“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, 30 June 2012
I had a rather lazy culinary day the other day . . .
The kind of day where I just couldn't get my act together, and make up my mind what I wanted to cook for our supper. I spent a while looking through my cookbooks, but nothing was tempting me at all. I wanted something quick and easy, but at the same time filling, and let's not forget . . . tasty!!
I hadn't gone grocery shopping yet, and in all honesty fresh ingredients were rather low on the ground.
I had potatoes and eggs, some onions and a few red peppers. I had picked up a nice tin of chunky corned beef the last time I was in Marks and Spencers.
In the end I decided to make us a nice Corned Beef Hash for our supper. It went down a real treat with my meat and potatoes loving husband, and, in all honesty, I rather enjoyed it myself!!!
*Baked Corned Beef Hash*
Store cupboard favourite. Quick, easy, cheap and cheerful! Perfect for those nights when you are lacking in inspiration and ingredients. You can serve this topped with either a poached or fried egg if you wish. Delicious!
4 large potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
1 TBS vegetable oil
1 onion, peeled and diced
1 red pepper, deseeded and chopped
1 large tin of corned beef, chopped
1 to 2 TBS creamed horseradish
142 ml of double cream (a scant 1/2 cup)
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
chopped fresh flat leaf parsley to garnish
Boil the potatoes in a pot of lightly salted water for about 5 minutes. Drain well and allow to dry slightly before proceeding.
Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the onion and peppers. Cook for about 5 minutes until they begin to soften. Tip in the dried potatoes. Cook and stir for about 10 minutes until they start to turn golden brown. Stir through the corned beef. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Whisk the cream and horseradish together. Fold into the hash.
Preheat the oven to 200*C/ 400*F/ gas mark 6. Tip the hash into a lightly buttered casserole dish, leaving it a bit craggy. Place into the oven and bake for about 15 to 20 minutes, until bubbling and beginning to brown.
Note - If desired you can top the hash with some grated strong cheddar cheese and pop it under the grill to toast.
Friday, 29 June 2012
Once again, another attempt to pare down our fresh resources here at Oak Cottage. What better way to use up blueberries, than to bake a deliciously moist sour cream cake!!
Oh, I do hope that blueberries are available now up in Chester . . . they weren't when we last lived there some almost seven years ago now . . .
I was so very excited when I found them in the local shops down here in Kent. Blueberries were one of the things I had most missed over here when I first arrived. A local gal from Eastern Canada, I had never had to live without blueberries in my life!!!
I had taken them oh so very much for granted once upon a time. It took moving over here for me to realize just what a treasure they truly are.
But even if they are something that you can get all of the time . . . baked in a delicious cake such as this, they are a treasure anyways . . .
Moist . . . delicious . . . with just the merest hint of lemon in it's delicious buttercream frosting. This is a winning cake all the way around. Your family will thank you, and then . . . ask for more!!
*Sour Cream Blueberry Cake*
Serves 8 to 10
A deliciously moist sour cream cake stogged full of blueberries and covered in a tasty lemon scented buttercream icing.
for the cake:
175g soft butter
175g caster sugar
3 large free range eggs
225g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla essence
4 TBS dairy sour cream
225g blueberries, fresh or frozen
For the Icing:
3 ounces softened butter
6 ounces icing sugar, sifted
1 TBS sour cream
1/4 tsp vanilla essence
1/4 tsp lemon essence
Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F. Butter and baseline a loose bottomed 9 inch round cake tin.
Put the butter, sugar, eggs, flour, baking powder, and vanilla in a large bowl. Beat with an electric whisk for 1 to 2 minutes, until light in colour and well mixed. Beat in the sour cram and then fold in the blueberries.
Spread into the prepared tin, leveling off the top. Bake for 50 minutes, until risen and the top springs back when lightly touched. Remove from the oven. Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes and then take out of the tin, peel off the paper and finish cooling on a wire rack.
To make the icing place all the ingredients into a bowl and beat well with an electric whisk until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Spread over the top of the cooled cake. Delicious!
