“She turned to the sunlight
And shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbor:
"Winter is dead.”
~AA Milne, when we were very young
NOTE: I am away at the moment helping my mother with her treatment for lung cancer. I have set up a few posts to post whilst I am away as a special surprise. Some are new and some are reposts of old favourites that you may have forgotten, or if you are a new reader may not even have seen. I'll be back at the end of May, but in the meantime . . . Enjoy!
PS - I will only have sporadic internet use, so if you ask a question and I don't get back to you . . . it's not that I don't want to. It just may take me a while.
Wednesday, 30 December 2009
Here in the UK, we have the best cheddar cheese in the world. Originating from the village of Cheddar in Sommerset, rich and tasty cheddar cheese remains the most popular cheese in the country. I do have to admit that we in this household eat a fair bit of it, and Todd finds it very annoying when we go over to the continent to France, and he can't find Cheddar . . . he's such a Brit! To him, the only cheese worth eating at all is cheddar . . .
Cheddar Cheese Bread is one of our favourite types of quick breads that I make here in my English Kitchen. I like to sprinkle Parmesan cheese that I have grated on a box grater on the bottom of the loaf tin and again on the top of the batter before I bake it. This gives it a lovely crunch and texture . . .
You don't have to use cheddar if you don't want to. Asiago cheese, crumbled into small bits is pretty good as is Gruyere cut into small chunks. When I use Gruyere I also like to add little bits of chopped ham or crumbled bacon. Yummy good.
But . . . our favourite cheese to use is extra mature Cheddar, for it's rich tangy flavour. If you really want to make it special, mince a small onion and saute it in a bit of butter and add that along with the cheese before baking, or a bunch of spring onions, sliced and slightly wilted in some butter is mighty tasty as well.
mmmm . . . cheese and onion . . . a favourite flavour here in the UK.
In any case, this bread is a real pleaser and goes wonderfully well with soups, stews, and chili's . . . try it sliced and spread with butter and served with cold meats and chutney's, for another tasty treat.
Any way you cut it . . . this tasty bread is just wonderful . . . seriously.
Just think . . . crunchy cheesy crust on the exterior . . . rich pockets of cheese on the interior.
What's not to like???
*Cheddar Cheese Bread*
Makes one 8 inch loaf
This bread is the perfect go with to have with soups or stews. Try it toasted and then buttered for breakfast with your eggs next time. Absolutely fabulous! You want to cut the cheddar into small chunks instead of grating it so that you end up with lovely pockets of lucious cheese interspered throughout the loaf.
3 ounces Parmesan Reggiano cheese, grated on the large holes of a box grater (1 cup)
12 1/2 ounces flour (2 1/2 cups)
1 TBS baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp coarse ground black pepper
4 ounces extra sharp cheese, cut into small cubes (1 cup)
(Do not grate)
250ml whole milk (1 cup)
2 heaped dessertspoons of sour cream (about 1/2 cup)
3 TBS melted butter
1 large egg
Pre-heat the oven to 180*C/350*F. Butter a 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inch loaf pan. Sprinkle half of the grated parmesan cheese evenly over the bottom of the pan. Set aside.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cayenne pepper, and black pepper. Stir in the cheddar cheese, making sure it is well coated with the flour and each piece is separate.
Whisk together the milk, egg, sour cream and melted butter.
Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and stir in the wet, stirring only to combine without overmixing. The batter will be thick and heavy. Spread into the prepared loaf tin, smoothng over the top. Sprinkle the remainder of the grated Parmesan over top.
Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, turning the pan around halfway through the baking time. The loaf is done with a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean and the top is golden brown. Allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to finish cooling. Allow to cool for at least an hour before cutting.
Tuesday, 29 December 2009
What lies beneath that deliciously rich mountain of crumbled stilton . . .
left over from our Holiday excesses . . .
A tasty creamy snowy bed . . . of course . . . composed of tasty mayonnaise and Greek yoghurt, with a bit of Dijon and seasonings . . .
