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Saturday, 26 July 2014

Speedy 10 minute Lemon Curd!

This post is a tiny bit spontaneous because I actually had no intention of writing about it! 

Yesterday I was helping Ellen, (my friend) make this lemon curd to fold into some whipped cream, as a delicious lemony filling for a swiss roll. 

The thing is- I'd forgotten how yummy this recipe for lemon curd really was. I've made it many times....(but this was many years ago) back in the early baking years at primary school! And yes, you might be guessing...that's over half a decade ago! (that makes me sound sooo old) 

Anyway, me and Ellen got this recipe handed to us from one of our teachers- Mrs Cohen. The great thing about it...it's so quick- not forgetting easy!!



So here you go- a secret little recipe shared (well a secret no more, shhh!)  

Tip- warm the lemons before squeezing, it's easier to juice.

Ingredients (manes enough to fill 1 regular sized jar)

115g melted butter
225g caster sugar
2 lemons, zest and juice 
2 eggs

Method

Put all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk till combined.

Heat on high in the microwave for 2 minutes, then whisk again to remove lumps.

Microwave for a further 3 minutes.

Whisk again and place in a sterilized jar. (It will thicken as it cools.)

Friday, 25 July 2014

Smoked Salmon, Broccoli and Cream Cheese Quiche

I'm very affected by the weather - I wish I wasn't but I am. As soon as it starts heating up outside I really can't be doing with big heavy meals (a.k.a casseroles uughh!)

Therefore this dish represents my mood, and the heart warming food that kept me going through winter can be replaced with new potatoes, salads, fish and of course, quiche!

I love a good quiche!!

Especially now I have my deep 9 inch loose-bottomed tart tin...yep, you heard me- deep for all that tasty filling. Don't you just hate it when the filling overflows and seeps to the depths of ruining that all so important no soggy bottoms here! satisfaction? And then when you finally come to release the base...it won't budge because it's stuck!

Ruined!

That's why I recommend that you do use a deep tin to avoid this disaster. Otherwise- don't pour all the filling in if you know it's gonna overflow (trust your baking instincts, they're in there somewhere...trust me!)

For the pastry I used Lisa Faulkner's short crust recipe from her book 'Recipes from my Mother for my Daughter', because it's easy- all you do is blitz in a food processor. But if you don't have a processor you can still make it by hand (just rub to fine breadcrumbs with your fingers and then stir to mix in water.) The filling is all my own recipe.

This quiche is a classic combination of flavours and matches perfectly with a light summery side salad and a few wedges of zingy lemon. And if you don't like broccoli you could use asparagus in its replacement.

Ingredients (serves 4-6 depending on how greedy you are)

 For the pastry
300g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
150g cold butter, cubed
about 2tbsp cold water

For the filling
70g broccoli
150g smoked salmon, sliced into small pieces
3 eggs
2 tbsp milk
200g cream cheese
pinch of nutmeg
a squeeze of lemon

Method 

Preheat your oven to 180°C/ gas mark 4/ 350°F. Grease a 9 inch (23 cm) loose bottomed tart tin or alternatively make individual tarts using four 5 inch (12 cm) tart tins.

Make the pastry. Put the flour and butter in a food processor and whiz for about 10 seconds until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Use the pulse button when adding about 2 tbsp of water until the mixture begins to stick together. Take out of the food processor and form a dough. 

Flour the work surface and shape to a flat disc. Roll out to the right size to fill the base and sides of your chosen tart tin. Lightly prick the base with a fork and line with foil or baking paper and then top with baking beans or rice. Bake blind in the preheated oven for 25 minutes. Then remove the baking paper and beans and cook for a further 5 minutes. 

Meanwhile, chop the broccoli into tiny florets and cook in boiling water until al dente. 

Turn up your oven to 200°C/ gas mark 6/ 400°F

Mix the cream cheese, eggs, nutmeg and milk together in a bowl. Season and then once the broccoli is cooked, drain and then squeeze over the lemon juice. 

Get your baked tart case and then place half the smoked salmon pieces over the base evenly, then pour over the egg filling. Place the remaining smoked salmon pieces over the tart and then scatter the broccoli florets too. Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes but keep an eye on it - cook until slightly golden and firm on top.

Serve warm or cold with a green salad.


Monday, 21 July 2014

Best Ever Chocolate Chip Shortbread

So let's turn the conversation to shortbread...everyone likes shortbread right?! And who doesn't like chocolate...put the 2 together and you got yourself a damn good dunker for your tea (or coffee...whatever!)

Oh and did you know that shortbread owns the title of the greatest British Biscuit? Weird when you think about it ... normally we associate them with Scotland, stashed in a tartan tin. 

