“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.
Saturday, 31 March 2012
We love carrot cake in this house. You probably have noticed, I'm sure. I have a delicious recipe for a Scrummy Carrot Cake on here (this one has pineapple and shredded coconut in it, with a cream cheese frosting), plus another delicious recipe for a Simple Carrot Cake. (This one has plump sultanas and a lemon glaze.)
Today I want to showcase another deliciously different carrot cake . . . Carrot and Poppy Seed Cake. Moistly addictive and flavoured with brown sugar and the crunch of poppyseeds . . .
It's baked in a loaf tin, which gives it the perfect shape to cut into slices.
With an orange sugar glaze that you brush on the cake while it's still warm, so that some of it soaks into the warm cake, and some stays on the surface, creating another depth of sweet crunch . . . and oranginess . . .
Cut into slices and spread with butter . . . or not . . . it's up to you. Perfect for a Saturday afternoon indulgence . . .
I think you will love this delicious teatime treat. Perfect with a hot drink for elevensies as well, or you could make carrot cake sandwiches to take on an early Spring picnic . . . spread cream cheese in the centre, or a cream sheese frosting . . .
Ooooor . . . you could cream together some cream cheese and bitter orange marmalade to serve with it for spreading. Oh so yummo.
*Carrot and Poppy Seed Cake*
makes one 9 by 5 inch loaf
An unsual quick bread using carrots and poppyseeds together and topped with crunchy orange sugar topping. Moist and delicious.
150ml of vegetable oil (generous 5 fluid ounces)
2 medium free range eggs, beaten
175g soft light brown sugar (3/4 cup packed)
350g of carrots, peeled and grated (6 medium sized carrots)
1 TBS poppyseeds
200g self raising flour (1 3/4 cup)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp mixed spice (see recipe in right hand side bar of page)
For the topping:
the zest of one orange, finely grated
the juice of 1/2 orange
95g of granulated sugar
Preheat the oven to 150*C/300*F/ gas mark 2. Butter a 9 by 5 inch loaf tin and line the base with greaseproof paper.
Beat the eggs together with the brown sugar and vegetable oil. Stir in the carrots and poppyseeds. Sift the flour, baking powder and mixed spice together. Stir this into the wet mixture, stirring to mix well together. Spoon into the prepared baking tin and smooth the top. Bake for 1 hour, to 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let stand in the tin for about 5 minutes, then carefully tip out and place right side up on a wire rack.
Whisk together the topping ingredients and then spoon slowly over top of the hot cake, a bit at a time, allowing it to be absorbed each time. Allow to cool completely before cutting into slices to eat, with or without butter.
Note: If you are really feeling hedonistic, you can put a cream cheese icing on top as well. Scrummo!!
Friday, 30 March 2012
This is an old standby of ours. Something that I make quite often and something that we both really enjoy. I got it from a Good Food Magazine a number of years ago. You can't go wrong with a recipe from BBC Good Food in my opinion. They're the best.
I always have chicken breasts in the deepfreeze . . .
I often have cherry tomatoes on the vine . . . although to be honest, the vine part is more for aesthetics than anything else. Any tomato would taste good in this, even larger ones . . . quartered.
The tomatoes get all sweet and rich, and taste delicious mashed into the lucious cheese sauce that magically appears . . .
a delicious combination of melted cheese, cream and the juices from the chicken.
Make sure you cook something worthy of soaking of all those flavourful juices to serve up along side of this . . .
things like rice, potatoes, pasta and broccoli go really well.
mmmm . . . this is really scrummy.
*Cheesy Chicken Rarebits*
One of our favourite meals. The chicken always turns out tender and you end up with a delicious cheesy sauce that is delicious spooned over the chicken and potatoes, rice or whatever it is you choose to serve with the meal. We like potatoes. Make sure you squash the roasted tomatoes into the sauce as well when you eat it. Fabulous!
4 skinless, boneless free range chicken breasts
140g strong cheddar cheese, grated (a scant 1 1/4 cup)
1 rounded dessertspoon of grainy mustard
3 fluid ounces single cream
4 small bunches of cherry tomatoes on the vine
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 200*C/400*F. Slice the chicken breasts through the middle almost all the way, leaving a bit of a hinge at one end. Fan them out and place them into a lightly oiled shallow baking dish. (Make sure it is large enough to hold all of the chicken breasts in a single layer.) Season them lightly with some salt and pepper.