Wednesday, 27 June 2012
I'm not sure why it is . . . but it's terribly difficult to get a great picture of chocolate anything . . . well, it is for me anyways!
I have seen really delish looking chocolate photos out there, but I don't know how people do it . . . this is a skill that remains a mystery to me. I'd love to know their secrets!
I wanted to bake a special treat for our friend Doreen before we go away and so I thought I would make her some chocolate muffins. They would be something that she could pop into her freezer and then just take one out when she wanted to . . . so she doesn't miss me too much.
She is like me . . . she loves chocolate. Then again . . . not very many women don't love chocolate do they? I know there are the odd few . . . but typically this is very rare.
Back to the muffins. Fudgy, dark, chocolatey . . . and stogged full of white chocolate bits.
*Double Chocolate Muffins*
Makes 12 muffins
Fudgy chocolate muffins, stogged full of white chocolate bits. What's not to like??
125g of unsalted butter, melted (1/2 cup)
100g bar of plain chocolate, chopped (I used one bar of Lindt dark chocolate, 70% cocoa solids, about 3 1/2 ounces)
225g of plain flour (2 14 cups)
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
40g cocoa powder (not chocolate drink mix, 1/3 cup)
175g of golden caster sugar ( scant cup)
200g white chocolate chopped (7 ounces)
1 medium freerange egg
200ml of milk (7 fluid ounces)
150g tub of natural yoghurt (2/3 cup)
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 190*C/375*F/ gas mark 5. LIne a 12 hole muffin tin with paper liners. Set aside.
Place the chocolate and butter into a bowl. Set over simmering water and melt. Make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn't touch the water. Once melted, whisk together and set aside to cool while you do the rest of the recipe.
Whisk together the flour, soda, salt, cocoa powder and sugar in a large bowl. Stir in the choclate bits. Beat together the milk, egg, yogurt and vanilla. Pour both the egg mixture and the chocolate mixture into the flour mixture. Mix up quickly, without over mixing. Spoon into the muffin cases.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the tops spring back when lightly touched. Remove from the pans and allow to cool on a wire rack. Will keep in an airtight container for up to three days. These freeze well also. To thaw out, pop into the microwave on high for about 10 seconds.
Tuesday, 26 June 2012
Well we finally got some sunshine today and it's beginning to feel a bit like summer should feel! Yayy!!! I took advantage of the sunshine and whipped up a really quick little dessert for the Toddster and I to enjoy . . .
I'm almost embarassed to call it a recipe . . . they are such a doddle to put together . . .
But it's also nice to know that if you keep some pre-baked tartlet dessert pastry cases in the cupboard . . . along with some double cream in the fridge and some lemon curd . . .
not to mention sweet summer berries . . .
then you can make an impressive dessert lickety split!!
Almost instantaneously actually.
But don't tell anyone . . . let them think you slaved all day to create these tasty little delights!!
It's only a little lie . . . I think you could also fold the lemon curd into thick Greek yogurt if you were wanting to watch the calories a bit more and it would be every bit as scrummy.
*Simple Summer Berry and Lemon Tartlets*
These are so simple and so tasty. People will think you slaved away for hours to make them. Little do they know . . . you cheated!
1 small punnet of blueberries (about 1 cup)
1 small punnet of raspberries (about 1 cup)
4 individual medium sweet pastry cases (about 3 inches in diameter)
225ml of double cream
3 dessert spoons of lemon curd
Whip the cream until it just begins to mound. Gently swirl the lemon curd throughout. I like to leave streaks of lemon curd. Divide it equally between the four pastry cases. Top with the berries and serve immediately.
Monday, 25 June 2012
Turn the music on and then sit back in your chair . . . I'm going to take you back to a time here in the UK, back in the early 60's.
It's Friday night, you've had a hard week at work and you are going out for a night on the town. You've got your mini skirt on, your hair is all puffed and fluffed . . . Mary Quant is adorning your eyes, and you and your mates stop at the Chippie on the corner for a bite to eat before you hit the clubs in town.
