Sunday 31 July 2011

Days out and Bread Pudding

We took advantage of the warm sunny weather on Saturday morning and decided to take a trip with our Mitzie in tow to Llangollen in Wales. Llangollen (pronounced Clang-gock-lyn) is one of my very favourite places on earth to visit. It has a rough rustic beauty that is quite breathtaking to say the least. With more sun than Cornwall and less rain than the Lake District, it is no wonder that this beautiful little gateway to Wales is one of the most popular Welsh destinations in the North West.

It hosts the the famous International Music Eisteddfod where singers and dancers congregate from every corner of the earth each year amongst a multitude of other activites . . . but we go just to walk around and take in it's beauty.

As we are going up to Cumbria for a week in September and bringing Mitzie with us, we thought it would be a good experience for her to come along with us today, and she didn't mind a bit. It is probably less than an hour's drive from us here in Chester and is always very busy and we thought it would get her used to being around crowds and to travelling in the car for more than just to the dog groomers and the vets!

We always like to take a nice walk along the river in Llangollen. It is so pretty and filled with mini white water rapids, flat rocks you can walk on and lots of birds and other wildlife. Our friend Colin swears he saw a Kingfisher there last summer when we took him and Jo (his wife) there, but . . . he was the only one.

Mitzie enjoyed it very much, even if her nose was to the ground for most of the time. (she is such a sniffer!) She didn't even bother to chase the ducks, which I was happy about. I have come to realize that she is a bit timid of other animals, especially cats and large birds and of course dogs that are larger than herself. I don't think the sheep in Cumbria will be a problem.

WE always like to visit the old railway platform. There is an old Steam Engine there and you can take a trip on the old Steam Railway if you want.

Today there was a 1960's event going on with lots of old cars and vehicles, people dressed up in pschcadelic clothing and all sorts.

The classic cars were beautiful.

And there were quite a few of them. I was particularly fond of this old Mini. One of my first cars ever was an old green Austin Mini Station Wagon, that I never really did learn to drive properly . . . but I had a lot of good laughs in it anyways, with it slipping out of gear, etc.

Of course we must stop for refreshments when we are there. This is our favourite tearoom. It's very quaint inside, and of course you can also choose to sit outside on a nice day, as we did today. It's so pretty. We feasted on

Cheese on Toast on Brown Bread

And Todd enjoyed some Bara Brith, which is a traditional Welsh Teabread, and really scrummy.

Mitzie just enjoyed laying next to our table and watching all the people having fun. She did also get to enjoy the odd crumb which fell her way. I think she charmed a lot of people today, which was nice. I would hate to have an obnoxious dog.

When we got home I surprised Todd with another treat that I picked up for him while we were there. A good old fashioned Bread Pudding, which would differ quite about from some people's ideas of bread pudding. This is a very old recipe which was originally devised to help to use up the stale bread way back in the day. Todd's mum apparently made wonderful bread puddings . . . all stodgy and spicy and chock full of fruit and spices. Todd has very fond memories of his mum's puddings, so he was well pleased when I set this little gem down in front of him today. (The recipe is from the National Trust Complete Traditional Recipe Book, by Sarah Edington, another gem!)

*Bread Pudding*
Serves 6

A thrifty recipe devised by old bakeries to use up yesterday's bread. You can create your own mix of dried fruit. (candied peel, crystallized ginger, chopped prunes and dates, candied cherries, chopped dried apricots, sultanas, currants etc.)

425ml of milk (1 1/2 cups)
150ml of cold strong tea (1/2 cup)
4 ounces butter, melted (1/2 cup)
1 TBS mixed spice**
3 large free range eggs, beaten
350g of mixed dried fruit (3/4 pound)
450g of fresh bread crumbs (1 pound)

Combine the milk, tea, melted butter, beaten eggs, mixed spice and dried fruit. Combine together well. Stir in the breadcrumbs and leave to soak for an your or overnight if you wish.

Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4. Butter an 8 by 11 (2 inch deep) pan and line with baking paper. Butter the baking paper. Spread the soaked mixture into the prepared pan. Bake for 1 1/2 hours. Cool and serve cut into squares.

And if you so fancy it, here's a look of a short film I took of some fit kayakers that came down the river whilst I was standing there enjoying . . .