Mix the cheese, cream and mustard together in a bowl. Spoon this mixture evenly over top of the chicken. No need to smooth it down, it works fine in dollops. Place the tomatoes, leaving them on the vine, around the chicken in the dish. Bang it into the oven and bake it for 20 to 30 minutes, until the chicken is golden brown and the tomatoes are squashy and nicely roasted.
Serve the chicken divided onto heated serving plates, along with some of the roasted tomatoes and some of the deliciously cheesy sauce spooned over top.
Thursday, 29 March 2012
When I worked down South as a personal Chef, I think I must have cooked these delicious burgers at least once every week for the Lady of the Manor . . . seriously. I never really tasted them myself . . . but I knew that they smelled out of this world while they were cooking and the family seemed to really enjoy them . . . hence my need to make them every week.
That's seven and a half years of Turkey Burgers, once a week . . . add it all up and it amounts to one heck of a lot of juicy and tasty turkey burgers!!
I can't believe that until today, in the two years since I left the Manor . . . I have not cooked them even once! I had always planned to, but always got home after shopping, having forgotten the coriander or some other crucial ingredient.
Today, I didn't forget anything and tonight I finally cooked them. My goodness, but they are truly delicious! Moist and spicy, with just a touch of heat. I use a very mild chili powder . . . as I don't like a lot of heat, but you can adjust the heat up or down as you wish.
With some spicy oven baked potato wedges this made a delicious supper that we ate Al Fresco . . . enjoying this sunny weather while we can. I'm really happy that I finally was able to make them and to see what all the fuss was about. I can tell you I won't be waiting two years to make them again! (I think these would be fabulous with corn relish as well!)
*Spicy Turkey Burgers*
Makes 4 servings
These can be as spicy or not, as you like them. Simply adjust the amount of chili powder. I prefer to use a very mild chili powder myself and on most days would not add the full teaspoon.
1 1/2 pounds of ground turkey, at room temperature
3 TBS finely chopped fresh coriander
1 spring onion, both green and white parts, chopped
1 fat clove of garlic, peeled and minced
1 tsp chili powder (you can use mild or ancho or whatever strength of chili powder floats your boat)
1 tsps fine sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
a pinch of ground cinnamon
non stick cooking spray for the pan
toasted burger buns
guacamole (your own homemade, or a good quality store brand)
1 large beefsteak tomato, sliced thickly
some lettuce leaves
finely sliced red onions
Place your ground turkey into a bowl. Add the coriander, spring onion, garlic, chili powder, sea salt, black pepper, ground cumin, ground coriander and ground cinnamon. Mix all in well with your hands. Shape into 4 equal sized round patties, making a gentle dip in the centre of each. (For some reason this helps them not to shrink as much and keeps them thinner so they are not as bulky in the bun.)
Spray a non stick skillet with cooking spray and brown the patties on both sides over medium heat, taking about 5 to 6 minutes per side and cooking until they are cooked through. Try not to mash them down with the spatula too much as this only forces the juiciness out of the burger.
Once cooked through, spread the bottom halves of the toasted buns with some guacamole. Top with some sliced red onions and the cooked burgers. Top the other half of the bun with some lettuce leaves and sliced tomato. Serve immediately and enjoy!
Wednesday, 28 March 2012
(photo from Delia.com)
One Easter Tradition over here is the Simnel Cake, a light fruit cake, similar to a Christmas cake, covered in marzipan, then toasted, and eaten during the Easter period. There is usually a layer of marzipan baked in the centre as well, and more often, although not necessary, 11 balls of marzipan placed on the top of the cake to represent the 11 disciples of Christ, Judas being noteably absent! The marzipan is then toasted until it browns slightly. If you like fruit cake and marzipan, then Simnel Cake is for you!
It's not always been an Easter cake however, having started back in Medieval times, and in recent years was traditionally baked for Mothering Sunday . . . but with the onset of Lent and what-not the baking of these fruited cakes has now pretty much moved to Easter.
I happen to love both fruit cakes and marzipan so I love Simnel Cake. Todd's not overly fond though. He finds it very rich. I found this recipe in a BBC little book called 101 Cakes & Bakes and decided to give them a try. I've actually had it earmarked for several years now.
They turned out lovely!! The cake itself is nice and light, not too heavy, and beautiful spiced just right. We loved the little treasure of a nugget of marzipan in the centre . . . the drizzle icing delicately flavoured with orange sets them off perfectly, and of course . . . the chocolaholic in me just adores the little Easter Eggs on top.
