“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.
Tuesday, 30 March 2010
The other morning, with packing boxes sitting around us, reaching up to what seemed to be the ceiling, Todd and I decided that we were going to treat ourselves to a nice big breakfast in the corner cafe in our nearest local town.
You know the kind of place I mean . . . cheap and clean . . . and definitely not gourmet food, but good, plain, simple and filling food. The kind of place that specializes in good old cheese on toast, chips, omelets, burgers, tea, coffee and BREAKFASTS!!!
You can usually get a really, really good, tasty and filling breakfast in these kinds of places and our local is no exception to the rule. The other morning though . . . we got into town and were really, really disappointed.
Not because of the breakfast that they served, but because they were CLOSED!! Yeppers! Opening up soon under new management. We had so wanted to hold hands across the table and enjoy one last breakfast there, but it seems it was not to be . . .
Instead I nipped into the local Waitrose and picked up half a dozen extra large eggs, a tasty Cumberland Sausage Whorl, and some maple smoked bacon. I already had the rest of what I would need at home. It meant that we didn't have breakfast until almost 11 that day, but it was rather tasty if I don't say so myself. I used my good old recipe for Scrambled Eggs with Cheese and Chives, using some fresh chives from our garden. (Click the link to get the recipe.) It all went down a real treat. We did not really want anything else to eat the whole rest of the day!!
I had forgotten how good toast tastes when done under the grill . . . crisp and hot and slathered with butter. Much better than when done in the toaster, I think!!
By the time you read this, we shall be in our car, all packed up and heading up the M6 to good old Chester. It may be the end of our days down here in the Kentish countryside, but it is deffo not the end of my days in my English Kitchen!! Look for more tasty articles coming your way real soon!
Well, as soon as I get my pots and pans unpacked and sorted at the other end. Hopefully it won't be too long before we up and running again! Stay Tuned!! This is not the end, but merely the beginning of a Brand New Adventure. The best kind!
Sunday, 28 March 2010
I have often heard it bandied about that "Necessity is the mother of invention," and never has that old idiom been more true than it has during this past week here at the cottage.
Todd is a very well organized person, so organized in fact that I have spent the last few days with loads of fresh food to use up, but no spices or herbs to help me use them up.
I love spice and herbs. I use them all the time in my cooking. I had some apples and bread to use up, and decided to make my Apple Brown Betty recipe. The perfect recipe to use them up with . . .
except for one thing . . . no spices . . . no cinnamon or nutmeg to give it the homey warm flavour that screams comfort and "Home Sweet Home" to all who are lucky enough to indulge themselves in this particular dessert of mine, around my kitchen table.
I did have, however, a nice fat jar of ginger jam in the refrigerator. We love ginger in this house . . . candied ginger, preserved root ginger in syrup, powdered ginger . . . ginger and apples go very well together too.
I thought and thought about it, and then I decided to be really brave, and throw caution to the wind, and to incorporate several dessertspoons of the ginger jam into the apples . . . just to give them some extra flavour and spice.
Good call on my part. Very good call!! Excellent addition! This was soooooooo good, with soft and tart slices of apple, spicy sweet little nibbles throughout of preserved ginger and syrup, and the buttery crunch of bread crumbs on the top!!!
I love it when I do something extraordinarily brave like that and it turns out scrummily moreishly good! (Whew!! It could so easily have gone the other way!)
*Gingered Apple Brown Betty*
Serves 4 to 6
This is the ultimate example of thrift and making use of what we have at hand. Stale bread, apples and ginger jam . . . deliciously magnificent!
3 cups soft bread cubes (crusts removed)
7 TBS melted butter
6 peeled and sliced tart apples (Granny Smith are great)
3 to 4 ounces soft light brown sugar (depending on the tartness of your apples)
the juice and finely grated zest of one lemon
1/2 cup water
3 heaped dessertspoons of ginger jam
Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F. Butter a shallow baking dish really, really well. Melt the butter. Toss the melted butter together with the bread cubes. Layer half of the bread cubes in the baking dish. Mix together the brown sugar, lemon zest and juice, water and ginger jam, mixing it together well. Lay the sliced apples on top of the bread cubes. Pour the ginger jam mixture evenly over top. Top with the remaining half of the bread cubes. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until the apples are tender and the bread cubes are lightly browned. If you find they are browning too quickly, cover the dish lightly with foil, uncovering the last 5 minutes or so to crisp up again. Serve warm with some cream, custard or vanilla ice cream.
