their restaurants.  Elements of them maybe, but never the whole experience. 

Polpo, however, really offers the chance to cook like they do. There are some lines in the introduction to the book that really speak volumes to any lover of pared back simplicity: 'We have a rule in the restaurant that a dish is ready to put on the menu only when we have taken out as many of the ingredients as possible'. There is a lovely quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupery: 'Perfection is not achieved when there is nothing more to add but when there is nothing left to take away'.

My eyes lit up when I read the line 'Polpo is a small plate restaurant, all the dishes are designed to be shared'. I have always had a grazing mentality towards food and thankfully my other half is always happy to share dishes, and choose items from a menu which allows us to sample as much as possible. It is just so much more fun than sitting down to a huge plate of one thing.

As the Polpo book is full of recipes suitable as sharing plates it is a brilliant source of ideas when you want a light but delicious snack or meal. Some of the recipes do not even require cooking; they are just perfect combinations of flavours as evidenced by my first dip into the book with the Zucchini, Basil and Parmesan Salad. The introduction to this recipe described it as 'a startlingly simple salad that is delightful and surprising'. I made this for a Sunday supper following a traditional Sunday lunch that we had eaten out and it was just the most perfect way to enjoy a light dish when you were not really hungry but love food so much you did not want to skip a meal.

So how do the authors achieve this transformation of ingredients?  I have made many a zucchini salad in my time, as the garden crop needs using up, but none of them have ever before passed the 'so what' test. Well perhaps not surprisingly the answer is in the detail. The recipe very clearly explains at the start that the trick is to slice the zucchini wafer thin and not to overdress the salad. Two very simple instructions, but critical none the less.

Every recipe has an introduction that entices you into cooking it, and nudges you in the direction of achieving a perfect result. What more could you ask from a book other than such attention to your own success with a dish the author loves and wants to share.

I have now worked through a good handful of recipes including the Warm Duck Salad (note you will get a much better presentation if you follow the recipe carefully which I sadly didn't):

I hope the authors will forgive me for trying this with fresh duck breast rather than duck leg confit. I had a bought a small pair of duck breasts from a local farmers market and wanted a light dish on a hot day. Neither did I have wet walnuts but got as close as I could. This made  a stunning light lunch with a little sourdough bread also from the market. 

Despite the wet summer my rosemary bushes have put on bountiful and fragrant growth, and a fine recipe to showcase this herb is the Roast Potatoes and Rosemary. The potatoes are cut relatively small making them a perfect snack on their own or an elegant side dish.  

And last night I made the Zucchino, Mint and Chilli Pizzetta. The zucchini, chilli and mint all came from the garden so I knew they were perfectly fresh. In making the pizza dough I kneaded for the full time suggested and actually checked the wall clock rather than my internal boredom monitor. The hardest part is shaping the dough into a good even and thin disk.

So here is the dish just before it goes into the oven:

And now just out from the oven but before I sprinkled the fresh mint over the top:

The combination of mint and chilli worked incredibly well. 

As I have no experience of Venetian food I feel like the book takes you on a mystery tour every time, but as each recipe delights I find myself wanting to quickly sign up for the next journey. I shall be in London for a day at the end of the month and am rather hoping I can make it over to one of the restaurants to sample the total experience. 

Thank you POLPO and Fiona Beckett 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Random Recipes - Roll the dice

Last months Random Recipe blog challenge was a very easy one to get me started but this month some cooking was required.

The challenge was titled 'Let's start at the very beginning' as Dom of belleaukitchen had chosen a very straight forward request to randomly choose a book and then randomly open it to a recipe, simple!

I have rather a lot of books so to make a genuine random choice I need a bit of help. I log most of my books on two websites, the Eat Your Books site which has been fantastic for finding recipes and pulling together various sources from books, magazines, internet blogs and random bits of paper into a single resource. The other list is on LibraryThing is more of a catalogue and although there is less reason to keep going with the LibraryThing now it was where I started so  I still keep it up to date.

It was the Librarything list that helped me out with this challenge as each book's record is numbered within the system. So I checked up on the latest number of books I had and then opened up Excel. I quickly typed in the random function giving it the range 1-913 and got the answer back, book number 282. A quick flick back to LibraryThing reveals that the book randomly selected was The Roux Brothers 'French Country Cooking'

Immediate panic set in because most of the recipes in this book call for quite hard to get ingredients. I then checked the start and end page of the recipes,10-250, and popped this range into the random function.

Oops,' Quenelles of Pike'! 

Now I guess Dom would say I cheated now as rather than try and adapt this I did another spin of the random selector. The next spin puts me on a page of text about  one of the regions and then third time lucky I hit on Petits Poivres Limouxin or rather more simply black pepper crackers.

These are a beautifully simple but moreish buttery cracker that the authors recommend are served with drinks, so that is what I did.

