“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.
Monday, 31 May 2010
One thing that I love most about the UK is that each area that you visit has it's own foods that are traditional and steeped in history . . . and sometimes legend. Each one being as different as the area that it represents . . . and more often than not, totally scrummy.
Oftimes these delicacies are very simple to make in your own home . . . but don't let the simplicity of the recipe bely the fact that they are totally tasty and scrumdiddlyumptiously good!!
Like these tasty little Welsh Cakes. Short in texture and oh so buttery . . . lots of sweet castor sugar crunch coating them. Not really a cake . . . and yet not quite a biscuit . . . but something in between . . . very close to scone like . . . but flatter . . . sort of like a scone cookie!!
I know . . . lets consider them to be a scookie!! That works for me. Does it work for you???
Why is it that scrummy treats such as these taste fabulous when fresh from the oven . . .
and even more so when dunked into your cuppa . . . herbal tea of course!! Or real. It's up to you to pick your own poison.
I only know these are so yumbo that I can't stop myself from going in for more . . .
Makes a lot but they freeze well
Popular through Wales, these tasty little cakes were originally cooked on a heated bake stone. Nowadays I make do with my nonstick skillet. Buttery and short and totally scrummy.
1 pound flour
(16 ounces or 4 cups)
1 tsp baking powder
1 pinch allspice
1 pinch salt
4 ounces butter
4 ounces lard
7 ounces caster sugar
4 ounces seedless raisins
2 eggs, beaten
milk to mix
Caster sugar to sprinkle
Whisk the flour, baking powder, allspice and salt together in a large bowl. Drop in the butter and lard and rub in with your fingertips until crumbly. Add the sugar and the raisins. Beat the eggs and add to the mixture along with a little bit of milk to make a fairly stiff dough. Roll out on a lightly floured board to a thickness of about 1/4 inch. Cut into 2 inch rounds with a fluted pastry cutter. Cook on a lightly greased griddle or a heavy based frying pan for about 3 minutes on each side until golden brown. Dust with caster sugar and serve warm.
Sunday, 30 May 2010
When I was about 14 years old I had a best best friend called Linda Wilson. She lived right across the back yard from me and was practically an only child.
She did have a younger brother, but she had her own room and didn't have to share any of her stuff with a younger sister like I did . . . She had her very own record player and a little record holder jammed to the brim with all the latest 45 records.
We spent many a Friday evening in her room, dancing and giggling and talking about boys and what we would do when, and if we ever managed to nab one!
Often her mom would bake us a special cake to enjoy called a Wacky Cake. It was a chocolate cake that was mixed and baked all in the same pan. She covered it with a hot chocolate icing that was something like a custard . . .
It was lovely eaten warm . . . with that chocolate ooze soaking into the warm cake . . . all gooey and scrummy.
Unfortunaely I lost the recipe for the topping a long time ago . . . sigh . . . these days I have to make do with buttercream.
Not a hardship, but still . . . I do think of it from time to time and remember how very good it was . . .
We were having the missionaries over for tea and I thought I would take advantage and bake a chocolate cake for them. (Todd had something else) I don't mind baking a chocolate cake when someone is here to share it with me. In fact I rather enjoy it.
Wacky Chocolate Cake . . . baked with no eggs or butter . . . spect that's why it's called Wacky Cake! Sure there are better chocolate cakes . . . but there's only one Wacky Cake, and in a pinch it does just fine!
*Wacky Chocolate Cake*
Makes one 8 inch square cake
Wacky because there's no eggs in it and it's mixed right in the pan. Don't let the title fool you though . . . there's nothing too wacky about this deliciously moist and chocolatey cake . . . there's only delicious.
210g plain flour (1 1/2 cups)
200g caster sugar (1 cup)
3 TBS cocoa powder (not chocolate drink mix)
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp good vanilla
1 tsp vinegar
5 TBS vegetable oil
250ml cold water (1 cup)
Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ Gas mark 4.
Sift the flour and cocoa right into an 8 inch square baking pan. Stir in teh sugar, soda and salt, mixing it together well. Make three wells in the mixture. Into one put the vinegar, Into another put the vanilla. Into the third put the oil. Pour the water over top of all and mix together well with a fork, making sure you get into the corners and everything is evenly moistened and mixed together. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the top springs back when lightly touched. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack in the pan.