Saturday, 27 March 2010
I know it's really unusual to see pasta on my page, let alone two days in a row. Last night was a beans on toast night (you know . . . one of the side effects of moving and not really having much left in the way of fresh food in the house) and so I am showing you something that I made a week or so ago.
I love lasagna, and Todd does too, if he would only humble himself and admit it!! He seems to scarf it up at any rate!
I often like to make a Vegetarian Version, like this tasty courgette one. Courgettes are something that I seem to always have in the refrigerator and they work really well in dishes like this.
In the summer I like to grown them in the garden. They grow like weeds and are so very versatile!
I copied the recipe from one that I found on the Good Food site, but I did make some changes. I used a jar of spicier Puttanesca sauce that I just happened to have in the larder, and I added some fried mushrooms . . .
Coz I am like that. I just can't leave well enough alone.
This was really delicious!
*Creamy Courgette Lasagna*
This is easy and quite delicious! It is filling enough to serve as a main course along with a salad. You will never miss the meat.
9 dried lasagna sheets
1 TBS olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
700g (about 6) medium courgettes, washed trimmed and coarsely grated
1 punnet of mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced
2 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
250g tub of ricotta cheese
50g strong cheddar cheese, grated
salt and black pepper to taste
350g jar of tomato sauce for pasta
(I like to use Puttanesca style for the spice and flavour)
Heat the oven to 220*C/425*F. Put a pan of lightly salted water on to boil. Add the lasagna sheets and cook for about 5 minutes, only until softened, but not cooked through. Drain adn rinse in cold water. Drizzle with a little olive oil to keep from sticking together.
Meanwhile, in a large frying pan, add the olive oil and heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring for about 3 minutes, until beginning to soften. Add the mushrooms and cook until they begin to brown. Add the courgettes along with the garlic and continue to cook, stirring, until the courgettes have turned a bright green and softened. Stir in 2/3 of both the ricotta and the cheddar cheese. Season to taste with some salt and black pepper. Heat the tomato sauce in a small pot, until hot.
In a large lasagna dish, layer up the lasagna, starting with half of the courgette mixture, then pasta, then tomato sauce. Repeat, top with blobs of the remaining ricotta cheese and the cheddar. Bake on the top shelf of the oven for about 10 minutes, until the pasta is completely tender and the cheese is golden.
Remove from the oven and let sit for about 10 minutes before cutting into slabs to serve.
Friday, 26 March 2010
I have been collecting the free recipes that they pass out in Waitrose over these past seven years. I have always found them to be really delicious and quite easy to prepare. I have a whole box filled with them. I really need to sit down and catalogue them I suppose, but that can wait now until I have finished moving.
I don't always make them as written, but have found that, in a lot of cases, they make a good canvas upon which to work and create from. I often change this or that in them, and end up with something completely new, and even more delicious. I like it when you can do that with recipes.
This was one that they came out with just recently. I switched a few things here and there, but I thought it sounded really good. I love cauliflower cheese and broccoli with cheese sauce and I adore Macaroni Cheese. There was very little not to like about this recipe!
Unless you are Todd and you are not fond of pasta, but you know what they say . . . You can't always have things that you like. Sometimes you have to have something you are not fond of, just to please your wife . . . you know . . . coz she likes pasta . . . she really, really likes pasta and you love her . . . and well, sometimes you just got to do what you just got to do!
We had this simply with some grilled Bacon Chops. It was fabulous, absolutely fabulous! You could charge it up a bit and use a snappier cheese. I am thinking a gorgonzola would be just wonderful!
*Macaroni Cheese with Cauliflower and Broccoli*
Like Macaroni and Cheese? Like Cauliflower Cheese? Like Broccoli with Cheese Sauce? Then you will love this! Nuff Said.
300g dried Macaroni
300g of mixed cauliflower and broccoli florets
50g plain flour
100g strong cheddar cheese, grated
2 tsp Dijon mustard
4 TBS cracker or bread crumbs
1 TBS butter, melted
4 TBS grated cheese, your choice (Parmesan, Cheddar, etc.)
Preheat the oven to 200*C/400*F. Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling water for 8 minutes until just tender. Place the cauliflower and broccoli in a steamer (or sieve) and set over the pasta for the last 5 minutes until almost tender. Drain the pasta and place in a lightly buttered 1.75 litre ovenproof baking dish with the vegetables, mixing them together.
