“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, 31 August 2010
I always get a little bit nostalgic this time of year. Summer is winding down and the kiddies are all excited and getting ready to go back to school.
When I was bringing up my children, our home was a flurry of activity!!
There were new shoes to buy, new school clothes, book bags, scribblers, pencils etc., and with five children in the house, as you can imagine, it was quite a lot of shoes and protractors!!!
They were pretty excited about it all and I was pretty excited about it all as well! And not for the reasons that one might suppose . . .
Sure I would be getting the house back to myself during the daytime . . . things would certainly be a lot quieter and I would definitely be having more time on my hands . . . but that was not the most exciting bit.
Lunch and after school snacks! That was the exciting bit!!
I always tried to provide my children with healthy, nutritious and interesting snacks in their school lunch boxes and I always made sure that there was some fresh cookies or some other baked goodies waiting for them when they got home at the end of the day . . . just to tide them through til teatime.
It was just one of my favourite things to do. I think I equate baking with loving . . . and my babies were well loved! At any rate, this was one of my favourite snacks to make them. I also think it was one of their favourite ones to eat!
You know Rice Crispie squares don't have to be boring, unless you want them to be. You can throw in all sorts and they become exciting and somewhat nutritious!
Things like peanuts and raisins and cranberries.
These beat the heck out of a sausage roll picked up at the corner shop any day of the week!
Psst!!! Big kids like them too . . .
I'm just sayin is all . . .
*Triple Threat Crispie Treats*
Makes about 12 bars
These are scrummy yummy and filled with peanuts, raisins and dried cranberries. If you like you can substitute half the raisins with chocolate covered raisins which makes them even more tasty!!
2 ounces butter (1/4 cup)
1 300g packet of white marshmallows (10 ounce package)
1 tsp vanilla
5 ounces of crisp rice cereal (4 cups)
5 ounces salted peanuts (1 cup)
100g raisins (1 cup)
100g dried cranberries (1 cup)
Butter a 9 by 13 inch pan well and set aside.
Melt the butter in a large nonstick saucepan over low heat until melted. Add the marshmallows and cook, stirring until the mixture is smooth and the marshmallows have melted. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Stir iin the rice cereal, panuts, raisins and cranberries, mixing them all in well. Spread in the prepared pan, pressing the mixture in evenly with lightly buttered hands. (This is the secret to keep the mixture from sticking to your fingers!) Cool completely before cutting into 3 by 3 1/4 inch bars.
Monday, 30 August 2010
I saw a recipe the other day for a Gooseberry and Ginger Wine Crumble. I thought to myself, that sounds rather good . . . scrummy even . . .
I didn't have any gooseberries though . . . nor could I find any, neither fresh nor frozen . . .
What I do have though, is a very healthy and very large and very productive rhubarb patch!!
The whole time we lived down in Kent at Oak Cottage, I could never get my rhubarb to grow and amount to much of anything. Here in Chester, on the outskirts of a city . . . my rhubarb is growing happily quite madly and profusely!!!
So, anyways, I thought to myself that rhubarb and ginger wine would probably go very well together, maybe even better than gooseberries and ginger wine. Rhubarb makes a lovely crumble, the best of all the crumbles in my opinion.
So what you have here today is a delicious recipe taken from another one of those balls that I grabbed and decided to run with.
The ginger wine idea from one recipe . . . added to my own rhubarb and my own crumble topping recipe that I added a teaspoon of ground ginger to this time . . . in order to further enhance the ginger flavours, of course!
I scored a winning goal with this one! I ended up with a moreishly scrumptious dessert filled with lovely flavours . . .
A sweet yet tart fruit filling, with just the merest whisper of ginger, topped with a buttery crunch filled with the goodness of oats and butter and again a mere whisper of ginger.
All in all this is my favourite crumble ever!
Don't forget the cream or lashings of custard! They are a given!!!
*Rhubarb and Ginger Wine Crumble*
Serves 4 to 6 (depending on how greedy you are)
A delicious crumble. The Ginger Wine really helps to bring out the flavour of the rhubarb. Lashings of custard or clotted cream are a must!
