“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.
Sunday, 28 February 2010
I really spoiled my Todd today. He is from the generation that was raised on hearty, stodgy school dinners . . . plates filled with cooked to the death cabbage and vegetables and meat . . . not all that appealing to most people, but there are still a few brave souls about who loved them.
I never had the priviledge of experiencing them myself, but I really think I would have been one of the lovers.
The best part of school dinners was the pudding . . . spotted Dick, jam roly poly, treacle sponge . . . all delicious and hearty and very filling.
I have wanted to make Sussex Pond Pudding for a long time. As you know I love lemon anything and, from the very first time I read about it, I had the inclination to make one.
Sussex Pond Pudding is a traditional English suet pudding, believed to have originated in the county of Sussex. A rich suet pastry encases a delicious filling of brown sugar and butter, with a whole lemon situated in the centre. As the pudding steams, the lemon softens and flavours the butter and brown sugar, the whole mixture amalgamating to form a deliciously rich sauce, which oozes out onto the plate when the pudding is cut open to serve.
After cooking for so long, the skin of the lemon almost candies like a marmelade in its own juices and that of the butter and sugar. It is said that only the very "hardiest" of souls are brave enough to eat the 'frog' as it is called, the suet crust and the sauce being the best parts.
But do scrape out the inside flesh of the lemon to mingle with that buttery rich deliciousness . . . Yes, it is seriously indulgent . . . but a wonderful once in a blue moon treat. Why not go whole hog and serve it up with lashings of cream???
Why not indeed! It should come with a health warning, of course, but what a way to go!
*Sussex Pond Pudding*
serves 4 to 6
A deliciously rich pudding with a wonderful butter lemon flavour. This is fabulous!
120g self raising flour, sifted
100g fresh soft white breadcrumbs
the finely grated zest of one unwaxed lemon, plus 1 whole lemon
120g shredded suet
pinch of salt
about 90ml of milk, more less as needed
100g cold butter, diced
100g light muscovado sugar (or soft light brown if that's all you have)
Whisk the flour, breadcrumbs, lemon zest, suet and salt together in a large bowl. Add just enough milk to bring the dough together. Roll the dough out to a circle large enough to fit into a 1 litre pudding basin. Cut a wedge out of it, using about 1/4 of the circle. Take the remaining piece of the circle and place it into the pudding basin, pressing it to fit and pressing the cut edges together so there are no holes. Trim the top leaving just a bit of overhang. Take the lemon and roll it on your work top to release the juices, then prick it all over with a toothpick or skewer. Remove any stem if present and discard. Place half of the sugar and butter into the bottom of the pastry lined basin. Top with the pricked lemon. Place the remaining butter and sugar around the sides. Shape the wedge which you have removed from the pastry, along with any trimmings into a ball, and then roll it out into a ccircle large enough to cover the top of the bowl. Place this lid on top of the lemon/sugar mixture. Brush the edges with milk and then fold them over top of the lid, sealing it completely.
Cut a large circle of baking paper. Fold a pleat in the centre to allow for expansion and then fit it over the top of the pudding basin, tying it in place with some string. Place the pudding basin in a large pan with boiling water that comes halfway up the sides. Cover and cook over low heat for 2 1/2 hours, checking from time to time and replenishing water as needed.
When the 2 1/2 hours are up, carefully remove the pudding basin from the pot. Remove the baking paper and string. Run a knife around the edge of the pudding. Place a deep plate on top and invert it. Serve warm and in wedges with the buttery sauce that spills out and if you are feeling really indulgent, lashings of cream!
Saturday, 27 February 2010
Dust off your sombrero and break out the pinatas! I'm going all Mexican on you here today. I know . . . this is supposed to be The English Kitchen . . . but variety is the spice of life after all . . . and as Mexican as this may be . . . it was cooked in an English kitchen!
Mexican food is one of my favourite treats! Oh, how I love all the warm Mexican spices . . . cumin, coriander . . . chilies.
Just the thought of them can make my tastebuds start tingling and my mouth watering.
Back home there was a tasty little Mexican restaurant that we used to love to go to . . . where the fajitas were served sizzling at your table on your very own cast iron skillet . . . my but they were good. Strawberry margaritas . . . they were good too, but I don't drink those anymore. If anyone knows how to make one without alcohol, I'd be interested!
Anyways, I had some cooked chicken that I needed to use up and I thought why not go all Mexican here. I was in the mood for a real fiesta!
I love chimichangas with their crunchy tortilla wrappings and cheesy, spicy fillings. One of my Mexican favourites for sure . . . along with nachos and burritos and . . . oh my, don't get me started. I love it all!
These tasty chimichangas were the perfect way to use up that leftover chicken. Don't you just love it when you can take something that's already been used and fix it up with a few things to make it all new again? I do!
