Tuesday 23 December 2008

How Not To Brine A Turkey

I brined my turkey last Christmas for the first time. I will always brine my turkey. I have never tasted such a moist Christmas Day dinner in my life. There is no great mystery. It is the soaking of meat in a solution of water and salt. Additional flavourings like sugar and spices can also be added, but salt is what makes a brine a brine . This soaking causes the meat to gain some saltiness and flavouring while plumping it up with water so that after cooking it still contains a lot of juices. Anyhow today I lugged my 17 pound turkey home and with some pleasure got it's bath ready with the necessary salt, spices and other additions for flavour. So far so good. I had my grandchildren to stay tonight and as is the nature of young children they are interested in everything. I told my two year old Grandson about the turkey in the bath. He peered at it for quite some time and repeated 'Turkey...bath' a number of times. He toddled back into the kitchen and I was distracted at the cooker. I heard a resounding splash from the utility room followed by the words 'Turkey..........bath' I looked in to find my lovely brining turkey with the rather undesirable addition of a bar of pink soap! I don't think We'll be singing Silent Night on Thursday, more like 'I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles'.

Happy Christmas

Thursday 18 December 2008

My Hundreth Post

I have only just realised that this is somewhat of an event. My poor blog has been sadly neglected this month of December. This is not because I haven't been cooking, quite the reverse. My kitchen is so cluttered with bits of this and that waiting to be made into things I don't have room to take the obligatory pictures. Perhaps next week when everything is finally put together.

I cannot think of a better way to celebrate my hundredth post than to wish all my wonderful Blogging friends and those on the Pantry the most wonderful of Christmases and sweet peace in the coming year. It has been something of a revelation to me to chat to so many of you wonderful people out there. Thank you for the joy and pleasure you have all brought me.

Wednesday 3 December 2008

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

We are having a challenge on Vi's Pantry at the moment taking recipes from Nigella Express. This cake was one of the challenges set. This cake /dessert is a real retro dish. So easy to make. Tastes and looks wonderful and, if there is any left, keeps well in the fridge I will definitely be making this again and again. so quick to put together and so pretty on the table. I expect you can make this with fresh pineapple but the canned variety of pineapple rings are so even and soft and easy to mould into the tin.. The fresh may be better for you but I think Ill stick with the canned variety.

2 x 15ml tbsp sugar
6 slices pineapple from a 425g can, plus 3 x 15ml tbsp of the juice
11 glacé cherries, approx 75g total weight
100g flour
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
100g soft butter
100g caster sugar
2 eggs

1 Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas 6.
Butter a Tarte Tatin tin (24cm wide at the top and 20cm diameter at the bottom) or use a 23cm cake tin (neither loose bottomed nor spring form).
2 Sprinkle 2 tbsp sugar onto the buttered base, and then arrange the pineapple slices to make a circular pattern as in the picture.
3 Fill each pineapple ring with a glacé cherry, and then dot one in each of the spaces in between.
4 Put the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, butter, caster sugar and eggs into a food processor and run the motor until the batter is smooth. Then pour in the 3 tbsp pineapple juice to thin it a little.
5 Pour this mixture carefully over the pineapple rings; it will only just cover it, so spread it out gently.
6 Bake for 30 minutes, then ease a spatula around the edge of the tin, place a plate on top and, with one deft move, turn it upside-down.

I used a 20cm sandwich tin as it is what I had
I used self raising flour and soft marg.

Sunday 30 November 2008

Chilli Jam

My Husband picked up a copy Of Nigella new book 'Nigella's Christmas' for me just after it was published. It is a simply lovely book. As well as the recipes being of the usual Nigella standard the illustrations and ideas for Christmas decorations are wonderful. A beautiful book to simply sit down, read and enjoy. The recipe for Chilli Jam sang to me. It tastes every bit as good as it looks. Not too hot but tongue tinglingly tasty. Just lovely with savoury food. Excellent with cheese and cold meats. A real keeper of a recipe. Easy to make I would highly recommend it. You do need jam sugar/pectin added sugar to make this otherwise it won't set.

150gms/5oz long fresh red chillies de seeded and cut into four pieces each.
150gms/5oz sweet red peppers cored de seeded and cut into chunks
1kg/2.2lbs Jam sugar
600mls cider vinegar

6x250 ml/40z sterilized sealable jars with vinegar proof lids

Put the cut up chillies into the food processsor and pulse until finely chopped. Add the chunks of sweet pepper and pulse again until you have a vibrantly red-flecked processor bowl

Dissolve the sugar in the vinegar in a wide, medium-sized pan over a low heat without stirring. (No I don't know why either)

Scrape the pepper mixture out of the bowl and add to the pan. Bring to the boil and leave it at a rollicking boil for 10 minutes

Take the pan off the heat and allow to cool. The liquid will become more syrupy, then from syrup to viscous and from viscous to jelly like as it cools.

After about 40 minutes, or once the red flecks are more or less evenly distributed in the jelly (as the liquid firms up, the bits of chilli and pepper start being suspended in it rather than floating in it), ladle it into your jars. If you want to stir it gently at this stage it will do no harm. Then seal tightly.

Make the jam up to one month before using or giving.
Store in a cool dark place for up to a year.
Once opened store in the fridge and use within a month

From Nigella Christmas-Nigella Lawson

My Tip :If you don't have vinegar proof lids line the lids with a wee circle of grease proof paper.

Saturday 29 November 2008

Daring Bakers- Caramel Cake

Thank you to Dolores Natalie Alex and Jenny who provided November's challenge which was Caramel Cake with caramelized butter frosting from Shuna Fish Lydon. There was an optional recipe for Golden vanilla bean caramels
The recipe for the cake can be found at the above link.
I made the caramel syrup first which I thought would be difficult but was in fact very easy. I then made the frosting. There was so much for one cake and it was far too sweet and thick for me I didn't use it. I made my own butter cream recipe and used the caramel syrup in it. It was still a bit on the sweet side but the texture was a lot lighter.

The Cake.
I reduced the sugar by 3 oz and I am glad I did. I made it as a sandwich cake but there really wasn't enough mix for that.
The cake had a nice moist texture and I liked the caramel drizzled over the top. The syrup seems to keep well so it will be nice to have some on hand to use on other cakes. I didn't get time to make the caramels The recipe for them can be found in
Golden Vanilla Bean Caramels from Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich, Artisan Press, Copyright 2007, ISBN: 978-1579652111

Monday 24 November 2008

Rosemary Remembrance Cake

I have looked at the recipe for this cake for the longest time in 'Feast' by Nigella Lawson. The rosemary always put me off for some reason. I made it finally for a memorial cook-in we were having for our dear departed friend Pi on Vi's Pantry. As it was Remembrance week end it seemed appropriate for that too. It is a very easy cake to make. I am just sorry I have not made it sooner. It is wonderfully moist with a madeira like texture and just a slight taste of Rosemary which complements so well. This amazed me as I was convinced it would make the cake taste strange. Even if you don't like rosemary I urge you to try it. It is a lovely cake with or without the herb.