When making shortbread there's always the question of to chill or not to chill?

And by that I mean whether to use butter cold or at room temperature? I think it's incredibly frustrating to rub rock hard butter to fine breadcrumbs (especially when your an impatient sort of baker like me) but apparently using cold butter helps to give a flaky, rather than a crumbly finished product. Anyhow...I just got my butter straight from the fridge and by the time I'd got all my other equipment and ingredients ready to start it was easier to work with than I thought. (But I think the fact that we're currently in a heatwave also helped with that too). 

I believe that these biscuits are buttery and indulgent, with just the right amount of chocolate without it becoming just a plain old chocolate biscuit. They are speckled with milk chocolate chips, but if you want to be daring, go for dark...why not?! 

I can't say exactly how many biscuits this recipe makes because it's all down to the size and thickness you want. I went for a 1cm thick shortbread, which I think is the perfect thickness (I don't want them thin and crisp!) but they still break and crumble easily enough. Altogether it made 18 for me. Oh and unless you got extremely nimble fingers I don't think you'd  be able to manage it anyway...they'd just crumble in transit to the baking tray. 

I used this cute shortbread fluted cutter, I absolutely love it!! If you see one in a cookware shop buy one- you want regret it! I think it's quite rare too, not seen them anywhere else before and let me tell ya I've been to some cook shops in my time! I found it in an old gifty sort of shop called 'Hargreaves & Son Ltd' in Buxton. 


Ingredients (makes 18-20 biscuits)

350g plain flour
150g caster sugar
220g butter
a little caster sugar for sprinkling
100g milk chocolate chips

Method

Preheat the oven to 150°C/Gas 3/ 300°F. Lightly grease 2 baking trays.
Measure the flour and sugar into a mixing bowl and rub in the butter with your fingertips. Stir in the chocolate chips and then knead together to form a dough.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured work surface to a thickness of about 1cm. Cut out your desired shapes and lay onto the baking trays. 

Bake in the pre-heated oven for 15-20 minutes or until pale golden. Lift onto a wire rack to cool.Sprinkle with a little sugar and your done!



Tuesday, 15 July 2014

New Nordic Cuisine - Cooking up a Storm!

This year I decided to enter a young food writers competition called 'Write It! 2014' run by the The Guild Of Food Writers. I based my article on the new Scandinavian craze sweeping the foodie revolution. The bad news...I didn't win. But, the good news is: I can still publish my entry on my blog. (Ha!) So read it, see what you think and feel free to comment your thoughts on it. Oh and I feel like I should be a good team player so I'm also giving you the link here to read the winning entry. (I must say that there are so many great budding young food writers out there, so I better watch my back eh?)

Let’s be honest here, Scandinavia was never regarded as a place for attracting foodies unless you fancied a pickled herring or some meatballs! Yet, that all changed a few years ago when one Copenhagen restaurant opened its doors, attracting gastronomic disciples from all over the world.  From 2010-2012 it was voted the ‘best restaurant in the world’; it’s name is Noma!

Noma is essentially a creative hub of Nordic food exploration and creativity, the culinary reputation of a culture transformed by Rene Redzepi and Claus Meyer. Pioneers of the movement ‘New Nordic cuisine’, Redzepi and Meyer offer a gastronomic revolution that’s sweeping away the old Scandinavian images of meatballs, pickled fish and smorgasbord in favour of stunning and inventive plates combining new ingredients with traditional techniques.
Precision is the key to plating up...

Moss foam, sea urchins and kelp. These are all hallmarks of the trend blowing the minds of foodies like myself; new tastes and textures which are unfamiliar to most, hidden in a mysterious maze, there for us to navigate and unearth ... often flavours which exhibit more bitterness due to the extremes of climate; vegetation tends to be tougher ‘up north’! The flavours are kept pure, often raw and not at all dominated by strong spices. It’s a clean cut distinctive taste, enhanced with a wild herb, giving a complementary aroma.
A plate often served up at Noma

Earthy and refined, ancient and modern, playful and yet paradoxically deeply serious are all adjectives which could describe New Nordic cuisine. Instead of the new (techniques, stabilizers, ingredients), it emphasises the old (drying, smoking, pickling, curing) with an overall aim of returning balance to the earth itself. Preservation plays an important role in Nordic cuisine; mushrooms, herbs, and even seaweed are kept across seasons, used to boost flavour, bring a variety of textures and enhance winter dishes. Hay, shells, pine and juniper twigs as kitchen tools generate yet more natural flavours within dishes, turning the culinary clock back to how prehistory used to cook.