I have a 72 year old husband so these are somewhat on the tame side. You can of course make them a lot spicier by using a spicy cheese, and adding some hot chilies to the filling. As well, the condiments can be chosen with more heat if desired!
Serves 6 to 8
You can make these even spicier by using a cheese with added jalapeno peppers etc. These are so easy and incredibly tasty! A great way to use leftovers too!
2 large cooked chicken breasts, shredded
salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste
1 TBS butter
10 (8 inch) flour tortillas
8 ounces shredded Monterey Jack Cheese
6 spring onions, chopped
a handful of pitted black olives, sliced
1 TBS vegetable oil (for cooking)
Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken and season with the salt, pepper and garlic powder. Saute for about 3 minutes or so. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Stir in the chopped spring onion, olives and cheese. Mix well together.
Spoon this mixture evenly onto the centre of the tortillas. Fold up side and roll up burrito style.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the rolled up tortillas and saute on all sides until golden brown all over. Serve on a bed of shredded lettuce and with your choice of toppings. Delicious!
Friday, 26 February 2010
One of my favourite desserts over here has to be Sticky Toffee Pudding. So rich and lovely, and incredibly moreish. And to think it was only a few years ago that I discovered it!!
We were holidaying up in the Lake District and I picked up one of the Sticky Toffee Puddings made by Cartnell and I was immediately bowled over. For a store bought pud, it was fabulous. So fabulous in fact that we ended up picking one up almost every day of our holiday and sitting back in our holiday cottage each night scarfing it down with delight!!
But what is a sticky toffee pudding . . . not much more than a tasty and moist date cake, topped with a luciously rich toffee sauce. They are incredibly yummy.
This cake is not quite as rich as a sticky toffee pudding, but my oh my it is delicious in it's own right.
The cake moreishly filled with dates and that toffee icing gilding the top is just to die for. You'll find yourself getting up in the middle of the night and raiding the larder for
just . . . one . . . more . . . piece.
Trust me. Would I lie to you? I think not!!
*Sticky Toffee Cake*
Makes 18 serving
Our favourite pudding in a cake!! This is a real winner!
8 ounces dried dates
300ml of water
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
6 ounces soft light brown sugar
4 ounces butter, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs, beaten
6 ounces self raising flour
For the icing:
6 TBS double cream
3 ounces soft light brown sugar
1 ounce butter
1 ounce icing sugar, sifted
Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F. Butter and base line a shallow 11 by 7 inch baking tin. Set aside.
Cut each date into 3 or 4 pices. Place in a saucepan along with the water. Bring to the boil, and then boil uncovered, for about 10 minutes, until all the water is absorbed and the dates have softened. Remove from the heat. Stir in the bicarbonate of soda and set aside to cool.
Cream together the butter and brown sugar. Stir in the vanilla. Gradually beat in the eggs and then fold in the cooled date mixture. Stir in the flour.
Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Smooth the surface. Bake for 35 minutes, until risen and just set. Remove from the oven and leave in the tin for 15 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.
For the icing, gently heat the cream, sugar and butter together in a small pan until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to the boil and then cook, uncovered for 4 minutes, until golden. Do not stir. Leave to cool. When cold, beat in the icing sugar until smooth. Using the back of a wet spoon, spread it over the cake. Leave to set before cutting into 18 rectangles.
Thursday, 25 February 2010
Everyone should have a recipe like this up their sleeves. A fabulous soup which makes good use of ingredients that are in most people's larders, and goes together lickety split . . . with very little effort.
Quick and easy . . . and simple to execute. Don't let that fool you into thinking that it's simplicity will affect it's taste. This is quite, quite delicious.
Your family will think you have slaved all day over it . . .
Just make sure you bury the tins deep in the bin, and your secret will be safe!
I promise not to tell. Cross my heart!
*Simply Tasty Tomato Soup*
Simple, tasty and very easy, this store cupboard soup is bound to become a family favourite.
1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 TBS butter
2 (400g) tins of dice plum tomatoes with garlic and olive oil
1 (295g) tin of condensed tomato soup (Batchelors or Campbells) undiluted
250ml of milk
boiling water as needed
dash of tabasco sauce
1 tsp dried basil (I use Bart Freeze Dried)
1 tsp dried parsley flakes (once again I use Bart Freeze Dried)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces grated cheddar cheese
Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the onion and saute, stirring occsionally, until softened. Stir in the undrained tomatoes, tinned soup and milk. Add enough boiling water to give you a desirable consistency. Bring almost to the boil. Stir in the tabasco, basil and parsley flakes. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook on low for 10 to 15 minutes until the flavours melt together. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Ladle out into heated bowls, garnishing each serving with some croutons and grated cheese.
