Monday 30 November 2009

Lemon Scented Blueberry Swiss Roll

There is no doubt in my mind that blueberries and lemons go together like . . . well, peas and carrots!!

I grew up in rural Nova Scotia, a very small province in Canada with a distinctly maritime climate . . . and ditches and fields just chock full of wild blueberries in late summer and early autumn. Wild blueberries were always something I had taken very much for granted when I was a child, and even as an adult . . .

until I couldn't get them anymore. That is when we seem to miss things the most . . . when they are seemingly out of our reach.

It is my dream to visit home again one summer . . . when the corn is ripe for the picking and eating . . . and when the wild blueberries once again are deep purple and growing profusely in the brush along the bye ways and highways of my beautiful home province.

We do have cultivated berries here, and they are quite tasty . . . but nothing ever comes quite up to that beautiful taste of the wild berry, all that fruity flavour concentrated into a small juicy berry no larger than the tip of my baby finger . . . ahh . . . bliss.

We do get wild blueberry preserves over here though, and they are quite tasty in a pinch! I love them on my toast in the morning and spread onto fluffy buttermilk pancakes . . . all warm and stodgy good, with melted butter gilding and soaking into their lace like crisp edges.

Sometimes for a treat on a Sunday afternoon, I make us a lovely jelly roll, or Swiss roll as it is called over here in the UK . . . and I spread it through the middle with sweet and tasty wild blueberry preserves . . .

I like to eat it with my fingers, and while I eat . . . I dream of August days when the air is dry and hot . . . and filled with the sounds of humming insects . . .

of ice cream buckets filled to over flowing with wild blueberries . . . the smell of wild brush in the heat of the sun . . . fingers and teeth stained blue from our exertions . . . aching backs after hours spent hunched over in this glorious labour of love . . . and . . . well . . .

of home . . .

*Lemon Scented Blueberry Swiss Roll*
Makes one 12 inch roll
Printable Recipe

This swiss roll has to be one of the easiest and quickest cakes in the world! You can have the cake mixed together, baked and cooling on the countertop in less than 15 minutes!

For the cake:
3 large free range eggs
5 ounces caster sugar
2 TBS milk
the finely grated zest of one un-waxed lemon
5 ounces plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
a handful of slivered almonds
caster sugar for rolling
1/2 pint of blueberry preserves

Pre-heat the oven to 230*C/450*F. Line a swiss roll pan (8 by 12 inches) with greaseproof paper and set aside.

Break the eggs into a bowl and add the sugar. Beat together with an electric whisk until pale and fluffy. Add the milk and the lemon zest. Whisk together the flour and baking powder. Fold this into the egg mixture, making sure all the dry ingredients are incorporated. Pour into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the slivered almonds on top.

Bake for about 5 minutes in the centre of the oven. Cake is done when lightly browned and when it springs back when lightly touched.

Have a sheet of grease proof paper ready on which you have sprinkled more caster sugar. Remove the cake from the oven and turn out immediately onto the sugar coated paper. Carefully peel off the greaseproof from the baked cake. Roll up the cake in the caster sugar covered paper, from one long side towards the other, tucking in the first long side tightly. Set aside and allow to cool completely before proceeding.

Once the cake is cooled, unroll and spread with the blueberry preserves. Reroll. Cut into 1/2 inch thick slices to serve.

hmmm . . . the thought just occurs to me that this would be lovely in a lemon trifle . . . stay tuned!!

Sunday 29 November 2009

Pounded Pork Tenderloin with Lemon, Sage and Mushrooms

We just love pork in this house, especially free range pork. Loaded with flavour it's positively delicious. You just can't ask for a nicer piece of meat. Our local Waitrose stocks beautifully flavoured Hampshire bred free range pork that is absolutely wonderful . . . delicate and sweet . . . with just a hint of apple . . .

I particularly love pork tenderloin. It's mild flavour and texture are such a treat. It requires very little cooking time, and cooked properly, is always moist and tender . . . My mother always cooked pork to death, but I think most people did back then. Admidst great fears of trichinosis, pork in those days was always well cooked . . . over-cooked really. Never mind, we loved her pork chops anyways, and were always well pleased when they were on the menu, especially when accompanied with her tasty milk gravy and a mound of fluffy mash!