Ice as preferred.
Saturday, 29 May 2010
Eleven a.m. and I am longing for custard creams. I don't drink tea or coffee, but still partake of the wonderful British tradition of elevensies . . .
That well earned (or not) break in the morning where you sit down with a nice hot cuppa, a moreish nosh or two and put your feet up for a few . . .
There is not a biscuit in the house, except perhaps for a few broken digestives in the bottom of the tin . . . I eat those, but . . . as good as they are . . . they are not custard creams . . . and I want custard creams . . .
Out comes the scales, bowls, and measuring spoons. There is nothing for it but to make my own . . . I know I can do it.
I am like that little train that keeps on chugging up the hill . . . I think I can, I think I can, I think I can . . .
Not quite custard creams, but in some ways similar. I may even like these better . . .
Not too sweet, but short and buttery, with just the faintest hint of custard in the moreishly scrummy biscuits . . . the custard flavour coming through in that luciously rich filling.
mmm . . . a mightly tasty crumbily scrummily delicious mouthful. I can't stop at one . . .
and neither will you.
Makes about 20 double biscuits
Deliciously short and buttery with a lucious cream centre, tasting of custard. Fabulous!
6 ounces plain flour (1 1/4 cups)
3 TBS custard powder (you want the stuff that comes in the cardboard
container, not the sachets you add hot water to, you want proper custard powder)
1 tsp baking powder
2 1/2 ounces unsalted butter (4 1/2 TBS), cut into bits
2 1/2 ounces white vegetable fat, such as Trex or White flora (4 1/2 TBS Crisco), cut into bits
3 TBS icing sugar, sifted
1 large free range egg
For the filling:
2 ounces unsalted butter (4 TBS)
1 TBS custard powder
4 ounces icing sugar, sifted (1 cup)
few drops of hot water if necessary
Pre-heat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 5. Line two baking sheets with baking parchment and set aside.
Whisk the flour, custard powder, baking powder and sugar together in a bowl. Drop in the butter and vegetable fat. Rib into the flour mixtue until you have something the consistency of sand. Beat the egg lightly and then stir into the dry mixture, mixing it in well.
Scoop out TBS size pieces of the dough and shape lightly into balls between the palms of your hands. Place about 2 inches apart on the baking sheets. Press down with a fork which you have dusted in flour each time. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, until well risen and set, but not coloured.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool while you make the filling.
Cream the butter, custard powder and sugar together in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Be patient. It will come together eventually and be lovely. If the mixture still seems a bit stiff, add a few drops of hot water and beat until you have the consistency you are after. Sandwich two biscuits together with this custardy filling and then sit back and enjoy!
Thursday, 27 May 2010
I just adore Fennel. It's a lovely vegetable, with a delightfully crisp and crunchy texture and a mild licorace flavour. I could eat it just like an apple. I find it wonderfully refreshing and incredibly delicious . . .
Mind you, I can sit and eat All Sorts by the handful, and would . . . but for my conscience.
Did you know that there are both male and female fennel bulbs??? The shorter squat bulb is the female . . . surprise, surprise! Whilst the taller, more slender bulbs are the males. There is no discernable difference in taste between the two. They're both lovely.
Fennel is lovely braised or roasted. The resulting flavour is very mild and it has a beautiful meltingly tender texture, not at all stringly like one would think. Fantastic with fish, and surprisingly tasty with cheese!
I love it in salads though . . . that is where it really shines, and it is my favourite way of preparing it. Sliced into coleslaws, it gives an intriguing flavour that has people wondering what that additional little flavour it. Chopped and added to a leafy salad, it adds a lovely crunch . . .
Thinly sliced and starring in it's own salad, it is wonderfully refreshingly gorgeously delicious. I like to use both the crisp layers and the fronds. It goes fabulously well with citrus fruits, especially orange, which somehow enhances it's delicate flavour. The additional crunch of richly toasted pinenuts is an extravagent addition and adds another wonderful layer of flavour in this fantastic salad.
I love this salad so much I could eat the whole thing all by myself . . . but I restrain myself and share it with Todd. Once dressed you must eat it immediately.