I dare say that there will be none left by Easter and I'll just have to bake some more. So much easier than baking a fruit cake I'd say . . . it's a one bowl batter recipe. You know the kind . . . you just throw everything into one bowl and beat til fluffy! Easy peasy, lemon squeasy! My kind of cake!
I think you might even be able to get kids interested in this tasty muffins!! This big kid loves them at any rate!!
Like the cake except that they are smaller. Light and fruity with a surprising nugget of marzipan baked in the centre of each.
For the cakes:
250g of mixed dried fruit (1 2/3 cup)
the grated zest and juice of one medium orange
175g unsalted butter, softened (3/4 cup)
175g golden caster sugar (14 1/2 TBS)
3 large free range eggs, beaten
300g of self raising flour (2 1/2 cup)
1 tsp mixed spice (see recipe in side bar on right hand side)
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
5 TBS milk
175g of marzipan (a scant half pound)
For the decoration:
200g icing sugar, sifted (1 3/4 cup)
2 TBS orange juice for mixing
sugar eggs or mini eggs
Measure the fruit into a bowl. Stir in the orange zest and juice. Microwave for one minute. Let stand until cool.
Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4. Line a 12 cup medium muffin tin with paper liners. Set aside.
Measure all the cake ingredients into a large bowl. Beat together until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the fruit, mixing it in well.
Fill the muffin tins halfway with the batter. Pinch off 12 equal pieces of Marzipan. Roll each into a ball and then flatten them slightly. Place these discs over the muffin batter in the pans. Top with the remaining batter. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown, well risen and firm to the touch, Remove to a wire rack to cool.
Whisk together the icing sugar and orange juice to make a smooth icing which is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Drizzle over top of the muffins and top each with a few eggs to decorate. Allow to set before serving.
Tuesday, 27 March 2012
When my veggie box came this week, there were two lovely big and fat red peppers inside, amongst other things of course! I have always loved the flavours of peppers . . . raw and with dips, sliced and sauteed and in omelets (I like to use more than one colour in these), sliced and sauteed with beef strips to make pepper steak . . . the possiblities are endless. I never run out of ideas on how to use them!
I have found in these recent years though, that my digestive system can't handle the green ones anymore. I am burping them up for hours after eating them, so I don't. Eat them that is . . . (I know! TMI!!)
I was thinking that I would stuff these ones with a tasty vegetarian stuffing. I spent a few hours going through my recipe collection. I easily have several hundred cook books (Todd would say more like a thousand, but he is slightly prone to exaggeration when it comes to cook books.) I also have a nice collection of recipe cards, that I collected over the years from the local Waitrose store when we lived down south.
They used to put out several free recipe cards every month, all filled with tasty recipes using local and seasonal foods. This one looked especially delicious and easy, and like something we both would like. It's kind of like stuffed peppers, except the stuffing is on the outside, and there's chicken too . . . which would satisify my meat and two veg husband, the Toddster.
Chicken, peppers and rice are truly an unbeatable combination, don't you think??
*One Pot Chicken and Rice*
Delicious, easy, impressive and filled with wonderful Spanish flavours like smoked paprika, peppers and tomatoes. Taken from a Waitrose Recipe card from a few years back. We loved this.
1 TBS olive oil
800g of Chicken thighs (8 good sized thighs)
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
2 fat cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 red pepper, seeded and chopped
1 medium tomatoes, chopped
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
250g Bomba Paella Rice (19 TBS)
75ml dry white wine (2 1/2 fluid ounces)
400ml of chicken stock (generous 14 fluid ounces)
chopped fresh flat leaf parsley to garnish
Pre-heat the oven to 180*C/350*F. Heat the oil in a large oven proof deep skillet or saute pan. Add the chicken and brown for 10 to 12 minutes until golden on all sides. Remove and set aside. Pour off all but 1 TBS of the fat. Add the onion, garlic, and red pepper to the pan. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring until soft and golden. Stir in the tomatoes, paprika, and rice. Coat in the oil. Add the wine and stock. Season to taste with some salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring, until the rice is no longer soupy, but not dry. Sit the chicken thighs on top of the rice, cover and transfer the pan to the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until the chicken juices run clear and the rice is tender. Fork through the rice and sprinkle with the chopped parsley. Serve.
Monday, 26 March 2012
I think rack of pork has to be one of my favourite roasts to cook. Our local Waitrose sells the most wonderful free range, Hampshire bred pork. It has a lovely flavour and is so succulent when done.