1 pound of rhubarb, washed, trimmed and cut into
1 inch slices (about 10 to 12 stalks)
200g of caster sugar
3 TBS ginger wine
For the crumble topping:
150g (1 cup) plain flour
3 TBS old fashioned porridge oats
1 tsp of ground ginger
125g pf butter, chilled and cut into cubes
3 TBS caster sugar
4 TBS soft light brown sugar
Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4. Butter a medium sized baking or pie dish. Set aside.
Place the rhubarb into a bowl and toss together with the sugar and gingerwine. Spoon into the prepared baking dish.
Whisk together the flour, ginger and oats in a bowl Rub in the butter with your fingertips until you have a lumpy, buttery mixture. Stir in the sugars and the salt with a fork. Drop the crumble topping evenly over top of the fruit.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until the fruit is bubbling through and the topping is crisp and golden. Delicious!
Sunday, 29 August 2010
This is a comforting dessert that you either loathe . . . or love.
We are from the love camp in this household.
Perfectly baked rice pudding . . . with creamy, milky, sweet rice beneath a scrummy golden buttery crust . . .
Can there be anything more heavenly on earth?
It all depends on which day you ask me . . .
Today, as I dig my spoon into it's sweet and creamy mass . . . I am in love with rice pudding and so I think not! (when cooked properly) The rice should be just tender . . . not floating in the liquid in separate grains . . . and not mushy and swollen into a stodgy mass.
The use of cream in this recipe gives a wonderfully rich and creamy texture that is oh so soothing and pleasing,
Comfort in a spoon indeed.
Serves 6 to 8
This is pure and simple comfort food. Either loathed or loved. We are lovers of it in our home.
110g (4 ounces) of short grain rice (use pudding rice or arborio rice)
450ml of whole milk (1 1/2 cups)
450ml of single cream (1 1/2 cups)
1 tsp vanilla paste
1 ounce of hard butter, diced
jam or syrup for serving (optional)
Set the oven at 150*C/300*F/gas mark2. Butter a large pie dish. Put the rice, milk, cream and vanilla paste into the dish and give it a good stir. Allow to sit for half an hour. Stir again and then dot the butter on the top. Place in the heated oven and bake for 3 hours, checking periodically to make sure the top doesn't burn. If you think it is getting too dark, cover loosely with a bit of foil. At the end the rice will be soft and there should be a lovely golden crust of milk on top. Eat hot or cold, with or without jam or syrup.
Saturday, 28 August 2010
One of my favourite television shows over here has to be Larkrise to Candleford. Based on a trilogy of novels written by the author, Flora Thompson about the countryside of north-east Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire at the end of the 19th Century, neither Todd nor I have ever missed an episode in all of the three series that have come out now. In fact we purchased them on DVD so that we could treat ourselves to turn-of-the-century village life anytime we wanted to!
A reader recently contacted me, and asked me if I had any knowledge of the type of food that would have been cooked in that era. An American, he and his wife are also great fans of the show, and were very curious about a cake that they had seen the old cook beating together in a bowl during one episode in series one.
Well, since the series takes place in the late Victorian era, I would have to say, without a doubt and with fair certainty, that it was probably a Victoria Sponge, or Victoria Sandwich Cake . . . a lovely buttery sponge cake that would have benefited greatly by some strong armed beating in a bowl.
It was the Victorians that invented this lovely cake by adding butter to an ordinary sponge mixture, which baked better in two flat tins rather than one deep tin. (Oh those Victorians, they were very clever at inventing things I have to say!)
The two cakes were then stuck together with a layer of tasty jam. According to Victorian manuals of the day, sponge cakes would have been made more for the nursery tea table than the drawing room, but we won't quibble the facts . . . the fact is that this cake is delicious, and I would serve it to anyone, child or adult!!
This is just the sort of cake one would imagine Dorcas and her employees at the Post Office sitting down to late in the afternoon . . . teatime . . . a china pot of steaming, freshly made tea at the ready to be served along side of lovely thick slabs of this moist and delicious sponge.
This is a real favourite around this house, and more or less tends to get treated like an ordinary every day kind of cake . . . but upon reflection, I know not why . . . coz it is fine enough to please even the most discerning of palates, and is anything but ordinary!!
I think Dorcas Lane would highly approve . . . it surely being my only weakness . . . something of which she knows full well . . . of this we would be in agreement. (Recipe adapted from the WI Cakes Cookery Book by Liz Herbert. If there is one thing the WI know alot about, it's baking cakes!)
