Sunday, January 29, 2012

Spinach & Ricotta Pasties

This weeks Short and Tweet challenge included the recipe for Spinach and Ricotta pasties and I was initially uninspired as I am not a great fan of pastry but yeah these are made with an enrichened yeast dough rather than buttery pastry so suddenly I felt compelled to make them.

Once baking they fill the kitchen with the aromas of savoury yeasty goodness so are well worth it for that alone, but they also produce a jolly good, if not conventional pastie.

I would get no prizes for my crimping but I did at least try to make it look like west country crimping.

These make a perfect Sunday early evening supper, and as the recipe makes four there will be spares each for lunch tomorrow, marvelous.

Dan Lepard posted the recipe as part of his 2008 series: How to bake: Spinach and Ricotta Pasties do give them a whirl.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

No Ordinary Carrot Soup

I feel like I am on a soup roll at the moment as the last two soup making sessions in a row have produced incredible results.

Last weeekend I made a huge batch of Butternut Squash, Maple and Ginger Soup, with Spiced Butter and Pumpkin Seeds from the beautifully illustrated and written blogsite eggsontheroof. This was by far the best squash soup I have ever made and today I hit on the best carrot soup I have ever made.

Sally Butcher's Carrot & Cardamom soup taken from her wonderful book Veggiestan is quite a stunner. I love cardamom so had no hesitation about the spicing and this really does strike a wonderful balance with a combination of cardamom, turmeric, fresh ginger and the sharpness of orange and lime juice; all mellowed out by the addition of a little coconut milk.

I used blood orange juice and chantenay carrots from my lovely Devon based Hallwood Fresh Veg box and I'm sure that the quality of their produce added to the punchiness of the flavours  but this really is a good recipe.

If you have the book I commend it to you and if you haven't it's a really good reason to buy the book, on offer as always at amazon.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Cannot Eat Just One Spelt & Ginger Cookies

For this week's shortandtweet challenge I chose the Spelt and Ginger Cookies. The week had  started cold and frosty so a sweet spicy cookie seemed the perfect promise for an afternoon's baking and I cannot resist the smell of freshly baked ginger cookies.

I attempted to work up an appetite by walking into work instead of taking the car. There is an element of laziness to this as I hate the fuss of defrosting car windows and sitting impatiently while the fan clears all the condensation off the inside windscreen. My walk takes little over 25 minutes and  I always feel I could be there in the time all the defrosting takes. 

It is also a very beautiful walk and on a crisp morning can be quite stunning. This is the view as I leave the cycle path and join the main road.

After about ten minutes on a very narrow pavement with lorries almost brushing past I leave the road  again and head up the drive to where I work, passing some beautiful trees as I go.

The sun is still very low in January and can light up the fields as it peeps over the hill tops.

By one o'clock when I am walking back the only blue element of blue monday is the sky. 

So after a brisk walk home it is into the kitchen for a bit of baking.

Now these cookies are super fast to make and bake and all can be done in one bowl so they are just the job for instant gratification on a cold day.

I have pictured the cookies still on the trays. The furthest tray has almost cooled and the cookies have become quite flat while the nearest one is just out of the oven and still puffed.

Comparing my cookies with the picture in the Short and Sweet book my mixture was a little too wet, and spread too flat, but that did nothing to spoil the deep gingery flavour that you get from using both the powdered spice and chopped stem ginger. I had tried to weigh everything out carefully but I was using a duck egg yolk and these can be a little bigger than chicken egg yolks so that may have been the reason for flatter cookies.

If you have the book do make these as they are really moreish and hard to resist one after another once you taste them. The recipe uses spelt flour which you can find in quite a few shops now. The flour I used was from Bacheldre mill and their web site  bacheldremill also carries a copy of this ginger cookie recipe

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Baps, Barm Cakes, What Would You Call Them?

My second challenge recipe this week from #shortandtweet is the Soft Baps.

Only last weekend I was scouring the shelves of Holsworthy Waitrose looking for a good soft roll with which to make a lunchtime bacon buttie, and came away empty handed.