By the way, I am giving away a tasty muffin cookbook and a pretty set of scales over on my other blog, A Year From Oak Cottage. Be sure to hop on over and check it out.
Wednesday, 24 February 2010
This is the time of year when I begin to reap the benefits of all those hours spent in the Bramble Hedges last autumn, picking bucket after bucket full of blackberries. I have bags and bags of them in the freezer, just waiting now for me to make them into lovely pies and crumbles. They look so pretty and promising coming out of the freezer, like little purple jewels all covered with frost.
There is nothing so satisfying as a delicious hedgerow fruit crumble in the dead of winter . . . it is something we really look forward to, and indeed it is the thoughts of just such treats as this that keep me in the hedgerows picking long after I feel tired and like giving up . . . the thoughts of a fresh crumble on a rainy winter's day . . . all warm from the oven, and juicy and sweet . . . beneath a blanket of buttery crumbs . . . along with lashings of warm custard or cold cream from the fridge gilding it's sweet edges . . . autumn berry picking is a labour of love . . . and perhaps more than a little gluttony . . .
This crumble is a bit different than most, in that you make a luscious toffee sauce to cook the fruit in . . . and the crumble on top is filled with lovely toasted almonds. Oh, it is soooo good. I could almost eat a whole meal of this and nothing else . . .
It is so pretty . . . the apples tinted in pink and ruby colours from the blackberries . . . the crumble topping golden brown and crisp . . . the cream soaking in around the edges of those crumbling buttery cliffs and meandering through the sweet/tart fruit . . .
A bowl of the leftovers for breakfast perhaps??? I think it would go down rather well, don't you??
*Apple and Blackberry Crumble*
A delectable mix of tart cooking apples, sweet bramble fruits and a luscious caramel sauce beneath a blanket of crisp and buttery almond crumble.
150 g caster sugar
100ml of water
60g unsalted butter
3 cooking apples (about 900g) peeled, cored and cut into 1/2 inch dice
50g of blackberries, fresh or frozen
1/2 tsp cinnamon
for the crumble:
75g soft light brown sugar
75g plain flour
75g flaked toasted almonds
75g unsalted butter
pouring cream, custard or vanilla ice cream
Preheat the oven to 190*C/375*F. Butter a shallow oval gratin dish and set it aside.
Place the caster sugar with the water into a heavy based saucepan. Simmer over medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until it becomes a delicious toffee gold. You will want to give it an initial stir to help the sugar dissolve, but after that leave it alone just until it begins to change colour. Add the butter in small pieces, whisking it well after each addition until the butter is completely incorporated. You should have a thick butterscotch sauce. Stir in the cinnamon. Add the apples and cook for an additional 4 or 5 minutes. The mixture will seize up, but don' be worried. This is completely natural and to be expected. It will loosen up and melt again as the pan continues to heat. After five minutes, pour the fruit mixture into the prepared baking dish. Tuck the blackberries here and there throughout.
Place all the ingredients for the crumble into the bowl of your food processor. Whizz until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Scatter the crumble mixture evenly over top of the fruit.
Bake for 40 minutes until the crumble is lightly golden and the fruit is bubbling around the edges.
Serve warm with your preferred accompaniment.
Tuesday, 23 February 2010
We just love cauliflower in this house. It's not something that I ever had as a child, but I am quite sure that I would have loved it . . . even then. I can make a meal of it. It's so very versatile.
It's fantastic curried, or made into creamy rich soup. Tasty roasted, and also fried. It makes a good substitute for potatoes when mashed or grated. (for all you low carbers out there!)
It's lovely raw, served up with a delicious aioli to dip it in . . . swooping large chunks down into all that garlicky goodness . . . mmmm . . . what a tasty mouthful. Or even chopped and added raw to salads. It gives them the most wonderful texture and crunch!
One of our favourite ways to eat it though . . . has to be cauliflower cheese. That beautiful crispy tender cooked cauliflower, laying all tastily beneath a rich blanket of cheese sauce and buttery crumbs. Here's where I could make a real pig of myself and eat the whole thing on my own . . . but I'm not that greedy, I do let Todd have some as well . . . sigh . . .
This is a very tasty upscale version of cauliflower cheese. The sauce is rich and tangy . . . and just loaded with strong cheddar cheese and chopped spring onions. The crumbs on top is where the big difference comes in.
Yes . . . they are buttery, but . . . they are also really flavourful, with the added tangy surprise of some creamed horseradish.
You are gonna love this. I promise!
*Cauliflower Gratin with A Horseradish Crust*
An upscale version of cauliflower cheese with a delicious crunchy crumb topping, all buttery and filled with the slight heat of horseradish. Delicious!