But that is not all . . . no . . . that is not all . . .
Can you see the tasty bits of colour peeking through the glass . . . all prettily layered beneath that crumbly cheese mountain and creamy snow . . .
Delicious layers of chopped cooked turkey and ham, sliced boiled egg, peas, spring onions, crisply shredded lettuce and carrot . . . all laying there, just waiting for you to dip in your fork and partake of it's lovely flavours.
After all the excess of the recent holiday meals and parties . . . it is a most refreshing and healthy alternative . . . especially when you choose to use low fat mayo and yoghurt. Tis also a great way to use up some of that leftover turkey, ham and cheese . . .
This is a great salad that is easily adapted to what you have on hand and the number of people in residence . . . I have done it for as few as two people and as many as 1o . . . tis always warmly received, and a most popular dish on the buffet table.
If you don't have any leftover ham or turkey you can always use packaged sliced meats which are also quite good, or replace the ham with bacon. Delicious!!
*Holiday Chopped Salad*
Serves 4 to 6
This is a great salad as the ingredients and their amounts can be adjusted to the amount of people and their likes. I always finely chop everything. Of course you can have this anytime of the year, but it's especially nice after all the indulgences of Christmas. Layer everything in a pretty glass bowl that is shallow enough for all your guests to be able to scoop out some of each layer and also clear so that your guests can admire the pretty coloured layers.
1 head of cos lettuce, shredded
4 ounces cooked ham chopped
4 large eggs, hard boiled and chopped
4 ounces cooked turkey, chopped
4 to 5 spring onions, finely shredded
8 ounces of frozen petit pois, thawed
1 large carrot, grated
200g of low fat mayonnaise
200g of Greek style yoghurt
1 heaped tsp of Dijon mustard
1 tsp sugar
salt and black pepper to taste
8 ounces of stilton cheese, crumbled
Place the shredded lettuce in the bottom of a large diameter shallow pretty glass bowl. Sprinkle the ham over top, followed by the egg, turkey, onions, peas and carrots, spreading each one out evenly. Whisk together the mayonnaise, yoghurt and mustard. Stir in the sugar, salt and pepper. Spread this mixture over top of everything. Sprinkle the stilton cheese over top. Cover and chill for several hours before serving. Delicious!
Monday, 28 December 2009
Celeriac . . . celeriac . . .
Upon first glance, one might be forgiven if they were to pass over this quite hideous looking vegetable. Almost alien-like in appearance it might seem a bit scary to some . . . but don't be put off . . .
Beneath that ugly covering, hides a pleasantly flavoured vegetable, not unlike a mild celery, sweetly scented and very versatile. We just love it here in The English Kitchen . . . we really do.
Raw, and cut into thin strips, it's a lovely addition to salads, or grated and mixed with a mustardy flavoured mayonnaise to serve as a remoulade. I love it boiled, along with a few sprigs of fresh thyme, and then mashed into a tasty puree. It's also fantastic thinly sliced, and gratineed in a tasty garlic cream, beneath a bed of buttery crumbs . . .
It's flavour is very mild and pleasant and goes so very well with other flavours . . . so much so that it ends up being used quite frequently in my kitchen, not the least of which is in this very tasty soup . . . the perfect blend of vegetable . . . sweet fruit . . . and tangy cheese. It is really lovely . . . truly it is a real favourite of ours . . .
It's so good in fact that when I took it to a cooking show that I appeared on several winter's ago, Paul Rankin declared it "Gorgeous" in that sexy Irish brogue of his . . . sigh . . .
but I digress . . .
This is the perfect soup to help to wean you from all that excess of the holidays . . .
and to help to use up that leftover stilton, of course!
*Celeriac, Stilton and Apple Soup*
This delicious soup is a wonderful marriage of the mild flavoured celeriac, sweet apple and savoury, rich tasting cheese. Gorgonzola and Roquefort also work well if you have a difficult time finding Stilton. Over here in the UK though, Stilton is King.