Sage and garlic have such a wonderful affinity with pork. They're like the holy trinity of pork, and you just can't get much better than that combination . . .

well . . . unless you decide to wrap it in some smokey Italian Proscuitto ham, . . . with some earthy brown mushrooms . . .

and tart fresh lemon thrown in to the mix, for an added layer of flavour . . .

mmm . . . this combination is pure heavenly bliss . . . moreishly scrummy . . . absolutely . . . the best!

sorry mom . . .

*Pounded Pork Tenderloin with Lemon, Sage and Mushrooms*
Serves 4
Printable Recipe

A delicious pork dish with an abundance of flavours, all melding together into a wonderful taste experience. Be careful not to over cook the pork so that it drys out. You will be rewarded with meltingly tender pieces of meat if you follow my advice.

16 ounces pork tenderloin, trimmed and cut into 8 thick slices
salt and black pepper
8 fresh sage leaves
8 slices of proscuitto ham
1 punnet of brown mushrooms, sliced
2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
£ TBS butter
1 fat clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
a handful of fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
the juice of one lemon

Place the pork slices in between two sheets of cling film and carefully pound it with the side of a rolling pin until you have pork cutlets, about 1/4 inch thick, without tearing the meat. Season well on both sides with salt and black pepper. Chop the sage leaves and sprinkle some on each cutlet. Wrap a piece of proscuitto around each and secure with a cocktail stick. Set aside.

Melt 1 TBS of butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Once it begins to foam add the mushrooms. Cook without stirring until they begin to brown, then stir them so that you can brown them all over. Scoop out to a bowl and set aside.

Add the olive oil and garlic to the pan. Cook over medium high heat until the garlic becomes quite fragrant. Working in two batches brown the pork well on each side, no more than 2 minutes per side. Remove from the pan to a platter and set aside. Add the remaining 2 TBS of butter to the pan. Cook until it turns a nut brown, about 2 minutes, and then remove from the heat. Stir in the lemonjuice and the parsley. Add the mushrooms to the pan and then pour the mixture over the warm cutlets. Serve immediately.

Friday 27 November 2009

Perfect Oatmeal

When I was growing up my mother couldn't get us to eat oatmeal, not for love or money. None of us would. It reminded us too much of wallpaper paste, or glue . . .

I know . . . we were spoilt . . . we were reared on tasty breakfast cereals such as Cap'n Crunch, Fruit Loops and Puffa Puffa Rice . . .

As an adult I have come to love my oats in the morning. There is nothing tastier, nutritious or more filling to start off your day.

They're good for your heart, and help to lower blood cholesterol. Loaded with healthy fibre and vitamins, and well known for being one of the best foods for those who are seeking to lose fat and stay healthy.

I love Scottish Pinhead oats, or steel cut oats as they are also known. They have more texture and a real nutty flavour that we here in Oak Cottage just love.

This is my perfected way of cooking them. I could eat this every morning and would choose it over anything else in a heartbeat!!

If you would have told me that when I was ten, I would have thought you quite insane . . . although . . . being the perfectly well behaved child that I was, I would never have told you so . . . ☺

*Perfect Oatmeal*
serves 3 to 4
Printable Recipe

Also known as Scotch oats, Irish oatmeal and pinhead oats, Steel cut oats are whole oats that have been cut into thirds instead of rolled and flattened into flakes. Yummo! (Psst!! Use a wooden spoon for stirring and cooking them! Don't ask me why, but they taste better! )

1 1/2 pints water
1/2 pint of whole milk
25g unsalted butter
6 ounces of steel cut oats
pinch salt

Place the water and milk into a large saucepan and bring to a simmer. Keep simmering on medium low heat while you toast the oats. (you do NOT want it to boil)

Heat a medium heavy based skillet over medium heat. Add the butter and heat until the butter starts to foam. Add the oats and toast, stirring constantly until golden and fragrant and having an almost butterscotch aroma. This should take several minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk the toasted oats into the simmering water/milk mixture. Simmer gently for around 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens. Stir in the salt and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, for another 6 to 8 minutes, or until the oatmeal is thick and creamy like a custard pudding. Remove from the heat and allow to stand for about 5 minutes, undisturbed before serving. Serve immediately with your choice of additions. I personally like cream and a bit of golden syrup, but you may like something else. Maple syrup is good as are raisins and other dried fruits, and brown sugar. Enjoy!!