And another short film of Todd and Mitzie down on the rocks. If yoy listen very carefully you can hear the water, so nice to listen to.

Saturday 30 July 2011

Double Crusted Plum Crisp

It may or may not come as a surprise to you but Anchor Butter is celebrating it's 125th Anniversary this year! Originating in New Zealand, Anchor butter has been around since 1886 – longer, I believe, than most of its major rivals. Arla, who make Anchor in the UK, also make Lurpak and all the other associated variants – the spreadables.

In spite of their New Zealand origins, Anchor also supply butter for one of the greatest of British institutions, by the way: Wimbledon. We often use Anchor butter in this house, I do confess . . . we love it!

Not only does it taste really good, but they do such cute commercials.

To commemorate their anniversary, they are unveiling a stunning range of collectible memorabilia ranging from a really lovely double oven mitt, to a really cute little Corgi toy butter van. There's also cake tins, tea towels, egg cups, butter dishes and cake stands, all featuring the Anchor Queen and Princess cow's along with the commemorative Anchor Crest. I was sent several items and I can attest first hand to the fact that they are adorable and very collectible. I love them all.

For more details you can check out their FACEBOOK PAGE. They are offeringa variety of prizes there and all sorts! You can also check out more information re their products etc. on the Arla Foods Homepage.

I especially love using it in my baked goods, and you know how much I bake. Yesterday we were having the missionaries over for supper again and I wanted to make them a really special dessert.

I had picked up some really tasty looking plums at our local shops the other day and had in mind to do something for the lads with them. Don't they look fabulous, all juicy and red!

I just love a crumble . . . or what we called a "Crisp" back where I was born. Over here they don't often add oats to the crumble topping, but we always had oats in it when I was growing up. I love the moreish wholesome texture and flavour that they add to this lovely dessert!

Just look at all that buttery and crunchy goodness!!! And this particular recipe gives you double the pleasure, because that delicious fruit filling is sandwiched between not one, but two layers of the oaty crumble! I couldn't think of a better way to use some of that delicious Anchor Butter, can you???

Just look at that delicious fruit filling . . . that crunchy buttery oaty crustiness . . . and that rich gilding of pouring cream . . . ahhh . . . mama mia!!!

I'll have you know it is Elder approved!! Elder D'Oppido from Italy really enjoyed tucking in to his, and even hammed it up for the camera . . . he's such an Italian! Very charming to say the least, but a good lad doing a good job. I am sure he's his mama's pride and joy!

*Double Crusted Plum Crisp*
Serves 8 to 10
Printable Recipe

Double the oaty buttery pleasure!

For the crumble:
7 ounces plain flour (1 1/3 cups)
3 1/2 ounces rolled oats (old fashioned not quick) (1 cup)
5 3/4 ounces soft light brown sugar (3/4 cup packed)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
10 TBS unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:
3 1/2 ounces granulated sugar (1/2 cup)
1 TBS cornflour (cornstarch)
pinch of fine sea salt
6 cups sliced fresh plums (about 16)
the juice of one lemon
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4.

Mix together the flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt for the crumble. Stir in the melted butter, combining all together well. Press a little more than half of this into a 9 inch square baking dish. Set aside and reserve the rest for a bit later on.

Rub the granulated sugar, cornflour and salt together for the filling. Toss together with the fruit, lemon juice and vanilla to combine. Spread this mixture evenly over the bottom layer of the crisp in the baking dish. Crumble the remaining crumble mixture on top evenly.

Bake in the middle of the oven for about 60 minutes, or until the crisp is golden brown and the filling is bubbling away through the crumble topping. Cool for 20 minutes before serving.

Delicious served with pouring cream or warm custard.

Note: Any leftovers will store well at room temperature for up to three days, tightly wrapped in cling film. Reheat in a warm (not hot) oven until heated through to serve.

Friday 29 July 2011

Everything But The Kitchen Sink Cookies and The Cookiepedia!

I was recently contacted by the people representing Quirk Publishers and asked if I would like to review a new cookbook, The Cookiepedia, by Stacy Adimando. I didn't have to be asked twice! I love cookbooks and I love cookbooks that are about baking even more . . . and I love cookie cookbooks MOST of all!!