4 TBS butter
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 large celeriacs, peeled and cut into chunks
1 large baking potato, peeled and cut into chunks
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
2 large granny smith apples, peeled, cored and quartered
2 litres of Vegetable Stock
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 ounces Stilton cheese, crumbled
celery leaves (optional)
crumbled stilton (optional)
lightly sauteed apple slices (optional)
Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions, celeriac, potato and garlic. Sweat gently for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally and taking great care not to allow them to brown. If you find they are beginning to catch, you can add a bit of the stock. After the 10 minutes, add the apples and enough of the vegetable stock to cover. Season generously with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, then reduce the temperature and simmer gently for about 40 minutes. All the vegetables and fruit should be fork tender. Once they are all tender, using a hand held stick blender, puree the soup until smooth. If you don't have one of these then you can do it in the blender in batches, but take great care as hot liquids in the blender have a tendancy to explode, so only do small amounts until you have it completely done. Add the stilton cheese and heat, stirring constantly until the cheese has completely melted. Serve ladled into hot soup bowls with a garnish as desired.
Sunday, 27 December 2009
Okay, I promise you this will be the last mincemeat post I'll do the whole rest of the holidays. I know you are probably getting tired of them, but . . . I do love mincemeat . . . and this is the season of mincemeat afterall . . .
I got to thinking the other day about different ways that I could use up some of those bazillion jars of the stuff that I created, and this idea just popped into my mind.
Imagine a silky vanilla flavoured and slightly spiced custard, floating atop a spicy sweet compote of mincemeat. Ohhhh . . . such beautiful textures and flavours. Each mouthful gives you that wonderfully rich custard flavour and then that lovely spiced fruity mincemeat flavour . . . it goes without saying that you need to use mincemeat that it wholly made with fruit . . . the other kind just doesn't bear thinking about!
This is sooo good. I'm glad I thunk it up . . . and if I didn't, please don't tell me and burst my bubble. I like thinking I invented something, I truly do . . .
Todd ate three of them all by himself . . .
and as for the other three???
I ain't saying . . .
*Baked Holiday Custard*
Imagine silky vanilla flavoured custard atop a spicy sweet compote. That's baked vanilla and mincemeat custard. This is fabulous, truly fabulous.
100g golden caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla paste
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
4 large eggs
18 ounces whole cream milk
411g jar of mincemeat
Icing sugar to dust
Preheat the oven to 160*c/325*F. Place 6 large custard cups (6 ounce size) into a large shallow roasting pan. Set aside.
Place the milk along with the vanilla paste, nutmeg and cinnamon into a saucepan and heat just until bubbles appear around the edges. Remove from the heat and let sit for about 15 minutes. In the meantime, whisk the eggs together with the sugar. Whisk a little bit of the heated milk into the egg mixture to temper it, and then whisk the egg mixture into the milk, whisking it all together completely.
Divide the mincemeat evenly between the six custard cups. Pour the liquid mixture over top without disturbing the mincemeat, dividing it equally amongst them. Pour boiling water into the roasting pan to come up about half way up the sides of the custard cups. Place in the heated oven and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the custard jiggles only in the centre when you tap the cup lightly. Remove from the oven and from the roasting pan to a wire rack to cool before eating. Dust with icing sugar and eat at room temperature. Delicious!
Note - I am thinking this would work with all kinds of compotes on the bottom. Next time I think I'll try cherry or rhubarb, or even apple! My tastebuds are tingling just thinking about it!!!
Saturday, 26 December 2009
One turkey, one ham, a pan full of chipolatas, two types of stuffing, swede, carrots, sprouts and parsnips . . . .
A pot of gravy, two bowls of cranberry and a lovely Christmas chutney . . .
Not to mention copious amounts of sparkling grape juice, peartizer, Christmas pudding, Christmas Cake, Eggnogg Cake and Mince Pies . . .
We are sitting here replete and stuffed to the gills . . . the last thing on our minds tonight is food . . .
and yet . . .