Rosemary Remembrance Cake

Makes approx. 10 slices

1 eating apple (approx. 180g /6-7oz in weight)
1 small sprig and 1 long sprig rosemary
1 teaspoon caster sugar
Juice and zest of ½ lemon
1 teaspoon butter

For the cake batter
225g /8 oz butter
150g /5 oz caster sugar plus 1 tablespoon
3 eggs
300g /11oz plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder

Peel, core and roughly chop the apple and put into a saucepan with the small spig of rosemary, the teaspoon of sugar, the lemon zest and juice, and butter. Cover the pan and cook on a low heat for 4-8 minutes until the apple is soft. How long this takes really depends on the variety of apple you’re using. Coxes cook the fastest, and are good here. Leave to cool, and fish out the rosemary sprig when it is cold.

Preheat the oven to 170.C/325.F/Gas 3. Line a 2 lb loaf tin with a loaf tin liner, or butter and line the bottom with baking parchment.

Put the cooled apple into a food processor and blitz to a pulp.
Then add the butter, 150g sugar, eggs, flour and baking powder and process to a smooth batter. Spoon and scrape into the loaf tin and smooth the top.
Sprinkle the surface with the remaining tablespoon of sugar and then lay the long sprig of rosemary along the centre of the cake.
On baking, the rosemary sheds its oil to leave a scented path down the middle of the cake.

Bake the cake for 50 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean, then leave to cool on a rack. Slip the paper-lined cake out of the tin once it is cool.


This is also lovely if the Rosemary is left out and a good teaspoon of cinnamon is cooked with the apples instead.

Friday 21 November 2008

Toffee Apple Pork Chops

Why is it sometimes when you throw something together without any particular plan it turns out really well. Other times you plan a meal with such attention to detail and it is just so-so. This came about as I had two pork chops and a cooking apple that needed using. It was so tasty I had to record it.

Put the chops in a roasting pan.
Peel core and slice the apples in a little lemon juice to stop the apples browning and lay them on top of the chops
Pour some apple juice into the roasting pan.
Sprinkle the top of the apples with dark brown sugar.
Drizzle over some maple syrup.(I like quite a lot)
Cook in the oven for about half an hour.
Et voilà - dinner is served.

Monday 17 November 2008

Mississippi Mud Cake

I bought 'Southern cakes by Nancy McDermott some time ago but up until now I hadn't made anything from it. I love the southern cooking so rich and totally unhealthy. Following a healthy diet is a normal day to day thing but sometimes a little of this stuff is just what the doctor ordered. Definitely a chocolate feel good factor to cheer up the winter days so that must be good for you mustn't it? The author states that she doesn't know how the list of ingredients transforms into such a tasty cake. I am here to tell you it certainly does. I have to confess I scratched my head a little while reading the recipe. Enjoy this delicious fudgey chocolate delight.


225gms/8oz butter cut into big chunks
62gms/2 1/2 ozs cocoa poder
4 eggs well beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
400gms/14 oz sugar
250gms /9oz plain flour
pinch salt
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts ( I didn't use these)


450gms/1lb icing sugar
62gms/ 2 1/2 oz cocoa powder
100gms/ 40z butter
125mls milk or evaporated milk
1 teasp vanilla extract
4 cups mini marshmallows or 3 cups marshmallows quartered ( I have no idea how to convert this to metric or imperial).

To Make The Cake

Pre-heat the ovem to 18o.C/350.F/Gas 4

Grease and flour 13 x 9 " / 13cm x 20cms tin

In a medium saucepan melt the butter and the cocoa over a medium heat stirring now an dagain until the butter is melted and the mixture is well combined about 3-4 minutes.

Stir in the beaten egg, vanilla sugar, flour, salt and nuts.

Beat with a wooden spoon until the batter is well combined and smooth

Quickly pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 20 - 25 mins until the top is springy to touch and is beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan


Prepare this while the cake is baking so you will be ready to pour it over the hot cake.

In a medium bowl sieve the icing sugar and coca powder and combine well.

Add the melted butter milk and vanilla.

Mix well

Set aside until the cake is done.

Remove the cake from the oven and scatter the marshmallows on top.

Return the cake to the oven for a few minutes to soften the marshmallows

Pour the frosting al over the hot cake and leave to cool

Cut into small squares.


I made the cake in a 23 cm x 23 cm/9" x 9" tin. This gave me squares 1" thick. If made in the bigger pan I think they would be very thin.
Make half the amount of frosting if using this size of tin as there is a huge amount.
I didn't have enough marshmallows so the photo is not quite a true representation.

As a Post Script these actually taste even better after a couple of days. They get fudgier.

Sunday 16 November 2008

Cranberry Jam. For The Turkey and Beyond.

Taken from Nigella Lawson's 'Feast',this is such an easy jam to make as cranberries are bursting with pectin so it sets so easily. I love to make it for the Christmas table as I am not keen on cranberry sauce. I doubled up the quantities as I wanted some to give as gifts. The jam is darker than it normally is because of this. Doing it again I would do it in two lots as the bright colour is lovely. Don't just use it for the turkey, although it is just perfect with that, it's lovely on toast or to use in baking and cooking when jam is called for. It's nice with other savoury dishes too such as lamb. Great with the Christmas left overs. Turkey and cranberry jam sandwiches. Lovely.

Cranberry jam

350gms/12oz cranberries

350gms/12oz caster sugar

Put a film of water in the bottom of a large saucepan and add the cranberries and sugar.

Stir patiently over a low heat to dissolve the sugar; this will take a little while. Turn up the heat and boil the pan rapidly until setting point is reached, about 7 minutes. (Alternatively it will have reached a jam-like consistency.)

Pour the jam into a sterilized jar (s) and seal immediately.

Makes approx 350 mls

Friday 14 November 2008

Jessie Tweddles Tea Loaf

This is an old recipe of my Mother's. I have not a notion who Jessie Tweddle was but when having a cup of tea at my Mother's the statement 'You'll be having a piece of Jessie Tweddles tea loaf' was always made. I gave the recipe to a friend on Vi's pantry and it really kicked off. This easy to make little loaf has quite a following now. It is quite simply delicious. If you can, leave it for a few days before eating as it is much the better for it. Enjoy a slice with butter.

Jessie Tweddles Tea Loaf

4 oz/100gms marg/butter
4oz/100gms brown sugar
8 oz /200gms dried mixed fruit
1 Teacup cold tea
1 level teaspoon Bicarbonate of soda
8 oz /200gms Self Raising Flour
1 teasp mixed spice
1 egg

Simmer marg/butter, sugar,fruit, tea,soda bic. for 20 mins.
Allow to cool add egg flour and spice.

Bake in a loaf tin at 350.F/180.C/Gas 4 until skewer comes out clean.

Cherries and nuts can be added if desired.


You can use any combination of fruit you like or just one
I added strong coffee instead of tea and replaced a tablespoon of flour with a tablespoon of cocoa and it was delicious.