True to their word it was pushed through my mailbox just a day later. I was surprised! It arrived very quickly. I couldn't wait to get stuck in.

At first glance it's a very attractive little book, with a delightfully whimsical cover. It almost reminded me of the paper bags I used to bring my lunches to school in, except much prettier! I love the colours and the way it feels in my hands. Plus it has a lovely sturdy wire lie flat binding, which I really liked. I hate it when I am using a cookery book and it keeps closing on me.
It's also chockerblock full of beautiful hand-drawn illustrations which spoke to the artist in me, lovely photographs which spoke to the glutton in me, and most important of all . . . very scrummy looking recipes! They've even made provisions for you to add your own notes to the various recipes, enabling you to make them your very own.

It's deliciously divided into sections:
  • The ABC's of Cookie Baking
  • Buttery Cookies
  • Chocolaty Cookies
  • Fancy Cookies
  • Fruity Cookies
  • Spicy Cookies
  • Nutty and Seedy Cookies
The only problem I had was in choosing what to bake first! Featuring over 50 classic recipes, which the Author has put her own twist on . . . recipes which include such tasty favourites as Snickerdoodles, Gingersnaps, Rugelach and dozens of others I had a really difficult time making up my mind which one I wanted to feature.

I finally chose Everything But the Kitchen Sink Cookies. These were humongous and included . . . well . . . everything but the kitchen sink!! It looked like a fabulously tasty way to use up some little bits and bobs that I had in my larder, that were not enough, in measure, to make anything on their own with, but were just perfect for this recipe! After reading the list of the author's add ins, I was sorely tempted to go out and buy a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos because they sounded, oddly enough, like an incredible addition . . . but I resisted temptation and stuck with what I already had on hand.

I was so very pleased with the results. You can see what I used as my sweet and savoury add ins at the bottom of this post. I ended up with more than one and a half dozen moreishly scrummy cookies that are almost too dangerous to have around.

The author is Stacy Adimando, who is the current deputy lifestyle editor or Everyday with Rachael Ray, and is also a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education and a weekly contributor to Serious Eats. All in all I think she should be very proud of this first book of hers. I, for one, love it and I am sure it will be very popular with anyone who loves baking cookies and is looking for something that is at once familiar and yet at the same time quirkily different. This book has immediately been placed in the section of favourites in my vast cookbook collection.

In short I highly recommend! Many thanks to Mat at PGUK and Quirk Publishers for affording me this wonderful opportunity, and also to Stacy Adimando for having written a beautifully tasty book, full stop!

Available for purchase at most booksellers, both online and off.

*Everything but the Kitchen Sink Cookies*
Makes a dozen and a half very large cookies
Printable Recipe

What can I say . . . very moreish!!

8 ounces of unsalted butter at room temperature (1 cup)
7 ounces caster sugar (1 cup)
3 3/4 ounces soft light brown sugar (1/2 cup packed)
1 large free range egg, plus 1 egg white
2 tsp vanilla extract
8 1/2 ounces plain flour (2 cups)
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp fine sea salt (1 tsp kosher)
1 cup of your favourite sweet add ins (peanut butter chips, chocolate chips, dried cranberries, sultanas, coconut flakes etc.)
1 1/2 cups of your favourite salty snacks (corn chips, tortilla chips, potato chips, pretzels, peanuts, etc.)

Preheat the oven to 190*C/375*F/ gas mark 6. Line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

Cream together the butter and both sugars until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and the eggs and continue to beat until well combined on low speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl as need be.

Whisk together the soda, baking powder, salt and flour. Add to the wet ingredients in two batches, mixing well each time to fully incorporate.

Pour your sweet mix ins into the bowl. Break up the salty snacks as necessary and dump those in as well. Use a spatula to mix all together. (It should like quite full of bits, but that is a good thing!)

Drop by 2 heaping tablespoonsful onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving at least 2 inches between each one. Bake, rotating the baking sheets halfway through the baking time, for about 16 to 19 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

Other tasty add ins:
Honey roasted nuts
whole espresso beans
cupcake sprinkles
white chocolate chips
tortilla chips
cheese puffs
toffee bits
yoghurt raisins
asian snack mix
wasabi peas
chocolate shavings
breakfast cereal
cool ranch doritos
salted corn nuts
chocolate covered peanuts

What I used:
Cinnamon chips
white chocolate chips
dried cranberries
salted potato chips
salted macadamia and cashew nut mix

Thursday 28 July 2011

Courgette and Dolcelatte Picnic Tortilla

This week we are finally having beautiful summery weather . . . hot and sunny . . perfect picnic weather. Not the kind of weather that you really want to heat up the kitchen by cooking a roast dinner or some such.