Tender and sweet, and oh so delicious!
Normally I would cook it with the crackling on . . . Todd loves it all crisp and crunchy . . . it's a real treat.
For this roast though you will want to cut the crackling off. You can roast it separately in the oven if you wish. Just rub it with a bit of sea salt and drizzle it with a bit of olive oil. It will be perfectly cooked, and it's quite easy to increase the temperature of the oven when you are done to give it a final blast of heat to really crisp it up after you take the roast out of the oven.
Pork and fennel go so well together. The fennel gets meltingly buttery along with the shallots and taste just wonderful.
The potatoes become moist and buttery on the inside, and crispy and browned on the outside.
All in all this is . . . quite . . . quite . . . delicious! Recipe adapted from the cookery book Apples For Jam, by Tessa Kiros. (My absolute favourite cookbook of all time!)
*Roast Rack of Pork with Fennel and Honey Mustard*
Serves 4 to 6
This may seem a bit fussy at first, but it's really quite simple and the flavours are beautiful. Have your butcher prepare you rack of pork by cutting it away from the bone, leaving it attached only at the bottom. Roasting with the bone adds extra flavour, although to be sure you can use a boneless pork loin if you wish.
1 kg pork loin rack, prepared as above (about 2.2 pounds)
2 springs of fresh rosemary
2 fennel bulbs, trimmed, cut into wedges, and steamed for 5 to 7 minutes until crispy tender
4 large potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges
4 banana shallots, peeled and cut in half
3 garlic cloves, peeled and mashed a bit
2 fresh bay leaves
4 ounces olive oil
4 ounces white wine or apple juice
4 ounces of water
4 fresh sprigs of sage
salt and black pepper to taste
2 TBS runny honey
1 tsp dry mustard powder
Pre-heat the oven to 200*C/400*F. Place the vegetables in a medium sized roasting tin. Season with some salt and pepper, turning to coat them. Place the rosemary springs in between the bone and the flesh of the pork roast. Set this on top of the vegetables. Season the roast all over with salt and pepper. Drizzle the olive oil over the meat and vegetables and then pour the water and wine/juice around the base. Tuck 3 of the springs of sage into the vegetables along with the bay leaves. Place the last spring of sage on top of the roast.
Place in the oven and roast for 1 1/4 hours, basting the vegetables and meat with the juices several times. By the end of the cooking time the potatoes should be juicy and crispy on the outside, and the meat should be golden and cooked through.
Mix the honey and mustard together and spread this over the top of the roast. Return to the oven and cook for another 20 to 25 minutes until the fat on the meat is nicely glazed. Remove from the oven. Tent with some foil and allow to rest for 15 minutes before serving. Cut the meat off the bone totally and cut the bone pieces between the ribs. Cut the meat into pork chop sized pieces. Place the meat in the centre of a platter along with the bones, and surround with the vegetables to serve. Drizzle some of the honey juices over all.
Sunday, 25 March 2012
I just love it when I open a carton of eggs and there is a feather stuck on one of them. I only ever buy free range eggs, and it makes me think of happy chickens browsing around the farm yard. I would love to have our own chickens . . . but as Todd reminds me . . . it's difficult enough to get someone to watch the dog when we go away, let alone a yard full of chickens!
I had some apples that I really wanted to use up the other day, and so I decided to make this old family favourite . . . Apple Pie French Toast. Kind of like apple upside down french toast I guess . . .
Sliced apples coated in a delicious brown sugar caramel sauce, with egg soaked slices of thick french bread on top, dusted with warm spice and then baked until it's all fluffy, scrummy, delicious!!
This is an overnight french toast casserole, so do plan ahead . . . although I am sure that if you did it up in the morning it would make a fantastic supper along with some browned sausage and bacon.
Breakfast for supper. I like it!
You'll love this. Trust me on this. It's fabulously good! But then every recipe in my Big Blue Binder is actually pretty wonderful.
*Apple Pie French Toast*
This is one of those overnight breakfast casseroles that you make up the night before. So easy to bake in the morning and incredibly delicious.
204g of soft light brown sugar (1 cup)
115g of butter
2 TBS golden syrup
(can use golden corn syrup or maple syrup if you have it)
3 large granny smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced
6 large free range eggs
250ml of whole milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 loaf of french bread, cut into thick slices (you may not need all of it)
cinnamon, ground cardamom and ground nutmeg to dust
Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4. SLice the butter into a 9 by 13 iinch glass dish. Sprinkle the brown sugar over top along with the golden syrup. Place into the heated oven and bake until the butter melts. Remove from the oven. Whisk all together and return to the oven. Bake until the mixture begins to bubble, about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and turn the oven off. Arrange the apple slices over the caramel iin the dish.