The menu at Noma is populated with unheard-of, wonderful items such as: cloudberries, possessing sweet-sour apple piquancy; moss and cep delivering a delightful salty aftertaste, and musk ox with its deep gamey quality. Foraging is pivotal in the discovery of all these new finds, confirmed by the fifty types of berries which emerged from the Scandinavian forests, adding to the lexicon of New Nordic Cuisine. A team of chefs-turned-foragers scour the woods or shoreline to collect all edibles otherwise forgotten by mainstream food culture. Ingredients are explored and reinterpreted to reflect the changes of the seasons in the meal whilst seeking purity, simplicity and freshness.
"Blueberries Surrounded by Their Natural Environment"
It makes perfect sense to spread this way of thinking, this natural ethos about food to all parts of the world. It’s an incredibly rewarding experience to eat what you have just found... yet most people associate New Nordic Cuisine, if they are even aware of it, with the elaborate, experimental techniques we just aren’t that familiar with including many ingredients that aren’t accessible to most home cooks. We need to turn that idea around, to embrace the philosophy of New Nordic Cuisine into our everyday cooking, no matter what our location. Essentially it’s about eating from our ‘backyard’, putting wild, seasonal and local produce right back at the heart of the agenda all year round, creating a self sufficient food culture connected to our natural surroundings. The term ‘Allemannsretten’ meaning ‘freedom to roam’ could perhaps be the difference and explain why Scandinavia has embraced foraging more than the British; as long as foragers respect the livestock and cause no damage they have access to private land, therefore possess the right to pick what they want. If we are to fully embrace the Nordic philosophy, I believe Britain should follow suit so that we too have the opportunity to celebrate the greatness of nature’s edible delights present within our own region.
"Vegetable Field" - It's all the fun of foraging without the work!

Evidence of the growing Nordic invasion is everywhere: locally, ‘The Salt Bar’ a restaurant focussing on the more traditional home cooked Scandinavian dishes has recently opened its doors. My meal there was not impressive to say the least, (having wanted to be impressed, unfortunately, I wasn’t!) Truthfully, I think my expectations of Noma were too high for ‘The Salt Bar’ to contend with. Yes…a sense of this new food culture is growing; but we still have a very long way to go until all the ethics New Nordic Cuisine observes really takes hold of Britain, helping to earn our place on the Global culinary map too!

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Lavender and Raspberry Cupcakes

I thought that this weekend was the perfect opportunity to bake my favourite thing- cupcakes! Sometimes it's the simplest things in life, sharing them out to friends and family over a pot of tea which can make the weekend so much more enjoyable.

I don't know what it is about lavender and raspberries...but they just match together so well with their summer aura which make them perfect companions smothered in rich buttercream icing. These cupcakes not only relaxes for its traditional comforting qualities, but also because it is lavender infused, to ensure complete calm. So if your having a pretty hectic weekend, maybe it's time that you put all that aside, get your bowl and wooden spoon out and knock up a batch of these bad boys!! 

I used freshly picked lavender flowers from my garden (oh and make sure they're edible) but if you can't get hold of any... you could buy some lavender extract from specialist stores like here, add a teaspoon to the cake batter (but don't forget to add a dash of milk to loosen up the mixture too) and do the same with the buttercream. I thought that I might as well sprinkle on a few lavender flowers for decoration too, just for the heck of it...but the flowers don't actually taste that good to eat, so it's up to you.

When getting to the section of the recipe where it says "fill the centre with raspberry jam" - don't feel obligated to do that! If you feel they will be sweet enough for you as they are (and you don't happen to have as much of a sweet tooth as me) then don't put it in. Soooo many decisions!!

Oh and for leftovers (ha, probably no chance of that happening but...), make sure to keep them stored away in the fridge because of the raspberries. So on with the recipe I hear you say...well here it is!

Lavender and Raspberry Cupcakes

Ingredients (makes 12)

130ml milk
1 tsp edible lavender flowers
225g salted butter, at room temperature
225g caster sugar
4 eggs
250g self-raising flour

For the buttercream
160g salted butter, at room temperature
500g icing sugar
50ml lavender milk (see above)

To finish
24 fresh raspberries
2 tbsp raspberry jam to glaze
+ 12 tsp raspberry jam to fill (optional)

Method

Preheat your oven to 180°C/ Gas 4/ 350°F
To make the cake batter, first infuse the milk by pouring it into a small saucepan with the lavender flowers and heating over a low heat for about 10 mins. Leave to cool completely, then strain into a bowl to remove the flowers.

Cream the butter and sugar together in a mixing bowl using a wooden spoon or electric beaters, or using the paddle attachment in a free standing mixer, until paler in colour, smooth and creamy. Then add the eggs one at a time and beat until you have a smooth mixture. Finally, fold in the flour and 80ml of the lavender milk.