The chips are hand cut and chunky . . . the fish is piping hot and crisply battered, and it's all served up in a newspaper cone, with a big splash of malt vinegar and lotsa salt. Nothing on earth tastes any better . . . the night is young, and it's all a go go go! Friday night, cute lads, Mini Skirts . . . letting your hair down, pop music and the best fish and chips in town. What more could anybody want!
I was only a little girl in the 1960's, so I am only drawing on my overactive imagination for this . . . and reruns of Heartbeat . . . but this is the feeling I always get when I visit my absolute favourite fish & chip shop in Chester.
It's called Blackstocks and you will find it on Northgate Street right here in Chester, just down from the town hall . . . and I am not exaggerating when I say that they are the best! They are a relatively new place, having only opened up about 2 months ago. Todd and I have been there at least half a dozen times since . . . and we have honestly NEVER been disappointed.
Their byword is . . .
Crispy . . . NOT soggy.
Fresh . . . NOT frozen.
Today's . . . NOT yesterdays.
They claim to be passionate about their food and it shows.
There's a very 60's feel to the place . . . from the clean and modern lines of the tables and chairs . . . to the music that is always playing in the background. Nothing jars . . . it's clean . . . it's simple . . . the music gets your toes tapping . . . the staff are very welcoming, polite and cheerful . . . but most important of all . . . the food is delicious and good value for money spent.
They say they have traveled the length and the breadth of the country looking and tasting the best and the worst that the UK has to offer in the way of Fish & Chips, and it's clear that they have taken all that they have learnt, and put it into operation in this fabulous shop. The fish is beautifully cooked . . . and fresh, the batter always crisp and never soggy. The chips are quality . . . hand cut, twice fried, golden brown and always crisp, not greasy. I'd hazard to say that they've never been frozen either!
Todd and I always get a nice piece of Haddock or Cod for each of us . . . and then a portion of chips to share. The fish comes with a nice piece of lemon for squeezing, and there is salt and malt vinegar on the tables so you can add as much or as little as you like. (I like that . . . only "I" know how much salt and vinegar I want . . . and I like to add it myself.)
None of it is ever grease laden . . . or soggy, always perfectly done. That is because their oil is never old . . . their fish is said to have been swimming in the sea just hours before. The batter is so crisp you can hear it rustle and crackle when you break your fork into it . . .
And just look at the succulence of that beautiful fish . . . so moist and perfectly done. Never dry . . . a beautiful combination of crisp batter and tender, flaky, and beautifully flavoured fresh fish. What's more . . . it is cooked right as you order it . . . it hasn't been sitting around under a heat lamp for ages.
Oh, this is fish and chips heaven for sure. This is why we keep going back . . .
We have never been disappointed.
Oh . . . they have other things on the menu as well . . . beautiful looking Steak Pies, handmade by a local baker . . . "Pure"Chicken nuggets, Premium Award Winning Locally sourced and made Sausages (mostly meat and not filler), Luxury Fish Cakes which are said to be at least 50% Cod, proper mushy peas, gravy and buttered bread. Good value for money spent. All anyone could want for the perfect fish dinner.
You can eat in . . . or take away. We always eat in . . . the atmosphere is so nice and we see it all as being a part of the whole fish & chips experience. It's just perfect to us.
You may be tempted to think that I have been paid to say all of this . . . or that at the very least have had free fish and chips. Not so . . . I quite simply like to give accolades where accolades are due. When I see something being done so very right . . . I just have to share.
Blackstocks Fish & Chips, 33 Northgate Street, Chester, UK . Open seven days a week.
Go on . . . treat yourself today. I'm going to!
Oh heck . . . if you live in America, you won't be able to unless you travel over here . . . however can I do this to you . . . leave you all wanting and drooling away . . .
Just because I'm not mean . . . I can't give you their recipe because it is a secret recipe . . . but I can give you mine. I can't promise you that it's as good as theirs is . . . only that it's a pretty darned good second place runner.