Thursday 6 November 2008

Irish Barm Brack

This is a most common bread in this part of the world. It is sold in supermarkets and bakers up and down the country. It was traditionally made at hallowe'en. The word barm comes from an old English word, beorma, meaning yeasty fermented liquor. Brack comes from the Irish word brac, meaning speckled - which it is, with dried fruit. Hallowe'en has always been associated with fortune telling and divination, so various objects were wrapped up and hidden in the cake mixture — a wedding ring, a coin, a pea or a thimble (signifying spinsterhood). It is no longer just a Hallowe'en treat. A wonderful bread with egg enriched dough. Lovely fresh with butter or just perfect toasted. My husband has long been a fan so I have spent some time perfecting this bread and at last I've arrived. If you try it I don't think you will be disappointed.


200 gms/6oz sultanas (or more if you like)
1/2 teasp mixed spice
strong tea - enough to cover the fruit
juice of a lemon.


250 gms/9oz plain flour
250gms /9oz white bread flour
2 eggs
200 mls/7 fluid oz milk
50 gms/2oz melted butter
2 tablespoons runny honey
1 tablespoon dried active yeast.
pinch of salt


12.5gms/1/2 oz butter softened
1/2 teaspoon mixed spice.


Place the fruit tea lemon juice and mixed spice in a saucepan.
Let it simmer until the liquid disappears. About ten to twenty minutes
The fruit will be nice and plump.
Leave to one side.
It doesn't have to be cold but it doesn't matter if it is.

Mix the flours and salt in a large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer if you have a dough hook

Warm the milk and add a little of the honey.
Sprinkle in the yeast and stir.
Leave for five or ten minutes until the yeast is quite frothy.

While this is happening melt the butter and beat the eggs.
Make a well in the flour and pour the yeast mixture the butter eggs and the rest of the honey in.
Mix until you have a nice soft dough (not sticky though). Not too soft as when the fruit is added it will add a little more liquid.
If you feel your dough is too dry add a little water a teaspoon at a time but go carefully. You want to be able to handle the dough easily not have a sticky pile in the bowl.

Knead with a dough hook for about five minutes or by hand for 10 minutes.
Towards the end of kneading mix in the fruit by hand
You can add this at the beginning into the flour but the fruit ends up all squished and squashed and not a bit nice.

When you have all the fruit combined and not too much has escaped, form the dough into a ball.
Turn this in an oiled bowl so that the dough has a light film of oil.
Cover with a tea towel or cling film and leave in a warm place until it has doubled in volume (about an hour).

When the dough has risen, pull it out of the bowl onto a lightly oiled work top with lightly oiled hands. This stops the dough sticking to you and everything else.
Form it into an oblong and divide into two equal pieces.
Form these into two balls and place on a greased and floured baking sheet.
Flatten the balls slightly.

Cover with lightly oiled cling fim and leave to rise again for about half an hour.

Pre-Heat your oven to 200.C/180.C Fan/400.F/Gas 6
When the bracks have risen snip the tops with scissors or slash with a sharp knife a couple of times then place them in the oven and bake for about thirty minutes until golden brown and the bottoms tap hollow.

While they are baking, mix the spice with the softened butter,
As soon as you remove the bracks from the oven smother them with this spicy butter. (I find those silicone pastry brushes great for this job)
Leave on a cooling rack


I expect this would work with instant yeast in which case just warm the milk and add everything to the flour. I have found with enriched doughs that the dried active yeast gives a better rise but of course you must do what is easiest for you.

Use any dried fruit you like and /or mixed peel. You can add more or less fruit. Whatever your taste is really.

The kitchen smells heavenly while making this.


Wednesday 5 November 2008

Farewell Pistachio

I cannot continue my Blog without paying tribute to Pistachio who left us today for a better place. She helped run a foodie forum I spend time in. A wonderful cook who also had her own Blog. Her recipes were inspiring as was she. A child of the sixties she embraced that exciting era. She spoke up for her beliefs and had a wonderful sense of humour. The world will be a poorer place for her passing. She will be greatly missed by many.

Sleep well Pi

Friday 31 October 2008

Crab Apple Jelly

These gorgeous little crab apples were growing in my garden. The branches were laden almost to the ground with fruit. A severe gale one night had me scrambling early nest morning to pick them from the ground. My fingers were frozen and my hair full of twigs but it was worth it for these little beauties. I bought the tree several years ago but unfortunately I have forgotten the name of the variety. They were crying out to be made into crab apple jelly. I want to use the jelly for Christmas gifts as the colour is so seasonal. It's so easy to make. I managed to drip 5 lbs of fruit in a sieve lined with muslin so a jelly bag is not essential. A wash is all that is required. No peeling or removal of twigs is needed as it is all going to be strained anyway.

Crab apples, ( I had 5lbs)
1 lemon
Sugar, 1lb per pint of cooked apple juice
Cinnamon stick (optional)


To start with, rinse the apples and cut them into quarters. Don’t worry about peeling or coring as you will be straining the fruit later.
Put the apples together with the halved lemon and cinnamon stick into a large saucepan, with a couple of inches of water in the bottom to stop them from sticking when you turn on the heat. You will need a large enough pan to hold TWICE the volume of the fruit and sugar. This is because to get the jam to set, you need to cook it at a “rolling boil”, which makes it double in volume.
Put the lid on tight and boil them to destruction – usually around 45 minutes to an hour is sufficient.

Now you need to strain the fruit.
I did this by placing a large sieve lined with muslin over a bowl. I stacked the fruit carefully and then left overnight. You want to get every last drop of juice
Do NOT squeeze or you will end up with a cloudy final product – the aim is to get a completely clear apple juice. The lemon is not completely necessary but gives a nice zing, and makes sure that the juice is acidic to help the setting process.

Once you have your clear juice, put it back in the cleaned pan, and add 1lb of sugar per pint of juice that you have extracted.
Dissolve all the sugar over a gentle heat. You’ll be able to tell when it’s all dissolved if you use a wooden spoon as you can no longer feel a crunch at the bottom of the pan.
Crank up the heat and get the mixture boiling – you need to achieve a “rolling boil”, which means that it is actively boiling (ie more than a simmer) but not rising up the pan. If you can not get rid of the bubbles with stirring, but it’s not rising up the pan, then you are at the right point.
Test for a set after about 15 mins by placing a dribble of the jelly on a cold plate. If it wrinkles to the touch after a few minutes you are done. If not boil a few minutes longer and so on.

This recipe is so good for beginners due to the high pectin content in crab apples. Pectin is a naturally occurring sugar found in some fruit and vegetables, and acts as a gelling agent, in the presence of acids and sugar, to make jam set. With some fruits, the pectin content is very low so you have to mix n’ match, or use additional pectin to get the jam to set, but this crab apple recipe seems fairly idiot proof and sets well.