Beat together the eggs, milk and vanilla. Dip slices of bread into this, coating liberally. Place the bread slices over top of the apples in the pan. Use just enough to fill the pan snuggly. Pour any remaining egg mixture over top. Sprinkle generously with cinnamon, ground cardamom and nutmeg. Cover with plastic cling film and then place in the refrigerator overnight.
The next morning take the dish out of the fridge for about half an hour to take the chill off. Reheat the oven once more to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4. Remove the cling film and bake the casserole for about 45 minutes, or until puffed, set and golden brown. Divide amongst 6 heated plates, with the apples on top.
Serve with additional syrup if desired.
Saturday, 24 March 2012
What is a Bumbleberry? Ahhh . . . I think I might know the answer to that. A bumbleberry is a Burple and Binkel berry (amazing colours you know), one berry being sweet and the other tart. The two colours, when cooked together, creating a flavour that is fantastically gloriously delicious! (of course!)
It is largely rumoured that they grow on Giggle Bushes in the Bumbleberry Valley . . . a closely hidden secret spot of beauty, I think. I've never been able to find it on a map, per se . . .
Apparently you cannot grow them under anything because they must have the warmth of the sun in order to proliferate . . . tis also rumoured that they cannot grow over anything because that would keep the warmth of the sun off what ever it was growing over, for Bumbleberries are very large. Bumbleberries grow in places where nothing else grows . . . which means that they are seldom ever seen, as most people won't look where nothing else grows, or so they say . . .
From what I understand, there are four different kinds of bumbleberry bushes, each one flowering at a different time of the year. One blossoms only in the spring and bears berries in the fall in the quiet time of the day, early in the morning, just before dawn. Another blossoms only in the summer and bears berries in winter during the pleasant mid-day hours. A third blossoms only in the fall and bears berries in the spring in the quiet of an afternoon. The fourth kind blossoms in the winter and bears berries in the summer at midnight, because of course summer days are far too warm for it.
The end result of course is that these wondrous Bumbleberries are available all year round! Which is very good news indeed. Bearing only one berry at a time, and giggling at the precise moment that they become ripe, makes these berries the most delicious and cherished berries of all . . .
Just perfect for being baked into a lovely traybake such as this one I have baked here today. With a sweet shortbread cookie crust . . . topped with a lucious sweet/tart rich bumbleberry filling, and topped with shortbread cookie streusel crumbles . . . mmmm . . . mmmm . . . scrummy good.
Of course that is a lot of old codswallop . . . but shhh . . . don't tell anyone. It's awfully hard to giggle when you're mouth is full . . . and why burst the bubble . . . a little bit of fantasy never hurt anyone, and as we all know anything baked with Bumbleberries is automatically calorie free!
*Bumbleberry Pie Traybake*
Makes one 9 by 13 inch pan
With it's crunchy shortbread cookie crust, rich berry filling and crisp streusel topping this traybake is sure to become a fast favourite!
For the crust and topping:
298g plain flour (3 cups)
290g granulated sugar (1 1/2 cups)
1/4 tsp salt
345g of cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
For the filling:
4 large free range eggs
384g granulated sugar
120g of dairy sour cream
75g of plain flour (3/4 cup)
2 pounds of berries (I like to use raspberries, blackberries and blueberries)
(Thaw if frozen, and drain)
Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F. gas mark 4. Butter a 9 by 13 inch baking pan. Set aside.
Whisk together the flour, sugar and salt for the crust in a large bowl. Drop in the butter and rub it into the flour with your fingertips, working quickly, until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs. Alternately you can use a pastry blender, or cut it in using the metal blade in your food processor.
Reserve 1/4 of the crumb mixture for the topping. Press the remainder into the bottom of the buttered baking pan, pressing it in evenly. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before proceeding.
Whisk the eggs and sugar together for the topping. Whisk in the flour, sour cream and salt until smooth. Gently fold in the berries. Pour this mixture evenly over top of the crust. Sprinkle the reserved crumbs evenly over top. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until the crust is lightly browned. Allow to cool for at least an hour before cutting into squares to serve.
(Ideally you should get about 24 squares, which makes it ideal for a large crowd. You can also have the recipe quite successfully.)