*Beer Battered Fish*
This is the best battered fish you could ever want to eat. Light and crisp and the fish is beautifully flakey inside. Make sure your oil is hot before you start frying the fish. Also make sure your fish is well coated with flour before you dip it into the batter. If you follow these two rules you will be rewarded with delicious crisp battered fish, perfectly moist on the inside.
4 cod or haddock fish fillets
(I like the thick ones myself)
6 ounces flour
1 tsp baking soda
8 ounces of beer
the juice of half a lemon
salt to taste
Flour for dredging the fish in
Oil for frying
Malt Vinegar, Lemon Slices, tartar sauce
Place about an inch and a half of sunflower oil into a deep skillet. Heat over medium high heat until hot. A cube of bread should brown in the hot oil in about 10 seconds. While the oil is heating get the fish ready.
Place the flour, soda and salt in a large bowl. Whisk in the beer and lemon juice to make a thick batter. Set aside.
Season your fish pieces with a bit of salt and then dredge completely in the flour, shaking off any excess. Dip into the batter and then carefully tease it into the hot oil. Cook for about 4 to 5 minutes perside, until nicely browned and crispy. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon to drain on some kitchen paper. Serve immediately with some chips if desired, and salt and vinegar. Lemon Slices and tartar sauce are optional!
Sunday, 24 June 2012
As you know I occasionally get sent a cookbook to test out and review . . . I know . . . it's a hard job but somebody's got to do it!! I'm always more than happy to help out in that way!
This week I was sent the Cookie Doug Lover's Cookbook, by Lindsay Landis. You may already be familiar with her blog, Love and Olive Oil. (Lucky girl to have a publishing deal! Buck up Britain, there's lots of fab food bloggers over here who should have cookbooks published!)
Lindsay has invented the perfect cookie dough. It tastes great. It's egg free and perfectly safe to eat raw. it mixes up quick and easily, and, best of all, you can use it to make dozens of delicious cookie dough creations, from cakes, custards, and pies to candies, brownies, and even granola bars.
Included are recipes for indulgent breakfasts (cookie dough doughnuts!), frozen treats (cookie dough Popsicles!), and outrageous snacks (cookie dough eggrolls! cookie dough fudge! cookie dough pizza!). If your mom ever caught you with your finger in the cookie dough bowl and if raw cookie dough is your secret indulgence . . . then this book is for you!
It's a beautifully laid out book with clear instructions, beautiful full colour photographs to accompany each recipe . . . I love that it is coil bound, so that the pages stay open with no problem at all. It's a great size, not too big, not too small . . . just perfect for having on the countertop next to you while you cook, but it also stands up really well on it's own, which is also a bonus! There are also lots of nice tips on ingredients, equipment, packaging ideas, etc.
As you know I would never review a cookery book without trying out some of the recipes and I have done just that, with fab results! Today I made the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bread Pudding. We are bread pudding nuts in this house!
It was so easy to put together. All of the instructions were clear and easy to understand. Even though there were three separate components of the recipe . . . it was neither long, nor hard to execute, nor really long winded. It went together lickety split really.
Oh my but it smelled gorgeous when it was cooking . . . I could hardly wait to get it out of the oven. It was just beautiful when it was done.
I did make a few modifications. Because there are only two of us, I cut the recipe down by a third and baked it in two individual pie dishes . . . with each dish being cut in half to serve two people . . . but let me tell you, this was soooo good I could easily have eaten one all by myself. Dangerous stuff indeed!
The only thing that could have made it any better would have been a nice scoop of vanilla ice cream crowning it. I didn't have any. Boo Hoo!! Anyways, if this recipe is any indication of the ease and perfection of the rest of the recipes in this delightful little book, it's a winner winner chicken dinner!!
Buy it NOW! You won't regret it. It has a wonderful variety of recipes to please just about anyone, and would make a nice addition to anyone's collection! I am so glad I didn't make the full recipe . . . this one is pretty hard to resist and reduced my will power to just about N-I-L!!
*Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bread Pudding*
Serves 12 (I have successfully cut this down to a third of a recipe)
Three little words . . . deliciously decadently MOREISH! May I add Nom Nom!!