The quicker and cooler the better. It's also portable food weather . . . you know the kind I mean . . . the kind that can be easily wrapped and transported in to the great outdoors where you can enjoy it surrounded by all that is good about nature and summer!

Tortillas are the perfect summer food. Easy and quick to make, they are equally as delicious served warm or cold. They are very easily cut into wedges and wrapped and fit perfectly into a picnic basket. They're also fairy sturdy and can't be too awfully damaged by a lot of jostling around!

They also very versatile. Basically they are not much more than a baked omelette, filled with your favourite scrummy ingredients . . . tasty things like herbs, olives, tomatoes, peppers, onions, mushrooms, chorizo, etc. Even leftover spaghetti and macaroni and cheese make great tortilla fillings.

Beaten eggs with your favourite savoury weaknesses folded in . . . browned in a well oiled skillet until set on the bottom . . . then popped under the grill to brown the top and set the whole thing together.

Cheese is nice. Cheddar, mozzarella, parmesan . . . tuck in your own chosen poison. Today I have chosen simple courgettes and new potatoes from the garden . . . and rich soft lucious dolcelatte cheese. Oh so delicious!

*Courgette and Dolcelatte Picnic Tortilla*
Serves 4
Printable Recipe

Delicious served warm from the pan, or wrapped up and served at room temperature at a picnic. Easy to transport. Goes very well with crusty bread, sliced ripe tomatoes and olives.

9 ounces of new potatoes (You want a waxy potato, a generous half pound), ends trimmed off
and cut into thick slices
2 medium courgettes, ends trimmed and cut into thick slices (zucchini)
5 large free range eggs
1 clove of garlic, peeled and minced
2 TBS snipped fresh chives
1 TBS olive oil
3 ounces dolcelatte cheese, broken into pieces
Sliced tomatoes, crusty bread and black olives to serve
salt and black pepper

Bring a saucepan of water to the boil. Add the potato slices. When the water comes back to the boil, cook the potatoes for 2 minutes. Add the courgettes and cook for two minutes longer and then drain everything well.

Turn the grill on to high. Beat together the eggs, garlic, chives and season very well with salt and black pepper. Stir in the vegetables.

Heat the olive oil in a nonstick skillet, with an oven proof handle. Pour in the egg mixture. Smooth it all out. Tuck in the dolcelatte cheese here and there. Cook, undisturbed for about 5 minutes, until nicely browned on the bottom. Place under the grill for an additional 5 to 8 minutes, until the top is set and golden brown. (If you pan doesn't have an oven proof handle, cover it with foil.)

Serve warm or cold, cut into wedges along with sliced crusty bread, sliced ripe tomatoes and ripe olives. Delicious!

Wednesday 27 July 2011

Chicken Curry with Rice

This recipe here today is in honor of a good friend of mine named Jo. She just loves a good curry, and like me, she is always trying to watch her weight! (She's a bit better at it than I am though!)

Jo used to be the housekeeper at the Manor when I first started working there. Over the years we became good friends, and I really missed her when she and her husband left the area to pursue their dreams. She's now a Chiropodist, and her husband, well . . . he is still a plumber, but quite happy in his work!

Jo and her husband took me out to my very first Indian Restaurant actually! We had a really good time. They also took us to our very first Gherka Restaurant, and introduced us both to Thai Food as well! I guess you could say that they are very worldly in their tastes when they eat out!

They also enjoy a good curry at home. Colin likes the blow your head off kind . . . a hearty hot Madras, whilst Jo opts for something a bit milder.

This is probably a bit too mild for her, but she (and you) can certainly adjust the heat by adding more tikka paste, or even some chili powder. I found it just right for me. One thing she won't mind though is the fact that it's relatively low in fat and filled with lovely spinach, both for colour and texture.