Thursday 26 November 2009

Mincemeat and Marzipan Teabread

Picture this . . .

Marzipan and mincemeat baked into a delicious tea bread . . .

Moist . . . mmm . . . . spicy flecks of mincemeat here and there, and scattered throughout the loaf bits of caramelized and yummy marzipan . . .

Moreishly delicious . . .

Taken from the Good Food Magazine cookbook entitled, "101 Cakes and Bakes."

This is one tasty loaf. Quick, easy and quite, quite edible . . . the perfect thing to do with that jar of mincmeat that is sitting in your larder just waiting to be used . . .

*Mincemeat and Marzipan Teabread*
Makes one loaf, cutting into 12 slices
Printable Recipe

If you like mincmeat you will love this moist and tasty tea bread. We like it spread with cold butter. You just can't beat a slice of this, enjoyed next to teh fire on a cold and windy evening. Comfortingly delicious!

8 ounces self raising flour
4 ounces cold butter, cut into bits
3 ounces light muscovado sugar
3 ounces golden marzipan, cut into small bits
2 large eggs
10 ounces mincemeat
2 TBS flaked almonds
sifted icing sugar to dust the top

Pre-heat the oven to 180*C/350*F. Butter a 2 pound loaf tin and then line it with some baking parchment. Set aside.

Measure the flour and butter into a bowl. Rub in the butter with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs. Stir in the sugar and the marzipan bits. Beat the mincemeat and eggs together. Stir this into the flour mixture until it is well combined. Spoon into the prepared pan and level off the top. Sprinkle with the flaked almonds.

Bake for 1 hour, until well risen and golden brown, and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Remove from the oven and lightly dust with the icing sugar whilst it is still hot. Allow to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Cut into slices to serve.

Now that folks is what I'd call some serious good!

Wednesday 25 November 2009

Mince Pies

When I was growing up in Canada, one of the things I really disliked at Christmas time was . . . Mincemeat. Oh, but it was horrid. That probably has something to do with the fact that it had real meat in it . . . ground beef . . . and ground beef made me want to gag. Mixed with raisins and other fruits, it made me want to gag even more . . .

Combine that with the interesting fact that my Aunt used to make her mincemeat out of venison that my Uncle shot every year, and I could never trust whether the mincemeat my mother was using had come from my Aunt or not . . . and I just could not face eating Bambi . . .

Aside from all that . . . it just didn't taste good to me . . . not at all. Never, no never . . .

Oh, how very different mincemeat is over here in the UK. I just love it and I can't get enough of it any time of the year, but MOST especially during the Christmas Season!!!

Filled with lovely bits of bramley apple . . . raisins . . . currants . . . sultanas . . . candied peel . . . not to mention lovely warm spices and oranges and lemons, chopped almonds . . . all bound together with soft dark brown sugar, brandy and suet . . . Just the thought of it gets my taste buds tingling.

I love them cold . . . all buttery and spicy sweet in my mouth.

They are a special treat when gently warmed . . . all meltingly delicious and crumbly, with lashings of brandy cream or custard . . . mmm . . .

I usually make my own, using Delia's Foolproof Recipe, but the grocery shops are full of wonderful mincemeat as well. Marks and Spencers make a really yummy luxury version.

There is nothing like spending an afternoon with a cd of Christmas Carols creating the festive mood whilst you bake lovely mince pies . . . the smell of them baking so homey and warm, the music . . . just so soul enriching . . . the cold wind outside buffeting the windows as the rain lashes against the glass . . . me all tucked up warm and cosy in the kitchen, my slippers padding across the floor and Jess stretched out and softly snoring on the carpet in front of the AGA . . .