Not a problem . . .
*Fennel Salad with Citrus*
This is a deliciously light and refreshing salad on a warm day.
1 large bulb of fennel
the zest and juice of one lemon
1 navel orange
3 TBS pine nuts, toasted
a splash of olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Trim your fennel, cutting off any shoots, reserving the fronds, and discarding. Also any bruised or tatty looking or wilted outer bits. Cut the fennel bulb in half and cut out the core, discarding it. Slice the fennel halves paper thin using a mandolin, if possible. Place in a bowl. Grate the zest of the lemon into the bowl, along with the zest of the orange. Using a sharp knife, cut all the pith away from the orange, exposing the inner flesh. Again, with a sharp knife, cut into the orange, between the sections, and slice out the flesh into the bowl. Squeeze the remainder of the orange over the bowl, allowing all the juices to fall into it. Squeeze the juice of the lemon into the bowl as well. Chop the fennel fronds coarsely and add along with the pine nuts, a splash of olive oil and some salt and pepper to taste. Toss together and serve immediately.
Wednesday, 26 May 2010
I guess it is a bit of a stretch to call this a Potato Pizza . . . really.
There is no crust . . . not unless you consider crisp skinned baked potatoes a crust . . . the outsides all crisp potato skins . . . crunchy and earthy . . . the insides all fluffy and meltingly tender . . .
Split in half and laid bare . . . with a deliciously cheesy topping chock full of rich tuna, tangy cheddar, spring onions, zesty pepperonata (from a jar) and salty dry cured olives . . . not to mention a bit of Italian spice . . .
I supposed the only way this resembles a pizza is that it is flattened and spread with a delicious topping . . .
Another way of looking at it would be to call them the most scrumptious, taste bud tittilating, gorgously scrummy, D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S jacket potatoes you have ever eaten!!!
Not to mention very easy to make and the kids love em!
Go on . . . make them tonight. Your family will thank you for it. All you need as a go with, is a tastily tossed side salad!
Quick, easy, cheap and the kids love them!
4 medium baking potatoes, washed well and dried
one half of a jar (290g) of pepperonata antipasta
one (225g) jar of albacore tuna in spring water, drained and flaked
2 spring onions, chopped
200g (8 ounces) of strong cheddar cheese grated
(I use the semi skim, no problem)
a handful of black olives, chopped
salt and black pepper to taste
1 tsp Italian Seasoning
Prick the potatoes all over with a fork to stop them from bursting during cooking. Arrange them evenly spaces on a microwaveable dish that you have lined with a double layer of paper kitchen towelling. Cook in the microwave on high for 8 minutes. Flip them over and cook them for another 8 minutes. (Alternatively you can bake them in a hot oven for about an hour. I place them directly on the oven rack and bake at 200*C/400*F Gas mark 6 This is my preferred method.)
While the potatoes are cooking make the tuna topping, and preheat your grill to high. Gently mix the tuna, pepperonata, onions, olives, salt, pepper and Italian seasoning together in a bowl along with about 1/3 of the cheese.
Take the potatoes out and cut then in half lengthwise, leaving them still attached along one side. Open them out like a book and place them onto a baking tray. Pile the tuna mixture over top and scatter the remaining cheese over top. Grill for 5 to 6 minutes, until the cheese has melted and started to brown.
Tuesday, 25 May 2010
I bet I can tell exactly what you are thinking at this precise moment . . . it probably goes along the lines of "Fish Finger Enchiladas??? Has she finally gone off her rocker????"
That line of thinking wouldn't be exactly out of line as my own was when I first ran across this recipe in a little booklet I picked up at the grocery store the other day, Best Food Fast, Meals in Minutes . . .
And yet . . . at the same time I was strangely intrigued.
My boys loved Mexican food when they were growing up. I could have put anything into a tortilla, and I mean A-N-Y-T-H-I-N-G . . . and called it a burrito and they would have gobbled it up like there was no tomorrow!!