Scoop heaped tablespoons of the mixture into a cupcake tray lined with cases. Bake for 20-25 mins, or until nicely golden brown and a skewer inserted comes out clean. If inserting raspberry jam in the centre, core out the middle of the cupcakes whilst still warm (you can buy specialist cupcake corers/plungers that do this, but just use a knife if you don't have one). Leave the cupcakes to cool completely before icing.

Meanwhile, make the buttercream. Beat the butter until very soft, then add the icing sugar and mix together. When the butter is well incorporated into the icing sugar, pour in the remaining 50ml of the lavender milk and beat until smooth. You can then spoon this into a piping bag with desired nozzle (I used a star nozzle) if you don't want to spread onto the cake using a palette knife.

Spoon a teaspoon of raspberry jam into the middle of each cupcake, or leave plain if you wish not too.

Pipe swirls of buttercream onto your cupcakes and then place 2 raspberries on the top. Next to make the glaze, put the 2 tbsp of jam into a saucepan with 1 tbsp of water, place over a medium heat and bring to the boil. Pass through a sieve (if not seedless) then, while the jam is still warm, use it to glaze the raspberries, painting it on with a pastry brush.



Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Cream cheese, ham, roasted onions with cherry tomato and basil oil chelsea buns

So here it is, my first ever blog post! I decided that for my first recipe I would choose something that I could eat very happily for my lunch. These chelsea buns are a perfect picnic treat as they are simply a self-contained sandwich, and all you have to do is wrap, take-away and enjoy! 

I don't often make bread (well...not as much as I would like to) but with all this spare time (because I've finished school now, wooo!) I thought that this idea for a savoury version of the classic chelsea bun makes perfect sense.

In this recipe, I used my trusty kenwood patissier with the dough hook attachment to make my life easier...basically no hard kneading for me is involved and my arms get a rest! But if unlike me - you aren't lucky enough to have someone do all the hard work for you then it's 10 minutes of hand kneading for you I'm afraid. Also, I used my blender to make the basil oil...but here's a handy tip: if you happen to have a mini food processor (like I did - until it broke. Damn!)I would definitely recommend using that instead as it's much quicker for the blades to chop up, especially with the small quantity.

This recipe is entirely adaptable to suit whatever sort of mood your in...so if that's a "I really need to use up these leftovers lying around in the fridge"- kinda mood, then go with it! Fill these chelsea buns with whatever takes your fancy. I decided upon this filling because it was in my fridge already, and I also think this combo works really well together.


Cream Cheese, ham, roasted onion with cherry tomato and basil oil chelsea buns

Ingredients (makes 8 rolls)

500g strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
½ tsp salt
7g fast-action dried yeast
350ml warm water
extra virgin olive oil
180g cherry tomatoes, halved
a drizzle of balsamic vinegar
1 red onion
a few fresh sprigs of thyme
1 handful of basil leaves
75g cooked sliced ham
200g cream cheese (I used one with garlic and herbs)

Method

Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6/ 400°F. Mix the flour, salt and yeast in a bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in the warm water, mixing until you have a sticky soft dough, or alternatively place in a mixer with the dough hook attached. Knead in the mixer for 6 mins, or by hand on a floured surface for 10 mins, until smooth and elastic. Transfer the dough into an oiled bowl, cover and leave to rise for 1 hour in a warm place.

Cut the cherry tomatoes in half, peel and roughly chop the onion and place into a roasting tray. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, season and scatter thyme leaves over. Mix with your hands until they are well coated and then roast in the oven for about 15 mins. Once cooked leave to cool.

To make the basil oil, place the basil leaves and 2 tbsp olive oil in a blender and blitz until thoroughly chopped, almost to a green puree consistency. Chop the ham into 2cm pieces. 

Adjust temperature of oven to 180°C/gas mark 4/ 350°F

Once the dough has proved, transfer to a floured work surface and roll into a 1cm thick rectangle. Tack down one of the long edges to the surface, (this proves helpful when rolling up and sealing, look in the photo for guidance) spread cream cheese over the rectangle and then scatter over the roasted tomatoes and onion, trying not to pour on too much excess juice that leaked out from them. (Just discard this) Scatter on the chopped ham, drizzle all the basil oil over and then roll up into a long log shape. Making sure that the log is well sealed.

Cut the log into 8 rolls, and place them on an oiled baking tray, spaced apart. Cover and leave to rise again for 40 mins in a warm place. Bake the rolls in the oven for 25-30 mins until golden and hollow sounding to tap. Garnish with a few extra thyme leaves if you want.


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