Ahh . . . this has to be bliss. Can there be anything else on earth so wonderful??? I think not!

Well . . . eating them comes a close second, I do have to admit!

*Mince Pies*
Makes about 24
Printable Recipe

I just adore these delicious Christmas Treats! Crisp and buttery pastry encasing a delicious filling of spiced fruits, and dusted with icing sugar. Oh, so very wonderful. It just would not be Christmas without a breadbox filled with these!

560g mincemeat
(either homemade or storebought)
350g flour
pinch of salt
75g of cold butter, cut into bits
75g cold lard, cut into bits
ice water as needed
For the finish
some milk for brushing
sifted icing sugar for dusting

Sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Drop in the butter and lard and rub it into the flour/salt mixture using your fingertips. Rub until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs. Add the ice water by the tablespoon, mixing in with a fork, until you get a dough that leaves the sides of the bowl clean. Shape into a ball, wrap in cling film and place in the refrigerator to rest for half an hour.

Roll half of the dough out 1/4 inch thick on a lightly floured board. Cut it into 24 rounds with a 3 inch fluted pastry cutter. Place them into two lightly greased patty tins, lining the holes. Spoon a dessertspoon of mincemeat into each. Roll out the other half of the dough in the same manner, and cut out 24 rounds iwth a 2 1/2 inch cutter. Brush the edges of these rounds with a bit of water and then place them on top of the mincmeat filled patty tins to form lids. Press around lightly to seal. Brush the tops with a bit of milk. Prick with a fork if desired. Place on the top rack in the oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown and crisp.

Remove from the oven and cool completely before disting with icing sugar. Store in an airtight container.

Tuesday 24 November 2009

French Onion Soup

Back in the mid 1970's, during my University Days . . . I had a friend named Julia. She always seemed extremely exotic and daring to me.

For one thing, she came from the big city of Montreal . . . whereas I had grown up in small town nowhere.

For another thing she was living with her boyfriend . . . something else I would never had dared to do back then. Just the thought of it would have killed my mother . . . really.

She eschewed bras, shaving under the arms, and wore halter tops, and she spoke with a very posh Canadian Accent . . . not the small town Nova Scotian Accent that I had . . .

She loved to cook. Wonderfully exotic dishes . . . things I had never heard of in my lifetime, or tasted. Cooking was art to her and . . . while I loved to cook too . . . I had a very narrow repertoire, my sole experience having been based on my mother's simple country cooking and what I had been taught in Home Economics and the few Madame Benoit shows I'd managed to catch on the Take 30 show on weekday television.

This was way before Yan Can Cook, or the Galloping Gourmet!! Or at least before I had ever heard of these chefs . . . (Yes, I was very naieve and innocent!)

Julia introduced me to such exotic dishes as boeuf bourginon and poulet saute a l'estragon . . . I thought she was ever so sophisticated, and I devoured all of her ideas and recipes.

To this day, I never ever cook French Onion Soup without thinking of Julia. I remember thinking this simple soup was a little taste of heaven the first time she made it for us at a little soiree she threw. I remember watching her make it very carefully. She used tinned beef consomme, Campbells if I remember correct and then she used mozzarella and parmesan cheeses . . . the Parmesan pre-grated and from a green cardboard cylinder and the mozzarella also from a hard block and grated. I can remember there being so much mozzarella cheese that we almost choked on it. I think the idea was to have so much Mozzarella that it really strung out when you dipped it out of your bowl.

I have come a very long way since then . . . and I would never use tinned beef consomme . . . I'd also never use cheese from a green cardboard cylinder or mozzarella . . . my cheese of choice being freshly grated Parmesan and sweet and nutty freshly grated Gruyere . . .

I expect that Julia would never use them anymore either . . . I often wonder what happened to her. I imagine that she is the lady in residence of a beautiful country home or the wife of a Canadian Diplomat . . . or maybe she is just like me . . . a card carrying foodie, that just can't get enough . . .

of what else . . . but . . . food, recipes, and . . . French Onion Soup.