*Traditional Victorian Sandwich Cake*
Makes one 7 inch cake
Popular during the reign of Qyeen Victoria, this cake remains popular to this day, which is a huge testament to it's taste and ease of baking! Don't be tempted to use all butter. This is one recipe that is better for the use of a mixture of butter and margarine.
3 ounces of butter, softened (6 TBS)
3 ounces soft margarine (6 TBS)
6 ounces caster sugar (1 cup)
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs, beaten
6 ounces self raising flour (a scant 1 1/2 cups)
3 TBS raspberry jam
buttercream to fill (optional)
icing sugar or caster sugar to dust the top
Butter and base line two 7 inch sandwich tins. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4.
Cream the butter, margarine, sugar and vanilla together until light in colour and fluffy. Gradually beat in the eggs, a little at a time, beating well after each addition. If the mixture begins to curdle, add a spoonful of the flour.
Fold in the flour with a metal spoon, taking care to use a cutting motion so as not to knock out too much of the air that you have beaten into the batter. Divide the batter evenly between the two cake tins, leveling off the surface. Make a slight dip in the centre of each.
Bake on a centre rack of the oven for about 25 minutes, or until the sponges have risen well, are golden brown, and spring back when lightly touched. Allow to cool in the pan for five minutes before running a knife carefully around the edges and turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Once cooled, place one layer on a cake plate. Spread with raspberry jam and buttercream (if using). Place the other cake on top, pressing down lightly. Dust with icing or caster sugar and serve.
By the way Commentor #63, Sheilagh, a Random Numbers Generator has picked you as the winner of the Delightful Hamper Giveaway. Contact me with your details and I will let the HamperGift people know where to send it. Thanks so much to everyone who participated and joined in on the fun. I wish you could all be winners. Don't be too disappointed though as I will soon be hosting another giveway hosted by the lovely people at Kellogg's . . . yes the people who bring us all those delicious breakfast cereals!
Friday, 27 August 2010
Clafoutis is a French Dessert, normally made with ripe cherries, placed in a well buttered dish and covered with a rich batter, which bakes around them . . . kind of like a rich custard really.
You serve it lukewarm and dusted with icing sugar and it's really, really lovely.
You don't have to just make it with cherries though. Clafoutis is also very delicious when made with other stoned fruits . . .
Fruits like apricots, nectarines, peaches . . . and my favourite Plums!!!
My batter deviates somewhat from the norm as well, in that I have added sweetly fragrant Orange Flower water and some grated orange zest. Orange is a flavour that goes very well with plums.
If you wanted you could use an orange flavoured liqueuer instead of the Orange Flower water . . . such as Cointreau or Grand Marnier. Another tasty version includes prunes which you have soaked in armagnac.
It's so easy to do and so very tasty . . . the batter is silky and buttery . . . the fruit almost tart . . . the nuts all toasted and crunchy on the top.
This is bliss, pure and simple. Of course you could serve this with some vanilla ice cream or a dollop of creme fraiche. Then it would be double bliss . . .
Plums make this a very autumnally delicious dessert!! (It's hard to believe that August is almost over!!)
Serves 8 - 10
Deliciously simple . . . yet impressive.
softened butter and caster sugar to butter the dish with
10 ripe but firm plums, halved and pitted
4 large free range eggs
6 TBS caster sugar
5 TBS plain flour
450ml of cream (2 cups)
1 TBS orange flower water
the grated zest of one orange
70g of flaked almonds (1/2 cup)
icing sugar for dusting
Preheat the oven to 190*C/375*F/ gas mark5. Butter a large round baking dish or flan dish. Dust with sugar, knocking any excess out.
Place the plums down into the dish, cut sides down. Beat the eggs together with the sugar and flour until smooth. Whisk in the cream, orange flower water and orange zest. Pour the resulting batter over the plums in the baking dish. Sprinkle with the almonds. Bake for 40 minutes, until well risen, lightly browned and set. Remove from the oven. Cool to lukewarm. Dust with icing suga and cut into wedges to serve.