There was not a soft roll to be had that did not have an ingredient list that read like a chemistry class or had no information at all. I had some of the finest bacon ever in my fridge at home and I was not about to wrap it in anything but flour, yeast, salt and water.

Well now I have some very fine soft baps in my freezer so an impromtu perfect bacon buttie is now a real possibility rather than a dream.

Dan Leppard's recipe for these baps leaves you shaping the buns in a more typical domed round but for me a bap should always be slightly flattened so I did just that. I could possibly have baked them for a tad less time as the flattening out does speed up the baking but I think you can see from the photo they still have a beautiful thin (and soft)  crust. This was the first time I had seen the addition of cornflour to a bread roll recipe and perhaps this is the secret to the tender crust. I was using a strong canadian bread flour from waitrose so the softness was nothing to do with a lack of gluten in the flour.

I can never make floury rolls without thinking about my mother-in-law who always refers to these as Barm Cakes, an expression I had never heard of until meeting her. That said, I was brought up in the south and this does seem to be a bit of a North West England turn of phrase. What would these be called in your part of the world?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Cider Vinegar Muffins from Dan Leppard's Short & Sweet

Having recently been given 'Short & Sweet' it seemed a good idea to join the shortandtweet challenge by cooking up one of this week's chosen recipes. I am starting with the cider vinegar muffins as english muffins are one of my favourite snack foods. The last time I made muffins I was using a sourdough recipe and I really liked the results. I was hoping the cider vinegar in this recipe would add a similar tanginess to these muffins but the end result was just not quite as good as I had hoped.

I found these a little cakey and although the recipe is richer than a lot I think the texture may have been more down to my flour than the added egg and butter of this recipe.

Dan Lepppard suggests the inital stove top cooking is done in a heavy frying pan with a lid. I have had a welsh griddle pan for some time now and always use it for drop scones and muffins so I just used this with a wok lid on top of the griddle to create the steam and it worked well.

Now I am a bit of a lazy girl so instead of cutting out round muffins I just divided the dough into 9 squares, which is suggested in the recipe so don't tut if you think they should be round, Dan said it was ok too.

Climb Every Mountain

There was a period when I swear the Sound of Music film was shown on tv every Christmas and it may still be lurking in the myraid of channel options but it used to be mainstream, prime time, every year; but no more.

The song I remember most from the film was 'Climb Every Mountain' which rather fits with Christmas preparations in my house and the way I seem to acquire a food mountain in my larder as we lead up to the big day. It is kind of weird how it always seems so much better on the way up the mountain but as you stumble back down from Boxing Day towards New Year it loses its shine.

However hard you plan to make sure you are not eating up the Christmas bird all week there are the almost inevitable slips on the supplies calculations which leave you with a mountain of something and my personal 'butter mountains' this year were cheese, nuts and dates.

So when I saw a recipe in the Guardian paper from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall for  Date, Blue Cheese & Hazelnut Salad  I felt quite chuffed that the mountain was about to get smaller. This is a really quick to prepare, packed with flavour and texture salad. Do bother to toast the hazelnuts if you have bought them unroasted as it is well worth the trouble and that is the only 'cooking' you will have to do. I used watercress instead of rocket because I prefer it and do use good dates, not the sort that come in dry blocks.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Aubergine with Miso from Comfort & Spice by Niamh Shields

Niamh Shields writes the well known blog and Comfort and Spice is her new book. I have been reading through a lot of the chapters but until today not actually cooking from it.

The recipe for Aubergine with Miso is in the speedy suppers chapter and today it was my speedy lunch.

I was not starting with the best aubergine, it had sat around a little, so it needed some strong flavours to pep it up and that is just what this recipe provided.

 I have a love hate relationship with aubergines which is perhaps my main problem. I always prefer them when someone else has done the cooking; when someone else has cooked them with love rather than the indifference I find in myself and I am still not unconditionally won over but the miso topping from this recipes was just perfect. This is made from 1tbs mirin, 1tbs sake, 1tbs sugar, 3 tbs miso paste. The mirin, sake and sugar are heated in a pan to take off the alcohol and then the miso is added and cooked a little more. The aubergine is sliced in half and scored on the flesh side if thick fleshed. The halves are then cooked on both sides in a few tablespoons of olive oil until soft/tender to touch. You then heat the grill, spread the aubergine with the miso sauce and sprinkle with sesame seeds, I like sesame seeds a lot so I used more than the 1 tablespoon specified. Grill until bubbling and serve.