1 large head of cauliflower, about 3 pounds in weight
Trim and break into florets
4 TBS butter, divided
2 TBS plain flour
12 ounces milk
6 ounces strong cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
4 spring onions, the green parts only, finely chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
10 Italian crackers, coarsely crumbled
2 TBS creamed horseradish
Preheat the oven to 205*C/425*F. Butter a shallow gratin dish. Set aside.
Place the cauliflower florets into a saucepan of lightly salted water. Bring to the boil and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until just tender. Drain well and then place into the prepared gratin dish.
Melt 2 TBS of the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour. Cook, whisking for several minutes. Slowly whisk in the milk. Cook, whisking, until the mixture bubbles and thickens. Reduce heat to low, and simmer, whisking occasionally, for 8 minutes. Whisk in the cheese, spring onions, salt and pepper, whisking until the cheese is completely melted.
Melt the remaining 2 TBS of butter. Whisk in the horseradish sauce. Crumble the crackers into a bowl. Pour the butter/horseradish mixture over top and toss together.
Pour the cheese sauce evenly over the cauliflower florets in the gratin dish. Top with the crumb mixture. Bake in the heated oven for about 10 minutes, or until the topping is golden brown and the sauce is bubbling.
Monday, 22 February 2010
As I have said many times in the past, I love lemons. They have to be one of my favourite of all fruits. If I had to choose between chocolate cake and lemon cake, I'd be hard pressed to choose, but I think in the end . . . lemon would overcome.
I just love their fresh clean flavour and that lovely tang. I found myself this weekend having bought far too many lemons. (I have a tendancy to pick up a mesh bag of them almost every time I go to the shops. They come in ever so handy.)
Not a problem though as I also fancied some delicious homemade lemon curd. There is nothing as tasty as homemade lemon curd and it's not as hard to make as some would suppose.
Some handy hints for lemons. Keep them at room temperature and you will get far more juice from them than if you keep them in the fridge. Also give them a good roll between the palm of your hand and the counter top before juicing, and you'll get absolutely the most juice that you possibly can from them! I Love my wooden lemon juicer. It works like a charm and I would not be without one now!
Back to Lemon Curd. This recipe makes rather a lot, but it is such a wonderful thing to have in the fridge. I use it all the time. It is just wonderful spread on warm scones and bread, in between cake layers, on top of ginger biscuits, in crisp pastry tart shells . . . or just spooned out of the jar. Yummo! I am a glutton through and through I do believe!
Of course you can also pack it into jars and gift a few of your friends with some of it. They'll love you for it forever, I guarantee!
Makes about 3 cups
Once you have had proper homemade lemon curd, you will never want to buy ready made again. The fresh made stuff is delicious, and very easy to make. It's a good way of getting rid of that glut of lemons you may have! It's delicious spread on bread, scones or muffins. I love it spread between thin ginger thins and topped with whipped cream, or as a tasty filling in a nice sponge cake.
1 TBS finely grated lemon zest plus 2 tsp of the same
8 fluid ounces (1 cup) fresh lemon juice
265g caster sugar (approx 1 1/3 cups)
4 large free range eggs
6 ounces unsalted butter (3/4 cup)
plus 2 TBS, all cut into TBS sized pieces
Whisk the zest, lemon juice, sugar, eggs and a pinch of salt together in a heavy 2 litre saucepan. Add the butter all at once and then cook over moderately low heat, whisking constantly until the curd is thick enough to hold the marks of the whisk and the first bubbles appear and break the surface. This should take about 10 minutes. Immediately pour through a fine sieve into a bowl. Cover and chill before use. This should keep, covered and in the fridge for about 1 week.
Here's another delicious use for some of that Lemon curd. A tasty Lemon Drizzle Cake. mmm . . .
*Lemon Drizzle Cake*
Makes one loaf sized cake
This has to be one of the easiest cakes ever. You just bung everything into a food processor and blitz. Quick, easy and oh so very delicious!!
140g self raising flour (1 cup)
4 ounces butter (1/2 cup)
115g caster sugar (2/3 cup)
2 large free range eggs
2 dessertspoons of lemon curd
the grated zest of one lemon
For the topping:
the juice of 1/2 lemon
2 TBS caster sugar
Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F. Butter a loaf tin and line with greaseproof paper. Set aside.
Put all the cake ingredients into a food processor. Blend together for 2 minutes. Scrape mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until the top springs back when lightly touched and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.
While the cake is still warm, and before turning it out of the tin, mix the lemon juice and sugar together until the sugar dissolves somewhat, and pour this mixture over top evenly. Let sit for about 10 minutes before removing from the tin to cool completely on a wire rack.
And of course, there is nothing tastier than a fresh piece of Lemon Drizzle Cake with a huge dollop of lemon curd spread over the top of it. Oh, my . . . I must have surely died and gone to heaven . . . .