In the meantime, you need to prepare your jars ready for the jelly.
Wash them and sterilise by popping them in a warm oven. You need them warm for the hot jelly anyway

As soon as your jelly is at setting point, take it off the heat and ladle it into your waiting jars,
I got 1 1/2 pints of juice out of 5lbs fruit which gave me six 8oz jars

Wednesday 29 October 2008

Daring Bakers Challenge - Pizza

This was my first challenge with The Daring Bakers. I was not and am still not sure if I'm up to the task but I thought it would be fun to have a go and stretch my baking horizons a bit. The challenge was titled "Bake Your Pizzas Like A Real Pizzaiolo" and was set by Rosa
I have made pizzas before so it wasn't a complete mystery to me. The tossing of the pizza dough was. My husband thought I'd lost it completely at this point. I did have a go but my photographer isn't happy with a camera and as the dough ended up full of holes and landed on the floor, much to the interest of our wee dog, I decided to exclude those particular pictures. It was great fun trying though but it's back to the rolling pin for me. It was a lovely pizza. The recipe made a lot of dough and I wouldn't make as much the next time as there are only two of us to cater for. I liked the idea of keeping the dough in the fridge for a few days. It was handy to make it in instalments.
We were allowed to make our own topping. There is far too much cheese on my pizza but I love lots of the stuff. The recipe was taken from "The Bread Bakers Apprentice" by Peter Rheinhart

I made my topping by draining and squishing two tins of tomatoes in a colander. I infused this with garlic black pepper and torn basil leaves. When the dough was ready I spread this over the top added black and green olives and some peppadew peppers for a little heat. I then added grated cheddar, parmesan and mozzarella cheese.

Recipe for the Dough

4 1/2 cups /20.25 ounces/607.5gms unbleached high-gluten, bread, or all-purpose flour, chilled
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1/4 cup/ 2 ounces /60 gms olive oil (optional)
1 3/4 cups /14 ounces/420mls water, ice cold (40°F)
Semolina flour or cornmeal for dusting

1. Stir together the flour, salt, and instant yeast in a large bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer). With a large metal spoon, stir in the oil and the cold water until the flour is all absorbed (or mix on low speed with the paddle attachment), If you are mixing by hand, repeatedly dip one of your hands or the metal spoon into cold water and use it, much like a dough hook, to work the dough vigorously into a smooth mass while rotating the bowl in a circular motion with the other hand. Reverse the circular motion a few times to develop the gluten further. Do this for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are evenly distributed. If you are using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for 5 to 7 minutes, or as long as it takes to create a smooth, sticky dough. The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. If the dough is too wet and doesn't come off the sides of the bowl, sprinkle in some more flour just until it clears the sides. If it clears the bottom of the bowl, dribble in a tea- spoon or two of cold water. The finished dough will be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky, and register 50 to 55F.

2. Sprinkle flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter. Prepare a sheet pan by lining it with baking parchment and misting the parchment with spray oil (or lightly oil the parchment). Using a metal dough scraper, cut the dough into 6 equal pieces (or larger if you are comfortable shaping large pizzas), You can dip the scraper into the water between cuts to keep the dough from sticking to it, Sprinkle flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them. Lift each piece and gently round it into a ball. If the dough sticks to your hands, dip your hands into the flour again. Transfer the dough balls to the sheet pan, Mist the dough generously with spray oil and slip the pan into a food-grade plastic bag.

3. Put the pan into the refrigerator overnight to rest the dough, or keep for up to 3 days. (Note: If you want to save some of the dough for future baking, you can store the dough balls in a zippered freezer bag. Dip each dough ball into a bowl that has a few tablespoons of oil in it, rolling the dough in the oil, and then put each ball into a separate bag. You can place the bags into the freezer for up to 3 months. Transfer them to the refrigerator the day before you plan to make pizza.)

4. On the day you plan to make the pizza, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator 2 hours before making the pizza. Dust the counter with flour, and then mist the counter with spray oil. Place the dough balls on top of the floured counter and sprinkle them with flour; dust your hands with flour. Gently press the dough into flat disks about 1/2 inch thick and 5 inches in diameter. Sprinkle the dough with flour, mist it again with spray oil, and cover the dough loosely with plastic wrap or a food-grade plastic bag. Let rest for 2 hours.

5. At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone either on the floor of the oven (for gas ovens), or on a rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven as hot as possible, up to 800F (most home ovens will go only to 500 to 550F, but some will go higher). If you do not have a baking stone, you can use the back of a sheet pan, but do not preheat the pan.

6. Generously dust a peel or the back of a sheet pan with semolina flour or cornmeal. Make the pizzas one at a time. Dip your hands, including the backs of your hands and knuckles, in flour and lift I piece of dough by getting under it with a pastry scraper. Very gently lay the dough across your fists and carefully stretch it by bouncing the dough in a circular motion on your hands, carefully giving it a little stretch with each bounce. If it begins to stick to your hands, lay it down on the floured counter and reflour your hands, then continue shaping it. Once the dough has expanded outward, move to a full toss as shown on page 208. If you have trouble tossing the dough, or if the dough keeps springing back, let it rest for 5 to 20 minutes so the gluten can relax, and try again. You can also resort to using a rolling pin, though this isn't as effective as the toss method.

7. When the dough is stretched out to your satisfaction (about 9 to 12 inches in diameter for a 6-ounce piece of dough), lay it on the peel or pan, making sure there is enough semolina flour or cornmeal to allow it to slide. Lightly top it with sauce and then with your other top- pings, remembering that the best pizzas are topped with a less-is-more philosophy. The American "kitchen sink" approach is counterproductive, as it makes the crust more difficult to bake. A few, usually no more than 3 or 4 toppings, including sauce and cheese is sufficient.

8. Slide the topped pizza onto the stone (or bake directly on the sheet pan) and close the door. Wait 2 minutes, then take a peek. If it needs to be rotated 180 degrees for even baking, do so. The pizza should take about 5 to 8 minutes to bake. If the top gets done before the bottom, you will need to move the stone to a lower self before the next round. if the bottom crisps before the cheese caramelizes, then you will need to raise the stone for subsequent bakes.

9. Remove the pizza from the oven and transfer to a cutting board. Wait 3 to 5 minutes before slicing and serving, to allow the cheese to set slightly.

Makes six 6-ounce pizza crusts.

Monday 27 October 2008

Traditional Irish Breads

It's Autumn. The leaves are gold and red. The days are shortening and there's a nip in the air. Just the weather to get out the griddle and make some local bread. I make all my own bread of the yeast variety and I love doing it. What is it about throwing together soda farls potato farls wheaten bread and pancakes that is so comforting. They are rarely given time to cool but the vultures are on them. If there are any left they are great in an Ulster fry. Trust me the English don't know what a fry up is until they have tasted an Ulster. I have guests come from across the water trembling lest they don't get their fix of an Ulster fry but that is another story and another blog. Farls, the word comes from the Scottish Fardel meaning a quarter or fourth part. It is used by the Irish to describe their griddle bread. The Scots got very posh and and started to call them scones. A griddle traditionally was hung on a huge hook over the hearth fire to make these breads hence the big hooped handle. They are a pain to store and a nuisance when the handle loosens as it will over time and keeps crashing down. We have moved on here and manage on hobs. A big frying pan will do. You can buy griddles with frying pan handles now. They are just very shallow and flat. The one basic ingredient you need to make these breads is buttermilk. If you can't get it easily just add some lemon juice or vinegar to ordinary milk and wait ten or twenty minutes. It makes a good substitiute.