Melt the butter in a medium sauce pan and stir in the flour. Cook for 1 minute until thick, then off the heat gradually whisk in the milk, keeping the mixture smooth. Return the pan to the heat and stir constantly until thickened. Simmer for 2 minutes, then remove from the heat, stir in the cheese, mustard and seasoning and pour over the pasta and vegetables.
Mix together the bread or cracker crumbs, melted butter and grated cheese. Sprinkle this evenly over top of the macaroni mixture. Bake in the heated oven for 20–25 minutes until the top is crisp and golden. Serve as it is, or with grilled or roasted meats.
Wednesday, 24 March 2010
(Image borrowed from More Food who bake these lovely cakes, amongst others,which are available for purchase at Waitrose)
Simnel Cake is a cake that is quite traditional over here in the UK during the Easter Season. It is a type of light fruitcake, similar to a Christmas Cake, except that a layer of Marzipan is baked into the centre of it, and it is covered with another layer of marzipan on top, with no frosting.
On the top of the cake, around the edge, are eleven marzipan balls to represent the true apostles of Jesus; Judas is omitted. In some variations Christ is also represented, by a ball placed at the centre.
Originally they were a Mothering Sunday tradition, when young girls in service would make one to take home to their mothers on their day off. There is a popular legend however, that attributes their creation to the English pretender Lambert Simnel, who, according to the legend, devised it during the time in which he was forced to work in Henry VII's kitchens.
Every year I have big plans to make one, and indeed, this year was no different. I did buy all that I needed to make one . . . but with having to move and pack up everything etc., I have just run out of time . . .
I did create a delicious simnel tart though, using up some of the fruit and marzipan I had bought, along with some puff pastry that I had in the freezer that needed using up, and some ginger jam that I needed to use up from the fridge . . .
This was delicious. Much better than a cake I think, and Todd was in agreement, if the way he snuffled it up was any indication!! I'd call it a success!
Perhaps I have started a new tradition? What do you think? It was certainly a lot easier than making a cake and it was also done lickety split, in no time at all, whereas a cake would have taken several hours baking in the oven.
That's a bonus in my books!
Imagine puff pastry, slathered with ginger jam and covered with dried mixed fruit that you have soaked in gingerbeer . . . if you were so inclined you could use gingerwine . . . and then mixed with grated marzipan. Baked in a hot oven until the pastry is crisp and brown and the marzipan melted and oozing with ginger jam amongst the gingery fruits . . . this went down a real treat, served up warm and cut into slabs, with some pouring cream spooned on top.
Serves 4 to 6
A deliciously fruity tart in a lovely puff pastry base, and steeped in Marzipan and lucious ginger jam. Oh, my but this is good.
8 ounces dried mixed fruit
4 TBS ginger beer
1 X 375g sheet of ready rolled puff pastry
3 TBS ginger conserve or jam
200g marzipan, grated
Preheat the oven to 220*C/425*F. Mix the dried fruit with the gingerbeer in a bowl. Set aside to macerate.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll the pastry out onto the parchment paper. Mark a border about 1/2 inch from the border all the way around. Brush the jam over the inside of this border. Chill for 10 minutes.
Remove from the refrigerator. Drain the fruit and then mix together with the grated marzipan. Sprinkle over the pastry, within the confines of the border. Bake for 20 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown and the filling is bubbling. Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature. Serve cut into squares with or without cream as desired.
Tuesday, 23 March 2010
Hot Cross Buns
Hot Cross Buns
One a Penny
Two a Penny
Hot Cross Buns
One of the things I love most about Easter is Hot Cross Buns. These were always an Easter tradition for me back in Canada, a commonwealth country, and it's pretty wonderful to be able to partake of them over here in the UK. The grocery shop shelves begin lining themselves with them soon after Valentines day and I have to say I just can't get enough of them!
A hot cross bun, or cross-bun, is a type of sweet spiced bun made with currants or raisins and leavened with yeast. It has a cross marked on the top which might be effected in one of a variety of ways including: pastry, flour and water mixture, rice paper, icing, or intersecting cuts. Back in Canada the cross was almost always made with icing, but over here in the UK, it is generally made with a flour and water mixture.