Note - baking times are subjective and vary according to your own oven. I can only speak from my experience with my own oven. If you think that your clafoutis is browning too quickly, then you may loosely cover it with some foil during the last ten minutes of baking. If you find that it's not set by the end of the suggested cooking time, then by all means leave it in for a bit longer. I also like to have all of my ingredients at room temperature when I start, so take your eggs out of the fridge about an hour before you want to use them and measure out the cream and allow that to come to room temperature as well. This may allow for a shorter baking time. If your ingredients are cold then it will take longer of course!
Also I use Double Cream for this.
Thursday, 26 August 2010
When my children were growing up I had a cookie jar in my kitchen that was never empty. I think I baked fresh cookies about every second day or so.
They had their favourites of course! (As did I!) I think chocolate chip topped the list, followed very closely by oatmeal raisin and peanut butter.
At Christmas I would spend weeks and weeks baking up extra goodies for our holiday celebrations and popping them into the freezer. That way I could present our friends and their families with trays filled with a variety of baked goodies, as well as having plenty of treats to munch on in our own home!
Then there were the special cookies. You know the kind I mean . . . slightly elegant and subtly special . . .reserved for special occasions such as baby and bridal showers and afternoon teas.
These fall into that category. They have to be the most delicious cookies ever . . . I kid you not!
There is no egg in them, so they are perfect for people who are allergic to eggs. They have an almost macaroon like consistency . . . crisp around the edges and slightly chewy in the middle . . .
Chock full of lovely dried blueberries and almonds . . . drizzled with sweet white chocolate. Bet you can't eat just one!!
*Blueberry Almond Cookies*
These just may be the best cookies you have ever tasted! Very similar to a macaroon in texture and oh so scrummy!
90g unsalted butter, softened (1/3 cup)
170g caster sugar (3/4 cup)
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 TBS milk
125g plain flour (1 cup)
1/2 tsp baking powder
80g ground almonds (3/4 cup)
50g of dried blueberries (1/3 cup)
melted white chocolate for drizzling
Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4. Line two baking trays with parchment paper. Set aside.
Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the almond, vanilla and milk. Whisk together the flour and baking powder. Stir into the creamed mixture along with the ground almonds. Stir in the blueberries. Mix well to form a soft dough.
Using your hands squeeze together 2 teaspoon measures of the dough into oval logs about 2 inches long. Place at least an inch and a half apart on the baking sheets.
Bake for 15 minutes, turning the baking sheet around halfway through the baking time. They should be lightly golden along the edges. Allow to cool on the pans for about 10 minutes before removing to finish cooling on a wire rack.
Melt some white chocolate and drizzle over top. Store in a tightly covered container.
Wednesday, 25 August 2010
Sometimes you want something for supper that is totally unpretentious, delicious and simple to make . . . made from simple, fresh ingredients . . .
Things that you have in your larder and fridge all the time.
Things like potatoes and eggs.
If you have potatoes and eggs . . . you got a meal.
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
I did . . . and it was delicious.
It went down a real treat with a slice of buttered bread on the side, and a dab of ketchup.
Herby baked oven chips . . . with the skins on and coverd with little crunchy bits. Runny yolked oven fried eggs . . . broken open and running all over the potatoes . . . rich and scrummy . . . go on . . . dip your bread in. You know you want to.
Totally Todd approved.
Breakfast for dinner. Works for me!
*Scarborough Fair Egg and Chips*
Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme. Delicious, quick and oh so easy. Healthy too, coz it's baked in the oven.
1 pound floury potatoes (Maris Piper, King Edward)
2 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
2 TBS olive oil
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp dried sage
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
2 large free range eggs
Preheat the oven to 220*C/425*F/ Gas mark 7. Wash the potatoes and dry. Do not peel. Cut into thick chips. Tip into a nonstick roasting tray. Drizzle with the olive oil and herbs. Toss together with your fingers making sure that they are evenly coated.
Bang the tray into the oven and roast for about 40 minutes until cooked through and golden brown, giving them a shake and a flip every ten minutes or so. Create two gaps in the middle of them, pushing them aside with a spatula. Break the two eggs into the gaps. Return to the oven and bake for another 3 to 5 minutes or until the eggs are as cooked as you like. Season the eggs to taste. Divide between two heated plates and serve hot with buttered bread and ketchup for dipping if desired!