Potato Farls

A great way to use up last night's left over mashed potatoes. You can of course boil them up fresh for the occasion but if you are anything like me you will always have left over mash.
Knead the mash until it becomes like a soft dough.
Use about a third of it's volume in plain flour.
Knead again to combine. It will become easier as the flour is incorporated.
Roll out into a circle about 1.5cms thick and place in the hot griddle pan .
Cut a deep cross in it to divide in four.
Bake for three or four minutes
Flip over to do the other side.
Remove to a cooling rack and watch them disappear. Lovely fried later too with eggs and bacon

Soda Farls

This can also be used as oven soda. It's not so popular as the wholemeal variety known as wheaten bread. Soda farls done on the griddle are the thing. They are so good split and toasted too.
Don't bother with recipes that tell you to use a pound of flour. Far too much. The farls will be too thick and take too long to cook.

12 oz/325gms plain flour
1oz/25gms butter
1 teasp salt
1 teasp baking soda
1-2 teasps sugar
Approx 1/2 pint 250 mls Buttermilk.
In a large bowl mix together the dry ingredients
Rub in the butter
Add enough buttermilk to make a firm but soft dough (think scone here) err on the side of dryness. You do not want it wet.
Knead quickly and lightly on a well floured surface and roll into a round about 1/2 inch/1.2 cms thick.
Place on the griddle and cut deeply into four. Cook for about 5-7 mins on each side.
Split one of the farls to check if they are done. The dough will be dry inside.
Don't worry too much if they don't go quite right the first time. Sometimes the griddle can be too hot or the dough too wet. A good way to see if the griddle is hot enough is to sprinkle flour on and it will brown quickly when the griddle is hot enough.
Remove to a cooling rack and cover with a tea towel. Eat them while still warm. Toast or fry them later with an egg

Buttermilk Pancakes

These can of course be made with sweet milk and baking powder but somehow they are not the same.

40z/100gms plain flour
pinch salt
1 teasp baking soda
1oz/25gms caster sugar
1 egg
1/4 pint/150mls buttermilk

Put all the ingredients into a food processor and whizz until smooth.
Heat the griddle or frying pan over a moderate heat then rub the surface with white fat (not butter as it will burn)
Drop tablespoons of the batter onto the pan spaced well apart.
When they start to go bubbly flip them over with a spatula and cook the other side for a minute or two.
Keep them warm in a tea towel while you cook the rest. They won't last long mind you.
If there are any left they are also nice with the Ulster fry when they are past their best.

Just make sure you have the butter dish to hand. It doesn't take long to churn out all three breads. Might as well since the pan is on anyway.

This is the link for the Oven Brown Soda./Wheaten Bread. This can be done as farls too but it is much nicer baked as a loaf. For some reason these farls are not so popular as the plain soda.

Irish scones are also made with buttermilk. They are lovely and light. You can find the recipe here.
You might as well as you'll have the oven on making the wheaten bread anyway and there will be flour all over the place as it is.

Sunday 26 October 2008

Strawberry Jam

It's taken me a long time to come round to making jam and various other preserves. Not because I was unused to it, quite the reverse in fact. I grew up in post war Britain. My Mum was the stay at home housewife of the 1950s. Food wasn't too plentiful yet. My Dad grew everything in the garden and his allotment. We wanted for nothing in the healthy food department. As happens there is always a glut of produce when you grow your own. No freezers back then so it had to be pickled, chutneyd jammed or dried to enjoy during the winter months when fruit and veg were not so readily available. No Tescos then if you fancied strawberries in December. The very thought would have raised a howl of laughter. I digress. My Mum made copious amounts of jam and various other preserves. She seemed to spend the summer and autumn bent over her cauldron, as I liked to think of it, making jam out of everything. Even marrows. How disgusting is that? Why my Dad grew them I don't know as nobody liked them so of course they were turned into jam. I think it was that that finally turned me against jam. I feel as if I spent my childhood swimming in the stuff. I didn't eat it for years. I tried some store bought stuff on occasion and it didn't impress. Then it all changed. I had some strawberries that were a little past their best. I didn't want to waste them. To my horror a light bulb went off in my head and I thought I'd make jam. I seem to be turning into my mother as the years pass. Oh what a treat I've been missing in those intervening years and so easy to make. My grandson loves strawberry jam and I refuse to fill him with nasties in the manufactured variety. Thank goodness I have realised I don't need to make the vast quantities produced in my childhood nor a cauldron either. Fresh jam smeared on fresh baked bread or toast. Simply delicious.

Soft berries such as strawberries or raspberries benefit from having the sugar sprinkled over them and left overnight. It helps to keep the fruit whole in the jam. I can't be bothered. I have a strange family anyway. They like their fruit smushed up in jam. I did try it once and it worked really well with the strawberries. Big whole strawberries in the jam. It was greeted with horror so back into the pan it went and had some treatment from the potato masher.
Strawberries are very low in pectin so they don't set too well. You can add lemon juice and faff about with granulated sugar and pray that it will set but I find it easier just buy jam sugar. It has added pectin. Makes life a lot less complicated. I'm all for the simple route.

You need 1 pound of sugar for every pound of fruit.
About half a dozen sterilised jam jars ( I do this in the oven)
A large saucepan (or a cauldron if you have one)
Put the fruit and the sugar in the pan.
Heat gently until all the sugar is dissolved stirring now and again to stop it catching
Rack up the heat and boil pretty furiously for about 15 mins.
To test for a set put a wee dribble of jam on a cold plate. If it wrinkles after a few minutes your done. If not boil for another few minutes and so on. You won't have any bother with the jam sugar.
To get rid of the scum stir in a knob of butter and stir it round.

Let it sit for a moment or two then pot up in your nice warm jars.

Add the juice of a lemon at the start if you can't get or don't want to use jam sugar.

I have added this picture to a contest on this blog Jugalbandi. This is a new thing for me. The topic is Red.

Wednesday 15 October 2008

Christmas Pudding

I know it is October and we haven't even reached Hallowe'en but I decided to make my Christmas puddings. There is something about the shortening of the days and the lighting of the fire to warm us that steers my thoughts to Christmas preparations. I also like to let the puddings mature. They taste so much better after a few weeks soaked in Brandy and wrapped in greaseproof paper and foil. Traditionally I should have waited for Stir Up Sunday which is Advent Sunday, the first of the four Sundays before the 25th December or the nearest Sunday to Saint Andrew's day. It is the traditional day for everyone in the family to take a turn at stirring the Christmas pudding, whilst making a wish. On Stir-up Sunday families returned from Church and gave the pudding its traditional lucky stir. Children chanted the following rhyme

Stir up, we beseech thee,
The pudding in the pot;
And when we get home
We'll eat the lot.