I am a day late posting this but having lost my original photo I had to bake up some more and I know that is a not much of an excuse but I never was good at deadlines. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Better than the sum of the parts - Soup

I love soups and firmly believe they are as useful in summer as in winter, especially a summer where the weather is so variable you never know if you will want something light and refreshing or hearty and warming.

Soup is so versatile and it is so easy to change the character of a soup by the garnishes. A dollop of yogurt into a vegetable soup will give freshness where some shredded pieces of cooked chicken or chunks of cooked sausage will make a more substantial meal. You can accompany a soup with delicate crackers or buttery chunks of warm garlic bread according to your mood. Cheese scones are another favourite accompaniment of mine for a lunchtime or light supper soup.

Today's soup is one I make when I (finally) get a glut of courgettes in my small vegetable garden. It is useful for using up the ones that hid from you and are now a little larger than ideal. The courgette glut is often coincident with my small crop of potatoes and again this is a good way of using up the ones that will not store because the slugs nibbled them or you pushed the fork in when you were harvesting them.

I rarely follow recipes for soups but do look at them for ideas.The soup below was made with butter, onion, potato, courgette, vegetable stock powder and fresh thyme, and is garnished with fresh soft cheese.

Working in roughly the following proportions of 1 medium onion, 2 medium potatoes and 750g courgette

  • Chop the onion coarsely and  peel and roughly dice the raw potato. 
  • Gently cook the onion and potato in a saucepan with a knob of butter until they start to soften.
  • Then add coarsely chopped  courgette and cook a little longer until the courgette is just about cooked through.
  • Stir in a small amount of stock powder or home made stock if you have some and add salt to taste.
  • Add water to cover the vegetables.
  • Simmer gently until the potato is cooked through.
  • Blend to a purée with a stick blender adding more water or some milk to achieve the consistency you prefer. Different varieties of potato will vary in how much they thicken a soup.
  • Just before serving stir in fresh thyme leaves or another herb such as parsley or chervil.

Garnish your soup how you like but any of the following should work well with courgette:

  • crumbled feta cheese and mild chilli flakes
  • a swirl of lemon scented olive oil
  • toasted pine nuts
  • crumbled mild blue cheese
  • crumbled crispy bacon
  • a few succulent prawns

Soup was one of the first things I cooked in my domestic science class at school and it was a revelation in what soup should be. I had previously judged soup by what came out of packets or tins. After that one class I could never look at packet soup quite the same again, it just wasn't soup any more. I still remember my absolute horror when several years later my husband introduced me to is 'Spag Bol' recipe which required a packet of powdered oxtail soup in the mix.

Most soups will reheat well, so a bit of effort on the initial batch can keep you in near instant gratification for many more meals hence. And for those of you with a vegetable garden that refuses to produce a good portion of any one vegetable at a time I urge you to try and make your own minestrone. Never again will you wonder what to do with 1 courgette, a crooked carrot and 2 french beans. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

We Should Cocoa - Chocolate and Cherries

This month's #WeShouldCocoa challenge is being guest hosted by Janice of  farmersgirl blogspot and the supporting act that we are casting with chocolate this month is Cherries.

I rarely buy fresh cherries and even more rarely cook with them but I do a lot of baking with dried sour cherries so I opted to stick with them and chose this rather rustic but flavoursome loaf to bake up.
The recipe was taken from a 100 Great Breads written by Paul Hollywood (of Great British Bake Off fame) and although the book is composed mainly of yeast raised recipes there are a few other sweet and savoury bakes in there as well, and I highly rate the cheese scone recipe.

Even with variations I feel uncomfortable writing out other chefs recipes so I hope you will forgive me if I just point you to one of his web published recipes over here for a Chocolate & Blackberry loaf which is so very similar to the recipe in 100 Great Breads. The only differences between the blackberry recipe and the cherry recipe were that for the Chocolate & Sour Cherry Loaf:
  • Omit the 50g added sugar
  • Use 30ml of olive oil instead of 40g butter
  • Use 15g of fresh yeast instead of 25g.
The method was the same.
The recipe called for drained tinned cherries so I left my dried cherries to soak overnight in some diluted cherry cordial drained them off and then weighed them out.

You allow the dough to do the main rise before kneading in the cherries and chocolate but when it came to kneading them in I was really struggling to get an even distribution. The cherries were rapidly crushing down to a pulp as I tried to knead them through the dough and the chocolate chips were flying everywhere. I gave up before I would have liked in the interests of keeping the cherries as whole as possible. This had little impact on the baking but when we came to eat the loaf there were clear clusters of fruit and chocolate making it a little harder to slice.
I baked my bread in one large tin loaf whereas the recipe calls for two smaller boules. I just needed to bake the larger tin loaf a little longer.
So here is the loaf, baked and cut in half. I must confess to cutting the loaf a little too soon. The outer crust felt like it had cooled down quite well but on cutting in to the loaf I realised the chocolate chunks were still very soft and this resulted in the chocolate smearing across the crumb as I cut in making the cut loaf look rather messy. Messy or not I was delighted with the taste and texture of this loaf. Dark bitter chocolate, sweet juicy cherries and a crisp crust with a silky crumb. Hard not to keep slicing!