There's a lovely bowl of this delicious vegetable gratin sitting in the fridge . . . just waiting for me to pick at . . . if anything this only tastes better for having sat in the fridge overnight.
*Winter Vegetable Gratin*
A wonderful combination of winter root vegetables, all roasted together with cream and a buttered cheese and crumb topping. Makes a tasty side dish for that meat lover of yours, or a wonderful vegetarian main! You may use the vegetables I have suggested here, or vary them according to what you have on hand. Sweet potatoes and butternut squash are also very good in this.
8 ounces celeriac, peeled and cut into cubes
1 carrot, peeled and cut into rounds
1 parsnip, peeled and cut into semi circles
1 swede, peeled and cut into chunks
2 potatoes, peeled and cut into cunks
8 ounces light cream
1 fat clove of garlic, crushed
1 tsp dry mustard powder
25g fresh rye or whole wheat bread crumbs
2 TBS freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tsp marjoram leaves
2 TBS melted butter
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 180*C/350*F. Butter a shallow ovenproof dish. Set aside.
Bring a large saucepan of lightly salted water to the boil. Add the vegetables. Cook for 10 minutes, then drain well. Place in a large bowl.
Whisk the cream, garlic and mustard powder together in a saucepan. Heat, stirring constantly, over medium heat, cooking for about 10 minutes, until the mixture is thickened like a cistard, and coats the back of a metal spoon. Remove from the heat and pou rover the vegetables in the bowl. Spread into the prepared baking dish. Season with some salt and pepper.
Mix together the bread crumbs, cheese and marjoram leaves. Sprinkle evenly over top of the vegetables. Drizzle the melted butter on top.
Bake in the heated oven for about 40 minutes, until the crumbs are golden brown and the cream around the edge of the dish has turned a golden brown and is a bit crusty. Remove from the oven and allow to cool somewhat. Serve warm. Delicious!
Tomorrow the leftovers from today's delicious repast . . . for now . . . groan, we relax . . . Oh how wonderful it is to live in the land of plenty . . .
Thursday, 24 December 2009
Some people hate mince pies. Some people hate Christmas pudding. Some people I know, even hate fruit cake!
I know . . . there is just no pleasing some people . . .
I'm pretty sure this will please them though.
Eggnog cake. Moist, delicious and fragrant with the smells of orange, nutmeg and, well, egg nog!
A nice fat slice of this, with some ice cream or whipped cream on top, will go down a treat with even the pickest guest you may have at your table over the holidays. I guarantee!
As Tiny Tim would say . . . God bless us, everyone!
*Eggnog Pound Cake*
Makes 1 10-inch bundt cake
A deliciously festive cake filled with the lovely flavours of eggnog, cranberries and orange. This smells just fabulous when it is baking! Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.
1/2 cup dried cranberries (50g)
2 TBS dark rum or water
1 cup butter, room temperature (8 ounces)
2 cups white sugar (400g)
3 large eggs
3 cups flour (420g)
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup storebought eggnog (250ml)
(See note below)
1 tsp vanilla
1 TBS freshly grated orange zest
For the Glaze:
3 TBS orange juice
1 TBS dark rum (or an additional TBS of orange juice)
3/4 cup sugar
Pre-heat the oven to 160*C/325*F. Grease and flour a 10 inch bundt pan really well. Set aside.
Place the cranberries in a small bowl and cover with the rum or water. Set aside.
Using an electric mixer on medium speed, cream the butter and sugar to gether until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. Add to the creamed mixture, on low speed, alternately with the egg nog, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Fold in the orange zest, cranberries and any liquid in the bowl. Spoon the batter into the prepared bundt pan, smoothing the top over. Bake for 55 to 65 minutes or until it tests down when a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before turning out onto a rack.
Prepare the glaze by blending together the orange juice, sugar and rum, until the sugar is about melted. Using a pastry brush, brush this glaze all over the surface of the warm cake, brushing it again and again until all the glaze is used and has been absorbed by the cake. Serve at room temperature, cut into slices with your preferred accompaniment.