It may have had something to do with the Cheeky Chiuaua in the Taco Bell Commercials. (A Mexican Fast Food place in North America, along the same lines as McDonalds, ceptin you get Tacos there instead burgers.) The sight of that Chiuaua fluttering his Mexican lashes and spouting Spanish phrases out of the telly screen always send them into gargantuan Mexican food cravings . . . specifically Tacos and burritos.
They also really loved the Enchiladas I made after Thanksgiving with the leftover turkey. In fact . . . I have been known to roast a turkey just so that I could fill the freezer with those tasty little babies.
I wish I had known about this recipe when my lads were growing up. It may have inspired them to eat more fish, or brain food as my mama always called it.
These were incredibly tasty and easy to make! I am sure kids everywhere would love them and, if I use the snuffling sounds and gurgles of enjoyment that came from Todd's little corner of the table tonight as an indication of the pleasure that an adult male would get from them, I think I could safely say that the really big kiddies will love them too!
We probably don't want to know how many calories are in one of them . . . do we??? But I am thinking that the use of low fat ingredients cut them down quite a bit . . . right???
hmmm . . . perhaps the acorn really doesn't fall that far from the proverbial tree after all . . .
These were incredibly, edibly and totally delicious!
*Fish Finger Enchiladas*
Kids will love this. Quick and easy and fairly economical. It lifts fish fingers out of the ordinary into something special!
8 frozen fish fingers
(we like cod)
295g (10 1/4 ounce) tin of condensed mushroom soup
284ml pot of sour cream (1 cup)
125g (4 ounces) cheddar cheese, grated
6 spring onions, sliced
4 soft flour tortillas
8 TBS tomato salsa
(as mild or as hot as you prefer)
more sliced spring onions to garnish
Preheat the oven to 200*C/400*F/ gas mark 5. Lightly spray a baking dish with cooking spray. Set aside.
Place the fish fingers in a baking pan and cook them for about 10 minutes, turning them over halfway through the cooking time. Remove from the oven.
While they are cooking, place the soup into a small saucepan and gently heat. When heated stir in the sour cream, 3/4 of the cheese and the first amount of spring onions. Spoon 2 dessertspoons of this onto each tortilla and then lay two fish fingers on top. (Reserve at least 1/3 of the soup for the end.)Drizzle 2 TBS of the salsa over top of the fish fingers and then roll up the tortillas. Place them, seam side down, into the baking dish. Repeat with remaining fish fingers etc.
Spoon the remainder of the soup over top of the rolled tortillas and sprinkle with the remainder of the cheese. Bake in the heated oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until bubbling and golden brown. Remove from the oven, scatter with the remainder of the sliced spring onions and serve.
Monday, 24 May 2010
I'll be right up front and tell you now . . . my mother makes the best potato salad on the planet. Full of flavour and texture, and not over loaded with cloying mayonnaise.
I have to admit my regular potato salad does come a close second, if I don't say so myself, but even so . . . it never quite tastes as good to me as hers does . . . or maybe it is the memory of the taste of her's that makes it an unachievable goal . . . somehow reality never does quite live up to the memories of things does it??
Mom always started her potato salad the day before she was going to serve it. She would boil a big pot of potatoes, in the skins of course, to help retain all that lovely potato flavour and vitamins. I can still see her patiently standing at the counter peeling them once they were cooked and then cooled. Once peeled, she would cube them into precise little cubes . . . along with peeled cucumber in the same size, chopped celery and hard boiled egg . . . with perhaps a tiny bit of grated onion, depending on the mood she was in. A bit of salt and pepper and some Kraft Salad Dressing and it was done. Simple, and yet oh so good for supper on a warm Sunday afternoon . . .
We often had it in the summer, with a dollop of cold tinned salmon fixed on the side of the plate, some sliced ripe juicy tomatoes and crisp cucumbers . . . and her famous coleslaw, that we could never get enough of . . . sigh . . . summer on a plate.
I find that over here the potato salad is always always drenched to the hilt in mayonnaise or creme fraiche, and has decidedly almost no flavour at all. The potatoes hard and dull . . . and severely lacking in seasoning. Where is the tang? Where is that earthiness that potatoes should taste like? I make my own regular potato salad much in the same way as my mother did, and it is far better than anything I have tasted here. Sorry England, but your potato salad does not quite cut the mustard!