So anyways, I never eat a curry now without thinking about Jo, and giving her a nod of thanks for having broadened my tastes!

*Chicken Curry with Rice*
Serves 4
Printable Recipe

This is quick and easy and relatively low in fat. There is no cream or coconut milk added. The spinach makes it quite healthy as well. You could cut the fat even more by using chicken breast meat instead of thighs. I think you could safely cut the oil in half as well.

2 TBS vegetable oil
1 onion, peeled and finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (trim off any fat and discard, then cut into strips)
2 TBS tikka masala curry paste
200g tin of chopped tomatoes (2 cups of chopped tomatoes in tomato juice)
450ml of hot vegetable stock (1 1/2 cups) (Use low salt stock)
7 ounces basamati rice (3/4 cup)
1 tsp salt
1/2 pound of baby leaf spinach (225g)
naan bread and mango chutney to serve

Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the onion and fry, stirring, over medium heat, for about 5 minutes until golden. Add the garlic and chicken. Stir fry for another 5 minutes, until golden.

Add the curry paste, tomatoes and stock. Stir and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and simmer on low heat for about 15 minutes, giving it a stir every so often to make sure it doesn't catch on the bottom.

While the chicken is cooking, cook the rice. Bring 1 pint of water to the boil. (2 cups) Add the rice and salt and stir. Cover and reduce the heat to it's lowest setting. Cook for the time stated on the package of rice. Once cooked, cover with a teatowel and the lid. Leave for 5 minutes to absorb the steam.

Stir the spinach into the curry and cook until just wilted. Spoon the rice into heated bowls. Ladle on the curry and serve immediately, along with the naan bread and some mango chutney.

You can get a good Peshwari Naan Bread recipe here. It's delicious!

Tuesday 26 July 2011

Pork, Bacon and Sage Escalopes

I have had this recipe kicking around my recipe files for several years now. It comes from a little booklet that I picked up at our local Waitrose when we were living down South in Kent.

It's entitled Essential Summer, Waitrose Seasons Cookbook 2009. I always love the Waitrose recipes. They are usually very, very good.

Actually I really miss Waitrose up here in Chester. The food they sold was always of exceptional quality. It may have cost a bit more, but I never ended up having to throw any of it away. Today alone I had to throw away a packet of spring onions and half a cucumber. I only bought them on Friday. I won't say where . . . unfortunately they had already turned, in just 3 days. That shouldn't happen, but it happens all too often. It's a disgrace!

Anyways, back to the recipe. Delicious pork loin steaks, cut in half and pounded until thin . . . wrapped in bacon strips, with some sage leaves tucked in . . . brushed with a grainy mustard oil and then grilled on the barbeque until scrummy delicious.

Served up with a moreish honey and grainy mustard dressing, they were fabulous!

*Pork, Bacon and Sage Escalopes*
Serves 6
Printable Recipe

Delicious pork cutlets, flavoured with sage, wrapped in bacon, brushed with a mustard flavoured oil and grilled until scrum yum delicious!

3 thin pork loin steaks (about 1 pound in total) (Preferably free range, organic)
6 rashers of thin cut smoked streaky bacon (dry cure)
14 large sage leaves
4 tsp grainy mustard
1 TBS clear honey
4 TBS mild olive oil
2 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Prepare and light the grill. Cut the pork loin steaks in half, then pound them lightly between two sheets of clingfilm until they are about 1/4 inch thick with a rolling pin, taking care not to tear the meat.

Wrap a rasher of bacon around each piece of meat, tucking in two sage leaves and securing the bacon and sage leaves in place with wooden picks. Place in the refrigerator to chill while you make the oil and dressing.

Whisk together 2 tsp of the mustard, along with the honey, 2 TBS of the oil, the white wine vinegar and the Worcestershire Sauce. Set aside for the dressing.

Whisk together the remaining oil and mustard. Finely chop the remaining sage leaves and stir in. This will be used for basting the pork while you are cooking it.

Cook the meat on the barbeque for approximately 3 to 5 minutes per side, basting with the mustard oil mixture, until the juices run clear. Serve hot with some of the mustard honey dressing spooned over top.

Note: To cook indoors, grill in a hot skillet, gently frying on both sides for about 3 to 4 minutes per side and brushing with the mustard flavoured oil.