For the Bread:
1 (1 pound) loaf of brioche or French bread cut into 3/4 inch cubes
(About 7 cups, or 455g)
1/4 cup of unsalted butter, melted (57g)
For the Custard:
3 large free range eggs
3 cups of half and half (675ml of a mixture of half cream and half milk)
1/2 cup of granulated sugar (95g)
1/2 cup soft light brown sugar, packed (100g)
1/8 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
For the Cookie Dough:
1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature (57g)
1/4 cup granulated sugar (48g)
1/2 cup soft light brown sugar, packed (100g)
1 TBS half and half or cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour (99g)
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips (180g, I used Green & Blacks milk chocolate, chopped)
Pre-heat your oven to 200*C./400*F/ gas mark 6. Toss the bread cubes with the melted butter and spread them out onto a couple of large rimmed baking sheets. Bake in the preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes until golden. Remove from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4.
Place the bread cubes into a 13 by 9 inch baking pan. Whisk together all of the custard ingredients. Pour this over the bread. Let stand for 30 minutes, giving it a turn every so often so that the bread absorbs the custard evenly.
Cream together the butter and sugars for the cookie dough until light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla and cream. Mix in the flour and salt until incorporated. The dough should come together in large clumps. Stir in the chocolate chips.
Crumble half of the cookie dough over the bread in the dish and gently fold together until the dough is covered with custard and evenly distributed. Crumble the remaining dough over top.
Bake the pudding for 1 hour, or until the top is puffed and golden brown and a silver knife inserted near the centre comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.
Adapted from the Cookie Dough Lover's Cookbook by Lindsay Landis
The Cookie Dough Lover's Cookbook, ritten by Lindsay Landis and published by Quirk Publishing
US $18.95/$19.95 Canada/£11.69 UK
Many thanks to Matt and Quirk Publishing for sending me this lovely book to review. I give it 10 out of 10!
Saturday, 23 June 2012
We may not be having dry weather here at the moment . . . and it's not really been warm . . . it's probably the nicest weather for Wimbleton . . . but that hasn't stopped the Strawberries from ripening . . . and it hasn't stopped me from indulging!
SCRUMMO!! I love, Love, LOVE Strawberry Season. I keep myself from eating them the whole of the year so that I can enjoy them even more in the summertime.
And this was the perfect way to welcome in the first day of summer . . .
Gently roasted summer strawberries, lightly sweetened with a mixture of butter, brown sugar . . . and lightly spiced with some ground cardamom . . .
Roasted just long enough to make them even sweeter, but not long enough to make them mushy . . . they still retain a bit of their bite . . .
Spooned into your prettiest dishes and then topped with some lovely softely whipped cream flavoured with honey and vanilla . . .
Sigh . . . this is summer in a bowl. The rain may fall and the wind may lash against the window panes . . . but summer is here . . .
and it comes in a plump juicy berry, wearing a little green cap!
*Roasted Summer Berries, with Honey Whipped Cream*
One of the tastiest of summer treats!
500g of English Strawberries (about 1 pound)
2 TBS butter
4 TBS soft light brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
For the Cream:
225ml of double or whipping cream (1 cup)
2 TBS runny honey (I like wildflower or clover)
a few drops of vanilla extract
Preheat your oven to 190*C/375*F/ gas mark 5. Wash and then gently dry the berries with some paper towelling. Hull them and if they are large, cut in half.
Whip the cream with a wire wisk until it just starts to peak. Stir in the honey and vanilla. Set aside and keep cool.
Melt the butter in an ovenproof skillet. Add the sugar and cardamom and stir to melt the sugar. Once the sugar is melted, turn off the heat and add the berries, tossing them gently to coat them in the mixture. Bang the pan into the oven. Roast for 2 to 3 minutes, give them a stir, and roast for a further 2 minutes. Remove from the oven.
Spoon the roasted berries into serving dishes and top each serving with a dollop of the honey cream. Drizzle any juices over top. Serve immediately.