Christmas pudding is always stirred from East to West in honour of the three Wise Men. It is traditionally made with 13 ingredients to represent Christ and His Disciples. Every member of the family must give the pudding a stir and make a secret wish A coin was traditionally added to the ingredients and cooked in the pudding. It was supposedly to bring wealth to whoever found it on their plate on Christmas Day. The traditional coin was an old silver sixpence or threepenny bit. Other traditional additions to the pudding included a ring, to foretell a marriage, and a thimble for a lucky life. All these traditions are more Pagan than Christian harking back to a much earlier time. Along with the wishes and the money and charms there is the flaming of the pudding which represents the winter solstice celebrations in which fire light and warmth are sought in the chill darkness of mid winter.

I have been a bit disappointed in my puddings over recent Christmases. I like them black and rich. The recipes I had attempted were lighter and to me not what they should be. I found this recipe while looking around the internet. I will make no other from now on. The original recipe comes from Jo Pratt. I tweaked it just a little.

This delicious Christmas pudding can make 3x 900g/2lb or 2x 1.5kg/3lb puddings.

50g/2oz self-raising flour
175g/6oz plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1 tsp mixed spice
50g/2oz ground almonds
225g/8oz shredded suet
225g/8oz dark muscovado sugar
100g/4oz white breadcrumbs from a 2-day loaf
1.5kg/3lb mixed currants, raisins and sultanas
1 tbsp black treacle
1 lemon, finely grated zest and juice
1 orange, finely grated zest and juice
1 carrot, finely grated
1 medium cooking apple, peeled and grated
2 tbsp brandy or rum, plus extra for flaming
150ml/5fl oz dark ale or stout
4 eggs, beaten
flour and butter, for preparing the basins

1. Sift together the flours, baking powder and spices into a large bowl. Stir in the almonds, suet, sugar and breadcrumbs, mixing well. Add the remaining pudding ingredients stirring well after each addition. Cover with cling film and leave in the fridge or a really cool place for 24 hours or up to 1 week if possible, stirring a few times.
2. Grease and lightly flour either 3 x 900ml/1½ pint or 2 x 1.2 litre/2 pint basins and pack in the pudding mixture. Top the surface of the puddings with a circle of greaseproof paper, then cover with baking parchment or aluminium foil. Fold around the edges of the basin and tie with string, or tightly scrunch the foil under the lip of the basin. Place in a steamer of boiling water for about 6 hours, topping up with water every so often, making sure it doesn't boil away (if you don't have a steamer, you can place the pudding on an upturned bowl in the bottom of the saucepan).
3. Leave to cool and remove the parchment/foil and greaseproof paper and replace with a new lot. The puddings can now be stored in a cool, dry place. On the big day the pudding should be steamed for about 1½-2 hours, or covered loosely and heated in the microwave for about 6 minutes on high power, checking its progress every so often by inserting a skewer into the centre and leaving for a couple of seconds. If the skewer comes out piping hot, the pudding is ready to eat after standing for 1 minute. For more accurate timings it is best to check the manufacturer instructions.
4. To flame the pudding half-fill a metal ladle with brandy (or use as much as you want) and carefully heat over a gas flame or lit candle. When the flame is hot enough, the brandy will light. Pour the flaming brandy over the pudding. Make sure the lights are out when taking to the table for a grand entrance.

Changes I Made

I used 500gms sultanas, 500 gms raisins, 250gms currants and 250 gms chopped prunes.

I also added 2 good tablespoons of cocoa powder. If you have ever tasted Nigella Lawson's chocolate fruit cake you will immediately identify with this addition. It works wonderfully in the Christmas pudding.

Tuesday 14 October 2008

Bacon and Tomato Hash

This comes from Nigells Lawson's Feast in the Midnight Feasts section of the book. I have never made it at midnight I confess as I would not have the energy to cook at that time of night. Hunger would be assuaged by a quick sandwich or a session of fridge grazing. That said this makes a lovely quick dinner. A fry up with style is really what it is. I usually have a fried egg with it. Yes I know it is making your arteries scream but once in a while it is just what is needed especially as the colder days are here. Don't leave out the Worcestershire sauce. It is absolutely vital for the wonderful flavour of this simple dish.

4 rashers streaky bacon
2 teaspoons garlic-infused oil
1 tomato, diced
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
Serving suggestion: bread
Cut each piece of bacon into 3 or 4 pieces.

Heat oil in a frying pan.
When oil is hot, fry bacon until crispy (the bacon will also give up flavourful fat of its own).

Remove the bacon to a piece of kitchen towel.
Add the diced tomato, with all its seeded, gluey interior, into the hot oily pan, which will cause a great spitting and sizzling, and stir for a couple of minutes. Add the Worcestershire sauce and stir again, then put the bacon back into the pan, mixing it into the tomato before transferring to a plate.
Scatter with some parsley and freshly ground black pepper, and serve with bread to dip in the oily juices.

Tip: When the tomatoes are all diced up I add lots of freshly ground pepper to them

Ridiculously simple isn't it? It makes such a quick and tasty dinner.
The amounts given are for 1 person.

Friday 19 September 2008

Norfolk Tart

This is a lovely sweet wee mouthful. It comes from the National Trust's book of Tea Time Recipes. These recipes are a collection of goodies that are baked and served in the tea rooms on the National Trust properties. They are always lovely. It is a treat to visit the stately homes and then round off the trip with a cup of tea and something nice to eat in these lovely tea rooms. The amount given is for a seven inch tin. It gave me four small individual tarts. I don't think it would make a satisfactory big tart. I found a recipe giving larger amounts for a nine inch tin. I have both listed

6 oz/175gms rich sweet shortcrust pastry
4 oz /100gms unsalted butter
8 tablespoons golden syrup
2 eggs, beaten
4 tablespoons double cream (or single cream if you prefer)
finely grated zest of 2 lemons

Line a shallow 23 cm (9 in) tart tin with the pastry and pre-bake or bake blind.

Pre-heat the oven to 400°F/200.C. Put a baking sheet in the oven to pre-heat.

3. Gently warm the butter and syrup together in a pan - just enough for the butter to melt but not letting the mixture get too hot. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool a little.

4. In a bowl, whisk the eggs, cream and lemon zest together. Gradually whisk in the warm butter and syrup mixture, then pour the mixture into the pre-baked pastry case.

5. Place the tart on the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 25 - 30 minutes or until the centre is set.

Serve warm or cold with ice cream.

For four individual tarts

4oz/100gms golden syrup
1/2 oz/15gms butter
grated round of 1/2 a lemon
2 tablespoons double cream
1 egg.

Method as above.

Rich Shortcrust Pastry

1lb/450gms plain flour
pinch of salt
12oz/350gms butter
2 egg yolks
4 teaspoons castor sugar
3-4 tablespoons cold water

Mix together the flour and salt
Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs
make a well and add the egg yolks and sugar.
Mix together with enough water to make a stiff pliable dough.
Knead lightly wrap in cling film and chill for at least 15 minutes before using.

I always make pastry by the pound then freeze in small parcels what I don't use. So handy for another day.