In many Christian countries Hot Cross Buns are traditionally eaten on Good Friday, the cross adorned tops representing Christ's crucifixion. According to cookery writer Elizabeth David, Protestant English monarchs saw the buns as a dangerous hold-over of Catholic belief in England, being baked from the dough used in making the communion wafer. Protestant England attempted to ban the sale of the buns by bakers but they were too popular, and instead Elizabeth I passed a law permitting bakeries to sell them, but only at Easter and Christmas. Nowadays they are generally only seen around Easter.
English folklore includes many superstitions surrounding hot cross buns. One of them says that buns baked and served on Good Friday will not spoil or become moldy during the subsequent year. Another encourages keeping such a bun for medicinal purposes. A piece of it given to someone who is ill is said to help them recover.
Sharing a hot cross bun with another is supposed to ensure friendship throughout the coming year, particularly if "Half for you and half for me, Between us two shall goodwill be" is said at the time. Because of the cross on the buns, some say they should be kissed before being eaten. If taken on a sea voyage, hot cross buns are said to protect against shipwreck. If hung in the kitchen, they are said to protect against fires and insure that all breads turn out perfectly. The hanging bun is replaced each year.
All superstitions and folklore aside, Hot Cross Buns are just plain good eating! I scooped this delicious recipe from the BBC Good Food site. They're really scrummy!
*Hot Cross Buns*
Spicy, stogged full of delicious fruit and decorated with pastry crosses these are just wonderful!
For the ferment starter
1 large free-range egg, beaten
215ml/7½fl oz warm water
15g/½oz fresh yeast
1 tsp sugar
55g/2oz strong white flour
For the dough
450g/1lb strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tsp salt
2 tsp ground mixed spice
85g/3oz unsalted butter, cut into cubes, plus extra for greasing
1 lemon, zest only
170g/6oz mixed dried fruit
For the topping
2 tbsp plain flour
vegetable oil, for greasing
1 tbsp golden syrup, gently heated, for glazing
For the ferment starter, mix the beaten egg with enough warm water to make up approximately 290ml/½ pint of liquid. Whisk in the yeast, sugar and flour until the mixture is smooth and well combined, then cover and set aside in a warm place for 30 minutes.
Sieve the flour, salt and ground mixed spice into a large mixing bowl, then rub in the butter using your fingertips. Make a well in the centre of the mixture, then add the sugar and lemon zest to the well and pour in the ferment starter. Using your hands, gradually draw the flour at the edges of the bowl into the well in the centre, mixing well with the ferment starter, until the mixture comes together as a dough. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead lightly until smooth and elastic. Work the mixed dried fruit into the dough until well combined.
Grease a large, warm mixing bowl with butter. Shape the dough into a ball and place it into the prepared bowl, then cover with a clean tea towel and set aside in a warm place for one hour to prove.
Turn out the proved dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knock back the dough. Shape it into a ball again and return it to the bowl, then cover again with the tea towel and set aside for a further 30 minutes to rise.
Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and divide it into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, then flatten slightly into a bun shape using the palms of your hands. Cover the buns again with the tea towel and set aside to rest for 5-10 minutes.
Grease a baking tray with butter and transfer the buns to the tray. Cut a cross in each bun, almost cutting all the way through the dough, so that each bun is almost cut into quarters. Wrap the tray with the buns on it loosely in greaseproof paper, then cover completely with plastic cling film (or place in a large plastic bag. Tie the end of the bag tightly so that no air can get in.) Set aside in a warm place for a further 40 minutes to rise.
Preheat the oven to 240*C/475*F.
For the topping, mix the plain flour to a smooth paste with two tablespoons of cold water. When the buns have risen, remove the polythene bag and the greaseproof paper. Spoon the flour mixture into a piping bag and pipe a cross over the cuts in each bun. Place the buns in the oven and bake for 8-12 minutes, or until risen and pale golden-brown. As soon as you remove the buns from the oven, brush them with the hot golden syrup, then set aside to cool on a wire rack.
Enjoy! We like to split and toast them and then spread them with some softened butter.
Please note that I copied some of the facts and folklore from Wikepedia as I am not a walking encyclopedia. If that offends you, I am sorry. :-)
Monday, 22 March 2010
There are certain foods that I just have to make each Easter for us to eat here in my English Kitchen. Things like hot cross buns . . .