 Later on when the loaf had cooled properly the slices looked a lot better.
We should Cocoa is hosted by Chele of Chocolate Teapot and Choclette of Chocolate Log Blog.  Farmers Girl's own recipe contribution to the challenge is a rather gorgeous looking Chocolate and Cherry Cake

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Best of British: Yorkshire

This month we are showcasing the fine food of Yorkshire via the Best of British blogging challenge and today, 1st August, is Yorkshire day. There is a lovely overview of Yorkshire's fine produce on Lavender and Lovage's host blog. I have very fond memories from my time in the North East of trips to Betty's tea rooms in York and Harrogate where I always felt spoilt for choice with a particular favourite being the Fat Rascal.

I took my inspiration from Betty's for my own entry to this challenge as they make a rather tasty fruit cake with Old Peculiar ale.  Old Peculiar is a rich ale made at the Theakston's brewery in Masham, Yorkshire.

Yorkshire has some very fine cheeses too, so my chosen combination was for Old Peculiar Fruit Cake served with Hawes Wensleydale cheese.

Way down in Devon it is hard to get a good selection of northern cheeses and as much as I wanted to serve my cake with a good chunk of Richard III, my favourite Yorkshire cheese, it was not to be.

The recipe for the cake was based on a Porter cake recipe from the Ballymaloe cookery school's website. I just substituted Old Peculiar for the Irish Stout, nothing else was changed. This recipe produces a rich but not overly sweet cake, helped by the hoppy bitter notes from the ale it makes a great partner to cheese. 

The cake is quick to prepare as you boil the liquid, butter and fruit in a pan, no arduous creaming of butter and sugar. I hope you will feel inspired to have a go.

The Best of British blog challenge is sponsored by NewWorld and organised by Fiona of London Unattached with help from Lavender and LovageA round-up of the entries will be posted around 25th August on the website for New World and Lavendar and Lovage's blog.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Random Recipes - my Cook Book Shelves

This is a fun and easy challenge set by Belleau Kitchen who has made the normal monthly challenge of cooking a recipe chosen at random into lets blog about the cook book shelves that you are picking your random recipes from.

I have a quite a few books scattered around and to help with remembering what I have I use both the Librarything website and more recently  Eat Your Books. Librarything is good for tagging where you are actually stored each book(if you have a system). 

We used to live in a 1930's house with high ceilings and loads of storage space. Now we are in a smaller 1960s bungalow with way less wall space and cupboards and the book storage has reached overflow but there are still so many books I want to buy so soon something will have to give.

Apologies for the photo quality, in too many you cannot actually make out what the book titles are but you may recognise them anyway if you have them.

I will start in the kitchen where I keep a small range of books on a shelf that was originally was dedicated to new purchases but that system has gone out the window and it is all a bit random now. The pottery owl is called Morse and he was made by a talented potter in County Durham.

Now moving into the study room (which is also our spare bedroom). I have tried to keep this shelf dedicated to baking and chocolate work. 

The organisation breaks down now but there are pockets of order with Christmas, and Jewish cuisine books on top and India lower down. To the right I store most of my America books.
A zoom in to get more of the titles.

On the other side of the room I share a shelf with my OH who collects stamps and has many of these in highly organized stamp album binders. So in the blurred photo below that shelf of red binders are for stamps.

Just to the right are some more cook books including my collection of Food of the World series.

Now we come to one of the floor stacks, books acquired since the shelf space ran out.

And here is the another floor stack. Just behind the stack in a box with a purple lid are my Gourmet magazines and a couple of recipe ring binders.

These two weighty tomes are hiding under the chair. Both come from charity shops and I have them for historical value more than anything. These would have been books of the trade when I was young and I remember a chef friend buying the Buffets & Receptions book to help with a new job hey had taken, this was a while ago, British cuisine has moved on! 

Now for the small stack.

Moving out of the study/bedroom into the hall we glance up at the loft hatch as I have a few books up there too. These are mainly the 1970's cooking for your freezer and 1980s how to cook in a microwave types. The ones you still see in Charity shops as people like me run out of space and ditch them first.

Now moving into a utility room/cupboard I have a few shelves of books that have little organisation to them but I just about find stuff when I need it
The shelf shown below also has some of my chocolate packaging stuff hence the dangling ribbon.

Still in the utility 'cupboard' a few more cook books with some gardening to keep them company.
And while we mention agrdening I have a few but not many books in the garden shed too.

Hope you have enjoyed the tour! belleaukitchen will be doing a round up very soon and bellau's own contribution to the challenge is here