Wednesday 17 September 2008

Hallowe'en Soda Bread

I decided to make some Soda Bread today. Nothing unusual about that as it is a big local speciality and has been made in Irish households for generations. It is so quick and easy to make and is a wonderful recipe to corrupt. Today I took a notion to add apple to it. I think the 'season of mists and mellow fruitfulness' has finally taken hold. That, and the fact I had some cooking apples, lent a hand in this. I also added some cinnamon and then as an afterthought I used maple syrup instead of sugar. The smell of it baking was wonderful. I was amazed at the taste. When I took it out of the oven I could hardly wait to get at it. Warm and dripping with butter I was immensely pleased with my innovation. Such a pity one can't copy and paste taste and smell.

12oz/350gms plain flour
1 teasp bicarbonate of soda
1 cooking apple
1 teasp cinnamon
2 tablespoons maple syrup
Handful of raisins
Approx. 1/2 a pint/300mls Butter Milk
1oz/25gms Butter
1 teasp Bicarbonate of Soda/Baking Soda
1 teasp. salt

Greased and floured round sandwich tin

Oven temp 350F 180.C Gas 4

Peel core and chop the apple.
Cook in a covered saucepan with the butter and cinnamon until very soft and mushy.
In a large bowl mix together all the dry ingredients.
Stir in the apple mixture
Add the maple syrup
Add enough buttermilk to form a soft but easily handled dough. It should not be runny.
Knead lightly and quickly into a round and place in prepared tin.
(It is essential you use light hands)
Cut a deep cross in the bread.

Bake for approx 40 Minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
Cover in a tea towel while cooling to soften the crust.

Cut a huge piece when taken out of the oven, slather it in butter and enjoy.

Monday 15 September 2008

Butternut Squash With Pecans and Blue Cheese

On Vi's Pantry there is a challenge running at the moment. Every two weeks someone has to pick a dish from Nigella Lawson's 'Express and then we all cook it and publish our pictures and opinions. It's an interesting challenge making us cook recipes we might not otherwise make. I am a rather plain and unadventurous cook so I don't think I would have made this had it not been for the challenge. I haven't used this particular book very much. It's a different style for Nigella and I have been uncertain about it. Squash would not normally be on my shopping list but it certainly will be again. This was delicious. I made it as a side dish to acompany lamb chops but it is really satisfying and could be eaten on it's own. I would never have thought to use pecan nuts but they were lovely with it. Unfortunately I forgot to add them for the photo. Ah well it wouldn't be me if I didn't forget something. The blue cheese gave it a wonderful richness. A very tasty dish. Highly recommended.

2kg/4lb 8oz butternut squash
3 tbsp olive oil
6 sprigs fresh thyme or ½ tsp dried thyme
100g/3½oz pecans
125g/4oz Roquefort, or other blue cheese, crumbled
salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7.
2. Halve the squash, leaving the skin on, and scoop out the seeds. Cut the squash into 2.5cm/1in cubes - you don't need to be precise, just keep the pieces uniformly small.
3. Place into a roasting tin and drizzle with the oil. Strip about four sprigs of thyme of their leaves (or use dried thyme) and sprinkle over the butternut squash.
4. Transfer to the oven and roast for about 30-45 minutes, or until tender.
5. Once out of the oven, remove the squash to a bowl. Scatter over the pecans and crumble over the cheese, stirring everything together gently. Season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
6. To serve, tear the remaining sprigs of thyme into small pieces and sprinkle over the top of the butternut squash mixture.

I actually made this in my new Tefal Actifry using the recommended 1 tablespoon of oil. It only took twenty minutes in it so I was well pleased

Thursday 11 September 2008

Almond and Polenta cake

This comes from Italy courtesy of Carlotta. In the forum I frequent she provides us with some wonderful regional recipes. This is so quick and simple but the texture and flavour is just wonderful. She tells us ' This is a very crumbly cake from Mantua. It's very good eaten with a warm zabaglione or mascarpone cream or while drinking a nice glass of wine....' No culinary tour of Italy is complete without a visit to Mantua. This gastronomic haven is the home of pumpkin tortelli, slow-cooked sauces and some of Italy's finest restaurants. In a historical context, Mantua gained its fame in Roman times as the home town of Virgil, born around 70BC. This former capital of the Gonzaga dukes, who ruled Mantua for three centuries, is one of the most atmospheric old cities in the country.

100 gr flour
100 gr fine polenta flour (in Italy it's called "fioretto")
100 gr sugar
100 gr butter, softened
100 gr almonds, coarsely ground, not bleached
1 egg yolk
grated zest of 1 lemon
pinch of salt
1 small glass of grappa (or sambuca)

Preheat the oven to 170°
In a large bowl hand mix the flour,sugar, salt,polenta flour and butter.
It must look like crumble, a bit like mixing sweet pastry...
Add the almonds,lemon zest,egg yolk and grappa
and mix lightly.
By now you should have a crumbly dough
Put it into a 26 cm tin in an uneven fashion (don't panic, it will spread while cooking....)and put on it some whole almonds.
Bake until it' golden,+/- 30 minutes.
Let it cool and sprinkle with sugar (optional)

It keeps well, that is to say if you can resist eating it immediately, in an airtight container
Don't cut it with a knife but break it with hands.

I did not have grappa or sambuca but used amaretto which was lovely.
I marked it in squares when I removed it from the oven and it broke apart very easily in an orderly sort of fashion.

Honey and Olive Oil Spelt Bread

I love baking different types of bread. It is all the more satisfying when you know the source of the recipe and have confidence in the outcome. This comes from George who is an accomplished baker. Take time to look at her blog. This could not be a simpler recipe using white spelt flour. A lovely soft fresh loaf which is lovely straight from the oven with lots of butter. It makes wonderful toast too. I expect it can be made in a loaf tin with equally satisfactory results if you prefer to make more of a sandwich bread.

Honey & Olive Oil Spelt Bread:

  • 400g white spelt flour
  • 100g malthouse flour
  • 10g salt
  • 1 sachet instant yeast
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 60ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 300ml lukewarm water
  1. Combine the flours in a large bowl (or free-standing mixer) and add the yeast.
  2. Add the honey, olive oil and 200ml of the water and mix until you get a firm but soft dough.
  3. Cover the dish with a teatowel and allow to double in size.
  4. Turn onto a floured board and shape in to a smooth ball, allow to rise again for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 200C.
  5. Using a pair of scissors snip a pattern into the top of the dough, brush with olive oil and place in the preheated oven, bake for 30 minutes or until golden and hollow sounding when the base is tapped.

Sunday 7 September 2008

Chocolate Caramel Thumbprints

I was flicking through my cookery books and spied these in Martha Stewarts 'Cookies' and thought they looked very inviting. She had made a chocolate filling to place in the little indents but I really wanted some caramel too as I love the combination. I had a jar of dulce de leche so I decided to pop that in too. They are a lovely wee mouthful and very quick and easy to make. I made another batch adding cocoa powder to the dough and they were lovely too. I didn't use a mixer as there was no need. If the butter is nice and soft it can be mixed easily in a bowl.