Note - if you are unable to get eggnog use an equal amount of whipping cream and increase the measure of grated nutmeg to 1/2 tsp.
Wednesday, 23 December 2009
Remember the Christmas Cake that I baked a few weeks back? (See recipe HERE.) No recipe here today, just my decorated and finished Christmas Cake. Whew! I thought I was never ever going to get around to doing it.
Oh, I had big plans . . . fancy cutouts, cutsie little shaped people, a manger, some angels and maybe some sheep. Todd wanted me to just leave it plain . . .
I'm not a plain kind of gal . . . in the end, however, I settled for simple. Mostly because I ran out of that thing none of us has in abundance at this time of year . . . time.
First, I filled in any holes left on the top of the cake from bits of fruit etc. with some spare golden marzipan. I then brushed the cake all over with some heated apricot jam, which I had strained through a strainer. Once it felt tacky, I applied a layer of golden marzipan all over, which I had rolled out flat to fit. A round circle for the top, and a length of marzipan the height of the cake and as long again as it's circumferance to place around the sides..
Ideally this should have sat for several days to dry, but I ran out of time . . . being the procrastinator that I am and all that.
I then coated it with a fluffy fondant icing and sprinkled the top with some blue and white snowflake candy decorations I had and some of these beautifully large silver dragees that I got at Marks and Spencers.
I finished it off with a dusting of edible glitter and a pretty blue bow.
I think it will do . . . how about you?
Next year I'm going to start it a lot earlier. That's a promise. But don't hold me to it, ok?
Tuesday, 22 December 2009
Everyone needs a good company dish up their sleeve that they can whip together as quick as a blink. You know . . . for those times when someone drops in unexpectedly and you just want to sit down and break bread together.
Something quick that uses store cupboard ingredients . . . yet is special enough to feed company.
Something that tastes soooo gorgeous, they will think you slaved all day over the stove . . .
but in reality, you threw together in about 20 minutes . . . and that's stretching it!
This fits the bill on all accounts. Quick, easy, gorgeously delicious and using ingredients most of us foodies have in our store cupboards and freezer most of the time
Got pasta, sun dried tomatoes, chicken breasts, cream and basil???
Then you got this!
Seriously, that is about all it takes! Well, that and a few minutes of your time. Actually not much longer than it takes to cook the pasta and set the table. Easy peasy lemon squeezy!
All you need to go with it is a crusty loaf of Italian bread and a salad. Don 't even think about the calories. This will make you famous, it's a signature dish if I ever saw one . . .
and that, my friends, is well worth the price in extra inchage on the hips. Trust me.
*Chicken with Sundried Tomato and Basil Cream*
Serves 4 to 6
Rich and delicious. This is quite simple and quick to make, but special enough to feed to even the most discerning of your dinner guests. Tis a real ravable dish! Scrumdiddlyumptious!
For the chicken:
1 TBS butter
1 TBS olive oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2 in ch strips crosswise
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 eschalon shallot, peeled and minced
(or 1/4 cup of minced ordinary shallots)
75ml oil packed sun dried tomatoes, drained, blotted and chopped finely
1 TBS sun dried tomato paste
150ml double cream
124ml dry white wine
a handful of freesh basil leaves, cut chiffonade
(roll up tightly into a cigar shaped bundle and slice thinly across the grain)
Melt the butter and oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the chicken, season with salt and black pepper, and cook, until golden brown on all sides and just cooked through.. Remove to a plate and set aside. Add the shallots to the drippings in the skillet. Cook and stir until softened. Stir in the sun dried tomatoes, cream, wine and tomato paste. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and cook, stirring occasionally until thickened. Stir in the basil. Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed. Stir in the chicken and heat through.
Cook the spaghetti until al dente, according to the package directions, about 10 minutes. Drain well, reserving some of the pasta water. Stir the pasta into the sauce, adding some of the pasta water to thin if necessary. Serve immediately.