*French Onion Soup*
Serves 4 to 6
(Depending on how greedy you are)
Printable Recipe

Sitting down to a hot bowl of this delicious soup, one might imagine that they are sitting in a little Bistro in the middle of Paris, instead of in a windswept and wet cottage in the middle of Kent. Ahh . . . perchance to dream . . .

50g unsalted butter
1 TBS olive oil
3 large spanish type of onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
1 TBS plain flour
1 litre of well flavoured beef or chicken stock
600ml dry white wine
1 fresh bay leaf
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 baguette, thinly sliced
200g freshly grated Gruyere cheese
4 to 6 TBS of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place the butter and olive oil in a large saucepan. Heat over medim heat, until the butter is melted and beginning to foam. Add the onions, reduce the heat and cook over low for 15 to 20 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook for several minutes until very fragrant. Stir in the flour and cook for another minute. Add the stock, wine, bay leaf and thyme. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Bring to the boil, then immediately reduce the heat and simmer on low, very gently for 20 to 25 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Turn out the heat and allow it to stand for about half an hour to an hour.

When you are ready to serve, gently re-heat the soup until it is hot. Pre-heat the grill to high. Place the baguette slices on a baking tray and brown under the grill until lightly toasted on both sides. Ladle the soup into oven proof bowls and place the bowls on a baking tray. Top each bowl of soup with a few baguette rounds and sprinkle evenly with first the Gruyere cheese and then the Parmesan. Place under the grill and cook until browned and bubbling. Serve immediately.

Monday 23 November 2009

Florentine Biscuits

About this time of year I get a yearning to bake cookies . . .

oodles and oodles of cookies. Crisp one, chewy ones . . .

Cookies filled with nuts and fruit . . .

Plain cookies . . . and not so plain cookies.

Cookies glazed with sweet buttery icing, and others simply dusted with clouds of confectioners sugar . . .

Crumbly shortbreads all buttery and crisp, some with ginger and some with cherries . . . other's with nuts . . .

Rolled out gingerbread men . . . with sticky currants for eyes, and squiggly white icing smiles and trim . . .

Big cookies . . . small cookies

Tasty in-between cookies.

I like to give them as gifts to my friends. There is naught so welcome as a tasty Christmas tray of baking. It is always well received.

The simple and cheerful act of baking cookies for your loved ones and friends, whilst Christmas music serenades and plays about your ears . . . is the first sign that Christmas . . . cannot be far off.

What a sweet and joyful chore.

I love it. Can I help it if a few make their way into my mouth while I am busy at work????

I think not. Who can blame me. Tis a most delicious job indeed . . . and very rewarding.

*Florentine Biscuits*
Makes 24
Printable Recipe

These are lovely and buttery and chock full of tasty ingredients . . . cherries and candied citrus peel . . flaked almonds and sultanas, butter and sugar . . . The dark chocolate drizzle is their crowning glory.

4 ounces butter, softened
4 ounces caster sugar
1 large egg, beaten
6 ounces plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 ounce flaked almonds
(Lightly crush with your fingers)
2 ounces glace cherries, chopped
2 ounces mixed candied peel
2 ounces sultana raisins
3 ounces good quality dark chocolate, melted

Pre-heat the oven to 190*C/375*F. Lightly grease 2 baking sheets and set aside.

Place the butter and sugar in a bowl. Cream together until pale and fluffy. Beat in the egg. Sift the flour and soda together and then stir this into the creamed mixture. Mix to a soft dough.

Mix together the almonds, peel, cherries and sultanas. Stir 1/2 of this mixture into the dough. Mix in well. Shape into 24 even balls, rolling spoonfuls of the dough between the palms of your hand. Place onto the baking sheets, leaving a good space between each. Press out slightly with your fingers. Scatter the remaining fruit and nut mixture evenly over top of each.

Bake in the pre-heated oven for 10 to 12 minutes, until pale golden brown on the edges and bottoms. Remove from the oven and allow to sit on the pan for about 10 minutes, before removing to a wire rack to finish cooling completely.

Melt the chocolate and then drizzle this over top of the biscuits. (I do this in the microwave by blasting it at 30 second intervals, stirring after each blast)

Leave to set until the chocolate has hardened. Store in an airtight container.