I don't always want a mayonnaise based potato salad though . . . sometimes I long for a vinaigrette dressed potato salad, done in the fabric of the French Tradition of my father's side of the family . . .
The potatoes fork tender and pre-dressed with a bit of stock and wine while they are still warm . . . so that they absorb that lovely salty tang. A final simple vinaigrette dressing of herbs . . . spring onions, dill, parsley and basil . . . a bit of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper . . . and an emulsion of white wine vinegar and good olive oil is all it needs.
The flavour of the potato shines through . . . and that is what you want really . . . in a potato salad. The earthy sweetness of new potatoes enhanced with the tangy herbed flavour of a delicate vinaigrette. A big plate of this along side some lightly steamed and dressed spring asparagus, some sliced ham and perhaps some salted radishes . . . a crusty loaf and butter to mop up all the tangy crumbly potato leavings on the plate at the end . . .
This is bliss . . . pure, and utter bliss.
There is a time for my mother's potato salad . . . but today was not it . . .
*Herbed Potato Salad*
Serves 4 to 6
I love this salad, with it's tangy vinaigrette dressing and punchy herb flavour. I could just sit and eat a huge bowlful of it and nothing else!
2 pounds of new potatoes (I used Jersey Royals
this time, but any new potato will do)
2 TBS dry white wine
2 TBS good chicken stock
3 TBS white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp sea salt
2/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
10 TBS extra virgin olive oil, salad quality
4 spring onions, minced
2 TBS minced fresh dill
2 TBS minced fresh flat leaf parsley
2 TBS shredded fresh basil leaves
Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and then drop in the potatoes. Bring back to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 to 25 minutes, or until just fork tender. Drain well in a colander and then let sit for about 10 minutes or so until you can handle them. If they are very large, slip the skins off if you wish, or you can leave them on. It's up to you. (sometimes I do, sometimes I don't) Cut the potatoes into quarters if they are large, or halve if they are smaller. Place them in a medium bowl and toss together with the wine and chicken stock while they are still warm. The warmth of the potatoes helps them to soak up this preliminary dressing. (If you don't do alcohol, use all chicken stock.)
Whisk together the vinegar, mustard, 1/2 tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp of the pepper. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until totally emulsified. Pour the vinaigrette over the potatoes. Add the spring onions and herbe and season to taste with the remaining salt and pepper. Toss gently together. Serve warm or at room temperature. Delicious!
Thursday, 20 May 2010
Life is not easy when you are a chocoholic and are married to a man that hates chocolate. I know . . . it just ain't natural is it? Imagine hating chocolate.
He does like chocolate candy and chocolate ice cream and hot chocolate . . . but when it comes to cakes, cookies, brownies, pies or tarts . . . he absolutely hates them with a passion. Sigh . . .
That means I never really get to enjoy these things at home . . . I mean, I love chocolate, but I am not going to eat a whole chocolate cake all by myself as much as I would like to do so!
Here is the perfect solution. A delicious little chocolate cake that can be ready to eat in five minutes. I kid you not. It's the truth!
Do you know how dangerous this recipe is???
It means that I am never any further away than five minutes from pure chocolate indulgence!!!!
I served it up with a nice dollop of Cornish Clotted Cream . . .
Because I could!
It's supposed to serve two people. OOPS!! ☺
*Five Minute Chocolate Cake*
A tasty chocolate cake in a mug, just big enough for two. Dense and fudgy and delicious served warm with cream or ice cream. You will need a large mug suitable for use in the microwave.
4 TBS plain flour
4 TBS caster sugar
2 TBS cocoa powder (not drinking chocolate)
1 large egg
3 TBS milk
3 TBS sunflower oil
3 TBS dark chocolate chips
1/4 tsp vanilla
Put the flour, sugar and cocoa powder into the mug. Give it a good stir to mix with a small whisk. Whisk in the milk, oil, egg and vanilla, whisking together until smooth. Stir in the chocolate chips. Place in the microwave (1000 watts) and cook for 2 1/2 to 3 minutes. Don't worry if the cake rises above the top edge of the mug. This is supposed to happen. Remove from the microwave and allow to cool a bit before tipping out onto a plate to eat. Serve warm with some ice cream or cream. Delicious!