Makes 41/2 dozen

1 cup 2 sticks /8oz plus 6 tblsps unsalted butter
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 teaspoons corn syrup
Dulce de leche or other caramel if using


Heat oven to 350.F/180.C/Gas4
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together 2 sticks butter , sugar, salt, and vanilla on medium-high speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Beat in flour, beginning on low speed and increasing to medium high.
Roll dough by teaspoonfuls into balls, and place 1 inch apart on lined baking sheets .
Bake for 10 minutes, remove from oven, and press thumb into tops of cookies to make indentations. Return to oven, and bake until light brown on the edges, 7 to 9 minutes more. Remove to a wire rack to cool.
Combine chocolate, 6 tablespoons butter, and corn syrup in a small heat-proof bowl. Set over a pot of simmering water; stir occasionally until melted and smooth. Allow to cool slightly. When cookies are cool,place a little dulce de leche (if using) in each indent then fill the thumbprints with the chocolate mixture.

How Martha Stewart managed to get 41/2 dozen cookies is beyond me. I managed 28.


Aren't these the most amazing things? I love the ones I got from Wowzio. It's soooo interesting seeing people from all over the world visiting my blog and a picture to show me what they are reading. I love the slide show throwing pictures of past items . Endless fascination. Isn't modern  technology wonderful?

Fish and Chips

What could be nicer for the evening meal but a plate of good old fish and chips. I just love this. I have never owned a deep fat fryer for the simple reason I dislike the smell which seems to cling to everything. It uses so much oil and the straining after each use is just too much hard work. I do however love chips. I purchased a Tefal Actifry which is a wonderful machine. It is pricey but only uses a tablespoon of oil. This makes my chips a fairly healthy affair. They really do taste like deep fat fried chips. Just wonderful . I have never done fish in batter as I get in a mess. I just use crumbs and shallow fry. This was cod loin I used, soaked in buttermilk then tossed in breadcrumbs and fried for a few minutes. So tasty. A really quick and satisfying dinner for those days when you can't be bothered thinking and a comforting meal is what's needed.

Friday 5 September 2008

Refrigerator Rolls

I seem lately to have done nothing but make rolls. I keep finding another recipe I just must try. These are as light as feathers, easy to make, very forgiving and very rich. They are wonderful when they are just made. I think freezing them would be the  way to go and just using one or two at a time.  I wanted brown rolls so I altered the recipe slightly to accomodate this. I found this recipe through TasteSpotting on a lovely blog by Lindsey on Cafe Johnsonia. She has gone to the bother of giving a step by step tutorial on  making them. It's great for those who are a little afraid of using yeast. It is accompanied by some very good pictures  too. Worth your while having a look.
You really need to have a look at how she forms her round rolls. It is so neat and easy.
Thank you Lindsey

Refrigerator Rolls
(adapted from the Lion House Classics Cookbook)

1 stick (4 oz) unsalted butter
1 cup milk
1/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
4 cups all-purpose flour (can use some bread flour)
1 Tbsp. instant SAF yeast
2 tsp. salt

Place butter, sugar and milk in a large, glass, 4-cup measuring cup.
Microwave for several minutes until the butter is almost all melted, the sugar is dissolved, and the mixture is very hot to the touch. (I check it on my instant read thermometer and the temp should be about 140.F because it will cool down once you add it to the eggs.)
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs well. Slowly drizzle the hot milk mixture into the eggs while whisking continuously. The bowl and the eggs should be warm. (110 . F. is the perfect temperature.)
Place the flour and the yeast in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. 
Note: this won't work with a dough hook--this isn't a typical bread dough. A paddle attachment can easily handle this very soft dough.
Turn the mixer on low to evenly distribute the yeast.
With the mixer running, add the liquids in a slow, steady stream. When all the liquid has been added, turn the mixer up to medium and let it run for 1 minute. Add the salt.
Keep mixing for another three or so minutes, or until the dough starts to form strong webs as it mixes.
Rub the inside of a very large bowl with oil.
Place the finished dough , which is very very soft, in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
Place dough in a warm, draft-free spot where it can rise.
(Test your dough, if needed. It should be strong and stretchy.)
When the dough has doubled in size, sprinkle it with about 1 Tbsp. flour and punch it down. (Don't use too much flour--just enough so the dough doesn't stick to your hand.)
Wrap the bowl well with a few layers of plastic wrap. (You don't want the dough to dry out.) Refrigerate the dough until chilled. It can be kept overnight and up to 5 days.
When you are ready to bake the rolls remove the dough from the fridge.
Sprinkle a little flour over a flat, clean surface.
Roll dough into a large circle and use a pizza cutter or knife to cut dough .
For round, dinner rolls:
Cut the dough into equal pieces. 
For smaller rolls--make 24, medium--16, large--12.
Place the rolls on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. (If you don't have either of these, don't fret. It's fine to use a plain baking sheet that has been greased.)
Let the rolls rise until double in size. (For speed rise method, place the rolls in a slightly warm oven--about 150 degrees F with a pan of boiling water beneath them.)
(The note in the Lion House Cookbook says they can even be left to rise for as many as 5 hours without any damage being done. Great for a day when it's uncertain when the rolls will go in the oven.)

Brush the tops of the raised rolls with a little melted butter or a beaten egg.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 10-15 minutes, or until the rolls are golden.


I used 1 cup of wholemeal flour as I wanted brown rolls.

I hummed and hahed about the amount of yeast but added the amount specified.

Wednesday 3 September 2008

No Knead Spelt Bread

This is a really gorgeous loaf. So easy and very light. I didn't realise until recently there was white spelt flour as well as wholemeal but my local health shop kindly ordered it for me. Spelt, or Triticum spelta, has been cultivated for over 5000 years and it is thus one the oldest crops known to humankind. It is a distant cousin of wheat. Spelt has a nutty flavour. The grain is naturally high in fiber, and contain significantly more protein than wheat. Spelt is also higher in B complex vitamins. Another important benefit is that some gluten-sensitive people have been able to include spelt-based foods in their diets. Also, unlike other grains, spelt's husk protects it from pollutants and insects and usually allows growers to avoid using pesticides.This bread is made half wholegrain and half white. The recipe was given to me by Gail who uses spelt even for cakes. She manages a great blog which is worth a look. http://vipantrywedonthaveablogblog.blogspot.com/


600g/1 lb 5 oz Spelt Flour (can be 1/2 white and 1/2 wholemeal)
1 tablespoon of yeast
2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar (optional)
500mls/17 fl oz warm water (approx)
2 teaspoons Cold Pressed Sunflower Oil

By Hand

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl, make a well, pour in oil and enough water to make a stiff dough.

Cover the dough with cling film and allow to double in size.

Turn onto a floured board and shape in to a smooth ball, divide in half and shape each half.

Place both halves into a 2 lb greased and floured bread tin and allow to double in size. Place in oven and cook for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown.

Oven Temps

Electric - 220C /425 F
Fan Forced - 210C


I used olive oil as that is what I had.

I also added a handful of seeds,eg. sunflower pumpkin and linseed

I dissolved the sugar in some warm water taken from the 500ml added the yeast and left for ten minutes until it was foamy.

I baked it at 180.C fan forced but you know your own oven

I haven't used instant yeast with this yet. It works well with the active dry.

I didn't divide the dough in two. I just plopped it all in the loaf tin.