My picture does not do justice to the recipe but you get the idea. It was very fast to put together and although the recipe suggests you serve this with rice I just ate it without and really enjoyed it.

Now I have the miso paste in the larder I think the next recipe from this book will be the miso marinated bavette steak, just need to locate the bavette steak in the freezer, I know you're in there somewhere!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Medjool Date & Orange Scones, another recipe from The Modern Pantry

I love scones, always have, when walking home from high school I would stop at a local bakery and buy a fruit scone to cheer myself up. I hated school, so marking the end of a bad day with a great scone was always something to look forward to.

The recipes calls for Medjool dates which I did not have but the juicy dates I had left over from Christmas seemed a good swap. They came from the lovely Persepolis along with a lot of other delightful goodies.

Scones take so little time to mix together and then only 12 minutes to bake so they are the perfect thing for baking on a whim when you decide you want something good with your coffee.

These scones were no disappointment, lovely and tender, not too sweet, just perfect.

Makes about 12, some for now some for the freezer.

Fig Anise Bread, recipe from The Modern Pantry by Anna Hansen

I had trouble with this bread.

I think my figs were too moist to start with because the dough was very damp and very slow to rise. The quantity of fig is actually more than flour so it was never going to be a light dough but all the same I think I went too far towards leaden.

I also failed to add the full amount of ground star anise as I had almost run out and did not have the two and a half teaspoons called for. That is quite a lot of star anise for just 320g of flour but I cannot claim it was too much because I didn't actually follow that part of the recipe to find out.

So with a very wet dough to handle I pulled out my trusty dough whisk which I am really rather fond of, and if you would like one too pop over to Bakery Bits to see if they are in stock. You may well find a few other baking gadets you cannot manage without.

So after much waiting around the loaves finally went into the oven. Now I am a fan of slow rising as the flavour does tend to improve with time but I wanted this ready for an afternoon smackeral. Instead I had to wait until after dinner for the loaves to finally bake and cool which was a tad disappointing but here it is:

I loved the flavour and think this bread would go well with cheese. The darkness of the crumb is all down to the figs and spicing as it is made with all white flour.

To be enjoyed with a glass of wine, cheers!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

First book purchase of the year

My first new book for 2012 is Anna Hansen's The Modern Pantry and the first recipe made out of that book is the granola, or 'Honey-Roasted Oats, Seeds and Nuts' as it is titled in the book lets just call it granola. My usual recipe  is from the delicious magazine web site and has a higher ration of nuts and seeds, and it uses butter whereas Anna's recipe uses olive oil, but I like the New Year simplicity of this one.

 I really followed the recipe which is a bit hard for me but I have promised myself I will do it more often and it certainly worked over Christmas when following the timings exactly I ended up with the best roast goose I have ever done, and it was no more diffucult to do than making it up as I went along, so lesson learnt.

Now granola is jolly useful stuff not just sprinkled on cereal in the morning but great on yoghurt. It makes an instant fruit crumble if you have some left over cooked fruit which you can warm up quickly in the microwave and then just top it off with this delicious stuff. Canned custard is optional but in my book very good. Some junk foods really have a place in life and ready made custard is one of them. I always have a can in the larder, full fat version though please, none of that skimmed stuff and do be careful you don't pick up rice pudding by accident, the labels on the tins can be almost identical.

So here it is Modern Pantry Granola: oats, olive oil, brown sugar, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, coconut, hazelnuts and white & black sesame seeds, all toasted to a nutty goodness.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year, New Books

Delighted to have added some new books to the collection.

Two for the baking section: Dan Lepard's Short and Sweet  and  Frédéric Bau's Cooking with Chocolate.

Three for the Middle Eastern Section: Sally Butcher's Veggiestan, Ghillie Basan on Moroccan food & cooking and yet another book along the same lines Paula Wolfert Moroccan Cuisine.

The tagine is going to be dusted down and put to work in the coming weeks.