Baked Ham and scalloped potatoes . . . if I'm in a North American mood, or Roast Leg of Lamb, if I'm feeling decidedly British . . .
Deviled Eggs . . .
Simnel Cakes . . .
There are some foods that are just traditional for Easter Celebrations. My Aunt Thelma always used to make lovely fruit breads for Easter. All yeasty and sweet and stogged full of raisins and candied peel . . . the tops covered with a lucious icing glaze and decorated with candied cherries. We so used to look forward to their arrival every Easter Holiday . . .
These past few years I have adopted the habit of making these delicious chocolatey Easter Crispie Cakes. They're so easy to make, and scummily moreish to eat.
Kids just love them. Adults likewise . . . somewhat reminiscent of the Nestle's Crunch Bar . . . there is nothing to them but good melted chocolate (two kinds) and crisp rice cereal.
Oh, and those tasty candy covered little chocolate eggs of course!!
Bet you can't eat just one . . . and I bet you'll have to make them more than once during the Easter Holiday season. Aren't you glad they're so easy to make?
*Easter Chocolate Crispie Nests*
Makes about 15
These are so easy to do and look so pretty when they are finished. I had long heard of Marshmallow Crispy Squares, but never these chocolate delights! What a sheltered life I have lived! I wish I had known about these when my children were growing up. They would have loved them!
50 grams of milk chocolate (I used Green and Blacks organic)
50 grams of dark chocolate (again I used Green and Blacks)
3 cups of crisp rice cereal
1 bag of Easter mini eggs (you will not need them all, but I am sure you will find a use for the extras, I did!)
Put a pot with some water in the bottom of it on the stove and bring it to a simmer. Break the chocolate up into bits and place it into a glass bowl, large enough to sit over the simmering water. Cook and stir until melted. Take care not to let the water boil. Once the chocolate is all melted and smooth, carefully remove it from the heat and stir in the rice cereal.
Line a bun tin with paper liners and spoon the chocolate cereal mixture in, dividing it equally amongst each cup. Place a few easter eggs on the top of each and set them aside to cool and set up. You can put them into the fridge to do this if you are in a hurry, but it may cause your chocolate to bloom. If you are a patient sort it really doesn't take that long for them to set up out of the fridge, perhaps not much more than an hour or so.
Sunday, 21 March 2010
I wanted to use up some of the blueberries that I have stored in my freezer. I always have some there. Whenever the store puts them on special I buy up extra punnets of them and stick them straight into the freezer.
That makes them ever so handy to use in cakes and puddings, crumbles and pies.
You can use them straight from the freezer without thawing them out. They work like a charm as long as you are using them to cook with.
I have never tried eating frozen blueberries, except in smoothies, and they work pretty well in those as well. A little frozen fruit makes a smoothie a beautiful thing in my opinion.
I remembered this fabulous recipe I have for a blueberry crumb cake, that has a wonderfully moist texture and is topped by a delicious crumble crunch.
You will love this. Your family will love this. Your guests will love this.
EVERYONE will love this!!
It's a KEEPER. Need I say anymore???
I think not! Let the pictures speak for themselves.
*Blueberry Crunch Cake*
A delicously moist cake, stogged to overflowing with blueberries and topped with a lovely sweet crunch! This is fabulous.
280G (2 cups) flour
300g (1 1/2 cups) caster sugar
5 1/2 (2/3 cup) ounces butter
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
250ml (1 cup) milk
2 large eggs, separated
1 tsp vanilla
1 X 200g (approx. 2 cups) blueberries
pouring cream or custard
Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F. Butter a 9 X 13 inch nonstick baking pan. Set aside.
Whisk together the flour and sugar. Rub in the butter with your fingertips, until the mixture resembles fine dry bread crumbs. Remove 3/4 of a cup of this to use for the topping, and set it aside. To the remainder add the salt and baking powder. Beat in the egg yolks, vanilla and milk. Blend together well.
Beat the egg whites until stiff. Fold them into the batter. Spread the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the blueberries evenly over top of all. Sprinkle the reserved crumb mixture over top of the blueberries.
Bake in the heated oven for 40 top 50 minutes, until the cake is well risen and golden brown along the edges and is completely set in the middle and tests done. Remove from the oven to a wire rack to cool and serve warm from the pan with some pouring cream or custard.
Note - the leftovers are delicious!